On a calm summer night a few months ago, just after the Fourth of July, a big, century-old tree toppled over, blocking a street and knocking out power to much of the Ashton Heights neighborhood.
Fast forward to today and something cool has come from the tree’s unfortunate demise.
Local chainsaw artist Andrew Mallon has turned part of the big tree — the stump of which remains horizontal in a front yard along the 500 block of N. Lincoln Street — into a sculpture of a two-headed dragon.
The sculpture has captured the neighborhood’s imagination and is clearly an object of fascination for the homeowners’ young son, who was outside admiring it with a caretaker when ARLnow.com stopped by yesterday afternoon.
Mallon, who grew up two blocks from the home, says the family was “disappointed” that the tree fell down, but specifically asked whether it could be kept for posterity, in dragon form.
“They asked if a dragon with a horn was a possibility,” Mallon said. “They wanted a carving the kids could play on that also included a bench for the adults to enjoy. I thought it was a great idea and quickly started thinking of different ways to incorporate all the elements the family wanted.”
“This carving has really been an amazing piece to work on and I couldn’t be happier it is living at a great home, with a fun loving family, in my old neighborhood,” continued Mallon. “I have to be honest the 10 year old in me is a little jealous I didn’t have a dragon to play on as a child.”
Before the carving could begin, Mallon said, a crane had to be brought into remove the four-ton tree from the street. After that, the design was finalized: a dragon with two heads and a kid-friendly saddle.
“To fit the design in the log I had to start the carving by leveling out the bottom and removing about 1,000 pounds from it,” said Mallon. “After being properly leveled, I used my largest saw to block out the heads, body, and tail. Once the general shape was there I was able to switch to a smaller saw to begin working on the details. This includes the playful faces, tail, saddle, etc.”
“I still have some details like the scales to complete, but will be waiting to finish them until we can put the dragon in its permanent location,” he added. “Once the carving is finished I will burn it to add depth and color. This will be followed by a nice sanding, to prevent splinters, and finished with an outdoor sealer to protect the carving from the elements so it lasts for years to come.”
Two major development projects are underway in Courthouse, but more progress has been made on one than the other.
Carr Properties is in the process of redeveloping two sites: 2311 Wilson Blvd, which will be the new headquarters of local tech firm Opower, and 2025 Clarendon Blvd, which will be a new 12-story office building.
Construction is well underway at 2311 Wilson, with sheeting and shoring work in place. At last check the new building was expected to be ready for move-in by 2018.
(A Carr Properties representative has thus far not responded to ARLnow.com’s request for an update on the construction timeline.)
The 2025 Clarendon Blvd project, meanwhile, has only cleared the demolition phase, which saw the former Wendy’s and Wells Fargo bank torn down. The site is currently a vacant lot with little activity of note. No word on when construction might start on the new building.
Govs. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) and John Kasich (R-Ohio) helped to dedicate the newly-named Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University’s Arlington campus Monday afternoon.
The school is now named after Dwight C. Schar, founder of homebuilder NVR, Inc., who donated $10 million to GMU.
Among those in attendance at the event was Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette.
More from a GMU press release:
Mason renamed the school this year in honor of Schar, a Virginia businessman who gave a $10 million gift to boost the school’s reputation nationally and amplify its research, programs and experts.
“Our Commonwealth is strong today because of leaders like Dwight Schar,” McAuliffe said before an audience of approximately 300 people on the Arlington Campus. “You have made this not only a better Commonwealth, but a better university and a better country.”
McAuliffe also announced that the Schar School has entered into an agreement with The Washington Post to conduct regional and state polling in Virginia.
The governors spoke at a ceremony alongside Mason President Ángel Cabrera, Rector and former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly and Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell.
Cabrera talked about the importance of giving the school a name that commands respect.
“Someone with a name that indicates real values and leadership,” Cabrera said. “This is a transformative gift, and promises that he will be here for the long run with us. This gift will help us propel this school to a whole new level.”
Cabrera said the school will “create a new generation of leaders who can make good things happen in our society.”
The Schar School educates about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students each year and has more than 80 faculty and more than 13,000 alumni.
The school offers a range of public policy and government topics, including regional economics, global terrorism, security, public health, transportation, and many other areas. The faculty includes Carnegie and Guggenheim Fellows, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a former congressman, and the former head of the CIA and NSA.
Kasich, in his third appearance at Mason this year, said Schar is setting an example of how to use his wealth in meaningful ways to help his community.
“There are moments in time when we can rise to the higher level, when we live a life a little bit bigger than ourselves,” Kasich said. “Dwight has been very generous to this school. People won’t talk much about his business career or how much money he made. They’re going to talk about his generosity, the moments he lived his life bigger than himself.”
