Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Westbard Rite Aid robbery update

I have an update on the robbery of the Rite Aid on Westbard Avenue in the Westwood Shopping Center. The robbery caused the store to remain closed for much of Sunday.

2nd District Montgomery County police commander Captain David Falcinelli says there were two alleged robbers. The two suspects entered the store around 1:30 PM Sunday afternoon, and proceeded to jump over the pharmacy counter. They grabbed narcotics from the pharmacy shelves, and fled the store.

Falcinelli says the Montgomery County Police Department Robbery Section is currently investigating the incident.

Ourisman Honda resumes demolishing wall along Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda

Ourisman Honda yesterday resumed its demolition of a controversial wall it recently constructed up against the Capital Crescent Trail, just off of Bethesda Avenue. The wall is part of an equally-controversial addition to the dealership, which included a massive parking garage. Together, the wall and addition are believed to be illegally intruding into three different easements, including that of the trail itself.

There is also a question of a fire code requirement that demands a 20' area for ladder trucks to access the rear of the Flats at Bethesda Avenue, in the event of a fire or emergency. While Ourisman has begun tearing down the wall without explanation, they have so far resisted calls to demolish the garage. That issue will be resolved by the Board of Appeals later this Spring. Trail users have been warned by signage to use caution when approaching the demolition site.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Source: Tastee Diner agrees to sell, will be acquired for Marriott HQ site in Bethesda

A source tells me the owner of Tastee Diner has agreed to sell the venerable restaurant's property, to make way for a larger Marriott headquarters and hotel to be built on that block in downtown Bethesda. After several months of negotiations with the Marriott site property owner, Tastee Diner has reportedly agreed to sell for $7 million. That is $2 million more than the offer they received in February.

Whether the diner would move to a new location, remains to be determined. If the deal goes through, Montgomery County officials should insist that a Hot Shoppes restaurant be included in the future hotel to balance out the nostalgia factor.

The Marriott headquarters project is a partnership between the hotel giant, property owner Bernstein Companies and Boston Properties. It is expected to deliver in 2022. Tastee Diner is located at 7731 Woodmont Avenue, a corner of the same block as the Marriott site, which is addressed as 7750 Wisconsin Avenue.

Bethesda construction update: True Food Kitchen (Photos)

True Food Kitchen has posted a sign with the grand opening date and time for the health-oriented restaurant. There's also a menu on display. It appears they will be doing an extensive amount of training, because the dining room looks just about finished, and they've actually already passed their Montgomery County pre-opening environmental inspection. True Food Kitchen is in the ground floor of the new Solaire Bethesda apartments, located at 7077 Woodmont Avenue.

Sneak peek: Q by Peter Chang restaurant in Bethesda (Photos)

The sign is installed and lit at Q by Peter Chang, located at 4500 East-West Highway. Arguably the most-anticipated Bethesda restaurant opening scheduled for 2017, the acclaimed chef's flagship venture is also making a bid to be the best-looking. Already the interior is making use of unique lighting and design accents, while taking full advantage of the main dining room's dimensions.

You can take a virtual tour of the dining room on the Q by Peter Change website, which is now online. Interestingly, the colored lighting of the designs above the dining room is not shown in the 3-D model, so it's clear that the finished interior will be even more impressive than the renderings. Q by Peter Chang is expected to open before summer, although the official grand opening date has not yet been announced.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Rite Aid on Westbard Ave. closed after robbery today (Photos)

The Westbard Rite Aid in Bethesda was closed much of today, after the store was robbed early this afternoon. From what few details I've been able to find out so far, a robber reportedly demanded drugs at the store's pharmacy and fled. 

The store was then closed, with a sign in the front door declaring the Rite Aid a crime scene. Two police cruisers were parked outside at the Westwood Shopping Center. Customers with urgent prescriptions to be picked up were directed to the Potomac store. 

There has been no official statement released by Montgomery County police as of press time.

Bethesda construction update: The Rugby (Photos)

The tower crane has been installed at the construction site of The Rugby. A 17-story mixed-use tower, The Rugby will complement the existing Gallery Bethesda luxury apartments at 4800 Auburn Avenue. Both will share a pedestrian plaza, and both were developed by Donohoe. This is a good time to brush up on crane signals.

Bethesda man vanishes - Bethesda crime update

A man disappeared after leaving his Bethesda home Friday night, and Montgomery County police are asking for the public's assistance in finding him. Sean Preilipper, 37, walked away from his Tanglewood Drive house around 7:00 PM Friday, and hasn't been heard from since.

Preilipper is described as a white male, 6′ tall, and weighing about 200 pounds. He has brown hair and blue eyes.  When he left home, he was wearing a dark colored sweatshirt, dark jeans, and dark colored shoes.

Police are concerned for Preilipper’s emotional and physical welfare. Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Sean Preilipper is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number, 301.279.8000.

BIBIBOP Asian Grill hiring ahead of opening at Bethesda Row

BIBIBOP Asian Grill, the fast casual chain taking over the shuttered ShopHouse restaurant on Bethesda Avenue, is now hiring staff. The brand is the latest venture by Charley Shin, who was also the man behind Charleys Philly Steaks (don't ask me where the apostrophe is in the name, though).

Each meal is a variation on the Korean dish of bibimbap, mixed rice with your choice of proteins, vegetables and sauce. A lot like the restaurant it replaces, but with the added benefit of coming to us from the great city of Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus was recently named the most high-tech city in America by Forbes magazine (the city actually has a long history of high-tech innovation, for those familiar with it). This likely befuddled our Montgomery County Council. When not struggling to find the doorknob to get out of the room, our Council has bumbled through one tech gaffe after another this decade. Gaffes ranged from the revelation that the County government was still using Windows 2000...in 2014, to a humiliating state audit of cybersecurity failures at MCPS, and even Councilmember Hans Riemer breaking his own failed open-data law.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Class 520 sets opening date in Bethesda + how to win 3 months of free ice cream

Class 520, a Thai fried ice cream roll shop in the Shoppes of Bethesda on Elm Street, will open on Friday, May 5, 2017. The first 30 people in line on Friday and Saturday will win VIP cards good for 3 months of free ice cream. Class 520 has an existing location in Rockville.

Warby Parker sign installed + official renderings of the Bethesda Row store (Photos)

The sign is up at Warby Parker at Bethesda Row. Here are three official renderings I received from Warby Parker, which show what the finished store at 4821 Bethesda Avenue will look like inside. A spokesperson said an official opening date has not been set yet.
Looking toward the
back of the store

Facing Bethesda Avenue
from the rear of the store


Friday, April 21, 2017

Peruvian chicken, KicksUSA, Gusto coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Two new dining additions and an "urban footwear" store are coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. In an announcement about new additions, the mall says a Peruvian chicken restaurant and Gusto Farm to Table will join the dining lineup.

The name of the chicken restaurant is unclear from the announcement, which cites the name as Pollo A La Brasa in the heading, but as "Don Pollo" in the description. A new Don Pollo inside the mall would make little sense, as a Don Pollo is already scheduled to open in the Westlake Shopping Center next door to the mall.

Gusto has two existing locations in Montgomery County, in downtown Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring. They will be located in the Dining Terrace.

Philadelphia-based KicksUSA will bring their urban footwear and apparel selection to the mall soon. KicksUSA is the kind of place you might have lined up yesterday for the Nike Air Foamposite One Metallic Copper shoes. They will have the latest releases the average sneaker collector won't want to miss.

Secolari closes at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Secolari, a shop selling olive oils and vinegars, has closed at Bethesda Row. The interior is mostly cleared out. Their Columbia location at The Mall in Columbia remains open.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pines of Rome to remain in current Bethesda location for the near future

Douglas Development owns the
Pines of Rome building, and the
former location of Tommy Joe's
behind it in Bethesda
The venerable Pines of Rome will be staying put at 4709 Hampden Lane for the foreseeable future. While the popular Italian spot's owner had been preparing for a more imminent move (as soon as the end of this month, according to a source) to the former Matuba space on Cordell Avenue, those plans have now changed.

Pines of Rome will remain in its current location "for the next few years or so," a spokesperson for the restaurant said in a message this morning. So while an eventual move across town remains almost inevitable, you'll be enjoying their famous white pizza on Hampden Lane for a while longer than expected.

Fans of the beloved restaurant, a neighborhood institution since 1972, had been fearful Pines of Rome would be closing since Douglas Development bought their property 3 years ago. The new property on Cordell Avenue assures the survival of the restaurant, even if the scenery ends up changing in a few years.

