A driver made a daring and successful — though some might say ill-advised — escape from armed carjackers early this morning.
The incident happened just before 2 a.m. on the 3400 block of Potomac Avenue, in the Crystal City area near Potomac Yard.
“The victim was inside his parked vehicle when the suspect vehicle pulled behind him and approximately three male suspects exited, brandished firearms and demanded the keys to the victim’s vehicle,” Arlington County police said in today’s daily crime report.
“The victim drove away and the suspects reentered their vehicle and briefly followed,” the crime report continues. “The victim was then able to return to the scene and speak to police. No injuries were reported.”
The suspect vehicle, described as a silver SUV, drove off and police were unable to locate it, despite searching the area.
“The investigation is ongoing,” ACPD said.
This is at least the third carjacking attempt in the Crystal City area over the past week, after groups of suspects carjacked BMWs this past weekend and earlier this week.
A dental office at the base of an apartment building owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Potomac Yard is gearing up to start seeing patients next month.
This dentistry practice was one of the half-dozen retail-equivalent conversions in mixed-use apartment buildings that the Arlington County Board approved in 2022. Property Reserve, Inc., which owns The Clark building at 3400 S. Clark Street, received approval for the change in May.
“[The space] has been leased to Riverside Dental, who will start seeing patients in their space in January,” said Property Reserve, Inc. communications director Dale Bills, adding that a Subway is serving sandwiches in another retail space while the third is “currently being marketed.”
A retail slump, combined with high office vacancy rates, has led to more of these conversions in recent months to uses such as medical offices and churches, however, the county has approved similar conversions in 2019 and 2014.
Meanwhile, the property group is also preparing to re-configure the building lobby to improve the separation between one approved use, a meetinghouse for Mormons, and residents accessing elevators to their apartments.
“It takes the present large single foyer and divides it into two ‘lanes,’ one heading to the meetinghouse elevator and one heading to the apartment building elevator,” said Candace Harman, a spokeswoman for congregations in Northern Virginia. “This project has been in planning for some time and hopefully should be completed within the next several months.”
The Clark is a real estate venture for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and doubles as a meetinghouse. The Mormon congregation that uses it was originally set to move into the building in March 2020, but that was delayed until the summer due to the pandemic, Harman says.
The move marks an expansion for the Mormon presence in the greater Crystal City area, as four congregations already meet in two office buildings in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood.
“If you aren’t familiar, our Church organizes based on geography,” Harman explained. “A Ward is a congregation that meets together on Sundays with a Bishop who is the local leader of that congregation. A Stake is a group of Wards within a geographic boundary that fall within the stewardship of a Stake President.”
Wards for young singles — those ages 18-30 — meets at 745 23rd Street S. while wards for older single adults meet next door at 727 23rd Street S. The latter building also houses a resource center that Harman says provides free services for immigrants, refugees and others in need to “build hope, develop life skills, and strengthen families.”
Additionally, the LDS church plans to re-fit the vacant third floor of that building to house an office suite for the D.C. Young Single Adults Ward, a project that is tentatively planned for 2023.
The Clark apartment building opened within the few years along with another nearby — The Sur, at 3400 Potomac Avenue.
Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, and Rep. Don Beyer joined the leaders of Boeing and Virginia Tech at the former’s Crystal City headquarters this morning to announce a new veterans initiative.
The announcement that drew the state’s top elected officials was the creation of the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families at the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, just down the road.
It comes just over a month after Boeing announced that its existing Crystal City office campus would become the company’s global headquarters. While the move will only result in a relatively small shift of personnel from the existing headquarters in Chicago, it was highly touted by Youngkin, Warner and other elected officials.
“Boeing’s recent announcement to move its headquarters to Virginia and reaffirm its commitment to building the next generation of tech talent is a timely development for the Commonwealth, and is made more exciting by their extensive partnership with Virginia Tech,” Youngkin said in a statement.
“Their pledge to create the Boeing Center for Veteran Transition and Military Families ensures that the Commonwealth and its businesses continue to invest in diverse career pathways for veterans and students alike, all the while helping businesses thrive,” the governor continued.
The new Boeing Center, part of the company’s previously-announced $50 million investment into Virginia Tech’s new campus, is set to provide veterans with “economic and workforce programs,” mental health resources, and community service opportunities, according to a separate news release from Boeing.
