Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Bethesda crime update - Montgomery County not updating crime data

Note to readers:

Once again, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer's "open data" law has failed. Riemer himself was caught violating the law himself a few weeks ago, when he illegally removed public files from the database. But to the matter at hand: You may have noticed there have been no crime reports the last few days. That is because the County has not updated crime data since May 23, 2017.

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

You can see close-up in the above photo the design technique that gives the Cheval Bethesda its distinctive folded-facade architectural effect. Just about all of the glass is also in place at this point.

Duball, LLC is the developer of the Cheval Bethesda. The 17-story tower will house 72 condo units, and 7000 SF of non-residential space. Prices will be in the ultra-luxury tier: From the $900,000s to over $2.5 million. Delivery is scheduled for later this year.

The Cheval Bethesda sales gallery is located at 7706 Woodmont Avenue.

Taxpayers left holding the bag for $45 million in Silver Spring Transit Center fiasco settlement

Is this a thing of beauty, or what?
Montgomery County taxpayers are left holding the bag in the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle settlement agreed to yesterday. County officials attempting to cover-up their failure to conduct their oversight role on the project filed a weak lawsuit in a case where they themselves were mostly to blame.

The result? Realizing they could not win, the County's ultra-expensive legal team reached a chump change settlement worth a paltry $25 million. That leaves you, the taxpayer, holding the bag and paying $42 million for the remainder of the $47 million in cost overruns, $20 million in damages, and $10 million in legal fees. The settlement also requires the County (a.k.a. you, the taxpayer) to pay $3 million to Foulger-Pratt to settle their countersuit, which was directly caused by the incompetence of the County and County Council. You are now on the hook for a total of $45 million.

The surrender settlement, while inevitable given the County's woefully-weak case, was a total betrayal of the promises made by County Executive Ike Leggett and the County Council. Leggett stated he would not leave taxpayers on the hook for even a penny of the cost overruns. Councilmember George Leventhal promised the Brickyard Coalition in 2014 that he would "ensure taxpayers will not be on the hook for the remediation of the transit center." Councilmember Hans Riemer said in April 2013 he would "protect the taxpayers."

Once safely reelected, Leventhal and his colleagues abruptly turned around and made multiple new appropriations of tens of millions of dollars for the transit center. The taxpayers be damned!, was the clear message from the Council.

On Election Day 2018, voters will deliver the overdue "rough, seat of the pants estimate" Leventhal and his colleagues asked for in January 2015 - with a steel-toed boot.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day in downtown Bethesda (Photos)

Here are some photos from yesterday's wreath and flower displays at Veterans Park in downtown Bethesda. Wreaths were donated by local governments and organizations, including Montgomery County, Bethesda Urban Partnership and the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce. The memorial specifically commemorates Bethesda and Chevy Chase residents who died in conflicts beginning with World War I.

Noise suppression plan filed for demolition of Bethesda Ave. office building

The slow and laborious demolition of the office building at 4733 Bethesda Avenue continues, with the demolition contractor having recently filed a Noise Suppression Plan for the final phase of the destruction. If accepted by Montgomery County, the plan will allow for noise levels of up to 85 dBA.

What will be making the racket will be robotic hydraulic demolition units, and concrete pulverizer units. Best of all for folks living and working on that block, the plan filing states that the work "will take several months to complete."

The only upside for residents across the street (unless they work at night or from home), is that the loud work will be limited to business hours on weekdays. I suspect restaurants on that block, who want to draw customers to their outdoor patios, would have preferred a controlled demolition taking only a matter of seconds, rather than this drawn-out process that calls the Oldest Man to mind.

Here's how they demolish tall buildings elsewhere in the world:

Construction underway at Pieology at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Pieology leased the old 100 Montaditos space at 4922 Elm Street last December, but as summer 2017 approaches, it still hasn't opened. A "coming soon" sign has now appeared, and it's evident that the former tenant's interior has been completely demolished.

Build-out of the new pizzeria's interior is now underway. So, while their "oven is heating up" claim isn't true at the moment, we are getting closer to the day it will.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fine Consigns to open in June in Bethesda

Fine Consigns Bethesda, a new upscale consignment shop located at 4916 Cordell Avenue, will open in June. The store will take the space vacated last year by Leahy Plumbing and Heating.

No "Justice Tuesdays" this week

There will not be a Justice Tuesdays protest tomorrow, Tuesday, May 30, due to the holiday. The Montgomery County Council will not be in session tomorrow. Stay tuned for information about future Justice Tuesdays, to protest against building a parking lot on top of the historic African-American cemetery on the site of Westwood Tower in Bethesda.

Berliner met privately with Westbard developer in Spring 2013

Another sign of what Montgomery County officials knew about the proposed redevelopment of the Westbard area, years before they revealed it to the public, is a 2013 meeting between developer Equity One and County Council President Roger Berliner. In an email from Equity One's then-Executive VP of Development Michael Berfield dated May 2, 2013 obtained by Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row, Berfield thanked Berliner for meeting privately with him and attorney Barbara Sears a few days earlier.

