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by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 3:20 pm 496 8 Comments

Downtown BethesdaPlanners working on a new downtown Bethesda master plan got more than 600 responses to the concept plans they presented in December.

The results of the “online feedback loop” are embedded after the jump, and include some strong opinions on new development, parks, traffic congestion, affordable housing and pedestrian safety.

Here are some responses that stood out:

On affordable housing: “I don’t think that Bethesda should change its character to mirror that of other communities such as Silver Spring. This area should continue to offer amenities but not necessarily should turn into a community of 1-bedroom condos and apartments. High rents are here for a reason. I’m all for keeping Bethesda a more exclusive community.”

On the plan’s emphasis on adding parks: “Finally something I can agree with! Keep the green space, stop building up, and keep the character! What happened to making this area the children’s area of Bethesda, anchored by Imagination Stage?”

On Bethesda’s transit-oriented location: Access to transit? Yes, there are Metro stations, but it is overpopulated. Have you tried to get on Wisconsin Ave from any of the side streets that do not have stoplights? Every time, it is literally an accident waiting to happen. There is very poor traffic control in Bethesda, especially along Wisconsin Avenue.”

On a question about which generation each survey-taker belongs to: “Please don’t call me a boomer. Thanks”

“do not put me in any arbitrary category”

“Tax payer”

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by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 2:00 pm 683 6 Comments

The back of the 7001 Arlington apartment building, which will have direct access to the Capital Crescent Trail

Who is going to pay that much to live there?

It’s always one of the first questions in any discussion of downtown Bethesda’s apartment boom.

With 10 apartment projects either approved, under construction or recently completed (and others in the pipeline) there could be an influx of a few thousand residents to the downtown area. Some will pay as much as $2,300 in rent a month for a 623-square-foot studio.

“We wish we had more units because we think the demand is that high,” said Jason Friedman, senior vice president with Associated Estates.

The Ohio-based developer is behind the 7001 Arlington project, home of the aforementioned studio unit that will cost upwards of $27,000 a year to lease.

The five-floor, 140-unit apartment a short walk from Bethesda Row and on the former site of a U.S. Post Office will open for move-ins in March.

“Bethesda Row is one of the best, if not the best, retail hubs of a community in all of Metro D.C.,” Friedman said. “The amount of people and the desire to work and live right there is really second to none.”

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by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 12:45 pm 426 0

4901-A Fairmont Avenue is getting an interior makeover, but has no new tenant

The vacant BlackFinn American Saloon space at the corner of Norfolk Avenue and Fairmont Avenue is getting a new-look interior, but the property owner said the move isn’t specific to any potential new tenant.

BlackFinn closed at 4901-A Fairmont Avenue last April, leaving a 6,200-square-foot retail or restaurant hole in the middle of Woodmont Triangle.

The upstairs dance and reception area at the former BlackFinn will be removed in a renovation of the building, photo via Steven J. KarrProperty owner Greenhill Capital and architect Steven Karr had building permits approved on Thursday to remove the upper-level floor that BlackFinn used as a dance area and small bar. Karr said Greenhill is hoping to restore the space to “shell and core” conditions.

Richard Greenberg, from Greenhill Realty, said the renovations are “not specific to anyone or anything,” in terms of potential tenants.

Getting rid of the upper floor could allow Greenhill to divide the former bar and restaurant into multiple retail spaces. Greenhill Capital boss Leonard Greenberg said all options are on the table for the future of the space.

Photos via Steven J. Karr

by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 11:05 am 180 0

Fire response at Glen Echo Park early Friday morning, via Pete Piringer Damage inside the Yellow Barn Studio, via Pete Piringer

An electrical fire in an art studio and classroom space at historic Glen Echo Park has that part of the facility closed on Friday.

The fire was caused by an electrical problem related to a thermostat installed in the wall, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer. Firefighers were called to the scene at about 3:15 a.m. Friday.

It happened in the Park’s Yellow Barn Studio. Piringer said a sprinkler system put out the fire and damage was valued at less than $10,000.

Glen Echo Park said later Friday morning that all classes in the Yellow Barn Studio are canceled today. The SilverWorks studio is also closed as Park officials wait until power is restored to the buildings.

There were no injuries.

Photos via @mcpsPIO

by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 10:05 am 229 1 Comment

4823 Rugby Avenue, site of the planned 2nd District Police Station

The developer set to build a new 2nd District Police Station in downtown Bethesda will hold a public meeting detailing the project on Feb. 23.

Montgomery County selected Bethesda-based StonebridgeCarras in 2013 to build the new station at 4823 Rugby Avenue, a private parking lot that backs up to the county’s Woodmont-Rugby Garage.

In exchange, the developer will get to build its own project on the land of the existing 2nd District Police Station at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue.

