Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Rockville firm to employ AI in partnership with major German cosmetics firm

Insilico Medicine, a Rockville biotech firm specializing in artificial intelligence, is going to put AI to work in the skincare field. German cosmetics firm Beiersdorf announced this morning it has entered a partnership with Insilico to apply AI to the search for new active ingredients for skincare products. Beiersdorf owns major brands like Nivea and La Prairie.

In a statement released by Beiersdorf, Insilico CEO Alex Zhavoronkov said the company is "delighted at the chance to prove AI’s potential in the skincare industry moving forward." Beiersdorf’s Senior Corporate VP for Research and Development May Shana called Insilico "the undisputed expert in the field of artificial intelligence." Insilico is located at 9601 Medical Center Drive in Rockville.

Logo courtesy Insilico Medicine

Monday, January 20, 2020

Rockville Swim Center upgrades to debut January 22

The first of several upcoming improvements at the Rockville Swim and Fitness Center will be open to the public on Wednesday, January 22, 2020. Visitors Wednesday will be the first to have access to the all-new lobby area, and the larger, modernized locker rooms. Additional exterior and interior work will continue in the months ahead, requiring the section of the parking lot furthest from Martins Lane to remain closed at this time. The swim center is located at 355 Martins Lane.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Madison Reed Color Bar coming to Rockville

Color is the new blowout. Madison Reed Color Bar, a coloring-only salon concept, recently opened its first DC-area location at Bethesda Row. Rockville residents won't be missing out much longer, though. The chain has just signed a lease at Congressional Plaza.

Madison Reed Color Bar will be located between Noodles & Company and the future Barnes & Noble bookstore. A spring opening is expected. The chain's concept is "stunning color, free of harsh chemicals."

More headlines
from Suburban News Network:

Chevy Chase strip of vacant storefronts once touted as "Montgomery County's Rodeo Drive" suffers biggest blow yet as anchor tenant Friendship Heights Giant has closed, as moribund MoCo economy continues to tank

Wheaton Plaza to celebrate Chinese New Year in grand style

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Pier 1 stores in Rockville, Gaithersburg to close

Montgomery County's moribund economy is hitting the home furnishings sector. Pier 1 Imports is closing in Rockville and Gaithersburg; both stores have disappeared from the Pier 1 website Store Locator. No official announcement or closing date for either store has been issued by Pier 1's corporate office.

It's interesting that Pier 1 stores in areas with booming economies like Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Waldorf, Bowie, Pasadena, Laurel and Columbia - to name just a few - are remaining open in our region. Pier 1 has been a fixture in Rockville as long as I can remember. 

The pending closures would have come as a shock if it were not for the widespread consensus that Montgomery County's economy has stagnated, according to every relevant benchmark of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics over the last decade. Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of retail jobs since the turn of the century, according to the Maryland Retailers Association.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Derwood armed robbery video released by police

Montgomery County police detectives have released surveillance video from a brazen, daytime armed robbery of a beer and wine store in Derwood. A man with a covered face brandishing a handgun entered Midway Beer and Wine at 16057 Frederick Road around 2:29 PM on January 2, 2020. He allegedly threatened two employees, and demanded cash.
The alleged getaway car
Receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspect fled the store and sped off in a metallic brown Nissan Altima, model year 2016 or later. Detectives say they believe there was a getaway driver waiting in the Altima on Frederick Road.

Anyone with information regarding the suspects or this armed robbery is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100. 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 in this case.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Derwood McDonald's reopening in six days

The McDonald's at 15801 Frederick Road in Derwood looks just about ready to open after its remodeling. That's because it is! The restaurant will reopen in six days. Celebrate with a Big Mac!

Mayor & Council approve grant to keep Aronson, LLC in Rockville Town Center

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and City Council members voted unanimously last night to approve a $50,000 grant to accounting firm Aronson, LLC. The investment is designed to keep Aronson from moving their headquarters elsewhere, and to keep their employees in Town Center to support the restaurants in that area.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Mayor & Council to consider $50K grant to retain Rockville accounting firm

Rockville's Mayor and Council will consider approving a $50,000 financial grant to an accounting firm, in order to keep their headquarters in Rockville Town Center. Aronson, LLC is currently headquartered at 111 Rockville Pike. The firm currently employs 206 people with an average salary of $87502.

If the firm can stay put, it is promising to add around 40 new full-time positions over the next five years. Aronson is also in the process of obtaining grants from the state of Maryland and Montgomery County.

City staff argue that retaining Aronson is important due to the expected relocation of several County government departments to a new County office building in Wheaton this summer. To that end, one of the conditions of the City grant will be that Aronson agree not to add an in-house cafeteria for at least five years, so that employees will continue to patronize Town Center-area restaurants at lunchtime.

The Mayor & Council already set aside $50,000 in incentives for Aronson in its FY-2020 budget. Tonight, at their 7:00 PM meeting at City Hall, they will consider giving final approval to city staff to execute the incentive agreement.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Atlanta's Gypsy Kitchen to expand to D.C.

