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Morning Notes

Pro-Reopening Parent Group Incorporates — “An advocacy organization born of the fight to bring Arlington students back into classrooms has formalized its status as a lobbying group. Arlington Parents for Education has incorporated under Section 501(c)(4) of the federal tax code, giving it tax-exempt status while allowing it to engage in limited political-advocacy efforts.” [Sun Gazette]

Ballston Pierogi Eatery Expanding — “The rebranded Rogi restaurant currently operates out of a kiosk in the Ballston Quarter food hall, where it set up shop in December. Another counter-order location will open in Leesburg’s Chefscape food hall and culinary incubator on Friday, September 10. Hardy is also planning a Tysons branch in the Urbanspace food hall at Tysons Galleria shopping mall, which will likely open by the end of the year.” [Washingtonian]

Murder Near Bailey’s Crossroads — “A man reported missing on Monday in Fairfax County, Virginia, was found dead Wednesday, and police said they have arrested his son on second-degree murder charges. The Fairfax County police said 78-year-old Truman Nguyen was last seen on Sunday and was reported missing on Monday… Police later received a tip that a body might be buried in the yard of Nguyen’s house on the 3300 block of Nevius Street.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Beloved local watering hole Carpool is returning to Arlington after a more than four year absence.

A popular after-work and sports-watching spot, Carpool closed its Ballston-area location on the 4000 block of Fairfax Drive in 2017, to make way for what is now the 22-story J Sol apartment tower. After two decades in Arlington, the brand lived on in the Fair Lakes area of Fairfax County. But now it’s coming home.

Co-owner Mark Handwerger tells ARLnow that the new Carpool will open on the ground floor of the Virginia Tech building at 900 N. Glebe Road in Ballston. It will occupy a space that has been home to a succession of short-lived restaurant outposts over the past half dozen years or so, including Greene Turtle, Applebee’s and, most recently, Filipino eatery Bistro 1521.

“We have already put in for permits and licenses and hope to do minimal work and be open next month (October),” Handwerger said this morning. “We plan to bring back all the fun, tons of the decor, and a lot of the staff in a refreshed space and upgraded kitchen.”

“We also plan to feature some of our signature garage doors opening onto a large patio,” he added.

A PR rep later revealed additional details.

“CarPool’s new 6,382 SF location will offer the same fantastic experience locals and regulars know and love including billiards, pinball, craft cocktails, live sports, and an extensive draft beer selection,” the rep said via email. “The space will be able to accommodate up to 300 people, and host private parties of all sizes. Patrons will also enjoy an expanded menu, courtesy of a large, second-generation kitchen space.”

Carpool relocated to the Fair Oaks area of Fairfax County following its closure in Ballston, “but couldn’t come to terms with our landlord during the pandemic so [we] agreed to truncate the lease,” Handwerger said. That location closed at the end of May.

A second Carpool location, in the Herndon area, has been in business for nearly 20 years and remains open, he noted.

A full press release about the new Carpool in Ballston is below.

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Morning Notes

Apartment Rents Bounce Back — “It took a little while, but average rents for Arlington apartments have now shot past pre-pandemic levels, according to new data. With median rent prices of $2,013 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,437 for two bedrooms, Arlington is among 92 of the nation’s 100 largest urban communities that has seen rents return to, or exceed, levels of March 2020, when the pandemic hit.” [Sun Gazette]

Ballston Resident Creates Bourbon Brand — “I Bourbon is one Arlingtonian’s ode to this classic American whiskey. Now, if he could just get it on store shelves.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston to Crystal City Bus Proposed — “One of two projects proposed by Fairfax County, the new express bus service would connect Fairfax Connector’s Reston South Park and Ride lot with key employment destinations in Arlington County, including the Pentagon and Pentagon City and ending in Crystal City. The county is seeking $5.1 million to cover two years of operating costs for the service as well as the purchase of six buses.” [Reston Now]

AWLA Takes in Louisiana Pets — “A special delivery arrived Wednesday afternoon at Manassas Regional Airport: a plane carrying more than 100 pets that were evacuated from the Louisiana hurricane zone ahead of Ida’s arrival earlier this week. As the plane landed, rescue organizations from throughout the D.C. area were standing by to take the animals in. ‘There were mostly dogs, but also a few cats in the mix,’ said Samantha Snow with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.” [WJLA]

Student Housing May Become Hotel — “Marymount University is moving to convert some of its recently acquired student housing in Ballston into hotel rooms, giving its hospitality program a boost in the process. The Arlington university filed documents with county planners Tuesday seeking permission to convert as much as half of the 267-unit residential building at 1008 N. Glebe Road into a hotel. Marymount has operated the building, dubbed The Rixey, as housing for students, faculty and staff since buying it back in 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

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An “immersive group gaming entertainment facility” is coming to Ballston Quarter.

That could mean something like an escape room, or virtual reality gaming experiences.

The entertainment facility will take up about 2,217 square feet of space located at Suite 2233, on the second floor of Ballston Quarter, according to a permit filed with Arlington County. The permit had no further details about who or what is coming.

When asked what it could be, a spokesman for Brookfield Properties, which manages the retail at Ballston Quarter, said he can’t say.

“We are not able to comment on this as we don’t comment on behalf of our tenants,” he said.

After making a few inquiries, it’s still a mystery. 5 Wits, which provides live-action immersive experiences and already has a location in Ballston Quarter, said it’s not expanding.

“At this time, there is no expansion planned for 5 Wits Arlington,” a spokesperson said.

VR Zone DC Arcade and VR Arena, a virtual-reality gaming experience with locations in D.C. and Rockville, Maryland, also confirmed it’s not that company: “It’s not us and we unfortunately don’t know who’s coming to Ballston.”

Two years ago, The VOID — a virtual-reality gaming experience that received a lot of media attention — announced it was coming to Tysons Corner Center. But the poster-child for VR arcades faced financial problems and its Tysons location has since shut down.

The VR gaming concept, generally speaking, has reportedly struggled to take off and faced significant setbacks during the pandemic.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt 

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An ART bus (via Arlington Transit Facebook)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington Transit buses will return to full service after Labor Day weekend, the county-run transit agency says.

Rush-hour-only ART buses 53, 61, 62 and 74 will run again starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, after being out of service since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Once these buses resume operation, Arlington Transit will largely be back at full service. ART 72 will continue on a modified weekday schedule, however.

With construction ongoing around the Ballston Metro station, ART 53 and 62 bus stops will be relocated near the Metro elevator on Fairfax Drive.

While seating restrictions were lifted on Aug. 1, riders will still be required to wear masks as per a federal mask mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses from the Transportation Security Administration, effective until January 2022.

Meanwhile, Metrobus is set to implement some changes after Sunday, Sept. 5, adding more buses and trains and extending Metrorail’s weekend hours.

Notably, bus 16Y from Columbia Pike to Farragut Square will resume operation, going both directions during weekday rush hours. The limited-stop service route, which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., was halted during the pandemic and was absent from when a number of routes were restored earlier this summer.

Buses 16A, 16C and 16E in Columbia Pike and 16G and 16H between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City will get service upgrades as well.

“Service will operate every 12 minutes or better from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between Columbia Pike & South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike & South Dinwiddie Street at stops served by all routes,” WMATA said.

Bus 25B from the old Landmark Mall in Alexandria to Ballston will see some changes, with Alexandria working to overhaul its own DASH bus network. 25B will travel between Ballston, Southern Towers and Mark Center every day except Sunday, and between Ballston and Southern Towers on Sundays.

Metrorail trains will be available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than was previously offered. Trains will also start running earlier on Sundays, with riders able to board at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.

More on the planned Metro changes from a press release, below.

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Morning Notes

County Board Member Talks Gondola — “Christian Dorsey (D) said the county will have to decide whether it makes sense to commit public money to the project. ‘It’s a fairly short walk from the Rosslyn Metro station to that station in Georgetown,’ he said. In 2017, the county board said in a letter that it would not fund the gondola project despite agreeing to commit $35,000 to a feasibility study. ‘We viewed it as more of a luxury concept than an essential transportation service,’ Dorsey said.” [Washington Post]

Alexandria Mayor Gabs About Gondola — “‘Gondola, yes or no?’ Sherwood asked. ‘Anything that provides new transportation options is a good thing,’ Wilson said. ‘We’ve experimented more with ferries. The river is typically the challenge.'” [ALXnow]

Some Residents Remain Amazon Averse — “Amazon’s efforts to integrate its massive HQ2 campus into its Arlington community have come in all shapes and sizes. And while some of its neighbors acknowledge those efforts, they point to some key unanswered questions around the tech giant’s engagement strategy and eventual effects on their terrain. Still, many remain positive about the latest, and biggest, corporate addition to their communities.” [Washington Business Journal]

GMU Mulls Ways to Enliven Arlington Campus — “More vibrant outdoor areas and the potential of mid-level pedestrian bridges connecting academic buildings are among the possibilities to help the Arlington campus of George Mason University as it grows and evolves. Efforts should be focuses on ‘bringing some life and energy’ to areas like the exterior courtyard area fronting Fairfax Drive, said Gregory Janks, the consultant leading an effort to reimagine Mason’s Fairfax, Arlington and Prince William campuses.” [Sun Gazette]

New Bikeshare Station in Arlington Mill — From Capital Bikeshare: “STATION ALERT: Check out the newly installed station at 8th Rd and S Frederick St in Arlington.” [Twitter]

JBG Sells Hotels to Fund Development — “A fund managed by JBG Smith Properties is selling off two hotels near Reagan National Airport as the developer readies for still more construction in and around Arlington and Alexandria… In an earnings call this month, JBG Smith CEO Matt Kelly said the company would use asset sales, along with ground leases and recapitalizations, to harvest some of the value of its properties as it readies an extensive development pipeline totaling nearly 10 million square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ballston: Manhattan Near the Potomac — “Three [census] tracts make a slice of Ballston the highest-density residential neighborhood in Greater Washington. For decades, Arlington’s plans have encouraged high-rise residential and office on the blocks immediately along the Orange Line corridor, while strictly limiting additional homes even a short walk away. All those people in close proximity can support a wide array of dining choices and retailers, including multiple groceries and pharmacies; the tract’s 94 Walk Score makes it a ‘walker’s paradise.'” [GGWash]

Local Storms Not Getting Significantly Worse — “One local weather expert says he hasn’t seen much evidence to suggest D.C. storms in recent years have been getting more severe, or even more frequent. ‘In some years we have a lot, in some years we have very little, depending on how the day-to-day weather trends add up over the course of the year,’ said Christopher Strong, a Sterling, Virginia-based warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service.” [DCist]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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A driver in a car that was reported stolen tried to flee a traffic stop, and promptly crashed near Ballston, blocking a busy road.

The incident happened around 10 a.m. at the intersection of N. Glebe Road and N. Carlin Springs Road.

A police spokeswoman, citing preliminary information from the scene, said the driver crashed after officers tried to pull the vehicle over.

“Officers received an alert for a vehicle previously reported stolen. Officers located the vehicle, attempted a traffic stop and the suspect fled,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “The suspect vehicle struck a light pole in the area of Glebe Road and Carlin Springs and became inoperable. The suspect attempted to flee on food but was taken into custody by officers.”

A light pole and pedestrian signal were felled by the crash on the southeastern side of the intersection. The fleeing driver also took out a metal garbage can, which — along with the light pole — were launched a distance down the Glebe Road sidewalk.

The southbound lanes of Glebe were blocked by police while officers arrested the driver and searched the vehicle for other occupants. The driver was evaluated for injuries by paramedics, according to scanner traffic.

At least one southbound lanes remains blocked due to the crash cleanup.

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Commuters in Ballston now have access to new bus bays on Fairfax Drive, outside the entrance to the Ballston Metro station.

The refreshed bus bays feature “new bus shelters, sidewalks, and planters,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Dept. of Environmental Services. He added that work along Fairfax Drive should be “substantially complete in August.”

These upgrades are part of a four-phase project to update the transit facilities and public areas surrounding the Metro station. Improvements to multimodal facilities along Fairfax Drive comprise the project’s first phase.

The county expects the project will be 100% complete next summer, he said. The goal of the project is to increase transit usage and safety, improve the facilities as well as access to them and circulation around them, and enhance their design and provide sustainable infrastructure.

With phase one nearing substantial completion, the county is embarking on the second phase. Access to bus bays and pedestrian paths along the east side of N. Stuart Street will be impacted during this phase, which is expected to last until spring 2022, the project webpage said.

“Access to businesses along east side of N. Stuart Street will be maintained throughout this phase,” the webpage noted.

Since Sunday, some ART and Metrobus service along N. Stuart Street and N. Stafford Street has been relocated to the new bus stops on Fairfax Drive and temporary ones on the west side of N. Stuart Street. On Monday, attendants could be seen helping commuters get to the right bus stop.

WMATA say it is still working to provide printed schedules for riders.

Phases three and four will focus on upgrades to two plazas, one on N. Stuart Street and one on Fairfax Drive, and each phase is expected to last three months. Once all four phases are complete, commuters will see a number of additional upgrades, such as additional bike parking, expanded public space along Fairfax Drive, a dedicated “kiss-and-ride” curb space and a dedicated shuttle bus curb space and bus shelter.

In addition, “landscaping and benches for the planter areas, bus stop flag poles and real-time bus information displays will be added toward the end of the project,” Balliet said.

The County Board approved the project in December 2019, and construction — expected to last 18 months — was slated to begin in the summer of 2020.

“The project experienced delays due to the need to relocate telecom and electric utilities lines,” Balliet said. “We now expect the entire project to be completed in summer 2022.”

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The former Uber driver who allegedly struck Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill last year entered a plea agreement on July 23.

Gigssa Bekele Bengessa pleaded guilty to reckless driving in a parking lot and to a felony hit and run. He will face some jail time and three years of probation.

In January 2020, Bengessa attempted to drive out of the towing lot in Ballston as O’Neill was closing the gate, according to a police report from the time. Bengessa struck him, a dumpster and light pole.

Per the plea agreement, provided to ARLnow, he will be sentenced to jail for a net of 10 days — 90 days, with 80 days suspended. During the time of his suspended sentence, he will be supervised. His driver’s license will be suspended for six months.

Provided that Bengessa meets all the court’s prescriptions over the next three years, he will be able to have the felony charge knocked down to a misdemeanor, the agreement said.

Bengessa has three years to pay court costs as well as $5,516.35, plus interest, to O’Neill for restitution.

He is being required to “follow all treatment recommendations made” after a psychologist’s evaluation from March 2020, according to the plea deal, and will “undergo any further mental health evaluations deemed appropriate” by his probation officer.

Further, Bengessa will be “prohibited from driving or operating any and all rideshare vehicles, including but not limited to: Uber, Lyft, taxi service, or any vehicle for hire,” the plea deal said.

The agreement comes as the Virginia Attorney General, Mark Herring, is preparing to go to trial in a lawsuit against Advanced Towing. The suit was filed in June 2020 and a trial date is scheduled for Oct. 6 of this year.

Herring’s complaint alleges that Advanced Towing has violated state and county towing code provisions, resulting in towing conduct that is “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreaching and illegal.”

“Virginia consumers should not have to worry about towing companies acting illegally or employing predatory, unsafe business practices,” Herring said in a statement last year. “My team and I will continue to hold towing companies and bad actors accountable when they break the law and take advantage of consumers.”

This is not the first time such an accusation has been leveled against the company. Advanced, which tows cars that are considered to be trespassing on private lots and then charges the vehicle’s owner a fee, faces frequent accusations of “predatory” towing.

The company gained national notoriety in 2015 after video emerged of an ESPN reporter, whose car was towed, berating an Advanced employee.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Financial technology company Interos is now the first private Arlington startup to reach a billion-dollar valuation, becoming what’s called a “unicorn” in the world of startups.

The name was coined to denote how rare it has been to attain the $1 billion valuation.

Although 728 companies globally enjoy the designation today, the mythic animal fits the Ballston-based software company for another reason. Founder and CEO Jennifer Bisceglie now joins the 4% of unicorns led by female founder-CEOs, Fortune Magazine reports.

(Fluence, an energy startup also based in Ballston, was valued at just over $1 billion at the end of last year; it was formed as a joint venture of two large, publicly-traded companies, including Ballston-based AES.)

Bisceglie first launched the company, which develops AI software to help businesses identify disruptions to their supply chains, in 2005. The company is located at 4040 Fairfax Drive.

“It’s taken a lot of iterative engineering, working closely with customers to understand their needs and supply chains, and so much more to get us here. I couldn’t be prouder,” Bisceglie told ARLnow in an email.

NASDAQ congratulates Interos on pulling in $100 million in funding and reaching the billion-dollar milestone (courtesy of Interos)

The startup attained the milestone on the back of a $100 million funding round led by Silicon Valley-based investors. Venture capital firm NightDragon led the financing while other investors like Kleiner Perkins and Venrock also contributed.

“We were very fortunate to enter into discussions with Dave DeWalt and his fund, NightDragon,” said Bisceglie. “Considering Dave and his team’s backgrounds in security and risk, they immediately understood the importance of what we are doing and saw the opportunity to scale rapidly while continuing to support the growing number of companies and government agencies who rely on our technology.”

The company will now use the influx of funding to improve its product and expand its outreach.

“The new funding ensures Interos can accelerate its business at a time when supply chain vulnerabilities are front and center for companies around the world, following major supply chain shortages due to the pandemic and cyberattacks on organizations like SolarWinds, Kaseya, and Colonial Pipeline that put company operations at risk,” Bisceglie said.

Interos employees pose together at the office (courtesy of Interos)

Over the last two years, Interos has grown by 303% and has seen its platform used by NASA, the U.S Department of Defense, and a number of Fortune 500 companies. The startup’s mission became especially relevant during the pandemic, as COVID-19 led to trade restrictions and product shortages.

“COVID-19 and other macro and digital supply chain disruptions over the past year have caused boards of directors and other leaders to awaken to the tremendous impact supply chain disruptions can have on operational resilience, business performance and reputation,” Bisceglie said.

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The Salt Line in Ballston is now “looking at a September opening,” restaurant representatives tell ARLnow.

This another push back from the restaurant’s initial opening in spring 2020. Pandemic-related delays caused that to be moved to 2021. Then, construction delays shifted it again to summer and, now, opening appears to be set for late summer or early fall.

Current construction does appear to be further along than it was two months ago, with ARLnow observing several people working on the outdoor bar.

When the restaurant was first announced in January 2019, the Arlington County Board had to approve the building of the outdoor portion of the restaurant since the plan was for it to be permanent.

The Salt Line is located at the base of 4040 Wilson Blvd. in Ballston, the tallest building in the neighborhood.

The seafood spot comes from D.C-based Long Shot Hospitality and will be the second location of the popular Navy Yard restaurant. That location was the Washington Nationals’ unofficial party spot during their World Series run in 2019, partly due to Ryan Zimmerman being an investor and part-owner.

The 3,800-square-foot space in Ballston will include spread-out booths, a large patio, and outdoor bar and lounge area in response to “COVID-conscious guests requests for more space,” we’re told.

The kitchen will be managed by executive chef Matt Singer and Kyle Bailey of Long Shot Hospitality. The Ballston restaurant will have a menu similar to that of the Navy Yard location, including clam chowder, lobster rolls, rockfish, and clams. The seafood is sourced from a New York-based cooperative supplemented by local, freshly caught fish from Maryland.

There will also be house-made pastas, daily lunch service, and an “expanded selection of crudos.”

Long Shot also just opened a New Orleans-style eatery called Dauphine’s in D.C. in May.

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