As plans advance for the redevelopment of the American Legion post in Virginia Square, neighbors are raising a familiar question for developers in Arlington’s densest areas: what about parking?
The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing hopes to eventually buy the 1.3-acre property at 3445 Washington Blvd and transform the current home of American Legion Post 139 into a building with 160 affordable apartments. The nonprofit would set aside space on the ground floor of the development for a new Legion post, and it even plans to reserve half of its homes for veterans.
APAH has been working to make the project a reality since the American Legion agreed to these plans back in 2016, and the proposal is very nearly ready to earn some key county approvals — the county’s Site Plan Review Committee will scrutinize the project at a meeting for the third time tonight (Monday), and the group could soon advance the proposal to the Planning Commission.
But it seems the nonprofit has yet to allay the concerns of nervous Ballston and Virginia Square neighbors worried that the new development will bring more cars parking on their streets.
“We are concerned that given the number of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments planned, the expectation that families will live in them, and the fact that our neighborhood does not have access to walkable elementary or middle schools, it’s not feasible to assume residents without a car or that even one car per unit will be sufficient,” Cara Troup, the treasurer of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, wrote in a Dec. 7 email to county staff.
APAH plans to build a one-story underground garage with 96 parking spaces in total, and the developer does acknowledge that it’s providing less parking than the county’s zoning standards demand.
However, the nonprofit believes that the development’s proximity to public transit options should mean that most residents won’t rely on cars. A transportation study of the site commissioned by APAH points out that the property may not quite be along a Metro corridor, but does sit “directly across” from the busy Fairfax Drive and its nearby Virginia Square Metro station.
APAH also sought to reassure the SPRC that it generally restricts residents to one car per household and will offer them reduced rates on bikeshare memberships, according to notes from the committee’s Dec. 10 meeting.
The nonprofit plans to set aside 20 spaces to serve visitors and staff for the American Legion post specifically, so it doesn’t expect that the group’s new headquarters (set to include new space for a variety of support services for veterans) will put a strain on parking on the area. But neighbors remain convinced that there just isn’t enough room for the people who will live in the new building, perhaps prompting more cars to push for space in the neighborhoods behind the development on 13th and 14th Street N.
Many of the streets in area are already subject to parking restrictions under the county’s permit program. But zoned parking in the county only bars unauthorized cars from neighborhoods from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays — the program was originally designed as a way to bar commuters from D.C.-adjacent areas.
That’s prompted Troup to push for new parking restrictions running from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day, in order to ensure that APAH’s new residents don’t simply drive their cars to work and then park them on nearby streets at night. She even envisions that change coming as a condition of the county approving the development.
County officials are currently eyeing changes to the residential parking program as part of a two-year study of its efficacy, likely making any such change an uphill battle. But, until that work wraps up later this year, neighbors are adamant that they want to see more parking required for developments like APAH’s new building.
“Arlington’s zoned parking regulations need to be updated to reflect these present day conditions to include restricted parking into the evenings and on weekends,” Lyon Village Citizens’ Association President John Carten wrote in a letter to county planners. “It may be the case that lifestyles and transportation options today are such that the parking ratios for certain projects do not need to be what they were in the past. However, until county parking policies are updated to increase restricted parking hours beyond the outdated business hours approach, Lyon Village and similarly situated neighborhoods are being put in a very difficult position when [asked] to support projects with parking ratios lower than historical norms.”
County officials are planning some improvements along Fairfax Drive and 10th Street N. as the roads run from Ballston to Clarendon, with a special focus on ways to make the corridor safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.
Arlington transportation planners are circulating a survey seeking feedback on how the roads should change, as the county weighs a series of modest improvements over the next few months. In all, the study area stretches from Fairfax Drive’s intersection with N. Glebe Road in Ballston to 10th Street N.’s intersection with N. Barton Street in Lyon Park.
The county is envisioning changes along the 1.5-mile-long stretch of road as “short-term, quick-build projects to enhance safety and mobility on the corridor.” Officials hope to eventually commission more expansive changes, after it took over management of the roads from the state this summer, but the county’s budget crunch means that options are limited, for now.
But, in the near term, the county plans to examine “multimodal traffic volume data, curbspace use, crash data, and transit service data” in addition to the community’s feedback to chart out small-scale changes, according to a project webpage.
