We, The Pizza, the pizza shop launched by former Top Chef contestant Spike Mendelsohn, is now open in Crystal City.
Located next to TechShop in the Shops at 2100 Crystal Drive, the pizza shop has only been open “a couple of days” according to a manager in the store, and it was still crowded for lunch at 1:30 p.m. today. The shop has signs posted alerting customers “Staff is training (Be Gentle).”
The shop is open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily and serves slices of 16 custom pizzas, including a chicken poblano spicy Mexican pie, a Mortadella pico de gallo pie and a Cajun chicken and andouille pie. Slices of each pie cost $4 and a cheese slice costs $3. A medium full pizza of any style costs $18 and a large costs $20.
The restaurant also offers wings and salads, and boasts that many of its ingredients are sourced from local farms in Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Mendelsohn also owns the Good Stuff Eatery burger shop two doors down from We, The Pizza.
Arlington County Police say the three men robbed a woman of her purse at a hotel on the 2000 block of Jefferson Davis Highway, near Crystal City, around 11:30 p.m. this past Saturday. As they were running away, one of the suspects accidentally left a couple of things behind.
“As the subjects were fleeing, one dropped his wallet and cell phone, which were recovered by security,” according to the police report.
The butter-fingered suspect was arrested after he went back to the hotel to try to find his belongings, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Another was arrested at his home a short time later.
“Muqtadir Mustafa, 19, of Arlington, Va. and Andre Costa, 19 of Arlington, Va. were arrested and charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery,” the police report said.
A third suspect, whose identity is now known to police, remains at large.
Voting Starts in Congressional Primary — Polls opened at 6:00 this morning in the seven-way race for the Democratic nod to replace Rep. Jim Moran. The polls will close at tonight 7:00. The candidates seeking the nomination are Don Beyer, Bill Euille, Lavern Chatman, Adam Ebbin, Patrick Hope, Derek Hyra and Mark Levine. [Washington Post]
Few Surprises in Howze Speech — County Board candidate Alan Howze addressed the local Democratic faithful at the Arlington Jefferson-Jackson dinner on Saturday. Howze talked about school overcrowding and global warming in the speech, which was described as “low-key,” and said little that would suggest a significant change in strategy since his special election loss to independent candidate John Vihstadt. [InsideNova]
County Employee Sentenced for Taking Bribes — Francisco Hernandez, who worked in Arlington County’s Dept. of Motor Vehicles Select office, has been sentenced to two years in jail after being convicted of taking bribes in connection with his job as a tax assessor supervisor. [FBI Washington Field Office]
Crystal Car Festival This Weekend — In honor of Father’s Day, Crystal City will hold its second annual Crystal Car Father’s Day Auto Festival from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 15. The free event features cars on display, live music, kids activities and a beer/wine garden. [Crystal City]
Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi
Parts of Wilson, Clarendon and Washington Boulevards in Clarendon will be closed most of the day Saturday for the Air Force Association Cycling Classic.
Roads will close starting at 4:30 a.m. Saturday and re-open at 5:00 p.m. to accommodate the Clarendon Cup portion of the Cycling Classic, which also features races in Crystal City and along Route 110 on Sunday.
Registration is closed for the Cycling Classic, which is part of USA Cycling’s National Criterium Calendar, but spectators are invited to watch and visit booths at the expo on Clarendon Blvd. The Clarendon Cup, according to the Cycling Classic’s website, is “known as one of the most difficult criterium races in the U.S. due to technical demands of the course and the quality of the participants.”
