Friday, March 30, 2018

Financing falls through on Rockville CarMax site apartment project

A project that the City of Rockville annexed land for is now stalled after losing its equity partner. 355 Partners, LLC is now seeking an extension for its approved site plan from the Planning Commission, so it can find a new partner to develop the project. The property is located at 15931 Frederick Road, by the Shady Grove Metro station.

According to a letter to Rockville zoning chief Jim Wasilak from the applicant's attorney, Pat Harris, original equity partner Associated Estates was acquired by development giant Brookfield since the approval and annexation. After reviewing the project, Brookfield decided it didn't like it, and refused to back it.

The 2016 site plan approval expired March 9. 355 Partners is requesting a one-year extension. The Planning Commission will review the request at its April 4 meeting, which will be held at City Hall at 7:00 PM.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Kusshi posts coming soon signage at Pike & Rose (Photos)

Future Japanese restaurant Kusshi has installed "coming soon" window screens at 11826 Trade Street at Pike & Rose. They are now hiring staff, and are scheduled to open this fall.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

What Bangkok and Montgomery County nightlife have in common

Who would ever have thought nightlife in Bethesda could be compared to nightlife in Bangkok? Today, both are tanking, as a direct result of terrible government policies. Thailand has a military junta. Bethesda has the Montgomery County Council. Nightlife has declined under each.

"Thailand's military government is crushing the spirit of Bangkok's nightlife," according to the Washington Post. The result, reporter George Styllis wrote, is the closure of many bars and clubs. A whopping 14 nightspots have closed in downtown Bethesda since the failure of Councilmember Hans Riemer's disastrous "nighttime economy" initiative.

Bangkok's after hours businesses are suffering from now-more-vigorously-enforced "arcane regulations." Sound familiar? It does to many Bethesda newcomers who are shocked to find they can't purchase Bud Light or a nice bottle of wine at grocery, drug and convenience stores. Our County government liquor monopoly is also referred to often as "arcane." Riemer claimed he would get government out of the liquor business, then turned 180 degrees, and instead took steps to preserve and strengthen the monopoly.

"Bangkok has become a much less spontaneous city, and in many ways a more boring city than it was five years ago," Bangkok DJ Anders Svensson told Styllis. The quote applies to downtown Bethesda as well. Where crowds swarmed on sidewalks outside clubs like Relic and BlackFinn, streets are instead dark and empty after 9 or 10 PM, even on weekends.

But wait, there's more!

Remember how Riemer's political operative, given a $150,000 County job as a reward for his pre-2010 actions for developers and Riemer, executed Riemer's developer-fueled scheme to destroy the food truck industry in Montgomery County? Trucks were forcibly removed from prime lunch and dinner hour spots to a handful of private property locations far from where most customers were. Within months, 96% of food trucks either went out of business, or retreated into the District.

Thailand's military government followed a Riemer-esque plan, as well. "In many bustling tourist spots," Styllis wrote, "street-food sellers were moved from main roads into side streets or to new parts of the city." Sound familiar?

Of course, this doesn't even include the many late-night retail and pharmacy hours that were cut back or eliminated after the nighttime economy tanked. With most candidates running for office this year still opposing privatization of liquor sales in the County, voters will have to choose wisely on Election Day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Rockville construction update: The Metropolitan at Rockville Town Center (Photos)

This is the final construction update on Kettler's Metropolitan at Rockville Town Center apartments. Not only is the project finished, but the first residents have moved in. Some of the features new in these photos include the permanent signage, a public art installation, and the landscaped grounds outside the building.


Monday, March 26, 2018

Police searching for Gaithersburg rapist

Montgomery County police detectives are seeking the public's help in identifying and apprehending the suspect in a Gaithersburg rape. On March 16, just after 1:00 AM, Montgomery County and Gaithersburg police responded to the report of a rape in the 100 block of Park Avenue.

A 27-year-old woman told police she was surprised by a hoodie-wearing Latino man as she entered her home. The man allegedly raped her inside the home, and then fled on foot.

Detectives say the man's hoodie was black with a white fleece lining. He was also wearing dark jeans, and had a thin mustache. The suspect was approximately 5'9", and police have released a composite image of the alleged rapist.

Detectives are asking anyone who recognizes the suspect or who may have information about this rape to call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5050.  Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to their line that leads to an arrest and/or indictment for this crime.

Rockville Town Square ice rink being disassembled for spring (Photos)

It would have been hard to convince people winter was over last week, when Rockville received its biggest snowfall of the season - after the season. But spring is asserting itself now at Rockville Town Square, where the popular ice skating rink in the square is being disassembled. How much for the Zamboni?

Friday, March 23, 2018

MoCo Council again tries to sabotage Montrose Parkway East

This week's so-called "compromise" on the Montrose Parkway East project is actually another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to either sabotage, or altogether cancel, the long-delayed highway. Amidst the political pablum of County Executive Ike Leggett's press release, clearly written under duress, was a sentence that did not receive sufficient analysis.

Leggett, who correctly did not want to delay construction of the road at all initially, stated that the one-year delay of the highway would be used to make design changes related to bicycles and pedestrians. He did not specify what those were, or who would approve those changes, and under what public oversight.

What we do know is that developers have wanted to kill the road outright, because it only benefits residents and commuters. It does not help developers, because it is a relief valve, rather than a road that lets developers build more "stuff." Developers want the money from the Montrose Parkway East to go to projects across the County that will allow them to build more stuff, the taxpayers who forked over the highway money be damned.

What we also know, is that several developer tools on the Planning Board have long dreamed of canceling the elevated portion of the parkway over Parklawn, in order to allow developers to build up to the edges of what would be an ordinary urban street. I was able to stop this attempt singlehandedly in 2013, when my testimony changed the votes of several commissioners, who were poised to cancel the grade-separated design for Parklawn at the behest of now-chair Casey Anderson. They also want other sabotage design changes that would similarly increase traffic congestion and lengthen travel time for commuters using the parkway. Such changes would ensure drivers in Rockville, Aspen Hill and other points east of a much-longer trip to and from I-270. Day after day after day.
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"Design changes" are right out of the Council playbook, and were previously used by Councilmember Roger Berliner to yet again delay the M-83 Highway. M-83 on the master plan alignment was ready to start construction on an up-or-down vote by the Council, after being recommended by both upcounty residents and MCDOT. Berliner, at the behest of developers, threw the project into an unrequired new approval process that included yet another public hearing. M-83, like MPE, is an old road needed decades ago, and won't by itself allow any development that couldn't go forward today.

It's critical we elect a Council that will cancel any sabotage design changes to the Montrose Parkway East, and will begin construction on that project and M-83 immediately.