Arlington, VA

Clarendon Day and two other festivals will take to Arlington streets on Saturday, prompting celebrations, road closures, and delicious food all around.

The massive Clarendon Day street festival which draws tens of thousands of attendees will run from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. this Saturday, September 21, and will feature food trucks and booths from vendors like donut maker Good Company, live music, arts and crafts vendors, and dance performances.

The annual Clarendon Day races will also return. Participants can sign up for the 5K race at 8 a.m., and a 10K race at 9 a.m. starting at Wilson Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, with both finishing in Rosslyn at Wilson Blvd and N. Fort Myer Drive. Runners also have the option of running both races.

Children can take part in their own, 713-foot race around the plaza driveway of the Market Common. The race, which starts at 9:30 a.m., welcomes parents along with kids and does not require separate registration for both. All kids who join the race will be awarded for their participation.

Registration costs $15 for the “Kids Dash” race, $45 for the 5K, and $50 for the 10K. Runners interested in both the 5K and the 10K can pay $55 for both races.

ACPD will close several streets from 3 a.m. until approximately 10 p.m. to make room for the festival, including:

  • Wilson Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and N. Garfield Street
  • Clarendon Boulevard between Washington Boulevard and N. Garfield Street
  • N. Highland Street between Washington Blvd. and N. Hartford Street

Police will also close additional roads for the races from 5-10:30 a.m.:

  • Wilson Boulevard, between N. Garfield Street and Route 110
  • N. Kent Street, between Wilson Boulevard and 19th Street N.
  • The entirety of Route 110 northbound, from Route 1 to Wilson Blvd. Southbound lanes remain open to traffic.

Elsewhere, near Columbia Pike, police will close 9th Street S. between Walter Reed Drive and S. Highland Street from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. to make way for the Prio Bangla Multicultural Street Festival, which celebrates pan-Asian and Latin American cultures and runs from 12-9 p.m.

The all-day festival will feature vendors with traditional foods, as well as handcrafts, clothing, and jewelry, paintings and henna art, and representatives from local businesses.

“By simply the trading and transferring of ideas, customs, beliefs, cultural habits etc. between diverse cultures living here in the USA, we would be able to accomplish our vision of living in harmony in this community,” organizers wrote on its event page.

Meanwhile, the newly renamed Green Valley neighborhood will also be throwing a celebration of its history and culture from 12-6 p.m. at Drew Elementary School (3500 23rd Street S.)

The community party will feature a DJ, a basketball tournament at 2 p.m. for youth and service workers, as well as a fish fry and barbecue.

“Today, residents pride ourselves on being part of a community where all are welcome,” organizers wrote in an email announcing the event. “Despite development, migration and gentrification that have altered the demographics drastically, we are determined to retain our unique identity as Green Valley continues to be one of ‘Arlington County’s Finest Communities.'”

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A group of local students is organizing a demonstration in Arlington tomorrow (Friday) as part of a nationwide climate change strike ahead of the UN Climate Change panel.

Teenage organizers of the Northern Virginia effort say they’re organizing a teach-in about environmentalism from 8-11 a.m. at American University, followed by a rally beginning at 11:45 a.m. outside Arlington County government headquarters (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse, to help the planet they’re about to inherit.

“The most important thing is to educate,” said organizer and Yorktown High School student Hannah Knittig. “That goes for government officials and also to the public.”

The students organizers are working with the Northern Virginia chapter of the Youth Climate Strike organization, and is hoping to attract attendees and passersby to the Courthouse rally with speeches, a voter registration table, and posters the local effects of climate change.

“I hope they can see that they can get involved from home where they live,” said another organizer, Cecelia O’Sullivan, 15, at the Potomac School in McLean. “They can see that this is really an accessible moment happening all over the country.”

The teen organizers who spoke to ARLnow cited concerns about global warming raising flood threats and spawning more extreme storms, also noting how activities like fracking pollute the environment and contribute to the problem.

“Our water supply and our excessive need of products in Arlington impacts people who live in Blacksburg and all over Virginia,” said Knitting. “I definitely know that my lifestyle, and my family’s lifestyle, does impact other people.”

“Seeing all these very small occurrences, which at first they don’t link immediately link to climate change. But once you dig deeper, you just see it’s all part of that larger effect of climate change,” said Saahithi Achanta, 17, who is also helping organize the event from Chantilly High School.

