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New apartments along N. Glebe Road in Ballston are nearing completion.

Developer Southeastern Real Estate Group, LLC tells ARLnow construction on the residential redevelopment, near the Harris Teeter store, should be done in the next couple months.

Construction work on the apartments began in 2020. Although the units at the complex, dubbed URBA, are not quite finished, people are already signing leases, says Southeastern Vice President Mary Senn.

“Our first phase at URBA is currently in lease up,” she said.

The full redevelopment project is far from over, however. The next phase, of three, includes more apartments and a roughly 0.6-acre public park.

Senn says this phase will start “next summer.”

After that, a temporary parking lot will become the third apartment building: a 227-unit residential building ground-floor retail and below-grade parking.

Arlington County approved the redevelopment of 600 N. Glebe Road back in 2019. The proposal includes three residential buildings, with a total of 732 units, a new Harris Teeter and 77,575 square feet of ground-level retail.

There will also be below-grade parking garages, with 942 parking spaces total. Southeastern will also extend the existing N. Tazewell and N. Randolph streets into the site.

It is too early to tell whether this grocery store could potentially become a Piggly Wiggly, as the Washington Business Journal reported is a possibility after an ownership change of 10 local — but so far unidentified — Harris Teeter stores.

The site plan of the new Harris Teeter and adjacent apartment buildings, marked up to indicate phases (via Arlington County)
Makeshift closed sign on Amazon Fresh store in Crystal City (courtesy anonymous)

The Amazon Fresh store in Crystal City is closed, though the company says the closure is temporary.

ARLnow first received a tip about the closure on Saturday. Subsequent tips fretted about whether the closure might be more than temporary.

“I asked an Amazon associate… and she said no one knows why and management has not said why,” a tipster said. “Residents are worried it was shuttered, it’s our only easily accessible grocery store in the heart of Crystal City.”

But fret not, says an Amazon PR staffer, it will reopen.

“I can confirm that our Amazon Fresh grocery store in Crystal City is temporarily closed,” wrote Amazon’s Jessica Martin. “We regret the inconvenience to customers, and look forward to re-opening the store soon.”

She was not able to clarify a timeframe for reopening nor why the store closed.

“I don’t have any additional details to share at this time,” Martin wrote.

Amazon Fresh opened at 1550 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, a few blocks from the company’s Pentagon City HQ2, in July 2022. It’s the only full-service grocery store in Crystal City, though there are a pair of Harris Teeter stores and an Amazon-owned Whole Foods just outside of the neighborhood’s boundaries.

Amazon was rumored to have been planning to open a Fresh store on Columbia Pike, but that grocery tenant — whether Amazon or otherwise — ultimately fell through, delaying a planned redevelopment. Amazon has been “rethinking” its strategy for Fresh and other brick-and-mortar stores, according to various reports.


An apartment redevelopment proposed for a strip mall on Columbia Pike is stalled for the foreseeable future after the anchor tenant — a grocery store — fell through.

But some of the existing tenants, including the restaurant Atilla’s, have already moved out. And now, the Fillmore Gardens shopping center on the 2600 block of the Pike, which includes a still-operating CVS, is attracting graffiti artists and other signs of blight, according to neighbors.

Penrose Civic Association President Alex Sakes says the development was “slated to become a new crown jewel” but is now “an unbelievable embarrassment.”

“The never ending graffiti and garbage is truly appalling and gets worse by the day,” he said. “My residents and I don’t just work here or drive past this site — we live here. We take great pride in our neighborhood and are happy to step up to help beautify this site once again. I’m not here to point fingers or place blame, but the condition of this site cannot and will not continue to perpetuate.”

The Arlington County Board approved the plans to build a a 247-unit apartment complex with a ground-floor grocery store, rumored to be an Amazon Fresh, in March of 2022. Some tenants have already moved out, anticipating the project starting in late 2022 or early 2023.

Progress halted in late December, however, when the grocery store tenant told the developer it would not be moving in. Without a major tenant guaranteed for the space, the developer — Insight Property Group — could not borrow the money it needed to proceed with the project, Insight’s Sarah Davidson told the Penrose Civic Association earlier this month.

