Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Questions About Arlington Woman’s Death — “A search warrant filed in the case supports the theory it was an assisted suicide, according to a friend of [philanthropist Penny Holloway] who was there at the time. He said a doctor also was present. That doctor died three days after Holloway. Her friends said police questioned him before his death.” [NBC Washington]

Apartment Fire On S. Glebe Road — A first floor apartment caught fire Friday night at the newly-renovated Dominion Apartments on S. Glebe Road. [Twitter]

Is Arlington an Actual Amazon HQ? — “Amazon will move thousands of jobs from Seattle to nearby Bellevue, Washington over the next four years… With this move, some are now calling Bellevue the ‘Real HQ2.'” [GeekWire, Inc. Magazine]

Sawdust Art in Arlington — “Alfo-Conce — an ever-expanding group of artisans from Guatemala with a knack for creating beautiful religious iconography out of sawdust — began prep work for their Holy Week art during a meetup in Arlington March 30.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Pedestrian Fatality in Seven Corners — “A woman died overnight as a result of injuries from a crash that occurred just after three yesterday afternoon in the 2900 block of Peyton Randolph Drive.” [Fairfax County Police]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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WhyHotel, which uses a portion of new luxury apartment buildings as a “pop-up” hotel, has opened a new location in Ballston.

The new WhyHotel at the Origin Ballston building (700 N. Randolph Street), next to Ballston Quarter mall, is officially opening to its first guests today, a PR rep said.

WhyHotel launched in 2017 and operates temporary hotels in D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia, taking advantage of the fact that it usually takes a year or more for all of a new apartment building’s units to be leased.

More from a previous article on WhyHotel’s new Ballston location:

WhyHotel… will soon offer 175 rooms for rent in the residential tower attached to the Ballston Quarter development, and another 150 rooms in the “Centro Arlington” project, which is taking the place of the Food Star grocery store off Columbia Pike. The company recently scored $10 million in venture funding to power the new projects, in addition to a similar “pop up” hotel in “The Boro” development in Tysons.

Unlike a home-sharing service like Airbnb, WhyHotel strikes agreements directly with the owners of large residential properties to rent out blocks of furnished apartments, bringing along an on-call staff to handle cleaning and other guest needs. The company is hoping to provide a happy medium for customers between staying at a friend’s place and shelling out for a hotel room, while helping developers fill space in new buildings as they lease them out.

Jason Fudin, WhyHotel’s co-founder and CEO, told ARLnow that he was interested in opening up shop more properties around Arlington because of the area’s potent mix of tourism and booming residential development. WhyHotel is aiming to open its first “pop up” in D.C., but Fudin says he never lost sight of the county as a “great place to be.”

“We do expect to be in Arlington in perpetuity,” Fudin said. “And as there’s more and more development, we’re hoping to be the solution people look to as they activate their developments.”

Fudin noted that the company has its roots in Arlington. The concept began as an initiative by developer Vornado Realty Trust at “The Bartlett” complex in Pentagon City, but its backers then struck out on their own, initially joining up with Crystal City startup incubator 1776.

Considering that Fudin viewed the company’s work in Pentagon City as a clear success for all involved, driving plenty of business to retailers near the building in the process, he’s hoping to replicate the same formula in Ballston and along the Pike.

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Courtland Towers, a large apartment building in Courthouse, is adding new amenities to attract residents.

The building recently debuted a new fitness facility that includes more weights and cardio machines in the gym, a mixed martial arts and boxing training area, a tank weight track, and an area for TRX suspension training, according to a building resident manager.

The upgrades also included a space for group exercises, a golf and sports simulator, a new game room, and a “kid’s play zone.” In addition to the new amenities, the building at 1200 N. Veitch Street has existing indoor basketball and racquetball courts, a theater, a billiard room, and indoor and outdoor pools.

Dittmar renovated the space with help from architecture firm MTFA and Arlington-based Washington Workplace, the building resident manager said.

Photos courtesy of Dittmar

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Morning Notes

Arlington Man Nabbed for Gun at DCA — “The number of firearms caught by Transportation Security Administration officers at checkpoints at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) have increased at an alarming rate this year as TSA officers caught the ninth gun of the year yesterday, April 7.” [TSA]

Trustify Co-Founder Lands Federal Appointment — Once high-flying Arlington startup Trustify, which has shut down amid a flurry of lawsuits and accusations of malfeasance, has generated another headline, this time for its co-founder’s new job. Jennifer Mellon was appointed confidential assistant to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Neil Chatterjee, prompting questions from one energy industry publication. [E&E News]

