Advanced Towing Featured on GMA — Complaints against Arlington’s Advanced Towing have gone national, again. This time, ABC’s Good Morning America ran a feature on “predatory towing,” featuring video of Advanced from local station WJLA. The video shows a car being towed from a shopping center lot on Columbia Pike after two women parked there and walked to a restaurant outside the shopping center. The tow was reportedly facilitated by a “spotter” in an unmarked car. [ABC News – WARNING: Auto-play video]
Fisette to Propose Towing Changes — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette says he will recommend changes to the county’s Towing Advisory Board to “address complaints about the process.” The County is also going to consider requiring commercial property owners to sign off on each tow. However, Fisette says he will not propose outlawing towing “spotters.” Fisette said it’s not the government’s role to tell tow companies how aggressively they can enforce legal trespass towing. [WTOP]
Washingtonian: Arlington Utopia No More? — “Recent developments in Arlington suggest that its time as an urbanist’s utopia might be doomed,” writes Benjamin Freed on Washingtonian Magazine’s website. Freed cites the closing of Artisphere, the cancellation of Arlington’s streetcar project and, most recently, the indefinite postponement of Fresh Bikes’ Tuesday Night Rides. [Washingtonian]
Arlington Company Files for IPO — Ballston-based Evolent Health, developers of an electronic healthcare data platform, have filed for a $100 million initial public stock offering. Evolent has chosen the NYSE ticker symbol EVH. [DCInno]
Update: Tuesday Night Rides are expected to resume in June after organizer Scott McAhren admitted he submitted the special events permit less than two weeks before May 5.
(Earlier) Driver complaints have pushed Arlington County to reconsider the future of Tuesday Night Rides, the weekly mass-cycling event in Ballston Tuesday evenings during the summer, according to the ride’s organizer.
Steve McAhren, the owner of Fresh Bikes on Wilson Blvd between N. Pollard and Quincy Streets, has organized the weekly rides since May 2006. When they started, he said, there were just 15-20 cyclists participating.
By 2010, as many as 500 people would come to ride up and down their route, primarily along Military Road, and McAhren had a weekly permit with the county and paid for the expense of a police escort.
McAhren told ARLnow.com this afternoon that he reached out to the county earlier this year to make sure the permit would be renewed again, and the county staff told him the permit was unlikely to be renewed.
“[Special events staff] said there’s almost a zero percent chance we’re going to approve it every week again,” McAhren said. “In the past, they just kind of rubber-stamped it because the county was so pro-cycling.”
McAhren said he agreed to reduce the rides to once a month, but he said the county was planning to still put the permit’s renewal before the County Board, and asked him if he could move the time to the weekends to reduce traffic impacts.
“It became kind of a critical mass thing,” McAhren said. “Long story short, they got a few complaints last season and I think they got six complaints over the last month from people who remember the ride from last year. It’s the kind of stuff I can’t really believe would affect their decision.”
County staff did not immediately return requests for comment this afternoon.
McAhren sent an email to the Tuesday Night Rides group at about 1:00 p.m. and told them to contact the county and post on this website advocating for the county to approve its permit renewal.
“If we can get 1,000 people saying that they like the ride and want to keep it,” he said, “hopefully that will outweigh the handful of complaints.”
The rides have run at 6:30 p.m. every Tuesday from the first Tuesday in May — which would be tonight — to about mid-September. Since they’ve grown, Fresh Bikes has continued to offer them for free and has served burritos and played music outside their shop, where the ride begins and ends.
Once the rides started to get police support — and the police were very supportive of the rides back in 2010, McAhren pointed out — they grew in popularity.
“Word got out around the Beltway and we had people come all the way from Maryland for the ride,” McAhren said.
Two cyclists were sent to the hospital during a ride last May, he said, the only major injury they’ve had since the rides began eight years ago.
Just because the ride has been officially postponed doesn’t mean Ballston drivers have no more cyclists to navigate around this evening — while the police escort and official store support will not be in place tonight, McAhren said he believes hundreds of cyclists will continue the ride on their own.
