Arlington, VA

Lee Highway could become John Glenn Boulevard. Or Mildred and Richard Loving Avenue. Or just Main Street.

Those are a few of the possible names identified by the group in charge of coming up with a new moniker for Route 29, the main east-west route through Arlington’s northern neighborhoods.

The 25-person task force, formed by the Lee Highway Alliance at Arlington County’s behest, says it has narrowed down a list of 186 names suggested by the community to 20. Those names were revealed Monday afternoon and will be further narrowed down to 3-5 finalists later this year, based on additional community input.

The 20 names up for community consideration are “based on local historical figures, represent broad ideals, or highlight local flora/fauna,” the alliance said. The names are:

  1. Arcova (acronym for Arlington County, Va.)
  2. Ella Baker
  3. James E. Browne
  4. Community
  5. Dogwood
  6. Equity
  7. Green Way
  8. John Glenn
  9. Harmony
  10. Inclusive
  11. Innovation
  12. Justice
  13. John M. Langston
  14. Mildred and Richard Loving
  15. Main Street
  16. Leonard “Doc” Muse
  17. Edward T. Morton
  18. Necostin
  19. Unity
  20. Maggie Walker

“The Working Group will consider street suffix options, such as Boulevard or Avenue, in future deliberations,” the Lee Highway Alliance noted in a press release.

The alliance has created a web page with the background behind each name, as well as an online poll that is expected to remain open through Nov. 30.

“Community input will be considered as part of the Working Group’s decision-making in early December,” the press release says. “Then the top three-five names from the Working Group’s deliberations will move to the County Board, in view of a recommendation that then could go to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) or the Virginia General Assembly, which controls the final go-ahead.”

The full press release is below.

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The two retail occupants of a squat commercial building at the intersection of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive have now both moved out.

TitleMax, which opened at 5625 Lee Highway in 2014, closed recently and has cleared out of the space, which was previously a 7-Eleven store. A sign on the door directs customers to a remaining TitleMax location at 6198-C Arlington Blvd, in Seven Corners.

No explanation for the closure was given.

Next door, long-time local business Sam Torrey Shoe Service closed in July after the owner decided to move to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

TitleMax’s presence in the neighborhood drew some controversy early on.

Then-County Board candidate Christian Dorsey called the business a “predatory lender” and pushed for its lease to be terminated in the event that a proposed land swap between property owner Virginia Hospital Center and Arlington County happened. A land swap went through, but the Lee Highway property was not included.

Through a PR rep, Virginia Hospital Center said that it is still deciding what to do next with the property.

“TitleMax and Sam Tory have terminated their leases,” the rep told ARLnow. “The Hospital has made no decisions about the future of the site.”

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What was once beloved family dining spot Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta will soon be A Modo Mio.

The restaurant at 5555 Lee Highway says it’s planning to reopen in “a few weeks” with “a new look, chef and menu.”

New signs are already up, touting the new name and its focus on Neapolitan pizza, as well as the fact that the restaurant is now hiring. The renovated and repainted interior, sans the old Joe’s buffet, can now be seen through the windows.

The new menu, as posted online, includes higher-end Italian dishes at reasonable prices — nothing above $24. Wood-fired pizza appears to be the main attraction, alongside pasta dishes, meat and fish entrees, and appetizer-sized flatbreads.

After temporarily closing in April due to oven trouble, Joe’s reopened in May for takeout and delivery, as well as indoor and outdoor dining. It closed for renovations on Aug. 23. The long-time local restaurant celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018.

On Tuesday, the restaurant’s Facebook account posted a photo taken prior to the August closing, saying it was a celebration of “a new exciting beginning.” An exact reopening date was not given and the restaurant’s manager could not be reached for comment.

When our family gathered outside our beloved Joe's Place before we closed, it was not to say goodbye. We were…

Posted by Joe's Place Pizza and Pasta on Tuesday, October 13, 2020

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Arlington County police are investigating an incident involving two teen girls and a man who tried to lure them into his car in a 7-Eleven parking lot.

The incident happened Saturday afternoon, outside the convenience store at 5747 Lee Highway.

“At approximately 2:46 p.m. on September 19, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report today. “Upon arrival, it was determined that the female juvenile victims were exiting a business when the male subject pulled up next to them in his vehicle and attempted to engage them in conversation. They declined and began to run away.”

“The subject yelled to the victims again to come back to his car, at which point a witness came to the aid of the victims and contacted police,” the crime report continues. “The subject fled in the vehicle prior to police arrival.”

