Thursday, August 31, 2017

KEO Designs Hair Salon & Spa moving in Bethesda (Photos)

KEO Designs Hair Salon & Spa is relocating from Montgomery Lane to a new space at 4811 Cheltenham Drive (which Google Maps calls Norfolk Avenue on the map, be forewarned), across from the Tastee Diner. This used to be home to Golden Crown Hair Design. Workers were painting last evening.

First sign of the Purple Line in downtown Bethesda (Photo)

Maryland officials continue their public campaign to demonstrate that Purple Line construction is underway. A sign appeared on the plaza at the intersection of Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue, near the future terminus of the tail tracks of the light rail route (at least until it is extended to Westbard and Sangamore Road). It refers to the "Purple Line light rail transit project," and sports the name of Governor Larry Hogan and the agencies involved.

Another sign Leland St. is just a little bit more important than the rest of us (Photos)

Montgomery County elected officials continue to go overboard to satisfy their wealthy patron(s) on Leland Street, after the County's scheme to illegally close the road to traffic at Woodmont Avenue was exposed, and the road reopened. A few days ago, an electronic sign was summoned to duplicate what the existing sign at the corner already says about turn restrictions. Yesterday around 4:30 PM, a police trap was set up to catch drivers violating that 4:00-7:00 PM turn restriction.
Police cruiser awaits
Leland St. violators
around the bend
Police enforcement of laws around Bethesda is unquestionably a positive thing. No one would dispute that those breaking the law should expect to evade the penalties if caught; they are clearly in the wrong.

The larger point here is the remarkable speed at which whoever on Leland Street is driving this effort can summon taxpayer resources, compared to the rest of us. And the way the County is tripping over themselves to reiterate to Leland Street that "You are special" after the embarrassing scandal over the illegal street closure. "Look, we are doing something!" Where is that pressure to look busy coming from?

Having attended countless community meetings across the County over the years, I know how difficult it usually is to get the County to put out an electronic sign, or get a police unit to enforce whatever rule is being broken. Officers who speak at those meetings will emphasize patience, and the fact that the County has limited resources. There are only so many officers on patrol at one time, and only so many signs and trailers.

Yet here, Leland Street has obtained both within mere days, something you would usually see only after someone was killed in a traffic incident. I've heard from many readers across Bethesda about dangerous spots for pedestrians, who have asked County officials for help and action. New solution: Move to Leland Street. If you can afford it.

Sign installed at Urban Boxing Bethesda

The permanent, lighted sign has been installed at Urban Boxing Bethesda at 4834 Cordell Avenue. Urban Boxing features classes in boxing, kickboxing, Muay Thai, jiu-jitsu, yoga, and more. It was named the region's Best Gym for 2017 by Washingtonian magazine.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Canopy by Hilton hotel at Pike & Rose accepting first reservations for April 2018

Canopy by Hilton, the future hotel at Pike & Rose, is now accepting its first reservations. Rooms can be reserved for dates beginning April 1, 2018 and later.  All rooms in the hotel will have free WiFi, a 55-inch TV, mini-refrigerator, Nespresso machine, plush robes, and beds custom-designed exclusively for Canopy. Canopy suites will feature separate living/dining areas, and there will be filtered spring water stations on every floor.

There will be free evening beer, wine and spirits tastings, free Canopy Bikes and a pedicab to get around Pike & Rose, and a 24-hour fitness center. Ground floor and second-floor retail tenants will include Taylor Gourmet, Nando's Peri-Peri and a Red Door Salon and Spa. The hotel is located at 940 Rose Avenue.

Bethesda construction update: Joe & the Juice (Photos)

The interior fit-out of juice bar Joe & the Juice is still in the early stages at 7263 Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda. It appears the expected August opening will certainly be delayed at this point.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Lucy Ethiopian restaurant to replace Grapeseed in Bethesda

The recently-closed Grapeseed at 4865 Cordell Avenue in Bethesda will become Lucy, an Ethiopian restaurant, according to a sign posted on the front of the building. They will serve traditional favorites, and vegan and gluten-free options.
Lucy has an existing location at 8301 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring. They will face much less competition in Bethesda, as there are quite a few Ethiopian restaurants in Silver Spring. Bethesda has none.

