After Chevy Chase upped the ante with their redeveloped row of luxury stores, it looks like Bethesda has entered into a bit of an upscale arms race. With the addition of "Bethesda Lane", they've added to the already pricey array of shops and restaurants in Bethesda Row. (How exactly is it a "row" - can someone explain this to me?) Look at the new Redwood Restaurant - I can't even imagine what the design and construction costs were for this joint. Oh, and the "Upstairs at Bethesda" apartments above Bethesda Lane? $2,000-$2,500 for a one bedroom.
I think the biggest mistake DTSS ever made (besides maybe the Red Lobster) was to not integrate apartments and condos into the development. This is something they did in similar projects in Rockville and Bethesda. Having people living there 24/7 would add a little more life to the area. For a while they were advertising those "The Ellsworth" condos at the end of the Promenade, but seeing as their website no longer works, it would appear that the plan has been put off indefinitely. Yeah, I've mocked their marketing, but I still think that location would be a more interesting place to live than some of the other areas around town where they are presently building condos. Maybe they could just give up on City Place, gut it, and convert it into housing.
Anyhoo, back to my original point. Nice as it is, here's the problem with Bethesda Lane: it's boring as Hell. All the shops on the street were closed by the time I got down there at 8PM, which was annoying because I have to admit I actually wanted to go into Le Creuset. All the outdoor restaurant seating on Bethesda Lane sat unused and chained up. There was some sort of music event at the nearby Metro Plaza, but from what I could tell it mostly consisted of slow dancing senior citizens. Sure they have great restaurants in Bethesda, but there isn't much reason to hang out after your meal.
In stark contrast to this was the scene on the Silver Spring Promenade Saturday night. I originally went there to kill some time at Borders, but there was so much to see out on the street that it was quite entertaining to just stand there and soak it up:
- Hare Krishnas banging their drums and chanting in front of the Noodles & Co. and the usual outside-the-Majestic crowd getting down to the Krishna beat.I would never contend that Silver Spring competes with Bethesda in quality of shopping or food (although at least we're improving on the latter), but as far as people-watching entertainment value, we've got them beat hands down.
- A free concert by an nearly all-white Reggae band.
- Some sort of event on The Turf attended by a large number of traditionally-dressed Sengalese. Apparently reports of the Turf's demise were greatly exaggerated, since it's still open for business. At least for now.
- Mormon missionaries with their short-sleeve shirts and ties proselytizing to the cute women on Ellsworth. (SURRENDER DOROTHY)
- A larger contingent of missionaries from a sect with which I am not familiar wearing white and red uniforms with large Stars of David on them. They looked like they should be wielding swords.
If anyone knows what their deal is, please satisfy my curiosity.
- The aforementioned Elders conversing with their missionary competition.
- Multiple chess matches in the outdoor seating areas of Ellsworth Street restaurants.
- Skaters performing tricks on the Lower Promenade.
- MoCo Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson called BS on the proposed bill that would basically allow the Lee Group to essentially remain a slumlord on Skid Row for the next fifteen years, should they choose to do so.
"We have learned from past experience that the things Lee Development Group wants are unreasonable and can have negative consequences for other viable projects" in downtown Silver Spring, said Hanson at a hearing on the measure.Seriously, they've been sitting on that land for twenty years - how long are they planning on waiting? Surprisingly, the outspoken residents in attendance at the public hearing were actually FOR the Fillmore. "Finish the Fillmore"... "No Train on Wayne"... everyone's got their clever slogans these days.
- Silver Spring's new Vietnamese restaurant, Lotus Café, got a writeup on DCist. Amazingly, no one has yet disrespected Silver Spring in the comments, which is usually par for the course on that site. Usually when they post anything about Silver Spring, commenters are sure to remind us that Silver Spring is a chain restaurant infested hellhole, but when there's a positive review of a non-chain restaurant there is only crickets.
- Riders request expanded service from the VanGo buses, threaten to cut off left ears if demands are not met.
- That body found in Sligo Creek Park last week was apparently not a result of foul play.
Photo of Redwood Restaurant and Bar by Flickr user cpdulis.