Saturday, August 23, 2014

TEXAS HAS JOBS, GROWTH, AND...DAVE AND BUSTER'S!

With the demolition-bound White Flint Mall having given Dave and Buster's the boot from Montgomery County 2 weeks ago, I couldn't help but notice this article on the contrasting situation in Texas. Unlike Montgomery County, the Lone Star State is booming with tech and industrial jobs, and is a major destination for millennials seeking employment.

Where we now have no Dave and Buster's, Houston is about to welcome its third D&B in 2015. As suburban areas are again outpacing urban ones in growth nationwide, Houston's newest D&B will be in an indoor mall (that is rapidly-expanding its square footage by 50%), not an urban "town center."

RASH OF AUTO BREAK-INS IN WEST BETHESDA - BETHESDA CRIME UPDATE

If you live in the west Bethesda area along Massachusetts Avenue and River Road, you may want to double check that all valuables are removed from your vehicle(s). One or more criminals are working neighborhoods between those roads, breaking into multiple vehicles over a three day period.

The neighborhoods targeted this week were Wood Acres and Springfield.

Watch for suspicious activity or vehicles in your neighborhood, and report them to the Montgomery County Police immediately.

Here is the list of vehicle incidents so far:

Monday, August 18

5400 block Kirkwood Drive (Springfield).

6000 block Woodacres Drive (Wood Acres).

5900 block Harwick Road (Wood Acres).

Tuesday, August 19

5600 block Ogden Road (Springfield).

5900 block Woodacres Drive (Wood Acres).

Wednesday, August 20

6000 block Milo Drive (Wood Acres).

6000 block Gloster Road (Wood Acres).

6000 block Gloster Road (Wood Acres).

SHOPPES OF BETHESDA RENOVATIONS UPDATE: STAIRS CLOSED (PHOTOS)

The extensive renovation of the Shoppes of Bethesda continues adjacent to Bethesda Row. One particular impact of note, is the temporary closure of the stairs that allow patrons to pass from the Elm Street side to the Hampden Lane side of the outdoor mall. These will remain closed until September 26, 2014.

The major interior work underway on Elm Street is in the former Ri-Ra space, now being taken over by SoulCycle and Noodles & Co. You can also see preparations for the opening of Galaxie Cleaners, which is moving from the Elm Street side up to the Hampden side, to make way for Dunkin' Donuts.







Friday, August 22, 2014

BETHESDA VOLVO CONSTRUCTION UPDATE (PHOTOS)

The interior of the former Bentley/Rolls Royce facility on Woodmont Avenue has been transformed for the showroom's rebirth as EuroMotorcars Bethesda Volvo. Furnishings and art seem to reflect the Swedish roots of the brand. As you can see, there is more furniture to arrange inside, and - of course - the cars have to be added eventually.





CAR CRASH IN BETHESDA GARAGE LEAVES HOLE NEW PERSPECTIVE ON DOWNTOWN BETHESDA (PHOTOS)

Remember when a car smashed into the wall of the Cordell-St. Elmo garage four months ago, leaving a massive hole in the structure's exterior wall? It's hard to forget, given that the hole remains there today. Here is a photo update, including a better picture of the view of downtown Bethesda provided by the gash in the garage facade.

Board, bent guardrail
and police tape remain
in place

The view through the hole


BLAZE PIZZA BETHESDA REVIEW (VIDEO + PHOTOS)

The new Blaze Pizza at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda opened yesterday, and now you can watch my video review of the pizza. I also tested out their dessert specialty, the S'mores Pie.

For testing purposes, I usually stick to a cheese pizza to better analyze the sauce and crust. That was the case at Blaze Pizza, where I ordered the Classic Red Sauce and a combination of mozzarella and Gorgonzola cheese. The Gorgonzola did seem to go quite well with the flavor of the red sauce, so I would strongly recommend it. You can select whatever toppings you like, as you will see in the video, which shows you the ordering process. As you'll see in my complete video review, there is a nice char on the bottom of the crust.



The S'mores Pie has a nice twist here, replacing the standard graham crackers with McVitie's Biscuits from England. Prince William would approve. Also, I recommend you ask to have your S'mores Pie put into the open fire oven for a more authentic campfire s'mores experience.
That's not a bite out
of the S'mores Pie; I
dropped it on the floor
(it was in a wrapper,
fortunately), and
a piece of the biscuit
snapped off

The S'mores Pie has Hershey's
Chocolate, my favorite

Blaze Pizza has a convenient location, right inside the entrance of the Old Navy wing, across from Aroma Espresso Bar. Like Aroma, Blaze Pizza will have an outdoor patio. That wasn't open yet Wednesday, but the modestly-sized dining room seemed comfortable. You can also see the pizzas going into the roaring fires of the oven from the dining area. Service was excellent, particularly considering it was a soft opening.




Thursday, August 21, 2014

WOODMONT WATCH: RESTART T-MINUS 24 HOURS IN BETHESDA (PHOTOS)

Here's how Woodmont Avenue looks south of Bethesda Avenue, just one day before it is scheduled to reopen (although the official language has been "on or about August 22." New signage again confirms that pedestrians will not be accommodated on the temporary 2-lane road. There are no bike lanes. There is also a sign stating that Woodmont Avenue is not a government-maintained road. Does anyone know what the implications of that are? Does it relate to liability issues if someone's car is damaged while driving on the road, or has an accident?






