Arlington leaders are starting a planning process to chart out the future of the Lee Highway corridor in earnest tonight (Tuesday), setting the stage for a lengthy debate over how the county allows development along the many neighborhoods lining the highway.
Officials are holding a community kick-off for “Plan Lee Highway” at 6:30 p.m. at the newly renamed Washington-Liberty High School (1301 N. Stafford Street) tonight, giving anyone interested in the corridor’s future a chance to learn more about the process and offer their thoughts.
A group of dozens of community leaders, known as a “community forum,” has already begun some initial discussions on how the process should go forward. In essence, officials are hoping to sketch out a new “area plan” for a five-mile stretch of the highway, guiding future public and private development from the East Falls Church Metro station to the Lyon Village neighborhood near Rosslyn.
The question of how much more density planners allow along the highway will likely come to define the ensuing debate.
Though many shopping centers and apartment complexes sit on the highway itself, most of the neighborhoods just off the roadway are reserved for single-family homes. Officials are now examining a variety of “nodes” on the highway that could someday become home to mixed-use developments or different types of housing, a focus that will become all the more important as Amazon moves in and puts a strain on the county’s supply of available homes.
The future of those shopping centers will be another key concern, as the county weighs how best to transform them to protect existing businesses thriving on the highway while also luring in new development.
Planners also hope to focus on transportation along the corridor, as the county considers ways to ramp up bus service on the highway and make it a bit more walkable as well.
County officials are expecting the planning process to stretch over the next three years, given the size and scope of what leaders will examine.
The Lee Highway Alliance, a group of businesses and other concerned citizens living along the roadway, will hold regular design studios over the coming weeks to accept more community input, with another “public workshop” tentatively scheduled for September.
A new massage spa is now open along Lee Highway.
Bliss Massage recently opened up shop in a small storefront at 5161 Lee Highway.
The space sat vacant for months, before the spa secured permits move in in late January. It sits next to Yorktown Nails and in the same small shopping center as Preston’s Pharmacy.
Though plenty of other massage studios and nail salons in the Northern Virginia area share the name “Bliss,” this spa appears to be the first of its kind. State records show that Bliss Massage Spa, LLC was only formed back in October.
The shopping center has seen a bit of change recently, with a new vape store also set to move in nearby.
A new shop offering up e-cigarettes and other tobacco products looks bound for a Lee Highway shopping center.
Thicker Cloudz Vape ‘N Smoke is “coming soon” to a space at 5157 Lee Highway, according to signs posted at the location.
The shop doesn’t appear to have an online presence of any kind just yet, but county permit records show that its owners first applied for permission to open up in the space back in mid-January.
The store, located in the same shopping center as Preston’s Pharmacy and several other small shops, has seen quite a bit of turnover in the past few years.
County records show that it’s been home to everything from an Indian restaurant to a cell phone store dating back to 2015.
(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) It seems as if Arlingtonians craving Taco Bell may have a while left to wait for one of the chain’s four restaurants in the county to re-open.
The Taco Bell near Yorktown, at 4923 Lee Highway, shut down back in September as its owner sought to tear down the restaurant and completely rebuild it.
Contractors working on the project had initially hoped to have it open within three to four months. But these days, the only evidence of progress on the new restaurant is a new foundation where the old building once stood.
Managers of the construction project did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the project’s timeline. County permit records show the restaurant’s owners won building permits for the project in October.
The project’s slow progress leaves county residents craving a taco or burrito with just three other options in the county: in the Pentagon City mall, in the Pentagon itself, and along Route 7 near the S. Walter Reed Drive intersection.
A new Taco Bell Cantina, complete with alcoholic beverage options, opened at the end of last year in Alexandria.
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) A new fast food restaurant and hookah lounge looks to be on the way to replace a vacant building along Lee Highway.
All About Burger plans to open up a new location at 5009 Lee Highway, according to county permit records.
The records indicate that a hookah lounge is also part of plans for the roughly 11,100-square-foot space, though it’s unclear if it will be attached to the restaurant, or merely operate in the same building.
The Lee Highway location would become All About Burger’s third shop in the county. The small chain already operates a location in Virginia Square, with plans to open another in the revamped Ballston Quarter mall.
All About Burger has several other locations in D.C., and has a bit of an unusual past.
The company’s owners, Mohammad and Ebrahim Esfahani, started out as business partners with Peter Tabibian to run the D.C.-area chain Z-Burger, and even opened the Virginia Square location under that name.
But a dispute between the company’s co-owners led to a severing of the business — Tabibian earned the right to retain the “Z-Burger” name and still runs two locations in D.C., while the Esfahanis’ restaurants became All About Burger instead.
The eatery offers hamburgers, hotdogs, cheesesteaks and milkshakes, according to its menu.
A new UPS Store looks to be on the way along Lee Highway.
Signs posted at a storefront at 4532 Lee Highway, in the Lee Heights shopping center, indicate that the shipping store is “coming soon.”
The space has sat vacant since Bradshaw’s Children’s Shoes closed back in November 2016. The store was a fixture of the shopping center for more than 20 years, but it shuttered when its owners decided to retire.
The new UPS Store will be the sixth in the county overall, according to the company’s website.
The chef behind a popular D.C. food truck serving up half smokes and other BBQ is opening a new restaurant in an empty space along Lee Highway.
Co-owner Joe Neuman told ARLnow he’ll be opening a brick-and-mortar location of “Sloppy Mama’s” at 5731 Lee Highway, most recently the home of the short-lived Misomen Ramen restaurant. The small space sits directly across from the original District Taco location, and Eater D.C. first reported Neuman’s plans.
The move means that Joe and Mandy Neuman will soon boast two locations in Arlington — Sloppy Mama’s is also set to join the new “food hall” at the Ballston Quarter development when it opens next month.
He points out that the company got its start as a catering operation in D.C., before eventually revving up the food truck. As that gained steam, Neuman was able to open a stall at Union Market, and even start partnering up with some bars and restaurants around the city.
But he was after a space to spread out a bit more, especially when it comes to finding room for smoking meat, so he sought out the new Lee Highway locations.
Neuman says the menu at the new space won’t differ much from Sloppy Mama’s current offerings. He’s expecting to cook up “authentic smoked meats” including brisket, pork. chicken, ribs, sausages and turkey, in addition to “traditional southern sides.”
As for an opening date, he’s currently targeting “mid-to-late April.”
The space Sloppy Mama’s will move into has seen plenty of turnover in the past few years. Before Misomen, the location was home to the Asian Kitchen restaurant; before that, it was a Pizza Hut.
Photo 1 via @sloppymamas
Arlington officials are just about ready to kick off design work for a replacement for Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway.
The Board voted back in 2016 to approve the construction of a new, two-story building on the same site as the current station, located at 4845 Lee Highway. That decision was a particularly contentious one, as some favored relocating it to a site adjacent to Marymount University’s campus, a property that’s home to Arlington’s northern salt storage facility.
But the majority of the Board hoped to keep the station at the same location, reasoning that it would be closer to a rapidly developing section of the county. The station’s history also factored into the debate — it was once the only firehouse in segregated Arlington to employ black firefighters.
The $21 million project will eventually add a 15,000-square-foot building to the site, with room for four fire engine bays and a new fueling station, according to a report prepared for the Board by county staff.
Construction is set to start on the effort later this year, so long as the Board signs off on the design contract at its meeting Saturday (Jan. 26).
Once it does, the fire department will set up a “temporary engine bay structure” on some land along N. Culpepper Street that the county recently acquired for the project. Firefighters will have a temporary living quarters at an existing building along the street.
The current building just passed its 100th birthday just last year, and a celebration of its history is set to take place in Ballston tomorrow. It will be held at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building (4301 Wilson Blvd) from 2-6 p.m.
Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway just passed its 100th birthday, and now a celebration of the station’s legacy is on the way in Ballston.
The John M. Langston Citizens Association is convening a “centennial celebration” next Saturday (Jan. 26) at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building (4301 Wilson Blvd).
