(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) The headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be moving out of Ballston, employees are being told today.
The move is another blow to Arlington’s commercial real estate market, which is dealing with rising office vacancy rates (16.5 percent as of January) and the impending loss of the National Science Foundation.
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is based in three buildings in Ballston, at 4301, 4401 and 4501 N. Fairfax Drive. In a memo to employees, FWS Director Dan Ashe said the offices will be relocated to the Skyline Technology Center at 5275 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church.
“I am excited to be able to officially announce the location of the new headquarters building,” he wrote. “This ‘Class A’ facility offers an abundance of priority amenities and features and is located only 3.5 miles from our current location.”
FWS spokesman Chris Tollefson told ARLnow.com that July 1, 2014 is when FWS expects to move into the new facility. FWS’ leases on Fairfax Drive were originally set to expire at the end of 2013, but they negotiated an extension into the spring and are in negotiations for another extension, Tollefson said, after the process of signing the lease at the new building took longer than anticipated.
“I don’t think anyone anticipates [the negotiations] will be an issue,” Tollefson said.
Employees were invited to ask questions about the move at three information sessions held this morning. Tollefson said there will be a shuttle running between the new office and the Metro, stating that was “one of the parameters” of a new office space.
If someone approaches you in the Ballston area, claiming to be in need of gas money, you might want to think twice before obliging. According to an ARLnow.com tipster, the man is perpetrating a scam.
The tipster said a man in Ballston came up to her and her husband earlier this year and said he needed gas money to visit his dying father. They handed over $20. This week, the same man — apparently not recognizing the couple from the earlier encounter — came up to them again and recited the same story.
Here’s what the tipster had to say, in an email sent Monday night:
Here is how the story went the first time he tried his trick on us:
My husband and I were walking back from dinner. We were in the courtyard by Grand Cru (4401 Wilson Blvd) when this man walked up to us. He was a tall (6’3″ or so) white male and was wearing a baseball cap. He said that he was looking for gas money to go visit his dad in Raleigh, N.C., who just had had a heart attack. He said he needed $60 for gas and needed to leave right away in case his dad was not going to make it. He offered to have us take a picture of his driver’s license and to take his phone number. He promised he would call us in a few days and reimburse us as soon as he could. He added that he lived at the old Avalon complex on Glebe. He sounded as genuine as could be. His story was convincing and we couldn’t help but feel bad for him. We gave him $20, all the cash we had on us. Of course, we never heard back from him and never got our money back. We then realized it probably was all a hoax.
Tonight, we know for sure it was a hoax… He started telling my husband the exact same story about his dad and how he needed gas money to go visit him. Almost verbatim. Since my husband didn’t want any trouble with a potential sociopath, he just told him he was sorry but didn’t have any cash on him. He had been going around each car at the gas station asking for money with the same story. I was burning inside but was too scared of saying anything.
The tipster’s description of the alleged scammer is different from the scooter scam artist in Rosslyn last year, who pretended to be out of gas and asked passersby for money.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for a new park in Ballston.
The park, at the corner of Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street, quietly opened to the public in July. Located adjacent to the Ballston public parking garage, the park features a pair of bocce courts, numerous benches and landscaped green space.
Construction on the tiny park started this past winter. A ribbon cutting is planned for Thursday, Sept. 19, according to Laura Lazour, Sports and Recreation chief of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation .
Yorktown Wins Big in Opener — The Yorktown High School football team defeated Coolidge 49-0 at their season opener on Thursday, Aug. 29. Senior running back M.J. Stewart ran for 215 yards on 15 carries. The Patriots next face Langley on Sept. 6. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Firefighters Assist on Six-Alarm Fire — Firefighters from Arlington County helped to battle a six-alarm warehouse fire in Alexandria on Labor Day Monday. It took more than 200 firefighters four hours to finally get the fire on S. Pickett Street under control. [NBC Washington]
An Office Built for Millennials — The consulting firm Accenture designed its 90,000 square foot office in Ballston, which opened last year, with 20-something millennial workers in mind. The office eschews private offices for workspaces that are booked by workers when needed, among other innovations. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Maryva2
The new “Unleashed by Petco” store in Ballston is expected to open next week.
