Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Stromboli Family Restaurant closes in Bethesda (Photos)

Stromboli Family Restaurant has closed after 37 years in Bethesda at 7023 Wisconsin Avenue. Their website would not load as of this morning. A banner attached to the front is promising the Italian restaurant will reopen in Spring 2018 with a "new look," but also under new ownership. Hopefully the family recipes will be passed on with the name. If you're a longtime Bethesda-Chevy Chase resident, you've likely had a calzone from Stromboli's at least once.

Digital sign warns pedestrians at dangerous Bethesda sidewalk closure (Photos)

The sidewalk remains closed in front of the Apex Building at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, despite no obvious demolition operations being underway at the street side of the structure. Impatient pedestrians continue to jaywalk into oncoming traffic to avoid having to cross the street. Recently, the developer has brought in off-duty police officers to give warnings to jaywalkers. They are not there around the clock, and people continue to walk in the street, so it was more of a PR move than a solution.

Now a police sign trailer has been set up on Wisconsin, warning jaywalkers of fines for entering the roadway. It's not working, as you can see below. The Montgomery County Council has been silent on the issue, which they could have prevented by stipulating a covered sidewalk and closure restrictions in the Purple Line and minor master plan agreements. Once again, the Council has proven impotent on quality of life issues, and basic government matters like pedestrian safety.
Pedestrians enter the roadway
to get around Apex Building
sidewalk closure last night

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 17, according to crime data:

Forced entry. Beer & wine store on Woodmont Avenue at 4:55 AM.

Aggravated assault with gun. Unity Lane.

New mixed-use building proposed for 7316 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda

A long stretch of Wisconsin Avenue south of the Bethesda Metro Center will be entirely unrecognizable five years from now. The owners of the office building at 7316 Wisconsin Avenue are proposing to redevelop their property into an up-to-250' tall, "predominately residential" building with up to 290 units. It would also include up to 15000 SF of retail and restaurant space.

If approved by Montgomery County, this property would join its two next door neighbors in redevelopment. The Apex Building to the south is currently being demolished for Carr Properties' future 7272 Wisconsin development, which just signed its first tenant, WTTG Fox 5. Just north of 7316 is the Bainbridge property, which is currently updating its redevelopment proposal to take advantage of the new zoning imposed by the Bethesda Downtown Plan - and rightfully so.

With the Carr project in particular looking quite nice in the renderings, and Bainbridge's earlier renderings at least somewhat promising, this could be become a showcase stretch of Wisconsin Avenue in the future.

A public meeting will be held to introduce the project on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 7:00 PM, at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda.

New mural completed at Bethesda Row (Photos)

The newest public art addition to Bethesda Row, "What Lifts You," by Kelsey Montague, is now completed on Hagar Lane off Bethesda Avenue. Enter what looks like an alley between Quartermaine Coffee Roasters and the vacant former Make Meaning space.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fox 5 to move station headquarters to downtown Bethesda in 2021

WTTG Fox 5 announced this morning it will move its broadcasting headquarters from its venerable Northwest Washington building to Carr Properties' future office tower at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. The station said it expects to make the move in 2021.

 "We are thrilled to move our facilities to Montgomery County, Maryland into what will be a Grade A complex developed by Carr Properties and we thank the state of Maryland and Montgomery County for making this possible," Fox 5 VP and GM Patrick Paolini said this morning. "This will be a state-of-the-art facility that will keep us in the heart of the Washington, D.C. Metro area and allow us to better serve our community,"

Celebrate National Lobster Day September 25 at Bethesda Row

A week from today is National Lobster Day, on Monday, September 25. Luke's Lobster at 7129 Bethesda Lane will offer a special deal that day only. For $25, you will get a small Lobster Corn Chowder, one Lobster Roll, and one half-lobster-tail skewer. Treat the whole office by emailing

Leland St. turn restrictions violate Montgomery County law (Photos)

"Enough is enough!"

