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Moran to Host Gun Violence Forum

by Katie Pyzyk | February 27, 2013 at 5:00 pm | 2,043 views | 87 Comments

Rep. Jim Moran at the 2012 Civic Federation candidates debate(Updated at 6:05 p.m.) Rep. Jim Moran (D) has scheduled a community forum to discuss gun violence.

The forum, titled “Preventing Another Newtown: A Conversation on Gun Violence in America,” will feature a panel of experts on gun policy, public safety and mental health issues.

The following guests are slated to attend: Omar Samaha with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, retired ATF Special Agent David Chipman, Josh Horwitz with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, City of Alexandria Police Chief Earl Cook, Jonathan Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and former counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee Karen Marangi.

“From Virginia Tech to Newtown, gun violence has become far too common. Each day, 32 Americans are killed with a firearm. We must improve our laws to prevent the continuation of this horrific trend,” Moran said. “This forum is an opportunity to bring together a diverse panel of experts who will share their thoughts on a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Northern Virginians concerned over gun-related violence are invited to join the conversation.”

Members of the public are welcome to attend the forum, which will be held from 7:00-9:00 p.m. on March 11 in the Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) auditorium.

Fast, Casual Thai Restaurant Coming to Rosslyn

by Katie Pyzyk | February 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm | 1,059 views | 15 Comments

Tom Yum District to open in RosslynIf you’re looking for a quick bite, but prefer Asian to Chipotle, a new restaurant coming to Rosslyn may be the answer.

The owners of T.H.A.I. in Shirlington are launching a restaurant called Tom Yum District at 1515 Wilson Blvd., which will focus on on fast, made to order dishes. Co-owner Aulie Bunyarataphan and her husband Mel Oursinsiri have been planning this for some time.

“We are very excited about this one. We have been working on this concept for more than two years,” said Bunyarataphan. “It’s the first Thai restaurant around in this format.”

The restaurant will be geared toward customers who want Thai food without having to engage in a full sit-down experience. The menu will feature standard rice and noodle dishes with Bunyarataphan’s special sauces, along with some of her specialty dishes.

“Thai food can be easy and healthy and top quality, fast and fresh,” she said. “By the time you get to the cashier, the food will be ready.”

Initially, customers will be able to eat in or carry out, but the plan is to add online ordering and delivery in the future. Construction is underway at the site and the owners expect a late spring opening, hopefully in late May or early June.

Study: Higher Pay for Arlington Workers with Clearance

by Katie Pyzyk | February 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm | 1,840 views | 28 Comments

Money (file photo)(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) As the threat of sequestration looms, government workers’ salaries are under the microscope. A new study suggests that although compensation for professionals with security clearance has dropped in most parts of the country, it’s a different story in Arlington.

According to a study by ClearanceJobs.com, security-cleared professionals across the country experienced a three percent drop in compensation in 2012, with total compensation averaging nearly $88,500. Arlington bucked the nationwide trend and instead experienced a three percent increase, bringing average total compensation to more than $106,100.

The study states, “The compensation gulf between those in the D.C.-metro area and other parts of the U.S. is widening.”

Workers at the CIA received the highest compensation, averaging about $121,400. Those at the Department of State came in second, averaging nearly $108,000. Both entities’ workers experienced about a two percent increase in compensation. NSA employees rounded out the top three at about $107,000, but didn’t see an increase.

Twenty-eight percent of Arlington security professionals reported concern over the possibility of losing contracts or funding. That’s only up two percentage points over the previous year, despite the current worries over possible pay cuts due to sequestration.

ClearanceJobs.com gathered data from more than 16,300 respondents in 29 states and the District of Columbia between October 30, 2012 and January 21, 2013. Participants had to have a current, active federal security clearance and be currently employed to be included in the results.

The study included an interactive map, which is available online, showing the average compensation for security professionals in each state.

Apartment Development Approval Deferred

by Katie Pyzyk | February 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm | 1,033 views | 32 Comments

New site plan for Pierce Queen ApartmentsApproval for a high rise development in the Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood has been put on hold until the County Board receives more information about the plan.

