Friday, July 31, 2015

Historic Wheaton Recreation Center (a.k.a. Wheaton Youth Center) to close forever in March 2016

The future Wheaton Library
and Recreation Center, expected
to open in 2018
As Montgomery County gears up to build a new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center at Georgia and Arcola Avenues, the county's Recreation Department has announced the closing date of the current rec center (located on the next block north). The Wheaton Recreation Center will close permanently on March 28, 2016.

Demolition of the historic structure, known as the Wheaton Youth Center in its golden age, will begin in late summer, the department says.

While the building is most generally known for the many recreation and artistic activities it offered over many decades, it has gained additional notoriety for the longstanding question of whether or not Led Zeppelin played there.

One can reach their own conclusion on that question, whether or not they support demolition of the building. In my own opinion, I think there's a strong case to conclude the band indeed played at the Wheaton Youth Center. The general public in America had no clue who Led Zeppelin were at the time they allegedly performed there. And the building played host to other rock legends whose careers have long outlived Zeppelin's - including Rod Stewart and Alice Cooper. With rock royalty like that "in the house," how does one find it impossible to believe Led Zeppelin Played Here?

Hopefully the contributions the rec center made to the Wheaton community can be formally memorialized in some way going forward.

Festival Salvadoreño Americano Sunday, August 2 in Wheaton

Enjoy live music and delicious food this Sunday, August 2, from 11:00 AM to 6:00 PM, at the 6th Annual Salvadoran-American Festival in the Wheaton Triangle. Performers will include headliners Grupo Miel and La Maquina. 

There will also be information on community services, as well as health screenings and consular services. 

The Triangle is at the corner of Reedie Drive and Grandview Avenue, just north of the Wheaton Metro station on the Red Line.

There's no charge to enter the festival.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Not Your Average Joe's coming to Ellsworth Place mall in Silver Spring

Not Your Average Joe's is the latest addition to the revamped Ellsworth Place mall, which is undergoing a complete makeover expected to be completed this fall. Formerly City Place Mall, Ellsworth Place is still open during the renovation, which will imbue the property with a modern, industrial character.

MOD Pizza opened in the mall in early July; Burlington Coat Factory, Marshalls, Michaels, Ross and TJ Maxx are among the anchor tenants under the new leadership of Petrie Richardson Ventures, a Mid-Atlantic-based developer.

Not Your Average Joe's will occupy a prime, ground-level spot at the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Place. The 6,500 SF restaurant will also have outdoor patio seating, and is expected to open in early 2016.

"Not Your Average Joe’s is the perfect addition to the family of retail here at Ellsworth Place,” said Terry Richardson, president and COO of Petrie Richardson Ventures. “Their inventive menu, affordable prices and family-friendly atmosphere pair well with the modern gathering place we are creating here at Ellsworth Place."

They also give the mall arguably one of the best national chain restaurant brands in downtown Silver Spring. "We’re confident that our approach to casual dining will fit well with the tastes of Silver Spring residents and shoppers," NYAJ's CEO and founder Steve Silverstein said Wednesday.

Ellsworth Place is projected to generate approximately $38.4 million in tax revenues for Montgomery County over the next 20 years, and to support 807 permanent FTE jobs in the County, according to a statement released yesterday.
Renderings courtesy Ellsworth Place 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Alleged downtown Silver Spring bank robber charged (Photo)

A man who allegedly robbed the SunTrust Bank at 8700 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring last week has been arrested and charged, Montgomery County Police say. Tony Linn Smith, age 55, of no confirmed address, has been charged with two counts of armed robbery and two counts of theft from $1000 to under $10,000.

The second set of charges relates to a second robbery police are accusing Smith of, which took place at the M&T Bank located at 51 West Edmonston Drive in Rockville on July 25. Smith's alleged robbery of the Silver Spring SunTrust branch took place on July 23, at 9:25 AM.

Police used surveillance footage to identify Smith as the suspect, and officers located him in Silver Spring on July 27. Smith is being held without bond.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Takoma Park to study community-police relations

Takoma Park is preparing to hire a consultant to study community-police relations in the city. The Mayor and Council set aside $10,000 in the FY-2016 budget for this purpose, and last night they discussed the Request for Proposals that will be issued in the search for the consultant.

"We're not Ferguson, Missouri," Councilmember Terry Seamens noted at the outset of the discussion. "I have full confidence" in the Takoma Park Police Department, he added. Seamens said it would be important to hire a consultant "familiar with progressive police strategies."

