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by Aaron Kraut — December 18, 2014 at 9:30 am 0

Suspect in attempted purse snatching on Friday in Bethesda, Photo via Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce/TwitterThe Bethesda area police commander says there will be extra officers in popular shopping areas such as Westfield Montgomery mall, Friendship Heights and downtown Bethesda during the last week of holiday shopping.

Second District Commander Capt. David Falcinelli provided a public safety update via email on Wednesday:

“For this last week, I will be deploying additional officers to heavy shopping areas such as Westfield Montgomery, downtown business district, and the shops along the DC line,” Falcinelli wrote.

He also wrote about the theft of packages from doorsteps, a common problem this time of year around the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area.

“If you are an Amazon Prime shopper like me, make arrangements to have packages delivered to a place where they can be picked up/taken inside immediately upon delivery, or make other arrangements with the shipper,” Falcinelli wrote. “There are people that will follow delivery vans around and take packages from front porches just minutes after they are delivered.”

He also provided an update on the attempted purse snatching last Friday on Bethesda Avenue.

A call to 911 and the quick distribution of a surveillance camera image of the suspect led to his arrest within hours, Falcinelli said.

The suspect apparently asked an employee at a Bethesda business if he could have a job, then made the attempt to steal her purse.

“He is a criminal with a past and remains in jail as of today,” Falcinelli said.

The man charged with the armed robbery of a victim who had just taken money out of an ATM at the Wildwood Shopping Center was also charged with some other robberies in the area, Falcinelli wrote.

Photo via Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce/Twitter

by Aaron Kraut — December 18, 2014 at 8:45 am 200 0

Storefronts along Cordell Avenue

CEO Of Firm Bidding On Purple Line Is Also On Hogan’s Transition Team – Jim Soltesz, president and CEO of the Rockville-based Soltesz civil engineering firm, was recently  named to Governor-elect Larry Hogan’s team of advisors during Hogan’s transition into the governor’s spot. Solstesz’s company is also part of a group bidding to design, operate and build the Purple Line. The Maryland Ethics Commission said that the state’s ethics law doesn’t apply to Soltesz in this case because he is not a public official or state employee. [Washington Post]

Nurse With Ebola Exposure Hasn’t Tested Positive For Virus – The nurse flown in to NIH’s Special Clinical Studies Unit last week hasn’t yet tested positive for the Ebola virus, despite a high-risk exposure while working in Sierra Leone. [NIH]

Leggett Public Input Hearings On Budget – County Executive Isiah Leggett will again appear at a series of public input sessions on next year’s operating budget. Leggett is scheduled to be in Bethesda on Monday, Jan. 26 starting at 7 p.m. The session will take place at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4802 Edgemoor Lane). [Montgomery County]

Planners To Review Westbard Progress – Planning staff working on the new Westbard Sector Plan will go over their progress so far with the Planning Board on Thursday. [Planning Board]

Purple Line Advocates Begin Email Writing Campaign – The Coalition for Smarter Growth, Action Committee for Transit and Purple Line NOW have begun an email writing campaign to Hogan’s office in support of the Purple Line, the 16-mile light rail the governor-elect has indicated he doesn’t support. [Coalition for Smarter Growth]

by Aaron Kraut — December 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm 493 1 Comment

(From left to right) Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Jeff Lake, Alan Gross and Sen. Patrick Leahy in Cuba with Gross on Wednesday morning, via Chris Van Hollen

Alan Gross’ release from a Cuban jail on Wednesday helped pave the way for an end to the diplomatic standoff between the U.S. and Cuba.

It also meant a lot for some in the Bethesda community who knew the Potomac man before he was arrested and imprisoned by the Cuban government in 2009.

“This is about helping Alan feel that we didn’t forget him,” said Union Hardware owner David Goldberg, who put up a banner reading “Welcome Home ALAN” above his Wisconsin Avenue storefront upon hearing the news.

"Welcome Home ALAN" sign from Union Hardware owner David Goldberg, who has known Alan Gross since high schoolWithin a few minutes, Goldberg said Gross got word of the sign and sent him this video message via a cellphone.

