Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

More on Arlington’s Drive-Through Testing — “Arlington County and the Virginia Hospital Center launched a coronavirus sampling site Wednesday, but a short supply of test kits and limited lab processing ability are forcing them to be selective with who they see.” [WAMU]

Grocery Stores With Senior-Only Shopping Hours — “Some DC-area grocery stores are offering or plan to offer special shopping hours for senior citizens, and in some cases other vulnerable people, during the coronavirus crisis. [Washingtonian, Twitter]

County Asks Landlords for Leniency — “We ask that you consider now what you can do to ease burdens for tenants who may have difficulty paying their rent in the coming months because of illness or financial hardship related to ongoing business disruptions and closures.” [Arlington County]

Cristol to Commercial Landlords: Don’t Fire Cleaners — “These men and women are the unsung heroes of the Coronavirus pandemic and they can least afford to lose wages and benefits during this crisis. At the same time that cleaners and security officers have stepped forward to do their jobs during this outbreak, they are now being threatened with layoffs and reductions.” [Press Release]

St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Questioned — The Celtic House on Columbia Pike is closed now, but it was one of the only local bars to stay fully open on St. Patrick’s Day. Some are questioning that decision as governments and medical professionals urge people to stay at home and maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of the deadly disease. [Facebook, Twitter]

Some Restaurants Decide to Close Completely — Galaxy Hut in Clarendon, which initially stayed open for takeout meals, is instead “shutting this puppy down.” [Twitter]

Arlington Musician Takes Shows Online — “Singer and songwriter Justin Trawick’s livelihood as a stage performer who did more than a dozen shows a month ground to a halt recently as the coronavirus pandemic shut down his concert venues.” [Reuters]

County Permit Office Closed — “The Arlington County Permit Office is now CLOSED for in-person customer service. Many services remain available online.” [Twitter]

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Thanks to some push from local advocates and the county’s Transportation Commission, a new mixed-use development at 1900 Crystal Drive could be required to include protected bike lanes on Crystal Drive, a long time sore spot for bicyclists in the area.

There are bicycle lanes on Crystal Drive, but motorists notoriously ignore the lane markers and drive or park in the lanes designated for bicycle traffic.

“It’s almost a hoax on bicycle riders to say there’s a bike lane here when as a practical matter there isn’t,” said Transportation Commissioner Jim Lantelme.

At the Transportation Commission meeting Thursday night, the Commission recommended that developer JBG Smith be required to turn the existing bicycle lanes into protected lanes while adding new protected bike lanes to 18th Street S.

“First the Commission recommended that the County Board require JBG Smith to build protected bike lanes on 18th Street either as part of their upcoming 1900 Crystal Drive development or as part of the already-approved Central District Retail development,” Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said in a press release. “Furthermore the Commission recommended that the County Board direct staff to study an appropriate cross-section for Crystal Drive that would safeguard those on bikes and scooters and, if schedules permit, incorporate the results of that study into the public space designs for 1900 Crystal Drive and any other unbuilt development approved along the Crystal Drive corridor.”

The last recommendation from the Transportation Commission was that the County and JBG develop a temporary southbound protected bike lane on Crystal Drive if the public process isn’t completed in time to be incorporated into the 1900 Crystal Drive plans.

County staff said in their report that making the lanes protected would require further traffic studies and analysis, with staff noting that a new bike lane would carve out part of the street and would have an impact on open space, traffic, or parking. That kind of impact would require a public process that would take additional time.

The developer said they hope to start construction at the end of March, with the streetscape being one of the last parts of the project to be completed.

“I worry there is the possibility we would not have a final decision-ready on Crystal Drive ready before this window closes,” Slatt said.

“There’s a lot of good, new information heard tonight,” said Gillian Burgess, chair of the Bicycle Advisory Committee. “Crystal Drive bike lanes are blocked so often that they’ve become the test case for new apps and data collection that seek to test how often bike lanes are blocked.”

With three site plans in the area, Burgess said the County has a rare opportunity to improve the conditions for cyclists and other road users there.

The 1900 Crystal Drive proposal is set to be discussed by the Planning Commission tonight (Monday).

