Arlington, VA

A man who robbed and tried to rob businesses in Clarendon and Rosslyn earlier this week also struck in Ballston last month, Arlington County police say.

ACPD just released surveillance images of the man, whose face is obscured by a mask in one photo and a hard hat in another.

In all three incidents, the man passed a note to a store employee demanding money. He was given cash in two of the incidents, but an employee declined his demands in one of the incidents this week.

“This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to the suspect’s identity or these incidents is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] arlingtonva.us,” police said in a press release, below.

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is seeking the public’s assistance identifying a suspect involved in a series of three robbery incidents in Arlington County. The series includes two cases from October 19, 2020 and one case from September 23, 2020. During each of the incidents, the suspect entered a business, approached an employee, and passed them a note requesting money. Based upon witness interviews, evidence collected, and case information, detectives are investigating these incidents as a series involving the same suspect.

  • At approximately 4:21 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the 4200 block of Fairfax Drive for the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed the employee a note demanding money and threatening them if they didn’t comply. The victim complied, and the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival.
  • At approximately 4:17 p.m. on October 19, police were dispatched to the 1500 block of Wilson Boulevard for the report of an attempted robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed a note to the cashier demanding money and threatening her. The victim declined and sought the assistance from another employee, at which point the suspect stepped in front of her and attempted to grab the note back unsuccessfully. The suspect then fled prior to police arrival.
  • At approximately 4:44 p.m. on October 19, police were dispatched to the 3100 block of Wilson Boulevard for the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 4:39 p.m., the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter and passed a note to the cashier demanding money and threatening her. The victim provided an undisclosed amount of cash to the suspect, who then fled prior to police arrival.

The suspect is described as a Black male, 25-35 years old, approximately 5’6″-5’9″, with a slim build, and black hair. During the September 23 incident he was wearing a construction vest and during the incidents on October 19, he was wearing a construction helmet.

This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to the suspect’s identity or these incidents is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] arlingtonva.us. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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Morning Notes

Return of First Students Delayed — “As we have shared, we were aiming for an October 29 start for Level 1, which includes approximately 225 students with disabilities who need in-person support to access distance learning. We are now moving the start date back to Wednesday, November 4, to ensure all operational metrics are met and staff are well equipped and ready to support our students at each school.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Crushes Census Count — “You did it, Arlington County: With the Census Count completing on October 15th, 99.98% of Arlington was officially counted. Thank you to our Complete Count Committee for your tireless, infectious enthusiasm for ensuring that everyone counts!” [@kcristol/Twitter, YouTube]

Culpepper Garden Celebrates Renovations — “It wasn’t quite the kind of celebration that had been expected when, two and a half years ago, work began on a major renovation at the Culpepper Garden senior-living facility. But it was a celebration nonetheless – albeit ‘virtually’ – that was called for, and on Oct. 13, leaders of two non-profit housing providers and their partners held an online program to mark completion of the $58 million project.” [InsideNova]

Spirits of ’76 Closing Happy Hour Set to close on Nov. 1, Spirits of ’76 is holding a half-off happy hour from 4-6 p.m. until the closing date. “Everything must go!” the Clarendon bar said on social media. [Instagram]

Punch Bowl Social Restarting Happy Hour — “Punch Bowl Social, the ‘millennial-oriented’ adult playground in Arlington, reopened its Ballston location last week, and it plans to restart happy hour, Wednesday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, October 21. The ‘eatertainment’ chain says it will offer diversions like arcade games, bocce, darts, and more in a socially distant fashion.” [Washingtonian]

Overnight Closures Along I-66 — “Overnight ramp and lane closures are scheduled to occur this week, and possibly next week, on I-66 East in Arlington for asphalt paving and overhead sign replacement as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project. Detours will be posted to direct traffic.” [VDOT]

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A stalled affordable housing project near the Ballston Metro station is poised to get a three-year extension.

The Ballston Station project, set to be built on the site of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive, was previously approved by the County Board in 2017 and again in 2019. The latter approval upsized the project from 119 units, including 48 designated as affordable, to 144 units of 100% committed affordable housing.

The Board previously also allocated $3.1 million in affordable housing loan funds to the project.

The church and its development partner, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, are now going back before the Board this weekend, seeking to extend the now-closed window for beginning construction through October 2023.

The developers are also seeking a minor change to the affordability mix, switching six units from being affordable to those making up to 30% of the Area Median Income to 60% AMI, to make the project more fiscally sustainable.

The planned eight-story building will still include a daycare facility for up to 100 kids and a church space with up to 200 seats, as well as eight visitor parking space and 0.25 parking spaces per apartment.

County staff is recommending approval of the proposed site plan amendment, but there is some opposition from neighbors in the adjacent Summerwalk condo complex at 1020 N. Stafford Street.

The condo association is concerned about parking, noting that their own building has insufficient parking and condo residents — who are barred from participating in the county’s under-review Residential Permit Parking Program — find parking on the street difficult as it is. The association is also concerned about their future neighbors making the area “less desirable.”

More from the county staff report:

In addition to the previously submitted concerns from the Summerwalk Condo Association, a new comment has been submitted regarding the project having changed in 2019 to a commitment of 100% affordable units on site. The Association notes that the previous proposal of a mixed income housing development would better serve the needs of the entire community and instill a greater sense of equality within the neighborhood. The Association also notes concerns that the project being 100% affordable will make the surrounding area less desirable.

In response, county staff assert that the parking ratio is in line with existing parking policies, while the project “meets multiple affordable housing goals, including units in close proximity to transit.” It also “provides an opportunity for a mixed-income neighborhood as most nearby developments are predominately market-rate,” staff wrote.

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This article was written by Alex Taylor, Senior Business Development Manager for Arlington Economic Development.

Arlington Economic Development recently hosted a webinar on the future of Ballston, Arlington’s Bold Future: Innovating Ballston, featuring panelists from Shooshan Companies, George Mason University, Cushman & Wakefield, the Ballston BID and Arlington County. This was the first in a series of webinars focused on the future of Arlington’s economy and placemaking.

As home to DARPA, the Office of Naval Research and the Virginia Tech Research Center, Ballston has historically been a hub of innovation. Funded by federal research grants and commercialized spinoffs, the cutting-edge research happening in Ballston has led to technological advancements around the world as well as an influx of talent, ranking Arlington County amongst the most educated and hardest working populations in the country.

While companies have long been drawn to Ballston for its high-quality office space, prominent federal research institutions, university presence and access to tech and professional talent, the major transformation in Ballston has created a bustling 18/7 environment despite the ongoing pandemic.

The neighborhood has emerged as a more vibrant residential neighborhood with the addition of 2,000 new residential units over the last three years. These developments sit among thousands of existing residential properties, millions of square feet of high-end office space, and the experiential entertainment derived from over $300 million in investments between Ballston Quarter and Ballston Exchange.

Ballston also sits on top of one of the busiest metro stations in the region, with rail access on the Silver and Orange lines connecting workers and residents to D.C., Maryland and western suburban nodes like Ashburn, Reston and Vienna in Virginia. It will soon have direct access to two major airports (Reagan National and Dulles, coming in 2021), making domestic and international connections seamless.

Hundreds of miles of pedestrian and bicycle paths stretch across the region and allow for active commuters to run, bike or walk to the office. This combination of assets gives Ballston and Arlington a truly unmatched environment compared to other commercial districts around the country.

While Ballston is already a top-tier commercial district, it has experienced significant change over the last few years with many exciting new projects in the pipeline. The neighborhood will be welcoming George Mason University’s new Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA), and the $250 million state and University investment in the IDIA will serve as a critical catalyst in accelerating the growing innovation district and high-tech ecosystem along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

The 460,000 square foot facility will help support GMU’s new School of Computing, part of the University’s commitment to educate thousands of students in high-tech fields over the next decade. The building will incorporate cyber infrastructure and green technologies, and will support a mix of research, educational programs, corporate innovation labs, coworking and innovation programs for high-growth ventures.

This is all in addition to the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus being simultaneously developed in Alexandria. Silicon Valley has Stanford, Atlanta has Georgia Tech, Boston has MIT and Harvard, and Arlington has GMU and neighboring Virginia Tech; the future for Ballston’s tech ecosystem is certainly bright.

Federal innovation has attracted talent to the D.C. metro region for decades, but the emergence of these high-tech university research facilities along with Amazon’s HQ2 project will create a tech talent pipeline that will bolster the region’s image as a tech hub and further place Arlington on the map as a preeminent global tech and innovation hub.

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Morning Notes

Ballston Movie Theater to Close Again — “Cineworld Group, the owner of Regal Cinemas, will suspend operations at all of its theaters in the United States and the United Kingdom beginning on Thursday. The closures will affect 45,000 employees.” [CNN, Axios]

N. Va. Trending in Right Direction — “The health department’s new pandemic metrics, updated Monday based on data through Saturday, show that the disease is currently at a ‘low burden’ level in Northern Virginia, is trending downward, and has low levels of community transmission. All other region’s of the state either have moderate or high levels of burden of the virus and community transmission.” [InsideNova]

County Joins Eviction Task Force — “Arlington has joined the Northern Virginia Eviction Prevention and Community Stability Task Force, a diverse coalition of stakeholders from the housing sector in Northern Virginia, to identify best practices to prevent evictions and stabilize households.” [Arlington County]

Greens Want Local Bag Tax — “The Arlington Green Party is pushing the Arlington County Board to enact a tax on single-use grocery bags, now that the General Assembly has given localities the permission to do so. Party members on Sept. 2 endorsed the proposal to enact a 5-cent tax on bags, and plan to present a petition to the County Board in November.” [InsideNova]

New Police Dog’s Official Photo — “FRK9 Brooks recently sat for his official department photo and gave the camera his best puppy dog eyes.” [@ArlingtonVaPD/Twitter]

More I-66 Ramp Closures — “Alternating overnight ramp closures are scheduled to occur this week on I-66 East in Arlington for final asphalt paving and striping as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.” [VDOT]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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It’s a curious sight: a house in the middle of Ballston, in the midst of apartment and office towers.

But it’s not really a house, it’s a commercial building that most recently served as a Chinese restaurant called Sichuan Wok, and thus its fate is of some local interest.

The restaurant closed in 2018 and the property went on the market last fall for $3.2 million. The original listing for the property deemed it an “excellent opportunity for an investor, developer, or user.”

As of June 18, according to county records, the property at 901 N. Quincy Street has a new owner.

A Columbia Pike resident paid $3 million for the 3,000 square foot building and the 5,200 square foot commercial lot on which it sits, according to public records.

It’s not immediately clear what the new owner’s long term plans are for the building, which is configured as a restaurant. But a building permit application suggests that the owner — under the name Roxanna LLC — intends to build an addition and open a spa.

“Alteration of the space with new tenant layout and addition to the existing building for new use of a spa,” the permit application says.

There’s no word on when the work will take place, nor when the spa might eventually open.

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A local watering hole and entertainment spot is reopening, despite the pandemic.

Punch Bowl Social had been open for just over a year at Ballston Quarter when the pandemic struck and the business — which is premised on large groups of people drinking, dining and playing games — was shuttered.

The situation for Punch Bowl Social looked bleak as Cracker Barrel, a major corporate backer, pulled its support and the Denver-based “eatertainment” company was forced to lay off a majority of its restaurant and corporate employees.

But the national chain, which had 19 locations at the outset of the pandemic, has been slowly reopening locations since July, and the Ballston location is one of the next in line.

A spokeswoman for the company confirmed to ARLnow what a newly-posted sign on the door tells passersby: Punch Bowl Social is planning to reopen on Monday, Oct. 12.

Though the appeal of a business with “social” in its name during a time of social distancing seems dubious — and that’s not to mention the shared punch bowls that constitute the other part of the brand’s identity — there is some reason for optimism.

Punch Bowl Social’s space in Ballston is massive, providing plenty of room for people to spread out, and there’s also a sizable outdoor patio. It might just be the next best cold-weather option to the outdoor beer gardens that proved very popular with young bar-goers this summer.

“This brand has always been about bringing people together and creating social connections,” CEO Robert Thompson told Restaurant Dive in June. “We need that now more than ever, and with our expansive, open floorplans we can do that in a way that will make people feel, for a moment, a renormalization of life.”

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Since VIDA Fitness Ballston opened on June 27, about 500 members have had the 30,000 square feet to themselves.

The regional, high-end fitness chain usually sees up to four times that many people join before opening day and in the first three months. But the coronavirus has hurt the boutique gym’s ability to attract members.

After overcoming construction and pandemic-related delays earlier this year, VIDA Ballston’s biggest challenge is getting people to walk in the door, VIDA Fitness Director of Operations Aaron Moore said.

The rate of new memberships is lagging compared to other locations, since many are not comfortable with going to the gym. In response, the company has spent “tens of thousands of dollars” on cleaning equipment and takes state regulations a step further to keep the space sanitary and to follow precautions.

“Our primary motivation is how are we going to keep people safe, because if they feel safe, they’re going to feel confident keeping their memberships and telling their friends about it,” Moore said.

Typically, about 1,400 people will sign up before opening day, and another 600 to 700 will join within the first 90 days, he said.

At VIDA Ballston, 420 members signed up before June 27, and by Sept. 29, membership grew to 511, Moore said. Memberships cost $140 a month, and grant access to group workout classes and studios, personal trainers, individual equipment, a proprietary high intensity interval training studio called Sweat Box, a spa and smoothie bar.

Once people experience the check-in process and see what precautions the gym is taking, Moore said patrons feel comfortable.

The state permits gym patrons to take off their masks while exercising, but VIDA requires masks stay on. Double-layered cloth masks and 3-ply disposable masks are allowed, but gators, bandanas and masks with valves are not.

Members reserve a time on the gym’s app before arriving and go through the gym’s check-in and check-out process for record-keeping. If patrons alert staff that they tested positive for COVID-19, staff know who to contact.

“There is some honor system involved,” Moore said. “If someone doesn’t tell us they tested positive, then disappears, we’re not going to know.”

The gym has not yet had a positive case, but has told several people to stay home because they came in contact with someone who later tested positive, he said.

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Morning Notes

RBG Buried at Arlington National Cemetery — “The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was buried at Arlington National Cemetery Tuesday. A spokesperson for the Supreme Court confirmed that she was laid to rest and said it was a private service. She was set to be buried alongside her husband, Martin David Ginsburg, who was buried there in 2010.” [WJLA]

DCA Work May Cause Traffic Delays — “Beginning on or about Thursday, October 1, portions of the Terminal B/C Ticketing (upper-level) roadway will close for work related to Project Journey. At least two vehicular lanes will remain open as the construction areas periodically change.” [Press Release]

Police Investigating Lyon Park Attack — “As the parties exited the business, the dispute continued and became physical. The suspect waved a knife at Victim One, who then fell to the ground. The suspect kicked her, at which point a second victim attempted to intervene, but was struck with the knife by the suspect. The suspect then fled in a vehicle.” [Arlington County]

Cristol Joining New Equity Program — “Arlington County Board Member Katie Cristol has been named one of 14 Southern elected leaders who will form the inaugural class of E Pluribus Unum (UNUM) fellows. The program is designed to equip Southern leaders with resources that advance racial and economic equity within their communities.” [Arlington County]

Ballston Hosting Local Restaurant Week — “You’re invited to sip and savor your way through Ballston. Join our neighborhood’s Sip & Savor Restaurant Week. From October 1st through the 4th, support your favorite restaurants and eat local!” [Ballston BID]

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After nine months of construction, the new World of Beer in Ballston is set to open its doors next week.