Goldberg said he first met Gross, 65, in high school and had stayed in touch as best as possible over the last five years. Gross, who was arrested by Cuban authorities for his work on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development, sent his condolences to Goldberg when Goldberg’s dad died a few years ago.

Gross was given a 15-year prison sentence and accused of spying for the U.S. His family and supporters have maintained that Gross was on an international development mission for USAID, helping small Jewish communities in Cuba develop internet access.

“What a blessing it is,” Gross said on Wednesday after returning to Washington. “Thank you President Obama for everything you have done today and leading up to today.”

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by Aaron Kraut — December 17, 2014 at 1:50 pm 463 2 Comments

David Goldberg, at the time of his arrest, photo via Montgomery County State's Attorney's OfficeSentencing is Thursday for a Potomac man convicted in August of nine charges related to the stabbing of two people in a Westfield Montgomery Mall parking lot in November 2013.

David B. Goldberg, 25, faces up to 165 years in prison for trying to run over two victims and later stabbing them after his vehicle almost hit the victim’s vehicle at a stop sign on the ring road that circles the mall.

In August, Goldberg was found guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter, second degree assault, three counts of first degree assault and other charges stemming from incident, during which his two-year-old daughter was in the car, police said.

Police said Goldberg and the victims could be heard shouting expletives at each other before the stabbing happened. After the near-collision, police said victims Rachel Peterson and her boyfriend Clifton Botts, both of Potomac, followed Goldberg and got out of their car to approach Goldberg in his Mitsubishi, but Goldberg sped off.

After the couple parked in a nearby lot and started walking to the mall’s Sears store with their child and Peterson’s mother, they heard Goldberg racing toward them in his car.

Goldberg hit a parked car in the process, according to court documents, before again arguing with Botts and stabbing Botts in the upper back, left cheek and right bicep. Goldberg reportedly stabbed Peterson in the stomach as she was trying to break up the fight, sending her to the hospital with serious injuries.

Police said Goldberg then fled to the top of a nearby parking deck, where he was taken into custody and where police found a five-inch a folding knife which they believed to be the weapon.

The sentencing hearing is set for Thursday afternoon in Rockville.

Photo via Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office

by Aaron Kraut — December 17, 2014 at 12:35 pm 580 3 Comments

Menorah and Christmas tree display on Bethesda Row

There will be no shortage of Bethesda restaurants open on Christmas.

Know of any others? Drop us an email at news[at]bethesdanow[dot]com or leave a comment below:

Bangkok Garden (4906 St. Elmo Avenue)

Benihana (7935 Wisconsin Avenue)

Bethesda Crab House (4958 Bethesda Avenue)

City Perch (11830 Grand Park Avenue) A special five-course Christmas menu at $45 for adults and $20 for children 12 or younger.

Golden House (8100 Wisconsin Avenue)

MayFlower Chinese (7925 Norfolk Avenue)

North China Restaurant (7814 Old Georgetown Road)

Passage to India (4931 Cordell Avenue)

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by Aaron Kraut — December 17, 2014 at 11:25 am 319 10 Comments

Crews relocate the non-signalized crosswalk on Woodmont Avenue at Fairmont Avenue in July 2013 (file photo)Montgomery County wants to make pedestrian safety upgrades to Woodmont Avenue and will be checking out the busy road today to figure out what those may be.

Officials from the county’s Department of Transportation and planning firm STV will do the pedestrian safety audit on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Montgomery County’s Ken Hartman.

The county hired STV to provide engineering and architectural consulting services on the project.

Officials will walk Woodmont Avenue between Old Georgetown Road and Battery Lane in the morning, mid-day and evening “to determine what may affect pedestrian safety, such as crosswalks, sidewalks and obstacles that prevent drivers from seeing pedestrians,” Hartman wrote in a regular email update.

The group will submit a formal report of its findings to the county, which will then make public its plans for “what changes it will implement to improve pedestrian safety along the audited stretch of Woodmont Avenue.”

Last year, the county relocated and upgraded the non-signalized pedestrian crosswalk across Woodmont Avenue at Veterans Park, near the Eagle Bank building.

The crosswalk was moved to the north side of the road’s intersection with Fairmont Avenue, and a pedestrian refuge island was added in the middle of the street.