Here are the closures that will take effect on Saturday from 4:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.:
- Wilson Boulevard will be closed from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Boulevard
- Clarendon Boulevard will be closed from Washington Boulevard to N. Fillmore Street
- Washington Boulevard will be closed from Wilson Boulevard to N. Highland Street
- N. Highland Street will be closed from Wilson Boulevard to Washington Boulevard
- N. Garfield Street/N. Fillmore Street will be closed from Wilson Boulevard to Washington Boulevard
File photo. The Air Force Cycling Classic is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Arlington Tied for Lowest Unemployment in Va. — Though it once held the title by itself, Arlington is now tied for the lowest jobless rate in Virginia. Arlington and the city of Falls Church both had a jobless rate of 3.2 percent in April. [InsideNova]
Police Release Photos of Burglary Suspect — The Arlington County Police Department has released surveillance photos of a suspect accused of stealing a laptop computer from an office in Ballston. [Arlington County]
CNBC Broadcasts from Crystal City — CNBC broadcast a live shot from Crystal City yesterday morning. The network’s real estate reporter, Diana Olick, profiled the new $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, its collaborative workspace and founder Paul Singh. [CNBC]
Arlington Was Home to the Original Twitter — Arlington residents had access to Twitter as early as the 1950s. Well, perhaps not all residents — mostly Henry Clay Elementary School students. Twitter was the name of the Clarendon-based school’s newspaper, copies of which are now available for review at Arlington Central Library. [Preservation Arlington]
Rockville Gets Its Own Remy — Local comedian-rapper Remy now has some regional competition for his Arlington Rap. An artist going by the name “Rockville Slim” has created a “Rockville Rap.” [Washington City Paper]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
ACPD Participating in ‘Click It or Ticket’ — The Arlington County Police Department is participating in the annual Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign this month. The seat belt use rate in Virginia rose from 78.4 to 79.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Still, 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in Virginia last year were drivers who weren’t wearing a seat belt. [Arlington County]
Bayou Bakery Opening New Location — Courthouse-based Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) is expanding to a second location. Chef David Guas’ second Bayou Bakery will be located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, near Eastern Market, in the former carriage house of the Old Naval Hospital. The historic building is now a civic center known as Hill Center. [Washington Post]
West Coast Tech Meetup Coming to Crystal City — The Bay Area-based group Women 2.0 will be holding its first East Coast tech meetup in Crystal City next month. The “City Meetup” will take place on June 26. In choosing Crystal City, the group cited the recent opening of the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund as evidence that the area has a “budding tech ecosystem.” [Women 2.0]
ACPD K9 to Get Protective Vest — Astor, an Arlington County police dog, will be receiving a new ballistic protective vest. K9 Astor is getting the vest thanks to a national fundraising campaign in honor of K9 Rocco, a Pittsburgh police dog who was killed in the line of duty in January. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
This year’s event, in the garage under 1851 S. Bell Street, replaced the Diamond Derby of past years, but includes largely the same activities: several underground races and a bar and lounge in the middle of the garage to watch the cyclists zip around.
Unlike previous years, all proceeds from racer registrations go to benefit Phoenix Bikes, an Arlington-based nonprofit that teaches youths how to build and repair bicycles while fostering “real-world skills and education.”
Cyclists can register to participate in the kids race, team relays, a “celebrity cruise” with an obstacle course and sprint competitions. The events start at 2:00 p.m. and runs until 6:00 p.m., with last call at the bar at 5:30 p.m. Registration for each race is $20 per rider. Spectators can watch for free.
“The Derby is a creative way to show off Crystal City’s accessibility for bicycles and cars — by highlighting the area’s often overlooked parking assets,” Angela Fox, President/CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, said in a press release. “We are excited about the evolution into the Phoenix Derby and its ability to support this amazing Arlington-based nonprofit organization.”
Photo via Crystal City BID. Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Arlington will be rolling out a pilot program for S. Eads Street this fall that will give residents an idea of what the future of the Pentagon City/Crystal City corridor will look like for years to come.
The county has decided that the four-lane road, which runs parallel to Jefferson Davis Highway from Army Navy Drive to Four Mile Run, is unnecessarily wide, and should be changed to a three-lane road — the center lane for left turns — with increased pedestrian and bicycle amenities.
The county’s Department of Environmental Services recently released a survey asking residents which plan for S. Eads Street they prefer: a regular bike lane with a buffer and a larger parking lane, a street-level “cycle” track with a physical buffer, or a “raised cycle track” with a larger barrier less space for both parked and driving cars. The survey will be open until June 18.
“The reallocation of the available street space allows for other uses such as widened sidewalks, bicycle facilities, pedestrian median refuges, and on-street parking, all to meet the existing and future needs of S. Eads Street,” the county writes at the beginning of the survey. “This pilot program will include many elements that may be included in the final design of S. Eads Street. During the pilot, various aspects of roadway operations will be monitored, including travel times and vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts.”
The pilot program this fall will reduce the traffic to three lanes and institute a “protected bike facility,” as well as increased pedestrian crossings and reconfigured parking. The program will be installed between 15th Street and 23rd Street S., according to DES spokesman Eric Balliet, and most closely resemble “Option 2,” which includes the street-level cycle track. Balliet said the dimensions of the program will differ from those presented as the long-term Option 2 changes.
The Crystal City Sector Plan calls for increased density along parts of S. Eads Street closer to Army Navy Drive, which is also a part of the alignment for the Crystal City streetcar. There will be a meeting for residents to discuss their thoughts and concerns over the future of S. Eads Street on Wednesday, May 21, at 7:00 p.m. at the Aurora Highlands Community Center (735 18th Street S.).
