(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) A robbery occurred just past noon today at a bank branch on Lee Highway.
The United Bank at 5350 Lee Highway, across from the Harris Teeter, was robbed by a man who implied a weapon and passed a note to the teller.
The man fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash before police arrived. Police searched the area for the suspect but were unable to locate him. The FBI is also on the scene and investigating the incident.
The suspect is described as a black male, about 6 feet tall, with a muscular build. He is said to be wearing a gray hat, shirt, and pants.
Alexandria Murder Suspect in Arlington Jail — Charles Severance, who’s charged in the murders of three Alexandria residents, has been transferred to the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. The transfer is intended “to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest,” since Severance is charged in the murder of the wife of a former Alexandria sheriff. [Washington Post]
Roadside Sunflowers Chopped Down — A patch of sunflowers planted at the intersection of Lee Highway and North Powhatan Street has been cut down by VDOT after someone complained to say the flowers blocked her view while turning. The resident who has been planting the sunflowers for the past seven years mounted a sign in the flowers’ place saying “hope you are happy!” [Falls Church News-Press]
Bocce Produces Outcry in Reston, Too — Remember the neighborhood kerfuffle over a single proposed bocce court in Bluemont? Well, it turns out Arlington isn’t the only place where people get steamed about the sport. In Reston, residents are complaining about potential traffic, parking woes, drinking and the loss of green space after a bocce court was proposed. [Reston Now]
County Seeking ‘Human Rights Heroes’ — Arlington County is seeking nominees for the 16th annual James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards. The awards are intended to honor residents, community groups, non-profits or businesses that have made significant human rights achievements. [Arlington County]
Dr. Derron McRae Simon, who ran the WithinMe MD medical clinic at 5275 Lee Hwy in Arlington, has been indicted on charges that he ran an oxycodone distribution ring.
Starting in February 2013, federal prosecutors say Simon and five co-conspirators wrote, filled and sold fraudulent prescriptions for more than 11,000 oxycodone pills and “other controlled substances.” The pills had a total value of nearly $750,000 and Simon sold the prescriptions for between $500 and $1,000, according to prosecutors.
“Simon allegedly wrote and sold hundreds of prescriptions for oxycodone and other controlled substances, despite knowing that the individuals in whose names the prescriptions were written were abusing, misusing, distributing, and/or selling the drugs,” according to a press release. “Simon allegedly had never met many of these purported patients, and he also wrote prescriptions in the names of his five co-conspirators, as well as friends, relatives, and fictitious individuals.”
Simon, 45, is listed as a Midlothian, Va. resident. Among the co-conspirators named by prosecutors is Arlington resident Linda Dao, 21, and Falls Church residents Ereida Escobar, 23, and Michael Harris, 21. They are charged with conspiracy to distribute and dispense controlled substances and possession with the intent to distribute controlled substances.
“According to the indictment, Simon directed Escobar, a receptionist and medical assistant at Simon’s practice, to confirm calls from pharmacists seeking to verify his oxycodone prescriptions,” the press release said. “Simon also allegedly directed Escobar to create fraudulent patient history forms and medical records to make it appear that these individuals were actually legitimate patients.”
The FBI’s Washington Field Office investigated the case.
All six suspects are facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine if convicted on the conspiracy or possession charges. Simon faces an addition one to 40 years in prison if convicted on three separate charges of distributing a controlled substance to persons under the age of 21. Simon and another conspirator are also charged with identity fraud.
Yelp reviews for the WithinMe clinic — which specialized in weight loss and hormone therapy — were not complimentary, especially after the clinic closed.
“I think they went out of business,” one reviewer said. “I have no idea what is going on. No one is answering the phones and the vm is full without even an answering machine introduction”
“If I could give no stars I would,” said another reviewer. “I purchased a groupon and had an appointment on June 23rd – I still have not recieved [sic] the B-12 shots.”
Photo via Google Maps
A new “Catholic gift store” is getting ready to move into Cherrydale next month.
Joyful Spirit Gifts is a new business owned by Meg Miller Rydzewski, a parishioner at Saint Agnes Catholic Church, and it says on its website that it plans to open its brick-and-mortar and online store Sept. 1. The shop is located at 3315 Lee Highway, in the Lee Centre strip mall.
On its Facebook page, it describes itself as a “religious book store and gift shop.” Its slogan, posted on the Facebook page and in its window, is “Faith, Home, Sacraments, Holidays.” The store posted an ad on Craigslist seeking part-time employees to staff the shop, and this morning construction workers could be seen entering and exiting the storefront.
Rydzewski is a published novelist who says on her website she has been a stay-at-home mom in Arlington after a career as a “Wall Street equity analyst and portfolio manager.”
The HomeMade Pizza Company store in the Lee Heights Shops has closed.
The store closed suddenly on Friday as part of a company-wide shutdown. The Chicago-based company had nearly 40 stores in the Chicago, Minneapolis, New York and Washington areas, all of which are now shuttered, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. The Arlington store, at 4514 Lee Highway, opened in 2009.
The company sold freshly-made pizzas that customers could take home to bake, in additions to salads and desserts.
Hat tip to Amanda L.
The incident happened around 7:45 p.m. at a gas station on the 3300 block of Lee Highway, just east of Cherrydale and west of I-66.
Police say a woman was pumping gas when she saw an employee with his pants down, masturbating in one of the garage bays.
Police were called and Arlington resident Bishnu Bahadur, 37, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure.
The mermaid carving along Lee Highway that drew national attention when it was put up for sale in 2011 has been cut down.
The statue had been up in the front yard of Leeway Overlee resident Paul Jackson since 2004. In 2011 Jackson hoped to sell the statue for $3,000, with the requirement of the buyer “slicing her off and returning her home.” He apparently didn’t find a buyer, as the statue, which was built out of a dying, 100+ year-old ash tree, remained in the yard.
Today, however, it is nowhere to be found. The only remnant is a stump beneath a sculpture of a turtle.
The statue was carved by Frederick, Md., artist Scott Dustin, and was described in the Washington Post as having “a shapely derriere and bare breasts that must be at least size DD.” The mermaid was nicknamed “Damaged Goods” or “D.G.” for short, and stirred up neighborhood controversy.
Jackson wasn’t home today to explain why the mermaid was removed, but a poster on the ARLnow.com Facebook page said it was “becoming too rotted and infested with ants.”
Hat tip to Michelle Fetig
(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The retail space at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive that once housed a 7-Eleven store is now a location for a car title loan company.
TitleMax, which lets individuals with poor credit borrow against the title of their automobile, moved into the space a few weeks ago, according to representatives of Virginia Hospital Center, which owns the building.
The 7-Eleven closed Oct. 21 of last year after the convenience store chain’s corporate arm declined to continue its month-to-month lease. In the months between 7-Eleven’s closing and TitleMax opening, Virginia Hospital Center Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Adrian Stanton said there was little interest in the property.
“It’s an odd parcel in that it’s kind of at an angle,” Stanton told ARLnow.com. “It doesn’t allow for a lot of parking and the vehicular access is very limited. Retail operations are not interested in that space.”
Stanton said members of the nearby civic associations — the property is at the edges of the Leeway Overlee, John M. Langston and Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhoods — have been watching the property to see what business will go in there, and he plans to meet with representatives of some of the civic associations soon to explain why TitleMax moved in.
An ARLnow.com tipster questioned whether TitleMax’s location, on the edge of the Yorktown neighborhood, is “in keeping with the area.”
“TitleMax has locations around Northern Virginia in areas just like this,” Stanton said. “There’s obviously something TitleMax sees in the areas they place their services in.”
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Arlington County Police are on the scene of an attempted bank robbery at the M&T Bank at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road.
The crime happened around 2:00 p.m. Initial reports suggest a man entered the bank and demanded cash from the manager, but fled empty-handed. The suspect was unarmed and no one was hurt.
Police set up a perimeter and were looking for the man, who reportedly fled eastbound on Lee Highway on foot. He’s described as a middle-aged white male, weighing about 200 lbs, wearing all black.
A suspect is currently in custody, according to scanner traffic.
In the lower level of the Garden City Shopping Center at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive, Jonathan Elias, Chris Bienlein and their friends can be found amidst a haze of vapor, puffing away on electronic metal tubes.
Elias, 30, owns My Vapez, a store at 5183 Lee Highway that sells vaporizers, a form of e-cigarette. Bienlein is his friend and partner in the fledgling enterprise, but it has become increasingly clear to them that, even though e-cigarettes are a new phenomenon, the market is booming.
Less than a year ago, Elias was a 29-year-old working in information technology when his friend told him about “vaping,” a way to consume nicotine without smoke and without tobacco. The friend had tried the mainstream e-cigarettes like Blu and NJoy but told Elias neither helped him with his smoking habit until he tried a rechargeable vaporizer.
The vaporizer heats up vaporizer juice until it’s a vapor. The liquid has nicotine, two forms of glycol to help the nicotine vaporize, and flavoring.
The idea to open a store didn’t occur to him at first. He asked a now-competitor for more information, and he said they ignored him. So he bought 100 bottles of juice and sold them out of his house last March. Once those sold out, he bought even more.
By June he had a decent business distributing and wholesaling juice out of his house when he bought a space in Herndon to sell retail.
“I never expected it to blow up,” Elias told ARLnow.com in the back room of his Arlington location, which he opened in late October. “At first it was a part-time job. It’s still a learning experience.”
Now Elias operates two stores, is preparing to open another in Rockville, Md., but admits he’s not a huge fan of all the work that has come with the territory. He is, however, enthusiastic about his product. Vaporizers help two-pack-a-day smokers quit entirely, he says, and that’s where about 90 percent of his business comes from.
“I’ve seen guys who haven’t touched a cigarette in months,” he said. “People try other things and they don’t work, so they keep coming back.”
My Vapez carries close to 80 flavors and a handful of different vaporizers, which Elias says are incredibly difficult to keep in stock. One of the vaporizers, which are also called “mods,” sold out before it even arrived in store, thanks to My Vapez’s active Instagram and Facebook following.
“It’s so customizable, they even have Hello Kitty tips,” Bienlein said.
Elias says vaporizer stores like his “are on every corner in California,” but his is the first of its kind in Arlington.
One customer was going to India for a year and bought 30 boxes of juice, Elias said. Another drove all the way from Delaware for a particular mod and flavor. Even though most potential customers are just learning that these products exist, Elias is already proving his doubters wrong. The owner of the grocery store next to My Vapez’s Herndon location was originally one of those doubters, predicting that they would go out of business.
“He told me ‘you’re wasting your time,’” Elias said. “Now his outside wall is lined with e-cigarettes.”
Work to Begin Soon on Bergmann’s Development — Developer McCaffery Interests is planning to begin demolition work soon on the former Bergmann’s dry cleaning plant, at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Vietch Street. Workers could be seen surveying the building last week. On the site, McCaffrey will build a mixed-use development now called “Verde Pointe.” The project, which was approved in 2012, includes 177 apartments, 23 townhomes and a 14,000 square foot MOM’s Organic Market grocery store. [Washington Business Journal]
Opower Files for IPO — Courthouse-based energy efficiency company Opower has filed for an initial public stock offering. The company has nearly 500 employees across 5 offices worldwide. It was founded in 2007. President Obama visited the company’s Courthouse headquarters in 2010. [Wall Street Journal]
Bar to Host ‘Condoms and Candy Necklace Party’ — In honor of Valentine’s Day, Wilson Tavern in Courthouse (2403 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a “Condoms & Candy Necklace Party” tomorrow (Friday) from 8:00 p.m. to close. [Clarendon Nights]
Updated at 3:10 p.m. — Westbound Lee Highway will remain closed during the evening rush hour between N. Buchanan Street and N. Columbus Street as crews continue water main repairs. Seek alternate routes if possible.
The westbound lanes of Lee Highway are shut down near Glebe Road due to a reported water main break.
We’re told that both westbound lanes of Lee Highway are closed between N. Columbus and Buchanan Streets, just west of Glebe Road. Eastbound lanes remain open. Repairs are expected to take the better part of the day.
Businesses in the area are being impacted by the water main break.
“Businesses along Lee Hwy between N. Culpeper St and N. Glebe Rd will be without water for up to 5 hours as repairs are underway,” Arlington County said.
One possible detour for drivers would be to go north on Glebe Road, turn left on 25th Street N., then left on George Mason Drive, before returning to Lee Highway.
Image via Google Maps
A boat fell off its trailer on Lee Highway in Cherrydale Saturday evening, requiring a 40-ton crane and several hours to remove it from the roadway.
The boat belongs to Tom McNulty, a Yorktown resident who took his 16-foot Bayliner power boat out on the Potomac to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather on Saturday. Driving back on Lee Highway, McNulty said he hit a big bump in front of the Dunkin Donuts at 3520 Lee Highway.
“We weren’t going fast, maybe 27 or 30 mph,” McNulty told ARLnow.com today. “We hit the bump and the trailer doesn’t have any suspension. We felt it slide, slowed down, and that’s when it drifted into the right lane and hit a street light.”
McNulty said multiple safety chains and other securing mechanisms snapped, allowing the boat to come completely off the trailer. Once it hit the pavement, it slid down the road “about 100 feet,” McNulty said, leaving fiberglass residue all over the pavement.
The incident happened around 4:45 p.m. McNulty said it took about three hours for the crane — which was called in after a flatbed tow truck operator took one look at the boat and realized he could not tow it — to finally lift it and take it to a yard, where it now sits awaiting an insurance claims adjuster.
“My brother was the one who called it in, and the 911 dispatcher thought we said a bird in a road,” McNulty said. “I’m sure dispatch thought some idiot called in a bird in the road, so when they sent a squad car they realized what was actually happening.”
McNulty said there’s only superficial damage to the boat, but said this isn’t the first time he’s had problems keeping his boat out of harm’s way.
“A tree fell on my first boat,” he said. “During the derecho storm last year. This massive tree just came right down on it. I’m getting my pilot’s license next year so I hope I have better luck with planes.”
The Arlington County Board is expected to approve easement acquisitions to the northwest and southwest corners of the intersection at its meeting Saturday, which will allow the county to widen sidewalks and install bus shelters at the intersection.
The easement acquisition is the first step of wide-scale improvements coming to the intersection. Construction is expected to begin sometime in 2014, but there is no timeline yet, according to county Department of Environment Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman.
Among the changes coming to the intersection will be the installation of left-turn lanes on N. Glebe Road, four new bus shelters, and a new commercial entrance into the Rite Aid shopping center between Glebe Road and N. Albemarle Street. There will also be new streetlights, crosswalk markings and traffic signals installed.
The project is 50 percent designed and funded in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Photo via Google Maps
With the stated goal of “a more economically vibrant, walkable, attractive Lee Highway corridor — one that benefits neighborhoods and the business community,” representatives from the civic associations have already met with the Arlington County Planning Commission for guidance, according to representatives of the Waverly Hills Civic Association.
Along with Waverly Hills, East Falls Church, John M. Langston, Glebewood, Yorktown, Leeway Overlee, Old Dominion, Donaldson Run, Cherrydale, Maywood, and Lyon Village have also joined what the group is calling the “Lee Highway Grassroots Re-visioning.”
Waverly Hills Civic Association President Ginger Brown says the group hasn’t discussed specifics on what the future Lee Highway should look like, calling these first months since the group formed in February “the educational phase,” which includes meetings with the county’s planning staff.
Among the issues the group will be examining and presenting to staff and, they hope, the County Board, will be land use planning and zoning, housing, transportation and parking, demographic trends, tax increment financing and transferable development rights.
“It is anticipated that the new vision will be sent — in early 2015 — to the Arlington County Manager’s office with a request that the County Board appoint and fund a Task Force,” Brown wrote in an email. “Its purpose would be to formally develop a Lee Highway Sector Plan that guides future rezoning and development applications.”