Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

School Shuffle Blowback Starts — “Alicia Rich, president of Key’s PTA, said she has been fielding texts and messages over WhatsApp from parents and staff members worried about the prospect of moving. ‘This issue is so huge for us,’ Rich said.
School system officials said they ‘urgently need’ the Key building as a neighborhood school because of the lack of space for students.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Office Market Improving — Arlington County landing Amazon HQ2, a selection announced one year ago this month, has helped move its office market in the right direction after years of struggles. The office vacancy rate in National Landing, the newly branded area comprising the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods, dropped from 19.6% in Q3 2018 to 16% as of Sept. 30, the lowest level since 2012, according to JLL.” [Bisnow]

Chamber Supports Keeping Dillon Rule — “Facing a possible Democratic majority in the General Assembly, @ArlVAChamber is standing firm in its support of the Dillon Rule. Why? A Dem majority could allow localities like Arlington to raise the minimum wage.” [Twitter, InsideNova]

Storms Don’t Deter Trick or Treaters — From a family that tracks the number of trick or treaters visiting their Arlington home: “Despite threatening weather and a tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service… 2019 was our second best year ever with 161 visitors, 13 goblins behind the all-time high of 174 visitors in 2016.” [Facebook]

ACPD Helps With Snakes, Too — “Sgt. Morrison proves he’s a jack of all trades! Yesterday he responded to a citizen assist call and helped safely relocate this snake.” [Twitter]

Opera Fans Plan Outreach Effort — “Reports of the demise of a certain musical genre are not just premature. They are just plain wrong, supporters say. ‘Clearly, opera is not a dying art – the music is still transcendent,’ said Paul Dolinsky, a board member of Opera Nova, which on Oct. 27 held its annual fund-raising brunch at Washington Golf & Country Club.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Is Runner Up in Entrepreneurship Competition — “Ela Gokcigdem has good news to share about her ePearl noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. They were a big hit in the Big Apple… The 17-year-old senior at Wakefield High School in Arlington participated in the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. More than two dozen competitors from around the country pitched their products to a panel of judges.” [WJLA]

Nearby: Road Closure Planned in Seven Corners — “The Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) bridge over Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) will be closed from 9 p.m. Monday night, Nov. 4 to 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, Nov. 5 for bridge deck work, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Eastbound Wilson Boulevard traffic will be detoured via Route 7, Patrick Henry Drive, Route 50 and the westbound Route 50 service road back to Wilson Boulevard.” [VDOT]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Cold Weather Plan Now in Effect — “With temperatures continuing to drop as we head through the fall and into winter, Arlington County has activated its plan to keep people who are experiencing homelessness safe during extreme cold. The Cold Weather Plan will be in place from Nov. 1 through the winter months.” [Arlington County]

Reminder: Pumpkin Composting — “As for what to do with those leftover pumpkins? They can be dropped off for composting at Arlington’s Earth Products Yard in Shirlington (4300 29th Street S.) from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2.” [ARLnow]

Independent Candidates Struggle to Gain Traction — “Arron O’Dell’s campaign for the Arlington County Board hasn’t been going so well. His social media posts were getting few likes. Audiences at candidate forums didn’t appear to take him seriously… So he took to the sidewalks. ‘I am now officially the first politician in Virginia to use spray chalk to make a political campaign sign,’ he wrote on Instagram.” [Washington Post]

Looking Toward Next Year’s Election — “With the 2019 election almost in the rear-view mirror, the focus of local politics turns to what will transpire in 2020. On the ballot next November will be the County Board seat occupied by Libby Garvey and the School Board posts held by Nancy Van Doren and Tannia Talento.” [InsideNova]

Daylight Saving Time Ends This Weekend — “Area residents and drivers must be prepared for potential challenges the annual time change entails each fall, such as changes in sleep patterns that may increase chances of drowsy driving and shorter days, which means driving home in the dark and on caliginous roadways, warns AAA.” [Press Release]

Chamber Outlines 2020 Priorities — “The Chamber’s top priorities for Arlington and Virginia’s economic well-being include maintaining economic development programs as a chief policy priority, expanding resources for housing development, and funding necessary improvements for our transportation infrastructure.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Arlington County its getting its own Restaurant Week later this month.

Arlington Restaurant Week, organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, will run from October 21-28. Diners can visit a number of Arlington restaurants offering special menu items at discounted prices, according to a press release.

There are currently 20 or so restaurants expected to participate, including Jaleo, SER, and Bistro 1521.

Previously, the Chamber partnered with regional groups for the Northern Virginia Restaurant Week and Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week.

However, Arlington Restaurant Week uniquely gives participating restaurants the option of setting their own price points and menus instead of the traditional, fixed $35 dinner course and $25 lunch.

“Flexibility is really important for our restaurants, so this gives them the opportunity to really showcase what they want,” said Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Kate Bates. “For example, Heidelberg Bakery will be doing speciality breakfast sandwiches, and across the board it’ll really range from bundled three-course meals to maybe a speciality dish.”

The Chamber has sent invitations across Arlington for all restaurants to participate, and will be continuing to follow up, Bates said.

For SER owner Javier Candon, the Arlington-specific celebration gives him the chance to get to know customers who might not venture out otherwise.

“Keeping it local, it encourages people who don’t go out as often during the year to have a different experience,” said Candon. “We still don’t have our menu finalized yet, but expect it to be high-quality and highly discounted.”

So far, participating restaurants include:

  • Ambar
  • Barley Mac
  • Bistro 1521
  • Bonefish Grill
  • Buena Vida
  • Cityhouse
  • Cookology
  • Copa Kitchen & Bar
  • Good Company Donuts & Cafe
  • Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
  • Jaleo
  • La Côte D’or
  • The Melting Pot
  • Rhodeside Grill
  • Rustico Ballston
  • SER
  • Slapfish
  • Sushi-Zen
  • The Vantage Point

The full press release about Arlington Restaurant Week is below, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Extra Brush Pickups in Arlington — “Because of recent weather events, the County has added extra brush pickups this week. Schedule a collection online.” [Twitter]

Clement Endorses Stamos — “Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement won’t be on the ballot until November, but she has weighed in with a ringing endorsement of incumbent Theo Stamos in the June 11 Democratic primary for commonwealth’s attorney.” [InsideNova]

Deep Pothole in Ballston — Beware of “a small — but deep — pothole at the intersection of Wilson and Randolph in Ballston.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Wins Big Lottery Prize — “An Arlington man is now $100,000 richer after buying a Virginia Lottery ticket at a local convenience store. Robert Hilleary, a produce clerk, purchased two 10X The Money tickets at Glebe Market located at 300 N. Glebe Road.” [Patch]

Best Business Award Winners — Last week the Arlington Chamber of Commerce recognized the 2019 winners of its Arlington Best Business Awards: Dalton Digital, Pentagon Mixed Martial Arts, Bayou Bakery, Hungry Marketplace, Signature Theatre and Arlington Community Federal Credit Union. [Arlington Chamber]

Ode to Arlington’s Environmental Assessment Process — “Regulation 4.4 establishes an admirable ideal — a careful and highly-public process to ensure that civic projects are designed to identify and mitigate potential adverse environmental effects.  Though under-resourced, unevenly applied, and frequently honored only in the breach, the Regulation does reinforce and flesh out Arlington’s long commitment to both environmental sustainability and project planning.” [Blue Virginia]

Starr Hill Comes to DCA — Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewery has opened a new bar at Reagan National Airport, replacing the former Sam & Harry’s. The bar is located “near the Terminal C checkpoint pre-security.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Kate Bates, who writes in support of passing the county’s incentive deals made to motivate Amazon to open its new headquarters in Crystal City and Pentagon City.  

