Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Text-to-911 now available in Maryland


Callers in emergency situations who cannot, or do not wish to, speak on the phone now have a silent option. Text-to-911 service is now available in the state of Maryland. Residents and visitors alike can contact emergency services via text using the service.

To use Text-to-911 service, follow these steps:

1. Enter 911 in the “To” line.

2. Enter a brief message that includes the location of the emergency and type of service needed – police,              fire, or ambulance.

3. Hit send.

4. Respond to questions from the responding 911 specialist, and follow the instructions he or she provides.


Strong-arm robbery in Bradmoor area of Bethesda


Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm robbery in the Bradmoor area of Bethesda Monday afternoon. The robbery was reported along the street in the 8900 block of Bradmoor Drive around 3:09 PM, according to crime data.

Mail disappearing from Bethesda mailboxes


The check is in the mail...until it isn't. Residents from downtown Bethesda, Edgemoor and Chevy Chase who have mailed checks in USPS mailboxes are reporting on neighborhood message boards (and to the appropriate authorities) that some of those checks are being stolen. Criminals have altered the checks, and then cashed them, they say. 

The iconic blue mailboxes are designed to make it nearly impossible to fish letters out of them via normal means. That's led some to ask if the increasing theft from boxes in Edgemoor, Battery Lane and even in front of the Post Office at 6900 Wisconsin Avenue could be an "inside job."

According to investigations in the Philadelphia area following a string of similar thefts there, the answer could be, "yes," or, "sort of."  USPS "arrow keys" are master skeleton keys that can open all mailboxes in a specific area, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported yesterday.

The USPS Inspector General issued a report that warned that once-tight oversight of access to these keys has deteriorated in recent years, the Inquirer discovered. In Philadelphia, for example, a post office employee stole one of the arrow keys and gave it to her boyfriend. The boyfriend then went on a mail-stealing spree using the key. In Westchester, NY, arrow keys have been sold to thieves. Other times, mail carriers have been robbed of their keys.

The arrow key explanation could account for the disappearing checks across the downtown Bethesda area. Investigators also recount that in some past cases, thieves have placed a glue trap on the end of a string and "fished" for envelopes through the mailbox flap. But the USPS has made the opening even smaller in response to those incidents, the Inquirer reported.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

National Guard presence continues in Bethesda as DC, Capitol deployment is extended through March


While it's not unusual to see men and women in uniform in downtown Bethesda with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center nearby, the area hasn't seen a military presence like this since the Civil War, when Maryland was occupied by Union troops to prevent the slaveholding state from seceding to join the Confederacy. Through yesterday, National Guard troops continued to be seen walking in pairs shopping at 7-Eleven, or getting takeout at restaurants near their hotels on Wisconsin Avenue. 

Expect to see them for quite a while longer. The deployment of 5000 of the 25,000 Guard troops moved into the Washington, D.C. area after the January 6 storming of the Capitol has now been extended through March. Officials have cited concern over violence during the upcoming impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump as a key reason for the extension.

7820 Wisconsin final design will depend on Montgomery County delivering expansion of Veterans Park


A few more details and questions came to light at last night's presubmittal meeting for the proposed redevelopment of the 7-Eleven at 7820 Wisconsin Avenue, and the former EagleBank building behind it. Attorneys Barbara Sears and Nick Mansperger represented the applicant shell companies, Bethesda Land, LLC and Bethmont, LLC. As I reported last week, the proposed 315' tall tower would include 403 residential units and 14750 square feet of retail and restaurant space. While the renderings are far more advanced than most projects at this stage, there are two factors that could significantly alter the final design of the tower.

One factor will be whether or not Montgomery County can deliver the proposed expansion of Veterans Park on the other half of this square block of Wisconsin. That park is prominently shown in the renderings for 7820, which led one resident to say it was "disingenuous" to show it as already complete in the images. If the park is not delivered by the County, the applicants will revise the design of the building.

A second factor, what to do about the small 4-story condo building next to the EagleBank building, shed light on what the two massing options shown in my previous report were all about. If the applicants cannot obtain the ground rights, they will at least attempt to obtain the air rights to build over the condo building.

Final parking space numbers are not yet available. The applicants plan to provide sufficient parking for residents, but none for the retail or restaurant patrons.

Two points of controversy emerged at last night's meeting. The biggest sticking point is the plan to place the garage entrance and loading dock on the Fairmont Avenue side of the building, which particularly offends residents of Fairmont Plaza who will face that side. Virtual "attendees" pressed the attorneys on this decision, and asked why no traffic studies on that loading dock plan have been conducted.

The attorneys argued that the County does not allow loading docks on Woodmont Avenue. When a resident pointed out that the new 8001 Woodmont has its loading dock on that side just yards away from the 7820 Wisconsin site, the attorneys could not immediately answer why it had been allowed in that case.

A second community complaint was the lack of a delivery pull-off area, which has caused trucks to block traffic at other buildings like Flats 8300 when they stop in travel lanes to make deliveries. Few buildings provide these in recent years, and the County Planning Board has shown little mettle in demanding developers provide them.

Rendering courtesy of Design Collective

Monday, January 25, 2021

Berries & Bowls coming to Bethesda


Gaithersburg-based Berries & Bowls is expanding to downtown Bethesda. A source tells me that the superfood cafe has leased the former Spring Mill Bread Co. space at 4961 Elm Street in the Shoppes of Bethesda, across from Bethesda Row. Their existing Kentlands location is known for its fresh fruit bowls, juices and smoothies.

CHIKO, Chef Tony's Promenade location open in Bethesda


There are two new restaurants to try this week in Bethesda. Chinese-Korean fusion CHIKO is now open at 7820 Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Row. They are open daily from 5:00-9:00 PM for takeout and delivery orders.


Over at the Promenade at Pooks Hill, Chef Tony Marciante's newest location of Chef Tony's is now open, as well.  The Promenade is located at 5225 Pooks Hill Road, north of downtown Bethesda off MD 355. Drive through the front gate, take a right, and then take the first left for parking. Of course, Promenade residents only have to go downstairs. Now, yet another reason to live at the Promenade, which is like a luxury cruise ship on land.

Downtown Bethesda Chef Tony's fans also have something new to try at the original 4926 St. Elmo Avenue location. Three new varieties of cheesecake are on the dessert menu at the St. Elmo location only.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

St. Arnold's space for lease in Bethesda


St. Arnold's
at 7525 Old Georgetown Road has been temporarily closed. But now, Papadopoulos Properties has put their 5000 square foot space on the market for lease. The space also features additional square footage on an outdoor patio area. St. Arnold's opened in 2019.

Photo courtesy Papadopoulos Properties

Burlington coming to Montrose Crossing in North Bethesda


Burlington
is coming to the Montrose Crossing shopping center at 12055 Rockville Pike. It will be located in the other half of the building where Home Depot Home Design Center is. Previously, MD Furniture had been slated to move in there, but Burlington is a much bigger brand name to be sure. There are two existing Burlington locations in Montgomery County, in Gaithersburg and downtown Silver Spring.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Claire Dratch building for sale in Bethesda


The legendary Claire Dratch closed at 7615 Wisconsin Avenue almost three years ago in April 2018. Now the store could be yours. Real estate firm KLNB has put it on the market for sale. 


With enough money, you might finally be able to live your fashion dream and say, "I'll take the whole store." It's empty, of course, but signage remains on the storefront.




Parvizian Rugs moving up Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda


Parvizian Fine Rugs
is one of many businesses impacted by the future redevelopment of 7000 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. Some have closed, and others are relocating. There has been some extensive renovation of a retail storefront next to Saphire Cafe in recent days, and now I'm told that Parvizian will be the new tenant there.

Dalecarlia Parkway temporary lane closures to start February 8


Watch for temporary lane closures on Dalecarlia Parkway N.W. at Warren Place N.W. in the District, beginning on or around February 8, 2021. These lane closures will continue daily through May, as the D.C. Department of Transportation repairs culverts that carry streams and drainage under the parkway in that area. 

Northbound, the right shoulder will be closed before Warren Place. Southbound, the right lane will be closed. Expect a heavy volume of trucks during between the hours of 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, excluding weekends and holidays.  

Friday, January 22, 2021

National Guard buses outside Hyatt Regency Bethesda last night


Seven buses for National Guard troops were parked outside the Hyatt Regency Bethesda hotel last night. The actual troops were not visible, so it was unclear if they were returning here for the night, or shipping out post-inauguration. They have been staying at the hotel since January 11. Others have been spotted at The Bethesdan up the street.

Hopefully these particular troops avoided the disgraceful fate of those forced to sleep in a parking garage last night, after being kicked out of the Capitol and a cafe in the Dirksen building by Capitol police. With hotels across the region empty for the inauguration and hurting for business, the parking garage accommodations made no sense at all. Federal officials need to take care of the soldiers who take care of them.

WSSC responds to water main break at Dorset Avenue and Little Falls Parkway in Chevy Chase

WSSC arriving at scene of
water main break in Chevy Chase

Temperatures are rising and falling, and that leads to water rising on roadways when water main breaks result. Last night, a break occurred at the intersection of Dorset Avenue and Little Falls Parkway in Chevy Chase, at the entrances of Kenwood and the Town of Somerset. A WSSC crew was just arriving on-scene when these photos were taken around 1:00 AM.




Thursday, January 21, 2021

7820 Wisconsin developer unveils designs for tower with 25.1% affordable housing in Bethesda


Here's a first look at the newest plans for the redevelopment of the 7-Eleven and former EagleBank properties into a single, high-rise building at 7820 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda.


The proposal for the tower includes 403 residential units and 14,750 SF of ground floor retail and restaurant space. If that number of units remains the same at approval, the developer is offering to have 101 affordable MPDU units in the building. That would be 25.1% affordable housing, higher than the standard 15.1% required here by Montgomery County. 


Exceeding the MPDU minimum will allow the building to be a maximum of 315' tall, which would make it one of the tallest buildings in downtown Bethesda so far. 290' is the standard maximum height under the 2017 Bethesda Downtown sector plan.

Public open space is
shown in green

250 square feet of public open space is proposed, and 7000 SF of right-of-way streetscape area (likely to comply with Bus Rapid Transit requirements along Wisconsin Avenue and future bike lanes along Woodmont and Fairmont Avenues). The open space is truly in the postage-stamp category, and would be placed at either end of the Fairmont Avenue side of the property.

Garage entrance and loading dock
are proposed for Fairmont Avenue side

Once again, the less-desirable side of the buiding is being pointed at Fairmont Plaza. The parking garage entrance and loading dock will be on that side, near the middle of the block. Of course, this makes some sense in that the other streets are far busier. But if there is no retail or restaurant use on that side, the design would effectuate the opposite of new urbanism principles, and deactivate the block from the level of activity it now has with 7-Eleven.



Renderings for the building - much splashier and more-advanced than many developers show at this stage of the process - show compatibility between the design and a potential Norfolk Avenue/Veterans Park Civic Green directly adjacent to it. Montgomery County will have to acquire the other half of the square block to achieve this goal, however. Given the pie-in-the-sky nature of that happening, the renderings that emphasize a green space the property owners don't control must be taken with more than one grain of salt.

More details about the project and timeline will be discussed at the virtual meeting I previously reported will be held on January 25, 2021.


The two adjoining lots that
would be assembled for 7820 Wisconsin


All renderings courtesy of Design Collective

Pop-up retail space available at The Bethesdan hotel


Ground floor retail space created in the remodeling that transformed the DoubleTree into The Bethesdan hotel is being newly marketed for lease. The new marketing is promoting it as space for a pop-up store, as opposed to a permanent tenant (although I'm sure they'd be delighted if you wanted to sign a long-term lease for it). And there's still the old Yacht Club of Bethesda space vacant on the Woodmont Avenue side of the hotel. The Bethesdan is located at 8120 Wisconsin Avenue.