(Update 5:15 p.m.) Demolition has begun on the exterior of the old Kann’s Department Store to make way for George Mason University’s Arlington campus expansion.

A University spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow that demolition of the interior began in November and the exterior demolition began this week. It’s expected to be completed in the fall.

Fencing went up in November around the mid-century building that has a long Arlington history.

First opened in 1951 as the suburban branch of a popular D.C. department store, Kann’s Department Store at 3401 Fairfax Drive became a gathering spot for many in Arlington. The department store featured three-floors, an escalator, a restaurant called the “Kannteen,” and monkeys.

Yes, the shoe department had a large glass-windowed monkey display with live monkeys from Brazil.

To this day, Arlingtonians hold fond memories of shopping at the department, as Charlie Clark documented earlier this month for the Falls Church News-Press.

In 1975, GMU acquired the building at Virginia Square.

For many years, it was used to house GMU’s law school (named after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016) and became known as the “Original Building.” It was thought at the time that it was only law school in the country that had an escalator.

In an alumni remembrance from last year, many former students recounted how this building was where they bought clothes as a kid and earned their law degree as an adult.

In soon-to-be-demolished building’s place and on the same site will go an expansive, new, glass and steel building perhaps emblazoned with a distinctive green “M” at the top.

When demolition of the old building is completed, the university will begin design and construction work on the $250 million expansion. Money for the expansion, spurred by the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, is coming from a combination of state funds and private donations.

The new building will have about 360,500 square feet of space, and is expected to be LEED Platinum-certified. It will house faculty from Institute for Digital InnovAtion and the university’s new School of Computing.

The expansion will help create “the Rosslyn-Ballston Innovation Corridor, an innovation district that will be the first of its kind in Virginia,” GMU says.

The university is expected to occupy about 60% of the space while private companies may lease other portions of it. GMU is predicting that the expansion will add 3,000-4,000 additional students to the Arlington campus by 2024.

Last month, GMU’s Board of Visitors authorized the university to begin negotiating with Mason Innovation Partners, a consortium made up of developers and investors, as the developer of the expansion project.

Following the demolition, construction is slated to start in the spring of 2022. The building is scheduled to open in the summer of 2025.

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Believe it or not, Arlington County has a working commercial farm.

The farm, which is located in a commercial building along Lee Highway, uses hydroponic technology to grow a variety of edible plants indoors. And it’s about to expand.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon that Fresh Impact Farms will be getting a $30,000 grant — half from the state, half from the county — that will help it double production and create six jobs.

Fresh Impact, Arlington County’s only commercial farm, is banking on its restaurant customers ramping up purchases as vaccinated customers flock back to indoor dining. It also launched a direct-to-consumer Community Supported Agriculture program last year.

County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti hailed the business and its expansion.

“Governor Northam’s award to Fresh Impact Farms, Arlington’s only commercial farm, is an innovative way to celebrate unique uses of technology to help a small business pivot during the pandemic,” de Ferranti said in a statement. “I am thrilled that Fresh Impact Farms is growing and looking to the future of a sustainable food supply.”

More on the company’s expansion, below, from a press release issued by the governor’s office.

Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Fresh Impact Farms will invest $137,500, create six new jobs, and more than double production at its Arlington County indoor facility. Operating since 2018 as Arlington’s only commercial farm, Fresh Impact Farms uses proprietary hydroponic technology to grow a variety of specialty herbs, leafy greens, and edible flowers for sale to customers in the Greater Washington, D.C. metro area.

Like many companies, Fresh Impact Farms has pivoted its business model amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Seizing the opportunity created by more people cooking at home, the company initiated a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program targeting area residents. The CSA program, which focuses on leafy greens and home kitchen-friendly herbs, has grown steadily since its establishment in April 2020 and now includes smaller wholesale clients. Now, with vaccinations underway and the restaurant industry poised to rebound, Fresh Impact Farms is expanding, which will allow the company to resume supplying their restaurant customers, while also meeting new demand through their CSA program.

“Agriculture continues to be a key driver of our economic recovery in both rural and urban areas of our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Innovative, dynamic businesses like Fresh Impact Farms are demonstrating how exciting new opportunities can grow out of pandemic-related challenges. I congratulate the company on their success and am thrilled to award the first-ever AFID grant to Arlington County to support this expansion.”

