(Updated at 12:20 p.m.) New renderings from the National Landing Business Improvement District explore what Route 1 would look like if it were surface-level.

These images of protected bike lanes, pedestrian refuges and prominent crosswalks are part of a campaign the BID launched this week touting the benefits of transforming the highway — which is elevated over 12th, 15th and 18th streets — into an at-grade urban boulevard.

People Before Cars” aims to advocate “for the implementation of best practices in urban street design and highway-to-boulevard conversions,” according to the BID.

The new campaign builds on “Reimagining Route 1,” a report it released last year envisioning the highway as a leafy, vibrant urban boulevard. Meanwhile, the Virginia Department of Transportation is wrapping up a study of how to improve the thoroughfare, which will likely involve making it surface-level.

“The improvement of Route 1 has been a huge priority for the collective community and was even featured in the historic negotiations that brought Amazon’s HQ2 to the area — further cementing its importance in the overall repositioning of National Landing,” said Jay Corbalis, Vice President of Public Affairs for JBG Smith, the largest property owner in the area.

More than half of Arlington residents surveyed by VDOT said Route 1 is not safe, easy or effective to use. About 45% of respondents said cyclists face dangers in the area and 64% want more protected bike lanes.

By 2040, conditions could be worse for drivers, who could experience heavy traffic at snail-like speeds during the morning rush hour, as the National Landing area and the region continues to grow, VDOT projects. Area employment by then is expected to double while the population is expected to grow nearly 50%.

The competing priorities of keeping traffic moving while making the corridor more attractive and safe is a tough balancing act for VDOT, and the BID is pushing a less car-centric approach.

The BID recommends shortening pedestrian crossings, narrowing vehicle travel lanes, dedicating spaces for all modes of transportation and automating traffic enforcement. It also suggests adding lush landscaping, public art and wider sidewalks. Growth does not necessarily equate to more traffic, the BID argues.

“As our area experiences an influx of new residents and workers in the coming years — a population that is anticipated to favor walking and biking as means of transit over cars — we must do all we can to ensure that Route 1 can safely and effectively serve the needs of our growing community,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, President and Executive Director of the National Landing BID.

According to the campaign, traffic fell by 18% between 2000 and 2018, despite 67% population growth during that time. One-quarter of households in National Landing do not have cars, and the number of cars passing through National Landing dropped from 61,000 in 2005 to 47,000 in 2019, the BID says.

Still, JBG Smith and the BID have raised concerns that VDOT still views Route 1 as a highway where drivers are prioritized, the Washington Business Journal reported, after the department previewed a vision of Route 1 that included nine at-grade vehicle lanes at the intersection with 15th Street S.

That worry is shared by some others, who also question whether crossing the road at-grade is safer than the current underpasses.

A group of civic associations, known as Livability 22202, has recommended taking Route 1 below ground instead.

VDOT is slated to issue a new report on possible improvements this summer. A virtual public meeting will be held Wednesday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m.

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Local business development leaders say Arlington can compete with the emerging tech hubs of Austin and Miami.

Those cities are attracting some Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and companies in search of a lower cost of living and doing business. Last year, Austin made deals with 39 companies, and Miami saw an influx of venture capital dollars and firms.

But local cheerleaders of Arlington in general — and National Landing in particular — say the area is on par with these hubs because it has an educated workforce, plenty of office space, Amazon’s HQ2, continuous 5G service, and recruiting opportunities from area universities.

“I would love for our government leaders to be talking more aggressively about this,” said Ken Biberaj, a managing director of commercial real estate company Savills, during a recent panel discussion about National Landing, hosted by Arlington Economic Development. “I think they should be on TV every single day talking about why they should be coming here.”

The suggestion is that Arlington needs someone like charismatic Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who is leading a campaign to attract businesses and support tech entrepreneurs. Suarez is noted for regularly speaking with CEOs who have chosen Miami.

So, does Arlington and National Landing compare to those two buzzy, sunny locales? Aside from the weather, some real estate analysts say yes.

“I think definitely the pieces are there and having Amazon as an asset is a really great thing,” said Eric Maribojoc, the Director of the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship at the George Mason University School of Business.

Like Austin, Arlington also has the “urban-like” amenities that could attract companies, he added.

With its talent base and focus on regulatory tech and cybersecurity companies, Northern Virginia as a whole has already achieved parity, said Phil Ryan, the Director of Research at commercial real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL).

“You need to grow more in the ‘flashier’ tech, for lack of a better word,” he said of the region. “I think National Landing is trying to get [better] at the visibility. People think Austin is techy because they’re louder about it.”

Although Arlington’s key tech sectorscloud, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence — are not as consumer-facing as a Facebook or a Tesla, those sectors could drive tech growth in the region as JLL predicts they will flourish under President Joe Biden.

Ryan cautioned against seeing the reports of migration to Austin, Miami and elsewhere as proof that Silicon Valley is experiencing a brain drain. Although some tech workers may want a lifestyle change and to avoid higher California income taxes, most are staying in the Bay Area while back-office operations and executive suites are relocated.

Although Northern Virginia checks companies’ boxes for talent, education systems and transit connectivity, it has been “sold short,” Ryan said. Despite being a business-friendly state with relatively moderate taxes , Virginia has to compete with Texas and Florida’s lack of income tax while vying for corporate relocations against — rather than in cooperation with — D.C. and Maryland.

“For years, [it] was considered a big problem that there wasn’t one unified agency to get people into the area,” Ryan said.

Still, Arlington is nabbing and retaining businesses, making 24 deals in 2020, Arlington Economic Development reports.

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Morning Notes

County Offering New Walk-Up COVID Testing — “Arlington County is launching a mobile, no-cost to patients, walk-up testing service in partnership with Quest Diagnostics. The mobile testing command center will open Tuesday, March 9, at 1429 N. Quincy Street, replacing the current drive-through testing site at that location. It will operate at that location for two weeks, Monday-Friday from 9 A.M – 4 P.M. Then it will move to new locations on a two to three-week rotational basis to offer walk-up COVID-19 testing throughout the County.” [Arlington County]

BID: National Landing is ‘Over-Parked’ — “Right now, we’re over-parked. We [were] originally built during a period that prized the automobile, but we were also fortunate enough to grow into a Metro system, and a number of other modes opened up possibilities for growth and development that are truly sustainable. What we’re seeing with new development is a ticking down of parking requirements. So we are focused on being a transit-oriented community, a multimodal community. The future is not cars.” [Smart Cities Dive]

County to Extend Ground Lease on Its HQ — “Arlington County and JBG Smith (JBGS) have entered into a letter of intent to restructure the ground leases of 2100/2200 and 2300 Clarendon Boulevard and the theater parcel in the Courthouse Plaza complex. The County owns the land under these three properties while JBGS owns the buildings. The LOI agreement states the County will provide JBGS the option to extend the leases from the current expiration in 2062 to 2119. Under the current leases, annual rent paid by JBGS to the County has varied significantly, ranging from $100,000 to $3.9 million. The new agreement would modify the annual lease payments to fixed rates and will include a one-time lump sum of $18 million paid by JBG Smith upon execution of the leases.” [Arlington County]

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Programming for the 2021 National Cherry Blossom Festival is crossing the Potomac River into National Landing.

The festival, scheduled to run from March 20 through April 11, is springing back this year after it had to cancel or modify most of its events last year due to the coronavirus.

Dozens of cherry trees will be planted in National Landing this spring and the area will feature two “Art in Bloom” sculptures and pink pop-up installations. Some restaurants in the business district are included in the annual “Cherry Picks” restaurant program while residents and local businesses will participate in the “Porch Parade and Petal Procession” — a new addition to the festival.

The inclusion of Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard is made possible through a new partnership among the festival, Amazon, the National Landing Business Improvement District and developer JBG Smith.

In November, Amazon was announced to be the new lead sponsor of the 2021 festival, supplanting Japanese airline ANA, which held the position for four years, Washington Business Journal reported. JBG Smith and the BID will be credited as Sakura Circle supporters.

Bringing parts of the festival to National Landing increases visibility for the growing urban center and positions it to be a signature partner of the festival for years to come, said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, head of the National Landing BID.

“The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a perfect complement to our work to create a vibrant destination for generations to come that celebrates such rich culture, joy and history,” she said in a statement.

Executive Vice President of JBG Smith Andy Van Horn said he particularly looks forward to the installation of an “Art in Bloom” sculpture at the Crystal City Water Park (1601 Crystal Drive), where it can be enjoyed throughout the festival before planned improvements on the park begin. Working with Amazon and the BID to support the festival in 2021 was a natural fit, he added.

“The partnership highlights the hard work and progress underway to transform National Landing into a vibrant, 18-hour neighborhood brimming with culture, excitement, and unmatched potential,” he said. Another sculpture is planned along the Long Bridge Park Esplanade.

