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Lebanese Taverna to Celebrate 35 Years in Arlington

by Morgan Fecto | July 24, 2014 at 5:25 pm | 1,077 views | No Comments

Lebanese Taverna, which began as a single storefront in Arlington operated by an immigrant couple and their five children, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with events and specials over the next two months.

On July 28 and 29 at the Westover location (5900 Washington Blvd) and Aug. 6 and 7 at Pentagon Row (1101 S. Joyce Street), Lebanese Taverna will serve dishes from its 1979 menu with the original prices to commemorate the year the restaurant opened.

The restaurant is also currently taking submissions for a social media contest, in which longtime customers can email the restaurant their favorite Lebanese Taverna memory and then vote on their favorites by liking them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A limousine will chauffeur the winners to different Lebanese Taverna locations for a five-to-six course meal, Shea said.

“We’re celebrating our uniqueness,” said Lebanese Taverna Vice President Grace Shea, the youngest child of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm. “Thirty-five years is a long time for a restaurant to be open.”

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will present a congressional proclamation of congratulations to the Abi-Najm family at a private event Friday evening, Shea said. The Westover restaurant will be open Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a kickoff event with the 1979 prices for invited guests from local civic associations and members of the public who happen to stop by.

“I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Shea said. “When my parents came here they had five kids, $500 and spoke no English.”

The Abi-Najm family came to Arlington in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Marie Abi-Najm worked as a teaching assistant and Tanios Abi-Najm did odd jobs and painted until they saved enough money to open their own restaurant in 1979, in the same storefront they still occupy just down the street from their house, Shea said.

“My dad always loved food and it was a way for him to bring a piece of Lebanon here to us,” Shea said. Her mother came from Dfoun, Lebanon, a village famous for producing chefs.

At first, Lebanese Taverna served pizza and subs and operated under “Athenian Taverna,” the name used by the previous tenants. Shea’s parents and her four siblings in high school were the only employees during the first year, causing business to suffer, she said.

In 1979, the restaurant only offered shish kabob and hummus as menu specials because they were novelties for most Arlington residents. However, their traditional food starting piquing customers’ interests after their first year in business, inspiring the Abi-Najm’s to change the restaurant’s name and put Lebanese fare on half their menu, according to Shea.

“We’d sit down for our family dinners at the restaurant and customers would say, ‘Wow, what is that? We want some of that,’” Shea said. The restaurant kept its half-Italian menu until 1983.

Once the restaurant was officially Lebanese Taverna, a second location opened in 1990 on Connecticut Avenue in D.C.  It later expanded to include the Lebanese Taverna Market in D.C., catering division, six restaurants and four cafés it has today.

(more…)

Mobile Parking Apps Now Available in Crystal City, Shirlington

by Morgan Fecto | July 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm | 754 views | No Comments

(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) Officials cut a ceremonial ribbon in Crystal City this morning to celebrate the Arlington launch of the mobile parking app Parkmobile.

At the ceremony in front of Charlie Chiang’s Restaurant, county Director of Transportation Dennis Leach and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette spoke about Parkmobile’s partnership with the county and the convenience Parkmobile will bring to residents. Parkmobile debuted in Crystal City on July 18 and in Shirlington July 17.

“People are not shy about embracing new things here,” Leach said. “I believe we’ve had 1,500 transactions so far this week in Arlington.”

Parkmobile’s mobile parking apps are available with iPhone, Android, Windows 7 and Blackberry smartphones. The county said it plans to bring Parkmobile to Arlington’s other corridors in phases, with Pentagon City in the fall, and Ballston and Clarendon by the winter. By spring 2015, Courthouse, Rosslyn, Columbia Pike and the rest of Arlington’s 5,329 metered spots are planned to have Parkmobile.

“It’s all about making it easier,” Leach told ARLnow.com this morning. “I take transit, I walk and I bike almost everywhere, but I can appreciate it for all the residents, workers and visitors who may need to drive. If I were to drive, this is a great app.”

All drivers need in order to register is a smartphone, a credit card and their license plate number, although paying at traditional meters or pay-and-display meters is still an option. Parkmobile has been in use in the District since 2010.

“Over the last 10, 20, 30 years there has been quite an amazing metamorphosis and transition here in Arlington,” Fisette said. “You have a seamless system between the District of Columbia and Arlington with a single app, just like you can take your Capital Bikeshare across the river.”

Fisette said that Parkmobile is important for Arlington and its place in the regional economy. Parkmobile became available city-wide in D.C. in 2011 and collects 56 percent of the District’s parking revenue, according to Parkmobile CEO Cherie Fuzzell. Through mists of rain at the ribbon cutting, Fuzzell and Crystal City Business Improvement District President Angela Fox also spoke of the app’s benefits.

“Parkmobile is a great solution not only for consumers, but also for the county,” Fuzzell said. “They have had a 20 percent increase in their parking revenue. Why? Because people pay if you make it easier to pay.”

Fox said Parkmobile is a perfect service to have in Crystal City because it’s in keeping with the area’s focus on accessible transportation.

“We have this original neighborhood that’s metro oriented with an airport you can walk to,” Fox said. “Anything that builds on that base of accessibility, we get excited about.”

Rental Report: Top Questions Renters Should Ask

by ARLnow.com Sponsor | July 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 540 views | No Comments

Rental Report header

Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

You found a great apartment in your budget in a great location. Then the first morning you wake up to a barking dog. You say to yourself, “I didn’t hear that dog when I was on my tour.” Now what?

Well, not much you can do after the fact, but on the front end there are several things to think about, that you might not consider. Here are our top recommendations for additional questions to ask when looking at a potential rental.

Is it noisy? Let’s face it, city living isn’t quiet. But there are some places that are noisier than others. When you look out the window, what do you see? Is there a dumpster down below? That means you may wake up to the trash truck banging and beeping a few days a week. Are you on top of some retail or restaurants? Check to make sure you don’t overlook the loading dock if you’re looking for peace and quiet. If you get a chance to talk with potential neighbors, ask them about any odd noise you might not know about. In Arlington, there is an airport, so take a listen to see if you can hear the planes, or if it is tolerable noise.

What about the heat and A/C? In some buildings, the units are on shared systems. Find out when they turn the heat on for the winter or A/C for the summer. If it isn’t shared, then is it electric, gas, or radiator? Do the apartments have window A/C units? Find out when they install/remove the units for the season. Same goes for the water heater. Does your unit have an individual water heater or is it shared?

What about odd smells and fresh air? OK, this is a strange one, but check the area around your building. Is there a water treatment plant nearby? If so, you can expect some unpleasant smells coming through the window. Are you near a power plant? What are the environmental considerations that go with that? Maybe the apartment is above a restaurant or bar. Will you like the smell of food every day? What about folks smoking outside — will it come in to your unit?

What about cell signal? It seems like anywhere in a city should have cell signal these days, but that is not necessarily true. Take a look at your phone, and make some calls. Some areas of the building may be better than others, so make sure you check in the unit you will be renting. You don’t want to have to hang off your balcony just to make a call.

This is just a short list of a few things some folks don’t think about in the excitement of finding a place they really like. Take a little extra time after you learn about the amenities and neighborhood to be sure the actual unit you are leasing is going to work for you. It can save a big headache later.

Have a rental-related question you’d like Rental Report to answer? Email it to info@urbanigloo.com.

The Right Note: Foster for the 48th

by Mark Kelly | July 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 475 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyFor voters who look for experienced public servants with a record of doing what’s right for their constituents, Dave Foster’s entry into the 48th District special election is a welcome development.

Dave Foster was twice elected by Arlingtonians to the School Board. What’s even more impressive than Foster’s electoral victories versus the Democrats’ sample ballot is that twice he was elected by his Democratic colleagues to serve as Chairman of the School Board. In other words, he was so successful in getting things done across party lines on behalf of our public schools that he was entrusted with leading the Board.

When Foster left the Board after eight years, his Democratic colleagues called him the “consummate professional” and “an exemplary public servant.” They recognized his work to reduce class size and to increase foreign language offerings in Arlington schools. Later he was tapped to serve on the Virginia Board of Education where he was elected President, and led the fight for Virginia’s No Child Left Behind waiver.

Rip Sullivan has no such record to offer. The mailing he sent out to potential Democrat firehouse primary voters was merely a laundry list of partisan priorities. Sullivan even admitted to the Blue Virginia blog that he supports a non-revenue neutral carbon tax. A carbon tax would raise our energy prices — hitting those on the lowest end of the economic ladder the hardest. Implementing an energy tax would raise out-of-pocket costs for transportation, to heat and cool our homes, and for everything we consume that requires energy to produce or transport.

Sullivan’s focus on partisan priorities like raising taxes was to the exclusion of district specific concerns. After being declared the winner of the Democratic nomination, Sullivan was asked by a reporter for the Connection whether he agreed with Dave Foster’s position on a referendum on the Columbia Pike trolley — a big issue for Arlington voters. He responded that he was going to “go to bed” rather than respond. A week later, Sullivan reiterated his support spending half a billion dollars on the trolley project, but joined Foster in support of a referendum.

Voters should be dubious of Sullivan’s campaign conversion to support for a referendum. Del. Patrick Hope, an early Sullivan backer, said he supported a referendum during his run for Congress. After losing that primary, Hope said he would not be introducing legislation in Richmond to force a referendum.

