Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Rockville construction update: Main Street Apartments (Photos)

The Main Street Apartments project is rounding into a nearly-finished shape at 50 Monroe Place. This was formerly the location of the IBM building. The project was scheduled for a July 2020 delivery, so let's see what happens in the coming weeks.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Gumbo YaYa has closed at Rockville Town Square

Gumbo YaYa has closed at Rockville Town Square. Rockville residents are growing used to businesses at the property closing, but it seems like the life of a business is shorter than ever here.

Longtime anchor Gordon Biersch lasted for well over a decade before closing recently, but businesses departing in recent years have sometimes lasted a year or less. Gumbo YaYa opened in November 2019.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Microsoft Store to close at Montgomery Mall

Bad news for Xbox gamers and fans of Microsoft devices: the Microsoft Store at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda will be closing. Microsoft Stores had been closed already during the pandemic, but now the tech giant is permanently closing all 83 of its bricks-and-mortar retail stores across the country. Shares of Microsoft have dropped 1.83% on the announcement this morning, CNBC reports.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Sephora sets reopening dates for Pike & Rose, Montgomery Mall

Sephora has announced reopening dates for its stores at Pike & Rose and Westfield Montgomery Mall. The Pike & Rose store will reopen tomorrow, Friday, June 26, 2020. Sephora's Montgomery Mall location will reopen a week later, on Friday, July 3. Both stores will operate under social distancing and hygiene guidelines to lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Owen's Ordinary patio reopening today at Pike & Rose

The patio will officially reopen today at Owen's Ordinary at Pike & Rose. It won't be quite as crowded as you see in my photo above from previous years; seating will be more spread out to comply with social distancing regulations. Masks must be worn to enter (disposable extras are available, and they have cloth masks for sale), but can be removed while you are seated.

All orders will be taken online. You'll receive a text when your patio or carry-out order is ready.  Groups that arrive together may be seated together. Individuals who arrive separately may not join a group for seating. Guests are asked to observe social distancing while on the premises.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Rockville construction update: BMW of Rockville dealership (Photos)

The permanent sign has been installed on the facade of the new BMW of Rockville dealership on Rockville Pike. It definitely maximizes storage space on the site, at a time when dealerships are increasingly renting parking spaces at shopping centers and malls to store their overflow inventory. With the prices on BMWs, you don't want to have to park them in an unsecured area someplace.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Montgomery Mall reopens today - here's what you need to know

Westfield Montgomery Mall reopens today, June 23, in Bethesda at 11:00 AM, after shuttering during the coronavirus lockdown this spring. The mall will close tonight at 7:00 PM. You must wear a mask to enter the mall, and handwashing stations are positioned at the entrances and throughout the mall.

Public gatherings are not permitted - you are expected to head directly to the retailers or restaurants to make your purchases. Contrary to initial statements from Montgomery County officials, the Dining Terrace food court will indeed be open for takeout. You just won't be able to sit and eat your food at the mall; tables and chairs have been removed or blocked off for that reason.

Social distancing floor markers have been laid out around the mall, in case there is a wait to enter a particular business. Individual stores will have to control how many customers are inside at once under County regulations on persons per square foot. Westfield says staff will monitor mall traffic every fifteen minutes in case social distancing cannot be maintained in the common areas of the mall at any point.

Lucky Strike will not be opening at this time, and neither will Urban Plates, for now. The Playspace playground will remain closed.

Zara will open Thursday. Nordstrom has been open since Saturday, but the Nordstrom Cafe inside the department store won't reopen until next week. Bath & Body Works is currently expected to make its return on July 10, but is listed as being open today on the mall's website.

The mall's website will keep updating a list of stores that are open as needed. I recommend checking it, or calling ahead to the business you hope to visit, to avoid disappointment.

New opening dates targeted for 7-Eleven, Amazon 4-Star, and LEGO Store at Montgomery Mall

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated almost every facet of life around the world, and new business openings have been among the biggest victims. 7-Eleven was on the eve of opening the doors of its new Westfield Montgomery Mall location when the virus arrived and the shutdown began. Now Westfield says that 7-Eleven is preparing for an early-July opening in the Dining Terrace at the mall.

Arrival of an Amazon 4-Star store has also been eagerly awaited by shoppers. That retailer of top-rated products carried by the internet commerce giant is now aiming for a late July opening.

Finally, perhaps the most highly-anticipated retail opening of the year in Bethesda is the LEGO Store at the mall. LEGO is now planning to open in late August, Westfield said yesterday.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Congressional Plaza Barnes & Noble store to have Starbucks

Despite a major downsizing from their current Rockville location, the new Barnes & Noble store at Congressional Plaza will have a Starbucks B&N cafe. There's already furniture in the cafe, and shelving, tables and displays continue to be installed on the main sales floor. Also new, is a sign promoting the store at the entrance of the property.

Friday, June 19, 2020

City Perch to reopen for indoor dining at Pike & Rose today, June 19

City Perch will reopen its dining room at Pike & Rose today, June 19, 2020. They've had curbside takeout and patio service so far. Now diners who wish will be able to dine in the air-conditioned dining room once again.

Diners will be seated at least 6 feet apart, and dining room capacity cannot exceed 50% under Montgomery County Phase 2 reopening rules that begin at 5:00 PM today. Temperatures will be checked at the door, and employees will wear masks and gloves. You can use their online menu on your device, or request a single-use physical copy of the menu.

City Perch is celebrating their return with four new dishes. They are Seared Ahi Tuna, Shrimp Avocado Salad, Cavatappi Spinaci, and Spinach Quinoa Salad. Reservations can be made online through OpenTable.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Westfield Montgomery Mall to reopen Tuesday, June 23; Nordstrom opening early this weekend

Westfield Montgomery Mall is ready to come out of Covid hibernation. They will be reopening on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. The mall's hours initially will be 11:00 AM-7:00 PM Monday-Saturday, and 12:00-6:00 PM Sundays.

But you can get an even earlier start to shopping beginning this Saturday at Nordstrom, because they'll be reopening ahead of the rest of the mall this weekend (Nordstrom has its own entrance).

Nordstrom will have special hours this Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM-5:00 PM.  Starting Monday, Nordstrom will be open Monday-Saturday 11:00 AM-7:00 PM, and Sundays 12:00-5:00 PM.

Montgomery County's Phase 2 reopening that begins Friday at 5:00 PM requires masks to be worn, and social distancing observed, in stores. There may be restrictions on how many customers may be in a store at one time if it gets crowded.

Malls in Montgomery County will be "open for shopping, not for socializing," County Executive Marc Elrich said yesterday. "The food courts will not be opening," Elrich said. "We are not going to allow people to gather in the mall."

Award-winning Rockville police officer promoted to corporal

City of Rockville police Officer Brandon Thomas has been promoted to the rank of Corporal, the department announced yesterday afternoon. If Officer Thomas' name sounds familiar, he has been in the news before. In 2019, Thomas received the Citation for Bravery at the annual Rockville Public Safety Awards ceremony for pulling a man threatening to commit suicide back from the ledge of a parking garage. 

At the 2018 awards, Thomas received the Lifesaving Award for saving the life of a stabbing victim at an unsecured violent crime scene. His colleagues Corporal Jonathan Lally and Corporal Steve Malko also received that award for their part in the same lifesaving effort.

Photo courtesy City of Rockville Police Department

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

America's largest crabapple tree would be relocated for redevelopment of Rockville office building

Tree designated "National Champion"
for its air and water purification
properties, height & circumference

UPDATE - July 21, 2020: The article has been updated to indicate that Montgomery County's assertion that a homeowner has agreed to accept the relocated tree is false; the homeowner has not even been contacted about the matter, much less agreed to accept the tree

A developer has proposed a plan to redevelop a one-story office building at 12500 Ardennes Avenue in the Twinbrook area of Rockville as a residential building. The property is directly adjacent to the City of Rockville, and is indeed partially surrounded by land within the city's jurisdiction, but falls under the planning authority of Montgomery County.

Developer Ardennes Partners, LLC is proposing a 203-unit residential building. It is requesting a 22% density bonus for affordable units it will include, and an additional 10% density bonus for workforce housing units. The project will be 198,718 SF in total, and 100' in height.

A national champion southern crabapple tree currently stands on the property (there are actually several mature trees on the site). It is the largest known southern crabapple tree in America, according to American Forests.

The developer has proposed relocating the tree to a "nearby" site on Vandegrift Avenue. That site is actually about four blocks away on the lawn of a private home, and is not visible from Twinbrook Parkway. However, the owner of the property Montgomery County claims would be accepting the tree tells me she has never given permission for the tree to be planted there, and that she has never even been approached by the developer or Montgomery County about the matter. There is currently a petition to stop relocation of the tree. Montgomery County Planning staff is proposing to require the applicant to be responsible for the survival of the tree at its new location for only five years.
Proposed site plan
A mostly-above-ground parking deck will hold 181 parking spaces. The site is a quarter-mile from the Twinbrook Metro station, and is allowed under Montgomery County rules to provide less than the minimum required parking spaces. An "urban plaza" will be constructed at the corner of Ardennes and Twinbrook Parkway.

It's unclear why the building could not have been configured to instead locate the plaza around the crabapple tree. The developer cites the need to grade the property, the need to construct a new sidewalk along Twinbrook Parkway, and Montgomery County's own demand that it dedicate right-of-way space along the parkway side to the County, as reasons the tree could not remain in place. Staff indicates in their report that the developer will be moving the tree at "considerable expense."

The Montgomery County Planning Board will review the proposed plan at its June 25 meeting. Planning staff is recommending approval of the plan, with conditions.