The former Blanca’s Restaurant at 2900 Columbia Pike may be getting a makeover in an attempt to attract a new restaurant tenant.
The aging, two-story structure sits on the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, dwarfed by the adjacent Halstead apartment building. It has been vacant for years, despite the high-profile location across from the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse.
In recent years, the building has been toured a couple of times by potential tenants, including the owners of a popular north Arlington coffee shop and gathering spot, but the poor condition of the interior and other expensive challenges have been viewed as obstacles to opening in the space.
Now, we’re told, the siblings who own the building are planning to renovate in order to jump start the process of finding a tenant. Since December, Ramon and William Darcey have been applying for various building, electrical and other permits. So far, most of those permit applications have been rejected.
The permits detail ambitious plans to renovate the interior, expand the second floor, install an exterior staircase, set up a rooftop seating area near the rear of the building and remove landscaping in order to install ground-level outdoor seating. In September, the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board was briefed on the plans and offered design suggestions for keeping potentially historic elements of the Spanish Revival-style building in tact.
The building and property was assessed at $765,200 for 2015. Several “for lease” signs have already been placed outside the building and inside its windows.
Officials from Simon Property Group on Thursday previewed the big changes coming to the company’s Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall.
The holiday-themed event featured Santa Claus, taking a break from photos with children to read a renovation “wish list,” and a tile-smashing photo opportunity dubbed “wreck the halls,” complete with candy cane-wrapped sledgehammers.
Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey was among those to ceremonially smash the mall’s surprisingly-difficult-to-break tiles.
The $70+ million renovation and expansion project is already underway and is expected to run through 2016. Among the changes coming to the mall:
- An additional 52,000 square feet of space for five stores and restaurants, located at what is now the mall’s main entrance off S. Hayes Street (estimated completion: spring 2016)
- Outdoor seating for the restaurants in the expansion (new retailers and restaurants to be announced spring 2015)
- Two new glass-enclosed elevators, replacing the existing single elevator (estimated completion: January 2015)
- Additional escalator banks from the Metro level to the ground level (estimated completion: July 2015)
- New lighting, tile, handrails, columns and interior details (estimated completion: July 2015)
- A new valet parking area
The mall’s popular food court — said to be the most successful food court company-wide thanks to its status as an “international tourist destination,” frequented by literal busloads of meal-seeking tourists — will be getting new seating, designed to make it feel less like a “cafeteria.”
The newly-configured food court will seat 750. Its chairs will include padded seats.
Also coming to the mall will be a new burger restaurant and a new chicken restaurant. Simon officials would not reveal the names of the restaurants.
There were, however, two retail announcements made on Thursday. The high-end women’s shoe company Stuart Weitzman is planning to open at the mall this coming spring, and high-end watch retailer Tourneau, which suffered a high-profile robbery last year, is expanding to a 3,000 square foot location on the ground floor in the spring.
The announcements are in keeping with the Fashion Centre’s goal of attracting more higher-end, fashion-forward retailers.
The mall is also adding some technological flare, with a new public WiFi system expected to be switched on around the turn of the new year, and cell phone charging stations planned.
The mall received its last round of major renovations in 1989.
Last night, 265 Lyon Park residents attended a meeting of the Lyon Park Citizens Association — a record, according to LPCA President John Goldener — to vote on whether the community center should take out a $600,000 line of credit to help fund the renovation.
Put up as collateral for the bank: the park and community center itself.
After a spirited debate, 121 voted to let the Lyon Park Community Center Board of Governors take out the line of credit, with 114 voting to proceed with the renovations, funded only by donations. The LPCA has been fundraising for five years, according to treasurer Bill Anhut, but they have raised $450,000, far from the organization’s goal.
“It’s been apparent the costs were going to come in higher than we expected, and fundraising was lagging because the process was taking so long,” Anhut said. The LPCA has been discussing renovating the Lyon Park Community House, built in 1925, for more than a decade. “People were wondering if we were ever going to get to the point where we put the shovel in the ground.”
A group of residents has circulated a flyer in the last month asking residents to vote in the motion against taking out the line of credit. The flyer reads, in part:
“Repaying the loan will cost $680,000-$800,000, primarily from new donations, from YOU or else LYON PARK COULD BE LOST TO FORECLOSURE … the community center risks default and the bank could take over operations.”
Goldener said that scenario is “impossible.” In the deed to the park and community center — which is owned by the LPCA, meaning it’s owned by the residents of the neighborhood — it is stated that the property can only ever be a park and community center, Goldener said. Cardinal Bank, which approved the line of credit, knows that and has no intention of foreclosing.
Even if the LPCA can’t repay the loan, Anhut said, a few residents have volunteered to be guarantors on the loan, meaning if something changes with LPCA leadership and the association decides to stop making payments, the residents would step in to cover the expenses.
The only reason the bank asked for collateral, Anhut said, was to protect its investment and prevent the LPCA from getting more money from another bank.
“The bank proceeded with the loan and understands they can’t look to the property to satisfy any default,” Anhut said. “The bank knows that if they were to foreclose on this property, the deed has a stipulation that it will forever remain a park. It cannot be changed.”
The flyer passed out also suggests undergoing a more modest renovation with the cash on hand, asking “why can’t a sunroom be built in a second phase?”
Goldener dismissed the notion that the renovations are more than the facility needs.
“There’s a misperception that the cost of this is a gold-plated facility and it’s not,” he said. “The reason it’s expensive is because we have to do completely redo all the plumbing, electrical, ADA accessible entry, exits and handicapped bathrooms, and the kitchen’s a commercial kitchen, so all of the costs are essentially triple what they would be for a home renovation.”
Goldener said the community has run a number of financial models, and the LPCA anticipates “easily” paying back the sum of the loan, with interest, within 10 years. The citizens association will also continue to fundraise during the renovations, and the organization will only dip into the line of credit when it runs out of cash on hand, Anhut said. When the renovations are complete, donations and rental fees will combine to go toward paying back the credit.
Lyon Park is holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovations on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 4:00 p.m. The community center is located at 414 N. Fillmore Street. The renovations are expected be complete by next summer
Photo courtesy John Goldener
Property Assessments Expected to Rise — Arlington property owners may be on the hook for $330 to $440 in additional taxes next year, if rates stay the same. That’s because initial estimates suggest that assessments of single-family homes and condos in Arlington County will rise 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively. [Washington Post]
New Construction Coming to DCA — Reagan National Airport will be getting a new regional jet concourse, a new parking garage and larger security screening areas, as part of a just-approved $1 billion capital construction program. Security screening will be relocated to the ticketing level, which will open up the “National Hall” shopping and dining area to all security-screened passengers. The airport served 20.4 million passengers in 2013, a figure that’s expected to rise to 22 million soon. [MWAA, Greater Greater Washington]
County to Receive Breastfeeding Program Grant — Arlington County is set to receive a nearly $30,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Health to support a breastfeeding counselor program for lower-income residents. [Arlington County]
APS Thanks Voters for School Bond — The Arlington School Board is thanking Arlington voters for approving this year’s $105.78 million school bond. Among the six projects to receive bond funding are $50 million for either a new elementary school or two elementary school additions, $29 million for an addition and renovation to Abingdon Elementary, and $5 million for improvements at Washington-Lee High School that will add 300 seats. [Arlington Public Schools]
Cold, Snowy Winter Outlook — This winter is expected to be colder and snowier than usual, according to forecasters. [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Built in 1988, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr. will receive upgrades to its offices, hallways and lobby, according to Jackson Prentice, vice president of developer MRP Realty. The renovations to the eight-story, 144,000-square-foot building will aim to create “open space, with a more modern feel,” he said.
“The whole building will feel brand new,” Prentice said. “The work will bring the building to a better prominence.”
The FWS moved out of 4301, 4401 and 4501 N. Fairfax Dr. in July and August after the General Services Administration announced last September that the headquarters would be moved to Falls Church. Under the government’s base realignment and closure plan, or BRAC, the GSA estimated moving to 5275 Leesburg Pike would save the government more than $3.8 million annually for 15 years, a news release said.
Pre-leasing on 4401 N. Fairfax Dr. has begun, Prentice said, with work expected to be complete by spring or summer 2015.
The office vacancy rate in Ballston was 16 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to figures from the real estate company CoStar cited by Arlington Economic Development. This was an increase from 14.7 percent last year. The overall office vacancy rate for the county was 20.4 percent in the second quarter of 2014, up from 16.4 percent last year, the figures state.
Representatives for the other two ex-FWS buildings did not immediately respond to inquiries.
It’s arguably the most recognizable office building in Clarendon, and it’s currently vacant.
The office building at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro plaza, was built in 1987 and, until recently, housed the high-security Defense Intelligence Agency. Now that the DIA has moved to Reston, property owner Piedmont Office Realty Trust is reportedly planning exterior and interior renovations to the building in an attempt to attract new tenants to fill its 250,000 square feet of space.
The renovations will include adding more glass to the building — on the second floor, above the ground floor retail that runs along the entire block, and down the middle of each side of the tower, according to an individual familiar with the plans who spoke to ARLnow.com on the condition of anonymity. Also set for a refresh: the street-level courtyard that currently includes outdoor seating for Mad Rose Tavern.
The exact plans and timeline for the renovations are not clear — a representative of the leasing agent, Avison Young, declined to comment, saying that additional information would be made available within “the next few weeks.”
Oakgrove Park (1606 N. Quincy Street) is slated to get a new entrance, a new trail and other features.
The park, at the southern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood, has a bit of a visibility problem — it’s not very noticeable from street level. A new entry feature is designed to help, with an artificial, metal tree holding a sculpture of an owl and a sign that says “Oakgrove Park.”
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on a contract for $488,915 with a $48,891 contingency to construct the new entrance on 17th Street N. along with a new circular walking/jogging path on the park’s perimeter, benches, bleachers and bike racks.
The 3.51-acre park’s grass field is planned to be replaced in a separate project, and that work brings the total cost to Oakgrove Park improvements to about $680,000, paid for with 2012 and 2014 pay-as-you-go funds.
The new entrance will give park visitors increased access to the gazebo and “tot lot,” and will have improved ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility to the walking trail. There are several mature trees lining the perimeter of the park, and Arlington County Parks and Recreation staff said in their staff report that the trail was designed to have minimal impact to the existing trees.
Photo via Google Maps
The AKA Virginia Square extended stay hotel is undergoing a conversion into a condominium building and plans to open this fall.
The building, at 3409 Wilson Blvd, was purchased by Bethesda-based The Goldstar Group. The company has rebranded the building as Arc 3409, saying it will featuer “luxury condos.” The sale went through this spring, and by May the hotel was no longer taking reservations as it prepared to close.
Goldstar Senior Vice President Eric May said the company plans to open the building in mid-September, and to start sending out information about asking prices and individual units later this summer. May said the prices for the 85 units in the building have yet to be determined.
The renovations, May said, include replacing floors, kitchens and re-fitting the units. No structural work needed to be done, he said, because the building, built in 2008, was originally intended to be condominiums before it was sold to become, essentially, a short-term rental apartment building.
“The building itself is very different from Arlington standard,” May said. “It’s not brick box. It’s got angles, curves, glass and it’s a cool building. The units themselves are cool units, some of them have floor-to-ceiling glass and most of them have balconies. It’s more of cutting-edge D.C. design than you typically see in Arlington.”
The building is two blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station, but the location and the appeal of the unusual building were just part of the equation for Goldstar’s purchase.
“There is a huge lack of supply of new or any condos in Arlington right now,” May said. “There’s very little to no new product, so we saw an opportunity to bring to market effectively new condominiums at prices that are going to be competitive.”
(Updated at 5:50 p.m. on 6/19/14) Cafe Caturra (2931 S. Glebe Road) is expected to close in order to be converted into a Tazza Kitchen restaurant.
The restaurant opened in the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center in September 2011. It is expected to close for renovations in the near future, though no timeline has yet been set, according to co-owner Jeff Grant, the founder of Cafe Caturra. The restaurant has applied for but has not yet been granted building permits.
After renovations, it would then reopen as Tazza Kitchen, which serves cuisine inspired by the Mediterranean coast and Baja California. Tazza Kitchen currently has locations in Richmond and Raleigh, N.C., with another coming soon to Columbia, S.C.
As of December, dinner entrees ranged in price from $9.50 to $16.50, according to a glowing review by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“No one is really doing that kind of food here at that price point,” said Lawrence Blake, a Cafe Caturra employee in Arlington.
Hat tip to @alongthepike
The County Board will vote Saturday on county staff’s recommendation to award a $644,000 contract to Fort Myer Construction Corporation, with a $64,000 contingency, to build a new basketball court, replace playground equipment and build a new walking path from N. Woodstock Street, along with other minor improvements.
The project was initially put out to bid in December 2013, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation’s staff report, but all the bids came in over budget. In response, staff removed an “embankment slide” playground element and the path and stairs to get there to bring costs down.
