Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Now available in a variety of colors - City Sports Silver Spring t-shirts:

- I'm happy to report that the Chipotle in Four Corners is now open for business. It has a more sleek and modern interior than other Chipotles I've been to, and they actually had pretty good music playing (loudly). Glad to have one up in the '01, though one negative consequence appears to be a notably more crowded parking lot at the Woodmoor Shopping center.

- There's a neighborhood called Silver Spring East of Colesville Road? (SSEoCR?)

- Remember all the talk of a youth curfew? That whole effort is basically in limbo for the foreseeable future. I was so sick of hearing about the damn thing I'm just glad it's over, regardless of the outcome. Now hopefully the council can get back to banning panhandlers at intersections.

- Another new law the county may institute is one targeting perpetrators of so-called "flash mob thefts" like the one that occurred last month at the 7-11 up on Tech Road. The new law would make each participant criminally liable for the total value of good stolen, not just the handful of candy bars, etc. they take. I'm wondering how much they followed up on the Tech Road robbery, considering everyone involved was clearly visible on camera.

- Hey look, the latest battle in the Fox-news-manufactured  "War on Christmas" is being waged up in Aspen Hill! A group of uninvited Christmas carolers were ejected from the premises after spreading their holiday cheer inside their local U.S. Post Office.
A spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service confirmed the incident occurred Saturday at branch office in the Aspen Hill Shopping Center. A trio of carolers walked into the building dressed in attire reminiscent of Charles Dickens and began singing.
The only offensive thing here is the is the author's obvious failure to take advantage of a great opportunity to use the word "Dickensian".

- Finally, it's incredible that with the legion of security employed by the Majestic, someone from Team Jacob was still able to abscond with a cardboard cutout of Taylor Lautner from this giant Breaking Dawn display in the theater's lobby.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We Are the 94%

It is patently obvious to anyone that only a small minority of Washington-area residents actually from the region, but Silver Spring has the distinction of having the fifth lowest ratio of "native" residents in the entire country. This factoid comes from the most recent Census by way of the Washington Examiner, which states that a meager six percent of current Silver Springers 25 years or older were born in the state of Maryland.

Unfortunately, I'm not exactly sure where on the Census site I can find locale-specific data such as this to verify, so I'm unsure what was considered to be "Silver Spring" in this case, nor do I know what the four places with smaller percentages were. Of course, by the qualifications used, I would also be considered a "migrant" to Silver Spring by virtue of having been born in D.C., despite having grown up here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- I checked out the new City Sports this past weekend, and it is a great addition to what unfortunately remains a fairly barren retail landscape in downtown Silver Spring. It's a big, open, bright space featuring gear from quality brands like North Face, Patagonia and one of my personal favorites, Timbuk2. I was actually able to buy clothing for myself in downtown Silver Spring, something I have been able to do very infrequently, a few shirts from American Apparel notwithstanding. (Sorry, City Place Marshall's, but I don't need size 5XL jeans.)

There's a large selection of City Sports-branded shirts, and while for now they all read "Washington DC", they will purportedly be stocking Silver Spring shirts in the coming weeks.

The only downside is that, unlike other City Sports I have been to in the past, they don't carry fan gear - things such as hats and jerseys for the teams that D.C. Metro area residents root for. You know, like the Steelers, Cowboys, Red Sox, etc.

- The downtown Silver Spring McDonald's, renowned worldwide for being the Worst McDonald's Ever™, is undergoing renovations to update it with the current, more modern, McDonald's design. A welcome cosmetic improvement, I suppose, but you still couldn't pay me enough to eat there. Now, were it to look anything like this McDonald's, I might very well consider it.

- Speaking of lipstick on a pig, I recently received a flyer in the mail encouraging me to visit the newly-redesigned Four Corners Safeway. While this Safeway may be the most convenient, if not closest, supermarket for me, I generally avoid it unless I quickly need something basic like a gallon of milk. The store is cramped, run-down, and the produce generally looks inedible. Simple staples, such as the aforementioned gallon of milk, are frequently out-of-stock.

Perhaps the work isn't complete (then why send me the flyer??), but the 'renovated' store didn't look a whole lot different than I remembered it. Unfortunately, a wooden floor laid down in the produce section doesn't magically make your fruits and vegetables fresh.

I wish we could have gotten a brand new Safeway like Kensington did a few years back. Their equally-crappy old-timey Safeway was razed and a brand new building was constructed in its place. I guess we'll just have to settle for this half-assed effort.

In fact, the one thing I kind of liked about the Safeway was its retro facade and marina-style roof . Now the former has been eradicated, to be replaced by what I can only presume is some generic Safeway signage.



- From the Post review of last Wednesday night's Kid Rock concert at the Fillmore:
Introducing “So Hott,” Rock did the time-honored practice of slipping the venue’s name conspicuously into the lyrics one better, namechecking Silver’s Spring’s Quarry House Tavern as the site where he’d picked up a lady companion to ease the loneliness of the road the prior evening.
I assume someone just provided him with the name of a local joint so that he might indulge the crowd, but perhaps someone can confirm that Kid Rock was actually at the Quarry House on Tuesday night.

- A flash mob of fifty-or-so shoplifters robbed the 7-11 up on Tech Road on Saturday Night. Nice. For those opposing the proposed MoCo teen curfew, incidents like this certainly won't help your cause.

Soon there will be another 7-11 in Silver Spring to flash rob, as a new store is opening in the strip mall at the corner of Georgia and Silver Spring Ave. Why is that strip mall still there, anyway, other than to provide revenue to towing companies?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dawn of A New Age of Reason to Take Place Across from Fenton Street Parking Garage

Skeptical? I assure you it's absolutely true - I read it on the Internet. Specifically, I discovered this astounding news on the website for the under-construction Citron apartments.

The following is from the site, and is best read using the voice of the late, great, Don LaFontaine:
There was a time when people held salons, intimate gatherings of literary, artistic and cultural movers and shakers. At Citron, that era is back, in all its creative glory. Citron is an intimate counterpoint to its high-rise neighbors. A haven of serenity and elevated consciousness in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring's never-ending excitement. Amenity-rich, filled with features, green and sustainable, and always forward-thinking.
Clearly, Foulger-Pratt has stumbled upon something incredible here - all that was needed to do to resurrect the spirit of the Parisian salons of the Enlightenment was to design apartment buildings with common areas! We should expect a massive influx into Silver Spring by the world's intellectual elite, many of whom will inevitably be leasing apartments at the Citron as soon as construction is complete.

