Arlington County has started running a new video series on its local cable TV and YouTube channels.
As the county works to shrink its high office vacancy rate — it was recently reported to be 21 percent — Arlington TV has started featuring “awesome offices.”
In a video released last week, Jessica Miller, co-chair of Arlington Economic Development’s Arlington Real Estate Group, leads viewers on a tour of LMO Advertising, which is based at 1776 Wilson Blvd, between the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations.
LMO, the largest advertising agency in the D.C. area and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Business of the Year, has the kind of light, airy and amenity-filled office one might expect of a creative agency or a tech company.
Among the notable features:
- Game room with Xboxes and ping pong tables
- In-house, sound-proof studio
- 3-D printer
- Standing desks
- Star Trek-themed conference rooms
- Green roof and rooftop patio with Wi-fi
Scott Laughlin, co-founder of the agency, said that there’s an economic argument for putting ping pong tables, autographed guitars and video game consoles in a work environment. It comes down to building a collaborative, team environment.
“You don’t need an office to do the work we do anymore,” he said. “What you do need is a home, a place where people want to come and be and spend time with others.”
Graduation Live Streaming Nixed — Arlington Public Schools canceled internet live streaming of its high school graduation ceremonies this year due to budget cuts. Graduation ceremonies has been streamed online for the past two years. [InsideNova]
Police Foot Chase in Pentagon City — Last night, after the Pentagon City mall was evacuated due to a power outage, mall security spotted two men lingering and entering closed stores. Police were given a lookout and one of the alleged suspects was spotted outside the mall. A foot chase ensured and the man was apprehended behind nearby Pentagon Row. No word yet on any changes.
Economic Chief Has a Plan For Arlington — New Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins says he has a plan for economic growth in the county that will reduce the county’s office vacancy rate from the current 21 percent to 10 percent over the next six years. The plan includes “a mix of much more aggressive marketing efforts, incentives and other government aid, and the help of ‘frenemies’ in competing local governments such as the District and Alexandria.” [Washington Business Journal]
A-Town Plans ‘Sunday Funday’ Summer Kickoff — “Ballston’s rowdiest bar,” A-Town Bar and Grill, will be kicking off its summer “Sunday Fundays” this weekend with “squirt guns, beach balls, popsicles, barbecue, water balloons” and multiple DJs. [Clarendon Nights]
Greenbrier Learning Center Gets New Home — Facing the loss of its lease at the Greenbrier Baptist Church, the Greenbrier Learning Center has found a new home. The center, which provides after school enrichment to children, will be based at the Arlington Mill Community Center, after the Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a partnership with GLC. [Arlington County]
State, County Incentives Lured Lidl — German discount grocery chain Lidl is setting up its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, near Potomac Yard, and creating 500 jobs in the county. The decision was made after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe offered $7 million in economic development grants and Arlington County offered $7.5 million in infrastructure improvements and tax breaks, including half off Lidl’s Business, Professional and Occupational License tax. [Washington Business Journal]
Australian Restaurant Eyes August Opening — Oz, a new restaurant coming to the former La Tagliatella and Restaurant 3 space in Clarendon, is expected to open by the end of August, according to a help wanted ad on Craigslist. [Patch]
Rescue on GW Parkway — Arlington County’s technical rescue team helped to rescue a person who fell down a steep embankment along the GW Parkway’s second overlook Sunday night. The victim was loaded on to a fire boat and then transported via an Arlington ambulance to a local hospital for treatment. [Twitter]
Drew Students Make Music Video — A group of 10 Drew Elementary students are getting some local media recognition for a music video they made. As part of an extracurricular project on self-image, beauty and bullying, the group made a video set to Selena Gomez song “Who Says.” [WUSA 9]
Tree Down After Storms — A large tree fell in Towers Park during yesterday’s storms. [Twitter]
Arlington Scores Lidl HQ — Arlington County will be the home of the new $77 million U.S. corporate headquarters of Lidl, a discount German grocery chain that’s seeking to expand in the United States. The headquarters is expected to create 500 new jobs in Arlington and will anchor the National Gateway office development near Potomac Yard. “Lidl chose Arlington for its U.S. corporate headquarters because of our commitment to diversifying our economy, a terrific workforce, regional transit connections and access to a major airport,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. [Arlington County]
