by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 2:00 pm 0

Bethesda's 'Madonna of the Trail' statue

With this week’s news of a new tenant at the historic Bethesda Post Office, some have asked about the story of another historical landmark just outside the building.

That would be the “Madonna of the Trail” statue that stands on the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk between the Hyatt Regency hotel and the soon-to-be-filled 1938 post office structure.

Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman passed along this history of the statue in his latest email newsletter, courtesy of the Maryland chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR erected the statue in 1929 and 11 others like it in 1928 and 1929:

The Madonna of the Trail is a pioneer woman clasping her baby with her young son clinging to her skirts. The face of the mother, strong in character, beauty, and gentleness, is the face of a mother who realizes her responsibilities and trust in God. It has a feeling of solidarity — a monument which will stand through the ages.

The figure of the mother is of heroic proportions — 10 feet high with a weight of 5 tons. The base upon which the figure stands is 6 feet high and weights 12 tons. This, in turn, rests upon a foundation that is placed on the ground, standing 2 feet above the level which makes the monument 18 feet above the ground.

The figure and the base are made of algonite stone (a poured mass) of which the Missouri granite is used as the main aggregate, thus giving the monument a warm, pink shade which is the color of the Missouri native granite. It was thought and expected that this stone had admirable aging qualities and, with time, would improve in color and solidarity.

On the two sides of the base are to be found words of historical data or local commemoration. These inscriptions are of the Revolutionary period or the early history in respective localities. These monuments were erected in each of the 12 states through which the National Old Trails Road passes.  The design of the monument was that of sculptor August Leimbach of St. Louis and was offered by Mrs. John Trigg Moss, Chairman of the DAR national committee.


by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm 3 Comments

A Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control truck makes alcohol deliveries on St Elmo AvenueUpdated at 1:35 p.m. – Montgomery County on Friday hit back at critics of the county’s unique alcohol control model, arguing the system has helped protect the county from the amount of alcohol-related problems that affect other communities.

The occasion for the county’s push against privatizing its alcohol distribution and liquor retail operations was the latest meeting of the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control, which hopes to recommend major reforms later this year.

Dr. David Jernigan, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins, said Montgomery County’s control model is close to the “sweet spot,” wherein the county can decide not to sell alcohol products deemed especially dangerous while also satisfying the needs of its licensees — the restaurants and beer and wine stores that rely on the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC).

Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didone also cautioned against getting rid of the DLC from a public safety perspective.

“Public health experts will testify this morning that Montgomery County’s Local Liquor Control system is superior to protecting the public health, combatting underage drinking and striking the balance between the sale of a legal, controlled substance and meeting community concerns and the public interest,” the county announced in a Friday morning press release. “Montgomery’s system, in fact, has blocked the introduction of numerous liquor industry products aimed at underage drinkers.”

It later put out a more detailed release citing a variety of statistics and expert opinion.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, the chair of the committee, has criticized the DLC before.

But for a few weeks, it’s been apparent that Riemer and colleagues Marc Elrich and George Leventhal would prefer to keep the county’s current system intact while improving its management and allowing special order craft beers and wines to be sold privately to county restaurants and beer and wine stores.


by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 11:45 am 0

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

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

8912 Burdette Road8912 Burdette Road*
4 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached
Jan Evans, Beasley Real Estate
Listed: $1,997,000
Open: Sunday, March 29 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

5901 Rolston Road5901 Rolston Road
4 BD | 4 BA single family detached
Brian Maury, Maury Real Estate
Listed: $875,000
Open: Sunday, March 29 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

8906 Melwood Road8906 Melwood Road
3 BD | 3 BA single family detached
Delilah Dane, Redfin Corp
Listed: $839,000
Open: Sunday, March 29 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

10 Greentree Court10 Greentree Court
4 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached
Hans Wydler, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $1,299,000
Open: Sunday, March 29 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

*Denotes featured (sponsored) listing

by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 9:35 am 0

A burglary at an apartment construction site leads the latest 2nd District crime summary:

A commercial burglary occurred at a construction site located at 8300 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda between Saturday, 3/15 and Monday, 3/16. Forced entry; property taken.

A commercial burglary occurred at Music & Arts, 12274 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda on Tuesday, 3/17 at 12:37 p.m. Unknown entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 7000 block of Rollingwood Drive in Chevy Chase on Thursday, 3/12 between 10:27 a.m. and 1:01 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A sex assault occurred in the 7000 block of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda on Thursday, 3/12 at 7:15 p.m. The suspect is known to the victim.

Two incidents of theft from vehicles occurred in this beat during this reporting period. Incidents occurred on Dupaul Drive and Stoneham Court in Bethesda. Items taken included a computer and a cell phone.

by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 8:45 am 249 4 Comments

Flickr pool photo by John R Whitaker

Renovations Start Next Week For North Bethesda Restaurant – Helen’s The Bar hopes to open in the former Addie’s building at 11120 Rockville Pike over the summer. Addie’s and local restaurant owner Jeff Black left the spot because the landlord wouldn’t agree to a renovation plan. Helen Wasserman, a D.C. caterer taking it over, said renovations should begin next week. [Bethesda Magazine]

Norwood School 5K Run/Walk – The Norwood School (8821 River Road) is hosting a 5K Run/Walk on April 12 to raise money for Horizons Greater Washington. The nonprofit works on private and public school partnerships “designed to empower economically disadvantaged students.” The event will take place on the Norwood School’s Bethesda campus. [Horizons 5K at Norwood]

White Flint Wegmans Watch – Officials from New York-based grocer Wegmans were in town Thursday for their new Alexandria store. They didn’t talk about the long-rumored location at the White Flint Mall redevelopment project, which has been stalled due to legal issues. But company officials said they’re still eyeing other D.C. area sites in Tysons Corner and the old Walter Reed site in D.C. [Washington Business Journal]

Details On Old Georgetown Road Project – The State Highway Administration’s intersection improvement project at Old Georgetown Road and Cedar Lane has started. The SHA put out a public notice with more details of lane closures and contact information. [SHA via Montgomery County]

Flickr pool photo by John R Whitaker

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 4:05 pm 2 Comments

The search firm helping MCPS find a new superintendent says it has boiled down almost 1,000 pieces of community input into six “desired characteristics” the new hire should have:

  • A collaborative administrative style
  • Effective communication skills
  • Evidence of being culturally aware, culturally responsive, and valuing diversity
  • The ability to narrow the achievement gap
  • Educational experiences as a teacher, principal, and central office administrator
  • Respect for, and appreciation of, teachers and staff

The school system released the 47-page “Leadership Profile Report” from search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates on Thursday.

Board of EducationFormer Superintendent Joshua Starr resigned from the position in February once it became clear that a majority of Board of Education members wouldn’t support renewing his contract, which was up this summer.

Little has been made public about why Board of Education members were opposed to Starr continuing as superintendent, as preliminary deliberations were held in closed-door sessions.

The search firm collected feedback from 978 people, including parents, students, staff and other community members from focus groups, a series of community forums, online surveys and individual interviews.

The achievement gap, economic disparities and inequities, communication and transparency and testing were recognized as some of the school system’s poor qualities.

The Board expects to have a new superintendent in place by July 1. The search firm is still accepting applications.

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 3:15 pm 350 1 Comment

The Persei apartment building at Grand Park Avenue in Pike & Rose

The first mixed-use development project part of the county’s White Flint redevelopment plan will take home a top award from a national planning organization.

Pike & Rose, the half-finished 24-acre neighborhood at the old Mid-Pike Plaza shopping center, is this year’s recipient of an Award of Excellence from the American Planning Association and the National Association of County Planning.

The award recognizes Rockville-based developer Federal Realty and the Montgomery County Planning Department, which authored the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

The plan set new zoning, road and land use recommendations for the Rockville Pike corridor around the White Flint Metro station. It would allow for 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use office, housing, restaurant and retail space in what mostly still is a series of strip shopping centers.

Pike & Rose finished its first phase last year, with an 80,000-square-foot Class A office building, 174-unit mid-rise apartment building and new retail and restaurant spaces throughout. Its 319-unit apartment tower is set to deliver this summer.

The second phase will bring 185,000 additional square feet of ground floor retail divided by 30 stores, another 264 apartment units, a park and 104 luxury condos on top of a 177-room Hilton hotel announced last fall.

“The White Flint Sector Plan represents the transition from car-oriented suburbs into livable, urban-style communities with access to transit. Pike & Rose exemplifies this exciting change and sets a high bar for the mixed-use developments to come,” Planning Director Gwen Wright said in an announcement.


by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1 Comment

Metro on Thursday released two safety videos telling riders what to do in case of a smoke or fire emergency on a train or in a station.

The videos, which come in 90-second and three-minute versions, come after January’s deadly incident in D.C, when a woman died after smoke spread through a stopped Metro car.

“In the wake of the January 12 incident, customers indicated that they wanted additional information about what to do in an emergency and that they trust Metro Transit Police to deliver that message,” Metro announced.

Bethesda Metro StationThe video covers when and how to evacuate a rail car, how to use on-board safety features such as the intercoms and how to identify and avoid the electrified third rail.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the smoke in the January incident near the L’Enfant Plaza station likely came from an arcing insulator — when water or other debris makes contact with the third rail.

Arcing insulators are common on the Red Line in Bethesda, where tunnel leaking issues have Metro officials planning a 14 weekend shutdown of the stretch next year.

At a Council committee hearing in January, MCFRS Acting Chief Scott Goldstein said 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.

At a Council committee hearing on Tuesday, Metro officials said they didn’t know how long it would take to evacuate the Bethesda Metro station, but that it would probably take longer than the National Fire Protection Association’s standard of six minutes.

Video via Metro

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm 0

Highway crews clean up gravel spill on I-270 on Thursday, via TrafficLand.comGravel that spilled onto the roadway is blocking two lanes of southbound I-270 near Bethesda on Thursday.

Highway crews are out cleaning up the mess, which has temporarily closed the two right main lanes just south of Montrose Parkway.

Via TrafficLand.com

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm 206 2 Comments

U.S. Census population change 2013-2014

Montgomery County’s population grew by another 10,680 people last year, again giving the state’s most populous jurisdiction the largest year-over-year increase in population.

The U.S. Census on Thursday released county and city population changes from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014.

While Howard County once again had the state’s largest population growth rate (1.4 percent), Montgomery County saw the largest amount of new residents. The county’s 1 percent growth rate was good for fourth in the state, behind Howard COunty, Charles County (1.2 percent) and Prince George’s County (1.1 percent).

Howard County was second in terms of new residents with 4,350.

The 10,000 additional residents gives Montgomery County a total population of 1,030,447, according to the Census.

The information is based on population estimates since the 2010 Census and births, deaths and migration numbers.

The amount of new residents is slightly fewer than the county saw over the previous year (July 2012 to July 2013). Montgomery County added 12,201 people in that timeframe and about 13,000 people the year before, when it went over the 1 million population mark.

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 11:00 am 186 2 Comments

County Executive Isiah LeggettMontgomery County says its settlement with Pepco and Exelon was a good deal, despite criticism from the County Council that the agreement won’t prevent electricity rate hikes.

“The status quo with Pepco is unacceptable. The alternative to this settlement is not necessarily something better,” said Patrick Lacefield, spokesperson for County Executive Isiah Leggett. “The alternative could well be no deal at all. Then county residents are stuck with the status quo. [Leggett] doesn’t want that and neither do county residents.”

Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker agreed to the deal last week.

In exchange for the counties’ support of Exelon and Pepco’s merger bid before state regulators, the utilities promised $57.6 million for energy efficiency programs, bill credits for Pepco customers, five megawatts of solar power generation, a $50 million “Green Sustainability Fund,” and recreational trails along Pepco transmission lines.

But Councilmember Roger Berliner, an energy attorney part of a group involved in the merger deliberations, said the deal should have also guaranteed “our ratepayers should not be pawns in Exelon’s desire to prop up its nuclear power plants.”


by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 10:00 am 803 7 Comments

White Flint Mall Marriott International's Fernwood Road headquarters, Photo via Marriott International

A group of residents, developers and business owners wants to pitch Marriott International on moving its headquarters to White Flint.

The Friends of White Flint is planning a strategic campaign to at least get the possibility of relocating to White Flint/the Pike District on the hotel giant’s radar.

Speculation about the Fortune 500 company’s future has run rampant since early this month, when CEO Arne Sorenson told the Washington Post Marriott plans to move from its Bethesda corporate headquarters by the time its lease is up in 2022.

Many in the Friends of White Flint, a group formed to ensure the area’s redevelopment is done according to the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, see potential for Marriott to move to Metro-accessible, yet-to-be-developed office space that could spur the area’s new look.

“It can make the community,” Friends of White Flint Executive Director Amy Ginsburg said Wednesday. “You want to be live, work and play and if there’s no work, it’s hard to sustain it. A major corporation like Marriott, it brings jobs, it brings stability, it brings sustainability.”

The company has about 2,000 employees at its Bethesda headquarters, in the Rock Spring office park on Fernwood Road.

Sorenson told the Washington Post that he’s looking for a location that’s transit accessible to appeal to a younger workforce. The White Flint Metro station would seem to serve that purpose, and was perhaps the largest reason why Montgomery County moved to allow the massive amount of new residential units and commercial space under the 2010 Sector Plan.

“This might be the single best thing that could be done to really kick off White Flint and turn it into what we’d like to see it be,” said Saul Centers Senior Vice President Brian Downie.


by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 8:35 am 233 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

Raskin Will Run For Congressional Seat – State Sen. Jamie Raskin says he will run for Chris Van Hollen’s soon-to-be-vacant 8th District Congressional seat. The longtime state legislator from Takoma Park was widely rumored to be looking at the seat once Van Hollen announced he would run for Senate. Raskin said he will formally announce his run next month. [Baltimore Sun]

How Pepco’s Tree-Cutting Program Works – Since 2012, Pepco has been required to more aggressively prune and remove trees that could fall and knock down power lines. Some feel the utility has been too aggressive. But Pepco says it follows a standard protocol and always gets permission if a tree is on private property. [The Gazette]

Van Hollen Unhappy About HHS Relocation Plan – The Department of Health and Human Services is planning to move 100 employees and contractors slated for its renovated Twinbrook facility to Utah. Rep. Chris Van Hollen this week told HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burrell the move would be “detrimental to our region and devastating to the families” of affected employees. [Van Hollen On HHS Move]

‘Brit Bandit’ Released Early From Prison – Charles Francis Watkins, who in 1997 used a fake British accent when robbing homes at gunpoint, was set free Wednesday after a judge agreed to end his prison sentence. Based on a letter from Watkins and testimony from a prison official, the judge determined that Watkins had changed for the better. The break-ins in 1997 attracted attention because they happened at high-end Montgomery County homes and because Watkins and a partner spoke with British or Australian accents to their victims. [Washington Post]

‘Sports Junkie’ Coming To Bethesda Row Tonight – Eric Bickel, one of the “Sports Junkies” from 106.7 The Fan will be at the American Tap Room (7278 Woodmont Avenue) tonight for a college basketball viewing party. [CBS DC]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 4:50 pm 2,427 19 Comments

A new fitness and yoga center will move into the historic old Bethesda Post Office building

The historic old Bethesda Post Office has a new tenant.

Bridges Fitness & Yoga, from the brothers who founded Bethesda-based software firm Opnet, will move into the historic building that was built in 1938 and sold in 2012 to the Donohoe Companies.

Donohoe Development Senior Vice President Jad Donohoe confirmed the fitness and yoga studio would be moving in. A website for Bridges Fitness & Yoga says it will open in downtown Bethesda in September 2015.

Alain and Marc Cohen, owners of the gym, couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

In 1986, the Cohen brothers founded Opnet, an application performance management firm. In 2000, the company went public and eventually grew to 700 employees. About half of those employees were based at Opnet’s Bethesda headquarters.

In 2012, the brothers sold Opnet to San Francisco-based Riverbed Technology for $1 billion. Riverbed maintained the firm’s Bethesda Row office location.

The gym is part of the Cohen brothers’ Cobro Ventures Inc. The website promises yoga, cardio and strength training in a state-of-the-art facility and “a beautiful, inspiring, and calming setting — an oasis in busy downtown Bethesda.”

It will be quite a departure from the old Post Office building, which has been designated historic. It was built in 1938 as part of the New Deal. 

Today, it occupies a spot in the center of downtown Bethesda, next to the Hyatt Regency hotel and Bethesda Metro station.

Facing financial troubles, the U.S. Postal Service sold the building to the Donohoe Companies in 2012 for $4 million.

Few interior modifications have been made since.

by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 2:45 pm 2,430 26 Comments

Sheriff's office shuts down Pitzze in downtown Bethesda, Photo via Mike Landsman

A Bethesda pizzeria with a history of changing ownership was shut down on Wednesday by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

Bethesda Magazine reported the restaurant — Pitzze at 7137 Wisconsin Avenue — was being evicted for failing to pay rent and two deputies told employees it would be closed immediately.

The restaurant opened as Haven Pizzeria in 2012. Original owner Tiger Mullen sold it to a group of minority investors at the end of 2012 but then bought it back early last year.

Mullen then rebranded it as Pitzze, claiming the previous owners “were absentee owners who really didn’t understand the concept.”

The restaurant had a 100,000-pound coal-powered oven, used to cook up its New Haven-style pies.

Mullen opened the concept in February of 2012. Mullen said some of his partners soon wanted to expand. With a general disagreement about how to move forward, Mullen agreed to sell his majority share of the restaurant to his partners, who he said went to a new manager and slowly lost what the original Haven Pizzeria was about.

Customers were starting to notice. Online reviews claimed the pizza and service had gone downhill. In the fall of 2013, Mullen began talks to reacquire ownership of the restaurant, a deal that was completed in time to put him fully in charge starting in April 2014.

Mullen couldn’t be reached for comment on Wednesday.

Photo via Mike Landsman


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