Another Roll-Over Crash on I-66 — Last night, around 3 a.m., an SUV that was being chased by police overturned after exiting I-66 at East Falls Church. At the same time, another roll-over crash happened on the Fairfax Drive ramp to westbound I-66. A vehicle flipped over as a result of a crash involving it and another vehicle. [WTOP]
Planned Power Outage at Courthouse Plaza — Businesses and elevators at the Courthouse Plaza shopping center will be without power from 3 a.m. to noon Saturday as part of scheduled electrical work. Among the businesses affected will be the AMC movie theater and the Starbucks. [Twitter, Twitter]
Retired Arlington Marine Dies at 103 — A retired Marine who lost his arm in a shipboard explosion in 1937 has died at the age of 103. Pvt. Clyde Byrd died at Virginia Hospital Center following a heart attack. A police and motorcycle club-escorted funeral procession brought Byrd to his final resting place at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle, Va. [InsideNova]
Last Weekend for Synetic Show — This weekend is your last chance to see a reimagined version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It performed at Synetic Theatre in Crystal City. [Washingtonian, Synetic Theatre]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
The seemingly endless construction at Courthouse Plaza — the privately-owned, open-air shopping center near the Courthouse Metro station — is finally nearing an end.
The final phase of construction at Courthouse Plaza is underway, we’re told, completing a series of improvement projects to the property that has extended over the course of the last several years.
The project currently under construction will make streetscape improvements along Clarendon Boulevard to “create a new pedestrian experience.” These improvements include installing new pavers — the stone along pedestrian walkways — and updating the entry into the plaza itself.
Once complete, the plaza will have a new, outdoor gathering space with seating. The area will also have contemporary landscaping features.
These outdoor improvements mark the end of the last phase of capital improvement projects for the building, according to Mara Olguin, spokeswoman for the property’s owner, Vornado. She said plans to make these improvements began more than three years ago and have involved multiple projects.
Some of these include the lease renewal and renovations to the AMC movie theater and improvements to the parking garages at 2200 and 2300 Clarendon Blvd. Before that, Vornado also oversaw the installation of new brickwork in the plaza.
Olguin added all the projects mentioned are consistent with the new Courthouse Sector Plan and Retail Action Plan, which the County Board approved last summer.
Construction work on the plaza’s outdoor area will continue through the winter and early spring. All work is expected to be completed by this April.
Photo via Vornado
Arlington County is joining a national effort to collect blankets and coats for Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The drive started on Saturday and will run through Dec. 4, collecting new or gently used blankets and winter coats for donation.
There are two locations in Arlington where residents can bring items to donate:
- Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 S. Dinwiddie Street
Monday-Friday: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.
- Courthouse Plaza Lobby, 2100 Clarendon Blvd
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Donated items must be clean and neatly folded. Sheets will not be accepted.
Arlington’s neighbor to the south, Alexandria, is also participating in the blanket and coat drive. According to Arlington County, more than 40,000 blankets have been collected in Northern Virginia over the past two years.
Photo via Arlington County
(Updated Feb. 23 at 9:45 a.m.) A new Vietnamese restaurant plans to take over the space currently occupied by Toscana Grill in Courthouse.
The owners of Pho Deluxe, which has locations in Fairfax and Tysons Corner, told ARLnow.com that Toscana Grill is closing April 1, after which they will move in.
They hope to be open a month afterward at 2300 Clarendon Blvd, facing Courthouse Plaza.
Owners Hue and Dan Nguyen said the restaurant will specialize in the beef noodle soup, as well as rice dishes and noodle dishes. It will also have a full bar.
Toscana Grill had briefly closed in fall 2013, but reopened under new management.
Next door, meanwhile, Velocity Five’s conversion to Courthaus Social is about to get started. Co-owner Fito Garcia said this morning that the sports bar will be closing “in the coming week” to begin its remodeling to an “American beer garden.” Garcia said he expects the remodeling and staff training to be complete in time to open in April.
A previous version of this story stated Toscana Grill would close March 1. That has been corrected.
Velocity 5, the sports bar mainstay in Courthouse, is getting a makeover this spring into what its owners call “an American beer garden.”
The restaurant will close down for a month before re-opening as “Courthaus Social,” a beer garden with an expanded patio outside the location at 2300 Clarendon Blvd. The plan to close Velocity 5 and reopen as a beer garden has been around for nearly two years after new owners bought the location of the regional chain, which opened in Courthouse in 2009.
“We were trying to find the perfect concept,” one of the co-owners, Nema Sayadian, told ARLnow.com today. “You realize you have to find your own identity, and that’s what we were struggling with.”
Sayadian and Fito Garcia, also a co-owner, originally had planned to rename the restaurant “Social Haus” and turn it into a Bavarian-style biergarten, serving almost exclusively German beer and food. Courthaus Social, while still configured as a beer garden with “social seating” — long benches inside and out — will focus more on local craft beers from breweries like Starr Hill, Port City and Mad Fox.
There will still be some German beers on the menu and Sayadian says “we’ll still have the biggest schnitzel in town.” The concept will now be more food-centric, with locally sourced meats and sustainable practices Garcia hopes will serve as a model for other local restaurants. At its heart, Courthaus Social hopes to be a relaxed, community business.
“We’re not going to be pretentious about it,” Sayadian said. Garcia added, “Arlington needs beer places. And with Summers closing down, we want to help the area.”
When it opens, the bar will have about 1,000 square feet of patio seating fronting Claredon Blvd, adding to its patio facing Courthouse Plaza’s Wells Fargo Bank. There will be more than 30 beers on tap, and they will still be available in two-liter “boots” as well as steins.
Velocity 5 has served as a registration spot for bar crawls in Clarendon and Courthouse in years past, and while Garcia and Sayadian say they’re not against participating in more bar crawls, the attitude of the restaurant is shifting.
“We love the business that comes with the bar crawls,” Garcia said, “but we want to have a different focus and build a community around us. If Arlington is for the bar crawls, we’re down, but we’re not going to take part in something that’s frowned upon.”
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) The large surface parking lot between the Arlington County Justice Center and Courthouse Plaza appears destined to become open, green space at some point in the future.
Last night, county planners presented three concepts to the community as part of the Envision Courthouse Square outreach process. All of the concepts included using the space the surface parking lot occupies as a sort of town green, with pedestrian and bicycle paths crisscrossing the area in different patterns.
The workshop last night was the last in-person chance the community will have for significant input before staff from Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development drafts a Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, to be brought before the community in the fall and presented to the Arlington County Board this winter.
Moving forward, the county will plan on placing parking underground while “retaining minimal surface parking,” according to CPHD Principal Urban Designer and Planner Jason Beske. There are no plans for buildings on the north edge of the current parking lot to preserve the square, and 14th Street and 15th Street between Courthouse Road and N. Uhle Street will both remain open to vehicular traffic.
Three “big ideas” were brought before those in attendance, which included the Envision Courthouse Square Working Group and county staff. The first, Concept A, calls for 3.9 acres of open space, a pedestrian promenade connecting 15th and 14th Streets N. in front of the AMC Courthouse movie theater and converts 15th Street between N. Courthouse Road and Clarendon Blvd into a shared pedestrian, bike and vehicle corridor.
Concept B, pictured above in the center, calls for the pedestrian promenade to be diagonal from the current Strayer Building — viewed as a target for high-rise redevelopment — to the Verizon Plaza building adjacent to the building that contains the Gold’s Gym. This plan calls for 4.2 acres of open space and includes a pocket park between Courthouse Plaza and N. Veitch Street.
Concept C, pictured above on the right, calls for 3.15 acres of open space and a more east-west alignment of paths and streets in the design area.
The plans for building redevelopment vary significantly among the three plans. Concept A calls for the two buildings with 15th Street frontages to be redeveloped at heights of 153-180 feet for the Strayer building — at the intersection with Clarendon Blvd — and 300 feet for the Landmark Block, at the intersection of with Courthouse Road. It also calls for retail in front of the AMC theater and a new building up to 180 feet tall next to it.
Concept B flips the proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark blocks from Concept A, calls for the redevelopment of the AMC theater into a county or private building up to 180 feet tall and a three-to-five story “cultural building” at the Verizon Plaza site.
Concept C includes the most significant redevelopment: a “market shed” next to the AMC theater, the same proposed heights for the Strayer and Landmark block and two, 10-12 story buildings along 14th Street N., with the option to preserve the current theater or include a separate cultural use. The Verizon Plaza would be the site for a new, 300-foot high-rise building.
“Think of these plans as a kit-of-parts,” CPHD staff wrote in its presentation last night. “All of the big ideas are open for your feedback. Feedback results will inform us of the community’s preferences as we take the next steps to combine ideas and test their feasibility. The goal is to create a single, preferred plan that carries our shared vision forward.”
CPHD officials said an online survey will be posted shortly for community members unable to attend last night to weigh in on the three concepts.
Images via Arlington CPHD
Three potential designs for the re-envisioned Courthouse Square area will be presented to the community tomorrow (Wednesday) night.
The workshop will be held on the third floor of the office building at 1310 N. Courthouse Road from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The public will see three draft design concepts for the area that include plans for open space, building location and design, cultural resources, circulation (moving cars, pedestrians and bicycles through the area) and sustainability.
After the workshop, county staff and the Envision Courthouse Square Working Group will take the community’s recommendations and, along with county planning staff, formulate a draft revision to the 1993 Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum, to be brought before the Arlington County Board this winter.
The workshop could be the final chance for the public to engage in person with the working group before the plans start to take a more definite shape. There have already been two community workshops — one in March and another in April — as well as an online survey that revealed respondents have more open space and an outdoor movie program on the top of their wish list for the area.
Courthouse Square is defined as the 9-acre area around the large surface parking lot between Courthouse Plaza and the Arlington County Justice Center. It’s bounded by N. Courthouse Road to the east, Clarendon Blvd to the north, Courthouse Plaza to the west and just south of 14th Street N. to the south.
Image via Arlington County
(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Arlington County surveyed more than 250 residents, workers and visitors to Courthouse Square to assess public opinion of the area’s future.
The survey was conducted as part of the county’s “Envision Courthouse Square” initiative, which is trying to get the public involved in the process of planning the future development of the 9-acre area surrounding the county’s large surface parking lot.
That lot in particular was the subject of many survey respondent’s suggestions, who desire to see it become an underground parking lot with a different use for the surface area up top.
“I live in the neighborhood, so for me the parking is a waste,” one respondent said. “However I recognize the need for parking near the courthouse and government buildings to serve other residents of Arlington. I would think that an underground parking structure with a public space on top would be the best way to balance these needs.”
“Please underground the parking,” another said. “The surface parking detracts from the neighborhood’s streetscape. We should create a walkable environment that encourages visitors to utilize Arlington’s multimodal options.”
More than 13 percent of respondents listed “market events” as their preferred future use of open space in Courthouse Square, followed by 12.2 percent in favor of outdoor movies and evening events. Social gathering and social seating received 11.7 and 9.8 percent of the vote, respectively.
When asked if public events, celebrations and demonstrations should be encouraged in Courthouse Square, 73.1 percent of those asked answered, “yes,” but some said they worried the events would benefit only those from other areas.
“Courthouse Square should be a place for those who live there or nearby to enjoy the open space,” one response said, “not an area for out of towners or others to use to hold political events.”
Of the “yes” answers, many cited Courthouse’s civic identity as a reason to encourage First Amendment expression in the open spaces.
“It should be celebrated as THE civic space in Arlington,” one answer said. Another respondent said only, “Because America, that’s why.”
A majority, 53 percent of respondents said Courthouse Square should be a “beacon” for all of Arlington, while 29 percent said it should be mostly designed for the surrounding neighborhood. Only 17 percent said it should be designed for use by the entire D.C. metro area or region.
“Courthouse does not currently have much of neighborhood feel,” said one of the “neighborhood” respondents. “It is nice to feel some smaller community in a large city. New York City neighborhoods have this and it makes them unique. It also draws people from other places to experience their unique aspects.”
“We all have plenty of regional attractions,” said a respondent who thought Courthouse should be designed for all of Arlington. “[We] need to develop sense of place — Arlington specific, beyond just being across river from D.C.”
Said another: “Arlington needs a town center. An identity. A place people can say ‘I’ll meet you on the town square.’ Arlington lacks that now — and I think that harms our identity and cohesiveness.”
In December, county staff recommended that Velocity 5’s popular outdoor patio be forced to stop serving food and drink at 11:00 p.m., in response to “community concerns about noise.” That’s despite a report from the police department saying that noise complaints were down by 50 percent.
The owners of Velocity 5’s Courthouse location, which changed hands in early 2013, rallied supporters via social media after learning of the staff recommendation. Dozens showed up at the Dec. 17 County Board meeting where the proposal — part of the renewal of Velocity 5’s live entertainment permit — was under consideration. The Board ended up deferring the proposal until January to allow staff more time to work with the owners.
Co-owner Matt Rofougaran says the early serving cut-off could have put the restaurant, which employs about 30 people, out of business. Some 30-40 percent of Velocity 5’s revenue comes from the patio, he said.
“I would be shocked if we would be able to stay open… if they close that patio,” Rofougaran told ARLnow.com in December. “It’s not fair, they’re trying to punish us for something that we improved on.”
Rofougaran contended that the majority of the noise complaints came from one or two residents of the next-door Archstone Courthouse Plaza apartments.
“Most of the complaints were from one guy… who had problems with the previous owner,” he said. “A lot of customers live in the building and say they don’t hear anything from their apartments.”
Rofougaran said one complaint was for a barking dog on the patio, another was for a group of people singing “happy birthday,” and yet another was for boisterous people — who weren’t customers — walking by the patio.
After making their case, Rofougaran said the Board was “actually helping us” sort through the issues.
As a result, at its upcoming meeting on Saturday, the Board is slated to consider a new live entertainment permit renewal that does not place restrictions on Velocity 5’s outdoor serving hours. The patio will still be allowed to stay open and serve customers until 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday and until midnight Sunday through Thursday.
Velocity 5 will, however, face some new restrictions. It will need to hire a security guard to monitor the patio after 8:00 p.m. when it’s at capacity. Also, it will need to turn off any outdoor music at 10:00 p.m. and will have to turn off outdoor televisions at 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.
“Staff is not recommending that the outdoor seating area be closed at any specific time; instead, it is expected that the additional security presence outdoors will mitigate the impacts of the use,” the new county staff report. It adds that complaints about noise have been made by “a few residents” of the apartment building.
“The staff has agreed to work with us and has recommended changes to the entertainment license that we will gladly abide by,” Rofougaran said via email Tuesday. “We thank everyone for all their help, including the staff and the community that helped support us.”
Velocity 5 is still slated to be rebranded as “Social Haus,” as earlier reported. Rofougaran says they’re planning close the restaurant in early February for renovations. It’s expected to reopen as Social Haus in early March.
The Italian restaurant’s website, SpaghettiYaFace.com, was recently updated to say the restaurant was closed for good. However, that site was maintained by Joe Smith, who was managing the restaurant the last two years.
Smith’s contract with Toscana’s owner ended last week, but the restaurant, located in Courthouse Plaza (2300 Clarendon Blvd), has continued operations. Manager Nargis Mughal said some changes are planned, including a new menu.
Smith could not be reached via email, but the Spaghetti Ya Face Facebook page announced Oct. 20 that the restaurant shut down. In a reply to a customer comment, Smith or someone else managing the page wrote about the closure: “tried to plan it for November but [the] owner strong armed us.”
Mughal said Smith did not renew his contract because Smith was starting another restaurant in a new city.
Toscana had to close for more than a month earlier this year after a burst pipe covered the restaurant’s floor with three inches of water. It reopened in late June.
Arlington County held a brief ceremony at Courthouse Plaza Wednesday morning to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Dozens of police officers, sheriff’s deputies and civilian observers gathered to partake in a moment of silence at 9:37 a.m., the moment when, 12 years ago, a plane hit the Pentagon, killing 184 people inside.
Following the moment of silence, a member of the Arlington County Police Department honor guard performed “Taps” on the trumpet while officers lowered the American flag and the flag of the Commonwealth of Virginia to half-staff for the day.