Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Amazon ‘Excited’ for HQ2 Construction — “As we look ahead to 2020, we’re excited to start construction on our first buildings and hear more from our neighbors on how our investments can benefit the entire community — and continue to hire… Today we have more than 400 employees working from our leased office space on Crystal Drive, 18th Street S and South Bell Street in Arlington.” [Amazon]

Nearly 400 Amazon Job Openings in Arlington — Amazon currently lists just shy of 400 open positions in Arlington, from systems engineers to advertising account executives to event managers. [Amazon]

APS May Bring Back Paper Report Cards — “The effort by Arlington Public Schools to go high-tech with the distribution of student report cards appears to have hit a major snag. Two School Board members on Dec. 19 expressed significant concerns, and a third offered a milder form of disquiet, with the school system’s decision to scrap printed report cards in favor of online reporting.” [InsideNova]

Yorktown Boys Basketball Still Undefeated — Yorktown High School’s boys basketball team has extended its winning ways by winning the annual Bulldog Bash holiday tournament. The team’s 10-0 run included a 24-point comeback win on Dec. 20. [InsideNova, InsideNova, Twitter]

Q&A With New Economic Development DirectorIncoming Arlington Economic Development Director Telly Tucker, in a Q&A: “I really want to first start with listening and learning about priorities and interests from all of those different entities to figure out a way to massage them into working toward common goals.” [Arlington Magazine]

Charitable Clothing Store Opens in Arlington — “There is a new option in Arlington that’s already helping hundreds of kids in need… Clothesline for Arlington Kids isn’t exactly a store. There are no price tags, and no money is exchanged. Instead, low-income children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches can come here for clothing, free of charge.” [WJLA]

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(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) Arlington County has hired Telly Tucker, head of economic development for the City of Danville, in southern Virginia, as the new Director of Arlington Economic Development.

The announcement follows the departure of a trio of top economic development officials from AED this year, including former director Victor Hoskins and interim director Alex Iams, both poached by Fairfax County, as well as Christina Winn, who left for Prince William County.

In an announcement early Thursday evening, Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said Tucker “has a track record of bringing job-creating businesses to Virginia communities.”

“My colleagues on the Board, and I look forward to working with him to continue building on our success in attracting and growing high-quality businesses, both large and small, to Arlington,” Dorsey said.

Tucker’s hire was the result  an extensive search, the county said, lauding his creativity and knack for building regional partnerships.

A biography of Tucker on the City of Danville’s website says he is a Lynchburg native, a James Madison University graduate and an accomplished pianist.

Telly Tucker currently serves the Director of Economic Development for the City of Danville, Virginia. He is responsible for leading the Economic Development efforts for the City with a staff of 4 full-time employees and one Economic Development Consultant. Tucker also serves as staff to the Danville Industrial Development Authority and staff to the Danville-Pittsylvania County Regional Facility Authority. He serves on the Board of the Virginia Economic Developers Association, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance and the Danville-Pittsylvania County Business Development Center. In 2014, Tucker received the Certified Economic Development (CEcD) designation granted by the International Economic Development Council in Washington D.C.

Prior to his current post in Danville, Tucker served as the Assistant Director of Economic Development in James City County, Virginia, Community Development Administrator the Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development in Richmond, Virginia, and Economic Development Specialist for the City of Lynchburg, Virginia. During his time in Lynchburg,

Prior to 2007, Tucker spent three years as an educator in Lynchburg City Schools teaching Spanish, and SOL remediation while also coaching football and basketball at Sanduksy Middle School.

Tucker is an accomplished pianist, Padewreski Medal Award recipient, and has served in music director roles in the cities of Lynchburg, Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, and Hampton, Virginia.

He is a Lynchburg native and a 1997 graduate of E.C. Glass High School and obtained his Bachelors of Business Administration in International Business and Spanish from James Madison University in 2004.

The full announcement from Arlington County, after the jump.

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(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) As Columbia Pike continues to evolve, county officials are heeding warnings to preserve legacy businesses at risk of displacement.

A market study commissioned Arlington Economic Development (AED) recommends the County Board be proactive in protecting legacy — or long-term — businesses along Columbia Pike.

“The threat isn’t rents going up, those spaces are very stable and landlords are very happy not having to worry about turnover,” said Marc McCauley, director of Real Estate Development for AED, during a County Board work session on Tuesday. “Rather, redevelopment is the threat.”

In recent years, development projects along Columbia Pike that closed long-time businesses have caused controversy — namely, the Food Star grocery store being torn down in favor for the new “Centro” mixed-use complex and a new Harris Teeter store.

In a 125-page “Columbia Pike Commercial Market Study” presented to the Board in partnership with the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, AED outlined a retail strategy toolkit to “provide options for supporting retail activity along Columbia Pike.”

In the toolkit, AED recommended both developing new neighborhood-serving retail while keeping in mind the 62 percent of legacy businesses along the Pike, defined as being built before 2003. In order to protect the legacy businesses, AED recommended the following:

  • Consider grants or low interest loans, such as a real estate improvement grant, for legacy spaces.
  • Consider establishing a program providing design services to owners of legacy spaces.
  • Provide small business support for adapting to new technologies.
  • Consider implementing a relocation support program for displaced local legacy tenants.

“Often we find ourselves reacting to an outcome, and then we are trying to catch up — we’ve never had the resources to begin early enough,” said McCauley. “The recommendation is to be proactive, and look at increased support services focused on this part of the County — and CPRO would be the right organization to begin this process.”

The study suggests Amazon’s HQ2 in nearby Pentagon City will exacerbate redevelopment trends that were already underway prior to the tech giant’s arrival.

“Growth is expected to accelerate along the Corridor, especially with the catalyst of Amazon HQ2 nearby in Pentagon City / Crystal City,” it said.

The study predicts that some 1,500 households with “HQ2-related jobs” will call the Columbia Pike corridor home by 2035. It also notes that while much of the Pike, given its distance from Metro, is unlikely to be redeveloped for office uses, the eastern end of the corridor may eventually see more office and hotel development.

While the County Board did not formally agree to the recommendations, members of the Board universally expressed enthusiasm for the strategy.

“I see a real problem on the Pike, and it’s what I worry about,” said County Board chair Katie Cristol. “I would love to be able to say to our beloved small businesses, yes the Pike is changing, and we hope you believe you have a home in a mixed-use environment. We are here to help you.”

The County Board is expected to take action on the toolkit by the “second quarter of 2020,” per County Manager Mark Schwartz.

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(Updated at 7:50 p.m.) Arlington’s interim top economic development official is leaving to be the deputy to the county’s former head of economic development, who now works for Fairfax County.

The announcement of Alex Iams’ impending departure, made today by the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, could be seen as something of a setback to Arlington’s economic development efforts in the wake of Amazon choosing the county for its second headquarters.

More from a press release:

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) President and CEO Victor Hoskins announced today that he has selected Alex Iams, a longtime economic development professional in Northern Virginia, to be executive vice president at the FCEDA.

Iams has been interim director of Arlington Economic Development (AED) since August, when Hoskins left AED to take the top job at the FCEDA. Iams has spent 13 years at AED, including five years as assistant director before being named interim director.

The position is a new one at the FCEDA. Iams will begin on January 21, 2020.

“Alex is an extraordinary talent,” Hoskins said. “Both his quantitative and qualitative skills are tops in our profession. His economic impact analysis and analysis of return on investment grounded everything we did in Arlington, and his knowledge of commercial real estate markets is second-to-none.”

Iams was a key member of the Arlington leadership that secured Amazon’s second headquarters for Northern Virginia in 2018. He said he is looking forward to working in Fairfax County because of the size and composition of the market and because of a talent attraction and retention initiative that the FCEDA will accelerate in 2020.

“The EDA’s talent initiative is unprecedented in this region, and I am excited to have the chance to make a difference in such a large community and one that is emphasizing transit-oriented development,” Iams said.

“We appreciate Alex’s contributions over the past 13 years,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz told ARLnow in a statement. “He has been instrumental in lowering the office vacancy rate in Arlington, diversifying the local economy, and attracting new businesses. We wish him the very best as he takes the next step in his career.

Fairfax County isn’t the only jurisdiction hiring from Arlington Economic Development’s top ranks following the big Amazon HQ2 announcement. It was announced in June that well-regarded economic development official Christina Winn would be taking over the top job in Prince William County.

Prior to poaching Iams, Hoskins suggested that Amazon “should have located in Fairfax County, with its larger, more diverse, pro-business environment.” That comment, however, followed his earlier remarks that Amazon’s arrival would help position the county as a sort of “Silicon Valley on the Potomac.”

Iams, meanwhile, said last month that despite HQ2 “there’s still a lot of work to do, and it’s going to be a steep hill to climb” in order to bring down Arlington’s still-high office vacancy rate.

Hoskins told the Washington Business Journal’s Alex Koma that he and Iams “had a really good chemistry when we worked together in Arlington,” adding that “he’s very gifted.”

An Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the agency hopes to name a new director by the end of the year.

Photo courtesy Fairfax County Economic Development Authority

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Staying Put, For Now — “The chairman of the Arlington County Board says he’s not going anywhere… ‘My personal financial issues do not impinge on my ability to work with colleagues both in Arlington and throughout the region, our county staff and our community,’ Dorsey said. ‘I intend to demonstrate over the next four years those who voted to re-elect me did not make a mistake.'” [InsideNova]

RiverHouse Plans Pick Up Opposition — “JBG Smith’s plans to add nearly 1,000 new housing units to its RiverHouse Apartment Complex in Pentagon City, not far from the future home of Amazon’s second headquarters, now look to be in trouble. Arlington officials and neighbors are pushing back against the developer’s proposal.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Chase Theft Suspect in Rosslyn — “Two suspects allegedly entered a business, concealed merchandise in bags and left without paying. An employee attempted to confront the suspects outside the business and, following a brief scuffle, the suspects fled the scene on foot. A lookout was broadcast by dispatch and a responding officer observed two individuals matching the suspect descriptions walking in the area. One suspect complied with the officer’s commands to stop while the other suspect fled.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

One Argument for ‘National Landing’ — “In 2018 when Amazon announced it would locate its new headquarters in National Landing, people familiar with Crystal City scratched their heads and said ‘that’s not a real place.’ But the name Crystal City itself was also an out-of-nowhere developer creation about 60 years earlier… Before it was Crystal City, it was Brick Haven, so named for its abundant brick factories.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Restaurants Still Waiting for Amazon Effect — Restaurant owners in Crystal City are excited about Amazon’s arrival in the neighborhood, but are not yet seeing tangible benefits in the form of increased business. [Washington Business Journal]

CEO of A-SPAN Retiring — “A-SPAN announces the retirement of its President & CEO, Kathy Sibert. After leading the organization for 11 years, Sibert will continue her role through January 31, 2020. Sibert became the President & CEO of A-SPAN (Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, Inc) in 2008.” [Press Release]

Vienna Poaches from Arlington Economic Development — “The Town of Vienna has hired a business development manager in Arlington County to help revitalize local businesses. The town recently announced that Natalie Monkou, an Annadale resident, will be the town’s first-ever economic development manager.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Arlington’s office vacancy rate could drop below 15% next year as business continue to move to the area, according to some local experts.

Leaders of commercial real estate Avison Young and Arlington Economic Development (AED) said there is likely to be continued progress in Arlington’s long-standing struggle with a high number of empty office spaces.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, and it’s going to be a steep hill to climb,” said AED Interim Director Alex Iams during a “Future of Arlington” panel organized by Bisnow yesterday (Thursday.)

However, Iams and Avison Young Principal Nick Gregorios both said they expect the office vacancy rate to drop again in 2020. If growth continues at its current rate in 2020, the vacancy rate could fall by up to 1.5 percentage points, Gregorios said.

As of Sept. 30, commercial real estate firm JLL reported an office vacancy rate of 16% in Arlington, down 5% from the county’s all-time high of 21% in 2015. This puts Arlington just below the current national average of 16.7%.

