Saturday, April 30, 2022

Assault at Twinbrook Recreation Center in Rockville

A victim reported being assaulted at the Twinbrook Recreation Center in Rockville Thursday afternoon. Rockville City police were summoned to the facility at 4:30 PM, according to crime data. An individual reported having been the victim of a 2nd-degree assault. Several assaults have been reported in nearby parks and on trails in the vicinity in recent weeks.

2 burglaries on same block of Rockville Pike in one hour

Rockville City police responded to a break-in at a construction site on Rockville Pike Tuesday night, April 26, 2022. The burglary was reported at a construction project in the 1500 block of Rockville Pike at 7:45 PM, according to crime data. Officers found evidence of forced entry at the scene.

About an hour later, officers responded to a second burglary on the same block. This break-in was at a nearby department store. One or more burglars forced their way into the business, causing property damage in the process.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Horizon Therapeutics-leased life sciences building under construction in Rockville (Photos)

A new 10-story, 200,000 square foot life sciences facility called Alexandria Center is now under construction at 9810 Darnestown Road in Rockville. Delivery of the building is expected in 2023. Horizon Therapeutics, an Irish biotech firm, has signed a full-building lease for the property. It plans to use the new space as its primary U.S. East Coast research & development and technical operations hub. Interior fit-out for Horizon will begin once the building is ready for occupancy next year. 

“I am thrilled that Horizon Therapeutics has decided to call Montgomery County home for their East Coast research and development hub,” Montgomery County Executive, Marc Elrich said in a statement released by Horizon. “The mission and work of Horizon make them a natural fit for Montgomery County, and we stand ready to make them feel welcome in Rockville. Horizon’s move to the county is another point to show that Montgomery County is the home for life sciences in the region, and we are excited to continue our work to bring more companies of Horizon’s caliber to the region.”

De Clichy menswear shop to open at Montgomery Mall

De Clichy
menswear shop is coming to Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The store will specialize in men's slim fit, modern fit, casual and formal suits; blazers, tuxedos, shirts, pants, shoes, and other men's fashion accessories. De Clichy has an existing store in Hyattsville. When it opens, look for De Clichy on Level 2 of the mall, next to Chocolate Moonshine.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Signage installed at South Block in Rockville

The sign is up at the future location of South Block at 11803 Grand Park Avenue, at Pike & Rose. A local, DC-area chain, South Block specializes in smoothies, acai bowls, fresh-pressed juices, and avocado or banana toast. This will be their first Maryland location when it opens.

Big Al's Subs and Soups closes at Montgomery Mall (Photos)

Big Al, we hardly knew ye. It was only last December that Big Al's Subs and Soups opened in the Dining Terrace food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Al was big, but apparently wasn't "too big to fail." The Big Al's stall in the food court has been stripped of signage, and was dark and deserted Wednesday.

FYE's Alex Baby & Toys opens at Montgomery Mall (Photos)

Alex Baby & Toys
, a new toy store concept from FYE, is now open at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. By golly, it's a real toy store, not one of those "smart, educational" toy pop-ups, nor aisle upon aisle of toddler toys and strollers, despite the name. G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, Lego, Marvel, Star Wars...everything the mainstream, corporate toy consumer could want is here. 

This is the first of this new concept store to open anywhere in the country; a second is scheduled to open in Massachusetts later this year. It's nice to be the first and get respect from FYE! Look for Alex Baby & Toys on Level 1, in the Old Navy wing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Purse snatching at Rockville grocery store

Rockville City police responded to a report of a purse snatching at the Fallsgrove Village Center late yesterday morning. A purse was snatched at the Safeway grocery store at 14939 Shady Grove Road at 11:45 AM, according to crime data. The thief also shoplifted merchandise from the store as a bonus.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

How do they get a Tesla in and out of an indoor mall Tesla Store? (Video+Photos)

How do they get the Teslas in and out of the Tesla Store at Westfield Montgomery Mall? I always imagined there was a large freight door somewhere beyond the public areas of the mall where cars could enter and exit. But one night recently a Tesla was caught exiting the mall, and was able to go through a regular doorway. Now how do they get combustion engine cars in and out without turning the motor on?

Sexual assault reported in Rockville apartment complex parking lot

Rockville City police were called to an apartment complex after a sexual assault was reported there early yesterday morning. A victim reported having been fondled in the parking lot of the complex in the 2000 block of Baltimore Road at 12:00 AM Monday, according to crime data.

Goldberg's New York Bagels closes at Cabin John Shopping Center

Goldberg's New York Bagels
has closed at 7731 Tuckerman Lane in the Cabin John Shopping Center in Potomac. The shop was open for a decade at the center, which has undergone major changes in recent years. Goldberg's' other locations in Rockville and Silver Spring remain open for business.

Rockville Mayor & Council hear arguments for, against historic designation of 406 Great Falls Road

The fate of a nearly 80-year-old Tudor Revival home at 406 Great Falls Road will be decided by Rockville's Mayor and Council at their May 16, 2022 meeting. Last night, they heard arguments for and against historic designation of the home in a public hearing. The property was nominated for historic designation by local preservation organization Peerless Rockville on June 8, 2021. After an evaluation by city staff found the home met two of the criteria for designation, the Rockville Historic District Commission and Planning Commission both agreed, and the question now goes before the Mayor and Council for a final decision.

