George Mason University is mulling a future expansion of its Arlington campus.
To realize that long-term goal, this April the university purchased an $8.25 million piece of property across the street from the its Mason Square campus in Virginia Square, according to county property records.
The acquisition is located at 3300 Fairfax Drive, in a 1960s-era office building that currently has some law and insurance agent offices, as well as a pilates and yoga studio.
In the immediate future, the university does not have plans for the site.
“These properties are strategic investments that provide security and flexibility for the future of the Mason Square Campus,” GMU media relations manager John Hollis told ARLnow.
“In the near term, Mason expects to continue current or similar operations to the existing tenants, while longer term opportunities include potential developments in support of Mason’s faculty, students, and mission,” he continued.
Although the statement alluded to more than one property, Hollis did not specify any other properties recently acquired by the school.
The Arlington campus of the Fairfax County-based university holds the university’s School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, economics, business and arts departments, the Antonin Scalia Law School and the Schar School of Policy and Government.
Mason Square is currently in the midst of a major expansion, with the under-construction Fuse building set to host labs, classrooms, an innovation center and retail spaces, among other uses. The university estimates the building will be substantially complete in May 2025.
Should the newly-acquired building be redeveloped in the future, it would join a bevy of other projects in the area, including the redevelopment of the nearby YMCA, St. Charles Catholic Church, the Joyce Motors site and the former Silver Diner location.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Fans of the New York-based bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr can now enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner daily at its offshoot in Crystal City.
The restaurant at 1550 Crystal Drive broadened its menu offerings this past Thursday — two years after opening with a more limited menu of pastries, baked goods and coffee drinks.
The Crystal City outpost was initially supposed to serve breakfast through dinner, though those plans were derailed by Covid, co-owner Michael Reginbogin told ARLnow.
Since the bakery opened a year into the pandemic, when most workers were still remote, he and his partners chose to stick to baked goods — including donuts some say are New York City’s best and Oprah-endorsed pastries.
“We scaled the menu to a bakery only because the guests just would not have been there enough to enjoy them,” Reginbogin said.
Thankfully, he said, the café survived Covid and, with the expansion, can cash in on the return to in-person work and the recent opening of the first phase of its Arlington HQ2.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said.
Mah-Ze-Dahr, rechristened Mah-Ze-Dahr Café, now serves bread pudding french toast, salads, sandwiches, quiches, steak frites and more, all day long.
Reginbogin said Mah-Ze-Dahr Café had a successful (re)opening day last week.
“Everything has been going well. We have already sold out of a few items. The demand is definitely there,” Reginbogin said. “The all-day flexibility of the new menu seems to be hitting a homerun with locals and office workers returning to the area.”
No changes to the space were necessary beyond hiring more staff to serve more customers, Reginbogin said.
Across the river in D.C., Mah-Ze-Dahr has a bakery and a bistro called Bistro Du Jour, according to its website.
The ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday marked the opening of the $250 million, 250,000-square foot facility at 1851 N. Edison Street in the Hall’s Hill/High View Park neighborhood.
There, VHC Health — formerly Virginia Hospital Center — will provide outpatient surgery, endoscopy, physical therapy, women’s health and imaging, per a press release. There will also be a pharmacy.
Christopher Lane, the hospital’s president and CEO, said during the ceremony that providing these various services makes it easier to coordinate patient care.
“By bringing outpatient services together under one roof, patients can now be conveniently scheduled for diverse healthcare services and can be seen within the same facility, often on the same day,” Lane said.
Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow the ease of getting care will greatly benefit residents.
“This facility will expand the ability for people who need services that don’t require staying in the hospital and getting the most expensive form of care, being emergency services, to get what they need here in Arlington,” Dorsey said. “The pavilion will reduce patient frustration, reduce errors and be a huge benefit to our community.”
State Sen. Barbara Favola applauded VHC Health’s effort to reduce emergency visits for Virginians.
“VHC Health has embraced this mission,” she said during the ceremony. “Our outpatient facility will in fact divert individuals from going into emergency care.”
Discussions of a new pavilion began in 2017 and VHC Health proposed an expansion in 2018. The County Board initially voted to delay approving the project so that the hospital could address the concerns of homeowners who live around the hospital.
The Board narrowly approved the plans two months later and the facility broke ground in the fourth quarter of 2019. Work became a source of consternation for nearby residents, who dealt with about a year of poor water quality tied to construction activity.
The hospital already has plans for a future expansion. Next up could be a mental health and rehabilitation facility on the site of its old urgent care facility, intended to address the strain on private hospital emergency rooms to receive psychiatric patients as well as troubling trends in substance use and mental health among teens.
The $50 million renovation of WETA’s headquarters in Shirlington is nearing completion.
After about two years, the local public broadcasting station WETA is set to finish off its 17,000-square-foot expansion on Campbell Avenue later this year. The refresh will include four floors of studios, offices, a consolidated headquarters, and more large spaces for public gatherings and screenings, Vice-President of External Affairs Mary Stewart told ARLnow.
Some production is still being done out of the old building, which WETA first moved into in the 1980s, but that will stop once the renovation is completed on the building on Campbell Avenue, Stewart said.
Externally, much of the work appears to be nearing the finish line with the expansion extending into a space that was once a courtyard. It’s the internal renovations, said Stewart, that still need some time. Those are expected to be done in “late 2023,” despite some “supply chain hiccups.” Some of the studios and public spaces could be open to employees by the summer, though.
Two main studios and one flash (smaller) studio are set to be added. One of the main studios will be used by the PBS NewsHour.
The national nightly news broadcast, which recently debuted a new pair of anchors, will get an updated set, with modern tech, video walls, and an outward-facing TV screen on the ground floor. The goal for the new set is to be “flexible,” modern, and for the video screens to allow remote interviews to be more “natural and cohesive,” said Stewart.
Also set to start filming in the new studios will be the six-decade-old teen quiz show “It’s Academic.” In the fall, the longest-running TV quiz show in history announced it was moving into WETA’s renovated building with the hope it would start producing episodes there in early 2024.
The studios will also be home to PBS NewsHour Weekend and Washington Week, as well as local programming like WETA Arts. Additionally, the update will also allow pledge drives and special broadcasts to take place in the new studios.
“We will now be a 365-day, 7-day-a-week production,” Stewart said.
She said the biggest drivers of the expansion are to modernize, allow for more production flexibility, and consolidate all of WETA in one building.
The local PBS station actually first began operating out of Yorktown High School more than six decades ago, in 1961. It moved to D.C. for a time, before consolidating operations back in Arlington in 1983 at the still-standing 3620 27th Street S. location. In 1995, WETA purchased the building on Campbell Avenue and moved its headquarters there, while production remained mostly at the other building a few blocks away.
But with this $50 million expansion, WETA will be whole for the first time in its 62-year history.
“With this expansion of our building, it means WETA will have a permanent home in Arlington,” said Stewart.
(Updated at 12:40 p.m. on 8/16/23) A portion of Columbia Pike is set to close for more than a year later this month to help make way for Arlington National Cemetery’s expansion.
The half-mile section of Columbia Pike between S. Joyce Street and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) facility just east of S. Oak Street is expected to be shuttered starting Monday, Jan. 23.
It will remain closed until the summer of 2024.
The closures are part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (DAR) project that’s being done to accommodate the 50-acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).
This will add about 80,000 burial sites, allowing the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds as well as provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center, with construction on that currently slated to start next year.
The overall expansion project remains on track to be completed by 2027, an ANC spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow.
Some detour specifics for the Pike closure are expected to be announced in the coming days, though the ANC spokesperson did share the general plan via email.
Traffic will be redirected to travel north on a new segment of S. Nash Street that will be opened between Columbia Pike and Southgate Road and one block east of S. Oak Street. It’s marked as a “new access road” on the map below.
Then, to circumvent the closed portion of the Pike, traffic will be sent east on Southgate Road to the existing S. Joyce Street/Columbia Pike intersection, which will remain open.
For pedestrians and cyclists, there is set to be a “dedicated” sidewalk with a buffer zone and barricades. Those “are currently being constructed in anticipation of the 1/23 closure,” the ANC spokesperson said
At the moment, there is an established pedestrian and bike detour along the north side of Southgate Road as well as a temporary sidewalk to the east of S. Joyce Street that connects with the sidewalk under the I-395 bridge.
Last week, though, a reader reached out to ARLnow about how a portion of the pedestrian and bike detour has a “large patch of gravel” rendering it not accessible for some.
“While a wheelchair user might be able to make it across that patch, it wouldn’t be easy,” they wrote. The reader said that locals have reached out to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) about the gravel but, so far, little has been done.
Local officials told ARLnow that they have since addressed that patch of gravel.
‘Midsummer’ Starts Next Month — “Synetic Theater, the home of American Physical Theater and movement-based storytelling, announces the return of its acclaimed adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed and choreographed by company co-founders Paata and Irina Tsikurishvili. The production runs June 30 through July 24.” [Synetic Theater]
Local Donut Shop Expanding — “The owners of a Ballston doughnut shop and cafe are building out a commercial kitchen in Tysons to support a growing wholesale business and its own planned expansion… Charles Kachadoorian, a Good Company co-owner, said the shop has outgrown its capacity at 672 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, from which it produces sweets for its cafe, for other coffee shops to sell retail, and for its own catering business. It plans to expand across all of those avenues, Kachadoorian said, including with a new shop in Crystal City in the shorter term and one in D.C. in 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]
GOP Concern Over ‘Missing Middle’ — “Several Arlington Republicans have expressed your concerns about the County’s proposal to upzone single-family residential plots in neighborhoods across the county. We are passing along information from Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future (ASF), should you decide you want to make your voice heard on this issue.” [Arlington GOP]
Planetarium Supporters Look to Future — “Boosters of the Arlington school system’s planetarium are hopeful that new budget funding will enable the facility – shuttered since before the pandemic – to reopen with a permanent teacher attached to it by fall. School Board members in early May overruled Superintendent Francisco Durán and dropped in nearly $150,000 to support the David M. Brown Planetarium for the coming school year. Durán had proposed keeping the facility closed for another year.” [Sun Gazette]
Rosslyn Walk Planned — “When you’re out and about, do you find yourself contemplating how sidewalks, land use, and street connectivity influence your experience and enjoyment of public spaces? If so, make sure to RSVP to WalkArlington’s upcoming “Walk and Learn” focused on street design in Rosslyn on Wednesday, May, 25 from 5:30 – 6:45pm.” [GGWash]
W-L Boys Win District Soccer Tourney — “With the Washington-Liberty Generals hosting the championship match of the Liberty District boys soccer tournament, head coach Jimmy Carrasquillo expressed some pre-game concerns. The top-seeded Generals (15-0-1) entertained the third-seeded Yorktown Patriots in an all-Arlington clash, and Carrasquillo knew the rematch would be much tougher than his team’s 4-0 regular-season victory over its neighborhood rival.” [Sun Gazette]
Some Cicada Stragglers Spotted — “Have you ever been late to a party? I mean really late, so late that by the time you arrived, the party was over and the guests were long gone? If so, then you have something in common with the periodical cicadas that have been popping up in the last few weeks from Maryland to Tennessee. They’re a year late to the raucous party billions of their fellow Brood X cicadas threw last summer.” [Washington Post]
It’s Tuesday — Rain in the morning, ending in the afternoon. High of 65 and low of 56. Sunrise at 5:50 am and sunset at 8:23 pm. [Weather.gov]
George Mason University is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Arlington’s campus $250 million expansion this week with a concert, a new photo exhibit, and groundbreaking.
Beginning today (Monday), the Northern Virginia-based university will be hosting a week full of events at its Arlington campus in Virginia Square on Fairfax Drive, now known as Mason Square, culminating with an outdoor concert from a local cover band on Friday night.
There is a new photo exhibit opening in Van Metre Hall tomorrow called “Profiles of Arlington” that recognizes those “who are working to impact their community, their region, and the world.”
On Wednesday, there’s set to be an official groundbreaking ceremony for the quarter of a billion dollar expansion of George Mason’s Arlington footprint. That includes the 400,000 square-foot building set to be the centerpiece of the efforts, which is being called Fuse at Mason Square.
The building will house faculty from the Institute for Digital InnovAtion as well as the university’s new School of Computing. There will also be an atrium, 750-seat theater, a public plaza, and a below-grade parking garage. The building is estimated to be completed in the summer of 2025.
While construction actually started at the beginning of the year, Wednesday’s ceremony may include some news. The university previously said it would occupy about 60% of the space with the remaining 40% likely being leased to private companies.
The groundbreaking ceremony press release promises an “announcement of a landmark tenant.”
Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and Virginia’s Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad are both scheduled to be in attendance at the groundbreaking.
Thursday marks GMU’s 50th anniversary. The university officially broke off from the University of Virginia and became independent on April 7, 1972.
Then, on Friday, Mason Square will host an outdoor concert event featuring the David Thong Band which will play cover songs from across the decades. The event asks attendees to “dress your favorite decade,” with the best costume winning a prize.
Virginia Square-based Rocklands BBQ, Shrlington’s New District Brewery, and Captain Cookie & the Milkman (which is opening an outpost in Courthouse this spring) will also be there selling food and drinks.
The event is free.
Next week, noted philosopher Cornel West is set to speak at GMU’s Arlington campus about the current state of American democracy, human rights, and critical race theory.
George Mason University is breaking ground on the massive $235 million expansion of its Arlington campus.
“This is the start of something big for Mason,” Carol Kissal, the university’s senior vice president for administration and finance, said in a statement. “And when it’s done, it will have fundamentally changed our campus, as well as the broader Arlington community.”
Initial work is beginning this week, a GMU spokesperson confirms to ARLnow, despite the weather. A formal groundbreaking is set for the spring to coincide with the university’s 50th anniversary, we’re told.
Right now, there’s a hole at Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square where the old Kann’s Department store once stood. That was demolished in March to make way for a 400,000 square-foot building that will be the centerpiece of the expansion.
As construction gets underway, fencing will go up mostly around the driveway of the FDIC building on N. Monroe Street, a press release notes. Excavation and relocating of an underground storm pipe, water line, and electric line will also take place. There will be drilling, as well, to install beams to support sheeting and shoring.
Neighbors are being told to expect some impacts from construction during the multi-year project.
“There may be some noise. You may feel some vibrations,” said a GMU facilities manager in the press release. “But it’s all safe and done in compliance with rules and requirements. The reality is, the end result will be worth it.”
The building will house faculty from Institute for Digital InnovAtion and the university’s new School of Computing. The university is expected to occupy about 60% of the space with the remaining 40% potentially leased to private companies.
The university is predicting that the expansion, which was planned in the wake of Amazon’s decision to open its HQ2 here, will add 3,000 to 4,000 students to the Arlington campus by the time it opens in the summer of 2025.
While it may be a gaping hole now and a state-of-the-art university facility later, the Fairfax Drive site was in the past the Arlington outpost of the popular D.C.-based Kann’s Department Store. The store featured three floors, an escalator, and some unusual attractions. Apparently, the shoe department had a large glass-windowed display with live spider monkeys from Brazil.
In 1975, the university bought the building and turned it into its law school. At the time, it was believed to be the only law school in the country to have an escalator.
Arlington-based Bakeshop is opening up a third location just across the Key Bridge in Georgetown.
It was more than a decade ago, in the middle of Snowmageddon, when the bakery first started satisfying Arlington’s sweet tooth at 1025 N. Fillmore Street in Clarendon. Since then, Bakeshop has expanded to Falls Church, weathered a pandemic, and, now, is once again growing.
Bakeshop is moving into 3210 Grace Street NW in D.C., just about a mile walk from Gateway Park in Rosslyn and only two and a half miles from their original Clarendon shop.
“Georgetown is a charming little slice of DC, it’s both historic, extremely active and has a good bakery scene,” owner Justin Stegall wrote in an email to ARLnow. “It’s going to be great opening up next to South Block — we’ve been neighbors for over 10 years in Arlington and it’s great to be neighbors in DC.”
The plan is to open by the end of the month (October) “as long as inspections etc. are done,” he notes.
The menu will be similar to that of the other locations, offering vegan treats, Vietnamese coffee, and ice cream “cookiewiches.”
In January 2020, Stegall told ARLnow that he had “no immediate plans to open more” shops but would “do it again if the moment feels right.”
Nearly two years later, the moment felt right despite being in the midst of challenging times.
“The last 18 months has been extremely challenging and has felt more like 5 years. The overall uncertainty about what tomorrow will be like and constantly trying to look out for ourselves and our customers,” Stegall writes. “My team has been brave and very professional throughout this whole ordeal and I’m really proud of them.
