The new Lubber Run Community Center, which operated as a vaccination clinic this spring, will open for its intended purpose on Tuesday, July 6.

“After opening the park in fall 2020, and now that the vaccination clinic has ended, it’s time to prepare to open the new center,” the Department of Parks and Recreation said in an email. “Come by the gym, fitness center and indoor track.”

Fitness memberships are required for those working out at the center.

Construction started on the new community center in 2018. It was set to open in late 2020, but due to budget cuts the opening of the community center lagged behind that of the park’s playgrounds and courts, which made their debut last September.

At the time, the county said the community center would open “sometime after July 2021, which is the start of the County’s next fiscal year.”

Before the official opening, the customer service desk will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting next Monday (June 21). Staff will be available to accept forms for in-person summer camp, fee reductions, facility rentals and program and class registrations.

“Shortly after the facility opens, we will host a ribbon-cutting and community celebration,” according to the email, which added that more information on this event will be announced later.

The parks department did not hold a ribbon-cutting for the playground and courts when they opened in September due to the pandemic, Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish previously said.

This summer, the hours for the center will be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Those operating hours are set to be extended later this year.

“This fall, the center will be open later, and on Sundays too,” the email said. “Indoor programming, such as the senior center and preschool, will return this fall.”

The community center and park at the intersection of N. George Mason Drive and N. Park Drive is across the street from Barrett Elementary School and is walkable from Ballston. Parking is also available.

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Expanding, D.C.-based grilled chicken restaurant Farmbird is opening its new location in Ballston next week.

The restaurant at 4121 Wilson Blvd, in the Ballston Exchange development, is opening for customers on Tuesday, employees tell ARLnow. It replaces the Miami-based, health-oriented restaurant Dirt, which closed in January 2020.

Farmbird has existing locations at 625 H Street NE and in Penn Quarter in D.C. The company was founded in 2015 and first operated as a catering business for a year at D.C.’s Union Market. It aims to make fast-casual dining more healthy, humane and sustainable.

“Since its founding, Farmbird has strived to change the way people think about chicken by serving only the highest quality, never-frozen birds,” a PR rep said. “Farmbird’s chickens are humanely raised on regional farms with no antibiotics ever and fed an all-vegetarian diet. All of the food served, from salads and sandwiches to Farmbird’s signature grilled chicken plates and roasted vegetable sides, are prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients daily.”

“Farmbird has seen great success at its location on H Street and is ready to bring flavorful food with sustainable origins to Arlington where Ballston Exchange has reimagined the area’s streetscape,” the PR rep added “The space will feature indoor and outdoor seating, accommodating patrons in a safe and socially distanced manner.”

Neighboring businesses in Ballston Exchange — across the street from Ballston Quarter mall — include Philz CoffeeCAVA, and the yet-to-open Hawkers Asian Street Fare.

This morning Farmbird employees could be seen sitting outside the restaurant, sampling the food in anticipation of next week’s opening.

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Arlington has long had a childcare shortage problem. During the pandemic, strangely, that helped its programs survive.

Although childcare programs across the nation have shuttered due to the coronavirus, in Arlington, only three licensed programs have closed, said County Board member and childcare advocate Katie Cristol. One is reopening in a new location better equipped for social-distancing, while two others closed permanently (one of those closures was virus-related).

“The good news is, what has been one of the biggest challenges of the landscape of Arlington has been an asset,” she said, adding that demand remained strong locally, buoying Arlington’s centers, “most of which have faired fairly well.”

Amid the three closures, Cristol — who helped launch the county’s Child Care Initiative in 2017 — helped welcome a new addition to Arlington’s stock of early education and childcare options this week. Looking to help address Arlington’s demand for early education options, two sisters, Saniya Dhala and Zahra Isani, opened Primrose School of Arlington in the Courthouse area yesterday (Thursday).

“There continues to be a great need for high-quality early education and child care options in our community and Primrose Schools delivers that in a convenient setting, close to neighborhoods and businesses,” Cristol said.

It is independently owned and operated by Dhala and Isani, who quit their jobs in the finance and food industries to open this Primrose School location, the 450th nationwide. The school at 2107 Wilson Blvd can accommodate up to 185 children.

