Friday, August 31, 2018

Roll by Goodyear to open at Rockville Town Square

Roll by Goodyear is coming to Rockville Town Square. The store is a new retail and service concept by the world-famous tire company. There is no website for the new brand; Goodyear applied for a trademark for this name only three months ago.

The store will offer sales and mobile installation of tires, and tire service. A mobile van will come to customers, or employees will drive customers' vehicles to another location for service and then return it. This is certainly an unusual new retail entry at the Square. Roll by Goodyear will be located on Gibbs Street, next to Lebanese Taverna.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Riemer advances zoning scheme that would quadruple MCPS overcrowding

Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer is quietly advancing his long-term scheme to implode zoning in single-family home neighborhoods in the County, when the Council returns from its endless summer of idle vacation. On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, a public hearing will be held on a bill to loosen the approval process of accessory apartments in the County. The proposed changes will weaken protections regarding street parking for existing homeowners, speed the approval process for accessory apartments in residential neighborhoods, and greatly reduce the opportunity for public input and objections to accessory apartments in your neighborhood.

What is Riemer's goal in expanding the number of accessory apartments in established SFH suburban neighborhoods? His plan is to subdivide every existing SFH lot in the County into 4 new housing units. Riemer has been caught on Facebook discussing his plans to allow every SFH lot to be rezoned for duplexes. Each of those duplexes would then be allowed to have an accessory apartment.

Accessory apartments have been sold to the public with the idea of one person living in a rental room, or as "granny pods," for families who apparently can't stand to be inside the same home with Grandma in her declining years. How heartwarming. In reality, the County's accessory apartment code - and the new language - openly acknowledges there could be children in these accessory units.

So each lot could ultimately have two new homes with families, and each of their accessory units could generate additional students for Montgomery County Public Schools. A potential of four families on each site that today can hold only one. Importantly, Riemer's duplex and accessory apartment scheme does not, to this point, provide any new funding to cover the surge in school construction costs it would cause. Kind of like the sector plans Riemer voted to approve, come to think of it.

Like many housing schemes advanced by Riemer, his developer sugar daddies, and his developer-funded Greater Greater Washington fellow travelers, the duplex/accessory apartment gimmick is presented under the banner of "affordable housing." But like all of the other schemes, that promise is false. After two decades of unrestrained development, with a brief Great Recession pause, home prices and rents in Montgomery County have increased, not decreased.
Riemer has made no secret of his
contempt for Montgomery County's
suburban and rural character
The duplexes proposed by Riemer would not be any more affordable than the existing large houses on those suburban lots. If townhomes in those neighborhoods currently sell for over $1,000,000, what do you imagine a larger, new-construction duplex home would go for in 20816? Certainly not for the "affordable" price that Riemer and GGW would ask you to believe.

Embarrassingly, carpetbagger Riemer was unaware that duplexes are already scattered around the County in places like Rockville, Layhill and Glenmont. They are not a new idea at all, but are now non-compliant structures not permitted in SFH neighborhoods, much like high-rises that were built in low-rise areas in the County's past Wild West zoning era. 

Riemer apparently is still closing his ears to his constituents' anger over overcrowded schools and congested roads. Instead of advancing plans to require tighter staging or higher impact taxes, Riemer is finding new ways to increase crowding. This fall, accessory apartments. Next Council term, duplexes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sunday Morning Bakehouse to open in Rockville next summer

Chef Caroline Yi's baked goods have been such a hit at Pike & Rose's weekend farmers market that landlord Federal Realty is bringing her officially on-board with a bricks-and-mortar location. Sunday Morning Bakehouse, a bakery and cafe, will open at the development in Summer 2019.

Yi is a Montgomery County native who went to Rockville's Wooten High School, and is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She has been baking almost as long, starting with Christmas cookies at the age of seven.

With seating for up to 35 people, Yi is looking forward to making the transition from take-out farm market sales to sit-down dining next summer. “It’s a different experience when we can plate the meal, rather than a grab and go at the farmer’s market," she said. "We are excited to create a beautiful space where our guests can sit down and enjoy their food with a leisurely cup of coffee.”