“The ride’s going to happen anyways, all that’s really going to happen is it’s not going to be sanctioned by me or a police escort,” he said. “Unless lightning strikes right at 6:30 p.m. there are going to be 200 cyclists in Ballston, and it will be even more unsafe.”
More Details in Aurora Highlands Slaying — Investigators have sent hairs found in the hands of murder victim Bonnie Black to a lab for DNA testing. Police have also thoroughly searched the house of Black’s estranged husband, confiscating items like a Swiss Army knife, computers and a hair brush. [Washington Post]
DCA Terminal Proposal Unveiled — Officials have unveiled a $800 million plan to build a new commuter aircraft terminal at Reagan National Airport. The terminal would be built to the north of the existing terminals, replacing a headquarters building and a hangar. Currently, 5,000 commuter jet passengers a day use a single gate and are bussed to their planes. [InsideNova]
Silver Line Phase 2 Delayed — The second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is delayed by just over a year, officials announced Monday. The Silver Line is now not expected to reach Dulles Airport until late 2019 or 2020. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is building the Silver Line, blames project changes intended to enhance safety. [NBC Washington]
Ballston Tech Firm Acquired — Ballston-based Applied Predictive Technologies has been bought by MasterCard for $600 million. The company “uses cloud-based analytics to help clients measure marketing, merchandising and operations efforts.” [Bloomberg]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The approval process for Ballston Common Mall’s massive renovation plans is still months away, but many stores are likely to close after the end of the year.
Forest City, which owns the mall, has coordinated leases for many of their shops on the mall’s interior to expire by the end of this year. This would pave the way for the mall’s renovation in 2016 once it’s approved, according to spokesman Gary McManus.
“We are currently in the process of positioning the mall for this demolition period by steadily vacating store units by the end of this year that will be impacted by early phases of demolition/redevelopment activity,” McManus told ARLnow.com in an email.
“To that end,” he continued, “we decided more than a year ago to institute lease terms for many of these store tenants that would not stretch into 2016 in order to give us the flexibility to start on the site work sooner than later, once the approvals process has been completed.”
McManus couldn’t specify which stores would be closing because of ongoing negotiations, but he said every business with an outside entrance will remain open throughout the entire renovation. That means Macy’s, Regal Cinemas, Rock Bottom Brewery, Noodles & Co., Panera Bread, Sport&Health Club and the CVS Pharmacy will be able to stay open, but everything else could be on the chopping block.
Forest City submitted three different site plan amendments with Arlington County last summer: one to renovate the mall’s interior, another to construct a 393 unit, 29-story residential tower with ground floor retail at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and N. Randolph Street, and a third to renovate the office building above the mall.
All of those applications are under staff review and no dates have been set for meetings of the Site Plan Review Committee, the Arlington Planning Commission or the County Board. While many site plan amendments take within 12 months to work through the process, the grand scope of Forest City’s plans dictate a longer review period, county planning staff said.
“The timeline has been due to the nature and complexity of the proposal,” Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Gina Wimpey said in an email. ” We want to ensure that, given that there are three separate applications for the redevelopment of the block that are interrelated, an appropriate review process is determined.”
McManus said he can’t speculate on a development timetable until Forest City has its plans approved, but he said it will go before the Board “hopefully by late 2015.”
Before that happens, Forest City will be selling national retailers on the future of Ballston Common Mall — which will be rebranded, but, McManus said, may not carry the previously circulated “Ballston Center” moniker — at industry conventions, in particular the ICSC conference in Las Vegas.
“Many retailers not currently located in the mall have expressed excitement and interest in learning more about our plans at this event,” McManus said. “So overall, the redevelopment plans for Ballston Common are on track and proceeding smoothly. This is a complex process and we are very excited about the anticipated results. Believe me when I say that no one is more eager to complete the redevelopment process at Ballston Common than Forest City Washington.”
Manhattan Bagel, which has served bagels, coffee and sandwiches to Ballston for more than a decade, will close its doors after this weekend.
The small shop at 4201 Wilson Blvd remained a bustle of activity this morning, when the family who owns the franchise told ARLnow.com that they had “lost the lease” and were closing for good.
According to emails from customers, the bagel shop’s business has continued to thrive despite Dunkin Donuts opening up in the same building, two storefronts over, last summer.
The shop’s last day will be Sunday, April 26. The closest Manhattan Bagel franchise is in Vienna.
Australian Restaurant Coming to Clarendon — Oz, a new Australian restaurant, will be opening in the former La Tagliatella space in Clarendon late this summer. The restaurant is owned by Australian native Michael Darby, co-founder of Monument Realty, and his wife Ashley Darby, the 2011 Miss District of Columbia winner. [Washington Business Journal]
New Ballston Apartment Project in the Works — Saul Centers, which developed the Clarendon Center project, is planning a new residential and retail development on the Orange Line. The developer is in the early stages of proposing a 12-story, 431-unit apartment building to replace the Rosenthal Mazda dealership at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd. [Washington Business Journal]
Parking Lot Hit-and-Run Case in Court — A court hearing was held Monday for Alexandra Mendez, the woman accused of running over a man in a Columbia Pike parking lot and then fleeing the scene. Prosecutors showed the court a cell phone video of the incident, which nearly killed 40-year-old Noormustafa “Noor” Shaikh. A doctor testified that Shaikh’s “bones were like shards” after being run over by Mendez in her SUV. [WJLA]
Arlington Highly Ranked by AARP — Arlington County is the 6th most livable place in the U.S. with a population between 100,000 and 500,000, according to a new survey by AARP. Also in the AARP survey, Arlington ranked No. 1 in the “Best Cities for Staying Healthy” category, thanks to an abundance of exercise opportunities. The survey targeted Americans age 50 and older. [WTOP]
VHC and County Considering Land Swap — Virginia Hospital Center and Arlington County have started discussing a possible land swap. The swap would trade soon-to-be-vacated county properties adjacent to the hospital — which would allow VHC to expand — for hospital property elsewhere in the county. Virginia Hospital Center, meanwhile, is getting kudos from the federal government. According to new hospital rankings from Medicare, VHC is the only “four star” hospital in the D.C. area. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by J. Peterson
Mosaic Park, the largely unused green space in Ballston along N. Quincy Street next to the Gold’s Gym parking lot, is close to taking the next step toward its planned redesign.
Arlington County is still planning on adding a public plaza, interactive water feature, multipurpose court, tree plantings and walkways. On the Arlington County Board’s agenda this Saturday is a public hearing for a rezoning, changing the park, at 544 N. Pollard Street, from a residential zoning to “public,” which allows construction to begin on the new features.
“Currently, construction drawings are near completion and the County will soon be prepared to go to bid,” the staff report reads. The Shooshan Company has agreed to fund the $6.6 million costs of Phase I construction.
In 2012, in our last update on the future of Mosaic Park, we reported that the county still needed to acquire land to build the park. According to the latest staff report, the county has acquired four of the five parcels that make up the park, and a portion of the fifth.
The FroZenYo in Ballston, which has been closed all winter to await the return of warm weather, now appears likely to not reopen at all.
The FroZenYo in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive) reopened this week, according to the D.C.-based company’s Facebook page. On that same page, the company posted in a comment that the Ballston location is likely closed.
“Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we will be reopening the Ballston store this year, sorry about that,” the comment reads.
The Ballston FroZenYo store opened in 2012.
Demolition of Marymount University’s “Blue Goose” building in Ballston is ramping up.
While the building at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Glebe Road has been slowly, methodically taken apart for months, today demolition crews seemed to reach an inflection point.
This morning, construction crews were hacking large pieces off the distinctive, blue Marymount University building using high-reach excavators, similar to the ones used to tear down the building across from the Rosslyn Metro station last December.
When the building’s demolition is complete, it will be replaced by a nine-story office building and 15-story residential building. The redevelopment is a partnership between Shooshan Company and Marymount University. Shooshan has a ground lease for the land and is developing the new buildings, while MU owns the land and will occupy six of the nine floors of the new office building, with plans to fill the other three over time.
The buildings are expected to be completed by summer 2017, Shooshan Company Vice President Kevin Shooshan told ARLnow.com in February.
Photos via Twitter and Facebook, as noted
(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) The annual Taste of Arlington food festival in Ballston will be back for 2015 on Sunday, May 17.
Last year, the festival drew a record 40,000 attendees, according to its organizer, the Ballston Business Improvement District. This year, the BID hopes to surpass that mark, with new restaurants Pizza Vinoteca and Kapnos Taverna joining Taste of Arlington regulars P.F. Chang’s, Pete’s Apizza and Fuego Cocina y Tequileria.
All food and drinks can be tasted with the purchase of a ticket booklet, which costs $30 until May 1, when the price goes up to $35. Each booklet contains 10 tickets. Tickets to the VIP Pavilion, which includes unlimited beer, wine, champagne and appetizers, cost $75, and go up to $100 on May 1.
There will again be a KidZone and a Bark Park and World Pup Tournament, so families with pets and children can all have something to participate in. There will also be a Girls on the Run 5K race in the morning, before the main event, which runs from noon to 6:00 p.m.
The actual event is free for all to roam around Wilson Blvd and surrounding streets that will be closed to traffic for the afternoon.
File photo. Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
New Democratic County Board Contender — A field of six has been finalized for the Democratic Arlington County Board primary. The candidates include all five who spoke before the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this month, plus Bruce Wiljanen, “who is largely unknown to the Democratic political establishment.” [InsideNova]
New Tenant for Fmr. Marvelous Market Space — Empty for years, the former Marvelous Market storefront at 888 N. Quincy Street in Ballston has a new tenant. The space is being built out as an office for the real estate sales and marketing firm Smith | Schnider.
Coming Soon: More Dedicated Bus Lanes — A mile of dedicated bus lanes for the new Metroway route are set to open in Arlington this summer. Another 1.3 miles of peak-hour bus lanes are also planned. The route runs from the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to Crystal City. [Washington Post]
Medal of Honor Recipients in Arlington — On Tuesday, 26 living recipients of the Medal of Honor flew in to and then attended a luncheon at Reagan National Airport. The following day, on national Medal of Honor Day, they gathered for a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. [Army Times, Stars and Stripes]
Grant for APS Program — Arlington Public Schools has received a $25,000 grant from Rosslyn-based Graham Holdings to support the school system’s award-winning Traveling Trolley summer reading initiative. [Arlington Public Schools]
Sushi will soon be available just steps from the Ballston Metro station.
A new restaurant called Sushi 2Go is moving into the space next to Italian bakery Tivoli Gourmet, in the Metro plaza at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Stuart Street.
Previously in the space was Primo Fresh Deli, which served smoothies and sandwiches. According to Yelp reviews of Primo Fresh, the space is very small. Said one reviewer, “Depending on the speed of your gait, you could probably cross the whole damn place by the time you say ‘One Mississippi.'”
Any indication as to what the place will serve — outside of, presumably, grab-and-go Sushi — was not evident from the outside, nor was any notices for building or an opening date.
Hat tip to @HeatherMCarroll
Apartment Tower Proposed for Carpool Site — A 22-story, 330-unit luxury residential tower has been proposed for the site at 4000 Fairfax Drive in Ballston currently occupied by Carpool. It’s unclear if the bar would move to a new location during construction or whether it would move back after. [Washington Business Journal]
Buses to Use Shoulders on I-66 — Monday, March 23 has been set as the launch date for a pilot program that will allow buses to use the shoulder lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. The speed limit for buses using the shoulders will be 25 mph. [Washington Post]
Equalizing Treatment of Ticketed Cars — This weekend, County Board members are expected to approve a measure that would treat tickets issued by police officers the same as tickets issued by so-called public-service aides. The change would specifically apply to tickets for expired registration tags, personal-property decals and state safety inspections. Currently, tickets for such violations issued by officers can be dismissed administratively by the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, while tickets issued by PSAs require a more lengthy appearance before a judge. [InsideNova]
Wardian Sets Another Crazy Record — Superhuman ultramarathoner and Arlington resident Michael Wardian has set another record. This time, he set the record for fastest 50K on a treadmill. And he set the record after attempting it, unsuccessfully, 30 hours prior to his record-setting run. What’s more, Wardian accomplished the feat on a cruise ship in the Caribbean while sweating profusely. [Runners World]
Sondheim Revue Coming to Signature — In honor of composer Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday, Signature Theatre in Shirlington is planning a “Simply Sondheim” revue, to run from April 2-19. [Playbill]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
Serving dishes from every region of Spain, chef and co-owner Josu Zubikarai doesn’t shy away from the idea that only “foodies” might try certain items from his menu, like the Txipirones — squid in its ink, tentacles and all.
“Spain is less than half the size of Texas, but the variety of food is incredible,” Zubikarai said from his resturant at 1110 N. Glebe Road yesterday. He’ll cook up baby eels, octopus and barnacles. “I love barnacles and the baby eels are very good, but I know not everyone will order them.”
While some of the dishes suit the more adventurous, the chef who founded D.C.’s La Taberna del Alabardero 26 years ago is also happy to offer up Spanish crowd pleasers like six different kinds of paella, including seafood, duck and rabbit. He’s especially proud of his bacalao al pilpil, a traditional Spanish cod dish made in a salt and olive oil emulsion.
SER — which is both the Spanish word for “to be,” and an acronym for “Simple. Easy. Real.” — is in the midst of a soft opening the next two days, offering 20 percent off all food. Thursday will be the restaurant’s grand opening. SER will only open for dinner, at 5:00 p.m., until Monday, March 16, when it will start serving lunch at 11:00 a.m.
Happy hour is every day from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the bar, which also features an extensive list of cocktails, three different sangria options and eight different sherries.
Customers will not only be able to enjoy Zubikarai’s traditional seafood options, but they can also order plates of Spanish charcuterie and a “cochinillo,” which is a roasted suckling pig and serves up to three people for $58. It’s safe to say there are not many restaurants in Arlington offering such dishes.
The bold menu is partly a representation of the special circumstance SER — which is co-owned by Javier Candon, whose wife, Christiana, is “the face” of the business — finds itself in. As the winner of the Restaurant Challenge, after the other finalist, D.C. chef Victor Albisu, dropped out, the restaurant was given a year of free rent and an interest-free, $250,000 loan. SER can afford to find a customer base without having to compromise with a more broadly appealing menu.
That’s music to Zubikarai’s ears, because he reminisces about the days back in Spain when restaurant critics wouldn’t write about an establishment until it had been open at least three years.
“In Spain, people love bullfighting and they say a restaurant is like a bull: it has to be 4 or 5 years old before it’s ready to fight,” he said. “With the year of free rent, we can hire more people, spend that money on training and have much more opportunity to find customers.”
Police say two men in their mid-20s were chucking snowballs near the entrance to the Ballston bar early Sunday morning when a couple approached.
The male half of the couple asked twice that the men stop throwing the snowballs so he and his girlfriend could safely enter the establishment.
“[Expletive] your girlfriend, and [expletive] you,” was the reply, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
At that point, one of the suspects threw a snowball that pegged the woman in the back. The boyfriend, 30, and the snowball tosser then came face-to-face, police say, at which point the suspect “threw a haymaker” at the boyfriend. The boyfriend responded by dodging the punch, then landing a punch of his own, breaking the suspect’s nose, Sternbeck said.
The suspect’s acquaintance, who moments earlier tried and failed to break up the fight, then allegedly stepped in and attempted another wild punch. The boyfriend dodged that punch, as well, then “body slamed suspect No. 2 to the ground,” according to Sternbeck.
Shortly thereafter, Arlington police officers arrived and broke up the fight.
Neither suspect required an ambulance ride to the hospital, Sternbeck said. All parties involved declined to prosecute and were subsequently released without any charges being filed.