(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The cafe space in the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street) is likely to remain vacant for even longer, after Arlington County is planning to terminate another signed lease.
After signing coffee shop and eatery “Root” to a 10-year-lease in January, the Arlington County Board will vote this weekend to terminate that lease. County staff say the cafe’s owner, Alami Abderrahim, said he could no longer operate the restaurant after paying for an emergency surgery for his mother.
Root is the second cafe the county had signed to fill the restaurant space, and the second that has had to back out. Pan American Cafe was originally signed as the tenant for the 1,875-square-foot space in summer 2013, but asked out of its lease that November, citing family and personal health reasons. The County Board terminated its lease in April 2014.
It took nine months to sign another restaurant tenant in Root, and again took less than six months before the tenant backed out. Abderrahim never received keys to the space, the county said, and never paid his rent or security deposits. Staff says he has not returned calls since March.
If the County Board signs off on the lease termination this week, staff will again look to court a tenant for the cafe space it envisioned as a healthy, fast options for users of the community center, which opened in September 2013.
When Abderrahim signed the lease in January, the county estimated Root would open in late 2015, partly because of nearly $300,000 in HVAC services the space still needs. There’s no estimate for when it could sign another tenant, or when that would open.
Downed Wires Close the Pike — Columbia Pike was closed in both directions between S. Greenbrier Street and S. Dinwiddie Street this morning due to a tree that brought down live wires. The road was expected to remain closed for several hours. [WTOP]
Planning Still Underway for Pike Transit — Columbia Pike residents are becoming impatient for Arlington County to complete the planning of new transit options for the corridor, following the cancellation of the streetcar project. However, a plan is not expected until 2016. County Board member John Vihstadt, who helped to scuttle the streetcar project, told a public forum last week that he wants the county to speed up its processes “but frankly I don’t know if we can.” [Washington Post]
Arlington Mill Project Wins Award — The Arlington Mill Community and Senior Center has won a 2015 Urban Land Institute Washington Trends Award for “Excellence in Housing Development.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool by Brian Allen
Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) held a roundtable discussion on the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act today at Arlington Mill Community Center.
McAuliffe and Beyer joined federal Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to host about a dozen healthcare professionals, customers, legislators and healthcare business leaders and talk about the impacts of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, and the future of Medicaid expansion in Virginia.
“This is Virginia, the birthplace of our nation in 1607,” McAuliffe said. “We have a responsibility [to expand health insurance coverage].”
Dels. Patrick Hope and Alfonso Lopez were in attendance, as were state Sen. Barbara Favola and Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada. Hope pointed out that an expansion of Medicaid in Virginia would immediately cover 5,000 Arlington residents.
“We have got to solve this problem in Virginia,” Hope said.
Much of the discussion centered around the impact felt by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, not the absence of an expanded Medicaid. Beyer told a story about a worker at his car dealership who, before the ACA’s passage, couldn’t put his sick wife on health insurance because she had a pre-existing condition. The ACA made it illegal for insurance companies to deny insurance based on pre-existing conditions.
“I really think the Affordable Care Act will be remembered as the most significant moral legislation of the early 21st century,” Beyer said. “There was the Emancipation Proclamation, women’s suffrage, Social Security and now the Affordable Care Act.”
Burwell touted numbers that she say prove the ACA has started to accomplish its goals. Since 2010, 16.4 million fewer Americans are uninsured, she said, and hospitals saved $7.4 billion in 2014 in uncompensated care costs — what happens when a patient cannot afford to pay their medical bills.
Still, Burwell said, more than 60 percent of the uncompensated care savings came from states that have approved Medicaid expansion. That’s money McAuliffe said would go back into the Virginia economy if the legislature were to approve his recommendation.
“Talking to governors from states that have expanded, it’s not only given them healthcare, it’s a huge job creator,” he said.
McAuliffe pushed hard to get the Republican-controlled General Assembly to pass Medicaid expansion during its legislative session, but his attempts failed — partly, he said, because of GOP legislators’ fears of being beaten by a Tea Party candidate in a primary. Next year, McAuliffe believes the legislature will be more willing to close the coverage gap.
A single-vehicle accident on S. Arlington Mill Drive ended with the car rolling down an embankment and ending up on its roof.
The accident happened just after 2:00 p.m. The driver of a newer-model Acura was heading down Arlington Mill Drive, near 9th Street S., when she somehow lost control of the vehicle, drove over a curb and down the steep embankment.
The car ended up on its roof, just steps from Four Mile Run and a popular pedestrian path. Amazingly, the driver was unhurt and was able to crawl out of the passenger side of the vehicle on her own power as police and a fire department rescue squad were arriving.
Police on the scene said they were unsure exactly how the accident happened. A flatbed tow truck is currently on scene, trying to figure out how to get the car up from the embankment.
