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Morning Notes

Rolling Thunder to Coming to a Stop — The 2019 Rolling Thunder rally will be the group’s last Memorial Day rally in the D.C. area, organizers say. The rally has brought thousands of bikers, along with road closures and motorcycle noise, to Arlington over the past three decades. [Washington Post]

The Gritty Pre-History of Crystal City — “Before development flourished (the entrepreneurs offered bargain rates to federal agencies), the area ‘was a conglomeration of places that sold junk, used tires, a drive-in movie theater, a run-down ice skating rink, second-hand materials — it was very unattractive…’ The industrial area leading to the Potomac Yard railway tracks for decades was bordered by sketchy bar-rooms of the 19th-century Jackson City and National Airport’s precursor, Hoover Field.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Seasonal Pop-Ups at Pentagon City Mall — A trio of “seasonal pop-up shops” are opening at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City: Chukulata, a sweet shop selling crepes and other treats; PolarX Ornaments, selling holiday decor and personalized ornaments; and Trunk and Drawer, which “specializes in men’s fashionable undergarments as well as sleepwear, activewear and swimwear,” per a press release.

Stepped Up DUI Enforcement Underway — “To help spread the message about the dangers of drunk driving, the Arlington County Police Department is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to get drunk drivers off the roads and help save lives during the national high-visibility enforcement campaign, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, which runs from December 13-31, 2018.” [Arlington County]

JBG Buying More Sites in ‘National Landing’ — “JBG Smith Properties has reached a deal to buy a development site across from Virginia Tech’s planned innovation campus in Alexandria, part of a larger strategy to acquire land in and around the National Landing area that includes Amazon.com Inc.’s new headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Old Town Getting Left Behind? — “The old guard of Alexandria, mainly in Old Town, has for decades wielded a sort of NIMBY clout and deployed ample financial resources to fight projects. The plans to activate Alexandria’s 8.6-acre waterfront were delayed for years due to community pushback and legal challenges… But fears that Alexandria will be left behind as competition intensifies with flashier destinations such as National Harbor and The Wharf are spurring change.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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BREAKING: Crystal City Building Evacuated Amid Widespread Bomb Threats

(Updated at 4 p.m.) An office building in Crystal City has been evacuated after a company inside reportedly received a bomb threat via email.

Police and firefighters were first dispatched to 1919 S. Eads Street for a report of a bomb threat around 2:15 p.m. Among the building’s tenants are the Consumer Technology Association and Inside Washington Publishers.

Shortly after the initial dispatch, it was reported that the fire alarm in the building was sounding and people were evacuating.

This is the second bomb threat to prompt an office evacuation in Crystal City so far this month.

Meanwhile, another emailed bomb threat has been reported at 4300 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, headquarters to energy company AES and home to other offices and retail businesses.

News outlets are reporting that “dozens” of bomb threats have been reported at news outlets and other businesses and institutions across the U.S., though the threats are not believed to be credible. The FBI is monitoring the situation, both in the D.C. area and nationwide.

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Morning Notes

Emergency Water Main Repairs — Work is scheduled from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. today to repair a 20-inch water transmission main along 7th Road S. from S. Florida Street to S. Dinwiddie Street and Columbia Pike. Upwards of 200 customers are expected to lose their water service during the work. [Twitter]

Stamos Picks Up Challenger — Parisa Tafti, a “lifelong public defender and innocence protection attorney with a more than 18-year record of defending the indigent and speaking for the innocent,” has announced that she will be running against Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in her bid for reelection to the top prosecutor job. [Blue Virginia]

Kanninen Calls for Kaepernick — Arlington School Board member Barbara Kanninen is among those calling on social media for the Redskins to “#BringColintoWashington” amid a rash of season-ending injuries at the quarterback position. [Twitter]

Fisette Launches Consulting Firm — Former Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette has started a consulting firm to “advise business, nonprofits and local governments throughout the Washington region” with former Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner. [Bethesda Beat, Maryland Matters]

Office Rent Expected to Rise in Crystal City — “Crystal City is at risk of losing its status as the low-cost alternative for nonprofits and others on the hunt for office space in Northern Virginia as Amazon.com Inc. rolls out its headquarters plans… Colliers projects rental rates in Crystal City could jump by 17 percent in five years and by 37 percent in a decade.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Effect on Residential Real Estate — “Any immediate impact on the local housing market is expected to be muted… Long & Foster predicts the Amazon effect will add an additional 3 percent to appreciation the Washington area would otherwise experience.” [WTOP]

Harper Leaving Rosslyn? — Possibly outgoing Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper “has chosen not to renew his lease at his penthouse condo in the Rosslyn neighborhood of Arlington, VA, according to a source.” [Real House Life of Arlington]

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State Lawmakers Fear Amazon’s Arrival Won’t Be Enough to Spur Jefferson Davis Hwy Name Change

With Amazon coming to town, Arlington leaders believe the time is ripe to finally change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway — and some of their allies in Richmond are ready to hit the gas on that effort, even as others look to pump the brakes.

Once again, the County Board plans to ask the General Assembly for the authority to remove the former Confederate president’s name from its section of the state-owned Route 1. Alexandria leaders have already taken a similar step, but state lawmakers have repeatedly refused to grant Arlington the permission to make such a change over the years.

But with a socially conscious tech giant planning to set up shop in Crystal City and Pentagon City, the very neighborhoods where signs currently honor Davis’ legacy, the Board hopes skeptical legislators might be a bit easier to convince. Board members held a joint work session with six of the county’s representatives in Richmond Friday (Dec. 7), in order to underscore the importance of the switch ahead of the start of the General Assembly’s session on Jan. 9.

“We should be clear that this is an effort to elevate white supremacy and honor Confederate leaders on our highways,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “A nongovernmental company choosing our area to locate underscores how we should be thinking about things differently.”

While all in attendance could agree that the name of the highway needs to change, preferably to match Alexandria’s newly adopted moniker of “Richmond Highway,” there wasn’t much in the way of consensus on how to achieve that goal.

Some lawmakers urged patience, noting that the upcoming 2019 elections could flip control of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate to Democrats for the first time in nearly two decades — Republicans hold one-seat majorities in both chambers, following last year’s wave election for Democrats in the House.

Until that happens, however, most lawmakers aren’t willing to spend political capital battling on the issue, particularly considering that the upcoming legislative session will last less than a month.

State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) carried legislation to spur the name change this year, only to see it narrowly die in committee on a party-line vote, and she’s already sworn off interest in renewing that effort. Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th District) has backed other such bills in the past, but he expressed similar skepticism about the legislation’s prospects next year.

“The only way I’m putting it in is if we have any hope of passing it,” Ebbin said. “I’m polling some Republicans on the prospect of that… but I’m not introducing it unless can we can get a very narrow bill together.”

Ebbin suggested that the Board might have more success if it secured some allies in the business community for that effort, urging officials to solicit support from groups like the Arlington Chamber of Commerce or the Crystal City Business Improvement District. Representatives from both groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether they’d be interested in supporting such a bill.

Other lawmakers suggested that Amazon itself might provide a powerful push, considering the company’s robust lobbying efforts and its growing importance to the state’s economy. But, after speaking with the company’s representatives about just such a prospect, Ebbin is less than optimistic.

“I don’t think Amazon will be taking active political positions until after things cemented in,” Ebbin said, noting that state lawmakers and local officials still need to formally sign off on Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed deal with the company. That isn’t set to happen until early next year, meaning that Amazon likely won’t have much of a say in the upcoming legislative session.

Del. Mark Levine (D-45th District) was similarly pessimistic on the prospect of his Republican colleagues taking action on any name change legislation in 2019, but he believes the county shouldn’t wait on Richmond.

He argued that Arlington could act immediately to remove any road signs referencing Davis, even if the county doesn’t formally change the name. After all, Levine pointed out that the highway is known by all manner of other names as it winds its way throughout the state.

“There is zero Virginia law that requires that highway to have those street names,” Levine said. “If the question is: ‘can you change the street signs?’ Of course you can change the street signs. If it has some name in a dusty book somewhere, that’s fine.”

Levine argued that the county should go directly to the Commonwealth Transportation Board, the executive agency overseeing all of Virginia’s road and transit operations, to ask for such a change. He suggested an appeal to Northam, a Democrat, might help that effort, considering that “we have a very friendly governor right now, and we have a much less friendly General Assembly.”

County Board Chair Katie Cristol noted that Arlington officials have had some conversations with the CTB about such a prospect, but have not come away with the clarity that Levine sees in the law. A spokesman for the CTB did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.

Cristol also pointed to an advisory opinion from Attorney General Mark Herring suggesting that the county might not be able to make such a change, which Levine waved away quickly as having “no force of law.”

Still, Dorsey and his colleagues argued that they’d much rather pursue a more cautious path, in order to avoid unnecessarily ruffling feathers in Richmond.

“In the absence of universal certainty, we’re not interested in figuring out what think we can get away with,” Dorsey said. “This is not about if we can somehow figure out if we can do it and somehow not suffer adverse consequences. That’s a risk we’re not willing to take.”

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County Officials See Plenty of Room on Roads, Metro Stations Near Amazon’s Future HQ

To combat growing concerns about how Amazon’s new influx of workers might put a strain on Arlington’s congested roads and Metro’s troubled rail system, county leaders are increasingly embracing the same argument — so many people have left Crystal City and Pentagon City over the years that the area’s transit network is ready to welcome new residents.

There’s little doubt that the 25,000 workers Amazon plans to eventually bring to the region will have an impact on commute times for drivers, and crowd more people onto local trains and buses. But Arlington officials stress that they already planned to move plenty of people through and to the newly dubbed “National Landing,” only to see thousands of federal and military employees flee the neighborhood years ago.

That means the area’s trains and buses still have available seats, ready to accommodate Amazon’s new arrivals.

“Transportation system utilization is reflective of building occupancy,” county transportation director Dennis Leach said during a question-and-answer session live streamed on Facebook yesterday (Thursday). “We’re down about 24,000 jobs and we see it on the rail system, we see it on the roads… so we have that capacity, we just have to get people to use [these options].”

Leach points out that Crystal City has been hardest hit in recent years, particularly by the Base Realignment and Closure process. He noted that he “had to go back to 1986 to find a lower annual passenger count” at the neighborhood’s Metro station; for Pentagon City, he had to go back to 2001.

Similarly, Leach said that traffic volume on Crystal City and Pentagon City roads is “down 20 percent since 2000,” another “reflection of lower employment” in the area. He believes there’s even ample parking available, despite some neighbors’ concerns to the contrary, arguing that the neighborhoods’ “parking assets are incredibly underutilized.”

That being said, Leach admits that the county would much rather see Amazon’s new arrivals using public transit, and the county has some “work to do” in that department. Metro presents a particularly thorny challenge for leaders — even if stations in the “National Landing” area aren’t seeing as many riders as they once did, the rail service is still trying to improve its safety and reliability after years of struggles.

But Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s assistant general manager for customer service, communications and marketing, believes that the agency is moving in the right direction in solving those problems. She’s particularly enthusiastic about General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year, which would see Metro return to running nothing but eight-car trains and even expand its “Rush Hour Promise” program to offer more refunds to commuters for lengthy rides.

“I think the capacity is really going to be there as these jobs come to Arlington,” Bowersox said. “Especially with these improvements we have in the pipeline.”

Of course, it’s no guarantee that Wiedefeld will win all those promised changes from Metro’s governing board. The full suite of service improvements Wiedefeld is calling for come with a hefty price tag, and Arlington officials have cautioned that they may not be able to afford everything Wiedefeld is asking for. The new budget could end up costing the county another $8 million per year, a particularly worrying prospect for county leaders, given Arlington’s existing budget pressures.

With or without those enhancements, however, Bowersox is confident that Metro’s safety and reliability improvements will be enough to win Amazon employees over.

“We believe in our reliability and we’re standing behind it,” she said.

Leach is optimistic about as well about the state’s planned investments to help the county build its long-planned second entrance at the Crystal City Metro station, making it even more accessible to both Amazon’s future office space and the rest of the neighborhood. The state will also help Alexandria fund another entrance at the soon-to-be built Potomac Yard station, even though funding concerns initially convinced leaders to cancel the project.

Yet officials also recognize that the area is still not as walkable, or accessible for cyclists, as it could be. That’s due in large part to Route 1, which Leach points out acts as a “divider” between Pentagon City and Crystal City with its large, elevated sections of highway.

The state and county are both planning on spending $250 million on Route 1 improvements, but they haven’t identified the exact source of all that money, or even what the improvements will be. Generally, Leach does hope that the change help “knit the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods together,” and that will likely mean bringing the highway down to the same grade as the rest of the street network.

Renee Hamilton, deputy administrator for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Northern Virginia District, said that officials only have a “broad concept” for what those changes will look like, and are still discussing the exact timeline for how the project will move forward. But, like Leach, she does expect that substantial changes are in the offing.

“It’s very difficult to get from one side of Route 1 to another,” Hamilton said. “So we’re going to look at creating a boulevard feel to it, which will likely require us to lower some of the roadways.”

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Pentagon Row Parking Rates Creep Upward, A Development Neighbors Attribute to Amazon

A Pentagon City parking lot is jacking up some of its monthly rates, and some residents fear that Amazon’s impending arrival in the neighborhood is to blame.

Residents of the RiverHouse Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street) were recently informed by their landlord that their monthly parking rates were about to jump substantially if they park their cars in the nearby Pentagon Row garage and surface lot. Starting Jan. 1, anyone from the apartment complex parking there will pay $100 month per space, up from $65.

The parking managed by Colonial Parking, not JBG Smith (RiverHouse’s owner, the area’s dominant real estate developer and a key player in bringing Amazon to the area). Accordingly, RiverHouse management lamented in a letter to residents, provided to ARLnow, that it isn’t able to control such a change.

“Please rest assured that this increase was just as much a surprise to us as this is to you,” General Manager Joe Mettee wrote.

Colonial Parking did not respond to a request for comment on what prompted the sudden increase. But Megan Niewold, a RiverHouse resident set to see her parking rates skyrocket, told ARLnow that she has her suspicions about their motivations.

“When I spoke to my garage attendant, he said they were notified because they want to prepare ‘National Landing’ for an influx of parking needs in the future,” Niewold wrote in an email. “It sure seems like they’re raising prices for Amazon’s arrival super early, which sucks because it’s making this place unaffordable for nonprofit workers/teachers/etc.”

Concerns over how the tech giant’s new headquarters, and its promised 25,000 workers, will transform the area are certainly nothing new.

The company’s selection of Arlington for half a new headquarters has already spurred development activity in both Pentagon City and Crystal City, and other such changes are surely on the way in the coming months. Though county officials are hoping a slew of new transportation options will encourage Amazon employees to opt for public transit instead, neighbors fear that the area is already facing a parking crunch, which will only be exacerbated by similar price increases.

“The belief is that because so many people take public transportation that it won’t be a problem; but for people who already live here, there’s already a problem,” Crystal City Civic Association President Carol Fuller said during a town hall focused on Amazon this week.”Most of the spaces we have are only available at cost, and some street parking will disappear due to the Metroway expansion.”

The good news for people like Niewold, at least, is there are some other options. RiverHouse added in its letter that it’s knocking down some of its own parking prices for anyone frustrated with the Pentagon Row increases.

Photo via Google Maps

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Demolition Work Starts on Crystal City Office Building Set for Amazon-Related Redevelopment

(Updated Wednesday at 10:20 a.m.) Demolition work is kicking off ahead of the development of a new apartment complex in Crystal City, set to be located immediately adjacent to some of Amazon’s new office space in the area.

JBG Smith, the area’s dominant property owner, started work yesterday (Monday) to tear down an office building at 1900 Crystal Drive. Eventually, the company hopes to add two buildings to the site, with room for 750 apartments and some ground-floor retail.

JBG is aiming to kick off construction on the project next year, and it specifically identified the effort as one it hopes to accelerate now that Amazon is officially Arlington-bound. Crystal City currently has a slightly higher than average residential vacancy rate, and hasn’t seen much in the way of new apartment development recently, but local property owners are racing to offer new options to the thousands of Amazon workers set to descend on the neighborhood in the coming years.

The developer has yet to secure county approval for the 1900 Crystal Drive project, however. Vornado/Charles E. Smith previously secured permission to build a 24-story building on the property, but that approval lapsed in 2015. The company spun off its local property holdings in a merger with JBG the next year.

But JBG can pursue demolition of the building as “by right” work in the meantime, meaning it doesn’t require any approval from the county until new construction starts.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District is warning that the demolition will prompt a few sidewalk closures, near Crystal Drive’s intersection with both 18th Street S. and 20th Street S. JBG will also build a covered walkway over the sidewalk along Crystal Drive to allow pedestrian access as the work continues.

The BID says the garage entrances on both 18th Street S. and 20th Street S. will remain open during the construction. Additionally, JBG plans to keep offering the collection of basketball hoops and other games it maintains in one of the building’s parking lots, but will move those over to the plaza behind the 1900 Crystal Drive building, along S. Bell Street.

The building’s demolition will also mark the disappearance of one of the most colorful structures in Crystal City. JBG affixed brightly colored artwork to several buildings in the neighborhood as it mulled how to revitalize the area, and do away with its more outdated facades.

Photo 1 via Google Maps

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Amazon-Focused Town Hall Reveals Community Concerns Over Tech Giant’s Power

How might lowly local officials be able to bring one of the world’s largest companies to heel?

That’s the prime question on the minds of many Arlington and Alexandria residents worried about how Amazon might soon reshape their communities.

And while county and city leaders are optimistic that the tech giant will prove to be a reliable partner in the region, they’re also admitting that they don’t have all that many tools to push Jeff Bezos and company around.

“We have to focus on using the policy tools that we do have,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol at an Amazon-focused town hall in Crystal City’s Synetic Theater last night (Monday).

Public speakers at the event, which was hosted by WAMU 88.5’s Kojo Nnamdi Show, fretted over how localities might address everything from the company’s labor practices to its commitment to hiring a diverse workforce.

Leaders in attendance sought to reassure nervous neighbors that localities will be able to extract community benefits from the company as it builds new space in Pentagon City and Crystal City. County Board member Libby Garvey even expressed optimism that “Amazon is going to affect us, but we’re going to affect Amazon too” when it comes to changing the company’s culture.

But concerns abound that Amazon’s status as the new economic engine for the area will give it unprecedented bargaining power in any dispute with local leaders.

“The County Board works really hard and wants to do the best they can for us, but Amazon, at any point, can say ‘No,'” said Roshan Abraham, an organizer with Our Revolution Arlington, a progressive group that has opposed the county’s pursuit of Amazon. “They always threaten to pack up and leave, it’s what they always do…  We have very little leverage, particularly at the political level.”

Part of the problem for local leaders is that state law limits their ability to pursue some of the most aggressive pro-worker measures favored by Amazon skeptics. Virginia’s legislature, long dominated by Republicans, has adopted a series of measures designed to make the state more business friendly — perhaps most notably, Virginia is a “right to work” state, limiting the ability of unions to charge workers fees for representing them.

Several members of local unions urged officials to press Amazon to sign “project labor agreements” ahead of any new headquarters construction, or a contract with a union to lay out the working conditions for a project before construction gets started.

But Virginia has laws on the books designed to limit government agencies from requiring such agreements, and Cristol pointed out that “the state has made it very clear that we can’t use those” in many situations.

However, she did pledge to urge Amazon to work with unions and offer fair working conditions on its construction sites — and the question gave her a chance to underscore just how meaningful it might be if her fellow Democrats seized control of the General Assembly in next year’s elections.

Other attendees were similarly nervous that the county won’t be able to force Amazon to fork over cash to spur the development of more affordable housing, particularly as the arrival of the company’s planned 25,000 workers strain the region’s housing market.

On that front, however, Arlington officials are confident that they’ll be able to use their existing development process to require Amazon to chip in more money for its Affordable Housing Investment Fund, a loan program designed to incentivize reasonably priced development. Of course, that will have to wait until the company starts building new facilities, which could take years yet.

In the meantime, housing advocates are optimistic that the tech giant is committed to the issue of housing affordability, and could agree to some select contributions on its own.

Carmen Romero, vice president of real estate development with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, said both Amazon and its major landlord in Arlington (JBG Smith) have told her they “want to be at the table” when it comes to discussions about creating new affordable developments. She even suggested that JBG could agree to donate some small portion of the large swaths of land it owns in Crystal City and Pentagon City to a nonprofit like her group, allowing for new affordable homes in the immediate vicinity of the headquarters.

“It’s very fair to ask Amazon to join us at the table as part of the philanthropic community,” Cristol said. “If they’re going to be a major player here, we’re very interested in seeing a big commitment from them.”

Alexandria Mayor-elect Justin Wilson added that the mere fact of Amazon’s interest in the region has already changed the conversation at the state level. He noted that state lawmakers were previously reticent to commit to major affordable housing funding, despite Northern Virginia leaders “banging our heads against the wall in Richmond,” but officials agreed to send an additional $15 million to the Virginia Housing Development Authority as part of the offer to Amazon.

“This was important to Amazon,” Wilson said, drawing a few laughs from skeptics in the audience. “But we were able to make the argument to the state government that this was something that had to be part of the package to help us attract a major employer.”

For Amazon opponents, however, it’s not enough that the company and state might voluntarily agree to measures to offset the impending impacts on the county.

Abraham’s group is pushing the concept of a “community benefits agreement,” a deal that a coalition of neighbors would strike directly with the company to ensure it invests in the community’s priorities, as an alternative to government officials haggling on their behalf.

It may not be enough to answer all their concerns, but he expects it may be a better path to pursue than hoping local politicians can win battles with a company owned by the world’s richest man.

“If we get Amazon to make these commitments to our community now, that, I believe, is the best way we have of protecting ourselves,” Abraham said.

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New Irish Pub Aims to Set Up Shop in Former Tortoise and Hare Space in Crystal City

A new Irish pub is on the way for Crystal City, aiming to set up shop in the neighborhood’s long-time row of local restaurants on 23rd Street S.

The space once occupied by the Tortoise and Hare Bar and Grill at 567 23rd Street S. will soon become home to the second location of Fiona’s Irish Pub, a restaurant and bar currently based in Alexandria.

Owner Martin White, a native of Ireland, told ARLnow that he’s hoping to get the new pub up and running somewhere in “early to mid-January,” and he’s eager to move in to what he termed “the best block in Crystal City.”

“You probably have every chain in the world on Crystal Drive, and that’s fine, you need chains,” White said. “But that 23rd Street block with all those independent restaurants, it’s got a great vibe to it. It could almost be an old part of New York or D.C.”

White is no stranger to the neighborhood’s dining scene — he says he helped open Crystal City’s Hamburger Hamlet back in 1991 and ran King Street Blues over on Crystal Drive for years. But the impending redevelopment of the area forced that restaurant out of its space this summer, and White found himself looking for other options.

Considering that his original location of Fiona’s was “going gangbusters” over in the Kingstowne Shopping Center in Fairfax County, White says he decided to expand the concept elsewhere.

And with 23rd Street thriving, thanks to the arrival of some new businesses and the revival of Cafe Italia, White immediately started targeting the area for an expansion.

“There’s this vision for it being the local village within the city, and that grabbed my attention, big time,” White said. “The more independents there, the better.”

He was able to secure the lease at the 23rd Street space months ago, and has been hard at work rehabbing the location ever since. White says the announcement that Amazon would indeed be moving in nearby didn’t hurt his prospects, either.

“Everybody knew what was going on with Amazon, but it was a hope,” White said. “We’d already signed the lease and the contract before it was announced. That was just a happy coincidence.”

As for the restaurant itself, White says the new location will be virtually the same as first Fiona’s. That means he’s aiming for a “traditional Dublin Irish pub” to honor his hometown, complete with a stage for live music, plenty of beer on tap and a “significant Irish whiskey collection.”

“Everything, all our food will be all fresh made,” White said. “Everything will be made in-house daily.”

While Crystal City may well have other bars and restaurants, White expects that commitment to freshness will help Fiona stand out.

“When you think about it, farm to table has been going on for hundreds of years in Ireland,” White said. “That’s how we grew up, and that’s how we’ll be.”

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn Shooter Sentenced — “A man who worked as an investigator for conspiracy theorist Jack Burkman will serve nine years in prison for shooting and wounding his ex-boss” in a Rosslyn hotel parking garage. [Washington Post]

Marijuana Arrest Disparity — “African Americans were more than eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana crimes in Arlington from 2010-2016.” [Bacon’s Rebellion]

More on Long Bridge Plan — “New plans call to double the number of railroad tracks over the Potomac River between DC and Arlington, and to build a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge between Southwest Washington and Crystal City.” [Greater Greater Washington]

New Gym Coming to Arlington — “Blink Fitness is gearing up to expand into Northern Virginia with five new locations in Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax. Northern Virginia-based Cove Fitness LLC inked the 10-year agreement with the New York fitness chain to bring gyms to the region that will create about 70 jobs and occupy 90,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Crystal City Still in Spotlight — “I spent a day in Crystal City, Virginia — and it’s easy to see why Amazon picked it for its new HQ2 headquarters.” [Business Insider]

Most Elaborate Cubicle Xmas Decoration Ever? — At WJLA in Rosslyn, a TV director named Mason Herndon has converted his office cubicle into a log cabin complete with fake snow, a fake fireplace and Christmas lights. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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BREAKING: Clark Street in Crystal City Closed Due to Bomb Threat

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) A portion of S. Clark Street in Crystal City remains closed by police due to a bomb threat.

Clark Street is currently closed between 23rd Street and 26th Street while Pentagon and Arlington County bomb squads investigate a reported threat at a Department of Defense facility. Bomb-sniffing dogs are searching the building to ensure there are no explosives inside.

Pedestrians were moved away from the area as a precaution.

“Avoid the area and follow police direction,” said an Arlington Alert about the incident.

Update at 11:35 a.m. — The “all-clear” has been given and first responders are preparing to leave the scene.

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Neighborhood Spotlight: Crystal City

This content was written and sponsored by The Keri Shull Team, Arlington’s top producing residential real estate team.

The Crystal City neighborhood in Arlington has brought enormous job growth and sweeping development projects expected to have a ripple effect across the entire D.C. Metro region.

Crystal City has found new fame thanks to news of Amazon’s HQ2 announcement. Along with Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, Crystal City is part of the area local planners have nicknamed National Landing. This neighborhood is a great place to live and work.

Housing

Crystal City offers multiple large buildings and a variety of houses within easy reach.

One notable condo building is The Eclipse, located at 3600 and 3650 Glebe Rd South in Arlington. The Eclipse has 11 stories and 221 units spread across East and West wings. It offers everything from studios to two bed two bath units with lots of amenities.

Those looking for larger homes can find them just beyond the neighborhood’s edge. Aurora Highlands, Arlington Ridge, Arlington Views, and Arlandria offer houses with an easy commute to Crystal City. Attached and detached homes in these areas can be found starting at $400k with new construction homes costing as much as $2 million dollars or more.

Entertainment

You’ll find over 130 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the Crystal City area. A five-minute walk allows you to choose from 20 places to eat. Some of our favorite restaurants are: the Skydome, Clark Street Grill, Jaleo, Neramitra Thai and Legal Sea Foods.

Be aware that “Crystal City Water Park” has a confusing name: it’s a gorgeous fountain, not a family destination with water slides. This sculpture park is a relaxing place to take a break, get some work done outdoors or hangout with friends. After dark, romantic lighting makes it the perfect date night venue.

Miles of jogging and biking trails connect Crystal City to nearby scenic and significant places. The Potomac River Trail and Mt. Vernon Trails can take you to the National Mall in D.C. The trails also lead to scenic Old Town Alexandria; and reach west toward nature via Four Mile Run & the W&OD trail.

If you like outdoor sports, Virginia Highlands Park offers diamond fields and fully-lighted tennis courts; practice walls; basketball courts and a volleyball court. For wintertime ice skating, visit Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Skating.

Commuting

Crystal City has access to great transportation options whether you walk, drive, bike or ride the metro. It’s achieved a walk score of 84, meaning that you can accomplish almost all errands on foot here. The area has excellent bike lanes and offers convenient access to transit.

The Crystal City and Pentagon City D.C. metro stations are located here, both connecting to the blue and yellow train lines. Car owners will appreciate Crystal City’s plentiful parking options, and those who travel often for work will appreciate Crystal City’s proximity to DCA, also known by its much longer name Ronald Reagan National Airport.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is investing $195 million in transportation infrastructure, including creating additional entrances to Crystal City’s metro stations and improving Route 1.

General Livability

Crystal City is home to over 23,000 smart, busy professionals in the private and government sectors, as well as a rising startup scene. Matched with low crime and great schools like Arlington Oak Ridge Elementary School, Crystal City could be your perfect neighborhood.

If you’d like to call Crystal City your new home, get in touch with The Keri Shull Team today. They have access to more off-market properties than any other team in town, which means more housing options for you.

What is your favorite part of Crystal City? Let us know in the comments!

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Major Pentagon City Redevelopment Nears Opening, Just in Time for Amazon’s Arrival

Update, Nov. 30 at 9 a.m.: After this story was published Kimco spokeswoman Jennifer Maisch contacted ARLnow to clarify that Glazer’s comments regarding the new parking garage were inaccurate. The garage will serve only retail customers, while each residential building will have its parking available on lower floors, she said.

A massive new mixed-development in Pentagon City is nearly ready to open — and its backers hope it’ll be perfectly positioned to serve the thousands of Amazon employees who will start arriving in the area in the next few months.

The first phase of the Pentagon Centre redevelopment project, backed by New York-based developer Kimco Realty, should start leasing apartments as soon as spring 2019, according to a news release.

The company hopes to open “The Witmer,” a 26-story residential tower complete with 440 apartments and 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, by the second half of the new year.

The new building will be the first of many new changes to come for the shopping center, located between S. Hayes and Fern Streets and 12th and 15th Streets S., as the developer embarks on a decades-long effort to redevelop the area. Kimco earned the county’s approval for the project back in 2015, but it’s taken on new significance now that Amazon plans to construct a pair of new buildings for its headquarters right next door — the company purchased the “PenPlace” and “Metropolitan Park” developments from JBG Smith as part of its move to the county.

“Our Pentagon Centre ‘Signature Series’ redevelopment is in excellent position to take advantage of the incredible growth Amazon’s National Landing headquarters will bring to the area,” Kimco CEO Conor Flynn wrote in a statement. “With ‘The Witmer’s’ location directly above the Metro Station and its stunning views of the Pentagon, Potomac River and Washington Mall, it will be at the heart of this new center of gravity.”

Geoff Glazer, Kimco’s senior vice president for national development, also told ARLnow that a seven-story parking garage along 15th Street S. is already “complete and operational” as well. The garage will serve residents of the new apartment building, as well as help replace parking lots for Costco customers to be occupied by the next phase of development in the area.

Kimco plans to build a 10-story residential tower, complete with 253 units and 15,541 square feet of ground-floor retail, once the first the building is ready. Glazer says the timeline for that project is a bit unclear just yet, however, calling it a “market-driven decision” with plans to “evaluate timing for the second tower in 2019.”

Real estate watchers expect that the market will demand plenty of new construction in the area as Amazon ramps up hiring, so the company may not need to wait long. Brad Dillman, the chief economist for national real estate developer Cortland, says that data suggest Crystal City and Pentagon City both have slightly higher residential vacancy rates than the D.C. metro area as a whole, but there will still be a huge demand for new development as Amazon’s 25,000 workers descend on the area.

