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by Alex Koma June 15, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

The developer behind the renovated Ballston Quarter mall is pushing back its plans to open a new pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd, as part of a host of proposed changes to the project.

Forest City had originally hoped to open the overhauled bridge connecting the mall to 4201 Wilson Blvd and the Metro station in time for stores to begin opening this fall. Yet work on the bridge is “currently behind schedule and is now expected to be completed in the winter or early spring of 2019,” according to a report prepared for the County Board.

Accordingly, Forest City is asking the Board to tweak some of the planning documents governing the project to account for the delay, which county staff believe will allow for “additional time for public engagement” around changes to the bridge’s renovation. Staff are recommending that the Board push off any consideration of that request until next month, though Board members won’t get a chance to vote on that recommendation until Saturday (June 16).

County staff also suggest that the Board wait until its July 14 meeting to consider a request from Forest City to add “large media screens” to the development. The big TV screens would face Wilson Blvd as part of Ballston Quarter’s west plaza. A spokeswoman for Forest City said “nothing is yet confirmed” when it comes to the purpose of the screens.

The Board could take some action related to the development on Saturday, however. Forest City is hoping to open six “outdoor cafes” as the mall welcomes back patrons in September, though construction plans originally called for some additional landscaping and construction work to be completed before those restaurants could open.

Staff noted that Forest City’s plans are “not ideal,” but they also didn’t see any “public safety risk” in letting the cafes open first. They’re recommending that the Board approve the request, then consider individual permits for each restaurant over the course of the next month.

The developer has already unveiled a variety of restaurants and retailers that will open at the mall, with plans to release more information in the coming months.

by Alex Koma June 11, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

Arlington’s business community is throwing its support behind the county’s efforts to land Amazon’s second headquarters.

The county’s Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 750 businesses in the area, penned a letter to the County Board Friday (June 8) expressing its “utmost support” for Arlington’s work to secure the vaunted HQ2.

“Adding a global brand like Amazon to Arlington’s corporate roster would be a monumental win for our area, helping to continue to diversify our economy and helping to maintain the significant commercial sector in our tax base,” Kate Bates, the chamber’s president and CEO, wrote. “And in turn, our location sets Amazon up for maximum success.”

County leaders have worked with the state to offer up two different sites for the tech giant to call home: one anchored in Crystal City and extending to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, and another in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The company has yet to tip its hand, but, by all accounts, Arlington is a leading contender to win out among 20 other HQ2 finalists.

Yet concerns abound among county residents and leaders alike about how Amazon’s arrival would impact the area, particularly with the county already dealing with rising rents and an influx of students in Arlington Public Schools. But Bates argued that any “challenges” associated with HQ2 setting up shop in Arlington pale in comparison to the benefits it could offer.

“We understand the amount of growth that comes with a large corporation like Amazon settling in Arlington comes with challenges,” Bates wrote. “However, we know these are challenges that Arlington has the infrastructure to successfully overcome.”

The full letter from the chamber is after the jump.

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by Alex Koma June 8, 2018 at 10:50 am 0

A new Turkish restaurant is now open for business near Ballston.

Istanbul Grill started serving up kebabs and other traditional Turkish fare yesterday (June 7), according to owner Turgut Yiğit. The new eatery, located at 4617 Wilson Blvd, replaces long-time Mexican restaurant El Ranchero.

Yiğit says he’s a newcomer to Arlington, but spent the last eight years working as a chef at a McLean restaurant. He added that he fully renovated the inside of the restaurant and installed all new appliances to spruce up the space.

The building was constructed back in 1949, according to county property records.

Istanbul Grill will also eventually offer beer and wine, once Yiğit’s state license is approved. He’s even planning to someday enclose the restaurant’s front-porch to offer a “European-style” experience, but those plans are a long way off, he said.

by ARLnow.com June 8, 2018 at 9:05 am 0

Arlington Rocks the Red — It was lit in Arlington during last night’s Stanley Cup Finals — literally. In Rosslyn, a swath of red and the words “ALL CAPS” was projected onto a prominent office building. In Ballston, the lights atop another office building were switched to red. [Twitter, Twitter]

Young Caps Fan Provides All the Luck — Parker Matthews, a 7-year-old Arlington resident, kept finding four leaf clovers on the ground during the Washington Capitals’ playoff and championship run. She would display the lucky keepsakes in front of the TV during games. [NBC Washington]

Celebrations Around Arlington — The scene last night after the Caps won the Stanley Cup in Game 5 was one of jubilation throughout Arlington. In some parts of the county, homemade fireworks were going off. In Clarendon, fans cheered in the streets while a fire truck used its horn to lead the crowd in a chant of “let’s go Caps.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Where to Buy Caps Stanley Cup Gear — The team store at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston could have Stanley Cup championship merchandise as soon as Saturday, though the exact timing is unclear. [Twitter]

In Less Exciting News — “Rising interest rates already are impacting the amount Arlington County taxpayers will have to shell out for bond-approved capital projects in coming years. But county-government officials hailed the recent 2.99-percent interest rate received on sale of $153 million in municipal debt as a testament to the government’s rock-solid credit rating.” [InsideNova, Arlington County]

by Alex Koma June 7, 2018 at 5:00 pm 0

Earl’s Sandwiches is planning to close down its Ballston location next Friday (June 15).

The local sandwich shop announced the decision on its Facebook page yesterday (June 6). The location at 4215 N. Fairfax Drive, across from the Ballston Metro station, opened back in 2012.

Earl’s added in the Facebook post that the restaurant’s Clarendon store will remain open as part of this shuffle.

“While we have had a fabulous time running our second location, we’re ready to get back to our roots and fully concentrate on creating amazing sandwiches [and] experiences for our customers,” the post reads.

Earl’s first opened its Clarendon location, at 2605 Wilson Blvd, back in 2005.

We'd like to announce the closing of our Ballston location effective June 15th, 2018. While we have had a fabulous time…

Posted by Earl's Sandwiches on Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Photo via Facebook

by Alex Koma June 7, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Arlington County is now hoping to kick off construction work on an overhaul of Ballston’s Mosaic Park early next year, following years of delays prompted in part by cost overruns.

County officials are planning to finish renovations at the park, located at 538 N. Pollard Street just behind the Gold’s Gym parking lot, by the end of 2019. Planners unveiled an updated timeline for the park’s renovations at a community meeting last Wednesday (May 30), along with detailed designs for new features like a playground, plaza and athletic courts.

The county’s eyed upgrades at the park back in 2008, and initially hoped that construction could begin in 2013. But planning work stretched on for years, particularly after its estimated construction costs overran the project’s budget.

That forced the county to re-tool the project slightly to bring costs down, in part by eliminating some planned solar panels at the site that would’ve powered the park’s lighting and reducing the number of trees and plants to be installed around the park.

The Shooshan Company, which owns some nearby developments, agreed to fund the first phase of the $6.6 million project. The county is also hoping to add a basketball half-court to the site, but that work will come in a second phase of the project.

The county plans to award a construction contract next spring, and start work soon afterward. Officials hope to wrap things up by winter 2019.

Graphic via Arlington County

by Alex Koma June 5, 2018 at 3:00 pm 0

Concerns abound about how the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters might squeeze an already space-starved county — but could HQ2 merely speed up population growth in Arlington that would inevitably happen over time even if Amazon chooses another location?

It’s a possibility that county leaders say they’re increasingly beginning to consider, as Arlington has emerged as a top contender to earn HQ2, among its competitors both locally and nationally.

The way Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol sees it, the D.C. region is already set to grow exponentially in the next few decades. For instance, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects that 1.5 million people will move to the area by 2045, an estimate worked up long before Amazon cast its eye towards the region.

Accordingly, Cristol reasons that Amazon’s arrival in Arlington would indeed prompt a sudden surge in growth in the county, but not substantially change how officials are preparing to handle an ever-growing population.

“It’s not as though we are in this perfect equilibrium now and Amazon will upset the apple cart,” Cristol told ARLnow. “Growth is coming to this region… but I think Amazon could really force the issue by probably condensing how fast that growth could happen, maybe we’re talking 10 years over 20.”

That’s why she says county officials are already putting such an intense focus on issues like affordable housing and transportation, and encouraging residents to do the same. She sees the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county is convening this month as a key step in the process, designing them as forums for people to have frank discussions about all of the problems and opportunities associated with the county’s growth in the coming years.

Cristol fully expects many of those conversations to center around the arrival of huge companies like Amazon, or perhaps Apple. But, as she tries to take a long view of the region’s future, she expects they’ll be helpful no matter what Jeff Bezos decides.

“Whether Amazon comes and hastens that [growth] or whether Amazon doesn’t come and the general projected job growth and population growth comes over a longer period of time, the questions and the need for the community conversation are the same,” Cristol said.

Amazon critics, however, are less convinced that leaders like Cristol should accept such growth as unavoidable. Margaret McLaughlin, chair of the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, says her group has led a campaign highlighting HQ2’s potentially negative impacts on marginalized communities in order to get officials thinking differently about the region’s future.

“By them saying that growth is coming inevitably, they’re taking their own agency out of the economic decisions they’re making,” McLaughlin said. “Rents are going to go up, and that ends up pushing out renters, people of color, people working in the service industry… so they’re ones making choices, they’re pushing families out. They’re making the economic situation better for the rich and worse for the poor.”

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by ARLnow.com May 23, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Ballston Mall Garage Floods — “The heavy rain that roared through our region Tuesday evening did more than just saturate the ground. A parking garage near the Ballston Mall in Arlington County was transformed into a figurative beach complete with waves.” [WJLA]

Officials Reconsidering No-Left-Turn Sign on Route 50 — The late Carrie Johnson’s last act of civic activism may be bearing fruit. County officials are reaching out to the community in an effort to reconsider a no-left-turn sign on Route 50 at N. Irving Street. [InsideNova]

Proclamation for Gun Violence Awareness Day — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Board presented the group Moms Demand Action with a proclamation declaring June 1, 2018 to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Arlington. [Twitter]

VHC Planning Too Rushed, Critics Say — “Plans to have the Arlington Planning Commission and County Board pass judgment on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion plans in early July have run into community opposition, with critics saying any action then would be premature and would interfere with vacation plans of those who hope to influence the outcome.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

by Alex Koma May 17, 2018 at 1:30 pm 0

Ballston Quarter mall is unveiling 12 new restaurants with plans to open in the development, bringing the shopping center’s total to 22 confirmed eateries ahead of its scheduled re-opening this fall.

Forest City, the company that owns and manages the under-construction former Ballston Common Mall, announced the line-up of eateries today (Thursday). Some of the restaurants will be located in the development’s 25,000-square-foot “food hall,” while others will be spread throughout the mall or even located in the apartment building attached to the project.

The restaurants announced today include the return of Chick-fil-A, an old staple of the Ballston Common mall, and the first location of D.C. chain Compass Coffee outside the city. Union Kitchen Grocery and Baltimore-based The Local Oyster are also planning a location at Ballston Quarter, as is the previously-announced Ted’s Bulletin.

“Our overall mission for Ballston Quarter is to feature some of the most unique, trendsetting restaurants and reimagined brands possible, with a strong focus on best-in-class regional favorites,” Will Voegele, Forest City’s senior vice president of development, wrote in a statement.

The developer announced the mall’s first retail tenants last month, and several “experience-oriented” businesses in February. Forest City added it plans to announce more restaurants for the development ahead of its opening in the fall.

Full details from a press release on the 12 new restaurants, after the jump.

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by ARLnow.com May 15, 2018 at 9:10 am 0

Arlington County firefighters are on scene of a kitchen fire on a residential block near Ballston.

The fire was reported shortly before 9 a.m. Tuesday on the 4800 block of Fairfax Drive, in Bluemont. The blaze has since been extinguished but firefighters are still checking for hotspots and working to ventilate the structure.

The home’s occupants were reportedly able to get out safely.

Photo via Google Maps

by Alex Koma May 11, 2018 at 5:55 pm 0

Plenty of big changes are on the way for Ballston, and Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone has a front seat to all the latest developments.

Join Leone and ARLnow’s Alex Koma for a conversation about the future of the Ballston Quarter development, the shifting landscape of the neighborhood’s transportation needs and much more.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

by Anna Merod May 9, 2018 at 2:45 pm 0

A new art gallery is opening in Ballston on Saturday (May 12).

The Fred Schnider Art Gallery, which is backed by D.C. area real estate investment and development firm Fred Schnider Investment Group, is planning a grand opening event from 6-9 p.m. at the Residences at Liberty Center (888 N. Quincy Street).

The gallery opening will feature the work of award-winning artist and longtime Marymount University professor David Carlson. He will display his “Out of My Mind” paintings and drawings from his “Fields and Transformation” series.

The 850-square-foot gallery will display seven exhibits a year, with each exhibit appearing for six weeks at a time. Normal exhibit hours will be from 2-7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday until July 8.

The gallery plans to collaborate with local universities to incorporate an educational setting into the space. It will also host events with the Ballston Business Improvement District and the Arlington Commission for the Arts.

by Alex Koma May 8, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Funding to help WMATA keep running and catch up on maintenance may end up jeopardizing major projects slated for two busy Arlington Metro stations.

A new deal brokered by state lawmakers will send about $154 million to Metro each year, providing funding for badly needed improvements to the system — but Arlington officials fear the structure of the agreement could imperil planned Metro entrance projects.

For years, the county has been hoping to add second entrances to the Ballston and Crystal City stations to make it easier for people in those neighborhoods to access the Metro. But Arlington planned to pay for those projects with the help of a regional group that doles out money for transportation improvements: the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, commonly known as the NVTA.

Yet the NVTA can only afford to fund that kind of construction effort with the tax revenue it brings in, and the dedicated funding deal hashed out in Richmond will divert a substantial chunk of that money to Metro for ongoing operations and maintenance.

Gov. Ralph Northam and his fellow Democrats had hoped to avoid that outcome by bumping up a few Northern Virginia tax rates instead, but the slim Republican majority in the House of Delegates scuttled that plan in favor of sending the NVTA money to Metro.

NVTA leaders aren’t yet sure just how much money the group will lose — they’re currently projecting a roughly $80 million drop in annual revenue for the next six years — but they are reluctantly admitting that the group will have to trim the list of projects it can fund in the coming years.

Arlington County Board Chair and NVTA board member Katie Cristol expects that will prompt indefinite delays of the projects at Ballston and Crystal City, or it could force the county to find new funding streams for them entirely, an unwelcome prospect given Arlington’s increasingly stretched finances.

“When there’s less money to go around, it forces a re-racking of priorities,” Cristol told ARLnow. “These would be transformational projects for us, but the need is different elsewhere.”

NVTA chairman Marty Nohe, a Republican who also serves as vice chair of Prince William’s Board of County Supervisors, says his group largely focuses on funding projects that relieve traffic congestion around the area. While he fully expects that adding second entrances at those Arlington stations would pull some cars off the road, he also notes that they likely won’t have the same impact as other road improvements elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

“That’s the nature of these multimodal projects,” Nohe said. “It doesn’t put more trains on the track, it makes it easier for people to get there and opens the station up to a larger segment of the Arlington population… so it’s a good example of the type of project that will absolutely be affected by a loss of NVTA funds due to the Metro bill.”

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by ARLnow.com May 3, 2018 at 8:35 am 0

Region Sets Heat Record — The National Weather Service reports that Arlington and surrounding areas set a heat record yesterday. The temperature at Reagan National Airport reached 91 degrees, which tops the previous record of 89, set in 1930. [Twitter]

Co-Working Space Opening Soon — TechSpace, a new co-working space, will hold a grand opening event and happy hour in Ballston on May 15. The 20,000 square foot office will open in the Two Liberty Center building (4075 Wilson Blvd) across the street from the under-construction Ballston Quarter Mall. [PR Newswire]

Playground Design Meeting — County staff will present the two concepts for the new playground at Rosslyn Highlands Park and take feedback from the public at a meeting tonight. It takes place in the library at Key Elementary School at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]

Theodore Roosevelt Island Survey — The National Park Service is seeking feedback via a survey for improvements to Theodore Roosevelt Island, including possible bridge and comfort station upgrades and the addition of a boat dock. Today is the last day to submit comments. [National Park Service]

Reduced Parking in Fairlington — As the Fairlington Park Project enters its final stages, 19 parking spaces will be occupied for construction equipment staging. Visitors should plan ahead for the parking challenges.

New Marymount President — Dr. Irma Becerra has been chosen as the new Marymount University president and will take over the position on July 1. She comes to the school from St. Thomas University. [Marymount University, InsideNova]

by ARLnow.com May 1, 2018 at 9:30 am 0

A man is facing charges after police say he fired a shot inside a residential building in the Ballston area.

Police arrived at a building on the 3900 block of Fairfax Drive just before 1 a.m. last Friday after a person inside reported hearing a loud noise, then found a small hole in the wall and a metallic object.

During their investigation, police determined that a man in a neighboring apartment had been cleaning a gun and it accidentally discharged, shooting a bullet into, and creating damage to, the other apartment.

Police charged 28-year-old Alexander Kreitle with discharging a firearm into an occupied building.

No injuries were reported from the incident.

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