Built in 1918, the fire station has long been one of the most historic sites in the county — it was the only station in segregated Arlington with black firefighters during the 1950s and 1960s, and it often served Hall’s Hill, a historically black community that was once literally walled off from the rest of the county in the days of segregation.
Accordingly, the program will be geared toward “chronicling Fire Station 8’s 100 years of legacy and impact” and there will be a display with “history and memorabilia associated with Fire Station 8,” according to an event listing.
“For 100 years the men and women of Fire Station 8 have served the communities of Arlington County, Virginia selflessly, and with honor,” the citizens association wrote. “Not only did they serve, but they served segregated, and unrecognized by the county for almost 40 years. Fire Station 8 has not only changed history and the future of blacks in the fire service, but is getting ready to have a change in look too.”
The fire station is indeed set to be fully replaced, with construction set to start later this year. County officials had initially considered moving the fire station elsewhere, but opted instead to rebuild it on its current site.
The celebration is set to run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Lee Highway officially has a new pizzeria.
The Old Dominion Pizza Company opened its doors in the Lee Heights shopping center last Thursday (Jan. 3), owner John Rodas told ARLnow. The restaurant replaces Upper Crust Pizzeria, which shuttered in the space at 4514 Lee Highway back in July.
Rodas says he’s envisioning this initial period as a “soft opening” for the restaurant, after he first started working to get Old Dominion open this fall.
But Rodas, who also helps run The Spirits of ’76 bar in Clarendon, says that the eatery is fully ready for customers, and even recently earned a state license to sell and deliver beer and wine.
Old Dominion now offers both traditional, “New York-style” pizzas and square, “Grandma-style” pieces, according to its menu.
The restaurant also serves up pizzas with cauliflower crust for anyone hoping for a gluten-free option, in addition to a small selection of sandwiches.
Police are now investigating after an Uber driver ran off the road near the Lee Harrison Shopping Center, crashing into some street signs and knocking down a light pole.
The crash happened this morning on Lee Highway in Yorktown, near its intersection on N. Harrison Street.
It appears as if the driver of a hatchback, complete with an Uber sticker, lost control of the vehicle and drove down the sidewalk near the shopping center. The driver managed to knock down several street signs and a light pole, which fell into the street, before colliding with another utility pole.
Arlington Police and firefighters are currently on the scene evaluating the driver for injuries and administering a field sobriety test.
They’ve closed the westbound lane of Lee Highway as the investigation continues.
A new 7-Eleven convenience store along Lee Highway in Northwest Arlington is now open for business.
The store is located at 5747 Lee Highway in the Leeway-Overlee neighborhood, and now has signs posted in its windows looking for new employees.
The 7-Eleven replaces the longtime Lee-Lex Service Center, a fixture in the neighborhood dating back to 1978. The auto shop closed for good back in 2016.
The shop is now one of six 7-Eleven locations along Lee Highway alone, according to the chain’s website.
Arlington is gearing up to ask for millions in I-66 toll revenue to fund a series of changes along Lee Highway, including the creation of a dedicated bus and HOV lane along the road during rush hours.
The County Board is set to sign off this weekend on funding requests for six transportation projects, totaling $6.9 million, four of which focus on reducing traffic along Lee Highway as it runs from Rosslyn to East Falls Church.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission doles out a portion of the revenues collected through the year-old I-66 toll program to localities, in order to help afford road improvements along the corridor inside the Beltway. Accordingly, Arlington is looking for cash for the following efforts along Lee Highway, per a county staff report:
Metrobus Route 3Y Service Improvements — $520,000 per year for five years, total request $2.6 million
This project will increase morning peak hour frequency and provide running time improvements for better on-time performance on the subject Metrobus route that connects the East Falls Church Metrorail Station with the Farragut Square and McPherson Square areas in the District of Columbia via Lee Highway and a short section of I-66 from Rosslyn to the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
Intersection Improvements at Lee Highway and Washington Boulevard — $400,000
This project will add a second left turn lane from northbound Lee Highway to westbound Washington Boulevard and provide pedestrian improvements at the intersection north of the bridge over I-66, which is 0.25 miles from the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
Enhanced Vehicle Presence Detection on Lee Highway — $20,000 per intersection for 15 intersections, total request $300,000
This project will install forward looking infrared (FLIR) video cameras at key intersections along Lee Highway. FLIR technology uses thermographic cameras that improve the accuracy of vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle detection in all lighting and weather conditions, and in turn improve optimal signal, intersection, and corridor operations and performance.
Design and Construct Peak Period, Peak Direction HOV and Bus-Only Lane on Lee Highway from just east of N. Kenmore Street to N. Lynn Street — $1.5 million
This project would convert the outside lane of Lee Highway to an HOV and bus only lane through pavement treatment, restriping, and signage. The lane would operate eastbound during the morning peak period and westbound during the evening peak period only; at other times it will continue as a general purpose travel lane.
The final project on the list is one that the county initially considered back in 2016 as an effort to prepare for Metro’s “SafeTrack” schedule disruptions, and the new lane would’ve run from Court House to Rosslyn. However, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet says that lane was never constructed, and the new proposal calls for it to run from Cherrydale to Rosslyn instead.
The county expects a new lane would be particularly impactful along that section of the highway because about “25 loaded buses per hour” drive along it during peak period, and they often run into heavy delays near the highway’s intersection with N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, according to the report.
In addition to the Lee Highway changes, officials are also hoping to earn $750,000 to add a new traffic light to the Washington Blvd entrance to the East Falls Church Metro station, as well as crosswalks and other pedestrian improvements at the intersection.
Finally, the county plans to ask for a total of $1.3 million over the next three years for “enhanced transportation demand management outreach” along the corridor, educating commuters about public transit and other strategies for getting cars off the road.
The Board is set to approve these funding requests at its meeting on Saturday (Dec. 15), and the NVTC will accept applications through Jan. 16. The organization plans to hand out $20 million in funding across the region through the program next year.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a crash in Rosslyn involving a dump truck and a woman who was pushing a stroller.
The crash happened around 9:30 a.m. at the intersection of Lee Highway and Ft. Myer Drive. According to a police spokeswoman, a female pedestrian was struck by a dump truck and suffered serious — but at this point non-life-threatening — injuries. The woman was pushing a stroller at the time but the child was not injured, police said.
The victim was rushed to the trauma center at George Washington University Hospital. Detectives are on scene investigating, as is standard procedure for crashes involving very serious injuries.
All lanes of eastbound Lee Highway were previously blocked at N. Nash Street, but have since reopened. Police have moved the investigation onto N. Lynn Street, closing two lanes on that road. Major backups have been reported on the Key Bridge and Ft. Myer Drive approaching Rosslyn.
Road closures are expected to remain in place “for a significant amount of time” while officers investigate the cause of the crash, according to Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
Police were dispatched at 9:26 a.m. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene. The pedestrian was transported with serious but non-life threatening injuries. Police remain on scene investigating.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 13, 2018
INCIDENT: Fire and Police Activity
LOCATION: EB Lee Hwy at Nash
IMPACT: The two right lanes of EB Lee Hwy have reopened. Officers are still on scene directing traffic. Use caution and follow police direction. pic.twitter.com/4VBoe0EspU
— Arlington Alert (@arlingtonalert) December 13, 2018
Starting this week, construction to improve the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn will significantly narrow a portion of the Custis Trail.
The Custis Trail will be restricted to six feet wide for the section between N. Fort Meyer Drive and Lynn Street, as crews work to transform one lane of Lee Highway into additional trail width and buffer space.
The trail narrowing will last for nine to 10 months while construction takes place on the south side of the trail.
Workers will add wider sidewalks, on-street bike lanes and improved curb ramps as the northbound and southbound sections of Lee Highway meet Lynn Street.
The project will also include improvements to the Custis Trail as it runs alongside Lee Highway, including bicycle and pedestrian facility upgrades, lane reconfiguration and widening of the trail.
For street beautification efforts, the “Corridor of Light” public art installation will get added to each of the four corners of the Interstate 66 bridge.
The county is helping to fund the construction. The project, expected to wrap up in spring 2020, will require some lane and sidewalk closures.
Photo via VDOT and rendering via Arlington County