Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4 p.m.) President Biden visited Arlington National Cemetery this afternoon.

A week after the First Lady visited a nonprofit in Clarendon that supports military families, Biden is visiting Section 60 of the nation’s most hallowed ground, where servicemembers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried.

The visit immediately followed a speech at the White House in which Biden said all remaining U.S. forces will be withdrawing from Afghanistan, starting Saturday, May 1. The withdraw is expected to be complete by Sept. 11.

Some roads near the cemetery, including the Memorial Bridge, were temporarily closed due to the presidential motorcade. The president arrived at the cemetery around 3 p.m. and departed about 20 minutes later.

During the brief visit, Biden walked past a row of headstones carrying an unopened umbrella, the grass wet amid a light rain. He saluted a wreath and said of the many headstones, “it’s hard to believe, isn’t it?”

He expressed amazement at the sacrifice of those “prepared to give their lives for their country,” generation after generation, and said in response to a reporter’s question that it was not a hard decision to end America’s longest war.

“For me it was absolutely clear,” the president said.

File photo

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A man used a cord and then his hands to try to strangle a woman last night in Arlington’s Colonial Village neighborhood, according to police.

The reported attack happened around 7 p.m. on the 1800 block of N. Uhle Street, in the garden-style apartment and condo community between Courthouse and Lee Highway.

“The female victim was walking in the area when the unknown male suspect approached her from behind and tightly put a rope or cord around her neck,” the Arlington County Police Department said today in a press release. “The victim attempted to pull the object loose and fell to the ground with the suspect over her. The suspect then began to strangle her with his hands and stopped the attack when two witnesses arrived in the area.”

The man “fled the scene on foot and a canvas by responding officers concluded with negative results,” ACPD said. “The victim was transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.”

Police described the suspect as “a light skin Black male in his late teens to early 20’s, 5’6″ tall with a thin build… wearing frayed blue jeans, a black zip up jacket with red accents on the sleeves, a tan or beige shirt underneath and a black baseball hat.”

“This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected],” said the press release. “Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

Ballston games-and-drinks destination Punch Bowl Social is planning to reopen next Wednesday.

The “eatertainment” chain, which is emerging from bankruptcy, announced the news yesterday. ARLnow previously reported that the venue was in the midst of hiring for numerous positions.

“I’m excited to let you know that [on] Wednesday, April 21 Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its Arlington location,” a PR rep wrote. “Back and better than ever, Punch Bowl Social looks forward to welcoming guests again for food, drinks and entertainment!”

With vaccinations continuing at a record pace, Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its various games and activities, to let patrons “blow off steam.”

“Guests will be welcomed back to dine, drink and participate in available activities, including bowling, arcade games, ping pong, Bocce Ball and more,” the rep said. “Punch Bowl Social will host Happy Hour on Sunday and Wednesday-Friday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. with drinks and bites for $3-$7 and brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.”

According to Punch Bowl’s website, masks will be required except when seated at tables, and patrons are discouraged from congregating at bars or in open spaces.

Punch Bowl Social is located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, along the outside of Ballston Quarter mall.

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Morning Notes

Most Library Branches Still Remain Closed — “Arlington officials say it is no longer public-health concerns, but budget issues, that are keeping most of the county’s libraries locked up tight. And it’s likely most of them will stay that way for months to come. ‘Community health metrics are not the driving factor in regard to opening additional locations and services,’ library officials said in an e-mail to patrons last week. ‘The county [government] has been under a hiring freeze for more than one year. Libraries cannot open additional locations or services with current staffing levels.'” [Sun Gazette]

Rosslyn Startup Raises Millions — “Arlington meal delivery service Territory Foods has raised $22 million in fresh funding, the startup announced Tuesday… The company creates specialty meals that cater to a wide variety of specific diets, including paleo, Whole30, keto, vegan, low carb and low fat, among others. Customers can order the meals delivered in bulk once or twice a week.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Board Meetings Stay Virtual — “It could be summer before Arlington County Board meetings return to an in-person venue. The board schedule currently anticipates meetings through May will be ‘virtual’-only, as they have been since the spring of 2020 when the pandemic took hold.” [Sun Gazette]

