Friday, November 16, 2018

MOD Pizza to open Rockville location

The new addition at the Montrose Crossing shopping center just inked its final tenant. Seattle-based MOD Pizza will take the last open space between Five Guys and the new AT&T Store facing Rockville Pike.

MOD already has a Silver Spring location, arriving in Montgomery County during that initial wave of "fast-fired" personal pizza chains a few years back. But it's a pretty strong addition in this spot, because it will be the only pizzeria at Montrose Crossing, and there isn't much fast casual pizza competition within walking distance besides &pizza at Pike & Rose.

Expect a thin crust due to the fast baking time in the 800 degree pizza oven, but also expect to pay one flat price for unlimited toppings of your choice, always a good deal. You can also get milkshakes at MOD, fairly unusual for a pizza joint. The chain is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

No, losing Amazon HQ2 is not a win for Montgomery County or Maryland

We've all been hearing and reading delusional comments by our inept elected officials regarding Montgomery County's defeat in the national sweepstakes to win the Amazon HQ2. A largely-obsequious press corps in indulging them in their delusion. But at some point, they must remove their rose-colored distortion lenses, and accept the truth: This was a loss, and a damning indictment of our business climate, poor transportation infrastructure, and bumbling economic development "leadership."

And now, as the great Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."

Reality check: All Amazon benefits accrue to Virginia, and specifically, Arlington County. Aside from Montgomery County residents who end up employed by Amazon, we will be getting only the negative impacts of the HQ2.

Here are the real winners and losers in the Crystal City Amazon victory:


Northern Virginia

Our biggest rival in the regional economic development arena never seems to leave the Winner's Circle. They got Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Volkswagen, Northrop, Nestle and Gerber in the headquarters relocation wars. Amazon's supposed 25,000 jobs will only be the jewel in the Old Dominion's crown. Virginia gets all the revenue, and all the halo effect. Only a delusional person believes that other tech companies will say, "Amazon is in Crystal City, and we want to be near Amazon, so we're going to locate in...Montgomery County?"

Remember, pre-Amazon, literally no major corporation wanted to be in Montgomery County. We haven't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in two decades. Nothing has changed at all in the post-Amazon era. We have the same high local and state taxes, the same hostile business climate, and a large number of low-information lemming voters just elected another 9 anti-business Democrats to the County Council who will vote exactly the same way as their predecessors. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Virginia's last two governors were frequently caught by reporters laughing and mocking Montgomery County and Maryland's high-tax and anti-business climate, which has been so fruitful for their state. Rest assured that there are many chuckles ahead from Ralph Northam at our expense.


Amazon brilliantly collected reams of confidential data from desperate localities across America in its "reality-show-style" search. It has gleaned tremendous intelligence it can use for years to come. Expect more corporations to conduct similar beauty pageants, now that they've seen how profitable it can be. While New York and Virginia will receive the benefits of victory, Amazon has also extracted highly favorable incentives and cost-savings from each.

JBG Smith

Imagine you bought a junkyard, only to one day learn there was oil and a gold mine under it. That's the delightful position developer JBG Smith finds itself in with its Crystal City properties. An afterthought of vacant office suites amidst a traffic maze no one wants to walk or drive through just became a regional and national destination and landmark.

Robert Dyer

Once again, I was proven correct. I've been saying for years that we need to build a new Potomac River crossing to Dulles Airport. That project is opposed by all of the Councilmembers and Executive just elected last week. Turns out, Amazon wanted - get this - easy airport access, and specifically balked at the idea of a 30-35 minute airport trip from Montgomery County. They're even building a pedestrian bridge to National Airport, for God's sake. They're a logistics company, folks. Had people listened to me in 2010, we could have completed construction of the new crossing to Dulles by the time Amazon was HQ-shopping.

I've also said we need to improve our business climate, and have taxation and regulation schemes that are actually competitive with our rivals in the region. Instead, a majority of voters (who actually knew on Election Day that we had lost the HQ2 contest) elected nine anti-business Councilmembers, who this week are already preparing for yet another tax hike to deal with our...yep, structural budget deficit.

