Metra Industries, the primary contractor chosen for the project by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, “has struggled to meet contractual requirements and has produced some work that has been unacceptable,” wrote WSSC director of communications Jim Neustadt in an email response to Councilmember Roger Berliner’s office.
Neustadt went on to write that the problems with the project “could serve as an example of why the lowest-bid contracting is not necessarily always the best.”
The constant digging has left the busy thoroughfare near the heart of downtown Bethesda a jumbled mess of steel plates, traffic cones and construction vehicles. It’s also meant a host of complaints to Berliner’s office about late-night construction and daytime lane closures.
Last Friday, Berliner sent a letter to the State Highway Administration expressing his concern about the project and asked the agency to reconsider its permitting process. On Wednesday, Neustadt provided Berliner’s office and the SHA with a recap of the project and what’s next in the process.
On Thursday, Neustadt told BethesdaNow.com that WSSC will send out a similar summary to affected customers with a letter in the next day or two.
“As I said in the letter, we are pursuing appropriate contractual remedies,” Neustadt said. “Our top priority is getting this done so we can get our customers back to some sense of normalcy.”
Neustadt said final paving on the project should be done in late June.
The primary goal of the project is to replace a 20-inch diameter pipe under Bradley Boulevard, near Arlington Road. WSSC said the project was challenging because of adverse weather conditions, a large amount of existing utilities, storm water drainage, restricted working schedules and heavy traffic.
But part of the problem was due to the contractor’s work, Neustadt told public officials.
“We are proceeding with remedies in line with the contract,” Neustadt wrote.
On Thursday, Neustadt said he didn’t want to get into more specifics about the contractual obligations.
In the email, he wrote, “WSSC is working itself away from this type of contracting and has recently been utilizing other selection strategies that hopefully will yield not only a better product, but better overall value for our customers’ dollars.”
Since the new water main was put into place in October, testing showed the pipe had many leaks, according to WSSC. That meant Bradley Boulevard had to be re-excavated so crews could locate and repair those leaks.
With the pipe unable to operate, Metra wasn’t allowed to tie in the new main to the existing pipe system, set up connections to properties nearby or hook it up to fire hydrants.
Neustadt said the leaks in the pipe have been located and repaired, which will allow Metra to move forward with the rest of the project.
Work that still must be completed includes the installation of two pipes on Arlington Road — a 96-foot long, roughly 10-inch diameter pipe and a 20-foot long, roughly 4-inch diameter pipe.
Crews must also complete seven tie-ins to existing mains, including a key connection to a 60-inch main. Each connection requires a water main shutdown. Neustadt said the contractor plans to perform shutdowns two at a time. Also, the work will happen at night to minimize the impact on customers.
The contractor must also connect the new pipe to two gas stations, an apartment complex and a house before final testing and chlorination.
Weather permitting, the final patching of the pavement will be completed by mid-May with the final mill and overlay paving done by the end of June.
“The current patching is only temporary asphalt which hasn’t held up well due to the extreme winter,” Neustadt wrote.
In a regular monthly email sent to subscribers on Thursday, Berliner wrote he was grateful WSSC saw the project as an example of how lowest-bid contracting doesn’t always work.
“Just sorry our residents have had to pay the price for learning these lessons,” Berliner said.
We wrote a few weeks ago about the three design options Montgomery Parks is considering for a renovation of Caroline Freeland Park.
Parks this week posted the designs on its Facility Plan page for the project. Check out the designs and potential park features in the PDF at the bottom of this post.
Also see what those who attended the March 12 meeting had to say.
Keep in mind that Parks introduced the drawings to gauge reaction to a number of general concepts including a larger playground, stage or event area on Hampden Lane and clear-cut public green.
The concepts could be combined or changed in a final Caroline Freeland Park design. The facility plan is set to go before the Planning Board in December 2014 or January 2015.
Image via Montgomery Parks
A national chain of men’s salons wants to bring the American barbershop of yore to Bethesda Row.
Roosters Men’s Grooming Center, a company of about 80 franchises nationwide, will open at 7115 Arlington Rd., between Lebanese Taverna and the main entrance to the Upstairs at Bethesda Row apartments.
Barber Joe Grondin opened the first Roosters in 1999 in Michigan to “re-establish the traditional men’s Grooming Center:”
Joe’s goal was to step back in time and re-establish the traditional men’s Grooming Center. He wanted to create an atmosphere that evoked the feeling of a classic American barbershop, focused on providing quality service to men of all ages.
From the moment our clients arrive, it’s as though they have stepped back in time to a simpler way of life. At Roosters, we get back to basics, encouraging our clients to relax and unwind in an atmosphere reminiscent of the past, and our first priority is meeting the unique needs of each client.
That means shaves, hot towel treatments and splashes of aftershave.
Options include haircuts with shampoo massage, head shaves, neck trims, beard trims and “advice on golf.” No opening date is listed, but work continues inside the space.
Montgomery Parks is looking at three conceptual designs for Caroline Freeland Park that would give it an open lawn area, event staging site on unused Hampden Lane and a more formal entrance with stairs at the corner of Arlington Road and Elm Street.
In all three designs, presented by Parks staff and its landscape architect on Wednesday, the popular fenced-in playground in the back corner of the park would remain and in some cases would be made larger, perhaps with a “discovery play area” to appeal to kids too old for swing sets and jungle gyms.
“We want to bring clarity,” said landscape architect Dennis Carmichael, from Alexandria-based firm ParkerRodriguez. “Each one of these schemes brings focus to the areas within the park.”
Carmichael and Parks project manager Lucas Bonney made clear the designs presented Wednesday were preliminary. They asked residents what they liked and what they didn’t about each option as a way to gauge which concepts should be included and which should be excluded in a final facility plan.
That facility plan is set to go before the Planning Board in December 2014 or January 2015 and would be subject to further review once a more detailed plan is etched out. Parks hopes to have the Caroline Freeland Park renovation project in the county’s next capital budget, which will run from fiscal year 2017-fiscal year 2022.
It’s clear the park as stands, along Arlington Road just south of the Bethesda Library, isn’t being used to its potential.
Parks is planning to renovate the park at 7200 Arlington Rd., on the edge of downtown Bethesda and a neighborhood of single family homes.
The community meeting on Wednesday is set for 7 p.m.- 9 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane) and will allow the opportunity for public input on each alternative.
Lucas Bonney, the Parks project manager and landscape architect in charge of the renovation process, said in November that changes could include a new alignment for some of the park’s pathways, a new location for the “Bethesda Walk Around” sculpture and a more public gathering space on dead-end Hampden Lane.
The popular playground, part of the park’s renovation in 2010, will likely remain untouched.
Photo via Montgomery Parks
The controversial plan for a 80-foot tall, approximately 120-unit apartment building at 4831 West Lane in Bethesda is set to start the county’s typical development review process with a required community meeting next week.
Representatives from D.C.-based developer SJG Properties will be on hand Wednesday, Jan. 22 to present the preliminary and site plans for the building, which some neighbors have argued is too tall and will bring too much congestion to the surrounding neighborhood of townhomes and condos.
The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).
Though SJG hasn’t formally submitted its plans, much of what the developer wants is well known because it went through a separate and lengthy zoning change process to get more density.
The Planning Board approved a development application for the project in December 2012 and added some binding elements. SJG came back to the Planning Board in March 2013 with setback and architectural changes. The Planning Board again gave its support.
In September 2013, the County Council upheld a hearing examiner’s decision to approve the new zoning by an 8-1 vote.
Residents from the City Homes of Edgemoor and the Edgemoor Condominium Residences argued for more than a year that the building (five feet higher than the 1994 Bethesda CBD Master Plan recommended zoning) will be too dense for the neighborhood and will hurt traffic flow and pedestrian safety on West Lane and Montgomery Lane.
But the developer, and some on the County Planning Board, said the stretch of single family homes less than 1,000 feet from the Bethesda Metro is an ideal spot for density.
At the Council hearing, the attorney for SJG Properties argued the seven-story building with a 73-foot setback from West Lane will actually be more compatible with the Sector Plan than the very properties some opponents live in.
Rendering via Montgomery County Planning Department
Creating balance in Caroline Freeland Park — between its use as a buffer to downtown Bethesda and its potential for more lively uses — is in large part the job of Lucas Bonney, the Montgomery Parks project manager and landscape architect in charge of the park’s renovation process.
We spoke to Bonney about the potential for the one-acre park (7200 Arlington Rd.), what residents told him they like about it now and what changes could be on the horizon for one of downtown Bethesda’s rare park uses.
BethesdaNow.com: What sorts of things did you hear from people at the public meeting [Ed. note: It happened Nov. 6] and were there any general themes?
Bonney: We heard that definitely the playground is a very big element to the park. Mothers and fathers go their with their kids, sometimes late into the day in the summer. It’s a very popular element and the community was part of that renovation in 2010. That’s near and dear to many of the community members.
The trees and the green space is very important to maintain. That was a very important element to the community members — that we maintain a green buffer in a heavily urbanizing area.
BethesdaNow.com: The park as a buffer zone between downtown Bethesda and the single family neighborhood to the west is a big topic, especially with Parks talking more about urban parks and many in Bethesda wanting more lively and active civic spaces. How do you bridge that gap, manage that dilemma?
