County to Hold Affordable Housing Forum — The Arlington County Human Rights Commission is holding a public forum on affordable housing on Thursday. The forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). Between 2000 and 2013, the average rent in Arlington increased by 91 percent while the average home sale price rose 140 percent. [Arlington County]
Beware of Contract Vote Requirements — In the interest of government accountability, County Board member John Vihstadt has proposed requiring a Board vote on all county contracts over $1 million. Beware of such a requirement, says a letter to the editor writer. Reformers in the District want to take away the power to vote on large contracts from the D.C. Council, citing recent scandals and the potential for abuse. [Washington Post]
Hynes to Host Business Breakfasts — Hoping to give a boost to Arlington’s economic competitiveness, County Board Chair Mary Hynes is planning on holding quarterly breakfasts with local business leaders. The meetings come at a time when Arlington’s office vacancy rate is north of 20 percent and the Columbia Pike and Crystal City corridors are facing the loss of the planned streetcar project. [InsideNova]
Christmas Tree Recycling Begins Today — Christmas tree recycling begins today in Arlington County. Trees collected curbside and at the Arlington Solid Waste Bureau will be turned into mulch. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by Lawrence Cheng Photography
HOT Lane Lawsuit May Haunt County — At a time when the state is studying HOT lanes and other possible changes to I-66 inside the Beltway, Arlington County’s past actions may come back to haunt it. County officials “burned some bridges” when they filed a lawsuit against VDOT in 2009 to block HOT lanes on I-395. The county has also lost some regional credibility by abruptly canceling the streetcar project. Efforts by Arlington to oppose any changes on I-66, therefore, may fall on deaf ears. [InsideNova]
Incubator Launches in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a “veteran-owned government technology and innovation incubator,” celebrated its launch in Crystal City yesterday. The company held a ribbon cutting ceremony with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Vornado/Charles E. Smith president Mitchell Schear. [PR Web]
Man Arrested for Arlington Attack — Fairfax County Police have arrested a man wanted for allegedly attacking his ex-wife’s boyfriend in Arlington. In the June 15 attack on Columbia Pike, police say Edwin Patino-Medina ripped two necklaces off the boyfriend’s neck then tried to run him over with a car. [WUSA 9]
Menorah Lighting Tonight — Last night was the first night of Hanukkah. Tonight, in the park next to the Clarendon Metro station, Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington will hold a menorah lighting and community celebration. The event kicks off at 6:00 p.m. and features a “giant 6 foot menorah” plus music, potato latkes, chocolate gelt and “dreidels for all.” Tomorrow, the group will hold its annual Chanukah on Ice event at the Pentagon Row ice rink.
Flickr pool photo by Alves Family
Arlington Firms Among ‘Best Companies to Work For’ – Two Arlington-based companies have made the annual list of the top 50 small and medium-sized companies to work for . The 2015 list, compiled by employment website Glassdoor.com, ranks Ballston-based Evolent Health at No. 3 and Courthouse-based Opower at No. 25.
New Plan for Rosslyn Plaza — Vornado and Gould Property Co. have updated their redevelopment plan for Rosslyn Plaza, the series of aging buildings along N. Arlington Ridge Road between Wilson Blvd and 19th Street N. The development team is proposing 2.5 million square feet of new construction, including a total of five office and residential buildings, four acres of open space and a esplanade deck with views of D.C. and an outdoor ice rink in the winter. [Washington Business Journal]
Celtics Player Swings By The Italian Store — Celtics center Kelly Olynyk stopped by The Italian Store after losing to the Wizards in double-overtime on Monday. He posed for photos and even helped make sandwiches and pizzas. Olynyk isn’t the only pro athlete that has visited the Lee Highway store. Nene, of the Wizards, and Nationals stars Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman have stopped by, as has NBA great John Stockton, who happens to be owner Bob Tramonte’s brother-in-law. [Washington Post]
ACFD Recruitment Starts Tomorrow — The Arlington County Fire Department’s biennial open recruitment period starts tomorrow. From Dec. 12-25 ACFD will accept applications for potential firefighter and EMT recruits. No experience is necessary. The county has also made a series of “Join the ACFD” videos for recruitment purposes. [Arlington County]
Arbour Realty Acquired By Md. Brokerage — Arbour Realty, the Ballston-based boutique real estate brokerage owned by “Ask Adam” columnist Adam Gallegos, has been acquired by Real Living At Home, a larger brokerage with office in Chevy Chase, Md. and Dupont Circle in D.C. Gallegos will hand over management responsibilities and continue as an agent with Real Living At Home. [Real Living At Home]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
The Board has four items in Saturday’s consent agenda dealing with the conversion of space mandated to be retail, based on building’s site plans, to office or medical uses. One of those items is for a dentist’s office already in operation in Courthouse Plaza under a temporary site plan amendment.