Arlington Teen Advances in Singing Competition — Kenmore Middle School student Samantha Rios, who is competing on the Telemundo singing program “La Voz Kids,” has advanced to the semifinals and is now being coached by Reggaeton musician Daddy Yankee. [Washington Post]
Young Republicans Blast Anti-Gun-Store Tactics — Opponents of a gun store that’s trying to open in Cherrydale are urging their supporters to confront the owners of the store and the shopping center in which it’s opening in person. That has Republicans crying foul. “Having exhausted reasonable avenues, the anti-gunners encourage their flock to harass property owner,” said the Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans. [Twitter]
Immigration Center to Open in Crystal City — A planned immigration services center in Crystal City, which has been delayed due to legal wrangling over President Obama’s executive action deferring the deportation of certain illegal immigrants, is now reportedly set to open soon. Hundreds of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees will be working out of the office building at 2200 Crystal Drive, processing immigration applications and petitions. [Breitbart]
Praise for ‘Alice’ Production — The Encore Stage and Studio production of “Alice in Wonderland” is garnering critical kudos for its star, Brandi Moore, a Harvard-bound Washington-Lee High School senior. The show wraps up its run this weekend at Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Hoskins started his new position 10 weeks ago, succeeding the late Terry Holzheimer, who helmed AED for nine years. Hoskins said Arlington didn’t necessarily do anything wrong under Holzheimer and interim director Cindy Richmond, but it could have done more to position itself for the future. The energetic Hoskins decided to quote Wayne Gretzky to make his point.
“You’ve got to be able to go where the puck is going,” he said. “Arlington didn’t do that.”
Because Arlington’s economic development plan was too stagnant and dependent on the federal government, “the bottom dropped out” of the commercial real estate market when the Base Realignment and Closure Act left 3 million square feet of office space vacant. That would leave any jurisdiction in a lurch, but Arlington has yet to recover.
In the latest AED economic indicator report, Rosslyn is reported at 28.7 percent vacant, up from 24.9 percent last year. Ballston is at 19.7 percent, up from 14.7 percent last year. The county as a whole is now at 20.5 percent vacant, up from 19.3 percent last year. The only sector that gained commercial tenants was Crystal City, whose vacancy rate dropped from 23.6 percent to 23.
According to AED Deputy Director Alex Iams, the Department of Defense didn’t just leave Arlington, it left some of the hardest buildings to fill in Arlington.
“The average vintage year of the office space left by BRAC is 1974,” he said. “The buildings that are less than 10 percent vacant are 98 percent occupied. In the buildings with more than 10 percent vacancy is where the bulk of the vacancy lives, about 8.6 million square feet.”
Arlington isn’t just losing office space, it’s losing office workers, too. Total employees in the county were down 1.4 percent in the second quarter of 2014 from the previous year, according to the Virginia Employment Commission; a net loss of 1,841 jobs. Wages also dropped slightly, from a weekly salary of $1,520 in 2013 to $1,511 last year.
Despite these foreboding economic indicators, optimism is high around AED. There are more than 10 million square feet of office space in the development pipeline, including almost 600,000 currently under construction. Arlington’s office costs are cheaper than D.C. and comparable to the other inner suburbs, an AED study found, and the whole region is struggling to gain new tenants to make up for BRAC and sequestration losses.
But Hoskins is presenting a plan he calls “The Way Forward” to drag the county out of its commercial real estate doldrums. It includes an aggressive — and expensive — rededication to economic development. Hoskins’ goal: fill 4.5 million square feet of office space in the next three years.
“You have to think a different way or you will lose,” he said. “We are going after the market. We can’t sit here and wait for the market.”
He has three solutions, which he calls a 100 percent solution, a 50 percent solution and a 25 percent solution. The 100 percent solution includes an additional $3.95 million for economic development every year for the next three years, including a $1.4 million incentive fund and $1.2 million for business development, the equivalent of 10 new jobs.
AED forecasts the return on investment from this solution to be 4,000 jobs a year, and $20.6 million in tax revenue.
At 50 percent, Arlington would invest $1.45 million, not offer any incentive fund, instead focusing the money on business development, marketing and tourism promotion.
Hoskins has already made AED more aggressive. He sent Arlington’s first team to the annual SxSW conference in Austin, Texas, targeting the major tech companies and enticing them to move to Arlington. AED hosted a delegation from China looking to invest in the county, and he’s brashly confident about its possibilities.
“We’ll probably get 20 deals out of that,” he said.
Hoskins was brought in after serving as the head of economic development in Washington, D.C., where he brokered deals with international companies and tech incubators. He worked for less than a year as the economic development chief in Prince George’s County before being hired at the county, and he has interpreted his mission to change the way Arlington does business.
“The institution has to make a decision to change,” he said. “I believe changes are on the way. I have not gone to a place that did not change. That’s what I bring, but change is bumpy. You’re going to have conflict just because you are trying to get better, and that’s okay.
“We were standing still for a while,” he added. “Now we’re going forward.”
One possible explanation for the lack of participation in a program that could save companies thousands of dollars a year: many local tech companies say they haven’t heard about it.
Last year, the Arlington County Board approved a measure “to broaden the Technology Zone incentive program for new technology companies.” The action was trumpeted in a press release by then-County Board chair Jay Fisette.
“These updates reflect the reality of a quickly-changing tech world,” Fisette said at the time. “I said that we would lay the groundwork this year for Arlington to become a hub of the innovation economy. This update to our Tech Zones is a big step in the right direction.”
As of March 19, however, only eight businesses had applied and subsequently qualified for “Technology Zone” status for their 2014 taxes, according to Deputy Commissioner of Revenue Ann Bisson. She could not say which companies had qualified nor how much local tax revenue those companies represent.
“Because of the nature of the tech business currently having so few companies applying, I am not allowed by law to give you that information in this case,” Bisson said. “Virginia law prohibits us from giving out any kind of information where it could be determined what one company has in income.”
In order to qualify, a company has to prove that it meets the following requirements:
- Has been in business in Arlington for no more than 18 months, or has grown in full-time employment by at least 25 percent within the past 12 months.
- Is located in a commercial building in Arlington.
- “Has a primary function in the creation, design, and/or research and development of technology hardware or software.”
It’s unclear how many of the current crop of up-and-coming media- and service-oriented tech companies — Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb, Pinterest, Spotify, etc. — would qualify under of that definition.
“The use of computers, telecommunications services, or a web page or internet site shall not, in itself, be sufficient to qualify as a qualified technology business,” according to county code.
For those that do qualify, the savings are significant: the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax rate is reduced from $0.36 for every $100 of a business’ gross receipts, to between $0.18 and $0.10, depending on the size of the company.
“Arlington Economic Development (AED) estimates that the updated incentives would amount to a five-year benefit from about $39,000 for a 20-employee company to $155,000 for an 80-employee company – an average savings of $2.25 per square foot, if applied to annual rent for companies that qualify,” according to the 2014 press release.
ARLnow.com reached out to a number of the Arlington-based tech firms we have profiled for our Startup Monday feature. Of those that responded, most said they would likely qualify for the incentive, but none had heard of it before we reached out.
“Without you pointing it out, I’m not sure we would have figured it out,” said the founder of a Clarendon-based startup, who declined to be identified. “We use an out-of-state accountant and this is a pretty hyper-local set of incentives. We certainly would sign up, now that we know it exists.”
Raymond Rahbar, founder and CEO of UberOffices, which houses at least a dozen local tech startups at its Rosslyn coworking space, said no one has reached out to him or his company about informing its members of the incentive.
Rami Essaid, the founder and CEO of Distil Networks in Ballston, also said he had not been contacted. However, he said incentive program is small potatoes for startups that hope to scale into billion-dollar businesses.
“When you are in hyper growth, you care more about big picture things like being able to continue to scale and not optimizing little things like taxes,” Essaid told ARLnow.com. “That said, Arlington I feel like has done many of the right things to foster an environment for scale. That means having the right talent pool, good community events, etc. The extra tax perks are nice bonuses but they don’t influence our reason for being in Arlington.”
Ironically, despite being an incentive for tech companies, little information about the program can be found on Arlington County’s own website.
There’s a blurb buried deep on AED’s website, but no information about how to apply for it. “Contact Arlington Economic Development for specific details,” the page said.
We couldn’t find anything on Arlington’s Taxes & Payments site. A PDF document on the site, listing business tax rates, does not list the Technology Zone rate. Neither did the paper tax bill mailed by the Commissioner of Revenue’s office. When we asked about it last month, we were referred to the Tech Zone’s section of county code itself.
Marriott International occupies 900,000 square feet of office space in Bethesda, but CEO Arne Sorenson told the Washington Post last month that the hotel chain with more than $12 billion in annual revenue “will be moving.” Sorenson said he still wants the company to stay in the D.C. region, and made more comments sure to make Arlington real estate owners’ ears perk up.
“I think it’s essential we be accessible to Metro and that limits the options,” Sorenson told the Post’s Jonathan O’Connell. “I think as with many other things our younger folks are more inclined to be Metro-accessible and more urban.”
Sorenson also said Marriott has engaged with “local leaders,” but the company won’t move for several years; its lease in Bethesda expires in 2022.
A giant tenant like Marriott doesn’t come to market very often, and it would be a huge get for Arlington Economic Development, which is still reeling from the impending loss of some large tenants like the National Science Foundation. If the hotel chain moves its headquarters to Arlington, it could occupy almost triple the combined space of recently touted deals for Accenture (90,000 square feet in Ballston), CNA (175,000 square feet in Clarendon) and Graham Holdings (35,000 square feet in Rosslyn).
“Because Marriott is, from what I’m reading, a 700,000-800,000-square-foot group, they would sign a long-term deal with probably some new construction,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kevin Shooshan told ARLnow.com today. Shooshan is also the vice president of Shooshan Company, a Ballston-based real estate firm. “Because of the size of that deal, it’s very attractive to everyone involved in the real estate market. Marriott has good credit. It would be twice the size of [Rosslyn-based] Corporate Executive Board. All parties on the commercial side are interested.”
Shooshan said the number of jobs Marriott would bring — more than 2,000 work in Bethesda — could be a boon for the county’s economy, including the added employee spending on retail, restaurants and housing. Another benefit would be the real estate revenue. Arlington’s commercial real estate market has stagnated in recent years, and landing Marriott would be a financial windfall.
“A headquarters tenant like that brings in tens of millions of dollars in real estate taxes over a 10-15 year lease term,” Shooshan said, “and hopefully that term turns into a true long term headquarters location, resulting in hundreds of millions, not to mention more sales and entertainment spending, more residents, more traffic for hotels, restaurants, etc.”
Where could Marriott go in Arlington? Real estate publication Bisnow created a list of 16 potential places it could relocate in the D.C. area that fit its criteria, and four are in Arlington:
- The site of the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn, the longest continually operating Marriott in the company’s portfolio
- 1812 N. Moore Street, the Monday Properties skyscraper in Rosslyn that opened in October 2013 but still sits vacant. That building holds 560,000 square feet, so it could be paired with planned, 513,000-square-foot redevelopment of 1400 Key Blvd just steps away
- PenPlace in Pentagon City, a sprawling, 2.1 million-square-foot planned office park owned by Vornado and already approved by the Arlington County Board
- Crystal City, where Vornado owns a number of office towers that are already vacant and ripe for redevelopment
Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell couldn’t confirm if AED or anyone else from the county have been in talks with Marriott. She did, however, make it known that Arlington will be lobbying hard for the hotel powerhouse.
“Marriott’s corporate headquarters would be an ideal fit for Arlington,” O’Donnell said in an email. “We are known for our urban villages and metro accessibility, which have been cited as important factors both in Marriott’s search criteria and in hiring and retaining the best workforce.
“Arlington has several existing and build-to suit sites that accommodate Marriott’s needs for a corporate campus,” she added. “Additionally, Arlington is also already home to nine Marriott properties and 3,300 Marriott rooms. These factors all demonstrate Arlington would be a model location for a headquarters of a premier hotel operator.”
Marriott is expected to have its pick of just about every local jurisdiction, in Maryland, the District and Virginia. We’re told also Tysons Corner figures to be a premiere player with its new Metro stops and massive redevelopment plans.
Marriott’s decision is several years away, and the competition will only get fiercer. Although AED would not comment on what type of package it would offer Marriott, it’s worth looking at what CEB received in exchange for simply staying in the county and the state: $4.5 million from the governor’s office, $5 million from the Virginia Economic Development Fund and a pledge from Arlington County to match any funding for infrastructure improvements.
CEB’s 15 stories in the under-construction tower that will bear its namesake will contain 350,000 square feet of floor area. Marriott should occupy at least twice that. Wherever it goes, it likely will see a significant financial commitment from its new home.
In a move long anticipated by some in the Arlington business community, the Arlington County Board approved the licensing of its ConnectArlington fiber optic network to private businesses.
The “dark fiber” will first be installed along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Glebe Road, on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. It’s currently used to connect county government and schools facilities at “unprecedented” internet speeds, but, within a few months, businesses will be able to take advantage.
“This is an exciting step forward in Arlington’s plan to be a technological hub in our region,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “Arlington’s strategic investments are building a technology infrastructure second to none, that will help us attract the businesses of the 21st century. Just as Arlington had the foresight to insist that Metro be built under the heart of our commercial corridors, it had the foresight, when building ConnectArlington, to build in additional capacity to meet future needs — for our businesses and County government.”
The first phase of expanding the program — adding fiber strands to the first 10-mile stretch in the county’s prime economic areas — is expected to cost $4.1 million up front, with a continuing $700,000-$800,000 operating cost.
Phase II of the program would add fiber to Shirlington, Lee Highway and western Columbia Pike, as well as run the fiber next to Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon (the red line in the map to the right). This stretch won’t be installed until the county evaluates the performance of Phase I.
County Board member Jay Fisette spoke to ARLnow.com in October about ConnectArlington, one of the initiatives he pushed last year for his economic competitiveness platform as board chairman.
“Innovation is not restricted to the private sector,” he said. “The capacity we’re putting into the network and making it accessible is an asset and competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.”
One of the speakers at Saturday’s County Board meeting, Jaroslav Flidr, said he works for the University of Maryland providing “services on top of dark fiber.” He praised the county for their decision, saying it has positioned itself for landing significant future office development.
“We have federal agencies like NASA, NIH and NSF [as clients],” Flidr told the Board. “In my experience, when these agencies look for where to locate future development, access to assets like dark fiber is, in their mind, one of their most important factors in their decision-making process; where to go, where to stay, where to relocate.”
Angela Fox, CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, also lauded the program as an economic boon to the county.
“We can use this as an economic development tool to attract businesses to the area,” Fox said. “We want things like this, we need things like this, because it is a vicious market. We need tools in our toolbox to demonstrate why Arlington is a place they should be doing business.”
The county will license 864 strands of fiber to individual buildings and businesses, hicho can install connections to its lines and promote is as an asset, according to the staff report. The connections to the fiber must remain inside Arlington, to ensure it benefits the county and not one of its regional competitors. Each company can license a maximum of 40 strands at at time.
The county will charge licensing fees and recoup its costs, it says, but doesn’t yet have revenue projections because it’s unclear how the market will respond to the new, high-tech infrastructure.
Map (bottom) via Arlington Economic Development. Disclosure: The Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Two Rescued From House Fire — Arlington County firefighters battled an early morning house fire in the Old Glebe neighborhood overnight. Two adults were rescued from the roof of the three-alarm fire. An ACFD spokesman said hoarding conditions inside the home made battling the blaze more difficult. [WUSA9, WJLA]
Two Trees Considered for ‘Specimen’ Status — The Arlington County Board will vote this weekend, then hold a public hearing, then vote again next month, to determine whether two trees should be protected with a “specimen tree” designation. [Arlington County]
Future of Arlington’s Office Market — The Arlington County Board held a work session Tuesday to discuss the future of the office market in the county. Arlington Economic Development produced a video that discusses how the office market is changing and how that pertains to local policymaking. [YouTube]
Anti-DACA Bill Defeated — A bill that would have denied in-state tuition to some immigrant students has been defeated in the Virginia state senate. Last week, Arlington’s Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) vowed to fight the bill, which was aimed at students who had been protected from deportation by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. [Virginian-Pilot]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Hoskins was announced Friday afternoon as the successor to lead Arlington Economic Development after former director Terry Holzhiemer died of a heart attack in March. Holzheimer had led the department since 2005. Cindy Richmond has been serving as acting AED director in the interim.
Hoskins comes to Arlington after serving as Prince George’s County, Md.’s deputy chief administrative officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure. Hoskins started in that position on June 16 this year. Before working for Prince George’s, he was D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development from 2011 to earlier this year.
“Victor will bring a wealth of experience, creativity and dynamism to our team. He will be leading AED at a time of increased challenges and opportunities for Arlington,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release.
Hoskins has a long track record of working in D.C. and Maryland in both housing and economic development, serving as former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s cabinet secretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development. From 2009-2011, he was the vice president of Quadel Consulting, a District-based affordable housing consulting and training firm.
“I’m excited to join the Arlington team, and look forward to marketing a County known across the nation as a leader in transit-oriented, sustainable development,” Hoskins said in a statement. “I can’t wait to be a part of this innovative government that holds itself to the highest ethical standards and promotes a healthy work-life balance.”
When Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker hired Hoskins in the spring, he told the Washington Post Hoskins “is someone who is known in the region as a person who is getting things done.”
Photo courtesy Arlington County
A new, county-funded study, polling young professionals who live and/or work in Arlington, found those who live in the county do so because of their job, not necessarily because of its amenities or social scene.
The study was conducted by the Southeastern Institute of Research on behalf of Arlington Economic Development, and polled 400 residents who identify as either Millennials or Generation X-ers. Of those polled, 139 live and work in Arlington, 137 live in Arlington and work elsewhere and 124 work in Arlington and commute from the surrounding area.
Of those who live and work in Arlington, 45 percent said they live in the county because of their job or because of “professional opportunities,” while 39 percent of those who live in Arlington and work elsewhere said they are in the county for professional reasons. “Location” was the second-most popular reason given to live in Arlington, followed by “friends/social scene.”
“Arlington County does not appear to be an area [young professionals] consider initially beyond a focus on a job opportunity,” the study’s authors, two AED interns, write. “It is not a place with YPs who have strong roots there or who are moving there for the people. With this being a strength, Arlington County should lead with jobs when promoting the area to YPs. During a time when it is hard for young people to find a job, this may prove a great strength for Arlington.”
Young professionals, despite moving to Arlington largely for work reasons, like living in the county, with 89 percent of people who live in the county calling it “a great place to live.” Eighty percent of respondents who live and work in the county also called it a “great place to live.”
“There is a great opportunity among those who only work in the County to showcase the reasons why Arlington is a great place to live,” the study says. “These respondents are not likely to recommend Arlington County as a place to live and when asked if they were to consider living in the County, only three in ten say they would. One of the goals moving forward should be to decrease these gaps.”
The top reason among those who work, but don’t live, in Arlington for living elsewhere was the cost of housing.
“I couldn’t even rent a spare bedroom for under $1500 in a decent neighborhood,” one respondent said. “Rent/housing is way too expensive.”
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Arlington posted the open position on its jobs page this morning. According to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius, the position has been open for six months after interim deputy manager Jay Farr returned to his original post as deputy chief of the systems management division with the Arlington County Police Department.
Farr had replaced former Deputy County Manager Marsha Allgeier, who stepped down about a year ago into a part-time position as assistant county manager of special products, Curtius said.
The salary for the open position is “negotiable for up to $195,000” and the responsibilities include overseeing the Department of Environmental Services, the county’s largest department.
“This executive will be a visionary leader who will focus on overseeing the Transportation, Environmental and Capital Programs,” the posting states. “The Deputy will focus on ensuring that the strategic vision and goals are being met and are aligned with the County mission and vision by providing oversight to all staff associated with the Programs and in collaboration with task forces, citizen groups and other stakeholders.”
The county also announced it was seeking a new director of Arlington Economic Development, who would become the full-time replacement for the late AED Director Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died in March of a heart attack. Deputy Director Cindy Richmond has served as acting director since Holzheimer’s death.
In the fourth quarter of 2013, Arlington reported about $813 million in taxable retail sales in its March economic indicators study today. Over the same period in 2013, Arlington had about $786 million, a drop of 3.3 percent. The change can’t be attributed to the unusually snowy winter, either: nearly all of the snow this winter fell in the first quarter of 2014, after these numbers were recorded.
While the retail industry — which includes everything from restaurants to grocery stores to stands in the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City — lost $27 million in sales year-over-year, Arlington’s workforce grew 1.4 percent while its unemployment rate dropped from 3.9 percent in January 2013 to 3.3 percent in January.
In addition, housing prices were up across the board this February compared to last year, with a 2.2 percent bump in single family detached house prices, 3.7 percent for single family attached (like townhouses and duplexes) and a 4.7 percent jump in condominium prices, from $410,339 to $430,115.
Local retail broker John Asadoorian, of Asadoorian Retail Solutions, said the numbers don’t raise any alarm just yet.
“It’s hard to really discern what the drop means,” Asadoorian told ARLnow.com. “The only thing I could say is there hasn’t been that much new retail space delivered in Arlington, which means there hasn’t been a whole influx of new tenants, which means the mix in Arlington is stable. If it’s stable, is it still competitive with other jurisdictions that may be growing?”
Asadoorian referred to Tysons Corner and Georgetown as two areas whose growing retail options could be poaching customers from Arlington’s shops. However, several buildings under construction in Ballston and Rosslyn figure to bump the retail number back up in the coming years, he said.
While those buildings may help the retail market, they may not do wonders for the office vacancy rate in Arlington, which ballooned to 19.9 percent over the past year, a 3.7 percent jump over 2012. A significant chunk of that is from the 35-story 1812 N. Moore Street building in Rosslyn which is still looking for its first tenants.
The office vacancy rate in Rosslyn grew 8.4 percent year-over-year and sits at 25.2 percent, now the highest area in the county. Crystal City, still smarting from BRAC closures, is the second-most vacant neighborhood at 24.7 percent. Only the Clarendon-Courthouse corridor gained more office tenants than it lost last year, with its vacancy rate falling from 11.2 to 9.0 percent.
Restaurateurs Eye Rosslyn — Rosslyn has been long neglected in the restaurant and bar department, primarily because it has been viewed as a place where only fast casual lunch places can be successful. That may be changing thanks to Heavy Seas Alehouse, which has been doing boffo beer and dinner business since it opened last month. [Washington City Paper]
Streetcar Battles Continue — Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey continued her one-woman campaign against the Columbia Pike streetcar from the County Board dais last week. Garvey used her time in the County Board meeting to do a slideshow of streetcar systems that have well-exceeded their budget or which have performed poorly in wintery weather. Meanwhile, the streetcar remains the central issue in April’s County Board special election. [InsideNoVa, Greater Greater Washington]
Tribute to Terry Holzheimer — Acting Director of Arlington Economic Development Cindy Richmond has penned a tribute to her former boss, Terry Holzheimer, who died of a sudden heart attack on March 1. [Arlington Economic Development]
Grand Opening for Arlington Mill Residences — A grand opening ceremony will be held tonight from 4:00-6:00 p.m. for the Arlington Mill Residences, at 901 S. Dinwiddie Street. The four story, 122-unit apartment complex, located next to the new Arlington Mill Community Center, is 100 percent committed affordable. There was a long waiting list for those hoping to live in one of the units.
Arlington Woman on Jeopardy Tonight — Arlington resident Nancy Akerman, who works as a science policy fellow, will compete on Jeopardy tonight. The game show airs at 7:30 p.m. on WJLA (ABC 7).
Richmond Named Acting AED Director — Cynthia Richmond has been named the acting director of Arlington Economic Development following the untimely death of Terry Holzheimer. Holzheimer died of a sudden heart attack over the weekend. Richmond was serving as the deputy director of AED. Arlington County plans to begin a recruitment process to find a permanent director for AED soon. [Arlington County]
FBI Cracking Down on Corruption in N. Va. — The FBI has created a task force to investigate public corruption in Northern Virginia. Public corruption is the FBI’s “number one criminal investigative priority” at the moment and the agency has “cases in all categories in Northern Virginia.” [Loudoun Times]
Man Sentenced in $30 Million Fraud Scheme — A Florida man has been sentenced in a $30 million scheme that defrauded NASA into awarding contracts on false pretenses. Michael Dunkel, 60, was awarded contracts by NASA intended for minority-owned businesses by claiming he was an employee of an Arlington company supposedly run by a woman of Portuguese descent. Dunkel in turn paid kickbacks to the company. [Associated Press, U.S. Justice Department]
APAH to Purchase Apartment Building — The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is purchasing the Arna Valley View apartments near Glebe Road and I-395. The purchase will allow 101 apartments to remain as committed affordable housing for at least the next 60 years. [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising for Pike Documentary Book — Photographer Lloyd Wolf is raising money to print a book based on photos taken by the Columbia Pike Documentary Project. [GoFundMe]
Photo courtesy Kimberly Suiters/All News 99.1 WNEW