The Columbia Heights Civic Association will meet next month to discuss the possibility of a pod transit system on Columbia Pike.
Such a system could help ease congestion on the Pike, which is currently choked with tightly spaced and frequently stopping buses, particularly during the morning and evening rush hours.
The Columbia Pike streetcar was supposed to be a solution to that problem, but many Arlington residents objected to the system’s cost and the fact that it ran in mixed traffic. Ultimately, the project was canceled.
While a cost-effective, monorail-like transit system that runs above traffic seems ideal in theory, there are questions about the system’s real-world feasibility, cost and the trustworthiness of the company that’s proposing it.
(The system, as conceived, would be built with private funds and would be privately owned.)
Overall, what do you think of the pod transit idea that the civic association will be proposing?
Police say a man walked up to a 31-year-old woman on Columbia Pike near S. Courthouse Road at 9:35 p.m. and asked for directions. The suspect then allegedly groped and kissed the woman before running off.
“When the victim looked down at her phone the male subject touched her inappropriately and kissed her on the cheek,” according to a police report. “The suspect is described as a Middle Eastern male in his twenties, approximately 5’4″ tall with a thin build. He was wearing a grey t-shirt and blue jeans at the time of the incident.”
Police do not believe this incident is related to a series of a half dozen sexual assaults that have been reported within the past month.
(Updated on Aug. 27 at 10:50 a.m.) Might a monorail-like system be the solution to Columbia Pike’s transit woes?
The Columbia Heights Civic Association is holding a meeting on Sept. 28 to discuss JPods, a transit system that uses suspended railcars, as a possible solution for Columbia Pike in light of the cancelled streetcar.
“We’re excited about this possibility,” said Sarah McKinley, one of the Columbia Heights Civic Association Board members.
The owner of JPods, Bill James, has looked at the Pike and thinks it is a good location for the gondola-like system, McKinley said.
JPod users would get into a pod at a station and then program in an address for where he or she wants to go.
“Think of it like a chauffeured car,” James said.
There could be several hundred to 1,000 pods on the Columbia Pike network. There is a possibility of turning the transit system into a grid, with JPods running from Columbia Pike to Metro stations and other parts of Northern Virginia, he said.
The solar-powered pod system would be privately funded, according to James. The JPods website lists the average cost for installing a network as $10 million, though there’s no word on how much it might cost to construct along the Pike.
Before the project was canceled, the cost of the five mile Columbia Pike streetcar line was estimated at $358 million.
If JPods were approved for Arlington, a network could be built along the Pike in a year, James said.
“[With JPods] you’ll be able to get around most cities like [you can in] New York, without cars,” he said.
Arlington County has been “made aware” of the JPods system, said Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet.
“It’s too early to comment on it because we have not received any detailed technical or cost information that can be evaluated,” he said. “The JPod information we have seen says it would not require any public funding.”
Arlington County does not expect to decide on an alternative transit plan for the Pike until next year.
Arlington No. 1 in Public Transit to D.C. — Among suburban D.C. counties, Arlington has the highest percentage of commuters who travel to the District via public transit. In Arlington, 53 percent of D.C. commuters take public transit, while 36 percent drive alone and 8 percent carpool. Montgomery County was second, with 43 precent of D.C. commuters taking public transit. [WTOP]
Vihstadt Campaign Website Hacked? — County Board member John Vihstadt’s campaign website has apparently been hacked by online porn purveyors and its homepage now displays a profane message. That message is also visible when you search for “John Vihstadt” on Google. Vihstadt was elected to a four year term last November and won’t be up for reelection until 2018. [Twitter – NOT SAFE FOR WORK]
County Ranked Top 50 Event Destination — Arlington County has been ranked No. 36 on a list of the top 50 U.S. localities for meetings and events. The District ranked No. 6 and National Harbor ranked No. 35 on the list, from event software provider Cvent. The ranking “reflects Arlington’s appeal as a vibrant urban destination in the heart of the nation’s capital – one that offers the convenience of downtown D.C. with hotel rates averaging up to 20 percent less,” a county official said. [Arlington County]
Columbia Pike Parking Mishap — A car ran partially over an embankment in a shopping center parking lot at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street on Sunday evening. [Twitter]
Pike Photography Book — “Living Diversity: The Columbia Pike Documentary Project,” has been published by the University of Virginia Press. The book “is the extraordinary result of a team of five insightful and highly skilled photographers and interviewers portraying the contemporary life of people and sites along the exceptionally ethnically-diverse and rapidly-changing Columbia Pike corridor.” The hardcover version is selling for $39.95 on Amazon. [Preservation Arlington]
Arlington County wants residents to help it design the new Columbia Pike Village Center public square.
The new public square is part of a development that is replacing the current Food Star grocery store at the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike. A developer is planning to build a five story building with market-rate apartments, retail and a major grocer.
The county-owned public square would go next to the development, where part of the Food Star parking lot is currently located. Arlington residents can take an online survey and answer questions about the type of benches, location of a water feature and how the new square should look overall.
The square is meant to be a “green oasis,” according to the county, and will have several “opportunities to sit, relax and enjoy the new square and garden.” It is also meant to work with the new retail area that is part of the development. The county’s current plans for the square show wide sidewalks that could be used for outdoor seating at restaurants.
“Success of the public square goes hand-in-hand with the success of retail,” the survey says.
The county is currently deciding between a central garden and a central open lawn. Residents are asked to choose which one they would prefer, with the option to choose a combination of both.
Preliminary sketches show seating around a central garden or lawn area, with open green spaces and paths throughout it. Residents who take the survey are asked to choose the type of benches they would like to see in the garden, as well as the kind of open spaces and paths.
The county also asks residents to rank water features, like fountains or small stone waterfalls, and weigh in on where one should be located in the square.
The new square will be somewhat similar to the public squares at Penrose Square and Pentagon Row, where there’s a combination of retail and open spaces, or the public space outside the Arlington Mill Community Center. However, the county said it is hoping that the Village Center public square offers more greenery.
“Penrose Square and Arlington Mill offer outdoor event spaces that are largely paved,” the county said. “Perhaps Village Center square could offer something different… ‘green oasis.'”
The coffee shop plans to open its doors at 5:00 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 14. Located in the former Bar TNT and Society Fair space at Penrose Square, the store will be the first Starbucks along the Pike in Arlington.
In addition to the normal menu of coffee, espresso drinks, teas, pastries and sandwiches, the new Pike Starbucks will offer Starbucks Reserve, “a special collection of unique, small-lot coffees.”
“Customers will be able to order their Starbucks Reserve coffee brewed on The Clover Brewing System, which lets you discover new layers and dimensions within a coffee’s familiar aroma, flavor, body and acidity, brewed fresh by the cup,” said a spokeswoman.
Asked why the company chose to finally open a location on Columbia Pike, the spokeswoman said “Starbucks is always looking for great locations to better meet the needs of our customers.”
This isn’t the only Starbucks to open in Arlington this month. Yesterday a new Starbucks opened its doors at the Fort Myer Exchange on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.
County Board member Libby Garvey and other cyclists will brave the heat on Saturday, riding up to 100 miles as part of the second Annual Kennan Garvey Memorial Ride.
The cyclists will bike on the W&OD Trail from Arlington to Purcellville and back, a 90-mile trek. For riders wanting to do a true century, they can continue to cycle to Roosevelt Memorial Bridge after returning to Arlington.
Cyclists can also shorten the ride by turning around in Reston at the 15-mile mark to make it a 30-mile ride, or in Leesburg, Virginia, at the 30-mile mark to make it a 60-mile ride.
It’s an easy ride, making it a great ride for a family, Garvey said.
“This ride is the perfect way to remember Kennan and to continue the good influence he had on so many people during his life,” Garvey said.
Garvey, herself, is planning to ride out to Purcellville, but is not planning to turn around and head back to Arlington. She and her husband previously rode to Purcellville on a tandem bike, she said.
The ride is also known as the Sizzling Suburban Century because of August’s heat, Garvey said, while promoting the event at County Board meetings. National Weather Service is predicting a high of 91 degrees on Saturday.
Garvey started the bike ride last year in honor of her husband, Kennan, who died of a heart attack in 2008. He was 56 years old.
“The ride means a lot to me and Kennan’s family and friends,” Garvey said. “Kennan commuted by bike to his job at EPA since the early ’80’s. He loved cycling, loved to help people and loved to get young people interested in bicycles.”
The ride has an entry fee of $25, and participants are encouraged to raise $500 for the Kennan Garvey Memorial Fund. All participants will get a boxed lunch and t-shirt as part of the ride. Those who meet the fundraising goal of $500 will also receive a Phoenix Bikes jersey.
The ride benefits Phoenix Bikes’ Capital Campaign, with proceeds going toward helping the nonprofit fund a new building, now possibly in the area of Columbia Pike. The shop had previously looked at a spot at Walter Reed Drive and W&OD Trail, but that faced some community opposition.
