Thursday, October 31, 2019

MoCo misses out on Mitsubishi HQ, relocation expert cites importance of airport access

Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over twenty years, and Mitsubishi North America won't break that humiliating streak of failure. The Japanese industrial giant's U.S. headquarters has been in sunny California since 1988. After a nationwide search, they've chosen Franklin, Tennessee.

"I’m proud Mitsubishi Motors will call Franklin its U.S. home, and bring 200 high-quality jobs to Middle Tennessee," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a press release announcing the victory. The press release notes that corporate headquarters jobs have grown by 37% in Tennessee since 2013. "Mitsubishi Motors’ decision to relocate its U.S. headquarters from California to Franklin underscores Tennessee’s growing profile as a hub for U.S. and international companies," Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Chair Bob Rolfe said. "Tennessee will continue to actively recruit quality headquarters jobs from higher-cost coastal states, and we are honored Mitsubishi will make this significant investment in Williamson County.”

This is just the latest major corporate HQ contest the Montgomery County Council and economic development officials have either lost, or simply dozed through without even making a bid. One ongoing disadvantage Montgomery has, besides its national reputation as a business-unfriendly jurisdiction with high taxes, is its lack of direct access to Dulles International Airport.

We could have had direct access by now, had our elected officials not canceled the long-planned Potomac River crossing to the Dulles area. John Boyd of corporate relocation firm The Boyd Company reaffirmed the importance of such access in recent comments about Sherwin Williams dissatisfaction with their current Cleveland HQ location, that has spurred them to begin a relocation search.

Boyd's analysis was reported by Cleveland's Fox 8 as follows:

He said air transit is a key factor in site selection. As Cleveland vies to keep the company that employs more than 33,000 people worldwide, Boyd said the region's lack of non-stop flights to markets around the globe is its biggest hurdle.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was ranked second-worst among 16 similar-sized airports in the J.D. Power 2019 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. The airport has commissioned a firm to create a new master plan for upgrades.

"Every time there's a major trophy headquarters project, you always think about the usual suspects: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston. Cities with major gateway airports," Boyd said.

Dulles is unmatched in our region for the frequency of flights and variety of international business destinations. It would be so simple to eliminate this major obstacle to economic growth by merely greenlighting the new bridge to Dulles. The Council's stubborn refusal to do so speaks volumes about their radical, fringe ideology, and total lack of competence.

Escapology to open Friday at Pike & Rose

Escapology, a new escape room attraction, will open tomorrow, Friday, November 1, 2019 at 11572 Old Georgetown Road, in the Pike & Rose development. Four escape rooms are available to choose from: Antidote, Budapest Express, Mansion Murder and Mayday. All four will be unlocked for public view from 2:00 to 4:00 PM tomorrow for a grand opening event. While a few escape rooms have opened in Montgomery County, this appears to be the first to locate in this type of development.

Old Georgetown Rd. safety upgrades, resurfacing to continue over next year

The Maryland State Highway Administration has sent a mailing to many Bethesda residents regarding a new phase of the Old Georgetown Road resurfacing project they say will continue for another year. It says the next phase will be between Johnson Avenue and the Capital Beltway.

SHA will resurface and restripe the roadway, upgrade curb ramps and bus stops to meet ADA standards, install "detectable warning surfaces," clean drainage systems for better stormwater management, replace curbs and gutters, and install a concrete bus pad in front of a bus stop located between Wyngate Drive and Beech Avenue.

Expect one lane of Old Georgetown in each direction to be closed overnight Sunday through Thursday between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM, and between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM on weekdays. At times, two lanes may close overnight in each direction. And there will be continuous single or double lane closures Friday night through Monday morning on two particular weekends, during which crews will install the aforementioned bus pad.

One problem with the SHA mailing is it contradicts itself. A large subheading states the project "begins this fall," but two paragraphs later, SHA claims "this work will begin in late spring or summer next year." Somebody needs to proofread these letters before they are printed.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Nighttime noise, road closures near Avocet Tower site in Bethesda next month

Underground utility upgrades along Montgomery Avenue in downtown Bethesda will necessitate lane closures and nighttime work early next month. The work will be alongside the Avocet Tower construction site between Wisconsin Avenue and Waverly Street.

Due to the potential impact on rush hour traffic, the Maryland State Highway Administration is requiring the contractor to perform the work at night between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM. The project is anticipated to begin on or around November 4, 2019.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Antiques shop moves out on Cordell Avenue

A pop-up antiques shop at 4715 Cordell Avenue has closed and vacated. This is in the ground floor of what the Montgomery County Council described in 2006 as an "apartment building for homeless people."

Fidelity opening new location in Chevy Chase Trust building

Fidelity has leased a ground floor space at the iconic Chevy Chase Trust building at 7501 Wisconsin Avenue. This used to be a bank, and has been totally gutted inside.
There is currently a Fidelity Investor Center down the street in the Bethesda Crossing (a.k.a. Air Rights) building. If they are moving, it doesn't look like it will be happening any day soon, based on the status of construction at the new location.

Fire hydrants along River Road being painted white

A guy is out this morning in the 5200 block of River Road in Bethesda, and on nearby Ridgefield Road, painting the fire hydrants white. No public announcement was made about this. While fire hydrant colors often have meaning, I don't recall Montgomery County ever having all-white hydrants in this area. There have been white hydrants with green tops, but not all-white. White in other jurisdictions usually signifies a public water system hydrant.

Former Remix Recycling Co. space gets new tenant

Remix Recycling Co. moved to 7022 Wisconsin Avenue this past summer. Now the owner of their old space at 7349 Wisconsin has signed a new tenant. It will be a spa offering massage services. This is next door to the future Avocet Tower development where the police station used to be.

Coal-fired oven being installed at Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza in Bethesda (Photos)

The oven has arrived and is being installed at the future Anthony's Coal-Fired Pizza at 7770 Norfolk Avenue in downtown Bethesda. It's notable that the oven is being brought in at this early stage in construction.
Here is an interesting article about coal-fired pizza ovens that explains they use anthracite coal that produces fewer emissions than bituminous coal, that coal-fired pizza is less smokier in flavor than wood-burning oven pizza, and why the growth of coal-fired pizza will help keep coal miners in Pennsylvania employed rather than in West Virginia.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Popeyes chicken sandwich returning November 3

Popeyes has announced the return of its "sold-out" chicken sandwich. The sandwich will be available starting November 3, 2019. Popeyes intentionally chose a Sunday to bring back the chicken sandwich to emphasize that chicken sandwich king and arch competitor Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, likely in hopes of reigniting the chains' Twitter feud for publicity purposes.

Bethesda has two Popeyes restaurants - at Westfield Montgomery Mall in the Dining Terrace, and at the corner of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road.

Syd's Cakes + Bakes closed at Montgomery Mall

Well, that was quick. Syd's Cakes + Bakes, a.k.a. Syd's Bakery, has officially closed in the food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. They had only opened at the end of July, after the demise of predecessor Shilla Bakery. A third bakery, Patisserie Manuel, is set to open next month in the food court, but not here. For now, a generic "Coming Soon" wall has been installed over the Syd's space.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Bethesda construction update: Maizon Bethesda (Photos)

Excavation has significantly progressed at the Maizon Bethesda construction site at 7500 Arlington Road. The tower crane is in place. Florida-based developer Zom Living expects a 2021 delivery for the 235-unit apartment building.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Amazon Books closes for renovations at Bethesda Row

Amazon Books has temporarily closed for renovations at Bethesda Row. The store will reopen November 2, 2019. A sign in the now-covered windows refers to the renovations as "upgrades." Why renovations are needed when the store only opened last year is unclear.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Resurfacing moves up Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda

The road resurfacing project in Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle neighborhood has moved up Norfolk Avenue, to the block between St. Elmo and Woodmont Avenues. Watch out for bagged parking meters and lane closures during the paving process.

Signage installed at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Bethesda Row

The permanent signs are up at Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams. They'll be opening this fall on Elm Street next to Mamma Lucia at Bethesda Row.

Tenleytown Target opening date set (Video+Photos)

The new Tenleytown Target store is being stocked with merchandise in Northwest Washington at the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and River Road N.W. Target has set the opening date for the Tenleytown store for November 10, 2019, ahead of schedule. Shopping carts are already in place. They are still hiring ahead of the opening of the store, which is larger than the one in Bethesda, so you'll be able to save the gas you would spend driving to the big Targets elsewhere in the county.