Sunday, June 16, 2019

Flower Child sets opening date at Wildwood in Bethesda

Flower Child is opening its latest location in Bethesda, at the Wildwood Shopping Center. The Fox Restaurants chain that promises "healthy food for a happy world" for a variety of diets at Flower Child has set July 2, 2019 as the opening date for this restaurant.

As you can see, they will have outdoor patio dining. This end of the shopping center was revamped in part for the addition of Flower Child. You can get an idea of what to expect by looking at my preview and watching my review of their Rockville location that opened last year.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

More Than Java Cafe to open downtown Bethesda location

The new Brightview Bethesda assisted living apartment building has its first retail space tenant. More Than Java Cafe will open a new location there, at 4907 Rugby Avenue. The local coffee shop chain has existing locations near Montgomery Mall at 10411 Motor City Drive, and in Laurel.

There is at total of 2957 SF of retail space in the ground floor of the Brightview Bethesda. Developer Shelter Group had hinted from the beginning that they had hoped to attract a cafe to the ground floor.

Chevy Chase Acura to open showroom at Westfield Montgomery Mall

Chevy Chase Acura has displayed some of its latest models in the atrium areas of Westfield Montgomery Mall for a number of years. Now the downtown Bethesda dealership is moving into an actual storefront at the mall, creating an additional interaction point with potential buyers besides their 7725 Wisconsin Avenue location.

They will be opening a Tesla-style mall showroom in the space previously occupied by the Kia Stinger pop-up, yet another mall auto showroom. Other Acuras are parked in lots near the mall, as many dealerships in Montgomery County try to find places to store inventory as they are squeezed by redevelopment.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Little Falls Parkway road diet to end after Planning Board vote

Shockingly, the Montgomery County Planning Board made the second-best right decision on the future of the Capital Crescent Trail crossing at Little Falls Parkway yesterday. Voting 4-1, with Chair Casey Anderson dissenting, commissioners sided with nearby residents in recommending restoring two lanes in each direction on the parkway, and moving the trail crossing to the traffic light at Arlington Road and Little Falls Parkway. This was a modified version of Alternative B. Commissioners also recommended the best option, a trail bridge over the parkway, as the long-term goal, and instructed staff to come up with information and cost estimates.

"For me, the safest option will be option B," Commissioner Natali Fani-Gonzalez said, "move the Capital Crescent Trail to Arlington Road. The safest option...for me has to be a traffic light."

It appears that, in addition to the strong lobbying efforts by the surrounding community to end the road diet, the lack of supporting data did-in the proposal by staff to shrink Little Falls Parkway to two lanes. Kudos to Commissioner Tina Patterson, who chastised planning staff for misrepresenting data regarding accidents and fatalities at the trail crossing. "I'm extremely disappointed to hear that we presented a fatality without really giving the specifics," Patterson said just before the Board voted. "If we're going to talk about something that's impacting the community, we have to give the full details. If I had moved forward without knowing this after the fact, I would have been embarrassed. so it's again as a matter of oversight, let's just be transparent in presenting our reports when we have data.

"Sometimes we need to listen to the community," Patterson added. And this was a rare recent vote in which the Board actually did. Their choice was not even one listed in the staff report; all staff options had a permanent road diet of two lanes.

The decision is a good one for the community. Now we may again actually be able to see cyclists and pedestrians, without the clear view being blocked by a maze of ugly poles sticking up all over the road. Cyclists and pedestrians will not be able to blow through the crossing stop signs, but will cross in an orderly fashion at the light at Arlington. There will be less cut-through traffic speeding past houses in Kenwood and along Hillandale Road.

The bridge is still the best solution, and it is good to hear it is on the table still. Cost estimates and design complexity for that option were severely overblown in the staff report; a new bridge design and cost estimate should be developed with the assistance of executive branch employees who can provide cost-cutting oversight.