“This is just a very important service that our military veterans need, a big assist to get into civilian life and to pursue civilian livelihoods, and to pursue tech degrees and all those things,” Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said during the announcement.
“Virginia has about 725,000 veterans that call Virginia their home, 155,000 active duty, reserve and National Guardsmen, and I’m biased, I want them to stay in Virginia,” Youngkin said during the announcement.
In addition to the veterans center, Boeing also plans to provide scholarships to Innovation Campus students, facilitate the recruitment of faculty and researchers, and fund STEM initiatives to underserved K-12 students.
“I hope it gets very big,” Calhoun said. “Just suffice to say, we’re going to take advantage of this location and try to attract as many young people as we possibly can to this trade and to our company.”
The press release from the governor’s office is below.
A project scheduled to begin this summer will tunnel under the Four Mile Run near the Route 1 bridge to move overhead power lines underground.
As part of the project, Dominion Energy will rebuild its Glebe Substation next year, modernizing the facility that was built in the 1970s and is reaching the end of its service life. The substation serves parts of Arlington and Alexandria.
“Everything will look a lot cleaner, a lot of the equipment will be a lot smaller,” said Ann Gordon Mickel, Dominion Energy’s communication and community lead for the project.
When work begins, a 250-foot by 250-foot area will be fenced off in the Potomac Yard shopping center parking lot in Alexandria to allow for a 40- to 50-foot deep pit for tunneling.
In Arlington, a pit will be constructed at the substation and there may be temporary intermittent closures on S. Eads Street, as well as on nearby sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Electric service will not be affected.
The underground line will run between the substation and the Potomac Yard Transition Station, which will be decommissioned at the end of the project. The rebuilt Glebe Substation will incorporate new technology, requiring less maintenance and making it more reliable, the power company said.
“Any time you address aging infrastructure and replace it with new technology the reliability always enhances,” said Greg Mathey, a manager of electric transmission communications for Dominion Energy. “The transmission system feeds the distribution system, so the more reliable and hardened we can make the transmission system, the better the distribution system can perform.”
The construction to convert to underground lines is scheduled to continue through 2024. The whole project should be completed by late 2025.
The entire project is expected to cost about $122.8 million. The State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in Virginia, approved the project in 2019. It was originally scheduled to be up and running by this month, but due to the nature of the construction, the timeline was pushed back.
Using a trenchless microtunneling method will increase costs by about $16 million — but it shortens the construction timeline, according to project documents.
This type of tunneling will also reduce construction-related impacts to the Potomac Yard shopping center, as it won’t require as much space for pipes above ground.
The overhead lines that can be seen over Four Mile Run will be removed at the end of the project.
Man Convicted of Crystal City Shooting — “A convicted murderer has been found guilty on four charges for shooting and wounding his ex-girlfriend in her Arlington, Virginia, office in 2019. Mumeet Muhammad forced his way into the woman’s office, in the 1500 block of Crystal Drive in Crystal City, and shot the woman on Aug. 28, 2019. Muhammad also was shot by police.” [WTOP]
Body Found Near Roosevelt Island — “A death investigation was underway Wednesday after a body was found in the Potomac River, D.C. police said. Authorities said the body was found in the water between Teddy Roosevelt Island and the Virginia shoreline under the footbridge pedestrians use to access the island… Officials with knowledge of the investigation said the body was heavily decomposed.” [NBC 4, Twitter]
GW Parkway Chase Leads to Lawsuit — “A D.C. police captain sued the District on Tuesday, alleging he was retaliated against after trying to stop a high-speed pursuit last month that ended with a car overturning on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, causing injuries and bringing rush-hour traffic to a halt.” [Washington Post]
Task Force: Expand County, School Boards — “Increasing the size of the Arlington County Board and School Board by at least two members is among the recommendations of the Arlington County Civic Federation’s task force on local governance, which on April 12 delivered the first of what are expected to be two sets of proposals to be voted on by the organization in June.” [Sun Gazette]
PSA: Steer Clear of River Near Chain Bridge — From D.C. Fire and EMS: “The river knows no boundaries. All this holds true for the District. One slip off the rocks can lead to a fall into a deceptively calm looking river actually laden with treacherous currents and hidden rocks that quickly pull you under. Especially the case around Chain Bridge.” [Twitter]
Lease Change Scores Big Bucks for County — “Arlington County Board members on that date voted 5-0 to support a change in technical aspects of the lease that guides the relationship between the county government, which owns substantial parcels in the Courthouse area, and the developer JBG Smith, which holds ground leases and owns the buildings on some of those very same parcels… By making the changes, which staff say carry little risk to the county government or taxpayers, the Arlington government coffers would receive somewhere in the area of $10 million to $12 million in a one-time payment from JBG Smith.” [Sun Gazette]
ARLnow Article Confuses Chicago Suburbanites — From the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Police Department: “The incident was reported by Virginia news outlets with the headline ‘Barricade situation in Arlington Heights.’ News reports were then shared on social media using the #ArlingtonHeights. We understand this created some confusion and concern for our residents. The Arlington Heights Police Department would like to clarify the above incident occurred in Arlington County, Virginia.” [Facebook]
It’s Thursday — Rain and storms in the afternoon and evening. Southwest wind 11 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 31 mph. High of 76 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:34 am and sunset at 7:45 pm. [Weather.gov]
The residential redevelopment, dubbed The Hazel & Azure at National Landing, is located along Potomac Avenue and Crystal Drive between 29th Street S. and 33rd Street S., between Potomac Yard and Crystal City.
