After nearly three years of waiting, the Crystal City Water Park is slated to reopen next week, JBG Smith announced yesterday.
The newly renovated, privately owned 1.6-acre park will feature nine restaurant kiosks, a cocktail and oyster bar, seating areas, public art installations, new water features — including a water wall — and a live performance stage.
“Water Park is a manifestation of our vision for National Landing as a premier 18-hour community that warmly embraces families, workers, students and visitors of all ages,” Kai Reynolds, chief development officer at JBG Smith, said in a press release.
“In addition to creating an urban oasis where people can relax, linger and enjoy time spent together, we have intentionally curated Water Park to serve as a celebration of the region’s rich and diverse culinary traditions,” he continued.
JBG Smith says it plans to host a grand opening ceremony next Friday, Oct. 6, from 6-10 p.m.
While the park previously had a small food and drink kiosk, the new iteration has nine kiosks for a variety of food vendors, with a focus on “local, minority- and women-owned businesses.”
The vendor lineup features:
- Brij, D.C. a café and wine bar by Skyler Kelley, supporting single mothers, the LGBTQ+ community and people who are homeless
- Bubbie’s Plant Burger, a Kosher, plant-based American eatery by the creators of D.C.’s Pow Pow, Margaux Riccio and Shaun Sharkey
- Cracked Eggery, a D.C. food truck known for inventive egg dishes that now has two brick and mortar locations in Cleveland Park and Shaw
- Dolci Gelati, a D.C.-based gelato shop offering over 450 seasonal, artisanal flavors, plus coffee and espresso
- Falafel Inc., a Georgetown-based charitable eatery that offers hummus and falafel dishes
- PhoWheels, a new Vietnamese-inspired food vendor
- Tiki Thai, a Reston-based Thai-Polynesian eatery
- Queen Mother’s, a fried chicken concept created by James Beard Award semi-finalist Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper
In addition to the kiosks, there is be a new cocktail and oyster bar, dubbed “Water Bar,” perched on top of the water wall at the back of the park.
The restaurant, operated by the Atlanta-based hospitality group STHRN, features a raw bar and an extensive cocktail list, according to JBG Smith. STHRN will also be opening an outpost of Crush Pizza, its New York-style pizzeria.
“We are excited to bring the delicious taste of Water Bar to life through unique, tasty cocktails and the deeply immersive flavors of the east coast,” Elizabeth Feichter, a partner at STHRN, said in the release.
Starting next month, restaurants can apply to keep their Covid-era temporary outdoor seating areas, or TOSAs, for good.
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved a framework for restaurant operators to follow if they want to make their outdoor dining areas permanent. Some restaurant operators viewed these as a lifeline when indoor dining was restricted and, later, they became an attractive feature and source of extra revenue.
The changes are nearly two years in the making but are right in the nick of time for restaurants, as their TOSAs — approved via a streamlined Covid-era process — expire next month. Now, they have from when applications open on Sept. 1 until Oct. 16 to apply for new permits.
“I think the pandemic has been an eye-opening moment for Arlington,” Board member Takis Karantonis said. “We now have a new relationship to our outside space. We see our urbanism with different eyes.”
The new ordinances create an administrative review process for restaurant operators looking to expand on private property and public sidewalks, provided they leave six feet for pedestrians. County Board permission is needed for using privately owned public spaces. The County Board can modify parking requirements so private spots can be repurposed.
Over the next month, the county says it will be communicating the changes to restaurant operators and publishing guides for applying.
The Board approved the new ordinances despite concerns from some residents, plus the Transportation Commission and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, which both said the Board should defer its vote.
These groups and individuals said they generally support outdoor dining but predicted these amendments will take up sidewalks and leave enforcement up to individuals who complain.
Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Pamela Van Hine told the Board that TOSAs overtook the sidewalk in a neighborhood she and a friend used to frequent for lunch and forced them to walk in the gutter.
“My friend is disabled. She typically uses a walker or wheelchair. Do you know how hard it is to walk in the street?” she said on Saturday, choking back tears. “We realized that we can’t go back there until the TOSAs are gone.”
