Arlington, VA

Startup Monday header

Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

DivvyCloud, an Arlington startup specializing in cloud-based cybersecurity, is planning to more than double in size with a move into a new much larger new headquarters in Courthouse.

It’s is far from the only cybersecurity company working in Arlington, but DivvyCloud carved out a niche as a cloud-focused security option that not only fixes gaps in security coverage but makes it easier for a company to see where its security is weakest.

Today (Monday) the company moved into a new 13,000 square foot office at 2111 Wilson Blvd, an office over six-times larger than its old 2,000 square foot office in Rosslyn. In a press release, CEO and co-founder Brian Johnson said the office expansion is a result of adding new employees, with more expected down the road.

“[Since 2018] the company has grown from 20 to 55 local employees — an increase of 175 percent — and plans to reach at least 120 employees within the next year,” Johnson said.

The company has netted some sizable investments over the last year, along with new contracts with customers from Pizza Hut to Fannie Mae. In an email to ARLnow, Johnson said the expansion is justified by an increasing need in cloud-based coverage — particularly in light of recent major data breaches.

“In our recent report, we found that 77% percent of respondents reported having two or more clouds, yet less than half of respondents were able to accurately identify the risk of misconfiguration in public cloud as higher than the risk in traditional IT environments,” Johnson said. “Countless major data breaches, including Honda and Capital One, have been caused by misconfigurations just in 2019 alone. As a result, more and more companies are realizing the need for an effective solution to prevent misconfigurations and properly secure cloud and container infrastructure.”

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Weenie Beenie was recently commemorated in an Arlington mural, but the shack near Shirlington has a surprising history involving gambling winnings and a beef with a popular D.C. restaurant.

Founded as a simple hot-dog stand in the 1950s in Green Valley at 2680 Shirlington Road, Weenie Beenie’s current incarnation was the creation of gambling legend Bill “Weenie Beenie” Stanton, lauded as the “one of the premier gentleman gamblers of pocket billiards” aka pool.

According to the Arlington Public Library, Staton took $27,000 in winnings from a gambling trip to Arkansas and used it to purchase the hot dog stand in 1960.

There was, at one point, several Weenie Beenies throughout the area, but the only one remaining is the one just north of Four Mile Run.

The storefront boasts that Weenie Beenie is the home of the original half-smoke — a local sausage variant popularized by Weenie Beenie rival Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C. Also offered: North Carolina style barbecue and breakfast served all day.

The restaurant is also notable as the title of a Foo Fighters song from the group’s first album. Dave Grohl, frontman for the group, grew up in the area, once rented a home near Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood with his fellow Foos, and has recorded at nearby Inner Ear Studio, just steps from Weenie Beenie.

ARLnow reached out to RCA Records to request an interview with Grohl but received no response. Dave, if you’re reading this, that’s a standing offer.

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A state organization aimed at helping Virginians identify unclaimed property will set up a booth next week to help locals find previously unknown money.

On Thursday (Oct. 3) from noon to 5 p.m. and on Friday (Oct. 4) from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m., the Virginia Department of the Treasury’s program VA Money Search is scheduled to set up in the lobby of the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

With a name like “vamoneysearch.org” and a mascot of a man in a trench coat, the program would seem a little suspicious, but Stephanie Shea, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Treasurer’s office, said the program is operated by the state government.

“The Treasury is mandated to try to find the rightful owners of money that is unclaimed,” Shea said. “There is no fee for this service, it’s totally free.  We invite everyone to stop by the team’s table in the lobby of 2100 Clarendon Blvd to find money.”

Last year, Shea said the organization found $68,026.68 in one day.

“Last year one County employee found over $3,000,” Shea said. “Money is found from closed bank accounts, insurance policies, wages from an old job, etc.”

A press release from the program said that overall it returned $79 million to Virginia citizens in 2018. According to the release:

Unclaimed Property can be generated in nearly every financial transaction with any company. Property becomes unclaimed when the holder company has not had contact with the owner of the property or funds for a specified time, then the account is considered dormant. Dormant accounts by law must be turned over to the state… Unclaimed Property stays in our database until the rightful owner or heir files a claim.

Photo via VA Money Search/Facebook

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After months of debate and discussion, the Arlington County Board has unanimously approved a plan to reach carbon neutrality in Arlington by 2050.

The plan, approved at the Saturday (Sept. 21) County Board meeting, has environmental goals across six categories, from new building regulations to transportation goals and standards. More from a county press release:

The plan incorporates goals for buildings; resilience; renewable energy; transportation, County government actions, and education and human behavior. It envisions a carbon neutral Arlington by 2050 that will be more resilient, where all electricity will come from renewable sources, where more residents will drive electric vehicles and more will use transit, and where homes and buildings will be more energy-efficient.

The plan has been criticized as both too aspirational and not ambitious enough. While there was near-universal support for the idea behind the plan among speakers at the meeting, various members of the public and commission representatives expressed concerns about its implementation.

“We need to ensure sensitivity to individual circumstances isn’t lost in said implementation,” said Scott Pedowitz, government affairs manager for the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses and residents should have the flexibility to meet the targets in a matter that makes practical and economic sense for their particular circumstance.”

Most of those who spoke represented various social and environmental groups and expressed support for tighter local environmental regulations. Several dozen gathered at a Sierra Club-organized rally outside of the County government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd to support the new plan and its clean energy goals

“We are excited about the clean energy bill coming from Arlington,” Karen Nightengale, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP, told ARLnow. “The community needs it. It is really impacting multiple communities, especially brown and black communities living in low lying areas. We are excited about Arlington taking this step to go forward.”

Others testifying in the public hearing said they hoped for even earlier deadlines and stricter environmental measures.

“To really aim for a cleaner County, we need an earlier deadline for this plan,” said Jason Spitzak.

Elenor Hodges, executive director of EcoAction Arlington, said the recent protests in D.C. and activist Greta Thunberg’s testimony at the House of Foreign Affairs and Climate Crisis Committee were inspiring.

“We saw Greta Thunberg sail across the Atlantic and yesterday, thousands marched across the world in a climate strike,” Hodges said. “I hope we can take on [this] ambitious plan.”

Hodges said she’d like to see all new construction meet zero-carbon emissions standards and for Arlington’s tree canopy to be preserved or expanded.

In a three-page letter to the County Board, William Ross, chair of the Park and Recreation Commission, said he was disappointed in the final product. Ross argued the plan doesn’t do enough to promote or explore new green space options in Arlington.

“For all of the technical intensity of the plan, it misses some critical opportunities to improve our carbon footprint and mitigate the negative aspects of energy consumption because the plan fails to adequately address aspects of energy efficiency and environmental protection that are not wholly dependent on technology-based solutions,” Ross said.

After the plan’s approval, the Arlington County website says staff will now get to work on an implementation framework to be brought back to the County Board next June.

Jay Westcott contributed to this story

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Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Fresh off a win at the Small Biz Challenge, Arlington startup Boolean Girl is now headed is to Nationwide’s “Pitch to Win” contest as a finalist.

The company sells classroom kits aimed at getting young women interested in coding as part of an effort to combat the gender disparity in the tech industry.

The Pitch to Win competition is scheduled for Oct. 3 and includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the insurance company’s headquarters in Ohio, where the groups will present their business proposals to a panel of judges. The winning business will be awarded $100,000, with the runner up receiving $20,000 and third place earning $10,000.

Co-founder Ingrid Sanden said the winnings from Pitch to Win would help the company expand into middle-school-age sets.

“Winning the Pitch To Win competition would propel Boolean Girl Tech’s efforts to keep middle school girls engaged and excited about moving from basic coding to complex, real-world projects,” said Sanden. “Typically, there is a dramatic drop off in participation in STEM and computer science classes in middle school, so bridging the gap from elementary to high school and beyond is a crucial step as we close the gender gap in STEM careers.”

Boolean Girl will be competing with six other companies from across the country, from a skateboard grip tape business to a company that makes AI-enabled digital stethoscopes.

Boolean Girl launched in 2014 around the same time Google’s lack of diversity was making headlines. Since then, the company has developed a build-it-yourself box set for $169.99 and a kit that including ten boxes, ten monitors and a variety of accessories for $5,000. The company also offers a coding summer camp in Arlington.

Photo courtesy Boolean Girl

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If you want to remain in the dark about the contents of the mysterious Ballston time capsule, which is set to be opened next year, read no further.

Melinda Schaedig, who was a third grader at Taylor Elementary School in 1988 when the capsule was buried, approached ARLnow with details from when the capsule was put into the ground.

“In 1988, it seemed like 2020 would never arrive, but here it is in the blink of an eye,” Schaedig said. “I just turned 40 and the time capsule is all that I have been thinking about as I have been waiting for this day for a long time.”

In the 31 years between the time capsule was buried and now, Schaedig said some of her memories from the burial have grown hazy, but she reached out to her third grade teacher to help put more details together.

“It was a big deal at the time,” Schaedig said. “I’ve always thought about it. I recall a couple months ago I was driving in the car with my mom and kids and I said ‘2020 is coming, is there anything on the building?'”

Schaedig saw the plaque and inquired inside the building, eventually being directed to the top floor where the building’s owners told her what a spokesperson for WashREIT told ARLnow yesterday: the capsule is there and but the company has no idea what’s inside.

But Schaedig remembers.

“I remember seeing a steering wheel with an airbag, which was new at the time, and maybe some Redskins memorabilia,” Schaedig said.

An article in the Northern Virginia Sun said a signed baseball, old coins and a postcard from an Arlington auto dealership were included as well. The article notes that Schaedig — then Melinda Foulke — added a poster showing how America has changed since the Constitution was signed.

The poster selected via a competition for local elementary school students.

“The contest presented local teachers with an opportunity to review Ballston’s evolution from farmland in the 1800s to the retail, business and retail center county planners forsaw when they wrote the Ballston Sector Plan in 1980,” the Sun noted.

Foulke said she dug up old news footage her mother had kept around, in which the building owners talked about how Ballston was poised to become the new downtown of Arlington.

“They talked about how in the future, there were unlimited possibilities because of the number of corporations moving in,” Foulke said. “They were predicting that with growth between Rosslyn and Ballston, [Arlington] would have more office space than Miami.”

(That turned out to be true: as of 2018, Arlington had 41.7 million square feet of office space compared to the Miami area’s 35.6 million square feet.)

The video does show some items being placed in the capsule, confirming Foulke’s memories of a steering wheel and a Redskins pin.

WashREIT said they were unsure how to open the time capsule. One of the old clippings shows Schaedig and the late County Board member Ellen Bozman holding a key to the capsule. Schaedig says she doesn’t know where the key is now.

“I hope to go when they open it,” Schaedig said. “It’ll be exciting to bring my kids and my family. It’s silly, but it’s been a part of my life.”

Newspaper photos courtesy Melinda Schaedig

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The Arlington County Board is looking to potentially use armed, private guards for security at county government headquarters in Courthouse.

The guards could help provide security at the building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) generally and during County Board meetings specifically, relieving pressure on the understaffed local police force.

According to an item on this weekend’s County Board meeting agenda:

The County currently stations armed police officers at the Bozman Government Center, as well as armed sheriff’s deputies at County Board meetings. To enhance public safety and security, the County would like the option to use armed private security guards.

The agenda item says that adding private guards would enhance the security at County Board meetings without taking law enforcement officers away from other jobs around Arlington.

The prospect of private security came up in the wake of the Virginia Beach shooting at a municipal building.

“After the Virginia Beach shooting in May, 2019, the County Manager hosted a virtual employee town hall meeting to discuss workplace security,” the agenda item said. “[This item] merely expands the choices that the County may make for the provision of that security.”

“Funding for the potential costs of enhanced security in the Bozman Government Center was included in the Adopted FY 2020 Budget,” county staff noted in the report.

File photo

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“Virginia is for lovers. No KKK.”

The owner of the shed on 19th Road N. had no intention of being at the center of a civil rights message, but the back of his property expresses a message of tolerance to anyone riding the Metro through the East Falls Church station or taking the Washington and Old Dominion Trail.

The sign says Virginia is for Lovers — a slogan for the state — with “KKK” surrounded by a big red “no” sign.

The sign has been noted a number of times on Twitter since 2018, with tweets mainly expressing support for the message. But the owner of the shed said he didn’t put the sign up and has no idea who did or when.

“The first I heard about it was when one of my neighbors said ‘have you seen the back of your shed?'” said the man, who was wearing a National Rife Association t-shirt when a reporter stopped by to ask about the message on Monday.

The back wall of the shed is accessible from the trail but difficult to reach from the ground.

“I’ll say this, whoever put it up was talented,” the man said. “It’s up in the air, so they needed a ladder to get up there. And the spacing between the letters… it’s nicely done.”

But while the man (who did not want to give his name) was not opposed to the message, he was a little concerned about courting controversy or retaliation — particularly with white nationalist activity cropping up throughout the area. He said he was worried someone could come along and burn the building down.

Those who want to see the artwork should come sooner rather than later though, as the owner said he plans to place vinyl siding around the shed a some point in the near future, thus covering up the message in the process.

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(Updated 3:25 p.m.) After years of planning, Arlington County is ready to put money into the planned renovation of Benjamin Banneker Park.

The 12.5 acres park at 1680 N. Sycamore Street features the head for the Four Mile Run Trail and a section of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail, as well as a dog park.

