Arlington, VA

A plan to redevelop the Key Bridge Marriott is moving forward, but some Arlington officials have lingering concerns about parking and impervious space at the site.

At a Transportation Commission meeting earlier this month, project representatives laid out plans to demolish a portion of the existing 582-room hotel and redevelop the 1401 Lee Highway site with two residential buildings and a smaller, renovated hotel space.

The remodeled hotel would include 449 rooms, bordered by a 150-unit condominium building to the east and a 300-unit apartment building to the west above an existing parking structure. A representative said the redevelopment would include a “slew of interior changes” to the hotel.

Part of the plan involves the addition of a new bike path connecting to the Key Bridge, near where improvements were made to the Custis Trail last year. While there was widespread praise for the new bicycle connection, some on the Transportation Commission had reservations about the project. Chair Chris Slatt said he still wanted to see a Bikeshare station added and wanted to see a lower parking ratio on the site, partially to allow for less impervious surface area.

“There’s work that can be done on circulation areas of the site to make them less impervious,” Slatt said. “It really feels like there’s a lot of pavement [and] a lot of sidewalk. I look down at this plan view and I expect to see a lot more of those tree circles than I do.”

The project is also being discussed by the Site Plan Review Committee at a meeting next Thursday, Jan. 30. It will go back to the Transportation Commission for a vote after that, before going to the full Planning Commission and ultimately the Arlington County Board for approval.

Image via Arlington County

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No work is happening yet, but there are signs that plans to replace the Highlander Motel in Virginia Square with a new CVS store are getting closer to fruition.

A permit application was filed last month for the property at 3336 Wilson Blvd for a new building, to house CVS. Thus far no permits have been issued.

The application follows years of legal wrangling between Arlington County and local businessman Bill Bayne. In 2018 the Virginia Supreme Court cleared the way for Bayne to redevelop the 56-year-old budget hotel, after the county refused to allow him to use the parking lot behind the motel for store parking.

Bayne subsequently sued the county in federal court for alleged civil rights violations, but that suit was dismissed in October, with the judge citing Arlington County’s sovereign immunity as a reason for the dismissal.

Bayne told ARLnow that the legal fight cost him at least $250,000, if not more.

“It’s over… it is what it is,” he said.

As of Monday morning, no bookings were available online for the Highlander’s $69/night rooms past January, but Bayne told ARLnow that was an error that would be corrected; rooms could be booked past then if you call the hotel, he said.

Bayne said the hotel is planning to stay open for at least another year and there’s no set closing date, though he acknowledged that he’s continuing to pursue the redevelopment.

Bayne is also the owner and co-owner, respectively, of two other long-time local businesses: the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club and Crystal City Sports Pub, both on 23rd Street S. Changes may be on the way for the former — Bayne said he’s considering changing the name of Crystal City Restaurant to “National Landing Strip,” given the new branding for the collective Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2.

“I’ve thought about doing it… it’s certainly crossed my mind,” Bayne said of the possible name change.

The only thing keeping Bayne from changing the name, he said, is sentimentality. Bayne’s father bought the business in 1963 and renamed it “Crystal City Restaurant” from “Arlington Luncheon” to reflect what was then the new name for the neighborhood along Route 1.

Flickr pool photo (1) by Maryland Nomadic

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Morning Notes

County Board Approves Legislative Priorities — “The Arlington County Board today finalized its 2020 General Assembly Legislative Proposals… Arlington’s proposals include requests that the General Assembly renew without a sunset clause the .25 percent transient occupancy tax on hotel rooms that funds travel and tourism promotion in Arlington.” [Arlington County]

Groups Call for County-Owned Power Company — “Eighty years after the idea was first broached, several progressive groups are embarked on a likely uphill effort to have the Arlington government develop its own energy utility. The Arlington Green Party is the latest to sign on to the effort, which was proposed by Our Revolution Arlington.” [InsideNova]

New Operator for Shelter on the Pike — “Arlington has finalized new contracts for operation of the County’s two homeless shelters for single adults beginning in January 2020. A-SPAN will continue to operate the Homeless Services Center in the Courthouse Neighborhood, and New Hope Housing will take over from Volunteers of America – Chesapeake & Carolinas to operate the Residential Program Center on Columbia Pike.” [Arlington County]

Thousands Participate in Wreath Laying — “Despite the cold and the rain, thousands of volunteers came to make sure our country’s fallen heroes were honored with wreaths during the 2019 National Wreaths Across America Day at Arlington National Cemetery. There was no mistaking what this meant to families whose loved ones are buried at Arlington National. One of those families watching volunteers flood the cemetery told FOX 5 they couldn’t interview without crying.” [Fox 5]

Trump Campaign Strategizes at Local Hotel — “Over a 90-minute PowerPoint session at a hotel in Arlington, Va., on Thursday, Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Brad Parscale and other senior Trump campaign officials presented dozens of national political reporters their theory of how Trump can win again in 2020.” [Axios]

Nearby: Seven Corners Bridge Rehab Complete — “The rehabilitation of the one-way bridge linking the eastbound Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) service road to Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) is complete, improving safety for drivers and pedestrians and extending the overall life of the bridge.” [VDOT]

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Morning Notes

Confusing Lane Markings on I-395 — “Drivers are complaining about mis-matched lane striping on… 395 South near Shirlington.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

New Taco Restaurant Eyeing Arlington — Wild Tacoz, which recently opened in the Falls Church area, is aiming to become a local chain with future locations in Arlington and elsewhere. [Tysons Reporter]

Pedestrian Struck Near Clarendon — “A woman was just struck by a car on N. Pershing Drive at Fillmore Street in Lyon Park. Only minor injuries reported. Police and firefighters on scene.” [Twitter/@ARLnowDOTcom]

Dems Push for Higher Wages at DCA — “Delegates have signed a letter urging the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority to ensure contracted workers at Reagan National Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport reach $15 per hour by 2023. Their $12.15 hourly wages are far lower than D.C.’s $15 minimum wage and many East Coast airports.” [Press Release]

Crystal City Hilton Sold — “Starwood Capital Group has made its second acquisition in the area around Amazon HQ2 this year. The Miami-based firm acquired a 393-room hotel in Crystal City from a fund affiliated with JBG Smith for $73M.” [Bisnow, Washington Business Journal]

Housing May Dominate Budget Discussion — “Board members directed, as part of their fiscal 2021 budget guidance to County Manager Mark Schwartz, that budget plans include an option to increase affordable-housing funding to as much as $25 million, a 56-percent increase from the $16 million Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) funding approved for the current fiscal year…. [but] raising expectations of affordable-housing advocates could pit them against proponents of other budget priorities.” [InsideNova]

Local Defense Attorney to Serve as Fairfax Prosecutor — “Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Steve Descano… announced last Wednesday (Nov. 27) that he intends to have Terry Adams, a private defense attorney in Arlington, take on the role of Chief Deputy, lauding his 14 years working on criminal and civil cases in Virginia.” [Tysons Reporter]

ACFD Assists With School Project — “Tower 104 assisted students [at] Science Focus School today with their annual egg drop. The students were able to collect some data & a good time was had by all.” [Twitter/@ArlingtonVaFD]

Photo courtesy Dave Statter

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A thus-far unidentified man is facing numerous charges after allegedly fighting a hotel employee and police in Crystal City early Friday morning.

The incident happened around 2 a.m. Friday, just after Thanksgiving, on the 2300 block of Richmond Highway.

Police say a man who was loitering around a hotel lobby tackled an employee who tried to kick him out, then fled, then came back and “began chasing [hotel] employees.” Police arrived as the man tried to flee the scene again, and the man bit and scratched an arresting officer, according to Arlington County Police.

More from an ACPD crime report:

ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-11290015, 2300 block of Richmond Highway. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on November 29, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the male suspect was inside a hotel common area when he was approached by staff inquiring if he was a guest. The suspect was determined not to be a guest and, upon an employee confronting him, the suspect allegedly tackled the employee to the ground and assaulted him, before fleeing on foot. The suspect then returned to the business and began chasing the employees. Arriving officers observed the suspect attempting to flee the business on foot and yelled for him to stop, however, he disobeyed lawful commands and continued walking away. The officer made contact with the suspect and attempted to place him in handcuffs, however, he actively resisted. A brief struggle ensued, during which the suspect attempted to bite the officer and scratched the officer, causing a laceration. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect had also stolen an employee’s personal belongings. The suspect refused to identify himself, was booked under the name John Doe and charged with Assault and Battery on Police, Assault and Battery (x2), and Grand Larceny.

Meanwhile, another assault on police was reported over the weekend, in nearby Pentagon City. A juvenile female theft suspect, who was wanted for other alleged crimes in D.C., spit on an officer, according to a crime report.

ASSAULT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT, 2019-11300164, 1200 block of S. Hayes Street. At approximately 5:38 p.m. on November 30, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny just occurred. Arriving officers observed two subjects matching the descriptions provided in a lookout on the metro platform. Officers made contact with the individuals, and during the course of the investigation, the female suspect was determined to be wanted out of Washington, D.C. While attempting to take the suspect into custody, she allegedly disobeyed lawful commands, actively resisting and flailing her body. With the assistance of additional arriving officers, she was taken into custody, however, she continued to act disorderly.  While awaiting medical clearance at the hospital, the suspect continued to act disorderly and spit on an officer. Petitions for Assault & Battery on Police, Fugitive from Justice, Obstruction of Justice were obtained for the juvenile suspect.

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Early plans for the new hotel being proposed in Ballston include locally-run bars, a rooftop jacuzzi, an artistic LED light display, and possibly an urban farm.

Vienna-based developer Schupp Companies is proposing to build the 10-story, 180-room hotel at the intersection of N. Randolph Street and 5th Road N. along with a two-story underground parking garage with space for 91 cars, as first reported by UrbanTurf.

The latest plans for the building at 501 N. Randolph Street call for a bar, restaurant, and a lounge area in the 12,829-square-foot ground floor area, according to copies of the documents ARLnow obtained by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The rooftop is also slated to have another bar with a jacuzzi surrounded with lounge chairs and plants, per the plans.

“The view lines are going to be spectacular,” said Ray Schupp, president and owner of Schupp Companies. “On the roof, a small local bar with good views would be really, really great.” 

“I think local entrepreneurs do the best job there,” he said of the rooftop establishment. “The rooftop will be for sure be a local entrepreneur. We’re looking at someone who really cares about what they’re doing. We’ll just lease the space for them.”

When asked, Schupp said he was also considering dedicating some rooftop space to the growing trend of urban farming, which would make the hotel one of the only buildings in Arlington to feature a rooftop farm. Schupp added a bee hive might be difficult, but growing herbs for the bars or restaurant could be “a great idea.”

The hotel will replace long-time Italian restaurant Tutto Bene which closed in 2014. It was originally slated to have 240 rooms.

Plans lay out several aesthetic plans for the exterior of the hotel, including “multi-colored light” display on a strip of windowless-wall visible from the recently renovated Ballston Quarter mall. Schupp told ARLnow that the design will be modeled after the displays mounted on the company’s Hyatt hotel development in Courthouse, but will be tailored to fit the “high-tech” image of Ballston.

The developer is aiming to paint the Ballston hotel’s a “soft but vibrant green similar to GMU’s Arlington campus building,” per the plans. But on the panels that face N. Randolph Street, the company is considering adding a metallic, shimmering coat to the paint.

“I think a shimmering look will be good as the sun sets,” said Schupp.

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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) A new hotel with several hundred rooms could be coming soon to Ballston.

Vienna-based developer Schupp Companies recently submitted plans to build a 10-story hotel with 240 rooms at 501 N. Randolph Street and 4019 5th Road N., according to the Arlington County website. Previously, the lot was home to celebrated Italian restaurant Tutto Bene before it closed in 2014, after 26 years in business.

The description on Schupp Companies’ website indicates that the developer purchased the land in 2015, and touts the “over one million visitors” to the nearby renovated Ballston Quarter mall and the Medstar Capitals Iceplex.

A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately respond to requests for more information about the project. On Tuesday UrbanTurf reported that the plans had recently changed and now called for 180 rooms, though that could not be immediately confirmed.

The county’s Site Plan Review Committee is scheduled to discuss the plan in two weeks, on Thursday, October 24. The public meeting will be held from 7-9 p.m. in the Bozman government center building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse.

Schupp previously engaged in a lengthy legal battle with Clarendon’s now-closed Kitty O’Shea’s in 2011, where the owner accused the company’s owner of forcing the bar out to make way for a new hotel. (The planned hotel eventually did open in 2016.)

If approved, the hotel would sit near another proposed redevelopment project: the Ballston Harris Teeter on N. Glebe Road, where developers are planning to build a new Harris Teeter space underneath a new, 732-unit residential building.

Images 1-2 via Google Maps 

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The Rosslyn Holiday Inn is one step closer to becoming a two-tower mixed-use development, albeit with some changes ahead.

The Arlington County Board unanimously voted to move the development project at 1900 N. Fort Myer Drive ahead during its meeting Tuesday night, including a proposal to sell a parcel of public land near Lee Highway to developer Dittmar. However, Board members required the developer take several actions related to the parking, traffic, and architectural elements of the plan following complaints from residents.

“This redevelopment of a highly visible site in Rosslyn is an important step toward achieving the community’s vision of a more vibrant and walkable urban village,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey in a press release.

Dittmar first submitted site plans last year, aiming to build a 25-story tower facing N. Nash Street with 500 housing units and a second, 38-story tower facing N. Fort Myer Drive, with a 344-room, higher-end hotel. The pair of towers would be conjoined by a 10-floor building with conference and retail space, as well as a three-level parking garage.

The Board’s latest changes require the developer to:

  • Accommodate buses in the parking plan
  • Develop an option for better vehicle turning on the N. Nash Street side of the lot
  • Share design options for the side of the complex that will face N. Nash Street
  • Share design options for the pedestrian passageway

Dozens of residents took to the podium during last night’s meeting to express concern over parking and traffic congestion from the development. One N. Nash Street resident said the project was “a disaster waiting to happen” if the Board didn’t follow the amendments the Board agreed upon, adding that the original plan would make walking, driving or living on his street “pure hell.”

As part of the development, Dittmar has pledged to fund $4.5 million for several transportation improvements.

Additionally, in exchange for the greater density the developer requested for the plan, Dittmar is offering to make part of its conference center public, contribute $5 million for open space in the neighborhood, and provide $4.5 million to the county’s affordable housing fund — money officials say will have a “Rosslyn-first” preference. Dittmar will also seek to earn a LEED Gold green energy certification for the building.

Dittmar is the same company that originally built the existing Holiday Inn in 1972.

A representative of the company cited a letter of support received from Nestle, which recently relocated to Rosslyn and is now expanding its local presence, arguing that “allowing new top-tier, world-class facilities for conferences at the location of the exiting Holiday Inn would make Rosslyn an even more attractive space both for business and leisure.”

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Bryce Harper saw his postseason prospects go up in smoke yesterday at the hands of his long-time former team, but the strikeout-prone Phillies slugger was gracious enough to pose with some Arlington firefighters afterward.

Firefighters were dispatched to the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton hotel around 12:30 a.m. today (Wednesday) to assist with a stuck elevator, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli. After freeing those in the elevator, they happened upon Philadelphia stars Bryce Harper and Jake Arrieta in the lobby and asked for a photo with the former Nat and one-time Rosslyn resident.

Harper obliged, taking a photo with two firefighters outside the Ritz, where visiting pro sports teams often stay when in town.

“In Arlington, you’ll never know who you will run into on the street,” ACFD said in a tweet this morning. “Firefighters from A-shift handled a stuck elevator call and happened to recognize @bryceharper3, who happily posed for a pic. Bryce — Sorry about the loss, but thanks for being a good sport!”

Harper and the 79-78 Phillies are set to face the now-playoff-bound Nationals again in D.C. tonight at 7:05 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Road Closures for 9/11 5K — “The 18th annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff Memorial 9/11 5K race will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will close several roadways around the Pentagon and in Crystal City to accommodate the event.” [Arlington County]

Pentagon, Rosslyn Rank Among Busiest Stations — “In Virginia, the Pentagon [Metro] station averages around 14,000 entries and exits each weekday, ranking it and Rosslyn ahead of Pentagon City, Crystal City, Ballston, Vienna and Wiehle-Reston East.” [WTOP]

Hotel Occupancy Rate Going Down — “Arlington’s year-over-year hotel-occupancy rate is down from 2017 for the first seven months of the year, but the average room rate is higher, according to new data.” [InsideNova]

Even Shirlington Feeling Amazon Glow — “It might be a bit of a stretch to call it proximate to the e-commerce and cloud computing company’s second home in Arlington County, but a Shirlington office building with future ‘Amazon HQ2 upside’ is being offered for sale.” [Washington Business Journal]

Startup Moving After Big Funding Round — After raising a new $51 million funding round, Arlington-based Federated Wireless is moving its 80-person team to a new 20,000+ square foot space at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) An Arlington man has been arrested and charged with murder after a woman fell from an upper floor of a Crystal City hotel early this morning.

Police were called to a hotel on the 1300 block of Richmond Highway — which corresponds to the Embassy Suites by Hilton Crystal City National Airport — for a report of a woman who fell from a height onto the hotel lobby below.

The victim, who died at the scene, was identified as 63-year-old Arlington resident Zelalem Abedje. Following an initial investigation, police arrested a 27-year-old man for murder.

“The circumstances preceding the fall remain under investigation,” police said in a press release, below. “Tebebe Makonnen, 27, has been charged with Murder and is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.”

Last year Makonnen was arrested in Arlington and charged with sexual battery in connection with a reported assault of a woman inside a local medical office.

Including today’s incident, there have been three homicides in Arlington County in 2019 so far.

More from an ACPD press release:

Arlington County Police announce the arrest of an Arlington man following a suspicious death investigation in Crystal City. Tebebe Makonnen, 27, has been charged with Murder and is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.

At approximately 1:38 a.m. on August 20, police were dispatched to the 1300 block of Richmond Highway for the report of an EMS assist. Upon arrival, an adult female was located deceased inside the lobby of a hotel after falling from an upper floor. The circumstances preceding the fall remain under investigation.

The victim has been identified as Zelalem Abedje, 63, of Arlington, Virginia. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Based on the preliminary investigation, this appears to be an isolated incident with no ongoing threat to the public.

Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective R. Munizza of the department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4171 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2) via Embassy Suites

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