The crosswalk did include signs telling drivers they must stop when a pedestrian wanted to cross. But much like the situation in other non-signalized crosswalks around Bethesda, drivers often don’t yield.

by Aaron Kraut — December 17, 2014 at 10:15 am 591 0

It’s safe to say Bethesda chef and restaurant owner Ashish Alfred has never before had to cook on a balance beam or dig through a slop trough of baked beans for ingredients.

Alfred did both those things as part of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” episode that first aired Sunday night.

The chef and owner of 4935 Bar and Kitchen (a BethesdaNow.com advertiser) made it to the second round of the competition, which consists of three elimination rounds and various “sabotages” involving ingredients, cooking tools and other challenges.

Chef Ashish Alfred, photo via 4935 Bar and KitchenAlfred, who’s Indian, got eliminated from the contest on a curry challenge. Judge and chef Jet Tila felt his curry had more of a soupy consistency.

“I should’ve paid a lot more attention to my mom and my dad when making curry growing up,” Alfred said during the show. “But I didn’t, so now I’m the Indian guy getting sent home from Cutthroat Kitchen on a curry.”

It didn’t help that Alfred had to cook the curry on a balance beam, the sabotage meant to represent the importance of balance in any curry dish. Alfred’s ingredients — seared scallops and mussels — turned out well, according to the judge.

But he dropped his first plate of scallops on the floor during the 30-minute cooking challenge, which meant he had to cook a second batch and was short on time.

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by Aaron Kraut — December 17, 2014 at 9:05 am 443 9 Comments

Bethesda Metro, Flickr photo by Carl Holscher

White Flint P.F. Chang’s To Close Jan. 4 – And then there was one. The P.F. Chang’s restaurant at White Flint Mall is set to close on Jan. 4 to make way for the redevelopment of the mall. The only tenant left will be Lord & Taylor, the department store that’s suing the mall’s owners over their redevelopment plans. The mall owners don’t yet have county approval for their mixed-use, town-center project and don’t yet have a timeframe for the project to start. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]

Gas Line Replacements To Affect Area – Washington Gas is planning to replace existing gas lines and install a new gas main along four streets in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, including Gloster Road, Drummond Avenue, Newport Avenue and Earlston Drive. The Newport Avenue and Earlston Drive project is set to start in the next few weeks while the others will happen in January and February. Gas in those areas will be off during the replacement, but no longer than one day. [Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center]

Walter Johnson Students Take Part In Christmas Special – Two dozen choral students at Walter Johnson High School took part in this year’s “Christmas In Washington” TV special, featuring President Barack Obama and benefiting the National Children’s Medical Center. The students sang back-up for Hunter Hayes, Rita Ora, Darius Rucker, Christina Perri and Aloe Blacc. The show will be broadcast at 8 p.m. on Friday on TNT.

D.C. Group To Oppose Pepco-Exelon Merger – A coalition of residents, business leaders and community advocates called Power DC will make their case against the proposed Pepco-Exelon merger on Wednesday evening, before the D.C. Public Service Commission’s first public hearing on the merger. Each jurisdiction’s public service commission must approve the $6.8 billion sale of Pepco Holdings Inc. to Chicago-based Exelon before it can be finalized. The Maryland Public Service Commission has yet to decide, but is hearing from groups wary that the merger might not benefit area residents. Pepco says the merger will mean reliability improvements and other advantages. [Power DC]

Flickr photo by Carl Holscher

by BethesdaNow.com — December 17, 2014 at 8:00 am 219 0

This biweekly column is written by Suzanne Lawter, Director of Community Outreach for Mutts Matter Rescue, a local nonprofit, all-volunteer dog rescue. Mutts Matter is a network of volunteers who love animals and want to make a difference by helping forgotten and discarded dogs find loving families. Since our founding in 2010, we have successfully rescued and placed more than 1,400 dogs in the local Washington Metropolitan area.

As 2014 draws to a close, Mutts Matter Rescue would like to thank the BethesdaNow community and our network of dedicated volunteers for your support throughout the year. With your help, we saved more than 270 dogs this year and placed them in loving homes. We expanded our team of volunteers, added new foster families, and hopefully made folks more aware of the importance of dog rescue.