The Chamber is a non-profit which advocates for 750 county businesses and organizations, which includes Amazon as of December. The Chamber has written several letters to County Board members and the Virginia General Assembly over the last year in support of bringing Amazon to the region, and to urge officials to pass state and local tax incentives. 

The County Board will vote on Saturday for their incentive package finalizing Amazon’s plans to move to area.

It’s an exciting time for Arlington. On Saturday, the County Board will vote on the performance agreement for Amazon’s headquarters. Approving this agreement is a powerful statement that Arlington is open for business and we are no longer solely a government town, but a magnet for innovation in all sectors. Welcoming Amazon to Arlington will create opportunities for residents and businesses. The community as a whole will benefit from the jobs, economic activity, and innovation that Amazon will bring to Arlington. The performance agreement is a good deal for Arlington.

Economic Well-being

Amazon’s commitment to Arlington will provide us with balance; adding business diversity will strengthen our local economy. The job losses from BRAC and sequestration, and the uncertainty of the recent shutdown have shown that we cannot rely on the Federal Government alone for our prosperity. Amazon gradually adding 25,000-37,850 private-sector jobs will replace the 24,000 federal and contractor jobs lost in the Crystal City area over the past two decades.

Amazon’s presence will solidify Arlington as an innovation hub. Having Amazon as an anchor will help Arlington and Northern Virginia attract innovative companies. A robust job market will provide opportunities for our young people to succeed here, in the community where they are growing up and getting their education. Our local businesses expect Amazon’s arrival and the resulting diversification in our local economy to help them thrive.

Incentives

Arlington Economic Development crafted a groundbreaking incentive package that truly invests in Arlington’s future. The overwhelming majority, 95%, of the Arlington incentive package comprises investments in our community through housing, transportation, and infrastructure. The incentive payment to Amazon, the other 5%, depends Amazon hitting their established benchmarks for office space.

The direct financial incentive to Amazon is funded through a fraction of the growth in the Transient Occupancy Tax, a tax paid by guests staying in Arlington’s hotels. Tying Amazon’s direct incentives to revenue growth ensures that payments will not divert money from other priorities. Focusing on the Transient Occupancy Tax means that taxes on Arlington residents and businesses will not fund these incentives and that Amazon will receive these payments only if our hoteliers grow their businesses too.

Community

In the months since the announcement, Amazon has shown they want to be a part of the Arlington community. Amazon is already engaging, joining the Chamber and meeting with businesses, nonprofits, and community groups to build long-term relationships. Amazon’s Director of Community Engagement met with more than 50 leaders from Arlington nonprofits at a Chamber-hosted gathering, and senior Amazon team members have attended many community events. Amazon’s culture values making direct change; we look forward to the prospect of thousands of innovative people participating in our community.

The Amazon headquarters announcement has focused Arlington on our transportation, housing, and school funding challenges, all of which predate Amazon. The redevelopment of the Crystal City area will bring the transportation infrastructure improvements and amenities envisioned in its sector plan. Approving this agreement will help secure Arlington’s fiscal health and provide tax revenues to help the community address these challenges.

This is an historic moment for Arlington. The establishment of Amazon’s headquarters offers Arlington a unique occasion to strengthen our economy, to create opportunities for residents, and to improve the County’s fiscal position. We look forward to working together as a community to seize the opportunities that welcoming Amazon affords to all of Arlington.

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity. 

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Morning Notes

Chamber Rallying Members to Support Amazon — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce wants to make sure supporters of Amazon’s decision to locate in Crystal City aren’t caught napping. The business organization on March 4 sent out a missive to rally the troops in the days leading up to the County Board’s expected action on an economic-incentive package.” [InsideNova]

Local Bars Helping Women in Unsafe Situations — “Something from the United Kingdom’s bar scene is coming all the way across the pond to Arlington, Virginia — but it isn’t a new beer or liquor. Several bars in Arlington County have implemented the ‘Ask for Angela’ campaign, which aims to help women and anyone in an uncomfortable or threatening situation get help.” [NBC Washington]

