Friday, January 22, 2021

Rockville Planning Commission to discuss Open Meetings Act violations

Rockville's Planning Commission will discuss Open Meetings Act violations at its next (open) meeting on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at 7:00 PM. Commissioners will specifically address requesting an independent, outside review of OMA violations. No details are provided in the meeting agenda.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Rockville construction update: The Ansel apartments (Photos)

Here's a look at the latest progress at the Ansel apartments in Rockville Town Center, across from Regal Row. Expectations are high for the retail and restaurant space, given the outstanding tenants developer Duball, LLC signed to the sister property, The Upton/Cambria Suites (World of Beer, Panera Bread, etc.). The Ansel is scheduled for delivery this fall.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea Rockville construction update (Photos)

The interior of Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea is rounding into final shape at 777 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. There are nice finishes and flooring. Unlike existing businesses that have had to adapt to the current health crisis, here they have been able to make a decorative screening of the counter area, rather than simply add plastic shielding.

Trump pardons include local developer Douglas Jemal

Among the 73 pardons issued by President Donald Trump the night before Inauguration Day was a full pardon for one of the most prominent developers in the Washington, D.C. region, Douglas Jemal of Douglas Development. Trump, known for most of his life for his own real estate development business, granted Jemal a full pardon for a 2008 fraud conviction. 

Jemal was found guilty of wire fraud. He had been accused of using the proceeds of a loan taken out with a business partner to purchase a property without the partner's knowledge or consent.

Douglas Development owns numerous properties in Montgomery County, in Bethesda, Rockville, Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. They include the Trader Joe's-anchored Shops of Wisconsin in downtown Bethesda. The White House released the following statement regarding Jemal's pardon:

"President Trump granted a full pardon to Douglas Jemal. Mr. Jemal is an American businessman and philanthropist credited with rebuilding many urban inner cities in the United States. In 2008, Mr. Jemal was convicted of fraud. In addition, Mr. Jemal was instrumental to various other charitable causes, including the rebuilding of churches prior to his conviction.  Notably, at his trial the presiding judge told prosecutors that he thought it 'inconceivable' to send Mr. Jemal to prison."

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

A sign of what's to come at new Darcars dealership on Rockville Pike

First we found out who the mystery tenant was in the new building near Roy Rogers on Rockville Pike. Now we know which brands and what type of sales will be offered at this new Darcars dealership. 

It will feature pre-owned Dodge, Ram, Chrysler and Jeep sales. This makes perfect sense, as these brands match those carried by the existing Darcars dealership directly across the street from the new site.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Rockville arsons in same neighborhood under investigation

Shed destroyed by fire on
Grandin Avenue in Rockville

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services investigators are examining what they say is a case of arson in East Rockville, the second reported in that immediate area since last Friday. City of Rockville police responded to a reported case of arson at a home early Friday morning, January 15, 2021. The arson was reported at a home in the 100 block of Coleman Park Lane around 4:21 AM, according to crime data.

Another view of Grandin Avenue
shed fire damage now being 
attributed to arson

Now, MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer has announced that fire investigators are seeking public tips regarding a second arson only blocks away. The second fire was allegedly set in a shed in the backyard of a home in the 300 block of Grandin Avenue around 3:00 AM on Sunday. Anyone with information about that fire is asked to call the Arson Tipline at 240.777.2263, Piringer tweeted Sunday night.

Photos by Pete Piringer/MCFRS

Friday, January 15, 2021

Real estate firm touts Rockville bank building as prime spot for restaurant tenant

Virginia-based real estate firm KNLB is marketing a former bank building in Rockville as a potential location for a restaurant. Currently for lease, the 3200 square foot bank structure is in the Traville Village Center, at 9700-9761 Traville Gateway Drive. Renderings prepared by KNLB give a sense of what a bank-to-restaurant conversion might look like.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Car stolen in Rockville

City of Rockville police responded to a report of a stolen car in the Hungerford neighborhood early yesterday morning. A vehicle parked at a home in the 1000 block of Julian Place was reported stolen around 12:00 AM. Police data indicates property was stolen from the house itself, as well.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fabletics coming to Montgomery Mall

will open its latest bricks-and-mortar location at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda this year. Known best for its famous co-founder Kate Hudson, the upscale activewear chain offers apparel and accessories for women and men. Each month, Hudson adds new outfits that are "Kate-approved."