This expansion by Fresh Impact Farms will include a second grow room, larger production facility, and an educational hub where, post-pandemic, customers will be able to see how their food is harvested. Over the next three years, the company expects to grow an additional 10,500 pounds of Virginia-grown leafy greens, herbs, and edible flowers for restaurant and CSA customers.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private sector industry and the Commonwealth continues to be on the forefront of emerging agriculture technologies,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am inspired by Fresh Impact Farms’ commitment to not only bringing fresh, local produce to Virginians, but also for its commitment to educate our community about how local food is grown.”

“2020 was undoubtedly one of the hardest years in recent memory for many people and businesses, but I’m heartened by the strength and flexibility the entire Fresh Impact Farms team has shown in our deep pivot to consumers and a CSA model to help us get to the point where we are ready to expand our business,” said Fresh Impact Farms Founder Ryan Pierce. “The support and generosity from the Commonwealth and Arlington County will be valuable as we expand our production and move towards a hybrid model of serving both the needs of restaurants and consumers. As the owner of a local food business, nothing gets me more excited than seeing the community come together in support of local food. The future is bright for urban agriculture and this grant will help us make an even greater impact in our community.”

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Morning Notes

Raytheon Remaining in Rosslyn — “Raytheon Technologies Corp. has reached a deal to extend its stay in a Rosslyn office building nearly three years before its current lease was slated to expire. The Waltham, Massachusetts, defense contractor has signed a long-term lease renewal with Monday Properties for its roughly 116,000 square feet at 1100 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Man Leaves ‘Bachelorette’ — “Our Arlington man Jason has departed the Bachelorette. Now all we’re left with is a man with the vaguely similar name of Chasen. Sad!” [Washingtonian]

Local Food Bank Expanding — “The Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) is continuing its expansion efforts to ensure it has the ability to meet future needs of the community. Next up: Renovation of a newly acquired warehouse space at 2704 South Nelson St. next to the AFAC headquarters in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

HQ2 to Help Fight Counterfeiting — “Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters appears to be the base for the company’s latest global effort to rein in faux goods sold on its e-commerce platform. The head of its so-called ‘Counterfeit Crimes Unit’ is based in Arlington, and the company was recently recruiting for the division at its Crystal City offices.” [Washington Business Journal]

TV Broadcast from Ballston — “Live, work and play in the Ballston area! FOX 5’s Kevin McCarthy visits Arlington County during our FOX 5 Fall Field Trip.” [Fox 5]

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A major project to add 70 acres to Arlington National Cemetery while reconfiguring the eastern end of Columbia Pike is inching forward.

The cemetery’s southern expansion project will add about 60,000 burial sites, across 37 acres of new burial plots and an above-ground columbarium, allowing the cemetery to continue military burials through the 2050s. It will also bring the Air Force Memorial within the cemetery grounds, and add a parking garage across Columbia Pike.

The federal government acquired county-owned land for the expansion via an eminent domain suit this summer. In exchange, the feds are paying for the reconfiguration of Columbia Pike and the creation of a new S. Nash Street in the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood adjacent to the Air Force Memorial — a $60 million project.

“The expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery,” the federal government said in June. “The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes streetscape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways.”

In all, the cemetery expansion and the road project are expected to cost $420 million, most of which has already been appropriated by Congress.

Separately, the federal government is also planning a visitor center for the 9/11 Memorial at the Pentagon, across from the expanded portion of the cemetery closer to the Pentagon, as well as a new trail along the cemetery border from Foxcroft Heights to Memorial Drive.

The National Capital Planning Commission discussed the cemetery expansion plan at a review meeting last week. A presentation that preceded the discussion included a number of renderings of the project, as seen above.

The commission largely approved of the plan, but asked the Army to “submit a revised design for the Air Force Memorial vehicular entrance gate to address the unwelcoming experience created by the 60-foot line of bollards and fencing.”

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(Updated at 5 p.m. on 11/10/20) Dominion Energy and Arlington County are looking to swap two pieces of land near Crystal City.

