The County Board voted 4-1 on Saturday to approve the plan, which has been years in the making and will replace an outdated retail plan originally passed in 2001. The new plan moves Arlington from a “retail everywhere” approach — policies designed to put ground floor retail in most commercial buildings, regardless of whether a business could actually survive in a given location — to what’s billed as a flexible but “curated” approach.
Color-coded maps will now define where the county would like certain types of retail businesses to set up shop. The owners of buildings in high foot traffic areas will be encouraged to adopt certain building standards that are conducive to ground floor retailers, from higher ceilings to smaller building lobbies.
“By partnering with our business community and our residents, we’ve developed a plan that takes important steps to improve and strengthen the retail sector in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “We believe the consistent, clear guidance and definitions, as well as flexibility of use, design and timing in the plan will better serve those who live and work here when they shop, dine, get their hair cut and bank on streets throughout the County.”
The plan passed with two notable amendments, both proposed by County Board member John Vihstadt and both addressing concerns of the local business community.
The first further codified that the plan is intended as a guiding principle — to be applied primarily during development approval processes — rather than explicit county rules and regulations. The second added service and repair businesses to the types of businesses encouraged in “red zones” — the parts of Arlington’s business districts with the highest foot traffic. In the draft plan, staff had recommended limiting those zones to shopping, dining and entertainment.
“This plan has come a long, long way,” Vihstadt said after the motions passed by 4-1 and 3-2 respectively. “It was not a good plan when it started out.”
The plan passed with tepid support from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, which had expressed concern about earlier versions of the plan it deemed “too proscriptive.”
“Explicit addition of a statement that the retail plan is not regulatory is paramount,” Chamber President and CEO Kate Roche told the Board. “Moving forward into implementation, we emphasize the importance of the plan being understood as a guideline… we want to make sure this plan isn’t codifying anything that will prevent Arlington from becoming the great, flexible place that we all want it to be.”
The changes still weren’t enough for Libby Garvey, who was the lone vote against the plan.
“I’m much more conformable with the plan with the changes, but still not comfortable enough to support it,” she said. “Both the people who have to make it work and the people we serve are saying, ‘it’s too proscriptive.'”
The new Arlington County Retail Plan would move away from the county’s current “retail everywhere” policy, which was an attempt to provide more lively street life around Arlington by requiring retail spaces in most new commercial buildings.
While successful by some measures, “retail everywhere” — a policy last updated in 2001 — has hit snags, with the owners of buildings in low-foot-traffic areas struggling to find viable retail tenants.
The new retail plan, which has been seven years in the making, is an attempt to concentrate retail in the highest foot traffic areas of commercial corridors, while encouraging more retail-friendly building designs. The hoped-for end result: more vibrant stretches of retailers and restaurants in Arlington.
“This updated approach will strengthen Arlington’s primary retail nodes; allow long- and short-term market shifts in retail and ground floor use to occur within this retail policy framework; accommodate innovative uses on the ground floor; and increase Arlington’s overall level of economic competitiveness,” according to a staff report.
The plan includes color-coded maps of neighborhoods like Clarendon and Crystal City, with each color corresponding to a different retail approach. In the red areas — those with the highest foot traffic — county planners want to encourage food, entertainment and shopping destinations, while discouraging large building lobbies and service businesses, like dry cleaners.
In other coded areas, there is more flexibility, but still some design guidelines and an action plan for the type of businesses the county would like to see in ground floor spaces.
Critics say the county is “acting like a mall operator” in trying to decide which businesses go where. In “curating what the community wants on the street,” in the words of one business leader who requested anonymity, the county is again taking a proscriptive approach — one that may not reflect the changing market a decade or two down the line.
For instance, high-end service businesses like blow dry bars are growing in popularity and may want to locate in one of the “red zones,” where the county is now specifically saying they shouldn’t exist.
There have also been concerns raised about the wisdom of restricting business lobbies, which ostensibly are needed in order to serve the building’s main purpose — being an attractive place for offices or apartments. Others in the business community have disputed the coding of the plans, though some of those concerns were addressed in a recent update of the plan.
“The refinements to the Retail Plan, which address concerns and comments raised through the public process, have made for a stronger document,” the staff report says. “The retail street maps, while not meeting 100 percent consensus by all stakeholders, provide a balance of the stakeholder positions and existing policies pertaining to ground floor use.”
Additionally, while property owners are still able to request exceptions through the county’s site plan process, some say that process remains too rigid, time-consuming and expensive. An apartment building owner might be reluctant to spend tens of thousands in attorney’s fees and staff time, for instance, on a site plan amendment that could allow a dry cleaner to go where there was formerly a small convenience store.
Le Village Marché, a Parisian-inspired store in Shirlington Village, is expanding across the river just in time for Bastille Day tomorrow (July 14).
Owner Angela Phelps opened the store’s second location in Cathedral Commons (3318 Wisconsin Ave. NW) in D.C. on June 25.
The new store is very similar to the one in Shirlington, Phelps said, though it stocks more furniture. Both stores have a French theme and sell items that range from French glassware to cookbooks and doormats.
“It appeals to people, not just because we have great items, but it’s like a trip to Paris without actually going there,” Phelps said.
Developers in Cathedral Commons reached out to Phelps, prompting her to open the second location, she said.
For local Francophiles looking to throw a Bastille Day party, Phelps recommended serving French baguettes, wines and cheeses, perhaps followed by a French martini and an entrée Coq au vin for the party. She also recommended some French decor and little gifts, like fluers de lis, which she bien sûr carries at the store.
On the 14th, both stores are offering a free gift with a $25 purchase, Phelps said.
There’s a barbering school within walking distance of Clarendon, and it offers what might be the cheapest haircut in town.
Amid million-dollar homes and trendy apartments, the American Barber Academy has a low profile at its third-floor office in Lyon Park, at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. What the school lacks in street signage, though, it makes up for in pricing: among other services, it offers hot towel shaves for the cost of a large drink at Starbucks.
The academy is owned by master barber Kristen Kelly, who’s been in the business for some 20 years. Kelly, who also lives in Arlington, opened the school in 2014 after realizing that the D.C. region was lacking in schools for barbers.
“And I knew if I opened the school, students would come,” she said.
Currently, Kelly has a dozen students in her first class, which is scheduled to to graduate in the fall. She has also taught advanced-level students seeking to further develop their hair styling skills, she said.
Receiving a degree in barbering from the school take about a year to complete and costs $10,o00 at the college. The school offers the 1,500-hour license, which is standard for D.C. and Virginia, but also works in Maryland where the license only requires 1,200 hours, Kelly said.
The American Barber Academy offers day and night classes and Kelly has students with bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She also enrolls students as young as 16 and has pupils of all ages, including one in his 60s, she said.
And while there are other barber colleges in the area there are two aspects that make the American Barber Academy unique, Kelly said. The first is that the college has a multicultural focus, while many other colleges only focus on a specific hair type.
The school is one of the only female-owned barbering schools, Kelly said, which can be difficult.
“I’m a women-owned business in a male dominant art,” she said. “They don’t expect it to be me. I’m the last person expect to see run a barber shop.”
In addition to being a school, the American Barber Academy is a fully functional barber shop. Kelly offers men’s haircuts for $7 and hot towel shaves for $5.
“If a guy comes here once, he tells his roommates or his friends because you can’t beat our prices,” she said.
And Arlington residents love the shop, she said, adding that there are not many traditional barber shops in the county.
Arlington County has started running a new video series on its local cable TV and YouTube channels.
As the county works to shrink its high office vacancy rate — it was recently reported to be 21 percent — Arlington TV has started featuring “awesome offices.”
In a video released last week, Jessica Miller, co-chair of Arlington Economic Development’s Arlington Real Estate Group, leads viewers on a tour of LMO Advertising, which is based at 1776 Wilson Blvd, between the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations.
LMO, the largest advertising agency in the D.C. area and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Business of the Year, has the kind of light, airy and amenity-filled office one might expect of a creative agency or a tech company.