(Note that the Citron is the successor to the ill-fated Ellsworth Condos, which were billed at the time as being the "last word" in Downtown Silver Spring living.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Silver Spring's City Sports to Open This Weekend

The grand opening of the City Sports on Fenton Street is scheduled for this Saturday. According to a rep from City Sports,"The new store will have a special women’s section (a huge initiative for the brand this year), freestanding shoe wall and interactive zone, among other features."

There's also a grand opening party planned for Saturday the 26th, with a DJ, food, and giveaways. There will be a contest featuring a grand prize of "free shoes for a year", though I'm not entirely sure what that means. What if I feel like wearing a new pair of kicks every day? Rappers do it, right?

I'm still waiting to hear if they will be stocking "City Sports Silver Spring" t-shirts. Apparently there are custom shirts produced for the Bethesda location, so they better.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Silver Spring (Old) News 'N Notes

Sorry for the lack of posts as of late... some of this may be old news, but I'm still playing catch up. More to come.

- Work is proceeding in earnest on the construction of the new City Sports on Fenton Street. Here's hoping they carry "City Sports Silver Spring" t-shirts, though in all likelihood they'll instead stock D.C. t-shirts like this one.

- Travel time from Silver Spring to Bethesda during rush hour on the Purple Line? 8 1/2 minutes. Of course, by the time it is ultimately built, molecular transporters will have been invented, making the light rail line a 22nd century C&O Canal.

- The temporary toy store in the former Borders is set to open today, at least according to a sign on the door. (Still waiting on that H&M, by the way.) We need to start commercializing additional holidays in order to fill all this empty retail space. Halloween and Christmas only cover a few months.

- The takeaway from this article is that Ghar-e-Kabab is expanding their dining area. Good on them.

-  The sushi and steakhouse restaurant opening in what was once Ceviche is going through an identity crisis: first it was Nobu Hibachi Steakhouse and Sushi, then it was Haruhana Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi, and now it's Masa Hibachi Steakhouse & Sushi.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

First They Came for the Mailboxes...

It was four years ago when citizens of the areas immediately surrounding downtown Silver Spring noticed that the once-ubiquitous blue mailboxes were disappearing from their neighborhoods without warning. Then, earlier this year, the main downtown Silver Spring post office on Second Avenue was sold to developers, who have plans to construct apartments on the site. Now, the Postal Service has mailed out surveys to local residents to help determine the feasibility of closing the tiny "finance center" post office hidden in the bowels of the office building at 8455 Colesville Rd.

I recognize that the Postal Service is presently in dire financial straights, but if they are going to continue to operate post offices at all, it makes absolutely no sense for them to completely forsake a major metropolitan area like downtown Silver Spring. Closing this last downtown outpost would leave the Four Corners/Woodmoor location as the post office closest to downtown. Has whatever bureaucrat at Postal Service headquarters making this determination ever BEEN to the Four Corners post office? For starters, traffic around there is a nightmare. You can only access the post office from one direction, and the parking lot has maybe eight spots. Even if you do get a spot, there's a good chance someone will park perpendicularly behind you, making it extremely difficult to back out. You can try and be sneaky and park in the neighborhood street that dead ends right behind the building, but during the week that is a neighborhood permit only street, so you are technically breaking the law. This is the post office they suggest will serve all of the 20901 and 20910 ZIP codes? What about customers that don't own a car? Are they going to have to take a bus for miles to mail a package? What are they thinking?

Granted, it's fairly easy to print shipping labels using the USPS' online service, but it forces you to purchase premium services you don't need like Priority and Express Mail by not allowing you to print first class or media mail labels. (A service they could very easily provide, because they let you do it if you do it as an eBay/PayPal seller.) Plus, you need to own a postal scale to properly calculate shipping costs using their website. It's probably a very small minority of Postal Service customers who actually use this service at present.

I generally find ways to avoid going, but based on the fact that there always seems to be a line, clearly a lot of people need the Post Office. Why the Postal Service would completely abandon downtown Silver Spring is beyond me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- Fenton Street Market, which had announced it would be closing permanently come November, may return next year after all, despite the county having added a number of (costly) new rules to the lease requirement. If the market does return, one thing they will be required to do is rent a portable toilet, because I'm sure anyone in DTSS needing to use the bathroom would elect to use a port-a-john in the middle of Veteran's Plaza. Isn't the main purpose of the Civic Building to house public bathrooms? That's about all I've used it for so far.

- It wouldn't be a Silver Spring development project if it weren't held up endlessly by "The Community" and/or the County Government, would it? The Leave the Zone Alone folks have scored a comeback victory against EYA's townhouse project slated for the Chelsea School site, getting the county council to "recommend" that the developer scale back its plans for 76 townhomes on the property .

The Proposed Chelsea Court Townhouses

Would these townhomes really change the composition of the neighborhood that much? The plans seem fairly innocuous to me. It's not like there aren't already highrise apartments ACROSS THE STREET from the property. At this point, I wonder why any developer would bother to do business in this county. Out of spite, they should just let the property become overgrown and turn into a hobo encampment.

Also, to call that neighborhood "historic", as this article does, is a bit of a stretch. (Disclosure: this is my neighborhood.)

- Silver Spring's first bikeshare station will be located outside the new apartments being constructed at the former post office location on 2nd Avenue. I would think that this type of thing would make a lot more sense by the Metro, but perhaps there are plans to ultimately locate one at the new transit center as well.

- The Haunted Garden, an elaborate Halloween setup free to the public, opens tonight. The Garden is located at 9215 Worth Ave and will be open the next two weekends and on Halloween night.

- Discovery Headquarters was recently host to a small but sweet car show. I've actually driven the first car before, or at least I have in LA Noire...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I, For One, Welcome Our New 8th District Overlords

It always bothered me that the Maryland congressional districts were drawn in such a way that that people who live but a couple blocks away from me were represented by a different congressperson and that my representative was inevitably chosen by PG County voters.

