Bye, Bye Bank Building — “A new residential development is on the boards for Columbia Pike. Marcus Partners filed plans late last week with Arlington County for a new 250-unit residential development at the site of the Bank of America office building at 3401 Columbia Pike. The six-story building will have ground floor retail, a central courtyard and 287 parking spaces on 2.5 below grade levels.” [UrbanTurf]
It’s Official: No Caucus — From Blue Virginia: “The @arlingtondems announce that their School Board Endorsement Vote process is canceled, as there is only one candidate (Bethany Zecher Sutton) left after the other withdrew.” [Twitter]
Rents Still Rising — “The median Arlington apartment rent in April was up 16.8 percent from a year before, the third highest growth rate among the nation’s 100 large urban areas, according to new data. The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,999 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,420 for two bedrooms, according to data reported by Apartment List.” [Sun Gazette]
Truck Crash Caught on Camera — From Dave Statter: “Just happened. 3rd crash in as many days on I-395S at Exit 8C/Rt 1. It appears the red car didn’t stop & no other cars struck. @VSPPIO has all lanes open.” [Twitter]
Protest Outside DEA HQ in Pentagon City — “I’m outside DEA headquarters in Arlington, where protests have gathered to draw attention to terminally ill patients’ rights to try experimental drugs like psilocybin.” [Twitter, The Hill]
WaPo Reporter Rappels Down Hotel — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [Washington Post]
Boeing HQ May Draw More Companies — “Even without a sizable addition of jobs or expansion, Northern Virginia landing another major corporate headquarters has strategic ‘marketing value,’ Terry Clower, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, said in an interview. The presence of a headquarters attracts the attention of other corporations, as well as site-selection consultants who advise companies where to locate new facilities. ‘Nothing draws a crowd like a lot of people,’ Clower said.” [Washington Business Journal]
Metro: Ridership Rebounding — “Metro ridership is outpacing projections through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022 by nearly 40 percent. Through March, ridership has exceeded the initial forecast by 28 million passenger trips as more people chose bus and rail for travel throughout the region. Metrobus leads the way, accounting for 60 percent of overall Metro ridership, compared to about 40 percent for rail.” [WMATA]
It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 48. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]
Marymount University is seeking Arlington County Board approval to convert some of its student housing in Ballston into hotel rooms permanently.
The conversions would occur at “The Rixey,” an apartment building Marymount owns and operates at 1008 N. Glebe Road as graduate student housing. Marymount intends to repurpose 133 of the 267 units into hotel rooms to give students studying hotellery practical experience.
“The addition of hotel units to the Rixey building will be used to support and enhance Marymount University’s Hospitality Innovation Master of Business Administration (MBA) program by providing students with hands-on experience in the hotel industry,” a county report said.
This request follows several other recent proposals to temporarily convert apartment units into hotels during the initial leasing of these buildings, the report said.
For example, to recuperate revenue losses from pandemic-era vacancies, Dittmar asked the Arlington County Board last summer to allow three- to 30-day stays in 75 furnished units that are typically used for longer residential stays.
Some worried these conversions would harm rental housing affordability, but the County Board ultimately approved Dittmar’s request. County planners intend to study these conversions “in the next few years” to inform a potential hotel conversion policy, according to the report.
Staff say Marymount’s proposal, however, is “distinctly different” because the conversions would be permanent, would figure into a hands-on learning program and would add hotel rooms the county needs.
“The proposed conversion would also establish a concentration of new hotel rooms to help counterbalance the loss of 1,600 hotel rooms in Arlington over the past two years and would allow Marymount University to broaden its offerings as an anchor institution in Ballston,” the report said.
Marymount purchased “The Rixey” for $95 million in 2019 after it had purchased the land underneath in order to lease it to local real estate developer The Shooshan Company, which built the apartments. Marymount also owns the Ballston Center office building next door, using some floors for office and educational space and leasing other floors.
