Press Club

A farmhouse-style home in Arlington’s Maywood Historic District was damaged by fire last night (Tuesday).

The home along 21st Avenue N. was built in 1910, according to a real estate listing from 2018. The listing mentions “vintage features” and “lavish woodwork.”

The fire broke out in the kitchen of the home just before 11 p.m., according to fire department dispatches.

“Crews arrived on scene shortly after dispatch and confirmed a working fire in a single family dwelling,” Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner tells ARLnow. “The fire was quickly extinguished and there were no injuries to civilians or firefighters. The cause, origin, and damage estimates won’t be available until the Fire Marshal concludes their investigation.”

Scorch marks could be seen on the front of the home this morning, as fire line tape surrounded the property.

While the flames were extinguished relatively quickly, a neighbor tells ARLnow that acrid smoke filled the Maywood neighborhood during the fire. Scanner traffic from last night also suggests that the home’s balloon frame construction prompted firefighters to work more aggressively to ensure that the fire did not spread to other parts of the house.

Another Maywood house was damaged by fire in March 2020.

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(Updated, 11/16) Long-time local restaurant Pines of Florence — and its owner — are each making an unlikely comeback.

The Southern Italian eatery will once again be cooking, this time in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood, after stints in Virginia Square, Columbia Pike, and Old Town Alexandria, owner Jimmy Khan confirms to ARLnow. It’s coming to 2109 N. Pollard Street, the space formerly occupied by the recently-closed Portabellos restaurant, in a one-story shopping strip just off of Langston Blvd.

The plan is to have a “soft opening” this Saturday, Nov. 20, says Khan, where customers can bring their own beer and wine (there will be a service fee).  Khan expects to have their liquor license in about two weeks and will have a “grand opening” then.

The opening comes a year and a half after Khan suffered through a protracted and nearly fatal battle with COVID-19.

“I had a 6% chance of living,” he tells ARLnow. “I was on a ventilator for 40 days. The doctors say it was a miracle I lived.”

During that time and his recovery, he took a long look at his life and decided he needed to do more for his family. That’s why he decided to reopen Pines of Florence.

“God gave me another life, so I wanted to do something for my kids, the next generation,” says Khan.

Pines of Florence’s last location was on King Street in Alexandria in a building that was set for redevelopment. While that was a big reason the restaurant shuttered in June 2020, the closing was also related to Khan’s own battle with COVID and his co-owner (and uncle) retiring.

After some time away, Khan is ready for a restart.

“Being a restaurant owner is in my genes,” he said. “I quit for a while, but I’m re-energized.”

Khan says the plan is to open even more restaurants in the coming years.

The new Pines of Florence will, like the previous iterations, serve pizza, sandwiches, and homemade pasta dishes, as well as beer and wine. It will replace Portabellos: An American Cafe, which closed just this past September, after 15 years serving the Cherrydale and Maywood communities.

Khan says he stands by his June 2020 words about wanting to do more for his community, including creating jobs and helping those less fortunate, particularly after his near-death experience.

“[This restaurant] is going to be meaningful for my family and the community,” he says. “I want to help.”

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It took Maywood resident Stephen Young nearly 19 months, 92 rides, and more than 1,000 miles to bike every street in Arlington. He finally finished the goal Saturday morning in front of family and friends in Cherrydale.

“And I thought it would take six to nine months,” 58-year-old Young tells ARLnow, chuckling.

Of course, challenges arose: a broken finger, confusing street signs, hills, dead ends, and a seemingly endless supply of cul-de-sacs.

“All of the dead ends, all of the cul-de-sacs,” Young says. “And we have lots of cul-de-sacs in Arlington.”

It all began in May 2020, when he was getting a bit restless like many people during the pandemic. Young has always been an avid biker and came up with the idea to bike every street in Arlington as a way to get outside, get exercise, and help others in need.

Originally, the plan was to use the project to fundraise solely for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) and help provide food assistance for those struggling. But then the police killing of George Floyd happened and Young shifted gears to also support the Black Swan Academy, a D.C.-based non-profit that empowers Black youth through civic engagement and leadership.

“I actually launched it in honor of Juneteenth and went from there,” he says.

Over the next year and a half, once or twice a week, Young jumped on his bike and hit up Arlington’s street. He made sure that each ride lasted only about an hour.

Young biked short streets, long streets, flat streets, and hilly streets.

“One of the good challenges was the hills. There are actually a lot of hills in Arlington,” he says, mentioning the so-called “Superman Hill” along S. Walter Reed Drive, near Four Mile Run Drive.

He was sometimes joined by family, friends, and, once, Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. But Young mostly biked alone. He often posted his exploits on social media, as well as GoPro videos on YouTube of a number of rides (he plans to post all of them in the near future).

All in all, he didn’t have any major problems, besides it just taking longer than he initially thought. For example, Young found that he had to double or, even, triple back often, to hit every street.

“You can’t just get to every block without going around things at least twice,” he notes.

This caused him to bike about 1,000 miles, which is significantly more miles than paved Arlington roadways (of which, there 376 miles of county-maintained roadways, a number that doesn’t include state or federally-maintained roads).

Young only fell once during 19-month odyssey. While turning onto one of Arlington’s many cul-de-sacs, he hit a rock. The crash was very minor, he says. At one point he broke a finger in a non-cycling related incident, which prevented him from riding for several months.

Besides the many hills and cul-de-sacs, another thing he discovered while biking every corner of Arlington is that road signs are sometimes inaccurate.

“One of the most interesting things… is how often the signs that day ‘dead end’ or ‘no outlet’ are wrong,” he said.

He theorizes this is likely to prevent motor vehicles from cutting through the neighborhood to get to a major roadway.

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A long-time neighborhood restaurant serving the Cherrydale and Maywood communities is closing.

Portabellos: An American Cafe is set to serve its last meals on Saturday, Sept. 25. The restaurant, located within a small, one-story shopping strip at 2109 N. Pollard Street, has been open under its current ownership for 15 years.

In an email to customers, a version of which was also posted on its website, the restaurant cited pandemic-related business challenges and said it was “unable to come to an agreement with the landlord on how to move forward.”

To All Our Valued Guests

it is with great sadness that we announce the closing of Portabello’s an American Cafe. Our lease expired last year in June 2020 and this year we were unable to come to an agreement with the landlord on how to move forward both during and after the pandemic. We want to thank all of our wonderful guests and employees for supporting us over the last 15 years. What began as a little 54 seat restaurant on the corner of North Pollard street, tucked away grew into a place that had welcomed many guests that became like family to us . We are extremely humbled that so many embraced our restaurant and that we were able to succeed as long as we had. For a restaurant to survive and thrive right outside Washington, Dc for 15 years is an accomplishment of which we can be proud. We could not have done it without all of you! THANK you all for your love and support! We will be Officially close on Sept 25th, so please come through!

Nothing but LOVE for Arlington and the surrounding area!

Sincerely,
MJ, William, Jackie, Belldo, Mariono

A GoFundMe page, meanwhile, has been established by a local community member to help out the restaurant owner.

The pandemic “wiped out all of his savings,” says the fundraising page, which so far has raised more than $5,000 from 50 donors.

The extra cash could “lift spirits there a bit and help out,” notes a post promoting it on a local Facebook group.

More from the GoFundMe campaign:

Portabello’s has been around for 20 years and MJ has owned it for about 15 years. The Covid 19 pandemic, however, has taken it’s toll and the restaurant can no longer keep going. MJ Hussein says it has been very challenging during the Covid 19 pandemic and it wiped out all of his savings. He has not been able to pay his lease. The lease ran out last July and he and the landlord decided it’s best for them to part ways.

When MJ took over Portabello’s his youngest daughter was 6 month old and now she’s in 10th grade. He wants to spend time with his daughters and work on his mental health after a very trying 17 months. He is so thankful for Arlington and especially Cherrydale and Maywood, who have been like a family to MJ and his staff.

He mentioned he was going to try to sell the restaurant and would share the proceeds with his loyal staff who have been with him for many years.

I am skeptical he would find a buyer in the current climate of Covid. This GoFundMe is a gesture of good will to a restauranteer many of us have appreciated and enjoyed. MJ always made an effort to get to know his customers. He knew what people generally ordered and would stop by the tables to chat.

This GoFundMe page will be available until September 25, 2021.

Hat tip to Smiley456. Photo (2) via Google Maps.

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Morning Notes

Evictions Halted in Virginia — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced a temporary statewide moratorium on eviction proceedings in Virginia. The moratorium, which will begin on Monday, August 10 and remain in effect through Monday, September 7, halts all eviction proceedings related to failure to pay rent.” [Commonwealth of Virginia]

Amazon Rents More Space in Crystal City — “Amazon.com Inc. is adding more Arlington office space to its portfolio even during a pandemic that has forced most of the company’s corporate employees to work remotely… The [newly-leased] 18,700-square-foot space is part of the 272,000-square-foot 2100 Crystal Drive that Amazon agreed in December to eventually lease in full.” [Washington Business Journal]

Erroneous Library Card Renewal Email — Per Arlington Public Library spokesman Henrik Sundqvist: “About 4,000 patrons were mistakenly notified to renew their library card in person. This is not required. We are working on communicating with any affected patrons to clarify and will do so today [Friday].”

Investigation Reveals ‘Historic’ Shed Built in 1974 — “A homeowner living in the Maywood Historic District of Arlington will be able to tear down a no-longer-considered-historic shed. The 10-foot-by-12-foot wooden structure at the back of a home in the 3600 block of 21st Avenue North long had been considered a ‘contributing’ part of the local historic district, a designation that likely would have prevented its demolition as sought by the current owners. But as it turns out, the shed doesn’t come from Maywood’s historic period, defined as 1906 to 1941.” [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Former ‘Lost Cause’ Textbooks  — “A series of textbooks written for the fourth, seventh and 11th grades taught a generation of Virginians our state’s history. Chapter 29 of the seventh-grade edition, titled ‘How the Negroes Lived Under Slavery,’ included these sentences: ‘A feeling of strong affection existed between masters and slaves in a majority of Virginia homes.’ The masters ‘knew the best way to control their slaves was to win their confidence and affection.'” [Washington Post, Washington Post]

War Memorial Interpretive Project Honored — “Arlington’s Historic Preservation Program staff and Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) will be honored with a Commission Excellence Award in the category of Best Practices: Public Outreach/Advocacy from the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions (NAPC) during its virtual conference on Aug. 7. The award recognizes the work of County staff and the HALRB on the Clarendon War Memorial Interpretive Project.” [Arlington County]

Former YHS Star Goes to Cleveland — “The Cleveland Browns have claimed CB M.J. Stewart off waivers on Saturday. Released by Tampa Bay, Stewart was drafted by the Buccaneers in the second round of the 2018 draft (53rd overall).” [Browns Nation]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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The front porch and attic of a home in Arlington’s historic Maywood neighborhood caught fire early this morning.

The fire broke out around 4 a.m. on the 3200 block of 23rd Street N.

“Crews were able to extinguish the fire with very little interior damage,” the Arlington County Fire Department said via Twitter. “All 4 occupants and a hamster escaped without injury.”

Photo courtesy Arlington County Fire Department

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Morning Notes

Small Apartment Fire in Waverly Hills — “At approx 2 p.m. units were called to the 2000 blk of N. Woodrow St. Firefighters quickly extinguished fire in kitchen with minimal fire spread. Occupants escaped unharmed, not expected to be displaced. No firefighter injuries. Cause of the fire is under investigation.” [Twitter]

Parents Anxiously Waiting for APS Schedule — “Some Arlington parents are frustrated school leaders have not confirmed when school will start this fall. ‘We all like to plan ahead,’ said Arlington parent Meghan Thomas who is trying to plan her family’s summer travel and her kids sports schedule. ‘It is very frustrating not knowing right now what the August schedule is going to be.'” [WJLA]

Home Maintenance in Historic District May Get Easier — “Residents of Maywood soon may find it less onerous to make rudimentary changes to their properties. County Board members in coming months are expected to approve a change in rules governing the community’s local historic district, shifting some of the workload from the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) to county historic-preservation staff.” [InsideNova]

More on ARLnow’s Anniversary Party — “On Wednesday night, Jan. 29, a large crowd gathered at Bronson Bierhall in Ballston to help… celebrate ARLnow’s 10th anniversary. ‘We have had the privilege of continuing to serve the community for 10 years, and I’m just blown away,’ [founder Scott] Brodbeck said about the party.” [Patch]

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Arlington officials are pledging to take a fresh look at how they manage local historic districts, after one neighborhood’s design standards is forcing a Maywood family to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a roof repair.

Brendan and Jody Devine have spent more than a year working with county officials to get permission to use asphalt shingles when overhauling the roof of their home along the 3500 block of 21st Avenue N. But the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, known as the HALRB, blocked that request because the home is located in the Maywood Neighborhood Historic District, and the board feared replacing its current stamped tin shingle roof with a more modern style of roof would leave it out of step with the rest of the neighborhood.

The Devines appealed that decision to the County Board, but members voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to uphold the HALRB’s decision.

Board members, however, expressed a great deal of remorse over that vote, lamenting that the county code obligated them to side against the Devines, even if they agreed with their concerns about the tin roof’s cost.

“We’re ending up on the wrong side of justice if we don’t provide a way to promote the architectural compatibility with the neighborhood, while at the same time accounting for real life circumstances,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “I think we can figure out a way to do better.”

Brendan Devine noted at the meeting that the tin shingles would likely cost as much as $30,000, compared to $5,000-6,000 for the asphalt option, and that that is only for a portion of the roof. He argued that the county would be effectively making the neighborhood an “enclave” for the wealthy if the Board forced homeowners to embrace such expensive options.

In general, Board members agreed with that sentiment, though they felt there was little they could do to make a difference in this particular case.

County Attorney Steve MacIsaac cautioned that members had little choice but to side with the HALRB’s ruling unless the Devines could prove that board made some sort of “arbitrary and capricious” decision. The Board took heed of his opinion, but with some communities around the county trying to pursue historic districts in order to protect affordable housing options, several members expressed a willingness to revisit the county’s policies on the matter.

“This is a cautionary tale,” Chair Katie Cristol said. “We’ve had members of our community who have sought to use a historic designation overlay as a tool to protect affordability… but to the extent we’re looking to protect either garden apartments or single family homes, it can sometimes work at cross purposes.”

Board members were particularly interested in finding a way to get the HALRB to consider the cost of a change like this as a central part of their deliberations. Joan Lawrence, the HALRB’s chair, told the Board that her group did indeed take the expense of the tin shingles into account, but ultimately felt making an exception in this case could lead to a slippery slope.

“A defining feature of this historic district is this particular roof,” Lawrence said. “We’re dealing with a situation of death by a thousand cuts… I don’t think being good stewards of a historic neighborhood, a historic house, is making it an enclave.”

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Police: Bike Thieves Busted

Two men have been arrested and charged with trying to steal bikes from a front porch and a parking garage.

The pair were allegedly spotted in Maywood and near Lyon Village attempting to steal bikes Friday morning. Police were called, searched the area and arrested the men, both in their mid-20s.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

GRAND LARCENY, 2017-08040083, 3200 block of 23rd Street N. At approximately 9:43 a.m. on August 4, police were dispatched to the report of two suspicious males attempting to steal a bicycle from the front porch of a residence. Shortly after, a similar call was received reporting two subjects were attempting to steal a bicycle from a parking garage in the 1900 block of N. Daniel Street. Responding officers canvassed the area and located two subjects matching the descriptions provided by the witnesses. Philip Taylor, 25, of Capitol Hills, MD, was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny (x2) and Grand Larceny with Intent to Sell. Raheem Freeman, 24, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with Conspiracy to Commit Grand Larceny and Identity Theft. Both were held on no bond.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVaPD/status/894633418612461568

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It’s an ongoing problem: thieves using “skimmer” devices to steal credit and debit card information from unsuspecting customers of local businesses.

Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood appears to be the latest target of the skimmer scammers.

Reports a resident:

Maywood listserv lighting up with reports of multiple people getting their credit cards skimmed recently. Most people point to common thread of Liberty Gas station on Lee Highway (and a few other likely places in the area) as common thread. But that is not 100% clear.

In most cases, someone buys gas here. Later someone tries to purchase gas in California. Per Cherrydale listserv earlier, it looks like Arlington Police already found a “skimmer” machine earlier at Exxon across the street, but these are new reports from another potential location.

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed at least a portion of the neighborhood scuttlebutt.

Here’s what she said via email to ARLnow.com:

Our Financial Crimes Unit received reports of possible credit card skimming at the Liberty Gas station. They responded to the area and during their investigation did not identify a point of compromise at this location. On March 9 at approximately 1:57 p.m., police responded to the Exxon gas station in the 4000 block of Old Dominion Drive for the report of a recovered credit card skimmer. That investigation is ongoing.

These type of cases are typically reported to police as credit card fraud and since we use credit cards for almost all purchases (online, in person, groceries, gas, etc.) the challenge is identifying the point of compromise. Turnaround time from point of compromise to first fraudulent use varies depending on how the suspects intend to use the stolen data. Police work closely with banking institutes who notify us when there is a trend with customers cards being compromised and they identify the location all the cards have in common.

There are some things citizens can do to protect themselves:

  • You will not know if a gas pump has a skimmers. In most cases, the skimmers are being placed inside the machine.
  • Pay inside at the gas station rather than at the pump.
  • Always pay using credit rather than debit – it’s easier to dispute the charges and isn’t linked directly to your bank account.
  • If you haven’t switched to a chip reader on your credit card, do so.
  • Regularly check your bank statements and if you notice fraudulent activity, notify the bank so they can begin an investigation.
  • If you find you were the victim of fraud, file a police report.

Photo via Google Maps

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Power outage 2/9/17

Nearly 600 Dominion customers are without power in the Donaldson Run, Maywood and Riverwood neighborhoods of north Arlington.

Initial reports suggest Dominion crews shut down power to the grid after a tree or a large branch fell on a power line, which started arcing. Those crews are currently working on the lines on the 2600 block of Military Road, according to scanner traffic.

Power crews are keeping busy due to the high winds today. Nearly 2,500 Dominion customers are without power throughout Northern Virginia, though so far no other outages have been reported in Arlington.

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