Flower Market Coming to Rosslyn — “Roses are red, violets are blue, if you’re looking for fresh flowers, Rosslyn is here for you! With spring in full bloom, the Rosslyn BID is continuing Rosslyn Refresh with a series of outdoor flower markets. Rosslyn Flower Market will bring local plant, herb, and flower vendors to Central Place Plaza, Saturdays April 24-May 8.” [Rosslyn BID]

New Development to Host Temporary Hotel — “The developer of another new apartment complex is seeking permission to use some of the units as hotel rooms for a period, but is quibbling with county staff over how long that period should be. Arlington County Board members on April 17 will be asked to approve a proposal to permit up to 100 residential units in one of the two towers in ‘The Highlands’ to be used as hotel space.” [Sun Gazette]

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Police responded to an Arlington church last week after a man was seen open carrying a pistol on its grounds.

The incident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, April 8. A childcare center operates out of the church, on the 600 block of N. Vermont Street near Ballston.

“At approximately 2:32 p.m. on April 8, police were dispatched to the report of a subject openly displaying a holstered handgun while walking on a property containing an occupied child care facility,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The subject left the scene prior to the arrival of police and was not located in the area by responding officers.”

“The subject is described as a white male in his 50’s, 5’8″, medium build, white hair beneath a dark ball cap, long sleeve button-down shirt and tan pants,” the crime report continues. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Initially, officers told dispatch that the man might have been legally open carrying the gun. However, the crime report indicates that the incident is now believed to have been a weapons violation. It is illegal to open carry on the grounds of a childcare center or preschool during operating hours in Virginia.

An I-395 ramp near the 14th Street Bridge is blocked due to an overturned vehicle.

The reported two-vehicle crash happened around 11 a.m. on the ramp from northbound I-395 to Memorial Bridge, just before the 14th Street Bridge.

Initial reports suggest that an SUV and another vehicle collided, sending the former careening off the road, winding up on its roof next to a stand of trees. So far, no serious injuries have been reported.

As of just before 11:30 a.m., the ramp and all but one lane of northbound I-395 is blocked by emergency activity. Drivers should expect the ramp to remain closed for an extended period of time, as well as backups heading into D.C. on I-395.

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Arlington County is halting use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after a federal warning about rare blood clots.

The temporary pause in use of the one-shot vaccine at county-operated vaccine clinics is “out of an abundance of caution,” Arlington County said in a statement this morning.

D.C., Maryland and other Virginia jurisdictions are also pausing administration of the J&J vaccine, after a recommendation from the Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

“The CDC and FDA announced on Tuesday the review of data involving six reported cases of a rare and severe blood clot in individuals after they received the J&J vaccine,” Arlington County said. “Right now, these adverse events appear to be extremely rare. As of April 12, nearly 7 million doses of J&J have been administered in the United States.”

“All six cases occurred among women between the ages of 18 and 48, and symptoms occurred 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” the CDC and FDA noted in a joint statement.

In a press conference Tuesday morning, federal officials said at least one person was in critical condition as a result of the clots. There is no evidence of similar reactions to the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, they said. The pause is expected to last only a few days, and officials emphasized that the condition is serious, but exceedingly rare.

The county, meanwhile, says that those with appointments for J&J shots today will receive the Moderna vaccine instead.

“Individuals who have appointments Tuesday, April 13, at the Lubber Run Community Center, where Johnson and Johnson was being administered, will be offered the Moderna vaccine,” said the county statement. “The County will continue to hold clinics to the extent it receives available doses of Pfizer and Moderna over the next few days. Appointments may need to be rescheduled depending on whether the County receives additional doses of other vaccines or learns more about the status of the J&J vaccine.”

