Sunday, May 31, 2020

Bethesda Row boarding up for looting

Bethesda Row businesses are beginning to board up their windows in expectation of potential looting. Nearby Friendship Heights in Chevy Chase was hit by looters Sunday. Late Sunday night, about 75 looters smashed windows and took merchandise on the D.C. side of the line in Chevy Chase, including Rodman's, CVS Pharmacy, and the new Tenleytown Target. 

These two Bethesda businesses are now not taking any chances. CityCenterDC, another high-end retail center, and Georgetown were among the other upscale shopping areas already raided by looters in the District. Flyers about protests have already been placed on some of the boards. 

Looters hit Friendship Heights in Chevy Chase

Saks Fifth Avenue
UPDATE 11:29 PM: About 75 looters have broken into several Chevy Chase D.C. businesses, including CVS Pharmacy, Rodman's and the Tenleytown Target; a cordon of police officers are lined up at the Maryland/D.C. line in an effort to stop them from entering Maryland.

Protests related to the death of George Floyd that have turned violent in the District and in other cities were mostly peaceful in upper Montgomery County today. But looters struck in the Friendship Heights area of Chevy Chase early this afternoon.

Windows were smashed at Mazza Gallerie and Saks Fifth Avenue. Merchandise was taken. Montgomery County police responded to the scenes, but have not issued a public statement as of this writing.

Firefighters respond to alarm at Residences at Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda

Montgomery County firefighters are responding to a fire alarm at the Residences at Capital Crescent Trail at 5325 Westbard Avenue in Bethesda. An unidentified odor has been reported on the sixth floor, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. There are no reports of smoke or flames yet, but there is a large number of units on-scene because that is a standard response for a high-rise.

Mamma Lucia renovations taking longer than expected at Bethesda Row

Mamma Lucia's remodeling of their Bethesda Row location is taking a while longer than the original two-week projection. Here are some photos taken earlier this week of the progress.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Temperature checks may be standard when entering Bethesda businesses

Caddies on Cordell releases 
detailed policy ahead of Monday's
restart of outdoor dining; 
Apple Store already plans temperature
checks at door

More downtown Bethesda businesses are announcing that a temperature check will be mandatory to enter their businesses, even for outdoor seating in some cases. The Apple Store will require temperature checks at the door when customers are allowed by the state and Montgomery County to enter the store. Yesterday, Caddies on Cordell confirmed they will require temperature checks of all customers and employees as early as Monday, when outdoor seating is allowed to begin. Your temperature must be 99 degrees or lower in order to enter the premises.

Caddies has the most-detailed policy yet made public by a Bethesda business. In addition to a temperature check, guests must wear a mask except when actually eating or drinking. Gloves will be mandatory for staff, and are recommended for guests.

Patrons at Caddies will have to sign a contact-tracing ledger to be notified if they were exposed to the coronavirus by another guest or employee. A maximum of 50 guests may be seated outdoors at one time. Six guests per table is the maximum, and social distancing must be observed while moving around on the patio. There will be no menus - you either have to bring your own device to access their website menu, or your server will verbally tell you which menu items are available.

All food and drinks will be served in single-use, disposable containers. Tables and chairs will be sanitized after each sitting. No cash will be accepted at Caddies until further notice. Only one person may enter either restroom at a time, and they must wear a mask to enter. Restrooms will be regularly cleaned.

Meanwhile, the Apple Store has placed signs on display tables that remind customers to stay 6-feet apart. However, Montgomery County's executive order limits non-essential retail to curbside sales only; Apple will have to assert it is an essential business to allow people inside Monday.

Peet's Coffee closes in Bethesda

Peet's Coffee has closed at 7629 Old Georgetown Road in downtown Bethesda. They were already closed temporarily due to the coronavirus pandemic, but yesterday, workmen removed the sign from the store and covered the windows.

The closure appears to be due to the moribund Montgomery County economy or the County's delay in reopening. There are no widespread Peet's closures taking place elsewhere in the country. In fact, a Google search found no reports of individual Peet's stores closing in America in recent months.

It's a big loss for residents in the Bethesda Place apartments. Up until recently, they had a grocery store and coffee shop in the ground level of the complex; now both have closed.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Hogan extends moratorium on utility shutoffs, allows breweries to serve in outdoor seating

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued two coronavirus-related executive orders this morning. First, he has extended the moratorium on utility shutoffs - including internet and phone service - until July 1, 2020. Secondly, he is allowing state-licensed breweries, wineries and distilleries to begin serving customers on-premises in outdoor seating only. Hogan's order also allows third-party shipment of alcoholic beverages to consumers.

Bozzuto presents plan to redevelop Midas property at 4725 Cheltenham Rd. in Bethesda (Photos)

Developer Bozzuto presented its proposal to replace an auto repair facility at 4725 Cheltenham Road in downtown Bethesda with a residential building in an online public meeting last night. The Midas service center is located on the edge of the business district where it meets a residential single-family-home neighborhood. If approved by Montgomery County, the project would replace it with a 10-story, 90' building.
View from residential neighborhood
behind Chevy Chase Cars
Bozzuto also developed the nearby Whitney apartments over the historic Bethesda Theatre. They said the site presents a unique opportunity to do something on a smaller scale than the larger buildings being built and proposed now for the downtown area. Asked by a participant in the meeting if they had considered assembling the site with the CVS Pharmacy next door, a representative replied that CVS has a lease until 2040 at that property.

Sean Stadler of architecture firm WDG said the building will have a two-story, fragmented facade at the bottom. The majority of the units will have views of Cheltenham Road and the adjacent park - although the latter is very small, it must be noted.
The white-roofed building northwest
of the "SITE" is the CVS Pharmacy
There will be between 67 and 83 units. Bozzuto has not decided whether they will be rental apartments or condos. That is likely the reason for the undetermined number of units - condo units must be larger than rental units to compete in the condominium market. One level of underground parking will hold only 23 spaces. That's because the building qualifies for lower parking due to nearby public parking lots and garages.

Bozzuto plans to submit its sketch plan in June. A Planning Board hearing is anticipated this fall.

Get more Bethesda news

Police investigating fatal collision in Bethesda

Montgomery County police are investigating a fatal collision on River Road in Bethesda last night. Around 10:00 PM Thursday evening, a 2014 Toyota RAV4 turning left from eastbound River to Burdette Road collided with a 2005 Suzuki motorcycle headed west on River.

The motorcyclist, Scott Emerson Hess, age 32, of Goldsboro Road in Bethesda, was declared deceased at the scene.  Police said the driver of the vehicle, Mohammad Mansour Rouhanian, 60, of Clarksburg, was not injured in the collision.

Anyone with information regarding this collision is asked to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620.

Pitango Gelato Bethesda opening today

Pitango Gelato will open for the first time today at 4901-A Fairmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda. They will open at 4:00 PM this afternoon, and close at 8:00 PM. Tomorrow and Sunday, they will be open from 2:00 PM to 8:00 PM, and it sounds like it will be ice cream weather this weekend.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Montgomery County to enter Phase 1 reopening Monday, June 1 at 6 AM

Elrich shouted down by
protesters at press conference

Several weeks after much of Maryland entered Phase 1 of a reopening from the coronavirus lockdown, Montgomery County will join those jurisdictions this coming Monday, June 1, at 6:00 AM, County Executive Marc Elrich announced at a boisterous press conference this afternoon in Gaithersburg. Protesters frustrated over the continued closure of businesses and places of worship shouted over Elrich's remarks throughout much of the event, sometimes hurling expletives. "Recall, recall!" some chanted as Elrich concluded a Question-and-Answer session.