She confirmed that an unnamed retailer pulled out of the space with ARLnow, adding that “economic conditions will determine a revised project timeline.”

The grocery tenant, Davidson said in the civic association meeting, told Insight “they were pulling out of a significant number of pipeline deals, of which this was one.”

That sounds quite similar to what is happening with Amazon Fresh: across the country, proposed locations of the tech company’s grocery store are falling through, with at least one ending in a lawsuit against Amazon.

For Sakes, watching the shopping center struggle is a “worst-case scenario” for “once a thriving hub for diverse, Black and Brown-owned small businesses, including Atilla’s, Salsa Room, Legend Kicks, and more.”

Graffiti keeps popping up. Some drawings found on Monday were apparently scrubbed off only for markings to return today (Tuesday). Davidson says they’re trying to stay on top of it.

“The property owners are committed to keeping the property in clean and presentable condition,” she said.

Insight is also trying to crowdsource ideas for how to fill the storefronts for the next few years, until redevelopment plans can be revived.

“We would love to offer pop-up space for some of the local artist communities, provide space for activities that might be supplementary to CPP’s initiatives, and business incubators as well as find ways to activate some of our parking areas,” Davidson said. “Currently, we feel fortunate to have CVS and Burrito Bros who remain as tenants of the Center.”

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(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) A new Ethiopian market has opened along Columbia Pike.

Afomia Organic Market at 4105 Columbia Pike opened its doors late last week, co-owner Shah Feyisa confirmed to ARLnow.

The market is in a shopping center near the corner of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike in the Alcova Heights neighborhood. It is two doors down from Papa Deeno’s, a family-owned halal pizza shop that opened last year. Afomia is in a 960-square-foot space that was formerly occupied by a hairstylist and beauty salon that has since moved to S. Glebe Road.

The market stocks a large selection of spices, grains, meat, and groceries “from home,” Feyisa said. Plus, everything is organic.

“Afomia Organic Market is a small, family-owned business that sells injera, bread, herbs, spices, clothing, coffee sets, traditional coffee, and accessories, from Ethiopia. We additionally sell vegan cakes, which can be ordered for special occasions (by our email: [email protected]), and also vegan cookies and sweets! We also have non-vegan treats as well,” reads the business’s Yelp page.

The decision was made to move into this location because there’s a large population of Ethiopian immigrants living along the Pike but there are few markets to meet the demand, Feyisa noted. Plus, more and more people are becoming vegetarian and vegan, he said, and the market provides plenty of choices for them as well, he continued.

There are at least a couple of other Ethiopian markets in the area, including Ayana Ethiopian Market a half mile west on Columbia Pike and Lideta Gebeya about a mile away, on S. Glebe Road.

2450 Crystal Drive in 2022 (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 11 a.m.) Crystal City, for years a grocery desert, appears set to land a coveted Trader Joe’s store.

A construction permit application has been filed for 2450 Crystal Drive, one of the newly-upgraded Century Center towers just south of 23rd Street S. It calls for “landlord prep work to prepare for new Trader Joe’s Grocery Store.”

“Garage Levels, B1 and B2, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th floor are affected,” notes the permit application, which was filed on Friday.

As reported in February, a website for the renovated office complex says that a “food market,” as well as “casual and upscale restaurants, [a] boutique fitness club, and more,” are “in the works.” A new open-air retail plaza at the complex is set to open this spring, we reported.

Responding this morning to an inquiry from ARLnow, a Trader Joe’s spokesperson did not directly address whether the company would be opening at 2450 Crystal Drive, instead noting only that it’s not on a published list of imminent store openings.

“We consider many locations,” wrote Nakia Rohde. “All of the locations that are opening soon are listed on our website. Unfortunately, Arlington is not on the list at this time.”

Arlington has an existing Trader Joe’s store that opened in Clarendon in 2011. Other nearby locations include 1101 25th St NW in D.C.’s West End, 612 N. St. Asaph Street in Old Town Alexandria, 7514 Leesburg Pike in Tysons and 5847 Leesburg Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads.