On Nextdoor, a Leeway Overlee resident who identified himself as a parent of one of the 13-year-old victims further described what happened, calling it an “attempted abduction.”

“Our daughter and one of her friends walked up to 7-Eleven next to Sloppy Mama’s BBQ yesterday, they walked past a small white car when the driver yelled out ‘I will buy you Slurpees if you get in,'” he wrote. “They ignored, bought their goods and left, again walking by the car, he opened the door and yelled at them to get in, they ignored and proceeded towards Lee/Lexington intersection, the man drove out of the lot to that intersection and again yelled once again.”

According to the poster, the witness who intervened was the manager of the nearby District Taco restaurant. The company’s founder and CEO confirmed to ARLnow today that the restaurant’s general manager was on her break and jumped into action upon seeing what was happening.

“Lashelle Mason was there at the right spot and time,” said Osiris Hoil. “Thank God.”

Hoil, who lives in the neighborhood and has three children, added that he’s being more cautious after the incident.

Also quick to intervene, according to the Nextdoor post, was Joe Neuman, founder of Sloppy Mama’s, who provided security camera footage to police.

“We immediately went to our cameras and helped Arlington PD as best we could,” Neuman confirmed. “We had the incident on our cameras but the car had [a] license plate cover on it so we were unable to get a plate.”

“The investigation is ongoing,” ACPD said in today’s crime report.

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The McDonald’s at 4834 Lee Highway is backing off plans to reconfigure its drive-thru, at least for now.

The fast food restaurant withdrew a use permit application at the Arlington County Board over the weekend. That followed a drubbing at the Board’s April meeting, during which county officials blasted the plans, which included a second drive-thru lane and a new recirculating lane that would run between the restaurant and Lee Highway.

After deferring the restaurant’s application to this summer, then deferring it again, the Board accepted a request by McDonald’s to withdraw it entirely.

From a county staff report:

The applicant has requested withdrawal of the use permit request due to the physical constraints in accommodating on-site vehicle circulation, as well as the growing trend toward mobile orders and curbside pick-up. This application was initially heard at the April 2020 County Board meeting and was deferred twice to allow the applicant time to evaluate how it might address concerns regarding pedestrian safety and site circulation with the proposed design of the drive-thru; most recently from the July 2020 County Board meeting to the September 2020 County Board meeting. Therefore, staff recommends the County Board accept the applicant’s request to withdraw the subject use permit application.

In addition to the second ordering lane, intended to reduce incidence of drive-thru traffic backing up to Lee Highway, the plans called for the 1960s era building to be rebuilt as a modernized, two-story restaurant with around the same floor area but a smaller overall footprint.

The new restaurant would have included a kids play area, as the current one has, and was designed to be more efficient for preparing drive-thru and online orders. Other amenities would have included new landscaping and McDonald’s restoring a mural at the nearby Langston-Brown Community Center.

County staff and the John M. Langston Citizens Association opposed the plans, citing concerns about pedestrian safety for those needing to cross the new recirculation lane to access the restaurant, as well as potential backups caused by the lane being blocked by those waiting for the drive-thru.

Despite agreeing to some changes, McDonald’s and its land use attorney continued to argue for the merits of its plan during the April meeting. ARLnow has asked about whether a new plan is in the works, but has yet to hear back.

Photo (1) via Google Maps

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Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta at 5555 Lee Highway is closed for painting and, reportedly, some major changes.

A sign on one of the restaurant’s doors said it closed August 23 for painting and will reopen in a few weeks.

Buzz on the local Nextdoor social network suggests that the restaurant will be ditching its buffet — something that’s falling out of favor during the COVID era — and changing the menu, perhaps serving more upscale Italian cuisine.

Manager Rosario Farruggio told ARLnow today that the restaurant is not yet ready to publicly discuss the changes, but said some of the rumors on Nextdoor are “wrong.” He added that operating and now making changes to the restaurant during the pandemic has been especially difficult.

As of last week, a work crew could be seen inside the space. One worker told ARLnow the crew is painting the restaurant’s floors and walls and will be done in a month.

Joe’s Place previously closed in mid-April after its main oven broke down. It reopened in May for takeout and delivery, and its website says it has opened indoor dining as well as patio seating for “dining al fresco.”

The long-time local restaurant celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018.

Joseph Ramos contributed to this report

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(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) The renaming of Lee Highway is continuing apace.

The Lee Highway Alliance (LHA), which is spearheading a renaming process for the east-west commuter artery also known as Route 29, today announced the 25 members of a Working Group charged with coming up with new names.

Among the members are Arlington NAACP President Julius Spain, Sr.; Lebanese Taverna co-owner Grace Abi-Najm Shea; and Matt Weinstein, a land use attorney and former legal counsel for Arlington Democrats, who will chair the group.

In a press release, below, the Alliance says the Working Group will start holding virtual meetings, which will be open to public viewing, in mid-September.

“Our vision for the future is a welcoming and equitable Main Street, and neither ‘Lee’ nor ‘Highway’ is representative of that vision,” said Ginger Brown, Executive Director of the LHA, which was working on envisioning ways to modernize the car-oriented corridor when it was also tasked with the renaming.

A new video released by the LHA yesterday makes the case for why Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s name should be removed from Route 29 in Arlington.

“I think that there comes a time in history when you need to change in order to move ahead,” the video says.

“It wasn’t named Lee Highway in 1865 or 1866 when the Civil War ended, it was named Lee Highway in the 1920s and 30s,” says Wilma Jones Killgo, who has served as president of the John M. Langston Citizens Association, which represents the historically Black neighborhood of Halls Hill, along Route 29.

“When Black people started getting educated and creating businesses and creating their own wealth,” she continues, “it was all a series of intimidations.”

The new name chosen for Route 29 should be “welcoming to all people and businesses,” should “work for all four Northern Virginia jurisdictions that include Lee Highway, and should promote “economic vitality” via effective branding, the Alliance’s website says.

The Working Group has four meetings scheduled, starting on Sept. 16 and running through Jan. 13. The full LHA press release about the group’s formation is below.

Ginger Brown, Executive Director of the Lee Highway Alliance, today announced a Working Group that will lead the effort to recommend new names for Lee Highway to the Arlington County Board. The 25 members of the Working Group reflect a variety of backgrounds and skills, from business ownership to civic involvement.

LHA has been in conversation with the County Board for nearly three years about renaming the 4.6 miles of Lee Highway to better reflect a welcoming, vibrant, and future forward identity. “We are beginning the conversation on replacing both of the words present on Lee Highway” says Brown. “Our vision for the future is a welcoming and equitable Main Street, and neither ‘Lee’ nor ‘Highway’ is representative of that vision.”

In mid-September, the group will begin its community engagement work to solicit ideas for new words for Lee Highway. The group’s virtual meetings, which are also slated to begin mid-September, will be open to the public for viewing.

Matt Weinstein (Chair), Grace Abi-Najm Shea, Bill Braswell, Ginger Brown, Mike Cantwell, Sandi Chesrown, Lynn Coates, Elaine Furlow, Saundra Green, Lauren Harris, Mike Hogan, Paul Holland, Wilma Jones, Jeff Joseph, Minneh Kane, Anika Kwinana, Ben Keeney, Diane Kelly, Annie Moyer, Maia Potok-Holmes, Richard Price, Andy Rude, Julius D. Spain, Sr., Jim Todd, and Tom Wolfe.

Several members of the Working Group were drawn from LHA’s Community Advisory Committee, an existing body that helps LHA communicate with stakeholders, garnering feedback, channeling ideas, and encouraging new ways to reach the residents and business/property owners.

The Working Group will also receive input from Advisory Groups made up of subject-matter experts.

The groups include a Branding Advisory Group, Business and Property Owners Advisory Group, Institutional Advisory Group, Transportation Advisory Group, and LHA’s own Communications Committee.

Photo (top) via Google Maps

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The SunTrust Bank branch at 4710 Lee Highway, near the Lee Heights Shops, is set to close later this year.

The bank notified customers of the impending closure in a recent letter. The branch is scheduled to close its doors at noon on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Those who avidly follow corporate mergers and acquisitions might have noticed that SunTrust and BB&T have branches across the street from one another on that block of Lee Highway. That’s of note because the two banks announced a $66 billion merger last year, with BB&T buying SunTrust in an all-stock deal. The combined company is now known as Truist.

As might have been predicted, the branches are now being combined, with the current BB&T branch at 4707 Lee Highway set to serve customers of both banks starting on Monday, Nov. 9.

“At our blended branch you’ll continue to receive the personal care you’ve come to expect from SunTrust teammates, whether you visit us in the lobby or use the drive-thru lanes,” the letter said. “There will also be BB&T teammates on hand to assist BB&T customers. There will be no changes to the ATM.”

Those with safe deposit boxes at the SunTrust bank branch will receive instructions on transferring them to a new location, the letter says.

Photos via Google Maps

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At long last, Bob and Edith’s Diner has set the official opening day and time for its new Lee Highway location: Monday at 7 a.m.

The longtime local diner chain is opening its newly-built eatery at 5050 Lee Highway amid a decided lack of fanfare, however.

“At this time we are not having a Grand Opening event due to the pandemic and the social distancing guidelines that are in place,” said Bob and Edith’s spokeswoman Rebekah Steele. “We are still adhering to our enhanced cleaning procedures, safe distancing between tables, and digital friendly menus. We also will offer take and delivery.”

The company — with locations on Columbia Pike and 23rd Street S. in Crystal City, as well as in Huntington and Springfield — has been hurt by the pandemic, as have most restaurant operators. About half of its business is now takeout and delivery, a remarkable pivot for a classic greasy spoon eatery that’s perhaps better known as a local gathering spot than a culinary destination.

Despite the challenges, owner Greg Bolton says he’s excited about the opening, in part due to the history of the location.

“Steak N Egg was at this spot for 70 plus years and my dad worked for them 65 years ago at this location before purchasing Gary’s Donut Dinette (which is now the Columbia Pike location),” he told ARLnow via email. “I worked at Steak N Egg 40 years ago when I was 17 and now my kids and grandkids can own the location that was where their grandfather once worked.”

(Before being purchased by Bolton for $1.1 million in 2018, 5050 Lee Highway was home to Linda’s Cafe, which had a spicy Twitter account that contrasted with the plain, aging building it occupied.)

Bolton also believes the location is ideally suited for a place like Bob and Edith’s.

“[I’m] excited because there is not another breakfast place around and the new building has a lot of people talking and wanting to see the inside,” he said. “Bob and Edith’s has a great name up north and people have been stopping by for weeks waiting to come inside and eat.”

For those who want to do more than dine at the restaurant, a sign outside indicates that it’s now hiring.

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A man who was walking down Lee Highway while drunk and naked last night was arrested after being tased twice by officers, according to Arlington County police.

The incident happened shortly before 9 p.m., roughly between Spout Run Parkway and the Inns of Virginia hotel.

Police say they received multiple calls about a naked man “shouting in and around a business.” Officers found him “carrying a knife and walking in the roadway.”

The man dropped the knife but did not comply with other commands, resulting in a Taser being used. After that didn’t work, a second Taser was deployed and the man was taken into custody, the police department says.

More from an ACPD crime report:

DRUNK IN PUBLIC (SIGNIFICANT), 2020-08180160, 3100 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 8:52 p.m. on August 18, police were dispatched to the report of an exposure after the Emergency Communications Center received numerous calls about a naked male shouting in and around a business in the 3300 block of Lee Highway. Responding officers located the subject, who was carrying a knife and walking in the roadway in the 3100 block of Lee Highway. The officers made contact with the subject and provided lawful commands to drop the weapon and get on the ground. The subject dropped the knife but remained confrontational and failed to comply with the officer’s commands. An officer deployed his taser which was ineffective. A second taser was deployed, allowing the subject to be taken into custody without further incident. The subject was transported by medics to an area hospital for evaluation. A summons for Drunk in Public was issued.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Sloppy Mama’s Barbeque has started serving breakfast items like buttermilk biscuit sandwiches and hash browns with special dipping sauce.

The new menu is available from 8-11 a.m Wednesday through Sunday. The restaurant’s standalone eatery at 5731 Lee Highway is currently open, while its Ballston Quarter food hall location is set to reopen Thursday. Sloppy Mama’s remains closed at Union Market in D.C.

Co-founder Joe Neuman said the menu will likely be expanded once the stores adjust to serving breakfast. Future items could include more types of biscuit sandwiches, biscuits and gravy, and a breakfast bowl.

Neuman hopes the breakfast menu gives sales a boost after dropping as much as 60% as a result of the pandemic. He noted that Sloppy Mama’s catering service has had zero business through the pandemic, so he needs a revenue increase to help keep his employees working.

Sloppy Mama’s traditional menu features smoked meat like prime brisket, ribs and chicken. Sandwiches dressed in coleslaw and a pickle are available as well as sides like potato salad, collard greens and mac and cheese.

Picture via Sloppy Mama’s/Anela Malik

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