Archives May 2019

VOB-Grand Park Sketch Plan and Preliminary Plans went before Planning Board yesterday.

Yesterday, the VOB-Grand Park development on Old Georgetown Road went before the Planning Board with their request to transform the existing car dealership, bank, retail building and associated surface parking lots currently on Old Georgetown into a mixed-use development with a maximum of 1,051,012 square feet of development, including up to 110,169 square feet of non-residential uses and up to 940,843 square feet of residential uses. They plan a minimum of 13% MPDUs.

Planning staff recommended approval of the project with conditions. (You can read all the conditions in the staff report.)

According to Bethesda Beat, the first phase would develop two buildings with ground-floor retail and 423 residences. While development is ongoing in the first phase, developers intend to use other space for surface parking, events and “pop-up” parks. The final two phases would include a total of 577 residences with one parking space per residential unit in a parking garage at each of the three proposed buildings. Also encompassed in the project is 19,411 square feet of open space to be lined by retailers, cafes and landscaping.

According to Planning Board documents, this project is expected to add about 55 new elementary, 22 middle and 31 new high school students so will not have an adverse impact on school capacity.

There are 55 pages of details in the staff report, but here are some of the more compelling images.

Yes, you can build your way to affordable housing.

A lengthy but informative article shows how many other cities utilized diverse strategies to make housing affordable. While any one particular strategy may not work for Montgomery County, combining the best of these strategies may help make housing affordable in our beloved county. I’ve quoted a few paragraphs below that summarize the article, but you can read the entire piece here.

“Houston, Tokyo, Chicago, Montreal, Vienna, Singapore, Germany—all these places have built their way to affordable housing. They’re not alone. Housing economist Issi Romem has detailed the numerous American metro areas that have done the same: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, and more. Many more. They have done so mostly by sprawling like Houston.

“Houston, for example, can be Cascadia’s model for how easy it ought to be to get permits to build homes—if we believed, as Houston does, that building homes is in itself a good thing, our permitting processes would encourage rather than discourage it through endless months of hoop-jumping and politicized reviews. Tokyo, meanwhile, reminds us that placing control over development at senior levels of government, and making development of urban property a right of its owner, helps to elevate the broad public interest in abundant housing choices over parochial opposition to change. (Leaders in California have recently succeeded in passing a raft of new laws to act upon this lesson.) Chicago teaches that a pro-housing political orientation can provide abundant housing even under conventional zoning in a deep blue city, while Montreal offers Cascadia a model of a cityscape no longer of single-family homes but of three-story rowhouses, walk-up apartments, and condominiums on quiet, tree-lined streets close to transit and neighborhood centers. Singapore’s lesson is the promise of erecting high-density, park-like “new towns” on underused city land. And Germany shows us that a future is possible where housing is no longer an investment vehicle but “a very durable consumption good that provides a stream of housing services, not a ticket to financial gain.”

“And it is simple: Yes, you can build your way to affordable housing. Aside from economic decline and depopulation, it is the only strategy that actually works. You can do it through a state monopoly as in Singapore, an array of public and limited-profit associations as in Vienna, or private developers as in Chicago, Germany, Houston, or Montreal. But to have affordable housing, you have to build homes in great abundance, and without that, other affordability strategies such as rent control and inclusionary zoning can be fruitless or counterproductive, as in San Francisco. Building plenty of housing is not just one way to affordability, it is the only way—the foundation on which other affordability solutions, measures against displacement, and programs for inclusion rest.”

Commonwealth Indian Opens in North Bethesda With Bottomless Champagne Brunch

From Washingtonian Magazine

Enter Commonwealth Indian, now open in North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose complex. The 100-seat restaurant is helmed by chef Sunil Bastola, proprietor of Bollywood Bistro in Fairfax and Great Falls.

Bastola was born in a Nepalese city bordering northern India, and his menu focuses on the Indian subcontinent’s northern region. Regional delicacies include apricot dumplings in a creamy gravy sauce and spiced lamb chops. Bastola is also adding some local flare: the kitchen simmers jumbo Maryland lump crab in turmeric, coconut milk, and royal cumin for a yellow crab curry.

Bastola’s cooking is tinged by culinary school lessons from places like Japan, France, and Italy, he says. “You can collaborate those places into your Indian food and make it something unique,” he says. “In Italian [food], you say meatball. We say kebab. The difference is the spices.”

The “prelude” section of the menu embodies Bastola’s philosophy on melding global flavors, layering mozzarella and korma sauce on a “naan pizza” and pairing Israeli salad with roti and chicken seekh kebabs. For dessert, the chef tucks chilled rose vermicelli under custard apple ice cream, and chocolate ganache is paired with cardamom for a “chocolate curry.” 

The drink menu includes classic cocktails like an old-fashioned and a negroni, as well as tropical tamarind margaritas and basil lychee mojitos. Brunch, on the hand, is all about the bubbles. On Sunday mornings beginning in June, Commonwealth Indian is rolling out a bottomless Champagne brunch ($19.95 per person) underneath the sleek dining room’s opulent gold ceiling. The brunch features a buffet of predominantly north Indian appetizers, curries, tandoori dishes, and breakfast plates, washed down with free-flowing sparkling wine.

Commonwealth Indian. 11610 Old Georgetown Rd., North Bethesda. 240-833-3055. Open Monday to Saturday 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM for lunch, Monday to Thursday 5 PM to 10 PM for dinner, Friday to Saturday 5 PM to 10:30 PM for dinner, Sunday 11 AM to 3 PM for brunch, Sunday 5 PM to 9:30 PM for dinner. 

