Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Park Plaque to Honor Gutshall — “A memorial plaque honoring the life and contributions of the late Arlington County Board member Erik Gutshall soon will be a part of the neighborhood he called home… when it is in place near the North Highland Street side of Zitkala-Sa Park, the memorial will be situated within sight of Gutshall’s longtime home.” [Sun Gazette]

Ballston Local Now Open — “A casual new neighborhood bar serving New York-style pizza, smash burgers, cheesy crab fries, and generous “Vegas-style” portions of chicken Parm opened in Arlington, Virginia, over the weekend. Ballston Local (900 N. Glebe Road) comes from Jason Johnston, the opening executive chef at MGM National Harbor, and business partner Jonah Troth. Opening day was Saturday, May 1.” [Eater]

Arlington Unemployment Ticks Down — “Although it continues to report improvements, the latest unemployment date shows Arlington’s jobless rate remains more than twice what it was at the onset of the pandemic… the county’s jobless rate in March was 4 percent, according to figures reported April 28 by the Virginia Employment Commission. That’s down a tick from the rate of 4.1 percent reported in February, but remains well above the 1.8-percent rate of March 2020.” [Sun Gazette]

New Trails May Provide Economic Boost — “A proposal to add more than 400 miles to the region’s existing trail network could create more than 16,000 jobs and generate more than $1 billion a year in revenue from construction and local spending, according to a new report.” [Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

Ballston Company’s IPO Soars — “Privia Health Group, which provides technology and services to physician practices, began trading Thursday on the Nasdaq and saw its share price jump in early trading — and stay there. Shares closed at $34.75 per share, up 51 percent from its opening share price of $23, with just over 10 million shares traded.” [Crunchbase]

Ambulance Crash in N. Arlington — “Crash involving an ambulance (not ACFD) at Old Dominion Drive & Lorcom Lane. @ArlingtonVaFD & @ArlingtonVAPD on the scene.” [Twitter]

New Hire for County Retirement System — “After a nationwide search, the Arlington County Employees’ Retirement System (ACERS) has selected Susie Ardeshir as Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer. The appointment is effective July 6, 2021. Ms. Ardeshir has more than 15 years of investment management experience. Before joining ACERS, she was the investments director at a public university system in California.” [Arlington County]

Grants to Nat’l Landing Merchants — “The National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) teamed up with Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington (RAMW) to provide $100,000 in relief funding to 30 businesses as part of their “Love Local” campaign. Funds are allocated evenly across the eligible National Landing establishments to help cover necessary operator-related expenses including rent and employee wages.” [Press Release]

VHC Doc, Nurses Honored — “Virginia Hospital Center… is pleased to announce Michael Silverman, MD, FACEP, chair of emergency medicine, was recently selected as one of five 2020 Facility Medical Directors of the Year by Alteon Health [and] five members of the nursing team were selected by Washingtonian Magazine to receive Excellence in Nursing Awards.” [Press Release]

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(Updated at 12:05 p.m.) After being cancelled last year, Ballston’s Quarterfest is back on next month.

The Ballston Business Improvement District and its charity BallstonGives is hosting the second annual Ballston Quarterfest Crawl — the event that replaced Taste of Arlington in 2019 — from 12-7 p.m on Saturday, May 15.

Attendees to the free event are being invited to explore the neighborhood, rain or shine, while enjoying live outdoor music, grabbing food and drink specials from local restaurants, and playing giant-sized games.

Plus, there’s going to be a neighborhood-wide scavenger hunt that will require teams to answer questions, bounce around Ballston, and win prizes, including for best costume, sponsored by Homeward Trails Animal Rescue.

A number of local restaurants have signed on to offer specials including Bronson Bierhall, Ted’s Bulletin, Copa Kitchen & Bar, Sidekick Bakery, Union Kitchen, bartaco, Jimmy John’s, Hot Lola’s, We the Pizza, Good Company Doughnuts & Café, and Ballston Service Station, according to a press release.

There will also be live performances from local musicians in locations across Ballston. As of April 15, participating artists include Justin Trawick, Columbia Pike Blues Festival vet Bobby Thompson, Karen Jonas, Jenny Langer, and Janine Wilson.

As with everything these days, there will be a number of safety precautions in place including social distancing, masks required, and constant cleaning of high-touch areas.

“We wanted to provide a distanced, family-friendly, and socially-responsible opportunity for our community, neighbors, and visitors to enjoy Ballston,” Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID, wrote in the press release. “We want everyone to feel safe and have fun while supporting our local businesses. We’re implementing social-distancing, sanitizing stations, and constant cleaning to ensure the safety of our attendees.”

