Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:1o p.m.) Arlington County is launching a new planning study to determine how best to shape the new density coming to Pentagon City.

As nearby Crystal City and Potomac Yard undergo new development spurred by Amazon’s second headquarters, the new study is intended to shape development around Pentagon City, where the permanent HQ2 campus will be located.

“For over four decades, the Pentagon City Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP) has successfully guided growth in the area, resulting in a diverse mix of residential uses, hotels, offices, and retail,” the County’s website said. “Building upon this commitment to planned development around a Metro station, recent events have placed a greater focus on ensuring this approach continues into the future.”

The 12-month planning process is broken into four phases, which will examine the existing conditions and look at varying scenarios for how to shape density could shape the area, “including urban design and streetscape elements, building heights, transportation infrastructure, and public realm recommendations.”

“Arlington County is initiating a new study to help guide future development for Pentagon City, with coordinated planning and transportation components,” the county’s website says. “The study will help define Pentagon City’s capacity for future growth by evaluating alternative redevelopment scenarios and their resulting impacts on the capacity of the existing, committed, and planned transportation system, infrastructure, public spaces and community facilities.”

An ongoing traffic analysis of the area started last year, examining bicycle and pedestrian traffic patterns in addition to car traffic. A preview of the plan in January put the total estimated cost of the study at $1.5 million, including the transportation analysis, staffing hours and consulting for the planning study.

A couple of major redevelopment proposals, including some 1,000 new housing units on the RiverHouse property and a new mixed-use development at the current TSA headquarters, are effectively on hold pending the outcome of the study.

The second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 project — currently an vacant plot of land after a series of abandoned development proposals — is within the study boundaries. A major redevelopment of the Pentagon Centre shopping center — where Costco is located — is also planned but remains years away and outside the scope of the study.

The eventual goal, according to the study preview, will be the establishment of new urban design guidelines, implementation strategies, and guiding documents for Pentagon City.

“The study will last approximately 12 months, starting with a mid-2020 kick-off to mid-2021 completion,” the County said. “County Board briefings or a work session are anticipated to happen at the midway point.”

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Seattle Tax Could Advantage Arlington — “It wouldn’t shock us if Amazon started encouraging more of its executives to up and move their teams to HQ2, or a neighboring city in Washington state, now that the Seattle City Council has passed a progressive tax targeting the wealthiest companies in the city.” [Washington Business Journal]

Analysis of County Board Special Election — From @A_Hendel on Twitter: “Takis Karantonis received most of his share of the vote from South Arlington… In fact, almost no precincts north of I-66 cast 50% or more of their votes for Takis.” [Twitter]

Organizations Getting Big PPP Loans in Arlington — The American Diabetes Association, tech company ByteCubed, American Service Center, Bishop O’Connell High School and the Catholic Diocese of Arlington are among the Arlington-based organizations to reportedly receive $2+ million federal Paycheck Protection Act loans. [Patch]

Another Local Tech Firm Gets PPP Help — “Amazon.com Inc. may have posted record sales during the pandemic, but many third-party sellers on the platform foundered… Some of those sellers — like the Arlington-based Amify Inc. and Etailz Inc., based in Spokane, Washington — received millions of dollars worth of help from the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.” [Washington Business Journal]

Water Main Repairs Today in Bluemont — “Thursday Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews will replace 3 valves in separate locations tomorrow in Bluemont area. Some 100 customers have been notified of potential service interruptions 8 a.m.-5 p.m.” [Twitter]

Letter: W-L Renaming Happened at a Good Time — “The Arlington School Board’s renaming of Washington-Lee High School was autocratic, manipulative, adversarial and punitive. In retrospect, though, they unwittingly did the W-L community a favor.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Today — Voting is underway in the three-way special election to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. The candidates are Takis Karantonis, Susan Cunningham and Bob Cambridge. “Don’t forget your photo ID, ballpoint pen, and face mask,” Arlington’s election office said this morning in a tweet. [Twitter]

No Incentive Payments for Amazon This Year — “Amazon.com Inc. won’t receive any direct cash payments from Arlington County, this year at least, for its HQ2 office leases… because Amazon’s incentive payments are tied to Arlington’s tourism industry. And many rooms remain empty to this day.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Working to Offer Free Internet Service — “In May, the Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to APS students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal [CARES] Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast. Arlington is the first community in Virginia to partner with Comcast to offer free broadband services to students and their families.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Flying Squirrel Rescued from Chimney — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This little flying squirrel had been stuck in a local resident’s chimney since Saturday, but thankfully, Sgt Ballena was able to remove him and release him safely nearby!” [Twitter]

Synetic Organizing Joint Fundraiser — “Synetic Theater has partnered with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to raise $20,000 during the month of July to be split evenly between the organizations. This partnership was initiated by Synetic Theater to help fulfil the company’s desire to invest in their local community while they are unable to host live performances at their Crystal City/National Landing theater space.” [Press Release]

Interview With New Poet Laureate — “When Hollynd Karapetkova learned that she had been selected as Arlington County’s poet laureate, she saw it as a wonderful piece of good news and positive recognition at a time when everything in the world seemed so chaotic. ‘I’m really grateful that Arlington has gone ahead with this program in spite of all the chaos that’s unfolding,’ she said.” [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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A thousand down, 24,000 still to go.

Amazon announced today that it has hired its 1,000th HQ2 employee, though its physical offices in Arlington remain closed due to the pandemic. The tech and retail giant also announced that it still plans to ultimately fill 25,000 positions at its second headquarters, potentially putting to rest speculation that HQ2 could be downsized amid a work-from-home trend.

In a post on its Day One blog, Amazon said that it was working to hire a diverse workforce in Arlington:

Amazon remains committed to filling the 25,000 roles projected for HQ2 with diverse talent from across the region. Although offices have been quiet for the past several weeks due to COVID-19, our hiring has continued as planned. We have virtually onboarded scores of talented people and recently welcomed our 1,000th employee in Arlington. Among our new hires are lifelong Northern Virginia resident Lakshmi Kopparam, one of the first software development engineers to join the Amazon Fire TV team in Arlington, and McCoy Jamison, who formerly served in the U.S. Navy and just began his role as a solutions architect with Amazon Web Services. Kopparam and Jamison are working alongside a group of senior engineers who are building a best-in-class technology culture at Amazon and contributing to the region’s growing tech ecosystem. Within the first wave of hires is a program lead who has been tasked with ensuring our HQ2 workforce is inclusive and diverse. This person will implement recruiting and HR best practices and initiatives designed to ensure inclusiveness in our products and offerings.

The blog post also detailed the millions in donations Amazon has been funneling to education, food, and relief initiatives in Arlington, D.C. and other parts of Virginia.

Construction is currently underway on the first phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 along S. Eads Street in Pentagon City. The 2.1 million square foot complex is expected to open in 2023 and house about half of HQ2’s 25,000 employees. Until it opens, Amazon is working out of temporary, leased space in Crystal City.

A planned second phase will build another 2.1 million square feet of office space across 12th Street S., in the vacant PenPlace lot. In the meantime, the new Amazon-funded design for nearby Metropolitan Park is being finalized, ahead of expected County Board approval this fall.

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Morning Notes

Amazon Nears Thousandth HQ2 Hire — “Even amid the region’s economic shutdown, Amazon has still been staffing up its HQ2 offices in Arlington, quickly approaching its 1,000th hire at the second headquarters campus, said Brian Kenner, head of HQ2 policy. ‘We’ve been very happy with the caliber of candidates,’ Kenner said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Pandemic Making Single-Family Homes Pricier — “Could the bloom be off the rose when it comes to urban (or urban-village) living? Figures are preliminary at best, but there is some inkling that the COVID-19 pandemic may be changing patterns among home-buyers. ‘Relatively better performance of single-family homes in relation to multi-family condominium properties clearly suggest migration from the city centers to the suburbs,’ said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association Realtors, in parsing sales data from May.” [InsideNova]

New Arlington Poet Laureate — “Award-winning poet and Marymount University professor Holly Karapetkova has been selected as the second Poet Laureate of Arlington County. During her two-year appointment, which begins July 1, 2020, she will serve as an advocate for poetry and the literary arts, working to raise Arlingtonians’ consciousness and appreciation of poetry in its written and spoken forms.” [Arlington County]

Snubbed Business Owners Speak Out — “ASAP Screen Printing is a small business. Yet the Arlington County government did not find the company small enough to deserve assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead providing grants to the likes of” hotels and franchisees of chain restaurants like Subway and Jimmy John’s, writes ASAP owner Mohammad Shiekhy. [InsideNova]

Toppled Tree Knocks Out Power to Neighborhood — A large tree fell, took down utility lines, and knocked out power to more than 100 homes in North Arlington’s Bellevue Forest neighborhood last night. [Twitter]

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Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard are still separate neighborhoods — but the business improvement district that serves them has a new name today.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District has been officially renamed the National Landing Business Improvement District. The BID has a new website, a new video and a new logo, which gives a visual nod to the area’s “Metrorail lines… abundant natural green spaces and parks, and the water of the Potomac River nearby.”

The name change coincides with two separate events that happened in parallel: the expansion of the BID’s boundaries to include portions of Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, and the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2. The initial HQ2 announcement caught people off guard as it referred to “National Landing,” a term coined by economic development officials in the pitch to Amazon but to that point never revealed to residents.

At the BID’s annual meeting this morning, during which the name change was approved, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey spoke on the broader topics of racial equity and recovery from the pandemic.

“As we come through this we are going to be a stronger Arlington, more equitable, more innovative and more resilient,” Garvey said in prepared remarks. “There is no place I’d rather be in the world than here in Arlington, and a lot of that right now is simply because of this community. We are strong, we are smart, and we are caring.”

More on the name change from a press release:

The Crystal City Business Improvement District is officially renamed the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) following an action by its voting membership at its annual meeting today. The virtual event included remarks from National Landing BID President and Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey and American Diabetes Association President & CEO Tracey Brown.

The organization’s adoption of the National Landing name is the culmination of a robust, years-long community engagement process in which the BID sought and received positive feedback from residents, civic associations and stakeholders, and attained approval from the Arlington County Board.

The name and coinciding brand assets, which were unveiled for the first time at the meeting, aim to better reflect the BID’s enlarged boundaries and to foster a more cohesive identity for National Landing, which is comprised of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard-Arlington. The National Landing area encompasses nearly 12 million square feet of office space in a mixed-use, walkable urban center that includes more than 26,000 residents, nearly 5,900 hotel rooms and over 450 restaurants and shops.

The new visual identity for the organization and unified district includes a new logo and corresponding digital assets including a video, website (Nationallanding.org), and social handles (@NationalLanding on Twitter & Instagram, @NationalLandingBID on Facebook). The branding features an iconic “N” comprised of bright yellow, blue and green, which reference the Metrorail lines, the area’s abundant natural green spaces and parks, and the water of the Potomac River nearby. In a nod to National Landing’s unparalleled connectivity, the logo’s clean, rounded edges reflect transit systems, the airport and motion. To reinforce the unified spirit of the area, all three neighborhood names are included in the logo.

In her remarks, Ms. Gabriel reflected on the BID’s accomplishments over the past year, which include achieving its longstanding goal of expansion.  “At nearly one square mile or 60 blocks, an expanded BID geography enables us to promote the area’s unified identity as a vibrant, nationally-recognized urban center and to shape and manage growth and investment in ways that enhance the quality of life for those who live, work and visit here,” said Ms. Gabriel.  The BID also worked with local organizations and businesses to produce its signature lineup of programs and events and introduced new art installations and beautification projects this year.

Ms. Gabriel addressed the BID’s ongoing work to support the community during the COVID-19 crisis, which included a $100,000 contribution to Arlington’s Small Business Emergency GRANT Program to help National Landing establishments whose operations were impacted by the pandemic. The BID also shifted to a lineup of virtual programming; launched its “Hometown Heroes” program to recognize inspiring community members; and created the #LoveNationalLanding campaign, an ongoing partnership with local artists to enliven the streets, highlight small businesses and foster neighborhood spirit.

Ms. Gabriel stated that the BID is more committed than ever to guiding the area’s growth in ways that promote equity and inclusion. In addition to providing its core set of services to the entire National Landing area, the BID is prepared to assist through the various stages of reopening and recovery and continues to explore civic partnerships to serve the humanitarian needs of the community. To accomplish its goals, the BID will grow its staff as it continues to settle into its new offices at 2011 Crystal Drive.

Despite the year’s challenges, the BID underscored optimism for National Landing’s future, highlighted by the construction of Amazon’s second headquarters and the company’s hiring efforts, planned park improvements and the area’s robust residential development pipeline.  In addition, continued funding for transformative infrastructure projects like the CC2DCA intermodal connector and Route 1’s conversion to an urban boulevard will deliver next generation mobility.

Through these projects and other strategic efforts, Ms. Gabriel remarked that, “The National Landing area is poised to serve existing and future residents, employees and visitors who appreciate a community that offers convenience, urban amenities and a vibrant and transforming public realm.”

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The design process for the revamped Metropolitan Park near Amazon’s future Pentagon City offices is nearing the finish line.

A final draft design for the park was presented last week, revealing a hybrid of the “Forest Walk” and “Social Gardens” concepts previously detailed by James Corner Field Operations, which designed New York City’s famous High Line. Amazon is funding the design work for the park, which is adjacent to its future HQ2.

The updated design is a “more social version” of the Forest Walk concept that was generally favored in the latest round of public feedback, designers said. It includes:

  • Meandering paths
  • A “hammock clearing” on the forest walk
  • The possibility of public art along the paths
  • An overlook
  • A central green for gatherings and events
  • A day care garden near HQ2
  • A “meadow lounge”
  • A play garden with playground equipment
  • A “community table” for dining amid nature
  • A cafe terrace
  • A 4,000 square foot dog park with separate areas for large and small dogs
  • An Amazon banana stand

The county and the designers are now gathering feedback on the synthesized design, before making some tweaks and creating a final design for consideration by the County Board in September.

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Morning Notes

Rent Protest Today — Starting at the shopping center parking lot at 5001 Columbia Pike, a caravan of cars adorned with signs will travel to local apartment complexes to support “rent cancellation during this pandemic plus two months following the ability for community members to work and pay rent,” among other aims. The protest is being organized by La ColectiVA and other groups. [Facebook]

Animal Control Rescues Turtle from I-395 — “A few days ago, we got a call about a turtle very close to traffic on I-395. When Sgt Ballena arrived, he found a young snapping turtle who’s beak was fractured and bleeding. He took the turtle to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, who will care for him until he can be released.” [Twitter]

Arlington Officers Injured During D.C. Protests — Despite an earlier comment by the police chief that no officers were injured, “a spokesperson for Arlington County Police told us, ‘one Arlington officer suffered a concussion and several others suffered bruises and abrasions.'” [WUSA 9]

Home Sales Downs, Prices Up — “May is usually one of the best months for housing sales, but the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of listings sidelined many potential buyers. The D.C. area had its slowest May for sales in a decade. But more sellers stepped up from April and prices continue to rise year-over-year… The median price of what sold in Arlington County was $622,500, up 1.2% from last May.” [WTOP]

Could HQ2 Be Downsized? — Amazon prizes in-person interactions among employees, but there are still questions as to whether the company will proceed with the second phase of its 4+ million square foot permanent second headquarters in Pentagon City. [Washington Business Journal]

Orange Line Platform Work Moving Along — “Two weeks into the summer shutdown, construction activity is well underway at Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations. So far, construction crews have focused on demolition work, including the removal of all tiles from the platforms, mezzanines and pedestrian bridges.” [WMATA]

Two Recent Drownings Near Chain Bridge — While D.C. Fire and EMS warns of dangerous waters near the Chain Bridge, the department said another grim discovery was made Thursday. “There have been 2 drownings in the past 3 weeks near Chain Bridge and a body was recovered today,” DCFEMS said. [Twitter]

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Months of wall-to-wall coverage of Amazon’s plans to come to Crystal City and Pentagon City were recognized last night by the D.C. Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Airey, Vernon Miles, Kalina Newman, Alex Koma were all named winners of the 2019 Dateline Award for online business reporting, citing ARLnow’s “hyperlocal coverage of Amazon.”

Airey, who left ARLnow in November and currently works as a freelance journalist, was also a finalist in two other categories; online non-breaking news and best reporting:

“These awards recognize some of the best journalism being done in the Washington, D.C., region by some of the best reporters around,” SPJ DC President Randy Showstack said on the organization’s website. “SPJ DC applauds these journalists for their outstanding efforts to shine a light on issues that the public needs to be aware of.”

File photo

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As promised last week, Clark Construction is wrapping up pile driving at the Amazon HQ2 site in Pentagon City today, two weeks ahead of schedule.

That’s good news for Amazon’s new neighbors. The noisy work drew protests from those sheltering at home in the apartment buildings around the S. Eads Street construction site, and TV news crews reporting on the complaints.

A spokesman for Clark, the general contractor building the first phase of Amazon’s permanent second headquarters, tells ARLnow that work is proceeding quickly.

“Clark is on track to complete pile driving operations later today, two weeks ahead of our initial projection,” said Marcel Goldstein. “Pile driving is by far the noisiest of all construction operations. Going forward, neighbors should expect to hear the typical noise of dump trucks and other construction equipment/activities occurring on site. We will continue to abide by Arlington County’s noise ordinance.”

The next round of work includes the excavation of nearly a half-million cubic yards of dirt, to make way for the 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development.

“Crews will continue to advance mass excavation activities on site, which are anticipated to continue for the next 5 months,” the spokesman said. “Mass excavation entails removing 440,000 cubic yards of soil from the jobsite. The team has removed 75,000 cubic yards of soil to date, representing 17% of the total scope of work.”

“Clark remains focused on building a positive relationship and ongoing dialogue with project neighbors,” Goldstein continued. “Community members can contact us and get the latest construction information by visiting our website: metpark678.com.”

The project website says that construction crews are taking measures to stay safe and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. It also notes that while crews abide by a work schedule set by the county, there’s another noise source that nearby residents may hear at all hours: generators working to drain water from the deepening construction pit.

“The project team is working in compliance with Arlington County’s noise ordinance and operates within the County’s permitted work hours of 7 AM to 9 PM (Mon-Fri) and 9 AM to 9 PM (Sat, Sun, and Holidays),” the website says. “Construction crews continue to utilize generators on site to support dewatering operations, which are running 24 hours a day,” the website says.

Phase 1 of HQ2 is expected to be completed in 2023. A second phase of nearly the same size is planned for the nearby Pen Place site, on the other side of 12th Street S.

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(Updated 6:30 p.m.) Amazon has purchased 1,753 meals from Crystal City restaurant Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant (555 23rd Street S.) and donated the meals to Virginia Hospital Center.

Some of the meals were dropped off this morning, a spokesperson said, noting that while all of the meals were ordered from Freddie’s, future orders are planned for other restaurants in the tech giant’s new neighborhood.

“The whole thing has been going very smoothly,” said Freddie Lutz, the eponymous owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar. “We put together 247 lunches and 105 dinners tonight [for the first round]. We had a caravan of cars.”

Lutz said the partnership with Amazon has allowed Lutz to bring nine of his staff back to work and prepare to open the bar and restaurant for takeout and delivery, which he said he’s planning to start tomorrow (Friday).

“I have another restaurant down the street, Federico Ristorante Italiano, [which has] been open for a week,” Lutz said. “It’s not like being open [during normal times], but it’s some income. This gives us a chance to get ready for carryout and delivery. Everybody is worried about ‘can we survive, can we stay open’ but this helps.”

Nearby restaurants Young Chow and Enjera also supplied meals for the drive.

Amazon said in the press release that the goal was to both support local restaurants through the pandemic and support the hospital staff.

“Meal drop-offs like the one Amazon is making at Virginia Hospital Center allow these local restaurants to continue paying their employees and bring additional employees back to work to safely cook and deliver the meals,” the company said in a press release. “Amazon has committed to purchasing 10,000 meals in May from Arlington restaurants including Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, [Crystal City] Sports Pub, Enjera, and Urban Thai.”

Lutz said that with Amazon continuing to grow its HQ2 presence, the partnership supplying food to VHC is good practice for potentially making more food deliveries to Amazon events and employees down the road.

The press release noted that Amazon is also making food deliveries to the Arlington County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, as well as to Arlington and Alexandria firefighters.

“During this unprecedented time, Amazon is working to not only support our frontline healthcare workers and first responders across the Arlington area, but also our most vulnerable neighbors in immediate need,” said Brian Huseman, Vice President of Public Policy at Amazon. “We are proud to work alongside Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, a beloved local restaurant in our new neighborhood, to ensure that we’re thanking our neighbors who are keeping us safe and caring for our neighbors who need extra support right now with hearty meals throughout May.”

Other individuals, nonprofits and companies have donated everything from gowns to meals to Virginia Hospital Center during the pandemic.

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