Brooke Oberwetter, Head of External Affairs for Amazon in Arlington, said the company — which is in the midst of building its permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City — looks forward to kicking off its partnership with the festival, JBG Smith and the BID this year, and “building on it in years to come.”

“We could not be more pleased to help bring some of the excitement of the National Cherry Blossom Festival to National Landing,” Oberwetter said in a statement.

This year, the National Parks Service is projecting the blossoms to peak in early April.

Due to the coronavirus, some experiences, including the Opening Ceremony, will be virtual or a hybrid of in-person and online.

File photo

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Shrooms at 101 12th Street South (Photo courtesy of National Landing BID)

A new mushroom-inspired art installation has sprouted up in Crystal City.

Ten large, brightly-colored, inflatable mushrooms are on display at 101 12th Street S., near Long Bridge Park, through Saturday, March 13.

The art went on display this past Friday, in a grassy area that is slated to be redeveloped into a new office building. It is sponsored by the National Landing Business Improvement District.

Dubbed “The Shrooms,” the installation is the work of Australian light and design studio Amigo & Amigo. With its contrasting fabrics, the work encourages “our social nature while contrasting with urban environments,” the BID said in a press release.

It was originally created for an art festival in Sydney last year and will be lit up both day and night.

The Shrooms is part of the BID’s winter-long “Turn Up the Love” campaign, which has featured several outdoor pop-up art installations over the last few months.

“In National Landing, we are constantly looking for creative ways to activate our public spaces and create fun, uplifting experiences for those who live in and visit our community,” Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, National Landing BID’s President and Executive Director, told ARLnow. “In many cultures, mushrooms are considered a symbol of luck, so ‘The Shrooms’ felt like a fitting installation as our neighborhood continues its exciting transformation and we work towards a bright future.

Previous “Turn Up the Love” installations include a large boombox adorned with thousands of colorful ornaments for the holidays and three sharable photo frames.

Also part of this campaign and currently on display is a life-size cutout of a pink Volkswagen Beetle outside of Commonwealth Joe’s at 520 12th Street S., about a half-mile walk from the Shrooms. That was installed on Valentine’s Day and will be there until Friday, March 12.

Photo courtesy of National Landing BID

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The National Landing Business Improvement District is working on a program to support ground-floor restaurants and retailers in Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

Dubbed “Love Local,” the marketing campaign will distribute almost $100,000 in grants to eligible retail and dining establishments within the boundaries of the BID, through a partnership with Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

“While the support of businesses is a consistent function of Arlington County’s business improvement districts, the specific needs of businesses has changed as a result of the global health pandemic,” a county report said. “This initiative aims to provide direct financial support to businesses within the BID boundary in response to the economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The BID does not yet have a comment, a spokeswoman said.

The $100,000 in funding for the program includes an administrative and marketing fee of $10,000 for RAMW, which will administer the grants.

During its regular meeting on Saturday, the County Board approved the BID’s request to change its work plan for the 2021 Fiscal Year to include this grant program. The amendment allows the business district to provide direct assistance to businesses in the form of a grant, “an action that requires approval by the County Board as the governing body of the BID,” the county said.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is able to review the eligibility requirements to participate in the grant program as well as how the money would be used if not for the relief program, the county said.

This is the first fiscal year that the organization is fully operational as the National Landing BID, according to its 2021 Work Plan. The County Board voted in September 2019 to expand the boundaries of the Crystal City BID to include Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

Image via Google Maps

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A virtual public meeting is being held this week on the topic of potential improvements to Route 1 through Crystal City.

VDOT and Arlington County are studying ways to improve the safety, accessibility and experience along Route 1 between 12th and 23rd Street. The study responds to greater demand for various transportation methods as construction of Amazon’s HQ2 progresses.

“As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come,” said the VDOT study page.

Participants in the online meeting, scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., will hear a review of existing conditions on Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — and learn about responses to a public survey that was open during October and November. They can also ask questions and give input.

The public is invited to provide comments during the meeting or through Monday, Dec. 28.

After the meeting, the public will hear and have the chance to provide feedback on draft recommendations in spring 2021. Officials expect the final study to be done next summer.

“At this time, no construction funding has been allocated, so the study will not set design or construction dates,” the VDOT website said.

The department is not the only group thinking of ways to improve the highway. In October, the National Landing BID released “Reimagining Route 1,” a report that transformed the car-centric highway into a safer boulevard lined with trees, retail and restaurants.

“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”

VDOT is studying the Route 1 overpasses over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, which some have called to be eliminated in favor of more urban intersections at grade.

Those interested in joining the virtual meeting can register online or participate in listen-only mode by calling 877-309-2071 (access code 205-472-841).

The study team will make a short presentation beginning at 6:30 p.m. and answer questions for about an hour afterward, the website said. A recording and meeting materials will be available online following the meeting.

In addition to doing so during the meeting, feedback can be provided via a comment form or email.

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Morning Notes

Arlington’s ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Talks — “For me, I like the hole-in-the wall bars. Just like, a dive bar where I can just like, grab a beer. Like I love drinking Guinness or some sort of Allagash White or something like that. If I were to go to a bar in Arlington to watch a game, I don’t know — maybe like, First Down in Ballston or like Spider Kelly’s.” [Washingtonian]

CaBi Comes to DCA — “The Capital Bikeshare station at National Airport is live! Traveling to the airport just got a whole lot easier.” [Twitter]

National Landing BID Expanding — “The National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) today announced two new executive appointments and three promotions within the organization.” [National Landing BID]

Fmr. Interim Superintendent Leaves APS — Arlington Public Schools staff wished goodbye to Cintia Johnson, the long-time school staffer who recently served as interim superintendent. [@APSVirginia/Twitter]

Chamber Continues Supporting Dillon Rule — “As part of its 2021 package of legislative priorities, the Chamber of Commerce is continuing its position that the ‘Dillon Rule’ needs to be maintained, and urged members of the General Assembly to do nothing that would lessen it. Leadership of the business organization comes and goes and other policy positions evolve over time, but the Chamber’s support for the Dillon Rule has remained steadfast over the decades.” [InsideNova]

Hospital CEO Staying On, For Now — “Virginia Hospital Center is experiencing some leadership changes — and holding off on others. VHC president and CEO Jim Cole, who’s held the position for 25 of his 35 years with the Arlington hospital, has continued and will remain in the top slot for now after announcing a year ago his intention to retire in September 2020.” [Washington Business Journal]

‘Section 230’ Explained With ARLnow — So what is Section 230, exactly? Per cybersecurity law professor Jeff Kosseff: “[An] example is that I go to my favorite local news site, @ARLnowDOTcom, and post a terrible, defamatory rumor about my neighbor… Neighbor can sue me, but a suit against ARLnow would fail because ARLnow was not responsible in whole or in part for creating or developing my defamatory post.” [@jkosseff/Twitter]

Nearby: Bethesda Encouraging ‘Streeteries’ — “A fund with $1.25 million from federal aid money might help. The county is considering using that money to give outdoor ‘streeteries’ — blocked-off streets filled with tables and chairs for patrons to eat outdoors — tools to prepare for operating during winter, such as heaters.” [Bethesda Magazine]

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The Virginia Department of Transportation is asking residents to take a short survey that will shape a study of potential improvements to Route 1 between 12th and 23rd Streets S. in Crystal City.

As development activity in Crystal City and Pentagon City continues, VDOT and Arlington County are looking for ways to improve the safety, accessibility and effectiveness of a variety of transportation modes on Route 1 in the area. In particular, the study responds to the increased demand for transportation resulting from the construction of Amazon’s HQ2.

“As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come,” according to a news release from the VDOT.

The survey asks respondents to explain how they use Route 1 (also known as Richmond Highway), rank improvements by priority, and identify areas with congestion or safety problems. It is available through Nov. 15.

Officials say the study will help identify safety improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists, those using micro-mobility modes such as electric bicycles and scooters, and those taking transit or driving. The study will also examine ways to make transit more accessible, reliable and convenient, as well as options for protecting the environment.

The team leading the study plans to form a task force from representatives of civic associations, Arlington County advisory groups and the National Landing Business Improvement District, the news release said. The task force is anticipated to have five meetings.

More from the press release:

After collecting and analyzing the initial survey data, VDOT is planning a virtual public meeting this winter to share preliminary survey results and latest study information. Draft recommendations for the study will be presented to the public for feedback in spring 2021, and the final study is expected to be complete in summer 2021.

Please note that this study does not include construction funding, but will develop proposed future improvements that VDOT and other agencies will consider and may pursue for funding.

The study was announced a week after the National Landing BID released a report, “Reimagining Route 1,” which envisioned the car-centric highway as a slower, greener, pedestrian-friendly boulevard lined with retail and restaurants.

VDOT is studying the Route 1 overpasses over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, which some have called to be eliminated in favor of more urban intersections at grade.

“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”

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Route 1 through Crystal City is currently a car-oriented, exhaust-clogged asphalt canyon that’s unpleasant for pedestrians to cross or even walk along. But there’s a push for that to change.

The National Landing BID, formerly known as the Crystal City BID before Amazon came to town, has just revealed its lusher, more pedestrian-friendly vision for Route 1, complete with wide sidewalks lined with ground-floor retail and restaurants.

VDOT is currently studying the corridor and considering whether overpasses in the Crystal City area should be removed in favor of a more conventional, urban street grid. The BID’s new Reimagine Route 1 report takes that and other ideas for modernizing the corridor and turns it into a series of concept designs, complete with 3D renderings.

“The concepts presented in Reimagine Route 1 draw upon best practices in urban street design by placing people at the center of National Landing’s future,” Matt Gerber, General Manager of the Westin Crystal City and Co-Chair of the BID’s Transportation Committee, said in a statement today. “Narrow lane widths, lower design speeds, and urban intersection geometries ensure that the autocentric mistakes of the past will not be replicated in the development of the corridor’s new and distinctly community-focused identity.”

The BID’s vision for turning Route 1 — also known as Richmond Highway — from a commuter route into an “iconic corridor serving a thriving urban neighborhood” draws comparisons to main routes in other major cities.

The report includes photos of Octavia Boulevard — formerly Central Freeway — in San Francisco, as well as Michigan Avenue in Chicago, which like Route 1 has three vehicle lanes in each direction.

“Also known as the Magnificent Mile, the 13-block stretch of North Michigan Avenue from the Chicago River to Oak Street has a similar vehicle carrying capacity as the existing Route 1 yet boasts a walkable and vibrant public realm with safe connections to transit and a well-connected street grid,” the report says.

The report is intended to start a conversation about the corridor’s long-term future, which officials may then opt to turn into action via transportation and land use changes. The overall goal is to turn the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods — collectively now known as National Landing — into a cohesive urban area over time.

“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”

Others have also been working on envisioning changes to Route 1. The Crystal City Sector Plan, approved in 2010, set a more urban vision for the community through 2040. Local civic associations, meanwhile, have recently formed a collective called Livability 22202 to discuss ideas. From an August article:

Proposed changes ranged from building storefronts or markets in the area underneath the overpasses, creating more open space where thick sandstone-colored walls now hold up the highway, and putting Route 1 underground to allow for development on top of it.

More on the Reimagine Route 1 report, from a press release, is below.

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Water Park to Get Big Upgrade — “JBG Smith Properties is pitching a major makeover for a small park at the heart of its Crystal City holdings, envisioning some new retail and even a bar atop a water feature. The developer filed plans with Arlington County earlier this month requesting an additional 6,100 square feet of density for the 1.6-acre park, located across the street from JBG Smith’s massive ‘Central District’ project at 1770 Crystal Drive.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

Vote By Mail Facts — “The first round of vote-by-mail ballots have been sent to people who requested them, but it’s not too late to request yours. Ballot applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 23. To help you understand how voting by mail works — and feel confident in submitting your ballot — we’ve broken down the facts you need to know.” [Arlington County]

Deer Rescued from Country Club Fence — “On Tuesday night, a curious fawn tried to get through a metal fence in the Washington Golf and Country Club. Unfortunately her adventurous plan backfired, and the fawn ended up stuck and stranded. The country club called animal control, which is under the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, and that’s when Officer Shannon Rose sprung to action.” [Washingtonian]

Weekday Afternoon Robbery in Ballston — “At approximately 4:21 p.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business, approached the front counter, and passed the employee a note demanding money and threatening them if they didn’t comply. The victim complied, and the suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash, then fled on foot prior to police arrival.” [Arlington County]

National Landing Food Program Extended — “Thanks to generous support from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), Amazon, JBG SMITH, Equity Residential and individual Arlington residents, the National Landing Business Improvement District (BID) announced today that its Farm-to-Families food assistance program will be extended through the fall.” [Press Release]

Addiction Recovery Org Rebrands — “The name will change but the mission will remain the same – working to help those struggling with addiction turn their lives around. Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic announced Sept. 16 that it would change its name to National Capital Treatment and Recovery, following its split last year from the national Phoenix House organization.” [InsideNova]

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