Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Officials Pledge Action on Flooding — “Perhaps sensitive to growing community disenchantment over past performance in addressing heavy-rain incidents, County Board members on July 13 pledged to find ways to improve local-government efforts to address the impact of flooding. ‘We have to up our game,’ acknowledged County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey.” [InsideNova]

Residents Demand Stormwater Fixes — “Alexandra Lettow was near tears as she described the losses her family suffered in Monday’s flooding to neighbors and county officials gathered at a home in Arlington’s Waverly Hills neighborhood… It was at least the seventh time the neighborhood had flooded in 19 years.” [Washington Post]

Flood Insurance Doesn’t Cover All Losses — “They have a FEMA-backed flood insurance policy through Liberty Mutual… When the insurance adjuster came Tuesday to assess the damage she dropped a bombshell. Right there in the middle of the policy it reads, for property in a basement, coverage is limited.” [WJLA]

Arlington Man Leads Police on Chase — “At first the Expedition refused to stop for the trooper, but finally pulled off and stopped on the shoulder. A few minutes into the traffic stop, the driver of the Expedition drove off from the trooper and a pursuit was initiated westbound on I-66.” [Press Release]

Board Approved 23rd Street Tunnel Request — “After years of maintaining the little-used 23rd Street pedestrian tunnel that runs under Richmond Highway in Crystal City, Arlington will request its closure from the state.” [Arlington County]

New Renderings of Rosslyn Hotel Development — “The proposed development… would replace the Holiday Inn at 1900 N. Fort Myer Drive with a building which combines residential, hotel and conference center uses along with retail and restaurant space. A 38-story tower fronting N. Fort Myer would contain a four-star hotel with 344 rooms (compared to the previously-proposed 327), and a 25-story residential tower fronting Nash Street would deliver roughly 500 studio-to-three-bedroom units (compared to the previously-proposed 490).” [Urban Turf]

Interim Economic Development Director Named — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has named Alex Iams interim director of Arlington Economic Development. Iams currently serves as assistant director of the department. He succeeds Victor Hoskins, who has served as director since January 2015.” [Arlington County]

Hoskins: Arlington in Good Shape — “Hoskins said that Arlington County has ‘nothing to worry about’ with Amazon coming in, adding that the move to Fairfax County is coming at the right time — ‘Yes, I’m done in Arlington.'” [Tysons Reporter]

Photo courtesy Craig Fingar

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Newly-revised plans for the redevelopment of the Key Bridge Marriott site in Rosslyn include a new bike path.

Los Angeles-based developers Woodridge Capital Partners and Oaktree Capital Management purchased the hotel at 1401 Lee Highway for $190 million last year. Since then, the developers proposed renovating the 582-room hotel and adding three residential buildings to the site — two with condominiums and one with apartments.

On June 11, Woodridge and Oaktree Capital Management LP submitted plans to build a pedestrian and cyclist “esplanade” on the north side of the site, with a connection to Lee Highway. The county noted earlier this month that the developers need to ensure pedestrians and cyclists weren’t hampered by their plan to demolish the footbridge over Lee Highway, which connects the Custis Trail and Gateway Park.

“This area, which will be fully open to the public, will offer spectacular views of the Potomac River and connect to the bike path leading to the Key Bridge,” the developers wrote in the new plans.

“The esplanade, which will not be open to general vehicle traffic, will be fully open to pedestrians and cyclists and offer a new option for cyclists to access and navigate through the site,” the developers added. “It will also offer greater connectivity to the Custis Trail from the Key Bridge through a new bicycle path connection on the northeastern end of the property.”

A February traffic impact analysis indicates that developers plan to close the hotel’s current connection to N. Fort Myer Drive and keep the two entrances off of Lee Highway. The plans also call for several roadways on the site itself, including:

  • an east-west roadway connecting the buildings to be used for pick-ups and drop-offs
  • two north-south roadways on either side of the hotel
  • an emergency vehicle access road along the backside (northside) of the property

“The new streets, combined with esplanade, will provide much improved bicycle and pedestrian circulation through the site,” the developer’s site plan application says.

