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by Aaron Kraut — October 31, 2014 at 3:15 pm 218 4 Comments

The Potomac Crest neighborhood, via Google Maps

A county councilmember and state senator are taking up the cause of some Potomac residents who say Pepco has gone too far with a tree-cutting program in their neighborhood.

Councilmember Roger Berlinger and District 15 State Sen. Brian Feldman asked the state’s Public Service Commission to stop Pepco’s tree-cutting operations for two weeks in the Potomac Crest development.

Residents in the neighborhood, just off Tuckerman Lane and Seven Locks Road, have been fighting with Pepco for months after the power company first attempted to cut down trees on their properties.

Earlier this month, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge denied a request from the residents to stop Pepco from cutting down the trees. Pepco has an easement on the land dating back to the 1950′s that allows it to cut down trees even on private property if it’s necessary to ensure electric service reliability.

“No one has fought harder for greater reliability in our community, and we fully accept that trees and power lines do not mix. Appropriate vegetation management is necessary to deliver power safely and reliably,” wrote Berliner and Feldman in a letter to PSC Chairman Kevin Hughes. “However, there are reasonable actions that can be taken, and then there are unreasonable, destructive approaches.”

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by Aaron Kraut — October 31, 2014 at 2:15 pm 758 8 Comments

A bicyclist was struck along Old Georgetown Road and crashed into the rear windshield of the white car in this photo Police said the driver who hit the bicyclist fled the scene

An apparent hit and run along Old Georgetown Road sent a bicyclist into a rear windshield and then to the hospital.

MCFRS and police responded to the report of a cyclist struck on northbound Old Georgetown Road near Lucas Lane at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday.

Officers on the scene said a brown vehicle hit a bicyclist in the right lane, sending the man into the back windshield of the vehicle in front of him. The driver of the vehicle that hit the bicyclist fled the scene, police said.

The man was transported to a local hospital to be evaluated for a head injury, according to scanner traffic.

by Aaron Kraut — October 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm 503 0

Collision at Rockville Pike and Grosvenor Lane, Photo via @lisaluckysevens

 

Updated at 3:15 p.m. All lanes of Rockville Pike at Grosvenor Lane have been reopened after a car overturned in a Friday afternoon collision.

MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said first responders extricated two victims trapped in the overturned vehicle. The accident happened around 1:45 p.m.

According to a witness, the accident happened when a truck ran a red light and hit a work van that had a piece of glass attached to it.

Photo via @lisaluckysevens

by Aaron Kraut — October 31, 2014 at 11:25 am 273 2 Comments

Pike & Rose map, via Pike & Rose

New restaurants, retail and a movie theater are just the start of Federal Realty’s massive redevelopment project at the former Mid-Pike Plaza Shopping Center in North Bethesda/White Flint.

The Rockville-based developer known locally for Bethesda Row and Rockville Town Square will announce in an investor call on Friday that it’s fully funded and ready to launch the second phase of Pike & Rose construction.

Construction staging on Phase II of Federal Realty's Pike & Rose project“Phase II” will extend Grand Park Avenue — the new street connecting to Old Georgetown Road — to the northern boundary of the property. It will also include 185,000 additional square feet of ground floor retail divided by 30 stores, another 264 apartment units and 104 luxury condos on top of a 177-room Hilton hotel announced earlier this month.

The announcement comes as Del Frisco’s Grille — the first restaurant to open in Phase I of Pike & Rose — and iPic Theaters embark on their “opening season.” A long list of other restaurants and retailers are scheduled to open over the next few months and into next spring, when Strathmore’s AMP concert venue is expected to open.

Federal Realty says more than 75 percent of the units in its 174-unit PerSei apartment building have been leased following a summer opening. Pallas, a 319-unit luxury high-rise part of Phase I, will open mid-year 2015.

Mid-Pike Plaza, now cleared out to make room for Pike & RoseFederal Realty landed Bank of America Merrill Lynch to lease 40,000 square feet of its 80,000-square-foot Class A office building part of Phase I.

Phase II construction, approved last year by the Planning Board, will start in 2015 and is expected to be complete in 2017.

In total, construction of the 1.5 million square feet of commercial space, 1,605 residential units and network of plaza parks and new streets over the 24 acres that used to be Mid-Pike Plaza will cost an estimated $500 million.

