New Rosslyn Food Hall Now Open — “Assembly, the area’s latest food hall, located above the Rosslyn Metro stop in Arlington, hopes to entice you by taking a something-for-everyone approach, including plenty of healthy-ish options. Their lineup includes Great Lake Diner; Charo’s vegetarian tacos; Asian street food stall Beng Beng; GiGi’s salads, smoothies, and grain bowls; Big Day Coffee; sandwich joint Sammy Pickles; modern-minded bodega PNTRY; and Fog Point, a 40-seat sit-down oysters and seafood restaurant with a separate entrance.” [DCist]
Abduction Suspect Arrested in Va. Square — “The victim was inside a business when the suspect approached and attempted to engage her in conversation. The suspect then left the business, but remained seated outside. When the victim left the business, the suspect followed her into a neighboring building and onto an elevator, where he again attempted to engage her in conversation, advanced towards her, grabbed her waist and touched her buttocks. The victim attempted to step away but the suspect prevented her from exiting the elevator.” [ACPD]
Courthouse ‘DMV Select’ Office Reopening — “‘DMV Select’ services operated by the Arlington Commissioner of Revenue’s office in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles will reopen Sept. 7 after an 18-month COVID shutdown. The office will operate by appointment Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center, 2100 Clarendon Blvd.” [Sun Gazette]
How Ashton Heights was Sold — “‘Build Your Love Nest in Ashton Heights, Virginia,’ read the ad in the Evening Star a century ago. ‘$500 cash will finance your home; $20 will reserve your lot.’ Exclusive sales agents at the D.C.-based (all female) Kay-Alger Co. were luring federal employees to join the automobile generation’s embrace of suburbanization, to ‘get away from the crowded city and enjoy the freedom of a most picturesque surrounding.'” [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Real Estate Market Slowing — “When it comes to housing prices and sales, red-hot Arlington County cooled a bit last month compared to last summer — a modest slowdown that the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors says was typical throughout the region. NVAR reports the median price of a home that sold in Arlington County last month was 9% lower than a year ago, and the average number of days on the market, or how long it took to sell a home, was up 35% compared to last July.” [WTOP]
County Board Still Opposes Gondola — “This week, all five members of the Arlington County Board confirmed to the Washington Business Journal their position hasn’t changed. Even the two new Democrats to join the board since it penned that 2017 letter — current Chair Matt de Ferranti and Takis Karantonis — said in interviews that they remain unconvinced, despite the proponents’ recent success in pushing the District to budget $10 million toward the purchase of a potential D.C. landing site near the Key Bridge.” [Washington Business Journal]
Review of Pentagon City Irish Eatery — “Armstrong’s talented hand again showed itself when I sank my teeth into the corned beef. The chef says that each brisket takes three weeks of preparation before it’s ready for diners. He adds that corned beef is more of an Irish-American food than an Irish one, owing to a fusion of influences that met in New York or Boston. His version certainly owes a debt to Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Arlies Voting: Urgent Care Clinic — Voting on the latest Arlies category ends Tuesday afternoon. Let us know about your favorite local urgent care clinic. [ARLnow]
Breakthrough Covid Cases Underreported? — “Virginia’s breakthrough case numbers are likely an undercount. Issues with data reporting made it difficult to report and verify cases among vaccinated people.” [Virginia Mercury]
Nearby: Car Swept Away in Flood Waters — “Here’s what can happen when a huge amount of rain causes flash flooding. A reader sent this photo of a car in the Upper Long Branch Stream between the cul-de-sacs at 6th Street and Glen Forest Drive in Bailey’s Crossroads.” Arlington County firefighters responded as mutual aid on this water rescue call, per scanner traffic last week. [Annandale Blog]
Vax Mandade for County, APS Employees — “Arlington County Government and Arlington Public Schools (APS) will implement a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees. This joint action, effective August 30, is a necessary step to help keep the community safe and is consistent with COVID-19 public health guidance. This policy will also apply to interns, volunteers, substitutes, and contractors… All unvaccinated employees will be required to be tested at least weekly for COVID-19 to limit the potential spread in the workforce and in the community. Testing will be provided at no cost to the employee.” [Arlington County]
Mask Mandate for Va. Schools — “Virginia will require all students, teachers and staff in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors this fall, even if they are vaccinated, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Thursday. The mandate, set forth in a public health emergency order, is sure to stir controversy and anger amid an already fractious debate over education in the state.” [Washington Post, Gov. Ralph Northam]
Escalator Replacement at Pentagon City Metro — “On Monday, August 16, Metro will begin work to replace the four entrance escalators at Pentagon City station with brand new, more durable escalators. Construction is expected to take approximately nine months to complete both entrances and will require each entrance to be closed during construction, starting with the east side of South Hayes Street and followed by the two escalators on the west side.” [WMATA]
Arlington Real Estate Remains Hot — “A combination of challenging affordability and low inventory may be conspiring to dampen home-buyer enthusiasm across much of the Washington region, but you wouldn’t know it in Arlington, where some regions remain red-hot locales… While the region as a whole is down, Arlington has an overall rating of 205 – well into the “High” category and leading all other regional jurisdictions.” [Sun Gazette]
Summer Friday for ARLnow — We’re taking part of the day off, so expect a lighter publishing schedule today.
