Monday, April 23, 2018

The Block Asian food hall to open Pike & Rose location

Here's a story I've been working on for months, but I've finally gotten confirmation today from Federal Realty that Northern Virginia Asian food hall The Block will indeed be opening a Pike & Rose location. The 8500 SF location will be under Pinstripes, at 967 Rose Avenue.

Confirmed vendors so far include Taiwanese Snocream and Pokeworks, which specializes in Hawaiian poke bowls.

The Block is scheduled to open in 2019.

Demolition update: Westbard Self Storage site (Photos)

The auto repair garage behind McDonald's on River Road is just a pile of rubble now. At least one large satellite dish had to be relocated. Regarding the legitimate concerns that graves (burials that might have been placed outside the cemetery boundaries by accident, or by WSSC in the 1950s, when they moved the Willett Branch stream into the cemetery) from the adjacent Moses African Cemetery might be disturbed on this site, so far they are just demolishing and clearing the site. No digging or excavation had begun as of early this morning. Stay tuned.

Here's the end of the project site where
the potential is highest to encounter
burial sites that were accidentally placed
beyond the cemetery border over time

Spa opens at Westfield Montgomery Mall, Sports Nation on the way (Photos)

A new spa has opened at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, called Boutique Spa by Infinite Beauty. Coming soon is Sports Nation. While there is a chain of that name selling pro team merchandise, what I see inside so far here are athletic shoes.

A sneak peek inside

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Fish Taco "coming soon" at Bethesda Row; Amazon Books stalled?

Fish Taco has installed a bump-out construction barrier across the front of the restaurant's future location at 7251 Woodmont Avenue. It features the local chain's logo. Meanwhile, many are starting to wonder how Amazon Books will be ready to open their Bethesda Row store by the promised summer date. There's no visible activity at their future space when I go past during business hours, and the windows remain fully covered. For a store where design is expected to be paramount, they certainly are cutting it close with the construction.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Volvo XC40 arrives in Bethesda (Photos)

Volvo's newest model has arrived in downtown Bethesda. Ourisman Volvo/VW on Arlington Road has the new XC40 compact SUV on display out in front of their dealership. The Swedish automaker is making the XC40 available by subscription, in addition to traditional sales.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Gilda's Bridal Collection opening in Bethesda

Gilda's Bridal Collection is opening at 4929 St. Elmo Avenue in downtown Bethesda. A shop of the same name is currently open in Dunn Loring, Virginia.

Demolition begins for Westbard Self Storage (Photos)

Demolition of the auto repair building on the future site of Westbard Self Storage has begun behind the McDonald's on River Road. The project has provoked some controversy, as the property includes a portion of land being donated to Montgomery County, which is part of the Moses African Cemetery. Cemetery advocates had urged the County to require an archaeological study of the plot before allowing construction and demolition to begin. The Planning Board declined to do so. Many times, historic African-American cemeteries such as this can have gravesites beyond their property lines, because those borders are not always physically delineated.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

MDOT meeting on Hogan Express Lanes plan for I-495, I-270 tonight in Bethesda

The Maryland Department of Transportation held a public meeting last night in Clarksburg to introduce basic information about Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes proposal for I-495 and I-270, and get preliminary feedback from attendees. An identical open house will be held tonight, Thursday, April 19, 2018 from 6:30-8:30 PM at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School.

Officials said future meetings will offer more specifics on alternatives, as well as environmental and property issues. Another public meeting will be held this year, and a public hearing on the environmental impact statement in 2019. MDOT anticipates a final Record of Decision on the project in 2020.

Hogan is aiming for an expedited design and approval process for the project, which will largely be built through private funds, costing taxpayers very little. Among the private firms who have already joined the Express Lanes team are Ernst & Young and CDM Smith.

Kenwood gang-tag graffiti covered over (Photos)

Apparently the damage to the Kenwood sign from this week's gang-tag-style graffiti attack was too severe for a simple powerwash, as some had suggested would be sufficient. Instead, the defacing has been covered over with paint. The sign is just a mess right now. No public statement has been released by Montgomery County police yet on the investigation of this incident, and whether or not it was actually gang-related.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Business groups to hold MoCo Democratic county executive debate April 27

Several Montgomery County and regional business groups will host a debate between Democratic candidates for County Executive on Friday, April 27, 2018 from 8:00-10:30 AM at The Universities at Shady Grove. Republican Robin Ficker is also running for the office, but has not been invited to participate. Attendees will also receive a presentation on County economic indicators from Anirban Basu (pictured) of the Sage Policy Group.

