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An Amazon van was towed from an apartment complex on Tuesday. This was the second time we’ve noted one of the company’s delivery vehicles getting towed.

It raises a question: should delivery drivers get special treatment and a blind eye turned to violating a given property owner’s parking rules, or should the rules apply to them too?

In the latest case, tow company Advanced Towing told ARLnow that Amazon’s van was parked in a fire lane — and, indeed, we spotted “no parking, fire lane” signs on the property.

Fire lanes are there for a reason, but the flip side of the argument is that delivery drivers have a tough job to do and only stay in one place for a brief period of time, making it less likely that they’ll end up getting in the way of something important.

So what do you think? For the purposes of this poll, we’ll set aside the issue of delivery drivers blocking lanes on public streets and instead focus on those on private property.

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An Amazon delivery van was reported stolen yesterday near Ballston. Except it wasn’t stolen. It was towed.

The tow pits two Arlington institutions against each other — infamous local towing company Advanced Towing and, in the other corner, newer arrival Amazon. It also raises a general policy question: should delivery vehicles parked improperly on private property get towed?

The incident happened around 2 p.m. yesterday at a residential complex in the Buckingham neighborhood.

“At approximately 2:01 p.m. on August 16, police were dispatched to the 4300 block of 4th Street N. for the report of a stolen delivery vehicle,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Prior to officers arriving on scene, dispatch advised the vehicle had been towed from private property. Officers were then placed back into service.”

Soon thereafter, the van could be seen impounded in the Advanced Towing lot in Ballston.

Advanced says that the van was towed because it was parked in a fire lane on private property, and that the company tows regardless of whether the driver is making deliveries.

“The Amazon driver left their delivery vehicle unattended in a fire lane/no parking zone, rather than park in one of the open spaces,” the company said in a brief statement to ARLnow. “Amazon vehicles are not exempt from following the law or rules of someone’s private property.”

Signs at the address police were dispatched to do, in fact, explicitly state “No Parking — Fire Lane” and “Towed at Owner’s Expense,” though the exact location the van was parked prior to being towed is unclear.

ARLnow reached out to Amazon for comment but has not received answers to our questions as of publication.

This is not the first time Advanced has towed an Amazon van. ARLnow reported on a delivery van towed from an apartment parking lot in Falls Church in 2019.

Asked about delivery vans being towed and local towing policies, Savage referred readers to the county website.

“You can find information regarding private tows, also known as trespass tows, from private property on the County website and in County Code § 14.3-5. Removal of Trespassing Vehicles,” she wrote. “If a vehicle owner believes their vehicle was towed in error, they can report to Arlington County Police for investigation by submitting an online complaint or calling 703-228-4266.”

Advanced has long maintained that its local notoriety is the result of its efficiency in properly towing vehicles that are improperly parked and thus trespassing on private property. A lawsuit brought by former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring for alleged predatory towing practices only resulted in a $750 fine — which owner John O’Neill touted as vindication.

The towing company also won some recent plaudits for a driver’s actions to help a man threatening to jump from an overpass.

ARLnow’s photographer, meanwhile, spotted another Amazon van getting away with some improper parking just steps from where the other van was towed. While looking for the original towing scene, we snapped an Amazon van parked on the private drive of the 4300 block of 4th Court N.

“Private street — no parking in alley — towing at owner’s expense,” read a sign at the entrance to the driveway. It was placed by Advanced’s competitor, A-1 Towing.

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A towering remembrance of the former Black community of Queen City is slated to be included in an Amazon-funded park next to HQ2.

Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) is set to review the proposed public art installation, from D.C. artist Nekisha Durrett, at its meeting tonight.

A presentation prepared for the meeting shows a 30 foot tall brick chimney stack, with the words “Queen City” written in brick, along the footpaths of the new Met Park in Pentagon City. The park is currently under construction after the County Board approved a $14 million, Amazon-funded renovation project two years ago.

The revamped park is expected to re-open at some point next year.

The proposed red brick structure, harkening back to the area’s past as a hub for brick production, will also include a decorative interior that park-goers will be able to freely enter.

Made with reclaimed bricks and illuminated by LED uplighting, the tower will seek to carry forward the legacy of the Black enclaves of Freedman’s Village and, more specifically, Queen City — two of several that dotted Arlington a century or more ago.

Freedman’s Village, founded on the former estate of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee during the Civil War, was closed by the federal government in 1900 and became part of Arlington National Cemetery. Queen City was founded nearby in response to the closure of Freedman’s Village.

But Queen City, too, would eventually be razed by the federal government — in 1942, to make way for the freeway network built around the newly-constructed Pentagon.

From the doctoral dissertation of Lindsey Bestebreurtje, Ph.D., a curator in the National Museum of African American History and Culture:

Together with the adjacent community of East Arlington, Queen City was located in south-eastern Arlington on flat land, prone to flooding from the nearby Potomac River, near several factories and along the Washington, Alexandria, and Mt. Vernon trolley line. Queen City was built around the Mt. Olive Baptist Church which had roots in Freedman’s Village. Saving one-fourth of an acre for the church, the remaining land was parceled into forty lots to be sold to church members leaving the Village. With small plots of 20 feet by 92 feet, this subdivision transformed the former farm land into a more dense and suburban environment. Many of the homes constructed by former residents of Freedman’s Village at this time were reminiscent of the simple clap-board houses they called home in the Village, making housing type another product of the Village’s diaspora.

By 1942 more than 200 working class families lived in modest but well-kept frame houses. Just as was the case in Freedman’s Village, where residents saw a thriving community, outsiders saw the black neighborhood as a ghetto. In January of 1942 construction began for the Pentagon’s road networks in the path of the communities. Properties were seized through [eminent] domain laws with modest payments. With this loss some community members left the area entirely, while other residents and institutions relocated to Arlington’s remaining black communities of Hall’s Hill, Johnson’s Hill, or Green Valley.

The dissertation notes that the destruction of the Queen City community was personally approved by the president at the time.

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The ribbon was cut Monday for Amazon’s new “AWS Think Big Space,” a STEM-focused tech lab, at Wakefield High School.

The lab is located on the ground floor of the school at 1325 S. Dinwiddie Street and is divided into several technology stations, including 3D printing, E-sports, cybersecurity, virtual reality, coding robots Sphero and robotics.

Virginia Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera, APS Superintendent Francisco Duran, School Board Chair Reid Goldstein and County Board member Matt de Ferranti all gave speeches at the opening ceremony and joined the lab tour.

Many of the officials believed that the new lab would better prepare students for future careers in STEM.

“We truly believe in the necessity and the importance of creating opportunities for our students,” Duran said in his speech.

“In Arlington County, there are many businesses and jobs that are available to students who leave our school system not prepared to enter into that workforce. It’s our duty, it’s our responsibility to create those skills and pathways for students to be able to access those jobs,” he added.

Wendy Maitland, a teacher at Wakefield High School, is set to become the manager of the lab. She planned to offer the space to teachers there to assist in their teaching.

“For example, if they want to do something in terms of astronomy, they can come down and use the program on the VR,” Maitland said.

She also is planning joint programs with the nearby Barcroft Elementary School at the lab. Other Arlington schools are also expected to use the space.

Maitland approached Amazon for funding to create a STEM lab two years ago. Donor and local apartment building owner Ralph Johnson joined her effort, she added.

“We created a presentation, they liked it and they came back to us and said, ‘Yes, work with our AWS team because they have the Think Big Spaces,'” Maitland said.

Amazon chose to build its Think Big Space at Wakefield because the high school is the “neighborhood high school” for employees working at Amazon HQ2, Arlington School Board Chair Reid Goldstein said.

“At Amazon, we’re proud to call Virginia home, we’re committed to making a positive impact in the communities where we’re located,” Amazon’s Vice President of Economic Development Holly Sullivan said in her speech.

Wakefield High School is also the most diverse high school in Arlington and the second most in Virginia, Guidera said, adding that she believed building the STEM lab there would be “a great opportunity” — especially for children from underrepresented communities — to access “innovative spaces like [the lab] that make learning comes alive and also expose students to the future of work.”

Although no concrete plans have been drawn up yet, Amazon is considering exchange programs for students engaged in the 35 Think Big Spaces across the world, including India and Ireland, Sullivan said.

The lab will operate as a public-private partnership, with financial support from large local employers like Amazon, Guidera said.

Amazon contributed $150,000 and Johnson gave $109,000 to build this lab. The School Board approved its construction last October, according to School Board documents.

A similar lab funded by Amazon was built at an elementary school in Prince William County is 2019, but Wakefield’s is the first to be built in a high school in the Americas, according to material from a School Board presentation.

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Members of the public have a chance to help name the parks at Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City.

Arlington County is encouraging residents to choose from a list of names or submit an option through an online survey.

The first and second phases of the company’s headquarters project are known as Metropolitan Park and PenPlace, respectively. The park at Metropolitan Park, which is identified as “south park” in the survey, is located south of 12th Street S., while the PenPlace park is to the north.

The green regions in the map show the two park spaces being named (via Arlington County)

There are three proposed names for each of the parks, which only include green spaces and won’t change the names of buildings, the campus or neighborhoods.

Choosing simplicity, the Department of Parks and Recreation recommended Met Park and Pen Place as the names for each since they are familiar in the “development and planning context,” according to a presentation given to the Parks and Recreation Commission in June.

The department recommended foregoing the longer “Metropolitan Park” for the abbreviated version most people already use referring to the project — Met Park. And they recommended inserting a space to emphasize the word “place” in Pen Place.

The other options for each park are below.

North Park:

  • Pen Place
  • Fern Park
  • Chickadee Park

South Park:

  • Met Park
  • Elm Park
  • Goldfinch Park

The proposed bird names are a nod to the creatures that may be seen in the spaces — and which will benefit from the use of bird-safe glass in the building designs, according to the presentation. And the tree names refer to streets adjacent to each park.

After gathering public feedback, the County Board is set to approve the final park names in November.

Metropolitan Park’s public space, which Amazon is paying $14 million to revamp, is in the shadow of the under-construction first phase of company’s HQ2 and will total about 2.5 acres. The park plans include lush meandering paths, a central green for gatherings and events, tables for outdoor dining, two 2,000-square-foot dog parks, an edible garden and public art.

Meanwhile, a 2.75 acre public park is planned at PenPlace, featuring water elements, including a signature fountain, a central confluence and a stormwater meadow. The County Board approved the plans for PenPlace, the second phase of HQ2, in April this year.

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A donut shop, a child care center, a facial spa and Peruvian restaurant are coming to HQ2.

Amazon announced the latest small business additions to its forthcoming Pentagon City campus, which are expected to open next year with the completion of the first phase of HQ2 construction. (The second phase was approved earlier this year.)

The new additions include a pair of familiar and well-loved Arlington eateries: Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe in Ballston and Peruvian Brothers, which formerly had a location in Crystal City.

The other two, Celebree School and Glo30, are, respectively, an early childhood education center with a location in Tysons and a membership-based facial spa with locations in D.C. and Bethesda.

More from Amazon’s announcement, below.

Celebree School of National Landing, Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe, Glo30, and Peruvian Brothers are the latest businesses signed on to open in Amazon’s second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

As development continues at Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2) in Arlington, Virginia, we are looking for retail partners that will enrich this growing community of both our neighbors and employees.

Over the past eight months, we’ve announced several local small businesses that will open their doors next year at Metropolitan Park, the first phase of HQ2, including Conte’s Bike Shop, District Dogs, HUSTLE, RAKO Coffee, Social Burger, and South Block. As we continue to bring more small businesses to the area, we hope that HQ2 can be a destination for all the important areas of life, whether that be work, play, family time, or any of the moments in between.

We’re excited to announce the latest additions coming to Met Park in 2023.

The co-owner of Peruvian Brothers tells ARLnow that the new location at HQ2 will pick up where the former stand at the under-renovation Crystal City Water Park left off.

“We are sticking with our food truck vibe with a fast casual concept but will now include indoor and outdoor seating to eat on site,” said co-owner Giuseppe Lanzone. “Order your food, pick it up at the counter and take a seat with your family to eat our delicious food and enjoy live music surrounded by Peruvian art.”

“We will also debut a full bar dedicated to our Pisco Sour Slushies as well as some new Peruvian cocktails that we would drink back home in La Punta, Peru,” Lanzone added. “We look forward to welcoming back friendly faces from the neighborhood to our new location in National Landing.”

Matt Blitz contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Walking along Columbia Pike at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local Man Sentenced for Philly Fire — “The first protester to face sentencing for setting police cars ablaze during the 2020 racial injustice protests in Philadelphia received a 364-day federal prison term on Monday — nearly nine months less than the time he’s already spent behind bars since his 2020 arrest. Ayoub Tabri, 25, of Arlington, Va., has been incarcerated since he confessed to FBI investigators that he threw a lit road flare into a Pennsylvania State Police car during the demonstrations that erupted in Center City.” [Philadelphia Inquirer]

No Change in HQ2 Construction Plan — “Amazon.com Inc. has confirmed it is pausing construction on office towers as part of planned expansions in its two main Seattle-area and Nashville hubs, but it is not halting its hiring at either location, nor does it plan changes to its HQ2 campus thus far… ‘We remain committed to bringing 25,000 jobs to HQ2 and are looking forward to celebrating the opening of Met Park next spring and breaking ground at Pen Place early next year,’ Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Homebuyer Demand Still High Here — “Fears of an autumn of disquiet and a winter of discontent in the real-estate market may be growing, but in Arlington, summertime buyer interest remains strong, according to new data. The county led all D.C.-region localities in the monthly T3 Home Demand Index, created by the Mid-Atlantic multiple-listing service Bright MLS.” [Sun Gazette]

