Sunday, February 28, 2021

Bethesda La Madeleine property sale completed ahead of redevelopment

The La Madeleine restaurant property at 7607 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda has officially changed hands. It has been acquired by Washington Property Company of Bethesda, which plans to
redevelop it as a mixed-use, high-rise building. The sale price was $13,100,000, according to Maryland real estate records. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Wisconsin Avenue-Bethesda Avenue intersection crosswalk work underway (Photos)

A major Maryland State Highway Administration project is underway at the intersection of Wisconsin and Bethesda Avenues. It appears to be related to the effort to improve safety for a street-level crossing of the Capital Crescent Trail, until a replacement tunnel is constructed. The Montgomery County Council, despite having the authority to do so, infamously did not include a provision in the minor master plan amendment related to 7272 Wisconsin Avenue that would require any prospective developer of that site to construct the tunnel. 

Now, County taxpayers have to pick up the tab and wait for the Council to make the allocation of funds for tunnel construction. Until that unknown construction date, trail users will be forced to continue crossing at this busy intersection on Wisconsin Avenue. Just one more reason why it's so important to research the candidates, and their developer ties, before voting in the County Council races. A protected bike lane will be added to Bethesda Avenue between here and Woodmont Avenue as part of the temporary crossing plan.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Excitement building for Ensemble in Bethesda

The excitement over the soon-to-open Ensemble at 4856 Cordell Avenue is growing as final design touches continue to be added to the tiny interior of the takeout and delivery-oriented restaurant. New menu boards behind the counter now sport names of some of the Steve Salis-owned brands the restaurateur is going to draw menu items from at this ghost kitchen concept. Visible brands include Ted's Bulletin, Federalist Pig, Honeymoon Chicken and Sidekick Bakery. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Flying Kick Fitness relocating in Bethesda

Flying Kick Fitness
is relocating in downtown Bethesda. They will be moving from their existing studio at 4711 Chase Avenue to the new location at the 4900 Auburn Avenue building in the Woodmont Triangle. Flying Kick offers taekwondo classes for children and adults.

Public parking garage opens at The Wilson in Bethesda (Photos)

Carr Properties' 7272 Wisconsin Avenue development reached another milestone on Wednesday. The public parking garage at The Wilson opened for public use. There is currently an "evening special" being offered - $12 after 5:00 PM until closing. Also at The Wilson, the sign for Tatte Bakery was installed, and it was lit last night.

Utility work on Wisconsin Avenue

AB Utility Consultants was working on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda last night. The firm works on all types of engineering projects. It appeared last night's work may have been related to a contract they have with WSSC for a large number of projects across Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Weekend dim sum to continue at CHIKO Bethesda Row after Lunar New Year success

The weekend dim sum brunch offered at CHIKO at 7820 Woodmont Avenue for Lunar New Year was so successful that the Chinese-Korean restaurant has decided to continue to offer it every weekend. Dim sum will be available via contactless pickup or delivery on weekends from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Diners can choose among the options of 3 for $20, 5 for $32, 7 for $45, or ordering a la carte.

Dim sum dishes available include the following:

-Pork & Kimchi Potstickers, Sesame Dipping Sauce

-Cumin Lamb Dumplings, Sichuan Chili Broth

-Chicken Springrolls, Chinese Hot Mustard

-Veggie Dumplings, Wok Fired Squash, Garlic Rice

-XO Shrimp Juk, Rice Porridge, Wok-Fired Shrimp

-Korean Fried Wings (5pc), Dry-Spiced or Spicy Soy Glaze

-Confit Duck Springroll, Sweet Chili Sauce

-Kimchi Pancake, Spicy Soy Dressing

-Beef Jeon, Egg-Battered Beef Patties

-Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Gochujang Aioli

Takeout and delivery orders can both be arranged through CHIKO's online ordering system. The dim sum brunch will also be offered at CHIKO's Dupont Circle restaurant, in addition to the Bethesda Row location.

