Arlington, VA

Over the next three weeks, Ballston streets might look a little more colorful than before thanks to a new series of murals commissioned by BallstonGives, a charitable subsidiary of the Ballston Business Improvement District.

Artist Patrick Owens was commissioned to do a series of chalk images on the sidewalk over the next three weeks. The first was completed earlier this week outside Randolph Towers (4001 9th Street N.).

“We are ever-inspired by the resiliency of our Ballston community and businesses and are delighted to celebrate the workers who have continued to keep this neighborhood running during the pandemic,” said Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston BID, in a press release. “We truly regard them as our hometown heroes, so we felt it was fitting to honor them as such across several industries while injecting color onto the streets for passersby to enjoy.”

The Ballston BID said Owens will be going around Ballston and working on other murals over the next few weeks, weather dependent. Check out the art while you can, given the rain in the forecast over the next few days.

Photo courtesy Ballston BID

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Morning Notes

Arlington Nat’l Cemetery Time Capsule Opened — “An interdisciplinary team recently unsealed a memorabilia box more than a 100 years old at Arlington National Cemetery, in honor of the Memorial Amphitheater’s centennial. And now, a peek inside the old copper box, along with its historic relics, are available virtually, as ANC hosts it’s first-ever online exhibit starting this week.” [U.S. Army, Washington Post]

Bus Protest on I-395 — A caravan of buses made its way up I-395, through Arlington and into D.C. yesterday. The buses were heading the the National Mall to protest a lack of federal help for the motorcoach industry. [@hhowardWTOP/Twitter, @STATter911/Twitter]

Whitlow’s Reopening Friday — “Open for carry out daily starting this Friday from 4-8pm! Cocktails, Jell-O shots, frozen boozy slushees and a limited menu! Check out the menu and our new online ordering store.” [Facebook]

Rosslyn BID Offering Reopening Consulting — “Today, the Rosslyn BID announced the launch of Rosslyn Ready, a multifaceted program to support and organize businesses in promoting proper safety measures when people are welcomed back into the neighborhood… In just under a week since launch, 90 businesses and restaurants have signed up to be part of the program.” [Press Release]

New Org Looking for Drivers — “Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington is looking for volunteers to deliver meals to local Arlingtonians on Thursdays and Fridays for the next few weeks. You must have your own car and a valid license.” [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

County Board Defends COVID-19 Response — “Arlington leaders continue to push back against accusations they could be doing more to address the COVID-19 crisis within the county’s 26 square miles. A number of civic-activists used the public-comment period of the County Board’s April 25 meeting (held ‘virtually’ after the government received state authority to do so) to rap officials for not imposing more aggressive regulation of daily life.” [InsideNova]

More Contributions for Small Biz Grant Fund — “The Arlington County Industrial Development Authority has joined Arlington Economic Development’s (AED) efforts to help small businesses… [The authority] approved a contribution of $326,000 of its own funding. Together with the $674,000 of funding from the County, and the recently announced contributions of $100,000 each by the Crystal City and Rosslyn Business Improvement Districts, total GRANT program funding has reached $1.2 million.” [Arlington County, Rosslyn BID]

Ballston Hotel Donates Rooms to Healthcare Workers — “The Ballston BID is collaborating with local organizations to coordinate free accommodations at the Holiday Inn Arlington at Ballston for essential healthcare workers in the community. Chesapeake Hospitality, which manages the Ballston-based Holiday Inn on North Fairfax, is donating a complimentary block of 50 rooms per day… to frontline medical staff, their families, and those most vulnerable within the community.” [Press Release]

Arlington Gets Okay Social Distancing Marks — “Falls Church has a C+, Fairfax County has a C and Arlington gets a B- in social distancing grades from @Unacast. Virginia’s grade is D- and the U.S. as a whole gets a D+.” [Falls Church News-Press, Twitter]

New Deputy Chief for ACPD — “Arlington County Police Chief M. Jay Farr is pleased to announce the appointment of Captain Adrienne Quigley to the position of Deputy Chief of Police, effective Sunday, May 10, 2020. Deputy Chief Quigley will assume command of the Systems Management Division at a later date.” [Arlington County]

Historic Home and Huge Lot Not for Sale, Yet — “Long coveted by developers and planners for schools and parks, the home built just after the Civil War has stirred interest since the death in 2017 of owner Randy Rouse, the homebuilder and equestrian. But his widow still lives in the home. And this week, it appears that some speculation on marketing the house was premature, the chances that the county could purchase it almost nil.” [Falls Church News-Press]

COVID Case Shuts Down Credit Union Branch — “The Arlington Community Federal Credit Union is closing one of their branches after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the credit union announced Monday morning.” [Patch]

Bankruptcy for Hair Cuttery, Bubbles — “Ratner Cos., the Vienna-based parent company of hair salon chains including the Hair Cuttery, Bubbles and Cielo, has filed for bankruptcy protection after closing more than 80 locations across the country in March. The company and related entities, including Creative Hairdressers Inc., filed for Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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People singing and playing music from their balconies has been something of a trend during the quarantine, and the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) wants to get it started in Arlington.

The Crystal City BID is starting Front Porch Fridays tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.

“We may not all have a front porch — we may not all even have a balcony — but what we do have is our community,” the Crystal City BID said on the event page. “Music has always brought people together and now is no different. We can still gather together to listen (virtually)!”

The BID is encouraging residents to open their windows or bring a radio to their porch or balcony, tune to the same station and crank up the volume.

This week, the station is Hot 99.5 at 4:20 p.m. Next week it’s DC 101.1 at noon.

“The station will change each week, but the party atmosphere stays the same,” the BID said. “And best of all — we want you to select the playlist! Visit our Facebook page each week Monday-Wednesday to vote on the songs you want to hear. Then listen in on Friday to see if your pick made the cut!”

The music will be commercial-free, courtesy of the BID.

Videos of people singing in the streets went viral early on in the pandemic, though results to replicate that have sometimes been mixed.

Separately, the BID announced Thursday that it would be donating $100,000 to Arlington’s small business grant fund.

“Small businesses throughout National Landing have adjusted their operations to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Just as they have supported us, we are focusing our efforts on ways to assist and enhance the long-term viability of these businesses,” Crystal City BID President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a statement. “We are pleased to contribute to Arlington County’s GRANT Program, which will enable countless small businesses to stay afloat, retain their staff and continue to serve the community.”

File photo

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Update at 1:40 p.m. — The County Board meeting scheduled for this weekend has been delayed until Saturday, April 25.

At its Saturday meeting, the Arlington County Board is set to consider a construction contract for upgrades to a portion of 23rd Street S. in Crystal City.

As part of the first phase of a two-phase project, the county is planning to “widen the sidewalk and retail parking areas on the south side of 23rd Street” between Route 1 and S. Eads Street. That will mean improved pedestrian safety and better ease of use for the existing parking lot that serves Young Chow restaurant, the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club, and 7-Eleven.

“Lane widths will be reduced, but the number of travel lanes will remain the same as today,” a county staff report says. “The new curb re-alignment will create more room for vehicles in the shopping plaza to maneuver without encroaching onto the sidewalk.”

Additionally, the $1.33 million construction contract will add new landscaping, crosswalks, ADA-accessible curb ramps and upgraded traffic signals at the intersection of 23rd and Eads. The overall project cost for Phase 1 is about $2.1 million, which will be funded by a regional Northern Virginia Transportation Authority grant.

“Upon approval by the county board, construction is expected to begin Summer of 2020 and to be complete in Winter of 2021,” says the staff report.

Phase 2 of the project is still in design but is expected to upgrade 23rd Street S. between Route 1 and Crystal Drive, with new sidewalks and trees on either side, while removing the grassy median in the middle. That project being planned in conjunction with JBG Smith’s major redevelopment project on the north side of 23rd Street.

“Phase 2 of the project is anticipated to implement similar improvements on 23rd Street South east of Richmond Highway to Crystal Drive,” the staff report notes. “Phase 2 is currently in 30% design and is being coordinated with private sector redevelopment efforts along 23rd Street South.”

The stretch of 23rd Street S. between Arlington Ridge Road and Crystal Drive, which includes the Crystal City’s well-known restaurant row, is seeing a series of infrastructure changes as Amazon arrives in the neighborhood. A project to replace a major water main along 23rd Street is currently underway, and the county recently finished closing an underground pedestrian tunnel under Route 1.

Separately, the County Board on Saturday will also take up the renaming of the Crystal City Business Improvement District to the “The Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard at National Landing Business Improvement Service District.”

Street view via Google Maps

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Alternately billing it as a happy hour for renters and a millennial outreach event, a pair of Crystal City organizations is hosting an event geared toward younger residents tomorrow night.

The Crystal City Civic Association and the neighborhood’s business improvement district are co-hosting the event to engage renters in the quickly changing community.

More from Arlington County:

Co-hosted by the Crystal City Civic Association and Crystal City Business Improvement District, this happy hour is your opportunity to get engaged, get involved, and get a little refreshment in the process. Featuring special remarks from Katie Cristol, Arlington County Board member and former Crystal City resident. This event is targeted for renters in the 22202 area to promote how to get involved in civic engagement and advocacy, with the rapid changes in the neighborhood. Free drinks and light refreshments will be served. Find out more by checking out the Facebook event here.

Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol is expected to deliver remarks at the free event, which is being held at the JBG National Landing Marketing Center (241 18th Street S.) from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Attendees are asked to RSVP online.

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) The name “National Landing” is becoming official.

The Board of Directors of the Crystal City Business Improvement District voted yesterday to change the organization’s name to the National Landing Business Improvement District. The new name will now be voted on by the BID’s general membership and the Arlington County Board.

The name change follows the September approval of the BID’s boundary expansion to serve portions of the Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods.

Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president and executive director of the to-be-renamed BID, emphasized in a statement (below) that National Landing is an umbrella term and that the names of the individual neighborhoods are not changing.

We are pleased to report that on January 23 our Board of Directors approved a resolution to change our organizational name to the National Landing Business Improvement District. The Board opted for the new name in recognition of the BID’s upcoming geographic expansion and as a reflection of the increasingly interconnected character of the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard communities. This resolution marks the culmination of a robust public process in which the BID sought and received broad support from area residents and local civic organizations.

Pending approval by the Arlington County Board and a formal vote by the BID’s full members at our Annual Meeting this spring, the National Landing name will be utilized as an umbrella term for Virginia’s most vibrant and largest walkable downtown. It will not replace the existing neighborhood names of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, which each maintain their own unique identities and distinct characteristics.

The BID is also seeking to change the term those in economic development and commercial real estate use to refer to the area — from the “Jefferson Davis Corridor,” after the former name of Route 1, to National Landing. Gabriel said the Confederate president’s name “did not represent a desirable monicker for the area.”

In an phone interview with ARLnow this morning, Gabriel acknowledged that the initial rollout of the National Landing name — when Amazon arbitrarily announced that HQ2 was coming to “National Landing” before members of the public had heard of the name — was “not ideal.” She noted, however, that the name was actually created by Arlington and Alexandria officials as part of the local governments’ joint effort to woo Amazon and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

The BID, meanwhile, has been working to change its name since before Amazon’s announcement.

“We’ve been thinking about finding a collective name for our downtown since 2018, even before the arrival of Amazon and the expansion of the BID,” Gabriel said. “With the expansion of the BID we’ve had a renewed effort to have a public conversation about the name.”

“Since the name has come out, we’ve done extensive public outreach. We put out 18,000 flyers, 16,000 of which were mailed to all of the households in the 22202 zip code,” she noted. Other outreach included “numerous open houses about the vision for the neighborhood, as well as focus groups and open office hours.”

There were other possible names floated, we’re told, but none garnered more public support than National Landing. Among the alternative names considered were “Future Cities,” “Lower Arlington” and “Penn-Crystal.”

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a funding agreement that would advance the proposed Crystal City-National Airport pedestrian connector to a preliminary design phase.

The county plans to use up to $9.5 million in federal funds for an environmental impact study and preliminary design work.

The design work is expected to be complex: figuring out how to connect pedestrians along Crystal Drive, and potentially the VRE station, with the airport Metro station — across active train tracks, the GW Parkway and National Park Service land.

“The goal of the project is to create an intermodal connection, focusing on pedestrian access from the core of the Crystal City business district to DCA,” says a county staff report. “The funding agreement allows the County to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality federal funding, distributed through VDOT, to develop the required documents and level of design required for federally funded projects.”

“Although the terminals are less than 2,000 feet from Crystal Drive, current pedestrian access is a circuitous network of trails and road crossings that is difficult to traverse,” the report adds.

The project has been championed by the Crystal City Business Improvement District, which envisions a High Line-esque bridge, with park-like features. The primary goal, however, is to make it easy for people to get from Crystal City to the airport without a Metro or car trip — which is seen as an attractive amenity for office tenants and residents. The design work will determine whether a bridge or a tunnel is the best solution for that.

“This weekend’s Arlington County Board vote represents a key step towards advancing our vision for a bold new connection linking Virginia’s largest downtown and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” said Robert Mandle, Chief Operating Officer of the BID. “CC2DCA provides a unique opportunity to leverage existing transportation assets into a multi-modal hub, while also delivering a truly special and iconic piece of urban infrastructure.”

The state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board identified $9.5 million in federal funding in the wake of the Amazon HQ2 announcement. That’s on top of $500,000 in local funding previously allocated.

Once the funding is secured and this phase gets underway, the next phases for the Board to consider will be final design and construction. Last year a study by the BID estimated that construction would cost about $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000.

Map via Google Maps

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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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