Sunday, June 30, 2019

Entrance update at Bethesda Place Apartments

The entrance to the Bethesda Place Apartments in downtown Bethesda just got a makeover. Gone is the maroon awning with golden posts. In its place is a new lighted sign on the building facade above the entrance.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Custom Ink, LensCrafters open at Bethesda Row

New tenants Custom Ink and LensCrafters opened at Bethesda Row on Friday. Custom Ink provides custom apparel and printing services aimed primarily at businesses and organizations. LensCrafters is the eyewear retailer ubiquitous at malls across America. 
Both represent a repositioning strategy for Federal Realty at this property from high-end retail to middle-class demographics, as the ultra-rich continue to flee Montgomery County for lower-tax jurisdictions in the region. Retail properties have had no choice but to adjust to a market that no longer has the wealth base to support brands like Kate Spade and Cartier. Along with the spectacular demise of "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive" in nearby Friendship Heights, and Wall Street alerting investors that the corrupt and incompetent County Council's latest budget puts our AAA bond rating in danger, it's truly a new day in Montgomery County.

Here's a look inside Custom Ink:

Bethesda Country Club, Columbia Country Club fireworks 2019

The Bethesda Country Club's annual Independence Day fireworks display will be held at sundown on Monday evening, July 1, 2019. Rain date is July 2. While the fireworks, related events and club property are private for club members only, the display can be seen from nearby public and private parking lots. Bethesda Country Club is located at 7601 Bradley Boulevard.

Columbia Country Club is likewise a private club. But their fireworks display can be seen from nearby streets and properties, as well. It is scheduled for July 2, 2019 at 9:15 PM. Rain date is July 3.

See my earlier report for 2019 fireworks at Kenwood Golf & Country Club, the Chevy Chase Club and Congressional Country Club.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sports Extra leaving Bethesda for Rockville

Sports apparel and screen printing business Sports Extra recently moved to 4938 St. Elmo Avenue. Now they're making an even bigger move north to Rockville. Be aware that they may have altered business hours in the coming weeks, as they move inventory and equipment to a larger-but-currently-undisclosed address in Rockville. I would recommend calling 301-657-1444 before going, if you are traveling any significant distance to get there.

After banning circus animals, MoCo gets one-man circus

The Montgomery County Council is infamously known for debating at length, and then approving, a ban on circus animals - at the same time as once-major County employer Discovery Communications was being wooed to relocate by other jurisdictions. Sadness ensued for all, as Montgomery County wound up losing both circuses and the Discovery Channel headquarters. But, now through Sunday, July 7 at Strathmore, it's David Dimitri to the rescue! The son of legendary clown Jakob Dimitri is bringing a one-man circus to Montgomery County, L'homme Cirque.

Dimitri will fire himself out of a cannon as a human cannonball. He will walk the high wire. Strathmore promises he will balance these and other daring feats with "humor, poetry and an accordion serenade." At the climax of the performance, Dimitri will open the top of the tent, and the audience will witness him disappear "into the sky" on the high wire.

The one-man circus is one contingency the anti-circus County Council apparently did not anticipate, and thereby is legal. Teeth are assuredly gnashing at 100 Maryland Avenue, but the show must! go! on! True to the Montgomery Way, though, Dimitri was required to get a permit from the County to erect his tent on the Strathmore property. Big Government for the Big Tent!

You can buy tickets online, and watch a trailer for Dimitri's L'homme Cirque:

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Resurfacing at Montgomery Mall

Watch out for resurfacing work on some of the inner roads on the property of Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. It appears that much of it is being done at night, as workers were getting set up to start prior to sunset last night.

Guru Groceries and Chaat House to open July 5 in Bethesda

Guru Groceries and Chaat House, a new Indian grocery store, will open July 5, 2019 at 7817 Old Georgetown Road in downtown Bethesda. On July 5 and 6, they will hold a grand opening celebration, with free chaat for customers. The store is moving from Rockville to Bethesda.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Woke Doug Duncan calls out Montgomery County cartel

Former Montgomery County Executive and Rockville mayor Douglas M. Duncan is the first prominent political figure to acknowledge, and call out, the political cartel that has seized control of the County over the last two decades. Over that same period since they first won a majority of the seats on the County Council in 2002 - and now control every single seat in 2019, the County has plunged to rock bottom in all relevant regional economic development categories. As a result of their high-tax and anti-business policies, the County economy has become moribund, the ultra-wealthy have fled in great numbers to lower-tax jurisdictions, and the County has failed to attract a major corporate headquarters in over twenty years. While high profile voices like The Washington Post, Washington Business Journal and Sage Policy Group have finally joined me in declaring Montgomery County moribund, no prominent figure has previously identified that a political cabal has seized control of the local Democratic party and County government. Until now.

A day after the County's elected officials held another clueless meeting on the stagnant County economy, repeating the same mantras and problems without endorsing actual solutions we know will solve them, it's worth examining what Doug Duncan recently said regarding the cartel. One of the key reasons we are struggling to attract jobs and economic growth is that cartel-controlled officials are anti-highway and anti-car. That is because the most dominant players in the cartel are developers who specialize in developments that require traffic congestion to remain high, in order to justify their density. So it's not surprising that the County Council's predictable opposition to Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes plan for the Beltway and I-270 frustrated a common-sense leader like Duncan.

