Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Track Team Denied Trip to State Tourney — “High-school track and field competitors from across the commonwealth’s largest jurisdictions will descend on Virginia Beach March 1 for the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 boys and girls indoor state-championship meets. But Arlington athletes will not be among them. County school leaders have denied permission for teams to make the trip, citing health concerns about the ongoing high level of COVID infection in that part of Virginia and other factors.” [InsideNova]

County Employees Getting Vaccinated — “Arlington government leaders have decided that the entire county-government workforce qualifies as essential for ‘continuity of government,’ which bumps them ahead of several other groups as well as the general public in COVID-vaccination priority. County-government officials last week confirmed to the Sun Gazette that its entire workforce will be part of Virginia’s ‘Group 1b,’ placing them ahead of approximately 50 percent of the state’s population.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Sparks Park Debate — “[Nearby residents] worry even the large parks Amazon is promising will feel more like playgrounds for the company’s workers than community assets, pressing Arlington County officials to invest and ensure public ownership of green space in the area. And in a section of Arlington where some neighborhood groups have raised persistent complaints about a lack of community parks over the years, the issue seems certain to dominate debates about development for the foreseeable future.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Food Biz Profiled — From the Ballston Business Improvement District: “After years of learning and cooking with their families, Andrea and Bryant created Bee J’s Cookies in April 2020 to share their gift with others.” [Twitter]

Arlington Org Helped Thousands with Food Needs — “AHC Inc., a premier provider of affordable housing communities in metro D.C., sprang into action last spring to help residents suffering from the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, AHC’s Resident Services team with support from the property management arm, AHC Management, has provided substantial food and financial assistance to more than 3,000 families in Maryland and Virginia.” [AHC Inc.]

‘Cyber Flashing’ Bill Killed — “Fear not, creepy Virginia dudes — you can still legally send an unsolicited picture of your genitals to people. For now, at least. A bill that would ban cyber-flashing in Virginia was killed last Wednesday. Cyber-flashing is when someone sends unsolicited explicit photos to another person, and the bill proposed to make it a misdemeanor.” [Washingtonian, Virginia Mercury]

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Morning Notes

Distance Learning Only for APS — “Due to inclement weather… Level 1, in-person learning support, Level 2 Career & Technical Education students and staff supporting these programs will temporarily revert to distance learning.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Government Open — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, & facilities are OPEN Friday, 02-19-2021. Courts will open at 10AM. All facilities will follow normal operating hours.” [Twitter]

Be Careful Out There — “Northern Virginia crews continue to clear and treat roads overnight, for both some additional wintry precipitation as well as refreeze from low temperatures. Drivers are asked to continue to limit travel if possible, or to use extreme caution and be aware of the potential for slick pavement, even where surfaces appear clear or were previously treated.” [VDOT]

Doses May Be Delayed — “Virginia is seeing delays in this week’s vaccine shipments due to severe winter weather in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country. The Virginia Department of Health says the state will likely see a delay in the delivery of approximately 106,800 doses, due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.” [InsideNova]

Architectural Review of HQ2 Phase 2 — ” It very intentionally does not look like anything else in Pentagon City or Crystal City, or anywhere else in the region. The style, a populist, jazzy take on high-tech modernism, isn’t aimed at architecture critics, but at the public, which shows remarkable forbearance to the predations of large corporations so long as they have a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking.” [Washington Post]

County Board Members Endorse Candidate — “Alexandria City Council member Elizabeth Bennett-Parker has picked up the endorsement of two Arlington County Board members in her quest for the 45th District House of Delegates seat. Board members Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol endorsed the candidacy.” [InsideNova]

New Spanish Publication on the Pike — “As part of its increased business support efforts, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has launched a new publication dedicated to supporting the area’s Hispanic business community. The publication, Boletín, is a small booklet of resources and information specific to those Spanish speaking businesses serving Columbia Pike’s residents.” [CPRO]

Arlington Man Arrested for Armed Robberies — “An Arlington man was arrested last night and is facing charges in connection with a series of recent armed robberies. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined that in three of the four robberies, the suspect approached the victim, displayed a firearm and took their personal property. In the other case, the suspect took a victim’s purse by force.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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Morning Notes

Police Trying to ID Robbery Suspect — “The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a series of convenience store robberies and is seeking the public’s assistance identifying a suspect captured on cell phone image.” [ACPD]