The event is free, but you need to register online in advance.

Uncle Julio's getting major renovations at Bethesda Row (Photos)

You could be forgiven for thinking Uncle Julio's was closed, with all the scaffolding, tarps and lack of signage on the their building right now at 4870 Bethesda Avenue. That's probably why they have a massive sign stating, "NOW OPEN" on the building, as well. The restaurant is undergoing a major renovation, but is still open for business.

MoCo Council proposes taxpayer-funded lawyers for illegal immigrants facing deportation

Illegal immigrants
convicted of murder,
rape would be eligible
for taxpayer-funded
lawyers if they have 
a "potentially 
meritorious" case

The Montgomery County Council has introduced a "special appropriation" of $373,957 to fund free lawyers for illegal immigrants facing deportation. County Councilmember Nancy Navarro said she was proud that the Council would use taxpayer funds to defend illegal immigrants from deportation, adding that Tuesday's proposal "doubled down on our commitment to protect our immigrant community."

While the Council resolution claims in one section that illegal immigrants convicted of violent crimes such as murder and rape would not be eligible for the taxpayer-funded legal assistance, that claim is negated by later wording.

On Page 3 of the resolution, the text notes that illegal immigrants convicted of murder, rape, sexual offenses, armed carjacking, kidnapping, child kidnapping, sexual abuse of a minor, child abuse, gang participation, human trafficking and "abducting a child under 16 for prostitution" would be eligible for taxpayer-funded legal counsel if "the individual has a potentially meritorious claim for immigration relief from removal in the form of a claim to United States citizenship, protection under the Convention Against Torture, U/T Visa, or Refugee Adjustment."

A public hearing on the appropriation will be held on May 1 at the County Council Building, located at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. The County is currently facing a budget shortfall of $208,000,000.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Humiliating: Montgomery County loses another one

Gerber to move
New Jersey HQ to

The Gerber baby is the latest to hand the Montgomery County Council their [briefcases] in our newest loss to Northern Virginia in the economic development sphere. 1812 North Moore in Rosslyn will be the new address for the baby food giant's world headquarters, bringing 150 more good jobs to Virginia. Gerber has leased 23392 SF of office space at the gleaming new office building.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the Commonwealth's latest defeat of Montgomery County "reaffirms that Virginia is a prime location for headquarters operations." Gerber joins Northrop Grumman, Hilton Hotels, Volkswagen, Corporate Executive Board, Nestle and Intelsat in Northern Virginia's economic development trophy case. And those are just the ones in recent years - Montgomery County, by contrast, hasn't attracted a single major corporate HQ in two decades, a humiliating comparison.
“Gaining the headquarters of the iconic Gerber brand is an important win for Arlington County and the Commonwealth, and we are thrilled to welcome Gerber to Virginia’s corporate roster,” Virginia's Secretary of Commerce and Trade Esther Lee said in a statement Monday. Virginia will give $862,500 and a Major Business Facility Tax Credit to Gerber. In return, Arlington County will enjoy a $5 million headquarters investment by Gerber, and an estimated $4.2 million in net revenue as a result of the new HQ.
"We are thrilled to welcome Gerber to Arlington's business community," said Katie Cristol, Chair of the Arlington County Board. The Montgomery County Council? Not so much.
MoCo's latest economic development defeat comes on the heels of a devastating report that the County has had the worst new business growth rate in the entire D.C. region; only tiny Falls Church City had a lower growth rate, and has only 12,000 residents to Montgomery's 1.4 million inhabitants.

Kenwood hit with gang-tag-style graffiti (Photos)

In a virtually-unprecedented incident in the posh Chevy Chase neighborhood of Kenwood, someone has spray-painted gang-tag-style graffiti on the stately community sign on Dorset Avenue near Little Falls Parkway. Also hit were an electrical box and a sign along the Capital Crescent Trail nearby. The initials "KYS" and "FTP" are repeated in the motifs; the other two are unintelligible.
It's a sad commentary on our soft-on-crime Montgomery County Council. Setting standards really starts at the top, and the leadership there has been sorely lacking. As Jack Kemp once said, "Weakness is provocative."