Murphy Apologizes for Snowy School Opening — Arlington Public Schools superintendent Patrick Murphy has personally apologized for the unpopular decision to open schools on time yesterday, in the midst of a snow storm. Murphy said APS, like other local school systems that also opened on time, had to make a decision early in the morning, when the forecast still called for less snow. “Once that decision is made, we are kind of locked in,” said Murphy. [InsideNova]
Salt Truck Slides Down Hill — The refreeze may have claimed a salt truck last night. A reader spotted a salt truck being pulled out of a ditch on N. Roosevelt Street. [Twitter]
Crystal City Profiled — As part of its ongoing “Where We Live” series, the Washington Post has profiled Crystal City, which the paper says is “not just underground anymore.” The neighborhood is noted for being convenient to various forms of transportation and having a very low crime rate. [Washington Post]
Remembering Kathryn Stone — Kathryn Stone, a “legendary figure in the history of Arlington County and the Commonwealth,” is remembered for her role in advancing the role of women in government. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
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.
Eastern Foundry CEO and Founder Geoff Orazem said he expects to be full in his space on the fourth floor of 2011 Crystal Drive by “mid-February at the latest.” Its occupancy rate is just one example of the sweet spot his company has found in its sector.
Taking a walk through the halls of Eastern Foundry belies the future the company envisions. Outside a few of the office doors are framed fact sheets about the companies inside, with photos and bios, plus the company’s mission, relationships within the federal government and former jobs where the workers may still have contacts. These sheets will soon be outside every office, and are a resource for companies looking for partners or advice.
Every Thursday, Eastern Foundry hosts a seminar on issues government contractors face, led by a working expert in the field. These topics have already included GSA scheduling, and the ins-and-outs of Small Business Administration set-aside mandates. Eastern Foundry is also using the 10th floor of the Vornado-owned building — currently a vacant 40,000-square foot space – and turned it into an event space and flexible area for some of its tenants.
“No one has integrated residential, community and business development the way we have,” Orazem told ARLnow.com. He said Eastern Foundry is the first government-contractor-only incubator in the country.
Orazem is a former U.S. Marine Corps infantry platoon commander and graduate of Harvard Law School, but realized he wanted to help facilitate business success while working to set up a “tribally run trucking cooperative with government contracts” in Iraq and Afghanistan around 2009.
“We were having an amazing impact on development and security in the area,” he said. “I had far more influence by creating jobs than I ever did as a Marine.”
He spent three years working for McKinsey & Company in D.C. before he decided to try to start his own contracting firm in January. The process, he said, was far more onerous than he had imagined, and his background as a veteran and his “fancy named” college degree didn’t help.
“It wasn’t hard for reasons I thought were good reasons,” he said. “It was difficulty with the process. It was bewildering, bureaucratic, obfuscating and infuriating.”
Orazem realized the opportunity was there to help people like him get through the process. During a meeting with a friend at 1776 in D.C., he saw how collaboration was working for tech startups, and had a “mini-breakthrough.” He realized a cooperative space could have the same impact for contractors as it does for young tech companies.
Orazem hired Andy O’Brien at Jones Lang LaSalle to broker a real estate deal, and Vornado started aggressively pursuing Orazem to consider Crystal City.
“Vornado basically made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” he said. “We’re really excited about the area and the vision of Vornado to recreate it as a technology and innovation center. They were really putting their money where their mouth was.”
HOT Lane Lawsuit May Haunt County — At a time when the state is studying HOT lanes and other possible changes to I-66 inside the Beltway, Arlington County’s past actions may come back to haunt it. County officials “burned some bridges” when they filed a lawsuit against VDOT in 2009 to block HOT lanes on I-395. The county has also lost some regional credibility by abruptly canceling the streetcar project. Efforts by Arlington to oppose any changes on I-66, therefore, may fall on deaf ears. [InsideNova]
Incubator Launches in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a “veteran-owned government technology and innovation incubator,” celebrated its launch in Crystal City yesterday. The company held a ribbon cutting ceremony with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vornado/Charles E. Smith president Mitchell Schear. [PR Web]
Man Arrested for Arlington Attack — Fairfax County Police have arrested a man wanted for allegedly attacking his ex-wife’s boyfriend in Arlington. In the June 15 attack on Columbia Pike, police say Edwin Patino-Medina ripped two necklaces off the boyfriend’s neck then tried to run him over with a car. [WUSA 9]
Menorah Lighting Tonight — Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Tonight, in the park next to the Clarendon Metro station, Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington will hold a menorah lighting and community celebration. The event kicks off at 6:00 p.m. and features a “giant 6 foot menorah” plus music, potato latkes, chocolate gelt and “dreidels for all.” Tomorrow, the group will hold its annual Chanukah on Ice event at the Pentagon Row ice rink.
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family
Arlington-based PBS is celebrating the upcoming fifth season of its hit Downton Abbey with a building-sized mural on its Crystal City headquarters.
The temporary art installation, featuring the likeness of Downton character Lady Mary , is 90 feet high and 54.5 feet wide — 4,900 square feet total — and took about 140 hours to complete. It was installed at 2100 Crystal Drive in partnership with the Crystal City Business Improvement District and building owner Vornado/Charles E. Smith.
“Downton Abbey is the top PBS drama of all time and we are thrilled to showcase that in Crystal City, where PBS calls home,” said Angela Fox, president and CEO of the Crystal City BID, in a press release.
“Crystal City residents, workers, and visitors are encouraged to take photos of themselves with the project, and hashtag #DowntonPBS,” the press release said.
The fourth season of the British period drama drew an average audience of 13.2 million viewers, according to PBS, making it one of the highest-rated dramas on American television. The fifth season will premiere on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015.
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Disruption Corporation in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive, 10th floor) is hosting the annual Tech Cocktail holiday party and all-star award ceremony tomorrow night.
The party will start at 6:00 p.m., end at 8:30 and costs $25 to attend ($35.99 if the guest wants a copy of Startup Mixology by Tech Cocktail’s Frank Gruber). All guests are encouraged to bring canned goods to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Hundreds from the D.C. startup scene are expected to be in attendance, and awaiting the announcement of the annual awards. Winners will be named in the following categories:
- Best Design (Product)
- Best Bootstrapped
- Most Innovative Product
- Most Disruptive
- Biggest Pivot
- Best Company Culture
- Most Active in Local Community
- Most Likely to Get Acquired
- Best Social Good Startup
- Best Big Company with Startup Culture
- Most Charismatic or Best Founder(s)/Leader(s)
- Best Community Leader
There will also be a mixology demonstration and cocktails — naturally — for the occasion. After the event concludes, the remaining guests will migrate just one floor up for a happy hour at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
Photo via Teck Cocktail
Update at 6:30 p.m.: Investigators have determined that the substances found in the apartment were cleaning supplies and chemicals such as acetone, police spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm told ARLnow.com. The substances were held in “weird containers,” for reasons unknown. Hazmat teams have cleared the scene.
Earlier: Police and the Arlington County hazmat team are investigating a possible drug lab found in a Crystal City apartment.
Arlington County Police, Virginia State Police and the hazmat team were called to the Crystal Square Apartments (1515 Jefferson Davis Highway) this afternoon after the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office found “suspicious items” and substances in an apartment during an eviction. The items include laboratory equipment like respirators, scales and beakers, according to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm.
The hazmat team is performing tests on the items to determine what they are and if they’re hazardous. While the equipment may be for some sort of drug lab, it’s not suspected to be a meth lab, which would have prompted evacuations. So far, the building has not been evacuated, Malcolm said.
There have been no reports of any health problems in the apartment building nor of any arrests made by police. Police have closed a portion of 15th Street S. near the scene as the investigation continues.
The bar applied for a live entertainment and dancing permit, which the Arlington County Board is set to review on Saturday, laying out plans for “musical ensembles, solo performers, deejays, karaoke, and comedians” to perform nightly until 2:00 a.m. County staff has recommended approving the permit with conditions that amplified music be limited to Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when all windows and doors to the outside are closed.
Highline conducted open job interviews last week, and co-owner Peter Bayne told ARLnow.com “we had a lot of people show up, more than we ever expected.” The stack of applications is pretty full, but the bar “isn’t going to turn away a rock star,” he said.
The picture of the offerings for patrons is also starting to become a little clearer. Highline will have side-by-side pop-a-shot games as well as a “full shelf” of board games old and new. There will also be arcade games and, a month or two after opening, a new, high-tech gaming table.
“It’s an interactive game table with an LCD TV as the surface and Xbox Kinect cameras overhead,” Bayne said. “You can play games like tic-tac-toe or air hockey just by moving your hands above the table.”
The bar will also have 36 beers, a few wines and a “pre-mixed cocktail” on tap. Bayne also plans to incorporate some barrel-aging and other creative ideas around the libations. “We’re going to have a lot of fun with the beer program,” he said.
“This is definitely one of the more beautiful bars we built,” he said. His company, Bedrock Bars, co-owned with Geoffrey Dawson, owns 24 bars and restaurants, largely in the D.C. area. “I think Crystal City is going to love it.”
File photo (left) courtesy Robert Mandle
Vornado is planning a new 25-story office tower and a 28-story apartment building at Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S.
The redevelopment plan would demolish the current, vacant office building at 223 23rd Street. In addition to building the two new buildings — which would be two of the tallest in Crystal City — Vornado is planning on building a 13,000-square-foot park on the site, adjacent to the residential tower, and a 4,000-square-foot pocket park along Crystal Drive.
It’s unclear what would happen to Jaleo and Kora restaurants, which currently sit at the corner of the intersection, where the office building and the 4,000 square foot park will go.
The Washington Business Journal reported on the plans this summer, noting Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee was scheduled to review the redevelopment proposal in “early fall.” According to the project’s site plan coordinator, Samia Byrd, the SPRC process has not yet started and “there are no public committee or commission meetings scheduled.”
A site plan review is one of the steps the proposal must take before being considered for County Board approval.
The buildings are part of Vornado’s plan to overhaul Crystal City as a technology and retail hub, and the office building — closer to the corner — is planned to have two floors of retail at ground level. If approved, it would deliver 658,365 square feet of office space and 28,675 square feet of retail, while the residential tower would have 1,754 square feet of retail and 353 units.
In order to complete the larger park on the side of the residential tower, and to make way for the realignment of S. Clark and Bell Streets, the plan calls for a second phase of the project which would tear down the Crystal Plaza 6 building at 2221 S. Clark Street S.
Crystal Plaza 6 is set to be renovated in order to become microunit apartments from the coworking space company WeWork. The company reportedly has a 20 year lease on the building.
New, protected bike lanes are now in place on S. Eads Street in Crystal City.
Crews were painting the new markings early this afternoon (Thursday) and there is no parking for stretches between 15th and 23rd Streets today or tomorrow. The road is now down to three lanes — two through lanes and a center left-turn lane — and there are bike lanes on each side of the road.
Parking has been removed on the northbound side, and the parking lane has been moved away from the curb on the southbound side of the road, to protect cyclists from traffic. The lanes are being referred to as a pilot program by the county, and county staff will study traffic patterns once the lanes are fully implemented.
“The idea for the Eads Street plan is that ultimately we’d rebuild the road with new curb and gutter and new geometry,” Arlington’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Manager David Goodman said. “We’re testing it, certainly, to confirm that Eads Street will work okay as a protected bike lane, moving the parking out and the way it interacts with transit. Making sure that it is in fact a good idea to do that there. When funding opportunities come around, we can look at making more permanent changes.”
Goodman said the “flexi-posts” in place on the S. Hayes Street protected bike lanes should be installed this month.
The posts are helpful to motorists confused about where to park their car. Cars were reportedly ticketed earlier this week for parking in the bike lane before parking was prohibited entirely. There are no signs on the stretch of road to indicate to drivers where they are allowed to park, and one Twitter commenter said “1 painted bike per block clearly not sufficient guidance.”
From 23rd Street S. to Eads Street’s terminus at S. Glebe Road, the road has also been reduced from four lanes to three to accommodate a new bike lane, but the lane will be in the traditional place between parking and traffic, Goodman said, similar to the configuration along Wilson Blvd in Clarendon.
President Obama’s announcement on Nov. 20 that he would take executive action on immigration is leading to a hiring boom in Crystal City.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration announced on Monday that it’s hiring about 1,000 full-time federal and contract workers in Crystal City to help implement the president’s executive action, which will grant temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants and help highly-skilled workers stay in the U.S.
Salaries at the facility will range from $34,415 to $157,100, various news outlets reported.
That’s good news for Crystal City and its high office vacancy rate. We’re told the new workers will be based at Crystal Plaza 4, a 46-year-old office building at 2200 Crystal Drive. The federal government is backfilling a General Services Administration lease for the Vornado-owned building.
Republicans have decried the president’s action and are criticizing the new “hiring binge.”
“This facility is a clear symbol of the President’s defiance of the American people, their laws, and their Constitution,” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said, in a statement.
Crystal City’s Disruption Corporation, on the 10th floor of 2231 Crystal Drive, is planning to play host to a 12-week immersive computer coding class in January.
The “coding bootcamp,” is an academy by The Iron Yard and costs $12,000. It offers three courses: rails engineering, which teaches Ruby on Rails for building “fast, production-quality full-stack apps;” mobile engineering for building iPhone apps; and “front-end engineering” for designing websites.
“Every student will leave the app with a portfolio of a functioning app or a functioning tool,” Campus Director Su Kim told ARLnow.com today.
The academy starts Jan. 5 and it’s taking students now. Each class is capped at 15 students to provide for ample teacher-student interaction, she said. The classes are Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The morning session is a “lecture,” with teacher-led instruction while students are live-coding at their computers. The afternoons are lab time, where students can work on their assignments and build their portfolio design.
The final two weeks of the course are devoted strictly to the final product students work on. After the academy is over, The Iron Yard has a career placement system set up to get its graduates jobs as developers in the area. During classes, guest lecturers are brought in from local technology companies and The Iron Yard likes to get a sense for what each community wants out of its developer talent pool.
“We really want the students to meet the needs of the existing community,” Kim said. “The Iron Yard started as an accelerator, but we realized there wasn’t enough talent even for the startups to come out of the accelerator. So the academy launched as kind of accessory.”
In tandem with the bootcamp, The Iron Yard also offers free kids coding classes. For an hour a week, children as young as 7 years old can come and take courses, taught by both the academy’s full-time instructors and by the students in boot camp.
Crystal City is the 10th campus for the Iron Yard bootcamp, following cities like Houston, Atlanta, Austin, Texas and Orlando, Fla. It will be located in Phase II of Disruption Corporation’s headquarters.
Photo courtesy The Iron Yard
Crystal City and Rosslyn were big winners at the NAIOP Northern Virginia commercial real estate development awards yesterday.
Projects and transactions in the two Arlington communities accounted for nearly a third of the 25 awards given out by the organization last night. Adding to Arlington’s haul was one award for a building in Clarendon.
The Arlington winners included:
- Monument View in Crystal City — Best Real Estate Transaction – Sale, Award of Merit
- 1776 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn — Best Real Estate Transaction – Sale, Award of Excellence
- CEB Tower at Central Place in Rosslyn — Best Real Estate Transaction – Lease, Award of Merit
- WeWork in Crystal City – Best Real Estate Transaction – Lease, Award of Excellence
- Crystal Tech Fund in Crystal City — Best Interiors 0-14,999 SF, Award of Excellence
- Vornado/Charles E. Smith DesignLab in Crystal City — Best Project Marketing, Award of Excellence
- Presidential Towers in Crystal City — Best Building Common Area, Award of Merit
- 3001 & 3003 Washington Boulevard in Clarendon — Best Speculative Office Building 7 to 14 Stories, Award of Excellence
- 1812 North Moore Street in Rosslyn — Best Speculative Office Building 15 Stories and Above, Award of Merit
The wallet went missing between 11:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Sunday, on the 2600 block of Jefferson Davis Highway, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm. Initial reports suggest police were searching for clues in the Holiday Inn hotel at 2650 Jefferson Davis Highway.
(An earlier version of this story cited incorrect information regarding the timing of the wallet going missing.)
There was little additional information available about the incident. Malcolm was unable to provide the name of the congresswoman or the circumstances surrounding how the wallet went missing.
“We can confirm that a congresswoman’s was possibly stolen,” he told ARLnow.com “We notified U.S. Capitol Police.”
U.S. Capitol Police have thus far not responded to a request for more information.
Photo via Google Maps
Update at 3:55 p.m. — The County Board voted 4-1 in favor of Fisette’s motion to stop the streetcar project. The dissenting vote was Walter Tejada, who said the streetcar would have reduced congestion and helped the Columbia Pike’s revitalization. “Turning away from a modern streetcar system is a dramatic step backwards,” Tejada said. “Arlington’s credibility in the region will now be adversely affected.”
“I have come to the conclusion that the only way to move forward together … is to discontinue the streetcar project,” Fisette said solemnly, before a large crowd of reporters. “After close consultation with [County Board members Mary] Hynes and [Walter] Tejada, with our partners in Fairfax and Richmond and with members of the community, Ms. Hynes and I have agreed that all spending on streetcar must end.”
Fisette will make it official with a motion at this afternoon’s County Board meeting. Tejada is said to oppose canceling the project and may vote against Fisette’s motion.
The streetcar project was to be funded by commercial transportation revenue, along with funding from the state and Fairfax County, which was to benefit from the Pike streetcar running to the Skyline area.
Fisette said the county will instead explore options for improving bus service on Columbia Pike. The transitway between Crystal City and Alexandria will continue to operate and be developed, but will be served only by buses. Existing streetcar contracts — like the $26 million engineering contract awarded in September — will be “wound down” as quickly as possible.
Fisette acknowledged that many business owners and residents along Columbia Pike will be disappointed by the streetcar project’s cancellation.
“There are those who moved there or developed in anticipation of the streetcar,” Fisette said. “I will say that we are committed and remain committed to the Columbia Pike corridor. We will continue to work towards the realization of that vision [of high quality, mixed use development] in a modified form, and that is the commitment of this Board. We will enhance the bus system to the extent possible.”
Fisette said that he believes a streetcar still makes sense on Columbia Pike, as it would increase transit capacity and spur economic development, adding that he’s “proud” of his vote for it. The decision to kill the project was made after the election of streetcar opponent John Vihstadt on Nov. 4, which “sent a powerful message to the Board.”
“We cannot ignore the political realities… this was not a formal referendum, but I believe it serves as a proxy,” Fisette said. “Right now the level of discord is such that I haven’t seen for awhile. It keeps us from addressing other pressing needs in the community.”
Fisette said county staff and the county manager were “caught flat-footed” by organized opposition to the streetcar, which materialized in “the past year or so.” Efforts to communicate the streetcar’s benefits were ineffective, he said.
The cancellation is an improbable victory for Vihstadt and his anti-streetcar ally on the Board, Libby Garvey. Together, they have been pushing the county to cancel the streetcar project and instead work to implement enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike.
Garvey was in attendance at Fisette’s press conference (which can be viewed online) and said afterwards that Fisette’s announcement “was a complete surprise.” Hynes was at an event this morning and “gave a ringing endorsement” of the streetcar, Garvey said.
“I’m delighted,” Garvey said. When asked about the impact the decision will have on businesses and residents who moved to the area in anticipation of the streetcar, she said “people need to understand that we will get a bus rapid transit system going. It will do everything the streetcar could and more. They’re going to be just fine.”
The streetcar plan for Columbia Pike was developed over nearly a decade of community meetings and deliberations and approved in 2006. Its backers have consistently said that consensus was behind the streetcar and it’s what the community wanted, but Fisette conceded that the feeling around the county has changed.
“The D.C. streetcar was a gift for those of us who oppose the streetcar,” Garvey said.
New Incubator to Launch in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a new incubator serving small businesses that contract with the federal government, is launching next month in Crystal City. Eastern Foundry joins two other recent startup-oriented additions to Crystal City: TechShop and the Crystal Tech Fund. [Washington Business Journal]
Rosslyn Planning Meeting — The county will share “preliminary Concept Plan Alternatives” as part of its Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study at a public workshop on Saturday. The study is, among other things, considering redevelopment possibilities for the Wilson School and Fire Station No. 10 property on Wilson Blvd. [Arlington County]
Glen Campbell Movie Screening in Ballston – A special screening of the Glen Campbell documentary I’ll Be Me will be held at the Regal Cinema in Ballston (671 N. Glebe Road) on Saturday. The documentary explores the music legend’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. [Volunteers of America]
Tips for Car-Free Living in Arlington — Arlington’s transportation blog has seven tips for living car-free in Arlington. Tips include shopping at local stores, downloading the right transportation-related smartphone apps and borrowing a car when you need one. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg