Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Residents Want Better HQ2 View — “The tallest and most distinctive tower planned for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, the conch-shaped ‘Helix,’ will be like no other building in Greater Washington. And Arlington residents would like to see it from their neighborhoods… [as planned] the positioning would obstruct the surrounding community’s views of the signature structure, said Leonardo Sarli, an Arlington planning commissioner.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ebbin Endorses Colleague’s Challenger — “State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-Alexandria-Arlington-Fairfax) has endorsed challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker in the competitive Democratic primary in the 45th House District. ‘I feel a responsibility to weigh in,’ Ebbin said in an April 22 statement… Bennett-Parker, who currently serves as vice chair of the Alexandria City Council, will face off against [Del. Mark] Levine in the June 8 Democratic primary.” [Sun Gazette]

County Launches Hunger Task Force — “Arlington County has launched a Food Security Task Force to develop strategies and recommendations to achieve a more food secure Arlington. ‘Our fellow Arlingtonians in need are our families and neighbors, and while the County and community came together to address hunger needs throughout the pandemic, much more remains to be done,’ said Matt de Ferranti, Chair of the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]

Bar Seating Now Allowed Again — “Remember sitting at a bar and ordering a drink from a bartender? It’s been a while since that simple activity has been allowed in much of the greater Washington area due to pandemic regulations. But in an executive order quietly updated on Wednesday, Governor Ralph Northam is allowing Virginia bar patrons to be seated at a bar for service as long as there is a minimum of six feet between parties.” [Washingtonian]

Other Covid Restrictions Eased — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that sports and entertainment venues in Virginia may begin to operate with expanded capacity, and social gathering limits will increase beginning Saturday, May 15th. The announcement comes as vaccinations continue to rise in the Commonwealth, and more than half of all adults have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]

Nearby: D.C. Statehood Advances — “For the second time in history, the House passed legislation Thursday to make the District of Columbia the nation’s 51st state, bolstering momentum for a once-illusory goal that has become a pivotal tenet of the Democratic Party’s voting rights platform. Democrats unanimously approved Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s Washington, D.C. Admission Act, describing it as a bid to restore equal citizenship to the residents of the nation’s capital and rectify a historic injustice.” [Washington Post]

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(Updated at 6:50 p.m.) It seems the Harris Teeter in the Pentagon Row shopping center, now rebranded as WestPost, will not be vacating its spot anytime soon.

And if it did, Arlington County will continue to hold the shopping center’s owner to a 1998 agreement that requires the space be filled by a full-service grocery and drug store. The County Board affirmed the status quo in a vote on Saturday.

Although Harris Teeter has at least 10 years on its lease, the Sun Gazette reports, residents in the 22202 zip code were worried about even the possibility that their neighborhood grocery store would one day be replaced with a smaller-scale grocer such as Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. (Pentagon City already has one Whole Foods, near Amazon’s future HQ2.)

Anticipating the end of Harris Teeter’s initial lease, Pentagon Row’s owner, Rockville-based Federal Realty Investment Trust, had requested the county modify the 1998 agreement to allow Federal Realty to find a smaller retailer that sells drug- and grocery-store items if it could not find a full-service store.

The ask, which included other requests for flexibility regarding space, went before the Arlington County Board last month. At the time, nearly a dozen community members voiced their support for keeping the language. Board members deferred the item for one month so County Manager Mark Schwartz could work with the property owner on changes.

The revised proposal that the Board saw on Saturday kept provisions allowing the shopping center more flexibility with leasing and architecture, nixed the grocery store request completely. Members of the County Board unanimously approved the revised proposal, without any modifications to the grocery store agreement, without discussion.

“Because of our combined efforts, the developer backed off on changing [the] section that would have allowed less than a full-scale grocery,” said Carol Fuller, the president of the Crystal City Civic Association and Open Space Coordinator for Livability 22202, an advocacy group for quality-of-life issues in the area. “We were very worried about losing Harris Teeter. We fought it hard. Once they dropped that, we were no longer concerned with the other amendments.”

The county previously said that “Federal Realty shared their full intent and interest in retaining the current tenant or other similar operator.”

The shopping center sought the flexibility, supported by the National Landing Business Improvement District and the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, “so that they can respond to changes in the market in the event that they need to replace the grocery store tenant and services.”

Scott Miles, president of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, said last month that losing Harris Teeter, or an equivalent full-service store, would degrade grocery options in a core part of the county and hinder residents’ ability to buy necessities without a car.