Gymnasts May Be Barred from State Tourney — “The [Washington-Liberty] girls high-school gymnastics team won its third straight 6D North Region championship… The Arlington school system has made a preliminary decision not to allow the W-L team to attend the state meet because of the pandemic. Parents of the W-L gymnasts are asking the school system to allow the Generals to participate.” [InsideNova]

Local Architects Like HQ2 Design — “The majority of architects and designers who spoke with the Washington Business Journal about the NBBJ-designed Helix had a positive take on Amazon’s plans and its new flagship structure. Most said it could become an iconic building that would give Arlington a sense of place. But a few were more cautious, noting there could be ramifications of allowing a megacorporation to build and own such an architecturally striking landmark.” [Washington Business Journal]

Va. Bishops Support Death Penalty Bill — “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond issued the following statement on passage of death penalty abolition legislation: ‘We welcome today’s vote by the Virginia House of Delegates to abolish the death penalty, as well as the vote by the Virginia Senate to do so earlier this week.'” [Diocese of Arlington, Arlington Catholic Herald]

Pot Legalization Bill Passes — “Lawmakers in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly approved legislation Friday that clears the way for legal cannabis sales in the state. The move sets up Virginia to be the first southern state to establish a recreational marijuana marketplace, and potentially the first to do so in the Washington region.” [DCist]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Yesterday, Amazon revealed a bold plan for the second phase of its HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The main attraction of the 2.8 million square foot office proposal is The Helix, “a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Part park, part office building, The Helix could one day be as prominent an Arlington landmark as any other building, except perhaps the Pentagon — which is just across the street.

The Helix will be joined by three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, a public pedestrian promenade and dog park, and three retail pavilions. That’s in addition to everything in the first HQ2 phase.

The design of the development, specifically The Helix, has drawn mixed reviews. Among the headlines generated by the big reveal:

  • “Amazon’s next headquarters is a glass poop emoji covered in trees” (The Verge)
  • “A Soft Serve Matcha Ice Cream Cone” (Washingtonian)
  • “Amazon Plans a Climbable Office Tower: Building across river from DC will rival Washington Monument on area’s skyline” (Newser)

What do you think?

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Morning Notes

Snow Removal Ordinance in Effect — “A recent weather event has concluded and deposited snow/ice accumulations of less than 6 inches. Arlington’s sidewalk snow removal ordinance requires residents and businesses to clear adjacent public sidewalks of snow and ice by 1:00 PM on Wednesday, February 3.” [Arlington County]

More Back-to-School Dates Expected Soon — “We look forward to welcoming Level 2 Career & Technical Education students to the Arlington Career Center for hybrid/in-person instruction starting [today]. We continue to assess additional student return dates… The next group to return will be Level 2, PreK through second grade and countywide elementary special education students. Return dates for this group will be communicated at the Feb. 18 School Board meeting.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Rent Declines Slowing — “Arlington’s COVID- and shutdown-caused drop in apartment rents appears to be hitting bottom for now, according to new data from Apartment List, but the county’s rental market is still significantly more affordable than before the pandemic. For the year ending in January, rents in Arlington were down 14 percent from a year before… the drop from December to January was just 0.5 percent, lower than in preceding months.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Ranks No. 14 in ‘Walk-Friendly’ List — “About 30 years ago, Arlington took the lead in suburban redevelopment in Virginia, creating walkable urban areas around the metro system. Now that momentum has pushed Arlington (and its most walkable neighborhoods of Clarendon-Courthouse, Ballston-Virginia Square, and Lyon Village) into the top walkable cities — something we can expect to continue when Amazon moves in.” [MSN]

Hope’s Prison Oversight Bill Dies — From Del. Patrick Hope (D): “This is not the end — only the beginning. Every agency in Va must be transparent and accountable to the public which they serve. We will regroup and come back next session with a bill that prioritizes [Virginia Dept. of Corrections] oversight.” [Twitter]

Case of the Stray Hockey Sticks — A shipment of hockey sticks destined for the Washington Capitals practice facility in Ballston, to be used by new Caps acquisition Zdeno Chara, was apparently mis-delivered to a random New Jersey man’s home. [ESPN, Barstool Sports]

Bezos Relinquishing CEO Role at Amazon — “Jeff Bezos said Tuesday that he will step down as chief executive of Amazon, leaving the helm of the company he founded 27 years ago. Bezos will transition to the role of executive chair in the third quarter of this year, which starts July 1, the company said. Andy Jassy, the chief executive of Amazon Web Services, will take over as CEO of Amazon.” The company yesterday revealed designs for the second phase of its Arlington HQ2. [NBC News]

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Amazon has unveiled plans for the PenPlace site in the second phase of its $2.5 billion HQ2 in Pentagon City, including a lush office building shaped like a double helix.