No word yet on whether the driver will face any charges. The accident happened less than a block from the Arlington Mill Community Center and the site of an earlier water main break.
The Board is scheduled to vote on the lease at its Saturday meeting. The lease calls for rent of the 1,875 square foot restaurant space inside the community center to start at $43,200 annually, or $23.04 per square foot. That will rise to more than $30 per square foot by the end of the lease.
The tenant is Alami Abderrahim, a former manager at Lebanese Taverna and owner of the now-closed Moroccan restaurant Souk on H Street NE in D.C.
“Mr. Abderrahim is a cooking enthusiast and has a cooking channel on YouTube,” county staff note in a report to the Board. “He currently owns and operates a women’s clothing store in the District, Tangerine Boutique, which he plans to continue operating.”
At Arlington Mill, Abderrahim plans to open a cafe called “Root,” which will serve “fresh and healthy Mediterranean cuisine” along with “coffee and coffee-based drinks, tea, soup, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, juices, breakfast, various entrees, and a small selection of pastries.”
The coffee, breakfast and lunch/dinner menus for Root have already been posted online. The restaurant will front Columbia Pike on the Dinwiddie Street level of the building.
The lease calls for Abderrahim to pay utility costs and real estate taxes, but the county will foot the bill for $290,000 worth of necessary construction, including a new HVAC system, vents and utility equipment.
The county estimates the restaurant will open at some point during the latter half of 2015.
The former tenant of the space, Pan American Bakery and Cafe, was released from its lease last year. The county said the owners backed out of the lease “because of personal and family health problems.”
A teen boy has been severely injured in a two-story story fall at the Arlington Mill Community Center.
A witness said the teenager had climbed on the other side of a railing two stories off the ground to do “pull-ups showing off for his girlfriend” when he lost his grip and “fell hard on his back.”
He was transported to the trauma center at Inova Fairfax Hospital with life-threatening injuries. Another witness at the scene, who did not see the fall but saw the aftermath, said the teen was conscious but “in shock” after the fall.
Police are investigating the incident. One of the teen’s friends caught the fall on video and accompanied him to the hospital, police told ARLnow.com at the scene.
The Arlington County Board is expected to approve a proposal to create an open air market in the plaza of the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street) at its meeting this Saturday.
The market, if approved, would take place from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and be run by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. The Arlington Mill plaza, in the middle of its first summer since the community center opened last fall, is already hosting half of CPRO’s outdoor summer movies, including showing several Spanish-language films.
CPRO already operates one farmers market on the east end of the Pike, next to the Rite Aid parking lot (2820 Columbia Pike), but CPRO Executive Director Takis Karantonis has spoken about expanding the use of public spaces all along the Pike to engage the community.
“We try to think of how to activate as much public space as possible,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com last month. “We want to do many small events that strengthen the idea of Columbia Pike as one corridor.”
Karantonis said the market will focus on “fresh vegetables and produce” and will start small. If approved as expected, Karantonis expects the first market to be held on July 30.
“The western end of the Pike has had less than favored access to fresh food and choices in general,” he said. “We want to remediate that. We want to have a farmer’s market that caters to a large population that needs more affordable choices, so we will try our best to make it as affordable as possible.”
The proposal is on the County Board’s consent agenda, meaning it will be approved without discussion unless a Board member has an issue. CPRO anticipates seven or eight vendors per week this summer, but applied for permission for up to 10 vendor tents. The land is owned by Arlington County, so the Board must also approving licensing it to CPRO for use during the market.
The market is proposed to operate until the end of November during its first year, and to operate year-round after that. The Board is voting on a one-year open-air permit, with the option to review and renew after the year is over.
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) is bringing back outdoor movies in Penrose Square every Saturday from this week (June 21) through August 30. This year, CPRO also will offer movies every other Thursday in the plaza of the new Arlington Mill Community Center, starting tonight and running through September 11.
CPRO is trying out something different at Arlington Mill by offering a couple of Spanish movies subtitled in English, and vice versa. The push for diversity in the movie selection isn’t just for Spanish-speaking cultures. CPRO Executive Director Takis Karantonis notes the movie “The Visitor” deals with issue of immigrating to the United States from Africa and the Middle East.
“We really are very interested in bringing movies from the many cultures we have along Columbia Pike,” said Karantonis. “We will test to see how it works. We realize not everybody is happy with subtitles all of the time, so we will collect feedback and adapt according. Our goal is to make the movies as linguistically accessible as possible.”
The Arlington Mill movie schedule follows:
- June 19 — La Misma Luna (Spanish subtitles)
- July 3 — Life of Pi
- July 17 — No se Aceptan Devoluciones (English subtitles)
- July 31 — The Visitor
- August 14 — Sofia y el Terco (Spanish subtitles)
- August 28 — El Estudiante (English subtitles)
- September 11 — Avatar
Below is the schedule for movies at Penrose Square:
- June 21 — Mama Mia!
