Hotel-to-Apartment Project on Hold — “A proposal to convert the Arlington Courts Suites extended-stay hotel in the Courthouse area to apartments is on hold, at least for now. The project had been slated for County Board consideration on July 18, but has been deferred until at least October at the request of the applicant, citing ‘economic concerns about the project due to the COVID-19 emergency.'” [InsideNova]
Controversy Sparks Idea for Fundraiser — A local man has raised more than $140,000 “after starting a GoFundMe page to buy Goya Foods products and donate them to local food pantries after critics called for a boycott over pro-Trump comments from Goya’s CEO. ‘People are seeing in the news a double standard for one political view,’ 27-year-old Casey Harper of Arlington, Va., told FOX Business.” [Fox Business, GoFundMe]
Jury Questionnaire Going Out Soon — “The Arlington Circuit Court, which includes the City of Falls Church, will soon begin its annual juror qualification process. Juror questionnaires will be mailed in early August to randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City. These questionnaires are used to qualify residents for jury duty which begins Jan. 1, 2021, and ends Dec. 31, 2021.” [Arlington County]
Job Losses Possible at DCA — Among the 36,000 United Airlines workers who may be furloughed starting in October, according to WARN Act notices, are 116 employees at Reagan National Airport. [Virginia Employment Commission]
Swearing In for New County Board Member — “Takis P. Karantonis, elected to the Arlington County Board in a special election on July 7, 2020, will be sworn in at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 14 in a virtual ceremony. Clerk of the Circuit Court of Arlington Paul Ferguson will officiate.” [Arlington County]
Red Hook Lobster Pound Shuts Down — Long-time local food truck operator and concessionaire Red Hook Lobster Pound is selling its trucks and assets as the pandemic forces it out of business. This presumably means that there will be no Red Hook lobster restaurant near Clarendon, either. [Washingtonian]
ACPD Investigating Airbag Theft Along Lee Highway — “At approximately 7:30 a.m. on July 12, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 7:00 p.m. on July 11 and 7:30 a.m. on July 12, an unknown suspect(s) smashed the windows of approximately three vehicles and stole the airbags. There are no suspect(s) descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Mike Cantwell
Amid the pandemic, Arlington County is sifting through which planning processes are ready to continue moving forward and which ones are being delayed.
The County recently announced that it is still moving forward with plans for updating guidelines for development in Pentagon City, a relatively time-critical issue with Amazon’s permanent HQ2 under construction nearby.
The county’s Lee Highway planning process is also moving forward, with public workshops fortuitously wrapping up before the pandemic hit Arlington. Like the Pentagon City plan, the Lee Highway process is endeavoring to shape how new development takes place along the corridor. The central theme is, over time and through land use policies, replacing the car-focused strip malls along the corridor with clusters of mixed-use development that could bring in more housing, particularly affordable housing.
“Since the Plan Lee Highway public workshop in February, the County’s planning team synthesized what they heard and shared those results with the community late March,” Jessica Margarit, a spokesperson for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development said. “Using that input, they have been busy developing the Neighborhood Character Report and the Cultural Resources Survey report. They anticipate publishing these by the end of July.”
Those closely following the Resident Permit Parking (RPP) Review project, though, might be disappointed to learn that project has hit some delays. The RPP restricts on-street parking near Metro corridors and other high-demand areas to residents and their guests during certain times of the day. The program has been criticized for favoring single-family homeowners over apartment dwellers, many of whom don’t have access to the same permits.
Staff had started planning for open houses and discussions early this year, but those plans were waylaid by the pandemic.
“The Residential Permit Parking Review project has been delayed due to the pandemic,” said Katie O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services. “The County had to postpone the deliberative dialogues and open house that were scheduled for early spring 2020. Staff is in discussion with leadership on how best to proceed given the current situation. An update will be posted on the project website once we have more information.”
Image via Arlington County
The result: a towering, colorful mural currently being painted onto an empty brick wall.
Local artist MasPaz — whose distinctive style can be found from across the region from D.C. to Tysons — has been working on designing and painting the mural. The artwork’s design was inspired by the Wynwood Walls in Miami, but the theme came from the local response to COVID-19.
The project spun out of the Arlington Art Truck program when participants were asked to summarize their feelings on life in Arlington under the quarantine, according to the Lee Highway Alliance. MasPaz’s word was “community” and the subsequent mural depicts someone hugging several homes close to them.
Beyond the mural, the new patio will also feature lighting and other renovations. The plan is to host a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but the Lee Highway Alliance is still awaiting the final lighting installation, later this month.
Washington-Lee High School in Arlington is now Washington-Liberty. Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax County will be getting a new name, after a vote yesterday. Jefferson Davis Highway, meanwhile, is now Richmond Highway.
Is it time for Lee Highway — also known as Route 29 — to get a new name?
At a time when racial justice has taken center stage in Arlington and around the world, when Confederate monuments are being removed or toppled by angry mobs, keeping the leader of the Confederate army’s name on one of the main east-west thoroughfares through Arlington might be untenable.
Lee Highway, once part of an auto trail that ran from New York City to San Francisco via southern states, is now partially a commuter route and partially a commercial strip for North Arlington neighborhoods. It is currently subject to a planning process — albeit one stymied by the pandemic — that is attempting to envision a new future for the corridor.
In 2017, after a white nationalist rally and violence in Charlottesville, the Arlington County Board released a statement saying it was seeking the legislative authority from the state to rename both Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway. It received authority to rename the former thanks to an opinion from Attorney General Mark Herring that the county only needed permission from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, not the then-GOP-controlled legislature.
With Democrats now firmly in control in Virginia, renaming Lee Highway should be achievable, though it may not be the highest priority during a global pandemic and a budget crunch.
What do you think? If you do think it should get a new name, let us know any suggestions you might have in the comments.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Surprise! Arlington is about to get a major restaurant opening in the midst of the pandemic.
Cafe Colline, a neighborhood French bistro from prolific local restaurateurs Ian and Eric Hilton, is set to open for takeout next Thursday, June 25. Both phone and online orders will be accepted.
The brothers hope it will open for indoor and outdoor dine-in service — socially distanced per state guidelines, of course — within the next two weeks, pending a Certificate of Occupancy from Arlington County.
After nearly a year of work, finishing touches were underway today at the restaurant, in the former Cassatt’s space at 4536 Lee Highway in the Lee Heights Shops. Plastic was being taken off the windows and metal fixtures were being polished. Aside from getting the occupancy certificate, the main thing left to do is to install new light fixtures.
At 100% capacity, the restaurant will be able to serve 48 people inside at tables and the bar, and 16 outside, on a back patio. When it opens, it will have about 18 indoor seats and 10 outdoor seats open. Ian said he expects to only be open for dinner Thursday through Sunday for the first two weeks or so, and then will “open up for real” after that.
Cafe Colline will serve “classic, traditional French cuisine,” and aims to be a go-to hangout for the neighborhood through a casual atmosphere and reasonable prices. The menu — just published online on the restaurant’s new website — includes entrées like ratatouille, a cafe burger, pasta provençal, and Scottish salmon.
Opening in the middle of a global pandemic “is not the best timing, that’s for sure,” Ian told ARLnow today. “But what are you going to do? At least we’re in Phase 2 now… I lament my poor timing, but here we are.”
In addition to the impending opening of Cafe Colline, the brothers just opened their new Solace Outpost brewpub in the former Mad Fox Brewing space in Falls Church. Amid the new openings — the Hiltons are also behind the new Parc de Ville in the Mosaic District and the still under-construction El Rey taco spot in Ballston — Ian said he fears a potential second COVID-19 wave in the fall.
“That would potentially be the end of the road,” he said of the potential of a new surge in virus cases and a return to a business shutdown. “We would certainly have to contract.”
Ian predicts that up to 30% of all restaurants could ultimately close during the pandemic, regardless. But he remains cautiously optimistic about his restaurants making it through to next spring, when conditions could improve.
If there’s any silver lining of all this, he said, it’s the potential for improved tenant-landlord and diner-server relations, as the role of restaurants in fueling the commercial real estate industry is better appreciated and as frontline hospitality workers are given more respect by picky diners.
“If you bash a place on Yelp right now, it makes you look like one of the worst people on the planet.”
For Ian, who lives in nearby Donaldson Run, Cafe Colline — the brothers’ first Arlington eatery — is being opened where it is “100% out of selfishness.”
“I live just down the street,” he said. “There are not a lot of options around here… My friends constantly pester me, [asking] why don’t we have something of yours that we can get to easily without going into the city.”
“Dealing with the headaches of parking in Clarendon and being shoulder-to-shoulder with the raucous people there on weekends,” is not ideal for the more mature North Arlington crowd, said Ian. “This is a nice little hidden spot, a bit of an oasis around here… It made total sense.”
Police are looking for a man who broke a window at a fast-food restaurant along Lee Highway last night.
The incident happened around 11:30 p.m. on the 5000 block of Lee Highway, according to Arlington County Police. The restaurant is not named but that block is home to a Wendy’s.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect, who was a passenger in a vehicle in a drive thru line, became irate while waiting for his order, exited his vehicle and threw a cell phone at the window of the business, causing damage,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The suspect re-entered the vehicle and fled prior to police arrival.”
A woman in her 70s was run over by her own SUV in a store parking lot along Lee Highway this afternoon.
The incident happened around 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven store at 4505 Lee Highway. Initial reports suggest that the woman parked and got out of the vehicle, which then started rolling away; her leg was reportedly run over by the SUV as she tried to chase it down.
The injured woman was said to be conscious and alert when medics arrived on scene. She was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
The vehicle, which had a handicapped placard displayed behind the windshield, came to a stop partially in an eastbound travel lane of Old Dominion Drive.
After attempting to pivot to online classes during the pandemic, the Adagio Ballet School of Dance at 4720 Lee Highway is closing.
“With regret, Adagio Ballet, Inc. is closing after 16 years,” the school said in an email, which was forwarded to ARLnow. “This is an extremely sad time for us, because we consider our instructors, staff, students and students’ families to be our family and will greatly miss them.”
The school has two locations, one on Lee Highway and one in McLean. It first switched to online classes on March 16.
Adagio Ballet said restrictions on size of groups and the stay at home order made it impossible to continue holding classes in the studio and began to dramatically reduce the school’s income while expenses remained the same.
“Unfortunately, our Board of Directors has come to the decision that the laws currently in place and the uncertainty of what is to come, leave us no other option but to close,” the school said. “We have adopted a plan that is in accordance with state law for businesses that are closing. Under that plan, we will finish the current online classes through June 20, 2020.”
For classes that have not started, the school said they will try to offer full refunds, though those enrolled in the program could also donate the program fees to support the school teachers and staff.
“To make a donation, send us an email authorizing us to apply your class fees,” Adagio Ballet said. “All donations received will be used to pay Adagio Ballet, Inc.’s teachers and staff, and to continue health insurance for them… The realities of this novel virus, and the laws that have been imposed, leave us no choice but to close our doors.”
A Maryland man was kicked out of a rideshare vehicle and later arrested after inappropriate sexual conduct, according to Arlington County Police.
The incident happened Saturday afternoon, around 2:30 p.m. Police were dispatched to westbound I-66 near the Rosslyn tunnel, after getting a call about a man that had exposed himself.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was operating as a rideshare driver when the suspect, a passenger, allegedly began making inappropriate comments and grabbed her arm,” according to an ACPD crime report. “The victim pulled over and forced him out of the vehicle, while he continued to touch himself inappropriately. The suspect fled on foot prior to police arrival.”
A suspect was later arrested along Lee Highway, just west of Glebe Road.
“Officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident in the 4900 block of Lee Highway,” the crime report continued. “Demetrius Dent, 27, of Forestville, Md., was arrested and charged with Indecent Exposure and Assault and Battery.”
An Arlington pharmacy and a neighboring kabob restaurant have partnered to help feed hospital workers.
Preston’s Pharmacy (5101 Lee Highway) sits directly across the street from Arlington Kabob (5046 Lee Highway). While business during the pandemic has been active at Preston’s, an essential business, pharmacy owner Frank Odeh said he could tell it’s been hard on Arlington Kabob.
“They’re a small business struggling during COVID-19,” Odeh said. “We decided to work with them. They would supply the food, we’re trying to give them some business and exposure. The owner, Susan, is an entrepreneur and a hard worker. We’re working with them and working with [Virginia Hospital Center] every week, picking a different department. Last week it was the ICU, next week it’s the emergency department.”
Odeh said that while the pharmacy is paying for the food to help keep Arlington Kabob in business, the kabob restaurant has been giving them a significant discount.
Preston’s Pharmacy has remained open, but Odeh admitted that business is still slower than it normally is.
“Business is down, although we’re fortunate not having to lay off or furlough any employees,” Odeh said. “It’s down, but because we’re a pharmacy, people still need chronic medication. People like those who are HIV positive, or diabetics, still need their medicine.”
Odeh said the decline has been in acute business, like treatment for smaller issues that Odeh said are likely overlooked during the pandemic, with many doctor’s offices closed down, social distancing cutting down on colds and flu, and hospitals focused on COVID-19.
Hand sanitizer, on the other hand, has been flying off the shelves so quickly that Preston’s Pharmacy has started making their own.
“We have a lab in the pharmacy and we’re able to produce hand sanitizer,” Odeh said. “We’re selling that and donating a portion of that [to local senior centers].”
Odeh said the mixture is 70% alcohol, which they buy in bulk from different vendors and can be hard to come by, mixed with methocel to give it a thickness.
“It’s relatively new for us,” Odeh said. “In the past, we haven’t needed to because it’s been available from manufacturers like Purell, but because of COVID-19 it has become in very short supply. We’ve ordered bottles and labels. It looks like a professionally made product.”
Odeh said the state board, CDC and FDA have all given them the green light to compound in bulk, a process that’s been fast-tracked due to COVID-19.
The other big seller, Odeh said, has been vitamins.
“[We] sold out on things like Vitamin C and elderberry,” Odeh said. “Vitamin sales have gone through the room. Vitamin D, C and elderberry have immune-boosting properties. People are following trends. There was a study recently about using Pepcid and ulcer medication [to fight coronavirus] and we sold out of that.”
To keep customers and employees safe, Odeh said everyone in the store wears masks and there are plexiglass shields at the registers. Customers are routed through the pharmacy along arrows on the floor and asked to stay six feet apart.
Photos courtesy Preston’s Pharmacy
After a run of bad luck, Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta at 5555 Lee Highway is planning a comeback starting this afternoon (Tuesday).
As if a global pandemic that has battered the restaurant industry wasn’t enough, the topping was when the main oven at Joe’s Place suffered a serious breakdown in mid-April that required waiting on both parts and repairs.
With the oven finally operational, the restaurant says they’re ready to reopen for doorstep delivery and curbside takeout today.
The new hours for May are Tuesday-Saturday from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Pizzas range from small (roughly four slices) for $9 to 10 slice, Sicilian deep-dish style pizza for $16.
Joe’s Place is also asking customers to make a contribution that will go towards making pizzas and sandwiches for workers at Virginia Hospital Center. In March, Joe’s Place offered free cheese pizzas to families in need.
Photo via Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta/Facebook