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by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm 1,107 0

White Flint Station shopping center, via Google Maps

One of the few properties along Rockville Pike in White Flint that’s not attached to plans for mixed-use redevelopment has been sold, but don’t expect much to change.

White Flint Station, the one-story shopping center home to local favorites such as Ize’s Deli & Bakery and others such as the Le Tache “lingerie and couples boutique,” was sold to a joint venture including Randall Levitt of the Rockville-based Nellis Corporation and Rockville-based Investment Properties Inc.

Levitt said there are no plans to redevelop the property into the type of mixed-use residential and commercial buildings that are sprouting up (or planned to sprout up) in seemingly every corner of the Rockville Pike corridor.

“Our plan is to likely do a renovation of the shopping center and continue to operate it as a convenience retail shopping center,” Levitt said.

The joint venture purchased the property for a yet-to-be disclosed sum from a Baltimore doctor and Bethesda-based Greenhill Realty, which was managing the property as part of a joint venture.

The shopping center (11610-11620 Rockville Pike) is just north of Marinelli Road and the White Flint Metro station. Behind it is the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center.

Across Rockville Pike, developer LCOR is planning North Bethesda Center, a mixed-use development with a town center, luxury hotel and suspension bridge over the Metro station platform. The developer has already built two high-rise apartment buildings, one of which includes a Harris Teeter grocery store.

Across Marinelli Road, Bethesda-based developer Saul Centers is planning two 300-foot-tall apartment towers and a 230-foot-tall office complex for the site of the existing two-story Metro Pike Center.

Over the last few decades, Nellis Corporation has owned shopping centers in Annapolis, Odenton, Germantown and Gaithersburg, among other locations.

Photo via Google Maps

by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 11:45 am 708 2 Comments

Town of Kensington Labor Day Parade

Monday will mark the 47th Annual Kensington Labor Day Parade and Festival.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. at the corner of St. Paul Street and Plyers Mill Road and will include local school marching bands, equestrian show groups, floats, people from local religions and nonprofit organizations as well as a bevy of political officials reminding you to vote in November’s Gubernatorial election.

The event is more than just the parade — food and arts vendors will set up on Armory and Howard Avenues during and after the main festivities.

Northbound Connecticut Avenue traffic through Kensington will be diverted into southbound lanes during the parade.

by Aaron Kraut — August 28, 2014 at 10:00 am 1,326 7 Comments

Spotluck employees market the product on Cordell Avenue. On the far right is CEO Cherian Thomas and standing on the far right is CFO Bradford Sayler, via Spotluck

A new Bethesda business is trying to answer the common question of where you should eat tonight with a phone app and some big discounts.

Spotluck, the brainchild of CEO Cherian Thomas and CFO Bradford Sayler, is a phone app that allows users to take one “spin” a day of locally owned restaurants in two sections of town — Woodmont Triangle’s Cordell Avenue and Bethesda Row.

The spin will randomly select for users one restaurant and attach to it a discount that typically ranges from 10 percent to 30 percent off your final bill. The restaurants not selected in the spin will offer discounts typically about 5 percent less, and all the discounts are determined by algorithms that factor in real-time data such as the day of the week, weather conditions, the restaurant’s rating by previous Spotluck customers and other factors.

So the discounts on Monday before 6 p.m. will likely be a lot higher than the discounts on Friday after 6 p.m., when restaurants typically see more traffic and need to fill fewer tables.

If it’s pouring rain or snowing outside, the discounts will inch up. If a restaurant is getting four- or five-star ratings from Spotluck users, the discounts might go down.

It’s an all-in-one deals app, restaurant review app and reservation maker that’s unique from well-known services such as Groupon, Yelp and OpenTable in one very important way — its No. 1 focus is to entice restaurant-goers to Bethesda’s locally owned eateries.

The Cordell Avenue restaurants participating in Spotluck's "Cordell Avenue" hub, via Spotluck“We market your spot to people above you and around you,” Thomas said. “We’re not telling people in San Francisco, ‘Hey, check out La Panatteria.’ We’re telling everybody here, ‘Don’t forget about them. They’re here, they’re great and they’re local.’”

Thomas, a downtown Bethesda resident, has spent much of the last few months pitching the service to restaurants. Despite the big discounts for restaurant customers, Thomas said Spotluck’s main goal is to drum up business for the restaurant owners and managers who use the service.