Now, with the re-gerrymandering of the voting districts nearly complete, all Silver Springers will soon be living within the boundaries of Maryland's 8th District, or at least they will for the next ten years.

Here are the current district maps:

And here are the new district boundaries within Montgomery County:

I'm not the biggest fan of gerrymandering (for either side), but at least the new map doesn't have Silver Spring split down the middle.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sweet, We're Getting an Old Davy

It feels like only yesterday that City Place was going to become a outlet mall before it wasn't.

Photoshopping City Place must be some sort of new Internet meme, because there seems to be a new set of concept images popping up every month or so. This latest set of renderings (PDF) dated September 28th comes from Petrie Ross & Hutensky Capital Partners, and shows City Place rebranded generically as the "Galleria" (what, no Silver Plaza?).

In this latest plan, Shitty Place The Galleria will feature such popular anchor tenants as "Old Davy" and "H&W". There's no real info on actual tenants, and everyone's favorite store, Burlington Coat Factory, seems to be part of their plans. Interestingly, the design calls for the entire top floor, empty for years, to be converted into some sort of dinner theater.

Occupy Silver Spring (With Zombies)

Just a reminder - the 4th Annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk is scheduled for this Saturday night, and all indications are that this year's event will be just as big, if not bigger, than last year's.

A few last minute notes:

- The official posters (pictured above) are now available. For those interested, posters can be purchased online at the official Zombie Walk Website and will also be available at the AFI box office the night of the Walk.

- As of now the weather looks to be clear, if cool, on Saturday night.

- If you haven't bought tickets to the movie and plan on doing so, DO IT NOW. They aren't sold out yet, but I assure you they will be.

-  We've received approval from the police to close off sections of Sligo Ave and Selim Rd near Jackie's, so there's somewhat less of a chance that a car will plow through a crowd of zombies.

- If you missed it, here's the Silver Spring Zombie Walk FAQ.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- Despite reports that it will ultimately be occupied by City Sports, the former storefront of Pier 1 Imports appears to be doing nothing but gathering dust, or at least it was the last time I peeked in the window. What's the hold up? Meanwhile, the erstwhile Borders space, which may or may not become an H&M, has been temporarily converted into a Halloween (or Zombie Walk) costume shop.

- It's been ages since a sign first went up indicating that a new restaurant/club called Society would occupy the former Nicaro space at 8229 Georgia Avenue. Now they finally appear to be hiring staff, so perhaps its opening is imminent.

- The Post recently ran a story on Vicino Ristorante Italiano's underground (literally) Jazz Club.

- The only "top hospital" in the Washington metro area: Silver Spring's Holy Cross.

- This year's Silver Spring Thanksgiving Parade: no floats, but hey, Ronald McDonald!

- And finally, this tweet last week from the Fillmore Silver Spring demonstrates that Twitter's 140 character limit sometimes forces users to exclude key words, significantly changing the message as a result.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Chug Off

Back in the BDTSS (before Downtown Silver Spring) "Golden Age", when a desolate Ellsworth Drive was anchored by typhoid-spreading McDonald's, one could not walk a block without being repeatedly hustled by a gauntlet of panhandlers.

Over the past 15-20 years, the complexion of Ellsworth Drive has changed significantly, but one thing remains the same: you still can't get very far without being approached by strangers for money. Sure, the hustlers smell better and are more organized, but while they used to be content with a one-time donation of spare change, now they want recurring monthly payments on your credit card. Instead of a paper cup, they come armed with a clipboard or a tablet PC. I am, of course, referring to the packs of charity muggers (or "chuggers") who position themselves in strategic choke points along the sidewalks of Downtown Silver Spring, preventing passerbys from avoiding their hard-sell tactics. They will approach you with an innocent line such as "may I have a moment of your time?" or with a guilt-inducing request like "do you have a minute for the environment?".

While on the surface these fundraisers may seem to be representatives of a charity, in fact they often employees of a for-profit fundraising company. In most cases, only a portion of your donation will ultimately make it to the charity being promoted.

The chugger scourge appears to have hit the UK hard, where a number of municipalities have established laws restricting the activities of these fundraisers. Why can't we get the same thing here? MoCo regulates everything else to death, but these guys appear to operate with limited to no restrictions. Why must pedestrians be subjected to repeated requests for money each time they walk through Downtown Silver Spring? It's bad enough you get harassed one time, but once you make it to the other end of the block, you get hustled again by their co-workers. (And twice again if you walk back.)

Here's my question: if these are employees of a for-profit company, why can they operate with impunity on the public/private streets of Downtown Silver spring? If the county isn't going to do anything to curb them, what about DTSS? Are they OK with their customers getting hit up for money every time they step onto Ellsworth? What if I were to set up a lemonade stand outside of DSW and vow to donate half my revenue to a worthy cause, say, UNICEF? The DTSS Whiteshirts would be on me faster than if I were a breastfeeding photographer.

To be fair, I understand that charities can't always support an army of full-time fundraisers on their payrolls, and that what money they do net after hiring these fundraising companies will ultimately go to a worthy cause. Furthermore, I can't begrudge the chuggers themselves - they gotta eat, and in today's economy you do what you can. I'm sure they don't love approaching strangers for money all day. With that being said, what about our right to go to the farmers market on a Saturday morning without being made to feel bad for not helping to save the whales (or whatever)? Just give at the office.

Of course, you can always deal with these people like Aziz Ansari... (NSFW language)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Bring Out Your Dead: The 4th Annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk FAQ

We’re just weeks away from the 4th Annual Silver Spring Zombie Walk, and for those planning on participating here's all the information you need to know.

Silver Spring Zombie Walk 2009
Photo of the 2009 walk by Flickr user The Spider Hill

What is all this Zombie Walk nonsense?

From Wikipedia:
A zombie walk (also known as a zombie mob, zombie march, zombie horde, zombie lurch, zombie shamble, zombie shuffle or zombie pub crawl) is an organized public gathering of people who dress up in zombie costumes. Usually taking place in an urban centre, the participants make their way around the city streets and through shopping malls in a somewhat orderly fashion and often limping their way towards a local cemetery or other public space (a series of taverns in the case of a zombie pub crawl).