GW Parkway Work Starting Soon — “For the first time since the George Washington Parkway was completed 60 years ago, the scenic past-its-prime commuter route — combined-with-a-national park and trail system — is getting a major rehabilitation. And it will begin soon. ‘We anticipate by late summer to be involved in transition lanes,” said Charles Cuvelier, superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway.'” [WTOP]

RIP @UnsuckDCMetro — Matt, the creator of the Twitter account @unsuckdcmetro and a indefatigable critic of WMATA, reportedly passed away over the weekend. Here’s a podcast episode we recorded with him in 2018. [ARLnow, Apple Podcasts]

Arlington Donut Shops Make Local List — “Whether it’s breakfast or dessert, anyone with a sweet tooth will surely agree that doughnuts are an irresistible choice. This American staple will always be a crowd pleaser, and these NoVA spots will show you exactly why.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

It’s Tuesday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 88 and low of 74. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:32 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Signage for the Amazon Fresh store on Crystal Drive (photo courtesy of David Johnston)

The new Amazon Fresh store in Crystal City is now open.

This morning, Amazon announced that its branded, 16,000-square-foot grocery store opens today. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

For more than a year, it was a bit of a mystery to exactly what was coming to 1550 Crystal Drive — even if all signs pointed to an Amazon Fresh. In February, the company finally confirmed it.

In addition to standard check-outs, the store will employ what Amazon calls “Just Walk Out technology.” Meaning, customers can exit the store “with the option to skip the checkout line.”

“Amazon’s Just Walk Out system uses ceiling-mounted cameras and artificial intelligence to track shoppers’ selections as they walk around the store and automatically charges them when they exit,” as described by Grocery Dive.

The other recently opened Amazon Fresh stores in Northern Virginia also use the technology.

The Crystal City Amazon Fresh is set to create “hundred of high-quality jobs with a starting wage of $15.50/hour,” according to a press release. “In addition to donating surplus food to local food banks.”

This will, technically, be the first grocery store in Crystal City in almost two decades, though there are a number of grocery stores nearby in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

Amazon Fresh is continuing its expansion across the region with three stores opening in Northern Virginia in just the past year including a planned store in Potomac Yard

Plus, it continues to be a rumor that Columbia Pike will be getting an Amazon Fresh as well. So far, Amazon has stayed quiet on the possible Pike store with a spokesperson telling ARLnow back in May that “we don’t comment on our future store roadmap.”

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ACPD SoberRide (Photo courtesy of Washington Regional Alcohol Program)

There will again be free Lyft rides on Independence Day, at least in part because of Amazon.

The trillion-dollar tech company with a growing presence in Arlington is donating $10,000 to the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) for its SoberRide partnership with Lyft.

The program provides D.C. area residents a free ride home, instead of driving drunk, on a number of holidays, including New Years’ Eve, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Cinco De Mayo, and July 4.

Starting at 4 p.m. on Monday, locals will be able to enter a promotional SoberRide code in the Lyft app for a free ride up to $15. The promotion will run for 12 hours, until 4 a.m. on Tuesday, July 5.

The needed promo code will be posted on the SoberRide’s website at 3 p.m. on Monday.

This marks the sixth year of the partnership between WRAP and Lyft, which began in 2017. During that time, the program has offered thousands of rides around the D.C. area on major holidays to combat impaired driving.

Prior to the partnership with Lyft, WRAP had been partnering with local cab companies since 1991. Over the last three decades, WRAP’s SoberRide program has given more than 82,000 rides home in the D.C. area.

More than 2,200 rides will be available this July 4, WRAP President Kurt Erickson told ARLnow, three times the number of rides provided in 2019 when the record was set.

“Amazon’s further investment in this local and lifesaving program is a real and needed shot in the arm to better equip WRAP and SoberRide to rid area roadways of impaired drivers,” Kurt Erickson, WRAP’s President, said in a press release. “In as much, Amazon’s latest community investment will enhance SoberRide’s capacity in time for a holiday when more than four-in-ten U.S. traffic deaths involve drunk drivers.”

Beyond Amazon, other program sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Gian Food, Glory Days Grill, New Belgium Brewing, and Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

There’s one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality every 45 minutes, on average, in the US, according to recent data from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHSTA). While drunk driving fatalities had been going down, from 2019 to 2020, they rose by nearly 15%, again according to the NHSTA.

With Arlington pretty much back to fully celebrating America’s birthday, there are plenty of events, parades, and barbeques going on this year locally. With Metro offering reduced service this July 4, the Arlington County Police Department is asking residents to “plan a sober ride home” from these events while advocating for the SoberRide program.

In April, the County Board approved Phase 2 of Amazon’s HQ2 with construction already underway in Crystal City and Pentagon City. It’s set to be completed next year, along with the signature “Helix.”

Amazon, one of the world’s most profitable companies, has donated some money and land to Arlington in recent years.

This $10,000 donation to SoberRide to help locals get home safely on July 4 is part of the company’s efforts to be a “good neighbor.”

“As we head into the July 4th holiday weekend, we are grateful to be partnering with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program to provide free, safe rides to thousands of passengers across the Greater Washington region,” said Patrick Phillippi, Senior Manager of Community Engagement at Amazon, in a release. “At Amazon, we are committed to being a good neighbor and partner to the community and we wish everyone a safe and healthy holiday weekend.”

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Morning Notes

Amazon HQ2 reflected in a puddle in Pentagon City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

New Way to Complain About Helo Noise –Those with concerns about helicopter noise in the local area now have a new outlet to provide feedback. A new helicopter-complaint pilot program was announced June 24 by U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) in collaboration with the Helicopter Association International and Eastern Regional Helicopter Council. Residents will be able to submit noise concerns online at https://www.planenoise.com/dcmetro/, or by voicemail at (877) 209-3200.” [Sun Gazette, Press Release]

Arrest After Crash on the Pike — From ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage, responding to an ARLnow inquiry about this crash: “At approximately 12:10 p.m. on June 27, police were dispatched to the report of a crash with injuries at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Quincy Street. The preliminary investigation indicates the driver of the striking vehicle hit two vehicles and a tree before fleeing the scene on foot. Responding officers canvassed the area, located the driver and took her into custody. One patient was transported to an area hospital with injuries considered non-life threatening. The investigation is ongoing and charges are pending.”

Amazon Eyes Greenhouse for HQ2 — “The greenery proposed for Amazon’s second headquarters in Arlington is so extensive that the company needs a greenhouse to keep it going. According to plans submitted to the county, Amazon hopes to convert Meadow Farms Nurseries and Landscapes (10618 Leesburg Pike) in Great Falls into a greenhouse to provide a ‘permanent operation to provide for the continuous maintenance of the extensive landscaping elements’ at HQ2.” [FFXnow]

APS Website Redesign Coming — “We are in the early stages of redesigning our website. Can you spare 15 minutes to help make sure the new Arlington Public Schools website will be easy for everyone to use? We’ve set up an online exercise to gather feedback, and we’d love for you to participate.” [Arlington Public Schools]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 79 and low of 61. Sunrise at 5:47 am and sunset at 8:39 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Ballston at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s Officially Summer — “The 2022 summer solstice arrives at 5:14 a.m. Eastern time. At this precise moment the sun appears directly over the Tropic of Cancer — as far north as it appears in the sky all year. Around the solstice, the sun’s northward movement in the sky appears to pause briefly before reversing direction for the next six months.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Gulf Branch Project Meeting TomorrowUpdated at 9:00 a.m. — “Gulf Branch project engagement resumes with a June 2022 community meeting. The design phase for the Gulf Branch Stream Project began in 2019. It was put on hold in March 2020 due to budgetary uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but is moving forward again. We have some project updates to share and will hold a virtual community meeting on Wednesday, June 22 at 6:30 PM.” [Arlington County]

I-395 Drivers Still Not Taking the Hint — From Dave Statter: “The 8C barrels are much like Rodney Dangerfield — just not as funny. [Video taken] today just after 9:30 a.m.” [Twitter]

Local Swim League Update — “With a lopsided 270-150 victory over the visiting Langley Wildthings, the Overlee Flying Fish of Division 1 were the lone winning team from Arlington in the opening week of the Northern Virginia Swimming League’s 2022 outdoor summer season in June 18 action.” [Sun Gazette]

Amazon HQ2 Leader Retires — “Ardine Williams, the Amazon.com Inc. executive overseeing hiring for the company’s HQ2 operations, has retired. According to Virginia Business, Williams retired sometime in the past few weeks and a replacement has not been named.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Leader for Local Homeless Org — ‘Fraser Murdoch, who brings extensive social-safety-net and non-profit experience with him, has been tapped as new CEO of Arlington-based Bridges to Independence.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 82 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:38 pm. [Weather.gov]

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