Arlington, VA

Update at 7:45 p.m. — The county website is back up, though some users who accessed the site while it was down may still have their visits redirected to the temporary page, for now.

Earlier: Bad news: More than 24 hours later, Arlington County’s website is still down as of Wednesday afternoon. Good news: the county’s voting information pages and payment portal are among the things currently up.

As of 3 p.m. the county website was still reduced to a temporary, static page with a few links. That’s despite Arlington Public Schools recently announcing that its tech troubles, caused by a fiber optic line cut, had been resolved.

A county spokeswoman told ARLnow that the county was, in fact, also affected by the fiber cut, but it was not the reason for the website outage.

“Arlington County Government’s fiber was cut as well yesterday,” said Shannon Whalen McDaniel. “However, we are not experiencing a disruption due to a redundancy in our system.”

There is still no estimate as to when the county’s full website might be back online.

“We can’t provide an estimate at this time, but staff are working to resolve it as quickly as possible,” Whalen McDaniel said.

In addition to the CAPP payment portal, library website, service request pagereal estate search and County Board meeting agendas, the Arlington voting and elections sub-site remains up. Whalen McDaniel said that is due to some good planning.

“Given the criticality of the voting site, we had a back-up site for it already in place for redundancy sake,” she said. “Yesterday, we simply expedited the move to this replacement site to ensure there would be no impact on voting information.”

The county’s last major update to its website was made at the end of 2013, when it switched to a more flexible WordPress-based system — the same underlying Content Management System as ARLnow and millions of other sites — for most pages.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. The new 2800 Shirlington recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village. Spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes are under construction and will deliver soon!

(Updated on 10/13/20) Rosslyn-based tech company LiveSafe has been purchased by Tampa-based Vector Solutions.

Founded in 2012, the company focused on campus security, as one co-founder survived the Virginia Tech mass shooting. Over the years, it gained footholds in other sectors and got an extra boost in 2018, when it received $11 million in new venture funding.

Today, the app and dashboard help businesses, schools and governments respond to anything ranging from harassment to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The acquisition will take LiveSafe to new heights and expand the company’s reach to new clients, said LiveSafe co-founder Shayan Pahlevani.

“You can’t be happier as a founder or LiveSafe team member see something you worked on for so many  years make it to the next level,” he said.

From its ground-floor office at 1400 Key Blvd, LiveSafe serves more than 400 customers including Hearst, Cox Communications, Brookfield Properties and the Crystal City-based Consumer Technology Association.

“It’s great that they see value in what we created,” Pahlevani said. “They have a number of incredible solutions in their deck, and to have access to their incredible customers is a huge testament to what we built.”

Many of the details are still being finalized, including whether LiveSafe will keep its office. Pahlevani said he could not disclose the cost of the sale, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Vector Solutions and LiveSafe first partnered in 2019 to bring customized safety and security tools to higher education and K-12 markets.

Vector Solutions CEO Marc Schiepe said in a statement that the acquisition builds on a “longstanding and trusted relationship with LiveSafe and brings dynamic safety and security capabilities into the Vector Solutions product portfolio.”

Pahlevani said Vector became one of LiveSafe’s customers and was “very impressed with our team and the product.”

One product came online this year, inspired by the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on return-to-work plans. LiveSafe launched WorkSafe to help organizations detect potential COVID-19 infections, prevent outbreaks and reduce legal liability, while keeping employee health information private.

The acquisition comes as Vector Solutions — which bills itself as the “leading provider of software solutions for learning, operational readiness, workforce management” — rebrands its platforms to include the Vector name. LiveSafe will take on a new name, but Vector pledges to deliver the same experience.

Bringing LiveSafe into the fold “fits perfectly with Vector’s mission to serve everyday heroes by delivering intelligent software solutions that empower them to make safer, smarter, better decisions,” Schiepe said in his statement.

As for Pahlevani, he said the acquisition will afford him time to focus on Hungry, the buzzy Ballston-based startup he founded that connects businesses to local caterers for lunches and events.