Gypsy Kitchen, a Mediterranean restaurant and bar chain based in Atlanta, is expanding to Washington, D.C. They will open this spring in the former Masa 14 space at 1825 14th Street N.W. Gypsy Kitchen's pan-Mediterranean cuisine will draw on Greek, Moroccan, Indian,
Middle Eastern and other regional flavors.
Summer Pitim Stew
Southern Proper Hospitality is the restaurant group behind the chain. Its COO Alex Curley is not a stranger to 14th Street, having played a role there before in the opening of Barcelona Wine Bar.
Small plates assortment
Service at Gypsy Kitchen's launch will include dinner, weekend brunch and happy hour. Its 6400 SF dining area and 1100 SF rooftop deck will hold 217 guests.

Photos by Erik Meadows Photography

Friday, January 10, 2020

Hogan express lanes compromise may be a bust for Beltway drivers

Gov. Larry Hogan's compromise agreement on his Express Lanes proposal, which earned a needed second vote from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot to move the project forward, may still provide traffic relief along I-270. But it could wind up being a bust for drivers on the Capital Beltway.

The compromise essentially puts the Express Lanes plan back to where it was hung up a few months ago. Hogan had agreed to postpone the Express Lanes on the Beltway, and focus on I-270 first. There would be no improvement for Beltway drivers under that scenario.

Then Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam stepped forward with a proposal to assist in expansion of the over-capacity American Legion Bridge in exchange for allowing Virginia's Express Lanes to cross the bridge and run into Maryland. Recognizing that this would only work if the Beltway Express Lanes continued around the interstate, and the reality that the project was more feasible if companies could bid on Beltway Express Lanes that went at least to I-95, Hogan then revived the Beltway portion of the project.

Franchot, under pressure from his constituents and preparing to launch a gubernatorial campaign, immediately withdrew his support again. Hogan then capitulated on the Beltway portion beyond the I-270 spur to regain Franchot's vote. But that compromise is a Beltway backfire, and Hogan appeared to realize he will be long out of office by the time that is apparent.

The reality is, unless voters "get dangerous" as former Gov. Bob Ehrlich exhorted them to years ago, there may not be a single vote for Express Lanes on the Beltway on the Board of Public Works. There very well could be a Democratic governor, a Democratic comptroller, and there certainly will be a Democratic treasurer.

So, Beltway Express Lanes past the I-270 interchange are almost certainly dead.

But the compromise plan will likely make traffic on the Beltway even worse, not better.

First, Northam ingeniously made his problem our problem. Extending Express Lanes over the bridge means that he moves the current choke point where drivers enter and exit those lanes onto the Maryland side of the river. His problem is now solved, and we got played like a violin.

Second, Beltway Express Lanes will now terminate in the vicinity of the existing logjam between River Road and I-270 on the Beltway. This jam is caused not only by lack of capacity, but also by the drivers trying to change lanes to either access I-270 or to continue east on the Beltway. There's also a third factor, which is drivers entering from River Road who then need to merge into the far left lanes to access I-270.

So now you will have cars that want to stay on the Beltway pouring out of the Express Lanes exit in that area - and with the lanes in the center, they will have to merge across several lanes to do so.

Apparently no one bothered to study the reality of the situation on the ground there before making this decision. And the local media was too busy filing some of the most embarrassingly-biased praise reports about the Maryland General Assembly ever published to notice what a just-plain-dumb Express Lanes package was put through by the Board of Public Works.

Northam won. Upcounty drivers may benefit if the lanes really go to Frederick - and especially if they are continuing to Virginia southbound - and that's a very good thing. But Beltway drivers are likely to find this Express Lanes compromise a bust. And we still need a new Potomac River crossing.

There will be no real traffic relief until voters start playing hardball at the ballot box, and elect new leaders who will play hardball in Rockville and Annapolis.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Yvonne Fx closes at Montgomery Mall

Yet another business closure to report this morning. Women's apparel boutique Yvonne Fx has closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The store opened only five months ago, and is the latest victim of Montgomery County's moribund economy and notoriously anti-business climate. Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of retail jobs since the turn of the century, according to the Maryland Retailers Association.

Java Nation opens Rockville Pike location

Java Nation's new location in White Flint will serve its first dinners tonight, Thursday, January 9, 2020 at 11120 Rockville Pike. Their initial hours of operation will be 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM Thursday-Saturday, and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Sunday-Wednesday, so a breakfast and lunch spot early in the week with dinner hours late in the week. The owners "warn" that you may find "a warm and cozy atmosphere inside."