A sign on the door of the store, on the 3900 block of Wilson Blvd, says it will open on Wednesday, Sept. 4. The former tenant, a burger restaurant called Wiinky’s, closed on March 31.
Unleashed by Petco is a “boutique” version of the pet retailer’s large-format stores. There is a limited amount of free, off-street surface parking in front of the store.
Ballston Common Mall is moving closer to beginning its major renovation project.
Mall owner Forest City Enterprises is “close to finalizing a deal with Macy’s” to allow the process to move forward and the company to begin applying for permits from the county, according to Forest City spokesman Gary McManus. Securing a deal with Macy’s, one of the mall’s “anchor tenants,” was one of the last impediments to the long-awaited redevelopment.
Forest City is planning to recast the mall as Ballston Center, building more than 300 apartments on top of a renovated shopping center and adding office space. As part of the redevelopment, Forest City is negotiating with Macy’s to take over some of the department store’s space. The negotiations were initially expected to take a few weeks after the announcement of the proposed renovations, in February.
“The deal with Macy’s has taken longer than anticipated,” McManus said in an email.
He said the negotiations are close to being finalized and should be done “within the next few weeks.” Inside the mall, the changes could include a new mix of stores and restaurants.
“The tenant mix of not only the food court but the rest of the mall will be open to revision, expansion and enhancement,” said McManus.
The annual Charity Hockey Classic will be held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston next month.
The event is held yearly to benefit Inova Blood Donor Services. A team of Washington Capitals alumni will take on corporate teams from Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte, as well as a group of youth hockey coaches from around Northern Virginia, called the Virginia Coaching Cardinals.
The event is scheduled for Sept. 7 at 7:00 p.m. Admission $10 but children wearing hockey jerseys are admitted free. The event features a round-robin format of 15-minute games, and is expected to run until 10:30 p.m.
Among those expected to participate are former Washington Capitals defenseman Gord Lane, this year’s honorary captain. There will also be appearances by Elliot Segal of DC101’s Elliot in the Morning, Capitals’ mascot Slapshot, and the Capitals’ spirit team, the Red Rockers.
Organizers hope to raise more than $70,000 to refurbish one of Inova’s older bloodmobiles.
(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) The U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team will be in Arlington briefly next week, and tickets to catch a glimpse of the 40 players vying for a spot to represent their country in the Sochi Olympics in February are on sale now.
Doors open for the event, at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston Aug. 27, at 7:00 a.m. and player autograph sessions begin at 9:00 a.m. There will also be open skate sessions at the Iceplex. Tickets may only be purchased in advance.
Those who purchase tickets won’t get the chance to see any hockey action, however — USA Hockey and the NHL couldn’t come to an agreement to allow the players to participate in hockey activities. Instead attendees will receive, according to USA Hockey, player autographs, a collectible puck, a limited-edition scarf, an American flag and pre-order access to the 2014 USA Hockey replica jerseys.
“This is a unique opportunity for fans to be part of an event that happens once every four years,” Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, said in a press release. “It’s the first time we’ve conducted this camp in the nation’s capital region and what a great place to gather our top American players in preparation for Sochi.”
At 11:30 a.m., the official jerseys for the 2014 Olympics will be revealed, the players will be formally introduced — along with modeling their future jerseys — and there will be some crowd giveaways. Tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for youth 14 and under.
Photo via USA Hockey
The U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team will start preparing for the 2014 Winter Olympics at Kettler Capitals Iceplex later this month.
This is the first time the Iceplex has hosted a USA Hockey Orientation Camp. The Ballston facility will host the full contingent of USA Men’s Hockey, including Conn Smythe winner — the NHL’s award for its Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP — Patrick Kane and several members of the team that won the silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The Olympians will be at the facility from Aug. 25-29, and the camp itself will be held from Aug. 26-27.
Just one Capitals player is among the 40 invited to the camp: defenseman John Carlson. The roster of players attending will not be finalized until closer to the camp’s start, according to Capitals officials.
Although the orientation itself will be closed to the public, one event will be open to fans who want to catch a glimpse of 2014′s Olympians. Nike will be hosting a USA Hockey jersey unveiling at the Iceplex Aug. 27 at 11:30 a.m. USA Hockey players will be modeling the jerseys, and fan attendance is encouraged.
Fish and Wildlife Service Nears Lease Deal in Falls Church — Vornado Realty Trust is reportedly close to securing a lease deal that would move the Fish and Wildlife Service out of Ballston and into Falls Church. The deal would send the agency’s 2,100 employees to 5275 Leesburg Pike in the Skyline area. [Washington Business Journal]
Man Pleads Guilty in Pentagon City Robbery – Walter Douglas, who was arrested in June, has pleaded guilty to a string of smash and grab robberies, including the March 19 Tourneau store robbery at the Pentagon City mall. Douglas admitted he was an organizer of the group that allegedly carried out the robberies, and he pleaded guilty to a federal robbery charge and a robbery-conspiracy charge. He reports the group stole between $800,000 and $1.5 million in high end goods. Douglas will be sentenced on November 8. [Washington Post]
Police Seek Assistance Identifying Thieves — The Arlington County Police Department is requesting the public’s help with identifying two people accused of entering office buildings and stealing wallets. The two are believed to have taken part in a wallet theft in the 4600 block of N. Fairfax Drive on June 25, and another on the 1600 block of N. Wilson Blvd on July 8. They were caught on surveillance video using the stolen credit cards at a CVS store. Surveillance photos of the suspects and police contact information can be found on the press release. [Arlington County Police Department]
Arlington Band Makes Fortune Magazine’s Finals — An in-house rock band at Excella Consulting, a technology consulting firm based in Courthouse, is a finalist in Fortune magazine’s 13th annual Battle of the Corporate Bands. The band, Detached Retina, will compete at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on September 28, along with seven other finalists. The contest’s proceeds benefit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [Excella Consulting]
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) A woman has died after falling from the top of a building in Ballston.
Initial reports suggest that the individual, currently believed to be female, jumped from the top of the Randolph Towers apartment building, at 4001 9th Street N., and landed on a car parked in front of the 9th Street side of the building.
A witness tells ARLnow.com that a man was inside the vehicle when the woman landed on it. He was unhurt but ran out of the vehicle, distraught, we’re told. The vehicle has diplomatic license plates.
The woman left several bags on the roof of the building, according to police radio traffic. Police are investigating the incident as a probable suicide.
A man died after jumping or falling from Randolph Towers in April 2011.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.
Ballston is getting a little more Belgian, thanks to the opening of Mussel Bar and Grille (800 N. Glebe Road) this week.
The restaurant is holding its soft opening for invited guests today and tomorrow, and will open to the public for dinner on Thursday. Friday will be the first day it will open for lunch.
This is the third Mussel Bar and Grille location, joining others in Bethesda and Atlantic City. Owner and chef Brian McBride hopes to expand to as many as 10 locations. He thought Arlington seemed perfect for the newest location.
“This Arlington area seems to be booming,” McBride said. “This is going to be a fun spot. It’s designed to be a neighborhood gathering place. It’s not pretentious, it’s very casual.”
As the restaurant’s name implies, mussels are the house specialty. Mussel Bar and Grille has exclusive rights in the D.C. area to Penn Cove mussels. That variety comes from the oldest mussel farm in the United States, and McBride says they have plumper, sweeter meat.
“We pay a lot more for those mussels than the standard P.E.I.s [Prince Edward Island mussels],” said McBride, “Just so we can have the best mussels we can get.”
Other seafood dishes include Maryland crabcakes and lobster rolls. The restaurant also offers options for customers wishing for something other than seafood, such as brick oven fired pizzas, steak frites and a lamb meatball sandwich.
Chefs at Mussel Bar and Grille concentrate on old fashioned food preparation techniques, according to McBride. He notes that although each dish will look modern, no shortcuts will be taken, unlike other chain restaurants.
Along with the mussels, the restaurant will focus on Belgian beers. The bar offers 18 beers on tap and more than 100 others in bottles. Bartenders will be able to suggest beer selections that complement each customer’s dish.
“The goal is to introduce as many different kinds of Belgian beer to Arlington as we possibly can,” said McBride.
Bar Manager Adam Jarvis pointed out that the restaurant also serves up specialty drinks highlighting the time when the Bob Peck Chevrolet dealership sat on the land. The drinks bear the names of Chevy models like El Camino, Bel Air and Camaro.
