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County Still Reviewing Sky-High Real Estate Assessments

by ARLnow.com | April 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm | 625 views | No Comments

Rien Tong in ClarendonOfficials are still reviewing dozens of sky-high commercial real estate assessments, County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Arlington County Board over the weekend.

ARLnow.com first reported in Februrary that numerous businesses in the Clarendon area — mostly bars and restaurants — saw their real estate assessments skyrocket this year, in one case nearly 200 percent. A week later, the county announced that it would review ”all commercial real property assessments with a 50 percent or greater increase from calendar year 2013.”

That review is continuing, with Donnellan telling the Board that she had “no projection as to when it would be completed.” In an earlier interview with ARLnow.com, Rick Melman, Arlington’s director of real estate assessment, said he expected the review to wrap up by the end of May.

In all, 64 commercial properties had 50 percent or higher assessment increases and are being reviewed, Melman said. Responding to a request from ARLnow.com, the county released a list of those properties — albeit in the form of Real Property Codes, not addresses. Those codes can be searched here.

For some of the properties on the list, the big jump in assessments can be explained by building projects or development plans that drove up the value. Others remain unexplained — for instance, Rien Tong Restaurant’s nearly 200 percent increase, when neighboring restaurant Kabob Bazaar only increased 32 percent. Or Revolution Cycles’ 64 percent increase, when the Whole Foods across the street saw no increase.

Outside of Clarendon, some properties on the list stood out.

The Dolley Madison Towers apartment complex at 2300 24th Road S. saw its assessment spike from $44 million to $103 million between 2013 and 2014. The aging retail strip at 927 S. Walter Reed Drive rose in value from $1.3 million to $2.2 million. And the assessment for Ballston Animal Hospital at 5232 Wilson Blvd rose from $543,000 to $1 million.

“The assessment office is right now in the process of looking through these 64 properties,” said Melman. “It’s quite a lot to look at. At this early stage it looks that about half of them are explained by new construction, site plans, things like that. Examiners are re-examining the other half. There’s no real trend, they’re all over the county.”

Melman said the real estate assessment office, on balance, had a “pretty low appeal rate” this year. Still, he encouraged anyone who feels their property’s assessment was too high to contact the office and/or file an appeal. Today (Tuesday) is the final day to appeal to Arlington’s Board of Equalization.

“There have been some human errors on our part… and that’s what the appeals process is for,” Melman said. “We’d be glad to talk to any property owner if they have questions or concerns. Our goal is to be fair and equitable to citizen.”

County Releases Bakery from Arlington Mill Lease

by ARLnow.com | April 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm | 1,449 views | No Comments

Arlington Mill Community Center sneak peekThe new Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street) will remain without a full-time food vendor for the foreseeable future.

The County Board on Saturday voted to release Pan American Bakery and Cafe from its seven-year lease at Arlington Mill. Rent on the 1,875 square foot retail location, on the ground floor of the community center, was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term.

The eatery was supposed to serve healthy fare, along with coffee, gelato and salteñas.

The owners of the restaurant, which has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike and at 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria, asked the county to terminate the lease “because of personal and family health problems.” One owner’s mother, who lives in Bolivia, was said to be seriously ill, and the other owner has been battling two serious illnesses, according to the staff report.

County staff “continues to pursue a replacement tenant,” but the county is not projecting any lease revenue in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | April 10, 2014 at 9:00 am | 1,849 views | No Comments

Cherry Blossoms (Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones)

New Restaurants Coming to Rosslyn – At least three new restaurant concepts are reportedly coming to Rosslyn. The restaurants will be opening on the ground floor of the Sedona/Slate apartment building and office buildings at 1100 and 1501 Wilson Blvd, according to speakers at a Bisnow conference in Rosslyn yesterday morning. Little is known about the restaurants — so far, property owners aren’t naming names — but one rumor relayed to ARLnow.com is that one of the restaurants will feature a Top Chef contestant as its head chef. [Bisnow]

Vihstadt Swearing-In Set for Friday — The swearing-in of new Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt will take place at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. The ceremony will be aired live on Arlington TV (Comcast 25 / Verizon 40). [Arlington County]

Other Localities Are Also Having Transit Debates — Arlington County isn’t the only community having a debate over a large transit project, like the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line. Streetcar critics are also active in Cincinnati, where a 3.6 mile, $133 million streetcar line is under construction. In Nashville, meanwhile, opposition to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line has spilled over to the state Senate. [Greater Greater Washington]