Amazon Makes $1 Million Donation — “Amazon today announced it will continue its commitment to the Right Now Needs Fund in Northern Virginia for the upcoming academic year with an additional $1 million investment to support students attending Arlington Public Schools, Alexandria City Public Schools, and Fairfax County Public Schools. The Fund, in partnership with Communities In Schools NOVA, helps remove barriers to learning and works to meet the basic needs of thousands of schoolchildren from underserved communities.” [BusinessWire]
New Portion of DCA Has WeWork Vibes — “There’s a cool WeWork feel to @Reagan_Airport’s new section of Terminal C. Prefer these or old school airport seating? Smart marketing on bottom of departure screens, too.” [Twitter]
Some Home Prices Are Dropping — “Prices are dropping for a higher percentage of home listings in the latest sign the Covid-19-fueled housing market may have peaked. About 4.7% of listings for the four weeks ending Aug. 1 had price drops, according to real estate firm Redfin, compared to 3.7% during the same period last year. It is also near the prepandemic level of 4.9% during the same period in 2019 in the latest sign the housing market may be cooling off after a period of rapid price appreciation.” [Washington Business Journal]
Emergency Alert Test Today — From FEMA: “We’ll be conducting a national test in coordination with @FCC of the Emergency Alert System at 2:20 PM ET on Aug 11. The test will go to televisions & radios, while specially configured cell phones will receive an emergency alert test code message.” [Twitter, MoCo Show]
Manafort Home Up for Sale — A house in the Clarendon area that was once sought as a forfeiture to the federal government as part of the case against Paul Manafort is now up for sale. The house is owned by Manafort’s daughter, though the feds once argued that it was paid for by Manafort with money transferred from a shell company in Cyprus. The 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home is listed for $2.35 million. Manafort was pardoned by President Trump late last year. [Realtor.com]
Northam Announces Mental Health Funding — “Governor Ralph Northam today announced that the Commonwealth will commit $485 million in federal and state funding to address pressing challenges in Virginia’s behavioral health system. The plan includes targeted investments to alleviate pressure on state mental health hospitals, strengthen community-based services, and increase support for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. The Governor made the announcement at the Arlington County Community Services Board and was joined by Senator Adam Ebbin and Delegates Mark Sickles, Patrick Hope, and Alfonso Lopez.” [Press Release, Twitter, Twitter]
Nearby: Route 1 Fight Brewing in Fairfax Co. — “There’s another fight brewing over a Route 1 redesign, this time in Fairfax Co. Neighbors feel VDOT has once again sought to make the road too wide for it to be walkable, posing safety issues.” [Twitter, Washington Business Journal]
Prelude to Speed Cameras in Arlington — “This week the D.C. region’s Transportation Planning Board announced it is awarding a $60,000 grant to help Arlington with its plans to install the first-ever speed cameras in the county. The TPB says the money will go towards consulting services to help Arlington County install speed cameras in a fair, data-driven manner.” [WJLA]
NAACP Wanted Stronger Police Oversight — “Despite the County Board’s recent adoption of a Community Oversight Board (COB) ordinance, we are disappointed that the County Board refused to adopt the General Assembly-approved authority for the COB to be truly independent and to make binding disciplinary determinations. Nevertheless, we will work with all parties to ensure that the process is equitable and transparent.” [Press Release]
Judge’s Ruling on Rouse Estate Suit — “On May 14, Reeder filed a challenge to the county board’s rejection of local historic district status that some hoped would have protected the now-demolished 160-year-old Febrey-Lothrop house… Judge DiMatteo said Reeder faced ‘an uphill battle.’ The community ‘is not voiceless,’ she said. A community member can speak to board members and, if one doesn’t like their decision, ‘vote them out.’ But without standing, that party can’t appeal in court. Virginia law, she said, requires an ‘aggrieved party.’ She rejected Reeder’s claim.” [Falls Church News-Press]
