Burn & Brew, a new shop that specializes in tobacco and coffee, is open on 23rd Street S. in Crystal City.
Owner Taha Humayun opened the doors to his new shop on March 18, just a few steps away from another smoke-themed store, Smokey Shope III. He said his shop sells the cheapest cigarettes in Arlington — $5 a pack — because of deals he’s supposedly worked out with a variety of cigarette and rolling paper companies.
In the five minutes an ARLnow.com reporter was in the shop, in the former expansion space of the Gossip boutique next door, a customer came in a bought a pack of Marlboro Lights. When Humayun told her the price, she said “wow, that’s crazy.” Most of the cigarettes sold in the county cost at least a dollar more per pack, we’re told.
Burn & Brew sells bags of coffee beans and drip coffee — “no lattes or shots of espresso or anything like that,” Humayun said — as well as vaporizers, vaporizer juice, “every rolling paper on the market” and all different kinds of pipes.
“A majority of the people who smoke drink coffee,” Humayun said. “And a lot of the people who drink coffee also smoke cigarettes.”
Humayun is still waiting for a number of products to come in. When he’s all stocked — he expects that to be complete by next week — he also will sell newspapers like the New York Times, Washington Post and USA Today.
He wants to be a daily stop for the smoking and drinking crowd of south Arlington, many of whom, he said, are bartenders and waiters. The Crystal City location is his second shop — he’s operated the first store in Annandale for six years.
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, best known for his “You might be a redneck if…” bit, is coming to Arlington on April 12 for a reflux disease and esophageal cancer awareness fundraiser.
The fundraiser will include stand-up comedy from Foxworthy and an opening act, determined by a nationwide competition, and it’s called “No Laughing Matter.” The event will be at the Crystal Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway) at 7:00 p.m., and tickets are on sale for between $79 and $790.
The fundraiser aims to educate people on the link between acid reflux disease and esophageal cancer, and it’s sponsored by the Esophageal Cancer Action Network.
Along with the chance to hear Foxworthy’s routine, attendees will get access to an open bar of beer and wine, “light fare” at their table and the chance to win prizes like a walk-on role on HBO’s “Veep” and a tour of the White House’s west wing.
VIP tickets are available for the chance to take photos and mingle with Foxworthy — plus get an additional 90 minutes of open bar — for $200.
Photo via JeffFoxworthy.com
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) More than five months after the Arlington County Board canceled the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar, the county is still a year away from any alternative plan.
“Transportation is complex,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Board yesterday in an update on the area’s transit plans. “We really need to move forward in a deliberative way. We want a transit alternative very fast, but we’re going to make sure that the community is involved in whatever we do in terms of coming up with an alternative.”
Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach said the post-streetcar plan for Columbia Pike and Crystal City will likely mean more buses — buses that may be larger and fancier than those currently serving the corridors. While the county did previously study alternatives to streetcar, Leach said those plans need to be updated.
The future of transit in the area will be determined by the results of the county’s upcoming Transit Development Plan, to be completed by spring 2016. The TDP will be submitted to the state to make the county’s transit projects eligible for funding.
Top on the list of priorities, Leach told the Board, is building a facility for maintenance and storage for whatever buses the county decides to run on along the Pike.
“The facility issue is a really critical issue for Arlington, both for our existing ART service and for expanded service,” Leach said. The under-construction ART bus facility on S. Eads Street “does not quite meet the storage need for our fleet that we anticipate having this year. For Northern Virginia, we have some really serious facility challenges. These facilities are really hard to site.”
The county is already planning on expanding ART bus service — it’s cheaper than the equivalent Metrobus service — and Donnellan has asked the Board for funding to increase service for the ART 41, 42, 43 and 45 lines by this summer.
The county continues to progress on its major Columbia Pike multimodal improvements project, the Columbia Pike transit station project and projects in Crystal City and Pentagon City, but a unified, enhanced transit plan is not coming until next year. In all, county staff says it will spend $200 million in the next on transit improvements to the Columbia Pike and Crystal City corridors over the next six years.