PARVA COCINA AND TEQUILA BAR MENU (PHOTOS) + HAPPY HOUR SPECIALS

Here is the menu for the revamped Parva on Woodmont Avenue, now known as Parva Cocina & Tequila Bar. The menu has indeed shifted from the South American cuisine of the original Parva to that of Mexico, in keeping with the name change. Stop by, and you can also check out the newly renovated restaurant and lounge. Click on the photos to enlarge menu pages for greater detail:



Parva Cocina & Tequila Bar
7904 Woodmont Avenue

ARCLIGHT CINEMAS HARD HAT TOUR AT WESTFIELD MONTGOMERY MALL (VIDEO+PHOTOS)

Join me for a behind-the-scenes VIP hard hat tour of the future ArcLight Cinemas, and new Dining Terrace, at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The sleek, modern dining terrace is just about finished, and the cineplex will open in late October.

It's a refreshing change to be reporting on a movie theater under construction, rather than theaters being demolished in the past (or, potentially, in the future, in the case of the Regal Cinemas in downtown Bethesda).
Eric Howard of Westfield Corporation
The future Valet station is in
the background

To the left is one of several
trees that balance the
modern architecture with
an organic element

Ultimately, the new cineplex/dining terrace addition is the most prominent manifestation of Westfield's $90 million upgrade of Montgomery Mall. While White Flint Mall's owners chose to pull the plug on their successful indoor mall to gamble on an urban, "town center" concept, Westfield went in the opposite direction, bringing Montgomery Mall up to the standards of its California properties.

As Westfield representatives explained during a press conference and hard hat tour yesterday, dining and entertainment are the prime catalysts for success in a competitive market like the Washington, D.C. area. Westfield Montgomery had been a runner-up to regional giant Tysons Corner for many years, with the latter boasting more - and more upscale - dining options and a far more ambitious multiplex theater.
Westfield Montgomery Marketing
Manager Diego Gonzalez-Zuniga

Gonzalez-Zuniga described
the ArcLight/Dining Terrace
addition as "the new front
door" of the mall

It's amazing what 18 months and $90 million can do. Westfield Montgomery has pulled just about even with Tysons in dining options, with new and future tenants like The Cheesecake Factory, Lobster ME, MET Bethesda, CRAVE, and Naples 45. If you consider that the last time I was at the movies at Tysons, the theater seats were stained with holes in the cushions, I would argue that a buzzworthy replacement for Legal Sea Foods could put Westfield Montgomery ahead of Tysons by a nose.
Ted Xenohristos, founder of Cava Mezze
Restaurant Group, said the chain's new
Dining Terrace location will have
several new features, including a
wood stone oven for housemade pita,
and local craft beer and wines on tap

That potential was only made possible by the 16-screen ArcLight Cinemas and the signing of many new upscale retail tenants like Lilly Pulitzer and True Religion. Some other longstanding complaints were addressed during this period, including closing the "Starbucks gap" when Westfield finally got the coffee chain on board. It also made sure that smaller dining tenants were unique, such as Dumpling Dojo, Wicked Waffle and Aroma Espresso Bar.
Zach Sussman of CRAVE Restaurants
says CRAVE takes sushi seriously

Along with the bigger full-service restaurants coming in the months ahead, these dining options were definitely not the standard food court offerings of average malls in the past. That's one reason Westfield Montgomery's food court is now called a Dining Terrace, not a food court.
The spectacular view from the
upper level in the Dining Terrace

Sarku Japan's sushi bar is
a centerpiece in the new
dining palace

The escalator that will bring patrons
up to more dining options, and the
ArcLight Cinemas

At yesterday's press conference, representatives of Cava Grill, Lobster ME, Blaze Pizza, CRAVE and MET Bethesda offered a preview of the menus and unique aspects of their respective restaurants. In the case of Lobster ME and Blaze Pizza, there was actually food to sample (stay tuned for a separate report on Blaze Pizza).
Gretchen McCourt, Exec. VP
at ArcLight Cinemas
McCourt said ArcLight patrons
won't be bombarded with
annoying ads before movies

And, as you will see in the video, ArcLight Cinemas promises to be a major boon for film buffs, in addition to satisfying the dinner-and-a-movie crowd. I like that the chain treats movies less as a commodity and more as the art form it is, with no advertising and a black box in-theater atmosphere. And it will be the only theater in Bethesda showing films of the past, an experience that currently requires a trip over to the AFI Silver Theatre in downtown Silver Spring.
McCourt leads members of the media
on a tour of one of the 16 auditoriums
under construction in the ArcLight Cinemas

Ultimately, we are witnessing the reinvigoration of the suburban indoor mall. Rather than dying out, Westfield Montgomery remains a major retail destination in the DC area. With the new multiplex and restaurants, it is now also an entertainment and dining destination. This comes just as the momentum and population growth is shifting from urban areas back to the suburbs across the country, making it perfect timing for the rebirth of the indoor mall.
ArcLight Cinemas' lobby will feature a
small cafe/wine bar

ArcLight's signature lobby image wall,
which will have changing displays
throughout the year, was being
installed yesterday

Lobby of ArcLight Cinemas

Another lobby shot

Jordan McMeen of
Blaze Pizza

Blaze Pizza opens today - stay
tuned for a review!
Chairs, tables and other
furnishes await placement
in the completed Dining Terrace
Sarku Japan's sushi bar

Where the press conference was
held earlier in the morning

Lobby of ArcLight Cinemas

Speakers are already installed in
this ArcLight Cinemas auditorium

Very dark shot looking
at the future seats from the
future screen
The corridor inside ArcLight;
note frames to hold
Coming Attractions posters
at left

Curved walls are a feature
inside all ArcLight cineplexes,
Eric Howard of Westfield said

Entrance to Auditorium 7,
where you may one day enter
to screen a movie

The escalators were running
after the hard hat tour; later
I noticed the escalator company
truck outside, meaning they
were probably testing it

But first, let me take a selfie
Now, watch this exclusive, behind-the-scenes video: