Ballston Quarter has a 50,000-square-foot vacancy problem.
The redeveloped mall at 4238 Wilson Blvd is home to a rotating roster of restaurants, as well as clothing stores, pet facilities, eye doctors, gaming experiences and other retail businesses, as well as an attached office building and the MedStar Capitals Iceplex.
But filling the retail roster has not been smooth sailing, writes land use attorney Kedrick Whitmore in a letter to the county on behalf of Brookfield Properties, which owns the mall.
Reading the changing economic winds, Brookfield Properties is looking to tack.
During the Arlington County Board meeting this weekend, the Board is slated to review the property owner’s request to lease about 28,000 square feet of second-floor retail space to a medical tenant. This tenant — which was not named — would provide primary care, ear, nose, and throat and eyes and vision specialists, speech therapy and other medical care, according to a staff report.
“Approving this application would help resolve the Project’s significant, systemic leasing challenges and creatively reposition the Mall,” Whitmore writes in the letter, filed last month. “The Applicant envisions a holistic and mutually beneficial relationship between potential medical offices and the local retail and entertainment market.”
New medical offices benefit those living and working in the heart of Ballston, and would result in more patients patronizing local businesses, Whitmore said.
Although current zoning permits office conversions by-right, the mall is governed by a retail plan that requires Brookfield to file a site plan amendment to make the change.
The mall had struggled for years, due to its large size and age, before its redevelopment was approved, with the goal of improving its performance against newer counterparts in the region. The work wrapped up at the end of 2018.
Around the same time, a county retail plan from 2015 recommended pulling storefronts to the street, creating outdoor activity and attractions, and making interior renovations to encourage activity there. The plan also called for “flexibility and creativity” to encourage these changes.
Per the county report, county staff looked over the retail plan and “understand[s] the challenges in leasing second floor internal spaces in a shifting retail market and that these spaces require greater flexibility in terms of permitted uses.”
This request is not out of the blue, either. The report adds that “even at project inception, office tenancy was viewed as a likely leasing option.”
Not everyone agrees with this assessment. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association said it does not believe the change aligns with the retail plan, but should it pass anyway, it suggested the medical provider “target underserved, lower income communities which would benefit most from the easy access to public transportation.”
The mall recently approved another non-retail tenant, which agreed to lease a large space inside the mall: Grace Community Church. Still, tenants are cycling in and out, as there are fewer office workers from the nearby buildings visiting due to the rise of remote work, not to mention the convenience of online shopping.
Bond Vet, a New York City-based chain of primary and urgent care clinics for cats and dogs, is setting up shop in Clarendon.
Construction in the space at 2871 Clarendon Blvd, in the former Lilly Pulitzer storefront, is underway. Bond Vet aims to open its doors to local dogs and cats and their humans this summer.
The storefront, part of The Crossing Clarendon retail center, has been vacant since the purveyor of preppy pink clothing packed its portmanteau and left last May. Bond Vet signed a deal to take over the space late last year, Director of Real Estate and Development Lauren Heuser tells ARLnow.
“Things are moving forward,” Heuser said. “We’re actually ahead of pace from what we anticipated from a permitting standpoint, which never happens.”
The new location is part of Bond Vet’s first expansion outside of the New York area, where it has opened nearly a dozen locations since 2019. The full-service clinics offer urgent care and routine care, including wellness exams, vaccines and spay and neuter services, as well as surgeries, dental cleanings and international health certificates.
Outside of Clarendon, its foray into the Mid-Atlantic region includes Bethesda, D.C.’s 14th Street NW corridor and the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The company is also headed north into Boston, and will have 25 total locations by the end of 2022.
“[The expansion] was on the horizon ahead of the pandemic,” Heuser said. “During the pandemic, the development pace slowed down a bit, but we picked up again as soon as we felt like we could.”
“We like to be part of a rich context with many different types of tenants, rather than going into an area where you’re only going to find soft goods or medical offices,” Heuser said. “We felt that this was a good opportunity for that.”
Recent tenant announcements for The Crossing Clarendon include New York-based seafood eatery Seamore’s, fitness center Life Time, and District Dogs, a daycare and overnight boarding facility for pooches.
“We’re certainly not a daycare but we like to create symbiotic relationships with pet care providers within the neighborhood,” Heuser noted.
Bond Vet is the third option for pet owners whose animal companion needs care sooner than what a primary veterinarian could provide but in a different setting than an emergency room, she says.
“We believe it provides enough availability for same day appointments across locations, and it keeps pets that don’t need to be in the emergency room out of the ER,” Heuser said.
(The pet-centric neighborhood will now have all three veterinary options covered, with Arlies award winners Clarendon Animal Care at 3000 10th Street N. and Caring Hands Animal Hospital at 2601-A Wilson Blvd, in addition to the new doggy daycare and a locally-based dog food brand.)
Bond Vet’s expansion comes as veterinary jobs and services have been in high demand over the last two years, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. The association says urgent care clinics appear to be taking on a substantial portion of that demand.
“From a competitive landscape, what we’re seeing all over the country is a high demand for veterinary care,” Heuser said. “So many people got new pets through the pandemic, and that trend has not slowed down.”
(Updated at 8:20 a.m.) The Inova Urgent Care at 4600 Langston Blvd is temporarily closed.
An Inova spokesperson tells ARLnow the clinic near the Waverly Hills neighborhood should reopen by the end of the year, after closing due to staffing issues.
“The Urgent Care temporarily closed two weeks ago,” the spokesperson said. “As with other health systems across the country, Inova has been experiencing significantly high volumes driven by patients with a variety of healthcare needs and the temporary closure of select locations allows us to consolidate staffing at other UCCs to better accommodate patient volumes.”
Several other Inova urgent care centers are also closed, according to the health system’s website. Like the clinic in Arlington, those in Tysons, Reston, and Purcellville are “temporarily closed for in-person visits.”
Signs posted on the windows in Arlington direct patients to either the Inova Fairfax Hospital emergency room or an Inova Urgent Care in Vienna.
The Arlington center served as a COVID-19 testing site since March 2020.
A veteran-owned optometry and dental practice on Columbia Pike has won a $15,000 grant from the PenFed Foundation.
Eye Smile Optometry & Dental Care near the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive, next to the Harris Teeter, is owned by U.S. Air Force veteran Dr. Keith James (optometrist) and his wife Dr. Yvonelle Moreau (dentist).
The small, family-owned was awarded the grant because of its commitment “to serving its neighboring community, educating those that are under-represented and underserved, and leading as examples to future under-represented entrepreneurs,” according the PenFed Foundation website.
The foundation is a non-profit aimed at helping military members become financially stable. Its Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Program is specifically earmarked for Black veteran and active duty military entrepreneurs. Two other businesses also received $15,000: one in Maryland and another in Jacksonville, Florida.
James tells ARLnow that the couple is grateful for the grant and plans to use the money for business awareness, marketing, and increased staffing. They currently have three employees, plus the two doctors.
It wasn’t always destiny for the couple’s practice to land in Arlington. James and Moreau met in New York, when they were both in school. Then, James joined the Air Force and was stationed at Joint Base Andrews for three years.
While living in Alexandria, the pair realized the region could be a great place for a family practice.
“We just thought it was a fantastic community. We really want to focus on being a family practice,” says James. “We felt like it was just the perfect setting for us to flourish.”
Yes, they acknowledge, it is certainly unique that a dentist and optometrist share a practice.
“It’s definitely atypical,” James says with a chuckle. “But with both of us practicing health care, it’s definitely a good opportunity. It’s synergistic. We’re both practicing on the head which impacts overall health.”
The practice was initially slated to open in March 2020, James says, but was delayed due to the pandemic.
“We were planning this practice for two years,” James says. “So, that was extremely nerve-racking.”
It finally opened last May, right around the time when Virginia allowed dental practices to re-open.
Over the last ten months the business has continued to grow. Overall, combined, James says they’ve treated nearly 1,500 patients.
“We try not to focus on slower days and get too excited about bigger days,” he says. “It’s definitely steady.”
The practice’s goals continue to be to provide personalized service and access to care in a section of Arlington where options can sometimes be limited.
“We saw a little space there for vision and dental that could be really central to that neighborhood and those families,” says James. “Being a part of that and increasing access to care is important to us.”
Photo courtesy of Eye Smile Optometry & Dental Care
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. Say hello to the new 2800 Shirlington, which recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village, a large retail hub with a variety of unique restaurants and shopping options. Spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes are under construction and will deliver soon!
The company, which has its operational headquarters in Courthouse, is focused on a technology that might sound to some like Spider-Man villain origin in the making.
Kerecis uses “fish skin and fatty acids for tissue protection and regeneration.” The fish skin can be used to treat wounds, burns and other tissue damage.
The company’s leadership said in a press release that the technology’s eager adoption in the United States was one of the leading sources of growth over the last year. Though the product might sound fishy, Kerecis said in a press release there’s no risk of viral-disease transfer from Atlantic cod to human.
Kerecis said all of the fish it flays for human use are wild and caught off the coast of Iceland.
“The fish skin needs only mild processing for medical use and maintains its natural structure and elements, including Omega 3 fatty acids,” the company said. “The Kerecis fatty-acid-based products protect the body against bacterial and viral infections.”
The company announced that the funding is based on $15 million in credit from Silicon Valley Bank to fund the company’s capital needs, with investors and lenders providing $6 million in loans to finance expanding the company’s expansion plans in the United States.
“The main reason that we were once again named Iceland’s fastest growing company is the rapid adoption of our medical fish skin in the U.S. market,” said G. Fertram Sigurjonsson, founder and CEO of Kerecis. “We are excited that our products are preventing amputations and reducing human suffering.”
Sigurjonsson said the funding will go to accelerating development and marketing of products for wounds, burns and other medical needs, especially in the United States.
Photo via Kerecis/Facebook
The Arlington County Fire Department is taking new measures that could help save some critically injured or ill patients.
The department announced yesterday that it is rolling out a new “whole blood” program this month, in which medics will be trained to administer blood transfusions in the field for people suffering life-threatening bleeding.
By administering blood in the field, patients will receive critical care for blood loss significantly faster, ACFD said, noting that it can otherwise take up to 30-45 minutes to receive blood when a patient is transported to the hospital. The department says that 20-30 people per year are likely to benefit from field blood transfusions in Arlington.
The program is being rolled out to other Northern Virginia fire departments, as well. Public safety officials, meanwhile, are urging residents to give blood to ensure the region has an adequate supply.
More from ACFD:
Beginning this month, the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) will carry whole blood as part of a regional EMS initiative to bring lifesaving treatment to patients with major, life-threatening bleeding before arriving at the hospital.
ACFD estimates that 20-30 people per year in Arlington County will benefit from this treatment.
Life-threatening bleeding, such as from trauma or other medical ailments, is usually treated by rushing patients to the hospital to receive a blood transfusion. This transport of patients can delay treatment for the blood loss for upwards of 30-45 minutes in some instances.
Recent research has shown that not only is whole blood more beneficial for the patient than blood that has been split into components, but also that early administration is better for critical patients who need blood. Previously whole blood was only available on medevac helicopters.
Developed by a regional coalition of EMS experts from the Arlington County Fire Department, Loudoun County Fire Department, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, and the Northern Virginia EMS Council, and partnering with Inova Blood Donor Services, the EMS field whole blood program will allow ACFD paramedics to administer this lifesaving treatment within the first few minutes of arrival at the patient’s side.
The Northern Virginia region will be the second EMS regional coalition to develop this program nationally and the first on the East Coast.
“The field whole blood program represents cutting edge EMS treatment and utilizes the most recent medical research and lessons learned from the military,” said Dr. E Reed Smith, the Arlington County Fire and Police Department Operational Medical Director. “With more than 2.5 million people in the Northern Virginia region, this is one of — if not the — largest field administered whole blood program in the nation.”
Dr. Smith added, “Heroes give blood. The Arlington County Fire Department wants to remind everyone that anyone can be a hero and encourages anyone who can donate blood to do so and join the ‘Whole Blood Brigade’.”
As part of the new program, the ACFD EMS Supervisor medical response vehicles have been equipped with climate-controlled compartments and special carrying containers that ensure the blood supply is kept at a proper temperature while it is stored.
ACFD Advanced Practice Officers (APO), the most advanced trained paramedics in the Arlington County Fire Department, received whole blood administration training in August and will be the operational leaders for blood transfusions by ACFD. In September, as the program is rolled out, the entire EMS force will be trained to assist when blood transfusion is initiated in the field.
With the logistics, training, and operations of implementing a new program now established, ACFD and Loudoun County Fire and Rescue will be the first two agencies in the Northern Virginia EMS Council to implement this program. However, any jurisdiction that is a member of the Northern Virginia EMS Council may tap into this program for their EMS agency.
An Arlington pharmacy and a neighboring kabob restaurant have partnered to help feed hospital workers.
Preston’s Pharmacy (5101 Lee Highway) sits directly across the street from Arlington Kabob (5046 Lee Highway). While business during the pandemic has been active at Preston’s, an essential business, pharmacy owner Frank Odeh said he could tell it’s been hard on Arlington Kabob.
“They’re a small business struggling during COVID-19,” Odeh said. “We decided to work with them. They would supply the food, we’re trying to give them some business and exposure. The owner, Susan, is an entrepreneur and a hard worker. We’re working with them and working with [Virginia Hospital Center] every week, picking a different department. Last week it was the ICU, next week it’s the emergency department.”
Odeh said that while the pharmacy is paying for the food to help keep Arlington Kabob in business, the kabob restaurant has been giving them a significant discount.
Preston’s Pharmacy has remained open, but Odeh admitted that business is still slower than it normally is.
“Business is down, although we’re fortunate not having to lay off or furlough any employees,” Odeh said. “It’s down, but because we’re a pharmacy, people still need chronic medication. People like those who are HIV positive, or diabetics, still need their medicine.”
Odeh said the decline has been in acute business, like treatment for smaller issues that Odeh said are likely overlooked during the pandemic, with many doctor’s offices closed down, social distancing cutting down on colds and flu, and hospitals focused on COVID-19.
Hand sanitizer, on the other hand, has been flying off the shelves so quickly that Preston’s Pharmacy has started making their own.
“We have a lab in the pharmacy and we’re able to produce hand sanitizer,” Odeh said. “We’re selling that and donating a portion of that [to local senior centers].”
Odeh said the mixture is 70% alcohol, which they buy in bulk from different vendors and can be hard to come by, mixed with methocel to give it a thickness.
“It’s relatively new for us,” Odeh said. “In the past, we haven’t needed to because it’s been available from manufacturers like Purell, but because of COVID-19 it has become in very short supply. We’ve ordered bottles and labels. It looks like a professionally made product.”
Odeh said the state board, CDC and FDA have all given them the green light to compound in bulk, a process that’s been fast-tracked due to COVID-19.
The other big seller, Odeh said, has been vitamins.
“[We] sold out on things like Vitamin C and elderberry,” Odeh said. “Vitamin sales have gone through the room. Vitamin D, C and elderberry have immune-boosting properties. People are following trends. There was a study recently about using Pepcid and ulcer medication [to fight coronavirus] and we sold out of that.”
To keep customers and employees safe, Odeh said everyone in the store wears masks and there are plexiglass shields at the registers. Customers are routed through the pharmacy along arrows on the floor and asked to stay six feet apart.
Photos courtesy Preston’s Pharmacy
(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Virginia Hospital Center recently opened a new immediate care facility in the Crystal City area, but plans are already in the works to expand the facilities.
“Virginia Hospital Center Immediate Care will be adding family medicine and OB/GYN care (by appointment) in coming months,” a spokesperson told ARLnow in an email.
Staff at the center said the plan is to start offering primary care services in June.
The center at 764 23rd Street S., which opened earlier this month, currently operates as an immediate care facility for non-emergency conditions. This includes things like colds and flus, minor lacerations or burns, and ear, eye or urinary infections.
The new location will put Virginia Hospital Center services within scooter distance of Amazon’s new HQ2.
VHC currently offers primary care treatment at its main hospital campus (1625 N. George Mason Drive) and in Shirlington (2800 Shirlington Road). The hospital earlier this week started providing trauma services at its Emergency Room.
The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).
For patients — including many of my Arlington constituents — accessing and affording the health care they need can be an overwhelming task. Even when they’ve found an insurance plan and physician specialist that works for them, just keeping up with all the co-pays and meeting high deductibles can prove to be a huge financial strain. When emergencies arise, as they always will, receiving an unexpected bill that you thought your insurance covered, is unfair.
The Virginia General Assembly tried to address surprise billing last session in a fair way that protected patients and didn’t unduly burden the physicians, hospitals or insurers. We were unsuccessful, but now we are seeing this issue has reached beyond Virginia to become a national issue that could benefit from a national solution. I will continue to work for a solution here in the Commonwealth, but I’m hopeful Congress will act sooner to end surprise medical billing fairly and without delay.
But just as important as passing a legislative solution is getting the job done the right way – one that’s good for patients. That means avoiding an approach that gives one side undue influence in the payment process.
