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Bakery Chain, Pottery Barn, Chop’t Announced For Lot 31

by Aaron Kraut | April 22, 2014 at 8:05 am | 708 views | 8 Comments

Lot 31 construction last weekA Paul Bakery, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and Chop’t Creative Salad Company are coming to Lot 31, according to an announcement on Monday from developer StonebridgeCarras.

The developer said the retail space in the two residential buildings part of the project is more than 90 percent leased.

Combined with a luxury dining concept from Silver Diner and upscale seafood restaurant PassionFish, the retailers coming to Lot 31 mirror a few of the successful retailers across Bethesda Avenue in Federal Realty’s Bethesda Row.

That could set up an interesting test of the area’s retail market. Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids will fit into a 17,900-square-foot space in the Lot 31 project, “dramatically impacting the range of shopping available on Bethesda Row,” according to the StonebridgeCarras press release.

Urban Country (7117 Arlington Rd.) might have something to say about that. The homegrown furniture and design shop moved to Bethesda Row in 2008.

Chop’t will obviously be competing in the fast casual salad chain market with Bethesda Row’s Sweetgreen (4831 Bethesda Ave.). Paul Bakery, a chain of French bakeries prevalent in D.C., and Le Pain Quotidien (7140 Bethesda Lane) share that characteristic and more than a few others.

It sounds as if StonebridgeCarras thinks there’s plenty of room for both developments to thrive.

“The vision for the project’s retail has been to provide a great mix of merchandise and restaurant retailers, enhancing the existing dynamic and vibrant Bethesda Row area of Bethesda,” StonebridgeCarras founding principal Doug Firstenberg said in a press release.

His company’s project consists of a 940-space underground garage to be operated by Montgomery County that will replace the surface Lot 31. Construction on that is expected to finish later this year, which will allow Woodmont Avenue to reopen south of Bethesda Avenue.

Crews will then finish the 64-unit luxury condominium building The Darcy on one side of Woodmont, with the 162-unit The Flats set for the other side.

Council Members Caution Against Plowing Capital Crescent Trail

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 3:05 pm | 314 views | 6 Comments

The Georgetown Branch extension of the Capital Crescent Trail at Jones Mill Road on Jan. 30A $75,000 pilot program to clear snow from the Capital Crescent Trail in Bethesda is still alive, though members of a County Council committee had doubts about how practical the project would be.

The Council’s Planning Committee discussed the proposal, provided by Montgomery Parks at the request of Councilmember Roger Berliner, in regards to next year’s county budget.

The Committee agreed to put the program on a reconciliation list to be discussed by the full Council. But Councilmember George Leventhal worried that plowing the trail would actually invite bicyclists into dangerous situations.

“I’m worried we are inviting a dangerous activity,” Leventhal said, in comments to Parks staff at the hearing. “No one ever thinks they’re going to get into an accident. I’m envisioning a lot of bicyclists losing control and having problems on black ice.”

Parks Director Mary Bradford said the pilot is possible because the hard trail surface is the only commuter trail in the county that could sustain the required snow removal machinery. Montgomery Parks operates the 3.8-mile stretch of the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda to the D.C. line.

Bradford also pointed to snow removal on the D.C. section of the Trail — provided by the National Park Service — as a reason for why the Capital Crescent Trail was unique.

But the Trail’s distinction among other county trails isn’t the only issue, Councilmember Nancy Floreen said. She wondered why resources should be targeted toward plowing the Trail when the county doesn’t have snow removal plans for much-used sidewalks or other facilities.

The pilot would last for two years and assumes five snow events each winter.

“I think the time is coming where there will be more and more demand for this as Bikeshare stations are going in and more people bike to work,” Bradford said. “I think this is just the beginning of this.”

Parks has been reluctant in the past to commit to plowing specific trails over others. But pressed by Berliner — who was pressed by bicyclists who said the Trail was effectively frozen over for long stretches — Parks provided the $75,000 cost estimate.

