Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Blown Transformer Knocks Out Power — A power transformer blew Friday night near the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive, knocking out power to the surrounding neighborhood and parts of Ballston and Virginia Square, and prompting a road closure due to the fire department response. [Twitter, Twitter]

Catholic Schools Walk COVID Tightrope — “No one — not students, parents or staff, public or private, liberal or conservative — prefers learning while locked down during a pandemic. But area Catholics are using the crisis forced on us all to innovate boldly. They feel blessed.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Crowds May Flock to Arlington for St. Paddy’s — “Bar owner Mike Bramson, who operates the Clarendon PopUp Bar… says he’s expecting a full house in VA — something he might not see in DC. ‘I do believe people are traveling to Virginia spaces. It’s frustrating to have one location being overbooked [Clarendon Pop-Up] and another location losing business [Rebel Taco DC],’ says Bramson. He says the main deterrent in DC right now is the six-person table limit and 10 PM alcohol curfew.” [Washingtonian]

Beyer Supports Moon Mission — “There is support in Congress. ‘I clearly want to keep building on what we’ve done already,’ Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the new chair of the House Science subcommittee on space and aeronautics, said in an interview. ‘The 2024 goal may have been a reach, so let’s see what we can do to get our moon landing back on track.'” [Washington Post]

Arlington Police K-9 Retires — “Please join ACPD in wishing a happy retirement to K9 Jax as he finishes his final tour of duty today! We are grateful for his years of dedicated service to the Arlington Community through patrol and narcotics detection.” [Twitter]

Senior Sees Son For First Time in a Year — “97-year-old Mary Cavanaugh has finally seen her son Mike Cavanaugh and daughter-in-law Marie Cavanaugh after more than a year. They’re all fully vaccinated, and with strong hugs and kisses, they were able to reunite as a family at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads.” [NBC 4]

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The Arlington County Fire Department answers the call for all hazards, from fires to chemical spills to explosives to technical rescues. And, it turns out, for birds that get themselves stuck on roofs.

Yesterday firefighters responded to a multi-story residential building in the Ballston area to help free a bird that somehow had its head become wedged in the siding.

Using ladders to get to the roof, firefighters successfully rescued the bird, which was identified by animal control as a starling.

There’s no word on whether any opportunistic cats got stuck in trees while attempting their own extraction of the hapless bird.

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El Rey is finally under construction in Ballston — and eyeing a May opening date.

We first reported in July 2019 that the taco shop was branching out from its U Street NW location in D.C. and opening a Ballston outpost at 4201 Wilson Blvd.

Thanks at least in part to the pandemic, it’s a year-and-a-half behind schedule, but Ian Hilton — one half of the brother duo behind it and a number of other local restaurants and watering holes — tells ARLnow that the owners are “hoping” to open in May, if all goes well.

A peek inside yesterday revealed that interior construction is still in the early stages, with the space still mostly an empty shell.

In D.C., El Rey offers tacos, tequila-based cocktails, wine, sangria, beer and weekend brunch. The new location just applied for a Virginia ABC permit to offer beer, wine and mixed drinks, so expect more of the same in Ballston.

The permit suggests El Rey will have more than 150 seats — some may be outdoors, among other outdoor dining at the Ballston Exchange office complex, across from Ballston Quarter mall — and will be formally known as “El Rey Filling Station.”

Hilton revealed no other details about the latest plans for El Rey, but did offer that the brothers’ other Arlington restaurant, Cafe Colline at the Lee Heights Shops along Lee Highway, will reopen its dining room today after a takeout-only winter.

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Construction has started in Ballston on the future site of a new Harris Teeter, three apartment buildings and a new green space.

Excavation and sheeting and shoring work started this past week at 600 N. Glebe Road, said Mary Senn, the vice-president of Georgia-based developer Southeastern Real Estate Group, LLC, the developer overseeing the project.

“We are underway,” she said.

Work began last year with utility relocation and demolition of the vacant American Service Center building, Southeastern president Mark Senn told ARLnow in October.

The current phase is the first of three for the site, approved in 2019. In phase one, a new 310-unit apartment building with a new Harris Teeter space on the ground floor will replace the former American Service Center building.

In this phase, customers still have access to parking and the current Harris Teeter, which was the company’s first in Virginia.

“Harris Teeter and Southeastern are very excited to be moving forward with the construction, and the community will be excited to have the new store,” Mary Senn said. “[Harris Teeter] will really do this one up as the latest and the greatest, as far as the store goes.”

The grocery store may have a bar, among other new features, and will also have covered parking, she said.

“People in Arlington, given the weather the past couple of weeks, will appreciate the covered parking, which will definitely be an improvement,” said Senn.

The timeline for the construction of the project has not changed, the vice-president said. Phase one is expected to be complete in 2023.

“But we’ll be open before then,” she said.

During the second phase, the old Harris Teeter will be demolished for new temporary surface parking. The second apartment building, with 195 units, and the public open space will be constructed in phase two.

In the third phase, the temporary parking lot will become the third apartment building: a 227-unit residential building with retail on the ground floor and two levels of below-grade parking.

The park will include a pedestrian path, a dog run, a picnic area, as well as natural vegetation to support pollinator insects and birds.

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Seven Arlington Metro stations will be getting new escalators.

This is part of a $179-million, seven-year project that begins in May to replace old escalators and install 130 new heavy-duty ones at 32 stations across the Metro system.

In total, 36 escalators across seven Arlington stations will be replaced.

They are:

  • Rosslyn (8 escalators)
  • Ballston (6 escalators)
  • National Airport (4 escalators)
  • Pentagon (5 escalators)
  • Pentagon City (4 escalators)
  • Crystal City (6 escalators)
  • Virginia Square (3 escalators)

The new escalators will have up-to-date safety features and LED lighting. The contract for the project was awarded to the Finnish engineering company KONE.

The escalators set to be replaced include four in Rosslyn that date back to 1977 and rise nearly ten stories. At 207 feet high, they are among the world’s longest, continuous escalators.

“Replacing these escalators that average 38-years old, will ensure we maintain reliability for our customers today and into the future,” Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in the press release.

To install the new escalators, KONE will have to demolish the existing escalators and remove them piece by piece.

No more than 18 escalators will be out of service at any given time, the transportation agency promises.

For the last decade, Metro has made it a priority to fix, rehabilitate, and replace frequently breaking escalators. By the time this project is completed, Metro will have replaced or rehabilitated 84% of its escalators since 2011.

However, Metro has not set forth a timeline beyond the work beginning in May.

The full press release from Metro is below.

Read More

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New signage is coming to National Landing and Ballston.

The business improvements districts that serve as boosters for the areas are planning to put hundreds of new banners on light poles. The County Board approved the use of such non-commercial signs in the public right-of-way at its meeting last weekend.

The National Landing signs will differentiate the BID’s three distinct neighborhoods — Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — while highlighting the National Landing branding.

The Ballston BID banners, in the neighborhood’s orange, white and black colors, will include slogans like “Skill Full,” Taste Full,” “Power Full” and “Event Full.”

Photos via Arlington County

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A new restaurant called Ballston Local is coming to the former location of Stageplate Bistro at 900 N. Glebe Road.

One of the co-owners confirmed with ARLnow that Ballston Local could open in late April or early May after some renovations to the space. The partners, who do not wish to be named yet, want to time the opening with springtime and more positive news about the coronavirus vaccine.

“It’s a new and exciting concept that is focused on crave-worthy food with a full bar,” said one of the co-owners, adding that he and his business partner live in Fairfax County and intend Ballston Local to be a “local, non-chain based environment.”

The partners, who together have decades of restaurant experience, are still hammering out menu details. Ballston Local will meet the demand for fast-casual, office worker-friendly lunches as well as a more traditional service with a full-service bar for happy hour, dinner and drinks.

Despite optimism from its owner, Mary Marchetti, Stageplate Bistro succumbed to the reputation haunting the western side of N. Glebe Road for being a difficult place for restaurants to survive. The bistro temporarily closed in February 2020 for hiring and staff training and internal reorganizing, with plans to reopen in March.

Then, the pandemic hit and by June, Stageplate Bistro had closed for good.

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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 Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center, and is adding spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village.

BASH Boxing, a boutique boxing gym founded in Arlington, has announced plans to franchise its model across the country.

“There’s so much uncertainty because people lost jobs, or stepped out of corporate jobs,” co-owner and founder Alexandra Trakas told ARLnow. “This is an amazing opportunity for people who want a fresh start to own their own business.”

Trakas and her investment team, which includes Washington Capitals player Tom Wilson, plan to help open hundreds of locations “in the coming years,” locally and nationally.

Trakas, who turns 32 this March and entered the fitness industry at 24, opened her first location in Rosslyn in November 2018 and her second in Ballston in October 2019. A graduate of Shenandoah University with a bachelor’s in fine arts and a concentration in dance, she said she came out of the womb with an entrepreneurial mind.

“It’s the way I’ve always been,” she said.

After working for franchise outposts of The Bar Method and Orangetheory Fitness, she said was ready to discuss with partners the possibility of franchising a new boutique gym.

“Give me the playbook — I’ll add a few things to bring camaraderie — but stick to the playbook and it works,” she said.

She announced to staff early last year that the business will be franchising and that more information would come soon. For front desk staff and sales associates, she said, the news would mean more opportunities to view the job as a career path.

Although Trakas had to lay off some staff and regroup as a result of the pandemic, she never fully closed BASH. Instead, she said her team always pivoted to meet changing regulations for staying open. During the spring shutdowns, coaches taught free Instagram Live classes almost every day, before reopening on June 13. Today, they can only coach nine members at a time, despite having 1,000 members and a capacity of up to 44.

“The only reason we made it through the coronavirus is because of our community,” Trakas said. “I have an incredible team with me.”

She pressed pause on franchising work for about five months, but by July, Trakas could sit and wait no longer. She wanted agreements with franchisees and properties in hand for when the country fully reopened.

“We want to be ready to grow,” she said.

Trakas is looking to expand into what she calls “sub-cities” — suburbs of large metropolises that are also cities in their own right. Her first choice is not the sprawling, fitness-obsessed Los Angeles, but rather a place like Arlington, or Reston, she said.

The first 5-10 franchisees will get the most favorable terms and hands-on support.

“If you have the means and the commitment, it’s time to get in,” Trakas said

Images via BASH Boxing

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Police are releasing new photos, video and information in the year-old unsolved murder of a 24-year-old man in a Ballston apartment.

Scott Ratigan was founded bloodied and unresponsive in his bedroom, at the AVA Ballston Square apartment building (850 N. Randolph Street), around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2020. Police now say he suffered “trauma to the upper body.”

ARLnow reported at the time that the 911 caller — now identified as a relative of Ratigan — reported a strong smell of bleach in the apartment. Police now say that “evidence recovered at the scene indicates the suspect(s) attempted to clean the crime scene prior to fleeing the residence.”

Today, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the crime, Arlington County police also released video and three surveillance images of a “person of interest” — seen leaving the area while wearing a mask, before that became commonplace during the pandemic.

“The individual is described as a White male, approximately 5’6″ – 5’8″ tall, weighing 150 – 175 lbs, dressed in all black, carrying a black backpack and walking with his feet turned inward, often referred to as a pigeon-toed gait,” ACPD said. “Detectives would like to identify and speak with this individual.”

Several months ago, an ARLnow reporter observed detectives holding large poles in the courtyard between the apartment building and Wilson Blvd, perhaps in an effort to ascertain the person’s height. Until this morning’s press release, police have steadfastly declined to divulge additional details about the case in response to numerous inquiries from ARLnow.

The Ratigan family is offering a $25,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the murder case.

The full ACPD press release and additional surveillance images are below.

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is seeking the public’s assistance identifying a person of interest captured in surveillance video as they continue to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of 24-year-old Scott Ratigan one year ago. The Ratigan family has established a reward fund of $25,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) involved in Scott’s homicide.

At approximately 5:29 p.m. on January 17, 2020, police were dispatched to the 800 block of N. Randolph Street for the report of cardiac arrest. Upon arrival, it was determined a relative of the victim entered his bedroom after becoming concerned he had not recently been heard from. The adult male victim was located inside his bedroom suffering from trauma to the upper body and was pronounced deceased on scene by medics. An autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide. Evidence recovered at the scene indicates the suspect(s) attempted to clean the crime scene prior to fleeing the residence.

Surveillance video recovered from an exterior camera shows a person of interest leaving the area around the suspected time of the homicide. The individual is described as a White male, approximately 5’6″ – 5’8″ tall, weighing 150 – 175 lbs, dressed in all black, carrying a black backpack and walking with his feet turned inward, often referred to as a pigeon-toed gait. Detectives would like to identify and speak with this individual.

To date, detectives have conducted an intensive investigation into this incident including collecting information, analyzing crime scene evidence, speaking with witnesses and canvasing the area near the crime scene. Detectives continue to actively follow investigative leads in this case but believe there is someone, somewhere with information that will allow us to solve this case and seek justice on behalf of the Ratigan family. If you have information in this case, no matter how insignificant you may feel it is, we implore you to come forward and speak with detectives.

Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]

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Just around the corner from Washington, D.C., in North Arlington, is Ballston. A reflection of the nation’s capital, Ballston blends some of the city’s highlights with its own unique rhythm, creating a vibrant and exciting place to work and play.

Just around the corner from the heart of Ballston, is Trenton Square at Ballston. Down tree-lined streets, the townhome community of Trenton Square provides the perfect balance to the cosmopolitan cadence of Ballston, creating a relaxing and spacious place to live. This boutique community of just 19 townhomes is selling quickly and won’t last long. Make an appointment to visit our beautifully decorated model today, and lock in today’s low mortgage rates with our homes available for immediate delivery.

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National taco and tequila chain Bartaco is opening its new Ballston Quarter location today.

The restaurant, which serves “fresh, upscale street food with a coastal vibe in a relaxed environment,” will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. It is opening after a year of construction.

Positioned along the outdoor patio at the mall’s food hall, Bartaco is for the time being only offering takeout and delivery.

“While the restaurant is expected to open for dine-in this spring, guests can also enjoy bartaco in the Quarter Market food hall,” the company noted today in a press release.

More from Bartaco:

On the menu are hand-held foods that are perfectly paired with specialty crafted cocktails made with fresh-squeezed juices, as well as beer out of a bottle. Highlights include bartaco’s pork belly taco and falafel taco, guacamole, taco packs for groups + bartaco’s notoriously delicious margarita served for one or two.

In the restaurant, rustic design infused with a neighborhood feel complements the spirited bold + bright flavors of bartaco’s eclectic menu. Once open for dine-in, the stylish ambience, cocktails + freshly prepared tacos + “not tacos” will create an unforgettable experience for guests.

Photo courtesy Bartaco

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