Saturday, August 24, 2019

Dream Aero flight simulator construction update - Montgomery Mall

Dream Aero is a highly-realistic flight simulator coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, on a third level above the Dining Terrace. Construction is now underway, and I have confirmed the type of Boeing 737 that will be simulated - it is the Boeing 737 NG ("next generation"). The NG has been in the skies since 1997, according to Boeing, and the Dream Aero simulator uses the latest cockpit controls and switches one would find in the real plane today. Dream Aero will open in 2020.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Why was there an elephant in downtown Bethesda last night?

A life-size pink elephant was spotted outside of Medium Rare at 4904 Fairmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda last night. It was there for a Delirium tap takeover at the restaurant. Fortunately, it was inflatable - real elephants are forbidden in Montgomery County thanks to the County Council's ban on zoo animals...which the Council debated while Knoxville, Tennessee was busy negotiating with Discovery Communications, ultimately stealing the Discovery headquarters from Silver Spring.

MOD Pizza sets opening date at Montrose Crossing

Last week, I showed you a preview of the interior of MOD Pizza at the Montrose Crossing shopping center in North Bethesda. Now they have announced their opening date - next Tuesday, August 27, 2019 at 10:30 AM. The first 50 people through the doors when they open will get free pizza.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

White Flint Mall site reclaimed by nature (Photos)

The Dark Side of White Flint, Part 44

Welcome to The Dark Side of White Flint, an ongoing series about the not-so-wonnerful, wonnerful, wonnerful side of urbanizing the suburbs of Montgomery County.

The former site of White Flint Mall has been reclaimed by nature. Several years have passed since the mall was demolished, and now it is an overgrown field guarded by hyperaggressive security. Perhaps they fear a giant rabbit may jump the fence and munch on the vegetation. The heady greed that led the owners to pull the plug on a fully-leased mall, with crowded parking lots and popular restaurants, has dissipated. Replacing it is stagnation and malaise. And lots of weeds.
An area touted as Montgomery County's answer to Tysons fell victim to MoCo's moribund economy, corrupt and incompetent County Council, and hostile business climate. Tysons is booming, while White Flint Mall's former site is only blooming with weeds and brush. Developers and investors have fled, abandoning or downsizing their plans. Only Federal Realty moved forward with a fully-realized development, leading their CEO, Don Wood, to criticize County officials for not delivering on their end of the bargain in White Flint.
The Montgomery County Council hasn't taken a single action to address our economic development crisis since taking office last December, as MoCo stagnates with the lowest-ranked economy in the region by every relevant measure. No major corporation has moved its headquarters to Montgomery County in over twenty years. County taxes are at an all-time high, but tax revenue is declining, as the ultra-rich flee to lower-tax jurisdictions in the region.

Yet our elected officials have decided to simply put a piece of carpet tape over the "Check Engine" light screaming at them from the civic dashboard. It's intriguing that Lerner is compelled to provide entertainment for the public on a future development site they own in bustling Tysons, but here the Council allows them to leave us an overgrown field. That says a lot about the difference between the two jurisdictions, and the competency of their respective leadership.

This stretch of Rockville Pike looks
exactly the same as it did over nine years
ago, when the White Flint sector plan passed

Blue light special: New Chase Bank LEDs have neighborhood awash

Bethesda bank's new lights
tinting all buildings around it

The new Chase Bank branch at 7901 Wisconsin Avenue lit up a new set of LED accent lights last night in downtown Bethesda. Their trademark color left all neighboring buildings around it aglow. It could be described as "over the top."

With the collapse of nightlife in downtown Bethesda after the Montgomery County Council's disastrous "Nighttime Economy Task Force" initiative, and the rise of poorly-lit new buildings, I actually support where businesses are adding light and color to the shadowy blackness of our often-deserted streets. I know pedestrians walking alone at night are likely to welcome it. But one has to wonder what future residents of 7900 Wisconsin Avenue across the street may have to say about this blue blasting into their windows, and creeping around their drapes.
Chase Bank (at left) casts a blue
tint down and across Wisconsin
Avenue, as high as the top of the
new 7900 Wisconsin Avenue building

7900 Wisconsin is entirely lit up
by the Chase Bank lights

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Faryab Afghan Cuisine takes summer break in Bethesda

The owners of Faryab Afghan Cuisine are taking their annual summer break at 4917 Cordell Avenue in Bethesda. They will reopen for dinner on Friday, September 6, 2019.

Bethesda parking rates, taxes rise - but Garage 49 elevators don't (Photos)

Parking rates in the Metropolitan Public Parking Garage 49 in downtown Bethesda rose to $1 an hour on Monday, and lost tickets will cost you $15. The Montgomery County Council raised your property taxes - yet again - this past May. But despite charging you more, Montgomery County can't manage to fix the elevators in its own garage! 
A blasé sign that notifies garage patrons they'll just have to use the Old Georgetown Road elevators instead has been there long enough for one frustrated taxpayer to scribble, "So when is this going to be fixed already!!" This seems to follow the County's magical thinking that distance is not a factor in parking for those with disabilities, as with their ludicrous fake "solution" for the Bethesda Post Office they approved with no handicapped parking spaces.
Heckuva job, Brownie!

Pay more, for literally less service

4824 Edgemoor Lane development meeting rescheduled at last minute

What's the deal with the new fad of
developers canceling meetings?!
Moved to new date, location
less convenient for neighbors
of property in question

Last night's scheduled and advertised public meeting regarding a proposed redevelopment of 4824 Edgemoor Lane was abruptly canceled at the very last minute, and rescheduled for September 4, 2019 at 6:30 PM. The rescheduled meeting, strangely, will be held at a location much further away from the property - the cafeteria at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, at 4301 East-West Highway. In addition to being highly unprofessional, the 11th-hour cancellation and site change raise questions about both this gaffe, and an apparent new strategy of canceling these public meetings.

To state the obvious, the new location at BCC HS will be much less convenient for residents of The Chase, The Edgemont, The Christopher, The Metropolitan, and other nearby buildings to attend. Instead of walking down the block or across the street, they'll either have a long walk or slow rush hour drive to BCC. This move particularly seems to target those whom some developers refer to disparagingly as "the grey heads," older residents more invested in their property, who are more likely to turn out for these meetings. Those in The Chase who may be getting a 12-story brick wall outside their window would likely have the biggest concerns.

Second, I've been covering these meetings for many years. This year is the first I can recall a publicly-advertised pre-submission meeting being canceled. In fact, this is now the third such canceled meeting this year. All three were canceled at the last minute, with no public notice. The signs posted at 4824 Edgemoor displaying the time and date of the meeting were not updated Tuesday to announce the cancellation.

Perhaps someone in the industry can suggest how rudely and unprofessionally canceling advertised public meetings at literally the last minute helps a developer. It hasn't been done by any of the biggest names in real estate, like Federal Realty, JBG Smith, or Toll Brothers, for example. But then again, it's never been done before this year. Does it reduce turnout? What is this new trend about?

No one has forced these companies to schedule these meetings. So why in God's name would you advertise a public meeting if you aren't ready to present the project? It makes no sense at all.

The Planning Department should address this issue if it continues to be a new trend. Canceling an officially-advertised public pre-submission meeting should require an approval from the department, at least. This is a serious matter. The public has much more important things to do with their time than travel to the meeting to find it has been canceled. There is a process.

Respect that process. Show some professionalism. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If this is how much you respect the neighbors of your property - having them show up to find a paper taped to a door - how do you expect to have a productive relationship with them during the years ahead, as your project goes through the process and is built?

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Bethesda Mini Mart closes for renovations

Mini Mart at 8006 Norfolk Avenue suddenly has paper over the front windows. A nearby business owner says the convenience store has temporarily closed for a remodeling, and will reopen in a few weeks. The store changed ownership last year, and earlier this year began selling a modest selection of beer and wine.

Signage installed at More Than Java Cafe in Bethesda

Signage has been stenciled on the front windows of More Than Java Cafe, which will be located in the ground floor of the Brightview Bethesda assisted-living apartment building at 4907 Rugby Avenue. The building itself was scheduled to welcome its first residents over the past week.
This will be More Than Java Cafe's second Bethesda location, with the first already open at 10411 Motor City Drive, near Home Depot and Montgomery Mall. As the name implies, it is more than a coffee shop, featuring a wide variety of breakfast and lunch items and baked goods.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Bethesda construction update: Ourisman Honda/CCT plaza (Photos)

Work continues on the small plaza being added alongside the Capital Crescent Trail where it meets Bethesda Avenue by Ourisman Honda. The plaza is being created by the dealership as part of a settlement with Montgomery County, after Ourisman built a garage addition in several public rights-of-way, including that of the CCT. Despite the trade-off, the garage and wall would still block a secretly-planned westward extension of the Purple Line to Westbard and Sumner Place.