Stegall also says the shop is fortunate because it’s “in a business that suits take-out ordering and delivery.”
But there’s certainly something about in-person connections.
“We’ve really missed having our community in the shops for their morning routine of newspaper, pastry and coffee, parents bringing their kids in for a treat, and people just convening in general,” he writes. “That aspect of community has always been a big part of us and it has been sorely missed.”
Over the years, the Bakeshop has gotten attention beyond their treats and expansion. In 2012, the shop was featured on the Cooking Channel and, in 2016, there was a viral Facebook post from Stegall’s mom where she showed her love for her son.
When asked if the shop could expand even more so in the future, Stegall said that’s the plan, if all goes well.
“I hope we will expand further because it is very exciting and rewarding to join a new neighborhood and become part of that community,” he said.
Unfortunately, a Metrorail line through Columbia Pike — supported by nearly 70% of ARLnow poll respondents — did not make the cut. But each of the potential future projects does start with changes that some Arlingtonians could see as benefits: a second Metro station in Rosslyn and a first-ever Georgetown stop.
After linking Rosslyn to Georgetown, all four expanded lines would run parallel to and to the north of existing east-west trains, connecting Arlington to West End, the southern halves of Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, and stopping at Union Station. From there, they veer north toward Greenbelt and New Carrollton, Maryland or south to National Harbor.
Two options stand out from the pack. First, a Silver Line express tunnel in Virginia starting at West Falls Church station, and stopping at a possible second Ballston station en route to a second Rosslyn station. Another intriguing possibility is a Blue Line loop to National Harbor, which would add some new direct transit connectivity to Arlington’s Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor.
WMATA says these two would have the second-greatest and greatest gains in new ridership and annual fare revenue, respectively.
While these changes could improve commutes, the projects are decades down the road, if they happen at all. Each of the two options above could take up to 25 years to fund (needing $20-25 billion), construct and complete.
Suspending for a moment how far away these new Metro projects could be, what do you think of WMATA’s proposed changes to connectivity in Arlington and just over the river?
The Arlington National Cemetery Defense Access Roads (ANC DAR) Project will realign Columbia Pike from east of S. Oak Street to Washington Blvd (Route 27). It will also modify the S. Joyce Street intersection, change the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, and replace Southgate Road with an added segment of S. Nash Street.
Because of this, and as of early last month, parking is now permanently prohibited on Southgate Road between S. Oak Street and Columbia Pike.
Construction is expected to start in the early fall and be completed within four years, by summer of 2025, a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) spokesperson tells ARLnow. This timeline is slightly pushed back from what’s listed on the FHWA project page.
The project will also add a new sidewalk and a shared-use trail, improve bicycle facilities, add street lighting, and put utility lines underground. FHWA’s project page also notes that the work done will be consistent with Arlington County Master Transportation Plan and Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements Project. No residents will be displaced, though construction may bring added noise and traffic disruptions to the nearby Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.
All of this is being done to accommodate a 70 acre southern expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. It will add about 60,00 burial sites, including an above-ground columbarium, which will allow the cemetery to continue burials through the 2050s. The expansion will also bring the Air Force Memorial within cemetery grounds.
This project, particularly the modification of the Columbia Pike and Washington Blvd interchange, will also provide space for the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial Visitor Education Center. Construction on that is expected to start late 2023 with a completion set for two years later.
While this realignment project has been long awaited, it hasn’t happened without some proverbial bumps in the road. Initially, the Army proposed a land exchange agreement with the county where the federal government would acquire the land from the county that was needed for the expansion. In exchange, the county would get “all land south of a realigned Columbia Pike to meet a variety of public facility needs.”
But, in 2017, the Army decided against the land exchange agreement, leaving the county “disappointed.”
Then, last summer, the federal government filed a civil suit to claim through eminent domain nine acres of land from Arlington County. The feds offered the county $10 for the land, but Arlington County Attorney Steve MacIsaac told DCist/WAMU in November 2020 that wasn’t going to cut it.
However, in January 2021, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved an agreement with the state, the Army, and the U.S. Department of Transportation that essentially provided the needed land in exchange for the feds paying for nearly all of the $60 million project. The county is only responsible for $500,000 to design a multi-use trail along Washington Blvd.