The recent aggressive War-on-Cars actions of Montgomery County on Leland Street in Bethesda may have backfired. An illegal closure of the road, ultimately reversed after it was exposed to have been done without the required public process, was simply piling-on with onerous turn restrictions and traffic obstacles already in place. All the illegal move did was draw attention to the fact that, with Leland Street classified as an arterial road, it is ineligible for traffic volume restrictions - much less a closure to traffic.
Now, Bethesda resident Ashish Goel has written to Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Al Roshdieh, putting him on notice that he must remove those restrictions - or be found in violation of County law. In his letter to Roshdieh, Goel cites Section III.B of Montgomery County Executive Regulation 17-94, which states, “Only tertiary, secondary, and primary residential streets are eligible for volume restriction measures.”
Graphic by Ashish Goel
showing classification of
Leland St. as an arterial


Goel is asking Roshdieh to immediately remove the existing turn restrictions on traffic from Woodmont Avenue between 4:00-7:00 PM, demolish the recently-added concrete median which restricts left turns from Leland to Woodmont and vice versa, nullify traffic citations handed out during the recent police sting operations on Leland, and cease any ongoing consideration of further traffic restrictions on Leland.
Image from Montgomery County
Executive Regulation 17-94

"Your office has shown that it is willing to unlawfully put the wants of a few over the rights of all Montgomery County residents," Goel wrote to Roshdieh Friday. "Enough is enough! Stop wasting Montgomery County taxpayer dollars to advance the agenda of this small minority of residents."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Car stolen on Middleton Lane, theft & disorder at iPic Theater + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 15, according to crime data:

Stolen car. Middleton Lane.

DUI. Old Georgetown Road.

DUI. Wisconsin Avenue.

Assault. Greenlawn Drive.

Theft from vehicle. Broad Street.

Possession of marijuana. Rockville Pike.

Shoplifting. Democracy Boulevard.

Theft and disorderly conduct. iPic Theater (Pike & Rose).

Juvenile runaway. Schuylkill Road (Randolph Hills).

City Sports space still up for lease at Bethesda Row as pop-up winds down

Don't give up hope on maybe getting another bookstore or medium-size retailer/restaurant in the old City Sports space on Arlington Road at Bethesda Row. The "pop-up" use of the 5786 SF vacant storefront by next-door neighbor Urban Country appears to be winding down. A leasing sign is in the front window. Note that the sign floats the idea of a "temporary lease," suggesting we could see another pop-up use in the near future.

But consider that Books-A-Million (a.k.a., BAM!) stores are as small as 4000 SF, and you realize this is a indeed a viable-if-not-ideal space for a bookstore. Now, if they could fit a 4000 SF BAM! store with a 1786 SF cafe area inside here, it might take some of the sting out of losing anchor Barnes & Noble at the end of the year. BAM! does have Joe Muggs cafes in many of its stores. On the other hand, the sidewalk width here is a bit cramped compared to the B&N plaza space, traffic noise is louder, and the BAM! inventory may not satisfy Bethesda demographics seeking more of a Politics & Prose experience.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bethesda Row adding new mural, and it's designed with Instagram in mind (Video + Photos)

Artist Kelsey Montague is adding a new mural to Bethesda Row. It's taking shape on Hagar Lane, and should be completed by tomorrow, weather-permitting (although some showers are expected today). The good news? Unlike most of the godawful new public art over the last year in Bethesda, at least it won't look like someone vandalized a wall during the night. And the wing-themed art is designed to be interactive, to be posed with on Instagram.

One of the most fascinating things about new urbanism, is how people ultimately interact with these artificially-created urban landscapes. A specific aspect I like to look at is, what facet of a development becomes "Instagrammable." What is the unique spot, object, building, sculpture, wall, etc. that people arbitrarily decide is the identifying element that tells their friends, "I'm here at [insert name of place]."

At Bethesda Row, it is Bethesda Lane, and to a lesser extent, the mural along the side wall of Nando's. In Langley Park, immigrants pose at the fountain at Langley Park Plaza. It instantly communicates to relatives back home, "I'm here. I made it to Langley Park." I'm curious to see what ultimately becomes the spot at Pike & Rose that people pose in front of. No matter how much planning or thought goes into the design, the people decide for themselves.

Now, this wings mural kind of turns this organic idea on its ear - it is explicitly designed for the very purpose of enticing people to pose with it for social media photos. In that respect, it won't be as fascinating of a sociological experiment as Pike & Rose will be. There's a strong element of democratization in leaving these decisions up to the patrons, a small way of asserting public power over what are ultimately privately-owned public spaces.