The cost includes a new piece of equipment that could be modified to work on other Parks projects, just in case the pilot didn’t last or there were fewer significant snowfalls.

The pilot would also include hand snow removal on 13 feeder trails along the 3.8-mile section.

That led Councilmember Marc Elrich to question how bicyclists would get to the Trail if certain roads or sidewalks aren’t plowed.

“The more we talk about it, the more impractical it seems,” Elrich said.

The Committee did agree to send it to the full Council for more discussion.

“I’m not going to be the bad guy on this,” Leventhal said.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation separately operates the Georgetown Branch Extension of the Trail, much of which is not a hard surface.

Custom Tailor Barnstorming Tour Coming To Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 218 views | No Comments

Mohan's sales manager KJ Singh during a fitting, via Mohan's Custom TailorsThere is no suit like a suit from a Manhattan custom tailor.

That’s what a well known New York suit shop is claiming ahead of an all-day pop-up store set for Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda (7400 Wisconsin Ave.).

Mohan’s Custom Tailors — the folks who outfitted Rudy Giuliani and who provide some of the colorful stylings of New York Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier — set up an 18-city, 21-day barnstorming tour to bring their products and tailoring service to customers up and down the East Coast.

“With our name and our quality and the service we provide, people love to come to us,” said Mohan’s sales manager KJ Singh. “I get phone calls every day. People call us from California asking, ‘When are you guys going to come here?’”

Singh said Mohan’s large fabric selection makes it “very different than an old-school tailor in a small town.”

However accurate that statement is, the pop-up store strategy is indeed a unique approach.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., two employees will receive customers in a Hyatt ballroom. Customers will select from 40 suit styles, 16 shirt cuff styles and 20 collar styles and the tailors will size them up, as if they were in the store. Singh said suits start at $500.

The tour hits a number of big cities and wealthy communities. Singh said Mohan’s has been to Bethesda before — they do the tour twice a year.

The event gets plenty of customers willing to take time out of their day to come to Bethesda.

“We always get new clients and we have a lot of clients already in the D.C. area,” Singh said. “It’s a convenience thing.”

For more information, visit Mohan’s pop-up shop page.

Photo via Mohan’s Custom Tailors

Bethesda Named A Top 10 Best City For New College Grads

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm | 1,244 views | 1 Comment

People walking down the sidewalk at Bethesda Row (file photo)A website that ranks medium sized cities and towns on Monday named Bethesda as the No. 4 best city in the country for new college grads in 2014. says the combination of Bethesda’s 25- to 34-year-old population, education levels and the presence of jobs in top-hiring industries make it one of the most livable places for those looking to start a career.

Bethesda has the lowest unemployment rate (1.3 percent) on the top-10 list and more than 83 percent of the roughly 7,000 people in Bethesda age 25-34 have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the rankings. It also helped that Bethesda is the home to leading research facilities such as NIH and major companies such as Lockheed Martin and Marriott.

“Businesses relocate for access to a talented workforce. But, increasingly, those young talents are choosing where to move after college based on livability,” editor Matt Carmichael said in a press release. “These 10 cities are great places for recent grads, which should put them on the radar of employers looking to expand as well.”

The website said it also factored in the availability of rental units, public transportation and “cities that cater to a younger demographic by offering lots of recreational activities, hot nightlife and a hip vibe.”

“The majority of residents here make more than $130,000 a year,” according to the website. “Although there are fewer rental properties in Bethesda when compared to other cities on our list, young newcomers shouldn’t have a problem finding a trendy, hip apartment loaded with amenities like a pool, workout room and tennis courts.”

Cambridge, Mass., Bellevue, Wash., and Austin, Texas beat out Bethesda on the list. Other cities in the top 10 include Minneapolis, Hoboken, N.J., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Fargo, N.D.

Council Members To Introduce Snow Removal Plan

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 11:20 am | 64 views | No Comments

Snow in Bethesda (file photo)A pair of County Council members will introduce a snow removal plan focused on enforcing Montgomery County’s 24-hour sidewalk snow and ice removal law.

