Postmates, a San Francisco-based startup that uses couriers to deliver items from stores and restaurants directly to offices and homes in under an hour, has expanded to Arlington.
The company announced the expansion earlier this week, adding Arlington and Bethesda and additional neighborhoods in the District of Columbia. Arlington neighborhoods now served by Postmates include Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Lyon Village and North Highlands.
Postmates bills itself as a service that’s “transforming the way local goods move around a city by enabling anyone to get any product delivered in under one hour.”
“Postmates’ revolutionary urban logistics & on-demand delivery platform connects customers with local couriers, who purchase and deliver goods from any restaurant or store in a city,” the company says on its About page. The deliveries are typically done by couriers on bicycle and can be tracked in real time. The average delivery fee in D.C. is $8, according to InTheCapital.
Those in and around the retail industry say the recent trends toward mixed-use, urbanized development and the growth of “milennials” among consumers in the post-recession years add up nicely for Arlington.
Bruce Leonard, a managing principal at Streetsense, a real estate, retail and marketing firm, gave a lecture at George Mason University’s Arlington campus last month called “the changing face of retail.” He contended that the retail market is catching up to the real estate market in seeking urban, walkable centers.
Downtown areas were the dominant retail markets at the turn of the century, he said, until “construction of the interstates it moved away from the cities.”
“Now, ironically, we’re coming back to more urban- and downtown-focused retail,” Leonard said. “So for the [Rosslyn-Ballston] corridor, that’s really a good thing because it’s really urban. It’s relevant to the consumer in that it has the ability to provide an immersive and engaging environment… which is what [the consumers] are looking for.”
Kevin Shooshan, who oversees the leasing for The Shooshan Company in Ballston, said that’s why Arlington will still have an advantage over Tysons Corner when the Silver Line opens.
“I think specifically in the Courthouse-Clarendon-Ballston area, it’s more that it’s a walkable area, even more than Tysons,” he told ARLnow.com yesterday. “In Ballston, in Courthouse, in Clarendon, you can go on a leisurely four-block, five-block walk, passing ground floor retail with every step, with options to grab a paper, grab coffee, meeting with someone. It’s not just a walk down a Metro access corridor. I do see that as a huge asset.”
As the D.C. area apartment rental market continues to surge, that retail market can be key for attracting tenants. Most of the new buildings have fitness centers, pools, computer lounges and other amenities, but the shops in the neighborhood are every bit as much of the pitch to a tenant these days.
“Retail, in these markets, is really becoming an amenity,” Leonard said. “We’re seeing the conversation is ‘what kind of retail will I get that will match the demands of my tenant?’ Co-tenancy is going both horizontal and vertical, and that’s a really new trend.”
Billy Buck, the vice president of Buck & Associates, said the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor sells itself.
“In a 10-minute conversation, it’s mentioned in the first minute or two by the client before we have to bring it up,” Buck said. ”It’s not something you have to sell. The client or the purchaser or the tenant, they get to us because they’ve already realized that all those things are super important to their use.”
Lastly, the top trend Leonard said the retail market will see, both locally and nationall, is continued downsizing of big retailers. With online shopping and a shift in consumer behavior, chains that had giant, big box stores are looking for spaces sometimes half the size as before.
Most national retailers have square-footage requirements for any space they are looking for, Buck said, but that never prevents them from squeezing themselves in Arlington.
“These retailers are smart enough to realize that it may not fit their corporate mold, they know better than to skip Arlington,” he said. “You’re not going to just pass on Arlington in general, it’s just a bad business decision.”
Arlington County will review the big jump in commercial real estate assessments in Clarendon first reported by ARLnow.com last week.
The county said Friday evening that it will take a look at “all commercial real property assessments with a 50% or greater increase from calendar year 2013.”
There are nearly 90 such properties, including Rien Tong restaurant (3131 Wilson Blvd), which saw its assessment increase 197 percent, and Spider Kelly’s (3171 Wilson Blvd), which saw its property valuation increase 83 percent.
The assessments are updated annually and used to calculate county property taxes.
“A small number of commercial property owners did see substantially increased assessments, and this review is meant to correct any mistakes that may have been made,” said county finance director Michelle Cowan, in a press release, below.
Arlington County has begun a review of all commercial real property assessments with a 50% or greater increase from calendar year 2013, including several parcels in the Clarendon area that saw significant increases.
The review will affect fewer than 90 properties, of approximately 3,300 total commercial parcels. Both the original assessments, and the underlying data for each of the affected properties, will be re-examined to determine whether the assessment should be sustained or changed.
“A small number of commercial property owners did see substantially increased assessments, and this review is meant to correct any mistakes that may have been made,” said Dept. of Management and Finance Director Michelle Cowan. “We want to ensure fair and equitable assessments for all property owners.”
Arlington’s Real Estate Assessment office is mailing letters to property owners of all properties whose assessments increased 50% or more. Upon conclusion of the administrative review by the County, property owners will still have the ability to appeal their assessment through the Board of Equalization. It is anticipated that the County’s administrative review will take 30-45 days.
Overall, commercial assessments, which include office buildings, apartments, hotels and retail, grew 5.4 percent over CY 2013, primarily fueled by new construction and strength in apartment properties due to rising rents. The specific parcels that were questioned in the Clarendon area fall into the general commercial category class, which includes retail and other types of properties, excluding office buildings and apartments. The general commercial assessment category increased by 12.4 percent over CY 2013.
Assessments for most commercial properties are based on an income approach and evaluate how much income a property would produce if it were rented as an apartment, store, factory, etc. This approach considers operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and the profits most people would expect from the rental. The net income after operational costs, plus a capitalization rate, determines the assessment value. It is not based on the profitability of a particular business; rather the assessment value is based on the rents and expenses of the property and building in which the business is located.
Long-time businesses, which have not been renovated or sold recently, saw their assessments increase by double digit or even triple digit percentages. The rise in assessments could mean the owners will be forced to pay tens of thousands in additional county taxes this year, barring a successful appeal.
The biggest increase spotted by ARLnow.com was that of Rien Tong Restaurant (3131 Wilson Blvd). The Asian eatery, located across from the Clarendon Metro station, saw its assessment jump from $559,900 to $1,667,600, a nearly 200 percent increase that would result in an extra $12,528 in taxes.
The assessment for Kabob Bazaar (3133 Wilson Blvd), directly adjacent to Rien Tong in a nearly identical storefront, also increased but not as dramatically. The restaurant’s assessment increased from $635,500 to $840,700, a 32 percent rise.
The biggest tax increase as a result of higher assessments goes to Spider Kelly’s (3171 Wilson Blvd), which saw its property valuation increase 83 percent to $5.1 million. The added tax yearly bill: $26,428.
With the exception of Revolution Cycles (2727 Wilson Blvd), which had its building assessment increase 64 percent to $3.8 million, and Azure Day Spa (2420 Wilson Blvd), which increased 55 percent to $1.9 million, the businesses impacted were primarily Clarendon restaurants.
Other big increases include Eventide (39 percent), Clarendon Ballroom (50 percent), Hard Times Cafe and Delhi Club (50 percent), Boccato Gelato (71 percent), Whitlow’s (24 percent), Faccia Luna and Boulevard Woodgrill (56 percent). By comparison, the Clarendon Whole Foods store at 2700 Wilson Blvd saw no increase in its assessment.
Several restaurant owners contacted ARLnow.com about the higher assessments.
“There’s some funny business going on here,” one said, on the condition of anonymity. “This is a money grab, pure and simple.”
Arlington County Director of Communications Diana Sun says that the businesses in question are typically assessed based on a method that takes a look at the income generated by each property. That, however, can’t fully explain the increases.
“Clearly there were some that just look like an anomaly,” she said.
Sun encouraged business owners who think their assessments this year were unjust to file an administrative appeal before the March 3 deadline. Such an appeal could result in a new inspection of the property and a lower assessment. After March 3, or after an unsatisfactory result from an administrative appeal, any appeals must be filed with the county’s Board of Equalization.
The unknowns involved in filing an appeal still have some business owners on edge.
“I have to hire a lawyer now,” one told ARLnow.com “I’m pretty pissed off about it.”
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.”
The last two decades in Arlington have been defined by massive, rapid growth in both the residential and business sectors, and leaders in the community are predicting more of the same over the next 10 years.
At Tuesday’s ARLive event, ARLnow.com asked several members of the Arlington community, from residents to business leaders to politicians, what they thought the future would hold. No one believes Arlington will take any steps back from its recent growth — despite a commercial vacancy rate of about 20 percent – and no one mentioned controversial projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar or the planned Long Bridge Park aquatics center.
County Board candidates John Vihstadt, a Republican- and Green-endorsed independent, and Democrat Alan Howze, were in attendance and professed their optimism for the county they hope to lead.
“I think it has unlimited potential,” Vihstadt said. “I hope it’s going to continue to be a diverse community. At the same time I hope we’re able to preserve the small-town feel of Arlington. I really think it’s almost unique among jurisdictions in the D.C. area in terms of its attractiveness and potential, but it needs to redouble its efforts to remain innovative and competitive.”
“In the next ten years we will see a revitalized Crystal City, a growing Columbia Pike corridor, and a community that continues to value Arlington’s vibrant mix of urban and suburban,” he said. “We will also see more students in our schools than we have seen in decades as neighborhoods continue to turn over, new families move into Arlington and younger residents stay in Arlington after starting families.”
Crystal City’s potential was also on the mind of Aurora Highlands Civic Association President Cheryl Mendonsa, who noted that when she moved into her neighborhood, Crystal City and Pentagon City were fractions of what they are now.
“As Crystal City develops it’s going to be an interesting dynamic,” she said. “It’s going to be the place to be. We’re so close to everything — I think it’s going to be a major city.”
Brian Zupan, the regional sales director for Urban Igloo, also agrees with Howze on the appeal of Arlington’s mix of suburban neighborhoods and urban centers.
“People want the urban-suburban feel in areas they live,” he said. “People want to have things where they’re living. People don’t want to drive to the strip mall and get food, they want to walk. We’re going to see a continued infill and increased density with proximity to the District.”
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]
High Demand for Affordable Housing — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing received more than 3,000 applications for 122 apartments at its new Arlington Mill Residences building on Columbia Pike. Demand for affordable housing is high. Arlington lost about 6,000 residents earning between $50-75k per year from 2000 to 2012, while gaining about 25,000 households that earn more than $200k. [Washington Post]
Remembering Classic Arlington Businesses — Local writer and historian Charlie Clark recently held a talk to recall the former mom-and-pop businesses and restaurants that have closed as a result of Arlington’s “creative destruction.” Among the restaurants remembered were the Buckaroo Steakhouse on Lee Highway, Speedy Gonzales Tex-Mex restaurant in Ballston, and Major Bo’s Chicken Delight. [Sun Gazette]
Charlotte Eyes Crystal City As Development Model – The city of Charlotte, N.C. is hoping to boost development around its airport. One developer has eyed Crystal City as a possible model, considering a “complex similar to Crystal City, a collection of apartment buildings, hotels, offices and shops next to Reagan National Airport.” [Charlotte Observer]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
There’s little relief in sight for drivers and bus riders traveling down some rough portions of Columbia Pike.
Arlington County is planning to finish repaving the section of the Pike from S. Wakefield Street to Four Mile Run Drive by April, but so far the county has no plans to repave the increasingly pockmarked eastern portion of the Pike, including the “Pike Town Center” business district, within the next six months. Potholes are expected to be filled by this spring, but a full repaving could be several years away.
“Over the next several years, Arlington County will continue with utility undergrounding and street improvement projects, which will include roadway paving in three areas on Columbia Pike: Four Mile Run Bridge to County Line, South Oakland Street to South Wakefield Street, and South Garfield Street to South Rolfe Street,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Robyn Mincher tells ARLnow.com. As of last year, the streetscape improvement project was expected to run through 2018.
Apart from the Columbia Pike streetcar, which is a separate project, planned street improvements for the Pike include a repaved roadway, better pedestrian facilities, more street trees and planted medians. But for some Pike residents and business owners, those improvements are too slow in coming.
“I do believe that the delays they are having with the transportation issues will eventually halt all momentum the Pike has had with growth,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). ”Businesses that opened here with the promise of increased foot traffic and customer base may have to close since they’ve been just getting by for years now. We’re all trying to share the same small customer base that lives in the area. Once places start to close, you can forget new businesses coming here.”
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he appreciates the improvements but is worried about the “glacial pace” of some projects.
“While the driver’s experience on the Pike… is very challenging, it is the pedestrian realm what concerns us the most,” he said. ”Utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements have been taking more time than anybody would have had anticipated. This is a challenge for everybody, but especially for businesses along our corridor… reliable timelines are of essence.”
Robinson said she’s heard complaints specifically about the rough roadway, but doesn’t actually think that particular problemn has has much of a direct impact on her business.
“We’ve definitely had customers complain about the road conditions, but as soon as they fix one problem spot, another pops up,” said Sybil Robinson, who owns Twisted Vines Wine Bar and Bottleshop (2803 Columbia Pike). “In terms of business impact, I don’t think it has hurt us too much. Most of our customers live on or near the Pike and the road conditions impact them on a daily basis going to and from work — so they know what to expect.”
Arlington County took responsibility for the maintenance of Columbia Pike from VDOT in 2010. John Antonelli, a Pike resident and an outspoken streetcar critic, says the county is shirking a neighborly duty by leaving the Pike in a state of disrepair.
“Arlington County has to understand that part of being a gateway community is to be a gateway,” he said. “Columbia Pike is a commuter road to the Pentagon and it behooves us as a good neighbor to ensure that our businesses and their employees and customers can get to and from as quickly as possible.”
“It’s a mess,” Antonelli added, about the Pike. “But it is more driveable now then it will be if they put the trolley in.”
One bit of good news for drivers is that VDOT is planning to repave Columbia Pike from S. Quinn Street to S. Orme Street next, as part of its Columbia Pike/Washington Blvd interchange project, according to VDOT spokeswoman Jennifer McCord.
(Updated at 2:15) The U.S. Air Force is planning to move the Air Force Office of Scientific Research from Arlington to Ohio, and Arlington’s representatives in Congress are fighting to keep it here.
The office employs 170 people at 875 N. Randolph Street in Ballston and focuses on improving the Air Force’s technological capabilities. If the move were to become official, the AFOSR would follow the National Science Foundation and federal Fish and Wildlife Service as another federal entity leaving Ballston for more affordable space. In this case, the Air Force would move the AFOSR to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.
“There are major advantages to being located in Arlington’s hub of innovation,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) told ARLnow.com. “Much of this human and technological infrastructure would be forfeited in a move to Ohio. I hope the Air Force realizes what it could lose if they decide to relocate the Office of Scientific Research.”
Moran joined with Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine in sending a letter to Air Force Commander Janet C. Wolfenbarger asking the military branch to reconsider its plans.
“Northern Virginia offers a unique and valuable ‘critical mass’ of military resources, technology infrastructure, world class universities and cutting-edge talent,” Warner said in a press release. “We strongly urge the Air Force to reconsider these compelling benefits before moving the Office of Scientific Research to Ohio.”
The Air Force has issued a Request for Information on moving the office to Ohio, according to a congressional source.
“A move like this requires several levels of decision-making once the RFI is complete,” the source told ARLnow.com. “No decision is expected until FY 2016″
After the jump, the full text of the letter the congressmen sent to Wolfenbarger.
Gen Janet C. Wolfenbarger
Commander, Air Force Materiel Command
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH 45433
Dear Gen Wolfenbarger:
We write to you today to express our concern over the possibility of a relocation of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research from its current site in Arlington to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
As you know, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) has a long and proud tradition of basic research in collaboration with the world’s leading academic institutions. AFOSR has invested in wide-ranging academic efforts, from radiochemistry and superconductivity in the 1950s to environmental technologies and advancements in the treatment of battlefield injuries in the present day. This organization has funded everything from spacecraft to lasers to flat screen television sets, all in collaboration with academia. Critical to this partnership has been its proximity to the vibrant research community in Arlington and neighboring communities.
The growing research presence in Arlington boasts academic institutions such as Virginia Tech and George Washington University, as well as government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Office of Naval Research, and the National Science Foundation. Finally, Northern Virginia and neighboring Maryland are home to some of the world’s leading defense companies. Together these institutions provide fertile ground for the cultivation of collaborative research, the benefits of which AFOSR has been reaping for decades. We believe the research synergies achieved here cannot be replicated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We fear the impact that such a move would have on current and future research efforts, not just for the Air Force but for the wider academic and defense communities.
We understand the Air Force’s impulse to seek potential savings by consolidating some of its facilities within the fold of the Air Force Research Laboratory. Such efforts are commendable in the current fiscal environment, with declining defense budgets. However, given the undeniable benefits of maintaining its location in what has become a global hub of science and technology, we ask that the Air Force promptly provide any information regarding current plans to relocate AFOSR to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, to include the projected timeline and costs associated with such a move, expected savings, and the anticipated impact on the current AFOSR workforce.
Thank you for your consideration of this request. We look forward to hearing from the Air Force on this matter.
Graham Holdings Coming to Rosslyn — Graham Holdings, the firm once known as the Washington Post Company, is moving to Rosslyn. Now without the namesake newspaper, Graham Holdings includes education firm Kaplan, a cable television business, Slate.com, Foreign Policy magazine, and social marketing firm SocialCode. The company is moving to a 34,000 square foot space in Arlington Tower, at 1300 17th Street N. The move will help Rosslyn — home to WJLA, NewsChannel 8, Politico and the Washington Business Journal – brand itself as an emerging “media hub.” [Washington Post]
Sickles Enters Congressional Race — Del. Mark Sickles, who represents Fairfax County in the Virginia House of Delegates, is now the fifth Democrat to enter the race to replace Rep. Jim Moran (D) in Congress. [Roll Call]
TJ Prospects May Get Testing Do-Over — Students from Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties who took the entrance exam for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a magnet school, may get a do-over. Technical difficulties prevented some students from saving the essay portion of the computer exam. [Reston Now]
Arlington Group Helps Undocumented Students — The Dream Project, an Arlington-based organization, is helping undocumented students apply and pay for college. The group was co-founded four years ago by Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez. [Washington Post]
Pike Road Closures Tonight — VDOT will be removing an overhead sign across Columbia Pike at S. Queen Street tonight. Drivers should expect road closures of “up to 20 minutes at a time,” according to Arlington County. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
Arlington is “still sorting through the mess” of the BRAC closures that have boosted office vacancy rates, an Arlington representative told hundreds of Northern Virginia commercial real estate developers today.
Arlington, like other communities in the D.C. area, is experiencing weakness in the office market. The high office vacancy rate is exacerbated by new office buildings coming on the market and certain large employers (including military offices impacted by BRAC) leaving.
To combat that, Arlington is considering options providing certain incentives to attract new businesses and hang on to existing employers.
“We’re aggressively planning for the future,” Alex Iams, a commercial development specialist with Arlington Economic Development, told members of NAIOP, an association for commercial real estate developers.
“[BRAC] is still a four-letter word in Arlington for certain,” he said. “We did an aggressive plan for Crystal City, we’ve done planning along Columbia Pike. We have done planning for BRAC in Rosslyn as well, so we’re not only doing planning for the future, but now we’re aggressively positioning ourselves to hold on to what we have.”
Iams was one-fifth of a panel with the directors of economic development from Alexandria as well as Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties. He told ARLnow.com that Arlington is considering tax incentives and other methods to try to encourage businesses to grow — and, just as importantly, stay — in Arlington.
“We’re trying to structure a policy on how to address office vacancy,” he said. “We haven’t done it yet, but you can expect to see it at the end of the season.”
With the delivery of the 35-story 1812 N. Moore Street last fall, Iams said Arlington’s office vacancy rate is now hovering around 20 percent, the highest it’s been in nearly a decade. Iams said projects like Monday Properties’ skyscraper, which is still unoccupied after being built “on spec” are “suffering the most, because it’s so much space all at once.”
Iams pointed to the success at 1776 Wilson Blvd, a five-story office building at the intersection of N. Quinn Street. It opened in winter of 2012 and is about 85 percent leased, he said.
What Arlington can do to solve its vacancy rate, Iams said, is to follow Vornado’s example in Crystal City when the first wave of BRAC closures saw the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office move to Alexandria.
“Vornado didn’t just sit on their hands,” Iams said. “There was an adaptation with rents and an increase in amenities nearby, and they transformed Crystal Drive into a retail center.”
Iams also cited Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Penrose Square and the Village at Shirlington as examples of “placemaking” the county has partnered with private businesses on to make specific areas more attractive to employees and residents.
The other economic development leaders lamented the lack of demand for office space while demand for residential units all over Northern Virginia is exploding, creating a tricky regulatory line to walk to ensure balance. Iams said Arlington, despite its vacancy rate, still sees demand for office development.
“We’re getting questions from our board and our community about approving more office space,” he said. “The office market also works in cycles, and we want different kinds of products available to be able to deploy when a certain company or tenant may be searching in our market.”
The restaurant at 2413 Columbia Pike opened as Eamonn’s and TNT Bar in August 2012. While the sit-down fried fish restaurant is popular in Alexandria, it never quite attracted the crowds needed to sustain the business on the Pike, we’re told. Instead of closing, over the next month owner EatGoodFood Group will transition from Eamonn’s to a second location of its “Society Fair” bakery, cafe, market and eatery, which is also popular in Alexandria.
Already, couches have replaced some tables and chairs, to give the space a more “warm and comfortable” vibe. More furniture changes are in the works, and curtains will be installed, at least in part to dampen noise. The hope is to become more of a neighborhood hangout, a formula that has worked for nearby William Jeffrey’s Tavern, the biggest success so far on a block of restaurants that are mostly treading water business-wise, thanks to virtually non-existent lunch business.
By mid-February, the restaurant is expected to begin opening at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast customers with coffee, espresso drinks and pastries made fresh at the original Alexandria location. At other times of the day the food offerings will be more of the small plates variety, plus paninis, charcuterie, cheese and salads.
TNT Bar will remain and will serve drinks every night of the week, we’re told, but will continue adding more affordable cocktail options. With the exception of perhaps a few lunchtime closures, Eamonn’s will remain open as the space is gradually transformed.
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema reports that fish and chips will remain on the menu once the Society Fair transition is complete.
The top 8 retail centers in Arlington, including the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and Ballston Common Mall, alone house 644 stores. Arlington retailers recorded a total of $3.27 billion worth of taxable sales in 2012.
The holidays are obviously a crucial time for retailers, providing on outsized portion of annual sales and profit. But with retail sales growth sluggish compared to the growth in online sales, and with the large regional malls in Tysons Corner and outlet stores elsewhere continuing to lure shoppers, the holidays could be a struggle for some local stores.
Free House in Arlington — The new owners of a 1926 Sears bungalow kit home in Lyon Park are offering the house for free to a caring owner. The only catch? The home’s recipient will have to have somewhere to move it. “The needs of the homeowner do not meet the constrictions of the current home,” according to the Preservation Arlington blog. “Rather than bulldoze this historic property, the homeowner is interested in giving it away for only the cost of moving the home.” [Preservation Arlington]
Big Year for Opower — Updated at 2:20 p.m. – Courthouse-based Opower doubled the number of people who use its energy-saving software in 2013, going from 10 million users to about 20 million users. The company also increased its workforce by 50 percent, from about 300 to 460 employees. [Washington Post]
New South Arlington Elementary School? — Speaking at last week’s School Board meeting, civic activist Monique O’Grady asked the board when a proposed new elementary school for South Arlington would be built. Without one, she worried that South Arlington schools could turn into a “trailer park,” filled with relocatable classroom trailers. [Sun Gazette]