In 2016, Arlington was ranked the third “Healthiest City in America.” In 2021, a tobacco and vape shop is replacing a yoga studio in Virginia Square.
Los Angeles-based YogaWorks closed its location at 3528 Wilson Blvd late last year after declaring bankruptcy during the pandemic. The one-story building next to the Arlington Arts Center was listed for lease and, recently, a sign went up advertising that a store called “Tobacco Hut” is coming soon.
The sign says the store will offer CBD, kratom, and vape products, as well as cigars. Photos of a store in McLean with a similar sign show and array of glass smoking pipes and other marijuana accessories.
No other information about the store, including its opening date, was immediately available.
Other businesses on the block, two blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station, include a 7-Eleven, a dry cleaner, and an HVAC supply wholesaler.
The YMCA has filed some early concept plans with Arlington County sketching its vision for replacing its Virginia Square facility with two structures — a new gym and an apartment building.
This project at 3400 and 3422 13th Street N. represents the last of three developments concentrated within a seven-acre site along Washington Blvd, from N. Lincoln Street to Kirkwood Road.
The first two have been approved: a 270-unit apartment building, “The Kirkwood,” for the southeast corner, where Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd intersect, and an affordable housing project on the site of American Legion Post 139.
The Y’s proposal is not only the last — at 4.39 acres, it is also the biggest.
According to the planning documents, the YMCA proposes a three-story tall facility with a swimming pool and tennis and pickleball courts, nearly 52,000 square feet of recreation space, and 325 parking spaces across a two-level garage. The apartment building would be seven stories tall and have 374 units, with 330 spots across two levels of parking.
The proposed project is about five blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station — a nine minute walk, according to Google Maps.
Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association have a number of concerns with the project, according to a letter from President Maurya Meiers to the county.
The YMCA development is “the largest project in the mix, will have the most impact on the surrounding community, [and] it most directly and conspicuously abuts the largest number of community residences,” she said.
In the letter, Meiers said the project is too massive, one story too tall and provides too little public green space. She asserted that the project will significantly increase traffic, which they predict will hurt the character of the community, and exacerbate an existing street parking shortage.
“The plan presents two massive, boring structures that encroach and overshadow the neighborhoods around them,” Meiers said. “This was not at all what was presented in the [General Land Use Plan], not at all what we expected, and not at all what we want.”
(A General Land Use Plan, or GLUP, is Arlington’s primary policy document guiding development in specific parts of the county.)
Meiers added that the planners should have explored the option of placing residences above the YMCA facility. Most importantly, she added, they should have considered placing townhouses next to single-family homes, an option that was “totally ignored, even though it would provide the most respectful and effective transition.”
Neither the Y’s legal representation nor the architect were immediately available for comment.
Meiers also said questions remain about the Ball Family Burial Grounds, the gravesite of the family that is the namesake for Ballston. The gravesite has murky ownership and is in need of research and repair, according to a staff report.
“We will be looking forward to see how this project can be leveraged to improve conditions on the grounds,” Meiers said.
The county’s planning division has asked for community input on changes to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan in light of these three projects, on the outskirts of the neighborhood, as well as several others in the Clarendon area.
Photos via Arlington County
Parts of Arlington County have been experiencing power problems this morning.
Currently, more than 1,200 power customers are reported to be in the dark in the Virginia Square, Cherrydale and Ballston neighborhoods, according to an outage map from Dominion Energy.
Some complication have been reported from that outage, including tripped fire alarms, smoke from generators starting up, non-functioning traffic signals and a potential power surge in a building.
Several traffic light issues were reported earlier this morning, in Clarendon and Ballston. It’s unclear if those problems are related to the current power outage.
The traffic light being out at Washington and 10th street this am might be the worst place for a signal to fail @ARLnowDOTcom
— Clarendon Nights (@clarendonnights) March 23, 2021
Update at 11:05 a.m. — The outage is down to about 350 Dominion customers, per the power company’s website.
(Update 5:15 p.m.) Demolition has begun on the exterior of the old Kann’s Department Store to make way for George Mason University’s Arlington campus expansion.
