This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Will Wiard, Arlington-based real estate broker, voted one of Washington’s Best Realtors of 2015 by Washingtonian. Please submit your questions via email.
Q: I’m starting a new company and want to know about the steps to take to lease commercial space?
There are many layers to the commercial real estate market. Knowing where to start can be confusing, particularly if this is your first time hunting for the perfect business location and lease. Here are a few things to think about to get you started.
Define what type of property are you looking for. When renting commercial space you’ll need a strong understanding of your ideal space, size and location requirements. Are you heading up an accounting firm and looking for a standard office space with a conference room and private offices? Or are you running a shipping company where you’ll need industrial space with a loading dock? Or are you opening a wine shop and looking for storefront retail in a high-traffic location? Each business type has its own needs. Make sure to think through these specifications and bring them to the table from the very beginning. You may also want to consider whether you are open to exploring a shared space or an incubator. If you’re a small company or start-up, this kind of space can give you the ability to grow with lower overhead than managing a lease on your own.
Ensure your finances are in order. Similar to renting a residential space, an assessment of your finances and income will be conducted by a potential landlord to ensure your financial situation is fit for tenancy. This can help them better gauge your ability to pay on time and stay in the space throughout the term. Many landlords will ask to see a financial statement for your business as part of the initial process. In more competitive markets, a landlord may not consider your company for a space because of a lack of financial history or because your company business model doesn’t fit the space or there are other companies in the same location from the same industry.
Think about your ideal lease term. On average, a commercial lease can be three-to-five years in a lower density market and 10 years or more in a higher density market. In some cases, a tenant can sublet space for a shorter period of time if they take over an existing lease. However, lease terms for a sublet are handled on a case-by-case basis and the types of property can vary greatly.
Discuss your options for rent abatement. Many businesses entering into new lease agreements for commercial space plan to undergo property updates to maximize the use of the space. Rent abatement (i.e., free rent) is often negotiated as a part of these contracts when the business owner plans to make these updates. If you are planning updates, make sure to ask about rent abatement for tenant improvements during your negotiations often listed in a Letter of Intent (LOI). In some cases, a landlord will give a tenant a few months of rent abatement to build out the space or make capital improvements.
Investing the time upfront to define your property preferences and requirements can help you maximize efficiency throughout the process. Finding the right space can be challenging and in some cases it takes months before the right property comes on the market.
I’m hoping some readers will share any additional advice they have in comments.
Thank you for this week’s question. Please keep them coming to [email protected]. This is also a great place to reach me for anyone looking to buy or sell a home in the Arlington area.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Police say a man walked up to a 31-year-old woman on Columbia Pike near S. Courthouse Road at 9:35 p.m. and asked for directions. The suspect then allegedly groped and kissed the woman before running off.
“When the victim looked down at her phone the male subject touched her inappropriately and kissed her on the cheek,” according to a police report. “The suspect is described as a Middle Eastern male in his twenties, approximately 5’4″ tall with a thin build. He was wearing a grey t-shirt and blue jeans at the time of the incident.”
Police do not believe this incident is related to a series of a half dozen sexual assaults that have been reported within the past month.
The film, funded by Arlington County and produced by Vancouver-based Modacity, will highlight “everyday Arlington citizens who use a bicycle as means of commuting and/or recreation.” More than 50 people answered a casting call for the film earlier this year.
Via Twitter, Arlington County Commuter Services Bureau Chief Chris Hamilton called the premiere “THE first hot film event of the season.”
This isn’t the only bike film recently commissioned by the county. In October 2013 the Drafthouse hosted a premiere for “BikeSwell,” a documentary “chronicling Arlington’s transformation into a more bike-friendly community.”
(Updated on Aug. 27 at 10:50 a.m.) Might a monorail-like system be the solution to Columbia Pike’s transit woes?
The Columbia Heights Civic Association is holding a meeting on Sept. 28 to discuss JPods, a transit system that uses suspended railcars, as a possible solution for Columbia Pike in light of the cancelled streetcar.
“We’re excited about this possibility,” said Sarah McKinley, one of the Columbia Heights Civic Association Board members.
The owner of JPods, Bill James, has looked at the Pike and thinks it is a good location for the gondola-like system, McKinley said.
