Monday, January 18, 2021

Strong-arm carjacking in Potomac

A wave of violent carjackings continues across Montgomery County, and even wealthier communities are being impacted. Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm carjacking in Potomac early Saturday morning. The carjacking was reported in the 9700 block of Pleasant Gate Lane around 12:50 AM.

Bethesda Exxon offering most contactless way to fill up your gas tank

The new downtown Bethesda Exxon station at 8240 Wisconsin Avenue now offers the most contactless gas pump I've seen. You can pay using the Exxon/Mobil Rewards app, Amazon Alexa (by saying, "Alexa, pay for gas"), or by holding your card in proximity to a chip reader if it has a chip.

Exxon also boasts a new and improved car wash, something hard to find in Bethesda these days. And there are TV screens, a feature increasingly found at gas stations around the world.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Head2Toe Health offering rapid Covid-19 tests in downtown Bethesda

Head2Toe Health
, a private medical clinic at 4938 St. Elmo Avenue in Bethesda, has been offering drive-up coronavirus testing services since last April. Now they also have rapid Covid-19 tests. Results come back while you wait after getting the test. They are also still offering the standard tests, the results of which take about two days on average, by comparison. Call 301-337-8610 for more information, or to make an appointment.

Office space renovations at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Renovations are underway at the office building at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street at Bethesda Row. The main lobby at 7255 Woodmont is closed. Access to the office floors of the building is currently from the rear parking deck, and the loading dock only.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

WSSC repairs water main break on Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda (Photos)

A WSSC crew was working late last night on a water main break under the northbound lanes of Wisconsin Avenue, between Fairmont and Cordell Avenues in downtown Bethesda. Several nearby WSSC customers reported lower-than-normal water pressure. There was standing water in this area on Thursday night, indicating the break had been leaking water for at least 24 hours.

Levain Bakery coming to Bethesda Row

The giant chocolate chip cookies you've seen friends in New York and D.C. posting and raving about on Instagram are coming to Montgomery County. Levain Bakery, which recently opened a shop in Georgetown, will open a store at Bethesda Row this year. It will be located in the space just vacated by Francesca's at 4844 Bethesda Avenue.

Levain Bakery is definitely in line with the upscale branding of Bethesda Row. It arrives as the bakery sector continues to heat up in the area. 

Levain will face off with Paul Bakery and Fresh Baguette in its immediate vicinity, and with Tatte Bakery, which is opening soon only two blocks away. Tout de Sweet, Breads Unlimited, and Red Bandana Bakery are within various degrees of walking distance, as well. Fresh Baguette in recent years expanded to a second Rockville location, building success on authentic French baking methods and ingredients. 

But Levain's cookie reputation alone should draw customers from across the county. Their most popular varieties are Chocolate Chip-Walnut and Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip. They also offer a variety of traditional baked goods like baguettes, boules, and loaf cakes.

Friday, January 15, 2021

OVME sets opening date for Bethesda location

OVME Medical Spa
will be the first of three medspas expected to open this year near Bethesda Row to cross the finish line. Their Bethesda location at 4921 Elm Street is now scheduled to open on January 25, 2021. They are accepting appointments now online, and will be starting off with a $20,000 giveaway to be announced between now and the 25th. Right now, your first appointment will be 20% off.

Tatte Bakery targets opening date in Bethesda at The Wilson/The Elm, as some construction fencing comes down (Photos)

Construction fencing was removed in front of the lobby entrance at The Wilson yesterday at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda. At the same time, I just received word that the first dining tenant signed at the Carr Properties development, Tatte Bakery & Cafe, plans to open in February. Here's a look at the progress as of today, including our first close view of the lobby, and some landscaping plants already in place on the plaza :

SB Wisconsin Avenue (MD 355) to close at Elm Street/Bethesda Avenue Saturday in downtown Bethesda

All southbound lanes of Wisconsin Avenue (MD 355) will between Bethesda Avenue and Elm Street on Saturday, January 16, 2021 from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM. A flagman and police officer will direct southbound traffic into one northbound lane, which will be converted into a southbound lane during those hours.

During the closure, Crane Service Company, Inc. will erect a 75-ton crane that will be used to hoist steel for future construction work in that area, Montgomery County officials said yesterday. They did not indicate the specific project or property the crane is being constructed for. Woodmont Avenue would ordinarily be a detour, but it is closed at Elm Street and Bethesda Avenue for the Bethesda Streetery.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Thief strikes in Westgate area of Bethesda again

Thieves rifling through cars, and testing door handles, are still active in the Westgate area of the Massachusetts Avenue corridor in Bethesda in recent days. Items were reported stolen from a vehicle parked in the driveway of a home in the 4900 block of Earlston Drive yesterday morning. The theft is believed to have taken place sometime between 5:00 PM Tuesday and 10:00 AM Wednesday morning.