A University spokesperson confirmed to ARLnow that demolition of the interior began in November and the exterior demolition began this week. It’s expected to be completed in the fall.
Fencing went up in November around the mid-century building that has a long Arlington history.
First opened in 1951 as the suburban branch of a popular D.C. department store, Kann’s Department Store at 3401 Fairfax Drive became a gathering spot for many in Arlington. The department store featured three-floors, an escalator, a restaurant called the “Kannteen,” and monkeys.
Yes, the shoe department had a large glass-windowed monkey display with live monkeys from Brazil.
To this day, Arlingtonians hold fond memories of shopping at the department, as Charlie Clark documented earlier this month for the Falls Church News-Press.
In 1975, GMU acquired the building at Virginia Square.
For many years, it was used to house GMU’s law school (named after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016) and became known as the “Original Building.” It was thought at the time that it was only law school in the country that had an escalator.
In an alumni remembrance from last year, many former students recounted how this building was where they bought clothes as a kid and earned their law degree as an adult.
In soon-to-be-demolished building’s place and on the same site will go an expansive, new, glass and steel building perhaps emblazoned with a distinctive green “M” at the top.
When demolition of the old building is completed, the university will begin design and construction work on the $250 million expansion. Money for the expansion, spurred by the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, is coming from a combination of state funds and private donations.
The new building will have about 360,500 square feet of space, and is expected to be LEED Platinum-certified. It will house faculty from Institute for Digital InnovAtion and the university’s new School of Computing.
The expansion will help create “the Rosslyn-Ballston Innovation Corridor, an innovation district that will be the first of its kind in Virginia,” GMU says.
The university is expected to occupy about 60% of the space while private companies may lease other portions of it. GMU is predicting that the expansion will add 3,000-4,000 additional students to the Arlington campus by 2024.
Last month, GMU’s Board of Visitors authorized the university to begin negotiating with Mason Innovation Partners, a consortium made up of developers and investors, as the developer of the expansion project.
Following the demolition, construction is slated to start in the spring of 2022. The building is scheduled to open in the summer of 2025.
With the Highlander Motor Inn in its final days, the 57-year-old motel was paid one last visit over the weekend by long-time fans.
About 100 members of the motorcycle club Boozefighters rolled up on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects to the place they’ve stayed and partied at every Memorial Day weekend since 1992 while participating in Rolling Thunder.
The Boozefighters were first founded in 1946 by World War II veterans.
“[The Highlander] let us get away with stuff that other hotels wouldn’t have,” says Jeff Thompson, president of the Falls Church chapter of the Boozefighters. “Wonderful memories. It was important for us to say goodbye.”
In honor of the Boozefighters’ long-time patronage of the Arlington motel, they will be getting the iconic neon sign that has welcomed passersby on Wilson Blvd. The sign will come down next week, owner Billy Bayne confirms, at which point the club will take it to their museum in Fort Worth, Texas.
For decades over Memorial Day weekend, Highlander Motor Inn was the site of hundreds of motorcycles and veterans from around the country, barbequing and reminiscing in the parking lot.
Bayne — who also owns the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club — says the group rented the motel every year and it was a “big party,” which the hotel was happy to host.
CVS was expected to take possession of the Highlander and begin demolition this month, but that has been delayed. According to Bayne, April 13 is now the new target date for this to happen.
Bayne’s family operated the motel since the early 1960s, before shuttering it earlier this year. Bayne still owns the land the motel sits on.
One of the Highlander’s last acts was as temporary COVID-related housing. In April 2020, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services rented out the entire motel to provide quarantine and isolation space for low-income individuals living in overcrowded or congregate settings.
Beyond keeping the sign, members of the Boozefighters were allowed to spray paint and ride their bikes inside of the motel, as well as take a few other mementos.
“Only because it’s being torn down,” Jackie Bayne, Billy Bayne’s sister, told ARLnow. She dubbed the raucous sendoff “The Highlander Swan Song.”
Thompson says said he kept a room key, a key chain, and the number off of the door of the room he’s stayed in for the last 20 years.
“I’m very sad to see it go,” he said. “Billy and Jackie were such gracious hosts. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this at any other hotel.”