The TDP will encompass countywide transit projects, but Leach said staff’s focus will be on the Pike and Crystal City.
Some County Board members used Leach’s update on post-streetcar planning to rehash old arguments made by both sides before the streetcar’s demise.
“People were told there would be another option that can be built faster and at a fraction of the cost, and it would be bus rapid transit,” Board member Walter Tejada said to Leach, referencing streetcar opponents, specifically John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey. “I’m not hearing you say that those are being considered as alternatives right now.”
Vihstadt responded by asking Donnellan if any developments had been cancelled or scaled back after the streetcar cancellation, to which Donnellan responded it was too early to tell –”I have not gotten any indication” that development was slowing, she said.
Fisette and Tejada went back and forth asking Leach to explain the federal definition of Bus Rapid Transit. According to the Federal Transit Administration, BRT is defined as 50 percent or more of a line using a dedicated lane during peak traffic periods. Columbia Pike is not feasible for a dedicated lane, but, theoretically, a combined Pike-Pentagon City-Crystal City-Potomac Yard line, using dedicated lanes in Crystal City, could meet the definition of BRT.
“I’m all about providing factual information to the community, not incorrect information that could unintentionally mislead,” Tejada said.
Board Chair Mary Hynes and member Jay Fisette — the two members who changed their votes to join Garvey and Vihstadt in cancelling the streetcar last year — admonished both sides for hijacking the discussion.
“The last 45 minutes has been disappointing,” Fisette said. “I don’t like seeing us devolve into last year’s competing facts. It’s certainly not appealing. It’s best that we, jointly, keep our eyes moving forward.”
Garvey, meanwhile, said she wanted to see the transit planning proceed expeditiously.
“Now we have to do a whole countywide process before we can look at the Pike again, and I think that’s not the intention,” she said. “I understand it all has to go together, it’s a good thing… The more I can hear a sense of urgency about moving forward the happier I will be and I think the happier our citizens will be.”
Leach responded that county staff has a leg up in the planning process due to the “body of work” already in place. He said a contract is in place for the design of new transit stops — the cheaper successor to the infamous $1 million Columbia Pike “Super Stop” – but construction isn’t likely until “early 2016.”
Hynes said the study, which will join the community facilities study and Long Bridge Park aquatics center study, also announced yesterday, is important to keep the community reminded of the Board’s effort.
“I don’t want anyone listening today thinking that we are abandoning Columbia Pike,” she said, citing the multimodal improvements and transit station projects and examples. “We need the community to understand that our commitment to those things is deep, is strong, is ongoing and it’s funded.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day — Looking for a place to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today? Take a look at the list of Arlington Irish bars we compiled last month. [ARLnow]
Ted Cruz in Arlington Tonight — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) is scheduled to make an appearance tonight at an event at Sobe Bar and Bistro in Clarendon. The event is being hosted by former Va. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, former lieutenant governor candidate Pete Snyder and the Alexandria-based Disruptor Fund. [Facebook]
NYT On Arlington’s Streetcar Cancellation — The New York Times interviewed Arlington County Board members Jay Fisette and John Vihstadt for an article today entitled “Streetcar Revival Is Wavering in Some Cities.” In addition to Arlington’s streetcar cancellation, the article examines D.C.’s troubles in getting its streetcar line operational. [New York Times]
WeWork Revises Crystal City Plan — The coworking office company WeWork, which has been planning to open microunit apartments in an older Crystal City office building, as part of its new WeLive brand, has revised its plan. WeWork and building owner Vornado are now seeking county permission to build two floors of offices in the building. [Washington Business Journal]
Concept for Abingdon Elementary Revealed — Arlington Public Schools staff have presented plans for a 27,000 square foot expansion of Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. The project is expected to cost $29 million and be complete in time for the 2017-2018 school year. [InsideNova]
Bob and Edith’s Diner, the iconic 24-hour eatery on Columbia Pike, is expanding with two new locations, including one in Crystal City that’s expected to open later this month.
