Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Dorsey Declares Bankruptcy — “Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey, who was penalized Thursday for failing to disclose a campaign contribution to the Metro board in a timely manner, filed for bankruptcy last month after falling behind on his mortgage and accruing tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt… he attributed his personal financial troubles to a drop in income since he was elected to the five-member Arlington board four years ago.” [Washington Post]

Metro Delays During AM Rush — “Blue/Yellow Line Delay: Single tracking btwn Braddock Rd & National Airport due to a signal problem outside Braddock Rd.” [Twitter]

Arlington Among Best Cities for Frugal Dating — Arlington is No. 17 on a new list of “the best cities in the country for budget-friendly dating.” [SmartAsset]

County Aiming for More Budget Feedback — “This week marks the beginning of the FY 2021 budget season, Arlington County’s process to decide how it will spend County dollars. From now through July 2020, you will have multiple opportunities to provide input and inform decisions about the County’s operating budget and capital budget.” [Arlington County]

County Football Teams May All Make Playoffs — “Depending on the outcome of final regular-season games on Nov. 8, there is a possibility that the Wakefield Warriors, Washington-Liberty Generals and Yorktown Patriots could all end up as district football champions. Wakefield (5-4, 4-0) and Yorktown (8-1, 4-0) are in sole possession of first place currently in the National and Liberty districts, respectively, and are guaranteed at least co-championships if they lose Nov. 8.” [InsideNova]

Yorktown Field Hockey in State Tourney — “It took a while, but when the stakes became the highest, that’s when the Yorktown Patriots started playing their best field hockey of the 2019 campaign, in what has become an historic season for the girls team… By reaching the region final for the first time in program history, Yorktown also earned a Virginia High School League Class 6 state-tournament berth, also for the first time.” [InsideNova]

DJO Runners Win State Title — “After not winning the state championship the past two seasons, the Bishop O’Connell Knights have returned to that throne this fall. The girls high-school cross country team won the 2019 Division I state private-school crown Nov. 7 in Mechanicsville by dominating the field with 46 points.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Potomac Yard Plan Takes Shape — “Just a few days after submitting plans for the Virginia Tech site near the North Potomac Yard Metro station, JBG Smith has submitted early concept designs for the development that will replace Target and the other Potomac Yard stores.” [ALXnow, Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

It’s Election Day — Voting today in Arlington will take place between 6 a.m.-7 p.m. at your local polling place. Most of the local candidates in competitive races penned essays describing why Arlington residents should vote for them. [Arlington County]

Almost A Century Since Suffrage — “Tomorrow represents 99 years of women voting in Arlington. Arlington’s celebrating with 19 events this year.” [Twitter, Arlington County]

‘Baby Trump’ Greeting Key Bridge Commuters — Arlington Democrats have inflated a 13-foot “Baby Trump” on the Virginia side of the Key Bridge as part of a get-out-the-vote message. [Twitter]

Anti-Trans Group is Based in Shirlington — “From the 12th floor of a glass office tower in the Washington suburbs, a campaign to sway the governor’s race in Kentucky on Tuesday is being waged with an alarmist claim that has little to do with the race itself: If Democrats have their way, soon boys will be able to compete against girls in school sports.” [New York Times]

Growing Season Over in D.C. Area — “As of this morning, the growing season has been declared to have ended across our entire forecast area. Frost and freeze [watches and warnings] will not be issued again until Spring 2020.” [Twitter]

Pedestrian Enforcement in Clarendon Tomorrow — “As part of the Street Smart campaign, officers will conduct high-visibility traffic enforcement… November 6th from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. [on the] 2700 block of Clarendon Boulevard (Pedestrian Enforcement Detail).” [ARLnow]

Nearby: Va. Tech Unveils Plan for Potomac Yard — “Plans are starting to take shape for North Potomac Yard. Virginia Tech has submitted its first concept plan, showing what its Innovation Campus will look like just as the design of the Potomac Yard Metro station nears its final design phase.” [ALXnow]

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A group of large local employers and small local businesses has formed a new group intended “to support National Landing’s transformation.”

The Arlington Community Coalition says the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 is a golden opportunity to bolster housing and transportation options in the National Landing area, which includes Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. The group also wants to build a sense of community and support local businesses as the area grows.

“After seeing years of decline from BRAC, National Landing will significantly help small businesses attract a steady stream of new and regular customers,” said Freddie’s Beach Bar owner Freddie Lutz, one of the coalition’s members. “National Landing will become an economic engine driving new growth and opportunities for small business retail and restaurants.”

Members of coalition include the Consumer Technology Association — outspoken supporters of Amazon’s arrival — along with Amazon’s National Landing landlord, JBG Smith, and Virginia Tech, which is developing an Innovation Campus in Potomac Yard. Other members include Lyft, Freddie’s, Commonwealth Joe and Mothersauce Partners.

The group believes that Amazon-fueled growth will foster a “collaborative ecosystem for education, innovation, and entrepreneurship” that will help “further establish Northern Virginia as the next great technology hub.”

Countering the anti-Amazon sentiment that made headlines prior to Arlington’s approval of millions in local incentives for the retail and tech giant, the new coalition says the community will benefit from the area’s growth, and not just because of Amazon.

“From housing to transportation, education to entertainment, National Landing will be not only a global technology hub but a vibrant community for all of us who live, work, and visit here,” said Glenda MacMullin, Chief Operating Officer and CFO, Consumer Technology Association.

The full press release from the Arlington Community Coalition is below, after the jump.

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(Updated at 12 a.m.) The Crystal City Business Improvement District is set to absorb parts of Potomac Yard and Pentagon City, and could be eying a name change.

The Arlington County Board approved a 76% increase to the land included within the BID’s boundaries during its meeting this past Saturday, September 21, after the BID gained the required support from commercial property owners.

The new area encompasses parts of Arlington’s Potomac Yard and Pentagon City neighborhoods, including Amazon’s planned permanent HQ2.

But that’s not the only change afoot in Amazon’s new backyard.

“We anticipate that this Board may be soon asked to consider whether a different name should be applied to the BID to reflect the expanded area,” Board Chair Christian Dorsey noted from the dais this weekend.

“Given the combined area’s size and scale as a major downtown district — the largest walkable downtown in Virginia — the BID believes an umbrella term to represent the unified area is critical to elevating the district and appropriately identifying the organization and its focus,” said the BID’s President and Executive Director Tracy Sayegh Gabriel in a statement.

“Exploration of this umbrella term has been underway since the launch of the BID’s strategic planning process in April 2018,” she added. “While the BID sees value in adopting National Landing as an overarching name for the district to complement the individual neighborhood names of Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City, we continue to engage the community and area stakeholders on this topic.”

The name “National Landing” first first emerged with Amazon’s announcement it was heading to Arlington. The name — conjured up by a combination of Arlington and Alexandria economic development authorities, property owner (and Amazon landlord) JBG Smith, and the BID itself — was used to refer to the Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard area in and around the company’s headquarters.

Thus far the name has been used informally — without public hearings, and input from community groups — but its potential use as the BID’s new identity could solidify its emergence in the pantheon of local place names.

Recently, ARLnow learned via state records that JBG Smith created a “National Landing Business Owners Association Inc.” to take advantage of a new law allowing customers buy beverages and wander as they shop in malls.

A BID document included in a staff report to the Board this weekend said the renaming was its “highest priority” after expanding its boundaries:

Once the Area-Wide BID is approved by the County Board, a full rebranding of the district will be the highest priority initiative for implementation as per the Strategic Plan. In April 2019, the Crystal City Business Improvement District selected a branding consultant and kicked off the initiative with an Area-Wide Branding Committee. The goal of the effort is to create a new visual identity — including brand story, logos, signage, and place branding. The branding initiative will focus on both the BID organization and the area-wide name as well as the neighborhoods of Crystal City, Pentagon City, and the Potomac Yard-Arlington. The goal is to launch the new identity as early as July 2019.

Renaming a BID would require the Board’s approval, as well as the BID to work with the County Manager’s Office to hold public engagement sessions to gather residents opinions, according to Dorsey. During the public engagement process, residents will have the opportunity to suggest their own names, as well.

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(Updated at noon) New scooter docks have been added to Crystal City in an effort to curb intrusive sidewalk scooter parking.

Four new docks from the electric scooter company Spin were placed throughout Crystal City last week after their debut in D.C., with five more expected to be added sometime in the next week.

“Spin is one of the operators that has been participating in Arlington’s [scooter] pilot,” said Rob Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City BID. “They reached out to us about a pilot that they had initiated, rolling out in D.C. to provide a dock solution.”

Mandle said the BID is working on getting locations spread out across Crystal City, Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard.

“Our goal is to enhance connectivity in the core areas,” Mandle said.

The current docks are located at:

  • 251 18th Street S.
  • 220 20th Street S.
  • 520 12th Street S.
  • 1901 S. Bell Street

Though the docks are branded by Spin, Mandle said any scooters will be able to park in them. They also charge the scooter batteries while they’re docked.

“We see it as an interesting approach to addressing how to park scooters throughout the neighborhood without losing the value of dockless scooters,” Mandle said. “We’re a year from when these things first hit the streets, maybe not even, and the industry continues to evolve. The number one concern in any downtown area is ‘how do you manage the parking of the scooters in the downtown core?'”

