Construction of an approved residential development at the Rappahannock Coffee site on Columbia Pike is on hold for now.
The approved six-story, 120-unit building with ground-floor retail and underground parking would replace three one-story retail buildings and a surface parking lot on the southeast corner of the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Barton Street, at 2400 Columbia Pike.
Yao Yao, with YW Development, told ARLnow that his firm isn’t going to pursue redevelopment at this time, citing high and climbing interest rates and a generally poor economic outlook — including mixed signals of a looming recession.
Instead, he is looking for a new tenant to fill the vacant retail space next to Rappahannock Coffee and Roasting and generate some income before moving forward with the project. It used to be occupied by Cabinet Era before the business moved to Falls Church.
Leasing agent Erik Ulsaker says the space will work as-is for a temporary retail concept. Any tenant would have to be okay with a termination option if, in three to four years, economic conditions improve and it comes time to build.
“This is a good space for startups, and people who want to get going on their business plans,” he said, adding that he and his business partner “welcome creative ideas,” like pop-ups.
“If it goes over well, it could be put into the development, as we’ve got 16,000 square feet of retail on the back end,” he said. “It’s a good way to test the market.”
YW Development’s proposal went before the Arlington County Board last year. It modified an existing, already-approved proposal for the site by adding 6,500 square feet, 15 residential units and 36 parking spaces while preserving existing building facades.
The long-delayed project — first proposed in 2013, approved in 2016 and pushed back in 2020 — was initially led by Columbia Pike-based B.M. Smith, which was behind the Penrose Square development across the street.
Hat tip to John Antonelli
An end date is in sight for construction work around the Ballston Metro station.
After two years of navigating the active work site and catching the bus from temporarily relocated stops, transit riders could have access to the updated transit facilities and adjacent public areas sometime next month.
“Right now we have our sights on completion in late October,” said Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.
Over the course of four phases, Arlington County aimed to improve the experience of waiting for a bus, getting dropped off by a car, and walking and cycling around the transit hub. The project added:
- New bus shelters, sidewalks, landscaped planters and benches
- More bike parking
- An expanded public space along Fairfax Drive
- A dedicated “kiss-and-ride” curb space
- A dedicated shuttle bus curb space and bus shelter
- Bus stop flag poles
- Real-time bus information displays
Construction on the four-phase project started in June 2020 and was expected to end in November 2021. But a half dozen “unforeseen conditions” came up during construction, delaying completion by nearly a year, according to a county report.
Before it can sign off on the project, the county says the following three intersections need to be repaved “due to design changes and unforeseen utility work,” per the report.
- Fairfax Drive and N. Stuart Street
- Fairfax Drive and N. Stafford Street
- 9th Street N. and N. Stuart Street
This will cost about $249,000, bringing the total cost of the project to around $5.7 million. The Arlington County Board is set to review a request to authorize this additional spending during its meeting on Saturday.
Contingency funding approved in the initial budget covered the cost of the other surprises. Staff said electric and telecom lines along Fairfax Drive had to be relocated and it took longer than expected to get Dominion Energy to remove existing street light poles.
The underground Metro platform and garages were also closer to the surface than staff initially estimated. To avoid hitting these structures, construction plans had to be updated and one planter had to be redesigned.
Other planters had to be remade because of how the site slopes, while additional pre-made planters had to be purchased because original estimates fell short.
A curb along N. Stafford Street needed to be realigned and a bus landing rebuilt to ensure getting on and off the bus was safe and accessible to people with disabilities.
Pors said county staff are looking forward to wrapping up.
“Obviously, we’re very excited for the completion of this project,” Pors said.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has also finalized where buses will depart from. The listed changes are set to go into effect this Sunday, Sept. 18:
1A to Vienna: Bay F
1B to Dunn Loring: Bay F
2A to Dunn Loring: Bay C
10B to Hunting Point: Bay G
22A to Pentagon: Bay G
23A, 23B, 23T to Shirlington/Crystal City: Bay H
23A, 23T to Tysons: Bay A
25B to Southern Towers/Mark Center: Bay D
38B to Farragut Square: Bay B
Meanwhile, the county is currently working to design proposed west entrance to the Ballston Metro station, located at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, almost a quarter of a mile west of the existing entrance.