Fabletics also has a VIP program with many perks and savings. But you must either make a purchase between the 1st and 5th day of the month when the newest products debut, or tell Fabletics you want to "skip" the month; otherwise, your credit card will be charged $49.95 on the 6th day of that month. The charge becomes a credit to your account that you can spend at any time in the future, and will cover any outfit priced up to $80 for that $49.95 charge.

This will be the first Fabletics store in the D.C. metro area. The chain has an existing location in Columbia, Maryland, but none in Virginia or D.C.

Photo courtesy Fabletics

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

TD Ameritrade closes Rockville branch

TD Ameritrade
has closed at 11560 Old Georgetown Road at Pike & Rose. The closure may seem surprising, as the stock market has been booming for years, and many amateur investors with cash joined the market when stocks briefly plunged at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. However, Charles Schwab is in the process of closing nearly 80% of TD Ameritrade branches nationwide. 

Charles Schwab found too much overlap with Schwab offices in most TD Ameritrade markets after acquiring the latter firm, it announced late last fall. Rockville and North Bethesda apparently fell into that category.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Rockville Planning Commission to consider annexing King Buick dealership to be redeveloped by EYA

The landowner of the King Buick GMC auto dealership property at 16200 Frederick Road is asking to have the land annexed into the City of Rockville, along with a portion of vacant land. If the proposal receives the necessary approvals, developer EYA intends to formally acquire and redevelop the site with 366 housing units in the form of townhomes and low-rise condo buildings. EYA is also proposing to provide an amenity related to the nearby King Farm farmstead site, such as parking.

Montgomery County's current zoning for the dealership property allows building heights of 45 feet, while Rockville's permits heights of 75 feet. An additional complication is that a Minor Master Plan Amendment process was previously initiated for the area by the Montgomery County Planning Board, which includes the dealership property. 

As drafted, the Montgomery County zoning change would permit heights of 80 feet, but could take up to 18 months to be approved. It's unclear what advantage there is to joining the City of Rockville other than that the project could begin sooner, as city staff estimate the land could be annexed by September 16 of this year. 

But if this is to occur before the County zoning change, the annexation would have to be signed off upon by the Montgomery County Council. That would mean the Council would cede the tax revenue from the future development to Rockville. City staff reports that Montgomery County planners were receptive to the idea of handing the plot over to Rockville.

The Rockville Planning Commission will consider the annexation plan and whether to schedule a public hearing to consider the petition at its January 13, 2021 virtual meeting at 7:00 PM. Planning staff is recommending approval of the public hearing.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Darcars opening new Rockville location

is the mystery tenant moving into the new building by Roy Rogers at 712 Rockville Pike. Once again, the Pike is maintaining its suburban character as a commercial strip with car dealerships and retail stores, despite developer efforts last decade to upzone Rockville Pike into a high-density urban area. A similar urbanization plan for White Flint's part of the Pike, passed by the Montgomery County Council, has been an utter failure so far.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Sign installed at Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea in Rockville

The sign is up at Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea at 777 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. This is near Flagship Car Wash north of the Rockville Town Center area.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Nick's Chophouse permanently closing in Rockville

Nick's Chophouse
has been temporarily closed at 700 King Farm Boulevard in Rockville. Now the entire contents of the restaurant will be auctioned off at the end of the month. Refrigerators, ovens, fryers, bar equipment, office equipment, TVs, booth and table seating, light fixtures and even the restaurant's security system are all up for grabs.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Surveillance robots that capture license plates appearing in Rockville retail parking lots

Montgomery County's increasing crime has apparently now gotten the attention of corporate boardrooms across America. Surveillance robots have begun popping up at major retailers and big box stores across the county in the late months of 2020. Walmart has been deploying these robots in their parking lots nationwide for several years, but they haven't been seen here much until now. The particular model pictured here at the CVS Pharmacy at 7809 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda is by LiveView Technologies of Orem, Utah.

If you haven't seen one of these up close, you may have heard it without even being on the CVS property. The robot talks out loud all day and all night, and can be heard over a block away, if not clearly. 

What is the robot doing? It is filming you, and capturing your license plate. No information on how long it stores your license plate, or what is done with that video, is posted on the robot. You can see that any movement within a certain radius of the robot triggers that blue laser light. There are thermal sensors, and the retailer has remote 24-7 access to the cameras and license plate information. A business can even use the same speakers the robot uses to jabber all night long to address patrons and trespassers alike from a remote location.

The robot has been seen recently at CVS stores in Rockville, Kensington, Silver Spring and Gaithersburg. There are two at the Lowe's in the Kentlands area of Gaithersburg.