Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

It’s Veterans Day — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed Mon., Nov. 11, 2019, on Veterans Day.” Also, ARLnow will be on a limited publishing schedule. [Arlington County]

Fracture in Ranks of Arlington Dems — “Longtime Democratic volunteer John Richardson removed his name from the roster of ‘poll greeters,’ bemoaning party ‘orthodoxy.’ After last May’s divisive primary for commonwealth’s attorney, Richardson went public with criticisms of the successful outside-funded Parisa Deghani-Tafti campaign against incumbent Theo Stamos. That led party officials, he said, to ‘disinvite’ him from being a greeter.” [Falls Church News-Press]

County Releases Flood History Map — “Working toward a more Flood Resilient Arlington, the County continues to add to its array of stormwater management resources for the public. Challenges and the Path Forward, a just-published, visually rich Story Map, illustrates how Arlington’s peak 20th century development took place amid few standards for stormwater — and the ramifications for today’s more frequent, intense rain storms lasting very short periods of time.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Skyline Complex Acquired — “A New York-based commercial real estate firm has acquired the aging Skyline office complex in Baileys Crossroads for about $215 million with plans to revitalize the 1970s-era property Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE: VNO) relinquished ownership of nearly three years ago.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Amid difficulties for American shopping malls, Arlington’s two malls are betting on new eateries to turn more diners into shoppers.

Management at the newly-renovated Ballston Quarter and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City say elevated dining options — from Ballston Quarter’s trendy local eateries to newer, healthier options at Pentagon City mall — are becoming an increasingly important part of mall design.

Commercial real estate experts say food options are now the key driver of mall traffic.

A new study released by the International Council of Shopping Centers shows that 40 percent of customers choose which mall they go to based solely on the food there, and nearly 38 percent of those surveyed said healthy options were a priority, according to CNBC.

“People increasingly value experience-based shopping and place higher expectations on how they spend their time,” said Will Voegele, senior vice president of mixed-use development for Brookfield Properties, in an email to ARLnow. “We designed the revitalized Ballston Quarter with the community in mind and our vision reflects a strong focus on experiential retail, innovative food and beverage concepts, and diverse entertainment offerings to create a new all-season neighborhood experience with the density of an urban center that is purposeful, thoughtful and unique.”

Voegele said part of the redesign for Ballston Quarter was to maintain a focus on local vendors for the 25,000 square-foot food hall.

“The uniform array of national names that we associate with the traditional food court does not provide the richness and authenticity that is so important to our mission at Ballston Quarter,” Voegele said. “Families and young professionals still want grab-and-go, but they are also looking for better quality and healthy dining options. Food halls offer the perfect solution in this case.”

Voegele said the new food hall design has gradually supplanted the traditional fast food-oriented food court of the archetypical ’80s and ’90s malls.

“The fundamental design of the traditional mall no longer supports the way people like to shop and dine as consumers are craving visually stimulating and creative experiences,” Voegele said. “The boxy retail behemoths of yesterday are just not practical for today’s landscape.”

Healthy options were also a big part of the expansion and renovation of the Pentagon City mall.

“Fashion Centre at Pentagon City has introduced enhanced dining options over the recent years, including Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit, honeygrow, Sugar Factory and Shake Shack,” management at the mall said in an email. “In addition, the center added modern furniture, finishes and additional seating during the renovation in 2016 to offer an even better experience for shoppers visiting the dining pavilion.”

But does this translate into sales at other retail options in the mall? Voegele said the Ballston Quarter’s food hall, Quarter Market, has seen consistent traffic across all age groups — and events like Quarterfest last weekend boosted its local profile. The study said transactions increase as much as 25 percent at malls with quality food and beverage options, with shoppers who eat at the mall spending 15 percent more per trip.

Shoppers inside Ballston Quarter weren’t so sure. While several said they came for the food hall and loved the dining options, many also said this wouldn’t necessarily translate into going into the upstairs part of the mall to shop.

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Hard Times Cafe in Clarendon occupies one of the most iconic restaurant locations in Arlington, directly across from the Clarendon Metro station. After more than 20 years in business at 3028 Wilson Blvd, it appears that the local eatery is preparing to leave.

While Hard Times in Clarendon remains open, its 8,240 square foot space is being offered for lease. A marketing flyer says the “trophy restaurant or retail space” is “available immediately.”

The space consists of three levels, including a basement kitchen and storage area. It’s being marketed by the Maryland-based firm H&R Retail.

So far, Hard Times has not responded to a request for comment emailed to the store.

Hard Times was founded in Old Town Alexandria in 1980 and has a dozen locations around the D.C. area.

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Mark Levine, one of the seven remaining Democratic candidates competing to replace the retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), has released a new television ad.

In the ad, he calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) “my role model” and pledges to strengthen the Voting Rights Act and reverse the Citizens United decision “to reduce the impact of big money corruption in politics.” Levine, an attorney and liberal talk show host, says he’ll be “a strong voice that stands out in the crowd.”

Levine’s campaign says it will be “placing a six-figure media buy on broadcast, cable, and radio” — including “a minimum of several hundred thousand dollars over the next three weeks on TV alone” — to help get the ad and the message of Levine’s “experience with national issues and progressive agenda” out. The Democratic congressional primary will be held June 10.

Levine isn’t the only candidate to release a TV ad. Former Virginia lieutenant governor Don Beyer released a commercial last month that featured an endorsement from former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple.

“The 30-second spot is about reproductive rights, equal pay and paid maternity leave, and opens with Whipple, who is the Beyer campaign Treasurer,” the Beyer campaign said in a press release, which touted a “six-figure” media buy for the ad.

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Arlington, Virginia logo (small)Following two years of double digit growth, Arlington’s commercial property values have fallen.

Commercial property values decreased by 0.1 percent in Calendar Year (CY) 2012, coming in at $30.4 billion. Although multi-family rental properties fall into that category and increased by almost 1 percent, the rest of the commercial property types (office, retail, hotel) declined by 0.5 percent. Commercial properties still account for 49 percent of the county’s tax base.

A county press release suggests the drop in commercial property values is due to impacts from the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in Crystal City and concerns about federal budget issues. The budget concerns are expected to have an impact for the next few years. While state and federal grant funding remains uncertain, real estate tax revenues represent approximately 56 percent of the county’s total revenues.

“These assessments reflect the impact that BRAC, and the slow economic recovery, continues to have on Arlington,” said Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan in a statement. “While our balance of commercial and residential development continues to keep Arlington’s economic outlook fundamentally sound, we are not immune from the larger economic forces that continue to buffet the nation. As we projected late last year, there will be about a $50 million gap between the County’s revenues and expenses, and both County government and Schools will need to make some tough choices to close that gap.”

Overall, Arlington’s 2013 real estate assessments remained unchanged. The average assessment for existing single-family properties, including condominiums, townhouses and detached homes, increased by about 1 percent, to $524,700.

Real estate assessments will be mailed to all Arlington property owners starting today, and will be available online after 5:00 p.m. Of all residential property owners, 47 percent will see no change in their assessment, 22 percent will see declines of varying amounts and 31 will see increases of varying amounts.

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