Day after Purple Line groundbreaking, advocates already pushing for extension to Westbard, Sumner (Photos)

Montgomery County planners and elected officials have long said publicly there are no plans to extend the troubled Purple Line light rail route to the Westbard and Sumner areas of Bethesda. It's been difficult enough, they say, to get the actual Bethesda-New Carrollton route built. Behind the scenes, however, discussions have been ongoing with property owners along the proposed route for years. The plans are so solid, the County Council postponed rezoning the portion of the Westbard sector plan where the trains are expected to pass through, under direct orders from their developer masters. Now, less than 24 hours after groundbreaking for the main Purple Line project, advocates are already talking about pushing for the extension to west Bethesda and beyond.
Early morning tweet calling for
extension of Purple Line through
Westbard, Sumner comes less than
24 hours after groundbreaking for
main Purple Line projeet
The long-term plan has been to connect downtown Bethesda with Tysons. There will be stations at River Road (where the County is attempting to acquire industrial land for a "park," on the site of the future Purple Line station, and possible rail yard and electrical transformer) and Sangamore Road. 

Future sites of transit-oriented development are planned for the Shops at Sumner Place, and commercial properties along MacArthur Boulevard between Sangamore Road and the D.C. line, creating overlay sprawl similar to that approved in the Westbard sector plan. Advocates are split as to how they will get the trains over the river to Tysons from Sumner.

"Time to start lobbying to extend the Purple Line!" wrote Bill Smith on the developer-backed Greater Greater Washington website last night. Of course, given the topography of the former Georgetown Branch railbed, and its narrow width compared to the width of the two-track+trail Purple Line, the environmental devastation would be beyond imagination. But, "Shhhhh.....! There are no plans to extend the Purple Line to Westbard!"

Amazon plants flag at Bethesda Whole Foods store (Photos)

Amazon has moved quickly after purchasing the Whole Foods Market grocery chain to make its presence known in their notoriously-expensive stores. A large banner has been put up on the storefront at their River Road location in Bethesda. Inside, small signs in the produce aisle announce new savings on tomatoes, apples and more.

Instead of rewarding Prime subscribers or forcing Whole Foods customers to join Prime, the signs cast the deals as coming from the generosity of the internet retail giant. Missing at the Bethesda store, however, are the Amazon Alexa units patrons are finding at other Whole Foods locations.

A photo of
lemonade from Bethesda's own
Honest Tea, for good measure

Monday, August 28, 2017

Crime data restored to Montgomery County open data website + Bethesda crime update

After illegally removing both archived and ongoing crime incident data from the Data Montgomery website on July 19, Montgomery County has restored them as of this morning. The unprecedented 40-day blackout of crime information was a violation of the County's open data law. By comparison, when the County's poorly-thought-out open data law led to residents' email addresses being posted on the internet, the County Council illegally removed the dataset, but later had to revise the law to make such removals legal.

"How would you like 
it if I judged your career 
by those seven minutes 
when you walked off 
the set in New York?''

The data scrub not only reduced public safety and awareness of neighborhood crime trends, but was yet another fiasco for County Councilmember Hans Riemer, the self-proclaimed data guru and Council "Lead for Digital Government." If Dan Rather was remembered for his seven-minute walk-off on the CBS Evening News, what will voters make of the forty days that Riemer spent twiddling his thumbs doing nothing, while critical public safety data remained offline?

In addition, the dataset is now far more unwieldy to use, scrolling far horizontally. Location information is now far less useful - not only is it nowhere near the crime-type column, but it currently is showing no block number. That makes it impossible to zero in on a crime hot spot, particularly on a major road. Crime types are now less clear, rather than more precise - another big step backwards for Riemer and MoCo, even as they falsely claim to be leading the nation. Laughable! For example, where it used to be clear that property had been vandalized, there is now a generic "property damage" tag, that could cover any number of scenarios.