Ding Tea Rockville sneak peek

The sign is up at Ding Tea, opening soon at 785-C Rockville Pike in the Ritchie Center. In fact, I was there when the sign was being installed last night. They plan to open in mid-January, so stand by for the final opening date.
As you can see, the interior looks ready to go. The "Rockville" signage gives it more of a hometown feel. Ding Tea's owner says the chain's top 10 bestselling drinks are their Signature Milk Tea, Jasmine Green Milk Tea, the very seasonal Winter Melon Milk Tea, Hokkaido Oolong Milk Tea, Matcha Milk Tea, Honey Green Tea, Taro Milk Tea, Lychee Green Tea, Strawberry Yakuit, and Top Fruit Tea.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Rockville's Los Primos Tex-Mex & Grill is elite on new Yelp Top 100 list

Rockville is one of only two cities in the Washington, D.C. region to appear on Yelp's new Top 100 Places to Eat in the U.S. for 2020 list. Los Primos Tex Mex & Grill at 12303 Twinbrook Parkway is the only restaurant in the entire state of Maryland to appear on the list. The only other spot in the D.C. area to make the cut is Farmbird, certainly a worthy choice on H Street in the District.

Los Primos also features Salvadoran cuisine, in addition to Tex-Mex. The restaurant opened in November 2018.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Boardroom Salon for Men opening Rockville location

Men in the White Flint area will soon have another barbershop and grooming option. Boardroom Salon for Men will be opening a location at Montrose Crossing shopping center. The upscale barbershop has spread to 40 locations in 5 states since it began in Texas. At Montrose Crossing, it will fill the last vacant space in the property's newest Rockville Pike-facing structure between Slapfish and the AT&T Store.
In addition to haircuts and other salon services, you'll find complimentary beverages, chessboards, pool tables, televisions, dark wood paneling and plush leather chairs designed to create an upscale environment. Optional membership programs will give you unlimited haircuts at a discount rate over the life of the term you choose.
“Boardroom is a recognized leader and innovator in quality men’s grooming, with a mission to help men ‘relax, look great, and feel confident’ –they will fill a real niche for Rockville’s dense business and residential communities with their unique take on experiential service, adding to the convenience of Montrose Crossing as a shopping destination,” Federal Realty Director of Asset Management Kari Glinski said Monday.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Democrats propose Netflix tax for Montgomery County

Democratic leaders in the Maryland General Assembly are poised to propose a new tax on the highly popular entertainment streaming services used by most Montgomery County residents. The officials announced the proposed tax quietly in a Friday news dump strategically arranged by The Washington Post, whose reporters were aware of the pending tax earlier in the week, another clear example of coordination between the Montgomery County political cartel and the Post.

Subscribers to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV, and other streaming services could find a hefty tax added to their bill as soon as this year. The Post reports that the new Netflix tax would be one of several new taxes slapped on residents of Montgomery County and the rest of the state to cover a new $6000-per-taxpayer spending hike for public education statewide. Montgomery County is already spending record amounts on public schools, and the County's own recent report shows that the declining school system has only gotten worse for all the high spending.

Now residents' Baby Yoda and You addictions are squarely in the tax crosshairs of the cartel. With property and income taxes at record highs, it is almost impossible for officials to add $6000 in hikes via those taxes. The county is now turning to these sin taxes, similar to those you pay on your cell phone service and the rain that falls in your home's yard, to get the same amount in sneakier ways. You may recall that the County floated a new Trash Tax in 2019, for example.

The Netflix tax will be hard to pass openly, however. Most of their constituents will be furious, and the tax will fall heaviest on young people, the poor and senior citizens - like all of "progressive" Montgomery County's regressive flat taxes.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Destination Maternity closing at Montgomery Mall

Yet another Montgomery County business is closing its doors. Destination Maternity at Westfield Montgomery Mall will close. A closing sale is now underway.

The "Store Closing" and "Nothing Held Back!" signs now ubiquitous across moribund Montgomery County are present here, as well. We're in real trouble, folks.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

MD board: Rockville Planning Commission violated Open Meetings Act

The State of Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board has found that the Rockville Planning Commission violated the Maryland Open Meetings Act in its two closed sessions on November 5, 2018 and August 7, 2019. Rockville resident and former planning commissioner David Hill brought the matter to the board's attention last year, and their ruling has now been issued. Hill also informed the Mayor and Council of the issues and the ruling at their December 16 meeting.

Both Hill, and the West End Citizens Association, further argue that City staff actions and advice to the Planning Commission in regards to the closed sessions led to the violations, and failed to provide sufficient transparency to the public. WECA had actively participated in the public approval process of a development proposal for 107 W. Jefferson Street. Representatives of WECA were present at commission meetings during that process, in one instance waiting outside of the chambers during a closed session at which commissioners departed the room without returning to open session following their closed discussion.

The Mayor & Council will now discuss the violations and related issues at their January 6, 2020 meeting at 7:00 PM at City Hall. Hill is urging them to take some substantive action rather than let the OMCB's findings simply stand, as that body only determines whether the law was violated, but does not issue penalties. He also is requesting they investigate the actions of City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel in the matter. "The City Attorney serves at Mayor and Council pleasure," Hill noted in his testimony. "That gives you supervisory responsibility of her conduct. As a citizen of Rockville and former commissioner, I call on you to discover why the law was broken, censure that, and fix it."

WECA is further recommending the Mayor & Council utilize an independent outside counsel to study the matter. The WECA board suggests that the approval of the 107 W. Jefferson Street development also be part of that independent investigation.

Mayor & Council photo via City of Rockville