There’s currently nothing to encourage scooter riders to use the docks outside of good civic values, but Mandle said incentives could be on the way.

“There are other ways to incentivize users to park in those facilities,” Mandle said. “I don’t think anybody’s seen that yet, but that’s where it’s going.”

Photo courtesy Rob Mandle/Crystal City BID

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Morning Notes

Arlington Loses Top Economic Development Official — “Christina Winn, one of the lead Arlington officials tasked with luring Amazon to the county, is taking over as Prince William County’s top economic development official.” [Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Prez Wants to Double Enrollment — “Irma Becerra hit the ground running the moment she took over the Marymount University presidency… her chief goal is as straightforward as it is ambitious: Double the school’s size in the next five years.” [Washington Business Journal]

18th Street Headache — “As they wrap up the demolition of the Clark St. bridge over 18th [Street S. in Crystal City], the eastbound side of 18th will be closed Thursday and Friday this week.” [Twitter]

Howell Gets Fall Challenger — “It’s an uphill battle, to be certain, but Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance president Arthur Purves will take on, as a Republican, seven-term incumbent state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) in the Nov. 5 election. The district snakes from Howell’s home turf of Reston eastward into portions of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Treasurer Leads State Association — “Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava was sworn in as the President of the Treasurers’ Association of Virginia (TAV) at the association’s annual conference in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Boeing’s Space HQ Moving Out of Arlington — “Boeing will move its space headquarters from Arlington, Va., to the Florida Space Coast as it pursues a number of rocket and spacecraft programs, including one that would launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle retired in 2011.” [Washington Post]

Townhomes Proposed for Crystal House Property — “The proposed expansion of the Crystal House apartment complex is getting a little larger, with 21 townhomes now part of plans at the Crystal City property… The company has already filed for permission to add 798 units across four new buildings on the 29.8-acre site.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Design of Potomac Yard Metro Revealed — “The city of Alexandria, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Potomac Yard Constructors, the private joint venture picked to build the station, have submitted a design for an upcoming evaluation by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. The station design calls for a stone base, a metal canopy and metal louvers, a glass curtain wall and exo-skeleton system, a standing seam metal roof and roof skylight panels. There will be bathrooms on the eastern side, between a set of elevators and an electrical room.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Celia Slater

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Virginia Tech announced today that it will build its latest campus in Potomac Yard, just across the border from Arlington in Alexandria and within close proximity to Amazon’s HQ2.

The university will be building a 1.5 million-square-foot, graduate-level “Innovation Campus” on a 15-acre property near the Regal movie theater, across Potomac Avenue from the Potomac Yard shopping center. The property is being developed by Lionstone and JBG Smith, which recently inked its deal with Amazon.

The campus was part of the state’s pitch to woo Amazon and joins the university’s other Northern Virginia facilities in Ballston and the West Falls Church.

“The first class of Innovation Campus master’s degree students will enroll in the fall of 2020 in existing space adjacent to where its new academic buildings will eventually be built,” the university said in a press release. “When complete in about 10 years, the campus will enroll 750 master’s candidates and hundreds of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.”

Virginia Tech President Dr. Tim Sands said today (Monday) that he was “extremely pleased” about the location and its proximity to Amazon’s headquarters across Four Mile Run.

“It is the ideal location to support Virginia Tech’s bold plan to develop new tech talent, disciplines, programs, and human-centered research that will shape the economic future of the commonwealth and beyond,” he said.

“The campus’s strategic location, on 15 acres just south of the Four Mile Run stream that separates Alexandria and Arlington, positions Virginia Tech and its future partners near the nation’s capital, diverse industries, and leading tech companies, including Amazon and its HQ2 project,” the university noted in its press release.

“The campus will include academic classrooms, incubator space for new startups and research and development, offices for industry collaboration, and convening space for alumni events,” the press release said. “The development plans call for public open space and ground-floor retail, knitting the campus into the fabric of Alexandria.”

The campus will ultimately be part of a 65-acre mixed-use development, with the planned redevelopment of the big-box shopping center.

Amazon’s arrival renewed a funding push for Potomac Yard Metro station project as well as a proposed second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station earlier this year, though fluctuating cost estimates have made the details of the Potomac Yard project murky.

Development officials in Arlington and Alexandria previously hoped Potomac Yard and Crystal City would help attract Amazon. During an August Bisnow event, they noted that even with Four Mile Run drawing a municipal boundary between the two neighborhoods, developer JBG Smith owned large properties throughout the two regions and transportation projects made the area a prime spot for large-scale commercial development.