In a letter to the county, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt noted that some staff were unable to answer questions about the plan and that the county should take time to improve it:
We understand that a deadline is approaching that makes implementation of final rules for sidewalk cafes feel urgent, but careful questioning of staff at the Commission made it clear that staff will already be unable to process these new sidewalk café applications before the deadline arrives and will simply not pursue enforcement action against the old “TOSA” cafes until they can be handled. As such the deadline seems largely symbolic and taking another month or two to get these implementation details correct would be wise.
The makeshift outdoor dining areas that sprung up in the early days of Covid, and gradually took on a more permanent feel, could be here to stay.
On Tuesday, the Arlington County Board voted to hold hearings next month mulling zoning changes that would give most restaurants a way to add outdoor seating areas without special Board approval.
Restaurants were able to do this during the pandemic — adapting to social distancing and indoor gathering regulations — via a special county program that is ending on Aug. 15.
Under the proposed ordinances, temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs) that are on private property and on public sidewalks within rights-of-way would be approved administratively. Those on privately owned public spaces, like the patio outside the seafood spot Seamore’s in Clarendon, would require a County Board use permit.
Restaurants could go to the Board to have parking spots converted to outdoor dining space.
The proposed ordinance changes, which will be discussed in a Board meeting on July 15, have been under development for the last year. The county says the code changes support local businesses, about 100 of which have TOSAs, and account for livability concerns some residents raised.
“This is a huge body of work. A huge thanks to staff, who’ve been working on this comprehensively for a while,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey said. “I know it seems like a simple issue to some, but as you peel layers of the onion, you continue to find more complexity.”
The Board initially approved TOSAs early in the pandemic to help restaurants circumvent the typically lengthy process for getting an outdoor dining permit. These spaces were popular for offsetting revenue lost to closures and social distancing and for creating a safer dining experience.
As the pandemic wore on, the Board allowed TOSAs in common areas, such as plazas, and for restaurants to continue operating them at full capacity once the indoor capacity restrictions lifted.
“It was a life saver for our family and employees and continues to be a large part of our business,” Lebanese Taverna Executive Vice President Grace Shea said during a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 on Wednesday night.
Now, she says, it brings more people to the restaurant.
“Outdoor seating enhances the streetscape of where the restaurant is. It attracts people by creating a welcoming atmosphere,” she said. “It’s also additional revenue that we do not have to pay rent for.”
In 2021, Arlington County signaled plans to study early a dozen separate policies governing outdoor cafés to figure out how to make TOSAs permanent. That started in the fall of 2022, after a local Covid emergency order ended.
County staff say it heard both support and concerns from the community. One strong supporter is the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
“The Chamber and the county both agree that we want to make this transition smooth for restaurant owners who want this outdoor dining,” said John Musso, the government affairs manager for the Chamber, at Wednesday’s forum. “We’re looking forward to continuing this conversation.”
Arlington County is asking locals if they like Covid-era outdoor dining and want it to stay post-pandemic.
One central question in a recently-posted survey is where permanent outdoor dining areas would go. Top contenders appear to be streets, parking spaces and parking lots, according to the survey, which asks respondents if they’re comfortable ceding some parking to outdoor dining experiences.
This feedback form, available online through Friday, Oct. 28, is part of Arlington’s Future of Outdoor Dining Study — appropriately dubbed the “FOOD Study.” The study, first discussed last fall, is the latest step forward for the open-air eating movement, which gained traction during the pandemic.
“The FOOD Study will look at lessons learned from [temporary outdoor restaurant seating areas] and identify recommended amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and Outdoor Café Guidelines to strike an appropriate balance between commercial resiliency and public and community interest,” the webpage said.
In 2020, the Arlington County Board approved a temporary way for restaurants to circumvent the normally lengthy bureaucratic process for getting an outdoor dining permit. Many restaurants debuted these Temporary Outdoor Seating Areas (TOSAs) to make up for lost revenue due to social distancing requirements and diners skittish of indoor spaces, giving guests an arguably safer dining experience in the process.
Since then, the County Board has expanded and molded the ordinance to changing circumstances.
In December, the Board granted restaurant and bar owners the ability to set up TOSAs in common areas, such as plazas. When capacity restrictions were lifted in the spring of 2021, the County Board gave restaurants a way to request temporary certificates of occupancy for their TOSAs so they could operate the seating areas while operating at full capacity indoors.
Now, the county is examining whether it should allow local restaurants to expand their outdoor dining areas on both private and public property permanently, according to the county website.
For instance, the study will look at how much private parking space and public right-of-way cafés should take up, and whether those on private property could continue operating with administrative approval, while those operating in public spaces would need County Board approval.
“Given the public interest, outdoor cafés in public rights-of-way generally face stricter requirements,” the website says. “This approach helps ensure sidewalks continue to serve mobility needs of the public or recreation needs of those enjoying public spaces and aims to protect other community interests and avoid adverse impacts.”
Permanent outdoor dining areas may end up in competition with another in-demand amenity: private parking provided by the restaurant. Currently, county zoning ordinances require one parking space for every six seats in restaurants that are more than 1,000 feet from a Metro station.
A dent in parking might not impact the majority of TOSAs, many of which are concentrated in Metro-accessible areas, such as the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and in Crystal City and Pentagon City, per a map of existing TOSA locations.
But parking spaces have enough potential that the survey asks respondents what safety features would encourage them to eat in street parking zones or in a parking lot, such as traffic barriers, planters, reflective features and tents.
Arlington is returning to the pre-pandemic process for restaurants to apply for outdoor tents, a move that has left at least a couple of local restaurants unhappy.
For the last two years, the county has made an effort to streamline the application process for outdoor tents as part of helping restaurants set up temporary outdoor seating areas, or TOSAs.
Back in December, however, the process for applying for outdoor tents was separated from the TOSA process, which was recently extended to February 2023. Arlington, meanwhile, is letting its Covid state of emergency expire on Aug. 15.
“The application process is returning to the pre-pandemic process that has always been in place. The process for tents was streamlined to help businesses during the pandemic,” County spokesperson Jessica Baxter tells ARLnow. “As they were before the pandemic, applications for tents must be submitted via the temporary structure/tent here. The guidelines for tents remain the same and have not changed.”
Those guidelines are enforced by the Arlington County Fire Department and fire marshall. Among the rules: a tent cannot be larger than 900 square feet and there needs to be a separate permit and inspections for gas heaters.
There is also a limitation on how long an outdoor temporary tent can be up: only six months (180 days) out of the year. What’s more, a business can’t apply for another permit to put up another tent until a six-month period has lapsed since the last tent was taken down.
These rules exist, said Baxter, because of the statewide fire code and there’s not much the county can do.
“The six-month temporary tent allowance is part of the Virginia Statewide Fire Code, which the County is required to follow. If an applicant wishes to make the tent more permanent, they can apply for a building permit and enter that process,” she wrote. “At this time, no tents should be up, with the exception of restaurants that received a building permit and single, pop-up tents smaller than 120 square feet.”
Of course, the fire code seems to be in conflict with the desire of many to dine outdoors, while being protected from the elements. With the state health department still reporting more than 100 Covid infections per day in Arlington, eating outside is widely viewed as a less risky alternative to indoor dining.
Baxter said the county is “actively working to create longer-term solutions that offer permanent outdoor dining options,” but temporary outdoor tents are not part of that effort because of the restrictions laid out in the fire code.
With most of the outdoor tents coming down in December, many businesses could have started reapplying for outdoor tents for the upcoming fall and winter season in June.
But reverting to a pre-pandemic process and guidelines has left a couple of restaurants that talked with ARLnow confused, frustrated, and at a loss on how to explain this to customers.
One is Medium Rare, the local steak restaurant with locations in Maryland, D.C., and one in Arlington’s Virginia Square neighborhood.
In the previous pandemic years, the restaurant did have an outdoor tent for diners, but Medium Rare had to take it down this past December, said owner Mark Bucher.
He told ARLnow that compared to other local jurisdictions, Arlington’s TOSA process, as well as the one to apply for outdoor tents, is “complicated and cumbersome.”
Bucher also wondered what the logic was behind the directive that a restaurant a tent had to come down after six months.