Among the notable features:
- Game room with Xboxes and ping pong tables
- In-house, sound-proof studio
- 3-D printer
- Standing desks
- Star Trek-themed conference rooms
- Green roof and rooftop patio with Wi-fi
Scott Laughlin, co-founder of the agency, said that there’s an economic argument for putting ping pong tables, autographed guitars and video game consoles in a work environment. It comes down to building a collaborative, team environment.
“You don’t need an office to do the work we do anymore,” he said. “What you do need is a home, a place where people want to come and be and spend time with others.”
Proactive shoppers can get a head start on next season’s holiday shopping at specialty gift store Two the Moon’s (6501 29th St. N) upcoming Christmas in July sale.
Two the Moon, which opened last year, sells an eclectic selection of primarily local merchandise, ranging from pottery to greeting cards to baby clothes. During the one-day Christmas in July sale, owner Johanna Braden says all holiday items in the store will be 40 percent off, including holiday merchandise for the upcoming seasons of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. All other store items will be 10 percent off.
The bulk of Two the Moon’s offerings are made in Arlington or, barring that, somewhere in the USA. The shop currently carries goods from about 25 different Arlington artisans, including headbands and bows, jewelry, handmade cards and canvas tote-bags. Braden also works to hire locally and says she has given both neighborhood mothers and kids jobs at the store.
Braden opened the store on Sept. 2, 2014 after ending her 35-year career in nursing. Owning a local gift shop had long been a dream of hers, and because she knew that nothing like it existed in the Williamsburg neighborhood where she lived, she decided to give it a shot.
Braden says that business has been “phenomenal” ever since she opened up shop last year.
“Just the other day, someone came in and told me that on the last day of school this year, all the kids came in with gifts for their teachers, and they were all Two the Moon bags!,” said Braden. “It’s great — that’s just so great to hear.”
The Christmas in July sale is scheduled for July 18 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., with a “rain date” of July 19. Regular store hours are Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes told the Arlington Chamber of Commerce today that the cancellation of Arlington’s streetcar project was the toughest decision she made during 20 years in office — and she’s still not sure of the long-term consequences.
Hynes, who’s retiring at the end of the year, made the remarks during a question-and-answer session following her “State of the County” address.
“The hardest decision I had to make not just on the County Board but in 20 years of elected office was to discontinue the streetcar,” said Hynes, who previously served on the School Board for 12 years.
“The reasons had to do with my belief and care for the community overall,” Hynes explained. Given the strong opposition to the streetcar, “I really didn’t believe there was enough bandwidth in our community to address these other pressing needs. Everything was being evaluated under this streetcar lens, not on its own merits. I was worried that we were going to miss other things that needed to be attended to if we continued to keep it alive.”
Hynes still suggested that the streetcar was a sound plan to improve transportation on Columbia Pike.
“Let me just say for myself personally, if the plan that the Board adopted for Columbia Pike continues to build out, I don’t have a whisper of a doubt that bus service will be insufficient in the long run,” Hynes said. “But our community wasn’t there, our community didn’t understand it, and it was just coloring the conversation to an extent where we couldn’t move forward.”
Hynes said her second-toughest decision was on the 2012 update to the county’s sign ordinance. The Board was considering more restrictive measures, including a ban on roofline signs on office buildings that was supported by Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman. Ultimately, Hynes sided with Board members Jay Fisette and Libby Garvey, plus county staff and the business community, in arguing that banning such signs would discourage businesses from locating in Arlington.
“I was the swing vote,” she recounted. “I thought my job was to find the compromise.”
During the speech, Hynes said Arlington is unlikely to experience the rapid economic growth of the early- and mid-aughts again, at least any time soon, due to economic pressures from federal government belt-tightening to regional competition with Fairfax County and the District.
“The reality is that those incredible ups that Arlington experienced will not be coming again,” she said.
Hynes encouraged the business community and the next generation of Arlington leaders — she and Tejada are both retiring from the Board at the end of the year — to continue to honor Arlington’s values of diversity and inclusiveness, make long-term investments in infrastructure like Metro, and build consensus for decisions through robust community processes involving residents and other stakeholders.
