Friday, October 29, 2021

David Blair releases plan to help restaurants in race for Montgomery County Executive

Blair headquarters at 11751 
Rockville Pike

Democratic Montgomery County Executive candidate David Blair has released a list of policy changes he would implement to help county restaurants if elected. "Restaurants are Better with Blair" is a 10-point plan for a low-profit-margin industry that was struggling in the county even before the pandemic hit.

Proposals include streamlining regulations, and ensuring they are consistent with competing jurisdictions around us; simplified inspections; ending the County's monopoly on liquor sales; increased access to capital; developing the hospitality workforce and management skills in partnership with local colleges; expanding childcare; investing in transit and more ride-hailing, on-demand bus services; and growing the agricultural sector of the county's economy, so that more food and alcoholic beverages produced here can be served in county restaurants.

One restaurateur to endorse Blair, who narrowly lost the 2018 Democratic primary to Marc Elrich by only 77 votes, is Farmers Fishers Bakers co-owner Dan Simons. In addition to having a Founding Farmers restaurant at Park Potomac in Montgomery County, Simons blogs about the industry at Dan Simons Says.

Elrich is running for reelection. Current County Council member Hans Riemer is also challenging Elrich. Councilmember Tom Hucker is exploring a potential challenge, but hasn't ruled out running for his District 5 Council seat again instead. No candidate of any party has filed paperwork for this race with the Board of Elections, as of this writing. 

Tesla rival Polestar opens first Washington D.C.-area dealership in Rockville

The electric car age is fully upon us, and Montgomery County auto buyers are finding each year is bringing more options to the market. Polestar, a Swedish rival to Tesla, has just opened a location at 15401 Frederick Road in Rockville, just north of Gude Drive. This is on the site of the DARCARS Volvo dealership. That's not surprising, because Polestar is partly owned by Volvo.

Polestar is most strongly promoting its Polestar 2 sedan. It looks like a cross between a Volvo electric, a Tesla, and a hint of Lincoln at the rear. It goes 0-60 in 4.7 seconds. The company also offers something Tesla won't for another couple of years, a sports coupe called the Polestar 1. A Polestar 3 is anticipated to be built in America, and the company recently announced plans to go public.

Like Tesla, the company provides a different retail experience than traditional automakers. Its sites are called Spaces, not "dealerships," and are designed to look like exhibit-filled museums rather than sales floors. Polestar doesn't have the wide network of proprietary supercharger sites that Tesla owners enjoy. But unlike Tesla owners, you can charge up at standard charging stations wherever you find them. Kudos to Polestar for touting Rockville's "bustling restaurants and shops surrounding a traditional town square with its manicured lawn" in its promotional materials for the space.

Photos courtesy Polestar

Thursday, October 28, 2021

MoCo's first privately-operated residential addiction treatment center opens in Rockville

A new type of residential addiction treatment center has arrived in Rockville. The Valley is the first privately-operated residential addiction treatment center in Montgomery County. It is located on a five-acre campus at 19120 Muncaster Road. 

The Valley accepts private and commercial insurance plans. It features 3 residential houses, an outdoor swimming pool, fitness and recreation facilities, and a horse sanctuary. The homes include common areas, private bathrooms, fully-stocked kitchens, patios, decks, and furnished bedrooms with flatscreen televisions and game systems. Dual diagnosis patients who have underlying mental illness can also be treated on-site. 

Patients are now being accepted. For more information, visit The Valley's website or call 301-355-7455.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Rockville extends Baltimore Road closure

Baltimore Road has been closed between Gladstone and Broadwood Drives for stormwater and safety upgrades since last spring. However, the City of Rockville has just announced the closure will continue for at least another month. Supply chain issues and weather are responsible for the delay, the city explained in a statement.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Choice Hotels to move headquarters out of City of Rockville to Pike & Rose

Less than a decade after moving its corporate headquarters from Silver Spring to Rockville Town Center, Choice Hotels International is leaving the city. The hospitality firm, which has been located in Montgomery County since 1968, will move outside the city limits to unincorporated Rockville at the Pike & Rose development. 

Choice will move its operations into a new, 16-story office tower at 915 Meeting Street at the Federal Realty-owned development. It will take the place of an existing surface parking lot. The firm will occupy more than 105,000 square feet in the building, a downsizing of 25,000 SF from its current Rockville headquarters. 

The move is shocking, as there was no public indication that Choice was seeking to relocate so soon after building out a state-of-the-art headquarters at 1 Choice Hotels Circle in 2013. Less than ten years ago, the City of Rockville, Montgomery County and Maryland awarded the company $4.3 million in loans and grants, among other concessions, to keep Choice from joining the many companies that have fled the county and state over the last two decades.

Fortunately, the County has at least managed to retain the firm again. Unlike other corporate leaders who have passed on Montgomery County, Choice chair Stewart Bainum is politically-aligned with local and state Democratic leaders to the extent that he is willing to forgo tax savings to stay in the county. Bainum has recently sought to invest his own money to rescue the Baltimore Sun, a favorite newspaper of Democratic politicians statewide that is in danger of falling prey to a private investment firm. He himself has served in the Maryland General Assembly, and is very active in the community.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)

"It is tremendous news that Choice Hotels is opening a new headquarters in North Bethesda, reaffirming its commitment to our state and retaining hundreds of jobs here for years to come," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) said in a statement Monday. "The company has been an outstanding corporate citizen in the community, and we look forward to their continued success here in Maryland and around the world."

Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz

"Choice Hotels has been an important member of Maryland's tourism industry for more than 50 years and we were very pleased to work with them on the decision for a new headquarters," Maryland Commerce Secretary and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kelly M. Schulz added. "This new location will give a world-class company like Choice Hotels a number of attractive advantages that are so critical to companies today, including proximity to public transportation and a variety of retail, dining and wellness options."

The move further underlines that moribund Montgomery County's economic development victories have been few and  hollow over the last quarter century. No major corporation has relocated its headquarters to Montgomery County in over 25 years. Many of the few that were here have left. County politicians have been reduced to celebrating the relocation of HQs that are already here, such as Marriott moving from North Bethesda to downtown Bethesda, and now Choice from Rockville to "Rockville," a.k.a. North Bethesda. Rather than advancing the ball, this is largely a case of rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic.

Nevertheless, this is a huge win for Federal Realty. Not only does Pike & Rose now gain the cachet of a major corporate headquarters at the expense of rival Foulger Pratt, but all those incoming employees represent new lunch and happy hour customers for the many restaurants at the development. "We are thrilled to welcome Choice Hotels to the growing list of world-class organizations that call Pike & Rose home," Federal Realty CEO Donald Wood said yesterday. "Choice's focus on employee well-being make 915 Meeting Street and the Pike & Rose neighborhood the perfect fit. Its associates will have unparalleled access to state-of-the-art architecture that incorporates the latest wellness features and a thoughtfully curated merchandising mix all within an authentic, vibrant neighborhood with excellent regional access."

Photo courtesy Choice Hotels International

Monday, October 25, 2021

Strong-arm rape reported in Rockville

Montgomery County police officers responded to a report of a strong-arm rape in Rockville early Thursday night, October 21, 2021. The sexual assault was reported in the 100 block of Gibbs Street at Rockville Town Square, according to crime data. No further details have been made public at this time.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Ansel apartments, retail spaces now leasing in Rockville

Leasing has begun for the residential apartment units and retail spaces at the Ansel in Rockville Town Center. The Duball, LLC-developed property is nearing completion at 33 Monroe Street. Prospective apartment renters can begin the process on the official Ansel website. Next Realty is marketing the retail spaces in the ground floor of the building, all of which are currently available.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

McDonald's Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder arrives in Rockville (Video+Photos)

A new sandwich has arrived at many McDonald's locations in Montgomery County. The Smoky BLT Quarter Pounder with Cheese features the 100% all-beef patty topped with smoky bacon sauce, smoked Applewood bacon strips, Roma tomatoes, shredded lettuce and two slices of American cheese on a sesame seed bun. It cost $6.89 before tax. There is also a Chips Ahoy McFlurry for a limited time.

I have seen the burger at McDonald's restaurants in Bethesda (River Road), Rockville and Silver Spring so far. The secretive sandwich is either a test item, or a near-future release that came out early in our area. Which is great news, because the burger is delicious with the mystery bacon sauce. Watch my review, and then try it yourself.

Miniso opens at Montgomery Mall (Photos)

has opened at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The Japanese-inspired Chinese lifestyle goods chain offers toys, health and organization products. Some characters are licensed, like Marvel and Coca-Cola, while others are original intellectual property of the growing international company. You may find stuffed animals or pillows in one aisle, kitchenware or fitness equipment in the next, and face masks and hand sanitizer in yet another. Find Miniso on Level 1 in the Macy's wing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Strong-arm rape reported at Rockville park

City of Rockville police responded to a report of a strong-arm rape at a city park on Sunday afternoon, October 17, 2021. The rape was reported at a park in the 14500 block of Avery Road at 5:00 PM. That appears to be RedGate Park.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Rockville Historic District Commission to review proposed demolition of two Chapman Avenue buildings

1800 Chapman Avenue

Two more midcentury modern buildings will be considered for historic designation by the Rockville Historic District Commission at its virtual meeting this Thursday night, October 21, 2021 at 7:00 PM. A developer is seeking to tear down 1800 Chapman Avenue and 1818 Chapman Avenue, in order to construct a new apartment building.

