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Amazon Fresh in Crystal City, prior to opening in 2022 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Crystal City is losing what is currently its only grocery store.

The Amazon Fresh store that opened in July 2022 at 1550 Crystal Drive will close after Sunday, ARLnow has learned. Multiple readers told us yesterday that the store had launched a sudden, massive sale.

Employees, we’re told, were informed of the closure this week and offered jobs at other area Amazon Fresh stores.

“I saw a large meeting taking place in the afternoon… around 3pm,” a tipster told us Wednesday. “Store has been mysteriously closed ever since.”

The store since reopened after that temporary mid-week closure and has been working to clear out inventory.

“There is a 75% off sale and the store is super crowded right now with many shelves completely bare,” another tipster said Friday afternoon.

“We are closing… it was fun,” one employee reportedly said.

An Amazon spokesperson sent a statement to ARLnow confirming the closure and saying that the company is focusing on larger format stores.

Over the last year, we’ve redesigned a number of our full-sized Amazon Fresh stores, offering a better overall shopping experience by bringing in an expanded selection, low prices on even more grocery items, and greater convenience with updated checkout options such as Amazon Dash Cart. We’re pleased to see those changes resonating with customers through higher satisfaction scores and increased purchasing. To focus on selectively opening new Amazon Fresh stores as we see positive customer feedback on the new format, we are closing our smaller Amazon Fresh store in Arlington.

Amazon Fresh filled a long-time grocery store void in Crystal City, but the new void is likely to be temporary. Further south, the neighborhood is getting a new Trader Joe’s store at 2450 Crystal Drive, though the quirky grocery chain has declined to confirm what is evident from multiple permit filings.

In nearby Pentagon City, meanwhile, an Amazon-owned Whole Foods remains open at 520 12th Street S., next to its nearly year-old HQ2.

Other smaller Amazon Fresh stores are also closing, including at least one in Seattle — home to Amazon’s main corporate headquarters — and another in D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood. Additionally, this week Amazon announced that it was discontinuing its “Just Walk Out” cashierless technology at remaining Fresh stores.

Amazon was expected to open a Fresh store on Columbia Pike as part of the planned Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center redevelopment, but reportedly pulled out from the deal, delaying the project and leaving a stretch of empty storefronts along the Pike. Plans for a Fresh store in Bailey’s Crossroads was also dropped.

With the Crystal City and D.C. closures, the closest Fresh stores to Arlington will be located in Fairfax County and Montgomery County, Md. Beyond its physical stores, however, Amazon Fresh remains a significant grocery delivery business, offering same-day delivery in Arlington and other parts of the region from a fulfillment center in the Springfield area.

Hat tip to Raheem W., Nathan B. and various tipsters

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First Lady Jill Biden came to Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City today and touted her husband’s record on women’s health issues.

Speaking this morning at the Amazon Web Services Imagine: Nonprofit conference, Biden emphasized the President’s recent allocation of $100 million in federal funding for the ARPA-H Sprint for Women’s Health, a program focused on advancing research and development in the field.

“ARPA-H, the agency Joe created to pursue breakthrough health research at lightning speed, launched its first ever ‘sprint for women’s health,’ which will invest $100 million in life saving research on women this year,” she said.

The First Lady attributed the scarcity of research and effective treatment for women to their historical exclusion from medical studies. She emphasized the administration’s commitment to changing this by exploring new methods to advance existing research.

On Monday, the Presidentsigned an executive order aimed at advancing women’s health studies through enhanced data collection and increased funding for biomedical research.

“Joe is directing his administration to find ways to use artificial intelligence and other technology to advance research on women’s health,” Biden said at the conference, amid the 2024 presidential campaign.

She also noted that recent advancements in technology, including artificial intelligence, play a crucial role in the progress of women’s health.

“The solution they need could be the watch on their wrist or the app in their pocket,” she said. “It could be getting access to specialized care quickly to a virtual doctor’s appointment or it could be artificial intelligence that analyzes more information faster to predict and prevent diseases.”

Other speakers at the Imagine: Nonprofit conference had similar thoughts about using technology, AI and analytics to create a new world of research for the goals of nonprofit organizations. The event featured several nonprofits that had received the Imagine grants to focus on further research of issues such as the rainforest and Epidermolysis Bullosa.

The conference “brings together nonprofit leaders, purpose-focused technologists, and impact innovators to discuss how technology can help drive a positive impact for both people and planet,” according to Amazon.

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The Helix, part of Amazon’s HQ2 Phase Two development at the PenPlace site (photo courtesy Amazon)

Some early utility work in anticipation of the second phase of Amazon’s HQ2 is scheduled to start next week.

The first phase of the massive office complex in Pentagon City opened last summer. The second phase, located across 12th Street S. from the first phase and known as “PenPlace,” is delayed indefinitely.

Despite work-from-home trends and the company cutting jobs, Amazon has said that it still plans to eventually move forward with PenPlace. The utility work is the first tangible sign of that commitment since the delay announcement.

“Planned construction at PenPlace consists of installing utilities around the site and within the street right-of-way to support the future development and in coordination with Arlington County’s Street Improvement projects,” said an email to the community from Clark Construction.

“Utility work will begin on March 18, 2024 along S. Fern Street, S. Eads Street, and 12th Street S. Traffic realignment on 12th Street S between S. Fern Street and S. Eads Street will be one of the first activities to occur in order to facilitate this work, at which time the sidewalk on the north side of 12th Street S will be closed,” noted the email, sent earlier this week.

Clark says work will take place “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 Washington Business Journal first reported on the planned utility work. Amazon told the paper that it has “made ‘no changes’ to its hiring or construction plans.”

PenPlace is slated to include the distinctive, spiral “Helix” tower and a permanent location for Arlington Community High School.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said last year that the Board was told the delay in starting the PenPlace project would likely be about a year.

Garvey told ARLnow last night that, at this point, remains the expectation.

“We are not hearing anything new from Amazon about Phase II,” she wrote. “The expectation still is that they will move forward with Phase II this year. I believe they are evaluating how office space is being used post-pandemic to inform what they ultimately build.”

“In other words, as far as we know, nothing has changed,” she said.

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A planned apartment complex is set to have even more affordable housing.

Speakers at an Arlington County Board meeting on Tuesday were divided in their thoughts about the Board’s unanimous vote to approve 88 units of additional affordable housing at 1900 S. Eads Street, in the Crystal City area.

Most spoke in favor of the change, which will make 743 of 844 planned units at Crystal House Apartments affordable.

Area resident Ben D’Avanzo said many of his neighbors are seeing high rent increases and struggling to make ends meet. While he said the neighborhood “wasn’t thrilled” with the original approval process for the apartment complex, D’Avanzo has since come on board with the project.

“This is something that is incredibly important to approve and I urge you to do so,” he said.

But Stacy Meyer, vice president of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, has had no such change of heart.

She pointed out that the complex’s planned affordable units lack previously proposed amenities such as full balconies and a rooftop pool — a shift that she sees as “unfair to its future residents.”

Meyer argued the county’s approach to updating the Crystal House site plan, initially approved in 2019, circumvented additional opportunities for input. By pursuing changes to each building as separate minor site plan amendments, she said, the plans did not receive additional oversight from bodies such as the Site Plan Review Committee.

“The county appears to be working without regard to the future residents, fiscal transparency, the neighborhood income impacts or equitability in schools,” she said. “It’s a heavy-handed approach that we believe needs tempering.”

A letter from the AHCA to the county argues this approach “leads to the slippery slope that produced the failed inequitable public housing of the last century.”

It also took shots at the design, saying it “looks like an economy hotel.”

“When it comes to publicly financed buildings, low-income housing residents deserve the same building quality as the market, just as low-income students deserve the same education and low-income patients deserve the same medical treatment,” the letter says.

To make this development possible, the Board approved a $12.2 million low-interest loan from the Affordable Housing Investment Fund to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

Board member Maureen Coffey noted that most of the planned units are for families and very low-income people, which she believes is key to meeting community needs.

“This is a really impressive and really important thing to do, to get that deep affordability, not just in a one-bedroom or a studio,” she said.

Amazon, which has its HQ2 near the Crystal House Apartments, has played a prominent role in this development project.

The company put up $381.9 million so that the nonprofit Washington Housing Conservancy could purchase the 16-acre site in late 2020, stabilize rent for the 828 existing units and build more than 500 new units.

The purchase was part of its commitment to create and preserve affordable housing as rents rise amid its growing presence. Amazon later donated the land and development rights to the county.

Last January, the county selected APAH and Bethesda-based developer EYA to oversee construction of Crystal House Apartments’ new buildings. Construction is slated to begin in spring 2025 and finish by the end of 2027, per the county presentation this week.

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An art studio featuring free classes and a light-up scrapyard velociraptor opened its doors yesterday (Wednesday) in Pentagon City.

Catherine Anchin, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington (MoCA), cut the ribbon for the new Innovation Studio + Store alongside several local officials at Amazon’s second headquarters. The project, a collaboration between Amazon and MoCA, seeks to take a fresh approach to connecting the public with contemporary art.

“It’s really about innovation and helping people to understand contemporary art a little bit better, and get excited about being creative,” Anchin said.

The studio at 525 14th Street S. will rotate through artists-in-residence every six weeks. The first of these creatives, Arlington artist Adam Henry, plans to take an active role in the neighborhood by sketching people and partnering with local restaurants and businesses — in addition to showing off his raptor.

“Our secret is, we make things we like and try to make them, like, really ‘wow,’” Henry said.

The creator soon plans to host the studio’s first class, which will be a vision board workshop. He will also start work on cardboard sculptures with the help of his 17-year-old son and apprentice, who is also named Adam Henry.

Patrick Phillippi, head of community engagement at Amazon HQ2, said the studio is part of Amazon’s broader focus on “being a good partner to this neighborhood.”

The tech giant has already bankrolled $14 million in renovations to Metropolitan Park, adjacent to HQ2. That park hosted the debut of a new farmer’s market when the first phase of the massive office complex opened in June.

New locations of local businesses, such as Conte’s Bike Shop and Good Company Doughnuts, have also opened in ground floor retail spaces since then.

Phillippi said he wants to further the mission of MoCA — formerly known as the Arlington Arts Center — which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. He spoke warmly of his experiences at the Virginia Square museum, which rebranded in 2022, during the ribbon cutting.

“You really just get an immediate sense that art is accessible, that art is open to everybody,” Phillippi said. “And this studio is such a great expansion of that. It is a privilege for Amazon to have you guys here.”

Guests at Wednesday’s grand opening included business leaders, who praised the project from both an arts and a business perspective.

Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, who leads the National Landing Business Improvement District, said she believes the project will serve as “a true cultural anchor” that serves the area’s needs.

“We’ve had a lot of business openings in the last year or so, but our community has really been craving more arts and cultural offerings and programming,” she said. “We’re so thrilled to, with MoCA, have a museum presence in our neighborhood.”

Kate Bates, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, is eager to see how the studio contributes to the area’s sense of community.

“The culture is a huge, important part of what makes Arlington a great place for our businesses to locate in, and those of us who live here as well,” she said. “Congratulations to MoCA. We look forward to 50 more wonderful years and then some.”

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Makers Union, an upscale gastropub, is set to open its doors on the ground floor of Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City next week.

Its first day open will be Tuesday, Dec. 5, according to the restaurant’s website.

This is the third Makers Union location in the D.C. area, following the debut of its Reston location three years ago and a recent opening at the Wharf in early October.

Open seven days a week, the 3,075 square-foot restaurant serves lunch and dinner on weekdays, and brunch and dinner on weekends. A happy hour is available from 3-6 p.m., Monday through Friday, and live music is scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“It’s designed to be a pub where you can come and celebrate any of life’s occasions, whether that be wings and a beer at the bar, watching a football game, or coming in and enjoying some more elevated options,” Makers Union Director of Operations Alex Brown told to ARLnow.

The restaurant seats 84 indoors, including 34 at the bar and 50 in the dining area, and 80 outdoors, he said.

Brown recommended a few menu items, including the tomahawk steak with poached eggs, hollandaise and breakfast potatoes, and the grilled chicken alfredo pasta with garlic bread.

Makers Union joins a slew of new businesses and eateries, including Good Company Doughnuts & Coffee and Conte’s Bike Shop, on the ground floor of the first phase of Amazon’s second headquarters, also known as Metropolitan Park, which opened earlier this summer.

Last month, Peruvian Brothers, a D.C.-based Peruvian food truck and fast-casual eatery, opened its second location adjacent to the gastropub.

Thompson Hospitality, the pub’s owner, operates other local favorites including Matchbox, Big Buns Damn Good Burgers and Wiseguy Pizza.

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Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington’s menorah lighting in 2015 (via Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington/Facebook)

Menorah lights are set to brighten up Arlington after Hanukkah begins next Friday.

On Sunday, Dec. 10 at 5 p.m., Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington, a local branch of the global Jewish outreach organization, will light its “giant 9-foot Menorah.”

The annual event will take place at Chabad’s community center at 1307 N. Highland Street in Clarendon.

The celebrations extend to Monday, Dec. 11, with another giant menorah lighting at 5:30 p.m. at Metropolitan Park (1330 S. Fair Street), close to Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City.

Both events will have “lively Chanukah music” to set the festive mood, according to their respective event descriptions. Attendees can indulge in hot potato latkes, hot cocoa, donuts and chocolate gelt. They will also receive a complimentary dreidel.

Admission is free but registration is required, as reservations are open until each event reaches capacity.

“Security will be present” at both events, Chabad Lubavitch noted.

The menorah-lighting tradition, a fixture for over a decade, often draws local officials. Previously, the events were held at the Pentagon Row ice skating rink and outside the Clarendon Metro station.

Photo via Chabad Lubavitch of Alexandria-Arlington/Facebook

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Amazon HQ2 Phase 1 (photo courtesy Amazon)

This week marks the five-year anniversary of Amazon’s decision to locate its second headquarters in Arlington.

The initial plan had HQ2 split between Arlington and New York City, but a few months later NYC was out and Arlington was the sole destination for the tech and retail giant.

In the five years since, Amazon has completed the first phase of its planned office complex and hired about 8,000 Arlington-based employees out of the 25,000 it says will eventually work here. Disappointing fans of the proposed “Helix” tower, however, it has delayed construction on the second phase of HQ2.

Arlington, and the dozens of cities that competed for HQ2, had visions of emerging as another Silicon Valley with the addition of a large Amazon presence. While Amazon certainly has provided a boost to the local tech scene, it’s hard to argue that Arlington is anywhere close to rivaling the Bay Area.

HQ2 is now a gleaming presence in Arlington, and adjacent Metropolitan Park has gotten a big upgrade from its former days as a defacto dog bathroom, but Pentagon City lacks the throngs of security-badged employees that one might expect around a major tech headquarters.

Meanwhile, fears of skyrocketing housing prices have only partially come to fruition. After the HQ2 announcement Arlington real estate prices rose disproportionately compared to the rest of the region, the Washington Business Journal reported, but that has since reversed, calling into question the true impact.

Housing prices and tech employment may be objective ways to measure the local HQ2 impact, but today we’re running a poll that takes a different approach: vibes.

Given your local knowledge, how do you assess the Amazon-driven changes in Arlington? How much of an impact do you think HQ2 has actually had?

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Peruvian Brothers is officially open on the ground floor of Amazon’s second headquarters in Pentagon City.

The D.C.-based Peruvian food truck and fast-casual eatery officially opened its second brick-and-mortar restaurant this past Friday. The location at 1450 S. Eads Street is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. but “dinner and brunch services will launch in a few weeks,” according to a press release.

“We are so honored and excited to bring a large piece of our beloved Perú right to Amazon’s doorstep in Arlington,” co-owner Giuseppe Lanzone said in the release. “After years of perfecting our craft, we’re excited to have a space large enough to share the full experience of our culture, heritage, and flavorful Peruvian cuisine with our community.”

Amazon announced in July 2022 that the restaurant would move into a 2,000-square-foot space within its HQ2, among several eateries, including Makers Union and Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe.

The restaurant planned to open its first phase over the summer in April, however, the opening was pushed back “to ensure everything was 100% ready,” a spokesperson told ARLnow.

This marks a return to the area for Peruvian Brothers, which previously occupied a stand at the Crystal City Water Park before the park underwent renovations to add new food and drink kiosks. The water park re-opened earlier this month.

Co-owners Giuseppe Lanzone and his brother Mario relocated with their family from Peru to McLean in 1997. Before becoming a restaurateur, Giuseppe was a two-time Olympic rower for Team USA.

In 2012, the duo launched their Alexandria-based food truck and catering business. Nearly a decade later, the brothers opened their first brick-and-mortar spot in La Cosecha, a Latin American market in D.C.

Giuseppe and Mario say the cuisine, which includes sandwiches, empanadas, ceviches, rotisserie chicken and a Peruvian stir fry called saltado, is inspired by their upbringing in a port city within the sprawling metropolitan area of Lima.

Some noteworthy dishes at the HQ2 outpost include the pan con chicharrón sandwich — fried pork tenderloin on a French roll with sweet potato slices and a Peruvian salsa called criolla — and lomo saltado, a savory beef stir-fry with tomatoes, onions and fries.

The new space has both indoor and outdoor seating. Inside, a mural evokes scenes of La Punta, Perú, where the brothers grew up, and pays homage to Inti, the ancient Inca god of the sun.

The restaurant also has a bar that serves Peruvian beers, wines, liquor and a frozen cocktail formulated by the brothers: the Pisco Sour Slush.

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Arlington police vehicle responding to assist with foot chase in Pentagon City on Oct. 16, 2023

A pair of suspects led Arlington County police on extended foot chases through Pentagon City yesterday afternoon.

Police first responded to a parking garage below Amazon’s HQ2 building around 3:30 p.m. Monday after security observed suspects in ski masks trying to break into a car.

The suspects were later spotted in the area and took off running. Personnel from some federal law enforcement agencies with nearby offices — the DEA and the U.S. Marshals Service — helped police spot the fleeing suspects, according to scanner traffic. Both suspects were apprehended around 4:30 p.m.

More, below, from today’s ACPD crime report.

ATTEMPTED GRAND LARCENY AUTO, 2023-10160155, 500 block of 14th Road S. At approximately 3:30 p.m. on October 16, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined security personnel were inside a parking garage when they heard an activated car alarm and observed the two male suspects wearing ski masks allegedly tampering with the steering column of the vehicle. Security personnel verbally confronted the suspects and they exited the vehicle and fled the scene on foot. A lookout was broadcast and officers canvassed the area for the suspects. A short time later, officers located the suspects in the area of S. Fern Street and 12th Street S. and attempted to detain them during which both suspects ran from the area. Following foot pursuits, both suspects were located and taken into custody. During the course of the investigation, burglarious tools were recovered from the scene. No injuries were reported. [Suspect 1], 18, of Fort Washington, Md. was arrested and charged with Attempted Grand Larceny Auto, Possession of Burglarious Tools, Destruction of Property, Obstruction of Justice, Conspiracy to Commit a Felony and Wearing a Mask in a Public Place to Conceal Identity. [Suspect 2], 18, of Alexandria. Va. was arrested and charged with Attempted Grand Larceny Auto, Obstruction of Justice, Conspiracy to Commit a Felony and Wearing a Mask in a Public Place to Conceal Identity.

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An Amazon delivery driver is facing charges after allegedly beating up a man in the Penrose neighborhood.

The incident happened Wednesday afternoon in a private townhouse development across the street from Penrose Square.

“At approximately 3:07 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2300 block of 9th Street S., for the report of an assault with injury,” Arlington County police spokeswoman Alli Shorb told ARLnow. “Upon arrival, it was determined the suspect, a delivery driver, was making deliveries in the area when he became involved in a verbal dispute with the male victim over a parking issue that escalated to a physical altercation during which the suspect allegedly assaulted the victim.”

”A witness separated the suspect and victim, who both remained on scene. The victim sustained minor injuries,” Shorb added.

Scanner traffic suggests that the victim was found bleeding and was evaluated by medics. Shorb said the suspect, a 30-year-old resident of Capitol Heights, Maryland, has been charged with assault and battery.

Colleagues of the driver resumed his deliveries after the arrest. One who spoke to ARLnow claimed the driver — who was operating an unmarked white delivery van — was harassed by a resident who questioned what he was doing in the private community.

Staff photographer Jay Westcott contributed to this report

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