Luna Grill and Diner (4024 Campbell Ave) in Shirlington has been closed since last week, but there are no signs or announcements explaining the closure.
The restaurant remained closed during lunchtime today. Chairs were still placed atop tables and nothing looked amiss, save the fact that it wasn’t open as usual.
There were no signs in the window, nor recent social media posts on the restaurant’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The Luna Grill website has a simple one-sentence line of text — “This site has been suspended” — and nothing else. The diner’s phone line has apparently been turned off.
Unconfirmed rumors suggest that Luna Grill was sold — it has been offered for sale, as we’ve previously reported — and that it would reopen later this year with a new owner.
“Luna is excited to have renowned Chef Scott Sunshine on board!” the post says. “Join Chef Scott Sunshine for a look at some of our new dishes: Roasted Duck Eggrolls, Watermelon Soup, Chard and Kale Caesar Salad, Crispy Red Curry Shrimp Wrap and Seared Scallop Pappardelle Pasta. Coming soon, [a] grand reopening with completely new exciting menu!”
Arlington diners have received some bad news this week.
But an outdoor brunch at an Arlington eatery this weekend should be nice. Sunny skies should prevail Saturday and Sunday, with temperatures in the mid 60s to lower 70s, according to the National Weather Service.
Feel free to discuss the latest restaurant news, the weather or any other topic of local interest in the comments.
Arlington dignitaries were on hand for a ribbon cutting and champagne ceremony at the new 168-room Hyatt Place hotel in Courthouse Thursday afternoon.
In addition to rooms with modern furnishings and comfy beds, the hotel, at 2401 Wilson Blvd, features a 24-hour gym, 24-hour meal service, free hotel-wide WiFi and a “coffee to cocktails bar.”
There’s also a curated art collection in the lobby and a newly-unveiled original sculpture — of a stylized, blue high heel shoe that doubles as a bench — outside, at the corner of Wilson and N. Adams Street.
At the ceremony, officials lauded the hotel as an economic asset for Arlington that was built with the support of local residents, thanks to a focus on public outreach by developer Schupp Companies.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Blumen Cafe, a new independent coffee, tea and pastry shop in the Clarendon-Courthouse area, has opened for business in the former CD Cellar space (2607 Wilson Blvd).
The cafe has quietly opened this week — customers are discovering it by walking by — ahead of a planned grand opening event on Saturday, Oct. 29.
Blumen Cafe reflects European and Mediterranean influences. It serves Illy coffee and espresso, from Italy, and offers 27 different types of teas, imported from Germany. Half of its pastries — cakes, baklava, etc. — are homemade from scratch, we’re told.
Owner Andira Jabbari says she started the first Blumen Cafe in Germany, after graduating from a university there, before selling it and moving to Doha, Qatar, where she started a tea shop. Jabbari moved here last year and lives in Courthouse.
The cafe is a family affair — staffed by Jabbari and her daughters. Jabbari’s brother was in the cafe this afternoon, helping out.
Asked about competition from Starbucks, Jabbari brushed it off and said the quality of her offerings will stand out. The relaxed, airy atmosphere — including a large accordion-style door up front that remains open during nice weather — will also provide a welcome alternative to the green-logoed coffee giant, she said.
Blumen Cafe is currently open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
The 24-foot-long Planters NUTmobile will be spending the week in Arlington from Oct. 17-24. It will be in town for the 2016 National Trademark Expo in D.C. and will also be making appearances at local grocery stores.
Expect to see it parked outside a hotel in the Courthouse neighborhood, the truck’s driver, “Top Hat Trav,” tells ARLnow.com.
“Many of your readers may be seeing our massive peanut vehicle throughout the week,” Trav advised. The NUTmobile travels the country on a “nutty journey” that includes appearances at well-known destinations by the Planters mascot, Mr. Peanut.
Located in the former Hudson Trail Outfitters space, the off-price retailer will offer “high-quality and on-trend merchandise from top designers at amazing prices,” plus “jewelry, home, beauty, pet products, toys and more.”
As part of its Oct. 29 grand opening and 7:30 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony, T.J. Maxx says it is donating $5,000 to local nonprofit Doorways for Women and Families.
More from a company press release:
T.J.Maxx, one of the nation’s leading off-price retailers with more than 1,000 stores currently operating in 49 states and Puerto Rico, will open a new store in Arlington on October 29, 2016. From fashion and accessories to jewelry, home, beauty, pet products, toys and more, the latest T.J.Maxx store will have something for the entire family.
“We are pleased to provide a new store in Arlington, delivering value and an exciting selection of merchandise to serve the needs of customers,” said Richard Sherr, President of T.J.Maxx. “With thousands of new items from top designers and brands arriving in stores weekly from around the world, shoppers will discover a new store full of amazing values every time they visit.”
Local shoppers can celebrate our new store opening on October 29th starting at 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. and experience the thrill of off-price shopping. Reusable bags will be given to the first 1,000 customers.
STORE FACTS & FEATURES
- New Location: Pentagon Plaza
- 20,721 square feet
- Regular hours: 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sundays
- Easy to shop layout
- Bright and spacious dressing rooms
- Single line queue for faster checkout
T.J.Maxx offers high-quality and on-trend merchandise from top designers at amazing prices. What’s our secret? Our T.J.Maxx buyers work with thousands of brands and designers from around the world to score the most coveted pieces at prices that work for shoppers. Our buyers shop year-round, not just seasonally to take advantage of merchandise opportunities as they arise, allowing us to be smarter about trends. Because we buy closer to need, we can negotiate better prices to pass along to our customers!
In addition to providing a new shopping option for local residents, the new store plans to add approximately 60 full and part-time jobs to the area.
In celebration of its new Arlington location, T.J.Maxx will contribute to the surrounding community by presenting a $5,000 donation to Doorways for Women and Children at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on October 29th at 7:30 a.m. The new store will also join all other stores nationwide in sponsoring Save the Children’s U.S. Programs. T.J.Maxx also supports Save the Children, Autism Speaks and Joslin Diabetes Center with annual in-store fundraising campaigns.
Last month we asked our readers to tell us your most embarrassing orthodontics story.
You responded and… yowza… there were some really embarrassing and weird stories. We’ve whittled the submissions down to four cringe-worthy finalists and now it’s up to readers to vote for your favorite.
The winner will receive professional teeth whitening sessions for two from Rosslyn-based VCO Orthodontics. The runner-up will get a professional teeth whitening session for one.
These stories may be ugly but there is good news: if you or your kids need orthodontic treatment, the modern ortho techniques employed by VCO’s Harvard-educated founder, Dr. Crissy Markova, make for a much better experience than you might have gotten back in the day.
Here are the finalists:
The scene: middle school in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid 1970s.
The facts: I will admit that I didn’t wear my headpiece at night like I was supposed to. I was warned but didn’t believe the ortho. He said he would wire it in if I didn’t wear it.
The other fact: our choir was invited to sing on the local TV station, and I had a solo.
Next ortho appt: the ortho wired in my headpiece. I begged him not to. The next day I was in the TV studio in SF singing. With a big lisp. ” I THAW three THIPS come THAILING in on CRETHMATH DAY…..” Yep, lovely.
Once a few years ago I had an accident that required the repair of two broken teeth. While the operation itself, shots of novocaine and all was 100% successful, it was made most unpleasant when the saliva suction tube fell out while I was waiting for the orthodontist and the technician stepped away for a few minutes. I realized it had fallen out after my mouth started swelling up with spit, and I couldn’t swallow it because it built up too quickly that I was worried I would choke. All I could do was sit there and be frustrated that I had to essentially spill like a cup of my own spit onto the floor. Turns out those suction tubes are super important if removed for 5 minutes!
Back in fifth grade after I had my braces taken off I was given a retainer to wear. It was pizza day for lunch and I discretely took my retainer out, wrapped it in a napkin, and put it on my lunch tray. When I got home from school my mom asked where my retainer was and I realized I had thrown it away with my lunch tray. We hopped in the car, drove to the school, and I got in the dumpster to pull out the lunch trash bags. We sifted through a few bags, and found my retainer! She soaked and cleaned it and I went back to wearing it the next day.
Well my experience was terrible in the 80s and continues to haunt me. I had an appliance that was supposed to bring my lower jaw forward and it puffed my cheeks like a chipmunk. During my first week of middle school (living in Florida and I am female), someone asked me if I was chewing tobacco. I am now 48. A year ago, I was diagnosed with “short roots” attributed to the fast track method of orthodontia implemented in my early teens. Because of this, I now need to wear a retainer nightly so I don’t lose my front two bottom teeth.
So which embarrassing story has your vote?
Voting closes next week on Wednesday, Oct. 19. Good luck to the entrants!
Those running the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 30 now have an alternative to picking up their race packets at National Harbor this year.
The new packet pickup location has some worried about crowds at the Maryland shopping, entertainment and tourism destination, which is not Metrorail accessible. In response, local running store Pacers has made a deal to pick up packets for customers and bring them to Pacers locations, including the store at 3100 Clarendon Blvd in Clarendon.
The catch: you have to buy at least $125 in Brooks running gear — including Marine Corps Marathon apparel, which will be available — at Pacers between Sept. 28 and Oct. 24 to be eligible.
Pacers will also be holding mini-expos at the company’s Clarendon and Navy Yard stores just before the marathon.
“We will be hosting expotiques at Pacers Navy Yard and Pacers Clarendon on Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 with all the great last minute essentials and great deals you expect at the expo — just without the massive crowds and travel headaches!” Pacers said on its website. “And for those of you who participate in our packet pick up program, we’ll have your packet waiting for you with a smile.”
Clarendon is slated to get a new gym by the end of the month.
Orangetheory Fitness will officially open its doors at 3001 Washington Blvd on Oct. 30, according to franchise owner Mark Steverson.
To help promote the new fitness center, Orangetheory will offer special “founding member” pricing and a free week of classes from Oct 22-29. The gym will also host a grand opening party with freebies and vendors on Oct. 29, Steverson added.
Orangetheory specializes in one-hour group workouts where exercisers row, run and lift weights to boost their endurance and strength. Each participant wears a heart rate monitor during the workout to maximize calorie burn.
Those looking to sign up for a free class or get more information about membership packages can contact the gym by phone at 202-868-6767 or by email.
Several indicators of the pace of restaurant openings in Arlington are pointing down this year.
While some new restaurants and bars are on the way, there have been more closings than openings this year, even while the overall Arlington population rises. (By our count: 22 openings and 24 closings, with many of the openings having been for chain restaurants with more than three locations.)
Though it’s not a precise measurement, in years past ARLnow.com has consistently published around 90 articles per year about new restaurants. This year, we’re on pace to publish 72 articles, a decrease of 20 percent.
Meanwhile, Virginia ABC permit applications are down, indicating that the pipeline of new restaurants may also be drying up.
The number of pending permit applications for businesses seeking beer, wine and liquor licenses usually hovers around 20. Currently, it’s at 13, including a number of wholesalers, a few existing restaurants and seven new restaurants that we’ve already reported on.
There’s talk of a national restaurant recession, but some factors particular to Arlington appear to be in play. For one, it follows years of net restaurant growth in the county. For another, a number of the restaurants that closed this year in Arlington were well regarded by others in the industry and not typical of other failed businesses.
“I think the closings this year have surprised everyone and some of them are concepts that people thought were pretty well done,” one restaurant industry insider told ARLnow.com. “Maybe the bubble has burst.”
While we’ve previously reported rumblings from restaurant owners that the Clarendon market in particular was too crowded with restaurants, this insider did not agree that the closings would necessarily be a good thing for the remaining restaurants.
“I’ve always thought it’s better to have a bustling industry where a lot of people are opening and can feed off being known as being in a good restaurant area,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing to see all of your competitors and everyone around you closing down.”
With continued growth in other parts of Northern Virginia, like Tysons and Loudoun County, it might be that Arlington is losing its status as a dining destination. While the weekend bar scene in Clarendon remains strong, pulling in customers from around the area, Arlington’s restaurants apparently aren’t having such success.
Or perhaps, some speculate, the continued high cost of living has been pushing out the 20-somethings who are key restaurant customers, leaving older residents with children who go out to eat more sparingly.
Either way, 2016 will be known as a bloody year for the local restaurant biz.
“It’s unbelievable how many places have closed,” said the insider.
Located at 520 12th Street S., near the new Whole Foods, Commonwealth Joe offers hot and cold coffee and espresso drinks, plus baked goods and bags of their own signature roasted coffees. The star of the menu, however, is the five varieties of Commonwealth Joe’s smooth, creamy nitro cold brew coffee which are available on tap.
Commonwealth Joe offers a homey, airy space for the usual legion of laptop tappers to camp out in while sipping their coffee. Wifi is available.
Over the next week Commonwealth Joe will be operating under reduced hours — opening at 7 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 3 p.m. on weekends. The hours will be expanded after employee training wraps up.
This is Commonwealth Joe’s first branded cafe, although the company — founded by four friends in 2012 — also operates the Java Shack in Courthouse. On 12th Street S. Commonwealth Joe will face competition from a familiar foe: Starbucks, which opened a block away earlier this summer.
Eight months after opening, Park Lane Tavern (3227 Washington Blvd) in Clarendon has closed.
The European-inspired pub, which offered reasonably-priced pan-Euro cuisine and a sizable collection of beers and whiskeys from across the pond, opened in February in a location not far from the Clarendon Metro but well off the beaten path. It was the company’s third Park Lane Tavern, with existing locations in Fredericksburg and Hampton, Va.
While a sign on the door today suggested the closure was temporary, equipment could be seen being hauled out of the restaurant this morning. An employee who answered the phone confirmed that the closure was permanent.