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by Ethan Rothstein — February 20, 2015 at 2:40 pm 891 0

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

by Ethan Rothstein — February 13, 2015 at 3:30 pm 3,248 0

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 protected], or submit a tip anonymously at 866-411-TIPS (8477).

by Ethan Rothstein — February 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,306 0

The closed RadioShack in the Crystal City ShopsThe RadioShack in the Shops at 1750 Crystal Drive in Crystal City is closed and the RadioShack in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is expected to close by the end of March, if not sooner.

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.

by Ethan Rothstein — February 3, 2015 at 10:00 am 631 0

Crystal Couture 2014(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.

by ARLnow.com — February 3, 2015 at 9:15 am 3,620 0

Balloons at a Giant store (Flickr pool photo by Jim Webster)

New Chinese Restaurant?Noted chef Peter Chang appears to be planning to open a new Chinese restaurant at the Lee Harrison Shopping Center on Lee Highway. [Washington Business Journal]

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

by Ethan Rothstein — February 2, 2015 at 3:50 pm 2,709 0

(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.”

by Ethan Rothstein — February 2, 2015 at 12:15 pm 667 0

Startup Monday header

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.

OmniEarth COO and cofounder Jonathan Fentzke(Updated at 1:15 p.m.OmniEarth COO and cofounder Jonathan Fentzke says his company likes to stay “under the radar,” an ironic phrase considering its plans to launch 18 satellites to generate data from around the world in a host of different sectors.

Officially launched in February 2014, OmniEarth takes geospatial data and provides analytics for a broad range of companies. This could mean telling municipal water suppliers which parcels are using too much water — crucial in drought-ridden areas like California — or telling oil and gas companies where there are faults along their pipelines.

“More than 80 percent of data these days has a location along with it,” Fentzke told ARLnow.com from his office above the Crystal City Shops this morning. “Remotely sensed data can give you an indication of how things are changing on a global scale.”

Fentzke and his cofounder, CEO Lars Dyrud, have been friends for more than a decade, but both were working in the applied physics laboratory at Johns Hopkins University when they realized their work for the public sector had use for private companies. Hosted payloads, when one entity rents extra space on a rocket being launched into space, were growing more and more common, and Fentzke and Dyrud wanted to bring it to market.

“We did three years of customer discovery, talked with more than 200 potential clients and saw that there really was traction for this business,” Fentzke said. “We sell information to people who know what to do with it, and we sell analytics to the people who don’t.”

OmniEarth logoOmniEarth’s main business model is selling applications of their data to its clients. That can be predictive models for the effects of the weather on a crop to multinational farm companies, where forests are being illegally cut down or even something Fentzke called a Twitter “happiness index,” which takes the mood of tweets and compares it with the location of people tweeting them, drawing maps based on the data.

OmniEarth is barely a year old and has already received about $3.5 million in funding, with partnerships with massive companies like Harris and Ball and local tech companies like Dynetics. They have partnered with Spaceflight to launch a constellation of 18 small satellites, monitoring “multi-spectral data,” with imaging outside of the visible spectrum (i.e. infrared light).

“The satellites are like our utility, and data and analytics is like our plug,” Fentzke said. “If you don’t have a plug, you can’t access the utility, like electricity.”

Fentzke, an aerospace engineer by training, says OmniEarth is “by scientists, for business users and decision-makers,” and the company is attempting to trademark the slogan “every day, everywhere.” The Board of Advisors reads like a who’s who of the cross-section of industries the company caters to, from a retired U.S. Air Force general to oil and gas executives to a former NASA administrator.

Part of OmniEarth's headquarters in Crystal CityThe company is growing faster than many other Arlington startups, but for what Fentzke and Dyrud have in mind, this is only the beginning. OmniEarth has already bought a smaller company called IRISmaps to leverage its geospatial data and continues to look to expand.

“This is not a get-rich quick scheme,” Fentzke said. “Our goal is to grow something that stands alone. We didn’t just blindly pick this business because satellites are cool. It’s a tool for data, and when you know how to leverage remotely sensed data, you have market-leading information, and it’s legal.”

In another year, the 20-person company expects to double in size and bring in “some big dollars” by the end of 2015. OmniEarth may still fly under the radar as a big-growth company in Arlington, but it won’t be a secret for long.

“The moment I think it’s valuable for us to wave our flag and say ‘hey look at us,'” Fentzke said, “we’ll do that.”

by ARLnow.com — January 29, 2015 at 10:15 am 1,607 0

Capital Bikeshare station at S. Eads Street and 23rd Street S. (Flickr photo by Euan Fisk) Previous configuration at S. Eads Street and 23rd Street S. (photo via Google Maps)

Over on Greater Greater Washington, a mini debate is raging in the comments section about whether this Capital Bikeshare station (pictured, left) in Crystal City is a good idea.

It’s located on S. Eads Street at 23rd Street S, in what was previously a shared bike lane and vehicle travel lane (albeit one with a CaBi station on the side of the road). Now, the lane consists only of a protected bike lane and an in-street Capital Bikeshare station.

In support of the station, some say it has improved safety for cyclists while keeping the station off of the sidewalk. Also, it prevents conflict among drivers when two cars heading straight have to abruptly merge into one lane at the end of the intersection.

Those arguing against the station say it reduces lines of sight, making it harder for drivers to see cyclists and pedestrians crossing the intersection. It also is vulnerable to an errant driver and eliminates a lane used by cars turning onto 23rd Street. Finally, those returning and checking out bikes at the station may come into conflict with those using the bike lane.

Do you like or dislike the placement of the station?

