Obama Visit Boosted Business at Bookstore — The November 2012 visit to One More Page Books (2200 N. Westmoreland Street) by President Obama and his family boosted revenue at the East Falls Church store by 20 percent. The visit still continues to benefit the store, according to owner Eileen McGervey. [Washington Business Journal]
Miss Gay Arlington Crowned — The new 2014 Miss Gay Arlington is Coco B. Colby. Colby was crowned after besting three competitors during the April 18 event at Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City. Previous Miss Gay Arlington winners include Shaunda Leer, Stardust and Diamond D. Bottoms. [InsideNoVa]
County Promotes Building Safety — After a series of high-profile construction accidents this past fall, Arlington County has officially proclaimed May to be Building Safety Month. “Building safety is our focus every day, although most of that work happens behind the scenes,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Power Purge Today — Crystal City is holding its annual Power Purge and Shred from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. today. The event, at 1900 Crystal Drive, allows residents to recycle electronics, paper and to get rid of household paints and supplies. There’s also a specialty hard drive crusher for data security. [Crystal City]
Yorktown, W-L Soccer Game Ends in Tie — A “hard-fought, exhausting” boys soccer match between Yorktown and Washington-Lee ended in a scoreless tie Tuesday night. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Rosslyn Startup to Be Featured on ‘Shark Tank’ — Rosslyn-based startup Zoobean will be featured tonight on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Zoobean, which describes itself as “a web service that recommends apps and books for children,” will pitch itself to a panel of wealthy investors, including billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. The show airs at 9:00 p.m. on ABC. The company will also be profiled as part of ARLnow.com’s “Startup Monday” feature next week. [PR Newswire, Des Moines Register]
Pentagon City Mall Expansion Imminent — Work is expected to “begin soon” on a planned 50,000 square foot expansion of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. The expansion will add two new levels of retail, restaurants with outdoor seating, new elevators and escalators, and an expanded food court. Mall owner Simon is also expected to announce some of the new restaurants and retailers coming to the mall “shortly.” [Washington Business Journal]
We, The Pizza Eyes ‘Late Spring’ Opening – We, The Pizza, the pizza restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn, will be opening soon in Crystal City. No specific date has been set, but a spokeswoman said the restaurant is expected to open in “late spring.” Mendelsohn also operates burger restaurant Good Stuff Eatery in Crystal City.
‘Miss Gay Arlington’ Pageant Tonight — The Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance and Freddy’s Beach Bar in Crystal City (555 23rd Street S.) will host the annual Miss Gay Arlington pageant tonight. Four contestants will compete in four categories: presentation, talent, evening gown, and on-stage question. The event starts at 8:00 p.m. and admission is $10. [AGLA]
Enterprise CarShare Launches in Rosslyn — A car sharing service from Enterprise Rent-A-Car has launched in the D.C. area. Two of its car share parking stations are located in the Rosslyn area. [Enterprise CarShare]
Photo courtesy Rick Shewell
Lower prices, more burgers, a new delivery service and parking validation. Those are among a series of recent changes made by RedRocks, the pizza-centric restaurant on Columbia Pike, to help boost business.
The restaurant, located in the Penrose Square shopping center at 2501 Columbia Pike, is “relaunching” after a year in business due to lower-than-expected sales, according to co-owner Doug Baj.
“It’s been a little bit challenging, the whole Columbia Pike corridor,” Baj said. “I’m probably not the only business owner to voice that.”
Before its February 2013 opening, RedRocks’ owners thought the Pike would be similar to Columbia Heights in D.C., their first location, which had been a smash hit thanks to strong neighborhood support. They have since come to a realization that the Pike is a significantly different market.
“We saw a lot of similarities,” Baj said, citing young families he’s talked to who have moved from Columbia Heights to the Pike. “What’s lagging a bit is a bit of the sense of community in the Penrose neighborhood so far. It’s getting there, but you still see a lot of people on weekends going up to Clarendon, going in to the city, instead of staying here. We’re trying to make it more enticing for people to stay home and not go to the District” or the R-B corridor.
Among the enticements being rolled out are a revamped menu, which subtracted small plates and added burgers and other pub fare “that we wouldn’t [serve] at our other location.” Two weeks ago RedRocks added a delivery service that serves a two-mile radius around the restaurant. And RedRocks will have an expanded outdoor seating area when the weather finally warms up.
Many of the changes, however, are value-oriented. There are nightly food specials; a happy hour with $3 beers and half-priced appetizers; a $13.99 all-you-can-eat weekend brunch with 99-cent mimosa and bloody mary refills; a kids-eat-free deal on Sundays; and, starting next week, a pizza, pasta and salad lunch buffet that will run Tuesday through Friday.
“People tend to like value on the Pike, that’s what we’re finding overall,” Baj said.
RedRocks has given up on trying to convince Arlington County to offer free parking after 6:00 p.m. in the Penrose Square garage — instead it is now offering free parking validation.
The relaunch started rolling out in February, and Baj said the results so far are promising. ”It’s good, very good, the neighborhood is responding,” he said.
In a phone interview with ARLnow.com, Baj was reluctant to wade into the “hot-button” issue of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, but he did point out that his fourth RedRocks location, along D.C.’s soon-to-open streetcar line on H Street NE, is doing well. The area is getting a new Whole Foods – the streetcar helped to bring that and other “positive development” to the corridor, he said.
“I’d love to see that kind of excitement on Columbia Pike,” said Baj. It could potentially help other restaurant owners on the Pike, who are also dealing with lackluster sales.
“It’s been a struggle for many of them,” he said. “There are definitely some growing pains with the neighborhood, but I don’t think anybody’s going to bail on it. They’re going to stick it out, especially with new housing coming in.”
ARLnow.com first reported in Februrary that numerous businesses in the Clarendon area — mostly bars and restaurants — saw their real estate assessments skyrocket this year, in one case nearly 200 percent. A week later, the county announced that it would review ”all commercial real property assessments with a 50 percent or greater increase from calendar year 2013.”
That review is continuing, with Donnellan telling the Board that she had “no projection as to when it would be completed.” In an earlier interview with ARLnow.com, Rick Melman, Arlington’s director of real estate assessment, said he expected the review to wrap up by the end of May.
In all, 64 commercial properties had 50 percent or higher assessment increases and are being reviewed, Melman said. Responding to a request from ARLnow.com, the county released a list of those properties — albeit in the form of Real Property Codes, not addresses. Those codes can be searched here.
For some of the properties on the list, the big jump in assessments can be explained by building projects or development plans that drove up the value. Others remain unexplained — for instance, Rien Tong Restaurant’s nearly 200 percent increase, when neighboring restaurant Kabob Bazaar only increased 32 percent. Or Revolution Cycles’ 64 percent increase, when the Whole Foods across the street saw no increase.
Outside of Clarendon, some properties on the list stood out.
The Dolley Madison Towers apartment complex at 2300 24th Road S. saw its assessment spike from $44 million to $103 million between 2013 and 2014. The aging retail strip at 927 S. Walter Reed Drive rose in value from $1.3 million to $2.2 million. And the assessment for Ballston Animal Hospital at 5232 Wilson Blvd rose from $543,000 to $1 million.
“The assessment office is right now in the process of looking through these 64 properties,” said Melman. “It’s quite a lot to look at. At this early stage it looks that about half of them are explained by new construction, site plans, things like that. Examiners are re-examining the other half. There’s no real trend, they’re all over the county.”
Melman said the real estate assessment office, on balance, had a “pretty low appeal rate” this year. Still, he encouraged anyone who feels their property’s assessment was too high to contact the office and/or file an appeal. Today (Tuesday) is the final day to appeal to Arlington’s Board of Equalization.
“There have been some human errors on our part… and that’s what the appeals process is for,” Melman said. “We’d be glad to talk to any property owner if they have questions or concerns. Our goal is to be fair and equitable to citizen.”
Lubber Run Neighbors Rally Against Housing Proposal — Those who live around the Lubber Run Community Center showed up to the Saturday Arlington County Board meeting to rally against a proposal to use the public land around the community center for affordable housing or a new school. The residents also asked the Board to approve a renovation to the community center. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves Expanded ‘Technology Zones’ — The County Board on Saturday approved an expansion of its program of reduced business license taxes for technology businesses in certain “technology zones.” About 5-10 businesses per year are expected to qualify for the tax incentives. [Arlington County]
Avg. Single Family Home Price Tops $900,000 — The average sale price of a single family home in Arlington hit $913,677 in March. That’s up 11.7 percent year-over-year. The average townhouse sale price, meanwhile, was $449,202 and the average condo was $515,000. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Educators Honored — Two Arlington educators, Glebe Elementary principal Jamie Borg and Kenmore Middle School teacher Cassidy Nolen, are among the recipients of the Washington Post’s annual education awards. [Washington Post]
Air Force Research Office to Remain in Arlington — After considering a move to Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force has decided to keep its Office of Scientific Research in Arlington. The decision was made after Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Rep. Jim Moran, pressed the Air Force to abandon the relocation proposal. The office employs about 170 people. [PR Newswire, Dayton Business Journal]
Arlington Runner Wins Marine Corp 17.75K – Arlington’s Kelly Swain was the top female finisher at the Marine Corps 17.75K race in Prince William County over the weekend. Swain, 28, finished the 11.03 mile event in 1:14:02. The 17.75K is a precursor to the Marine Corps Marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington. The sold-out race will take place this year on Oct. 26. [Army Times]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonderman
Opower Sets IPO Price — Courthouse-based Opower is expected to start selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange today. The company set the price for its initial public offering at $19 per share. [Washington Business Journal]
A Brief History of Fairlington — Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood was built by the U.S. government in the 1940s in response to a housing shortage caused by World War II. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. [Washington Post]
AFAC Fundraiser Tonight — The Arlington Food Assistance Center’s Young Professionals group will hold its annual Hunger Is No Joke fundraiser tonight at Cafe Asia in Rosslyn. The 90s cover band White Ford Bronco will perform. [Clarendon Nights]
Cuban Band to Perform at Artisphere Tonight — Also tonight, at Artisphere in Rosslyn, the Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform. Tickets to the 8:00 p.m. performance are $25 at the door. [Ode Street Tribune]
Temporary Bus Stop Relocations — A number of bus stops on N. Moore Street in front of the Rosslyn Metro station will be relocated from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. The relocations are necessary to allow the demolition of the Moore Street skybridge. Also, starting today, the ART 53 bus stop at Old Glebe and N. Stafford Street is closed for construction for about a week. [Arlington Transit]
Torrez Murder Trial Begins — The murder trial of Jorge Torrez, the ex-Marine accused of killing Navy petty officer Amanda Jean Snell on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, has gotten underway. Torrez is already serving multiple life sentences after being convicted in Arlington of rape and numerous other charges. [Washington Post]
Anti-Streetcar Group Blasts County Study — The group Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit has released a list of the “top 15 reasons” a county-funded study on the costs and benefits of a streetcar system is “another waste of taxpayers’ money.” AST says the study is biased and lacking in original research. [Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit]
Arlington Named One of the Worst Rental Investments — Those who invest in rental properties in Arlington only receive a 5 percent return on their investment, making it No. 11 on the list of worst markets for returns for landlords. That’s according to a list compiled by the firm RealtyTrac. [Washington Business Journal]
Authors to Speak at Central Library — Acclaimed authors Ann Beattie and Richard Ford will speak at Arlington Central Library this month as part of the annual Arlington Reads initiative. The Arlington Reads theme this year is “Dazed and Confused: Two Great Writers on Boomer Angst.” Beattie will speak at Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) on April 10 and Ford will speak on April 24. [Arlington County]
Civic Federation Calls for Tax Cut – The Arlington County Civic Federation voted yesterday to recommend a 3-cent or more cut in the county’s property tax rate. The rate currently stands at $1.006 per $100 in assessed value. One civic federation delegate said the group’s vote sends a message to county government: “Rein it in a little bit.” [InsideNoVa]
Arlington Crews Prepared for Snow — Arlington County pretreated primary and secondary roads in advance of today’s snowfall. The county says that with less than two inches of accumulation expected, crews will treat roads “where sticking occurs.” [Twitter]
TechAmerica Moves to Rosslyn — The technology trade group TechAmerica has quietly moved from the District to Rosslyn. TechAmerica originally moved from Rosslyn to the District in 2009. [Washington Business Journal]
Chopra Starts New Company in Arlington — Aneesh Chopra, the country’s first Chief Technology Officer and a recent candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia, has started a new data and analytics company. The company, Hunch Analytics, is based in Arlington. [Washington Post]
YHS Student Wins Writing Gold Medal — Yorktown High School sophomore Emily Burke has won a Scholastic Writing Awards Gold Medal for a personal essay entitled, “Lost And Found in Beirut And Amman.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Yesterday, County Manager Barbara Donnellan announced the appointment of Assistant County Manager Shannon Flanagan-Watson as the county’s new business ombudsman, responsible for working with the business community to identify improvements to the county’s business processes.
Flanagan-Watson served as the director of business development for the International City/County Management Association before coming to Arlington, according to her biography on the county’s website.
“During my listening tour with the business community last year, I learned a lot about how we can improve the way we do business,” Donnellan said in a press release. “One important component is appointing a senior-level person in my office to work on my behalf with the business community in coordination with County officials and agencies. Shannon brings the skills, passion and understanding of how important our work is in this area to nurture sustainable partnerships.”
Flanagan-Watson will report directly to Donnellan and work with the county’s BizTeam, an interdepartmental group created to assist small businesses with navigating the county’s bureaucracy. For site plans projects, however, the ombudsman will only become involved after County Board approval.
Flanagan-Watson will continue to serve as Assistant County Manager, and none of her responsibilities in that position have been removed, according to Arlington Director of Communications Diana Sun.
“This is not a new position, but rather a new area of focus for me as an Assistant County Manager, and I am excited for the opportunity to work with businesses here or looking to come to Arlington,” Flanagan-Watson told ARLnow.com in an email. “This new role will provide an additional resource and point person to ensure the permitting process in Arlington is as efficient and smooth as possible.”
Ombudsmen, by definition, are typically given a degree of independence from the organization over which they have oversight to ensure they are effective in advocating for the public’s — or in this case, the business community’s — best interests.
Photo via Arlington County
The tavern, which carries more than 500 types of beer, has been touting itself as a location for lunch meetings, corporate training and teleconferencing.
“We are a great place for off-site meetings,” said owner Evan Matz, in a press release. “With little notice, CEOs and managers can reserve a separate room equipped with our IP-based video and wall monitor systems. It’s a perfect place to hold working lunches.”
Matz is also trying to draw attention to World of Beer’s new lunch menu — bratwurst sliders, bacon burgers, etc. — and to his loyalty program, for those who have sampled all 500+ brands of beer.
“One customer has sampled more than 2,000 brands,” Matz noted. “But we don’t recommend this be done during business meetings.”
World of Beer plans to open a new location in Reston in May.
So Far So Good for Ben’s — The day after the new Ben’s Chili Bowl opened at 1725 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, the line stretched to the back of the restaurant throughout the afternoon. But, the Washington City Paper asks, does the new restaurant capture the authenticity of the U Street original? [Washington City Paper]
Board Candidates on Affordable Housing — The Alliance for Housing Solutions has released the answers to an affordable housing questionnaire sent to the four candidates for Arlington County Board. Each candidate calls affordable housing a “top” or “very high” priority except independent Stephen W.C. Holbrook, who writes “government must stay out of the affordable housing.” [Alliance for Housing Solutions]
Fmr. McD’s Exec Named Elevation CEO — Rick Altizer, a former McDonald’s executive, has been named the new CEO of Elevation Burger. The Arlington-based company currently has 32 locations worldwide and hopes to open about 20 more by the end of the year. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Defends CIP PR Spending — Arlington Public Schools is spending $169,000 during Fiscal Year 2014 on a public relations contractor as part of its Capital Improvement Plan process. In a memo to the school board, John Chadwick, the assistant superintendent of Facilities and Operations, argues that his department “would be overwhelmed by the amount of interaction demanded by our community” during the CIP process if it wasn’t for the PR help. [PDF]
Flickr pool photo by Rpcann
Wakefield Falls in Semifinals — The Wakefield High School boys basketball team lost in the 5A state tournament semifinals Saturday. Wakefield lost to Henrico 63-55, ending their season. [Sun Gazette]
Contract Loss Could Cost 165 Jobs in Arlington — Some 165 Lockheed Martin employees in Arlington are set to lose their jobs after the company lost a contract with the U.S. Army for information technology work. The contract was instead awarded to General Dynamics. [Washington Business Journal]
Construction Contract Awarded for New School – The Arlington School Board voted last week to award a $32.3 million contract for the construction of a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The school “is anticipated to be the first Net Zero Energy School on the East Coast,” thanks to a large solar array on the roof. With design, contingencies and “soft costs” factored in, the total cost of the school is projected at $43.8 million, down from the original $46.5 million cost estimate. [Arlington Public Schools]
W-L Falls to Yorktown in Shootout — Yorktown high school hockey club defeated Washington-Lee 3-2 in a four-round shootout Saturday night at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston. It was the last game of the season for both teams.
Big Lines for Car Washes — With spring-like temperatures on Saturday came spring-like lines at local car washes. Motorists lined up to get the salt residue and winter grime washed off their cars. The line for Mr. Wash on N. Glebe Road extended all the way to Route 50 at one point. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
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.