Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Wheaton construction update: AVA Wheaton apartments (Photos)

The AVA Wheaton apartments are on the verge of delivery at the corner of Georgia and Blueridge Avenues in Wheaton. A sign at the busy corner displays just how close you are to various amenities and Metro from this location. The location of the lobby entrance and grade of the building going downhill are somewhat reminiscent of the office building this project replaced, for old timers with any nostalgia.

Developed by Avalon Bay, AVA Wheaton holds 322 units and on-site parking. There is no retail or restaurant space. You'll notice Avalon Bay has also installed some fancy new streetlamps on their side of Blueridge.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Future Olney IHOP likely going into Cheeburger Cheeburger space

The mystery of which space in Olney Village Center will become the future IHOP restaurant appears to be solved. Several sources have told me that Cheeburger Cheeburger will close there at the end of this month. They reportedly have sent an announcement of the closing plans to those on their mailing list.

Aspen Hill man missing (Photo)

Montgomery County police are asking the public's help in located a missing Aspen Hill man. Aaron Lee Jaller, 23, left his home in the 4800 block of Rim Rock Road yesterday, August 14, around 12:30 PM. He has not been seen since.

Police describe Jaller as an Asian male, about 5’7″ tall and weighing approximately 120 pounds. He was wearing jeans and a blue shirt, and carrying a black backpack.

Police and Jaller's family are concerned for his physical and emotional welfare, as he is without his needed medication.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Aaron Jaller is asked to call the 24-hour police non-emergency line at 301-279-8000.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Silver Spring construction update: Aldi (Photos)

The Montgomery County grocery showdown of the century is coming to Montgomery Hills. German grocery chain Aldi is currently converting the Staples at 9440 Georgia Avenue into a gleaming new Aldi store. Meanwhile, community favorite Snider's Super Foods is right across Seminary Road from the future Aldi.

In theory, there should be room for both stores to coexist. While the American consumer is often depicted as placing price above all factors, Aldi by nature stocks far less product than you find in the typical Giant or Safeway. So even some basic items will still only be available at Snider's, while the venerable store will also retain the advantage of its many specialty items. Snider's also carries several private brands of its own.

Aldi is currently hiring; there are application forms and a box to deposit them in at the construction site.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Police searching for suspect in Fairland armed robbery (Photos)

Montgomery County police are asking the public's help in identifying and locating this suspect in the July 15 armed robbery of the Metro PCS store at 13868 Old Columbia Pike. After the robbery around 4:00 PM, in which he appeared to have a handgun in his waistband, he fled the scene on foot.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect or has information about this robbery is asked to call the Major Crimes Division; Robbery Section at 240-773-5100.  Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest and/or an indictment for this crime.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Newport Mill MS evacuated due to nearby gas leak

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services are responding to a gas leak in the 11300 block of Newport Mill Road near Newport Mill Middle School. As a precaution, they have evacuated the school. Washington Gas is en route to the scene at this time.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Silver Spring man jailed after auto theft rampage in Pennsylvania

The Radnor, Pennsylvania police aren't known for playing around, and 3 men are in the slammer with bail set at $200,000, after they allegedly went on an auto theft rampage in the Villanova area in late July. Items were allegedly stolen from more than a dozen unlocked vehicles, and the men are accused of stealing a 2009 Audi, as well.

One of the suspects, Jonathan Anane Cargill, 21, is from Silver Spring. The other two suspects are also from the D.C. area. A fourth suspect remains at large.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fredericksburg office market is hot, moribund MoCo's is not

Fredericksburg is a boom town compared to moribund Montgomery County. While our County Council is fighting any attempt to build the roads necessary to jumpstart our lethargic private sector economy, and only talks about increasing MARC rail capacity and a White Flint station, Virginia is building Express Lanes down to Stafford County and more Virginia Railway Express stops and extensions. Along with the business-friendly policies of Virginia and Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg is booming, while Montgomery County has suffered a net loss of jobs over the last decade, and a loss of over 2000 jobs in retail alone since 2000.

The latest evidence of the difference in business climate is the Liberty Place project in downtown Fredericksburg. Once conceived of as luxury condos, the project will now be an 86000 SF office building with ground floor retail and restaurants facing William Street. "We're responding to the market," Liberty Place developer Tom Wack told The Free Lance-Star of Frederickburg, which noted the "strong demand for commercial property" in the city. The developers will offer free parking for the public in a garage connected to the office building (imagine that in any urban center of Montgomery County!) as part of a deal with the city.

The Fredericksburg City Council is set to vote on a memorandum of understanding for the deal tonight. Very few office projects are being developed in Montgomery County. The JBG Companies is constructing a new office building on Bethesda Avenue, but could not find an anchor tenant, and will now move its own headquarters into the building from down the road in Friendship Heights to fill the vacancy.

"Downtown's gotten pretty hot," Wack said of Fredericksburg. The office market is heating up as home construction continues to explode around Fredericksburg, which recently scored the idX Corporation factory that fled Maryland and the Lidl distribution center with 200 jobs (Virginia also won the sweepstakes for the Lidl corporate headquarters).

Every imaginable restaurant can be found in Fredericksburg, as well as the kind of hip breweries our County Council likes to talk about. Stafford and Spotsylvania counties are adding the jobs that will put less cars on the roads into D.C. every morning. And new infrastructure to reduce congestion for the commuters and businesses who make the increasingly-smart choice to locate in the Fredericksburg area.

Meanwhile, the bedroom-community-building Montgomery County Council is - as usual - asleep at the switch.

Silver Spring construction update: Silver Strings (Photos)

Slow going, but some minimal progress at the future Silver Strings restaurant at 8630 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. The signage and main purple awning left behind by a former beauty supply tenant have now been taken down. Not much going on with the interior yet, though.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Olney construction update: Chick-fil-A (Photos)

Construction is progressing on the future Chick-fil-A at 18115 Georgia Avenue in Olney. I believe this will be the first Chick-fil-A in Montgomery County to have a drive-thru, which would allow me to end my boycott of Chick-fil-A.

I almost ended it to try their special BBQ sandwich a couple of months ago, but turned the car around upon seeing a packed restaurant and parking lot at Montrose Crossing. Ridiculous. Went to Taco Bell instead. Most fast food restaurants make 40-60% of their revenue at the drive-thru window, so it's bizarre to see a pad site restaurant without one.

I believe that's the drive-thru
window opening just to the left
of that teal-colored dumpster

Friday, August 4, 2017

Wheaton redevelopment update

Contractor Allied Drilling has finished drilling 47% of the geothermal wells this week at the future site of a new Montgomery County government office building on Lot 13 in Wheaton. Grouting of the drilled wells is now underway. Based on mapping of the underground water table beneath the site, however, a separate set of wells must now also be drilled. These 16 wells, when completed, will pump groundwater out daily to prepare for the excavation currently scheduled for September.

Once the concrete foundation of the building is poured, pumping will cease, and the groundwater level will be allowed to return to its current volume.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

MoCo has the Lockheed HQ, but didn't try to get the Lockheed "factory of the future"

"We don't need the Lockheed headquarters," Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen infamously declared at the Aspen Hill Library in 2010. Such a blase attitude about one of only 3 Fortune 500 headquarters in the County is indicative of why our private sector economy has been moribund for so many years. MoCo intentionally passed on the FBI headquarters; didn't even bother to pursue the idX factory that wound up going to Fredericksburg; and was soundly defeated by Virginia in the contests to woo the headquarters of Volkswagen, Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Corporate Executive Board, and Lidl, to name just a few. As a result, we've suffered a net loss in jobs over the last decade.

Yesterday, we found out just how blase County officials' attitude toward Lockheed Martin was. While current elected officials inherited the Lockheed headquarters in Bethesda, they apparently have no ongoing dialogue or partnership with the defense and aerospace megafirm. In fact, they've even tried their best to push Lockheed out of the County. As a result, Lockheed is now building a $350 million, 266000 SF "satellite factory of the future" in Waterton Canyon, Colorado, not Montgomery County.

We have many, many vacant properties that could have easily accommodated this factory. Even the recently sold Comsat Building in Clarksburg and former IBM property in Gaithersburg could have been a good fit in terms of size. Montgomery County continues to have the potential aerospace advantages of being near Goddard Flight Center, the Wallops Island launch facility, and numerous airbases as well as the Pentagon - but has yet to take advantage of the advantages!

This is exactly the type of facility I've been arguing we need - aerospace corporate offices, research facilities and high-tech aerospace and defense manufacturing. Why were we not in the running for this factory, or even engaging Lockheed about how we could partner on future ventures? This was clearly in the planning stages early enough that we could have filled the Comsat or IBM site before they were sold. That could have put hundreds of high-wage jobs in the I-270 corridor, and enable Montgomery County residents to drive west or north to work, without leaving the County. Instead, the Comsat site will be residential, and dump hundreds more cars going south on 270 every morning.

Montgomery County is notorious across the country, and across the region, for its anti-business climate fostered by the County Council. In contrast, "State and local officials in Colorado have helped strengthen the aerospace industry and foster an environment that helps aerospace companies thrive and grow," according to a statement from Lockheed Wednesday. What a contrast. What a loss.

It takes a special kind of incompetence to get shut out by a company located in your own jurisdiction. A special kind of ignoramus, to not grab the lowest-hanging economic development fruit in the area you are elected to represent. It's "business"-as-usual for moribund Montgomery County.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Silver Spring construction update: United Therapeutics Unisphere (Photos)

The Unisphere, a 120000 SF expansion of United Therapeutics' downtown Silver Spring campus, is expected to deliver in 2018. It will include a six-story office building, retail space, and a parking garage. As you can see, construction is about 3 floors above ground level at this point.