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Morning Notes

It’s the End of Summers — The former Summers restaurant in Courthouse was torn down yesterday, making way for a new apartment development. Video of the demolition shows water being sprayed to control dust as the building was razed. [Twitter]

Staffing Concerns At 911 Dispatch Center — “The head of Arlington, Virginia’s Emergency Communications Center is addressing concerns that its current setup is problematic and even potentially dangerous. ‘We are like every other 911 center in the country, which has traditionally struggled with staffing,’ center administrator Dave Mulholland told WTOP. ‘We’re going to be very honest in acknowledging not every shift has optimal staffing.’ However, Mulholland maintains that crucial positions have always remained filled, and that more people are being trained to fill needed roles.” [WTOP]

Lebanese Taverna Helping to Feed Refugees — “When word came that thousands of Afghan refugees would be landing at Dulles in late August after their country fell to the Taliban, World Central Kitchen mobilized to make sure those reaching the U.S. after a harrowing journey would be greeted with a hot meal. The nonprofit’s first call was to Grace Abi-Najm Shea, one of five siblings behind Lebanese Taverna… Of the 61,298 meals WCK served there between Aug. 25 and Sept. 10, 5,037 came from Lebanese Taverna.” [Washington City Paper]

County Board May Modify Hotel Tax — “Arlington County is weighing whether to tax hotel guests for the total cost of their stay, including fees and other charges, and not just the cost of the room. The potential change to the transient occupancy tax — the revenue from which has collapsed amid the pandemic, affecting Arlington’s incentive arrangement with Amazon.com Inc. — follows changes to the tax definition in the state code adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.” [Washington Business Journal]

Much of Crystal City Is Now Carbon Neutral — “JBG SMITH, a leading owner and developer of high-quality, mixed-use properties in the Washington, DC market, today announced it has achieved carbon neutrality across its entire 16.1 million square foot operating portfolio. Building on this accomplishment, JBG SMITH intends for its properties to maintain carbon neutral operations annually.” [BusinessWire]

Tucker Rants About Beyer — Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson called Rep. Don Beyer “a fashionably radical car dealer from Arlington” on his show earlier this week, in a segment about vaccine mandates. But Beyer’s communications director says that the local congressman, who is actually an Alexandria resident, “does not own any auto dealerships and has not for years.” [Twitter]

Harris Teeter Stores Cutting Hours — “Harris Teeter stores nationwide will be reducing their store hours until further notice, citing the shortage of labor caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Starting Wednesday, Sept. 15, all Harris Teeters will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Stores in Northern Virginia have previously been open 24 hours, or until 11 p.m.” [InsideNova]

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(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Tacombi, a New York City-based taqueria chain, is expected to open in Crystal City in a couple of months.

The new spot will be located in the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square.” This recently redone property at 1550 Crystal Drive, owned by JBG Smith, has attracted a number of other retail options that have opened already or are set to open over the course of the year.

A CVS opened in February and hit NYC bakery Mah-Ze-Dahr opened in mid-June. Another location of the boutique gym, Solidcore, is set to open in August, according to a spokeswoman.

A spokesperson for Tacombi said Thursday that it expects to open its 3,000 square-foot space in Crystal City in September.

“All of our taquerias are bright, open and airy spaces where guests can enjoy warm hospitality and a menu with selections from different regions throughout Mexico,” she said. “We look forward to bringing a little piece of this incredible country to our new friends in Arlington, and to swinging open our taqueria doors this fall.”

Tacombi got its start on the beaches of Yucatan, Mexico. The owner sold tacos from a Volkswagen Bus and eventually opened his first taqueria in the mid-2000s in New York City. Nine other locations have since opened in NYC.

These openings are happening amid a handful of other openings in Miami and Queens, the spokeswoman said. The taqueria will cement its presence in the D.C. area with a Bethesda location also set to open in September.

“We were drawn to Crystal City’s evolving identity and to its own journey from a largely-industrial zone in the sixties to today’s quickly developing community,” she said. “And while National Landing is part of a cosmopolitan world capital, it also maintains the neighborhood quality that best allows us to share authentic Mexican culture.”

The taqueria made headlines this year for its work during the pandemic feeding thousands of food-insecure New Yorkers.

Also coming to Central District Retail will be a thus-far unnamed grocery store, rumored to be a possible Amazon Fresh location. The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to Arlington County.

“JBG SMITH declines to comment,” a spokesperson for the property owner said when asked about it yesterday.

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A new eatery called Mumu Cafe is set to open in August in the space underneath MOM’s Organic Market near Courthouse.

The forthcoming eatery is located at 1924 N. Uhle Street in the Verde Pointe development along Lee Highway, which is within walking distance to the Courthouse Metro station. Owner Jermaine Williams said the soft opening for is set for Aug. 2.

“The cafe promotes a fast-casual themed service where customers can come and get something made-to-order or grab something quickly from our grab-to-go station,” he said.

In the morning, Mumu Cafe will serve freshly made doughnuts, pastries, bagels and breakfast sandwiches, as well as smoothies, açaí bowls, drip coffee, cold brew and espresso drinks. After 11 a.m., the cafe will offer lunch and dinner options, such as hot sandwiches and flatbreads.

Mumu Cafe will take over the spot that was vacant since Naked Lunch, an organic vegetarian and vegan eatery closed almost exactly two years ago. It opened on Lee Highway with MOM’s Organic Market in 2015

The addition is right in Williams’s backyard, as he lives in the apartment building connected to the café. When he saw the “for lease” sign go up last year, he got in touch with MOM’s, which leases the space and agreed to let him set up shop there.

Williams brings to his venture years of experience in the hotel business, managing food service.

“I’ve been in hospitality for over 10 years,” Williams said. “The last five years, I have been in a hotel as a banquet manager in Rosslyn, which was cut short last year because of the pandemic.”

Mumu Cafe’s hours are currently set for 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

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(Updated at 6:50 p.m.) It seems the Harris Teeter in the Pentagon Row shopping center, now rebranded as WestPost, will not be vacating its spot anytime soon.

And if it did, Arlington County will continue to hold the shopping center’s owner to a 1998 agreement that requires the space be filled by a full-service grocery and drug store. The County Board affirmed the status quo in a vote on Saturday.

Although Harris Teeter has at least 10 years on its lease, the Sun Gazette reports, residents in the 22202 zip code were worried about even the possibility that their neighborhood grocery store would one day be replaced with a smaller-scale grocer such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. (Pentagon City already has one Whole Foods, near Amazon’s future HQ2.)

Anticipating the end of Harris Teeter’s initial lease, Pentagon Row’s owner, Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, had requested the county modify the 1998 agreement to allow Federal Realty to find a smaller retailer that sells drug- and grocery-store items if it could not find a full-service store.

The ask, which included other requests for flexibility regarding space, went before the Arlington County Board last month. At the time, nearly a dozen community members voiced their support for keeping the language. Board members deferred the item for one month so County Manager Mark Schwartz could work with the property owner on changes.

The revised proposal that the Board saw on Saturday kept provisions allowing the shopping center more flexibility with leasing and architecture, nixed the grocery store request completely. Members of the County Board unanimously approved the revised proposal, without any modifications to the grocery store agreement, without discussion.

“Because of our combined efforts, the developer backed off on changing [the] section that would have allowed less than a full-scale grocery,” said Carol Fuller, the president of the Crystal City Civic Association and Open Space Coordinator for Livability 22202, an advocacy group for quality-of-life issues in the area. “We were very worried about losing Harris Teeter. We fought it hard. Once they dropped that, we were no longer concerned with the other amendments.”

The county previously said that “Federal Realty shared their full intent and interest in retaining the current tenant or other similar operator.”

The shopping center sought the flexibility, supported by the National Landing Business Improvement District and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, “so that they can respond to changes in the market in the event that they need to replace the grocery store tenant and services.”

Scott Miles, president of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, said last month that losing Harris Teeter, or an equivalent full-service store, would degrade grocery options in a core part of the county and hinder residents’ ability to buy necessities without a car.

“A large, full-service grocer at the site remains an essential community service,” he said. “This may sound harsh, but we want the applicant to be fearful of not maintaining a large grocer — it’s not enough to ask for commercially reasonable efforts.”

Image via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Tornado Drill Today — “Virginia’s annual Statewide Tornado Drill will occur on Tues., March 16 at 9:45 a.m. If widespread severe weather threatens the Commonwealth on that date, the drill will be rescheduled for Wed., March 17, at 9:45 a.m. The Statewide Tornado Drill is an opportunity to prepare Virginians for tornado threats and to test public warning systems.” [Va. Dept. of Emergency Management]

Pentagon Row Harris Teeter’s Future in Flux — “Despite concerns from nearby residents, Arlington County Board members on March 20 could give the owner of Pentagon Row the ability to, potentially, significantly downsize grocery-store operations… Located on a 15-acre parcel in Pentagon City, the site has long included a Harris-Teeter supermarket. But that initial lease term is expiring, and there is no guarantee the supermarket chain will want to stay in the existing space.” [Sun Gazette]

Coronavirus Tests Available at DCA — “Coronavirus testing launched Monday at Reagan National and Washington Dulles International airports, which became the latest airports across the country to offer the tests. The centers are outside the security checkpoints at both airports and are operated by XpresCheck, which runs centers at a number of U.S. airports.” [Washington Post]

New Building to Have Temporary Hotel Rooms — “Arlington County Board members next month are expected to allow another developer to temporarily convert apartment space to hotel use. The developer of the 809-unit property at 1555 Wilson Blvd. is asking permission to use 100 of the residential units as hotel space starting in late summer. Eventually, the units would revert to their originally intended purpose.” [Sun Gazette]

Cherry Blossom Sculptures Arrive in Arlington — From the National Landing BID: “Two official @CherryBlossFest sculptures have landed! One at the Esplanade at Long Bridge Park and one at the Crystal City Water Park. They will be up through May 31.” [Twitter]

Bill Would Allow 15 MPH Speed Limits in Va. — “Currently, any city or county looking to slow traffic in a busy shopping district or on a quiet residential street can go no lower than 25 mph. A bill passed during this year’s General Assembly session, however, would change that, permitting posted speed limits to drop as low as 15 mph. A ten miles per hour difference may not seem huge, but for pedestrian safety advocates and the families of victims of traffic collisions, the change could mean the difference between life and death.” [Greater Greater Washington]

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(Updated at 9:35 p.m.) A new CVS Pharmacy is open at the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square,” in Crystal City.

The store opened on Sunday, Feb. 28, a JBG Smith spokesperson confirmed. It is part of a major redevelopment that the property owner has planned for a block of Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th streets.

In 2018, the County Board approved the project, which JBG says will blend retail, public spaces and transit services.

Signage appears to now be up for two more occupants: Mah-Ze-Dahr, a bakery said to have some of New York City’s best doughnuts, as well as a yet-unnamed specialty grocery store. The first D.C. outpost of the NYC bakery opened in Navy Yard in the fall.

JBG once more declined to comment on which grocer will be filling the space. Permits indicate that the store will offer prepared foods like packaged salads, sandwiches, entrees and soups, as well as various beverages. The permits further specify that the store will have “self app check-out.”

A spokesperson previously confirmed that the specialty grocer will sell produce, meats and poultry, frozen foods and baked goods. Taken as a whole, the concept sounds similar to that of Amazon Fresh stores, a new bricks-and-mortar retail offering of the tech giant, which is currently constructing its HQ2 up the street.

The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to the county. The new one-story retail area will replace a 1990s-era strip and will link the grocery store to a planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater at 1750 Crystal Drive.

The theater chain recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but a company spokesman tells ARLnow the planned Crystal City location is owned by a franchisee “which has not filed for bankruptcy.”

“There are no changes to its development plans at 1750 Crystal Drive,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, outposts of New York City taco chain Tacombi and the boutique fitness gym Solidcore — which has existing locations in Courthouse and Ballston — are still on track to open in the area.

A spokeswoman for Solidcore confirmed that the gym is slated to open this summer.

“Central District Retail will enhance the street-level experience with new dining, shopping and entertainment options on Crystal Drive,” Amy Rice, senior vice president of Retail Leasing at JBG Smith, previously told ARLnow in a statement. “It will serve as the retail heart of National Landing and a vibrant destination for people throughout the region.”

Photo (2) courtesy Car-Free#HQ2/Twitter

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A man collapsed at the Safeway store in Bluemont this morning and later died.

The man was in his 60s and collapsed near the pharmacy counter, according to initial reports. Medics reportedly performed CPR and rushed the man to nearby Virginia Hospital Center.

Arlington County police were on scene at the Safeway (5101 Wilson Blvd) around lunchtime today, investigating the man’s death. The death investigation is routine procedure after an incident like this and, according to a police spokeswoman, foul play is not currently suspected.

“At approximately 11:02 a.m. police were dispatched to the report of a cardiac arrest inside a business in the 5100 block of Wilson Boulevard,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, an adult male was located suffering from an apparent medical emergency. He was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”

“The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation,” Savage continued. “Based on the preliminary investigation, the death does not appear suspicious.”

Morning Notes

Local 911 Dispatchers Can Work Remotely — “On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (ECC) became one of the first centers in the nation to implement capabilities that allow fire and emergency medical services (EMS) dispatchers and supervisors to deliver critical emergency communications services no matter where they are. Now, Arlington Fire-EMS dispatchers and supervisors are able work from a remote location, including from home.” [Arlington County]

Grocery Workers Unaware of Vaccine Availability — “Grocery store workers in Arlington can now sign up for Covid vaccine… But Arlington County is apparently not notifying grocery store workers about this option… At our local Arlington grocery store, a staff person in the management office indicated they were not aware of either option, when my wife and I called.” [Blue Virginia]

Apple Stores Temporarily ClosingUpdated at 8:55 a.m. — “Apple is temporarily closing its Washington, D.C. retail stores ahead of the United States presidential inauguration. Five stores in the Washington metro area will close through at least January 21… Stores in Arlington, VA at Pentagon City and Clarendon, as well as in Maryland at Bethesda Row will close from Saturday.” [9to5Mac]

Beyer Wants Cameras for Federal Officers — “Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) announced today that they will reintroduce their Federal Police Camera and Accountability Act, which would require uniformed federal police officers, including U.S. Capitol Police, to wear body cameras and have dashboard cameras in police vehicles.” [Press Release]

Attempted Armed Robbery on Columbia Pike — “At approximately 8:18 p.m. on January 13, police were dispatched to the late report of an attempted armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 5:04 p.m., the suspect was inside a business when they approached the front of the store, threatened the victim with a knife and demanded they open the drawer to the cash register. The suspect then fled the business when the victim yelled and another employee ran to the front of the store.” [ACPD]

Water Main Repair on Carlin Springs Road — “Water main break… Tomorrow, Friday Jan. 15, from 7am to 5pm, the two center lanes on S Carlin Springs Rd from 1st St S to 3rd St S will be closed. A traffic detour will be in place.” [Twitter]

Pelosi Endorses McAuliffe — “House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is endorsing Terry McAuliffe’s campaign in a very crowded Democratic primary that will winnow the field of those seeking to be the next governor of Virginia.” [Axios]

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An unnamed specialty grocery store and Mah-Ze-Dahr, a bakery said to have some of New York City’s best doughnuts, are two of the businesses coming to Crystal City as part of a major redevelopment.

JBG Smith is giving a block of Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th streets — also known as “Crystal Square” — a facelift and a new name: Central District Retail. The redevelopment, approved by the County Board in 2018, will blend retail, public spaces and transit services, according to the developer’s website.

“Central District Retail will enhance the street-level experience with new dining, shopping and entertainment options on Crystal Drive,” Amy Rice, senior vice president of Retail Leasing at JBG Smith, said in a statement. “It will serve as the retail heart of National Landing and a vibrant destination for people throughout the region.”

The specialty grocery store in Central District Retail will have produce, meats and poultry, frozen foods, baked goods and prepared foods, Justina Lombardo, a PR rep for JBG Smith, said. At 15,000 square feet, it’s more the size of a Trader Joe’s than a full-service Giant, for instance.

Through Lombardo, JBG declined comment on which grocer will be filling the space.

The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to the county. The new one-story retail area will replace a 1990s-era strip and link the grocery store to a planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater at 1750 Crystal Drive.

According to permits filed with Arlington County, Central District Retail is also getting the second Washington, D.C.-area location of Mah-ze-Dahr. The popular New York City bakery serves brioche-style doughnuts and other baked goods endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Founder Umber Ahmad, a former Goldman Sachs executive, opened the first D.C. location in Navy Yard this September.

Permits also indicate that Crystal City will get a CVS, what appears to be an outpost of New York City taco chain Tacombi, and the boutique fitness gym Solidcore, which has locations in Clarendon and Buckingham.

There will also be a retail shop that will sell packaged salads, sandwiches and soups.

It’s unclear when the new shops and restaurants might open.

“The first phase of Central District Retail has been delivered to tenants for build-out,” Lombardo said. “JBG Smith typically defers to tenants on their individual timelines.”

The overall goal is to continue turning Crystal City into a neighborhood that’s more than just a 9-5 destination for office workers.

“The project’s purpose is to turn the area into a vibrant gathering spot — complete with approachable and comfortable retail, an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, dynamic public spaces, and a new entrance and public plaza for the Crystal City Metro station,” says JBG Smith’s project information website. “Central District will create a sense of community and bring a true neighborhood feel to Crystal City.”

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A smaller-format grocery store is now part of the plan for the redevelopment of the Westmont Shopping Center.

The strip mall, at the busy corner of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road, is set to be torn down and replaced with a six-story mixed use building with 250 housing units and 22,500 square feet of retail space. The redevelopment plan was approved by the County Board last fall.

The project’s developer is coming back to the Board this weekend to request modifications that would allow a grocery store to occupy the retail space.

More from a county staff report:

The use permit allows the construction of a six-story structure containing 250 multi-family residential units, approximately 22,500 square feet of retail, and two levels of structured parking. The Applicant is pursuing a grocery store tenant to occupy the ground floor tenant space of the building, and these amendments are necessary to accommodate the grocer’s delivery trucks. The grocery store’s delivery model requires the use of large, 53-foot delivery trucks, which requires the alley’s egress and proposed public access easement area to be widened east of S. Glebe Road and results in an undergrounding of the existing at-grade transformers. The proposed underground utility vault and ventilation grates will encroach into the proposed widened public access easement.

Given the smaller size of the retail space, one could expect a grocery store more along the lines of a Trader Joe’s, as opposed to a full-service supermarket.

The new grocery store would be located between the Giant at Penrose Square and the new Harris Teeter at the Centro development (Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive).

County staff is recommending the Board approve the requested changes. The staff report does not specify when work on the project is expected to begin.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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Morning Notes

County Allocates More Money for Rent Relief — “The Arlington County Board today approved using an additional $1.125 million from the County’s COVID-19 contingent account to fund eviction protection through December 2020 for those affected by the pandemic. The Board’s action brings the total amount allocated for eviction prevention in Fiscal Year 2021, which began July 1, 2020, to $3.5 million.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Pushes to Extend Eviction Ban — “The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is pushing for legislators to extend Governor Northam’s original eviction deadline of September 7, to prevent animals from being surrendered by people who can’t afford them. AWLA says they’re here to help tenants during these trying times and also urge landlords to cut back on animal restrictions and limitations.” [WDVM]

I-66 Lane Closures This Weekend — “Single-lane closures on westbound I-66 just before the bridge over Lee Highway (Route 29) at Exit 72 will occur (weather permitting) between 9 p.m. Friday night, Aug. 28 and 5 a.m. Monday morning, Aug. 31 for road repairs, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

Arlington-Based Lidl Expanding — “Discount grocery Lidl, whose North American headquarters is in Crystal City, Virginia, will open 50 new stores by the end of 2021, including 10 new locations in Maryland, and seven new stores in Virginia.” [WTOP]

Nearby: Rabies Warning in Falls Church — “The City of Falls Church Police and Animal Warden remind residents about the risks of rabid wildlife spreading rabies to pets. Police recently responded to a report of a sick raccoon in the 1200 block of Lincoln Ave. The raccoon was euthanized and later found to have rabies.  In this case, two dogs were exposed to the raccoon and are now in quarantine.” [City of Falls Church]

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