42°Partly Cloudy

WhyHotel Plans Hundreds of Temporary Hotel Rooms for Ballston Quarter, Centro Arlington Buildings

A startup offering temporary hotel rooms in new apartment complexes is now planning to expand to two Arlington developments.

WhyHotel announced today (Tuesday) that it will soon offer 175 rooms for rent in the residential tower attached to the Ballston Quarter development, and another 150 rooms in the “Centro Arlington” project, which is taking the place of the Food Star grocery store off Columbia Pike. The company recently scored $10 million in venture funding to power the new projects, in addition to a similar “pop up” hotel in “The Boro” development in Tysons.

Unlike a home-sharing service like Airbnb, WhyHotel strikes agreements directly with the owners of large residential properties to rent out blocks of furnished apartments, bringing along an on-call staff to handle cleaning and other guest needs. The company is hoping to provide a happy medium for customers between staying at a friend’s place and shelling out for a hotel room, while helping developers fill space in new buildings as they lease them out.

Jason Fudin, WhyHotel’s co-founder and CEO, told ARLnow that he was interested in opening up shop more properties around Arlington because of the area’s potent mix of tourism and booming residential development. WhyHotel is aiming to open its first “pop up” in D.C., but Fudin says he never lost sight of the county as a “great place to be.”

“We do expect to be in Arlington in perpetuity,” Fudin said. “And as there’s more and more development, we’re hoping to be the solution people look to as they activate their developments.”

Fudin noted that the company has its roots in Arlington. The concept began as an initiative by developer Vornado Realty Trust at “The Bartlett” complex in Pentagon City, but its backers then struck out on their own, initially joining up with Crystal City startup incubator 1776.

Considering that Fudin viewed the company’s work in Pentagon City as a clear success for all involved, driving plenty of business to retailers near the building in the process, he’s hoping to replicate the same formula in Ballston and along the Pike.

Fudin expects that WhyHotel will have its Ballston Quarter rooms ready by April 1, slightly after the residential section of the development (located at 700 N. Randolph Street) is slated to open up. Some stores in the newly renovated Ballston Common mall have already started opening for business, and Fudin expects that will make the rooms immediately above the development plenty desirable.

Beyond the location’s proximity to D.C., he added that the large number of corporate headquarters in the neighborhood (not to mention federal tenants like DARPA) should bring plenty of travelers to the area.

Fudin conceded that the location on the Pike (950 S. George Mason Drive) is a “less dense urban area” than either D.C. or Ballston, but he said the company was still interested in moving in because of how close it is to the Pentagon.

“You have a tremendous number of people that work in defense or in the federal government who call that area home, so we natural customers in that space,” Fudin said. “It’s a great spot for families who are relocating. When you relocate to city, you don’t instantly have housing, whether you’re military or otherwise, and we see this as a great option for them… The ability to stay in a ‘like-home’ experience rather than a small hotel room is better for everybody.”

The Centro Arlington development, which will be anchored by a Harris Teeter grocery store, is to set to open in earnest midway through 2019, so Fudin expects WhyHotel’s rooms will be available there in “late summer or early fall.”

The County Board is set to sign off on allowing WhyHotel to offer some of its new rooms next week. County staff is recommending the Board’s approval for the temporary hotel use at Ballston Quarter for the next two years or so at a Dec. 15 meeting.

0 Comments

TRAFFIC ALERT: EB Columbia Pike Blocked By Crash

The eastbound lanes of Columbia Pike are currently blocked by a crash near the intersection with S. Four Mile Run Drive.

Airbags were deployed in the crash and medics are responding for report of non-life-threatening injuries.

Eastbound traffic is being diverted and is backing up before the crash scene. Drivers should avoid the area.

0 Comments

Top Pike Booster Retiring

Cecilia Cassidy, the Executive Director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, is retiring.

CPRO, which was established in the 1980s to “champion and connect business and community along Columbia Pike,” announced the retirement in a press release Monday afternoon.

A search for Cassidy’s replacement is currently underway, the organization said. Her last day is currently expected to be Dec. 31.

More from the press release:

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) announces the retirement of its Executive Director, Cecilia Cassidy. Cassidy has served as the organization’s executive director since February 2016.

“CPRO is grateful for Cecilia’s leadership and her contributions to the organization,” said CPRO board president John Snyder, “but even more grateful for the spirit, enthusiasm, and friendship Cecilia has shared with us.”

Under Ms. Cassidy’s leadership, the organization has seen its largest period of financial growth in its 30-year history and adopted a strategic plan that included new initiatives such as the installation of nearly 70 place-making banners that were installed this month along the four-mile stretch of Columbia Pike that CPRO serves, unifying the corridor and celebrating “Arlington’s Oldest and Newest Main Street.”

Before joining CPRO, Cassidy led Rosslyn Renaissance, one of Arlington’s four public/private partnerships, and was instrumental in the creation of Arlington’s first BID, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, which she headed until 2013.

CPRO’s Board of Directors is in the early stages of the search process for Cassidy’s replacement.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, public/private partnership. CPRO is a coalition of residents and civic associations, businesses and property owners, and the Arlington County Government.  For more information visit www.Columbia-Pike.org

0 Comments

DEVELOPING: Fire at The Shell Apartments on Columbia Pike

(Updated at 7:30 p.m.) Arlington and Fairfax firefighters responded tonight (Wednesday) to a fire at a mid-rise apartment building along Columbia Pike.

The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. at The Shell apartments at 870 S. Greenbrier Street.

A small fire was reported in an apartment on the fourth floor and was controlled by sprinklers, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. While the fire itself did not cause much damage, water from the sprinklers has caused flooding in a number of apartments.

The Full Circle Montessori pre-school in the building also reportedly has some water damage, though the extent of the damage is thus far unclear.

Fire commanders have requested that the Red Cross respond to the scene to assist at least more than a dozen residents who will be displaced — right before the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Shell was built and is managed by nonprofit affordable housing developer AHC Inc. It was completed in 2015.

Photo (2) via Google Maps

0 Comments

New ‘Place-Making’ Banners On the Way for Columbia Pike

Columbia Pike is now set to see dozens of new banners adorn its street poles, as part of a bid to tie communities along the highway together.

The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization announced that it’d begin installing 70 of the new banners on a four-mile section of the Pike last week.

The County Board signed off on the new pennants this summer, with some set to proclaim the area as “Arlington’s Oldest and Newest Main Street” and others advertising local events like movie nights and farmers markets.

“This four-mile stretch of ‘The Pike’ represents Arlington’s most diverse community with nearly 72,000 residents, roughly 38 percent of Arlington County’s entire population,” CPRO Board President John Snyder wrote in a statement. “The Pike represents an opportunity for place-making, for celebration and for economic development. And Columbia Pike’s 10 neighborhoods are also immediately adjacent to Crystal City, the newly announced headquarters for Amazon.”

The first banners will hang on poles running from the Pentagon City Sheraton (900 S. Orme Street) to the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).

Then, as work wraps up on utility undergrounding and streetscape improvements along the highway in the coming months, CPRO will add more banners on the road between S. Dinwiddie and S. Jefferson streets. That will include the area surrounding the “Centro Arlington” development taking the place of the old Food Star grocery store near the Pike’s intersection with S. George Mason Drive.

CPRO is paying for the banners with help of grants from the county, the Washington Forrest Foundation and the Virginia Main Street Affiliate Program, according to a news release.

The nonprofit first started developing the banner program in tandem with the County Board last year in order to “visually unify” the area and “highlight the major development areas where ongoing Pike events take place,” the release added.

0 Comments

Mediterranean Restaurant Replaces Mazagan on Columbia Pike

Mediterranean-themed restaurant Caspi is replacing the Moroccan eatery and hookah bar, Mazagan Restaurant, next to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.

Located at 2901 Columbia Pike location, Mazagan Restaurant was purchased last week and will be replaced with a restaurant featuring a menu of Mediterranean and European cuisine, one of the owners told ARLnow. He added that the restaurant is aiming for a soft opening this coming weekend, followed by a grand opening in late November.

A peek inside the windows reveals a torn apart inside with construction tools and signs of major renovation. A Virginia liquor license application from Huseynov and Sam LLC is posted in the window facing Columbia Pike.

Mazagan Restaurant opened at the spot in May 8, 2014 after replacing the quirky electronics store Venus Stereos & TVs. The website for the Moroccan eatery says “closed” and “under construction.”

0 Comments

Wendy’s on Columbia Pike Closes for Major Renovations

The Wendy’s on Columbia Pike has temporarily closed for major renovations.

Workers are currently in the process of fully overhauling the fast food restaurant, located at 3431 Columbia Pike, stripping away some of its exterior and clearing out its interior as well.

Signs on the property say that the Wendy’s is “closed for a refresh” and will be “opening soon.” A tipster first alerted ARLnow to the closure on Monday (Nov. 5).

The Wendy’s is one of three in the county, with other locations at 5050 S. Chesterfield Road and 5066 Lee Highway.

There’s also a restaurant just over the Fairfax County line in Seven Corners at 6349 Seven Corners Center.

0 Comments

Westmont Shopping Center on Columbia Pike Could Soon Be Torn Down, Redeveloped

The Westmont Shopping Center, located at the intersection of S. Glebe Road and Columbia Pike, could soon be torn down and redeveloped into a new mixed-use building.

A developer has submitted plans to the county looking for permission to build a six-story building on the lot, long home to shops and restaurants including a Boston Market and an INOVA Urgent Care. The proposal calls for about 250 new apartments on the site, sitting above 23,225 square feet of retail space.

The new development would also include an underground parking garage for residents with about 285 spaces, and another 60 surface parking spots for visitors. The project is backed by Republic Properties Corporation, the developer of a variety of projects around the D.C. area. Perhaps its most notable effort is the sizable Potomac Mills mall in Woodbridge.

The proposal calls for the current shopping center to be razed in its entirety, but it would generally preserve the existing traffic pattern in the area — for instance, visitors would still be able to reach the parking lot via a left-hand turn lane on S. Glebe Road. It also includes some streetscape improvements along Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road, including the addition of new trees, benches and trash bins.

Though the development would bring plenty of new residents to the Pike, an area notorious for its transportation challenges, the county’s traffic consultants wrote in an August report it would still be a good fit for Arlington’s vision of “creating a mixed-use environment focused on multimodal transportation.”

They added that the redevelopment would result in only “minor increases in delay” at major intersections in the area, with differences of just a few seconds at each traffic signal.

County planners are still in the preliminary phase of reviewing the development, though the traffic analysis notes that the developer hopes to have it “complete and fully occupied by 2020.”

H/t Chris Slatt

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Suspect and Murdered Wife Both Marines — “A woman found dead in [an Arlington] hotel room on Saturday and the man arrested in connection with her murder are both U.S. Marines… The two were seen earlier in the evening at the Marriott while attending their unit’s military ball to commemorate the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday.” [Newsweek, Task and Purpose]

Arlingtonian Named ABC 7’s Hero of the Week — “In his dedication to the community, Aaron Codispoti switches gears constantly — in the truest sense of the word. He manages a team of more than a thousand people within the State Department, volunteers as an auxiliary police officer with Arlington County — often on bike patrol — and organizes blood drives twice a year.” [WJLA]

Crafthouse Going National — Ballston restaurant Crafthouse is taking its craft beer and elevated pub food formula national. The company, which also has locations in Fairfax and Reston, is preparing for rapid expansion via franchising. [Reston Now]

Local Entrepreneurs Mostly Looking Forward to Amazon — Though Amazon’s anticipated arrival in Crystal City could come with rent and hiring challenges, local entrepreneurs are mostly looking forward to the excitement and amenities the tech giant will bring to the area. [Forbes]

Amazon May Make Defense Hiring Harder — “If Amazon.com Inc. puts part of its second headquarters in Crystal City — as signs are pointing to this week — it could make defense hiring in the region even more competitive. The Seattle-based e-commerce and cloud computing company is already pursuing new deals in the defense and intelligence sectors, industry execs tell The Wall Street Journal, and an expanded presence in Greater Washington — home to thousands of government contractors — would put a strain on a market stretched by a dearth of workers holding proper security clearances.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Looking for Driver Who Brandished Gun — Arlington County Police are investigating a road rage incident along Columbia Pike in which one driver “pulled over, exited his vehicle, and following a verbal dispute, allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened the other driver.” [Arlington County]

0 Comments

Bob and Edith’s on Columbia Pike Reopens, As Owner Insists Diner Will Stay Put

The original Bob and Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike is back open after a brief closure for maintenance, and its owner is looking to reassure nervous fans that the restaurant isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

The diner closed for maintenance last Tuesday (Oct. 30), leaving would-be patrons a bit mystified. But Ryan Brown, a lawyer for Bob and Edith’s owner Greg Bolton, told ARLnow that the closure only lasted two days, to allow for the installation of a new grease trap.

He also stressed that the diner, located at 2310 Columbia Pike, “is subject to a long-term commercial lease,” in a bid to quell speculation that the restaurant could soon be on the move. Those rumors first started churning when the diner and its property was listed for lease in late September, but Brown made it clear that the nearly 50-year-old eatery isn’t in any danger.

“Bob and Edith’s has no plans to relocate or close that location, or any of its other locations,” Brown wrote in an email.

The restaurant chain previously made headlines when Bolton opted to buy a property along Lee Highway that was once home to Linda’s Cafe, in a bid to expand there in the near future.

Brown added that Bolton will have an update on that new eatery in the “near future.” He initially predicted that the new location could open either before the year is out, or in early 2019.

Beyond the Columbia Pike location and the planned expansion on Lee Highway, Bob and Edith’s operates restaurants in Crystal City, Alexandria and Springfield.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

First Incumbent Voted Out in 21st Century — Democrats had few negative things to say about County Board member John Vihstadt during the past few months of campaigning, but voters nonetheless decided to vote him out of office last night, a relatively rare event in Arlington. Per the Sun Gazette: “The last County Board incumbent to be defeated for re-election was Mike Lane, a Republican who in the spring of 1999 won a special election for the seat of Al Eisenberg (who took a post in the Clinton administration) but later that year was defeated by Democrat Charles Monroe.” [InsideNova]

O’Leary Nailed It — Former Arlington County Treasurer (and amatuer election prognosticator) Frank O’Leary was spot on on his analysis of how yesterday’s local voting would shake out. O’Leary “opined that if the Arlington electorate was so large that 100,000 votes were cast for County Board, Democrat Matt de Ferranti would win with about 53 percent of the vote. Presto: Arlington voters indeed cast just over 100,000 votes in that race, and de Ferranti ended up with 53 percent, according to unofficial results.” [InsideNova]

Other Reasons Why Crystal City is Good for Amazon — Should Amazon announce Crystal City as the destination for a major new office campus — despite the disappearance of an event tent that seemed like it might be intended for such an announcement — there are a number of reasons why the neighborhood likely won over Amazon execs. One reason not as widely discussed: Crystal City is already a high-density, mixed-use neighborhood with a relatively small residential population and a long-term plan for more density. In other words, it’s a big green light for Amazon to build out the HQ2 of its dreams, without having to worry much about the NIMBYism that might delay plans elsewhere. [Brookings]

Progress on the Pike for IdidoIdido’s Coffee Social House is getting closer to its opening along the Columbia Pike corridor. This week the cafe filed a Virginia ABC permit application to serve beer and wine.

Questions About Local Nonprofit — A new report is questioning why Bethesda-based nonprofit Alley Cat Allies felt the need to buy two residential properties in Arlington. [Chronicle of Philanthropy]

0 Comments

Superintendent Sends New Boundary Proposal to School Board, Leaving Abingdon Unchanged

Superintendent Patrick Murphy has revealed his final proposal for new elementary school boundaries to forward along to the School Board, with a new map designed to simultaneously the answer the concerns of some Fairlington parents and reduce overcrowding at Barcroft Elementary.

Arlington Public Schools officials have spent months drawing up map after map to guide attendance boundaries at eight South Arlington elementary schools set to go into effect next fall. Each one has prompted fresh rounds of concern among parents nervous about seeing their kids moved to different schools, as the school system prepares to open up the new Alice West Fleet Elementary next year.

Murphy’s new proposal, released yesterday (Monday), incorporates changes made to several prior maps worked up by APS staffers.

Perhaps most notably, the proposal keeps the entirety of the Fairlington community within Abingdon’s attendance boundaries, rather than sending some students in South Fairlington neighborhoods to Drew Model School. Parents from across Fairlington vigorously protested previous proposals to do so, arguing that it would unnecessarily split up the community and require plenty of busing to help students reach Drew.

School officials worked up a map last week to leave Abingdon’s boundaries unchanged, but that proposal would’ve left both Drew and Fleet with far fewer students than the buildings are designed to hold. Meanwhile, Barcroft, in particular, would’ve remained substantially over its capacity.

