Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Gym to open in former Bethesda homeless shelter-turned-retail space (Photos)

The mystery is mostly over at the former Catholic Charities homeless shelter for men at 4848 Cordell Avenue. It's not going to be a restaurant, folks. And it's not going to be a retail store.

An interior build-out has been underway for some time at the building. I had previously confirmed the new tenant is a gym. Yesterday, exercise bikes were loaded into the space. What I can't find out is - what is the name of the gym, and does it have any relation to the New York/Las Vegas mural on the side of the building?

Target posts Coming Soon signage in Bethesda, Healthy Back store closing (Photos)

Target has put up its first official signage to announce its scheduled March 2017 arrival in downtown Bethesda, and that it is currently hiring. Meanwhile, a departing tenant on the same level of the Shops of Wisconsin is raising the question of whether the Target store may expand into that space, as well.

The Healthy Back store, adjacent to Target's space, is closing permanently.

Regal Cinemas Bethesda to close December 15, rest of Apex Building to close the 19th

Regal Cinemas Bethesda 10 movie theater will close forever on Thursday, December 15, according to theater staff. The rest of the Apex Building it anchors will close on December 19, according to The Brown Bag, another tenant closing as the building at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue awaits demolition.

If you grew up here in the 1990s before Federal Realty's Bethesda Row became the center of town, you'll recall that the plaza outside the Regal Cinemas (though it will forever be referred to as "UA" by most of us, as it was United Artists Bethesda for many years prior) was the place to be on weekend nights. It was absolutely packed. Many dined at the long-gone Uno's in the Apex, where even celebrities like Mike Tyson could be found before or after a film.

To have a movie theater in downtown Bethesda was a novelty as the 80s turned into the 90s. The legendary KB Baronet and KB Baronet West theaters had been demolished to make way for the Bethesda Metro Center and associated redevelopment. The latter theater closed in 1988.

For its time, UA was pretty modern, though it was eventually remodeled with improved seating around the turn of the century. A tuxedoed manager ran a tight ship in the 1990s; when he disappeared, the customer experience began to severely decline in the 21st century. The air conditioning regularly would fail during hot summer nights. Theaters were not cleaned as thoroughly between films. Ushers vanished altogether, leaving moviegoers at the mercy of teenage hoodlums. Patrons had to try to settle disputes themselves. Operators in the projection room might turn your movie up to a deafening level it was never meant to be played at, and just leave the room and let it run. Ditto if something was wrong with the picture, such as the whole picture wavering throughout the movie (Man of Steel) or an endless series of lines rising from the bottom of the picture to the top until the end credits (Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

And that was if your movie wasn't prematurely ended by a false fire alarm.

Suffering veterans of these experiences began to find their wallets filled with the low-tech "tickets for another movie of your choice" handed out by the manager if you complained - and by 2006, there wasn't anybody to complain to after a late movie let out. Just the janitors vacuuming the floor. Nice.

New management seemed to improve customer service and cleanliness (at least at earlier screenings) in recent years. But even those of us with nostalgia for UA will have to admit the theater is now out of date, and simply does not provide the experience found at IMAX, ArcLight and iPic.

What it continued to provide, however, was convenience and a magnet to bring people to the restaurants and shops in downtown Bethesda. One study showed a cineplex brings 20,000 more people to a downtown on weekends than would ordinarily be there. Carr Properties, which is redeveloping the Apex Building into a promising mixed-use development with three high-rise towers, has said it is inviting Regal Cinemas to be an anchor tenant. Keep your fingers crossed, as the cineplex is critical to the downtown economy, and particularly to restaurants who rely on the "dinner-and-a-movie" crowd on weekends.

Here are some final scenes from the Brown Bag:

Monday, December 05, 2016

"All new" Aeropostale coming in January, Menchie's construction update (Photos)

Troubled chain Aeropostale is sending mixed messages at its Westfield Montgomery Mall storefront in Bethesda. Going-out-of-business-style signs screaming "Everything must go!!" and, "Entire store 70% off," share equal billing with another sign, which promises an "all new Aeropostale" in January 2017, and a reassurance that "this isn't goodbye."

The chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, and even shuttered its flagship Times Square store at that time. A recent rent deal has allowed the chain to keep open more stores than originally expected. I found that these exact same signs are on another store in Syracuse, New York. At the same time, unlucky locations like Pearland, Texas are still on track to close.
Menchie's kiosk
Meanwhile, construction of the Menchie's frozen yogurt kiosk at the mall looks just about finished. Let's hope they can get open in time for the limited-edition holiday cup, spoon, and Egg Nog yogurt flavor. The kiosk is located right outside of Build-A-Bear on Level 1.

Demolition permit requested for Apex Building/Regal Cinemas in downtown Bethesda

Carr Properties has requested a demolition permit for the Apex Building, located at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. Anchored by the Regal Cinemas Bethesda 10 cineplex, the 4-story office building is being demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development and Purple Line station.
The historic
Community Paint and Hardware
building next to the Apex (center)
The permit is a "demolition or move" permission request, which might also relate to the historic Community Paint and Hardware store building that is located just south of the building (however, that building's address - 7250 Wisconsin - is not listed on the permit request). A recent development on that issue - namely, where that building can be relocated to during construction of Carr's project - was a proposal to move it to a Montgomery County public parking lot that borders on East Bethesda.

There is currently no public timetable for the closure of businesses in the Apex Building, much less an actual demolition date. This permit request is simply the first step in the process. All businesses, including the theater, remain open at this time.

Timing is of the essence with this project, which is being carefully coordinated by Montgomery County, the Maryland Transit Administration, WMATA and Carr. However, legal stumbles have delayed the start of construction on the Purple Line indefinitely, so there is likely to be at least a slightly larger window before demolition and station construction must begin.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Assaults on De Paul Dr., Westlake Terrace; drug bust on Tuckerman Lane + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on December 1, according to crime data:

Disorderly conduct. Old Georgetown Road at Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. 7300 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 5100 block Pooks Hill Road.

Assault. 9700 block De Paul Drive.

Drug arrest. Tuckerman Lane at Marcliff Road.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Assault. 7400 block Westlake Terrace.

Ice sculptures in Veterans Park in Bethesda (Photos)

A set of ice sculptures from Bethesda Urban Partnership's annual Winter Wonderland celebration remained on display in Veterans Park last evening. The park is located at the intersection of Woodmont and Norfolk Avenues. A reindeer, Santa Claus, and a Star of David were among the works.

Window that burglars drove through at The Jewelry Exchange in Bethesda is repaired (Photos)

A bold set of jewel burglars crashed their stolen Mercedes Benz E350 through the front glass at The Jewelry Exchange at 7747 Old Georgetown Road in downtown Bethesda in late September. Taking whatever they could grab, they fled the scene in another getaway car.

Now the glass has been replaced after part of the front had to be boarded up. The store also has their Christmas decorations up.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Theft in Somerset, pedestrian struck on Wilson Lane + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 30, according to crime data:

Burglary. 7100 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Theft. 4800 block Cumberland Avenue (Somerset).

Pedestrian struck. 6100 block Wilson Lane around 6:00 PM.

Vehicle burglary. 8800 block Montgomery Avenue.

Shoplifting. 10400 block Old Georgetown Road.

Vehicle burglary. 5000 block Euclid Drive.

Art exhibits around Bethesda this month

There are several special art exhibits around downtown Bethesda this month. Two are pop-ups, and one is at a gallery.

Bethesda Library - Today to December 31

Gel Jamlang of Artworks Fine Art Studio at 7740 Old Georgetown Road has organized an exhibition of paintings by 16 female artists at the Bethesda Library at 7400 Arlington Road. The women are from the studio's Adult class, and come from a variety of professional backgrounds and countries around the world, and their media and subjects are equally diverse.

Join them for the opening reception from 3:00-5:00 PM today, or stop by throughout the month to view the works.

