Monday, August 31, 2015

Squire's Rock Creek Chophouse coming to Wheaton (Photos)

Squire's Rock Creek Chophouse is coming to 2405 Price Avenue in Wheaton. The owners say they expect to open by late fall, serving steaks, chops, seafood and pasta dishes.

The restaurant will also feature a piano bar, and Sunday brunch. Previously, the space housed AMC International, which offered financial and business services in Spanish.

The building was fenced off outside yesterday, and it appeared some work has begun on the interior. It sounds like this will be a promising addition to the Wheaton dining scene.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Downton Abbey lecture in Takoma Park

We Are Takoma is launching its latest humanities lecture series with a popular topic on Thursday, September 3, at 7:30 PM.

In "Downton Abbey and History: Using the Costume Drama to Explore the Social World of the Edwardians," Professor Julie Anne Taddeo will discuss how the costume drama reflects British history, and give historical context for the events depicted in the PBS hit series.

A donation of $10 is suggested.

7500 Maple Avenue
Takoma Park

Thursday, August 27, 2015

10-pump gas station, car wash coming to Silver Spring (Photos)

A triangular site surrounded by New Hampshire Avenue, Old Spencerville Road and Spencerville Road in the Cloverly area of Silver Spring will be home to a new gas station. PMG is going to improve the abandoned gas station site with a new 10-pump gas station, car wash, and convenience store. The station and facilities will be significantly larger than the one that's sitting there today.

PMG will also construct a new left-turn lane on New Hampshire at Old Spencerville Road, to facilitate access to the station.

The Montgomery County Planning Board will consider the PMG application at its September 3 meeting. Planning staff is recommending approval with conditions.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Man charged in Olney armed robbery (Photo)

The August 24 armed robbery of the Verizon Wireless store on Spartan Road in Olney ended with the suspect eluding police, and fleeing in his black Dodge Charger via the ICC. He wasn't so lucky later that evening, when Montgomery County detectives tracked him down in Temple Hills.

Jamal Ronell Austin, 26, of the 5500 block of Yorkshire Drive in Temple Hills, has been charged with armed robbery, and four counts of first-degree assault. Police also allege he rammed a marked County police cruiser on the ICC near the Georgia Avenue interchange.

Austin is being held on a $100,000 bond.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Obama and Wheaton neighborhood team up against climate change

President Barack Obama signed a series of executive orders Monday designed to address climate change. One of the orders, which initiated a DOD Privatized Housing Solar Challenge, hits close to home - right here in Wheaton, Maryland.

The Obama order designates the Glen Haven apartments, a Balfour Beatty military housing community on McMahon Road, as one of the Solar Challenge sites.

A press release from the White House promises that the solar power project in Wheaton, and 11 other military housing sites nationwide, will reduce annual carbon emissions by approximately 324 metric tons.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Draper Lane public plaza modifications proposed (Photos)

The public plaza at the intersection of Colesville Road and East-West Highway will get some significant changes, should they be approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday, September 3.

These proposed changes include:

• Remove south decorative pergola;
• Lower height of retaining wall along front;
• Replace center set of steps with stage area;
• Extend front retaining wall to the north;
• Remove center nonworking/planter feature;
• Remove front step concrete terraces;
• Add decorative iron railings to walls;
• Add new front water feature;
• New concrete pavers;
• New landscape plantings;
• New decorative lighting; and
• Add stone veneer to all exposed wall faces

Planning staff is recommending approval of the changes with conditions.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Glenmont Metrocentre plans headed to Development Review Committee August 31

Glenmont Metrocentre phases 1.2 and 1.3 are headed to the Montgomery County Development Review Committee on Monday, August 31, at 9:30 AM. Both developments, by Layhill Investment Associates, LLC, replace large portions of the classic Privacy World garden apartment community along Glenallen Avenue and Layhill Road, near the Glenmont Metro station.

The DRC is a multi-agency board that reviews elements of development plans involving infrastructure, utilities and other factors that require complicated analysis. Its members include representatives of the WSSC, PEPCO, the State Highway Administration, and the county Departments of Permitting Services, Environmental Protection, and Public Works and Transportation.

Layhill Investment Associates' total plans for the Privacy World site include 1,325 apartments, 225 townhouses and 90,000 square feet of retail space.

I wonder if there are any plans to commemorate the history of Privacy World in the new development, such as through a street name? Its rolling green hills, sweeping landscape and meticulously-maintained grounds were a model for suburban multifamily housing.