The renovations three-quarter acre park, located at 2049 N. Woodstock Street, were planned and designed as part of a community outreach program in 2012, staff said. It currently features a playground, basketball court, gazebo and “small grassy area.”
Photo via Google Maps
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
(Updated at 6:05 p.m.) The $3 million renovation to Rocky Run Park in the Courthouse area are complete and the park is now open to the public.
The renovations, which were approved by the County Board in November 2012, include two lighted basketball courts, a lighted synthetic turf for drop-in play, a new playground area with equipment for 5-12 year-olds, a picnic shelter and bathrooms. The park, at 1109 N. Barton Street, had its mature trees preserved while the equipment and facilities were reorganized around them.
The renovations were funded through 2010 and 2012 Neighborhood Conservation funds, parks capital maintenance bonds and pay-as-you-go funds. The park came in under budget, according to parks officials. The plans to renovate the park have been in the works since 2009, according to Arlington County.
According to county Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Roberta Korzen, the park opened on Friday and there is an official ribbon-cutting planned for April 27 at 2:00 p.m.
Korzen said an earlier plan to build “stakeable art” in the park was scrapped.
“The ‘skateable’ art feature previously designed in Phase I design development and planned for installation with the Phase II construction activities was removed from the project,” she said via email. “During the final drawing development of the art feature, it was determined that the artistic expression and functionality of the sculpture could not be effectively realized. That area will instead feature a sculpted lawn and shade trees.”
County, State Consider Pothole Claims — Potholes abound on roads in Arlington. Should your car be damaged by a pothole, Arlington County and VDOT both investigate pothole damage claims. But as a result of the legal principle of sovereign immunity, which protects the state and local governments from lawsuits, a pothole damage claim is usually only paid in special circumstances. [InsideNoVa]
Hotel Bar Renovates, Expands — O’Malley’s Pub, an “Irish-style” bar inside the Holiday Inn National Airport Hotel near Crystal City, has recently renovated its interior and expanded its footprint by 30 percent. [PR Web]
Arlington Chess Champ Ranked Nationally — Sam Schenk, a sixth-grade student at Williamsburg Middle School, is the 69th ranked chess player among 6th graders in the U.S. [InsideNoVa]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The site has been under construction since April, but workers aren’t worried about finishing in time for the rink opening next Friday, November 15.
“That’s how it works, it doesn’t look like anything for a while and then it suddenly appears,” a worker said.
In addition to a larger rink there will be a new stone fire pit. New features that customers can enjoy in warmer weather include a turf lawn, revamped outdoor dining areas and lighted water fountains.
The grand re-opening celebration will take place from 5:00-8:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Attendees can expect live entertainment and giveaways. Plus, regardless of whether there’s any natural snow, there will be snow at the ice rink every night from December 7 through January 1. Skate among the snowflakes at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. each night.
Hours and pricing can be found online.
Terminal A Revamp Underway at DCA — A $37 million renovation project at Reagan National Airport’s Terminal A is proceeding swiftly. The project isn’t adding a significant amount of extra space to the historic terminal, but it will make the existing space seem brighter and more open. Most of the work is expected to be complete by the holiday travel season. [Washington Post]
Pupatella Makes National Pizza Rankings — Bluemont’s Pupatella Neapolitan Pizzeria (5104 Wilson Blvd) serves one of the top 40 slices of pizza in the country, according to new rankings. Pupatella’s capricciosa pizza was ranked No. 36 on the list, as judged by the Daily Meal website. [Daily Mail]
Students Receive Scholarships at NAACP Banquet — Through a partnership with the Arlington NAACP, a new scholarship fund awarded $2,500/year college scholarships to four high-performing local students over the weekend. The scholarship fund allows the NAACP to “invest in our youth,” said the head of the Arlington branch of the organization. [Sun Gazette]
Beer and Wine Walks Return to Crystal City — Crystal City’s 1K wine and beer walks will return next month. The walks — which allow participants to sample various wines and beers while walking through Crystal City’s underground shopping center — will take place on Nov. 16 and 17. [Crystal City]
County Board Adopts Public Safety Radio Resolution — The Arlington County Board adopted a resolution yesterday (Tuesday) that calls on builders to install technology that allows better police and fire department communications in new buildings. Modern construction materials have made it difficult for first responders to receive radio signals in newer buildings. The Board’s non-binding resolution calls on builders to install in-building wireless systems to better transmit public radio signals. [Arlington County]
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser