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(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Tacombi, a New York City-based taqueria chain, is expected to open in Crystal City in a couple of months.

The new spot will be located in the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square.” This recently redone property at 1550 Crystal Drive, owned by JBG Smith, has attracted a number of other retail options that have opened already or are set to open over the course of the year.

A CVS opened in February and hit NYC bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr opened in mid-June. Another location of the boutique gym, Solidcore, is set to open in August, according to a spokeswoman.

A spokesperson for Tacombi said Thursday that it expects to open its 3,000 square-foot space in Crystal City in September.

“All of our taquerias are bright, open and airy spaces where guests can enjoy warm hospitality and a menu with selections from different regions throughout Mexico,” she said. “We look forward to bringing a little piece of this incredible country to our new friends in Arlington, and to swinging open our taqueria doors this fall.”

Tacombi got its start on the beaches of Yucatan, Mexico. The owner sold tacos from a Volkswagen Bus and eventually opened his first taqueria in the mid-2000s in New York City. Nine other locations have since opened in NYC.

These openings are happening amid a handful of other openings in Miami and Queens, the spokeswoman said. The taqueria will cement its presence in the D.C. area with a Bethesda location also set to open in September.

“We were drawn to Crystal City’s evolving identity and to its own journey from a largely-industrial zone in the sixties to today’s quickly developing community,” she said. “And while National Landing is part of a cosmopolitan world capital, it also maintains the neighborhood quality that best allows us to share authentic Mexican culture.”

The taqueria made headlines this year for its work during the pandemic feeding thousands of food-insecure New Yorkers.

Also coming to Central District Retail will be a thus-far unnamed grocery store, rumored to be a possible Amazon Fresh location. The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to Arlington County.

“JBG SMITH declines to comment,” a spokesperson for the property owner said when asked about it yesterday.

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With the Highlander Motor Inn in its final days, the 57-year-old motel was paid one last visit over the weekend by long-time fans.

About 100 members of the motorcycle club Boozefighters rolled up on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects to the place they’ve stayed and partied at every Memorial Day weekend since 1992 while participating in Rolling Thunder.

The Boozefighters were first founded in 1946 by World War II veterans.

“[The Highlander] let us get away with stuff that other hotels wouldn’t have,” says Jeff Thompson, president of the Falls Church chapter of the Boozefighters. “Wonderful memories. It was important for us to say goodbye.”

In honor of the Boozefighters’ long-time patronage of the Arlington motel, they will be getting the iconic neon sign that has welcomed passersby on Wilson Blvd. The sign will come down next week, owner Billy Bayne confirms, at which point the club will take it to their museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

For decades over Memorial Day weekend, Highlander Motor Inn was the site of hundreds of motorcycles and veterans from around the country, barbequing and reminiscing in the parking lot.

Bayne — who also owns the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club — says the group rented the motel every year and it was a “big party,” which the hotel was happy to host.

Rolling Thunder ended its annual D.C. rally in 2019, and this year is set to meet at a New Jersey 4-H fairground.

CVS was expected to take possession of the Highlander and begin demolition this month, but that has been delayed. According to Bayne, April 13 is now the new target date for this to happen.

Bayne’s family operated the motel since the early 1960s, before shuttering it earlier this year. Bayne still owns the land the motel sits on.

One of the Highlander’s last acts was as temporary COVID-related housing. In April 2020, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services rented out the entire motel to provide quarantine and isolation space for low-income individuals living in overcrowded or congregate settings.

Beyond keeping the sign, members of the Boozefighters were allowed to spray paint and ride their bikes inside of the motel, as well as take a few other mementos.

“Only because it’s being torn down,” Jackie Bayne, Billy Bayne’s sister, told ARLnow. She dubbed the raucous sendoff “The Highlander Swan Song.”

Thompson says said he kept a room key, a key chain, and the number off of the door of the room he’s stayed in for the last 20 years.

“I’m very sad to see it go,” he said. “Billy and Jackie were such gracious hosts. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this at any other hotel.”

 

 

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Photos courtesy of Boozefighters Falls Church chapter/Simon Vansteyn

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(Updated at 9:35 p.m.) A new CVS Pharmacy is open at the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square,” in Crystal City.

The store opened on Sunday, Feb. 28, a JBG Smith spokesperson confirmed. It is part of a major redevelopment that the property owner has planned for a block of Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th streets.

In 2018, the County Board approved the project, which JBG says will blend retail, public spaces and transit services.

Signage appears to now be up for two more occupants: Mah-Ze-Dahr, a bakery said to have some of New York City’s best doughnuts, as well as a yet-unnamed specialty grocery store. The first D.C. outpost of the NYC bakery opened in Navy Yard in the fall.

JBG once more declined to comment on which grocer will be filling the space. Permits indicate that the store will offer prepared foods like packaged salads, sandwiches, entrees and soups, as well as various beverages. The permits further specify that the store will have “self app check-out.”

A spokesperson previously confirmed that the specialty grocer will sell produce, meats and poultry, frozen foods and baked goods. Taken as a whole, the concept sounds similar to that of Amazon Fresh stores, a new bricks-and-mortar retail offering of the tech giant, which is currently constructing its HQ2 up the street.

The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to the county. The new one-story retail area will replace a 1990s-era strip and will link the grocery store to a planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater at 1750 Crystal Drive.

The theater chain recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but a company spokesman tells ARLnow the planned Crystal City location is owned by a franchisee “which has not filed for bankruptcy.”

“There are no changes to its development plans at 1750 Crystal Drive,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, outposts of New York City taco chain Tacombi and the boutique fitness gym Solidcore — which has existing locations in Courthouse and Ballston — are still on track to open in the area.

A spokeswoman for Solidcore confirmed that the gym is slated to open this summer.

“Central District Retail will enhance the street-level experience with new dining, shopping and entertainment options on Crystal Drive,” Amy Rice, senior vice president of Retail Leasing at JBG Smith, previously told ARLnow in a statement. “It will serve as the retail heart of National Landing and a vibrant destination for people throughout the region.”

Photo (2) courtesy Car-Free#HQ2/Twitter

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For those Arlingtonians still waiting to get their vaccination, the list of options for getting it is growing.

While getting vaccinated through the county remains an option for all currently eligible groups, residents 65 and older have a lengthening list of stores at which they can receive the vaccine.

Thanks to federal partnerships, some local locations of Giant, CVS, Walgreens, Safeway and Harris Teeter are now offering no-cost vaccine appointments separate from Arlington County’s health department.

At this time, exact locations are only known for Giant and Safeway.

Giant 

Safeway

Appointments remain hard to come by, however, even as the one-dose Johnson & Johnson begins to roll out. Vaccine supply in the state remains limited, though it’s increasing.

The Virginia Department of Health tells ARLnow that more than 80,000 doses are being given to retail pharmacies statewide — an increase from last month.

The 69,000 J&J vaccine doses announced last week started coming in yesterday, VDH confirms, and clinics across the state are expecting to start using it today (Friday). Arlington is planning to vaccinate 1,500 people at a mass vaccination clinic at the Lubber Run Community Center tomorrow.

Virginia and Arlington County are both currently in Phase 1b, meaning those 65 or over and those with 16 to 64 with underlying medical conditions are eligible to receive the vaccine.

Statewide, it’s estimated that up to half of the population is currently eligible for the vaccine. Around 27,500 Arlingtonians have received at least one dose, per VDH data.

The challenges for retail pharmacies are the same as for localities: demand is still far outpacing supply.

Last month, CVS began offering vaccine appointments at its local stores for those 65 or over. Currently, 41 CVS pharmacies are offering the vaccine in Virginia with appointments booked through their website.

However, there’s only one location in Arlington (an exact address is not provided) and, at last check, appointments are “fully booked.”

CVS spokesperson Amy Thibault tells ARLnow that “roughly 41,580 appointments” per week available at the 41 locations statewide. Basic math says that’s about 1,000 appointments per store per week.

Most of them are using the Moderna vaccine.

“In most (if not all) states, the number of individuals who are eligible to receive the vaccine under the state’s rules far outnumber the state’s available doses,” Thibault said.

She also noted that CVS is receiving a “one-time allocation” of 212,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine this week which will be spread across their stores in 17 states.

Scheduling for that began Thursday on the CVS website and administering begins today.

The two Arlington Giant locations are also offering vaccines to those 65 or over, but no appointments are currently available either according to the grocery chain’s online scheduler.

Giant vaccine appointment system (Photo via screenshot)

Giant spokesperson Daniel Wolk tells ARLnow the number of appointments depends on the vaccine doses received and can fluctuate.

“The number is changing daily based on the total amount sent to us,” he writes. “We hope to increase the appointments as time goes by but it all depends on how much vaccine we receive.”

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Morning Notes

Another Snowstorm on the Way? — “Confidence is growing in a messy mix of wintry precipitation in the Washington region Thursday, the latest in a parade of wintry weather events since late January… Parts of the region could see significant amounts of snow and/or ice before a possible change to rain. The precipitation, which may be heavy at times, is likely to continue into Thursday night or very early Friday morning.” [Washington Post]

More Details on Pike CVS Development — “Last summer, the public caught wind of upcoming plans to redevelop the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Now… [a] rezoning application has been filed to apply Columbia Pike-specific zoning to the property at 2601 Columbia Pike (map) in order to deliver The Elliott, a six-story building with 248 apartments with a new CVS pharmacy and a grocery store on the ground floor.” [Urban Turf]

Equinox Isn’t Coming to Clarendon — “An affiliate of Regency Centers Corp. has sued an affiliate of upscale fitness chain Equinox for more than $20 million for allegedly pulling the plug on a planned location at the Market Common retail center… Clarendon Regency IV LLC sued Equinox Clarendon Inc. in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in mid-November for breaching the terms of its lease for space on the first and second floors of the nearly 68,500-square-foot building at 2801 Clarendon Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Capitol Police Officer Died in Arlington — “Smith returned to the police clinic for a follow-up appointment Jan. 14 and was ordered back to work, a decision his wife now questions… Police found him in his cherished Ford Mustang, which had rolled over and down an embankment along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, near a scenic overlook on the Potomac River. He was the second police officer who had been at the riot to take his own life.” [Washington Post]

Reaction to Senate Trump Vote — Arlington’s Congressional delegation expressed disappointment with the acquittal of former President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial. Said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): “A bipartisan majority of Senators voted today to send a clear message to future presidents that conduct of this nature is impeachable, intolerable and disqualifying. When the history books on this moment are written, I believe that judgment will be clear.” [Blue Virginia]

Solving Arlington’s Hunger Problem — “The pandemic has made it harder for many Americans to feed their families. After the COVID-19 outbreak, Arlington’s Department of Human Services estimated nearly 16,000 residents needed food assistance. Now the Capital Area Food Bank estimates 26,000 are at risk of hunger in Arlington. County leaders have a plan to help.” [WJLA]

Southwest Air ‘Love’ Story at DCA — “And of course, there’s the inspiring story of Reecie and Imani. Reecie met Imani in 2018 after Imani requested that her plane return to the gate [at Reagan National Airport] before taking off. Imani was the maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding, but she was too nervous to fly.” [Twitter]

Jenna Bush’s Worst Date Happened in Arlington — “Hoda Kotb asked Jenna about her worst first date ever and boy, did the story deliver. ‘My worst first date involved the Secret Service, let’s just leave it at that,’ Jenna said, laughing…. She explained that they were in Arlington, Virginia, where her now-husband was living at the time. He had realized he was running out of fuel, so he tried to get to a corner gas station that was up a slight hill. ‘He started to go up the hill and then booooop, crash.'” [Today Show]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) CVS locations in Virginia, including in Arlington, will start administering COVID-19 vaccines tomorrow (Friday).

CVS pharmacies across the Commonwealth are fully booked with appointments, which are for now open to residents 65 and older.

More from a Virginia Dept. of Health press release (link added by ARLnow):

VDH worked closely with CVS over the last week to ensure that the CVS system follows Virginia’s priority guidelines and to provide an advance opportunity for eligible individuals already registered on VDH waiting lists. However, due to technological limitations with their national appointment system, CVS is unable to reserve appointments for pre-registered individuals. Virginia will continue to work towards a solution in partnership with other participating states and the federal government.