Fire at Pike Apartment Building — “Units on scene 5500 blk of Columbia Pike for fire in trash compactor in high rise residential building. Fire is out, extinguished by sprinkler system. No extension. No injuries reported.” [Twitter]

Phoenix Bikes Rises — “With a newish executive director and a new space to call home, Phoenix Bikes will have a lot to celebrate at its upcoming ‘Makers’ Ball’ later in the month.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Noah Kaufman

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Morning Notes

Red Flag Warning TodayUpdated at 8:45 a.m. — The D.C. region is under a Red Flag Warning this afternoon for strong winds and low humidity, which can lead to wildfires. In Arlington, fire weather like this typically results in small brush and mulch fires that are quickly extinguished. [Weather.gov]

Report on Old Dominion Site Coming Soon — “With a task force prepping its final report on uses for the government parcel at 26th Street North and Old Dominion Drive, what will happen next to the recommendations? For both procedural and financial reasons, don’t expect the county government to jump into development of the 7.6-acre site immediately.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Eateries Among Harper’s Favorite D.C. Memories — Former Rosslyn resident Bryce Harper shouted out Silver Diner and The Italian Store in his farewell to D.C. [Twitter]

Presidential Race May Post Logistical Challenge — “As Arlington’s elections office begins mulling how to handle the 2020 presidential vote, it could be space, rather than money, that proves the biggest challenge.” [InsideNova]

W-L Hockey Player Raising Money for Diabetes Research — “Ethan Rostker, a freshman defenseman for the Washington-Lee hockey team, doesn’t shy away from the tough stuff. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at just 20 months old. He wears an insulin pump while playing and completes a 100-mile bike trip yearly to raise money for diabetes research.” [WJLA]

Nearby: Bailey’s Crossroads Fire Update — “1,000 people are still displaced after two transformers burst into flames Monday morning– cutting off power to their Fairfax County apartments.” [WJLA]

Photo courtesy Jessica Hahn

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Morning Notes

A Look at Bryce Harper’s Rosslyn Apartment — “For much of the time that Harper was in a Nationals’ uniform, he rented a two-bedroom, 2,000 square-foot loft condo at the Wooster and Mercer Lofts, a luxury residential development from Abdo Development in Arlington.” [UrbanTurf]

Crash Takes Out Traffic Signal Near Fairlington — Per Alexandria Police yesterday: “Use caution in the 3600 block of King St, the Bradlee shopping center. A vehicle crash caused a traffic light outage. Treat uncontrolled intersections as 4-way stops. Be patient & take turns.” [Twitter]

Car Careens Over Wall in Arlington Mill — A car somehow rolled over a low wall and onto a sidewalk across from the Arlington Mill Community Center yesterday. The circumstances surrounding the crash are unclear. [Twitter]

Big Hole in Road Near Shirlington — A main road between the Shirlington and Fairlington neighborhoods was blocked for a period of time yesterday due to large hole in the road. The closure happened on 31st Street S., where a new sound wall is being constructed, during yesterday’s nightmarish evening commute. [Facebook]

Ballston Startup Gets Funding — MotoRefi, an auto refinance startup we profiled earlier this week, has “announced a $4.7 million seed raise led by Accomplice with participation from QED Investor sand Motley Fool Ventures. Ryan Moore, co-founder of Accomplice, will join MotoRefi’s board of directors.” [MotoRefi]

Service Cut to Metrobus Line — Metro is reducing service to Metrobus Route 2A (Dunn Loring-Ballston), after a ridership drop. Metro increased service to the line a few years ago and that net increase is now being eliminated. [Twitter]

Nearby: Companies Worried About HQ2 — “‘Recently a company was looking to put 600 jobs in this area, and they decided not to come here because they were concerned about getting the workers they need,’ [Fairfax County Economic Development Authority Chair Cathy] Lange said, not identifying the company. ‘Many of the companies are worried that their workers in Fairfax County are going to be hired by Amazon. And they are not going to be able to have their growth plans.'” [Washington Business Journal]

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What was first proposed as a 280-unit apartment and retail development in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area has grown to more than 300 units.

Last fall, developer LCOR Inc. filed a preliminary site plan application for a 285-unit multi-family and retail development at the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street, on the site of a low-slung Verizon building and parking lot.

In February, three months after Amazon announced that it would be building its massive “HQ2” across the street, the developer upped the requested number of units in the 19-story building to 306 units, according to county records. LCOR has said that it will provide additional community benefits in exchange for the added density.

The revised February application also reduced the planned retail space on the ground floor from 12,194 square feet down to 10,908 square feet.

The proposed building will be located at 400 11th Street S. and will feature a mix of one and two bedroom apartments, along with a rooftop recreation space. LCOR Inc. is calling the multi-family and retail development the “12th Street Apartments” and plans also includes a three-level parking garage with 114 spaces, with parking for both cars and bikes.

LCOR purchased the land from Verizon this past summer for $9.5 million, the Washington Business Journal reported, and has said it hopes to break ground in 2020. LCOR Executive Vice President and Principal Harmar Thompson told the Journal he hopes to lease the retail space to a “two-story bar-and-restaurant.”

The developer has been active in the area, previously acquiring the nearby former Department of Defense Inspector General “Paperclip” building, where it built a high-end, 451-unit apartment building called the Altaire.

In December, LCOR teamed up with Crystal City BID to set up an interactive art display on the site of the new development.

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Police are on scene of an electrocution at the Dorchester Apartments on the 2000 block of Columbia Pike.

Police and medics were dispatched to the rear of the apartment community around 11:20 a.m. after multiple 911 callers reported that a man fell from a ladder or a rooftop and was electrocuted by nearby power lines.

The victim was transported to a local hospital with critical injuries, according to Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

Police and crews from Dominion Power remain on scene. A blackened portion of a metal downspout, potentially indicating contact with the electrical lines, could be seen near where the victim fell.

Occupational safety inspectors have been called to the scene for an investigation.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Snow Likely Tonight — An inch or two of snow may fall overnight tonight. Snow is also possible Sunday. [Capital Weather Gang]

Clement Running for County Board Again — “She’s been a familiar name and face in local elections for nearly a decade, and Audrey Clement has made it onto the ballot again for 2019. Clement filed all requisite paperwork to run for County Board as an independent, Arlington election officials confirmed.” [InsideNova]

Lee Highway Revitalization Process Chugs Along — “Neighborhood activists… turned out Feb. 12 to execute ‘The Arlington Way’ and put in their two cents on how to create a theme for the multi-ingredient pudding that has characterized Lee Highway since it was so-named nearly a century ago.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Ballston Apartment Project Update — “Saul anticipates substantial completion of its massive North Glebe Road project by early 2020. The $275 million development will include 490 apartments and 60,000 square feet of retail — small-format Target included — across 2.8 acres.” [Washington Business Journal]

Dim Sum Restaurant Closes in Seven Corners — “Fortune is closed for good. Always an awkward space in the middle of the Home Depot parking lot, but I know it was a special spot for many.” [Twitter]

Lubber Run to Become Smoke-Free — Thanks to a change in state law, Lubber Run Amphitheater could be smoke-free by the end of the year. The state has until now prohibited Arlington County from being able to enforce a smoking ban at the venue. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy David Ruckman

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Janet Caputo and her husband thought they’d found just the right home for a new chapter in their lives when they moved into an apartment at “The Rixey” building in Ballston last month.

The couple had just sold their Cherrydale home of the last 22 years, looking to downsize now that their children are all heading off to college. Caputo says they spent months on the apartment search, touring buildings across Arlington multiple times before settling on The Rixey, located at 1008 N. Glebe Road.

Then came the news on Feb. 8 that Marymount University would be buying the building from its current owners, the prominent real estate developer The Shooshan Company, and converting it into housing for students, faculty and staff.

“I was not told the truth,” Caputo told ARLnow. “I wouldn’t have spent all this money to move in if we knew we could only stay for 14 months.”

Indeed, Shooshan and Marymount are now working over the course of the next several months to manage the tricky process of converting what was once yet another luxury apartment building in Ballston into an upscale dorm.

Representatives for both the company and the university say they’ll honor all existing leases, and are committed to making the transition go smoothly. Still, residents like Caputo can’t help but feel that they were blindsided by the change.

“I don’t think millennials are out to wreck the world… I don’t mind living among them,” Caputo said. “What I don’t like is being told I can’t stay in this building after I put all this effort into moving here.”

Kelly Shooshan, the company’s chief operating officer and director of residential development, says she can’t speak to what people were or were not told about the building’s future when they signed their leases. She deferred questions on that to The Rixey’s management company, the Bozzuto Group — Jamie Gorski, Bozzuto’s chief marketing officer, declined comment for this article.

However, Shooshan says residents have long been aware that some Marymount graduate students have lived in the building since it opened in October 2017, making ties to the university quite clear.

“In fact, they were the first students to move in,” Shooshan wrote in an email.

She added that the sale shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise, considering how Marymount and Shooshan worked together to make the development happen.

Marymount built its new Ballston Center building right next door to the Rixey, leasing the adjacent land to Shooshan. But the university reserved the right to purchase the apartment building outright in the future, and that’s exactly what Marymount did earlier this month, using a mix of state funds and private financing to afford the $95 million price tag.

“The Rixey was my baby,” Shooshan said. “I worked on it for four-plus years, so no one will miss it more than me. But all that means is I have to go build another great project.”

But Caputo says she had no idea that such an option was ever a possibility, and thinks it’s unreasonable that this wasn’t explained to residents ahead of time — she fully expects that if she’d known about the option, she and her husband wouldn’t have chosen The Rixey, and they certainly wouldn’t have spent close to $7,000 installing upgrades to the apartment’s furnishings.

Caputo adds that many of her neighbors are in the same boat. She’s heard from some who signed leases just weeks ago, and even encountered one family that put pen to paper on a lease the day the sale was announced.

A letter provided to ARLnow from the building’s new management company (American Campus Communities) says staff have also heard “a number of residents express concern” and surprise about the change.

“It’s just house flipping on an enormous scale, without telling unsuspecting people who think they are signing a lease in a multifamily building,” Caputo said.

Yet Shooshan points out that it’s not as if current Rixey residents are being thrown out on the street overnight.

“All leases will be honored,” Marymount Chief Financial Officer Al Diaz wrote in a statement. “But we will only renew leases for qualifying students, faculty and staff.”

Diaz says the university won’t start moving in undergraduate students to The Rixey until this coming August, though he says it “may fill vacancies that develop with graduate students, faculty and staff.”

But for anyone looking for a more immediate change, Shooshan says her staff is already working to help them move to another one of the company’s residential properties.

“Hopefully, this will resolve some of the initial frustrations,” Shooshan said. “As you know, no one likes change.”

Caputo isn’t yet sure what she and her husband will do — they’ve already paid their first month’s rent, and aren’t sure whether they’ll get it back if they move out early.

And she’s adamant that she has no interest in living in another Shooshan-owned property, after her experience at The Rixey.

“My husband and I are beside ourselves,” she said.

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JBG Smith is starting to sketch out its plans for a major redevelopment of a Crystal City property that will drop hundreds of new apartments and thousands of square feet of retail space directly adjacent to some of Amazon’s new office space in the area.

The developer has now filed preliminary plans with the county detailing the future of a vacant office building at 1900 Crystal Drive. The company has already started some demolition work for the current structure, and previously announced plans to build two new mixed-use buildings in its place, accelerating the project now that Amazon is on the way.

The tech giant plans to lease space at two of JBG’s properties on the same block, buildings at 241 18th Street S. and 1800 S. Bell Street, so this new development could offer Amazon workers with apartments within easy walking distance of the new headquarters.

Developers throughout the area have been racing to build new housing across Pentagon City and Crystal City since the company announced its plans in mid-November, though the neighborhoods do have slightly higher than average residential vacancy rates, for now.

JBG kicked off the redevelopment process in earnest in late January, asking for a slew of county zoning changes and a “site plan amendment” to key the full redevelopment of the block. The plans call for the construction of two large towers, holding a total of 790 apartments. One will be 26 stories tall, the other 25 stories.

Each one will also have space for ground floor retail: 19,390 square feet of space in one tower and 16,800 square feet in the other, according to documents filed with the county.

The developer is envisioning a “pedestrian plaza” in between the two buildings, with room for just under 9,000 square feet of retail in the plaza. The plans even allow for a park to be built nearby, though the documents don’t specify where, exactly, it will be located on the block — but if it is built, a “grand staircase” will connect it to the pedestrian plaza.

When it comes to parking, JBG plans to partially rely on the existing underground garage on the site. The developer plans to demolish part of the garage, but leave 306 spaces unchanged. Then, it hopes to add a new section of the garage with 290 new spaces for a total of 596 available in all.

The project is a long way from being approved, however — the county’s Site Plan Review Committee will now scrutinize these plans, before they head to the Planning Commission and County Board. Vornado/Charles E. Smith previously secured permission to build a 24-story building on the property, but that approval lapsed in 2015. The company spun off its local property holdings in a merger with JBG the next year.

This is far from the last redevelopment JBG is planning in the neighborhood in the coming years. In addition to its large “Central District” project (bringing a new movie theater, grocery store and office space to the area), the company previously told its investors that it could look to redevelop properties including 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway, 223 23rd Street S., 101 12th Street S., and the RiverHouse Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street).

Though JBG is by far the largest property owner in the area — controlling about 71 percent of the market’s office buildings — county officials hope other landlords take similar steps to refresh nearby buildings.

As for Amazon itself, the company won’t file any plans with the county until the Board signs off an incentive package to formally bring the headquarters to the area. The Board won’t take up that issue any earlier than March.

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