Bob and Edith’s has taken over the space vacated by the former Cesar’s Diner, at 539 23rd Street S., after the end of February. Owner Greg Bolton says he hopes to open a new 24-hour Bob and Edith’s location there, serving the same diner fare as the Pike location, by March 25.
“Same menu, everything’s the same,” said Bolton. The new Crystal City location will have 20 booths, while the original has 17.
Bolton said he’s been eyeing the location — which is within easy walking distance of huge office and apartment buildings, not to mention hundreds of hotel rooms – for 10-12 years, but it only recently “dropped in my lap.”
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “This place is a gold mine.”
Bolton and colleagues have been busy thoroughly cleaning the interior and preparing to install new equipment, including new grills, refrigerators and a new counter. Much of the diner, including its blue booths and its gleaming metal exterior, will remain. Bolton said he’s also planning on taking advantage of the outdoor seating area in front of the diner, when the weather allows.
The Crystal City location is the first of two new locations Bolton is planning to open this spring, after years of running Bob and Edith’s as just one single diner. Another location, in the former Tommy Thai restaurant at Springfield Plaza in Springfield — “next to the Christian store,” Bolton noted — is expected to open as soon as April.
Bolton said he’s expanding “more for my kids than myself.” The Pike diner was first opened by Bolton’s parents, Robert and Edith, in 1969. It’s remained a family affair ever since, with Bolton, his wife Victoria and more recently his two children, Tammy and Chris, helping to run the restaurant alongside a couple of close family friends.
“I can go to the Gulf and [water] ski and play golf all day long, you don’t have to tell me twice,” Bolton said. “But I want to set them on another level.”
There was a second Bob and Edith’s location for a while, situated on Columbia Pike a mile and a half west of the original, but it closed in 2007. Bolton explained that it ultimately just wasn’t a good fit.
“It was just too big, it was really more of a restaurant, I felt, not a diner,” he told ARLnow.com. “I just sold it, put a few dollars in the bank, and moved on.”
The former restaurant is now slated to be torn down and replaced with a four story condo building.
As for whether Bob and Edith’s might take advantage of the Crystal City nightlife and start serving beer, Bolton didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“No liquor, just a real diner,” he said. “I don’t want the responsibility, to be honest with you. There’s enough responsibility just running a business 24 hours.”
Bolton said he’s perfectly content to let other bar owners on 23rd Street serve the booze.
“They get them drunk and I’ll sober them up,” he said.
A new exhibit at Crystal City’s Gallery Underground, in the shops at 2100 Crystal Drive, might hit too close too home for some new parents.
“Screaming Babies” is a solo exhibit by artist Linda Lowery on display now in the free and open art space. Lowery has been drawing infants in states of “raw emotion” for years, in myriad colors, sizes and methods.
“The pain and discomfort depicted in these portraits is a metaphor for the pain and discomfort we experience all of our lives,” Lowery said about her works. “When we see a picture of an infant crying, we identify with the baby’s pain or feelings of abandonment and insecurity and fright.”
The pieces are all available for purchase. The exhibit will run until Saturday, March 28
Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Crystal City’s rebranding as a hub for all kinds of innovation has a new entry in its portfolio: LiftOff Health, a new incubator for healthcare startups.
Founded by Michael Slage, an entrepreneur and former NASA employee who also founded Better Health Box and Healthengage, LiftOff Health is in office space above the Crystal City Shops, given to them for a six-month trial period by Vornado, and Slage said it’s the perfect launching pad for an industry that has gone curiously underdeveloped in the D.C. startup scene.
“A lot of angel groups and places like the Dingman Center don’t really invest in healthcare because they don’t understand it,” Slage said. Along with being an incubator and coworking space, LiftOff will serve as a vetting agency, helping to prepare investor presentations for its clients and validation studies for investors.
“We stand between companies — the risk-takers — and hospitals — the risk avoiders,” Slage added.
LiftOff will wear many hats, but the company still has to “figure out what we are,” Slage said. Is it an incubator, a coworking space, a trade association for healthcare startups, a nonprofit? All could theoretically apply, but Slage said the company is ready to assume all forms.
“It all comes down to how we increase innovation in healthcare,” he said.
There are a couple ways Slage and his cofounders, Sandeep Pulim, Ludmila Litvyakova and Pratik Patel, plan on spurring innovation. First, is a partnership with Marymount University. The school is in negotiations to invest in LiftOff, and partner to provide educational programming. In fact, Slage said when he brought the idea to MU President Matthew Shank, Slage said Shank’s enthusiasm was part of the impetus to start the company.
Second, Slage said he reached out to dozens of foreign embassies in D.C., whose countries are thirsty for better healthcare products. While the U.S. market is tough to break into because of daunting federal regulations, the barrier to enter the market in foreign countries is much lower. LiftOff is already capable sending its clients on a five-day “trade mission” to the United Arab Emirates to set up partnerships in one of the world’s wealthiest countries.
“In the UAE, there’s a huge need for the things we take for granted here,” Slage said.
Third, LiftOff is partnering with the increasingly vital TechShop, just a few blocks away, for a new “Health makers” program. Many of the startups the incubator hopes to bring on as clients will be building and testing new devices, and there are few better resources than the maker space in Crystal City.
LiftOff currently has 12 clients in its 5,000-square-foot space, and it’s looking for more. Slage and his team take equity in their clients’ companies — between 4 and 8 percent — or accept cash for a new tenant. LiftOff already has $500,000 in investment and is looking for another $500,000 to grow its incubator program.
Part of how the company has been able to take off so fast — they only entertained serious discussions around the idea starting last November – is its partnership with Vornado. Seeing LiftOff’s potential, Vornado gave Slage the space rent-free for six months “to see what we can do with it.” The space opened in January.
If the company is successful, there is hundreds of thousands of square footage in Vornado’s portfolio for it to grow into. Vornado and the Crystal City Business Improvement District are betting it will be.
Nats Player’s Townhouse for Rent — A townhouse owned by Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is available for rent. The three-bedroom home, at the Bromptons at Clarendon development, is listed at $5,750 per month. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Budget Cuts for ‘Complete Streets?’ – Updated at 9:25 a.m. — As part of budget discussions, Arlington County is considering cutting $800,000 from its “complete streets” program, which funds pedestrian and bicycle improvements. The cuts would still leave $4 million in the program’s budget, however. The county is also considering eliminating two bicycle planning positions. [WAMU]
Arlington Home Show This Weekend — The annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). [Arlington Home Show]
Underground Bike Races in Crystal City — Every Wednesday night this month, Crystal City is hosting a series of bicycle races on the bottom level of a parking garage. The races are being dubbed “Wednesday Night Spins” and feature a course shorter than a kilometer with almost a dozen turns. [WJLA]
‘Honeysuckle Hill’ Property for Sale — A large property next across from Overlee Pool on Lee Highway is for sale for $3.325 million. The property is divided into four lots, one of which includes a 75+ year old Colonial Revival home that’s expected to be preserved. [Preservation Arlington]
Photo courtesy @Norr_Fit
Update at 4:50 p.m. – The fire has been extinguished, no one was hurt and roads are reopening.
A reported generator fire in Crystal City is producing a large amount of smoke.
Arlington County Police are shutting down roads in the area around the fire and the plume of smoke, on S. Clark Street between 26th and 27th Streets. Firefighters are on the scene and have brought the fire under control, according to scanner traffic
On today’s clear, sunny day, residents are reporting seeing the smoke from more than a mile away.
— Alex Fleischner (@a_fleisch) February 27, 2015
— Amanda Jean (@YourShaddow2) February 27, 2015
Update on 2/21/15 — This project has been approved. See the county press release here.