Photos courtesy CHIKO

Bethesda-Potomac Ride On 36 will no longer stop at Connelly School of the Holy Child "per the request of the school"

Ride On Route 36 will no longer stop at the Connelly School of the Holy Child at 9029 Bradley Boulevard in Potomac as of this coming Sunday, February 28, 2021. That has been the last stop on the route, which has run between the Bethesda Metro station and the school up until now. 

New Route 36 map effective
Sunday, February 28, 2021

Ride On 36 will now loop back to Seven Locks Road via River Road, instead of crossing River Road. Montgomery County's Department of Transportation said the termination of service to the Connelly School stop is "per the request of the school." Click here for the new map and timetable that will become effective this Sunday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

More details about new Bethesda Row development emerge at community meeting

UPDATE - March 8, 2021: This article has been updated to include a statement from Federal Realty regarding the future of Uncle Julio's at Bethesda Row

Additional details about a new development project proposed for 7070 Arlington Road at Bethesda Row emerged at a required community meeting that was held virtually last night. Representatives for property owner Federal Realty made a presentation featuring the renderings I showed you last week, and answered questions for about 50 participants, one of the highest number of people to participate in a virtual development meeting since they became the norm.

One key detail revealed was that the proposed building will be 100' tall despite the site being zoned for a 90' height limit. The extra floor will be made possible by the number of affordable units being included in the building. Federal Realty has not determined the dimensions of units yet, as they plan to respond to current market conditions - such as greater numbers of people working from home, and needing more living space for that reason.

Another prominent topic was the future of Uncle Julio's at the corner of Arlington and Bethesda Avenue. It will have to be demolished to make room for the northernmost wing of the building, but there is currently no set closing date for Uncle Julio's, nor a groundbreaking date for the new project. One attendee expressed a positive opinion about the existing Uncle Julio's structure.

In a response to public discussion about the future of Uncle Julio's, Federal Realty released the following statement:

Uncle Julio’s has been a fixture in Bethesda for over 33 years and a partner with Federal Realty for almost 20 years. Amid the excitement of our proposed plan to add housing to downtown Bethesda at Bethesda Row, there has been some confusion about whether or not Uncle Julio’s is leaving the neighborhood. While we have taken the first steps toward seeking approval for a residential and retail project, it could take several years to bring to fruition. We value our relationship with Uncle Julio’s and plan to keep them as a fixture at Bethesda Row for many years to come. 

Even the architectural design is not determined yet, Stefano Sani of architecture firm Hickok Cole said last night. The objective will be "warm, friendly textured materials with interesting articulation,” he said. Retail or restaurant space will be integrated into the building on the ground floor along Arlington Road. One architectural detail that is set is the through-building delivery and loading dock roadway on the Arlington Road side of the property. 

Balconies will be designed to connect outdoor and indoor living space for residents, and the corner of the property where Uncle Julio's stands is hoped to be a place for people to meet up. Attorney Patricia Harris said Federal Realty would like to design a corner similar to the one across Bethesda Avenue outside of Amazon Books, saying that corner areas are among the most interesting spaces in downtown Bethesda.

Also known is that parking will be underground, and an automated parking system is also anticipated for the rear of the building. It will be stacked parking run by a mechanical system. This will be the second development in downtown Bethesda to boast a robotic parking system if such a mechanism is delivered with the building (the other is the proposed residential building at the southwest corner of Edgemoor Lane and Woodmont Avenue). Some of the current surface parking behind the low-rise retail stores on Bethesda Avenue will be retained, as well.

As I described last week, retail trucks will enter the driveway from Arlington Road, parallel park on a drive lane beneath the building, and proceed forward to exit on the Bethesda Avenue side of the property. Moving vans and other delivery trucks will back up to the residential loading dock using the same pass-through, or will pull up in the automated parking system lane. All back-up activities are to take place off-street. Uber and Lyft vehicles will also use the same pass-through to pick up and drop off residents and guests.

Sani said that Federal Realty is seeking strong interaction between the outdoor and indoor spaces on the ground floor. Restaurant tenants may have roll-up front doors, for example.

