Arlington, VA

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.comStartup 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.

Mechaniku is built on a simple frustration: no one likes waiting for their car to get worked on. So Mechaniku will work with users to have a mechanic sent out to change their oil.

The company is based along Columbia Pike, where co-founders Jesse Tyler and Clifton Hartsuff live.

“In a society fast becoming overtaken by technology I am shocked this is not already a common service provided in every city,” Tyler said. “We live in a world of convenience and I believe people will pay for this service because it ultimately makes lives easier. It takes a time-consuming and aggravating practice and simplifies it.”

The company currently only has one service: a full synthetic oil change in 30 minutes for $100. It’s a little pricey as far as oil changes go, which average a little under $50. But Tyler said the convenience is part of the cost.

“It’s about the convenience of having someone come to your home,” Tyler said. “We did one for a guy here on Columbia Pike… he said ‘I’ll pay $150 if it means I don’t have to get out of my pajamas and go sit in a line on Sunday morning.'”

Tyler said half of the $100 goes to the mechanic, while the other half goes to the company. The goal, Tyler said, is to connect qualified mechanics with freelance jobs to help make some money on the side.

In the future, Tyler said the company could expand to tire rotation and other light car maintenance jobs, but he’s in no rush to grow.

“I think several of the groups on the market with a similar model have made the mistake of trying to do everything instead of focusing on doing a service well and what they end up doing by trying to do everything is not doing a very good job of anything,” Tyler said. “We seek to be the best at offering on demand oil changes to our customers with the ultimate goal of providing excellent service and giving them time back.”

Tyler said the pricing and types of oil changes could also change over time as the company continues to refine its business model. The company’s app is currently available on Android and Tyler said the company is working to get it onto the Apple App Store on iOS.

“My father always told me not to reinvent the wheel,” said Tyler. “So we’ve taken an existing business and improved on it.”

Image via Mechaniku

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Crystal City could be getting a new rooftop sign courtesy of the local WeWork.

A site plan amendment has been proposed to allow the company to place a rooftop sign at 2221 S. Clark Street. WeWork occupies the entire building, with a large co-working space and a WeLive co-living space.

Approval of the amendment is docketed for the Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday (July 13).

Arlington’s sign ordinance currently allows signs above 40 feet to be approved administratively, but the site plan for the building predates the ordinance change.

“It is no longer a standard site plan condition to require County Board approval of such signs,” staff said in a report on the amendment. “Therefore, staff recommends that the County Board adopt the attached ordinance approving a site plan amendment… for the building located at 2221 S. Clark St.”

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It appears a new Chick-fil-A is coming to Pentagon City, alongside a new Wiseguy Pizza location.

Both locations are ground floor restaurants in the Witmer, a new 26-story luxury apartment at the corner of 12th Street S. and S. Hayes Street, amid the Pentagon Centre shopping center. The Chick-fil-A is located at the top of the Pentagon City Metro station on the east side of S. Hayes Street next to the CVS.

The next closest Chick-fil-A is the one in Crystal City at 2200 Crystal Drive.

There is no information on the Chick-fil-A website about the upcoming Pentagon City store opening. In fact, a Chick-fil-A spokeswoman would not even confirm to ARLnow that the building with a sign saying “Chick-fil-A Coming Soon” is, in fact, a Chick-fil-A:

We are always evaluating potential new locations in the hopes of serving existing and new customers great food with remarkable service. While we hope to be able to expand in Arlington in the future, we do not currently have a location to confirm.

H/t to @CuriousHenwin

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Arlington County is working on plans to be “carbon neutral” by 2050.

The new goal comes is part of an ambitious update to the county’s current Community Energy Plan (CEP). It’s the result of community feedback that the earlier plan didn’t go far enough in addressing energy efficiency concerns, according to a staff report on the plan.

A pair of public hearings on the updates are expected to be scheduled for September at this weekend’s County Board meeting.

Carbon neutrality means reaching net zero metric tons of emissions each year. The idea behind the update is that, in 30 years, any carbon emissions would require some form of carbon offset in equivalent exchange.

The current plan, approved in 2013, targeted reaching three metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per capita by 2050. The updated goal relies on technology that is still science fiction as of 2019 and admittedly strains the boundaries of what the County is allowed to promise.

“Arlington’s community leaders point to today’s climate science reports as a need for people to take action and for a stronger, bolder CEP,” the report noted. “It is important to note that Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, that is, local governments have limited authority, and can pass ordinances only in areas where the General Assembly has granted clear authority. A more aspirational 2050 target of zero metric tons of CO2e per capita per year simultaneously pushes the limits local jurisdictions have in Dillon Rule states, and assumes numerous technological advancements and disruptions take place.”