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Photos courtesy of Boozefighters Falls Church chapter/Simon Vansteyn
Early Morning Fracas in Va. Square — “At approximately 1:09 a.m. on February 24, police were dispatched to the report of a fight in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business and allegedly began selecting merchandise. The victim refused the suspect service citing restrictions on the sales of alcohol during the overnight hours. The suspect and victim became engaged in a verbal dispute that escalated to a physical altercation, during which the victim was able to recover the merchandise. The suspect re-entered the business… at which point a witness intervened.” [ACPD]
Developers Selected for GMU Expansion — “George Mason University has picked a team of developers to manage the construction of the Amazon-induced expansion of its Arlington campus… The university hopes to finalize a development agreement with Edgemoor and Harrison Street by December and start construction by spring 2022. It plans to open the building by summer 2025. The Arlington campus, is located on Fairfax Drive just west of Clarendon.” [Washington Business Journal]
YHS Swimmer Breaks Two Nat’l Records — “US National Teamer Torri Huske made her mark on the final day of the 2021 VHSL Class 6 State meet, breaking two National High School records. Huske, a senior at Yorktown High School, began her meet by swimming a time of 1:53.73 in the 200 IM, chopping a tenth of a second off of Dagny Knutson’s National Public High School record of 1:53.82 that had stood since 2009.” [Swim Swam]
Metro is asking the public to weigh in on possible options for drastic service cuts, including potentially closing several Arlington stations in January 2022.
With it, they are asking riders to fill out a survey about what options they’d be willing to deal with beginning on Jan. 1, 2022 if more federal money is not received.
The options on the survey include closing Metrorail every day at 9 p.m, trains arriving only every 30 mins at most stations, and shuttering up to 22 stations that have low ridership or are near others.
That list includes four stations in Arlington: Clarendon, Virginia Square, Arlington Cemetery, and East Falls Church.
These were the same stations that were closed earlier in the pandemic due to lower ridership and construction.
The survey also asks about prefered options for cutting Metrobus service, including a number of lines that run through Arlington and Northern Virginia.
Proposals include consolidating the bus system into 50 lines that serve only the highest ridership routes as well as limiting overall service to about half of pre-pandemic levels.
Metro is asking riders to fill out the survey by Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.
The potential cuts come as Metro continues to say they are facing a significant budget shortfall if no additional federal money is received — a shortfall caused in large part by decreased ridership during the pandemic.
The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority says ridership has decreased by 90% overall on Metro.
Back in December, Metro was promised more than $600 million in the latest coronavirus relief package. That funding, notes Metro, has helped to avoid layoffs, provide essential service, and prepare for riders returning.
But even with that funding and other austerity measures, “there is not enough money to fill the entire budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021,” Metro’s press release says.
There’s a decent chance, however, that this public survey will become moot.
President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has $20 billion earmarked for public transit agencies. At this time, however, it remains unclear how much would go to Metro if the plan does pass in Congress.
Still, county leaders say the potential cuts are concerning.
“Arlington agrees with Metro that federal funding is essential to ensuring that the sort of drastic cuts that could profoundly impact Metro in Arlington will not have to be made,” writes Arlington Board Chair Matt de Ferranti in a statement to ARLnow. “Our Senators and Representatives fully support Metro funding in the federal legislation currently under consideration on Capitol Hill. We are grateful for their critical leadership and are staying in close contact to ensure this critical federal support for our community gets enacted and appropriated. “
In recent weeks, though, service changes have already come to Metro based on the revised 2021 budget approved in November.
Starting last week, trains started coming every 12 mins on the Orange, Blue, Silver, and Yellow lines. However, Metrobus will start expanding service beginning on March 14. Buses are being added on 125 lines and weekend service is being expanded.
Seven Arlington Metro stations will be getting new escalators.
This is part of a $179-million, seven-year project that begins in May to replace old escalators and install 130 new heavy-duty ones at 32 stations across the Metro system.
In total, 36 escalators across seven Arlington stations will be replaced.
- Rosslyn (8 escalators)
- Ballston (6 escalators)
- National Airport (4 escalators)
- Pentagon (5 escalators)
- Pentagon City (4 escalators)
- Crystal City (6 escalators)
- Virginia Square (3 escalators)
The new escalators will have up-to-date safety features and LED lighting. The contract for the project was awarded to the Finnish engineering company KONE.
The escalators set to be replaced include four in Rosslyn that date back to 1977 and rise nearly ten stories. At 207 feet high, they are among the world’s longest, continuous escalators.
“Replacing these escalators that average 38-years old, will ensure we maintain reliability for our customers today and into the future,” Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in the press release.
To install the new escalators, KONE will have to demolish the existing escalators and remove them piece by piece.
No more than 18 escalators will be out of service at any given time, the transportation agency promises.
For the last decade, Metro has made it a priority to fix, rehabilitate, and replace frequently breaking escalators. By the time this project is completed, Metro will have replaced or rehabilitated 84% of its escalators since 2011.
However, Metro has not set forth a timeline beyond the work beginning in May.
The full press release from Metro is below.
After a little more than two years in business, the Burgerim at 3811 Fairfax Drive is closed.
Thanks to a reader tip, we can confirm that the restaurant closed before the new year. It opened on the ground floor of a Virginia Square office building in the fall of 2017, and is among a handful of Burgerim locations that have closed over the past year in Virginia.
At its peak Israel-based Burgerim had hundreds of locations throughout the country. It was listed as the fastest growing burger chain in the country in 2019, but that same year faced bankruptcy as its CEO fled the U.S. for Israel amid allegations of deceptive sales practices against franchise owners by promising unrealistic profits.
The burger joint features packages of up to 16 gourmet mini-burgers, in addition to other sandwiches, chicken wings and salads. Currently, the nearest Burgerim location is in Ashburn.
Time is ticking down to weigh in on the initial phases of an update to the development plan for the Clarendon neighborhood.
“We’d like to have you provide your feedback, comments, questions by visiting the project website or by contacting staff,” said Brett Wallace, principal planner, CPHD in a video presentation from mid-December. “We’d also like to get some input on online survey questions.”
The update to the 14-year-old sector plan was prompted by a series of pending redevelopments. Arlington County began mulling over these changes in February.
In this round of public comments, the County is focusing on improvements to the pedestrian and bicycle experience along Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood Drive.
“As a pedestrian, what is your level of comfort when accessing and using pedestrian facilities along Fairfax Drive between Clarendon Circle and Kirkwood? How would you improve the pedestrian experience along this section of Fairfax Drive?” is one such question.
The County is also asking people to rank whether they would like to see wider sidewalks, street trees, on-street parking, café seating or other amenities. The sector plan currently recommends preserving two “historic” buildings on the north side of Wilson Boulevard, which the County says will make it difficult to realize all these improvements.
The process for changing the sector plan started in September, followed by the first of five engagement session. The next online engagement opportunity will be posted in late January or early February.
The County cites multiple projects in the Clarendon Circle area that do not meet the sector plan’s requirements. They include changes to St. Charles Catholic Church, as well as mixed-use buildings where Joyce Motors used to be and on the Wells Fargo/Verizon Site.
State Dept. Staying in Rosslyn — “The Department of State will be staying put in an aging Rosslyn office building for another two decades after the General Services Administration ruled out options elsewhere in Northern Virginia for the agency’s space needs. The General Services Administration intends to seek a succeeding lease of 20 years with the owner of 1800 N. Kent St.” [Washington Business Journal]
Va. Square Development Underway — “Mill Creek Residential has begun construction of Modera Kirkwood, a 270-unit apartment community in Arlington, Va., in the heart of the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor… at 3415 Washington Boulevard.” [Commercial Observer, Multi-Housing News]
Combine VRE and MARC? — “Creating a unified brand and fare policy for the Washington region’s commuter rail systems could help reduce travel times and improve economic development opportunities over the next few decades, according to a new report released Thursday… [The report says] plans should begin to physically connect the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) and Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) lines and create a unified brand and fare policy to make commuters’ travel experience faster and easier.” [InsideNova]
Does Anything Look Different? — Updated at 10 a.m. — We made some upgrades to the website last night. Expect some additional minor updates over the next few weeks.