Montgomery County officials already had advance notice of the redevelopment, as they were legally bound to sign off on the 2012 sale of the "Westwood Complex" by Capital Properties to Equity One. That's because Westwood Tower, leased by the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, was among the properties changing hands. (Equity One is now known as "Regency Centers.")
Equity One found Berliner
so helpful, they used his
letter as promo material
Many in the community questioned why a Westbard sector plan update delayed for over 30 years was suddenly on the front burner. Indeed, my 2012 article on the Equity One purchase noted that Montgomery County suddenly announced it would take up the sector plan, just hours before the sale became public knowledge. 

In response, Berliner himself wrote in November 2014 that, "First and foremost, this plan is not being done 'for Equity One.' as has been asserted by some in the community." Yet Berliner had participated in the private meeting over a year earlier, and according to Equity One, had coached the developer on "the best way to engage the community during this process."
Berliner's chief of staff tweets
an endorsement of the
Equity One-EYA partnership
during a Spring 2014
community meeting
In fact, Berliner's office tipped its developer-friendly hand early, two years before the councilman voted "Yes" with gusto to pass the Westbard sector plan in May 2016. During a Spring 2014 community meeting hosted by Equity One at Walt Whitman High School, Berliner's Chief of Staff Cindy Gibson tweeted approvingly of Equity One's partnership with local developer EYA at Westbard. "Seems like a good choice," Gibson tweeted about the proposed development, which would come before her boss in his regulatory capacity on the District Council for approval.

Minuteman Press relocates in Bethesda (Photos)

Minuteman Press has relocated from the doomed Blackwell Building to its interim location in the Bethesda Medical Building, at 8218 Wisconsin Avenue. Eventually, the printing business will relocate to a permanent space next door in the 8200 Wisconsin building. The Blackwell Building will soon be demolished, to make way for the new Marriott headquarters.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Edgemont at Bethesda Metro apartments planning major expansion (Photos)

The Edgemont as seen from the
adjacent property they want to
expand onto
The Edgemont at Bethesda Metro will grow eastward, and add as many as 175 new apartments to the property, if a proposal by Equity Residential is approved by Montgomery County. Equity (not to be confused with Equity One) recently gained control of a parcel next door to the Edgemont, which is currently occupied by a single-family home, grass and trees. No office or retail space is currently planned for the expansion.
The property next door just
acquired by The Edgemont's
owner, Equity Residential
A public meeting is scheduled to announce more details about the plan on Wednesday, June 14, at 7:00 PM, at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center at 4805 Edgemoor Lane in Bethesda. The Edgemont is located at 4903 Edgemoor Lane, and the expansion onto 4885 Edgemoor Lane would extend it to the corner with Woodmont Avenue.

Can an "emergency" power outage be planned in advance? Find out at Bethesda's Garage 11 Monday

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has announced there will be an "emergency power outage" in the Woodmont Corner public parking Garage 11 on Tuesday, May 30, from 4:00 AM to 5:30 AM. There is no explanation why the power will be out, nor why it isn't described as a "planned power outage."

A security team will patrol the garage during the blackout.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fire at Safeway in Bethesda (Photos)

Montgomery County firefighters responded to a report of a fire at the Safeway store at 7625 Old Georgetown Road tonight around 7:30 PM. Since the store is at the base of a high-rise, the incident required a significant response from multiple departments, including at least one unit from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The fire was caused by a short in a compressor, and was extinguished by Safeway employees with a dry chemical fire extinguisher, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. Fire operations began winding down about 20 minutes later. No injuries have been reported.

Gusto posts coming soon signage at Westfield Montgomery Mall, bebe hits the exits (Photos)

I previously reported that Gusto is expanding to Westfield Montgomery Mall, but now there is some official Coming Soon signage at their future space in the Dining Terrace. This is where Lobster ME was during their short run at the mall.

Meanwhile, fashion retailer bebe is saying goodbye after their going-out-of-business sale. The store looks empty and deserted, except for a sad note in the window encouraging customers to continue to shop at bebe online. "We promise that we will continue to be everything you know & love," the note reads.

New consignment shop coming to downtown Bethesda (Photos)

Fine Consigns Bethesda, an upscale consignment shop, is coming to 4916 Cordell Avenue in downtown Bethesda. The store will be in the former Leahy Plumbing and Heating space. Landlord Holt Cordell Properties hired the local architecture of Steven J. Karr, AIA, Inc. to design and complete a full core and shell renovation of the structure in January 2016.

The interior of the store now needs to be built out, but the window covers were off briefly this week, and we can see here the renovated shell of the space. As of this morning, all windows were covered again. Fine Consigns will be right next to Heckman's Delicatessen.