“Arlington has always been so restaurant-friendly, so this goes against everything,” he said. “Why put up a tent, take it down, and pay to put it back up again?”
As the weather turns cooler again, and as Covid and other respiratory diseases ramp up, customers are going to want to sit outside in a heated tent, he said. But Bucher worries that a number of restaurants are not going to go through the process to get a temporary tent again, and diners are going to take their business to other nearby jurisdictions.
For his part, Bucher said Medium Rare in Virginia Square will not be reapplying to put up an outdoor tent.
New “West Coast-inspired” Clarendon watering hole Bar Ivy has started serving as part of its soft opening, ahead of a planned grand opening celebration.
We’re told that the soft opening — with a limited menu, limited seatings and limited hours — started on Friday. The grand opening is scheduled for Wednesday, June 29.
Located at 3033 Wilson Blvd, a block from the Metro station, Bar Ivy has both Instagrammable indoor seating areas and a large, 125-seat “outdoor garden plaza” featuring a “casual walk-up kiosk” that will serve coffee and pastries in the morning.
“Bar Ivy combines the cool, relaxed vibe of the West Coast with a Mid Atlantic approach to ingredients, shining the spotlight on seafood and vegetables, vibrant cocktails and low-intervention wines,” said a press release announcing the opening. “Guests will find an elegant but laid-back atmosphere with subtle influences from the opposite coast, with attractive al fresco dining, an open, airy interior, and a casual Kiosk serving morning coffee and breakfast.”
The full press release is below.
With construction nearly complete, Bar Ivy in Clarendon is aiming to open later this month.
Tables and chairs are already out at the large outdoor cafe at 3033 Wilson Blvd, located a block from the Clarendon Metro station. Workers appeared to be putting the finishing touches on the coffee kiosk as much of the signage has also gone up.
The hope is to open Bar Ivy sometime in the second half of May, a spokesperson tells ARLnow.
Bar Ivy is aiming for a “cool, relaxed vibe of the West Coast with a Mid-Atlantic approach to ingredients,” said an April press release. It’s set to have a large 125-seat patio that will be shaded by mature crepe myrtles. There will also be a 20-seat interior bar plus several booths.
“Guests can expect an elegant but laid-back atmosphere with subtle influences from the opposite coast, with attractive garden dining, an open, airy bungalow-style interior,” the release says.
Bar Ivy is from D.C.-based Blagden Hospitality Group, which owns several popular bars and restaurants in the District as well as Hei Hei Tiger in Tysons. This is the restaurant group’s first foray into Arlington, though Bar Ivy chef/owner Nathan Beauchamp and Executive Chef Jonathan Till previously worked at Restaurant Eve and Evening Star Cafe, respectively, in Alexandria.
Bar Ivy will initially be open for dinner with a small kiosk serving coffee and pastries all day. The plan is to eventually serve lunch and brunch as well.
The menu will be “heavily influenced by seafood and vegetable-forward dishes,” according to the press release.
The beverage program will be “seasonal herb and produce-forward” along with house-made fortified wines, vermouth, and amari utilizing “self-foraged ingredients.” There will also be a separate menu dedicated to low/no-alcohol drinks.
The menu and exact hours are expected to be announced in the coming weeks. The restaurant group is already planning to open a second Bar Ivy in Bethesda.
The two nightlife venues replacing Whitlow’s on Wilson are gearing up to open over the next few months.
Taking over the long-time local watering hole, which closed in June after more than 25 years in Clarendon, are B Live and Coco B’s.
“We are thrilled to open B Live early spring, and Coco B’s late summer,” Bramson tells ARLnow. “We do not have anticipated opening dates yet, but construction and design are well underway for both concepts.”
Additional details will come soon, he said.
Building permits indicate B Live will occupy the first floor and possibly the basement of the space and Coco B’s will be the name of the old rooftop tiki bar at Whitlow’s. (The name Coco B’s could be a nod to the tiki bar theme, or to the noted local TikTok personality whose spats with two Arlington bars attracted considerable attention last summer.)
Bramson’s updates come after last Tuesday’s County Board approval of use permits for live entertainment and dancing at the two spots, as well as for a 48-seat outdoor café at B Live. The approvals came despite opposition from some neighbors over noise concerns.
