Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rockville construction update: Cava Grill at Upper Rock (Photos)

Cava Grill is rapidly multiplying in the area, and one of the fast casual Mediterranean chain's newest locations will be at JBG Smith's Upper Rock retail development. It is near the intersection of Shady Grove Road and I-270. Much like the neighboring MOM's Organic Market, the exterior is looking ready, but there's much more to be done inside.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ice rink under construction as Rockville Town Square gears up to celebrate first decade (Photos)

There are signs of winter at Rockville Town Square besides the chill in the air early this week. The ice rink is now being assembled in the square for its yearly winter run.
Rockville Town Square's newest
tenant, Pandora Seafood House,
opened on Sunday
Federal Realty's property, which anchored the redevelopment of Rockville's Town Center, will celebrate its tenth anniversary on Friday, November 3, 2017 from 6:00-9:00 PM in the square. There will be live music, special offers and gift card contests from merchants, cake and an anniversary toast with Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Canadian firm buys The Fenestra apartments at Rockville Town Square

The Fenestra apartments at Rockville Town Square have been sold. A Canadian firm has purchased the 492-unit property at 20 Maryland Avenue for $129 million in U.S. dollars. Ownership of the three-building complex will be split 50/50 between the Morguard Corporation itself, and its real estate investment trust.

"The Fenestra's condo-quality amenities, recent construction and prominent location in the hub of a growing community make the property an excellent addition to our portfolio," K. Rai Sahi, CEO of Morguard said in a statement. Sahi ranks #51 on the list of Canada's richest people, and the Globe and Mail estimates his net worth at $2 billion. Morguard cites the value of its total real estate portfolio as $21.9 billion.

Morguard obtained financing of $70.95 million in U.S. dollars, with a ten-year term at an interest rate of 3.55%.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Pandora Seafood House & Bar opens in Rockville (Menu+Photos)

Pandora Seafood House & Bar opened yesterday at Rockville Town Square. The construction took a long time, but once you step inside, you'll understand why. The interior is very impressive, with great detail and lighting accents. They did not simply refresh the old American Tap Room design.

Starters include selections from their raw bar, and appetizers like Lobster Foie Gras Ravioli and spiced prawns. The menu centers on specialties of the house like Cioppino, a classic Italian fisherman's stew featuring King Crab, mussels, clams, shrimp, calamari, and octopus in a spicy tomato broth, served with sourdough bread; and whole lobster. Cioppino will cost you $44, but serves two.
Entree choices range from several fresh fish selections, to land-lover's options like Mahogany Butter-Glazed Strip Loin and Honey Lavender Duck Breast. A wild mushroom risotto may fit the bill for vegetarian diners.
Pandora will be open Monday-Sunday from 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM for lunch, and from 5:00-10:30 PM for dinner. On Friday and Saturday nights, they will stay open until 1:00 AM. Pandora is located at 36-A Maryland Avenue, an easy walk from the Town Square parking garage on Maryland Avenue.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Rockville construction update: MOM's Organic Market at Upper Rock (Photos)

The exterior shell and windows of the future MOM's Organic Market at JBG Smith's Upper Rock development are completed, and HVAC and some lighting are in place. There's still a long way to go inside of the store, which will eventually be a convenient grocery store for Upper Rock residents in this growing community off Shady Grove Road at I-270.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MCPS a top ten offender in spending money that doesn't go to the classroom


Montgomery County is ranked 8th in the nation in school spending that goes to administrators, rather than the classroom, according to Fox 45's Project Baltimore investigative unit. Baltimore City was the worst offender in the nation, their journalists found. Montgomery County Public Schools rank 8th out of all school systems in America in pumping cash to administrators, rather than to teachers and classroom costs. Six of the top ten are in Maryland.

This is once again proof that the record tax hike of 2016 did not go to hire teachers or improve academic performance (as recent PARCC test results proved - math scores declined, and English scores rose statewide, proving there was an obvious flaw in English portion of the test, rather than actual success by MCPS). In fact, a large chunk of the recordation tax money went to pay off the County's legal costs in the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle, in an outrageous and corrupt bait-and-switch by the County Council.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CVS Pharmacy opens in Upper Rock area of Rockville (Photos)

The CVS Pharmacy has opened at JBG Smith's Upper Rock development, slightly behind schedule of an expected mid-2017 debut. Still to come are other retail tenants, including MOM's Organic Market. This was formerly an office park development turned into retail space along Shady Grove Road near I-270. The CVS, for GPS purposes, is located at 20 Upper Rock Circle. It features a convenient drive-thru pharmacy, much like the Rockville Town Square location.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Gyroland to open in Rockville (Photos)

Maria's Bakery Cafe closed last month at 1701-B3 Rockville Pike. Replacing it soon will be Gyroland, a fast casual restaurant promising authentic Greek cuisine. Along with the namesake gyros will be other dishes, including salads and kebabs. Gyroland will be located at the Shops at Congressional Village.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Akira Ramen & Izakaya soft opening in Rockville (Photos)

Akira Ramen & Izakaya is holding a soft opening this week in Rockville. The new restaurant is located at 1800 Rockville Pike in the new Galvan apartments. Hours during the soft opening, which runs through this Friday, October 13, 2017, will be 5:00-10:00 PM.

