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Written by Kate Kimberlin 

A charcuterie board franchise officially opened its doors in Rosslyn earlier this month.

The second Virginia location of Graze Craze is located within the Le Méridien Arlington hotel at 1121 19th Street N.

The business was two years in the making, according to franchisee Amaan Bhanji. He was in high school when he got started on this venture, making him the youngest Graze Craze franchisee, per a press release.

“I’m so excited to serve the community and create relationships with the many amazing people I meet on my entrepreneurial journey with Graze Craze,” Bhanji said.

Bhanji started working in food service when he in high school. While he originally planned to pursue college, those early work experiences, along with visits to several Graze Craze locations, led him down the path of entrepreneurship.

“I immediately fell in love with the concept, the fresh ingredients, and the creativity that goes into creating stunning charcuterie. I knew opening my own Graze Craze location would be the perfect venture to kick off my entrepreneurial journey,” Bhanji said.

The business offers a menu of different “grazing” boards and boxes curated to fit different flavor and dietary preferences. The boards can also be made for one person or as many as 10. Customers can meet with a “charcuterie expert” who will help customize boards for anything from small gatherings to large events.

Menu offerings are made fresh daily, with a variety of meats, cheeses, fruits and dips that are made in-house. The menu also offers occasional seasonal boards, such as a “Game Day Board,” as listed on the website.

Bhanji said the business will debut a new “Springtime Spread” board tomorrow (Tuesday), with watermelon radish, Italian prosciutto, dried apricots and merlot cheese.

The franchise, founded in 2018 by an Oklahoma Air Force veteran, was launched amid the rising popularity of charcuterie boards. Now with over 40 locations in 18 states, it is considered a top franchise in the “grazing food” category.

Bhanji said the first week of business has been a success and he looks forward to continuing to win new customers.

“It’s thrilling to be part of this young brand that will help bring joy to our community. I love the fact that I will be able to cater events and help relieve stress from our customers while doing something I truly enjoy,” he said.

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Roads are closed around the Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn after a fire in the vacant hotel.

Firefighters responded to the site at 1401 Langston Blvd around 8:30 p.m. and found fire on the fourth floor, according to ACFD.

The blaze was reported to be extinguished just after 9 p.m., though firefighters were still working to ventilate residual smoke and search the building.

Nearly a year ago, the discovery of a large number of squatters in the building prompted a large police response to the former hotel. Perimeter security was subsequently stepped up.

In November a security guard was charged after allegedly shooting a teen who was part of a group that was trespassing at the site.

A planned redevelopment of the hotel has been stalled due to financial problems at the California-based developer.

Update at 10:50 p.m.: The fire department has largely cleared the scene and roads have reopened.

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The facade of the new 36-story Hilton in Rosslyn is nearing completion but it could be nearly two years before the hotel welcomes its first guests.

Meanwhile, the project’s residential counterpart, Rosslyn Towers, is close to being done, with new tenants expected to move in within a few months, the developer tells ARLnow.

“We are excited to open Rosslyn Towers at The Key this spring,” said Greg Raines, a spokesperson for Dittmar Company, the developer of The Key.

While there is no firm data yet, Raines said the plan is to start leasing the 500+ apartments in the Rosslyn Towers building, at 1900 N. Fort Myer Drive, by April 1.

Dittmar’s goal for the 331-room hotel is to hold a grand opening sometime in the last three months of 2025, says Raines.

“We are excited to deliver both properties as we believe both are best in class and are exciting additions to Rosslyn, Arlington, and the surrounding [D.C.] area,” he said.

In September 2019, the Arlington County Board approved plans redevelop the 18-story, 50-year-old Rosslyn Holiday Inn with a residential tower of up to 25 stories and a hotel with up to 38 stories, with 37,000-foot conference center and 14,000 square feet of retail. The former hotel came down in a well-documented controlled implosion.

In 2021, the Arlington County Board approved a site plan amendment to adjust the hotel’s square footage to accommodate more parking and conference space, and increase the number of residential units from 523 to 536.

