Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Peloton to open at Bethesda Row

A Peloton kiosk at Westfield Montgomery
Mall in Bethesda
Peloton, the high-end indoor cycling company, will open a retail location at 4823 Bethesda Avenue at Bethesda Row. The space was just vacated by Ministry. Peloton cycles feature fitness sessions with trainers live-streamed from New York City. The company has already operated a kiosk at Westfield Montgomery Mall, but likely is seeking to reach the even deeper pockets around Bethesda Row.

Moby Dick House of Kabob installs sign at expanded Bethesda location (Photos)

Moby Dick House of Kabob has installed the permanent sign on the front of their newly-expanded location at 7023-7027 Wisconsin Avenue. The 7023 space was formerly home to Stromboli Family Restaurant. Initially, the ownership of Moby Dick had planned to relaunch Stromboli in their current 7027 Wisconsin space, but as Eater DC reported last fall, plans changed to favor just expanding Moby Dick.

Moby Dick just won its first Rammy award, in the category of "Favorite Fast Bite." The local chain recently expanded from the D.C. area to Baltimore, as well. Here's a look at some recent construction photos of the expanded restaurant:

Bethesda Metro Center plaza debate takes new turn with potential sale of Clark Enterprises building

Brookfield's rendering of a"Central Lawn" behind
its planned 4 Bethesda Metro Center tower
The news that Clark Enterprises is testing the sales market for its headquarters building at 7500 Old Georgetown Road has further roiled a contentious debate over the future of the plaza their building shares. That debate has largely hinged on the question of whether developer Brookfield Property Partners should construct their planned 4 Bethesda Metro Center tower with open space behind it, or move the building further back, leaving room for green space closer to Wisconsin Avenue.
Clark Enterprises' Protect Bethesda Open Space
alternative vision with the green space in front
Clark has led an effort called Protect Bethesda Open Space, to argue for the street-facing open space. However, the company does not own the property in question, to which Brookfield has secured the development rights. Brookfield wasted no time in capitalizing on the Clark sale news to accuse the Bethesda firm of having been waging their campaign all along to ensure a better sale price for their headquarters.
"Now we know the truth about Clark’s game plan. Their priority was not to serve the best interests of the community. Rather, it was to protect their interests by moving our new building out of their view to protect their building’s sales price," Brookfield SVP and Regional Counsel Simon Carney wrote in an email Monday morning. "It’s doubtful that Clark will maintain its supposed commitment to Metro Center once they sell their building."

At the same time, a new effort by Bethesda residents who support Clark's vision of a large green space at the front of the plaza is gearing up for the June 27, 2018 Design Advisory Panel meeting on the project, which will be held at 11:30 AM that morning at 8787 Georgia Avenue. They are encouraging those who favor the Protect Bethesda Open Space vision of a larger green space to attend the meeting, and a pre-meeting briefing at 10:15 AM. A sign-up page with details has been posted online.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Westfield moving forward with massive development on Montgomery Mall property

Addition includes
retail, a hotel and

Sooner than expected, Westfield is advancing plans to redevelop parts of its Westfield Montgomery Mall property in Bethesda. The international mall operator is preparing to submit plans to Montgomery County for 370,492 SF of new retail and hotel space, and a 682-unit apartment building.

Jim Agliata, Vice President of Development at Westfield, had promised that a future 400,000 SF addition to the mall would be more like Bethesda Row than the current indoor mall. However, few were expecting a major development like this to move forward so soon.

There will be great community interest in the traffic and school impacts of this project, on top of the massive WMAL Toll Brothers development nearby, and on how Westfield will manage parking once this is built. The mall already has a parking crunch during prime shopping periods as it is. Westfield recently relocated the mall's transit center to make room for future development.

A public meeting regarding the new development is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 20, 2018, at 7:00 PM in the Walter Johnson High School All-Purpose room at 6400 Rock Spring Drive.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Bethesda construction update: Fish Taco (Photos)

Updated 7:14 PM: The article has been updated to note that the Wisconsin Avenue Fish Taco location closed June 10. A previous incorrect statement by Fish Taco had stated that location would not close until the new one was ready to open.

Work continues inside the future Fish Taco at 7251 Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Row. Construction had already been delayed once, and will now fail to meet the second targeted opening of June 2018. The restaurant is now expected to open next month. This location will be a lot easier to access for a greater number of downtown Bethesda workers and residents than the original Wisconsin Avenue restaurant.

