Friday, February 16, 2018

Rockville's Choice Hotels breaks ground in Ocean City

When you come into Ocean City on the Route 50 bridge this summer, you may well see signs of your hometown hotel giant's newest Maryland property. Choice Hotels, which is headquartered in Rockville, broke ground yesterday on the 133-room Cambria Hotel Ocean City at 309 N. 1st Street. The hotel is scheduled for delivery in the summer of 2019.

Located on a bayfront lot that LoopNet termed a "trophy location" when it was on the market, the Cambria Hotel Ocean City will have private balconies overlooking the Isle of Wight Bay, an indoor/outdoor infinity pool, poolside cabanas, a tiki bar, outdoor fire pits, local art collections, 2,200 SF of meeting space, a business center and - best of all - a rooftop restaurant/bar with a panoramic view of Assateague Island, Isle of Wight Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

"The groundbreaking of the Cambria Hotel Ocean City property represents another important milestone for the brand, as we continue to seek opportunities in markets that provide the distinct upscale and cultural experiences modern travelers desire, such as those offered in the vibrant beach town of Ocean City," Janis Cannon, SVP, upscale brands at Choice Hotels, said in a statement yesterday.

Rendering courtesy Choice Hotels/Fisher Architecture

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Stonestreet Corridor Study draft recommendations to be presented Feb. 22

Rockville planning staff will present their draft recommendations for improvements and redevelopment opportunities in the city's Stonestreet corridor next Thursday, February 22, at 7:00 PM at Glenview Mansion, located at 603 Edmonston Drive. Those recommendations will be based on staff analysis and the input gathered at four previous community meetings.

Planners will be seeking feedback from the public on the proposed recommendations at the meeting. The study area encompasses the east and west sides of North and South Stonestreet avenues, from the northern edge on Westmore Road south, to where South Stonestreet Avenue ends at Veirs Mill Road. In total, the study area contains more than 150 acres of land.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mayor and Council debate Fireside Park apartments refinancing plans

City asked to contribute
$500,000 grant to aid

UPDATE - February 15, 2018, 5:40 AM: The article has been updated to reflect that Fireside Park is not being compensated for its refuse pickup services by the city.

Rockville Housing Enterprises plans to move forward with a refinancing plan that would facilitate modernization of the Fireside Park apartment complex at 735 Monroe Street. The organization made a presentation to the Mayor and Council at their Monday night worksession.

Loans contributed by the City of Rockville (from its Housing Opportunities Fund), Montgomery County, and a loan from Citibank, are all scheduled to mature in 2019. The interest rate on the proposed new financing would rise from the current 3.5% to 4.05%. But RHE contends that modernization will allow them to raise rents, and therefore be able to meet the payment schedule at the higher rate.

Recent fire damage will be repaired by the end of 2018, RHE believes. RHE Executive Director Jessica Anderson told the Mayor and Council that the organization's insurance adjuster had not yet provided specific numbers, however. Despite wood construction leading to more-costly damage in the blaze, RHE said adding concrete or steel would be cost-prohibitive. Residents of the destroyed units have been placed into what were vacant market-rate units on the property.

Before the fire, those market rate units had a 15% vacancy rate, much higher than the city average of 5.7%. That was a cause for concern for some city leaders. There is some question as to whether Fireside will indeed be able to get the proposed rents for the modernized market-rate units in the now more-competitive rental market near Metro. RHE officials assured the city the property will be desirable enough at the prices proposed.

Upgrades planned include HVAC, water system, masonry, laundry, full kitchen and bath replacement, and a new community room and fitness center. Those new common areas will require deleting one unit. Councilmember Beryl Feinberg suggested revamping "underutilized" basement apartments on the property into studio units, which she said would generate both additional revenue and more workforce housing for the city.

RHE is asking the city for a $500,000 grant as part of the refinancing plan. Feinberg suggested making that a loan, instead of a grant. Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said he was fine with the money being a grant, and praised the Fireside strategy the city bought into in 2012 coming to fruition as planned. "It's been a success, and I look forward to it continuing to be a success," Pierzchala said. The city's affordable housing-preservation goals and plan were met, and the city will get its money back, he added.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton suggested RHE had failed to reach one goal, of replacing washing machines as expected. She remained skeptical of RHE's ability to meet the payment demands of the new loan, with 3 fire-damaged buildings out of commission for at least a year. Newton also noted that Fireside is receiving an offset of application fees for renters, from the city.

