Friday, March 23, 2018

Club Pilates official grand opening in Bethesda this Saturday

Club Pilates is the latest in a new wave of fitness studios to open in downtown Bethesda over the last few weeks. After soft-opening in February, the studio will be hosting an official grand opening tomorrow, Saturday, March 24, 2018. Club Pilates is located at 4959 Elm Street, formerly home to Ten Thousand Villages.

MoCo Council again tries to sabotage Montrose Parkway East

This week's so-called "compromise" on the Montrose Parkway East project is actually another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to either sabotage, or altogether cancel, the long-delayed highway. Amidst the political pablum of County Executive Ike Leggett's press release, clearly written under duress, was a sentence that did not receive sufficient analysis.

Leggett, who correctly did not want to delay construction of the road at all initially, stated that the one-year delay of the highway would be used to make design changes related to bicycles and pedestrians. He did not specify what those were, or who would approve those changes, and under what public oversight.

What we do know is that developers have wanted to kill the road outright, because it only benefits residents and commuters. It does not help developers, because it is a relief valve, rather than a road that lets developers build more "stuff." Developers want the money from the Montrose Parkway East to go to projects across the County that will allow them to build more stuff, the taxpayers who forked over the highway money be damned.

What we also know, is that several developer tools on the Planning Board have long dreamed of canceling the elevated portion of the parkway over Parklawn, in order to allow developers to build up to the edges of what would be an ordinary urban street. I was able to stop this attempt singlehandedly in 2013, when my testimony changed the votes of several commissioners, who were poised to cancel the grade-separated design for Parklawn at the behest of now-chair Casey Anderson. They also want other sabotage design changes that would similarly increase traffic congestion and lengthen travel time for commuters using the parkway. Such changes would ensure drivers in Rockville, Aspen Hill and other points east of a much-longer trip to and from I-270. Day after day after day.
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"Design changes" are right out of the Council playbook, and were previously used by Councilmember Roger Berliner to yet again delay the M-83 Highway. M-83 on the master plan alignment was ready to start construction on an up-or-down vote by the Council, after being recommended by both upcounty residents and MCDOT. Berliner, at the behest of developers, threw the project into an unrequired new approval process that included yet another public hearing. M-83, like MPE, is an old road needed decades ago, and won't by itself allow any development that couldn't go forward today.

It's critical we elect a Council that will cancel any sabotage design changes to the Montrose Parkway East, and will begin construction on that project and M-83 immediately.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bethesda construction update: Gallery II luxury apartment tower (Photos)

The Donohoe Companies' Gallery II remains on track for a late summer 2018 delivery at 4850 Rugby Avenue in Bethesda. An official website for the sister building to the Bethesda-based company's Gallery Bethesda tower is now online. It was created by Vantage Management, which manages both towers.

As you can see, a lot of glass is now in place on the lower half of the tower. Much facade work has been done on the lower levels, as well.

The vision for the ground floor of the building is a greater emphasis on dining and retail that will draw foot traffic to the development, as opposed to the retail in the original Gallery, which is more oriented toward services for residents upstairs. Such tenants will be needed to activate the already-completed plaza public space the two towers will share.
The shared plaza, with lighted
sculptures already in place

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City Bikes now open at White Flint Station (Photos)

A new bike shop has opened in the Pike District. City Bikes is now open at 11610 Rockville Pike, in the White Flint Station shopping center. In business since 1988, the regional chain offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on bikes that remain in "like new" condition. City Bikes takes over the space vacated by adult boutique Le Tache last October.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Invisalign to open store at Westfield Montgomery Mall, Spice 6 "coming soon" signage goes up

A new option for current and potential Invisalign patients is coming to Bethesda. Whereas the the clear alternative to traditional braces is usually acquired through an orthodontic office or cosmetic dentistry office, you'll soon be able to go right to the source at Westfield Montgomery Mall. Invisalign is opening its own store on Level 2 of the mall.

In other mall news, remember Spice 6? They have posted "coming soon" signage at their future spot.

Hogan warns of "treacherous" conditions in springtime snowstorm

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an urgent bulletin from Reisterstown warning Marylanders of "treacherous" conditions on roadways during today's springtime snowstorm. The snow is capping off an unusually-chilly March.

“Snow, sleet, and freezing rain falling this evening and overnight could make road conditions treacherous throughout the state. I strongly urge all Marylanders to use common sense, take extreme caution, and avoid travel if possible,” Hogan said. “Keep a close eye on your local weather forecast, and check on family, friends, and neighbors and make sure they are safe throughout this late-season storm.”

Hogan recommended that those who must travel contact friends and family, and let them know where you are going, and when you expect to arrive there. He suggested being cautious when shoveling this heavy, wet snow, and to take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Hogan added that it is important to stay hydrated when shoveling outdoors.

The governor suggested stocking your vehicle with "car chargers," and kitty litter or sand, which he said would supply traction to spinning wheels. Hogan also advised residents to keep gadgets charged, and warned residents to never use generators indoors. He cautioned everyone to be prepared for power outages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Frida Beer Garden now open in Bethesda (Photos)

Frida Beer Garden, which is attached to the new TacoArepa restaurant at 4905 Fairmont Avenue, opened over the weekend. Although I mentioned this in my St. Patrick's Day specials report, I wanted to post some photos of the beer garden space now that it is complete.

New parking added for Home Depot in Bethesda (Photos)

Is it possible to imagine a scenario where parking somewhere in Bethesda actually gets better? It just happened at Home Depot at 7111 Westlake Terrace. Workers have finished demolishing part of the Home Depot Square strip mall there, and have laid down some new asphalt and painted on some parking spaces. The new parking area stands out with the fresh black asphalt color.

Monday, March 19, 2018

bluemercury opens at Pike & Rose, Nando's Peri-Peri touts impending arrival (Photos)

Beauty boutique bluemercury has opened its newest location, at 11885 Grand Park Avenue, at the Pike & Rose development. The store is located in the ground floor of the new Canopy by Hilton hotel and 930 Rose condos.

Meanwhile, in a neighboring space, hot chicken purveyor Nando's Peri-Peri has posted "coming soon" signage.

Supersized St. Elmo Apts. will be an "iconic" fixture on Bethesda's skyline, developer predicts (Photos)

Here we go again with the St. Elmo Apartments project, which will be located west of the Bainbridge Bethesda apartment tower on both St. Elmo and Fairmont Avenues. It was nearly four years ago that developer Lenkin Companies first unveiled a plan to redevelop this site, currently home to Chef Tony's, Vuk, and office space that includes the Lenkin headquarters. But Lenkin is now preparing to unveil another updated vision for the project.

To Lenkin's credit, I have to first point out that the company has produced perhaps the most comprehensive package of renderings I've seen for a project prior to submission. They show the tower from almost every conceivable angle, and in color. Furthermore, they provided something citizens have often asked for, but which developers have been loath to furnish - an actual 3-D model that also shows the context of the final building.

The project will add 20 more feet of width to the "promenade" plaza already constructed outside of the Bainbridge next door. A plan for an iconic clock at ground level has been upgraded to a sculpture by renowned artist Jaume Plensa called "Overflow V," which Lenkin suggests will draw passersby into the space by "creating intrigue." The transparent nature of the 7-foot sculpture will add to the sense of openness of the promenade space, they say.
"Overflow V" by
Jaume Plensa in a decidedly
more natural setting
Lenkin promises an "iconic" top to the building that will draw interest from those viewing it below, and from distant points. A central 21-story mass will articulate into step-backs starting on the third floor. From the Old Georgetown Road-facing side of the tower, two wings will project out from the central 225' tall mass. The St. Elmo wing will also be 21 stories, but the Fairmont side will be just 20 stories; the difference is to relate to the respective width of each road below. Each wing will have six step-backs as it rises toward the top level. The uppermost four floors will be "significantly-sculpted."

The wing design will also create a 2nd-floor courtyard. Architects attempted to make each facade relate to the massing and height context of the adjacent buildings on each street.

A public meeting on the project has been scheduled for April 4, 2018 at 7:00 PM at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane.

The County Council appoints the Planning Board: