Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Federal Realty posts Coming Soon signage for Poke Dojo at Bethesda Row

It's now official: As I reported yesterday, Poke Dojo is moving from Hanaro Sushi in the Woodmont Triangle to a prime spot on Bethesda Lane at Bethesda Row. Property owner Federal Realty later in the day posted "coming soon" signage for the restaurant. It is taking over the vacant Cork and Fork space.

Also related to my report yesterday on the future arrival of the Shade Store at the Row, their space now has a construction wall around the facade. It used to be home to Le Creuset, which recently closed.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Nighttime demolition planned at Bethesda YMCA

A construction contractor is planning to conduct interior structural demolition at the YMCA Bethesda-Chevy Chase, located at 9401 Old Georgetown Road. The work will be performed at night to avoid disruption for users of the facility.

Demolition is scheduled to begin August 6, and will take about ten days to complete. Another round of nighttime work may be necessary in early November. This August round of demolition will take place between 10:00 PM and 6:00 AM, on weekdays only.

Poke Dojo, Shade Store coming to Bethesda Row

Two new tenants are coming to Bethesda Row. Poke Dojo, a well-reviewed poke bowl concept that is currently operating out of Hanaro Sushi at 7820 Norfolk Avenue, is finally going to get its own place at Bethesda Row.

Also on the way is the Shade Store, an upscale retailer of window shades, blinds and draperies. Shade Store counts Georgetown and the Mosaic District among its existing locations. The chain has exclusive  collections and partnerships with fashion labels like Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer. 

The two businesses will replace the recently-departed Cork and Fork and Le Creuset.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Signage to help Bethesda businesses walled off by Purple Line construction

Construction of the Purple Line light rail system has forced many businesses in downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring to close. Haagen Dazs and the Landmark Bethesda Row Cinema haven't been hurt as badly as those unfortunate enterprises, but their locations at Bethesda Row are greatly obscured by a wall of construction fencing around the Purple Line construction site on Woodmont Avenue. Recently, advertising graphics were added to the wall to let people know that Mon Ami Gabi, Haagen Dazs and the theater are still there and open for business. As you can see in the photo above, all three businesses are hidden from view by the fence.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Has the power corner at Bethesda Row moved to Amazon Books?

Buskers still lurk on the plaza outside the former Barnes & Noble bookstore at the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. But as the lingering crowd there grows smaller, musicians have - for the first time - been setting up on the smaller plaza outside of the new Amazon Books store (or as you see in the video here, on Bethesda Lane around the corner from Amazon). The smaller plaza always had a nice fountain running like the Barnes & Noble plaza, but it was often a ghost town when Urban Country had the corner spot at Arlington Road and Bethesda Avenue.

The lengthy construction of Anthropologie in the Barnes & Noble space is changing public behavior, and its unclear if that corner can regain its old status when the store and Terrain Cafe open this fall. Anthropologie by nature appeals to a much narrower demographic than a large-inventory bookstore, and you won't be able to simply hang out like you could at Barnes & Noble. Foot traffic could well be less than Amazon Books.

Amazon Books indeed has fairly good traffic considering what a tough spot they are in. After a sluggish start during which the store almost looked like it wasn't open from the outside, bright lights were installed that, in some cases, literally aim at passersby and motorists like a light cannon. Traffic began to pick up with the new lighting, and a few weeks ago, for the first time, I saw a music duo and a few spectators passing time on the Amazon corner.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently made a surprise but low-key visit to the Bethesda Row store, according to a source. One thing majorly missing is the small coffee shop/cafe that was supposed to be part of the Amazon Books bricks-and-mortar experience. Without it, you really can't hang out, and the store is simply too cramped to want to, anyway. They do have a nice selection of gadgets, toys and games, which Barnes & Noble previously provided in greater quantities, minus the Amazon tech.

But despite the few disappointments, there is a real question as to whether the power corner at Bethesda Row has moved, and that certainly presents an additional challenge to Anthropologie. Like many public use patterns at new urbanist developments, it is fascinating to watch how the public uses the available space, and not necessarily in the way the designers intended.

Friday, July 27, 2018

JINYA Ramen Bar sets opening date at Pike & Rose

JINYA Ramen Bar announced its long-anticipated opening date at Pike & Rose on Thursday. The third D.C.-area location of the sit-down, full-service restaurant will open on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 11:00 AM. Festivities will begin with a ribbon-cutting, and the first 100 guests will receive a free bowl of ramen. All guests will have a chance to win door prizes, and a portion of the opening day proceeds will be donated to Manna Food Center in Montgomery County.

