Owners Hans Hess and Cord Thomas, Hess’ nephew, are planning to sell the 50-cab fleet to Veolia Transportation, which operates more than 2,400 taxicabs around the country. Among Veolia’s local holdings are the SuperShuttle airport transportation service and a third of the Washington Flyer cab fleet. Hess also owns the Ballston-based Elevation Burger restaurant chain.
The Arlington County Board must first approve the ownership transfer, per a condition of Envirocab’s taxi licenses. County staff is recommending that the Board approve the sale at its meeting on Tuesday.
The sale has been in the works since at least February. In March, Veolia’s SuperTaxi subsidiary, which will operate Envirocab, told county staff that it plans to offer the following benefits for Envirocab employees and the cab-riding public:
- “SuperTaxi will maintain operations and key personnel as well as stand dues at current levels.”
- “SuperTaxi will provide consumers with new smartphone apps to reserve a taxicab along with a 24 hour, 7 days per week call center with customer-service trained staff.”
- “SuperTaxi will hold regular meetings with drivers to improve service and safety and provide driver award programs.”
- “SuperTaxi will use incentives to provide service during peak demand periods.”
- “SuperTaxi will add at least one wheelchair-accessible taxicab to the fleet (while still keeping its fleet size at 50 taxicabs as authorized under the existing certificate issued to Envirocab).”
Earlier this month the Arlington Transportation Commission unanimously voted to support the ownership transfer. In a report, county staff concluded that the sale “will not adversely affect the health, safety and welfare of the traveling public nor will it adversely affect the Arlington County taxicab industry.”
The Arlington County Board is considering an amendment to its zoning ordinance to allow outdoor cafes on private property to stay open year-round. The county was previously enforcing an uncodified interpretation of the ordinance that requires all outdoor cafes to be seasonal in nature — typically only open from April to November.
Sidewalk cafes located on public property will still be regulated under the seasonality requirement, but will only be required to close for three months of the year.
The amendment proposal comes just over a year after the Westover Beer Garden, which is on private property, defied the county’s seasonality requirement, calling it an “imaginary rule.”
The zoning amendment provides other policy tweaks and clarifications for outdoor cafes on private property. Among them:
- Use of televisions, radios and other electronic media will be permitted at outdoor cafes from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. The outdoor use of electronic media will still be regulated by the county’s noise ordinance.
- Outdoor cafes “in side or rear yards adjacent to or across an alley from an ‘R’ or ‘RA’ [residential] District” must be closed between 11:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m.
- Outdoor cafes must have fewer seats than the main restaurant, and cannot be used when the main restaurant is closed.
- All outdoor fixtures must be removable.
- Only restaurants may have outdoor cafes
The amendment also carries a new legal definition for outdoor cafes. It’s described as “An area that contains portable seating and tables, intended solely for the consumption of food and beverages that are also included in the standard menu of the restaurant, outside the exterior walls of a restaurant (excluding rooftops).”
The Board is scheduled to vote on the measure on Saturday.
A new t-shirt pokes fun at the $1 million bus stop on Columbia Pike and the often tongue-in-cheek rivalry between north and south Arlington.
The t-shirt was created by PikeBuzz.com, a new website that offers deals and events at Columbia Pike “town center” businesses, and will be given away at the site’s launch party Wednesday night. The first 100 attendees at the event will receive the shirt for free.
(Disclosure: PikeBuzz is an ARLnow.com advertiser.)
“We were looking for something funny to put on a shirt,” he said. “The national level attention that the bus stop got in our neighborhood made for an easy target. We also see the Columbia Pike neighborhood changing significantly for the better and thought it would be funny to use the bus stop as a silly measurement of that improvement.”
The shirt takes a jab at the northern half of the county with a scoreboard that shows “South Arlington 1, North Arlington 0.”
“The reference to the scoreboard is to make light of the home grown competitiveness between the two sections of Arlington,” Godbout explained. He continued:
Prior to moving to South Arlington 13 years ago, I would not have been able to tell you the difference between North Arlington and South Arlington, except that one is south of Rt. 50 and the other north of Rt. 50. But after meeting people in the neighborhood, the general belief shared by some is that “North Arlington” has it better… better schools, more funding, more representation on the County Board, etc. So for some in South Arlington, the feeling is that we don’t have it as good. The reality is quite the opposite. I live in the Penrose neighborhood of South Arlington and love it here. My daughter goes to Patrick Henry which is exceptional. My business is in South Arlington and has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. I love the advantages that South Arlington offers.
Godbout described PikeBuzz as a site that “promotes local businesses and allows us to increase the number of events offered on the Pike” by bringing more people to the area.
The site’s launch party will be held Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). In addition to the free t-shirt, the event will feature free food, Karaoke and live acoustic music.
The one-year-old Crystal City Wine Shop is expanding to a second location.
Crystal City Wine Shop — a for-profit business owned by the nonprofit Washington Wine Academy – will open a 1,500 square foot store at 220 20th Street S., in the former Revolution Cycles CityHub space. The store will carry 300 different wines and 150 types of beer, according to Washington Wine Academy president Jim Barker.
In addition to selling wine and beer, the store will “focus on educating people through tastings and events,” Barker said. Like the current store at 401 12th Street S., the new location will hold wine and beer tastings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Barker says he hopes to open the new store at some point this summer, possibly in August.
Even though the two stores will only be a few blocks away from one another, Barker says he believes having a new store “in the heart of Crystal City” will help attract new customers who don’t necessarily want to walk to the existing store, on the north end of Crystal City.
Barker said the Whole Foods Market set to open a block away from the wine shop’s 12th Street location in 3-4 years is “obviously a concern,” but thinks that there’s room for both businesses. He pointed out that the apartment building in which the Whole Foods will be built will add residents to the area, and that the new Boeing headquarters will also add to Crystal City Wine Shop’s base of potential customers.
Photo via Google Maps
The new Residence Inn by Marriott hotel in Ballston (650 N. Quincy Street) is welcoming its first guests this afternoon.
The hotel, which is part of the Founder’s Square development, has 183 hotel suites, 1,880 square feet of retail space, 110 underground parking spaces, an indoor pool, fitness center and a landscaped terrace. It was built to LEED Gold sustainability standards with features like a green roof and reduced water use and energy consumption.
The groundbreaking for the $36 million, 11-story hotel took place in October 2011. Its construction was completed ahead of schedule, according to a press release from The Donohoe Companies, which built and is now managing the hotel.
Residence Inn is Ballston’s first extended-stay hotel, according to the company. An official “grand opening” ceremony is planned for June.
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column by published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Last week, I closed with a reference to the change in parking regulations for food trucks. If you talk to people in the restaurant business, they might find disagreement with what I had to say. It is not that they do not appreciate the the ability of entrepreneurs to start up a business. Their issues are more with the challenges they face in an area with a high cost of doing business. And, they take issue with the way Arlington County treats our existing business by way of taxes, fees, permitting issues, etc. Food trucks, they would argue, have it relatively easy by comparison.
It’s hard to argue with this perspective.
Our County Board once infamously took several hours to debate permits for the placement of sidewalk cafe tables for just two local restaurants. You had to be there to really appreciate the ridiculousness of the length of discussion. In fact, if you talk to most long-standing business owners around Arlington, they can probably tell you at least one story dealing with the county that will make you shake your head in disbelief.
The county certainly has not been able to fill ground floor retail space in new developments that had been promised. Yet, they have famously put businesses like the Westover Market through the wringer.
The way to benefit our employers and improve the options for consumers is to ease the burdens on our existing brick and mortar businesses. Here are three goals to start:
- Arlington should increase the efficiency of its permitting process. To further this goal, it should clarify its zoning rules and ensure greater consistency in their application.
- We should cut the commercial property tax surcharge in half permanently, or at least until it might be required for the ill-advised trolley project. Currently, this property is taxed at a rate 12.5 percent higher than residential properties. By cutting it in half, money would still be available for targeted transportation upgrades. More dollars would be left in our local economy, and it would not be at the expense of general fund dollars that go to county services.
- County Board members should investigate reducing or eliminating the Business Professional Occupational License (BPOL) tax. The BPOL tax is based on gross receipts rather than a tax on profits. In essence, it’s an additional sales tax that our businesses must remit. And, it is an additional paperwork headache for our small businesses.
In short, Arlington should constantly look for ways to hang a big “Open for Business” sign on the door. Encouraging more businesses to open and thrive will benefit all of us with more jobs for people who need them, more choices for consumers, and ultimately more taxpayers to help shoulder the load.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
WJLA and NewsChannel 8 for Sale — Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) has been offered for sale by Allbritton Communications. The company is seeking to sell WJLA and its companion cable channel NewsChannel 8 in order to continue investing in new media, like its Politico website and newspaper. Disney, owner of the ABC television network, is thought to be a likely buyer. [WBJ, Washington Post, Politico]
Brink, Lopez Announce Reelection Bids — Dels. Bob Brink and Alfonso Lopez announced their bids for reelection to the Virginia House of Delegates at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. As part of his speech, Lopez made fun of a Republican effort in the state legislature to study the creation of a Virginia-based currency. Lopez joked that he wanted his face on the Virginia $5 bill and Brink’s on the $10 bill, so that “in Virginia it would cost a Brink and a Lopez to buy a pizza.” [Blue Virginia]
‘Over the Edge’ Fundraiser in Crystal City — Today, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m., people will be rappelling 15 stories down the Hilton Crystal City at 2399 Jefferson Davis Highway as part of a fundraiser for the Special Olympics. Among those scheduled to go “over the edge” today is Washington Nationals mascot Screech. The fundraiser will also run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. tomorrow (Friday). [Event Calendar, Special Olympics Virginia]
County Sells $206 Million in Bonds — Arlington County sold $206 million in bonds on Tuesday. The bonds were sold at a low 2.5 percent interest rate. The refunding of older bonds under the low rate will save the county about $5 million. [Arlington County]
Police Looking for Wallet Thief — Arlington police are looking for a man who allegedly stole a victim’s wallet in the Clarendon area last month. [ACPD]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
LOFT, formerly known as Ann Taylor LOFT, sells “upper moderate” priced women’s clothing for for work and home. The company’s two stores in Arlington — at the Pentagon Row and Market Common Clarendon shopping centers — closed recently to undergo some remodeling.
The Pentagon Row location is expected to reopen this Friday (May 3) and the Clarendon location should reopen at some point next week, according to company spokeswoman Marie Larson.
“This new concept store is complete with plush seating and open space encouraging interaction among clients and larger groupings of mannequins in order to show our guests additional outfitting options,” Larson said.
The bad news: you’re right. The Washington, D.C. area has the second-highest rent of any large metropolitan area in the country, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
At a median rent of $1,391 per month, the region’s rent is more expensive than San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, and second only to San Jose. Adding to the misery, D.C.’s rent has been rising faster than any other large metro area, according to the Washington Examiner.
The good news: expect rents to start going down, at least in some areas. According to Bloomberg News, D.C. area rent is expected to decrease up to 2 percent this year, and fall even faster next year, due to an oversupply of new apartment buildings. There will “‘no doubt’ be a ‘glut’ of apartments in the next 12 to 18 months,” Bloomberg was told.
Just don’t expect the rent to keep falling. Bloomberg reports that the local apartment market should stabilize by 2016 and rents should start increasing, once again, by about 4 percent annually.
We’re interested to find out if Arlington has seen any impacts from the expected apartment glut. If you rent an apartment and you’ve renewed your lease in the past 12 months, how much did your rent change?
The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is accepting nominations for the Arlington Best Business Awards.
Winners of the merit-based awards are chosen by a panel of past winners. Businesses can nominate themselves or other businesses that are Arlington Chamber members by submitting the online nomination form by Wednesday, May 1.
The businesses are scored on the following four criteria:
- Must be a viable, on-going, full-time business that has experienced significant growth or stability over its business life.
- Must be well known and thought of by its customers or clients for consistently delivering exceptional quality or service.
- Must be a leader in its industry in Arlington OR must have a significantly unique approach to delivery of its goods or services.
- Must have displayed an interest in and concern for the Arlington community – either corporately or through its owners and/or employees backed by the company.
The awards ceremony will take place on May 21, and also includes the induction of some local business leaders into the Arlington Hall of Fame.
These awards are separate from the annual ABBIES, which are announced in the fall and selected by the community’s popular vote.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) While the planned Columbia Pike streetcar has been making local headlines, Arlington County has been quietly moving forward with a project that’s bringing significant infrastructure improvements to the busy thoroughfare.
Arlington County’s Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project seeks to implement “streetscape and related improvements for pedestrians, bicycles, transit, and vehicles along Arlington’s 3.5 mile Columbia Pike corridor.” The improvements include a completely reconstructed roadway, new left-turn lanes, planted medians, additional street trees, enhanced pedestrian crossings and so-called bicycle boulevards.
The $80 million project is currently in progress, and expected to run through 2018. About $72 million of the $80 million price tag coming from the county’s commercial tax-funded Transportation Capital Fund.
The turn lanes in particular are expected to “lessen delays and improve traffic flow,” said Bill Roberts, Transportation Program Manager for Arlington County. Meanwhile, the bike boulevards, which will run parallel to Pike along 9th and 12th Streets, will combine with planned 10-foot-wide shared bike and pedestrian sidewalks to make it easier for cyclists to traverse the Pike away from traffic. But residents might be happiest to learn about the roadway reconstruction.
The project will ultimately result in the reconstruction of the entire stretch of Columbia Pike from the Pentagon to Fairfax County. That should be welcome news for road users, who have been grumbling about the pockmarked state of portions of the Pike.
Currently, road crews are working on the stretch of Columbia Pike between S. Wakefield Street and Four Mile Run Drive. That work is expected to wrap up this fall, according to Roberts.
The stretch of road is in especially bad shape, Roberts said, thanks to runoff from multiple water main breaks, which seeped into the project area, and heavy bus traffic, which has caused depressions in the roadway, particularly around bus stops. Even with plans to reconstruct the roadway, Roberts said crews will be doing some temporary repaving in the westbound lanes in the next 2-3 weeks.
Following that work, the county expects to start road reconstruction between the Fairfax County line and Four Mile Run Drive. That portion of the project is slated to start in the spring of 2014 and end 24 months later, in the spring of 2016.
Next up after that is S. Wakefield Street to S. Oakland Street, and Walter Reed Drive to S. Scott Street. Those projects will happen concurrently between early 2015 and early 2017.
Project work has already been completed between S. Oakland Street and Walter Reed Drive.
The work is necessary, Roberts says, because the underlying roadbed has become uneven due to its age and the patchwork nature of previous roadwork. Some of the existing infrastructure along the Pike dates back to the 1920s and 1930s, while the Pike itself was first built in 1810.
“What we’re going to be doing is installing a consistent sub-base and a thicker layer of asphalt,” Roberts said. “We’re completely reconstructing the roadbed.”
While the road improvements will be the most visible part of the project, much of the funding will actually going to work well below the roadway. Aging and leak-prone 8-inch water and sewer pipes under the road will be replaced by new 12-inch pipes, and existing overhead utilities will be placed underground. The utilities are all being placed in the middle of the roadway, so that water main breaks or other utility work doesn’t disrupt the future streetcar.
The timeline for the final piece of the multimodal project — from Washington Boulevard to S. Joyce Street — is still up in the air. The county is currently in talks with the federal government about a land swap that would allow the county to “realign” Columbia Pike to make a straighter, more direct connection with S. Joyce Street. If all goes well, Roberts says that work could be completed in 2018.
The Multimodal Improvements are a necessary warm-up act for the ultimate construction of the planned Pike streetcar, but the project is being run independently of the streetcar project. County Board member Chris Zimmerman, who lives along the Pike, said that improvements to the Pike are necessary regardless of whether the streetcar gets built.
“We’re going to have big traffic challenges in the next few years on the Pike, streetcar or no,” he told ARLnow.com late last year. “It’s been a good road for a long time but it’s really old now. The street itself has to be upgraded.”
The Crystal City location of Caribou Coffee (2100 Crystal Drive) will be closing at the end of this week and the coffee shop’s Shirlington location will eventually be converted to a Peet’s Coffee and Tea store, ARLnow.com has learned.
According to employees, the Crystal City location will close its doors after Sunday, April 14. The store is currently offering merchandise like coffee, mugs and coffee makers for 50 percent off, we’re told.
The Shirlington location will remain open for now but will be converted to a Peet’s Coffee and Tea store “at some point this fall,” an employee said.
Peet’s, which opened its first store in Berkeley, Calif. in 1966, is majority owned by a German private equity firm that purchased the Caribou chain last year. Caribou announced on Monday that it’s closing 80 “underperforming” stores and converting another 88 to Peet’s locations.
What if there were a site where you could post online reviews for a variety of local government services, similar to review websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp? That’s the concept a local man hopes will become a million dollar idea.
District resident Josh Glasstetter entered his idea for a website called “Civicly” into the Knight Foundation’s “Knight News Challenge.” This year’s competition offers winners a share of $5 million in funding for entries that best promote open government and present ways to improve interaction between citizens and governments.
Civicly would allow residents to leave reviews for government agencies and services such as the DMV, police, utilities, transportation and public schools. There would be opportunities to leave feedback for both specific and larger scale entities. For example, users could write a review about WMATA in general, just Metrorail, or could review a specific Metro stop.
“The idea is to take something that people are familiar with, such as online reviews, and take into new area like government and the public sector,” Glasstetter said.
Although the concept of giving feedback to government entities isn’t unique in and of itself, the innovation comes through with the idea of allowing the public to see every piece of feedback that’s submitted.
Glasstetter, who works for an advocacy group in the District, said he’s focusing first on D.C., Arlington and Alexandria as pilot areas for launching Civicly. Eventually, it would branch out to other parts of the country.
“Arlington is really a perfect place to try something out like this because of the demographics. I think people would naturally take to it. Folks in Arlington and D.C. are already so accustomed to using these kind of tools,” Glassteetter said. “I think this is the right kind of population to launch this.”
With more than 830 News Challenge submissions, Glasstetter acknowledges the odds of winning are slim, but he remains hopeful.
“There’s no way around it, the odds are very steep,” he said. “But my hope is that regardless of what happens for Civicly in the News Challenge, the idea has been seen by a lot of people. Hopefully that by getting this started and putting ourselves into this contest, we’ll be able to take the proposal and discuss it with foundations and other potential supporters.”
Viewers can give feedback on the proposals through Friday (March 29). Semi-finalists should be announced within the next week and will have the opportunity to further refine their proposals, as well as to submit a funding request ranging from $1,000 to $1,000,000. Winners will be notified when judging ends in June.
Wiinky’s (3902 Wilson Blvd) will serve its last burgers on Sunday, March 31, according to a sign in the window. Restaurant employees said they were told that Wiinky’s and several other small businesses on the block are closing to make way for a new pet store, possibly a Petco location.
“Unfortunately, the ownership of our building has changed hands and the new landlord has opted not to renew our lease in favor of a large corporation that will pay a much higher price for the space,” the sign said. “We appreciate the support you gave given us the last few years… In the mean time we will be looking for a new location in the Arlington area so don’t be surprised to see a new and improved Wiinkys in the future.”
The burger and hot dog joint opened in April 2011. Despite skepticism about its young owner and its earnest, low-frills food offerings, the restaurant has remained in business and has even attracted a 4/5 star review average on Yelp. A manager tells us business has picked up in the last year and is now “really good,” especially at lunchtime and during late night hours (when it also offers a delivery service).
We’re told that the new Wiinky’s, should it reopen elsewhere, may apply for a permit to serve beer and wine.
“We’re going to keep our ears and eyes open, looking for a place in Arlington,” said owner Ryan Shandel. ”If we find a place that’s affordable and makes sense, then we’ll make a move.”
Shandel said the closure is “a sad and sudden thing to happen,” but added that he’s grateful for the support of the community and for the opportunity to learn while on the job. He said he hopes customers will stop by one last time before the restaurant closes on Sunday.
So far, Petco hasn’t responded to a request for comment.
Hat tip to @PeoplesEyebrow. Photo via Google Maps.
Cucina Vivace, at 509 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, has closed.
The restaurant closed last month, to the disappointment of regular customers. Chef/owner Gordon Vivace suggested that the restaurant row on 23rd Street was no longer drawing in the customers he needed in order to stay open.
“That strip is not in good shape and is simply no longer a location where an upscale restaurant can survive,” Vivace told ARLnow.com. “I was presented with an opportunity to leave on short notice, and chose to take it.”
Vivace said he does not plan to reopen.
“I’m going to stick to catering and personal chef services where my food can be my food without compromise to the price people are willing to pay to walk in the door,” he said.