Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Study: Arlington Has Safest Drivers in Va. — The insurance website Insurify says Arlington has the safest drivers in Virginia. Drivers in the county “demonstrate exceptional dedication to their own safety and to the safety of others around them,” the website says. [Insurify]

Local Toll Lanes May Be Sold — “Transurban is selling off stakes in its US toll roads because it wants to strengthen its balance sheet… Transurban owns the 95 Express Lanes, 495 Express Lanes and 395 Express Lanes toll roads near the US capital, but traffic on the motorways has been hard hit by the pandemic… The Virginia assets have the longest concession periods of Transurban’s assets with asset lives out to 2087.” [Australian Financial Review]

Police Response at Va. Square Metro — Metro Transit Police and Arlington County Police responded to the Virginia Square Metro station last night for a person who jumped on the track bed. Orange and Silver Line trains were stopped in both directions while the person was taken into custody. [Twitter]

Arrest Made in Silver Line Sexual Assault — “Metro Transit Police today arrested the individual suspected of an attempted rape Tuesday, October 6 aboard a Silver Line train in Northern Virginia. Kendrie Roberts-Monticue, 21, of Reston, was taken into custody this morning at the home of a family member in Virginia.” [WMATA]

Metro Closure Planned in Early 2021 — “Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road stations will be closed for approximately three months for full platform replacement and station renovation… [During the work] Yellow Line trains will provide all trans-Potomac service for stations Pentagon and south.” [WMATA]

APS Getting More CARES Act Funding — “More than $220 million in federal coronavirus relief is headed to Virginia schools, according to an announcement from Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday… Arlington County schools will receive $4.7 million.” [DCist]

‘Tiger King’ Star Indicted in Va.Updated at 8:30 a.m. — “Following an investigation by Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s animal law unit, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) After years of stalled plans, concepts for a new public plaza and office building in Virginia Square are taking shape.

Arlington County and developer Skanska released two new concept designs for the plaza as part of a community engagement process for the planned development, located near Arlington Central Library. The county is seeking feedback on the designs, which have changed since the development was first approved in 2012.

The site at 3901 Fairfax Drive once housed the Arlington Funeral Home, but has been a parking lot since the funeral home was demolished in June 2012. The site plan was amended twice, in 2015 and 2018, to extend the term of the original plan and allow the location to be used for temporary parking.

Skanska bought the property, after years of development limbo, in October 2019.

In its latest iteration, the building now includes 10,280 square feet of space for retail tenants at the bottom level, with storefronts featuring roll-up doors that open to the plaza, and 184,036 square feet of office space.

Designs for the plaza have been updated due to changes to the building design, including the removal of a proposed black box theater and tweaks to the ground floor retail space. The two new, proposed designs for the .2-acre public plaza are dubbed “The Serene Urban Oasis” and “The Breezy Public Forum.”

“Neighbors, patrons of nearby businesses, and library goers can use this space to chat, play, or even get started on that new book they’ve checked out,” says the project website.

“The Serene Urban Oasis” features a passive water feature that is proposed as “more of a sculptural object,” according to John Becker, an architect for CallisonRTKL Inc. and project manager for the development.

“The Breezy Public Forum,” trades the water feature in the first concept for an overhead shade structure in a small area on the northern side of the plaza. It also integrates ornamental trees in the paved area to allow for additional shade.

Both concepts feature a smaller paved area on the north end of the plaza, with a larger paved area on the south. They also feature trees along the sidewalks, berms with inset benches, moveable tables and chairs, and a seating zone for retail. Interactive play elements are also a listed possibility.

County-standard streetlights surround the perimeter of the site on the sidewalk. A mixture of hidden, direct and indirect LED lighting is included with both concepts. Both designs are accessible for those with disabilities.

The original plaza budget — which is funded by the developer — was $825,000, but now sits at $914,000 after being adjusted for inflation.

“Through estimates, we believe that the schemes presented are capable of being delivered within the $914,000 budget,” Becker said.

Feedback received on concepts for the plaza will be used to create a “hybrid of these two preliminary concepts” that will be presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Oct. 27 for review, according to planners. The County Board will consider the final concept as a part of a site plan amendment in November.

There is no listed timeline for the start of construction on the project.

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An 18-year-old Arlington man was arrested Tuesday morning after a brief foot chase through Virginia Square.

Police say they were initially called after a man allegedly spit on an employee inside a business on the 3500 block of Wilson Blvd. That block includes a 7-Eleven store, but the Arlington County Police Department typically does not name the business in which a crime occurs.

