Arlington, VA

ARLnow Weekend Discussion

For much the this week, the sun was obscured behind a haze of smoke wafting in from the West Coast wildfires.

As the week has gone on, the haze has dissipated. Despite the calamities the world has faced this year, it is good to know that, with due time, the sun will always come back out eventually.

Here are the most-read articles this week on ARLnow:

  1. County Board Votes to Discontinue Sidewalk Crowding Ordinance
  2. French Pastry Shop Now Open in Rosslyn
  3. Purple Lounge Back in Business After Liquor License Restored
  4. New Rosslyn Development Marks Construction Milestone
  5. County Board Expresses Support for Changing County Logo
  6. Board Approves Gun Ban in County Buildings and Parks
  7. Neighborhood Spotlight: The Best Tacos in Arlington
  8. First Day of Early Voting Attracts Long Line in Arlington
  9. County Board OKs New $14 Million, Amazon-Funded Park in Pentagon City

For those celebrating tonight, Shanah tovah.

Also: RIP summer of 2020. Hello, fall.

Feel free to discuss any of the above, or anything else of local interest, in the comments. Have a nice weekend!

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Three days after members of the Arlington County Board expressed support for changing the county’s logo, officials outlined a process for changing it, the county seal and, potentially, names of some local roads and places.

The logo change comes after a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, which earlier this summer called the illustration of Arlington House a “racist plantation symbol” that “divides, rather than unites us.”

At the Board’s Tuesday evening meeting, County Manager Mark Schwartz presented a plan to review county symbols and names over the next few months.

The review will include “gathering perspectives on race and equity in Arlington,” and examining county symbols, street names and facility names that may be associated with systemic racism or oppression. The review will “build on this fall’s community process to update the County’s¬†Historic Preservation Master Plan,” according to a county press release.

Schwartz said he will present in December a summary of community feedback, as well as recommendations to the Board for next steps.

In introducing the topic, County Board Chair Libby Garvey said that equity and the county budget are “the two most important things we’re tackling as a Board.” She, along with the four other members of the Board, reiterated their support for changing the county logo.

While newly-elected Board member Takis Karantonis said he agreed with local NAACP leader Julius Spain, Sr.’s call to retire Arlington House as the county’s logo as soon as possible, he acknowledged that the overall process of choosing a new logo and replacing the old logo on most county equipment and properties would¬†“probably take several years.”

Board member Katie Cristol said the logo and some names currently in use locally¬†“have come to feel so out of step with our current values in Arlington County,” while Board member Matt de Ferranti said he wanted to ensure the process of evaluating and changing them was thoughtful and inclusive.

Christian Dorsey, the lone Black member of the Board, said his support for changing the logo came down to the 1972 renaming of Arlington House by Congress as “Arlington House: the Robert E. Lee Memorial,” in honor of the Confederate general and one-time occupant of the historic home on the grounds of what became Arlington National Cemetery.

While some may believe Arlington House to be a symbol of slavery, Dorsey said, others see it as a symbol of the repudiation of the Confederacy, given that it was seized during the Civil War in order to serve as a final resting place for Union war dead. The 1972 renaming, however,¬†“takes all nuance out of the equation.”

“Should a national memorial to Robert E. Lee be the official symbol of Arlington County?” Dorsey asked. “For me it’s a clear no. Period, full stop.”

Dorsey said that the logo change and renaming process will need to find a way to try to unite people who are “in different places along the journey,” but names that honor people who “actively promoted systemic oppression” have to go.

The county should also consider naming some things that are currently unnamed in order¬†“to elevate the contributions of women, people of color, indigenous peoples, that have been suppressed in the telling of our country’s and our community’s history,” according to Dorsey.¬†At the same time, he said, the county should “make sure that fiscal and human resources are not diverted from doing the work to address systemic racism” by the logo change and renaming processes.

(The county, through a local nonprofit, is currently in the process of renaming Lee Highway.)

More on the logo change and renaming process, from a county press release, below.

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The Italian restaurant that’s coming to the former Alto Fumo space (2909 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon is a few weeks away from opening.

