Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Police seeking this Wheaton armed robbery suspect (Photos)

Montgomery County Police are asking for the public's help in identifying a suspect in the September 15 armed robbery of a Giant supermarket at Wheaton Plaza, around 8:30 PM. The suspect, a black male who allegedly shoplifted $100-worth of Tide detergent from the store, brandished a knife when confronted by the store's manager.

He was last seen fleeing toward University Boulevard West that evening.

Anyone with information about this suspect or the robbery is asked to call the Montgomery County Police – Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County at 240-773-TIPS (8477) or Text-A-Tip to: CRIMES (274637), text MCPD and your crime tip. Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest and/or indictment for this crime.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Takoma Park voters will decide if city elections move to Maryland statewide election days

The Takoma Park City Council voted 4-3 last night to approve an advisory ballot measure allowing city elections to move from odd-numbered years to even ones, placing them on the same days as Maryland holds statewide elections. This would mean, for example, that Takoma Park would vote for mayor and city council candidates on the same day they cast votes in a Presidential election.

The measure, introduced by Councilmember Tim Male (Ward 2), would retain provisions for city elections already in use, such as allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote, and permitting non-citizens to cast ballots. Instant runoff voting and same-day registration would continue for Takoma Park, as well as allowing felons on probation or parole to vote.

Some on the council expressed dismay at the lack of interest in voting among residents. Councilmember Fred Schultz (Ward 6) said changing the date wouldn't change voters' sense that their votes don't make a difference. There haven't been enough contested and competitive council races, Schultz said, making voting seem a waste of time. More has to be done to tackle the problem than this measure, he argued.

Councilmember Jarrett Smith (Ward 5) concurred, noting that simply having more people voting doesn't necessarily increase engagement in a meaningful way. County Council seats are on the ballot on even-year election days, Smith said, and the results haven't reflected the demographics of County Council District 5. Smith said that County Council District is 60% minority, but elected a white councilmember in 2014.

Ward 1 Councilman Seth Grimes said those realities shouldn't dissuade the city from implementing this potential change. "No single solution is going to solve everything," Grimes said.

Grimes, Male, Councilmember Kate Stewart (Ward 3), and Councilmember Terry Seamens (Ward 4) voted in favor of the ballot question being put to the voters. Mayor Bruce Williams, Schultz and Smith dissented.

Photo courtesy City of Takoma Park

Monday, September 28, 2015

Silver Spring construction update: The Bonifant senior apartments (Photos)

The Bonifant will be an 11-story mixed-income apartment building for active seniors over the age of 61, right next to the new Silver Spring Library in downtown Silver Spring. A joint partnership between Montgomery Housing Partnership and developer Donohoe, VOA Associates and Humphrey Management round out the project team.

The Bonifant will feature 149 units: 10 studios, 119 one-bedrooms, and 20 two-bedrooms. Rents will be affordable for incomes between 30–60 percent of the area median income, and will also include apartment homes with no income restrictions.

A future Purple Line station will be at the library, adding to the walkable, transit-oriented nature of the project, which puts many amenities steps away for seniors.

The Bonifant is expected to deliver in early 2016.

Friday, September 25, 2015

New Rite Aid store coming to downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

A new Rite Aid drugstore is under construction at 8701 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. It will be on the ground floor of the Zalco Building, also headquarters of Zalco Realty. As noted on the sign above, the store is currently hiring.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

FroZenYo closes in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

FroZenYo has closed at 935 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. The self-serve frozen yogurt shop had replaced longtime tenant Cakelove at this space in 2011. FroZenYo has another location nearby in Takoma Park.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Group wants Wheaton Library/Recreation Center complex named for Nelson Mandela (Photos)

A group of residents has suggested to Montgomery County officials that they name the site of the future Wheaton Library and Recreation Center for the late Nelson Mandela. While the library and rec center building would retain the "Wheaton" name, the larger property they will stand on would be named the Nelson Mandela Memorial Complex.

Betesey Katiti and Rosie Engman met with representatives of County Executive Ike Leggett on August 26 to discuss the proposal. The aides to Leggett were Office of Community Partnerships Director Bruce Adams, and Executive Director of the Montgomery County Criminal Justice Commission and former County Council member Mike Subin, they said. Last night, the proposal was brought to the attention of County Department of General Services Director David Dise, at a community meeting to update residents on the project.
New renderings of the
gym at the future
Wheaton Library and
Recreation Center
Dise said that the DGS chairs the advisory committee on the naming of public buildings, and that he would also pass the idea on to Leggett today.

The proponents of the Mandela idea say it would be appropriate because they found the largest ethnic group that utilizes the existing Wheaton library is Ethiopian. In addition to the name of the site, they've proposed raising private funds for a life-size statue of Mandela to be placed at the library, and to have County public school students create artworks based on Mandela and his life for display within the building.

A variety of other issues were discussed at last night's meeting.

Some residents expressed concern at the underground parking garage proposed for the building. "I would not feel safe in an underground parking lot," one parent said. DGS staff said the garage roof will be built higher than usual, will eliminate as many columns as possible for better visibility, and will be painted white. The elevator room to the building above will be glassed-in for safety. There will be no guard on duty, but a gate will prevent access to the garage after hours.

"To the extent that a parking garage can be a pleasant experience, at least make it a safe one," Dise said.

There will be 60 surface spaces, 170 garage spaces, a few short-term spaces near the entrance, and overflow parking will be across Arcola Avenue at the Wheaton Volunteer Fire Department.
A resident asks
a question at last
night's meeting
One attendee brought up the issue of water seepage into the current library. DGS staff said that was due to a design flaw in the masonry of the existing building. While some of that has been reduced by the WMATA Metro tunnel that was blasted beneath the library in the late 1980s - thereby making water WMATA's problem, not the library's to some extent - the new building will be designed to keep out groundwater.

In response to concerns that tires would be among the recycled materials used in the new building, Dise said "we are not backtracking on that," and said DGS is aware of that concern by residents who have indoor air quality concerns.

One resident asked if the hanging sculpture would return in the new library. Yes it will - in the atrium.
MCPL Director
Parker Hamilton
answers a question
County Library Director Parker Hamilton addressed questions regarding the library collection. She said they are still evaluating the size and makeup of the collection. But she said to trust the judgement of those evaluating those questions - their decisions at the new Silver Spring Library resulted in a 107% increase in circulation. "We did something right there," Hamilton said. "We're going to do the same for Wheaton," she vowed.

Many felt the new bookstore space was too small. Dise acknowledged that some corners had to be cut in order to keep the building footprint from crossing into the utility right-of-way that now lies beneath Hermitage Avenue, a street that will be closed at Georgia to make room for the outdoor recreational facilities at the future library/rec center. But shelving will be taller, and the space much nicer. "We do have staff working on trying to duplicate that musty smell," Dise joked.

Several residents said the crossing of Georgia Avenue is currently too dangerous at Arcola. Dise said there is little the County can do to change that, unless the Maryland State Highway Administration agrees to changes. Fencing, berms and landscaping will be utilized to prevent soccer balls from flying out onto Georgia Avenue.

While there is no firm date yet for the closure of the library, it could happen by mid-2016. The new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center building is expected to open in mid-2018.

"Let me tell you, this building is going to be a destination," Dise promised.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Silver Spring Transit Center opening day photo gallery

Its architecture may be Cold War Soviet Bloc chic, and your tax money will likely never be recovered for the design issues Montgomery County is blaming on contractors, but the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center finally opened yesterday. Sarbanes, now a retired former Senator, was laying low yesterday to be sure.

About the only real modern touch at the facility are the HD flatscreens with information for transit users. And on the top level, you'll find the old and the new - Montgomery County taxicabs share the deck with modern rideshare vehicles such as Enterprise.

Here are some scenes from the very first day of operations at the Transit Center:

Possibly appropriate
bus ad
Soviet Eastern Europe
wants its design back
This architectural style
is known as
Nouveau Concrete

Does this thing have
NFL Sunday Ticket?

It's holding so far...

Enterprise car share
on the roof

For more retro folks...

Still holding...

I'm a bike locker!
And I'm on the roof!
Enjoy the view from
the roof...
...and try to forget that
there are years of lawsuits
ahead over the Transit Center

Maybe they can put up a
nice building on this green space
to hide the Transit Center

Opening Day
souvenir brochure