Who knew?

I did.

Montgomery County Cartel

The Montgomery County Cartel, in the smoke-filled back rooms, are quietly toasting to the Amazon defeat. Now all that land that would have gone to high-wage jobs is once again left open for more luxury apartments. With the now full-throated, open retirement of the county from any serious regional economic development competition, the developers, certain unions, and community organizations can continue to get all the money from taxpayers through their puppets on the County Council. Hans Riemer can finally be open about his belief that the future of economic development is farmers markets 15 and 20 MPH speed limits, and a two-lane Georgia Avenue with maximum room for his developer sugar daddies to build in Montgomery Hills, Aspen Hill and Forest Glen.


Montgomery County

This was Montgomery County's biggest economic development defeat in history. No firms are coming here because Amazon is in Crystal City. Schools and urban centers in Northern Virginia are as good or better than what Amazon employees would find in Montgomery County. Beyond employees who already live here, few will have the desire to deal with the daily torture of commuting to Virginia from Montgomery County.

To top it off, as the rich exit Montgomery while the poor flood in, the victims of Amazon gentrification will cross the river to seek the generous services and public education in Montgomery County, further overcrowding classrooms and busting our already-busted budget.

White Flint/Pike District

Remember when the County Council loudly canceled the Montrose Parkway East with the irresponsible belief that Larry Hogan would pay for it when we got HQ2? Well, we didn't get HQ2, and now we are that much further behind in providing the infrastructure needed for White Flint.

White Flint was touted as the "new Tysons," but has been an utter failure in attracting major employers, much less corporate headquarters. Meanwhile, Tysons already had the jobs; now Tysons is adding residential and even more jobs, and Crystal City is about to become a boomtown.

Montgomery County Council + Taxpayers

The Council just make a shocking confession this week: While foolishly trying to tout their record 2016 tax hikes as a smart decision, they ended up exposing again that they had lied to taxpayers about it. At the time, they described it as an unnecessary tax hike that was employed to make an investment in schools. They called the record tax hike budget an "education budget."

But this week, Council staff said the money was used to balance the budget (because of that pesky - yep - structural deficit I kept warning you about all of this decade). So now we know the money went to the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle, and to balance the budget (rather than cut the Council's outrageous spending). Not education. Wow. It's a good thing the majority of voters like paying taxes - they're going to be paying plenty more, especially with the loss of 25000-50000 Amazon jobs from the bottom line.

Gov. Larry Hogan

Let's face it - Larry Hogan's top priority is Larry Hogan. A one-man party who threw his fellow Republicans under the bus, he'll have a devil of a time attracting any major corporate headquarters to Maryland by cutting tolls on the Bay Bridge. Hogan came up with a winning incentive package for Amazon, but ultimately was powerless to overcome his state's horrifically-high personal and corporate taxes, and hostile business climate. Like the Montgomery County Council, Hogan - who also bizarrely opposes a new Potomac River crossing - needed Amazon desperately. The loss is that much more devastating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Nada to open November 19 at Pike & Rose

Nada, a Mexican tacos and cocktails restaurant, will open this coming Monday, Novermber 19, 2018 at Pike & Rose. The 6300 SF eatery, located in the ground floor of The Henri apartments, will be the Ohio-based chain's first East Coast location.

With seating for 140, and 50 more on the outdoor patio, Nada will serve lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. Nada’s hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday. Brunch will be served Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Photo courtesy Nada

Mayor & Council moving ahead with Rockville Town Center suggestions

Rockville's Mayor and Council approved a set of recommendations to address the growing crisis in the city's Town Center at a City Hall worksession last night. Topics most urgently to be addressed, based on the discussion, are parking, creating a new City position that would be an active point person for Town Center issues, and the impending development moratorium that will be triggered by overcrowding at Richard Montgomery High School in 2020.

