Richmond Named Acting AED Director — Cynthia Richmond has been named the acting director of Arlington Economic Development following the untimely death of Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died of a sudden heart attack over the weekend. Richmond was serving as the deputy director of AED. Arlington County plans to begin a recruitment process to find a permanent director for AED soon. [Arlington County]
FBI Cracking Down on Corruption in N. Va. — The FBI has created a task force to investigate public corruption in Northern Virginia. Public corruption is the FBI’s “number one criminal investigative priority” at the moment and the agency has “cases in all categories in Northern Virginia.” [Loudoun Times]
Man Sentenced in $30 Million Fraud Scheme — A Florida man has been sentenced in a $30 million scheme that defrauded NASA into awarding contracts on false pretenses. Michael Dunkel, 60, was awarded contracts by NASA intended for minority-owned businesses by claiming he was an employee of an Arlington company supposedly run by a woman of Portuguese descent. Dunkel in turn paid kickbacks to the company. [Associated Press, U.S. Justice Department]
APAH to Purchase Apartment Building — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is purchasing the Arna Valley View apartments near Glebe Road and I-395. The purchase will allow 101 apartments to remain as committed affordable housing for at least the next 60 years. [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising for Pike Documentary Book — Photographer Lloyd Wolf is raising money to print a book based on photos taken by the Columbia Pike Documentary Project. [GoFundMe]
Photo courtesy Kimberly Suiters/All News 99.1 WNEW
The Capital One branch on the 3500 block of Columbia Pike was robbed around 5:40 p.m. A suspect approached a teller, implied a weapon and demanded money. He fled with an undisclosed amount of cash.
No one was hurt during the robbery.
“The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 5’5” to 5’8” tall, with a medium build and wearing all dark clothing,” police said in a press release.
“If anyone has information on the identity and/or whereabouts of this individual, please contact Detective P. Mulvaney of the Arlington County Homicide/Robbery Unit at (703) 228-4239 or firstname.lastname@example.org,” police said. ”Anonymous tips can also be provided through the Arlington County Crime Solvers Hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”
Arlington County is in the midst of creating “Bike Boulevards” on 9th and 12th Streets S., parallel to Columbia Pike, to divert bicycle traffic away from the Pike in advance of the streetcar line.
Signs were installed in late 2013 on the two roads, and Arlington County is in the process of designing infrastructure to make cycling on the boulevards safer.
“The Bike Boulevards will include several types of improvements, including signage, pavement markings, hardscape improvements such as curb extensions and intersection reconfiguration, and traffic control devices,” county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher tells ARLnow.com.
So far, just the signs and pavement markings have been installed — of the $1 million budget for the project, Mincher said the county has spent $101,000. The major improvements will be at the intersections of 12th Street S. and Quincy Street; 9th Street S. between Highland and Wayne Street; 13th Street S. and George Mason Drive; and at 9th Street S. and Walter Reed Drive, which is included in a different project’s budget.
Studies for HAWK signals — like the one recently installed on Crystal Drive — are “90 percent complete,” Mincher said, at each road’s intersections with S. Glebe Road and S. Walter Reed Drive. The various components of the project “will be implemented as soon as possible to make incremental improvements to the Bike Boulevards in the next several years.”
Although the county’s aim is to make cycling safer along the corridor, local cyclists have been concerned about perceived flaws in the plans. One, who declined to be identified, said in meetings about the project in 2011, the county saw pushback from the community, resulting in changes to the project.
After the meeting, “that was the last that the community heard until the fall of 2013,” the tipster said. “At that point the county painted the bike markers on the street and installed the street signs, but no more.”
“There were significant concerns about the safety of the bicyclists on both streets,” he continued, “but predominantly on 12th as there is significant vehicle traffic from the post office and the Rosenthal development [at the Glebe Road and Columbia Pike intersection] coming in, plus with no sidewalks the cars, bikes and pedestrians have to share the same bit of road.”