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Amazon Leases Former PBS Building — “Amazon.com Inc. is gobbling up more office space in Crystal City, signing a lease for another full building owned by frequent partner and current landlord JBG Smith Properties. The tech giant is now set to occupy another 272,000 square feet at 2100 Crystal Drive… The building is currently home to the Public Broadcasting Services’ headquarters, though the nonprofit announced plans last year to move to a different building within Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]

W-L vs. Wakefield in the Semis Tonight — “Having been blown out by the Yorktown Patriots a few days earlier, the Washington-Liberty Generals turned the tables on their Arlington rival, winning 66-61 Feb. 25 in a quarterfinal game of the 6D North Region boys high-school basketball tournament… Washington-Liberty will now face another big Arlington rival – the Wakefield Warriors (17-9) – in the Feb. 27 region semifinals at Wakefield at 7 p.m.” [InsideNova]

JBG Selling Properties to Fund Development — “JBG Smith Properties sold a 50% stake in its 552,000-square-foot Central Place office tower in December for $220 million… The sale to PGIM Inc. of the Rosslyn asset netted JBG Smith $53.4 million and comes as the company seeks to both shed properties outside of its core business and fuel a development pipeline.” [Washington Business Journal]

Another Possible N. Va. Coronavirus Case — “Health officials in Virginia said Tuesday they are monitoring two residents for possible coronavirus, including one in Northern Virginia.” [Washington Post]

DMV Urging Residents to Get REAL ID Now — “More than 850,000 Virginians in 2019 took the steps necessary to get a ‘REAL ID’-compliant driver’s license or identity card, but perhaps twice that many are still in need of one, state officials say. ‘We estimate approximately 1.5 million more Virginians will want to get a REAL ID between now and October,’ said Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Richard Holcomb.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Ballston-Based E*TRADE Acquired —  “Morgan Stanley and E*TRADE Financial Corporation have entered into a definitive agreement under which Morgan Stanley will acquire E*TRADE, a leading financial services company and pioneer in the online brokerage industry, in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $13 billion.” [BusinessWire, Wall Street Journal]

County Wants Feedback on Capital Projects — “As part of this year’s budget season, you’re invited to share your input on capital priorities for Arlington County Government. Where should we make investments? Which types of projects top your list? We want to know what you think. Your input will help guide development of the County Manager’s Proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Fiscal Years 2021 – 2030, which will be presented to the Arlington County Board in May.” [Arlington County]

More on Upcoming EPA Move — “‘Facing budget constraints during the past few years, the agency has tried to reduce impacts on its programs by using rent savings to absorb appropriations cuts,’ said the EPA spokeswoman. ‘The lease for [Potomac Yard South] expires in March 2021 and by not renewing it, the agency can expect to attain approximately $12.7 million in rent savings annually,’ she said.” [E&E News]

New AED Director Settling In — “Tucker is pledging not to lose focus on helping the county’s existing businesses, particularly its small, family-owned companies. Critics of AED have long accused it of pursuing large corporate tenants at the expense of supporting mom-and-pop shops, a perception Tucker is keen to reverse.” [Washington Business Journal]

AHC Returns $$$ to Affordable Housing Fund — “AHC Inc., an Arlington, VA-based affordable housing developer, deposited more than $710,000 this week into the County’s revolving low-interest loan program, the Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). This year’s annual repayment boosts AHC’s total repayments to more than $45 million since the AHIF program began in 1988. The payments vary from year to year. Last year, AHC returned $4.9 million to the fund.” [Press Release]

Saturday: Census ‘Celebración Comunitaria’ — “Join us at the Gates of Ballston Community Center for food, family activities, an art contest, a kid’s raffle, and information about the upcoming 2020 Census 2020! Event sponsored by Arlington County, Census 2020, Alfo-Conce, Producciones POPB’IL.” [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Warren Blasts Bloomberg at Arlington Event — “Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Thursday that Michael R. Bloomberg should not be the Democratic presidential nominee because of newly surfaced comments he made 12 years ago in which he said the end of a discriminatory housing practice had helped contribute to the 2008 financial crisis.” [New York Times]

Warren Draws Big Crowd at Wakefield — Last night’s Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign event at the Wakefield High School gym drew national media, a crowd of thousands and lines that stretched around the block. The gym’s scoreboard was programmed to say “ELIZABETH WARREN” and “20:20.” Warren later addressed the overflow crowd outside the school.

Bike Rack at EFC Metro Has Cost Millions — “Metro has spent $3.8 million and taken five years to build two unfinished bike racks — at East Falls Church and Vienna Metro Stations. WMATA originally budgeted $600,000 for each rack, but the price tag has soared to $1.9 million each. The covered bike shelters will house 92 bikes, putting the price tag at more than $20,000 per bike… The projects were supposed to be completed in December of 2015 but remain unfinished in 2020.” [WJLA]

EPA May Move Out of Arlington — “The Trump administration is planning to move the Environmental Protection Agency from leased space at Potomac Yard to the federally owned William Jefferson Clinton complex in downtown D.C… The GSA plans to shift workers from One Potomac Yard in Arlington starting in March 2021, boosting occupancy in the Clinton building by about 1,200 employees.” [Washington Business Journal]

Megamansion Skews Arlington Real Estate Stats — The average sale price of a single-family home in Arlington was more than $2 million, though that figure was skewed by the nearly $45 million sale of an estate along the Potomac River, the priciest home sale ever in the D.C. area. [InsideNova]

Arlington Startup Sells to Texas Firm — “Mobile Posse announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by Digital Turbine, a mobile delivery and app advertising company headquartered in Austin, TX. The acquisition by Digital Turbine builds on both firms’ strategies of creating frictionless mobile app and mobile content solutions for carriers and OEMs, thus creating effective advertising solutions for brands and app developers.” [Mobile Posse via Potomac Tech Wire]

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Morning Notes

Amazon Buys Pentagon City Site — “Amazon.com Inc. has quietly purchased the 6.2-acre Pentagon City site where its first pair of HQ2 towers will be built. Acorn Development LLC, an Amazon subsidiary that is often listed when the company files for permits or makes land acquisitions, purchased the Metropolitan Park site on Jan. 15 from JBG Smith Properties (NYSE: JBGS) for $154.95 million, according to Arlington County records.” [Washington Business Journal]

Waverly Hills is Hot — “‘Hot’ is a subjective term in any context, including real estate. While it’s possible to measure the number of sales, price increases and how quickly homes sell, what draws one buyer doesn’t always appeal to other buyers.
According to Redfin real estate brokerage, Willowsford in Ashburn, Va., and Waverly Hills in Arlington are the No. 1 and No. 5 hottest neighborhoods in the country.” [Washington Post]

Next Step for GMU Expansion — “University officials released a request for proposals Tuesday, looking for developers interested in teaming up with Mason to build a new home for the Institute of Digital Innovation on its Virginia Square property. The building is set to include a mix of uses across its 460,000 square feet, with room for classes and research labs alongside space for companies big and small looking to partner with the university.” [Washington Business Journal]

High Water Bill Saga Continues — Residents are still seeking answers to the recent spate of high water bills, even though it appears that the drought — and outdoor irrigation — during that time period is to blame. The COO of Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services “said about 3,900 people, 11 percent of the county’s residential customers, had their bills double. He said during the 2016 drought that number was about 2,000 to 2,500 people.” [WUSA 9]

Macy’s to Close Stores — Facing major retail headwinds, Macy’s is planning to close 125 of its stores, nearly a fifth of all of its current stores, over the next three years. So far the exact location of most of the closures have not been announced. There are two Macy’s stores in Arlington, at mall in Pentagon City and Ballston. [Wall Street Journal]

Va. Lawmakers Considering Stronger SLAPP Law — “Many states have enacted tough laws making it harder to get away with so-called SLAPP suits: nuisance litigation designed to bury its targets in paperwork and fees. Virginia, however, is considered friendlier to those kinds of filings, and some experts and advocates say that has become a problem.” [Washingtonian]

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) The name “National Landing” is becoming official.

The Board of Directors of the Crystal City Business Improvement District voted yesterday to change the organization’s name to the National Landing Business Improvement District. The new name will now be voted on by the BID’s general membership and the Arlington County Board.

The name change follows the September approval of the BID’s boundary expansion to serve portions of the Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods.

Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president and executive director of the to-be-renamed BID, emphasized in a statement (below) that National Landing is an umbrella term and that the names of the individual neighborhoods are not changing.

We are pleased to report that on January 23 our Board of Directors approved a resolution to change our organizational name to the National Landing Business Improvement District. The Board opted for the new name in recognition of the BID’s upcoming geographic expansion and as a reflection of the increasingly interconnected character of the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard communities. This resolution marks the culmination of a robust public process in which the BID sought and received broad support from area residents and local civic organizations.

Pending approval by the Arlington County Board and a formal vote by the BID’s full members at our Annual Meeting this spring, the National Landing name will be utilized as an umbrella term for Virginia’s most vibrant and largest walkable downtown. It will not replace the existing neighborhood names of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, which each maintain their own unique identities and distinct characteristics.

The BID is also seeking to change the term those in economic development and commercial real estate use to refer to the area — from the “Jefferson Davis Corridor,” after the former name of Route 1, to National Landing. Gabriel said the Confederate president’s name “did not represent a desirable monicker for the area.”

In an phone interview with ARLnow this morning, Gabriel acknowledged that the initial rollout of the National Landing name — when Amazon arbitrarily announced that HQ2 was coming to “National Landing” before members of the public had heard of the name — was “not ideal.” She noted, however, that the name was actually created by Arlington and Alexandria officials as part of the local governments’ joint effort to woo Amazon and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

The BID, meanwhile, has been working to change its name since before Amazon’s announcement.