Most importantly, if a barrier is erected in the median, and the crossing removed, the random interaction and guessing games will be gone. If the light is correctly timed, and adjusted as needed going forward, additional delays should be minimal at the Arlington-Little Falls intersection. This will allow the full capacity of Little Falls Parkway to be restored, just as the same Board has recently approved over 10,000 new cars to be added to that area via the Westbard and Bethesda Downtown sector plans.

Former Remix Recycling Co. space for lease in Bethesda

Remix Recycling Co., formerly Mustard Seed, has moved to 7022 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. Their former location at 7349 Wisconsin is now available for lease. It is right by the construction site for the Avocet Tower development, so a great location long-term, but a noisy and dusty one short-term.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Custom Ink to open first MD store at Bethesda Row

Custom Ink is coming to Bethesda Row. They will be located in the separate retail structure at 7029 Arlington Road. The store is scheduled to open Monday, June 17, 2019. This will be Custom Ink's first retail location outside of Virginia.

But it's also again indicative of the changing demographic target in Bethesda, with LensCrafters and t-shirt shops moving in as Kate Spade and Le Creuset exit. With the ultra-rich fleeing to lower-tax jurisdictions in the region, Montgomery County's moribund economy no longer has the wealth base to support high-end retail, as our "Rodeo Drive" in Chevy Chase has turned into a skid row of vacant storefronts, aging apartments, and smashed-out bus shelters.

Little Falls Parkway trail crossing plan would increase head-on crashes

MoCo government hiding crash data
from residents, made its own
plan after ignoring resident feedback

The Montgomery County Planning Board will review a final proposal for the Little Falls Parkway Capital Crescent Trail crossing this afternoon at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. A not-so-shocking twist for those following this illegal scam from the beginning, is that the final proposal is one ginned up behind the scenes by the Montgomery County cartel in league with the Planning Department - not the solutions endorsed by actual residents who attended the Kabuki theater meetings the department held over the last two years. That final proposal would not only retain the dangerous conflict of driver-trail user interactions, but will actually further increase crashes by removing the median of the road, placing drivers in greater danger of head-on collisions. And speaking of crashes? Well, the report claims certain crash statistics to justify its previous road diet (constructed with illegal use of money that had been designated for maintenance of countywide trails, not road construction), but provides no documentation to back it up. When Kenwood residents attempted to acquire the documentation on collisions, they were stonewalled by Planning and every other department in County government they contacted.

A staff report on the proposal is filled with bizarre verbal jujitsu attempting to first establish a new precedent for such a road diet. Among the laughers, it claims that Westbard-area commuters are drastically shifting modes of transportation away from automobiles, while again providing no statistical reports to back up the false claim. In fact, the only report ever done on commuting modes in the Westbard area found that over 90% of commuters are solo automobile users, far above even the regional average. But unsurprising, given that Westbard is a transit desert about two miles from the nearest Metro station, far beyond the standard quarter-to-half-mile distance required for transit-oriented development.

The report hysterically trumpets long traffic backups on southbound Arlington Road - that Parks & Planning created with their illegally-funded road diet - to be an example of "effectively metering" traffic. It also reveals that fewer cars are now using Little Falls Parkway in the evening rush hour because of the congestion the department created. The report calls diversion of traffic from a major thoroughfare like Little Falls Parkway onto nearby residential streets a success. Again, they dodge data by not reporting numbers for all of the nearby residential streets onto which those cars have been diverted. Their extreme fear of data clearly indicates their final conclusions are without basis.

One thing the report does openly admit, is that Planning and the War-on-Cars cartel have created their own proposal, tossing aside the solutions endorsed by actual residents, which were diverting trail traffic to one of the nearby signaled intersections, or construction of a pedestrian bridge.
Government of the People, by the People, for the People?
Not in authoritarian, corrupt Montgomery County
What is the smoke-free-back-room Planning Department final proposal?