Thomas said Spotluck is paid a fee by the participating restaurants based on how much business the app brings in. If a restaurant is fully booked or has a special event, a manager or server can block out the app for that day on iPads that Spotluck provides.

“The merchant is our No. 1 stakeholder. Our success is dependent on their success,” Thomas said. “We don’t perform, they’re not paying. That’s a pretty reasonable value proposition for them. We want to find the minimum discount possible that will get people to go to them. We kind of believe that you shouldn’t have the same prices on a Monday that you do on a Friday, because things are different out there.”

So far, the pitch seems to be catching on.

Passage to India, Brickside, Yamas, Roof, 4935 Bar & Kitchen, Harp & Fiddle, MoMo, Freddy’s Lobster, La Panatteria, and Grapeseed have all signed on to be part of Spotluck’s Cordell Avenue hub.

(more…)

by Aaron Kraut — August 27, 2014 at 1:15 pm 0

Montgomery County sealMonday’s Labor Day holidays mean a host of county government facilities will be closed.

Metro will run on a Sunday schedule, but the Bethesda and Medical Center stations will be closed to rail service because of track work:

County Offices – closed

Libraries – closed

County liquor stores – open 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Recreation – outdoor aquatic facilities will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Olney Indoor Swim Center will be open normal hours, all other indoor aquatic facilities will be closed. Administrative offices, senior centers and community centers are closed.

Montgomery Parks – for operating schedules, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.

Ride On – Sunday schedule

Metrobus – Sunday schedule

Metrorail – Sunday schedule

TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) – closed

Refuse/recycling pickup – no collection (Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Transfer Station – closed

Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters – free

MCPS Administrative Offices – closed

State offices & courts – closed

by Aaron Kraut — August 27, 2014 at 9:00 am 261 0

Smoothie King coming to 4710 Bethesda Ave.The former Bethesda Avenue space of a locally-owned tea shop will become a Smoothie King.

A banner in the window of 4710 Bethesda Ave. announces Smoothie King’s pending arrival. Zen Tara Tea, the independent tea shop and retailer that opened in the spot after success at a local farmers market, closed in May 2013. The space has been vacant since.

No word on if the existing Smoothie King location at 7720 Wisconsin Ave. will be affected. That property has been approved for redevelopment into a hotel and office building.

by Aaron Kraut — August 26, 2014 at 2:15 pm 583 6 Comments

Euro Motorcars will open a Volvo dealership in its Woodmont Avenue showroom next weekEuro Motorcars is one of the businesses that’s had a front row seat throughout the Lot 31 construction project in downtown Bethesda.

After switching out car brands and a showroom renovation, the dealership was hoping the project’s Woodmont Avenue closure would be reopened by Monday, when it will open a new Volvo dealership in the 7106 Woodmont Ave. space.

But despite Montgomery County’s 20- to 24-month timetable for the reopening (given upon closing the road in September 2012) the county said this week that the road will remain closed until December or January because of safety concerns.

That means a bit more waiting for Euro Motorcars and general manager Gil Hofheimer, who moved out the dealer’s Bentley and Rolls Royce sales departments last September amid clouds of dust and construction dirt.

“Woodmont Avenue is going to be a thriving area, there’s no question about it,” Hofheimer said. “We suffered through the early stages of the building. It’s finally coming to fruition.”

Euro Motorcars opened the showroom as a Rolls Royce and Bentley dealer in November 2012. But as Lot 31 construction started — and crews began blasting and excavating the site a few blocks north on Woodmont Avenue — Hofheimer said it was clear the ultra-luxury cars that sell for upwards of $200,000 weren’t a good fit for the location.

With hundreds of dump trucks a week hauling away dirt past the showroom, employees had to clean the pricey cars parked outside three or four times a week.

“It was a very difficult scenario to deal with because there’s not a lot of volume and you have salesmen there to earn a living and the traffic was minimal,” Hofheimer said. “It just wasn’t conducive to our business model.”

But rather than abandon the Woodmont Avenue showroom, Euro Motorcars decided to make it a Volvo facility. About a year-and-a-half ago, Euro Motorcars bought the Martens Volvo dealership at 4800 Wisconsin Ave. in Northwest D.C., knowing that Martens was about to sell the land to next-door Georgetown Day School.

The new Volvo showroom will officially move from that location to Woodmont Avenue on Monday. The renovation process was extensive, requiring new furnishings, flooring and signage. There will be about 20 cars in the showroom with six sales representatives, a waiting lounge, coffee bar and other amenities.