The company will build 2.8 million square feet of office space across three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, and three retail pavilions. The focal point will be The Helix: a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

PenPlace will also have three acres of open space with a dog run and a 250-seat amphitheater, for public use.

Amazon will start filing designs and technical documents with Arlington County Tuesday morning, Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedó said during a call with journalists on Monday.

The tech giant aims to go before the Arlington County Board by the end of 2021, with construction starting in 2022 and ending in 2025, said John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President Global Real Estate and Facilities, during the call. He affirmed that so far, HQ2 remains on-schedule.

PenPlace is bounded by Army Navy Drive, S. Fern Street, 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street. Amazon owns the entire block after it bought a hotel on the site in September. The hotel is currently being torn down.

Schoettler said Arlington County has given Amazon more flexibility for this phase than for the first phase of development on the Metropolitan Park site, which includes two, 22-story concrete office buildings, retail and open space.

“The County Board told us for PenPlace, we really want you to push the envelope,” he said. “It really gave us a clean canvas to try new things.”

The Helix will be the highlight of the site and the tallest building, said Lead Architect Dale Alberda, who works for the international architecture firm NBBJ and helped to design The Spheres within the company’s Seattle headquarters. Throughout PenPlace, he said, the designs keep employees, who will number 25,000 across HQ2, close to nature and the community.

“Amazon has been challenging us to think about how people can connect to nature not just outside when the weather is good, but inside as well, so that it’s available all day, all the time,” Alberda said.

Schoettler said Amazon is also working hard to use sustainable energy. As part of its goal of LEED Platinum certifications — and to meet its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 — the buildings will be powered by a solar farm in southern Virginia.

The headquarters will feature one-quarter mile of new protected bike lanes and more than 950 onsite bike spaces as well as below-ground parking for about 2,100 cars and underground loading zones for trucks. There will also be a new bus platform on 12th Street S. near the main entrance to PenPlace.

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The former Residence Inn hotel in Pentagon City is being deconstructed.

While the demolition is not as dramatic as that of the Holiday Inn implosion in Rosslyn, it will similarly make a mark on a portion of the county’s skyline.

The demolition is taking place after the hotel, located at the corner of Army Navy Drive and S. Fern Street, was purchased by Amazon for nearly $150 million in September.

The tech giant plans to use the property to expand the second phase of its second headquarters campus. The first HQ2 phase is currently under construction, with an anticipated opening in 2023, while the county approval process for the second phase is expected to start later this year.

A company representative tells ARLnow that demolition of the hotel is scheduled to wrap up this summer. The extra space will be used for extra amenities for Amazon employees and local residents, we’re told.

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Morning Notes

Cell Service Now Available in All Metro Tunnels — “The nation’s major wireless carriers — AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon — and Metro today officially announced the final milestone, more than a decade in the making, to provide wireless service for those who use the Metrorail system… The latest activation brings the final three segments online between Dupont Circle in Downtown DC and White Flint in Maryland, the Yellow Line from L’Enfant Plaza to the Pentagon, and Silver Line in Tysons Corner.” [WMATA]

More on Amazon’s Affordable Housing Commitment — “‘The biggest housing challenge Arlington faces is preserving and building affordable housing, and Amazon is helping by creating a lot of affordable housing,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Arlington County Board chair via email. ‘Our budget is hurting as we feel the pandemic economically, but our housing prices for homes and condos and any place to live in the area is still increasing as people think we are a good long term place to live in part due to Amazon. We need the housing right now to avoid displacement.'” [GGWash]

Arlington Scores Well for Fiscal Health — “A new report on the financial condition of the 75 most populous cities ranked Arlington no. 16 in the nation for fiscal health. The report is based on the cities’ 2019 comprehensive annual financial reports, which are not analyzed on this scale by any other organization.” [Patch]

New Book Set in Arlington — There’s a new book, set in Arlington during the COVID era, that “tells the story of a sportswriter and baseball pitcher who decide to enjoy a one-night stand, only to discover that their relationship is something more.” [Mindy Klasky]

Inside Virginia’s Vaccine Struggles — “The state is now apportioning vaccines to local health districts based on their share of the state’s population. Previously, allocations were based on district requests, which often depended on demand and how many doses local health departments thought they’d be able to administer.” [Virginia Mercury]

Nearby: Transportation Changes for Seven Corners — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold two ‘virtual’ meetings next month to seek public input on planned transportation improvements at the Seven Corners interchange and nearby roads.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Enters N. Va. Police Pact –“The Northern Virginia Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Committee is pleased to announce the creation of the Northern Virginia Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT). The purpose of this team is to investigate critical incidents involving law enforcement officers within the cooperating jurisdictions.” [ACPD, DCist]

Dems Staying in Arlington for Inauguration — “Since most won’t be traveling into the District of Columbia due to public-health restrictions, members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee are being asked to take part in special events in Arlington to mark the Jan. 20 inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.” [InsideNova]

Amazon to Open HQ2 to Teachers — “Amazon.com Inc. is taking a new step toward building up its future workforce, offering D.C.-area teachers the opportunity this summer to tour its second headquarters and shadow HQ2 staff while completing a graduate-level computer science course with George Mason University.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Wants to Vaccinate Va. Workers — “Amazon.com Inc. has offered to aid Virginia in inoculating the masses by vaccinating its tens of thousands of employees deemed essential during the health crisis… The company said it has the infrastructure to provide vaccinations to its more than 25,000 full and part-time laborers at fulfillment centers, warehouses and grocery stores across the state.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Candidate for 45th House District — “Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker will not seek reelection and is running for the 45th District [state House of Delegates] seat currently held by Del. Mark Levine as he runs for Virginia Lieutenant Governor.” [ALXnow]

Nearby: No Go for MoCo Schools — “Montgomery County students’ return to schools will be pushed back again as local COVID-19 cases continue to surge. During a meeting on Tuesday, the Montgomery County Board of Education voted 7-1 to delay its reopening plan for the third time, pushing back the Feb. 1 start date until at least March 15 — more than a year after buildings closed.” [Bethesda Magazine]

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Financed by Amazon, a D.C. area housing nonprofit bought and will stabilize rent at a luxury apartment building in Crystal City.

The tech giant announced on Wednesday that it is contributing $381.9 million to Washington Housing Conservancy to create and preserve 1,300 affordable housing units at Crystal House (1900 S. Eads St), as rents rise amid Amazon’s expansion into the area.

“Amazon’s investment in affordable housing in Arlington is transformational — and couldn’t come at a better time,” County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a statement. “We are delighted to further strengthen our partnership with Amazon and to work together to serve our shared commitment to equity and economic opportunity for all of our residents.”

The funding for WHC includes a $339.9 million below-market loan and $42 million in grants. With the money, and a $6.7 million loan from WHC’s financing partner, JBG Smith, the nonprofit purchased Crystal House, a luxury apartment complex one block from Amazon’s future HQ2.

“Washington Housing Conservancy disrupts a market cycle that leads to displacement and offers the kind of stability that lets residents focus on their future, instead of the uncertainty of escalating rents,” WHC Executive Director Kimberly Driggins said in a statement.

The conversion of existing market-rate apartments into dedicated affordable apartments started on Jan. 1 and will continue over the next five years. Rents at the building, to be managed by JBG Smith, will target households earning less than 80% of the area median income. The agreement is for 99 years.

Residents were notified about the changes on Dec. 31 in a letter, obtained by Washington Business Journal.

“With Amazon’s support, we are advancing our vision for inclusive, mixed-income communities of racially diverse middle-income and low-income families and individuals, to live near their employment and access high-performing schools and community amenities,” Driggins said.

Although another purchase was in the works last year, the purchase of Crystal House marks Washington Housing Conservancy’s first finalized purchase since the nonprofit was established in 2019.

The contributions are part of Amazon’s new Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion commitment to create and preserve more than 20,000 units in Amazon’s three footholds: Arlington, the Seattle area, and Nashville.

“Amazon has a long-standing commitment to helping people in need,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “This new $2 billion Housing Equity Fund will create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes in all three of our headquarters regions — Arlington, Puget Sound, and Nashville. It will also help local families achieve long-term stability while building strong, inclusive communities.”

The contribution comes after nearly a decade of climbing housing costs that have outpaced the growth of household incomes.

Arlington County has lost approximately 14,400 privately-owned, affordably priced housing units since 2000, according to Amazon’s press release.

Between 2010 and 2018, the median home value climbed approximately 20% (after adjusting for inflation) and median rents climbed 11%, while median household incomes climbed only 7%, the release said.

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