Thursday, July 18, 2024

Wild Custom Apparel closing at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

It looks like Wild Custom Apparel was a little too wild for shoppers at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The custom printing shop is closing after 15 months in business at the mall. A closing sale is now underway. Look for Wild Custom Apparel on Level 1 of the mall, next to Mind Games.

Police called after assault at Rockville grocery store

Rockville City police were called to a grocery store at the King Farm Village Center, after an individual was allegedly assaulted there Saturday night, July 13, 2024. The assault was reported at the Safeway store at 403 Redland Boulevard at 9:05 PM. An individual was also accused of shoplifting in the same incident.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Assault at Rockville apartment building

Rockville City police were called to investigate an assault at an apartment building on Saturday night, July 13, 2024. The assault was reported in the 500 block of Monroe Street at 8:20 PM. It took place in the parking lot of the apartments.

Mind Games signage installed at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

The sign is up at Mind Games, the new toy store opening soon at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. A Toronto-based chain, Mind Games sells books, educational toys, and games alongside the conventional popular toys. It also has its own house-brand products. Familiar toy brands stocked include Lego, Funko, Mattel, and Maisto.

Operating hours of the store will be 10:00 AM to 9:00 PM Monday through Saturday, and 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Sundays. Look for Mind Games on Level 1 of the mall, next to Build-A-Bear Workshop. 

Armed robbery in Rockville

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed robbery in Rockville this past Saturday, July 13, 2024. The robbery was reported in the 2600 block of Research Boulevard at 9:58 PM Saturday. It took place in a commercial parking lot near the intersection with Shady Grove Road.

Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Sheepskin Gifts and Alpaca Too returns to Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

It's Christmas in July at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Sheepskin Gifts and Alpaca Too has been a seasonal tenant at the mall in recent years, popping up during the holiday shopping season from mid-fall to mid-winter. But the apparel store is making an early return to the mall. Few people are thinking about warm clothing as thermometers reach 100 degrees and higher today, but alpaca wool is known for its ability to wick moisture away from the skin during the summer season. Look for Sheepskin Gifts and Alpaca Too on Level 1, at the center of the mall.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Läderach opens at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

has opened at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The premium Swiss chocolatier is the largest such company in Switzerland. Its more than 150 retail locations worldwide include seven at Westfield malls, predominately at their California properties. Look for Läderach on Level 2 of the mall, next to De Clichy Menswear.

Pollo Campero opens at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Workers had been seen going in and out of the new Pollo Campero in the Dining Terrace food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda over the last two weeks. Now the Latin American chicken chain's latest location has opened for business. As you can see in the photo below, it is already a popular addition to the mall's lineup of eateries. Westfield is going all-in on Pollo Campero in Montgomery Mall, to which it has also leased a space at its Wheaton Plaza mall food court, as well.

Kajiken holding soft opening in Rockville

The doors have opened at Kajiken at 1701 Rockville Pike A7, at the Shops at Congressional Village. A soft opening is being held through Wednesday, July 17, 2024. Soft opening hours are 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM for lunch, and 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM for dinner. Each day, you'll have a chance to win a tote bag by playing Rock-Paper-Scissors with restaurant staff. 10 bags will be given away each day, while supplies last.

Kajiken was founded in Japan in 2010. The chain specializes in the abura soba style of ramen. This soupless ramen derives its flavors from a distinctive blend of sauces imported directly from Japan, and cooking oil. Their homemade noodles are thicker and chewier than those served in most ramen establishments. Without a heavy broth in the bowl, Kajiken's dishes tend to be lower in fat and calories than typical ramen. Kajiken is one of several new Asian restaurants opening at the Shops at Congressional Village this year.

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Strong-arm robbery at Rockville apartment complex

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm robbery in the Twinbrook area of Rockville on Thursday, July 12, 2024. The robbery was reported at 4:30 AM in the 13200 block of Twinbrook Parkway. It occurred at an apartment building on that block, which is near Veirs Mill Road.