Yorktown Boys Soccer Moves Up in Rankings — The boys soccer team at Yorktown High School is now ranked No. 6 in the region after opening the season with a 5-1 record. [Washington Post]

Rosslyn McDonald’s Demolition Scheduled — The demolition of the now-closed McDonald’s restaurant near the Rosslyn Metro station is scheduled to begin on Monday, April 21. Demolition work is expected to take 7-10 days. [Rosslyn BID]

Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | March 24, 2014 at 9:00 am | 3,241 views | No Comments

Pedestrian walking up Key Blvd in Rosslyn at sunset

Restaurateurs Eye Rosslyn — Rosslyn has been long neglected in the restaurant and bar department, primarily because it has been viewed as a place where only fast casual lunch places can be successful. That may be changing thanks to Heavy Seas Alehouse, which has been doing boffo beer and dinner business since it opened last month. [Washington City Paper]

Streetcar Battles Continue — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey continued her one-woman campaign against the Columbia Pike streetcar from the County Board dais last week. Garvey used her time in the County Board meeting to do a slideshow of streetcar systems that have well-exceeded their budget or which have performed poorly in wintery weather. Meanwhile, the streetcar remains the central issue in April’s County Board special election. [InsideNoVa, Greater Greater Washington]

Tribute to Terry Holzheimer — Acting Director of Arlington Economic Development Cindy Richmond has penned a tribute to her former boss, Terry Holzheimer, who died of a sudden heart attack on March 1. [Arlington Economic Development]

Grand Opening for Arlington Mill Residences — A grand opening ceremony will be held tonight from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for the Arlington Mill Residences, at 901 S. Dinwiddie Street. The four story, 122-unit apartment complex, located next to the new Arlington Mill Community Center, is 100 percent committed affordable. There was a long waiting list for those hoping to live in one of the units.

Arlington Woman on Jeopardy Tonight – Arlington resident Nancy Akerman, who works as a science policy fellow, will compete on Jeopardy tonight. The game show airs at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (ABC 7).

Five Arlington Restaurants Nominated for RAMMY Awards

by ARLnow.com | March 19, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 5,281 views | No Comments

Water & Wall restaurant in Virginia Square

The nominations for the annual RAMMY restaurant awards have been announced and five Arlington eateries are among the nominees.

The awards gala, which recognizes excellence among Washington area restaurants, owners and employees, will be held on June 22. The following Arlington restaurants are among the nominees.

All but one of the local nominees has opened within the past four years. (Curious Grape was originally founded in 2002.)

File photo

World of Beer Touts Itself as Business Venue

by ARLnow.com | March 18, 2014 at 10:20 am | 1,759 views | No Comments

World of Beer (courtesy photo)Despite a name that suggests a place more appropriate for after-work activities, Ballston’s World of Beer (901 N. Glebe Road) is trying to position itself as a daytime business venue.

The tavern, which carries more than 500 types of beer, has been touting itself as a location for lunch meetings, corporate training and teleconferencing.

“We are a great place for off-site meetings,” said owner Evan Matz, in a press release. “With little notice, CEOs and managers can reserve a separate room equipped with our IP-based video and wall monitor systems. It’s a perfect place to hold working lunches.”

Matz is also trying to draw attention to World of Beer’s new lunch menu — bratwurst sliders, bacon burgers, etc. — and to his loyalty program, for those who have sampled all 500+ brands of beer.

“One customer has sampled more than 2,000 brands,” Matz noted. “But we don’t recommend this be done during business meetings.”

World of Beer plans to open a new location in Reston in May.

Black Lime Closes in Crystal City

by ARLnow.com | March 14, 2014 at 10:20 am | 2,377 views | No Comments

Black Lime closes in Crystal City Black Lime closes in Crystal City

Black Lime Café, a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant at 2450 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, has closed.

Legal notices are posted on the restaurant’s door, notifying the owners that the locks have been changed due to an alleged non-payment of rent. Restaurant personnel would be charged with trespassing if they try to get in, one notice says.

Black Lime was the flagship location of what the owners hoped could be a new fast-casual restaurant chain. The owners were veterans of large restaurant companies like Maggie Moo’s, Outback Steakhouse and Bennigan’s.

It’s unclear whether the restaurant was hurt by lack of sales or something else. One customer told ARLnow.com that the restaurant was usually busy during lunchtime.

Hat tip to @_TylerHicks

County to Review Big Assessment Increases

by ARLnow.com | March 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,670 views | No Comments

Restaurants on Wilson Blvd in ClarendonArlington County will review the big jump in commercial real estate assessments in Clarendon first reported by ARLnow.com last week.

The county said Friday evening that it will take a look at “all commercial real property assessments with a 50% or greater increase from calendar year 2013.”

There are nearly 90 such properties, including Rien Tong restaurant (3131 Wilson Blvd), which saw its assessment increase 197 percent, and Spider Kelly’s (3171 Wilson Blvd), which saw its property valuation increase 83 percent.

The assessments are updated annually and used to calculate county property taxes.

“A small number of commercial property owners did see substantially increased assessments, and this review is meant to correct any mistakes that may have been made,” said county finance director Michelle Cowan, in a press release, below.

Arlington County has begun a review of all commercial real property assessments with a 50% or greater increase from calendar year 2013, including several parcels in the Clarendon area that saw significant increases.

The review will affect fewer than 90 properties, of approximately 3,300 total commercial parcels.  Both the original assessments, and the underlying data for each of the affected properties, will be re-examined to determine whether the assessment should be sustained or changed.

“A small number of commercial property owners did see substantially increased assessments, and this review is meant to correct any mistakes that may have been made,” said Dept. of Management and Finance Director Michelle Cowan. “We want to ensure fair and equitable assessments for all property owners.”

Arlington’s Real Estate Assessment office is mailing letters to property owners of all properties whose assessments increased 50% or more. Upon conclusion of the administrative review by the County, property owners will still have the ability to appeal their assessment through the Board of Equalization. It is anticipated that the County’s administrative review will take 30-45 days. 

Overall, commercial assessments, which include office buildings, apartments, hotels and retail, grew 5.4 percent over CY 2013, primarily fueled by new construction and strength in apartment properties due to rising rents. The specific parcels that were questioned in the Clarendon area fall into the general commercial category class, which includes retail and other types of properties, excluding office buildings and apartments. The general commercial assessment category increased by 12.4 percent over CY 2013.

Assessments for most commercial properties are based on an income approach and evaluate how much income a property would produce if it were rented as an apartment, store, factory, etc. This approach considers operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and the profits most people would expect from the rental. The net income after operational costs, plus a capitalization rate, determines the assessment value. It is not based on the profitability of a particular business; rather the assessment value is based on the rents and expenses of the property and building in which the business is located.

Bill Cosby to Attend Ben’s Grand Opening in Rosslyn

by ARLnow.com | February 26, 2014 at 12:05 pm | 8,682 views | No Comments

Bill Cosby (photo via Facebook)Bill Cosby, the only person allowed to eat for free at Ben’s Chili Bowl (other than the Obama family), will be attending the grand opening for the restaurant’s new Rosslyn location next week.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for the new location, at 1725 Wilson Blvd, at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, March 6. Cosby is “100 percent confirmed” for the event, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District was told today by the restaurant’s owners.

Cosby is arguably the biggest celebrity fan of the landmark U Street eatery, and counts the owners, the Ali family, as friends. The comedian is expected to give a few remarks with the family before the store’s opening.

Arlington County Board members are also expected to be in attendance.

Photo via Facebook

Assessments for Clarendon Restaurants Skyrocket

by ARLnow.com | February 26, 2014 at 10:25 am | 5,275 views | No Comments

Rien Tong in Clarendon(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) Real estate assessments for numerous Clarendon restaurants skyrocketed this year, with little explanation as to why.

Long-time businesses, which have not been renovated or sold recently, saw their assessments increase by double digit or even triple digit percentages. The rise in assessments could mean the owners will be forced to pay tens of thousands in additional county taxes this year, barring a successful appeal.

The biggest increase spotted by ARLnow.com was that of Rien Tong Restaurant (3131 Wilson Blvd). The Asian eatery, located across from the Clarendon Metro station, saw its assessment jump from $559,900 to $1,667,600, a nearly 200 percent increase that would result in an extra $12,528 in taxes.

Restaurants on Wilson Blvd in ClarendonThe assessment for Kabob Bazaar (3133 Wilson Blvd), directly adjacent to Rien Tong in a nearly identical storefront, also increased but not as dramatically. The restaurant’s assessment increased from $635,500 to $840,700, a 32 percent rise.

The biggest tax increase as a result of higher assessments goes to Spider Kelly’s (3171 Wilson Blvd), which saw its property valuation increase 83 percent to $5.1 million. The added tax yearly bill: $26,428.

With the exception of Revolution Cycles (2727 Wilson Blvd), which had its building assessment increase 64 percent to $3.8 million, and Azure Day Spa (2420 Wilson Blvd), which increased 55 percent to $1.9 million, the businesses impacted were primarily Clarendon restaurants.

Other big increases include Eventide (39 percent), Clarendon Ballroom (50 percent), Hard Times Cafe and Delhi Club (50 percent), Boccato Gelato (71 percent), Whitlow’s (24 percent), Faccia Luna and Boulevard Woodgrill (56 percent). By comparison, the Clarendon Whole Foods store at 2700 Wilson Blvd saw no increase in its assessment.

Several restaurant owners contacted ARLnow.com about the higher assessments.

“There’s some funny business going on here,” one said, on the condition of anonymity. “This is a money grab, pure and simple.”

Arlington County Director of Communications Diana Sun says that the businesses in question are typically assessed based on a method that takes a look at the income generated by each property. That, however, can’t fully explain the increases.

“Clearly there were some that just look like an anomaly,” she said.

Sun encouraged business owners who think their assessments this year were unjust to file an administrative appeal before the March 3 deadline. Such an appeal could result in a new inspection of the property and a lower assessment. After March 3, or after an unsatisfactory result from an administrative appeal, any appeals must be filed with the county’s Board of Equalization.

The unknowns involved in filing an appeal still have some business owners on edge.

“I have to hire a lawyer now,” one told ARLnow.com “I’m pretty pissed off about it.”

Full-Service Spa, New Restaurants Coming to DCA

by ARLnow.com | February 20, 2014 at 11:45 am | 2,800 views | No Comments

Some big changes are in store for Terminal A at Reagan National Airport.

The 40+ year old terminal will be getting the airport’s first full-service spa, plus new restaurants and stores, as part of a “comprehensive physical upgrade to the facility,” the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced last night.

The “sweeping” changes also include publicly-accessible iPads and charging stations, plus a renovated lobby and an expansion of the security checkpoints.

“It has long been the Airports Authority’s desire to modernize and optimize the passenger experience in Terminal A at Reagan National,” said Paul Malandrino, airport manager at Reagan National, in a press release.

The Airports Authority plans to have some of the new restaurants and stores open this spring. The rest of the changes are expected by the spring of 2015. Last year Reagan National Airport served a record 20.4 million passengers, which represents a year-over-year increase of nearly 4 percent.

The full press release from the Airports Authority, after the jump.

(more…)

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 6, 2014 at 9:20 am | 1,028 views | No Comments

"Parked at Penrose" by Ddimick

Lavern Chatman Running for Congress — Lavern Chatman, former president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Urban League, has announced that she’s running for the 8th District seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.). “We need leaders who understand the struggles and joys of raising and educating children and the benefits of providing them opportunities for economic empowerment,” Chatman, a Democrat, said in a statement. [Blue Virginia]

TandemNSI Launches — TandemNSI, Arlington’s initiative to bring national security technology companies together with government agencies and universities, officially launched Tuesday night. The $525,000 public-private partnership is being launched at a time when Arlington is still smarting from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation. [Bisnow, DoD Buzz]

McKinley Elementary Expansion – A plan to add 225 seats to McKinley Elementary School by the fall of 2016 is moving forward. Arlington Public Schools hopes to complete the design of the addition by the end of 2014 and begin construction by mid-2015. [Sun Gazette]

Restaurant Challenge Begins — The Ballston Business Improvement District is now accepting applications for its Restaurant Challenge. The BID is seeking the area’s “next signature restaurant.” The winner of the challenge will receive an interest-free loan and an 11-year lease on the former Red Parrot Asian Bistro space at 1110 N. Glebe Blvd. ”This new program is designed to activate commercial space and showcase the community of Ballston as a magnet for discovery and innovation,” the BID said.  [Ballston BID, Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Creates Redskins Gear for Women — Fashion design students at Marymount University in Arlington have created new fashion-forward Washington Redskins apparel for women. The student project was initiated in response to what a professor saw as a lack of stylish options for female Redskins fans. [Marymount University]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

Apartment Skyscraper to Replace Rosslyn McDonald’s

by ARLnow.com | February 4, 2014 at 1:15 pm | 3,786 views | No Comments

Central Place residential towerThe McDonald’s at 1823 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn will soon be closing to make way for a 31-story mixed-use residential skyscraper.

Developer JBG expects to begin construction on the first of two planned towers of its Central Place development by early spring, the company says. The 31-story, 355 foot tall building will house 377 “impeccably-designed residences” along with 25,000 square feet of retail space. There will also be a 15,000 square foot public plaza built with the development.

“Central Place will be a striking addition to the Virginia skyline and offer some of the most spectacular views available of the nation’s capital,” JBG said in a press release. “It will be the tallest building in JBG’s development portfolio.”

The building will also be one of the tallest, if not the tallest, residential building in the Washington, D.C. metro area. No word yet on whether the building will consist of rental apartments or condominiums.

The development will require the closure and demolition of an existing, stand-alone McDonald’s restaurant and a small existing public plaza. The site is on the same block as the new entrance to the Rosslyn Metro station.

Rosslyn McDonald'sChevy Chase-based JBG, which is partnering with the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio to finance the development, told Rosslyn stakeholders that construction will begin soon and the McDonald’s demolition will be underway by May.

“Beginning next Monday, February 10th, Clark Construction will mobilize and construction will begin with the installation and relocation of utility lines on North Lynn Street,” the company said. “Demolition of the existing McDonalds building and excavation activities will begin in approximately 3 months.”

Last year JBG completed then sold the Sedona and Slate apartment development, located at 1510 Clarendon Blvd in Rosslyn. The company is planning to eventually build a matching Central Pace office tower, to the south of the residential tower.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | February 4, 2014 at 8:30 am | 764 views | No Comments

Workers affix signage to the door of the soon-to-open Heavy Seas Alehouse in Rosslyn

Resolution Honors Arlington’s First Female Judge — The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a resolution honoring Eleanor Spence Dobson, Arlington’s first female judge. Dobson served in the General District Court from 1982 to 1997. She passed away on September 18, 2013. The resolution honoring Dobson was sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (D). Another Hope-sponsored resolution, honoring the late Arlington civic activist Robert Atkins, is scheduled to come to the House floor on Friday. [Sun Gazette]

Chick-fil-A ‘Date Knight’ Returns — Missed your chance to go on a medieval-themed fast food date with your mom last year? Good news: Chick-fil-A is once again holding its Mother-Son Date Knight at Ballston Common Mall (4238 Wilson Blvd). The food court eatery is one of the participating Chick-fil-A locations nationwide that are hosting the whimsical event. As of last night there were still a dozen reservations available for the event, which is being held the evening of Monday, Feb. 10. The Crystal City Chick-fil-A location has already sold out of its Date Knight reservations. [Chick-fil-A]

Starr Hill Brewing Tasting Tonight — Virginia brewery Starr Hill will be holding a complimentary tasting tonight. The event is scheduled from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Copperwood Tavern (4021 Campbell Ave). Reservations are required. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | January 27, 2014 at 9:55 am | 1,171 views | No Comments

A snowy Four Mile Run (Flickr pool photo by Ddimick)

‘The Springs’ Affordable Apartment Complex Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved “The Springs,” a 104-unit affordable apartment complex in the Buckingham neighborhood. The $38 million project was partially funded with a $7.82 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. [Arlington County]

Don Beyer to Run for Moran’s Seat — Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer, co-owner of the local car dealership chain, says he will enter the race for the Congressional seat of the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D). Beyer, a Democrat, recently served as a U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein. [Washington Post]

Board Puts Kibosh on School Tree Removal -- The County Board has ordered Arlington Public Schools to halt the removal of trees at Ashlawn Elementary School ahead of a planned addition to the school. The order follows a public outcry about the tree removal, which was initially authorized by county staff but without a public process. ““We cannot let this happen again . we cannot allow trees to be chopped down,” Board member Walter Tejada is quoted as saying. “This is a problem.” [Sun Gazette]

Burst Pipe at Uncle Julio’s — A pipe burst at Uncle Julio’s in Ballston over the weekend, sending water “pouring” from the ceiling. No word on any damage to the restaurant. [Twitter]

Edelman to Talk at Library — Best-selling author and financial adviser Ric Edelman will discuss his book “The Truth About Retirement Plans and IRAs” at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) in March. The talk will take place from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 5. [Arlington Public Library]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

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