Friday, April 19, 2019

More "signs" of Barnes & Noble moving to Congressional Plaza in Rockville

Barnes & Noble won't be moving from Montrose Crossing to Congressional Plaza for more than another year. But their first "Coming Soon" signage has already gone up at their future space. Barnes & Noble is currently scheduled to downsize into this new format store in the summer of 2020.

Sports Nation moves at Montgomery Mall

Sporting goods retailer Sports Nation has moved upstairs to Level 2 at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Their new location is across from the future 7-Eleven store.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Rockville HDC approval sought for demolition of Beall Avenue home

515 Beall Avenue
The owner of a ranch home at 515 Beall Avenue in West End Park is seeking to tear the house down, and has applied for a ruling of historic significance from the Rockville Historic District Commission. While the West End Park subdivision first saw Victorian homes constructed in the 1890s, according to the HDC staff report, this ranch home was built in 1952 as part of the post-war wave of suburban growth in Rockville.

Preservation planner Sheila Bashiri has recommended against historic designation of the home, and that it meets none of the criteria for historic preservation. The HDC will review the application and report at their meeting tonight, April 18, 2019 at 7:30 PM. This demolition request will very likely be approved, as two very large new-construction homes have already been built adjacent to 515 Beall.
New home proposed for
21 Martins Lane
The HDC will also provide a courtesy review of a new home proposed for 21 Martins Lane. This two-story home would be on a lot behind the historic Hebron House at 17 Martins Lane, in the Haiti/Martins Lane community. Staff is suggesting the HDC encourage the homebuilder to add more windows to what will otherwise be large, blank exterior walls.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

12 Stories opening at The Wharf: D.C. is doing what moribund MoCo won't for nightlife

Montgomery County is still reeling from the collapse of its nighttime economy following the County Council's disastrous Nighttime Economy Task Force initiative. Where there were crowds on sidewalks and corners outside of downtown Bethesda's nightclubs and bars prior to the initiative, 16 nightspots have shuttered since the task force debacle. Many other businesses slashed or eliminated their late-night hours. Downtown Bethesda sidewalks now grow empty and quiet after 9 or 10 PM. Thousands of young professionals have taken their wallets and purses to the District for nightlife since, including to The Wharf, where an exciting new rooftop will open tonight.

I recommended years ago that Montgomery County put incentives and requirements for nightlife, including rooftop nightclubs at the new hotels being approved for urban areas like downtown Bethesda. Those suggestions fell on deaf ears at the Council and Planning Board, as of course, it is much cheaper to put up a hotel with a non-active roof use. Naturally, our developer-controlled Council and Planning Board never put the public before the developers, which is how we ended up with no replacement cineplex and no replacement Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in the Apex Building redevelopment - even though the Council and Board held full authority to require both. Heckuva job, Brownie!

By contrast, the District is getting its latest rooftop nightspot tonight, April 17, 2019 with the debut of 12 Stories, high atop The InterContinental Hotel at The Wharf. The 3500 SF rooftop features spectacular views of the Potomac River, waterfront and Washington, D.C. We could have had something like this on top of the new hotels coming to Wisconsin Avenue here, but...the Council was too busy collecting developer checks, and debating a ban on circus animals instead.
Current and prospective MoCo bar and restaurant
owners said, "Yes, Yes, Yes!" to privatization of liquor
sales, but our cartel-controlled County Council said, "No, No, No!"
At 12 Stories at The Wharf tonight, 13-foot floor-to-ceiling windows will give you views of the Jefferson, Lincoln and Air Force Memorials, as well as the pinnacle of the Washington Monument and Hains Point. From the future Marriott hotel in downtown Bethesda, nighttime will give you lovely views of car dealerships and a concrete parking garage. So much winning!
The J Street Spritz at
12 Stories at The Wharf
Tonight at 12 Stories at The Wharf, you could be sipping a zero-degree “Superchilled Martini 24” and taking in the sweeping vistas of the Nation's Capital. Perhaps you would prefer a “J Street Spritz,” made with Tito’s Vodka, Amaro Nonino, lime juice, raspberries, Domaine Chandon and sparkling soda. It's enough to make Jack Evans bust out the old Constituent Fund.

All that's busting in Montgomery County is the County budget, in the red again this year, with residents facing yet another increase in property taxes. With what the Maryland Restaurant Association complained was a "flat" restaurant and bar market in Montgomery County, record numbers of closures, and profits declining in a business with thin margins already, we're losing nightlife spending and alcohol sales to the District and Virginia, thanks to our archaic County government-controlled liquor monopoly.
The Wharf Burger
Just some of that lost revenue will end up being spent in D.C. at 12 Stories, where brunch will be added in May to a windows-on-the-capital-of-the-free-world menu that tonight already features locally sourced oysters, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, and a ceviche-style crudo.

While Montgomery County's "leaders" turn to taxpayers again this year for yet another payday 4.8% property tax increase, the developers of The Wharf in D.C. turned to the Gerber Group, the geniuses behind NYC’s Mr. Purple, The Roof and The Campbell, and Atlanta's Whiskey Blue, "known for its signature elevated nightlife experience and top-notch food and beverage," it says.

Montgomery County's vision for an "elevated nightlife experience?" "More taxi stands [ever heard of Uber and Lyft, guys?], more buses," and continued total monopoly government control of liquor sales to restaurants, bars and the public. No wonder Montgomery County is at rock bottom in the region by every relevant economic development measure.

They blew it, folks.

Photos by Anna Meyer

Five Below to move up Rockville Pike

Five Below, the $5-or-less discount store located at Federal Plaza on Rockville Pike, is planning to move "just up the Pike." Their new space will be at the Congressional North shopping center, right next to the new Aldi grocery store. 

Teel Construction is the contractor for the fit-out of the new store, and work is now underway. 1503 Rockville Pike will be the store's new address.

More Montgomery County news:

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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Mattress Warehouse to move at Metro Pike Center in Rockville

Metro Pike Center has finally found a tenant for the long-vacant Jennifer Convertibles space at 11520-A Rockville Pike. Mattress Warehouse has signed a lease with property owner Saul Centers for the space. Construction is just getting underway inside the future mattress showroom. Mattress Warehouse currently has a larger existing store at Metro Pike Center, at 11550 Rockville Pike.

More Montgomery County news:

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Monday, April 15, 2019

Crave closed at Montgomery Mall, Cinnabon opens

Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar has closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The closure leaves a large dining space vacant, which could be turned into a winning opportunity by Westfield if they can attract another big name on the level of next-door neighbor The Cheesecake Factory. With the planned addition of Olive Garden at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza clearly having fallen through, I would strongly urge them to pursue an Olive Garden here.

Is the Crave spot a bad location? No, because Cheesecake Factory has been tremendously successful in the adjacent space. While Crave had a wide-ranging menu with mass appeal for the mall-going crowd, other issues appear to have done them in. The restaurant rarely appeared crowded when I passed it.
Packing crates inside Crave Sunday

Last call at the bar

Would you like to see an
Olive Garden in this space?
In other mall news, as I reported Friday, Cinnabon opened this weekend in the Dining Terrace. And the long painful exit of Gymboree has finally come to an end. They have closed, and their space is being cleared out.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Cinnabon to open this weekend at Montgomery Mall

The return of Cinnabon is upon us. I've been seeing increased construction activity at their space in recent weeks. Now Westfield Montgomery Mall reports that the bakery no real mall can be without will be opening this weekend. Look for Cinnabon in the Dining Terrace next to Urban Plates, by the escalator.

Rockville chosen for microtransit pilot program

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation is launching a pilot program to test microtransit in Rockville, Wheaton, and Glenmont. Riders would be able to request a small shuttle bus from designated pickup and drop-off points using an app on their phones. They would receive an estimated time of arrival for the bus.

A public hearing on the pilot will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2019, at 6:30 PM at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School, which is located at 12701 Goodhill Road off Weller Road in Silver Spring. Attendees will have the opportunity to speak, and to learn more about the pilot program.