Woodridge and Oaktree are requesting the County Board’s permission to build 446 rooms in the renovated hotel along with 151 condominium units, 300 apartments units, and 635 parking spaces. The apartment building will sit on the parking garage on the west side of the lot, bringing its total height to 16 stories.

In exchange for increased density, Woodridge and Oaktree are promising to build LEED-certified energy efficient buildings and a yet-to-be-determined public art project.

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Morning Notes

Metro Removes 3000-Series from Service — “Metro overnight temporarily removed all 3000-series cars from service after we received a report of a door malfunction for which we need to identify the cause. This voluntary safety action reduces the number of available rail cars by ~15%” [Twitter, Twitter]

Courthouse Hotel May Become Apartments — “The owner of an Arlington hotel is now hoping to flip the building into residential space instead. The Arlington Court Suites Hotel in Courthouse could soon become a 180-unit apartment building dubbed ‘Park Arlington at Courthouse,’ according to plans filed with the county this week.” [Washington Business Journal]

More HQ2 Jobs Listed — There are now 18 open HQ2 jobs listed on Amazon’s website, with roles ranging from HR to sales to software engineer. Some of the jobs were reportedly first listed as working out of Amazon’s existing Ballston office, the long-term prospects for which are now in question. [Amazon, Washington Business Journal]

NPS’ Massive GW Parkway Backlog — “ABC7 asked the National Park Service how big the [GW Parkway’s] maintenance problem is. The… Parkway has a maintenance backlog of $717-million, but that includes 25 sites, such as Arlington House and Great Falls Park. $649-million of that amount is for paved roads. 33 million vehicles drive on the GW Parkway every year.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Va. Reps Call for Telework Option During ‘Summer Shutdown’ — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and other Northern Virginia representatives have written a letter to the director of the Office of Personnel Management, calling for federal employees to be given expanded telework options during the May 25-Sept. 8 “Summer Shutdown” of Metro stations in Alexandria. [House of Representatives]

Yellow Line Extension Starting This Weekend — “Metro today announced it will begin running all Yellow Line trains to Greenbelt more than a month earlier than expected – starting Saturday, May 25 – when the Platform Improvement Project begins at six Yellow and Blue line stations south of Reagan National Airport.” [PoPville]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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A developer is planning to raze two office buildings on 601-701 12th Street S. in Pentagon City and build four new towers with residential, office, and retail space.

That’s according to a preliminary site plan filing with Arlington County. The plan also notes that the property’s current occupants — the Transportation Security Administration — are soon leaving the county.

Renderings in the filings from property owner Brookfield Properties depict four buildings planned for the area:

  • a 14-story, 240-foot high southwest tower for office space
  • a 20-story, 235-foot high southeast tower for residential or hotel use
  • a 24-story, 275-foot high northeast tower for residential or hotel use
  • a 26-story, 300-foot high northwest tower for residential use, with a penthouse

The company’s proposal says the development will occur in phases and will include “new access to the Pentagon City Metro, upgraded streetscapes and sidewalks, a new internal pedestrian pathway, public open spaces and outdoor seating” as well as public art.

Brookfield’s plans indicate that retail space is planned along the ground floor of the four towers and along 12th Street S.

Tysons-based law firm Venable LLP submitted the proposal, which included a request to make an exception to the site’s limits on building height and density for the project, on behalf of Brookfield.

The document notes that, “the proposal will help address the significant increase in demand for residential housing and hotel space, which will only grow considering the potential for office development in the region.”

The plan says it aims to “ease congestion on surrounding roads by integrating with nearby sites, improving internal circulation, and connecting to Metro.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently using the two buildings on-site and is scheduled to move out next fall, per agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

“The new building will be located at 6595 Springfield Center Drive, Springfield,” said Farbstein.

The TSA had been planning to stay at the property, which is next to the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters and across the street from the Pentagon City mall, until mid-2020.

TSA announced in 2015 that it would move to Alexandria in a bid to save $95 million over the next 15 years, but the move was later overturned by a federal judge.

Brookfield Properties describes the two, 12-story buildings currently occupied by the TSA as, “aging, obsolete” and “unattractive.”

The county posted the address of the project on its website under “Preliminary Development Proposals” last week. However, the process of obtaining the plans revealed the county’s permitting and zoning offices were adapting the way they process records requests.

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) A development plan for a new hotel and a new apartment or condo tower in the Rosslyn area has decreased the number of units originally planned for the site.

Grant Investment Properties, LLC which owns both the Best Western Iwo Jima hotel at 1501 Arlington Blvd and 14-unit Ellis Arms Apartments at 1523 Fairfax Drive, is now seeking to build a 10-floor, 48-unit residential building and a 12-story, 160-room hotel building on the Rosslyn site, according to county documents.

The Arlington County Board is set to vote Tuesday on the amended plan, and county staff is recommending approval, according to a staff report. The plans also include a 160-space parking garage, LEED Gold certification for both proposed buildings and “an extensive green roof.”

An earlier proposal called for a 250-room “dual brand hotel” and a 64-unit residential building, as ARLnow previously reported.

“While the number of proposed units decreased, the total residential [gross floor area] is unchanged, as the average unit size increased due to the elimination of studio units and increase in two (2) bedroom units,” the staff report said.

During an April 8 Planning Commission meeting several community members expressed concern about how the development may displace current residents from the Ellis Arms apartment building, which is considered market rate affordable housing, according to County Board documents.

“In response, the applicant has indicated that, in addition to the required Tenant Relocation Plan, it is working to identify potential affordable units, nearby the site, where existing tenants may have an option to move,” the documents note.

Depending on whether the residential building becomes rental apartments or condominiums — the staff report suggests the current plan is for condos — the developer would provide either on-site affordable rental units or a multi-million dollar contribution to the county’s affordable housing fund, respectively.

The Arlington Park and Recreation Commission supports the plan, noting in a letter that the development’s community benefits package includes a donation to the nearby Ft. Myers Height Park, which will help fund improvements to “the picnic area (furnishings, ADA access, drinking fountain, invasive species removal), the half basketball court, and landscaping on a vacated playground site.”

Photos via Arlington County

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WhyHotel, which uses a portion of new luxury apartment buildings as a “pop-up” hotel, has opened a new location in Ballston.

The new WhyHotel at the Origin Ballston building (700 N. Randolph Street), next to Ballston Quarter mall, is officially opening to its first guests today, a PR rep said.

WhyHotel launched in 2017 and operates temporary hotels in D.C., Baltimore and Northern Virginia, taking advantage of the fact that it usually takes a year or more for all of a new apartment building’s units to be leased.

More from a previous article on WhyHotel’s new Ballston location:

WhyHotel… will soon offer 175 rooms for rent in the residential tower attached to the Ballston Quarter development, and another 150 rooms in the “Centro Arlington” project, which is taking the place of the Food Star grocery store off Columbia Pike. The company recently scored $10 million in venture funding to power the new projects, in addition to a similar “pop up” hotel in “The Boro” development in Tysons.

Unlike a home-sharing service like Airbnb, WhyHotel strikes agreements directly with the owners of large residential properties to rent out blocks of furnished apartments, bringing along an on-call staff to handle cleaning and other guest needs. The company is hoping to provide a happy medium for customers between staying at a friend’s place and shelling out for a hotel room, while helping developers fill space in new buildings as they lease them out.

Jason Fudin, WhyHotel’s co-founder and CEO, told ARLnow that he was interested in opening up shop more properties around Arlington because of the area’s potent mix of tourism and booming residential development. WhyHotel is aiming to open its first “pop up” in D.C., but Fudin says he never lost sight of the county as a “great place to be.”

“We do expect to be in Arlington in perpetuity,” Fudin said. “And as there’s more and more development, we’re hoping to be the solution people look to as they activate their developments.”

Fudin noted that the company has its roots in Arlington. The concept began as an initiative by developer Vornado Realty Trust at “The Bartlett” complex in Pentagon City, but its backers then struck out on their own, initially joining up with Crystal City startup incubator 1776.

Considering that Fudin viewed the company’s work in Pentagon City as a clear success for all involved, driving plenty of business to retailers near the building in the process, he’s hoping to replicate the same formula in Ballston and along the Pike.

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Morning Notes

First Debate in Prosecutor Race — “In a contentious series of exchanges that marked their first debate, candidates for Arlington commonwealth’s attorney left no doubt they have decidedly different views on the role of prosecutor – and aren’t particularly fond of one another, either.” [InsideNova]

Road Closures Tonight in Crystal City — “The Crystal City 5K Fridays races will take place each Friday evening in April (5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th). The Arlington County Police Department will close the following roadways each race day from approximately 6:15 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. to accommodate these events…” [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Ritz Hosting Easter Event — “Based on the huge success we had in 2018 holiday season with Breakfast with Santa, we have decided to celebrate Easter with the Easter Bunny for our little ones.” [Ritz-Carlton]

School Board Challenger Announces Candidacy — “He aims to knock off incumbent School Board Chairman Reid Goldstein, but in a kickoff April 3, David Priddy avoided mentioning the incumbent by name and only tangentially touched on reasons he thinks Goldstein should be ousted.” [InsideNova]

County Starts Census Push — “In a packed room at Arlington Mill Community Center, County Manager Mark Schwartz launched Arlington’s Complete Count Committee — a group of 39 community members who will serve as Census ambassadors to ensure that every person in Arlington County is counted in the 2020 Census on April 1, 2020.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Tech Firm Acquired — “Tetra Tech, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTEK) announced today that it has acquired eGlobalTech, a high-end information technology (IT) solutions, cloud migration, cybersecurity, and management consulting firm based in Arlington, Virginia.” [BusinessWire]

Police Warn of Numerous Scams — Arlington County Police are warning members of the community about a number of scams that have recently been reported, among them the “Imminent Account” fraud, the “I am in Trouble” scam and the “Jury Duty” or “IRS” scam. [Arlington County]

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Morning Notes

Crash Closes Part of Parkway — A serious crash has closed the northbound lanes of the GW Parkway between the Daingerfield Island marina and I-395. A crash investigation is underway. [Twitter]

False Report Prompts Big Police Response — “At approximately 2:30 p.m. on March 6, police were dispatched to the report of a man brandishing a firearm in the lobby of” the Days Inn hotel on Arlington Blvd. “The investigation determined that no disturbance had occurred and that the reporting party allegedly had an ongoing dispute with the hotel over a refund. A warrant for Filing a False Police Report was obtained for the suspect.” [Arlington County]

Garage Races Cancelled This Weekend — Updated at 9:35 a.m. — Crystal City’s Crosshairs Garage Races series will continue to bring fearless cyclists and spectators together for races through one of the neighborhood’s sprawling parking garages later this month. This year the series is being held on Saturdays in March, but this weekend’s scheduled races have been canceled due to a water main break. [Crystal City, Twitter]

Local Road Project ‘On the Bubble’ — “With tolls set to begin on Interstate 395 in October and already underway for more than a year on Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is set Thursday to consider the next steps of how to spend part of the money… Arlington County plans for a High Occupancy Vehicle and bus-only lane on Lee Highway in Rosslyn would be on the bubble.” [WTOP]

Remember to ‘Spring Forward’ This Weekend — “On Sunday, March 10, at 2 am, daylight saving time begins. We’ll set our clocks forward one hour, and the change will push sunsets later into the evening hours and sunrises later into the morning hours.” [Vox]

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Morning Notes

New Hotel for DCA? — “A hotel might be in the works for Reagan National Airport, according to Jack Potter, CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority… A spokeswoman for MWAA said they are still in the ideas phase and nothing is concrete.” [Washington Business Journal]

Parents Fight Proposed Key Changes — “Parents are battling for the school’s future after Arlington Public Schools surprised them with a plan to relocate Key [Elementary], an announcement that animated larger questions about race, class and the purpose of bilingual education.” [Washington Post]

APS Friday Closure Questioned — “Most schools in the DC region decided to stay open despite the wintry mix Friday morning, but Arlington County Public Schools decided to close leaving parents in disbelief.” [WJLA]

Kindergarteners Learn About Transgender — “Dozens of kindergarten students sat cross-legged in his classroom at Ashlawn Elementary School in Arlington, listening as an advocate for transgender rights paged through a children’s picture book about a transgender girl,” as part of an event with the National Education Association and the Human Rights Campaign. [Washington Post]

Chamber Partners with APS — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce a partnership with Arlington Public Schools Career Center for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program. The Chamber is in its fifth year of offering the YEA! Program, but this is its first class of students for the program as part of their Arlington Public Schools learning.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

Dog With Dementia Falls into Storm Drain — “A small dog with dementia is missing after falling into a storm drain in Arlington, Virginia. The Animal Welfare League of Arlington tweeted out an alert Thursday and said the cute pup disappeared after falling into the sewer about 8 p.m.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]

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County officials are clearing the way for WhyHotel proceed with its plans to set up temporary hotel rooms in two Arlington apartment buildings: one in Ballston, the other along Columbia Pike.

The startup announced in December that it hopes to bring a total of 325 of its pop-up hotel rooms to the county this year, splitting them between the residential tower attached to the Ballston Quarter development and the “Centro Arlington” project, which is taking the place of the old Food Star grocery store off the Pike.

Since then, the company has been working to secure county approvals for its unusual business model. WhyHotel strikes deals with owners of large new residential buildings to rent out blocks of furnished apartments, helping property owners make some extra cash while they work to find more permanent tenants. The firm also brings along a full on-call staff to handle cleaning and other guest needs to each property, providing customers with a bit more than a simple hotel might offer.

The County Board approved the zoning changes necessary for the company to set up its Ballston Quarter rooms on Jan. 26, and the Planning Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to recommend that the Board do the same for the Centro Arlington development.

WhyHotel expects to have 175 rooms ready in Ballston by April, with the remaining 150 on the Pike available sometime this summer or fall.

In both cases, the company will have the county’s permission to offer the temporary rooms for the next two years. But WhyHotel executives expect they’ll need much less than that, given the demand for new apartments in Arlington these days.

CEO Jason Fudin told the Planning Commission that the company’s first effort at “The Bartlett” complex in Pentagon City lasted just five months before the building was fully leased out.

“We leave pretty quickly when things go well in Arlington,” Fudin said.

Planning Commissioner Stephen Hughes says the company’s deference to long-term renters eased his mind in considering WhyHotel’s business model. He pointed out that “long-term leaseholders take precedence” in the company’s arrangements with Arlington property owners, which is why WhyHotel tends not to stick around for too long.

“Neighbors, of course, hope to have long-term neighbors,” Hughes said.

But that hesitancy doesn’t mean that county officials are opposed to the idea of short-term guests on the Pike. In fact, Hughes hopes WhyHotel’s stay in Centro Arlington spurs more conversations in the business community about the viability of other hotels in the area.

“The data will now be there for the bankers and investors to see whether a current, flat service parking lot may be a suitable hotel in the future,” Hughes said.

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Morning Notes

Update on Key Bridge Marriott Development — The Los Angeles-based developers that bought the 5.5-acre Key Bridge Marriott property in Rosslyn plan to extensively renovate the hotel, which is the second Marriott ever and the oldest currently in operation. Also planned: additional development on the site according to its zoning, which would allow more hotel rooms plus up to 660,000 square feet of office space and 630 residential units. [Washington Business Journal]

Holiday Closures Monday — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries and facilities will be closed on Monday, February 18, 2019, for George Washington Day. Trash and recycling pickups will operate on a normal schedule for Monday customers.” [Arlington County]

Roads Treated But Snow Depleted — Arlington County has been pre-treating major roads and hills with brine in anticipation of snow this weekend, but chances of accumulating snow have rapidly dwindled. [Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

Black History Figures of Arlington — “Columbia Pike and South Arlington have been called home by several African American trailblazers, activists, and organizations that work toward the noble goals of equality and freedom for all,” including James “Uncle Jim” Parks, Dr. Charles Richard Drew, Evelyn Reid Syphax and Dr. Talmadge T. Williams. [CPRO]

Local Crossing Guard Honored — “Jamestown Elementary School crossing guard Kathy Patterson has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program as one of Virginia’s Most Outstanding Crossing Guards for 2018-19.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Quote of the Day — From New York Times senior economic correspondent Neil Irwin: “The Amazon HQ2 stunt started with notions that the company might single-handedly turn a city like Pittsburgh or Raleigh, or even Detroit, into a major tech hub, and ended with filling in a bunch of vacant office buildings next to National Airport.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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