Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Friendship Heights construction update: Potbelly (Photos)

Things are moving slowly on the interior construction of Potbelly Sandwich Shop at 4459 Willard Avenue in the Village of Friendship Heights. I say this because the sign went up seven or eight weeks ago, and the inside is still not very far along.

Developer seeks extension for Battery Lane District plan review

Aldon Management is asking the Montgomery County Planning Board for an additional extension in the review of the preliminary plan for its Battery Lane District development in downtown Bethesda. Nancy Regelin, attorney for Aldon, says that the delay is needed to address two new issues with the plan, which is expected to dramatically transform Battery Lane over this decade.

Issue number one - the question of which side of Battery Lane to place a cycle track on - has now been answered by the County Department of Transportation, which has formally recommended it go on the south side of the street. Now MCDOT wants Aldon to resubmit the preliminary plan so that it can review all of the implications of placing it on the south side.

A second issue is stormwater exiting into the stormwater management pond by NIH. Regelin says the County has asked for an additional flood plain study for the relevant stormwater outlet there. This will require additional engineering study by Aldon, and further review by the County.

For these reasons, Aldon is asking to postpone the end of the preliminary plan review period to April 30, 2020. Planning staff is recommending approval of the extension. The extension request will be taken up by the Planning Board at its January 30, 2020 meeting.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition seeks hate crimes charges against HOC

The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition has filed an official request with the office of Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy asking him to investigate hate crimes by the County Housing Opportunities Commission in the ongoing desecration of the Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda. "We are confident that the results of your investigation will result in criminal charges against HOC, [HOC Chair] Jackie Simon, [HOC Executive Director] Stacy Spann, and HOC’s entire Board of Directors," BACC President Marsha Coleman-Adebayo wrote in the letter, which was hand-delivered to McCarthy's Judicial Center office in Rockville.
BACC letter stamped "RECEIVED" by
MoCo State's Attorney's office
Grave markers in the Moses African Cemetery were bulldozed by at some point in the 1950s, after the property changed hands from the African-American fraternal organization that founded it. The graves themselves were then desecrated in the late 1960s by construction workers excavating for the Westwood Tower apartment building on Westbard Avenue.

According to witness accounts, initial remains discovered were illegally relocated and reburied in a different black cemetery near the Howard County line by the building's architect, indicating the builders knew full well they were disturbing a black cemetery. After that, bodies located in the footprint of the future building were illegally relocated into a nearby mass grave. Fill dirt was allegedly brought in and dumped atop the cemetery. Graves that were under the planned parking lot area were left in place, and the asphalt lot was placed on top of them.

"The desecration of Moses African Cemetery will be considered among the most egregious, callous, and racist in US history," Coleman-Adebayo wrote to McCarthy. " It is therefore incumbent upon you, as the chief law enforcement officer in Montgomery County, to protect Moses African Cemetery and to bring criminal charges against any and all of the parties who have knowingly participated in the desecration," the letter concludes.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Shooting range closes at Montgomery Mall, EJJI Ramen shuts down again

Aim Point, a shooting range that garnered some controversy after opening for the holiday season at Westfield Montgomery Mall, has closed. While the range utilized airsoft guns, gun control activists applied pressure to the mall to shut down the attraction. A source told me just before mid-December that the owner had been asked to vacate by Westfield as a result of the complaints, even though he had planned to be a long-term tenant. The range's space has been walled off with a photo of a burger and fries.
In other mall news, EJJI Ramen has closed again in the Dining Terrace. Their stall appeared to be cleaned out Saturday, although signage and the menu screens remained up, and the space hasn't been walled off. I say, "closed again," because EJJI Ramen also closed for a few days last August. The owners told me they had a "mechanical problem" at that time, and the ramen bar reopened a few days later. So this may not be the end - stay tuned.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Falling down on the job in Bethesda

One of the stop signs at the crosswalk by Veterans Park on Woodmont Avenue has taken a tumble. It was likely struck by a vehicle. This isn't the first time this has happened by any stretch. But take extra caution crossing here until the sign can be righted.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Friendship Heights Giant closes, clears out


The biggest blow yet has fallen on the strip in Chevy Chase once referred to as "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive." Collection at Chevy Chase anchor tenant Giant has closed its store. The store has already been cleared out. This is a major hit to other tenants that remain, as Giant and Clyde's of Chevy Chase have been the only significant traffic drivers left at the struggling retail center.
Wisconsin Avenue storefronts once populated by the biggest luxury brands remain largely vacant at the property. A significant renovation to the public space areas at the center was completed, and new restaurant Little Beet Table recently opened. The Collection, and the area in general, have been hard hit by the moribund Montgomery County economy - which fell to rock bottom in the region, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics benchmarks - and the flight of the rich to lower-tax jurisdictions in our region.
First photos from the scene

Major shock

Massive blow for the area, and
a major loss of convenience and
price competition for residents

Not anymore

Thursday, January 16, 2020

River Road bus stop tagged with graffiti

Graffiti appeared Wednesday morning on this bus shelter on River Road near Nevis Road in Bethesda. The meaning of "death insurance" is unclear, as is its possible affiliation with any of Montgomery County's gangs.

JBG Smith seeks to amend 7900 Wisconsin site plan

Developer JBG Smith is applying to Montgomery County to amend the site plan for its 7900 Wisconsin Avenue mixed-use project, which has been branded as 8001 Woodmont for marketing purposes. The company is seeking a reduction in unit and retail areas, modifications to the building's footprint and the locations of its doors, ability to reconfigure the bicycle storage room, a "modest reduction" in public use space, "minor" modifications to stormwater and landscaping elements, the addition of a wheelchair ramp, a "minor reconfiguration of program and circulation elements," garage floor additions, and minor changes in facade elements.

The number of residential units appears to have dropped from 450 apartments to 322, and the number of parking spaces from 445 to 340. Considering that the building is nearing its mid-2020 delivery, and the units are already built, a reduction in number would seem to suggest the units will now be larger in size. The application has been filed with the Montgomery County Planning Department, and will be reviewed by the Planning Board.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Surfside opening Tenleytown location

Surfside tacos are getting closer to Bethesda. The popular DC fast casual restaurant will be opening a Tenleytown location at 4200 Wisconsin Avenue NW, according to parent company Georgetown Events. That space was previously home to Fire Lake Grill.

It's also part of the property that was once home to the classic Cineplex Odeon Tenley Circle Theater, where I saw a few films years ago. It closed in 1999, but fortunately has a second life as the Greenberg Theatre, thanks to American University.

Surfside will be opening very soon; stay tuned for an opening date. According to an email from Georgetown Events, they are currently hiring staff for all positions at the Tenleytown location. In addition to tacos, Surfside also offers other Mexican specialties ranging from tamales to quesadillas to even a pan-seared trout with vegetables and rice.

Georgetown Events also owns the very popular Jetties chain, which has a Bethesda location at Veterans Park at 4829 Fairmont Avenue.

WSSC replaces water pipes on Wisconsin Avenue at Leland St. (Video+Photos)

Some traffic lanes at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and Leland Street were closed last evening in downtown Bethesda, as a WSSC crew worked below the roadway. The work was part of an ongoing project to replace water pipes. This current phase is concentrated on the area between Willow Lane and Chevy Chase Drive/Bradley Boulevard, including part of Hillandale Road southwest of there.