“This is truly Volvoland, Bethesda, Chevy Chase, NW D.C., Potomac,” Hofheimer said. “It is a very family-oriented, safe vehicle. Volvo has the reputation for being the safest car on the road an some of the systems it’s developed over the years that they now share with other manufacturers are astounding.”

The vehicle service will continue off-site at 5206 River Rd. That facility will also undergo a renovation starting in September. Euro Motorcars is the region’s biggest seller of Mercedes Benz, which its well-established Euro Motorcars Bethesda showroom stocks at 7020 Arlington Rd.

Ourisman Volkswagen, which bought the Martens Volkswagen unit next door at 4800 Wisconsin Ave., will move to the five-story, 140-unit apartment under construction at 7001 Arlington Rd., the former site of a U.S. Post Office.

by Aaron Kraut — August 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm 901 2 Comments

Photo via YelpA new grill and steakhouse is coming to an office building in the Tower Oaks section of Rockville.

The Stanford Grill, from Blue Ridge Restaurant Group, will open at 2000 Tower Oaks Blvd. next year. The 8,000-square-foot space will have more than 400 seats on the first floor of the building, which houses the corporate headquarters of developer Lerner Enterprises and The Tower Companies.

The restaurant will be the second of its kind from the Blue Ridge Restaurant Group, which also operates Copper Canyon Grill locations in Gaithersburg and Silver Spring.

The first Stanford Grill opened in 2012 in Columbia and features a menu similar to copper canyon, with American dishes, some seafood, burgers and sandwiches. The Tower Oaks location will also have a bakery and sushi bar.

“Our goal is to always elevate our patrons’ dining experience by offering great tasting meals and satisfying portions, in a richly appointed environment that is both elegant and comfortable and supported by well trained, knowledgeable and friendly staff,” Chief of Operations Juancarlo Parkhurst said in a press release.

The restaurant group said one of the reasons it chose the Tower Oaks location was because of the building’s LEED certifications. Blue Ridge will attempt to make the location a Certified Green Restaurant.

2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard“This means in addition to saving in areas like energy and waste management, we are committed to developing environmental standards for a variety of services, e.g., staff training/education; and overall resource conservation,” Parkhurst said in the release.

The space will include a private dining room, private outdoor patio, open fire pit, nightly live entertainment, wine cellar and valet parking.

The Columbia location was named the “Best New Restaurant” in Howard County by The Baltimore Sun’s Howard Magazine. It was also ranked as the No. 5 best restaurant out of 225 eateries in Columbia.

Photos via Yelp, Google Maps

by Aaron Kraut — August 25, 2014 at 9:00 am 441 4 Comments

The construction of a new bar and restaurant space on Cordell Avenue is set to start next month, according to the architect who designed the project.

Rockville-based Steven Karr says the renovation at 4848 Cordell Ave., until recently the home of a transitional homeless shelter, will begin on Sept. 15. Karr and property owner Lenny Greenberg will make the facility into a restaurant space featuring a mural of the New York City skyline on the wall facing a small public parking lot.

Karr also designed the building at Cordell and Norfolk Avenues that’s home to Roof and the Pizzeria da Marco building (8008 Woodmont Ave.).

The county consolidated the homeless shelter with a women’s shelter in North Bethesda.

Design animation via Steven J. Karr

by Aaron Kraut — August 25, 2014 at 7:10 am 201 0

A MCPS bus outfitted with one of five new school bus cameras to catch drivers who pass stopped buses

Monday is the first day of the 2014-2015 school year in Montgomery County, which means more than 150,000 kids will be walking, riding and driving to school.

With that in mind, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service put out a reminder of school-related driving safety tips. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 29 percent of pedestrian-related fatalities happen in the fall, the most dangerous time for pedestrians:

1. Respect the bus. Imagine being in a large car with 40 noisy, excited 4th-graders. Could be pretty stressful. Do your part and make the bus drivers’ lives easier. Yield when they are attempting to merge, and maintain a significant distance behind them, as they often make unexpected stops. Make sure children know to walk in front of — never in back of — buses.

2. Get in the zone. Speed limits in school zones typically range between 15 and 25 mph. Abide by the limits and look out for pedestrians, keeping your foot on the brake. (It goes without saying that school zones are home to newly licensed teenagers who are largely inexperienced). Speed limits aren’t just for during school hours either — consider after-school soccer practices, late night football games and other events.

3. Walk smart. Drivers aren’t the only ones who need to obey the rules of the road. A major driving hazard are pedestrians who jaywalk, cross at a red light or text while walking. More than an annoyance, this is a danger, especially in school zones. According to the Safe Routes to Schools organization, 33 percent of youth pedestrian crashes are attributed to kids darting out into the road. Remember to be a good pedestrian — cross at corners/marked crosswalks and in clear view, never between parked cars. Remind your kids to do the same.

4. A different kind of pool safety. If you’re part of a carpool it’s up to you to remind your children/passengers that seatbelts are a must – no matter who they are driving with. Not only are seatbelts the law, they save thousands of lives each year.

5. Go back to school yourself. Even if you’ve been driving for 30 years, make time for a refresher course in safe driving. Through your insurer, you may be eligible for a discount for a program. Remember that distracted driving unfortunately didn’t end with the summer either. The national report “Distracted Drivers in School Zones” offers sobering statistics about the effects, so turn off/put down your cell phone while in the car. While it’s an exciting time, getting back to school can be stressful, too. Tolerance and defensive driving will get you everywhere you need to go safely.

by Aaron Kraut — August 22, 2014 at 1:50 pm 455 8 Comments

Photo via Hope Floats

A spa that features flotation therapy tanks has reopened in its new spot just off Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda.

Hope Floats spa opened earlier this month at 4709 Chase Ave., less than a year after owner Kimberly Boone moved the business out of her house and into a space at 4811 Battery Lane. 

Because of demolition and redevelopment coming to the Battery Lane building, Boone had to move quickly to build out the new spa space just a few blocks away.

Hope Floats closed temporarily in May and reopened a few weeks ago on Chase Avenue. The flotation tanks are used for Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy or REST therapy, which Boone practices. Sessions usually run an hour or 90 minutes. The spa also has an infrared sauna room.

The Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce is set to hold a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new spa location on Sept. 4, with refreshments and tours of the space.

Photo via Hope Floats

by Aaron Kraut — August 22, 2014 at 12:25 pm 856 23 Comments

Woodmont Avenue remains closed Friday, the day the road was supposed to reopen

(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) Woodmont Avenue at Bethesda Avenue remained closed on Friday and the Bethesda Urban Partnership said it won’t open this weekend as expected.

Developer StonebridgeCarras is building a 186-unit apartment project on the former site of Montgomery County’s Lot 31. Across the street, the developer is building a condominium project called The Darcy.

In a public-private partnership with the county, the developer is building a 970-space public parking garage underneath the road to replace Lot 31. Woodmont Avenue between Bethesda Avenue and Miller Avenue was closed in September 2012 to allow for construction the county said would take between 20 and 24 months.

In July, StonebridgeCarras Principal Jane Mahaffie said the stretch of road would reopen by today, on the weekend before the first day of the 2014-2015 MCPS school year and the traditional uptick in area traffic.

Earlier this month, electronic signs indicated the road would be reopened earlier than that, by or on Friday, Aug. 15.

The Bethesda Urban Partnership, the county-funded group that maintains downtown Bethesda, tweeted on Friday afternoon that the road “will remain closed until further notice due to ongoing construction that impacts safety.”

A StonebridgeCarras representative didn’t return a request for comment.

Since last week, crews have installed signs that read “No Pedestrian Access” and “Not Publicly Maintained Roadway.”

In July, Mahaffie said the garage will hopefully be opened by or around Dec. 1. The apartment and condo buildings, which will include ground-floor restaurants and retail, should be completed by May 2015.

by Aaron Kraut — August 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm 210 0

Donations made to Bethesda Cares Thursday at Rock Springs Park Market, via Rock Springs Park MarketClients of the homeless outreach nonprofit Bethesda Cares will be getting 50 meals from a local barbecue food truck, plus a whole bunch of other donations from employees at a local office park.

Piedmont Office Realty Trust, one of the property managers at the Rockledge Drive office park in Bethesda, puts on a food truck and farmers market each Thursday during the summer for nearby workers.

The Rock Spring Park Market was set for its last day this year next week, but organizer Stacee Longenecker heard from many who wanted the event to continue into September.

With Bethesda Cares at the market on Thursday, market organizers challenged patrons to donate items or money (with $1 counting as one “item”) in order to extend the market season.

Longenecker reported that patrons donated $404 and 345 items (mainly toiletries, food and clothing) for a total of 749 donations. That means the market will be extended for all four Thursdays in September.

Montgomery County food truck Curley’s BBQ pledged to match the donations of its patrons, in the form of 50 meals each made up of a sandwich, slaw and baked beans.

Bethesda Cares provides counseling, clothing and food to homeless individuals living on the streets of Bethesda and elsewhere in Montgomery County. The nonprofit, based on Woodmont Avenue, also assists homeless people through the affordable housing process.  Since 2010, it has referred 41 individuals experiencing homelessness into permanent supportive housing programs.

by Aaron Kraut — August 21, 2014 at 12:45 pm 393 0

Not to be forgotten among the new restaurants coming to Westfield Montgomery mall is Lobster ME, the Las Vegas-based chain that offers lobster on a stick, among other treats.

Lobster ME offers Maine-style lobster rolls, tacos, lobster on waffles, lobster mac and cheese and a number of other lobster-infused fast casual dishes.

It will open in late October next to the Cava Mezze Grill also coming to Westfield Montgomery’s new Dining Terrace — the section added on to the mall’s food court.

The restaurant is embarking on a major national expansion from its two Las Vegas shops and popular Las Vegas food truck. That expansion will start in Bethesda, where Westfield Montgomery has brought in a host of new fast casual and full-service eateries as part of a $90 million renovation and expansion project.

Lobster ME’s attention-grabbing item is the “Lobsicle,” a grilled or battered lobster tail on a stick for $14.

In a press release, Lobster ME CEO Jeffrey Fine said the restaurant hopes to incorporate Maryland crab into the Bethesda menu. The mall location will be built using preserved old growth timber, straight from the Penobscot River in Maine.

It’ll be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. during the week and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekend.

Photos via Lobster ME

by Aaron Kraut — August 21, 2014 at 10:30 am 543 5 Comments

Parva gets a renovation and new paint job on Woodmont Avenue

The Parva restaurant and lounge in Bethesda has new management, a new look and a new name.

The two-floor space (7904 Woodmont Ave.) will now be known as the Parva Cocina & Tequila Bar, according to its website, and offer a “relaxed place” for margaritas and Tex-Mex.

The renovation and rebranding came about two months after condo residents across the street challenged Parva’s liquor license in a contentious county hearing. Residents of the Fairmont complained that Parva’s late-night lounge music was too loud and that the lounge was the cause of unruly behavior in Woodmont Triangle.

Parva Cocina & Tequila Bar new logo, via ParvaBut Parva had never been cited by police or the county for liquor or noise violations. The Board of License Commissioners allowed Parva to keep its alcohol license, but owners Juan Carlos Balcazar and his brother Edwin pledged to work with Fairmont residents to find a solution.

In July, the downstairs restaurant section of Parva was closed for a complete redesign. Painters recently finished applying a new coat of red paint on part of the front of the building.

Plumbing work closed the sidewalk in front of the building last week, which the restaurant says has delayed its planned “re-grand opening.” The upstairs lounge has remained open.

New logo via Parva

by Aaron Kraut — August 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm 357 0

The crowd at the Rock Spring Park Owner Association Farmers Market in Bethesda (file photo)A popular food truck and farmers market will extend its season into September if its patrons donate a certain amount of items to a local nonprofit.

Operators of the Rock Spring Park Market — the weekly lunchtime favorite of many Rockledge Drive office workers — said they’ve received many requests to extend the market season past its scheduled final date next week.

So the market has issued a challenge: If 125 items are donated to homeless prevention nonprofit Bethesda Cares at the market between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday, the Rock Spring Farmers Market will be extended to Sept. 4.

If 250 items are donated, the market will be extended to Sept. 11. If 375 items are donated, it will go until Sept. 18 and if 500 or more items are donated, the market will be extended to Sept. 25.

Stacee Longenecker, who puts together the Thursday market event for property manager Piedmont Office Realty Trust, made the announcement on Wednesday. The property manager sets up the market each Thursday during the summer along the sidewalks near the 6720 Rockledge Dr. Garage.

It’s become a popular spot for local food trucks and farmers market vendors, and a popular lunchtime spot for the hundreds of nearby office workers without many nearby restaurants.

Bethesda Cares will accept all food items, though canned goods, pasta, granola bars and oatmeal packets are especially needed. The nonprofit will also accept socks and clothing items (especially gently-used men’s clothing), toiletries and money. One dollar will be equal to one item, for the purposes of the market challenge.

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