Did you miss our Hot Topics on the Pike event last month?
Good news: our friends at Arlington Independent Media were there and they just released their video from the event (above).
The first half is a discussion among our opinion columnists — Mark Kelly (The Right Note), Peter Rousselot (Peter’s Take) and Larry Roberts (Progressive Voice) — on countywide issues. (The opinion columns will return next week. This week we are publishing candidate essays from the contenders for the Democratic School Board endorsement.)
The second half was a discussion of Columbia Pike-specific issues with County Board member Katie Cristol, Arlington County Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Chair John Murphy and small business owner Michael “Mike on the Pike” Garcia.
(Updated at 2:46 p.m.) What happened to the Columbia Pike Streetcar project? What can be done about crowded local schools? How can we incorporate affordable housing and public amenities into future development?
The first half of the night was filled by a discussion among our opinion columnists — Mark Kelly (The Right Note), Peter Rousselot (Peter’s Take) and Larry Roberts (Progressive Voice) — on countywide issues.
The first question of that discussion, asked by host Amanda Fischer, was whether the columnists felt like the streetcar project’s cancellation was the right decision and what the county’s biggest transit priorities should be in 2016.
“I believe the cancellation of the streetcar was the right decision,” Rousselot said. “[The] most important one coming for Arlington is the Columbia Pike corridor and premium bus service.”
“On the regional level, this was going to be connected to other projects,” Roberts said. “[If you go to the] Pearl District in Portland, you will see everything that could have been in Columbia Pike.”
Kelly said the project, overall, had a “common sense problem,” and added that he was “pleased” when the project got the ax.
He added that he thought the county’s number one transit priority should be exerting its influence “to get to real reforms for Metro.”
Next question: Should the Long Bridge Park aquatics center be built?
“I believe it should be built,” Roberts said. “The aquatics center is needed.”
Kelly answered that he’d take “a wait and see attitude on the new version of the aquatics center.”
“They would need to build a new swimming facility,” he added. “I’d like to see more details before jumping on one side or the other.”
Rousselot differed from his fellow columnists by proposing some big changes to the plan. He said he’s like to see the county “eliminate the 25 [yard] pool, take the money… and potentially reinvest that money in another community pool and fitness facility in South Arlington so you could get two.”
“Look very seriously at taking a portion of the money and reinvesting it in a community pool… closer to where we are here tonight on Columbia Pike,” he added.
The columnists also tackled the contentious issue of shifting area demographics and what that means for the burgeoning enrollment at Arlington Public Schools, which is projected to continue growing in the coming decade.
“I think our schools have done a pretty good job and they’re attracting people,” Kelly said. “We might get to a point where we have to add one or two kids per classroom and that’s going to be a tough sell for school board members to have to take that vote.”
Rousselot said he thought the school board should reexamine its enrollment projections.
“I believe that there’s a potential with some good coordination with the county board to work further to refine the demographic expectations,” he said.
For Roberts, the “problem” of skyrocketing school enrollment isn’t necessarily a bad sign.
“We created excellent, dynamic schools,” he said. “It makes it a very attractive system for people moving into the county. In that sense, school board members current and past should be applauded.”
“As we look forward, the most important thing we can do right now is to have strong cooperation between the school board and the county board,” Roberts added. “The schools need county board resources. The county board also needs to look at the schools as a huge priority. We just don’t have enough room to build our way out of this problem.”
Later in the evening, County Board member Katie Cristol, Arlington County Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt, Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization Chair John Murphy and small business owner Michael “Mike on the Pike” Garcia took the stage to talk about the future of Columbia Pike.
First up: What killed the streetcar project and how bad was it for Columbia Pike?
“My position on the streetcar is, forward, what’s next?” Cristol said as she advocated for better premium bus service and “one-seat rides” along the Pike.
In one of the evening’s more pointed moments of disagreement, Murphy said he was slightly skeptical of plans for a “fancy bus” service.
“Are we really going to see it? Who’s going to pay for it? How is it going to work? I won’t believe it until I see the first bus rolling down the street,” Murphy said.
He added that many of the businesses along the Pike were hoping for a boost from the streetcar. Garcia agreed.
“Just like that, it was taken away,” Garcia said. “We have to have some healing.”
Despite past scars over the streetcar project, the panelists were hopeful for the future of Columbia Pike.
“I don’t think the Pike’s future is dark,” Slatt said. “I think there’s plenty that people can do to make this a place that people want to invest in.”
“I think if we can get transit right on Columbia Pike… we will see the transformation that a lot of people have been hoping for for so long,” he added.
Murphy agreed that a new transportation plan was needed to jumpstart development along the Pike.
“Our first floor retail is dying,” he said. “None of it is going to get better until we actually see a new transportation plan here.”
For Cristol, one way to reinvigorate the local economy could be to add more public amenities. She argued that development along the Pike could bring with it not only density, but also more “great public spaces.”
“We have a sense of… protecting not only our neighbors who need affordable housing, but our commercial interests who need affordable rents,” she said.
“The real struggle of Pike businesses right now is that you’re stuck in the awkward teenage years of the transformation of the Pike,” Slatt said. “Some of the new development has come in, so the rents are very high, but not all of the new development has come in so you haven’t created a walkable main street.”
When asked about affordable housing, all of the panelists agreed that housing had to become more affordable one way or another.
“The kind of person that says, affordable housing, ew, they’re operating on a bad misconception,” Murphy said. “Any investment in new housing on the Pike serves us all well.”
“Affordability is [also] actually related to our school capacity growth,” Cristol added. “When housing gets too expensive, when your rent rises, one of the strategies people adopt is doubling up.”
Additionally, she argued that families spending 50-60 percent of their income on rent wouldn’t be able to effectively participate in the local economy.
“Having people who can sustainably live on the Pike and participate in the retail… really is the path forward to a sustainable future.”
Then, to the final question: What might Columbia Pike look like in 2040?
“I have two words,” Murphy said. “Affordable Clarendon.”
Garcia said he “would predict that we would have a monorail on the Pike as the next form of transportation,” and “hopefully just as diverse, just as vibrant of a community.”
Cristol painted a picture of a Columbia Pike that had simple, easy-to-use premium buses. “I’m picturing walking out of my house, walking up the Pike and getting on a beautifully marked… premium bus service,” she said. “[And] a lunchtime crowd from the Pentagon. Office workers to support our retail. I’m hoping for… room for everyone.”
Though Slatt said the future is always hard to predict, he said he’d like to see a more walkable, bike-friendly Columbia Pike.
“I’d like to see a Columbia Pike where you can move about however you want,” he said. “Where you can walk safely… where you can bike safely. Where you can get on a bus that will take you to every Metro line that exists.”
Arlington Independent Media filmed the evening’s proceedings. Look for the full video to be published here in the coming weeks and to be broadcast on Comcast channel 69 or Verizon channel 38.
Today was Earth Day. Here in Arlington, there were a variety of events and announcements in connection with the annual environmental celebration.
Among them was the announcement that the county was launching the nation’s first Energy Lending Library. And, at Campbell Elementary School this morning, students got a demonstration about how a rain barrel works and learned how to be good stewards of the earth, as pictured above.
Speaking of events, next week we’ll be holding our ARLnow Presents: Hot Topics on the Pike event. It’s taking place on Wednesday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Celtic House (2500 Columbia Pike). Tickets are only $5 and benefit Doorways for Women and Families.
— Doorways (@DoorwaysVA) April 20, 2016
There will be two panel discussions as part of the event. First, our opinion columnists — Peter Rousselot, Mark Kelly and Larry Roberts — will debate the hottest countywide topics, from blue ribbon panels to aquatics centers. Then, we’ve assembled our own blue ribbon panel to discuss the present and future of Columbia Pike. That panel includes:
- Katie Cristol, Arlington County Board member
- Chris Slatt, Arlington Transportation Commission Chair
- John Murphy, CPRO board chair and president, Washington Workplace
- Michael Garcia, CPRO board member and small business owner
Our host for the evening will be Amanda Fischer, a Columbia Pike resident, Arlington Chamber of Commerce board member and owner of Grade A Marketing. We hope to see you there!
With that, feel free to discuss the Earth Day, the Pike or any other topics of local interest in the comments.
Photo courtesy Virginia Energy Sense
Development, affordable housing, school crowding, Metro’s woes. Those are just a few of the local issues we’ll discuss during ARLnow Presents: Hot Topics on the Pike on Wednesday, April 27.
The event is taking place at Celtic House, at 2500 Columbia Pike, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
(Feel free to take advantage of the $5 Wednesday wing special or stick around afterward for Celtic House’s weekly trivia night at 8:30.)
The first half of the event will be a debate among our opinion columnists — Mark Kelly (The Right Note), Peter Rousselot (Peter’s Take) and Lawrence Roberts (Progressive Voice) — on countywide issues.
Next up is a discussion of the future of Columbia Pike. It’s been more than a year since the cancellation of the streetcar, yet development has continued on the Pike seemingly unabated. So what does the future hold for the corridor? Among those joining us for the conversation are County Board member Katie Cristol and Arlington Transportation Committee Chair Chris Slatt.
RSVP is required — tickets are only $5 online.
April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. All of ARLnow’s proceeds from the event will be donated Doorways for Women and Families, an Arlington-based nonprofit that creates pathways out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe wants the Commonwealth to be the “tech capital of the United States” and Arlington County is in many ways the centerpiece of that effort.
With the state and the county actively working to attract innovative tech companies, we wanted to check in with some of the innovators who are helping to build a new economy here in Arlington.
The event is being held from 5:30-8 p.m. at Highline RxR (2010 Crystal Drive). Tickets are available online and will also be available at the door.
Come for the food and drink (included with the price of admission) and networking, stay for a Q&A with innovators from a variety of local companies like:
The evening’s discussion will be hosted by local media personality Sarah Fraser.
Also at the event, representatives from Arlington Economic Development will be on hand to answer questions from entrepreneurs about the resources available to them in Arlington County.
What do Arlington’s newest County Board members hope to accomplish in their new positions, why did they run and how do they plan to increase Millennial and minority participation in county government?
The full video from the event, via Arlington Independent Media, is above. Below are some of insights from the evening’s program, which included an audience question-and-answer session at the end.
Why did you want to run for County Board?
Cristol: “I decided to run because I thought Arlington could use some new perspectives. Everyone deserves representation.”
What are you hoping to accomplish year one?
Dorsey: “We’ve got a nearly 20 percent [office] vacancy rate, so I’m trying to get it down to 10 percent. We need to see some progress, each percent we can get rid of means $3 million in tax revenue that doesn’t have to be raised. That’s an extreme focus in this first year.”
How do you better include the input of Millennials and minorities in county government?
Cistol: “You start by listening to them, hearing what they have to say the obstacles are. When you talk to folks in the communities, people are generally willing to talk about them.”
Thoughts on the widening of I-66?
Cristol: “We are disappointed, I think widening is bad for the communities. We have tons of data that shows that widening is not wise. We are going to look very closely at environmental research that is required as a pre-requisite before the construction begins.”
What can you do to serve communities along Columbia Pike that have felt neglected since the cancellation of the streetcar project?
Dorsey: “These equity issues are decades long. I don’t see any Board preference in North Arlington. If we get the economic engines humming we have have a lot of potential. There’s also things that we can do to make South Arlington neighborhoods more appealing to investors.”
There are a lot of examples of local restaurants and businesses closing, even as many open. Is there anything the county can do about that?
Dorsey: “It’s our responsibility to make sure small businesses are able to thrive, instead of just recruiting the big ones. Going back to affordability, a reason small businesses aren’t able to thrive is because [owners] don’t have the money to.”
Thank you to our participants and to Mad Rose Tavern for hosting us. Details about the March ARLnow Presents event, which will be held in Crystal City and will focus on Arlington’s burgeoning tech scene, will be released soon.
Quotes compiled by Justin Funkhouser.
What’s it like to run a restaurant in a competitive market like Arlington? Four prominent local restaurant owners sat down with Sarah Fraser and ARLnow.com to discuss the business at our ARLnow Presents event last month, just after the big blizzard.
The full video from the event, courtesy of Arlington Independent Media, is above. The following are some of the interesting insights from the evening’s program.
What are some of the challenges in running a restaurant in Arlington?
Javier Candon, SER: “In Arlington, the biggest challenge, I think is the mentality, and proximity to the city. A lot of Arlington residents when they are having a real date night, they go to D.C.”
Does local government make it difficult to open a restaurant?
Mark Fedorchak, Liberty Tavern: “I think that Arlington county is pretty aware of the issue, but it is pretty difficult to open a restaurant with permits, and time. Every single day that you are paying rent waiting for permits, your are losing money.”
What’s more difficult, attracting customers when you first open, or keeping them?
Tim Ma, Water & Wall: “Everybody was coming through the door on day one, two years later, it’s all about retention. Staying relevant is probably the hardest thing. There’s so many new restaurants opening, so many different areas coming back to life, staying relevant is hard. Keeping the food good keeps people coming back.”
How do you feel about Yelp?
Mikala Brennan, Hula Girl Bar and Grill: “I think that as an opening restaurant you have to look at it and see if there’s trends happening. I think as chefs and owners we tend to take things a little personal sometimes. It’s sometimes hard not to respond immediately my GM reads them first and decides if there’s something I need to respond to immediately. I’ll be honest I think it’s relevant, but there is some things that are nit picky and irrelevant. I want to listen to people’s critiques, people that really want to tell you how they’re experience was sometimes email you, which I can respond to faster.”
How do you feel about new restaurants opening?
Scott Parker, A-Town Bar and Grill: “Arlington is in a very transitional time right now. Having two venues that are getting older and older, I wish new restaurants would open in Ballston, we don’t get the foot traffic that they get in Clarendon.”
How do you feel about bar crawls? Will we see more restrictions on them in the future?
Mark Fedorchak: “We are pro bar crawl, it’s been proven that they can be done in a controlled manner where they set a limit on the number of participants. While we don’t participate in them, it’s good for business across the board. They bring new guests from D.C. to Arlington.
What do you know now that you knew you wish you knew earlier?
Javier Candon: “How hard it is. Being there every single day, I took a break from being on the floor every day, and I think I forgot just how hard it is to be there seven days a week.”
How do you attract regular customers and locals?
Mikala Brennan: “We have a lot of residential people in the Shirlington area, and we find that they want to come in, they want to live there and support local business. So for us it’s important that we take care of neighborhood people. Making sure that they understand it’s okay to bring their kids in, it’s okay for them their kids to throw Cheerios on the ground, and do whatever they need to do. We want them to know it’s okay for them to come in with a shirt and flip flops on but if they want to wear a suit that’s fine too. We want to welcome everyone in.”
What have you found to love about being a restaurant and small business owner?
Scott Parker: “It’s just something you can’t describe, it’s grueling, late nights, long days. To be able to look around and see one of you venues packed, people smiling, enjoying your food and drink, in that moment it’s not about the money, it’s so thrilling.”
Thank you to our participants and to A-Town Bar and Grill for housing us. Look out for details about the March ARLnow Presents event, which will be held in Crystal City and will focus on Arlington’s burgeoning tech scene.
Quotes compiled by Justin Funkhouser.
Each ticket is only six bucks and is good for a drink and a guaranteed seat at Mad Rose.
We’ll be asking Cristol and Dorsey about a variety of local issues, including:
- The compromise deal to widen I-66
- The change they hope to bring to Arlington
- Millennial and minority participation in county government
- Bar crawls
- Post-streetcar plans for Columbia Pike
- How they managed to win last year in a very competitive Democratic primary
We’ll also be asking three questions suggested by readers, which had the most upvotes as of Tuesday:
- Moo 2.0: “Why do we have to pay $33 for a car sticker even though we already pay personal property tax on the vehicle and registration fees?”
- Obvious Troll: “The county board has repeatedly shown a willingness to approve new high density developments without accounting for the increased stress the added students living in those developments will place on nearby schools. Will you start requiring builders to make direct contributions towards new PERMANENT student seats in the county (not just trailers), rather than settling for ‘public art’ concessions? If not, why not?”
- Arlington Guy: “What is your plan for lowering the tax burden on existing residents? Isn’t that the best way to keep our seniors in their homes and get the younger folks to stay here instead of moving further out when it comes time to start a family?
Attendees will also have an opportunity to ask their own questions during the latter half of the event.
The event will be taking place at Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd) from 6:30-8 p.m. on Feb 10 — rain or shine. Tickets are available via Eventbrite and are good for a drink during the event. Tickets will also be available at the door.
Our discussion will be focused on Cristol and Dorsey’s goals as Board members, with a special focus on how they and the Board can better engage with Arlington’s sizable millennial and minority populations.
There will be time for audience questions during the event, but we’re hoping to pick a few of your questions to ask ourselves.
Let us know what you’d like us to ask about in the comments. We’ll pick the top three serious question suggestions that get the most up-votes for inclusion in our question list.
Also, if you use your real email address when making the comment (or when registering your Disqus user name), and your question is one of the top three selected, we’ll email you two free tickets to the event.
The event, ARLnow Presents: The County Board Young Bloods, will be hosted by local media personality Sarah Fraser.
— Sarah Fraser (@heyfrase) February 8, 2016
ARLnow Presents: Running a Restaurant in Arlington will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight at A-Town Bar & Grill (4100 Fairfax Drive). It’s completely free to attend and a great excuse for getting out of the house and shaking off cabin fever.
Fox 5 contributor Sarah Fraser will host a panel discussion with some of the brightest starts of the local restaurant biz, including Tim Ma of Water & Wall, Mark Fedorchak of Liberty Tavern, Scott Parker of A-Town Bar & Grill, Mikala Brennan of Hula Girl and Javier Candon of SER.
If you’ve ever read the comments section of a restaurant-related article on ARLnow.com, the topics of discussion may seem familiar: What makes some restaurants succeed and others fail? Why are there so many or so few of certain types of restaurants in Arlington? What are the biggest challenges of opening a new restaurant in Arlington?
There’s plenty of room in A-Town, but you may want to arrive early to try to snag a seat. The program will get underway shortly before 6:30.
Also tonight, reps from the locally-made restaurant discovery app Spotluck will be on hand to talk briefly about the app and its local offerings. If you haven’t checked out Spotluck already, be sure to download it and enter the promo code ARL26 while setting it up.
After the jump: the bios of each of our panelists.
Scott grew up working in restaurants near Atlantic City, New Jersey. A graduate of James Madison University, Scott worked for Morton’s The Steakhouse on Connecticut Avenue for 4 years while living in Arlington before starting A-Town Bar & Grill with Mike and Nick Cordero. Together the trio also own Don Tito in Clarendon, and the soon-to-open Barley Mac in Rosslyn.
Chef Tim Ma has taken a very non-traditional route to becoming a chef. Trained as an engineer with a degree from Georgia Tech and a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins, he worked in the top secret defense industry for 8 years before making the leap of faith into pursuing his dream of becoming a chef and owning restaurants. He opened his first restaurant, Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna in 2009, and is now the founder of the Tim Ma Restaurant Group. His group includes the acclaimed Water & Wall restaurant in Arlington, VA, Gather + Feast – a traveling chef tasting table, Chase the Submarine in Vienna, VA, and Kyirisan an Asian-French bistro opening in Shaw, D.C. in early 2016.
Javier oversees front and back of the house operations at SER. He has more than 20 years of experience with both casual and fine dining establishments. His previous experience includes international work with leading hotels and world-renowned restaurants throughout Europe and the Caribbean, including the Hotel Melia Sevilla, Taberna del Alabardero, and Casa del Duque Vinoteca and Restaurant in Spain; Hotel Relais & Chateau Mas D’Artiny in France; and the Hotel RIU Melao and RIU Palace Macao in the Dominican Republic. Javier graduated with honors from Europe’s prestigious Escuela Superior de Hosteleria de Sevilla. A native of Spain, he is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English. In his spare time, he fervently watches Real Madrid games, cooks with his favorite 5 and 8 year olds, and dreams about his next restaurant adventure with wife Christiana.
Born & raised in Hawaii, Mikala Brennan wanted to bring the Aloha spirit of her youth to DC. Decked out like a 1960’s Woody, her Hula Girl truck launched in 2011 serving up authentic and grilled to order teriyaki steak, chicken and tofu and authentic tastes of Hawaii to eager Washingtonians. Featured on the Travel Channel twice — on Andrew Zimmerman’s Bizarre Foods American (one of Andrew’s top 5 picks) and Street Eats — the Hula Girl Truck has gained enormous momentum in D.C. Hitting up the local scene through social media, Brennan has also been published in the Washington D.C. Chef’s Table cookbook and more recently in Behind the Food Carts. She was also on the Food Network competing on ReWrapped in 2014 — where she beat two contestants for the win. Brennan is no stranger to the restaurant scene. She opened her first restaurant in 1998 in San Diego, CA, becoming one of the market leaders in a small group of women chefs & restaurateurs in the area. She sold the venture to a business partner in Canada and was tapped by Marriott International to lead their new food and beverage department, bringing her hands-on, from scratch cooking approach into this hotel giant’s corporate structure. Then in 2001, she struck out again on her own to create Evolve Consultants. Under this company, Brennan created, designed and opened over 40 concepts both domestically and internationally.
Mark Fedorchak has been a partner of The Liberty Tavern Tavern Restaurant Group since its inception in 2007. Mark has always loved the hospitality business — his first job ever was waiting tables at the age of sixteen in a small Italian restaurant in his hometown of Binghamton, NY. He also had a desire to be an entrepreneur from a very young age. While earning a degree in Business Management in Syracuse, NY, he worked in various positions at the Holiday Inn, Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill. Mark graduated, and then moved to Washington, DC where he immediately began honing his fine dining skills at the the award-winning restaurant Zola. By the age of 24, Mark and his business partners began to conceptualize The Liberty Tavern in Arlington, VA. When it opened in 2007, The Liberty Tavern quickly became known for its top-notch food, excellent service, and great bar scene. Over the years, it has won critical acclaim — it was listed in Washingtonian Magazine’s Top 100 DC Restaurants eight years in a row, and earned the “Best Neighborhood Gathering Place” RAMMY Award in 2009. In April 2010, Mark and his partners added a nearby coffee shop and wine bar called Northside Social to The Liberty Tavern family, and it’s been a success by any measure. Northside Social was recently listed “Best Coffee Shop” in Arlington Magazine’s 2016 “Best Of Arlington” issue. Shortly thereafter, the team opened another full-service restaurant, Lyon Hall, right down the street. Lyon Hall is a casual European brasserie, and has enjoyed much critical acclaim — just last week it was listed in Washingtonian Magazine’s 2016 Top 100 DC Restaurants.