Church engaged in Westbard cemetery dispute to launch "Justice Tuesdays" against MoCo government

Update: The first protest will be held Tuesday, April 25
at 10:00 AM at the Montgomery County Executive Office Building at
101 Monroe Street in Rockville

After being steamrolled by Montgomery County in the dispute over an African-American cemetery on the site of Westwood Tower in Bethesda, Macedonia Baptist Church announced it will continue its fight with "Justice Tuesdays" beginning next week. These weekly protests will take place at County buildings and offices related to land-use, to highlight and protest the County's complicity with the planned further desecration of the historic graveyard, which was tied to the black community that existed on River Road for about 100 years from the end of slavery.

The months-old rift has further exposed and underlined the institutional racism of Montgomery County government toward black landowners, particularly in the historic black communities founded by freed slaves from county plantations. Farm Road is another high-profile example, and the actions of the Planning Department to defraud black landowners in that case have yet to be independently investigated.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission - which along with developer Regency Centers, wants to build a parking garage atop the graves in the Westbard cemetery - was found to have neglected an African-American graveyard it owns in Tobytown. One source told me that the HOC allegedly built homes on top of some of the graves in that cemetery in the past.

Rather than acknowledge the documented existence of the Westbard cemetery, and the lack of evidence that its graves were ever legally relocated, County officials have continually used conditional language when discussing the subject. “The County’s use of phrases like ‘alleged cemetery,’ and ‘where church members believe their ancestors are buried,’ are designed to impugn our integrity and cast doubt on what the county’s own documents confirm,” said the church's social justice director, Marsha Coleman-Adebayo. “Director Gwen Wright also likes to use the word ‘transparent’ to describe this process, but it has been about as transparent as the asphalt that is over the graves of our ancestors.” The cemetery was largely paved over after parts of it were desecrated by workers constructing Westwood Tower in the late 1960s.

Harvey Matthews is not only a trustee and deacon at the church, but was also an actual resident of the historic River Road community, until his family was forced out by developers. He remembers playing with friends in the cemetery when he was growing up.  “I can’t help but believe that County Executive [Ike] Leggett and Council President Roger Berliner are either using Ms. Wright as a human shield to protect themselves from political fallout, or she is doing their dirty work," Matthews said. "Otherwise, they would have demanded her resignation long ago.”

Documents obtained from the Planning Department recently showed that the department withheld information about the cemetery from both the public, and the Planning Board. “The Planning Department has concealed information from the public and from other agencies within Montgomery County,” said the Rev. Dr. Segun Adebayo, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church. “Its director is given to lying on camera, lying on the radio, and lying through the press about what she knows concerning the African cemetery. She has played a lead role in disappearing information that was provided to her by the County’s own historic preservation people. Worse, her department actively suppressed this information from other County departments that govern land use policy.”

This coming Tuesday, April 25, will be the first Justice Tuesday. Protesters will gather at the Montgomery County Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville at 10:00 AM that day.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Van Hollen accused of attempting to suppress black vote in Maryland, was ripped by Hillary Clinton

2016 U.S. Senate candidate
Donna Edwards
The Montgomery County Council's unanimous endorsement of Chris Van Hollen in the U.S. Senate race last year has just blown up in their faces. In every cycle since 2006, the County Council has declined to support black candidates for U.S. Senate seats from Maryland, including former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume in 2006, and Donna Edwards last year.

Now a new book, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign, reports that Van Hollen pressed Maryland labor union officials to limit their mobilization of African-American voters in the 2016 Democratic primary. When presidential candidate Hillary Clinton got wind of Van Hollen's plan, she grew enraged, asking staffers, "Who gives a f*** about Chris Van Hollen?" authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write.

Edwards lost to Van Hollen, but bested him among black voters.

Bethesda construction update: Stonehall Bethesda ultra-luxury condos (Photos)

The Stonehall Bethesda ultra-luxury condo building at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Battery Lane is in the homestretch of construction. I have to say that this may be the best looking of the post-recession developments in downtown Bethesda, with the unique porte-cochère entrance, circular driveway, and center roof spire.

The result is a cross between a grand hotel, and a very-exclusive private school (the Trinity School in New York being an example, if slightly shorter in height). I suspect some sales will be made on the appearance of the building alone.

I don't know what you call the recessed feature in the center of the building, but that looks quite nice, as well. Some windows are in place. The driveway really stands out, as virtually no other new construction downtown is offering pull-off driveways for vehicles to serve guests and deliveries.
Delivery of the Stonehall Bethesda is expected this summer. The developer is Duball, LLC, and McWilliams Ballard is in charge of sales. They are currently offering hard hat tours to prospective buyers. Visit the sales gallery at 7706 Woodmont Avenue.