In my investigation, I found out that Fairfax County stopped providing crime data around the same time as Montgomery pulled its data offline. Both counties, coincidentally, are experiencing an explosion of gang-related violence, crime and homicides. Were the removal, and now less-useful, less-user-friendly restored data, an attempt by Fairfax and Montgomery to cover-up the gang-related crime spike?

So far, no one I've contacted in MoCo government has been able to provide a credible explanation for the data removal - if they even answered my queries at all. I am still awaiting results of an information request from County Director of Public Information made August 14.

Finally, here is the latest crime report, for August 26:

Theft from vehicle. Aberdeen Road.

Theft. Democracy Boulevard.

Counterfeiting/forgery. Democracy Boulevard.

Property damage. Gainsborough Road.

Digital grandstanding after illegal Leland St. closure was busted in Bethesda (Video+Photos)

The illegal Leland Street closure at Woodmont Avenue has been reversed after it was exposed over a month ago. But with the parties involved having been caught red-handed, apparently there are both bitter feelings, and a need for those Montgomery County officials to still deliver something, anything for their patron(s) on Leland Street.

Thus the taxpayer-funded duplication of the existing turn restrictions sign at the corner of Woodmont and Leland that has just appeared. This is apparently supposed to serve as a digital reprimand to drivers who had complained, and also an attempt to show that "something is being done special for Leland Street." Ultimately, it is simply grandstanding. Full of light and fury. Signifying nothing.

The uproar over the closure led anti-car County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner, who are on the record supporting and voting for such closures in the past, to quickly try to distance themselves from this one with the 2018 election season underway.

True Religion closes, Kung Fu Tea opening at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda (Photos)

Westfield Montgomery Mall is losing its True Religion. The high-end denim retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this summer, and had promised it would close at least 27 of its stores in the financial reorganization. Employees were boxing up the store yesterday afternoon.

Whenever I stopped in, I was usually the only person in the store; it didn't seem like mall patrons were clamoring for expensive jeans. The location was also infamously robbed by a gang, who assaulted an employee during the lucrative $12000 heist (and - frankly - probably set a record for most people in the store at one time).

Meanwhile, popular bubble tea chain Kung Fu Tea will soon karate-chop its way into the Dining Terrace at the mall. The company is expanding this year, after hugely-successful openings in Rockville and downtown Silver Spring. They also will open a new location in Germantown.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Bethesda construction update: 2nd District police station (Photos)

The future 2nd District Montgomery County police station at 4823 Rugby Avenue is beginning to take on the bunker aesthetic seen in the rendering sketches. If the destruction of the office building on Bethesda Avenue was the most unique demolition we've seen in Bethesda history, the police station may represent the most unusual construction process. The walls were created slowly, cinder block by cinder block, something you don't see in the typical residential or office construction in Montgomery County.

Anthropologie requests permit to transform Barnes & Noble space at Bethesda Row

Anthropologie & Co. will replace Barnes & Noble at Bethesda Row when it closes at the end of December this year, and the brand has now requested a construction permit from Montgomery County for the interior fit-out of the new store. Expected to open in the fall of 2018, according to Federal Realty, the store will include a Terrain Garden Cafe.

The cafe, which is included in the permit request, will have indoor and outdoor seating, and will be overseen by James Beard Award winner Chef Jeff Michaud. It will reflect the horticultural and seasonal aesthetic of Anthropologie's URBN sister brand, Terrain.

It's intriguing that the permit to reconstruct the 32417 SF space is being requested this early, as B&N is slated to remain open for another 4 months yet.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

First residents move in to The Henri, La Madeleine to close at Pike & Rose

The first residents of The Henri moved into the brand new apartment building at Pike & Rose yesterday. They were greeted with a champagne toast by the building management, and are officially the first residents of the Phase II section of the development. The ground floor of the building includes high end retail like Sephora (now open), and Sur la Table, and will eventually boast a restaurant.

