Arlington, VA

More than one year after all Arlington Public Library branches were shuttered due to the coronavirus, five branches remain closed. 

This summer and fall, the library is looking to reopen four of these branches, which currently only allow people to drop books off.

“Based on the recently approved Arlington County FY22 Budget, the Library plans to expand open locations after July 1, as hiring and training of new staff allows,” said a recent announcement from the library system.

The Aurora Hills branch and the newly renovated Columbia Pike branch could open in July. Next up would be the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn branches, which the library announcement said could open “by fall 2021 and sooner if possible.”   

Three locations are currently open. Central Library allows people to pick up the books they have on hold, while the Shirlington and Westover branches are open for 30 minutes of in-person browsing with self-service checkout.

The library is also looking to expand services at these three locations. It aims to increase access to library collections, public computers and public space at all locations while keeping social distancing in mind. 

Remaining closed, for now, is the branch in the lobby of county government headquarters in Courthouse.

“The Plaza branch will remain closed in preparation for a long-planned expansion and renovation,” the announcement said. 

Arlington Public Library is planning for socially distanced outdoor programs this summer. Among these include outdoor storytimes, which will kick off Tuesday, May 18 at Central Library.

Its summer reading challenge will begin June 1, and Arlington Public Library’s mobile truck will “continue to hit the road and be visible at community events.”

One change of note for returning library patrons: during the pandemic, Arlington Public Library permanently eliminated late fees, a change intended to “make the library more accessible to all.”

Photo via Arlington Public Library

0 Comments

(Updated at 11 a.m.) A long-delayed redevelopment at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Barton Street finally appears poised to become a reality.

A new mixed-use building at 2400 Columbia Pike, featuring 120 residential units and ground-floor retail space, will be replacing the current, low-slung 1950s buildings, one of which holds independent cafe Rappahannock Coffee. The County Board approved a modification to the development plan, including adding 15 residential units to the originally-proposed 105, at its meeting last weekend.

Part of the approved proposal included maintaining the current building facades on the ground floor to maintain part of the character of Columbia Pike.

“The façade preservation treatment for the two historic buildings will retain Columbia Pike’s unique setting and scale,” a county staff report said, “while allowing for a more cohesive development to occur, providing for a defined street wall and better efficiencies around underground parking, floor plates, and common areas.”

According to a County press release, the current businesses — Rappahannock Coffee and Cabinets ERA — will be able to stay in place in the new building.

“The proposed development will not only preserve the existing building facades but will also retain space for current retailers and offer transportation improvements contributing to a cohesive and user-friendly network,” the County said.

We tried to reach both businesses to ask about their plans. A person who answered the phone at Rappahannock Coffee hung up on an ARLnow reporter, and a Cabinets ERA employee said the manager did not want to discuss it.

The new development will also come with some improvements to the streetscape and the sidewalk. Six feet of the sidewalk will be designated for pedestrian space, while another six feet could be used for benches, trees, and other amenities.

Provisions are also included for a future transit station on the eastern part of the project. Despite hopes for transit ridership on the Pike, the proposal includes 140 parking spaces in a below-grade garage and 36 spaces in a newly-approved surface parking lot behind the building.

The County Board unanimously approved the project at its meeting on Saturday.

0 Comments

It could be a competitive Democratic primary in Virginia’s 49th House District between long-time delegate Alfonso Lopez and newcomer Karishma Mehta.

Since announcing her candidacy in October, Mehta has received several notable progressive endorsements including from Democratic Socialists of America, Sunrise Virginia, and Our Revolution Arlington. She’s also raised a considerable amount of money, with her campaign saying they’ve so far raised five times more than previous 49th District challengers.

In the first quarter of 2021 the campaign raised about $51,000, for a total haul of $78,000.

Mehta has been running an active campaign, sending her supporters more than a dozen emails since mid-March. The emails have asked for donations, announced endorsements, and demanded that corporations like Dominion Energy and Amazon — which is building its HQ2 within the 49th District — “are immediately reigned in.”

Lopez, meanwhile, has racked up endorsements from a proverbial who’s who list of Arlington and Virginia lawmakers, officials, and organizations. That includes U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Secretary of Education Arif Qarni, the Arlington firefighters union, and even his primary challenger in 2019, JD Spain, president of the Arlington branch of the NAACP.

The campaign says it has raised more than $80,000 in the first quarter of 2021 and $160,000 overall.

The 49th District runs from Seven Corners to Pentagon City, including much of Arlington’s diverse Columbia Pike corridor.

The primary is set for June 8, with early voting starting tomorrow (April 23). The race pits an established Arlington lawmaker against a first-time candidate .

Mehta is a 29-year-old preschool teacher, the daughter of Indian-American parents who immigrated to the U.S. seeking a better life. But they struggled, she tells ARLnow, to pay rent, get affordable health care, and pay down debt. While she originally hails from Tennessee and Pennsylvania, she moved to Arlington about a decade ago to teach.

Mehta says she is “proud to help represent the wave of progressive insurgents across the country working to put people first, not corporations.”

“I’ve seen a cyclical pattern and the lack of accountability not just in our elected officials, but in the way we’ve created society,” she says. “My goal is to help be part of a new generation of legislators that help break that cycle of inequity, to help build new systems that uplift all of our people.”

“We represent the future of the Democratic Party, whereas the moderates like Delegate Lopez represent the past,” she adds.

Lopez was first elected as a Delegate in 2011. Since then, he’s become the Majority Whip in the Virginia House of Delegates and has sponsored a slew of notable bills, including one earlier this year that gave localities greater say over which businesses get liquor licenses.

This past General Assembly session his entire legislative agenda was signed into law, including bills related to gun control, providing more access to financial aid to students no matter immigration status, and funding to improve water treatment plants and prevent Chesapeake Bay pollution.

Lopez tells ARLnow that he believes his experience getting legislation passed is why he continues to be the best candidate for the job.

“What I do is bring Arlington progressive values to Richmond and work to get as much I can done, to move the policy needle as far as I can while also being successful and effective in getting legislation passed,” he says.

Read More

0 Comments

The Penrose Square Starbucks was officially dedicated as the company’s 77th “Military Family Store” yesterday (April 14).

The coffee chain’s Military Family Stores are located across the country and are placed near military bases; in this case the store is only about a mile from Joint Base Myer-Henderson and the Pentagon. The Starbucks at 2413 Columbia Pike is currently the only such store in Arlington, though there’s another one in Fairfax County near Fort Belvoir.

Starbucks Military Family Stores emphasize helping military families with connections and support by holding events and programs. They also play a larger role in the company’s commitment of hiring 5,000 veterans and military spouses annually.

A Starbucks representative tells ARLnow that three of the employees at the Penrose Square store are veterans or military spouses.

As part of the dedication, Starbucks, in partnership with Operation Gratitude, hosted a service project outside the cafe to assemble 500 care packages for military families in Arlington and at other local bases. The care package included handwritten letters of support, handmade paracord bracelets, snacks, candy, and personal care items.

“Military service members and their families across Arlington County can look at this store right here in their own community and know that they are better understood and appreciated,” said Paul Cucinotta, Chief Operating Officer of Operation Gratitude, in the press release.

Arlington police officers and firefighters were among those volunteering to assemble the care packages.

“The Arlington County Police Department has previously been the recipient of Operation Gratitude and are honored to now have the opportunity to pay it forward through service that supports veterans and military families,” ACPD spokesperson Ashley Savage told ARLnow. “By filling these care packages, we hope to show our appreciation for the men and women who bravely served our country and the sacrifices of military families.”

Photo courtesy of Starbucks

0 Comments

Morning Notes

County Opening Free Testing Site Today — “Arlington County is opening a no-cost, no-appointment, COVID-19 testing kiosk in the parking lot at Courthouse Plaza in partnership with Curative, which operates two additional sites in the County. The kiosk will be open seven days a week from 12-8 p.m., starting Tuesday, April 13.” [Arlington County]

Fmr. Arlington Waiter Now a Real Estate Kingpin — “In 2013, Heider, then 25, was working at an Italian restaurant in Shirlington when his manager became the assistant to a local real-estate agent. When this agent moved to Washington Fine Properties, Heider’s former manager brought him on to help. As the assistant to the assistant, Heider worked without any base pay, making money only when he brought in referrals. At night, he waited tables at the Crystal City Morton’s.” [Washingtonian]

Kitchen Fire at Pike Apartment BuildingUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — Arlington County firefighters responded to a kitchen fire at the Dominion Towers apartments on Columbia Pike last night. No injuries were reported. [Twitter, Twitter]

Marymount Students Volunteering at Vax Clinic — “Since the start of the spring semester, students in Marymount University’s Nursing program have been using their classroom skills to serve as vaccinators in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic… [The students] are often on the team of registered nurses and EMS personnel who are on duty for vaccinations at the Lubber Run Community Center in Arlington.” [Marymount University]

YHS Finishes Football Season on Win Streak — “For the Yorktown Patriots, the shortened seven-game high-school football season was like two campaigns. There was the 0-2 beginning when the Patriots lost badly and struggled in all aspects of the game. Then there was the 5-0 finish, when Yorktown was vastly improved in all areas… Yorktown capped its season with a 24-15 victory over the T.C. Williams Titans.” [Sun Gazette]

Last Call: Vote in the Spring 2021 Arlies — Today is the last day to vote for your favorite local places, people and organizations in the spring edition of ARLnow’s Arlies awards. [SurveyMonkey]

0 Comments

The stalled plan to redevelop the site of Rappahannock Coffee on Columbia Pike is going back before the Arlington County Board.

Next week, the Board is set to consider a Use Permit Amendment for the already-approved redevelopment of 2400 Columbia Pike. The amendment “would result in the addition of 6,500 square feet of overall density and an increase of 15 residential units with preservation of existing building facades.”

The changes would also add 36 new parking spaces. The proposal is being made by a new developer, as Columbia Pike-based B.M. Smith is apparently no longer in the proverbial driver’s seat of the long-delayed project, which was first proposed in 2013 and approved in 2016.

“A new entity is now pursuing construction of the 2400 Columbia Pike development,” says a staff report to the County Board. “The new applicant believes the proposed enhancements to the development program are responsive to current market conditions and will facilitate swifter implementation of the project. The design changes, when considered individually may have triggered an administrative change or a minor use permit amendment, but when considered collectively, have been determined to be a major use permit amendment.”

With 15 units added on, the updated project would include 120 total residential units, in addition to 13,000 square feet ground floor space for retail and office, and two levels of underground parking.

The new developer appears to be a small local firm called YW Capital Development, based near Tysons.

“YW Capital Development is a minority-owned real estate development company based in the DC metro area,” the firm’s website says. “Our business focus is development of multifamily and mixed-use projects in urban settings. Our mission is to achieve the most efficient use of land and the best architectural design while maintaining the historic integrity of the neighborhood. Founded at the peak of the housing crisis in 2009, we have successfully completed a dozen projects in the DC metro area.”

The developer’s website touts 2400 Columbia Pike as being “minutes [from the] Pentagon and new Amazon HQ2.” A request for comment sent to an email address listed for the company bounced back as undeliverable.

Nearby residents have previously expressed concern about the proposed development’s displacement of local favorite Rappahannock Coffee, as well as other small businesses. The plan involves tearing down three low-slung commercial buildings, preserving the facades of two.

Another concern, according to the county staff report: noise and light.

“Several residents of the neighboring condominiums expressed concern about potential noise and light impacts from the proposed balconies, loading dock, surface parking area, and outdoor open space located in the southern portion of the site,” the staff report says.

Others are hoping the redevelopment could allow a new bicycle connection on the southern side of the Pike, with Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt recently calling it “a critical opportunity for a bike-able Pike.”

The County Board is set to consider the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday, April 20.

Photos via YW Capital Development

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Sentencing in Arlington Cold Case — “A Virginia cold case closed Thursday as Jose Rodriguez-Cruz was sentenced to 40 years in prison in Stafford County for the killing of his wife. Marta Rodriguez went missing from Arlington in 1989, when her son, Hansel Rodriguez, was just four years old… ‘It almost felt like I was able to breathe for the first time in many years,’ said Hansel, now 36.” [NBC 4]

Wheel Theft Spree Along Columbia Pike — “On April 7, police responded to multiple reports of larcenies from auto. The investigations determined that between 6:30 p.m. on April 6 and 7:35 a.m. April 7, the suspect(s) removed all four tires and rims from the four victim vehicles. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [ACPD]

DCA Traveler Traffic Recovering — “The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reports that passenger originations at Reagan National were down 68.9 percent in March compared to the pre-pandemic March 2019. In a way, that’s positive news – Reagan National typically has been down 80 percent even as airports in other parts of the country have started to see rebounds.” [Sun Gazette]

ACFD Salutes Fallen Officer — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “[On Wednesday] we detailed crews along the I-66 overpasses to salute fallen @CapitolPolice Officer Billy Evans as his procession passed through @ArlingtonVA. Doing this twice within a few months hurts. We’re keeping Officer Evan’s family and the USCP in our thoughts & prayers.” [Twitter]

Firefighters Push for Higher Pay Updated at 8:45 a.m. — “Brian Lynch, president of the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (APFPA), called on the Arlington County Board Tuesday to implement a pay increase for county firefighters when it adopts the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. ‘Being firefighters has always meant risking our lives for others,’ Lynch said, during a Tuesday night public hearing.” [Patch]

0 Comments

A man who terrorized businesses in Arlington, Alexandria and elsewhere from 2018 to 2019 is going to prison.

Freddy Lee McRae, 35, pled guilty to a series of bank and retail robberies last year. On Tuesday McRae, dubbed the “Beltway Bank Bandit,” was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison.

“This case involved a chilling armed robbery spree during which innocent community members were threatened with serious injury or death if they did not comply with repeated demands for money,” Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement. “We are thankful to our law enforcement partners for their thorough investigation across multiple jurisdictions to bring the defendant to justice.”

As detailed in a press release, McRae’s crime spree included the attempted robbery of a Capital One branch on Columbia Pike, the armed robbery of Legend Kicks & Apparel on the Pike, and a subsequent police chase on the GW Parkway that ended with McRae crashing his car into the river and trying to swim to freedom.

On December 10, 2018, McRae robbed a Burke & Herbert bank branch located in Alexandria. McRae approached a teller, who asked if he wanted to make a deposit. McRae responded, “gimmie your money,” before lifting up his shirt and pulling a pistol from his waistband, which he pointed at the teller. As the teller gathered money, McRae racked the slide on the pistol and demanded all large bills. McRae fled with approximately $1,366 in cash.

On April 21, 2019, McRae robbed the Legend Kicks & Apparel store located in Arlington. McRae brandished a pistol and demanded that two store employees empty their pockets, which they did. McRae then ordered the employees to lie on the floor before taking approximately $2,160 in cash that belonged to the store. McRae fled the store on foot and the area by vehicle. When a law enforcement officer tried to pull over the vehicle, McRae stopped only briefly before leading law enforcement officers on a vehicle pursuit on the George Washington Memorial Parkway. McRae ultimately jumped out of his moving vehicle prior to it crashing and sinking into the Potomac River. McRae tried to flee law enforcement by jumping into the river, but officers pulled him out and placed him under arrest.

As part of his guilty plea, McRae also admitted to robbing a Bank of America branch in Springfield on October 27, 2018; a BB&T branch located in Alexandria on December 20, 2018; and a Capital One branch located in Bowie, Maryland, on January 2, 2019. McRae further admitted to attempting to rob a Capital One branch located in Arlington on February 11, 2019, and to obstructing justice following his apprehension.

“This case was investigated by the FBI Washington Field Office’s Northern Virginia Violent Crime Safe Streets Task Force, which is composed of FBI Special Agents and Task Force Officers from northern Virginia law enforcement agencies,” the press release noted. “Significant investigative assistance in this case was provided by the Arlington County Police and the Fairfax County Police.”

0 Comments

(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) A wanted man fled from police on foot and caused a brief scare at an elementary school this morning.

The incident started around 7:30 a.m. in the Barcroft neighborhood, amid reports of a domestic dispute.

“At approximately 7:33 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the 900 block of S. Buchanan Street for the report of a dispute between known individuals,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “During the course of the investigation, it was determined that one of the involved subjects was wanted by another jurisdiction.”

Police patrolling the area later located the man in the Green Valley neighborhood, where he led officers on a chase that ended near Drew Elementary School.

“Following a short foot pursuit, the subject was taken into custody,” Savage said.

Later, after an investigation, it was determined that the 19-year-old suspect had thrown a rock through the victim’s window. He is facing a local charge related to that, as well the warrant for his arrest from another jurisdiction.

A witness to the arrest said the man was arrested in a field near the school amid a large emergency response. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed to ARLnow that Drew Elementary was placed in “secure the school” mode — a step just short of a full lockdown — between 9:30-9:40 a.m. due to the incident.

Separately this morning, another suspect led police on another chase, a couple of blocks from the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road, after a report of a man trespassing at an under-construction property.

“At approximately 9:46 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the 1100 block of S. Highland Street for the report of a trespassing,” Savage said. “Upon observing the arrival of the responding officer, the subject fled the scene on foot. Officers located the subject and following a short foot pursuit, he was taken into custody. The investigation determined the subject was related to a destruction of property incident reported yesterday at this location where the side mirrors of two vehicles were damaged.”

A 29-year-old man from Annandale was arrested and charged with Destruction of Property and Trespassing.

Courtesy photos

0 Comments

Grab a basket and brush up on your produce-scoping skills, it’s farmers market season once again.

A number of Arlington farmers markets have or will be opening for the season in the coming days, including:

  • Crystal City on Tuesdays, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (starting tomorrow, April 6)
  • Ballston on Thursdays, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (opened on April 1)

Several other farmers markets will be opening in the weeks to follow, including:

  • Lubber Run on Saturdays starting April 17, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Fairlington on Sundays, starting May 2, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Rosslyn on Wednesdays, starting May 5, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.

Three Arlington farmer markets are open year-around, though with shifting hours depending on the season including:

  • Westover’s Sunday winter hours of 9 a.m.-1 p.m. will remain until May 2, a market representative confirmed, when it shifts 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Courthouse’s Saturday farmers market shifts their hours to 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 17.
  • The Columbia Pike market on Sundays is now in the parking lot of the Fillmore Shopping Center and keeps the hours of 8:30-11:30 a.m. year around.

The Courthouse farmers market is the oldest in Arlington, selling produce since 1979. All of the markets will have modified operations, including limited capacity, as a result of the pandemic.

In total, Arlington has eight farmer markets.

The Marymount University farmers market closed last year and is not currently operational, a county official confirms. It opened in 2016, billing itself as the only Arlington market north of Lee Highway.

Despite being encouraged to offer pre-ordering, markets are open for in-person shopping. This is a change from early last year, at the start of the pandemic, when markets were briefly shut down and then allowed to open for pre-ordered sales only.

File photo

0 Comments

President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan has added a glimmer of hope to those who would like to see an expanded Metrorail system.

The initial planning for the system in the 1960s envisioned a line down the Columbia Pike, ultimately terminating in Annandale, but the proposed line was nixed in order to save on costs. A physical remnant of the planning is a pair of stub tunnels near the Pentagon Metro station, built to accommodate a potential future Columbia Pike expansion.

Decades later, in 2019, Metro published the results of a study that suggested a number of ways to expand the capacity of the Metrorail network, including a second Rosslyn Metro station and tunnel, and a Silver Line expansion down the Pike and up Route 7.

Proposed new Silver Line Connection through Columbia Pike (via 2019 Metro study)

The possibility was especially enticing considering the disappointment of transit advocates following the 2014 cancellation of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar line.

While Metro faces plenty of maintenance, service, budget and ridership challenges — the latter three exacerbated by the pandemic — that hasn’t stopped some from dreaming of a world in which more local residents are within easy walking distance of a light rail commute.

Among those discussing such a possibility, given the massive infrastructure spending that would result should Biden’s plan pass, are some of Arlington’s state lawmakers.

Even should the stars align and federal funding become available, digging up Columbia Pike and building a new Metrorail tunnel and stations would be fantastically expensive and would likely require a decade or more of planning and construction.

The new connectivity would also result in new development, sharply higher property prices, and other big changes, which could be viewed in a positive or a negative light, depending on your perspective.

What do you think about the idea of a Metro line on Columbia Pike?

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list