Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Fire on Columbia Pike Sunday — Arlington County firefighters extinguished a kitchen fire in an apartment building on the 1900 block of Columbia Pike Sunday afternoon. One resident was displaced by the blaze. [Twitter/@ArlingtonVaFD]

Ballston Launches ‘Gnome’ Promotion — “Starting December 16th through December 20th, look for the Ballston Holiday Gnome spreading cheer all around the neighborhood. Find our holiday helper, and you’ll win gifts from some of our favorite Ballston restaurants and stores.” [Facebook]

Skylight Replacement at Arlington National — “After 30 years, the skylight in the @ArlingtonNatl Welcome Center is being repaired under the watchful eye of our Engineering team. As always, the cemetery remains open while we improve your experience.” [Twitter/@KDurhamAguilera]

Amazon Opening Smaller Office in NYC Post-HQ2 — “The giant online retailer said it has signed a new lease for 335,000 square feet on Manhattan’s west side in the new Hudson Yards neighborhood, where it will have more than 1,500 employees. The new lease represents Amazon’s largest expansion in New York since the company stunned the city by abandoning plans to locate its second headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City.” [Wall Street Journal, Crain’s New York BusinessTwitter/@ProfGalloway]

Nearby: Shoppers Closing in Potomac Yard — “Shoppers is closing in Potomac Yard, its parent company announced today. The supermarket, at 3801 Richmond Highway, is expected to close by the end of January. Other Shoppers stores in Manassas, Baltimore and Severn (Maryland) are also closing, and the company is selling 13 other locations.” [ALXnow]

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A third of Amazon’s $3 million June donation for affordable housing in and around Arlington will go to the redevelopment of the American Legion post in Virginia Square.

“The funds will dramatically drive down the rental rates” for ten units at the 160-unit development, located at 3445 Washington Blvd, according to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

“We are so honored that the Foundation and Amazon chose APAH for the initial gift. This contribution will go a long way in making this special project even more impactful,” said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul in a press release. The grant is being made via the Arlington Community Foundation, which is managing Amazon’s $3 million gift.

The site has been formally dubbed Terwilliger Place, after a couple who also made a hefty donation towards the project earlier this year.

“Thanks to today’s gifts we can increase the number of Terwilliger Place homes that will be affordable for those living in the lowest income bracket — families living on minimum wage,” Janopaul said.

In 2016, APAH bought the 1.3-acre property, and the County Board in February approved a plan to tear it down in 2020. In its place will go 160 units of housing with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all at different levels of affordability. Half of the units will go towards housing low-income veterans, and plans to open to residents on a first-come basis are set for summer 2022.

“We are adding much-needed affordable units to our inventory, and many of them are large enough for families,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey wrote in a statement earlier this year.

APAH also plans to build a brand-new, modern 6,000 square foot facility in Terwilliger Place for Legion Post 139, with amenities such as private counseling spaces, community activity rooms, and a computer lab.

In addition to Amazon’s June donation, the company has announced it will match employee donations to select housing- and homelessness-related nonprofits in and around Arlington, including AHC Inc., APAH, Carpenter’s Shelter, and more.

The County Board will vote on a zoning amendment next week for Amazon’s upcoming HQ2, which includes a $20 million donation towards Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

The grant announcement from APAH is below, after the jump.

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Arlington’s Planning Commission recommend the County Board vote in favor of several site plan amendments that would usher in the future home of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The commission voted unanimously in favor of Amazon’s request to remove a stretch of 14th Road S., and voted 12-1 in favor of a request to build two 22-story office buildings past current zoning restrictions.

The Arlington County Board will have its final vote on the amendments during its meeting next Saturday, December 14.

The unbuilt portion of 14th Road S. was originally planned to serve private residential buildings, per staff report to the Board. But since Amazon now plans to build its two office towers on the lot, there is “no longer the need for the planned 14th Road segment.”

In exchange for modifying zoning requirements to build said office buildings to an expected 2.15 million square feet — including retail space and a shared underground parking garage — Amazon offered the following community incentives:

The affordable housing contribution would be the largest single infusion of money into the AHIF, which has fallen short of its housing goals in recent years.

“The $20 million contribution to AHIF will allow the County to fund over 200 units of committed affordable housing, which will help meet only about one-third of the County’s annual goal for new units when it occurs,” Michelle Winters, director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow. “This contribution is very welcome, although we know that it is only a small part of what Arlington needs to do for affordable housing in the coming years to help replace some of the thousands of affordable units lost over the past several decades.”

During next weekend’s meeting, the County Board will decide between two options for allocating the funds, per Aaron Shriber of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development: the $20 million will either be divided into three separate payments for a variety of projects, or will be pooled into one, unannounced project within the vicinity of Metropolitan Park.

“The problem is [for the second option], that we need to identify the site, but we would love to use that money for a project — [Amazon] is looking at a fairly aggressive construction schedule, and that means the money would come in very soon,” said Shriber. “I do not think we should take lightly the large contribution we were able to receive.”

Amazon representatives also emphasized the company’s intentions to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with LEED Platinum certification and support for transit and green energy.

“We’re close to completing an agreement on a large solar project and will update you when it’s finalized,” said Amazon’s real estate chief John Schoettler told the commission. “It will fully power our HQ2 campus and will be located in Virginia.”

The upcoming solar field is part of a worldwide sustainability project, the company announced today. The Virginia field is expected to produce 80 megawatts of energy and received kudos from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) for helping “lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.”

(One megawatt can power about a thousand homes.)

The company is also pushing its employees to commute via public transit, bike, or carpool instead of driving solo — despite requesting zoning modifications that would allow one parking space per every 1,100 square feet of gross floor area, over 2,000 spaces total.

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Amazon plans to pay to completely revamp the “central park” next to its future HQ2, with a well-known designer at the helm.

The company and its architecture firm presented the latest plans for its permanent headquarters in Pentagon City to the Arlington Transportation Commission last night, ahead of an expected vote by the County Board on Dec. 14.

Amazon has offered to contribute a record $20 million to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, in exchange for being able to build the first half of its HQ2 bigger than otherwise would be permitted by zoning. The plans include two 22-story towers with a total of 2.15 million square feet of office and retail space.

Also of additional note is Amazon’s proposal for what is currently a modestly-sized and off-the-beaten-path park.

The second phase of HQ2 — the 500,000 square feet of temporary leased space in Crystal City is considered the first phase — would complete the “Metropolitan Park” development that includes four apartment buildings across from the Pentagon City Costco and along 12th Street S. Amazon is proposing to fund “a complete redevelopment of the park” in the middle of the buildings.

After expanding with an additional half acre of space from Amazon — not to mention a pair of new plazas totalling 20,000 square feet — the park will total more than 2 acres. But Amazon and Arlington County have grander plans for that space than the current park’s status as a defacto dog park for nearby apartment residents.

The county is expected to launch a master plan process for the park early next year, seeking community input on planned changes, according to Brian Earle, the lead architect of HQ2. Leading the design process will be James Corner Field Operations, the noted designer of New York City’s High Line.

Corner is “a real preeminent thinker about great urban space to help us realize the potential of that space,” Earle told the Transportation Commission.

Amazon will pay for the design, the public engagement process, the park construction and its maintenance, according to a draft site plan. The expected cost is $14 million, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Adjacent to the park and HQ2, meanwhile, portions of 14th Street and Elm Street are proposed to be flush with the sidewalk, making the streets, which will be open to traffic during business hours, more usable for events and other off-hours activities.

In front of HQ2, along S. Eads Street and extending to the Bartlett apartment building and Amazon-owned Whole Foods store, will be a “linear park.” The thin strip of parkland from 15th to 12th streets would include trees, string lights and cafe seating for the retail space at the base of Amazon’s towers.

The draft site plan describes “café seating associated with retail spaces, passive seating, public art, or programming” to “create open, flexible spaces for seating to encourage social activity” as part of the linear park.

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Morning Notes

Amazon Offers Millions for Affordable Housing — “Amazon is offering $20 million to the Arlington County Affordable Housing Investment Fund in exchange for being allowed to build a bigger headquarters complex in the county than zoning allows… it would be the greatest single infusion of money ever into Arlington’s housing fund.” [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]

Alexandria Home Sale Prices Rise Above Arlington — “The Amazon HQ2 effect on home prices in Northern Virginia continues and, at least by one measure, the Alexandria housing market is now more expensive than Arlington County. At least it was in October, the most recent month for which data is available.” [WTOP]

Racing Presidents Offer DCA Travel Tips — The Washington Nationals racing presidents star in a new video offering holiday travel tips to those flying out of Reagan National Airport. [Twitter/@Reagan_Airport]

ACFD Responds to Prince George’s Co. Fire — “Today, @ArlingtonVaFD Truck 105 in the Crystal City area was dispatched to 3800 St. Barnabas Road in Marlow Heights for a @PGFDNews building fire. They were the 3rd due special service on the initial dispatch.” [Twitter/@STATter911]

Bankruptcy for Quarterdeck’s Sister Restaurant — “District Anchor, the bar that replaced the decades-old Dupont Circle mainstay Rumors in 2016, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization… owner Patrick Morrogh — who also owns Arlington’s Quarterdeck Restaurant, similarly known for its crabs and seafood-based menu — doesn’t intend to close the Dupont bar.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Advocates Pushing for Less Parking at HQ2 — “Amazon wants employees at its new Northern Virginia headquarters to commute car-free to work… So why does the development’s current design include an underground parking garage with nearly 2,000 spaces — guaranteeing that a significant chunk of Amazon’s workforce will drive to work?” [Greater Greater Washington]

Express Lanes Causing 14th Street Bridge Slowdown? — Some commuters have been taking to social media to gripe about what they say is heavier traffic caused by the I-395 Express Lanes: “This morning the express lanes made 395N regular lanes undriveable. The problem is they closed off the 14th street bridge hov to regular traffic, which is creating a tremendous clog point. Its now taking 30 mins just to cross the 14th street bridge.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Northam in Arlington Today — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is scheduled to attend the Governor’s Transportation Conference this morning at a hotel in Crystal City. [Cvent]

‘Feuerwehrmann’ Joins ACFD for Three Weeks — “Two Arlington County Fire Department crews had a unique opportunity recently when they welcomed a fellow firefighter from the Aachen Fire Department in Germany.  Lieutenant Sebastian Ganser, a firefighter, paramedic, and fire instructor in Arlington’s sister city of Aachen, Germany, spent three weeks with Station 5C in Crystal City and Station 2B in Ballston — living and working alongside Arlington’s firefighters and paramedics.” [Arlington County]

Long-Distance Runners Arriving in Arlington Soon — “Josh and Brian will be running roughly 500 miles from Massachusetts National Cemetery to Arlington National Cemetery in VA for your donations. This journey will take between 10-14 days averaging 40-50 miles per day. They will start on November 11th, 2019 (Veterans Day) and will only stop to eat and sleep until they make it to Arlington, VA.” [Mission 22]

Road Closures for Annual 5K — “The 5th annual Jennifer Bush-Lawson Memorial 5K Race will take place on Saturday, November 23, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will implement several road closures from approximately 8:00 AM until 11:00 AM to accommodate this event.” [Arlington County]

Planetarium Boosters to Stay Active During Closure — “The Arlington school system’s lone planetarium will be closed for about a year and a half starting later this month, as construction takes place turning the nearby Arlington Education Center building into classroom space. But leaders with the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium say they will fill the gap with programming elsewhere during the closure.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Staying Put, For Now — “The chairman of the Arlington County Board says he’s not going anywhere… ‘My personal financial issues do not impinge on my ability to work with colleagues both in Arlington and throughout the region, our county staff and our community,’ Dorsey said. ‘I intend to demonstrate over the next four years those who voted to re-elect me did not make a mistake.'” [InsideNova]

RiverHouse Plans Pick Up Opposition — “JBG Smith’s plans to add nearly 1,000 new housing units to its RiverHouse Apartment Complex in Pentagon City, not far from the future home of Amazon’s second headquarters, now look to be in trouble. Arlington officials and neighbors are pushing back against the developer’s proposal.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Chase Theft Suspect in Rosslyn — “Two suspects allegedly entered a business, concealed merchandise in bags and left without paying. An employee attempted to confront the suspects outside the business and, following a brief scuffle, the suspects fled the scene on foot. A lookout was broadcast by dispatch and a responding officer observed two individuals matching the suspect descriptions walking in the area. One suspect complied with the officer’s commands to stop while the other suspect fled.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

One Argument for ‘National Landing’ — “In 2018 when Amazon announced it would locate its new headquarters in National Landing, people familiar with Crystal City scratched their heads and said ‘that’s not a real place.’ But the name Crystal City itself was also an out-of-nowhere developer creation about 60 years earlier… Before it was Crystal City, it was Brick Haven, so named for its abundant brick factories.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Restaurants Still Waiting for Amazon Effect — Restaurant owners in Crystal City are excited about Amazon’s arrival in the neighborhood, but are not yet seeing tangible benefits in the form of increased business. [Washington Business Journal]

CEO of A-SPAN Retiring — “A-SPAN announces the retirement of its President & CEO, Kathy Sibert. After leading the organization for 11 years, Sibert will continue her role through January 31, 2020. Sibert became the President & CEO of A-SPAN (Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Inc) in 2008.” [Press Release]

Vienna Poaches from Arlington Economic Development — “The Town of Vienna has hired a business development manager in Arlington County to help revitalize local businesses. The town recently announced that Natalie Monkou, an Annadale resident, will be the town’s first-ever economic development manager.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Arlington could be extending a protected bike lane in Crystal City, a block from Amazon’s future home.

The county posted on its website that intends to “rebuild 18th Street South between Fern and Eads Streets in order to continue the existing South Hayes Street protected bike lane further east.”

Designs on the website show the current unprotected bike lanes being converted to protected lanes without a loss of vehicle travel lanes. Additional pedestrian-safety upgrades are also planned.

A group of residents advocating for eliminating single occupant car commuting at Amazon’s future headquarters celebrated the news. On Twitter, the group thanked DES and wrote the planned infrastructure was “GOOD NEWS!”

https://twitter.com/CarFreeHQ2/status/1191824320194060288?s=20

“The project will improve the safety of the South Fern Street and 18th Street South intersection by removing the southbound right turn slip lane and building curb extensions on all four corners of the intersection to reduce pedestrian crossing distances,” said Department of Environmental Services (DES) spokesman Eric Balliet.

“It will also extend the existing protected bike lanes on South Hayes Street (west of the Fern St/18th St intersection) along 18th Street from South Fern to South Eads Street,” he added.

The project will include features for pedestrians, like high visibility crosswalks. Per the county website:

Additionally, the intersection of 18th Street South and South Fern Street will be rebuilt to decrease crossing distances and decrease the existing impervious area. This will improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle safety at the intersection.

The project will also add stormwater retention, replace a water main and upgrade the streetscape, helping improve the connection between the core of Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The work is part of the 18th Street S. Complete Streets project and is expected to cost the county $5.3 million, which will be paid for by funds earmarked in the Capital Improvement Plan for fiscal years 2017-2026 and a Crystal City transportation infrastructure fund.

Near Amazon’s HQ2, cycling advocates have also successfully pushed for more protected bike lanes.

Arlington first added plastic bollards and moved out the parking area along S. Hayes Street in 2014 to physically protect cyclists from cars. Since then, DES has tested out more protected bike lanes, adding two in Ballston and Courthouse.

However, transit advocates have pushed for the county to pick up the pace, citing the dangers of cars blocking unprotected lanes which forces cyclists into dangerous, busy roads. In addition to cyclists, bike lanes are also used by e-scooter riders.

Balliet said the department expects construction on the 18th Street S. project to begin next fall.

Images via Arlington County & Google Maps 

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Arlington is considering removing a planned section of road in the Metropolitan Park site in Pentagon City, the future home of Amazon’s permanent HQ2.

The Arlington County Board will vote during its meeting this Saturday, November 16 on the first step to nixing a stretch of 14th Road S. that was supposed to one day extend eastward on the lot that now slated for the first phase of Amazon’s headquarters plan.

Officials say the road no longer necessary now that Amazon is moving in.

The 14th Street segment was originally planned to “connect South Elm Street to a private court at the rear of two planned residential buildings” once envisioned on the site almost two decades ago, per a staff report to the Board.

Now that Amazon is finalizing designs for two sky-high office towers on the lot, “there will no longer be the need for the planned 14th Road segment,” the staff report noted. “The proposed new buildings have been designed to utilize S. Elm Street and 14th Street S. for their vehicular access.”

If members vote to advance the removal, the county will hold a public hearing on Monday, December 2 during the county’s Planning Commission meeting at 7 p.m. in the Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) The discussion would then return to the County Board for a final vote on December 14.

Approving a public hearing is currently listed on the Board’s consent agenda for tomorrow’s meeting — a position usually reserved for items staff expect members to pass without debate.

The Transportation Commission unanimously approved removing the road in a vote last month, per a letter of support sent to the Board.

Nearby, the Board also recently considered doing away with a pedestrian path in the way of the Verizon site project on 1400 11th Street S.

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Morning Notes

One Year Since HQ2 Announcement — “I cannot believe it’s been one year since I had the privilege of announcing our Arlington, VA HQ2! It’s been amazing to work with all of the government officials and the community on this project. It’s just Day One and I look forward to many more successful years together!” [Twitter]

Crystal City Office Market Tightening Up — “There’s still an awful lot of empty office space in Crystal City, but a year after Amazon.com Inc. picked National Landing for its second home, conditions have already started to become less favorable for non-Amazon tenants in the Arlington County submarket.” [Washington Business Journal]

Lots of Amazon Employees Elsewhere in the Region — “Amazon’s biggest base locally is miles from HQ2. Some 2,500 corporate employees, not connected to the second headquarters, work in its D.C. and other offices. In Herndon, where the company already has a significant and growing footprint, there are nearly 800 job openings. For much of this year, many of Amazon’s Arlington job openings were allotted for Ballston, where the company leases some 52,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Video of the Big Water Main Break — “Dramatic early footage from Friday’s break. Fast-acting crews were able to restore pressure to the water system within a few hours through a bypass. Repairs starting tonight” — N. Glebe Road is closed near Chain Bridge during the morning rush hour — “will allow renewed use of the main and then long-term resurfacing of Glebe Road.” [Twitter]

Rosslyn Renovation Mean Changes for Local Barber — “When it’s done, Rosslyn City Center will boast a new food hall, reimagined workspaces and experiential activated environments. And Rosslyn Metro Barber Shop will move to a highly visible, first-floor location where would-be customers are sure to take notice.” [Rosslyn BID]

W&OD Trail Upgrades Proposed in Arlington — “Arlington County Board members on Saturday will be asked to add their voices in support of a request from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) for $5.65 million in regional funding to improve and expand the Washington & Old Dominion Trail over a two-mile stretch in the western part of the county. NOVA Parks aims to replace the existing 12-foot-wide, shared-use trail with a 12-foot-wide bicycle trail and an 8-foot wide pedestrian trail.” [InsideNova]

New Scanner for County Jail — “A new security measure that will help prevent the smuggling of prohibited items into the Arlington County Detention Center by people who are arrested is now in use, Sheriff Beth Arthur announced.” The announcement follows the death of a homicide suspect in the jail. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Yung Chen

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Morning Notes

HQ2 Business Boom Strains County — “A full year after Amazon.com Inc. announced that it would set up shop in Arlington, there’s little doubt the company has drawn the sort of surge in business and development interest that local leaders promised as they pursued HQ2 — but all of that activity has also put a strain on the local government as it prepares for the tech giant’s arrival.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tour of Amazon’s Temporary Crystal City Office — “Amazon almost has 200 employees working in leased space in @ArlingtonVA, with more on the way.” [WJLA, Twitter]

‘National Landing’ Name Falls Flat — “It’s been one year since the HQ2 announcement, and with it the coordinated airdrop of the name, ‘National Landing,’ on an unsuspecting and bewildered population… So has National Landing stuck? Not really, at least among the common people, according to the folks I interviewed.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Adjacent Real Estate Skyrockets — “The median home price in the 22202 ZIP code, which encompasses all of HQ2, was $815,000 in October. That’s about a 51% year-to-date increase or a $275,000 difference, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime, based on listing activity from Bright MLS.” [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

Housing Affordability Increasing? — “With mortgage rates at a three-year low and a healthy job market, housing affordability rose to its highest level in three years in the third quarter of 2019… for the Washington area, high incomes helped to offset the pricey cost of housing, with the resulting regional opportunity index higher than the national average.” [InsideNova]

County Pleased With Water Main Break Response — “How well did Arlington County in Virginia think it handled the water main break that triggered a boil water advisory for more than 100,000 customers in the county and parts of Northwest D.C.? Pretty well, it seems.” [WTOP]

New American Legion Bridge Coming — “Commuters heading to and from Maryland on the Beltway may see some relief from the constant traffic woes. The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced an agreement Tuesday morning that would see the construction of a new American Legion Bridge.” [Tysons Reporter]

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