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by Chris Teale — June 20, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

For the time being at least, A-Town Bar & Grill in Ballston appears to have turned over a new leaf after a troubled few months.

The bar had been ordered to have its permit for live entertainment and dancing reviewed by the Arlington County Board three months after its last review in March. That review took place days after a brawl nearby that ended with police officers tasing two suspects, including one dressed in a Pikachu onesie.

But a staff report on A-Town’s progress since then — presented to the Board on Saturday — noted no code, fire or ABC violations, and only eight calls to the police.

Of those eight calls, the report said, the only time an arrest was made was for an “intoxicated subject acting ‘confused,'” which was called in by a staff member on Friday, March 24 around 2:30 p.m. The other seven police calls, including one on Sunday, April 23 at 7:49 p.m. when someone asked where they could buy drugs, did not result in violations.

Since March’s brawl, part of what neighbors said was a litany of incidents in previous years and a strained relationship with the County Board and staff, A-Town and county officials have hosted a series of meetings with those nearby.

The police and Fire Marshal’s Office held a meeting with A-Town’s owners on March 28 to discuss training for preventing incidents like noise disturbances, over-serving customers and assaults. County staff also contacted the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, as well as representatives of the Altavista and Berkeley Condominiums as part of this review.

“The president of the BVSCA noted that they have continued to have productive discussion with the A-Town owners, and reported no issues from other members of the BVSCA,” the report reads. “A representative of the Altavista credited the A-Town owners for a recent change in management that has resulted in patron behavior that was described as ‘much more restrained’ and ‘civil’ than in the ‘last many years.'”

The Board accepted the findings of the review as part of its consent agenda items, with no further comment from the public or members. A-Town’s next review will be before the Board in December.

by Chris Teale — June 19, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

Neighbors of a former church in Ballston have mobilized against a plan that could allow more density at the site for future redevelopment.

The site at 1031 N. Vermont Street was home to the First Baptist Church of Ballston, which leased it to the Grace Community Church. Grace has since relocated its services to 125 S. Old Glebe Road. Full Circle Montessori School uses the space for classrooms, while there is also a parking lot and public children’s playground across 11th Street N. included.

But nearby residents in the north of the neighborhood spoke out Saturday against making the site denser, and cited an online petition with almost 500 signatures against any changes.

Local resident Dana Gerk said she started the petition to ask the Arlington County Board and planning staff to “protect us and our community.”

Under a plan advanced unanimously by the County Board at its Saturday meeting, the site could be rezoned to allow for approximately 115,000 square feet of mixed-use development, to include a multi-story residential building and townhomes. The new zone could allow up to 105 homes to be built.

Staff said the proposed amendment to the General Land Use Plan (GLUP) for the site — which calls for “high-medium residential mixed use” zoning with a tapering down in height toward the lower-density residential community —  would “more closely reflect the built conditions implemented through the County Board’s previous actions to approve numerous special exception site plans and rezonings since 1980.”

Board members said discussions around the planning principles for the site are separate from any new redevelopment plans, but one has already been submitted by a developer.

Earlier this year, Reston-based NVR submitted a preliminary application to turn the site into a seven-story building with 73 apartments and townhomes, and 13 townhomes on the north of 11th Street N.

County Board chair Jay Fisette emphasized the Board’s approval was not related to any potential development, but was instead about making broader plans for how a site may look in the future.

“I think today proved that if we can separate the planning issues from the particular building being proposed, we will have a better opportunity to shape what we want in that building when it comes forward,” Fisette said.

Opponents of upping the density on the site spoke against any changes. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement bemoaned the approval of several under-construction projects in the area contributing to the “already-congested Ballston neighborhood,” and said neighbors might pursue legal action to prevent more development.

“The impact of these projects has not even been felt, these buildings have not yet been built,” she said. “Yet Ballston is already gridlocked.”

The Board’s approval means it will now hold public hearings on a potential GLUP amendment. Anthony Fusarelli, a staff member in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said such hearings could be held before the end of this year.

by ARLnow.com — June 15, 2017 at 4:55 pm 0

Gunshots were fired, apparently accidentally, in a Ballston apartment building early Tuesday morning.

