Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Addie's sets opening date at Park Potomac

Addie's Restaurant will open Tuesday, August 22 at Park Potomac. Although the new iteration won't be in an actual house like the original Rockville Pike location, chef-owner Jeff Black has tried to make his ground floor space at 12435 Park Potomac Avenue to be "as welcoming as Grandma Addie's home," in homage to the namesake and inspiration for the restaurant. There is a "living room," a "dining room," a bookshelf-lined "den," and for a lucky few, a six-seat oyster bar.

As I previously reported, Addie's Mussels and Addie's Rolls are back on the menu, along with a customizable Seafood Tower with a broad array of selections from ponzo marinated uni to old standbys like Addie's premium raw oysters.

Addie's will take reservations, and serve dinner seven nights a week, brunch on weekends and lunch every weekday.

Community Paint & Hardware hoisted onto dolly system for move (Photos)

The historic Wilson Store building, a.k.a Community Paint & Hardware, has been lifted up onto the motorized dolly system that will be used to move it to Middleton Lane this weekend. 7250 Wisconsin Avenue is believed to be the last 19th century building in downtown Bethesda, and is being moved for the second time in its life for the same reason: redevelopment of 7272 Wisconsin Avenue.

If you look closely at the photos, you can see the truck-size wheels beneath the two halves of the store, which were separated last week. Expert House Movers is the contractor moving the structure. The front of the store is currently sitting on a dolly in the driveway of the Apex Building.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ride On Extra buses will be free during October

Two of the alternatives to the proposed boondoggle of Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County - express buses and free Ride On fares - will be realized on a very limited basis in October: A new express bus service called Ride On Extra will begin service along MD 355, and fares on Ride On Extra will be free that month. Service will run between Gaithersburg and Medical Center station in Bethesda.

The buses are a lite version of BRT, with similar features like low-floor boarding, 10-minute peak rush hour headways, and free Wi-Fi, but will not take travel lanes along Rockville Pike from cars (as BRT will). Ride On Extra buses will also have traffic signal priority, but the County has never addressed how that random impact on traffic signals will affect the synchronization of lights up and down the Pike. It could cause major rush hour delays on an already-jammed road.

There's no mention of how much the month of free service will cost taxpayers, either. Ride On Extra stops will include Lakeforest Transit Center, Summit Ave., Westland Dr., Shady Grove Metro, Montgomery College, Rockville Metro, Edmonston Dr., Halpine Rd., Marinelli Rd., Security Ln., Tuckerman Ln., and Medical Center. There will be new bus shelters and bus stop flag signs to identify Ride On Extra bus stops.

Public meeting scheduled for new Bethesda hotel project on August 28

Developer StonebridgeCarras is holding a required public meeting providing information about its new downtown Bethesda mixed-use hotel project on Monday, August 28, at 7:00 PM at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (Conference Room A), located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane. The project includes the site of the current 2nd District Montgomery County police station. StonebridgeCarras acquired that prime corner property across from Metro in a land swap with the County, which will relocate the station to Rugby Avenue.

The StonebridgeCarras project will include a 135,000 SF hotel and meeting space, up to 400,000 SF of office space, underground and above-grade parking, and unspecified "public and private amenities." It includes properties at 7359 Wisconsin Avenue, 7351 Wisconsin Avenue, 4630 Montgomery Avenue.

Despite the County's moribund private sector economy, tourist demand remains high for hotel rooms, according to a representative for the Marriott Corporation at last week's public meeting on the their new downtown Bethesda hotel and headquarters. He stated that the downtown Bethesda Hilton Garden Inn is always booked solid.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bethesda construction update: George's Chophouse (Photos)

It looks like more than just a fresh coat of paint is being applied to the future George's Chophouse at 4935 Cordell Avenue. Yesterday, workers were attaching wood planks to the front facade of the building. The Loft at 4935 remains open on the upstairs floor of the building.

Ann Taylor reopens, The Fix opens at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda (Photos)

Ann Taylor has reopened at Westfield Montgomery Mall, after major renovations to the store. The revamped space made its debut as scheduled over the weekend. Bethesda's Ann Taylor has managed to survive the rough seas currently rocking the women's apparel chain, whose parent company is closing 650 stores of its various brands nationwide.
Ann Taylor
Brand new at the mall is The Fix. The store offers sales of new and refurbished unlocked phones and accessories, and phone and gadget repairs. The Fix is located on Level 2 in the Macy's wing of the mall.

Finally, here's a brief look at Cookie Dough & Co., the new, safe-to-eat cookie dough kiosk that just opened at the mall:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Scotland townhouses to get extensive renovations

Section 8 townhouses in Montgomery County's historic Scotland community at 7838 Scotland Drive are about to get some major renovations. Operator Whetstone Company says it is investing at least $1.4 million in the upgrades, which will include new siding, new synthetic stone veneer exteriors, new shingled gable roofs, and new porches and front stoops. The community's rental office will also be updated.

In addition, four units will receive additions to make them ADA-compliant, and two homes will be outfitted for visually and hearing-impaired residents. Scotland was founded in 1880 by a freed slave named William Dove, when he purchased 36.25 acres for $210.

Scotland survived through both the initiative of many of its residents, and intervention by Montgomery County, during the 1960s. They faced the same shady real estate practices that cheated landowners in the African-American community on River Road near Westbard out of their homes in the mid-twentieth century. In both cases, what had once been undesirable land became among the most valuable in the County, attracting real estate vultures to prey on the disadvantaged homeowners.

It is interesting that the County did not similarly intervene in the erasure of the River Road community. Clearly there was a reason for the disparity, which needs to be researched and revealed.

Bethesda construction update: George's Chophouse (Photos)

The transformation of the ground floor and facade of 4935 Bar & Kitchen to George's Chophouse is underway at 4935 Cordell Avenue. This is a new concept from chef-owner Ashish Alfred, who also owns the popular and award-winning Duck Duck Goose a block away. The top floor Loft lounge and event space remains open during the renovation, according to their Facebook page.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Classic Mustang and Porsche display at Park Potomac (Photos)

Fleming's Ultimate Garage has been out-of-sight, out-of-mind for many in the general public since its move to a less-visible location on Lofstrand Lane from heavily-traveled Rockville Pike. The classic car restorer, service center and dealer is currently generating some publicity with a display at Park Potomac, featuring a classic 1970 Ford Mustang Mach 1, and a 2004 Porsche 911 Carrera C4S.

Bethesda construction update: West Lane Apartments (Photos)

Developer SJG Properties' West Lane Apartments project is taking shape several stories above 4901 Montgomery Lane in downtown Bethesda. The distinctive curve at the front of the building is now distinguishable. Delivery is expected in the spring of 2018.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Marriott "excited" about new downtown Bethesda HQ and hotel (Photos)

Woodmont Grill scuttles plan
to acquire Tastee Diner corner
for project

Marriott Corporation and landowner Bernstein Companies are moving quickly to develop the new Marriott headquarters and hotel in downtown Bethesda, with groundbreaking now expected to take place in the third quarter of 2018. "We're excited to locate our new headquarters and flagship hotel in downtown Bethesda," Jim Young of Marriott said at a community meeting last night. Among the breaking news was that the reported agreement with Tastee Diner to sell their corner property to Bernstein now cannot be realized, because they were unable to also obtain the Woodmont Grill property. "The train has left the station," a Bernstein representative said of the potential assembly of that corner of the block.

Woodmont Grill can stay, but they will lose their private parking lot to the Marriott project, as the lot is also owned by Bernstein, which has owned 7750 Wisconsin Avenue for about 40 years. Boston Properties is now a co-owner of the property. The design will include a public plaza and cross-block pedestrian connection between Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenue. Architecture firm Gensler said the project is a great opportunity to create a "set piece of urban design."
Site plan
The renderings shown last night are works in progress, not the final design. What is known, is that the 21-story, L-shaped office building will be mostly glass and metal, with 18 floors atop a 3-floor podium. The 238-room hotel will be 12 stories, and both buildings are expected to earn LEED Gold certification.
Aerial view of plaza
Marriott wants to plant a large specimen tree on the plaza, to further represent the firm's commitment to the environment. To ensure the plaza is activated around the clock, the hotel bar and headquarters will both open to the plaza. The hotel restaurant will also be on the ground floor, and there will be suspended light fixtures above the plaza.
Plaza looking east
In a time of highly-controversial sidewalk closures, Marriott is promising to keep a covered walkway along Wisconsin Avenue throughout the construction process. The hotel is expected to deliver in October 2021, with the Marriott headquarters building following in July 2022.
View from Woodmont Avenue
at Cordell Avenue
Another controversial issue is parking. Marriott has signed a 10-year, $2 million-per-year agreement with Montgomery County to have full use of the Woodmont Corner garage across Woodmont from the Marriott site during business hours. Marriott said this is a transitional plan; they believe their workers will switch to transit over the next decade, and may not extend the garage agreement if that happens.
View from Bethesda Metro
That didn't convince some attendees last night, who said Marriott needs to communicate directly with businesses in that area about the loss of parking. The garage is often packed during business hours, and currently, 2500 of Marriott's 3300 employees drive and park at their existing headquarters north of downtown Bethesda in Rock Spring.
View from Norfolk Avenue
Other concerns expressed included traffic impacts and the lack of ground floor retail in the project, which one attendee said was a lost opportunity. One other problem with the failure to assemble the Tastee and Woodmont Grill properties: the new, wider sidewalks around the future Marriott project will end on both sides of the corner at the old, narrower sidewalks in front of those restaurants.
Green roof plan
On the positive side, Marriott promised a high bar of quality for the hotel and restaurant, noting that the CEO of the company will literally be looking down on them from the next building. The third floor of the hotel will be used as an "innovation lab" to test new concepts, designs and furniture for all of Marriott's hotel brands. There will be 100 bike storage units and lockers for Marriott employees in the headquarters building, and an 8000 SF meeting space in the hotel.
Plaza view
Young of Marriott said the company is delighted to be able to remain in Bethesda after 60 years here. He said the company will have a 20-year lease on the property, with rights for 20 more after that.

Attorney Bob Dalrymple said a concept plan for the project was filed for technical comments, and for a head start on design. He said Marriott and its partners intend to file the sketch, preliminary, and site plans together soon, and be before the Planning Board with all of those by the end of 2017.  Last night was a required pre-submission meeting for those plans.

Dalrymple said he expects a hearing before the Planning Board in mid-December, and to have approvals by the end of the year.
View from Veterans Park
View from Lionsgate condos
Illustrative site plan
Stormwater management plan

Properties assembled for the
Marriott project outlined in red