I am a grown-ass man/woman. Why the hell would I want to do something like this?

How often do you get to smear fake blood all over yourself, tear up your clothes, and act really stupid in public, and do so anonymously without fear of repercussions?

Where and when does the walk start?

This year's walk is scheduled for Saturday, October 22nd. Like last year, ground zero of the zombie outbreak will be located near Jackie’s Restaurant at the corner of Georgia and Sligo Avenues. The walk itself won't start until 8:45 or so, but zombies are encouraged to start gathering by 7:30 or earlier for the Zombie Walk pre-party.

Last year’s pre-walk was perhaps as much fun (if not more fun) than the walk itself, as it offered a great chance for everyone to view all the great costumes that had been prepared. There was also many battles staged last year, including one involving a lightsaber-armed zombie-slaying Jesus.

How does one prepare for a Zombie Walk?

Zombies come from all professions and all walks of life, so use your imagination. Just make sure your clothes are torn and there’s plenty of blood. Props such as dismembered limbs, brains, etc. can be a great enhancement to your look.

Here’s some websites with great tips on making zombie costumes:

- Expert Village - How to Make a Zombie Costume (Some great how-to videos here.)

- Zombie Maker - The Definitive Zombie Make Up and Costume Guide

- wikiHow - How to Look Like a Zombie. They also have a page dedicated to the essential art of making fake blood.

- 365 Halloween - How to make a zombie costume with makeup

Check out these photos of the last two years’ events to get a good perspective on what types of costumes people will be wearing: 2008, 2009, 2010

Should I RSVP?

It’s not necessary, but it would be helpful for us to get a rough idea on attendance. You can RSVP via the Facebook event page.

Where can I eat (brains) and drink (blood) before the walk?

There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the Zombie Walk route, including Fire Station 1, The Quarry House Tavern, Olazzo, Piratz Tavern and more. There are also countless places to eat and drink in central Downtown Silver Spring area and the surrounding blocks. (And no, it's not just Red Lobster.)

In addition,  we have invited a number of food trucks to set up shop in the staging area. We already have commitments from Sub Urban Bros, Corned Beef King, and Cravin Cookies & Sweets and expect to have more to report shortly.

Does it cost anything to participate?

There is no cost to participate in the Walk, though you will have to purchase movie tickets from AFI should you choose to attend the movie afterward. Organizers will also accept envelopes stuffed with cash, but that is purely optional.

Movie? What movie?

This year’s official Zombie Walk film will be Dead Snow (or Død Snø, for those who like funny letters), a zombie flick straight out of Norway. Here's a brief plot summary followed by the official trailer:

A ski vacation turns horrific for a group of medical students, as they find themselves confronted by an unimaginable menace: Nazi zombies.

This must have been the biggest Norwegian horror film of all time. For all I know, it is the only Norwegian film of all time. As fans of the Call of Duty series of video games can attest, you can't top Nazi zombies.

Where do I purchase tickets to Dead Snow?

Tickets can be purchased at the AFI Silver box office or online (with no booking charge). Oh, and it will sell out, so get your tickets ASAP. It is also highly recommended that you have your tickets in hand before the show if possible in order to avoid the inevitable line at the box office.

This year there is even a bonus movie, with a late show of Shaun of the Dead (which we screened at the 2nd Zombie Walk) following Dead Snow at 11:59. Tickets for this film can also be purchased online.

What is the route of the walk?

The Walk will start at the intersection of Sligo and Georgia Avenues (near Jackie’s) and will proceed down Georgia Avenue then through the Downtown Silver Spring Area, concluding at the AFI Silver Theatre on Colesville Road.

How can I get updates on the Zombie Walk?

- Check the official website.

- Join the Silver Spring Zombie Walk Facebook group.

- Subscribe to the Twitter Feed. This is the best way to get updates on the walk on the night of the event.

My kid wants to be a zombie, can he/she/it come too?

The Zombie Walk is open to all ages, and we have had plenty of youth zombies at past events. If they scare easily, it’s probably not the best idea to bring them along, though it will be more fun for the everyone else if you do.

Can I dress as a zombie hunter instead than a zombie?

Absolutely - we’ve had a number of zombie hunters each year, some of which were scarier than the zombies themselves. Even better: plan ahead with your zombie buds to simulate zombie vs. zombie hunter battles. Just don’t go around assaulting unsuspecting zombies with cricket bats, please.

Why isn’t the Zombie Walk on Halloween weekend? That seems like the obvious time to schedule it.

Many people are committed to other activities on Halloween night - parties, taking the kids trick-or-treating, etc. Holding the Walk on a different night allows the maximum number of people to participate.

Will there be Zombie Walk merchandise available?

This year, there will be a limited edition Silver Spring Zombie Walk poster available for sale. Designed by the award-winning El Jefe Design, it will be available online and at the AFI Theatre on the night of the event. More information will follow shortly.

Will the anonymity of my costume combined with the anarchic atmosphere of a zombie walk justify my wanton destruction of private property?

Please, please don't break anything. Provided it belongs to you, you can destroy any possession or body part you wish. Last year there was an incident where a few zombies got a little overzealous and took out a store window. Let’s try to avoid that happening again.

This window was an innocent victim of last year's walk...

What can I do to help promote the Zombie Walk?

Tell everyone. Also, on the night of the walk, you can share your Zombie Walk experience on Twitter using the hashtag #sszombiewalk.

I’m going to take a bunch of photos of the Zombie Walk. How can I share them?

You are encouraged to add any Zombie Walk photos to the 2011 Silver Spring Zombie Walk Pool on Flickr.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- Chipotle is moving into the Video Outlet Subway space in the Woodmoor Shopping center, while the purveyor of five dollar foot longs is moving to another spot in the same complex*. The odd man out in this game of musical chairs is the China House restaurant. While I haven't eaten there in years, in my youth I consumed innumerable orders of Kung Pao chicken and egg drop soup from this establishment. (Eventually it was supplanted by Oriental East.) Longtime residents may remember that before they remodeled, China House used to have this dark, opium den-ish old school and featured an odd little booth in the corner where you placed your takeout order.

*With Santucci's just steps away, why would you ever bother going to Subway for sandwiches?