The County Board approved the following operating hours: 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight on Sundays, which a county report says are similar to those of neighboring bars.
The Lyon Village Civic Association proposed earlier cut-off times of 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, the report said.
Board members instead approved a recommendation from county staff to review these permits this November and evaluate how successful the bars are at mitigating sounds.
Bramson says the spots will have sound panels and dampening curtains and speakers will be strategically placed to lessen noise levels.
“We are a neighborhood spot and want the community to be comfortable whether they are within the spaces or living nearby,” he said. “We hope our proactive response and action have served to allay any residential apprehension and show that we are taking their concerns very seriously.”
Noise from Whitlow’s was a source of consternation for neighbors that resulted in operating hours being curtailed from 2 a.m. to midnight, plus a requirement to install sound dampening panels and curtains, county planner Cedric Southerland told the County Board last Tuesday.
“That came after years and years trying to work with them to remedy their sound impacts on the neighborhood,” Southerland said. “Additionally, that issue is what preceded the formation of the Clarendon Live Entertainment Group (CLEG), along with other bars and restaurants coming online at that time.”
Established in 2002, the CLEG brings together county staff, restaurant owners and neighbors to address concerns and coordinate code enforcement. Southerland says recently, the CLEG has been meeting fewer times per year, which he takes to be a sign that the group is addressing the concerns that led to its creation two decades ago.
But not all neighbors say mechanisms like the CLEG actually help residents enjoy their homes. Julissa Marenco told the County Board on Tuesday that staff are not sufficiently enforcing noise violations and these organizations do not actually go to bat for neighbors.
“We are all in support of music, we are all in support of living in an urban dwelling, we understand the considerations that come with living in these neighborhoods,” she said. “But it’s now at a point on Wilson Blvd, in Clarendon, that it’s having a tremendous impact on individuals.”
Construction has started on major renovations to the Crystal City Water Park, JBG Smith announced Monday.
JBG Smith will update the existing, 1.6-acre park at 1601 Crystal Drive with new restaurant kiosks and seating areas, a full-service restaurant, new water features — including a “water wall” with a bar perched on top — and a stage.
The privately-owned park has long hosted small food and drink vendors. The new kiosks will highlight local, minority- and women-owned businesses, “local favorites” and “renowned names,” JBG Smith says.
“We are particularly excited about the Water Park kiosks, which will serve as incubator spaces where up-and-coming chefs and [restaurateurs] can experiment and grow,” JBG Smith Senior Vice President of Retail Leasing Amy Rice said in a statement.
In addition to decorative water features, the revamped park will also feature public art installations and a building with public restrooms and bike facilities near the entrance to the Mt. Vernon Trail. JBG Smith says it is working with Virginia Railway Express to build an accessible connection to the future entrance of the relocated VRE station.
The Water Park is not the only JBG-owned public space getting upgrades. Two blocks south at 2121 Crystal Drive, a lightly used private park space in front of an office building will see renovations and the construction of a 5,587-square-foot restaurant. Work on that project also started recently.
JBG Smith expects to complete both the Crystal City Water Park and Surreal in 2023.
“We see these both as inviting public spaces where families will enjoy a sunny day and colleagues can gather after work for a drink, a bite to eat and live music,” said JBG Smith Executive Vice President Bryan Moll in a statement.
Visitors will be able to keep their drinks in hand as they walk these open spaces. Last year, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority gave the developer the go-ahead to establish a “sip and stroll” zone within the boundaries of Crystal City Water Park and the courtyard.
These two projects, plus Amazon’s second headquarters and other redevelopment projects by JBG Smith, will triple the number of retail businesses in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, dubbed National Landing, the developer says.
Dems to Discuss School Board Caucus — “Unsurprisingly, perhaps, into this climate of culture war skirmishes surrounding public education comes opposition to the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s long-standing caucus process and even opposition to Democratic endorsement of candidates for school boards seats… At its February meeting, Arlington Democrats will debate the issues raised by its critics and vote on whether and how to change its caucus and endorsement process.” [Blue Virginia]
Winter Outdoor Dining Guide — “Before the pandemic, we never imagined that al fresco dining season in Northern Virginia would stretch into the teeth of winter. And while the wave of the latest Omicron cases seems to have peaked (fingers crossed!), those who are cautious about Covid but still want to support local businesses might choose to eat outside in the fresh air. Here are 11 restaurants cranking up the heat on outdoor dining spaces, and adding fun elements like fire pits or tented igloos.” [Arlington Magazine]
Steep HQ2 Energy Offset Costs — “The cost for Amazon.com Inc. to offset carbon emissions at its PenPlace development and meet Arlington County’s energy expectations will run upward of $5 million, according to a study by the company’s Seattle consultant.” [Washington Business Journal]
Beyer Calls for Long Covid Data — “A pair of Democratic House members asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a letter Tuesday to release data on the number of Americans who suffer lingering symptoms of coronavirus infection, including breakdowns along race, gender and age… Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has sponsored legislation to fund studies of long covid, co-signed the letter with Pressley.” [Washington Post, U.S. House of Representatives]
More on Pentagon City Apartment Upgrades — “An existing 12-year-old apartment high-rise adjacent to what will be Amazon’s massive HQ2 campus, Metropolitan Park, in Arlington County, Virginia, has been acquired… and the investors plan a multimillion makeover fitting for HQ2’s panache. ‘We are going to make these apartments the coolest and most desirable homes on the park,’ said Steve Schwat, UIP founding principal.” [WTOP]
Two Crystal City Hotels Sold — “An Atlanta real estate investment manager has acquired a pair of Crystal City hotels a little more than a month after their former owner primed them for future redevelopment. Affiliates of Noble Investment Group paid a combined $64.3 million in mid-December for the 162-room Hampton Inn & Suites Reagan National Airport and the 248-room Hilton Garden Inn, according to Arlington County land records… There do not appear to be immediate changes planned for the hotels themselves, except for their names.” [Washington Business Journal]
It’s Wednesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 30. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:23 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 33. [Weather.gov]
Clarendon is getting a new café and bar with an emphasis on outdoor drinking and dining.
Construction permits were approved earlier this summer for a new restaurant at 3303 Wilson Blvd, with expansive outdoor seating and a 120 square foot outdoor kiosk. The new establishment will be called “Bar Ivy” and will also feature a nearly 3,000 square foot indoor space on the ground floor, permit applications suggest.
Last October the County Board considered a request from the owner of the office building to allow an outdoor café and kiosk in an existing, sparsely-used plaza area along Wilson Blvd, near the intersection with N. Highland Street and catty-corner from the Clarendon Metro station.
From our reporting at the time:
The proposed café would have 125 seats outside and 59 seats inside, according to a county staff report.
“The outdoor café will occupy the majority of the existing plaza and be enclosed by moveable planters,” the staff report notes. “Although all existing trees will be maintained, the existing raised planter walls will be redesigned to accommodate the outdoor seating.”
The kiosk will serve “grab-and-go beverages” to both passersby as well as those dining at the outdoor café. It’s being considered by the County Board separately from the café.
“The kiosk will operate the same hours as the restaurant and outdoor café and will be located on private property at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Highland Street,” the staff report says.
According to a county staff report, the approval was granted on the condition that it applies to just one restaurant operator: a company called Meowlington LLC.
The LLC was formed in March 2020 by Greg Algie, records show. Algie was a business partner in the former Fado Irish Pub in D.C.’s Chinatown neighborhood and is the founder of Blagden Hospitality Group, the company behind a number of trendy D.C. restaurants including Tiger Fork, Calico, The Fainting Goat and Primrose.
Construction permits for the new restaurant were issued to Hospitality Construction Services, which counts Tiger Fork among its former projects. The company’s past projects also include the Ballston Quarter food hall and The Italian Store.
Outside 3033 Wilson Blvd today, fencing was up around the plaza and some excavation activity could be seen. Adjacent to the plaza, doors to an under-construction ground floor space were propped open.
There’s no word on when how long construction might take nor when the new restaurant may open, though such projects usually take a few months at a minimum.
A PR rep for Blagden Hospitality Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.