“We’ve been thinking about finding a collective name for our downtown since 2018, even before the arrival of Amazon and the expansion of the BID,” Gabriel said. “With the expansion of the BID we’ve had a renewed effort to have a public conversation about the name.”

“Since the name has come out, we’ve done extensive public outreach. We put out 18,000 flyers, 16,000 of which were mailed to all of the households in the 22202 zip code,” she noted. Other outreach included “numerous open houses about the vision for the neighborhood, as well as focus groups and open office hours.”

There were other possible names floated, we’re told, but none garnered more public support than National Landing. Among the alternative names considered were “Future Cities,” “Lower Arlington” and “Penn-Crystal.”

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The rise in property values in Arlington is accelerating post-HQ2.

Late last week Arlington County announced that its assessments for 2020 had risen 4.6% on average — 4.9% for commercial properties and 4.3% for residential properties. That compares to an average property assessment increase of 3.5% last year.

The rise in property values will almost certainly mean a rise in property taxes for Arlington residents. The county, in its announcement, seemingly discounted the idea that tax rates — currently $1.026 for every $100 in assessed value — would come down to offset the rising assessments.

“Although the growth will result in additional revenue, the County faces continued funding choices in the coming fiscal year,” the county’s press release says in the first paragraph. In November the County Board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to propose a budget that either keeps the tax rate steady or slightly lowers it; his budget proposal will be released in February.

The county says Amazon’s arrival is at least partially responsible for rising property values, though apartment buildings accounted for much of the commercial assessment increases.

Commercial property values were driven by a decline in the office vacancy rate, continued new construction, demand for rental properties, and Amazon-related leasing activity. Apartment property values increased by 8.9 percent, office values increased by 2.5 percent, and general commercial property (malls, retail stores, gas stations, etc.) grew by 1.8 percent.

“Arlington continues to be a place where people want to live and work,” Schwartz said in a statement Friday. “The investment we make in our community through real estate tax revenue helps us maintain the high-quality amenities and public services that make Arlington so attractive.”

The full press release is below, after the jump.

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It’s dwarfed by an adjacent apartment building and it’s unclear when it was first built, but if you’ve ever wanted to own a commercial building in the middle of Ballston outright, now’s your chance.

The vacant Sichuan Wok building at 901 N. Quincy Street went on the market in the fall for an asking price of $3.2 million.

Sichuan Wok closed in 2018 and its owner, who ran the restaurant with her late uncle, is now offering the building for sale, according to listing agent Virginia Smith. It’s still configured as a restaurant, with nearly 3,000 square feet of total floor area and a full kitchen, though the property also presents a redevelopment opportunity.

The 5,200 square foot lot is zoned C-2, which permits smaller “service commercial” uses, as compared to some of the high-rise offices and apartments around it.

“Excellent opportunity for an investor, developer, or user to acquire a rarely available fee simple retail property in such a dynamic, vibrant Arlington location… 2 blocks from the new Ballston Quarter,” says a sales flyer.

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Morning Notes

HQ2 May Have Security Robots — “Amazon.com Inc. wants to keep its second headquarters safe. And it’s looking at a variety of methods like incognito barricades, a police presence on the campus, external facing cameras, and, oh yeah, ‘security robots.'” [Washington Business Journal]

More on Tuesday AM Robbery on the Pike — “The victim was in sitting in his parked vehicle, when an occupied vehicle pulled in front of him. The occupants of the vehicle engaged the victim in conversation and asked him to make change for their bill. During the exchange, the suspects gave the victim a lesser sum of money in return for the change and attempted to drive off. When the victim attempted to stop the vehicle, the suspects exited, assaulted him and attempted to steal his wallet.” [Arlington County]

CO Leak at GW Parkway Building — Arlington County firefighters responded to a possible carbon monoxide leak at the GW Parkway maintenance facility near Crystal City yesterday afternoon. Two people were evaluated for CO-related symptoms, per scanner traffic, and the leak was traced to a malfunctioning HVAC system. [Twitter]

Major Reston Property Owner Buys in Clarendon — “An affiliate Comstock Holding Cos. Inc. has acquired the Hartford building in Clarendon, extending its local footprint beyond its major outside-the-Capital Beltway developments in Reston and Ashburn. Comstock… bought the nine-story building at 3101 Wilson Blvd. from an affiliate of Chicago’s Heitman Capital Management for $128.75 million.” [Washington Business Journal, Globe Newswire]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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Morning Notes

Trash Collection CancelledUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]

Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]

Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]

Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]

Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]

Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]

New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]

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