After officers spotted the suspect near N. Oakland Street and tried to place him in handcuffs, he took off on foot, according to ACPD. He was ultimately taken into custody at gunpoint in front of the Brookdale Arlington assisted living facility at 3821 Wilson Blvd, according to photos and scanner traffic at the time.

The man — who was wanted in Montgomery County, Maryland — is now facing numerous charges. More from an ACPD crime report:

OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE (Significant), 2020-09080057, 3500 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 10:45 a.m. on September 8, police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject who had allegedly spit on an employee of a business. Arriving officers located a subject matching the description in the area of N. Oakland Street and 7th Street N. and made contact with him. The suspect provided officers with a false name, and, while attempting to identify him using law enforcement resources, he was determined to be wanted out of Montgomery County. As officers attempted to place him in handcuffs, he fled on foot. Following a brief foot pursuit, the suspect was taken into custody. Andre Hicks, 18, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Obstruction of Justice, Identity Theft, Assault & Battery, and Fugitive from Justice.

Photo courtesy Todd B.

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Arlington County Police are investigating an armed robbery in the Virginia Square area last night.

The incident happened last night at 9:30 p.m., at or near the 7-Eleven store at 3510 Wilson Blvd. Police say two suspects, including one armed with a knife, slashed a bag the victim was holding and stole items from inside, including cash.

Police swarmed the area afterward but the suspects fled on foot and remain at large.

“There are a huge number of police vehicles and officers on Jackson Street, Lincoln Street, the 7-Eleven parking lot, Monroe and Nelson on Wilson,” one local resident told ARLnow last night around 10 p.m.

More from an ACPD crime report:

ARMED ROBBERY, 2020-08260196, 800 block of N. Lincoln Street. At approximately 9:30 p.m. on August 26, police were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that a verbal dispute ensued between the suspects and victim inside of a business, during which the suspects threatened the victim. Upon exiting the business, the suspects approached the victim in the parking lot. Suspect One brandished a knife, cut the bag the victim was holding, and stole items from the bag and an undisclosed amount of cash. The suspects then fled on foot prior to police arrival. Suspect One is described as a light skinned male, approximately 5’8″, 160 lbs., with facial hair on his chin, wearing a baseball hat, grey t-shirt, grey sweat pants and light grey running shoes. Suspect Two is described as a tan skinned male, approximately 5’8″, 240 lbs., wearing glasses, a blue surgical mask, pink button down shirt, khaki shorts and white shoes. The investigation is ongoing.

Separately, police are currently investigating a theft in Rosslyn that occurred this morning. Initial reports suggest that a suspect stole items from a store along Wilson Blvd, then ran from police aftering being spotted on N. Lynn Street.

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For at least the third time over the past two months, someone has vandalized a racial justice sign outside of an Arlington church.

The latest sign defacement happened outside of St. George’s Episcopal Church, at 915 N. Oakland Street in Virginia Square. Someone spray painted over a sign with a Bible verse and the words “Black Lives Matter.”

Arlington County Police say it happened around lunchtime Monay.

“At approximately 1:07 p.m. on August 10, police were dispatched to the report of graffiti which had occurred approximately 20 minutes prior,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that an unknown suspect spray painted over the words ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a sign,” Savage continued. “The suspect is described as an Asian male, between 50-65 years of age. He was wearing a red hat, glasses, plaid shirt, blue jean shorts and used a power wheelchair. The investigation is ongoing.”

On a local Facebook group, the church’s music minister said the vandalism was caught on video.

“We have video of this happening and the police have it,” he said. “Most importantly, we have extra signs. Please pray that love will rule our hearts. God bless you all.”

Another post, from this morning, says that the sign was vandalized again — someone put a sticker with the words “hate crimes are funny” over the word “Black.”

Since the George Floyd protests started, a Black Lives Matter sign was vandalized at Rock Spring Congregational church and a racial justice sign was vandalized outside of Clarendon United Methodist Church.

Courtesy photo

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Arlington County has been working with a pair of local hotels in an effort to keep vulnerable populations safe during the pandemic.

Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services is currently renting out the Highlander Motel (3336 Wilson Blvd) in Virginia Square, and previously rented the Days Inn along Columbia Pike, to serve as a quarantine location for people with the virus or at high risk of complications.