Fogo de Chão Sets Opening Date for North Bethesda Location

From Bethesda Beat

The Brazilian steakhouse Fogo de Chão open its newest  restaurant at Pike & Rose on June 24. The restaurant chain has more than 50 locations worldwide, including three other locations in the Washington region.

The North Bethesda Fogo de Chão will be at 11600 Old Georgetown Road across the street from Del Frisco’s Grille.

“Pike & Rose is a premier neighborhood and we believe our authentic Southern Brazilian culture and cuisine will be a great fit,” General Manager Chef Moises Lopes said in a statement.

Q&A Interview with GKA a creative agency

Recently, Friends of White Flint Executive Director Amy Ginsburg had an opportunity to interview a new member of Friends of Pike District, GKA a creative agency, a full-service marketing agency that has been in business for 30+ years. Friends of White Flint was eager to hear “their secret sauce” and share it with our members. In an interview with Sarah Crisafulli, the agency’s Vice President of Brand Strategy, who is also the newest Board Member on the Friends of Pike District, Amy discovered fun facts about our neighbors on Executive Boulevard. 

Responsive design laptop header

You’ve been in business for 31 years – what’s your advice to other businesses?

My best advice is to always put your clients first.  We train our team to embrace that our clients are the real reason that we do what we do everyday and striving for excellence really matters. At GKA, we believe we don’t cross the finish line unless the client is happy and sees results from our actions.  In many cases we are an extension of our clients’ marketing team. We want to be a reflective surface at all times, and I think our clients very much appreciate this approach.

What does your company specialize in?

GKA is a full service marketing agency. We do it all, soup to nuts. For some of our clients, we are their “in-house” marketing team; we lead the ongoing strategy, development and execution of everyday marketing from their day-to-day social media posts to email marketing, copywriting, and digital campaigns. For other clients, we lead initiatives such as developing a new brand (logos, colors, fonts) to designing and programming new website. We make ourselves invaluable to our clients by learning about their business and how to speak to their prospects in order to generate revenue for them. We’re passionate about our work because we love our clients; our clients come first before anything else.

Who are your typical clients?

Well, GKA started 30+ years ago as a marketing agency for real estate developers and homebuilders. We are proud to still have a strong foundation in real estate – one of our clients in the homebuilding industry has been with us 20+ years, and we’re well-versed in almost every industry, such as hospitality, nonprofits, legal, paint manufacturing, small businesses, and so forth. No matter the industry, we enjoy becoming experts in our clients’ line of work so we can develop their thought leadership within that industry.

If you could have any client in the world, who would it be and why?

I would want Disney because that is a place that is always happy and where you always feel like a kid.  I think it would be fun to work on a campaign filled with so much magic.  

What’s one word to describe your agency?

If I had to choose one word, it would be curious or passionate. At GKA, our team is constantly pushing the envelope and seeking innovation. At the same time, the team is deeply passionate about our clients’ marketing which I believe is always evident in the finished product.

Feel free to say hello to our new member, Sarah Crisafulli at Intrigued by GKA? Pop over to their new website and click around – Or visit them at and

Perfect weather for a perfect Bike to Work pitstop in the Pike District

Executive Director Amy Ginsburg open for business at Bike to Work Day
Traci McPhail (L) and Peggy Schwartz from the North Bethesda Transportation Center are all smiles on Bike to Work Day
Councilmember Andrew Friedson (L) talks with the oldest Bike to Work participant (R)
Councilmember Andrew Friedson brags that the White Flint/Pike District area had the county’s first separated bike lane.
Councilmember Hans Riemer speaks to the crowd
(L to R) Federal Realty’s Mickey Papilion, AMP by Strathmore’s Bill Carey, Montgomery County White Flint Coordinator Pete Fosselman, and North Bethesda’s Transportation Management District’s Peggy Schwartz enjoy Bike to Work Day.

Great news! Council votes to fund second White Flint metro entrance and votes against Ride On service cuts!

Thanks to the County Council for voting for funding the second White Flint metro entrance! This is wonderful news as it will allow us to have $2.9 million in funding ready to go for design of this project once we get the Concept Study back from WMATA this fall. Friends of White Flint advocated hard for this funding.

As you may recall, the County Executive had recommended deferring funding for the second station until after FY24.

We will need to push hard for our second metro entrance in the FY21-26 CIP the County Executive will propose on January 15, 2020, but that’s advocacy for another day. Now let’s just thank the Council for this funding.

The Council also rejected the County Executive’s proposed cuts to Ride On service, including proposed cuts to routes that service the White Flint/Pike District area.

District One Councilmember Andrew Friedson said, “The ability for people to move around safely and efficiently is an existential issue for our economy and our community. The fiscal year 2020 budget the Montgomery County MD Council approved today includes major investments in affordable housing and transportation.”

RCA Music Fest 2019 Saturday, May 18

Come and support our neighborhood talent, from young to old, at our new outdoor festival space- The Civic Green at Randolph Hills Shopping Center: 4916 Boiling Brook Pkwy, Rockville, MD 20852

RCA Music Fest
Sunday, May 18, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

No cover, just celebrating our neighborhood spirit. All we need is you, our neighbors and friends to come out and show your love. Food trucks, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, Beer and Soju from Cafe 2020 as well as non-alcoholic refreshments

Family and dog friendly event!

5:15pm – Organ Grinder Lola

5:30pm – Boiling Brook Brothers (acoustic rock duo)

6:15pm – The KS Duo, a Randolph Hills String Duo

6:45pm – Fidel and Bachata

7:35pm – Bebel & Brazilian Band of Brothers

8:30pm – Ken Wheaton and the Silver Springers (R&B, funk)