Arlington, VA

The Arlington County Board made the unusual move of extending weekend operating hours to 2 a.m. for one Columbia Pike establishment — but it’s not for a bar.

The Board granted permission for the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) to hold community events until 2 a.m. on weekend nights. In exchange, staff from the office building at 901 S. Highland Street will be responsible for keeping the noise down, and ensuring there are two security personnel present in labeled vests.

“It’s outcomes we care about,” said Board Chair Christian Dorsey after a lengthy back-and-forth over the number of security personnel needed to accommodate the event space. The Board voted unanimously to grant ECDC a use permit after Board member Katie Cristol proposed an amendment to keep the current requirement of 2 staff members.

“It’s pretty unusual extending events to 2 a.m., particularly in a space that abuts a more residential area,” said Cristol.

“The reason I’m comfortable taking this unusual step is all of the work all of you have done,” she said, citing sound-proofing and traffic management measures ECDC has taken over the past several years.

“I think it is going to accommodate the needs of our community,” ECDC President and CEO Dr. Tsehaye Teferra told ARLnow today (Tuesday). “In times of death or joy people need a space to gather and we are meeting that need. That’s how we started it.”

The development council has provided language and job training to Ethiopians who have newly immigrated to the United States since 1983 and advocates for the D.C. area’s growing Ethiopian community. ECDC’s office along Columbia Pike also serves as an ad-hoc community center by letting members rent out space for events, from celebrations to memorial services.

County planner Matthew Pfeiffer presented recommendations to the Board that ECDC be granted longer opening hours — as long as they provide three staffers to oversee operations to direct “potential impacts away from N. Highland Street.” Under the county’s proposal, ECDC would be required to provide two staffers to monitor the events and provide security, and the third would be dedicated to managing noise and traffic on N. Highland Street.

Teferra protested the increased staffing requirement, saying it should be up to ECDC to set appropriate staffing levels in order to keep cost of renting the spaces low.

“If we are required to have three staff at all times, financially it is not sustainable,” he said.

The newly-extended hours would only apply to one of ECDC’s buildings: the “front” building on the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Highland Street, which has a 3,762 square-foot ballroom. ECDC’s rear office building also has a 1,437 square-foot space that will stick with the old midnight closing hours for weekend events, Teferra says.

ECDC requested later hours for the ballroom to help serve a community that includes people working late shifts in restaurants and hotels that conflict with the current closing times.

Teferra added that although many of the community members work in hotels, it’s hard for them to afford the activity space in hotels, and not all locations allow them to bring in their own food. Other places, like apartment party rooms, sometimes require guest lists which are difficult to manage for drop-in events like wakes.

“In many cases, most people work until 8 or 9 p.m. and events don’t start right away,” he said. “So in the past we had the limit was until 11:30. By the time the party started then it’s over.”

Teferra told the Board that ECDC usually hosts at least one community event per month, including memorial services, christenings, weddings, graduations, religious ceremonies and birthday parties.

The council also holds other events, like job training events.

He told ARLnow that not every event is a nighttime one — most christenings happen in the morning, for instance — and that ECDC plans to end most weekend nighttime meetings before 1:30 a.m.

Pfeiffer noted that neighbors “fairly clearly” did not support the request for long hours when the county engaged the Arlington Heights neighborhood. Teferra disagreed, saying the ECDC gathered over 100 signatures of support from neighbors.

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The Arlington County Police Department has arrested a man on charges of sexual assault and fraud after police say he cornered a woman and stole her credit cards.

Officers were dispatched to a reported assault at 7:42 p.m. on Saturday, July 13 on the 1700 block of Crystal Drive  — an area near the Crystal City Metro station — per an ACPD press release.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was inside a business when an unknown male suspect entered, cornered her and made inappropriate sexual comments,” the press release noted. “The victim yelled at the suspect and forcefully pushed him away, prompting him to flee the scene on foot prior to police arrival.”

Arlington resident Yohannes Gebreyesus, 36, was apprehended by officers nearby a day later.

A patrolling officer arrested Gebreyesus near the Crystal City Metro on Sunday, July 14, after Gebreyesus had made several purchases with the stolen credit cards, police said.

Gebreyesus was charged with one count of Attempted Rape, two counts of Credit Card Theft, one count of Credit Card Fraud, and a warrant for a previous felony violation of his probation.

A man matching Gebreyesus’ name previously pleaded guilty to three charges of grand larceny for stealing vehicles between 2012 and 2018, according to county court records. Arlington County Circuit Court records note that the Yohannes Gebreyesus charged with the 2018 grand larceny violated his parole in April.

The full press release from police is below, after the jump.

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A new medical office could be coming to Courthouse after officials approved a building owner’s request to broaden its search for tenants.

The County Board unanimously approved a site plan amendment during its meeting on Saturday, allowing the property owner of the Tellus luxury apartment building at 2009 14th St. N. in Courthouse to lease the 1,807 square foot space to office tenants as well as retail tenants.

The change was made with a particular medical office tenant in mind, a county staff report said. Lawyers representing the owner during the site plan amendment process were not immediately available to comment on who the medical office tenant is.

“The applicant states that it has been unsuccessful in retaining a retail tenant for the space, despite actively marketing the space since initial County Board approval of the site plan in 2009,” noted a staff report to the Board.

Other property owners in Arlington have struggled to fill off-the-beaten path retail spaces; a residential building in the Potomac Yard area received County Board approval earlier this year to fill a retail space with a “retail equivalent” business like a medical or dental office or child care center.

The 16-story, 254-apartment-unit building is located at the intersection of N. Troy Street and 14th Street N and replaced the 1960’s Arlington Executive Building in 2013 after several years of delays. The building was awarded for its architectural design in 2017.

Images 1-2 via Google Maps, Image 3 via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Family Sues Metro for Va. Square Death — “A family has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), claiming negligence in the death of a man who lay down on the tracks at the Virginia Square rail station in July 2017.” [NBC Washington]

Jury Duty Process Starting Soon — “The Arlington Circuit Court… will soon begin its annual juror qualification process. Juror questionnaires will be mailed in early August to randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City.” [Arlington County]

Tech Company Relocating to Arlington — “Still fresh off of raising millions in venture capital funding, Amify Inc. is leaving Alexandria for a larger space in Arlington just a few blocks from Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. The company, which markets, sells and ships products for other companies on Amazon, has signed a three-year lease with JBG Smith Properties to take over the Crystal City space that was last rented by Trustify Inc., an embattled tech company that’s now in bankruptcy.” [Washington Business Journal]

Plaque Proposed for Wilson School — “Gone but not forgotten. That’s the hope of historic-preservation advocates when it comes to the Wilson School in Rosslyn… Plans for an historic marker noting the school’s provenance are wending their way through the county government’s approval process.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Exec Tapped as Accenture CEO — “Accenture Inc.’s board of directors has promoted Julie Sweet, a Greater Washington executive who now serves as the company’s North American CEO, to the top job of global chief executive effective Sept. 1. Her ascension makes Sweet, based in Arlington County, the 34th female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Update on Flooded Commuter Routes — “After time-consuming repairs, the District Department of Transportation reopened Canal Road between Reservoir and Foxhall roads late Monday morning…. In McLean, a rain-swollen [Pimmit] Run undermined a large section of Kirby Road. VDOT said the work to repair the road and embankment will take weeks.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by John Sullivan

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The county is hoping to move past the “million-dollar bus stop” by building four less expensive stops along Columbia Pike.

A network of new transit stops along Columbia Pike were originally supposed to serve both buses and streetcars, before the streetcar project was cancelled. The latest turn in the Pike transit saga, the County Board is scheduled to discuss awarding a $1.64 million contract to build four out of 23 planned bus stops along the Pike.

“This project is key to the revitalization of the entire Columbia Pike corridor,” county staff wrote in a report to the Board.