MCDOT has released these two (very blurry) maps showing the zones for the pilot. In Rockville, the pilot zone appears to include Rockville Town Center, Hungerford and part of Rockville Pike near those areas.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Story House bookmobile opens bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Rockville

The Story House, a trolley bookmobile marketing books to children and families in Rockville for the last two years, has just opened a bricks-and-mortar location at Rockville Town Square. It is located inside of Dawson's Market at 225 N. Washington Street. Books also remain for sale aboard the trolley. The Story House at Dawson's Market is open from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Rockville construction update: Main Street apartments (Photos)

Here's a look at the progress at the construction site of the future Main Street apartments at 50 Monroe Place. This is a very unique project in Rockville, and in the region. 25% of the units will be set aside for the disabled, and 75% will be affordable.

The development is on the former site of the historic IBM office building, and was previously going to be redeveloped as senior housing before that project fell through. That opened up the opportunity for Main Street, and the non-profit quickly moved on it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Barnes & Noble Rockville store moving to Congressional Plaza (Photos)

Barnes & Noble will be moving its Rockville store from Montrose Crossing to Congressional Plaza next year. Federal Realty, which owns both shopping centers, has confirmed the move. This explains the recent relocations of several tenants at the shopping center from the wing on the north side of the property, which is where Barnes & Noble will be located.
Coming Soon signage in empty storefronts
for the future Barnes & Noble at
Congressional Plaza
What hasn't been announced yet is that the new Congressional Plaza location will be one of Barnes & Noble's new format stores, similar to the one it is opening at the Mosaic District in Northern Virginia. These stores are smaller in size, while still offering a cafe for customers unlike competitor Amazon Books at Federal Realty's Bethesda Row property.

Montgomery County on sidelines again as Indian software firm Zoho chooses Texas

Indian software firm Zoho has completed a nationwide search for the location of its new U.S. headquarters, and the winner is Austin, Texas, not Montgomery County. As is the case more often than not, there's no public indication that Montgomery even made any effort to recruit the company, much less mount a competitive bid. Zoho currently has a small customer service office in Austin with 60 employees, but when they relocate their current California U.S. HQ to Texas, they will ultimately host 500 jobs in a new, 100,000 SF office building, the Austin American-Statesman reported early this morning.
New interchange TXDOT
is building by the future site
of the Zoho HQ, one of
four to eliminate signaled
intersections and reduce congestion
Best of all, Austin didn't even have to put together an expensive package of giveaways to win the HQ. Zoho cited its employees' growing frustration with traffic congestion and expensive housing costs in California in its choice of Austin as an improvement. In researching the site of their new Austin HQ, I noticed they chose land on SH 71, which the Texas Department of Transportation says "serves as a major corridor for motorists traveling to and from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport." While Montgomery County's elected officials are actively fighting any attempt to increase highway capacity here, TXDOT has a whopping four projects to reduce congestion on SH 71 alone.
Google Maps shows how close the
Zoho HQ site will be to
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport,
a quick 7-minute drive
How important are highway access and infrastructure to economic development? They are critical. According to Google Maps, the site chosen by Zoho at SH 71 and Kellam Road is only 7 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The need for easy airport access for an international firm like Zoho could not be provided in Montgomery County, thanks to the County Council blocking construction of the planned new Potomac River crossing to Dulles Airport. Heckuva job, Brownie!

A quick search finds flights from Austin-Bergstrom to a whopping 40 cities in India, including New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Imagine how significant that 7-minute access is for this India-based company, and its executives and sales team.

The Texas newspaper also reported that analysts see the Zoho decision as having benefits beyond the 500 jobs - and collateral economic activity and revenue - the HQ will generate. Because Zoho is an Indian firm and has offices around the world, Austin economist Angelos Angelou told the paper, “it could lead to the attraction of additional companies because now in the eyes of other Indian companies, Austin will be on their radar screen.” Who are some of Zoho's customers? Amazon, Uber, Facebook and Netflix.

While Austin celebrates another economic development victory, Montgomery County has only received more bad news on that front this week. Not only did County officials tell our super-low-energy County Council that MoCo's failing taxpayer-subsidized business incubators are hemorrhaging $1 million a year, but the short-lived CEO of the County's economic development company announced Monday he is move to Texas. Smart man, obviously. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." You can't make this stuff up, folks.

