Friday, April 29, 2016

Monocle Building for sale in Bethesda

The Monocle Building at 4848 Battery Lane is for sale, with an asking price of $7,500,000. Air rights for 9 stories would accrue to the buyer. It would be a logical additional piece for the Donohoe Development Company to add to the adjacent gas station and medical building properties it already owns.

A final piece that could create the largest possible parcel for redevelopment next to 8200 Wisconsin Avenue is 8227 Woodmont Avenue, currently owned by Woodmont Properties of Bethesda. It's unknown what their level of interest - if any - would be in selling, however.

At a lot size of 12,800 SF, I'm trying to calculate what the maximum height and density could be on the Monocle site, if it were to be redeveloped alone instead of joined with any adjacent property. If you have an idea, post in the comments below.

I've been inside the Monocle Building many times. Outside, it is an unusual combination of a quite nice 1980s glass facade office wing raised over a parking lot, and a ground-level half that - frankly - resembles a jail, with its tiny windows and vast facade of drab bricks. Overall, I've always had a positive impression of the building, and the surface parking is probably a selling point for a buyer who just wants to keep it as is for a revenue stream.

Let's just hope TD Bank doesn't find out it's available...

Tapp'd Bethesda could open in a few days (Photos)

Workers putting the finishing touches on Tapp'd Bethesda said they hope to open in as soon as a few days. The new craft beer pub and restaurant promises to carry 100 bottled beers, and 40 on tap. Inside, the new interior has a traditional feel that reflects the throwback imagery on display.

Among the brews in stock right now are Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, RavenBeer The Cask, Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale (Nitro), Jailbreak Big Punisher, Denizens Macadocious Maibock, Manor Hill IPA, Orkney Skull Splitter and Terrapin Rye Cubed. As you can tell, local craft beers are well-represented on the list.

Interesting menu items include the Old Bay-seasoned Chesapeake Brat, horseradish-stuffed and bacon-wrapped Bayou Shrimp, and Beer Can Chicken Pie. Finish your meal with a Bourbon Peach Cobbler or Spiked Root Beer Float.

Sounds like a good beginning for a fresh start at the former home of Union Jack's, at 4915 St. Elmo Avenue.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Car stolen from East-West Hwy., sex offense on Jones Bridge Rd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on April 25, according to crime data:

Stolen car. 4300 block East-West Highway.

Assault. 7100 block Fairfax Road.

Assault. 7100 block Fairfax Road.

Theft. 6400 block Offutt Road.

Vehicle burglary. 6700 block East Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 6600 block Radnor Road.

Theft. 5900 block Aberdeen Road.

Burglary. 5400 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Assault. 5400 block Westbard Avenue.

Other sexual offense. 3700 block Jones Bridge Road.

Vehicle burglary. 6900 block Millwood Road.

Vehicle burglary. 7000 block Whittier Boulevard.

Vehicle burglary. 7600 block Newmarket Drive.

Vehicle burglary. 6200 block Clearwood Road.

Arson. 8200 block Thoreau Drive.

Prince tribute in downtown Bethesda (Photos)

An artistic tribute to Prince has popped up in the construction tunnel at the Solaire Bethesda apartments construction site on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. Again, probably better than some of the public art being installed these days around the County.

Why are people wearing hazmat suits on this Bethesda road?

If you've driven along River Road between the Capital Beltway and Goldsboro Road over the last week, you might have passed a somewhat disturbing scene. Trucks and other equipment were parked along the westbound shoulder of the road, and people clad in hazmat suits were working alongside the state highway. Large vacuum hoses were being used for something. I naturally wondered what the heck was going on, and so did a few readers who contacted me about it.

I asked the Maryland State Highway Administration, which has jurisdiction over the road that runs from Wisconsin Avenue to Poolesville.

Carol Rainey, an SHA utility inspector, says a WSSC subcontractor is making pipe repairs within the 60" and 66" prestressed concrete cylinder pipe water mains along the busy commuter route. You may recall a catastrophic failure of one of these mains a few years ago further west.

The repairs involve carbon fiber, which is a standard material for restoring and strengthening pipes. Rainey says the epoxy used with the carbon fiber requires the workers to wear the Tyvek white coveralls and respirators.

Those hoses? They provide air, ventilation and heat during the curing process for the carbon fiber. I noticed that the contractor, Structural Preservations, was staging the project out of the SHA property between Pyle Road and Winston Drive on the eastbound side of the road.

So, nothing to worry about, and hopefully this will prevent another disastrous pipe failure along River Road before it can happen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dominos opens on St. Elmo Ave. in Bethesda (Photos)

Dominos quietly opened at 4817 St. Elmo Avenue yesterday in downtown Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle neighborhood. A sign out front is featuring something I've never ordered from Domino's - salads. I guess they're worth a try. A large Extravaganzza pizza is my recommended Domino's order.



Residents protest Westbard plan outside - and inside - County Council building (Photos)

Residents opposed to the Westbard sector plan converged on the Montgomery County Council office building at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville yesterday morning at 10:00 AM, for a third protest against an expected Council vote scheduled for May 3. The crowd filled the entire square in front of the building. A contingent of residents and businesspeople from Lyttonsville attended in solidarity with Westbard-area residents. Lyttonsville is currently being victimized by a developer-driven sector plan process as well, and the future of many small businesses there is in as much jeopardy as those at Westbard.

Only two councilmembers came out to meet with their constituents, Marc Elrich (D - At-large) and Roger Berliner (D - District 1). Elrich, who has made clear his opposition to the plan, was well-received by the crowd. Berliner? Not so much.

Ignoring questions from his constituents, he attempted to deliver another defense of his compromise plan, which was largely accepted by his colleagues in straw votes last month. But as one protester's sign noted, "half of too much is still too much." With 3550 people and nearly as many vehicles allowed in a 1.5 block area under the Berliner alternative, the core complaints of the community remain unaddressed.

Berliner's speech was really quite remarkable when you consider the way representative government is theoretically supposed to work. "I come here not because, quite frankly, I share your point of view, because I do not," he said. "And I'm sorry with respect to that." At that point, some in the crowd began booing.

It would seem that if a councilmember found that his constituents, for whom he works, do not support a plan, the best course of action would be to follow the advice of his constituents. Seek further reductions in height and density. And should his colleagues not agree to those changes, he could do the right thing and vote against the plan.

"I get that this is not a popular stand," Berliner told residents yesterday. So why is he taking a stand against his own people? It doesn't make any sense. What is the higher goal than protecting the quality of life of your own constituents?

I give credit to Berliner for having the guts to actually come outside and face the crowd. George Leventhal, Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer were all hiding inside, unable to engage their consituents, who pay them six-figure salaries (of course, those three also told Olney residents to drop dead in 2014, when they blew off a long-scheduled debate hosted by the the Greater Olney Civic Association, leaving a packed room of residents who turned out stunned at the insult). And again, no one would dispute that the Berliner alternative is better than the original proposal.

But it would be more constructive to come out and say, "I hear you. What specific changes do we need to make for this plan to be acceptable to the community?" Instead, Berliner took a more confrontational approach, considering the sermonizing and condescending rhetoric he and Leventhal have addressed residents with has not gone over well to say the least. He couldn't have been surprised to be booed in response. Then he runs back inside.

The fundamental question is, where is the community's councilmember? Shouldn't overwhelming opposition suggest that a "No" vote is in order from the District 1 councilmember on May 3?


After the elected officials spoke, leaders of the Save Westbard citizen organization and residents took turns at the microphone. Cheers and chants often drowned out TV interviews being conducted by WTTG Fox 5 and MyMCMedia, among others. Bill Turque from the Washington Post was in attendance, as well.

Storming the gates
Eventually, the protesters made another very smart move. They entered the Council building, and made their way up to the third floor hearing room, where the Council was in session discussing how to cheat County employees out of already-negotiated benefits.



The protesters were quiet and respectful, and filed around the back of the room, as well as some of the seating area. Councilmembers initially seemed to ignore the silent protest. But as cameramen from two TV stations and MyMCMedia filmed inside the room, they began to realize that this negative story was going to be on the local TV news. Translation: Another public relations disaster for the Council.





With the involvement of major media outlets, people across the County and region are learning about the broken planning process in Montgomery County. We've seen development attorneys who give $250 checks to the Council President get to talk during worksessions, while residents have to sit quiet. And we're finding more out about the sausage-making process behind the scenes, such as private, inappropriate meetings between planning commissioners and developers. Those private meetings were not disclosed as is required by ex parte communications rules.

Councilmember Elrich's point about residents feeling they are "outside the process" is one of the most important to be made in this debate. I attended every single meeting held morning and night for a week in November 2014. The clear message of residents was to limit heights to 45-50', and for low-density development. That, and many other specific points were never reflected in the plan drawn up at the end. Yet the developers have private meetings, unlimited speaking time, and are getting what they want in the end.

Election Day 2018 could be a rude awakening for some on the Council.
















Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Water main break on Rockville Pike at Cedar Lane in Bethesda

Update: 1:40 AM - WSSC reports 118 customers in Bethesda are affected by the water main break. They are moving equipment to the scene to begin repairs. Four southbound lanes and one northbound lane are now closed. Avoid!

A water main break at the intersection of Rockville Pike (MD 355) and Cedar Lane in Bethesda is generating standing water. Cars seem to be getting by for now, but you may want to avoid the intersection if you can by taking Old Georgetown Road.

I have heard no official announcement from WSSC yet. This could be a big issue if it's not fixed by rush hour this morning.

Bethesda construction update: The Lauren ultra-luxury condos (Photos)

Some of the units inside The Lauren are now being furnished, and the lobby is now more built out. Don't worry - that street number sign is just temporary. The building at the corner of Hampden Lane and Woodmont Avenue is expected to be downtown Bethesda's most-exclusive (and most-expensive) address.