- Not sure if this is anything beyond a concept, but this firm's site has some images of a redesigned downtown Silver Spring Safeway in the imaginary neighborhood of Fenton Village.

- The Planning Department today installed temporary park space in a parking spot along Ellsworth Drive to promote public spaces in urban areas. That's nice and all, but here's an idea: close Ellsworth Drive to traffic permanently.

Photo by Flickr user trackwentynine
 - The Georgian Apartments, home of the rooftop sushi party, has been put up for sale, its owners having recently declared bankruptcy. By the way, these promotional videos from that party are fantastically awful. (Video 1, Video 2)

Finally, a couple Fillmore-related videos:

Somewhere, Pete Townshend is weeping:

And here's a Zapruder-quality video of Lewis Black's monologue at Tuesday's Fillmore VIP event.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Fillmore vs. 9:30 Club - A Comparison

I'm bummed I missed the Fillmore's open house on Monday, but having an infant at home makes attending such weekday evening events somewhat more challenging than it used to be. Fortunately, there has been plenty of coverage of the new venue by publications like the Post and Washingtonian.

Photo via Washingtonian's Fillmore Slideshow
It would appear that in addition to the aforementioned community open house, there was also some sort of much-more-interesting VIP launch event the following night hosted by Silver Spring native and future Fillmore performer Lewis Black. (Incidentally, I believe his show is the only scheduled performance at the Fillmore that has sold out thus far.) I hadn't heard about this event beforehand, but I just came across the invitation by googling it. Had I discovered this earlier, I would have just gone ahead and RSVP'd even without having received an invite. Oh well.

(An aside: in retrospect I was a total whore for Live Nation when they used me to drum up community support for their proposal, yet now that they are up and running I don't hear a peep from them. No invites to events, comp tickets, nothing.)

During the event, Black had this to say about Silver Spring:
"I was born and raised around here. This, where we are — this whole area was a shithole. You have to realize that 40 years ago there was nothing out there. So to return here now, and to see what they've done with this area, fucked me all. I don't think the children should have any of the advantages that I was deprived of."
I fully agree with the last statement. Kids should have to take the bus to Wheaton to see movies. Uphill both ways.

Anyway, on the eve of the Fillmore's first show and in light of all the constant back and forth in the comments on this blog and elsewhere about the relative merits of the Fillmore vs. a hypothetical IMP-run venue in Silver Spring, I decided it might be worthwhile to compile some actual data to compare the Fillmore with IMP's existing venue, the 9:30 Club.

My methodology, far from scientific, was to create a simple comparision of the respective venues' acts by analyzing the following:

- All remaining acts scheduled for September and October at each venue
- Each performer's primary musical genre (from Wikipedia)
- Performer's active date - what year they started (Wikipedia)
- For performances where multiple acts were billed equally ("Act 1 and Act 2"), I factored in each performer's active date separately, while maintaining a single entry under ticket price
- Did not consider opening acts. ("with")
- Factored in only lowest face value ticket price for each show, disregarding any additional fees.*

So without further ado, here are a few facts and figures for acts booked at the two music venues:

Average Ticket Price

Fillmore Silver Spring: $35.38
9:30 Club: $24.35

Median Ticket Price

Fillmore Silver Spring: $30.00
9:30 Club: $20.00

Clearly, tickets at the Fillmore are pricier on the whole, a fact which has already been noted ad infinitum. Of course, it could be that The Fillmore books more established acts who can command a higher appearance fee and must pass that down through the ticket prices, though I don't have any hard data to determine that either way. The Fillmore also has a greater capacity than does the 9:30, so a band's performing at the former could be an indication of greater demand.

Max Ticket Price

Fillmore Silver Spring: $89.50 (Mary J. Blige)
9:30 Club: $55.00 (Smashing Pumpkins**)

Mary J. Blige might be the biggest act performing at either venue during this period, so unsurprisingly her performance commands the highest price. As I believe hers is a special appearance scheduled expressly for the grand opening of the new venue, this high ticket price will likely remain an outlier.

Average Artist Active Date

Fillmore Silver Spring: 1990
9:30 Club: 1997

Median Artist Active Date

Fillmore Silver Spring: 1995
9:30 Club: 1999
I wanted to come up with some sort of metric, however imperfect, to address the complaint that the Fillmore caters to The Olds with a lineup of "nostalgia acts". Their slate of New Wave and classic rockers does lend some credence to those charges, but to be fair the 9:30 club does have Cindi Lauper and Loretta Lynn on the slate for October (not that there's anything wrong with that). It may not be the best metric to measure relevance, but I averaged the "active date" (the date they started performing) for all scheduled acts in order to have some comparison of the recency of the venues' respective performers. Obviously, this doesn't fully represent a performer's relevancy, but its the best I could do in a short timeframe.

With an average active date seven years later than that of the Fillmore, the 9:30 club does book a lot more recent acts, many of whom have only been around for a few years. While some of these lesser-known - and perhaps cheaper to book - acts may someday blossom into superstardom, many more will ultimately fade into obscurity. They'd probably be delighted if in 25 years people still want to pay to see them. Meanwhile, it would appear the Fillmore goes the safe route in booking the more established acts.

The following charts illustrate the mix of genres of performers on the schedule through the end of October. Clearly, the 9:30 club skews more toward the indie and alternative acts, and has a fair number of bands whose music falls under the "folk" umbrella. The Fillmore, meanwhile, has a greater percentage of conventional rock and "New Wave" bands as well as a number of Hip Hop and R&B acts. Of course, this is based on less than two months of shows, so take from it what you will.

One thing I would have liked to have factored in is some measure of a performer's popularity (album sales, etc.) that might justify a higher ticket price. A band might have indie cred, but there may be a reason they can only command $20 per ticket. It's not that they are simply trying to keep ticket prices low out of the goodness of their hearts. I'd also like to have included information on Birchmere acts as a comparison. But really, I don't care quite that much.

What it really comes down to is that if you think an IMP-run club would have been superior to what we got with the Fillmore or vice versa, you do so based on your own personal musical tastes. I do think we can all (ok, not all) agree that The Fillmore certainly beats out a long-abandoned department store.

* Of course, Live Nation/Ticketbastard is notorious for fees.