Bonney: As a landscape architect, I enjoy designing urban parks and integrating green space with urban activities. That’s especially a challenge at this park because of its size. It’s only one acre and it is in such close proximity to the downtown area and the residential properties. I’m definitely interested in integrating small-scale urban activities in a park that looks green and has tree canopy elements.
We need a mix of those uses, because inevitably that’s the desire for the park — to have a multi-use park for many different people, not just for the immediate land owners or the residential homeowners, but for all people in Bethesda.
We’ve been in talks with the Bethesda Urban Partnership’s [Deputy Executive Director] Jeff Burton and trying to understand where the activity areas are and which urban spaces are being used for musical events or activities that the Urban Partnership holds and how the park would fit within the matrix of services there. We want to integrate, but we also have to be careful, because it is very close to residential properties, to strike the correct balance of uses.
It also should be maintained as a quiet park during different times of the month and in the summer. So that’s an important balance.
Caroline Freeland Urban Park is a buffer between downtown Bethesda and single-family home neighborhoods to the west. It is also in a prime location for lunchtime business meetings and weekend events.
Next week, Montgomery Parks will continue planning for the renovation of the park (7200 Arlington Rd.) with a community meeting. Parks admits a need to better connect the park to bustling Bethesda, but says it hopes to maintain the one-acre site’s meaning to the local community.
In 1983, Parks bought the land and designed the park to protect the Edgemoor neighborhood from the commercial development going on east of Arlington Road.
But now the space, between Bethesda Library and the Arlington Road Giant, seems like it offers potential for more. It’s a rare example of a large park space in downtown Bethesda:
The goal of this project is to develop an innovative, attractive, and environmentally sensitive design for the long-term renovation of the park. The design process will focus on identifying opportunities to improve the park as an amenity for the local community, while balancing the need to improve connections to the Bethesda Central Business District (CBD). The park’s downtown location offers great potential to create a memorable and unique open space that provides a cohesive and flexible framework to support passive recreational needs and cultural activities.
The community meeting is set for Wednesday, Nov. 6 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Library (7400 Arlington Rd.) The timeline has another community meeting scheduled for March 2014, development of a Preferred Plan over the rest of 2014 and then a presentation of the plan and cost estimates to the Planning Board in winter 2015.
In August, Parks officials spoke about using urban parks as drivers of the nighttime economy, or simply as more innovative civic spaces. That could require keeping parks open after dark. It’s unknown if those around the “buffer” Freeland Park would approve.
Now, the park includes a wooden pavilion, open-air wooden trellis, some retaining walls, planters, sloped lawn, playground and “Bethesda Walk Around” art sculpture. As the Arts and Humanities Council explains, the sculpture includes 14 painted steel figures at the top of a round structure meant to represent people in Bethesda in the 80′s. There are moms with strollers, a businessman-type and even what appears to be a homeless man.
The sculpture was installed in 1989. The playground area was renovated in 2010.
For more information, visit Montgomery Parks’ project website for the park.
Photos via Montgomery Parks
A five-floor condo set for Montgomery Lane will go before the Montgomery County Planning board on July for approval.
The house at 4825 Montgomery Lane is set to be demolished and redeveloped into a building with four residential units and four individual garage doors on the West Lane side of the property.
In December, the County Council approved a zoning change for the site. It has one of the last remaining single family-detached houses in the neighborhood bordered by Arlington Road, Edgemoor Lane, Woodmont Avenue and Hampden Lane. The area, within walking distance of the Bethesda Metro station, is predominantly townhomes and condos.
The Chase and 10-story Edgemoor apartment buildings are directly to the east of the site. A controversial seven-story, 120-unit apartment complex (4831 West Lane) is planned for across the street.
Photos via Montgomery County Planning Department
Bradley Party & Variety will open at 6922 Arlington Rd., in the Bradley Shopping Center, at 11 a.m. with a petting zoo, balloons for kids and giveaways.
The store is also offering a $5 coupon for all purchases of at least $10 through its Facebook page.
The move has created plenty of intrigue. The owners of Bruce Variety claim Stronsiders, their next-door neighbor in the shopping center for almost 60 years, orchestrated their ouster from Arlington Road in order to grab the space to start its own similar business.
Bruce Variety owner Richard Dimock is the ex-husband of Robin Strosnider, who his wife and Bruce Variety co-owner Linda Ridenour claimed paid a retired Bruce Variety worker for inside knowledge of the store’s vendors.
Bruce Variety has since re-opened. But in May, workers stood on the sidewalk near the Bradley Shopping Center with signs declaring Bruce’s new location in Woodmont Triangle.
The store moved out of 7263 Woodmont Ave. earlier this year. A Max Brenner Chocolate shop will take its place with an expected mid-June opening.
On May 9, 10 and 11, moms will receive a flower with a coupon for a free 8×10 enlargement of any photo. The store is also holding a Mother’s Day raffle for two Polaroid digital cameras. Customers who bring their child’s artwork can have it scanned and printed into a leather-bound album for a reduced price.
The store includes an expanded inventory and sales on cameras, SD cards and tripods. Eric Moseson, executive vice president of Ritz, said the new space is larger and the store will offer photography classes.
Last year, New Jersey-based C&A Marketing bought Ritz Camera after it failed to emerge from its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy in four years. C&A Marketing decided to keep its Bethesda store after a going-out-of-business sale, just in a new location about half-a-mile away.
Parents of students at Bethesda Elementary School today started an online petition for pedestrian improvements in the area around the school, after a February incident in which a three-month old child in a stroller was hit and dragged from a crosswalk on Arlington Road.
Wendy Leibowitz said the parents started the petition because of that incident and a number of others along Arlington Road. The child in the stroller collision on Feb. 27 was not hurt after a car turning on to Arlington from Edgemoor Lane failed to yield.
It was one of three reported pedestrian-car collisions in Bethesda since February.
“As you know, there have been a series of accidents and near-accidents in downtown Bethesda along Arlington Road and some of us are concerned that the pedestrian crossings and speed limits are poorly marked,” Leibowitz said. “There are no speed cameras or enforcement of traffic rules and people drive very aggressively near Bethesda Elementary School.”
The petition has 27 supporters so far and asks the Montgomery County Council, Police Department and Department of Transportation for more “No Turn On Red” restrictions, more visible crosswalk markings, speed cameras on Arlington Road and police patrols when children are going to and leaving school.
Read the full petition after the jump.
UPDATE 2:50 p.m. MCFRS crews are on the scene of a brush fire in the wooded residential area of the intersection of Burning Tree Road and Beech Tree Road. Crews reportedly have the roughly quarter-acre fire under control.
ORIGINAL With weather conditions ideal for the rapid spread of brush fires, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service is advising residents not to throw cigarettes on the ground and to be careful with any flammable materials.
A fire in a small section of mulch in the Giant grocery store parking lot on Arlington Road was easily extinguished before reaching any trees just after 11 a.m. And MCFRS will be on alert for similar incidents because of dry, windy conditions.
From the National Weather Service:
…RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING FOR EASTERN WEST VIRGINIA…NORTHERN AND CENTRAL MARYLAND… NORTHERN VIRGINIA AND WASHINGTON DC…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG WARNING FOR THE POTENTIAL OF RAPID WILDFIRE GROWTH…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 8 PM EDT THIS EVENING. THE FIRE WEATHER WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* RELATIVE HUMIDITY…20 TO 25 PERCENT.
* WINDS…NORTHWEST 15 TO 20 MPH WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH.
* FUEL MOISTURE…5 TO 8 PERCENT.
* IMPACTS…THE COMBINATION OF GUSTY WINDS AND DRY FUELS WILL PROMOTE RAPID SPREAD OF ANY UNCONTROLLED FIRES. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…
A FIRE WEATHER WATCH MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS MAY OCCUR. LISTEN FOR LATER FORECASTS AND POSSIBLE RED FLAG WARNINGS.
A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW…OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS…LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY…AND DRY FUELS WILL CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.
The old U.S. Post Office building at 7001 Arlington Rd. is no more after crews tore down the brick building in the last few days to make way for a five-story, 140-unit apartment with ground floor retail.
The Post Office closed last year as Philadelphia-based developer Keating fenced off the site and prepared it for demolition and construction.
The new apartment will include a parking garage with 211 spaces, which will accommodate 44 fewer peak-hour trips during weekday mornings and 19 fewer peak-hour trips during the evening rush hour than the Post Office generated, according to County Planning Staff.
Also in the plans: A new traffic signal that would go at the intersection of Arlington Road and the north entrance to the Bradley Boulevard shopping center.
Kae Robin & Company (6910 Arlington Rd.) is closing as owner Jo Ann Horn prepares to retire, an employee confirmed today.
The gift shop and stationery store has been opened in Bradley Shopping Center since 1959. In December, longtime crafts store Bruce Variety announced it was closing just a few doors down from Kae Robin. Owners said the rent in the shopping center had got too high and many bemoaned the loss of the independently owned small business in a changing Bethesda area.
A representative from the Shopping Center did not respond to multiple requests for comment at the time and it is unclear if Kae Robin is facing a similar situation.
We left a phone message with Horn this morning.