Arlington, VA

Demolition on the Amazon HQ2 site in Pentagon City is expected to begin soon.

The 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development along S. Eads Street, the first phase of Amazon’s permanent second headquarters in Arlington, was approved by the County Board in December.

Now, construction equipment is being staged ahead of demolition of the two-story warehouse building and parking lot currently on the site. According to an off-the-record presentation given to local civic associations earlier this week, a slide from which was obtained by ARLnow, demolition and site preparation is scheduled to start within the next month or two.

Excavation will run from the second quarter of 2020 to the end of the year, while construction of the above-ground portion of the complex is expected to start in the second half of 2021. Construction and interior work is expected to wrap up by the middle of 2023, according to the presentation.

In the meantime, the growing contingent of Amazon employees in Arlington will work out of temporary office space in Crystal City.

“We’re looking forward to beginning demolition at the Metropolitan Park site in the very near future; some staging activity has already begun,” an Amazon spokeswoman told ARLnow. “Amazon is already here and we’re hiring. As the MetPark site takes shape, we will continue to grow the teams in our leased space in Crystal City, where we now have nearly 450 employees.”

It’s not yet clear whether Amazon will hold a groundbreaking ceremony as work at the Pentagon City site gets underway.

Some local residents, particularly those who live in apartment buildings across the street, have expressed concerns about construction noise from the project. Permitted working hours extend until 9 p.m. on weekdays, we’re told.

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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Virginia Hospital Center recently opened a new immediate care facility in the Crystal City area, but plans are already in the works to expand the facilities.

“Virginia Hospital Center Immediate Care will be adding family medicine and OB/GYN care (by appointment) in coming months,” a spokesperson told ARLnow in an email.

Staff at the center said the plan is to start offering primary care services in June.

The center at 764 23rd Street S., which opened earlier this month, currently operates as an immediate care facility for non-emergency conditions. This includes things like colds and flus, minor lacerations or burns, and ear, eye or urinary infections.

The new location will put Virginia Hospital Center services within scooter distance of Amazon’s new HQ2.

VHC currently offers primary care treatment at its main hospital campus (1625 N. George Mason Drive) and in Shirlington (2800 Shirlington Road). The hospital earlier this week started providing trauma services at its Emergency Room.

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Morning Notes

Trash Collection CancelledUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — Trash and recycling collection is cancelled today, according to Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services. Christmas tree and brush collection will be completed as normal, however. [Twitter]

Rep. Beyer Calls for Peace — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) tweeted the following after Iran’s airstrike on U.S. military bases in Iraq — a response to the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general: “De-escalate. Exercise diplomacy. Talk. Listen. Give peace a chance.” [Twitter]

Civ Fed Worries About Upzoning — “‘None of us are interested in destroying all our single-family neighborhoods,’ new County Board Chairman Libby Garvey said during the board’s Jan. 2 meeting with the Arlington County Civic Federation… At the forum, Garvey promised that the Civic Federation would play an integral role in any civic-engagement process that transpires in coming months. She reiterated the board’s position that zoning changes are not a done deal.” [InsideNova]

Board Defends Amazon’s Housing Contribution — “Arlington County Board members are defending their decision to trade additional office-building density for affordable-housing funding, but the decision provoked tension with some delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. Meeting with board members on Jan. 2, several federation members asked why the county government had decided to allocate all the $20 million contribution from Amazon to affordable-housing efforts.” [InsideNova]

Marijuana Possession Cases Dismissed — In court Tuesday, Arlington’s new top prosecutor successfully sought for judges to dismiss charges against those charged with simple marijuana possession. [Twitter]

Police Investigate Pike Robbery — A portion of westbound Columbia Pike was shut down near S. Glebe Road early Tuesday morning while police investigated a robbery. An ACPD spokeswoman told ARLnow that a victim was robbed and suffered minor injuries; no weapon was involved in the robbery. [Twitter]

New Coworking Space Coming to Crystal City — “Hana is coming to Greater Washington, and it’s going to be neighbors with HQ2. CBRE Group has picked a Crystal City office building to serve as the first East Coast location of its flexible space concept, named after the Hawaiian word for work.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Pawn Shop Helps Return Lost Ring — “Mary Nosrati, a certified gemologist who works at a pawnshop in Arlington, Va., likes to say that every diamond has a story. This is the story of Marsha Wilkins’s diamond, of how it was lost and how it was found.” [Washington Post]

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Two more Cosi locations have closed in Arlington.

The Cosi restaurants in Crystal City (2011 Crystal Drive) and Virginia Square (3503 Fairfax Drive) appear to have closed.

