Tacos El Chilango parks at the corner of 14th Street N. and N. Quinn Street nearly every day. From the truck, people can see drivers whiz by on Route 50. Before customers get a $2.50 taco (or five), they might stand in a line that goes down the block. The menu is limited to only six kinds of meat tacos and a small selection of drinks. But no one is complaining.
Making Yelp’s Top 100 List in 2014 was no easy feat. Engineers from Yelp took into account number of reviews and star ratings to reveal the most popular spots in the country, over the past 10 years that Yelp had been up and running. Tacos El Chilango made number 58.
Jesus and Juan Antonio Santacruz opened the truck together in Arlington in 2007. Juan Antonio now runs El Chilango’s D.C. location (1119 V. Street NW), which opened in 2012. It has a somewhat larger menu including veggie options and indoor and outdoor seating space.
When the two first opened shop, they were inspired by their parents, who moved from Central Mexico to Mexico City in the 1950s and opened their first taco business.
“My parents had the house, and in the front they had the business, so we practically lived there. We are eight siblings and we all have taco shops,” Juan Antonio said.
Five taco stores are in Mexico, and three are in the U.S.– the two El Chilango locations, and Tacos El Papi, another truck, owned by their eldest brother, is parked on Columbia Pike in Arlington.
Juan Antonio and Jesus established their space because Jesus lives nearby, and one winter they got snowed into the spot. People started noticing the truck because there aren’t really other businesses around. And so they stayed.
What makes these tacos special? People could look to the 349 Yelp reviews (only five of which are under three stars) or ask someone who took to the street at lunchtime today.
Maurice Dayton calls himself a “religious patron” of El Chilango. He said he comes to get his lunch at the truck at least twice a week. He’s not the only super fan — 55 Yelp reviews used the word “love” to describe their feelings for the fresh tacos.
“I’m not lying, I’m from Texas and I know a thing about tacos, this is the closest I’ve come to being back home with tacos, and I have to say, it’s even better,” Dayton said.
Jesus says the secret to the tacos is never changing the recipe — and keeping ingredients fresh every day.
“A lot of people ask for sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes and we say ‘no.’ We like to keep them authentic, the way we grew up with them, the way we make them in Mexico. We make everything pretty much every day,” Santacruz said.
Dayton lives in Maryland but works in a nearby State Department office, where he says everyone makes the walk down to the truck. He mentioned a few other spots he said had good tacos, but they didn’t compare.
“I just absolutely love coming here. You have to try the El Mixto. They’re some of the absolute best tacos anywhere. I wish I could franchise this place,” Dayton said, laughing.
Matt Evans is a longtime patron of the truck who just moved in Arlington, just blocks away from El Chilango’s parking spot — a move he’s very excited about.
“I have a lot of coworkers who are super into District Taco, and hands-down this is way better than District Taco. It’s that authentic, it’s like California tacos,” Evans said.
It makes sense that they would be authentic, as “Chilango” is a Mexican slang word meaning the people who live in or come from Mexico City. And Juan Antonio says even though there is the most business on Fridays and Saturdays, the truck is busy year-round.
“Even when it’s so hot or so cold, people want tacos,” he said.
Police say 30-year-old Sunny Parekh was arrested without incident at his home on the 1400 block of N. Scott Street, near Courthouse, last night (Wednesday). He’s been charged with the Nov. 10, 2014 robbery of the Presidential Bank on the 900 block of N. Stuart Street.
The FBI and Alexandria police assisted with the investigation and arrest, according to an Arlington County Police Department press release (below).
Parekh is currently being held at the Arlington County Detention Facility, which incidentally is located just three blocks from his home.
“He can probably see it from his cell window,” noted Arlington police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “It wasn’t a far drive.”
Parekh is also a suspect in two other bank robberies, in Alexandria and the District. No word yet on whether charges have been filed for either of those robberies.
A bank robbery suspect was taken into custody by the Arlington County Police Department, with assistance from the FBI Washington Field Office and Alexandria Police Department, at his residence in the 1400 block of N. Scott Street. Sunny Parekh, 30, of Arlington, VA, was arrested during the evening of April 8, 2015 and charged with bank robbery. He is being held without bail.
At approximately 3:59 p.m. on November 10, 2014, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center was alerted of a bank robbery that had just taken place at the Presidential Bank, located in the 900 block of N. Stuart Street. The suspect entered the bank just prior to closing time and handed a teller a note that demanded money and implied he had a weapon. The teller gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of money and the subject fled towards Ballston Metro Center.
After months of police investigation and collaboration with partner law enforcement agencies, Parekh was identified as the primary suspect. Officers took the subject into custody without incident and he is being held at the Arlington County Detention Facility. “The closing of this case by our investigators was the direct result of outstanding work by our patrol officers and the leveraging of the resources of our FBI and Alexandria colleagues with whom we work closely on a daily basis,” commented Daniel J. Murray, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division.
Two new residential buildings and a rebuilt substance-abuse recovery facility have been given the green light by the Arlington County Board.
The development, called Gables North Rolfe Street, will have 395 residential units and a public, 8,000-square-foot park featuring three mature oak trees. The developer, Gables Residential, will also tear down and construct a new building for Independence House, a transitional living facility for those recovering from substance abuse.
The complex will be located on the 1300 block of N. Rolfe Street, near Courthouse.
Thirty-nine of the units will be committed affordable housing and the developer also has the option to install a $75,000 work of public art on the site or donate to the county’s public art fund as a community benefit. The development was approved unanimously on Saturday.
“This redevelopment addresses some of the important priorities that the Fort Myer community identified in the Fort Myer Heights North Plan,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “It includes on-site affordable housing, brings a new public park to Fort Myer and preserves some beautiful, mature trees. Importantly, it also rebuilds Independence House, the County’s transitional living facility.”
Before approving the development, County Board members inquired about the option for a small, 1,000-square-foot community retail option in the site plan application, a provision the developer was initially hesitant to put in. Real estate attorney Evan Pritchard, representing Gables at the Board hearing, said they would be open to building a retail space if they can find the right vendor to operate a convenience store, serving the residents and park users.
“It remains to be seen, as we go forward with the project, whether it happens or not,” Pritchard said of the retail.
The construction is expected to take two years, and it would include building four levels of parking; two below-grade and two above-grade.
The Independence House would be rebuilt, but not expanded, because more residents might limit the program’s effectiveness. The new building will have 14 single-occupant units, which provides more flexibility with which users can join the program.
“The existing size is ideal for the group work that happens in the evenings, working on life skills and recovery,” county Department of Human Services substance abuse treatment supervisor Nancie Connolly told the Board. “The larger numbers of individuals would make it more institutional rather than transitional living, which has more independence.”
Only one public speaker — frequent Board critic Jim Hurysz — gave testimony at the Board hearing. The lack of speakers and issues with the proposal, which includes three parcels of county land and a number of community benefits, was “remarkable,” Hynes said.
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) A new 2.17 acre apartment development is likely coming to the Courthouse area.
Gables North Rolfe Street is planned as a two building, 400,000 square feet, 395 unit apartment complex on the 1300 block of N. Rolfe Street, in the Radnor / Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, just off of Route 50.
The tract of land on which the project will be built is steep, wooded and also includes a handful of older single family homes and small apartment complexes. Because Arlington County owns three parcels of land on the site, it has been able to work with developer Gables Residential on a number of public benefits.
Among the the benefits, to be paid for by the developer:
- A new, 8,000 square foot public park that will include a 200-year-old tree
- LEED Gold certification for the apartment complex
- Thirty-nine units of committed affordable housing
- A stand-alone, 14-unit transitional living facility, for those recovering from substance abuse. This will replace the existing Independence House facility on the site, according to Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.
The project is expected be considered by the County Board at its February meeting, in two weeks.
Discussing the project at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said the benefits from such projects represent key Democratic values.
“Affordable housing furthers diversity, inclusivity and sustainability, all of which are values… that have driven this community,” she said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reflected County Board Chair Mary Hynes’ remarks that the planned transitional living facility was for those who were just getting out of jail. A county spokesman says that is incorrect, and that the facility will be for substance abuse recovery.
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) A passenger van overturned after hitting a parked car and sending both vehicles tumbling down an embankment in Ft. Myer Heights at about 10:45 this morning.
A witness told ARLnow.com that the driver of the van lost control of his vehicle on 14th Street N. The van swerved into a parking lot on the 1700 block and hit the trunk of a parked Honda sedan. The Honda was sent over the curb and down the embankment, taking out a small tree with it, the witness said.
The van flipped onto its side, and both vehicles came to a stop on Fairfax Drive, adjacent to Route 50. Police remained on scene for an hour as the vehicles were cleared and towed away.
There were no injuries as a result of the collision. Police declined to comment on if the van’s driver would be charged.
Construction on 193 new apartments — including 78 affordable units — in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood has begun, and county officials and developers celebrated today with a groundbreaking.
The project, called Union on Queen, will raze three buildings to erect a 12-story tower, which will contain 181 apartments. The two buildings that make up the Pierce Queen Apartments, built in 1942 on the 1600 block of 16th Street N., will be gutted, but preserved and renovated. They will be converted into 12 affordable units.
The project is a public-private partnership among The Bozzuto Group, nonprofit developer Wesley Housing and Arlington County, which is providing debt financing. Construction began a few weeks ago, according to Bozzuto President Toby Bozzuto, and is expected to last two years, putting the project on track for an October 2016 opening.
The process to get the apartments from proposal to site plan approval to construction was not an easy one. The project was deferred by the Arlington County Board before its March 2013 approval for design and parking concerns. It also faced issues securing affordable housing grants from both the county and the state.
The developers and public officials in attendance at this morning’s groundbreaking all noted how tough of a slog the approval process was. Wesley Properties President and CEO Shelley Murphy said the company’s founder called Pierce Queen Apartments “the project from hell” when the company acquired it in 1991.
“This is as good an example of why Arlington succeeds as anything,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “We actually follow through. Follow-through is hard. We all create plans, we all create visions, we write beautiful words, we put it on a shelf. In Arlington, we work really hard to bring the vision to life, to make the investments and the hard calls to make things work.”
Rep. Jim Moran didn’t step up to the podium — “One of the nice things about retiring is that I don’t have to stand up at any more podiums and microphones,” he joked — but said “Arlington County works, and it works because they understand that communities and their economies are a reflection of a collective decision-making on the part of thousands of families.”
Arlington approved $6.8 million in Affordable Housing Investment Fund money toward the project, which also received assistance from the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The state money wasn’t easy to secure, several of the speakers said, partly because the development’s total cost was close to being ineligible for state money. Eventually, the sides struck an arrangement and Fisette said the apartments will be up to the high standards the county has set.
“There are a lot of places that would say, ‘Dumb it down, cheaper, less efficient. It’s affordable housing in there’,” Fisette said. “But that’s not the way this community works. We want every building to be indistinguishable from the next.”
Va. ‘Fully Committed’ to Streetcar Funding — Despite budget cuts, the Commonwealth of Virginia is still “fully committed” to providing up to $65 million for the Columbia Pike streetcar project, according to the director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation. [Washington Post]
Name Proposed for New Elementary School — “Discovery Elementary” is the name proposed by a steering committee for the new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus. The name will be formally presented to the school board on Thursday. [InsideNova]
Firefighters Endorse Vihstadt — The Arlington County firefighters and paramedics union has endorsed John Vihstadt for reelection in the race for Arlington County Board.
Candidate Forum Tonight — The Radnor Fort Myer Heights Civic Association will hold a forum with the candidates for Congress, County Board, Treasurer and School Board tonight at 7:00 p.m. [Ode Street Tribune]
Sen. Kaine Speaks to RAFOM — Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) spoke to the Radnor – Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, near Rosslyn, on Monday. The meeting was RAFOM’s 15th anniversary. Kaine spoke about budget issues, defense issues, foreign policy issues, and broad issues of working together politically. He said that “we as a nation are in a period of significant soul searching.” [Ode Street Tribune]
Pedro and Vinny’s Makes ‘Best Burrito’ Bracket — Pedro and Vinny’s, the acclaimed burrito stand at 2599 Columbia Pike, has made the south region bracket in data website Five Thirty Eight’s methodical search for America’s Best Burrito. Five Thirty Eight founder Nate Silver “felt strongly” that Pedro and Vinny’s should be on the list since it had the second-highest VORB (Value Over Replacement Burrito) score in the south. [Five Thirty Eight]
Tysons Wants to Be Arlington — Fairfax County officials are trying to emulate Clarendon and Ballston in remaking Tysons Corner into a vibrant, walkable, transit-accessible community. The plan is getting a boost from the expected summer opening of the Silver Line, for which Metro has added 460 new employees in recent weeks. [Citylab, Reston Now]
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) The leasing center at the new Avery Row (1200 N. Rolfe Street) apartment complex opened for business yesterday (December 9).
Potential residents can now tour the four story, 67-unit building in the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood. The “boutique apartment community” features one and two bedroom apartments, balconies, rooftop terraces and an outdoor dining area.
“We give you a lot of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, a lot of outdoor areas to appreciate nature,” said Shelley Brooks, Regional Portfolio Manager for Bozzuto Management Company. “It’s a very special community. It’s modern, yet elegant. I think they’ll go very quickly.”
The complex had previously been known as “Grayson Flats” and was intended to be marketed as apartment rentals. But Reston-based Silverwood Companies announced its purchase of the property in April and repositioned it as a condominium building, while also changing the name to “The Avery.” The property was recently repositioned again as the Avery Row apartments; it is still owned by Silverwood and Bozzuto Management Company currently oversees the property.
Brooks explained that The Avery opened for condo sales in early June and interest rates increased less than three weeks later, stopping interest in the condos. Silverwood reassessed the market and determined apartments were a better option, especially given what it calls a lack of large, luxury units in the area.
The apartments are ready for immediate move-in. So far, one apartment has been leased and there are 66 others available. Monthly rental prices range from $2,345 for a one bedroom to more than $3,430 for a two bedroom with den.
Metro Keys Stolen from Arlington Fire Truck — Two men wearing masks and black clothing stole keys to secure areas of the Metro system from an unattended Arlington County fire truck last week. The theft happened during a medical call in Crystal City, and the thieves also stole a forcible entry tool called a Hydra Ram. [NBC Washington]
New Wakefield Aquatics Center Debuts — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new aquatics center at Wakefield High School on Sunday. The center is expected to draw a larger crowd than the aging, existing Wakefield aquatics facility it replaces. The cost of entry is up to $5.50 per day for Arlington residents. [Sun Gazette]
Ft. Myer Heights Playground Opening Imminent — A new playground in Ft. Myer Heights, with slides made to look like hollowed-out logs, is set to open as soon as Wednesday. The playground also features a sand pit and picnic benches. [Ode Street Tribune]
New Poll Shows McAuliffe With Lead in Gov. Race — Democrat Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli 47-39 among likely votes in the Virginia governor’s race, according to a new Washington Post poll. Cuccinelli had a 10 point lead in a poll conducted this spring. [Washington Post]
Lt. Gov. Debate in Arlington Tonight — The candidates for Virginia lieutenant governor — Republican E.W. Jackson and Democrat Ralph Northam — will face off in a live debate in Arlington tonight. The 90-minute debate will take place at 7:00 p.m. at George Mason University’s Founders Hall Auditorium in Virginia Square. [George Mason University]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Pierce Queen Apartments Too Costly for Tax Credits? — The Virginia Housing Development Authority has flagged the Pierce Queen Apartments project in Ft. Myer Heights as being too expensive for Low Income Housing Tax Credits. The units must remain at $350,000 each to receive credit, but the Pierce Queen units come in at $402,000. The project developers asked for a little more than $2 million in tax credits. VHDA is still examining the request and will make its final decision on June 5. [Arlington Mercury]
DOD Renews Lease in Crystal City — The Department of Defense decided to renew its lease at 2530 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The agency was expected to stay in the more than 550,000 square foot space due to money being tight within the federal government. [GlobeSt]
High School Tournament Roundup — In high school sports, the Washington-Lee boys tennis team defeated the Robinson Rams in a quarterfinal match, but lost to Langley in the region semifinals. Yorktown boys and girls lacrosse teams lost in their second rounds of tournaments. Yorktown sophomore Luke Maxwell finished his season undefeated and won the National District singles tennis tournament without dropping a set. [Northern Virginia Sports]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
The new “Grayson Flats” rental apartment building, at 1200 N. Rolfe Street in Radnor/Fort Myer Heights, has been purchased by a local developer and is being re-positioned as a condominium building called “The Avery.”
Reston-based Silverwood Companies announced today that it has purchased the 67-unit building, which was originally planned as a condominium, before being converted to rentals. Now, the building is back to condos.
“There is considerable demand for new condominiums, and with interest rates at historic lows, we see real opportunity,” said Mark Silverwood of Silverwood Associates, in a press release. “The building was designed as a condominium with large floor plans and an array of impressive amenities.”
“This will be exceptional new offering into a condominium market with virtually no inventory, and — most importantly — will be available for occupancy this summer,” said David Mayhood of The Mayhood Company. “The timing could not be better.”
The Avery features one- and two- and two-bedroom-plus den condos up to 1,750 square feet. Prices start in the mid-$400,000’s.
Building construction was completed in March and sales will start in May, with the first move-ins expected at some point this summer. The condo conversion took place before any of the units were leased, according to a spokeswoman.
More about the building, from the press release:
Situated in a park-like setting adjacent to Fort Myer, The Avery enjoys a highly convenient location just an eight-minute walk to the Courthouse Metro station. Residents will enjoy easy access to Routes 50 and 66, the George Washington Parkway, and to the shops, restaurants, culture and nightlife of both the District and Arlington. Georgetown and the Kennedy Center, just two miles away, can be reached easily by car, public transportation, or on local bicycle trails.
Almost 90 percent of The Avery’s homes have private outdoor spaces – some up to 300 square feet – including large patios, balconies, and individual rooftop terraces. The floor plans feature open entertaining areas, gourmet kitchens with large granite- topped islands, and wide plank flooring. Especially impressive is the abundance of closets, built-in shelving, and in-unit storage space. Individual condominiums, with ceiling heights up to ten feet, range from 750 SF to 1,750 SF, and most feature powder rooms. Some 40 percent of the homes offer private dens that are perfect for home office or guest room use.
The Avery’s stylish amenities include an elegant entrance lobby with a staffed front desk, The Avery Club Room opening onto a large outside terrace with landscaping, seating, and cooking station, and a residents’ rooftop terrace. The fitness center offers both strength training and cardio equipment with IPod docks. Garage parking, bike storage, and individual storage spaces also are available.
Approval for a high rise development in the Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood has been put on hold until the County Board receives more information about the plan.
Bozzuto Development Company had submitted a proposal for a large scale project in the 1600 block of N. 16th Street. It would involve redeveloping the five buildings that make up Pierce Queen Apartments; three of the buildings would be razed and replaced with a new 12-story apartment tower, and the other two buildings would be preserved and renovated. In total, the buildings would house more than 190 units.
The county’s Site Plan Review Committee raised several issues with the proposal during a January meeting. Problem areas included the proposed building bulk, lack of open space, above-grade parking, proposed locations of electrical switchboxes and the lack of a public art contribution. Additionally, concerns arose regarding the applicant’s request for Affordable Housing Investment Funds (AHIF) for the 76 affordable units and the anticipated request for competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).
Earlier this month, the developer submitted a revised proposal that addressed a number of the issues. The developer has agreed to measures such as installing public art, eliminating above-grade parking and re-designing an interior courtyard. However, the AHIF concerns remain a sticking point.
The staff report says the developer didn’t propose a potential Tenant Assistance Fund and no affordability commitment period had been submitted. Staff also reported that no official AHIF application had been received, but the developer is seeking a county investment ranging from $6 million to $9.5 million. The developer had presented a plan indicating each market unit would cost $365,000 to develop and the affordable units would each cost $455,000 to develop. That exceeds the VHDA development cost limit of $350,000 per unit, although sometimes exceptions can be made. Concerns also exist in the way the developer plans to repay the AHIF and the time frame for doing so.
County staff recommended deferring the issue until May but the Board voted unanimously to defer until March 11. That date was chosen in an attempt to approve the plan before the March 15 tax credit application deadline. Board members mentioned the unusual circumstances, but stressed that there’s no guarantee the plan would receive approval in time. The applicant still must prove that all contingencies have been adequately met.
“If this is going to work it’s going to have to be all hands on deck working really hard,” said Board member Jay Fisette. “I hope we can get there.”
Although there’s a push to get the proposal handled quickly, Board member Mary Hynes highlighted the need to still be thorough. Because the process has been so rushed to meet the deadline, she said everyone from Board members to county staff working on the matter are still fuzzy on how the specifics will work out. Board members aren’t interested in moving forward, regardless of tax credit deadlines, if the plan isn’t solid.
“We don’t have a clear understanding of how all the bits and pieces are going to fit together. It’s important for us on the Board that our staff is confident,” said Hynes. “Doing affordable housing in new construction is expensive. And doing it on the Metro is even more expensive. We have to do a lot of due diligence around this to make sure the taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars. I think we need to give this enough time to be sure.”
Three aging, affordable garden apartment buildings will be replaced with a new, 12-story residential tower as part of a planned mixed-income development in the Rador-Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood.
Wesley Housing Development Corporation is partnering with Bozzuto to redevelop the five-building, 50-unit Pierce Queen Apartments, built in 1942 and located on the 1600 block of 16th Street N. The developers have proposed to tear down three of the buildings in order to build a new 186-unit apartment tower, while renovating the remaining two garden apartment buildings.
As reported by the Arlington Mercury, however, the county’s Site Plan Review Committee expressed reservations about the project at a meeting on Monday.
SPRC members questioned various aspects of the project’s design and one member said flatly that he was “not comfortable” with the overall design. Members also questioned whether parking fees for market-rate apartments (parking will be free for affordable apartment residents) would send cars onto neighborhood streets seeking free parking.
The project’s McLean-based architect countered that his firm followed the county’s sector plan for the area “almost to the exact T,” the Mercury reported.
The county’s Planning Commission is currently expected to take up the Pierce Queen development in January, with a County Board vote expected in “early 2013.”
The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve a contract for improvements to Ft. Myer Heights Park (1400 Ft. Myer Drive).
The planned improvements to the 0.48 acre park include new nature-themed playground equipment, new fencing, an accessible path to the playground from Ft. Myer Drive, concrete retaining walls, enhanced plantings and improved site drainage. The construction contract, in the amount of $475,920.53 plus a $47,592.04 contingency, will be awarded to Avon Corporation.
The existing park consists of a small playground area, basketball court, picnic area and open grassy field. The park improvements were devised with the help of input from the community, including the Radnor / Fort Myer Heights Civic Association.
Images via Arlington County