Map courtesy Rodgers Consulting

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Regal Majestic Stadium 20 in Silver Spring to start searching patrons' bags

Regal Cinemas has responded to the latest movie theater shootings with a new bag check policy at its theaters nationwide. The cineplex giant operates the Regal Cinemas Majestic Stadium 20 theater in downtown Silver Spring. Its new policy reads as follows:

Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.

The security check policy applies to bags, backpacks and packages, including purses.

Regal's corporate Facebook page is blowing up with customer backlash against the new policy, with many patrons feeling their 2nd and 4th Amendment rights are being violated. A few posters thanked the chain for ensuring their theaters would be gun-free zones.

Regal patrons weighed in on
both sides of the issue on
the chain's Facebook page
However, Regal's policy does not explicitly state which legal or illegal items would not be allowed to be brought into the theater. Nor does it specifically refer to firearms, even though it would seem obvious that weapons and explosives would be the primary intent of the policy.

Such a policy would not have prevented the infamous Aurora, Colorado theater mass shooting in 2012. In that incident, the shooter left the theater through the emergency exit. He then retrieved weapons, explosives and other materials from his car, and re-entered through that exit, which he had propped open enough to prevent it from locking.

That case made clear the security issues caused by a lack of ushers regularly patrolling theaters, as they once did not that many years ago. Had an usher simply ensured that door was closed on a routine walkthrough, and thereby locked to outside intruders, the shooter would have been foiled.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Poll: Edwards now leading Van Hollen in U.S. Senate race

Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards has moved ahead of Rep. Chris Van Hollen in the Democratic race for exiting U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski's seat, according to a new poll. The poll, commissioned by the Edwards campaign, shows her currently beating Van Hollen by 42%-37% among Maryland registered Democrats.

Garrick Delzell, Edwards' campaign manager, attributed her surge to voters believing she better represents their everyday economic concerns than Van Hollen. Voters identify with Edwards as a single mom, Delzell said in an email, who "knows what it’s like to juggle bills, insurance, and a career."

Van Hollen has so far drawn a huge advantage from many wealthy establishment supporters, and a massive campaign chest funded partly by Wall Street interests. The Montgomery County congressman has led the race all year in polls and in fundraising.

Edwards' lack of establishment support has put many county and state Democratic officials in a odd position, one that could come back to haunt them in the future.

Most of Montgomery County's political machine is squarely behind Van Hollen, despite Edwards' potential to be the first African-American to be elected to the Senate from Maryland. Former Rockville Mayor and Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan is one of the few prominent former or current officials here to endorse her campaign.

In a statement after the poll results were released Tuesday, Edwards said, "Marylanders want someone who will fight for progressive values and the issues that matter to working families. These results show that Maryland primary voters believe I will be that voice."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Montgomery County Police K9 gets bulletproof vest courtesy of donors (Photos)

Lambert, a K9 with the Montgomery County Police Department, has received a bulletproof vest, provided by the generosity of Vested Interest in K9s, Inc., and the Henry A. Strohminger Family Foundation, Incorporated.  The Strohminger Family Foundation, based in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, donated the cost of Lambert’s vest, which was $950.00.

Pittsburgh Steelers fans may be interested to know Lambert is named for linebacker Jack Lambert. His handler is Officer Bill Seidel.

Photos courtesy Montgomery County Police

Monday, August 17, 2015

New Americans Expo October 4 in Silver Spring

(Una traducción española de este artículo se puede encontrar a continuación)

Nonprofits, businesses and government agencies will gather at the Silver Spring Civic Center on October 4 from noon to 6:00 PM for the New Americans Expo 2015. The event is a one-stop shop for new Americans to learn about programs, services and products that will help them in adapting to and navigating life in America.

This year's expo is being led by 4 New Americans Ambassadors, YouTube personality and model Cindy Gamez, Kemi Fadojutimi of the TV show All Eyes on Africa, Miss Maryland 2013 Lyz Denizard, and John Cabrera of CF Alliance.

Attendees will be able to get information and assistance on legal services, insurance, banking, education, travel, how to obtain a driver's license, and employment options.

There will also be live music and performers, including singer-songwriter David Amaya, who is composing a song specifically for the event. Giveaways will include free toys for kids.

Two awards will be given during the afternoon - a Community Inclusion award for a local nonprofit, and an Appreciation Award for the organizations and volunteers participating in the expo.

Proceeds from the New Americans Expo 2015 will be distributed among four nonprofits that serve the immigrant community: Catholic Charities, Identity, El Poder de Ser Mujer and Etnika Foundation.

Admission to the event is free. You can register online.

