Showing posts with label Gaithersburg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gaithersburg. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Gaithersburg City Council eases path to approval of Guapo's dining pier at Rio Lakefront

Rio Lakefront continues to pose a major competitive challenge to rival developments in the City of Rockville, with the foundational advantage of free parking. Last night, Gaithersburg's City Council voted 3-2 to shorten the approval process for a proposed dining pier at Guapo's at the popular development off of I-270. Councilmembers Neil Harris, Lisa Henderson, and Robert Wu voted in favor of the expedited process; Councilmembers Jim McNulty and Yamil Hern├índez cast the dissenting votes. The majority voted to approve the first of two options, declaring the pier proposal to be a change of minor effect, and allow the Planning Commission to make the final decision on the matter. Their other option would have been to declare the proposed addition to pose a detrimental impact to the property, which would trigger a longer approval process with a public hearing, and a final vote by the Council.

Opponents, and some who voted in favor, focused on two major concerns. First, the possibility that an increasing number of restaurant tenants would seek to have their own barges on the lake, thereby blocking water views for pedestrians and other tenants. And second, the possible pedestrian conflicts with servers frequently crossing the boardwalk with trays of food.

But the horse has already left the proverbial barn on this issue from a rhetorical and legal standpoint. The Mayor and Council have already approved a similar dining pier for Copper Canyon Grill at the property. Any other tenant could now cry foul with that precedent being set, and the time for hand-wringing about the potential drawbacks was when the original Copper Canyon pier was on the table for debate.

Guapo's supporters, including Mayor Jud Ashman, said they were confident that property owner Peterson Cos. would be capable of policing these questions on its own, and would be unlikely to allow actions that were detrimental to its long-term success. Ashman added that he would like to see more outdoor dining options in the city, in general. It's likely that Peterson will also benefit from higher revenues as more barges are approved, as it will be leasing additional square footage to the tenants in question.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Wawa Gaithersburg signage, gas pumps installed ahead of December opening (Photos)

There are real "signs" of progress at the construction site of Montgomery County's first Wawa at 405 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. The most visible to drivers passing on MD 355 is the roadside sign with the Wawa logo, and digital displays for gas prices. But the main logo sign is also now on the storefront of the convenience store, as well. Wawa-branded gas pumps have been installed, and safety bollards in line with the pumps. Above them is the Wawa logo signage for the gas station canopy. 

When will the Gaithersburg Wawa open? The chain's current target opening date is December 2023. There's still a not-insigniicant amount of paving and landscaping work to be done on the site. Let's see if they can get it done before the ball drops on New Year's Eve.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Tobacco Hut opens in Gaithersburg

Tobacco Hut & Vape
is now open at 309 N. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. The shop offers all of the standard tobacco products you are looking for, plus vaping supplies, CBD and hemp products, pipes and hookah equipment. Tobacco Hut is open seven days a week from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. It's hard to miss in that former hair salon house location, on Gaithersburg's main drag, directly across from Forest Oak Cemetery. Convenient free parking is available behind the store.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Maryland Governor Wes Moore visits AstraZeneca lab in Montgomery County

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) traveled to Gaithersburg to visit the AstraZeneca laboratory, and to make a big announcement. AstraZeneca is one of the largest biotech employers in Montgomery County and Maryland, and is located in the I-270 life sciences corridor. Moore chose the location to announce a new partnership between the Maryland Tech Council's Biohub Maryland initiative and Ireland's National Institute of Bioprocessing Research and Training. Ireland is one of the fastest-growing pharmaceutical manufacturing countries in the world, and the agreement makes Biohub Maryland NIBRT's exclusive partner in the Washington, D.C. region.

Moore toured the complex, and greeted AstraZeneca employees and biotech leaders. At one point, the governor donned a white lab coat and safety glasses to enter an actual laboratory in the facility. “Today, we’re not just here to celebrate this new BioHub partnership. We’re here to celebrate a new direction for Maryland’s economy and workforce,” Moore said. “We are ready to win. We are ready to grow and we are ready to show the entire country what we’re made of.”

Photos courtesy Maryland Governor's office

Monday, November 6, 2023

Akira Ramen & Izakaya opening Tuesday in Gaithersburg

Akira Ramen & Izakaya
will open its newest Montgomery County location tomorrow, Tuesday, November 7, 2023 at 105 Paramount Park Drive at the Spectrum development in Gaithersburg. It will be located next to Ela Mesa Taste of Greece, and is convenient to the Watkins Mill interchange of I-270. Akira Ramen has an existing location in the county in Rockville.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Gaithersburg Mayor & Council pave way for new Sheetz, Aldi stores at Walnut Hill with annexation vote

A new Sheetz convenience store and gas station, and a new Aldi supermarket, will soon be constructed at the Walnut Hill Shopping Center at 16529 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg, after the city's mayor and council voted unanimously to annex the retail property into the city limits last night. Several councilmembers expressed their optimism and excitement about revitalizing the shopping center, which has suffered a drop in customer traffic since anchor tenant Weis Markets closed in 2020. Walnut Hill's owners have said the revenue from a Sheetz store is needed to finance the property improvements Aldi requires, and the more business-friendly zoning of the City of Gaithersburg was needed to allow the Sheetz.

Concerns about the proximity of the proposed Sheetz to the just-opened Sheetz at MD 355 and Montgomery Village Avenue were lessened, after the business model of the convenience store chain was clarified to city officials. Those who travel the highways in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and - more recently - Maryland are familiar with passing multiple Sheetz, Wawa, Royal Farms, Dash-In, etc. stores along the way.

The mayor and council voted unanimously at the end of last night's meeting to approve both agenda items related to the annexation of the shopping center, which now becomes part of the city. They approved the formal annexation petition, as well as a separate resolution that authorizes the City Manager to negotiate an annexation agreement with the owners of Walnut Hill, and of a vacant lot at 8939 Westland Drive.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Gaithersburg Mayor & Council could annex Walnut Hill Shopping Center into City tonight

The Walnut Hill Shopping Center at 16529 S. Frederick Avenue hopes to soon count an Aldi grocery store, and a Sheetz convenience store and gas station, among its tenants. To achieve this, it must first be annexed into the City of Gaithersburg, which has the zoning allowances required for Sheetz that Montgomery County does not. Walnut Hill's owners have argued that the income from the prospective Sheetz store is necessary to fund the property improvements needed to meet the needs of Aldi. The long-awaited annexation decision is on Mayor and Council meeting agenda for tonight, Monday, October 16, 2023 at 7:30 PM at City Hall.

This past summer, the City's Planning Commission voted to recommend that the Mayor and Council approve the annexation. City staff has asked the Mayor and Council to vote tonight on the annexation petition, and a separate resolution that will authorize the City Manager to negotiate an annexation agreement with the owners of Walnut Hill, and of a vacant lot at 8939 Westland Drive. Both measures are expected to pass.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Sheetz "highly impressed with the performance" of its first Montgomery County store in Gaithersburg

says it is "highly impressed with the performance" of its first store in Montgomery County, which opened in August at 751 Progress Way in Gaithersburg. The rapidly-growing convenience store and mega gas station chain provided its impression of the early financial success of the store in a new memo to the Gaithersburg Mayor and Council, which provided answers to questions raised at a previous public hearing regarding its planned second store at the Walnut Hill Shopping Center. In the unsigned memo, the company also expressed its appreciation for the support it has received from the City and the public, as it enters the Montgomery County market. 

The Altoona, Pennsylvania-based chain also reports 350 people attended the grand opening. In addition to the $2500 donations it made to Special Olympics Maryland and Feeding America that day, Sheetz says it has now made a second $6000 donation to SOM, which was generated by proceeds from its special discount fuel promotion during the grand opening period.

Gaithersburg has provided a welcoming launch point for the chain, as its zoning is friendlier to Sheetz than Montgomery County's, as well as to its fellow Pennsylvania competitor, Wawa. That is why both firms are launching their entry into Montgomery County within its city limits. It's also why the Walnut Hill Shopping Center is seeking annexation into the City, so that it can add the Sheetz store to its property.

Sheetz says its Walnut Hill store will be smaller and have less gas pumps, due to its closer proximity to a residential neighborhood than its Progress Way store - although that store was also smaller than the typical Sheetz operation found on major highways. It predicts that there is enough drive-by traffic on I-270 and MD 355 to support both Sheetz locations. Sheetz also believes that the lack of fast food restaurants in the immediate proximity of Walnut Hill provides demand for its quick-service fresh food operations. An attorney representing Walnut Hill Shopping Center, in separate correspondence to the Mayor and Council on September 19, says that the revenue provided by the Sheetz store will cover the cost of needed upgrades to the property.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Montgomery County's first Wawa store begins hiring as construction continues (Photos)

Montgomery County's first Wawa convenience store has begun hiring at 405 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg. Applications are now being accepted in three job categories at Customer service associate, customer service supervisor and overnight team supervisor. Meanwhile, at the store site, the first glass panels have been installed in the storefront. Stone has also been installed on two pillars in front of the entrance, and along the lower facade of the store building.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The heart of Olde Towne Gaithersburg is up for sale

The potential sale of a sprawling set of classic retail properties in the heart of Olde Towne Gaithersburg could have a transformative impact on one of the few remaining historic downtown cores in Montgomery County. Five contiguous retail properties with frontage along E. Diamond Avenue and N. Summit Avenue are now on the market. Of course, any sense of continuity of character in Gaithersburg went out the window some time ago, with the development of the soulless, cheap-looking, stack-and-pack Gaithersburg Station apartments further down at 370 E. Diamond. It's a travesty. Will the heart of Olde Towne now meet the same fate?