Waverly Street Gallery - Friday, December 9, 5:00-9:00 PM

The gallery at 4600 East-West Highway is hosting "A Bright Night for the Arts," to kick off a holiday exhibition on Friday, December 9, from 5:00-9:00 PM. All of the artists and designers will be from the Washington, D.C. area. Media will include paintings, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking, glass art, jewelry and photography. Artists will be on hand at the event.

Food and beverages will be served, and the event is free. There is a Montgomery County public parking facility right next to the gallery.

Peripoint Building - Today to December 18
Works by Elyse Harrison
on display at the Peripoint Building

Art Pop Up Bethesda is showcasing three artists in the Peripoint Building, the distinctive triangular building at 5001 Wilson Lane, where the lane meets Old Georgetown Road and Arlington Road. The artists are Lisa Brotman, Marta Gutierrez, and Elyse Harrison.

Hours of the exhibit are as follows:

Thursday-Friday: 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM, 3:00-6:00 PM
Saturday-Sunday: 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Santa Claus at American Plant in Bethesda today and Sunday

Want to take the kids to see Santa Claus closer to home, and without the crowds of the mall? Santa will be at American Plant's two locations for the next three weekends.
Saint Nick will be at their Westbard area location at 5258 River Road today, and on the 10th and 17th as well, from 12:00-2:00 PM.
He'll take his sleigh up River Road (unknown if the Montgomery County Council will force him to travel at 25 MPH maximum) to American Plant's other location at 7405 River Road (at Burdette Road just east of the Capital Beltway interchange with River) tomorrow, and the 11th and 18th as well. He'll be there from 12:00-2:00 PM.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Pedestrian struck on Tuckerman Lane, 4 vehicle burglaries + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on November 29, according to crime data:

Vehicle burglary. 4900 block Cordell Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 7800 block Fairfax Road.

Vehicle burglary. 7100 block Meadow Lane.

Vehicle burglary. 200 block Oxford Street (Martin's Additions).

Theft. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Pedestrian struck. Tuckerman Lane at Seven Locks Road.

Dates set for Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week Winter 2017

The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington has announced its Winter 2017 Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week will be held between Monday, January 30 and Sunday, February 5. Participating restaurants will offer fixed-price, multi-course menus costing $35 for dinner, $22 for lunch, and - for the first time ever - $22 for brunch.

A new feature for Winter 2017 will be a rewards program. Anyone who books their dining reservation through the official RAMW restaurant week site, and opts into the rewards program, will be eligible for special deals and prizes from restaurant week sponsors like event tickets and restaurant gift cards.

The participating restaurants haven't been revealed on the website yet, but usually include establishments in Bethesda, Rockville and Silver Spring alongside their DC counterparts. When they are added, you'll be able to search by type of cuisine and location to find your favorites.

Pepco work down to one lane on Del Ray Ave. in Bethesda

Pepco continues to make extensive repairs to its feeder lines in the Woodmont Triangle area of Bethesda, after WSSC workers allegedly damaged them while repairing their own underground infrastructure recently. One lane of Del Ray Avenue was closed last night at Old Georgetown Road, but Cordell Avenue - which had been closed for two days - was fully open again.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Caddies installs new sign in Bethesda (Photos)

Caddies on Cordell, one of the most popular sports bars in downtown Bethesda (and one of the few remaining after the disastrous failure of Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer's "nighttime economy" initiative), has installed a new, lighted sign out front at 4922 Cordell Avenue. The bar recently came under new ownership, Ronnie Heckman of the neighboring Heckman's Delicatessen.

Another Trump supporter victimized by hate crime in Montgomery County (Photos)

Vandals have attacked another home of a supporter of President-Elect Donald Trump in Montgomery County. This time, a family of Trump supporters in Burtonsville was targeted.

Montgomery County police officers responded to a home in the 3000 block of Spencerville Road in Burtonsville yesterday morning, November 30, around 6:25 AM. They found that swastikas, and the words, "Trump" and "racist," had been spray-painted on all 3 cars in the home's driveway.

Police say the victims were known publicly to be Trump supporters, and believe that was the motivation for the attack. They are now investigating the incident as a "bias-based" crime of vandalism.

Anyone with information about this vandalism is asked to contact the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect(s).  Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Photos: Montgomery County Police Department