One of the region’s first “micro-unit” apartment buildings is coming to Crystal City.
A new apartment concept is planned for a vacant Crystal City office building, one that would bring the office trend of co-working spaces to the residential real estate market. The project, called WeLive, is being developed by co-working space company WeWork in partnership with Vornado. The building planned to be redeveloped and repurposed is 2221 S. Clark Street, at the corner of 23rd Street S. and Jefferson Davis Highway.
The plan calls for the former office building to be turned into 252 apartment units and 5,848 square feet of ground floor retail. Many of those apartments will be “micro-units,” with fully-furnished studio apartments between 300 and 360 square feet. There are also three- and four-bedroom units, each under 800 square feet.
Although the apartments are tiny, the company plans to make up for that by placing common areas in the middle of the floors. WeLive aims to create two-floor “neighborhoods,” connected by a flight of stairs, with common space in the center of each floor. Each neighborhood would have a commercial-grade kitchen, a dining area, and a common area that may include a living room, a garden, or other amenities.
The idea is that residents — younger tech workers, mostly — would be more interested in hanging out together outside or in common areas than in their individual apartments.
“The idea behind this residential concept is really an extension of WeWork,” said Vornado Senior Vice President of Residential Development Toby Millman. “It’s taking this communal aspect of a work environment and applying it to a residential concept… There’s a lot of great things happening in Crystal City, like TechShop and Crystal Tech Fund, and this really works well in bringing that entrepreneurial spirit to Crystal City.”
Each unit is designed to have its own bathroom and a kitchenette with a small refrigerator, microwave and sink, but no oven or stove. County staff said they’ve studied the designs and said it complies with both code and zoning for a residential building.
The building is known as Plaza 6 — part of the six-building Crystal Plaza development that includes the Shops at 2100 Crystal Drive and has interconnected underground parking — and it’s now vacant after the last federal government tenant moved out a few months ago.
The building is in the path of the future alignment of S. Clark/Bell Street and is set to be demolished and redeveloped by 2050, according to the Crystal City Sector Plan. That gave pause to some members of Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee at the group’s meeting last might.
Millman assured the SPRC that the lease with WeWork — which would control the entire building, including the ground floor retail — would last 20 years and the apartments would serve as simply an interim use.
“It’s completely vacant right now,” he said. “And there’s little or no prospect of ever re-leasing this building. It’s an obsolete office building for today’s standards.”
The 12th and top floor of the building, slightly smaller than the others, will feature standard apartments. The ten floors beneath it, however, may serve as a model for future residential development, aimed squarely at the young entrepreneurs and millennials who work in the co-working spaces that are popping up all over the D.C. area.
“[WeWork] essentially said, ‘we like Crystal City, but we’re not ready to do WeWork there because we’re concerned the people who we want in WeWork don’t have a place to live,’” said Mitchell Bonanno, Vornado’s Director of Development. “You can price these at a point where the young entrepreneurs can afford it and become a part of the community. That’s one of the reason the units are small: to keep the units market-affordable.”
Photo via Google Maps
The Federal Aviation Administration is considering a policy change that would lower the maximum allowable building heights near airports, a regulation that could severely hamper future development in Arlington’s urban centers of Rosslyn and Crystal City.
On April 28, the FAA formally announced it was considering changing the regulations regarding “One Engine Inoperative” safety procedures, the rules dictating precautions that should be taken in case one engine fails on a plane during takeoff.
This afternoon, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) introduced a bill that would require the FAA to put the policy change through “standard rulemaking procedure,” including a cost-benefit analysis by the federal Office of Management and Budget and studies by other agencies before taking effect. The FAA advertised the new rule as a “proposed policy,” which would circumvent the rulemaking procedure, Moran told ARLnow.com.
“The airlines and the airports authority are acting out of greed,” Moran said. “It’s self-centered on their part. It’s disappointing and it should be stopped in my view. I’m just asking that they go through the normal, standard rule-making procedure where you look at the real-world impact, but they don’t want to consider what the economic impact would be in surrounding communities because their stovepipe attitude is they exist for the benefit of the airlines.”
Moran said the regulations are unnecessary as it stands because, unless commercial planes are overloaded, they can ascend well enough to clear the current maximum height restrictions.
“There are millions of flights that go in and out of our airports and it never happens,” Moran, referencing the threat of a One Engine Inoperative situation that leads to a crash into a building. “The reason for this rule change is that they want to make more money by overloading the planes with cargo, passengers and fuel… They need to exercise some restraint so that if one engine was to become inoperable they could continue climbing.”