Arlington has accelerated its vaccination efforts recently thanks to more vaccine supply from the state, which is pushing to open appointments to the general public by next week. As of this morning, the county reached new seven-day highs for both vaccine shots administered and people fully vaccinated: an average of just over 2,700 shots per day and nearly 1,500 people fully vaccinated per day.

Nationally, the White House says it does not expect the pause in J&J shots to hinder its vaccination goals.

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) All lanes of northbound I-395 between Edsall Road and D.C. were shut down this morning for a funeral procession.

The body of fallen United States Capitol Police Officer William Evans was escorted to the U.S. Capitol, where he is set to lie in honor in the Rotunda.

Evans was killed on April 2 when a man intentionally rammed his car into a Capitol security barrier. He is the second officer to lie in honor at the Rotunda this year, after U.S. Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick was killed as a result of the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.

Arlington County’s emergency management office said this morning that northbound I-395 will be temporarily closed, for a period of time between about 9:45-10:45 a.m. Arlington police are assisting with the escort.

“Please seek alternative routes,” the county said.

Last week another large law enforcement procession escorted Evans’ body from the D.C. medical examiner’s office to a funeral home in Falls Church, via I-66.

File photo

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Morning Notes

County Opening Free Testing Site Today — “Arlington County is opening a no-cost, no-appointment, COVID-19 testing kiosk in the parking lot at Courthouse Plaza in partnership with Curative, which operates two additional sites in the County. The kiosk will be open seven days a week from 12-8 p.m., starting Tuesday, April 13.” [Arlington County]

Fmr. Arlington Waiter Now a Real Estate Kingpin — “In 2013, Heider, then 25, was working at an Italian restaurant in Shirlington when his manager became the assistant to a local real-estate agent. When this agent moved to Washington Fine Properties, Heider’s former manager brought him on to help. As the assistant to the assistant, Heider worked without any base pay, making money only when he brought in referrals. At night, he waited tables at the Crystal City Morton’s.” [Washingtonian]

Kitchen Fire at Pike Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters responded to a kitchen fire at the Dominion Towers apartments on Columbia Pike last night. No injuries were reported. [Twitter, Twitter]

Marymount Students Volunteering at Vax Clinic — “Since the start of the spring semester, students in Marymount University’s Nursing program have been using their classroom skills to serve as vaccinators in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic… [The students] are often on the team of registered nurses and EMS personnel who are on duty for vaccinations at the Lubber Run Community Center in Arlington.” [Marymount University]

YHS Finishes Football Season on Win Streak — “For the Yorktown Patriots, the shortened seven-game high-school football season was like two campaigns. There was the 0-2 beginning when the Patriots lost badly and struggled in all aspects of the game. Then there was the 5-0 finish, when Yorktown was vastly improved in all areas… Yorktown capped its season with a 24-15 victory over the T.C. Williams Titans.” [Sun Gazette]

Last Call: Vote in the Spring 2021 Arlies — Today is the last day to vote for your favorite local places, people and organizations in the spring edition of ARLnow’s Arlies awards. [SurveyMonkey]

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Arlington’s rate of new coronavirus cases is continuing to hold relatively steady, as vaccinations continue as an accelerated clip.

The trailing seven-day total of new reported cases in the county has not been above 300 since Feb. 17. It also has not dropped below 199. As of today, it stands at 243 weekly cases.

Arlingtonians are continuing to get very sick as a result of the virus. Eight new COVID-related hospitalizations have been reported over the past week. No new deaths have been reported over the past six days, however.

Amid a backdrop of continued infection, vaccinations in Arlington are proceeding relatively quickly.

Nearly 10,000 new vaccination doses have been administered since Friday. With more vaccine supply from the state, Arlington is administering an average of more than 2,500 doses per day, as it tries to complete its Phase 1B and 1C vaccinations before appointments are opened to the general public next week.

