Press Club

Compass Coffee is planning to open a drive-thru location along Langston Blvd in Arlington this summer.

The D.C.-based coffee shop chain is currently in the midst of construction of its first ever drive-thru location at 4710 Langston Blvd, in the Waverly Hills neighborhood, a company spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow.

The hope is to open late this summer.

The nearly 2,700-square-foot space formerly housed a SunTrust Bank, which closed in 2020. A building permit was applied for in February that called for a new build-out and interior demolition.

In addition to the drive-thru, which was first reported by the Washington Business Journal, the space will also have an indoor cafe, similar to other Compass Coffee locations.

This will be the company’s third Arlington store, joining existing cafes in Rosslyn and Ballston. Compass also just opened a location in Fairfax back in March, furthering its reach into Northern Virginia.

Overall, Compass Coffee currently has 14 open locations.

In terms of coffee drive-thrus, there’s some buzzy competition just down the road. A mile away from the new Compass Coffee, Starbucks has its own drive-thru — also a repurposed bank. The Starbucks has attracted long drive-thru lines, sometimes extending out to Langston Blvd, particularly at the height of the pandemic.

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Long-time Ashton Heights resident Trudy Ensign was happy to talk about a lot of things during her 101 years. She loved to paint, bowl, watch the Washington Nationals, and was a constant presence at Clarendon United Methodist Church.

But there was one thing that she never talked about: Being an intelligence analyst for the United States Army during World War II.

“No, never,” chuckles Jane Brown, Ensign’s daughter. “Even when stuff started becoming redacted or public knowledge.”

Gertrude Carley Brown Ensign died on February 28, but this past weekend a memorial service was held in her honor at the church on N. Irving Street.

During the eulogy, Reverend Tracy McNeil Wines told all those sitting in the pews paying their respects what Ensign never would.

“She used her intelligence to gain intelligence for our nation,” Wines said. “And… we enjoyed having this secret spy woman in our midst.”

Ensign was born in Iowa in 1920, lived through the Great Depression there, and was recruited out of college by the Army Security Agency (a precursor to the National Security Agency) to move to the D.C. area to help with the war effort.

She was stationed at Arlington Hall, like so many others in the Women’s Army Corps. While she wasn’t a famed “Code Girl,” Ensign undoubtedly supported their efforts.

“She knew Morse code, so [the Army] literally sent her all over the world, to Panama, Japan, Hawaii. During the Vietnam War, she worked at the [Arlington] base too,” Brown tells ARLnow. “She was the highest grade civilian woman when she retired. It was a big deal and she got all of these awards.”

In 2018, Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History interviewed Ensign about her time working for the Army and living in Arlington in the mid-20th century.

After the war, she stayed in Arlington, got married, bought a house in Ashton Heights, and had two children.

For decades, Ensign was deeply involved in the Arlington community. She was known to hand out sandwiches in the Central Library parking lot to those in need, supporting the work of A-SPAN (now, PathForward). She was president of the Maury School PTA and was a Girl Scouts troop leader, serving alongside Annie Glenn.

And she alway made time for her church. She was the membership secretary of Clarendon United Methodist for years. As former Reverend Eugene Thomas noted at the memorial service to laughs, Ensign always knew who was at Sunday services — and who wasn’t.

In September 2020, the Ashton Heights community celebrated the resident’s 100th birthday with a socially-distanced parade, signs, and well-wishes. Her positive thinking, enthusiasm, and sense of humor was on full display sitting in front of her long-time home.

“Somebody may be looking at this real estate,” she told ARLnow at the time, laughing. “But I think I’ll keep telling them how the roof leaks and they’ll go someplace else.”

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A new cafe and lounge is hoping to open in Crystal City within the next couple of months, the owner tells ARLnow.

Crush Cafe at 546 23rd Street S. comes from Yoseph Abegaz, who owns Flirt Lounge next door. It’s filling a space that was once occupied by a dry cleaners and shoe repair shop. The location was first rented last June and a building permit to alter the interior was first applied for in September.