What might you expect to enjoy in that space? Yi's French butter croissants that are three days in the making, homemade jam-filled brioche donuts with seasonal flavors, her favorite grilled cheese or tuna salad sandwiches, baked eggs or French-style omelettes, and my personal favorite, twice-baked Elvis croissants filled with roasted peanut butter, fresh bananas and bacon.

Opening up shop just down the Pike from her Rockville stomping grounds is just the icing on the cake for Yi. “I knew if and when I opened my first business it had to be in my hometown," she said. "After visiting Pike & Rose for the first time, I fell in love with it and knew it was the only place I could picture my bakery and café,”

Federal Realty's VP of Leasing, Stuart Biel, said the feeling is mutual. “Having grown up just down the road from Pike & Rose, Caroline is a neighbor," Biel said Tuesday. He predicted Sunday Morning Bakehouse will be "a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, bringing the perfect blend of innovation and comfort with pastries that have delighted patrons at the farm market since it first appeared.”

Photos courtesy Sunday Morning Bakehouse

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

City Perch adds ground floor patio dining at Pike & Rose

I first noticed tables set up on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the iPic Theaters when I visited Pike & Rose on August 18. It turns out that City Perch Kitchen + Bar, located upstairs in the theater, has now added outdoor dining. The new ground floor patio seating on Grand Park Avenue is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also available are new al fresco menu items, as well as an al fresco bar list. The new items take advantage of ingredients from the Up Top Acres rooftop farm, that is literally above the restaurant at the Federal Realty development.

Featured items include a Shrimp Cocktail with green goddess dressing and lemongrass cocktail sauce; Crab Cakes with Old Bay remoulade, frisée and citrus salad, yuzu vinaigrette; a Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad with roasted peaches, burrata, smoked sea salt, passionfruit vinaigrette, aged balsamic, toasted pistachio and basil; a 1924 Caesar Salad with romaine hearts, garlic croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives; Steak Frites made with a dry-aged striploin, "shoooo-string" fries and béarnaise sauce; and personal 10-inch Margherita, Smoky BBQ and Meatza pizzas.

The new outdoor patio can also be reserved for private events. To make reservations or schedule a private event, visit the City Perch website.

Monday, August 27, 2018

OurBus to launch Rockville-NYC bus servicde

OurBus, a crowdsourced tech company operating intercity and commuter bus routes, plans to soon offer service between Rockville and New York City. The company plans to perform a pilot test of the route over Labor Day weekend.

A test of the OurBus website finds an available trip to New York City on Labor Day for $25.00. The departure stop is really on the far edge of what is considered "Rockville," in the Norbeck Road area at the Georgia Avenue Park & Ride at Georgia Avenue and the InterCounty Connector.

OurBus notes that buses will not always be branded "OurBus" (Worldwide Tours & Travel is listed as the charter company for next Monday's trip). The service offers passengers free WiFi, reclining seats, charging ports, free water, "sanitized" on-board restrooms, and no rescheduling fees. Tickets must be purchased online.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Frosh loses police endorsement to Republican Wolf in AG race

Republican attorney general
candidate Craig Wolf
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has lost the endorsement of the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police he had in 2014. Maryland's police instead chose to endorse Republican Craig Wolf of Howard County in the attorney general race, Wolf announced Thursday.
MD Attorney General Brian Frosh (D)
Craig has been a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant State's Attorney in Allegheny County. He has also been President & CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America for more than a decade. Craig enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 40 after the 9/11 attacks, and counts the Meritorious Service Medal and Bronze Star Medal among his commendations, after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

It's unusual for a sitting Attorney General to lose the support of law enforcement officials. Wolf suggests the reason may be that Frosh is "more focused on partisan politics in Washington than he is on the public safety issues in our state." Frosh has attempted to take a leading role in the "resistance" to President Trump since 2016, joining or filing multiple legal actions against Trump and his administration.

Rockville construction update: Funeral home turning into retail center (Photos)

Construction workers continue their effort to put the fun back in funeral home. A remodeling of the former funeral parlor at 1170 Rockville PIke aims to bring new life to the old building, by turning it into a retail center with some office space. Bassett remains open during the construction.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Rockville construction update: Aldi (Photos)

Construction of Rockville's newest grocery store continues at the Congressional North shopping center on Rockville Pike. Aldi has promised to open by the end of 2018. Do you think they can do it?