Specializing in authentic Tonkotsu ramen, JINYA Ramen Bar simmers their broth for over ten hours for flavor, and ages their hand-made noodles for three days. Also authentic will be the Japanese Whisky Highball, not to be confused with the typical highball served in American bars. When added to the menu in the future, the drink will be made with a special Highball machine distributed by Suntory Toki itself. JINYA will be the first D.C.-area establishment to have the machine.

Closer to home, local craft beers will share the list with Japanese brews. To show support for flood-damaged Ellicott City, JINYA is launching with beers from Manor Hill Brewing.

With five types of broth, four noodles, a variety of tare seasonings and oils, and over 25 toppings, you are unlikely to exhaust every customized menu option possible anytime soon. Beyond ramen, there are other JINYA specialties like Salmon Poke mini tacos, the JINYA Bun, Brussels Sprouts Tempura with truffle oil, Takoyaki, JINYA Quinoa Salad, and a selection of rice bowls and curry. For dessert, you will be able to finish your meal with choices such as Green Tea or Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream, Panna Cotta and Green Tea Pistachio or Triple Berry White Chocolate BlockPops.

JINYA will have indoor seating for 74, including the ten seats at the full bar, and communal outdoor seating for 18 around a fire pit. The restaurant is located at 910 Prose Street, at Rose Park, alongside The Baked Bear and L.L. Bean. Initial business hours at launch will be Sunday – Thursday from 11:00 AM to 10:00 PM. and Friday - Saturday from 11:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Happy Hour specials will be served daily from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. The owner says hours may change as the Pike & Rose neighborhood continues to grow and evolve over time.

Photos courtesy JINYA Ramen Bar

Thursday, July 26, 2018

WSSC delivers emergency water to Bethesda apartment tower with outage (Photos)

A water outage has impacted some residents and businesses in the Woodmont Triangle tonight. The Bainbridge Bethesda apartment tower has no water. Water utility WSSC is delivering emergency Deer Park bottled water supplies to residents there tonight. It's unclear if tonight's outage is related to Tuesday night's water main break on the next block of St. Elmo.
WSSC truck on-scene
WSSC representatives are saying they hope service will be restored to the Bainbridge by morning. Plaza Art on Old Georgetown Road had to close early due to the outage, but no other business closures were immediately evident. If your home or business is currently affected by the outage, let me know in the comments below.

Cartons of Deer Park bottled water
in the Bainbridge lobby

Plaza Art on Old Georgetown Road
had to close early

Woodmont Grill redirects patrons to public parking

After the closure of Woodmont Grill's convenient parking lot directly adjacent to the restaurant, patrons of the restaurant have been surprised on their first return visit to find the former amenity fenced off. Now the area favorite, which is known to do the highest volume of business of any downtown Bethesda restaurant. has posted some directions to nearby public parking garages. The lot closed due to the redevelopment of the land it sits on as the new Marriott headquarters.

Stonehall Bethesda condos over 50% sold

The ultra-luxury condo market in downtown Bethesda appears to have slowed slightly, but sales remain steady. Christa Hodge, Sales Manager for the Stonehall Bethesda ultra-luxury condominiums at 8302 Woodmont Avenue reports the building has now passed the 50% sold mark.

Duball, LLC's Stonehall officially opened with a ribbon-cutting last October. To note the change in the condo market, consider that Toll Brothers City Living's Hampden Row was 50% sold before construction was even completed. There was not even a model unit available to tour when Hampden Row reached that mark.

Market trends benefit condo shoppers at the moment, however, as Stonehall is now offering VIP pricing through August. Hampden Row was offering incentives of its own last month.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

WSSC repairs water main on St. Elmo Avenue (Photos)

A WSSC crew made emergency repairs to a water main at 4819 St. Elmo Avenue last night. They have completed the "temporary" repairs to the broken water main, according to a WSSC service bulletin, suggesting they will have to return at some point to fully finish the job. Workers were drilling in the street as these photos were taken last evening.