“If we can’t get it, we turn around and ask the next Fortune 100 company about their expansion plans,” Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said of the Amazon selection process at the time.

During a Sunday event in Arlington about using tax revenue from Amazon to preserve affordability and equity in the area, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said he was “excited” about the new campus and what it can do for the region.

Wilson added that Sands is “under extreme pressure” from Commonwealth leaders to diversify the stream of tech workers in the state.

“And we said, here are we,” Wilson said of Alexandria. “We are a school system of 62 percent free and reduced lunch and 32 percent English language learners. We can help you do that.”

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For years, businesses have come and gone from the retail space on the ground floor of the Eclipse condo building in Potomac Yard. Now relief may be on the way.

The Arlington County Board is set to vote this weekend on a site plan amendment that will allow the landlord of the 3600 and 3650 S. Glebe Road buildings to lease the retail space to “retail equivalent” businesses, defined as:

Uses that have characteristics similar to retail such as the hours of operation, the customer base and the level of activity that provide visual interest and create an active street life, but are not retail uses. Uses include but are not limited to museums, galleries, day care uses, medical and dental offices, colleges and universities and hotel lobbies; as well as certain innovative office elements and residential amenities such as fitness centers, community rooms, etc.

The tiny shopping plaza is located in a roundabout between the two buildings, well off the beaten path — north of the busy Potomac Yard Shopping Center in Alexandria but south of Crystal City. To the west, across Route 1, is Arlington’s sewage plant.

A procession of sit-down restaurants has tried and failed to open and attract customers. One even had to put out a press release after they learned that Google Maps was steering would-be customers to an empty plot of land several blocks away. And that’s not to mention the extended closure of the adjacent Harris Teeter store, the block’s biggest draw, following a major sewage backup in 2012.

“The applicant has experienced sustained difficulty in attracting and retaining retail tenants for certain base retail spaces since 2006, when its Retail Attraction and Marketing Plan (RAMP) was approved,” the staff report for the site plan amendment notes.

“This space, along with others, are located on an interior circle drive, off South Glebe Road, and the applicant sites the lack of visibility as an obstacle for retaining retail tenants,” the report adds. “Recently, a physical therapy practice sought to lease a retail space, but could not be certified for occupancy because it is an office use, rather than retail use.”

Currently, the circle is home to a small collection of restaurants and service businesses. Should the County Board approve the change, it may be able to attract other businesses more equipped to survive in the low foot traffic area. No changes are proposed for the Harris Teeter space, the staff report notes.

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Bicyclists in Potomac Yard and Crystal City might’ve noticed some funky new protected bike lanes around town — but some of them won’t be sticking around for long.

The lanes popped up this week to coincide with the “National Bike Summit,” a gathering of cycling activists held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.

Some of the protected lanes are located along S. Eads Street in Crystal City, near the road’s intersection with 22nd Street S. They’re part of the “BikeRail” product backed by Minneapolis-based firm Dero, and are a bit sturdier than the plastic poles the county has installed along other protected bike lanes.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District says Dero donated the BikeRails for pilot program purposes, and county staff installed them this week. They may not stay in their current locations, but the county plans to keep them a little longer, at least.

Another bike company sponsoring the conference, Bike Fixation, donated some even more unusual looking lanes for cyclists to try out.

The county set up the wave-shaped barriers along a stretch of S. Potomac Avenue in Potomac Yard, leading up to where the bike conference was held.

Those, however, are merely temporary, according to the League of American Bicyclists (which sponsored the conference). They could be gone as soon as sometime this week.

Photo 1 via @mttrgrs, photos 2 and 3 via @juddlumberjack

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When Amazon first started seriously considering Arlington for a new headquarters, the company went so far as to send employees out to local coffee shops and bars to gauge how people around here felt about the tech giant moving in.

The company’s head of worldwide economic development, Holly Sullivan, says Amazon employees were regularly surveying Crystal City locals about the prospect of becoming the neighborhood’s newest, and largest, occupant. And by the time the tech firm was ready to select Arlington for the project, she had full confidence that Amazon would be greeted with open arms.

“We have a lot of that local knowledge now,” Sullivan assured a crowd of hundreds of business executives and government officials at Bisnow’s HQ2-Apalooza event today (Thursday) in Potomac Yard. “Even before we announced our Arlington plans we felt welcome here.”

That sort of confidence in the community’s response was critical to Sullivan and the rest of the company’s executives — after all, when Amazon officials feared that New York City leaders were insufficiently welcoming for the other half of the company’s headquarters, Jeff Bezos’ firm simply pulled the plug.

