Friday, May 31, 2019

Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue gets first retail tenant

Washington Property Company and real estate firm Streetsense have secured the first retail tenant for WPC's new Solaire 8250 Georgia Avenue apartment tower. HSBC Bank will open a branch in the ground floor facing Georgia Avenue. At least three of the remaining ground floor spaces are designed for restaurants with outdoor seating.

Rendering courtesy Washington Property Company

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Man in wheelchair vanishes outside White Oak nursing home

A patient who departed a White Oak nursing home in a wheelchair with his mother on May 26 has not been seen or heard from since. Staff members at Cadia Healthcare Springbrook at 12325 New Hampshire Avenue were the last to see Rick Calvin Brownlee, 35, at 11:00 AM that day.

Brownlee is described by police as an African-American male, 5’ 4” tall and weighing 120 pounds. He has short black hair and brown eyes.  Brownlee was wearing a light blue hospital gown with green dots on it when he disappeared.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Rick Calvin Brownlee is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24 hours). Callers may remain anonymous.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Man allegedly uses storm as pretext to rape 12-year-old Wheaton girl

Montgomery County police report a horrifying story from Wheaton. Detectives allege that a man used an afternoon thunderstorm on May 23 as a pretext to rape a 12-year-old girl. James Allen Booker, 59, of Upper Marlboro, has been charged with the second-degree rape and third-degree sex offense of a 12-year-old female. 

According to police, Booker offered the girl a ride home during the thunderstorm. She agreed, but when they arrived at her residence, he allegedly sexually assaulted her in his car. Booker then allowed the girl to leave the car. She went into her house and reported the assault to a parent who called police.

Booker was arrested yesterday at his job in Wheaton.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Aspen Hill woman missing

Montgomery County police are searching for a missing Aspen Hill woman with Alzheimer's disease. Evelyn Louise Jackson, of the 14100 block of Grand Pre Road, hasn't been heard from since she called her family from an unknown location yesterday at 1:00 PM.

Police describe Jackson as an African American female, approximately 5’1” tall and weighing 150 pounds. She has gray hair and brown eyes, and is reportedly familiar with area public transportation.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Evelyn Louise Jackson is urged to immediately call 911.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Suspect arrested in White Oak armed robberies

Montgomery County police have arrested a suspect they say is the man who pulled off a series of armed robberies and attempted armed robberies in the White Oak area of Silver Spring on Tuesday night. Josue Torres-Luna, 19, of Silver Spring threatened two women with a handgun in the 11600 block of Stewart Lane that night, detectives say. And they believe others may have been accosted, as well.

Torres-Luna was successful in obtaining a purse from one of the women, police said. Officers responding to the scene found the suspect hiding behind dumpsters. Police have not yet said if they recovered the handgun Torres-Luna allegedly told his victims he had in his waistband.

Detectives ask anyone who had an encounter with Torres-Luna on Tuesday, May 21st, to contact the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6879.

MoCo Council hikes property taxes, slouches toward bankruptcy in disaster budget

Property tax bills will rise for almost all Montgomery County residents in the coming year, after the Montgomery County Council approved a disastrous $5.8 billion FY-20 budget Thursday. The vote virtually ensures future tax hikes will be necessary, as the Council also went on a spending spree despite starting off with a $208 million shortfall. Increases in spending on Montgomery County Public Schools, already proven to have no impact on student performance despite record-large MCPS budgets this decade, will be a major cause of tax hikes down the road. Once the MCPS budget is raised, state law requires the Council to maintain that level of spending going forward.

The fact that the Council had no qualms about spending even more than MCPS asked for despite that binding maintenance-of-effort state law raises questions of the councilmembers' fitness for office. Councilmembers approved the massive spending on MCPS while knowing that there are only two uncertain sources to pay the additional $16 million, and one of those is a one-time $5 million possible payment from the state for upgrading the County's long-failing 911 system. The other $11 million? LOL - they'll figure it out. And thanks to the law, we now have to give MCPS - the system that has declined in performance even as spending on it has surged - that amount every single year going forward. We already are in the red every single year as far out as the forecasts go as it is. Heckuva job, Brownie!

"The annual [property tax] bill for the average homeowner will increase," the Council's press release on the budget vote acknowledges - while not admitting the real-world dollar value of that increase, which is far more than the "average" cost cited often by the County. That tax hike comes after the Council and County Executive Marc Elrich promised voters they would not raise taxes. 

Bloated and filled with loot for the Montgomery County cartel, the budget maintains the corrupt Council's MO of "managing the decline," and continuing our slow slouch towards Gomorrah. The Council has failed to take a single action on our economic development crisis since taking office last December, forgoing for another year any sensible attempt to increase our revenue from commercial development or attracting major corporate headquarters - something Montgomery County hasn't been able to do for over twenty years. Instead, the County has sunk to rock bottom by every economic development benchmark, even behind tiny counties like Culpeper and Rappahannock. It's humiliating.

Considering the Council has raised property taxes every year except 2014, imagine what will happen when the national economy goes into a recession. We are now in the weakest position ever to confront such an economic challenge. Given the County's massive debt, the much-touted AAA bond rating will be in jeopardy as soon as bad times hit, and we are due for a bust cycle any month now. Remember: we have to maintain this level of MCPS spending and county employee pay hikes every year no matter how bad the revenue picture gets.

With that in mind, it's obvious that while our leaders may be tools, they aren't exactly the sharpest tools in the drawer. But that's the caliber of leadership you end up with when most voters don't bother to research the candidates before voting, and simply go by the party affiliation after the name. We can't go on like this.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

SHA to host two Takoma Junction transportation meetings in June

The future of transportation on routes in state hands through the Takoma Junction area of Takoma Park will be the topic of two workshops next month at the Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist Church Center at 6810 Eastern Avenue, N.W. from 6:00-8:30 PM on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 and Monday, June 10, 2019. "Crafting a Vision Statement" is the title of the June 4 meeting, and "Bringing [That] Vision to Life" is the second meeting's title.

Group activities will be utilized to provide public input on the transportation issues affecting Takoma Junction, which has been targeted for a controversial, privately-built redevelopment by the City of Takoma Park.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Wheaton Lot 13 project update (Photos)

Construction has begun on the 13th floor of the new Montgomery County government office building at Lot 13 in the Wheaton Triangle. Mechanical and electrical work now join plumbing on floors 1-5. Exterior sheathing is being installed on floors 3-5. County officials report that the project remains on-schedule for delivery on May 30, 2020.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

More menu details for Fat Fingers in Silver Spring

The mystery of what type of cuisine Fat Fingers will be serving when they open at 8213 Georgia Avenue is now mostly solved. One of the owners said the menu will feature classic American comfort food. Specific menu items will include burgers, hot dogs, half smokes, wings and Philly-style cheesesteaks. This description was supported by a shipment of fresh bread and hoagie rolls that could be seen inside the front of the restaurant, which was previously home to Paisano's.
Fresh bread arrives at Fat Fingers
So it sounds like the eatery will indeed be more in line with the retro-themed Saugus, MA Fat Fingers than the bistro concept mentioned by one reader in the comment section. This is good news for downtown Silver Spring.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Chase Bank now open in Silver Spring

Chase Bank is now open at 8435 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. It is one of the first two Chase Bank branches to open in Montgomery County, with many more to come.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Palisades Lounge opens in downtown Silver Spring

A number of readers have been asking about the Palisades Lounge, which has been in the works for a while at 8211 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. I'm pleased to report they have just opened for business, and will have live music and hookah.

Doors open at 12:00 PM today, as they celebrate the Grand Opening. This was formerly a paint store, so this is a nice upgrade for Silver Spring. They also have a rooftop area, as you can see in the photo above.

The Eleanor opening Silver Spring location

Dave & Buster's is getting some competition in Silver Spring. The Eleanor, a bowling lounge and restaurant currently operating at 400 Florida Avenue, N.E. in the District is opening a Silver Spring location. It will take two vacant restaurant spaces at the Peterson Cos.' Downtown Silver Spring development, including that of Lebanese Taverna, which is moving to the former Taylor Gourmet space.

The Eleanor's District location also offers other games, including skee ball, and serves brunch on weekends. Like Dave & Buster's, The Eleanor also features creative cocktails. Cuisine is mostly American, with a few Italian, Mexican and Asian selections, as well a raw bar.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Fenton's Uniforms drops retail sales in Silver Spring

Business to focus on
corporate clients

Fenton's Uniforms at 921 Silver Spring Avenue is shifting its business model. They have dropped their retail operation indefinitely, to focus on corporate clients such as hospitals and universities. A for lease sign has appeared in the window. The moribund Montgomery County economy slouches on.

David Blair launches MoCo public policy non-profit

Montgomery County businessman David Blair, who narrowly missed being elected County Executive last year, has returned to the political stage. He has just announced the launch of a non-profit public policy organization, The Council for Advocacy and Policy Solutions, of which he will serve as Chair.

