Friday, March 30, 2018

Financing falls through on Rockville CarMax site apartment project

A project that the City of Rockville annexed land for is now stalled after losing its equity partner. 355 Partners, LLC is now seeking an extension for its approved site plan from the Planning Commission, so it can find a new partner to develop the project. The property is located at 15931 Frederick Road, by the Shady Grove Metro station.

According to a letter to Rockville zoning chief Jim Wasilak from the applicant's attorney, Pat Harris, original equity partner Associated Estates was acquired by development giant Brookfield since the approval and annexation. After reviewing the project, Brookfield decided it didn't like it, and refused to back it.

The 2016 site plan approval expired March 9. 355 Partners is requesting a one-year extension. The Planning Commission will review the request at its April 4 meeting, which will be held at City Hall at 7:00 PM.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kusshi posts coming soon signage at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Future Japanese restaurant Kusshi has installed "coming soon" window screens at 11826 Trade Street at Pike & Rose. They are now hiring staff, and are scheduled to open this fall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What Bangkok and Montgomery County nightlife have in common

Who would ever have thought nightlife in Bethesda could be compared to nightlife in Bangkok? Today, both are tanking, as a direct result of terrible government policies. Thailand has a military junta. Bethesda has the Montgomery County Council. Nightlife has declined under each.

"Thailand's military government is crushing the spirit of Bangkok's nightlife," according to the Washington Post. The result, reporter George Styllis wrote, is the closure of many bars and clubs. A whopping 14 nightspots have closed in downtown Bethesda since the failure of Councilmember Hans Riemer's disastrous "nighttime economy" initiative.

Bangkok's after hours businesses are suffering from now-more-vigorously-enforced "arcane regulations." Sound familiar? It does to many Bethesda newcomers who are shocked to find they can't purchase Bud Light or a nice bottle of wine at grocery, drug and convenience stores. Our County government liquor monopoly is also referred to often as "arcane." Riemer claimed he would get government out of the liquor business, then turned 180 degrees, and instead took steps to preserve and strengthen the monopoly.

"Bangkok has become a much less spontaneous city, and in many ways a more boring city than it was five years ago," Bangkok DJ Anders Svensson told Styllis. The quote applies to downtown Bethesda as well. Where crowds swarmed on sidewalks outside clubs like Relic and BlackFinn, streets are instead dark and empty after 9 or 10 PM, even on weekends.

But wait, there's more!

Remember how Riemer's political operative, given a $150,000 County job as a reward for his pre-2010 actions for developers and Riemer, executed Riemer's developer-fueled scheme to destroy the food truck industry in Montgomery County? Trucks were forcibly removed from prime lunch and dinner hour spots to a handful of private property locations far from where most customers were. Within months, 96% of food trucks either went out of business, or retreated into the District.

Thailand's military government followed a Riemer-esque plan, as well. "In many bustling tourist spots," Styllis wrote, "street-food sellers were moved from main roads into side streets or to new parts of the city." Sound familiar?

Of course, this doesn't even include the many late-night retail and pharmacy hours that were cut back or eliminated after the nighttime economy tanked. With most candidates running for office this year still opposing privatization of liquor sales in the County, voters will have to choose wisely on Election Day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Rockville construction update: The Metropolitan at Rockville Town Center (Photos)

This is the final construction update on Kettler's Metropolitan at Rockville Town Center apartments. Not only is the project finished, but the first residents have moved in. Some of the features new in these photos include the permanent signage, a public art installation, and the landscaped grounds outside the building.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Police searching for Gaithersburg rapist

Montgomery County police detectives are seeking the public's help in identifying and apprehending the suspect in a Gaithersburg rape. On March 16, just after 1:00 AM, Montgomery County and Gaithersburg police responded to the report of a rape in the 100 block of Park Avenue.

A 27-year-old woman told police she was surprised by a hoodie-wearing Latino man as she entered her home. The man allegedly raped her inside the home, and then fled on foot.

Detectives say the man's hoodie was black with a white fleece lining. He was also wearing dark jeans, and had a thin mustache. The suspect was approximately 5'9", and police have released a composite image of the alleged rapist.

Detectives are asking anyone who recognizes the suspect or who may have information about this rape to call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5050.  Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to their line that leads to an arrest and/or indictment for this crime.

Rockville Town Square ice rink being disassembled for spring (Photos)

It would have been hard to convince people winter was over last week, when Rockville received its biggest snowfall of the season - after the season. But spring is asserting itself now at Rockville Town Square, where the popular ice skating rink in the square is being disassembled. How much for the Zamboni?