JPod users would get into a pod at a station and then program in an address for where he or she wants to go.
“Think of it like a chauffeured car,” James said.
There could be several hundred to 1,000 pods on the Columbia Pike network. There is a possibility of turning the transit system into a grid, with JPods running from Columbia Pike to Metro stations and other parts of Northern Virginia, he said.
The solar-powered pod system would be privately funded, according to James. The JPods website lists the average cost for installing a network as $10 million, though there’s no word on how much it might cost to construct along the Pike.
Before the project was canceled, the cost of the five mile Columbia Pike streetcar line was estimated at $358 million.
If JPods were approved for Arlington, a network could be built along the Pike in a year, James said.
“[With JPods] you’ll be able to get around most cities like [you can in] New York, without cars,” he said.
Arlington County has been “made aware” of the JPods system, said Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet.
“It’s too early to comment on it because we have not received any detailed technical or cost information that can be evaluated,” he said. “The JPod information we have seen says it would not require any public funding.”
Arlington County does not expect to decide on an alternative transit plan for the Pike until next year.
A third entrance to the Pentagon City Metro station is slated to open as soon as next month.
Arlington County is wrapping up work on a Metro entrance on the northeast corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S., next to the offices of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Transportation Security Administration, the latter of which is moving to Alexandria in two years.
The stairs-only entrance and pedestrian access tunnel connect to what is currently a set of glass doors in the station’s mezzanine. While no official opening date has been set yet, the opening is “tentatively scheduled for the end of September,” according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet.
The entrance and tunnel was actually first built in 1984, but “for a number of reasons, was never opened to the public,” according to the county. In order to open it, the county needed to rehabilitate the tunnel, repairing lighting, electrical connections, leaks, deteriorated doors and gates, floor tiles and other 30-year-old infrastructure. The county also added security cameras, an emergency call box and new signage.
The total cost of the project is $1.3 million. The county says the expense is worth it in order to provide another entrance to a busy station next to the Arlington’s largest shopping center. The new entrance may also help accommodate a coming influx of riders from new development in the area, including a new Whole Foods.
“The opening of the entryway will provide an additional access/egress point to this busy Metrorail station, one of the County’s highest ridership stations, and to the adjacent retail center, Fashion Centre,” the county said in its recent Capital Improvement Plan.
The county, not WMATA, will be responsible for ongoing maintenance of the tunnel.
Arlington No. 3 on ‘Walkable’ List — Arlington is the third most walkable “mid-sized city” in the U.S., according to rankings from real estate firm Redfin. The top ranked locales on the list were Jersey City, N.J. and Newark, N.J. “Many of the cities on the list are considered suburbs of the nation’s largest cities, proving that one need not live in the center of a major city in order to enjoy a walkable lifestyle,” said a press release. [Business Wire]
Income Needed to Buy a Home — Want to buy a house in the D.C. area? In order to afford the median sales price of a home in the region — $403,800 — you’ll need a household income of $86,595. The median sale price of a home in Arlington last month was $622,500. [InsideNova]
The company recently opened its new location at 2231 Crystal Drive, less than a half mile away from the Crystal City Metro station. The new 1776 office is spacious and bright, with walls made up of mostly windows overlooking Reagan National Airport, the Potomac River and D.C.
1776 came to Crystal City after acquiring startup funder and research firm Disruption Corporation, which previously ran its Crystal Tech Fund and offered office space to startups in the space. Both companies were working on a similar system that tried to determine which startups were worth investing in.
Disruption founder Paul Singh joined the 1776 team but left shortly after the acquisition was completed, according to the Washington Business Journal; the paper later revealed that 1776 hastily acquired Disruption after Singh’s company ran out of money.
The office space is currently being redesigned to make the new place look more like 1776’s headquarters, near Scott Circle in the District. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Donna Harris, said 1776 saw a chance to expand its footprint, its network and its mission in Crystal City.
“We saw a real opportunity to try and bring together the region’s abundant resources to help empower those startups, and to drive new economic growth across the region,” Harris said.
Since its arrival in Arlington, the incubator has held a Challenge Cup and hosted Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) to celebrate the White House’s Startup Week. During his visit, startup members of 1776 talked about their products, and a couple of the startups gave demos.
