Press Club
Taqueria el Poblano on Columbia Pike (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) Taqueria el Poblano on Columbia Pike is staying open for a few more months after all.

In March, ARLnow reported that the local staple known for its margaritas was set to close its Pike location by the end of this month. However, co-owner Thomas Stevens tells ARLnow that they’ve since come to an agreement with the property owner BM Smith to extend the restaurant’s lease at 2401 Columbia Pike until the end of August. He says it became clear that regulars wanted them to stay open through the summer.

At that point, though, it will be “end of our time on the Pike,” Stevens says.

The other two locations of the Southern California-inspired Mexican restaurant, at Arlington’s Lee-Harrison Shopping Center and also the original in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood, will remain open, he says.

Taqueria el Poblano said in March that it was closing due to decreasing revenue and increasing rent at its Pike location. Stevens told ARLnow at the time that this location had fewer regulars than the others and didn’t have enough volume of sales to cover rent.

“For whatever reason, this one doesn’t do the same business as the others,” he said.

The shuttering of one of Penrose Square’s first tenants comes as a couple of new redevelopment projects get underway on Columbia Pike.

The Fillmore Gardens shopping center is set for demolition and will be replaced by The Elliott on the 2600 block of Columbia Pike. That new development is expected to be completed in 2025.

A few blocks down the Pike, structures and buildings have already started going up at the former site of the Westmont shopping center (and the first Five Guys). That development will include 250 market rate apartments and retail space.

Since the story came out earlier this spring about Taqueria el Poblano’s imminent closing, Stevens says he’s had a lot of people come in asking and expressing sadness about the shuttering.

But customers will now have at least three more months to enjoy tacos and margaritas.

“Hopefully, word spreads,” Stevens says.

Hat tip to John Antonelli

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The Pike, a large-scale work of public art, is finally being installed this week at the southwest corner of Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street, near the county line bordering Fairfax.

On Wednesday morning, ARLnow saw the 50-foot-tall reclaimed wind turbine wing lying horizontally while waiting for a crane to raise it on an already-installed steel base dotted with thousands of coins from around the world.

The physical raising of the wind turbine onto the base is scheduled for later in the afternoon, said Jim Byers of Arlington Arts. The sculpture will be fully installed by the end of the week, Byers said, with no impact on traffic and “minimal” impact to pedestrian access. It will have “a slight ‘intrusion’ upon part of the sidewalk,” he noted.

An official ribbon cutting ceremony is set for the fall.

The intent of the artwork is to conjure images of a medieval spear known as a pike being repurposed into a toll gate, in a nod to Columbia Pike’s history as a toll road.

Embedded in the base is nearly 5,000 coins from 117 countries collected from county residents. The international currency is meant to reinforce Columbia Pike’s reputation for being a “world in a zip code.” The sculpture’s location near the border of the two counties is also supposed to serve as a symbolic “gateway.”

The concept was first conceived about a decade ago and construction began back in November.

The work of art was designed by Donald Lipski. He wanted to create something that stood out and united both ends of the county’s portion of Columbia Pike.

“I knew that I wanted to make something that was really vertical that you could see from far away,” he told ARLnow today, standing in front of the two pieces of the sculpture. “I also thought about book-ending the Air Force Memorial at the other end.”

He used wind turbines not simply because of their “beautiful shape” but because it’s a reminder of how we as a society need to shift over to more renewable resources. Using collected coins as decoration on the base was something Lipski has done before, but says it takes on special meaning here in Arlington due to the county’s international population.

“People could walk by here 20 years from now and say to their child, ‘Look, there are coins from Bolivia that I gave when you were just a little baby,’ Lipski says. “I love that.”

Back in 2017, when Lipski first debuted his design, there were some concerns around the public engagement process and the design. The Arlington Mill Civic Association expressed disappointment that they weren’t given ample opportunity to provide input into the design, despite assurances. Douglas Park Civic Association members said that tolls, gates, and blades didn’t make for proper neighborhood symbols.

“Recognizing Arlington Mill is the county’s most impoverished neighborhood, we firmly object to the implementation of any form of blade as representative of our community,” leaders wrote in a letter. “Further, turnpike gates are never welcoming. Their purpose and design is to stop traffic. They disrupt the flow. Surely this is not how Arlington County’s Southwestern Gateway should be depicted.”

The project also took close to a decade to come to fruition, a timeline that was “really long” compared to Lipski’s other projects.

Much of the delay had to do with the sculpture’s construction and installation being included as part of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, a multi-year series of street improvements and utility upgrades along the roadway that extends from the Fairfax County border to just before the Pentagon.

The total project cost for The Pike is about $360,000, according to a county public art budget document. That includes a developer contribution of about $60,000.

Lipski hopes that his art will become something of a county landmark.

“I love it when a piece of mine becomes something that’s part of people’s lives,” he says. “I know there will be people who live in Arlington and.. they’re coming home and they’ll see it and [say], ‘Oh, here we are. We’re home.'”

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It’s been a century since his family first started selling rugs, but Mikael Manoukian is still learning.

To be fair, he actually only got into the family rug business a few years ago and now runs the Manoukian Brothers Oriental Rugs on Columbia Pike with his mom, Dona. But in that short time, Mikael has learned at “Mach speed” about what it takes to sell hand knotted, decades-old rugs.

“I’m getting to be an expert, let’s put it that way,” he chuckles to ARLnow, inside of the storefront at 2330 Columbia Pike the shop has occupied since the fall of 2018. “Something that has a lot of nuance like rugs, it’s not like selling something at the grocery store… you can’t just treat it like a candy bar.”

Earlier this month, on May 15, Mikael and the Manoukian family marked 100 years of being in business with a celebration. There was  music, food, and personal reflections in front of their store on the Pike. There was also an announcement of a Virginia House resolution by Del. Alfonso Lopez commending the business for its longevity.

But the Manoukian family story is more than rugs. It’s a tale that is representative of what America can be about.

“It’s always been about our desire to stick with it, keep going, and do justice to our family,” Mikael says, about why he thinks his family’s rug business has lasted so long. “[They] came here, worked hard, and have been relatively lucky.”

Then, he takes a breath. As if he’s comprehending the enormity of it all.

“One hundred years years. It’s pretty impressive to last that long.”

It was around World War I when the Manoukian family fled from modern day Turkey and Syria due to the Armenian genocide. Like many at the time coming to America, the family arrived via boat at Ellis Island. Among those were three Manoukian brothers, including Mikael’s grandfather Moses.

In 1922, one of those brothers, Manouk — Mikael’s great-uncle — opened a Persian rug shop at Washington Circle in D.C. In 1957, his brothers finally joined him in the business and created Manoukian Brothers Oriental Rugs.

It was around this time when a young Paul Manoukian, Mikael’s father, started getting involved in the family business.

“He was a second-generation American and there was more expectation to carry on tradition,” Mikael explains.

For years, Paul worked alongside his father at the rug shop as well as pursuing a second career: A civil engineer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.

In the late 1980s, with his uncles getting older and his grandfather passing away, Paul took over the shop completely. Two jobs, including owning a business, while taking care of his family is a lot for any one person and Paul Manoukian did it for nearly three decades.

Mikael, who grew up in the Yorktown neighborhood with his parents, could see the toll it was taking on his dad.

About five years ago, as his father approached his late 80s, it became clear that it was time for the business to move to the next generation.

“We got together as a family and had many, many long discussions about what to do and how to handle the [then] 96-year-old business,” Mikael said.

It was decided that Mikael and his mother, Dona, would take it over and the business would move to Arlington, where a majority of the family lives. Today, Mikael lives in Alcova Heights, only a few miles down the road from the shop’s Columbia Pike location.

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Arlington is in the midst of a rash of vehicle-related crimes.

In just the past three weeks or so, 28 cars have been stolen and 35 airbags have been stolen, according to the Arlington County Police Department. That’s in addition to numerous break-ins and other auto crimes during that same time period.

Earlier this month, we reported on a series of 20 airbag thefts near Gunston Middle School, all involving Hondas. Thieves — unclear whether it’s the same thief or thieves — struck again early Wednesday.

Nearly a dozen Honda vehicles had airbags stolen from the 2000 blocks of Columbia Pike and S. Eads Street, in the Crystal City area. A tipster tells us the thefts on the Pike happened at the Dorchester Towers apartment parking lot.

“I just went around and every single Honda Civic has their windows broken and airbags stolen,” the tipster said.

More from today’s ACPD crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (Series), 2022-05180016, 2000 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 1:28 a.m. on May 18, police were dispatched to the report of a tampering in progress. Upon arrival, officers located six vehicles that had windows smashed and airbags stolen. All vehicles involved were Honda models. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

LARCENY FROM AUTO (Series), 2022-05180045, 2000 block of S. Eads Street. At approximately 6:00 a.m. on May 18, police were dispatched to a report of a late larceny from auto. Upon arrival, officers located five vehicles that had windows smashed and airbags stolen. All vehicles involved were Honda models. This investigation is ongoing.

“Since April 27, there have been 35 individual airbags reported stolen,” police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

The department, meanwhile, revealed that at least 28 vehicles have been stolen in May. Most had keys or key fobs inside when they were taken.

“Police Warn Against Leaving Keys Inside Vehicles,” was the headline of the press release issued by the department this morning.

More from ACPD, below.

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The Columbia Pike Partnership and Black Heritage Museum of Arlington are moving down the Pike due to the imminent redevelopment of Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center, both announced yesterday (May 18).

The two local organizations are set to move by the end of the month into the first floor of the Ethiopian Community Development Council building at 3045 Columbia Pike, only a five minute walk from its current home at 2611 Columbia Pike. Among their new neighbors is a Subway sandwich shop.

They are moving because the shopping center is set for demolition and redevelopment. In March, the Arlington County Board officially greenlit turning the aging retail strip into “The Elliot.” The new building will feature 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store (maybe an Amazon Fresh), a renovated CVS, and a relocated Burritos Bros.

What it won’t include is a number of the current tenants, including the partnership and the museum.

“When the news came that we would need to move, our Board of Directors decided it was important for the organization to have a presence on the Pike — people need to find us, and we need to stay in touch with the community as well,” CPP’s Amy McWilliams tells ARLnow. “After a long hunt, we found the space at 3045B Columbia Pike, and realized it could house the Columbia Pike Partnership as well as the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, continuing our collective partnership.”

Last year, the Black Heritage Museum moved into the offices of the partnership, then called the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. Sharing the space was supposed to be temporary as the museum looked for a permanent home.

That’s still the plan for this new space, says the museum’s president Scott Taylor, as the museum continues to search for a new location — possibly in its old home.

“We have just recently signed a two year contract with our new landlord. We will continue to strive for a permanent location,” says Taylor. “There is even some talk about us going back to 3108 Columbia Pike as the county has acquired that property and may allow us some room there when they complete the new project there.”

CPP and the museum hope to have the space open to the public by June 18.

With all businesses needing to vacate the shopping center by May 31, several others have closed or announced their next moves in recent months.

H&R Block closed earlier this year while CVS will move into a trailer during construction and, then, back into the new building when completed. Atilla’s, a Turkish restaurant and grocer that’s been there since the 1970s, is closing next weekend and is in search of a new location.

Legend Kicks, which re-opened in its current location in 2018, is also set to close and possible move, but it’s unclear where.

ARLnow reached out to the business and its owner, who also owns the still-yet-to-open Eska just down Columbia Pike in the former location of the Purple Lounge, but has not heard back as of publication time.

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The Barcroft Apartments, a 1,334-unit, market-affordable apartment complex along Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A progressive group says an Amazon- and county-funded plan to keep the Barcroft Apartments affordable will actually displace low-income residents.

The more than $300 million purchase of the 60-acre, 1,334-unit complex along Columbia Pike will take what are currently aging but affordable market-rate apartments and renovate or reconstruct them, while converting them to dedicated affordable units.

The hasty and hefty purchase happened, county officials said, in response to the possibility that the complex could be redeveloped without affordability protections. That is what happened to the nearby Columbia Gardens Apartments, which are being torn down to make way for townhouses.

But the group Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE), an offshoot of Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority, says the Barcroft Apartments plan is flawed and will actually displace some long-time residents. The rent they are currently paying, according to rates listed online, is actually lower than the dedicated affordable rates that the rents could eventually rise to.

ACE is holding a rally this afternoon at Doctor’s Run Park, across the street from the apartments in the Douglas Park neighborhood, to speak out against what it says is the “predicted displacement of Arlington tenants within next year in [the] highly diverse Barcroft Apartments.”

From a press release:

On May 12, 2022 at 4 p.m., Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE) organizers and tenants from Barcroft Apartments will hold a press conference and rally at Doctor’s Run Park, 1301 S. George Mason Drive. During the press conference, tenants will share their experiences trying to prepare for skyrocketing rental costs, and organizers will reveal the results of a recently completed survey conducted by organizers and Marymount University predicting tenant displacement of low-income residents.

Barcroft Apartments provides a home to one of the most culturally-diverse neighborhoods in the area, and was recently sold to new owners Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. The current agreement involving Arlington County, Jair Lynch Real Estate Partner, and Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund risks displacing long time tenants in the upcoming years because their rental rates will be increased by 3% every year up to 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) starting next year. A majority of the long-time tenants that were surveyed by ACE make below 60% AMI which also increased this year as well.

Tefera Negash, a five year tenant, said, “This was the last place in this area that was in our budget. This will bring too much inconvenience in our life on top of the economic difficulties we are experiencing recently.”

Nupur Chowdhury, community organizer for ACE said, “I’m a Bangladeshi-American living here in Arlington. My family and I have lived in Barcroft for 17 years. As someone who is living and active in this community, I am afraid that the scheduled rent increases year after year will make it too expensive for our diverse community to continue living here.”

Asked about the rally, Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said she and Jair Lynch, the developer that is buying the complex with the loans from Amazon and Arlington, have been in touch with ACE.

“No Barcroft residents are being displaced,” Venezia asserted.

She issued the following statement in response to inquiries from ARLnow.

The Jair Lynch team and I have been working one-on-one with ACE since early this year. Last week we spoke with them directly to talk about their survey, the results, and their concerns. Our conversations have been collegial and constructive. We continue to share that no Barcroft residents are being displaced. Starting in 2023, rents may increase a maximum of 3% annually, up to the 60% AMI rent limit. The County remains committed to working with residents who need financial assistance. Last Friday and again this Tuesday, I followed up with additional information for families facing financial hardship, including a handout in 11 different languages about existing County programs that they could share with any residents. We are working to connect struggling families with rental resources, such as housing grants, including the potential for an information event about County resources at the property. County staff continues to be available to ACE and all Barcroft residents and to provide information and resources as needed. The Arlington Department of Human Services team is also available to help Barcroft residents with assistance for food, rent, and other services, regardless of immigration status. Residents can call 703-228-1300.

A representative with Jair Lynch echoed Venezia in saying that no residents will be displaced.

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Morning Notes

Construction scaffolding in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bye, Bye Bank Building — “A new residential development is on the boards for Columbia Pike. Marcus Partners filed plans late last week with Arlington County for a new 250-unit residential development at the site of the Bank of America office building at 3401 Columbia Pike. The six-story building will have ground floor retail, a central courtyard and 287 parking spaces on 2.5 below grade levels.” [UrbanTurf]

It’s Official: No Caucus — From Blue Virginia: “The @arlingtondems announce that their School Board Endorsement Vote process is canceled, as there is only one candidate (Bethany Zecher Sutton) left after the other withdrew.” [Twitter]

Rents Still Rising — “The median Arlington apartment rent in April was up 16.8 percent from a year before, the third highest growth rate among the nation’s 100 large urban areas, according to new data. The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,999 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,420 for two bedrooms, according to data reported by Apartment List.” [Sun Gazette]

Truck Crash Caught on Camera — From Dave Statter: “Just happened. 3rd crash in as many days on I-395S at Exit 8C/Rt 1. It appears the red car didn’t stop & no other cars struck. @VSPPIO has all lanes open.” [Twitter]

Protest Outside DEA HQ in Pentagon City — “I’m outside DEA headquarters in Arlington, where protests have gathered to draw attention to terminally ill patients’ rights to try experimental drugs like psilocybin.” [Twitter, The Hill]

WaPo Reporter Rappels Down Hotel — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [Washington Post]

Boeing HQ May Draw More Companies — “Even without a sizable addition of jobs or expansion, Northern Virginia landing another major corporate headquarters has strategic ‘marketing value,’ Terry Clower, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, said in an interview. The presence of a headquarters attracts the attention of other corporations, as well as site-selection consultants who advise companies where to locate new facilities. ‘Nothing draws a crowd like a lot of people,’ Clower said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro: Ridership Rebounding — “Metro ridership is outpacing projections through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022 by nearly 40 percent. Through March, ridership has exceeded the initial forecast by 28 million passenger trips as more people chose bus and rail for travel throughout the region. Metrobus leads the way, accounting for 60 percent of overall Metro ridership, compared to about 40 percent for rail.” [WMATA]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 48. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Stay. Lost Dog Cafe is going to stay.

With help from the Arlington County Board, Lost Dog Cafe’s parking situation is now nearing a resolution which has prompted the restaurant to renew its lease on Columbia Pike.

Last June, ARLnow reported that confusing and high parking fees in a county-financed Columbia Pike garage, owned by Ballston-based developer AvalonBay, was potentially costing Lost Dog Cafe and fellow tenant Joule Wellness Pharmacy thousands of dollars a year in customer revenue.

Because of this, both businesses were planning on not renewing their leases on the ground floor of the Avalon Columbia Pike apartment building.

But, in January, the County Board revised an unusual 2006 agreement that essentially allows AvalonBay to stop paying back the county for contributing nearly $3 million to the construction of the privately-owned garage.

This has led the developer to agree to lower parking fees inside of the parking garage at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.

Starting as soon as the end of this month, the developer is changing the fee structure at the parking garage to allow customers to park for free for one hour, AvalonBay spokesperson Kurt Conway confirmed. It’s $2 per hour after that.

Additionally, more employee parking spots will be available to the businesses.

This change has resulted in Lost Dog Cafe signing a six-year lease extension to stay on the Pike. Added to the two years left on its current lease, the neighborhood eatery is planning on staying at its current location until at least 2030.

“We believe that the change in the parking situation will allow us to run our business more successfully,” Lost Dog franchise owner James Barnes tells ARLnow.

Joule Wellness Pharmacy director of marketing Alex Tekie also says that this change will significantly help their business. However, he notes that the pharmacy has actually not yet been informed by AvalonBay of this change.

Most of the parking woes began back in March 2020, when the pandemic hit and, incidentally, higher fees, tickets, and threats of towing began after years of lax enforcement, according to tenants.

At a time when many businesses were struggling and shifting towards more take-out, charging for even just a few minutes of parking made it even more difficult for the local businesses.

“This parking issue has made it so untenable,” Barnes said last June. “We link this to our sales and our sales are not good. There’s a correlation with this parking lot.”

Joule Wellness Pharmacy ownership also told ARLnow at the time they were shelling out nearly $800 for employee parking. This prompted both businesses to threaten to leave the development and Columbia Pike.

This was all coming to a head as the Pike, in general, continues to grapple with redevelopment and questions of how to keep small, local businesses on Arlington’s “main street.”

But, at least in this instance, a change to a 16-year-old agreement appears to have solved at least a couple of tenant renewal issues, for now.

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A slide from a county presentation showing where a trail would connect Arlington View to Army Navy Drive (via Arlington County)

Nearly 30 years in the making, the Army Navy Country Club Trail Connector is closer to becoming a reality.

Construction on the long-proposed trail, a design for which has not yet been finalized, is expected to begin in spring 2024, officials say. Work could be completed the following spring, according to a recent county presentation.

The path for cyclists and pedestrians would run from a point near Hoffman-Boston Elementary and 13th Road S., in the Arlington View neighborhood, to Army Navy Drive near the I-395 overpass and the entrance to the club. It would provide a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City.

The county is seeking community feedback on two preliminary concepts for the trail, which can be provided through the project’s website.

Final design will be completed in spring 2023, then there will be another opportunity for public feedback. By winter 2023, a contract should be awarded and an official construction timeline will be released, Project Manager Mark Dennis said.

Two preliminary concepts are being considered. One features high walls and a steep trail, which could cost $11 million. The other is defined by stairs and a runnel, and could cost $5 million.

A slide depicting one Army Navy Country Club connector trail concept under consideration, featuring high walls and a steep trail (via Arlington County)

This first concept includes a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail with a steep, 12% slope centered between retaining walls. The walls would run approximately 16 feet apart, and could be up to 16 feet in height.

Further design of Concept 1 would have to address the transition at Memorial Drive — the connector road leading to the club — where cyclists would have limited visibility to react to vehicular traffic.

Dennis compared the high walls and steep trail concept to the Custis Trail, which also has a 12% slope in some sections, he said.

“Any users out there who have taken the Custis Trail, you know what this feels like, it’s a great workout for those who are up to it,” he said. “It can be a little bit of a challenge for people who are just out for a simple walk or just want to get from A to B and not have such a vigorous bike ride.”

The second concept is a series of stairs and landings to manage the steep slope, and would feature a runnel, or wheel channel, for bicycles that could also accommodate strollers or carts.

A slide showing the concept for the Army Navy Country Club trail that features stairs and a runnel (via Arlington County)

Several people raised concerns about accessibility for both concepts. Neither design features a winding, gradual slope, but the county has to work with what it’s got, Dennis said.

“The country club has very carefully considered our previous requests to expand the easement to grant more easement and they have respectfully declined,” Dennis said. “We are limited by the easement that we have and we have sufficient easement to accommodate concepts like the two I’ve presented.”

Those who have followed the project’s iterations may notice the easement’s shape has changed. After Arlington public safety officials rejected the emergency access road idea that was originally part of the project, the path’s endpoint near Hoffman-Boston shifted from S. Queen Street to the other side of the school, near the tennis and basketball courts, Dennis said.

Dennis said the project won’t be “all things to all people,” but the narrow, steep property will probably draw a “sort of self-selecting group of users,” he said.

“We hope it’ll be accessible for anyone who can climb stairs, we hope to be accessible for anyone who rides most kinds of bikes,” he said. “But we’re going to look at that very carefully in design and try our best to accommodate the broadest range of potential users.”

The project has been discussed since the early 90s and overcome many hurdles, including obtaining an easement from the country club, a resulting lawsuit from club members, the elimination of the emergency service road, and delays due to funding constraints.

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The Columbia Pike Blues Festival is back to being fully in-person for the first time in three years.

The mainstay Arlington music festival, which is put on by the Columbia Pike Partnership in partnership with the county, will take place on Saturday, June 18 from 1-8:30 p.m.

All of the performances are set for the Pike’s main stage, unlike the last two iterations of the festival. While neither was officially canceled, the events were completely or partially virtual due to the pandemic.

This year’s version will feature headliner Shemekia Copeland — the Blues Foundation’s 2021 “Entertainer of the Year” — as well as Eric Scott, D.C.-based Robbin Kapsalis & Vintage #18, local band Shakin’ Woods, and Anthony “Swamp Dog” Clark.

Local vendors and restaurants will provide food and drinks, plus there will be beer from New District Brewery and a wine list curated by the Pike’s Rincome Thai.

There will be a “Kids Zone” and an “art alley” along 9th Road S. featuring the Arlington Art Truck and work from the Columbia Pike Documentary Project.

2022 is being marketed as the festival’s 25th anniversary due to the format changes over the last two years. The first Columbia Pike Blues Festival was held in 1995.

Beyond Saturday’s day-long festival, a number of other events are being planned over the weekend to celebrate the event’s quarter century anniversary.

On Friday, there’s set to be a special blues festival performance at William Jeffrey’s Tavern. For Sunday morning, a Juneteenth history walk led by the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is being planned. There will also be live music at the Columbia Pike Farmers Market and at Café Sazón on Sunday morning.

To finish the weekend, there will be a free screening of the 1980 musical-comedy “The Blues Brothers” at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse.

The Columbia Pike Blues Festival is the largest blues festival in the D.C region, according to its website. It often prompts some neighborhood road closures. Upwards of 7,000 people have attended past festivals.

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It’s unclear why, but the FBI was out in force along Columbia Pike this morning.

Photos show several unmarked federal law enforcement vehicles, including a Lenco BearCat armored SWAT vehicle, in front of the Siena Park Apartments on the 2300 block of the Pike.

An agent in camouflage and tactical gear could be seen holding a shield inside the open doors of the moving BearCat.

Arlington County police deferred comment, noting that “the police activity is part of an active FBI investigation.” The FBI, in turn, confirmed the activity but said little else.

“The FBI is present at the 2300 block of Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA, conducting court authorized law enforcement activity,” Washington Field Office spokesperson Samantha Shero tells ARLnow. “The FBI cannot comment further due to an ongoing investigation.”

More details about the investigation are unlikely to be released today or tomorrow, Shero noted.

The last widely reported FBI investigation in Arlington happened in the Ballston area in March 2021.

Hat tip to John Antonelli

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