Friday, March 23, 2018

MoCo Council again tries to sabotage Montrose Parkway East

This week's so-called "compromise" on the Montrose Parkway East project is actually another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to either sabotage, or altogether cancel, the long-delayed highway. Amidst the political pablum of County Executive Ike Leggett's press release, clearly written under duress, was a sentence that did not receive sufficient analysis.

Leggett, who correctly did not want to delay construction of the road at all initially, stated that the one-year delay of the highway would be used to make design changes related to bicycles and pedestrians. He did not specify what those were, or who would approve those changes, and under what public oversight.

What we do know is that developers have wanted to kill the road outright, because it only benefits residents and commuters. It does not help developers, because it is a relief valve, rather than a road that lets developers build more "stuff." Developers want the money from the Montrose Parkway East to go to projects across the County that will allow them to build more stuff, the taxpayers who forked over the highway money be damned.

What we also know, is that several developer tools on the Planning Board have long dreamed of canceling the elevated portion of the parkway over Parklawn, in order to allow developers to build up to the edges of what would be an ordinary urban street. I was able to stop this attempt singlehandedly in 2013, when my testimony changed the votes of several commissioners, who were poised to cancel the grade-separated design for Parklawn at the behest of now-chair Casey Anderson. They also want other sabotage design changes that would similarly increase traffic congestion and lengthen travel time for commuters using the parkway. Such changes would ensure drivers in Rockville, Aspen Hill and other points east of a much-longer trip to and from I-270. Day after day after day.
CLICK HERE to take the first step in
shortening your commute
"Design changes" are right out of the Council playbook, and were previously used by Councilmember Roger Berliner to yet again delay the M-83 Highway. M-83 on the master plan alignment was ready to start construction on an up-or-down vote by the Council, after being recommended by both upcounty residents and MCDOT. Berliner, at the behest of developers, threw the project into an unrequired new approval process that included yet another public hearing. M-83, like MPE, is an old road needed decades ago, and won't by itself allow any development that couldn't go forward today.

It's critical we elect a Council that will cancel any sabotage design changes to the Montrose Parkway East, and will begin construction on that project and M-83 immediately.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

New Enterprise rental car location under construction in Rockville (Photos)

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is coming to a new location on Rockville Pike across from Marlo Furniture. This is where part of the old Rockville Ford/Century Ford dealership was, next to what is today a FedEx Office store.

I thoroughly enjoy the fact that, despite the well-financed effort to influence the Rockville Pike Plan in favor of Ballston and Crystal City dystopian urbanity, key properties actually within walking distance of the Rockville Metro station ended up redeveloping in classic Rockville Pike fashion - - fast food joints, auto repairs, rental car offices and plenty of surface parking. Things families actually need, and which have made the Pike the most profitable street in the state of Maryland for decades - and a major generator of revenue for the state, as well.

Indeed, smart Planning Commission picks by Mayors Bridget Donnell Newton and Phyllis Marcuccio were able to preserve enough of Rockville's small town/suburban character to earn the city a recent "Best Place To Live in Maryland" award from Money magazine. Don't tell Greater Greater Washington, but Rockville beat out the new-urbanist towns Rockvillians were told they should be emulating. To quote The Donald, Jr., "If it's what you say, I love it."

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

City of Rockville closes as Hogan warns of "treacherous" conditions in springtime snowstorm

Special Report: The City of Rockville and all City facilities will be closed today, March 21, 2018, due to the snowstorm. Recycling and refuse collection are also canceled today in Rockville.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an urgent bulletin from Reisterstown warning Marylanders of "treacherous" conditions on roadways during today's springtime snowstorm. The snow is capping off an unusually-chilly March.

“Snow, sleet, and freezing rain falling this evening and overnight could make road conditions treacherous throughout the state. I strongly urge all Marylanders to use common sense, take extreme caution, and avoid travel if possible,” Hogan said. “Keep a close eye on your local weather forecast, and check on family, friends, and neighbors and make sure they are safe throughout this late-season storm.”

Hogan recommended that those who must travel contact friends and family, and let them know where you are going, and when you expect to arrive there. He suggested being cautious when shoveling this heavy, wet snow, and to take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Hogan added that it is important to stay hydrated when shoveling outdoors.

