(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) All of the street signs in Arlington are in the process of gradually being replaced by signs with bigger lettering.
Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said about 120 street signs in Arlington have already been replaced as part of compliance with new Federal Highway Administration regulations.
“Although the requirement is only for new and replacement signs, because of the improvement in readability and therefore safety that is brought about by the new lettering type, we are implementing the new style throughout the County,” Baxter told ARLnow.com in an email. “The new signs are larger with both upper and lowercase reflective… lettering. They enhance safety and navigation with improved visibility.”
Baxter said the installation program began in July 2014. DES will begin replacing signs again in May with the Wilson and Clarendon Boulevard and Crystal Drive corridors.
There is no special budget for the project — it’s coming out of DES’ normal operating budget, Baxter said. Each sign costs roughly $40, depending on the size and lettering of each one.
Arlington-based PBS is celebrating the upcoming fifth season of its hit Downton Abbey with a building-sized mural on its Crystal City headquarters.
The temporary art installation, featuring the likeness of Downton character Lady Mary , is 90 feet high and 54.5 feet wide — 4,900 square feet total — and took about 140 hours to complete. It was installed at 2100 Crystal Drive in partnership with the Crystal City Business Improvement District and building owner Vornado/Charles E. Smith.
“Downton Abbey is the top PBS drama of all time and we are thrilled to showcase that in Crystal City, where PBS calls home,” said Angela Fox, president and CEO of the Crystal City BID, in a press release.
“Crystal City residents, workers, and visitors are encouraged to take photos of themselves with the project, and hashtag #DowntonPBS,” the press release said.
The fourth season of the British period drama drew an average audience of 13.2 million viewers, according to PBS, making it one of the highest-rated dramas on American television. The fifth season will premiere on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015.
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
The lifting of the ban — which impacts JBG’s Central Place development and the new, currently vacant office building at 1812 N. Moore Street — could have positive economic implications for the county.
It could help spur construction of the office tower component of the Central Place development (the residential component is currently under construction), and could help Monday Properties in its efforts to find an anchor tenant for its 1812 N. Moore building, which is currently the tallest building in the D.C. metro area.
The Arlington County Board previously banned signs above 50 feet on the buildings as a condition for allowing them to be built taller than otherwise allowed by zoning. County staff has recommended lifting the ban and also redrawing a map used to determine sign regulations in the Rosslyn and Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights area.
Both Monday Properties and JBG Cos. support the measure.
The recommendation is proposed to bring the regulations for that area of Rosslyn in line with the county-wide sign ordinance passed in 2012 that details regulations for signs more than 35 feet high. In addition, it will no longer be required that the developers in question must seek a site plan amendment — a process that can take more than a year in some cases — to erect a sign more than 35 feet high; if approved, those requests can be handled administratively, with more specific guidelines.
“The revised sign regulations include objective standards upon which to base an approval of signage at the roofline,” the staff report states. “Indeed, many of these sign requests can now be addressed administratively. Staff is therefore proposing to remove the specific prohibition on signs above a height of 50 feet within the Central Place area, as there now exists a clearer, County-wide standard for the review and approval of roofline signs that was not in place in 2007 [when the ban was approved].”
