Friday, July 29, 2016

Spirit Halloween to return to downtown Silver Spring this fall

The spirit of Halloween is hitting downtown Silver Spring early again this year. Spirit Halloween has already posted Coming Soon posters in the windows of the same space they leased last year at the corner of Wayne and Georgia Avenues.

Spirit Halloween offers all of the standard costumes, decorations and supplies you need for Halloween season. But their professional-quality props and displays have made touring the store a new Halloween tradition for many across the country. If you have the cash, a haul of animated characters and elaborate set pieces can either make your house the best in the neighborhood, or even be used in a professional haunted house.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Armed robbery in White Oak this morning

A man was pistol-whipped and robbed in the parking lot of his White Oak apartment building around 2:19 AM this morning. As the three suspects ran to an unidentified getaway car, the victim ran to a nearby Shell station on New Hampshire Avenue to report the crime.

Montgomery County Police responded to the scene, and summoned paramedics to examine the victim, who had been struck across the forehead. A K-9 unit was also called in, as officers scanned the area for the suspects.

The incident happened in the parking lot of an apartment building at 11447 Lockwood Drive. Police described the suspects as three black men.

One was said to be 6'2", 250 pounds, wearing a white shirt and blue jeans, with a black shirt over his face. He was brandishing a black, semi-automatic handgun, which he used to pistol-whip the victim.

Suspect two was 5'6", 160 pounds, wearing a red shirt, blue jeans, and a black shirt covering his face.

The third suspect was 5'6", 160 pounds, wearing a black t-shirt, jeans, and also obscured his face with a black shirt.

The men were last seen fleeing in the unidentified vehicle toward Stewart Lane. If you have any information about this incident, call police at 301.279.8000.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

More psychobabble, no specifics on MCPS achievement gap

The sound you hear is $90,000,000 in taxpayer money going down the toilet. That's the $90 million the Montgomery County Council extracted out of you to give above the required funding for Montgomery County Public Schools in their wallet-busting, record tax increase FY-2017 budget two months ago. Where is it going? If you don't have blood pressure medication handy, you may want to stop reading now.

Incoming MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith announced his strategy last night to address the achievement gap between white students and black and Latino students. That gap has increased since 2010, despite record amounts of your money being supplied to MCPS by the Council.

So, we had the 9% property tax hike, and taxes are now at the highest total level in Montgomery County history. What is MCPS going to do with it on the achievement gap? What's the innovative new strategy? We know what we're doing now doesn't work. After several months to strategize, here's what MCPS has outlined for spending your $90 million:

According to the Washington Post, Smith "stopped short of providing a detailed plan for the coming year, and school officials said more specifics would come soon."

Wait a minute, what?! 

Here comes the barrage of Orwellian buzzwords and phrases:


"build up cultural competency among educators"

"operational excellence"

"learning accountability"
(quite a statement from a system that just jettisoned final exams, and dumbed down its grading system to inflate final grades - which college admissions offices will catch onto soon enough, tarnishing our once great reputation across the country)

"Smith did not say precisely how success would be measured." 

God help us.

Your tax dollars "at work."

#MoCoTermLimits #ThrowTheBumsOut

Advisory board revolts against Leggett on Blair Ewing bus depot study

The Mid-County Citizens Advisory Board, which acts as the middleman between residents of Wheaton, Glenmont, Aspen Hill and Olney and Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, has sent a letter to Leggett strongly denouncing his consideration of the Blair G. Ewing Center as a school bus depot site.

"We strongly urge that the Blair G. Ewing Center (on Avery Road) be immediately removed from any consideration," board Chair Gregory Intoccia wrote to Leggett. "This location is wholly unsuited for hundreds of buses."

The board cited environmental damage to Rock Creek and its watershed, loss of a forest conservation easement, traffic impacts on Norbeck Road, reduced traffic safety on Avery Road, the loss of Mark Twain Athletic Park on the Ewing site, and demolition of a functional school building when overcrowded schools are the norm in Montgomery County as its key objections to an Avery Road depot.

The latter loss would require existing programs at Ewing to be moved elsewhere, potentially to the vacant English Manor in Aspen Hill.

What makes the letter remarkable is not just the board going to bat for the community, but that the board members are appointed by Leggett himself. It's another sign of just how politically-toxic the bus depot issue is. There is literally no support for closing the existing depot outside of Leggett, certain County Council members, and the developer who is eager to get started redeveloping the current depot on Crabbs Branch Way in Shady Grove. Yet this thing keeps moving forward, attempting to find a political weak spot on the map.

The letter suggests that, once again, Aspen Hill will not be that weak spot. How much longer does the County risk pushing this scheme, with term limits looming on the November ballot?

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Zales coming to Wheaton Plaza

Zales will soon open a store at Wheaton Plaza. The Irving, Texas-based chain jeweler was founded in 1924. They offer a broad variety of jewelry ranging from engagement rings and necklaces to products partnerships with Shaquille O'Neal, and an LGBTQ-targeted line by designer Udi Beher.

They are currently hiring; apply at

Monday, July 25, 2016

Amazon Locker arrives in Silver Spring, Long Branch, Wheaton/Glenmont, Takoma Park, Olney

Amazon Locker has arrived in Montgomery County at last, and Silver Spring has one of the first locations. Here are photos from the new Amazon Locker in the 7-Eleven at 7980 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring.

You can also find Amazon Locker in Long Branch at the Bestway supermarket at 8540 Piney Branch Road, 7-Eleven in Takoma Park at 900 Merrimac Drive, at the Shoppers Food Warehouse at 6881 New Hampshire Avenue, at the Shoppers in Glenmont at 2201 Randolph Road, and in Olney at the Shoppers at 18140 Village Center Drive.

What is Amazon Locker? You can have your order shipped to an Amazon Locker location near you. Your package(s) will arrive at that location, and you will receive an email notification with an access code that will open your locker. If you do not pick up your order within 3 days, it will be returned to Amazon.

If you live in a building where you have difficulty receiving your packages, this can really come in handy.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bar Louie officially open at Wheaton Plaza

If you missed the soft opening events on Tuesday, don't worry - the new Bar Louie at Wheaton Plaza is now officially open. And it's off to a promising start.

Early Facebook feedback shows 8 reviews. All are giving the new bar and restaurant 5 stars except for one 4.5 star review from a customer who was disappointed they didn't have sweet tea.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Silver Spring construction update: Central luxury apartments (Photos)

Grosvenor Americas' Central development is gaining momentum about a story above street level at this point. The final project will include 243 residential units, including 31 affordable units, and 17,000 SF of ground floor retail space.

A new First Baptist Church will be built to replace the church building that was demolished, and a walkway between Wayne Avenue and Bonifant Street will be constructed.

Amenities will include an outdoor pool and lounge, 24-hour business center, yoga studio and rooftop deck and lounge. The architect is SK&I Architectural Design Group.

Delivery is expected in the fall of 2017. The building's address will be 8455 Fenton Street, and will enjoy prime access to the new Silver Spring Library and Purple Line station.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ross opens at Ellsworth Place in Silver Spring

Ross Dress for Less, one of several new retail additions at the revamped Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring, is now open. Their 25,000 SF store on Level 4 of the mall opened for business Saturday, but mall co-owner Petrie Richardson Ventures made it official on Tuesday.

“Ross Dress for Less really rounds out the fashion merchandising experience at Ellsworth Place as they join tenants Marshalls and T.J.Maxx,” said Terry Richardson, President and COO of PRV, in a statement. “What we’ve found is that shoppers throughout the region seek out diverse, affordable fashion options. We’re excited to fill the need, especially as we near back-to-school season and our grand reopening.”

Ellsworth Place is already celebrating the opening of Not Your Average Joe's last week. Big openings ahead include Guitar Center, Forever 21 Red and Dave & Buster's. The mall is located at 8661 Colesville Road.

Photos: Ira Wexler Photography

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Taylor Gourmet posts coming soon signage in Downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

Taylor Gourmet has some Coming Soon signage up at 8535 Fenton Street in Silver Spring. The future restaurant will be in a 2375 SF space at the Peterson Cos.' Downtown Silver Spring development. With a seasonal menu and high-quality ingredients, Taylor Gourmet has become of the top sandwich chains in the D.C. region in a very short time.

This is the latest upscale fast casual eatery with a Bethesda Row counterpart to land at the development; ShopHouse and CAVA have already opened here. Gusto Italian Grill also recently opened, although its Bethesda location is in a Greenhill Capital building directly across the street from Federal Realty's Bethesda Row.

What downtown Bethesda doesn't have are the Fillmore, AFI Silver Theatre, and - this fall - Dave & Buster's, all three of which are putting downtown Silver Spring ahead in the race to be the best nightlife and entertainment destination in Montgomery County.

Monday, July 18, 2016

MoCo Council crackdown on airbnb reinforces County's anti-business, "fight-the-future" reputation

Anti-business Montgomery County
Councilmember Hans Riemer
When Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer declares he has found a new sector of the economy to fix, businesspeople are justified in heading for the hills. After chasing 96% of food trucks out of the County (or out of business altogether), running 9 bars and a 24-hour restaurant out of business in Bethesda with his "nighttime economy" initiative, and spearheading a "get government of the liquor business" drive - that ended with Riemer endorsing the County government monopoly on liquor, where to next for Hans Riemer?

Well, after Riemer and his Council colleagues finished raising your Uber fares in Montgomery County, they're now fighting another modern upstart in the cutting-edge "sharing economy" sweeping the nation: airbnb.

County residents found a wonderful business opportunity in offering their properties for short-term rental on airbnb. They dared to have some success and make money, without help or involvement from Montgomery County Government. And that's sure to run you afoul of the Montgomery County political cartel.

As with Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services, the Council has their Communist China-style doublespeak ready to deploy. They are actually "legalizing airbnb," if you read their taxpayer-funded propaganda regarding the bill and zoning text amendment. Most people struggling to pay the bills and get the kids to school on time will hear that, shrug, and keep going.

Here's what they're really doing:

First, folks in the County have found a relatively simple and easy source of revenue through airbnb. So the MoCo cartel has to figure out A) how to eliminate this business opportunity, or at least make it difficult and complicated enough that "the masses" (a.k.a. the little guy) will be discouraged from engaging in it; and B) how does the MoCo cartel get a cut of the money?

The answer is very similar to their agenda with Uber. Apply a new tax. Make Uber more expensive to use. Make doing business here more costly for Uber, thereby driving up Uber fares and driving down another new economic opportunity, driving for Uber. Less drivers adds to the pressure for higher fares, and Uber becomes less appealing to use for those with less money. And "the little guy (or gal)" who thinks of a way to disrupt Uber with his or her own ride-sharing innovation now can't get into the market, because the entry cost is higher than it was when Uber and Lyft got in. Mission accomplished, and they sold it as "legalizing Uber."

Now, it's airbnb's turn. A public meeting will be held tonight to seek feedback on the airbnb crackdown. You can RSVP online.

Riemer, et al, have pointed out with glee that they are so inept (the County government was found to run on Windows 2000 four years after Riemer took office), that they passed a zoning code in 2014 that made airbnb "illegal."

Montgomery County is not enforcing the supposed rules that "banned" airbnb. In fact, a search on the airbnb website for rentals available for this coming weekend in Bethesda and Chevy Chase alone shows 26 listings. Those include a bargain $38 airbed available on Westbard Avenue. There are 30 listings in Silver Spring, including a "cheerful, serene" room near Forest Glen for $39.

Those prices are for check-in Friday through check-out Sunday. For the traveler who can't afford an overpriced hotel room, that's a huge deal. That also ticks off the County political cartel.

So, if successful, the Council will double-tax airbnb "landlords" by forcing them to pay both income tax and a hotel tax, a law already passed by the Council last year. Now they'll add a new "tax," which they're calling a license, and which must be renewed annually.

In addition, airbnb entrepreneurs would only be able to rent their primary residence. The bill also contains a stipulation that "County officials" (and the language leaves open that it could be any County official, if designated by one of three officials named in the bill) have the right to enter your property at any time for any inspection "they may deem necessary." Finally, the bill demands that the property owner maintain a guest register like a hotel, with personal information on each airbnb guest, that the County can review at any time.

With the hotel tax and register, once again the Council is treating one type of business as another. They successfully forced ride-sharing services under the same rules as taxicabs, a completely different business model. Here, they're attempting to reclassify airbnb rentals as hotel rooms, or bed-and-breakfasts.

And once again, the cutting edge of business and technology is going to be blunted by our "Fight the Future" County Council. Across the country, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other businesspeople seeking to launch start-ups are paying attention to the follies of our elected officials.

They're finding Montgomery County to be an expensive and complicated place to do business. That hurts businesspeople, and it hurts consumers. We get less choices. Prices go up. Opportunities and jobs continue to go elsewhere.

What are we missing out on under the "leadership" of Riemer and our current Council?

Global revenue from the "sharing economy" is forecast to reach $335 billion by 2025, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Even the famously-liberal City of Takoma Park isn't cracking down on airbnb.

Message? If you want to start a disruptive tech company, don't start it in Montgomery County. With an already-moribund private sector economy, and billions in wealth fleeing to neighboring jurisdictions, that's a message we literally cannot afford to send.

Patio seating set up at Bar Louie as new Wheaton Plaza wing starts to open to public (Photos)

The walkway through the new wing of Wheaton Plaza has opened to the public. While the main marquee signage is not up yet at the AMC Wheaton 9 Theatres cineplex, some wayfinding signs have been installed elsewhere at the structure to direct patrons.
Wayfinding signage
directing moviegoers to
the future AMC Wheaton 9
cineplex near Bar Louie
Most notable this weekend was the brand-new outdoor seating set up for patio dining at the new Bar Louie this week. There's even a nice fire pit outside. Have you signed up for a free meal at Bar Louie tomorrow (Tuesday, July 19) before it opens to the public? Spaces are limited.

If you've been waiting impatiently for the Wheaton renaissance, or are just a longtime fan of Wheaton Plaza, this is an exciting moment. While the public-private partnership is about to get underway on the new Lot 13 office and residential buildings at the Metro, here is the private sector at work nearby. Along with Olive Garden (which will be the only Olive Garden in Montgomery County), these three new businesses at the mall are sure to create a bustling new hub of activity in Wheaton.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Montgomery County Council to hold session on 911 system failure July 28

The Montgomery County Council's Public Safety Committee will hold a "special worksession" to receive preliminary findings on this week's catastrophic 911 system failure. Two residents seeking fire and rescue assistance died during the outage. Media accounts suggest those fatalities were a result of the inability to reach 911 operators.

ABC7 reporter Kevin Lewis asked the daughter-in-law of Ting Ting Co if she thought her husband's mother would still be here today if the County's 911 system had been operational Sunday night. "I think so, I think so," replied June Cheung of Brookville, who was a caretaker for Co.

The session will be held at 9:00 AM on Thursday, July 28, in the 3rd floor conference room of the County Council Building, located at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville. Hopefully the discussion will explore failure of the Alert Montgomery system during the outage, as well. Text alerts were not sent out to subscribers until 16 minutes after the outage had ended early Monday morning. I am still the only reporter to raise the Alert Montgomery failure issue.

Of course, the tables should be turned at some point to ask the Council why they failed to ensure the 911 system had adequate back-up, especially knowing that there was only one level of backup! Did you know these clowns gave themselves a 28% raise, and that you - the taxpayer - will be paying each councilmember $136,258 each next year?

We're definitely not getting our money's worth.

Be one of the first to dine at the new Bar Louie at Wheaton Plaza!

You can be one of the first to experience the new Bar Louie at Wheaton Plaza this coming Tuesday, July 19, 2016. They'll be conducting training at lunch and at dinner that day ahead of the grand opening.

You have to make reservations online. Click here to RSVP.

There is a choice of a FREE meal for lunch between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM that day, or a FREE specialty burger (with your choice of free fries or tots) during the dinner between 5:00 and 8:00 PM.

Seating may "sell out," so sign up ASAP. Maximum table size will be 4 persons for this event.

In trying to find it by car, remember, this is in the new addition to the mall with the AMC Theatres Wheaton 9 cineplex (still under construction). It's near the JC Penney.

Bar Louie
Westfield Wheaton Plaza
11006 Veirs Mill Road

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Not Your Average Joe's celebrates opening in Silver Spring with hefty donation to AFI Silver Theatre

Joe Gartland, Matt Boratenski,
Bethany Manimbo, Jane Redicker,
Michael Reyes, Stephen Silverstein,
Ray Barry and Stephanie Steele cut
the ribbon, officially opening
Not Your Average Joe's in
Silver Spring
Not Your Average Joe's opened Tuesday at Ellsworth Place mall, and started to build its relationship with the community by making a $5000 donation to next door neighbor AFI Silver Theatre. AFI is a nonprofit organization, which promotes visual literacy to local students through an innovative film education program.

Helping to cut the ribbon out front was Jane Redicker, President of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. Redicker presented Not Your Average Joe's CEO and President Stephen Silverstein with a plaque from the Chamber.
Ray Barry, Matt Boratenski
and Stephen Silverstein

After the ceremony, guests moved inside to sample a variety of dishes. Both Silverstein and the restaurant's manager, Michael Reyes, expressed enthusiasm about partnering with other charitable causes in the Silver Spring community, and say they would welcome organizations to approach them.

NYAJ's is in a prime spot and offers an inviting patio for al fresco dining. You can see the Fillmore from the patio, making it a sure bet for pre-or-post-movie/concert dining, and that is going to be a huge traffic driver for the revamped Ellsworth Place.

Not Your Average Joe's is located at the corner of Colesville Road and Fenton Street. You can park in the Ellsworth Drive garage, and cross the skybridge over Fenton directly into the mall.

All photos by Robert Dyer
except top 2 (ribbon cutting/check presentation) courtesy
Linda Roth Associates, Inc.