Saturday, July 13, 2024

Little Miner Taco sets opening date in Rockville

Little Miner Taco
has set an opening date for its new Rockville location. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is now scheduled to be held at the restaurant at 39 Maryland Avenue at Rockville Town Square on Thursday, July 18, 2024. Little Miner Taco was previously located inside The Block, the food hall at Pike & Rose that recently closed. The signature dish that has gained them fame in the Washington, D.C. region is their birria taco.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Win free ice cream for a year at Häagen-Dazs grand opening in Rockville July 13

The new Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop at 1615 Rockville Pike at Congressional Plaza will celebrate its grand opening tomorrow, Saturday, July 13, 2024 from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. If you are one of the first 500 guests through the door, you will receive a free mini cup or cone of ice cream. There will also be scratch-off cards that will give you the chance to win free ice cream for a year. The arrival of Häagen-Dazs is wonderful news after the loss of Baskin Robbins at Congressional Plaza five years ago.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Virginia is named #1 state for business; Maryland is...31st

released its annual America's Top States for Business list this morning, and as usual, our neighbor across the Potomac has cleaned our clock once again. The cable network declared Virginia the top state for business in America. Maryland ranked 31st on the list for 2024. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is already taking a victory lap this morning. "I am thrilled that our great Commonwealth has been named America’s Top State for Business," Youngkin said in a statement. Rest assured you won't be seeing a press release from Maryland today on the subject.

You won't be surprised to know that other states in the top 10 include Texas and Tennessee. But southern, right-to-work states didn't completely dominate the top tier, as union redoubts Minnesota, Michigan, and Washington came in at #6, #9, and #10, respectively. Pro-labor policies don't make for an anti-business state all by themselves.

Delaware surprisingly finished below Maryland. The First State is usually associated with corporations, but is apparently a better place to incorporate your business than to actually operate a business - in CNBC's evaluation. Of course, Elon would strongly disagree.

Why is Maryland failing? It isn't only our failure to attract Fortune 500 companies to the state.

Virginia has the third-best infrastructure in America, according to CNBC. Maryland's infrastructure is ranked way down at 37th-best in America. Ouch. This isn't surprising when you consider that Virginia has built countless miles of new highways; installed Express Lanes on I-395, I-495, and all the way down to Fredericksburg on I-95; expanded Metro subway service through Fairfax and Loudoun Counties to Dulles Airport; now has three passenger airports in Northern Virginia alone, including the vast array of international business destinations only accessible via Dulles Airport; and has greatly expanded - at its own expense - Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express rail service. CNBC also took note of Virginia's "shovel-ready" site availablity. 

Over the same period, Maryland has built - well, not much at all. Maryland finally managed to replace the Nice Bridge over the Potomac River after many delays, only to see the Key Bridge in Baltimore collapse because state leaders for decades failed to make the necessary safety improvements they were warned to in 1980. The Purple Line delays speak for themselves. Gov. Wes Moore recently revived the plans for the Baltimore Red Line, but the state lacks any money to build it in the foreseeable future. 

Likewise, there's no cash for commuter rail in Southern Maryland or a new Bay Bridge, and any financial drain from the operation of the Purple Line is already directed to take money from other transportation projects to cover the shortfall. Maryland continues to kick the solutions for congestion on I-270 and I-495 can down the road. 

Montgomery County likes to cancel transportation infrastructure as much as it likes to ban things. Unless you are a bike lane, you are likely to be canceled by the County Council. The Council's transportation fails include announcing the cancellation of the Montrose Parkway East in White Flint on the very day that Amazon reps were touring the White Flint area during the Amazon HQ2 competition. Our talented County Council also canceled all of the major transportation infrastructure that was required to support its approval of massive housing development in Germantown, Clarksburg and Damascus - - the Corridor Cities Transitway light rail system, and the M-83 Highway. The Rockville Freeway? Removed from the master plan decades ago.

Maryland infamously continues to block construction of any new bridges over the Potomac River, denying itself congestion relief that might negate the need to widen the Beltway and I-270, as well as providing direct access to Dulles Airport that would be essential to attracting major corporations to the I-270 corridor. That highway extension of I-370 to VA-28 has an existing right-of-way from Gaithersburg to the Potomac River crossing site, but none of the intelligence, will, or leadership to build it.

The infrastructure picture in Maryland is so bad, we couldn't even keep the ancient White's Ferry operating. Remember when former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich built an entire highway, the InterCounty Connector, all by himself? It is now, rightfully, named for him. Our leaders today are super low-energy, by comparison.

Former MD Gov. Bob Ehrlich

Where else does Maryland fall short for business, according to CNBC? We're nearly the worst in America for the "Cost of Doing Business," landing at 47 out of 50. "Right into the buckle - that's gotta hurt, Gene." Montgomery County has the highest tax burden in the Washington, D.C. region, and our County and State tax structures are simply not competitive with Virginia.

CNBC shares the growing consensus that the economies of Montgomery County and Maryland are moribund. Maryland's economy ranks 30th out of all 50 states on their list. And that's probably being very generous of them. Grading on a curve.

Maryland's score for "Workforce" is nearly as bad, at 28 out of 50. This is shocking given that we have some of the most highly-educated populations in America in several counties. But CNBC finds our workforce to be worse than average.

Virginia is #1 for education. Maryland is #14. This isn't surprising if you've watched the slow motion 100-car-pileup decline of Montgomery County Public Schools since the departure of Dr. Jerry Weast, the last MCPS superintendent who - for whatever faults he had - was actually professionally-qualified for the job.

Maryland ranks way down at #37 for "Business Friendliness." Virginia is #5 in that column.

If you're an elected official in Maryland,
don't turn on CNBC today

The news isn't all bad. Maryland rises to 16 out of 50 in quality of life. Texas is dead last in that category. But Virginia is only 3 points behind us at 19th. The Commonwealth was also 19th in cost-of-living. That means they beat us there, too. 

CNBC also ranks Maryland in the top 10 states for Technology and Innovation, at #8. This is pretty surprising, too, but likely the result of Montgomery County's only economic bright spot, the biotech sector. Virginia has superior tech infrastructure, and has been home to many more notable tech firms, but somehow ends up at 15 in this category.

We already know that Montgomery County hasn't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in over a quarter century. But it's becoming more surprising by the day that Gov. Moore has been unable to attract such HQs or significant manufacturing facilities to the state. One of his biggest calling cards and selling points was that he was a successful Wall Street businessman. He regularly hobnobs and fundraises among the financial elite on Martha's Vineyard and in the Hamptons. Surely, his Rolodex is bursting at the seams with CEO phone numbers. But, perplexingly, he has yet to score a big win in the corporate HQ and factory races.

The CNBC list only reinforces what engaged observers in our County and State already know. We're in real trouble, folks. And the lack of business starts, development and growth are hitting the County and State budgets harder than ever. Just look at the latest County Council tax hikes (and ballot questions to facilitate even-bigger tax hikes starting next year), and the dystopian budget headlines out of Annapolis. 

We can't go on like this.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Construction advancing on the newest neighborhood in Rockville (Photos)

Construction of the newest residential neighborhood in Rockville is surging ahead. Developer EYA's Farmstead District is taking shape at 2590 Farmstead Drive, off of MD 355, between King Farm and Shady Grove Road. Not only is the neighborhood new, but the land it's being constructed on was only recently officially annexed into the City of Rockville. EYA and a second homebuilder, Pulte, both have sales centers for prospective buyers.

You'll notice the barn-inspired architecture of some of the homes. That's no accident. Many of the design elements are not just influenced by American farm iconography, but by the namesake King Farm farmstead that sits directly adjacent to the Farmstead District. The new development's resident clubhouse will resemble a farmhouse, and a park will be surrounded by white fencing you might have seen on drives along country roads. Something you probably haven't seen along country roads is a subway station: the Shady Grove Metro station within walking distance of the Farmstead District.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Assault at Shady Grove Metro station

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at the Shady Grove Metro station early Sunday morning, July 7, 2024. The assault was reported at the station at 3:52 AM Sunday. No trains operate at that hour on Sunday. Police were called to the parking lot of the station, which is located in the 15900 block of Somerville Drive in Derwood, to meet the victim of the assault.

Monday, July 8, 2024

New retail development proposed for "impossible" Rockville property

Attempts to redevelop a lucrative but hard-to-access piece of land along Rockville Pike have failed for nearly twenty years. Previous proposals for a furniture store and a shopping center on the former gas station site at 900 Rockville Pike stalled, and ultimately went nowhere. Property owner Danshes, LLC is hoping the third time will be the charm. 

