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ACFD on Scene of Small Fire at Lee Highway Business

A small electrical fire broke out at a business on the 4700 block of Lee Highway this afternoon.

The fire was contained and quickly extinguished, but not before causing light smoke to fill the business. According to scanner traffic, the fire was at 4745 Lee Highway, which is home to the well-reviewed framing store KH Art & Framing.

As of 1:45 p.m., firefighters are working to ventilate the building and investigate the cause of the fire.

Drivers should expect temporary lane closures near the busy intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road.

Photo via Google Maps

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The Children’s School Advances Plans for Former Alpine Restaurant Site

The Children’s School is moving closer to finding a permanent new home, as it pushes forward plans to build a three-story daycare facility along Lee Highway.

The child care program for Arlington Public Schools employees is looking for a county permit to redevelop the space once occupied by the Alpine Restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway, marking the first formal proposal that the school would seek to build a a 27,500-square-foot facility on the property.

The Children’s School got its start in 1987 at the Reed School building in Westover as a childcare program owned and operated by school system employees, but APS’ plans to build a new elementary school at the site pushed the program elsewhere.

The co-op is currently operating out of a Ballston office building, and would look to use the Alpine site to expand its operations and serve about 235 children in total. Anywhere from 60 to 70 of those students would likely be part of the “Integration Station” program, which is reserved for kids with developmental or other disabilities, allaying initial worries that The Children’s School wouldn’t be able to maintain its relationship with the program.

The school is hoping to demolish the current restaurant on the property, then build a three-story facility complete with two outdoor play spaces and a one-level underground parking garage.

In all, there would be 42 parking spaces located on site, as well as nine extra spaces on an adjacent lot to serve the roughly 40 employees at the program. The building would also include a “covered drive aisle” to facilitate easy pick-up and drop-offs by parents, with hours running from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday.

The play areas, designed to serve kids from 2 months old to 5 years old, would be located on the second- and third-floor roofs of the property, and both will be enclosed by a 7-foot-tall mesh fence. Those will face away from the road and toward the residential neighborhoods behind the building.

County staff are recommending that the County Board approve the project, writing in a report that the program has managed to work up the right sort of plans to mitigate any potential traffic impacts along Lee Highway. The Lee Highway Alliance also endorsed the project in a letter to the Board.

Board members will consider the permit request Saturday (July 14) as part of the Board’s “consent agenda,” which is generally reserved for non-controversial matters that are passed without debate.

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Morning Notes

Motorcycle Crash Closes Columbia Pike — Columbia Pike was closed in both directions for just over two hours this morning while police investigated a serious accident. A motorcycle reportedly crashed into a minivan between S. Frederick and Dinwiddie street, near the Arlington Mill Community Center. The motorcycle rider was seriously hurt and two people in the van were also taken to the hospital. [WJLA, Twitter]

Man Arrested for Threatening FCC Chair’s Family — A California man has been arrested and charged with sending emails that threatened to murder FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s family, over his support of the rollback of net neutrality rules. Pai has two children and lives in Arlington. Per an affidavit, one of the emails “listed the names and addresses of three preschools located in or around Arlington, Virginia, followed by the following sentence: ‘I will find your children and I will kill them.'” [Gizmodo, Washington Post]

Car Fire in Cherrydale — A car caught on fire in the garage of an apartment building in Cherrydale early this morning. No one was hurt. The cause of the fire is under investigation. [Twitter, Twitter]

Plane Evacuated on DCA Tarmac — “Passengers were forced to evacuate a United Airlines plane at Reagan National Airport on Sunday after smoke was reported in the cabin… The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority said that about 1 p.m. Sunday, Houston-bound flight 6122 was taxiing for takeoff when emergency crews were called for a report of smoke in the cabin. The plane’s emergency slides were deployed, and all passengers and crew members exited ‘without incident.'” [Washington Post, Fox News]

Lee Highway Planning to Move Forward? — “It’s been delayed, delayed and delayed some more. But, Arlington’s top elected official promises, the long-awaited study of development options along the Lee Highway corridor will be up and running by the end of the year.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy R. Johnson

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County Board Will Unveil Long-Debated Childcare Policy Overhaul Next Month

Arlington officials plan to unveil their long-awaited overhaul of the county’s childcare policies next month.

