Arlington is now in line to receive nearly $83 million in funding to help the county afford four major transportation projects over the next six years, including the construction of two bus maintenance facilities and a major expansion of transit options in Pentagon City.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority announced its new Six Year Program today (Friday), outlining the regional body’s plans to shell out a total of nearly $1.3 billion for transportation projects through 2024. The NVTA collects a select set of regional taxes, then identifies which construction efforts around the region are most likely to reduce in congestion before doling out money to help localities fund them.
State lawmakers recently decided to pull tens of millions of dollars away from the group each year, in favor of sending the money to Metro as part of the new dedicated funding agreement for the rail service. That’s constricted the NVTA’s ability to hand out funding for transportation projects, much to the chagrin of officials across Northern Virginia, but the group still has the capacity to help pay for 44 different projects around the region.
In Arlington, that includes:
- $39 million for two new Arlington Transit operations and maintenance facilities
- $28.8 million for Pentagon City road improvements and Transitway expansion
- $10 million for improved traffic signals around the county
- $5 million for a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station
Notably, the NVTA declined to award additional funding to one of the county’s other top priorities: a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station. Arlington previously received $12 million from the group to start work on the effort, and was looking for another $72.3 million to make the project a reality, but NVTA leaders warned that such a project was unlikely to win out over other efforts more focused at relieving traffic congestion.
The $5 million for the second entrance at the Crystal City station is also substantially less than the $87 million the county requested to complete the project. County Manager Mark Schwartz has previously warned that Arlington’s funding challenges will make it difficult for the county to build both second entrances without the NVTA’s help, but the $5 million will help the county complete additional design, engineering and environmental work.
Those issues aside, the NVTA did manage to fund the bulk of the county’s request for the new ART facilities, the top priority for Arlington officials this year. The county is planning to spend a total of $98.4 million on additional facilities for buses over the coming years — a new “heavy maintenance” facility in Springfield and an “operations center” along Shirlington Road.
What Arlington Residents Think About Arlington — “Arlington residents of all ages are concerned about housing costs. Many like new urban amenities and denser development but are worried about displacing lower-income neighbors. Others point to the county’s affluence and pockets of racially homogenous communities and wonder what that says about their progressive values.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Salt Storage Facility to Be Torn Down — Arlington County is planning to dismantle the rusted-out road salt storage tank on Old Dominion Drive near 25th Road N. later this year, deeming it unsafe for use during the upcoming winter season. In its place, the county hopes to build a temporary facility that could remain functional for several years. [InsideNova]
New Restaurant Kiosks Planned in Crystal City — “Two new funky restaurant spaces could be coming to Crystal City in 2019… JBG Smith wants to build two unusual standalone restaurant buildings, one that resembles a green house and one that calls to mind a tree house, in green space that sits in front of 2121 Crystal Drive. The green is currently a mix of walking paths, open seating, trees and lawn.” [Washington Business Journal]
How Critics Could Fight W-L Name Change — Those opposed to changing the name of Washington-Lee High School have floated the idea of a community-wide referendum, though state law does not currently allow Arlington to hold an advisory referendum. One more fruitful path may be convincing the Republican-controlled state legislature to block the name change, though any such action would likely not survive Gov. Ralph Northam (D)’s veto pen. [InsideNova]
Employer Moving Out of Rosslyn — Amid a series of economic wins for Rosslyn and Arlington, there are also some losses. Among them, The Carlyle Group is planning to consolidate its Rosslyn office — with some 300 employees — into its larger D.C. office on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, after striking a deal to expand its lease and modernize its space. [Washington Business Journal]
Photo courtesy StardogCZ
A pop-up library in Crystal City could stay open through the end of 2019, should Arlington officials give the project the green light to continue this weekend.
The County Board is set to vote Saturday (June 16) on a lease extension for “The Connection,” a one-room library located at 2100 Crystal Drive. The county’s public library system opened the small space in the Crystal City Shops in 2016 as a way to expand access to books and select tech equipment, particularly for people who feel cut off by Route 1 from accessing the Aurora Hills library near Pentagon City.
But the library’s lease at the shopping center is currently set to expire at the end of the month, and the county’s budget squeeze means that Arlington Public Library will lose some of the funding it previously set aside to run the pop-up location.
Nevertheless, County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending that the Board approve an extended lease with the Crystal City Shops, through Dec. 31, 2019, and county staff note in a report that the public library system fully expects to continue funding the pop-up library through its own budget.
The matter is set for review as part of the Board’s consent agenda on Saturday, a slate of items typically approved without much debate.
Seems like *everyone* wants to get aboard the @Capitals train this morning! (Crystal City Station, 8:30 a.m. today — this little guy somehow wandered into the tunnel & ended up at the station. Safely exited through the tunnel back toward DCA.) #OHDEER #ALLCAPS #WMATA #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/3ibeGuYwUe
— Metro (@wmata) June 12, 2018
Some commuters at the Crystal City Metro station were surprised to look up their phones this morning and see a deer running past them.
The deer “somehow wandered into the tunnel and ended up at the station” around 8:30 a.m., according to Metro. Video posted by the transit agency shows the deer running around the station, startling commuters who were otherwise glued to their smartphones.
“Seems like *everyone* wants to get about the @Capitals train this morning,” the Metro account quipped. Meanwhile, East Falls Church and other Metro parking lots are completely full due to riders heading to the Caps victory parade downtown.
— Berkeley Teate (@BerkeleyCTeate) June 12, 2018
Arlington’s business community is throwing its support behind the county’s efforts to land Amazon’s second headquarters.
The county’s Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 750 businesses in the area, penned a letter to the County Board Friday (June 8) expressing its “utmost support” for Arlington’s work to secure the vaunted HQ2.
“Adding a global brand like Amazon to Arlington’s corporate roster would be a monumental win for our area, helping to continue to diversify our economy and helping to maintain the significant commercial sector in our tax base,” Kate Bates, the chamber’s president and CEO, wrote. “And in turn, our location sets Amazon up for maximum success.”
County leaders have worked with the state to offer up two different sites for the tech giant to call home: one anchored in Crystal City and extending to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, and another in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The company has yet to tip its hand, but, by all accounts, Arlington is a leading contender to win out among 20 other HQ2 finalists.
Yet concerns abound among county residents and leaders alike about how Amazon’s arrival would impact the area, particularly with the county already dealing with rising rents and an influx of students in Arlington Public Schools. But Bates argued that any “challenges” associated with HQ2 setting up shop in Arlington pale in comparison to the benefits it could offer.
“We understand the amount of growth that comes with a large corporation like Amazon settling in Arlington comes with challenges,” Bates wrote. “However, we know these are challenges that Arlington has the infrastructure to successfully overcome.”
The full letter from the chamber is after the jump.
The return of the Armed Forces Cycling Classic to Arlington will prompt a few road closures this weekend, with Clarendon impacted Saturday (June 9) and Crystal City facing closures Sunday (June 10).
Cyclists of all skill levels will compete in the 21st annual “Clarendon Cup” Saturday. The event features professional cyclists competing in what is billed as “one of the most difficult criterium races in the USA, due to technical demands of the course and the quality of the participant.”
Arlington County Police are planning to close the following roads around Clarendon from 4:30 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. that day:
- Wilson Blvd., from N. Fillmore Street to Washington Blvd.
- Clarendon Blvd., from Washington Blvd. to N. Fillmore Street
- Washington Blvd., from Wilson Blvd. to N. Highland Street
- North Highland Street, from Wilson Blvd. to Washington Blvd.
- North Garfield Street / N. Fillmore Street, from Wilson Blvd. to Washington Blvd.
On Sunday, riders will square off in the “Crystal Cup,” and police plan to close more roads from 4:30 a.m. to about 5 p.m.:
- Crystal Drive, from S. 15th Street through S. 23rd Street
- Wilson Blvd., from N. Kent Street to the Route 110 ramp
- Route 110, from Rosslyn to Crystal City
- S. Clark Street, from S. 20th Street to S. 23rd Street
- S. 20th Street, from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street
- S. 18th Street, from Crystal Drive to S. Bell Street
- S. 23rd Street from Crystal Drive to S. Clark Street
- Crystal Drive (West side), from S. 23rd St to the Central Center Parking Garage
- S. 12th Street and Long Bridge Drive
Police also plan to post “no parking” signs in the vicinity of both races. Anyone with their vehicle towed should call the county’s Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.
Photo via the Armed Forces Cycling Classic
Construction work on an access road crossing a portion of Army Navy Country Club could be pushed back by nearly a decade, as Arlington grapples with a funding squeeze impacting transportation projects.
County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for engineering work on the project, which is designed to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive, to start by fiscal year 2027 with construction kicking off two years later. The county has long expected to start design work for the project by fiscal year 2020, with work to begin in 2022.
Since 2010, county officials have aimed to build the new road, which would be reserved for emergency vehicles looking to more easily cross I-395, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. The 30-foot-wide road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive.
The process has required a good bit of back-and-forth with the country club — the county only secured an easement on the club’s property as part of a deal to allow Army Navy’s owners to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit. Some members of the country club even sued the county to block the arrangement, over concerns that cyclists and pedestrians on the proposed trail would be disruptive to golfers.
Yet Arlington leaders have pressed ahead with the project all the same, with the County Board approving two different updates to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, known as the CIP, including funding for the project.
Schwartz hasn’t gone so far as to ask the Board to abandon the project — his proposed CIP calls for the county to spend $837,000 on engineering work in fiscal years 2027 and 2028 — but the delay does reflect Arlington’s new challenges paying for transportation projects.
As he’s unveiled the new CIP, Schwartz has frequently warned that the deal hammered out by state lawmakers to send the Metro system hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding has hammered localities like Arlington. Not only does the deal increase the county’s annual contribution to Metro, but it sucks away money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that would ordinarily help localities fund transportation projects.
With the county having to shift money around to compensate for those changes, officials say smaller projects like the Army Navy access road will necessarily suffer.
“Overall, the transportation CIP has fewer resources for smaller, neighborhood-scale improvements due to reduced funding resulting from legislation,” Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow via email.
Concerns abound about how the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters might squeeze an already space-starved county — but could HQ2 merely speed up population growth in Arlington that would inevitably happen over time even if Amazon chooses another location?
The way Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol sees it, the D.C. region is already set to grow exponentially in the next few decades. For instance, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects that 1.5 million people will move to the area by 2045, an estimate worked up long before Amazon cast its eye towards the region.
Accordingly, Cristol reasons that Amazon’s arrival in Arlington would indeed prompt a sudden surge in growth in the county, but not substantially change how officials are preparing to handle an ever-growing population.
“It’s not as though we are in this perfect equilibrium now and Amazon will upset the apple cart,” Cristol told ARLnow. “Growth is coming to this region… but I think Amazon could really force the issue by probably condensing how fast that growth could happen, maybe we’re talking 10 years over 20.”
That’s why she says county officials are already putting such an intense focus on issues like affordable housing and transportation, and encouraging residents to do the same. She sees the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county is convening this month as a key step in the process, designing them as forums for people to have frank discussions about all of the problems and opportunities associated with the county’s growth in the coming years.
Cristol fully expects many of those conversations to center around the arrival of huge companies like Amazon, or perhaps Apple. But, as she tries to take a long view of the region’s future, she expects they’ll be helpful no matter what Jeff Bezos decides.
“Whether Amazon comes and hastens that [growth] or whether Amazon doesn’t come and the general projected job growth and population growth comes over a longer period of time, the questions and the need for the community conversation are the same,” Cristol said.
Amazon critics, however, are less convinced that leaders like Cristol should accept such growth as unavoidable. Margaret McLaughlin, chair of the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, says her group has led a campaign highlighting HQ2’s potentially negative impacts on marginalized communities in order to get officials thinking differently about the region’s future.
“By them saying that growth is coming inevitably, they’re taking their own agency out of the economic decisions they’re making,” McLaughlin said. “Rents are going to go up, and that ends up pushing out renters, people of color, people working in the service industry… so they’re ones making choices, they’re pushing families out. They’re making the economic situation better for the rich and worse for the poor.”
(Updated at 1 p.m.) Longtime Crystal City restaurant Cafe Italia is getting new life, thanks to some former employees and one prominent local restaurateur.
Freddie Lutz, the owner and namesake of Freddie’s Beach Bar at 555 23rd Street S., says he’s planning to revive the restaurant after it closed in April.
Lutz worked for 25 years as a waiter and maitre d’ at Cafe Italia (519 23rd Street S.), and he hopes to reopen it in the next few months as “Freddie’s Italian Cafe.” To do so he’s teaming up with a former Cafe Italia bus boy and chef, brothers Adolfo and Birtillo Urrutia.
“I’ve missed it all these years, so it’ll be sort of like coming home,” Lutz told ARLnow. “Freddie’s brought a lot of diversity to Northern Virginia and Arlington and I’m proud of that, but I feel like I left my heart in Cafe Italia.”
