Friday, August 31, 2018

Development replacing La Madeleine "will do justice to the downtown," WPC says

There were few new details released at a public meeting last night regarding the residential tower planned to replace La Madeleine at 7607 Old Georgetown Road, but developer Washington Property Company provided more detailed renderings of its design. One piece of breaking news at the meeting was that WPC is branding the new building with its Solaire moniker, adding it to a growing portfolio of properties under the Solaire brand in lower Montgomery County.

WPC was represented at the meeting by its VP of development, Janel Kausner, and attorney Bob Dalrymple. They plan to submit their preliminary and site plans to the County in the coming weeks; their sketch plan has already been approved by the Planning Board. A board hearing on the latest plans will likely be held in January.

If all plans are approved by the board, WPC anticipates construction will begin in June 2019, with a June 2021 delivery date. Dalrymple said WPC is seeking a ground floor retail tenant that will activate the building's corner on Old Georgetown Road.

The new Solaire tower, the second in downtown Bethesda, will be 24 stories and 225' tall. All parking will be underground, and parking and loading access will all be from the Commerce Lane side of the property. That will provide a continuous pedestrian-only sidewalk along Old Georgetown in front of the building.

There will be no blank walls on the tower, which is designed to be attractive from all 360 degrees of view. WPC promised the architecture "will do justice to the downtown zone." The building will make a direct connection to the Bethesda Place courtyard from its second level.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Riemer advances zoning scheme that would quadruple MCPS overcrowding

Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer is quietly advancing his long-term scheme to implode zoning in single-family home neighborhoods in the County, when the Council returns from its endless summer of idle vacation. On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, a public hearing will be held on a bill to loosen the approval process of accessory apartments in the County. The proposed changes will weaken protections regarding street parking for existing homeowners, speed the approval process for accessory apartments in residential neighborhoods, and greatly reduce the opportunity for public input and objections to accessory apartments in your neighborhood.

What is Riemer's goal in expanding the number of accessory apartments in established SFH suburban neighborhoods? His plan is to subdivide every existing SFH lot in the County into 4 new housing units. Riemer has been caught on Facebook discussing his plans to allow every SFH lot to be rezoned for duplexes. Each of those duplexes would then be allowed to have an accessory apartment.

Accessory apartments have been sold to the public with the idea of one person living in a rental room, or as "granny pods," for families who apparently can't stand to be inside the same home with Grandma in her declining years. How heartwarming. In reality, the County's accessory apartment code - and the new language - openly acknowledges there could be children in these accessory units.

So each lot could ultimately have two new homes with families, and each of their accessory units could generate additional students for Montgomery County Public Schools. A potential of four families on each site that today can hold only one. Importantly, Riemer's duplex and accessory apartment scheme does not, to this point, provide any new funding to cover the surge in school construction costs it would cause. Kind of like the sector plans Riemer voted to approve, come to think of it.

Like many housing schemes advanced by Riemer, his developer sugar daddies, and his developer-funded Greater Greater Washington fellow travelers, the duplex/accessory apartment gimmick is presented under the banner of "affordable housing." But like all of the other schemes, that promise is false. After two decades of unrestrained development, with a brief Great Recession pause, home prices and rents in Montgomery County have increased, not decreased.
Riemer has made no secret of his
contempt for Montgomery County's
suburban and rural character
The duplexes proposed by Riemer would not be any more affordable than the existing large houses on those suburban lots. If townhomes in those neighborhoods currently sell for over $1,000,000, what do you imagine a larger, new-construction duplex home would go for in 20816? Certainly not for the "affordable" price that Riemer and GGW would ask you to believe.

Embarrassingly, carpetbagger Riemer was unaware that duplexes are already scattered around the County in places like Rockville, Layhill and Glenmont. They are not a new idea at all, but are now non-compliant structures not permitted in SFH neighborhoods, much like high-rises that were built in low-rise areas in the County's past Wild West zoning era. 

Riemer apparently is still closing his ears to his constituents' anger over overcrowded schools and congested roads. Instead of advancing plans to require tighter staging or higher impact taxes, Riemer is finding new ways to increase crowding. This fall, accessory apartments. Next Council term, duplexes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Flash Sideways Studio art space opening on Fairmont Avenue

Sculptor Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg is relocating her Flash Sideways Studio from Washington, D.C. to 4931 Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda. The space will serve as an art studio and gallery until landlord Lenkin Companies demolishes it, and several other adjacent structures, for its St. Elmo Apartments project.