“The pandemic has been devastating to so many businesses and industries, and the childcare industry is no exception to that,” the sisters tell ARLnow. “Some schools have had to shut their doors, and some have had to reduce hours and capacity. As we start to return to normalcy things are opening back up, many schools are ready to welcome families again and we are excited to be opening a high-quality option in an area where it’s needed.”

This location is one of five Primrose locations scheduled to open in the D.C. area — joining 11 existing outposts — in the middle of a pandemic that has shined a light on deep problems in the industry, such as a shortage of spots, high staff turnover and thin operating margins.

There are some signs of relief, however. President Joe Biden announced that $39 billion of the American Rescue Plan will help sustain these programs, Gov. Ralph Northam announced $203 million to expand eligibility for the Commonwealth’s Child Care Subsidy Program.

While Dhala and Isani said they started the process of opening their franchise location before the pandemic hit, the coronavirus did reinforce their decision to open a school.

“Being in the process of opening during the pandemic allowed us to be agile and adjust our space on the front-end to ensure we met and innovated around all the new safety guidelines,” they said. “Childcare is essential to our workforce and to our nation’s economic recovery, not to mention to prepare our next generation of leaders for the future.”

The pandemic made more people realize the dearth of options available, as waves of women have exited the workforce to take care of their children full-time, Cristol said. The county initiative she helped launch is still working to address the high demand and low supply of options.

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After first announcing their move to Crystal City in September 2019, Rasa is finally planning to open this summer.

The D.C.-based, fast-casual Indian restaurant applied for a Virginia ABC permit to sell beer, wine and mixed drinks earlier this month, typically a prelude to an opening within a few months. A restaurant spokesperson confirms to ARLnow that the Rasa Crystal City location is, in fact, planning to start serving customers this summer.

We asked why the nearly year-long delay — the pandemic seems a likely culprit — but have yet to hear back as publication time.

“Rasa National Landing” will be located at 2200 Crystal Drive, near a Sweetgreen, a Chick-fil-A, and an Amazon-assisted COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

While Crystal Drive’s row of restaurants have always been popular with the lunch-time crowd, that crowd has thinned during the pandemic. Still, new residential development and hopes of turning National Landing into a “vibrant 18-hour environment” raise the possibility of a more robust dinner crowd down the line.

Rasa was founded by locals Rahul Vinod and Sahil Rahman. There are currently two other restaurant locations, one in Navy Yard near Nationals Park and the other on K Street NW in the Mt. Vernon Triangle neighborhood that opened in August 2020.

The menu and design of Rasa’s Arlington location is expected to mirror the D.C. restaurants.

The menu is bowl-based, featuring punny names like “Caul Me Maybe” (which features tofu, cauliflower, peanut sesame sauce, rice, and spinach) and “Goa Your Own Way” (featuring spicy beef, coconut ginger sauce, green beans, and lentils).

The restaurants’ colorful interiors have basket swingsets, bookshelves stocked with titles by South Asian authors and paintings from local artist Nandita Madan (who happens to be co-founder Rahman’s aunt).

Photo courtesy of Rasa

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Morning Notes

Grants for National Landing Restaurants — “The National Landing Business Improvement District and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington have a new round of grant aid for restaurants and small businesses… Grant applications will be accepted online until March 28. They will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, and will amount to at least $1,000 for each approved business.” [WTOP]

New Clarendon Salon Opening Next Week — The new Smitten on Washington salon is set to open on Tuesday, March 23, at 3000 Washington Blvd in Clarendon. The salon replaces Hendricks Gentlemen’s Barbershop, a men’s venture from the Smitten owners that closed in December after four years in business. [Facebook]

Silver Line Ext. Not Opening Until 2022 — “Metro officials say that the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport will open for use in early 2022, most likely in February. ‘What we’re looking at is early 2022, first quarter in calendar 2022, as the likely start of operations,’ Laura Mason, Metro’s executive vice president for capital delivery, said at a board meeting Thursday.” [DCist]

Local Leaders Want Metro Changes — “Representing the cities and counties that fund Metro in Virginia, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission outlined its priorities for Metro’s proposed FY 2022 budget… While the Commission recognizes the major funding relief made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act, the Commission presses Metro to: Maintain a dependable and sufficient level of rail and bus service throughout FY 2022, Open Silver Line Phase 2 as soon as possible, Rebuild ridership, [and] Minimize shifting operating expenses to the capital program.” [Press Release]

Single-Family Homes Are Red Hot — “Typically, markets tend to favor sellers when the supply of homes drops below six months. For much of the last decade, the local supply has hovered at around two months, but has been trending ever lower in recent years. For single-family homes, the D.C. region’s supply dropped to a mere 0.6 months in February, according to the data, and those homes are selling within seven days on the open market.” [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at noon) The new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church is now open.

VDOT announced the opening of the $6 million bridge Friday morning, touting “a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29.” Previously, trail users would have to wait to cross Lee Highway at a crowded intersection, next to ramps to and from I-66 and Washington Blvd.

The trail is used by cyclists and pedestrians for both commuting and recreation. About 1,500 people travel on the W&OD near new bridge each weekday, while more than 2,000 use it on weekends.

The project prompted trail detours over its nearly two years of construction. It was funded — along with upgrades to I-66 ramps, repairs to overpasses, sound wall replacements, and a new Custis Trail roundabout — as part of the larger I-66 eastbound widening project.

Some finishing touches on the bridge and the nearby intersection will be completed through this summer, VDOT said. As of noon, however, the bridge was officially open.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1370416729227137038

More from a press release, below.

The new Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington will open this afternoon, Friday, March 12, announced the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). This new bridge will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29 adjacent to I-66. The new bridge was built as part of VDOT’s I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.

“This new W&OD Trail bridge is another step forward in VDOT’s commitment to expanding multimodal transportation options in the I-66 corridor and across the region,” said Bill Cuttler, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia District Construction Engineer. “The new bridge will benefit a range of trail users, from people walking and bicycling to the nearby East Falls Church Metrorail Station to the dedicated bicycle commuters who use the trail year-round to reach destinations across Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

The new crossing separates trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Route 29 and Fairfax Drive. The new bridge will enhance safety for both trail users and motorists and improve operations at nearby intersections on Route 29.

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A new massage studio is opening this summer in Pentagon City.

Elements Massage is targeting June 5 as its grand opening at Westpost, the shopping center formerly known as Pentagon Row, at 1101 S. Joyce Street. It specializes in customized and therapeutic massage services.

It’s taking the place of the hair salon Aveda in Suite B10.

While Elements Massage is a national chain, this studio will be independently owned and operated by Annapolis, MD-based Stratus Wellness LLC.

“For the business, the vibrant growth-oriented future of National Landing made it a target location,” wrote owner George Armendariz in the press release.

Demolition of the previous space and build out of the massage studio is expected to start March 8, a Westpost spokesperson confirms to ARLnow.

The shopping center on S. Joyce Street has had a lot of comings and goings in recent months.

Earlier this year, both Irish pub Siné and pet store Unleashed closed. In the late summer of 2020, Bed Bath & Beyond and Aebee also shuttered.

In their place have come a slew of independently-owned businesses and attention-getting local restaurant concepts.

Origin Coffee Lab and Kitchen opened in a former Starbucks in January. Late last year, Napoli Salumeria started slinging fresh pasta and sandwiches as a market concept version of the now-shuttered Napoli Pasta Bar in D.C.

In the summer, a “raman-rubbed” barbeque pop-up opened in Bun’d Up.

And there are still more openings to come.

The very popular D.C.-based Chinese-American restaurant Lucky Danger is opening in April in Aebee’s former location.

Champps, which closed early in the pandemic, is being turned into Nighthawk Pizza. That’s a pizza and beer bar whose backers include local nightlife heavyweight Scott Parker. It’s planning to open in the fall.

The full press release is below.

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Locals can now buy handmade pasta and sauces from a vending machine outside the future home of Stellina Pizzeria, a soon-to-open Italian restaurant and market in Shirlington.

