Thursday, May 23, 2019

Bethesda teen missing

Montgomery County police are seeking the public's help in locating a missing Bethesda teenager. Xiresse West-Owens, 14, hasn't been seen since the morning of May 11, when he left his home in the 6300 block of Greentree Road.

West-Owens is described by police as a black male, 5’8” and 140 pounds. He has black hair shaved on the sides, and brown eyes. West-Owens has family in Baltimore County, and they are concerned for his welfare.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Xiresse West-Owens is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (24hrs), or the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400. Callers may remain anonymous.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza to replace Community in Bethesda

The long-vacant Community diner spot at 7776 Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda finally has a tenant. Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza has signed a lease for the space. Construction is underway inside.

Anthony's is a national chain with 60 locations, most in the northeast. Besides pizza, they are known for wings and Eggplant Marino, named after famed quarterback Dan Marino.

Pepco work causes traffic backups in downtown Bethesda

Pepco was seemingly working all over town during last night's rush hour and evening, a day after a power outage put thousands of downtown Bethesda customers in the dark for several hours. Traffic backed up around the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Arlington Road, as well as on Cordell Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue. Lanes were closed, causing traffic delays.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Utility work, fire, power outage plague Bethesda overnight

Monday night was a strange one in downtown Bethesda, as planned utility work and unexpected fire calls and power outages combined to slow traffic. Washington Gas blocked access to Bethesda Row on Bethesda Avenue. Regular utility work required lane closures on Woodmont Avenue near Norfolk Avenue.

Developer drops movie theater plan, height for 7000 Wisconsin project

The proposed redevelopment of 7000 Wisconsin Avenue will no longer include a movie theater, according to documents filed with Montgomery County. As the theater was proposed in exchange for greater density, the developer has reduced the height of the future building from 132' to 122'. Other changes made to the plan that was unveiled in February include a reduction in residential and commercial density, residential units replacing the theater at the rear ground level of the structure, and reduction of the tower's base from 90' to 80', while maintaining a 5' step-back for the floors above the base.

Revised plans suggest this building could wind up with "poor doors" to MPDUs accessed from the alleyway behind the building, similar to The Lauren. The plans do not indicate what type of units will have these direct entryways from the alley, but it seems unlikely that market-rate units would be both on the ground floor and have doors opening onto an alley. Another potential option would be "townhome" units, similar to those a 8300 Wisconsin.

The loss of the theater in this project is ultimately not a big deal, as the idea was unrealistic from the beginning, and would not have solved the crisis the downtown economy has faced since the County Council allowed the Regal Cinemas Bethesda 10 to be demolished with no replacement cineplex required of the developer at 7272 Wisconsin.

Since the loss of Regal Cinemas, many long-time large restaurant anchors near it have closed. The public parking garage at Bethesda Row that used to be full at the peak of dinnertime now has hundreds of spaces available, forcing the County to disable the electronic space counter sign to save political face. Hundreds of spaces are open in the new Capital Crescent Garage at that time, as well.

It's likely that reality set in, as a project consultant must have broken the news that a one-screen theater simply is not viable in 2019. The cost of screening rights for a first-run blockbuster are so high that multiple screens are required to turn a profit, unless one is a billionaire running a vanity project writing off heavy losses, like Jeff Bezos with the Washington Post.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Power outage darkens multiple high-rises in Bethesda (Photos)

Crescent Plaza blacked out
Thousands of downtown Bethesda residents lost power and air conditioning around 8:44 PM tonight after a mysterious power outage darkened multiple high-rises near the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Miller Lane. Pepco has been on-scene for a couple of hours now trying to restore power to several properties, including the Solaire Bethesda apartments, the Crescent Plaza condos, and some nearby garden apartments. True Food Kitchen, located in the ground floor of the Solaire, was forced to close early tonight due to the power outage. 
Pepco workers in front of
True Food Kitchen, which was
among those without power tonight

The Pepco website shows power has now been restored to all downtown Bethesda customers affected.
Garden apartments off Woodmont Avenue

True Food Kitchen had to close
early due to the power outage

Pepco employee shines his flashlight
near a manhole that men would soon
descend into to fix the problem

Solaire Bethesda in the dark

Kitchen fire at Hampden Square in Bethesda (Video+Photos)

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services personnel responded to a fire at the Hampden Square condos at 4801 Hampden Lane just after 9:30 tonight. Hampden Lane had to be temporarily closed at the middle of the block for fire operations. Woodmont Avenue was also blocked at Hampden.

The building manager said there was a kitchen fire in one of the condo units. It took firefighters about 20 minutes to put out the fire and wrap up the scene. No injuries were reported.

Future St. Elmo Apts. site a parking lot for now

The long and winding road to the rise of the St. Elmo Apartments at 4931 Fairmont Avenue has taken another small turn. First proposed in 2014, the high-rise was delayed for several years, and then revised to be a taller building in 2018. While no official groundbreaking has taken place yet, part of the site has been cleared of office and commercial structures. Now that portion is being put to use to store Mercedes Benz vehicles by EuroMotorcars.

Still to be demolished are more businesses on the St. Elmo Avenue side of the property, including Chef Tony's and Vuk. No timetable has been announced for that demolition, and those businesses remain open.

Final week for Payless at Montgomery Mall

This is your last chance to pay less at Payless at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The store is in its final week of business, the latest victim of Montgomery County's moribund economy. Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of retail jobs since 2000, according to the Maryland Retailers Association.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Hannah's Barber Shop could be first retail tenant at Gallery Bethesda 2

A source tells me Hannah's Barber Shop will be one of the first - if not the first - retail tenants to move into the ground floor of the brand-new Gallery Bethesda 2 luxury apartment tower at 4850 Rugby Avenue. The fit-out of the space is expected to take about five months. So until then, keep reporting to Hannah's existing location for your haircut, at 8007 Norfolk Avenue.

Sign installed at Prima at Bethesda Row

The permanent sign has been installed at Prima at Bethesda Row. Chef Michael Schlow's newest venture will seat 22 indoors with 10 barstool window seats, and 16 seats on the outdoor patio. The launch day menu will be centered around 8 bowls, including The Amalfi Coast (Organic Baby Arugula, Buffalo Mozzarella, Basil-Marinated Tomatoes, Wild Mushrooms, White Beans and Fresh Herb Pesto) and The Crazy Sicilian (Organic Baby Arugula, Sicilian Tuna, Chickpeas, Basil-Marinated Tomatoes, Spicy Calabrian Chile-Red Pepper Spread, Lemon Vinaigrette).

More traditional Italian dishes like "pasta and pizza get a pass at Prima," Schlow's restaurant group said in a press release about the menu options. Instead, "sustainable proteins" will be flavored with fresh vegetables, fresh herbs, spices, olive oil and citrus. Diners will assemble their bowls in the same way they do at fast casual restaurants like Cava Grill and Chipotle, choosing greens or grains, vegetables, proteins and dressings and additional toppings.

“Italian food isn’t always perceived as healthy, but working with my talented team of chefs, we have been able to produce the wholesome and fresh flavors of Italy in a fast-casual environment,” Schlow said in a statement.  “Mediterranean flavors are so approachable and are perfect for a speedy, yet hearty meal.  We’re really excited to be able to open Prima and showcase this type of experience.”

Prima will be opening very soon; stay tuned for an opening date announcement.