Hans Riemer (D-At large) and Nancy Navarro (D-Dist. 4) are sponsoring a bill that would put more resources toward enforcing the law that requires all private property owners to remove snow and ice from their sidewalks within 24 hours of the end of a snowstorm.

In initial discussions of the bill, Riemer said he hoped for a Snow Removal Plan that would put county resources toward removing snow from bus stops, around schools, near Metro stations and other areas that saw lots of pedestrian traffic.

That effort gained little support from others on the Council. The cost of snow removal and storm cleanup on Montgomery County’s 5,200 lane miles this winter was about $25 million before a March 17 snowstorm. The county had budgeted $9 million.

The bill would require plans for county snow removal at bus stops, near schools and along state highways. It would also create a “targeted public education campaign about sidewalk and snow removal for owners of property in the County,” an effort that would include “pedestrian priority routes” for more targeted education and more snow and ice removal enforcement.

The bill would also require the county to create an online map showing who is responsible for clearing snow and ice on each sidewalk in the county.

Montgomery County received 449 complaints about snow-filled sidewalks and walkways by March 19, but none resulted in any consequences for private property owners.

At a March Council meeting, Richard Nelson, director of the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, said the department’s normal practice is to send a letter to the owner of the property in question.

Nelson said the department’s typical practice is to send an inspector to sites of complaints when there is a second complaint. This winter, Nelson said the DHCA sent inspectors to 40 sites and in each case, the situation had been resolved.

The bill proposed by Riemer and Navarro would require the county executive to come up with a plan for extended hours for those county employees who receive snow and ice removal complaints during a major snowstorm.

Sold In Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 10:15 am | 186 views | No Comments

5608 Sonoma Road 4905 Brookeway Drive 5225 Pooks Hill Road

Spring break meant less real estate activity than normal last week. Still, a number of condos and homes around the area went off the market:

  • 5225 Pooks Hill Road; 2 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $279,000; Sale price: $250,000
  • 7500 Woodmont Avenue; 2 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $489,000; Sale price: $489,000
  • 5608 Sonoma Road; 3 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached; List price: $825,000; Sale price: $825,000
  • 4905 Brookeway Drive; 3 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,350,000; Sale price: $1,090,000
  • 7625 Wheatcroft Court; 6 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,625,000; Sale price: $1,465,000

Photos via MRIS

Someone Is Ripping Up Campaign Yard Signs In Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 9:05 am | 247 views | 1 Comment

Hrant Jamgochian campaign sign, ripped up, via Jamgochian campaign Hrant Jamgochian campaign sign, with wire frame removed, via Jamgochian campaign

(Update at 2 p.m.) The campaign yard signs in front of Hrant Jamgochian’s Bradley Boulevard home were stolen and ripped apart over the weekend.

Jamgochian, who is running to represent District 16 in the House of Delegates, is one of many candidates employing yard signs before the June 24 primary.

On Saturday, he found the two signs in front of his house were missing, presumably stolen. On Sunday, he found the two new signs used as replacements were ripped up, with the wire frames mangled.

Tim Hernandez, Jamgochian’s campaign manager, said he found at least six other Jamgochian signs torn up, some with the wire frames gone and the shredded signs thrown back onto a lawn.

“The fact that they were taken and ripped up on Hrant’s own property and not just random yards is what’s really strange,” Hernandez said. “Whether they’re trying to send a message or what, I don’t know.”

Jordan Cooper, another candidate in the District 16 delegate race, reported that some of his signs in his Luxmanor neighborhood have also been disappearing.

“We’ve found that a few had been thrown into the woods and that others have just plain disappeared from my own neighborhood and from across D-16,” Cooper said.