The machine delivers food in a pandemic-friendly way and helps preview the opening of the restaurant in the former Cafe Pizzaiolo space at 2800 S. Randolph Street, co-owner Antonio Matarazzo said.

The second outpost of the Michelin-recognized pizzeria in D.C.’s Union Market was set to open at the end of 2020, but the holiday season delayed equipment and furniture shipments. It’s now slated to open “in a couple of weeks,” Matarazzo said.

Matarazzo and Chef Matteo Venini, both Italian transplants, got the idea for the vending machine in March. The pandemic had just hit the East Coast, and they were trying to find ways to deliver food to their guests.

“We did not want to just tape up a hole, but do something that could be good for the future,” Matarazzo said.

While vending machines in the U.S. just offer snacks and bottled drinks, Matarazzo said he has seen Prosecco vending machines in Europe and in Japan, “you can buy everything you want in a vending machine there,”

Granted, he said he has “never seen a pasta vending machine before.”

Like the restaurant, the vending machine was also delayed. It arrived from California — where it was custom-made — a few weeks ago, and six months late.

“It’s a tough time for everybody,” he said. “You have to be more patient these days.”

The machine will stay in Arlington until the end of spring. Then, it will move to 508 K Street NW to preview Stellina’s second location in D.C. Its flagship location opened in April 2019 at 399 Morse Street NE.

Right now, the machine has three kinds of pasta, sauces, dessert, merchandise and coffee.

Matarazzo recommends pairing the paccheri — a large, smooth tube-shaped pasta — with a bolognese sauce; the fusilli goes with ragus made with lamb and wild boar; and the tonnarelli pairs with a cacio e pepe sauce, literally, “cheese and pepper” sauce.

“That is a typical sauce from Rome, and a perfect dish for today’s weather,” Matarazzo said, referencing the recent snowfall.

For dessert, people can choose babà al rum, a 400-year-old dessert from France via Naples, or tiramisu. The coffee comes from Ready Set! Coffee Roasters, a Cleveland-based roaster run by some friends.

“This is just the start,” he said. “We’ll see what else we can put in there.”

After the pandemic, Matarazzo plans on installing 10 more in select office buildings.

He keeps tabs on the products through his phone, and said it seems like he has to restock the pasta and sauces “every two minutes.”

“People are excited about it,” he said.

Update at 10:20 a.m. — Stellina is planning to open on Friday, Feb. 12, the restaurant just announced.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez

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Today, 85 years after opening its first location in Connecticut, Colony Grill (2800 Clarendon Blvd) began serving Arlingtonians its famed thin-crust bar pie, sizzling with hot oil and topped with peppers known as “stingers.”

The location, three years in the making, is the first outside southern Connecticut and Port Chester, New York. Construction on the two-story establishment at Market Common Clarendon began in February and only lost a week or two to delays related to the pandemic, said co-owner Ken Martin.

He and his fellow co-owners, Paul Coniglio, Chris Drury and Cody Lee, began looking outside their home state because real estate there is limited. The childhood friends from Trumbull, Connecticut fell in love with the D.C. area “almost overnight,” he said.

“Arlington resembles Fairfield County on steroids,” Martin said, noting that it has the same energy: a dense population of smart, eclectic people who are especially social.

If the Clarendon outpost does well, more D.C. area locations may follow, according to Martin.

“We hope to open more down here once we establish ourselves and are doing well,” Martin said, mentioning Bethesda and the District as possible destinations.

Irish immigrants opened Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut in 1935, two years after the end of the Great Depression and the Prohibition era. The owners served many dishes, but the Italian and Eastern European chefs devised the “bar pie” to be smaller and thinner than a traditional pizza, and fit on the bar top.

Today, the chain only serves this pizza, although the name and the Irish decor pay homage to the kitchen’s original menu and the restaurant’s origins.

After World War II, the owners began collecting framed pictures of those who fought to honor Connecticut’s contributions to the war effort. Today, locals to each new location are invited to bring pictures of their friends or family members in the service to be hung on the brick walls.

Arlington patrons can submit 8×10 inch photos of friends, family members or themselves, in their branch of the military uniform, to the restaurant’s collection.

Local antique pieces will join the familiar faces in sepia tones and in color, including three prominent astronauts with roots in the area, to make patrons feel at home.

Colony Grill’s designer visited flea markets, tag sales, and frequented libraries and historical societies to get a feel for Arlington’s neighborhoods. Folks will recognize some of the antiques on display, Martin said.

“We want to give people the feel that we understand the neighborhood as they come in,” he said.

Pizzas cost up to $13, and customers can choose standard toppings or the chain’s original offerings, including the salad pie and the breakfast pie.

Colony Grill also has 12 beers on top and wine bottles by the glass or bottle.

In response to the coronavirus, the company has spent nearly $100,000 at each location on glass partitions and a streamlined check platform for employees, according to the co-owners. The restaurant has also invested in an online app for contact-less ordering and payment.

Colony Grill is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until late closing, at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, for up to 170 people.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez, as marked

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Delhi Club (1135 N. Highland Street) is under new management, and will soon take on a new name: Spice Kraft Indian Bistro.

For now, the change is unofficial and the restaurant continues to do business as Delhi Club, said general manager and co-owner Anthony Shankar. Delhi Club’s doors will reopen as Spice Kraft Indian Bistro by the end of the month, he said.

The restaurant in Clarendon will be the second location for Spice Kraft, which first opened in August 2019 in Alexandra’s Del Ray neighborhood, but had its grand opening this January. Like its approach to Delhi Club, Spice Kraft opened in the former Bombay Curry Company space.

Shankar said the owners of Spice Kraft and Delhi Club have a business relationship. When the Delhi Club owners decided it was time to close their restaurant, they approached Spice Kraft to see if they were interested in the spot, he said.

“They saw Spice Kraft has potential in Arlington,” Shankar said.

Shankar and fellow co-owners Helen Sanjjav and Prem Durairaj were planning to open the space before the pandemic started, but COVID-19 delayed the project from March through August.

Once regulations started easing up, the three got to work.

“We didn’t want to wait too long,” said Shankar, who managed Taaza, a popular Indian restaurant in Roanoke, for seven years before relocating to Alexandria to open Spice Kraft.

The owners have aspirations of Spice Kraft becoming a local chain, and intend to open two to three more locations in Northern Virginia after expanding to Clarendon.

Another nearby Indian restaurant, Delhi Dhaba, operates a few blocks down in Courthouse, but Spice Kraft will not be in direct competition with it, Shankar said.

“We see ourselves as classical and contemporary,” he said.

The menu is mostly the same across the two locations, but about one-quarter of the options are new, including some of the lunch fare, fusion dishes and rice bowls, Shankar said.

For example, Spice Kraft is serving up burgers with proteins such as chicken tikka, and the pre-plated rice bowls come with a protein, side, bread and salad for about $10.

Delhi Club opened in the early 2000s, but closed briefly during the summer of 2011 after a fire broke out.

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The newly-built Lubber Run Community Center remains shuttered, but the new playground and athletic courts outside of it quietly opened over the weekend.

“After five years of planning and development, the new amenities at Lubber Run Park are open,” Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish confirmed to ARLnow.

“There are multi-purpose lighted courts for pickleball, volleyball and basketball along with a playground featuring a large net climber, sand box and group swings,” Kalish said. “And check out the hill slides, first ever in Arlington! The park also offers a large, open manicured lawn for you to picnic on, toss a frisbee or read a book, great spaces to connect with the neighbors. And the boardwalk brings the community center into the Lubber Run Park forest.”

No ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the park, as a result of the pandemic, according to Kalish.

The community center and park at 200 N. Columbus Street is across the street from Barrett Elementary and is walkable from Ballston. For those who want to check it out from a distance, parking is available.

“On-site parking is available in the new garage free-of-charge from 8 a.m.-10:15 p.m. through the fall,” Kalish said.

Due to budget cuts, the opening of the new community center building has been delayed to “sometime after July 2021, which is the start of the County’s next fiscal year.”

Photos by Jay Westcott and courtesy of Hannah S. Hat tip to Hannah S.

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