Plans to renovate the park have been in the works for years, capped by the recent acquisition of “the last three properties along 18th Street North” needed for an expansion of the park, according to a county staff report. In 2017, the County Board approved a long-term vision which included replaced amenities and trail improvements.

The County Board is set to approve a $2.6 million contract — which includes $238,554 as a contingency for changes — at the Saturday (Sept. 21) meeting.

The project is funded in part by $2.5 million set aside in the 2015 fiscal year for the park and an additional $750,000 for work on the trails from the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Trail Modernization Program, according to the staff report. The park is expected to have a $117,659 increase in operating costs as a result of the improvements.

Planned work for the park at the western edge of Arlington include a widening of the trails and replacement of:

  • The parking lot
  • Picnic area
  • Rectangular athletic field
  • Playground
  • Walkways
  • Signage
  • Furnishings
  • Stormwater management
  • The dog park

The staff report for the park improvements noted that most of the feedback was positive, but concerns were expressed about the permeability of the trails and the impact widening the trails from eight feet to 12 feet might have on the surrounding environment.

The report notes, however, that county staff is promising “extra attention to minimize impacts on the stream and Resource Protection Area through site appropriate and sensitive erosion and sediment control methods.”

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(Updated at noon) New scooter docks have been added to Crystal City in an effort to curb intrusive sidewalk scooter parking.

Four new docks from the electric scooter company Spin were placed throughout Crystal City last week after their debut in D.C., with five more expected to be added sometime in the next week.

“Spin is one of the operators that has been participating in Arlington’s [scooter] pilot,” said Rob Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City BID. “They reached out to us about a pilot that they had initiated, rolling out in D.C. to provide a dock solution.”

Mandle said the BID is working on getting locations spread out across Crystal City, Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard.

“Our goal is to enhance connectivity in the core areas,” Mandle said.

The current docks are located at:

  • 251 18th Street S.
  • 220 20th Street S.
  • 520 12th Street S.
  • 1901 S. Bell Street

Though the docks are branded by Spin, Mandle said any scooters will be able to park in them. They also charge the scooter batteries while they’re docked.

“We see it as an interesting approach to addressing how to park scooters throughout the neighborhood without losing the value of dockless scooters,” Mandle said. “We’re a year from when these things first hit the streets, maybe not even, and the industry continues to evolve. The number one concern in any downtown area is ‘how do you manage the parking of the scooters in the downtown core?'”

There’s currently nothing to encourage scooter riders to use the docks outside of good civic values, but Mandle said incentives could be on the way.

“There are other ways to incentivize users to park in those facilities,” Mandle said. “I don’t think anybody’s seen that yet, but that’s where it’s going.”

Photo courtesy Rob Mandle/Crystal City BID

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Over forty trees are planned to be removed to make way for a new elementary school in Westover, but Arlington Public Schools is hosting one last meeting about potential tree-saving solutions before construction starts.

A discussion is scheduled with neighbors on Monday (Sept. 16) at the edge of the grove will involve discussion of whether any of the trees can be saved. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the basketball court on the Reed site (1644 N. McKinley Road).

The current plans call for the removal of roughly 42 trees to facilitate construction that will add to the building that houses the Westover Library and, soon, a new neighborhood elementary school.

Residents have expressed concerns about the removal of the grove, which includes a variety of maple, cedar and mulberry trees. A presentation on the project noted that an inventory of the trees was prepared by a certified arborist and tree removal was recommended.

According to the presentation:

Decisions on tree removal balanced: Building location and required excavation, site improvements (play areas, universally accessible walkways, etc.) and underground utilities (sanitary, storm, geothermal, etc.).

The designs for the site include adding 82 replacement trees, well above the 49 trees required to be planted according to county regulations.

But the plans have drawn some criticism from neighbors and local environmentalists. County Board candidate Audrey Clement specifically addressed the County Board’s approval of the project for its destruction of the trees at a debate this past Monday  (Sept. 9). Many of the trees are larger, like a silver maple tree 4.5 feet wide.

At the meeting next Monday, the presentation says neighbors will be invited to discuss the removal with an arborist and county staff.

But any moving of the remaining trees will have to occur quickly: construction of the new school is scheduled to start by the end of September.

The Westover neighborhood suffered extensive damage from flooding this summer, but school officials said the new school will include updated stormwater protections.

“Stormwater structures and basins are much enhanced from what exists on-site now as per current state stormwater requirements,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia.

Map via Arlington Public Schools

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