Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Freshbikes announces closure in Bethesda

Cycling shop Freshbikes, located at 7626 Old Georgetown Road before, has announced it is permanently closed. In fact, according to the Virginia-based retail chain, all of its stores have closed.

Have a Freshbikes gift card? You are out of luck. The company says it will not honor its gift cards. It says holders of gift cards will be eligible to receive 10-30% off one item at VeloConcepts locations. All repairs have been transferred to Spokes, Etc. in Alexandria - not exactly convenient to downtown Bethesda. Spokes, Etc. has agreed to warranty claims and new-bicycle purchase agreements.

Federal Realty plan would deliver new White Flint Metro entrance sooner at lower price (Photos)

The long-planned construction of a north entrance to the White Flint Metro station has been stalled since 2010. That year, Montgomery County approved the White Flint sector plan that requires the entrance be built, and WMATA conducted a study. An entrance closer to Pike & Rose, and - in relative terms - to properties north of Montrose Parkway, is considered essential to a successful redevelopment of the northern Pike District by property owners.

To try and get the ball rolling again at a time when Montgomery County councilmembers have managed to spend us into an ongoing structural deficit, developer Federal Realty hired a consultant to put together an independent study. Consultant AECOM and Federal Realty say the finished report shows the new entrance can be delivered sooner, and at a lower cost, than currently expected.

To achieve savings, the plan proposes breaking the development of the entrance into three phases. The Federal Realty proposal's price tag for Phase 1 would come in below the lowball option price of WMATA's study, which was priced in recession-era 2010 dollars, so the savings are likely even bigger than the numbers indicate. At only $11.1 million, Federal Realty's plan would deliver a functional station entrance at completion of Phase 1.

Later phases would add a station supervisor kiosk, exit fare machines, a pedestrian plaza, a bike storage facility, and employee and public restrooms, among other features and amenities. The push for the station takes on extra urgency, as the Pike District is considered the leading potential destination for Amazon's HQ 2 in Montgomery County.

While the empty former site of White Flint Mall is a major candidate, Pike & Rose is arguably the best choice for the long-term. Not only does it already have the urban "neighborhood" and entertainment, dining and retail options Amazon wants, but Federal Realty has several other large properties primed for redevelopment on the next blocks of Rockville Pike north of Pike & Rose. Amazon could end up with space to grow on the Montrose Crossing and Federal Plaza properties, which would be easily walkable from Pike & Rose - especially if a creative use or redevelopment of the underutilized parking lot north of Montrose Parkway at Towne Road is approved.
Federal Realty is now seeking to have a development study for their proposal funded in the FY-2019 Montgomery County CIP budget, and to develop a funding agreement and timetable among the County, WMATA and private stakeholders. The Federal Realty plan currently estimates the total price tag as $25.3 million.

PowerPoint images courtesy Federal Realty

MoCo shuts down work at Bethesda restaurant (Photos)

Montgomery County issued a Stop Work Order yesterday at 4806 Rugby Avenue, the former home of Yamas Mediterranean Grill. The order posted cites a violation of Montgomery County Code Chapter 8-25. However, thanks to the County's so-called "open government," the online version of the County Code that the County Code website directs you to doesn't actually let you read the Code. But you can buy it on CD-ROM. Heckuva job, Brownie!
There is clearly work going on inside. But there appear to be no permits posted in the windows, as would be required before performing any sort of significant construction, repair or remodeling.

Signs installed, lit at Dog Haus Biergarten in Bethesda (Photos)

Dog Haus Biergarten, judging from the number of messages I receive about it, is currently the most-anticipated restaurant opening for 2018 in downtown Bethesda. It has been exactly ten months today since I broke the story about it leasing the old Parva space at 7904 Woodmont Avenue.
After several false starts, work on the interior fit-out finally began to pick up in December. As of last night, permanent signage was installed and lit outside the restaurant.
The Parva was one of 14 nightspots to close after Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer's so-called "nighttime economy" initiative ended up tanking the nighttime economy in downtown Bethesda. Dog Haus isn't a nightclub, but at least there will be some activity again on this block after 5:00 PM once it opens.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Blasting scheduled for Medical Center Metro/Walter Reed tunnel project this morning

An underground controlled blast is scheduled for this morning, February 27, between 11:00 AM and noon along Rockville Pike, in front of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the Medical Center Metro station, according to Phil Alperson, BRAC coordinator for Montgomery County. The blasting is related to a BRAC pedestrian tunnel project that runs beneath the road (see diagram above for exact location). Another blast is scheduled for this Friday, March 2, between 10:00 AM and 1:00 PM.

New renderings of 7820 Wisconsin Avenue tower - possible tallest building in Bethesda (Photos)

Developer Aris Mardirossian's planned 7820 Wisconsin Avenue residential tower will vie with at least two other projects for the title of "tallest building in Bethesda." More advanced renderings by the project's architecture firm, Baltimore-based Design Collective, have been unveiled on their website. The renderings also show massing images of the future Marriott headquarters on the next block south, and Fairmont Plaza, which looks like a low-rise building placed next to the 314' tall 7820.

7820 will include 320 units, 9,000 GSF of retail, and a 5-level underground parking garage. 25% of the units will be designated as affordable.

Rendering courtesy Design Collective
All rights reserved

Goldsboro Place townhome project plan withdrawn by developer

The original Happy Valley estate of
actress Ilona Massey
A strange turn of events has befallen the Goldsboro Place townhome project, which would have replaced a Hollywood star's mansion at 6789 Goldsboro Road with 19 townhomes. The Montgomery County Planning Department sent a notice to the Baltimore-based developer in late January indicating that the preliminary plan of subdivision had been inactive for 1100 days, warning that applications inactive for only 365 calendar days will be considered "withdrawn."

