Arlington, VA

The National Landing Business Improvement District is working on a program to support ground-floor restaurants and retailers in Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

Dubbed “Love Local,” the marketing campaign will distribute almost $100,000 in grants to eligible retail and dining establishments within the boundaries of the BID, through a partnership with Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

“While the support of businesses is a consistent function of Arlington County’s business improvement districts, the specific needs of businesses has changed as a result of the global health pandemic,” a county report said. “This initiative aims to provide direct financial support to businesses within the BID boundary in response to the economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The BID does not yet have a comment, a spokeswoman said.

The $100,000 in funding for the program includes an administrative and marketing fee of $10,000 for RAMW, which will administer the grants.

During its regular meeting on Saturday, the County Board approved the BID’s request to change its work plan for the 2021 Fiscal Year to include this grant program. The amendment allows the business district to provide direct assistance to businesses in the form of a grant, “an action that requires approval by the County Board as the governing body of the BID,” the county said.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is able to review the eligibility requirements to participate in the grant program as well as how the money would be used if not for the relief program, the county said.

This is the first fiscal year that the organization is fully operational as the National Landing BID, according to its 2021 Work Plan. The County Board voted in September 2019 to expand the boundaries of the Crystal City BID to include Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

Image via Google Maps

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County staff has released its recommendations on how to improve Crystal City’s bike lane network.

The proposal includes adding one-way protected bike lanes on Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street, improved cross-street east-west connections, and additional protected or buffered bike lanes on 15th, 18th, 23rd, and 26th streets.

In March 2020, the Arlington County Board directed staff to develop a plan to improve the bicycle network “east of Richmond Highway, from the Alexandria border extending north to Long Bridge Park.” The requirement for the proposal is that it needed to be completed within four years — by Dec. 31, 2024 — and require minimal changes to the curb line.

The broad goals, according to the county, were to improve safety, provide greater access to trails, improve connections, and reduce blocking of bike lanes.

“By providing additional protected and buffered bike lanes, the County can increase safety for people riding bikes while also addressing challenges like bike lane blocking,” Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, wrote in an email. “The bike network will also support Crystal City as a multimodal hub by balancing the multiple needs of the streetscape, such as parking, pick-up/drop-off, and transit.”

Balliet noted that residents want safer connections to the nearby Mount Vernon and Potomac Yard trails.

Staff considered several other options, but those rejected either didn’t fully address safety issues, could not be completed in the four-year timeline, or substantial capital improvements would be needed.

Not everyone thinks the recommendations go far enough. Darren Buck, who serves on Arlington’s Transportation Commission and lives in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, said the recommendations reflect a “short-term view” that will not age well given that Crystal City in the midst of so much development.

“Let’s create a road map with a long-term vision, especially on Crystal Drive,” Buck says. “Let’s plan ahead with a 10 or 20 year goal for how that street should look.”

Right now, he says, gaps remain in the plan that doesn’t fully protect and provide safety to cyclists on all Crystal City streets, particularly from 18th Street to Clark and 27th streets.

For the county’s part, Balliet says that Crystal Drive has proven to be a challenge.

“There’s a fixed amount of space in which cyclists, pedestrians, transit, vehicles, emergency vehicles, and the needs of businesses all must be accommodated,” he writes.

Buck does say he’s “thrilled” to see the recommendations include a number of protected bike lanes.

I have wanted to see a protected bike lane on that one single block of 18th Street that leads to the Mount Vernon Trail for years,” he says. “It is a big missing piece in our network and it’s just super exciting.” 

He also cites the inclusion of east-west connections to 23rd Street and lanes on the block of 15th Street leading to Crystal Drive as another great step.

Members of the public will be able to share their thoughts on the recommendations on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at a virtual community meeting. A second public engagement meeting will be held in the spring.

Public feedback will be incorporated into the development of a “preferred alternative” plan, says Balliet.

Photo (top) via Google Maps

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Firefighters from Arlington, Alexandria and other departments battled a smoky kitchen fire at a large Crystal City apartment complex Thursday night.

The fire broke out shortly before 7 p.m. in the kitchen of a first floor apartment at Crystal Towers (1600 S. Eads Street). The blaze was extinguished, but not before smoke spread to multiple floors of the apartment complex’s south tower.

Residents of the tower were evacuated into subfreezing temperatures outside. So far, no injuries have been reported.

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A new Maryland law greases the wheels for Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train service to come to the new Crystal City station set to open in 2024.

HB 1236 — First Step for MARC Commuters Act — calls for the Maryland Transit Authority to “engage in good-faith negotiations” for a pilot program that would extend MARC service into Arlington and Alexandria. It could one day allow workers at Amazon’s HQ2 to commute in via rail from Baltimore or the Maryland exurbs.

The National Landing Business Improvement District calls the act a good “first step.”

“Passage of the First Step for MARC Commuters Act is significant progress towards realizing a bold vision for a truly regional commuter rail system,” BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel tells ARLnow. “Though National Landing is already well served by WMATA and VRE, the addition of MARC service will greatly enhance access to employment and affordable housing opportunities for residents throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.”

The new Virginia Railway Express station in Crystal City is planning to open in 2024 and is being specifically designed with MARC and Amtrak trains in mind, in hopes that these negotiations bear fruit. Amtrak, too, is “exploring” adding regional service to the station.

Maryland State Delegate Jared Solomon, who co-sponsored the bill, tells ARLnow that it provides “legal authority” for MTA to negotiate with Virginia and train companies. Virginia has been much more “forward-looking” with its rail infrastructure than Maryland, he said, adding the he hopes the bill leads to an agreement in the near future.

“It’s a win-win-win for the region,” Solomon said.

HB 1236 actually passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly back in March 2020, but Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it. He cited the nearly $3 billion pandemic-related shortfall in the state budget and a bill of this nature being “not financially feasible nor responsible at this time” as reasons.

The veto was overridden by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly within the past two weeks, turning the bill into state law.

The Crystal City BID — now the National Landing BID — and JBG Smith, Crystal City’s predominant property owner, provided testimony in favor of the bill last year.

The BID’s statement cited the arrival of Amazon and projected job growth over the next decade as reasons for why MARC train service needed to extend across state lines. The BID also noted the planned future investments in rail infrastructure, specifically the replacement of Long Bridge.

JBG Smith mentioned that MARC’s existing service prevented residents in Maryland jurisdictions from fully taking advantage of job and economic opportunities in Arlington.

“By providing for a ‘one seat ride’ to National Landing, HB 1236 would substantially improve conditions for existing Maryland commuters,” wrote Andy VanHorn, the company’s Executive Vice President of Development.

The law retroactively took effect on July 1, 2020 and is set to remain on books until June 30, 2022.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Arlington County police are stepping up patrols around Crystal City and surrounding neighborhoods amid a rash of carjackings.

There have been 18 carjackings in Arlington since January 2020, the police department said, compared to three total over from 2018 to 2019. Most — 13 out of 18 — have occurred along the Route 1 corridor, including 7 in the immediate vicinity of the Pentagon City mall.

It’s part of a regional crime trend, with other D.C. area jurisdictions similarly experiencing sharp rises in carjackings. ACPD says it has arrested or identified suspects already in custody in 8 of the 18 cases in Arlington.

To help combat the crime wave, the department “continues to deploy increased police resources, to include both visible and non-visible assets, in Crystal City and the surrounding neighborhoods.” It is also “engaging with community members and businesses in the area to share important crime and safety information.”

“The Department is deploying electronic signboards in various locations throughout the County as part of a high-visibility public awareness campaign,” ACPD said in a press release Tuesday.

The carjackers, police say, “often approach victims as they are exiting or sitting in their parked vehicles, brandish a firearm and demand the victim’s keys or property.”

“In some cases, the suspects approach the victim on foot while in others, the suspects approach in a vehicle later determined to be stolen,” police said. “Reported incidents in Arlington County have involved between one and four suspects.”

In the press release, the police department touted the arrests of four suspects seen acting suspiciously in a Pentagon City parking lot Saturday afternoon. More from ACPD:

At approximately 4:40 p.m. on February 13, officers working in the area were dispatched to the 900 block of Army Navy Drive for the report of a suspicious unoccupied vehicle. The reporting party advised they had observed four subjects exit the vehicle, walk slowly through the parking lot, appearing to be casing vehicles. Using law enforcement resources, officers determined the vehicle had previously been reported stolen from a carjacking in Maryland. Officers established a perimeter and the occupants were taken into police custody as they returned to the vehicle. [An 18-year-old suspect from Washington, D.C.] was found in possession of the vehicle’s key and was charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. Two other occupants, an adult and juvenile, were charged with narcotics offenses.

Police offered the following safety tips for drivers to help avoid being a victim of a carjacking, car theft, or vehicle break-in.

  • “Exit your vehicle and continue to your destination promptly after parking”
  • “Park in well-lit, high traffic areas.”
  • “Be aware of your surroundings when entering and exiting your vehicle”
  • “Limit your use of devices that may distract you, such as cell phones and headphones”
  • “Don’t leave items unattended or visible in your vehicle”

Flickr pool photo (top) by Kevin Wolf. Map (below) courtesy ACPD.

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Planned coffee shop and restaurant The Freshman, at 2011 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, could open in a few months after being in the works for a little over two years.

Owner Nick Freshman told ARLnow that he’s looking at opening The Freshman sometime in April or May, though no date is set in stone yet.

A limited version of the restaurant had opened as a pop-up in Crystal City Shops in 2019 and all the signs of an impending opening were in place last year, but a plan to ride out the pandemic has been less feasible as the virus’s impacts continue to drag on. Freshman, who also owns Clarendon bar Spider Kelly’s, said he remains optimistic about a turn-around ahead.

“We are facing the same challenges to opening as so many others in the business, but we have been fortunate to be able to wait this out,” Freshman said. “I am optimistic that things are starting to turn a corner, but we are still a long ways away from a return to normalcy as far as dining out. I am hopeful that vaccinations will continue to increase in pace, and that along with Spring will make people feel safer about dining out.”

Vaccination numbers are on the rise in Arlington, but Freshman said the success of The Freshman is also partially contingent on a return of office workers to buildings around Crystal City, which may lag vaccinations by months.

“It sounds like it will be well into the Summer or even Fall before most people return to their offices, and that is a big part of our business model here in National Landing, but our style and product will appeal to the many residents who live here, and we hope to be able to serve them this Spring,” Freshman said. “In the meantime, it has been great to be able to serve a part of our community through our partnership with Hook Hall Helps.”

Hook Hall Helps is a relief program that has used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers in need.

“It was certainly not how I planned to open the doors to the restaurant, but we are a community-focused business, and there are people right here in the National Landing and Arlington community that are hurting,” Freshman said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to use the space to help in some way while we wait to serve the entire community.”

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Two male suspects in a stolen car robbed a woman while threatening another who tried to photograph them, according to Arlington County police.

The incident happened Friday afternoon around 4:30 p.m., near the intersection of S. Eads Street and 15th Street S. in the Crystal City area, across from Amazon’s future HQ2.

Police say the first victim was leaving a business at 1425 S. Eads Street — an apartment building with a bank and other businesses on the ground floor — when the men approached her, brandished a gun, and demanded her belongings. During the robbery, a woman in the victim’s vehicle started making noise and photographing the suspects, leading one to point the gun at her before both fled the scene.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 2021-02050197, 1425 S. Eads Street. At approximately 4:34 p.m. on February 5, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim had exited a business and was returning to her vehicle when the two male suspects approached her. Suspect One brandished a firearm, and demanded her personal belongings. A second victim was inside the vehicle, and upon hearing Victim One yelling, she attempted to make noise and photograph the suspects, however, Suspect One then pointed the firearm at her. Both suspects fled in a vehicle prior to police arrival. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect vehicle had previously been reported stolen earlier in the day. Suspect One is described as a Black male, wearing a black mask, black sweater with the hood on, and black pants. Suspect Two is described as a juvenile Black male, wearing a black mask, black sweater with the hood on, and black pants.

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For the second time in two weeks a carjacking has been reported along Arlington’s Yellow Line corridor.

The latest carjacking happened Wednesday night along the 23rd Street restaurant row, on the 500 block of 23rd Street S. Three men, two armed with guns, stole a Ford Mustang after the victims exited their car, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

One of the suspects hopped in the Mustang and drove off, followed by the other two suspects in an SUV all three arrived in. No injuries were reported.

More from ACPD:

CARJACKING, 2021-02030147, 500 block of 23rd Street S. At approximately 8:50 p.m. on February 3, police were dispatched to the report of a carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victims had exited their parked vehicle when the three suspects exited a black SUV and approached them. Suspects One and Two brandished firearms and demanded keys to the victims’ vehicle, then instructed the victims to move away from the vehicle. Suspect One entered the victim’s vehicle and fled, while Suspects Two and Three followed in the SUV prior to police arrival. Suspect One is described as a Black male, approximately 5’11”, wearing all black and a black mask. Suspect Two is described as a Black male, approximately 5’8″, wearing all black and a black mask. Suspect Three is described as a Black male, approximately 5’6″, 12-17 years old, with dreadlocks, wearing all black. The victims’ vehicle is described as a 2020 Black Ford Mustang with Georgia temporary license plates. The investigation is ongoing.

The D.C. region is in the midst of a rash of carjackings, including violent, armed carjackings. There were 16 carjackings in Arlington in 2020, after just three were reported in the previous two years, according to ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

The last reported carjacking in Arlington happened on Friday, Jan. 22 in the Pentagon City area.

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Amazon has unveiled plans for the PenPlace site in the second phase of its $2.5 billion HQ2 in Pentagon City, including a lush office building shaped like a double helix.

The company will build 2.8 million square feet of office space across three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, and three retail pavilions. The focal point will be The Helix: a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

PenPlace will also have three acres of open space with a dog run and a 250-seat amphitheater, for public use.

Amazon will start filing designs and technical documents with Arlington County Tuesday morning, Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedó said during a call with journalists on Monday.

The tech giant aims to go before the Arlington County Board by the end of 2021, with construction starting in 2022 and ending in 2025, said John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President Global Real Estate and Facilities, during the call. He affirmed that so far, HQ2 remains on-schedule.

PenPlace is bounded by Army Navy Drive, S. Fern Street, 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street. Amazon owns the entire block after it bought a hotel on the site in September. The hotel is currently being torn down.

Schoettler said Arlington County has given Amazon more flexibility for this phase than for the first phase of development on the Metropolitan Park site, which includes two, 22-story concrete office buildings, retail and open space.

“The County Board told us for PenPlace, we really want you to push the envelope,” he said. “It really gave us a clean canvas to try new things.”

The Helix will be the highlight of the site and the tallest building, said Lead Architect Dale Alberda, who works for the international architecture firm NBBJ and helped to design The Spheres within the company’s Seattle headquarters. Throughout PenPlace, he said, the designs keep employees, who will number 25,000 across HQ2, close to nature and the community.

“Amazon has been challenging us to think about how people can connect to nature not just outside when the weather is good, but inside as well, so that it’s available all day, all the time,” Alberda said.

Schoettler said Amazon is also working hard to use sustainable energy. As part of its goal of LEED Platinum certifications — and to meet its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 — the buildings will be powered by a solar farm in southern Virginia.

The headquarters will feature one-quarter mile of new protected bike lanes and more than 950 onsite bike spaces as well as below-ground parking for about 2,100 cars and underground loading zones for trucks. There will also be a new bus platform on 12th Street S. near the main entrance to PenPlace.

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A new co-working and flexible office space has opened in Crystal City.

Hana, a subsidiary of the real estate company CBRE Group, announced on Thursday that it has opened a new location at 2451 Crystal Drive — a stone’s throw away from two of Amazon’s temporary office spaces for HQ2 employees.

The opening announcement comes one year after it was first reported that property owner JBG Smith would be partnering with Hana.

With the National Landing spot, Hana makes its debut on the East Coast and establishes its third location in the U.S.

CBRE has established other flexible working spaces in Dallas and Irvine, Calif. Three other locations are expected to open in the first quarter of 2021: New York City, Philadelphia and Berkeley Heights, NJ.

Hana has initially opened one floor totaling more than 39,000 square feet. The floor includes private office suites and conference and events spaces, in addition to a traditional co-working spce.

“JBG Smith has worked with Hana to deliver a flex solution that meets the unique needs of the building and National Landing area by providing plug-and-play workspaces, on-demand meeting rooms and overflow accommodations,” said Hana CEO Andrew Kupiec in a statement.

In a statement, JBG executive David Ritchey said Hana’s approach, and its abundance of amenities, complements the other co-working spots in Crystal City while addressing “the need for flexible, ‘on-demand’ office space solutions in a post-COVID-19 business environment.”

The opening also comes amid the announcement that co-working rival WeWork will be closing its Crystal City location, which is just a block or two away.

Other existing co-working spaces in Crystal City include Accelspace and Eastern Foundry.

Images via Hana

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