Iams said companies like Yext, PBS, and iTG coming to Arlington or renewing their leases have contributed to the vacancy rate drop.

There is still about 7 million square feet of empty office space across Arlington to fill, according to Iams. Seven building vacancies have over 125,000 square feet of space apiece, leaving room for large companies, according to Iams.

Thursday’s panel itself was held on an empty floor of the Ballston Exchange office space.

“Just look around you, we’re sitting in a building right now where the National Science Foundation vacated in one fell swoop,” Gregorios said, referring to the NSF’s departure from Ballston to a new space in Alexandria.

In 2015, now-former AED director Victor Hoskins pledged to bring Arlington’s office vacancy rate down to as low as 10 percent within the next six years. That goal is thus far unrealized, but Arlington might come close with Amazon’s arrival continuing to generate interest in Arlington office space.

Shortly after helping Arlington woo Amazon, Hoskins left his position to head the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. Since then, Iams has been left to continue Hoskins’ work, with HQ2 as a tailwind.

“[Heading into 2020] with Amazon and HQ2, we’re doing things a little differently,” Iams said, speaking to AED’s business recruitment strategy. “We’re approaching different markets with a list of 10-15 companies that we’ve identified in advance, knowing that we can get in front of them when they’re in the market for relocation and expansion.”

According to the 2019 Q2 earnings release from Amazon headquarters developer JBG Smith, since the HQ2 announcement one year ago the company has executed one million square feet of new leases in the National Landing area — Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — plus 400,000 square feet of renewals.

“What we used to do is go to tech conferences to get out name out there in order differentiate ourselves, but that’s not the case anymore,” Iams said. “Northern Virginia put itself on the map during the HQ2 process, and we’ll continue to work closely together for out-of-market deals with our Northern Virginia partners.”

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Morning Notes

Residents Want Second Pentagon City Metro Entrance — “Some longtime residents have spent years agitating for just such a study of their roads and public transit options, seeing a need long before HQ2 was a twinkle in Jeff Bezos’ eye. They’re eager to see an evaluation of how much new density the area can bear, and what solutions could make it easier for Pentagon City residents to get around — perhaps most notably, they’re pressing to see a second entrance for the neighborhood’s Metro station.” [Washington Business Journal]

Pentagon City Mall Seeking Sidewalk Cafe Upgrades — Simon, owner of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, is seeking to make some additions to the sidewalk cafes in front of the mall on S. Hayes Street. Proposed upgrades, to be considered by the Arlington County Board this weekend, include: “light poles, light strings and fencing with tray tops.” [Arlington County]

No, Crystal City Is Not Named for a Chandelier — “According to Robert P. Kogod, the former co-CEO of the Charles E. Smith Companies — which developed Crystal City — the name for the neighborhood’s first building, Crystal House, came first, and the chandelier came afterward.” [Washingtonian]

County Board to Consider Incentives to Keep PBS HQ — “Arlington County Board is considering offering up to $500,000 to retain the Public Broadcasting Service, nearly a year after PBS already committed to doing just that. The Arlington County Board is expected to consider the Economic Development Incentive grant at its meeting Saturday, along with a $450,000 grant to the Incentive Technology Group, which is also staying in Crystal City under a new lease.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Pike Affordable Housing Building Opens — “A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of Gilliam Place, a former church, and its 173 affordable housing units in Arlington Thursday morning. The complex is aimed at helping lower income and special needs families, and… it’s already home for a nonverbal woman living with autism.” [NBC 4, WJLA]

New Scooter Corral in Rosslyn — “Yee-haw!! New ‘Shared Mobility Device’ corral for Rosslyn’s North Moore Street.” [Twitter/@ArlingtonDES]

Live Action ‘Clue’ Planned in Arlington — “Time to solve a murder mystery while taking part in an incredible game and Scavenger Hunt as we bring the game of CLUE® – without a board – to our own backyard!” [Facebook]

Reminder: I-395 HOV Becoming Express Lanes — “The time has come for big change for local commuters: after two years of work, the I-395 HOV lanes inside the Beltway are becoming express toll lanes… The switch over is slated to take place on Sunday, Nov. 17.” [ARLnow]

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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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