Arlington, VA

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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Morning Notes

Track Team Denied Trip to State Tourney — “High-school track and field competitors from across the commonwealth’s largest jurisdictions will descend on Virginia Beach March 1 for the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 boys and girls indoor state-championship meets. But Arlington athletes will not be among them. County school leaders have denied permission for teams to make the trip, citing health concerns about the ongoing high level of COVID infection in that part of Virginia and other factors.” [InsideNova]

County Employees Getting Vaccinated — “Arlington government leaders have decided that the entire county-government workforce qualifies as essential for ‘continuity of government,’ which bumps them ahead of several other groups as well as the general public in COVID-vaccination priority. County-government officials last week confirmed to the Sun Gazette that its entire workforce will be part of Virginia’s ‘Group 1b,’ placing them ahead of approximately 50 percent of the state’s population.” [Sun Gazette]

HQ2 Sparks Park Debate — “[Nearby residents] worry even the large parks Amazon is promising will feel more like playgrounds for the company’s workers than community assets, pressing Arlington County officials to invest and ensure public ownership of green space in the area. And in a section of Arlington where some neighborhood groups have raised persistent complaints about a lack of community parks over the years, the issue seems certain to dominate debates about development for the foreseeable future.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Food Biz Profiled — From the Ballston Business Improvement District: “After years of learning and cooking with their families, Andrea and Bryant created Bee J’s Cookies in April 2020 to share their gift with others.” [Twitter]

Arlington Org Helped Thousands with Food Needs — “AHC Inc., a premier provider of affordable housing communities in metro D.C., sprang into action last spring to help residents suffering from the effects of the pandemic. In 2020, AHC’s Resident Services team with support from the property management arm, AHC Management, has provided substantial food and financial assistance to more than 3,000 families in Maryland and Virginia.” [AHC Inc.]

‘Cyber Flashing’ Bill Killed — “Fear not, creepy Virginia dudes — you can still legally send an unsolicited picture of your genitals to people. For now, at least. A bill that would ban cyber-flashing in Virginia was killed last Wednesday. Cyber-flashing is when someone sends unsolicited explicit photos to another person, and the bill proposed to make it a misdemeanor.” [Washingtonian, Virginia Mercury]

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The Pentagon City Metro station is getting a second elevator.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board voted to award a contract to W. M. Schlosser Company for the construction of a second station elevator on the west side of S. Hayes Street, near the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall.

Designs for the elevator were first approved early last year and the contract for managing the construction was approved this past summer.

The second elevator will eliminate the need for pedestrians to cross six lanes of traffic on S. Hayes Street, two parking lanes, and a bike lane to reach the one elevator currently in operation on the other side of S. Hayes Street, near the Pentagon Centre shopping center.

“For those with mobility issues, this is a big step forward so that we can serve everyone well,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti at the meeting.

Construction is expected to start in the spring and be completed within a year, by spring 2022.

The Maryland-based W. M. Schlosser Company previously was awarded the contract to rehabilitate Arlington House in 2018 and completed streetscape projects for the county in Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

The total cost of the elevator contract is about $6.5 million, which actually exceeded the initial estimate by about double. Changing market conditions and the risks involved with such a complex project are “likely reasons” for the higher costs, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesperson Eric Balliet.

Funding for the project is a combination of federal ($2.4 million), state ($2.1 million), and local funds ($2 million).

The Pentagon City Metro station has one of the highest riderships in Northern Virginia, according to the staff report. The station averaged about 12,500 entering riders in 2019, though that number has been cut by more than two thirds in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The elevator will add to the two escalators that already lead to the station at street level on the west site of S. Hayes Street.

“Providing entry to the station from the west side of South Hayes Street improves ADA access as well as access for passengers with strollers and luggage,” reads the report.

Additionally, it will provide redundancy if — or when — one of the elevators goes out of service for any reason.

The County approved this item as part of its consent agenda, meaning it was non-controversial and was acted upon by a single vote. The County Board also approved, as part of the consent agenda, an increase in the contract for the eventual inspection of the elevator’s construction.

