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by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 10:15 am 924 6 Comments

Existing Euro Motorcars layout at Arlington Road/Bethesda Avenue Proposed new layout for Euro Motorcars at Arlington Road/Bethesda Avenue

There could be good news for Bethesda drivers tired of dodging car-carrying trucks often taking up an entire lane of Arlington Road.

Euro Motorcars Bethesda, the Mercedes dealership where those cars are being dropped off, is exploring a redevelopment project that would bring a new “internal road” to the site — putting an end to the daytime deliveries that are a nuisance for some.

Architect Jon Penney presented an early version of the idea on Wednesday during the Planning Department’s online property owner forum.

Euro Motorcars Bethesda (7020 Arlington Rd.) would keep its existing three-story garage that borders the Bradley Boulevard Shopping Center. Essentially, the rest of the property — a showroom, service customer drop-off and two small surface parking lots — would be consolidated and divided by an east-to-west road where customers could wait and where those car carriers could stop.

Penney said getting the car carriers off Arlington Road was one of the reasons Euro Motorcars is exploring redevelopment. It’s also possible the redevelopment could provide space for a new dealership franchise or a multi-story residential project.

The project would eliminate three curb cuts along the property’s frontage on Bethesda Avenue and provide a new underground parking garage.

Penney didn’t specify how aggressively Euro Motorcars is pursuing the idea, and he didn’t say if the dealership was asking for new zoning from the ongoing rewrite downtown Bethesda’s sector plan.

Images via Montgomery County Planning Department

by Aaron Kraut — October 14, 2014 at 2:35 pm 1,247 12 Comments

New traffic signals at Arlington Road and the Bradley Shopping Center entrance

It won’t be long before those who frequent Arlington Road will have a new set of traffic signals to look out for.

As part of the apartment project at the former site of the Arlington Road post office, Montgomery County has installed a set of new traffic lights and crosswalk signals at Arlington Road and the north entrance to the Bradley Shopping Center.

The five-floor, 140-unit apartment from Philadelphia-based developer Keating appears close to completion. Operational traffic signals are required before occupancy permits can be issued.

New crosswalk signals at Arlington Road and the Bradley Shopping Center entranceThe new traffic lights are set up at the south side of the apartment project, where there will be a drop-off area and where drivers will be leaving an underground parking garage.

That 211-space garage 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.

The apartment’s ground floor retail space will be leased by Ourisman Volkswagen of Bethesda — which is moving its showroom from Tenleytown to the 7,000-square foot space.

by Aaron Kraut — September 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm 428 0

MCFRS (file photo)For the second time on Tuesday, MCFRS and B-CC Rescue Squad units have responded to a building on Arlington Road for the report of a suspicious odor.

Crews got the second call just after 2:40 p.m. for the odor in the 7400 block of Arlington Rd., home to a number of medical and professional offices.

Medical personnel are staging on nearby roads in case anybody feels ill. According to scanner traffic, first responders reported to the same building on Tuesday morning and WSSC crews have been working in the area.

Expect delays on Arlington Road.

by Aaron Kraut — September 3, 2014 at 11:05 am 1,277 7 Comments

A police officer looks over damage to the top of a parking garage off Arlington Road Bricks and debris that fell when a vehicle rammed into the top of an Arlington Road parking garage on Wednesday

MCFRS units are on the scene of a vehicle into a wall on top of an Arlington Road parking garage.

The accident happened at about 10:45 a.m. on the top floor of the private garage at 6933 Arlington Rd., tucked next to an office building and the Capital Crescent Trail.

The vehicle apparently slammed into a brick wall, sending bricks and debris falling at least seven floors onto the sidewalk below.

Firefighters are extending a ladder to the top floor of the garage. According to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer, there were no injuries in the incident and only moderate property damage. A building inspector is needed at the garage.

by Aaron Kraut — June 27, 2014 at 9:20 am 627 9 Comments

Roosters Men's Grooming Center, Arlington Road

(Updated 2:15 p.m.) Roosters Men’s Grooming Center, the national chain of barbershops for men and boys, opened this week at Bethesda Row.