Rich Dooley, Arlington’s community energy coordinator, said the Dillon Rule also means Arlington can’t require developers to build energy-efficient buildings above what is required by the state, they can only continue to offer incentives like bonus density for going above-and-beyond the state’s standards.

Even so, the report on the update points to several places where Arlington could be more energy efficient, from requiring greater levels of energy efficiency in new buildings to prioritizing public transit infrastructure over cars.

Buildings currently use approximately 60 percent of all energy in Arlington, according to the update. The 2013 plan charted a gradual reduction in energy use in residential buildings, ending with 40 percent less energy usage in 2040, compared to 2007 levels. The update shifts that goal to a 38 percent reduction by 2050, compared to 2016 levels.

Arlington County would also need to significantly scale up its solar energy production and purchasing. The updated plan says by 2025, solar energy should supply 100 percent of government operations and by 2050, solar energy should supply half of all electricity use in Arlington.

Dooley noted that the plan is meant to be a high-level look at the goals and policies of the project, and some of the next steps include working on updating the “dated” implementation framework.

The report notes that the specific shift to a carbon-neutral goal by 2050 was partially the result of prodding from the Arlington County Board.

“During its work session deliberations, the County Board members noted the importance of acting now to address climate change while keeping in mind the other important CEP goals,” the update said. “The work session concluded with County Board guidance to staff to show in the 2019 CEP that the community should aspire to become Carbon Neutral by 2050.”

Dooley said that staff initially presented the update as being able to realistically reduce emissions to one metric ton, but the community spoke up at meetings and said the County should commit to going to fully carbon neutral.

“The County Board heard that and said ‘we can go ahead and get it there,'” Dooley said.

If the technology to help Arlington reach its 2050 goals doesn’t materialize over the next few years, Dooley said there carbon offsets the County can purchase.

The update also includes other renewable energy objectives for the nearer term:

  • Government operations will achieve 50% renewable electricity by 2022, and 100% renewable electricity by 2025.
  • The community will achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2035.

But other concerns remain that the plan might not be authorized by the state government or that it might fail to address consumer emissions — emissions associated with the local consumption of products that aren’t created in Arlington.

At the County Board meeting on Saturday, July 13, the Board is expected to approve advertisement of a public Planning Commission hearing on Sept. 9 and a public hearing at the County Board meeting on Sept. 21.

Image via Arlington County

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The Freshman is, both figuratively and literally, a little underground.

The restaurant comes from Nick Freshman, who’s also behind Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon. The Freshman is not planned to fully launch in its permanent home at 2011 Crystal Drive until 2020, but in the meantime the eatery has had a quiet “soft launch” across the street in Crystal City Shops.

The pop-up officially opened this morning (Thursday), at the north end of the shops at 2102 Crystal Plaza, in the former Au Bon Pain space

“We’re in plans and permitting across the street,” said Freshman, “but that process… it takes a long time, even opening in a place that used to be a restaurant. You plan and design and it could take a year.”

The plans to open The Freshman got pushed further back as the building underwent both interior and exterior renovations. Freshman said he had the equipment and a team ready to go but nowhere to set them up.

Their main location and the former Au Bon Pain are both owned by JBG Smith, so when Freshman approached the company about the idea of opening a pop-up in the empty space, the property owner was on board.

The pop-up does not offer The Freshman’s full menu. Freshman estimated it was about 40 percent of what’s to come, with dinner and cocktails planned for the main site, but the pop-up currently serves up coffee and breakfast and lunch options that Freshman said the area seemed in desperate need of.

“There’s no point in doing it if we don’t do it well,” Freshman said. “The challenge is worth it because the community is dying for a viable alternative to [existing] breakfast and lunch options.”

The breakfast and lunch offerings include a tofu scramble with vegan cheese, plus sandwiches or salads for lunch. Prices range from $6 for an egg and cheese sandwich to $14 for a Reuben sandwich.

An unofficial “soft opening ” for the restaurant started on Monday, the same day that Arlington was hit with heavy storms from which the county is still struggling to recover.

“We’re underground, so for a while it looked like we might be underwater, but we stayed totally dry,” Freshman said. “We saw more of a surge [of customers] than expected. But even in dry weather, people use this corridor. If you don’t work or live here, you don’t know about it, but if you do it’s a critical part of your movement.”

Currently, Freshman says the pop-up is planned to stay open through the end of the year, but the stay is largely dependent on how fast or slow progress is across the street.

“Right now, we’re meeting people and listening,” Freshman said. “Every night, we’ve been making tweaks to the menu, but that’s normal opening stuff.”

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(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) One day after a GoFundMe campaign launched to support Westover stores hit by Monday’s flooding, the fundraiser has passed its initial aim of $25,000 and has moved towards a new $100,000 goal.

Flash floods on Monday left stores on the north side of the 5800 block of Washington Blvd ankle-deep in water, with basements filled to the ceiling with water. Kristy Peterkin, a manager at Ayers Variety & Hardware, estimated the storm caused at least $100,000 in damages to the merchandise. Days after the storm, power still hasn’t been restored and most of the stores on the block remain closed.

As of 3:45 p.m., the GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $34,000 to help Ayers and Westover Market and Beer Garden, two stores that were particularly hard hit by the flooding.

According to the GoFundMe page:

Part of the Westover Shopping Center — Ayers Hardware, the Westover Beer Garden and other shops — was deluged. The businesses’s main levels and storage basements were inundated with water. These businesses are the heart and soul of the Westover community. I am hoping neighborhood residents and folks across Arlington County will contribute to this campaign to help the businesses cover cleanup costs, property repair costs, inventory damage costs and associated loss-of-business costs.

In the comments, donors shared their stories of shopping at Ayers or dining at Westover Market.

“The Beer Garden and Westover folks always took care of us, so let’s take care of them in their time of need,” one donor said.

The shops in Westover Village are still a long way from recovered. Power to the block was routed through the basements of Ayers and Westover Market, which means the flooding has left the entire row of businesses without power.

Ayers is half-lit by power running through a generator in the back. Lights are on at Westover Market but an employee at the store said they were still closed. The Italian Store, the spot furthest east and at the highest elevation on the block, is running on generator power.

Peterkin said nearby cafes and restaurants have been chipping in to make meals for the hardest-hit businesses. It’s been just one part of what Peterkin said was an amazing community response to their crisis.

Peterkin said Ayers was not in any way involved with creating or running the GoFundMe, and said the store would leave the distribution of the funds raised to the person who organized the campaign, noting that it was started after one of the store’s longtime customers who came in and asked permission to launch the fundraiser.

A comment on the GoFundMe said that the store would not be taking financial contributions, but Peterkin made it clear that was not the case. Others who didn’t want to support the store through GoFundMe have come by and dropped off a contribution in person.

“We’ll take all the help we can get,” Peterkin said.

People have volunteered to come and help clean, but growing risk of mold and mildew has meant anyone journeying down into the waterlogged basement needs a breathing mask in addition to a flashlight.

“An injury lawsuit would really be the last straw,” Peterkin said.

Even as they work to get the store back into working order, Peterkin said palettes of new merchandise ordered before the flood are still arriving, but with nowhere to put them with the basement out of commission.

Ayers faces at least $100,000 in losses just from damaged merchandise in the flooded basement, Peterkin said, adding that there will be additional expenses to repair the basement. The store is not protected by flood insurance.

“We didn’t think we’d need it in Arlington,” Peterkin said.

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The Goddard School — a private early-childhood education franchise — is planning to open a pair of linked childcare facilities 350 yards apart on Lee Highway.

A decision on permits for the facilities at 5328 and 5222 Lee Highway are docketed for the County Board meeting this Saturday, July 13.

The larger of the two projects is a childcare center and school at 5328 Lee Highway, which will host up to 208 children.

“The child care center will serve children ranging from two (2) to five (5) years of age, in addition to before/after school services for school age children ages five (5) to ten (10) years,” says a county staff report. “The applicant proposes to reconfigure the existing office space to create 14 classrooms, one of which can also operate as an indoor gymnasium, as well as several ancillary rooms, including a pantry, teacher resource room, and two offices.”

A portions of the building, which most recently served as an office building, had previously been approved as a child care facility in 2017, but the staff report noted that the proposed facility never opened. The property is attached by a breezeway to United Bank, which the report says is expected to continue operating alongside the school.

Meanwhile, the proposed childcare facility at 5222 Lee Highway will have up to 60 children, ranging from 6-weeks to 2-years-old. The building will replace the former Chevy Chase Bank and drive-thru, which has been vacant for two years.