Location of the property

A public hearing by the Mayor and Council will be held tonight, July 8, 2024 at 7:00 PM at Rockville City Hall on a proposed amendment to the approved 2006 furniture store project plan. It proposes a 27' tall retail building in lieu of the furniture store, with 4400-square-feet of retail space, and a surface parking lot at the south end of the property. 33% of the property would be green space, and 15% of that would be "public use space." 

Proposed new retail use and parking lot

Of interest to residents, no restaurant tenants would be permitted in the new development without a change-of-use approval, so the new development would be retail-only. And the "unknown" future tenant will be a single retail business, according to a May 2023 letter from the architecture firm designing the proposed retail center.

One of the major obstacles to redeveloping the property after the closure of the gas station was its location. While it is a prime property on one of the busiest commuter routes in Maryland, it is hemmed in on three sides by Edmonston Drive to the north, by the CSX and Metrorail tracks to the east, and by the Edmonston Crossing development to the south. The Edmonston Crossing property includes a popular strip mall and office building.

Questions of ingress and egress, existing and proposed curb cuts, and liability and congestion issues of a shared curb cut with Edmonston Crossing were all controversial in the past. Forcing Edmonston Crossing to bear the full weight of all of the new traffic in and out of 900 Rockville Pike was an issue for the Edmonston Crossing property owner, and new curb cuts onto the Pike or so close to a bridge and busy intersection on Edmonston were opposed by transportation agencies.

The new proposal once again suggests using the existing curb cut for Edmonston Crossing. According to City planning staff, the owner of Edmonston Crossing continues to oppose the impacts of this vehicular access plan. But City staff are currently arguing that their review of "historical records" leads them to conclude that "drivers visiting the subject property can reach the site from the recorded public access easement, which can be accessed from multiple curb cuts [at Edmonston Crossing] south of the subject site." Those curb cuts further south of the Edmonston Crossing property include ones near Taco Bell and Best Buy. However, those vehicles would still ultimately have to travel through the Edmonston Crossing property to reach the easement.

A 2011 Rockville Planning Commission decision, ordered by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, approved the use of Edmonston Crossing's curb cuts over the objection of that property's owner. But the development of the furniture store stalled, and that approval expired.

Jim Whalen of Edmonston Properties LLC and Investment Properties, Inc., the owner of Edmonston Crossing, continues to dispute the view of the applicant and City staff regarding the public access easement. Whalen "argues that a narrow strip of private property separates the public right of way from the public access easement at the northernmost curb cut, granting him the right to exclude visitors to the subject property [900 Rockville Pike] from using that curb cut." the staff report states. In contrast, City staff have countered that the public access easement was a part of previous development approvals dating back more than 50 years.

How did the previous gas station business at 900 Rockville Pike operate with regard to access, you might ask. It had two curb cuts, one onto the Pike, and one onto Edmonston Drive. The two curb cuts that directly access the property have ceased to be viable since that business closed. 

A curb cut on Edmonston Drive was
closed off over a decade ago

A previous curb cut onto Edmonston was ordered closed by transportation officials in the past, the staff report indicates. And the Maryland State Highway Administration has said that the existing curb cut along Rockville Pike is too dangerous, because it is accessible from a right-turn lane on the Pike, and therefore recommends the use of the proposed public access easement instead. It's unclear how that existing right to direct Pike access is not grandfathered in for 900 Rockville Pike, with the result that SHA forces a dispute with the Edmonston Crossing property owner.

This curb cut along the Rockville Pike side of
the property remains in place, but the MDSHA
doesn't want the new development to use it

Access is not the only transportation-related challenge for the 900 Rockville Pike site. The new retail use proposed is smaller than the one proposed in 2016. Part of the reason for the approximately 2000-3000 fewer SF of the new project is the taking of more of the MD 355 right-of-way for a future Bus Rapid Transit line that would pass by the property.

Staff are recommending approval of the plan amendment, but have attached a list of 21 conditions that it suggests the Mayor and Council mandate for release of the required permits for the project. These include closure of the Rockville Pike curb cut, limiting of all trash or service vehicles to "SU-30 equivalent or smaller" trucks, compliance with all provisions of the WMATA right-of-way and easement requirements at the rear of the property, and termination of any existing City of Rockville right-of-way easements (likely for the service road that was for decades envisioned to one day run alongside the Pike between Twinbrook Parkway and Dodge Street; several segments of this were constructed, but the vision was abandoned in the latest Rockville Pike Plan).