The Florida-basd chain announced Monday that the new watering hole at 4300 Wilson Blvd, facing N. Glebe Road, will open on Thursday, Oct. 5. The space was formerly home to Ted’s Montana Grill.

The restaurant is not far from Crafthouse (901 N. Glebe Road), which was Virginia’s first World of Beer location from 2012 until 2017, when the owner parted ways and rebranded locations in Ballston, Reston and Fairfax. World of Beer can currently be found in Bethesda and Rockville, Maryland.

“We are pleased to bring back our exceptional craft beer experience and beer-inspired menu to the community of Arlington,” World of Beer CEO Paul Avery said in a statement. “At World of Beer, we truly believe there is a friend on every barstool. We look forward to sharing the craft brews and their stories with our guests, who may be inspired to discover something new.”

In addition to an indoor seating area with a long, curved bar and an antler chandelier, the restaurant has a sizable outdoor patio, which the company says will feature social games like corn hole and giant Jenga.

World of Beer offers hundreds of local, regional, national and international beers at its 51 locations in the U.S., South Korea and China, in addition to food, wine and cocktails. The food menu includes items that pair well with beer, like pork schnitzel, an Angus beef burger with Chimay Classique cheese, Chipotle BBQ chicken flatbread, and a German pretzel.

WOB applied for building permits in October 2019 and began construction in February.

The split between then-owner Evan Matz and World of Beer took a bitter turn later in 2017, when the chain sued Matz for violating the terms of the franchise agreement. In October 2018, Matz sued back.

Two other World of Beer locations — in Ashburn and Charlottesville — broke from the franchise, with the owners rebranding the locations as Jefferson Ale House. Only the Jefferson Ale House in Ashburn remains in business.

World of Beer in Ballston will be open seven days a week: Sunday from 11 a.m.-12 a.m., Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-2 a.m.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Water Park to Get Big Upgrade — “JBG Smith Properties is pitching a major makeover for a small park at the heart of its Crystal City holdings, envisioning some new retail and even a bar atop a water feature. The developer filed plans with Arlington County earlier this month requesting an additional 6,100 square feet of density for the 1.6-acre park, located across the street from JBG Smith’s massive ‘Central District’ project at 1770 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

Vote By Mail Facts — “The first round of vote-by-mail ballots have been sent to people who requested them, but it’s not too late to request yours. Ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. To help you understand how voting by mail works — and feel confident in submitting your ballot — we’ve broken down the facts you need to know.” [Arlington County]

Deer Rescued from Country Club Fence — “On Tuesday night, a curious fawn tried to get through a metal fence in the Washington Golf and Country Club. Unfortunately her adventurous plan backfired, and the fawn ended up stuck and stranded. The country club called animal control, which is under the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and that’s when Officer Shannon Rose sprung to action.” [Washingtonian]

Weekday Afternoon Robbery in Ballston — “At approximately 4:21 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed the employee a note demanding money and threatening them if they didn’t comply. The victim complied, and the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]

National Landing Food Program Extended — “Thanks to generous support from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Amazon, JBG SMITH, Equity Residential and individual Arlington residents, the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) announced today that its Farm-to-Families food assistance program will be extended through the fall.” [Press Release]

Addiction Recovery Org Rebrands — “The name will change but the mission will remain the same – working to help those struggling with addiction turn their lives around. Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic announced Sept. 16 that it would change its name to National Capital Treatment and Recovery, following its split last year from the national Phoenix House organization.” [InsideNova]

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