Arlington 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.
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
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.
The 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.”
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.
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
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.
Chevy 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.
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]
‘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
In December, county staff recommended that Velocity 5′s popular outdoor patio be forced to stop serving food and drink at 11:00 p.m., in response to “community concerns about noise.” That’s despite a report from the police department saying that noise complaints were down by 50 percent.
The owners of Velocity 5′s Courthouse location, which changed hands in early 2013, rallied supporters via social media after learning of the staff recommendation. Dozens showed up at the Dec. 17 County Board meeting where the proposal — part of the renewal of Velocity 5′s live entertainment permit — was under consideration. The Board ended up deferring the proposal until January to allow staff more time to work with the owners.
Co-owner Matt Rofougaran says the early serving cut-off could have put the restaurant, which employs about 30 people, out of business. Some 30-40 percent of Velocity 5′s revenue comes from the patio, he said.
“I would be shocked if we would be able to stay open… if they close that patio,” Rofougaran told ARLnow.com in December. “It’s not fair, they’re trying to punish us for something that we improved on.”
Rofougaran contended that the majority of the noise complaints came from one or two residents of the next-door Archstone Courthouse Plaza apartments.
“Most of the complaints were from one guy… who had problems with the previous owner,” he said. “A lot of customers live in the building and say they don’t hear anything from their apartments.”
Rofougaran said one complaint was for a barking dog on the patio, another was for a group of people singing “happy birthday,” and yet another was for boisterous people — who weren’t customers — walking by the patio.
After making their case, Rofougaran said the Board was “actually helping us” sort through the issues.
As a result, at its upcoming meeting on Saturday, the Board is slated to consider a new live entertainment permit renewal that does not place restrictions on Velocity 5′s outdoor serving hours. The patio will still be allowed to stay open and serve customers until 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and until midnight Sunday through Thursday.
Velocity 5 will, however, face some new restrictions. It will need to hire a security guard to monitor the patio after 8:00 p.m. when it’s at capacity. Also, it will need to turn off any outdoor music at 10:00 p.m. and will have to turn off outdoor televisions at 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
“Staff is not recommending that the outdoor seating area be closed at any specific time; instead, it is expected that the additional security presence outdoors will mitigate the impacts of the use,” the new county staff report. It adds that complaints about noise have been made by “a few residents” of the apartment building.
“The staff has agreed to work with us and has recommended changes to the entertainment license that we will gladly abide by,” Rofougaran said via email Tuesday. “We thank everyone for all their help, including the staff and the community that helped support us.”
Velocity 5 is still slated to be rebranded as “Social Haus,” as earlier reported. Rofougaran says they’re planning close the restaurant in early February for renovations. It’s expected to reopen as Social Haus in early March.
County planning staff are recommending the Arlington County Board revoke the live entertainment and dancing license for Pines of Italy (3111 Columbia Pike).
The restaurant/nightclub/hookah bar was approved for the permit in March 2013, but, according to the county staff’s report, its owner never scheduled a meeting with the Arlington Heights Civic Association, which was a requirement of the permit. In addition, the restaurant was allegedly operating with live music on Thursday nights, which was not allowed by the permit.
The permit was scheduled for review in March, but because of the lack of compliance, as well as issues with the police and the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, staff recommended the Board review the license two months early.
“The applicant has demonstrated a lack of compliance with the conditions of approval and other state and county ordinances,” the staff report says. “Operation of live entertainment and dancing at this site will continue to generate issues given the combination of greater numbers of patrons drawn to the business by live entertainment and the applicant’s lack of compliance with use permit conditions and other laws, and lack of communication with the surrounding community.”
Pines of Italy has generated neighborhood controversy since it opened, with neighbors complaining about noise and crime generated by the business.
Before being approved for the live entertainment permit last March, Pines of Italy’s owner had applied for the permit in early 2012. The application was deferred twice — first because of “police and community issues” with the last restaurant in the space and again because Pines of Italy conducted insufficient community outreach — before its ultimate approval.
Arlington County Police Department has reported six calls for service at the restaurant since the use permit was issued, including “use of the premise for residential purposes” and serving alcohol when the kitchen was closed.
The County Board will review the permit during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28.
The restaurant at 2413 Columbia Pike opened as Eamonn’s and TNT Bar in August 2012. While the sit-down fried fish restaurant is popular in Alexandria, it never quite attracted the crowds needed to sustain the business on the Pike, we’re told. Instead of closing, over the next month owner EatGoodFood Group will transition from Eamonn’s to a second location of its “Society Fair” bakery, cafe, market and eatery, which is also popular in Alexandria.
Already, couches have replaced some tables and chairs, to give the space a more “warm and comfortable” vibe. More furniture changes are in the works, and curtains will be installed, at least in part to dampen noise. The hope is to become more of a neighborhood hangout, a formula that has worked for nearby William Jeffrey’s Tavern, the biggest success so far on a block of restaurants that are mostly treading water business-wise, thanks to virtually non-existent lunch business.
By mid-February, the restaurant is expected to begin opening at 7:00 a.m. to serve breakfast customers with coffee, espresso drinks and pastries made fresh at the original Alexandria location. At other times of the day the food offerings will be more of the small plates variety, plus paninis, charcuterie, cheese and salads.
TNT Bar will remain and will serve drinks every night of the week, we’re told, but will continue adding more affordable cocktail options. With the exception of perhaps a few lunchtime closures, Eamonn’s will remain open as the space is gradually transformed.
The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema reports that fish and chips will remain on the menu once the Society Fair transition is complete.
What better way to start 2014 than with another controversial topic? Kids, food trucks, tipping; you name it, and I will take it on. Well, probably not tipping ever again. That was brutal. Point is, it’s fun to explore some of the more talked about areas of what we do. So what’s first on the list for 2014? Food allergies.
Food allergies can present the most significant challenges to successful service in a restaurant. In some cases, we are told that the literal life of a guest is being placed in our hands for the duration of the meal. No pressure, Chef. It’s hard enough for us to cook a steak medium rare some nights. It’s hard for the guest as well. To constantly have to interrogate the staff about ingredients, to always need to alter the menu and to live in constant anxiety that the kitchen got it right must be terribly stressful.
Working with customers with mild to severe to fatal allergies is something that we do on a nightly basis. In fact, it was this past New Year’s Eve in the dining room at Eventide that the idea for this column came about. Faced with a limited choice tasting menu, a guest was unsure if she would even be able to stay and eat. She informed us that she had a fatal dairy allergy and was carrying an EpiPen in her purse in case she went into anaphylactic shock. She also had a gluten allergy that while not fatal was serious.
Her dining companion’s New Year’s Eve wish was to not have to stab her friend Pulp Fiction-style as the clock struck midnight.
My answer? Let’s look at the menu and figure out how to make it work. That was not easy. We use more than our fair share of butter and there is flour in many more dishes than one might imagine. Step by step we went through the menu, consulted with Chef and tried to figure out a way to make it work on the fly.
That was an example of the most challenging situation — the menu is in front of the guest, they are stuck, and we are learning of a severe allergy as they are trying to find something to eat. It is unavoidable at times to be sure, but it can make things really tough.
On an average weekend night, we have four to five tables in the dining room that have some type of allergy. Is that on the rise? I don’t know. It seems like it, but many allergies — gluten being the primary example — have been historically undiagnosed. Regardless, it is something we deal with on a regular basis, and a conversation with some helpful tips might be a good idea. Allergy sufferers usually know exactly what they need and what they want, and they are usually very good at presenting their needs early and explicitly. However, they are not always the ones making the reservations or booking the events, so this information could be helpful for non-sufferers making the plans as well.
- Plan ahead. The earlier the information can get to the restaurant the better. You can include it in the notes when you book on OpenTable, or you can mention it when you call in. Be as specific as you are able. Exactly what the allergy is and the severity is important. If the diner has preferred substitutions, that is helpful as well. This applies to dietary choices as well as allergies (vegan, vegetarian).
- Do your homework. Everyone has menus online now. Yes, it is true that restaurants are notorious for not being completely current, but you can at least get an idea what the venue offers and what might work as a substitute in advance.
- We love the cards. Many guests arrive and hand a small card to the server that lists the allergies. They are clear and concise, and they go right to the Chef. That eliminates the potentially dangerous opportunity that something might be lost in translation.
- Be clear about the severity. By all means be overcautious, but also be conscious that there is a very big difference between a fatal shellfish allergy and a mild intolerance to cilantro. Restaurants should take all allergies seriously and honor all requests that they can, but if you overstate the severity, you could limit what you can have. With a fatal allergy, we will often rule out serving you any dish or ingredient that has been in the vicinity or even the same floor as the potential offender. With a mild allergy, we might just have to remove a garnish.
- Be a little patient with the kitchens. If we hear in advance that you are coming, there is a better chance we can come up with something more interesting for you. If we hear about it the moment of, there is only so much the kitchen can do. Also, sometimes in order to cover ourselves, if there is the slightest chance of any contamination, and there is a fatal allergy, we might just say “sorry, we can’t do such and such.” It’s the last thing anyone in the hospitality business wants to do, but sometimes we might not be able to accommodate a request.
A long-time local restaurant has closed its doors in Crystal City.
Hamburger Hamlet, at the Crystal City Shops (1750 Crystal Drive), closed late last week. Its parent company filed for bankruptcy last year.
The owner of a California-based restaurant chain, which took over operation of the Bethesda Hamburger Hamlet location in 2012, had been hoping to acquire the Crystal City lease in order to open a 24-hour diner, but was ultimately unsuccessful.
“We offered the landlord a new lease,” W.W. “Biff” Naylor, owner of Du-par’s, told ARLnow.com. ”The landlord decided he didn’t want to deal with anybody who was involved with Hamburger Hamlet so we packed it up and left. I’m only going to go where I’m wanted.”
Over the weekend a Hamburger Hamlet location in Pasadena, Calif. was expected to re-open as Du-par’s, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
No word yet on what may replace Hamburger Hamlet.
It appears Sultana Grill (5515 Wilson Blvd.) in the Bluemont neighborhood has closed down.
The restaurant had been open for a little more than a year. The restaurant’s phone number seems to be disconnected, based on the automated message ARLnow.com received when attempting to call.
A tipster who reported enjoying the restaurant’s Moroccan food said he asked what happened and restaurant staff reported the business had been hurt by the lack of having an alcohol license.
The tipster also was told that a hookah bar might open in the space.
Hat tip to Eric LaKuch
There are plans, however, for it to move to a new location.
According to a Bailey’s employee, the bar is planning to stay in the Ballston Common Mall, but move into the old Union Jack’s space. The employee was not able to provide any further details about reasons for the move, but confirmed that the Ballston Bailey’s will remain open and will be the only one in the D.C. area.
Right now, the plan is reportedly for Bailey’s to move into the new space this spring, possibly in April. A representative from parent company Fox and Hound could not be reached for comment.