After almost two years of construction, it’ll be just another two weeks until Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Avenue is reopened.
An electronic sign at Woodmont Avenue and Montgomery Lane carries the news that the section of roadway in one of Bethesda’s busiest spots will reopen on Friday, Aug. 15. That’s a week before officials involved in the development of the Lot 31 project had hoped for.
StonebridgeCarras Principal Jane Mahaffie said crews and the county hoped to have the section of road between Bethesda Avenue and Miller Avenue reopened by Friday, Aug. 22, the weekend before the first day of the 2014-2015 county school year.
StonebridgeCarras and Montgomery County partnered on the redevelopment project of the former Lot 31, a surface parking lot just across the street from the heart of Bethesda Row.
In September 2012, the county closed the section of Woodmont Avenue to allow construction of a four-level underground garage, part of which is under the roadway. The parking garage includes 970 public parking spaces to be operated by Montgomery County as the new Lot 31.
Those spaces will be separated by a gate from the roughly 300 spaces that will be reserved for residents and guests of the apartment and condo buildings that Stonebridge Carras hopes to have finished by May 2015.
Officials hope to have the garage opened and ready for use by Dec. 1.
Luxury clothing boutique Calypso St. Barth opened Friday on Bethesda Row, just as another Bethesda Avenue business was closing up shop for good.
Calypso launched in 1992 as a resort-wear shop and has spread to about 50 locations nationwide offering upscale beach gear, shoes, accessories, clothes, perfumes and home decor. It’s hosting an opening weekend celebration Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the new location (4810 Bethesda Ave.).
The store has been in Bethesda since 1991 and hasn’t announced a new location, though its announcement this month including word that it was looking to relocate.
Soon, county transportation officials may be planning a lot more.
At a Council Transportation Committee meeting on Monday, all involved expressed support for the idea of a new Countywide Bikeways Functional Master Plan to update the 2005 planning process that laid out where new bike lanes, shared use paths and bicycle sign pavement markings should go.
David Anspacher, the Planning Department’s transportation planner coordinator, said the nearly 10-year-old bikeway master plan is “kind of ancient” and a rewrite could be helpful to consider newer techniques such as buffered bike lanes and cycle tracks, especially with a new group of bicyclists expected thanks to the growth of Capital Bikeshare.
The new webpage details existing and proposed bike lanes, roads with bike markings to let drivers know bicyclists are allowed, off-road shared-use paths and protected cycle tracks, of which there are none in Montgomery County.
Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer — the three members of the Council’s Transportation Committee — have all put their support behind putting down more bike markings and facilities on more county roads, especially in urban areas.
But county transportation officials explained during the Monday session that adding bike lanes, for instance, is only one element that must be considered when designing a road or intersection.
Anspacher said the county’s road standards “don’t really” include bike facilities in urban district streets.
The group also talked about educating motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians about the actual rules of the road when it comes to bicycling.
“I do think these conflicts are intensifying,” Berliner said. “We receive emails almost every day, pedestrians upset with bicyclists, bicyclists upset with motorists. I’ve gotten angry at bicyclists in front of me and I’ve gotten angry when I dared go on the road [with my bike]. The rules aren’t understood. I don’t know all the rules that bicyclists are supposed to follow and I didn’t just fall off a turnip truck.”
The state’s Shop Maryland Tax-Free Week is set for Sunday, Aug. 10 to Saturday, Aug. 16 and will mean no sales tax for shoppers who buy clothing and shoes priced at $100 or less.
The annual sales tax holiday began in 2007 as a way to encourage economic activity in what’s traditionally the lead up to the new school year.
“Each year this initiative helps Maryland families and gives large and small retailers a boost in these financially challenging times,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said in a press release. “All hard-working Maryland moms and dads deserve this annual tax break as they prepare to send their children back to school.”
Franchot promoted the event last year at Westfield Montgomery mall and said he would like to see the tax holiday expanded to cover school supplies and backpacks. The state loses about $5 million in sales tax revenue each year because of the holiday, according to the comptroller’s office.
Businesses selling items that aren’t eligible for the tax free week can sell products tax-free, but are responsible for paying the state the amount in sales tax that would have been collected.
Check out our picks for open houses this weekend around Bethesda.
8000 Herb Farm Drive
6 BD | 5 full, 2 half BA single family detached
Christine Koons-Byrne, Long & Foster Real Estate
Open: Saturday, August 2 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, August 3 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
5308 Elliott Road
4 BD | 3 full, 2 half BA single family detached
Catherine Arnaud-Charbonneau, Evers & Company Real Estate
Open: Saturday, August 2 and Sunday, August 3 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
7320 Greentree Road
3 BD | 2 full, 2 half BA townhouse
Robert Jenets, Stuart & Maury Inc.
Open: Sunday, August 3 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
9409 Locust Hill Road
5 BD | 5.5 BA single family detached
Joseph Zorc, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
Open: Sunday, August 3 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.
Greenhill Capital, based just next door, wants to reconstruct the Fairmont Avenue building that used to house Fresh Grill and the vacant St Elmo Avenue building that used to be home to Red Tomato Cafe.
Todd Brown, an attorney representing Greenhill, said the project’s first step would be the demolition of the auto garage in the middle of the property that used to be home to BCC Automotive.
In the proposal, Greenhill would also build a brand new 1,500-square-foot building connecting the former Fresh Grill (4905 Fairmont Ave.) and former Blackfinn (4901 Fairmont Ave.) buildings. None of the new development would be any taller than two stories.
Both BCC Automotive and Red Tomato Cafe vacated their properties in January amid an ongoing legal dispute between Greenhill subsidiaries and developer Bainbridge, which has nearly finished its 17-story apartment building next door.
The property owner alleged that shoddy foundation work on the Bainbridge apartment building led to cracks and structural issues in the Fresh Grill and Red Tomato buildings. The LLC that officially owns the vacant Fresh Grill building was awarded $3.2 million in damages for a lawsuit against Bainbridge and its construction contractors.
At a required public meeting on Thursday before submitting a preliminary plan for the project, Brown said reconstruction of the vacant Red Tomato building would happen in a later phase.
Earlier this month, Greenhill founder Lenny Greenberg said the start of the Red Tomato building reconstruction depends largely on the outcome of the lawsuit.
The proposal also includes an additional 5,400-square-foot building that would be built behind the reconstructed former Red Tomato building.
The Fairmont Avenue side of the project could start construction in spring 2015 and take 8-10 months to finish. Brown said the relative light density of the project “clearly is an interim use,” hinting that a larger-scale redevelopment could be in play down the road.
A separate property owner controls the 4906 St Elmo Ave. (Bangkok Garden restaurant) and 7820 Norfolk Ave. (Hanaro Restaurant & Lounge) buildings, putting a full-block redevelopment proposal just out of reach for Greenhill.
The former BlackFinn building — which also houses the popular Bold Bite hot dog, burger and breakfast restaurant — will remain unchanged in the proposal.
Branson Calls For MCPS To Have An Inspector General – Cherri Branson, the District 5 member of County Council filling out Valerie Ervin’s term, says the recent Board of Education credit card controversy proves MCPS needs an independent inspector general. Branson will not return next Council term after taking a caretaker role of Ervin’s Council seat after Ervin resigned. She wrote to the Washington Post editorial page that the Council and residents “have a right to independent confirmation of how the [MCPS] money is spent.” Spending on the school system accounts for more than half of Montgomery County’s budget. [Washington Post]
MCPS Give Backpacks Campaign – MCPS is raising money to buy backpacks filled with school supplies for low-income families that may struggle to afford them. Ten dollars will buy a student a need one backpack with school supplies for the 2014-2015 school year. Recently, Bethesda’s Fraiche Cupcakery (10219 Old Georgetown Rd.) donated 50 percent of proceeds on all blueberry pancake cupcakes sold to the cause. [MCPS]
Advisory Board Looking To Fill Openings – The Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board is looking for two residential representatives to fill out the 19-member Board. The group weighs in on local services and issues in Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda, Potomac and Rockville and regularly interacts with the county executive’s office and County Council. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center]
BethesdaNow.com wishes a Friday thank you to our advertisers, including new advertiser Luke’s Wings a nonprofit that provides airline tickets and travel arrangements for families of wounded warriors. Check out the organization’s Heroes Walk To Fly event coming to Bethesda on Sunday, Sept. 7.
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The U.S. Census Bureau is still looking for help researching new methods for data gathering in its 2014 Census Test, which is being conducted in Montgomery County and D.C.
At least 1,000 people are needed for a variety of paid temporary positions as the Census Bureau looks at ways to incorporate smart technology into its 2020 Census data gathering.
The Census Test, operated out of the agency’s local office in Silver Spring, needs Census takers who likely will work in their own neighborhoods over varied hours, not exceeding 40 hours per week. Since most census taker positions require personally interviewing respondents, those who apply must be able to work when people are typically at home, which includes evening and weekend hours. In most cases, a valid driver’s license and use of a vehicle are required to work as a census taker.
Pay starts at about $15 an hour.
The local Census Test began on June 23 and will continue to Sept. 25. The Census Bureau says the test area includes about 200,000 housing units.
Photo via U.S. Census Bureau
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