The developer, ZOM Living, announced the step forward — and its acquisition of $152 million in construction financing — yesterday (Thursday).
Hazel & Azure is comprised of two towers, 15 and 11 stories tall, separated by a pedestrian pathway. The 491-unit development will also have 6,800 square feet of ground-floor retail space for restaurants and “service-oriented retailers,” according to a press release.
The original site plan for Potomac Yard Landbay C, divided into east and west parcels, was approved in 2007 and included four office buildings, 41,000 square feet of retail space and a half-acre for a park.
The parcels sat undeveloped for years before ZOM Living submitted its proposal to convert Landbay C East into a residential redevelopment. The western half is still slated for offices.
When complete, the complex will have several amenities for residents, including a rooftop pool, a spin and yoga room, co-working spaces, a self-serve market and an indoor green space for dogs. The lobby will have a café called Verza Coffee and Cocktails, serving coffee and food during the day and cocktails at night.
The mixed-use development is less than a mile south of Amazon’s HQ2, which recently reached a new milestone, and north of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and Potomac Yard Metro station, both of which are currently under construction.
“We are excited to commence construction on Hazel & Azure at National Landing, a development that will meet the rising demand for high-quality rental apartments in one of DC Metro’s most sought-after neighborhoods,” said Andrew Cretal, Senior Vice President for ZOM Living’s Mid-Atlantic Region, in a statement.
“With the area’s rapidly expanding employment base and vast retail offerings, the delivery of ZOM’s luxury apartment community will further bolster the premier live-work-play district of National Landing,” he added.
Now, with the exception of Potomac Yard Landbay C West, Arlington’s side of Potomac Yard is mostly built up. In the last three years, two apartment complexes came online: The Sur (3400 Potomac Avenue) on Landbay D East and The Clark (3400 S. Clark Street) on Landbay D West.
Another long-delayed redevelopment project, currently a parking lot, sits a few blocks north of the project at 2661 S. Clark Street. Arlington County is giving property owner Gould Property Co. until Dec. 31, 2025 to get started on an apartment project — otherwise, the county proposes turning the lot into an interim plaza.
Construction has started on a pair of multifamily towers in a corner of Crystal City experiencing a bevy of development.
The two towers by developer JBG Smith, located at the intersection of Richmond Highway and 20th Street S., will add 775 apartment units and nearly 27,000 square feet of retail, and will be separated by a new S. Clark-Bell Street.
Demolition of the office building that the towers will replace began last spring, after the project was approved by the County Board in May 2021. JBG Smith expects the project will be completed in 2025.
The West tower (2000 S. Bell Street) will be 25 stories tall and glassy with 355 units and 15,000 square feet of street-level retail. Coming in at 19 stories and 420 units, the East tower (2001 S. Bell Street) will feature “a bold, green-glazed brick façade” and 10,000 square feet of retail, the developer said.
In addition to the new S. Clark-Bell Street, the project will add a tree-lined pedestrian passageway along the East tower and an enclosed, climate-controlled underground connection from 12th Street S. to 23rd Street S.
The developer is currently overseeing the construction of 1,583 apartment units and has another 1,760 units planned for near-term development.
“The start of construction at 2000 and 2001 South Bell Street is a major milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation and delivers on our pledge to build new housing in lockstep with Amazon and Virginia Tech’s growth in the neighborhood,” said Bryan Moll, JBG Smith’s executive vice president of development, in a statement.
The first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 is still on-track to be completed in 2023 and the Virginia Tech facility will be done in 2024, according to JBG Smith’s announcement.
When complete, 2000 and 2001 S. Bell Street will be a stone’s throw from a stretch of recently revamped dining and retail spaces, named Central District Retail.
Towers Coming to Site in National Landing — “Developers have closed on the purchase of a vacant site near Crystal City and Potomac Yard in Arlington, a transaction that paves the way for a new two-building project there.” [Washington Business Journal]
Anti-Vaccine-Mandate Rally Growing — “The event, called ‘Defeat the Mandates: An American Homecoming,’ plans a march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial… [A spokesperson] says the group has more than 36,000 signups; a permit application filed with the National Park Service… says it expects 20,000 people.” Organizers have been encouraging attendees to stay in Arlington. [Washingtonian]
Keep Uncollected Bins Out — “Curbside recycling/trash/organics collection resumed Monday, Jan. 10, following last week’s storms. Keep any carts left unemptied this week at the curb through Saturday, Jan. 15. The County’s contractor is making progress collecting about twice the regular tonnage but runs are slower, trucks fill faster and Covid has affected staffing.” [Arlington County]
MLK Mass This Weekend — “On Sunday, January 16, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, will celebrate a Mass in Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More. The annual Mass honors the life and legacy of the late civil rights leader who was slain almost 54 years ago.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
Shred and Recycling Material Drop-Off — Each Arlington resident can shred up to two boxes or bags of paper or unload a small truckload of inert materials for free at a regularly held recycling event this Saturday. [Arlington County]
Return of 7000 Series Delayed Again — “Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld said today he will not resume the placement of 7000-series trains into passenger service for about 90 days to allow Metro engineering and mechanical experts time to focus on root cause analysis and acquire technology to measure 7000-series wheelsets. During the 90-day period, Metro will accelerate efforts to restore 6000-series railcars to increase the availability of newer cars in the fleet and improve reliability for customers.” [WMATA, Washington Post]
It’s Friday — Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 46. North wind 8 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Sunrise at 7:25 a.m. and sunset at 5:10 p.m. Tomorrow will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 27. North wind 7 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph. On Sunday, snow is likely after 1 p.m. [Weather.gov]
Photo courtesy of Huskerdont/Flickr
Many are predicting that the pandemic will drastically affect how we commute and use public transportation for the foreseeable future.
How that will impact long-term transportation projects, like the Metroway bus rapid transit line and the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway extension to Pentagon City, is a puzzle that local officials are trying to put together.
In 2021, according to Metro’s data, bus ridership overall is down by close to two thirds from 2019. And those numbers may not increase a whole lot for at least a couple of years.
“It really is something that we all are literally struggling with to understand,” Arlington County’s Transit Bureau Chief Lynn Rivers told ARLnow. The transit bureau was responsible for building out the initial Transitway infrastructure, as well as the forthcoming Pentagon City extension. “Now… we’re talking 2023 when we’re going to start seeing the same levels [of bus riderships] that we had before.”
Even as more people head back to the office and lockdowns are no longer in effect, traffic patterns have shifted particularly on the roads. There’s now less traffic in the mornings, allowing cars and buses to get to their destination quicker.
“People are changing their patterns and how they are using the service,” Rivers said. “The huge rush hours in the morning and in the afternoon, we may not see that.”
Instead of seeing huge jumps in use during peak times — 6-9 a.m. in the morning and 3-7 p.m. in the evening — Rivers said there may be a leveling-out of how commuters use train and bus transit.
“Throughout the day, there will be constant movement,” she said.
This shift could be at least somewhat permanent and largely due to still a large number of folks continuing to work from home. Those that are going to the office, meanwhile, are spending fewer hours there.
(Nearly half of readers who responded to a ARLnow morning poll in October said they were still working from home.)
In response, and to encourage more people to use the bus system, Metro increased the frequency of the Metroway back in Sep last month (as well as other bus lines). It now runs every 12 minutes on weekdays and 20 minutes on weekends from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., in a bid to encourage ridership.
This shift in commuting patterns comes just as the county unveiled design plans last months for Pentagon City extension of the Transitway. While it comes with a price tag of nearly $28 million, most of the cost will be financed by the state and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. Arlington is contributing about $1.8 million to the project, according to county officials.