* * *

Organizaciones no lucrativas, empresas y agencias gubernamentales se reunirán en el Centro Cívico de Silver Spring, el 4 de octubre desde el mediodía hasta las 18:00 de la Expo Nuevos Americanos de 2015. El evento es una ventanilla única para los nuevos estadounidenses a aprender sobre programas, servicios y productos que les ayudará en la adaptación a la vida en Estados Unidos.

Expo de este año está siendo dirigido por 4 nuevos americanos Embajadores, YouTube personalidad y la modelo Cindy Gamez, Kemi Fadojutimi del programa de televisión All Eyes on Africa, Miss Maryland 2013 Lyz Denizard, y Juan Cabrera de CF Alianza.

Los asistentes podrán obtener información y asistencia sobre servicios legales, seguros, banca, educación, viajes, cómo obtener una licencia de conducir, y las opciones de empleo.

También habrá música y artistas en vivo, incluyendo el cantautor David Amaya, quien está componiendo una canción especialmente para el evento. Sorteos incluirán juguetes gratis para los niños.

Dos premios se entregarán durante la tarde - un premio de Inclusión Comunitaria para una organización no lucrativa local y un premio de la apreciación de las organizaciones y voluntarios que participan en la feria.

Producto de la New Americans Expo 2015 se distribuirán entre cuatro organizaciones no lucrativas que sirven a la comunidad de inmigrantes: Catholic Charities, Identity, El Poder de Ser Mujer y Etnika Foundation.

La entrada al evento es gratis.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Wheaton parents charged with murder of their 2-year-old son (Photos)

The parents of a Wheaton child who died earlier this year have been charged with murdering him, and have lost custody of their 3 other children. Montgomery County Police arrested Jonathan Navarrete-Turcious, 30, and Blanca Rosa Reyes, 24, both of the 11800 block of Charles Road for the murder and child abuse of their two-year-old son, Matthew Navarrete-Reyes.

Navarrette-Reyes had suffered multiple physical traumas in the weeks preceding his death, police say. The only physical abuse either parent has admitted to so far, is Reyes' acknowledgement that she struck Matthew in the mouth four or five days prior to his death. 

The Office of the Medical Examiner ruled the incident a homicide, and reported that Navarette-Reyes was dehydrated at the time he was brought to Holy Cross Hospital. This is further evidence of alleged neglect by his parents, police said.

His parents were arrested yesterday, and now face charges of second degree murder, neglect of a minor, and two counts of child abuse.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Water main break floods Takoma Park businesses (Photos)

A break in a 12" water main under the 8700 block of Flower Avenue yesterday flooded several streets and businesses in Takoma Park. The WSSC said the main was 90 years old.

Water was restored about 5 hours later, the WSSC reported, and the pipe was replaced. Piney Branch Road was also flooded by the break, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

All Set Restaurant and Bar expands Happy Hour menu in Silver Spring (Photos)

By popular demand, the new All Set Restaurant and Bar in downtown Silver Spring is expanding its Happy Hour menu. The new menu options and drink specials are also designed to be wallet-friendly, and will be rotated in the future.

This month, you can try their "Daly" Special, which combines a tea-infused vodka with house-made lemonade. There are also two Beer-and-a-Shot options, the Freedom & Unity [Woodchuck Cider (VT) & Cinnamon-Infused Rye], and The Rattle-Skull [Jailbreak Welcome to Scoville Jalapeno IPA (MD) & Hop–Infused Tequila].
Fried Oyster Sliders
For upscale appetizers at very affordable prices, try the new Fried Oyster Sliders, with arugula and Old Bay tartar sauce on brioche rolls for $3.50 each. Or Pork Tacos, topped with chicken cracklins and spicy tropical salsa ($2.50 each).

Click here to see the complete Happy Hour menu and schedule.

All Set Restaurant and Bar
8630 Fenton Street

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Freon leak evacuates Takoma Park restaurants (Photo)

A Freon leak led to the evacuation of two Takoma Park restaurants Monday. The small chemical leak cleared out Mark's Kitchen and Middle East Cuisine on Carroll Avenue during the midday. There was no fire, and no injuries were reported, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer.

Firefighters and a hazmat unit ventilated the building.

Photo by Pete Piringer

Monday, August 10, 2015

Armed robbery attempt in White Oak

Three men used a gun in an attempt to rob a victim of his shoes at Stonehedge Local Park at 12121 Old Columbia Pike early this morning. They then fled on foot toward Bronzegate Boulevard, according to an officer who responded to the 911 call the victim placed at a nearby IHOP around 1:15 AM. 

According to scanner reports, the three suspects were described as black males - one wearing a white "wife beater"-style shirt, and black jeans with a gun in the waistband; one with dreadlocks wearing a grey striped shirt; and the third wearing a black t-shirt.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Grand opening weekend August 15-16 at Unleashed by Petco in Silver Spring

Unleashed by Petco is open in the historic former U.S. Post Office in downtown Silver Spring. But they'll be hosting a Grand Opening event next weekend, on August 15 and 16.