The original construction plans were scrapped six years ago after the more than $1 million in costs for the prototype Walter Reed Drive stop, first reported by ARLnow, drew outrage from the public and international press attention.

After the streetcar project folded in 2014, officials morphed the idea of the transit stations into cheaper bus stops. Since then, the county approved $13.3 million for the planned 23 stations in Arlington’s FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.

At its Tuesday meeting, the County Board is expected to award a contract to build four of the bus stops to Alexandria-based Sagres Construction Corporation. The same contractor was previously tapped for roadwork on Wilson Blvd and other infrastructure projects.

The four bus stops would be located near the intersections of:

  • Columbia Pike and S. Buchanan Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road

If the Board members approve the contract, the county is poised to pay Sagres $1,372,250.70 for the work with the possibility of an additional $274,450.14 for unexpected costs.

Sagres was the least expensive bidder for the project by more than a million dollars, per a staff report to the Board.

“The four new transit stations coming to the Pike are the critical first step in the larger multi-modal project that will enhance transit along the Pike, and bring us one step closer to providing connectivity between the Columbia Pike Corridor, Crystal City and the new Amazon HQ2,” Kim Klingler, the new Executive Director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, told the Sun Gazette.

County staff will attend 10 community events like the Pike’s farmer market, movie nights at Arlington Mill, and the Blues Festival to talk with residents about the project, per the report.

“The feedback received from the public thus far has been generally positive,” the staff report notes. “However, concerns about disruption to vehicular and pedestrian traffic during construction have been expressed. Other concerns noted include sun and weather protection.”

Construction on the four bus stops could finish as early as spring 2020, but officials have not yet shared when they expect contracts to be awarded for the remaining stations.

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A 35-year-old D.C. man exposed himself to a woman in Rosslyn and then spit on her, according to Arlington County Police.

The alleged incident happened Saturday morning around 8:15 a.m., outside a business on the 1700 block of N. Lynn Street, just south of Wilson Blvd.

“The victim was attempting to enter a business when the male suspect allegedly confronted her outside the entrance, exposing his genitals and touching himself inappropriately,” police said in a crime report today. “The male made inappropriate comments to the victim and spit on her. The male subsequently entered the business and was refusing to leave”.

“Arriving officers located the male suspect inside of the business and took him into custody without incident,” the ACPD crime report continues. “Donte Smith, 35, of Washington, D.C. was arrested and charged with Indecent Exposure and Assault & Battery.”

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(Updated at 1:40 p.m.) Over a thousand residents have reported damage to their homes and several tons of debris was collected after last week’s torrential rainstorm that caused widespread flooding in Arlington.

The deadline for residents to report initial damages to their homes was Friday, July 12. Today (Monday) officials told ARLnow that a total of 1,029 people filed post-storm damage claims.

The damage reports describe a range of problem from minor (clogged drains) to major (completely flooded basements), said Hannah Winant, a spokeswoman with Arlington’s Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management (PSCEM) department.

Winant said the reports will help Arlington County’s recovery and flood mitigation efforts.

“First, reports help us determine what neighborhoods have been impacted by weather. For example, we may learn if someone needs a safety inspection after electricity loss,” she said. “Second, damage reports help us better convey our needs to the state when requesting potential resources to assist with recovery efforts. The more clearly we can articulate how many people have been impacted… the better we can advocate for our community and potentially collaborate with state and federal partners to help.”

As for the destruction of county property like pedestrian bridges and public parks, Winant says Arlington is current estimating about $4.1 million in damages — up from initial estimates last week of $3.5 million.

PSCEM’s director clarified during Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting that these reports are used for the county’s state and federal aid applications, and that affected residents will have another change to summit damage claims later.

Crews hauled away 60 tons of debris — from rolled up carpets to soggy books to water-damaged furniture — during special collections from Wednesday to Saturday, according to Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. That doesn’t include the ruined parts of people’s homes that dotted curbs around Arlington, waiting to be collected on regular trash pick-up days.

O’Brien said that county crews are scheduled to continue helping residents affected by the floods clear debris this week. The department previously apologized for a contractor who cited some flood-stricken residents “for improper trash preparation.”

Many homes, shops, restaurants, and pieces of public infrastructure were damaged by last Monday’s unusually strong storm — leading County Manager Mark Schwartz to declare a state of emergency in a bid for state or federal aid two days later.

“Our community experienced a rain event on Monday the likes of which no one who lives in Arlington, or who has lived in Arlington, has ever seen,” said County Board Chair Christian Dorsey at the Board’s weekend meeting, during which members unanimously voted to finalize the declaration. “The violent storm that turned the daytime sky as dark as night in a matter in minutes.”

PSCEM Director Aaron Miller told the Board that the county met the $3 million minimum damage threshold needed to qualify for state aid, and that the Small Business Administration (SBA) is sending inspectors to Arlington this week to verify the damage reports. The SBA could offer grants or low-interest loans for residents to rebuild.

Miller said additional aid hinges on a tangle of bureaucratic red tape among FEMA and larger emergency declarations that can only happen at the federal level when certain damage thresholds are met.

Dorsey added that he hoped that Virginia or the federal government will be able to give “some sort of help” but that the majority of costs are likely to fall on homeowners and business owners.

Several members of the public urged the Board to re-examine its storm water management system in hard-hit areas. Board Member Erik Gutshall proposed that the county start thinking about flood-ready construction for more resilient buildings and infrastructure.

Dorsey praised county staff for their work over the past week but noted that, “we do have to up our game” in face of future potential impacts from climate change. 

“It is quite frankly a blessed miracle that no one was killed or even seriously injured with the events of this past Monday and for that we are profoundly grateful,” he said.

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A project to repave Arlington County’s large surface parking lot in Courthouse is now underway.

The first phase of the project, which will make some repairs in a small portion of the lot, is scheduled to take place through Wednesday. The bulk of the project is scheduled from Aug. 18-26, necessitating the lot’s closure and the one-week cancellation of the Courthouse Farmers Market.

Eventually, the parking lot is envisioned to become open, green space atop a new underground parking garage — though the repaving project suggests that plan is still far from becoming reality.

More from a county press release:

The Arlington County Police Department will close parts of the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center Surface Parking Lot, located at N. Courthouse Road and N. 14th Street in Courthouse, during July and August for the Department of Environmental Services to complete a milling and paving project.

Phase I Closures (July 14-17)

  • The small lot adjacent to the 1400 block of N. Uhle Street and a designated area in the northeast corner of the large metered lot will be closed to vehicles beginning at 1:00 p.m. on July 14 until July 17 to complete curb and vault repairs prior to milling and paving.

Phase II Closures (August 18-26)

  • The entirety of the large metered lot, the small lot adjacent to the 1400 block of N. Uhle Street and the 1400 block of N. Uhle Street will be closed to vehicles beginning at 1:00 p.m. on August 18 until August 26 to complete milling and paving work. The Courthouse Farmers Market will be cancelled on August 24.

Throughout the duration of the project, on-street parking will be available in the area, as well as parking in the public lot under the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center located at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard.

Motorists are advised to be on the lookout for temporary “No Parking” signs in affected areas during Phase I and the entirety of lot during Phase II of the parking lot. Vehicles parked in these areas may be ticketed or towed. If your vehicle is towed from a public street or lot, call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated 10:35 a.m.) The Arlington County Board is acquiring a pair of properties in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood to expand Fort Scott Park.

The Board approved the purchase of the properties — including a home at 705 31st Street S. and an adjacent vacant lot — for just over $1.4 million at its Saturday meeting. The county plans to tear down the house, which is being sold by a trustee after its owner recently passed away.

“Recently, County Real Estate Bureau staff was contacted by the owner of the properties, who inquired whether the County would be interested in purchasing the properties because they abut Fort Scott Park,” wrote county staff in a report to the Board.

The lots are a combined 14,305 square feet and are just south of the park, which officials are planning to expand while updating pedestrian and bicycle paths, per the staff report.

Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development determined that the house, which was built in 1948, has no historical or architectural merit.

The expansion is considered part of the county’s Public Spaces Master Plan, which was updated in April and includes a goal to add a minimum of 30 acres of land to the county’s public spaces over the next 10 years.

Fort Scott Park was once a Civil War-era fort named after Winfield Scott, the General-in-Chief of the Union Army General, according to a county press release.

The full press release is after the jump.

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Fifteen local arts organizations and three individual artists will collectively receive just over $200,000 in grants from Arlington County.

The County Board approved the $215,810 in annual arts grants at its meeting on Saturday. The grant recipients were recommended by the Arlington Commission for the Arts, which considered 27 grant applications from 19 nonprofit arts organizations and eight individuals.

Those receiving grants are:

  • Melanie Kehoss: $5,000
  • Susan Sterner: $5,000
  • Katherine Young: $5,000
  • Arlington Artists Alliance: $3,143
  • Arlington Players: $14,024
  • Bowen McCauley Dance: $13,366
  • Dominion Stage: $3,168
  • Educational Theatre Company: $12,674
  • Halau O’Aulani: $5,147
  • National Chamber Ensemble: $11,948
  • Synetic Theater: $13,970
  • Arcanists: $1,613
  • Arlington Arts Center: $27,475
  • Arlington Independent Media: $7,772
  • Arlington Philharmonic Association: $21,491
  • Encore Stage & Studio: $27,397
  • Jane Franklin Dance: $15,800
  • WSC Avant Bard: $21,822

More from an Arlington County press release, after the jump.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Officials Pledge Action on Flooding — “Perhaps sensitive to growing community disenchantment over past performance in addressing heavy-rain incidents, County Board members on July 13 pledged to find ways to improve local-government efforts to address the impact of flooding. ‘We have to up our game,’ acknowledged County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey.” [InsideNova]

Residents Demand Stormwater Fixes — “Alexandra Lettow was near tears as she described the losses her family suffered in Monday’s flooding to neighbors and county officials gathered at a home in Arlington’s Waverly Hills neighborhood… It was at least the seventh time the neighborhood had flooded in 19 years.” [Washington Post]

Flood Insurance Doesn’t Cover All Losses — “They have a FEMA-backed flood insurance policy through Liberty Mutual… When the insurance adjuster came Tuesday to assess the damage she dropped a bombshell. Right there in the middle of the policy it reads, for property in a basement, coverage is limited.” [WJLA]

Arlington Man Leads Police on Chase — “At first the Expedition refused to stop for the trooper, but finally pulled off and stopped on the shoulder. A few minutes into the traffic stop, the driver of the Expedition drove off from the trooper and a pursuit was initiated westbound on I-66.” [Press Release]

Board Approved 23rd Street Tunnel Request — “After years of maintaining the little-used 23rd Street pedestrian tunnel that runs under Richmond Highway in Crystal City, Arlington will request its closure from the state.” [Arlington County]

New Renderings of Rosslyn Hotel Development — “The proposed development… would replace the Holiday Inn at 1900 N. Fort Myer Drive with a building which combines residential, hotel and conference center uses along with retail and restaurant space. A 38-story tower fronting N. Fort Myer would contain a four-star hotel with 344 rooms (compared to the previously-proposed 327), and a 25-story residential tower fronting Nash Street would deliver roughly 500 studio-to-three-bedroom units (compared to the previously-proposed 490).” [Urban Turf]

Interim Economic Development Director Named — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has named Alex Iams interim director of Arlington Economic Development. Iams currently serves as assistant director of the department. He succeeds Victor Hoskins, who has served as director since January 2015.” [Arlington County]

Hoskins: Arlington in Good Shape — “Hoskins said that Arlington County has ‘nothing to worry about’ with Amazon coming in, adding that the move to Fairfax County is coming at the right time — ‘Yes, I’m done in Arlington.'” [Tysons Reporter]

Photo courtesy Craig Fingar

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