Arlington, VA

A proposal to return Arlington Court Suites Hotel to its original purpose, an apartment building, is slated to be considered by the Arlington County Board on Saturday.

The 187 guest rooms at 1200 N. Courthouse Road would become 180 homes, possibly condominiums, according to an application filed by the property owner. This hotel-to-residential project is just a couple of blocks south of the Court House Metro station.

County staff are advising the board to approve the plan, which has been amended after Transportation Commission members argued that the original plans provided too much parking.

“Overall, the applicant’s proposal presents an opportunity to provide new housing units within a transit-rich neighborhood through the conversion of an existing building in a manner that is generally consistent with applicable County adopted plans and policies,” the staff report says.

One feature includes an upgraded and expanded pedestrian route making it easier to get to and from the Metro station and the Arlington Boulevard Trail. The route will also connect with nearby apartment and condo buildings, but will not be ADA accessible due to how steep the the grade is, the staff report says.

The project is exempt from providing mandatory affordable dwelling units, according to county staff.

“Given that the proposed density of the subject site plan is decreasing, and is a renovation of an existing building, the ADU provision does not apply,” the document says.

An apartment building was originally constructed on the site in 1962, and was turned into a hotel in 1980. In 2005, the County Board approved a plan to construct 252 new multifamily, townhouse and stacked residential units nearby, known currently as the Vista on Courthouse and the Bell at Courthouse.

The ratio of parking spots to dwellings for the renovated building has been the subject of scrutiny. In February, Transportation Commission members unanimously objected to the first iteration of the plan, which knocked the original 203 spots to 171.

The revised plan includes 150 spaces for a new parking ratio of 0.83 spots per unit. Many of those would be located on a surface parking lot, with the rest in a garage under the building. A county policy adopted in 2017 said parking at residences near Metro stations could be as low as 0.2 spaces per unit.

In a letter to the Board, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said his commission appreciates the reduced parking and added pedestrian route.

“That said, many commissioners remarked that they would support an even lower parking ratio given proximity to (the) Metro and encouraged the applicant to further reduce the amount of parking on-site, particularly the surface parking,” he wrote.

The County Board will meet virtually this Saturday, Oct. 17, starting at 8:30 a.m.

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The Virginian Suites hotel at 1500 Arlington Blvd, near Rosslyn, has closed.

Earlier this week workers could be seen hauling furniture out of the building, which is located on the southern side of Route 50, a couple of blocks from the Iwo Jima memorial. A sign on the door said the building is under new management.

The plan is to renovate the building and convert it back into apartments, according to Bernstein Management Corporation.

The company said last month on its website that 1500 Arlington Blvd will be reopened “as value-oriented multifamily rental apartments with amenities to include a lobby lounge, an amenity floor with fitness options and co-working, and an outdoor patio with grills and fire pit.”

“Unit interiors will undergo kitchen renovations, and receive new lighting, flooring, closet organizers and paint,” the company said. “The property is approximately 1/2 a mile from the Washington D.C. line. Its proximity to the Rosslyn Metro station, national employers, multiple universities, dining, and entertainment options makes it a promising acquisition and attractive place to live for those looking for amenities, sustainability, technology and a compelling value given the location.”

The ten-story tower was originally an apartment building after it was completed in 1951. It was later converted into a suite-style hotel.

Bernstein Management Corporation says it now owns a 50% interest in the building. The family behind the D.C.-based residential and commercial property operator just announced a $12 million charitable pledge to local organizations that champion “the arts, racial equality, and a brighter future.”

It’s unclear how long the renovations will take and when the new apartments will be available for lease. Reached by ARLnow, a spokeswoman for the company did not have any other details to share.

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Morning Notes

It’s October — And just like that, September is over and October has started. October has been deemed Affordable Housing Month in Arlington County.

Cool Month on Tap? — “After a fast shift to autumn in September, we anticipate the coolest October since 2015 along with a healthy dose of rainfall. Our forecast is for Washington’s average October temperature to fall within 2 degrees of normal. Remarkably, the past four Octobers have each been at least 3 degrees above normal.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Local Hotels Still Hurting — “Arlington’s hotel-occupancy rate in July was just 24 percent, with the year-to-date rate of 35 percent less than half the 76.7-percent rate recorded during the same seven-month period in 2019… For the January-to-July period, the average room rate for Arlington lodging establishments was $141.55, down nearly 18 percent from the $172.16 recorded during the same period in 2019.” [InsideNova]

Riders Steal Rideshare Driver’s Ride — “The victim was operating as a rideshare driver when he became engaged in a verbal dispute with the three passengers in his vehicle. As he stopped his vehicle to end the trip, the passengers assaulted the victim, then pulled him from the car and continued to assault him. The suspects then re-entered the vehicle, stole it, and fled prior to police arrival. Officers canvasing the area later located the vehicle nearby.” [ACPD]

Debate Watch Party in Shirlington — “Most voters who showed up to the watch party at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia,  said they had made up their minds before the debate — and left feeling frustrated at what they saw.” [WUSA 9]

Regional Coronavirus Cases Down — “The number of new corona­virus infections this week has fallen to levels last seen in mid-July across the Washington region, although leaders and health officials worry that the return of colder weather could reverse the trend.” [Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

Amazon Buys Hotel Next to HQ2 Site — “Amazon.com Inc. has purchased the Residence Inn by Marriott in Pentagon City with plans to demolish it and expand its second headquarters, the company tells the Washington Business Journal. Acorn Development LLC, an Amazon subsidiary, paid $148.5 million for the building and its 1.5-acre site at 550 Army Navy Drive.” [Washington Business Journal]

Trail Roundabout Now In Use — A new roundabout along the Custis Trail is now in use, improving safety at a formerly hazardous T-intersection in Bon Air Park. [Twitter]

Changes for Missing Middle Housing Study — “Staff from the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) presented to the County Board a revised Missing Middle Housing Study Scope and Charge, which was shaped by community feedback and informed by research.” [Arlington County]

Optimists Now Meeting in Person — “While many other service organizations across Northern Virginia have curtailed operations or moved to an online-only presence due to the public-health situation, the Optimist Club of Arlington is back with in-person meetings. The local club… resumed its twice-monthly meetings in July at Washington Golf & Country Club, with appropriate precautions.” [InsideNova]

Robo Mower Snatched, But Then Returned — “Though not a tale of high crimes and misdemeanors, the brief disappearance Tuesday morning of ‘Shultzy’ the robotic AutoMower caused a degree of excitement for one Maywood family.” [Patch]

ACFD Touts First ‘Whole Blood’ Use — “Crews responded for a person that suffered serious injuries after a long fall on Monday. Medics quickly administered whole blood, helping to stabilize the patient’s vital signs. This was the first use of our innovative whole blood program implemented earlier this month.” [Twitter]

Today: Virtual Pike Progress Luncheon — “Support our community with this year’s virtual ‘luncheon’ benefit! While the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Columbia Pike, the region and indeed the world, our community is still strong.” [ARLnow Events, CPRO]

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A 25-year-old Arlington man is behind bars after police say he broke into a hotel room early this morning and assaulted a woman inside.

The incident happened around 2 a.m. on the 1600 block of Arlington Blvd, which is home to the Inn of Rosslyn motel.

Arlington County police say the man banged on the locked door of the hotel room before forcing his way in and grabbing the woman “around the upper torso.” She fled and called police. The suspect was later spotted by officers banging on another building door in Rosslyn and taken into custody, police said.

More from today’s ACPD crime report:

BURGLARY, 2020-09230019, 1600 block of Arlington Boulevard. At approximately 1:48 a.m. on September 23, police were dispatched to the report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 1:40 a.m. the victim was awoken by noise from the suspect allegedly banging on the door to a secured hotel room. The suspect subsequently forced entry to the room, causing damage, and grabbed the woman around the upper torso. The victim was able to free herself from the suspect, who then fled on foot. Arriving officers established a perimeter, canvased the area, and a K9 track was conducted. At approximately 2:07 a.m., police were dispatched to the 1700 block of N. Quinn Street, where a male matching the suspect description was banging on the door to a building. Arriving officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect had also caused damage to a shed located outside of the building on Quinn Street. Nomin-Erdene Begzjav, 25, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Burglary with Intent to Commit Assault, Assault & Battery, and Destruction of Property (x2). He was held on no bond.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

County Board to Consider Bridge Pact — “The Arlington and Alexandria governments are planning to formalize their long-shared responsibilities for maintenance of five bridges that span Four Mile Run between the two communities. The new agreement sets out the share of funding for future short-term and long-term rehabilitation of the five bridges – at West Glebe Road, Arlington Ridge Road, Shirlington Road, Route 1 and Potomac Avenue – as well as maintenance costs.” [InsideNova]

Meal Donation to Hospital — Per a spokeswoman: “At 12:45 p.m., roughly 1,500 meals from local restaurants will be delivered to Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington as part of a 9/11 Day and World Central Kitchen initiative to support first responders and frontline healthcare workers on the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The local restaurants participating in the delivery to Virginia Hospital Center are Arepa Zone, La Ceiba and Bistro Bis.”

Board to Vote on ART Facility Contract — “The Arlington County government is moving forward with planning for reconstruction of its Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility, located on Shirlington Road in the Four Mile Run/Green Valley area. County Board members have been asked to approve a contract of roughly $3.9 million for planning, design and construction-administration services for the $81 million project. Stantec Architecture is receiving the contract.” [InsideNova]

Local Bars Welcome NFL Season — “‘We’re delighted to have live sports back,’ said Dave Cahill, general manager of Ireland’s Four Courts in Arlington, Virginia. ‘We’re fortunate here at the Four Courts; we have three different rooms, and we have a large outdoor area. So we have 18 televisions inside and three TVs outside. Having three rooms, it’s going to allow us to spread people out all over the rooms, 6 feet apart and still enjoy the football,’ he said.” [WTOP]

GOP Senate Candidate Addresses Civ Fed — “His longshot candidacy notwithstanding, Daniel Gade received a polite reception from delegates to the Arlington County Civic Federation. ‘I’m the sort of person who will always tell you the truth,’ the Republican U.S. Senate nominee said at the Sept. 8 event. His opponent, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner, was invited but did not attend the forum, convened online due to the public-health pandemic.” [InsideNova]

County Encourages Local Hotel Bookings — “For most of us with out-of-town family and friends, it’s been far too long since we’ve been able to get together. And with safety being everyone’s top priority, you may not be comfortable yet hosting guests in your Arlington house, condo or apartment. With plenty of space, great fall deals and packages, and an array of enhanced health and safety programs, Arlington’s 44 hotels can offer the ‘spare bedroom’ for your visitors this fall.” [Arlington County]

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Pentagon City was abuzz with security personnel today as President Trump delivered a speech to a conference at a local hotel.

The president spoke at the 2020 Council for National Policy conference, hosted in the ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton hotel. He arrived around 11:45 a.m. and spoke for more than an hour, before departing via motorcade back to the White House shortly after 1 p.m.

Before the crowd of several hundred top conservative activists, President Trump spoke at length on a variety of topics.

The topics, according to White House press pool reports, included Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the economy, China, vaccine development, mail-in voting, and Israel. The president’s full remarks are below.

Via Twitter, Pentagon City residents noted major police activity in the area, including road closures and a helicopter overhead. Reporters covering the event noted that many conference attendees did not seem to heed requests to physically distance and wear masks in the ballroom.

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Arlington County has been working with a pair of local hotels in an effort to keep vulnerable populations safe during the pandemic.

Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services is currently renting out the Highlander Motel (3336 Wilson Blvd) in Virginia Square, and previously rented the Days Inn along Columbia Pike, to serve as a quarantine location for people with the virus or at high risk of complications.

Both hotels offer modestly-appointed rooms that have individual HVAC units and are accessible via open air walkways. Among those housed in the hotels are low-income and homeless individuals who have nowhere else to go.

ARLnow previously reported in early April that the Highlander was being looked at as an “alternative site” for temporary COVID-related housing.

“In April 2020, Arlington rented two hotels to provide quarantine/isolation space for low-income individuals who were living in overcrowded or congregate settings, and unable to effectively quarantine or isolate,” Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick confirmed to ARLnow last week.

“Individuals served are COVID-19 positive, presumed positive, directly exposed, or at high risk of complications due to health conditions,” Larrick said. “To date, the quarantine/isolation hotels have served 108 individuals.”

Larrick said the Days Inn was rented through June 30, but the Highlander is still being rented by the county.

“At the quarantine/isolation hotel, there are currently 39 individuals being housed, occupying 38 rooms,” Larrick said last week. “Four of these individuals are COVID-19 positive; 5 of these individuals are presumed positive; and the remainder of the individuals (30) are at the Highlander due to their high-risk status.”

Such utilization is considered a best practice for preventing the spread of disease. Other cities and counties have similarly rented hotels for coronavirus-related uses.

The use of the hotels came to light after ARLnow received a series of tips from local residents. Some noted that the Highlander had no vacancy and was booked solid indefinitely — unusual during a pandemic that has hit the hotel industry hard. Others, who live near the hotel, noted a frequent presence of police officers and county employees.

On Friday, July 31, there was a particularly jarring scene: several police vehicles and people in full hazmat suits in the Highlander parking lot.

“There are police there currently in gas masks and hazmat suits,” said a resident who contacted ARLnow. “I live in the area and am concerned that no one has been notified of what’s going on.”

“This is a frequent occurrence,” the resident said of the police presence. “I inquired with the county about what is going on but they told me they could not give me an answer.”

Larrick and a police spokeswoman said what the resident saw on July 31 was a death investigation — one of the hotel occupants died of suspected non-COVID-related natural causes.

“At approximately 9:56 a.m. on July 31, police were dispatched to the report of a possible death,” stated an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon arrival, an adult male was located deceased inside a hotel room. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Based on the preliminary investigation, the death is not considered suspicious.”

Larrick said that the county is grateful to the owners of the hotels — including Billy Bayne, owner of the Highlander and frequent critic of the county, who “really stepped up and helped” by providing a service that other hotel operators might have shied away from.

“The County truly appreciates how these businesses stepped up in the pandemic crisis to address an emerging community need,” Larrick said. “This space has undoubtedly helped us keep people safe and contain the spread in the community.”

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Morning Notes

Va. Rolls Out Contact Tracing App — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced the launch of COVIDWISE, an innovative exposure notification app that will alert users if they have been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.” [Commonwealth of Virginia, DCist]

Rosslyn Metro Closes During Rush Hour — The Rosslyn Metro station closed during yesterday’s evening rush hour, reportedly for a COVID-related cleaning. In what may be a sign of just how low ridership remains, ARLnow did not receive a single tweet or email tip about the closure of one of the system’s busiest stations. [Twitter]

Amazon Still Planning on Pen Place Purchase — “It will be some time before the public knows what Amazon.com Inc. has in store for Pentagon City’s Pen Place property, but we have a pretty good idea of how much it’ll cost the e-commerce and cloud computing giant to acquire what will become the second phase of HQ2. Amazon is expected to buy the 10-acre plot from JBG Smith Properties for just under $150 million sometime next year.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Hotel Gets Financial Lifeline — “Berkadia announced today the $19 million refinancing secured for Hilton Garden Inn, Crystal City… The global COVID-19 pandemic has particularly affected the hospitality industry, leaving many owners struggling to secure the financing they need.” [Press Release]

Matchbox Files for Bankruptcy — Local restaurant chain Matchbox, which has a location in Pentagon City, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. “Despite the bankruptcy, Matchbox says it’s in talks with its landlords to keep the restaurants open and will even look to open more locations in the future, albeit with smaller footprints.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Special Election Voting Today — Voting is underway in the three-way special election to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat. Polls are open from 6 a.m.-7 p.m. The candidates are Takis Karantonis, Susan Cunningham and Bob Cambridge. “Don’t forget your photo ID, ballpoint pen, and face mask,” Arlington’s election office said this morning in a tweet. [Twitter]

No Incentive Payments for Amazon This Year — “Amazon.com Inc. won’t receive any direct cash payments from Arlington County, this year at least, for its HQ2 office leases… because Amazon’s incentive payments are tied to Arlington’s tourism industry. And many rooms remain empty to this day.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Working to Offer Free Internet Service — “In May, the Arlington County Board allocated $500,000 of funding for a joint County/School Internet Essentials Grant Program to provide broadband internet access to APS students in need. The grant, allocated as part of the federal [CARES] Act, will provide free, high-speed internet access to low-income families who qualify for Internet Essentials from Comcast. Arlington is the first community in Virginia to partner with Comcast to offer free broadband services to students and their families.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Flying Squirrel Rescued from Chimney — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “This little flying squirrel had been stuck in a local resident’s chimney since Saturday, but thankfully, Sgt Ballena was able to remove him and release him safely nearby!” [Twitter]

Synetic Organizing Joint Fundraiser — “Synetic Theater has partnered with the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to raise $20,000 during the month of July to be split evenly between the organizations. This partnership was initiated by Synetic Theater to help fulfil the company’s desire to invest in their local community while they are unable to host live performances at their Crystal City/National Landing theater space.” [Press Release]

Interview With New Poet Laureate — “When Hollynd Karapetkova learned that she had been selected as Arlington County’s poet laureate, she saw it as a wonderful piece of good news and positive recognition at a time when everything in the world seemed so chaotic. ‘I’m really grateful that Arlington has gone ahead with this program in spite of all the chaos that’s unfolding,’ she said.” [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Free Coronavirus Testing Event Today — “Arlington County will host a free COVID-19 testing event on Tuesday, May 26, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Barcroft (4200 S Four Mile Run Drive). Tests available both by drive-up and walk-up. No doctor’s note or ID required… the public can anticipate heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area.” [Arlington County, Twitter, Twitter]

Flasher Arrested After Incident Near Ballston — “At approximately 12:12 p.m., an officer on patrol was flagged down by an individual in need of assistance. It was determined that the victim was in the area when she was allegedly approached by the male suspect who exposed himself before running away. The officer located an individual matching the suspect description and, during the course of the investigation, he was positively identified.” [Arlington County]

New Facade, Name Change for Crystal City Building — “JBG Smith Properties is looking to revamp, rebrand and add more leasable space to its Crystal Drive office campus, including one building partly leased and occupied by Amazon.com Inc. as part of HQ2. The new name for the entire office and residential complex, long known as Crystal Park: The Parks at National Landing.” [Washington Business Journal]

Bakeshop Closes Due to COVID Case — Bakeshop in Clarendon is temporarily closed after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The store is now being cleaned and other employees testing. The bakery’s Falls Church location remains open. [Twitter]

How Hotel Manager Chose ‘KIND’ Message — “He kept coming back to one night, in particular, when a Southwest Airlines pilot approached the front desk. He brought a woman with two children from the airport who had been stranded for the night, their connecting flight canceled. The pilot offered to pay for their room and then pulled out his wallet, handing the woman cash for a meal. ‘The woman started to cry and asked the pilot, ‘Can I give you a hug?”” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Restaurant Fire Causes Significant Damage — “On Thursday, May 21 at approximately 11:23 a.m., units from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, Arlington County Fire Department and the City of Alexandria Fire Department were dispatched for a reported building fire in the 5200 block of Leesburg Pike in the Bailey’s Crossroads area of Fairfax County… Damages as a result of the fire were approximately $350,000.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue]

Photo courtesy Dennis Chiappetta

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