Fish Taco grand opening today at Bethesda Row

Fish Taco will officially open its new downtown Bethesda location today at 7251 Woodmont Avenue. The restaurant held a soft opening lunch and dinner service last night to get ready. They'll be open regular hours today, from 10:30 AM to 9:00 PM.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Moribund MoCo economy continues to tank in 2018

New regional statistics indicate Montgomery County's moribund economy is continuing its steep decline, even as boom times continue across the river in Northern Virginia. The Stephen S. Fuller Institute at George Mason University noted in its June summary of area economic indicators that in 2018, the suburban Maryland jurisdictions of the D.C. area have only accounted for 5% of regional job growth. In contrast, Northern Virginia has accounted for a whopping 78% of job growth in our region so far this year, a devastating comparison.

Virginia currently enjoys a 3.2% unemployment rate, compared to 4.3% in Maryland. According to Aaron Gregg of the Washington Post, job growth in suburban Maryland counties has "softened" further. He quotes Fuller as noting Montgomery County doesn't have the private sector federal contractors that could benefit from the Trump administration's massive boost in defense spending.
Only one candidate can get Montgomery County's
moribund economy moving again.
Andy Bauer, a regional economist with the Richmond Federal Reserve, reports to the Post that "we're not seeing much job growth at all" in the suburban Maryland counties. "Northern Virginia just hasn't seen the weakness we've seen on the Maryland side."

Montgomery County has notoriously failed to attract defense and aerospace contractors - and any major corporate headquarters at all - over the last two decades. And the County Council has made aggressive moves in recent years to urge existing aerospace firm Lockheed Martin to leave the County, moves that even earned them a rebuke from their Democratic peers at the state level. "We don't need the Lockheed headquarters," Councilmember Nancy Floreen infamously told residents at the Aspen Hill Library in 2010. The Council removed a second Potomac River crossing to the Dulles area - an essential piece of infrastructure to compete with Northern Virginia for government contractors and international business firms - from the County's master plan. And it failed to win the Northrop headquarters, which ended up in - where else? - Northern Virginia.

In the Fuller Institute's June report, the authors wistfully recall the greater regional balance of decades past, when Montgomery County used to be a major player in the region, and Northern Virginia usually only accounted for 50% of regional job growth - not today's whopping 80%. To underline the stakes in the regional competition for the supposed 50,000 jobs of Amazon's HQ2, that job number is only 1500 less than the number of jobs created in the whole region between June 2017 and June 2018.
Montgomery County Council lead economic
advisor Vladimir Lenin
Unmentioned in either report are the County Council's record 2016 property tax and recordation tax hikes, 2010 energy tax hike, $15 minimum wage, and a barrage of other anti-business taxes, fees, restrictions and regulations passed since 2010 alone. While Virginia builds mile after mile of Express Lanes and steals our jobs, our Council is fighting Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes plan for I-270 and the Beltway at every turn. The Council's economic development trips abroad have been only to Communist and socialist nations including China, Cuba, and El Salvador under the rule of President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, who was a commander in the Communist FMLN during the country's civil war. The County even boasted that it had brought in Communist Chinese officials as advisors on the Council's $10 billion Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle.

With fellow travelers like these, is it any wonder Montgomery County's economy is circling the drain?

BurgerFi to open at Pike & Rose

Burger lovers at Pike & Rose have largely had to rely on upscale restaurants like Del Frisco's Grille and City Perch at the Federal Realty property. Now a fast casual option is on the horizon. BurgerFi, a modern and eco-friendly burger chain, has leased a spot at 11881 Grand Park Avenue.

Located next to bluemercury in the Canopy by Hilton hotel, BurgerFi will serve all-natural hamburgers, Vienna beef dogs, and veggie and vegan burgers. Their 100% natural Angus beef patties have no steroids, antibiotics or growth hormones.

Burger Fi's menu also includes fresh, hand-cut fries, double-battered crispy onion rings, craft beer, wine, natural sugar cane sodas, and frozen custards and shakes. The restaurant is currently scheduled to open this winter.

“We are extremely excited to become a new member of the Pike & Rose community, a thriving new destination to live, work, shop and dine," the Pike & Rose BurgerFi location's owner Maria Fabelo said in a statement yesterday. "We look forward to bringing our all-natural unique offerings to one of the fastest growing and cosmopolitan neighborhoods in the U.S."

Monday, July 23, 2018

Bethesda construction update: 4747 Bethesda Avenue (Photos)

Here's the latest progress at JBG Smith's Class A trophy office building, 4747 Bethesda Avenue. You can see that much more glass is in place since my last update.