“We think we could’ve gotten New York done, but at a certain point you have to ask, at what cost?” Sullivan said. “We want to locate in a community that also supports us.”

The company certainly received a warm welcome at Thursday’s event. Billed as a chance for business leaders to learn “how you can benefit” from Amazon’s arrival in Arlington, the high-priced gathering of executives offered a largely rosy picture of how the company might change the D.C. region.

Of course, not everyone around the county is quite so eager to see Amazon move in, and some of the company’s critics made their presence felt at the otherwise chummy event. A handful of protesters with the “For Us, Not Amazon” coalition temporarily disrupted the proceedings, holding signs and chanting “Pay to play is not okay, we want a public hearing today.”

Sullivan joked that she was glad the event “welcomed some of our friends that like to follow me around the country,” but the demonstration was organized by local activists, who have grown frustrated with Amazon’s approach to engaging with the community.

This is now Sullivan’s second appearance in as many weeks at a ticketed event for local business leaders, and some critics (and even county officials) would rather see the company engage directly with the communities that might be most affected by Amazon’s impact on the region’s housing market.

Sullivan argues, however, that the company has indeed already done some of that outreach work and is committed to doing more. For starters, she says the company plans to create a “steering committee,” pulling together Amazon executives, local government officials and education leaders to discuss the future of the new headquarters and its impact on the region.

Considering that the company has yet to outline any plans for aiding affordable housing efforts in the area, or even what its exact plans for construction in Arlington might look like — the company is still waiting on the County Board to approve an incentive package for the the new headquarters to formalize many of its plans — advocates in the region are enthusiastic to hear that the company is ready to come to the table with local leaders.

“Amazon has an opportunity to create a model of a tech community that is inclusive, that’s different than what we’ve seen in Silicon Valley and Seattle,” said Nina Janopaul, the CEO of the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.

For officials who have long struggled with working across jurisdictional lines, that sort of collaboration could also be quite meaningful, said Stephen Fuller, one of the region’s preeminent economic forecasters.

He argued during the event that Amazon’s promised 25,000 jobs may not put a strain on the region’s housing all on their own, but that the tens of thousands of additional jobs that flood into the area to support Amazon may well challenge the area.

For instance, Fuller’s researchers project that new companies moving into the region to support Amazon could induce demand for as much as 41 million square feet of new office space in the area — for context, Amazon plans to build anywhere from 4 million to 8 million on its own.

“The growth is really coming and we need to take a moment to think about this beyond Amazon,” Fuller said.

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Crystal City’s leading business advocacy group is taking its most concrete steps yet to expand and represent Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard as well.

The Crystal City Business Improvement District is hoping to bump out its borders as soon as next year, according to documents submitted to the County Board. The BID plans to spend the next few months working secure the support of businesses in its adjacent neighborhoods, then finalize the change sometime in fiscal year 2020.

The business group, funded via a tax on properties in Crystal City, has been eyeing a potential expansion for months now, and the move took on increased importance once Amazon announced it would be setting up shop across all three South Arlington neighborhoods: the tech giant will have office space in both Crystal City and Pentagon City, and is spurring the creation of a new Virginia Tech campus in Potomac Yard.

The BID has already started to pitch the area to businesses as a cohesive “downtown” for Arlington, and is billing the creation of an “area-wide” BID as a way to “reinforce the complementary nature of these markets” when it comes time to lure new companies and residents to the area.

“In fact, the Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard-Arlington area has a total asset value of over $11 billion and represents a powerful economic engine for Arlington County, the region, and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” the BID wrote in its work plan for FY2020, delivered to the Board ahead of its meeting Saturday (Feb. 23).

The group’s new proposed borders would expand the BID’s reach down Army Navy Drive until it meets S. Hayes Street, putting major developments like Amazon’s future home near Metropolitan Park and the neighborhood’s Costco and Best Buy under the BID’s umbrella. However, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall would not be included under the BID’s current proposal.

On the Potomac Yard side of the things to the south, the BID would extend its borders down Route 1 until it meets Four Mile Run (and the county’s border with Alexandria). That would pull in the large development that includes Lidl’s American headquarters and a Harris Teeter grocery store.

According to its work plan, the BID plans to spend the second and third quarters of the current fiscal year rallying support from business owners in Pentagon City and Potomac Yard. It also plans to move offices later this year, then hire more staff to account for its expanded borders.

The Board will also set the tax rate it imposes on Crystal City businesses to fund the BID as part of its upcoming budget deliberations. The BID is requesting that the tax rate remain stable, and when combined with a 6.8 percent jump in property values in the neighborhood, the group expects to pull in about $2.76 million in revenue this year.

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