GOP Blasts County for Biden Event — “Arlington County is misusing taxpayer resources and county bandwidth to actively promote a partisan campaign rally. One-party rule in Arlington continues to produce a lack of accountability for our elected leaders and county officials. Not only are they actively promoting a political event, they also went a step further to link to the event RSVP page.” [Press Release]
Guess the Price of This House — “The beauty of this 5,227 square-foot lot in Arlington, VA, is in its simplicity. Along with being a short Uber ride to Washington, DC, amenities include: Attached garage with one parking space, Big trees, Water heater (not new, just one in general), Great location to build on if you’re cool with bulldozing the home. How much for the world’s most average house?” [Morning Brew, Zillow]
Reminder: Vote in This Week’s Arlies — Do you have a favorite preschool or daycare you take your children to? Cast your vote in this week’s Arlies category by midday tomorrow. [ARLnow]
Peak Heat, Statistically Speaking — “Based on history, we are now at the hottest point of the summer. While it can still be brutally hot in the weeks ahead (and probably will be at times), we are about to begin our gradual descent into winter, using average temps.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
Arlington Home Prices Keep Rising — “A total of 369 properties went to closing last month, up 62 percent from 228 in June 2020… The average price of single-family homes in the county was $1,217,376 last month, up 9.8 percent from $1,109,179.” [Sun Gazette]
Protected Bikes Lanes for HQ2? — “Amazon.com Inc.’s newest PenPlace design would add protected bike lanes along a key roadway adjacent to the 11.6-acre campus and a new bike share station near the planned ‘Helix’ tower. During Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee’s virtual meeting Tuesday, Amazon’s HQ2 landscape architect Scape presented its revised vision for the site’s 2.1 acres of open space and transportation networks.” [Washington Business Journal]
Woman Finds Bullet Hole in Window — “3900 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 6:09 a.m. on July 13, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was awoken at approximately 10:00 p.m. on July 12 to a loud pop sound. The following morning, she discovered a bullet hole in her window.” [ACPD]
Affordable Apartments Set for Renovation — “Arlington County is backing away from plans to buy part of the Park Shirlington apartment complex in South Arlington as the developers are instead pitching a full renovation of the affordable community. The county is set to deliver a $22.7 million loan to power the rehabilitation of all 293 units on the 15.7-acre parcel.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Is a ‘Top Digital County’ — “Arlington County is once again ranked among the top digital counties in the nation. The Center for Digital Government and National Association of Counties has named Arlington to the No. 2 spot for their 2021 awards in the 150,000-249,999 population category.” [Arlington County]
New Record for W-L IB Program — “W-L students surpassed their worldwide peers in diploma pass rate, average score pass rate, and the average points earned by diploma candidates. In addition, the overall pass rate for all W-L students participating in [International Baccalaureate] classes, including Diploma Candidates and Course Candidates, is the highest in the 25-year history of IB at W-L at 92.6%.” [Arlington Public Schools]
‘Arlington Tech’ Students Earn Degree — “Seven Arlington Tech Class of 2021 graduates are the first APS students to earn Associates Degrees by taking courses offered through both Arlington Tech and the Career Center.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Facing high rates of pandemic-era apartment vacancies, Dittmar Company is looking to recoup its losses through short-term rentals.
The Tysons-based developer and property management group is asking the Arlington County Board for permission to convert up to 75 furnished apartment units in three Arlington buildings into flexible hotel rooms.
These “Flexible Units,” which comprise less than 5% of the total units in each building, may be rented for short-term stays of fewer than 30 days or long-term stays of more than 30 days. Dittmar will require a minimum length of stay of at least three consecutive nights, and the units cannot be rented for more than 90 nights in a calendar year, according to a county staff report.
Currently, the furnished units are “rented by foreign embassies, corporations, universities, medical facilities, and other tenants desiring long term residential stays,” Nicholas Cumings, Dittmar’s legal representative, wrote in a letter to the county this spring.
They are “typically vacant for three months out of the year and require significant operational costs (i.e. provision of utilities, furniture, housekeeping facilities and housekeeping personnel, etc.),” said Cumings, an attorney with the land use firm of Walsh Colucci.
The new arrangement would allow Dittmar to offset the losses from when such furnished units are vacant, Cumings said. The conversions would be in effect for up to five years.
County Manager Mark Schwartz recommends the County Board approve the request during its meeting on Saturday. The County Board previously heard the requests in May and, following staff recommendation, deferred them to allow for more conversations and analysis, county staff wrote.
“Concerns have been raised by the community and Planning Commission regarding the potential impacts on housing affordability and the absence of County policy on temporary conversions of residential to hotel use,” the staff report said. “Since the Flexible Units may be rented by any individual seeking either a long- or short-term furnished stay, staff expects the temporary conversions to have limited, if any impact on the broader housing supply or rental rates.”
One resident told ARLnow he thinks this arrangement will lead to a spike in travelers in the building.
“Although they claim now to rent furnished units to institutional partners (like universities or embassies), I worry that Dittmar will seek to rent them on a day-to-day basis,” the resident said. “This will ruin the nature of communities that are primarily for long-term tenants. When we finally get through the pandemic and people can travel more freely, I worry that these buildings will become prime destinations for countless travelers.”
In his letter, Cumings wrote that Dittmar “has no desire to operate as a hotel and seeks the ability to rent their existing furnished units for short-term stays in order to offset the cost of vacancies throughout the year.”
The rental units will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, mostly located on the lower floors, “with some premium furnished units located on the penthouse floors,” he said.
The County Board will be meeting in-person on the third floor of county government headquarters, at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse. It resumed in-person meetings in June after switching to virtual meetings last year due to the pandemic.
High School Graduations Underway — “We are proud of the perseverance our seniors have shown this year. To honor them, we will hold in-person, outdoor events for the graduates of comprehensive high schools and programs, June 11 – June 18, on school grounds.” Wakefield and Washington-Liberty’s graduation ceremonies will be held today, and Yorktown’s will be held on Friday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Arlington Real Estate is Red Hot — “Homes that sold in Northern Virginia in May were on the market for an average of 13 days… In Arlington County, NVAR says sales are happening even faster. ‘When properties hit the market in May they were as good as sold the second they became active on the MLS,’ said Reggie Copeland, president-elect of NVAR and a principal broker at C.R. Copeland Real Estate.” [WTOP]
Twenty-Three ACPD Recruits Graduate — “Family, friends and colleagues gathered on Monday, June 14, 2021, to watch the Arlington County Police Department’s 23 newest officers graduate from Session 144 of the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy. During the graduation, the officers took their oath to serve and protect the Arlington community and safeguard the Constitutional rights of all.” [Arlington County]
Prosecutor Rides Along with ACPD — From Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti: “Good morning peeps. Up since 3am and out with ACPD auto detectives getting their in the trenches perspective on what’s happening with the car thefts, working together on investigations… Seriously, lock your doors please.” [Twitter]
(Updated at 8:40 a.m.) Some federal agencies are looking to continue remote and hybrid working options for employees post-pandemic — a shift with potential impacts on Arlington’s office and residential real estate markets.
The Biden administration expects White House staff to return for full-time, in-person work in July, but on Thursday federal agencies were told that they will be able to offer increased work-from-home flexibility, even after the pandemic. Remote work may become a permanent option for some federal workers, just as is happening for many private-sector workers.
“I think the office market will cool as companies continue to assess what the remote work shift means for their workforce and space needs in the next few years,” said Eric Maribojoc, the executive director of the Center for Real Estate Entrepreneurship at George Mason University.
Arlington has a sizable federal presence despite the Base Realignment and Closure Act, which saw the relocation of military-occupied office space. The experience taught the county some lessons about diversifying its economic base, meaning Arlington today, preparing for more telework, is in a different boat than in 2005 facing BRAC.
Those familiar with the county’s market trends say there will be impacts but they will likely be tempered by a more diverse economy, a trend toward hybrid options that involve some time in offices, and a continued need for in-person work among certain agencies and large tech companies.
“Many companies are just beginning to plan for their potential return to the office and discussing a fully remote future is still largely speculative,” Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Kirby Clark said. “We anticipate companies will continue to offer telework flexibility during this next stage of recovery. However, we hear from many of our major employers that there is no substitute for in-person collaboration in the office, especially for knowledge-based science and technology industries.”
Arlington’s federal workforce
Although it took a while, Arlington did experience a significant drop in federally-occupied office space.
Today Arlington has 29,200 federal employees — excluding military personnel — and is home to the offices of a number of agencies, including the State Department, U.S. Marshals Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Drug Enforcement Agency, Clark said.
Some former government tenants have been replaced with corporate, tech and research anchors and a lot more housing, however. Between 2016 and 2020, Arlington added 5,193 housing units, with 3,175 units under construction and 5,907 units planned for future construction, she said.
“Over the last ten years, the landscape of Arlington’s Urban Villages transformed, becoming more economically diverse and land-use balanced, with residential development replacing old, obsolete office spaces formerly occupied by federal tenants,” said Clark.
As a region, D.C. has the nation’s second-largest pool of potential remote workers, at 49%, behind the San Francisco Bay Area, at 50%, according to a February report from the Greater Washington Partnership. The northern half of Arlington has one of the highest concentrations of remote-capable workers, alongside portions of Northwest D.C. and the Bethesda and Potomac areas of Montgomery County.
The report, which came out before the news of the changing federal work-from-home guidelines was first reported, predicted that some of the largest gains in remote work post-pandemic will likely be among government jobs.
“Two in five federal government workers may spend some time at home, with smaller shares of state and local public-sector professionals working remotely,” the report said.
Among government employees, according to Clark and Maribojoc, these options will likely be expanded for those who perform individual tasks that require focus but not high levels of security clearance.
“Due to the presence of the Pentagon and other defense and security agencies in Arlington, many federal-supporting tenants have security requirements that may require physical office spaces or proximity to major government and defense anchors,” Clark noted.
If more federal government employees go fully remote — a conversation that Clark said is still largely speculative — she predicted that it would be “a challenge not limited to Arlington and has the potential for broader regional impacts in the future.”
Clerk Hires Fmr. School Board Member — “Former School Board member Nancy Van Doren in February started work as one of a number of deputy clerks under Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, with her bailiwick the land-records division and its staff of five… that led to speculation that Ferguson – who served on the County Board before being elected clerk in 2007 – might be preparing for a departure when his current term expires at the end of 2023. That’s not the plan, Ferguson told the Sun Gazette.” [Sun Gazette]
Bomb Threat in Rosslyn — “The police activity in Rosslyn [Sunday] was due to a phone threat received by a tenant at 1100 Wilson Blvd, police tell ARLnow. The office building is home to Politico, UVA grad programs, TV station WJLA and others. The ‘all clear’ [was] given, after the building was evacuated.” [Twitter]
Last Month’s Real Estate Stats — “Based on just 352 closed sales in Arlington County, the median price was $650,000, down 4% from last April, according to Long & Foster Real Estate. The number of homes for sale in Arlington County was up 76% from a year ago, but as evidence of the fast pace at which homes are selling, the number of new listings coming on the market outpaced total inventory. Sellers in Arlington County got an average of 101.5% of their list price.” [WTOP]
Woman Arrested for Striking Officer — “The female suspect was allegedly inside the business opening merchandise, refusing to leave and threatened staff about having a weapon. The arriving officer located the suspect who was uncooperative, refused to follow commands and claimed to have a firearm in her pocket. While taking her into custody, the suspect resisted arrest and struck the officer multiple times.” [ACPD]
Reflecting on ER Chief’s Pandemic Posts — “Social media was a lifeline for many throughout the #pandemic. In March 2020, VHC’s Dr. Mike Silverman, Chair of the Emergency Department, began using @Facebook as a way to keep our community informed about what was happening behind the scenes in local hospitals.” [Virginia Hospital Center/Twitter]
Aging Home’s Future in Doubt — “The quaint 1889 Queen Anne-style home a couple of hundred yards from the East Falls Church Metro may soon meet the wrecking ball. What for decades has been called the Fellows-McGrath House (6404 Washington Blvd.) was sold by owner Pam Jones this February for $1,088,295. The purchaser, Manassas-based FNM Investments LLC, led Jones to suspect her cherished home of 17 years — a one time bed and breakfast known as Memory House — will be torn down.” [Falls Church News-Press]