Councilmember Jarrett Smith suggesting ensuring the consultant was familiar with diverse communities such as Takoma Park has, as well as locales where multifamily housing are prevalent. A "cookie cutter" approach laid over Takoma Park wouldn't work, Smith argued.

The study should also provide solid metrics the city can use to track progress on whatever concerns are raised by the final report, Councilmember Tim Male said.

City Manager Suzanne Ludlow said she hopes to draft and publicize the RFP during the Council break in August, once the edits to the draft suggested by the Mayor and Council are made.

Photo courtesy City of Takoma Park

Monday, July 27, 2015

New renderings of Wheaton Lot 13 redevelopment, Wheaton Town Square (Photos)

New renderings are giving a better sense of what the heart of downtown Wheaton may look like after a public-private redevelopment of its Metro core. Ahead of the Montgomery County Planning Board's latest review of the project this Thursday, July 30, planners are emphasizing the connectivity elements of the design, as well as the uses for public areas that will include a 35,000 SF Town Square.
Click any image to enlarge
Directly adjacent to the Wheaton Metro station, the project will include a StonebridgeCarras-developed 12-story public office building with ground floor retail, a 397-space underground public parking garage, and the Town Square.

Close-up aerial view of
Wheaton Town Square;
the Armature is at left
Other elements of the project include improvements to adjacent land plots owned by WMATA, a separate Bozzuto-developed residential building, and a County-owned driveway along the north end of the Lot 13 property. The buildings and garage will replace Lot 13, which currently serves businesses in the Wheaton Triangle. Also to be demolished to make way for the Town Square, is the MidCounty Regional Services Center.

Joining the RSC in the new public office building will be the building's owner, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the County Department of Permitting Services, the Department of the Environment, DEP's Solid Waste Division, and the RSC's Urban District office.


To connect the new project with Georgia Avenue and the Wheaton Metro station, a pedestrian entrance to the garage will be placed directly across from the stairs that descend from Georgia down to today's Lot 13. And an armature, which planners describe as a distinctive design element, will connect the project and Town Square to the Metro station. Also, the section of Reedie Drive that will run between the Town Square and public office building is proposed to be raised to their elevation so that it can be closed as part of the Square for events.
What it will look like walking
within the Armature

Armature connection to
Wheaton Metro station


Project site in relation
to Wheaton Metro station
Public art, and where exactly it should be placed, has yet to be determined. A few spots are suggested in a Parks Department letter attached to the report. The public art budget for the project, however, has been set. It is $250,000.

The report doesn't say much about the impact of the lost parking may affect Wheaton Triangle businesses. 397 spaces is a significant increase from the number available today in Lot 13, but depending how many public employees in the new building drive, it's unclear just how many spaces will be left for shoppers and diners, or the crowds the renderings suggest will be attending the many public events in the Town Square (the residential building will have its own garage).

The planning department report acknowledges the project represents a significant change in character from the low-rise commercial buildings that currently dominate the Wheaton Central Business District. Renderings further dramatize the shift toward higher-density. When the project is completed, the high-rise Exchange across Georgia Avenue may seem less the "odd building out" in Wheaton.

Planning staff are recommending transmission of their comments to the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (I assume this is because they own and operate Lot 13) by the board.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Georgia Ave./Randolph Rd. lane closures start tonight at interchange project in Glenmont

Prepare for traffic jams along Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill, Glenmont and Wheaton this weekend. The Maryland State Highway Administration says Georgia and Randolph Road will both be reduced to one lane open in each direction from 9:00 PM tonight, to 5:00 AM Monday morning. This is to allow extensive work on the Georgia Avenue-Randolph Road grade-separated interchange, which has been underway for more than a year at the intersection.

New lanes will be striped, and new traffic signals will be activated, while the old signal posts will be dismantled and removed. Should inclement weather thwart SHA plans this weekend, the work will be performed the weekend of July 31, instead.

The unbuilt Rockville Freeway and Northern Parkway would certainly have come in handy as detours this weekend.

Rendering courtesy MD State Highway Administration

Howard enters 6th District race for Congress

Laytonsville resident Frank Howard has officially filed to run for Congress in Maryland's 6th District, the ridiculously-gerrymandered area that runs from Western Maryland all the way into many parts of Montgomery County. Within Montgomery, it includes rapidly-growing towns and cities like Gaithersburg, Montgomery Village, Germantown and Clarksburg; rural areas like Poolesville; and parts of Rockville and Potomac - and even a tiny bit of Bethesda, around Westfield Montgomery Mall. But wait, there's more: it also takes in parts of Aspen Hill.