Panel Recommends Aquatics Center Fees — “Fees ranging from $9 for a one-day entrance to $630 for an annual pass have been proposed for the future Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. But the fee schedule, developed by a task force set up by county leaders, leaves undetermined, for now, how much of a subsidy taxpayers will need to provide for the Crystal City facility’s operation.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Tim Brown

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Morning Notes

New Hotel for DCA? — “A hotel might be in the works for Reagan National Airport, according to Jack Potter, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority… A spokeswoman for MWAA said they are still in the ideas phase and nothing is concrete.” [Washington Business Journal]

Parents Fight Proposed Key Changes — “Parents are battling for the school’s future after Arlington Public Schools surprised them with a plan to relocate Key [Elementary], an announcement that animated larger questions about race, class and the purpose of bilingual education.” [Washington Post]

APS Friday Closure Questioned — “Most schools in the DC region decided to stay open despite the wintry mix Friday morning, but Arlington County Public Schools decided to close leaving parents in disbelief.” [WJLA]

Kindergarteners Learn About Transgender — “Dozens of kindergarten students sat cross-legged in his classroom at Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, listening as an advocate for transgender rights paged through a children’s picture book about a transgender girl,” as part of an event with the National Education Association and the Human Rights Campaign. [Washington Post]

Chamber Partners with APS — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce a partnership with Arlington Public Schools Career Center for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program. The Chamber is in its fifth year of offering the YEA! Program, but this is its first class of students for the program as part of their Arlington Public Schools learning.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Dog With Dementia Falls into Storm Drain — “A small dog with dementia is missing after falling into a storm drain in Arlington, Virginia. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington tweeted out an alert Thursday and said the cute pup disappeared after falling into the sewer about 8 p.m.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

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County officials could soon change how they sign off on major zoning alterations, sparking some pushback from the county’s business community over fears that the new process could make large redevelopments more difficult.

The county is currently mulling an overhaul of its methods for reviewing applications for special “General Land Use Plan” studies.

The GLUP is Arlington’s primary policy guide guiding development around the county, and property owners and developers can request a special study of a specific area if county leaders have yet to adopt zoning standards for a property, or if they’re proposing changes outside the scope of what the county envisioned for the area. A GLUP study most recently charted out changes in Virginia Square, clearing the way for the planned addition of a new affordable housing complex and new apartments along Washington Blvd.

But county staff have had trouble handling the workload of special GLUP studies requests recently, which has been particularly impactful for one prominent shopping center: the Village at Shirlington. The development’s owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, has hoped for a study since December 2017, with the eventual goal of adding more density on the property. The company is also weighing putting a new apartment building on the parking lot at the corner of S. Arlington Mill Drive and S. Randolph Street.

But the firm would need an amendment to the county’s land-use plans to make those changes happen, and that will only come with a special GLUP study. Accordingly, the process has been closely watched by county developers eager to learn more about how it might change.

In a Jan. 22 meeting of the county’s Long Range Planning Commission, Arlington staff laid out a series of proposed changes to GLUP study applications. In a bid to make the process “more efficient and streamlined,” cutting down on staff time devoted to the issue, applicants would have to provide more detailed information on proposed changes up front, including 3-D models of the property and a more robust analysis of transportation impacts from the development.

Staff also hope to limit study applications to June 1-Sept. 1 each year, with the goal of passing along reports on the study requests to the County Board by the following February. Applicants would also be required to pay an “initial review fee” before even filing a full GLUP application.

But those proposals drew the ire of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, with CEO Kate Bates writing in a Jan. 18 letter to county officials that the changes will “likely have the unintended consequence of hindering economic development in Arlington.”

While she acknowledges that the changes might create “workflow certainty” for county staff, she warned that could come at “the cost of lost opportunities for Arlington” by dragging the process out for too long.

“Arlington prides itself on being a community with a forward-looking, progressive planning policy but this proposal is clearly a step back,” Bates said.