1800 Chapman Avenue

1800 Chapman Avenue was built around 1954, planning staff found, but documents pinpointing the exact date and architect have been lost. It was built for Bowen & Company, a manufacturer of medical instruments. The building has been vacant since the firm went out of business.

1800 Chapman Avenue

1818 Chapman Avenue was designed by modernist architect Donald N. Coupard, a graduate of Rockville High School, Montgomery College and Catholic University. It was built for Dermot A. Nee, whose father founded the P.J. Nee Furniture Company across the street. Initially a garage and warehouse used to store Dairy Dan Ice Cream trucks when they weren't roaming the streets, it was most recently Tony's Body Shop, and is now vacant. Coupard incorporated design touches into the building from the furniture store, such as its stone pillars and distinctive windows and double doors.

1818 Chapman Avenue

Both buildings have unique designs and represent their time period well. But neither qualifies for historic designation under the existing criteria, planning staff argues in its report. Staff suggests there are "numerous examples of these types of structures within Rockville." Commissioners will consider this, and any other viewpoints from preservation organizations and the public, at Thursday's meeting. They will then make a recommendation to the Mayor and Council. 

1818 Chapman Avenue

1818 Chapman Avenue

Photos via City of Rockville

Monday, October 18, 2021

Chadol to open at Research Row in Rockville

, a Korean restaurant, is opening at the Research Row shopping center at 1403 Research Boulevard in Rockville. Korean barbecue will be the specialty. The 4055 square foot restaurant will seat 120 people. Chadol's owner currently estimates a November 15, 2021 opening.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Burger King Shady Grove Road construction drags on (Photos)

There won't be any Ghost Pepper Nuggets at the Burger King at 16004 Shady Grove Road, on the border of Rockville and Gaithersburg. I can't recall a fast food restaurant renovation that has taken this long; chains construct entire new restaurants in a fraction of this time. They've added stone to the facade, and put down a new driveway and parking lot since July. 

This BK is the best in Montgomery County; it's not only the highest-rated, but the food seems to always be made fresh when ordered, in my experience. So it's been disappointing to not have it available, as many limited-time menu items have come and gone nationally. Perhaps the construction workers have too often ignored the King's royal dictum: "Don't go to bed before the King."

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Thai Chef opens in Rockville (Photos)

Thai Chef
is now open at 29 Maryland Avenue at Rockville Town Square. As you can see in these photos, the final product delivered on the architectural renderings released when the new location was announced. Thai Chef has an existing location at Dupont Circle in the District.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Armed carjacking outside Rockville restaurant

Montgomery County police responded to an armed carjacking outside a Rockville restaurant early Monday morning, October 11, 2021. The carjacking was reported outside of a restaurant in the 15200 block of Siesta Key Way at 5:52 AM, according to crime data. That's between the Bell Shady Grove and Mallory Square apartment complexes off Key West Avenue.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Rockville-based Supernus to acquire Adamas Pharmaceuticals

Rockville-based Supernus Pharmaceuticals announced Monday that it is acquiring Adamas Pharmaceuticals, adding to its portfolio of Parkinson's disease treatments. The deal will bring Adamas' GOCOVRI (amantadine) extended release capsules, the first and only U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug for the treatment of both OFF and dyskinesia in patients with Parkinson’s disease who are receiving levodopa-based therapy; and Osmolex ER® (amantadine) extended release tablets, which is FDA-approved for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, and drug-induced extrapyramidal reactions in adults.

The deal is a financial win for Adamas stockholders, and will expand the revenue base and cash flow of Supernus. “This acquisition represents a significant step to further build a strong and diverse Parkinson’s disease portfolio, and aligns with our focus of acquiring value-enhancing, clinically-differentiated medicines to treat CNS diseases,” Jack Khattar, President and CEO of Supernus Pharmaceuticals said in a statement. “We have a proven track record of strong commercial execution, and look forward to building on GOCOVRI’s growth momentum so that more patients can benefit from access to Adamas’ innovative neurological therapies."

Once again, biotech - along with residential housing construction - remain the only bright spots in an otherwise moribund and stagnant Montgomery County economy. This is largely because the smart decisions that led to the growth of Montgomery's biotech sector were made before those who wrecked the County's economy took office in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Supernus is located at 9715 Key West Avenue in Rockville.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Rockville construction update: The Ansel apartments (Photos)

Here's a super-sized update on The Ansel, the new apartment building in Rockville Town Center across from Regal Row. At this later stage in construction, you can really see how the architecture is complimentary to its sister Duball, LLC project across Helen Heneghan Way. 

The official address of The Ansel is 33 Monroe Street, and the building is managed by Bozzuto. Construction remained on-schedule for the fall opening despite the pandemic, and leasing information can be found on the property's website. The following photos are in chronological order, from August 30, 2021 through today: