Arlington, VA

It’s tough to run a restaurant or a fitness studio during the pandemic, but it’s even tougher to run an indoor children’s bounce gym.

Jumping Joeys, which opened at Market Common Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) just a few months before the pandemic, appears to have closed for good.

An item on the County Board agenda for this weekend recommends that the Board discontinue a daycare permit issued to the business, which allowed it to provide a “Parent’s Night Out” childcare service.

“The operator of this use permit, Jumping Joeys, has closed and is no longer in operation,” the Board report notes. Attempts by ARLnow to reach the owner of the business, which formerly operated out of a more modest space across from Washington-Liberty High School, were unsuccessful.

The company’s website simply says it is “closed until further notice.” A Google listing for a second Jumping Joeys location on W. Broad Street in Falls Church says it is “permanently closed.”

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If you’re looking for a kid-friendly outdoor adventure, parks and rec employees just left 17 winter-themed chalk obstacle courses at parks around Arlington.

The Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation’s “Super Squad” has been leaving chalk obstacles for kids throughout the pandemic. They should last for a week if the weather holds, according to department spokesperson Susan Kalish, though some rain is in the forecast for Sunday.

“These festive obstacle courses are specifically designed to provide fun physical activity and important sensory input that aids in self-regulation,” Kalish told ARLnow. “By placing chalk obstacle courses in a variety of locations we will be providing a self-facilitated fun physical activity that can be accessed at any time.”

Clues for obstacle locations can be found on one of the department’s Facebook pages.

Below is a video from the Super Squad in action in October.

Screenshot via Arlington County

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For several decades, hundreds of members of the Arlington community have gathered at Melwood’s Arlington campus to kick off the holiday season. While the community won’t be able to come together in person for this time-honored tradition because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Melwood is keeping the Miracle festivities alive in a new way.

For local Arlington families who are looking for ways to keep their children entertained while they’re stuck at home, “Miracle on 23rd St in a Box” contains all the supplies needed to make reindeer food, a holiday wreath and decorate festive cookies. To make these activities even more festive, children can follow along with some special holiday guests as they walk thru each activity on Melwood’s Facebook page.

Each box is $10 and Melwood recommends one box per child. The purchase of each box will go toward funding Melwood’s mission to advocate for and empower individuals of differing abilities to transform their own lives through unique opportunities to work and play in the community.

You can purchase a “Miracle on 23rd St. in a Box” online, and information on Melwood’s contactless pick-up process can be found here.

Melwood is also ensuring that the neighborhood’s annual visit from Santa and tree lighting continues. On Friday, December 4, Melwood will be joined by the Arlington County Auxiliary Police, Arlington County Fire Station 5 and a very holly-jolly guest as they drive thru the 23rd St. community to spread some holiday joy. Residents who live near 23rd St. and S. Grant Avenue in Arlington can expect to see Santa in the neighborhood between 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Then, Melwood invites everyone to join them virtually as President and CEO Larysa Kautz lights the historic Christmas tree — which is the largest in Arlington. At 6:45pm on Friday, December 4, Melwood will end the Miracle on 23rd St. event with the traditional tree lighting. You can visit this Zoom link to watch.

In compliance with Arlington County COVID-19 guidelines, Melwood is actively discouraging neighbors from gathering near the campus for the tree lighting.

For questions or more information, please contact Marchesa Whittington at [email protected] or Kirsten Dillon at [email protected].

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Without in-person school, play dates and activities, many kids have lost their primary sources of social interaction and exercise due to COVID-19.

But volunteers in Arlington say a new traffic garden, a space where kids can play and learn how to travel roads safely, could restore some of the lost opportunities for play.

“It was clear we needed new stuff for kids to do,” said Fionnuala Quinn, who makes and consults on traffic gardens. “This is a friendly, happy place for them at a time when a lot has been taken away from them.”

After getting approval from the Women’s Club of Arlington (700 S. Buchanan Street) in Barcroft to use their parking lot, a group of 10 bicycling enthusiasts, community members and engineers grabbed some chalk paint and duct tape and got to work. Three-and-a-half hours later, the parking lot was transformed into space with railroad crossings, crosswalks, streets and roundabouts that kids can walk, bike or skateboard along.