The advocates with the group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County certainly have some suggestions for the corridor. The group sent an email to its members urging them to advocate for the transformation of Fairfax Drive into a “low-stress biking corridor, even if it requires re-purposing space from motor vehicles,” in addition to other cycling improvements.
“The existing Fairfax Drive bike lanes are narrow, frequently blocked, and fail to be low-stress due to fast-moving traffic,” the advocates wrote. “The existing, short two-way protected bike lane should be extended all the way from Glebe Road to Clarendon Circle.”
The group also argues that 10th Street N. and Fairfax Drive both lack safe road crossings, particularly as the corridor runs from N. Barton Street in Lyon Park to N. Monroe Street in Virginia Square.
“This makes the corridor a barrier,” they wrote. “Additional safe crossings should be provided and these crossings must be simple and easy to use for cyclists as well as pedestrians.”
The county survey on road improvements will be open for submissions through Dec. 16. Officials hope to have short-term recommendations ready by sometime early next year, then install those by the spring or summer of 2019.
Photo via Arlington County
Pulp Juice and Smoothie Bar has temporarily closed in Virginia Square — but that closure could someday become a bit more final.
The smoothie shop neighbored Extreme Pizza in retail space below the Virginia Square Towers apartments at 3444 Fairfax Drive.
The store closed for the season last Wednesday (Oct. 31) after losing $250,000 since it opened last year, a principal agent of the franchise for Pulp Juice and Smoothie told ARLnow, adding that the smoothie shop may come back to the space in March or close permanently.
The store had cash flow issues as it struggled with brand recognition in the area, he said.
Pulp Juice and Smoothie was a five-minute walk away from competitors Tropical Smoothie Cafe and JRINK. In addition to smoothies, the Arlington location sold cold wraps, side bowls, salads and fresh juices.
The Ohio-based company’s opening in Virginia Square last March marked the first store in Virginia for the franchise. Pulp Juice and Smoothie’s website lists 30 locations — one in Pennsylvania, one in South Carolina and 28 in Ohio.
A new Asian fusion restaurant is on the way for Virginia Square, moving in to the space once occupied by Water & Wall.
Thai Treasure will soon open a new location at 3811 Fairfax Drive, owner Nui Bumrungsiri told ARLnow.
Bumrungsiri also operates a restaurant of the same name in Vienna, but she said this new eatery will offer “all kinds of Asian food, not just Thai.”
She added that it was too soon to be sure when the restaurant might open, exactly.
But Thai Treasure has applied for a license to serve wine, beer and mixed drinks at the restaurant, records show, and plans to have space for up to 150 people.
Water & Wall closed at the space in February 2017, after roughly three and a half years in business.
Vida Fitness Coming to Rosslyn Development — “Vida Fitness has signed a lease for 27,000 square feet at The Highlands in Rosslyn… The Highlands is a 1.2-million-square-foot mixed-use development from D.C.-based developer Penzance. The project’s groundbreaking [was Wednesday] and the first phase is slated for completion in the second quarter of 2021.” [Commercial Observer, Twitter]
Naked Man at Va. Square Metro Station — A naked man walked into the Virginia Square Metro station during yesterday evening’s rush hour. Police quickly responded, took the man into custody and requested medics to the scene to evaluate him for a possible drug overdose. [Twitter]
Survey: Road Improvements Wanted — “The public has an improving view of the Arlington government’s commitment to care of local roads, but there continues to be significant room for improvement, according to an updated customer-satisfaction survey. Only 55 percent of residents surveyed believe county roads are in satisfactory condition, while 23 percent are unsatisfied with the local government’s efforts and 23 percent are on the fence.” [InsideNova]
Stabbing on Patrick Henry Drive — A person was stabbed along the 3000 block of Patrick Henry Drive near the Arlington border last night. The victim’s injuries were reported to be life threatening, according to Fairfax County Police, which used its helicopter in an attempt to find the suspect. [WJLA, Twitter]
No Lottery Jackpot, But… — A $10,000 Mega Millions lottery ticket was sold at a 7-Eleven store in South Arlington. A single ticket in South Carolina matched all the numbers for the $1.6 billion jackpot in Tuesday’s drawing. [InsideNova]
Nearby: McLean Islamic Center Vs. Zoning Restrictions — The McLean Islamic Center is challenging county-imposed restrictions on worship and parking, which limit attendance “to mitigate the MIC’s impact on the surrounding neighborhood.” [Tysons Reporter]
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
The Virginia DMV customer service center in Virginia Square is currently closed, due to some emergency duct work in its office building.
