Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Auditor Looking at Economic Development Funds — “Are economic-incentive funds provided to corporations by the Arlington County government being doled out in accordance with agreements? The county government’s auditor is going to take a look… The audit, already under way, will look only at whether terms of agreements are being complied with; overall effectiveness of the sometimes controversial economic-incentive policy ‘is not part of the scope.'” [InsideNova]

Suspicious Letter at Fort Myer — “Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall police and other agencies investigated a suspicious letter this afternoon that was delivered on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base. It was determined to not have any dangerous substance on or in it.” [Twitter]

Lauding Arlington’s Retiring Election Chief — “As her tenure as director of elections approaches its end, Linda Lindberg on June 18 was honored by Arlington County Board members for her service. Lindberg — who has served in Arlington’s elections office since 1994 and has been registrar since 2003 — has delivered ‘an outstanding career of public service,’ County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey said during a ceremony marking her tenure.” [InsideNova]

Arts Group Applauds Arts Plan — “Embracing Arlington Arts – an independent citizens group comprised of Arlington arts supporters – applauds the County Board for formally adopting Arlington’s Strategic Plan for the arts – “Enriching Lives” at their Board meeting [on] June 18. This well-researched plan brought together arts professionals, experts, stakeholders and citizens in its development.” [Press Release]

Arlington Developer Plans Senior Projects — “A multifamily developer is making a $200 million senior living play, with five such projects coming together under the company’s new Aspire brand, and potentially more on the way in the Mid-Atlantic. Arlington, Virginia-based Bonaventure has communities under construction or development across the commonwealth, in Alexandria, Woodbridge, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Richmond.” [Senior Housing News]

New Solar Co-op — “Neighbors in Arlington County (including Alexandria… and Fairfax County) have formed a solar co-op to save money and make going solar easier, with the help of nonprofit Solar United Neighbors. Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, EcoAction Arlington, and Virginia Clean Cities are sponsoring the co-op.” [Press Release]

Arlington Tech Co. Gets New CEO — Rosslyn-based Snag, “the country’s largest and fastest-growing platform for hourly work, announced today new changes to its executive leadership team. Mathieu Stevenson has been appointed Chief Executive Officer… Stevenson will lead the company forward, with Rosati’s active involvement, to realize Snag’s mission of revolutionizing how hourly workers and employers connect.” [Snag]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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An Arlington waiter’s short film about life in the local restaurant industry is one of the contenders in a new diversity-focused film competition.

Isa Seyran’s Another Day is Over is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime Video as part of the All Voices Film Festival — an Amazon Prime short-film competition focusing on U.S. filmmakers from underrepresented backgrounds. The grand prize for the competition is $25,000.

The film looks at the lives of a handful of people connected by late shifts at a local restaurant. It focuses on their private conflicts and family interactions outside of the restaurant, like a young Salvadoran busboy who spurns his native language and culture.

“It is about the hard working mostly undocumented immigrants living in fear in the age of Trump,” Seyran said in an email to ARLnow.

Seyran said the story is hyper-local and celebrates the diversity of Arlington and Washington, D.C.

“I have been working in and around Washington’s restaurants for coming close to two decades now,” Seyran said. “We just wanted to tell a simple, honest and humble story about the people who work long days and long hours. Our film is a love letter to the restaurant industry.”

The film is streaming online until Monday, June 24.

“This film, for me, is simply an attempt to understand the times that we are going through and the society that we live in,” said Seyran.

Photo courtesy George Kolotov

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A new arts space, paid for in-part by Arlington County and run by George Mason University, is coming to Virginia Square.

The Latitude Arts Space is an art installation planned for the southeast corner of Latitude Apartments (3601-2625 N. Fairfax Drive). The site will be operated by the GMU College of Visual and Performing Arts.

The County Board is scheduled to vote this weekend on a $150,000 grant to partially fund interior construction at the project as part of the consent agenda. A county staff report said the goal of this and similar projects is to provide active, publicly accessible spaces that can be flexible in their programming with limited financial commitments from Arlington County.

When the site plan for Latitude Apartments was approved by the Arlington County Board in 2013, it included a provision for an arts space. The goal of the provision was to fulfill goals in the Virginia Square Sector Plan. The Latitude Apartments project was completed in 2016, after which Arlington Economic Development staff worked to help find a new tenant.

“The proposed grant is critical to realizing the opportunity to occupy the Latitude Arts Space with an active and appropriate use that Mason will be able to deliver,” the staff report said. “The grant funds from Arlington County to Mason will be used to offset costs of interior construction of the space and are essential in removing a hurdle for Mason to absorb this previously unbudgeted expense.”

The grant funding only accounts for 25-30 percent of the total interior construction costs, the rest of which will be covered by the property owner and the university.

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New District Brewing Company has announced that Valleyfest will return on Sept. 29, but in the meantime, there’s honeysuckles to pick and a North-South Arlington grudge match to settle.

The event is planned to be held on the street outside the brewery at 2709 S. Oakland Street. Entrance is free with community arts and music planned for the festival, along with food and dessert trucks. A “beer package” is also available for $22, good for three tickets to sample New District beers.

Valleyfest started in 2017 as a smaller festival but expanded in 2018 as a plan to replace Capitol City Brewing’s Oktoberfest after the brewpub closed.

New District founder Mike Katrivanos told ARLnow that much of the festival will be similar to last year, but with a heavier focus on artists.

“We are getting a lot more artists this year,” Katrivanos said. “Last year, we did this cool thing where we had an artist do a piece featuring tires from the auto shops nearby. She actually made the tires into art pieces like wavy walls set up throughout the festival.”

This year, Katrivanos said he’s hoping to have a metalworking artist display their work at the festival. An artist hasn’t been selected yet — that’s expected to happen happen in July — so if anyone knows any metalworking artists they’re encouraged to reach out to the brewery for some potential work.

In the meantime, Katrivanos said there are some Arlington-focused events and features at the brewery.

“We did a North-South Arlington collaboration beer with The Board Room up in North Arlington,” said Katrivanos. “We called it Crossing Route 50. The North Arlington crowd doesn’t want to cross Route 50, so we tried to build a bridge.”

The beer is a grapefruit IPA, which Katrivanos described as having the aroma of dank citrus and tropical notes from the hops.

The other event coming up is the honeysuckle harvest, where the brewery takes 30-50 volunteers on a road trip to pick honeysuckle from various parts of Virginia. Mostly the group visits farms and parks, where honeysuckle — an invasive species — is seen as a weed.

“We bring it back to the brewery here and brew a honeysuckle hefeweizen with the fresh flowers,” said Katrivanos. “It captures all the aromatics — captures the sweet flavor of the honeysuckle and reminds you of Virginia summer. That beer is one of our beers people know us by. We’re actively campaigning for that now and we’ll be picking honeysuckle.”

For anyone interested in a weekend honeysuckle road trip, Katrivanos said to contact Michael Sutherland at [email protected].

Photo via New District Brewing Company/Facebook

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Several road closures are planned for this weekend’s Arlington Festival of the Arts in Clarendon.

The 7th annual arts event runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday on the 3000 block of Washington Blvd. The free festival is set to feature handmade paintings, jewelry, ceramics, glassware and more creations from around 150 artists.

ACPD announced the event will prompt a number of road closures between 4 a.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday including:

  • Washington Blvd between 10th Street N. and Clarendon Blvd, except for one lane of traffic which will be open eastbound.
  • N. Highland St. between Washington Blvd and Clarendon Blvd.
  • 11th Street N. between N. Highland and N. Garfield Streets, except for delivery traffic.

Southbound N. Garfield Street will have eastbound left turns open to Washington Blvd, according to police, though additional road closures may be necessary. Police are encouraging attendees to take Metro or ride-hailing services, as parking will be limited.

Drivers should watch out for “No Parking” signs in Clarendon near the festival this weekend, according to ACPD.

Photos via Howard Alan Events

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A pair of local arts groups are planning a rally outside county government headquarters Tuesday to protest proposed budget cuts to some Arlington arts programs.

The rally, dubbed “A Celebration of the Arts in Arlington,” is set to take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, outside of the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse.

Organizers Encore Stage & Studio and Embracing Arlington Arts are protesting what the latter group says are “draconian cuts” of about $500,000 to arts programs including:

  • Closure of the Scene Shop
  • Closure of the Costume Lab
  • Elimination of the Facilities Manager
  • Elimination, in one year, of the Facilities Technology Services Director
  • Elimination of the Audio Production Specialist
  • Elimination of Supervisor of the After-Hours Building Engineers position
  • Elimination of the Mobile Stage
  • A $70,000 (1/3 of the total grant budget) cut to arts grant budget

A petition against the cuts, which would mostly affect theatrical productions, has gathered more than 2,750 signatures.

The rally is planned to coincide with the County Board’s public budget hearing at 7 p.m.

“Many of Arlington’s performing arts groups will be showcasing their talents and expressing their opposition to the proposed arts budget cuts,” says a press release about the rally before the hearing. “The community is invited to join the festivities and share stories about the positive impact of the arts in Arlington.”

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Morning Notes

Amazon Talking to Unions — “Amazon.com Inc., JBG Smith Properties Inc. and union representatives in the D.C. region have met a few times in the last six weeks to discuss benefits and wages for the workers who will build HQ2 in Pentagon City.” [Washington Business Journal]

Changes Coming to Arlandria? — “For decades, developers have eyed Arlandria, the working-class neighborhood near Reagan National Airport where a transplanted Hispanic culture flourishes amid Northern Virginia’s upscale condominiums… Now, crime is down, the economy is humming, and Amazon is moving in virtually next door, with plans to hire thousands of well-paid workers, who’ll be in search of easy commutes.” [Washington Post]

Local Strategist Sued by U.S. Rep Raising Funds — Political strategist and Arlington resident Liz Mair is being sued by Rep. Devin Nunes, in a bizarre defamation suit that also names Twitter and two parody Twitter accounts as defendants. Mair is raising money for her legal defense. [Donorbox, Twitter]

Op-Ed: Nix Arlington Arts Cuts — “If the 2020 budget that Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz submitted to the County Board is implemented, it will prove to be devastating to the Arlington arts community.” [Washington Post]

Arlingtonians Help Save Bird — A pair of Arlington residents, including former Arlington Outdoor Lab executive director Neil Heinekamp, “came to the rescue of a distressed bird” found on a nature trail in The Villages, Florida.  [InsideNova]

Kitchen Fire in N. Arlington High Rise — “Units called to 4300 blk of Lorcom Lane for oven fire on 6th floor of a residential high rise. Fire is out with minor extension to surrounding cabinets. Crews working to ventilate smoke and scaling back response.” [Twitter]

Nearby: Halal Butchery Controversy Continues — “Letter-writer compares proposed halal butchery in Alexandria to *slave auctions*: this is the same brutality…’ Even by the standards of Alexandria micro-controversies, the rhetoric around this thing is remarkable.” [Alexandria Times, Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Seven Corners Suspicious DeathUpdated at 10:25 a.m. — Fairfax County Police are investigating a “suspicious death” on the 6100 block of Arlington Blvd in Seven Corners, near the Arlington border. That block is home to the Willston Centre shopping center, a McDonald’s, a hotel and a number of commercial offices. [Twitter, Twitter]

What’s Up With the ‘Psychedelic Tower?’ — “You’ve probably seen the tower if you’ve ever driven across the 14th Street Bridge… It’s a hexagonal, granite structure that sits about a third of the way down the bridge, closer to the Virginia side. By day, it doesn’t look like much. But by night, its windows light up like a gigantic kaleidoscope.” [WAMU]

New Pike Library Remains a Goal — “Arlington government leaders haven’t given up their quest to add a new library branch on the western end of Columbia Pike. But unless an unbeatable opportunity presents itself, a new facility is not going to happen immediately.” [InsideNova]

Arts Cuts Highlighted in TV ReportProposed budget cuts to the county’s scene shop, costume shop and technical services provided to local theater companies “would really destroy the arts community,” advocates told NBC 4 in a segment that aired last night. [NBC Washington]

Nearby: Seven Corners Office Buildings Purchased — “BoundTrain Real Estate has purchased the two commercial office towers located at 6400 and 6402 Arlington Boulevard in Falls Church for more than $38 million. The two 13-story buildings in the Seven Corners commercial district include more than 410,000 square feet of commercial space.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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Arlington arts advocates are sounding the alarm about planned cuts in the county’s new budget, arguing that they’ll disproportionately impact the government’s already modest arts programs.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is proposing a total of $5.2 million in spending slashes for fiscal year 2020, in tandem with a tax increase to meet some of the county’s financial challenges. About $500,000 of those cuts will targets arts-focused programs specifically, according to an analysis by the advocacy group Embracing Arlington Arts.

“We all have to sacrifice when budgets are tough,” Embracing Arlington Arts Chair Janet Kopenhaver wrote in a statement. “However, we remain stunned at the very high proportion the small arts budget is being asked to shoulder.”

Schwartz plans to close the Costume Lab and Scenic Studio Program located at the Gunston Community Center (2700 S. Lang Street), which provide scenery construction space and costume rentals for local arts groups. That will involving laying off two employees who staff the programs, a savings of about $180,000 each year.

The manager also expects to cut funding for its arts grant program by a third, dropping it from about $216,000 to $146,000 annually. The program provides some matching funds to support local artists, and both County Board contenders last year pressed for increases to the fund.

Kopenhaver group says that would make the county’s budget for the grant program “the lowest in the region.”

The county would also ditch the use of its mobile performance stage, which is available for rent, under Schwartz’s proposal.

The Cultural Affairs Division of the county’s economic development arm would also lose an audio production specialist who worked on county events, and the facility manager and facility technology services director working at the county’s arts studio at 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive. Schwartz expects existing staff could absorb the responsibilities of those employees, who are responsible for managing the space as a variety of different arts groups make use of it.

Finally, Kopenhaver’s group is also concerned about the proposed layoff of a supervisor of after-hours building engineers, who supervises building maintenance workers. Many county arts groups rely on county facilities after normal business hours for performance space.

In all, the arts advocates estimate that cultural affairs and arts program take up about one tenth of one percent of the county’s budget — Schwartz’s proposed cuts are much larger than that for arts-related services.

“In the end, the tiny arts program is being held accountable for a share of this year’s budget shortfall that is 62.5 times greater than its share of the fiscal year 2019 county budget,” Kopenhaver wrote. “If the cuts were proportional to the actual budget, then the cuts to the arts would be only $8,000.”

Embracing Arlington Arts notes that a recent study found that the arts generate $18 million in economic activity for the county, meaning that cuts to the arts budget could well have an impact on the county’s tax revenue.

Other proposed cuts in the budget including spending reductions for everything from Arlington Independent Media to the county’s bus service.

The Board will evaluate Schwartz’s proposal over the next few months, while also keeping a close eye on school needs as well — Superintendent Patrick Murphy is already warning that the school system will face painful cuts unless the Board approves a substantial tax hike.

Officials are scheduled to finalize the budget in late April.

Photo via Arlington Arts

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Synetic Theater will now be able to stay put at its current space in Crystal City, after its owners initially feared they’d need to find a new home.

The theater signed a lease extension for its space at 1800 S. Bell Street through “late 2022,” according to a press release from property owner JBG Smith.

The building is one of several in the neighborhood that will likely become home to Amazon’s new headquarters in Arlington, and JBG told the theater’s staff last summer that this season would be its last in the 12,000-square-foot underground space. The developer is planning a host of renovations to the building ahead of Amazon’s arrival, and could even redevelop it entirely once Amazon’s employees move to office space that the company plans to build in Pentagon City.

But it seems JBG and the theater were able to work out an arrangement for Synetic to stay put, at least temporarily. The theater has called the space home since 2010.

“Synetic Theater has been one of National Landing’s leading cultural organizations for nearly a decade, and this agreement ensures that the theater’s work will continue to enrich and inspire the community for years to come,” JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andrew VanHorn said in a statement.

Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili founded Synetic in 1996, but the S. Bell Street space was the theater’s first permanent home. It’s one of a dwindling number of performing arts space left in the county, and arts advocates had initially been quite concerned that the rising real estate prices driven by Amazon’s arrival would force Synetic to go elsewhere.

“We are excited for Synetic Theater’s role in the future of National Landing,” Paata Tsikurishvili said in a statement, using the moniker crafted for the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area. “As we continue to captivate audiences from our long-time home at 1800 S. Bell Street, our hope is to be a source of enjoyment to both current residents and those who will be joining National Landing.”

The fate of other businesses in the underground Crystal City Shops is a bit unclear — previous reports have suggested that many have fled the development recently, and others have seen business stagnate.

But the entire area is set to see a host of changes in the coming months, from JBG’s new “Central District” redevelopment project to its efforts to transform an empty office building at 1900 Crystal Drive into new mixed-use space.

File photo

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Ballston’s Metro station could soon see a colorful, motion-activated, LED light display as part of a new public art project.

Dubbed “Intersections,” the project is being backed by the Ballston Business Improvement District and is still many months away from completion.

But the BID is picking up steam on the effort, according to documents prepared for the County Board, and it’s designed to “create a dynamic, ever-changing feature that will turn an ordinary subway entrance into a place of surprise, wonder and delight.”

The BID is teaming up with a Dutch “design/art collective” to create the art installation, which will consist of spotlights projecting a variety of different colors onto the canopy stretching over the Metro station’s entrance.

The lights will also come equipped with a “a grid of sensors” to “pick up the activity of the people moving in and out of the Ballston station, making the pedestrians active participants in the work,” according to a description of “Intersections” on the BID’s website.

“Pedestrians have a direct influence, in that their presence under the canopy will effect the spawning of lines that travel over the canopy,” the design team wrote about the project, according to a county staff report. “Where these animated lines intersect one another, they will give life to ‘autonomous artifacts of light.’ Once these artifacts pass a threshold, they will form the basis of a more involved visual effect. Afterwards, the installation will reset to its initial state.”

The BID is funding the project with the help of a collection of Ballston businesses, and it’s one in a series of public art installations the group has commissioned over the years.

In a report to be reviewed by the Board at its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23), the BID says it has yet to receive Metro’s approval for the project, but it expects to win WMATA’s sign-off soon. Once that’s done, it’ll take about 15 months to fully design and construct the installation, likely to be completed sometime in fiscal year 2021.

The BID described these changes as part of its annual funding request to the Board. The business group is funded by a property tax in Ballston, and the BID is asking the Board to hold the tax rate steady this year to maintain its existing operations.

Board members agreed to a small rate hike last year to account for a dip in property values in the area, and the BID argues that it still needs the extra cash. The Board will begin its full round of budget deliberations in earnest Saturday, in what could be a challenging year.

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