There are bills pending in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that rely solely on internal, insurance company rates as the “benchmark” to settle out-of-network payment disputes between insurers and providers — and eliminating any hope of a level playing field between insurers and providers.
That is why Congress should stick to a more equitable approach that doesn’t let any side — the government, doctors, or insurers — arbitrarily dictate rates. Congress should choose an approach that mirrors what we tried to do in Virginia. Our legislation would have protected patients in numerous ways by creating a level playing field between doctors, hospitals and the insurance industry. The best solutions being offered right now on the federal level are bills which include an Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) process.
IDR would enable physicians and insurance companies to enter into an unbiased negotiation process in order to resolve payment disputes without getting the patient involved at all. The entire process takes place online and lasts no more than 30 days. Independent third-party mediators would make a final decision on payment amounts and, until that time, insurers would provide initial payments that help protect smaller, at-risk hospitals.
As evidenced in New York, IDR works — and it works well. Since establishing the IDR process to address this very issue in 2015, New York has seen network participation grow, out-of-network billing shrink, and in-network emergency costs decrease — all while patient protections and insurer transparency has increased. Meanwhile, California is struggling with its own benchmarking solution, which has led to an increase in contract terminations by insurance companies, threatening patient access to care.
I hope that Congress, led by Virginia’s Senators Warner and Kaine and Representative Bobby Scott who, as chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, has a chance to craft a House-version of an IDR bill, will work together to end surprise billing once and for all. However, if Congress is unable to act, I’m committed to Virginia passing a fair, equitable solution to protect patients in the 2020 General Assembly session.
Ovi Visits Local Elementary School — “In conjunction with the launch of Ovi O’s, Alex Ovechkin’s limited-edition breakfast cereal, the Washington Capitals’ captain surprised Arlington Traditional School, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and a local Giant store with a visit on Sept. 10.” [NHL]
9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in Courthouse — “Officials in Northern Virginia held a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Sen Tim Kaine, Rep. Don Beyer, military commanders, local Arlington County officials and members of the Virginia House attended the remembrance ceremony on Arlington County government plaza.” [NBC 4, WUSA 9]
Local Leaders Set Housing Goals — “Local governments around Greater Washington now plan to set targets for housing production over the next decade, as part of a regional initiative to build 320,000 new homes by 2030 and ease the region’s cost pressures.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]
ACPD Plans ‘Coffee With a Cop’ — “Wednesday, October 2 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting four events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at these informal events to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]
Orthopaedic Office Celebrates Grand Opening — “Ortho OIC Orthopaedic Immediate Care, the area’s first independent orthopaedic specialty urgent care… will be holding a grand opening event on September 19 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The event is open to the public and will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony.” [Press Release]
Farewell, Subway-Centric Paper — “The Washington Post is closing down its free daily commuter paper, Express, this week. The final edition of Express will be published on Thursday. The staff learned of the news at a meeting at noon on Wednesday.” [DCist]
Now Might Be the Time to Sell Your Home — “‘Some sellers are thinking ‘gosh, why don’t I just wait until Amazon gets into full bloom before I sell my house, because maybe values will go up even higher,” Christine Richardson, president of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, told WTOP. ‘But I’m not sure that is necessarily the right way to think about it, because often that initial exuberance is actually higher than reality turns out to be.'” [WTOP]
Local CVS Sold Millions of Opioids — “The largest recipient of pain pills in Arlington, according to the database, is a CVS Pharmacy located at 3133 Lee Highway. A total of 1,465,700 pills were shipped to this pharmacy between 2006 and 2012, which would be enough for one pill per year for each of the 106,612 people who live within five miles of the pharmacy.” [Patch]
Lots of Booze Sales in Arlington — “The eight Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) stores in Arlington accounted for 2.8 percent of total ABC purchases Virginia-wide during the state government’s last fiscal year, which saw a new statewide record set in total sales volume. A total of $29,052,507 in sales (excluding tax) were made at Arlington’s ABC stores from July 2018 to June 2019.” [InsideNova]
Cristol on Kojo — Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol went on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on Friday. Among the topics she discussed: the federal government’s search for a new shelter for detained, unaccompanied immigrant children in Northern Virginia. [Kojo Nnamdi Show, Twitter]
Local Restaurants Coming to Memphis — A pair of local restaurants — Matchbox American Kitchen and Arlington-based Big Buns Best Damn Burger Co. — are opening new locations in Memphis, Tennessee. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf