Friday, June 29, 2018

Rockville Pike tree massacre

There's been a tree massacre on the east side of Rockville Pike near Talbott Street. An unidentified crew clearcut all of the trees along the access road in front of the Bassett Furniture and former funeral home. Once a shady stretch, it's now like a desert, as these before and after photos and video show.
Compare this Google Street View photo
to the photo of the same scene yesterday at
the top of this article
More scenes from before the environmental destruction that has taken place, above and all photos below:

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Carvana auto vending machine towers over Shady Grove (Photos)

The glass tower that appeared off Shady Grove Road at I-270 recently had many wondering, "What is that thing?" A vending machine for cars, that draws a steady stream of gawkers on foot from nearby businesses like Red Lobster. Few, however, possess the magic token that can force the machine to dispense one of its vehicles. Yes, those are used cars inside that tower. A small office and vehicle facility alongside the column make this the most unique used car dealership in the area.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Montgomery County election results capped by County Executive cliffhanger

A majority of Democratic primary voters sent a clear message in Tuesday's election - big money can now mean big wins at the polls in Montgomery County. Josh Rales may want to think about trying again after massive war chests, public and private, brought candidates to victory. Self-funding businessman David Blair rode millions of dollars, and a double-barrel endorsement from the Washington Post, to a neck-and-neck finish with County Councilman Marc Elrich. The race was too close to call when Board of Elections officials paused counting at 12:45 AM this morning, and might not be decided until the counting of provisional ballots is completed - which could take until next week.

Other flush-with-cash Democratic candidates who won included David Trone in the 6th Congressional District, Andrew Friedson (County Council - District 1), and Hans Riemer, Will Jawando, Evan Glass and Gabe Albornoz (County Council - At-Large).

As most winners celebrated at local bars with supporters, Blair threw a spectacle of an election night party that looked more Mar-a-Lago than Montgomery. But his remarks were far more humble than Trumpian, as he marveled at a close finish few insiders expected, and expressed pride in conducting a positive campaign when others went negative. Yet, Elrich is temporarily ahead by almost 500 votes, and bested Blair in early voting, which has already been counted.

Former Rockville mayor and County Planning Department Deputy Director Rose Krasnow made a respectable showing, as did District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, but both had barely half the votes that Blair and Elrich each accrued. Both were clearly done in by their strong association with development decisions that enraged multiple communities, from Westbard to Damascus. Ultimately, both found that assuming those communities' votes weren't enough to sink their future campaigns to be a fatal miscalculation. And Blair effectively blocked their developer lane to victory.

Other winners in contested primaries last night included Craig Rice (D) and Ed Amatetti (R) [Council District 2], Sid Katz (Council District 3) who faced a strong challenge from Ben Shnider, Nancy Navarro (Council District 4) and Tom Hucker (Council District 5). Katz survived because he is well-liked, stepped in authoritatively in the MCPS school bus depot debacle, and has one of the sharpest political minds and memories. After I met Katz at an event in Gaithersburg years ago, for only a few seconds, he greeted me by name from then on.
A majority of Democratic voters ignored the
advice of the "Vote for More Women" sign at
top left in yesterday's election
Big losers last night included Councilmember George Leventhal, who didn't even reach the middle tier of finishers, despite two decades in office and plenty of cash on hand. And 2018 is most definitely not the Year of the Woman in Montgomery County, as Democrats went big for male candidates, potentially leaving Councilmember Nancy Navarro as the only woman on the Council. Ana Sol Gutierrez made a surprisingly competitive second-place finish in Council District 1, in a race where Reggie Oldak and Meredith Wellington were also thought to have a chance. Upcounty voters had to be disappointed to see Germantown's Marilyn Balcombe in fifth place for the four at-large seats. Balcombe had the Washington Post endorsement, but didn't enjoy the same magical boost it gave others.

The Post played such a large and heavy-handed role in the Democratic primary, that some progressives began referring to it as the Amazon Post, a nickname more often used by Republicans like Trump. One entertaining conspiracy theory making the rounds on social media was that Jeff Bezos was seeking to install Blair, who would be a pushover for Amazon in return.

Republican Robin Ficker will take on the winner of the Blair-Elrich matchup in November. He would have a better path to victory against Elrich, if the "business community" (a.k.a. developers) were to "get dangerous," as Bob Ehrlich put it, and get behind Ficker. Ficker is also fond of noting that Elrich voted to pass the highly-controversial Westbard sector plan, which was overwhelmingly opposed by residents, a decision that left even some of Elrich's strongest supporters scratching their heads.
More than Elrich, Riemer will face the full wrath of neighborhoods that were bulldozed over the last four years by the County Council and Planning Board. Democratic voters, who made up a majority of term-limits votes and of the opposition to multiple sector plans like Westbard, will have an easy choice to switch their fourth Council At-Large vote from developer-backed Riemer to yours truly, Robert Dyer. Progressive voters will be aghast to learn that Riemer has accepted money from Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and Danaher's Mitch Rales, two pioneers in outsourcing American jobs to China.

Riemer also opposes the recommendations of County Executive Ike Leggett's Tenant Work Group, tanked the "nighttime economy" with his Nighttime Economy Task Force debacle, caused County residents who had signed up for County government mailing lists' personal information to be posted online through a loophole in his vaunted "Open Data" law, essentially banned airbnb as an easy source of income for residents (effective July 1), and singlehandedly destroyed the food truck business in Montgomery County. Then there was Beerghazi, the scandal in which Riemer withheld information about illegal activity in the Department of Liquor Control until after he was safely reelected in 2014. And that's just the beginning.