On a sadder note, today is the last day for La Madeleine at Pike & Rose. This is the latest location the apparently-struggling but long-running chain has closed. The downtown Bethesda La Madeleine remains open for business.

COURAGE b rebranded as Runway at Bethesda Row

The COURAGE b boutique at 7125 Bethesda Lane has been rebranded as Runway. Runway is part of the Marcus Lemonis Fashion Group of brands, named after the entrepreneur best known as a reality TV turnaround specialist on CNBC. The shop will emphasize the latest designers, and carries brands such as Joe’s Jeans, AG, J Brand, Jame’s Jeans, Frame, Mother, Hudson, and Goldsign Jeans.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Where to watch Mayweather vs. McGregor in Bethesda

Where to watch the much-hyped Mayweather vs. McGregor fight in Bethesda? First you have to find out when is the Mayweather vs. McGregor date - tomorrow, Saturday, August 26, at 9:00 PM. Second, get ready to pay up, as it won't be free.

Many bars and restaurants will be showing the fight, including Caddies on Cordell (4922 Cordell Avenue), Tapp'd Bethesda (4915 St. Elmo Avenue), and Harp and Fiddle (4844 Cordell Avenue). Maybe there would be more options if 11 nightspots hadn't closed after Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer's disastrous nighttime economy initiative tanked Bethesda nightlife.

Wheelchair-bound man is first pedestrian victim of Apex Building sidewalk closure

Pedestrians walk into oncoming
traffic in front of the Apex Buildin
The dangerous sidewalk closure in the 7200 block of Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda has been in place for about a month, and at least one pedestrian has already been struck. An elderly man in a wheelchair was hit by an SUV at the intersection of Wisconsin and Elm Street on August 4. The man was "barely tapped," and uninjured in the incident, according to Montgomery County 2nd District police commander Captain David Falcinelli. 

To be clear, if a pedestrian is struck walking on the side of the road, or that intersection where the sidewalk and crosswalk are closed, they almost certainly will be the one at fault in a crash. Indeed, the elderly man was determined by police to be at fault in the August 4 incident, even though he was reportedly in a crosswalk area when he was struck. Jaywalking (or jayriding) is against the law, and unlike the County Council, most of us accept that we must follow existing laws or work to change them.

But County and State officials know that impatient pedestrians are going to enter the road along closures like this (as we've seen on Fairmont Avenue years ago), rather than cross the street and cross back again later. Traffic engineers know human behavior, and that is often factored into pedestrian design decisions. 

Yet the closure was allowed to happen anyway, rather than requiring a covered pedestrian walkway along Wisconsin Avenue. If you think it's inconvenient to cross Wisconsin Avenue twice to get around this closure, imagine how difficult it is for a disabled person, such as the man struck in this case. Such walkways are specifically utilized to avoid discriminating against the disabled in construction zones.

The very few apologists out there for the Council (the majority of whom work for the Council) will grasp at the straw of noting this is a state road. In reality, the County has not enforced its so-called sidewalk closure law on its own roads such as Fairmont. Numerous sidewalks along County roads in downtown Bethesda have been closed this year, with no action by the County. Many have not even displayed the required sign displaying the term of the closure. 

The County Council has utterly failed to protect pedestrians in construction zones.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Pepco on-scene after Bethesda Row crash (Video + Photos)

Pepco is working to restore power and traffic signals at the intersection of Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street tonight, after a vehicle ran onto the sidewalk and crashed into the signal and transformer box earlier this evening. The driver is believed to have had a medical emergency, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer.

The utility has set up temporary lighting at the intersection, which should be avoided by drivers. There was also a small fuel spill from the vehicle.
Damaged transformer box
knocked out power

Quite a mess here

A trail of damage
between Hampden Lane
and Elm Street

Portable lights installed