Reduction of Little Falls Parkway to two lanes, a "speed table" a.k.a. long flat speed bump trail crossing in the roadway, and "traffic calming" measures will be implemented on Hillandale Road. In other words, maximum punishment for drivers while allowing bicycle stop sign blowers to continue to wreak havoc. Head-on car crashes, such as drunk drivers at night, will clearly increase and the Planning Board will be held responsible for the injuries and deaths that result from those head-on car crashes currently reduced by the wide median. 

This is the height of corruption - spending over $1 million of taxpayer money (on top of the previous illegal use of trail maintenance funds) to reduce vehicle capacity by 50% on Little Falls Parkway, after the same corrupt, developer-controlled commissioners voted to add over 3000 new housing units and 5910 additional cars in the same area via the 2016 Westbard sector plan. 

This is not government of the People, by the People, for the People. It's a criminal cartel in charge of Big Government run amok.

It's outrageous.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bethesda cemetery advocates endorse Brandy Brooks for MoCo Planning Chair

MoCo Planning Board chair Casey Anderson
summons armed police officers to confront representatives
of a black church on February 16, 2017
Cite current chair's record
of calling police on peaceful
black protesters at meetings

The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition has endorsed applicant Brandy Brooks to replace current Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson. A coalition press release cited Anderson's record of calling in police officers to confront peaceful protesters at commission meetings on the future of the desecrated Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda.

Anderson's escalation of a peaceful situation by calling in law enforcement on representatives of a black church was "placing them in direct confrontation with armed police, arrest, possible injury and death," the coalition said in a statement. Noting that Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission Chair Jackie Simon also condoned the same armed police response to cemetery protesters, the coalition declared that Ms. Simon and Mr. Anderson have relinquished any credible moral authority to lead these organizations. Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Executive said that he 'does not believe in incremental change.' It is impossible to understand how in the face of actions placing Montgomery County residence in harm’s way, that Mr. Elrich could re-authorize Jackie Simon or Casey Anderson."

The coalition has instead urban planner and former Democratic At-Large County Council candidate Brandy Brooks as chair. They said Brooks has "demonstrated a keen sensitivity to the Moses African Cemetery issue that has been conspicuously absent throughout the County’s regulatory leadership."

BACC also endorsed Dr. Jeanne Toungara and William Cook, who have applied to fill vacancies on the HOC. They are urging residents to call the County Council and Elrich's offices immediately to voice your support for Brooks, Toungara, and Cook:

Call the County Council and the County Executive today:
Main line 240-777-0311
Special Assistant Debbie Spielberg: 240-777-2515

Marriott construction site tower cranes to be installed June 21

The development partners for Marriott International's relocating Bethesda headquarters have announced that the twin tower crane installations will now take place starting June 21, 2019. Two cranes will be erected at the construction site, located at 7750 Wisconsin Avenue.

Marriott's contractor has requested a nighttime noise waiver for the crane installations, and for related concrete pours. This will allow them to exceed noise limits if working overnight. Weather, as always, could impact the schedule. Installation of crane 1 had been planned for June 8.

Pedestrian traffic, and southbound vehicle traffic, along Wisconsin Avenue will be affected during the crane installation process. Watch for flagmen and signage around the site.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Fogo de Chão releases details on Pike & Rose location ahead of June 24 opening