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Robin Ficker releases first ad in County Executive campaign

Attorney Robin Ficker has released his first campaign ad in the Montgomery County Executive race, entitled, "This is Our Election." A former state delegate, the Republican has the best chance to win of any GOP candidate for executive in decades. Ficker is the only executive candidate who did not vote for the highly-unpopular Westbard sector plan.

Ficker touts his role in getting term limits on the ballot, which MoCo voters - including a majority of Democrats - overwhelmingly approved in 2016. He also reminds voters that his property tax cap ballot victory years ago was defied by the Council in 2016, when they used the unanimous-vote loophole in the law to pass a record property tax increase that made property taxes a second mortgage for many County residents.

Mostly, Ficker presents himself as a reasonable advocate for good government, tax relief and change, in the mold of the very-successful Gov. Larry Hogan. He also zeroes in on another very weak spot in his opponents' long records - failure to fix I-270, which he correctly notes would help spur economic development in the currently moribund Montgomery County.

BurgerFi, The Offices at Pike & Rose post coming soon signage

More signs of the future are popping up at Pike & Rose. BurgerFi, the gourmet burger chain that uses 100% Angus beef, has posted coming soon signage on its construction wall along Grand Park Avenue. Developer Federal Realty is also beginning to market leasing space at 909 Rose, branded as The Offices at Pike & Rose. Also coming in Phase 3 are 900, 910 and 915 Meeting Street.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nike to close Rockville Factory Store

A second sporting goods retailer has failed to last in a prime corner spot at Pike & Rose. The Nike Factory Store will close this Friday, August 24, 2018. City Sports held the spot when the development opened, but closed when the chain fell into bankruptcy.

There's no indication the failure is the fault of Federal Realty; I was at Pike & Rose Saturday night, and the development was the most crowded I have ever seen it so far. To me, the "Factory Store" brand seemed a mismatch for an upscale development, but foot traffic has grown tremendously on Grand Park Avenue over the time the store has been open.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Police release composite sketch of suspect in Rockville sexual assault

Montgomery County police detectives have released a composite image of the suspect in an August 13 sexual assault in Rockville, in hopes that the public can help identify him. Officers responded to an apartment in the 200 block of Rollins Avenue around 11:00 PM that night, after a caller reported a sexual assault.

Detectives say the pantless suspect approached the female victim as she was sitting outside the apartment complex, and grabbed her shirt. He then attempted to pull down her pants. The victim fought back, and the suspect fled on foot in an unknown direction.

Police describe the suspect as a "husky" Asian male in his mid-30’s, approximately 5′ 7″ tall. He has a "broad face with a wide jawline," acne on his cheeks, black hair, and brown eyes. The suspect was wearing a tan baseball cap, a tan T-shirt, and was not wearing pants.

Detectives are asking anyone with information about this incident or the suspect 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 them that leads to an arrest and/or indictment of the suspect.

Friday, August 17, 2018

K-Pot Korean BBQ & Hot Pot coming to Rockville

More Korean BBQ and another hot pot place are coming - all in the same restaurant. K-Pot Korean BBQ & Hot Pot plans to open soon at 5550 Randolph Road, in the Montrose Shopping Center. The space was formerly home to Teppanyaki Grill & Buffet.

K-Pot is a New Jersey restaurant that is about to become a chain with this location, and another new location in Philadelphia. The company promises patrons a "fresh, tasty, chic and stylish Asian fusion restaurant."

Thursday, August 16, 2018

New details on UNIQLO grand opening at Pike & Rose

As I reported recently, Japanese apparel chain UNIQLO will be opening its Pike & Rose store on Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 10:00 AM. The company released some additional details about its grand opening events on Wednesday.

Japanese Taiko drummers will perform as a countdown to the doors opening just prior to 10:00 AM that day. The following special promotions will be offered on opening day, and September 2, and only at their Pike & Rose location:

  • Extra Fine Merino Sweaters:
    • Men’s: $34.90
    • Women’s: $24.90
  • Ultra Light Down Vests
    • Men’s and Women’s: $39.90
    • Kids’: $19.90
  • UTs (UNIQLO T-Shirts):
    • Men’s and Women’s: 2 or more for $9.90 each
    • Kids’: 2 or more for $7.90 each

  • Finally, neighbor Kung Fu Tea will be offering your choice of one of the following beverages for free on opening day, and on September 2 (one per customer per day): Passion Fruit Green Tea, Kung Fu Milk Tea, or Winter Melon Green Tea.