According to Moran, almost 170 structures in Virginia, largely in Crystal City and Rosslyn, would be impacted by the regulation. While the buildings that are currently built would not be affected, any redevelopment would have to come in the form of shorter buildings, meaning the property values of current buildings could plummet.
It’s unclear at this point what the new maximum height for the buildings would be, according to Moran’s office, but it’s likely buildings like 1812 N. Moore Street and the under-construction Central Place would exceed it. Crystal City especially could be hurt, Moran said, because of the vacant buildings that are in line for redevelopment after the military’s Base Realignment and Closure Act rendered many of them vacant.
“[The policy] would stop any high-rise redevelopment,” Moran said. “If you’re going to make the public investment in Metro, you’ve got to have the high-rise, high-density development around it to pay for it. This would prohibit that.”
Moran’s co-sponsors on the bill are Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), David Schweikert (R-Ariz.). The bipartisan-supported bill could slow the regulatory process significantly if it passes, Moran said. The FAA advertisement solicits public comment for 60 days, after which it could proceed to implement it. If the bill passes, the process would likely take more than a year.
“I think we’ve got a shot at it,” Moran said. “Frankly, I think the real impact of the bill is going to be to alert FAA that there is a lot of congressional resistance to what they want, and they’ll take it into their own hands and go through the normal procedure.”
(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) A former U.S. Navy SEAL is hosting an art fundraiser in Crystal City next month to raise money for veterans returning home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other combat-induced disabilities.
Alexandria-based nonprofit The 296 Project will host a gallery show and silent auction at Gallery Underground (2100 Crystal Drive) of U.S. Navy Senior Chief Kristin Beck, a transgender, 20-year veteran of the Navy whose art “kept her from suicide on more than one occasion,” according to a press release for the event.
Beck, who took part in seven combat deployments with the SEALS and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, was diagnosed with PTSD and a 90 percent disability rating.
The first ever transgender Navy SEAL, Beck “will be addressing the crowd personally,” and discussing the therapeutic effect creating artwork had on her recovery, according to the press release. She will also be advocating for The 296 Project, which “promotes, funds, supports and advocates for art and expressive therapies” for veterans when they return to the States, according to Executive Director Scott Gordon.
Beck’s work will be on display at the gallery from June 2-28. The show will be on June 6 from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. and tickets are $15.
Photo via Facebook
Police Launch Juvenile Crime Initiative — With prom around the corner, the Arlington County Police Department’s School Resource Officers are launching a spring initiative to prevent and reduce juvenile crime. Offers will focus on preventing crimes like drug and alcohol-related offenses among middle and high school students. [Arlington County]
Woman Falls into Manhole — A woman says she fell into a manhole near Columbia Pike Thursday afternoon. It reportedly happened while crews were working on manholes in the area. The victim says she was hurt and and is considering legal action. [WJLA]
Venture Capitalist Moving to Crystal City – Venture capitalist George Kellerman is leaving Silicon Valley and coming to Crystal City. Kellerman has joined the new Crystal Tech Fund as a partner. [TechCrunch, MyFoxDC]
Alban Odoulamy has been running Puppet Heaven, or puppet shops by other names, in Crystal City for 18 years, but his heart isn’t in it like it used to be.
Odoulamy emigrated to the U.S. in the mid-1990s from the small, French-speaking West African country of Benin, where he had worked in production and set design for children’s programming for the state-owned television station. He had been formally trained in Marionette puppetry — the puppets controlled by strings — and worked under a master puppeteer until he came here, where he worked as a concierge for Charles E. Smith before its merger with Vornado.
A year after starting his new job in his new country, he saw a vacant shop in a nearby alley and decided to turn it into his own puppet store and workshop, calling it La Marionette. The shop has moved and changed names twice before finding a permanent home in the Shops at 1750 Crystal Drive, as Puppet Heaven.
Odoulamy is not a shop owner by trade, however. He’s a puppeteer, and he’s done shows around the country — around the world, if you count his home country — but he can’t do them right now.
“I miss the shows,” he said, with the remnants of his French accent still very present in his voice. “Doing them is a full-time job. You have to create your characters, your script and your set. It’s not easy. I was trained to do shows in a studio for television; it’s not like some guy on the street.”
Odoulamy used to have two employees to work the shop while he performed, but business has slowed in recent years. Now, it’s just him, opening the shop at 10:00 a.m. six days a week and closing at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. on Saturdays).
Odoulamy said he approached Vornado a few years ago and told them he was considering closing his shop. To convince him to stay, he said, they gave the shop a renovation. Plus, he says, his shop now has a legacy of customers since it opened in April 1996.