And my years-long message about the County's moribund economy and poor business climate is the same message that has Blair neck-and-neck with Montgomery County's most popular Democrat. It's going to be a fun four-and-a-half months, folks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill to open Wednesday in Rockville

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill will open tomorrow, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, at 10:30 AM at 10062 Darnestown Road in Rockville. This will be the Salt Lake City-based Mexican chain's 117th location in the United States. Cafe Rio is fast casual, so it is more of a direct competitor with Chipotle than with Chuy's or Uncle Julio's.

The first 300 people present for the ribbon-cutting at 10:30 will receive a free meal and beverage. A giant burrito will be on hand, as well as a $2500 check to Montgomery County Public Schools. “Cafe Rio fans in Rockville have been requesting a Cafe Rio for a long time, and we’re ecstatic to join the community,” Cafe Rio Chief Marketing Officer Todd Smith said in a statement Monday. “We’re proud to serve made-from-scratch, delicious food, and we credit our success to our customers’ dedication to the same fresh food, made fresh mantra.”

Photos via Cafe Rio Mexican Grill

Monday, June 25, 2018

On the Vine to open in Rockville

On the Vine, a beer and wine store, will open this winter in the ground floor of the Mallory Square Apartments in Rockville. They will offer on-site tastings, as well as 1800 square feet of craft beer and fine wines. On the Vine will be located at 15230 Siesta Way.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Rockville Audi to add 2 more surface parking lots

Rockville Audi is preparing to submit a plan to the City of Rockville for the addition of two lots west of the current dealership building at 1125 Rockville Pike. It will improve those lots for surface parking. From the Google satellite image of the G-shaped dealership property, it's not immediately clear where those lots will be carved out.
The existing lot and dealership, with its
current G-shaped layout (it abuts apartments
behind, and Woodmont Country Club to the south
A required public meeting will be held by the dealership on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 7:00 PM in the Black Eyed Susan Conference Room at City Hall, which is located at 111 Maryland Avenue.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rockville construction update: Five Guys at Montrose Crossing (Photos)

Five Guys is not new to either Rockville or Bethesda, but this new one at Montrose Crossing on Rockville Pike will split the difference. The familiar checkered tile, counters and even the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine are in place. No furniture yet, though.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Trump administration declares Rockville Pike an opportunity zone

President Donald Trump speaks with a
business owner during a press briefing on
the Opportunity Zones initiative
The Trump administration has declared downtown Wheaton, two parts of downtown Silver Spring, parts of Long Branch and White Oak, four parts of Gaithersburg - including Montgomery Village, Montgomery College's Germantown campus, and Rockville Pike (between Rockville Town Center and Twinbrook) as Opportunity Zones. Created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump, the zones encourage capital investment in underserved communities through federal tax incentives. The designation comes as media and business leaders express increasingly agree that Montgomery County's economy has become moribund.
Wheaton opportunity zone
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the County will launch an outreach program to notify investors of the new investment opportunities. "Creating the incentive to bring capital into communities that are currently being overlooked is just a tremendous opportunity," Ivanka Trump said at a press conference on the initiative. "And the fact that this was integrated into the tax bill, which is already proving to be so beneficial for people all over this country, is just another element as we start to rebuild those distressed communities." The tax act reduced taxes for 72% of Maryland residents.
Opportunity zones in Montgomery Village
and Gaithersburg

Rockville Pike opportunity zone

Opportunity zones in downtown Silver Spring,
Long Branch and New Hampshire Estates areas

White Oak has two of the
Trump opportunity zones

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rockville construction update: Research Row shopping center (Photos)

There has been significant progress in the construction of Rockville's newest shopping center, Research Row. The retail center, which is next to the Best Western hotel on Route 28, will include a Chick-fil-A restaurant and Onelife Fitness. It is very rare - particularly in the downcounty area - to find a retail-only development in Montgomery County these days, but it is yet another example of how smarter Rockville land-use planning decisions helped make the city the "Best Place to Live in Maryland" (according to Money magazine) this year.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pike Chicken and Beer first confirmed tenant at future Rockville Asian food hall

The first confirmed vendor at the Pike Kitchen Asian food hall at 1066 Rockville Pike is Pike Chicken and Beer. They tentatively expect to open in September. The food hall is located in the Edmonston Crossing shopping center, next to Taco Bell.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Slapfish Rockville opening mid-July

I have a couple of updates on fast-casual seafood shack Slapfish. Their grand opening at the Montrose Crossing shopping center on Rockville Pike is now scheduled for mid-July.
Slapfish offers at least one region-exclusive item at its locations, and they have announced the menu here will feature a Clobster Cake, made with half Maryland crab and half New England lobster. That will be in addition to the standard menu, with popular favorites like Clobster Grilled Cheese, the Ultimate Fish Taco, and Chowder Fries.

The rapidly-growing chain expects to open ten locations over the next six months. It currently operates 13 restaurants.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rockville construction update: Starbucks at Pike & Rose

Here's a look at the progress inside Starbucks at Pike & Rose. The current store at the corner of the property will relocate into this space at 11860 Grand Park Avenue this summer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Slight changes to new cell tower proposed for Derwood

NB+C, LLC proposed building a new cell tower in Derwood last August, which would be at an unspecified property "near Derwood Road." While the exact spot they plan to erect it remains secret, a couple of new details have emerged.

The tower is now proposed to be 5 feet shorter at 150' tall. They also now say it is not expected to have any aircraft warning lights on it. Many homes are located in the vicinity of the proposed site.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Demolition permit issued for Mr. Banh Mi space in Rockville

The Ritchie Center has requested and received an interior demolition permit for the space vacated by Mr. Banh Mi at the shopping center on Rockville Pike. This suggests they may be making it more appealing for a prospective retail, rather than restaurant, tenant. Mr. Banh Mi closed at the end of 2017.