Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Arlington, Alexandria to Talk Cooperation — “The Arlington County Board and Alexandria City Council will consider ways they can cooperate to manage the growth expected from Amazon’s HQ2, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and George Mason’s School of Computing during a joint work session on Tuesday, Oct. 1.” [Arlington County, Washington Post]

Some, But Not All, Washington-Lee Signs to Be Replaced — “The Generals records sign will retain that name because the students made those accomplishments while it was still Washington-Lee. Facilities is currently working on replacing signs throughout the building. The score board is in that [queue] to be replaced.” [Twitter]

BID Expansion Came Down to the Wire — “It wasn’t technically the 11th hour, but pretty close to it when the Crystal City Business Improvement District landed the support it needed to expand its boundaries into Pentagon City and the Arlington County portion of Potomac Yard.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Officer Speaks Out on Police Suicide — “‘Every day is a recovery,’ Master Police Officer Adam Stone, who has been a cop in Arlington for 30 years, said. Stone loves his job, and he’s doing his best to help others by telling his story After contemplating suicide, Stone is on medication and receiving counseling — and still on patrol.” [WUSA 9, Twitter]

Town Square in Green Valley May Get a New Name — “For decades of service to his South Arlington community, what has been known in its planning stages as the Nauck Town Square is likely to be known as the ‘John Robinson Jr. Town Square.'” [InsideNova]

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Arlington County is considering a proposal to expand the boundaries of the Crystal City Business Improvement District to incorporate parts of Potomac Yard and Pentagon City, including Amazon’s permanent HQ2 campus.

At its meeting on Saturday, July 13, the County Board is expected to authorize an advertisement for a public hearing on Sept. 21 to discuss expansion of the BID’s coverage area to include 75 new commercial properties.

The BID was originally established in 2006 to improve the area’s marketability and attractiveness to the community in the wake of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC) — which resulted in 4.2 million square feet of vacant office space and 17,000 lost jobs.

The BID sponsors activities and markets the area to potential tenants, and is in turn funded by a tax surcharge on commercial properties within its coverage area. The BID’s current budget is approximately $2.7 million, but the expansion is estimated to increase the budget by $1.7 million (an increase of 64 percent) to $4.4 million.

According to the staff report, expansion of the BID has been an ongoing priority as the organization works to shift the area’s image away from just government agency tenants. This culminated with the announcement in November that Amazon would be opening a new headquarters in the area.

Even prior to the arrival of Amazon, Crystal City had begun attracting more non-government tenants — including startups, nonprofits, co-working spaces and new retail. The vision and strategy to expand the boundaries of the BID has been revived not only due to new leadership at the [BID] but also upcoming infrastructure, transportation and planning projects expected to transform the nature of the business and residential community in this area.

The staff report noted that the expansion is part of a wider effort to treat Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard as one market — it was dubbed “National Landing” at the time of the Amazon announcement — rather than three separate ones.

Notably absent from the proposed new boundaries is the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, which has “formally requested… not to be included in the proposed expansion.”

Adoption of the ordinance would require the BID to demonstrate 50 percent of greater support throughout the affected areas — evidence that the staff report noted was not currently available. The staff report notes that property owners and managers in the Potomac Yard portion of Arlington expressed concerns that BID would be unable to “fulfill various obligations of the Potomac Yard Property Owner’s Association (POA) site plan.”

Under the terms of the site plan, the POA must fund certain capital expenses and on-going maintenance of various improvements including maintenance of landscaped areas. In March 2019, County staff and the County Attorney’s Office advised [BID] that it should not take on the obligations of the Potomac Yard POA in order to receive support for the proposed BID expansion. Instead, [BID] should demonstrate to the Potomac Yard property owners the value of the other services it currently provides on behalf of the BID in the current and proposed expanded district.

If the BID cannot build the support it needs in Potomac Yard — as happened to a proposed BID in Alexandria in 2017 — the report said it could still be approved as an expansion into Pentagon City. Major property owners in Pentagon City, including Dweck Properties and JBG Smith, are supportive of the proposal.

The potential expansion, if approved, would be the first time any BID in Arlington enveloped new territory.

Map via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Crystal City BID Proposes Expansion — “The Crystal City Business Improvement District has submitted its proposal to Arlington County to officially expand its borders into Pentagon City and the county’s portion [of] Potomac Yard as Amazon.com Inc. prepares to establish its second headquarters in the area collectively branded as National Landing.” [Washington Business Journal]

County Planning More Housing Initiatives — “Even by its own estimation, the Arlington County government’s success rate in stemming the exodus of affordable housing in Arlington has been hit-or-miss, and the local government at times has been viewed as unimaginative and overly bureaucratic by those who want to see more aggressive efforts at building and retaining housing accessible to lower- and middle-income residents.” [InsideNova]

Twilight Tattoo Begins Tonight at Ft. Myer — “Our 2019 Twilight Tattoo season is scheduled to begin on Wednesday, May 1, 2019, and run through Wednesday, July 31, with exception to July 3 and July 10, 2019… Twilight Tattoo is an hour-long, live-action military pageant featuring Soldiers from The 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) and The U.S. Army Band ‘Pershing’s Own.'” [Military District of Washington]

Stressed Out Judges at Crystal City Immigration Court — “One of the most backlogged immigration courts in America is in Arlington… 7 on your side witnessed and heard of additional tense exchanges in court from multiple judges stressed with the ever-increasing caseload.” [WJLA]

Nearby: ‘Woodchuck’ Scam in Falls Church — “The City of Falls Church Police are investigating a “woodchuck” scam that has cost a victim thousands of dollars. Police caution City residents to be aware of predatory services, especially for tree removal, landscaping, roof and chimney work, and other home services.” [City of Falls Church]

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It was an April Fools’ Day joke, but an interesting one.

The Rosslyn Business Improvement District, riffing off the much-ballyhooed but not-actually-happening Rosslyn-to-Georgetown gondola proposal, floated an idea: a zip line over the Potomac.

Putting aside questions about feasibility — for instance, is it a good idea to have a zip line running across a major airline and helicopter flight path? — an argument could be made that a zip line would be a fun local activity and tourist attraction.

If this was a real proposal — again, putting aside whether it could actually work — would you be in favor of it?

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Rosslyn is set to see a few more pedestrian safety improvement over the course of the next year or so.

The neighborhood’s Business Improvement District, which advocates for Rosslyn businesses by collecting a small property tax, is planning a variety of short-term fixes to make the bustling streets a bit safer for walkers.

In plans delivered to the County Board Saturday (Feb. 23), the BID says it hopes to use some of its tax revenue to work with county police on the fixes, as part of a broader initiative to make the area more walkable. County officials have even contemplated the more drastic step of make certain roads in Rosslyn “car-free,” though they have yet to settle on a precise strategy for the neighborhood beyond some guiding principles.

In the short term, the BID plans to build new “crash-grade planters to help delineate safer pedestrian crossings” at several intersections. Many of the roads crossing Wilson Blvd are often the site of robust crowds in the morning and evening rush hours.

The BID also hopes to expand some of its “wayfinding” efforts “that will eventually encompass not only pedestrian signs, but also traffic signage” to better brand each section of Rosslyn. The BID has already done some work in that department, setting up area maps, and even rolling out efforts to improve green space in the area, including the county’s first “parklet.”

In the long term, the BID plans to continue to work on efforts to someday convert streets like N. Fort Myer Drive, N. Lynn Street and N. Kent Street into two-way roads, though those changes are still a ways off.

Other, more ambitious efforts could someday remove the Fort Myer Drive tunnel under Wilson Blvd, or replace the existing Rosslyn skywalk system in favor of an all-pedestrian and cycling corridor leading up to the area’s Metro station. Some new developments in the area could help spur progress on the latter effort.

But all of these changes won’t be on the way until the new fiscal year, according to the BID’s proposal. The group is also asking the Board to hold its tax rate on local businesses level at $.078, though ever-rising real estate values will send the BID an extra $166,000 in revenue from a year ago.

Photo via Rosslyn BID

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Crystal City’s leading business advocacy group is taking its most concrete steps yet to expand and represent Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard as well.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District is hoping to bump out its borders as soon as next year, according to documents submitted to the County Board. The BID plans to spend the next few months working secure the support of businesses in its adjacent neighborhoods, then finalize the change sometime in fiscal year 2020.

The business group, funded via a tax on properties in Crystal City, has been eyeing a potential expansion for months now, and the move took on increased importance once Amazon announced it would be setting up shop across all three South Arlington neighborhoods: the tech giant will have office space in both Crystal City and Pentagon City, and is spurring the creation of a new Virginia Tech campus in Potomac Yard.

The BID has already started to pitch the area to businesses as a cohesive “downtown” for Arlington, and is billing the creation of an “area-wide” BID as a way to “reinforce the complementary nature of these markets” when it comes time to lure new companies and residents to the area.

“In fact, the Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard-Arlington area has a total asset value of over $11 billion and represents a powerful economic engine for Arlington County, the region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the BID wrote in its work plan for FY2020, delivered to the Board ahead of its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).

The group’s new proposed borders would expand the BID’s reach down Army Navy Drive until it meets S. Hayes Street, putting major developments like Amazon’s future home near Metropolitan Park and the neighborhood’s Costco and Best Buy under the BID’s umbrella. However, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall would not be included under the BID’s current proposal.

On the Potomac Yard side of the things to the south, the BID would extend its borders down Route 1 until it meets Four Mile Run (and the county’s border with Alexandria). That would pull in the large development that includes Lidl’s American headquarters and a Harris Teeter grocery store.

According to its work plan, the BID plans to spend the second and third quarters of the current fiscal year rallying support from business owners in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. It also plans to move offices later this year, then hire more staff to account for its expanded borders.

The Board will also set the tax rate it imposes on Crystal City businesses to fund the BID as part of its upcoming budget deliberations. The BID is requesting that the tax rate remain stable, and when combined with a 6.8 percent jump in property values in the neighborhood, the group expects to pull in about $2.76 million in revenue this year.

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Morning Notes

APS on Two Hour Delay — Arlington Public Schools are opening today on a two hour delay. “The Extended Day program will also open two hours late and morning field trips are canceled,” APS said. [Twitter]

Chain Bridge Closes Due to Ice — Chain Bridge was closed for much of the morning rush hour this morning due to icy conditions on the bridge. Multiple crashes were reported, though the bridge has since reopened. [Twitter, Twitter]

Amazon News Roundup — Per the Washington Business Journal: The neighborhoods around the Rosslyn area might have been rebranded as “Capital View” had it been chosen for Amazon’s HQ2. The retro Americana hotel in Crystal City is hoping to stay put and revamp a bit as Amazon moves in. The Crystal City BID is working to expand its boundaries and, if successful, may be renamed the National Landing BID. Finally, while Virginia is mostly welcoming Amazon with open arms, in the other half of the HQ2 equation, New York City, Amazon is facing protests and opposition from local lawmakers.

Amazonians May Invade Dating Scene — DCist asks: “Will Amazon Bring A Bunch Of Rude Workaholics To The D.C. Dating Scene?” [DCist]

Money Diary of a Local Parent — As part of a money diary feature, Slate asks: “How Much Does a Dad of Two Spend on His Kids During One Week in Arlington, Virginia?” [Slate]

E-CARE This Weekend — The Arlington Environmental Collection and Recycling Event (E-CARE), “a biannual event at which residents can safely dispose of household hazardous materials (HHM), bikes, small metal items and other recyclable items,” is set to happen this weekend at 1425 N. Quincy Street. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17  from 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Jenn Vogel

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(Updated July 25 at 3:55 p.m.) A new pop-up store is setting up shop in Rosslyn’s Central Place Plaza next month.

The Rosslyn Business Improvement District is preparing to open “The Alcove” in a roughly 5,000-square-foot space at the corner of 19th Street N. and N. Moore Street, next to Nando’s Peri-Peri. The store is set to open to the public on Aug. 8, and remain in place through the end of September.

The BID says the store, which will be the first brick and mortar pop-up the group has ever set up, will primarily be anchored by Turning the Page, a D.C. nonprofit selling used books, CDs and DVDs. Proceeds will benefit students in public schools.

The store will also offer “artisan-made products, food and beverage items, apparel, art and even bridal accessories,” according to the BID, and plans to court additional vendors, like local artists selling their wares on Etsy.

The BID plans to hold interactive events in the store, including “musical performances, fitness classes, DIY workshops and readings by well-known authors.” The Arlington County Public Library is also organizing more than 20 events for the store, including author talks and a “maker series” that allows both adults and kids to explore art, books and crafts.

Sponsors for the store include JBG Smith, Davis Construction, Gensler, Streetsense and Capitol Drywall.

The shop will be open from 11 a.m to 8 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Photo courtesy the Rosslyn BID

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More than a thousand people have given their feedback on how to make Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Arlington a better place — and that’s just online.

Hundreds more have shared their thoughts at close to a dozen on-site engagement activities throughout the area, and the project will continue to gain momentum throughout the summer.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) is now several months into a multidimensional strategic planning process exploring the nature of the greater submarket that includes Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Arlington.

The process, called the Future Cities Project, includes an extensive community outreach effort via Neighborland, a platform that enables the public to engage in an accessible and equitable way both online and in person.

In addition to engaging online via www.futurecitiesproject.org, the Crystal City BID has been staging onsite engagement efforts at busy locations around the area, including Metrorail stations, residential and office lobbies, shopping areas and local events. Over the next two weeks, Crystal City BID staff will pop up at various locations soliciting immediate feedback via the effort’s signature whiteboard.

New questions — which focus on enhancing the quality of life, maximizing inclusivity and adding cultural attractions and destinations — will be posted every few weeks to maximize participation and maintain interest over the course of the next three months.

For a complete and detailed schedule of upcoming dates and locations, please visit the Future Cities Project website. You may also share your feedback online, see what others have shared and vote on ideas that you agree with.

“The public feedback collected from the community through Neighborland will be a key input into our efforts to rethink the strategic priorities for the BID as an organization and the area,” said Crystal City BID Chief Operating Officer, Robert H. Mandle. “What we learn will help drive thinking about the area’s identity and what is most needed to create an integrated and vibrant walkable urban center.”

The Future Cities Project is guided by a Steering Committee drawn from the Crystal City BID’s Board of Directors, civic associations, business and arts groups and major property owners in the Pentagon City and Potomac Yard areas, along with other public and civic sector leaders and officials. Visit www.futurecitiesproject.com to get involved and learn more.

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Tracy Gabriel, a D.C. urban planning official who formerly was a vice president of the New York City Economic Development Corporation, has been hired as the new president and executive director of the Crystal City Business Improvement District.

Gabriel joins the BID as Crystal City is poised for a “dynamic transformation.”

Though saddled with a high office vacancy rate following the loss of large government and military tenants, Crystal City is among the leading contenders for Amazon’s second headquarters, known as HQ2.

Even if Amazon goes elsewhere, Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard are set for significant growth — plus $2 billion in private investment and $1.5 billion in public infrastructure projects over the next decade — which will help it become “the largest walkable downtown in Virginia and of similar scale to major U.S. downtowns such as Indianapolis and Austin,” according to a press release (below).

Meanwhile, an expansion of the Crystal City BID to include adjacent Pentagon City is under consideration.

More on Gabriel’s hiring, via a BID press release, after the jump.

Read More

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Arlington’s independent auditor is planning new reviews of how the county incentivizes businesses to move here, how it oversees its Business Improvement Districts and how it buys goods and services.

County Auditor Chris Horton unveiled his proposed work plan for fiscal year 2019 on Friday (June 8), after taking in public feedback and conducting a “risk assessment” of the county government.

Though Horton reports to the Board, and was appointed by its members, the auditor is charged with acting as an independent watchdog in the county to make Arlington’s government more efficient, most recently releasing a report on operations at the county’s 911 call center.

This year, Horton plans to study Arlington’s procurement practices and “analyze root causes of any identified inefficiencies,” according to a news release.

He also wants to examine how the county’s economic development officials use “incentive funds” to lure businesses to the area, particularly as leaders fret about how to reduce the office vacancy rate in neighborhoods like Rosslyn and Crystal City.

“As the county works to reduce its office vacancy rate, it is important that our incentive practices are efficient and effective,” Horton said in a statement.

Finally, Horton is planning on examining how the county manages its financial relationship with the Business Improvement Districts in Rosslyn, Ballston and Crystal City.

Horton is also mulling two additional areas of focus: the county’s Neighborhood Conservation program, which is set to see steep cuts in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan, and the site plan benefits negotiated between the county and developers. However, he’ll only pursue those reviews if he has enough time to do so.

The auditor will present his proposal to the County Board for approval on June 19.

File photo

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