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Would-Be Restaurant Will Be Torn Down, Turned Into a Park

by ARLnow.com July 20, 2010 at 2:02 pm 3,035 35 Comments

The strange case of Haze Restaurant, Bar and Lounge is coming to a close.

Essentially an old house gussied up in goth black paint and gaudy decorations, Haze looks severely out of place between the Arlington Arts Center and a soon-to-be yoga studio (formerly Curves). It was apparently meant to be a lounge-y kind of a place, which could have brought some nightlife to the relatively dead section of Wilson Boulevard near the Virginia Square Metro, but it was brought down by some very poor planning.

We’re told that the owner undertook renovations on the building before any county permits were issued (or even requested), a big no-no. County staff then tried to work with the owner to get the building into compliance, but he decided instead to shutter the place. That was last year.

Then, on Friday, the Arlington County Parks Department informed the Ashton Heights Civic Association that the county had purchased the quarter-acre property. It will be used to connect Maury Park and Herselle Milliken Park, two tiny swaths of recreational space located on the same block between North Monroe Street and North Lincoln Street.

“The acquisition is consistent with the Public Spaces Master Plan, the Virginia Square Sector Plan and your neighborhood plan,” Park Development Division Chief Lisa Grandle told the AHCA.

Once the building is “deconstructed” — taken apart in a way that allows for more building materials to be recycled — the entire property will be converted to a park. Even the prime real estate next to Wilson Boulevard.

“The entire parcel will be used as park space in the near term, although the immediate frontage on Wilson Boulevard may be reconsidered in the long term if the remaining retail/commercial parcels on the block are consolidated and redeveloped,” Grandle wrote in an email to ARLnow.com.

  • Anon

    That is a very odd stretch of Wilson. From the Highland Motor Inn down to the 7-11, that is prime real estate severely under-used. Hopefully that will change at some point.

    • Agreed, I don’t know why you’d call that stretch “relatively” dead. In relation to what would it in any way be alive? Maybe if you compared it to George Allen’s political career? Hey-oooo! I’ll be here all night, try the veal!

      • Mike

        (really offensive comment)

        • Really?

          I would suggest that this is the type of comment that violates the terms of use. Please delete it.

        • Sorry, Mike, gotta ban you for that one. Hate to do it to a loyal reader, but that was way over the line. Email me in a month and maybe we’ll reinstate you.

    • Lou

      There are probably developers trying to consolidate the properties into something they can work with. Now the County jumps in and stakes a claim on more land. I’d like to know what the purchase price was, and just how the deal happened.

  • ArlingtonAaron

    The whole Haze incident was weird. At first the illegally constructed interior looked like it was shaping up to be a small 20 seat neighborhood pub (which would have been perfect and awesome), and then the Haze sign shows up, which seems to have the “artist formerly known as Prince” logo on it.

    And I agree with Anon… while conversion to parkland makes good enough sense for that particular parcel, there remains the problem of very low density commercial facilities along that section of the Wilson-Fairfax backbone, which very much under-leverages the investment that the metro stop represents.

    • MB

      a small 20 seat neighborhood pub (which would have been perfect and awesome)

      Yes, yes it would have been. When I saw the carpentry work that was being done inside (it was *amazing*), I was very happy that a great neighborhood bar was going to end up within stumbling distance of my house. And then . . . yeah.

      I think this will eventually be redeveloped into something else, but whoever does it will have to 1) pick up the R.E. Michels and 7-11 parcels, and 2) not screw with the Maury School space. Probably not a near term project, though.

      But speaking of that strip – I’ve heard that the parcel up the road with the psychic on it is has a future.

      • Eponymous Coward

        “But speaking of that strip – I’ve heard that the parcel up the road with the psychic on it is has a future.”

        If anyone would know if that parcel has a future, it would be the pyschic.

  • I jog by this building several days a week and I was wondering if we’d ever see anything new go in its place… or for that matter, why it had closed so suddenly. Had no idea there were two small parks lurking just behind, though! Very good news.

  • Courthouse Resident

    “the relatively dead section of Wilson Boulevard” – reminds me of:

    It just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do… go through his clothes and look for loose change.

  • Greg

    Weird outcome. Seems strange for the County to effectively shutter a place over permit issues, then buy it a short time later. Was this some kind of settlement with the property owner?

    • MB

      Not really a short time. And that property has been problematic for years. Was a creepy coin store when I moved here in the 90s, with almost-certainly-out-of-code rent-by-the-room places on top. Then empty for a very long time (retail space). Decent coffee/sandwich shop for a bit (same person, in my understanding, who did the later carpentry work). More vacancy. Then the strange Haze thing, and now back to vacancy.

      • Lou

        You can dig around on the county site and find the permit review comments for the renovation. They were rejecting drawings up until late April. Just the normal code compliance problems you would expect when renovating a building like this for commercial use. Totally within their powers to enforce the codes to the letter, but they were enforcing the codes to every last letter, apparently.

      • Greg

        The article says the permit issue was last year. Is that not true? In my book, a year isn’t long for legal/permit problems to be worked through…

        • Lou

          Comment history is here: http://permits.arlingtonva.us/Permit_Comments.aspx?p_number=B0901144

          It was filed for review about a year ago. That’s a long time for back and forth with any jurisdiction on a small renovation. If it took my clients that long to get permits, well we would not be in business as a design firm very long.

          • MB

            Note that that isn’t about the original Haze mess, but the business that wanted to occupy the space after that (a coffee shop that I think was going to be run – at least in part – by the coffee/crepe place people that came before Haze). I think there’s a lot more to it than is reflected there. (And I should admit right now that I’m sort of trafficking in third hand information, so my comments should be taken with that in mind . . .)

  • MB

    Oh, and while I’m hogging all the comment space: Arlington County, I’d like my basketball court back, please. I mean, I realize that the little park/gym thing you replaced it with is used by many many more people than the half-court ever was, but it’s all about me me me. Thanks.

  • Stacey

    Bizarre! This would have been a good location for a pub/restaurant, although the building is strange looking. Strange that the County bought it.

    Since it was mentioned- very excited also for Tranquil Space to open up in the old Curves space. I have been going to their Dupont location for years and the current Clarendon spot is sub-par compared to Dupont.

  • Mike

    Who the hell wants a “Curves” in their neighborhood anyways?

    It attracts fat chicks, and if on the rare chance they lose weight and become hot then they stop coming.

    • Really??

      Really man?? Ouch. Think this comment should find it’s way over to the trash can… along with your thinking.

  • Katie

    Wasn’t this a crepe place for a while? That didn’t work either.

  • Haha… I’ve always wondering what that place was! The whole strip could use some redevelopment, including the creepy used car lot across the street. A park might be OK, though there a few right around there already. There is a tonnage of residential property right there on both sides of the street with a lack of bars, unless you walk up to Front Page or down to Liberty Tavern.

    With the way 711 has been operating I wouldn’t be surprised to see another one put in!

    • ArlingtonAaron

      No no no. There’s already another 7-11 one block away. 3 within one block would just be silly.

  • My point exactly, Aaron…

    • ArlingtonAaron

      I know Alex… I was playing along, doing the straight man thing, for funnys.

      • Maybe Arlington could go for a record. How many 7-11s can one community have within a city block? 3? 4? 5??? Funnys…

        • MB

          Somebody call Remy . . .

  • charlie

    and the county is requiring the developer of the block ACROSS the street to put in retail so that this becomes a retail core. (the site east of dittmars existing development)

  • MC

    I remember the crêpe place — might have succeeded if the owner was more focused on running his business and less on flirting with young female customers. But that was his choice.
    It’s a odd looking building with the bling strapped to it, but it is one of the few historical looking buildings on that stretch. It could be someone nice, and Northside Social kind of renovated eatery/pub/studio. Virginia Square is most impoverished in terms of restaurants in the R-B corridor. The opposite block with the easy-finance used car dealer (a bigger pet peeve for than 7-11s) doesn’t help, but may be shifting — a small shack-like building on that block was torn down a few months ago. And yes, the 7-11 to the east needs to go — its parking lot kills the streetscape.
    I consider it a probable mistake to tear down the building. Arlington has limited commercial historical architecture, and I’m not convinced the County has done due diliegnce on land use here.

  • TGEoA

    Sure, this will remain a “park”. Until they decide to sell it to a developer or make a halfway house out of it. Whichever annoys the immeidate neighbors the most.

  • LLG

    You may not like car lots, but at leaset they’re not higher than one story and you can see the sky and feel the sun…
    I’m also sorry to see that building go–it reminds me of when Clarendon used to be called “weird”. Remember that? So so long ago. Sigh.

    • Katie

      A long, long time ago…I can still remember…before the Crate and Barrels and Cheesecake Factorys…when we had Vietnamese restaurants.

      • arlvatom

        Ah yes, when there was a used car lot on every corner being used to launder drug money from DC crack babies.

  • TuesdayChild

    LLG mentioned car lots. I have always wondered why there are so many little/mini used car lots in Arlington. All over the place; Lee Highway, Washington BLVD, Wilson Blvd. I realize that they may have developed years ago when land was cheaper in Arlington. But do they actually sell cars? Seems like an odd business location now.


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