Mazaro is the name of the new restaurant, which was first touted in window coverings declaring that “Italy is Coming!” The coverings are now off and interior work has largely wrapped up, according to Aziza Naji, a partner in the restaurant and 14-year veteran of the industry. She said her partner is a local commercial property owner with no prior restaurant experience.

Naji described Mazaro as a modern Italian restaurant that will offer classic Italian cuisine and Neapolitan pizza baked in specialized, wood-fired ovens imported from Italy. The restaurant will have both indoor and outdoor seating when it opens, we’re told.

Mazaro just applied for a Virginia ABC license to serve beer, wine and cocktails, and expects to open once the application is approved — perhaps later this month or in early October, according to Naji.

The restaurant does not yet have a working website, though one is currently under development.

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For the past two weeks, the seven-day moving average of new coronavirus cases in Arlington has kept a fairly tight range. Today, however, it is seeing something of a bump up.

Twenty-eight new cases were reported overnight, the highest one-day total since Aug. 28, bringing the seven-day average to 17. The seven-day total is now 119, after hovering around 100 all week.

Since Monday, one new COVID-related death and four new hospitalizations have been reported in Arlington. The seven-day total of new hospitalizations currently stands at 10.

The cumulative total of cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the start of the pandemic is now 3,819, 491, and 146, respectively, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

Over the past month, meanwhile, the age of new COVID-19 cases in the county has continued to skew younger, with the 0-9, 10-19 and 20-29 age groups showing the highest proportional increase since Aug. 19.

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Arlington residents were lined up down the block in Courthouse this morning, on the first day of early voting in Virginia.

The county’s elections office said on Twitter that 200 people cast ballots in the first hour this morning, after voting opened at 8 a.m.

Any registered voter who wants to vote early can do so through Oct. 31, at designated early voting locations. Currently, voting is taking place at the former Wells Fargo bank (2200 Clarendon Blvd) near county government headquarters in Courthouse. Four community centers will also open for early voting on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Voters who don’t want to show up to the polls in person, for fear of COVID-19 or otherwise, can request mail-in ballots through Oct. 23. The first of the ballots are being sent out today. As of early August, about 17,000 Arlingtonians — 10% of active voters — had requested mail-in ballots, according to the elections office.

More information on how to vote in the upcoming general election is available on Arlington County’s 2020 Voter Guide website.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3

More views of the line via social media:

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Morning Notes

About Last Night’s Flyover — The two fighter jets that flew low and loud over Arlington last night, startling many, were participating in a flyover for the dedication of the new Eisenhower Memorial in D.C. [Twitter, Twitter]

Big Crane Coming to Amazon HQ2 Site — “There will be tower crane erection work this weekend, starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 19 and 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 20. Work will be completed no later than 9 p.m. each day.” All southbound traffic on S. Eads Street will be detoured. [Twitter]

No PARK(ing) Day — “Arlington County will not be hosting annual PARK(ing) Day events tomorrow due to COVID-19 precautions. But feel free to imagine the possibilities of drab, curbside asphalt turned into unique community spaces.” [Twitter]

Barr Speech in Arlington Makes News — “Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that the Justice Department has recently acted ‘more like a trade association for federal prosecutors than the administrator of a fair system of justice’ and equated some prosecutors to preschoolers and ‘headhunters’ […] in a speech at Hillsdale College’s annual Constitution Day Celebration, which this year was held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.” [NBC News]

New Fire Engines for ACFD — “The Arlington County Fire Department recently took delivery of two new Pierce Manufacturing pumpers, which went into service with Engine 105 and Engine 109. The twin pumpers have a 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump and carry 750 gallons of water and 30 gallons of firefighting foam.” [InsideNova]

Virtual Award Gala Next Week — “Please join us for the 2020 Spirit of Community celebration on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM.¬†This year, the Arlington Community Foundation will be honoring Arlington’s front-line human service workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic¬†with the 2020¬†William T. Newman, Jr. Spirit of Community Award.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Fairlington 5K Goes Virtual — “Having canceled its traditional event in April, organizers of the Fairlington 5K have announced plans for a ‘virtual’ race on Saturday, Oct. 3. Participants will have one week to compete in the event, which will support Fairlington resident Ellie McGinn, a young girl born with the rare brain/spinal cord disorder LBSL. Additional funds raised from the event will support Abingdon Elementary School.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington County is facing a possible budget gap in the tens of millions dollars during the current fiscal year, as a result of the pandemic.