“This year’s Quarterfest Crawl is open to the public, and is a free-flowing event across the neighborhood,” a BID spokesperson also noted. “It’s not concentrated in one particular location as it has been in the past.”

After a year of Arlington events being cancelled, some are looking to return as vaccine rates continue to rise through the spring and into the summer. The BID said locals should expect more Ballston events to return as the year goes on.

“We are excited to see our programs re-launch; we just opened our Farmer’s Market for the 2021 season and are looking forward to bringing back our Mega Markets beginning May 6,” the spokesperson said. “We’re actively collaborating with our neighborhood’s businesses, community partners, and Arlington County to create even more events and opportunities for people to safely visit and explore Ballston this year.”

Photo courtesy bartaco

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The third time may be the charm for a residential development slated to be built in Ballston where a vacated church stands.

McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is taking over plans to build apartments and townhomes at the intersection of N. Vermont Street and 11th Street N. The site used to house Portico Church Arlington, which, according to its website, is now found at 800 N. Illinois Street.

The project at 1031 N. Vermont Street has changed hands three times since the County Board first approved a redevelopment plan in 2018. It has also drawn some backlash from neighbors who said the plan added density to an already congested Ballston neighborhood.

The first developer, NVR, proposed to replace the two-story church and its parking lot with a 72-unit condo building and 12 townhouses. Arlington-based BCN Homes took over the development in 2019 and in June 2020, was granted an additional 4,300 square feet to develop.

With the County Board’s approval, BCN proposed a new plan: a 7-story apartment building with 98 units and 10 townhouses across the street. JAG indicates it will not be making major changes to this configuration.

“We plan to move forward with substantially the same plans that the Board approved last June,” the developer tells ARLnow. “We may pursue a few, minor changes related to the interior programming and unit mix but the project will look largely the same.”

The boutique apartment building will have a rooftop terrace, 120 underground parking spaces and 40 bicycle parking spaces, according to JAG.

Meanwhile, the 10 luxury townhomes across 11th Street N. will each have about 2,000 square feet of space, with three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, a private rooftop terrace and a private, two-car garage.

“Ballston is one of the most desired submarkets in the Washington, D.C. region,” noted Greg Van Wie, Senior Vice President and Development Partner at Jefferson Apartment Group, in a press release.

The development, he said, “underscores [JAG’s] commitment to create a contemporary, sophisticated boutique apartment building with top-of-the line finishes and luxe amenities and underscores the strength of the housing market here in Northern Virginia.”

A private, Chile-based real estate company, STARS REI, has invested in the property.

“We are thrilled to be working with Jefferson Apartment Group again on this boutique apartment project in this amazing neighborhood,” said Joaquin Canessa, Vice President at STARS REI in the press release.

Construction is slated to begin this winter and is expected to be done in summer 2023.

Photos (1-2) courtesy Jefferson Apartment Group

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A pair of Arlington projects recently received national recognition for their unique design and use of steel.

The Top Steel Design Awards recognize — as the name might suggest — building architecture that incorporates steel in interesting and distinct ways.

The Merit Award went to the Ballston Quarter Pedestrian Walkway, which opened in 2019 after the original bridge was torn down in 2017. A judge in the Top Steel Design Awards credited the choice of frame and the walkway’s “visually captivating” quality.

“The crossover segment at mid-span creatively addresses the offset entrances of the connected buildings, and the steel HSS frame is an ideal choice to resist the complex forces of this innovative bridge design,” Stephanie Hautzinger, associate vice president of  CannonDesign in Chicago, said in a press release. “The resulting structure has a sculptural quality that is visually captivating from both the exterior and interior.”

The project was designed by studioTECHNE architects in Cleveland.

A new Arlington Public School building was also among the ten winning projects from across the U.S., which were categorized by overall cost. The Heights, the new home to H-B Woodlawn and the Stratford Program at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, won the top award for the $75-200 million category.

The school was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group in Brooklyn and Leo A Daly in D.C.

Judges praised the unique structure of the building.

“The ambiguity of how this building is supported is one of the most fascinating features of the structure, and it is all due to the structural steel trusses behind the scene,” said Maysa Kantner, a structural steel specialist, in the press release. “Coordination and communication are required on every project but I imagine for this level of uniqueness, those two things had to be stepped up in a big way. It is so great to see what can be done with project teams when they all work together and think outside the typical box-shaped buildings!”

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Morning Notes

Feds: Comfort Inn Hosted Gun Cache — “Members of the Oath Keepers paramilitary group likely stored weapons at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, as part of their plan to have an armed rapid-response force during the January 6 insurrection, federal prosecutors said. The new details flesh out previous accusations from prosecutors that members of the Oath Keepers assembled a ‘quick reaction force,’ or QRF, in Virginia that could deploy into the nation’s capital if needed.” [CNN, Politico]

Nature Centers Reopen — “Another sign things are returning to a semblance of normalcy, albeit slowly (this is Arlington, after all): The Gulf Branch and Long Branch nature centers, operated by the county government, have reopened. Hours and exhibitions are limited, but this marks the first time in nearly 13 months that Arlington residents have had consistent access to the nature centers.” [Sun Gazette]

Shirlington’s Past and Present — “This pet-friendly community five miles southwest of the District and adjacent to Highway 395 started off as a 27-acre former shopping center. Shirlington was one of the first strip malls in the country when it opened in 1944. For a while, it had the largest shopping center in the area and originally was named Chernerville, after automobile dealer Joseph Cherner, but the name didn’t stick. Instead, it was renamed Shirlington, a blending of Shirley Highway (395) and Arlington.” [Washington Post]

Amazon Not Abandoning Office Work — “As vaccines become more available, most companies may start to expect their workers back in the office and allow for just one or two days of teleworking a week — and Amazon is likely to be among them… That’s good news for many of the businesses and jurisdictions expected to benefit from the 25,000 to 37,850 employees Amazon has said it will bring to the D.C. region as it continues to build out its HQ2 campus in Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Company Donates to African School — “Washington Workplace, an award-winning commercial office furniture dealer in Arlington, teamed up with Business Furniture Installations and a nonprofit alumni association to donate unused office furniture to Pioneer Middle School in Senegal, in West Africa.” [Press Release]

Letter Writer: Don’t Hate on the Cicadas — “The message of the havoc wreaked on young trees and shrubs, and the month of constant shrill buzzing has sent home an idea of impending doom… Although the ominous message of cicada arrival is likely still in your head – and I can’t argue that cicadas aren’t a nuisance – I ask you to remember that they do have a role in our ecosystem and a purpose on our planet.” [Sun Gazette]

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Ballston games-and-drinks destination Punch Bowl Social is planning to reopen next Wednesday.

The “eatertainment” chain, which is emerging from bankruptcy, announced the news yesterday. ARLnow previously reported that the venue was in the midst of hiring for numerous positions.

“I’m excited to let you know that [on] Wednesday, April 21 Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its Arlington location,” a PR rep wrote. “Back and better than ever, Punch Bowl Social looks forward to welcoming guests again for food, drinks and entertainment!”

With vaccinations continuing at a record pace, Punch Bowl Social will be reopening its various games and activities, to let patrons “blow off steam.”

“Guests will be welcomed back to dine, drink and participate in available activities, including bowling, arcade games, ping pong, Bocce Ball and more,” the rep said. “Punch Bowl Social will host Happy Hour on Sunday and Wednesday-Friday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. with drinks and bites for $3-$7 and brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.”

According to Punch Bowl’s website, masks will be required except when seated at tables, and patrons are discouraged from congregating at bars or in open spaces.

Punch Bowl Social is located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, along the outside of Ballston Quarter mall.

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Police responded to an Arlington church last week after a man was seen open carrying a pistol on its grounds.

The incident happened on the afternoon of Thursday, April 8. A childcare center operates out of the church, on the 600 block of N. Vermont Street near Ballston.

“At approximately 2:32 p.m. on April 8, police were dispatched to the report of a subject openly displaying a holstered handgun while walking on a property containing an occupied child care facility,” said an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The subject left the scene prior to the arrival of police and was not located in the area by responding officers.”

“The subject is described as a white male in his 50’s, 5’8″, medium build, white hair beneath a dark ball cap, long sleeve button-down shirt and tan pants,” the crime report continues. “The investigation is ongoing.”

Initially, officers told dispatch that the man might have been legally open carrying the gun. However, the crime report indicates that the incident is now believed to have been a weapons violation. It is illegal to open carry on the grounds of a childcare center or preschool during operating hours in Virginia.

Morning Notes

Vihstadt Helps ‘Our Revolution’ Join CivFed — “One of the strongest voices supporting ORA’s membership was that of John Vihstadt, former County Board member and life-long Republican. Many Republicans today consider organizations such as Our Revolution to be, at the very least, card-carrying members of ‘Antifa’… Vihstadt pointed out that, ‘although he was one of the ‘non-Democrats’ that One Revolution did not support’ in his last political outing, ORA should be admitted to CivFed because it clearly ‘contributes to the civic dialogue.'” [Blue Virginia]

Ballston Business Slated to Go Public — “Privia Health Group, Inc., a technology-driven, national physician enablement company that collaborates with medical groups, health plans and health systems, announced today that it has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to a proposed initial public offering of shares of its common stock… Privia Health intends to list its common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker symbol ‘PRVA.'” [BusinessWire]

ACPD Raising Child Abuse Awareness — “April is recognized as both Child Abuse Prevention Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month. ACPD is sharing information on available resources and programs in our community to help raise public awareness about child abuse and sexual violence. In support of efforts to reduce the incidences and severity of child abuse and neglect, many members of ACPD are wearing blue ribbons, pins and bracelets during the month of April.” [ACPD, Twitter]

Animal Control Helps Lost Baby Fox — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “A local homeowner heard a tiny cry coming from their garden and discovered this baby fox, alone and crying for his mother…  Knowing that his mom was very likely somewhere nearby, [animal control officers] placed him into a basket and placed him in a safe spot in the garden. The homeowner kept an eye on him the rest of the day, and we are happy to report that by the next morning, the mother had safely retrieved her baby!” [Facebook]

Goodbye, DCA Gate 35X — “Let’s get right to it: It was a bus station. A bus station in an airport. It was two places you’d rather not be, melded into one place… It was a funnel, a choke point, a cattle call. One gate, as many as 6,000 travelers per day. The ceilings were lower. The seats were all taken, as were the electrical outlets. There was no bathroom down there, no vending machine, no water fountain. Dante’s circles were over-invoked.” [Washington Post]

‘Arlington Superwoman’ Hailed — “She’s helped tons of local families get food on the table but her calling to give back goes way beyond food insecurity for those who are struggling during the pandemic. To some, this Arlington immigrant from El Salvador is a local hero. The struggle Mariflor Ventura has seen first hand brings her to tears.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Two foodies are opening a restaurant and bar called Ballston Local in the former location of Stageplate Bistro.

Co-owners Jonah Troth, a former Silicon Valley executive, and Jason Johnston, a Las Vegas chef, expect to welcome customers on Saturday, May 1, just in time for summer.

“Ballston Local is an elevated fast-casual restaurant, focusing on the conveniences of the ever increasingly popular service model, merging it with a vibrant cocktail bar and exceptional crave-worthy foods,” they said of the restaurant at 900 N. Glebe Road.

Troth left the tech world after 18 years because “it wasn’t crazy enough” and decided to pursue his dream of opening a bar and restaurant. He’s also a former beer brewer with a degree in biochemistry.

The restaurant will have to draw a sizable crowd to the foot traffic-challenged western side of Glebe Road in order to fill the large space, which can seat more than 150. The owners believe they have the formula to do just that.

In developing the menu, Johnston drew from his 30 years of culinary experience and his former roles as executive chef of the MGM at National Harbor and Bellagio. The menu boasts approachable and fast fare inspired by classic comfort foods, such as Brooklyn-style pizza, juicy burgers, loaded sandwiches and colorful salads, the duo said.

To drink, customers can pick craft cocktails or fan favorites, as well as “unique” beer offerings and wine, the duo said.

“Each dish will showcase the freshest possible ingredients and thoughtful techniques, while mindful of busy clientele who don’t want to exchange quality for efficiency,” they said.

“When I lived in Las Vegas, New York and LA we always had our go-to spot, and good pizza was the No. 1 requirement,” Johnson said. “I have been perfecting my own pizza recipe for the last 10 years, and I am excited to bring my passion for the classic NY style pizza my grandma use to make to Ballston.”

“We hope Ballston Local will be a place for our guests to experience a comfortable atmosphere, excellent fast service and most importantly, delicious food,” the chef added.

Additional details on Ballston Local’s food and beverage menu are expected to be revealed in the coming weeks.

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It looks like Punch Bowl Social in Ballston will be reopening, after all.

The Arlington location of the national “eatertainment” chain recently posted hiring announcements on Facebook and on its front door, though it remains temporarily closed for now.

Located at 4238 Wilson Blvd, the three-story entertainment, dining and drinking complex — featuring bowling, shuffleboard and other beer-friendly social games — closed at the outset of the pandemic, reopened in October, then closed again just before Christmas.

The closure followed the Denver-based chain declaring bankruptcy. It said at the time that it was closing most of its locations to conserve cash, after having its once-high-flying business devastated by the pandemic.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Punch Bowl Social is poised for “a smooth Chapter 11 exit” after a court settlement with a key lender. Earlier last month, the CEO of the chain’s new owner said he was focused on reopening locations, confident that customers would return as more people get vaccinated.

On Tuesday, however, the Washington Business Journal reported that a previously-planned location in D.C. is unlikely to move forward due to the company’s financial challenges, making the Ballston location the only Punch Bowl Social in the Washington area. The next closest Punch Bowl outpost is in Cleveland.

So far, there’s no word on an opening date for the Ballston location. The company’s website only says it will be “reopening soon.”

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