The public meeting on Feb. 23 is set for 7 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane). Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman said StonebridgeCarras officials will also make a presentation at the March meeting of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group.

StonebridgeCarras announced in December that it had closed on the land for the new police station and that it hoped to complete construction by late 2016. The company partnered with Bethesda-based Buvermo Investments for the purchase and got $20 million in construction financing from the Bank of Georgetown.

The county has long sought a private developer to build it a new 2nd District Station in exchange for the existing station property. The station is more than 50 years old, and not big enough, according to county officials.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 9:15 am 179 0

Check out our picks for open houses this weekend around Bethesda.

See our Real Estate section for a full listing of open houses and houses for sale:

8017 Park Lane8017 Park Lane
5 BD | 5.5 BA single family detached
Robert Jenets, Stuart & Maury, Inc.
Listed: $2,199,000
Open: Sunday, Feb. 1 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

8010 Glenbrook Road8010 Glenbrook Road
5 BD | 4 full, 2 half BA single family detached
Marie Williams, Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Penfed Realty
Listed: $1,895,000
Open: Sunday, Feb. 1 from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

6605 Radnor Road6605 Radnor Road
6 BD | 5 BA single family detached
Charles Beverly, Evers & Company Real Estate
Listed: $1,695,000
Open: Sunday, Feb. 1 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

5108 River Hill Road5108 River Hill Road
6 BD | 4 BA single family detached
Susan Brooks, Weichert Realtors
Listed: $1,225,000
Open: Sunday, Feb. 1 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 8:15 am 560 11 Comments

Flickr photo via Kevin Koitz

Leggett: Property Tax Hike Likely – Facing a roughly $200 million budget shortfall, County Executive Isiah Leggett said it’s likely he’ll propose raising the county’s property tax above the charter limit. That would require a unanimous vote by the nine-member County Council. Leggett also blamed state funding cuts and said the increase could come in the FY 2016 budget he submits in March or the FY 2017 budget next year. [Washington Post]

Country Club Members, Purple Line Opponents Hold Hogan Fundraiser – The rumored Columbia Country Club fundraiser for Gov. Larry Hogan happened in early January and included many Purple Line opponents, though nobody is willing to offer much detail on the event. One attendee said most of the people at the event were opposed to the Purple Line, which would run through the country club’s golf course. [Washington Post]

State Transportation Chief Pledges ‘Open Mind’ On Purple Line – Pete Rahn, who is the state’s acting transportation chief until he’s confirmed, told state senators on Wednesday that he’ll keep an open mind as he evaluates the Purple Line and Red Line projects. Rahn said he hopes to have a recommendation within 90 days and that he understands transit is “a necessity for many people.” [Baltimore Sun]

Fire Causes Damage At Glen Echo Park – A fire and heavy smoke caused “moderate damage” in an art studio and classroom at historic Glen Echo Park. Firefighters were called to the scene at about 3:15 a.m. Friday. There were no injuries. [@mcfrsPIO]

‘Puppy Mill’ Ban Hits County Council – The County Council is considering a bill that would ban pet stores from selling dogs or cats, allowing only the adoption of animals from shelters or rescue groups. The effort, led by Council President George Leventhal, is to ensure puppy mill-raised pets aren’t sold in the county. There’s only one known pet store in the county that sells dogs. It’s in the City of Rockville and wouldn’t be affected by the county bill. [The Gazette]

Chick-fil-A Offering Free Coffee – Chick-fil-A is offering free small hot or iced coffees throughout February at all its locations, including in the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery mall (7101 Democracy Boulevard).

Flickr photo via Kevin Koitz

by Aaron Kraut — January 30, 2015 at 4:25 am 1,071 0

Updated at 10:40 a.m. – A two-alarm fire in a North Bethesda townhouse sent a 73-year-old man to the hospital with life-threatening injuries early Friday morning.

The man tried to put out the fire, but suffered second- and third-degree burns over about 30 percent of his body, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services. He was also suffering from smoke inhalation when found.

MCFRS said the man was still in critical condition later Friday morning.

Firefighters were called to 10921 Brewer House Road at around 1:35 a.m. They encountered a two-story townhouse that had fire coming from several windows, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer.

A police officer who responded to the scene took this photo of the townhouse fully engulfed in flames, via Pete PiringerIt took more than 75 firefighters to help put out the fire and inspect adjacent townhomes. Piringer said it appears the fire was caused by an electrical failure or malfunction in a floor outlet.

Piringer said a smoke alarm awakened the occupant of the townhouse. After trying to extinguish the fire, he was able to get out of the house and knock on the door of a neighbor, who called 911.

Firefighters found the man in the neighbor’s townhouse. He was transported to the Washington Hospital Center’s burn unit.

The fire caused $450,000 in damage, including $100,000 worth of damage to the contents of the home and $350,000 worth of damage to the townhouse structure. Two cats are also unaccounted for.