While the letter offered a 30-day window to request an extension, the developer's attorney, Timothy Dugan, instead responded that the project is in a "dormant phase" and can indeed be considered withdrawn. Dugan added that the project will "recommence" at a future date.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Nighttime noise ahead around Purple Line station site in downtown Bethesda

Stock up on earplugs, and fire up the white noise machines. Carr Properties has requested a Temporary Noise Waiver from Montgomery County to allow for installation of subsurface pilings and caissons for the future Purple Line station at 7272 Wisconsin Avenue.

Work will be performed during daytime and nighttime hours. The nighttime work hours, starting around March 5, will be from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM Monday through Friday, and 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Redwood repairs moving slowly at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Redwood Restaurant & Bar at 7121 Bethesda Lane remains closed, after an exploding pipe caused apparently-extensive water damage throughout the restaurant. Two months have passed, and the restaurant has ceased posting updates on social media. They had advertised a Valentine's Day event, but failed to finish and reopen in time, and did not retract the ads for the romantic evening. No word if any couples broke up that night as a result...
The work appears more extensive than the damage visible from the exterior suggested. As you can see, the dining room walls appear completely demolished, as if a whole new business were being constructed from scratch.

Church asks HOC to allow cadaver dogs onto Bethesda black cemetery site

Officials from Macedonia Baptist Church have asked the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission to allow an archaeologist who utilizes cadaver dogs onto their Westwood Tower property to delineate the location of graves hidden on the site. “Cadaver sniffing dogs have been shown to be effective in locating Civil War era and even older human remains. The process is noninvasive and reliable,” the Rev. Dr. Segun Adebayo, Pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church, wrote to HOC Chair Jackie Simon. “We hope that HOC will be as receptive to our bringing trained CSD dogs onto their property as they have been in allowing Westwood Tower resident’s dogs to ‘do their business’ on our ancestors’ final resting places.”

The historic Moses African Cemetery holds approximately 500 bodies, including many of the first freed slaves after Maryland Emancipation. Construction workers excavating for the Westwood Tower building in the late 1960s desecrated the cemetery, before reportedly relocating some remains into a mass grave downward from the rear slope behind the development. The rest of the graves were covered with fill dirt and a paved parking lot. Notes kept by the County Parks Department indicate landowner Dr. Lazlo Tauber was fully aware of the cemetery and desecration.

HOC, which had planned for several years to acquire the property from owner Regency Centers and build a parking garage on top of the cemetery, has steadfastly refused to allow any archaeological investigation of the graveyard. Prior to acquiring the land from Regency in January, HOC used the excuse that it did not own the land, and therefore could not give permission for the church to conduct a study on it.

But now that HOC owns the land outright, they have yet to allow any investigation to take place. Montgomery County has taken a similar approach, dismissing two highly-regarded anthropologists specializing in black cemeteries last year. County officials tricked the church into entering a farcical mediation process with HOC and Regency last summer. When the County's mediator blew up the process under false pretenses, it was revealed that the County had simply been trying to put a stop to the regular protests and rallies that brought public attention to the scandal in prior months.

HOC has engaged in other skullduggery, falsely claiming that the church had leaked information during the mediation, and citing a lawsuit Macedonia Baptist Church is not a party to as an excuse to avoid communication with the church. “HOC has been using a pending lawsuit—that Macedonia is not a party to—as a blanket excuse for not responding to any of our reasonable requests for permission to begin a cemetery delineation,” Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, MBC's Social Justice Chair said yesterday. “Walking the grounds with these dogs would not involve heavy equipment or even the slightest disruption of the site,” she continued, “but it would go a long way toward beginning a healing process for Macedonia’s congregation and the wider descendant community.”

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Late notice posted by MoCo on shuttered Vino Volo in Bethesda

The Montgomery County health department is really getting around Bethesda these days, with more official shutdown notices posted in the last couple of weeks than I've seen in the last couple of years combined. This one is strange though, because Vino Volo has been closed for almost three months, and this notice was just posted in the last couple of weeks. The restaurant simply failed and went out of business; it was not closed for a health violation.

Julii applies for liquor license at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Julii, the newest dining concept from the founders of the CAVA empire, will open this year on the edge of Rose Park at Pike & Rose. They have requested their liquor license hearing next month, even though there's a long way to go construction-wise before the doors open here.

Golden City has closed in Bethesda (Photos)

Golden City, a Chinese restaurant at 7026 Wisconsin Avenue, has closed. The Montgomery County health department, which appears to be newly-invigorated in recent weeks, has posted an official shutdown notice on the front of the business. Windows have been papered over, and a demolition permit has been requested for the interior.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Bethesda construction update: Canopy by Hilton/bluemercury at Pike & Rose (Photos)

The new Canopy by Hilton is just about ready to open at Pike & Rose. A new bluemercury location is also under construction in the ground floor of the hotel.




bluemercury's corner spot on
the ground floor at Rose and
Grand Park Avenues

Demolition update: Vince & Dominic's/Home Depot Square in Bethesda (Photos)

The demolition of a large part of the strip mall behind Home Depot in Bethesda continues, including the former home of Vince & Dominic's Pizzeria. Supposedly, the razing of this section is going to create more room for parking for Home Depot customers. Businesses in the other section of the strip mall, including Five Guys, will remain open for business.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bethesda Court Hotel clearing out (Photos)

Stained mattresses and flatscreen TVs are being hauled out of the now-shuttered Bethesda Court Hotel, located at 7740 Wisconsin Avenue. The building is being torn down to make way for the new Marriott headquarters and hotel.
Stay classy, Bethesda!