Metro’s Silver Line is set to officially open on Saturday, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and other notable officials on hand to watch the first train depart the Wiehle-Reston East station.
The launch of the Silver Line has economic ramifications for Arlington, though there’s some debate over whether those ramifications will be mostly good or mostly bad.
On the pessimistic side, rail transit in Reston and Tysons could enhance the desirability of those areas and present Arlington with stiff competition, especially in the commercial office market.
On the optimistic side, the fact that the Silver Line will run through Arlington on the way to D.C. could actually make the county’s Orange/Silver corridor even more desirable as an economic hub. The video above makes the case that Ballston in particular is well-positioned to benefit from the Silver Line.
Publicly and privately, officials with Arlington Economic Development say they expect Tysons to take many years to develop as a truly desirable urban area, with walkable and active streets and ample housing. Even then, they believe Arlington’s multi-decade head start on transit-oriented development, and its proximity to D.C., will give the county the competitive edge over Tysons.
Lebanese Taverna, which began as a single storefront in Arlington operated by an immigrant couple and their five children, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with events and specials over the next two months.
On July 28 and 29 at the Westover location (5900 Washington Blvd) and Aug. 6 and 7 at Pentagon Row (1101 S. Joyce Street), Lebanese Taverna will serve dishes from its 1979 menu with the original prices to commemorate the year the restaurant opened.
The restaurant is also currently taking submissions for a social media contest, in which longtime customers can email the restaurant their favorite Lebanese Taverna memory and then vote on their favorites by liking them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A limousine will chauffeur the winners to different Lebanese Taverna locations for a five-to-six course meal, Shea said.
“We’re celebrating our uniqueness,” said Lebanese Taverna Vice President Grace Shea, the youngest child of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm. “Thirty-five years is a long time for a restaurant to be open.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will present a congressional proclamation of congratulations to the Abi-Najm family at a private event Friday evening, Shea said. The Westover restaurant will be open Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a kickoff event with the 1979 prices for invited guests from local civic associations and members of the public who happen to stop by.
“I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Shea said. “When my parents came here they had five kids, $500 and spoke no English.”
The Abi-Najm family came to Arlington in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Marie Abi-Najm worked as a teaching assistant and Tanios Abi-Najm did odd jobs and painted until they saved enough money to open their own restaurant in 1979, in the same storefront they still occupy just down the street from their house, Shea said.
“My dad always loved food and it was a way for him to bring a piece of Lebanon here to us,” Shea said. Her mother came from Dfoun, Lebanon, a village famous for producing chefs.
At first, Lebanese Taverna served pizza and subs and operated under “Athenian Taverna,” the name used by the previous tenants. Shea’s parents and her four siblings in high school were the only employees during the first year, causing business to suffer, she said.
In 1979, the restaurant only offered shish kabob and hummus as menu specials because they were novelties for most Arlington residents. However, their traditional food starting piquing customers’ interests after their first year in business, inspiring the Abi-Najm’s to change the restaurant’s name and put Lebanese fare on half their menu, according to Shea.
“We’d sit down for our family dinners at the restaurant and customers would say, ‘Wow, what is that? We want some of that,’” Shea said. The restaurant kept its half-Italian menu until 1983.
Once the restaurant was officially Lebanese Taverna, a second location opened in 1990 on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. It later expanded to include the Lebanese Taverna Market in D.C., catering division, six restaurants and four cafés it has today.
WeWork, a company that specializes in co-working office space, plans to gut the 1960s-era office building at 2221 S. Clark Street and convert it into a community-oriented residential building featuring “micro-unit” apartments and large common areas. Many of the 252 apartments in the 12-story building will be 360 square feet or less.
“The Crystal City project will be WeWork’s first residential building, bringing the same benefits of co-working — shared amenities, a sense of community and opportunities for collaboration — to a residential building,” the county notes in a press release. “The project will offer an entirely new type of apartment living within walking distance of the Crystal City Metro Station, several bus stops and Capital Bikeshare stations, and will serve as a model for adaptive reuse of an outdated building until redevelopment can occur.”
WeWork signed a 20-year lease with property owner Vornado. The building is expected to be torn down after WeWork vacates the space, making way for a realignment of S. Clark and Bell Streets, as called for in the long-range Crystal City Sector Plan.
“This temporary conversion of an aging, vacant office building into an innovative live-work space is an example of how we continue to reinvent Crystal City as a more attractive, vibrant place that will attract more entrepreneurs and tech workers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said, in a statement.
In addition to extensive interior renovations, the building’s exterior “fins” will be painted with stripes of bright colors, an “experimental exterior color application” that will change in appearance as one moves around the building. Apartment dwellers will have access to 154 parking spaces and 94 bike parking spaces.
The project’s community benefits include “streetscaping, sidewalk improvements on 23rd Street, and outdoor areas including, play and lounge zones and a community garden.”
Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
Pentagon Row Concert Series Starts Tonight — The summer concert series at Pentagon Row starts tonight with Philadelphia-based cover band Kristen and the Noise. The concerts are held every Thursday night from 7:00-9:00 p.m., through Aug. 21. [Pentagon Row]
District Taco Coming to Bethesda — Local, Arlington-based Mexican restaurant chain District Taco plans to open a location in Bethesda in 2016. The Bethesda location is expected to be District Taco’s first in Maryland. [Bethesda Now]
New Homes Coming to Cherrydale — Four new high-end homes are coming to the 4100 block of 18th Street N. in the Cherrydale neighborhood. The list price of the houses, built by Tradition Homes, is around $1.8 million. They’re expected to be ready for move-in by the spring of 2015. [Patch]
Caucus Date Set for Treasurer, School Board — Arlington Democrats will hold a caucus the evening of Monday, Aug. 4 to determine the party’s nominees in the special elections to replace Treasurer Frank O’Leary and School Board member Noah Simon. The caucus will be held from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. [InsideNova]
Comeback for Crumbs? — The Crumbs store in Clarendon and across the country closed this week, but could a comeback for the cupcake company be imminent? A group of investors is planning to provide financing for the bankrupt Crumbs Bakeshop Inc., and that could revive some of the company’s stores. [Washington Business Journal]
Clarendon Art Festival to Return — The “Arlington Festival of the Arts” will return for a second year in Clarendon. The art festival is scheduled to take over part of N. Highland Street for two days on the weekend of Saturday, Sept. 20. [ArtFestival.com]
Last Day for Cheaper Tickets to ARLive — After today, tickets to the upcoming ARLive Startup Smackdown will increase from $15 to $20. The event — which is being held after work on Tuesday, July 22 — will pit about 20 Arlington-based startups against each other in a bid to collect the biggest “investment” from attendees, who will be given play money to dole out to their favorites. Beer, wine and food are included in the price of admission. [nVite]
Held at the Crystal Tech Fund (2231 Crystal Drive) space in Crystal City, the event will arm attendees with Monopoly money and invite them to check out more than a dozen local startups. Attendees can invest the faux funds in their favorite startups, and the company with the most fake money at the end wins lunch with venture capitalist and Crystal Tech Fund founder Paul Singh.
For those attending, there’s no need to bring real cash — we’ll provide all the food and drink you need. Just bring business cards and network as much or as little as you want.
Tickets for the event are just $15 through July 11 and $20 thereafter.
Local startups interested in participating should contact Meghan McMahon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Updated at 9:30 a.m.) New Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Kate Roche, 29, knows she will face questions about her age, but she and the Board of Directors that promoted her view it as an asset.
“My age is a positive,” Roche told ARLnow.com, days after her new promotion was announced. “It’s a change for the business community. When people traditionally think of business, they think of older men, not younger women. Appealing to more demographics makes it a more welcoming place.”
Roche replaces now-retired President Rich Doud, 71. Doud hired Roche as the chamber’s director of member services and development in 2007 after she worked at D.C. nonprofit Women in Government. Roche called Doud “a great mentor and leader,” and said Doud was in tears when they spoke last Friday after she was officially given the job.
The chamber’s Board of Directors Chairman Tim Hughes, an attorney in the Bean, Kinney and Korman law firm, said the search committee for a new president agreed that Roche’s youth was a good thing for the chamber in the midst of changing times.
“She has had just unparalleled enthusiasm, energy, passion and commitment,” Hughes said. “I would say that Kate brings a really interesting and intriguing mix of continuity and experience, along with obvious youth, energy and a change in the face of an organization.”
Roche said she’s focused on partnerships she’s already been building as vice president — her last position. That means working with the Ballston Business Improvement District, Arlington Economic Development and other business and community groups. Roche said leveraging those partnerships will allow the chamber to attract new members, a crucial mission in the changing economy.
“Chambers are being pushed harder to prove why people should join and to demonstrate their value,” Roche said. “There was a time when you joined the chamber just because that’s what you do.”
Hughes said that means attracting more of the tech businesses sprouting up seemingly every week in Arlington and enticing them to join the chamber.
“You think about the people starting businesses and developing software products doing all kinds of great and interesting things,” Hughes said. “We’re attracting these types of folks to the county, so they see why membership in the chamber helps them be effective in their business.”
Coming up, Roche plans to roll out a “Shop Chamber” initiative — member businesses will encourage their customers to shop at other member businesses, with the chamber ultimately keeping track of how much additional money a business can earn from being a chamber member.
Roche said she’s also focused on retaining and engaging current businesses, which includes seeing which members haven’t been to a meeting or event in six months, and reaching out to them. She said the chamber should play a big role in helping local businesses, whether it’s via networking events or by helping to shape county policy.
“The chamber is the only all-county business organization,” she said. “The chamber’s role is to help businesses do business well. When business issues come up, we’re not part of the government, so we can do the lobbying that you can’t do if you’re a part of the county.”
New Homeless Shelter to Open in March — Arlington County’s new year-round homeless services center is now expected to open in March. That means the existing emergency winter homeless shelter in Courthouse is likely to be open much of the winter. [InsideNova]
Competitors Agree on Sign Change — Competing commercial real estate companies have joined together in support of a proposal for Arlington to allow rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office buildings, one already built and another set to be built if the signage is approved. Company officials say that Arlington’s reputation with the business community is at stake, especially at a time of increased competition with areas like Tysons Corner. [Washington Business Journal]
Silver Line Opening Date Set — The Silver Line is set to open to riders on July 26. A ride from Rosslyn to Tysons Corner will take about 22 minutes, while a ride from Rosslyn to Reston will take 34 minutes, according to Metro. [Reston Now, Twitter]
District Taco Expanding to Alexandria — District Taco, which started in Arlington as a tiny taco cart, has just signed a lease to open a new location at 701 S. Washington Street in Alexandria. When it opens, District Taco expects to reach a count of 200 employees. [Twitter]
Moran on Iraq Situation — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the current threat of invading Islamists in that country: “if you break it, you own it, and we broke it… we should have never gone into Iraq.” Moran said isolated air strikes might be warranted to help combat the jihadist militants. [WJLA]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
Arlington Wages, Employment Falling — The average weekly wage in Arlington was $1,588 in the fourth quarter of 2013, the eighth-highest wage among large U.S. counties. However, the average wage was down 2.4 percent compared to one year prior, and the number of people employed in Arlington was down 1.1 percent. [InsideNova]
No Arlington Winners at RAMMY Awards — Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington held its annual RAMMY awards gala at the D.C. convention center last night. No Arlington restaurants were among the winners, although three were among the nominees: Bayou Bakery, The Curious Grape, and Lyon Hall. Water and Wall’s Tim Ma was nominated for Rising Culinary Star of the Year.
Flickr pool photo by ArlingtonPhotos
(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) As it approaches its third anniversary of opening in Clarendon, South Block Cafe (3011 11th Street N.) have unveiled plans for growth. The juice, smoothie and wrap shop will expand into the spot next door previously occupied by Clarendon Alliance, which moved to 3033 Wilson Blvd. earlier this week.
Owner Amir Mostafavi explained he decided to expand because South Block’s line of raw, unpasteurized, cold pressed juices — called South Block Juice Co. — has enjoyed a tremendous response from customers. South Block opened in 2011 and the juice line launched more than a year ago.
“This brand has sort of taken on a life of its own. So we have decided to give the juice its own space, and we are putting our first South Block Juice Co. location in the Clarendon Alliance Spot next door to us,” Mostafavi said. “I refer to South Block Juice Co. as a ‘micro-juicery,’ so we are having a little fun with this and taking on some traits of a microbrewery.”
Similar to beer flights at a microbrewery, South Block customers soon will be able to sample “juice flights.” Visitors also can take home a growler of juice and get information on juice cleanses.
“In general, this will allow us to expand on what has become a very good part of our business,” said Mostafavi. “South Block Juice Co. will be a brand whose focus is on nutrition, community, art and charity.”
The new juice store is expected to open in September.
The company plans to begin construction later this month on a new juice production kitchen in East Falls Church, which will allow for producing a larger volume of juice. South Block also intends to offer more juice varieties after the expansion.
(Updated at 5:50 p.m. on 6/19/14) Cafe Caturra (2931 S. Glebe Road) is expected to close in order to be converted into a Tazza Kitchen restaurant.
The restaurant opened in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center in September 2011. It is expected to close for renovations in the near future, though no timeline has yet been set, according to co-owner Jeff Grant, the founder of Cafe Caturra. The restaurant has applied for but has not yet been granted building permits.
After renovations, it would then reopen as Tazza Kitchen, which serves cuisine inspired by the Mediterranean coast and Baja California. Tazza Kitchen currently has locations in Richmond and Raleigh, N.C., with another coming soon to Columbia, S.C.
As of December, dinner entrees ranged in price from $9.50 to $16.50, according to a glowing review by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“No one is really doing that kind of food here at that price point,” said Lawrence Blake, a Cafe Caturra employee in Arlington.
Hat tip to @alongthepike
Update at 12:00 a.m. — Following a half hour of public comments both for and against A-Town, and some tongue lashings from Board members, the Arlington County Board voted Tuesday night to renew A-Town’s live entertainment permit for three months, as recommended by county staff..
Earlier: A-Town Bar and Grill is facing scrutiny over noise and crime as it seeks to renew its live entertainment permit tonight (Tuesday).
The restaurant, located at 4100 N. Fairfax Drive in Ballston, has been drawing the ire of neighbors who complain about loud, drunken patrons. It’s also the subject of an investigation by Arlington County police and the Virginia Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), over a violent episode at an employee-only party on Feb. 12.
“The Arlington Police Department considers A-Town to be the most troublesome establishment in Ballston,” according to a report by county staff.
The Arlington County Board will decide tonight whether to renew A-Town’s live entertainment and dancing permit. County staff is recommending that it be renewed for three months, with additional restrictions on the establishment’s outdoor cafe area.
“Late night disturbances make it an unpleasant community experience and thus directly impact the value of all our homes,” said Roger Lindberg, president of the condominium association for the nearby Berkeley building, in December. “Late night outdoor partying even on weekends, is not a reasonable expectation of any homeowner.”
To help combat that, A-Town has voluntarily agreed to close the patio at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays, 10:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and at midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Previously, the restaurant had only agreed to close the outdoor bar early — at 10:00 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Those provisions will be overwritten by the new patio closing times.
County staff noted that noise complaints to the police department declined from 25 between August and November, 2013, to nine between January and April, 2014. However, staff opined that “the long unusually cold winter (when the outdoor patio was not used and patrons refrained from lingering outside the establishment) may be at least partially responsible for a decline in noise-related calls.”
Non-noise police calls to A-Town declined by one — from 25 to 24 — during the same period. The 24 non-noise calls from January to April included four calls for fights, one for an assault, and one for a stabbing (the Feb. 12 incident). Separately, there were eight arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) from January to April where the suspect reported coming from A-Town, according to county staff.
County staff says that A-Town should remain on thin ice even should the live entertainment permit be renewed.
“Staff recommends a three month County Board review in order to monitor progress with these issues, and if there is no substantial reduction in the number of police calls or reduction in the evidence of over serving patrons, staff is not likely to recommend renewal of the use permit for live entertainment and dancing,” the staff report says.
A-Town is facing possible disciplinary action from Virginia ABC pending the outcome of the Feb. 12 malicious wounding case. After the incident an ABC agent “issued an administrative charge to A-Town stating that ‘[t]he Licensee has failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the licensed premises… from becoming a place where patrons of the establishment commit criminal violations… and such violations lead to arrests that are so frequent and serious as to be reasonably deemed… a continuing threat to public safety.’”
The disciplinary action could range from a fine to suspension or revocation of its beer, wine and liquor license.
A restaurant called “The Celtic House,” from a company called “Green Brigade LLC,” has applied for a permit to serve wine, beer and mixed beverages at 2500 Columbia Pike, in the Arlington Village Shopping Center. That’s the current home of Manee Thai restaurant, which has been open for 13-14 years.
“Mo,” a man identifying himself as the owner of Manee Thai, told ARLnow.com today that he is in talks to sell the restaurant and retire. But he said nothing has been finalized.
“We have nothing going on yet,” he said. “We are still talking.”