“A large, full-service grocer at the site remains an essential community service,” he said. “This may sound harsh, but we want the applicant to be fearful of not maintaining a large grocer — it’s not enough to ask for commercially reasonable efforts.”

Image via Google Maps

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Feeling a little stir-crazy for the movie experience but not quite ready to return to theaters yet? The National Landing BID is bringing back an outdoor film festival next month.

The BID will show a new movie every Friday at 8 p.m. on a softball field at Virginia Highlands Park (1600 S. Hayes Street) in the Pentagon City area.

“Social distancing circles” will be sprayed onto the field with a four-person limit per circle. Masks will be required outside of those circles.

Tickets are free but registration in advance is required.

The “Movies in the Park” lineup for May is:

Image via Orion Pictures/YouTube

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Morning Notes

APS to Offer Coronavirus Testing — “Beginning the week of April 19, APS will begin providing free medical testing for students and staff who are symptomatic, or who have been exposed to COVID-19. Walk-up testing will be conducted after school hours with parent/guardian consent. Walk-up testing sites at Glebe Elementary, Kenmore Middle and Wakefield High Schools provide trained staff to assist in mid-nasal swab testing using the RT-PCR test after school hours.” [Arlington Public Schools]

New DCA Concourse Opening Next Week — “The shuttle buses will soon be relocated to Philadelphia. And the air stairs, no more. After nearly 25 years, officials at Reagan National Airport on Thursday unveiled a much-anticipated addition, a sleek 14-gate concourse that will mark the end of operations of the much-maligned Gate 35X. American Airlines will begin service Tuesday out of the new concourse.” [Washington Post, NBC 4, DCist]

New Concessions Coming to DCA — Timber Pizza Co. and Peet’s Coffee are among the new food and drink options coming to National Airport and its new concourse. [Twitter, Twitter]

Group Rallies for Affordable Housing –“I’m at a rally hosted by the ACE Collaborative, community organizers who work with Asian American residents in Arlington. They’re in [Pentagon City] this evening, asking the county to take steps to end displacement as rents rise. In the immediate term, the group is calling for the county to add $8 million to its housing grant program in the next budget.” [Twitter]

Car Fire on GW Parkway — “ACFD is on scene of a vehicle fire on the GW Parkway near Spout Run. The vehicle is fully engulfed in flames, per the first arriving firefighters.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Animal Control Saves Turtle — “We need to thank Officer Davis for helping this snapping turtle, who was trying to cross I-395 during rush hour. Thankfully, she was able to safely remove him, bring him to the shelter for a check-up, and then release him back into the wild where he belongs!” [Twitter]

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A new farmers market may be coming to Pentagon City.

On Saturday, April 17, the County Board is planning to hear a permit request from the National Landing Business Improvement District about holding an open-air farmers market at the plaza area in the northern portion of Metropolitan Park, about 2-3 blocks from the Pentagon City Metro station.

The farmers market would take place on Saturdays, April through November, from 8 a.m.-noon. However, the market would not start until June this year, National Landing BID spokesperson Ashley Forrester tells ARLnow.

The reason for the delay, writes Forrester, is so that the BID can do more planning in advance and set themselves “up for success in future years” for when there’s a new park.

Metropolitan Park is on the verge of getting a $14 million makeover courtesy of Amazon and its new, adjacent HQ2, with design work from James Corner Field Operations of New York’s High Line fame. That project is expected to be completed in 2023.

The market will be operated by Freshfarm Markets, which runs nearly 30 markets in the D.C.-area including four in Arlington.

If approved, the market would be able to accommodate up to 20 vendors, who would park along 13th Street S. and S. Fair Street.

The staff report notes that the area around Metropolitan Park contains several high-rise, multi-family apartment buildings, so they expect most patrons to the farmers market will likely walk or bike there.

The County Board will review the use permit for the farmers market again in a year, April 2022.

This additional market would give Arlington nine active farmers markets, a number of which have opened or will be opening in the coming weeks.

Pre-ordering is still being encouraged as a safety measure, but all the markets are open for in-person shopping. It’s a change from early last year when markets were briefly shut down due to the pandemic and, then, allowed to reopen only for pre-order sales.

Photo via Flickr/Cliff

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Arlington County is seeking public input about improvements to the portion of S. Eads Street between 12th and 15th streets in Pentagon City.

The public survey focuses on the east (northbound) side of the relatively small section of S. Eads Street running near Amazon’s future HQ2. It asks questions about living and working in Arlington, how individuals travel around the county, and how safe does one feel traveling along this particular segment of S. Eads Street.