County Board Chair Katie Cristol announced those plans her first “State of the County” address today (Thursday) while speaking to the Arlington Chamber of Commerce in Crystal City. The overhaul is a substantial step forward in the debate over how to improve the availability and affordability of daycare in the county.

While Cristol said she was broadly “optimistic” about the county’s future, she stressed that the Board needs to take action to bring down the cost of childcare and ease the financial burden on working families. County leaders have been examining a “draft action plan” to tackle the issue since December, and Cristol says the Board plans to unveil a final product and debate it in full at a July 24 work session.

“For many families, child care can cost more than rent,” Cristol said. “In just a few weeks time, the Board will consider a detailed plan to address this… including a new set of land-use strategies, public-private partnerships and more.”

She noted that county staff and a host of community partners have been studying the issue since early last year, and will finally be able to present a path forward in some “granularity” next month.

Some items will be able to put into motion immediately, while others will require more Board debate, particularly if they involve zoning changes.

Cristol also stressed the childcare plan would be just one of the Board’s priorities as it moves into the back half of 2018. Following the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county convened to spark conversations among county residents, Cristol said she’s newly hopeful that the Board will be able to revisit its zoning policies to increase Arlington’s supply of market rate affordable housing.

Specifically, she’s interested in tackling the problem of the county’s “missing middle,” or homes available for county residents who might make too much money to qualify for dedicated affordable housing but still can’t afford detached single-family homes or high-priced luxury condos.

Cristol is hoping to find new ways to encourage the development of duplexes, moderately-priced townhouses or even “accessory” homes small enough to fit on another single-family home’s property. The county has already loosened its rules for such construction, known as “accessory dwelling units,” but she believes there’s more work still to do.

“We cannot lose sight of affordability as the fundamental challenge of Arlington’s future,” Cristol said.

She expects that the “overdue” kickoff of planning along the Lee Highway corridor, which the Board found new funding for this year and will start in earnest in the coming months, will have some role to play in that conversation.

Cristol would acknowledge, however, that the specter of Amazon’s arrival in Arlington hovers over any discussion of affordable housing or any other pressing issue in the county.

She declined to “break any news” on that front, but would say that she felt the county’s pursuit of the tech giant’s HQ2 “will make the county stronger.”

“Whatever choice Amazon makes on HQ2, it means the national spotlight has found our county,” Cristol said.

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TRAFFIC ALERT: Lanes Closed After George Mason Drive Crash

Southbound N. George Mason Drive is closed at Lee Highway due to a crash between a car and an SUV.

Two lanes of eastbound Lee Highway is also closed at the accident scene.

One person was reported to be trapped in a vehicle after the crash, though they have since been extricated. No word yet on the extent of the injuries.

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Construction on McCoy Park Upgrades Set to Get Started

County workers now have the green light they need to kick off an overhaul of McCoy Park near Rosslyn and Courthouse.

The Arlington County Board agreed to rezone the park at its meeting Saturday (June 16), allowing work on a series of improvements to the 1.1-acre property at 2121 21st Street N. to move forward. Parks officials have been working on plans for a renovation to McCoy since 2016, after the company behind the mixed-use development that’s home to the nearby MOM’s Organic Market (2145 Lee Highway) agreed to help fund the project.

The county has not made major changes to the park since it opened in 1985.

“Changes to the park will include a re-aligned sidewalk, a seating deck with furnishings, a shade canopy, and interactive chalk art plaza, new landscape vegetation, trash/recycling receptacles, and a new park entry sign,” county staff wrote in a report for the Board.

The county is also hoping to add a dog waste bag dispenser and “Little Free Library” to the park, if it can find sponsors to help build and maintain either amenity.

County staff note in their report that their next step is to submit construction documents for permitting, now that they earned the County Board’s sign off. They’re hoping to complete the improvements by the end of the year.