Knittig, 16, said that around eighty students from across the Northern Virginia area have signed up to join the Arlington strike, and another 80 students have pledged to attend the same-day sister strike in Richmond.

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The redevelopment of the Westmont Shopping Center could be one step closer to reality after this weekend.

The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on moving the project forward during their meeting this Saturday, September 21. Developer Republic Properties Corporation (RPC) is seeking a use permit for the project, which aims to build six-story mixed use building with 250 housing units on the site and 22,500 square feet of retail space.

County staff have recommended Board members approve the permit, per a staff report to the Board.

Plans to demolish the current single-story strip mall and parking lot, located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road, have been discussed for a year.

The 1.82 acre lot lies within an area designated for revitalization, subject to Columbia Pike Form Based Code, which is intended to streamline development within certain parameters.

The code lays out guidelines which cap a building’s stories to six and include other standards for projects along the Pike. In the case of this development, it allows the developer to build all market-rate housing, eschewing committed affordable units despite the county’s dwindling stock of affordable housing.

RPC is also planning to build a two-story parking garage with 343 parking spaces for cars, in addition to 60 above ground spaces. The garage will include 104 bike parking spaces, with 90 reserved for residents, per plans submitted to the county. Inside the donut-shaped building will be a courtyard with amenities for residents.

County staff issued a report stating that the new housing would only cause “minor increases in delay” for traffic at nearby intersections. As part of the project, RPC has promised to add three bus stops to the area, two along S. Glebe Road and the other along the Pike.

Elsewhere along the Columbia Pike corridor, developers have also proposed to bulldoze the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center, which is currently home to tenants like Turkish restaurant Atilla’s, dance studio the Salsa Room, and the beloved Burritos Bros food stand. Replacing it would also be a six-story, mixed-used building made up of housing units and ground floor retail.

Images 1-2 via Arlington County, 3-4 via Arlington County, Image 5 by Alex Koma

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A shuttered restaurant space in Ballston is getting a makeover now that a new wellness center with botox services is moving in.

Posters for D.C.-based Javan Wellness advertise a late summer 2019 opening for its new space space at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston. Co-owner Anita Abdeshahian told ARLnow today (Wednesday) that the business is eyeing an October opening after some construction delays bumped their original September plans.

The wellness center offers botox, dermal fillers, laser hair removal, and IV hydration among other services, and the location will be Javan’s second after it debuted on U Street last year.

Abdeshahian said Ballston has a “unique vibe” and praised the energy new developments like the renovated Ballston Quarter mall and Ted’s Bulletin bring to the area.

“I personally have looked into moving to the Ballston area,” she said. “I love the atmosphere, the people, it just seems like such a great location for young professionals. They’re just happy people who want to have a good time.”

The wellness center is filling in the space which once housed Mike Isabella’s restaurant Pepita Cantina, which opened in 2015.

The Mexican restaurant closed in 2018, along with Isabella’s neighboring restaurants Kapnos Taverna and Yona after Isabella settled a lawsuit that accused him and his business partners of groping and sexually harassing female staff and declared bankruptcy.

Now Abdeshahian and her co-owner and brother Dr. Ehsan Abdeshahian are planning an October grand opening party with music and skincare product giveaways. But first, she says they’ll put the final touches on the medical space she hopes will be designed with an “artistic” flare instead of a sterile one.

“It looks like at this point we’re just waiting on some permits and certifications and things like that,” added Abdeshahian.

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A $17.2 million overhaul of the Boundary Channel Drive interchange along I-395 is in the works.

Plans call for overhauling the existing, difficult-to-navigate interchange near the Pentagon and Crystal City with two rotaries, to be installed on either side of I-395.

The 150 and 160-foot wide rotaries aim to merge traffic from Boundary Channel Drive and the Pentagon Access Road on the left, and the Boundary Channel and Long Bridge Drive on the right. The project would remove I-395’s two southbound loop ramp, and add a new multi-use trail, shared by cyclists and pedestrians, connecting the Mt. Vernon Trail to Long Bridge Park.

The project will be managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and is expected to cost around $17 million.

