Friday, September 29, 2017

First annual Wheaton Jazz Festival Saturday, September 30

The first annual Wheaton Jazz Festival will held tomorrow, Saturday, September 30, 2017 from noon to 6:00 PM at Wheaton Veterans Urban Park, located at 11200 Amherst Avenue. There is no charge to attend.

Performing will be the Ephraim and Ebban Dorsey Quartet at 1 PM; the Michael Ventura Quartet at 2 PM; Amy Shook and SR4tet at 3 PM, and the Ben Finkelstein Quartet at 4 PM.  The Paul Carr Quartet will take the stage at 5 PM.

Bring your own chair or blanket. The Wheaton Jazz Festival is being co-sponsored by WPFW 89.3 FM; the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and Chuck Levin’s Music Center.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Wheaton redevelopment ahead of schedule

Lagging boards in place
ahead of deep excavation
With the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle being one for the ages, and the Wheaton Library at least a year behind schedule in construction, it's worth noting that the County is actually ahead of schedule so far on the Wheaton redevelopment project. The project includes a new County government office building, and a town square by the Wheaton Metro station that will be used as a public gathering and event space.

Geothermal well installation is now complete, which is related to one of the green energy features of the new office building. Installation of soldier piles should be complete by the end of this week. Deep excavation for the building is currently scheduled to begin October 2, and will take until mid-January to complete. The required dewatering of the soil ahead of excavation is now underway. Groundwater levels will be reduced by about 25 feet during excavation.

Other projects being worked on this week include a second construction entrance on Grandview Avenue, which will include a wash rack for construction vehicles exiting the site. Fencing is being installed around the vacant Midcounty Regional Services Center ahead of its October demolition.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Aspen Hill Library to celebrate 50 years on October 7

Although often neglected by Montgomery County government, the Aspen Hill Library is one of the most beloved in the jurisdiction. Is it hard to believe it is already turning 50 years old this year? One of several buildings from an architectural-and-public-facility golden age in the Wheaton area (including the now-demolished Wheaton Youth Center, Wheaton Regional Park, and Brookside Gardens, to name only three), the library was recently renovated.

Join the celebration on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:00 AM at the library to mark the big 5-0. Tour the renovated building, enjoy light refreshments, and share your Aspen Hill Library memories in writing for future generations to read. The event and refreshments will be free.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Silver Spring construction update: The Unisphere (Photos)

Once a project gets its first story or two above street level, it really seems to gain momentum from there. United Therapeutics' Unisphere is no exception. A 120000 SF expansion of the firm's downtown Silver Spring campus, the Unisphere expected to deliver in 2018. It will include a six-story office building, retail space, and a parking garage.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Max Cafeteria & Grill now open in Wheaton (Photos + Menu)

Almost a year after my first report, Max Cafeteria & Grill has opened at 11200 Grandview Avenue in Wheaton. Max offers a fusion of Salvadoran specialties, Mexican dishes like tacos and fajitas, and American fare such as steaks and ribs.

Best of all, Max Cafeteria & Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week. You can get an American breakfast or a Salvadoran breakfast. Check out the very reasonable prices - a filet mignon with two sides for only $15.50? You're not going to find a deal like that at most steakhouses.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Gov. Hogan proposes massive traffic congestion relief plan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed the largest traffic congestion relief plan in the nation on Thursday, which would widen the entire Capital Beltway (I-495) within Maryland, I-270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD-295). The $9 billion plan would add tolled Express Lanes to each road, but not charge for use of existing lanes.

To expand capacity on the B-W Parkway, the state would have to be given control of the road by the federal government. Hogan has begun preliminary discussions with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke regarding this issue, he said. A private partner will be solicited by the state to construct and operate the new Express Lanes on all three highways. Because of the public-private nature of the plan, Hogan can largely move forward on his own to implement it, another plus in what is sure to be a contentious election year legislative session in Annapolis.

In a press conference yesterday, Hogan called his plan "unprecedented" and "absolutely transformative." The popular governor predicted that the congestion relief would assist the entire region, not just Maryland residents. Aside from the clear practical benefits, the highway plan is a brilliant political move, as many of Hogan's rivals have already taken the bait and come out opposing traffic congestion relief(!).

Other politicians, even those not in Hogan's party, smartly endorsed the plan. Robin Ficker, a Republican candidate for Montgomery County Executive who has called for such a plan for I-270 for years, praised the governor's proposal. "We say thank you to Governor Larry Hogan for putting forth a plan to widen the 495 beltway and I 270," Montgomery County Young Republicans VP Dan McHugh said in a statement. "This will help alleviate the terrible traffic problems we have here in Montgomery County!! This is what happens when you elect Republicans - we get things done!!" Patricia Fenati, a GOP candidate for the House of Delegates in District 14, recalled the many hours she has spent over the years driving from the upcounty into the District for work. "Finally, a hero has come along to look at that problem, and come up with a solution," she said of Hogan.

Predictable criticisms and the old "induced demand" canard came from organizations engaged in the War on Cars in our region following yesterday's announcement. "Induced demand" theory has never been proven, as missing pieces of our regional freeway system have been to blame for growing congestion on our few highways. For example, there is no second Potomac River crossing, and no M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended, to relieve traffic on the American Legion Bridge and I-270. And the Capital Beltway was doomed to be jammed when anti-car forces foiled the original plan to run I-95 through Washington, D.C. That dumb move sends East Coast traffic around our Beltway 365 days a year, creating massive traffic jams.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First debate for Montgomery County Executive candidates this Saturday, 10:00 AM

The 2018 election season is getting an early start this weekend. Five months before the candidate filing deadline, the men who have already thrown their hats in the ring for the open Montgomery County Executive office will square off in a forum hosted by the Montgomery County Muslim Council. The debate will be held this Saturday, September 23, from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM at the Potomac Community Center, located at 11315 Falls Road in Potomac.

Expected to participate are Republican Robin Ficker and Democrats Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal. Democrat Bill Frick of Bethesda just entered the race yesterday, and I will update this article as soon as I can confirm his participation.

The event is free to attend and open to the public. From the schedule, it appears Congressional candidates will speak first, and the County Executive candidates will go on at noon. However, you will have the chance to "work the room" and speak one-on-one with the candidates between 10-10:30, and between 1-1:30. This is the first real chance to hear the platforms and positions of the candidates in their own words.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting October 4

The Montgomery County Planning Department will host its next Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Newport Mill Middle School, located at 11311 Newport Mill Road. Topics for the session will include pedestrian and bicycle safety, connectivity, access to transit and community facilities, improvements to the streetscape and sidewalks, and bike paths.

There's substantial evidence that the driving force behind the plan is the financial interest of one or more property owners along the corridor, who are seeking upzoning and increased density for their properties. That, combined with the developer-fueled Bus Rapid Transit plan for Veirs Mill, will lead to the demolition of several homes and apartment complexes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Signs of Amazon at Silver Spring Whole Foods (Photos)

Amazon is making its presence known at the Silver Spring Whole Foods Market, after acquiring the trendy grocery chain. Signs all around the store promote Amazon, and even tout price reductions courtesy of the online giant. The giddiness extends to labeling the Amazon Echo Dot as "farm fresh."


Monday, September 18, 2017

Studio Plaza development renamed in Silver Spring (Photos)

Fairfield Residential has rebranded its sizable Studio Plaza development, now under construction at 916 Thayer Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The new name will be Thayer and Spring Apartments, and will feature 415 units, 15% of which will be affordable. It will also boast 10,500 SF of retail, and 35100 SF of public space, including a green plaza, a through-block walk and public art displays. Delivery of Thayer and Spring is scheduled for Summer 2018.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Wheaton redevelopment update

Installing soldier piles
The big effort this week at the Wheaton redevelopment site at Lot 13 was the installation of soldier piles, steel beams that aid in soil retention on construction sites. Two drill rigs are now at work on that task. Soil removed in that process will be trucked away, but the major excavation will begin within the next two weeks.
Completed row of
soldier piles near
Veirs Mill Road
Also this week, crews are continuing to install the geothermal elements, as well as the inclinometer stations. The latter will monitor subsurface movements, and the stability of slopes and embankments for collapse. Installation of the geothermal elements is expected to wrap up by the end of next week.

A new Montgomery County office building will be constructed on the destroyed portion of Lot 13, and a town square will replace the former MidCounty Regional Services Center building.