Monday, November 11, 2019

Sunday Kitchen & Bath goes dark in Rockville

The windows at Sunday Kitchen & Bath at Rockville Town Square were blacked out on Sunday with window coverings. According to landlord Federal Realty, the space at 156 Gibbs Street is now available for lease.

How the storefront looked last week
before the windows were covered

Friday, November 8, 2019

Golden Samovar contents to be auctioned off next week

A "3-year new upscale restaurant is shutting its doors and making a complete, urgent liquidation. Rockville, Maryland," states an online auction listing. The photographs appear to match Golden Samovar at Rockville Town Square. According to the listing, the auction will take place online on November 13, and items will be removed the next day.

Among the 183 items listed are bar equipment, four microwaves, the cash register, the "Open" sign, chandeliers, the chairs, the tables, the booths, sinks, stoves, refrigerators, and even a butane torch and the swinging door to the kitchen.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

NTB closes Derwood location in Rockville

NTB has closed its Derwood-area store at 15609 Frederick Road in Rockville. They are directing customers to the NTB location down the road at 379 Hungerford Drive. NTB recently rebranded the Merchants Tire & Auto locations they purchased as NTB.

MoCo Council approves budget-busting developer-backed housing scheme

The Montgomery County Council quietly adopted a developer-backed regional housing scheme in a unanimous vote Wednesday. A vote that received little attention from the local media, and was preceded by no public process to promote taxpayer buy-in. Why was that? Probably because the plan, along with the almost-certain Kirwan Commission spending increases ahead, is likely to bankrupt Montgomery County and lead to massive future tax hikes. And because each of the nine councilmembers has accepted thousands of dollars from their developer sugar daddies.

Only the Council itself appeared eager to brag about its vote in a press release yesterday. But braggadocio doesn't substitute for mathematics aptitude nor budgeting skill, as the Council's annual structural budget deficit proves. The Council just put you, the taxpayer, on the hook for a massive spending increase - in education, social services, police and fire, health care, and developer tax giveaways - even as they (presumably?) know there's no way in hell future councils will be able to pay for it.

What does approving the developer-backed Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' "regional housing targets" actually mean? It obligates Montgomery County to build 23000+ new housing units for low and middle-income residents by 2030, in addition to those already planned. The County Council couldn't even be honest about that in the press release, which falsely claimed the number as 10,000 additional low-income units.
The initiative sounds good, and like most developer initiatives, it's meant to. The reality is, the scheme is all about developer profits, and taxpayers will be left holding the bag.

MWCOG itself predicts that 75% of the new residents coming to Montgomery County by 2030 will be low or mid-income residents. That not only means they will contribute little in tax revenue to the county, but that spending will have to skyrocket to provide the services and infrastructure such a population surge would require.

This would be difficult enough of a fiscal equation to square - massive new spending, with only 25% of the new residents able to shoulder the huge costs. But then you look at the bigger picture, and the alarm bells really start going off.

Montgomery County's moribund economy, job creation, business starts, and business growth are all rock-bottom in the regional rankings this decade. Despite record-high tax rates and tax hikes, revenue is actually declining, even as the County Council continues to spend more. Many of the ultra-wealthy have fled Montgomery County to lower-tax jurisdictions in our region, taking huge chunks of revenue that used to balance the County budget with them. Greater spending, fewer revenue-generating simply doesn't add up, no matter what brand of calculator you use.
Then you look at the debt and cost obligations of the County. The bond rating agencies have already criticized the current Council's budgetary dirty tricks, which have failed to adequately fund government retiree health benefits, for example. Our councilmembers might be shocked to learn that even governments have to pay their bills. How such incompetent people were allowed to take power is a sad commentary on the sham, Soviet-style 2018 election, which had no general election debates or local media coverage of the County Council races. Joseph Stalin would be proud.

Debt is skyrocketing. If the County's current debt was a department, it would be the third-largest department in the County budget. The last thing a sane elected official would do in that situation is agree to a massive spending increase.
Finally, there's the coming budgetary atomic bomb: The Kirwan Commission. Kirwan is the biggest threat to the County's fiscal health since the state threatened to make the County pay more toward teacher pensions earlier this decade.

Kirwan is proposing astronomical amounts of new education spending, with no appreciable change in the actual curriculum or methods. Spending on education has already been jacked up year after year by the Council, to no avail. Test scores and graduation rates continue to decline, while the achievement gap remains the same or worsens.
Spending hikes proposed by the Kirwan Commission would literally be flushing good money after bad down the MCPS toilet. Money isn't the problem at MCPS. And don't forget, the maintenance-of-effort-on-steroids law adopted by Maryland will require us to maintain that level of spending into the future. There is no escape once these spending increases are approved.

Taken together, the housing targets adoption and the Council's rabid desire to adopt the Kirwan recommendations on the backs of the taxpayers, have placed Montgomery County on an accelerated course to fiscal oblivion. We can't go on like this.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Rockville election results 2019

Newton reelected,
Rockville Forward slate
takes voting majority

Unofficial Rockville election results for Mayor and five City Council seats were released by the City of Rockville at 1:29 AM this morning. The numbers currently show incumbent Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton being reelected, and the Rockville Forward slate taking a voting majority on the City Council. Unofficial winners for City Council are Monique Ashton, incumbent Beryl Feinberg, David Myles, and incumbent Mark Pierzchala. 