"You don't often see a governor saying, 'I want to put billions of dollars into your infrastructure,'" Duncan told the Post. "For Montgomery County to say no right off the bat without saying let's look at this is the result of who's controlling the Democratic Party now."

Those elected officials have not only blocked and canceled critical highway projects, but have also pursued the anti-business course that their developer sugar daddies in the cartel have demanded behind closed doors. Developers want the valuable land in Rock Spring and along I-270 where existing office parks could be used to lure defense, aerospace and tech firms that need large, secure campuses. They want those office zones to remain vacant and struggling, so that they can acquire the land and redevelop it as residential. This is why you see the Council continuing to refuse to take the steps needed to turn the economy around, and to block economic growth.

Duncan addressed that, too, in his remarks to the Post. He told the newspaper "the County's Democratic leadership of 'no-growthers' is out of step with residents."

This is a breakthrough in the public debate. Duncan is as liberal a Democrat as they come, but he's also remembered for being pro-business while in office until he ran for governor in 2006. Duncan lost his bid to return as County Executive in 2014, when the cartel threw its weight behind incumbent Ike Leggett. He may now wish he had run in 2018, when pro-business candidate David Blair lost to Marc Elrich by a literal whisker in the Democratic primary. If the County remains on this road to bankruptcy, we likely haven't heard the last of Duncan and Blair in the political arena.

To be first to acknowledge the local Democratic Party and our elected offices have indeed been hijacked by a cartel, cabal or whatever you want to call it, is indeed a shot across the bow by Duncan. These words need to be heard and taken seriously, if we are to resolve this fiscal crisis, and become the major economic development player we once were in the region.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Chevy Chase Design Center establishes "temporary resolution center" in Bethesda

Chevy Chase Design Center, the latest business to exit along Montgomery County's once-touted "Rodeo Drive" in Friendship Heights, is opening a "temporary resolution center" at the former Pi Pizzeria space at 7137 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. They say they are now clearing out of their Chevy Chase location, and that sold merchandise that hasn't been picked up will be temporarily available here for pickup.

A limited amount of remaining unsold inventory will also be available at the resolution center. All other unclaimed items and merchandise will be put into "storage." The flight of the ultra-rich to lower-tax jurisdictions in the region has turned the former retail mecca of Montgomery's elite into a moribund strip of vacant storefronts, aging apartments and smashed-out bus shelters. There simply isn't the wealth base to support high-end brands anymore in Montgomery County.

Matchbox aiming for early August opening at Bethesda Row

Matchbox says they plan to open their new Bethesda Row location in "early August." I haven't seen a lot of activity at the space at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street, but the windows are covered, so perhaps they have been working in there. Best-known for their wood-fired pizzas and sliders, Matchbox will replace the shuttered American Tap Room.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Fu Shing to close in Bethesda

Another long-time Bethesda restaurant is closing. Fu Shing Cafe at 10315 Westlake Drive will close on July 1, 2019. The Chinese restaurant has been in business for twenty years. In announcing the closure, the owners said what they will miss the most after closing are the restaurant's loyal customers.

Tower cranes erected at Marriott construction site (Video+Photos)

Two tower cranes have been erected at the construction site of the relocated Bethesda headquarters of Marriott International. The work was completed over the weekend, as smaller cranes assisted the assembly of multiple components high above the Woodmont Triangle and Wisconsin Avenue. It was a very efficient job, as the cranes were originally planned to be installed one at a time on separate weekends.

Now that the cranes are installed, Marriott's development partners say they are making the final push to complete excavation by the end of July. Hauling out the soil is a major contributor to the high truck traffic to and from the site pedestrians and drivers have had to deal with early on in the project. The partners also expect the bulk of nighttime utility work to be completed by the end of next month, as well, weather permitting. However, they are again reminding residents that Pepco has a separate, ongoing project in the area, which is unrelated to the Marriott construction.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Change of front desk staffing hours roils some at Bethesda apartment building

The Solaire Bethesda luxury apartment tower has officially announced a cutback in concierge hours, after a few weeks of rumors and agitation among some residents of the building. A couple of weeks back, a source in the building reported management would be dropping the 24-hour concierge amenity, and that there would soon be no one at the front desk between 11:00 PM and 7:00 AM. An assistant property manager would take the place of the front desk concierge the rest of the day, rumor held. At least one resident meeting was organized to discuss whether or not to protest the decision a few days later, with some residents feeling they had been promised the same level of front desk service permanently.

On Friday, building management made an official announcement to residents. According to the email, the property is now transitioning from the lease-up phase to the long-term management of the building. As a result, the front desk concierge will now be on-duty from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, "to assist with package acceptance, valet laundry/dry cleaning, guest check in, etc." A maintenance team will continue to be on-call 24/7, the message added.