Arlington has sought alternative funding sources to cover the ballooning cost of the project, which it attributes to inflation and having more complete designs.
Some transit advocates have argued that funding for the section entrance should be redirected to cheaper upgrades with greater impact, such as sidewalks, protected bike lanes and dedicated bus lanes.
The County Board meeting scheduled for tonight is being delayed by one day.
The Board’s annual new year organizational meeting serves mostly as the appointment of a new chair and vice chair, and an opportunity for members to give speeches about their goals for the year ahead.
The meeting has been rescheduled “due to inclement weather.” It’s now set to be held Tuesday night, along with a scheduled meeting with the Arlington Civic Federation.
“The Organizational Meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 4, 2022 at 6:00pm, followed by the Meeting with the Arlington Civic Federation,” the county announced Monday morning.
Two years since Henry Clay Park in Lyon Park closed for renovations, the since-renamed Zitkala-Ša Park is on the verge of reopening.
Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation is aiming to open the park by Friday, more than a year after its initial target reopening date. That will be a relief for neighbors, who have been peppering ARLnow with emails asking when it will finally open back up.
A parks department spokeswoman said the construction delays are related to the pandemic and the supply chain disruptions it has caused.
“Zitkala-Sa in particular has suffered heavily from the pandemic causing fabrication and material delivery delays, specifically we waited an extended duration for playground equipment to be manufactured and shipped and for the playground surfacing materials to be shipped to the site,” DPR’s Susan Kalish tells ARLnow. “Once those were in hand progress on addressing many of the smaller details that are not readily apparent to casual observers has progressed steadily. We anticipate the park to open by October 1.”
Earlier this year the parks department also cited weather-related delays. At the time the department was hoping the park would open by July, which would have been one year behind the initial expected completion date of July 2020.
Upgrades to the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets include a new basketball court, play structures, a picnic shelter, and upgraded fencing and landscaping. Last year Henry Clay Park was officially renamed after Zitkala-Ša, an Indigenous rights activist who lived near the park.
Kalish said a grand opening celebration will likely be scheduled for mid-October. There will also be a private ceremony for the family of the late County Board member Erik Gutshall, who lived nearby and for whom a memorial plaque is being placed at the park.
Washington Gas’s customer service, or reported lack thereof, has prompted a flood of calls to Virginia’s utilities regulator.
The State Corporation Commission tells ARLnow that its utilities regulation division is receiving upwards of 30 calls a day from Virginians who say they can’t reach the Washington Gas customer service call center or are experiencing long wait times.
“This is unusual,” said Ken Schrad, the director of the SCC’s Division of Information Resources. “Typically, the division averages only about 40 a month, two-three per day, involving Washington Gas… And, that would include all matters brought to the division’s attention, including bill disputes, not just the current problem regarding the inability to get through to the company.”
Virginia’s largest natural gas local distribution company, in terms of customers served, has been the subject of a flood of complaints on social media, in internet forums, tips to ARLnow, and a letter sent to PoPville. Those affected include people moving, who who need services started or stopped and and worry about having the ability to cook and take hot showers in their new homes or getting charged for gas at their old residence.
Send me your stories here about your customer service experience @washingtongas and I will make sure head of corporate communications Brian Edward’s and all the people @wglenergy hear all about it. I almost miss @PGE4Me, which is saying a lot.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) August 10, 2021
The delays appear to be tied to staffing shortages in Washington Gas’s call center. In response to ARLnow’s request for comment, Washington Gas, which also serves D.C. and Maryland, said it is addressing these shortages while rolling out new ways to connect with customer service workers.
“Washington Gas apologizes to our customers who continue to have difficulty reaching our call center over the last few months. We know that we have not met our customers’ expectations or our own high standards of service,” Washington Gas spokesman Bernie Tylor said.