It’s the first major project to come as a result of new land use guidelines prescribed by the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, meant to create widespread redevelopment of Rockville Pike’s strip shopping centers and surface parking lots into mixed-use, transit-oriented communities.

Map via Pike & Rose

by Aaron Kraut — October 31, 2014 at 9:10 am 692 0

Add power recliners and an in-movie iPad food ordering system to the list of local movie theater amenities.

iPic, the Boca Raton-based movie theater chain, will open its eight-screen Pike & Rose location on Friday.

The recliners and in-movie food and drink service are the latest perks from a new batch of local theaters seeking to brand themselves as the standard in luxury moviegoing.

Just two weeks ago, Los Angeles-based ArcLight Cinemas opened its 16-screen theater at Westfield Montgomery mall, complete with widescreens and the latest in surround sound technology.

Perhaps sensing the coming competition, Landmark Theatres closed its Bethesda Row Cinema for a month last year for a complete overhaul of the facility’s interior, setting up cozier seating, a new gourmet food and cocktail menu and a reserved seating system in the process.

Reserved seating is also a staple of iPic’s brand. The Pike & Rose location (11580 Old Georgetown Rd.) is the company’s eleventh and its biggest.

It’s located at what’s now the end of Grand Park Avenue in the middle of Federal Realty’s redevelopment of the former Mid-Pike Plaza shopping center. A staircase and escalator takes customers up to the lobby, where there is also an entrance to City Perch, the full-service restaurant with a separate kitchen.

The eight auditoriums range from 84 to 104 seats and each is divided into premium seats up front and multiple tiers of premium plus seats — the orange recliners that move with the push of a button.

Each of the premium plus seats (they cost $22 each on the weekend and $17 during the week with a free membership) includes a small pillow and blanket a la first class seating on an airplane. The seats are positioned in groups of two and angled so iPic’s “ninja servers” won’t block the screen while delivering food and drink orders during a movie.

The popcorn comes free, at least in the premium plus seats. Those who buy the premium seats (which range from $11 to $13 a ticket) can bring food and drinks into the theater.

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by Aaron Kraut — October 31, 2014 at 8:05 am 0

The former Mid-Pike Plaza, now under development as part of the second phase of the Pike & Rose project

Tips For A Safe Halloween – The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service has a long list of safety tips for Halloween trick-or-treating. [MCFRS]

Goldsboro Townhouse Project Presentation – The people behind a proposal for 19 townhouses on Goldsboro Road’s “Happy Valley” property will present on Monday at 7 p.m. at a meeting of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board’s land use and transportation committees. The meeting will take place at the Town of Glen Echo town hall (6106 Harvard Ave.). The meeting is open to the public. [Regional Services Center]

B-CC Field Hockey Wins Region Title – The Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School field hockey team beat Wootton, 3-2, on Wednesday in overtime to win the Class 4A South Region title. The Barons will move on to play Quince Orchard on Nov. 5 in the state semifinals in Burtonsville. [The Gazette]

Boloco Gets Into The Halloween Spirit – Boloco, the burrito chain at 4930 Elm St., is offering its Pumpkin Shake for $1, $2 or $3 all day on Friday. Customers who wear a costume into the store will get a small Pumpkin Shake for free.

Go Green, Get Your Name On The Side Of A Bus – Montgomery County is celebrating five years of its Green Business Certification Program by placing ads on the side of its Ride On buses featuring each of the almost 60 businesses that have taken part. Each company in the program will be individually promoted on the side of a bus for at least three months. Almost all of the public service announcements will be visible over the month of November. [Montgomery County]

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 4:20 pm 162 5 Comments

Bethesda Art Center plan, via Bethesda Art Center

The man pushing for a sprawling arts center in the middle of Bethesda has launched a website, even as it has become apparent an adjacent property owner might not be in the proposal.

David Goldberg, co-owner of Union Hardware at the corner of Norfolk and Wisconsin Avenues, first made public the idea of a Bethesda Art Center on his property and adjacent properties in June.

Goldberg said he has been hearing about the need for a black box theater, studios and artist space for years from local community leaders. Sensing redevelopment of his property is likely, Goldberg is promoting his vision for an art center paid for by new residential units above the facility.

“I’ve been in retail my entire life,” Goldberg said during an online property owners forum hosted on Wednesday by county planners. “We’ve got to find a reason to exist. Without that reason, there’s no point. The same thing sort of held true with this project.”

