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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Retail Non-Fail = Retail Win: City Sports to Open in DTSS

The wait to find out what would replace the Pier 1 didn't last very long: the word on the street is that the home goods store will be supplanted by Boston-based sporting goods retailer City Sports. Personally, I think this is a significant upgrade from Pier 1 in the sense that I will actually buy things from City Sports, whereas I wouldn't be very likely to do so from Pier 1. The store was high on my (admittedly unfinished) list of Bethesda businesses I'd like to see in Silver Spring.

From a June 2010 post, which is still valid (just replace "Stephen Strasburg" with "Bryce Harper"):
I just noticed for the first time last week that downtown Bethesda now has a City Sports store. How is that downtown Bethesda has two sporting goods stores (they also have a Modell’s) while Silver Spring has zero? Are you telling me that downtown Silver Spring can’t support a proper sporting goods store?

I recently wanted to purchase some new gym clothes and had to travel all the way up to the Target and Kohl’s in SSINO to find what I needed. Side note: I love the fact that that if you Google the phrase “Sporting Goods Silver Spring”, Atlantic Guns is the top result.

Sure, there’s a Pacer’s Running Store in Silver Spring, but their inventory is limited to merchandise for a single sport. Where does one go around here if they want to purchase a soccer ball or perhaps a Stephen Strasburg jersey? Bethesda, I suppose.
Of course, one store being "better" than another is purely subjective and based on individuals' purchasing preferences, but the good news here is that reportedly Pier 1 is looking to relocate elsewhere in downtown Silver Spring, so maybe this could turn out to be a win-win for everyone. (Where exactly they would move to, I'm not sure. Shitty Place, perhaps?)

The moral of the story is that while businesses may leave, in many instances their departure can open the door for a preferred business to replace it. The failure of the Fractured Prune last year ultimately paved the way for the addition of FroZenYo, which I have patronized many more times than the single instance I bought donuts from the Fractured Prune.

Let's all just be thankful it wasn't another cell phone store. Once those are in, you aren't getting them out.

Would You Like Milk With That?

I would love to have witnessed the event that precipitated the posting of this sign on the vat of compost tea sitting outside the Whole Foods.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Retail Fail? Pier 1 Getting Exported from DTSS

So the Downtown Silver Spring Pier 1 has "lost their lease" and will be be vacating their spot on Fenton Street in short order. Why are they leaving? It's a corporate-owned store, so it's not as if they are small-time franchisees who can't pay their rent (*Fractured Prune cough cough*). Nationally, the retailer is performing fairly well, and according to reports the DTSS store had been doing a brisk business.
Did they balk at unreasonable rent increase by the Peterson Companies, or is PeteCo just giving them the heave-ho in favor of some fancy new tenant they have lined up, as was the case with the dry cleaners and the soon-to-be-opened CVS. If anyone has the scoop, let us know.

Now we come the usual baseless speculation about what will replace it. My bet: a Verizon Wireless store, which would be extremely unfortunate.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

"You will never find a more wretched hive of gas stations and dry cleaners"

In its most recent issue, Bethesda Magazine (which claims to also represent Silver Spring) manages to praise downtown Silver Spring's Pacci's Pizzeria whilst simultaneously dismissing the remainder of Georgia Avenue businesses:

In the non-Bethesda Magazine reality there is but a single gas station and zero auto parts stores or dry cleaners of which I am aware. (Though admittedly, an auto parts store would be convenient to have.)

They also must have somehow overlooked the following establishments when they implied that, as a restaurant, Pacci's is somehow an aberration along Georgia Avenue:

Abyssinia Ethiopian Restaurant
Asian Bistro Restaurant
The Big Greek Cafe
Bombay Gaylord
Crisfield Seafood Restaurant
FEZ Bistro & Restaurant
Fire Station 1
Golden House
The Greek Place
Hook & Ladder Brewing Company
J & J Deli
Jackie's Restaurant
La Bamba
Langano Ethiopian Restaurant
Lizbeth's Cafe
Los Arrieros Restaurant
Lotus Cafe
Mandarin Restaurant
Panera Bread
Piratz Tavern
Quarry House Tavern
Society (coming soon)

Of course, none of these establishments meet the lofty standards of Bethesda, so perhaps they decided not to acknowledge them.

If Not U2, Who?

With its doors scheduled to open this fall, the long road to the Silver Spring Fillmore's opening night is nearly an end, much to the chagrin of nervous neighbors, Birchmere backers and IMP's Seth Hurwitz. While the former JC Penney store on Colesville road is still a construction site, the venue's first official show announcement is scheduled for just over two weeks from today. They've even posted a countdown clock on the Fillmore's official website, where you can also register for email updates about upcoming shows.

There's been plenty of discussion over the past couple years on what performers will be booked at our new concert venue. Despite speculation in the comments section of this blog, the Fillmore's lineup will likely not be graced by artists of the stature of Jay-Z, U2, or Madonna, though these are acts under contract with Live Nation, the Fillmore's operator. Hopefully the schedule will at least feature a slate of solid mid-tier performers, though when I perused the Fillmore Charlotte schedule to get an idea of what acts we might expect to perform here in Silver Spring, nothing immediately excited me. With stops on the aniversary tours of both Queensryche and Cinderella, late-80's hair bands are certainly well represented. I might find the latter's show entertaining if for no other reason than the nostalgia factor, provided they still looked like this. (Spoiler: they don't.)

While many may be understandably ambivelent about Live Nation and their unholy alliance with Ticketmaster, the club's opening will be a pretty big deal for Silver Spring. When it happens, we'll have two entertaiment venues (along with AFI) unique to the D.C. area located right across the street from each other.

Stay tuned for updates once the initial lineup of shows is announced.

Click here to view all previous Fillmore coverage on this blog.