Lingering Campaign Signs Annoy Arlington Dems — Uncollected campaign signs from the June 10 Democratic congressional primary are irking local Democratic leadership. Arlington County Democratic Committee Chairman Kip Malinosky says the party has contacted certain candidates multiple times to let them know their signs were still cluttering up local medians. By Arlington ordinance, signs can only be removed by those who put them up. [InsideNova]
Blue Line Crunch Coming — When the Silver Line opens next month, the average headway for rush hour Blue Line trains will increase from 8.5 minutes to 12 minutes. Metro says Blue Line riders can consider taking buses instead of trains to, in some cases, speed up their trip. [PlanItMetro]
Sietsema Reviews Mazagan — Washington Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema has reviewed Mazagan, the new Moroccan eatery and hookah bar on Columbia Pike, next to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. Sietsema gave the restaurant 1.5 stars, saying the music was too loud and the dishes hit-or-miss. [Washington Post]
New Iwo Jima Bikeshare Station — A new Capital Bikeshare station near the Marine Corps War Memorial, also known as the Iwo Jima memorial, has been enjoying heavy use. The station can hold nineteen bikes but only three were parked there Wednesday morning. [Ode Street Tribune]
New Homeless Shelter to Open in March — Arlington County’s new year-round homeless services center is now expected to open in March. That means the existing emergency winter homeless shelter in Courthouse is likely to be open much of the winter. [InsideNova]
Competitors Agree on Sign Change — Competing commercial real estate companies have joined together in support of a proposal for Arlington to allow rooftop signs on two new Rosslyn office buildings, one already built and another set to be built if the signage is approved. Company officials say that Arlington’s reputation with the business community is at stake, especially at a time of increased competition with areas like Tysons Corner. [Washington Business Journal]
Silver Line Opening Date Set — The Silver Line is set to open to riders on July 26. A ride from Rosslyn to Tysons Corner will take about 22 minutes, while a ride from Rosslyn to Reston will take 34 minutes, according to Metro. [Reston Now, Twitter]
District Taco Expanding to Alexandria — District Taco, which started in Arlington as a tiny taco cart, has just signed a lease to open a new location at 701 S. Washington Street in Alexandria. When it opens, District Taco expects to reach a count of 200 employees. [Twitter]
Moran on Iraq Situation — Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the current threat of invading Islamists in that country: “if you break it, you own it, and we broke it… we should have never gone into Iraq.” Moran said isolated air strikes might be warranted to help combat the jihadist militants. [WJLA]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
McAuliffe: I-66 Widening Outside the Beltway — Speaking to the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he will press for more lanes on I-66, but only outside the Beltway. The governor “noted ruefully” that the Arlington County Board strongly opposes the widening of I-66 through the county. [InsideNova]
Flags In at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — Soldiers from the Old Guard helped to place more than 220,000 American flags in front of gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day. The annual event has taken place every year for four decades. On Monday the cemetery will host the annual Memorial Day observance and wreath-laying ceremony. [WJLA]
Confusing Metro Maps — New strip maps that incorporate the Silver Line are too complicated, says a writer for the blog Greater Greater Washington. “They confuse many riders with labels that line up in a misleading way, and try to cram too much information on the maps,” the writer opines. [Greater Greater Washington]
Rosslyn, the Brooklyn of Washington — A 1889 real estate ad in the Washington Post describes Rosslyn as “the Brooklyn of Washington.” Editor’s note: This item previously appeared in a previous Morning Notes post. Its inclusion today was inadvertent. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
“DANGER ZOMBIES AHEAD,” the sign read, startling some drivers en route to I-395 or the Pentagon.
It’s not the first electronic road sign in Arlington to be surreptitiously reprogrammed by local pranksters. Two years ago, on April 20, 2012, a similar sign near the Madison Community Center in North Arlington was reprogrammed to display “HAPPY 420!”
Photo courtesy celialarsen
Some erroneous new signage in the Virginia Square Metro station would have one believe that George Mason University is greatly expanding its local presence beyond Arlington and Fairfax County.
The sign correctly labels the station it’s in as “Virginia Sq-GMU” — but then labels the first Orange/Blue Line station in the District of Columbia as “Foggy Bottom-GMU.” Flip the M upside down and you get the correct abbreviation for the institution of higher education in Foggy Bottom, George Washington University.
The error was pointed out this afternoon in a Twitter post that was retweeted by the tireless, anonymous WMATA critic Unsuck DC Metro. “Unsuck” subsequently opined: “If Metro can’t even get signs right, what’s going on with the tracks, trains and other safety gear?”
Photo via @DCtransitnerd
Renovations for Crystal City Sheraton — The Crystal City Sheraton hotel (1800 Jefferson Davis Highway) will close in mid-April and undergo renovations.. The 218-room hotel will reopen as a Westin. Nearly 100 workers will be laid off during renovations. [Washington Business Journal]
New Signage for WJLA Building Approved — A divided Arlington County Board has approved new rooftop signage for the office building at 1100 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, also known as the WJLA building. The board split its vote 3-2 after residents expressed concern that the new signage would “be detrimental to their neighborhoods” and local monuments. The potential signage is for an unnamed prospective client. [Sun Gazette]
Board Approves New Transportation Funding — The County Board on Tuesday gave the okay to Arlington’s share of a new regional transportation funding stream. The county will receive $11.4 million in the first year, which will go to support projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar, a western entrance to the Ballston Metro station, local transit service and “complete streets” improvements. [Arlington County]
Galaxy Hut Named Top Karaoke Spot — DCist has dubbed Clarendon’s Galaxy Hut (2711 Wilson Blvd) “Arlington’s favorite dive” and one of the “best places for karaoke in the D.C. area.” [DCist]
Alexandria is Poised for Growth — Arlington’s neighbor to the south, Alexandria, is poised to begin booming with new development. The city expects a new Potomac Yard Metro station and the impending move of the National Science Foundation to the Eisenhower Valley area to further spur development. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
The board voted unanimously to advertise for a public hearing before the Planning Commission Dec. 2 and the full board Dec. 14. The proposal would allow large media screens — colloquially known as “jumbotrons” — to be approved through the use permit or site plan process on buildings in mixed-use neighborhoods and in some parks.
Deborah Albert, an Arlington County planner, said the proposed ordinance, if passed, would prevent the screens to be used for commercial purposes.
“Staff has envisioned the screens could be used show public information, news, or in emergencies,” Albert told ARLnow.com. “The intent is really to enable the opportunities to consider another such sign, but not necessarily to encourage them to proliferate, so we’ve crafted careful standards to allow them in certain places but not to allow and over-proliferation.”
County staff recommends that the “jumbotrons” be limited to heights below 40 feet, screen sizes of less than 750 square feet and to take into consideration surrounding residences. They would only be allowed, through special exception, within a quarter mile of transit stations and in so-called public service districts, like Long Bridge Park.
Board Member Mary Hynes suggested the screens could be used much like they are at stadiums at ballfields: next to the scoreboard, showing a simultaneous broadcast of the game for the benefit of spectators in a crowd.
The WJLA screen is the only large media screen in the county, and all other screens are currently prohibited by county sign regulations. Albert said the conversation over “jumbotrons” arose during community meetings when the county updated the sign regulations last year.
Looking at Campaign Sign Removal — Arlington County Board members may consider asking state transportation officials for authority to remove improperly placed campaign signs from state roads. Virginia law prohibits campaign signs from being placed on state roads, but it also prohibits anyone besides state officials from removing them unless the jurisdiction has a deal with the state. [Sun Gazette]
McAuliffe Adds to His Cabinet — Virginia Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe (D) made appointments yesterday for several of his key cabinet positions. He named Paul Reagan as chief of staff, Suzette Denslow as deputy chief of staff, Ric Brown as secretary of finance and Levar Stoney as secretary of the commonwealth. Reagan had previously served as chief of staff for Rep. Jim Moran (D) and Sen. Jim Webb (D). [Washington Post]
Library Displays Rare Kennedy Newspapers — The Arlington Central Library has put on a display a number of rare newspapers from when John F. Kennedy was president. Some of the papers highlight Kennedy’s assassination 50 years ago this month. The exhibit also includes papers from Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961 and his burial at Arlington National Cemetery. [Arlington Public Library]
How Ballston was Named — Do you know how the Ballston neighborhood got its name? It goes back to the Ball brothers who owned more than 250 acres of land in the area back in the 1700s. [Ghosts of DC]
IAFF: Only We Fight Fires in Arlington — IAFF Local 2800, Arlington’s firefighter union, wants residents to know that their members are the only ones who fight fires in Arlington. The union is trying to draw attention to a web page set up to clarify the differences between professional Arlington County firefighters and members of local volunteer firefighting organizations, who have been soliciting donations. “You may be wondering ‘are my fire and rescue services provided by volunteer firefighters?'” the union wrote. “The answer is no.” [IAFF Local 2800]
Wag More Dogs Gets New Mural — Wag More Dogs, the Shirlington dog grooming business that had to whitewash its doggy mural after losing a legal battle over signage restrictions with Arlington County, has a new mural that no one will interpret as a form of advertising this time around. The mural, painted by itinerant artists Zack Weaver and Rob Fogle, depicts two birds sitting in a hot tub on a tree. During the two weeks it took to create the mural, Weaver and Fogle lived in their truck (dubbed the “Art Cream Truck” and decorated with a painting of a well-endowed green-skinned woman) which they parked outside the dog park. [Huffington Post]
GOP Candidate Goes Against Chamber-Supported Tax — Republican County Board candidate Matt Wavro and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement have both come out against a 12.5 cent per $100 commercial property tax surcharge levied by Arlington County. The surcharge, which is used to fund transportation improvements, is supported by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Sun Gazette]
Post Endorses Kaine — The Washington Post editorial board has endorsed Democrat Tim Kaine over Republican George Allen in the race for U.S. Senate in Virginia. [Washington Post]
There’s a whale of a difference between the old and new murals at Smokey Shope III (554 23rd Street South) in Crystal City.
The store — which sells various types of gifts and smoking paraphernalia — had run into trouble with the county over a mural on the side of the building depicting a man smoking a cigar. The painting was viewed as an advertisement for products inside, thus constituting an illegal sign.
To remedy the situation, owner Atta Amin arranged for the cigar portion of the mural to be painted over, replacing it with a whale. He said the colorful, billowing cigar smoke just happens to look similar to the waves of the ocean.
The change satisfied the county’s zoning office, and it also smoothed over things with Amin’s landlord, who at first objected to the mural. According to Amin, the building owner has allowed him to keep the mural up through the end of his lease. He’s currently four months into the five year lease.
Since the whale first appeared last month, Amin said he’s received no complaints about the mural from neighbors or customers.
“Hopefully people will be happy with it,” he said.
Amin said he spent a considerable amount of money to fix up the inside of the once-vacant building, located along the 23rd Street strip of restaurants and small shops. With the mural troubles out of the way, he’s now focused on attracting more customers.
“So far business is okay. Hopefully we can get the upper hand and see the hard work paid off,” Amin said. “Time is on our side.”
Yom Kippur in Arlington — Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Considered the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur is traditionally observed with 25 hours of fasting and prayer. Arlington’s only synagogue, Etz Hayim Congregation on Arlington Boulevard, has sold out of its Yom Kippur service tickets.
Illegal Dog Mural Whitewashed — Wag More Dogs, the doggy daycare in Shirlington, has surrendered in its legal battle to keep a colorful dog-themed mural on its outside wall. Yesterday, workers removed the tarp covering the large mural — in place since 2010 — and painted over it. The painters — the same pair who painted an eyebrow-raising mural outside the Smokey Shope III store in Crystal City — are now planning to replace the mural with an “urban landscape” mural that, since it won’t feature dogs or anything connected to the business, shouldn’t constitute an illegal sign in the eyes of Arlington County. [Washington Post, WTOP]
Arlington Seeks Human Rights Award Nominations — Arlington County is seeking nominations for the 14th annual James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards. The nominations are due by Nov. 14. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
A new store in Crystal City found that out the hard way recently when a new mural got a thumbs down from county zoning officials.
Smokey Shope III opened three months ago at 554 23rd Street S. in Crystal City. The store is a head shop — it sells paraphernalia that’s ostensibly intended for the smoking of tobacco. Merchandise includes bowls, water pipes, hookahs, cigars, cigarettes, shisha, gifts and a type of Afghan jewelry known as lapis lazuli. One employee described the store as “a place where people can unite… and have positive energy.”
About two weeks ago, Smokey Shope’s manager said, the store paid $1,000 to a traveling band of artists to paint a mural on the front of the store. Salim Amin, the manager, said the intent was to create a work of art that would beautify the block. The finished product was a man, smoking a cigar, with colorful and decorative smoke emanating from the cigar.
Just two days after the mural was complete, however, zoning officials stopped by with some instructions: the cigar had to go up in smoke, so to speak, as it’s a product being sold by the business and thus an illegal sign according to the county’s zoning ordinance. The situation mirrored that of Wag More Dogs, an Arlington dog grooming and boarding business that has (unsuccessfully) fought in federal court to have its mural of playful pups deemed art instead of advertising.
“We have not received complaints, but we have investigated the mural,” Norma Cozart, Arlington County’s Zoning Administrator, told ARLnow.com. “We have spoken to the shop owner and the cigar must go; then the mural can stay. Without the cigar, it is not a sign and staying or leaving is up to the landlord.”
The shop, which is directly across from Freddie’s Beach Bar and other 23rd Street restaurants, says other merchants on the block have signed on to a statement of support for the mural. But Amin says they’re nonetheless exploring ways to remove or paint over the cigar without destroying the mural. One idea is to repaint it into some sort of hot, steaming food — perhaps a falafel.
A final decision will likely have to wait until the store’s owner, Atta “Smokey” Amin, returns from a vacation in Jamaica next week. In the meantime, the store is continuing to market its wares to the local community, a marketing effort that has included placing colorful handout flyers on car windshields throughout the Crystal City area.
Smokey Shope has two other locations, in Fairfax and Manassas, and is hoping to open a third in D.C. in the near future.