Taste of Bethesda 2017 will be October 7

Save the date for the biggest annual event in Bethesda - Taste of Bethesda, which will be held this year on Saturday, October 7, 2017, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM in the Woodmont Triangle neighborhood. Sample the cuisine of almost 50 restaurants along Norfolk, St. Elmo, Cordell, Del Ray and Auburn Avenues, by purchasing tasting tickets at $5 for four tickets. Admission, parking in nearby garages, and the Bethesda Circulator bus are all free.

This will be the 28th annual Taste of Bethesda, hosted by Bethesda Urban Partnership.

Participating Restaurants

Bethesda Curry Kitchen
BGR The Burger Joint
Brickside Food & Drink
Caddies on Cordell
Chef Tony’s Seafood
Duck Duck Goose
Flanagan’s Harp & Fiddle
Fresh Baguette
George’s Chophouse
Georgetown Cupcake
Guapo’s Restaurant
Gusto Farm to Street
Hanaro Sushi
Kadhai Boutique Indian Cuisine
Le Pain Quotidien
Louisiana Kitchen & Bayou Bar
Mamma Lucia
Medium Rare
MoMo Chicken + Grill
Morton’s, The Steakhouse
Mussel Bar & Grille
The Original Pancake House
Passage to India
Peet’s Coffee & Tea
Penang Malaysian Cuisine
Quartermaine Coffee Roasters
Redwood Restaurant & Bar
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Smoke BBQ
Smoothie King
Suma Restaurant + Bar
Tandoori Nights
Tapp’d Bethesda
Tommy Joe’s
Tout de Sweet Pastry Shop
Tropical Smoothie Café

Entertainment Schedule

St. Elmo Stage
11:15am – Lea Morris (Folk/Acoustic, Soul)
1:15pm – Band of Us (Rock/Alternative)

Cordell Avenue Stage
11:15am – Lloyd Dobler Effect (Rock)
1:45pm – Signature Live (Blue/R&B)

Norfolk Avenue Stage
11am – Patrick Alban Band (Latin)
1:30pm – Chopteeth (Afrofunk)

Auburn Stage
11am – Carpathia Folk Dance Ensemble (Folk)
12pm – Soul In Motion (African)
1pm – The Wild Zappers and National Deaf       Dance Theater (Hip-Hop)
2pm – Nomad Dancers (Middle Eastern)
3pm – Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance (Irish)

Veterans Park
11am – Hayley Fahey Band (Pop/Rock)
1:30pm – Albino Rhino (Funk/Rock)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Woodmont Avenue Metrobus stop to be discontinued

WMATA is arbitrarily discontinuing Metrobus Route J2/J3 service to the stop on Woodmont Avenue by The Christopher condos. Apparently, J7 service will continue, as will the Bethesda Circulator stop. The end of J2/J3 service is scheduled for September 24, 2017. Once again, WMATA takes more and charges more, but delivers less. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Lucy to close at Bethesda Row

Lucy Activewear will close at Bethesda Row by the end of this year, a corporate spokesperson said Thursday. All of the chain's stores and online presence will disappear, and the "athleisure" line of Lucy products will be folded into The North Face, whose parent company owns both brands. No closing date has been announced, and Lucy remains open for business at 7112 Bethesda Lane at this time.

A new Leland St. perk at taxpayer expense: deceptive Do Not Enter signs

Montgomery County government continues, for dark and mysterious reasons, to bend over backwards to please its wealthy patron(s) on Leland Street in Bethesda. Take these two new signs with false messages, for example. When making the right turn from Woodmont Avenue onto Leland, a driver is now confronted with two signs stating, "Do Not Enter." In much smaller type, the hours during which turns are prohibited are detailed, but that information is overshadowed by the universally-familiar "Do Not Enter" symbol and words. This is a violation of signage best practices, and could potentially cause an accident.

I watched several drivers making the turn slam on their brakes upon seeing the Do Not Enter signs. Even I instinctively braked for a second the first time I encountered them. The signs give you the impression that you are going the wrong way, sure to create confusion. In truth, you are going the right way, on a public street whose residents and the County would like to make private - at taxpayer expense. It appears that the County is trying to yet again unofficially close the street by fooling a percentage of drivers into thinking they are going into a one-way street.
The resulting confusion could cause accidents. In fact, the first car I observed encountering the signs immediately braked, and ultimately backed up and turned back onto Woodmont - even though he was making the turn during the legal hours! This is an abuse of the system and taxpayer money for political and patronage reasons. It is not a Do Not Enter at all; it is a restricted turn, and a Do Not Enter symbol should not be used for another purpose.

According to the United States Sign Council Best Practices Manual, a sign of this type requires 4-5 seconds of reaction time on a driver's part. During that time, he or she might be distracted from a pedestrian trying to cross here, for example.

Once again, the rules are being bent by the County, in order to honor an apparently-secret agreement between County politicians and one or more residents of Leland Street. The scandal began when it was exposed that the County had closed the street without the required public notice and public meeting. Caught in a firestorm of backlash from taxpaying drivers, road-closure advocates on the County Council Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer quickly backpedaled, portraying themselves as unwitting tools in the closure.

After the street was reopened to traffic, an electronic sign and personal police trap were dispatched rapidly and at taxpayer expense. Other streets and neighborhoods in the County have sought many of these same solutions, but have had to wait weeks, months or years for action.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 12, according to crime data:

Shoplifting. Restaurant on Old Georgetown Road in downtown Bethesda.

Theft from vehicle. School parking lot on Hunters Lane.

Liquor violation. Norfolk Avenue.

DUI. Montgomery Avenue.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Theft from vehicle. Parking lot on MacArthur Boulevard.

Theft. School on Whittier Boulevard.

Shoplifting. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Disorderly conduct. Alley on Cordell Avenue.

BCC Rescue Squad gearing up for October events

October is a busy month for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, when two of their major annual events are held. On Saturday, October 7, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM, the squad hosts Rescue Day 2017, designed to coincide with the large crowds from the nearby Taste of Bethesda event the same day and time. Visitors of all ages can tour the squad, watch fire and rescue demonstrations, look at vehicle and equipment, and enjoy a moon bounce and free firefighter hats for kids. Admission will be free.

On October 22, the squad's Alumni Association will host an All You Can Eat Crab Feast fundraiser from 1:00 to 5:00 PM in the squad's Anastasi Room. The menu will include steamed crabs, fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, applesauce, and rolls, along with beer and soda. Tickets cost $45 per person in advance (or $50 at the door).

For tickets or further information, call 301-442-4136 or visit Proceeds will benefit the B-CC Rescue Squad.

The squad is located at 5020 Battery Lane.

Own a piece of now-closed Sears Auto Center in Bethesda

The demise of Sears Auto Center in Bethesda could be a boon to mechanics and shop owners looking for used equipment. Much of the contents of the business have now been put up for sale on Craigslist, although it's unknown which items are still available. The Craiglist ad says interested buyers can stop by between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM Monday through Friday at the auto center's "open garage." Items listed range from breakroom tables and a hydraulic press to a refrigerator (Kenmore, of course).

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Car stolen on Cedar Lane, trespassing at Walter Johnson HS + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 11, according to crime data:

Theft from vehicle. Parking lot on Battery Lane.

Theft. Pharmacy on Friendship Boulevard.

Assault. Parking lot on Willard Avenue.

Trespassing. Walter Johnson High School at 10:51 AM.

Trespassing. Walter Johnson High School at 7:15 AM.

Theft from vehicle. Brandt Place.

Stolen car. From driveway of home on Cedar Lane.

Theft from vehicle. Manning Drive.

Theft from vehicle. Howell Road.

Theft from building. Apartment/condo on Old Georgetown Road (Pike District).

Theft from vehicle. River Road 20817.

Why has an entrance at Sumner Place been closed for weeks? (Photo)

Many people have asked me what is going on at the south entrance to the Shops at Sumner Place on Sangamore Road in Bethesda. The driveway has been blocked off and screened from view for many weeks with no explanation. Some have speculated that the property owner was installing gates for a paid parking system, ahead of the arrival of 3000 new employees at the new intelligence campus across the street.

