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Some local developers are now set to hand over more than $6.8 million to help the county afford a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station, a project officials have hoped to finish for years in order to open up access to the subway stop for people living and working along N. Glebe Road.

The newfound cash stems from the long-stalled redevelopment of an office building at 4420 Fairfax Drive, which sits above the county’s planned spot for the new Metro entrance. The project’s backers are now offering up the money to help fund the entrance’s construction, in exchange for the County Board agreeing to extend deadlines for the redevelopment through end of 2022.

Originally, development firm JBG Smith was backing the project, known as “the Spire at Fairmont,” and it planned to build a new Metro entrance station at the same time as it constructed a new mixed-use building on the site. But that effort languished for close to a decade, and JBG sold the property to its current owners — Washington Capitol Partners, Kettler Development and Bognet Construction — in 2015.

That group has made little progress, however, and the “site plan” the county approved governing the redevelopment effort is rapidly nearing its July 2020 expiration date. Accordingly, the developers are looking for an extension, and negotiations with the county heated up earlier this year.

As part of that back-and-forth, Arlington officials told the developers that they weren’t interested in waiting for the new, 23-story structure to be built before moving ahead with the Metro entrance project. Instead, they asked for a simple cash contribution, and the companies eventually agreed, according to a staff report prepared for the County Board.

“The county has decided that it may be prudent to proceed on its own with the complete design and construction of the Ballston West Entrance… which would be more efficient considering differing time frames for completion of the developer’s project and transit improvement,” staff wrote.

Some of that urgency stems from the fact that Arlington previously won about $26 million in state funding for the project, but has yet to spend much of it. Officials don’t see any imminent threat that the funding could be “clawed back,” but are nonetheless anxious to show some progress on the project.

In general, it’s been tough sledding for the county to find any cash to power the construction in recent months.

Arlington was counting on regional transportation dollars to kickstart the project, asking for $72 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to wrap it up. But the group declined t0 hand out any cash for it — after losing out on tens of millions as part of the vagaries of the deal to provide dedicated funding to Metro — and Arlington was forced to push back its plans for the entrance by several years.

Any timeline for the project is still murky, however. The staff report notes that JBG paid an engineering firm to prepare some designs for the new entrance, but those plans were never “accepted by WMATA or the county.” The new developers have taken control of those plans, and if the county finds they’re up to snuff, Arlington officials could agree to reduce the cash payment they need to pony up.

The developers are also set to send the county just under $410,000 to secure some other zoning changes to allow construction to move ahead. Current plans call for 237 apartments and 9,200 square feet of retail space to be built on the site, in addition to a garage with 237 parking spaces.

The County Board is scheduled to sign off on the details of this deal at its meeting Saturday (March 16). The matter is slated to be considered as part of the Board’s consent agenda, which is largely reserved for noncontroversial items approved without debate.

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Plans are coming together for a major transformation of Rosslyn’s streets, as county officials advance a series of proposals designed to someday make the neighborhood a bit more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians.

The county is holding a public meeting tomorrow (Wednesday) to unveil a newly revised design for the future of Rosslyn’s street network. Known as the “Core of Rosslyn” study, planners have been working since 2017 to finalize a redesign of the neighborhood that comports with the “Rosslyn Sector Plan” the County Board adopted in 2015.

Some of the proposed changes, revealed in detail last fall, are quite substantial.

Perhaps the largest one is the removal of the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd, transforming it into a traditional at-grade, signalized intersection. The county could also follow through on long-contemplated plans of building a car-free, “pedestrian corridor” running from 18th Street N.’s intersection with N. Oak Street to N. Kent Street, replacing the Rosslyn skywalk system to make the Metro station more accessible.

Another major change included in previous proposals was the conversion of N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Moore Street into two-way streets. But officials are now rolling out a revised set of plans that would keep the latter two streets as one-way roads, after hearing feedback from the community on the study.

Planners have indeed seen Lynn Street as a particularly challenging option for opening up to two-way traffic. Though officials expect the change would make things a bit less confusing for drivers, it would also force the county to find new access points to the G.W. Parkway, I-66 and the Key Bridge.

Other proposed changes include 14 new or improved crosswalks for pedestrians, and more than 1.3 miles of new protected bike lanes. Those are largely set to run along Fort Myer Drive, N. Moore Street and N. Nash Street, and are designed to ease bike connections to the Key Bridge and the Mt. Vernon and Custis Trails.

The public meeting on the “Core of Rosslyn” plans is set for the Observation Deck at CEB Tower (1800 N. Lynn Street), located on the 31st floor of the massive office building, tomorrow from 4-7 p.m.

The county hopes to have final results of the study ready for consideration sometime this summer.

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An art studio for kids along Lee Highway is looking to double in size as part of its new expansion plans.

Art House 7, located at 5537 Lee Highway in Yorktown, is looking for the County Board’s permission to earn the necessary zoning changes to make the move. The studio has offered classes and summer camps on everything from painting to pottery-making since it opened in the space in 2015.

Art House 7 is currently based in a condo complex near the Lee Harrison shopping center, with classes offered on both floors of the small home. But its owners recently purchased an adjacent condo as well, located at 5535 Lee Highway, and wants to expand its operations there as well, according to a report prepared by county staff.

That would allow the studio to double the number of students allowed in the space at any given time, from 12 kids up to 24.

Staff wrote that they haven’t found any reason to deny that request, and noted that both the Yorktown and Leeway Overlee civic associations support the permit changes.

The matter is slated to go before the Board Saturday (March 16), as part of its consent agenda. That is generally reserved for noncontroversial items passed without debate.

So long as the Board signs off on this change, it would be up for review in one year’s time.

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington officials have pitched Amazon on a program to help the company slash its business license tax burden when it sets up shop in Pentagon City and Crystal City — but the county is also admitting that Amazon could avoid that particular tax altogether.

Should an incentive package designed to bring the tech giant’s new headquarters to Arlington win county approval this weekend, Amazon will still be subject to all manner of local levies. In particular, officials are counting on real estate tax revenues from the company to generate an extra $342 million for county coffers over the next 16 years.

But it’s an open question how much in business license taxes — a levy known as the “Business, Professional and Occupational License” tax or “BPOL” — Amazon will actually need to pay. It’s an issue that’s fueled outrage from local Amazon critics, who argue that the county shouldn’t be offering tax breaks to an extremely valuable company owned by the world’s richest man, which has already successfully avoided paying federal taxes for the last few years.

Documents show that county officials have already marketed Arlington’s “Technology Zone” program to the company, an incentive program that could help Amazon slash its BPOL burden by as much as 72 percent for the next 10 years. It’s unclear whether Amazon might qualify for the tax break, but county staff say it’s also a possibility that the BPOL tax might not apply to the company at all.

In a report prepared for the County Board ahead of this weekend’s vote, staff wrote that Amazon “may be classified as a type of company that is not subject to BPOL at all, such as a retailer or wholesaler.” State law does indeed allow for a variety of exemptions to the tax, with organizations from banks to newspapers eligible to avoid the BPOL levy.

Or perhaps Amazon could avoid the BPOL tax because it’s levied on each company’s “gross receipts.” Staff write that “as a corporate headquarters and global company, Amazon may not have gross receipts attributable to the Arlington location,” largely due to where the sales in question might originate.

Christina Winn, director of business investment for Arlington Economic Development, says the county will examine “the point of sale” in making that determination. If the sales happen somewhere other than Arlington, the BPOL tax may not apply to Amazon.

“Taxes are very complicated, especially with these large companies where all their consultants are based in other places,” Winn said. “They’re based here, but they may be on site in some other state.”

Victor Hoskins, the head of Arlington Economic Development, previously told the Washington Post that other companies with large corporate headquarters in the county (like Nestle and Lidl) have avoided the tax for just that sort of reason. He said it “just hasn’t been the case for large global companies” that they’ve been subject to the BPOL rate.