Montgomery County residents Kevin and Karen Clark are the franchise owners and in a press release vowed to bring back “the classic American barbershop experience.” The chain of about 80 locations offers leather barber chairs, haircuts, hot towel shaves, deep cleansing facial treatments, hair coloring and grooming products.

The Bethesda location (7135 Arlington Rd.) was built out between Lebanese Taverna and the main entrance to the Upstairs at Bethesda Row apartments. The store has six barber stations “designed for today’s modern male” to “provide the ultimate men’s grooming experience.”

Kevin Clark said there are about 40 barbershops and upscale salons within a two mile-radius of the location, but none that offer the type of services that Roosters does.

“None of them do what we do,” Clark said. “It just seemed like a really good concept. It’s something you can’t buy on the internet. I’ve never been to a barbershop or salon and had the employees not be nice, or not be helpful.”

Clark lives in Germantown and said he looked at Germantown and Gaithersburg for space along with Bethesda. The roughly 1,000-square-foot space from Federal Realty was actually cheaper than some options in the upcounty. But Bethesda Row’s upscale feel will certainly play a part in the business, Clark said.

“Roosters is more of an upscale brand. You have to find a market that will pay a little bit more for the services,” Clark said. “Bethesda seemed to be the best place, based on demographics and based on the actual space.”

The chain was founded by barber Joe Grondin in 1999 in Michigan. The Bethesda location will hold an official ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration on July 23 with the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.

Roosters’ hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

by Aaron Kraut — June 11, 2014 at 12:05 pm 516 0

April 2014 at the 7001 Arlington Road project (file photo)One of downtown Bethesda’s new mixed-use apartment projects will feature a Volkswagen dealership on its first floor.

Ourisman Volkswagen of Bethesda will move its showroom from Tenleytown to the five-story, 140-unit apartment under construction at 7001 Arlington Rd., the former site of a U.S. Post Office.

According to the dealership’s website, the showroom is set to open in March 2015. The dealership’s service facility will remain nearby at 5414 Butler Road, with a free shuttle service provided.

The Post Office was closed in 2012 and demolished in 2013. It will include an underground parking garage with 211 spaces and bring a new traffic signal that will go at the intersection of Arlington Road and the north entrance to the Bradley Boulevard shopping center.

The Ourisman showroom will join Euro Motorcars Bethesda, which is just across Arlington Road.

(h/t John Richards)

by Aaron Kraut — April 18, 2014 at 8:05 am 235 2 Comments

Traffic cones and a steel plate in the roadway on Bradley Boulevard last weekend (file photo)The contractor on a Bradley Boulevard water main project has had to re-excavate the road multiple times to repair leaks in a new pipe it installed just last October.

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.

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

Close up of potential design for Caroline Freeland Park in Bethesda, via Montgomery Parks

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.

PDF: Caroline Freeland Park Options A, B and C

Image via Montgomery Parks

by Aaron Kraut — March 14, 2014 at 10:05 am 386 0

Roosters Men's Grooming Center, coming to Bethesda Row

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.

by Aaron Kraut — March 13, 2014 at 9:15 am 298 0

Caroline Freeland Park Option A. Arlington Road is on the right side of the drawing, Bethesda Library is at the top. Caroline Freeland Park Option B. Arlington Road is on the right side of the drawing, Bethesda Library is at the top. Caroline Freeland Park Option C. Arlington Road is on the right side of the drawing, Bethesda Library is at the top.

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.

(more…)

by Aaron Kraut — March 11, 2014 at 1:35 pm 0

Caroline Freeland Urban Park, via Montgomery ParksMontgomery Parks on Wednesday will present three alternative plans for Caroline Freeland Park.

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

by Aaron Kraut — January 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm 0

A rendering of what the 4831 West Lane apartment could look like with other planned future development. The 4831 building is shown in the middle of the image, via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentThe 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

by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2013 at 2:35 pm 204 0

Caroline Freeland Urban Park, via Montgomery ParksCreating 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.

(more…)

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2013 at 11:30 am 281 0

Caroline Freeland Urban Park, via Montgomery Parks Caroline Freeland Urban Park, via Montgomery Parks

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

by Aaron Kraut — July 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm 263 1 Comment

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

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