The Pentagon City Metro is also getting four new escalators as part of a $179-million, seven-year system-wide project to replace and install new heavy-duty escalators. That project will begin in May.

Photo courtesy of Arlington County

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The National Landing Business Improvement District is working on a program to support ground-floor restaurants and retailers in Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

Dubbed “Love Local,” the marketing campaign will distribute almost $100,000 in grants to eligible retail and dining establishments within the boundaries of the BID, through a partnership with Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington.

“While the support of businesses is a consistent function of Arlington County’s business improvement districts, the specific needs of businesses has changed as a result of the global health pandemic,” a county report said. “This initiative aims to provide direct financial support to businesses within the BID boundary in response to the economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The BID does not yet have a comment, a spokeswoman said.

The $100,000 in funding for the program includes an administrative and marketing fee of $10,000 for RAMW, which will administer the grants.

During its regular meeting on Saturday, the County Board approved the BID’s request to change its work plan for the 2021 Fiscal Year to include this grant program. The amendment allows the business district to provide direct assistance to businesses in the form of a grant, “an action that requires approval by the County Board as the governing body of the BID,” the county said.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is able to review the eligibility requirements to participate in the grant program as well as how the money would be used if not for the relief program, the county said.

This is the first fiscal year that the organization is fully operational as the National Landing BID, according to its 2021 Work Plan. The County Board voted in September 2019 to expand the boundaries of the Crystal City BID to include Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

Image via Google Maps

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Seven Arlington Metro stations will be getting new escalators.

This is part of a $179-million, seven-year project that begins in May to replace old escalators and install 130 new heavy-duty ones at 32 stations across the Metro system.

In total, 36 escalators across seven Arlington stations will be replaced.

They are:

  • Rosslyn (8 escalators)
  • Ballston (6 escalators)
  • National Airport (4 escalators)
  • Pentagon (5 escalators)
  • Pentagon City (4 escalators)
  • Crystal City (6 escalators)
  • Virginia Square (3 escalators)

The new escalators will have up-to-date safety features and LED lighting. The contract for the project was awarded to the Finnish engineering company KONE.

The escalators set to be replaced include four in Rosslyn that date back to 1977 and rise nearly ten stories. At 207 feet high, they are among the world’s longest, continuous escalators.

“Replacing these escalators that average 38-years old, will ensure we maintain reliability for our customers today and into the future,” Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in the press release.

To install the new escalators, KONE will have to demolish the existing escalators and remove them piece by piece.

No more than 18 escalators will be out of service at any given time, the transportation agency promises.

For the last decade, Metro has made it a priority to fix, rehabilitate, and replace frequently breaking escalators. By the time this project is completed, Metro will have replaced or rehabilitated 84% of its escalators since 2011.

However, Metro has not set forth a timeline beyond the work beginning in May.

The full press release from Metro is below.

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Arlington County police are stepping up patrols around Crystal City and surrounding neighborhoods amid a rash of carjackings.

There have been 18 carjackings in Arlington since January 2020, the police department said, compared to three total over from 2018 to 2019. Most — 13 out of 18 — have occurred along the Route 1 corridor, including 7 in the immediate vicinity of the Pentagon City mall.

It’s part of a regional crime trend, with other D.C. area jurisdictions similarly experiencing sharp rises in carjackings. ACPD says it has arrested or identified suspects already in custody in 8 of the 18 cases in Arlington.

To help combat the crime wave, the department “continues to deploy increased police resources, to include both visible and non-visible assets, in Crystal City and the surrounding neighborhoods.” It is also “engaging with community members and businesses in the area to share important crime and safety information.”

“The Department is deploying electronic signboards in various locations throughout the County as part of a high-visibility public awareness campaign,” ACPD said in a press release Tuesday.

The carjackers, police say, “often approach victims as they are exiting or sitting in their parked vehicles, brandish a firearm and demand the victim’s keys or property.”

“In some cases, the suspects approach the victim on foot while in others, the suspects approach in a vehicle later determined to be stolen,” police said. “Reported incidents in Arlington County have involved between one and four suspects.”

