Arlington, VA

A D.C.-based taqueria is opening a second location in Ballston.

El Rey is expanding from its original location at 919 U Street NW and opening at Ballston Exchange, near Dirt, across the street from Ballston Quarter mall.

In D.C., El Rey offers tacos, tequila-based cocktails, wine, sangria, beer and weekend brunch.

Prolific restaurateurs Ian and Eric Hilton are behind El Rey. The brothers are also opening a new French bistro, Cafe Colline, in the former Cassatt’s space along Lee Highway.

Ian Hilton told ARLnow the opening date is still up in the air, but they’re hoping to open at some point this winter.

Photo via Ballston Exchange/Instagram

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Residents of Arlington will have a number of chances to weigh in on the next steps for the Ballston Harris Teeter redevelopment.

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved scheduling a public hearing related to developer Southeastern’s request to rebuild the grocery store as a ground-floor retail space with five stories of apartments up top — as well as build a second, eight-story apartment building next to it and a half-acre public park.

The upcoming hearing by the county’s Planning Commission is one of several planned to review the project.

A meeting of the Site Plan Review Committee next week will allow residents to learn more about Southeastern’s request to rezone a portion of the land slated for the site as well as view updated renderings. It will be held this upcoming Monday, July 22, from 7-9:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, July 23, the public can attend an open house from 5-6:30 p.m. to ask more questions, particularly about the project’s proposed public spaces, and view the latest project renderings.

Both meetings will be held at county government headquarters, at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse.

Southeastern wants to up-zone the land near N. Thomas Street, which is is currently zoned for “Low-Medium” residential buildings, which would otherwise put a damper on the developer’s plans to build 732 units and include retail space in the buildings.

County Board members approved the request to advertise the public meeting during their meeting this past weekend.

In April, the developers submitted new planning documents the county proposing:

  • increasing the number of housing units from 700 to 732
  • seeking a LEED Silver certification for green energy
  • reducing the number of parking spaces to 1 per unit, excluding the store parking lot

“The proposed development will provide a new, top of the line Harris Teeter grocery store with upgraded features and offerings,” an April letter from the developer noted. “It will also provide additional, much needed housing close to the Ballston Metro station and the Ballston Quarter project.”

Five years ago, the County Board approved changes to increase density on the site, taking into account the neighborhood’s development along Wilson Blvd.

At the time, Board members said they hoped N. Glebe Road could become an “urban boulevard.”

Map via Arlington County

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A Ballston art project of motion-activated lights above the Metro station entrance is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Arlington County Board voted during its Saturday meeting to chip in $245,347 for the project, which is named “Intersections.”

The total expected cost of the project is around $500,000, with the Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) on the hook for the other half. BID CEO Tina Leone said she hopes the project will brighten up the dark Metro canopy, which she nicknamed the “Darth Vader hat.”

Dutch design company Blendid is creating the art installation, which will consist of a dozens of LEDs that can be individually programmed to respond to motion sensors that detect riders coming in and out of the station. A staff report to the Board last week said it hopes the art “will serve as a bold new gateway for Ballston.”

“It’s been a long road getting the design and the technical aspects to it laid out,” said Leone. “We’ve been really waiting of the county’s work on the Metro plaza to get underway.”

The county has long discussed plans to renovate the plaza outside the Ballston Metro station entrance and redesign the bus parking area to reroute buses off N. Stuart Street. Leone told ARLnow that the BID can’t install the canopy project until the plaza is finished because dust and construction could damage the sensors and lights.

Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said that the county cancelled the most recent hunt for a contractor after the bids Arlington received were too high — a problem the department recently connected to contractor shortages.

“Staff and our design engineer consultant are adjusting the project scope and will issue a revised procurement this fall,” Balliet added. “Selection of a contractor and approval of the construction contract is currently anticipated for late fall 2019.”

For now, the BID will use the newly-approved funds to on the project’s design process and seeking approval from Metro. Until the county begins its construction, the timeline for completing the project remains murky.

Board members approved the funding unanimously as part of their consent agenda for the weekend meeting.

The BID will also be responsible for monitoring the progress of the installation and whether Blendid meets the benchmarks required to receive the public funds.

The Arlington Public Art Committee (PAC) gave the green light for the project four years ago, according to a staff report, which attributed delays to the project’s “size and ambitious scope.”

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A week after devastating flash flooding, the lights are coming back on for some affected businesses in Arlington.

SER Restaurant in Ballston, which was inundated by water coming through the ceiling during the Flash Flood Emergency, is planning to reopen at 5 p.m. today (Monday), co-owner Christiana Campos told ARLnow.

The reopening comes after the local community rallied to raise more than $10,000 for SER in a GoFundMe campaign. SER says the donations are being used to help fund needed repairs while the owners work through the insurance claim process.

“Thanks to our hard working staff, our construction crew who have been working around the clock to fix the damage and thanks to the humbling outpouring of support from the community, we are so thrilled to being opening today,” Campos told ARLnow. “The power of this community is truly incredible.”

In Westover, where floodwaters destroyed merchandise and knocked out power, the two hardest-hit businesses — Westover Market and Beer Garden, and Ayers Variety and Hardware — first reopened in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Over the weekend, Westover Market announced it was back on utility power and off generators.

“Finally! Regular hours going forward!” the store exclaimed on Facebook. “Limited fresh produce [and] meats have been delivered! Every day we’ll inch closer to 100%. Thanks so much for all the incredible support! We need it! And please send support and prayers to the other businesses affected by the storm!”

A GoFundMe campaign for the Westover merchants has raised more than $67,500.

Also in Westover, the weekly farmers market was held over the weekend, thanks to quick repairs to 18th Street N., which was damaged by the flooding. On Saturday, the director of the company that organizes the market wrote the following letter to Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz, lauding the dedicated repair crews.

Mr. Schwartz —

I was notified late this afternoon that the emergency street repairs on 18th Street N. have been completed. Our nonprofit organization is very grateful for the County’s quick response to address the street damage caused by the torrential rain last Monday morning…

This section of the roadway serves on Sunday mornings as a key part of the Westover Farmers Market. We have been in contact with vendors all week regarding whether the Westover Farmers Market could take place, given the roadway damage caused by the storm. This evening I was able to send them an “all clear” message. So tomorrow morning’s market should run without a hitch. […]

Please send our thanks to the personnel in the Department of Environmental Services and to the contractors who assist them for a job well and quickly done. The neighbors who shop each week at this farmers market will benefit from their outstanding efforts this week.

Rob Swennes, Executive Director
Field to Table, Inc.

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Ballston restaurant SER is hoping a GoFundMe campaign will keep the business afloat after Monday’s devastating floods damaged the locally-owned eatery.

“The water apparently came through faulty drains in the building’s third floor balcony, spread through the third and second floors, and then seeped into every corner at SER,” owner Javier Candon wrote on the GoFundMe page. “We are at a loss about the physical and emotional toll this has taken on us and our entire SER family.”

The Spanish restaurant has so far raised more than $2,500 after launching the campaign Thursday. The current fundraising goal: $65,000.

Candon noted that this is the fourth time SER has flooded since opening in 2015.  Last July the restaurant had to temporarily close when the it partially flooded after the roof collapsed.

Candon told ARLnow he was “weighing his options” on how best to move forward.

“We are all devastated,” he said via email. “We have been closed all week impacting not only our guests and the parties we’ve had to cancel, but our hard working staff. Everything was damaged in the restaurant as water seeped in everywhere… the furniture, our bar, our ceiling tiles, equipment, etc.”

“We want to remain in the building as this feels like home to us and to all our loyal guests,” he said of the numerous issues the restaurant has faced. “We are hoping to continue to work closely with the landlord to resolve the water issues in the building… The safety of our staff and our guests is paramount to us and we are hoping the landlord will resolve the water issues in the building once and for all.”

Candon said he is filing insurance claims but there’s uncertainty about what will be paid and when. In the meantime, SER is facing mounting costs and will use the GoFundMe proceeds to “to get the restaurant open ASAP.”

“Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury to wait for the claims to begin reconstruction,” he said.

Two and a half days after Monday’s storm dumped over three inches of rain across the region in an hour, Arlington County declared a state of emergency. Since then, at least 200 affected residents and 15 business owners have filed claims for aid with the county, reported ABC 7.

The county’s emergency declaration opens up the possibility of state and federal aid, but the declaration still needs to be finalized by the Arlington County Board — and even if approved by state and federal authorities it’s not clear what would would qualify for aid and how much.

SER isn’t the only business raising money online for post-storm recovery.

A resident raising money for flooded Westover stores blew past a $25,000 fundraising goal in less than a day, stretching the goal to $100,000 to help cover the damage caused and merchandise lost when flood waters filled basements and knocked out power.

As of 11 a.m. this morning, the Westover GoFundMe campaign raised about $55,000 to support the damaged shops.

Video via GoFundMe

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Celebrate Fridays this summer at Ballston Exchange with free yoga!

The free yoga series is provided by CorePower Yoga, who will be opening a studio in Ballston Exchange later this summer. The series will take place in the outdoor plaza (weather permitting) from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on July 12, July 26, August 9 and August 30.

In addition, participants can head to the delicious clean eating restaurant DIRT for a free vegan pastry and $5 off any item!

Ballston Exchange is bringing renewed vitality to the greater Ballston community with dynamic tenants such as DIRT, CAVA and Philz Coffee. The common spaces at Ballston Exchange, including the recently opened Atrium, are designed to foster a sense of community among tenants, metro commuters, office workers and the neighborhood.

Ballston Exchange is located at 4121 and 4201 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington. For more information visit ballstonexchange.com.

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A new outdoor concert series will kick off in Ballston later today.

Starting today (July 10) through the end of August, “Ballston Quarter Beats” will bring in a new band every Wednesday for a free concert at the outdoor Plaza at Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd). 

The events are being held from 5:30-8:30 p.m and attendees can expect happy-hour drink specials and food from Ballston Quarter eateries, including the Local Oyster, Ballston Service Station, and Copa Kitchen and Bar.

The series will kick off with Marvillous Beats, a Bronx-born artist who combines a mixture of jazz, classical, pop and hip-hop for a unique musical experience. Marvill Martin is an Arlington local but began his career in New York as a violinist.

This event is open to the public. No tickets are necessary. 

The summer artist lineup is listed below: 

  • July 10: Marvillous Beats
  • July 17: The Reflex
  • July 24: Pressing Strings
  • July 31: Jeremiah Miles
  • August 7: David Andrew Smith
  • August 14: Lucia Valentine 
  • August 21: Jonny Grave
  • August 28: Blue Dot Jazz Troupe
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Morning Notes

Latest Flood Stats — “As of Tuesday morning, the Department of Environmental Services had received 151 calls about damage to private property, storm drain backups, indoor flooding and roadway flooding; The County also investigated more than 30 drainage complaints.” [Arlington County]

Record-Setting Rain Rate — “The 3.30 [inches of rain] recorded between 8:52-9:52 a.m [at Reagan National Airport] was Washington, D.C.’s highest hourly precip report in records dating back to 1936.” [Twitter]

Flooded Scooters Removed from Service — “Bird, Jump, and Lime, three of the city’s five operators, told The Verge that their employees were actively engaged in removing scooters from the flooded areas.” [The Verge]

ACPD Crime Map Goes Down — “ACPD is aware of system issues with the Online Community Crime Map and is working with the third-party vendor, LexisNexis, to resolve the issue. If you are looking for information regarding crime in your neighborhood, please view the Daily Crime Report.” [Twitter]

D.C. Office Vacancy Rises as N. Va. Declines — “Office vacancy is reaching new heights in the District as new supply continues to outpace demand, but market conditions are much better for landlords in neighboring Northern Virginia.” [Bisnow]

Trailers to Take Out Tree — “In a community where the destruction of even a single tree can mobilize residents, there may be another skirmish in the offing on July 13. That’s the date that Arlington County Board members will be asked to approve the placement of new portable (‘relocatable’) classrooms on the campus Arlington Traditional School, designed to ease overcrowding.” [InsideNova]

Ballston Office Building Sold — “The first building developed in Ballston’s Liberty Center complex has just traded hands.  Carr Properties sold the One Liberty Center office building at 875 North Randolph St. to USAA Real Estate, the JLL brokerage team announced Monday. Property records show the sale closed June 26 for about $153M.” [Bisnow]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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A new LensCrafters store is now open in Ballston.

Last week marked the grand opening of LensCrafters in Ballston Quarter (4238 Wilson Blvd). It replaces a former LensCrafters store at the mall that closed prior to its renovations. 

Located on the ground floor of an outdoor portion of the mall, LensCrafters offers eye exams and sells prescription glasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses. 

“Customers can expect to find innovative technology, the newest styles, and unparalleled personalized service,” at the store, a mall PR rep said in an email. “They offer a wide range of prescription lenses for eyeglasses and sunglasses, perfectly tailored to your lifestyle.”

The location is open Monday-Saturday, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. and on Sunday, from 12-6 p.m.

The store is running a 50% discount on complete pair of glasses though Friday, Aug. 2. 

Photo (3) courtesy Ballston Quarter

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Morning Notes

Police Operation in Ballston — Arlington County Police say they arrested a wanted individual in Ballston Wednesday evening, in front of the DARPA building on N. Randolph Street. Officers used a “diversionary device” — witnesses described it as a flashbang grenade — during the operation, a police spokeswoman told ARLnow. “One suspect was taken into custody without incident,” ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said. Additional details were not immediately available. [Twitter]

‘Perfect Friday Night Date in Rosslyn’ — “A round of miniature golf is one of summer’s pleasures, whether putt-putting past pirate statues at a course by the beach or playing in a regional park closer to home. It works equally well as part of a date night or a group outing with friends. And it’s definitely not the kind of thing you’d expect to find popping up in the plaza outside a Rosslyn office building.” [Washington Post]

Beer Hall Nears Opening in Ballston — The opening of Bronson Bier Hall in Ballston, the successor to A-Town Bar and Grill, is about a month away. Most of the major interior construction appears to have been completed. [Instagram]

Amazon Hosts LGBT Reception — “A special reception [was] hosted by Amazon at a location in the heart of its massive planned expansion was held at Freddie’s Beach [Bar in Crystal City] to greet the area’s LGBT community.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Subsidies for Late Night Commuters — “The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has kicked off an effort to support late-night workers who travel when transit service is not available. Since July 1, qualified workers – such as those in the hospitality or health-care industries – have been eligible to receive a $3 subsidy toward travel on Lyft for trips taken between their home and workplace between midnight and 4 a.m.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Community Foundation Awards Scholarships — “The Arlington Community Foundation awarded new college scholarships totaling more than $540,000 to 72 students who will attend college next year. An additional 105 scholarships totaling $281,000 were renewed for returning college students, for a total of 177 recipients.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Arlington County Police say they arrested a man Wednesday after he attempted to rob two people outside of a home in Ballston while brandishing a BB gun.

The robbery attempt happened around 11:30 p.m. on the 1200 block of N. Stuart Street, which is a block away from Washington-Liberty High School.

The BB gun-wielding suspect threatened one of the victims and demanded money, police say, but the victims fought back and the suspect was chased away and later arrested.

More from today’s ACPD crime report:

ATTEMPTED ROBBERY, 2019-07030318. 1200 block of N. Stuart Street. At approximately 11:41 p.m. on July 3, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the two victims were outside of a residence when an unknown male suspect approached them, allegedly brandishing what was later determined to be a BB gun, and threatened one of the victims, demanding cash. The second victim intervened and became engaged in a physical struggle with the suspect before chasing him away. Arriving officers located the suspect in the area, based upon the description provided in a lookout. The first victim was not injured. The second victim suffered minor injuries that did not require medical treatment. Elonte Jones-Davis, 19, of Washington, D.C. was arrested and charged with Attempted Robbery. He was held on no bond.

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