The Board is slated to review the proposal this Saturday.
Mask Optional Bill Heads to Governor — “As had their state Senate colleagues the preceding week, members of Arlington’s delegation to the House of Delegates were unanimous in their opposition to legislation ending mask mandates on students in Virginia’s public-education system. But the opposition did nothing to stop the bill’s momentum – the measure on Feb. 14 won final passage in the House of Delegates and is on its way to Gov. Youngkin.” [Sun Gazette]
More on Roosevelt Bridge Work — “The Roosevelt Bridge connecting Arlington and D.C. got a close-up inspection Monday after transportation officials ordered emergency road work to the bridge over the weekend. D.C. Department of Transportation Director Everett Lott said the bridge, which is 58 years old, was given a ‘poor’ rating during an inspection in 2018 and a “fair” rating in 2016. Lanes will be shut down on the bridge for as long as six months due to a rusted beam.” [NBC 4]
Homeless Shelter Moved Everyone to Motel — “Staffers at Arlington County’s largest homeless shelter for adults have spent the better part of the past two years trying to keep the coronavirus in check. They tested everyone regularly, moved any person who caught the virus into isolation. They had strict protocols, high vaccination rates among the nearly 100 homeless residents who use the facility and required that face masks be worn indoors… But then came omicron.” [Washington Post]
Preservation Bill Dead for 2022 — “Advocates of historic-preservation legislation patroned by two Northern Virginia lawmakers will have to wait until 2023 to try and win enactment. The House of Delegates Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns voted Feb. 11 to delay final consideration of legislation patroned by Del. Hope (D-Arlington) to next year.” [Sun Gazette]
Towing Accountability Bill Fails — “A measure its patron said would provide more teeth to Virginia’s statutes regulating the towing industry died a perhaps predictable death in the House of Delegates. Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) had patroned legislation that would have made violations of state and local towing rules subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. It also would have provided ‘meaningful civil penalties’ for towing malfeasance, the patron said in comments to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation.” [Sun Gazette]
Small House Fire in N. Arlington — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “This morning at approx. 0920 crews were dispatched for a reported structure fire in the 3600 BLK of N. Vermont St. Crews found a small fire with minimal extension. No injuries were reported.” [Twitter]
W-L Track Wins Championship — “For what is officially supposed to be an indoor sport, the Washington-Liberty Generals improvised quite well and won a Liberty District boys track and field championship as a result. The Generals finished first with 128 points, with the Yorktown Patriots second with 88.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Tuesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 40. Sunrise at 6:58 a.m. and sunset at 5:46 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny and breezy, with a high near 54. [Weather.gov]
Plans and a possible construction timeline for the proposed Silver Diner redevelopment in Clarendon are crystallizing.
Late last month, property owner TCS Realty Associates and developer Donohoe Cos. filed their application materials for the “Bingham Center” project on a triangular parcel of land bounded by Wilson Blvd, 10th Street N. and N. Irving Street, across from Northside Social.
One half of the project would replace the Silver Diner and a retail building (3240 Wilson Blvd) with a 224-room hotel, featuring a rooftop bar, gym and terrace. The other half would see a 286-unit residential building with 16,000 square feet of retail replacing The Lot, two brick structures called “The Doctors Building,” an auto repair facility and surface parking.
The review process for the project could take upward of seven months, TCS Realty Associates President Tom Shooltz tells ARLnow. Construction, which Donohoe will oversee as general contractor, could start in the first or second quarter of 2023 and wrap up about two years later.
“We’re getting to the goal line now,” he said.
The filings come as revisions to the Clarendon Sector Plan are set to be finalized in the next four months. In response to a bevy of expected near-term projects in Clarendon, Arlington County embarked on a review of the 2006 plan last year.
This includes the Silver Diner/The Lot site on Clarendon Circle, as well as the Joyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites and redevelopment projects by St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.
“Currently, staff is preparing the draft Clarendon Sector Plan Update document,” Arlington County Planner Brett Wallace told ARLnow in a statement. “Staff posted materials online in early December that include draft recommendations, updated sector plan text and maps, and potential land use scenarios for the 10th Street County-owned properties.”
Staff will next meet with the Zoning Committee in two weeks to review proposed zoning amendments before Planning Commission and County Board public hearing dates are set.
Progress on the Silver Diner redevelopment project hinged on sector plan revisions.
“The Clarendon Sector Plan is very important to the whole development of Clarendon,” Shooltz said. “There are a few other projects in the pipeline for that immediate part of Clarendon, so it only made sense that the county and stakeholders stepped back to make sure the Sector Plan reflects what we want to see for Clarendon.”
Despite COVID-19 delays and a timeline dictated by the sector plan, Shooltz says getting to this point has been smooth.
“We’ve got a very sophisticated citizen group who has been through this process many times,” he said. “It’s been a pleasure to work with them and Clarendon is going to be a beneficiary of the review process.” Read More
Dems to Discuss School Board Caucus — “Unsurprisingly, perhaps, into this climate of culture war skirmishes surrounding public education comes opposition to the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s long-standing caucus process and even opposition to Democratic endorsement of candidates for school boards seats… At its February meeting, Arlington Democrats will debate the issues raised by its critics and vote on whether and how to change its caucus and endorsement process.” [Blue Virginia]
Winter Outdoor Dining Guide — “Before the pandemic, we never imagined that al fresco dining season in Northern Virginia would stretch into the teeth of winter. And while the wave of the latest Omicron cases seems to have peaked (fingers crossed!), those who are cautious about Covid but still want to support local businesses might choose to eat outside in the fresh air. Here are 11 restaurants cranking up the heat on outdoor dining spaces, and adding fun elements like fire pits or tented igloos.” [Arlington Magazine]
Steep HQ2 Energy Offset Costs — “The cost for Amazon.com Inc. to offset carbon emissions at its PenPlace development and meet Arlington County’s energy expectations will run upward of $5 million, according to a study by the company’s Seattle consultant.” [Washington Business Journal]
Beyer Calls for Long Covid Data — “A pair of Democratic House members asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a letter Tuesday to release data on the number of Americans who suffer lingering symptoms of coronavirus infection, including breakdowns along race, gender and age… Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has sponsored legislation to fund studies of long covid, co-signed the letter with Pressley.” [Washington Post, U.S. House of Representatives]
More on Pentagon City Apartment Upgrades — “An existing 12-year-old apartment high-rise adjacent to what will be Amazon’s massive HQ2 campus, Metropolitan Park, in Arlington County, Virginia, has been acquired… and the investors plan a multimillion makeover fitting for HQ2’s panache. ‘We are going to make these apartments the coolest and most desirable homes on the park,’ said Steve Schwat, UIP founding principal.” [WTOP]
Two Crystal City Hotels Sold — “An Atlanta real estate investment manager has acquired a pair of Crystal City hotels a little more than a month after their former owner primed them for future redevelopment. Affiliates of Noble Investment Group paid a combined $64.3 million in mid-December for the 162-room Hampton Inn & Suites Reagan National Airport and the 248-room Hilton Garden Inn, according to Arlington County land records… There do not appear to be immediate changes planned for the hotels themselves, except for their names.” [Washington Business Journal]
It’s Wednesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 30. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:23 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 33. [Weather.gov]
Arlington County is set to receive more than $3 million to entice tourists to visit Arlington and help the hard-hit tourism industry recover from the pandemic.
The county’s tourism division, Arlington Convention and Visitors Service (ACVS), would use the $3.25 million grant for advertising, media outreach, marketing research, promotional events and tourism development to support the travel and hospitality industry, according to a county report.
The Arlington County Board is set to consider the grant during its meeting this Saturday. The Virginia Tourism Corporation awarded ACVS the money through the American Rescue Plan Act Tourism Recovery program, but the County Board must approve the funding.
In November, the Board cited this grant as the reason it did not consider direct financial support to hotels in its allocation of about $9 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds, which went toward housing assistance, expanding critical behavioral health services, meal distribution for senior citizens and more affordable child care options, among other initiatives.
Board members said the ACVS grant will instead help hospitality workers through training and job search support.
“Unfortunately, unlike the ARPA funds Arlington County received earlier from the Commonwealth, [the ACVS] funds can’t be used for grants or other direct financial support to our hotels, which is what we continue to hear would be the most impactful for their recovery and for maintaining sustainable, predictable compensation for their employees,” Arlington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kate Bates told ARLnow.
In Arlington Economic Development’s survey of local hotels, employee pay and benefits was the top spending priority across hotels of all sizes, Bates said.
“Moreover, employment data show that Arlington has lost about half of its hotel workforce during the pandemic,” she said.
ACVS has gathered input on how to use the grant funding from representatives of Arlington hotels, the Chamber of Commerce, local Business Improvement Districts, the Clarendon, Columbia Pike and Langston Boulevard neighborhood partnerships, Arlington Economic Development and the Department of Parks and Recreation, the report said.
The conversations are expected to continue over the 30 months the grant will be distributed.
“The funds are designated specifically for marketing Arlington as a destination to generate visitor spending, and I’m confident that Emily Cassell and the great team at ACVS will develop a plan to successfully do that, with continued feedback from the hotels along the way,” Bates said.
Militia members brought “firearms, ammunition, and related items” to the hotel in advance of Jan. 6, federal prosecutors say. Some details of the hotel’s unwitting role in the insurrection were previously reported. Surveillance photos from the hotel show large gun cases being wheeled in on luggage carts.
Indictments against militia members for “seditious conspiracy,” unsealed last week, outline how some militia members stayed outside of D.C. that day, awaiting orders to transport weapons to the city. They used encrypted chat apps and ham radios to communicate, federal prosecutors said.
“While certain Oath Keepers members and affiliates breached the Capitol grounds and building, others remained stationed just outside of the city in quick reaction force (QRF) teams,” said a Justice Department press release. “According to the indictment, the QRF teams were prepared to rapidly transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C., in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.”
In one indictment, the Comfort Inn, located along N. Glebe Road near the entrance to I-66, is referred to by militia members as the “QRF hotel.” It was apparently not the only one. The indictment also shows militia members discussing “several well equipped QRFs outside DC.”
Oath Keeper member and Phoenix resident Edward Vallejo, who is among those charged with seditious conspiracy, was one of the people who stayed behind in Ballston while violence at the Capitol raged, prosecutors say. From the indictment:
Vallejo and others were on standby at the Comfort Inn Ballston, monitoring communications from the co-conspirators on the ground inside Washington, D.C., and awaiting a call to bring the weapons to the co-conspirators.[…]
At 2:38 p.m., Vallejo messaged the Leadership Signal Chat, “QRF standing by at hotel. Just say the word…”
That night, as Congress resumed its counting of the electoral votes, Vallejo and other militia members “met at a restaurant in Vienna, Virginia to celebrate their attack on the Capitol and discuss next steps,” according to federal prosecutors. There’s no indication that the weapons ever left the hotel that day.
There is also no word in Justice Department filings about potential militia activities elsewhere in Arlington. ARLnow previously reported on a group of 8 to 10 men who gathered at the Iwo Jima memorial with communication equipment while the Capitol was attacked, but there is no indication that any of them has been accused of a crime.
Vallejo is being held in custody pending a detention hearing this week, the Washington Post reported.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington County police responded to a pair of gun crimes in and near Rosslyn over the weekend.
The first happened around 4:30 p.m. Sunday on the 1500 block of 17th Street N. Arlington police do not typically reveal which businesses have been the victims of crimes, but that’s the same block at the standalone Rosslyn Starbucks store.
“At approximately 4:31 p.m. on January 9, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery,” said an ACPD crime report today. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered the business, approached the register, brandished a firearm and stole money from a tip jar. The suspect then fled the scene on foot. Responding officers established a perimeter and searched the area with negative results.”
Less than an hour later, there was a report of a similar tip jar robbery by an armed man in D.C., near Metro Center. Initial reports suggested that a suspect was arrested.
Asked whether police believe the two incidents are related, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said she “cannot provide any additional details as [the D.C. robbery] is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police Department.”
“The robbery in Arlington has been assigned to our Homicide/Robbery Unit and our detectives are actively working with our law enforcement partners to determine if it is linked to any other cases in the region,” said Savage.
RESTAURANT ARMED ROBBERY— Jimmy John's at 1208 G St NW DC. Male armed with a handgun took tip jar during robbery and fled into Metro Center. Possible suspect has been captured by @DCPoliceDept. #wmata pic.twitter.com/6t8YI3K33V
— Alan Henney (@alanhenney) January 9, 2022
On Sunday night, another reported gun crime — the theft of a gun and a shot fired by the fleeing suspect — happened just west of Rosslyn along the 2500 block of 20th Road N.
“At approximately 10:46 p.m. on January 9, police were dispatched to the report of shots heard,” said an ACPD crime report. “It was determined that the suspect stole Victim One’s firearm and a verbal dispute ensued when he attempted to get it back. The suspect allegedly discharged the firearm before fleeing the scene on foot. No injuries were reported.”
The suspect was identified and tracked down to the nearby Inns of Virginia motel.
“Officers identified the suspect, obtained warrants and determined he was inside a hotel room in the 3300 block of Lee Highway,” said the crime report. “Responding officers established a perimeter and took the suspect into custody without incident. The investigation determined that while inside the hotel room, the suspect allegedly became involved in a verbal dispute with Victim Two, during which he brandished the firearm and threatened her.”
The suspect, a 38-year-old Maryland man, “was arrested and charged with Discharge of a Firearm, Grand Larceny of a Firearm, Possession of a Firearm by a Felon and Brandishing a Firearm,” police said. “He was held without bond.”
A group will be protesting vaccine mandates in D.C. later this month but staying in Arlington — due to forthcoming vaccine mandates in D.C.
Defeat the Mandates, D.C. is planning a rally in the District on Sunday, Jan. 23. The group describes the rally on the National Mall as a bipartisan event that will have a “wide range of featured guests” including “recording artists, prominent doctors, journalists, pro athletes, actors and premier thought leaders.” It will feature “a series of inspiring ‘TED talks’ and musical performances.”
“Stop the mass firings. Stop segregating by vaccination status. Stop calling Americans ‘unpatriotic’ for making a personal medical choice,” says the recently-created group’s website.
But the group encountered a problem in organizing the rally: in late December D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that proof of coronavirus vaccinations will be required to enter many District businesses, including restaurants, starting in mid-January.
That prompted a shift to Arlington.
“Due to the upcoming Vaccine Mandate put in place by the Mayor of DC, we have moved all of our hotel blocks to Arlington, VA,” the rally’s website says. “We wanted to supply hotel blocks near DC so that all of our guests, regardless of vaccination status are welcome. The new mandate goes into effect on 1/15/22 and requires proof of vaccination or negative covid test to enter all restaurants, bars, gyms and indoor meeting spaces.”
The website lists hotel packages at two hotels in the Crystal City area: the Renaissance Arlington Capital View and the Embassy Suites Crystal City.
So far the group has not released a list of speakers or a count of how many people are expected to attend, though it has attracted a fair amount of chatter on social media and forums like Reddit.
Of course, not everyone thinks a mass gathering of unvaccinated individuals during a Covid wave is a good idea.
“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” said one Twitter user.
— Eric Topol (@EricTopol) January 1, 2022
Hotel Redevelopment Plan Paused — “The redevelopment of one of Arlington’s oldest hotels looks to be on hold indefinitely, as the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic disrupt the hospitality-focused project. Grant Investment Properties is asking county planners for more time to complete its overhaul of Rosslyn’s old Best Western Iwo Jima, now known as the Red Lion Hotel Rosslyn Iwo Jima, at 1501 Arlington Boulevard. A site plan for the project projected that it would be finished by March 2022, but the Chicago-based firm filed papers last week to ask for an extension through March 2025.” [Washington Business Journal]
Proposed APS Changes Questioned — “Based on feedback from the Arlington School Board, the Arlington Public Schools system is focusing on what they call more equitable grading practices. The preliminary proposal calls for: No late penalties for homework… No extra credit… Unlimited redoes and retakes on assignment… No grading for homework.” [WJLA, Washington Post]
Hit and Run Crash in Bluemont — From yesterday afternoon: “Several lanes of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Dr are closed after a reported hit-and-run crash in the intersection. Police and Fire Dept. on scene.” [Twitter]
Video: Crash on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “Watch: Another left turn in the middle of an interstate ends badly. 1p, I-395S at Rt 1. Third one recorded at this spot in the last month.” [Twitter]
Toby’s May Be Expanding to Vienna — “Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream, which saw a boost in sales over the summer thanks to the debut of its cicada sundaes, appears to be branching out. The Arlington-based shop, located along a Washington Boulevard in the Westover neighborhood, plans to open a new location at the Cedar Park Shopping Center in Vienna, according to Fairfax County permit data.” [Washington Business Journal]
Nearby: Fire and EMS Staffing Stretched — ” Fairfax County saw its largest-ever increase in coronavirus cases among fire and emergency medical responders this month, mirroring a surge in case rates compared to 2020. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department data shows that there are 53 positive cases and 14 in quarantine, all staying at home to curb the spread of COVID-19.” [FFXnow, DCist, Twitter]
Crash and Arrest Block the Pike — Columbia Pike was blocked at S. Greenbrier Street yesterday evening after a crash in which one of the drivers reportedly refused police commands to exit the vehicle and was later tased. [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — There will be drizzle and possible fog before 2 p.m. on an otherwise cloudy day, with a high near 55. Sunrise at 7:26 a.m. and sunset at 4:54 p.m. Tomorrow, on New Year’s Eve, expect mild weather, with cloudy skies, a high near 60 and a low around 51. [Weather.gov]
The Highlander Motel is finally coming down, with a CVS set to go up in its place.
Demolition has begun on the nearly six-decade-old, two-story motel on Wilson Blvd after it closed a year ago. The tear down is expected to be completed within the next several days, according to former owner Billy Bayne.
Video taken by a local filmmaker, below, shows a large excavator eating through the brick, siding, and metal of the old building.
Despite the motel turning into rubble, construction on the new CVS won’t actually start for a “few months” due to it being winter, a construction manager tells ARLnow. A tentative time frame for the building to be completed is mid-to-late August, but that deadline is weather-dependent.
The Atlanta-based Project Builders Inc. is the general contractor, as county permits show.
After the project is turned over to CVS, it likely will take at least a month for the store to open, notes the construction manager, putting an estimated opening date around late September.
There are currently at least three other CVS stores within about a mile of where the new one will be constructed, including locations in Clarendon and Ballston.
The plan to demolish Highlander Motel and replace it with a CVS has been in place since at least 2016, with permit applications being filed two years ago. Bayne still owns the land at 3336 Wilson Blvd and is leasing it to CVS.
As for the Highlander, Bayne admits watching it be demolished does conjure up emotions.
But it’s time for it to go, Bayne says. The motel was struggling to stay afloat and had overstayed its usefulness, he says.
“My father would be happy since [leasing the property] is going to help out his children and grandchildren,” Bayne says, “Plus, having a CVS there is good for the neighborhood.”