Mutts Matter Rescue bannerRescue is truly a community of volunteers, and we couldn’t do it without you. Whether you’ve helped by sharing our pups’ stories with your friends and family, donated to help cover veterinary costs, or opened your home to a rescue dog by fostering, it all makes a difference in saving these dogs’ lives.

Most of us have busy, demanding schedules here in the D.C. area, and taking some time out to help our little furry friends is not only a good thing to do, it’s rewarding too. Dogs change people’s lives in very real ways, and that is a great experience to be a part of.

Working in rescue, we get to see how these sweet pups impact the lives of their adopters. They give and receive love unconditionally, and comfort us in times of need. They’re the companion for the widow who just lost her husband of 30 years, or the playmate for the new kid in the neighborhood who is still learning how to fit in, or the glue that keeps your family connected as your kids grow up and start to spread their wings.

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by Aaron Kraut — December 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm 866 5 Comments

5104 Moorland Lane, sold for $8.5 million in August, via MRISTheoretically, you could buy 66 condos in one Pooks Hill complex for the price of one luxury condo sold this year in Friendship Heights.

That and other findings are included in the 2014 Bethesda-Chevy Chase real estate roundup from real estate website Redfin.

Local Redfin agent Kris Paolini helped pull together the facts and figures. The Friendship Heights condo referenced before was sold in April for $8.65 million, making the 6,700-square-foot pad at 5630 Wisconsin Avenue the most expensive home sold in the area this year.

For the same price, one could buy 66 one-bedroom condo units at the Promenade Towers co-op buildings at 5225 Pooks Hill Road.

Two of the three least expensive properties sold this year in Bethesda and Chevy Chase were on the seventh floor of the Promenade’s North building. One sold for $130,000 in February and another sold for $137,000 in August.

The second least expensive property sold was a one-bedroom condo sold for $135,000 in the Promenade’s South building in April.

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by Aaron Kraut — December 16, 2014 at 2:20 pm 655 10 Comments

Bethesda Metro Center 3, photo via Boris Feldblyum

A key property owner on Bethesda’s Metro Plaza doesn’t think a new park to revitalize the spot is financially feasible without a new building to support it.

Simon Carney, regional counsel at Brookfield Properties, said the company’s idea to build a new building and new retail space on the plaza would be the best way to improve it.

“Our goal here is not to just to build a building, but it is to build something that is for the community and that has an organic feel to it,” Carney told members of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board on Monday.

Brookfield, which owns 3 Bethesda Metro Center, says it’s in the preliminary stages of designing a new building that would go in the center of the plaza near the Metro station’s bus bay escalators. Carney said the company hasn’t determined if that building would be residential, office, retail or some combination of those uses.

The desire to make the Metro Plaza a more welcoming and active civic space has been among the top issues discussed while planners revise the downtown area’s master plan.

Brookfield’s concept for a “Bethesda Central Park” would be behind the Hyatt hotel building, an idea that’s directly in contrast with a proposal from neighboring property owner Clark Enterprises.

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by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — December 16, 2014 at 1:15 pm 277 0

Rental Report

Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

The season of giving is upon us, and we have some great gift ideas to spruce up any new home, especially if they are tight on space. Here is our list of 10 great gifts under $50.

Crock-PotThe Practical Gift – A Crock-Pot is an excellent idea for everyone, whether you’re a busy student, or a family on the go. You can make simple, healthy meals in a pinch, without needing a microwave, oven or stove. Available at Amazon for $39.99.

If you’re feeling a little generous, throw in a cookbook like Cooking Light Slow Cooker Tonight!

For the Cook - This eight-piece Nesting Bowl set is a great gift for the person who loves to cook but is tight on space. With two mixing bowls, a colander, a sieve, and four measuring cups, they could have what they need to make you something tasty as a thank you! Available at Bed Bath & Beyond for $34.99.

Sherpa BlanketKeep Warm – These soft, cozy Sherpa throw blankets are a great gift for someone who loves to snuggle up on the couch with a good book in the winter. Multiple colors are available to match any décor, and at a price of $22.77 at Amazon, you might even want to pick one up for yourself.

For the Host – Keep that new furniture looking sharp while entertaining with these stylish Antique Silver Coasters from Pottery Barn. At $29, these coasters are a great gift that will work with just about any home style.

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by Aaron Kraut — December 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm 168 0

Santa arrives in Bethesda on his motorcycle as part of MCP's 2012 "Santa Ride" to benefit the Children's Inn at NIH

Santa and members of his police escort will make their annual ride through Bethesda on Wednesday.

Montgomery County Police motor officers will lead a motorcycle-riding Santa through the county, to Woodmont Triangle and finally to the Children’s Inn at NIH to deliver gift bags to children who live there.

The Santa Ride will start at 10 a.m. in Germantown before stopping at a number of places including police headquarters in Gaithersburg, the Mamma Lucia in Rockville for lunch, Olney and Silver Spring.

As is tradition, the motorcade will make its next-to-last stop in Veterans Park at the corner of Woodmont and Norfolk Avenues. Santa and his motorcycle motorcade are expected to stop by at around 5 p.m.

The group will then head back up Old Georgetown Road to the Children’s Inn, where they will distribute the gift bags and hang out with children undergoing treatment at NIH.

All six police districts, area businesses and residents have purchased gift cards from stores for the gift bags.

“These gift cards will assist families in purchasing food and supplies during their stay at The Children’s Inn at NIH. The funds also provide gifts for the children staying at The Children’s Inn at NIH while receiving treatment at NIH,” police said.

To provide a financial donation online, visit The Children’s Inn at NIH website.

by Aaron Kraut — December 16, 2014 at 11:05 am 412 13 Comments

The approximate location of two newly proposed apartment buildings on Pooks Hill. The Marriot Bethesda is to the right and the Promenade Towers are to the left, via Google Maps

Residents in the Pooks Hill area of Bethesda complained that a proposal for two new high-rise apartments would make an already sticky traffic situation worse.

The residents — many who live in the Promenade Towers condo complex at 5225 Pooks Hill Road — made their arguments on Monday during a required community meeting hosted by developer Quadrangle.

Quadrangle will submit a plan to build two, 15-story apartment towers totaling about 625 units on a set of mostly unused overflow parking lots near the Bethesda Marriott.

Quadrangle Senior Vice President Bob Knopf and attorney Soo Lee-Cho defended the project against an onslaught of criticism. The most prominent concern related to how adding more units and more cars would affect traffic circulation on Pooks Hill Road.

The Pooks Hill neighborhood is mostly made up of condo buildings, townhomes and apartments, just south of the Capital Beltway spur and just west of Rockville Pike.

But for many Promenade residents, the intersection of Pooks Hill Road and Rockville Pike is the only way to get out of the neighborhood in the morning. Before 9 a.m. on weekday mornings, residents who live east of Linden Avenue are effectively blocked off from access to Old Georgetown Road because of cut-thru restrictions in the Maplewood-Alta Vista neighborhood.

“This is not sustainable,” commented one resident. “We will be worse than Manhattan without the advantages of Manhattan.”

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by Aaron Kraut — December 16, 2014 at 10:15 am 425 5 Comments

Chopped down trees last week along River Road and Kenwood Country Club in BethesdaRecent tree cutting work along a section of River Road in Bethesda left many wondering what was going on.

Pepco says it’s responsible for the work, which consisted of cutting down dozens of trees along the east side of River Road just north of the entrance to Kenwood Country Club.

The tree cutting is part of Pepco’s tree maintenance plan around power lines that are susceptible to damage from trees during severe storms, according to a company spokesperson.

Cutting down these particular trees was required by regulations establishing minimum clearances between trees and power lines, according to a statement from the company:

“Pepco’s necessary work along River Road is part of our ongoing tree maintenance plan to ensure safe and reliable service to our customers. The trimming and tree removal on this state highway is required by regulations that mandate minimum clearances between trees and power lines. Pepco worked with government agencies to get approval for the work and will be replanting close to 100 trees.”

The trees had reached the level of a power line that runs alongside River Road and the fence outside the Kenwood Country Club golf course.

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