The seat's current occupant, Congressman John Delaney (D), has been considering runs for the retiring Barbara Mikulski's U.S. Senate seat, and Maryland Governor.

Howard says he would seek to lower the U.S. corporate income tax, restore defense spending, protect Western Maryland workers against the "War on Coal", and replace the Affordable Care Act with a free-market alternative.

The Republican ran a formidable campaign for the District 14 State Senate seat in 2014, in which he was endorsed by the Washington Post, The Gazette, and the Maryland Farm Bureau PAC. An Old Dominion University graduate, Howard is an Air Force veteran and an owner of Shipley Associates. He has also been active in the community, as President of the Board of Directors for Second Chance Wildlife Center, and with Gaithersburg Meals on Wheels.

Photo courtesy Frank Howard for Congress

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Avalon Bay AVA Wheaton apartment project finally moving forward

The long-planned Avalon Bay project at 11501 Georgia Avenue in Wheaton has been stalled for over a year. In the spring of 2014, the developer requested an extension for the project, and then all went quiet. There's now a sign the AVA Wheaton apartment building is moving forward at last.

A construction permit has been requested from Montgomery County for the project, which will include 319 residential units - 3 less than than the last total unit number given in 2014. There will also be a parking garage on the site.

During the delay, the closed office and bank building have been sitting vacant. There is now some light at the end of the tunnel, however. The current building failed to attract office tenants despite its location, only .4 miles from the Wheaton Metro station. That's largely due to the abysmal office market in Montgomery County, which hasn't attracted a single large corporation in over a decade.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Despite special order proposal, Montgomery County staying in liquor business

The current special orders system for beer, wine and liquor in Montgomery County is hurting bars and restaurants' bottom lines and social media reputations, according to several county businesspeople who testified before the Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control last night.

Mark Moore of Bethesda's Tyber Bierhaus said that customers can't always get the special German, Belgian or Czech Republic brews they were expecting there, leading to negative comments online that hurt business. The reason some of his taps are not in use at times, Moore testified, is that the County Department of Liquor Control can't fulfill the special orders.

Hans Olson of Clyde's Tower Oaks Lodge recalled that his business was told by the DLC that a bartender staple, Maker's Mark, was simply not available during the busy holiday season. Another popular spirit, Grey Goose vodka, was unavailable in the county for six weeks on one occasion, he said.

And prominent local chef Geoff Tracy, who owns Chef Geoff's in Rockville and Lia's in Friendship Heights, said the DLC is currently unable to serve MoCo restaurants at the level of service their DC and Virginia competitors currently enjoy.

Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the state of Maryland with total government control of liquor through the DLC. The Ad Hoc Committee has been unsuccessful in answering the question of many residents and businesspeople: Why is the county involved in the liquor business to begin with? It is now down to only one reform suggestion, allowing alcohol wholesalers to sell and deliver special orders to retailers and restaurants. DLC would continue to have a monopoly on distribution of "stock" beer and wine.

Of course, this will cost around 15 county employees their jobs, for which the proposal offers little substantial remedy. And it will take a sizable chunk out of the approximately $30 million in revenue the county takes in annually from liquor sales. To make up that lost amount - now even more critical with the Supreme Court Wynne decision costing MoCo $50 million in the FY-2017 budget, and added Purple Line cost of $50 million - the county will have to levy some kind of tax on alcohol sales.

Such a tax or fee could end up raising the cost of alcohol. Some in the hospitality business question why the county is still entitled to revenue, if it is no longer providing any service. Good question. What's the justification? And, while we know "Option 4" will be financially beneficial to a few private liquor distributors, will the new special order system sustain, worsen or improve the current situation for restaurants, bars, and their patrons? Sure, accounting and delivery speed will surely improve, but what about prices, particularly with the unknown county tax added?

Molly Horn, bar manager at the new All Set Restaurant and Bar in downtown Silver Spring, noted that customers can now get the same drink for a lower price right over the border in DC under the county's current system. That's a huge disadvantage to county restauranteurs and patrons.

But the county even gouges retailers, currently. Charleen Merkel of Bradley Food & Beverage in Bethesda said the county is charging private retail stores like hers a higher markup on wine, while selling it for a cheaper price to consumers in county-operated liquor stores.

Of course, Option 4 sounds good under the circumstances. If you were a political prisoner surviving on bread and water in solitary confinement, and the warden said you could have a prime rib and a run around the prison yard once a day, you might consider that good news, too. But it wouldn't make the overall wrong right, and hardly be celebration-worthy.

But there's entirely too much fawning media coverage of the "effort" to reform the liquor system in Montgomery County by Councilmember Hans Riemer. If Option 4 indeed comes to pass, it won't be the end of liquor control by county government. It doesn't assure that prices will be lower in the long term.

What Riemer and other officials are saying is, we're going to give you back a little bit of your business we have no business being involved with in the first place. They're still not getting out of that business. And they still don't trust you, the adult taxpayer, to buy Bud Light or a sub-$10 wine bottle at Giant or CVS.

Before the MoCo political machine apologists say, "but that's the state law, not the county!" - yes, it is.

But charging a tax and allowing private distribution, if Option 4 comes to pass, will require two legislative actions in Annapolis. Why not add in grocery and convenience store sales to the legislative "ask" at the same time? Guess what, they're not going to. Put those pom-poms away.

Speaking of fawning media coverage, when will the local media ask Councilmember Riemer what he knew, and when he knew it, regarding alleged illegal activity in the DLC? Riemer appeared to be highly-involved in an NBC4 investigation, which purported to show employees drinking on the job, and engaged in other illegal activity. Yet that report, which included a well-staged, formal sit-down interview with Riemer, aired a mere 48 hours after Election Day in November 2014.

Was illegal activity in DLC known to Councilmember Riemer prior to Election Day, but not disclosed until after he was safely reelected? Riemer and the County Council have oversight authority over the DLC, and each of them took an oath of office that required them to uphold the law, which would include reporting illegal activity immediately to law enforcement authorities.

Enquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Police impersonator accused of Silver Spring sexual assault (Photo)

A Silver Spring man has been charged with sexual assault while impersonating a police officer. Nicholas Morales-Macedo, 24, of the 9400 block of Thornhill Road in Silver Spring, was arrested in Rockville on July 17 by detectives of the Montgomery County Police Major Crimes Division.

Police say Morales-Macedo lured a 44-year-old woman to the Days Inn at 8040 13th Street in Silver Spring via the internet on January 15, 2012. The woman said she was waiting in a room at the hotel, when Morales-Macedo entered with a badge around his neck, and identified himself as a police officer. Police allege that Morales-Macedo then proceeded to handcuff the woman, and told her that if she performed sexual acts on him she would not be arrested.

Morales-Macedo then sexually-assaulted the victim, police say, and left the room after obtaining her identification information on a piece of paper. DNA evidence taken from the scene implicates Morales-Macedo in the assault, detectives say.

He has been charged with two counts of second degree sex offense, and ordered held without bond. The police impersonation allegations are still under investigation, and police have indicated charges are possible on that front as well.

Monday, July 20, 2015

MARC train collides with truck in Silver Spring (Photo)

Update: 6:53 PM

A MARC commuter train has struck a track maintenance vehicle at the Forest Glen Road railroad crossing at Seminary Road in Silver Spring. The vehicle is being described as CSX railroad equipment, not a private vehicle. Mike Murillo of WTOP is reporting the vehicle has now been removed from the tracks.

Avoid the area, as road closures are in effect.

There is still no word on injuries as of 6:53 PM.

A hazmat crew has been deployed to deal with diesel fuel spilled on the railbed.

All Brunswick line MARC service is suspended, according to the Maryland Transit Administration.

Photo: Montgomery County Police

MoCo Council's silence is deafening on Wheaton shooting - again

The latest shooting in Wheaton is again getting the silent treatment from the Montgomery County Council. I haven't heard a single word of concern or inquiry by any councilmember, even though one of their constituents is dead as a result.

And we're having a repeat pattern by county politicians who ordinarily can't shut up about guns during sensational national mass shootings, but suddenly go silent when gun violence directly affects their own constituents.

An active shooter. In a public garage during rush hour. Discharging multiple rounds. Can you imagine what the council would be saying if this happened somewhere else in America?

A 20 year old Silver Spring man is dead, and the council is silent. And, just as in the last Wheaton shooting a year ago, the media has gone silent on the case, as well.

We know that "a firearm" was recovered by police, and the alleged perpetrators were arrested.