“If you look across the whole market on the multifamily side, there were just under 9,000 new units delivered in the last year,” Dillman said. “It’s pretty clear that just Amazon alone is going to require some above and beyond new housing development.”

However, Kimco’s ambitions for the 17-acre property extend far beyond just residential buildings. Eventually, the company plans to demolish the mall building (the current home of retailers like Best Buy and Nordstrom Rack) and then tear down the Costco as well, replacing them with three new office buildings, 377,000 square feet of retail and commercial space and 180-room hotel.

Those plans are quite ways off yet, though, with Glazer estimating that they’re “many years down the road given our existing lease obligations.” The company’s initial estimates suggest that the first phase of demolitions wouldn’t start for another 20 years yet, with more to come another 20 years after that.

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Morning Notes

Shatner: Arlington E-Bike Rules ‘Barbaric’ — E-bike enthusiast and Priceline pitchman William Shatner, better known as Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, said via Twitter yesterday — in response to a tweet from the sassy Arlington Dept. Environmental Services Twitter account — that Arlington’s prohibition on e-bikes on local trails is “barbaric.” [Twitter]

Kojo Coming to Crystal City — WAMU 88.5 is bringing the Kojo Nnamdi Show to Crystal City for “a town hall-style discussion about how local officials, businesses, and community members in Northern Virginia and the region are reacting to Amazon’s decision.” Those wishing to attend the taping can register online. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]

Upgrades for Ballston Senior Housing — “The Arlington County Board [Tuesday] approved a low-interest loan of $3.025 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to help renovate The Carlin, a 162-unit, 10-story building located at 4300 N. Carlin Springs Road. The Carlin serves low income elderly residents who are 55 years and older.” [Arlington County]

‘Arts District’ Near Crystal City? — “Even before the specter of Amazon’s second headquarters put stars in everyone’s eyes in Crystal City, Stratis Voutsas and Georgia Papadopoulos, managers of a trust that owns many buildings on the neighborhood’s ‘restaurant row,’ were dreaming up a plan to bring more people across U.S. Route 1 to the neighborhood… The trust wants to build an open-air park and plaza on a parking lot and site of a Greek restaurant the trust owns behind some of the 23rd Street restaurants. It would have artist spaces tucked below, facing onto 22nd Street.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon News Roundup — Amazon’s HQ2 search was about “selecting locations with specialized kinds of talent that meet certain needs,” and “Crystal City… puts Amazon closer to tech talent, but also to government leaders, cloud customers, and the U.S. Department of Defense.” Crystal City is built upon the former Abingdon Plantation and the new Amazon presence “affords us the opportunity to recognize and memorialize the lives of those enslaved there.” Meanwhile, a former JBG executive who left to help build a $3 billion development in Tampa is returning as the company prepares for Amazon’s arrival.

Nearby: New Wawa and New Restaurant — A new Wawa is coming to Vienna, making it the closest Northern Virginia location to Arlington for the beloved convenience store chain. And an acclaimed chef is planning to open a new Italian restaurant on N. Washington Street in the City of Falls Church.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington Plans Amazon-Focused Town Halls to Accept Feedback on New Headquarters

Arlington leaders are now planning on hosting at least two Amazon-focused town halls to let residents share their concerns about the tech giant ahead of a planned February vote on the deal to bring the company’s new headquarters to the county.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced at the Board’s meeting yesterday (Tuesday) that the county will hold a pair of “community listening sessions” to give people the chance to talk directly with Arlington staffers and Board members alike about Amazon. She says the county is targeting Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. and Jan. 12 at 9:30 a.m. for those sessions, but has yet to settle on locations for either one.

“There have been a lot of questions about opportunities to engage or ask questions directly to County Board members as well as to learn about this opportunity and its impacts on our Arlington community,” Cristol said. “We’ve heard that people are very interested in an in-person opportunity to share their feedback and county staff.”

Cristol added that any Board vote on the proposed deal, largely sketched out by state officials, would come no sooner than Feb. 23. In the likely scenario that the deal wins the Board’s approval, the company would then face a whole variety of Board hearings as it looks to build new facilities in Pentagon City and Crystal City.

The county has also scheduled an array of online Amazon question-and-answer sessions on Facebook.

Arlington’s already held a pair of those, and will hold three more next month: a Dec. 6 session focused on transportation, a Dec. 19 discussion on schools and education and a Jan. 16 session on housing.

Skeptics of the tech giant’s impact on the area have accused the Board in the past of allowing too little community discussion on the issue, with many skeptics flooding a Board meeting earlier this month to raise the matter. Progressive groups like Our Revolution Arlington have also specifically called for a series of such listening sessions by Board members.

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