Cafe Italia first opened its doors in 1976, and Lutz believes the place became “part of the history” of Crystal City. Though he says its former owners struggled to afford rising rent prices, thus leading to its closure, the Urrutias approached him a few weeks back with a plan to “bring it back to its former glory,” and he jumped at the chance.
“In the day, it really was something,” Lutz said. “I would tell people, ‘There’s an hour and 45 minute wait tonight,’ and they’d actually wait. I just hope we can restore it back to the fun, romantic little Italian restaurant it used to be.”
Lutz says he finished up the paperwork on the sale on May 21 and he plans to give the space a bit of “loving attention” before it’ll be ready for diners once more.
“The basic skeleton and soul of the restaurant is there,” Lutz said. “And the good news is we’re all in agreement that we want to get it open as soon as we can.”
Lutz, who still lives in the South Arlington home he grew up in decades ago, says he’s even kept in touch with some of the former patrons of Cafe Italia, and excitement is already building in the neighborhood. As new restaurants continue to cycle into that section of Crystal City, Lutz expects the revival of Cafe Italia will help the neighborhood continue to attract more business.
“Cafe Italia was always very gay friendly, and Freddie’s is very straight friendly,” Lutz said. “So both businesses will complement each other.”
WMATA is gearing up to test how first responders would handle a major Metro emergency in Arlington, and officials are looking for some help.
Metro is planning a “full-scale exercise” at the Crystal City Metro station (1750 S. Bell Street) on Sunday, June 3, and is looking for volunteers to make the event feel more real for participants. Check in for the event begins at 6:30 a.m., and it’s set to wrap up by 1 p.m, according to an event listing.
Volunteers will get the chance to “act out the role of a Metro rider who is on the train at the time of the emergency and will be able to see first-hand how regional emergency responders handle the situation.”
Metro is offering up free parking and light refreshments for anyone looking to participate; WMATA is also willing to provide documentation or certification for anyone who needs it after participating, “including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and other service organizations.”
More details on the event from the listing, after the jump.
The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) wants to hear your thoughts about the future of Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.
The process, called the Future Cities Project, will engage members of the public on the area’s future. Simultaneously, the Crystal City BID will hold various public meetings throughout the summer at both the Pentagon City and Crystal City Metro stations, residential and office lobbies, shopping spaces and more. The schedule has yet to come out, but the BID will provide update in the coming weeks.
Throughout the process, the project will “consider public space and placemaking efforts, the strategic goals of the organization, and elevating a new identity for the area — all with the goal of transforming these interrelated areas into a lively, walkable urban center,” according to a press release.
The public engagement effort comes as the BID is weighing plans to expand its boundaries to include Pentagon City and the Arlington portion of Potomac Yard, which — should it happen — would necessitate a new name to reference the combined neighborhoods.The effort also comes as Amazon considers Crystal City as a possible destination for its second headquarters.
Photo courtesy Crystal City BID
Tattoo artists and lovers alike are coming to the Hyatt Regency Crystal City next week.
Cost for The Nation’s Tattoo Expo, which is being held from June 1-3, is $30 per day or $60 for a three-day pass. Children under 12 may attend for free with a paying adult. Members of the military can receive $10 off a three-day pass.
The expo claims to be the D.C. area’s only summertime tattoo convention.
Expo goers can get pierced and tattooed at the convention. There will also be several contests held including one awarding the best “dad bod.” Meanwhile a female only “aloha girl pinup” contest will award the first place winner $300 and a trophy.
Another contest will award the worst tattoo at the convention a gift card to cover up said tattoo.
Some of the convention’s featured artists include Ink Master stars Daniel Silva, Mike Diaz, Roly T-Rex and James Vaughn.
Photo via DC Tattoo Expo
Fundraiser for Family in Need — Money is being raised online for an Arlington woman and her two school-aged sons after her husband — their dad — passed away from stomach cancer. The De Leon Ordonez family was very active with the Barrett Elementary School community, volunteering “countless hours of time and energy” to the school and the PTA. “Please donate to help them get back on their feet,” wrote Del. Patrick Hope. [YouCaring, Twitter]
Tenant-Landlord Guidelines Changed — “County Board members on May 22 approved revisions to the guidelines that developers either can or must follow – depending on the specific circumstance – if they are renovating residential properties and displacing tenants in the process. The revisions… will provide many tenants with more notice and, in some cases, higher relocation payments if they find themselves displaced.” [InsideNova]
Turtle Causes Flight Delay at DCA — A flight from Reagan National Airport to Chicago had its departure delayed a few minutes due to a turtle on the runway. [WUSA 9]
Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Profiled — WaPo has published another profile of an Arlington neighborhood and this time around it’s the Radnor/Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, just south of the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations. The neighborhood’s civic association president said the neighborhood is “concerned about increased density” from development, “want it reasonable” and “open to affordable housing and diversity.” [Washington Post]
County May Hold Discussion of School Construction Costs — “Members of the [Arlington County] government’s audit committee are seeking to hold a summertime discussion of the high costs of Arlington school construction, hoping to piggyback on a report due out in coming weeks from the school system’s auditor. The audit committee has ‘made overtures’ to school officials about holding a joint community forum – date and place still undetermined – to discuss the findings of the report.” [InsideNova]
Ribbon Cutting for New Crystal City Office — Helicopter manufacturer Bell has opened a new office — its “Advanced Vertical Lift Center” — in Crystal City. A ribbon cutting was reportedly held yesterday. The new office “is designed for the company’s military customers, partners and policy makers to ‘interact with technology that is defining the future of vertical lift.'” [Rotor & Wing]
Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani
An Alexandria-based Tex-Mex restaurant is gearing up to move into the space once occupied by Cantina Mexicana in Crystal City.
The owner of Los Tios Grill is planning to open their third Northern Virginia location at the space at 515 23rd Street S., according to landlord Stratis Voutsas.
German Mejia, the owner of Los Tios, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on his plans for the location. But Voutsas expects that Mejia will have the new restaurant, which sits next to what was once Cafe Italia, open to customers within the next month or so.
Voutsas’ company controls many of the properties along 23rd Street S., and he says he and his wife, Georgia Papadopoulos, have been working for years to bring in more small businesses and “re-envision” his section of Crystal City.
“Bob and Edith’s was the first step to that,” Voutsas told ARLnow. “Los Tios is the second building block.”
Mejia currently runs two locations in Alexandria, and just opened a new restaurant in Leesburg, according to the Los Tios website. The restaurants specialize in fajitas, along with traditional Salvadoran dishes, and have extensive selections of margaritas and Mexican beer.
Los Tios will replace one of the area’s oldest restaurants. Cantina Mexicana closed its doors last December, after first opening under a different name in 1978.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) negotiated his fair share of economic development deals back in his days as Virginia’s governor, and he thinks Arlington has an awfully strong chance to land Amazon’s vaunted second headquarters.
The county has already emerged as a prime contender for “HQ2” and the 50,000 jobs that could come with it, with two possible sites for the massive new development pitched by state officials to the tech company: one split between Crystal City and Alexandria’s Potomac Yard, and another in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
County officials have been wrestling with the question of what Amazon’s arrival would mean for Arlington’s schools and transportation systems. But, in an interview Monday at a campaign stop at Crystal City coworking space Eastern Foundry, Kaine says he sees winning the HQ2 project as a potentially “transformative” one for the county.
Arlington is vying with other Northern Virginia localities (and D.C. itself) to lure the online retail giant to the area, but Kaine believes the county’s highly educated workforce could very well prove to be the deciding factor for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“We tend to win competitions like this if the company is really looking at it as a long term thing,” Kaine told ARLnow. “If they’re looking at it as a short term deal, they may go with a better incentive package. If they’re looking at it as a long term thing, it’s about, ‘okay, where is the workforce going to be better?’ I would think this would be a long-term investment.”
Kaine admitted that Virginia and its localities might not be able to offer the same number of incentives as other places vying for HQ2 — for instance, Maryland lawmakers recently approved $8.5 billion in incentives for the company. But the senator believes Virginia economic development officials will be able to point to investments the state’s already made in its education system as an alternative to offering tax breaks or cash incentives.
“We’ve decided to try to spend resources on a really good higher ed system, really good K-12 schools,” Kaine said. “Other states put a lot of incentive money down, but they don’t have the same base. We might get outbid, but we’d say, ‘Oh, by the way, this is a long term decision. Look at our higher ed institutions, look at our schools.'”
For instance, Kaine noted that state lawmakers recently agreed to send roughly $25 million to Virginia Tech to manage a new cybersecurity training initiative in Northern Virginia.