Nonetheless, that’s still a significant use of tax dollars at a time when commuting is down and there are plenty of competing priorities. When the rapid bus transit system in Arlington was first conceived more than a decade ago, an airborne illness was not infecting millions across the globe.
With the knowledge that Covid spreads more easily in indoor settings, there could be hesitation among some commuters to be in crowded spaces with strangers despite relatively high local vaccination rates.
“Are we really going to cram back on a bus?” Chris Slatt, Arlington Transportation Commission chair and founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County, asks rhetorically. “Are we going to want to be crowded into a Metro train as we were two or three years ago?”
John Vihstadt, former County Board member who vehemently opposed the Columbia Pike streetcar project, which he helped to scuttle, agrees that shifting commuter behaviors could make the Transitway not as a sound an investment as it once appeared.
While an avid public transit user himself and, generally, in favor of bus rapid transit — opponents of the streetcar argued that BRT along the Pike was a cost-effective alternative to a light rail system — Vihstadt thinks the county needs to do more modeling and forecasting of people’s commuting patterns before moving ahead with the build out.
“We can’t stick our heads in the sand and just expect that everything is going to ultimately return to the status quo,” he tells ARLnow.
A decade ago, when Arlington County was in the midst of planning the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway for the future Metroway bus rapid transit line, the Route 1 corridor looked a lot different.
Development was still ongoing in the corridor, which encompasses Pentagon City and Crystal City, and Amazon was still years away from selecting the area for its HQ2.
There were just over 17,000 residents in the corridor and nearly three quarters of them lived in rental units, according to 2010 county census data. By 2020, that number had risen by about 15% to 20,000 residents. Renters now occupy 91% of the housing stock, according to county data.
While there have been plenty of bumps along the road, including the continued delay of the Potomac Yard Metro station and low ridership during the pandemic, at least one transportation advocate praises the county for looking ahead.
“To do this later, after the development happens, would have been 20 times harder. 100 times harder,” Chris Slatt, Arlington Transportation Commission chair and founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington, told ARLnow. “I really give Arlington a lot of credit.”
In terms of Potomac Yard, Slatt made the point that this was an extremely rare opportunity where urban and transportation planners had the ability to start anew and could try out their best laid plans without dealing with already existing infrastructure.
“Potomac Yard was this kind of special opportunity that we don’t have very often,” said Slatt. “I’m sure there are a lot of other places in Northern Virginia where we can say we’re basically a new neighborhood from scratch.”
Local officials agree, which is why the Metroway is such an exciting project for them.
“For mass transit planners… it is a lot easier to design the infrastructure when you’re starting from scratch rather than trying to retrofit it into a pre-existing system, particularly if you want dedicated [transit] lanes,” said Eric Randall, principal transportation engineer with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).
Plus, he noted, it’s easier for residents to get in the “frame of mind” to use the mass transit option if it is there initially, as opposed to needing to break their previous habits.
Metro’s Yellow Line, which runs through Crystal City and Pentagon City, could see major disruption next year due to needed repairs.
The proposed Yellow Line Bridge and tunnel rehabilitation project will include repairs to the bridge and the tunnels between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations.
WMATA’s project website said the bridge is now showing “excessive wear and corrosion,” while “decades of water infiltration and underground moisture have eroded the steel-lined tunnels.” Both the bridge and the tunnels “date to original construction [of the Metro system] more than 40 years ago.”
The transit agency warned that long-term repairs are necessary to avoid structural failure.
The project will also upgrade the fire suppression system on the bridge, which is currently past its useful life according to WMATA. Further remediation work in the tunnel will repair cracks.
The exact timeline for the project is still unclear. Andrew Off, Vice President of Project Implementation and Construction, said a shutdown of the bridge is expected sometime in fall 2022.
“We expect to start sometime at the end of the next calendar year,” Off said. “We’re still working through with our general contractor on the specific construction duration for the Yellow Line Bridge closure.”
Meanwhile, further south on the Yellow Line, Off said a two-week closure is likely as WMATA connects the new Potomac Yard Metro station.
“We’ll have a scheduled two-week or 16-day shutdown in late summer or early fall in support of connecting the new Potomac Yard infill station to our existing system,” Off said.
The station had been scheduled to open next spring but was pushed back to September 2022 after an error was found in the project’s design. Alexandria leaders are still hopeful the project could be moved up to earlier in the year.