Friday, April 19, 2019

24-hour generator coming to Fenton-Silver Spring intersection next month

The WSSC will be replacing a sewer main at the intersection of Fenton Street and Silver Spring Avenue in downtown Silver Spring next month. As part of the project, their contractor will be operating a generator at the intersection 24 hours a day for the duration of the work.

The part of the project requiring the generator is scheduled to begin in mid-May, and will take several weeks to complete. A noise waiver for the generator has been requested from Montgomery County. The intersection is about half-a-block from the nearest occupied residences on Fenton Street.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Silver Spring construction update: Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue (Photos)

Some of the distinguishing architectural features shown in the renderings of the Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue apartment tower are now visible at the construction site, such as an angled glass accent near one of the corners of the building. This is Washington Property Company's second project in downtown Silver Spring's Ripley District, and their fourth Solaire-branded property in Montgomery County.

With a height of 20 stories, the Solaire 8250 will hold 338 apartments and 15000 SF of retail space, including outdoor seating for dining. Parking will be located in a three-level underground garage. Amenities will include a resort-style rooftop swimming pool and deck, cyber cafe, private courtyard, fitness center, and a club room complete with kitchen, library, flatscreen TV, fireplace and game room. Apartments will be a mix of studios and 1-and-2 bedroom units.

Lendlease is the contractor for the project, Design Collective of Baltimore is the architecture firm, and leasing of the street-level retail and restaurant space will be handled by Streetsense. Delivery is was expected for Spring 2019 - do you think they're going to meet the deadline? It looks pretty close, and they've technically got two more months.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

12 Stories opening at The Wharf: D.C. is doing what moribund MoCo won't for nightlife

Montgomery County is still reeling from the collapse of its nighttime economy following the County Council's disastrous Nighttime Economy Task Force initiative. Where there were crowds on sidewalks and corners outside of downtown Bethesda's nightclubs and bars prior to the initiative, 16 nightspots have shuttered since the task force debacle. Many other businesses slashed or eliminated their late-night hours. Downtown Bethesda sidewalks now grow empty and quiet after 9 or 10 PM. Thousands of young professionals have taken their wallets and purses to the District for nightlife since, including to The Wharf, where an exciting new rooftop will open tonight.

I recommended years ago that Montgomery County put incentives and requirements for nightlife, including rooftop nightclubs at the new hotels being approved for urban areas like downtown Bethesda. Those suggestions fell on deaf ears at the Council and Planning Board, as of course, it is much cheaper to put up a hotel with a non-active roof use. Naturally, our developer-controlled Council and Planning Board never put the public before the developers, which is how we ended up with no replacement cineplex and no replacement Capital Crescent Trail tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in the Apex Building redevelopment - even though the Council and Board held full authority to require both. Heckuva job, Brownie!

By contrast, the District is getting its latest rooftop nightspot tonight, April 17, 2019 with the debut of 12 Stories, high atop The InterContinental Hotel at The Wharf. The 3500 SF rooftop features spectacular views of the Potomac River, waterfront and Washington, D.C. We could have had something like this on top of the new hotels coming to Wisconsin Avenue here, but...the Council was too busy collecting developer checks, and debating a ban on circus animals instead.
Current and prospective MoCo bar and restaurant
owners said, "Yes, Yes, Yes!" to privatization of liquor
sales, but our cartel-controlled County Council said, "No, No, No!"
At 12 Stories at The Wharf tonight, 13-foot floor-to-ceiling windows will give you views of the Jefferson, Lincoln and Air Force Memorials, as well as the pinnacle of the Washington Monument and Hains Point. From the future Marriott hotel in downtown Bethesda, nighttime will give you lovely views of car dealerships and a concrete parking garage. So much winning!
The J Street Spritz at
12 Stories at The Wharf
Tonight at 12 Stories at The Wharf, you could be sipping a zero-degree “Superchilled Martini 24” and taking in the sweeping vistas of the Nation's Capital. Perhaps you would prefer a “J Street Spritz,” made with Tito’s Vodka, Amaro Nonino, lime juice, raspberries, Domaine Chandon and sparkling soda. It's enough to make Jack Evans bust out the old Constituent Fund.

All that's busting in Montgomery County is the County budget, in the red again this year, with residents facing yet another increase in property taxes. With what the Maryland Restaurant Association complained was a "flat" restaurant and bar market in Montgomery County, record numbers of closures, and profits declining in a business with thin margins already, we're losing nightlife spending and alcohol sales to the District and Virginia, thanks to our archaic County government-controlled liquor monopoly.
The Wharf Burger
Just some of that lost revenue will end up being spent in D.C. at 12 Stories, where brunch will be added in May to a windows-on-the-capital-of-the-free-world menu that tonight already features locally sourced oysters, a buttermilk fried chicken sandwich, and a ceviche-style crudo.

While Montgomery County's "leaders" turn to taxpayers again this year for yet another payday 4.8% property tax increase, the developers of The Wharf in D.C. turned to the Gerber Group, the geniuses behind NYC’s Mr. Purple, The Roof and The Campbell, and Atlanta's Whiskey Blue, "known for its signature elevated nightlife experience and top-notch food and beverage," it says.

Montgomery County's vision for an "elevated nightlife experience?" "More taxi stands [ever heard of Uber and Lyft, guys?], more buses," and continued total monopoly government control of liquor sales to restaurants, bars and the public. No wonder Montgomery County is at rock bottom in the region by every relevant economic development measure.

They blew it, folks.

Photos by Anna Meyer

Major addition proposed for Mazda dealership at Briggs Chaney Auto Sales Park

A major addition has been proposed for the Koons Mazda dealership in the Briggs Chaney Auto Sales Park at 3111 Automobile Boulevard in Fairland. 4540 SF of new vehicle sales and service uses will be added to the existing showroom and facilities.

The Montgomery County Planning Board must make a determination if there are adequate public facilities to support the addition, and is scheduled to take up the matter at its April 25, 2019 meeting. Planning staff have recommended approval of the project, with conditions.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Discovery building slouching toward dim future in Silver Spring

No major corporation has shown any interest in the former downtown Silver Spring headquarters of Discovery Communications. That's not surprising, given that Montgomery County's hostile business climate, lack of direct access to Dulles Airport thanks to an unbuilt new Potomac River crossing, and unfinished, congested road network have scared major corporations from relocating here for two decades. After all, Discovery itself decamped almost all of the Silver Spring jobs to Knoxville, Tennessee, where taxes and employees' cost-of-living are lower, schools are just as good as our declining Montgomery County Public Schools, and the Discovery/Scripps site has direct highway access to the nearest airport.

But the new owners of the former Discovery HQ in Silver Spring are making upgrades to the property in the hopes of attracting future tenants to these vacant floors. The County Council shockingly failed to market the property as part of an overall package for Amazon's HQ 2. Of course, this is the same County Council who thought Shark Week was filmed in giant tanks in this office building, blaming "TV trends" for the loss instead of their own incompetence and socialism-on-steroids governance. Reality check: the Silver Spring headquarters jobs were mostly administrative in nature, and therefore went to Knoxville, not New York City. A few top level executives relocated to an existing New York Discovery office - that's it.

Additions proposed by buyer Foulger-Pratt include redesigned public spaces, and new retail space. Project plan amendments going before the Montgomery County Planning Board April 25 include about 11,000 SF of new office, retail and restaurant uses. But in a loss for the downtown community already reeling from the loss of Discovery, public space on the site will shrink by over 50000 SF, if approved by the Board. Planning staff are recommending approval of the amendments.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Hogan, Montgomery County Council sell out East MoCo commuters for developer sugar daddies

The Maryland State Highway Administration continues its developer appeasement program with the reduction of speed limits along Georgia Avenue in Olney, Glenmont and Aspen Hill. Reducing speeds on congested commuter routes began with the Dukes of Hazzard-style replacement of 45 MPH speed limit signs on River Road with 35 MPH under the cover of darkness one night in Bethesda. Like Georgia beyond Randolph Road, River was engineered for speeds between 50 and 55 MPH, so 45 MPH was already artificially low.

SHA was famously known for decades as an agency that put engineering best practices and the greater public good ahead of the desires of a few to reduce speed limits, and place other similar obstacles to inflict pain on commuters. So why is SHA suddenly becoming a politics-first, best practices-last agency under Gov. Larry Hogan?

Hogan, a real estate developer, seems to know where his best interests lie. In this case, it is in teaming up with the Montgomery County Council and their developer sugar daddies. After all, it's the Council who demanded speeds as low as 25 MPH on major commuter routes. The move is part of the MoCo cartel's secret plan to redevelop the single-family home properties along 45 MPH state highways into mixed-use urban areas.

In addition, the drastic speed changes are part of a parallel plan to raise more funds for the cartel through speeding tickets and speed cameras. SHA violated its own procedures by not posting the required signs to notify drivers of the speed limit change on River Road. Police began ticketing drivers immediately in the hours after the illegal speed change.

After the Suburban News Network, which publishes East MoCo, reported the SHA violation, signs were quickly rushed out to River Road - but only briefly. Along with the fact that the artificially low 35 and 25 MPH speed limits will make it challenging to comply with the new speed restrictions, massive paydays are guaranteed for the County government via tickets.

In Bethesda, developers are rubbing their hands together with plans to redevelop several golf courses, churches, an SHA depot and a garden center into mixed-use, high-density development. Along with another secret plan to extend the Purple Line to Westbard, the speed limit changes are getting drivers ready for slower urban speeds.
Hans Riemer has a plan to bulldoze
affordable neighborhoods in Aspen Hill,
Glenmont and Wheaton
The same is true for Aspen Hill, Bel Pre and Glenmont. Councilmember Hans Riemer's proposal to allow mixed-use development anywhere, including currently SFH suburban neighborhoods like Glenmont and Aspen Hill, will result in massive teardown waves. In their place along Georgia north of downtown Silver Spring, and along River Road, will rise urban-style high-density development. Along with the apartment buildings, duplexes, triplexes, quadplexes and Section 8 boarding houses Riemer's new zoning would allow in SFH neighborhoods, crime, school overcrowding and traffic will only increase.

But that traffic will be moving slower than ever.

It's ironic that Olney residents may feel the most pain from the Georgia speed limit changes. After all, the BRT plan will demolish hundreds of homes and businesses between Olney and Silver Spring when the County brings it back. But the same Hogan and Council who are making Olney residents' exhausting commutes even longer are the same Hogan and Council who continue to block construction of the Georgia-Norbeck interchange.

No wonder Hogan waited until after his reelection to direct these changes. Will his development company be among those to propose projects along these roads after he leaves office? We know the Council's sugar daddies already have plans for both.

Nothing will change for long-suffering auto commuters, the vast majority of MoCo residents, until those drivers take their anger to the ballot box. Until then, expect to remain casualties of the MoCo cartel's War on Cars.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Takoma Park planning to hike property taxes

Compared to the big spenders on the Montgomery County Council, the County's municipalities have been much more fiscally-conservative, including Takoma Park. But the city manager has proposed a property tax hike for the upcoming fiscal year. It will be even higher than the new property tax hike the County Council has proposed for FY-2020.

According to the official city announcement, the Mayor and Council will be voting on a proposed 5.7% increase in the real property tax rate ($0.5560 per $100 of assessment). The County Council has proposed a 4.8% hike, despite promising they would not raise property taxes.

Want to comment on the proposed Takoma Park tax hike? A public hearing on the tax increase will be held April 24, 2019 at 7:30 PM at the City of Takoma Park Community Center, located at 7500 Maple Avenue.