That’s the message from county staff, who raised the alarm during Tuesday’s County Board meeting.

“We had hoped that the recovery that we had anticipated at the time in March and April would be further along, and that’s simply not the case,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz.

As a result, tax and fee revenue is coming in significantly lower than expected, and Arlington is now facing an estimated budget gap between $42-60 million for the fiscal year that started on July 1. On the high end, that comes out to a gap of about $39 million for the county government and $21 million for Arlington Public Schools.

The County Board adopted a scaled-down, $1.35 billion budget¬†in the spring — $820.8 million for the county, $524.6 million for schools — assuming lower revenue due to COVID-19. But as the pandemic and its effects drag on, the impacts are becoming bigger than first estimated.

“Clearly this is taking longer than we had anticipated, in terms of both the health and economic recovery,” said Budget Director¬†Richard Stephenson.

Restaurant, sales, car rental and hotel taxes are still down — way down, in the case of hotel taxes. Stephenson showed a slide that compared the county’s expectations for those taxes to reality; rather than a V-shaped recovery, with the tax revenue getting back to near-normal this fall, actual revenues have been much lower and county budget staffers now do not expect to return to near-normal until mid-2021.

Parking meter fees, parking tickets, parks and rec program revenue, and transit revenue are all also coming in lower than expected, Stephenson said. Residential real estate taxes and vehicle property taxes are closer to projections, but the county is worried about potential tax delinquencies from residents facing economic hardship.

Another slide showed overall consumer spending in Arlington still down 22% compared to earlier in the year, when the first U.S. coronavirus case was reported.

Commercial property taxes, business license taxes and business property taxes may also take a hit from delinquencies, Stephenson said. The county is not projecting any growth in property assessments next year, something that has boosted the past couple of budgets without raising tax rates.

Stephenson presented a number of options for dealing with the budget shortfall, for the County Board to consider, including slowing some spending, using leftover funds from last year’s budget, using unallocated funds from Arlington’s share of the federal CARES Act, and using the county’s general budget reserves.

The County Board will learn how much is left over from last year’s budget in October, before deciding what to do with those funds in November, when it will receive further budget guidance.

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A project that is changing the skyline of Arlington has just celebrated its “topping out.”

The massive Highlands residential development in Rosslyn recently reached its full height. Construction, which has continued through the pandemic and some notable challenges, is expected to wrap up in the second half of 2021.

The Highlands, when completed, will consist of nearly 800 luxury rental apartments, just over 100 condos, 40,000 square feet or retail space, a renovated park, and a new ACFD Fire Station 10.

It’s located at 1555 Wilson Blvd, at a high point in the Rosslyn neighborhood, adjacent to H-B Woodlawn’s new building known as The Heights. Construction started in October 2018.

More on the topping out and the project, from a press release.

Penzance, a leading owner, operator, and developer in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region, today announced the topping out of all three of the towers for The Highlands, Rosslyn’s newest mixed-use, luxury residential community.

Perched on the hilltop with panoramic views of Northern Virginia, the Potomac River, and the iconic monuments along the DC skyline, The Highlands name is inspired by its geographic location as the highest point in Rosslyn. In addition to three distinct residential towers, destination retail, the Highlands will be home to a new and enhanced Rosslyn Highlands Park and a new headquarters to Arlington County Fire Station #10 all funded as part of a public-private partnership between Penzance and Arlington County.

The Highlands, built to LEED Gold certification standards, will be comprised of 104 luxurious condos, 780 rental apartments, and more than 50,000 square feet of refined amenity space and 40,000 square feet of carefully-curated retail space between the buildings at full build-out, all delivering in the second half of 2021.