The governor suggested stocking your vehicle with "car chargers," and kitty litter or sand, which he said would supply traction to spinning wheels. Hogan also advised residents to keep gadgets charged, and warned residents to never use generators indoors. He cautioned everyone to be prepared for power outages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Gong Cha Daily Tea Place to open in Rockville March 31

Another bubble tea shop is on the way to Rockville. Despite being an international chain, Gong Cha Daily Tea Place has plenty of authentic credentials. It was founded in 2006 in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, and its name means “tribute tea for the emperor.”

Gong Cha brews its tea and cooks its bubble pearls every four hours for freshness. Their tea is sourced from "the finest Taiwan tea estates." Gong Cha will open on March 31 in the former Pie 360 space in the Galvan apartments, located at 1800-C Rockville Pike.

Monday, March 19, 2018

bluemercury opens at Pike & Rose, Nando's Peri-Peri touts impending arrival (Photos)

Beauty boutique bluemercury has opened its newest location, at 11885 Grand Park Avenue, at the Pike & Rose development. The store is located in the ground floor of the new Canopy by Hilton hotel and 930 Rose condos.

Meanwhile, in a neighboring space, hot chicken purveyor Nando's Peri-Peri has posted "coming soon" signage.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mismanaged Montgomery County finances end up in the red again with $200,000,000 budget shortfall

Regular readers of this website know that Montgomery County government is stuck in a structural budget deficit as far out as the projections go. So those folks won't be surprised at all to find out that their incompetent and spendthrift County Council managed to yet again spend more than they took in - way more. The budget shortfall heading into the FY-2019 budget process is a whopping $200,000,000.

County Executive Ike Leggett released his proposed budget yesterday, and it includes not a dime of tax relief for residents now paying the highest taxes in County history. No property tax cut, no energy tax cut - not even a rain tax cut! Property taxes will increase automatically; unless the County Council changes Leggett's proposed tax rate, you will be guaranteed to have a higher property tax bill.

Happy Tax Paying from Montgomery County!


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Rockville Chamber of Commerce CEO resigns

Rockville Chamber of Commerce CEO Michelle Day has announced her resignation, effective June 30, 2018. Day said she and her husband have made the decision to relocate to Atlanta, to be closer to family. She will remain on board to help find a successor, and to assist in the transition.

Under Day's leadership, the Chamber surpassed 300 members and took on greater visibility at meetings and events around town.

“Being President & CEO of the Rockville Chamber has been the greatest opportunity for me professionally, and I am leaving with very mixed emotions," Day said in a statement. "It has been an honor and privilege working with our membership, the community, elected officials and fantastic Board of Directors.”

Annemarie Agnew, board chair, praised Day's tenure as CEO. “Michelle has taken the chamber to the next level the past few years. Her energy and enthusiasm for Rockville have propelled the organization to unprecedented growth. We understand and support her decision, and are delighted that we have time to continue the good work with her!”

Are you CEO material, or do you know someone who is? Head to the webpage for the replacement search.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Suspect in custody after Derwood burglary-armed robbery rampage

Montgomery County police have arrested a man in connection with a spree of burglaries and armed robberies in the Derwood and Gaithersburg area. Anthony Paul Mackie, 27, of "an unconfirmed address," has been charged with committing three commercial armed robberies and ten commercial burglaries in the Derwood, Gaithersburg, and Montgomery Village areas between December 2, 2017, and March 3, 2018.

Officers nabbed Mackie around 5:40 AM on March 3, as he allegedly was attempting to burglarize Redmill Beer and Wine - his alleged effort to victimize the store for a third time in two months. He is currently being held without bond. Here is Mackie's alleged rap sheet from the rampage, according to detectives who have put the pieces together:

  • December 2 and December 25, 2017, burglaries of the Verizon store located at 7250 Muncaster Road in Derwood.
  • January 23, Mackie robbed the Redmill Beer and Wine store located at 7248 Muncaster Mill Road. Mackie threatened an employee with a knife and obtained an undisclosed amount of currency.
  • On February 6, Mackie attempted to rob the B & B Beer & Wine store located at 8403 Snouffer School Road. Mackie threatened an employee with a knife and fled from the store without obtaining any currency.
  • On February 7, Mackie robbed the 7-Eleven store located at 17701 Muncaster Road. Mackie threatened an employee with knife and obtained an undisclosed amount of currency and fled from the store.
  • February 24, burglary of the Biscotti Restaurant located at 7212 Muncaster Mill Road in Derwood.
  • February 27, burglary of the Redmill Beer and Wine store located at 7248 Muncaster Mill Road in Derwood.
  • February 27, burglary of the Ferguson plumbing supply store located at 19320 Woodfield Road in Gaithersburg.
  • February 27, burglary of the Kim Airpark Auto Repair located at 7605 Airpark Road in Gaithersburg.
  • February 27, burglary of the Tony’s Corvette Shop located at 7500 Rickenbacker Drive in Gaithersburg.
  • February 27, burglary of the Goshen Nails located at 20215 Goshen Road in Montgomery Village.
  • February 27, burglary of the the McDonald’s restaurant located at 9100 Rothbury Road in Montgomery Village.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

MCPS submits site plan for new Maryvale ES to city

Montgomery County Public Schools has submitted a site plan for the new Maryvale Elementary School to the City of Rockville, for mandatory referral by the Planning Commission and Mayor and Council. Mandatory referral is standard for government projects, and means officials can suggest changes or improvements, but MCPS is free to ignore them or overturn an unfavorable decision.

The proposed plan would construct a new elementary school in the center of the current Maryvale site at 1000 1st Street. It will incorporate the Carl Sandburg Learning Center. Together, the new facility will offer the elementary school program, as well as autism and French immersion programs. A parking lot with 176 vehicle spaces and 27 school bus spaces will be provided.

Part of the plan is to locate the school away from First Street, and utilize the created space for a shared-use student drop-off for both Maryvale and two bus loops. A service drive will be built along the north and west sides of the new building, and will require some retaining walls.

The current school building, constructed in 1969, has been identified as potentially-historic by the Maryland Historical Trust. This means the planned demolition of the structure will have to be reviewed by the city's Historic District Commission.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kiin Imm Thai Restaurant opens in Rockville

Kiin Imm Thai Restaurant has opened at 785-D Rockville Pike, in the Ritchie Center. The early reviews are positive, with the newest Asian option in town currently enjoying a solid 5-star rating on Yelp. Very impressive.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Canopy by Hilton to open March 15; Baked Bear, Starbucks, Uniqlo stake out territory at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Canopy by Hilton hotel overlooks
L.L. Bean and Rose Park at
Pike & Rose
Baked Bear and Uniqlo are coming to Pike & Rose, and Starbucks is moving to a different spot in the development. All 3 want patrons of the Federal Realty property to know their arrival in these new spaces is just around the corner. New hotel Canopy by Hilton (above) will arrive even sooner: their grand opening is now set for next Thursday, March 15, 2018.

Baked Bear, a gourmet custom ice cream sandwich shop, will be located in the L.L. Bean building overlooking Rose Park. Uniqlo, the highly-popular Japanese apparel retailer, will open this fall at 11853 Grand Park Avenue. And Starbucks' future final location has changed yet again - it will now be by H&M at 11860 Grand Park Avenue. The ubiquitous coffee shop will make its move this summer.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

New Indian restaurant to open in Rockville

A second new restaurant tenant to report at Pike & Rose this week. Commonwealth Indian will open in the vacant La Madeleine space at 11610 Old Georgetown Road. Not only will Commonwealth have favorites like curry chicken and butter chicken, but the full bar and drink menu will offer Indian beers, Indian wines and Indian cocktails. A champagne brunch will be served on weekends.

Like the previously-announced Kusshi, Commonwealth appears to be a local, independent restaurant as opposed to a chain. No opening date for Commonwealth was announced.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Kusshi to open this fall at Pike & Rose

A new Japanese restaurant from the owners of Hanaro Sushi in Bethesda will open at Pike & Rose this fall. Kusshi will take over the space at 11826 Trade Street vacated last June by Carluccio's.

For diners who enjoy ordering omakase, Kusshi promises a new adventure each time, from the day's freshest ingredients. The restaurant takes its name from the Kusshi oyster, which is Japanese for "ultimate."

Kusshi will be helmed by head chef Jackie Naka Zima, who will oversee a menu of options that will include the aforementioned Kusshi oyster, sea urchin and other Japanese delicacies. The restaurant will also boast the largest sake selection in the entire D.C. area.

Co-founder Tony Chow said the team chose Pike & Rose as the location for their concept because the Federal Realty development has the same high standards of quality and service they will have in their restaurant. Taking note of the upscale shops, restaurants and luxury residential buildings of Pike & Rose, Chow said, "we wanted to be part of the neighborhood."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Rockville construction update: Firehouse Subs (Photos)

Firehouse Subs is kind of doing it backwards at their future Upper Rock location. The permanent signs are up on the building, but the interior fit-out still has a ways to go. Perhaps the signs are there as an attention-getting promotional tool in advance of the opening.