Bozzuto Development Company had submitted a proposal for a large scale project in the 1600 block of N. 16th Street. It would involve redeveloping the five buildings that make up Pierce Queen Apartments; three of the buildings would be razed and replaced with a new 12-story apartment tower, and the other two buildings would be preserved and renovated. In total, the buildings would house more than 190 units.

The county’s Site Plan Review Committee raised several issues with the proposal during a January meeting. Problem areas included the proposed building bulk, lack of open space, above-grade parking, proposed locations of electrical switchboxes and the lack of a public art contribution. Additionally, concerns arose regarding the applicant’s request for Affordable Housing Investment Funds (AHIF) for the 76 affordable units and the anticipated request for competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).

Earlier this month, the developer submitted a revised proposal that addressed a number of the issues. The developer has agreed to measures such as installing public art, eliminating above-grade parking and re-designing an interior courtyard. However, the AHIF concerns remain a sticking point.

The staff report says the developer didn’t propose a potential Tenant Assistance Fund and no affordability commitment period had been submitted. Staff also reported that no official AHIF application had been received, but the developer is seeking a county investment ranging from $6 million to $9.5 million. The developer had presented a plan indicating each market unit would cost $365,000 to develop and the affordable units would each cost $455,000 to develop. That exceeds the VHDA development cost limit of $350,000 per unit, although sometimes exceptions can be made. Concerns also exist in the way the developer plans to repay the AHIF and the time frame for doing so.

Existing Pierce Queen ApartmentsCounty staff recommended deferring the issue until May but the Board voted unanimously to defer until March 11. That date was chosen in an attempt to approve the plan before the March 15 tax credit application deadline. Board members mentioned the unusual circumstances, but stressed that there’s no guarantee the plan would receive approval in time. The applicant still must prove that all contingencies have been adequately met.

“If this is going to work it’s going to have to be all hands on deck working really hard,” said Board member Jay Fisette. “I hope we can get there.”

Although there’s a push to get the proposal handled quickly, Board member Mary Hynes highlighted the need to still be thorough. Because the process has been so rushed to meet the deadline, she said everyone from Board members to county staff working on the matter are still fuzzy on how the specifics will work out. Board members aren’t interested in moving forward, regardless of tax credit deadlines, if the plan isn’t solid.

“We don’t have a clear understanding of how all the bits and pieces are going to fit together. It’s important for us on the Board that our staff is confident,” said Hynes. “Doing affordable housing in new construction is expensive. And doing it on the Metro is even more expensive. We have to do a lot of due diligence around this to make sure the taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars. I think we need to give this enough time to be sure.”

Forecast: Tysons Won’t Trump Arlington

by ARLnow.com | February 27, 2013 at 12:05 pm | 2,067 views | 15 Comments

Arlington Economic Development real estate forecast 2013

(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) BRAC and federal cuts are a drag on Arlington’s real estate market, but Tysons Corner will not be as competitive as some in the county fear, according to Arlington Economic Development (AED).

The county agency gave its annual real estate market review and forecast to a group of developers, property owners and local leaders on Monday. This year’s presentation was titled “Silver Line-ings,” after the new Metro line that is expected to open within a year and bring increased economic development to Tysons.

“I’m not freaked by Tysons Corner,” said AED Director Terry Holzheimer, adopting a bit of youth lingo.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a big negative from Tysons,” he continued. “Arlington will continue to be a better place. Arlington will continue to have better product. Arlington will continue to be highly competitive to Tysons Corner.”

Holzheimer said Tysons will “never catch up” with the kind of walkable, high-density, high-amenity urban corridors Arlington enjoys, and will continue to suffer from traffic problems. Plus, Holzheimer pointed out that commercial property taxes in Tysons are higher than Arlington.  He said there’s “not a chance” of Tysons becoming the region’s “new downtown” — as proclaimed by some — in the next 20 years.

The reflection of a crane seen on a building in Arlington (photo by Wolfkann)“Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will Tysons be,” he said.

Still, Arlington is facing challenges.

