Press Club
A fireworks booth at the corner of Columbia Pike and Glebe Road (file photo)

The Arlington County Fire Department is sharing a few tips for those planning to using fireworks privately over the upcoming Independence Day weekend.

Only fireworks that emit flames or sparks within 12 feet and have a burning fuse of more than 1.5 inches long with a burning rate of more than four seconds are legal locally this year, according to the 2022 Consumer Fireworks Fact Sheet published by the county. The fireworks can not emit projectiles.

Fireworks that explode in any form or rise in the air, such as bottle rockets, are prohibited. Fireworks can not be used on public properties belonging to the county, state or the federal government.

Those who use, sell or distribute the illegal fireworks may receive a Class 1 misdemeanor charge, which carries a jail sentence of 12 months and $2,500 in fines, the fire department said.

A list of permissible consumer fireworks includes over 2,000 products which the public can purchase. The State Fire Marshal’s Office conducted field tests on the listed products to ensure their performance standards.

When using fireworks, the fire department cautioned folks to keep a minimum distance of 25 feet from other people and buildings, to only light one stick at a time and to move away after doing so. Fireworks users are also advised to only set them off in outdoor areas away from vehicles, according to the department.

Additionally, ACFD recommends only buying fireworks from local retail outlets that display a valid permit issued by the department’s Fire Prevention Office.

When the festivities are over, used fireworks should be submerged into a bucket of water to ensure they are extinguished before throwing them in the trash.

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A new business launched by Pacers Running has donated more than 100 pairs of sneakers to Arlington students from low-income families.

Relay, which sells second-hand and refurbished running shoes, donated 104 pairs of sneakers in April to The Clothesline for Arlington Kids, said Chris Farley, owner of Clarendon-based Pacers Running. Farley also promised to donate around 100 more over the summer and 200 in the fall.

The initial batch of shoes was given to Arlington Public Schools students who received outfits from the Clothesline, which donates clothing to children in need, the nonprofit’s co-founder Ben Sessions told ARLnow.

“I think if I can get some kids that might not be able to afford some of these shoes on their feet, that is pretty cool, I feel really good about that,” Farley said. “I think it’s really important to support the communities that you live in.”

Relay has previously donated shoes to track teams across the country, as well as to other nonprofits in Arlington like the Jennifer Bush-Lawson Foundation, he said.

“We’re committed to donating 1,000 pairs this year,” Farley said. He added that he hoped one day the business could donate 10,000 pairs of shoes.

Relay receives from vendors shoes that had been returned by customers, then cleans the shoes and gets them ready for resale. In the case of the Clothesline donations, Farley said he donated pairs with a long remaining shelf life.

Shoe donations of this size are rare for the nonprofit, co-founder Ellen Moy said. She said her organization usually receives “one pair of new shoes once a month.”

“It’s very uncommon to get new shoes donated to us, so when kids get a new pair of shoes, they are so happy,” she said. “I just feel like it really makes a difference in their lives.”

Shoes from Pacers would normally be out of the price range of the families going to The Clothesline, Moy said. Each pair sells for between $80 and $150 in retail, Farley said.

“Most low-income families do not have the opportunity to get high-quality [shoes],” she said.

One of the nonprofit’s volunteers, who is also Farley’s former neighbor, introduced him to The Clothesline earlier this year, Sessions said.

“He was looking for an opportunity to help support local nonprofits in the community,” Sessions said. “So we started a conversation and that culminated in him donating about 104 pairs of shoes in April to us.”

The Clothesline has given away around 100,000 pieces of clothing since it was founded in 2018, Moy said.

“People are happy to have us in the community, so we’re a great place to donate clothes that are still in excellent condition and we’re a great place to distribute clothes,” she said.

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Five “Complete Streets” roadway project designs are ready for community feedback.

