Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Rent Rising in Arlington — “Of the 10 top apartment markets in the D.C. metro tracked by Apartment List, average rents are lower than a year ago in six of them. Arlington County, Virginia, remains the most expensive apartment rental market, with an average monthly rent of $2,144. Arlington County rents are still 9.7% lower than a year ago, but rents have bounced back the most, rising by 2.7% over the past month.” [WTOP]

Local Spots on Spring Dining Guide — Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema’s prestigious Spring Dining Guide includes three Arlington or Arlington-connected restaurants: Cafe Colline on Lee Highway, Spice Kraft Indian Bistro in Clarendon, and the soon-to-open Lucky Danger in Pentagon City. [Washington Post]

Arlington, D.C.’s Factory District? — From WAMU’s Martin Austermuhle: “Apparently the idea of re-retroceding Arlington and Alexandria to D.C. was being debated in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Congress. Some believed it would give D.C. a bigger tax base, others said Arlington would be a good place for factories. (Not of cheesecake variety.)” [Twitter]

Thieves Steal Cars With Found Keys — “Between 10:00 p.m. on April 25 and 9:38 a.m. on April 26, the suspect(s) gained entry into the victims vehicle parked in their driveway where a garage door opener was located. The suspect(s) allegedly used the garage opener to gain entry into the victims garage where a second vehicle was located with keys for both vehicles inside. The two vehicles, along with the victims personal property and an undisclosed amount of cash, were stolen.” [ACPD]

New Glebe Turn Lane Open — Northbound N. Glebe Road now has an added left turn lane at Lee Highway, after a year of construction. The project is expected to wrap up in the fall. [Twitter]

F.C. Lowers Tax Rate, Renames Schools — The City of Falls Church has lowered its real estate tax rate by 3.5 cents, the first time it has reduced the rate since 2006. The city’s School Board also selected new names for George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary. [Falls Church News-Press, InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Local Teacher Finalist in TV Contest — From Stacey Finkel, Kenmore Middle School PTA President: “Eurith Bowen, Functional Life Skills teacher at Kenmore Middle School, has been named a finalist for LIVE with Kelly and Ryan’s Top Teacher search. Eurith Bowen is a phenomenal educator who teaches from her heart, and has inspired an entire community to embrace students in a very special way. Eurith teaches students who are identified as having disabilities.” [Live with Kelly and Ryan]

Bridge Repair Work Underway — “Work is underway to rehabilitate the North Glebe Road (Route 120) bridge over Pimmit Run, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation… This summer, North Glebe Road between Military Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) will be closed for about nine days to efficiently replace the bridge deck and beams.” [VDOT]

Most Choosing In-Person Learning in Fall — From Superintendent Francisco Durán: “Based on preliminary results from the family selection process, an overwhelming number of families are choosing to return in person in the fall… Previous communications stated that we are planning for both normal capacities as well as developing contingency plans should 3-foot distancing be recommended; however, we want to be transparent that 3-foot distancing is not feasible with the enrollment we are anticipating.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Masks for Youth Sports Questioned — “An Arlington County softball dad created a petition to take on the county’s school system on sports and mask mandates. The school system’s spokesperson sent FOX 5 an emailed response on Tuesday, affirming student athletes will be required to wear masks during competition until the end of the school year… Nearly 300 people have signed the petition made for 500 signatures, calling for the Arlington County Public School’s Superintendent to drop the youth sport mask mandate.” [Fox 5]

Milk Spills into Stream from I-395 — “If you see a white substance in Long Branch Creek, don’t have a cow – it’s just spilled milk, according to the Arlington Fire Department. The department said an incident on Interstate 395 led to a milk truck leaking ‘approximately 50 gallons.’ According to a tweet, that milk has made it into Long Branch Creek near South Troy Street.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Work could begin soon on the 65-year-old W. Glebe Road Bridge, which Arlington County says is “structurally deficient.”

This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to approve a $9.9 million contract that would kickstart the project. Improvements include replacing the top of the bridge, repairing its supports and making it more pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly.

According to the county, the bridge is in poor condition and requires attention soon. The bridge has been restricted to vehicles weighing fewer than five tons since a routine inspection in November 2018 uncovered structural problems.

The bridge “needs immediate superstructure replacement as further deterioration of the beams may result in bridge closure for [an] extended period,” a staff report said.

W. Glebe Road Bridge will remain open to vehicles and pedestrians during construction, which is expected to last 18 months, the county said, adding that extra time is needed to move underground utilities.

“The project includes removing the existing prestressed concrete superstructure and constructing a new superstructure with steel girders and a concrete deck,” the report said. “The project also includes repairing the existing substructures, and installing new,
wider sidewalks, bike lanes, architectural features and enhanced lighting.”

This bridge is the first to be rebuilt as part of an agreement between Arlington and Alexandria to share the costs of rehabilitating and maintaining five bridges across Four Mile Run which connect the two jurisdictions. Once the repairs are complete, Arlington will be fully responsible for inspecting and maintaining the W. Glebe Road Bridge.

The next bridge slated for attention is Arlington Ridge Road, which needs to be repaired in two to five years, according to the county. Other bridges in the agreement are at Shirlington Road, Route 1 and Potomac Avenue.

The county said it has received community feedback in favor of replacing the bridge, adding separate areas for pedestrian and bicycle traffic and incorporating art.

Such art elements would “connect the design of the bridge to Four Mile Run and the communities that live in the area,” the report said.

According to the county, some people voiced concerns about the length of the project. A shorter build time would require closing the bridge, staff said.

“The public prefers the bridge remain open during the construction period,” the county said.

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2-3) via Arlington County

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A pie shop owner says an ongoing county construction project has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

About six weeks ago, Heather Sheire arrived to work at Livin’ the Pie Life at 2166 N. Glebe Road to find bulldozers tearing up the pavement in front of the shop.

“That’s how much notice I got from the county that there was going to be a disruption,” owner Sheire tells ARLnow, who opened the shop in 2016. She is now seeking financial compensation from county.

The construction was due to the ongoing Lee Highway and Glebe Road intersection improvement project which isn’t set to be substantially completed until the fall.

“Our parking was getting blocked and, then, 21st Road [N.] was getting blocked and, then, the sidewalk was getting blocked,” Sheire says, frustration rising in her voice. “Then, I started to notice our sales were down.”

The shop relies on walk-ups, she says, with about 90% of sales coming from walk-in orders.

Sheire even bought one of those feather-like flags as a way to catch people’s eyes from the road, but it was removed by construction crews.

March 3 was a tipping point. Again, Sheire saw a construction truck parked across the entrance of the shop’s driveway. So, she finally reached out to the county.

“[They] were sympathetic, but I need more than sympathy and friendlessness,” Sheire says. “This was having a very substantial economic impact on my business.”

She tells ARLnow, after comparing numbers from years past, that she believes the business has lost “tens of thousands of dollars” as a result of this construction project.

“I have a historical record from [March] last year to this year… we went from being down 10% to 46%,” she says.

Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, confirms that Sheire did reach out.

“Once we were made aware of the pie shop owner’s concerns, the project team responded by making every effort possible to accommodate the business during streetscape construction along their store frontage,” he writes to ARLnow.

According to Balliet, this included scheduling construction mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays (when the shop is closed), upgrading bike racks, installing a curb along parking spaces to prevent vehicles from damaging the building, and relocating street signs to improve visibility of the storefront.

Also, as part of the project, the county has upgraded the pie shop’s front walkway to concrete and expanded access to the store’s parking spaces for those driving northbound along N. Glebe Road.

Sheire agrees, for the most part, that the county has either already done the things promised or she believes they will — except for improving access to parking.

“It is trickier to get into the parking now than before. They added a short wall along the sidewalk on Glebe that now must be navigated to get into and out of the parking from Glebe,” she says. “It’s become a maze, a puzzle to get in there.”

But even fixing all of that will not change the financial damage that has already occurred to her business.

“[We] deserve some kind of financial compensation because they were literally blocking access to our business,” Sheire says. “It’s wrong for the county to initiate a project like this without taking into account the economic impact it has on a small business.”

In March, she received her business license tax bill from the county, which set her off.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says. “I felt like Arlington County had not given me value for my business license.”

She contacted the Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava and other top local officials about waiving the tax, or offering some sort of compensation, but was told that could not be done.

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An “emergency utility repair” at Arlington’s sewage treatment plant led to a sewage release into Four Mile Run.

The sewage release happened this morning at the plant on S. Glebe Road. County officials are warning people to avoid the stream between S. Arlington Ridge Road and the Potomac.

“The public is advised to stay away from the affected water and to keep pets away until further notice,” Arlington County said in a press release. “Stream water can contain microorganisms that can make people sick, whether the stream is located in an urban area or in the middle of a forest. Even after the discharge is naturally flushed from the streams, the County’s normal precautions for safe use of streams apply.”

Crews are working to repair the unspecified issue at the plant. As a result of the work, a portion of S. Glebe Road is closed at S. Eads Street.

“An estimated completion time for the repair is unknown at this time,” the county said.

Separately, just before 9:15 a.m., a crash also blocked a lane of S. Glebe Road near S. Arlington Ridge Road, after an SUV reportedly careened into a utility pole.

Update at 1:30 p.m. — All lanes of S. Glebe Road have reopened, the county says.

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A new restaurant called Ballston Local is coming to the former location of Stageplate Bistro at 900 N. Glebe Road.

One of the co-owners confirmed with ARLnow that Ballston Local could open in late April or early May after some renovations to the space. The partners, who do not wish to be named yet, want to time the opening with springtime and more positive news about the coronavirus vaccine.

“It’s a new and exciting concept that is focused on crave-worthy food with a full bar,” said one of the co-owners, adding that he and his business partner live in Fairfax County and intend Ballston Local to be a “local, non-chain based environment.”

The partners, who together have decades of restaurant experience, are still hammering out menu details. Ballston Local will meet the demand for fast-casual, office worker-friendly lunches as well as a more traditional service with a full-service bar for happy hour, dinner and drinks.

Despite optimism from its owner, Mary Marchetti, Stageplate Bistro succumbed to the reputation haunting the western side of N. Glebe Road for being a difficult place for restaurants to survive. The bistro temporarily closed in February 2020 for hiring and staff training and internal reorganizing, with plans to reopen in March.

Then, the pandemic hit and by June, Stageplate Bistro had closed for good.

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A recent Morning Notes post on ARLnow has resulted in a fake road sign being removed in Arlington.

ARLnow published the photo above, taken along N. Glebe Road near Chain Bridge, on Nov. 5. Though the construction sign in the foreground gets top billing, eagle-eyed readers might have noticed the “Adopt-a-Highway” sign behind it, which says — in the space reserved for the adopting organization — “PLEASE JUST RAISE TAXES.”

Was that strictly a prank, or did a group by that name really sign up, using the name to send a snarky message about the concept of volunteer roadway trash collection.

A regular ARLnow commenter, known as Smiley456, emailed VDOT to ask about it.

“Can you verify if the group mentioned on the Adopt a Highway sign either exists or someone defaced the sign?” Smiley456 asked in an email sent to the agency’s Adopt-a-Highway inbox earlier this month.

The answer that came back, from a VDOT employee, was that it was indeed a prank.

“Upon investigation we found that this current road section is available for adoption via the Adopt-a-Highway program,” the employee said. “The previous permit holder’s sign was vandalized with a look-alike VDOT sticker reading ‘PLEASE JUST RAISE TAXES.’ Currently we have removed this portion of the signage and have an order to remove the former Adopt-a-Highway group’s signage in process.”

“I appreciate you bringing this to my attention and allowing me to investigate and resolve this situation,” the employee added, attaching a photo of the removed portion of the sign.

Those interested in adopting that stretch of Glebe Road can find out more about the Adopt-a-Highway program on VDOT’s website.

Photo (below) via VDOT

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A SWAT raid prompted a large police presence just north of Ballston this morning.

At least one lane of N. Glebe Road was blocked as Arlington County police executed a search warrant at a home near the corner of Glebe and 13th Street N., in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood. Numerous police vehicles and a fire department vehicle could be seen in the area.

The police activity has now largely cleared out.

ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said the deployment was “part of an ongoing narcotics investigation.”

There were at least two other drug-related SWAT actions earlier this year in Arlington, although it’s unclear if either are related to today’s raid.

In February a man was arrested after a SWAT team swarmed a condo complex across from the Virginia Square Metro station. In March ACPD tactical teams took several people into custody after surrounding a vehicle in a parking lot near Columbia Pike, as part of a narcotics investigation.

Courtesy photo

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Morning Notes

AIM to Spotlight Arlington’s Black Community — “In 2018, Arlington native Wilma Jones published a book about the neighborhood she grew up in. My Halls Hill Family: More Than a Neighborhood details the evolution of a community of freed slaves, which was founded after the Civil War… Jones and Arlington Independent Media (AIM), a nonprofit organization, are launching a multi-part series called UNTOLD: Stories of Black Arlington.” [WDVM]

Interview with Interim Police Chief — “After 29 years with Arlington County, Virginia, Police, Deputy Chief Andy Penn knows a concerning trend when he sees one. Just weeks before moving into the role of interim chief, Penn said addressing an uptick in deadly overdoses was an immediate focus. As of Aug. 18, the county had lost 16 people to overdose deaths, according to Arlington County police data.” [WTOP]

Flu Vaccines Now Available at Giant — “Giant Food announced Monday flu shots are available at in-store pharmacies, including locations in the Arlington area. The flu vaccines are administered by Giant pharmacists and do not require an appointment. A copayment is usually not required through most insurance plans.” [Patch]

Here’s Why Glebe Road Was Closed — “For those wondering, Glebe was blocked just north of Ballston [Sunday] night due to a vehicle that rammed a house’s gas meter, causing a leak. No injuries were reported, some nearby homes were briefly evacuated, per ACFD spokesman.” [Twitter]

Storms Possible This Evening — “[Monday was] the beginning of a several-day stretch of storm threats. [Today] the Storm Prediction Center has the region under an ‘enhanced risk,’ or Level 3 out of 5. On Wednesday, it’s a slight risk at Level 2. As with tomorrow, damaging winds will be the main threat.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Update at 4 p.m. — Firefighters have largely cleared the scene but at least one northbound lane is now expected to remain closed while crews repair the line.

Earlier: Several blocks of S. Glebe Road are blocked due to a reported gas line rupture.

Initial reports suggest that a construction vehicle struck a gas line along the 3100 block of S. Glebe Road shortly after 3 p.m., causing a leak. Police and firefighters are on scene, awaiting repair crews from the gas company.

All lanes of Glebe are blocked between S. Fern Street and Arlington Ridge Road. The southbound lanes are expected to reopen momentarily.

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N. Glebe Road is expected to close for nine straight days next year for a bridge rehabilitation project.

In a recently-posed video presentation, VDOT provided an update on its planned Pimmit Run bridge project. The presentation details the plan to replace the deteriorating bridge deck and steel supporting beams with large, prefabricated components.

Sections of the bridge deck and support beams will be constructed off-site and trucked in, then placed with a crane. That will allow crews to replace the entire top of the bridge much faster than with conventional construction techniques, which would require a sequential series of lane closures.

The downside is that the bridge — and thus N. Glebe Road, just up from Chain Bridge — will need to be closed to traffic entirely for an estimated nine days next year.

The project is set to kick off next spring and wrap up in the fall of 2021. Its projected cost of $9.5 million will come from state and federal funds.

The bridge was built in 1973, serves 13,000 vehicles per day, and is suffering from corroding concrete and steel supports. The project will replace the entire bridge deck and support beams, while also repairing the concrete bridge piers in and around Pimmit Run, near where it flows into the Potomac.

The rehabilitated bridge will have new rails and barriers, as well as a widened pedestrian path.

During the project, traffic heading to and from Chain Bridge will be detoured via McLean and N. Chain Bridge Road. A closure of N. Glebe Road just up from the bridge last week, due to water main work, resulted only in minor traffic impacts — albeit during a pandemic during which many people are working from home.

VDOT is asking for anyone with feedback on the project to email [email protected] by Aug. 7.

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