Parking was by far the highest priority item for the Mayor & Council. Solutions boiled down to the desire to have up to 3 hours of free parking at Rockville Town Square, a potential parking district that were create more uniform parking policies around the entire Town Center neighborhood, and issuing warnings for a first parking violation instead of the current $40 fine that has angered many a visitor.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and a majority of the Council agreed that a new City position that would create a contact person for all Town Center stakeholders is necessary. Newton and Councilmembers Beryl Feinberg and Virginia Onley supported having the position be under the city government rather than Rockville Economic Development Inc. However, Newton said that strategies for improving economic development should be developed under the auspices of REDI, rather than by City officials who lack their expertise and specialization in that field.

The new point person on City staff would not hold a desk job, but a shoe leather position that would center on engagement with stakeholders and all interests. A "diplomatic" position, "not a gotcha position," City Manager Rob DiSpirito assured the Mayor & Council. The new staff member would walk Town Center streets daily, meet business owners while making the rounds, note code enforcement and infrastructure problems, and report back to the appropriate departments and officials, DiSpirito suggested.

Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said the crisis in Town Center has been a long time coming, and that a major factor is the lack of sufficient residential development in the neighborhood. He urged loosening of caps on classroom overcrowding and traffic congestion, to allow more density and growth in the Town Center. Pierzchala specifically sounded the alarm that Rockville is facing a development moratorium in as few as two years, due to overcrowding at Richard Montgomery. He suggested "targeted" APFO and APFS waivers for the areas around the Twinbrook and Rockville Metro stations.

Pierzchala undercut his argument for allowing more school overcrowding by citing the inaction of Montgomery County Public Schools in addressing the RM situation. It was only a few years ago that Pierzchala and others on the Council, in tandem with developers, argued that accepting the looser MCPS overcrowding standards would bring long-overdue school construction funds and projects to the City.

Now, despite a Council majority passing that unpopular adequate public facilities change, MCPS is doing nothing more than it was when the City had the tougher standards. That does not make for a very convincing case to further weaken school overcrowding limits.

Eliminating the 2-hour parking validation requirement at Rockville Town Square was expected to cost $290,000 a year, Feinberg noted. But DiSpirito advised against using that number in decision-making. He said property owner Federal Realty is currently conducting its own parking study, and that it should produce a more accurate and timely cost estimate for such a parking change.

Pierzchala warned that the total costs of all of the recommendations were likely to "blow up the budget" in the coming years, and undercut other priorities. He urged a greater role for the private sector in solving Town Center's problems.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rockville Town Square tree lighting this Friday night

The annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockville Town Square is scheduled for this Friday evening, November 16, 2018, from 6:00-9:00 PM. Join Santa Claus for live music and entertainment, ice skating, merchant specials, and a special performance by students from Dawn Crafton Dance Connection.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Olive & Loom to open first bricks-and-mortar location in Rockville

This Larissa throw is the bestselling
product for Olive & Loom this month
Olive & Loom, a retailer of home, lifestyle and gift items from around the world, will open at Pike & Rose in the spring of 2019. The store will be located at 11815 Grand Park Avenue, between Stella Barra pizzeria and Francesca's.

The company is owned by the owner of Sabun Home at Bethesda Row. Olive & Loom has sold its products online, in retail stores, and at Sabun Home since 2016. The 765 SF Pike & Rose location will be its first standalone bricks-and-mortar location.

Photo via Olive & Loom Instagram

Friday, November 9, 2018

Los Primos Tex-Mex & Grill soft opening underway

Los Primos Tex-Mex is having a soft opening all this week. The new restaurant is located at 12303 Twinbrook Parkway, next to Peak ReLeaf. Although the cuisine leans Mexican, pupusas are on the menu. Other dishes include Caldo Ranchero short ribs, Sopa de Mondongo, and Pollo Relleno con Espinaca. They've also got the big games on TV. A nice addition to a block that has been dead for a while.