Bluemont Neighborhood Plan Approved – The Arlington County Board last night accepted an updated Bluemont Neighborhood Conservation Plan, which will ”[allow] the Bluemont Civic Association to pursue funding to transform the neighborhood to a true ‘urban village’ with slower traffic, better sidewalks and revitalized commercial corridors.” The plan also calls for a grocery store to remain at the current Safeway site. [Arlington County]
APS Plans to Use ‘Big Data’ to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools is launching a competition that will challenge teams of scientists to figure out a way to reduce the school system’s dropout rate by combing through 12 years of student data. The winning team will receive $10,000. [Washington Post]
SuperStop Makes ‘Wastebook’ — The $1 million Walter Reed SuperStop on Columbia Pike has made Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook,” which highlights “100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending.” The bus stop, which can be found on page 32 of the Wastebook, was partially paid for with federal funds. “This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low,” Coburn said of his publication. [Wastebook 2013, ARLnow Forums]
Fisette to Serve as Board Chair — County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette was sworn in to a fifth four-year term on Tuesday. He will serve as County Board chairman in 2014. [Arlington County]
Research Firm Moving to Arlington — Research firm Hanover Research is moving its main office from the District to 4401 Wilson Blvd in Ballston this month. “The company’s extremely skilled staff, 61% of which hold advanced degrees, will help Ballston grow its reputation as a knowledge hub and significantly contribute to the area’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Hanover said in a press release. Arlington Public Schools is one of the company’s clients. [Hanover Research]
Flickr pool photo by jordanhiggins
ARLbiz will be published weekly and will be geared toward local entrepreneurs and business professionals. It will provide concise original reporting on local business matters and links to other outlets’ Arlington-related business articles, all in one place.
There will also be weekly commentary from local business, nonprofit and government leaders.
“Despite the recent slowdown in the commercial real estate market, Arlington remains a thriving business center,” said Scott Brodbeck, publisher of ARLnow.com. “We’re looking forward to launching an editorially-independent business publication that focuses only on Arlington, bringing vital business intelligence to local business owners and professionals.”
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Second Leaf Collection Pass Starts Today — Crews will begin their second (and final) vacuum leaf collection pass through Arlington’s neighborhoods today. Leaf collection is scheduled to wrap up on Dec. 20. [Arlington County]
Arlington, State Fund Innovation Initiative — Arlington County and the Virginia are jointly funding a $500,000 initiative that will “connect startups with national security agencies, aiming to both foster commercialization of federally-funded technology and open a new market for entrepreneurs.” It will be helmed by Jonathan Aberman, managing director of Amplifier Ventures. [Washington Business Journal]
Human Rights Award Winners Announced — Arlington County has announced its 2013 James B. Hunter Human Rights Award winners. Among them are the Hon. Leslie M. Alden, “a former Fairfax County Circuit judge who has spent her career devoted to gender rights;” Pastor Richard Cobb of Arlington’s Central United Methodist Church, who launched a program to serve meals to the homeless; Thomas Kelley, who “has dedicated his life to ensuring that schools provide equal access to children with disabilities;” and Margaret Patterson, who “has provided opportunities to abused children and their families.” [Arlington County]
Arlington ‘Villages’ To Launch in March — In March, Arlington will be debuting its “Neighborhood Villages” program for helping the elderly age in place. “The Arlington Neighborhood Villages will debut as a nonprofit corporation aimed at helping senior citizens “age in place” – as long as possible in their own homes – by creating neighborhood-based networks made up mostly of volunteers,” reports columnist Charlie Clark. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
The lingering questions that surround the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project have given developers pause as they look to build along the corridor, according to one of the Pike’s biggest boosters.
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he’s seen a slowdown in development and business interest in recent months, as local politicians and residents have continued to debate the merits of the streetcar project. With Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman, a key streetcar supporter, retiring early next year, that debate is likely to continue unabated as candidates vie to fill his seat in a special election.
Despite some uncertainty about how and when the Pike streetcar will be funded, Arlington County is still moving forward with the project. Karantonis is pushing for the streetcar to be built sooner rather than later.
“There isn’t uncertainty around the streetcar, but there are lot of people who want to create uncertainty,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com Monday. “This is concerning the business community because people want to be able to at least make medium-term decisions, and they don’t welcome this kind of prolonged debate about the streetcar itself.”
Karantonis said the ongoing questions about when the streetcar will actually be built has slowed both commercial and residential development. Modern development strives for a mix of uses, Karantonis said, so when one form development is slowed, all forms are.
Small businesses could also be impacted by any delays in the streetcar project, Karantonis said. The thousands of daily passengers the streetcar is projected to carry can’t come soon enough for Columbia Pike merchants. Pockets of retail space along the Pike have been vacant for years, Karantonis said, and the streetcar will help boost businesses in neglected areas.
“It’s not easier for [small businesses] to wait,” he said. “They look at the streetcar as a catalyst and a game-changer. The more challenging the economic times are for us with the government sputtering along, this hardens the demand on local government to deliver the investment goods it has planned for.”
County Board Member Libby Garvey — who was elected last year on an anti-streetcar platform and is currently the lone voice of streetcar dissent on the Board — isn’t so sure about Karantonis’ hypothesis.
“It would surprise me if there were many businesses very concerned about delays in the streetcar,” Garvey wrote in an email. “Remember, we are talking about adding 10 streetcars to 34 buses along the Pike. Hardly a major change in transit, just a major change in expense and disruption of traffic as 10 fixed rail vehicles run in mixed traffic creating headaches for everyone.”
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and FBR, an investment bank, will be moving into new offices in Arlington over the next year and a half. That’s good news for economic development officials in Arlington, who are still reeling from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation and its 2,237 jobs.
FBR will move from a “trophy” office building at 1001 19th Street N. in Rosslyn to a slightly less lofty accommodations, at 1300 17th Street N., also in Rosslyn. FBR’s new lease runs through the end of 2025. First-year rent for the space — on the building’s 2nd, 13th and 14th floors — is $41 per square foot for the lower floor and $51.50 per square foot for the higher floors, according to an SEC filing.
FBR employs approximately 250 people in Arlington. The company hopes to make the move this May.
The FDIC, meanwhile, has signed a lease for 171,000 square feet in the former DARPA building at 3701 N. Fairfax Drive, in Virginia Square. The agency expects to move employees there from an office at 1310 N. Courthouse Road, in Courthouse, in April 2015.
The FDIC has an existing office at 3501 N. Fairfax Drive, and the new accommodations will eliminate the need to shuttle employees back and forth between Courthouse and Virginia Square, the Washington Business Journal reported.
Arlington Economic Development organizes the contest and residents vote for their favorite businesses in each category. The winners were announced at this afternoon’s County Board meeting. This year’s winners are:
- Best Bargain Restaurant — Lost Dog Cafe
- Best Boutique — Trade Roots
- Best Brunch Spot — Liberty Tavern
- Best Coffee Shop — Northside Social
- Best Cultural Group or Venue — Signature Theater
- Best Customer Service — Arlington Public Library
- Best Dessert — Pastries by Randolph
- Best Family Friendly Spot — Arlington Public Library
- Best Fine Dining — Ray’s the Steaks
- Best Gym/Fitness Center — Thomas Jefferson Community Center
- Best Happy Hour — Westover Beer Garden & Haus
- Best New Business — Trade Roots
- Best Outdoor Dining — Westover Beer Garden & Haus
- Best Pet Friendly Business — Dogma Bakery
- Best Pizza Place — Pupatella
- Best Salon/Spa — Smitten Boutique Salon
County Board Chairman Walter Tejada offered the reminder that the best way to support these and other Arlington businesses is to shop locally, especially during Arlington Small Business Day on Saturday, November 30.
Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Shopping in CVS for an anniversary card for his wife, Homan couldn’t find anything to his satisfaction and found the whole experience “unpleasant.” With some time on his hands and motivation to try something new, he launched PaperCardShop.com in December 2011 with the hope of helping people avoid the same experience.
Since the site launched, Homan said he’s “having trouble finding traction” in the market. He hopes to soon raise money from investors to launch a marketing campaign, putting his company on sites like Angel.co. Eventually, he said, he believes his site has the ability to dominate the market.
“The greeting card market is about $7.5 billion,” Homan said. Most card sellers “have chosen not to sell their cards online. We’re the only general purpose online greeting card store. That’s pretty odd.”
PaperCardShop’s key is a patent for Homan’s browsing platform, InstaView. The website displays each card’s front and inside as a user’s cursor drags over the card. Each image is of the actual hard copy of the card, photographed by Yorktown High School graduate J.P. Tribby.
“People have been selling greeting cards the same way for 100 years,” Homan said. “With innovation, you generally think of new products like an iPhone, but there’s also innovation in product presentation. With InstaView, people could save millions of hours shopping for cards.”
Homan worked in advertising in Chicago before moving to Virginia and starting Flar Graphics, a print and poster store that once had three locations around the D.C. area. Homan sold Flar Graphics about 20 years ago, he said, and hadn’t started a new venture since.
“I was itching to do something instead of just trading stocks,” he said. “It just sort of bothered me that such an inefficient market existed for greeting cards.”
In 2010, he made the decision to try to solve the online card market. He set about looking for web developers, which is what he called the hardest part of the process. Developers “are kind of like prima donnas,” he said, and many of them weren’t open to changes he suggested.
While he was looking for developers, he was contacting artists across the country, buying cards for the site. Homan said he “cherry picks” the best cards from independent publishers, trying to find a wide range and variety. He relied on his own judgment for many of the cards, but was sure to ask the artists which ones sold best, and ask friends and family members their thoughts.
He eventually found a web developer, with whom he created the InstaView system. Homan works largely out of his home and has piles of boxes of greeting cards in his basement, which he ships himself.
Because the greeting card business has low overhead, Homan said he “can hang on indefinitely” until traffic on the website — and with it, sales — picks up.
“It’s an untapped e-commerce opportunity,” he said. “It’s one of the most profitable e-commerce niches, and there’s no competition. The challenge is to change consumer buying behavior in a low-involvement product.”
If Homan can get enough people to think about buying greeting cards online, instead of sifting through the racks in stores, he thinks PaperCardShop can “become the dominant player in the market.”
“We have a great proposition for consumers,” he said. “The market needs to move online. Eventually, that’s the way the market is going to go, it’s just a question of when.”
Photo (bottom) courtesy Glen Homan
Sponsored by the Ballston Business Improvement District, the shop will be in the Ballston BID Launchpad space, next to the mall entrance at 4238 Wilson Blvd, in the old Chevy’s Restaurant space.
The shop is being set up for the second annual Arlington Small Business Day, to be held between the major Christmas shopping days, Black Friday (Nov. 29) and Cyber Monday (Dec. 2).
The pop-up shop will be Arlington residents’ chance to meet the owners of some of their favorite local home businesses, or learn about some new ones. Among the businesses listed on ASBD’s website are Happy Doh Lucky, Bee Hive Design and Sweets for my Sweet.
There are participating small businesses all over Arlington, in Clarendon, Ballston Rosslyn/Courthouse, Columbia Pike, Crystal City, Shirlington, Cherrydale, Westover, Pentagon City, Lee Harrison and Lee Heights.
Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Daylight Saving Time Ends Sunday — Be sure to set your clocks back an hour before you go to bed on Saturday. Daylight Saving Time ends at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, meaning an extra hour of sleep but one fewer hour of daylight at night. The changing of the clocks is also a good time to replace smoke alarm batteries.
Dems Worry About Libertarian’s Impact on Gov. Race — Historically, polls overestimate the potential votes for third party candidates because voters who might have expressed support for a third party in a poll end up choosing one of the major party candidates in the voting booth. Arlington Democrats worry that Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli is thin enough that supporters of Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis may tip the election on Nov. 5 if they break for Cuccinelli. [Sun Gazette]
Blue, Orange Line Work This Weekend — Trains on the Blue and Orange Line will run every 15 minutes this weekend due to scheduled track work. [WMATA]
Arlington Education Company Cutting Jobs — Arlington-based Strayer Education is cutting its workforce by 20 percent and closing some of its Strayer University campuses. Students enrollment is down 17 percent. [Washington Business Journal]
Free Clinic Still Needed Post-Obamacare — The Affordable Care Act may help reduce the number of people without health insurance, but it won’t alter the core mission of the Arlington Free Clinic. The clinic will continue to serve the thousands who are expected to remain without health insurance in Arlington even after the health care law is implemented. [Sun Gazette]
Water & Wall to Open Saturday — Water & Wall, a new restaurant in Virginia Square, is set to open on Saturday. The restaurant, from Tim Ma of Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, will serve “eclectic American” cuisine. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Lava Barre Moving to Rosslyn — Fitness studio Lava Barre is moving from Clarendon to Rosslyn starting early next year. [Facebook]
Flickr photo by Ddimick
In January of this year, East Falls Church roommates Tony Pianta and Mike Dillon started serious planning to open a microbrewery in Arlington. Recently, however, it became apparent to them that there’s no place in Arlington for such an endeavor.
Roommates Brewery, as the venture was named, was planned as a production brewery with an in-house taproom. Although no final location has been set — Pianta expects that to happen in the next few weeks — Roommates Brewery will likely open in Alexandria.
“Arlington couldn’t match up better with the demographics for a brewery with a taproom,” Pianta said. “It’s just tough to open something that large in Arlington.”
Pianta and Dillon were targeting a 5,000 square foot space, which Pianta said is as large as they could afford in a high-density area with heavy foot traffic.
However, Arlington’s zoning laws — like many surrounding municipalities, including Alexandria — state a brewery must be located in an industrial or light industrial area. Those are few and far between in Arlington, Pianta said, and most of them won’t be available in the near future.
“The available spots weren’t in the places we wanted to be,” Pianta said. “We can justify the extra cost in rent if we can get enough people coming in the taproom and buying pints, but it was just getting too much to justify anymore.”
The locations in Alexandria they are now considering cost roughly the same amount for 10,000 square feet as for 5,000 square feet in Arlington, Pianta said.
Pianta and Dillon, who have lived together in Arlington for several years, are disappointed they won’t be able to bring the county its only production brewery. Pianta said it’s “the ideal market” for a business like the one they are planning, but unless the status quo of zoning laws and rental prices changes, other breweries are likely to look elsewhere as well.
Photo via Roommates Brewery
Free Burgers for Feds — Because the federal government shut down early this morning, Z-Burger is following through on its offer to serve free burgers for all federal and D.C. workers who have been furloughed. The local burger chain, which has a location at 3325 Wilson Blvd, near Clarendon, says customers must present a government ID to get the free burger.
Task Force Recommends More School Buses — An Arlington Public Schools task force has recommended that the school system’s bus service be expanded, at least for elementary school students. Elementary students should be supervised on their way to school, said the task force, which also said that buses are safer and produce less traffic than cars. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Startup Raises $100 Million — Arlington-based Evolent Health has raised a whopping $100 million in its latest funding round. The health management company expects to rapidly hire and develop technology in order to meet heavy demand from the hospital industry, spurred on by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. [Washington Business Journal]
Crystal City Showing Resilience — Despite heavy military job losses caused by the Base Closure and Realignment Act, Crystal City is starting to bounce back and find new tenants to fill vacant office space. Property owners are also using the tough times to upgrade or redevelop older buildings. The office vacancy rate in Crystal City stands at 24.2 percent, up from 9.8 percent in 2011. [Washington Post]
Vintage Plane Flies Over Arlington – The photo above was taken from a Ford Tri-Motor, the first mass-produced airliner in the world. Built in the 1920s, the plane has been carefully maintained and, on Saturday, flew over Arlington in a flight organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association. [EAA]
Photo courtesy Mary Dominiak/Experimental Aircraft Association
The awards, presented by Arlington Economic Development, are in the following categories:
- Best Bargain Restaurant
- Best Boutique
- Best Brunch Spot
- Best Coffee Shop
- Best Cultural Group or Venue
- Best Customer Service
- Best Dessert Spot
- Best Family Friendly Business
- Best Fine Dining
- Best Gym/Fitness Center
- Best Happy Hour
- Best New Business
- Best Outdoor Dining
- Best Pet Friendly Business
- Best Pizza Place
- Best Salon/Spa
Those interesting in nominating a business — any business in Arlington is eligible — can do so at the ShopArlington website. Nominations will be accepted from now until Oct. 4. All nominations and voting are tracked via IP address; only one vote per IP address will be counted, according to AED.
Any submissions for businesses with more than one Arlington location must specify which location the submission represents in order to be valid. To receive an ABBIE Award, each business or organization must be in compliance with all Arlington County laws, ordinances and code requirements.
Once finalists are selected based on the nominations, final voting will take place Oct. 18 to Nov. 1, and the winner will be announced at the Nov. 19 County Board meeting.
(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) The headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be moving out of Ballston, employees are being told today.
The move is another blow to Arlington’s commercial real estate market, which is dealing with rising office vacancy rates (16.5 percent as of January) and the impending loss of the National Science Foundation.
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is based in three buildings in Ballston, at 4301, 4401 and 4501 N. Fairfax Drive. In a memo to employees, FWS Director Dan Ashe said the offices will be relocated to the Skyline Technology Center at 5275 Leesburg Pike in Falls Church.
“I am excited to be able to officially announce the location of the new headquarters building,” he wrote. “This ‘Class A’ facility offers an abundance of priority amenities and features and is located only 3.5 miles from our current location.”
FWS spokesman Chris Tollefson told ARLnow.com that July 1, 2014 is when FWS expects to move into the new facility. FWS’ leases on Fairfax Drive were originally set to expire at the end of 2013, but they negotiated an extension into the spring and are in negotiations for another extension, Tollefson said, after the process of signing the lease at the new building took longer than anticipated.
“I don’t think anyone anticipates [the negotiations] will be an issue,” Tollefson said.
Employees were invited to ask questions about the move at three information sessions held this morning. Tollefson said there will be a shuttle running between the new office and the Metro, stating that was “one of the parameters” of a new office space.
Board Approves Paid Parking at Arlington Mill Center — The Arlington County Board has approved a plan to have drivers pay for parking longer than 4 hours at the new Arlington Mill Community Center. The plan, approved by a vote of 3-2 in a special Board session, is intended to discourage commuters from using the center’s parking garage. Chris Zimmerman and Board Chair Walter Tejada voted against the plan, arguing that parking should be free at all times. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Seeks Better Bike Map — Arlington County is asking for public input into its effort to design a better bike map of the county. Bike Arlington has created a short survey for local cyclists. The survey will remain open until Sept. 17. [Greater Greater Washington]
Old Bike Shop Profiled — The Old Bike Shop, which opened in January at 2647 N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park, was recently profiled as part of an Arlington Independent Media student video project. “I sell what I think is good,” said owner Larry Behery, of his bike “recyclery.” [YouTube]