The celebration will begin at 9:00 AM on August 15 with a VIP ribbon-cutting at the store. They will also honor service dogs, and a local animal shelter. You'll get a free "goodie bag" with any purchase, while supplies last. Self-serve dog washes will be available for $5, instead of the usual $10 charge.

Unleashed by Petco
8412 Georgia Avenue

Thursday, August 6, 2015

House fire in Hammond Hill (Photos)

Montgomery County firefighters responded to a fire in the 3300 block of Pendleton Drive in Silver Spring yesterday afternoon. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer said an air conditioner contractor had been "sweating" the pipes earlier in the day at the home. Fortunately, the fire was contained in the walls, and there was only moderate damage, Piringer said. No injuries were reported.

The home is in the Hammond Hill neighborhood, just off Veirs Mill Road.

Photos by Pete Piringer

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Transformation underway at Ellsworth Place in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

Charles Dickens might have called it "A Tale of Three Malls." Owners of Westfield Montgomery Mall, White Flint Mall and City Place Mall all had established retail centers, and were deciding the futures of their properties. Despite having a fully-leased mall minus the then-recently-departed Borders Books, and hugely popular dining tenants in The Cheesecake Factory, Dave and Buster's and P.F. Chang's, White Flint's owners decided to pull the plug. They would gamble the potential loss of their solid customer base, for possibly higher profits as a White Flint "town center", loaded with thousands of apartments and condominiums.

Westfield Montgomery and City Place Mall's new owner, Petrie Richardson Ventures, took a remarkably different approach. Instead of demolishing their properties, they launched an effort to hugely reinvest in their malls, and revitalize them. The transformation of Westfield Montgomery is now complete, and the upscale reworking includes a 16-screen luxury ArcLight Cinemas and several high-end restaurants. Now it's City Place Mall's turn.

Ellsworth Place is the new name of City Place Mall, and the renovation and reinvention are now underway. Ellsworth Place has good bones in its solid, classic American indoor mall design. But the renderings of the new vision for the property show the addition of a new urban energy, not unlike that in the revitalized neighborhood around the Verizon Center in the District.

And like Westfield Montgomery Mall, Ellsworth Place is the beneficiary of some hasty decision making by White Flint Mall's ownership. Westfield scored many of White Flint's top tenants, including The Cheesecake Factory. Ellsworth Place has pulled off a major coup itself, in luring the beloved Dave and Buster's to the mall.

Dave and Buster's not only gives Ellsworth Place a huge draw, but downtown Silver Spring, as well. Other than a handful of bowling alleys, and a promised Pinstripes at Federal Realty's Pike and Rose, Ellsworth Place will now have the only other "active" dining and entertainment destination in Dave and Buster's, which is of particular appeal to millennials. The ability to attend a concert by a current chart-topping artist at The Fillmore, or a blockbuster movie across the street at the Majestic theater, and then have Dave and Buster's as the next stop for the evening, simply can't be matched by downtown Bethesda for that target audience.
Yes, you are that close to
the Majestic theater
The recent addition of Not Your Average Joe's also gives Ellsworth Place one of the top chain restaurant brands in downtown Silver Spring as another draw. Other tenants who have reached preliminary lease-out agreements with Ellsworth Place include Forever 21 Red, Payless and Foot Locker. Forever 21 was one of the retailers on the online wish lists of many existing patrons of City Place Mall, coincidentally.

When one examines the tenants who will be anchoring the reopened mall this fall - including rock-solid retail brands like Burlington Coat Factory, TJ Maxx, Ross, and Michael's, one wonders if this was what the failed Rockville Mall could have been with better management. The idea of an indoor mall as part of a revitalized downtown was the unrealized vision there, during Rockville's failed "urban renewal" project in the 1960s and 70s.
McGinty's, like Ellsworth Place,
is open during the mall's renovation

Importantly, Ellsworth Place is still open during the renovation. The always popular McGinty's is still serving loyal customers. And some tenants, like Hair Cuttery, have moved to new spots in the mall.

So here's an opportunity to witness construction and demolition work that aren't leading to the end of a "dead mall", as we've seen in the photos and videos coming out of White Flint Mall recently. Rather, we're witnessing a rebirth in the transformation underway at Ellsworth Place:

Future home of Ross
This skylight is one of several
nice architectural details
at the property

Views from the skywalk
between Ellsworth Place
and convenient public
parking garage parking
on Ellsworth Drive