But how was this firearm obtained? Specifically, was it illegally obtained, or did Maryland's recent, "common sense" gun laws fail and allow a fatal shooting to occur?

Remember, these laws have been touted and praised by the local media, as well as by the council and former Gov. Martin O'Malley during their respective campaigns. But did they work? Or are they allowing criminals to obtain firearms while stifling legitimate exercise of 2nd Amendment rights by law-abiding citizens?

Consider that a year after the 2014 shooting of a woman on a Wheaton residential street, we STILL have not been told where that gun came from. We don't even know what sentence the shooter received, or where he is now? Still on the street? Still able to obtain illegal guns at will to carry out violent crimes?

We have a right to know. If we can be told our politicians' "common sense" laws are fabulous, we should also be notified when they fail, and one of their constituents dies in the process.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Police investigating fatal collision in Wheaton

Montgomery County Police are investigating a one car collision yesterday that killed a Wheaton resident who was simply a pedestrian bystander.

Maria Dolores Posadas, 45, of the 4500 block of Randolph Road in Wheaton, was struck by a 2011 Hyundai Sonata in a residential driveway in the 4300 block of Randolph around 10:54 AM Thursday morning, July 16, 2015.

Posadas was transported to Suburban Hospital, but was later pronounced dead there.

Mary Alice Tabb, 83, of the 5400 block of Marinelli Road in North Bethesda, was the driver of the Sonata. Tabb allegedly lost control of her vehicle while driving eastbound on Randolph near Selfridge Road. Why that happened, police are now attempting to determine.

According to police, Tabb's Sonata crossed three lanes of traffic, slammed into a utility pole at Selfridge Road, left the roadway, and struck Posadas in the driveway. Tabb suffered minor injuries, and was also taken to Suburban.

Police are urging anyone with information regarding this tragic collision to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620. Callers may remain anonymous.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

BMW owner was fraudulently taking housing assistance money, police allege

Montgomery County Police have concluded a 6-month investigation into a woman they say was fraudulently accepting housing assistance funds from the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County since 2011.

Mary Ann Worth, 42, of the 3000 block of Quail Hollow Terrace in Brookeville, committed fraud in order to qualify for housing assistance, police allege.

Worth took the money without disclosing that her assets include a BMW, a Ford Mustang Cobra convertible sports car, a Nissan Armada, and 2 Harley Davidson motorcycles, police said yesterday. She was also receiving a salary too large to qualify for housing assistance from her employer, Kettler, police alleged.

Worth was charged with theft scheme: $10,000 to under $100,000, theft $10,000 to under $100,000, welfare fraud, making a false statement for housing assistance, and a filing a false application for public assistance.

Worth is free on $20,000 bond, according to police.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wheaton Metro shooting now a homicide case

Montgomery County Police responded to a report of "shots fired" at the Wheaton Metro station garage at 7:06 PM Tuesday night. Initially, the station and garage were both closed.

An adult male victim was located on the 3rd level of the parking garage. According to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, that victim was transported to the trauma center at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda.

The victim has died, and police are now calling the incident a homicide. Police said they would not release the name of the victim immediately, and are talking to several "persons of interest" regarding the case. No motive has yet been determined in the shooting.

An update from Montgomery County Police is expected after 8:00 AM this morning.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Climate change concerns may outweigh conservative Takoma Park tree canopy protections, Male argues

Takoma Park Councilmember Tim Male is urging his colleagues to reconsider the city's current tree code. At Monday night's Mayor and Council meeting, Male said the city should become more proactive in addressing climate change, and that reducing current tree canopy standards in the city would facilitate that.

Specifically, Male argued that the city's current rules pose an obstacle to greater implementation of solar panels by residents. The tall tree canopy that large parts of Takoma Park's residential neighborhoods are known for may not be a viable policy for our time, Male suggested. Each decade and time has its own priorities, he noted. Having an aggressive replacement of removed trees with species that grow to only 30-40' would assure trees remain plentiful, while allowing more use of solar panels, Male argued.

The future of energy will be micro grids and solar, Male said, while the idea of 80' trees in residential areas may have lost its relevancy. He said that when the original owners bought houses in Takoma Park in the 1920s, these 80' trees were not there. Referring to Takoma Park residents who say they sleep in their basements during storm-related wind gusts, Male said 80' trees may be a safety issue for  the city as well.

Overall, the city should consider reviewing its tree policy with climate change issues in mind, Male suggested.

Photo courtesy City of Takoma Park

Monday, July 13, 2015

Elizabeth Square project in downtown Silver Spring headed to Planning Board (Photos)

Elizabeth Square, a large mixed-use redevelopment of the Alexander House site adjacent to the railroad tracks in downtown Silver Spring, is headed to the Montgomery County Planning Board at its July 23 meeting.

Located at 2nd Avenue and Apple Avenue, about 2.5 blocks from the Silver Spring Metro station, the site currently holds the Alexander House apartments, the Elizabeth House apartments (14-story senior apartments), and the Fenwick Professional Park. The applicants, Lee Development Group and the Housing Opportunities Commission, plan to renovate and reconfigure the Alexander House, and add two new high-rise residential buildings.

Elizabeth House III will the new senior housing building, and Elizabeth House IV will be all-ages multi-family housing. Those new buildings will add 436 residential units to the site, for a total of 907 units. 15% will be affordable units, and 10% will be workforce housing units. 6,032 SF of retail and 63,896 SF of "community recreational center use" will round out the new site.


Public and government-use space will be added to the site, including a future extension of the Capital Crescent Trail, a Central Plaza, a public pool, fitness center, meeting rooms and classrooms, a Holy Cross Hospital-affiliated Wellness Center, and an educational kitchen for community members, called the Bistro Kitchen.


Planning staff is recommending approval of the plan, with conditions.
Photos via Montgomery County Planning Department

Friday, July 10, 2015

Free Slurpee at 7-Eleven Saturday, July 11 in Silver Spring, Wheaton, Burtonsville

Saturday is 7-Eleven Day.

Stop in to any 7-Eleven location in eastern Montgomery County tomorrow, July 11, from 11 AM to 7 PM, for a free small Slurpee.

This year they are also adding on a 7Rewards Week July 12-18.

Download the 7-Eleven app for your phone, and you will be eligible to get a free 7-Select brand item (under $2) with the purchase of a Coffee, Chillers® Iced Coffee, Slurpee, or Big Gulp - if you scan your 7-Eleven app those days.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

White Drive fire causes over $600,000 in damage in Silver Spring (Photos)

A house fire in the 12500 block of White Drive in the North Springbrook subdivision of Silver Spring caused over $600,000 in damage early Wednesday morning. Initially concerned that - despite cars in the driveway - the family residing there was unaccounted for, it was eventually determined that they were on vacation, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer said.

Although the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, an initial investigation concluded the fire began on the first floor of the home. No injuries were reported, Piringer said, but one firefighter was evaluated for possible heat exhaustion at the scene. Heavy fire led to a roof collapse at the home.

Photos by Pete Piringer/MCFRS

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Residents in the dark again at University Towers

A second electrical fire this week yesterday has blacked out the University Towers condominiums at 1111 University Boulevard W. in Silver Spring. More than 1000 residents are without air conditioning, hot water and other basic services at the 275 unit complex.

Electrical contractors, engineers and others worked throughout the day Tuesday to resolve the outage, which began after the property's second fire in 72 hours, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. He said the condo's fire alarm system remains functional.

Montgomery County code enforcement officers have inspected the situation and posted a violation notice at the property, Piringer said.

Despite the heat, most residents are sticking it out in their units overnight. For those who want out, the Red Cross has now established a shelter at Blair High School. The Parents Coalition of Montgomery County tweeted a query as to as why the closer Northwood High School was not utilized - good question.

A more long term question that must be on the minds of University Towers residents: How did this happen? And, how much is it going to cost them to fix? As a condo building, unless a contractor or other 3rd party can be fingered for this, the cost will likely fall on residents to pay off with a higher condo fee.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fuel spill at Hillandale Shell station in Silver Spring (Photo)

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel responded to a fuel spill at the Hillandale Shell station near Powder Mill Road in Silver Spring last night. A hazmat team was part of the response, but fortunately, no fire occurred.

No injuries were reported, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer. There was no word on the cause of the spill as of press time.

Photo: Pete Piringer/MCFRS

Monday, July 6, 2015

Electrical fire blacks out University Towers in Silver Spring (Photos)

An electrical fire in the boiler room at University Towers at 6:15 PM last night had residents stuck in elevators, sheltering in place, and in the dark for hours. Power was restored to all apartments by around 11 PM.

The condominium at 1121 University Boulevard W. has more than 1000 residents in its 15 stories. After the fire was extinguished, the evacuated residents were told to shelter in place until PEPCO could restore power. No injuries were reported, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. Several residents were evaluated by EMTs, however.