In a press release, Jamgochian’s campaign characterized the sign vandalism as “violent and cowardly acts.” He has contacted police:

Hrant, his wife Lenna and their 8 month old child will not be bullied or intimidated by such violent and cowardly acts. Hrant is running for office because he wants: everyone to have access to high quality, affordable healthcare; all of our children have the chance at a good education; and everybody to have the opportunity to earn a good living. Hrant is running a positive, issues based campaign that reflects the best in the Democratic Party. He will continue to work hard to ensure his message gets out, even if there are those who would threaten his family and their well being.

The tearing up or theft of campaign yard signs isn’t new. It is new to District 16, where there doesn’t seem to be much discord between the eight Democrats running for three seats in the June primary.

Candidate Marc Korman said he texted Jamgochian on Sunday night and encouraged him to call the police.

“I can only imagine how my wife and I would feel if that happened at our home,” Korman said. “It is completely unacceptable behavior and Hrant, Lenna and their son should not have to tolerate it.”

In January, Cooper circulated a “Clean Campaign Pledge” to all candidates. All candidates said they wouldn’t engage in personal attacks or negative talk about opponents.

Photos via Hrant Jamgochian campaign

Morning Notes

by Aaron Kraut | April 21, 2014 at 8:15 am | 424 views | No Comments

Flickr photo by fishfoot

Pottery Barn Coming To Lot 31 Project – A two-story, 16,000 square foot Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids is destined for The Darcy, one of two residential projects part of the Lot 31 project from developer StonebridgeCarras. The luxury condo — and the underground public parking garage — is under construction at Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]

Office of Sustainability Would Cost $4.7 million – County staff members have begun to estimate the potential costs of a package of environmental sustainability bills proposed by Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase). One of the bills, the creation of an Office of Sustainability, would require seven new full-time employees and would cost an estimated $4.7 million over six years. Another bill that would require Montgomery County to buy at least half of its energy from renewable energy sources by 2015 would cost an extra $750,000. [The Gazette]

Pike Central Farm Market Will Return To Pike & Rose – The White Flint/North Bethesda farmers market from Central Farm Markets will head to a new site starting Saturday, April 26 for this year only. Developer Federal Realty is building out Phase II of its Pike & Rose project on the former site of Mid-Pike Plaza, making the location change necessary. [Pike Central Farm Market]

Flickr photo by fishfoot

Suspects Reportedly Use Pepper Spray In Theft At White Flint Mall

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm | 723 views | 2 Comments

Lord & Taylor at White Flint MallThree women reportedly involved in a theft at the Lord & Taylor at White Flint Mall used pepper spray on a store clerk, according to scanner traffic.

According to a police lookout on Friday evening, the three suspects were in the same car seen at a theft earlier in the day at the Lord & Taylor at Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg.

The White Flint Mall incident happened at about 5:40 p.m. Three black women, armed with pepper spray and a knife, stole items totaling less than $1,000 and one of the women reportedly used pepper spray on a store clerk.

The women were seen leaving the department store (11311 Rockville Pike) in a white Chevrolet Impala that headed north on Rockville Pike.

Tasting Room Wine Bar To Close In Chevy Chase

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm | 294 views | 1 Comment

Photo via The Tasting Room Wine Bar & ShopA Friendship Heights wine bar dedicated to showcasing varieties from a high-end Virginia vineyard is closing up shop.

The Tasting Room Wine Bar & Shop (5330A Western Ave.) in The Shops At Wisconsin Place announced on Friday that it will close Monday.

The store made the announcement on Facebook.

The wine bar opened about five years ago. Boxwood Winery, the Middleburg, Va. vineyard set up in 2004, opened the tasting room with the hopes of extending its brand.

John Kent Cooke, son of former Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, backs the operation, which produces three styles of red wine.

There are two other locations of The Tasting Room, one in Reston and one in National Harbor.

Photo via The Tasting Room Wine Bar & Shop

Restaurant Roundup: Penang’s Remodel, City Burger Hiring

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm | 392 views | No Comments

City Burgers, via chef Michael Harr Green Hat Gin and tonics, via Wildwood Kitchen Former Berry Yogurt spot on Norfolk Avenue, now up for lease

Following are a few end-of-the-week tidbits from the Bethesda restaurant world.