What will be allowed starting Monday:

  • Retail - curbside only
  • Restaurants - outdoor seating/curbside pickup/takeout only
  • State-approved emergency childcare programs for dependents of essential and Phase 1 workers only
  • "Personal services," hair salons and barber shops "for hair only appointments"
  • Car washes; exterior only
  • Manufacturing with precautions and guidance
  • Outdoor day camps & outdoor youth sports, following state guidelines
  • horseback riding
  • tennis courts
  • golf courses
  • archery ranges
  • campgrounds
What is still NOT allowed to open:

  • Movie theaters
  • gyms
  • swimming pools
  • senior centers
  • nail salons
  • enclosed malls
  • places of worship

Car stolen from Somerset

A second vehicle has been stolen in the Chevy Chase area this week, this time in the Town of Somerset. The vehicle was taken from a driveway of a home in the 5500 block of Greystone Street, and was reported stolen around 5:35 AM yesterday morning.

Jaleo goes into "hibernation" at Bethesda Row, Apple Store shows signs of awakening

The Bethesda Row location of Jaleo has temporarily closed. Celebrity chef José Andrés' popular Spanish tapas restaurant had remained open for takeout service only, but that apparently was no longer sustainable as Montgomery County remains in lockdown. In a statement, the restaurant said, "Due to COVID19, Jaleo Bethesda is hibernating until further notice." They recommended customers order delivery from other restaurants in Andrés' ThinkFoodGroup empire in Northern Virginia or the District.

On Bethesda Avenue, the Apple Store has now lowered a black curtain to block view of the store's interior. A few of the company's stores have reopened in the United States over the last couple of weeks. So far, I have heard of no special policies being implemented by Apple beyond the standard disinfecting regimen throughout the day, and limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time. Masks must be worn by customers and staff alike, and temperatures will be checked at the door, according to a statement from Apple. Customers without masks will be provided with one at the door, as well.

It seems a shame that they just finished remodeling the store to enhance their Today at Apple classes, and now such group gatherings are decidedly passe.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Bethesda construction update: Maizon Bethesda apartments (Video+Photos)

The Maizon Bethesda apartments at 7500 Arlington Road are about three stories above street level now. While coronavirus has proven a challenge for construction sites around the world, work was also speeded up a bit by lighter auto traffic allowing contractors to temporarily close more lanes of Arlington Road in recent weeks.Developed by ZOM Living, this project is scheduled for delivery in 2021.

Car stolen in Chevy Chase

A car was stolen from the Pinehurst Village neighborhood of Chevy Chase early yesterday morning. According to crime data, the vehicle was parked on the street in the 7500 block of Bybrook Lane. The neighborhood is right next to Rock Creek Park and the Maryland-D.C. border.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

River Road speed limit sign vandalized

No, the speed limit on River Road in Bethesda has not increased by 50 MPH. But the artificially-low 35 MPH speed limit has been boosted to 85 MPH along one stretch by Devonshire Drive at the hands of a sign vandal, who changed the 3 to an 8. 

The Maryland State Highway Administration raised eyebrows last year when it violated its own engineering guidelines and public process rules to arbitrarily reduce the speed limit 10 miles-per-hour with no public hearings on the matter. Reducing the speed limit is a key goal of developers who seek to redevelop multiple properties along River Road between Ridgefield Road and the Capital Beltway. It was never allowed by the SHA, which cited the danger of speed limits below the speed a road is engineered for, until real estate developer Larry Hogan became governor.

Federal government fishing for a better office space deal than downtown Bethesda

An unidentified federal agency has an expiring lease at Bethesda Towers on East-West Highway, and the General Services Administration is soliciting offers of better deals elsewhere in the region, Bisnow reports. The GSA is seeking a five-year lease for 110,000-126,000 SF in suburban Maryland. It does have a five-year renewal option on the current lease, so it appears the GSA is testing the market for a better deal. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Marine Mammal Commission are the two agencies housed at Bethesda Towers currently, Bisnow says.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day sights around Bethesda

Construction sites in downtown Bethesda hung American flags from their tower cranes to mark Memorial Day. Starbucks went with a love message that seemed more geared toward the coronavirus epidemic. Clark Construction had the largest display, with a multi-floor height banner attached high on their headquarters building.