406 Great Falls Road was constructed from a Sears Roebuck kit home model called The Belmont. The house has already been listed in the Rockville Historic Buildings Catalogue. Its new owners are seeking to demolish the home and build a larger one on the property. Co-owner Joel Martinez and his architect (and former HDC commissioner) Craig Maloney have argued that the home is in disrepair, and does not qualify for historic preservation. The owners' attorney, Erin Girard, noted last night that the home was rejected for historic designation when it was first nominated in 2007. Given that the house has only further deteriorated since then, and no significant new evidence has been brought forward to argue otherwise, Girard suggested it would be inappropriate for the Mayor and Council to now place it under historic designation.

One point of controversy is whether or not the owners plan to live in the home, or are developers who are merely going to build a new home and then flip the property. West End resident and former mayor Larry Giammo testified that he considers the owners to be developers, as they recently tore down another home at 515 Beall Avenue. After building a new home on the site, they then sold it for $1.15 million, he reported.

Martinez was asked by the Mayor and Council if he would like to respond to the assertion that the owners plan to do another teardown flip project. He testified that he had built a dream house to live in permanently at 515 Beall, and that it had won an architectural award. But, he said, a neighbor would park his pickup truck in front of the home, so that he had no place for his own vehicles or those of his guests to park, and could not put his trash cans out for curbside pickup.

When he asked the neighbor about moving the truck, the neighbor allegedly responded that he knew Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, and "threatened me with your name, Madam Mayor," Martinez testified. Thus, he and his co-owner decided to sell the home, purchase 406 Great Falls, and build a similar house in its place. Martinez said the new home site has plenty of parking for the use of owners and guests.

Doug Lunenfeld, a neighbor of the owners in the West End, a real estate professional, and an active landlord in the city, backed Martinez' assertion that he is not simply a house flipper and developer. "That is not the case," Lunenfeld testified. "I am 100% certain that these owners want to build their dream home." He called 406 Great Falls a "dilapidated home," and urged the Mayor and Council to take a walk-through of the house before they vote next month. "The integrity was bad in 2007," Lunenfeld said, and it's even worse now. He argued that the gateway to Rockville would be improved by the prospective new home. "Let's make it the great gateway again," he concluded.

But Giammo posited that the owners would know that city staff had just recommended historic designation for the home, when the previous owners had sought to tear it down in 2020, if they had done "due diligence" in making the purchase. Giammo, himself a licensed real estate agent and broker, noted that their real estate agent would have been required to notify them of that fact, even if the owners hadn't researched the matter themselves. They were also familiar with the process from having gone through the historic designation evaluation of 515 Beall, he added. Peerless Rockville has made an "objective, compelling and unassailable case" for preservation of the home, Giammo said.

Peerless Rockville's Director, Nancy Pickard, underscored the fact that her organization has been extremely sparing in its nomination of homes for historic designation. Their nomination of 406 Great Falls has been supported by both of the city commissions whose approval is necessary, she testified, and that it is a rare example of a Tudor Revival home in the city. "We felt very strongly that this property merits this protection," she said.

West End resident Noreen Bryan testified that, like Lunenfeld, she lives on a nearby street. She, too, referred to Great Falls as the gateway to the city, but viewed that as a reason to preserve the home, not tear it down. The architecture and its placement on the large lot with generous setback makes it a key landmark that is visually memorable, "and has been so for nearly 80 years," she noted. Bryan said that 406 Great Falls is "unusual and therefore precious," and is key to the defintion of the West End's neigbhorhood character. "This property is of great importance to the city," she said.

Another nearby West End resident, Margaret Magner, also testified in favor of historic designation. She asked the Mayor and Council to consider that, in the time since the designation of the home was not approved in 2007, many more original Rockville homes have been lost. That makes the home "of greater value to the community today than it was 15 years ago," she suggested. Magner also expressed concern that a window of the house has been left open during bad weather recently.

Councilmember David Myles sought to clarify the notation by the city's preservation expert, Sheila Bashiri, that historic designation would still allow the property to be added to or altered. This was confirmed by staff. But Maloney said that, in this particular case, the condition and size of the property is such that the modification route is not viable. 

Of the residents who submitted written testimony to the HDC, thirteen supported historic designation of 406 Great Falls, and one opposed it.

Photos via City of Rockville

Monday, April 25, 2022

Rockville Planning Commission meeting canceled

The previously scheduled meeting of the Rockville Planning Commission on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 has been canceled. Commissioners are next scheduled to meet on the evening of Wednesday, May 11, 2022. No reason was given for the cancellation of the April meeting.

Rockville Amazon Fresh construction update (Photos)

The Amazon Fresh grocery store continues to move closer to opening at the 270 Center on Shady Grove Road, on the border of Rockville and Gaithersburg. Shelving, refrigerator cases and displays are being put into place inside. Out in the parking lot, you can see a cart return structure has been erected. Ever-secretive Amazon still hasn't publicly acknowledged this store exists; it was 19 months ago that I broke the news of the tech giant's plans to convert this office supply store into an Amazon Fresh.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Peeping Tom spotted at Rockville condo complex

Montgomery County police were called to a Rockville condominium complex Friday night after a Peeping Tom was spotted on the premises. The incident was reported at a condo property in the 15300 block of Diamond Cove Terrace at 7:10 PM, according to crime data. That is close to the border with Gaithersburg and the Crown Farm development.

Assault at Rockville Metro station

Rockville City police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at the Rockville Metro station early yesterday morning. The assault was reported in a parking area near the station at 5:38 AM, according to crime data.