Murphy’s new map would move 100 students out of the school, reducing it from being at 149 percent of its capacity next year to 120 percent. Randolph would also see a slight decrease of about 40 students, and Drew and Fleet would absorb most of the students from those schools.

Neighborhoods just off Columbia Pike would be primarily impacted by the change, with a cluster of streets behind the Walter Reed Community Center and others around Alcova Heights Park all moving to Fleet.

The superintendent’s proposal would mean that Fleet will open at about 88 percent of its planned capacity, while Drew will move to about 92 percent of its capacity. Abingdon remains relatively unchanged, and is scheduled to be at about 120 percent of its capacity, but school officials hope to address that in a new round of boundary adjustments in 2020.

Next year, Drew will see hundreds of students leave the building, as the Montessori program moves to Patrick Henry Elementary. Yet parents there worried the school system’s initial plans would involve unfairly packing the school with students from low-income families, as measured by the percent of the student body eligible for free and reduced price lunch.

Murphy’s proposal would mean that about 56 percent of the school’s population would be FRL-eligible, down slightly from the 60 percent figure that officials initially proposed. Of the eight schools included in the process, only three will have more than 50 percent of the student bodies eligible for free and reduced price lunch, the school system’s target benchmark throughout the boundary process.

The School Board will get its first look at the superintendent’s boundary proposal at its meeting Thursday (Nov. 8), with a public hearing set for Nov. 27. The Board plans to pass a final map by Dec. 6, and could make plenty of changes to Murphy’s proposal between now and then.

Photo via Arlington Public Schools

0 Comments

The Pilates Loft Stretches Into Columbia Pike Space

The Pilates Loft is expanding into a second location in the Penrose Square shopping center at 2407 Columbia Pike.

The studio that started in Virginia Square in 2015. Just over one year later, the studio expanded into the vacant space next door. Now, the Virginia Square Pilates Loft is at maximum capacity again, so owner Alia Staples decided it was time to branch out. The Pilates Loft on Columbia Pike will open in late January 2019.

“I think that there is sort of a void in the Columbia Pike and South Arlington area where fitness, in general, doesn’t exist,” said Staples. “There’s a ton of people who live in this area who are commuting to North Arlington for those services… Since there wasn’t anything like that, I thought it might be a good idea to bring it to South Arlington.”

While there are a variety of Pilates studios in the area, Staples said sets her studio offers a more classically authentic Pilates experience.

“We don’t have big classes of 40 people,” said Staples. “It’s just four to six people maximum. It’s geared towards smaller groups and more personalized training.”

The classes also use Pilates equipment beyond just the traditional mats used in many classes. Both locations will also serve as Teacher Training Centers for the United States Pilates Association.

0 Comments

Bob and Edith’s on Columbia Pike Closes for Maintenance

The original Bob and Edith’s Diner along Columbia Pike is currently closed for maintenance.

A sign posted on the door of the diner, located at 2310 Columbia Pike, informs would-be customers of the closure, and was still posted as of noon today (Tuesday).

A lawyer for the restaurant chain’s owner, Greg Bolton, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how long the location might be closed.

Repeated calls to the restaurant went unanswered. Kurt Larrick, spokesman for the county’s Department of Human Services, said the closure “is not related” to any code violation or other health department action.

Longtime fans of the diner have expressed fear about its future over the last few weeks, after the building was listed for sale in late September. The listing, offered up by real estate and development firm BM Smith, remains active, and neither Bolton nor the realtors have responded to inquiries about what the sale means for the restaurant. Bob and Edith’s has operated out of the space since 1969.

Earlier this year, Bolton acquired Linda’s Cafe along Lee Highway, with plans to open a new restaurant at the location. The chain last expanded back in 2015, opening restaurants in Crystal City and Springfield.

H/t to ARLnow commenter G. Clifford Prout

0 Comments

UPDATED: Gas Leak Forces Road Closure Near Columbia Pike

(Updated at 11:45 a.m) An outside gas leak has prompted county police to close a section of S. Highland Street as it meets Columbia Pike.

First responders were first called about the leak around 11 a.m. today (Tuesday), per scanner traffic. The leak will also result in the closure of 12th Street S. as it meets S. Highland.

Police are currently waiting on Washington Gas to evaluate the situation. The area is home to a Days Inn and a Shell gas station.

Photo via Google Maps

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list