Millions of dollars in construction work to improve the flow of traffic near the Crystal City Metro Station could begin in a matter of months.
The Arlington County Board will vote at its meeting tomorrow to award a $2.7 million contract for construction on S. Bell Street and 18th Street. The work would include building four bus bays on 18th Street S. under Jefferson-Davis Highway and converting S. Bell Street to a two-way road between 15th and 18th Streets.
The project was originally split in two — the bus bays and surrounding street improvements and converting Bell Street to a two-way road — but the county decided to consolidate to reduce construction impacts and improve coordination, according to the staff report.
The bays allow buses and shuttles to park at an angle along the street, as opposed to stacking parallel to the curb and clogging traffic.
“Construction of the transit and street improvements are important for improving safety and traffic flow in the area, as well as supporting the Crystal City Sector Plan and the [Crystal City-Potomac Yard] Transitway,” the staff report states.
If approved, construction is slated to begin in April and take about 12 months. The contract includes a 15 percent contingency — 5 percent higher than standard because of unknown complications that could come from digging up the street.
According to county Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet, the new bus bays are needed for hotel and employer shuttles that drop off around the Metro station. The Transitway, when fully realized, will turn northbound Crystal Drive into a dedicated bus lane during rush hour. Those shuttles currently stop and drop off passengers on Crystal Drive, and they will be temporarily moved during construction.
One lane of travel each way along 18th Street S. will remain open during construction. The contractor that won the contract, Ardent Company, submitted a $2.3 million bid, more than $800,000 less expensive than the second-place bidder in a nine-bid race. The county determined Ardent to be a responsible bidder.
In addition to the bus bays and S. Bell Street work, the construction will add to the area:
- A median under Jefferson-Davis Highway, to prevent what the county calls “prevalent” jaywalking near where the bus bays will be placed;
- Bus shelters and benches at each of the four sawtooth bays;
- Sidewalk improvements on both sides of 18th Street S.;
- Replacing the asphalt roadway with concrete to withstand increase stress from bus traffic; and
- Reconfiguring the S. Bell Street and 18th Street intersection to improve safety and circulation
Two masked men held up the McDonald’s at 2620 Jefferson Davis Highway early this morning and stole cash.
The two men caught on surveillance cameras entered the fast-food joint about 4:40 a.m. and jumped over the front counter, police said. One man pointed a handgun at employees while the other man served as a lookout. The thieves stuffed cash into a backpack and drove off in a dark sedan. No injuries were reported.
Police described the first suspect as a black man in his 20s who stands about 5-foot-3, weighs 125 pounds and was last seen wearing ripped jeans and construction boots. The other man was described as black, about 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds. He was wearing dark jeans and a black North Face coat.
Anyone with information about the crime is encouraged to contact Det. Mulvaney of the ACPD’s robbery/homicide unit at 703-228-4239 or at email@example.com, or submit a tip anonymously at 866-411-TIPS (8477).
The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, and plans to close thousands of its locations by March 31, including the storefront in the Pentagon City Mall. Employees at the Pentagon City RadioShack could not say when that location would be closing, only that it was relatively imminent.
The RadioShack on the second floor of Ballston Common Mall is expected to be the last remaining location of the national electronics retailer in Arlington by the spring.
That Ballston store will likely be part of the newly formed consortium between Standard General, a private equity fund, and Sprint, the cell phone provider, keeping between 1,500 and 2,400 stores open nationwide, according to Forbes. Whenever the deal is finalized and the transition occurs, the leftover stores will be selling a mix of Sprint products and the electronic goods like cords and adapters for which RadioShack has become known.
(Updated at 10:25 a.m.) Crystal Couture, the annual fashion show and pop-up fashion boutique, returns this week, starting with a VIP preview Thursday evening.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., 38 area designers will offer deals on their latest fashions, and models will stroll down the runway to show them off. The show will be in the Crystal City Shops at 1750 Crystal Drive and is free to attend.