Management sweetened the announcement by promising a new "perk" - pun intended: They said they are working on making Starbucks "premium coffee service" available to residents, and that residents will enjoy a light breakfast in the lobby over the coming week. An inquiry regarding the rumored changes, submitted through the building's website prior to the official announcement, was not responded to as of this writing.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Sleep Number relocates at Montgomery Mall

Sleep Number has moved its store at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The new location is in the center court area of Level 1. Stop by to find out what your sleep number is.

Friday, June 21, 2019

355 Bus Rapid Transit open houses June 26 & 27

What's a $10 billion boondoggle with branding that brings to mind a creepy man wearing a trenchcoat? Montgomery County's proposed $10 billion Bus Rapid Transit network, devised with consulting help from Communist Chinese officials, and branded as "Flash," despite moving only one mile every four minutes. The public will have an opportunity to learn more about the MD 355 BRT route proposed to run between Clarksburg and the Bethesda Metro station at two open houses next week.

Open House #1 will be held Wednesday, June 26, 2019 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the Activity Center at Bohrer Park, located at 506 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. The second Open House will be held the next evening, Thursday, June 27 from 6:00-8:00 PM in the Wisconsin Multipurpose Room at the B-CC Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane in downtown Bethesda.

You'll notice several key factoids are not emphasized to the public about this particular BRT proposal.

First, if dedicated lanes are utilized, the vehicle capacity of already-jammed MD 355 will be slashed by 33%. If you know that BRT advocates' most-optimistic number for the percent of people who will "get out of their cars" (as the globalists like to say) is only 16% in the best-case scenario, in a "flash" you can quickly calculate that the BRT will have the effect of severely-worsening rush hour traffic - and increasing exhaust emissions from additional idling in traffic jams.

Second, speaking of fumes, these buses run on diesel fuel. Unlike the futuristic subways on wheels depicted in glossy promotional materials you paid for, the buses look just like Metrobuses. That was exposed in one of the most cringeworthy PR disasters of the BRT push, when the actual bus was displayed at the County Fair, and it looked like a junky Metrobus.

Third, the 355 route - like Route 29 and Georgia Avenue BRT lines - will require demolition of thousands of residential and commercial properties between Clarksburg and Bethesda. Watch this very closely, and keep track if all of the same activists who are raging against 37 potential home demolitions for Beltway Express Lanes yell and scream about thousands of demolitions for BRT. I expect to see heartfelt columns from John Kelly denouncing the greedy developers and their puppets on the County Council and Planning Board, and extensive local news coverage of anti-highway folks jumping up and down and lighting their hair on fire to stop BRT! And like the anti-Express Lane and anti-M83-Highway campaigns, shadow-funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, of course.

In the fine print, you'll notice the County is "still studying" the "property impacts" of BRT. LOL.

Fourth, the only thing the Flash does fast is eat up taxpayer money. 355 "Flash" will take a turtle-like 87.2 minutes to travel the 21.8 miles from Clarksburg to the Bethesda Metro station. And then you're not even at work, because you still have to transfer to Metro to reach where the actual jobs are in the District or Northern Virginia. Better pack a Red Bull, my friend.

It's a simple fact that only transit projects that can beat automobile travel times will get ridership, meaning "Flash" is dead-on-arrival. This, of course, is why the War-On-Cars County Council is trying everything to increase auto commuting times, proposing nuclear options ranging from changing the speed limit to 25 MPH along 355, reducing the width of lanes to 10' and seizing one lane in each direction for the bus.

But that still won't create ridership, or "get people out of their cars." Why? Because increasing your auto commute by another 34 minutes still won't take as long as the average one-way transit commute of two hours. So you'll just end up with empty buses running past heavier traffic congestion and thicker clouds of exhaust from idling vehicles. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Why would County officials press ahead anyway, knowing all this? Because BRT isn't meant to improve travel or be a success. It's simply meant to allow urban-density development along all the routes it travels, by magically qualifying them for "transit-oriented development" by being on a "rapid transit line." The Council's developer sugar daddies couldn't be more pleased.

Finally, there's no demand for bus service on 355. I'm the only journalist to conduct spot checks on the $1 million Ride On Extra service between Shady Grove and Medical Center Metro stations. I've yet to find any significant ridership even during rush hour on this line. During peak evening rush hour, I counted one person riding the Ride On Extra in each direction on 355 at Edmonston Drive. During another peak evening rush hour, a Ride On Extra departed Shady Grove Metro station with no passengers on board.

This is a boondoggle of astronomical proportions. For a fraction of the cost of BRT, we could build the M-83 Highway, the long-delayed new Potomac River crossing, the Rockville Freeway between Montrose Road and the ICC, and the equally-long-delayed Georgia Avenue-Norbeck Road interchange. Each one of the aforementioned highways would carry more commuters each day than the entire $10 billion BRT network. And the Potomac River crossing, like I-270 and Beltway Express Lanes, could be built at virtually no cost to taxpayers by private firms that would earn back their investment through tolls on those new lanes and roadways.

In an economically-moribund county where the government's debt - if it were a government department - would be the third-largest department in the County government, highways make the most sense: moving the most people for the lowest cost of any mode of transportation.