Flickr photo (left) by Euan Fisk. Photo (right) via Google Maps.

by ARLnow.com — January 27, 2015 at 12:45 pm 447 0

ARLnow.com is holding its fifth anniversary bash in Crystal City tonight from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, you can still do so through 5:00 p.m. on Eventbrite. Tickets will also be available at the door.

The event, at the ever-expanding headquarters of the Crystal Tech Fund and Disruption Corporation, will feature two hours of all-you-can eat food from Ruth’s Chris and plenty of wine and beer, thanks to our friends at the Crystal City BID.

To help celebrate our fifth anniversary (which technically is on Thursday), we’re recounting some of the top stories of 2010.

Coming off of the depths of the Great Recession, the year that was 2010 was especially active for business openings in Crystal City. Here are some of the memorable openings in our first year:

See you tonight, Arlington!

by ARLnow.com — January 22, 2015 at 9:05 am 2,262 0

Soldiers from The Old Guard in the snow  (photo via @The_Old_Guard)

Another Early Morning Fire — Arlington County firefighters rescued a man from an early morning house fire on the 2100 block of S. Randolph Street. This is the second day in a row that Arlington firefighters rescued someone from a house fire. [WJLA]

Association Moves from Alexandria to Arlington — The American Diabetes Association is moving from Alexandria to Arlington. The association has signed a 78,000 square foot lease for a building in Crystal City. The building, owned by Vornado, has been vacant since the previous military moved out due to the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act. [Washington Business Journal]

Snow Total for Arlington — Yesterday’s afternoon snowfall resulted in an accumulation of 0.4 inches in Arlington, according to a measurement at Reagan National Airport. In the Great Falls section of Fairfax County, 1.8 inches was recorded. [National Weather Service]

Va. Considering All-HOT Lanes I-66 — Virginia is considering a plan to convert I-66 to HOT lanes only during peak periods. That would mean that transit and carpools of three or more people are allowed to use the highway for free during rush hours, but anyone else has to pay tolls. Construction could begin as soon as next year, with the goal of starting HOT lane service by 2017. [Washington Post]

Opening Date for Kapnos in BallstonKapnos Taverna, the new 165-seat Greek restaurant from chef Mike Isabella, has set an official opening date of Tuesday, Jan. 27. The restaurant is located at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston.

Photo via @The_Old_Guard

by ARLnow.com — January 14, 2015 at 11:15 am 1,128 0

DC Tattoo Expo logoA large tattoo expo is coming to Crystal City this weekend.

The D.C. Tattoo Arts Expo is being held at the Crystal Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway) from Thursday night to Sunday night.

Organizers say the expo is “back, bigger and better than ever.”

“We will again have over 160 of the world’s best tattoo artists, including the finest tattoo artists from the DC Metro area,” according to the expo website. “We have more vendors, more clothing, more tattoos, more craziness and more fun than ever before.”

Attracting tattoo artists and enthusiasts, the event features live tattooing and body piercing. There are discounts for active duty military members and children under 12 get in free with a paying adult.

by ARLnow.com — January 12, 2015 at 3:45 pm 1,556 0

arlnow-5th-anniv-2Believe it or not, ARLnow.com is turning five years old.

Launched on a Friday, on the eve of a snowy Saturday and a week before Snowmageddon, ARLnow.com has been published continuously ever since. During that time it has gone from being an informal local news blog based out of a Crystal City apartment to a professional news publication with full-time employees and an actual office.

By the time we officially turn five, two weeks from now, we’ll have published more than 10,000 articles, including on-the-ground breaking news reporting, big local scoops that became national stories, and plenty articles chronicling everyday life in our fair county.

To celebrate our big day, we’re inviting everybody to our anniversary bash. Our friends at the Crystal City Business Improvement District are helping to organize the event, which is being held from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at Disruption Corporation’s headquarters (2231 Crystal Drive) in Crystal City.

The party will feature drinks and delicious appetizers, all included in the price of admission. Tickets are $20.10, but act fast because for “early adopters” they’re just $12.90 through tomorrow night.

See you there!

by Ethan Rothstein — January 7, 2015 at 2:00 pm 998 0

Update at 3:45 p.m. — The gas line has been shut off and the incident has been cleared. Northbound Crystal Drive remains shut down between Potomac Ave and 27 Street S. as repairs on the gas line continue.

Emergency crews are shutting down the 2600 block of Crystal Drive to repair a gas leak.

According to scanner traffic, multiple units from the Arlington County Fire Department are on scene for a hole in a four-inch gas line running underneath the street. Crystal Drive is under construction in the area and crews appeared to have hit the line while working.

The construction subcontractor that struck the gas line was working on the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway project, Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet confirmed to ARLnow.com.

Police are also being dispatched to keep pedestrians away from the leak and to try to keep those in the buildings adjacent to the leak inside. One of those buildings is a large Environmental Protection Agency office at 2777 Crystal Drive.

The street is shut down from Potomac Ave to around 26th Street S. Drivers in the area should seek alternate routes. According to the scanner, police have cleared the buildings in the area and there are no evacuations.

There is no indication yet of when the leak will be repaired and how it may affect the evening rush. Washington Gas repair crews are on scene.

Photo via Google Maps

by ARLnow.com — January 7, 2015 at 11:00 am 2,259 0

Mother and son shovel snow on 1/6/14 (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

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

by Ethan Rothstein — December 22, 2014 at 4:20 pm 892 0

Startup Monday header

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 OrazemEastern Foundry, a new startup incubator focusing on government contractors as tenants, launched on Dec. 16. With 70 offices covering 21,000 square feet, it’s already 85 percent full.

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.

A standard Eastern Foundry office“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.”

Eastern Foundry's kitchen and break roomOrazem 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.”

(more…)

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