Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

GMU Forms Coalition for Arlington Expansion — “George Mason University has gathered a powerhouse coalition of business executives and public sector leaders to help guide its tech-centric Arlington campus. The President’s Innovation Advisory Council, GMU announced Monday, will be chaired by Aneesh Chopra, president of CareJourney and the nation’s chief technology officer during the Obama administration.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Real Estate Prices Rise — “Year-over-year median per-square-foot prices were up in eight of nine major jurisdictions across the inner D.C. region, according to new figures… The District of Columbia led all comers, with its per-square-foot sales price standing at $521, up 16 percent from $449 in January 2020. Arlington ($465, up 16.5 percent from $399) and Alexandria ($360, up 4.1 percent from $346) ranked second and third.” [InsideNova]

Explaining Arlington to Australians — Arlington native and former Real World cast member Eric Patrick talked about his hometown and upbringing with an Australian podcast that focuses on communities. [Apple Podcasts, Twitter]

Nearby: Patrick Moran Running for Office — “Patrick Moran, son of former Northern Virginia Congressman and Alexandria Mayor Jim Moran, announced Saturday that he is running for City Council. Moran made the announcement on Facebook… [he] has yet to file his paperwork with the city registrar to run as a Democrat in the June 8 Democratic primary.” Moran was twice the subject of local controversy in 2012 and 2013. [ALXnow]

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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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(Updated on 1/8/20) Long-time Washington Post reporter Patricia Sullivan, who covered Arlington, Alexandria, and much of Northern Virginia, has retired from the paper.

The retirement was effective as of January 1. Sullivan started with the newspaper in 2001 as the local technology editor. In 2012, she became the go-to reporter for everything related to D.C.’s closest Virginia suburbs.

She’s covered everything from why more than 2 million Northern Virginia residents lost 911 emergency service after a 2012 summer storm to Arlington’s success in housing military veterans to Amazon’s arrival in the region.

Sullivan would also occasionally be taken off the local beat by the Post to cover major national news events, like hurricane landfalls.

Prior to her time covering Northern Virginia at the Washington Post,  Sullivan wrote obituaries for the paper’s Metro section, was the local technology editor covering tech companies in the D.C.-area, and helped teach the newsroom new content management systems.

She began her career as an intern at the Milwaukee Journal. Since, she’s worked and reported at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, Missoulian, San Jose Mercury News, and the Industry Standard. She was awarded a John S. Knight Fellowship in 1992.

In total, her career spanned more than four decades.

Sullivan’s replacement on the beat has not been named as of yet, according Washingtonian’s Andrew Beaujon, though the paper plans on filling the role.

Sullivan herself noted on social media this could take a few months, but current staff will fill-in in the meantime.

When reached via Twitter messenger, Sullivan declined an interview.

A memo regarding Patricia Sullivan’s retirement from Post Local editors was sent to the Washington Post newsroom staff. The full memo from the Post is below.

We are sad to announce that Patricia Sullivan is retiring after 19 years at The Post.

Pat started at The Post in September 2001 as the local technology editor in Business. She then worked in Metro, writing news obituaries on the biggest names of the day — pastors to potato chip purveyors, scientists and socialites. “Somewhat to my surprise, it’s incredibly interesting and wide-ranging,” Pat once said of the role. She went on to help train the newsroom in Methode before she returned to reporting for Metro, where she has been covering Arlington and Alexandria for the past eight years.

Pat’s deep well of sources and diligent reporting landed numerous scoops, including that Amazon had chosen Crystal City as a site for its much-coveted East Coast expansion. Her contributions strengthened and deepened The Post’s stories on Amazon’s development, and she wrote movingly and authoritatively about the potential effects of the deal on the surrounding neighborhoods. Pat wrote compelling pieces about life in two of the District’s most densely populated and liberal suburbs, including fights over a “spite house” in Del Ray and a gun shop in Arlington. She penned several memorable stories about the slave trade in Alexandria. She traveled to West Virginia, where she produced a poignant story about one community’s division over a new Rockwool plant, played a lead role in chronicling the historic passage of the ERA in Virginia and was a stalwart member of Team America’s hurricane and natural disaster response team.

Always a kind and unfailingly generous colleague, Pat happily pitched in on stories that needed a team effort, whether it involved Virginia politics or the daily ledealls on the novel coronavirus.

Pat began her journalism career as an intern at the Milwaukee Journal before moving on to roles at the Joliet Herald News, the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, the Missoulian, the San Jose Mercury News and the Industry Standard. She was a John S. Knight Fellow in 1992-1993, a longtime Journalism and Women Symposium leader and role model for female journalists. She also was a pioneer in developing a website for the Missoulian and one of the first email newsletters of tech news for the Mercury News.

We will miss her and we wish her well on her next adventure.

Photo by Jahi Chikwendiu, courtesy of The Washington Post.

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Morning Notes

More Snow Than Last Year? — “Winter officially starts in just two weeks (by the Dec. 1 meteorological definition), and, as such, we present our annual seasonal outlook… Overall, we expect slightly below-average snowfall, though around the median… 10 to 14 inches (compared with a 15.4-inch average, 11-inch median).” [Capital Weather Gang]

Sailor Sentenced for Child Exploitation — “A former U.S. Navy Seabee was sentenced today to 109 months in prison for transporting images of child sexual abuse. According to court documents, Martin Nieves Huizar, 37, of Arlington, was previously assigned to the U.S. Secretary of State’s overseas travel communications detail.” [U.S. Dept. of Justice]

Construction Crane Coming to Ballston — “Fans of bocce ball at a county park in Ballston will not find themselves displaced, although they soon may see a big crane swinging above their noggins. Arlington County Board members on Nov. 14 approved a request allowing the crane to operate within the government’s air rights above Glebe & Randolph Park. It will support redevelopment of the Harris Teeter site at 600 North Glebe Road.” [InsideNova]

Board Approves New Town Square Name — “The Arlington County Board today approved naming Green Valley’s Town Square for civic activist John Robinson, Jr. Robinson, often called the ‘Mayor of Green Valley,’ fought for decades against racial injustice and inequality in northern Virginia.” [Arlington County]

Shaved Ice Truck Coming to Arlington — “The pandemic did not dampen Noel and Jasmine Bourroughs’ first summer running a mobile Kona Ice truck in Fairfax and the City of Falls Church. In fact, their first season of operating the franchise was so successful they decided to expand. By next March, the couple anticipates opening two more trucks that serve Arlington and McLean.” [Tysons Reporter]

Wreath Promotion at New Pizzeria — From Nov. 27-Dec. 31, Colony Grill in Clarendon “invites guests to sponsor a veteran’s wreath to be placed at Arlington National Cemetery.” [Press Release]

Plane Flying Circles Around Pentagon — A small, single-engine plane registered to a government contractor was flying circles around the Pentagon last night, at an altitude of around 5,000 feet. [@InTheSkyDC/Twitter]

Alexandria Cancels Winter Sports — Alexandria City Public Schools has canceled its winter sports season, a week after Arlington Public Schools reversed course and decided to play most winter sports. [ALXnow]

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The kitchen of Palette 22 (4053 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington is working double-duty as an outpost for Mia’s Italian Kitchen, which has a dine-in location in Old Town Alexandria.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners, which owns Mia’s and Palette 22, announced on Monday that those in and around Shirlington can now get pizza, giant meatballs and classic dishes delivered via UberEats and GrubHub from Mia’s “ghost” location, in the kitchen of Palette 22.

“We’ve had tremendous success with Mia’s to-go in Old Town, and thought, ‘This has legs,'” said Dave Nicholas, a founding partner of ARP. “So we decided to help people in Arlington who can’t reach us all the way in Old Town.”

The expansion of Mia’s, which also has a dine-in location in Orlando, follows a nationwide trend.

These delivery-only spaces with no dine-in options began sprouting up as food delivery businesses such as UberEats and GrubHub took hold in the economy, but really took off during the pandemic. The coronavirus accelerated their growth as more Americans use delivery, RestaurantDive reports.

In addition to operating from the back of bricks-and-mortar restaurants, ghost kitchens also can operate from mobile trailers, like the one that currently set up in a Clarendon parking lot.

Nicholas defines a ghost kitchen as one where customers do not know where the food is made, but they recognize the brand. ARP had mulled over the idea for years, but the pandemic and government-imposed restrictions sped up its development.

ARP operated its first ghost kitchen around Easter, when 150 full-family meals were made in Mia’s Old Town Kitchen for another ARP restaurant, The Majestic, while it was still closed.

The company opened a second ghost kitchen in Alexandria, Touchdown Wings & Burgers, in the kitchen of Theismann’s Restaurant and Bar.

“We’re a couple of weeks into it, and the response is awesome and sales are growing every week,” Nicholas said. “We’re not even doing pick-up: It is a true ghost kitchen.”

He predicts ghost kitchens will be a long-term necessity for the industry, and could help restaurants make up for lost time and money when dine-in returns to full capacity.

“People believe in our brands and know what we do, so it doesn’t matter where the delivery driver picks it up from or if you pick it up,” Nicholas said.

Delivery-only menu items offered by Mia’s include:

  • Giant meatball ($14)
  • Chicken Parmigiana ($19)
  • Roasted Mushroom Lasagna ($19)
  • Rigatoni à la Bolognese ($20)
  • Bucatini Cacio e Pepe ($18)
  • Five different pizzas, including Margherita, pepperoni, and sausage and peppers ($7.5-$8)

Hours of operation are:

  • Monday and Tuesday: 12-9 p.m.
  • Wednesday to Friday: 12-10 p.m.
  • Saturday: 3-10 p.m.
  • Sunday: 3-9 p.m.

Photos via Mia’s Italian Kitchen

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On Saturday, the County Board is scheduled to review an agreement with the City of Alexandria to build a connector trail near Four Mile Run and Route 1, in the Potomac Yard area.

“The Connector Trail will connect a trail to be constructed by Arlington County from Richmond Highway in Arlington County to a portion of the Four Mile Run Trail located in the City of Alexandria,” says a county staff report.

The new trail and the connecting trail are part of a development plan for Short Bridge Park. The waterfront park, adjacent to several bridges over Four Mile Run, is part of both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.

“The first phase of development of Short Bridge Park involves the construction of the New Trail leading from Richmond Highway across a parcel currently owned by Arlington Potomac Yard Community Association and on which the County Board has a public access easement,” the staff report said.

The board will have three years to construct these paths.

“The County shall be responsible for maintenance, repair and replacement of the connector trail and the removal of trash and debris during the term of the agreement,” the report said.

Short Bridge Park was created through a site plan that the County Board approved in 2000. A master plan for the park, including a name change from the informal moniker “South Park,” was hashed out in 2018 after “extensive community engagement.”

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Morning Notes

Courthouse Wendy’s Project Changing — “A new developer appears to be taking over a Carr Properties’ project in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, queuing up a switch from office to residential in the process. Greystar Real Estate Partners filed new plans with Arlington County earlier this month for a triangular parcel at the confluence of Clarendon and Wilson boulevards… [for] a 16-story residential building with 225 units above 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.” [Washington Business Journal]

Opera at Local Farmers Market — Two operatic performance will be held at the Crystal City farmers market this afternoon. The Washington National Opera performances will take place from a converted moving truck. [Facebook, WUSA 9]

Airports See Big Revenue Drop — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has seen its year-to-date revenue from airlines decline more than 23 percent, according to new figures, with revenue from sources indirectly related to aviation service declining 46 percent.” [InsideNova]

Dog Hit By Car Gets Second Chance — Thanks to efforts by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and three other groups, a puppy named Cash had a broken leg, suffered after being struck by a car, saved from amputation. [Facebook]

Alexandria Releases Contact Tracing Info — Alexandria just released an analysis of its contact tracing findings, showing the most common recent activities reported by those diagnosed with COVID-19. Among the top activities reported by COVID patients: living with someone who contracted the disease and going to a workplace. Relatively few reported recently dining outdoors. Arlington has yet to release similar information. [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

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A study by a criminal justice consulting firm recommends that Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church keep the Northern Virginia Detention Center, but with some changes.

Over the last decade, detention rates have decreased at the facility, located at 200 S. Whiting Street in Alexandria. It has 70 beds but on any given day houses 20 to 25 youth detainees — from age 11 to 18 — who have committed anything from parole violations to felony offenses.

Recently, officials have been weighing the future of the center, which is falling apart and costly to run. During a joint work session with representatives from Arlington and Alexandria on Monday, D.C.-based criminal justice consulting firm The Moss Group recommended keeping the center, but making it more efficient by moving more programs to the facility and eliminating some staff.

“It is a complex, aging facility, but it is available for other options when you’re thinking about the future of the compound,” said Reginald Wilkinson, the senior advisor for The Moss Group.

In an email, Arlington County said keeping the center open — as opposed to transferring detainees to a facility elsewhere — would “ensure juveniles remain close to their home communities and services.”

The report recommended placing mental-health treatment, substance-abuse services, youth mentoring and specialized placement programs in underused spaces in the facility, which would help make it more financially feasible to maintain.

It also suggested redesigning the facility to accommodate the new services and create a “home-like” feeling.

Cutting some staff and making the program changes could save nearly $600,000 annually, The Moss Group found. That would mean a savings of about $300,000 from Arlington’s current $1.8 million annual commitment.

NVJDC is the second most expensive detention center among Virginia’s 24 facilities, and was allocated $5.8 million to run in Fiscal Year 2020. Of that, about $3.6 million came from localities and $2.2 million from state and federal funding.

A possible alternative would be moving kids to the Fairfax County detention center, but Justin Wilson, the mayor of Alexandria, said Fairfax likely will not take the teens. The mayor said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Jeff McKay told him “the door is not closed, but that the hill is steep.”

The right political movement could change that, Wilson added.

“I think there is some logic to working together again, given [extra] capacity” at the Fairfax County facility, he said. Fairfax County operated the NVJDC with Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church before opening its own center in 1994.

Consultants conducted focus groups, interviews and community meetings, and hosted an online survey to gauge support for the center. Although some people want to see it closed, the group concluded there is widespread community support for the center.

The finding raised eyebrows among some political officials. Others asked about opportunities to eliminate juvenile detentions altogether.

“I think there might be a desire to move toward zero detention by closing down that facility,” Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol said. “Certainly I… am interested in pursuing that vision of zero youth detention.”

Arlington’s Director of Court Services Earl Conklin said that without a detention center a judge could still order detention but the youth would have no place to go.

The Moss Group told the municipalities to consider a formal relationship with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and participate in its Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative to reduce reliance on detention.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey applauded the decline in detention rates but said reforms are essential. About 57% kids in the system are Black, while 39% are white. In terms of ethnicity, just over 30% are identified as Hispanic.

“It is our young people of color who are most impacted by this detention facility,” she said. “We would like to do away with [this] disproportionality and continue to lower the number of people there, but there will always be a need for this facility or something like it, and that’s why we’re here.”

The study will be presented at a virtual community meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. The meeting link will be available on the study webpage.

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Delhi Club (1135 N. Highland Street) is under new management, and will soon take on a new name: Spice Kraft Indian Bistro.

For now, the change is unofficial and the restaurant continues to do business as Delhi Club, said general manager and co-owner Anthony Shankar. Delhi Club’s doors will reopen as Spice Kraft Indian Bistro by the end of the month, he said.

The restaurant in Clarendon will be the second location for Spice Kraft, which first opened in August 2019 in Alexandra’s Del Ray neighborhood, but had its grand opening this January. Like its approach to Delhi Club, Spice Kraft opened in the former Bombay Curry Company space.

Shankar said the owners of Spice Kraft and Delhi Club have a business relationship. When the Delhi Club owners decided it was time to close their restaurant, they approached Spice Kraft to see if they were interested in the spot, he said.

“They saw Spice Kraft has potential in Arlington,” Shankar said.

Shankar and fellow co-owners Helen Sanjjav and Prem Durairaj were planning to open the space before the pandemic started, but COVID-19 delayed the project from March through August.

Once regulations started easing up, the three got to work.

“We didn’t want to wait too long,” said Shankar, who managed Taaza, a popular Indian restaurant in Roanoke, for seven years before relocating to Alexandria to open Spice Kraft.

The owners have aspirations of Spice Kraft becoming a local chain, and intend to open two to three more locations in Northern Virginia after expanding to Clarendon.

Another nearby Indian restaurant, Delhi Dhaba, operates a few blocks down in Courthouse, but Spice Kraft will not be in direct competition with it, Shankar said.

“We see ourselves as classical and contemporary,” he said.

The menu is mostly the same across the two locations, but about one-quarter of the options are new, including some of the lunch fare, fusion dishes and rice bowls, Shankar said.

For example, Spice Kraft is serving up burgers with proteins such as chicken tikka, and the pre-plated rice bowls come with a protein, side, bread and salad for about $10.

Delhi Club opened in the early 2000s, but closed briefly during the summer of 2011 after a fire broke out.

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Amazon is continuing a string of local donations with a $1 million commitment to Arlington and Alexandria public schools.

The company’s million-dollar donation to schools in HQ2’s backyard follows a more than $2.5 million donation to schools near “HQ1” in the Seattle area.

The donations will go towards a “‘Right Now Needs Fund’ — a flexible fund designed to meet the basic needs of schoolchildren and help eliminate barriers to learning” during the pandemic, the company said.

“The Right Now Needs Fund in Northern Virginia will provide students with immediate access to urgently needed items including food, clothing, and school supplies across all 41 Arlington Public Schools and programs and all 18 Alexandria City Public Schools,” Amazon said on its Day One blog.

The fund is in addition to Amazon’s recent donation hundreds of wireless internet access devices and $75,000 towards headphones for Arlington students attending classes from home.

Arlington Public Schools’ Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer said the school system is “elated” by the gift and the impact it will have on students in need.

More on the fund, from the Amazon blog:

Site Coordinators and school social workers within each of the school districts and schools will work with families to identify individual student needs and request assistance from the Fund. Communities In Schools NOVA, leveraging existing relationships with both school districts, will distribute Amazon Education Assistance Product Vouchers – a prepaid payment designed specifically for education-related needs. Students and their families can redeem the vouchers for a wide variety of carefully curated items that students need to be successful at school, including food, school supplies for at-home learning, warm clothing, hygiene items, and more. By using the prepaid vouchers, students and families can redeem much-needed items in a dignified and convenient way.

“The start of this school year has been difficult for many families across our new home of Northern Virginia, and we are determined to provide support to the students who need it most,” said Jay Carney, Amazon Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs. “At Amazon, we are always looking for innovative solutions to tough challenges, and we are confident that the flexibility and speed built into our new Right Now Needs Fund will help ensure that more students from underserved communities can focus on their studies, and not fall behind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.”

Amazon recently donated nearly 800 Mi-Fi devices and $75,000 to secure thousands of headsets for students across Northern Virginia starting the school year from home. In addition, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Amazon’s HQ2 region, Amazon donated $1 million to kick-start emergency response efforts, provided thousands of devices to groups supporting students in need, donated cash and in-kind products to local nonprofits and food banks, paid local restaurants to prepare and deliver 10,000 lunches and dinners for first responders, frontline healthcare workers, and vulnerable neighbors, and funded delivery services to provide more than 50,000 meals–60,000 pounds of food–directly to the doorsteps of local seniors and those disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Amazon also donated $3.9 million to nonprofit CodeVA to help make virtual computer science curriculum and training available Virginia teachers and students so that they don’t fall behind in learning this increasingly important skillset. There are currently more than 50 schools and counting in the state of Virginia part of the Amazon Future Engineer program.

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