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]
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
Federal prosecutors say a North Bethesda doctor served as a “pill mill” for prescription drug abusers from as far as Tennessee and is responsible for distributing methadone to a patient who died as a result of using the drug.
Silviu Ziscovici, known as “Dr. Z” according to federal officials, was charged earlier this week with conspiracy to distribute and distribution of controlled dangerous substances, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance resulting in death and money laundering in connection to his 11400 Rockville Pike pain and management practice.
The indictment, brought by a grand jury at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, alleges that Ziscovici used his state medical license to prescribe oxycodone, methadone, morphine, alprazolam and other controlled substances to patients without any apparent medical need for the drugs.
The indictment alleges users paid Ziscovici a fee to get the prescriptions from at least July 2009 through June 22, 2010.
An investigation of Ziscovici by the Drug Enforcement Administration led to the Maryland Board of Physicians permanently revoking his medical license in December 2010. No criminal charges were filed at the time, but DEA information in the suspension order revealed 15 of his patients died from drug overdoses and that he’d been seeing about 35 patients a day from 13 different states for a profit of between $1.4 million and $1.9 million a year.
The DEA said it began investigating Ziscovici in September 2009 after several Maryland pharmacists reported to the state Division of Drug Control that they had seen unusually high number of Ziscovici’s patients with prescriptions for large amounts of pain medication. According to the suspension order, Montgomery County Police began investigating Ziscovici in the summer of 2009 using undercover detectives.
The 29-count federal indictment was announced Wednesday and means Ziscovici faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison and up to life in prison for the the single charge of distribution resulting in death. The 26 counts of distribution of controlled substances and for conspiracy each carry 20-year sentences and the money laundering charge carries a 10-year sentence.
Ziscovici had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Wednesday and remains in custody pending a detention hearing set for Friday afternoon.
The federal indictment alleges that on Feb. 2, 2010, Ziscovici “caused methadone to be distributed to a patient, outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose” that led to the death of one patient.
The indictment also alleges that a co-conspirator living in Tennessee would regularly transport people from Tennessee to Ziscovici’s North Bethesda office:
According to the indictment, Ziscovici instructed the co-conspirator not to bring anyone under the age of 25, or anyone with visible “track marks” to Ziscovici’s office. The indictment alleges that, among other things, Ziscovici conducted cursory, incomplete, or no medical examination of patients, prescribed inappropriate combinations of medications, increased patients’ dosages without medical justification, and treated a large number of patients who had travelled long distances to his office in order to obtain prescriptions for highly addictive controlled substances.
Equity One bought Westwood Towers, Springhouse by Manor Care, Bowlmor Lanes and two Citgo stations last year and finalized the acquisition of Westwood Shopping Center and Westwood Center II early this year. The company almost immediately began a series of open-to-public meetings with residents in the area to explain the broad strokes of their redevelopment plans, which will require new zoning through an updated area master plan.
On Saturday, Equity One will hold a summer sidewalk sale at Westwood Shopping Center, now anchored by a Giant grocery store and a mix of national and local retailers.
The event, from noon to 4 p.m., will be run in partnership with the Montgomery County Animal Services and Adoption Center and include a DJ, face painter, ice cream truck, games and raffle prizes. On Saturday, Sept. 20, Equity One has set up a Food Truck Rally for the shopping center, then an E-Recycling Day on Saturday, Sept. 27.
Equity One hired a Rockville-based public relations firm to help it create a website and foster communication with residents, many who are wary of increased commercial and residential density in the area of strip shopping centers just west of River Road.
Equity One successfully lobbied the County Council to move the Westbard Sector Plan Update to this year.
At a public meeting on March 18, Equity One presented its idea for a a “signature” main street on Westbard Avenue with pedestrian crossings and upscale retailers to replace loading docks and driveways. It plans to tab developer EYA to design the residential component of the project.
It would mean big changes for the Westwood Shopping Center, though it’s unknown at this point what precise changes are might be in store.
Michael Berfield, executive vice president of development for Equity One, said in March that the company held a breakfast meeting with about 50 of the existing businesses and promised to “make it economically reasonable for them to stay,” through any redevelopment.
Photo via Equity One
The latest 2nd District crime summary from Montgomery County Police:
Four thefts from vehicles occurred during this reporting period. Entry was both forced and unforced. Incidents occurred on Taylor Street and Ross Road in Chevy Chase and on 16th Street in Silver Spring. Items targeted included: cash, rims, tires, radios, a purse, a cell phone and a tv.
A theft occurred in the 7200 block of Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda on Monday, 7/14 between 4:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. The suspect obtained property from the victim.
A sexual offense occurred in the 4900 block of Fairmont Avenue in Bethesda on Thursday, 7/17 during the afternoon hours. The suspect is known to the victim
A strong-arm robbery occurred in the 5200 block of Wapakoneta Road in Bethesda on Friday, 7/18 at 3:15 p.m. The suspect assaulted the victim and obtained property.
Suspect: B/M, 6′, bald
A commercial burglary occurred at the Exxon located at 6729 Goldsboro Road in Bethesda on Monday, 7/14 between 3:20 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Unknown entry; property taken.
An attempted commercial burglary occurred in the 4500 block of Sangamore Road in Bethesda on Wednesday, 7/16 at approximately 8:15 p.m. Attempted forced entry; nothing taken.
A commercial burglary occurred at Tilden Pool, 6806 Tilden Lane in Rockville overnight between Thursday, 7/17 and Friday, 7/18. Forced entry; vandalism occurred.
A sex assault occurred in the 7400 block of Westlake Terrace in Bethesda on Wednesday, 7/16 at an unknown time. The suspect is known to the victim.
Six thefts from vehicles occurred in this beat during this reporting period. All incidents involved unsecured vehicles. Two incidents occurred at Congressional Country Club, 8500 River Road in Bethesda.
To make way for multi-million dollar condos, crews first must tear down an old brick garden apartment in downtown Bethesda.
The demolition of the Hampden Apartments, which were rented out anywhere from $1,105 to $2,405 monthly, will make way for The Lauren, a 40-unit new condo project that will require quite a bit more coin.
A four-bed, four-and-half-bath condo at the building will cost $4.8 million, according to Sotheby’s International Realty, which is the listing agent for the development.
The Lauren will also take the place of a parking lot and standalone house at 4901 Hampden Lane, with frontage to Woodmont Avenue near Bethesda Row. County law requires six moderately priced units. Five other units will be for sale as guest/amenity suites.
Chevy Chase Village isn’t satisfied with a plan to put a flashing yellow pedestrian signal on what the Village says could be a key crossing of six-lane Connecticut Avenue.
The Maryland State Highway Administration has proposed the flashing yellow signal for Lenox Street and Connecticut Avenue, which leads to the Village Hall — a center of activity and home to the Village’s Police Department.
In a letter to SHA Administrator Melinda Peters, Gary Crockett from the Village Board of Managers wrote that a resident crossing with his walker was recently hit by a car, illustrating the danger.
“The flashing yellow light planned by SHA will not protect pedestrians and may even increase the risk of pedestrian and vehicle crashes,” Crockett wrote. “Based on a review of extensive Federal research on pedestrian safety, the only truly effective protection is to install a full color traffic signal.”
The Village’s Board of Managers created an ad hoc Pedestrian Safety Committee in March to push for the full signal, which would be pedestrian-activiated and which Crockett wrote wouldn’t adversely affect vehicular traffic.
According to the Village website, the SHA denied that request, saying the Village lacks the minimum number of pedestrians seeking to cross Connecticut Avenue per SHA metrics. The Village argued that more pedestrians “would undoubtedly seek to cross if there was a safe way to do so,” but that “the State continues to point to the failure to meet the warrants as insufficient basis to proceed with the installation of a signal.”
Crockett wrote that the Village Hall and the post office unit inside the Village Hall are home to more than 33,000 transactions per year.
Image via Google Maps
Georgetown Prep Lax Coach Resigns – Kevin Giblin, who was Georgetown Prep’s lacrosse coach for 27 years, resigned on Wednesday. It’s unclear why. A letter from the school’s athletic director doesn’t give a reason for the resignation and a report from Washington Magazine claims it’s because Giblin got in a bar fight in June at Caddies on Cordell. Giblin didn’t respond to requests for comments on the reported incident. [Washingtonian Magazine]
International Beer Day At Piazza Beer Garden – To celebrate International Beer Day (which is officially Friday) Piazza Beer Garden (7401 Woodmont Ave.) is hosting a beer and hors d’oeuvres event on Thursday evening. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, the beer garden will host the event with DC Brau’s Brandon Skall. The event is open to the public and tickets are $10. [International Beer Day At Piazza Beer Garden]
Bethesda Native Qualifies For U.S. Amateur Championship – Bethesda native Keegan Boone carded a two-round score of 139 at a qualifying event in Prince George’s County and will head to the 114th U.S. Amateur Championship next month at the Atlanta Athletic Club. Boone graduated from Gonzaga College High School and is going into his junior year at Loyola University in Baltimore, where he helped the Greyhounds win last season’s Patriot League title. [Loyola Athletics]
Flickr photo by Amon
The 44th annual Labor Day Art Show at Glen Echo Park is looking for entries.
The event typically draws more than 250 artists with works in a wide range of artistic media, including, sculpture, painting, glass, jewelry, photography and furniture.
From noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30, Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday, Sept. 1, the works will be on display and for sale in Glen Echo Park’s historic Spanish Ballroom (7300 MacArthur Blvd.).
It’s one of the Glen Echo Park Partnership’s biggest yearly events, drawing around 9,000 visitors over the weekend.
The deadline for artists who hope to take part is Sunday, Aug. 3.
Photo via Glen Echo Park Partnership