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Bob and Edith’s Could Open New Lee Highway Location By End of Year

A new Bob and Edith’s Diner along Lee Highway could open its doors in the next six to nine months, a lawyer for the local chain’s owner tells ARLnow.

Attorney Ryan Brown says Bob and Edith’s owner Greg Bolton is planning “significant renovations” of the space that once held Linda’s Cafe (5050 Lee Highway) before opening his fifth restaurant in the Northern Virginia area there. Linda’s had operated out of the space for the last 20 years before Bolton bought the property last Thursday (May 31).

Linda’s general manager Joe Ellian previously told ARLnow that Bolton’s attorneys told him he’d need to move out of the space before the end of the month, as the restaurant changes hands, lamenting that he’d barely have enough time to pack up all his equipment, let alone find a new location.

Brown says Bolton is sympathetic to Ellian’s situation, but noted that Linda’s has been renting the space from owner Joe Mehrdad Djassebi “on a month-to-month basis for several years.”

“As such, Mr. Bolton was not required to give more than 30 days notice to the current tenant to terminate the lease after he acquired the property,” Brown wrote in an email. “Presumably the current tenant could have purchased the building from the prior owner, or entered into a long-term lease if they desired to continue their business at that location.”

Brown added that Bolton bought the property from Djassebi for $1.1 million, and he reasoned that “if Mr. Bolton had not purchased the property, it is likely that another purchaser would have acquired” it. Ellian previously argued that he never had trouble paying rent, and believed Djassebi received a lucrative enough offer that he felt forced to sell the property.

Bob and Edith’s currently operates two diners in Arlington, one in Alexandria and one in Springfield.

Photo by Alex Koma

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Linda’s Cafe on Lee Highway Set to Close, Could Soon Be Replaced by Bob and Edith’s

Longtime diner Linda’s Cafe is closing its doors and could soon be replaced by another Arlington institution: Bob and Edith’s Diner.

General manager Joe Ellian told ARLnow he heard from attorneys for the restaurant last Thursday (May 31), informing him that they’ve purchased the small space at 5050 Lee Highway from his landlord and giving him 30 days to move out. Bob and Edith’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment on their plans for the property.

“I’m going to miss all the customers and the neighborhood so much, it’s just very sad,” Ellian said. “It just isn’t enough time for a restaurant to pack up… I have bills to pay, food to sell, a family.”

Ellian says he’s run Linda’s out of the Lee Highway location for the last 20 years, and he’s heartbroken to be leaving the area. The restaurant was known for its all-day breakfast and burger offerings, as well as a sometimes colorful Twitter account.

“It was like a family here, we had good relationships with all the customers,” Ellian said. “As soon as we saw a car pull up, we knew who it was. We knew their order and had their food waiting for them.”

Ellian notes that he never had trouble making rent, but believes his landlord, Joe Djassebi, received a lucrative enough offer that he felt forced to sell. The property had an assessed value of more than $757,000 in 2018, according to county records.

Ellian isn’t sure what he’ll do next — he is hoping to bargain for more time to move all his equipment out of the Lee Highway location — but he may move Linda’s elsewhere in Arlington, if he can find the right spot.

“A good location is hard to find,” Ellian said.

Bob and Edith’s currently operates two diners in Arlington, with another in Alexandria and one in Springfield.

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VDOT to Discuss Widening Work on Eastbound I-66

Workers are about to kick off construction on one of the most congested sections of eastbound I-66, and VDOT is rolling out its plans to widen the highway early next month.

State transportation officials are holding a community meeting to discuss the project on Tuesday, June 5 at Yorktown High School (5200 Yorktown Blvd). The event will run from 6:30-8:30 p.m., with a presentation from VDOT set to start at 7 p.m.

VDOT is adding another lane to eastbound I-66 between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive (Exit 71), which is routinely ranked as one of the most intensely jammed locations in all of Northern Virginia. The work is taking place within the existing I-66 right of way.

The $85.7 million project will also connect two existing ramps at the I-66 and Route 7 interchange to connect I-66 eastbound directly to the West Falls Church Metro station. Additionally, plans call for a new bridge for the W&OD Trail over Lee Highway.

VDOT is hoping to start construction this year and open the new lane on I-66 by the fall of 2020.

Photo (1) via Google Maps

 

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Joe’s Place to Celebrate 40 Years Serving Pizza and Pasta

(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Joe’s Place Pizza & Pasta will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next week, and several state legislators and Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol are expected to be in attendance.

On Wednesday, Joe’s Place will offer its pizza, pasta and salad buffet bar at the original price of $3.99 for both lunch and dinner.

The restaurant, at 5555 Lee Highway, is the final remaining branch of a family-run chain that began in Woodbridge in 1978, a rep noted. It was founded by Joe Farruggio, who came to the U.S. from his hometown of Agrigento, Sicily. It is now managed by Joe’s nephew, Rosario Farruggio, and hosts numerous community events and fundraisers for local schools, sports teams and nonprofits each month.

A private event will also be held at the restaurant next week and is expected to feature a brief program during which a Congressional proclamation from Rep. Don Beyer’s office will be presented to the office.

“We have so much to be grateful for, especially all of our longtime staff and loyal customers,” the restaurant’s staff wrote. “Thank you!”

File photo

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Jon David Salon Plans Second Arlington Location Along Lee Highway

Jon David Salon is planning to open another location in Arlington, with a second salon slated for the Lee Heights Shops along Lee Highway.

The company said last month that it’s hoping to open the new location sometime this fall.

The salon will take the place of furniture store Random Harvest at 4522 Lee Highway, between a Starbucks and a Chipotle. Random Harvest closed up shop just before the start of 2018.

Jon David is planning on hosting a cosmetology school known as “Hair Tech Institute” at the new salon. Classes for aspiring stylists are set to start on Sept. 4.

The company currently operates another salon in Courthouse along Wilson Boulevard, as well as locations in Clifton and Springfield.

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Civic Groups Plan Meeting on Potential Cherrydale Senior Living Center

A new senior living center could be coming to Cherrydale on a property along Lee Highway.

McLean-based Artis Senior Living is considering building a new facility on the north side of Lee Highway near the intersection with N. Taylor Street. Representatives intend to bring some development ideas to an April 26 community meeting convened by several civic associations.

The Lee Highway Alliance will play host to that gathering at its headquarters (4620 Lee Highway) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (April 26), and the Cherrydale and Waverly Hills Civic Associations will help coordinate the discussion.

Sandra Chesrown, president of the Lee Highway Alliance and vice president of the Waverly Hills Civic Association, says Artis has yet to divulge many details of what the new facility might look like so it can first hear the community’s concerns.

Indeed, county real estate records show that Artis, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has yet to even buy the 2.7-acre property.

A message sent out on the Cherrydale Civic Association listserv suggested that Artis is considering a “seven-story, 184-room assisted living residence” on the property.

“The facility would allow Cherrydalers and their family members to age right in our neighborhood,” the message read. “It would have a sizable workforce. There might be some issues with parking. We certainly want it to be welcome addition to the neighborhood.”

Made up of five separate parcels of land along the 4300 block of Lee Highway, the property was owned for decades by Louis Courembis, records show. Courembis transferred those parcels to William Murray, a local estate attorney, in September 2015, and the county hasn’t recorded any other sale of the land. Murray did not respond to a request for comment.

The property is currently home to a single-family house and several other structures. All of the land is valued quite highly — county assessments pegged one parcel as worth nearly $3.5 million in 2018, while the other four are assessed from $687,000 to $880,000.

Photo via Google Maps

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Crime Report: Man With Knife Robs Lee Highway Business

A man with a knife robbed a business on Lee Highway last night.

The man fled with cash stolen from the business on the 5500 block of Lee Highway, according to the latest Arlington County Police Department crime report. That block is home to two banks, a waxing studio, a restaurant and other businesses.

Despite snow on the ground, the suspect was able to leave the area before police were able to track him down.

More from ACPD:

ROBBERY (late), 2018-03210100, 5500 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 9:04 p.m. on March 21, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 8:35 p.m., an unknown male suspect entered a business, brandished a knife and demanded cash from an employee. The suspect fled with an undisclosed amount of cash prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 6’1″, in his 60’s, with shoulder length hair, wearing a white full length jacket with a hood, blue jeans and sneakers. No injuries were reported. Arriving officers canvased the area and a K9 track yielded negative results.  The investigation is ongoing.

The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, including one that we’ve already reported, after the jump.

Photo via Google Maps

UNLAWFUL ENTRY, 2018-03200172, 1700 block of 16th Street N. At approximately 4:45 p.m. on March 20, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious subject. Upon arrival, it was determined that a male suspect entered an occupied apartment and fled after being confronted by a resident. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect had also entered a second apartment in the building. Police broadcast a lookout based upon the suspect description provided by the victim and arriving officers located the suspect nearby. Nothing was reported missing from either of the apartments. Matthew Howard, 29, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Unlawful Entry (x2). He was held on no bond.

ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY, 2018-03180097, 3100 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 5:08 a.m. on March 18, police were dispatched to the report of an attempted armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the male suspect entered a business brandishing a firearm and demanded everyone to the back of the business. A patron physically challenged the suspect causing the suspect to exit the business. The suspect immediately re-entered the business brandishing the firearm. Once confronted again by the patron, the suspect fled the scene on foot. Arriving officers canvased the area and a K9 track yielded negative results. No injuries were reported. The suspect is described as a black male, 20-30 years old, approximately 6’0, wearing a black winter jacket with a fur hood. The investigation is ongoing.

SEXUAL BATTERY (late), 2018-03180239, Custis Trail at N. Kensington Street. At approximately 7:37 p.m. on March 18, police were dispatched to the report of a late assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 7 p.m., while the female victim was running on the trail, an unknown male suspect approached her from behind and struck her on the buttocks. The victim turned around and saw the suspect fleeing on foot. The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 20 years old, wearing a black hat and black shirt. The investigation is ongoing.

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Another 7-Eleven to Open Along Lee Highway

(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) As rumored, a 7-Eleven store will be replacing the former Lee-Lex Service Center along Lee Highway.

The service center closed in 2016 and is currently being torn down. A recently-posted sign on the fence surrounding the property says that a new 7-Eleven store will be coming soon.

Property records show that the property at 5747 Lee Highway was purchased in January 2017 for $1.65 million by an LLC associated with the home address of the owner of a D.C.-based architecture firm.

According to the chain’s website, there are existing 7-Eleven stores at 2525, 3901, 4505, 5030 and 6730 Lee Highway.

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Custis Trail Safety Improvement Project Underway Near Rosslyn

Safety improvements on three Custis Trail intersections have begun.

The project will reconfigure bike lanes at N. Quinn and N. Scott streets, as well as widen the Custis Trail. Other safety improvements include curb extensions, ADA-compliant curb ramps, trail separation from Lee Highway, and crosswalks with higher visibility.

Construction has temporarily closed a lane of Lee Highway. Jersey barriers have been erected to form a bike detour along the right-hand, westbound lane of Lee Highway between N. Scott Street and N. Oak Street.

At least one Arlington bicyclist took to social media to cheer on the bicycling infrastructure, saying the jersey barriers were “better than 99 percent of bike facilities in the U.S.”

In addition to the Lee Highway lane closure, the north legs of the intersection at both N. Scott Street and N. Oak Street will be restricted to one lane. Northbound traffic will be permitted only at the N. Scott Street intersection, while southbound traffic will be permitted only at N. Oak Street intersection, according to the county.

Detour signs will be present to guide drivers out of the North Highlands neighborhood.

The bus stop for the ART 55 and WMATA 3Y buses will be relocated from the construction zone to the west side of the N. Scott Street and Lee Highway intersection. Part of the construction includes plans for an improved bus stop with a bench.

Project funding comes from a Federal Highway Administration bicycle and pedestrian safety program grant.

Work hours are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Monday through Thursday, and between  9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. The project web page notes that construction is anticipated to wrap up at all three points in May.

The Custis Trail project is being done in concert with the N. Lynn Street esplanade project, for which the Arlington County approved additional funding this week.

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