** Meaning Billy Corgan and some other people you haven't heard of. What's the difference between this band and Zwan? I guess it's that play old Smashing Pumpkins songs. Speaking of Smashing Pumpkins, I think they gave me permanent hearing damage in 1998 so I should really consider suing them.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Fillmore Community Preview this Monday

The Fillmore Silver Spring has announced that it will be hosting an open house, or "community night" this coming Monday. (For the small "c" community of course, not "The Community". Members of the latter group wouldn't be caught dead in the Fillmore.)

The event will feature live music and food, and tickets will be available at the Fillmore box office beginning Monday at noon. Of course, this timing makes obtaining tickets fairly difficult for members of the community like myself who don't happen to work in Silver Spring. Then again, maybe these days most people are unemployed and have nothing better to do.

In the meantime, here's a preview of the space courtesy of Channel 9 news:

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Swedish are Coming?

With the Downtown Silver Spring Borders in the final stage of its death throes, there's been the inevitable speculation as to what will ultimately replace it. As commenter Justafed has pointed out, the DTSS space is not on the list of formerly-Borders-owned leases up for sale, indicating that there might already be plans afoot with regard to the bookseller's replacement.

One rumor out there is that the large Borders space will be bisected, with one half being occupied by Swedish clothing retailer H&M and the other to be taken over by a retailer-to-be-named-later.

If H&M is indeed coming here, I think this qualifies as a decent pickup for DTSS, as they offer reasonably-priced and stylish clothing for both men & women (and kids at select stores). Will update you when and if I get confirmation on this one.

Thanks to JG for the tip on this one.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

"The One That Gives You Goosebumps"

OK, so a guy attacked someone with a downed power wire near Brewster Ave & Saginaw Street on Sunday. I'll let Pat Collins describe the action as only he can.

As with all stories, I'm sure there's a lot more to it. Perhaps he just wanted to give him a body massage.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

So after three days of electricity-free living, my power was restored early this morning through a procedure that took Pepco technicians all of five minutes to perform. I can’t really blame them all that much this time around – they did preemptively trim back the branches in front of my house earlier this year and I think I was just unfortunate to end up as a low priority case in their outage triage. Plus last summer I was out of power a full five days, so I suppose this can be considered progress.

Not looking forward to spending another dark evening at home last night, I checked into the downtown Silver Spring Courtyard, which had me feeling like a visitor in my own hometown.  The hotel does have a hell of a location, plus where else can you enjoy such splendid views of the majestic Silver Spring Towers?


- Based on a rumor of Lego Architecture sets being available at half price, and considering I was essentially living next door at the time, I decided to give the Borders clearance sale one more shot last night. I really shouldn’t have bothered. At this point most anything even worth contemplating purchasing has already been snatched up, and half the remaining inventory is miscellaneous garbage (perfume??) they hauled in from some warehouse to try and unload on vulturous bargain-seekers.

- Speaking of which, DTSS' store is not on the list of former Borders locations whose leases are to be purchased by Books-a-Million, so if the space is to continue to host a bookstore, it will have to do so under the auspices of another bookseller.

- Concepts for the new apartments to be constructed on the ashes of the 2nd Avenue Post Office have been released. They look nice enough I suppose, though the fact that you will be living next to the train tracks isn't really highlighted in these images.

(I don't know how Silver Spring is supposed to survive on one single tiny post office. They say no one uses the Postal Service anymore, yet somehow whenever I am forced to go to the post office I always end up waiting in line.)

- In other development news, preliminary work on the construction of the the Ellsworth Condos Apartments at the corner of Ellsworth and Cedar finally appears to be underway. It looks like their "Last Word" marketing slogan from so many years ago may have been prophetic. It's about damn time. It's shameful that a lot in such a prime location sat empty for all these years.

- One of the benefits of being a Pepco refugee is that I ended up eating out more frequently this week that I likely would have otherwise. The outage motivated me to finally get over to Forest Glen to try the new Pacci's Trattoria. I don't consider myself foodie enough to conduct proper restaurant reviews,  but I will say what I had (pictured) was pretty good. Like any new place, there are kinks to be worked out, and it'd probably help if they had additional wait staff to cover the entire restaurant, but that will no doubt all come in due time.

mmmm... ravioli with bolognese sauce

Monday, August 15, 2011

Coming August 25th - Pacci's Trattoria

Here's a preview of the menu for Pacci's Trattoria, scheduled to open August 25th in the old Forest Glen General Store.

From the restaurant's press release:

The menu features an array of classic Italian dishes selected by Rosario Granieri, who is both a partner and the Executive Chef at the new restaurant. Many of the dishes featured on the menu are recipes passed down to Granieri from his mother and grandmother in Naples. Along with his family recipes, Granieri will also feature a host of dishes he has perfected over the years while working as a chef in Naples, Sardinia, Rome, and London. “I can’t wait to give the community a more in depth taste of Napoli’s rich culinary history beyond our famous pizzas.” Granieri will work alongside Head Chef Antonio Ciotola in executing the menu, which includes ten appetizers, eight pasta dishes, and eight entreés.

In keeping with the homemade standard set by Pacci’s Neapolitan Pizzeria, Gioldasis imported two Italian pasta machines to churn out fresh pastas such as sciallatielli, tortteloni, and ravioli. The made to order pasta dishes will be topped with homemade sauces, organic vegetables, and high quality meats, including homemade meatballs and homemade sausage.
Note that the restaurant will be reservation-only during its first week.

One thing's for certain - the service at Pacci's will be better than that of its predecessor. Presumably the new staff won't hate you for eating there.

Friday, August 12, 2011

DTSS Security: Protecting Us from Hungry Babies

I just want to take a moment to recognize another instance of everyday heroics on the part of Downtown Silver Spring’s security personnel. Their past bravery in curtailing the heinous crime of photography and never infringing on teenagers’ right to harass women and yell profanities in front of small children has been well documented. Now, they deserve additional recognition for protecting the fair citizens of Silver Spring from witnessing the abomination that is a mother breastfeeding her infant child. Recently, one of our Segway-riding real-life superheroes witnessed a mother feeding her child by the fountain and charged into action, showing a total disregard for personal safety and ordering this degenerate to perform her unnatural act outside the wholesome sanctuary of Downtown Silver Spring.

