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Arlington Chess Club members in November 2022 (photo courtesy of Arlington Chess Club)

Membership in the seven-decade-old Arlington Chess Club has increased by more than 40% since prior to the pandemic.

The club has seen an influx of new members since coming back to in-person play in August at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church, near Ballston, president Adam Chrisney told ARLnow. The club has been around since the 1950s, which likely makes it the oldest chess club in the D.C. area.

There are now nearly 225 members of the Arlington Chess Club, a 40% increase since early 2020, according to Chrisney. During the regularly-scheduled Friday night meet-ups at the church, 30 to 35 people on average show up. That number, though, has reached 60 a few times recently.

At the club’s monthly weekend tournaments, held at the Marriott Residence Inn in Ballston, participation is up “at least 20%” since those also returned in late summer.

The increased numbers mirror national trends, with chess’s popularity reaching heights not seen in 50 years.

Chrisney believes the renewed interest is related to two factors: folks increasingly taking up chess online, but then seeking out in-person play opportunities, and the streaming success of The Queen’s Gambit.

In the early days of the pandemic, people were sitting at home with not much to do. So, they went online to get their chess fix.

“Online chess was an activity that saw a huge amount of participation,” Chrisney said. “And I think people, once they got out [more], realize there were face-to-face opportunities to play chess.”

The Queen’s Gambit, meanwhile, which reached its zenith of popularity in the pandemic’s early days. The Netflix hit demonstrated that chess could be “sexy and cool,” Chrisney said.

The Arlington Chess Club was founded in 1954 by Col. John D. Mattheson, per the club’s website. It’s believed to be the oldest continuous club in the region and widely considered the strongest in terms of standard of play.

“The club has also produced more than its fair share of Virginia State Champions,” reads the website.

Chrisney is actually the only third president of the club in its nearly 70-year history. Despite its longevity and sterling reputation, the club does face long-term challenges. A permanent and affordable venue and a multi-member active board that runs operations are the two things that Chrisney believes the club needs to remain viable.

As much as he enjoys being the club’s president, it’s a volunteer position that requires a serious commitment. Plus, he misses playing.

“I used to be one of the more active players in the D.C. metropolitan area and [now] the amount I play is about 10% of what it used to be,” Chrisney said. “I want to get back to playing.”

Another long-term goal of the club is to get more age and gender diversity. While Chrisney didn’t have exact numbers, about 20% of the club is under the age of 18. That used to be a bit higher prior to the pandemic.

For years, the club was known as a place for young players “on the rise” to come to hone their skills.

“We probably see a larger quotient of prodigies than the other clubs,” Chrisney said.

Additionally, Chrisney would like to make a push to attract more female players with chess still being “mostly… a male activity.” He estimates less than 5% of club members are women.

He cited Chess Girls D.C., the non-profit that encourages more young women to play chess, as a potential future partner that could bring in more players to the club.

While a permanent venue, a more distributed volunteer workload, and added diversity in membership are all goals, Chrisney said there is no lack of interest in the Arlington Chess Club.

“We have been going strong since the 1950s,” he said. “And there’s no sign of dissipating.”

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New animal urgent care set to open in Buckingham in April (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 6 p.m.) A new urgent care for animals is opening this spring in Buckingham.

Urgent Animal Care of Arlington at ​​249 N. Glebe Road is aiming to open its doors “early April,” co-owner Dr. Kayleen Gloor told ARLnow via email. That is pushed back a bit from the hoped-for “winter 2023” opening.

It’s moving into a space that was formerly occupied by a branch of SunTrust Bank, which closed in 2019. In terms of the art deco neon signage the shopping center is known for, Gloor said the clinic’s signage “will follow all regulations and requirements of the shopping center and will conform.”

The veterinarian urgent care comes from the team behind Clarendon Animal Care, which has locations in Clarendon, on 10th Street N., and on Columbia Pike.

The urgent care will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and until 6 p.m. on weekends, we’re told.

This is Gloor and co-owner Dr. Natasha Ungerer’s first “daytime urgent care,” which is different than an emergency veterinary clinic.

Like for humans, urgent care is intended for animal patients in need of immediate care that does not rise to the level of an emergency situation. That could include limping, rashes, minor vomiting or diarrhea, ear infections, or coughing, per a graphic that the clinic has on its website.

Emergencies might include difficulty breathing, not eating or drinking for two days, seizures, and serious trauma. The closest emergency veterinary clinics to Arlington are located in Fairfax County. There are several existing pet urgent cares in Arlington, including one in Clarendon.

Gloor said the reason they choose N. Glebe Road in the Buckingham neighborhood is due to the proximity to their other pet-centric businesses as well as “zoning regulations within the county.”

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Grill Kabob is now open in Ballston on N. Glebe Road (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new Afghan kabob restaurant in Ballston has officially started serving.

Grill Kabob at 708 N. Glebe Road opened this past weekend, a restaurant employee confirmed.

This is the 13th area location of the local chain of family-owned eateries. The design, decor, and menu are all similar to its other locations with the menu focusing on Afghan-styled kabobs along with salads and sandwiches.

Ownership did tell ARLnow last spring that the menu might change over time depending on the popularity of certain items at the Ballston location.

ARLnow first reported that Grill Kabob was opening a new location in Ballston back in April 2022. The initial plan was to open in the summer. ARLnow has reached out to ownership about the delay but has to hear back as of publication.

Co-owner Wais Shoja said the reason that they chose this site was because of all the new apartment buildings and the abundance of  office space, as well as the Metro accessibility and the neighborhood’s continued development. While the first Grill Kabob opened in the Springfield Mall more than two decades ago, Shoja said the focus since has been to open locations near residential and office areas.

Ballston has seen an influx of development over the past few years, along with a number of other restaurant either opening recently or planning to.

Across the street from Grill Kabob, Gyu San Japanese BBQ is set to start sizzling likely later this year. Coffee shop Slipstream is aiming to open around the corner from there within the next few months as well, a spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow recently.

A few doors down from Grill Kabob, the new Ballston Silver Diner opened last month.

There’s also the impending redevelopment of the Macy’s site, also located just across the street from where Grill Kabob just opened.

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New LA Fitness on S. Glebe Road (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A new LA Fitness has replaced the shuttered Gold’s Gym on S. Glebe Road.

The Gold’s Gym at 2955 S. Glebe Road, at the Arlington Ridge Shopping Center near Gunston Middle School, closed mid-last month, an employee confirmed to ARLnow. Within a few days, though, it was converted it was into an LA Fitness — including a banner announcing its presence — and reopened.

A number of employees were kept on as well as much of the equipment, providing gym-goers with a similar experience as before.

It’s unclear exactly why this Gold’s Gym was closed and converted into LA Fitness. ARLnow has reached out to both companies but has yet to hear back from either as of publication.

In 2020, Gold’s Gym filed for bankruptcy and was acquired by the European fitness operator RSG Group for $100 million.

The closing of the Gold’s Gym on S. Glebe Road leaves the company with three gyms remaining in Arlington. That includes Rosslyn, Clarendon, and Ballston, the site of a parking lot scuffle late last year that ended with D.C.’s deputy mayor resigning from his post. The Gold’s Gym in Courthouse closed in 2019.

As for LA Fitness, exactly a mile from the new S. Glebe Road location is another LA Fitness gym on S. Clark Street in Crystal City. There was also an LA Fitness in Pentagon City until that one closed in 2015.

Elsewhere, another gym is set to open in Clarendon later this year. Life Time, which dubs itself a “luxurious athletic country club,” is expected to start welcoming gym-goers within the next few months in The Crossing Clarendon development.

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The former owner of Atilla’s on Columbia Pike has combined forces with his brother for a new restaurant.

Back in May, the well-loved Turkish restaurant Atilla’s and its next-door grocery store closed on Columbia Pike after nearly five decades of operation due to the building’s impending demolition. At the time, Atilla’s management told ARLnow that they were looking for another close-by space where they could open a new business that would focus on carry-out and retail.

But those plans appear to have changed somewhat.

Instead, Atilla’s owner Zulkuf Gezgic is now working with his brother at a relatively new restaurant on S. Glebe Road called Akivva Grill.

That restaurant opened at 2921 S. Glebe Road in the fall of 2021, but it was about two months ago when Gezgic “combined” his business with his brother’s.

Akivva, located about two miles away from Atilla’s former home, is a “different concept” than his previous eatery, Gezgic told ARLnow, but the Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine is similar to Atilla’s.

At the moment, he’s “unsure” if he’ll open another Atilla’s. Gezgic said he decided to not open an altogether new restaurant but, rather, work with his brother on an already existing one because Akivva was already an “established brand.”

The former location of Atilla’s is still standing, though it’s expected to be torn down soon to make way for a new residential development. Currently, there’s a sign on the door directing people to the new location.

Sign on the door of the former location of Atilla’s Restaurant on Columbia Pike (photo courtesy of Gabe Paal)

The restaurant’s original owner, Atilla Kan, opened the restaurant on Columbia Pike in the mid-1970s.

In 1998, he sold it to Gezgic but Kan stayed on making bread, hummus, and other items for the majority of the next two decades. Because of that, the menu didn’t change that much from when it first opened nearly 50 years ago.

But what did change was the neighborhood, with impending development up and down Columbia Pike prompting several other businesses like Atilla’s to close. Next door, The Salsa Room moved to Tysons in 2020. Last year, both the Columbia Pike Partnership and the Black Heritage Museum closed and relocated down the street.

In May, the Atilla’s long-time manager Sarah Engi told ARLnow that it felt like many of Arlington’s older, small businesses were being pushed out.

“I’m sad. We are losing family,” Engi said. “Big companies are moving in and smaller businesses are leaving. Things are changing. It’s really sad.”

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Plans to replace the nearly 70-year-old Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge are set to move forward with more than $17 million in state funding.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to accept the state funding and adopt a resolution committing the county to pitch in local funding. The $28 million project is in an early design phase, according to the county’s project webpage.

“The Mount Vernon Avenue bridge project will replace the deteriorated roadway substructure and reuse the existing piers, which are stable,” per a county report. “The new bridge will include wider sidewalks and bike lanes in both directions.”

The project will extend the new sidewalks and bike lanes to the intersection of Arlington Ridge Road and S. Glebe Road and improve connections from the bridge to the Four Mile Run Trail, according to the county. The northern sidewalks are currently closed to prevent more wear and tear.

The Mount Vernon Avenue bridge is one of five bridges that allow vehicle traffic across Four Mile Run, between Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. It and the W. Glebe Road bridge, both built in the 1950s, were found to be structurally deficient in 2018 and identified for replacement.

“Both bridges are of a similar design and construction and have experienced significant deterioration as they approach the end of their useful life,” according to a county report.

This spring, after a number of weight and access restrictions, the W. Glebe Road Bridge was closed to allow for the replacement of the road deck and beams. Work on the Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge will begin after this bridge reopens.

“The replacement of the West Glebe Road bridge is expected to be substantially completed in fall of 2023 and will be fully open to motorized and non-motorized traffic prior to construction commencing on the Mount Vernon Avenue bridge,” per the report.

Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services posted a photo last week of concrete being poured for the bridge replacement project.

The Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge will remain open to motorists, pedestrians and cyclists during construction, although there will be vehicle travel lane reductions, per the county website.

Arlington County and the City of Alexandria will hire a firm to complete the designs, which are currently 30% complete. Then, the project will go out for bid and a contractor will be selected.

“The new bridge will include integrated art elements by artist Vicki Scuri that will enhance the bridge aesthetically,” according to the county report. “The new bridge and the integrated art elements will be completed simultaneously.”

The county says her forthcoming art installation for the Mount Vernon Avenue Bridge will provide more lighting on the Four Mile Run trail and “connect the design of the bridge to the communities of Arlington and Alexandria,” per the project webpage.

Commuters may be familiar with a current example of Scuri’s work adorning a bridge over Route 50. Her work will also be incorporated into the W. Glebe Road Bridge replacement.

10th Street Bridge over Route 50 (courtesy Peter Rof/Alt Globo MediaWorks LLC)

The two bridge replacement projects are funded with a combination of local and state dollars as well as federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which President Joe Biden signed last year.

Of the $17.2 million in state funding that the County Board is set to appropriate, about $4.2 million comes with a local funding requirement. This will be shared equally between Arlington and Alexandria under the terms of an intergovernmental agreement that governs their joint responsibility to maintain and inspect the bridges and share short- and long-term rehabilitation and replacement costs.

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A proposed left-turn lane off of N. Glebe Road in Ballston could be the smallest, yet most scrutinized traffic change in 10 years.

As part of the planned redevelopment of the Ballston Macy’s, Insight Property Group proposes to add a left-turn option at the intersection of 7th Street N. and N. Glebe Road. It will be for drivers going southbound on Glebe who want to turn onto a proposed private drive abutting the planned grocery store, which will be located at the base of Insight’s proposed 16-story, 555-unit apartment building.

“It was the most thoroughly vetted transportation scenario in the time that I’ve been with Arlington County,” transportation planner Dennis Sellin, who has worked with the county for 10 years, told the Planning Commission last night (Monday).

Transportation changes for the Ballston Macy’s development (via Arlington County)

During the meeting, the Planning Commission gave a green light to the redevelopment, which will go before the Arlington County Board for approval later this month.

After the Transportation Commission voted to defer the project solely on the basis of the left turn, Planning Commission members supported a condition for the project that county staff work with Insight and the Virginia Department of Transportation to come up with more pedestrian-oriented options for the intersection.

“I do not think it’s reasonable to hold up the project for this, given that there’s apparently continued good faith work on the intersection to improve its pedestrian-friendliness,” Commissioner Jim Lantelme said. “I want to make clear that the Planning Commission… expects that any option possible to make this intersection more pedestrian-friendly will be pursued.”

Sellin said a half-dozen staffers, including two top transportation officials, have thoroughly vetted the left-turn lane. They published a 64-page memo justifying the turn lane and will study how the grocery store changes traffic before adding any pedestrian mitigation measures.

“There’s a recommendation to not allow any right turns on red at any of the lights in the intersection,” he said. “That’s a movement we’ll take under further consideration. Our primary concern is safety, our secondary concern is operations.”

The left-turn lane is a non-negotiable for the grocer, who has otherwise been “insanely flexible” as the project has changed throughout the public process, according to Insight’s Managing Principal Trent Smith.

“We’ve shrunk their store, changed their ramps, taken away their parking… we changed their loading, we’ve done eight or nine things that took all sorts of reworking and they’ve stuck with us and have been great, reasonable partners throughout,” Smith said.

Insight’s attorney, Andrew Painter, says the unnamed grocer required the left turn based on “decades of experience in urban configurations.” He added that for a decade, the grocer has desired to be in Ballston, which already has a Harris Teeter nearby on N. Glebe Road, a quarter-mile away.

Some Planning Commissioners noted their regret that the project does not do more to provide on-site affordable housing.

“This space here, in the heart of Arlington, in Ballston, where there’s access to transit, and now a grocery store, we have nothing,” Commissioner Devanshi Patel said.

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The Ballston Silver Diner is finally opening this month, which means the Clarendon location is closing after 26 years.

The new Silver Diner at N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd, next to Target, is planning to officially start serving on Wednesday, Dec. 14, a restaurant spokesperson told ARLnow.

The planned diner was first announced more than five years ago. The locally-owned chain was originally supposed to open in Ballston in the summer, but the timeline slid later as many construction projects experienced delays due to supply chain and staffing issues.

The new 6,700-square-foot location will be a mile away from the existing Clarendon diner. It’s set to have a full bar plus 244 seats, including 191 indoors and 68 on its outdoor patio. The patio will be open “seasonally.”

There will be 100 parking spots, 40 spots more than the Clarendon location. Parking will be free with a 2-hour validation.

The restaurant will have roughly the same hours as the Clarendon location, opening at 7 a.m. seven days a week and closing between midnight and 3 a.m.

The opening also signals the closing of the Silver Diner in Clarendon, which has sat between Wilson Blvd and N. Irving Street for more than a quarter of a century. The closure has long been expected and will make way for a new development that’s set to include a hotel, gym, and a 286-unit residential building.

That Silver Diner will shutter on Sunday, Dec. 11, the spokesperson said. The purpose behind moving only a mile away was to “maintain [Silver Diner’s] neighborhood presence in Arlington.”

Clarendon’s staff will be moved over to Ballston, per the restaurant’s website.

“They literally expect to shut down one location, walk down the street and open the other location,” a spokesperson wrote ARLnow in August.

The restaurant is planning an auction of memorabilia to support a local charity, we’re told, but details are not yet available.

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A tennis court at Glebe Road Park was restriped for pickleball (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A local civic association says a lawsuit may be imminent over the infamous pickleball pop.

In a recent community newsletter, Old Glebe Civic Association leaders detailed their displeasure with the county ending a pilot program that closed a popular standalone pickleball court at Glebe Road Park earlier this year.

The program was initially enacted as a means to mitigate the noise of the loud pop sound produced by a pickleball hitting a paddle that was bothering some close-by neighbors, primarily those who live on a dead-end block near the courts.

The OGCA called that pilot program a “compromise” since it also looked to appease players by restriping a nearby tennis court for pickleball so there were now four courts, as opposed to the previous three. But with the program now being “abandoned,” the newsletter says, “the noise issue has become more contentious.”

The county has since proposed another pilot program that would reopen the standalone pickleball court but with limited hours and surrounded by a “noise reducing fence,” a spokesperson with the Department of Parks and Recreation tells ARLnow.

However, the OGCA opposes any reopening of the pickleball court and wrote that if the county doesn’t find a better way to mitigate the noise, legal action might be taken.

“We hope that a new compromise can be reached before affected parties turn to law courts for resolution of the issue, as has happened repeatedly in other cities throughout the country,” the newsletter reads.

Pickleball has exploded in popularity over the last several years in Arlington. It has prompted players to ask the county for more courts — which the county is now expected to deliver after a bond referendum including $2 million for pickleball has passed.

The impact of the sport’s rise has not sat well with everyone, though. The crowds and noise — particularly the loud pickleball pop — at certain local courts have bothered some surrounding neighbors. This includes those who live near Glebe Road Park.

“The noise from pickleball has become a major problem for residents of nearby houses — particularly those living on the section of Tazewell Street off of 38th Street,” reads the OGCA newsletter. “Some of the houses are only 135 feet from a ‘stand alone’ pickleball court; the noise from the court reverberates across the amphitheater-like terrain downhill to Tazewell Street and can be heard distinctly (and constantly) inside the houses.”

These concerns are not unique to Arlington, with the county looking to other jurisdictions to figure out how best to broker a pickleball peace. The initial pilot program, which ran from April to early September, closed down the pickleball court closest to the houses, but also added two more courts to the park by restriping a tennis court.

While the county “learned a lot” from the pilot, it didn’t paint a “full picture” about the best way forward, a county official told ARLnow.

“Over the last several months tennis and pickleball players, despite some inherent conflicts, have adjusted to sharing the two multi-use courts at Glebe Park. The courts have been very busy,” DPR spokesperson Martha Holland said. “Throughout the duration of this pilot, we have heard from park users and neighbors alike about the need to reopen the stand-alone court and to allow for pickleball plus other recreational options (soccer, fitness workouts, etc.).”

So, in response, the county is instituting a “Phase 2” pilot program that will keep the striping on the park’s tennis courts and install a “noise reducing fence” on three sides of the standalone court.

“The side of the court that touches the basketball court will not be wrapped, for safety reasons. Once the fence is up, DPR will reopen the court and monitor its use,” said Holland.

In addition, the court will be available via a reservation system and the court lights will be turned off at 10 p.m.

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All lanes of N. Glebe Road are closed just south of Quincy Street due to a crash involving an overturned vehicle.

The single-vehicle crash took down power lines, according to scanner traffic, and the southbound lanes of Glebe are expected to be shut down for an extended period of time as a result.

One person was reportedly taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Police are on scene and investigating the cause of the crash and whether the driver might have been intoxicated.

Dominion, meanwhile, is reporting via its outage map that nearly 2,750 homes and businesses are without power in the area of the crash. The utility company expects power to be restored between 3-6 a.m.

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A new Japanese barbeque restaurant is coming Ballston.

New window stickers are announcing the arrival of Gyu San Japanese BBQ at 715 N. Glebe Road. That’s the Ballston Point building at the corner of Glebe and Wilson Blvd — the same one where the new coffee shop Slipstream is also going, albeit on the Wilson Blvd side.

Gyu San is moving into the space formerly occupied by Bangkok Bistro, which appears to have closed during the back end of 2020.

Last month, ARLnow reported that a retail leasing chart for the building showed a different Japanese BBQ restaurant looking to move into that location. That now appears to either be an error or a case of something changing.

There’s no word yet on when Gyu San might open, though interior construction does appear to have begun.

There does not seem to be a website or social media for a restaurant going by that name based in Arlington or, even, the United States. ARLnow has reached out to a leasing rep for the building but has yet to hear back as of publication.

Gyu San will compete with at least one other Arlington Japanese barbeque restaurant. Gyu-Kaku opened its first Virginia location about four years ago in Clarendon.

Beyond Gyu San and Slipstream, Ballston Point is also home to Which Wich, Chipotle, and World of Beer.

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