A sign on the door of the location at 3434 Washington Blvd says the temporary closure is due to “unsafe conditions” and that “every attempt is being made to restore service as quickly as possible.”
DMV spokeswoman Brandy Brubaker says staff arrived at the building this morning to discover the office was badly in need of duct repairs. Accordingly, they decided to shutter it temporarily “out of an abundance of caution,” she said.
Staff expects the office will reopen by Friday, but Brubaker said that anyone looking to visit should consult the DMV’s website before swinging by.
The DMV also operates customer service centers along S. Four Mile Run Drive and near the Pentagon, as well as in Alexandria and Tysons Corner.
The owner of the Highlander Motel in Virginia Square has secured a key legal victory, potentially allowing the property’s redevelopment to move ahead, and now he’s vowing retribution against county officials for tying up the process in court for years.
The Virginia Supreme Court declined last Wednesday (Oct. 10) to consider an appeal from the county in a case challenging local businessman Bill Bayne’s plans to replace the aging motel with a CVS Pharmacy. That means Bayne should be able to push forward with the redevelopment of the hotel, located at 3336 Wilson Blvd, after a judge twice tossed out legal action from county officials seeking to block those plans.
Bayne, who also owns the Crystal City Restaurant and co-owns the Crystal City Sports Pub, believes the county’s challenges were simply an attempt to scuttle his latest business venture, all at the cost of thousands in taxpayer dollars. With this latest legal victory in hand, he fully plans to renew talks to knock down the 55-year-old hotel in favor of the pharmacy, and then take the county back to court for his trouble.
“It’s not right what they’ve done, and it’s not right for them to do it to anybody,” Bayne told ARLnow. “But there’ll be a day of reckoning in court and a judge will decide if it’s right.”
County attorney Steve MacIsaac did not respond to requests for comment on the court’s ruling. But, in past legal filings and hearings, county lawyers have portrayed Bayne’s plans as not only a violation of some complex zoning laws, but also a “noxious use” of a property that sits quite close to some residential neighborhoods.
Even still, judges have twice disagreed with the county’s arguments in the case, and the Supreme Court ruled that there was “no reversible error” in those decisions for the high court to consider. Bayne believes the court declined to take up the matter for a simple reason: “Would you want to hear a joke case?”
“Why do you have to get told you’re wrong three different times?” Bayne said.
Bayne says his original plans for the pharmacy, as first sketched out roughly three years ago, would’ve netted him close to $45 million over the term of the 50-year lease for the property (which has been in Bayne’s family since at least 1985, county records show).
He hopes to revive a similar deal with CVS now that the court battles seem to be over, but he can’t be sure that the company will look kindly on the delay.
But with the legal wrangling over the years, Bayne expects he’s lost as much as $1.8 million while the project has stalled. He fully plans to recoup those losses by taking the county to court, and he says he’s contemplating legal action against everyone from the county zoning administrator to County Manager Mark Schwartz to current and former County Board members.
“It’s not OK to do this to somebody,” Bayne said. “There will be ramifications for this.”
Bayne says he’s not quite sure on the timetable for any potential litigation just yet. County court records don’t reflect any evidence that Bayne or one of his companies has filed suit against county officials, as of Tuesday morning.
George Mason University has cordoned off a “no scooter zone” in front of its Arlington campus in Virginia Square.
Readers alerted ARLnow to the signs yesterday (Monday), which are located in front of the university’s Founders Hall plaza on Fairfax Drive.
The signs direct dockless electric scooter riders to park the vehicles at a nearby bike rack, rather than abandoning them at random. Ever since Bird became the first company to bring the dockless scooters to Arlington this June, the county’s sidewalks and yards have increasingly been littered with the vehicles.
Buzz McClain, a spokesman for the Schar School of Policy and Government (which is located at Mason’s Arlington campus), told ARLnow that university officials believe the signs are necessary to keep the parked Birds out of harm’s way in the highly trafficked plaza. He noted that signs are simply designed to provide a little clarity about where the vehicles belong, “just as we do with bikes.”
The nine-month pilot also sets some restrictions on the dockless vehicles to give the county more control about where the scooters end up, given growing community consternation about the sudden proliferation of the vehicles.
The new program bans riders from using the scooters on sidewalks and trails, and will also require any company to move an improperly parked vehicle within one hour of receiving a complaint, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
County staff are also considering a similar tactic to Mason’s chosen option, and could soon establish “on-street corrals” at Metro stations for dockless bikes and scooters.
Staff believe such an addition would “encourage orderly parking and on-street riding” and has proven effective in cities across the globe, according to a presentation delivered to the Board.
Photo (1) courtesy Chaz Papa
The two suspects wanted for a shooting in Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood last week have been arrested.
Arlington County Police say Ahmed Ali Mahmoud, 24, and Osman Mohamed, 25, were arrested in the Virginia Square area and are now facing numerous charges.
The shooting happened just a block from Drew Elementary School. Police say the shots were fired after “a minor verbal dispute occurred between one victim and suspects inside a convenience store.”
More from an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department has arrested two suspects wanted for their role in a shooting that occurred last week in the Nauck neighborhood. Ahmed Ali Mahmoud, 24, and Osman Mohamed, 25, were arrested in the 3400 block of Fairfax Drive and charged with Malicious Wounding by Mob, Discharging a Firearm in a Public Place (within 1000 feet of a school zone), Malicious Wounding and Use of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony. Both men are being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.
At approximately 2:03 p.m. on September 20, police were dispatched to the 2000 block of S. Kenmore Street for the report of trouble unknown. Upon arrival, it was determined that a minor verbal dispute occurred between one victim and suspects inside a convenience store. The victim then exited the store and entered a vehicle with two additional victims. The two suspects approached the vehicle on foot where the dispute escalated and shots were fired by the suspects in the direction of the vehicle. The suspects then fled the scene on foot. One victim was treated for a minor injury.
This remains an ongoing criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective R. Ortiz of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-7402 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
The left-hand lane of westbound Wilson Blvd is blocked at N. Nelson Street in Virginia Square due to a sinkhole in the roadway.
The sinkhole is relatively shallow, but large enough to cause concern of it deepening. Crews were on scene as of 10:30 a.m., investigating the cause of the roadway indentation.
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services encourages residents to report potholes and other road issues on its website.
— Arlington DES (@ArlingtonDES) September 25, 2018
After months of back-and-forth with county inspectors, Darna Restaurant and Lounge looks to be out of the woods.
The Virginia Square bar, located at 946 N. Jackson Street, is now in line to win a key permit renewal from the County Board this weekend. County staff say Darna successfully resolved its outstanding code violations last month, and they’re recommending that the Board allow the lounge to stay open, at least for the next year.
Arlington briefly shut down Darna earlier this year, citing a variety of health and safety code violations at the site, though it did manage to resolve enough of those to re-open in April and attract some attention from both Tristan Thompson and TMZ.
But the county found more issues at the restaurant this summer, and even charged owner Ahmad Ayyad with a misdemeanor for his failure to secure the proper building permit for doing some work on the property. By Aug. 17, however, county staff wrote in a Board report that Ayyad had “resolved all violations” at the restaurant, and earned a new “certificate of occupancy.”
Staff noted in the report that Darna still ran into a few problems over the past few months — on July 27, the fire marshal’s office cited the restaurant for being over capacity by several dozen people.
Even still, the county staff is recommending that the Board renew Darna’s use permit through September 2019. The Board will take up the matter on Saturday (Sept. 22) as part of its consent agenda, which is largely designed for non-controversial items to be approved all at once.
The county’s case against Ayyad and his Maaj Corporation remains active, however. He’s set for an adjudicatory hearing in Arlington General District Court on Sept. 27, per court records.
The new burger eatery is “coming soon” to 3811 Fairfax Drive, according to the chain’s website. No word yet on an opening date.
The office building was previously home to Water & Wall restaurant, which closed in early 2017.
Burgerim, which describes itself as “an international fast casual franchise with a shiny new concept,” serves “gourmet burgers” in the “uno, duo, trio, or 16 pack.” Also on the menu: “chicken wings, onion rings, sandwiches, salads, and other favorites.”
On its website, the chain says it was founded in 2011 and has since expanded to 160 locations.
Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
A new bar and restaurant could be on the way for an office building along Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square.
