Arlington, VA

School Board Chair Monique O’Grady will not be seeking reelection after her term ends this December, according to an announcement on her website.

The chair said on Sunday that she will work for a better future for all students through her term, which ends on Dec. 31, 2021. In her announcement, she said she wrote “with a heavy heart” after “much thought, consultation with my family, and careful consideration.” She declined to comment for this story.

O’Grady joined the School Board in 2018 and became chair in July 2020. She said she needs to spend her last six months as chair and her last year on the board working to reopen schools.

“We must return Arlington Public Schools to the strongest and safest new normal that can be achieved as we continue to mitigate the volatile pandemic,” she wrote. “This will require my full and undivided attention.”

O’Grady said in a different time, she would not hesitate to seek re-election, but amid the coronavirus and political unrest, her focus has to be on “returning to in-person learning as safely as possible and pushing forward our equity work.”

“This is especially important as we continue to address the impact that the pandemic has had on all our students, and in particular on those who our data shows are not progressing as well with distance learning,” O’Grady said.

She follows in the footsteps of former School Board members Tannia Talento and Nancy Van Doren, who also chose not to run for additional terms. They were replaced by Cristina Diaz-Torres and David Priddy, who were both elected in November and welcomed onto the board during the Jan. 7 School Board meeting.

O’Grady has lived in Arlington for 25 years and has been an APS parent for 19 of those years, according to her website. She and her husband Mike have three children: Mikey, a Gunston Middle School student, as well as APS graduates Caitlin and Brittany, who is an actress.

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It’s tough to run a restaurant or a fitness studio during the pandemic, but it’s even tougher to run an indoor children’s bounce gym.

Jumping Joeys, which opened at Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) just a few months before the pandemic, appears to have closed for good.

An item on the County Board agenda for this weekend recommends that the Board discontinue a daycare permit issued to the business, which allowed it to provide a “Parent’s Night Out” childcare service.

“The operator of this use permit, Jumping Joeys, has closed and is no longer in operation,” the Board report notes. Attempts by ARLnow to reach the owner of the business, which formerly operated out of a more modest space across from Washington-Liberty High School, were unsuccessful.

The company’s website simply says it is “closed until further notice.” A Google listing for a second Jumping Joeys location on W. Broad Street in Falls Church says it is “permanently closed.”

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Morning Notes

Arlington Spots with Great Fried Chicken — Washington Post food columnist Tim Carman lists three Arlington eateries among the seven serving some of the best fried chicken sandwiches in the D.C. area. The Arlington locations on the list are Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken, Etta Faye’s Fried Chicken, and Fuku. The latter two are “ghost kitchens,” available via delivery only. [Washington Post]

Regional Real Estate Record — “Average home-sales prices across Northern Virginia reached an all-time high in 2020, and total sales volume was second only to the pre-recession boom of 2005, as the market shrugged off COVID and the resulting government-imposed lockdown to see its first year-over-year sales increase since 2017.” [InsideNova]

DCA Still Struggling During Pandemic — “Only three states in the nation are faring as poorly in an aviation rebound as Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, according to new data. In December, the year-over-year passenger count at the airport was down 74.3 percent from December 2019, according to figures from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Atlantis Restaurant Closing — “After nearly 40 years in business, Atlantis Pizzeria and Family Restaurant will close on Jan. 24… The Greek and Mediterranean restaurant at 3648 King Street in the Bradlee Shopping Center has been open sporadically throughout the pandemic, and has only served carryout.” [ALXnow]

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We’ve been cautiously optimistic as we tread further into 2021, but it’s safe to say the Arlington real estate market is off to a strong start.

This past week, 34 properties were reported sold across the county, up slightly from the past two weeks.

As of Jan. 17, there were 536 homes listed for sale in Arlington, according to Homesnap. This includes 368 condos, 133 detached homes and 35 townhomes.

“The median list price is $571,500, and the median sales price is $622,500,” Homesnap reports. “There have been 125 new listings in the last 4 weeks and 174 sales.”

Here are a few of the properties sold in the past seven days:

In the market? See properties that have been Just Listed and Just Reduced.

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National Chamber Ensemble — A Russian Valentine

(Recorded Feb. 13, the concert links will go out on Feb. 20 and will allow our audience 12 days to enjoy the concert at their convenience.)

National Chamber Ensemble presents a very special virtual Valentine’s Concert featuring the best of

Despite everything that transpired leading up to it, Inauguration Day saw a peaceful transfer of power as now-former President Donald Trump departed the White House and President Joe Biden was sworn in.

Overlooking it all from across the Potomac, Arlington played a bit part in pomp and circumstance.

Those with a vista across the river could catch a clear view this morning of President Trump departing the South Lawn of the White House on Marine One.

The inauguration ceremony that followed was devoid of members of the general public, as security and virus concerns closed the National Mall. Some who wanted to experience history unfold in person headed instead to the Marine Corps War Memorial, near Rosslyn.

A sizable security presence could be seen near the Rosslyn Metro station as the inauguration ceremony concluded and as President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris — joined by former residents Clinton, Bush, Obama — headed via motorcade to Arlington National Cemetery.

Biden and Harris paid their respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before heading back into D.C., via the Memorial Bridge, for their arrival at the White House.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report. Photos (as marked) by Jay Westcott, Joanna Hitt Kim and Kevin Wolf.

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When Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse delivered food to the security personnel in the District on Monday, it took two-and-a-half hours and many phone calls — even to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser — to pass each checkpoint. 

“When I arrived the Commander of that unit and the policeman literally cheered, [saying] ‘Bayou Bakery is here,'” Guas tells ARLnow.

Bayou Bakery and Arlington-founded District Taco are helping nourish the 25,000 servicemen and women, along with law enforcement, deployed to protect the nation’s capital during the 59th Inauguration.

The homegrown Mexican chain donated 2,000 burritos to the National Guard on Monday. The day before, Guas said he and his crew worked into the night to prepare biscuits and sandwich lunches for the Monday delivery.

The two join about 30 D.C.-area restaurants distributing meals to the multitudes, hailing from Maine to Guam. The heightened security is in response to the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.  

District Taco donated burritos that were pledged during a “Buy One, Give One Burrito” campaign in December.

On Monday, CEO and co-founder Osiris Hoil cashed in all 2,000 BOGO burritos to feed the National Guard. He said they were so popular that supplies ran out long before the lunch hours ended.

“When I saw the brave servicemen and women protecting the Capitol building, I knew exactly where I wanted those pledged burritos to go,” Hoil said in a press release. 

District Taco also donated hundreds of burritos to essential workers in hospitals and food banks last October and November. Hoil said he is proud to continue this longstanding tradition of giving back.

“Thanks to the support of our community, our restaurants are still open,” Hoil said. 

Guas also uses his food for good. He co-founded Chefs Feeding Families during the pandemic and has cooked for the annual awards dinner put on by Blue Star Families.

“Not having served in the military myself — but having grandparents that did — I’ve always jumped at the opportunity to help our men and women in uniform who protect our freedom,” he said.

Guas credits his involvement to Micheline Mendelsohn Luhn and Spike Mendelsohn, his friends and two of the family members behind We, The Pizza. The duo told ABC News that D.C. restaurants — despite struggles during the pandemic — are pitching in to provide fresh food to upwards of 5,000 people, who might otherwise have to rely on pre-packaged military meals, each day.

Photos (1) via District Taco, (2-3) via Bayou Bakery

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A recent national report has revealed that rents in Arlington have dropped by 14.8% since last March, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by ApartmentList.com.

Arlington has had the seventh-largest decrease compared to other (much larger) markets, like New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. D.C. had the fifth-largest decrease.

Between December and January, Arlington rents decreased by nearly 2.5%.

The median two-bedroom rent in the county is now $2,032, according to the report. However, Arlington still has the most expensive rents in the D.C. region, topping fellow close-in suburbs like Bethesda and Alexandria.

There’s one huge reason for the drop.

“It’s really tied to the economic carnage [from] the pandemic,” says Terry Clower, director of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. “Most of the jobs that we have lost have been in the hospitality services and retail sectors, which are typically disproportionately renters.”

Clower says parsing out data shows the pandemic has also caused behavioral changes in terms of renting. In general, high-rise units have seen a larger drop in demand than lower-rise properties, Clower notes.

If part of your calculation of where you want to live at the moment is based on how dense the development is, how [crowded] it is in the elevator,” says Clower. “Then, you are less likely to live in a high rise.”

Ballston and Rosslyn, in particular, have seen an influx of these dense-living types of properties, mostly due to construction prior to the pandemic, though there are more in the pipeline.

What’s more, there’s lower desire at the moment to live in high-density areas, according to Clower. While rent prices have declined in Arlington, they’ve risen in further D.C. area ‘burbs.

“Areas like Fredericksburg, Virginia… or Charles County, Maryland, rents have increased,” says Clower. “You’re getting… that effect of fleeing the dense inner suburbs to the less dense outer suburbs.”

The need for more space, as well, has shifted some renters to exploring buying single family homes. Between a lack of housing inventory and rising home values in Arlington, says Clower, demand for residences in the outer suburbs have also exploded.

“Most households in our region are two-income earner households, especially families with school-age children,” says Clower. “Kids need a place and both [parents] need some place to work inside the house, preferably not the kitchen table.”

Plus, lower interest rates have also encouraged first-time home buyers.

While rent decreases may be good for renters, it’s not good for property owners, developers, or even the county as a whole.

Clower says smaller landlords, those that only own a few properties, are not getting any break on mortgage payments, meaning decreasing rents impact their ability to pay their mortgage. In terms of the bigger developments, units are generating less revenue.

“They are less valuable in the market, which means that… the property taxes paid to local governments should be reduced as well,” says Clower. “Because they’re less valuable and generating less income.”

Arlington County depends on these property taxes to balance its budget and provide services to residents. But the full impact of all of this may not be seen until further into the future.

“The fiscal and economic down side of this pandemic is going to last well beyond… when we start getting the pandemic under control through the vaccinations,” says Clower.

Right now, it just may be a great moment to rent in Arlington. Clower says we can probably expect a continued slight dip in rents, but the big drop-off probably has already happened with vaccinations starting to happen.

“If you are looking for a good deal and prefer to be a renter,” says Clower, “it’s probably a good time to lock in a relatively long term lease.”

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The Arlington County Board is slated to review plans for two residential towers at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive that include substantial affordable housing contributions.

The proposal from Arlington-based Snell Properties would replace the Ames Center office building across from the Rosslyn Metro station. A south tower will abut the Hyatt Centric hotel and a north tower will surround the existing Arlington Temple United Methodist Church and Sunoco gas station, dubbed “Our Lady of Exxon.”

Although the church and gas station will be “redeveloped in place,” the skywalks — which provide an elevated pedestrian connection to the Metro station — will be demolished, according to the County.

Along with plans for the Holiday Inn and the RCA building, the proposal from Snell will further change Rosslyn’s skyline, demolishing the existing building, formerly occupied by the Art Institute of Washington.

The proposed towers, 30 and 31 stories tall, include 740 multifamily units and about 10,146 square feet of retail space. Up to 225 of the residential units may devoted to an interim hotel use, while the apartments are leased.

In a report, staff highlighted the affordable housing units in the building, committed as such for the next 30 years.

“The Rosslyn Coordinated Redevelopment District area, where this project is located, is one of the most expensive rental markets in the County,” staff said. “There are currently no [committed affordable units] within the RCRD.”

Twenty-four one- and two-bedroom units will be reserved for households making up to 80% of the Area Median Income.

Typically, such units are reserved for those who make up to 60% AMI, but staff said Rosslyn is so expensive that reserving units for up to 80% AMI “will better leverage the community benefits value while providing much-needed affordability directly in this area.”

Snell Properties is also committing nearly $2.5 million in cash toward affordable housing. The County said this sum could create about 29 units in future developments that are affordable for households earning up to 60% of the Area Median Income.

The project additionally includes a $5 million cash contribution for the Fort Myer Drive tunnel project, which includes plans to convert the road into a two-way street, remove the tunnel, widen sidewalks and add protected bike lanes.

A cement plaza will separate the two towers and form one segment of a planned pedestrian pathway that County planners call the “18th Street Corridor.” This street-level walkway will replace the existing, elevated passages. Mid-block crosswalks will join the plaza to 18th Street N.

Those who participated in community engagement from July and September “were universally in support of [the] removal of both skywalks,” staff said.

The towers will share four levels of below-grade parking and the south tower will have four levels of above-grade parking — 574 parking spaces in total.

The County said “there are no outstanding community issues” but the mechanical penthouse roof and elevators may block or hurt the view of D.C. from the Central Place Observation Deck.

The south building will be built in phase one, along with an interim open space and other streetscape improvements. The second phase will see more activity: construction of the north tower, the plaza and remaining streetscape improvements, as well as the removal of the skywalks.

The County Board is expected to review the project at its Saturday meeting.

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