Bates believes that any study proposed in “June of one year could be queued to be heard at the end of the following year and approved in the year after, possibly creating an almost two-year delay before even beginning the site plan process.”

“The chamber is confounded how adding a possible two years to an already lengthy process could be considered efficient,” Bates said. “The chamber also wonders how a process so opaquely envisioned, without soliciting input from affected businesses or citizens, could lead to more inclusivity. Again, this proposed fix is out of scale with the issues it is hoping to remedy.”

Bates is instead urging the county to leave the current GLUP study process in place, but dedicate more county workers to handling the study requests. That could be challenging, however, given the county’s current mix of a hiring slowdown and the elimination of some county positions during a difficult budget year.

The Long Range Planning Commission and Zoning Committee are set to hold a joint meeting on the topic tomorrow (Wednesday), with the goal of advancing the proposal to the full Planning Commission in March and the County Board in April.

Photo via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Overturned Vehicle Near Gunston — A vehicle overturned in a reported four-vehicle crash in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood yesterday afternoon. The crash happened on the 1500 block of 28th Street S., near Gunston Middle School. Two occupants of the overturned vehicle were able to get out safely prior to rescuers arriving on scene, according to initial reports. [Twitter]

Dog Rescued by ACFD — Firefighters rescued a dog named Bling from yesterday’s house fire in Lyon Park. “Medics provided oxygen to Bling with a special pet mask,” the fire department said. “Although Bling did suffer some smoke inhalation, his outlook is good!” [Twitter, Twitter]

WUSA 9 Back on Fios — After several days of being blacked out for Verizon Fios customers as a result of a fee dispute between Verizon and Tysons-based broadcaster Tegna, local CBS affiliate WUSA 9 has returned to the Fios lineup. In an email to an upset resident during the blackout, forwarded to ARLnow.com, Arlington’s cable administrator said there was nothing the county could do to help resolve the dispute. [Washington Business Journal]

Salt Dome Goes Bye Bye — “Up since 1928 when it originally held water, the old salt tank on Old Dominion is coming down this week with an interim replacement directly behind… Tanks for your service.” [Twitter]

Chamber: Amazon Will Help Arlington Grow — In a letter to its members, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce argues that Amazon’s arrival in the county will be a benefit for the local business community. “The Amazon headquarters helps us to grow back the jobs lost in the past decade,” the Chamber’s Scott Pedowitz wrote. “This development will happen across the next 12 years, which means that it will be gradual; our labor and real estate markets will not change overnight.” Amazon is only expected to bring 400-500 jobs to Arlington this year, though it plans to add 25,000 jobs in the county through 2030, the letter said. [Chamber of Commerce]

News About the News — Alexandria local news site AlexandriaNews.org has shut down after 10 years in business. Meanwhile, Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey is celebrating 25 years in that position. [Sun Gazette, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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As Arlington leaders gear up to confront a yawning budget deficit in the new fiscal year, the county’s business community is delivering a message to officials holding the purse strings: cut spending, but don’t raise taxes.

The Arlington Chamber of Commerce recently staked out a series of local policy positions as 2019 gets rolling, and one of its biggest asks this year is that the “county government seek and adopt additional savings and economies of scale before considering any increase in the real estate tax burden.”

Such a request may well be a futile one — the County Board has already asked County Manager Mark Schwartz for proposals on what various tax rate hikes might look like for fiscal year 2020. Schwartz has also warned that a mix of service cuts, layoffs and tax increases will likely be necessary to cope with a budget deficit that could prove to be as large as $78 million, as Arlington anxiously awaits Amazon and its projected boost to county coffers.

But the chamber is, perhaps predictably, urging the Board to instead embrace its strategy from a year ago, when members opted to avoid any tax rate increase in favor of some targeted cuts.

The business group is even asking the Board to conduct “a local study of comparative tax rates between Arlington and surrounding jurisdictions to discover specific tax rates and impact fees that put the county at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining certain segments of the business community,” which could prompt additional rate and fee cuts.

