Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Car stolen from Rockville parking garage

City of Rockville police responded to a report of a stolen vehicle yesterday morning. The vehicle was taken from a residential parking garage in the 500 block of Hungerford Drive.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Security fencing installed around site of future Rockville Wegmans store (Photos)

There's finally some visible activity on the long-delayed Twinbrook Quarter development at the corner of Rockville Pike and Halpine Road near the Twinbrook Metro station. Security fencing topped with razor wire has just been erected around the many empty buildings and storefronts on the site. 

Fencing around the abandoned
Hooters of Rockville

The barricades extend as far north as the shuttered Hooters restaurant. That is a necessary step ahead of demolition, so it looks like this is finally moving forward. Most anticipated is the Rockville Wegmans grocery store that will anchor the B.F. Saul development.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Peeping Tom in Rockville

City of Rockville police responded to a report of a peeping Tom in the Twinbrook area early yesterday morning. The incident was reported at a house in the 1200 block of Clagett Drive around 12:08 AM Sunday morning, according to crime data.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Strong-arm rape reported at Rockville hotel

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm rape at a hotel in Rockville Tuesday night. The assault was reported at a hotel in the 9900 block of Medical Center Drive around 8:36 PM, according to crime data.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Rockville Mayor & Council to discuss branding for Town Center area

Rockville's Mayor and Council will continue a multifaceted effort to address the economic woes of the Rockville Town Center area with a discussion of branding at their next regular meeting Monday, April 5, 2021. One question they will consider is whether to develop new branding for the entire city as a whole, or specifically for the Town Center area. 

A staff report on the matter notes that the city's current branding, "Get into it." is over a decade old, and has "run its course." But focusing on the Town Center, which is where the major problems are, would be cheaper. It would also allow for greater input from stakeholders, as there would be many fewer to engage than in a citywide effort.

Rockville's current branding, which some
argue "has run its course"

Whatever form the rebranding takes, it would be executed during FY-2022. That process would conclude with the Mayor and Council approving or rejecting the proposed rebranding. The cost to develop a rebranding proposal is estimated at $75,000 for Town Center rebranding, or $125,000 for citywide rebranding. Once approved, it would cost an estimated $80,000 per year to implement the rebranding on the City website, publications, letterhead, signage and more.

Images courtesy City of Rockville

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

David Blair announces candidacy for Montgomery County Executive

Businessman David Blair (D) announced this morning that he will again run for Montgomery County Executive in 2022, after losing the Democratic nomination for the office by only 77 votes in 2018. Blair will face a rematch with the current executive, who squeaked past him and went on to win handily that year, Marc Elrich (D). Elrich has also signaled his intention to run for reelection. Both men may face competition from term-limited County Council members in the Democratic primary, but none have demonstrated the popular support of Blair and Elrich seen in 2018.

Blair has maintained a high-profile since his narrow 2018 loss. While unsuccessful, he scored points with many for his gracious concession speech, and for declining to challenge the extremely close voting results. There is no sign he has lost the strong support from the business community he enjoyed in 2018. And his founding of the Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions (CAPS) since the election has furthered his effort to earn progressive credentials while running as a pro-business candidate.

The Blair campaign site launches with a 3-minute video with prominent scenes of downtown Bethesda, small businesses, and the pandemic. Montgomery County's economy has been stagnant for more than a decade, and has not improved since 2018, with the impact of the pandemic not helping matters. 

The County has failed to attract a single major corporate headquarters to relocate here in over 25 years, and ranked last in the region over the last decade by virtually every relevant economic development measure. This has tanked County revenues. But rather than trim spending, the Council has simply raised taxes each year, except for 2014. That has led to a flight of the rich to lower-tax jurisdictions in the area, further reducing revenue.

All that bad economic news gives Blair a strong foundation again to run on. But Elrich is the most popular politician in Montgomery County by the numbers. He not only aligns with the most-progressive faction of Democrats that increasingly is steering that party in Maryland, but also wins support from Republicans and independents concerned about development and quality-of-life issues. Elrich has demonstrated that he will continue to resist the influence of real estate development interests that now control all nine seats on the County Council.

Elrich will also be receiving a timely bailout from Uncle Sam, courtesy of the American Rescue Plan Act just passed by Congress. The influx of $203.7 million in American taxpayer funds could go a long way to papering over the County's disastrous budget picture for one fiscal year. A fresh piece of tape over the "Check Engine" light on the County budget dashboard is a welcome development for any incumbent official in Montgomery County. A Council with several members who want to oust Elrich hasn't so far been inclined to follow his budget priorities, however.

The Blair-Elrich matchup was tremendously entertaining for anyone who enjoys politics in 2018. A 2022 rematch promises to be the title fight again. On the undercard, the addition of two new Council seats, at least two other open seats, and new district boundaries will make 2022 an exciting year in Montgomery County politics.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Yardbird coming to Rockville

, the Minnesota-based outdoor furnishings retailer, is opening a new location on Rockville Pike at White Flint Station. The space was previously home to City Bikes. 

Yardbird was founded by Bob and Jay Dillon in 2016. It cuts out the middleman by shipping furniture directly from suppliers to its own stores. 

The niche of home patio furnishings seems promising in a pandemic environment, especially as temperatures turn upward for summer. Primarily based in the midwest and Denver so far, Yardbird is now moving into the northeast and Mid-Atlantic with the opening of this location.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Rockville construction update: Burger King - Shady Grove Road (Photos)

Renovation of the Burger King at 16004 Shady Grove Road on the Rockville-Gaithersburg border continues. It's really almost the construction of a totally new building, which is why the restaurant is closed during the project. Customers are being directed to the "Silver Spring" and Germantown Burger King locations. Don't go to bed before the King!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Rockville Planning Commission meeting canceled

The March 24, 2021 Rockville Planning Commission meeting has been canceled. No reason was given in the announcement. The next Planning Commission meeting is currently scheduled for Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Earlier this week, commissioners presented the draft Rockville 2040 Comprehensive Master Plan to the Mayor and Council, and recommended its approval. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Rockville Amazon Fresh store update (Photos)

Amazon Fresh store under construction
at the Collection at Chevy Chase

Here's a look at the progress on two Amazon Fresh grocery stores in Montgomery County. The store at the Collection at Chevy Chase in Friendship Heights is nearing the finish line. In contrast, the sound of the starting gun is still echoing at the second Amazon Fresh store at the 270 Center on Shady Grove Road, on the Rockville/Gaithersburg border. 

Chevy Chase

Both locations are massive makeovers of buildings that already hosted retail stores; a Giant in Chevy Chase, and an Office Depot at 270 Center. A lot of work recently at the Chevy Chase location has been the complex wiring that will govern the high-tech shopping and checkout experience. At 270 Center, work so far has been gutting the Office Depot, and boarding up all of the entryways and most window openings.

Shady Grove Road 270 Center

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Melina posts "coming soon" signage in Rockville

The CAVA restaurant group has given us more signs of the arrival of its newest dining concept at Pike & Rose along Rockville Pike. "Coming soon" signage for Melina is now screening off the windows at its future space at 909 Rose Avenue in the Federal Realty headquarters building. It includes the Instagram account for the Greek restaurant.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Athleta installs signage at Congressional Plaza in Rockville (Photos)

The signs are up at Athleta, opening soon at Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike. Last night, the main sign was already lit. A smaller, pedestrian facing sign has also been installed outside the storefront. The performance apparel store is scheduled to open this spring.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Montgomery Mall, Wheaton Plaza to be sold in 2022

International mall operator Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW) plans to sell most of the malls it owns in the United States in 2022, the company announced last week. The news immediately puts the future of Montgomery Mall and Wheaton Plaza into serious question; URW owns both malls.

The news might have been a complete shock had it come prior to Westfield's acquisition by Unibail-Rodamco in 2018. After all, Westfield sunk well over $90 million into additions and renovations of Montgomery Mall alone this past decade. If Westfield was still the sole principal owner, this would not be happening.

Clearly, URW is not committed to bricks-and-mortar and indoor malls, and is seeking a Sears-Kmart-style payday via selling off the real estate. Here in Montgomery County, that real estate is worth a fortune.

However, despite a Wheaton sector plan filled with developer giveaways, there has been little to no demand in the private sector for mixed-use development in the same area of Wheaton where Wheaton Plaza is located. Since the new plan was passed by the Montgomery County Council roughly a decade ago, only two smaller, private sector apartment developments with no retail or dining have been constructed. A Montgomery County government project, a taxpayer-subsidized government office building at the Wheaton Metro station, is the only other significant project to be realized in the last decade.

It will be interesting to see who the potential buyers of Wheaton Plaza will be, and what they plan to do with the property. Montgomery Mall's site has greater demand. But there is serious question as to the quality of the redevelopment of both sites. 

Will they become two more cookie-cutter multifamily housing developments like recent housing projects at Rockledge and Tower Oaks, or vibrant communities with high-profile retail and restaurant tenants like Pike & Rose and Virginia's Mosaic District? Will the new owners take the cautious approach Westfield had planned by building on parking lots around the malls first, or a high-risk dice roll like the one that backfired on Lerner, when it pulled the plug on its popular White Flint Mall only to wind up with an empty field and no income?

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Montgomery County Council bucks state advice to lift covid restrictions on business

While most of Maryland reopened for business without restrictions yesterday, the Montgomery County Council resisted Gov. Larry Hogan's call to end restrictions on business. The Council met as the Board of Health Friday, after debating its authority to rebuff Hogan's statewide lifting of limits on retail and restaurants all week. Councilmembers ultimately chose not to lift capacity limits on indoor dining and shopping, which will remain at 25% capacity (although some large retailers have been able to get a waiver for the 25% cap for months), and only rise to 50% on March 26. The updated guidelines unanimously approved by the Council include the following:

As of yesterday at 5:00 PM:

  • removing local restrictions on capacity at child care facilities, which follow state requirements
  • increasing outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 50 people
  • increasing indoor gatherings to a maximum of 25 people
  • eliminating the limit of one person per 200 square feet
  • eliminating alcohol limits on food-service facilities; alcohol can be sold after 10 pm
  • eliminating the restriction on buffet service for food-service facilities
  • increasing the capacity for religious facilities to 50%

The following changes will go into effect on March 26:

  • increasing the maximum capacity to 50% for indoor dining, retail shops, fitness centers and other businesses
  • permitting arts and entertainment facilities to open at 25% capacity, provided they do not sell or permit food for consumption in the facility

The guidelines for entertainment venues as written do not immediately appear to apply to movie theaters, which serve food. Only "theaters" that don't serve concessions may reopen at 25% as of March 26. Given that concessions are key to profits for cineplexes, it seems unlikely they would forgo sales of food just to reopen.

County Executive Marc Elrich cited the low percentage of Montgomery County residents who have received a coronavirus vaccination as a primary reason to not lift covid restrictions to the degree the state did Friday. "County leaders will continue focusing on what works, listening to our public health experts and acting based on the needs of our community because public health is the key to a sustained and robust recovery for all," Elrich said in a statement yesterday after the Council vote.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Boardroom Salon sets opening date in Rockville

Boardroom Salon for Men
has set a new opening date for its first Maryland location at 12031 Rockville Pike in the Montrose Crossing shopping center. The salon is now scheduled to open March 31, 2021. As you can see, the salon interior does emit an upscale den-steakhouse-lodge ambiance. 

Various member tiers are available, including limited Founders memberships at a special price, with a silver Founders tumbler while supplies last. You can sign up for memberships, and schedule appointments, on the Boardroom website.

As an example of the level of service you will receive at Boardroom Salon, the their signature The Benchmark appointment includes the following:

  • Personal consultation
  • Tailored haircut with precision neck shave
  • Personalized shampoo + conditioning
  • Scalp massage
  • Pressure-point facial massage
  • Steamed towel
  • Paraffin hand dip
  • Stress-relieving hand massage
  • Expert styling and tips to replicate the finished look every day


Boardroom Salon is the latest tenant in the new, Rockville Pike-facing retail structure at the Federal Realty-owned property. “We are thrilled to partner with Boardroom Salon for Men on their expansion into Maryland and know the salon will be well-positioned for long-term success at Montrose Crossing,” Federal Realty VP of Asset Management Mickey Papillon said in a statement Thursday.


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Rockville planning commission postpones decision on Fallsgrove office-to-residential conversion

The Rockville Planning Commission last night postponed a decision on a developer's request to allow a parcel at Fallsgrove designated for future office space to be developed as housing instead. Originally on the agenda for last night's meeting, the decision has now been postponed "until further notice." 

The proposed plan amendment had the support of city planning staff. But such conversions remain controversial, when master plans for places like Fallsgrove, King Farm and Clarksburg were sold to the public as mixed-use communities that would offer housing, retail and job centers.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Plaza Oaxaca "opening soon" at Rockville Town Square

Plaza Oaxaca
is "opening soon" at Rockville Town Square, signage at 141 Gibbs Street now declares. Owners Cecilia Pastor and Maria Barragán promise authentic Mexican cuisine, focused on their home state of Oaxaca. One of the signature dishes will be their Oaxacan Mole, and the pre-Spanish spirit mezcal will be the featured drink from the bar. Oaxaca produces the most mezcal of any state in Mexico.

The restaurant has some of the most-detailed coming soon signage seen. It includes large black-and-white portraits of iconic Mexican legends.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Armed robbery at Rockville restaurant

An armed robbery at a Rockville restaurant drew a response from Montgomery County police last night. At least one person was assaulted in the incident, which took place at a restaurant in the 5200 block of Nicholson Lane in the White Flint area around 7:17 PM, according to crime data.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Assault in Rockville parking lot

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an aggravated assault in Rockville early yesterday morning. The assault was reported in the 5100 block of Crossfield Court around 2:23 AM, according to crime data.