The federal program will supplement existing vaccination programs by providing 26,000 more vaccines to Virginians. CVS is the first of Virginia’s pharmacy partners in the federal pharmacy partnership to move forward with vaccinations. More pharmacies and more locations are expected to start vaccinating patients in the future.

The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program for COVID-19 Vaccination is a public-private partnership, between pharmacy companies and the federal government. Pharmacy companies receive vaccines directly from the federal government through the partnership program. Initially, the federal government asked states to limit distribution to one pharmacy chain partner. CVS Health is the initial pharmacy partner for the program in Virginia.

The appointment for the second vaccination will be made when the first vaccination appointment is scheduled. Those without online access can contact CVS Customer Service at (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided.

Those who were unable to book appointments, when CVS unexpectedly opened vaccine registration early, described the process as “really frustrating.”

With county-run vaccinations still constrained by limited supply from the state, the CVS vaccinations promise to provide a bit of a relief valve amid high demand in Arlington, which has the highest percentage of residents willing to be vaccinated in the country, at 92%.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and leaders in the District and Maryland, meanwhile, are pushing the federal government to vaccinate more D.C. area federal employees.

Vaccinations in Arlington are continuing apace, with an additional 651 doses reported to have been administered, for a cumulative total of 12,440 doses, in the latest figures from the Virginia Dept. of Health. The seven-day moving average is 888 doses per day in the county.

The figures for second doses, a measure of completed vaccinations, have been rising. At the current rate of second administered doses, Arlington’s entire adult population would be fully vaccinated in 533 days, a number that has continued to fall over the past several weeks.

County officials say that, as of last week, Arlington’s health department has administered 10,184 first doses of 11,425 received, as well as 1,037 second doses of 3,300 received.

An Arlington Public Health spokeswoman emphasized that those with vaccination appointments should not show up early, to help prevent the kind of lines seen during vaccination events this past weekend.

“We have individuals arriving an hour or more ahead of their appointment times,” the spokeswoman said.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Confusion Over CVS Vaccine Reservations — “The confusion began early Tuesday morning, with people reaching out to ABC7 to express their frustration over the COVID-19 vaccine registration process at CVS pharmacies in Virginia. ‘They didn’t do what they said they were going to do, and it’s just really frustrating,’ said Roxanne Grandis, who’s been trying to make vaccine appointments for her elderly parents.” [WJLA]

Some Kudos For County Vaccination Effort — “Virginia’s been struggling for weeks to administer vaccine doses. Out of the 1.38 million doses the Commonwealth received, officials only injected 1.1 million. That’s roughly 80%. Meanwhile, Arlington County is setting the standard at 97%. How did they do it? With other areas struggling, how did Arlington Public Health succeed on all levels? Local officials say it’s been a team effort.” [The Dogwood]

Chase Young’s Arlington Connection — “Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young, whose father was in law enforcement, testified before the Maryland House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, expressing support for police reform… Young, named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year on Saturday, grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, but his father spent 22 years as a police officer in Arlington, Virginia.” [ESPN]

Arlington Man Running for Governor — “Another Northern Virginia executive is joining the Republican race for governor. Peter Doran of Arlington said Tuesday he is seeking this year’s GOP gubernatorial nomination. It is his first run for office.” [Associated Press]

Arlington Dems Eye High Rises — “Mid-rise and high-rise living represents a large swath of the Arlington population, and ‘many of them are inaccessible to outside groups,’ said Carol Fontein, who heads the robust precinct-operations efforts of Arlington Democrats. As a result, the party aims to recruit those living in multi-family complexes to help with outreach – within the limits set by owners of the properties.” [InsideNova]

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An unnamed specialty grocery store and Mah-Ze-Dahr, a bakery said to have some of New York City’s best doughnuts, are two of the businesses coming to Crystal City as part of a major redevelopment.

JBG Smith is giving a block of Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th streets — also known as “Crystal Square” — a facelift and a new name: Central District Retail. The redevelopment, approved by the County Board in 2018, will blend retail, public spaces and transit services, according to the developer’s website.

“Central District Retail will enhance the street-level experience with new dining, shopping and entertainment options on Crystal Drive,” Amy Rice, senior vice president of Retail Leasing at JBG Smith, said in a statement. “It will serve as the retail heart of National Landing and a vibrant destination for people throughout the region.”

The specialty grocery store in Central District Retail will have produce, meats and poultry, frozen foods, baked goods and prepared foods, Justina Lombardo, a PR rep for JBG Smith, said. At 15,000 square feet, it’s more the size of a Trader Joe’s than a full-service Giant, for instance.

Through Lombardo, JBG declined comment on which grocer will be filling the space.

The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to the county. The new one-story retail area will replace a 1990s-era strip and link the grocery store to a planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater at 1750 Crystal Drive.

According to permits filed with Arlington County, Central District Retail is also getting the second Washington, D.C.-area location of Mah-ze-Dahr. The popular New York City bakery serves brioche-style doughnuts and other baked goods endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Founder Umber Ahmad, a former Goldman Sachs executive, opened the first D.C. location in Navy Yard this September.

Permits also indicate that Crystal City will get a CVS, what appears to be an outpost of New York City taco chain Tacombi, and the boutique fitness gym Solidcore, which has locations in Clarendon and Buckingham.

There will also be a retail shop that will sell packaged salads, sandwiches and soups.

It’s unclear when the new shops and restaurants might open.

“The first phase of Central District Retail has been delivered to tenants for build-out,” Lombardo said. “JBG Smith typically defers to tenants on their individual timelines.”

The overall goal is to continue turning Crystal City into a neighborhood that’s more than just a 9-5 destination for office workers.

“The project’s purpose is to turn the area into a vibrant gathering spot — complete with approachable and comfortable retail, an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, dynamic public spaces, and a new entrance and public plaza for the Crystal City Metro station,” says JBG Smith’s project information website. “Central District will create a sense of community and bring a true neighborhood feel to Crystal City.”

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The new CVS Pharmacy in Shirlington is opening over Labor Day weekend.

The store at 4060 Campbell Avenue, in the Village at Shirlington, is set to open this Sunday, Sept. 6.

The space was previously occupied by the now-closed Ping by Charlie Chiang’s and by Cheesetique, which relocated to a larger storefront in Shirlington.

The 10,906-square-foot CVS has been in the works for about a year. Its outdoor signage features a big red heart facing the corner of Campbell Avenue and S. Randolph Street.

The store will be open from 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 8 a.m.-9 p.m., according to the company’s website.

 

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The front of a CVS store along Columbia Pike was smashed overnight in what police say was a burglary attempt.

The driver of a car ran into the entrance to the store near Penrose Square, at 2601 Columbia Pike, in the wee hours of the morning. It’s unclear if anything was stolen. The vehicle was found abandoned nearby and the suspect remains at large.

“At approximately 3:32 a.m. on June 2, police were dispatched to the report of a single vehicle crash into a building,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report. “The vehicle fled the scene prior to police arrival but was located unoccupied in the 2600 block of 12th Street S. At the time of the report, it was unknown if anything was stolen from the business. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.”

This morning customers could be seen doing their shopping inside the store, despite the mangled entrance.

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Shirlington restaurant Aroma Indian Cuisine is planning to reopen later this month, immediately adjacent to the carved-out husk of its old space.

The new Aroma at 4044 Campbell Avenue — where Hula Girl Bar and Grill was until it closed in September — is nearly complete, manager Jose Rios told ARLnow. Rios said the plan is for the restaurant to open sometime around Tuesday, Jan. 21.

The new bar will have a totally different alcohol setup, with a full counter for seating, Rios said, and a few new dishes are being added to the menu, though that hasn’t been finalized yet.

Aroma was one of several restaurants on the corner of Campbell Avenue and S. Randolph Street that moved or closed to make way for a new CVS. Ping by Charlie Chiang’s, the restaurant on the corner, closed in 2018 while Cheesetique moved to a larger location down the block at 4024 Campbell Avenue.

Construction is still underway inside the 10,906 square-foot space, but Rios said the CVS is scheduled to open sometime this spring.

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