The chamber would much rather see the Board focus on attracting more businesses to boost revenues instead, urging leaders to make economic development the Board’s “chief policy priority” this year.

That means the business group wants the county to continue its use of “competitive incentives, tied to strong benchmarks, both to attract and to retain businesses” — Arlington officials long disdained such measures, but the county’s soaring office vacancy rate has convinced leaders to use incentives to lure companies from Amazon to Nestle in recent years.

Naturally, the chamber says it also backs the county’s proposed incentive package for Amazon itself, set to include a mix of investments in transportation improvements around the new headquarters and a chunk of the new tax revenues generated by the company’s arrival in the area. The chamber previously backed the county’s pursuit of Amazon even before the exact details around the incentives became public in November; the Board will formally vote on the deal this winter, as will the General Assembly.

With Amazon on the way, the group also urged the Board to embrace the “addition of mass transit systems (bus-rapid transit or similar) in the Crystal City/Potomac Yard and Columbia Pike corridors.” The county is set to extend the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway to Pentagon City in the coming years, while the idea of bus-rapid transit for the Pike has been batted around ever since the notorious streetcar’s cancellation.

Other transit projects on the chamber’s wishlist include “second entrances at the Crystal City and Ballston Metro stations, and a new Rosslyn tunnel.” The Crystal City second entrance is set to be constructed as part of the Amazon improvements; the Ballston and Rosslyn projects will require a considerably more tricky funding lift from the county.

And when it comes to ways to beef up the county’s supply of affordable housing to cope with Amazon’s projected impact on home prices, the chamber stressed that “providing developers and property owners with incentives is the best, perhaps only, way to obtain substantial additional units that are affordable to a broad part of the community and to preserve existing housing stock.”

The chamber also did not pass by another opportunity to lament the “ill-advised” nature of the county’s development of new “housing conservation districts” in 2017.

Some property owners felt ambushed by the county’s work to freeze the redevelopment of affordable homes, and the chamber is pushing for a more “open process that includes suggestions and comments from the business community” as the Board charts out the next phase of policies governing the districts.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Chamber Backs Amazon Incentives — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has provided its formal stamp of approval, supporting the planned Arlington County government incentive package for Amazon. The package ‘will have positive benefits for the Arlington community as a whole,’ the business organization said.” [InsideNova]

New County Finance Director Appointed — “Maria Meredith has been named Arlington County’s new Director of the Department of Management and Finance (DMF), effective January 14, 2019. She will be responsible for approximately 50 staff involved in the County’s financial operations, including management and budget, accounting, purchasing and real estate assessment.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Road Project Recognized — “We’re ready to announce the winners of our highest honor of the year — the 2018 Streetsie Award for Best Urban Street Redesign. Our readers weighed in and chose… Arlington, which received more than 1,000 votes for its road diet/protected bike lane project on Veitch Street.” [StreetsBlog]

Local Startup Struggling to Pay Bills — “Trustify, the Arlington company that provides private investigation services through digital platforms, has had trouble making payroll since October and is in arrears to its landlord and several other vendors, according to at least five employees who recently left the company.” [Washington Business Journal]

Button for Filing Air Noise Complaints — Residents in Maryland, Northwest D.C. and elsewhere have a new tool for filing complaints about noise from Reagan National Airport air traffic: a converted Amazon Dash button that does the heavy lifting of filing complaints with aviation authorities. [Washington Post]

‘Floss-Cutting’ Ceremony for Dental Clinic — “The Arlington Free Clinic recently celebrated completion of a $1.5 million fund-raising drive to support construction and outfitting of a dental facility to support those in need across Arlington. The capital campaign, which was launched by support from longtime volunteer and donor Mary Mellon (whose father died of a tooth infection he could not afford to treat when she was a teen), will allow the clinic to triple the number of dental patients it can serve.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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