“I get to focus 100 percent on Hungry,” he said.

This article has been updated to remove sensitive staffing information covered by a non-disclosure agreement. 

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This article was written by Alex Taylor, Senior Business Development Manager for Arlington Economic Development.

Arlington Economic Development recently hosted a webinar on the future of Ballston, Arlington’s Bold Future: Innovating Ballston, featuring panelists from Shooshan Companies, George Mason University, Cushman & Wakefield, the Ballston BID and Arlington County. This was the first in a series of webinars focused on the future of Arlington’s economy and placemaking.

As home to DARPA, the Office of Naval Research and the Virginia Tech Research Center, Ballston has historically been a hub of innovation. Funded by federal research grants and commercialized spinoffs, the cutting-edge research happening in Ballston has led to technological advancements around the world as well as an influx of talent, ranking Arlington County amongst the most educated and hardest working populations in the country.

While companies have long been drawn to Ballston for its high-quality office space, prominent federal research institutions, university presence and access to tech and professional talent, the major transformation in Ballston has created a bustling 18/7 environment despite the ongoing pandemic.

The neighborhood has emerged as a more vibrant residential neighborhood with the addition of 2,000 new residential units over the last three years. These developments sit among thousands of existing residential properties, millions of square feet of high-end office space, and the experiential entertainment derived from over $300 million in investments between Ballston Quarter and Ballston Exchange.

Ballston also sits on top of one of the busiest metro stations in the region, with rail access on the Silver and Orange lines connecting workers and residents to D.C., Maryland and western suburban nodes like Ashburn, Reston and Vienna in Virginia. It will soon have direct access to two major airports (Reagan National and Dulles, coming in 2021), making domestic and international connections seamless.

Hundreds of miles of pedestrian and bicycle paths stretch across the region and allow for active commuters to run, bike or walk to the office. This combination of assets gives Ballston and Arlington a truly unmatched environment compared to other commercial districts around the country.

While Ballston is already a top-tier commercial district, it has experienced significant change over the last few years with many exciting new projects in the pipeline. The neighborhood will be welcoming George Mason University’s new Institute for Digital InnovAtion (IDIA), and the $250 million state and University investment in the IDIA will serve as a critical catalyst in accelerating the growing innovation district and high-tech ecosystem along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

The 460,000 square foot facility will help support GMU’s new School of Computing, part of the University’s commitment to educate thousands of students in high-tech fields over the next decade. The building will incorporate cyber infrastructure and green technologies, and will support a mix of research, educational programs, corporate innovation labs, coworking and innovation programs for high-growth ventures.

This is all in addition to the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus being simultaneously developed in Alexandria. Silicon Valley has Stanford, Atlanta has Georgia Tech, Boston has MIT and Harvard, and Arlington has GMU and neighboring Virginia Tech; the future for Ballston’s tech ecosystem is certainly bright.

Federal innovation has attracted talent to the D.C. metro region for decades, but the emergence of these high-tech university research facilities along with Amazon’s HQ2 project will create a tech talent pipeline that will bolster the region’s image as a tech hub and further place Arlington on the map as a preeminent global tech and innovation hub.

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You may have noticed it while going by: a seemingly random blue trailer in the middle of a decaying parking lot between the Clarendon Whole Foods and the PNC Bank.

What you might not have realized at the time is that your next meal might be coming from there.

The trailer belongs to REEF Kitchens, which is part of a company focused on turning thousands of underutilized, urban parking lots around the country into food and logistics hubs. It serves as a “ghost kitchen,” producing meals for a number of virtual “restaurants” available on food delivery platforms like Uber Eats, Doordash, Postmates and Grubhub.

A full kitchen crew works out of the trailer, which is positioned to be close to a large, dense population and convenient for delivery drivers, who don’t need to double park or dodge dine-in customers while picking up meals.

REEF currently has only one location in Arlington, but is scouting out more here and around the D.C. area.

