Arlington, VA

ARLnow Weekend Discussion

It’s a soggy start to what should be at least a half-decent weather weekend.

The past five days haven’t been the busiest for Arlington local news, but there still have been some big stories nonetheless. Below are the most-read ARLnow articles of the past week.

  1. Police: Woman Danced on Car, Exposed Herself in Crystal City
  2. New Ballston Restaurant Aims for May 1 Opening Day
  3. Arlington Is Entering Vaccination Phase 1C
  4. State Sending More Vaccine to Arlington, County Says
  5. Developer Proposes New Retail Plaza in Crystal City
  6. Crystal City Water Park Getting ‘Sip and Stroll’ Alcohol Permit
  7. First Lady Jill Biden is Visiting Arlington
  8. Updated Stormwater Regs Could Add Cost, Aboveground Tanks to New Homes
  9. Morning Poll: Metro on Columbia Pike?
  10. What’s Next: An Ode to Whitlow’s

Feel free to discuss those stories, or anything else of local interest, in the comments. Have a great weekend, Arlington!

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Carter Glass, delegate to the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901-02. (Image via Library of Congress)

Lyon’s Legacy is a limited-run opinion column on the history of housing in Arlington. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

“Discrimination! Why that is exactly what we propose… That exactly is what this convention was elected for — to discriminate to the very extremity of permissible action under the limitation of the federal Constitution, with the view to the elimination of every Negro voter who can be gotten rid of.”

Carter Glass, Virginia Constitutional Convention, 1902

Arlington wasn’t always white. Before 1900, the population of the county was nearly 40% African-American. By 1950, it was less than 5%. Today, the number is still less than 10%.

This is the third part of Lyon’s Legacy, a biweekly series on ARLnow (you can read the whole thing, with citations, here). It will tell an eight-part history of how Black people, and other groups that experience racial or economic discrimination, have been excluded from living in Arlington County. Last week, the story told who Frank Lyon was and what he found when he arrived in the county. This week, it will tell how he began to leave his mark.

In 1901, Frank Lyon and Crandal Mackey travelled to Norfolk to attend the Virginia Commonwealth Constitutional Convention. As at similar conventions across the South, the convention’s leaders hoped to use the resurgent power of white Democrats to upend the Reconstruction-era constitution that had enfranchised Black citizens.

Lyon served as Clerk of the Committee; Mackey was one of our county’s delegates. In Norfolk, they heard Senator Carter Glass say that the “white race” held the “divine imprimatur of that intellectual and racial supremacy which gave them the exclusive right of government.” Glass’s new constitution was about to give Lyon and Mackey just the advantage they needed to reshape our county in the convention’s vision of “racial supremacy.”

The 1902 Virginia constitution was imposed without popular approval and it systematically disenfranchised African Americans across Virginia. A poll tax was levied. Land ownership was made a condition for voting. The statewide electorate was cut in half. Jim Crow reigned. The new constitution remained in place until 1971.

Across the nation, the Progressive movement brought reforms at the turn of the century. It fought political corruption, regulated labor standards, and modernized the schools. But: “The blind spot in the Southern progressive record — as, for that matter, in the national movement — was the Negro, for the whole movement in the South coincided paradoxically with the crest in the rise of racism. The typical progressive reformer rode to power in the South on a disenfranchising or white supremacy movement.”

Crandal Mackey, and the rest of the Good Citizens’ League, was no exception.

A year after the constitutional convention, Mackey ran for Commonwealth’s Attorney. The incumbent, Richard Johnston, was a white landowner whose family sold a neighborhood’s worth of land to the county’s Black residents. Mackey took on Johnston in an election with heavy racial overtones.

“The reduction of the negro vote… under the new Virginia constitution, helped Mackey wonderfully,” wrote the Washington Times. He won by two votes.

Frank Lyon didn’t run for office. He bought the county’s preeminent weekly newspaper, the Alexandria County Monitor. As the historian Lindsey Bestebreurtje describes, “under Lyon’s leadership as owner and editor, The Monitor pushed League policies and opinions.” He built an image of Alexandria County as a desirable suburban retreat for Washington’s growing upper-middle class. He also built an image of Black people and saloons as obstacles to progress.

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In the Before Times, when neither COVID-19 nor National Landing were part of the local lexicon, Crystal City would host a series of springtime races dubbed 5K Fridays.

The weekly races would attract thousands of runners. Alas, despite vaccinations quickening, gatherings of thousands of people in a relatively concentrated area remain frowned upon outside of sports stadiums.

Thus, to continue the 5K tradition in a more scaled-back fashion, the now-National Landing Business Improvement District is hosting a single event next month dubbed the Great Inflatable Race.

As the name suggests, participants are being encouraged to come “dressed in your wackiest summer inflatable attire.”