On Saturday, the County Board is slated to consider a series of real estate and land use actions, including a land exchange agreement between Dominion and the county. Dominion offered to give the county a piece of property at the corner of 18th Street and S. Ives Street in exchange for a piece of county-owned land on the corner of S. Fern and S. Hayes streets.

The swap would allow Dominion to expand its substation — located roughly two blocks from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2 — to accommodate larger, newer equipment. Construction on the expansion is anticipated to start late in the first quarter of 2021.

The County is considering turning the Dominion property, the site of a previous substation, into a park.

In addition to updating the substation, Dominion is also trying to meet increasing demand for energy as the Pentagon City and Crystal City areas develop, said Michael Halewski, a real estate specialist from the Department of Environmental Services, during a meeting on Wednesday with Arlington’s Planning Commission.

“Dominion is on a tight time frame for the delivery of the increased electrical capacity to the community,” Halewski said.

The area needs more “redundancy and reliability” in the electrical services it provides, said Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox in an email on Tuesday.

To get the extra physical space needed for the new equipment, Dominion looked to neighboring land. The county-owned property — an unused, grass-covered sliver along S. Hayes Street — did not have as many constraints, including underground public utilities, as other plots.

The original discussion about this exchange occurred in the summer of 2019, and in July 2020, Dominion submitted a rezoning application to the County Board.

In August, Dominion notified the neighboring civic associations of its plans, and invited feedback through a survey. It also purchased social media ads and held two virtual meetings.

“It was one of the more successful community engagements Dominion has had in response to one of its projects,” said Matthew Weinstein, counsel to Dominion Energy, during the Planning Commission meeting.

In response to feedback on the aesthetics of the substation, Dominion updated its permit to include a commitment to installing public art on-site, redesigning the plaza to improve the pedestrian and leisure experience and widening the sidewalk from four feet to six feet, said Dominion spokesperson Ann Gordon Mickel in a project update on Oct. 28.

Neighboring civic associations told county staff they had no issues with the substation rezoning proposals, but the Aurora Highlands Civic Association did express hesitancy with the exchange agreement.

“We’ve heard some concerns from the community about the environmental condition of the land,” said Halewski, the county staffer.

Environmental reports indicate that some areas of the old sub-station property would need to be remediated if dirt was disturbed and excavated. The soil could be used on-site or disposed of in a regulated landfill, he said.

“The cost of those different scenarios range from $0 if it’s a passive open space to approximately $55,000,” Halewski said. “This would be a county cost.”

Photos above (1-2) via Google Maps, (3-4) via Arlington County

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The Dept. of Justice has filed a civil action that would seize nine acres of county land on the eastern end of Columbia Pike by eminent domain, in order to expand Arlington National Cemetery.

The suit appears to be part of the long-standing plan to expand the cemetery around the Air Force Memorial, and includes no indication of resistance from the county. Arlington endorsed the federal proposal in April, which realigns and upgrades a portion of Columbia Pike in exchange for the county-owned land next to the cemetery.

As of Tuesday morning neither the Justice Department nor the county responded to requests for comment by ARLnow.

The action was announced Monday, with the DOJ touting it as a win for both military veterans and local residents.

“When completed, the Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Project will provide for approximately 60,000 additional burial sites, including an above ground columbarium,” said a press release. “The expansion will extend the timeline for Arlington National Cemetery to continue as an active military cemetery.”

“The expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery,” the press release continues. “The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes streetscape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways. The project also provides for the construction of a new South Nash Street.”

The full press release is below.

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The Arlington County Board is set to consider a school expansion project that will involve changes to a local library.

Arlington Public Schools is requesting a use permit to add 150 seats to its Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center. It’s the prelude to a larger expansion project for the facility at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive, which would add 800 new high school seats and a 200,000 square foot addition by 2025.

The current project would add the new student capacity — bringing the total Arlington Tech seats from 350 to 500 — via interior changes, namely the use of what is currently the second floor of the Columbia Pike Branch Library. The library, in turn, would be modernized consolidated on the first floor of the building.

“Both floors of the existing Columbia Pike Branch Library will be renovated, with the second floor converted to classroom space for APS use during school hours and County use outside school hours,” a county staff report says. “There are no proposed changes to the façade of the building.”

If approved, Construction is expected to kick off in July or August and run through late fall. The library would be closed for 3-4 months, prompting some concerns from nearby residents.

“The Arlington Heights Civic Association expressed their concerns regarding the closure of the library during the renovations,” the staff report notes. “Residents will be able to access other full-service libraries to use the same services offered at this location, including the Shirlington, Aurora Hills and Glencarlyn branches, as well as the use of public computers at the nearby Walter Reed Community Center.”

The item at the end of the agenda for the Board’s meeting this coming Saturday.

More from the county staff report:

The Board will consider Arlington Public Schools’ request for an amendment to its Use Permit for the Arlington Career Center, located at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive. If approved, the amendment would allow APS to add 150 seats for the Arlington Tech high school program through interior renovations that would include renovating both floors of the Columbia Pike Branch Library. The number of seats at the Career Center would be increased from 800 to 950. The plan calls for converting the library’s second floor to classroom space during school hours and County use outside school hours. The modernized library would be consolidated on the first floor. During the anticipated three to four months of renovations, the library would be closed. If the plan is approved, APS expects to begin construction in July or August 2020 and finish in late fall. To read the staff report, scroll to Item No. 34. on the agenda.

As a result of the renovations, the total ACC building capacity will increase from 800 seats to 950 seats. With its existing functions consolidated to the first floor, the library will be modernized with new technology, furniture, and equipment that improves the delivery of current resources and programs. During the renovations, which are anticipated to last for approximately three (3) to four (4) months, the library and its programs and services will be closed. Due to financial costs and the short-term nature of the closure, there are no plans to set up a temporary library location. However, residents will be able to access other full-service libraries to use the same services provided at this branch, including the Shirlington, Aurora Hills and Glencarlyn branches, as well as the use of public computers at the nearby Walter Reed Community Center.

While the renovations were initially intended to occur during the 2020 summer break and completed in time for the 2020-21 school year, due to the uncertainty related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) the planned renovations have been delayed with an anticipated construction start date of July/August 2020. APS intends to proceed with the renovations as soon as reasonable in coordination with pandemic recovery. In the interim, to accommodate the growing enrollment at Arlington Tech, APS is pursuing alternatives over the 2020 summer break to increase seat capacity including minor interior renovations to add a new science lab and rightsize existing classrooms, as well as the temporary installation of eight (8) additional relocatables on the existing parking lot.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Marymount University President Irma Becerra isn’t slowing down.

With the 2019-20 school year underway and 455 students moved into the new upscale apartments at the newly-acquired “Rixey” building in Ballston, part of a $250 million investment in Marymount’s expanded Ballston presence, Becerra is continuing to push her Strategic Plan to double the Catholic university’s in size by 2024.

Becerra and Marymount are in the beginning planning phases of a project to repurpose buildings on the main campus to add capacity for an additional 3,000 students. She is also working on a capital investment plan to increase the university’s endowment nearly sixfold — from $43 million to $250 million.

Eventually, Becerra said, Marymount will have to build additional buildings for student housing if the university wants to reach its eventual goal of 10,000 enrolled students. As of last fall, there were 3,418 students in both graduate and undergraduate programs.

“Some of the growth will be fully online, and others will be through hybrid programs that will require less physical time on campus,” Becerra said. “We don’t anticipate an issue, but more buildings will probably come in the latter part of the next five years.”

As for the cost that comes with doubling a university size, Becerra said funding “would come through a combination of initiatives from corporations and private foundations and the launch of a new capital campaign and government funding.”

Within the next few years, she hopes the school will establish itself as a top producer of highly-competitive talent for all Arlington businesses, from Amazon to local startups.

With Amazon’s HQ2 being staffed up, there is a particular focus on technology at Marymount. Earlier this year Marymount recently hired tech-oriented entrepreneur Jonathan Aberman as interim dean of its business school. And a new artificial intelligence curriculum is being incorporated into every major “from arts to biology.”

Marymount will have competition in that regard: George Mason University and Virginia Tech also working on major local expansion plans with a tech focus.

In addition to doubling the university’s size, Becerra is seeking to raise its national profile. That effort is bearing some fruit, particularly with Marymount jumping more than 20 spots in its U.S. News and World Report rankings. At the same time, she wants to maintain the school’s local feel and connection.

“We’re Arlington’s only headquartered university, and we’d like to think of ourselves as ‘Arlington’s University,'” Becerra said. “There’s a significance to be headquartered here, and between [being] instrumental  to changing the Ballston experience, we have a number of proposals of how we’re going to work with local employers in the area and how we can help support the workforce needs in the community.”

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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) Nestlé is expanding its Rosslyn headquarters.

Monday Properties, which owns the company’s headquarters at 1812 N. Moore in Rosslyn, announced on this week that the company will be expanding from its presence from 252,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet.

The expansion means Nestlé will occupy 18 floors of the 35-story building. The Washington Business Journal reports that the company “plans to use the extra room for conference facilities, meetings and event space for its team.”

The company relocated its U.S. headquarters to Arlington in 2017 — a move that netted the company several million dollars in grant funding, as well as nearby infrastructure improvements, from Arlington County.

“Our Rosslyn community continues to bring in some of the country’s finest companies, and we are pleased to play a significant part in this incredible momentum,” Austin Freeman, senior vice president of asset management for Monday Properties, said in a press release.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to build our relationship with Nestlé and its employees, as well as attract exceptional companies to our community that will benefit not only from a high-quality office environment, but from Rosslyn’s social and lifestyle transformation as a true destination hub for world-class businesses,” Freeman said.

Monday Properties noted that its other marquee corporate tenants in Rosslyn include Gerber (which is owned by Nestlé), Yext, Deloitte, Gartner, Accenture, Sands Capital, Raytheon and Grant Thornton.

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The STEM Preschool at 3120 S. Abingdon Street in Fairlington is planning a sizable capacity increase.

According to an application filed on this Saturday’s Arlington County Board agenda, the facility is proposing an expansion from 66 children to 106 and employee increase from 15 to 22.

The new capacity is nearly double the 55 children originally approved by the County Board in 2014. In October 2015, the board approved a use permit amendment, allowing the facility to expand to its current capacity of 66 children.

In a report on the project, staff said the facility can accommodate the number of children proposed with the expansion.

Staff noted that the facility also has adequate parking under current zoning and has more than it would need under a new zoning ordinance taking effect on July 1, which would shift the parking measurement from one space per staff person to one space per eight children.

In the report, staff recommended approval of the application.

“The operation of the existing child care center has not and is not expected with the increase in capacity to adversely affect the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood and is not in conflict with the purposes of the master plans of the County,” staff wrote. “Overall, staff believes that the amended use will continue to be a quality addition to the community and have minimal impacts on neighboring areas.”

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Clarendon-based bakery Bakeshop is expanding.

This week Bakeshop opened a new location in the City of Falls Church. The new shop had its soft opening yesterday (Monday) after weeks of teasing pictures of new equipment and barista training with Vigilante coffee on social media.

Founder Justin Stegall told ARLnow he “loves Arlington” but “was traveling around and kind of fell love in with Falls Church also.”

“The neighborhood vibe is a little less urban, a little more old-fashioned,” he said of Falls Church.

It was a neighborhood he thought could use a cupcake shop, and as of this week it has one. Bakeshop is now open at 100 E. Fairfax Street and plans to be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Stegall added that he will tailor the Falls Church menu to suit his new customers, likely adding more breakfast options and some exclusive cookies.

For now the new bakery shares a menu with the Clarendon location, which features a rotating cast of cupcakes with favorites like salty caramel and red velvet, as well as cakes, pies, and some light breakfast fare like croissants and scones.

The flagship Clarendon store on 1025 N. Fillmore Street has gained fame over the years for personal stories posted on Facebook post in 2016, and being featured on the Cooking Channel in 2012.

Stegall said he’s “very happy to have become a piece of the Arlington fabric.”

Nearly ten years after some critics (including our commentators) predicted the 2010 cupcake fad would fade, Stegall and his staff are still in business.

“It’s crazy for me to think about,” he said. “Ten years is a pretty big chunk of life. I never even had a ten-year-out plan.”

When asked if he has plans to continue expansion, Stegall laughed.

“The vision right now is to stay with the two until the next vision comes,” he said.

Photo via Facebook

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