Crystal City’s long grocery drought ended last year with the opening of an Amazon Fresh store at 1550 Crystal Drive. There are other grocery stores just outside of the neighborhood, with a Whole Foods at 520 12th Street S. in Pentagon City, and Harris Teeter locations at 3600 S. Glebe Road in the Potomac Yard area and 900 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

Signage for the Amazon Fresh store on Crystal Drive (photo courtesy of David Johnston)

The new Amazon Fresh store in Crystal City is now open.

This morning, Amazon announced that its branded, 16,000-square-foot grocery store opens today. Store hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

For more than a year, it was a bit of a mystery to exactly what was coming to 1550 Crystal Drive — even if all signs pointed to an Amazon Fresh. In February, the company finally confirmed it.

In addition to standard check-outs, the store will employ what Amazon calls “Just Walk Out technology.” Meaning, customers can exit the store “with the option to skip the checkout line.”

“Amazon’s Just Walk Out system uses ceiling-mounted cameras and artificial intelligence to track shoppers’ selections as they walk around the store and automatically charges them when they exit,” as described by Grocery Dive.

The other recently opened Amazon Fresh stores in Northern Virginia also use the technology.

The Crystal City Amazon Fresh is set to create “hundred of high-quality jobs with a starting wage of $15.50/hour,” according to a press release. “In addition to donating surplus food to local food banks.”

This will, technically, be the first grocery store in Crystal City in almost two decades, though there are a number of grocery stores nearby in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

Amazon Fresh is continuing its expansion across the region with three stores opening in Northern Virginia in just the past year including a planned store in Potomac Yard

Plus, it continues to be a rumor that Columbia Pike will be getting an Amazon Fresh as well. So far, Amazon has stayed quiet on the possible Pike store with a spokesperson telling ARLnow back in May that “we don’t comment on our future store roadmap.”

New signage for the Amazon Fresh store on Crystal Drive (courtesy of David Johnston)

An exact date has yet to be announced, but the Amazon Fresh grocery store that’s coming to Crystal City is expected to open soon.

A PR rep for the company said this morning that its forthcoming store at 1550 Crystal Drive “will open in the coming weeks.”

The company also announced dates for two other Amazon Fresh openings in Northern Virginia: today (Thursday) in Manassas and Thursday, June 23 in Lorton.

“We’re thrilled to continue our expansion into Northern Virginia, bringing new, low-priced grocery stores to these communities,” said the spokesperson. The openings will create “hundreds” of jobs paying a starting wage of $15.50/hour and the stores will donate surplus food to local food banks, the rep added.

Additionally, each store will have technology that allows customers to skip the checkout line.

“All three locations will offer Just Walk Out Shopping, which adds convenience to customers’ shopping experience,” said the spokesperson.

More on how that works:

Customers who opt for Just Walk Out Shopping can enter the store by scanning the In-Store QR code in their Amazon app, using Amazon One, or inserting a credit or debit card to open the Just Walk Out gates. Once inside the store, customers can shop like normal. Anything they take off the shelf is automatically added to their virtual cart, and anything they put back on the shelf comes out of their virtual cart. At the end of their trip, customers shopping with the Just Walk Out experience simply scan or insert their entry method again to exit and they’re good to go.

This will be the first Amazon Fresh store in Arlington, though there are rumors of another planned location on Columbia Pike.

Located just a few blocks from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, Amazon Fresh will also be the only grocery store in Crystal City, which has long been without one despite a sizable local population.


Crystal City’s Amazon Fresh is looking at a summer opening, a company spokesperson confirms.

Back in February, a mystery was solved when it was confirmed that an Amazon Fresh grocery store was moving into the large retail space at 1550 Crystal Drive. Now, the company says that residents likely won’t have to wait too long for Crystal City’s only grocery store to open.

“We haven’t confirmed an exact opening date yet but we can confirm it will open this summer,” a company spokesperson said in an email.

In addition to traditional checkouts, the store will also have what the company calls “Just Walk Out technology,” meaning customers can exit the store without physically going to any check-out.

“Amazon’s Just Walk Out system uses ceiling-mounted cameras and artificial intelligence to track shoppers’ selections as they walk around the store and automatically charges them when they exit,” as described by Grocery Dive.

The new store will also have anti-graffiti window film, according to building permits.

Technically, Crystal City has been grocery-store-less for close to two decades, though there’s a Harris Teeter and Amazon-owned Whole Foods in Pentagon City, as well as another Harris Teeter in the Potomac Yard area of Arlington.

This will be the first Amazon Fresh in Arlington, but another location is planned less than two miles away, in the Potomac Yard shopping center in Alexandria.

The company is quickly expanding its grocery footprint across the D.C. area with three stores having opened just in the last year, including one in Fairfax last month.

There could also be a second Arlington Amazon Fresh, rumors suggest.

The Fillmore Garden Shopping Centers on Columbia Pike is set to be demolished in the coming months to make way for “The Elliott.” That new development will have 50,000 square feet of ground floor retail, a revamped CVS, and a grocery store. There is some suggestion that this grocery store will also be an Amazon Fresh.

So far, though, company officials are remaining mum.

“We don’t comment on our future store roadmap,” said the spokesperson.


Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn.

Two companies that help grocers and shoppers get the best deal have reached a deal of their own.

Canadian artificial intelligence company Fobi is set to acquire Basket, an Arlington-based startup’s grocery pricing app that lets users compare in-store and online prices for items, according to a press release.

Basket, which was developed by Grocery Shopping Labs, provides its data to product manufacturers and retailers so they can understand shopping trends, such as how often shoppers search for products at different stores and what drives purchasing decisions. Fobi, based in Vancouver, provides insights from retail, sports, entertainment and tourism data to its clients, which include large companies across the globe.

“Basket has always been about taking the blindfold off shoppers to help them save money and time, and simultaneously providing shopper insights to some of the top [consumer packaged goods] CPG brands and retailers,” Grocery Shopping Labs CEO Neil Kataria said in the release. “Now, together with Fobi we can significantly grow our audience, delivering more value for shoppers and more value for the CPG brands we work with.”

Tech startup Basket co-founder Andy Ellwood talks at an event marking its move to Arlington in 2016 (file photo)

Basket was started in 2014 in D.C. and moved to Clarendon in 2016. The company raised $12 million in capital and has had hundreds of thousands of users.

Basket allows people to scan barcodes for their favorite products to create smart shopping lists that compares prices for products across various local stores, online shops and delivery companies, as well as the cost of the entire list across all of the stores. Basket’s data combined with Qples by Fobi Grocery Coupon Network app will give users a better experience and optimize cost savings for the brands, the release says.

“Shoppers can simply scan the product barcode and see if there are any coupons available for that product from Qples by Fobi, and if there are, they can be applied automatically at checkout,” according to the release.

The idea for Basket came to Kataria when he was a child, clipping coupons with his family and comparing his grocery list across five stores near him, he previously told ARLnow. As an adult, he realized the amount of money he was wasting by not comparing prices and began to aggregate data generated by shoppers.

The app built a community of shoppers who shared prices from grocery stores across the U.S.

“I’m excited by the opportunity we have together with Fobi to transform the grocery business with pricing visibility and shopper data, but I’m also excited about taking this transformation to other industries next,” Kataria said in the release.

The acquisition of Basket is well-timed, as inflation rises and manufacturers and consumers are even more interested in saving money, Fobi CEO Rob Anson said in the release.

“This deal immediately grows our revenue streams and immediately grows our addressable audience and the amount of shopper data that we have access to,” he said. “Our combined AI & Big Data capabilities will now enable a new era of personalized marketing at scale with unprecedented data analytics, and valuable insights as to campaign performance and measurement for the retail ecosystem.”

Donations at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (photo via Facebook)

An estimated 7.8% of Arlington households experienced food insecurity in 2019, according to a new report.

The report, completed by Urban Institute in partnership with Arlington County Food Security Task Force, provides a snapshot of the financial and food challenges for Arlington households, including in otherwise pricey parts of town like Crystal City and Pentagon City.

“Despite the area’s reputation as wealthy and well-resourced, more than 6,700 of the county’s 108,604 households were referred to the Arlington Food Assistance Center in 2021, signaling that this abundance is not shared by all residents,” the report says.

The report made many recommendations to the county, including to incentivize affordable grocers, offer gas cards, subsidize public transportation, expand SNAP outreach, provide grocery gift cards, subsidize or waive grocery delivery fees for SNAP participants, and open more free food distribution sites in higher need areas.

The study, conducted last year and released this month, indicated food insecurity rates were higher particularly in the Glencarlyn, Buckingham, Ashton Heights, Pentagon City, Crystal City, Forest Glen, Arlington Mill neighborhoods.

A map shows concentrations of food insecurity in parts of Arlington (via Arlington County)

“We surveyed residents living in four neighborhoods with the highest food insecurity rates (from 13.3 to 14.6 percent) in the county and found that residents were more likely to rent their homes and have low incomes, and 17 percent were Social Security beneficiaries, which suggests they are living on a fixed income,” the report says.

For residents experiencing food insecurity, budgets for food were often the first to be cut in order to pay bills like rent and utilities. Some of the factors affecting the ability to buy food included the local food environment, labor market, transportation, housing, child care and debt.

Food accessibility

The study considered grocery store or other non-convenience retail food locations accessible if they were within 40 minutes of roundtrip travel. Such stores were accessible to most residents, even those that lived in neighborhoods with high estimated food insecurity rates.

But residents that were surveyed prioritized groceries’ cost when determining where to shop, making it more challenging to afford healthy food.

“Residents reported some challenges in paying for groceries, especially meat, as the cost of food increased 6.3 percent (and 14.8 percent for meat) between December 2020 and December 2021,” the report said.

Those who were food insecure were more likely to walk, get a ride or use Metro to get groceries than those who were food secure and likely own a car. About half of the residents experiencing food insecurity during the survey used free groceries or meals, according to the report, and most of those residents said they accessed those resources one to three times each month.

While the Crystal City and Pentagon City areas had relatively high estimated food insecurity rates compared with the rest of the county, they had low access to existing charitable food resources.

Food insecurity disproportionately affects Black, Hispanic, and Asian households in Arlington, according to the report. Asian households with low incomes, of which there was a concentration in the Crystal City area, had to travel farther to access charitable food sites, compared with Black and Hispanic households.

Arlington County says it’s reviewing the report.

“The Food Security Task Force is reviewing findings and recommendations from the study, and will consider investments where Arlington County could build on its strengths and address residents’ concerns and barriers,” a newsletter from Arlington Department of Human Services said.


(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) The mystery on Crystal Drive is now solved. A new grocery store that’s been under construction in Crystal City is set to be an Amazon Fresh, a company spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow.

First announced in 2020 as a “specialty grocery store,” the large retail space at 1550 Crystal Drive has been somewhat-secretly transforming for more than a year into an Amazon-owned store. But the company has kept mum about its Amazon Fresh plans in Arlington until now.

“I can confirm Amazon will open an Amazon Fresh grocery store in Arlington, VA on Crystal Drive,” an Amazon spokesperson told ARLnow in a statement. “In addition to traditional checkouts, this store will also have Just Walk Out technology, which gives customers the option to skip the checkout line.”

The new store will also have anti-graffiti window film, according to building permits. The spokesperson could not provide an expected opening date.

Amazon and property owner JBG Smith previously declined to confirm or comment on what was coming to the retro-looking ground floor storefront along Crystal Drive despite obvious clues, like permits describing “a new retail shop providing packaged salads, sandwiches, entrees, soups & various beverages [and] self app check-out.”

Crystal City technically has been without a grocery store for more than 15 years, ever since Safeway closed in 2005. There are Harris Teeter stores in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard and an Amazon-owned Whole Foods in Pentagon City, next to the under-construction HQ2. And, less than two miles away, there will be another Amazon Fresh in Potomac Yard which was announced this past spring.

The company is quickly expanding its grocery footprint across the D.C. area, with stores in Franconia and Chevy Chase having both opened since July. There are also more on the way.

That could include another Arlington Amazon Fresh.

The approaching redevelopment of Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center on Columbia Pike into “The Elliott” will come with 50,000 square feet of ground floor retail, a revamped CVS, and a grocery store. There are rumors that this grocery store will also be an Amazon Fresh, but so far no confirmation.

“Amazon doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation,” the company spokesperson said.


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