Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Two Bethesda office buildings part of Brookfield securitization deal

Brookfield Property Partners has been criticized for carrying too much debt by some investment experts. The company also has office properties in moribund office markets like Montgomery County, also considered risky. Now BPP is placing several D.C. area properties into a $223.4 million securitization scheme through Morgan Stanley.

One Central Plaza and 6110 Executive Boulevard, both located in Bethesda, are part of the deal, as is 51 Monroe St. in Rockville.

Whether the move will ease critics fears of risk is unclear, however. Some argue that such deals themselves magnify risk, and obscure the equity the owner holds in the properties in question. Such securities were one of several factors that led to the "Great Recession" a decade ago.

Soft opening at The Halal Guys in Bethesda

In another indication that the grand opening of The Halal Guys is imminent, a soft opening event was being held at the restaurant last night. While the owners are still being coy about the opening date, my advice would be to call at lunchtime [(301) 347-7992] each day starting today to check, or walk by if you are in the area anyway. This is the first Halal Guys in Bethesda, and is located at 4915 Elm Street, across from Bethesda Row.

The Claiborne is back - and bigger

When developer Novo encountered another lengthy delay for The Claiborne, a boutique condo building proposed for 4820 Auburn Avenue, the lack of activity at the former Steamers site caused some real estate observers' eyebrows to arch. Now we know what the latest delay may have been about. Over that time, the developer has secured agreements to acquire 8005, 8007, and 8009 Norfolk Avenue, allowing the density of the project to grow.

Where the original application approved called for 58 condo units and 2800 SF of retail space, a new proposed amendment bumps that up to 82 residential units and 5000 SF of retail. In addition, the amended plans now incorporate relevant aspects of the Bethesda Downtown master plan, such as the shared street vision for Norfolk Avenue. The master plan had not yet been approved when The Claiborne application was. You'll note the Auburn-facing "ladder" facade ornament has been deleted in the revised design.

Many local observers felt the original plan was too small, and that more effort should have been made to assemble a larger site. Those critics will be at least somewhat satisfied with the revised plan, even if they would have liked to see the whole corner and Tia Queta as part of the deal. A public meeting on the plan amendments will be held on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 7:00 PM at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane.
The blank space at the corner represents
properties that were not acquired for the
development; the 17-story Gallery Bethesda
is shown at rear of the site

Images via Montgomery County Planning Department

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Lenore Winters temporarily closed for renovations in Bethesda

Interior design studio Lenore Winters is undergoing renovations. They will reopen on August 27, 2018. Located at 4911 Cordell Avenue, they offer custom interior painting, furniture, and interior design consultation among their services.

Delina Eritrean Urban Kitchen to try to open again Wednesday in Bethesda

After missing their original August 1 opening date, Delina Eritrean Urban Kitchen will try again this week. The restaurant now plans to open for lunch and dinner tomorrow, Wednesday, August 15, 2018. Delina is located at 4914 Cordell Avenue, in the old Heckman's Deli building.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Sign posted to promote Tastee Diner amidst Marriott HQ demolition in Bethesda

Standing in the shadow of a bombed-out-looking office building with boarded up windows isn't the best atmosphere for the venerable Tastee Diner to lure customers, but the diner is still operating as normal. I wasn't aware there was any confusion about that fact, but apparently someone thinks there is. A small metal sign has appeared on a utility pole at the corner of Norfolk and Woodmont Avenue, which says, "DINER OPEN DURING CONSTRUCTION." It's a pretty unique, and obviously custom, sign. Next door, the roofless Blackwell Building awaits demolition to make way for the relocated Bethesda Marriott International headquarters.

Sports Nation opens in Bethesda (Photos)

Just days after ESPN announced it would be cancelling "SportsNation," Sports Nation has opened at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The store carries licensed apparel and accessories for pro sports teams, with local teams well-represented in stock. Sports Nation is located near GNC on Level 1 of the mall.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Bethesda construction update: 7272 Wisconsin Avenue (Video+Photos)

Here are some scenes, including video, of nighttime work at Carr Properties' 7272 Wisconsin Avenue project in downtown Bethesda. At the time these were taken, they were pouring concrete, and you will see the articulated arm and cement trucks working from the Wisconsin Avenue side. The project includes office tower The Wilson, residential tower The Elm, and a Purple Line light rail station below the development.

TacoArepa, 202 Donuts & Coffee, 202 Next Door close

It was a strange 72 hours on Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda. On Wednesday night, a very solid source told me TacoArepa, 202 Donuts & Coffee and 202 Next Door - all located in a row on Fairmont Avenue - had permanently closed, and that employees were beginning to pack up and move out. Yet, when I went by early the next morning, 202 Donuts was open for business, and the furniture and equipment remained inside all three establishments. Sources in a position to know were unable to confirm the closures on-the-record at that time.