“We are proud to see all three of our towers at The Highlands reach this major construction milestone on-schedule as we work to deliver this new community that is primed to transform Rosslyn when it delivers in 2021,” said John Kusturiss, Senior Vice President of Construction and Development for Penzance. “The Highlands will establish a lively neighborhood within Rosslyn that aligns nature with architecture to create a pedestrian-friendly and connected environment, just minutes from the very best of the DMV.”

The Highlands includes three distinct towers: Pierce, Aubrey, and Evo. The elegant design of each building incorporates environmentally sustainable interior and exterior elements. Marked by a distinguished style to meet the unique needs of the region’s burgeoning and diverse makeup, The Highlands serves as the heart of the repositioned Wilson Boulevard and is only a short walk to both the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations and Georgetown via the Key Bridge.

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Board has approved a nearly $4 million contract to plan, design and manage the construction of a new bus facility in the Green Valley neighborhood.

The Board unanimously approved the contract for a new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility at its Tuesday night meeting. The new facility will be built on a property along the 2600 block of Shirlington Road that the county bought for $24 million in 2018.

At the Board’s Saturday meeting, a resident expressed concern about temporary bus parking¬†at nearby Jennie Dean Park.

“I think we can safely say that we’re not going to park buses on Jennie Dean Park again,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in response, noting that the new facility is part of the reason why.

The imminent expansion of Jennie Dean Park and another recently-built ART facility in Crystal City are, presumably, the other reasons why there will be no additional temporary bus parking at the park.

As for the difference between ART’s $17.6 million Crystal City facility, and the planned Green Valley facility, with its¬†$81.2 million project budget, Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman¬†Eric Balliet said the two have different functions.

“The ART bus facility at South Eads and 32nd Streets, completed in summer 2017, is a smaller facility that includes a light-duty maintenance bay, a bus wash bay, compressed natural gas fueling station and parking,” Balliet told ARLnow. “The ART facility planned for Shirlington Road will include the permanent operations, administration, bus and operator parking and maintenance facilities necessary to support ART’s current and future needs.”

More on the contract approval, from a county press release:

The Board also voted unanimously to approve a $3.9 million contract with Stantec Architecture, Inc., for planning, design, and construction administration services for a new Arlington Rapid Transit (ART) Operations and Maintenance Facility at 2631 and 2635 Shirlington Road. The project, meant to meet ART’s current and future needs, will be built under a Construction Manager at Risk process to control costs.

ART, the County’s local bus service, currently operates out of four facilities. The new facility will improve transit efficiency and reduce operating costs by centralizing ART’s operational and administrative tasks and making it easier to perform preventative maintenance and unscheduled repairs. The facility will include permanent operations, administration, parking, and maintenance facilities to support ART’s growing fleet now and in the future.

The project will achieve at least Silver LEED Building Design + Construct Certification and will include sustainable materials and systems.¬† Community feedback will be sought this fall and winter during the concept design and advanced design phases. The project will also be reviewed by the County’s Public Facilities Review Committee. Staff plans a socially distant walking tour, online open house materials, and an online feedback form to help gather feedback. The facility is expected to be completed in 2023.

The total project budget is $81.2 million, which includes the 2018 land purchase, construction, equipment, and soft costs. Funding is mainly from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), with a combination of funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)  and local sources. The project was originally approved in the Fiscal Year 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Parent Group Calls Out APS — From the Black Parents of Arlington: “In addition to tracking incidents of racism, APS needs to implement mandatory anti-racism and implicit bias training for all teachers and staff throughout the system on a regular basis. Moreover, APS must begin to track incidents of racial and ethnic hostility and make these findings public. The time is now. We will no longer wait. Arlington’s Black children deserve better.” [Facebook]

Pizzeria to Open Next Month in Clarendon — “A storied Connecticut pizza shop is making one of its biggest moves, opening a new location in Arlington’s Clarendon neighborhood next month. Colony Grill is gearing up to debut Oct. 13 with a 5,200-square-foot space, taking over at 2800 Clarendon Blvd. for the Gallery Clarendon art installation pop-up that shuttered in February. The restaurant offers seating for 170 guests in three different areas.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Potomac Bridge Moving Forward — “With the state budget in tatters and commuter levels at record lows, now might hardly seem the right moment for Virginia to embark upon a $1.9 billion rail project. However, the recent conclusion of the¬†Long Bridge’s environmental impact study has cleared the way for the commonwealth to do just that.” [Virginia Mercury]

Eagle Scout Project at Fire Station 5 — “A special project is taking shape to honor the victims of September 11th.
A piece of steel from the World Trade Center was brought to the¬†Arlington County Fire Department¬†nearly ten years ago. Now, a local high school senior and aspiring Eagle Scout wants to transform the area into a place where people can gather.” [WUSA 9]

Arlington Man Jailed in Belarus — “A U.S. diplomat warns that her Belarusian American husband’s health is in ‘immediate danger’ following his late-July arrest by security forces of the authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Vitali Shkliarov, a political analyst and dual citizen who worked on the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders, was detained while visiting his parents in his hometown of Gomel, Belarus, in the runup to the country’s Aug. 9 presidential elections.” [NPR]

County Reaffirms Fair Housing¬†Commitment — “Arlington will continue to follow the federal government’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, despite the federal government’s July 2020 action to rescind that rule within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the County Board said in a resolution approved at its September 15 Recessed Meeting.” [Arlington County]

Local Historian Dies — “It is our sad duty to announce the passing of beloved historian Ed Bearss, one of the legends of the battlefield preservation movement and a long-time member of the American Battlefield Trust board.” [National Parks Traveler,¬†Twitter]

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Purple Lounge is resuming operations after reaching a settlement with Virginia ABC for the restoration of its liquor license.

Six people have been shot in violence linked to the business at 3111 Columbia Pike since last September, including a double shooting late last month and a triple shooting, in which one person was killed, in June. The continued violence, complaints from neighbors, and repeated code violations led Virginia ABC to suspend Purple Lounge’s license to serve alcohol earlier this month.

As a result of a settlement this week the business can resume serving alcohol — but with a number of restrictions.

The restrictions include “stopping all sales and consumption of alcohol at 12:45 a.m.,” “closure of the business no later than 1:00 a.m. and no reopening sooner than 8:00 a.m.,” and keeping four certified security guards on duty — including in the violence-prone parking lot — when the lounge is open at night.

In a press release Wednesday night, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county would have preferred the business been fully closed by Virginia ABC. She noted that further violations, however, could result in a permanent loss of Purple Lounge’s ABC license.

More from the county press release:

Today, Arlington County officials were informed of a settlement agreement reached between the management of the Purple Restaurant and Lounge and the Virginia ABC. Arlington County is not a party to this settlement.

“We are very disappointed that ABC did not fully close or revoke the liquor license for The¬†Purple¬†Lounge.¬† We view the result in this matter as only a partial step towards ensuring our community’s safety, which is our primary concern,” Libby Garvey, Chair of the Arlington County Board noted. “The restrictions now in place, if followed, at least offer a path forward. The penalties for failure to adhere to the restrictions include permanent loss of licensure. Our police and public health officials will work closely with Virginia ABC to ensure that this settlement is strictly followed. Our staff will be conducting regular visits and monitoring activity inside and outside of the¬†Purple¬†Lounge¬†to ensure full compliance.” Community members who observe behaviors believed to be outside of the negotiated agreement are urged to contact Virginia ABC or the Arlington County Police Department.

On September 1, following a series of disturbing events at the¬†Purple¬†Ethiopian Restaurant and¬†Lounge¬†(Purple¬†Lounge), the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (“ABC”) issued an¬†Order of Summary Suspension, temporarily suspending its alcohol licenses.

After an investigation, Virginia ABC cited two violations against the¬†Purple¬†Lounge¬†relating to its failure to take reasonable measures to prevent violence on the property, and the¬†Purple¬†Lounge’s adverse effects on neighboring properties.¬† A formal hearing was scheduled to occur on September 16-17th regarding the status of the¬†Purple¬†Lounge’s liquor license as a result of these charges. Possible outcomes ranged from full reinstatement of the¬†Purple¬†Lounge’s ABC licenses, partial reinstatement of the¬†Purple¬†Lounge’s ABC licenses with restricted hours, or full revocation of the¬†Purple¬†Lounge’s ABC licenses.

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