These shortages made moving more stressful for Jesse Croft, who relocated from Ballston to the Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhood while pregnant and caring for two young children. She said she called Washington Gas about a dozen times trying to set up service, and at one point, she spent three hours on hold, having to hang up because she had to take a work call.
“It is truly shocking that they operating like this,” she said. “Not to mention, it appears to have been going on since at least last December. How have they not hired more customer service reps or an outside company to help?”
Another ARLnow tipster expressed similar frustrations with the two- to five-hour call center wait times required to set up gas.
“People are resorting to tweeting them or sending them messages on Facebook,” the individual said. “If this was a random business, that is one thing, but this is the area’s only provider of gas service! They really need some press shined on this!”
Hundreds of customers are able to use the website to start and stop service, Tylor said. But, certain circumstances require additional review of an address and customer service intervention.
“In these instances, customers have experienced excessive hold times,” he said, adding that the volume of requests via Facebook and Twitter has “strained our resources as well.”
That happened to one person whose address wasn’t being recognized in the company’s new system. In a thread on the online forum D.C. Urban Moms and Dads, the poster described trying Twitter and Facebook, and being ready to show up at the gas company’s D.C. office: “I’m desperate… I’m ready to throw my phone out of the window.”
Another poster said that during a call with Washington Gas, the company “blamed [the delays] on COVID and said lots of people were out sick, or no longer working for them, or something dumb like that.”
The SCC said a contributing factor could be a recent change to a third-party customer service provider.
“Staff is aware that the company recently changed its third-party provider to perform both the non-emergency and emergency call center functions and the transition may be contributing to the delays customers are experiencing,” he said.
Board Advertises Property Tax Rates — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to advertise no increase in the Calendar Year 2021 base real estate property tax rate, citing the toll the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is taking on residents. The Board also voted to advertise a proposed Stormwater tax rate of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed real property value to fund the full cost of operations and planned capital improvements to the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood mitigation… The estimated annual impact for the average household with an assessed home value of $724,400 is $123.” [Arlington County]
Snow Falling in Arlington — Updated at 9:10 a.m. — Snow is falling in Arlington, which is just outside of a newly-expanded expanded Winter Weather Advisory. Be careful out there! [Twitter]
Business Owners Talk About Burglaries — “Metry describes the Bluemont neighborhood where his business was burglarized as safe. He doesn’t understand why his business was targeted. ‘The whole register, the iPad, the square scan, all of this was missing,’ Metry said. Surveillance footage captured at neighboring restaurant La Union shows the burglars wearing dark clothing, hoodies, masks and gloves. Jose Zelaya has owned the Mexican restaurant La Union for 21 years. Aside from a random car break-in, he said he’s never experienced any crime like this.” [WUSA 9]
St. Patrick’s Pie at Clarendon Pizzeria — “Colony Grill, Clarendon’s new family-friendly tavern, known for its gracious hospitality and famous ‘hot oil’ bar-style pizzas, will serve a special corned beef & cabbage “Bar Pie”… [f]rom Friday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 17.” [Press Release]
Reminder: Trash Collection Delayed a Day — Due to ice and snow last week, Friday’s residential waste collection will be completed today, shifting this week’s collection schedule by one day. [ARLnow]
Ice and snow has prompted another day without residential waste collection in Arlington, and that will have a ripple effect for residents next week.
“Due to icy road conditions and crew safety concerns, there will be no trash/recycling/yard waste curbside collection today,” Arlington County said this morning.
As a result of the delays, the trash collection schedule for next week will shift back by a day.
“Thursday’s route will now be completed on Saturday, 2/20,” the county said. “Friday’s route will be completed on Monday, 2/22, which will shift next week’s collection schedule by one day next week… Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”
The county’s collection service serves mostly single-family homes; apartments and condos are served by private haulers.
Table via Arlington County
HQ2 Employment Up 50% in Two Months — “Less than two months into the new year and Amazon.com Inc. says it has more than 600 employees at its second headquarters — a fairly significant staffing jump considering there were some 400 employees there as of late December.” [Washington Business Journal]
Construction Progress at DCA — “It’s happening: Reagan National’s nightmarish Gate 35X at Terminal C will soon be demolished. Construction is underway for Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s Project Journey, which will bring a new concourse to the north end of the airport and add new security checkpoints for Terminal B/C.” [NBC 4, DCist]
Fire Alarm Delays DCA Flights By 30 Minutes — “Flights have resumed and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) controllers have returned and continued tower operations after a control tower was evacuated to investigate a sprinkler alarm activation Wednesday.” [WJLA]
Food Delivery Driver Robbed in Claremont — “At approximately 11:04 a.m., the victim, who was operating as a food delivery driver at the time of the incident, exited his vehicle to make a delivery and was approached by three male suspects. The suspects demanded the victim provide them with the contents of the delivery, then attempted to assault him. The suspects stole the delivery and fled on foot.” [Arlington County]
Property Owner Goes 100% Renewable — “Brookfield Properties has added 100 percent clean, renewable power to six of its office buildings in Northern Virginia, with the new energy source going into effect this month… The changes are impacting three of the firm’s Arlington properties: Potomac Tower at 1001 19th St., 601 South 12th Street, and 701 South 12th Street.” [Commercial Observer]
Big Raise for Startup With Clarendon Office — “Carbon Relay and Insight Partners today announced a $63 million transaction to accelerate the growth of its Red Sky Ops solution for optimizing application performance in Kubernetes environments.” [Carbon Relay via Potomac Tech Wire]
‘Mr. Z’ Wins Award, Gets on TV — “The Virginia Department of Transportation has named an Arlington County crossing guard one of 2019’s Most Outstanding Crossing Guards. He’s one of only four in the state. Affectionately called Mister Z by faculty and students, Zeleke Taffesse says his smiling students make him feel younger every day. Taylor Elementary School is one of three schools he’s worked for.” [Local DVM]
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) Travelers flying in or out of Reagan National Airport should expect significant delays after an emergency landing and aircraft evacuation this morning.
Initial reports suggest that an American Airlines flight landed, declared an emergency and evacuated passengers on the tarmac after smoke filled the cabin. Emergency responders rushed to the scene but so far no significant injuries have been reported.
Dozens of flights are now delayed, waiting to take off or land from the busy airport.
“Due to… Aircraft Emergency, traffic is experiencing Gate Hold and Taxi delays between 46 minutes and 1 hour in length and increasing,” the Federal Aviation Administration said on its website as of 10:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, the airport tweeted that the incident had been cleared and flights were resuming.
More from social media:
@bshepler At approximately 9:40 a.m. Mon, American flight 5082, CRJ-200 jet aircraft from Tallahassee, landed at DCA then declared an emergency due to reports of smoke in the cabin. The aircraft came to a stop and evacuated passengers onto the airfield via the aircraft’s stairs.
— Charlie Bragale (@charlienbc) December 9, 2019
#DCA — flight delayed while departing aircraft cleared of passengers and cabin smoke. pic.twitter.com/kbuKa1o3dF
— Curtis Roberts (@RefractiveComm) December 9, 2019
Flying to @boston is a test in my patience. First the weather and now some sort of emergency evacuation has closed the airport. Prayers all is OK! #WAS #DCA #delays @dca pic.twitter.com/qDxZiItS9E
— Erin O'Brien Hawley (@erin_hawley) December 9, 2019
Inbound to DCA holding, I expect diversions might start soon if they haven't already. pic.twitter.com/CuYMoKSwYO
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) December 9, 2019
45 minutes of fuel left*
— Dennis Lennox (@dennislennox) December 9, 2019
An earlier incident involving an aircraft has been cleared and air traffic is resuming. Airlines are the best source of information on any changes to flight status. Thank you for your patience.
— Reagan Airport (@Reagan_Airport) December 9, 2019
Screen cap via Twitter/@glukianoff
(Updated at 5 p.m.) Some Arlington Transit (ART) riders are out of luck as transportation officials tell ARLnow that maintenance issues are cutting service.
The bus service shared today that ART routes 43, 45, 53, 87 would operate on “reduced service” and that at least three other lines (45 to S. Dinwiddie Street, 61 to N. Veitch Street, and 75 to N. Monroe Street) “will not operate.” The disruptions are due to a “mechanical issue,” according to social media posts.
Numerous delays and cancellations were also reported on Monday.
In October so far, the ART Alert Twitter account reported 76 times that buses missed their routes and 25 times the buses were late or ran reduced schedules. The vast majority of both types of issues were attributed to unspecified mechanical issues.
Due to mechanical issue ART 45 to S. Dinwiddie and Columbia Pike from Rosslyn Metro at 1:00 PM will not operate. We apologize for the inconvenience.
— ART Alert (@ART_Alert) October 29, 2019
A spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services (DES) — which oversees ART — told ARLnow that the service interruptions were not related to the ongoing Metrobus strike in Northern Virginia.
“The recent missed trips are due to bus maintenance issues,” said DES spokesman Eric Balliet. “ART’s service provider, National Express, is working to address these issues as soon as possible.”
“This is a temporary interruption and we are working side-by-side with the County to rectify these delays,” said a spokesman for the U.K.-based National Express Transit Corporation. “We will be back to full-service without reductions within 48-72 hours, and will continue to work with the County on delays that may be caused for any route that we serve.”
This is not the first time that mounting maintenance problems affected ART service.
In January, ART pointed to its bus aging fleet and a shortage of drivers and as reasons why some trips were going “missing.” Last June, ART service was also dogged with service delays and cancellations due to unspecified maintenance issues.
In the past, several buses’ brakes have failed, one bus with a reported check engine light issue overturned, and there were other major crashes. However, it’s not clear whether ART’s the latest maintenance woes are related to any of the past issues.
Back in May, a county survey found riders want more updates about their trips, and a recent study found ridership has continued to decline over the past three years.
ART 53 will operate with reduced service this morning. Details: https://t.co/8VHMnU8tow and click "Service Alerts"
— ART Alert (@ART_Alert) October 29, 2019
Due to Mechanical issues ART 61 to Veitch from N. Veitch st at 4:13 pm will not operate. We apologize for the inconvenience.
— ART Alert (@ART_Alert) October 29, 2019
(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) A potential opening date for Ballston Quarter’s revamped food court has arrived, but its new restaurants still aren’t open to diners.
Representatives for the overhauled Ballston Common mall previously told ARLnow that the new “Quarter Market” would open today (Wednesday). But barriers and signs still block off all entrances to the new, so-called “food hall.”
Several hungry would-be patrons arrived to make such a discovery as lunchtime neared today, only to be disappointed.
@BallstonQuarter @ARLnowDOTcom Many people trying to get to the food court that was reported to open today. Still all blocked off. Sad! https://t.co/S8tqCymcTh
— George Elias (@georgejelias) February 27, 2019
@BallstonQuarter I couldn’t find an open staircase or escalator. https://t.co/Fhf5v1asP3
— William McGovern (@B_Willly) February 27, 2019
Ballston Quarter’s Twitter account tweeted shortly afterward that the 14-restaurant food court will “begin to open within the next week,” pledging to announce the move on its social media channels.
Rachel Buckly, a public relations representative for Ballston Quarter developer Forest City, said late last week that Quarter Market would begin to open Feb. 27. Signs around the development have promised a February opening date for months.
Shortly after ARLnow published a story to that effect, Buckly reversed herself and wrote in an email that “the first restaurants will begin to open their doors at Quarter Market in early March.” But she did not answer questions about what prompted the sudden delay.
Signs around the property now merely list a “spring 2019” opening date for Quarter Market. (Spring starts March 20.)
This is far from the first delay the development’s experienced since it first neared opening late last year.
Initially, its backers promised to open some stores to the public in late October. But the proposed opening date came and went without any news on the mall’s status, before some stores finally opened in mid-November.
Plans for a new pedestrian bridge stretching over Wilson Blvd also encountered some construction delays last year. Workers mounted the bridge on its supports earlier this month, but it’s not quite ready for use just yet.