According to Scott McLellan of property management firm Avison Young, the shopping center is simply replacing an expansion joint in the roadway. It has taken a long time because they did not want to disturb neighbors by getting a noise waiver for nighttime work. And it requires time to cure properly.

McLellan said patrons can expect the entrance to reopen "by late next week."

Consensus on MoCo Council burial sites bill: Too little, too late

Speakers testifying yesterday on a proposed Montgomery County Council bill to better inventory burial sites almost uniformly agreed the weak measure is merely a starting point. Bill 24-17, Land Use Information - Burial Sites, would not have prevented the horrific desecration of the African-American cemetery behind Westwood Tower in Bethesda nor the current controversy over a proposal to build a parking garage atop its graves, will not resolve that issue, nor would it prevent a case like it from occurring in the future.

Even one of the bill's lead sponsors, Councilmember Craig Rice (D - District 2) acknowledged that reality in remarks that followed citizen testimony. "We're starting from zero," Rice said. "This bill was never intended to address the Westbard cemetery." The problem is, the Council's PR office made the Westbard cemetery the dominant talking point when the bill was introduced, giving a false impression to residents who might not be following the drama closely that the Council was rushing to the rescue of the hidden black cemetery.

Resident David Kathan, part of a group of researchers who will soon publish a report on the history of the Westbard cemetery, said the bill needed many revisions and improvements to be effective. He noted that his team had identified several cemeteries currently not on the County's inventory. Kathan said cemetery inventories should be taken at all stages of development, not simply annually or at the point of subdivision.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, Social Justice Director for Macedonia Baptist Church (whose past members are among those buried in the Westbard cemetery), criticized the provision in the accompanying Subdivision Regulation Amendment that would give the Montgomery County Planning Board the sole power to decide whether graves should be moved to benefit a private developer. She said a citizen board would need to oversee such a decision, due to the "long history of the Planning Board favoring development over community interests."

Coleman-Adebayo also called for the County to purchase the cemetery land from development partners Regency Centers and the County Housing Opportunities Commission, to allow for construction of a museum and memorial on it. Rice said he would support a "monument, grounds and a structure," without specifying a museum. She also advised that protection be given to whistieblowers in the County.

In my own testimony, I suggested that regulations and penalties are needed to protect cemeteries from development and desecration. Cemetery disclosures during land sales need to be examined, as well. "Changes are needed," I said, "because our community is horrified that the first free generation of Africans - whose bodies were bought and sold at slave markets - could 140 years later be bought again by a $4 billion corporation."

At a later point in the hearing, advocates for the Waters family cemetery in Germantown squared off against the developer who owns it. The developer, who owns a site between I-270 and Century Boulevard, said that a proposed bridge retaining wall near the cemetery would impact her ability to develop the northern portion of the site, which is where the Corridor Cities Transitway stop will be. The current location of the Waters cemetery also precludes north-south road access through the site, she said.

The landowner said she would have no problem relocating the cemetery to a park or public plaza in her future development, "just not where it currently is." A Maryland burial sites advocate disagreed with that sentiment. "A final resting place is exactly what it should be: final."

A Council worksession on the bill and amendment is tentatively scheduled for early October. Cemetery advocates have launched a petition demanding HOC scrap its plan to build the garage on the cemetery, and allow an archaeological survey of the cemetery site.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Bethesda remembers 9/11 (Photos)

Flags at half-staff
Flags were at half-staff yesterday in downtown Bethesda, on the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, as well as of the related crash of a passenger plane in Pennsylvania, which was said to be under the control of hijackers who were aiming to hit the U.S. Capitol. Another large flag was draped from a building at the Bethesda Metro Center.

Bethesda demolition update: 7900 Wisconsin Avenue (Photos)

JBG Smith's demolition of 7900 Wisconsin Avenue is proceeding much faster than the one on Bethesda Avenue did, and the firm seems determined so far to avoid the kind of over-the-top sidewalk and lane closures found down the road at the Apex Building demolition. The sidewalk has reopened for now, and the structure itself is pretty much down to the frame and floors at this point, with the exception of the ground level.