CHIKO establishes special carry-out door for new Bethesda Row location

, the Chinese-Korean restaurant opening later this month at 7280 Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Row, is among the many restaurants establishing new health protocols for the 2021 dining era. With takeout and delivery now the prime trends in the industry, CHIKO has designated a special entrance for such orders. 

A lighted sign was installed yesterday that will direct such customers and delivery drivers to this door. Indoor dining is currently banned in Montgomery County.

Signage installed at Ideal Image at Bethesda Row

The permanent signage has been installed on the storefront at Ideal Image, a medspa coming to 4930 Elm Street at Bethesda Row. A pedestrian-facing blade sign has also been attached. Ideal Image is one of several new medspas opening in the Bethesda Row area this year, indicating a new trend in retail leasing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Xfinity utility work in downtown Bethesda

Xfinity and Ijamsville-based Decisive Communications both had crews out working at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Cheltenham Drive in downtown Bethesda last night. Both had bucket trucks.

Fabletics coming to Montgomery Mall

will open its latest bricks-and-mortar location at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda this year. Known best for its famous co-founder Kate Hudson, the upscale activewear chain offers apparel and accessories for women and men. Each month, Hudson adds new outfits that are "Kate-approved."

Fabletics also has a VIP program with many perks and savings. But you must either make a purchase between the 1st and 5th day of the month when the newest products debut, or tell Fabletics you want to "skip" the month; otherwise, your credit card will be charged $49.95 on the 6th day of that month. The charge becomes a credit to your account that you can spend at any time in the future, and will cover any outfit priced up to $80 for that $49.95 charge.

This will be the first Fabletics store in the D.C. metro area. The chain has an existing location in Columbia, Maryland, but none in Virginia or D.C.

Photo courtesy Fabletics

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

National Guard troops spotted in Bethesda ahead of inauguration week

A large number of National Guard troops and their baggage were seen gathered outside the main entrance of the Hyatt Regency Bethesda hotel Monday evening. As many as 10,000-15,000 National Guard troops could be deployed to the Washington, D.C. area by next week's presidential inauguration ceremony. Many arrived yesterday in the region, including this contingent. This could provide a temporary shot in the arm for hotels in the area that have been struggling with vacancies over the last ten months.

Wisconsin Place seeks to turn retail space into medical uses amid Friendship Heights' decline

With the Friendship Heights retail and restaurant market cratering under the moribund Montgomery County economy, flight of the rich to lower-tax jurisdictions, and pandemic restrictions, one property owner is crying uncle on a significant portion of its retail space. The ownership of The Shops at Wisconsin Place is seeking permission from Montgomery County to convert existing retail units into medical clinic and medical office uses. 

Under the proposal, Wisconsin Place would convert up to 13,385 square feet of existing retail space into 5,037 square feet of medical clinic use, and 8,348 square feet of medical office use. If approved, the landowner would retain the ability to maintain, or revert back to, the original retail use if the market improves. With the Montgomery County Council not changing the policies that have led to the collapse of many longtime Friendship Heights businesses, that's unlikely to happen without the replacement of several councilmembers in the 2022 election.

The Montgomery County Planning Board will consider the request at its virtual meeting on Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 9:00 AM. Planning staff has recommended approval of the Preliminary Plan Amendment with one condition, which isn't really a condition, but merely a restating of how many square feet can be utilized for each use.

TD Ameritrade closes at Pike & Rose

TD Ameritrade
has closed at 11560 Old Georgetown Road at Pike & Rose. The closure may seem surprising, as the stock market has been booming for years, and many amateur investors with cash joined the market when stocks briefly plunged at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. However, Charles Schwab is in the process of closing nearly 80% of TD Ameritrade branches nationwide. 

Charles Schwab found too much overlap with Schwab offices in most TD Ameritrade markets after acquiring the latter firm, it announced late last fall. Rockville and North Bethesda apparently fell into that category.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Car stolen in Kenwood

Auto thieves have started the new year in high gear in Bethesda and Chevy Chase. The latest target over the weekend was Kenwood. A vehicle parked in the driveway of a home in the 6400 block of Garnett Drive was stolen, and property was taken from at least one other vehicle on that block. It is believed that the crimes took place between 8:00 PM Friday night, and 8:30 AM Saturday morning.