And wouldn’t you know it - like most modern-day criminal scum, the perpetrator of this perversion had the audacity to claim to be the victim in this situation, disseminating her propaganda to the multitudinous subscribers of the DC Urban Moms listserv in an attempt to illicit sympathy from her fellow scofflaws. Her story was further distributed by the Silver Spring Moms Yahoo group, the message board used by the local criminal element to coordinate their nefarious activities.

According to the malefactor, “Under Maryland law, mothers have the right to breastfeed in public. I am concerned that other mothers are being ordered to stop breastfeeding in downtown Silver Spring or feel that they must do so at a security guard’s 'suggestion.'"

Hahahah, silly hippie, you must be new here! Did you just move to Silver Spring from from some socialist Scandinavian country? Don’t you know that your liberal “laws” don’t apply in the sovereign territory of DTSS? On Ellsworth, justice is doled out according to the whim of the Whiteshirts, whose motto is “WE ARE THE LAW”.

Frankly, I think she got off easy. It is only due to the benevolence of this particular guard that she was “asked to leave” rather than finding herself and her child on the wrong end of a Taser. Thank you again, DTSS security, for protecting us from exposure to all the world's evils.

(If for whatever reason any security guards are looking to make a career move within the downtown area, the Tastee Diner may have an opening for a full-time lesbian ejector.)

Friday, August 05, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- Construction on Silver Spring's transit center, previously scheduled to be finished later this year, has now had its completion date pushed back to March of 2012.  Delays on a project of this size aren't too surprising - what are we, Swiss?

- Pacci's Trattoria, set to open soon in the General Store in Forest Glen, has revealed their logo:

They are also in the process of constructing a patio behind the restaurant. Presumably someday it will no longer be 100 degrees every day and al fresco dining will once again be a realistic option. [via Pacci's twitter feed]

- The Silver Spring Fillmore will be hosting a job fair on Saturday and Sunday at the Civic Building. They may not all be fabulously high-paying gigs, but who else is hiring these days? If you do get the job, just be sure to remove all the brown M&M's.

- A Papa John's Pizza will be opening in the retail space of South Silver Spring's Veridian Apartments this fall.

- From 10-3 this Saturday the Silver Spring Library will host a book sale and a "Spectacular Science" program for kids.

- MoCo PD is adding new bike patrols to downtown Silver Spring. Didn't they already have those like 4-5 years ago then did away with them? There used to be bike cops eating in the Baja Fresh every time I went in there.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Update: Shitty Place to Remain Shitty Indefinitely

Because they have the time and resources to do things like "journalism", the Gazette contacted the chairman of City Place property manager Petrie Ross Ventures to get additional details on the upcoming transition of City Place into an outlet mall.

Well, don't get too excited for the mall's supposed "grand re-opening" later this year, people, because it turns out this event is unlikely to occur. After owning/managing the mall for four years, Petrie Ross still has no clue what they want to do with this white elephant:

Despite Internet rumors on Silver Spring blogs and news sites, the plans, created by EWB Development LLC, by no means reflect the final decision, Petrie said.

“The site is trying to promote the idea,” he said. “We haven’t decided whether to go in that direction yet.”
"Internet rumors?" Petrie Ross' partner put up a multimedia website promoting the "Outlets at Silver Spring" and there was a story about the mall's conversion to outlets included in a industry trade magazine last October.  It would appear that in this case that clearly the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

Bottom line: Shitty Place forever. Demolition is the only solution now.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

City Place: 1992-2011

It's finally happening: City Place is getting a makeover (and losing its name in the process). Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you "The Outlets at Silver Spring". This plan has has apparently been in the works for quite some time, but admittedly this is the first I had heard of it.

According to the website recently launched by EW + B Development, "the most experienced service provider in the outlet/value retail industry", the much-maligned mall has its Grand Reopening scheduled for later this year. It appears that the revamped shopping ceneter will primarily house outlet stores, which is actually somewhat intriguing. (And haters/Virginia lovers: your precious Old Town has outlets too, so spare us please.) Who doesn't love outlets, even if one should shop them using a bit of caution?

According to the map provided, much (350,000 sq. ft.) of the retail space in the mall is up for grabs. The only spots that appear to already be claimed are some of the outward-facing spaces such as Chipotle, Ben & Jerry's, PNC Bank, etc.  (i.e. the ones that don't actually appear to be in the mall) Also, Marshall's isn't going anywhere.
I had been under the impression that the mall had changed hands from Petrie Ross Ventures to Hutensky Capital Partners, however it would appear that Hutensky and Petrie Ross are in cahoots on this one. I sincerely wish them the best of luck in their endeavor. If they belive they can fill Shitty Place The Outlets at Silver Spring with quality retailers before Christmas, more power to them. I sure hope they are successful.

More to come.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Next to Go: Quiznos?

Silver Spring's Quiznos, Always Displaying an Abundance of Signage

Chain retailers and restaurants, oft-maligned by commenters on this blog and elsewhere, do serve a purpose. They employ proven business models and generally have the financial wherewithal to survive the losses associated with an initial start-up period, of particular import when opening a location in a "developing" area such as downtown Silver Spring circa 2003. One downside of chains is that that their fate is inexorably linked the corporate parent's fortunes, regardless of how successful an an individual store might prove to be. From what I understand, Silver Spring's Borders was a top performer among stores in the now-defunct chain.

In recent years Silver Spring has lost its Borders, Storehouse Furniture, Bombay Company, Hollywood Video, Ritz Camera and Steve & Barry’s when those companies filed for bankruptcy or significantly downsized. Now comes word that Quiznos, which has operated an outlet on Fenton Street for some time, is in serious financial trouble.
Denver-based Quiznos told lenders July 8 that it would soon violate loan terms, which would put the chain in default and could trigger demands for immediate repayment of its debt.
Perhaps known more for their bizarre commercials than their food, Quiznos doesn't really stand out among sandwich options in Silver Spring or elsewhere. There was a brief period preceding the opening of most of the current restaurants in DTSS where Quiznos was one of the few sandwich alternatives to Panera. As a result, I ended up there perhaps once or twice a week for lunch. Now, with all the options that have become available since that time, it has exited my consideration set.

I probably wouldn't miss the food if Quiznos folded, but I'd feel bad for the franchisee, and no one wants to see yet another empty retail space. The adjacent Ritz Camera closed two years ago and somewhat surprisingly a new tenant has yet to move in to its corner space. Another retailer on that block, American Apparel, is in perpetual financial trouble and has an uncertain fate. (Now, that I would miss.)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

- It remains to be seen what will ultimately replace Borders in DTSS, but for a time at least it will serve as a temporary home to the recently-opened Fillmore Silver Spring preview center, scheduled to move out of its digs in the back room of what used to be Ceviche. Why move? Because that space will soon be occupied by Ichiban, a Japanese steakhouse. (Not sure if this is a chain or not, as it's the most generic name possible for a Japanese restaurant.) Also moving again: Artspring, perhaps to the same place, though I'm not really sure.

- A deer got capped on Silver Spring Avenue last month. Guess someone really likes their hostas.

- Fuddruckers may serve the (self-proclaimed) World's Greatest Hamburgers®, but they also employ the World's Worst Proofreaders®:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Avoid the Borders Liquidation at All Costs

Out of morbid curiosity I swung by Borders Saturday afternoon to witness the bookseller's death throes. The crappiness of Borders liquidation 'sales' has been well documented, but the bookstore nonetheless now has the ability to attract far more customers in its near-death state than it every did in its heyday.

Despite real deals being essentially nonexistant, the checkout line snaked all the way to the rear of the store. With most books just 10% off list (despite the big "40% OFF" signs in the window), the prices remain significantly higher than what you'd pay at Amazon, or even what you used to pay at Borders itself. The new releases and best sellers are in many cases MORE expensive than they were last week, when they were sold at a greater discount.

With that said, has anyone managed to find an actual deal at Borders over the past few days?

Friday, July 22, 2011

And Here is Your Inagural Fillmore Lineup...

The inaugural lineup for the Fillmore Silver Spring has been announced. Tickets go on sale next Friday for these shows.

I'd actually kind of be interested in seeing the Psychadelic Furs. If a Live Nation rep wanted to provide comp tickets, I certainly wouldn't say no...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

One of First Fillmore Performances Leaked

The official announcement of the Silver Spring Fillmore's initial slate of shows is still set for this Friday, but here's one that has been unofficially announced, per the Baltimore Sun:

"Black Star - Mos Def and Talib Kweli - are touring again. The duo will perform at the Fillmore, the new Live Nation venue in Silver Spring, September 18, just around the time the spiffy theater opens."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Retail Epic Fail: Borders to Close

It's no surprise, but Borders, one of the original tenants of DTSS, will be liquidating and closing its doors. It's unfortunate, but perhaps this will open the door for more interesting retailers to move in. I have a feeling DTSS won't have a problem filling that space.

Apologies for the brevity, but I'm in a no-Internet-access location this week. Yes, they still exist.

More to come.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday News 'N Notes

- The Fillmore Silver Spring, scheduled to announce its first show one week from today, has opened a preview center on Ellsworth.

- Montgomery County is considering implementing an under 18 curfew, stating that similar curfews in DC and PG County are driving troublemakers to places like dowtown Silver Spring on weekend evenings.

Police point to one recent incident in which as many as 70 young people, including suspected gang members, gathered in downtown Silver Spring during the July 4 weekend. Many arrived on bus or Metro, police said. Several fights broke out, and one ended with the stabbing of a teenage girl, officials said. She survived.

- The word is that a non-chain restaurant/sports bar-type place will be opening up next year in the ground floor retail space of the new apartments at 1200 East West Hwy. Apparently, Chili's was initially interested but later backed out. Chain haters' heads would dentonate if that had deal had gone through. In its defense, I used to find Chili's a great place to go for Friday happy hour, with their free wings and chips and what not. Not sure if they still offer that deal, though.

- Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema gives a positive review of Colesville Road's Kao Thai restaurant.

- Dissapointingly, Mandalay has ended delivery service, citing the lack of a reliable driver.

- War profiteers KBR have won the contract to construct the The Heritage at Georgia Avenue, formerly known generically as 8021 Georgia Avenue. The new building will incorporate the former headquarters of the National Institute of Dry Cleaning, and like all new apartments will be "luxury".

Speaking of apartment, the MoCo police have issued a notice regarding a recent spate of daytime burglaries at apartment buildings in downtown Silver Spring, so be vigilant.

Whither the Fenton Street Market?

With no FSM, where would we buy our cat vests?
Photo courtesy
You've likely already heard by now, but the county is raising the weekly fee for renting Veterans Plaza from $48 to $1,200, threatening the existence of the Fenton Street Market which operates there each Saturday during the warmer months.

The county is pulling a pretty big bait-and-switch here and generally comes off as the villan in this story. They even oddly suggested that they could install a mini golf course on Veterans Plaza in place of the market. I'm all for mini golf, but they couldn't even make that work at an actual golf course, so is that really a practical idea?

At they same time, they do have somewhat of a point. Like every other municipality these days, the county has budget problems. I appreciate their desire to collect the revenue if groups really are lined up to pay these fees, particularly after having invested so much to construct the new Civic Building and accompaying plaza. No one can dispute that $48 is an incredible deal for such a prime location. I don't know what kind of lease the stores along Ellsworth have, but they've got to be paying upwards of $40/sq. ft.

With that said, there has to be a solution that keeps the market in place while allowing other groups to share the Plaza on Saturdays. Why not close off the stretch of Ellsworth between Fenton Street and the entrance to the parking garage as they sometimes do, allocating that area for some of the market vendors? Maybe it wouldn't fit the entirety of the market, but it would certainly free up some space on the plaza. It's not optimal, but the market could conceivably loop around onto that new stretch of road that connects Ellsworth to the Whole Foods lot (though it's a bit of a hill).

I may not purchase something there every week, but the FSM has been a nice addition to downtown and is a good compliment to the farmers market. Hopefully the county and FSM can resolve this in a manner amenable both parties. (Optimally, the solution will somehow involve demolishing City Place.)

For those interested in expressing your support for the market, an online petition has been set up.