The first exhibit at Flash Sideways' new home will be Firstenberg's "Empty Fix" project, six large-scale works that aim to reduce the stigma around opioid addiction, and increase empathy for its victims. Firstenberg traveled across the country to meet those in the grip of drug addiction, and her one-on-one encounters inspired the works you will see in this exhibit. A shipping crate outside the studio will not only be a display, but will also assist in transporting the exhibit to other cities.

Sunday Morning Bakehouse to open at Pike & Rose

Chef Caroline Yi's baked goods have been such a hit at Pike & Rose's weekend farmers market that landlord Federal Realty is bringing her officially on-board with a bricks-and-mortar location. Sunday Morning Bakehouse, a bakery and cafe, will open at the development in Summer 2019.

Yi is a Montgomery County native who went to Rockville's Wooten High School, and is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She has been baking almost as long, starting with Christmas cookies at the age of seven.

With seating for up to 35 people, Yi is looking forward to making the transition from take-out farm market sales to sit-down dining next summer. “It’s a different experience when we can plate the meal, rather than a grab and go at the farmer’s market," she said. "We are excited to create a beautiful space where our guests can sit down and enjoy their food with a leisurely cup of coffee.”

What might you expect to enjoy in that space? Yi's French butter croissants that are three days in the making, homemade jam-filled brioche donuts with seasonal flavors, her favorite grilled cheese or tuna salad sandwiches, baked eggs or French-style omelettes, and my personal favorite, twice-baked Elvis croissants filled with roasted peanut butter, fresh bananas and bacon.

Opening up shop just down the Pike from her Rockville stomping grounds is just the icing on the cake for Yi. “I knew if and when I opened my first business it had to be in my hometown," she said. "After visiting Pike & Rose for the first time, I fell in love with it and knew it was the only place I could picture my bakery and café,”

Federal Realty's VP of Leasing, Stuart Biel, said the feeling is mutual. “Having grown up just down the road from Pike & Rose, Caroline is a neighbor," Biel said Tuesday. He predicted Sunday Morning Bakehouse will be "a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, bringing the perfect blend of innovation and comfort with pastries that have delighted patrons at the farm market since it first appeared.”

Photos courtesy Sunday Morning Bakehouse

Brightview Bethesda tops out

The Brightview Bethesda assisted living apartment building project at 4907 Rugby Avenue has topped out. Construction contractor Donohoe Construction celebrated with a luncheon for the project team.

Eight stories above downtown Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle, the Brightview Bethesda will house 113 units, with independent living, assisted living, and memory care residential options. Residents will also be across the street from future retail and restaurant options at Donohoe's own Gallery Bethesda II development, which is nearing delivery.

Brightview Bethesda is scheduled to deliver in the spring of 2019.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

City Perch adds ground floor patio dining at Pike & Rose

I first noticed tables set up on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the iPic Theaters when I visited Pike & Rose on August 18. It turns out that City Perch Kitchen + Bar, located upstairs in the theater, has now added outdoor dining. The new ground floor patio seating on Grand Park Avenue is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also available are new al fresco menu items, as well as an al fresco bar list. The new items take advantage of ingredients from the Up Top Acres rooftop farm, that is literally above the restaurant at the Federal Realty development.

Featured items include a Shrimp Cocktail with green goddess dressing and lemongrass cocktail sauce; Crab Cakes with Old Bay remoulade, frisée and citrus salad, yuzu vinaigrette; a Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad with roasted peaches, burrata, smoked sea salt, passionfruit vinaigrette, aged balsamic, toasted pistachio and basil; a 1924 Caesar Salad with romaine hearts, garlic croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives; Steak Frites made with a dry-aged striploin, "shoooo-string" fries and béarnaise sauce; and personal 10-inch Margherita, Smoky BBQ and Meatza pizzas.

The new outdoor patio can also be reserved for private events. To make reservations or schedule a private event, visit the City Perch website.

Gold Leaf Bakery holding liquidating auction next month

Gold Leaf Bakery at 4918 St. Elmo Avenue is holding a "complete liquidation" auction on September 11, according to an online auction listing. The bakery is unnamed, but the photographs and description match Gold Leaf, which the announcement states is "shutting the doors" next month.

Available for bidding will be everything from a 140 quart Hobart mixer to the bakery cases to the walk-in refrigerator and Bakers' Pride baking ovens. Gold Leaf Bakery opened in May 2016 in the new Bainbridge Bethesda apartment tower.

Capital Teas "temporarily closed" at Bethesda Row

Capital Teas was dark yesterday at 4806 Bethesda Avenue. According to the Annapolis-based company, their Bethesda Row store is "temporarily closed due to restructuring of our retail operations."

They are referring customers to their website, which remains active for sales.

Monday, August 27, 2018

OurBus to launch White Flint to NYC bus service

OurBus, a crowdsourced tech company operating intercity and commuter bus routes, plans to soon offer service between White Flint and New York City. The company plans to perform a pilot test of the route over Labor Day weekend.

A test of the OurBus website finds an available trip to New York City on Labor Day for $25.00. The departure stop is listed as the bus stop at the White Flint Metro station, on the northbound side of Rockville Pike, in front of the Metro station.

OurBus notes that buses will not always be branded "OurBus" (Worldwide Tours & Travel is listed as the charter company for next Monday's trip). The service offers passengers free WiFi, reclining seats, charging ports, free water, "sanitized" on-board restrooms, and no rescheduling fees. Tickets must be purchased online.

Spice-6 Modern Indian to open this week at Westfield Montgomery Mall

UPDATE: Spice-6 will open Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Spice-6 Modern Indian, a fast casual Indian restaurant that Washingtonian magazine named as one of the region's best "Cheap Eats," plans to open this week in the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Stay tuned for a final opening date.

In other mall news, jewelry retailer Pandora celebrated the grand re-opening of its renovated space on Level 2.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Gallery Bethesda II pre-leasing to begin in September

Donohoe's Gallery Bethesda II luxury apartment tower will begin pre-leasing in September, according to Vantage Management, the building's manager. Available units will range from a 515 SF studio to a 1651 SF 2-bedroom with den and 3 bathrooms.

Donohoe is also the construction firm for the project, which was designed by WDG Architecture. The award-winning original Gallery Bethesda was the first post-Great Recession project to deliver in downtown Bethesda, and still holds the record for fastest lease-up of this generation of luxury buildings.

Gallery II will include 219 units and a generous 12425 SF of retail and restaurant space. Donohoe is aiming for tenants that will draw foot traffic to the plaza Gallery II shares with sister building Gallery Bethesda, compared to the tenant-focused retail in the first building. In fact, the curved corner of the building at Del Ray and Rugby is anticipated for a restaurant use.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic moves to Rock Spring offices

The Atrium at Rock Spring Park
Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic has moved out of the Kenwood Professional Building in Bethesda, as expected.  However, now we know their new address. The anchor office tenant of the 5272 River Road office building has relocated to the Rock Spring office park area further north in Bethesda. Their new home is The Atrium at Rock Spring Park, located at 6555 Rock Spring Drive.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Frosh loses police endorsement to Republican Wolf in AG race

Republican attorney general
candidate Craig Wolf
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has lost the endorsement of the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police he had in 2014. Maryland's police instead chose to endorse Republican Craig Wolf of Howard County in the attorney general race, Wolf announced Thursday.
MD Attorney General Brian Frosh (D)
Craig has been a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant State's Attorney in Allegheny County. He has also been President & CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America for more than a decade. Craig enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 40 after the 9/11 attacks, and counts the Meritorious Service Medal and Bronze Star Medal among his commendations, after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

It's unusual for a sitting Attorney General to lose the support of law enforcement officials. Wolf suggests the reason may be that Frosh is "more focused on partisan politics in Washington than he is on the public safety issues in our state." Frosh has attempted to take a leading role in the "resistance" to President Trump since 2016, joining or filing multiple legal actions against Trump and his administration.

Bethesda demolition update: Marriott HQ (Photos)

Demolition continues at the site of the future relocated Marriott International headquarters, located at 7750 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. Combined with other work taking place at 7900 Wisconsin and on Woodmont Avenue, it's a chaotic atmosphere during construction hours.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

New medical marijuana dispensary opening soon on Fairmont Avenue (Photos)

Health for Life, a medical marijuana dispensary, is nearing its grand opening at 4909 Fairmont Avenue. The small chain is the retail outlet for MPX Bioceutical Corporation, a "multinational diversified cannabis company focused on the medical and adult use cannabis markets." Here's a preview of what the interior will look like:
(Top) Robert Dyer
(Bottom) Health for Life