“Just the other day, I had these 23-year-old girls come in the shop and say ‘hi,’” he said. “I didn’t recognize them, but they told me they were two of the first customers at La Marionette and showed me the picture. I love that.”
Odoulamy is 55 now, and he doesn’t know how much longer he wants to keep the shop, despite his loyalty to Vornado/Charles E. Smith. On the contrary, he cherishes each customer who comes in and wants to buy a puppet for their children or themselves.
“I want to keep the tradition of a puppeteer and keep the art alive,” he said. “Everyone enjoys puppets. People still come in and buy Elmo puppets. Some people come in and see the Lamb Chop and they start crying.”
When he goes home every night — just a few blocks away, since he lives in Crystal City — he’s working on a new show, building a new theater and making new puppets.
“I’ve been doing puppets for 31 years,” he said. “I feel like I want to start over. Parents call me all the time and ask me to do shows and I don’t have time. The show is in my heart now, but I want to do it again.”
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.
Today, those interests and hobbies have spawned Bloompop, an e-commerce platform that lets customers browse and purchase flowers from some of the best local florists in their city. Miller said she was tired of seeing local florists struggling while national flower delivery companies delivered inferior products.
“It’s always clear the difference between a local florist and a big national chain,” Miller said. “It’s a much better value and the difference in quality is incredible.”
Miller originally had the idea when she was working in community develop New York City for Meetup six years ago. It wasn’t until late in 2012 — when she was in charge of U.S. digital sales for Rosetta Stone in Rosslyn — when a friend of hers gave her an angel investment to chase her dream. Her last day at Rosetta Stone was Dec. 31, 2012.
Miller hired a developer last March and a designer a month later. By the summer, Bloompop was in beta mode, helping deliver flowers around the D.C. area, but before that, Miller had to convince local florists to partner with her, despite having no product to show them and no customers yet on board.
“Florists have been screwed over for years by different entities,” Miller said. “Getting the first one or two well-known florists was helpful. If you’re a florist in D.C., you know who the other good florists are.”
Bloompop’s first partner was Ultraviolet Flowers in D.C. “I basically had to speak with them four or five times to convince them to sign up,” she said.
Once the first florist or two was on board, Miller and Bloompop formed a system for dictating which florists to choose. She goes on multiple online review sites and only selects those with four- and five-star ratings, and considers florists that have creative arrangements and are willing to work with Bloompop’s universal pricing structure: every arrangement costs $69, $99 or $129, and the delivery fee, no matter where the recipient is, is a flat $10, even for same day delivery.
“A lot of the complaints in the flower industry is how non-transparent the price is,” she said. “A flower website will run a $30-for-roses sale, but after delivery, convenience and other fees, you wind up paying $70. With our site, you can easily compare what you’re getting from different florists because the price points are consistent.”
Bloompop’s official launch was in September, by which time the company was based in D.C.’s 1776 incubator. Now, Miller and her small team have a workspace in the new Crystal Tech Fund in Crystal City, although they are the one company there that hasn’t yet reached $1 million in annual revenue. Miller said Bloompop was accepted into Crystal Tech Fund because its founder/investor, Paul Singh, sees promise in the company.
Miller said the company set a sales goal before it looked into expansion, and hit that goal within three months. Now, Bloompop is either launched, or soon will be launched, in New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Kansas City, Mo., and Sarasota, Fla.
Obama Visit Boosted Business at Bookstore — The November 2012 visit to One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) by President Obama and his family boosted revenue at the East Falls Church store by 20 percent. The visit still continues to benefit the store, according to owner Eileen McGervey. [Washington Business Journal]
Miss Gay Arlington Crowned — The new 2014 Miss Gay Arlington is Coco B. Colby. Colby was crowned after besting three competitors during the April 18 event at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City. Previous Miss Gay Arlington winners include Shaunda Leer, Stardust and Diamond D. Bottoms. [InsideNoVa]
County Promotes Building Safety — After a series of high-profile construction accidents this past fall, Arlington County has officially proclaimed May to be Building Safety Month. “Building safety is our focus every day, although most of that work happens behind the scenes,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Power Purge Today — Crystal City is holding its annual Power Purge and Shred from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. today. The event, at 1900 Crystal Drive, allows residents to recycle electronics, paper and to get rid of household paints and supplies. There’s also a specialty hard drive crusher for data security. [Crystal City]
Yorktown, W-L Soccer Game Ends in Tie — A “hard-fought, exhausting” boys soccer match between Yorktown and Washington-Lee ended in a scoreless tie Tuesday night. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick