Supporters of the Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion plans are ramping up their advocacy efforts, now that the project’s fate looks murky ahead of a key County Board vote.
The hospital itself has begun sending out mailers backing the expansion, according to ARLnow reader Dave Schutz, urging county residents to contact the Board about the $250 million project. Arlington’s lone comprehensive hospital has hoped for roughly a year now to add a seven-story outpatient facility and a 10-story parking garage next to its existing campus (1701 N. George Mason Drive), arguing that it desperately needs more space to keep pace with the county’s burgeoning population.
Meanwhile, the county’s business community is also redoubling its efforts to push the expansion forward. The Chamber of Commerce penned a new letter to the Board today (Tuesday), imploring officials to ignore the recommendation of the county’s Planning Commission and approve the project “without further delay” this weekend.
“Further deferral of this already-delayed project will impose additional financial and time costs that will redirect resources that VHC would otherwise use to provide health care services to the Arlington community,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Bates wrote.
County planners are indeed urging the Board to hold off on giving the project a green light, over concerns about the height and design of the proposed buildings. VHC is looking to build the facilities on a parcel of county-owned land near the intersection of 19th Street N. and N. Edison Street, and the commission argues the large new buildings would look out of place sitting across the street from small single-family homes.
Though commissioners support the project in principle, they voted unanimously last week to recommend that the Board force the hospital to revise its plans to address those concerns. They argue that the county would be better served by requiring the hospital to go through a “Phased Development Site Plan” process, a long-range exercise that would give planners more say over VHC’s intentions to redevelop its existing campus.
The hospital argued that such a process would be prohibitively difficult and expensive, and Bates alleged in her letter that VHC has already been made to wait too long to move ahead with its expansion plans. The hospital originally hoped to earn the Board’s approval this July, but neighbors successfully convinced the county to hold off on until the end of the summer to allow for more community involvement in the process.
“Each additional delay in the approval of the site plan application puts off the day when VHC will be able to care for its patient load in a full and comfortable facility,” Bates wrote. “Absent a timely expansion of VHC to accommodate its patient-centric mission, the community as a whole will bear these costs.”
The Board will have the final say on the matter at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22), a vote made all the more consequential for the county because Arlington stands to gain an 11.5-acre site on S. Carlin Springs Road as part of a “land swap” with the hospital if the expansion moves forward.
Though Board members have been loath to tip their hands on the vote, they are pledging to thoughtfully consider the concerns of neighbors and planners about the project.
“Public or private institutions and buildings, whether hospitals or schools, office buildings or community centers, must respect our planning documents, the built environment and the residents of surrounding communities,” said Board member John Vihstadt during a Chamber forum last week. “Height, setbacks, connectivity, building orientation, traffic and parking concerns are critical factors in any development proposal, and they’re concerns I take seriously. I’m looking forward to hearing more from the hospital and community in the coming days.”
Virginia lawmakers are considering loosening some state alcohol regulations in the coming months — and that could be good news for Arlington’s bars and restaurants.
The General Assembly is weighing a bevy of changes to how the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control authority, commonly known as the ABC, hands out licenses and permits to better match the ever-evolving beverage business.
Changes could include a big reduction in the types of permits the ABC hands out, or perhaps even a change in regulations dictating how much food businesses need to sell if they’re also offering liquor. All that and more were tweaks offered up by ABC officials and state lawmakers to local business owners at a gathering hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce Thursday (Aug. 16), as part of a bid to connect the business community to its regulators.
“We’re trying to look for a concept that does free up the market a little bit, without getting to the point that we have bars on every corner,” said Tom Kirby, ABC’s acting chief of law enforcement.
A particularly popular option offered up by Kirby and his colleagues: somehow adjusting ABC’s current requirement that businesses maintain a 45 percent to 55 percent split between food and mixed drink sales. Beer and wine sales are exempted from that requirement, yet some bars and restaurants still find themselves challenged by that standard.
Freddie Lutz, owner of Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City, recounted that he’s had several slow winters where he’s bumped up against those limits, largely thanks to competition from bars in D.C. and Maryland. Accordingly, he’d be quite happy indeed to see those limits change, particularly as he prepares to open another restaurant in Crystal City.
“I just want to see that ratio tweaked just enough to not get gray hair over it,” Lutz said.
To that end, Kirby said his agency could work with lawmakers to bump the food standard down to 35 percent of gross sales, or even offer exemptions at certain levels of sales.
State Sen. Jeremy McPike, D-29th District, currently sits on a subcommittee examining ABC issues, which he says is weighing even more targeted fixes. For instance, lawmakers could measure how much liquor bars sell by volume to determine a balance between food and drink, instead of looking at the dollar amount of sales.
The goal of the limit in the first place is, after all, to prevent bar patrons from being overserved.
“What if you have a higher-priced shot that costs like $150?” McPike said. “Think about how much you need to sell to make up for that.”
ABC officials stressed that such a change would in the agency’s interest as well — Chris Curtis, secretary to the ABC’s board, noted its employees spend roughly “10,400 man hours” each year monitoring whether restaurants are complying with the food-drink split.
“But I’m sure that pales in comparison to the amount of time you all have to spend sending us this information,” Curtis said.
Another possible change the ABC could consider is issuing a new type of permit to let bar patrons bring their beverages outside into a common area shared by multiple businesses. McPike suggested that local governments, or even business improvement districts, could manage the process, allowing for more events drawing in a variety of restaurants in a small area.
Kate Bates, the chamber’s president and CEO, noted that Rosslyn businesses have long hoped to offer events pulling in all the neighborhood’s different bars, but have run into challenges letting people easily move between different establishments if they’re too far away from each.
Similarly, Cassie Hurley, events manager for the Crystal City BID, suggested that her group “would love to do something similar to 6th Street in Austin, [Texas] on 23rd Street” to let people bring their drinks into stores along the small strip.
Kirby says ABC is receptive to the idea, though he did caution that inevitably there will be enforcement issues to consider, considering that revelers could easily get carried away and leave the permitted boundaries for such activities.
Complicating matters further are the political realities of Richmond — the needs of Northern Virginia businesses are quite different from those in Southwest Virginia, where, as McPike pointed out, there are still some dry counties left.
Progress could certainly be slow in some areas, as lawmakers will only meet for a short legislative session next year with more elections on the way. And, as Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-30th District, noted “it’s rare that we rewrite whole code sections all at the same time.”
But Kirby underscored that ABC is willing to work with lawmakers to ensure everyone is a bit more satisfied with the entire regulatory framework.
“There is a lot of agreement that we need to do something differently,” Kirby said.
Arlington’s business community is throwing its support behind the county’s efforts to land Amazon’s second headquarters.
The county’s Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 750 businesses in the area, penned a letter to the County Board Friday (June 8) expressing its “utmost support” for Arlington’s work to secure the vaunted HQ2.
“Adding a global brand like Amazon to Arlington’s corporate roster would be a monumental win for our area, helping to continue to diversify our economy and helping to maintain the significant commercial sector in our tax base,” Kate Bates, the chamber’s president and CEO, wrote. “And in turn, our location sets Amazon up for maximum success.”
County leaders have worked with the state to offer up two different sites for the tech giant to call home: one anchored in Crystal City and extending to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, and another in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The company has yet to tip its hand, but, by all accounts, Arlington is a leading contender to win out among 20 other HQ2 finalists.
Yet concerns abound among county residents and leaders alike about how Amazon’s arrival would impact the area, particularly with the county already dealing with rising rents and an influx of students in Arlington Public Schools. But Bates argued that any “challenges” associated with HQ2 setting up shop in Arlington pale in comparison to the benefits it could offer.
“We understand the amount of growth that comes with a large corporation like Amazon settling in Arlington comes with challenges,” Bates wrote. “However, we know these are challenges that Arlington has the infrastructure to successfully overcome.”
The full letter from the chamber is after the jump.
Dear Chairman Cristol:
As Arlington County moves forward in the process of recruiting Amazon’s second headquarters, I write to you on behalf of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 750 local businesses, to express our utmost support of all efforts to bring Amazon HQ2 to Arlington.
Adding a global brand like Amazon to Arlington’s corporate roster would be a monumental win for our area, helping to continue to diversify our economy, and helping to maintain the significant commercial sector in our tax base. And in turn, our location sets Amazon up for maximum success. While Amazon carefully considers each of the final locations, we are confident that the County will be able to prove to Amazon what all of us know: Arlington is the best home for the online retail giant to continue to grow and lead on the international stage.
More and more large companies – a most recent example being Nestlé – have acknowledged Arlington as the premier place to relocate, due to the unparalleled opportunities our area offers. Arlington has all of the critical factors needed for success and expansion, including the ability to provide key access, transportation, technology, one of the most highly-educated talent pools in the country, and close proximity to the nation’s capital.
We understand the amount of growth that comes with a large corporation like Amazon settling in Arlington comes with challenges. However, we know these are challenges that Arlington has the infrastructure to successfully overcome. We are thrilled at the idea of bringing a company like Amazon to our area, whose innovative practices and strong global presence exemplify what we our area seeks to add to our business community.
We thank the County for its work to attract exceptional businesses like Amazon to our area, and we stand ready to assist however possible.
President & CEO
Fund Bets on Amazon HQ2 Coming to Crystal City — A New York-based asset manager is making a $10 million bet that Crystal City will be the location chosen for Amazon’s HQ2. The company cited a high concentration of millennials and housing in the area, as well as proximity to Metro stations, commuter rail and Reagan National Airport. [Bloomberg, ZeroHedge]
Chamber Wants Extended Parking Meter Hours Paused — “Leadership of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants the county government to hit the brakes on a proposal to increase parking-meter fees and extend the hours meters must be fed. In a letter to County Board Chairman Katie Cristol, Arlington Chamber president Kate Bates said the government failed to do proper outreach before proposing the alterations to existing policy.” [InsideNova]
Grumbles About Ballston Construction — “Like many who venture to the kingdom of Ballston, I am impatient for the never-ending renovations to be over. Tina Leone, CEO of the Ballston Business Improvement District, was happy to promise me that the rewards for us patrons of Arlington’s most central community will unfold in September–with staggered openings continuing through May 2019.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Average Single-Family Home Sale: $1 Million — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington in March was $1,066,368, up 6.9 percent from a year prior. [InsideNova]
Ribbon Cutting for Abingdon Renovations — A ribbon cutting ceremony is being held at 9:30 this morning to celebrate the recently-completed addition and renovations at Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington. [Twitter]
Photo by Anna Merod
Firefighters Push for Raise — IAFF Local 2800, which represents Arlington firefighters and paramedics, is pushing for a raise in this year’s county budget process. The group says Arlington’s compensation for public safety employees “is at the bottom of the DMV.” [Twitter]
Chamber Concerned With 4MRV Initiative — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the County Board expressing concerns with the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative and possible changes to or acquisition of the light industrial properties along Four Mile Run Drive. [Arlington Chamber]
Growing Up Black in Arlington — From 1950 to 1962, growing up black in Arlington meant facing segregation and racism at every turn, and not feeling safe venturing out of the largely self-contained confines of a historically African-American neighborhood like Hall’s Hill. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington Startup Raises $3 Million — What started as a way for the owner of conveyor belt sushi chain Wasabi Sushi to streamline his accounting is now a venture-funded startup. Arlington-based MarginEdge has raised $3 million to go national with its restaurant management software. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Chamber Seeking State Help — Possibly in response to the push for housing conservation districts, “the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is asking the General Assembly to ‘serve as a backstop and a safeguard’ against overreach by localities on planning and zoning matters.” [InsideNova]
Reminder: SmarTrip Change Next Week — As of Monday, Metro riders will no longer be able to run a negative balance on their SmarTrip cards. [WMATA]
‘Meet the Chair’ Scheduled — Arlington residents will be able to meet newly-minted Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol on the evening of Jan. 18, when the Leadership Center for Excellence holds its annual Meet the Chair event. [Leadership Center for Excellence]
SoberRide New Year’s Record — A record 1,225 people used the free safe ride service SoberRide on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Thanks to its new partnership with Lyft, SoberRide’s organizer says it “has removed well more than two times as many would-be drunk drivers from Greater Washington’s roadways as compared with the previous year.” [PDF]
District Taco Continues to Expand — Five Guys may be given a run for its money as the most successful Arlington-born restaurant chain. District Taco is now opening a location in the Center City section of Philadelphia. [Eater]
Snow Shovel Contest Winner — “This is Susan. She won our snow shovel, writing that her favorite phase of snow treatment/removal is Phase 1. Brine makes her giddy. Susan’s old shovel is from Nebraska and cracking. Way to go, Susan.” [Twitter]
Photo courtesy @BoccatoGelatos
New ‘Best of Arlington’ List — Arlington Magazine is out with its annual “Best of Arlington” list. This year’s winners include The Liberty Tavern for Best Restaurant in Arlington, Ambar Clarendon for Best New Restaurant and Clare & Don’s Beach Shack in Falls Church for Best Outdoor Dining.
Arlington Commute Near Average — Arlington residents have a 28.3-minute commute from home to work, on average, comparable to the statewide average of 28.1 minutes, according to the Census Bureau’s latest American Communities Survey. [InsideNova]
Snow, Bitter Cold in Forecast — A ‘monster storm’ will bring bitter cold, strong winds and — according to the latest forecasts — 1-2 inches of snow between tonight and Thursday afternoon. The National Weather Service is warning of possible impacts on the Thursday morning commute. [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter, Twitter]
NBC Profiles ‘Arlington Ladies’ — The “Arlington Ladies,” a group of women who are a part of every funeral at Arlington National Cemetery since 1948, were profiled by Lester Holt on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast. [NBC News]
REIT Acquires Rosslyn Office Building — “Washington Real Estate Investment Trust (NYSE: WRE) has reached a deal to acquire a Rosslyn office tower for $250 million, one of its largest office deals in recent history as the District-based developer seeks to rebalance its D.C.-area portfolio.” [Washington Business Journal]
A burst water pipe in an apartment building has closed the offices of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the Next Phase fitness studio in Courthouse.
Restoration crews are currently on scene at the Tellus Apartments at 2009 14th St N., cleaning up the mess.
The flooding happened late Monday afternoon, when water started pouring into the offices “monsoon style,” we’re told. Chamber staff scrambled to unplug and save their computers and are currently working remotely as restoration efforts continue.
The Chamber, which has already received several offers of temporary office space, wrote the following to its members today:
The Chamber office is currently closed, due to flooding in our building, and our phone system is down. Our staff is busy handling this unexpected emergency and trying to keep Chamber operations going as best as possible. For assistance, please email full-time members of our staff, and we will do our best to assist you remotely. We apologize for any inconvenience and appreciate your patience and support.
Next Phase is closed and classes today cancelled, though its website still lists classes as available later in the week.
Chamber Calls for Pause on Housing Conservation District — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is calling for the Arlington County Board to pump the brakes on a proposed Housing Conservation District policy, set for a vote at tomorrow’s Board meeting. The Chamber says the policy would affect more than 450 privately-owned properties. “The County’s failure to provide any notice to property owners that would be affected by the Framework is inconsistent with Arlington’s established government process and the level of transparency the community has come to depend on,” said Chamber President Kate Bates. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Carlin Springs Bridge Work to Resume — Demolition of the Carlin Springs Road Bridge over George Mason Drive was curtailed by winter weather last weekend, but is set to resume this weekend. Drivers should expect a number of detours in the area. [Twitter]
Fisette Tribute Packs Local Church — “A Dec. 13 tribute to departing Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette was about 90 percent heartfelt thanks for his 20 years of service in elected office. And about 10 percent celebrity roast.” The event was so well-attended that the parking lot of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington was filled to capacity by those whom Fisette has not yet convinced to take the Car-Free Diet. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
Gossip: Britt McHenry Back on Local Airwaves? — A noted local Twitter user who goes by the name “Clarendon Bros” shared some local TV gossip last night, claiming that Britt McHenry was seen auditioning for a job at Fox 5. McHenry at one point lived in Arlington — it is unclear if she still does — and had a well-publicized run-in with local towing company Advanced Towing. [Twitter]
Fox Leaves Crystal City BID — “After more than a decade running the Crystal City Business Improvement District, Angela Fox is stepping down. The BID’s board of directors announced Fox’s departure Thursday, but has not named a permanent replacement.” [Bisnow]
Local Homebuilder Getting Bigger — “Arlington-based homebuilder CalAtlantic Homes is purchasing Home South Communities, a privately held homebuilder based in the Atlanta area. CalAtlantic itself is in the midst of a $9.3 billion merger with Miami’s Lennar Corp. (NYSE: LEN), expected to close early next year.” [Washington Business Journal]
Realtor Group Extends Clothing and Food Drive — “Despite the weather, the first community wide drop off for the Arlington Realtors Care (ARC) initiative, held on Saturday, Dec. 9 was a great success. ARC is sponsoring a second community wide drop off date scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 16 at RGS Title.” [Press Release]
We asked Alex about his startup and its business model, and how he got his start. This podcast was recorded live at 1776 in Crystal City. Thank you to the Chamber and our podcast sponsor, Crystal City.
Alex Villanueva launched Sprynt in June, offering free rides in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. Within five days, the new app had been downloaded more than 700 times, and today Sprynt vehicles are a familiar sight in the corridor, going up and down Wilson and Clarendon Blvds all day long.
The event will take place on Tuesday, October 24 in front of an audience at 1776 in Crystal City. Villanueva will discuss his personal story and how he turned his business idea into a reality. Registration is $25.
ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck will be the program’s moderator and will lead the discussion with Villanueva. Audience members will be able to ask questions during a Q&A segment that will not be recorded.
The event also features networking opportunities and food served from Ruth’s Chris Steak House. And for those unable to attend, the interview will later be published online via ARLnow’s podcast, 26 Square Miles.
The evening’s agenda is as follows:
- 5-5:30 p.m.: Registration and open networking
- 5:30-6:15 p.m.: Live recorded podcast
- 6:15-6:30 p.m.: Q&A (not recorded)
- 6:30-7 p.m.: Networking reception
Crystal City Development Plan Filed — Developer JBG Smith has filed a site plan application for what it’s calling “North District” — a multi-block redevelopment in Crystal City that will include a new movie theater, grocery store and Metro station entrance. The residential-heavy development is bounded by Crystal Drive, Route 1, 15th Street and 18th Street S. [Washington Business Journal]
Chamber Backs Staff’s VRE Recommendation — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce says county staff is right to recommend the placement of a revamped Crystal City VRE station closer to Metro. The staff recommendation “best positions Crystal City and greater Arlington County as a regional multi-modal transit hub,” as compared to a placement option preferred by local condo residents who are concerned about train noise. [InsideNova]
DCA Noise Complaints — A total of 36,653 noise complaints were filed in 2016 regarding arrivals to and departures from Reagan National Airport, according to recently-released stats from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. The complaints were filed by 836 individuals in 762 households, including one individual who filed 17,273 noise complaints. [MWAA]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Tourists spent more than $3 billion in Arlington County last year, supported more than 25,000 jobs and produced over $200 million in local and state tax revenues, all record highs.
According to figures released by the U.S. Travel Association, tourism in the county generated $3.12 billion in 2016, up 2 percent from the previous year. Arlington continued to lead all Virginia counties in visitor spending, as it has since 2009.
“Tourism continues to be an incredibly vibrant sector in Arlington’s economy,” Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Through jobs, spending at Arlington businesses and tax revenues that support local schools and services, tourism will always be a key to our economic growth.”
The 2016 tourism data is based on spending by visitors from inside the United States, from trips taken 50 miles or more away from home.
“These excellent results are a testament to the strength of our hospitality community and its longstanding collaboration with the County in marketing Arlington to potential visitors,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Kate Bates said in a statement. “We are proud of the exceptional work of our hotels, whose dedication to top quality service continues to attract more visitors to our area.”
Victor Hoskins, director of Arlington Economic Development, said support from the County Board and Chamber for increased investment in tourism promotion has been crucial.
“It has dramatically expanded our ability to showcase Arlington and its businesses to meeting planners, consumers, tour operators and journalists – domestically and around the globe,” Hoskins said in a statement.
Flickr pool photo by Starbuck77
A native of Oakland, California, Mayfield talked about her journey to the executive suite and offered words of wisdom about leadership, plus career advice for young professionals.
The event was held at 1776 in Crystal City and organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, as part of a new “Secrets to Success” podcast series with ARLnow. Stay tuned for details about future live recordings that you can attend in the coming weeks and months.
The series is titled “Secrets to Success” and will host a different Arlington business titan, who will share their stories about the Arlington business world.
The first show will feature Pinkie Dent Mayfield, vice president for corporate affairs and special assistant to the chairman at education and media company Graham Holdings. ARLnow founder Scott Brodbeck will be the program’s moderator and will lead the discussion with Mayfield, who will share her business philosophy at the offices of startup incubator 1776 (2231 Crystal Drive #1000).
Those on hand for the event will be able to ask Mayfield questions during a Q&A segment. The event also features a networking portion and food served from Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
For those unable to attend, the podcast will later be published online.
The evening’s agenda is as follows:
- 4-4:30 p.m.: Registration and open networking
- 4:30-5:15 p.m.: Live recorded podcast
- 5:15-5:30 p.m.: Q&A (not recorded)
- 5:30-6 p.m.: Networking reception