Thursday, March 19, 2015

fire damages three georgia avenue restaurants, including quarry house tavern

A big fire this morning severely damaged three restaurants in downtown Silver Spring, including the Quarry House Tavern, Mandarin, and Bombay Gaylord, all located at Georgia Avenue and Bonifant Street.
The restaurants this morning after the fire. All photos by Pete Tan unless noted.
The entrance to the Quarry House this morning.

According to Channel 7, bargoers at the Quarry House, located in the basement beneath Bombay Gaylord, noticed smoke and called 911 before evacuating. Over 100 firefighters came to the scene; one firefighter was injured and about a dozen people were displaced, but thankfully no patrons were hurt.

The Post says it may have been an electrical fire. The fire caused about $750,000 in damage; pictures show charred furniture and walls inside Mandarin and Bombay Gaylord, but we've got no word on the status of the Quarry House.

Monday, March 16, 2015

an entire student neighborhood in college park bites the dust

New investment is pouring into College Park, seeking to turn this town known for undergrads and traffic into an urban hub for all ages. As part of that transformation, the famous Knox Boxes student neighborhood is transforming from the ground up.

Former Intersection of Guilford and Hartwick, Knox Boxes
College Park's Knox Boxes are just a memory. All photos by the author unless noted.


For decades, the Knox Boxes epitomized the University of Maryland's image as a party school. The cluster of 25 low-rise 1950s-era brick apartment buildings was just south of the campus, behind the seedy bars and pizza joints on Route 1.

Knox Boxes, Guilford and Hartwick, 2006
The same intersection (Guilford Drive and Hartwick Road) in 2006.


For many undergrads, a Knox Box apartment was their first taste of living on their own, and the small backyards and proximity to other neighbors made for comfortable college living.

But they were also cheaply built and poorly maintained. During my freshman year at Maryland, two students died in separate Knox Box fires.

As Maryland became known more for academics than basketball riots, the university and the City of College Park started looking at ways to redevelop the Knox Boxes.

Getting multiple landlords to sell was difficult, but by 2013, a single owner had purchased most of the Knox Boxes. That year, the city approved a plan from developer Toll Brothers, usually known for suburban McMansions, to replace the Knox Boxes with Knox Village, a luxury student apartment complex for over 1,500 students.

Friday, March 6, 2015

expand route 29 to build a sidewalk? why not just build the sidewalk

Maryland highway planners say four new interchanges on Route 29 in eastern Montgomery County will cut congestion, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, and make it easier to build bus rapid transit. But the designs they've proposed would actually make all three of those things worse.

One of four proposed interchanges along Route 29 in Montgomery County, with north on the right side. Image from the Maryland State Highway Administration.

For decades, Maryland highway planners have been trying to turn Route 29 between New Hampshire Avenue in Montgomery County and I-70 in Howard County into a freeway. They recently unveiled new designs for a $128 million interchange at Route 29 and Fairland and Musgrove roads, just south of the Intercounty Connector. Today, both roads intersect Route 29, also known as Columbia Pike, at separate stoplights.

Under the state's proposal, Musgrove Road would become a dead end street on the west side of Route 29, while on-ramps and off-ramps would connect the east side of 29 to its northbound lanes. Fairland Road would go from four lanes to six and only have access to 29 going south.

If the project gets funding, construction could get underway in 2018.

Maryland has already built interchanges along Route 29 in Howard County and in Montgomery County at Cherry Hill Road, Briggs Chaney Road, and Route 198. In 2002, plans to build four more interchanges at Fairland and Musgrove roads, Stewart Lane, Tech Road, and Greencastle Road were put on hold and the focus shifted to the Intercounty Connector. In 2013, then-Governor Martin O'Malley revived the projects.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

maryland considers building the purple line, but with less frequent service

Maryland's new transportation secretary, Pete Rahn, is looking at ways to build the Purple Line more cheaply. While changing the route or swapping out light rail for buses aren't on the table, Rahn says that less frequent service is one possibility.

purple line at east-west highway
The Purple Line could look like this. Rendering from the MTA.


Formerly the transportation secretary in Missouri and New Mexico, Rahn recently told the Washington Post he wants to take a "practical design" approach to the proposed light-rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. The $2.4 billion project already has federal and local funding, and Governor Larry Hogan has set aside some money in the state budget.

Hogan has asked Rahn to find ways to reduce costs. One way to do that, Rahn says, is to make the service less frequent. This might save money now, but it might make the Purple Line less effective while increasing costs in the future.