What's up for sale? 206-208 E. Diamond Avenue, 210-216 E. Diamond Avenue, 220 E. Diamond Avenue and 226 E. Diamond Avenue. It's a total of 32,819-square-feet of land on 1.65 acres. Current zoning allows a maximum building height of four stories on this site. The sale listing notes that the City of Gaithersburg is likely to demand first floor retail in any redevelopment. Parking waivers will be available due to nearby public parking. The listing says there are no historical preservation requirements, another travesty.

This will be a "historic" redevelopment opportunity in a historic downtown. Is there a developer who can do this responsibly, and maintain the Olde Towne character on a site visible from the historic B&O Railroad train station? A site that is one of the first things seen upon entering the heart of Olde Towne on Summit Avenue? I'll concede that the site is certainly easy walking distance to MARC commuter rail, but haven't we learned anything from the wholesale destruction of the historic downtowns of Rockville and Bethesda in the past? This is a saga worth watching closely.

Photos courtesy Transwestern/LoopNet

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Want to buy Montgomery County's first Wawa store? It'll cost you $8 million

The first Wawa store in Montgomery County hasn't even opened yet, and it's already for sale. Now under construction at 405 S. Frederick Avenue in Gaithersburg, the store could be yours for $7,957,000. Does that include unlimited Gobbler sandwiches? That question would probably rank a distant second to the one on most Wawa fans' minds for the last several years, namely, when is the Gaithersburg Wawa opening? The online sale listing gives us the best clue yet, as it notes that Wawa's lease will commence in November 2023.

Wawa's Gaithersburg NNN ground lease has a primary term of 20 years, with 10% rent increases every 5 years, and six 5-year renewal options, indicating the chain is here in Montgomery County for the long haul. That rent will go to you, if you are the lucky buyer with $8 million burning a hole in your pocket. 

The sale listing goes on to describe the Gaithersburg Wawa's prime location on busy MD 355 across from Gaithersburg High School, and the rarity of a Wawa store in the area. "Currently under construction, this location will be Gaithersburg’s first Wawa store and will serve as Wawa’s long awaited first store along the I-270 corridor outside of Washington, D.C. There are currently no Wawa locations northwest of D.C. along the interstate until the I-270/I-70 interchange in Frederick, MD over 20 miles away."

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Anheuser-Busch InBev, Montgomery Eagle donate emergency drinking water to Laytonsville VFD

Anheuser-Busch InBev and Montgomery Eagle donated cases of canned emergency drinking water to the Laytonsville District Volunteer Fire Department yesterday. The supply of canned water is intended for use during disaster relief and other extended crisis events where first responders need to stay hydrated, and may not have access to drinking water. AB InBev has committed to delivering more than 2.5 million cans of drinking water to volunteer fire departments across the country this year in support of disaster preparedness and relief efforts. Montgomery Eagle is a Gaithersburg-based AB InBev marketing firm. 

The donation was made in coordination with the National Volunteer Fire Council. Volunteer firefighters make up over two-thirds of the nation's fire response personnel. The emergency drinking water donated to Laytonsville VFD came from Anheuser-Busch’s brewery in Cartersville, Georgia, which periodically pauses beer production to can drinking water in support of nationwide disaster relief and preparedness efforts.

“We’re proud to partner with AB InBev in its effort to ensure no fire department goes without the critical emergency provision that is safe drinking water,” Montgomery Eagle President Neal Katcef said in a statement. “When our Laytonsville firefighters put their lives on the line for our community, it’s important for us all to ensure they have the resources they need to do their jobs.” Katcef Brothers, which owns Montgomery Eagle, is a family-owned beverage distribution company that has been in business since 1933.

Photos courtesy Trident DMG

Friday, June 23, 2023

Break-in at shuttered Lakeforest Mall

It was inevitable, and it's almost certainly not the last time it will happen. Someone tried to get inside the shuttered Lakeforest Mall at 701 Russell Avenue in Gaithersburg on Wednesday afternoon. Gaithersburg City police responded to the mall property at 1:35 PM. Officers arriving at the scene found evidence of forced entry. Lakeforest Mall permanently closed March 31. The mall is completely vacant, but an auction of its remaining contents is being held next month.

New mall property owner WRS, Inc. Real Estate Investments had planned to demolish the mall next year, after it had full approvals and permits from the City of Gaithersburg to move forward with its redevelopment plans for housing, shops and restaurants on the site. The company's sensible reasoning was that it could reopen the dead mall as a Plan B, should its proposal be blocked or suddenly not be viable due to a market downturn. 

However, WRS recently petitioned the City for assurances of approval that would allow it to begin demolition sooner. In addition to thrillseekers and vagrants who break into abandoned properties, there is a virtual cottage industry of urbex explorers who upload videos of their trespassing exploits, and Lakeforest is a tempting target for dead mall explorers.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Lakeforest Mall auction items revealed - including a Lakeforest Mall Chevy pickup truck!

The remaining contents of Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg are being auctioned off, and now the items up for bid have been revealed by Capitol Online Auctions. They include a Chevy Silverado pickup truck with a Lakeforest Mall logo on the door, probably the next best thing to a DeLorean as time travel vehicles go. It still runs, and COA says you are welcome to have your mechanic check it out before bidding. The snowplow that goes with it is also up for grabs, if you want to imagine yourself clearing the parking aisles during a ferocious holiday-shopping-season blizzard.

There's a canoe from the food court. The Amongo candy machine. The children's play area with equipment. More mall holiday decorations and trees than you probably have room for.

Several public art pieces from inside the mall are on the block, as well. Birds from the mall's indoor "sky," a leaf chandelier from the food court, leaf-themed paintings and sculptures, and even the "Cafes in the Forest" signs could soon be adorning your Lakeforest Mall-themed mansion.

OK, now let's get serious: The Lakeforest Mall directory signs. Entire kiosks. A giant bear looking for a new home. Unfortunately, it seems that the most-desirable tenant signs have already been removed from the premises, but some of the more mom-and-pop business names are available.

All told, there are twelve pages and over a thousand individual items available in the auction catalog, many in lots. Please note that the auction has moved from late June to early July. The preview date is Wednesday, July 5, 2023. The auction begins closing online the next day. Removal dates are July 10-14.

Photos courtesy Capitol Online Auctions

Friday, May 19, 2023

Lakeforest Mall owner wants to demolish mall sooner than planned

The now-shuttered Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg was not expected to be demolished until next year. But owner WRS Realty is now seeking to bring the building down much sooner. The rationale for waiting until 2024 was that the company would retain the fallback plan of reopening the mall, should the City of Gaithersburg not approve its plan to redevelop the site with thousands of residential units, along with new restaurants and retail. 

WRS Realty now says it would raze the mall sooner, if it could enter a binding contract with the City that provides a guaranteed right to redevelop the property, the Washington Business Journal reported this afternoon. If the City agrees, reporter Daniel J. Sernovitz wrote, it could speed up delivery of the new development by two years. The new plan by WRS Realty may explain why an auction of the mall's contents is now scheduled for next month. If WRS Realty were to reopen the mall, it would have to replace some amount of that stuff to do so.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Lakeforest Mall contents to be auctioned off next month

Lakeforest Mall
fans will have one last chance to grab a piece of memorabilia from their nostalgic past next month. After closing on March 31, the Gaithersburg mall was quickly boarded up and fenced off. Beyond security concerns, one reason for that was to preserve the remaining contents inside for future sale. That future is now set for June 21-30, 2023, when an auction of those contents will take place. 

The auction will include "furniture, fixtures and equipment from dozens of stores, restaurants [and] common areas" of the mall, according to the auction listing. June 21 will be the preview date, when all items being auctioned off will be displayed on the auction page. The auction will then close beginning on June 22. Winners will pick up their items from the mall between June 26 and June 30.

Monday, March 20, 2023

The final days of Lakeforest Mall, closing March 31, 2023 (Video + Photos)

The end is nigh for Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg. Opened as a grand shopping and entertainment destination with distinctive architecture on September 12, 1978, the mall was hugely popular through the end of the 1990s. But then, a succession of greedy owners conspired with the sugar baby corrupt politicians they controlled in Montgomery County to run the successful mall into the ground. 

The mall's signature fountain and skating rink were removed, and local elected officials intentionally allowed crime to spiral out of control. Predictably, crowds began to thin, and quality tenants began to move out. 

The mall will close March 31, 2023, and will be demolished in 2024. It will be replaced with a massive housing development that will bring thousands of new residents to a property that has no rapid transit station, and no new highways planned, a traffic disaster in the making. Of course, the same political machine that helped run down the mall is approving that redevelopment.

Let's take a last look around inside Lakeforest Mall, where remaining anchor tenant Macy's was in its final hours before closing for good. We'll ride the glass elevator, and the escalators. You'll see some ghosts from the mall's past, including JCPenney, Sbarro, Ruby Tuesday and Sears. 

You'll also see that this is another example of crony capitalism gone utterly mad, with a perfectly-good mall building being torn down long before its time, with all of the waste and environmental harm such greedy demolitions generate. The new development won't have retail of even half the quality the mall did, if the tenant rosters of other post-Great-Recession developments north of Rockville are any guide. Here's a final look at the breathtaking architecture, thought-provoking art installations, inspiring aesthetics, and the grand lines and designs that represent all that is good in America and western civilization. Lakeforest Forever!