Harris was asked about litigation "regarding actually meeting affordable housing in your properties." She said she was unaware of such litigation. Harris added that the only problem she has heard of has been MPDU condominiums that might charge high condo fees, and that this will not be an issue for rental apartments. The topic of developer contributions to Montgomery County Councilmembers was also raised at one point.

Spanish Diner awnings installed at Bethesda Row

New awnings for future restaurant Spanish Diner have been installed at 7271 Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Row. Each one has a different design and color. You may recall that the lighted sign was already installed in December. Spanish Diner is anticipated to open this spring.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Tatte Bakery sets opening date for Bethesda location

A couple of weeks ago, I reported that the opening of Tatte Bakery and Cafe at 7276 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda had been pushed back to March. Now I can report that the new official opening date is March 3, 2021 at 7:00 AM. That's good news if you haven't been able to snag one of the preview time slots for their Friends and Family event on March 1.

Hunter's Bar and Grill adds outdoor dining tent in Potomac

The long, cold, Covid winter continues in Montgomery County. The County loosened its ban on indoor dining on February 14, but capacity remains limited to 25%. That keeps patio heaters and dining tents a top priority for restaurateurs. Hunter's Bar and Grill at 10123 River Road has added a new fabric tent for outdoor dining. The restaurant has been a fixture at the Potomac Village crossroads since 1978.

Photo courtesy Hunter's Bar and Grill 

Car stolen in Bannockburn

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a stolen car in the Bannockburn community of Bethesda last Friday. The vehicle was parked along the street in the 6500 block of Dalroy Lane. According to crime data, it is believed the car was stolen sometime between 5:00 PM on February 18 and 12:30 PM February 19.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Mattress Firm starts closing sale in downtown Bethesda

Mattress Firm
has begun its closing sale at 6950 Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda. It's really more of a moving sale, as the store is relocating to 7020 Wisconsin. No one is more excited about this than Tube Guy/Tube Man/Tall Boy, who is out in front of the store attracting the attention of drivers and passersby who need new mattresses. 

Mattress Firm is moving because their building is being demolished for residential housing. The brand has made a successful run that is going to continue in downtown Bethesda, five years after it acquired Sleepy's, which occupied this space prior to that.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tastee Diner reopens in Bethesda (Photos)

Tastee Diner
has reopened this morning in downtown Bethesda. The landmark diner temporarily closed December 15, 2020, after the Montgomery County Council banned indoor dining, as it has no outdoor patio space. Now that the ban was lifted to 25% capacity for indoor dining, the diner has reopened.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Maryland bill to protect black cemeteries needs amendments, advocates argue

A bill designed to increase protections for African-American cemeteries in Maryland is a good start, but needs amendments, advocates say. HB-1099, introduced by Montgomery County delegate Al Carr, will receive a public hearing next Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 1:30 PM. Residents can provide their opinions on the bill during the virtual hearing by signing up online this coming Monday, February 22, 2021 between 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Rules for testifying can also be found online.

As currently drafted, the bill would create a fund to finance the preservation of African-American cemeteries in the state. It would also fund a study of the obstacles and threats to such preservation. 

The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition is suggesting four amendments to strengthen and expand the bill: the rights of African-American descendants to the remains of their ancestors and how their resting places will be memorialized and celebrated should be recognized; the bill should address the fact that many black cemeteries are no longer in the hands of the original black landowners, and now often in the hands of developers; create civil and criminal penalties for the desecration of black cemeteries; and elevate the status of descendant communities in the bill to be equal to that of developers, "white preservationist NGOs, [and] big-business cultural resources groups."

BACC notes that some of the organizations currently recognized in the bill have facilitated the desecration of Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda. They should not, therefore, have the same status as the descendants of those buried in the cemetery, BACC argues.

Bark Social construction update (Photos)

The expected February 26, 2021 opening date of Bark Social is rapidly approaching at Pike & Rose. Construction of the dog park and craft beer and wine bar has advanced accordingly. More of the shipping container structures have been completed, and the lights are on inside. Branded logos have been applied to the sides of the containers, including a dog drinking from a glass of beer.