The new cafe is set to serve coffee, Abegaz tells ARLnow, as well as beer, wine, and mixed alcoholic beverages.

Abegaz described the new cafe as essentially an “expansion” of Flirt Lounge, a hookah bar and lounge that opened in 2016. He declined to give an exact timeframe about when his newest venture may open, only that they are still in the midst of licensing and permits.

It will be at least a “couple of months” before Crush Cafe can open, Abegaz said.

That strip of 23rd Street S. is known as “restaurant row.” With Amazon HQ2 moving in down the road and extensive development happening in the neighborhood, there remains some questions of the aging, low-slung retail strip’s long term viability.

Nonetheless, much like Crush Cafe, new eateries continue to set their sights there.

Beauty Champagne & Sugar Boutique just started serving bubbly earlier this month at the corner of 23rd Street S. and Fern Street. A halal restaurant franchise is hoping to open a new concept by the end of the year on S. Eads Street, just around the corner from Crush Cafe’s new home. A half block down, a Korean rice dog eatery was planning for an early 2022 opening but that appears to be delayed, with the restaurant’s website still not accepting orders.

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(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) B Live, a live music venue and restaurant, is officially opening to the public this week in the former Whitlow’s on Wilson space.

“The space, which was formerly a portion of beloved classic Whitlow’s on Wilson, will allow guests to engage with the local music scene and enjoy food and drink with a nostalgic, retro diner feel,” said a press release. “B Live will feature live performances 5 nights a week, with a rotating line-up of acoustic solo performances, live bands, and djs.”

The venue at 2854 Wilson Blvd is set to open on Thursday (May 12) with limited bar snacks menu. A full menu and brunch will start serving later in this month on May 25. The first three live musical acts are set with Bryen O’Boyle performing Thursday, My Hero Zero on Friday, and 8 Track Jones on Saturday.

B Live is the latest venture from Michael Bramson, owner of The Lot beer garden and Clarendon Pop-Up Bar in the Clarendon Ballroom space, both of which are located less than a half a mile away from his newest nightlife hangout.

B Live is occupying about 4,100 square feet of what was once Whitlow’s, the beloved Clarendon nightlife spot that closed last June. Capacity will be under 300, including a planned outdoor dining area with seating for 48.

Another Bramson concept, dubbed Coco B’s, is set to open on the rooftop later in the summer.

The interior of B Live “pay[s] homage to live music history” with vinyl record covers and musicians collages lining the walls, and “music hall lighting” adding to the ambiance.

The highlight is a mural entitled “Legends Live Forever” featuring caricatures of musicians such as “Bob Marley, Prince, and Janis Joplin crossing the famed Penny Lane in Beatle-esque fashion.” It was created by local artists Michael Pacheco and Rodrigo Pradel.

“There will be plenty of photo ops throughout the space: find your favorite album on the wall, stand by one of Legends that Live Forever, or snag a photo in front of a neon sign saying ‘bad decisions make good stories,'” notes the release.

The menu, though not yet finalized, is set to be curated by Chef Juan “Nacho” Olivera, formerly of Virginia Square’s Detour Coffee Co. and other local restaurants. There will be an all-day brunch menu, “Clarendon’s only DIY Bloody Mary Bar,” and “cereal milk shooters.”

“Cereal milk from childhood favorites like Lucky Charms, Fruity Pebbles, and Cocoa Puffs will be infused with vodka and liqueur and served in 4 oz mini cereal bowls,” the release says.

ARLnow reported that B Live was coming to the former Whitlow’s space in December, after Five Guys pulled out of a deal to come to the location.

In March, neighbors brought up concerns about noise at the new venue.

“We are all in support of music, we are all in support of living in an urban dwelling, we understand the considerations that come with living in these neighborhoods,” one neighbor told the County Board after it approved use permits for the space. “But it’s now at a point on Wilson Blvd, in Clarendon, that it’s having a tremendous impact on individuals.”

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Ground was officially broken yesterday morning on the first phase of the $29 million extension of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway.

At a brief ceremony on Monday (May 9) near the site of a future Crystal City bus station, at the intersection of 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive, local officials gathered for remarks and photos with golden shovels to christen the first phase of the long-planned transit project.

“The transit way extension is really important because it is going to support the increase in regional travel demand in Pentagon City, Crystal City, and our partners in Potomac Yard,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol during the ceremony. “As they continue to boom with the arrival of new businesses.”

Just last week, aerospace company Boeing announced it was moving its corporate headquarters to its existing Crystal City office — a short distance from where the groundbreaking was taking place.

The planned Pentagon City extension will add just over a mile to the 4.5-mile rapid bus transit corridor, eventually to connecting Amazon HQ2 and the Pentagon City Metro station. The Transitway will include center-running transit-only lanes cutting through 12th Street.

The first phase is expected to take about a year to finish, with an estimated April 2023 completion date. The work over the next 12 months will include the installation of two new transit stations at Crystal Drive and 15th Street S. and at 12th Street S. and Long Bridge Drive.

Locals will also see streetscape improvements along 12th Street S. between S. Eads Street and S. Clark Street, as well as the intersection of 12th Street S. and Crystal Drive. Some existing street parking  along the route will become part of the dedicated bus lane.

Added transit stations that are set to be constructed during the first segment of the Transitway to Pentagon City extension (image courtesy of Arlington County)

Surveying work started last month with actual construction expected to start in June, a county spokesperson told ARLnow. Street parking will be limited in some of those areas when construction begins, but residents will be notified prior.

The Transitway is dedicated infrastructure for the Metroway rapid bus transit line. It first debuted in 2014 and was hailed for being the first of its kind in the region. While it has achieved some of its initial goals,  a lack of ridership, planned features not yet implemented, and confused motorists sometimes driving the wrong way in bus-only lanes have been ongoing challenges.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) is contributing most of the funds needed for the extension, including $19 million to the first phase alone.

Despite recent significant shifts in commuter patterns due to the pandemic, NVTA chair Phyllis Randall says the project remains a necessity and a good investment.

“I believe in the scope and I believe in the extension,” said Randall, who is also the Loudoun County Board Chair. “We know that people are going to keep moving to Northern Virginia… for jobs, for schools, for so many reasons. We need these transit options because people are coming here. I don’t think the need is diminished at all.”

Boeing’s increased presence in the neighborhood was noted several times in the ceremony as further proof that this extension is needed.

While it may not result in many new jobs, Cristol said the corporate giant’s decision shows that the county’s efforts in becoming more business-friendly are working.

“Arlington has spent a lot of time during my tenure on the [County] Board to reoriented ourselves to be more business friendly, to be more creative, to be more flexible, and to build better relationships with our commercial tenants. So, it feels like validation,” she told ARLnow.

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Arlington Public Library is getting more than a half a million dollars to add 12,000 more titles to its collection, mostly in the form of ebooks.

Last month, the County Board adopted a budget that included a one-time allocation of $543,000 to the county library system for the purpose of adding to its collection. That money will kick in at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

“The additional funds will allow us to get more books into more hands, more quickly,” said Library Director Diane Kresh in a press release. “A well-stocked, diverse collection benefits the entire community.”

Notably, the money will go towards increasing the library’s collection of electronic titles. The demand for both of these are at an “all-time high,” according to Arlington Public Library, with check-outs increasing by 210% for eAudio titles and 98.5% for eBooks since 2019.

The hope is that the extra funds will help “drastically reduce” how long patrons are waiting for popular titles.

“The lion’s share of the one-time funding will go towards bringing down those wait times by adding more copies of ebook/eaudiobooks with high holds to the collection,” Peter Petruski, who is in charge of the library’s collections, told ARLnow via email.

A smaller portion of the funding will go to more copies of print books, since demand isn’t as high as it is for electronic versions. Print books cost less than their electronic equivalents, Petruski noted.

“The growth in the e-material formats has been the biggest change in recent history,” Petruski writes. “This funding will allow us to continue to provide a broad collection for every reader’s interest while bringing wait times down.”

The library will also expand its catalog of Spanish language books with some of the funding.

The County Board approved its $1.5 billion annual budget last month. In it, Arlington Public Library was allocated a total of about $16 million — an increase of close to 6% from the previous year’s budget.

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A “Maker’s Market” in Pentagon City and a “spring fling” block party at Shirlington are both set to take place later this month.

Currently scheduled for Sunday, May 15 and Sunday, May 29, a “Marker’s Market” is set to happen in the plaza at Westpost (formerly, Pentagon Row) in Pentagon City. It will feature more than 30 artists and craft vendors, including local businesses Shop by Nancy, Fera’s Loft, Chase McClough, and Victoria Barnes Photography.

The event is free and tickets are not required. The market will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

Then, on Saturday, May 21, the Village at Shirlington is putting on a “Spring Fling Village Block Party” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event will feature live music, a market, restaurant pop-ups, pet adoptions at Dogma, and a corn-hole tournament benefiting the Alzheimer’s Association. The tournament will start at noon and cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.

A number of restaurants are also participating in a “sip & stroll,” allowing customers to take their cocktails to go.

A featured pop-up at the block party will be Astro Doughnuts, the owners of which are bringing a beer hall to Shirlington. The beer hall is aiming for a summer opening.

The Shirlington block party is also free and tickets are not required.

The retail centers, both owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust, have seen a lot of turnover in recent months. Target and Nighthawk Pizza opened at Westpost over the past several weeks, while sushi restaurant Kusshi and “taco temple” Banditos are expected to start serving very soon.

At Shirlington, a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is replacing I-CE-NY. The Cookery closed earlier this year and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls is moving towards an opening later this year.

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Late night chalupas and booze appears to be coming soon to Courthouse, with Taco Bell preparing to open its newest Cantina location.

A permit was filed earlier this week for a new Taco Bell at 2039 Wilson Blvd, county records show. The location is likely to be the fast food chain’s restaurant-bar combo, Taco Bell Cantina, as reported by the Washington Business Journal.

The permit notes that work is being limited to the first floor and will include a new HVAC system, electrical, plumbing, furniture, and kitchen equipment. A single-use restroom will also be part of the construction.

The space at 2039 Wilson Blvd was formerly after-work staple Guarapo Lounge, which closed nearly six years ago after being open for a decade and a half. Next door is a post office.

It appears that Taco Bell will be just filling the space’s 2,166-square-foot first floor, leaving the second floor open for another tenant.

The restaurant’s dining room will have an occupancy of 48 and the queuing area of a dozen, per the Washington Business Journal.

It’s unclear when the new eatery might open.

“We don’t have any details to share currently,” a Taco Bell spokesperson told ARLnow.

If this new Courthouse location does end up being a Taco Bell Cantina, it will be the third regional location of the fast food spin-off. This includes eateries in Old Town Alexandria and in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of D.C.

The main difference between a regular Taco Bell and a Cantina is that the latter sells alcohol, including beer, wine, sangria, and “Twisted Freezes.”

This would notably be a return to the neighborhood for the chain. More than a decade ago, there was a Taco Bell on the hill between Rosslyn and Courthouse — alongside the late, lamented bar Dr. Dremo’s — before the old buildings were demolished and a new mixed-use development at 2001 Clarendon Blvd went up.

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Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.

With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.

Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.

Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.

But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.

This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.

Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.

Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.

This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.

“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.

Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.

Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.

At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.

This was all coming to a head as the Pike, in general, continues to grapple with redevelopment and questions of how to keep small, local businesses on Arlington’s “main street.”

But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle has led to the closing of a popular court at Glebe Road Park.

A new pilot program that began last month at the North Arlington park is temporarily closing a stand-alone outdoor pickleball court through the majority of the spring and summer.

As a replacement, the tennis court next to it is now striped to create two additional pickleball courts. With the change, there are now two lighted multi-purpose tennis/pickleball courts and one lighted tennis court at Glebe Road Park. The park’s hours also have been adjusted, with the lights now shutting off at 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.

The reason for these changes is that the pop of pickleball — an increasingly popular sport — is bothersome some nearby neighbors in the Old Glebe community.

“One of the issues with pickleball is complaints of the popping noise the paddle makes when it hits the ball,” Martha Holland, a spokesperson for the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, tells ARLnow. “These concerns are not unique to Arlington but are prevalent in many communities nationwide. Many jurisdictions are grappling with finding the balance [given] the growth in pickleball.”

“These concerns were present before the COVID-19 pandemic,” Holland added. “However, the increase in play on the dedicated pickleball court at Glebe Road Park during COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation.”

The pilot program is set to run until September 6 and, at that point, the county will determine next steps.

“We will be checking in with the community (neighbors and court users) a couple times during the pilot to get feedback,” Holland wrote. “We hope to mitigate the sound issues by moving pickleball to the tennis courts.”

It’s no secret that pickleball’s popularity has surged over the last two years, due in part to it being a relatively low-impact social sport that allows players to stay within a relatively safe distance from one another.

This has, in turn led Arlington County to increase the number of courts available for pickleball.

But it also has caused some challenges. For one, there’s a limited number of available court space in the county. Back in November, county officials expressed some frustration that pickleball players were going rogue and unilaterally marking off pickleball boundaries on existing tennis and basketball courts.

At Glebe Road Park, the re-striping of a tennis court for pickleball hasn’t sat well with everyone vying for a share of that prime concrete real estate.

Helen White, part of the Arlington Pickleball Club‘s leadership team, says she’s heard from members that they’ve been “bullied” by tennis players when using the courts.

There is a county-run reservation system, allowing residents to book one of the tennis courts in 60 or 90 minute increments at $10 an hour. However, with many spots open, it’s unclear how much the system is actually utilized.

Then, there’s the noise of ball meeting paddle.

It was a single household that first brought a noise concerns to the county’s attention in August 2020, Arlington’s Director of Constituent Services Ben Aiken confirms to ARLnow. As time went on, though, more households complained to the county about the popping noise, Aiken says.

There was even talk of a petition, supposedly signed by about 20 households all living near the park on N. Old Glebe Road, though Aiken tells ARLnow that he has yet to receive a formal petition and is not aware of one circulating in the community.

ARLnow attempted to reach out to the homeowner who initially complained to the county, but they declined to speak for this story.

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DekaLash is looking to open this summer in Clarendon, replacing Cherry Blow Dry Bar (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new lash and brow studio is taking shape in Clarendon, set to open in a former salon space.

DekaLash is aiming for a July opening at 1041 N. Highland Street. That was the location of Cherry Blow Dry Bar for about six years until it closed last summer citing financial issues.

Services the studio provides include lash lifts, lash fanning, lash extensions, eyebrow sculpting, eyebrow threading, and eyebrow lamination.

“A hugely popular service these days since Hollywood stars started promoting it in recent years,” writes a company spokesperson to ARLnow.

This will be the fifth DekaLash location in Northern Virginia, adding to the other shops in Alexandria, Sterling, Manssass, and the Mosaic District in Fairfax County. In total, there are more than 110 DekaLash shops across the U.S. and Canada.

The Arlington DekaLash team will be all “certified, licensed, and experts in their field,” the spokesperson says. Additionally, there are other state requirements to work in the industry.

“In Virginia, lash artists must hold a Virginia esthetician or cosmetology license,” said the spokesperson. “Applicants must then successfully complete our six-week training program and ongoing monthly meetings and training.”

Clarendon has seen a series of new businesses — mostly restaurants — opening in recent months.

Brass Rabbit Public House first started serving last month, in the former Bracket Room location. Buena Vida Gastro Lounge reopened several weeks ago at 2900 Wilson Blvd after a rebranding. Chipotle just opened last week on Clarendon Blvd. The new diner-esque eatery UnCommon Luncheonette has also now started serving breakfast and lunch at the corner of N. Garfield Street and 11th Street N.

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