“It’s a bright spot in a tough time,” said Gillian Burgess, a cycling and walking advocate and former chair of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, who helped with the effort.

Families seem to enjoy it and kids find it intuitive, she said.

“It’s funny, parents will ask us how to use it, but kids just do it naturally,” she said.

The crew in Arlington is one of about 30 nationwide that have repurposed parking lots and constructed these temporary traffic gardens since the start of the pandemic, Quinn said.

“Once you start looking and thinking about this, you realize there is asphalt lying neglected everywhere,” she said. “As soon as you do it, small children appear.”

The original traffic gardens were built in the 1950s in Denmark and the Netherlands. They resembled miniature cities, with tiny buildings and kid-sized roads and traffic signs.

The trend made its way to the U.S., with a large concentration of them in Ohio, where they are called safety towns, Quinn said. She has catalogued about 300 installations in the U.S.

Quinn, who lives in Reston, left her engineering job to engineer and consult on traffic gardens full-time. She said the 50s-era gardens ertr amazing, but expensive to maintain and most kids only ended up going once during their childhood.

Her job is to make these gardens easier and cheaper to build and maintain so that they can be replicated on a smaller scale, more locally, and be more accessible to all kids.

She has helped with permanent installations at two Washington, D.C. schools, and spearheaded two in Alexandria and one in Fauquier County. They required months or years of planning and work.

But temporary pop-ups, including the one in Arlington, use little resources and take less time. Once people see how much kids love them, the pop-ups also advance the community conversation toward permanent versions, she said.

The Barcroft traffic garden will be in place for a few months. Burgess is working on getting the message out through schools and neighborhood email lists and has started looking for other locations in the county. She aims to add more gardens by this spring.

The group is working with the Arlington Safe Routes to School coordinator to apply for grants to fund permanent traffic gardens at Arlington schools.

With kids learning remotely, Safe Routes to School grants are going toward different educational initiatives, including traffic gardens, Burgess said. In the meantime, she and Safe Routes are also working with the school system to make walking and biking routes to school safer.

Photos courtesy Gillian Burgess 

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Many businesses have been forced to shift their expectations and approaches this year, and Kinder Haus Toys in Clarendon is no exception.

The toy store, located at 1220 N. Fillmore Street, already faced the test of keeping up with online competition before the pandemic. Its business challenges were exacerbated by the pandemic and state mandates that required the store to temporarily close earlier in the year.

But Kinder Haus has begun to return back to normal, albeit with stringent COVID-19 safety precautions. The store implements social distancing, has hand sanitizers ready, requires customers and employees to wear masks, and has installed a sneeze guard at the register.

Owner Sue Pyatt and the store’s employees have made the adjustments in stride, and it’s starting to pay off.

“It’s getting better. Little by little, week by week, we’re seeing an improvement in sales,” Pyatt said. “And that’s very encouraging.”

Once the store reopened, sales initially shifted to curbside service, online advertisements were heavily utilized, and Pyatt leaned on the business drummed up by an email newsletter.

Though some things have changed, others have stayed the same. The store’s focus has remained on some essentials Pyatt feels are synonymous with small independent business, such as offering free gift wrapping and the “knowledgeable suggestions” from the staff.

“We have a number of loyal customers, and they were so pleased we were open,” Pyatt said. “And they had such nice things to say, such as, ‘It gives us hope that you’re continuing,’ and ‘We appreciate being able to have a store like this that we can turn to when we need gifts for children,’ and things along that line.”

Kinder Haus has managed to maintain its normal hours since it reopened, and according to Pyatt has been able to meet its expenses and ensure payroll was consistently met for employees.

Though the store is open and business is slowly getting better, there have been some additional cuts due to safety measures. The store’s regular events like Tunes 4 Tots music class, arts and crafts activities, Lego Play Day, and others have been suspended until further notice, for instance.

Pyatt hopes to be able to offer the activities again “as soon as we feel it’s safe.”

The store has been able to maintain its charitable efforts with the help of the “very generous community that we’re blessed to be in,” Pyatt said.

The store maintains a donation box to support the Arlington Food Assistance Center and continues to provide support to the Educate the Girls organization that provides financial assistance to girls in rural Uganda to attend primary or secondary school.

“I’d just like to say how much we appreciate our customers and more than anything, it’s the customers and the support we’ve received from them that has made it possible for us to continue and give us the encouragement that we needed,” Pyatt said. “That words that occur to me are kind of cliché, but we’re all in this together. Our staff, our wonderful customers, we’re all in this doing the best we can. And I think that’s why it works.”

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Morning Notes

More Accessible Parking in Busy Areas — “The County has installed an additional 60 ADA-accessible on-street parking spaces for a total of 212. The spaces — located throughout eight areas of high residential and business density — feature meters with near field communication (NFC), allowing customers to pay by waving a smartphone within a short distance. The adjusted parking areas also allows for easier access to popular areas throughout the County.” [Arlington County]

Ballston Cafe Serves Kids for Free — “When local schools closed in March — and their cafeterias along with them — Good Company Doughnuts & Cafe began offering free weekday lunches to school-age kids on a walk-in basis. As of late July, the restaurant had provided nearly 3,000 such meals.” [Arlington Magazine]

Yglesias on Arlington Housing — “How much study do you need to know that houses are expensive in Arlington and most of the country is zoned to make adding units illegal?” [@mattyglasias/Twitter]

I-66 Lane Closures This Weekend — “Single-lane closures on eastbound I-66 just before the bridge over Lee Highway (Route 29) at Exit 72 will occur (weather permitting) between 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21 and 5 a.m. Monday, Aug. 24 for road repairs.” [VDOT]

Reminder: Ballston Taco Bamba Opening — “The new 1,500 square foot restaurant is the fifth Taco Bamba in Virginia. Set to open on Thursday, Aug. 20, the takeout taqueria will feature ‘a bar program, a small patio and a brand-new menu of nuestros tacos, in addition to the taqueria’s traditional favorites.'” [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Morning Notes

New APS Verification System — “For the 2019-20 school year, Arlington Public Schools will implement a new annual online verification process for updating and maintaining accurate student information. This will replace the First Day Packet students used to receive on the first day of school.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Garvey: Board Should Get Full-Time Pay — From Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey, who has previously spoken out about the issue: “To expect 5 Board members to hold outside jobs to supplement our $55k salary while maintaining Arlington’s presence in the region and the Board’s connection to the multitude of civic associations, commissions, and organizations we have is, I believe, unreasonable and not healthy for our County.” [Libby Garvey, Blue Virginia]

Border Wall May Cost Local Projects — Arlington may lose out on more than $50 million in military construction projects — including a road project and Pentagon exterior and security upgrades — if the money is diverted to President Trump’s southern border wall project. In all, nearly a half billion dollars worth of projects are at risk in Virginia. [WUSA 9]

Cyclist Struck in Shirlington — “ACFD on scene of a cyclist struck by a vehicle at the intersection of Shirlington Road at Arlington Mill, in Shirlington. Victim is being transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, per scanner. Several lanes blocked.” [Twitter]

Wardian Does it Again — “Running from south to north, Michael Wardian of Arlington, Virginia has set an FKT on the 631-mile (1,009K) Israel National Trail of 10 days, 16 hours and 36 minutes (unofficially). That’s like running a 100K race every day for 10 days.” [Trail Running]

Ride Hailing Service for Kids Comes to Arlington — “A California transportation service is looking to make life easier for Greater Washington families — by driving their kids. Los Angeles-based HopSkipDrive Inc., whose service chauffeurs kids between school and other activities much like a family-friendly Uber or Lyft, is launching in the D.C. area, now live in Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Virginia Hospital Center executives celebrated when they finally earned permission to expand the hospital’s North Arlington campus and execute a long-planned land swap with the county — but one of the consequences of the deal has some employees and parents feeling blindsided.

VHC is gearing up to send Arlington its property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road in Glencarlyn, in exchange for gaining control over a piece of land at 1800 N. Edison Street. The latter property is adjacent to its existing facilities along N. George Mason Drive, and will be a key part of the hospital’s hotly debated expansion plans.

