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by Aaron Kraut — September 30, 2014 at 2:25 pm 2 Comments

Scaffolding at Bethesda Metro escalators  (file photo)The removal of bicycle lockers and newspaper boxes at the Bethesda Metro station is to make way for the escalator replacement project that could start next week.

A few readers and regular Metro commuters said they were surprised to find the equipment missing from the top of the station’s three entrance escalators on Monday.

WMATA spokesperson Philip Stewart confirmed crews have started to make space for the escalator project.

Because crews can only work when the station is closed overnight, the project might last more than two years. The escalators, at 108 feet long, are the second longest in the Western Hemisphere, behind the ones at the Wheaton station.

Making the project more complicated is the cramped design of the Bethesda station. The top of the escalators are confined by the ceiling of the Bethesda Metro bus bay.

The project could start as early as Monday, Oct. 6.

After demolition of the existing escalators, crews must construct, install and test the new ones. The demolition and replacement of each escalator (crews will keep two open at all times) will take about 10 months each, according to Metro.

by Aaron Kraut — September 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm 0

Zack Kline, founder of A.I.R. Lawn Care. (file photo)A local entrepreneur with a green landscaping company is looking for support in a program that could net his business $150,000 in funding.

Zack Kline launched his Rockville-based A.I.R. Lawn Care company last year as a member of Bethesda Green’s Green Business Incubator. Kline graduated from the incubator earlier this year while his “eco-friendly landscaping company” has continued to grow.

He’s looking to be one of 20 small business owners selected by Chase in its Mission Main Street program. The bank will provide those businesses each with a $150,000 grant, trip to Google for a small business marketing workshop and free Google Chromebook laptop.

Kline needs a few more Facebook votes to put him over the 250 mark, which would make him eligible for the grant.

It wouldn’t be his first grant — Kline won a $5,000 prize in a college startup competition. His company is inspired by hot, humid summers toting around gas-powered lawn equipment.

He said he came up with the idea while working for a landscaping company on a large lot in Darnestown during a 95-degree Code Red air quality day. His job was to trim and edge the perimeter of the whole property using a gas-powered weedeater.

A.I.R. uses a truck with a solar panel to help power up equipment, including electric blowers, mowers and trimmers with chargeable batteries.

Since officially launching in June 2013, the company has grown to more than 100 clients, including commercial accounts such as the Kentlands community in Gaithersburg.

Kline said he’s hoping to use the $150,000 to hire more employees, buy more equipment and vehicles and find some property to use as a headquarters.

The voting deadline is Oct. 17.

by Aaron Kraut — September 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm 0

Willie's Bar, via Embassy Suites

The hotel bar and restaurant part of a major renovation at a Friendship Heights hotel will open Tuesday.

Willie’s Bar, a new 2,000-square-foot bar and lounge named after admired hotel sous chef Wilfredo Benavides, will offer small plates and drinks inside the Embassy Suites at the Chevy Chase Pavilion (4300 Military Rd., NW D.C.).

Benavides died last year from Lou Gehrig’s disease. In his memory, 1 percent of all bar proceeds will go to the ALS Association.

Also part of the hotel’s overall $10.5 million renovation is the reworked Atrio Cafe and Lounge. Both places will be open from 4 p.m.-11 p.m. daily starting Tuesday.

“We plan to become the Friendship Height’s neighborhood go-to hotspot for hotel guests, professionals in the area and DC locals alike looking for delicious eats in a sophisticated, fun atmosphere,” hotel executive chef Margaret Fenaoui said in a press release.

Some of the seating in the Atrio Cafe and Lounge overlooks the Chevy Chase Pavilion atrium. The hotel portion of the renovation, which includes conversions of 198 suites, is set to be completed by Oct. 20.

Photo via Embassy Suites

by Aaron Kraut — September 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm 232 1 Comment

Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station area from above

The Planning Department is now offering free trees to property owners in the Grosvenor area, an expansion of the program looking to create more tree canopy in urban areas of the county without much of it.

The department’s Shades of Green program is funded primarily by required contributions from developers who don’t replace or plant new trees on their sites. Since 2012, the Planning Department has offered property owners in some urban areas the chance to apply for a variety of almost 20 trees, ranging in height from 25 feet to 40 feet and taller.

The program has been active in downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights and Westbard. A 2011 study by the department found that many of the county’s developed areas were lacking the 25 percent tree canopy benchmark meant to ensure cooler buildings, better air quality and reduction of the heat island effect.

In 2011, planners found the Bethesda Central Business District had 24 percent tree canopy coverage, the area around the Grosvenor apartments and Metro station had 44 percent, North Bethesda had 23 percent, White Flint had 19 percent and Friendship Heights had 31 percent.