Piringer said for the most part, the fire was confined to the townhouse of origin. Still, two other families on the townhouse block were displaced.

MCFRS also brought a medical ambulance vehicle to the scene for firefighters. No firefighters were injured. Firefighters will return to the neighborhood, in the Tuckerman Station development, at 4 p.m. Friday to hand out safety information and to offer to check smoke alarms.

The townhouse is off Tuckerman Road and backs up to the Bethesda Trolley Trail and Georgetown Prep campus.

Photos Via @mcfrsPIO

by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 5:15 pm 260 0

Medical Center "crossover" and area of most of the tunnel leaks along the Red Line, via Metro

Montgomery County firefighters have responded to 62 emergency situations in Metro stations over the last three years, the vast majority of which had to do with reported or actual arcing insulators.

MCFRS Acting Chief Scott Goldstein provided that number and talked about the protocol for responding to an arcing insulator during a Thursday hearing before the Council’s Transportation Committee.

Committee Chair Roger Berliner called the meeting after the Jan. 12 death of a Metro passenger near the L’Enfant Plaza station. Passengers were reportedly stranded on a stopped train for 45 minutes to an hour as smoke from an arcing insulator entered the train cars. Carol Inman Glover, 61, died as a result of the smoke and almost 80 others required medical treatment.

While a National Transportation Safety Board investigation is ongoing, various media reports have indicated confusion between D.C. firefighters and Metro when it came to entering the tunnel where the train was stopped.

With known arcing insulator troubles in the Red Line tunnel in Bethesda, Berliner wanted to know if MCFRS was adequately prepared to avoid the same pitfalls.

Goldstein pointed to the Grosvenor-Strathmore, Medical Center and Bethesda stations as the source of 23 of the fire department’s 62 Metro-related calls over the last three years. He estimated 42 or 43 of those events were related to smoking insulators or brakes, either called in by Metro itself or by a passenger through 911.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 3:05 pm 205 2 Comments

Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department

Fast casual burrito chain Chipotle will open its new location at Pike & Rose on Monday, Feb. 9.

The chain is another holdover from the Mid Pike Plaza Shopping Center, the strip mall that was demolished to make way for the mixed-use Pike & Rose development. La Madeleine, another tenant in the shopping center, is set to open a new Pike & Rose location on Feb. 19.

Chipotle (11802 Rockville Pike) will open in the one Mid Pike Plaza building that survived the Pike & Rose redevelopment, albeit with some major modifications.

The location will be set up in the one-story pad site nearest to the intersection of Rockville Pike and Old Georgetown Road.

The renovation job added outdoor seating to the back of the building, which also includes a Starbucks and Bank of America.

Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department

by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 1:35 pm 0

The National Weather Service has put downcounty Montgomery under a Winter Weather Advisory until 9 p.m. Thursday, with trace amounts of snow, sleet and freezing rain possible.

The NWS predicts accumulations of less than one inch, with the best chance for freezing rain between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.:

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM EST THIS EVENING…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR FREEZING RAIN…SLEET AND SNOW WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM EST THIS EVENING.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE…SNOW…SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN.

* ACCUMULATIONS…SNOW AND SLEET ACCUMULATION LESS THAN ONE INCH. ICE ACCUMULATION FROM A TRACE TO A FEW HUNDREDTHS OF AN INCH.

* TIMING…THIS AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING. THE BEST CHANCE FOR FREEZING RAIN WILL BE BETWEEN 3 PM AND 8 PM THIS AFTERNOON AND EVENING.

* TEMPERATURES…IN THE LOWER 30S.

* WINDS…SOUTH 5 TO 10 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 15 MPH.

* IMPACTS…UNTREATED ROADS AND SIDEWALKS MAY BECOME ICY. THERE IS THE POTENTIAL FOR HAZARDOUS TRAVEL DURING THE EVENING RUSH.

by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 1:15 pm 347 30 Comments

Bus rapid transit map designed by the Communities for Transit, via Communities for TransitA Friday night public hearing in Rockville will open up the debate over a proposed Montgomery County Independent Transit Authority, with supporters and detractors ready to weigh in.

The hearing, set by the county’s delegation to Annapolis for 6 p.m. in the County Council building, is on the state bill that would allow the county to set up the Transit Authority (ITA). If passed, the Council would then have to enact its own legislation to create the ITA.

County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed the ITA as a way to design, finance and build the county’s proposed Rapid Transit System (RTS), recognizing that funding help from the state likely won’t be coming for the project in the next four years.

Friends of White Flint Executive Director Amy Ginsburg said Thursday that the group will testify in favor of the ITA bill, though she admitted it’s not a perfect bill:

Does the cliché ‘the devil is in the details’ ring true? Yes, just like it does in any new venture, especially when it comes to funding and governing structure. Fortunately there will be many opportunities to hash out these details.

Is a Rapid Transit System/Bus Rapid Transit essential to the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan? Absolutely yes.

Will there be a BRT in the near future without an agency to design and manage it? Probably not.

For that reason, we believe that creating an Independent Transit Authority is an innovative, pragmatic solution to developing the transit Montgomery County requires to meet the needs of its growing population, attract business, and provide its residents with a better quality of life. This is important throughout the County, but it is especially critical in the part of MoCo we’re most fond of, the Pike District.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 11:15 am 264 0

Samaya Bernarndo, 12, is getting help from her big sister in her effort to pay for a spring break soccer trip to London, photo via DreamFund

It’s hard to get Samaya Bernardo off the soccer field, one of the reasons the 12-year-old from Bethesda has been selected to an elite group of youth players for a spring break soccer trip to London.

But the trip, part of U.S. Youth Soccer’s Olympic Development Program, comes with $4,000 in travel costs that’s too pricey for the Bernardo family. That prompted Samaya’s older sister Ananya to step in.

Ananya, 14 and a student at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, got the idea to start a crowdfunding effort through the website DreamFund.com in order to raise the money necessary to send her younger sister to London.

The webpage — “Send my sister to London to play soccer” — has raised $1,375 of the $4,000 needed, with a deadline of Feb. 28 coming up.

“She’s always really liked it and I’ve seen her grow so much as a soccer player just since she was a kid,” Ananya said of Samaya. “She’s always had a big amount of friends that she’s made through soccer.”

Ananya said that was one of the major reasons she’s hoping to help raise the money for the London trip. Five of Samaya’s teammates and friends from her local club team were also selected to the U-13 Maryland Olympic Development Program team for the eight-day tournament in England.

“I just really wanted to help my sister out,” Ananya said.

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by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 10:15 am 618 0

Police say two armed robbers threatened a victim earlier this month near Arlington Road and the Bethesda Library. That and the rest of the most recent 2nd District crime summary follows:

An armed robbery occurred near the intersection of Edgemoor Lane & Beverly Road in Bethesda on Wednesday, 1/14 at approximately 11:35 p.m. The suspects threatened the victim with a weapon and unsuccessfully attempted to obtain property.

Suspects: Two black males, age 16-20, 6 feet, 150 lbs., one wearing a ski mask

Two thefts from vehicles occurred overnight between Tuesday, 1/13 and Wednesday, 1/14 in the 3500 block of Woodbine Street in Chevy Chase. Vehicles were left unlocked; keys and cash were taken. Two other unrelated incidents also were reported during the morning hours on different days. On Monday, 1/12 an unlocked car on Derby Ridge Lane was entered; nothing was taken. On Sunday, 1/18 an attempt was made to pry open a car parked on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A theft occurred at the First Church of Christ Scientist, 7901 Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase sometime between Friday, 1/16 and Sunday, 1/18. Property was taken from the outside of the building.

A residential burglary occurred in the 10000 block of Weymouth Street in Bethesda on Thursday, 1/15 at 2:30 p.m. No forced entry; nothing taken.

Arrested: Male, age 18, from Bethesda

A residential burglary occurred in the 5700 block of Bent Branch Road in Bethesda on Friday, 1/16 at 7:20 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 6200 block of Dahlonega Road in Bethesda on Friday, 1/16 between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 6800 block of Wilson Lane in Bethesda on Tuesday, 1/20 around 4:45 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 6100 block of Poindexter Lane in Rockville sometime between the morning of Wednesday, 1/14 and the afternoon of Thursday, 1/15. Unknown entry; property taken.

Seven thefts from vehicles occurred in the police beat near Democracy Boulevard and Old Georgetown Road during this reporting period. Only two involved forced entry. Incidents occurred on Clue Court and Belhaven Road. Cash was taken.

by Aaron Kraut — January 29, 2015 at 9:20 am 294 1 Comment

New La Madeleine location at Pike & Rose set to open Feb. 19

One of the most popular restaurants in the demolished Mid Pike Plaza Shopping Center is reopening in the development that took its place.

La Madeleine, the cafeteria-style French country cafe that called Mid Pike Plaza home since 1994, will open its new Rockville/North Bethesda location on Thursday, Feb. 19 on the first floor of Pike & Rose’s PerSei apartment building.

The first 50 customers in line when the restaurant opens at 6:30 a.m. that day will get certificates for a year’s supply of weekly bread pick-ups.

The new location is at 11610 Old Georgetown Road, just east of the City Sports store that also recently opened on the first floor of the PerSei building.

The original location closed in January 2014, before the old Mid Pike Plaza building was torn down to make way for the second phase of developer Federal Realty’s Pike & Rose project.

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