Of course, that’s going to prompt some big changes at the Carlin Springs Road site as the county takes over. Among them is the impending closure of a childcare center that the hospital operated on the property in tandem with Bright Horizons, serving VHC employees and local parents alike.

The daycare facility is now set to close on July 26, according to letters from both VHC and Bright Horizons provided to ARLnow. Though that deadline may be a full four months away, parents with kids at the daycare say they’re now scrambling to find alternative options.

The county is currently facing a childcare crunch, with local leaders currently weighing strategies to bring down the cost of daycare options in Arlington, and VHC parents say those conditions have only exacerbated the shock they felt about the childcare center’s closing.

“I was feeling reassured that finally Arlington realized that there’s more demand than supply when it comes to childcare, and now this happens,” said one parent, who declined to be identified. “It’s ironic that in Arlington, where there’s supposed to be some attention to how challenging it is to find childcare centers, instead of opening a new place we’re closing one of the big ones down and forcing families and employees to figure things out on their own.”

A spokesperson for the hospital would only confirm that the center is closing sometime this year, saying that “the details of the closing are still being worked out,” but otherwise would not comment on the situation.

Mike Malone, VHC’s vice president for administrative services and chief human resources officer, wrote in a letter to parents that it was his “great disappointment” to have to close the center. He said “the county will be repurposing the land on the Carlin Springs campus and demolishing the building,” prompting the closure — VHC leaders previously told ARLnow that the land swap would be finalized by May or June at the latest.

Malone added that Bright Horizons is “committed to helping every current family find care in another Bright Horizons center or [helping] you transition into another center of your choosing.”

In a letter of their own, Bright Horizons executives pointed to the “over two dozen centers spread across the metro area” that the company operates as options for parents. They also noted that they have “resources available to facilitate your child’s transition,” and said they plan to help staff at the center find jobs at other Bright Horizons locations.

Parents at the center told ARLnow that help is appreciated, but they fear it isn’t enough to manage the transition.

Read More

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The “Feel the Heritage” festival, Arlington’s annual celebration of African American history and culture, returns to Nauck this weekend.

The 27th edition of the community event is set to be held Saturday (Feb. 23) at the Charles Drew Community Center (3500 23rd Street S.). The festival will run from 1-6 p.m.

The event is set to feature a full lineup of live entertainment, “from traditional African dancing and drumming to soul and funk,” according the event’s website. Local vendors will also be offering everything from jewelry to homemade hot sauce.

The festival will include a variety of free arts and crafts activities, plus face painting, balloon art and a chance to meet critters from the Gulf Branch and Long Branch Nature Centers.

And be sure to come hungry — the event will also feature “Foods Around the World” Plinko, giving participants a chance to taste foods from around the globe at random, as well as a “soul food cook-off competition” featuring dishes from seafood gumbo to peach pie.

Limited on-site parking will be available, with overflow parking at the Macedonia Baptist Church (3412 22nd Street S.).

If you’re planning on hopping on a scooter to head to the festival, Bird is offering $5 off for anyone using the code “BIRDHERITAGE.”

Flickr pool photo via Arlington County Parks and Recreation

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The Jumping Joeys children’s gym looks set to re-open in Market Common Clarendon, after closing in Virginia Square in 2017.

Jumping Joeys applied for a building permit at 2800 Clarendon Blvd late last year, according to Arlington Economic Development records.

It’s not immediately clear where the new gym would be located. But there’s currently only one vacant space on the second floor of the building at 2800 Clarendon Blvd, not far from the Pottery Barn store.

Representatives for the gym, which offers all manner of bounce-house-style activities for kids, didn’t respond to a request for comment on their plans.

Jumping Joeys currently operates another location at 402 W. Broad Street in Falls Church, and once had a space in an office park across from (the newly renamed) Washington-Liberty High School as well.

But that location shut down in November 2017, as the county eyes new uses for its much-discussed “Buck property,” where the gym was located. School officials are still studying the prospect of someday building a new school on the site, or perhaps new office space for staff. Deliberations on the matter very much remain ongoing.

As for Market Common itself, the development has seen a whole host of changes recently, and will eventually be part of a wider redevelopment of the block.

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