After trailing neighboring Alexandria on vaccination stats for most of the year, Arlington is now ahead of the city to our south in terms of percentage of the population that has received at least one vaccine shot: 34.2% for Arlington compared to 32.6% for Alexandria. But Alexandria still has a higher full vaccination rate and just today announced that it is opening vaccinations to all residents ages 16+.

Still, the number of people fully vaccinated in Arlington has risen dramatically over the past couple of weeks.

A total of 41,573 people have been fully vaccinated — with one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines — in the county, according to Virginia Dept. of Health data.

At the rate of new reported full vaccinations over the past week, it would take just over four months to fully vaccinate the remainder of Arlington’s adult population.

Of course, while Arlington has one of the highest rates of vaccine interest in the nation — 92% according to one study — there are still residents who may be reluctant to get the jab. To help increase vaccination rates, Arlington County Board and School Board members, as well as other local officials and hundreds of volunteers, canvassed the county on Saturday.

“Core members of the [Arlington Complete Vaccination Committee], along with over 250 volunteers, will be canvassing the County to share information with as many people as possible, utilizing yard signs, local businesses, door hangers and more,” the county said in a media advisory before the Saturday “day of action.”

“The Arlington County Public Health Division encourages all Arlington County residents 16 years old and older to pre-register now for the COVID-19 vaccine in preparation for Phase 2 of Virginia’s vaccination plan,” the county said.

Photo (top) by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II

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The stalled plan to redevelop the site of Rappahannock Coffee on Columbia Pike is going back before the Arlington County Board.

Next week, the Board is set to consider a Use Permit Amendment for the already-approved redevelopment of 2400 Columbia Pike. The amendment “would result in the addition of 6,500 square feet of overall density and an increase of 15 residential units with preservation of existing building facades.”

The changes would also add 36 new parking spaces. The proposal is being made by a new developer, as Columbia Pike-based B.M. Smith is apparently no longer in the proverbial driver’s seat of the long-delayed project, which was first proposed in 2013 and approved in 2016.

“A new entity is now pursuing construction of the 2400 Columbia Pike development,” says a staff report to the County Board. “The new applicant believes the proposed enhancements to the development program are responsive to current market conditions and will facilitate swifter implementation of the project. The design changes, when considered individually may have triggered an administrative change or a minor use permit amendment, but when considered collectively, have been determined to be a major use permit amendment.”

With 15 units added on, the updated project would include 120 total residential units, in addition to 13,000 square feet ground floor space for retail and office, and two levels of underground parking.

The new developer appears to be a small local firm called YW Capital Development, based near Tysons.

“YW Capital Development is a minority-owned real estate development company based in the DC metro area,” the firm’s website says. “Our business focus is development of multifamily and mixed-use projects in urban settings. Our mission is to achieve the most efficient use of land and the best architectural design while maintaining the historic integrity of the neighborhood. Founded at the peak of the housing crisis in 2009, we have successfully completed a dozen projects in the DC metro area.”

The developer’s website touts 2400 Columbia Pike as being “minutes [from the] Pentagon and new Amazon HQ2.” A request for comment sent to an email address listed for the company bounced back as undeliverable.

Nearby residents have previously expressed concern about the proposed development’s displacement of local favorite Rappahannock Coffee, as well as other small businesses. The plan involves tearing down three low-slung commercial buildings, preserving the facades of two.

Another concern, according to the county staff report: noise and light.

“Several residents of the neighboring condominiums expressed concern about potential noise and light impacts from the proposed balconies, loading dock, surface parking area, and outdoor open space located in the southern portion of the site,” the staff report says.

Others are hoping the redevelopment could allow a new bicycle connection on the southern side of the Pike, with Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt recently calling it “a critical opportunity for a bike-able Pike.”

The County Board is set to consider the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday, April 20.

Photos via YW Capital Development

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