With the "new" County Council having taken no action on highway congestion or the economic development crisis in Montgomery County after over four months in office, and their plan to hike both County employees' salaries and your property taxes bigly, could Democrat David Blair be looking at a 2022 encore run for County Executive? He lost the 2018 Democratic primary by only 77 votes, and the only other local pol not-so quietly planning to run is failed Councilman Hans Riemer, Riemer is not only literally the least-popular Council member in Montgomery County based on voting results, but is infamous for tanking the County's nighttime economy with his disastrous Nighttime Economy initiative.

Will Montgomery County business leaders (and voters) finally take the advice of Bob Ehrlich they so far have rejected: "Get dangerous," and elect a few Republicans to the Council? Or will they just keep slouching towards Gomorrah?

Monday, April 8, 2019

Quarter Pounder Deluxe returns to McDonald's

It's been awhile since McDonald's had a Deluxe Quarter Pounder on the menu. Or any burger topped with mayonnaise, for that matter. Even the venerable Daily Double is no longer recognized as a secret menu item. But McDonald's has just brought back the Deluxe Quarter Pounder - with a few changes.

First, the name has changed. It's now called, "Quarter Pounder Deluxe," instead of Deluxe Quarter Pounder.

Second, it now features a freshly cooked beef patty. Patties were still frozen when the Deluxe was last on the menu.

Third, it features Roma tomatoes, almost unheard of for a fast food burger.

Fourth, and most importantly, they have added ketchup as a topping on the Deluxe. McDonald's hasn't offered a burger topped with both ketchup and mayonnaise together since the much-missed Big and Tasty. This gives the Deluxe a Whopper-style flavor.

Whole leaf lettuce, raw onion, pickles and two slices of American cheese round out the Deluxe toppings. At $5.99, it's mighty pricey for a single-patty burger, though.

Montgomery County Council proposes property tax hike

4.8% tax increase

The Montgomery County Council, contrary to fake news headlines, is planning to raise your property taxes this year. A required legal announcement published by the Council confirms the planned tax hike in black and white, despite County officials' false claims of no increase.

"Notice of a proposed real property tax increase," the legal notice proclaims. "The County Council of Montgomery County proposes to increase real property taxes," it states. Despite annual false claims of "holding the line on property taxes," MoCo property taxes automatically increase due to rising assessments. The only way the Council could fulfill a promise of "holding the line," or "no tax increase," would be to lower the tax rate by the amount required to offset that automatic increase.

According to the Council's required legal statement, the Council "is considering not reducing its real property tax rate enough to fully offset increasing assessments." Instead, the Council is proposing to hike property taxes by 4.8%.

But while the Council is required by law to disclose their planned tax hike in the legal announcement, County officials and their friends in the media have been falsely claiming no tax increase is proposed. "No tax increases in Montgomery County proposed budget," blared a fake headline on "It’s what residents don’t see in Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s proposed 2020 budget that might impress them the most: no tax increases," the article falsely announced.

The Washington Post's Jennifer Barrios, who never wrote a single article covering the general election County Council At-Large race in 2018 (and unprofessionally didn't even respond to emails during the campaign), tells an even bigger whopper of a lie this morning on the Post website by claiming a tax cut. All three local media statements are entirely false, as these photographs of the actual legal tax hike announcement clearly show.

Fact Check: Because County elected officials and the County cartel-controlled media have told this lie annually for many years, Post fact-checking standards require me to award them the new "Bottomless Pinocchio" rating for those who "repeat a false claim so many times that they are, in effect, engaging in campaigns of disinformation.” 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Rockville Post Office mural is now a stamp

The United States Postal Service has issued a new line of stamps commemorating some of the best Depression-era post office murals from around the country. One that made the cut is right here in Rockville, although to make things confusing, it is currently located in the Rockville Police Department headquarters at 2 W. Montgomery Avenue. That's because the police HQ used to be the Rockville post office.

"Sugarloaf Mountain" by artist Judson Smith (1880-1962) was completed in 1940, and depicts the famous local peak south of Frederick near Barnesville. This is the mountain you can easily see from tall buildings in Montgomery County.

You can order the stamps now from the USPS website. A sheet of 10 forever stamps is $5.50. Designed to raise morale in the Great Depression, perhaps the mural can now help raise morale in moribund Montgomery County.

Photo courtesy USPS