“This is a big thing, to keep the Arlington community, and the history of Arlington as well,” said Jarvis.
Mussel Bar and Grille will have happy hour specials every day of the week from 3:00-6:30 p.m.
“I think people should be happy on the weekend,” McBride said. “It shouldn’t just be a Monday through Friday thing.”
The goal is to accommodate everyone at the restaurant — from bar goers to business people to families. Customers can sit in the dining area, order at the bar or enjoy the outdoor seating.
“Customers rule,” said McBride. “We don’t set too many rules”
One rule the restaurant does abide by, however, is limiting the number of customers allowed in at one time for the first few weeks. McBride said it gives staff a chance to acclimate to the new system and smooth out any issues. He expects to go “full blown” in September and will begin offering weekend brunch at that time. For now, the restaurant is open Tuesday through Sunday, and will begin serving on Mondays after Labor Day.
Mussel Bar & Grille, a gastropub from restaurateur Robert Wiedmaier, is expected to open in Ballston next week.
The restaurant is taking reservations for dinner on Thursday, Aug. 8, which, we’re told, is its current expected opening date. Through its big plate glass windows at 800 N. Glebe Road this week, managers could be seen training staff and construction workers could be seen putting the finishing touches on the wood, concrete and steel interior.
Mussel Bar, which has existing locations in Bethesda and Atlantic City, N.J., will serve “mussels & frites, wood-fired tarts (Belgian pizzas) with seasonal toppings, grilled meats and fish, salads, soups, sandwiches,” according to its website.
A 21-year-old Alexandria man is expected to enter a plea in the case of a fatal Christmas Eve pedestrian accident in Ballston.
An attorney for Farhan Khan told an Arlington Circuit Court judge yesterday that Khan intends to enter a plea. He’s currently charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 30-year-old Shabnam Motahhar-Tehrani of Nokesville, Va.
Khan is accused of running a red light and causing the collision that killed Motahhar-Tehrani, who was standing on a sidewalk on the afternoon of Dec. 24, 2012. The involuntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The plea is expected to be entered during a court hearing on Monday, Sept. 30.
The Washington Capitals’ Development Camp Fan Fest took place last Saturday and those in attendance said Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston was the fullest they’d ever seen it.
“The event has multiplied by probably 50 from eight years ago,” said Oksana Zolotar, an employee of the Capitals who attended Fan Fest as a spectator. “You can barely find room to stand anymore.”
A Capitals official said more than 3,500 people came through the doors Saturday morning, and while that number is thought to be a record, no official records have previously been kept for Fan Fest attendance.
Saturday’s fan fest was held in Ballston for the seventh straight year and featured 21 Capitals prospects, including their 2013 first-round draft pick, Andre Burakovsky, competing for the attention of Capitals’ coaches and the chance to make next year’s squad. According to the Washington Post, only one player participating has a legitimate chance to make the Capitals’ 2012-2013 roster: 2012 first-rounder Tom Wilson.
For fans in attendance, most of whom were wearing red, it was a chance to see the future of their beloved Caps, and an opportunity to see some hockey on a sweltering July morning.
“I’ve always liked the prospect side of this event,” Zolotar said.
One Caps fan, a mom from Falls Church, comes to Kettler multiple times a year with her daughter, who enjoyed her time on the other rink during the children’s free skate.
“It’s nice to have something like this so close to us,” the mother said. “It’s really accessible.”
Coming all the way from Manassas, a mother and her college-age son used Fan Fest as a learning experience. He said he’s been trying to get his mother into hockey, and this was as good a chance as any to do it.
“He’s been trying to introduce me to hockey, so we thought we’d step by today to check this out,” she said. “Hockey is easy to get into because it’s never slow.”
From a hockey perspective, those in and around the organization considered Development Camp a success.
Capitals Outsider wrote: ”On the whole, comments from both [General Manager George] McPhee and [head coach Adam] Oates were consistently positive regarding the prospects. Oates even went so far as to say that this year’s crop of attendees looked better than last year’s, though the change in camp format may have been a contributing factor. This year saw fewer scrimmages, and all of them held in the latter half of the week.”
-Audrey Batcheller contributed to this report.