“I challenge each of you to be part of the solution,” she said. “I look forward to watching it on TV.”
Mark Levine Wins in 45th — Talk show host and attorney Mark Levine has won the Democratic primary in the 45th House of Delegates district, which includes Alexandria and parts of South Arlington and Fairfax County. So far, Levine doesn’t have any general election opponents as he seeks to replace Del. Rob Krupicka. [Washington Blade, Patch]
Townhouse Fire on Lee Hwy — Arlington County firefighters battled a small townhouse fire on the 4300 block of Lee Highway around 4:00 p.m. Tuesday. [Twitter]
Arlington Gay Marriage Company Acquired — Arlington-based GayWeddings.com has been acquired by Chevy Chase, Md.-based WeddingWire. [Washington Business Journal]
Bistro 360 Now Serving Lunch — Bistro 360, a restaurant at 1800 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, is starting weekday lunch service as of today. Lunch will be served Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Arlington Unemployment Down — The unemployment rate for Arlington County residents fell below 3 percent in April. The jobless rate fell to 2.9 percent from 3.1 percent in March. Arlington has the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia. [InsdeNova]
Office Vacancy Still Rising — The office vacancy rate in Arlington rose to 21.7 percent during the first quarter of 2015. That’s up from 20.5 percent one year prior. [InsideNova]
Evolent Health IPO — Updated at 9:45 a.m. — Ballston-based Evolent Health is completing its initial public stock offering. The software company is raising about $195 million at a price of $17 per share. Public trading of ticker symbol EVH on the New York Stock Exchange is expected to begin today (Friday). [DC Inno, Venture Beat]
Beyer Speaks Out Against Metro Cuts — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and a group of eight other D.C. area members of Congress have joined to oppose Republican-proposed cuts to WMATA. “We saw earlier this week at Memorial Bridge what happens when Congress abdicates its responsibility to fund our nation’s infrastructure,” Beyer said in a press release. “Now is not the time to back out of our commitment to the national capital metro system. For the safety of all the thousands of tourists, commuters, and federal employees that ride it every day, Metro has to improve. Bleeding the system dry with shortsighted reckless funding cuts is no way to do that.” [U.S. House of Representatives]
Those are the questions being tackled by Arlington’s Community Facilities Study Committee, and today residents will get to get a glimpse of the committee’s work up close at an open house in Courthouse.
The drop-in open house is being held from noon to 3 p.m. and from 4-9 p.m. at the county government headquarters building (2100 Clarendon Blvd). Attendees will be able to talk to members of the study’s committee and ask about the study’s process and findings.
The Community Facilities Study is an analysis of Arlington that looks at the population and current needs of residents to project Arlington’s facilities needs in the near and long-term future. The study will predict what the demographics of the county will be and how this will that affect what new public buildings will be needed. The study began in January 2015 and is slated to end November 2015.
This information will be shared with the County Board and the school board so that elected officials can decide if more public buildings, such as schools, fire stations and recreational centers, are needed.
At a forum last night, the candidates for Arlington County Board discussed ways to address the high amount of empty office space in Arlington while discussing how the county can be more attractive for businesses.
The eight candidates — six Democrats and two Independents — discussed transportation, commercial office vacancy and a diverse workforce during a candidate forum held by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Rosslyn Business Improvement District.
The empty space largely comes from the shrinking footprint of the federal government, the candidates agreed.
Arlington has to realize that it cannot rely on the federal government as an employer like it once could, Democrat Bruce Wiljanen said. He suggested that the next major business sector may be high technology companies.
“I’m really encouraged by things happening in Crystal City right now,” Wiljanen said.
To fill the empty space, Arlington needs to do more to encourage businesses to move and stay here, the candidates said. It needs to be easier to open a business in Arlington, Democrats Andrew Schneider and Christian Dorsey said.
“I had a small business owner that said after a year of starting his business that he didn’t have to start — both he and his wife work full-time jobs downtown — that he would have started his business in Falls Church,” Schneider said.
Arlington needs to look at its regulatory processes and weed out what is unnecessary and harmful, Dorsey said. Having a business ombudsman is good — the county recently created the position — but it’s just the first step.
“These are the things, little as they may seem, that give a community the character of a place where business is welcome and it is a good place to do business,” said Dorsey.
Arlington also needs to foster a diverse workforce, candidates said.
Arlington needs to be attractive to both millennials and older workers, Democrat Katie Cristol said. This can be done through affordable housing, she said. Cristol, the youngest candidate in the race, lists affordable housing as one of her top issues.
A commitment to affordable housing is needed, Democrat Peter Fallon said. Arlington has a highly skilled workforce, but in order to keep it, there needs to be housing for Arlington’s employees.
With a more diverse workforce comes a need for more diverse businesses. One area Dorsey listed was through grocery stores. If neighborhoods are more diverse there is a need for standard grocery stores like Giant or Safeway but also for ethnic grocery stores, he said.
James Lander also encouraged a focus on millennials in the new workforce. Lander, a Democrat who is the chair of the Arlington School Board, emphasized the need to focus on invest in community amenities, specifically schools. He also said the county should invest more resources into helping small businesses.
“We can’t turn our back on investment,” Lander said.
The candidates agreed that transportation is one of Arlington’s best features, but also one that has area to improve.
“We have great people and we move them well,” Cristol said.
The Metro has allowed Arlington to be easily accessible and allowed it to be attractive for businesses. Many of the candidates argued that it is necessary for the County Board to get its seat back on the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority Board. With a seat on the board, County Board members could advocate for more investment in Metro infrastructure.
Congestion on Columbia Pike also needs to be addressed, candidates said. The candidates had different views about the need for the streetcar system that was canceled last year, but all agreed it was time to move forward.
“We need to wake up from our post streetcar hangover,” Dorsey said.
Fallon echoed Dorsey in saying that the County Board needs to start planning now for new transit options on Columbia Pike. Such plans need to be reasonable in scope, without requiring too much infrastructure, he said.
Cristol suggested enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike. The buses need to be able to move more fluidly, which could be accomplished with off vehicle payment system and/or doors at both ends, she said.
Wiljanen suggested that a mobile app for the bus may improve service. A real-time location app would help residents know when a bus was coming and, possibly, how many seats were on the bus.
School Bus Stop Violations in Arlington — There were 155 traffic violations issued over a three year period in Arlington for drivers who passed school buses at bus stops. That compares 655 such violations issued in Fairfax County over a three year period. [NBC Washington]
County Board Art Debate? — The operatic organization Opera Nova is trying to host a forum among Democratic Arlington County Board candidates that will cover the topics of the arts, humanities and civic engagement. Should the candidates accept their invitation, the candidate forum will be held on Friday, June 5, just a few days before the June 9 Democratic primary. [InsideNova]
40 Under 40 Nominations Underway — Leadership Arlington is currently accepting nominees for its Arlington 40 Under 40 honors. The group is seeking individuals under the age of 40 who “demonstrate impact through leadership personally and/or professionally.” Nominations are being conducted online. [Survey Monkey]
Chamber Names ‘Business of the Year’ — Rosslyn-based LMO Advertising, which bills itself at the largest advertising agency in the D.C. area, has been named Business of the Year by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “Our team loves working in Arlington and I am proud that we have been recognized as one of the community’s best businesses,” LMO CEO Chris Laughlin said, in a press release. “I look forward to many more years of doing business in Arlington.” [LMO Advertising]
Photo courtesy Valerie
A new art piece will lambast the closure of Artisphere on the venue’s final day of live performance.
Artist Carolina Mayorga can neither confirm nor deny that she will assume the form of the Virgin Mary apparition during a performance titled “Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts.” But Mayorga, who’s dressed as the holy figure before, says there’s a good possibility a divine apparition could materialize at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.
“[The Virgin Mary] is thinking about making an apparition at Artisphere,” Mayorga says, chuckling. “She might appear. She’s thinking about it.”
During the performance piece, which lasts an hour and precedes a musical performance by Stooges Brass Band and Black Masala, Mayorga will perform mock holy rituals and anoint Artisphere attendees.
“I have these cardboard letters that spell the word art,” explains Mayorga. “and I’m going to burn them in a little metal tray, mix that with oil, and use a brush to [paint dollar signs on attendees’ foreheads].”
A live organist will play Catholic mass classics such as “Ave Maria” alongside the performance.
“I call it Ash Saturday,” says Mayorga.
The point of the performance, explains Mayorga, isn’t to belittle religion. Instead, it’s to mourn the loss of a local artistic institution.
“I benefitted from Artisphere for a long time,” she says. “I did an artist in residency with them in 2013. They’ve always been supportive of my work.”
Some of the art from Mayorga’s residency still clings to the gallery’s walls as a permanent installation.
“When you want to do a special performance, you need a venue like Artisphere,” Mayorga says. “It really hurts to lose it.”
Photo courtesy of Artisphere.
A crowd of locals swapped memories, shared beers and even fought back some tears while saying goodbye to longtime neighborhood hangout Jay’s Saloon on Monday.
Jay’s Saloon first opened its doors in the fall of 1993, and became famous throughout Clarendon for $8 pitchers of beer during happy hour, cheap eats and a no-frills dive bar aesthetic.
In 2011, the bar received news that the building that houses it could be demolished and replaced with a mixed-use development. Last summer, that news became reality. The new development, called 10th Street Flats and located at 3132 10th Street N., is planned to have 135 residential units, 3,660 square feet of retail, almost 5,000 square feet of office space and nine live/work units.
Kathi Moore, who co-owned Jay’s with her ex-husband, spent the night slinging beers and hugging old friends.
“This is my life,” said Moore. “I spent half my working life here.”
For Moore, the closure of Jay’s represents an end, but also a new beginning. “[It’s] another phase of my life,” she said. “I’ll get another job.”
Moore’s patrons spent the night toasting the bar’s iconic status as the last dive bar in Clarendon.
Charlie Heitman, who manages the condo across the street from Jay’s, ate lunch there three or four days a week for more than a decade. To Heitman, the bar’s closing means one less place for locals to feel at home.
“It’s not a corporate bar, where everything is pre-programmed,” Heitman said. “I’m more sad about this than my last divorce.”
Last Saturday, Heitman served as auctioneer as bar sold off memorabilia and keepsakes.
“We sold almost everything off the wall. It was a frenzy,” said Heitman. “People [wanted] just a little piece of Jay’s to take home with them.”
“We know all the waitresses, we know all the bartenders,” said longtime regular Elaine Ethier. “There’s no other place in Arlington like this.”
Jacki Barnett, who was a bar regular since 2007, spent the night savoring the minutes before last call. Even though she knew the doors would close for good, Barnett said she will always keep in touch with the people she met over the years.
“I’m going to take a big deep breath, I’m going to shed a tear, realize that all these people are still my friends,” Barnett said. “I’ll see them around the corner in just a minute.”
Ballston Common Mall, set to undergo a major renovation project next year, will be rebranded as “Ballston Quarter.”
Mall owner Forest City revealed the new name at the International Council of Shopping Centers convention in Las Vegas on Monday, as first reported by Bisnow.
The new mall’s most defining feature will be an open-air plaza running through the middle of what is now enclosed shopping space.
- “An open-air, urban environment coupled with a remodeled interior concourse”
- “An open-air, public plaza gathering space and an intimate mews entrance along Wilson Boulevard”
- “Activated streetscape to engage the community including street-entry stores and restaurants, some with sidewalk, terrace or rooftop dining options”
- “A unique and vibrant mix of stores, restaurants, entertainment venues – 365,000 SF in addition to Macy’s”
- “A residential tower with over 380 apartment homes and stunning amenities will top the new Ballston Quarter”
Macy’s, Rock Bottom Brewery, Panera Bread, Sport & Health, Regis Hair Salon, Regal Cinema, Noodles and Company, CVS, Kettler Capitals Iceplex and Shiki Sushi are all expected to remain open during the renovations. Most other mall retailers are expected to close after the end of the year.