Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

HQ2 Business Boom Strains County — “A full year after Amazon.com Inc. announced that it would set up shop in Arlington, there’s little doubt the company has drawn the sort of surge in business and development interest that local leaders promised as they pursued HQ2 — but all of that activity has also put a strain on the local government as it prepares for the tech giant’s arrival.” [Washington Business Journal]

Tour of Amazon’s Temporary Crystal City Office — “Amazon almost has 200 employees working in leased space in @ArlingtonVA, with more on the way.” [WJLA, Twitter]

‘National Landing’ Name Falls Flat — “It’s been one year since the HQ2 announcement, and with it the coordinated airdrop of the name, ‘National Landing,’ on an unsuspecting and bewildered population… So has National Landing stuck? Not really, at least among the common people, according to the folks I interviewed.” [Washington Business Journal]

Amazon Adjacent Real Estate Skyrockets — “The median home price in the 22202 ZIP code, which encompasses all of HQ2, was $815,000 in October. That’s about a 51% year-to-date increase or a $275,000 difference, according to data provided by MarketStats by ShowingTime, based on listing activity from Bright MLS.” [Washington Business Journal, WTOP]

Housing Affordability Increasing? — “With mortgage rates at a three-year low and a healthy job market, housing affordability rose to its highest level in three years in the third quarter of 2019… for the Washington area, high incomes helped to offset the pricey cost of housing, with the resulting regional opportunity index higher than the national average.” [InsideNova]

County Pleased With Water Main Break Response — “How well did Arlington County in Virginia think it handled the water main break that triggered a boil water advisory for more than 100,000 customers in the county and parts of Northwest D.C.? Pretty well, it seems.” [WTOP]

New American Legion Bridge Coming — “Commuters heading to and from Maryland on the Beltway may see some relief from the constant traffic woes. The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced an agreement Tuesday morning that would see the construction of a new American Legion Bridge.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Morning Notes

Renegade Opening Today — “The Renegade, the new two-story coffee shop, restaurant, and live music venue from chef Patrick Crump is opening this Thursday, Oct. 24 at 3100 Clarendon Blvd. in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Hoskins Questions Amazon’s Arlington Location — “[Fairfax County Economic Development Authority CEO Victor] Hoskins helped land corporate giant Amazon for Arlington, but now says the company probably should have located in Fairfax County, with its larger, more diverse, pro-business environment. The county’s 120 million-square-foot office market is three times larger than Arlington’s, he noted.” [InsideNova]

ACFD Collects Supplies for Shelters — “More than 1600 pounds of supplies for shelter animals have been collected by Arlington County firefighters in the past four years in what has been dubbed ‘Operation Firepaws,’ with the donations going to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.” [WJLA]

Nats Rally at Long Branch ES on TV — “The students and teachers at Long Branch Elementary School in Arlington, Virginia [were] showing off their Natitude” during a rally on Wednesday. The Nats won big last night, by the way. [Fox 5]

Century-Old Sentinel Gets Big Welcome at DCA — “This morning we welcomed Jack, the oldest living retired Sentinel at 100 years young, on a special trip to DC to see his name posted on a plaque of the Wall of Honor in the barracks. Jack danced his way off the flight and into everyone’s hearts.” [Twitter, CBS News]

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The Ballston Business Improvement District (BID) has rebranded to reflect the changes in the rapidly changing neighborhood.

Signs with the new black, white and orange logo — which includes a lowercase “B” in a map-pin shape — have been popping up around the neighborhood — along Fairfax Drive, Glebe Road and near the Ballston Metro station. More signs will be installed this week, a BID spokeswoman said.

The BID unveiled its new look during last week’s “Ballston Street Bash and Mega Market” festival. In some of its new marketing materials, the new BID logo is followed by its new slogan, “Life is Full.”

“‘Life is Full’ was strategically created to reflect the premier neighborhood’s significant growth as a true hub of the best of what the region has to offer for businesses and residents alike,” said the spokeswoman.

Over the last 18 months, the neighborhood has seen the opening of the renovated Ballston Quarter and Ballston Exchange retail centers, along with numerous new restaurants and other new businesses. New nightlife spots like Bronson and the future Quincy Hall, meanwhile, are helping to turn Ballston from a place where people mostly just live and work to a going-out destination, as well, local leaders say.

“With all the new developments and the completion of Ballston Quarter and Ballston Exchange, Ballston is now a 18-hour neighborhood,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone.

According to the BID, there are currently 60 restaurants and 15 fitness studios in Ballston, and 2,400 new apartments under development.

“Since we launched [the BID] seven years ago, we have been a rapidly developing neighborhood in one of the most thriving, sought-after cities in the U.S.,” said Leone. “It is time for our brand to reflect all that Ballston has to offer and to communicate that ‘life is full’ right here.”

In addition to the new signs, the BID’s new branding is now adorning the rear ad panels of Metrobuses that service the neighborhood.

The BID operates as a nonprofit, funded from a commercial property tax surcharge, serving Ballston businesses and residents via everything from community events to park maintenance. Upcoming projects proposed in the BID’s $1.5 million Fiscal Year 2020 budget include:

  • Establishing a digital business resource center in coordination with Arlington County and Arlington Economic Development.
  • Exploring collaboration opportunities between Ballston Quarter and the Washington Capitals.
  • Coordinating a Ballston holiday market.
  • Developing a landscaping and signage proposal for the Route 66 gateway on Fairfax Drive.
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Morning Notes

‘Moderate Drought’ in Arlington — “A significant lack of rainfall and unusual late season heat has led to flash drought conditions across a large portion of the area.” [Twitter]

Extended Closures Expected at Local Metro Stations — “The next round of work is scheduled to include platform repairs and other station upgrades at Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church, East Falls Church, West Hyattsville, Prince George’s Plaza, College Park and Greenbelt…. In summer 2021, Metro plans closures or long-term single tracking… at Arlington Cemetery on the Blue Line in Virginia; and Reagan National Airport on the Blue and Yellow Lines.” [WTOP]

MoCo Worried About Being Lapped By N. Va. — “Ten jurisdictions – Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties and Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park cities – are teaming up to market themselves to employers… If these jurisdictions can truly put aside their own rivalries and form a bona fide joint marketing authority, this will be a big problem for suburban Maryland – and especially Montgomery County.” [Bethesda Magazine]

Beyer Champions Ranked Choice Voting Bill — “‘Ranked choice voting can play a significant role in addressing our hyper-partisan, polarized political environment by discouraging negative campaigning and promoting majority support’ said Congressman Don Beyer about… the Ranked Choice Voting Act (HR 4464).” [Press Release]

Real Estate Investor Expects Rent Increases — “‘We believe Amazon’s decision to establish Northern Virginia as its East Coast headquarters location will drive significant future rent growth in nearby markets such as Falls Church and beyond,’ said Blackfin Co-Founder and managing partner Doug Root.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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A tech company specializing in the creation of blockchain software has selected Arlington County for its U.S. headquarters, beating out a competing bid from D.C.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced the economic development win today, saying that the company — Block.one — plans to create 170 new high-skill jobs in Arlington over the course of three years.

“The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Arlington County to secure the project for Virginia,” noted a press release from the governor’s office. “Governor Northam approved a $600,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist Arlington County with the project. The company is also eligible to receive a Major Business Facility Job Tax Credit for new, full-time jobs created.”

A press release from the company quotes the CEO as saying the region’s tech talent helped attract it to Arlington.

“We are excited to be setting up Arlington, Virginia as our U.S. headquarters,” said Block.one CEO Brendan Blumer. “The region boasts a rich combination of security, engineering, and IT skills that we seek, and its proximity to the nation’s capital positions us close to the policy innovation around digital assets and distributed ledger technology in the U.S.”

Though the prospect of even more high-paying jobs in Arlington, on top of the thousands on the way at Amazon’s new HQ2, may seem like a big win, it should be taken with a tiny grain of salt: the best-laid tech plans do not always pan out. The 1776 incubator that came to Crystal City in 2015 amid much fanfare is closing, for instance, and then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s announcement of 184 new jobs being added by tech firm Trustify has not borne fruit — the company is in bankruptcy and facing numerous lawsuits.

The full press release from the governor’s office is below, after the jump.

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Owners of mixed-use buildings in Arlington are struggling to find tenants for ground floor retail space, and instead have been seeking permission to fill the space with other uses.

The Arlington County Board will consider three such requests — from office buildings in Rosslyn and Ballston and Le Meridien Hotel in Rosslyn — at its meeting on Saturday.

“It is definitely a trend,” said Michael Smith, director of real estate at Bethesda-based retail strategy firm Streetsense. “We are at a point in time where we have a lot of retail space and a decreasing number of prospective tenants to fill those spaces.”

The owner of the Ballston Pointe building at 4300 Wilson Blvd (which once housed Ted’s Montana) is asking permission to convert its 2,132 square-foot ground floor space into a gym for residents and office space.

Likewise, Le Meridien seeks to convert its 900 square-foot retail space into offices, and the 1776 Wilson Blvd building in Rosslyn (home of Quinn’s and formerly of Kona) wants to cast a wider net for “retail equivalent” tenants like education organizations to fill its 22,829 square feet of unused retail space.

County staff wrote in a report to the Board that the Meridien vacancy is “due to a combination of design and location factors the site has not been a successful retail space” and in another report, that 1776 Wilson “cited difficulty retaining leases with tenants that meet the definition of retail.”

“Municipalities are trying to encourage ground floor retail environments to create sense of place, but the reality of it is that there is only so much of it going around,” said Streetsense’s Smith.

He cited millennials’ penchant for prioritizing experiences over things as one reason retail has been declining over the last decade — leaving fewer prospective tenants. Another problem with filling ground-floor retail space is that not all spaces nor streets are ideal areas to attract shoppers.

That contrasts with an aggressive, former Arlington County policy dubbed “retail everywhere,” which was replaced in 2015 with a more “curated” approach.

Restaurateurs have long bemoaned certain portions of the county, like the western side of Glebe Road in Ballston, as places businesses struggle. The old adage of “location, location, location” applies in Arlington, but sometimes it’s hard for businesses to figure out what will work in which places.

Smith said buildings in Arlington’s neighborhoods like Rosslyn, which is hillier and sleepier at night compared to places like Clarendon, typically have a harder time finding and keeping retailers. However, he noted the Rosslyn Business Improvement District’s community events and artwork are steps toward making the area more attractive to people and businesses.

“While we would all want our streets lined with beautiful boutiques or cafes, that’s just not the reality,” he said.

The County Board has issued approvals for retail space to be turned into alternatives like medical offices for years. Members have also OKed converting office space back to retail space, though that process is sometimes fraught.

An auction by East Falls Church bookstore One More Page recently generated discussion on whether the county also had an obligation to help ground floor retailers weather rising rents.

Smith said that government-led programs or economic incentives only make sense “if the numbers pan out and its win-win for everyone.”

“The best thing you can do is turn the faucet off, and put retail where it belongs,” he said.

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Morning Notes

Construction Underway on Hospital Expansion — “Shovels are in the ground and buildings are coming down as Virginia Hospital Center embarks on the nitty-gritty of a three-year, quarter-billion-dollar expansion effort.” [InsideNova]

Marymount Launches Intrapreneurship Initiative — “Marymount University’s School of Business and Technology (SBT) has launched an initiative to address one of the most significant talent gaps in the greater Washington region – a shortage of graduates who are prepared to use entrepreneurial skills to help employers grow and meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.” [Press Release]

Courthouse Office Building Sold — “Another Arlington office building has traded hands with the buyer citing Amazon HQ2 as a reason for optimism.  American Real Estate Partners, in partnership with Rockwood Capital, announced Tuesday it acquired the Arlington Plaza office building at 2000 15th St. North.” [Bisnow]

Metro Seeking Feedback on Bus Changes — “Metro is proposing service changes to selected bus routes based on input from customers and local governments, to increase on-time performance and ridership, and respond to planning studies and market changes.” Changes are proposed for the 3Y, 7F and 7Y routes. [WMATA]

Why Hoskins Left for Fairfax — “Victor Hoskins may be done working on Amazon HQ2 in Arlington County, but he’s certainly not done talking about it. The former head of Arlington Economic Development, in an interview with Bisnow, cited post-Amazon fatigue as one of the reasons he decided to leave and take a new job as CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. ” [Bisnow]

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Morning Notes

Ballston Burglar Busted — “At approximately 6:41 p.m. on September 15, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside her residence when she observed the male suspect allegedly approach the door to the residence and attempt to force entry, causing damage. The suspect attempted to flee on foot prior to police arrival. Officers located the suspect in the area and he was positively identified.” [Arlington County]

N. Va. Locales Team Up to Lure More Employers — “Prompted partly by the success in luring Amazon, 10 Northern Virginia jurisdictions have formed an alliance to market themselves as a region to attract other companies, especially those in the high-tech arena. Instead of trying to poach businesses from each other, or promote themselves at their neighbors’ expense, they will compete mainly as a group against other major metropolitan areas such as Boston and Silicon Valley.” [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]

Housing Discrimination Forum Planned — “A coalition of organizations will look at the history of housing discrimination in Arlington in an upcoming forum. ‘The Color of Housing: The History of Racism in Housing in Arlington’ will be held on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Wakefield High School.” [InsideNova]

N. Arlington Couple’s Nomadic Adventure — “Journalist Dan Kois and his wife, attorney Alia Smith, felt that their busy, comfortable existence in North Arlington was stifling true connections with their young daughters. So they did what some Washington parents only dream of: They moved far away. Then they moved again. And again.” [Washingtonian]

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As some indicators point toward another recession around the corner, local economists say Arlington would likely escape the brunt of a downturn.

The recession that kicked off after the country’s housing market collapsed in 2008 devastated communities and families nationwide. But experts say Arlington’s proximity to jobs and contracts from the federal government helped protect the county, and its growing business sector today may also help shield it from future recessions.

How the Great Recession Hit Arlington 

Alex Iams, the Interim Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED), said when it came to the last recession, Arlington was “the last in and the first out.”

“In the last recession Arlington fared pretty well from what I can see,” agreed George Morgan, a finance professor at Virginia Tech, in an interview. “It’s not to say that everything was rosy, but compared to other parts of the country, Arlington didn’t do so badly.”

“At least a third of the [local] economy originates with federal payroll or federal procurement spending or other government spending,” said Stephen Fuller, the high-profile professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason University, when asked what helped cushion Arlington during the collapse.

However, Morgan noted that office and multi-family developments saw “pretty dramatic effects” from the recession as he said some companies’ cash-flows dried up and projects were put on pause. That affected those in the real estate development and construction industries.

Morgan also noted that the education and medical sector were hit harder in Arlington than in other parts of the country, but also rebounded faster in the last 10 years. “That’s a big plus if that happens again,” he said of future recessions.

Both economists agreed that lower-wage jobs were hit hardest by the Great Recession. By 2011, the county’s largest food bank reported a record-breaking number of families seeking help.

“In the low wage industries, Arlington basically looks the same as the rest of the country,” said Morgan, of Arlington around that time. “That was not a pretty picture.”

But Fuller and AED director Iams argued that the economic impact on the county of losing 35,000 jobs through federal sequestration was greater. “Base realignment and closure was really our recession,” said Iams.

How Next Recession May Affect Arlington

While predicting economic downturns can be fraught, Iams and the professors agreed the country is prepared if another one happens soon.

“In Arlington, they’re not seeing the signs of [a] recession that you’re seeing it elsewhere,” said Morgan. “It maybe be that Arlington kind of dodges a bullet if there is a next recession.”

The damage the county would sustain would depend on what exactly would cause the next recession.

“If it’s the trade war that causes it, retail will probably suffer,” said Morgan. “But with the Arlington economy being so insulated from trade, I think if that’s the cause of a recession then the Arlington economy will still do well.”

Fuller explained that “anything that is discretionary begins to take a hit,” including elective purchases like cosmetic surgery, luxury fashion, tourism, and restaurants.

But the professors pointed out that many higher-wage industries — like cybersecurity, which is growing across the D.C. area — can actually weather recessions quite well. Morgan cited an Urban Institute report show that the county has a large share of high-paying jobs from business service companies like Deloitte and government contracting jobs via the Department of Defense.

How Amazon Would Impact a Recession

Iams noted that the county has since 2008 added even more corporate jobs as companies like Lidl, Nestle, and Amazon moved into town.

When it comes to Amazon’s massive planned headquarters, the officials said it’s another potential insulator for the county against future recessions by virtue of the 25,000 people it has pledged to hire — and the others businesses and universities its presence attracts to Arlington.

“They know that Amazon burns workers out after 4-5 years, and they’re still software engineers, so they’ll look around for other, similar-type jobs,” said Fuller. “Amazon is going to make Arlington the epicenter of the talent pool.”