Kennan had wanted to volunteer with Phoenix Bikes after retiring.
“Phoenix Bikes is a wonderful little organization,” Garvey said. ” They just do incredible things. And once they get a building, they’ll be able to take off.”
Photo courtesy of Libby Garvey
(Updated at 5 p.m.) Columbia Pike residents are getting a first look at the development that’s proposed to replace the Food Star grocery store at the the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike.
Officials will hold an open house to discuss the proposal for a public square that will go next to the planned six-story multi-use building from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 30, at the county’s Parks and Natural Resources Operations Building (2700 S. Taylor Street).
Under the form based code proposal, submitted by Orr Partners, the new building will have five stories of market-rate apartments, and the first floor will have retail and a grocery store. The “major grocer” filling the space has not been finalized. There will also be a public square at the intersection of S. George Mason and Columbia Pike, but the idea is still in a preliminary planning stage.
Preliminary sketches for the project, dubbed “Columbia Pike Village Center,” show retail on the plaza level and the first level with the grocery store on the plaza level. The apartment complex would have an entrance on the plaza level by the public square and an entrance on the first floor.
The building is planned to have about 250 new market-rate apartments and 607 parking spaces in a three-level below-ground garage, in addition to the more than 80,000 square feet of retail.
Of the 607 parking spots, 366 will be for tenants while 245 will be for customers and visitors. There will also be 28 public parking spots on the streets and 126 bicycle rack spots.
The building plans also call for three residential courtyards, one on the first floor, an open one on the second floor and one that is open from the second floor and up. According to preliminary landscape sketches, the courtyard on the second floor could have a pool.
What do jello, lava, Britney Spears and a bunch of words from Urban Dictionary have in common?
They are all words that audience members may shout out during a Porkchop Volcano improv show at the Arlington Drafthouse. Jon Milstein, Seth Alcorn, Conor O’Rourke and Matt Stephan, the four members of the Arlington-based troupe, then have to take these suggestions and turn each into a scene or character, all in the hopes of a good laugh from the audience.
“My favorite part of improv is the thrill, is the rush of a real audience you’ve never met before, you don’t know them, blowing them away, and having them laugh, a good and hearted, genuine laughter,” Milstein said.
While their group does not perform any single “typical” show, each performance will consist of a combination of guessing or scene improv games. The show starts at 9 p.m. in the Arlington Drafthouse’s Green Room — its side bar — and begins with a game that will interact with the audience.
“It’s usually packed by the end of the first game,” Stephan said.
By the time the game is done, the members will also know what the audience will like, and whether their suggestions will be more along the lines of kittens or sex positions, Alcorn said.
A favorite finale is “Dating Game,” where the troupe pulls an audience member up to play a bachelorette or a bachelor hoping to find his or her perfect match. The catch is that each of three improv members involved in the game are in characters suggested by the audience and the bachelor(ette) has to guess what the character is. O’Rourke plays host.
“It’s a high risk, high reward game,” Stephan said. “If we can hit a home run with that one, that’s been a good day.”
Suggestions can get wild. One of the members once had to play someone missing a chunk of his body after a tragic swordfish accident. Ideas also range from family friendly to adult only and even uncomfortable.
“I had a couple of friends who would basically go on Urban Dictionary and the come to the show,” Alcorn said. “So they would shout out all kinds of very disgusting sex acts that nobody actually performs, and then I would have to then explain to the audience what they meant and then work it into a scene.”
The four guys have a couple tricks up their sleeves, though, as they don’t want to go for the gross out, which gets awkward, Stephan said. Even when audience members suggested something dirty, the performers could take it in a different direction that made it cleaner.
“Being able to take an inappropriate or a cliche suggestion and then do something with it that they weren’t expecting, but still works with the suggestion, is pretty great,” Alcorn said.
One example is “Twilight,” a series that both Alcorn and Milstein despise, Alcorn said. It turned into a scene of Milstein playing a human who wanted to be a vampire and Alcorn playing a very reluctant vampire.
“It was just Jon throwing himself at me saying, ‘I want to feel the night rushing through my veins, bite me,'” Alcorn said.
The group tries to keep the suggestions new and challenging, O’Rourke said. To prevent common suggestions, which can happen when they ask for B-list celebrities, the members will use one of the common ones as an example. Even with common suggestions the group can work together to take a boring suggestion and create a new, fun angle.
“What’s always a lot of fun is taking a suggestion, but not taking it too literally, and jumping off and doing something weird with it. Because just because you get the suggestion vampire does not mean you have to come out as a vampire,” O’Rourke said.
The chemistry the group may be its biggest strength, they said. The four men can create a funny scene even if they are not sure where the other is going right away.
Milstein and Alcorn were doing a scene with tweezers last week. It started out with Alcorn giving Milstein a haircut with tweezers.
“And then he came to me with with a bad tooth and I was going to pull it out with tweezers,” Alcorn said. “And the third time we came around in this game, he didn’t say anything, but I knew I was going to do surgery and he put his hand on his appendix, and that was it.”
Once they formed the group, and spitballed until they randomly came up with the name “Porkchop Volcano,” the troupe needed a place to perform. Milstein was friends with the owner of Arlington Drafthouse who offered them two Saturdays. They now are performing up to four shows a month at the bar.
“The Drafthouse is our place,” O’Rourke said. “It’s our home.
Flora Wallace had a typical problem for a newly married woman who just moved to a new home. She had many items that she didn’t need but were still in good shape.
Wallace then heard about the Buy Nothing Project, a gift-giving economy where neighbors give away items for free, from her cousin. She decided to bring the project to her neighborhood on Columbia Pike.
“I like the idea of being able to get in touch with a neighbor and give a new home to an item I didn’t need,” Wallace said.
Wallace contacted the administrators of the national Buy Nothing Project who helped her set up the Buy Nothing Project Columbia Pike Corridor group on Facebook. The idea behind the project is to create hyperlocal groups where neighbors can post items they want to give away or post requests for items people might have — and form tighter-knit communities.
“Time and again, members of our groups find themselves spending more and more time interacting in our groups, finding new ways to give back to the community that has brought humor, entertainment, and yes, free stuff into their lives,” says the project’s website. “The Buy Nothing Project is about setting the scarcity model of our cash economy aside in favor of creatively and collaboratively sharing the abundance around us.”
Each group is hyperlocal for areas with less than 50,000 people, meaning that only people in the specific group’s ZIP code can join. Columbia Pike residents in the 22204 ZIP code can join by requesting to Facebook group. Wallace will then contact them and ask for proof of residence before allowing the person to join, she said.
While the Buy Nothing Project helps people find new homes for their items, the project also allows people to connect with neighbors, something Wallace hopes to achieve, she said.
“The focus of the project is getting neighbors to know each other,” she said.
So far the group is small with eight members, but Wallace said she hopes it will grow as more people hear about it. Her goal is to have about 150 members in the next six months.
She has had requests from people outside of the ZIP code, and while she had to reject them, she said she hopes they start their own groups in their neighborhoods.
Wallace recommends residents of other parts of Arlington contact the national Buy Nothing Project administrators to start a new group. They can help a person start the page and go through all the rules that apply to the project, including how posts should be written, how to approve members, etc.
Wallace said she can see people creating a Buy Nothing Clarendon or Buy Nothing Courthouse, as examples. After all, the project helps people meet each other.
“By re-homing items in your community, you get to know who lives there,” she said.
Wallace posted the first item on the group — a CD tower. While no one has taken her up on the offer, she said she thinks it will happen as more people join the group.
“My goal is to find homes for items I might grow out of in the next years and definitely to meet new people,” Wallace said.
Bailey’s Crossroads Project Canceled — A project that would have redeveloped a vacant office building into an apartment building in Bailey’s Crossroads has been canceled. The project was to take place just over the Arlington County line, on the Fairfax County side of the intersection of Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road. [Washington Business Journal]
W-L Turf Project On Track — A joint Arlington County-Arlington Public Schools project to replace the artificial turf at Washington-Lee High School’s stadium remains on track to wrap up early next month, despite the rainy weather that the area has been experiencing. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Airamangel
Columbia Pike’s first Chipotle Mexican Grill may open in September.
The Chipotle is planned to go into the new 3400 Pike apartment building, at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road.
“Coming soon” signs are now up in the windows. While interior construction has not started, Chipotle’s contract for the space says it will open in September, said Brian Jeter, the marketing specialist at 3400 Pike.
“It’s pretty tentative right now, but from what we understand with the contract, it should be open in September,” he said.
The restaurant will be Chipotle’s sixth in Arlington, with existing locations in Rosslyn, Ballston, Crystal City, the Pentagon City mall and along Lee Highway.
Arlington County has added eight new buses to its fleet in order to provide more frequent bus service along several routes.
Additional bus service will be added to the ART 41 (Columbia Pike, Ballston and Courthouse), 43 (Crystal City, Rosslyn and Courthouse) and 87 (Pentagon Metro, Army Navy Drive and Shirlington) routes starting Monday, July 6, according to press release.
The new bus service on Columbia Pike is just an initial step in improving transit on the Pike, said Eric Balliet, spokesman for the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services.
“This is definitely one of the first steps we can take to show our commitment to the corridor and our commitment to transit,” he said.
The ART 41 route will have more frequent service with the bus coming every 15 minutes during the day and every 23 minutes during weekday and Saturday nights.
The enhanced service is one way Arlington is addressing the transit needs that remained after the streetcar program was cut, Balliet said.
The ART 43 route will have buses run about every 10 minutes with extended service until 10:35 a.m. during morning rush hour and 7:47 p.m. during the evening commute.
The ART 87 will be getting new Sunday service, which will run from 7:14 a.m. to 7:11 p.m. The route will also have extended service until 11:41 p.m. on weekdays and 11:53 p.m. on Saturdays. On the weekends, the service will run to the Pentagon City Metro Station instead of the Pentagon Metro Station.
The county is also adding a new ART 87P line, which will run between the Pentagon and S. Lang Street. During rush hour, service will alternate every 10 minutes between the full ART 87 line and the ART 87P line.
“Anything we can do to make [commuting] more convenient, we think customers will appreciate,” Balliet said.
In order to provide the advance service, the county added eight new 40-foot buses to the ART fleet. The new buses are 5 feet longer than the standard ART buses, which allow for more seats and more standing room, he said.
The new buses are being added to routes with high ridership.
“These bus service improvements are a first step in meeting the current transit needs for Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Pentagon City, as we work to create vibrant, sustainable neighborhoods along these corridors,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “Every day ART helps thousands of Arlingtonians get to work, school and other activities, and the additional service will make ART an even more reliable transportation choice all week long.”
“Dinner and a Movie on the Loop” will take place on four consecutive Thursday evenings at Market Common Clarendon (2700 Clarendon Blvd), starting this week. The event was started last year as Now Playing at the Loop.
Market Common has added dinner to the mix this year, with a different local restaurant is providing a fixed-price meal before each movie, beginning at 7:45 p.m. In addition, guests can round out their family-friendly cinematic experience with free candy, popcorn and water.
All movies start at 8:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public. The schedule is as follows:
- June 18 — How To Train Your Dragon 2
- June 25 — Grown Ups
- July 2 — The Sandlot
- July 9 — The Wizard of Oz
Summer Movies @Penrose Square, a free outdoor movie series at Penrose Square (2597 Columbia Pike), started last Saturday (June 13).
The event, sponsored by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, will continue into September. The schedule is as follows:
- June 20 — The Hundred Foot Journey (8:45 p.m.)
- June 27 — Now You See Me (8:45 p.m.)
- July 11 — The Imitation Game (8:45 p.m.)
- July 18 — Enough Said (8:45 p.m.)
- July 25 — The Grand Budapest Hotel (8:30 p.m.)
- Aug 1 — Life of Pi (8:30 p.m.)
- Aug 8 — Chef (8:15 p.m.)
- Aug 15 — Birdman (8:15 p.m.)
- Aug 22 — The Second Best Marigold Hotel (8:15 p.m.)
- Aug 29 — How to Train Your Dragon (8:00 p.m.)
- Sept 5 — Big Hero 6 (7:45 p.m.)
- Sept 12 — X-men: Days of Future Past (7:30 p.m.)
- Sept 19 — Interstellar (7:15 p.m.)
Guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets to both festivals.
CPRO is also sponsoring another movie festival on the Pike this summer. Starting on August 16, CPRO will screen a movie every Sunday until September 20 at the Arlington Mill Community Center.
The movies at Arlington Mill will start at dusk. A schedule is expected to be announced mid-July.
Arlington County firefighters battled blazes on Columbia Pike and in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood over the weekend.
On Saturday around 2:30 p.m. firefighters extinguished a car fire inside a parking garage on the 26oo block of S. Veitch Street, in Long Branch Creek. No one was hurt.
On Sunday evening firefighters battled flames inside a kitchen hood at the El Rancho Peruvian Chicken restaurant on the 3600 block of Columbia Pike. The fire was extinguished and the county fire marshal stayed on scene to investigate the incident, according to the fire department’s Twitter account.
This was the second fire at the chicken restaurant in about three years.
Photos courtesy @jbester and @Travis_Lane10