Ashton and Feinberg ran on the Rockville Forward slate with Newton. With the Mayor having equal voting power to a Councilmember, that would give Rockville Forward a 3-vote majority, and control of the direction of the city for the next four years. Myles and Pierzchala ran on the Team Rockville slate.

This was the first vote-by-mail election in Rockville, and the City announced heavy turnout at the end of the voting day Tuesday, as well as a largely-expected increase in voter participation. 12, 213 ballots were cast by mail or at City Hall. The City cited the increased number of ballots as the reason for the delay in election results Tuesday evening.

The new voter universe appears to have broken the voters' seeming preference for divided government over the last decade. In recent past elections, voters wanted Newton as Mayor, but gave Team Rockville a 3-vote majority. Newton has sought to manage the city's growth, while Team Rockville favored a more-agressive urban density. This year, voters seem to be comfortable with the direction Newton has charted, and have rewarded her with a Council majority.

Having said that, slates don't always work out the way they are expected to. Team Rockville City Councilmember Virginia Onley, who ran for mayor against Newton Tuesday, broke with her slate to side with Newton and Feinberg on some votes. Seeing how each member votes on particular issues in the coming term will be interesting to watch, especially newcomers Ashton and Myles.

The election results will be certified on Tuesday, November 12.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Bangkok Garden Rockville sets opening date

Bangkok Garden's new Rockville location at Wintergreen Plaza at 891-D Rockville Pike now has an opening date. The Thai street food concept will open this Friday, November 8, 2019, according to their Facebook page.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Playa Bowls construction update

Playa Bowls is getting closer to opening at Cabin John Village shopping center in Potomac. Here's a look at the construction progress.

Luxury Beauty & Nails coming to Montgomery Mall, Sheepskin & Alpaca Too opens

There will soon be a new salon option at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Luxury Beauty & Nails will open for the holidays next to Candy World on Level 2, in the Dining Terrace area. Speaking of the holidays, this is always the most wonderful time of the year at the mall, as they gear up for Black Friday and Christmas. Expect to see seasonal stores and pop-up kiosks open again.
First to return is perennial retailer Sheepskin Gifts & Alpaca Too. Warm and comfortable winter clothing from Peru is their specialty. Find them this year next to the Apple Store and Madewell on Level 2. Just look for this guy:

Friday, November 1, 2019

Baronessa restaurant for sale in Rockville

Baronessa, an Italian restaurant at 1302 E. Gude Drive in Rockville, is being offered for sale. The asking price is $525,000, according to an online listing. Baronessa remains open for business.

Montgomery College sends out false active shooter alert, apologizes

Montgomery College, through an electronic alert system, sent out erroneous tweets and text messages at 7:42 AM this morning falsely stating there was an "active shooter" at one of its campuses. The message included a bracketed phrase stating, "[insert campus]," (Montgomery College has three campuses). About half an hour later, the College deleted the original tweet from its Twitter account, and sent another message indicating the alert was a false alarm and apologized.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Escapology opening tomorrow at Pike & Rose

Escapology, a new escape room attraction, will open tomorrow, Friday, November 1, 2019 at 11572 Old Georgetown Road, in the Pike & Rose development. Four escape rooms are available to choose from: Antidote, Budapest Express, Mansion Murder and Mayday. All four will be unlocked for public view from 2:00 to 4:00 PM tomorrow for a grand opening event. While a few escape rooms have opened in Montgomery County, this appears to be the first to locate in this type of development.

MoCo misses out on Mitsubishi HQ, relocation expert cites importance of airport access

Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over twenty years, and Mitsubishi North America won't break that humiliating streak of failure. The Japanese industrial giant's U.S. headquarters has been in sunny California since 1988. After a nationwide search, they've chosen Franklin, Tennessee.

"I’m proud Mitsubishi Motors will call Franklin its U.S. home, and bring 200 high-quality jobs to Middle Tennessee," Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a press release announcing the victory. The press release notes that corporate headquarters jobs have grown by 37% in Tennessee since 2013. "Mitsubishi Motors’ decision to relocate its U.S. headquarters from California to Franklin underscores Tennessee’s growing profile as a hub for U.S. and international companies," Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Chair Bob Rolfe said. "Tennessee will continue to actively recruit quality headquarters jobs from higher-cost coastal states, and we are honored Mitsubishi will make this significant investment in Williamson County.”

This is just the latest major corporate HQ contest the Montgomery County Council and economic development officials have either lost, or simply dozed through without even making a bid. One ongoing disadvantage Montgomery has, besides its national reputation as a business-unfriendly jurisdiction with high taxes, is its lack of direct access to Dulles International Airport.

We could have had direct access by now, had our elected officials not canceled the long-planned Potomac River crossing to the Dulles area. John Boyd of corporate relocation firm The Boyd Company reaffirmed the importance of such access in recent comments about Sherwin Williams dissatisfaction with their current Cleveland HQ location, that has spurred them to begin a relocation search.

Boyd's analysis was reported by Cleveland's Fox 8 as follows:

He said air transit is a key factor in site selection. As Cleveland vies to keep the company that employs more than 33,000 people worldwide, Boyd said the region's lack of non-stop flights to markets around the globe is its biggest hurdle.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was ranked second-worst among 16 similar-sized airports in the J.D. Power 2019 North America Airport Satisfaction Study. The airport has commissioned a firm to create a new master plan for upgrades.

"Every time there's a major trophy headquarters project, you always think about the usual suspects: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston. Cities with major gateway airports," Boyd said.

Dulles is unmatched in our region for the frequency of flights and variety of international business destinations. It would be so simple to eliminate this major obstacle to economic growth by merely greenlighting the new bridge to Dulles. The Council's stubborn refusal to do so speaks volumes about their radical, fringe ideology, and total lack of competence.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Pile driving to begin at Rockville senior housing project next month

Construction is beginning on the HarborChase Rockville Senior Living development at 55 W. Gude Drive. Early next month, pile driving will take place on the site, and a hydraulic vibrating pile driver will be brought in to work between 7:00 AM and 5:00 PM. Whiting-Turner has requested a noise waiver for the pile driving, which is expected to go on for several months.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Derwood McDonald's to expand

The Derwood McDonald's at 15801 Frederick Road is planning an expansion. Under the site plan submitted by McDonald's USA, LLC to Montgomery County, the restaurant will increase in size on the lot from the current 5586 SF to 6082 SF.

The drive-thru will be changed to the dual lane design found at many McDonald's locations these days, allowing two rows of cars to line up at once. There will be "three small building additions" to the restaurant itself, and bicycle parking will be added.
McDonald's' site plan will be reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Board on November 7, 2019. Planning staff is recommending approval of the site plan.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Popeyes chicken sandwich returning November 3

Popeyes has announced the return of its "sold-out" chicken sandwich. The sandwich will be available starting November 3, 2019. Popeyes intentionally chose a Sunday to bring back the chicken sandwich to emphasize that chicken sandwich king and arch competitor Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays, likely in hopes of reigniting the chains' Twitter feud for publicity purposes.

Syd's Cakes + Bakes closed at Montgomery Mall

Well, that was quick. Syd's Cakes + Bakes, a.k.a. Syd's Bakery, has officially closed in the food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. They had only opened at the end of July, after the demise of predecessor Shilla Bakery. A third bakery, Patisserie Manuel, is set to open next month in the food court, but not here. For now, a generic "Coming Soon" wall has been installed over the Syd's space.

Gumbo Ya Ya sets opening date at Rockville Town Square

Gumbo Ya Ya fans in Rockville are counting down the final days until the Cajun-Puerto Rican restaurant opens its new location at Rockville Town Square. The owners have announced they will open on November 1, 2019. Their 101 Gibbs Street location was most recently home to Lab Cafe.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Red Door Salon & Spa rebrands as Mynd Spa & Salon in Rockville, Gaithersburg

Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa is in the process of rebranding nationwide as Mynd Spa & Salon. While the rebranding will occur one region at a time, their Rockville and Gaithersburg salons have now officially made the change. The revamped salons will focus on seven primary services: massage therapy, body treatments, skin care, nail care, haircut and color, makeup, and waxing. There will be a new emphasis on products from the European Union, where the company says environmental and purity standards are higher than in the United States.

Rockville's spa is at 934 Rose Avenue in the Canopy by Hilton hotel. Gaithersburg's is in the Kentlands at Kentlands Place, located at 62 Market Street.

Photo courtesy of Mynd Spa & Salon

Thursday, October 24, 2019

New shopping center, daycare facility proposed for Rockville

A developer has proposed a new strip mall and daycare center be constructed at 14119 Travilah Road in Rockville, near the intersection with Piney Meetinghouse Road. An existing retail structure would be demolished, and a daycare facility would be built behind the new strip mall and associated parking lot. The project is now before the Montgomery County Development Review Committee.
The daycare is expected to serve up to 195 children at once, within a 12762 SF building. Out front facing the roadway will be the 5896 SF retail structure, with multiple storefronts. A 9468 SF playground will also be constructed. 2972 SF of the property will be dedicated to the master plan widening of Travilah Road.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Congressional Plaza construction update (Photos)

The transformation of part of Congressional Plaza is underway. It looks like Federal Realty is going to make a distinctive facade for this part of the north wing of the shopping center. This is the area where they will be adding Barnes & Noble and up to three fitness studios in 2020. They are branding the new fitness-oriented section as FITRow, and it will be right next to the new bookstore. Note that the signs for Neiman Marcus Last Call and Thomasville Furniture have been removed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Del Frisco's Grille closes at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Del Frisco's Grille closed yesterday at Pike & Rose. According to a sign posted in the window, the charter tenant of the Federal Realty development is "permanently closed." I enjoyed many meals at this location, including the best Thanksgiving turkey I've ever had at a restaurant.