Akira combines ramen dishes with casual Japanese gastropub fare. The soft opening menu (click photo below to enlarge for detail) includes 16 appetizers ranging from fried chicken to fried squid legs, 6 ramen bowls, and Green Tea cheesecake with green tea ice cream for dessert. Be one of the first to check it out in Rockville!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween stores face off across Rockville Pike (Photos)

Spirit Halloween in Rockville
Ghouls have overtaken the former REI outdoor store at 1701 Rockville Pike. America's most popular Halloween store, Spirit Halloween, has moved in for the frightful season. Just across the street at 1616 Rockville Pike, in the former Annapolis Lighting showroom, Xtreme Halloween returns to scare up business. Both offer costumes, props and accessories. A tour of the animated props at Spirit Halloween is a Halloween season event in itself. But remember, when you see someone down in a sewer in Montgomery County, it's just as likely to be a crooked County Councilmember as a demonic clown. Well, technically, both are clowns.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Planners ponder widening Veirs Mill Rd. right-of-way, increasing congestion, and lowering speed limits; mum on property seizures

Ready or not, here they come. Montgomery County planning officials say no decisions or firm proposals have been formulated yet in the development of a Veirs Mill Corridor master plan. But analysis of the most-emphasized talking points at last night's community meeting give us an early hint of what they have in mind. Pedestrian and bicycle improvements were stressed the most, but achieving those may be a source of stress for home and business owners - and commuters - along the busy state highway.
Planners showed an existing Veirs Mill right-of-way that is constrained to as narrow as 100' along stretches near Wheaton. They said a new 120' width would be needed to accommodate all of the pedestrian and cycling amenities they hope to add to the road. That would require taking of property in at least some places. For that reason, planners said they are looking at ways to shrink lanes and the center median instead. Asked if business owners in the commercial areas along Veirs Mill would be threatened by any specific project, planners said it was too early to answer. But, they added, that they would try to use the same alternative methods of creating more space within the existing curbs as they will in residential areas.
Haven't seen many front lawns
this long along Veirs Mill
One problem last night was the graphics which show homes tremendously set back from the road, as you might see in a rural area with front yard septic tanks. In reality, the proposed widening idea would have bicycles whizzing past living room windows in spots where homes are already perilously close to traffic. There would also be a massive loss of mature trees that currently process the exhaust emitted along the road. Utility poles would be another significant challenge. A future 120' right-of-way was first proposed by the latest Kensington-Wheaton master plan.
Among the projects planners want to shoehorn in on Veirs Mill are Bus Rapid Transit lanes, separated bike lanes, and shared-use paths. They also want to install sidewalks where there are none, shown in the red lines in the photo at the top of this article. And like BRT proponents in County government, they're also entertaining the possibility of seizing one traffic lane in each direction for use as BRT lanes.
Losing 33% of vehicle capacity along often-slow-moving Veirs Mill was strongly opposed by attendees at last night's meeting.  "Taking out a lane on Veirs Mill, you're just causing a problem," one resident said. Likewise, homeowners right on the road were displeased to hear about big plans for their already-short front lawns. "That's my house!" declared one 60-year resident of Veirs Mill Road upon seeing her home in a photo planners probably now regret including in the Powerpoint. "How do you get that? That's my property! You're taking my property and reducing the value of my house by a pile!"

While new sidewalks, paths and bike lanes are being sold as needed safety features, the plan remains one actually driven by development interests more than safety interests. As urban planner Jessica McVary acknowledged at the outset of the meeting, this is the first master plan to be a roadway corridor plan. To be realistic, the main reason this plan exists now and the process is underway, is to benefit property owners such as Halpine View.

The fact is that the more paths and bike lanes there are, the larger scale the redevelopment of shopping centers and garden apartments along the corridor can be. That's because the latest way County officials have cooked the books for developers is to count all forms of transportation as capacity, instead of just vehicular capacity. So bike and transit facilities, even if they are lightly used, count fully the same as road capacity. This would allow developers projects of greater density than would be possible if roadways actually received the failing grade they otherwise would.

Impacts on automobile commuters already enraged by traffic congestion appear to be low on planners' priorities. McVary said they will actually make "a decision whether more congestion could be handled" by drivers on Veirs Mill, suggesting that making traffic jams even worse would improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. A County transportation official in attendance promised the plan would also contain recommendations for lower speed limits, and new speed and red light cameras, cash cows for the corrupt County Council.

The only hope drivers and those who could be impacted by property takings have are that a different County Council will have been elected by the time this plan would be implemented, and that the capital budget costs of installing these improvements will be especially high. Most of Veirs Mill is single-family homes, cutting out the possibility of developers picking up the tab as they would in a totally-redeveloping urban area. And the County Council, facing massive debt loads they've created (debt service would be the third-largest government department in the County if it was a department - yikes!), just moved to slightly reduce how much additional debt the County can take on in the future. That will be a major drain on many capital projects.

"We need a constituency" to get these sidewalks and lanes for bikes and buses, Master Planner Supervisor for Area 2 Nancy Sturgeon said, and residents will have to lobby their elected officials to get it done if they want them. "This is going to end up being a large public-sector project," she predicted.