Thursday, January 18, 2018

A'GACI, Fashion to Figure close at Wheaton Plaza (Photos)

A'GACI, which sold women's apparel it described as "fierce, fabulous and fresh," has closed at Wheaton Plaza. The chain filed for bankruptcy last week.

Also out at Wheaton Plaza is Fashion to Figure. Although the eastern USA chain has closed many of its stores, it still has plans to open new ones in several states, including Maryland.

Helping to lighten the mood at Wheaton Plaza is a life-size Deadpool, which FYE is selling for $999.99. However, his comments about the Montgomery County Council could not be printed in a family publication.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

IHOP under construction in Olney (Photos)

There were a few doubting Thomases, but my report that IHOP would open a restaurant at Olney Village Center has been vindicated by reality. The restaurant is now under construction at 18143-18145 Village Center Drive. They are still in the early phase of construction, as you can see. The Olney location has not yet been added to the official IHOP website, as of this morning.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Massage Envy opens, Paisano's on the way in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

Massage Envy is now open at 955 Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The spa is open from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM every day, according to the schedule on the door.

Coming soon to 8213 Georgia Avenue will be Paisano's Pizza. Construction is underway, but still in the early stages.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Chelsea Manning to take on Ben Cardin in Maryland U.S. Senate Democratic primary

North Bethesda resident
would be first
transgender member of

What should have been a sleepy stagger over the finish line for Senator Ben Cardin (D - Maryland) has turned into a battle royale with national implications overnight. The Maryland Democratic political machine and Republicans alike melted down upon hearing Red Maryland report that Chelsea Manning has entered the race. Manning, a North Bethesda resident, is best known for her role in providing damaging information about U.S. actions and operations during the Iraq War to Wikileaks in 2010. She was serving as an Army intelligence analyst deployed to Iraq at the time.
Incumbent U.S. Senator
Ben Cardin (D-Maryland)
Cardin has essentially ignored Manning's announcement so far. He will have plenty of money, and remains very popular among Democrats, despite having no notable legislative achievements. Manning is making a clear appeal to progressives, in a state where the Democratic party's progressive wing is growing restless with the throwback leadership of their establishment. At the same time, many in both parties consider her a traitor whose actions disqualify her from office.

Manning can capitalize on national attention and money. The victory of Danica Roem in Virginia last November showed just how much national money was out there for a minor state legislative race. Manning would be the first transgender U.S. Senator, if elected. That's a strong selling point, when 2018 is expected to be another Year of the Woman in politics.

A campaign video and fundraising page have been posted by Manning's campaign in the last 24 hours.

Brew Belly to open in Olney (Photos)

A shuttered beer and wine market at 18065 Georgia Avenue in Olney will get new life early this year. Brew Belly Kitchen & Sudhaus is under construction. They will have a liquor license hearing next month.

Brew Belly will be a retail store for craft beer and wine, but will also serve upscale versions of street food.

Follow @GreaterOlney on Twitter for 24/7 news updates from Olney.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Tower crane installation in Wheaton Triangle this weekend, redevelopment update (Photos)

Reedie Drive will temporarily close this weekend between Triangle Lane and Grandview Avenue, for installation of a tower crane at the Lot 13 construction site. This is one of two cranes that will be installed for the construction of the new Montgomery County office building there. As you can see, the base of the first crane is already in place, awaiting the crane's arrival this weekend.
Workers installing the base for
the south tower crane
The second crane is expected to arrive for erection on January 26. Excavation for the office building is now scheduled to be completed by January 28, weather permitting (this is January during global cooling, so all bets are off).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Water main break at Randolph Road and Charles Road

There is a water main break at the intersection of Randolph Road and Charles Road, between Rock Creek Park and Veirs Mill Road. WSSC is now on-scene, and are shutting down the left and center lanes of westbound Randolph Road. The utility says the break is in a 6" main that was installed in 1948.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Discovery move is all about why Knoxville beats MoCo in business climate

Discovery Communications is moving from Silver Spring to New York City because it is a content company? Not quite. Unless you believe they film their Shark Week programs in giant water tanks on the seventh floor of their Silver Spring headquarters - as many embarrassed Montgomery County elected officials apparently do. Put aside the spin in Discovery's press release, and carefully study their public statements to media yesterday, and you'll find the real story here is A) why Knoxville has a better business climate than Montgomery County, and B) the big Discovery "move" may actually be a big layoff of extraneous workers, as the company merges with Scripps.

The County's spin, of course, is that there "was nothing Montgomery County could do to retain Discovery." Discovery is a content company! They need to be near other content and advertising companies in New York! Aren't taxes terrible in New York City? Isn't the cost of living even higher in New York City?

Ah - but there's the key point. Discovery's move isn't about New York in the end. Analyze Discovery's public statements, and you find there's no certainty as to how many jobs are going to New York City. Some key high-level positions had already been moved to Discovery's current New York base of operations. Some positions at Scripps in Knoxville will also be moved to New York in 2019.

Scripps already has over 1000 employees in Knoxville doing a lot of the business and administrative jobs that many Discovery employees are doing now in Silver Spring. Again, read Discovery's statements carefully - they don't mention x-number of jobs moving from Silver Spring to Knoxville (or to New York). It could be that Montgomery County not only suffers the shame of losing one of its few Fortune 500 companies, but almost certainly also winds up with hundreds of unemployed Discovery workers as a result. Knoxville will gain all of the jobs Discovery needs from Silver Spring, but not likely all 1300.

Knoxville has everything Montgomery County's elected officials keep telling us we don't need - lower taxes, suburban living, and highway infrastructure. Discovery's press release noted "infrastructure" as a key reason they chose Knoxville. It's very easy to see why:
Discovery's new HQ in
Knoxville is right at an
interchange with I-40
The new Discovery campus in Knoxville is right on Interstate 40, a major cross-country route from California to North Carolina. In fact, they've got an on-ramp right next to them.
Discovery's new Knoxville HQ
is only 18 minutes by car from
the airport
Discovery's future Knoxville campus is also only 18 minutes by car from McGhee-Tyson Airport. Try getting to an airport in 18 minutes from Montgomery County (Hint: You can't).

Tennessee has no income tax. Property taxes are about half of what they are in Montgomery County, even on a million-dollar home. The Volunteer State's sales tax rate is 7%. There is no estate tax, and after a recent change in Tennessee's tax law, the "Hall Tax" on interest and dividend income is being phased out by 2021. The latter change is simply the capstone on why Tennessee's tax structure is so business (and worker) friendly. Robin Ficker was absolutely correct yesterday when he cited taxes as a factor in the Discovery move.

When you consider that neither Discovery, nor New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, cited any specific number of jobs moving to New York yesterday, the picture becomes more clear. Some key positions may well move to New York, and Cuomo and Mayor Bill Blasio can celebrate winning the "global headquarters."

But Discovery is the real winner here. By moving the real nuts-and-bolts of their company to Knoxville, they and their employees (however many actually get moved) will both save bigly on their annual tax bills. Significant layoffs that would have been bad publicity for the company in Silver Spring now get hidden and deodorized by a "big move" and merger.

Montgomery County, as usual, is the real loser. Not only has no major corporation relocated its headquarters here in twenty years, but now we've lost one of the few Fortune 500 companies we had.  We've lost the taxes Discovery and many of their employees paid.

This is a major financial blow to Silver Spring, as well. Residential buildings continue to replace workplaces in downtown Silver Spring at a rapid pace. There are now fewer workers eating lunch at restaurants as a result. Residents of new apartment buildings in Silver Spring are dining out for lunch in downtown Washington, Tysons, and other growing job centers in Northern Virginia. Turning the Discovery HQ into an apartment building won't help matters.
Discovery's new low-rise,
suburban office park campus
in Knoxville (Google Maps)
If you look at the new Discovery national headquarters campus in Knoxville, it's just that - a suburban office park campus. Nearby are roads and commercial strips that look like Rockville or Gaithersburg. Much like Apple, Google and other successful corporations, Discovery has traded urban for suburban.
It looks more like Rock Spring
than downtown Bethesda -
adjacent water bodies included
Just beyond either side of the suburban commercial area where Discovery will be are single-family home neighborhoods along tree-lined streets. Sure, certain companies are willing to take a financial hit to be "downtown" on a transit station. Discovery obviously isn't one of them, and neither is Apple or Google. Montgomery County's office parks aren't the problem - it's our anti-business County Council, taxes and gridlocked transportation system that are the problems.
Single-family homes on
tree-lined streets near the
new Discovery HQ in
Knoxville (Google Maps)

Montgomery County can lower its taxes. After throwing record amounts of money at Montgomery County Public Schools in recent years, and the results only getting worse by the year, we know spending money is not the solution to the decline in our public schools. Wasteful spending was epitomized last year by the Council spending over $20000 on a security camera system I was able to find for less than $1000 online - including installation. Imagine how many other un-itemized expenditures like this one there are in the operating and capital budgets, and the potential for cuts becomes crystal clear.

Attempts to blame Gov. Larry Hogan for the Discovery debacle only open the door to blaming our County Council for the loss. "The first County Council to lose a Fortune 500" certainly has a nice ring to it. When apologists say, "We were going to lose Discovery no matter what the incentive package was," they are actually correct. Without a business-friendly tax system, without a new Potomac River crossing to provide an 18-minute trip to the airport, without a functioning and complete master plan highway system, and without elected officials who understand international business in the 21st century, Montgomery County is always going to be the loser.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Armed robbery at Wheaton gas station (Video+Photo)

Montgomery County police are investigating an armed robbery of the BP gas station at 2201 University Boulevard West in Wheaton, which occurred January 2. Around 8:55 PM that evening, officers responded to a report of an armed robbery there.

Upon arriving at the scene, they learned that two suspects - one with a handgun, and both with concealed faces - had demanded cash, and fled on foot along Amherst Avenue toward Blueridge Avenue. Detectives recovered surveillance camera footage of the robbery at the scene.

Anyone with information regarding the suspects or this armed robbery is asked to call the Major Crimes Division 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 in this case.