Dittmar said it would provide a cash contribution of $215,000 to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund to offset the requested additional density, per a 2021 county report.

One year later, Hilton announced it had signed an agreement to run the high-rise hotel.

While the residential tower looks finished, construction crews were still putting final touches on the exterior of the hotel when ARLnow visited the site yesterday (Tuesday). Last month, the company submitted applications for elevator and fire inspection permits, according to county records.

Dittmar also plans to share details regarding a new “destination restaurant” below the residential tower in the coming weeks, says Raines.

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New plans have been filed to redevelop two hotels in Green Valley with apartments.

The project would replace Hotel Pentagon — previously a Best Western that saw some prostitution-related run-ins with law enforcement — and the Comfort Inn Pentagon with a 521-unit, 602,000-square-foot apartment complex.

Both hotels are located at the intersection of 24th Road S. and S. Glebe Road, with I-395, the Lomax AME Zion Church, some auto body shops and two apartment complexes all nearby.

The plans were filed by Capital First Investments and Capital Second Investments, which own the parcels at 2480 S. Glebe Road, and CC Rock Arlington Owner LLC, incorporated in Delaware. The Washington Business Journal first reported the filing, attributed to this LLC, last week.

This LLC is tied to a North Carolina-based developer, Crescent Communities, which also invests in real estate and operates mixed-use communities. It has offices in D.C. as well as outposts in several western and southern states. Reached by ARLnow, the company declined to comment.

In filing this new application, the owners and developer have taken the next step forward in the county site plan application process. ARLnow reported this January that preliminary plans had been filed — an optional step some take to discuss the project with and solicit early feedback from county planners.

The number and mix of units has changed since this early filing, which floated a 467-unit apartment complex and 36 stacked townhouses. The apartment building will have 20 additional units, and there will be four four-story buildings with a total of 34 apartments.

The apartment building will include a mix of 1- and 2-bedroom units, some of which will also have dens, and two 3-bedroom units. The plans call for 580 vehicle parking spots and 222 bicycle parking spots — more than the minimum 546 and 219 spots, respectively, required by zoning codes.

The developer also proposes a series of site upgrades, including “enhanced sidewalk and streetscape design, new landscaping, and activation of the ground-floor façades,” a letter accompanying the application says.

“The proposed development will achieve the goals of the Four Mile Run Area Plan by implementing new residential buildings as well as a variety of site improvements in the Four Mile Run neighborhood,” it continues.

The Green Valley Civic Association has had one meeting with the developer and is still trying to schedule a follow-up, association president Portia Clark tells ARLnow.

“We looked at some of their preliminary plans,” she said. “We also wanted them to meet with the church next door, with the cemetery, which will be very close to the development. There were some issues with the naming. They were going to name it Arlington Ridge and we’re not Arlington Ridge — we’re next to it.”

Clark says she would like to see the plans presented to the community at the civic association’s upcoming January meeting.

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Longtime plans to redevelop the former Silver Diner site in Clarendon are headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.

An 11-story, 290-unit apartment building with about 16,000 square feet of retail and a 10-story, 229-room hotel with a rooftop terrace and bar are proposed for the site, dubbed “Bingham Center.”

This Saturday, the Board is set to review the plans from owner TCS Realty Associates and developer Donohoe Cos., including a request for the county to vacate portions of a public alley and street. In exchange, Arlington would receive some $1.15 million in compensation, per a county report.

The new buildings would sit on a triangular parcel bounded by Wilson Blvd, 10th Street N. and N. Irving Street, across from Northside Social. They would replace the now-closed Silver Diner, the Lot beer garden, two brick structures called “The Doctors Building,” an auto repair facility and surface parking.

The 3200 Wilson Blvd property is near the Joyce Motors site which was approved for another significant development earlier this year, as well as the Wells Fargo development site that’s currently under review.

The project comes forward two months after the County Board approved a deadline extension request from TCS and Donohoe. They asked for more time to fix “unresolved design challenges” along N. Irving Street, particularly regarding the pedestrian experience.

The duo had proposed a loading area and hotel-serving facilities along N. Irving Street, which county staff previously noted deviates from the 2022 Clarendon Sector Plan. This plan, developed in anticipation of a handful of projects, including Silver Diner, envisions a walkable, retail-studded N. Irving Street.

Members of the Site Plan Review Committee agreed. They said the loading dock would create conflicts with pedestrians accessing a proposed plaza on N. Irving Street. They also had misgivings about the bricked-over, retail-less façade on N. Irving Street.

An early suggestion from TCS and Donohoe included adding a “living green wall,” but the county and the public said this did not address the issues of missing retail or pedestrian-vehicle conflicts.

Initial, since-updated façade changes to 3200 Wilson Blvd redevelopment (via Arlington County)

Now, the county says the developers have found a solution and there are no outstanding issues.

TCS and Donohoe moved the dock to the forthcoming extension of 10th Road N. As part of the overall Bingham Center project, Donohoe will extend this one-block-long road east of the site so that it cuts through the site and intersects with Wilson Blvd.

In addition, the developers agreed to install windows into the kitchen that abuts the future “Irving Plaza,” envisioned in the Clarendon Sector Plan. The proposed green wall has been replaced with a “decorative element” intended to enhance the otherwise un-enlivened façade.

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The empty Silver Diner in Clarendon may remain standing for a little longer while redevelopment plans for the site wrap up.

The former restaurant at 3200 Wilson Blvd closed in December and soon thereafter reopened in Ballston. Seven months later, developers proposing to build a hotel and apartment building on the site say more time is needed to make the ground floor of their project more welcoming to pedestrians.

Bounded by 10th Street N., Wilson Blvd and N. Irving Street, the site includes the diner, The Lot beer garden — itself issuing a last call for drinks this year — two brick structures called “The Doctors Building,” and an auto repair facility.

The developers, TCS Realty Associates and The Donohoe Cos., are asking the Arlington County Board for another two months to fix “unresolved design challenges” that arose during the public review process, per a county report. On Saturday, the Board is set to vote on the request, potentially delaying a final review until September.

Mostly, the design challenges relate to how the developer plans to use N. Irving Street.

TCS and Donohoe intend to put hotel-related facilities and a loading area along N. Irving Street, which Arlington County staff said in a report earlier this year deviates from the 2022 Clarendon Sector Plan. This plan, developed in anticipation of the Silver Diner redevelopment, among others, envisions this street as walkable and with outward-facing retail.

In response to earlier feedback, the developers added a “living green wall” to the hotel façade along N. Irving Street. While appreciative of the effort, staff said in March that a grassy wall does not address the lack of retail or the pedestrian-vehicle conflicts a loading area could create.

Façade changes to 3200 Wilson Blvd redevelopment (via Arlington County)

“The applicant has designed the ground floor plan of the Hotel building to have the less active uses (i.e. kitchen, employee break room, etc.) along Irving Street,” said a county report from March, adding that county planning documents instead suggest the street should have “retail, retail equivalents, food establishments, entertainment establishments.”

Arlington County says the loading area, meanwhile, pits vehicles turning in and out of the hotel against pedestrians who use N. Irving Street to access the Clarendon Metro station.

It anticipates more people using N. Irving Street to access a public plaza called for in the Clarendon Sector Plan. The space where this will go became public right of way after some street upgrades along Wilson Blvd. The future plaza will be delivered with a project to redevelop the Wells Fargo nearby.

Silver Diner site and future N. Irving Street plaza, elements emphasized by ARLnow (via Arlington County

“Irving Street is recognized as a pedestrian desire line from the Ashton Heights and Lyon Park Civic Associations to the Clarendon Metro stop,” the county report said. “The addition of a curb cut on Irving Street presents pedestrian conflicts and is contrary to County policies that discourage curb cuts and loading activity near public spaces, in this case the public plaza at the terminus of Irving Street.”

The sector plan suggests loading should instead occur on 10th Road N. It envisions the new road as an east-west connection to provide access to parking and loading facilities.

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Redevelopment plans for a Holiday Inn and office building in Ballston are headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.

The developers, Hoffman & Associates and Snell Properties, intend to replace the hotel (4600 Fairfax Drive) and Arlington Center Building (4610 Fairfax Drive) with a seven-story, 432-unit apartment building and two five-story, 15-unit buildings.

The development duo also propose building a new private road and alley for parking and loading activity, as well as new sidewalks and streetscapes along them.

The site is located west of N. Glebe Road, along N. Fairfax Drive, just before it becomes an on- and off-ramp to I-66. It is five blocks from the Ballston Metro station and two blocks from a proposed western entrance, currently in an early design phase.

“This site has a lot of surface parking, structured parking, an office building, the Holiday Inn, and a disconnected relationship to our neighbors to the south,” Cathy Puskar, a land use attorney for the developers, told the Planning Commission last week. “It’s been here quite a long time… so we are very eager to move forward with that.”

Hoffman and Snell have cleared nearly every step in the public review process. On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to review their request for easements in order to build on the site.

Much has changed since the initial submission more than a year ago.

“This project went through a substantial evolution as we went through the [Site Plan Review Committee] process,” Arlington County planner Adam Watson said during the Planning Commission meeting.

In response to public feedback, the layout changed and a bicycle and pedestrian path was widened to 12 feet and moved.

The 5-story buildings are now to the west of the 7-story building, rather than to its south. Watson says this creates a better height transition from the tall George Washington University building at 950 N. Glebe Road to the single-family homes west of the 4600 Fairfax Drive site.

Now, the proposed path separates the 7-story and 5-story buildings. Watson says this furthers county plans to add a “West Ballston Connection” linking with the Bluemont Junction, Custis and Ballston Pond trails at Fairfax Drive.

The evolution of the site layout for 4600 Fairfax Drive, by Jo DeVoe (via Arlington County)

Watson said the project now delivers “a much improved streetscape, especially along Fairfax Drive” and less impervious surface area. It preserves more trees to increase the buffer between the development and the single-family homes nearby, he said.

“We really loved that first version… but we are very proud of where we are today,” Puskar said. “Despite some painful cuts and changes, we listened, and this is why we have such a good plan in front of you today.”

While the developers directed the bulk of residential traffix to Fairfax Drive — as opposed to the smaller private road south of the site, to allay concerns about traffic flow — some residents still have misgivings, Planning Commissioner Jim Lantelme said.

Climate Change, Energy and Environment Commission representative Mark Greenwood praised the project’s use of electricity rather than gas, but suggested the developers replace the gas stoves with induction ones, while adding more parking for electric vehicles.

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It’s time to bid farewell to The Americana Hotel in Crystal City.

The long-time budget hotel along Richmond Highway is being demolished to make way for residential redevelopment across the street from Amazon’s nearly-open second headquarters and a short distance from the Crystal City Metro station.

A spokeswoman for JBG Smith confirmed the demolition to ARLnow this morning (Tuesday).

“Demolition and site work are currently underway, with the earliest possible construction start slated for 2024,” the spokeswoman said, adding that that is all she is able to say at this time.

The Americana Hotel closed in 2020 and JBG Smith quickly purchased it for a new apartment project, consisting of 639 new units, 3,885 square feet of ground floor retail and a distinct architectural feature akin to a partially covered walkway, which was nicknamed the “tabletop.”

Renderings of the proposed apartments to replace the Americana Hotel, with the ‘tabletop’ feature in view (via Arlington County)

The developer’s plans were approved by the Planning Commission and the Arlington County Board in April.

The Americana’s demolition is part of a trend in Arlington County of redeveloping aging motels and hotels.

The iconic Highlander Motel in Virginia Square, a frequent haunt for a motorcycle club, was turned into a CVS. The Days Inn motel in Lyon Village is set to become apartments, which the county is trying to ensure pays homage to the site’s history with a midcentury modern design.

The Key Bridge Marriott, meanwhile, has stood vacant — and is now condemned — after development plans were delayed, likely due to financial issues for the group that owns the site.

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Plans to redevelop the Americana Hotel in Crystal City cleared their penultimate hurdle despite criticism that the project does not provide on-site affordable housing.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve plans from JBG Smith to redevelop the former motel at 1460 Richmond Hwy.

To get here, the developer has overcome sloping terrain and maneuvered future development plans for neighboring sites and Route 1, which the Virginia Department of Transportation plans to lower. The company also attended to lingering transportation and sustainability concerns.

JBG Smith proposes a 19-story apartment building with about 3,885 square feet of ground-floor retail. Of the 639 units, 33 will have three bedrooms. It’s across the street from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, the first phase of which is expected to open this summer.

There will be two levels of underground parking, with 188 residential and visitor parking spaces, and 206 off-site parking at the Bartlett Apartments. JBG Smith proposes a 2,800 square-foot green space area with a small, private outdoor amenity area and a small dog run.

As for affordable housing, JBG Smith is making a baseline contribution to the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF) of $2.1 million and making an additional $7.53 million contribution to leverage about 80 committed affordable units (CAFs) at the Crystal House Apartments at 1900 S. Eads Street, about one-third of a mile away.

There, two developers will oversee the construction of 655 CAFs and 189 market-rate units. Amazon helped a nonprofit purchase the 16-acre site and stabilize rent for the 828 existing units and build new units, later donating the land and development rights to Arlington County.

Some Planning Commission members, however, were emphatic that all future projects need some on-site affordable units.

“Every project needs to have on-site affordable housing. Period. Every single project,” Chair Devanshi Patel said.

Currently, developers seeking a large-scale redevelopment can offset that with an AHIF contribution or the provision of on-site or off-site units. In exchange, they can build taller buildings and, in the case of apartments, add more units. Most developers will make a cash contribution and it is rarer to see on-site units, though some recent projects have included setting aside existing units off-site for affordable housing.

“If we hold ourselves out to be a ‘welcoming, thriving, inclusive community,'” — and here she changed voices, suggesting air quotes or skepticism — “then we need to stand by that and that means we need to have affordable housing at every project,” Patel said.

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Police presence at former Key Bridge Marriott (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A County Board candidate says Arlington should acquire the now-condemned Key Bridge Marriott hotel and surrounding property in Rosslyn.

A number of people living in the shuttered hotel were removed Friday in a large-scale law enforcement operation, after the county condemned the building “due to the risk posed to the community’s safety and health.”

A planned residential redevelopment of the property, overlooking the Potomac River, was approved in 2020 but the project has stalled amid financial problems for its owners.

Natalie Roy, a local real estate agent who’s running in June’s Democratic primary for County Board, said in a statement this morning that current situation is “a tremendous opportunity for Arlington.” The property, she said, could be purchased and used for affordable housing, sports fields, an arts facility and a park.

“The former hotel’s garage could be the site of a state-of-the-art Pickleball facility,” the statement adds.

Roy cites the ongoing redevelopment of the 9+ acre Rouse estate in Dominion Hills — on which several dozen large, single-family homes are being built — as an example of a missed opportunity for the county.

“The key is to not let what happened to the Rouse Family Estate happen to this Arlington gateway,” her statement says.

Roy will be going up against fellow Democratic candidates Maureen Coffey; Jonathan Dromgoole; Julius “JD” Spain, Sr.; Tony Weaver; and Susan Cunningham in the June 20 primary for the two Board seats being vacated by Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. The primary will be conducted for the first time using ranked-choice voting.

More of Roy’s statement regarding the Marriott site is below.

This empty hotel and the surrounding property represent a tremendous opportunity for Arlington. Land is at a premium in Arlington and when it becomes potentially available, as it has in this case, we need to make smart decisions quickly.

The County needs to be creative by acting now to explore ways to form a private-public partnership to purchase and then re-utilize this prime property. The site could be a showcase for Arlington and include a mixed-use complex that provides affordable housing and retail for essential workers and the most vulnerable members of our community. It could include a sports field, an arts facility or a large tree lined park. The former hotel’s garage could be the site of a state-of-the-art Pickleball facility. The potential is great.

The county needs to act swiftly and bring public and private stakeholders together, to explore the possibilities and develop a comprehensive strategy for the site. The key is to not let what happened to the Rouse Family Estate happen to this Arlington gateway.

“If elected as a County Board Member, I will make it a priority to work with other Board Members to develop a strategic county-wide land use plan, so we are not playing catch up when opportunities present themselves.”

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Dozens of law enforcement officers, along with fire department and county government personnel, are on scene of the former Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn.

A smaller police presence seen at the nearly 65-year-old hotel building last night grew into a parking lot-filling operation this morning. A drone could also be seen flying nearby, apparently part of the response.

Initial reports suggest that the property is being cleared of squatters, a significant task in such a large building. Arlington County said in a 6 a.m. press release (below) that the building is being condemned.

The press release suggests that the county expects the operation will take most of the day and will include ensuring those living in the building “have a place to go” and are provided “the services and care they may need.”

Arlington County has deemed the former hotel site at 1401 Langston Blvd. as unsafe and unfit for habitation. Due to the risk posed to the community’s safety and health, the County is condemning the building.

The County’s actions are authorized by the Virginia Uniformed Statewide Building Code and the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, which gives local officials the ability to condemn a structure and secure it to prevent access.

The County has a duty to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including any individuals who have sought shelter inside the building, first responders who may need to respond to calls for public safety assistance, and the community at large.

Using a “whole of government” response, multiple departments across Arlington County, in conjunction with nonprofit partners, are prioritizing the health and safety of individuals at the property, ensuring they have a place to go, and providing the services and care they may need.

The site will then be properly secured.

The property, formerly known as the Key Bridge Marriott, was purchased in 2018 by KBLH LLC (a subsidiary of the owner Woodridge Capital Partners). In March 2020, the County Board approved a site plan project from KBLH to partially demolish and renovate the existing hotel and construct two new residential buildings. In July 2021, Marriott ceased operation of the hotel and the building was closed in preparation for development. The current property owner has not proceeded with the project.

Media Briefings

Media briefings are scheduled to be held across Langston Blvd. at Gateway Park (1300 Langston Blvd.), on Friday, March 24, 2023, at both 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Parking will not be available at the 1401 Langston Blvd. property.

The challenging logistics of the operation are not limited to clearing hundreds upon hundreds of rooms. According to scanner traffic, a lack of working bathrooms or portable toilets earlier this morning prompted police to be instructed to drive elsewhere should they need to go.

ARLnow reported in December that the planned redevelopment of the large property, which overlooks the Potomac, “appears to have stalled with no indication of picking back up.”

The redevelopment, approved in March 2020, would have included “the renovation of the hotel — one of Marriott’s earliest hotels, which first opened in 1959 — as well as the construction of three new 16-story residential buildings, with about 300 rental apartments and 150 condo units.”

While the hotel has sat empty, it has reportedly been used as a makeshift shelter for a growing contingent of unhoused individuals. But that has posed challenges for law enforcement; according to records provided to ARLnow, police have responded to the property at least 10 times so far this year for things like trespassing, burglary and suspicious circumstances.

One such incident, from March 6, required a large contingent of officers to search the hotel for a person who said they were injured. That person was not found but a fugitive from Maryland was.

“At approximately 11:20 a.m. on March 6, police were dispatched to the 1400 block of Langston Boulevard for the report of suspicious circumstances. The reporting party stated she was inside the building and was hurt,” APCD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Responding officers conducted a search of the building and she was not located inside. While searching the property, officers located an adult male inside the building and determined he was wanted by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office (MD) for a Probation Violation. [A suspect], 36, of Baltimore, MD was taken into custody and held on a Fugitive from Justice warrant.”

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