- June 28 — The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- July 5 — Sideways
- July 12 — Inception
- July 19 — Notting Hill
- July 26 — Little Miss Sunshine
- August 2 — Slumdog Millionaire
- August 9 — Before Sunset
- August 23 — The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- August 30 — Gravity
The County Board on Saturday voted to release Pan American Bakery and Cafe from its seven-year lease at Arlington Mill. Rent on the 1,875 square foot retail location, on the ground floor of the community center, was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term.
The eatery was supposed to serve healthy fare, along with coffee, gelato and salteñas.
The owners of the restaurant, which has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike and at 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria, asked the county to terminate the lease “because of personal and family health problems.” One owner’s mother, who lives in Bolivia, was said to be seriously ill, and the other owner has been battling two serious illnesses, according to the staff report.
County staff “continues to pursue a replacement tenant,” but the county is not projecting any lease revenue in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) hosted an information briefing this morning on how low-income residents can file their taxes for free.
At the new Arlington Mill Community Center, Moran spoke briefly to a crowd of representatives from local nonprofits like Offender Aid and Restoration, AHC and from staffers at Arlington’s Department of Human Services, extolling the benefits of FreeFile, the free tax filing available to those who make $58,000 a year or less.
“The FreeFile program is a terrific example of how government and private businesses work together to help families take control of their finances,” Moran told the crowd of about 30. “Seventy percent of taxpayers in this country are eligible to file taxes for free.”
After Moran spoke, representatives from the IRS and the Intuit Tax Freedom Project walked those in attendance — at least two of whom wanted to electronically file their taxes on the spot — through the process. The talk was focused on not only saving low-income families money when filing, but making sure they understand potential refund money they’re entitled to.
“The Earned Income Tax Credit is the No. 1 poverty-fighting instrument in the world,” IRS Senior Tax Specialist Loren Johnson said.
Moran told ARLnow.com after his talk that despite the substantial average wealth of his constituents, he is still focused on making sure the financially struggling residents of the 8th Congressional District are as informed as possible two weeks before the April 15 filing deadline.
“We have thousands of people eligible for free filing who work hard, and they ought to be able to keep as much of their income as the law allows,” Moran said. “The representatives of the organizations here can now interpret what they learned to their constituents.”
The bakery was announced as the food service tenant for the center this past summer. As we reported at this time, the 1,875 square foot location on the center’s ground floor was to serve healthier foods, specialty coffee, gelato and salteñas.
Rent on the seven-year lease was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term. For reasons as of yet unknown — its owners could not be reached for comment — Pan American is now trying to back out of the lease.
“We have recently received a request from Pan American Bakery asking to terminate their lease,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman told ARLnow.com. “Ultimately, this decision whether or not to terminate the lease will be made by the County Board as they approved the lease. There is no date set for this review by the County Board. We are currently exploring alternative options in the interim.”
No word yet on what might replace Pan American at Arlington Mill. The bakery has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike in Arlington and 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria.
In announcing the bakery as Arlington Mill’s restaurant tenant in July, county officials said its owners were chosen because of their “business experience, local presence, financial strength, willingness to accept the county’s monetary terms, and readiness to proceed.”
The community center will holding an open house on Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7.
Disclosure: Arlington County is advertising the Arlington Mill Community Center open house on ARLnow.com
Board Approves Paid Parking at Arlington Mill Center — The Arlington County Board has approved a plan to have drivers pay for parking longer than 4 hours at the new Arlington Mill Community Center. The plan, approved by a vote of 3-2 in a special Board session, is intended to discourage commuters from using the center’s parking garage. Chris Zimmerman and Board Chair Walter Tejada voted against the plan, arguing that parking should be free at all times. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Seeks Better Bike Map — Arlington County is asking for public input into its effort to design a better bike map of the county. Bike Arlington has created a short survey for local cyclists. The survey will remain open until Sept. 17. [Greater Greater Washington]
Old Bike Shop Profiled — The Old Bike Shop, which opened in January at 2647 N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park, was recently profiled as part of an Arlington Independent Media student video project. “I sell what I think is good,” said owner Larry Behery, of his bike “recyclery.” [YouTube]
The $36 million Arlington Mill Community Center is only weeks away from opening.
County Board Chairman Walter Tejada and county staff members gave members of the media a preview tour Monday afternoon, showcasing the county’s newest community investment.
Arlington Mill’s construction “will definitely be under budget,” according to George May, Department of Environmental Services bureau chief for facilities design and construction, and the five-story, 67,000-square-foot building will start hosting programs Sept. 3, and hold a grand opening Sept. 21. The project’s expenditures are at about $35 million, May said.
Located at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street, the community center sits at a corner of Columbia Pike where there once stood a Safeway. Purchased by the county in 1996, the land remain unused for years while the economy crashed and the county had to reconfigure its plans for a community center in the area.
“It took a huge effort,” Tejada said. “When the economy tanked, it looked like it might not move forward and the community was very disappointed.”
Tejada had on a perpetual smile during the tour, seeing years of negotiations and false starts come to fruition. He was especially excited at the foosball table, which was covered by a piece of cardboard and he gleefully removed to spin the handles.
The facility will be free and open to the public from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturdays and 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. Sundays.
The only uses that will require fees are the fitness center and the parking garage after four hours. It was Tejada’s hope that the garage be completely free, but, in a controversial decision, he and county staff compromised on four hours of free parking, to prevent the garage from becoming a “haven for commuters,” according to the Sun Gazette.
The gymnasium has two full basketball courts and lines painted for volleyball and pickleball, which Facility Manager Rob Carter said was the most-requested activity in community meetings.
Arlington Mill also has a satellite office of the Arlington County Employment Center, classrooms, multipurpose rooms available to reserve, a room for the Project Family service and a rooftop garden. The center will have WiFi and, on the first floor, Pan American Bakery and Café. However, the bakery won’t be open for a few months after the center itself opens.
Next door, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is still in construction on its apartment building, on land leased from the county. The window to apply for the waiting list for the building opens today and closes Saturday, Aug. 31. The fourth floor of the center is currently unoccupied, and is part of 9,900 square feet of the facility that is designated for future use.
When asked what he would tell critics who say Arlington Mill has been a vanity project, Tejada responded, “I would invite them to come here and meet the diverse people who will use this center, and then we can chat them up.”
Construction on the Arlington Mill Community Center along Columbia Pike is expected to wrap up early next month, with recreational classes planned to start in early September and a planned ribbon-cutting on Sept. 28.
While it hasn’t opened yet, Arlington County has just given residents a taste of what they’ll get when the center opens its doors. The county posted a host of photos to Flickr Tuesday morning, previewing the new $36 million facility. It includes a basketball court, conference rooms, an outdoor plaza, a green roof, gathering places and more.
In addition to the recreational facilities, Pan American Bakery will be moving into the space in the fall with a full-service café on the ground floor.
Photos via Flickr
Arlington Mill Community Center Modifications Approved — The County Board approved modifications to the Arlington Mill Community Center project that are being called safety and utility upgrades. The county will use already approved project reserve funds for improvements such as parking garage security doors, an in-building wireless system antenna to aid first responder communication and a revised design for the intersection at 9th Street S. and Arlington Mill Drive. As reported last week, a Pan American Bakery and Café will open in the structure. Construction is on track to finish by early August, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 28. [Arlington County]
Arlington Receives Funding to Fight Childhood Obesity — The Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth has granted more than $36,000 to the county to fight childhood obesity and promote healthy living. This is the second year of a two-year grant. The money will help continue to fund community gardens, healthy school vending machine options and active recess. [Arlington County]
APS Hiring Hundreds of Staff Members — More than 260 full time and part time employees have been hired ahead of the Arlington Public Schools 2013-2014 year. That’s about two-thirds of the more than 350 open slots APS aims to fill. Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy expects to be fully staffed by the beginning of the school year. [Sun Gazette]
Alexandria Approves BRT Station Design — Alexandria approved the design for its Route 1 Bus Rapid Transitway stations. The seven stations include real-time bus arrival displays and will cost about $200,000 apiece. Construction of the bus dedicated lanes in the middle of Route 1 began in July 2012 and is expected to finish late this year, with the line becoming operational early next year. The BRT will eventually cover a five mile stretch to connect the Braddock Road Metro station with the Pentagon City metro station. The Arlington portion of the line is expected to open in summer or fall of 2014. [Del Ray Patch]
Father of Deceased Skateboarder Found Dead — Friends and family of 18-year-old John Malvar — a Washington-Lee High School student who died following a skateboarding accident — were supposed to gather at a memorial service for the teen on Saturday, but his father never showed up. Several friends visited the man’s apartment and had a maintenance man unlock the door, where they found George Malvar dead on his bed of natural causes. After learning of George Malvar’s death, the friends and family decided to continue on with the memorial service for his son. [Washington Post]
Snake Causes Power Outage — More than 10,000 Arlington and Alexandria residents experienced a power outage on Saturday night and Dominion says it was caused by a snake. The reptile apparently slithered into some electrical equipment and knocked out electricity at a substation on Four Mile Run. Power was restored by Sunday morning. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Christopher Skillman