By contrast, Dave Foster stands squarely against the trolley and would be better positioned with a Republican majority in Richmond to pass a referendum. Voters can add this to Foster’s commitment to put his education experience to work for our children. And, they can count on Foster’s promise to work across the partisan divide on Medicaid reforms in the upcoming special session.

Partisan Democrats like state Sen. Barbara Favola want to make this race about promoting the progressive agenda and focusing on divisive issues. Voters, on the other hand, are tired of all the partisan posturing. They want to elect people who will focus on finding solutions.

On Aug. 19, 48th District residents can elect a candidate with a proven ability to get things done across party lines by voting for Dave Foster.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Progressive Voice: We Support Our Schools

by James Lander | July 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 642 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

James LanderArlington’s progressive vision for its public schools has been longstanding and led to remarkable successes. When schools were segregated and Virginia was known for underinvesting in public schools, Arlingtonians organized to make sure that students could attend high-quality, well-constructed and integrated schools. As a result, Arlington became an education leader in the state and the nation.

Today, we continue to invest heavily in education, to have diverse schools and school offerings, and to see students achieve remarkable results.

With our success, and likely because of that success, we now face a dramatic increase in the number of students attending our schools. Families are moving to Arlington because of the reputation of our schools. Families are remaining in Arlington even as they grow because of the positive experiences provided by our schools.

In my time as a School Board member and now as Chair, I have seen the importance of the County Board’s continued investment in our schools and promotion of policies that make it possible for our schools to thrive.

The most recent example is the County Board’s July 19th approval of a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan. That plan would provide for a 2014 school bond that would deliver over $100 million toward construction and renovation of schools that are vitally needed to respond to dramatic school enrollment growth.

I am particularly pleased that the County CIP was the result of healthy collaboration between the County Board and the School Board.

When I was first elected to the School Board in January 2010, our student population was 20,200 and our operating budget was $438.6 million. Just five years later, our student population for the 2014-2015 school year has grown to over 24,000 with an approved operating budget of $539.4 million.

This student enrollment growth of approximately 800 students per year is the equivalent of one elementary school each year. Fortunately, the County Board has used County revenue growth in ways that ensure that the schools can meet instructional needs and address the facility needs of the rapidly increasing student population.

Like our student population, few things have remained constant during my School Board tenure. Colleagues have rotated on/off of the Board and we will soon have two new colleagues. Throughout this transition the County Board has been a steadfast partner.

The County Board’s unwavering support for high-quality public school educations has helped meet steadily increasing operating and capital demands, thereby allowing APS to remain one of the best school systems in the country. As Abby Raphael, my predecessor as Chair, noted recently: “The School Board appreciates the tremendous support that the County Board and the Arlington community provide to our students and our schools. Without this support, APS could not be as successful as it is.”

I am grateful that the County Board’s July 19 action will ensure the school community’s top priority projects for elementary and middle school facilities can move forward as soon as possible.

It was just a month before, on June 16, that the School Board adopted its own CIP for 2014-2015. The FY 2014 bond request — that the County Board fully funded — includes four vital capital projects: (more…)

Peter’s Take: Board Majority Hides Projects Sacrificed for Streetcar

by Peter Rousselot | July 24, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 1,220 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotPrior to approving its latest Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a bare majority of the Arlington County Board (Fisette, Hynes, Tejada) voted to deny the public access to critical information. The information they suppressed relates to new transportation projects that are being denied funding or delayed as streetcar costs continue escalating sharply.

The vote to suppress this information comes at a time that this same majority has sanctioned a $650,000 public relations campaign at taxpayer expense to promote the streetcar.

Both actions represent desperate attempts to refloat a sinking ship.

The CIP approved by the Board on July 19 documents sharp increases in streetcar costs as a percentage of Arlington’s total capital budget.

Two years ago, in the FY 2013-2022 CIP, the Columbia Pike streetcar was projected to consume 8 percent of the total CIP and the Crystal City Streetcar 6 percent, for a CIP total of 14 percent devoted to the two streetcars combined. Today, both projects have jumped in cost, and total 19 percent of the FY 2015-2024 CIP for the two streetcars.

In other words, just two streetcar lines totaling only 7.4 miles, consume 19 percent of our total Arlington capital budget, or nearly one out of five of our proposed capital spending dollars over the next 10 years. 

In an effort to determine what new transportation projects might be sacrificed in this streetcar sinkhole, Board members Vihstadt and Garvey in June asked County staff the following question and received the following answer:

Q. If we do not build a streetcar, for what can the money planned for the streetcar be used?

A. Providing alternative projects that could be funded if the streetcar is not funded would require significant additional analysis that a majority of the Board could direct staff to undertake.

Faced with this response, Vihstadt, seconded by Garvey, made the following motion at the County Board’s July 17 CIP work session:

I move that the County Board direct the County Manager to develop and prioritize a list of all Arlington transportation projects over the next 10 years, including information as to budget amounts, funding sources and by fiscal year, that could be funded if we cease all Arlington streetcar spending now (save for legal requirements) and do not move forward with either the Columbia Pike or Route 1 Streetcar projects.

Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada voted against the motion, and the motion was defeated.

With more than half a billion dollars on the line, the County Board majority has denied Arlington voters and taxpayers critical information they need to make informed decisions.

Why are they afraid of providing this information?

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Courthouse Parking Lot Slated for Open Space

by Ethan Rothstein | July 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm | 2,059 views | No Comments

Courthouse Square Concept A Courthouse Square Concept B Courthouse Square Concept C

(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) The large surface parking lot between the Arlington County Justice Center and Courthouse Plaza appears destined to become open, green space at some point in the future.

Last night, county planners presented three concepts to the community as part of the Envision Courthouse Square outreach process. All of the concepts included using the space the surface parking lot occupies as a sort of town green, with pedestrian and bicycle paths crisscrossing the area in different patterns.

The workshop last night was the last in-person chance the community will have for significant input before staff from Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development drafts a Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, to be brought before the community in the fall and presented to the Arlington County Board this winter.

Moving forward, the county will plan on placing parking underground while “retaining minimal surface parking,” according to CPHD Principal Urban Designer and Planner Jason Beske. There are no plans for buildings on the north edge of the current parking lot to preserve the square, and 14th Street and 15th Street between Courthouse Road and N. Uhle Street will both remain open to vehicular traffic.

Three “big ideas” were brought before those in attendance, which included the Envision Courthouse Square Working Group and county staff. The first, Concept A, calls for 3.9 acres of open space, a pedestrian promenade connecting 15th and 14th Streets N. in front of the AMC Courthouse movie theater and converts 15th Street between N. Courthouse Road and Clarendon Blvd into a shared pedestrian, bike and vehicle corridor.

Concept B, pictured above in the center, calls for the pedestrian promenade to be diagonal from the current Strayer Building — viewed as a target for high-rise redevelopment — to the Verizon Plaza building adjacent to the building that contains the Gold’s Gym. This plan calls for 4.2 acres of open space and includes a pocket park between Courthouse Plaza and N. Veitch Street.

Concept C, pictured above on the right, calls for 3.15 acres of open space and a more east-west alignment of paths and streets in the design area.

The plans for building redevelopment vary significantly among the three plans. Concept A calls for the two buildings with 15th Street frontages to be redeveloped at heights of 153-180 feet for the Strayer building — at the intersection with Clarendon Blvd — and 300 feet for the Landmark Block, at the intersection of with Courthouse Road. It also calls for retail in front of the AMC theater and a new building up to 180 feet tall next to it.

Concept B flips the proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark blocks from Concept A, calls for the redevelopment of the AMC theater into a county or private building up to 180 feet tall and a three-to-five story “cultural building” at the Verizon Plaza site.

Concept C includes the most significant redevelopment: a “market shed” next to the AMC theater, the same proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark block and two, 10-12 story buildings along 14th Street N., with the option to preserve the current theater or include a separate cultural use. The Verizon Plaza would be the site for a new, 300-foot high-rise building.

“Think of these plans as a kit-of-parts,” CPHD staff wrote in its presentation last night. “All of the big ideas are open for your feedback. Feedback results will inform us of the community’s preferences as we take the next steps to combine ideas and test their feasibility. The goal is to create a single, preferred plan that carries our shared vision forward.”

CPHD officials said an online survey will be posted shortly for community members unable to attend last night to weigh in on the three concepts.

Images via Arlington CPHD

Leadership Arlington Seeks ’40 Under 40′ Nominees

by Ethan Rothstein | July 24, 2014 at 11:00 am | 851 views | No Comments

40 under 40 logo (photo via Leadership Arlington)Leadership Arlington, the nonprofit created to “enlighten, inspire and connect leaders,” is looking for nominations for its first “40 Under 40″ awards.

Nominees are not restricted to those who live and/or work in Arlington; they simply have to be from the D.C. area, be under 40 years old by the awards luncheon on Dec. 4 and “demonstrate impact through their leadership personally and/or professionally,” according to a Leadership Arlington press release.

The criteria being considered is impact on the community or the individual’s professional situation. “This event is an opportunity to show support and invest in this next generation of trailblazers,” the nomination call states.

“We are very fortunate in our community to have so many impactful professionals under the age of 40,” said Betsy Frantz, president and CEO of Leadership Arlington. ”Leadership Arlington is proud to be a forerunner in honoring this generation of trailblazers.”

The Dec. 4 luncheon will be at Army Navy Country Club (1700 Army Navy Drive). Leadership Arlington plans for this to be an annual event and “encourages self-nominations.” Those who want to nominate an individual can do so online.

Image via Leadership Arlington

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