Property owners interested must sign up for an evaluation. If tree experts determine the site has sufficient soil volume and sunlight, a property owner may qualify.

by Aaron Kraut — September 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm 426 8 Comments

David "Curley" Cornblatt (far right) serves up barbecue at the Bethesda Cares weekly meals program on Monday in Bethesda

A popular local food truck on Monday cooked up sandwiches, slaw and baked beans for some of Bethesda’s most vulnerable homeless and low-income people.

For some who have lived on the streets for years, it was the first time in a long time they’ve been in a position to simply read off a menu.

Curley’s BBQ cooked up chicken, beef and pork barbecue for Monday’s regular gathering of the Bethesda Cares meals program. The nonprofit provides food to the homeless and working poor on weekdays around Bethesda and during the last two weeks of every month in a small house behind the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church on Old Georgetown Road.

On this occasion, Curley’s BBQ owner David “Curley” Cornblatt showed up with his yellow truck ready to dish out about 50 free meals.

The appearance came out of a local office park’s donation drive in August to benefit clients of Bethesda Cares.

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

Organizer Stacee Longenecker reported that patrons donated $404 and 345 items (mainly toiletries, food and clothing) for a total of 749 donations. That means the food truck-heavy market was extended into September.

It also meant free barbecue for Bethesda Cares’ clients as Cornblatt pledged to match the donations of his market patrons.

Bethesda Cares Development Director Amy Freeman said the meals program provides about 13,500 meals a year. Bethesda Cares provides the food at a number of church spaces around Bethesda.

Cornblatt, who cooks 75 meals a month for the a homeless shelter in Rockville, said he quickly got over any stigma about the homeless and working poor.

“They aren’t outcasts. They are real people. This is us,” Cornblatt said. “Today was more of an excuse to connect with a different group. I see the smiles on these peoples’ faces and it’s priceless.”

by Aaron Kraut — September 26, 2014 at 3:05 pm 219 1 Comment

Gallery of Bethesda mural

Check out the large mural recently completed opposite the Gallery Bethesda apartment building on Auburn Avenue.

It’s from Bethesda artist and Walt Whitman High School graduate Jordann Wine, hired by developer Donohoe to add a new touch to the Gallery’s pedestrian plaza.

The mural includes 26 shades of purple and more than 1,200 triangles across the 24-foot by 90-foot cinder block wall, according to local blogger Robert Dyer.

Besides adding some public art to the plaza, the mural will also serve as a placeholder of sorts. Donohoe has approval to build a second Gallery of Bethesda building (at 16 stories and 221 units) on the site. But with the first Gallery building opening just this year, it’ll likely be a few years before ground is broken.

by Aaron Kraut — September 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm 459 5 Comments

Leahy Plumbing & Heating moving from Cordell Avenue

After more than 50 years on Cordell Avenue, a local plumbing and heating business is moving up Rockville Pike.

John Leahy, owner of Leahy’s Plumbing & Heating, left a message on his just-vacated 4916 Cordell Ave. storefront window.

“It’s been fun to watch Bethesda change over my lifetime and it’s hard to say goodbye to the neighborhood I’ve grown up in, but it has become very difficult to navigate the downtown Bethesda traffic and parking in our service vehicles and we are ready for a change,” Leahy wrote.

On Friday, Leahy said he was too busy handling the move to talk details, but he’ll open a new store at an unspecified location near White Flint. The business has been in the Leahy family for more than 75 years, handling basic plumbing services, kitchen and bathroom remodeling, stove and fireplace hookups and other jobs.

The space is now up for lease from Conley Management, the company that leases out a number of older properties around Woodmont Triangle.

“We’ll still be providing the same grew service my family has been providing since 1927,” Leahy wrote. “Stop by and say hello if you find yourself near our new shop.”

by Aaron Kraut — September 26, 2014 at 10:15 am 596 3 Comments

Blaze Pizza in Westfield Montgomery mallThe Blaze Pizza location that opened last month at Westfield Montgomery mall will offer free pizzas next week to all those who follow the chain on social media.

Free build-your-own pizza day is Thursday, Oct. 2, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m. at Blaze’s spot across from the Aroma Espresso Bar near Entrance 4 to the mall (7101 Democracy Blvd.).

Anyone who follows Blaze Pizza on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook will get a free pie. The 11-inch, quick-cook pizzas typically cost $8 and less.

The creators of Wetzel’s Pretzels — another shopping mall favorite — founded Blaze in 2012 with money from famous folks like Maria Shriver and Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner. Executive chef Brad Kent is well known in Los Angeles for his Olio Pizzeria & Cafe.

The restaurants use the same assembly line format you’ll find at Chipotle, so there’s some degree of customization. The “BBQ Chkn” and “Meat Eater” are the most popular of the chain’s signature pies.

by Aaron Kraut — September 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm 357 0

Westfield Montgomery Mall, via Westfield MontgomeryThe previously announced Microsoft store coming to Westfield Montgomery mall will open Saturday, Nov. 22, according to an announcement made Thursday.

The store will be located on the second level of the Democracy Boulevard shopping center, not far from the Apple store.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony is set for 11 a.m, Nov. 22. The roughly 1,200-square-foot store will offer tablets, Windows Phones, Xbox One gaming systems and a host of other products.

The Microsoft store will be the company’s third in Maryland and add to more than 100 nationwide.

by Aaron Kraut — September 25, 2014 at 11:25 am 1,754 2 Comments

Pike & Rose Phase 1, Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue

(Updated at 7 p.m.) As the first restaurant in the Pike & Rose mixed-use development opens Thursday, developer Federal Realty announced a rough timeline of when about 20 other businesses in the new neighborhood will open their doors.

Some of the biggest businesses – the iPic movie theater, the music and events venue AMP by Strathmore, and Sport&Health Club — will open in November and December. iPic aims to be open by the Nov. 21 release of the next “Hunger Games” movie, Sport&Health says it hopes to be open by December and AMP will be open in December to private events.

Planning to open in November are Gap, clothing and jewelry boutique Francesca’s, City Sports, children’s clothing retailer Yogasa Boutique, Mirage Nails & Waxing, Seasons Olive Oli & Vinegar Taproom and City Perch — the restaurant inside iPic.

Set to open in December are the Chipotle spinoff ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen, Summer House, Stella Barra Pizzeria, &pizza, Roti Mediterranean Grille, La Madeleine Country French Cafe and PR at Partners Salon and Spa.

Remaining tenants Protein Bar and the yet-to-be-named beer garden from Neighborhood Restaurant Group will open next year, the developer said.

The restaurants and retailers are the first phase of Rockville-based Federal Realty’s transformation of the former Mid-Pike Plaza shopping center, located on 24 acres at the northwest corner of Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike.

It’s the first major redevelopment project to come as a result of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan and will include 450,000 square feet of retail, 1.1 million square feet of office space, a 300-room hotel, apartments and condos.

The free-standing building near the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike is the only part of the old Mid-Pike Plaza that will remain. A number of businesses — Bank of America, $1.98 Dry Cleaners, Starbucks and Vision Works — remained there.

Federal Realty added a pedestrian plaza to the building, where the Chipotle will open in a new storefront.

by Aaron Kraut — September 24, 2014 at 12:45 pm 1 Comment

Montgomery County this week is stepping up its efforts to stop drivers from passing stopped school buses.

In a new, minute-long public service announcement, one such driver is shown getting pulled over by a cop. Except, it’s not just any cop, but a kid dressed in full uniform who then puts the driver in timeout. He then explains the dangers of passing buses dropping off or picking up students.

The county began attaching cameras attached to bus stop sign arms in January. Fines for being caught on an automated school bus camera are $125, with no points. If a police officer observes a driver passing a stopped school bus, it’s can mean a $570 fine and three points.

In just the first three months of the camera program, police issued 272 citations for drivers caught on camera passing a stopped bus. The cameras were eventually deployed on 25 buses. 

Police projected that about 100 citations will be issued per month during the 2014-2015 school year. That means 1,000 total citations over a 10-month school calendar. Assuming a 90 percent collection rate, that would net the county about $112,500 in revenue.

Video via Montgomery County

Screen shot from new Montgomery County PSA on stopped school buses, via Montgomery County

by Aaron Kraut — September 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm 0

2012 Taste of Bethesda set up

The Bethesda Urban Partnership puts on the Taste of Bethesda with the help of 100 volunteers, and a few weeks before this year’s event it’s still in need of some folks to help out.

There are five teams — set-up, ticket booth, drink tent, roving and parking — that work in shifts throughout the day. Set-up for the Taste starts at 7 a.m. by placing tablecloths, hanging signs and helping restaurants gear up.

The event last year brought between 38,000 and 40,000 people to Norfolk, Fairmont, St Elmo, Cordell and Del Ray Avenues.

Set-up and afternoon slots in all areas are in need of the most assistance. The afternoon shifts go from 1:30 p.m.-4 p.m.

Volunteers must be at least 16, and volunteers younger than 18 require a permission form. Each team will have a captain to lead the way. For more information, visit the BUP site.

You can find the volunteer form here.

by Aaron Kraut — September 22, 2014 at 4:40 pm 774 1 Comment

Westbard area, via Montgomery County Planning Department

The public process for a new Westbard will begin on Tuesday night with a kickoff community meeting at Walt Whitman High School.

Before heading there, it’s probably a good idea to check out the Planning Department’s Westbard Briefing Book, a 48-page treasure trove of stats, background info and projections about the area that, if nothing else, will give you a better idea of where planners are coming from.

Those planners will lead the Westbard Sector Plan rewrite, the master plan initiated by a new property owner seeking mixed-use redevelopment of some of the area’s anchor locations – including the Westwood Shopping Center on Westbard Avenue.

It’s set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Whitman High School Cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd.). 

Until then, catch up on the Briefing Book facts, including some of the following that stood out to us:

(more…)

by Aaron Kraut — September 22, 2014 at 3:25 pm 289 0

Nava Health & Vitality Center ribbon cutting last week with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, via Nava

(Updated at 8:00 p.m.) This story was updated with clarifications about Nava Health & Vitality Center’s monthly membership and insurance coverage policy and Dr. Douglas Lord’s background.

The medical director at the Nava Health & Vitality Center that opened last week in Chevy Chase says it offers an integrative, comprehensive and detailed approach to health that traditional medicine just can’t.

The center has a team of doctors, nutritionists, sports nutritionists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists and others Dr. Douglas Lord said provide all sorts of service.

Most of Nava’s clients (it has one other location in Columbia) are in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Nava doesn’t accept insurance, but clients may submit the services and therapies to an insurance provider and they may or may not be covered. The blood work for the consultation is usually covered by insurance. A membership is $79 a month and includes discounts on services plus seminars a newsletter and therapy sessions including massages and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. More intensive treatments — such as hormone optimization — can cost upward of $800 a year.

But Lord and CEO Bernie Dancel say there’s a market for those looking for alternatives to the traditional check-up and referrals system.

“We feel like the timing is right. People are getting frustrated. We’re spending enormous amounts of money and not getting as healthy as we should,” Lord said. “Traditional medicine is to try to fix you when you get sick. What we try to do is look at the whole picture to get everything in balance so that a person can be as healthy as possible.”

Nava’s main pitch is that instead of 10-15 minutes with a doctor, clients get a 45-minute consultation that provides a detailed look at a person’s health and a program to improve that health.

And Lord, a longtime OB/GYN who began in integrative medicine six years ago, said he’s found that Nava’s Columbia clients are more serious about treatments, a natural consequence of having searched those treatments out in the first place.

“When people have some skin in the game, put their own money up, they’ll really do what they have to do,” Lord said. “What we find is that people that come to us are much, much more motivated than what we’ve found in traditional private practice.”

Nutritionists and wellness advisors are a big part of the so-called “Nava Method,” especially when it concerns weight loss. A chiropractor regularly meeting with an acupuncturist or other specialists on staff provide a more complete approach.

“It’s not anti-aging, because you can’t stop the aging process,” Lord said. “The term is healthy aging.”

Nava (5 Wisconsin Circle) is one of a number of Friendship Heights medical centers outside the traditional medical model pitching help with the aging process. The NeurExpand Brain Center opened this summer nearby.

Photo via Nava

by Aaron Kraut — September 22, 2014 at 9:10 am 170 2 Comments

The Bethesda Metro station bus bay

On the occasion of Car Free Day, a group of the Purple Line’s most vocal supporters hoped to show the proposed light rail would make east-to-west commutes easier.

Action Committee for Transit member Sareana Kimia live-tweeted her commute from her home near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station to her 9 a.m. class at the University of Maryland-College Park campus.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Kimia will join Councilmember George Leventhal in a “Twitter chat” about the Purple Line co-sponsored by the Montgomery County Young Democrats (hashtag: #GoPurpleGoCarfree).

Kimia’s commute started with Ride On bus route 5 at 7:15 a.m. at Rockville Pike and Strathmore Avenue. Her next bus was the UMD Shuttle from the Silver Spring Metro station.

ACT was trying to make the point that the Purple Line — the 16-mile light rail that would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton with stops in Silver Spring and College Park — would make car-free commutes faster and easier for thousands of local commuters.

Kimia tweeted that despite the 7:15 a.m. start time, she was still on the UMD Shuttle bus at 9 a.m. ACT said a Metro Red Line ride from Grosvenor to Bethesda, then transfer to the Purple Line would’ve taken 55 minutes.

The live-tweeting got some participation from District 18 Del. Al Carr, who asked Kimia why she didn’t take the Metro Red Line to Bethesda, then transfer to the Metro J4 bus, which runs on a similar east-west route the Purple Line would. Kimia said the county’s $11 a month youth subsidy doesn’t apply to Metro buses or trains.

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