Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Local Business Owners Still Waiting for Loans — “Like many business owners across Northern Virginia, Cyrille Brenac is still waiting to hear back from his bank about his application to the Paycheck Protection Program… For Brenac, who lives in the Cherrydale neighborhood of Arlington, the money would help him rehire about 50 employees of his two French restaurants he laid off when the economy abruptly shut down as the result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.” [Connection Newspapers]

County Board Salary Raise Unlikely — “The COVID-19 health pandemic and resulting economic downturn have snagged another victim – big pay raises for Arlington County Board members. Raises totaling more than $50,000 spread across the five board positions, which were included in County Manager Mark Schwartz’s pre-virus budget proposal in February, have been red-lined out.” [InsideNova]

Bearded Goat Barber Dies During Home Isolation — “We’ve already had quite a tragedy of our own — a barber who was in recovery from heroin addiction. He told us a couple times in the first few weeks, ‘It’s not good for me not being busy like this… not being able to work.’ We didn’t know just how bad it would be for him. He relapsed and got a bad batch and died.” [InsideHook, Facebook]

Campaign to Help Nurses, Restaurants Raises $30k — “The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) began its ‘Buy a Nurse Lunch’ initiative several weeks ago to raise money for restaurants along Columbia Pike in Arlington, while simultaneously providing meals for nurses and medical staff at the Virginia Hospital Center. In just two weeks, the organization says that over $30 thousand was raised, providing much-needed revenue for small, locally-owned restaurant.” [WJLA]

County to Consider More Retail Conversions — “For many years, county officials were insistent that retail be placed in office and residential buildings in certain areas. The problem – as developers apparently knew but county leaders seemed to miss – is that retail spaces are dependent on visibility and foot traffic, which each can vary widely even within the same building. (At one business-organization meeting years back, developers simply shrugged their shoulders, saying they often penciled in ‘zero’ for the expected revenue.)” [InsideNova]

Local Man Recounts Coronavirus Experience — “He had been in the hospital for seven days when doctors declared he might not make it out alive. His blood oxygen levels sank. His lungs struggled. The ventilator helping him breathe, doctors at Virginia Hospital Center said, did not seem to be doing much good. Nurses called his family. His family called a priest. They wanted to make sure Francis Wilson, 29, received last rites before the end.” [Washington Post]

Raccoons Rescued from Trash Can — “Officer Cameron got a surprise yesterday when she responded to a call about a raccoon stuck inside a bag inside a trash can. After she ‘unstuck’ the raccoon, she found 2 raccoon kits with her! Officer Cameron made sure they were all safe, releasing them to a quiet place nearby.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington]

Arlington Musicians Play Mozart From Self-Isolation — A group of Arlington musicians joined those from elsewhere to perform Mozart: Serenade No. 13 in G Major, K. 525 ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ (1st movement) remotely. [YouTube]

Falls Church Senior Care Centers Face Outbreaks — “Three Falls Church area senior homes are now confirmed to be fighting outbreaks of the coronavirus, with Chesterbrook Residences telling the News-Press today that a total of 17 of its residents and staff have tested positive for COVID-19.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Flickr pool photo by P Ranfone

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) With In Style Pet Salon and Commonwealth Restorations coming to Williamsburg Shopping Center (2902 N. Sycamore Street) the retail block is now 100% full.

“It feels great,” said Nick Kalis, who runs the shopping center as part of the Kalis Development Corporation. “In years past, it was very normal, but retail leasing today is more of a challenge.”

Kalis said the In Style Pet Salon, a pet grooming location, should open sometime in the next 30-60 days. Commonwealth Restorations — a home design, renovation and construction firm — should open in 60-90 days, he said.

Kalis also emphasized that Commonwealth Restorations isn’t closing their office at 2430 S. Kenmore Street, but this second location will operate as more of a showroom and opportunity to interface with the public.

Kalis said challenges in the retail industry have led to more emphasis on service-oriented tenants for shopping centers.

“The bigger story here is that shopping centers face two challenges,” Kalis said. “A lot of people build these big warehouse parks with phony retail because they’re not properly zoned for a lot of uses but compete with us for tenants. The second challenge is every retailer in Arlington moving more to finding service-oriented tenants… So more and more, you’re finding service [and restaurants] in these shopping centers.”

Other tenants at the shopping center include Smoking Kow BBQ, Jin’s Dry Cleaner, Williamsburg Deli, 7-Eleven, Deli Italiano, Two The Moon, Peking Pavilion, Zinga Frozen Yogurt, Tenley Nails, United Bank and the Williamsburg Barber Shop.

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There’s little doubt that a retail apocalypse is underway, though there is some debate about how to assign blame.

Store closures and imminent closures in Arlington since last summer include Abercrombie & Fitch, Swatch and Papyrus at the Pentagon City mall; World Market in Pentagon City; Rite Aid in Crystal City; and Pier 1 in Rosslyn. Malls in Tysons have also seen a spate of recent closures.

Meanwhile, Ballston Common Mall recently underwent an extensive renovation. Instead of retail stores, of which there are but a few, the newly-rebranded Ballston Quarter focuses on restaurants, entertainment, fitness and other “experiential” businesses.

The prime suspect in the retail woes is the rise of e-commerce — driven in large part by a company that’s opening a large new office in Pentagon City. But there are other potential factors: long-time retailers not adapting to the current consumer environment, private equity firms loading retail chains like Toys R Us up with debt and watching them deteriorate, and an over-building of malls and other retail space.

Regardless of the exact set of causes, it is consumer behavior that ultimately controls the fate of retail businesses. So this morning we’re wondering: do you shop at physical retail stores more or less now than you did in 2018?

Let us know why in the comments below.

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Morning Notes

HQ2’s Towering Height — “Amazon.com Inc.’s planned pair of office towers at Metropolitan Park will have the same number of floors as the residential building next door. But the HQ2 buildings will lord over The Bartlett by nearly 60 feet. The 22-story HQ2 towers are expected to hit 322.5 feet at their highest point, according to plans submitted to Arlington County. JBG Smith Properties’ The Bartlett, with its Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market on the ground floor, is 22 stories but only 264-feet-tall.” [Washington Business Journal]

Retail Sales Up in Arlington — “Year-over-year retail sales in Arlington showed a boost in the first quarter of 2019, according to new data. Total retail sales of $767.2 million countywide were up 1.6 percent from $755.3 million during the first three months of 2018, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Taxation.” [InsideNova]

Univ. of Phoenix’s New Arlington Campus — The for-profit University of Phoenix this week will be celebrating the grand opening of its new Northern Virginia-D.C. Metro campus at 4401 Fairfax Drive in Ballston. [Eventbrite]

Heat Doesn’t Stop Youth Baseball Tourney — “Even as some events cancelled due to the extreme heat warning on Saturday, many people are still got outside. That included hundreds of young players from across the area who turned out for the Arlington Babe Ruth – Doc Bonaccorso Summer Classic Baseball Tournament in Arlington.” [WJLA]

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Amid difficulties for American shopping malls, Arlington’s two malls are betting on new eateries to turn more diners into shoppers.

Management at the newly-renovated Ballston Quarter and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City say elevated dining options — from Ballston Quarter’s trendy local eateries to newer, healthier options at Pentagon City mall — are becoming an increasingly important part of mall design.

Commercial real estate experts say food options are now the key driver of mall traffic.

A new study released by the International Council of Shopping Centers shows that 40 percent of customers choose which mall they go to based solely on the food there, and nearly 38 percent of those surveyed said healthy options were a priority, according to CNBC.

“People increasingly value experience-based shopping and place higher expectations on how they spend their time,” said Will Voegele, senior vice president of mixed-use development for Brookfield Properties, in an email to ARLnow. “We designed the revitalized Ballston Quarter with the community in mind and our vision reflects a strong focus on experiential retail, innovative food and beverage concepts, and diverse entertainment offerings to create a new all-season neighborhood experience with the density of an urban center that is purposeful, thoughtful and unique.”

Voegele said part of the redesign for Ballston Quarter was to maintain a focus on local vendors for the 25,000 square-foot food hall.

“The uniform array of national names that we associate with the traditional food court does not provide the richness and authenticity that is so important to our mission at Ballston Quarter,” Voegele said. “Families and young professionals still want grab-and-go, but they are also looking for better quality and healthy dining options. Food halls offer the perfect solution in this case.”

Voegele said the new food hall design has gradually supplanted the traditional fast food-oriented food court of the archetypical ’80s and ’90s malls.

“The fundamental design of the traditional mall no longer supports the way people like to shop and dine as consumers are craving visually stimulating and creative experiences,” Voegele said. “The boxy retail behemoths of yesterday are just not practical for today’s landscape.”

Healthy options were also a big part of the expansion and renovation of the Pentagon City mall.

“Fashion Centre at Pentagon City has introduced enhanced dining options over the recent years, including Matchbox American Kitchen + Spirit, honeygrow, Sugar Factory and Shake Shack,” management at the mall said in an email. “In addition, the center added modern furniture, finishes and additional seating during the renovation in 2016 to offer an even better experience for shoppers visiting the dining pavilion.”

But does this translate into sales at other retail options in the mall? Voegele said the Ballston Quarter’s food hall, Quarter Market, has seen consistent traffic across all age groups — and events like Quarterfest last weekend boosted its local profile. The study said transactions increase as much as 25 percent at malls with quality food and beverage options, with shoppers who eat at the mall spending 15 percent more per trip.

Shoppers inside Ballston Quarter weren’t so sure. While several said they came for the food hall and loved the dining options, many also said this wouldn’t necessarily translate into going into the upstairs part of the mall to shop.

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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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A developer is planning to raze two office buildings on 601-701 12th Street S. in Pentagon City and build four new towers with residential, office, and retail space.

That’s according to a preliminary site plan filing with Arlington County. The plan also notes that the property’s current occupants — the Transportation Security Administration — are soon leaving the county.

Renderings in the filings from property owner Brookfield Properties depict four buildings planned for the area:

  • a 14-story, 240-foot high southwest tower for office space
  • a 20-story, 235-foot high southeast tower for residential or hotel use
  • a 24-story, 275-foot high northeast tower for residential or hotel use
  • a 26-story, 300-foot high northwest tower for residential use, with a penthouse

The company’s proposal says the development will occur in phases and will include “new access to the Pentagon City Metro, upgraded streetscapes and sidewalks, a new internal pedestrian pathway, public open spaces and outdoor seating” as well as public art.

Brookfield’s plans indicate that retail space is planned along the ground floor of the four towers and along 12th Street S.

Tysons-based law firm Venable LLP submitted the proposal, which included a request to make an exception to the site’s limits on building height and density for the project, on behalf of Brookfield.

The document notes that, “the proposal will help address the significant increase in demand for residential housing and hotel space, which will only grow considering the potential for office development in the region.”

The plan says it aims to “ease congestion on surrounding roads by integrating with nearby sites, improving internal circulation, and connecting to Metro.”

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is currently using the two buildings on-site and is scheduled to move out next fall, per agency spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein.

“The new building will be located at 6595 Springfield Center Drive, Springfield,” said Farbstein.

The TSA had been planning to stay at the property, which is next to the Drug Enforcement Administration headquarters and across the street from the Pentagon City mall, until mid-2020.

TSA announced in 2015 that it would move to Alexandria in a bid to save $95 million over the next 15 years, but the move was later overturned by a federal judge.

Brookfield Properties describes the two, 12-story buildings currently occupied by the TSA as, “aging, obsolete” and “unattractive.”

The county posted the address of the project on its website under “Preliminary Development Proposals” last week. However, the process of obtaining the plans revealed the county’s permitting and zoning offices were adapting the way they process records requests.

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What was first proposed as a 280-unit apartment and retail development in the Crystal City/Pentagon City area has grown to more than 300 units.

Last fall, developer LCOR Inc. filed a preliminary site plan application for a 285-unit multi-family and retail development at the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street, on the site of a low-slung Verizon building and parking lot.

In February, three months after Amazon announced that it would be building its massive “HQ2” across the street, the developer upped the requested number of units in the 19-story building to 306 units, according to county records. LCOR has said that it will provide additional community benefits in exchange for the added density.

The revised February application also reduced the planned retail space on the ground floor from 12,194 square feet down to 10,908 square feet.

The proposed building will be located at 400 11th Street S. and will feature a mix of one and two bedroom apartments, along with a rooftop recreation space. LCOR Inc. is calling the multi-family and retail development the “12th Street Apartments” and plans also includes a three-level parking garage with 114 spaces, with parking for both cars and bikes.

LCOR purchased the land from Verizon this past summer for $9.5 million, the Washington Business Journal reported, and has said it hopes to break ground in 2020. LCOR Executive Vice President and Principal Harmar Thompson told the Journal he hopes to lease the retail space to a “two-story bar-and-restaurant.”

The developer has been active in the area, previously acquiring the nearby former Department of Defense Inspector General “Paperclip” building, where it built a high-end, 451-unit apartment building called the Altaire.

In December, LCOR teamed up with Crystal City BID to set up an interactive art display on the site of the new development.

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Morning Notes

Memorial Ride for Arlington Cyclist — A memorial ride is planned tonight in D.C. for Arlington resident Thomas Hollowell, who was killed while riding his bike to work last week near the intersection of 12th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. [Facebook]

Master Bike Plan for Arlington — Planners are putting the finishing touches on which bike infrastructure projects to include in Arlington County’s updated master plan. Currently in: the Army Navy Country Club Connector. Currently out: a connection from the Marine Corps War Memorial to the Roosevelt Bridge. [TheWashCycle]

Grumbles About Pike ‘Premium’ Bus — One outspoken Twitter user is on a mission to highlight the shortcomings of the new Columbia Pike “premium transit network.” Some have said the long-promised bus improvements have been underwhelming and have suffered the same service issues of every other mass transit line in town. However, the same Twitter user’s attempt at a petition to “bring back the Arlington streetcar” only has one signature so far. [Twitter, Change.org]

Walmart Buys Eloquii — Fashion-forward, plus-size women’s clothing retailer Eloquii has been acquired by Walmart. The e-commerce company opened its first bricks-and-mortar location at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [TechCrunch, Forbes]

Optimism for Malls — At a Bisnow event in Tysons yesterday, a panel of commercial real estate pros said shopping malls in urbanized areas like Tysons (and, by extension, Arlington) are better off than their more suburban counterparts that are suffering in the era of Amazon. In Arlington, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and the soon-to-reopen Ballston Quarter account for a large portion of the local retail industry. [Tysons Reporter]

Reminder: Emergency Alert Test — Expect your phone to buzz and beep just after 2:15 p.m. as part of a nationwide federal emergency alert test. The alert will be sent via mobile carriers and the national Wireless Emergency Alerts system, not via Arlington County’s Arlington Alert. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Power Outage at National Airport — Reagan National Airport went dark for several hours last night after a rare power failure. Emergency generators did kick in but only powered a portion of the airport’s systems. [NBC Washington, WTOP, Twitter]

More About Rosslyn’s Pop-Up Retail — “The Alcove, a 5,000-square foot storefront in Rosslyn’s Central Place opened last Wednesday with an activity-packed bang: think kombucha tastings, fabric-stamping, decoupage-making, and more… The Alcove was born when developer JBG Smith offered up one of their properties to the [Rosslyn] BID for a two-month period.” [Washingtonian]

Free Pet Adoptions This Weekend — Adoption fees will be waived at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington on Saturday as part of the annual “Clear the Shelters” event. [DCist]

Recess Changes at APS — “Many APS schools already provide at least 30 minutes of recess, and the new guidelines will help ensure consistency in recess time across all APS elementary schools… Unstructured play and physical activity are an important part of student learning and well-being, and we are pleased to provide this opportunity for our students.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Rep. Beyer on CNN — Arlington’s local congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D), was interviewed on CNN’s Situation Room last night on the topic of President Trump stripping former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Construction on the renovated Ballston Quarter mall is coming along.

Signs up at the site still point to a fall 2018 opening for the redeveloped and rebuilt space, formerly known as the Ballston Common Mall.

Recent weeks have seen the announcement that several “experiential tenants,” like cooking class company Cookology and live action adventure venue 5 Wits, have signed on as tenants.

The 360,000 square foot retail space will also include a 25,000 square foot food hall, which reportedly will have 18 restaurants, including Timber Pizza Co. and Buredo. Trendy D.C. spots Himitsu and Gravitas are also said to be considering opening up eateries at the mall.

At least 400 residential units are being constructed as well, though leasing will begin next year.

Ballston Quarter is just one of a number of major construction projects currently underway in the neighborhood. Crews were seen working on Friday directly across the street from another construction site, Liberty Center, at 4040 Wilson Boulevard.

The mixed-use residential, retail, and office space is scheduled to open for mid-2020 and will be the final piece of a five-building development. VIDA Fitness, a “high end fitness center and spa,” is set to open its first non-D.C. location in the building.

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