The closures follow the shuttering of the chain’s Ballston location late last month. Additional Cosi closures have been reported in D.C.

As of today (Monday) the Cosi in Rosslyn was still open.

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Citing the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, the parent company of Sport&Health says it will be expanding and renovating its fitness club in Crystal City.

The expansion will add 8,000 square feet to the club at 2231 Crystal Drive, adding additional space for strength training and studios to a location that already includes a cycle studio and indoor salt water pool.

The work is expected to begin this spring and wrap up this summer. The club will remain open during construction.

More from a press release:

US Fitness Holdings, LLC, has announced that it will expand the Sport&Health club at Crystal Park (2231 Crystal Drive, Arlington) in conjunction with the JBG development of National Landing. Sport&Health Crystal Park currently includes an indoor salt water pool, a Cycle Studio, Mind&Body Studio and Group Fitness studio in addition to the newest cardio and strength equipment.

The 8,000 square foot expansion and renovation will elevate all aspects of the club including additional fitness space for strength training, functional turf training areas and expanded studios. Sport&Health Crystal Park will be the fitness anchor to the National Landing providing the best value and fitness experience at an affordable price.

“We’re excited to expand our location along with the new development of the National Landing area and the new Amazon headquarters,” said Kirk and John Galiani, Co-Chairmen of US Fitness. “Our successful partnership with JBG has allowed us the opportunity to deliver the ultimate fitness experience to this rapidly growing community.”

US Fitness has over 50 locations nationally and Sport&Health is the company’s award-winning, full-service health club brand in the DMV area with 10 premier clubs.

The expansion and renovation are scheduled to begin in the Spring of 2020 and to be complete by the Summer of 2020. US Fitness anticipates minimal disruption to the current facility with most of the work taking place in the expansion space.

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No work is happening yet, but there are signs that plans to replace the Highlander Motel in Virginia Square with a new CVS store are getting closer to fruition.

A permit application was filed last month for the property at 3336 Wilson Blvd for a new building, to house CVS. Thus far no permits have been issued.

The application follows years of legal wrangling between Arlington County and local businessman Bill Bayne. In 2018 the Virginia Supreme Court cleared the way for Bayne to redevelop the 56-year-old budget hotel, after the county refused to allow him to use the parking lot behind the motel for store parking.

Bayne subsequently sued the county in federal court for alleged civil rights violations, but that suit was dismissed in October, with the judge citing Arlington County’s sovereign immunity as a reason for the dismissal.

Bayne told ARLnow that the legal fight cost him at least $250,000, if not more.

“It’s over… it is what it is,” he said.

As of Monday morning, no bookings were available online for the Highlander’s $69/night rooms past January, but Bayne told ARLnow that was an error that would be corrected; rooms could be booked past then if you call the hotel, he said.

Bayne said the hotel is planning to stay open for at least another year and there’s no set closing date, though he acknowledged that he’s continuing to pursue the redevelopment.

Bayne is also the owner and co-owner, respectively, of two other long-time local businesses: the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club and Crystal City Sports Pub, both on 23rd Street S. Changes may be on the way for the former — Bayne said he’s considering changing the name of Crystal City Restaurant to “National Landing Strip,” given the new branding for the collective Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2.

“I’ve thought about doing it… it’s certainly crossed my mind,” Bayne said of the possible name change.

The only thing keeping Bayne from changing the name, he said, is sentimentality. Bayne’s father bought the business in 1963 and renamed it “Crystal City Restaurant” from “Arlington Luncheon” to reflect what was then the new name for the neighborhood along Route 1.

Flickr pool photo (1) by Maryland Nomadic

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The Arlington County Board has signed off on a large new apartment development in Crystal City, near Amazon’s incoming headquarters.

During its meeting this past Saturday, the Board approved plans for the 17-acre Crystal Houses site that will add 819 new residential units to the property across four new apartment buildings and three rows of townhouses. The two existing Crystal Houses apartment buildings will remain as-is.

The plans include two new public parks, 627 new below-grade parking spaces, and a small amount of ground floor retail space.

“One .8-acre public park will be located at the intersection of S. Eads Street and 20th Street N.,” a press release notes. “The park… will contain a multi-use lawn; play area; games; pathways; seating and planting areas.”

A 0.6 acre public park located at the corner of S. Fern Street will include an enclosed “dog run” space, according to landscape architect Trini Rodriguez, and an urban orchard with fruit-bearing trees.

“We wanted to make sure where the parks are located, there is easy access to them and they are adjacent to other amenity areas, creating a pleasant walk for other neighboring communities,” said Rodriguez.

Other planned community benefits from the project include:

  • Streetscape improvements
  • Public art installations
  • LEED Gold Certification
  • A tree-lined pedestrian pathway through the block
  • Protected bike lanes along S. Eads Street and between 18th and 15th Street S.

The developer will plant 359 new trees to offset the loss of 230 existing trees on the site.

In exchange for requested zoning changes for additional density, and to meet affordable housing requirements, developer Roseland Residential Trust has agreed to transfer an adjacent property — currently a surface parking lot — to the county for a future affordable housing development.

From the press release:

To justify their request for additional density sought under the sector plan, and in lieu of providing on-site committed affordable housing units, the developer is conveying a portion of their site, along with their approval to build a seven-story building on it, to the County for affordable housing purposes. The conveyance will allow for significantly more affordable housing to be built on the site than called for in the Crystal City Sector Plan. The developer also will contribute nearly $1.65 million to the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

The parking lot is currently used for patrons of Crystal City’s 23rd Street “Restaurant Row.” A campaign to save the lot, “Keep 23rd Street Weird,” argues building atop the parking lot will be detrimental to the row’s customer base.

Several members of the 23rd Street campaign spoke against the site plan at the County Board meeting, clad in matching shirts that read “Keep 23rd Street Weird, Eclectic & Uniquely Authentic, Support Parking For Your Local Business.”

“Like other restaurants, we really need parking,”  said Danny McFadden of the recently-opened McNamara’s Pub & Restaurant. “We’ve got customers coming from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and everybody expresses the same concerns about the parking, everybody on this block thinks the same way.”

Arlington’s Planning Commission suggested that the seven-story, 81-unit building approved for the parcel of land being given to the county could be bigger.

“It is the sense of the Planning Commission that… the County Board and County Manager not build the proposed Crystal House 5 under the approved entitlement, but rather begin a new SPRC process to take full advantage of the density available on the site and seek partnership with adjacent landowners in order to maximize the impact of affordable housing programming and set the appropriate amount of public parking to serve the area,” the Planning Commission said in a letter.

Ultimately, the Board unanimously voted 5-0 to approve the site plan.

The county will now conduct a parking study for the Restaurant Row area and will conduct a search for an affordable housing partner, to develop the lot, sometime between April 1 and September 30, 2020.

The full county press release about the project’s approval is below, after the jump.

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A space-themed pizza shop and deli in Crystal City plans to take off into a bigger space down the block.

Bozzelli’s, an “intergalactic” deli serving pizza and sandwiches, first opened at 2600 Crystal Drive in 2010. Nearly a decade later, the restaurant is moving to the opposite corner of the street where it will have room for an expansive dining room and bar.

“Honestly, we outgrew our shoebox of a store from day one. We never had room for more than three tabletops and six seats so our customers could never bank on getting a table,” said co-owner Mike Bozzelli.

Bozzelli also commented on the incoming arrival of Amazon’s new headquarters, noting it “factored into our decision making.”

“We welcome the advent of HQ2 and are extremely grateful for the community,” he said.

Bozzelli’s has four locations, including one in Springfield and another in D.C. Its menu features whole pizzas, including the “Mic Mac” topped with macaroni, mozzarella, cheddar, and peppers — along with sandwiches, salads, and desserts.

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Morning Notes

Labor Rule Violations Alleged at Temporary HQ2 Projects — “A union is charging that employers at six construction projects that will house Amazon employees or operations in Northern Virginia have evaded federal and state taxes by misclassifying workers, failing to carry workers’ compensation coverage and avoiding overtime pay.” [Washington Post]

Beyer Voting Yes on Impeachment — “The facts allow for no other interpretation: President Trump violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the laws. In order to cover up his offenses, he engaged in unprecedented obstruction of Congress’s oversight power and role as an equal branch of government.” [Press Release]

Voting Precinct Changes Planned — “Voters in two Arlington precincts will see their polling locations changed in 2020. Those in Overlee Knolls (Precinct 017) will move from the Reed School at 1644 North McKinley Road… Those in Rosslyn (Precinct 019) will move from 1911 Fort Myer Drive to the new H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program building.” [InsideNova]

How Arlington’s Streets Got Renamed — “If you harbor gripes that our county government gets too ambitious, consider an episode from the 1930s. In what probably ranks as the most disruptive Arlington project ever, our entire street grid was renamed.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Road Closures for Wreaths Across America — “The annual Wreaths Across America escort of handmade, balsam wreaths destined for Arlington National Cemetery will begin arriving in Arlington County on Friday… On Saturday, December 14th, several thousand volunteers will descend upon the Cemetery and help lay wreaths on every gravesite throughout the property beginning at 8 AM. The public can anticipate large crowds and heavy pedestrian traffic related to the event.” [Arlington County, YouTube]

Holiday Arts and Crafts Show in Crystal City This Weekend — “GRUMP is back for its 9th year, returning to The Shops at Crystal City at 2100 Crystal Drive. GRUMP Crystal City is where you can shop local from 50 exciting artists and makers and stop for a photo op with one of our many Yetis.” [Event Calendar]

Nearby: Police Warn of Abduction Attempt — “City of Falls Church Police are seeking a suspect in an attempted abduction… The suspect is wanted for questioning after he approached a juvenile outside of a grocery store and told the juvenile to leave with him. The suspect left when the juvenile’s mother returned.” [City of Falls Church]

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The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a funding agreement that would advance the proposed Crystal City-National Airport pedestrian connector to a preliminary design phase.

The county plans to use up to $9.5 million in federal funds for an environmental impact study and preliminary design work.

The design work is expected to be complex: figuring out how to connect pedestrians along Crystal Drive, and potentially the VRE station, with the airport Metro station — across active train tracks, the GW Parkway and National Park Service land.

“The goal of the project is to create an intermodal connection, focusing on pedestrian access from the core of the Crystal City business district to DCA,” says a county staff report. “The funding agreement allows the County to use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality federal funding, distributed through VDOT, to develop the required documents and level of design required for federally funded projects.”

“Although the terminals are less than 2,000 feet from Crystal Drive, current pedestrian access is a circuitous network of trails and road crossings that is difficult to traverse,” the report adds.

The project has been championed by the Crystal City Business Improvement District, which envisions a High Line-esque bridge, with park-like features. The primary goal, however, is to make it easy for people to get from Crystal City to the airport without a Metro or car trip — which is seen as an attractive amenity for office tenants and residents. The design work will determine whether a bridge or a tunnel is the best solution for that.

“This weekend’s Arlington County Board vote represents a key step towards advancing our vision for a bold new connection linking Virginia’s largest downtown and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport,” said Robert Mandle, Chief Operating Officer of the BID. “CC2DCA provides a unique opportunity to leverage existing transportation assets into a multi-modal hub, while also delivering a truly special and iconic piece of urban infrastructure.”

The state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board identified $9.5 million in federal funding in the wake of the Amazon HQ2 announcement. That’s on top of $500,000 in local funding previously allocated.

Once the funding is secured and this phase gets underway, the next phases for the Board to consider will be final design and construction. Last year a study by the BID estimated that construction would cost about $38 million, with annual maintenance fees of $100,000.

Map via Google Maps

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Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Any time Arlington County gets access to land within our 26 square miles is a cause for celebration. It also requires a firm commitment to make the best possible use of this extremely limited and valuable resource.

On December 14, the County Board may vote to acquire the benefit of a new piece of property just blocks from the Crystal City Metro Station. We need to make sure this opportunity isn’t undone by the cry for parking.

South Arlington’s Crystal House apartment complex, comprised of two 1960s-era high-rise buildings, is slated for infill development. The site plan will be on the County Board’s December 14 agenda.

The staff recommendation contains what Planning Commissioners called a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for achieving the Crystal City Zoning Ordinance’s affordable housing obligation. Instead of providing 47 units of committed affordable housing within the complex, Roseland is offering to convey one portion of their property, currently a surface parking lot, to the County. The understanding is that the County could develop this property with at least 81 units of committed affordable housing.

The benefits of this proposal are enticing.

First, by owning the land and working with an Affordable Housing developer, the County Board could create units that would remain affordable to low-income residents for 60 years, unlike the typical 30-year term for on-site affordable units within market-rate developments. Second, the location of this parcel at 22nd and Eads would provide excellent transportation access for the building’s residents. Third, by owning and developing the property, the County could provide a much-needed community facility for the 22202 ZIP code, in addition to the committed affordable housing, such as we see at Arlington Mill.

But these positive benefits are future opportunities that will require a commitment to realize. The only thing Arlington would get in the short-term is a surface parking lot. And it is a particularly contested parking lot. Business owners from the adjacent “23rd Street Restaurant Row” see these 96 spaces as the key to their business.

Any effort to build on the parking lot will continue to face pushback from the merchants. Roseland is offering this parcel not only to achieve bonus density on their site, but also to get out of the parking fight. By accepting the land, Arlington County is stepping into a battle that could stymie any effort to achieve affordable housing.

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