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Morning Notes

‘Mabel’s Restaurant’ Coming to Arlington Heights — The restaurant coming to the grounds of the Dominion Apartments, at the former Sherwin Williams paint store (3411 5th Street S.), is called “Mabel’s Restaurant.” An outdoor seating area is planned for the restaurant, according to permit filings. [Arlington Economic Development]

Northam Visits Amazon — “In June, we were excited to open our first temporary office space for our Arlington headquarters in Crystal City. Today, we welcomed @GovernorVA to tour our new work space and meet with Amazonians from the Commonwealth.” [Twitter]

Crystal City Conducting Survey — “The area encompassing Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard – Arlington is a dynamic mixed-use urban center and Virginia’s largest walkable downtown… we are embarking on a place branding effort to uncover our neighborhood story and create a striking visual identity.” [Crystal City BID]

History of Heidelberg Bakery — “Heidelberg Bakery is a local landmark in Arlington… In this oral history clip, Carla and Wolfgang Buchler, owners of the Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe, discuss the lack of diversity in breads that Wolfgang found in America when he first came to the U.S. in the 1970’s–and how tastes have changed, partly due to Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe’s delicious treats.” [Arlington Public Library]

Glebe Road Bridge Project — “The Virginia Department of Transportation on Tuesday, Aug. 13 will hold a community forum on its plans to rehabilitate the Route 120 (North Glebe Road) bridge over Pimmit Run to improve safety and extend the bridge’s overall lifespan. The event will be held on from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Williamsburg Middle School, 3600 North Harrison St. in Arlington.” [InsideNova]

‘Drunkard’ Ruling Won’t Be Appealed — “Virginia’s attorney general on Friday said he will not appeal a ruling that struck down a state law allowing police to arrest and jail people designated as ‘habitual drunkards.'” [Associated Press]

Oil in Sink Causes ‘Fatbergs’ — “If you pour used cooking grease down the kitchen sink, you’re not alone — according to a new survey, 44 percent of respondents in the D.C. region pour cooking oil, fat, or grease down the sink at least occasionally. In doing so — rather than dumping it in the trash–you may be contributing to the creation of something truly horrifying — a fatberg.” [DCist]

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Morning Notes

(Updated on 07/22/19) Office Vacancy Rate Dropping — “The commercial vacancy rate in the County continues to improve. The vacancy rate as of the second quarter of 2019 stands at 16.6%, down nearly 5% from its historic high of 21% in 2015. Arlington Economic Development also announced it successfully closed 26 deals in FY 2019, representing 7.2 million square feet of office space and 43,000 jobs.” [Arlington County]

County Adopts New Bathroom Policy — “The Arlington County government has adopted what amounts to a […] policy for government-building restrooms and locker rooms. The policy, outlined to County Board members on July 16, will formally allow any individual to use a male or female restroom ‘that corresponds with gender identity or expression,’ county staff said.” [InsideNova]

Human Remains Found Near GW Parkway — Human remains, in a skull, have reportedly been found near the GW Parkway and Reagan National Airport, in the same area where a D.C. cadaver dog was hurt earlier this week, prompting a medevac flight. The dog is now recovering from serious injuries. U.S. Park Police are investigating the source of the remains. [Fox 5, Washington PostWTOP]

New Provost, Plans for Marymount — “Marymount is proud to welcome the university’s new Provost, Hesham El-Rewini, Ph.D., P.E., who officially begins his duties on campus this week… ‘We have bold plans for the future of Marymount as we strive to become an elite Catholic institution that is nationally recognized for innovation,’ said Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University.” [Marymount University]

GoFundMe for Westover Residents — A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to benefit residents of Westover whose homes were damaged by flash flooding last week. So far more than $8,000 has been raised. [GoFundMe]

Big Crane Assisting With DCA Project — “A 250 ft. crane is being used to lift and put steel into place for a new 14-gate concourse that will replace Gate 35X” at Reagan National Airport. [Twitter]

Pentagon City Apartment Sold for Big Bucks — “Dweck Properties Inc. has picked up another multifamily property in Pentagon City, not far from where Amazon.com Inc. is settling into its second home. A Dweck affiliate paid $117 million July 9 for the Park at Pentagon Row, a 299-unit apartment building at 801 15th St. S.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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