    “We look forward to opening our doors in Maryland for the first time, and introducing customers to UNIQLO’s exceptional service and innovative apparel designed to help your everyday life,” UNIQLO USA CEO Hiroshi Taki said in a statement yesterday.  “Pike & Rose offers a modern and convenient way to shop, work, and live, and we are excited to join the community in this shared mission on September 1st.”

    This is UNIQLO's first Maryland location; it has existing stores in Tysons and at Union Station. UNIQLO is located at 11853 Grand Park Avenue.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2018

    51 Monroe St. part of Brookfield securitization move

    Brookfield Property Partners has been criticized for carrying too much debt by some investment experts. The company also has office properties in moribund office markets like Montgomery County, also considered risky. Now BPP is placing several D.C. area properties into a $223.4 million securitization scheme through Morgan Stanley.

    51 Monroe St., the tallest building in Rockville, is one of the office properties. Also in the securitization deal are One Central Plaza and 6110 Executive Boulevard, both located in Bethesda.

    Whether the move will ease critics fears of risk is unclear, however. Some argue that such deals themselves magnify risk, and obscure the equity the owner holds in the properties in question. Such securities were one of several factors that led to the "Great Recession" a decade ago.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2018

    Fireside Park improvements to be review by Development Review Committee August 16

    Proposed renovations and improvements to the Fireside Park Apartments will be reviewed this Thursday, August 16, 2018, by the Rockville Development Review Committee. The meeting will be held at 10:00 AM in the Black Eyed Susan Conference Room at City Hall. Improvements proposed include interior renovations, landscaping and ADA-compliance upgrades. The meeting is open to the public, but there is no opportunity for public comment.

    Monday, August 13, 2018

    Rockville construction update: Chapman Row townhomes (Photos)

    Winchester Homes' Chapman Row townhome development is still in the early stages. Officially addressed as 1904 Chapman Avenue, it is the second phase of the redevelopment of 1900 Chapman Avenue, formerly home to Syms. Thompson Crescent, the internal circular street mandated by the Rockville Planning Commission, already has a gleaming new street sign, as seen in the above photo.

    The site is hemmed in by the CSX railroad to the east, and Twinbrook Parkway to the south. Homes will range from 2,100 - 2,315 SF, and feature three bedrooms, and two or three bathrooms. Winchester is not offering details yet on amenities, but is citing the proximity to Twinbrook Metro, restaurants, shopping and Pike & Rose. The latter is a good distance away on foot, it must be said.

    Friday, August 10, 2018

    Hogan announces initiatives to reduce human trafficking in Rockville appearance

    Just weeks after it was revealed that human trafficking is up in Montgomery County in 2018, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan made an appearance in Rockville yesterday to address the issue. “As governor, I am committed to ensuring that not only are the violent perpetrators brought to justice, but that we also provide the resources necessary to help survivors recover and rebuild their lives,” Hogan said. “One of our most important responsibilities is to protect Maryland citizens, and human trafficking strikes at the very fiber of our Maryland communities, our families, and our children.”

    Among the $9 million in funding and new programs Hogan announced Thursday were a new executive order creating an Anti-Human Trafficking Director position; a new crime, research, and innovation center; strengthened data collection; an updated identification protocol; $5 million in funding for anti-human trafficking efforts; and new legislation to categorize felony human trafficking as a violent crime. Hogan also announced more than $4 million in new grants to target gangs and violent criminal networks as part of the Maryland Criminal Intelligence Network (MCIN). Gang violence is up 72% in Montgomery County this year, thanks to our soft-on-crime County Council.

    Thursday, August 9, 2018

    Rockville construction update: Escher apartments at 1900 Chapman Avenue (Photos)

    The most mysterious residential development in recent Montgomery County history is becoming more of a known quantity each day. Escher is an apartment building located at 1900 Chapman Avenue in Rockville. It has perhaps the greatest selection of floorplans of any residential building in Montgomery County, which you can see on their website. The sidewalk has now reopened to pedestrians, and a freshly-painted bike lane can be spotted outside the pet-friendly building in the street.