Staff stressed in the report that they haven’t included any BPOL revenues in their projections of the company’s fiscal impact on Arlington, given the uncertainty over Amazon’s eligibility for the tax. Instead, the county has based its revenue assumptions on real and personal property taxes, hotel stay and meals taxes and sales taxes — Arlington is also counting on BPOL taxes from the company’s landlord in Crystal City, developer JBG Smith.

“Because it’s such a big company with many different lines of business, and they don’t know what businesses are coming into the Arlington facility, we just assumed zero for gross receipts,” Winn said. “We just felt like that was the most conservative and responsible way to model this project.”

Amazon will need to sort out these tax questions with county staff, likely involving the commissioner of revenue’s office.

If the company does qualify for the BPOL tax after all, it could still apply for the “Technology Zone” incentive, though that only applies for 10 years, and would slash (but not eliminate) Amazon’s BPOL tax payments.

If the county judges that the business units located at Amazon’s Arlington headquarters have “a primary function in the creation, design and/or research and development of technology hardware or software,” the company would qualify for the tax break. The program has gone relatively unused since it was last updated in 2014 — for full disclosure, ARLnow’s parent company applied for the tax break in 2015, but was rejected, despite approximately 20 percent of the company’s budget being devoted to web design, development and hosting.

“That incentive zone is there for any business, and Amazon can take advantage of it, if they want to,” County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey said during an interview on WAMU 88.5’s Kojo Nnamdi Show Friday. “So, we’re really treating Amazon — as hard as it is to believe — basically, like any other business. So, we’re not telling them that every other business can make use of this tech zone incentive that we have and you can’t.”

The Board is set to vote on the incentive package at its meeting Saturday (March 16), including the heart of the proposed offer to Amazon: an estimated $23 million over the next 15 years, drawn from a projected increase in hotel tax revenues driven by the company’s arrival.

However, the county has recently conceded that number could go higher (or lower) depending on what sort of impact local hotels actually see in the coming years. Amazon will only be permitted to use that cash on building and furnishing its new headquarters.

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A new senior living center, perhaps the first to be built in Arlington in decades, could soon be on the way for a property along Lee Highway.

McLean-based Artis Senior Living has filed plans with the county to build a six-story facility with 175 units on a 2.79-acre property near Cherrydale. The building would be divided into two wings, surrounding a landscaped plaza and a new public park near the site, located at 2134 N. Taylor Street.

Artis has discussed the potential of bringing a senior living center to the property with neighbors in Cherrydale and Waverly Hills for close to a year now, but the company (which operates facilities across nine different states) only brought zoning applications to county officials in late November.

“The proposed facility would be the first new assisted living facility constructed in Arlington in almost 20 years,” Martin Walsh, an attorney representing Artis, wrote in a letter to zoning officials. “There is a sincere need for additional senior housing in Arlington. Currently, without sufficient capacity in the county, seniors are forced to look outside Arlington for assisted living. The proposed facility would allow Arlington’s seniors to ‘age in place’ and continue to call Arlington home.”

Artis’ plans call for one wing of the building to be about 173,600 square feet in size, with another at about 152,500 square feet. That would include room for 95 assisted living units, and another 80 specifically set aside for “memory care” patients.

The apartments would range in size from studios to one- or two-bedroom units. The buildings will overlook a plaza with green space for residents, which will sit over top of a partially buried parking garage. That will have about 108 spaces, under the company’s proposal, which Artis expects will be more than enough space for the center’s 50 employees.

The company also expects that close to 30 percent of its workforce will rely on nearby Metrobus and Arlington Transit routes to get to work, and a traffic analysis attached to the plans does not foresee the senior center impacting congestion on Lee Highway.

The new park, designed as a contribution from Artis to the county in order to benefit both the facility’s residents and neighbors, would be located at N. Taylor Street’s intersection with Lee Highway. Walsh noted in the application that a visioning study of the Lee Highway corridor completed in 2016 called for a new park on that site — the document was created ahead of a broader effort to draw up new plans for the entire corridor, which just began in earnest last month.

Once the county signs off this proposal, Artis plans to purchase the property, which is made up of several different parcels of land along the 4300 block of Lee Highway. They were owned for decades by the Courembis family, and neighbors have often debated what might become of them, though the homes on the land now sit empty, according to Arts’ application.

The company is asking for some zoning changes to allow for the construction of a senior center in the area, and submitted this application as a “site plan,” a process that will involve an additional layer of county scrutiny.

The Site Plan Review Committee will now hold meetings on the project and its design. Should it withstand that group’s review, it will need to advance to the Planning Commission and, ultimately the County Board for approval.

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Arlington Metro riders might soon notice some digital screens displaying local artwork popping up at five stations sometime this spring.

WMATA plans to install the new screens at a dozen stations across the Metro system over the coming weeks, including several stops in Arlington itself: Crystal City, Ballston, Pentagon City, National Airport and Rosslyn.

The screens are part of Metro’s “Art in Transit Program,” which seeks to “work with cultural organizations and stakeholders to integrate art content into the new digital displays,” according a report by county staff. The County Board is set to approve an agreement this weekend that would allow Arlington Cultural Affairs to submit content to be displayed on the screens.

“Through this collaboration, WMATA is seeking to create a dynamic transit experience that increases community awareness and pride, and provides customers and the public with additional access to vibrant art produced by partnering organizations,” staff wrote in the report.

Other groups contributing artwork include the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the NOMA and Golden Triangle business improvement districts.

Arlington’s artwork is set to appear on the screens for “20 seconds at least every six minutes for a period of at least 28 days,” according to the report.

The Board is set to sign off on the project at its meeting Saturday (March 16), but riders should start noticing the screens as soon as this week. WMATA is scheduled to install the Crystal City screen from March 11-15, then bring the screens to the other Arlington stations sometime between April 29 through May 3.

This wouldn’t be the first public art project bound for the Ballston station, in particular — the station is set for a colorful, LED-light makeover sometime within the next few years.

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

You might’ve spotted some snow flurries today, but this weekend figures to feature a major warm-up.

Though temperatures may remain a bit chilly through Saturday, the forecast includes rising temperatures up to the 50s by tomorrow afternoon. By Sunday, things could even make it to the 60s and 70s.

That makes it a fine end-of-winter weekend to check out one of the many events on our event calendar.

Or if you need to catch up on our most popular stories from the past week, look no further:

  1. Arlington Couple Featured on Episode of HGTV’s ‘House Hunters’
  2. New Polling Ranks Arlington Among Country’s Most Politically Intolerant Counties
  3. Arlington Once Again Ranked ‘Best City to Live in America’
  4. Ballston Quarter Food Court Opens to Customers, Though Just One Restaurant is Serving Meals
  5. Police: Man Broke into Apartment, Kissed Sleeping Woman on the Cheek

Head down to the comments to discuss these stories, your weekend plans or anything else local. Have a great weekend!

Flickr pool photo via Tom Mockler

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Construction work on the Ballston Quarter pedestrian bridge will prompt yet more road closures tonight (Friday), but the more extensive work set for weeknights is on hold for a bit.

For the second straight week, workers plan to close Wilson Blvd between N. Randolph and N. Stuart streets starting at 8 p.m tonight through Sunday at 6 p.m.

Workers lifted the bridge’s frame into place over Wilson last month, where it will eventually connect the newly revamped Ballston Quarter development with the neighborhood’s Metro station, running through the Ballston Exchange development at 4201 Wilson Blvd.

However, the four months of work set to snarl traffic in Ballston on weeknights is on hold, county officials announced this week. They’d originally planned to start closing the eastbound lanes of Wilson Blvd to allow for more glass installation on the bridge starting Monday night.