Records show that a restaurant dubbed “Erasian” is applying for a license to serve wine, beer and mixed drinks in a space at 3811 Fairfax Drive.
Representatives with the company backing the venture, ABR LLC, didn’t respond to requests for comment on their plans for the restaurant. But the permit application, filed on Aug. 14, shows that the proposed restaurant would have space for anywhere from 101 to 150 people.
While most ribbon cuttings for new businesses around Arlington tend to be full of pomp and circumstance, SyLearn’s grand opening in a modest Virginia Square office building Wednesday was a family affair.
CEO Jay Chandok, who helped found the new IT training company, busily urged guests to help themselves to a full buffet, as the daughters of Chandok and other staff members snapped pictures of new arrivals with iPhones. One made sure to introduce each visitor to one of her dolls, which she’d given a Hawaiian name: Leilani.
The event, much like SyLearn itself, was relatively small in scale. But Arlington officials say arrival of such businesses in the county is just as important as some of the bigger names economic development staffers are focused on these days.
“People think that they spend all their time on the Amazons and Nestles of the world, and while those are certainly important, this is really the bulk of what they do,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow. “It’s these small businesses that we hope will become big businesses someday.”
Chandok says the county indeed helped connect him with real estate brokers as he searched for a home for his new business, which was born out of another, similar program he worked on in Arlington.
He landed on a suite in an office building at 3330 Washington Blvd. It sits just behind George Mason University’s Arlington campus, but a bit off the beaten path of the bustling Rosslyn-Ballston corridor — Dorsey expects that certainly helped “lower the cost of entry a bit.”
Chandok hopes to eventually start hosting as many as 200 students each year in the space, with a pool of eight instructors to help them earn certifications on the latest software, or even make a career change and embrace IT.
“We’re looking to help people who aren’t going through four-year institutions, and we’re not bound by the same red tape as they are,” Chandok said. “We can help career changers, or career upgraders. Anyone who’s looking to test the waters and see what else is out there.”
With a legion of federal agencies, not to mention contractors, nearby, Chandok surely won’t lack potential customers. Dorsey also hopes that the county’s school system will consistently “provide a pipeline of talented students” interested in IT, noting that “we can only do so much” when it comes to career education.
Board member Libby Garvey, a longtime School Board member herself, also pointed out that SyLearn could be a perfect fit for the many veterans in Arlington, should they want to build on the tech training they received in the military.
“They have incredible talent that we need to tap into,” Garvey said.
With that sort of pool of would-be students available, Dorsey expects to be attending another ribbon cutting for SyLearn sooner, rather than later.
“As he grows, I want you to find him a bigger space,” he implored the economic development staff in attendance.
A Virginia Square resident returned from work on Tuesday to find his house had been burglarized.
The resident, whose first name is Tom, said in a Reddit post that the suspect rummaged through his house and stole electronics and jewelry.
“Posting them here so in case you see a screaming deal on a laptop on Craigslist or Letgo, and you see that this is the guy selling it to you, then please send me a DM so I can update the police with his whereabouts,” Tom wrote in the post.
There was a bit of good news: Tom has a “pet cam” in the basement to keep tabs on his pet rabbits, and the video camera captured a relatively high resolution view of the suspect. Tom gave police a copy of the video and also posted it to YouTube for all to see.
The burglary happened at some point between 12:45 and 2:50 p.m. on Tuesday, according to Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Kirby Clark.
“An unknown suspect gained entry to a residence and stole numerous items of value,” said an ACPD crime report. “The suspect is described as a black male with dreadlocks, wearing a gray sweatsuit. The investigation is ongoing.”
Tom, who lives near the Rocklands Barbeque restaurant, suggested to ARLnow.com that the burglary was a crime of opportunity in an otherwise low-crime neighborhood — and may be a bit of a cautionary tale for other residents. After trying to force the back door open, the burglar was able to get easy access to the home via an unlocked back window, he said.
“During one of the recent rain storms when it got cooler than normal, we took advantage and opened all the windows to get a nice fresh cross breeze,” Tom said. “Only problem is I forgot to re-lock the back window after closing it.”
While Tom is asking for direct messages from Redditors who might see his pilfered belongings for sale online, police are asking members of the public to contact them directly with any tips.
“Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective C. Cook of the Arlington County Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit at 703-228-4164 or [email protected],” Clark wrote. “To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866.411.TIPS (8477).”