As part of Arlington County’s Complete Streets program, the projects aim to improve safety and access on local roads. The changes are usually made in conjunction with repaving projects and mostly involve re-striping the roadway, sometimes at the expense of parking or through lanes.

According to the project website, the five stretches of roadway that are up for improvements this year are:

  • Wilson Boulevard — N. George Mason Drive to N. Vermont Street (Bluemont)
  • Clarendon Boulevard — N. Garfield Street to N. Adams Street (Clarendon / Courthouse)
  • Clarendon Boulevard — Courthouse Road to N. Scott Street (Courthouse / Rosslyn)
  • S. Abingdon Street / 34th Street S. — Bridge over I-395 (Fairlington)
  • N. Ohio Street — 12th Road N. to Washington Boulevard (Madison Manor / Highland Park-Overlee Knolls / Dominion Hills)

Those interested in giving feedback on the designs can fill out an online form on the project website through Wednesday, July 6. The final plans are expected to be released in late summer or fall.

S. Abingdon Street bridge

The design plan for the bridge over I-395 in Fairlington (via Arlington County)

The county’s Department of Environmental Services plans to remove under-utilized parking from the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington.

The project would add buffer zones to the bike lanes to improve access for cyclists and safety for those using the sidewalks, while narrowing the travel lanes for speed control, according to its concept design summary.

Residents previously expressed concern about drivers speeding on the bridge while students walk to and from school.

The bridge is also part of a planned VDOT rehabilitation project, which will include adding concrete protective barriers and replacing bearings.

Wilson Blvd between N. George Mason Drive to N. Vermont Street

A portion of the design plan that adjusts turn lanes on Wilson Blvd (via Arlington County)

The segment of Wilson Blvd in Bluemont between N. George Mason Drive and N. Vermont Street, near Ballston, could see additional high contrast markings at high conflict crosswalks, according to the designs.

The plan is to reduce Wilson Blvd to one travel lane in each direction, with a center turn lane into N. George Mason Drive to better control vehicle speed.

The design plan also includes modifying markings to extend the left turn lane near N. George Mason Drive. The project would also add bike lanes and a continuous center turn lane east of the fire station.

The section of Wilson Blvd between George Mason and the Safeway grocery store saw similar changes last year.

Clarendon Blvd from N. Garfield Street to N. Adams Street

A portion of the design plan of the project on Clarendon Blvd near N. Garfield Street (via Arlington County)

A segment of Clarendon Blvd is set for changes between N. Garfield Street and N. Adams Street, in the Clarendon and Courthouse area, including the removal of nine parking spots.

Apart from reducing parking spaces, the project team also plans to add high contrast markings at high conflict crosswalks. A bike box is set to be added at Clarendon Boulevard’s intersection with N. Garfield Street to make turning easier for cyclists.

The plan will also add parking protection to the bike lane between N. Garfield Street and N. Edgewood Street. A county summary says residents in the area expressed concern about speeding, unsafe pedestrian crossings and double parking in the bike lane.

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Clarendon’s LOFT store is expected to close next month.

The women’s clothing store in The Crossing Clarendon — formerly known as Market Common Clarendon — is expected to close on Monday, July 18, according to a sign on the store’s door.

Store staff received the closing notice around two weeks ago, an employee told ARLnow. The store began notifying customers of the closure around a week ago.

“We got about a month’s notice of the store closing,” the employee said.

The decision to close was not made at the local store’s level and those working at the Clarendon location did not know much about the decision, the employee added.

“We just really find out that ‘the store’s closing at this day and this is what you have to do to close it down’ pretty much,” the employee said.

A paper sign announcing the closing date is taped to the store’s front door. Similar signs are placed on several display tables inside, as well. Currently, the store is in the midst of a July 4 sale, giving out a 40% discount to purchases.

As of publication time, a leasing agent for the shopping center has not responded to questions about the future of the storefront.

The Clarendon store is one of two LOFT stores in Arlington. After its closing, the only location in the county will be at Westpost — formerly Pentagon Row — at 1101 S. Joyce Street. There are no plans for the Clarendon location to move, we’re told.

LOFT’s corporate communications department declined to comment on the closure, stating it has a policy of “not providing comment on individual store openings or closings,” describing them as “a natural and ongoing function of doing business in retail.”

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Current Boutique owner Carmen Lopez stands next to the donation drop off box (courtesy of Carmen Lopez)

Arlington resident Carmen Lopez has heard stories about panicked moms scrambling to find baby formula.

Lopez, owner of local fashion chain Current Boutique, said one mom couldn’t find the formula she needed and ordered it online. But she was afraid it wouldn’t come in time.

“She’s called family members in Florida, in California, in New York, just to send her formula because it’s a specific formula that she needs for her baby,” Lopez said.

Many mothers in the D.C. area face similar situations as there’s a shortage of formula across the country. The out-of-stock rate for baby formula in Virginia was 64.3% as of May 28, which was lower than the national average of 74%, according to Bloomberg.

As a mom, Lopez wanted to help other moms.

So, she partnered with The Napkin Network, a D.C. nonprofit focused on giving moms in need baby formula, diapers and wipes. She and The Napkin Network founder Lindsay Gill organized a donation drive at Current Boutique stores.

“A friend actually told me about what [The Napkin Network was] doing and I thought, ‘How could I help?’ Because I have heard from moms, from people that I know that are struggling to get formula,” Lopez said.

Through Tuesday, July 19, there will be drop boxes at each of the three Current Boutique locations in Clarendon (2601 Wilson Blvd.), Old Town Alexandria (1009 King Street) and Logan Circle (1318 14th Street NW, D.C.).

A donation box for baby formula inside a Current Boutique store (courtesy of Carmen Lopez)

Those who donate receive a 20% discount when shopping at the boutique, and can also receive tax donations receipts at the drop-off locations. The baby formula donated needs to be unopened and unexpired.

Around 100 mothers a week receive a new can of baby formula from the donation drives organized by Gill, who is a mother using baby formula in Rockville, Md.

“The formula that’s not picked up on site, we’ve given out to partner organizations in the Washington D.C. area,” she said.

One such organization is Feed the Fridge, which places refrigerators around the D.C. area and pays local restaurants to fill them with fresh meals. The organization is now distributing baby formula at 10 locations in Maryland and D.C.

“Hopefully it’ll be an ongoing initiative,” Gill said.

Lindsay Gill, founder of The Napkin Network, poses with diapers (courtesy of Hilary Phelps)

Although The Napkin Network was founded to collect and distribute diapers and wipes, the nonprofit has put a pause to collecting those to focus on formula.

“The Napkin Network has sort of paused all other efforts in terms of collecting diapers, wipes, and we’re still doing it but it’s on the back burner because we really have to focus on formula,” Gill said.

Since the drive began, there have been a couple of donations at each of the Current Boutique stores, most of which were the Similac formula, Lopez said.

“I think what we’ve been doing since Tuesday is just spreading the word,” she said.

Several baby formulas are more in demand than others. Enfamil Gentlease, which advertises itself as “easing fussiness, gas and crying,” is a popular request. It is currently listed as out of stock on its manufacturer’s website. Another popular one is Similac, which is covered by the Virginia Women, Infants and Children assistance program, Gill said.

At a roundtable with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Gill saw mothers crying because they could not get specific formulas for their infants with allergies, which cannot be substituted.

“The moms there were literally in tears, asking Sen. Kaine, ‘What are you doing? My baby is starving,'” Gill said.

Other nonprofits in the area collecting diapers and baby formula include the Greater DC Diaper Bank. It has over 160 donation drop locations in the Metro area, according to the group’s website, including six in Arlington. Its Baby Pantry also accepts donations of baby formula and food at the same drop locations as the diapers.

This feature story was funded by members of the ARLnow Press Club and originally ran in the club’s weekend newsletter.

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The 21st Street N. bridge over I-66 is set to get a minor makeover.

The bridge — located north of Courthouse, near the MOM’s Organic Market — was built in 1980 and carries around 1,400 vehicles per day. It was described as “deteriorating” in a project review carried out by the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2017.

VDOT plans to resurface the concrete bridge deck, close the deck joints, repair the concrete piers and abutments of the bridge, as well as replace its bearings, according to a news release. The project is not expected to change the width of the existing lanes and sidewalks on the bridge, which is also located near McCoy Park.

Construction is scheduled to begin next summer. The work is not expected to close any existing roads that may significantly disrupt traffic, according to the project’s website, and should improve the bridge’s safety and longevity.

The estimated cost is $3.4 million, which is paid for by federal and state funds, including money from Virginia’s State of Good Repair program, VDOT said.

A virtual public meeting is set for 7 p.m. tomorrow (Tuesday), during which the project team is scheduled to give a presentation and answer questions from the audience.

Those interested in participating can register for the meeting on the project website beforehand. Those who do not register can instead call 1-866-901-6455 to listen in on the meeting, according to VDOT.

After the meeting, interested members of the public will be able to voice their opinions on the project through an online form, email or U.S. Mail. The public comment period is set to end on Monday, July 11.

Map via Google Maps

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Ben Solomon didn’t have a STEM background when he graduated from Princeton University.

But now he runs a company that brings deep technology — such as artificial intelligence, robotics and other innovations — into the marketplace.

Solomon, the founder of FedTech, graduated with a history degree and worked as a news researcher for NBC Sports and Bloomberg News. But he wanted to work closer with the government and technology.

“I always have this motivation to be working more closely with government and partnering with technology,” Solomon said. “I ended up coming to business school down here in University of Maryland.”

That was the place where Solomon met staff that commercialized technology, which inspired him to start Ballston-based FedTech.

FedTech is an accelerator that provides programs for startups working in deep technology to found their companies and put their products into the commercial market.

“Before I started doing work in this field, I was surprised to see that the U.S. government is really the biggest research and development investor in history,” Solomon said. “A lot of times those technologies can be really breakthrough and game changing for both commercial industry and even government use.”

FedTech was founded in 2015 after being a part of the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program, according to its website. It also has offices in Austin, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Solomon said.

Solomon based his company in Arlington because of its proximity to many government agencies, big companies like Amazon and local universities, graduates of which the company would “love to hire” as much as possible, he said.

Moreover, Arlington has large office spaces, like the company’s new 9000-square-foot office suite at 4401 Wilson Blvd, that are close to D.C. Solomon added that Arlington also has a “really good social scene.”

“We spent a lot of time as a company going to the bars and the restaurants for kind of team building,” he said.

The company connects smaller private businesses with bigger corporations and government agencies that can use their technology through partnerships.

It hosted a three-day technology summit for the U.S. Army in 2020, which showcased novel technologies that the Army could potentially use.

Will Dickson, Lead of FedTech’s accelerator program, at the technology summit in 2020 (courtesy of FedTech)

FedTech is currently working with around 200 startups and these partnerships are “deeper than an investor or like a Shark Tank-type of investor,” Solomon said.

His company not only runs programs for startups that provide mentorship and training, but it also seeks out new technologies still being researched and brings those to entrepreneurs.

“If we find an invention in a research lab, we’ll go and recruit the founding team who can license that technology out of the research lab and create a new company around it, and we help that company be successful,” Solomon said.

FedTech also helps startups find customers and access capital. Its working relationships with startups can sometimes last for years, Solomon said.

Past winners of the Army’s TechSearch competition held at FedTech (courtesy of FedTech)

FedTech usually does not own any stakes of the startups benefiting from its programs. It instead receives contracts from government departments like the Department of Defense and NASA, as well as other corporations like consumer goods company Proctor & Gamble and defense company BAE Systems.

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Arlington residents have until the end of this month to tell the county what improvements they want to see on a portion of Arlington Boulevard Trail.

The community engagement portion of the Arlington Boulevard Trail Study, which looks to improve the trail between N. Jackson Street and N. George Mason Drive, started last week with an online kick-off meeting.

The study aims to “develop design concepts for improving existing sections of the trail” by increasing accessibility in compliance with federal law, widening the trail to at least 10 feet, removing barriers along the trail and providing direct path access where it is feasible, among other things, study manager Bridget Obikoya said.

“This is the time to talk about the things that you might like to see in the project corridor, not just changes to existing facilities, but also new connections,” county spokesperson Nate Graham said. “This is the wish list process.”

The public engagement form is open online through this coming Thursday, June 30, according to the study’s website. Respondents can leave their suggestions and comments on an interactive map of the trail being studied, Obikoya said.

There have been a total of 29 crashes along this portion of Arlington Blvd (Route 50) between 2018 and 2021, which makes it a part of the “High-Injury Network” in the county, according to a road safety audit.

“The High-Injury Networks are 7% of the 550 miles [of Arlington roadways], yet 78% of auto crashes happened on these networks,” she said.

Obikoya pointed out different problems — such as slow drainage, narrow trails and difficult crossings — along the 1.3 miles of trail, which was divided into seven segments in the study.

Other areas that could be improved include enhancing the crossings of highway ramps and building contra-flow facilities like bike lanes that allow cyclists to ride in the opposite direction of vehicle traffic on one-way service roads along the trail, according to the 2019 Master Transportation Plan — Bicycle Element.

There should also be more infrastructure to minimize conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians along the trail, while segments with serious traffic congestion should be widened or bypassed, according to the 2011 Master Transportation Plan’s Pedestrian Element.

Audience members at the meeting raised various questions after Obikoya’s presentation. One gave several suggestions, including the addition of sidewalks on the southern Arlington Blvd service road, while noting that cyclists are not able to see pedestrians when cycling on the on-ramp near the Goodwill on S. Glebe Road.

The County Board allocated $200,000 to the study in the board’s fiscal year 2022-24 Capital Improvement Plan.

A community design workshop is scheduled for the fall and the draft report for the study is set to be published at some point this winter, according to the presentation.

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The title page of the report published by Black Parents of Arlington

Black students in Arlington Public Schools still see lower passing rates and are more likely to be suspended than white students, an advocacy group found, as detailed in a new report.

Black Parents of Arlington, a local group founded in 2019 to advocate for the interests of Black students in the county, published “APS in Black: Measuring Educational Opportunities for Black Students” this past weekend.

The report highlighted “long standing inequities between Black and white students in APS,” according to a press release.

The organization claims that APS was “unable to dismantle the systemic racism within its foundation,” and failed to create an environment in which Black students can “thrive academically” or are given sufficient opportunities outside the classroom.

There was an approximately 20 percentage point difference in pass rates in Virginia’s Standard of Learning test between Black and white students in the 2018-2019 school year, according to the report. Black students had an around 70% pass rate in both math and reading, while white students had an around 90% pass rate across all APS schools.

Although the disparity in pass rates vary significantly in different elementary, middle and high schools, most schools showed more than a 10 percentage point gap between Black and white students in math and reading pass rates between 2017 and 2019.

Slide from BPA report (via Black Parents of Arlington)

While three-fourths of white students qualified for advanced courses such as AP and IB classes, only 26% of Black students did in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the group’s report.

Additionally, Black students only made up 20% or less of the population in APS middle and high schools, but were more likely than white students to be suspended in most schools, the report said.

One reason for these disparate outcomes was because of the mismatch between the demographics of teachers and that of the students, co-founder of the organization Whytni Kernodle asserted.

“Many of the African American workers in Arlington Public Schools are in central office, which means what they’re not is in front of children teaching them how to read, teaching them about algebra, teaching them about history,” she said.

As of September 2020, 44.8% of students in APS were white, while 10.2% were Black, 28.4% were Hispanic, and 8.8% were Asian, according to data from the school system.

APS needs to invest more in training and other resources to address the disparities, and to avoid entrenching the “status quo,” Kernodle said.

“If you need to change the culture of a situation or an organization, you have to use bold tactics and you have really look at who you have on the ground who’s there that should be there and who needs to be shown the door,” she said.

As of publication time APS has not offered a response to the report.

The full press release from Black Parents of Arlington is below.

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The Rosslyn Jazz Festival is scheduled to return in September with Cuban funk musician Cimafunk as the headliner.

Now in its 30th year, the festival is set to again be held at Gateway Park, at 1300 Lee Highway, between 1-7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10.

The event is free to attend but registration is encouraged due to the park’s capacity limit. Registration is set to open on the festival’s Eventbrite page on Monday, Aug. 1 at noon, according to the event’s website.

Music magazine Billboard ranked headliner Cimafunk as one of 10 Latin Artists to Watch in 2019. The musician described his band’s style as a “mix of funk with Cuban music and African rhythms,” according to his website.

The festival this year is set to have “an emphasis on international influences” and the musicians it invited “blend African, Afro-American, and Latino traditions, rhythms and movement with conventional jazz expression,” according to the event’s news release.

The rest of the lineup includes:

Rosslyn Business Improvement District, the organizer of the event, has planned to include food trucks at the event, according to the news release. The BID is also planning on arranging lawn games and merchandise sales, as well as having community organizations set up tables at the venue, President Mary-Claire Burick told ARLnow.

Prior to the festival, Rosslyn is also set to host a week of jazz events like pop-up concerts, Burick said. More information on that will be released later this summer. The jazz festival was held last year, for the first time since before the pandemic., but this year’s event promises to be more full featured.

“As the gateway to the D.C. region, we’re proud to bring back this event to the neighborhood in a way that’s bigger than ever before,” Burick said.

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Fifth graders at Nottingham Elementary School raised more than a thousand dollars, via a lemonade stand, for relief efforts in Ukraine.

The fundraiser, held June 4, raised $1,250 to donate to World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit founded by Chef José Andrés that is providing freshly made meals to people in Ukraine. Students ran the stand as their graduation service project.

The fifth graders sold lemonade and popsicles from around 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on that Saturday. Their stand was decorated in blue and yellow, the national colors of Ukraine, and set up along a sidewalk near the school’s fields.

“We sold a lot of lemonades to baseball teams, a lot of coaches came,” said Juliette Schroeder, one of the fifth graders.

The students led the event largely by themselves, while their parents acted as coordinators.

“I would say this was really kid-run and kid-driven,” parent Alison Grantham said. “We stood back and they ran the lemonade stand and handled the money and everything.”

The fifth graders voted to run a lemonade stand from of a list of idea. The decision was “almost unanimous,” Juliette said. She voted for it because she was interested in helping the people in Ukraine.

“Since I’ve been interested in this conflict myself, I’ve been seeing things on the news,” she said. “There were a bunch of people that have been talking to me about it and I thought it’s interesting to try to do something.”

The students made posters promoting the event and posted them around the neighborhood, while the parents organized the signups, bought the materials and took out a cashier’s check for the money raised, Grantham added.

World Central Kitchen was chosen as the recipient of the funds because the students wanted to provide food assistance to Ukraine, especially warm meals, Juliette said.

“It’s one of the main things of living and honestly, I don’t think I could imagine, like, my world without having warm meal for me every single day,” she said.

Grantham’s daughter, Abby, was at the stand in the morning. Her most memorable moment was when multiple families were waiting around the stand to get lemonade.

“It was a very hectic moment, but it was also very nice, because they all wanted to come and support Ukraine,” Abby said.

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