“Our Neighborhood Kitchen on Wilson Blvd is REEF’s first, and currently only, Neighborhood Kitchen in the Arlington area,” said a PR rep for the company, in response to inquiries from ARLnow. “REEF currently operates two parking facilities in the Arlington area and close to 80 locations in the greater DMV… I think it’s fair to say we’re growing quickly and are adding new locations all the time.”

Each kitchen cooks for 5-6 restaurant brands, serving up to 80-100 delivery orders per day and offering 20-35 minute delivery times. The trailers — along with waste bins and portable bathrooms — require 6-8 parking spaces apiece, in addition to utility connections, according to a slide deck obtained by ARLnow. The company sometimes groups multiple trailers together in the same parking lot.

REEF currently employs 10 people in Arlington, the rep said, though that is significantly fewer than would be required to run five separate bricks-and-mortar restaurants. Fewer employees, close proximity to a critical mass of potential customers, and the lack of a physical building means more sales and lower costs, something that’s hard for restaurants struggling through the pandemic to compete with — particularly given the fees collected by the delivery apps.

But REEF says it is looking to unlock opportunities for restaurants and local entrepreneurs through its model.

“REEF Neighborhood Kitchens leverage the power of proximity through the company’s network of parking lots to allow food entrepreneurs, local restaurants, and national restaurant brands to open and quickly expand their delivery businesses,” said the rep. “Neighborhood Kitchens help to reduce the barriers and costs associated with traditional brick and mortar restaurants either by helping to expand an existing restaurant’s delivery radius, or by allowing food entrepreneurs to get their business off the ground without the barriers to entry of the traditional restaurant industry. ”

He added that the kitchens follow stringent food handling, cleaning and COVID-19 safety protocols, and that customers “benefit from the added convenience of expanded delivery areas and quicker delivery.”

REEF, which released a video (below) that shows its holistic vision for turning parking lots into bustling neighborhood logistics hubs, says its model represents the future — a reimagined melding of technology and the physical world.

“We believe a parking lot can be more than a place to store a car,” the company said in a presentation. “A parking lot can be a hub for the community, connecting people to the businesses, services, and experiences that make a neighborhood thrive.”

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An new tenant in Ballston helps adults in need of a boost to establish foundational computer skills, ultimately expanding their career opportunities.

Called Computer CORE, the educational nonprofit offers courses in Google Suite, email, internet basics, computer security, community college math and similar fields to underserved adults. The classes help workers increase their salary by $10k on average.

The new educational facility will be located in a 3,500 square foot space in the Ballston Exchange complex, across Wilson Blvd from Ballston Quarter mall. The Ballston Business Improvement District coordinated the agreement between Computer CORE and Jamestown, the building’s owner, a press release said.

Overall, Computer CORE has around 150 students, roughly 70 of which will be able to use the new space, according to a spokesperson. In terms of group demographics, around 70% of all enrolled students identify as women and 95% are people of color, according to the organization’s website.

Though the center is only set to remain in the Ballston Exchange through the end of 2020, there is a possibility to extend the agreement, according to a spokesperson.

The location was partially chosen because of its proximity to a Metro station and Ballston’s nearby amenities, Tina Leone, the Ballston BID’s CEO said in the press release.

Computer CORE also offers help with resume review, the job search process and interview prep. Program applicants must live in the Northern Virginia area, be at least 18 years old, be motivated to find a job and have demonstrated need for the classes, according to the website.

Currently, 350 other students are on a waiting list to attend classes, the spokesperson said.

Photo courtesy Ballston BID

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. Monday Properties is proudly featuring Shirlington Gateway. Say hello to the new 2800 Shirlington, which recently delivered a brand-new lobby and upgraded fitness center. Experience a prime location and enjoy being steps from Shirlington Village, a large retail hub with a variety of unique restaurants and shopping options. Spec suites with bright open plans and modern finishes are under construction and will deliver soon!

Joint Arlington-Icelandic regenerative-medicine biologics company Kerecis has reeled in a new batch of funding.

The company, which has its operational headquarters in Courthouse, is focused on a technology that might sound to some like Spider-Man villain origin in the making.

Kerecis uses “fish skin and fatty acids for tissue protection and regeneration.” The fish skin can be used to treat wounds, burns and other tissue damage.

The company’s leadership said in a press release that the technology’s eager adoption in the United States was one of the leading sources of growth over the last year. Though the product might sound fishy, Kerecis said in a press release there’s no risk of viral-disease transfer from Atlantic cod to human.

Kerecis said all of the fish it flays for human use are wild and caught off the coast of Iceland.

“The fish skin needs only mild processing for medical use and maintains its natural structure and elements, including Omega 3 fatty acids,” the company said. “The Kerecis fatty-acid-based products protect the body against bacterial and viral infections.”

The company announced that the funding is based on $15 million in credit from Silicon Valley Bank to fund the company’s capital needs, with investors and lenders providing $6 million in loans to finance expanding the company’s expansion plans in the United States.

Research into adapting fish skin as treatment for burns and other skin-damage has been promising, with some experimental treatment being done in Brazil.

“The main reason that we were once again named Iceland’s fastest growing company is the rapid adoption of our medical fish skin in the U.S. market,” said G. Fertram Sigurjonsson, founder and CEO of Kerecis. “We are excited that our products are preventing amputations and reducing human suffering.”

Sigurjonsson said the funding will go to accelerating development and marketing of products for wounds, burns and other medical needs, especially in the United States.

Photo via Kerecis/Facebook

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) After years of school enrollment growth, Arlington Public Schools had fewer students enrolled this week than as of Sept. 30, 2019.

Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán revealed the numbers at last night’s School Board meeting. The first-day enrollment on Tuesday was 27,109 students, 911 fewer than last year’s official September 30 count of 28,020, he said.

As of April, enrollment this school year was projected to be 29,142, a 4% increase over last year.

The final, official count will take place in just over two weeks, on September 30. Durán told the School Board that some families are continuing to register and the numbers will fluctuate between now and then.

The drop in preliminary enrollment numbers comes as APS conducts classes exclusively online to start the school year, to the relief of some parents and the consternation of others.

During the public comment period of the School Board meeting, numerous parents called for in-person education to resume sooner rather than later, arguing that students are better off being back in school, even factoring the health risk from COVID-19. (At last check, APS was hoping to start a phased return to in-class instruction later this fall.)

One parent said he, as have others, declined to enroll his child in kindergarten this year, instead opting for a private, in-person program. That’s an option that is not available to working families with fewer financial resources, he said.

“Families like mine have significant means, and history tells us we will use those means to ensure and facilitate our children’s success,” the parent told the School Board. “Who do you think will find alternatives to your failure to uphold the social contract with schools?”

Others have similarly told ARLnow that they pulled their children from APS this year and enrolled them in private schools instead — or, for younger children, kept them in daycare — to ensure an in-person learning experience and to allow both parents to continue working.

During the School Board meeting, Durán also discussed this week’s technical difficulties and the school system’s meal distribution program.

Durán said most of the technical problems that prevented students from logging in to APS systems on the first day of school were solved that day. Other students continued to encounter problems on Wednesday, but Durán said those problems were fixed that night.

“Late Wednesday night we identified a software issue that was causing some further challenges for high school students using MacBook Airs. This was addressed and fixed as of Thursday morning,” his presentation said. “We are monitoring connectivity throughout this week to ensure all students can access learning and enhance the student experience.”

Durán also encouraged students who had switched from APS-issued devices to personal devices to switch back “so teachers can effectively leverage the resources and applications available on those devices.”

As for meals, Durán said that 4,356 students were served free meals on Tuesday and Wednesday. APS is serving free meals to all students 18 years of age and younger, at 10 drop-off locations and 21 school sites around the county.

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Morning Notes

More APS Tech Issues Reported — Several people contacted ARLnow yesterday to report more technology issues involving remote learning. While Wakefield High School’s principal posted a possible fix on social media, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that any remaining problems were isolated: “At last check this morning, there were 25,273 APS-provided student devices active on our network. There are some issues at the secondary level, but we are working directly with those students to reset their devices.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Sept. 11 Commemoration Tomorrow — “Arlington County will commemorate the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and express gratitude to all those who responded that day with a virtual event. To ensure everyone’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public will view the event online or on the County’s cable channels.” [Arlington County]

State Grant to Boost COVID Testing — “The Virginia Department of Health has provided the Department of Human Services with $320,287 to increase COVID-19 testing capacity. The grant award covers the period August 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Grant funds will support operations and logistics at testing sites.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Holding Virtual Career Day — “Amazon is looking to build on the success of last year’s Career Day events across six U.S. cities that hosted 17,000 job seekers with over 200,000 people who applied for jobs in the week leading up to the event. The new completely virtual event will open Amazon Career Day 2020 to everyone, regardless of their location. Some of the new employees will be placed at Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, which is continuing to expand following its opening last year.” [Good Morning America, Amazon, WTOP]

Progress on DCA Expansion — “Project Journey is well on its way. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority this week offered an update on its two-pronged, roughly $650 million modernization program at Reagan National Airport. The final product will deliver a new north concourse, replacing the oft-maligned Gate 35X, and new security checkpoints. The former is expected to open in July 2021, and the latter by the fourth quarter of 2021.” [Washington Business Journal, NBC 4, InsideNova]

Wide Pedestrian Bridge Proposed — “The final EIS for Long Bridge recommended building 14′ wide pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Long Bridge, the MVT and East Potomac Park. Governor Northam committed to funding pre-COVID. This will be huge for regional trail connectivity.” [Twitter, Friends of the Mt. Vernon Trail]

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Morning Notes

County Announces ‘Health Equity’ Program — “Arlington County Government, Arlington Public Schools and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) are collaborating to increase access to COVID support services in communities disproportionately affected by the virus as part of the state’s Health Equity Pilot Program.” [Arlington County]

Group Calls for Removal of Police from APS — “Today, the Black Parents of Arlington, an advocacy group dedicated to improving the lives of Black children in Arlington by securing equitable treatment in the realms of education, criminal justice, and access to opportunities and resources, formally called for the removal of School Resource Officers from all APS schools and facilities.” The local NAACP made a similar call for the removal of SROs earlier this summer. [Press Release]

Police Share Back to School Tips — “The Police Department typically marks the start of the academic year by reinforcing transportation safety tips to ensure that our roadways are safely shared with students heading back to school. With the shift to distance learning, we’re sharing tips to help students stay safe at home and online.” [Arlington County]

Ballston Tech Firm Acquires NYC Company — “Since last fall, celebrity-backed HUNGRY Marketplace Inc. has been using its technology to connect top local chefs with New York businesses looking for the best in catered meals. Now the company is deepening its Manhattan presence with the purchase of Ripe, the local corporate catering service that sees healthy office dining as a way to build better communities and foster new ideas among coworkers.” [New York Business Journal]

Disaster Preparedness Tips — “National Preparedness Month (NPM) each September promotes family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. As our nation continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better time to get involved.” [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Josh Folb

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Arlington Public Schools reported technical difficulties with its remote learning platform this morning, on the first day of school.

“We are aware that students are having challenges logging into their classes,” APS said in a School Talk email to families around 9:45 a.m. “We are working to address the issues quickly and appreciate your patience. We apologize for the difficulty families have experienced this morning.”

An APS spokesman described the problems as a “firewall issue.”

“We are aware of a firewall issue that is preventing students from logging into Teams,” Frank Bellavia told ARLnow late Tuesday morning. “As soon as we have resolved the issue, we will provide update to families.”

Numerous parents contacted ARLnow with reports of the tech problems.

“APS first day is a disaster. iPad not connecting to Canvas App. No one is answering the technical assistance line,” said one. “What a way to start the year!”

“Almost everyone couldn’t get in on the school provided iPad,” said a Key Elementary parent. “The teachers had to send out a link to the Teams Meeting which eventually worked.”

As of early Tuesday afternoon, Bellavia said the issues have been resolved. Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán issued the following statement around 2:30 p.m.

We sincerely apologize for the system-wide technical challenges many families experienced today, especially with connecting APS devices to Canvas and Microsoft Teams. The Department of Information Services identified that the primary source of the issue was firewall-related, due to the large volume of traffic trying to access Microsoft Teams at one time. We are deploying a solution now.

We knew there would be a high volume of traffic on the first day of school. We believed we had taken all necessary steps to prepare for this in advance, and unfortunately this morning we discovered an additional adjustment was needed. We are refreshing the firewall servers now. Performance has already improved and should continue to improve through the afternoon. We will continue to monitor this tomorrow and throughout this first week to make adjustments when necessary.

There are no additional steps necessary for families. We encourage you to continue trying to log on and to try restarting your child’s device.

Additionally, the phone number we had set up for technology support was quickly overwhelmed due to the same issue, and we have resolved that issue. Families can continue to access our self-help guides on the website and dial 703-228-2570 for additional support. We are sorry for the issues and understand your frustration as we start the year.

I also want to clarify that we were aware of an issue with Global Protect, brought to our attention late last week, and that issue was resolved over the weekend. We will continue to monitor and support families throughout this week and on an ongoing basis.

APS is starting the school year fully remote, with the hopes of at least partially returning to classrooms later this fall.

Few if any major difficulties were reported in the spring as APS students stayed at home and used remote learning tools to reinforce existing lessons. That contrasted with Fairfax County Public Schools, which attempted to teach new material but experienced a technological meltdown that led to the district’s top technology official stepping down.

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Morning Notes

School Year Starts Today — “While the start of this year will certainly look and feel different than previous years, we are all excited to welcome students back for distance learning and to start connecting and building relationships in new ways. Our first days of school will be focused on helping students get to know their teachers and classmates and creating new routines.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Many Still Uncounted by Census — “To have a complete understanding of our community, everyone needs to be counted. Currently, Arlington stands at a 75.2% self-response rate, meaning that a significant portion – almost one-fourth – of the County still needs to be counted.” [Arlington County]

Overturned Vehicle on Route 50 — “[On Saturday] crews freed a driver from an overturned vehicle on Route 50 near Abingdon St. The patient was transported to a trauma center with non-life threatening injuries.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

Why Marymount Is Back in Person — “There are a number of schools that are going entirely online… That’s not what the students wanted, Becerra told the Washington Business Journal. A university-conducted survey found that the majority of students said they felt like they didn’t learn as well remotely as they did in person.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Nonprofits to Merge — “Bridges to Independence, a Northern Virginia provider of housing and vital services for at risk families and individuals, today announced its intent to merge with the Bonder and Amanda Johnson Community Development Corporation (BAJCDC), a community-based non-profit with a mission to address the health, education, financial empowerment and social service needs of people living in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood.” [Press Release]

Rosslyn Firm Makes Acquisition —  “Innovative Discovery (ID), a trusted partner for law firms, corporations, and government agencies that provides service, guidance, and consultation throughout the information lifecycle, is pleased to announce that it has acquired Integro, a leading provider of information governance and content services solutions.” [Innovative Discovery via Potomac Tech Wire]

Amazon Adding New Jobs in Seattle Area — “Amazon is adding 10k jobs in the Seattle region, aka HQ1. Unclear what this means, if anything, for HQ2 in Arlington. At last check, Amazon was sticking to its original plan of 25k jobs and a second construction phase for another 2m square feet of office.” [@ARLnowDOTcom/Twitter]

Photo courtesy @ArlDuder/Twitter

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