The new Crystal City office is similar to the original D.C. office in that it is a hub for startups, Harris said. The company is planning to use its new location to provide classes, curriculum items, events and mentoring for startups in Arlington.
“As part of our effort to create new opportunities for local startups throughout the Washington Metro region to grow and scale, we plan to use our Crystal City campus as a hub for connecting startups to the growing innovation economy and the powerful talent, expertise, corporations, and government agencies in Crystal City and throughout Virginia,” Harris said.
1776 is also looking to help connect startups with institutions within the private sector and government that are connected with cyber security and data, Harris said, and the location in Arlington helps the company provide these resources.
“As the headquarters for the world’s most important government agencies, regulatory bodies, corporations and policymakers, we believe there is unique promise right here in the Washington metro area for civic-minded startups — and unique resources they can’t find anywhere else,” Harris said.
1776 isn’t the only startup incubator in Crystal City. Eastern Foundry, which works to connect new businesses with government contracting, is a few buildings over at 2011 Crystal Drive.
What makes 1776 unique, Harris said, is that the incubator looks to help startups in industries that are important to everyday life but are hard to change.
“Everyday, there are hundreds of startups working diligently on ideas that have the power to transform and improve our lives as citizens,” Harris said. “We are excited to see how we can work with those startups to improve Arlington’s community and economy.”
The Arlington School Board quietly and unanimously approved the raise at its Aug. 13 meeting. Labeled “Superintendent Salary Adjustment,” with no associated report online, the item was approved without further discussion as part of the Board’s consent agenda.
Murphy’s annual salary will increase by two percent, from $223,242.50 to $227,707.35, as a result of the vote. Murphy oversees a school system with more than 25,000 students and a $556 million annual budget.
Charlie Chiang’s has closed in Crystal City.
The Chinese restaurant, at 320 23rd Street S., has posted signs on the doors directing customers to its Shirlington location at 4060 Campbell Avenue..
“Thank you for your years of patronage!” the signs say. “We have consolidated our operations with our Village at Shirlington location — Ping by Charlie Chiang’s… Please visit us there!”
Another sign on the door says that a new restaurant will be replacing Charlie Chiang’s and will be “opening soon.”
The new restaurant will be called Amannisahan and will serve Uyghur cuisine, according to the sign. In an indication that a quick reopening may indeed be in the works, Amannisahan says it’s currently hiring restaurant managers and waiters.
Uyghur food is a blend of Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Chinese cuisines, serving dishes like kebabs and noodle soups.
Police are still not willing to say that the attacks are the work of the same sexual assault suspect, but did say “there’s potential” that it’s a serial attacker.
The latest incident happened just after 8 p.m. on Friday, as a woman was walking down a path with her young child in Lubber Run Park, near N. George Mason Drive and Barrett Elementary School.
The 27-year-old woman saw an apparently intoxicated man approach her as she tried to get back to the busy road. As he neared, she bent down to shield her three-year-old child, and the suspect groped her, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
“The victim was able to scream causing the suspect to flee,” according to a crime report. “The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his twenties, approximately 5’7″ tall with a medium build. He was wearing a solid grey t-shirt, black shorts, and black tennis shoes at the time of the incident.”
“From the suspect description provided there is a possibility it could be the same guy, but we’re not willing to suggest that quite yet,” said Sternbeck. “We have not identified or arrested the suspect or suspects involved in the attacks.”
ACPD is advising residents to trust your instincts, be aware of your surroundings, travel in groups if possible and to contact police immediately if you are a victim of a crime.
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.
InGo, a company based at 2500 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse, helps bring people to events by analyzing social media activity and finding friends that would also be interested in attending an event. It then gives people the option to invite these friends to the event.
InGo runs a widget on registration pages for events. When someone registers for a large conference or festival, the InGo widget gives people the option to sign up using their Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn profiles.
Once the registration is completed, InGo shows users who else is attending the event, and allows people to filter through the guest list by their social media networks. Then InGo gives a list of friends that would be interested in going and allows users to invite them.
“It is the future of events,” said CEO Michael Barnett. “It is the future of marketing.”
By inviting friends to an event, social media marketing for the event is more personalized instead of “ads and spam,” Barnett said.
“It seemed so natural to say if we’d get people to invite each other, we’ll grow the event,” he said.
InGo has helped grow attendance numbers for multiple events, Barnett said. The company now serves more than 500 events across the globe and works with 18 out of the top 20 event companies in the world. In addition to its Courthouse office, the company also has offices in Milan and London.
“One of the things I didn’t think we expected is that we’d have events on every continent as young as we are,” Barnett said.
The idea to start InGo came from companies telling Barnett that they were have trouble getting attendees to come to their events, he said.
“The challenge [for events] is how do I find you? How do I discover you? That’s what we solve,” Barnett said.
Social media was the natural answer for Barnett, and a personal invitation from a friend to attend an event grabs people’s attention more than an email ad or even an ad on Facebook, he said.
“You can imagine if you get an invitation from a friend that says I’d really like to see you. You’re going to pay attention,” Barnett said.
Invitations are personalized for each different social media type. A Facbeook invitation would be a post on the attendee’s wall that tagged the friends the person invited. Invitation’s can also be sent through LinkedIn and Twitter, and the social media sites are used based on the event. Twitter is popular with photography events, Facebook is used best with social events and LinkedIn is great for industry conferences, Barnett said.
“The entire system works because it is very genuine,” he said.
The company works with large events with millions of attendees, Barnett said. He has his eye on helping increase attendance at music and film festival South by Southwest.
The event needs more paying attendees, Barnett said, and InGo has a solution for them.
“it’s such an exciting show and a great fit,” Barnett said.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Ashlawn Elementary School is facing a lack of faculty parking after its parking contract with the Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association was not renewed this year.
The contract between Dominion Hills and Ashlawn allowed the school to lease parking spaces in the pool’s parking lot.
Without the renewed contract, Ashlawn Elementary School is facing a shortage of parking with 30 spots for 130 faculty members, according to a PTA statement from Ashlawn PTA President Carlin Schwartz. Currently, teachers are being told to park at the Powhatan Springs Park (6020 Wilson Blvd) and walk over to the school.
“As you can imagine, this will be burdensome to our staff,” Schwartz said.
The decision to not renew the contract was a “difficult” decision, according to a statement from the Board of Directors at Dominion Hills. Trash in the parking lot, delays in payment, increased traffic in the parking lot and “an inordinate amount of time spent by our Resident Manager attempting to enforce the terms of the agreement,” were among the Board’s reasons for not renewing the contract.
The pool also needed the parking lot spaces for the last four weeks of the pool season, which overlap with the beginning of the school year. The frequent use of the lot was also causing wear and tear damage, and the pool was using funds to resurface the lot instead of using them for maintenance of the pool, according to the statement.
“A large part of our decision came down to the fact that we are in the swim club business, not the parking lot business. As such, we need to focus our energies on safety issues, grounds maintenance and infrastructure related to that — a huge year-round task,” the Board of Directors said.
Arlington Public Schools and Ashlawn President Judy Apostolico-Buck asked Dominion Hills to reconsider, but the Board of Directors did not overturn its decision, according to the PTA statement.
“It is unfortunate that APS did not plan for sufficient parking for Ashlawn Elementary School. We strive to be good neighbors with Ashlawn, and have been, particularly through its construction period,” the Board of Directors said. “However, a renewal of the prior parking agreement is not in the best interests of DHARA.”
Schwartz and the PTA parents are encouraging Ashlawn families to call or email the school board with any concerns or questions. Suggestions for parking can be emailed to Schwartz or Apostolico-Buck.
“Ashlawn families, staff and neighbors have been incredibly patient, gracious and supportive through the many challenges that the construction process has created and it is greatly appreciated. I hope we can face this newest challenge with the same with mindset,” Schwartz said.
Ashlawn Elementary was not notified about trash issues in the parking lot, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said.
The Bungalow Sports Grill closed in June but a replacement is already in the works. The owners of Copperwood Tavern, another Shirlington restaurant, are planning a new sports bar called “Dudley’s Sport and Ale.”
Dudley’s will open in the 12,000 square foot Bungalow space at 2766 S. Arlington Mill Drive), but amazingly the owners also planning a big addition. The sports bar will have a 3,000 square foot rooftop bar — a first for Shirlington.
In a separate post, Gardner said Washingtion Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has joined his ownership team. Gardner’s company also owns a trio of D.C. bars: Irish Whiskey Public House, Orange Anchor and the soon-to-open Union Social.
Dudley’s is hoping to open early next year, according to its Facebook page.
Arlington Inmate Dies — A 48-year-old convict died early Saturday morning in the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. The man, who had a “history of medical issues,” was found unresponsive in his cell and rushed to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. [Arlington County]
More Sequestration Could Hit Virginia Hard — Virginia, and in particular Northern Virginia, is bracing for more sequestration cuts to the Defense Department, which are set to take effect in five weeks. Virginia’s two U.S. Senators are pushing for new budget legislation to replace the sequester. [Washington Post]
Cemetery Superintendent Removed — One year after taking the position, Arlington National Cemetery superintendent Jack E. Lechner has been given the boot. The Army says Lechner’s job performance was unsatisfactory. [Washington Post]
DAK Chicken Opens in Shirlington — DAK Chicken, a Korean-style chicken restaurant, welcomed customers on Friday for its soft opening. In addition to chicken wings the new Shirlington eatery offers other Korean and Asian-fusion dishes like kimchi, bulgogi and ramen. [Northern Virginia Magazine, Facebook]
Arlington Company Makes Fortune List — Courthouse-based Opower has made Fortune Magazine’s inaugural “Change The World” list. Opower is ranked No. 45 on the list of 51 companies “that have made a sizable impact on major global social or environmental problems as part of their competitive strategy.” How long Opower remains in Arlington remains a question: the company is currently considering a move to the District. [Fortune]
When people think of graphic design, they might picture a single person in their basement designing printouts and posters, banners and brochures. But at Top Shelf Design (TSD) in Rosslyn, you’re more likely to see a team of designers and developers sitting at their computers, bouncing ideas off of each other and thinking of solutions to their client’s design problems.
This scene has changed in the past 11 years since the business opened its doors because the company does 70 percent web development work instead of 40 percent, as they did five years ago. Design in 2015 is about staying current and going mobile, says Gregg Hurson, lead developer at TSD.
“What we’re seeing now is we’re seeing a shift towards digital which is universal. We’re seeing that we’re doing digital annual reports and things like that whereas 5 or 7 years ago that would be straight print, straight to the printer,” said Brendan Kiel, founder and CEO of the company. “We’re also seeing clients that, even if they do a print piece, they’re thinking about how they publicize it on the web, and how people access it on the web, and how they market it that way.”
Kiel and his business partner at the time, started the company around Kiel’s kitchen table in 2004, and the business grew rapidly, from six to 65 clients in the first year. Since then, the company has grown to a staff of 10 and has worked on about 7,000 projects for 1,000 clients, president Kathryn Kiel estimates.
Kathryn says that even as the company has transformed and grown, the staff has had a commitment to what they believe are the most important aspects of their company: great design and attentive customer service.
“I know a lot of clients are really scarred from bad past experiences where their designer goes MIA, or never knowing what they’re going to get or when they’re going to get it, or what’s the next step in the process, or they’ve been trying to reach their developer for who-knows-how-long and they can’t, so I think that’s something that sets us apart,” Kiel said.
When she began doing market research, Kiel called ten design firms, asking about pricing and just general information about them. She says she only got one phone call back from one of the firms. That’s when she knew that an emphasis on communication with customers was going to be a big part of TSD.
“I said, ‘Wow, this is going to be easy. Respond to people quickly, give them what they want, make sure that your deadlines are hit and exceeded their expectations,'” Kiel said.
Another way TSD gets inspiration for its customer service is from an employee, Cassie Stewart. Stewart started at the company working in sales and marketing, but had an idea. With lead designers managing their own projects, much of their work time was spent answering clients’ questions.
“We wondered, how much more creative could we be if designers weren’t interrupted by the phone ringing?” Brendan said.
In January, Stewart became a project manager. She is dedicated to managing client’s successful project. She says it gives our designers more time to focus on excellent and innovative design.