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(Updated 4:40 p.m.) County commissioners welcome Amazon’s latest revisions to plans for the second phase of its HQ2 in Pentagon City — but are pushing for more greenery and accessibility.
Phase 2 will be anchored by a lush, futuristic building, dubbed “The Helix,” and feature three, 22-story office buildings, three retail pavilions, a childcare center, a permanent home for Arlington Community High School, 2.5 acres of public green space, multi-modal pathways and underground parking.
Amazon is massaging out the details with county staff, commissioners and community representatives to ready the plans for Planning Commission and County Board review, possibly in the spring. The tech giant has already updated the three office buildings, pathways and green spaces in response to requests for more architectural diversity and plantings.
“The team has been careful reviewing all comments and believe together, we are making PenPlace a better project for the entire community,” said Joe Chapman, Amazon’s Director of Global Real Estate and Facilities, during a meeting last night. “We are committed to the process and to the community.”
Project designers presented their changes during a Site Plan Review Committee meeting last night (Monday). County staff, commissioners and community members asked for better accessibility for people with disabilities, more pedestrian safety features, increased tree canopy and even more plants.
“In general, everyone really likes the presentation and appreciates the refinements to the design from the [Long Range Planning Committee] to now, and from the comments raised in the online period,” Planning Commission member Elizabeth Gearin said. “There’s very strong and widespread appreciation for changes to the design, for the early incorporation of sustainability, biophilia and art.”
Still, commissioners recommended leveling the entrances to underground parking garages so drivers have clearer views of pedestrians. They and county staff asked Amazon to revisit a set of stairs leading from Army-Navy Drive to an “elevated forest walk” on the northern end of the site.
“We’d really like to see the stairs removed and replaced with ramp that everyone can use equally,” Gearin said.
Those suggestions follow up on changes Amazon made this summer to the Army-Navy frontage, “to greatly improve what was seen as a foreboding frontage,” county planner Peter Schulz said.
Others called for more and taller trees throughout the site — not just in the “elevated forest.”
“Anything less than towering oak will look out of place next to 22-story buildings,” said Arlington Tree Action Group member Anne Bodine.
Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.
My father and I recently visited Bridgeport, Alabama, a small town located in Northeast Alabama near the state’s border with Tennessee. My father recounted many memories of his time in Bridgeport in the mid-1960s, largely impacted by segregation and poverty. He noted that of the 11 members of his 6th grade class, only two eventually went to college.
I started to imagine the mindsets of the majority of the people who grew up in that environment, how they live today, as well as how they think about their future. How much do our memories and perceptions of the past affect how we can plan for a better future for our communities?
Arlington prides itself on progressive attitudes and values. We must continually ask ourselves who is at the table thinking about Arlington’s future, from the government to the civic community, and how their lived experiences and memories impact our outcomes. Also, what are we doing today which will influence the experiences and the memories of those in the future who will be leading?
When I think about a future Arlington, among other things, I want an educational system that provides a quality and equitable education to all students, an abundance of safe transportation methods including well-lit trails and sidewalks, plenty of open space, and community engagement processes which are equitable and ensure that all voices are heard. My perspective on those issues and the impact I am able to make in the future, could be a function of my memories and my perspectives today.
In an August 2011 issue of Memory and Cognition, “a study demonstrated that it is possible to make more specific predictions for the future by imagining that future in a familiar place rather than an unfamiliar place. For example, college students asked to envision an event happening five years from now in their current dorm room were able to make much more specific predictions about that event than those asked to envision an event happening at the Egyptian pyramids.”
As we conduct our work today and rely on past memories, we can frame programs and paint a picture in a context that people find familiar. While providing analyses of the 2021 election results one might capitalize on the common perspectives that existed in the 2016 election by drawing on those feelings while creating a strategy moving forward.
Many of our organizations are doing excellent work in key areas, but no one knows about them. Our future progress as a community could be predicated on how their work is remembered. Our local government, civic and community organizations should use all available resources to amplify their work, and shape Arlingtonians’ perceptions and memories today, to achieve our desired impact tomorrow.
Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.
The self-proclaimed “world’s first decentralized pizzeria” is now serving up pies in Courthouse
Bitcoin Pizza, a “virtual restaurant,” opened on Oct. 31 and operates out of the kitchen of Fire Works Pizza at 2350 Clarendon Blvd. It is one of about 100 locations across the country and one of seven locations in the D.C.-area.
And, yes, the restaurant accepts Bitcoin as well as U.S. dollars.
“We want to spread the word of Bitcoin through this pizza,” Popchew CEO Rushir Parikh tells ARLnow. “[Pizza] is a very approachable way to learn about Bitcoin. We want to make Bitcoin as widely known and available as pizza is.”
It’s about educating the public on cryptocurrency and making it less scary — all while serving up great food — he says.
Bitcoin Pizza is essentially a ghost kitchen, with the company doing the branding and marketing, a local restaurant (in this case, Fire Works) making the pizza, and a third-party (UberEats, DoorDash, etc.) delivering. Like many ghost kitchens, ordering is online-only.
About 20% of the generated revenue goes to Bitcoin Pizza, Parikh said.
There was no specific reason that Arlington or Courthouse was chosen as a location, beyond wanting to have a number of locations in and near major cities, he notes.
The idea for a pizzeria was inspired by the famous — in the crypto world, at least — story of how a Florida man in 2010 purchased two pizzas for 10,000 bitcoins. Eleven years ago, that equated to about $40 US dollars. Today, 10,000 bitcoins are worth more than $500 million.
October 31, the day of Bitcoin Pizza’s Arlington launch (along with the launch of a number of other locations) is also an important day in the cryptocurrency’s history. On Halloween 2008, Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper which explained its rules, workings, and structure.
The menu includes pizzas with cryptocurrency-themed names, like Capital Greens (veggie), Satoshi’s Favorite (Hawaiian) and Laser Eyes (pepperoni).
On its website, the company behind Bitcoin Pizza, calls itself “the coolest food court on the internet.” Parikh compares the aspirations of Popchew to Yum! Brands, which owns fast food staples Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC.
“What we want to do is work with influential brands and people to build the next generation of food brands,” he says.
Working with local restaurants, like Fire Works Pizza, allows the company and its ideas to scale up quickly.
And Popchew is already working on its next food brand. “Wingszn” has launched and is expected to open a location in Arlington in the next month or two, Parikh says.
That “virtual restaurant” will be serving up chicken wings and yes, you can pay with Bitcoin.
National Chamber Ensemble presents a spectacular holiday concert for the community. NCE’s Holiday Cheer concert highlights the finest classical and contemporary masterpieces and holiday favorites together for the whole family. After a season of virtual performances NCE is thrilled to
Police are investigating another reported sexual battery incident against a female student, this time in South Arlington, a few blocks from Gunston Middle School.
Police say two boys tried to rob the girl of her AirPods headphones along S. Glebe Road, then touched her inappropriately.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ROBBERY, 2021-12030180, 2900 block of S. Glebe Road. At approximately 3:49 p.m. on December 2, police were dispatched to the report of a sexual assault that had recently occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the juvenile female victim was walking in the area when she was approached by the two juvenile male suspects who demanded her air pods. The victim refused, placed the air pods on her person and the suspects then allegedly touched her inappropriately. The suspects fled the scene on foot when a witness approached. The investigation is ongoing.
A police spokeswoman declined to say which school the victim attends, citing policies around victim privacy.
More than 35,000 people have signed a petition calling for Arlington Public Schools to ramp up education on sexual misconduct, after a girl told police she was inappropriately touched outside of Yorktown High School’s homecoming football game in October. The incident, along with reports of sexual harassment at the game, also prompted walkouts at several Arlington schools.
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. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!
Question: What do you expect from mortgage interest rates in 2022?
Historically Low Rates
The first thing to understand about mortgage interest rates is that they are market-driven and forecasting comes with the same amount of unpredictability as any other economic/market-based forecasting (GDP, Unemployment, Stocks, etc). So take predictions/forecasts with a grain of salt.
Higher Prices Still “Manageable”
For perspective, the chart above shows the average 30yr fixed rated mortgage in the US since 1971. Historically low interest rates have been one of the main drivers of the rapid housing price appreciation we’ve witnessed over the last 12-18 months.
The charts below, courtesy of the National Association of Realtors, show that low interest rates have kept affordability, based on mortgage payments vs income, lower than the ’05-’07 housing bubble despite housing prices soaring relative to income; even higher than ’05-’06 peaks.
Forecasting Future Rates
For years, we’ve been reading/hearing pundits say that it’s hard to imagine mortgage rates getting lower, often coupled with overly salesy messaging from the real estate industry that you must buy now because rates have never been so low and likely will not remain this low much longer. The problem with those claims is that mortgage rates have been dropping for about 40 years now (with relatively minor fluctuations along the way)…
With that said, even small fluctuations in rates in the near/mid-term impact affordability and buying decisions, making forecasts for the upcoming 12-24 months relevant to those currently, or soon-to-be, active in the buyer/seller market. The chart below shows the latest 30yr fixed mortgage rate forecasts from four leading housing research sources:
Tacombi in Crystal City will be opening its doors tomorrow (Wednesday).
The long-awaited New York City-based taqueria chain will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square.”
The taco spot, with indoor and outdoor seating, is the newest retail spot to open within JBG Smith’s recently redone property at 1550 Crystal Drive. It follows on the heels of a CVS, a Mah-Ze-Dahr bakery and a Solidcore gym location. What appears to be an Amazon Fresh grocery store is still under-construction.
Tacombi’s Crystal City menu will reflect its NYC menu, says a spokeswoman. There will be a variety of tacos, including its classic fish tacos, as well as burritos and quesadillas, all of which can also be ordered online via Grubhub.
All will be served on from-scratch corn and flour tortillas shipped from NYC daily until they can be made in Crystal City, Eater DC reports.
To drink, there will be tequila-based cocktails, Mexican beers, sodas and agua frescas. There will not be any opening specials, we’re told.
The grand opening fell behind schedule, as construction and inspections extended beyond the originally anticipated September debut.
These last few weeks, however, the taqueria has not just been busy finalizing its Crystal City location, but also opening two other locations: a second spot in Queens, New York and a new location in Miami’s Design District.
The openings in Arlington and Miami will mark Tacombi’s first ventures outside of New York City, the spokeswoman said.
She added that a Bethesda outpost — originally anticipated to open in September — will open in the spring of 2022. Another D.C. location is set to come to 14th Street NW, according to Eater.
(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Nonprofit affordable housing developer AHC Inc. announced today (Tuesday) that it will begin ceding management of all its properties to third-party companies in the new year.
The move comes less than a year after AHC transferred day-to-day management of the Serrano Apartments (5535 Columbia Pike) to an independent company, which Arlington County required in response to complaints of rodents and shoddy maintenance.
Meanwhile, AHC has also been considering whether the other buildings still under its own management arm should move to independent oversight.
AHC doesn’t have the scale to “consistently provide best-in-class service to our residents or the high-quality career opportunities and the training AHC Management employees deserve,” Susan Cunningham, AHC’s interim CEO, said in a statement.
“This decision comes after a thorough and careful examination of our residents’ and employees’ needs, current industry trends and AHC’s long-term strategic goals,” she continued. “For over 20 years, AHC Management has served thousands of families across dozens of properties. However, AHC Management’s relatively small scale combined with two years of pandemic challenges, supply chain issues and persistent labor shortages has made it clear this is the best path forward.”
Sixteen AHC properties are already overseen by third parties, says spokeswoman Celia Slater. This change will impact 35 properties spanning Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery counties, the city of Alexandria and Baltimore, as well as 100 AHC property management employees.
Each company intends to retain onsite management staff with similar job titles, pay and benefits, says AHC.
This “will also create high-quality career opportunities for the AHC Management staff currently serving these properties,” Cunningham said.
The nonprofit expects to begin the transitions in January and finalize them by April, as it receives approvals from lenders and investors.
The selected companies are Drucker + Falk, which oversees the Serrano Apartments, as well as Harbor Group, Paradigm Management and WinnResidential. These companies operate where the nonprofit has properties and have experience managing the types of buildings it owns, AHC says.
“We believe that transitioning the management of AHC’s communities to a diverse group of well-respected third-party management companies with proven systems and track records will enhance residents’ experience,” Cunningham said.
Since Drucker + Falk took over management at the Serrano, there has been a flurry of activity to improve building conditions. As of a mid-November meeting with the County Board, apartments with recurring moisture have mostly been remediated, a number of convectors have been replaced, buildings are regularly treated for pests and extensive plumbing repairs are ongoing, Cunningham told Board members.
Tenant advocates have welcomed the building repairs, but say that trust in AHC is still lacking among residents.
AHC committed to working with the management companies to continue providing services and community engagement opportunities for residents.
Last week AHC distributed toys, provided by Amazon and Wakefield High School, to the children of the Gates of Ballston apartments and delivered Christmas trees, donated by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, to residents at the Woodbury Park and Frederick apartments.
This transition to the new companies will happen in tandem with the selection of a new permanent CEO in the first half of 2022, AHC says. The CEO will take over for Cunningham, who stepped in after former CEO Walter Webdale retired amid the controversy at the Serrano.