Bethesda apartment residents sought for focus group

A research firm called OpinionWorks has posted ads in the area asking residents of Montgomery County apartment/multi-family buildings to participate in a focus group on Tuesday, June 19, 2018. It promises you will be paid $80 at the conclusion of the event. There's no mention of a deadline to register, and all tear-off tabs were still attached to the flyer shown here. A survey to fill out online to register was still active as of this morning, so if you have time and interest, it might be worth investigating.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Philz Coffee back to Vino Volo space at Bethesda Row

It looks like they were just trolling me. The coming-soon sign for Philz Coffee was removed from the vacant Ministry space yesterday, and placed in the original location Philz was supposed to open in to begin with: the former Vino Volo storefront at 7243 Woodmont Avenue.

Woodmont Grill parking lot shut down (Photos)

Woodmont Grill has lost its parking lot. The parking facility directly adjacent to the restaurant was abruptly closed and fenced off Friday. Their parking attendant is also out of a job for the moment, although their longtime attendant apparently retired a few months back.

The restaurant enjoys the highest volume of sales of any in downtown Bethesda. It certainly will be a step down for many diners, who are accustomed to parking in the convenient lot, to have to deal with the public parking garage across the street.

Patrons were already affronted twice in the last year by the partnership building Marriott's relocated Bethesda headquarters next door. First they started charging a parking fee to use the previously-free lot, then they cut the lot in half. Woodmont Grill did not own the lot; it is controlled by the owners of the Marriott site.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Signage is up at Delina Eritrean Urban Kitchen in Bethesda (Photos)

Signage for Delina Eritrean Urban Kitchen was installed yesterday. It consists of the permanent awning over the front entrance, and a temporary banner on the building front. Delina replaces Heckman's Deli at 4914 Cordell Avenue.

Philz Coffee to open in different location at Bethesda Row

Maybe Joe and the Juice did have a problem with Philz Coffee opening so close to them on Woodmont Avenue. Now the competition is going to be Quartermaine Coffee's problem. "Coming Soon" signage is now the window of the just-vacated Ministry space on Bethesda Avenue, instead of the originally-planned Vino Volo space.

Free lobster roll to first 15 wearing Canadian tuxedos at Luke's Lobster today

If you are one of the first 15 people in line wearing a Canadian tuxedo when Luke's Lobster opens at 11:00 AM this morning, you'll win a free lobster roll. What is a Canadian tuxedo? We turn to the official contest rules for the official answer: "a denim top and denim bottom in any color, provided that both items are the same color (a “Canadian Tuxedo”). For the avoidance of doubt each Entrant will be required to wear both a denim top and denim bottom under these Official Rules; a one-piece denim outfit (such as a dress or jumper) will not make Entrant eligible."

Luke's Lobster is located at 7129 Bethesda Lane at Bethesda Row, but the contest is being held at all participating Luke's Lobster locations.

Slapfish to open mid-July at Montrose Crossing

I have a couple of updates on fast-casual seafood shack Slapfish. Their grand opening at the Montrose Crossing shopping center on Rockville Pike is now scheduled for mid-July.
Slapfish offers at least one region-exclusive item at its locations, and they have announced the menu here will feature a Clobster Cake, made with half Maryland crab and half New England lobster. That will be in addition to the standard menu, with popular favorites like Clobster Grilled Cheese, the Ultimate Fish Taco, and Chowder Fries.

The rapidly-growing chain expects to open ten locations over the next six months. It currently operates 13 restaurants.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Bethesda construction update: Starbucks at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Here's a look at the progress inside Starbucks at Pike & Rose. The current store at the corner of the property will relocate into this space at 11860 Grand Park Avenue this summer.

Parks dept. lays out options for Little Falls Parkway Capital Crescent Trail crossing (Photos)

Montgomery Parks officials presented twelve different concepts to create a "permanent, safer condition" at the increasingly-controversial Capital Crescent Trail crossing of Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda at a public meeting last night. Andy Frank, a civil engineer, predicted that the ultimate project solution would likely be a "compromise." But many in the crowd expressed frustration that all of the compromise appears to be on drivers, and anger that "crazy cyclists" who routinely break traffic laws on the CCT and at the crossing continue to avoid punishment.
Residents of neighborhoods immediately adjacent to the parkway criticized Parks for not considering the impact of constricting increasing traffic loads on their communities. Attendees who live in Kenwood and along Hillandale Road reported increased cut-through traffic since Parks instituted a "road diet" on the parkway 18 months ago. Frank acknowledged that official traffic counts show the road diet has reduced traffic on that stretch of the parkway between Hillandale and Arlington Road, as drivers seek to avoid the new bottleneck.
David Barron, President of the Kenwood Citizens Association, told Parks officials the current road diet on Little Falls Parkway needs to end. "It needs to be open. We have an influx of traffic [since the road diet]. They're turning down Kennedy Drive. Waze is putting traffic in our neighborhood," he said, referring to the app that helps drivers avoid traffic jams. Calling the parkway "the aorta" of the nearby road grid, he invoked the name of the late District 1 councilmember Betty Ann Krahnke (R), whom he said "would want to open up the parkway."
Many in attendance also questioned why the parkway now, and in the future, would be reduced to one lane when new development downtown and at Westbard is expected to bring over 10,000 new residents and their cars to the area. Marriott and the Intelligence Community Campus - Bethesda are each bringing over 3000 employees to the same vicinity. It would be the equivalent of declaring you are entering the Olympic decathalon, but first having blockages intentionally installed in your circulation system.
"We are already seeing a tremendous increase in traffic" since the road diet, noted a resident of Hillandale Road. Residents of the road must back out of parking spaces that line the busy cut-through. But the War on Cars in this area is just getting started. Parks officials announced that the increasingly-political Montgomery County Department of Transportation is now studying road diets for both Hillandale and Arlington Road, apparently not realizing how absurd it sounds to suggest a "road diet" for already two-lane Hillandale.

Near the end of the meeting, Frank acknowledged that Parks does not consider traffic flow or throughput as priorities for the parkway, saying the road is only meant to allow access to the park. This attitude is a major concern going forward, as the Planning Board and County Council each included Little Falls Parkway in their traffic volume allowances for the Westbard sector plan. To now say that the road is not a critical artery is fraud of the highest order.
The options available boil down to several concepts. One is to make permanent the current road diet by replacing the bollards with concrete curbs (which doesn't sound very park-like; there are no curbs on the rest of the parkway). Second, is to control the crossing via traffic lights - either at the current crossing site, or by forcing CCT users to walk to existing signaled crossings at either Arlington Road or Hillandale Road.
Third are the Cadillac options: a bridge over the parkway, or a tunnel beneath it. A grade-separated crossing had strong support from the crowd, and was the most-mentioned solution by those who spoke during the comment period. Such a crossing is not popular among the Council and Planning Board, who won't dare charge their developer masters a fee or tax to fund it. It also has little support among anti-car extremists, as a bridge or tunnel would allow drivers to continue on their merry way with no new hardships to navigate.
Fourth are extreme road solutions. A roundabout at Arlington and Little Falls intrigued one commenter, but received dismissive murmuring among the larger crowd. Parks' proposal to entirely close Little Falls Parkway between Arlington and Hillandale was found to be laughably ridiculous. All solutions are likely to include a wide speed hump at the crossing, which Parks is calling a "speed table."
One couldn't help but notice that all solutions allow CCT users to keep doing what they are doing, and what many of them are doing is clearly illegal. A resident who regularly uses the trail declared all of the proposals to be "overkill. The issue is not motorists. The real issue is crazy cyclists. Solving the problem at Little Falls Parkway is not solving the problem of cyclists. Cyclists never stop, particularly those crazy guys in the morning."
Park Police have on one or two occasions ticketed cyclists who blew through the stop signs on either side of the crossing, one attendee said. One resident echoed my sentiment on this page a few weeks back, in suggesting deploying cameras that could ticket cyclists on the trail for speeding and ignoring stop signs. The intersection being discussed is not a safety issue at all, if drivers and trail users follow existing traffic laws. For example, when crossing the four-lane parkway, just because the driver in the nearest lane has stopped doesn't mean a cyclist or pedestrian is to rush forward without looking at who may be approaching in the second lane. It's just common sense.
Instead, we are confronted with government, and the infamous MoCo nanny state, run amok. Special snowflakes must be fully protected from evil drivers, and their own lawbreaking, lest they melt. Indeed, the whole controversy started over a very tragic crash where the driver was determined not to be at fault after striking a recumbent cyclist. In last night's most dramatic moment, the widow of the cyclist addressed the crowd, and blamed a guardrail for her husband and the driver being unable to see each other - though she acknowledged that detectives said it appeared her husband had ignored the stop sign before crossing.
There were a couple of good news items at last night's meeting, however. One is that Parks is planning to install lighting at the crossing - much needed, especially since their "brilliant" idea of erecting dozens of signs and bollards that now obscure the view of trail users crossing in the dark. Second, whatever project is chosen, they plan to fund it by legal means this time. The current "road diet" was funded through illegal means, by using a countywide trail maintenance fund for a road-only project.
Parks officials say they will use last night's public feedback, and additional feedback from a Town Hall message board on their website, to whittle the project options down to 3 or 4. By fall, they will further flesh those concepts out, and obtain more public feedback on them. By winter of 2018 and 2019, they will develop a budget, and present the final option to the Planning Board for approval. They will then (legally!) request inclusion of the project in a future CIP budget.
Roundabout proposal for the intersection
of Arlington and Little Falls

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