Photo: Pete Piringer

Friday, July 3, 2015

Suspect at large in armed robbery on Gist Ave. in Silver Spring

A Maryland State Police helicopter assisted Montgomery County Police after an armed robbery in the 600 block of Gist Avenue early Thursday evening in Silver Spring. Gist Avenue is located near Takoma Park Middle School.

Police say 2 masked robbers displayed at least one handgun during the robbery. The suspects were described as 2 black males, late teens to early twenties, wearing all black, including the masks. No specifics were given regarding the type of mask worn.

Following a search, one suspect was in police custody an hour later. The other suspect remains at large. Police did not say the handgun was recovered from the captured suspect. Until that detail is released, you should probably assume the other suspect remains armed.

An investigation is ongoing in this case. If you have any information you can share with detectives, call the non-emergency number at 301-279-8000, or 911 if the situation is an emergency requiring an urgent police response.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Child falls from 8th floor of White Oak Towers, miraculously survives

A 4-year-old boy fell from an 8th-story window at the White Oak Towers apartments Wednesday evening in Silver Spring. Although the child sustained injuries "consistent with a fall," Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer said, his injuries were not considered life threatening.

The child was transported to a local hospital after being evaluated by EMTs. Montgomery County Police are investigating the incident to determine exactly what happened.

Wheaton water main break repaired, rush hour nightmare ahead as SB Georgia Avenue remains closed

The WSSC completed repair of the water main under Georgia Avenue around 1:00 AM this morning, but commuters will have a rough trip down Georgia anyway. Southbound Georgia Avenue will remain closed for the morning commute between Randolph Road and Arcola Avenue. The break occurred yesterday at Georgia and Weisman Road near Glenmont in Wheaton.

Southbound and northbound traffic will share the northbound lanes of Georgia along that stretch, meaning about 33% less capacity for southbound traffic. This will be a good example of what traffic would be like if Montgomery County were to implement its proposed Bus Rapid Transit plan, which would seize one lane from each side of Georgia for BRT lanes. Multiplied by all of the impacts north and south of this segment, of course.

The water main break flooded nearby homes, and cut water service to residents as well as to the Wheaton Park Shopping Center on Wednesday. A 68-year-old 16" underground main was responsible for the failure, according to the WSSC. The utility estimates that 2.5 million gallons of water were lost during the break yesterday.

Water was restored around 11:25 PM last night to customers affected by the break, according to WSSC.
The offending gash in the
68-year-old pipe under Georgia
Photos courtesy WSSC

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Special sushi night in downtown Silver Spring July 27

Silver Spring residents will have a chance July 27 to sample the sushi rolls of a new chef arriving this fall in Montgomery County - before his restaurant opens.

Stanford Grill will be opening in September at 2000 Tower Oaks Boulevard in Rockville. They'll be adding world-class sushi to the American cuisine they've already built a following for at their Columbia location. You might not be surprised to hear that they've named an executive chef for the Rockville restaurant who knows sushi well.

Sean Kinoshita will come to Rockville from his former restaurant, the famed Tao Asian Bistro in Las Vegas. Of his cuisine, Kinoshita says, "A lot of people ask me how I make good food. I just say, I make food I like to eat. I make food that reflects my taste and flavors."

For the Stanford Grill Rockville menu, Kinoshita has created 5 sushi rolls, including:  two spicy tuna rolls, one original-style with sriracha mayo and one battera style. The spicy tuna roll battera style coils around avocado, sashimi, wasabi, scallions, sriracha mayo and unagi sauce. A coconut shrimp roll will feature a spicy masago mayo, crisp cucumber, avocado and pea sprouts. And a yellowtail jalapeno roll will bundle yellowtail, jalapeno, wasabi and cilantro.

But Stanford Grill wants to give you a preview of his handiwork in advance. They are hosting 3 special preview sushi nights with Chef Sean Kinoshita at the following locations and dates (reservations are recommended due to limited seating):

July 13, 4-10 PM
Stanford Grill
8900 Stanford Boulevard
Columbia, MD 21045
410-312-0445

July 27, 4-10 PM
Copper Canyon Grill
928 Ellsworth Drive
Silver Spring, 20910
301-589-1330

August 10, 4-10 PM
Copper Canyon Grill
9300 Taj Lane
Lanham, MD 20706
301-322-8600