Office vacancies are up as the federal government makes cuts, plays hardball with office rental rates, and as BRAC continues to pull military offices out of Arlington. While BRAC was supposed to end last year, Holzheimer said Department of Defense office moves are expected to continue for the next three years, on top of the 17,000 employees that have already moved out of Arlington due to BRAC.

“It’s not even close to being done,” he said. Another 65 office leases in 25 Arlington buildings are expected to be impacted by BRAC in the next few years.

As a result of BRAC and federal cuts — “this malaise we’re in” region-wide — Holzheimer said office vacancy in Arlington has increased to 16.1 percent. Whereas Arlington usually has a lower-than-average vacancy rate for large central business districts (we’re between Boston and Houston in terms of office square footage), he described the county’s current vacancy rate as “middle of the pack” for the first time in a long time.

Interestingly, office rent in Arlington has remained high. The average per-square-foot “asking rate” is $41.13 in Arlington, compared to $18.93 in Dallas, $26.10 in Philadelphia, $31.54 in Chicago and $48.52 in the District of Columbia.

(more…)

DCA Metro Station Closed This Weekend

by Katie Pyzyk | February 27, 2013 at 9:55 am | 503 views | No Comments

Metro logoGetting to Reagan National Airport will prove more of a challenge this weekend. The airport’s metro station will be closed due to track work.

WMATA reports the closure is for NTSB-recommended track circuit module replacement, rail joint elimination, tie renewal and other various track improvements.

Both Blue and Yellow Line trains will operate in two segments. Blue Line trains will run between Crystal City and Largo Town Center, and between Braddock Road and Franconia-Springfield every 16 minutes from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., and every 20 minutes from 9:00 p.m. until system closing. Yellow Line trains will run between Crystal City and Mount Vernon Square, and between Braddock Road and Huntington every 16 minutes from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m., and every 20 minutes from 9:00 p.m. until system closing.

There will be two routes of free shuttle buses replacing train service between Crystal City and Braddock Road. Express buses will operate between Crystal City and Braddock Road only. Local buses running between Crystal City and Braddock Road will serve Reagan National Airport. Customers using the shuttles should allow about 15 minutes of extra travel time.

The track work and closures will begin at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, March 1, and will continue through closing on Sunday, March 3. More information about track work throughout the system this weekend can be found on WMATA’s website.

Morning Notes

by Katie Pyzyk | February 27, 2013 at 8:55 am | 2,215 views | 53 Comments

Signs of spring

Rabbit Closing — Just days after telling ARLnow.com he had reduced hours to lunch only, the owner of Rabbit Salad and Grill (3035 Clarendon Blvd) in Clarendon has apparently decided to completely call it quits. The restaurant will close on Friday to make way for Fat Shorty’s, a beer and sausage restaurant. The new restaurant is expected to open in early April. [Washingtonian]

Carlee Becomes Charlotte City Manager — Former Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee has taken a new job as the city manager of Charlotte, NC. Carlee had worked for Arlington County for 29 years, but left in 2009 for a job with the International City/County Management Association. Carlee’s new salary is reported to be $290,000 per year, a 15 percent increase over his predecessor’s salary. [Charlotte Observer]

Chuck Todd to Give Marymount Commencement Address — Chuck Todd, Chief White House Correspondent for NBC News, will give Marymount University’s commencement address this spring. He’ll speak at D.A.R. Constitution Hall on May 19, the same day the University will award Todd the honorary degree Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his career in journalism.

Concern Over Unlicensed Cabs — County Board members voiced concerns about reports of unlicensed taxis operating in Arlington. They asked county staff to investigate the issue and report back. The Board oversees the county’s taxi business by allotting a fixed number of operating certificates and regulating fares. [Sun Gazette]

Sun Gazette Office Moving — Today is moving day for The Sun Gazette. The paper’s office is being relocated from Springfield to 6704 Old McLean Road in McLean. The move is intended to put advertising and newsroom offices in the heart of the paper’s coverage territory, which stretches from Arlington west to Great Falls and then south to Vienna and Oakton. [Sun Gazette]

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