The last page of the survey provides an interactive map, asking individuals to leave comments about their difficulty crossing the street, sightlines, and if pavement or sidewalks are in need of repair.

“We’re hoping to gather observations and experiences on how people use the street now across all modes, from biking and walking to taking transit and driving,” writes Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, in an email to ARLnow. “We’d like to know what issues they experience, any safety or access concerns they have, and how they might want to see the street improved. The feedback will be used to guide the development of the concept design, which we will present later for another round of feedback.”

The existing streetscape includes a partially protected bike lane, inconsistent sidewalk, and a lack of street lighting. The layout of the street is also primarily oriented toward cars, according to the project’s webpage.

Improvements being considered include adding physical protection to the bike lane, adding more street lighting, and reconstructing and realigning sidewalks.

“Together, these improvements will create a safer, more accessible, and more comfortable environment for all users of the street,” says the webpage.

The county’s master transportation plan as well as other plans and studies all call for S. Eads Street to be reconstructed into a so-called complete street — one safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, mass transit users, and drivers. This was first implemented as a pilot project back in 2014.

The survey is part of the county’s “preliminary public engagement” process and will be open until Friday, April 23.

The concept design for the changes is set to be unveiled this spring or summer. Afterward, more time will be provided for the public to weigh in.

By the fall, the final concept design should be ready with engineering, design, and procurement of a contractor set to be completed by the spring of 2023.

Construction is scheduled to start in the summer of 2023 and be completed a year later, in the summer of 2024.

S. Eads Street has seen constant construction, planned improvements, and redevelopment in recent years due in large part to Amazon’s arrival to the county.

The other side of S. Eads Street — southbound — is also set to receive improvements as part of later phases of the (Amazon-funded) Metropolitan Park development.

Image (2) via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

New Irish Pub Now Open in Pentagon City — “If your notion of an Irish pub is a static menu of fish n’ chips in a shamrock-decked bar, chef Cathal Armstrong wants to change that perception with Mattie and Eddie’s. The James Beard-anointed chef, who championed seasonal Irish cooking over 14 years at Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve, just opened the gastropub with a large outdoor patio in Pentagon City.” [Washingtonian]

Extended Power Outage in Barcroft — A driver crashed into a utility pole at S. Buchanan Street and 6th Street S. in the Barcroft neighborhood Sunday, initially knocking out power to thousands. Hundreds of homes were still in the dark until early this morning. [Twitter]

Candidate Comes Out Swinging At Dem Meeting — “[Chanda] Choun, who is attempting to unseat sitting Democrat Takis Karantonis in a June primary, did not pull many punches in an April 7 kickoff speech before the Arlington County Democratic Committee rank-and-file. ‘Takis was not the best candidate to represent Arlington’ during a politically and racially charged era, Choun said… If elected, Choun said he would be an elected official who ‘goes beyond the platitudes and buzzwords’ to promote an aggressively left-leaning agenda. One example: Choun said he wanted the county to establish a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ to focus on equity issues.” [Sun Gazette]

School Board Advances Budget Proposal — “The School Board adopted its FY 2022 Proposed Budget at its April 8 meeting. The proposed budget expenditures total $699,919,805. The School Board amended the Superintendent’s FY22 Revised Proposed Budget by reducing the budgeted expenditures by $6,796,056 and 35.00 FTE and replacing the 2% cost of living adjustment with Compensation Option 1. Compensation Option 1 provides different compensation models by employee scale to ensure that every employee in the school division receives a compensation increase.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Pentagon Police Officer Faces Murder Charges — “Takoma Park police have charged the off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer they say shot and killed two men Wednesday morning in Montgomery County, Maryland. The officer has also been charged for an alleged assault that happened last year. David Hall Dixon, of Takoma Park, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of use of a handgun in commission of a felony and reckless endangerment.” [WTOP]

Don’t Hang Up on 911 — From Arlington County: “Oops, did you call 911 by mistake? It’s OK, just stay on the line and tell the friendly dispatcher it was an accident. That way, they can confirm there’s no emergency… Otherwise, we’ll have to call you back, taking away a dispatcher who could help someone who needs it.” [Twitter]

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Amazon has released a new, nearly six-minute video that touts its HQ2 investment in Arlington.

The video discusses progress on Amazon’s permanent second headquarters complex in Pentagon City, the inspiration behind the proposed Helix tower, and the company’s various investments in the community.

More from an Amazon blog post:

We are making good progress in building HQ2, our headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. We remain committed to creating 25,000 new jobs and investing more than $2.5 billion here over the next decade.

Today, there are more than 1,600 Amazon employees working from Arlington on teams including AWS, Devices, and Finance, with hundreds of open roles available.

Construction is on schedule at Metropolitan Park, the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 development, and continues under extraordinary health and safety measures. We recently returned to grade, meaning the buildings have reached street level — an exciting construction milestone for this project. And, we look forward to continuing the community review process alongside Arlington County for our proposed plans at PenPlace, the second phase of Amazon’s development. Together, Metropolitan Park and PenPlace will deliver a welcoming urban experience, anchored by large public open spaces, significant new retail, and a connection to nature not only for Amazon employees but also the entire Arlington community.

We are actively getting to know our new neighbors and stitching ourselves into the community. From our recent sponsorship of the legendary Cherry Blossom Festival to our $381 million commitment to help keep Crystal House affordable through our Housing Equity Fund, we are building a better neighborhood together.

Despite the rosy picture, Amazon has faced some local criticism for its use of millions in government incentives, an alleged lack of certain types of community engagement and transparency, and for its potential role in driving up rents.

The full video, which debuted yesterday at a global “all-hands” meeting for employees, is below.

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Those who work at HQ2 have a new ABC store from which to procure their booze.

The new Virginia ABC store at 1301 S. Joyce Street is set to open next Tuesday, April 6, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority announced today. The space previously housed a Mike Bloomberg for President campaign office.

The CEO of Virginia ABC said the store, at the Westpost (previously Pentagon Row) shopping center, is opening in response to local demand. The 4,200 square foot retail location in Pentagon City will offer more than 2,700 items, including over 400 types of bourbon.

“Store hours are noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday,” noted a press release, adding that “the new Pentagon Row store will provide curbside service.”

The full press release is below.

Arlington County residents in the Pentagon City area will have a new retail outlet for purchasing distilled spirits, mixers and Virginia wine. On April 6, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) will open a new store at 1301 S. Joyce St., Suite D12, in the Pentagon Row shopping center.

“Today, approximately 93% of Virginians live within a 20-minute drive of an ABC store. But even with this reach, we heard there was a need to provide a higher level of convenience to the 190,000 people 21 or older who live in Arlington County,” said Virginia ABC Chief Executive Officer Travis Hill. “This new store is proof that we’re listening.”

This will be the ninth ABC store in Arlington County. The new store measures more than 4,200 square feet. The store’s product selection spans over 2,700 items, including 434 bourbons, 381 vodkas, 244 rums, 240 cordials and 217 tequilas.

“Arlington County has more than 250 businesses licensed to serve mixed beverages,” said Hill. “These businesses are also our customers. We are committed to providing them with excellent service.”

The store employs five sales associates, two lead sales associates, one assistant store manager and one store manager who are eager to help customers find what they are looking for and discover new products. Store hours are noon to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Like most of ABC’s stores across the commonwealth, the new Pentagon Row store will provide curbside service. After placing an online order at www.abc.virginia.gov, customers can opt for contactless pickup of spirits, Virginia wines and mixers the same day the order is placed, as long as the selected products are available in the store.

Throughout the pandemic, Virginia ABC has implemented safety measures in all of its 393 stores using retailer guidance provided by the Virginia Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to include:

  • Face mask requirement for customers and store employees. ABC will make every attempt to provide a face mask to customers who arrive without one.
  • Plexiglas shields at registers
  • Floor markers to ensure customers stand at least six feet apart from one another
  • Daily cleaning and sanitizing with particular attention to most frequented areas including checkout counters and high-touch surfaces such as door handles and knobs
  • Hand sanitizer at registers for customer and employee use

Customers are encouraged to visit Virginia ABC’s website at www.abc.virginia.gov to search for stores, determine the availability of products at any retail location and order spirits online for in-store or curbside pickup, or home delivery in select areas.

Per Virginia law, ABC’s profits from in-store and online retail sales are remitted each year to the commonwealth for designated state programs and services. For fiscal year 2020, ABC contributed a total of $545.3 million ($212.1 million from retail sales) to the commonwealth.

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Arlington County has kicked off the review process for PenPlace, the second proposed phase of Amazon’s HQ2.

For PenPlace, located at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street, Amazon is proposing 3.3 million square feet of solar-powered office space divided among the lush, futuristic building, dubbed “The Helix,” and three, 22-story office buildings with ground-floor retail.

The 11-acre site, which could accommodate up to 16,000 employees, will also have 2.5 acres of public open space, three retail pavilions and child care. A network of 2,100 parking spaces and loading areas for trucks will all be underground.

And, of course, there will be the “The Helix,” the distinctive building described as “a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

County officials say there will be numerous opportunities for virtual public engagement and are encouraging people to get involved in the process. The County Board is anticipated to hold a public hearing on PenPlace by the end of 2021.

“We have always had a highly engaged community and we’re proud of the valuable input that we use to fashion the best possible outcomes,” Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said during a meeting last night (Thursday) that kicked off the review process.

He added that Arlingtonians “are civically minded, they’re knowledgeable, and they so often bring us the best ideas that add to original plans that have been put forward.”

County Manager Mark Schwartz said the review process will resemble the process for Metropolitan Park — the first permanent HQ2 phase — which the County Board approved in December 2019 and is set to be complete in 2023. Located near S. Eads Street and 15th Street S., Met Park features 2.1 million square feet of office space across two towers and 2.5 acres of public park space.

“We are starting the process — there’s a road ahead of us,” Schwartz said. “It’s a proposed plan and we’re going to have a lot of conversations with the community.”

John Schoettler, Amazon’s vice president for global real estate, said the public input for Met Park proved valuable as Amazon mapped out PenPlace.

“The PenPlace design plans build on the community input we received during the Metropolitan Park approvals to raise the bar even further on accessibility, design innovation and sustainability,” he said, adding that Amazon is aiming for LEED Platinum certification for its PenPlace buildings.

Over the course of the next 10 months, online engagement opportunities will be held at multiple points in the process.

In April and May, the Long Range Planning Committee will consider how Amazon’s project fits into the county’s plans for future development in the area and will take input from nearby civic associations, property owners and county commissions.

Then, the Site Plan Review Committee will take over, during which time the committee can ask Amazon to make changes based on their reviews and community feedback. After the SPRC, PenPlace will go to the Planning Commission before going to the County Board for approval.

Meanwhile, the Department of Parks and Recreation will lead a review of public spaces in the area as part of a Park Master Planning Process. Community members will also be able to provide feedback on this process during online engagement opportunities and through online questionnaires, county staff said.

At the county’s request, an in-depth multimodal transportation assessment is also ongoing, Gorove Slade Transportation Planner Dan VanPelt said. The principal focus will be weekday rush hour traffic, although some attention will be paid to weekend retail traffic, too, he said.

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(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) A Baltimore-based Mexican restaurant is the next buzzy eatery to open in Pentagon City.

Late last month, Banditos Bar & Kitchen announced via social media that they will be opening an outpost at Westpost, the shopping center formerly known as Pentagon Row.

This will be their third location, but the first in Virginia.

Owner Sean White tells ARLnow that they will be taking over the space that is currently Thaiphoon restaurant, likely in October. From there, the build-out should take about six months. He expects Banditos to open in March or April 2022. It was not immediately clear whether Thaiphoon will be closing in Pentagon City or moving to a new location.

White says they’ve wanted to open a restaurant in the D.C. area for sometime. Arlington is a particularly good fit for the brand, he says, due to Amazon’s continued expansion into the county.

Banditos is owned by White Oak Hospitality Group, a Maryland restaurant group with a number of ventures in Baltimore and surrounding areas. This will be their third restaurant at a property owned by Federal Realty Investment Trust, the owner of Westpost and the Village at Shirlington.

The Arlington location of Banditos will be roughly the same size as the other locations, about 3,000 square feet, according to the Washington Business Journal. There will also be outdoor seating.

On its website, the restaurant describes itself as “a TACO temple inspired by the mouthwatering flavors of Mexican street food.” The menu includes classic fare like tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and margaritas.

In recent months, a slew of restaurants have also announced impending arrivals at Westport.

James Beard-nominated local chef Cathal Armstrong is opening an Irish restaurant this spring in the former Siné space, next to the future Banditos. Northern Virginia-native Chef Tim Ma’s popular Lucky Danger is readying for a likely April opening. Johnny Spero and Scott Parker’s Nighthawk Pizza is planning to start serving in the fall.

Several notable businesses have already opened including Wild Tiger BBQ pop-up, Origin Coffee Lab and Kitchen, and Napoli Salumeria. Both Westpost and the Village at Shirlington now allow restaurant patrons to take alcoholic drinks to go, for consumption in other parts of the dining and shopping district.

Photo courtesy of Banditos Bar & Kitchen

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