Under local ordinance, the larger of the two facilities would be required to have 26 parking spaces, but only 18 are available in the parking lot behind the building. The staff report says The Goddard School is asking to have the additional parking be provided off-site at the 5222 Lee Highway location. That proposal has been met by concerns from neighbors.

“Yorktown Civic Association which is adjacent to the subject site, is in support of the proposal, however, has concerns regarding circulation and turning movement around the site,” the staff report says.

The report said pick-up and drop-off would occur from the parking area, accessible via two existing curb cuts, and staff recommended that the County Board find the circulation and parking issues sufficiently addressed.

If approved, the facilities would be the first locations for The Goddard School in Arlington.

Another childcare center — VINCI Early Learning School — has been proposed for 3508 Lee Highway and is also on Saturday’s County Board agenda. Consideration of that facility, however, is expected to be deferred until September “to allow the applicant additional time to meet with the community and address any concerns that they may have with the proposed use.”

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Arlington County is considering a proposal to expand the boundaries of the Crystal City Business Improvement District to incorporate parts of Potomac Yard and Pentagon City, including Amazon’s permanent HQ2 campus.

At its meeting on Saturday, July 13, the County Board is expected to authorize an advertisement for a public hearing on Sept. 21 to discuss expansion of the BID’s coverage area to include 75 new commercial properties.

The BID was originally established in 2006 to improve the area’s marketability and attractiveness to the community in the wake of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) — which resulted in 4.2 million square feet of vacant office space and 17,000 lost jobs.

The BID sponsors activities and markets the area to potential tenants, and is in turn funded by a tax surcharge on commercial properties within its coverage area. The BID’s current budget is approximately $2.7 million, but the expansion is estimated to increase the budget by $1.7 million (an increase of 64 percent) to $4.4 million.

According to the staff report, expansion of the BID has been an ongoing priority as the organization works to shift the area’s image away from just government agency tenants. This culminated with the announcement in November that Amazon would be opening a new headquarters in the area.

Even prior to the arrival of Amazon, Crystal City had begun attracting more non-government tenants — including startups, nonprofits, co-working spaces and new retail. The vision and strategy to expand the boundaries of the BID has been revived not only due to new leadership at the [BID] but also upcoming infrastructure, transportation and planning projects expected to transform the nature of the business and residential community in this area.

The staff report noted that the expansion is part of a wider effort to treat Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard as one market — it was dubbed “National Landing” at the time of the Amazon announcement — rather than three separate ones.

Notably absent from the proposed new boundaries is the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, which has “formally requested… not to be included in the proposed expansion.”

Adoption of the ordinance would require the BID to demonstrate 50 percent of greater support throughout the affected areas — evidence that the staff report noted was not currently available. The staff report notes that property owners and managers in the Potomac Yard portion of Arlington expressed concerns that BID would be unable to “fulfill various obligations of the Potomac Yard Property Owner’s Association (POA) site plan.”

Under the terms of the site plan, the POA must fund certain capital expenses and on-going maintenance of various improvements including maintenance of landscaped areas. In March 2019, County staff and the County Attorney’s Office advised [BID] that it should not take on the obligations of the Potomac Yard POA in order to receive support for the proposed BID expansion. Instead, [BID] should demonstrate to the Potomac Yard property owners the value of the other services it currently provides on behalf of the BID in the current and proposed expanded district.

If the BID cannot build the support it needs in Potomac Yard — as happened to a proposed BID in Alexandria in 2017 — the report said it could still be approved as an expansion into Pentagon City. Major property owners in Pentagon City, including Dweck Properties and JBG Smith, are supportive of the proposal.

The potential expansion, if approved, would be the first time any BID in Arlington enveloped new territory.

Map via Arlington County

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The wall once divided the white Waycroft-Woodlawn subdivision from the black Hall’s Hill neighborhood was partially destroyed by this morning’s storm and flooding.

A section of brick wall, which was first constructed in the 1930s to close off the segregated neighborhood, collapsed amid fast-moving floodwaters.

Video showed the floodwaters rushing past the wall and into a garden below.

A nearby marker tells the history of the wall. Much of the wall was destroyed in 1966 when Arlington County purchased nearby properties and dismantled sections of it.

Nearby residents had mixed feelings on the wall’s destruction.

“It should have been knocked down years ago,” said Herb Ramos, who lived across the street from the wall. “They put up the marker, they should have gotten rid of the wall and removed the eyesore.”

But others said they were happy to see school children brought over in recent years to see the first-hand evidence of segregation in the county and were sorry to see that history get washed away.

“We need to remember the past so as not to repeat it,” said Cait, another neighbor. “It was a historic site for a reason. We need to preserve the memory of things the African-American neighborhood went through. It’s not the most beautiful wall, but we need to face that ugliness.”

Hat tip to @tedbloss

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Update at 11:05 a.m. — Most businesses along the north side of Washington Blvd in Westover are still closed following Monday’s flooding. Ayers hardware is open in a limited capacity. 

Earlier: This morning’s storms and flooding has left stores along the north side of Washington Blvd in Westover Village without power — and some facing extensive damages.

Businesses along the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, from Westover Market (5863 Washington Blvd) to The Italian Store (5837 Washington Blvd), were closed as of 2 p.m. All of the properties were without power and several were flooded.

Westover Market and the Ayers Variety & Hardware at the west end of the block were at two of the lowest points of the slope. At Westover Market and Beer Garden, workers moved tables and soaked beer crates out of the store and into the rain, occasionally with the assistance of people passing by.

“I came down to get a keg and stuff was just floating away,” said Joseph Turner, a manager at Westover Market. “We’re trying to clean and open as soon as possible, but there needs to be fire department and health inspections.”

Turner watched as people carried out soaked boxes from the store and set them into stacks of rubbish.

“I’m just speechless,” Turner said.

Video posted earlier today shows the market flooded and fast-moving water rushing through the outdoor beer garden, damaging the fence and sweeping away picnic tables.

At Ayers Variety & Hardware, water in the storefront was ankle deep, but the real damage took place below — the basement, where the business stores merchandise, was completely flooded. Kristy Peterkin, a manager at the store and daughter of owner Ronald Kaplan, said that staff had been running generators to pump water out of the basement — but then the power cut out.

“We’ve seen nothing like this since 1977,” Peterkin said. “This is catastrophic.”

Peterkin said employees haven’t been able to access the basement to examine the impact but estimated that there would be at least $100,000 in damages.

The Forest Inn, Toby’s Ice Cream, and Rite Aid were all closed and empty. The post office west and slightly uphill from Westover Market was still accepting drop-offs as of 2 p.m., but said they would soon be closing.

At Pete’s Barber Shop, the staff cleared away waterlogged mats but were otherwise sitting around, waiting for power to come back.

The Italian Store on the end has no basement and fared a little better than its neighbors. Owner Rob Tramonte said they were working with contractors to get a generator running, to allow the business to open again soon or at least keep the food from spoiling. Tramonte noted that his Lyon Village location remains open, despite flooding at the nearby intersection of Lee Highway and N. Kirkwood Road.

Jeremy Slayton, a communications specialist for Dominion Energy, said power was estimated to be back on by tonight, though it’s unclear whether power will be able to be restored before the floodwaters could be pumped out. Store owners said they were told it could be a week before utilities are back online.

Ashley Hopko contributed to this story

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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.

Fueled by a recent investment, Courthouse-based startup DivvyCloud unveiled a new suite of features to help identify potential cybersecurity weak spots at a glance

The most high profile of the new features is a new “heat map” scorecard to help companies visualize where their cybersecurity defenses are strongest and where they are most vulnerable.

According to a blog post:

This new feature delivers a visual representation of risk aligned with regulatory standards, industry standards, or your own corporate standards; through an interactive heat map.

With fast paced changes in infrastructure, and the need to have flexibility for deployments into cloud platforms, it has become increasingly challenging to remaining compliant to industry standards. DivvyCloud’s Compliance Scorecard helps you audit compliance and identify risks in your cloud environment in a simple, transparent way.

The accounts are listed on the y-axis, while insights — specific behaviors, conditions or characteristics of cybersecurity — are listed along the x-axis. Accounts with less than 85 percent compliance to security standards are listed in red.

In the sample scorecard above, “Bob” has stale Application Program Interface credentials — coding that allows communication between two applications — meaning Bob has access to a program but his credentials to do so may be out of date.

The feature is designed to assist teams, like auditors or security management, in identifying areas where there are potential gaps in cybersecurity coverage. The scorecard can also recommend guidance for potential problems and direct the viewer to the relevant resources.

Other improvements include a new threat detection system that utilizes machine learning and anomaly detection technologies. DivvyCloud listed cryptocurrency mining, credential compromise behavior, and calls from known malicious IPs as potential threats the technology helps to identify.

DivvyCloud recently announced that it had achieved $19 million in funding in a recent growth round, bringing the total capital raised to $29 million.

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