The other three agenda items are for:
- Two vacant retail spaces, totaling 3,696 square feet, at 1800 N. Kent Street. One space (pictured above) was a private school space that has been vacant for six years. The other had been occupied by dry cleaners, but has been vacant for 10 years, according to the staff report.
- A 2,830-square-foot vacant space on the ground floor of 2001 15th Street N., in the Odyssey Condominiums. The space fronts Clarendon Blvd, but it has been vacant for five years, other than serving as a temporary leasing office for the now-opened apartments across the street, the staff report states. Since the leasing office has relocated, the owner reports difficulty finding a tenant for the space.
- A 1,520-square-foot space at 1600 Wilson Blvd, the former site of the Sir Speedy Printing Center, which has been vacant since July. The space, according to the staff report, “has a history of retail vacancy and poses some location challenges for retail attraction.”
County staff identified no issues for any of these sites, suggesting a “medical/physical therapy office, will help activate the street and pose no adverse impacts to the neighborhood,” in all of the reports.
The county seems to be taking a softer line on mandated ground floor retail spaces, in recognition that some storefronts are just not viable for traditional retail. For instance, 1800 N. Kent Street is well hidden from Rosslyn’s main N. Lynn Street drag, resulting in a relative paucity of the foot traffic that could bring customers to a small business.
County staff, in recommending approval of the motions, used the draft Arlington Retail Action Plan as guidance in its decisions.
The draft action plan, which would replace and expand upon the 2001 Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor Retail Plan, includes a map that specifies which type of retail can go where. According to the county’s planning staff, all four locations on Saturday’s agenda are considered appropriate for medical or office use under the draft retail map.
President Obama’s announcement on Nov. 20 that he would take executive action on immigration is leading to a hiring boom in Crystal City.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration announced on Monday that it’s hiring about 1,000 full-time federal and contract workers in Crystal City to help implement the president’s executive action, which will grant temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants and help highly-skilled workers stay in the U.S.
Salaries at the facility will range from $34,415 to $157,100, various news outlets reported.
That’s good news for Crystal City and its high office vacancy rate. We’re told the new workers will be based at Crystal Plaza 4, a 46-year-old office building at 2200 Crystal Drive. The federal government is backfilling a General Services Administration lease for the Vornado-owned building.
Republicans have decried the president’s action and are criticizing the new “hiring binge.”
“This facility is a clear symbol of the President’s defiance of the American people, their laws, and their Constitution,” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said, in a statement.
Morroy Announces Re-election Bid — Arlington Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy announced that she will be seeking re-election in 2015 at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Morroy, who is recovering from recent hip replacement surgery, outlined her goals for a new term. The goals include returning property assessments to the Commissioner of Revenue’s office, thus bringing it under the supervision of an elected official who’s directly responsible to taxpayers.
Arlingtonian Running for UK Parliament — Arlington resident Sonia Klein, who was born in London, is running for a seat in the UK House of Commons. Klein, who’s affiliated with the Labour Party, can run because residency is not required to run for House of Commons seats. Klein has previously served as vice chair of precinct operations for the Arlington County Democratic Committee. [InsideNova]
Whipple Appointed to Board of Health — Gov. Terry McAuliffe has appointed former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple to the Virginia Board of Health. Whipple previously represented the 31st District, which includes Arlington, in the state Senate. [Commonwealth of Virginia]
New Cycletrack Proposed — Arlington County is proposing a sidewalk-level cycletrack along S. Walter Reed Drive to connect the W&OD Trail and the Four Mile Run Trail. However, some cyclists are concerned the cycletrack would be barely distinguishable from the adjacent sidewalk. [Greater Greater Washington]
Clarendon Office Building Sold — The recently-constructed office building at 3003 Washington Blvd in Clarendon has been sold. KBS Real Estate Investment Trust has reportedly agreed to purchase the building from Penzance Cos. for $146.8 million. The building is 95 percent leased to eight tenants. [GlobeSt, Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Desiree L.C.
The event aims to create a community of Arlington shoppers, small retail shops and restaurants by having the businesses offer sales and promotions throughout the day on Saturday, after Black Friday and before Cyber Monday.
This year, the event will be run through the YOPP app, a small business shopping platform that allows its users to look up participating businesses, see which sales they are offering and even communicate with the store owners. Customers hoping to seek out deals on Saturday will have to download the free app onto their smartphone and look up the businesses on the app’s map, where they can also see fellow shoppers.
As part of Small Business Day, two locations will be hosting Santa Claus for pictures: Rhythm in Motion Dance Center, at 5161 Lee Highway from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. and Penrose Square at 2413 Columbia Pike (formerly Society Fair), from 11:15 a.m. to noon.
Among the businesses participating will be One More Page Books in East Falls Church, which President Barack Obama visited in 2012, Grateful Red Wine Shop in Clarendon, Papillon Cycles on Columbia Pike, Ship’s Hatch in Crystal City, Cheesetique in Shirlington, Covet near Ballston, Trade Roots in Westover and Arrowine and Cheese along Lee Highway.
ATR’s permit renewal request was pulled from the Board’s “consent agenda” for non-controversial items by County Board member Mary Hynes. It was instead heard individually on Tuesday, giving Hynes, a nearby resident, a chance to inquire about a couple of noise complaints she had received from her Lyon Village neighbors.
The Board was assured by an ATR manager that the bar has addressed the noise issue and that it in fact doesn’t host any live entertainment anymore — instead it’s seeking to hang on to the permit “just in case.” That was enough assurance for Board, which took little additional time to approve the routine renewal request.
While it won the battle, it’s unclear if ATR in Clarendon will win the war. Restaurant and commercial real estate industry sources have told ARLnow.com that American Tap Room has been seeking a buyer to take over its lease.
We’re told that the company pays more than $650,000 per year in rent for the Clarendon location, which has not enjoyed the same level of success as its locations in Bethesda and Reston. The latter two locations are “crushing it” and the company may simply be looking to focus on more profitable ventures, a source says.
However, everything seemed business as usual with the ATR manager who spoke at the County Board meeting. He gave no hints of any possible changes to come.
Responding to an inquiry sent to a media representative, an ATR manager contacted ARLnow.com last week. The manager said the Clarendon location is not closing, but declined to speak on the record and sought assurances that an ARLnow.com editor was not recording the call.
American Tap Room opened its Clarendon location in 2011.
The Arlington County Board will discuss a proposed update to the 2001 Retail Action Plan, which covered the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The update expands the plan’s footprint to the Crystal City and Columbia Pike corridors, includes recommendations to improve the county’s retail environment and asks the Board to change regulation to allow for retail growth.
“This is a big deal and this has taken a long time to work through,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Board. “This is a report that will guide us for many years to come on how we’re going to move forward. Retail will succeed where it can thrive.”
The Virginia Department of Taxation reported more than $2 billion in retail and food and beverage sales in Arlington last year, but the opportunity is there for much more local retail spending, the plan states.
“The estimated demand for retail and food and beverage is in excess of $4.7 billion dollars,” the report states, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Surveys. “With a demand greater than sales, Arlington is considered to have a leakage of retail opportunity — customers must travel outside of Arlington to purchase many goods and services — in most broad retail categories.”
Among the key recommendations are developing design guidelines to make “retail look like retail,” developing a specific retail map to guide which kinds of retail businesses should go where — encouraging clustering of specific types of retail to draw in more customers — and encouraging public art and accessibility.
Stores should be encouraged to design their exteriors creatively, the plan says, and to “design storefronts for three miles an hour (pedestrian speed) rather than 35 miles per hour (vehicular speed).” That’s a bit of a departure from years past, when retail signage rules were more stringent in Arlington, discouraging retailers from standing out too much. For interior design, the plan advocates for higher ceilings on the ground floor of buildings and to ” to allow for maximum flexibility and use of the space.”
The draft plan also recommends softening regulations on food trucks and other mobile vendors. It says “vending zones” are under consideration in Rosslyn, Courthouse and Ballston, which would allow food trucks to park for more than two hours at a time.
“With social media and serial followers, vending can help pull customers into different areas,” the plan says. “Establishing vending zones, to allow trucks to vend for longer than two hours or for alternative hours, can help prime an area that is not quite ready for retail or can attract people to other uses — parks, cultural venues or other businesses.”
Grocery stores are seen as a key component of Arlington’s retail plan, as they serve as anchors for retail districts. The plan generally lauds the Arlington County Board for its flexibility in approving grocery stores, including most recently the store planned at 1401 Wilson Blvd, whenever the property is redeveloped. However, it says the term “grocery store” should be more clearly defined for administrative purposes. “The policy should clearly articulate how and when incentives or mechanisms to support the construction of a grocery store are applied,” according to the plan.
Many of the actions the plan suggests include amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance and special exception policies to factor in broader retail goals. It’s those changes that gave some of the County Board members pause and led them to schedule a work session in January, before the plan is up for a vote in February.
Placing behind Arlington, in order, was: Madison, Wisc.; Lincoln, Neb.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Denver, Colo.; Seattle, Wash.; and Austin, Texas. Washington, D.C. ranked No. 14.
“Arlington, Virginia, is the best city for young entrepreneurs with a high percentage of educated young people, the highest per capita income in the nation and access to businesses in the Washington, D.C., area,” the website wrote. ” Nearly 28% of the city’s residents are 25 to 34 years old, and at least 74% of all residents over 25 hold a bachelor’s degree or higher — both of these figures are the highest in the nation”
Don Tito is likely to open in the 10,000 square foot space at 3165 Wilson Blvd by early March, according to Scott Parker, one of the establishment’s five partners. Construction is expected to start as soon as next week.
The restaurant will feature “flex Mex” cuisine — Mexican dishes plus traditional American fare with a “Mexican twist” — but the emphasis will be more on the aforementioned beer and tequila. A bar will be added to what is now a dining area on the second floor, and a second bar will be added to the center of the rooftop.
The partners in Don Tito are Parker, Nick Cordero and Mike Cordero — the owners of the popular but oft-maligned A-Town Bar and Grill in Ballston — plus newcomers Ryan DeMagistris and Jason Fisher. All five are Arlington residents, Parker said.
The Cordero crew is on a roll since closing the financially-sound but stagnant Caribbean Breeze and reopening as A-Town in 2012. In addition to purchasing Eventide — for a sum just shy of $1 million, sources say — the company has also secured a 6,000 square foot space in Rosslyn for a bar/restaurant that’s expected to open in the fall of 2015, Parker tells ARLnow.com.
Parker declined to reveal additional information about the future Rosslyn watering hole, including its exact location.
The Eventide purchase will give its owners two big advantages, according to those with knowledge of the transaction. For one, the sublease offers five years of well below-market rent. For another, it offers a prime location in a Clarendon business district that’s well established as a nightlife spot — as opposed to A-Town’s location, where condo-owning neighbors have railed against late night noise.
Don Tito will remain open until 2:00 a.m. seven nights per week, according to Parker.
Parker said the partners were able to buy Eventide despite stiff competition from other restaurant owners, both local and national. The concept for Don Tito has been in the works for some time now, he said, and 3165 Wilson Blvd was judged the ideal place for it to open. In 2013, a Northern Virginia Magazine article about the opening of another Cordero restaurant, Flat Iron Steak & Saloon in Alexandria, described a planned Arlington venture that was then dubbed “Tacos and Beer.”
The owners of Eventide spent a reported $3 million constructing the restaurant, which opened in 2008. Parker said changes are necessary to “liven up the space and give it a little spark,” including renovations to the second floor which is “looking a bit too much like a monastery or something.”
Parker said he thinks Don Tito will compare favorably to what he described as an overabundance of American-style bars and restaurants in Clarendon. As for more direct competition, like nearby Mexicali Blues and Fuego Cocina, Parker said he and his partners are not too worried.
“Fuego is an incredible venue and we’ve been there many times,” he said. “Fuego is a great Mexican restaurant, [Don Tito] will be a great Mexican bar.”
New Incubator to Launch in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a new incubator serving small businesses that contract with the federal government, is launching next month in Crystal City. Eastern Foundry joins two other recent startup-oriented additions to Crystal City: TechShop and the Crystal Tech Fund. [Washington Business Journal]
Rosslyn Planning Meeting — The county will share “preliminary Concept Plan Alternatives” as part of its Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study at a public workshop on Saturday. The study is, among other things, considering redevelopment possibilities for the Wilson School and Fire Station No. 10 property on Wilson Blvd. [Arlington County]
Glen Campbell Movie Screening in Ballston — A special screening of the Glen Campbell documentary I’ll Be Me will be held at the Regal Cinema in Ballston (671 N. Glebe Road) on Saturday. The documentary explores the music legend’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. [Volunteers of America]
Tips for Car-Free Living in Arlington — Arlington’s transportation blog has seven tips for living car-free in Arlington. Tips include shopping at local stores, downloading the right transportation-related smartphone apps and borrowing a car when you need one. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
Bangkok 54’s grocery store has reopened, nine months after a fire tore through the business and forced it to shut down.
The market is connected to the Bangkok 54 Thai restaurant at 2919 Columbia Pike, which was able to open the day after the Dec. 12 fire. Owner Bundit Sookmee said the fire, which was concentrated in the front of the store, forced him to spend eight months rebuilding and restocking the store, which specializes in Asian grocery products.
“Everything was gone,” he told ARLnow.com today. “The ceiling fell down, there was water everywhere. You couldn’t even walk in here. We had to throw everything away.”
The market reopened three weeks ago, Sookmee said, largely unchanged, aside from a different layout of refrigerators and shelving. One change that could be coming soon: a 15-20 seat cafe serving fast meals like Thai noodle soup for customers in a hurry. The new cafe would be connected to the market, not the Thai restaurant, and Sookmee is currently applying for county permits in hopes of opening soon.
Buses to Use I-66 Shoulder — Buses will be allowed to use the shoulder lane on I-66 inside the Beltway during heavy traffic, starting next month. VDOT is launching the program as a way to relieve some congestion and improve the on-time performance of bus routes that utilize the traffic-choked corridor. [Washington Post]
Parkmobile Now Available in Courthouse, Rosslyn — Arlington County has completed the implementation of the Parkmobile parking payment system for the Courthouse and Rosslyn neighborhoods, ahead of schedule. [Twitter]
KickStarter Launches for ‘Wearable’ Project — A Kickstarter fundraising campaign has started for a local startup company featured on ARLnow.com last month. OnYou is planning to produce a wearable compression sleeve and carbon case for smartphones. Worn primarily during workouts, the product uses powerful magnets to attach the phone and case to the sleeve. The product was designed by a former professional poker player and prototyped here in Arlington. [Kickstarter]
Elliot in the Morning Halloween Bash Returns — DC 101’s Elliot in the Morning will be back in Arlington for the show’s annual Halloween bash. The costume party will be held starting at 8:00 p.m. on Halloween — Friday, Oct. 31 — at Clarendon Ballroom. A $3,000 grand prize is being offered for best costume. [Clarendon Nights]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Becca Premo is likely Arlington’s only clothing maker who specializes exclusively in baby shoes.
Premo, 25, runs The Bashful Elephant, an online baby moccasin seller through the website Etsy. Premo has been selling “baby mocs,” as she calls them, on Etsy since March.
Premo moved to Arlington when her husband got a job in the D.C. area, but she had already set the wheels in motion for her new career path, designing patterns and styles in the Windy City. She had been studying psychology at Roosevelt University when the artistic side of her started to get restless.
“My parents encouraged me to pick a practical career path, so I picked psychology and stifled my creative self,” she told ARLnow.com over coffee at Cosi in Rosslyn. “I felt like I was in a box.”
Premo started to look for ways to express herself and turn it into a business. Sewing and crafts “have always been in my family,” the Chicago area native said, so she decided to make shoes. Baby shoes were a natural choice, since less material makes it cheaper to get started.
“It’s easier to make baby sizes,” she said, “and you can be more creative. You can make a bright pink shoe with bows and people love it.”
It took her months to get an array of patterns and designs she was happy with, she said. Even though making the shoes is “super user-friendly,” she admitted she was nervous to actually hit the market.
“I was scared to start for a long time,” she said. “I felt I needed to present it as a serious business, but I found out people want a personal touch. They want to know your story.”
Once Premo launched the store, she got immediate interest and drew a following on Instagram, where she says she attracts a majority of her customers.
More than six months in, she offers shoes for newborns up to size 7, which she says is approximately for toddlers 2-and-a-half years old. Because her customer base is constantly growing, she said she’s considering growing along with it; she is looking into purchasing rubber soles and making bigger shoes.
“There’s a huge market for people who are willing to spend,” she said. “Lots of people have a lot of money, and they would rather spend it on their children than on themselves.”
While she was making her point, a male stranger walked by and asked about the dozen or so shoes laid out on the table. He was a new father, and just like that, Premo’s point was made, and she had another customer.
“I’ve never gotten any negative feedback, thank goodness,” she said. “When you put yourself out there, people see you’re just a girl trying to do something, and they really latch onto that.”