Bethesda Art Center illustration, via Bethesda Art CenterThe reason Goldberg said he found, with help from the board of Bethesda’s Arts and Entertainment District, was to create a central civic space dedicated to the arts in Bethesda.

Since, Goldberg has attempted to get the support of all the property owners on the block. He also started the website to promote the concept and provide updates as county planners work on a rewrite of Bethesda’s sector plan.

For now at least, it appears one of the property owners on the block — the owner of EagleBank at 7815 Woodmont Ave. — isn’t in on the plan.

On Wednesday, Goldberg released new drawings for the art center that show an L-shaped residential building built above three stories of retail and theater and art studio space.

County planners, looking for opportunities to provide more green space in their Bethesda Downtown Plan, have latched on to Goldberg’s proposal and suggested adding a new public space on Norfolk Avenue as part of the project.

Images via Bethesda Art Center

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 2:25 pm 206 0

An armed robbery near the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro and a strong-arm robbery near Randolph Hills lead the most recent 2nd District crime summary:

An armed robbery occurred in the 10600 block of Montrose Avenue in Bethesda on Thursday, 10/16 at 10:00 p.m. The suspect threatened the victim with a weapon and obtained property.

Suspect: black male, 30-35, 6’1″/164 lbs., mustache/beard

A strong-arm robbery occurred in the 11700 block of Parklawn Drive in North Bethesda on Wednesday, 10/5 at 11:00 p.m. The suspects assaulted the victim and unsuccessfully attempted to obtain property.

Suspects: black male, 20-25, 5’7″/160 lbs, corn rows, black male, 20-25, 5’7″, crew cut, two additional black males, both 20-35 

Two thefts from vehicles occurred in the 7100 block of Georgia Street in Chevy Chase overnight between Monday, 10/13 and Tuesday, 10/14. No forced entry. A cell phone was taken.

Nine thefts from vehicles occurred during this reporting period, all involving unlocked vehicles parked in residential areas. Eight of these events occurred during the overnight period of Monday, 10/13 to Tuesday, 10/14 in the same Garrett Park neighborhood (10900 block of Montrose Ave in Garrett Park and 10900 block of Clermont Avenue in Garrett Park). Assorted items left in vehicles were taken, to include wallets, loose change, and glasses.

A residential burglary occurred in the 4800 block of Crescent Street in Bethesda sometime on Friday, 10/17 between 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 7700 block of Whittier Boulevard in Bethesda on Friday, 10/17 between 1:30 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 6200 block of Leeke Forest Court in Bethesda between 1:45 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. No forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 6300 block of Landon Lane in Bethesda sometime between Monday, 10/20 and Tuesday, 10/21. No forced entry; property taken.

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm 0

Councilmember Hans Riemer (file photo)A pair of county councilmembers are calling for a complete overhaul of the way the county decides which child care providers get much sought after space in county schools.

Friction between child care providers and the county’s Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) division has been bubbling for more than two years.

The CUPF, with oversight from its governing board (known as the Interagency Coordinating Board, or ICB, ) acts essentially as a leasing agent for county school facilities, renting out space for before and after school child care as well as gyms, auditoriums and playing fields for recreation, religious groups and other events.

After a controversial rebidding process for child care providers led to two lawsuits and many complaints about undisclosed conflicts of interest, unfair standards and school principals with too much sway, Montgomery County proposed a new set of regulations last month.

Many child care providers told the County Council last week that the new regulations were basically more of the same.

On Thursday, Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Nancy Navarro sent a memo to their colleagues asking them to reject the proposed regulations and help create “a dedicated Child Care office and give it a range of responsibilities, from developing a plan to increase access to care in the county, to managing public space needs, to supporting providers.”

“We believe that it is time for an overhaul of this process so that it aligns with our primary policy goal: bringing our communities excellent quality, accessible and affordable child care and after school programs,” Navarro and Riemer wrote. “The responsibility for developing these regulations and managing the selection process should be given to an organization in County government that is mission driven to promote access to quality, affordable care. The revenue that we generate from child care providers in public space should also be used to strengthen the county’s child care services.”

The memo came out hours before the Council’s Health and Human Services and Education Committees are set to meet with county officials in charge of drafting the new regulations.

That meeting is set for 1:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on County Cable Montgomery.

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 10:25 am 1 Comment

Talbert's beer and wine store in Westbard, Flickr photo by ehpien

What is a charrette?

It’s the question often overheard from residents attending Planning Department events, where the concept has become a staple of the department’s outreach efforts.

Starting Monday, Nov. 10, planners will offer a series of charrettes aimed at figuring out what the Westbard area of Bethesda should look like over the next 25-30 years.

Residents, business owners and property owners are invited to drop in to a morning walking tour, stop by an open house or attend an evening session at Walt Whitman High School.

The definition of charrette is “a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions together.”

With residents already wary of new residential development that might come from new property owner Equity One, that probably won’t happen over the course of one week. But planners are hoping to get as much input as possible before proceeding with their sector plan rewrite:

The PlanWestbard Community Charrette will take place during the week of November 10; a full schedule of meetings is posted online at www.montgomeryplanning.org/planwestbard. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and provide insight into the Sector Plan process from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Westwood II (5110 Ridgefield Rd, Bethesda, MD). Evening presentations will be held during the week at the Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd, Bethesda, MD) from 6 – 9 p.m. The final presentation of the completed Concept Plan will be held at Westland Middle School (5511 Massachusetts Ave., Bethesda, MD) from 7 – 9 p.m.

Charrette Schedule At A Glance:
Monday, November 10 – Walking Tours will be conducted in the community at 10 a.m. and noon starting at Westwood II.  Charrette Open House hours will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Westwood II. Attend the PlanWestbard Visioning Session at Walt Whitman High School starting at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, November 11 – Observance of Veterans Day (no charrette activities)

Wednesday, November 12 – A “Sunrise Series” meeting will be held for business owners at 7 a.m. at Westwood II.  Charrette Open House hours will follow until 5 p.m. at Westwood II. The Framework Concept will be presented at Walt Whitman High School from 6 to 9 p.m.

Thursday, November 13 - A “Sunrise Series” meeting will be held for all stakeholders at 7 a.m. at Westwood II followed by Charrette Open House hours until 5 p.m. The community will be asked to give feedback on the preferred options for the Framework Concept at Walt Whitman High School from 6 to 9 p.m.

Friday, November 14 -The community is invited to drop in at Westwood II during the day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to talk with Montgomery Planning Department staff as they refine the Concept Plan.

Monday, November 17 – Planners will be working on the results of the charrette in preparation for Tuesday’s evening presentation of the Completed Concept Plan at Westland Middle School.

Tuesday, November 18 – Planners will summarize the results of the charrette and its influence on the plan at Westland Middle School from 7 to 9 p.m.

About the Westbard Sector Plan:
The existing WestbardSector Plan is one of the oldest plans still in use in Montgomery County, having last been revised in 1982. It is now being updated at the direction of the Montgomery County Council to keep pace with the times and changes in the area.

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 9:00 am 482 0

Medical Center Metro, photo via rzultarzaba

30 Years Of Purple Line Bickering – Bethesda Magazine’s Lou Peck looks back at the origins of the Purple Line and how the stated goals for the transit system have shifted from getting cars off the road to spurring economic development. [Bethesda Magazine]

Vote, Get Free Chips and Queso – Local burrito chain California Tortilla is giving free chips and queso to any customer who votes on Tuesday. Bethesda’s location is at 4871 Cordell Ave. [California Tortilla via Facebook]

Bethesda Avenue Restaurant Runs Into Health Code Issues – Tara Thai (4828 Bethesda Ave.) was forced to close on Oct. 17 because of a roach infestation and other unsanitary conditions. It reopened the next day. [Washington Post]

Free Taxi Rides On Halloween – The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) will offer free cab rides on Friday night in an effort to prevent drunk driving in Montgomery County and other local jurisdictions. [The Gazette]

Photo via rzultarzaba

by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 2:35 pm 323 3 Comments

Stewart Moss, executive director of The Writer's Center, talks about a model of a renovated and expanded Walsh Street facility Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, at Battery Lane and Old Georgetown Road
Town of Chevy Chase Photos via Brett Hartl/Center for Biological Diversity

A host of Bethesda and Chevy Chase community organizations are looking to a half-square mile town of less than 3,000 people for help funding some major projects.

The Town of Chevy Chase, an incorporated town between Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues made up almost exclusively of single-family homes, has a roughly $9 million budget surplus that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, the Town’s Council will consider four requests for donations ranging from $9,000 for new computers at the local elementary school to $100,000 for accessibility upgrades at a Bethesda cultural center.

At the Town Council’s October meeting, each proposal was determined to meet the Town’s contribution eligibility requirements, reserved for one-time, capital expenses that relate in some way to the small community in Chevy Chase:

The Chevy Chase Elementary School PTA is requesting a $9,000 contribution to buy six iMac computers for the school’s 6th grade elective arts programs.

According to the PTA, MCPS has not budgeted for the replacement of the existing Apple computers at the school and the older computers aren’t compatible with the most current photography and video-editing software.

Jennifer Mitchell, a Town resident who made the request, said the computers would be used for classes in photography, filmmaking and music arts for at least four years and would also be used by a team of fifth graders at the school involved in producing news broadcasts.

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by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm 174 0

Councilmember Marc Elrich speaks at a Wednesday press conference to announce Montgomery County's kitchen incubator project, held at the Marriott Teaching Kitchen at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville, Photo via Manna Food Center

Montgomery County will lean on what’s probably the best local example of a kitchen incubator in an effort to start one of its own.

The county on Wednesday announced Union Kitchen — the D.C. organization that provides kitchen space for about 50 local food businesses — will join with Bethesda-based retail and development firm Streetsense to look for potential incubator sites, come up with a management structure and look at training programs.

Union Kitchen’s 7,300-square-foot warehouse provides food business entrepreneurs ready-to-go kitchen space and equipment, often one of the highest-costs to opening a restaurant. It’s meant to provide a low-cost, low-risk way for local food businesses to get established.

With an increasing demand for locally-sourced food, Montgomery County put out a request for proposals this summer to get help building their own.

“This facility will foster the growth of small businesses and provide new workforce opportunities for our residents,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said at a press conference Wednesday. “Part of what makes this project so special to me, personally, is that it represents our commitment to creating economic opportunities for all facets of Montgomery County.”

Dan Hoffman, the county’s Chief Innovation Officer, said the list of food entrepreneurs waiting to get into Union Kitchen in D.C. includes some Montgomery County businesses.

“We frequently get calls from people who have a family recipe or a special culinary skill that they want to scale into something bigger,” county Economic Development Director Steve Silverman said. “In addition to space, they really need business questions to be answered and mentoring from experts in the field.”

Union Kitchen and Streetsense will provide a scope of work with all of their planning.

Union Kitchen co-owner Jonas Singer said he’s seen “an explosion in interest in startup, locally owned food businesses,” in Montgomery County.

“A food incubator allows people to not just dream, but to achieve, creating economic wealth, jobs, and businesses that bring all of us, as customers, great food and experiences,” Singer said.

Photo via Manna Food Center

by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm 162 0

Montgomery County CouncilA number of local parents and child care providers say new rules for selecting which providers get to operate in MCPS buildings are just a codification of the status quo.

At stake is the process for which the county’s Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) picks which providers get to operate before and after school programs in county schools.

After two lawsuits and many complaints about undisclosed conflicts of interest, unfair standards and school principals with too much sway in the rebidding process, Montgomery County proposed a new set of regulations last month.

But at a County Council public hearing last week and in emails sent to county officials, many say the proposed regulations still don’t provide specific enough standards or include anyone with child care experience in the rebidding process:

“In the Commission’s view, these two documents represent a codification of the status quo and do not serve to address the concerns raised by child care providers and parents related to the selection of well-qualified providers and the implementation of consistent, quality child care in elementary before and after school programs,” wrote Shaun Rose, who runs the Rock Spring Children’s Center in Bethesda and is a member of the Commission on Child Care.

“The Regulation and Administrative Procedures that apply only to Child Care in Public Space (CCIPS) administered by the Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF), afford CUPF much discretion in the process, and do not make it clear which section of government is responsible when parents or providers have an issue with CUPF’s actions,” Rose wrote. “Of particular concern is that the draft Administrative Procedures neglect to require that the selection committee include a member with child care expertise.”

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by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 11:10 am 215 0

Small fire on roof at Pike & Rose construction site, via Pete Piringer

Firefighters are responding to a fire on the roof of one of the buildings under construction at the Pike & Rose project in North Bethesda/White Flint.

Smoke was visible from the top of the building, near the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard at about 11:05 a.m.

Workers told MCFRS personnel on the scene they were working with asphalt on the roof and the fire was put out.

Two lanes of southbound Old Georgetown Road near its intersection with Executive Boulevard have been closed to allow for fire department staging.

Photo via Pete Piringer

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