Other notable members of CAPS' Advisory Board include Bethesda realtor Jane Fairweather, former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party Terry Lierman, Gov. Larry Hogan administration appointee Rose Li, former associate counsel to President Obama Jason Green and Badlands Playspace CEO Mikel Blair.

Blair says CAPS will fill the information void left by the disappearance of local newspapers by providing accurate information and data about the impact of public policies. It will advocate for new policies and initiatives, and launch private pilot programs. Blair announced the first such pilot today, a Seed Stage Incubator Program in partnership with the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce.

“We have bright students, and brilliant faculty within Maryland’s business schools, and that’s something worth investing in and cultivating,” Blair said. “We’ll provide space for these early-stage businesses, connect students with established business leaders within the community to provide networking and mentorship, and facilitate introductions to angel investors.”

CAPS today also announced its first policy study, which will examine the best practices to recruit and retain teachers of color in Montgomery County Public Schools. The organization's website also hosts a beginner's guide to understanding the Montgomery County budget.

The launch of CAPS indicates Blair intends to remain engaged on County issues, specifically citing economic development, infrastructure and education as primary focuses. With the County economy and budget picture remaining bleak, Blair could be in a strong position to run for executive again in 2022.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

New mural in downtown Silver Spring (Video+Photos)

A new piece of public art has taken its place in downtown Silver Spring. The Metro-themed Traincharmachameleon by artist Goodloe Byron depicts a giant chameleon who has apparently consumed a Metro train. In a nice touch of realism in an otherwise surreal image, the subway train is made up of the latest generation of Metro cars. The work is sponsored by Montgomery County and developer Washington Property Company, and is located by WPC's latest Solaire project at Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Update on Hakuna Matata Grlll in Wheaton

As I reported Monday, Hakuna Matata Grill is taking over the building at 2405 Price Avenue in Wheaton. I now have an update on the menu. The owner says the cuisine will be East African, with specific emphasis on dishes from the countries of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Congo.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tire shop to replace restaurant in Silver Spring

What a sign of the times in moribund Montgomery County, when a restaurant space can't be filled by a new dining option. Instead, a tire store will take over the former zpizza space at 815 Ellsworth Drive. Roll by Goodyear has been popping up in the unlikeliest of places countywide, capitalizing on a growing need for tire repairs caused by poor County road conditions, and an increasingly-alarming number of vacant spaces that can't find new tenants.

Lebanese Taverna moving to Taylor Gourmet space in Silver Spring, rebranded LebTav

We knew Lebanese Taverna was moving in downtown Silver Spring, and now we know where. It will reopen branded as LebTav in the vacant Taylor Gourmet space at 8535 Fenton Street. The chain is recalibrating to survive the moribund Montgomery County economy, and what the Restaurant Association of Maryland has described as "flat growth" of the County's dining sector compared to surrounding jurisdictions.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Fat Fingers coming to downtown Silver Spring

Fat Fingers is coming to downtown Silver Spring. There was only one other Fat Fingers in America, in Saugus, Massachusetts, as far I as can find out. A 1950s-style restaurant with dancing servers, pizza, burgers, hot dogs and ice cream sundaes, the Saugus location was owned by a Massachusetts local, and resembled a love child of Arnold's Drive-In and Johnny Rockets.

So how does Silver Spring end up getting a Fat Fingers? The logo is very similar to the one the Saugus location used, but no other details are available as of this writing, so stay tuned for updates as I get more information. This space was previously home to the short-lived Paisano's Pizza.

Hakuna Matata Grill opening in Wheaton

Another restaurateur is going to try to succeed where quite a few have recently failed, at 2405 Price Avenue in Wheaton. Hakuna Matata Grill is aiming for a mid-June opening. They are currently hiring staff. 
Sample entree at Hakuna Matata

Go Stir Fry Express opens at Wheaton Plaza (Photos+Menu)

Go Stir Fry Express is now open at Wheaton Plaza. This location is one of the chain's first to add the popular stir-fried ice cream rolls to their standard stir-fry menu. Go Stir Fry is located near Costco at the mall.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Khyber Kitchen opens in downtown Silver Spring

Khyber Kitchen is now open at 904 Bonifant Street in downtown Silver Spring. The halal-certified menu includes kabobs, chicken tandoori and chicken tikka, and lamb and chicken platters. Wash it down with an ice-cold Coca-Cola. See the menu in the photos below.