Both hotels offer modestly-appointed rooms that have individual HVAC units and are accessible via open air walkways. Among those housed in the hotels are low-income and homeless individuals who have nowhere else to go.

ARLnow previously reported in early April that the Highlander was being looked at as an “alternative site” for temporary COVID-related housing.

“In April 2020, Arlington rented two hotels to provide quarantine/isolation space for low-income individuals who were living in overcrowded or congregate settings, and unable to effectively quarantine or isolate,” Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick confirmed to ARLnow last week.

“Individuals served are COVID-19 positive, presumed positive, directly exposed, or at high risk of complications due to health conditions,” Larrick said. “To date, the quarantine/isolation hotels have served 108 individuals.”

Larrick said the Days Inn was rented through June 30, but the Highlander is still being rented by the county.

“At the quarantine/isolation hotel, there are currently 39 individuals being housed, occupying 38 rooms,” Larrick said last week. “Four of these individuals are COVID-19 positive; 5 of these individuals are presumed positive; and the remainder of the individuals (30) are at the Highlander due to their high-risk status.”

Such utilization is considered a best practice for preventing the spread of disease. Other cities and counties have similarly rented hotels for coronavirus-related uses.

The use of the hotels came to light after ARLnow received a series of tips from local residents. Some noted that the Highlander had no vacancy and was booked solid indefinitely — unusual during a pandemic that has hit the hotel industry hard. Others, who live near the hotel, noted a frequent presence of police officers and county employees.

On Friday, July 31, there was a particularly jarring scene: several police vehicles and people in full hazmat suits in the Highlander parking lot.

“There are police there currently in gas masks and hazmat suits,” said a resident who contacted ARLnow. “I live in the area and am concerned that no one has been notified of what’s going on.”

“This is a frequent occurrence,” the resident said of the police presence. “I inquired with the county about what is going on but they told me they could not give me an answer.”

Larrick and a police spokeswoman said what the resident saw on July 31 was a death investigation — one of the hotel occupants died of suspected non-COVID-related natural causes.

“At approximately 9:56 a.m. on July 31, police were dispatched to the report of a possible death,” stated an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “Upon arrival, an adult male was located deceased inside a hotel room. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Based on the preliminary investigation, the death is not considered suspicious.”

Larrick said that the county is grateful to the owners of the hotels — including Billy Bayne, owner of the Highlander and frequent critic of the county, who “really stepped up and helped” by providing a service that other hotel operators might have shied away from.

“The County truly appreciates how these businesses stepped up in the pandemic crisis to address an emerging community need,” Larrick said. “This space has undoubtedly helped us keep people safe and contain the spread in the community.”

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A man allegedly chased a woman down the street and slapped her backside Saturday afternoon in Virginia Square.

The incident happened around 4 p.m., near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Pollard Street. The man fled the scene and is now being sought on potential charges of sexual battery.

More from an ACPD crime report:

SEXUAL BATTERY, 2020-08080135, Wilson Boulevard at N. Pollard Street. At approximately 3:59 p.m. on August 8, police were dispatched to the report of an assault just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that approximately 10-15 minutes prior, the victim was walking in the area when the male suspect approached her from behind. The victim began walking in the opposite direction, at which point the suspect began to chase her. The suspect then moved towards the victim and smacked her buttocks, then fled on foot prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Black male in his mid 30’s, with a slim build, approximately 5’8″, clean shaven, with an almost buzzed haircut, wearing a brown t-shirt and eyeglasses. The investigation is ongoing.

File photo

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Arlington is the No. 1 best city to live in the U.S., according to 2020 rankings from Niche.com, and two Arlington neighborhoods are No. 2 and No. 3 on the website’s new list of the Best Places to Live in America.

Arlington, which is technically a county, has topped the Niche “Best Cities to Live” list since 2016.

The site calculates the rankings “based on crime, public schools, cost of living, job opportunities, and local amenities.” Niche previously lauded Arlington for high-quality public schools, low crime rate, abundant nightlife options and walkability.

In its rankings this year, Niche cites the following recent review of Arlington from a current resident.

Arlington is a very clean and open-minded town with educated individuals and businesses that are dedicated to producing less waste. Many stores and retail centers are modern and well-kept. It is a family friendly area with great public schools. However, traffic is prevalent and real estate prices are through the roof. But, living a healthy lifestyle is easy in Arlington with many healthy food options and amazing trails all over.

Arlington neighborhoods also ranked remarkably well on Niche’s 2020 Best Places to Live lists for both the state and the country, thanks in large part due to highly-rated public schools and walkability.

The Bluemont neighborhood, west of Ballston, is the No. 2 best place in the nation, according to Niche. Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, near Rosslyn and Courthouse, is No. 3. Ballston/Virginia Square is No. 12 in the U.S. and Clarendon/Courthouse is No. 24.

Within Virginia, Arlington neighborhoods dominated the top 25: Bluemont (1), Radnor/Fort Myer Heights (2), Ballston/Virginia Square (3), Clarendon/Courthouse (4), Waycroft/Woodlawn (6), Colonial Village (11), North Rosslyn (12), Lyon Village (13), Cherrydale (14), Arlington Forest (15), Dominion Hills (16), Arlington Ridge (18), Claremont (20), Columbia Heights (21), Aurora Highlands (22), Alcova Heights (23), and Ashton Heights (25).

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Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.

The stations — along with 15 others throughout the Metrorail system — closed in late March as the pandemic caused ridership to plummet and Metro started rationing cleaning supplies. Most are set to reopen this weekend.

“Metro today announced that 15 rail stations that had been closed as part of the transit agency’s Covid-19 response will reopen on Sunday, June 28,” the transit agency said in a press release. “In addition, beginning Monday, June 28, buses will be added to the system’s 14 busiest bus lines to provide more capacity and more frequent service as the region reopens.”

“After Sunday, Arlington Cemetery will be the only Metrorail station without regular service, as Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the general public,” the press release notes.

Arlington’s East Falls Church Metro station, meanwhile, will remain closed to rail service and parking due to ongoing platform reconstruction work. Shuttle buses, however, will resume serving the East Falls Church, McLean and Greensboro stations on Sunday.

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If you were hoping for Next Day Blinds, you’ll now have to wait two extra days.

The regional window covering chain, which has a showroom in the Virginia Square area, has reportedly gone out of business. Instead, visitors to its now-defunct website are being redirected to a California company called 3 Day Blinds.

“Next Day Blinds has ceased operations and permanently closed its doors,” the website says. “3 Day Blinds, with over 40 years experience in the window coverings business, has hired a number of former Next Day Blinds Sales Staff, Design Consultants, Installation Experts and Administrative personnel. We will strive to continue the tradition of providing exceptional products and services to the Greater Baltimore / Washington DC area.”

Next Day Blinds had at least nine locations in the D.C. area. The company was founded in 1993, was a prolific local television advertiser, and billed itself as one of America’s largest regional manufacturers for custom window coverings.

While no reason for the closure was given, the last post on the company’s Facebook page from early April said it was temporarily closed during the pandemic.

Dear Customers:We miss you. Please stay safe and healthy. While we are closed for now, we are continuing to support…

Posted by Next Day Blinds on Monday, April 6, 2020

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Police are looking for a man who allegedly exposed himself to a woman he asked for directions.

The incident happened this past Friday night in the Douglas Park neighborhood. Arlington County police say the man pulled over to ask for directions, then exposed himself to the victim after the walked over to help.

He was driving a gray, two-door sports car at the time. Police were not able to determine the make and model of the vehicle based on the victim’s description.

More from an ACPD crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2020-06120210, 1400 block of S. George Mason Drive. At approximately 9:30 p.m. on June 12, an officer was approached by the victim in need of assistance. It was determined that the victim was walking in the area when the male suspect pulled up next to her in his vehicle and asked for directions. When the victim approached the vehicle to assist the driver, she observed the male suspect lean towards her and expose himself. The suspect then fled in his vehicle. The suspect is described as a white male, with short blonde hair, approximately 6’1″-6’3″, 190-220 lbs., wearing a blue polo shirt and khaki pants. The vehicle is described as a gray, two-door, sports car. The investigation is ongoing.

Also on Friday, a separate indecent exposure incident was reported in the Virginia Square area, near W-L High School and Quincy Park.

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2020-06120104, Washington Boulevard at N. Quincy Street. At approximately 10:42 a.m. on June 12, police were dispatched to the report of an indecent exposure. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside his residence when he looked out the window and observed the male suspect coming in and out of the bushes multiple times, while touching himself inappropriately. He attempted to confront the suspect, who fled on foot prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a black male in his late 40’s or early 50’s, approximately 5’8″, with a white beard, wearing a long sleeve khaki shirt with a blue t-shirt underneath, khaki pants, and a gray hat. The investigation is ongoing.

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