City Burger Is Hiring – The folks behind Food Wine & Co. are nearing the opening of their “better burger” concept just a few blocks from their flagship restaurant. Chef Michael Harr, who helms the kitchen at Food Wine & Co. and who is a partner at Fish Taco in Cabin John, tweeted on Friday that the restaurant is now hiring.

Harr and Francis Namin are set to open the burger place at 7105 Wisconsin Ave., just down the street from Namin’s well regarded Food Wine & Co. restaurant (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) and on the same block as Namin and partner Carlos Ramirez’s Beer Wine & Co. (7029 Wisconsin Ave.).

Penang Goes Through $60,000 Renovation – Wondering why Malaysian and Thai restaurant Penang has been closed for the past few weeks?

Bethesda Magazine’s Andrew Metcalf reports owner Kevin Cheah and company are putting the 4933 Bethesda Ave. space through a $60,000 renovation. Cheah wants to market it to a younger crowd with a new look. The menu won’t change.

Look for a reopening on or near April 23.

Prominent Woodmont Triangle Space Officially Available – It’s official now. The former Berry Yogurt space at 7920 Norfolk Ave. is up for lease by property owner Douglas Development.

Blogger Robert Dyer is hoping for Shake Shack, which Douglas has done business with before. He also said Norfolk Avenue could become “the Bethesda Avenue of the redeveloped Woodmont Triangle,” referring to the popular pedestrian street in Bethesda Row.

Like Tonics? – Then Wildwood Kitchen in Wildwood Shopping Center (10223 Old Georgetown Rd.) might be a good bet. The restaurant from chef Robert Wiedmaier says its the first place in Montgomery County with the new Green Hat Gin. It’s putting that into its #6 and #7 seasonal tonics. One is white tea, cucumber, basil & celery. The other has calendura, slippery elm, ginger root, tumeric and pineapple.

Challenger Questions Commitment Of District 18′s Gutierrez After El Salvador Trip

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm | 433 views | 6 Comments

Ana Sol Gutierrez, Flickr photo via Edward Kimmel D-18 Delegate candidate Rick Kessler

A challenger for one of three District 18 delegate seats is questioning the commitment of incumbent Ana Sol Gutierrez because she took a trip to her native El Salvador during the 2014 legislative session.

Rick Kessler, one of seven District 18 Democratic candidates in this June’s primary, said Gutierrez’s absence from the General Assembly on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 to travel to El Salvador was “about commitment to the district and the office.”

“Running for office is a choice and taking the oath of office is a choice. She chose to do what she wanted to do rather than what she was elected to do,” Kessler said. “It’s only a 90-day session. She chose to leave some of those days rather than be here for us all of those days.”

Gutierrez traveled to El Salvador, where she was born, to vote in the country’s Feb. 2 presidential election. This was the first year U.S.-based Salvadorans were given the chance to vote from outside El Salvador, but there remained difficulties in registering from abroad.

In September, Gutierrez told WAMU she planned to travel to El Salvador to cast her ballot.

“My only way to vote, which is the way I have always voted, is to go to El Salvador to cast my vote,” Gutierrez said then.

When reached for comment on Friday, Gutierrez said, “I’m not interested in this kind of story.”

“If you want to talk about issues, then we can, but not this kind of controversy. I don’t want to do that,” Gutierrez said.

Throughout the district, Gutierrez’s ties to her native country are no surprise. The English and Spanish speaking delegate was a Montgomery County Board of Education member from 1990-1998.

It’s the latest in what has been an at times contentious race for District 18′s three seats in the House of Delegates. All three incumbents — Gutierrez, Al Carr and Jeff Waldstreicher — are running. Kessler, Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Elizabeth Matory and Emily Shetty round out the field.