The designers are offering up to 50 percent off their items, and attendees can drink wine, beer and cocktails from the bar while getting free five-minute makeovers.
DJ Neekola will be spinning tunes and fashion consultants will be on hand to discuss the offerings with guests in attendance.
Those interested in being first in line to see the designers’ 2015 collections can pay $50 to become VIPs. The VIP preview starts at 5:00 p.m. and features an hourlong open bar before the official opening of the show at 6:00 p.m.
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. File photo.
Rosslyn: Hub of Hillary Intrigue — Rosslyn is home to an organization devoted to helping Hillary Clinton’s presidential prospects, an organization that spends much of its time trying to dig up dirt on Hillary, and a news organization that is covering the 2016 presidential race. This has created some awkward moments at Rosslyn’s few after-work watering holes. Concludes a magazine article: “The epicenter of the country’s great Hillary debate remains a small, charm-deficient enclave across the river from D.C.” [National Journal]
State Legislators Pass Uber Bill — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in the Commonwealth. [Washington Business Journal]
Bachelor Contestant Is From Arlington — Jillian Anderson, a now-former contestant on this season of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” is an Arlington resident. Anderson, 25, is described as a competitive weightlifter and an “outspoken gym junkie.” [WJLA]
Crystal City: City of the Future? — Paul Singh, founder of Crystal City-based Disruption Corporation and its Crystal Tech Fund, says he wants to model a “sustainable model for an American city of the future” in Crystal City. “Our efforts in the city should be a 100-year legacy,” he said. [Technically DC]
Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster
(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) All that stands between Crystal City’s newest bar and its future, thirsty patrons is an Alcohol Beverage Control Board inspector.
Highline RXR, on the second floor of 2010 Crystal Drive, is built out with reclaimed wood and windows from barnhouses and industrial facilities across the country. Co-owner Peter Bayne said once the ABC inspector comes, he must order about $30,000 worth of beer and liquor and set them all up before opening. He predicts the bar will open this weekend.
Walking up the staircase — designed to look like an industrial train car and painted by a local artist — to the entrance of the large space, you’re greeted with several arcade games, including Monopoly pinball. In a back room, there’s Big Buck Hunter, Golden Tee and Ms. Pacman. The space is open and lined with giant windows.
The bar is broken into a front and back area. The front, where patrons enter, has a space for a stage and the major tap system, which includes 24 standard taps and six beer taps on a separate system that will be rotated more frequently and feature rarer beers. There will also be four red and four white wines on tap. Next to the bar is a custom-built shelf that will have 20 to 30 board games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan.
To enter the back area, patrons must cross through a floor-to-ceiling “window wall,” built with windows from an old factory. The wall can open to create one big space, or close for private parties or when the back room’s windows are open. The windows in the back room can open enough to make it feel “almost like you’re outdoors,” Bayne said. People on the street will be able to see and hear the activity in the bar above.
“Part of the challenge of this place was finding a way to get people up to the second floor,” Bayne said. “By opening this window, it lets us engage with the street so people can really see that activity.”
There are 72 total beer taps — with two dozen in the back area as well — and if Bayne decided he didn’t want to duplicate, he could offer more distinct draft beers than any other restaurant in Arlington. But “that would take a lot of coordination.” He paused for a second, “maybe we could do it for an Oktoberfest party. That would be amazing.”
Bayne is the co-owner of Bedrock Bars, which also owns the Continental in Rosslyn, Carpool in Ballston and Penn Social and Buffalo Billiards in D.C. Despite his wealth of experience opening bars in the area, Bayne oozes enthusiasm over his newest venture.
“We just want to be the best bar in the area,” he said. He looks across the street at Disruption Corporation and the new startup economy beginning to breathe life into Crystal City and can’t help but get excited. “They’re bringing a creative, young energy to this area. We hope to give them a fun bar to go to.”