Fogo de Chão has provided some more specific details about their new Pike & Rose location, the Brazilian steakhouse chain's 41st U.S. location, opening on June 24, 2019. With seating for 300 inside, there will also be open-air patio dining. Indoors, you'll also find an open churrasco grill, and a white Carrera Market Table with seasonal offerings.
Carrera Market Table
The first thing diners will notice when entering the large dining room is a bas relief interpretation of Antonio Carigni's statue, O’Laçador, which personifies the culture of the Brazilian gaucho. That signifies the intent of the chain to represent that tradition in its restaurants. “With our authentic Southern Brazilian culture and cuisine, guests can expect to receive the same experience here in [Pike & Rose] that they would at any of our locations in Brazil,” Fogo de Chão CEO Barry McGowan said in a statement Monday.
24 oz. dry-aged New York Strip
With the Brazilian steakhouse experience having been available in the District and in Montgomery County's biggest arch-rival Tysons for some time, those who have heard about - but not tried - the restaurant often have the misconception that every meal at Fogo de Chão will start at over $50. In reality, there are a variety of dining options and price points.
32 oz. dry-aged Tomahawk Ribeye
There is, of course, that pricey "full churrasco experience" prix fixe menu includes all premium and classic cuts of meat, plus the fresh and seasonal Market Table & Feijoada Bar, and authentic Brazilian side dishes. You could also select a 32 oz. long bone Tomahawk Ribeye or a 24 oz. New York Strip for the whole table.  Each one is dry-aged for a minimum of 42 days.
Weekend Brazilian Brunch
For a relatively-affordable $30, you can choose one selection of fire-roasted meat, along with the Market Table & Feijoada Bar and Brazilian sides. Still too steep? For budget diners, try a Weekday Lunch starting at $15 (includes the seasonal Market Table & Feijoada Bar, plus family-style service of Brazilian side dishes. Guests may choose to add a single selection of fire-roasted meat, or have the Full Churrasco Experience), or the Weekend Brazilian Brunch. The most-affordable option will be Bar Fogo, with dedicated bar staff serving you smaller plates at the bar or on the patio, such as Braised Beef Rib Sliders, Churrasco meat boards, or the house-ground Picanha Burger.
Picanha Burger
Happy Hour customers will enjoy $4 Brazilian bites and beers, $6 South American wines and $8 Brazilian-inspired craft cocktails in the bar (and on the patio) Monday- Friday 4:30-6:30 PM.
Brazilian Seafood Menu
Rounding out the menu options are "Brazilian Cuts," a continuous service of the most popular fire-roasted cuts of Brazil and the Market Table & Feijoada Bar; and a seafood menu of shrimp, fish and even a Seafood Tower. For families, children 6 and under dine free, while children ages 7-12 will dine for half-price. Full pricing information and online reservations are available at the Pike & Rose location's website.

Photos courtesy Fogo de Chao

Bank of America plans upgrades for River Rd. Bethesda branch

The Bank of America branch at 5135 River Road in Bethesda underwent a major renovation just a couple of years ago. It was so extensive, it actually required the bank to entirely close for an extended period. But with a seemingly-endless supply of new banks opening in Bethesda, bankers have never had to compete for clientele more aggressively. That pressure has led to Bank of America planning a new set of upgrades at their River Road branch.

Changes will include a new ATM, all-new interior finishes, new lighting fixtures and furniture, and a reconfigured teller counter. Bank of America says it plans to spend $130,000 on the branch update, but there is no word as of yet regarding any impact on banking hours in the months ahead. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Cabin John Shopping Center construction update (Photos)

Here's a look at the ongoing construction and renovation at the Cabin John Shopping Center (a.k.a. Cabin John Village) at 11325 Seven Locks Road. The upgraded building facade will include a balcony on the corner diagonally across from California Tortilla. You can see the balcony is now in place in these photos below. Despite appearances, all businesses remain open during construction.

Artery Plaza courtyard to be demolished at night

A contractor for developer JBG Smith plans to demolish the external "courtyard" in front of Artery Plaza at 7200 Wisconsin Avenue at night. This is part of an ongoing project to update the property, and attract new tenants. If successful, part of the area in front of the building could again be an outdoor dining patio, as it was for a now-shuttered restaurant in the past.

The demolition is scheduled to begin on June 20. Nighttime work will take place Sunday through Thursday nights from 9:00 PM to 5:00 AM. Residents of The Seasons are likely to be those most-directly impacted by the noise, along with those in The Darcy.