If the Mayor and Council direct City staff to prepare a resolution of approval for the amendment at the conclusion of tonight's public hearing and meeting, they would likely vote on the resolution at their August 5 meeting. Should they not give such instruction to staff, the amendment would be placed on the August 5 agenda for further discussion, postponing any such vote until September 30.

Can the applicant pull it off this time, and successfully redevelop a prime site that at least one Rockville real estate observer declared an "impossible property" after previous attempts fizzled out? Will the owner of Edmonston Crossing take legal action to defend his rights and interests, if the Mayor and Council accept staff's analysis of the access easement and approve the amendment? Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Yummy Bowl "coming soon" to Rockville

Yummy Bowl
is "coming soon" to 2010 Veirs Mill Road in the Twinbrook area of Rockville, according to signage posted in the storefront windows. The growing restaurant chain specializes in sushi, ramen and Mongolian stir-fry dishes. Your "culinary journey through Asia" will also include Korean-style fried chicken, the brand promises. 

Yummy Bowl currently has - or will soon open - locations in Alabama, Delaware, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia. Their Rockville restaurant will be their first in Maryland.

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Upgraded Tesla Model 3 at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda (Photos)

Westfield Montgomery Mall is located in one of areas of the country with the greatest adoption of electric vehicles. It also has a Tesla store. Therefore, it's not surprising that the company has been showcasing the new upgraded Model 3 at the mall. The Model 3 now comes in the new color choices of Ultra Red and Stealth Grey. Changes to the interior include wrap-around ambient lighting, ventilated front seats, acoustic glass, "studio quality sound from every seat," and a rear touchscreen display.

Fugitive captured after he's caught urinating in public in Rockville

If you are currently wanted by the police, the smartest mode of operation is to avoid engaging in further illegal activity that might attract the attention of law enforcement. That strategy eluded an individual who allegedly was caught urinating in public in the 2000 block of Veirs Mill Road in Rockville on June 29, 2024. A Rockville City police officer ran the 32-year-old suspect's name through the system, and learned that the man had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, for failure to appear in court. He was taken into custody on both matters, police report.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Kusshi opens in Rockville

has opened at 36-G Maryland Avenue at Rockville Town Square. The popular local sushi chain has now grown to seven locations with this opening in Rockville. Initial operating hours will be 11:00 AM to 12:45 AM Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 AM to 1:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Kusshi replaces Sushi Damo in this space, which has been vacant since October 2023.

Assault at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda Monday night, July 1, 2024. The assault was reported at the mall at 8:40 PM Monday. 

This is the eighth assault reported at the popular retail center this year, as violent crime at the mall continues to outpace the totals of last year. The property had managed to go assault-free since April 14 - until Monday. 

By contrast, only five assaults were reported at the mall in all of 2023. Montgomery Mall is currently on pace to triple last year's total.

Several of this year's assaults have taken place as shoplifters attempted to flee the mall with stolen merchandise, including one on March 5 that came to light last month when Montgomery County police released a photo of the suspect whom they alleged assaulted a Macy's employee.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Dawson's Market closes in Rockville (Photos)

Dawson's Market
has closed at 225 N. Washington Street at Rockville Town Square. The permanent closure ends a long but tumultuous run for the grocery store at the struggling Town Center development. It also leaves an anchor retail space vacant at property that already has no shortage of empty storefronts. A bigger-name chain grocer could spur more shoppers to patronize Rockville Town Square, but property owner Morguard faces the same challenge as the original developer here, in that the poorly-designed-and-placed grocery space was turned down by many such supermarkets almost twenty years ago.

The space is well-sized for brands like Aldi, Lidl or Trader Joe's. If one of those can be attracted here, the famous brand will have to overcome the shortfalls of being hidden away from the busy state highway MD 355 at the very back of the development, and the almost universally-despised parking scheme at Rockville Town Square. The latter was improved in recent years by finally allowing free parking for 2 hours. But the dungeon-like garages, paid parking and validation memories of the past persist in the minds of many, and there is a Giant and a Food Lion with free, hassle-free surface parking only a short distance from Rockville Town Square.