Later Thursday, TacoArepa and 202 Next Door opened as well. Over the next 24 hours, TacoArepa was even still promoting itself on social media, urging folks to come in. Needless to say, this was a confusing series of events.

Then Saturday, the original tipster was vindicated. All three restaurants, founded by brothers Alvaro and Alonso Roche, served their final meals. Messages in the windows announced this was it, for now, for the Roches' downtown Bethesda restaurant empire that began with Bold Bite on the same street seven years ago.

But anyone who has dined at Bold Bite or TapaBar will have to predict that this is not the last we've heard from these talented brothers in Bethesda.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

What's next for the Bold Bite space in Bethesda?

There's still no official word on what restaurant will replace the recently-closed Bold Bite at 4903 Cordell Avenue. A source told me a Popeyes fast food restaurant would be the new tenant. Popeyes' media relations department has so far declined to comment on that rumor.

However, there is now a For Lease sign in the window of the space. If Popeyes has leased it, why is it being advertised as available? The plot thickens.

Bethesda construction update: The Halal Guys (Photos)

The Halal Guys looks all set to open at 4915 Elm Street in downtown Bethesda. No official opening date has been announced as of this writing, however. Their Rockville location has been open since February.

Friday, August 10, 2018

EJJI Ramen to open at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Just days after JINYA Ramen Bar opened at Pike & Rose, EJJI Ramen has announced it will open a Bethesda location at nearby Westfield Montgomery Mall. Whereas JINYA offers a more straightforward Japanese menu, EJJI also features menu items from other Asian countries alongside the ramen. EJJI is not the only Asian eatery coming to the Dining Terrace here; Poke Papa announced in a press release it, too, is on the way to the mall.

In other mall news, VANS will reopen on Sunday, August 12, after a remodeling. Sports Nation also appears ready to open for the first time. Its space is now well-stocked with NFL jerseys for the upcoming season. Time to stock up, as the Redskins begin their journey to Super Bowl LIII.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

CJPVFD to offer free lifesaving class on bleeding control August 26

Among basic lifesaving skills anyone can learn, such as CPR, is how to stop bleeding from a serious cut or wound. The Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department will offer a free course on the topic for those who have no medical background or training on Sunday, August 26, 2018 at 10:00 AM, at their firehouse at 8001 River Road in Bethesda.

The one hour course will teach the basics of lifesaving bleeding control, and is free to the public. If you have any questions, email firefighter Matt Panagos for more information.

Will Anthropologie's Terrain Cafe outdoor seating at Bethesda Row go here? (Photos)

One of the big questions about the arrival of Anthropologie & Co. in the former Barnes & Noble bookstore space this fall at Bethesda Row has been how the outdoor seating for its Terrain Cafe will co-exist with the public gathering space and fountain on the plaza there. As construction picks up inside the store, some mystery work has begun on the outer edge of the Woodmont Avenue sidewalk alongside the future store. A portion of the sidewalk has been fenced off, and several parking spaces temporarily blocked off.

It appears possible that this space is being reconfigured to replicate the same outer sidewalk pattern of outdoor seating you find along the rest of Bethesda Row, rather than it being placed directly outside the doors of Anthropologie. This strategy could leave most of the public space on the plaza intact. The same approach could be used on the Bethesda Avenue side.

Anthropologie has stated the Terrain Cafe will include 260 SF of outdoor seating. Perhaps someone better at math can figure out if taking one or both of these sidewalk edges will provide that space in total, leaving the gathering space on the plaza untouched. Of course, there are some trees and vegetation along both areas that would have to be worked around.

Washington Fine Properties expanding into vacant Massage Envy space

Federal Realty did not have to look far to find a new tenant for the vacant space at 7033 Arlington Road at Bethesda Row. They found it next door. Real estate firm Washington Fine Properties is expanding into the space next door, which was previously home to Massage Envy.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Hogan to help Carr Properties break ground at 7272 Wisconsin tomorrow

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has announced he will be in downtown Bethesda for the groundbreaking of Carr Properties' 7272 Wisconsin project tomorrow morning, August 9, at 10:00 AM. Carr recently revealed the two towers at the development will be named The Wilson (office tower) and The Elm (residential tower).
“We are honored to have Governor Hogan joining us to mark this monumental milestone," Carr Properties CEO Oliver Carr III said in a statement. "Our development team at Carr Properties, along with our construction partner Clark Construction, are thrilled to have the opportunity to play an integral role in the future of Bethesda.”