Arlington, VA

Developer JBG Smith is making changes to plans it had for two courtyard eateries on Crystal Drive.

In 2018 the County Board approved a plan for two restaurants for the green space at 2121 Crystal Drive, which currently has walking paths, trees, a field, a lighted gazebo and seating. JBG Smith is returning to the County Board with a new plan that would combine the two eateries into one larger restaurant.

The current submission, for a 5,640 square-foot space, reflects improvements made in response to feedback from potential restaurant operators, Taylor Lawch, Vice President of Development, said in a statement.

“We are excited about our proposal to further activate Crystal Drive and an adjacent public plaza with full service food and beverage,” Lawch said.

The County Board is expected to review the amended proposal on Dec. 12.

“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the County and the community to advance our collective vision for National Landing as a vibrant 18-hour neighborhood,” he said.

JBG Smith has proposed a slate of new development in the Crystal City area as Amazon settles into its HQ2. Even before the HQ2 announcement, however, the company was looking for a way to activate the 2121 Crystal Drive courtyard, nestled among office buildings and occasionally used for events like Crystal City’s 5K Fridays.

In 2018, the County Board approved a site plan amendment to permit the construction of the two restaurants. In the first draft of the plan, the developer envisioned two restaurants: “one that resembles a greenhouse and one that calls to mind a tree house,” the Washington Business Journal reported.

Changes to the plan were on the the June County Board meeting agenda earlier this year, but staff recommended deferring the approval of the project while JBG Smith worked to amend it.

The Board is now slated to hear the site plan plan amendment at its Saturday meeting next week.

Photos (1-2) via Google Maps

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The Right Note is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The County Board has issued guidance for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget and left all options on the table.

In other words, property owners should prepare for their real estate taxes to go up. The Board also began to lay the groundwork for a tax on plastic bags and cigarettes. This will all be done in the name of COVID-19.

However, the Board is prioritizing funding to do two things that are completely unrelated to fighting the impacts of the virus.

First, Board Members signaled they going to fund Rank Choice Voting in local elections. The question is of course, why? Outside of John Vihstadt’s wins in 2014, Democrats have not seen a race where their candidate fell below 60% let alone 50% in recent memory. This is something that is not only unnecessary, but at the very least could be shelved until a better budget year.

Second, the Board intends to take advantage of a new state law that allows them to prepare to enter into collective bargaining with public employees. While the Board did not put a price tag on this optional item, it is just the tip of the iceberg on additional costs to the county budget moving forward. It will also give future Arlington elected officials less flexibility in the face of a budget crunch like the one we are facing now.

Arlingtonians will have their chance to listen to a presentation by County Manager Mark Schwartz on December 9th. It is the next step in the process wherein the County Board will convince us we have to raise taxes to pay for a “scaled back” budget. But it is clear that not all budget priorities for next year are urgent.

Tax increases and interesting spending priorities are not the only controversial issues to look forward to in 2021. The County Board intends to vote to restrict the ability of homeowners to obtain parking permits. The Planning Commission will receive a presentation at its meeting tonight.

And, the School Board will vote this week on the first changes to elementary school boundaries. The School Board will hold a public hearing tonight which you can watch online.

The public is obviously focused on how COVID-19 is impacting them. These times demand restraint and caution from our elected officials, so we should watch what they are doing closely.

Mark Kelly is a long-time Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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A Metro employee beat a coworker unconscious at the Pentagon station in 2017, after becoming enraged because the victim helped a rider, according to recent court filings about a previously-reported incident.

The day after the March 8, 2017 incident, it was reported by the Washington Post and other local outlets that a station manager assaulted a fare technician, who was “taken to the hospital and evaluated, but was not admitted and did not have visible injuries.” The station manager was arrested, though few other details were released and no motive given.

New information about the attack came to light as a result of a federal lawsuit filed by the victim, as relayed by the Twitter account @unsuckdcmetro, suggesting that the attack was more serious than first reported — and the result of an unusual workplace dispute.

Court filings detail what happened that day between the fare technician, Teshome Workagegnehu, and the station manager, Martin Van Buren.

Plaintiff began working for WMATA as a mechanic in June 2012. On March 8, 2017, he went to the Pentagon train station in Virginia to repair SmartTrip card machines. While he was there, he got into an argument with Martin Van Buren, the on-duty train station manager.

According to plaintiff, Van Buren became upset after plaintiff assisted a customer purchase a SmartTrip card. Van Buren told plaintiff that helping customers was outside of plaintiff’s “responsibility,” and plaintiff disagreed.

Then Van Buren allegedly punched plaintiff in the face, pinned him to the ground, and continued punching him. Plaintiff was taken to a hospital where he stayed overnight. Police arrived at the scene and defendant Van Buren was arrested.

Van Buren was convicted of simple assault, a misdemeanor, in Arlington General District Court in May of that year. He was sentenced to a net of 15 days in jail — 180 days, with 165 suspended — according to court records.

Later, Teshome Workagegnehu alleged that he was improperly denied the ability to sue WMATA. Last week, however, a D.C. federal appeals court affirmed a lower court ruling that he can’t sue because his injuries were work-related and covered by workers compensation.

The appeals court ruling has more details about what happened, saying that Van Buren “swore at and dismissed the customer” who asked for help, before Workagegnehu stepped in.

Teshome Workagegnehu and Martin Van Buren, both WMATA employees, were in a Metro station kiosk in Arlington, Virginia when a customer approached and asked for help with using the SmarTrip vending machine. Van Buren swore at and dismissed the customer. When the customer became flustered, Workagegnehu volunteered to help since he was going to maintain the machines anyway. Van Buren told Workagegnehu not to touch the machines, but Workagegnehu thought he was joking. Workagegnehu helped the customer, performed his maintenance, and then returned to the kiosk. Van Buren told Workagegnehu it was not his responsibility to help customers, and a brief verbal exchange followed as to each person’s job responsibilities.

While the two discussed their job responsibilities, Van Buren suddenly attacked Workagegnehu. Van Buren pinned Workagegnehu to the ground and punched him until he was unconscious. As Workagegnehu awoke, Van Buren said they should stop fighting because they would lose their jobs. But when Workagegnehu stood to leave, Van Buren attacked him again. Several customers and other employees saw the incident. Police arrived and arrested Van Buren, who was later convicted of assault. Workagegnehu sustained severe injuries and required hospitalization.

Workagegnehu was “faced with substantial hospital bills” after the attack, per the court document. He sued after WMATA did not initially approve his workers compensation claim.

The court ordered the workers comp claim paid, but Workagegnehu continued to pursue a suit against WMATA for the assault and the infliction of emotional distress. That was dismissed after the court ruled that the Virginia Workers Compensation Act barred it.

File photo

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Cody Chance and Dick Nathan of Long & Foster are hosting an online workshop on the topic of “down-sizing” Wednesday, December 9 from 5-6:30 p.m. Every great endeavor begins with a great plan.

This workshop will give you the tools to design your plan. We have created a workbook with an extensive planning guide to enable you to design a personalized written plan for your move, and more than twenty pages of resources specific to Northern Virginia to help you along the way!

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Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.

(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) The Arlington County Council of PTAs is collecting money through Friday to buy fresh produce for families in need, with help from a local farmers market operator.

Through the initiative — part of the council’s pandemic relief efforts — the CCPTA is partnering with FRESHFARM Markets to provide fresh food to about 900 families who have been receiving food through seven PTA and school-based distribution sites. Fundraising will go until Dec. 4, with an extra push today (Dec. 1) for Giving Tuesday.

The food will be given out at the regular distribution times during the week of Monday, Dec. 14. So far, the council is more than halfway toward its goal: $11,851 of $20,000 has been raised as of publication time.

“We must ensure that children and their families do not go hungry,” said Emily Vincent, the CCPTA President in a statement. “Addressing food insecurity is essential to both well-being and education, as it is difficult for children to learn when they are hungry.”

Families have been able to access food, school and cleaning supplies, baby items and masks at the distribution sites since the spring, Vincent said. During the summer, these sites served approximately 2,500 families.

The work supplements the meal distributions organized by Arlington Public Schools.

“Our volunteer efforts are committed to serving their school communities and they are hopeful for a more sustainable and robust support system coordinated by Arlington County in the new year,” Vincent said.

The drive also supports local farmers, who have struggled to profit from their produce this year due to the pandemic.

In addition to running farmers markets in the D.C. area, FRESHFARM distributes local produce to small institutions such as daycares, which often lack the money and bulk needed to buy from larger distributors.

The arm of the nonprofit responsible for this program, Pop Up Food Hub, will purchase the food for the CCPTA fundraiser. A $22 donation to this food drive covers a week’s worth of produce for a family of four.

“While families have been grateful for the various types of food assistance that are available in the neighborhood, many have requested assistance with obtaining fresh food beyond the non-perishable pantry food products and single serve meals,” the donation page said.

Many food drives focus on packaged goods because they last and can be bought cheaply, said Sebastian Muenchrath, an operations manager for Pop Up Food Hub. But that pushes fresh fruits and vegetables to the side for hungry people who need a balanced diet, too.

The bags will rely on long-lasting winter staples such as squash, onions, apples and potatoes, with some leafy greens, although they are scarcer these days.

The CCPTA has “been great at understanding what the local supply looks like right now,” he said.

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Did the volume of homes listed for sale recover after a slow spring/summer?

Answer: There has been a surge of new inventory coming to market since July. For condos, it has been historically high, by a wide margin, resulting in a 20% increase in 2020 over the 20-year average. While the single-family and townhouse listing volume has also spiked since July, overall, we’re just .5% above our 20-year average.

In July I wrote a column with charts showing how low Arlington’s listing volume was compared to the 20-year average, and I made some predictions that the inventory we lost in the spring/early summer would return in the late summer/fall. This week we’ll take a look at how those predictions played out and dig further into listing volume over the last four months and overall in 2020.

Inventory Comes Back, And More

Historically, March-June bring about the highest listing volume, but this year, due to COVID-19, many homeowners held off on putting their homes on the market. In July, I predicted that a lot of the “missing” inventory from March-June would be listed from July-October, which would result in a delayed spring market.

As it turned out, the number of condos listed from July-October FAR exceeded the amount of “missing” inventory from March-June, by nearly 3 times! For single-family homes and townhouses, July-October listing volume also exceeded the amount of “missing” inventory from March-June, but by a much smaller margin.

In the charts below, missing and excess inventory is calculated off of the 20-year average for monthly listing volume.

Condo Volume at Historical Levels, By a LOT

Just how extreme have the last four months of listing volume been in the condo market? There were 801 condos listed for sale from July-October. Prior to that, the highest four-month listing volume was 650 units from April-July 2004.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of filling an empty space with a towering scarlet oak tree in your neighborhood, at your place of worship or in your yard, now’s your chance to get it delivered and planted for free through EcoAction Arlington‘s Tree Canopy Fund.

The application deadline for free trees to be planted on private property is Friday, January 8. There are 11 tree varieties available for individuals, nonprofits, civic and homeowner associations and a number of other groups.

“The Tree Canopy Fund is limited to property owners planting trees on private property,” according to EcoAction Arlington. “We can’t accept applications for planting on school property, parks, or other property maintained by Arlington County or Arlington Public Schools.”

Available trees include American beech, tulip, white oak, willow oak, red oak and bald cypress.

Separate applications must be made for anyone wanting more than one tree, and successful applicants will need to send in a picture of where they want their young tree planted. When it arrives, it should be about two inches wide and up to seven feet tall. Some of the trees will grow upward of 50 feet, like the white oak, which can stretch to 80 feet at full maturity.

The effort is intended to increase Arlington’s tree canopy, which stands at 41%, as of 2017. The Tree Canopy Fund was founded in 2009, and since then more than 1,200 trees have been planted.

Here’s the application and planting schedule:

  • Fri., Jan. 8, 2021: Deadline to submit an application
  • Mid-to-late Feb. 2021: Applicants will be notified of final decision
  • March/April 2021: EcoAction Arlington will contact applicants with an estimated planting date. Trees will be planted by the end of April.

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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(Updated at 9:50 a.m.) The following may ruin an important part of your holiday experience by revealing that a long-held belief held by many is, in fact, fiction.

But here’s the truth: the festive red paper cup containing your peppermint mocha is not recyclable, at least not in Arlington.

That’s the message from the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services, which posted the reminder on social media Monday morning.

“Festive? Definitely. Recyclable? Nope,” DES wrote. “The slick lining in single-use take-out coffee cups means they need to go in the trash. Alas, the tops too because of their mixed plastic.”

To be clear, this is not just an Arlington issue. Most recycling systems reject paper Starbucks cups due to the difficulty in separating the paper from the lining.

Disposable coffee cups, meanwhile, are not the only seemingly recyclable thing — complete with recycling logos — that is actually not recyclable in Arlington’s single-stream residential recycling collection.

Other things you can’t recycle in the blue bins include plastic bags — garbage bags, grocery bags, etc. — plus disposable Solo cups, shredded paper, paper plates and boxes soiled by food or grease, and styrofoam containers. Oh, and also glass, though that can be dropped off at purple bins around the county.

Arlington lists items that can be recycled on its website. The recycling “MVP” that is in high demand, according to the county, is aluminum products like cans, foil and trays.

Arlington’s residential recycling collection mostly serves single-family homes in the county. Those in condos and apartments are served by private haulers who may have different rules about what can and cannot be recycled.

Photo by Jasmin Schuler on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Major Metro Cuts Proposed — “With sharply reduced ridership and lacking fresh federal relief, Metro is proposing a new operating budget with a nearly $500 million deficit. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Monday the proposed 2021 budget includes closing Metro rail at 9 p.m., ending weekend service, closing 19 stations and reducing the number of trains, which would result in longer wait times.” Among the stations that would close under the proposal are the Arlington Cemetery, Clarendon, East Falls Church and Virginia Square stations. [WTOP, Washington Post]

County Working on New Payment System — “Arlington officials continue to work on developing a one-stop online presence so the public can pay for a wide array of local-government services from their computers or smartphones. The initiative, being worked on by the treasurer’s office and Department of Technology Services, would go beyond the current CAPP [Customer Assessment and Payment Portal], which allows local residents to pay certain taxes, utility bills and parking tickets online.” [InsideNova]

Renovations for Mostly Vacant Building — “Wheelock Street Capital is seeking to renovate a long-vacant Arlington office building with the hope of attracting companies to the same corridor as Virginia Tech’s planned innovation campus and Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters… All of 3550 S. Clark St.’s office space thus far remains vacant. Small portions of the building’s retail space are leased to LA Fitness and child care center operator Bright Horizons.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Charitable Giving Portal — “New Looking for a way to add more charitable giving to the season of giving while supporting your neighbors in need? Arlington Community Foundation is launching its first ever Nonprofit Wish Catalog featuring grant ideas of 24 local nonprofits with wishes of up to $5,000 each this Giving Tuesday.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Art Event Still On This Weekend — “The Arlington Artists Alliance presents its 18th annual Artful Weekend at Fort C.F. Smith Park. The show, featuring 30 top local Arlington-based artists and held in historic Hendry House at Fort C.F. Smith Park in Arlington, will be held December 4 to 6 this year. The show will feature paintings, ceramics, sculpture and cards, in addition to bins of unframed works.” [Event Calendar]

New Top Doc at VHC — “David Lee, MD, a member of the medical staff of Virginia Hospital Center for 30 years, has been tapped as the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.” [InsideNova]

It’s December — Today is Dec. 1. After today, there are only 30 days left in 2020.

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(This Community Post was written by Prologue Theatre and underwritten by Embracing Arlington Arts.)  

Prologue Theatre is offering the community a unique opportunity for a glimpse into the workshop process with its virtual program FOREWORD: A New Works Series. Each play in the series receives a two-week intensive virtual workshop, a critical part of new play development, during which playwrights are paired with a director, actors and stage manager whose artistic talents help enhance the work.

Starting conversations is at the center of Prologue Theatre’s mission, so they have designed a series of conversations to pair with each of the monthly new play workshops.

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Submit your own Community Post here for just $99.

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