Only 250 participants will be able to register, and even then runners will start the race in waves and will be required to wear masks “at the start and finish lines and while passing within 10 feet of other runners.”

The race is scheduled for Friday, May 7 at 6 p.m., kicking off from the “Courtyard Green” at 2121 Crystal Drive.

Packet pickup will take place at the Pacers Running store in Old Town Alexandria the Sunday afternoon before the race.

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Morning Notes

Sentencing in Arlington Cold Case — “A Virginia cold case closed Thursday as Jose Rodriguez-Cruz was sentenced to 40 years in prison in Stafford County for the killing of his wife. Marta Rodriguez went missing from Arlington in 1989, when her son, Hansel Rodriguez, was just four years old… ‘It almost felt like I was able to breathe for the first time in many years,’ said Hansel, now 36.” [NBC 4]

Wheel Theft Spree Along Columbia Pike — “On April 7, police responded to multiple reports of larcenies from auto. The investigations determined that between 6:30 p.m. on April 6 and 7:35 a.m. April 7, the suspect(s) removed all four tires and rims from the four victim vehicles. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]

DCA Traveler Traffic Recovering — “The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that passenger originations at Reagan National were down 68.9 percent in March compared to the pre-pandemic March 2019. In a way, that’s positive news – Reagan National typically has been down 80 percent even as airports in other parts of the country have started to see rebounds.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Salutes Fallen Officer — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “[On Wednesday] we detailed crews along the I-66 overpasses to salute fallen @CapitolPolice Officer Billy Evans as his procession passed through @ArlingtonVA. Doing this twice within a few months hurts. We’re keeping Officer Evan’s family and the USCP in our thoughts & prayers.” [Twitter]

Firefighters Push for Higher Pay Updated at 8:45 a.m. — “Brian Lynch, president of the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (APFPA), called on the Arlington County Board Tuesday to implement a pay increase for county firefighters when it adopts the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. ‘Being firefighters has always meant risking our lives for others,’ Lynch said, during a Tuesday night public hearing.” [Patch]

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A man who terrorized businesses in Arlington, Alexandria and elsewhere from 2018 to 2019 is going to prison.

Freddy Lee McRae, 35, pled guilty to a series of bank and retail robberies last year. On Tuesday McRae, dubbed the “Beltway Bank Bandit,” was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison.

“This case involved a chilling armed robbery spree during which innocent community members were threatened with serious injury or death if they did not comply with repeated demands for money,” Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “We are thankful to our law enforcement partners for their thorough investigation across multiple jurisdictions to bring the defendant to justice.”

As detailed in a press release, McRae’s crime spree included the attempted robbery of a Capital One branch on Columbia Pike, the armed robbery of Legend Kicks & Apparel on the Pike, and a subsequent police chase on the GW Parkway that ended with McRae crashing his car into the river and trying to swim to freedom.

On December 10, 2018, McRae robbed a Burke & Herbert bank branch located in Alexandria. McRae approached a teller, who asked if he wanted to make a deposit. McRae responded, “gimmie your money,” before lifting up his shirt and pulling a pistol from his waistband, which he pointed at the teller. As the teller gathered money, McRae racked the slide on the pistol and demanded all large bills. McRae fled with approximately $1,366 in cash.

On April 21, 2019, McRae robbed the Legend Kicks & Apparel store located in Arlington. McRae brandished a pistol and demanded that two store employees empty their pockets, which they did. McRae then ordered the employees to lie on the floor before taking approximately $2,160 in cash that belonged to the store. McRae fled the store on foot and the area by vehicle. When a law enforcement officer tried to pull over the vehicle, McRae stopped only briefly before leading law enforcement officers on a vehicle pursuit on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. McRae ultimately jumped out of his moving vehicle prior to it crashing and sinking into the Potomac River. McRae tried to flee law enforcement by jumping into the river, but officers pulled him out and placed him under arrest.

As part of his guilty plea, McRae also admitted to robbing a Bank of America branch in Springfield on October 27, 2018; a BB&T branch located in Alexandria on December 20, 2018; and a Capital One branch located in Bowie, Maryland, on January 2, 2019. McRae further admitted to attempting to rob a Capital One branch located in Arlington on February 11, 2019, and to obstructing justice following his apprehension.

“This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Northern Virginia Violent Crime Safe Streets Task Force, which is composed of FBI Special Agents and Task Force Officers from northern Virginia law enforcement agencies,” the press release noted. “Significant investigative assistance in this case was provided by the Arlington County Police and the Fairfax County Police.”

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As if the menace of bowling brawls were not enough, now residents of a Crystal City apartment building have to deal with rolling bras.

Last week ARLnow reported on a community meeting organized by police to discuss rowdy behavior outside a bowling alley in Crystal City that opened last summer. This past Tuesday, that very same block of 23rd Street S. was the scene of a reported indecent exposure incident.

“At approximately 11:22 p.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the report of an exposure,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the victims were on the balconies of their residences when they observed the female suspect dancing on the hood of a vehicle. During the event, the suspect lifted her sports bra, exposing her breasts.”

It’s unclear what role, if any, the bowling alley played in the incident. But the victims were residents of The Buchanan, the same apartment building that has had complaints about boisterous bowlers.

Police say the woman was wearing “a blue/green wig, lime green sports bra, teal tank top and blue jeans” at the time of the alleged dancing and flashing.

“The investigation is ongoing,” ACPD said.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Vihstadt Helps ‘Our Revolution’ Join CivFed — “One of the strongest voices supporting ORA’s membership was that of John Vihstadt, former County Board member and life-long Republican. Many Republicans today consider organizations such as Our Revolution to be, at the very least, card-carrying members of ‘Antifa’… Vihstadt pointed out that, ‘although he was one of the ‘non-Democrats’ that One Revolution did not support’ in his last political outing, ORA should be admitted to CivFed because it clearly ‘contributes to the civic dialogue.'” [Blue Virginia]

Ballston Business Slated to Go Public — “Privia Health Group, Inc., a technology-driven, national physician enablement company that collaborates with medical groups, health plans and health systems, announced today that it has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to a proposed initial public offering of shares of its common stock… Privia Health intends to list its common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol ‘PRVA.'” [BusinessWire]

ACPD Raising Child Abuse Awareness — “April is recognized as both Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. ACPD is sharing information on available resources and programs in our community to help raise public awareness about child abuse and sexual violence. In support of efforts to reduce the incidences and severity of child abuse and neglect, many members of ACPD are wearing blue ribbons, pins and bracelets during the month of April.” [ACPD, Twitter]

Animal Control Helps Lost Baby Fox — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “A local homeowner heard a tiny cry coming from their garden and discovered this baby fox, alone and crying for his mother…  Knowing that his mom was very likely somewhere nearby, [animal control officers] placed him into a basket and placed him in a safe spot in the garden. The homeowner kept an eye on him the rest of the day, and we are happy to report that by the next morning, the mother had safely retrieved her baby!” [Facebook]

Goodbye, DCA Gate 35X — “Let’s get right to it: It was a bus station. A bus station in an airport. It was two places you’d rather not be, melded into one place… It was a funnel, a choke point, a cattle call. One gate, as many as 6,000 travelers per day. The ceilings were lower. The seats were all taken, as were the electrical outlets. There was no bathroom down there, no vending machine, no water fountain. Dante’s circles were over-invoked.” [Washington Post]

‘Arlington Superwoman’ Hailed — “She’s helped tons of local families get food on the table but her calling to give back goes way beyond food insecurity for those who are struggling during the pandemic. To some, this Arlington immigrant from El Salvador is a local hero. The struggle Mariflor Ventura has seen first hand brings her to tears.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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First Lady Jill Biden is in Clarendon this afternoon, visiting a call center for military members and their families.

The First Lady is visiting the offices of Military OneSource, described as “a Department of Defense resource providing 24/7 support to service members, their families, and survivors.” The visit follows an earlier event at the White House in which Biden spoke of her Joining Forces initiative to support military and veteran families, as well as caregivers and survivors.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is among the local officials expected to be in attendance as Biden tours the call center and speaks with employees. Also greeting the First Lady are Charlene Austin and Hollyanne Milley, the wives of the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively.

Locals should expect a security presence in the area.

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(Updated at 1 p.m.) Arlington County is a bit behind its neighbors, but nonetheless is entering Phase 1C of its COVID-19 vaccination effort.

Alexandria entered 1C earlier this week, and Fairfax County was accepting 1C appointments this morning. Arlington County’s vaccination website still says those in 1C are ineligible, but that is changing amid a surge of vaccine supply from the state.

“The long-awaited increase in supply has arrived,” said Cara O’Donnell, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Public Health Division. “We’re on track to administer 16,000 doses this week, and we have a very aggressive schedule for the next few weeks in order to meet the Governor’s guidelines for Phase 2 eligibility by the week of April 18.”

“If all goes well with supply, we hope to start sending 1C notifications by the end of this week,” O’Donnell told ARLnow Tuesday afternoon. That is coming to fruition perhaps earlier than anticipated.

“Arlington County has reached a watershed moment: we are inviting those in 1C and are making significant progress,” County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti posted on Facebook this morning.

At least one pre-registered Phase 1C worker associated with ARLnow received an email today to schedule a one-dose vaccination appointment at Arlington’s Lubber Run Community Center.

Phase 1C includes essential workers not covered in 1B — energy, water and waste removal workers; barbers, stylists and hairdressers; housing and construction workers; finance workers; information technology and communication workers; media personnel; food service employees; transportation and logistics employees; higher education faculty and staff; legal services providers; public safety engineers; and other public health workers, including administrators and researchers.

Arlington will pass 100,000 vaccination doses administered today — the number stands at 99,943 as of this morning, after another 1,500 doses were administered Tuesday. In all, 33,600 people have been fully vaccinated in Arlington, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

File photo

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Amazon has released a new, nearly six-minute video that touts its HQ2 investment in Arlington.

The video discusses progress on Amazon’s permanent second headquarters complex in Pentagon City, the inspiration behind the proposed Helix tower, and the company’s various investments in the community.

More from an Amazon blog post:

We are making good progress in building HQ2, our headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. We remain committed to creating 25,000 new jobs and investing more than $2.5 billion here over the next decade.

Today, there are more than 1,600 Amazon employees working from Arlington on teams including AWS, Devices, and Finance, with hundreds of open roles available.

Construction is on schedule at Metropolitan Park, the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 development, and continues under extraordinary health and safety measures. We recently returned to grade, meaning the buildings have reached street level — an exciting construction milestone for this project. And, we look forward to continuing the community review process alongside Arlington County for our proposed plans at PenPlace, the second phase of Amazon’s development. Together, Metropolitan Park and PenPlace will deliver a welcoming urban experience, anchored by large public open spaces, significant new retail, and a connection to nature not only for Amazon employees but also the entire Arlington community.

We are actively getting to know our new neighbors and stitching ourselves into the community. From our recent sponsorship of the legendary Cherry Blossom Festival to our $381 million commitment to help keep Crystal House affordable through our Housing Equity Fund, we are building a better neighborhood together.

Despite the rosy picture, Amazon has faced some local criticism for its use of millions in government incentives, an alleged lack of certain types of community engagement and transparency, and for its potential role in driving up rents.

The full video, which debuted yesterday at a global “all-hands” meeting for employees, is below.

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The soon-to-be-revamped Crystal City Water Park is set to become Arlington’s third “sip and stroll” destination.

The privately-owned, 1.5 acre park at 1601 Crystal Drive has long hosted a small food and drink vendor. Thanks to a pending “Commercial Lifestyle Center” permit from Virginia ABC, that vendor — Peruvian Brothers — will soon be able to offer park-goers alcoholic beverages that can be consumed anywhere in the park.

“The overall goal is to cultivate an inviting setting where local residents, office workers and visitors are encouraged to hang out, relax and interact,” said JBG Smith Vice President Taylor Lawch, in a statement. The company owns the park and numerous nearby buildings, including those housing Amazon’s growing HQ2 workforce.

The Arlington County Board recently approved a plan to add five new vendor kiosks, a performance stage, and a bar to the park, in addition to planned upgrades to its water features.

“There will be places for parents to sip on a glass of wine while their kids go for ice cream nearby; a couple to meet for a date where they can hear live music and grab a beer at intermission; or coworkers to gather for an informal outdoor happy hour right outside their office,” Lawch said.

The initial sipping and strolling will take place this spring and summer, before the park is temporarily closed during the cooler months for construction. It is expected to reopen in the spring of 2022.

The park will join a pair of Arlington retail centers — the Village at Shirlington and Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) — in allowing legal, on-the-go outdoor alcohol consumption on privately-owned property.

“The creation of a Commercial Lifestyle Center is in keeping with JBG SMITH’s vision for National Landing as a vibrant 18-hour environment where people want to live, work and visit,” a company PR rep said. “This licensure enables JBG SMITH to take great existing and planned areas of the National Landing neighborhood and make them even better.”

Additional JBG-owned property in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — may eventually be added to the permit.

“JBG SMITH is looking on a case-by-case basis to identify other areas within National Landing for future activations,” the rep tells ARLnow. “As of right now, they are focusing on this initial designation at Water Park.”

Making the Water Park into a more active destination for hanging out is part of the neighborhood’s evolution away from being known as a sleepy, concrete-filled office corridor.

“National Landing continues to evolve into an exciting destination complete with diverse dining options and growing entertainment venues,” National Landing Business Improvement District President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a statement. “Enhancing and activating our outdoor public spaces for community use is more important than ever, and we are thrilled that National Landing has been approved as a Commercial Lifestyle Center. JBG SMITH’s initial activation at Water Park will create a desirable new way for area residents, workers and visitors to gather and support our local businesses in a safe environment.”

The Water Park will continue to host BID-organized events, she added. The BID obtained temporary Virginia ABC permits to allow alcohol consumption at the park for previous events.

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