It appears Kessler and other competitors are targeting Gutierrez, the three-term incumbent who stated her intention to retire rather than run again in 2014 — at least according to challengers who said they got into the race with that open seat in mind.

Gutierrez told The Gazette earlier this month that she never said she wouldn’t run in 2014, saying her decision making on whether to retire is being used by challengers to hurt her campaign.

District 18 includes parts of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda and Silver Spring as well as Garrett Park, Kensington and Wheaton. It’s billed as the most diverse district in the state.


PSC To Talk Pepco Rate Hike Request Next Week

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 11:45 am | 107 views | 1 Comment

Pepco pole, via Abigail ReidPepco’s request for a $43 million rate increase will go before the state’s Public Service Commission starting next week.

The power company said the application for the increase, filed in December, was necessary to pay for infrastructure improvements that have led to fewer power outages and shorter outage durations.

On Tuesday, April 22, Wednesday April 23, Friday, April 25, Thursday, May 1, Friday, May 2 and possibly Monday, May 5, the Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold a series of hearings on the rate increase request.

If approved, the increases would go into effect on July 4, 2014.

The request includes records of the $238.5 million the company says it spent from October 2012 to September 2013 to improve infrastructure. The company claims it plans to spend an additional $234 million this year.

Pepco says it has done vegetation management on 5,600 miles of overhead wire, upgraded more than 130 overhead distribution feeders and installed new or upgraded more than 860 miles of underground home distribution lines since 2010.

Those improvements, Pepco says, have led to a 38.5 percent improvement in its Average Interruption Frequency Index and 40 percent improvement in its System Average Interruption Duration Index.

Pepco critics say the privately held electric company shouldn’t get more money for fulfilling its basic duty of providing reliable electric service.

The rate increase would mean an increase of $4.80 a month for the average residential customer, according to Pepco’s filing.

In the filing, Pepco also asked for an increase in its return on equity — the allowable return on investment to its shareholders — from 9.36 percent to 10.25 percent.

Last July, the PSC approved part of Pepco’s last rate hike request, a decision that is being challenged in court. In a Nov. 6 earnings call, Pepco Chairman Joseph Rigby told investors the decision to grant $27.9 million of its $60.8 million rate hike meant the company must make another rate hike request.

That request followed in December.

The hearings will all begin at 10 a.m., unless otherwise noted. The April 23 and April 30 hearings will begin at 1 p.m., or half-an-hour after the completion of PSC’s administrative meeting.

The sessions will be a series of evidentiary hearings, in a court-like legal setting that critics of the PSC have said creates barriers to customer participation.

The PSC will hold two public comment hearings on the matter. One will be at the Executive Office Building in Rockville (101 Monroe Street) at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 12.

Written comments may also be filed by Friday, May 30, 2014, and should be addressed to David J. Collins, Executive Secretary, Maryland Public Service Commission, 6 St. Paul Street, 16th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, referencing Case No. 9336.

The evidentiary hearings next week will be held at the PSC’s headquarters in Baltimore. The hearings will be streamed live at the PSC’s website.

Photo via Abigail Reid

Open Houses This Weekend In Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 10:25 am | 143 views | No Comments

Check out a few of the open houses scheduled around town this Easter weekend.

See our Real Estate section for a full listing of open houses and houses for sale around the area.

9302 Kentstone Drive9302 Kentstone Drive
5 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached
Wicca Davidson, W.C. & A.N. Miller Realtors
Listed: $659,900
Open: Saturday, April 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

10406 Snow Point Drive10406 Snow Point Drive
5 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached
Ellen Hatoum, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $1,099,000
Open: Sunday, April 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

8732 Ridge Road8732 Ridge Road
4 BD | 2 BA single family detached
Thomas Whiteman, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $725,000
Open: Sunday, April 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

4 Dudley Court4 Dudley Court
3 BD | 2.5 BA condominium
Jan Brito, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $399,000
Open: Saturday, April 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 20 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.


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