Arlington transportation planner Dan Malouff wrote about the Bike Boulevards on Greater Greater Washington earlier this month, noting that the project is the first of its kind in the D.C. region, but many skeptics emerged in the comment section questioning the boulevards.
“The bike boulevards thus far have been executed so badly as to be comical,” said one commenter, named Pikecycle. “Still today most of the minor cross-streets lack stop signs for crossing car traffic, which makes cyclists stop every block in places (in many cases with poor visibility for cross traffic). The major cross-streets (Walter Reed, Glebe) have neither signage nor lights nor street-level painting (the lone exception is an awkward existing regular cross walk/light).”
“Classic modern Arlington ‘smart growth’: winning headlines with expensive, long-delayed projects that are so NIMBY compromised as to be virtually useless,” the commenter continued. “In sum, riding on Columbia Pike (as long as the streetcar remains a pipe dream) is faster, safer and a much better option.”
A new location of the Little Caesars pizza chain is expected to open in the Columbia Pike Plaza shopping center at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street.
The location is in the former AT&T Wireless store at 5025 Columbia Pike, in the shopping center across S. Dinwiddie Street from the Arlington Mill Community Center. There’s no hint of an expected opening date.
The location, when it opens, will be Little Caesars’ second current location in Arlington; its other store is at 5175 Lee Highway and opened late last year.
Morning rush hour traffic on Columbia Pike has gone from bad to worse thanks to a new traffic pattern at the Washington Boulevard interchange, drivers tell us.
Two weeks ago VDOT, as part of its Route 27/244 interchange project, altered the traffic pattern for vehicles heading eastbound on Columbia Pike. Drivers heading toward northbound I-395 now have to turn left at the traffic signal on S. Quinn Street, whereas before northbound and southbound traffic could both take the right-hand ramp that also leads to southbound I-395.
Last week, one reader told us the new traffic pattern was a “disaster,” with eastbound Pike traffic backed up to S. Courthouse Road at 7:45 a.m. Today (Wednesday), another reader said that traffic was backed up to S. Walter Reed Drive at 8:15 a.m.
“That is absolutely ridiculous,” said Thierry Driscoll, a Pike commuter who now uses S. Courthouse Road as a shortcut to Washington Boulevard. “There are cars backed up in the left lane of Columbia Pike waiting to take a left onto the Washington Blvd access ramp, but cannot because the access ramp is full.”
“There is no excuse for such a boneheaded design,” he continued. “This new pattern has inconvenienced a lot of people.”
VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord says the current traffic pattern is temporary and will be in place for another 8-12 months while new ramps are built.
“We realize it’s slower for drivers trying to get to I-395N since they have to yield to the oncoming traffic,” she said. “Our folks… added as much time as possible to the left-turn signal” to alleviate some of the traffic.
“No more significant changes” are planned, said McCord. She advised using S. Glebe Road as a possible alternate route to I-395 for those heading from western portions of Columbia Pike.
Date Set for County Board Special Election – Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman officially has declared that the Arlington County Board special election will be held on April 8. The special election is being held to replace now-former County Board member Chris Zimmerman. [Sun Gazette]
End of the Road for Seoul Food Truck – The Seoul Food truck, which makes stops in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Ballston and other lunch spots in Arlington, will be retired at the end of this month. The owners say they want to spend more time focusing on their brick-and-mortar store in Silver Spring, Md., next to the Wheaton Metro station. [Food Truck Fiesta]
Bike Boulevard Signs Installed — Arlington has installed signs and sharrows designating 9th Street S. and 12th Street S., which run along either side of Columbia Pike, as “bike boulevards.” The county has not yet, however, installed improved intersection crossings or trail links, leading some to say that the bike boulevards so far do little to improve safety for Pike cyclists. [Greater Greater Washington]
Preservation Arlington Mourns Loss of Homes — The group Preservation Arlington says a total of 14 demolition permits were applied for in January. “In review of the Arlington County tax records, eight of the eleven houses are owned by builders and are speculative redevelopments, and two are being redeveloped by individuals who bought the property within the last year,” the group writes. “The looming demolition of these houses and buildings represents an incredible loss of history, architecture, time, energy, and materials.” [Preservation Arlington]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
There’s little relief in sight for drivers and bus riders traveling down some rough portions of Columbia Pike.
Arlington County is planning to finish repaving the section of the Pike from S. Wakefield Street to Four Mile Run Drive by April, but so far the county has no plans to repave the increasingly pockmarked eastern portion of the Pike, including the “Pike Town Center” business district, within the next six months. Potholes are expected to be filled by this spring, but a full repaving could be several years away.
“Over the next several years, Arlington County will continue with utility undergrounding and street improvement projects, which will include roadway paving in three areas on Columbia Pike: Four Mile Run Bridge to County Line, South Oakland Street to South Wakefield Street, and South Garfield Street to South Rolfe Street,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher tells ARLnow.com. As of last year, the streetscape improvement project was expected to run through 2018.
Apart from the Columbia Pike streetcar, which is a separate project, planned street improvements for the Pike include a repaved roadway, better pedestrian facilities, more street trees and planted medians. But for some Pike residents and business owners, those improvements are too slow in coming.
“I do believe that the delays they are having with the transportation issues will eventually halt all momentum the Pike has had with growth,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). ”Businesses that opened here with the promise of increased foot traffic and customer base may have to close since they’ve been just getting by for years now. We’re all trying to share the same small customer base that lives in the area. Once places start to close, you can forget new businesses coming here.”
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he appreciates the improvements but is worried about the “glacial pace” of some projects.
“While the driver’s experience on the Pike… is very challenging, it is the pedestrian realm what concerns us the most,” he said. ”Utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements have been taking more time than anybody would have had anticipated. This is a challenge for everybody, but especially for businesses along our corridor… reliable timelines are of essence.”
Robinson said she’s heard complaints specifically about the rough roadway, but doesn’t actually think that particular problemn has has much of a direct impact on her business.
“We’ve definitely had customers complain about the road conditions, but as soon as they fix one problem spot, another pops up,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). “In terms of business impact, I don’t think it has hurt us too much. Most of our customers live on or near the Pike and the road conditions impact them on a daily basis going to and from work — so they know what to expect.”
Arlington County took responsibility for the maintenance of Columbia Pike from VDOT in 2010. John Antonelli, a Pike resident and an outspoken streetcar critic, says the county is shirking a neighborly duty by leaving the Pike in a state of disrepair.
“Arlington County has to understand that part of being a gateway community is to be a gateway,” he said. “Columbia Pike is a commuter road to the Pentagon and it behooves us as a good neighbor to ensure that our businesses and their employees and customers can get to and from as quickly as possible.”
“It’s a mess,” Antonelli added, about the Pike. “But it is more driveable now then it will be if they put the trolley in.”
One bit of good news for drivers is that VDOT is planning to repave Columbia Pike from S. Quinn Street to S. Orme Street next, as part of its Columbia Pike/Washington Blvd interchange project, according to VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.
Last weekend a drunk and disorderly man entered a pizza shop on Columbia Pike and allegedly slapped a man and stole his Bluetooth earpiece.
From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
ROBBERY, 140126003, 3200 block of S. Columbia Pike. On January 26 at approximately 12:19am, police responded to a report of a disorderly subject at a pizza shop. The suspect allegedly slapped a victim in the face and grabbed the victim’s Bluetooth earpiece out of his ear and fled the scene. The suspect is described as a white male in his early to mid thirties. He is approximately 6’0” in height and around 200 pounds with a brown buzz cut. At the time of the incident the suspect was wearing a blue sweater and blue jeans. The investigation is ongoing.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspected are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Drivers heading toward northbound I-395 will now turn left at the traffic signal on S. Quinn Street and bear right to merge onto the interstate, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Those going south will drive through the intersection with S. Quinn Street and use the ramp on the right.
That’s a change from before, when northbound and southbound traffic could both take the ramp. VDOT workers will be on the road today making the switch, which is expected to be complete by 5:00 p.m.
VDOT also announced that Columbia Pike will be closed to drivers between S. Queen Street and Orme Street each of the next three weekends as workers demolish the old Washington Blvd overpass. The closure will begin at 9:00 p.m. tomorrow night until 4:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 3, and it will be closed again at the same times Feb. 7-10 and Feb. 14-17.
The demolition is the next phase in the $51.5 million Washington Blvd improvement project, still slated to be finished in the summer of 2015.
Photo via Google Maps
Building permit applications show that a business tentatively called “Al-Huda Hookah & Smoothie Bar” is seeking permission to construct a new interior, with a section for hookah smokers and another for smoothie drinkers. The business will replace the former White Birch Traditional Martial Arts kung fu, tai chi and kettlebell gym, located in the back of the small brick-construction strip mall on the 2500 block of Columbia Pike.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated) The Arlington County Board revoked the live entertainment permit for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike) last night, siding with dismayed neighbors over outraged management.
Pines of Italy General Manager Darlene Wilcher calmly presented the case for a permit renewal. After the board’s unanimous vote against the restaurant, a woman can be heard going up to the live microphone in the board room and calling County Board members “c–ksuckers.”
Wilcher, who said she took over as manager in October, had earlier asked to speak again during the Board’s discussion.
“Can I just say one thing?” she asked while Board Chair Jay Fisette was speaking.
“No, I’m sorry, the discussion is with the Board,” Fisette responded, before telling Wilcher, an Arlington native, “I do want to compliment you personally because you appear to be someone with great possibility, you present yourself very well.”
Less than two minutes later, the Board voted and the expletive was hurled before leaving the room.
The decision to revoke the permit came after neighborhood controversy in 2012 over fights outside the restaurant/hookah bar/nightclub and multiple deferrals by the Board to approve a live entertainment permit, which it finally did in March 2013. Restaurant owner Jorge Escobar — who has owned the building and business since it was called Coco’s Casa Mia a decade earlier — and his management group had vowed to reach out to the community and to put a stop to the health and Alcoholic Beverage Control Board violations that had been repeatedly reported.
“That meeting was one of my high points 9 months ago because I felt so good about it,” Board Member Libby Garvey said. “Where we are now, I find myself thinking about the classic abusive relationship. Things are really awful, and then you say ‘oh no I’m going to be better now,’ but look at this list [of violations since March]… We’ve got to stop this.”
Since the permit was approved in March, the Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed. According to county staff, it was the second such occurrence since 2011 of an individual appearing to be living in the space.
Five residents of Arlington Heights, some of whom live down the street from the business, asked the Board to revoke the license, citing broken promises in the past from the management to do things differently.
“It’s been a bane in the neighborhood for many years,” resident Scott Winn said. “We’ve had new management, new agreements, new promises and I think it’s time once and for all that we cut the problem to the quick and that the live entertainment license is revoked.”
Wilcher, in her presentation, said since she has taken over the operations, all the code violations and issues with the use permit agreement have been fixed.
“In those months, we have done better,” she said. “We have fixed all of our violations and have no issues with anyone.”
Escobar wasn’t present yesterday during the meeting. He had previously attended meetings on the issue and, in April 2012, his attorney “promised the board that the three partners of this establishment are interested in starting anew.”
Without music, DJs and dancing — all of which will be prohibited without the permit — the nightlife-oriented business faces long odds of survival.
“The main protagonist of this drama is still the owner of the property,” Fisette said. “This doesn’t happen very often, but time’s up. The words that come back to me are fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. But fool me thrice, shame on me, and that’s where we are.”
Update at 12:55 p.m. — The video of Fisette’s comments and the restaurant manager’s outburst can be found below. It’s not safe for work.
County planning staff are recommending the Arlington County Board revoke the live entertainment and dancing license for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike).
The restaurant/nightclub/hookah bar was approved for the permit in March 2013, but, according to the county staff’s report, its owner never scheduled a meeting with the Arlington Heights Civic Association, which was a requirement of the permit. In addition, the restaurant was allegedly operating with live music on Thursday nights, which was not allowed by the permit.
The permit was scheduled for review in March, but because of the lack of compliance, as well as issues with the police and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, staff recommended the Board review the license two months early.
“The applicant has demonstrated a lack of compliance with the conditions of approval and other state and county ordinances,” the staff report says. “Operation of live entertainment and dancing at this site will continue to generate issues given the combination of greater numbers of patrons drawn to the business by live entertainment and the applicant’s lack of compliance with use permit conditions and other laws, and lack of communication with the surrounding community.”
Pines of Italy has generated neighborhood controversy since it opened, with neighbors complaining about noise and crime generated by the business.
Before being approved for the live entertainment permit last March, Pines of Italy’s owner had applied for the permit in early 2012. The application was deferred twice — first because of “police and community issues” with the last restaurant in the space and again because Pines of Italy conducted insufficient community outreach — before its ultimate approval.
Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant since the use permit was issued, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed.
The County Board will review the permit during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
Two alleged prostitutes from California were arrested by Arlington police early Friday morning.
The pair was arrested at the Sheraton hotel on Columbia Pike, after police discovered online prostitution ads on the website Backpage.com, according Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“That’s usually the place these individuals are posting their solicitations,” Sternbeck said. From this week’s crime report:
KEEPING A BAWDY PLACE, 140110007, 900 block of S. Orme Street. On January 10 at 12:50am, two females were arrested after posting online solicitation ads and offering services to officers. Maryrose Ioane, 22, of Antioch, CA and Erlynn Sanchez Edwards, 22, of N. Highlands, CA were charged with keeping a bawdy place.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
The restaurant at 2413 Columbia Pike opened as Eamonn’s and TNT Bar in August 2012. While the sit-down fried fish restaurant is popular in Alexandria, it never quite attracted the crowds needed to sustain the business on the Pike, we’re told. Instead of closing, over the next month owner EatGoodFood Group will transition from Eamonn’s to a second location of its “Society Fair” bakery, cafe, market and eatery, which is also popular in Alexandria.
Already, couches have replaced some tables and chairs, to give the space a more “warm and comfortable” vibe. More furniture changes are in the works, and curtains will be installed, at least in part to dampen noise. The hope is to become more of a neighborhood hangout, a formula that has worked for nearby William Jeffrey’s Tavern, the biggest success so far on a block of restaurants that are mostly treading water business-wise, thanks to virtually non-existent lunch business.
By mid-February, the restaurant is expected to begin opening at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast customers with coffee, espresso drinks and pastries made fresh at the original Alexandria location. At other times of the day the food offerings will be more of the small plates variety, plus paninis, charcuterie, cheese and salads.
TNT Bar will remain and will serve drinks every night of the week, we’re told, but will continue adding more affordable cocktail options. With the exception of perhaps a few lunchtime closures, Eamonn’s will remain open as the space is gradually transformed.
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema reports that fish and chips will remain on the menu once the Society Fair transition is complete.
(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) Firefighters from several jurisdictions responded to a fire at the Days Inn on Columbia Pike this morning.
The fire started in an unoccupied room on the second floor of the motel, according to the Arlington County Fire Department spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani. The blaze was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported.
According to Marchegiani, the fire department received the first call about the fire at 11:36 a.m. and the bulk of the fire was extinguished by 11:42 a.m. Firefighters are now packing up their equipment and the county fire marshal is investigating the incident.
Earlier, flames and smoke could be seen from the motel, located at 3030 Columbia Pike. Early video of the incident shows a significant amount of smoke coming from the structure.
For a period of time the eastbound lanes of Columbia Pike were blocked in the area of the motel. The lanes have since reopened.
Photo courtesy @OwenHassig