In the press release, the police department touted the arrests of four suspects seen acting suspiciously in a Pentagon City parking lot Saturday afternoon. More from ACPD:

At approximately 4:40 p.m. on February 13, officers working in the area were dispatched to the 900 block of Army Navy Drive for the report of a suspicious unoccupied vehicle. The reporting party advised they had observed four subjects exit the vehicle, walk slowly through the parking lot, appearing to be casing vehicles. Using law enforcement resources, officers determined the vehicle had previously been reported stolen from a carjacking in Maryland. Officers established a perimeter and the occupants were taken into police custody as they returned to the vehicle. [An 18-year-old suspect from Washington, D.C.] was found in possession of the vehicle’s key and was charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. Two other occupants, an adult and juvenile, were charged with narcotics offenses.

Police offered the following safety tips for drivers to help avoid being a victim of a carjacking, car theft, or vehicle break-in.

  • “Exit your vehicle and continue to your destination promptly after parking”
  • “Park in well-lit, high traffic areas.”
  • “Be aware of your surroundings when entering and exiting your vehicle”
  • “Limit your use of devices that may distract you, such as cell phones and headphones”
  • “Don’t leave items unattended or visible in your vehicle”

Flickr pool photo (top) by Kevin Wolf. Map (below) courtesy ACPD.

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Morning Notes

Planning Process for Pentagon City Underway — “Amazon.com Inc.’s vision for Pentagon City is decidedly futuristic, anchored by a helix-shaped building that looks straight out of a sci-fi novel. Arlington County’s existing plans that guide the neighborhood’s growth, meanwhile, date back to the days of disco… The open question is how much more development the tech giant will inspire.” [Washington Business Journal]

SUV Overturns on GW Parkway — From WTOP yesterday morning: “NB George Washington Pkwy before the Key Bridge, crash involves one on its side with the left lane only squeezing by.” [Twitter]

GMU to Partner with Local American Legion Post — “Realizing a need existed to help veterans and their families in similar situations, leaders at the law school established the Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) in 2004…. A new partnership with American Legion Post 139, which will be standing up a new building in Arlington, will allow the clinic to further increase its impact.” [George Mason University]

New Apartment Building Opening — “AHC Inc., a leading developer of affordable housing in the Washington-Baltimore metro region, is pleased to introduce a new apartment community in Arlington, VA, called The Apex. Featuring a total of 256 apartments, the $100 million development has started to welcome its first residents and is currently accepting applications.” [Press Release]

Arlington Housing Remains Pricey — “The city of Falls Church in Virginia remains the most expensive housing market, by official jurisdiction, with a median price of $820,000 last month. But among larger jurisdictions, Virginia’s Arlington County remains the most expensive, at $600,000 last month.” [WTOP]

Instant-Runoff Voting Challenges — “Technical, legal and financial complexities likely will mean any start to ‘instant-runoff’ County Board voting in Arlington will be pushed back to 2022 at the soonest. ‘It’s not practical for this year. The earliest this could possibly be used is next year,’ said Arlington Electoral Board secretary Scott McGeary, summing things up during a Feb. 6 Electoral Board meeting.” [InsideNova]

Reminder: Blue Line Work Starts Tomorrow — “Metro’s entire Blue Line is being shut down for more than three months starting Saturday… platform reconstruction work [is] being performed at the Arlington Cemetery station.” [ARLnow]

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A new boutique coffee shop and roaster is now open at Westpost, formerly known as Pentagon Row.

Origin Coffee Lab and Kitchen served up its first morning cup of joe last month after initially announcing their arrival early last year. It’s located at 1101 S. Joyce Street, in the former Starbucks space between Basic Burger and Lebanese Taverna.

The coffee shop has a variety of options, including five different origins of coffee to choose from plus six methods of brewing.

Besides coffee, it also serves all-day breakfast like pancakes and benedicts as well as a “noon to night” menu with schnitzel and sliders.

Owner Andy Mekonnen tells ARLnow he opened the first iteration of this concept in Dubai in 2015. But he moved to the D.C.-area nearly five years ago and quickly realized Arlington could be a perfect place for another Origin.

“Arlington is vibrant… I thought the concept would be well-received here,” he says.

The shop was initially supposed to open in 2019, but COVID-19 related delays pushed it to 2021.

While recognizing that there are a number of boutique coffee shops in the county, Mekonnen says that what sets Origins apart is attempting to do it all in-house.

“The focus is not only on the coffee, but the food and pastries,” he says. “We are not out-sourcing anything, but trying to do everything in-house.”

That includes roasting. The shop has a glass-enclosed roastery inside that fully displays the roasting process to customers.

Mekonnen is also working on setting up roasting workshops, trainings, and coffee cupping sessions for customers.

“[Cupping sessions] is very similar to wine tastings,” he says. “Coffee isn’t just coffee. Coffee from different origins actually tastes very different.”

While opening up a small business in the midst of a pandemic comes with challenges, Mekonnen says a coffee shop like his has a natural advantage since most of his menu items can easily be offered as take-out.

“[We] have it sorta easier than other industries… because people have adapted to take-away,” he says. “People have learned to live with COVID.”

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Yesterday, Amazon revealed a bold plan for the second phase of its HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The main attraction of the 2.8 million square foot office proposal is The Helix, “a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Part park, part office building, The Helix could one day be as prominent an Arlington landmark as any other building, except perhaps the Pentagon — which is just across the street.

The Helix will be joined by three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, a public pedestrian promenade and dog park, and three retail pavilions. That’s in addition to everything in the first HQ2 phase.

The design of the development, specifically The Helix, has drawn mixed reviews. Among the headlines generated by the big reveal:

  • “Amazon’s next headquarters is a glass poop emoji covered in trees” (The Verge)
  • “A Soft Serve Matcha Ice Cream Cone” (Washingtonian)
  • “Amazon Plans a Climbable Office Tower: Building across river from DC will rival Washington Monument on area’s skyline” (Newser)

What do you think?

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Amazon has unveiled plans for the PenPlace site in the second phase of its $2.5 billion HQ2 in Pentagon City, including a lush office building shaped like a double helix.

The company will build 2.8 million square feet of office space across three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, and three retail pavilions. The focal point will be The Helix: a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

PenPlace will also have three acres of open space with a dog run and a 250-seat amphitheater, for public use.

Amazon will start filing designs and technical documents with Arlington County Tuesday morning, Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedó said during a call with journalists on Monday.

The tech giant aims to go before the Arlington County Board by the end of 2021, with construction starting in 2022 and ending in 2025, said John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President Global Real Estate and Facilities, during the call. He affirmed that so far, HQ2 remains on-schedule.

PenPlace is bounded by Army Navy Drive, S. Fern Street, 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street. Amazon owns the entire block after it bought a hotel on the site in September. The hotel is currently being torn down.

Schoettler said Arlington County has given Amazon more flexibility for this phase than for the first phase of development on the Metropolitan Park site, which includes two, 22-story concrete office buildings, retail and open space.

“The County Board told us for PenPlace, we really want you to push the envelope,” he said. “It really gave us a clean canvas to try new things.”

The Helix will be the highlight of the site and the tallest building, said Lead Architect Dale Alberda, who works for the international architecture firm NBBJ and helped to design The Spheres within the company’s Seattle headquarters. Throughout PenPlace, he said, the designs keep employees, who will number 25,000 across HQ2, close to nature and the community.

“Amazon has been challenging us to think about how people can connect to nature not just outside when the weather is good, but inside as well, so that it’s available all day, all the time,” Alberda said.

Schoettler said Amazon is also working hard to use sustainable energy. As part of its goal of LEED Platinum certifications — and to meet its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 — the buildings will be powered by a solar farm in southern Virginia.

The headquarters will feature one-quarter mile of new protected bike lanes and more than 950 onsite bike spaces as well as below-ground parking for about 2,100 cars and underground loading zones for trucks. There will also be a new bus platform on 12th Street S. near the main entrance to PenPlace.

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