No company phone number was listed for The Celtic House or Green Brigade LLC. The Virginia State Corporation Commission and Arlington County have no record of an LLC by the name of “Green Brigade.”
Another Irish-themed watering hole, P. Brennan’s Irish Pub (2910 Columbia Pike), has been open just down the street since 2010.
Skyscraper construction near the Rosslyn Metro stop may force some food trucks to relocate or scale back their visits to the lunch hot spot.
“It sucks,” Louie Hankins, the co-founder of the Rito Loco truck, told ARLnow.com. “We can only park two or three trucks here where we used to park seven to eight.”
Construction began this winter on the Central Place apartment building, a 31-story skyscraper that’s projected to be completed in 2017, and has resulted in lane closures and parking restrictions on the stretch of N. Lynn Street between Wilson Blvd and 19th Street N.
Hankins said the construction hasn’t drastically decreased his business. Still, he is considering coming to Rosslyn once every two weeks instead of his usual weekly stop.
“It’s taking most of our parking spots,” said Cindy Hernandez, assistant manager of the Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling truck. With the limited space, other food trucks often beat them to a parking place. In that case, the Rocklands truck relocates to Courthouse.
“There’s more parking but fewer customers there,” Hernandez said. Rocklands used to park in Rosslyn five times a week, but they now only come twice.
Some trucks experienced push-back from authorities, like the Korean BBQ Taco Box truck, which received two tickets after parking on N. Lynn Street, according to Yog Noh, who works on the truck. Noh said that they now park on Wilson Blvd outside of Chipotle, where they see less foot traffic. “A lot of the people who buy our food can’t really see where we are.”
The KBBQ truck had at least 80 customers a day on Lynn Street before construction. Now they get 40 daily customers on Wilson. “I think it’s going to affect us because Rosslyn is one of the best spots we come to,” Noh said.
The KBBQ truck is not the only truck officials have asked to move from Lynn Street. According to Urban Bumpkin truck owner John Nguyen, security guards near the Cosi, at the corner of Lynn and 19th Street, started calling the police on his truck this morning. Nguyen claimed he had started parking at a one-hour metered spot, but was forced to move to Ballston for lunch.
“I said, ‘how are you going to write me a ticket if I just got here?’” Nguyen said. “We were parking in a legal spot with no sign. One of the parking enforcers said they were cracking down on food trucks.”
As a result, Urban Bumpkin served 75 customers in Ballston instead of the usual 100 or more they get in Rosslyn, Nguyen said.
Doug Maheu, the Arlington County Director for the DMV Food Truck Association, and owner of Doug the Food Dude food truck, said that parking is always scarce on Lynn Street because “it’s a gateway into D.C.”
“Lynn Street is probably the premiere spot in Arlington right now,” Maheu said. “Hopefully we can find some other places that are close.”
Maheu is speaking with the county about alternative parking and plans to contact the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. Mary-Claire Burick, executive director of the Rosslyn BID, said the organization is working to find a solution.
Arlington CEO Pleads Guilty to Hacking — Ariel Friedler, the 36-year-old CEO of Arlington-based Symplicity Corporation, has pleaded guilty to federal computer hacking charges. Prosecutors say Friedler and his Chief Technology Officer gained access to the customer section of two competitors’ websites using hacked user credentials in order to steal customer and product design information and gain “an unfair business advantage.” [Pacific Standard, USDOJ]
Wizards Player Helping Clarendon Ice Cream Shop — Washington Wizards swingman Martell Webster tweeted last week that he is working part time at Nicecream Factory, the new Clarendon ice cream store. It turns out that Webster is merely helping out with the store’s marketing effort, which is being led by a long-time friend and former collegiate basketball player. [Washington Post]
Arlington Losing Its Urban Village Advantage? — Arlington is known as a leader in transit-oriented development, thanks to its walkable, mixed-use urban villages. But Arlington’s Mobility Lab suggests that Arlington may be losing its advantage. Tysons Corner, Bethesda, Silver Spring, White Flint, NoMa, and the Ballpark District are all “now competing on the Arlington model,” one county official said. [Mobility Lab]
YHS Senior Video — A group of Yorktown High School seniors recorded a song and created a music video in advance of their impending graduation. [Vimeo]
Wakefield Student Get Sheriff’s Scholarship — A Wakefield High School student has received a $1,000 scholarship from the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office. Kiana Carter, a graduating senior, plans to study criminal justice. [Arlington County]