The Arlington County Board will review an agreement for the project during its upcoming meeting this Saturday. As of Tuesday, the project was featured on the Board’s consent agenda, a place usually reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

Officials hope the redesign will better connect to the long awaited Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center and better serve area commuters, as staff noted in a report to the Board:

The Interchange serves the Pentagon (five million square foot office building with 25,000 employees), Pentagon City (12.7 million square feet of office, 2.3 million square feet of retail and over 13,000 residential units), Crystal City, Long Bridge Park plus its future park expansion and the future Aquatics & Fitness Center, which is expected to draw regional visitors from Maryland and the District of Columbia, as well as from the areas south and west of Arlington in Virginia. The existing interchange design is dated and will need to be redesigned to better serve the transportation needs of the existing and future land uses in the area.

The county held public meetings to showcase the designs in 2015, during which staff noted feedback “varied greatly.” The points staff said residents agreed on included:

  • There needs to be fewer ramps onto I-395
  • Rotary islands need to be designed to not allow cars to speed
  • Pedestrian crossings need to be designed to reduce conflicts with cars and bicycles

County staff also noted that plan for the trail meets goals set by the newly-upgraded bike element of the Arlington County Master Transportation Plan to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to use the Mt. Vernon Trail.

“The Mount Vernon Trail connection is an extremely critical part of the project and will create a much-needed link between Long Bridge Park and the trail,” the staff report said.

Image 3 via Google Maps

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(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department is urging Metro to keep its Metrobuses from blocking fire hydrants in Pentagon City.

The call came after retired reporter, former volunteer firefighter, and fire service consultant Dave Statter tweeted videos and pictures for weeks of Metrobuses blocking two hydrants on S. Hayes Street outside the Pentagon City Metro station.

Blocking fire hydrants carries a $50 penalty in Virginia because getting around vehicles can delay firefighters in an emergency, as well as make it harder to ferry water to the fire.

“The best way to get water to a fire is a straight line from the hose,” Statter told ARLnow. “When it being blocked the pumper can’t get a good angle to the hydrant, or get can’t get to the hydrant.”

In response to Statter’s dogged chronicling of blocked hydrants, ACFD replied on Friday that “we are working with WMATA to address this issue of unattended buses in front of hydrants. Our Fire Marshals will be stepping up patrol and enforcement.”

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli told ARLnow today (Tuesday) that one of the hydrants was scheduled to be removed but was delayed due to construction. In the meantime, he said the fire department gave Metro permission for Metrobuses to load and unload passengers at the stop — provided the buses don’t stop in front of the hydrant for too long.

“At some point that message got lost in translations,” Tirelli noted.

Pictures Statter snapped at the hydrant last week showed two Metro supervisor SUVs parked in front of the bus.

“The worst part of today’s blocked hydrant was when the bus finally pulled away after at least 20 minutes,” he wrote. “The electronic sign showed the mission it was on — ‘Driver Training.'”

“At no time should buses block fire hydrants,” Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta told ARLnow.

“This policy is being reiterated to every Metrobus operator, and field supervisors are increasing their focus on Pentagon City to ensure proper procedures are being followed in bus layover areas,” said Jannetta in an email Tuesday afternoon. “Metro’s bus operators are trained and expected to comply with all traffic laws. We appreciate this matter being brought to our attention to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Statter also tweeted out a video of an out of service bus parked at the hydrant for 10 minutes back in August, writing that, “WMATA workers need breaks. They need to pee. They need to eat. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of safety.”

At the time, a spokeswoman for the transit agency told the Washington Post that its drivers should not be parking in front of hydrants.

“At bus terminals, operators are expected to use the proper layover bay and at no time should buses block fire hydrants,” spokeswoman Sherri Ly said. “If someone does see this we would ask that they report it.”

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(Updated at 5:25 p.m) Amazon drew an overflow crowd to its Crystal City career fair this morning as people vied for the 30,000 jobs Amazon recently announced it’s hiring nationwide, including at its new HQ2 in Arlington.

At last minute, the company tacked on extra hours to the event, which was one of six job fairs Amazon held as it looks to fill 30,000 jobs nationally — including 1,600 jobs in Virginia and 400 in Arlington. The fair was held at The Grounds at S. Eads Street and 12th Street S. today (Tuesday), leading applicants toting resumes to line up along 12th Street almost to the Route 1 overpass.

“I would say that we are incredibly pleased, and humbled, by the response from the community, ” said Amazon’s Vice President of People Operations, Ardine Williams. “I’m not sure what we expected but it’s what we hoped for. This is just amazing.”

Around noon Williams offered tips about interviewing for the company’s jobs (show leadership), writing resumes (be specific), and what the company culture was like (permits failure) in an on-stage conversation with Linda Thomas, a former Seattle journalist who now leads in-house content creation for Amazon.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about what we’re doing to ensure that there is a pipeline of talent. We came to Arlington because of the talent,” Williams said.

The head of hiring noted that the D.C. area’s universities were a big part of that pool and the company’s strategy for thinking of the 25,000 people it plans to hire for its new headquarters over the course of the next 10 years.

Thomas touted promotional videos throughout the event, which showcased Amazon’s decision to raise its minimum hourly wage to $15 last year for all workers, after facing criticism for the conditions in its warehouses.

Some job seekers at the Crystal City fair today wore fitted suits with ties knotted four in hand, while others chose more casual attire — with one job seeker wearing cargo shorts and a Nirvana t-shirt.

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As some indicators point toward another recession around the corner, local economists say Arlington would likely escape the brunt of a downturn.

The recession that kicked off after the country’s housing market collapsed in 2008 devastated communities and families nationwide. But experts say Arlington’s proximity to jobs and contracts from the federal government helped protect the county, and its growing business sector today may also help shield it from future recessions.

How the Great Recession Hit Arlington 

Alex Iams, the Interim Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED), said when it came to the last recession, Arlington was “the last in and the first out.”

“In the last recession Arlington fared pretty well from what I can see,” agreed George Morgan, a finance professor at Virginia Tech, in an interview. “It’s not to say that everything was rosy, but compared to other parts of the country, Arlington didn’t do so badly.”

“At least a third of the [local] economy originates with federal payroll or federal procurement spending or other government spending,” said Stephen Fuller, the high-profile professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason University, when asked what helped cushion Arlington during the collapse.

However, Morgan noted that office and multi-family developments saw “pretty dramatic effects” from the recession as he said some companies’ cash-flows dried up and projects were put on pause. That affected those in the real estate development and construction industries.

Morgan also noted that the education and medical sector were hit harder in Arlington than in other parts of the country, but also rebounded faster in the last 10 years. “That’s a big plus if that happens again,” he said of future recessions.

Both economists agreed that lower-wage jobs were hit hardest by the Great Recession. By 2011, the county’s largest food bank reported a record-breaking number of families seeking help.

“In the low wage industries, Arlington basically looks the same as the rest of the country,” said Morgan, of Arlington around that time. “That was not a pretty picture.”

But Fuller and AED director Iams argued that the economic impact on the county of losing 35,000 jobs through federal sequestration was greater. “Base realignment and closure was really our recession,” said Iams.

How Next Recession May Affect Arlington

While predicting economic downturns can be fraught, Iams and the professors agreed the country is prepared if another one happens soon.

“In Arlington, they’re not seeing the signs of [a] recession that you’re seeing it elsewhere,” said Morgan. “It maybe be that Arlington kind of dodges a bullet if there is a next recession.”

The damage the county would sustain would depend on what exactly would cause the next recession.

“If it’s the trade war that causes it, retail will probably suffer,” said Morgan. “But with the Arlington economy being so insulated from trade, I think if that’s the cause of a recession then the Arlington economy will still do well.”

Fuller explained that “anything that is discretionary begins to take a hit,” including elective purchases like cosmetic surgery, luxury fashion, tourism, and restaurants.

But the professors pointed out that many higher-wage industries — like cybersecurity, which is growing across the D.C. area — can actually weather recessions quite well. Morgan cited an Urban Institute report show that the county has a large share of high-paying jobs from business service companies like Deloitte and government contracting jobs via the Department of Defense.

How Amazon Would Impact a Recession

Iams noted that the county has since 2008 added even more corporate jobs as companies like Lidl, Nestle, and Amazon moved into town.

When it comes to Amazon’s massive planned headquarters, the officials said it’s another potential insulator for the county against future recessions by virtue of the 25,000 people it has pledged to hire — and the others businesses and universities its presence attracts to Arlington.

“They know that Amazon burns workers out after 4-5 years, and they’re still software engineers, so they’ll look around for other, similar-type jobs,” said Fuller. “Amazon is going to make Arlington the epicenter of the talent pool.”

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Autumn-lovers rejoice: a hard cider fest is coming to Rosslyn next month.

Multiple cider breweries are expected to set up stations in Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway) on Thursday, October 17 so attendees can wander and sip at will. Festival goers will also be able to prove their mettle in a pie-eating contest later that afternoon.

Pie eating champions will compete for “a basket of Rosslyn goodies,” and will have one minute to eat a whole pie, according to the event description on the Rosslyn Business Improvement District’s website.

“We’re sure you’ve done your share of wine and beer tastings, but do you know how to taste cider and distinguish between varieties?” event organizers wrote. “Well, now’s your chance to learn more about this delicious alcoholic beverage that’s favored by many who don’t like beer.”

The festival will start at 4 p.m. and end at 8 p.m. that day. Attendees are encouraged to purchase tickets online — which cost $15 and cover the cost of sampling eight different brews — before they sell out.

Other Arlington festivals have offered mulled and regular ciders in years past, but this marks the second time Rosslyn squeezed a cider-only festival into the mix.

Image courtesy of Rosslyn BID

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A portion of the Custis Trail in Arlington will be soon detoured for the next year as crews continue to work on the widening of Interstate 66.

Starting Monday, September 16, trail riders and walkers will not be able to follow the Custis under I-66 where the trail now passes near Bon Air Park until fall 2020, per the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Instead, the department will detour people over the highway via an existing pedestrian bridge about 750 feet from the underpass.

“Extensive work will occur on the I-66 bridge that runs above the trail, which requires the underpass to be closed for safety,” VDOT officials wrote in a statement yesterday (Wednesday.) “As part of the construction, the Custis Trail alignment will be modified to improve safety for trail users.”

The pedestrian bridge travelers will be re-routed to is paved and connects the Custis Trail to Fairfax Drive near Kensington Street.

The trail closure itself was previously expected to start this past May.

“Construction schedules can be fluid with design built projects, but overall we are still on track and schedule,” VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Holland told ARLnow today (Thursday.)

The $85.7 million highway widening project also closed a section of the W&OD Trail between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway. That trail section will remain closed until next fall as crews build a new bridge over Lee Highway.

Holland said while construction crews work on widening the I-66 overpass near Bon Air Park, crews will also add a rotary to the south side of the Custis passage underneath. The new roundabout is designed to eliminate the sharp right turn into the tunnel that currently causes conflicts between those entering versus exiting the passageway. She added that current plans call for no trees to be cut down in the park.

As part of the I-66 project, officials have pledged to make several improvements to county’s trails, including new park benches, bike shelters, fencing, and trail signage.

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Developer JBG Smith may be planning to let people sip alcohol as they browse shops and sit outdoors in shopping areas near Amazon’s future headquarters in Pentagon City and Crystal City.

State records with the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Authority Control Authority indicate that the developer applied for a “Commercial Lifestyle Center” license this week. The special license is part of a 2018 law allowing shoppers to bring alcoholic beverages into shops or outdoor plazas to encourage consumers to stay longer and attend outdoor events.

Under the new law, shopping centers can apply for a license provided they have at least 100,000 square feet of retail space and demonstrate they can police the area, as reported by the Washington Business Journal. The law also requires the application come from an association of businesses in a shopping area, not a single business on its own.

JBG Smith applied for the license via a newly-created organization called National Landing Business Owners Association Inc., which listed a phone number in the application matching JBG Smith’s Chevy Chase office.

A spokeswoman for the developer declined to comment when reached yesterday (Tuesday.)

The Association was formed in June by an attorney from the Arlington-based law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, which represents JBG Smith on several projects, including the two towers they’re building at Amazon’s Metropolitan Park headquarters.

One place in the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area — dubbed “National Landing” — at which the developer could use the license would be its Crystal Square project. The project aims to redevelop the block of Crystal Drive into a “retail hub” between 15th Street S. and 18th Street S.

JBG Smith has called for adding new retailers like an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, a grocery store, and an outdoor dining area to the block near the Crystal City Metro station.

Image via Gensler

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