“Due to recent inclement weather, installation work on the pedestrian bridge was delayed,” Will Voegele, senior vice president for mixed-use development at Brookfield Properties (the company that bought Ballston Quarter developer Forest City) wrote in a statement.

“Barring any additional weather-related delays, construction will continue to move forward as scheduled,” he added.

The county says that weeknight closures will now begin on March 17. From 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. each night, the eastbound lanes of Wilson Blvd will be off-limits to drivers for the next eight weeks. Then, they’ll close the westbound lanes for another eight weeks.

This is far from the first delay for this project, or Ballston Quarter as a whole. Forest City had originally hoped to have the bridge open in time for stores to begin opening at the development this fall, before pushing back construction for months.

The developer has also missed its own targets for opening some stores to customers, and it’s currently unclear where things stand with its new food court. A few restaurants are now open in the new “Quarter Market,” but it’s unclear when the full, 14-restaurant food hall will be ready.

Photo 1 via @ArlingtonDES

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For the last few years, pie chef Sol Schott has relied on the kitchen space at Columbia Pike’s Twisted Vines Bar and Bottleshop to whip up his wares — now, his Acme Pie Company is taking over the storefront.

Schott told ARLnow that he signed a five-year lease this week for the space at 2803 Columbia Pike. It’ll be the first brick-and-mortar location for his baking business, after he spent years selling his pies wholesale and offering them up at local farmers markets.

“It’s really terrifying, but weird and exciting,” Schott said. “This just sort of fell into my lap.”

Schott said he’d been toying with the idea of opening a physical location for a while now, but he felt compelled to act as he faced a stark choice at the start of the new year: “I had to either move the kitchen or take over the lease.”

That’s because Twisted Vines owner Tony Wagner decided to shutter the wine bar at the end of last year, along with the nearby BrickHaus beer garden, to focus on his new Italian restaurant in Penrose Square. Schott had relied on Wagner’s oven for his pie-baking ever since he launched Acme back in 2013, and he suddenly found himself without a home when Wagner closed up shop.

Though he examined other potential locations, Schott said he ultimately decided to try and stay put in the Pike space (he lives in nearby Douglas Park, after all) and he was eventually able to strike a deal with its landlord.

Schott is now envisioning a “1920s or 1930s pie bar” for the store, befitting his business’s throwback name. He’s also planning a bit of an old-school schedule as well — Schott hopes to keep his wholesale business going, so he’ll be hard at work baking pies from about 5-10 a.m. each day.

If anyone stops by the store while he’s slaving away at the oven, he’ll run upstairs and sell them a freshly baked pie.

“I’ll have a baby monitor or something out front so they can talk to me,” Schott said. “People used to do that back in the day, they’d ring a bell or something… It’s unconventional, but it makes no sense for me to just be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.”

When the store is open (likely starting around 2 p.m. each day), Schott hopes to still serve whole pies and pies by the slice, with many of the same flavors he currently bakes up. Options include everything from sour cherry to Scottish apple.

With the new store, he also plans to offer some “fancy sodas” and other sweet treats as well.

“If you’ve got pie, you should probably have ice cream,” Schott said. “And if you have that, it’s pretty easy to make milkshakes.”

He expects to offer limited coffee options, buying his beans from Misha’s Coffeehouse in Old Town Alexandria. But he doesn’t think he’ll get more complex than just drip coffee or a french press.

“As long you don’t come in there and think you’re going to get a vanilla macchiato or whatever, you’ll be OK,” Schott said. “I don’t know anything about it, I can’t compete with those other coffee places.”

So long as all goes well, he plans to open the shop for hungry customers by April 1. Schott says he has some painting to do “to make the place not feel like a wine bar anymore,” but otherwise already has many of the permits he needs from the county.

And considering that Schott says he’s already heard from a bevy of friends and customers excited about his new venture, he expects it should draw a crowd right away.

“I want it to be a fun place, a place for the community,” Schott said. “But my idea is kind of off the wall.”

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Two of the three restaurants moving into the space formerly occupied by La Tasca in Clarendon now expect to open their doors later this month.

The TTT Mexican Diner and Buena Vida, set to occupy the first and second floors of the building at 2900 Wilson Blvd, are now set to open on March 18.

Street Guys Hospitality, the restaurant group backing Clarendon’s Ambar and Baba, laid out menu details and released concept photos of the new restaurants in a release yesterday (Thursday). The group had previously targeted a February opening for the space.

Owner Ivan Iricanin has been hard at work on the new eateries since last April, shortly after La Tasca closed its doors following a 14-year run in the neighborhood. He’s also planning a rooftop bar on the building’s third level, though he’s not expecting that to open for a while yet.

On the first floor, Street Guys says that the TTT Mexican Diner — initially dubbed “Tacos, Tortas and Tequila” — will feature 86 dining rooms seats across a 3,500-square-foot space. It will also include a bar area and a 30-seat outdoor patio.

The restaurant will serve brunch, lunch and dinner, and the restaurant group says the “tacos and tortas will be the main attraction,” with both tortillas and tortas made fresh in-house.

TTT will also boast a full bar with “agave cocktails as well as classic margaritas,” the release said.

As for Buena Vida, the second-floor restaurant will showcase “traditional, indigenous fare that incorporates recipes that have been handed down through generations.” The 3,700-square-foot space will include seating for 101 people, including a bar and private dining room.

The menu will include a raw bar, plenty of soups and seafood, in addition to an “approachable list of wines from Mexico.”

Iricanin previously opened a similar pairing of TTT and Buena Vida in Silver Spring last year.  He’s also planning to bring a new Ambar location to Northwest D.C. sometime this year, which will be his second in the city.

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County Board Chair Christian Dorsey is making a run for re-election, joining fellow Board member Katie Cristol in a bid for another four years in office.

Dorsey formally announced his bid at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting last night (Wednesday), according to the group’s website. The county’s elections office also now lists Dorsey as a candidate for the Board, which has two seats on the ballot this fall.

Dorsey did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment, but he’s telegraphed a run for another term for several weeks now. He held a Super Bowl-themed fundraiser in early February, but held off on formally announcing until now. Cristol, who won office in 2015 alongside Dorsey, announced her re-election bid last month.

The pair won spots on the Board four years ago as relative political newcomers, triumphing in a crowded, six-way caucus to earn the Democratic nomination and then decisively winning in the general. Dorsey had run for county office before, but his background is mainly in work at D.C. think tanks.

Since joining the Board, Dorsey has taken a leading role on transit and housing issues, most notably serving on Metro’s Board of Directors. He rotated in for a one-year stint as chair back in January.

Dorsey and Cristol have since helped steer the Board through several tough budget years, as persistently high office vacancy rates have strained county coffers, and also been tasked with navigating the complexities of bringing Amazon to Arlington, and the resulting debate over the deal.

As of yet, however, no other Democrats have stepped forward to challenge the pair in a June 11 primary. Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo said that other candidates have until March 28 to file for the race, otherwise the party will call off the primary.

“I have not heard of anyone else seeking the Democratic nomination at this point, but there is still time,” she told ARLnow via email.

However, independent (and perennial candidate) Audrey Clement has already announced plans to run for the Board in the general election.

There’s broad speculation as well that recently ousted independent John Vihstadt could mount a comeback bid, after losing to Democrat Matt de Ferranti this fall.

In an off-off-year election, where only local offices and statehouse races will be on the ballot, Cristol and Dorsey could well face a taller task in fending off Vihstadt. De Ferranti was buoyed, in part, by a surge of Democratic voters, eager to send a message to national Republicans in the 2018 midterms.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and Dels. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District), Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) and Mark Levine (D-45th District) also formally announced their re-election bids at last night’s meeting.

Favola and Lopez have drawn primary challengers so far; Sullivan and Levine are currently unopposed.

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