The shots were fired around 2 a.m. on the 1000 block of N. Vermont Street, according to Arlington County Police. No injuries were reported.

An ACPD crime report details what happened.

RECKLESS HANDLING OF A FIREARM (late), 2017-06130094, 1000 block of N. Vermont Street. At approximately 11:03 a.m. on June 13, officers responded to the report of a suspicious circumstance. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 2:00 a.m. a resident heard a loud noise and later discovered two bullet holes in a shared wall of his residence. Police responded, conducted an investigation which is ongoing at this time.

by ARLnow.com — June 8, 2017 at 9:25 am 0

D.C. isn’t the only wonky place with bars and restaurants opening early, offering specials and putting today’s James Comey testimony on the TVs. Some in Arlington are also getting in on the action.

The most hotly-anticipated Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in recent memory is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Though the lack of a spectacular new revelation in Comey’s prepared remarks may be tamping down the enthusiasm a bit, many are still eager to hear what Comey has to say about President Trump — and, on Twitter, vice versa.

Here in Arlington, Liberty Tavern will be opening early, at 10 a.m., and putting the hearing on its five large TVs.

“We will serve free covfefe! And White Russians and Stoli and grapefruits during the hearing will be $5,”a rep for the Clarendon restaurant once visited by President Obama told ARLnow.com. “Lastly, we’ll offer all of our 12-inch wood-oven specialty pizzas for $10, including our popular brunch pizza that features our homemade breakfast sausage, house cured bacon, fried eggs, tomatoes, cheddar and sage.”

Also hosting hearing watchers is Ballston watering hole A-Town Bar and Grill, which will open at 10 a.m. and put the proceedings on its many TVs.

In Courthouse, Ireland’s Four Courts will be open for lunch and have hearing coverage on its TVs with the volume on. The pub will also offer lunch specials during the hearing.

by ARLnow.com — June 7, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

(Updated at 1:30 p.m) The space vacated by Applebee’s in Ballston less than three weeks ago will not be empty for long.

The restaurant at 900 N. Glebe Road closed on May 27. Applebee’s closing followed the closure of the Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille in the same space in April 2016.

Despite the challenges of filling the large restaurant space on the western side of Glebe Road with customers, a new eatery called Bistro 1521 is set to move in soon.

Solita Wakefield, a partner in the business and the restaurant’s general manager, said that Bistro 1521 will serve traditional Filipino cuisine like lumpia, adobo and pancit (noodles), plus fusion dishes mechado with a Spanish flair.

Wakefield was previously a co-owner of Bistro 7107, a Filipino restaurant on 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, which recently closed, according to Yelp. There are no other large sit-down Filipino restaurants in Arlington, Wakefield said, and only a handful elsewhere in the D.C. area. She expects to win over both Filipino customers — including those who work at the Philippines embassy — as well as those new to the cuisine.

Bistro 1521 is located in the same building as Stageplate Bistro, on the first floor of the the Virginia Tech Research Center. It occupies a large restaurant space, with seating capacity for 220 inside and 60 on the outside patio.

“It’s going to be grand,” Wakefield said.

Wakefield plans to keep the interior of the former Applebee’s largely unchanged, with the addition of some Filipino paintings and other decorations. She also plans to keep Applebee’s regularly-scheduled events, like cornhole, trivia night and painting night.

Wakefield is hoping that the business permits are approved in time for the restaurant to open in July.

Hat tip to Todd B.

by Chris Teale — May 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

A happy hour and listening session tomorrow (May 31) will look to encourage more young people to get involved in Arlington’s local government. County Board vice chair Katie Cristol is among those set to attend.

According to a brief blurb on the event, attendees can expect “an evening of lively conversation and discussion of the issues and topics of interest to millennials and young professionals in Arlington.”

Arlington was recently named the best city for millennials by website Niche.com, with its report card noting the good public schools, commute, health and fitness and other factors.

The event is from 6-8 p.m. at the offices of the Ballston Business Improvement District (4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 100).

The event is nonpartisan and is expected to be attended by those on both sides of the political aisle. In an email to supporters, Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans chair emeritus Matthew Hurtt said young people can play a key role in helping shape county policy. He pointed to the legalization of Airbnb last year and the AFCYRs’ role in helping beat back some proposed regulations on rentals.

“Whether you realize it or not, the AFCYRs is the largest Arlington-focused millennial political organization in Arlington — even bigger than the Arlington Young Democrats, according to club election statistics,” Hurtt wrote. “During the community conversation about legalizing Airbnb, AFCYRs made up a significant portion of the community feedback, rebuffing a number of destructive (and ridiculous) regulations. AFCYRs played a key role in the favorable outcome of that debate.”

The event is jointly sponsored by the county’s Office of Communications and Public Engagement and the Ballston Business Improvement District. Those interested in attending can register online.

by ARLnow.com — May 30, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

The Applebee’s restaurant in Ballston has closed, just under a year after it opened.

Signs on the door suggest the restaurant closed for good Saturday evening.

Applebee’s replaced a former Greene Turtle location at 900 N. Glebe Road. Both restaurants seemed to suffer from a lack of foot traffic on the western side of Glebe, combined with a cavernous space that was hard to fill with customers, particularly in an urban area where higher-end restaurants are de rigueur.

This Applebee’s also suffered from poor reviews online. No word yet on what might replace it.

Photos courtesy Phil McGeehan

by ARLnow.com — May 23, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Fourth High School Option Floated — Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy has added a fourth option for adding additional high school seats to the three finalists announced last month. Murphy said the existing Arlington Education Center near Washington-Lee could be used to house 600 students while adding another 700 seats in an expansion of the Arlington Career Center. [InsideNova]

World of Beer Sues Local Owner — Just a week after it was first reported that the owner of the World of Beer franchises in Ballston, Reston and Fairfax was rebranding the restaurants as “Crafthouse,” comes word that the World of Beer corporate office is suing him for allegedly violating their franchise agreement. [Reston Now]

VideoBlocks Moving to Courthouse — After announcing last year that the company would be moving to Arlington, subscription stock video service VideoBlocks has settled on a location: a full floor of Courthouse Tower at 1515 N. Courthouse Road. [Washington Business Journal]

County Board To Discuss Taxi Changes – After a vote on Saturday, the Arlington County Board will hold a public hearing next month to discuss proposed changes to the county’s taxicab ordinance. The changes, recommended by the county’s Transportation Commission, would allow the removal of lights from the vehicle’s roof, modifications to cabs’ color and lettering, and use of GPS metering instead of traditional taxi meters. [Arlington County]

How Rosslyn Landed Nestlé — It was a team effort to land Nestlé as the anchor tenant of the 1812 N. Moore Street tower in Rosslyn, says the head of the Rosslyn Business Improvement Districts. In the end, Rosslyn’s urban amenities, the area’s talented millennial workforce and a handful of state and local incentives helped to “sweeten the deal.” [LinkedIn]

Flickr pool photo by Arlington VA

by ARLnow.com — May 22, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

The old Ballston pedestrian bridge is no more.

The bridge was torn down over the weekend, closing part of Wilson Blvd in front of the under-construction Ballston Quarter mall and prompting a new location for the Taste of Arlington festival. The demolition included the use of a large crane to lower sections of the bridge.

Today, a construction crew was working to clear leftover debris, while a large section of the bridge sat largely intact, fenced off along the sidewalk.

Via Twitter, one local resident called the dismantling of the bridge and its “Ballston” sign an “end of an era.” A new pedestrian bridge will be built nearby, however, with its opening set for the fall of 2018.

by ARLnow.com — May 18, 2017 at 2:35 pm 0

(Updated at 3 p.m.) An under-construction replacement for the former Marymount University “Blue Goose” building in Ballston is on fire.

Firefighters are on the scene of a two-alarm apartment fire on the seventh floor of 1008 N. Glebe Road, according to scanner traffic. They’re reportedly having issues with water pressure in the building, though as of 2:55 p.m. the fire is said to have been extinguished. In addition to stairs, firefighters used a ladder truck to reach the apartment that was on fire.

Police have closed the southbound lanes and one northbound lane of N. Glebe Road between 11th Street and Fairfax Drive. Drivers should expect traffic impacts in the area.

The nearly-completed building, with more than 260 apartment units, was expected to be move-in ready this summer, according to the developer’s website.

by Chris Teale — May 17, 2017 at 2:00 pm 0

Less than a year after it opened in Ballston, the Rock ‘n’ Joe Coffee Bar has rebranded.

Now known as the Republik Coffee Bar, the spot at 4401 Wilson Blvd made the switch “a few days ago,” according to an employee Wednesday morning. There are still various references to its former name — right down to the “Rock ‘n’ Joe” cup sleeves still in use and the murals still on the wall.

Republik still serves coffee, tea and food, including sandwiches and salads. The interior appears unchanged from its previous iteration.

The original plan had been for Rock ‘n’ Joe to open five stores in the D.C. metro area under franchise owner Talha Sarac, with the potential to expand beyond the region.

According to paperwork filed with the Virginia State Corporation Commission, the new coffee bar is registered under Sarac’s name. Rock ‘n’ Joe no longer lists the Ballston location on its website; only its locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Sarac did not respond to requests for comment, but a spokeswoman for the county’s department of community, planning, housing and development confirmed an application was submitted last month for a change of tenant for the business.

Hat-tip to Richie F.

by Chris Teale — May 16, 2017 at 1:25 pm 0

Target will be opening a new 41,500-square-foot store in Ballston, at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road, the company announced this afternoon.

The new store will be located on the first floor of the 12-story mixed-use development at 750 N. Glebe Road being constructed by Saul Centers, Inc. The development is three blocks from the Ballston Metro station, on the site of a former Mazda dealership.

Customers will be able to buy groceries, clothing and accessories, technology, beauty and home products, and toys and baby care items. There will also be a CVS Pharmacy inside the store.

The new Target will allow guests to order online and pick up products within one hour. It is projected to open in 2021.

“Target’s small-format store near Saul Centers’ mixed-use project at Wilson and Glebe will offer a convenient, one-stop shop for the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Mark Schindele, senior vice president of properties at Target, in a statement. “Local guests as well as visitors to the community will enjoy an easy and inspiring experience, featuring a grocery assortment, exclusive apparel brands, a location to pick up online orders and the convenience of 40 dedicated parking spaces.”

Target officials said small-format stores, geared to dense urban and suburban neighborhoods and college campuses, are a priority. The retailer plans to operate more than 130 small-format stores by the end of 2019; it has an existing small-format store in Rosslyn, which opened in 2015.

“I’m delighted to welcome Target’s expansion into the Ballston area of Arlington,” said Del. Patrick Hope (D) in a statement. “Target has broken the mold with its retail stores specifically tailored to the uniqueness of the neighborhood. The addition of more grocery options and a quick pick-up services is the right fit for the Ballston neighborhood and I can’t wait for their grand opening.”

Image via Target

by ARLnow.com — May 15, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

World of Beer Gets Rebranded — The Ballston location of World of Beer is no longer part of the chain and has instead been rebranded as “Crafthouse.” The restaurant — along with former WoB locations in Fairfax and Reston — is now offering a full menu of American craft fare and a drink menu that includes local beers, bourbons, whiskey, wine and other spirits. [Reston Now]

County’s Stance on Rising Homeless Population — Via an Arlington County press release: “We believe that the increase in Arlington’s numbers this year do not reflect the long-term trend in our County,” said Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. “Since 2008, when we launched the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Arlington has cut its number of homeless persons by more than half. We’ve made great strides in housing veterans and chronically homeless individuals and families.” [Arlington County]

Metro Changes Next Month — Starting June 25, Metrorail’s operating hours are being shortened while rail and bus fares are increasing, rush hour rail frequency is decreasing and some bus routes are being discontinued. [WMATA]

Freddie’s Named Top Brunch Spot — Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, a gay bar in Crystal City that hosts a Broadway brunch on Saturdays and a Champagne brunch on Sundays, has been named one of the 100 best brunch spots in America by OpenTable. [OpenTable]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Chris Teale — May 11, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Next Friday, thousands of area commuters will celebrate Bike to Work Day, including at sites across Arlington.

The free event is open to all area commuters, who are encouraged to meet up with neighbors and co-workers at one of 85 pit stops across the region and ride bicycles to work in a commuter convoy.

In Arlington, seven sites will provide food and drink, as well as nearby Capital Bikeshare stations for the easy docking of bikes. In the mornings, the pit stops will be open from 6:30-9 a.m., while those open in the afternoons will last from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Rosslyn’s morning pit stop will be hosted at Gateway Park (1300 Lee Highway), while in the afternoon it will be at the Heavy Seas Alehouse (1501 Wilson Blvd). Shirlington will also hold pit stops in the morning at the Shirlington Library (4200 Campbell Ave) and in the afternoon at New District Brewing (2709 S. Oakland Street).

Pit stops can also be found in the mornings at FreshBikes Bike Shop (3924 Wilson Blvd) in Ballston, Penrose Square at 2503 Columbia Pike, the East Falls Church Metro station (2001 N. Sycamore Street) and the Crystal City Water Park (1750 Crystal Drive).

Registration is required for the pit stops, which enters attendees into local and regional raffles and guarantees a free Bike To Work Day T-shirt.

The regional event is organized by Commuter Connections, a program of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments that promotes bicycling to work, ridesharing and other alternatives to driving. More than 17,500 bicyclists are expected to register across the D.C. area.

“Each year, Bike to Work Day attracts commuters who choose to bike to work for the very first time, and after the event, 10 percent of them continue to bike to work an average of 1.4 days per week,” said Nicholas Ramfos, director of Commuter Connections, in a statement. “That’s an impressive conversion rate and it’s why we are committed to making every Bike to Work Day bigger and better than the one before it.”

by Chris Teale — May 8, 2017 at 2:55 pm 0

Those in charge at Stageplate Bistro in Ballston say the new restaurant’s opening is just days away, now all its required permits are approved.

The eatery at 900 N. Glebe Road, on the first floor of the Virginia Tech Research Center, is the successor to Backstage Bistro Cafe near Dulles International Airport that closed last October. Backstage also hosted a catering company that specialized in events and providing food for touring entertainment acts.

With its certificates of occupancy finalized and having hosted some small functions for investors to give its food a test-run, general manager Mary Marchetti said a full opening is just days away.

The menu will feature mostly American cuisine, with some subtle differences. Instead of serving pizza, Stageplate will serve Turkish pide, a street food version of pizza that can be filled with various different ingredients.

“Pide is one of those things that you can do really fun ingredients, like fill it up with fun and interesting things,” Marchetti said. “It’s almost like a cross between a Stromboli and an artisanal pizza. You can do roasted butternut squash, red onion, delicious cheeses and stuff like that.”

In addition, Marchetti said guests can expect pasta, sandwiches, soups and salads. In the evenings, she said the menu will likely have other rotating options in its bistro entrees.

The restaurant will have around 125 seats indoors, 28 outside on the patio and nine at the bar, while a back room can be hired out for small events and functions of no more than about 50.

Stageplate joins a crowded area of Ballston, with an Applebee’s nearby as well as World of Beer and P.F. Chang’s. Marchetti said the newcomer has put some thought into how it will fit in with the rest of its neighbors.

“We’re so lucky to be in the middle of all these great restaurants,” she said. “With everybody that’s on the street, we tried to say, ‘Okay, what can we do that will complement and help hopefully bring more people to the area?’ We were really cognizant of the beers we put on tap, the wines we’re going to serve and the food we’re going to serve.”

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