Feinberg asked city staff to prepare a number of loan options the Mayor and Council can study, in addition to the recommended grant proposal. There was some back-and-forth on that debate, but Newton reminded her colleagues that they were not intended to make a final decision Monday night. A public hearing will be held on the matter on Monday night, February 26, 2018, and the Mayor and Council will discuss the matter further at their March 19 meeting. The final decision is expected to be voted on in April.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

KFC-Taco Bell to get makeover in Rockville

The KFC-Taco Bell at 9910 Key West Avenue will be making alterations to their existing drive-thru restaurant. They have requested a permit from Montgomery County for $150,000-worth of changes to the building. In contrast to most permit request entries, no details on the specific changes have been provided to the public by the County's so-called "open data" website.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Tobacco & More closes in Rockville (Photos)

Only a year after opening, Tobacco & More has been cleared out at Ritchie Center. Located at 765-L Rockville Pike, Tobacco & More sold cigars, accessories and hookah equipment.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Kielbasa Factory close to reopening after SUV crashes into store

It's taken two months for the Kielbasa Factory to recover from a bizarre incident on December 10, 2017. On that day, at 2:20 PM, a driver turned to park normally in a space directly in front of the shop in the Talbott Center, at 1073 Rockville Pike. Suddenly, the SUV surged forward into the storefront, causing extensive damage to the facade, the interior, and the store's electrical system.

The horror wasn't over yet. As two police officers emerged from the business next door to find out what the noise was, the driver shifted into reverse, floored the accelerator, and backed into a parked car at high-speed. The actions resembled a deliberate act, but police reportedly described the driver as having been "disoriented."

Fortunately, the store's insurance company facilitated complete repairs. Kielbasa Factory is tentatively hoping to reopen for limited hours around Valentine's Day. Once they get back to full operation, they will formally announce their Grand Reopening. Stay tuned for further details.

Photo via Kielbasa Factory

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Slapfish to open at Montrose Crossing

Slapfish will be in the space at right
Fast-casual seafood chain Slapfish will open a restaurant this year at the Montrose Crossing shopping center. It will be located in the new retail structure facing Rockville Pike, in the space next to Honeygrow, which is now open. While Slapfish has primarily been a western U.S. chain, it is making inroads here in the Mid-Atlantic now, with another location planned for One Loudoun.

Fish tacos, shrimp burritos, fish sandwiches, chowder fries and a variety of lobster dishes are just some of the items on the menu. Slapfish will also work seafood from our region into the choices. Whether they can make work what Lobster ME couldn't, will be interesting to watch.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

New beer and wine store coming to Norbeck Road

Beer, Wine & More is coming soon to 4007-BB Norbeck Road. The 1100 SF store will sell beer, wine, tobacco products, general merchandise, and have a deli section. It will be open daily from 9:00 AM to midnight, and the owner expects to open in March.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Halal Guys to open February 16 in Rockville (Photos)

The Halal Guys have announced their new Rockville restaurant will open on Friday, February 16, 2018 at Wintergreen Plaza on Rockville Pike. Here's an exclusive sneak peek at the new restaurant's interior:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Pike Kitchen Asian food hall coming this summer to Rockville (Photos)

Pike Kitchen will bring the popular Northern Virginia Asian food hall experience to Rockville this summer. The 6209 SF food court will feature several eateries and vendors serving food and beverages from a variety of Asian countries, and will be located in the Edmonston Crossing shopping center at 1066 Rockville Pike (next to Taco Bell). Coming Soon signage has just been posted outside their space.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Tara Asia being cleared out in Rockville (Photos)

Tara Asia is being cleared out at Regal Row. A Rockville spinoff from the local Tara Thai chain at 199 E. Montgomery Avenue, it recently closed despite a 3.5 star rating on Yelp and a 4.5 star rating on Grubhub. You can see one of the exterior signs was ripped off and placed on the bar. I always thought they had a nice-looking dining room here.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Cafe Rio to open Rockville location

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill is expanding to Rockville. The Mexican chain that specializes in the cuisine of Northern Mexico’s Rio Grande region, Southern Texas, and New Mexico, will be located at 10062 Darnestown Road. A Cafe Rio spokesperson says they are currently hoping to open the Rockville location in June.

Rockville construction update: Research Row shopping center (Photos)

Research Row is one of the more-difficult development projects to photograph in Rockville, but it's actually got some height to it now. The completed shopping center will include One Life Fitness and Chick-fil-A. Hopefully the fast food drive-through allowed for in the project's approval is for the Chick-fil-A, unlike the walk-in only one in South Rockville. Research Row is located between a biotech building and Best Western on West Montgomery Avenue, and is visible from Interstate 270.
These type of neighborhood-scale
developments supported by recent
mayors and Planning Commissions
helped Rockville be named "Best Place
to Live in Maryland" by Money Magazine
last week