Press Club
Girls on the Run 5k road closures (via ACPD)

It’s going to be a scorcher this weekend, but that’s not likely to stop a series of outdoor events planned in Arlington.

Four events in particular will prompt road closures, Arlington County police said, including two in Green Valley, one in nearby Shirlington, and one that will close roads in Clarendon, Virginia Square and Ballston.

The Girls on the Run 5K is taking place Saturday in the Dulles area and Sunday morning in Ballston. The organization, which provides a “transformational physical activity based positive youth development program for girls in 3rd-8th grade,” has held the races in Arlington since at least 2014, usually on the same weekend as the Taste of Arlington festival, now the Ballston Quarterfest Crawl.

The last two spring 5Ks were nixed due to the pandemic.

Sunday’s race will kick off at 8:30 a.m. in Ballston and wind its way through some of Arlington’s Metro corridor neighborhood.

Among the planned closures is a long stretch of Fairfax Drive. More from ACPD:

The 2022 Girls on the Run 5k Race will take place in the Ballston neighborhood on Sunday, May 22, and will begin at 8:30 a.m. The following roadways will be closed in order to accommodate the event:

From approximately 3:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

  • N. Taylor Street will be closed in both directions from Wilson Boulevard to Fairfax Drive

From approximately 7:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

  • Fairfax Drive, from N. Utah Street to Kirkwood Road
  • 10th Street N., from Fairfax Drive to Washington Boulevard
  • N. Irving Street, from 10th Street N. to 7th Street N.
  • 9th Street N., from N. Irving Street to N. Garfield Street
  • 7th Street N., from N Irving Street to Washington Boulevard
  • N. Highland Street, from 7th Street N. to 10th Street N.
  • N. Garfield Street, from 10th Street N. to 7th Street N.
  • Washington Boulevard (eastbound lanes only), from 10th Street N. to Pershing Drive
  • Wilson Boulevard will be closed in both directions at 10th Street N. Westbound traffic will be diverted onto Fairfax Drive, while eastbound traffic will be turned south prior to Jackson Street, where drivers can access Pershing Drive and maneuver around the race course.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Bus routes will be detoured but remain operational during the event.

The police department also released the following information on road closures for the other three events.

2022 Drew Dragon Dash

The 2022 Drew Dragon Dash will take place in the Green Valley neighborhood on Saturday, May 21, and will begin at approximately 9:00 a.m. The following roadway will be closed in order to accommodate the event:

From approximately 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

S. Kenmore Street, between 22nd Street S. and the Shelton parking garage (3215 24th Street S.)

Jennie Dean Opening Celebration

The Jennie Dean Opening Celebration will take place in the Green Valley neighborhood on Saturday, May 21, and will begin at approximately 12:00 p.m. The following roadway will be closed in order to accommodate the event:

From approximately 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

  • 2700 block of S. Oakland Street (Shirlington Dog Park parking lot)

The Shirlington Dog Park will remain open and will be accessible through the 2600 block of S. Nelson Street.

Shirlington Spring Fling: A Village Block Party

The Shirlington Spring Fling: A Village Block Party will take place in the Village at Shirlington on Saturday, May 21, and will begin at approximately 11:00 a.m. The following roadways will be closed in order to accommodate the event:

From approximately 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

  • Campbell Avenue, from S. Quincy Street to the Hilton Garden Inn
  • S. Randolph Street, from Dudley’s to the alleyway behind CVS

“Street parking near the events may be restricted,” ACPD noted in the press release. “Motorists should be on the lookout for temporary “No Parking” signs. Illegally parked vehicles may be ticketed or towed. If your vehicle is towed from a public street, call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.”

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Several items before the County Board on Saturday would tee up an Arlington Transit bus facility construction in Green Valley — to the chagrin of two communities.

The Board will consider approving the use of the new bus facility for commercial parking, temporarily relocating about 30 ART buses to a Virginia Square site during construction, revising a lease to accommodate the temporary storage, and making contract amendments.

Construction on the project off Shirlington Road, which is budgeted at $97 million, is set to start in late spring, per a board report.

The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association is concerned with the county’s plans to use the approximately 6-acre “Buck site” along N. Quincy Street for temporary bus storage. The association claims the property isn’t zoned as a bus dispatch and storage site, and it would be disruptive to the neighborhood.

County officials said in December that property is the only available and affordable site zoned for vehicle storage. Ahead of construction, 29 buses will go to the N. Quincy Street site, while 12 will move to a bus site on S. Eads Street, which opened in 2017 near Crystal City.

“Other sites were considered, both County-owned and private facilities, but these did not meet all the suitability criteria needed to maintain service delivery to our transit riders,” county spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said in a statement. “If the Board approves the application for the use permit, the County has committed to being a good neighbor to minimize impacts to the largest extent possible and be responsive to concerns that may arise from this temporary use.”

Layout of the county-owned 1425 N. Quincy Street site with the temporary Arlington Transit (ART) bus storage (via Arlington County)

Currently, the county uses the site across from Washington-Liberty High School to park some fire and police vehicles, as well as a portion of the Arlington Public Schools vehicle fleet. An item before the Board this weekend would amend its lease with the School Board to move those vehicles to another part of the site.

The local civic association, however, is opposed to the plan.

“Our neighborhood — like any other in Arlington — should shoulder its fair share of uses that benefit the broader community, even if that sometimes means greater noise, traffic, and pollution,” BVSCA President James Rosen said in a statement. “But placing buses on the Quincy site fails to meet the standard for a good — let alone lawful — use of land the County paid over $30 million to acquire in 2017, of which the County has since written off $5 million.”

Before the county purchased the property, which is zoned for light industrial uses, it was home to family establishments like Jumping Joeys and Dynamic Gymnastics. The county, facing a shortage of land for school and government operations, saw the purchase as a possible school bus facility, which the surrounding community also opposed at the time.

“The noxious effects of the operation of ART buses… will not only put our health and safety at risk, but will compromise the livability of our neighborhood, and put our students and visitors in dangerous situations,” Rosen said.

Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services previously said the peak times of the high school and bus dispatches aren’t the same so it doesn’t think that student safety will be an issue.

Projected route activity for the temporary bus facility on N. Quincy Street (via Arlington County)

Through 2025, buses will be parked at and dispatched from the N. Quincy Street site on weekdays, with a majority of movement happening between 4 a.m. and 9 p.m., according to the board report. The buses parked on the site would serve six ART bus routes, mostly in north Arlington.

Maintenance and refueling activities would not occur on-site but buses may leave to be maintenanced at other county facilities on weekends.

Green Valley facility

As ART has increased its routes and hours of service over the last decade, and anticipates continuing to increase service over the next 20 years, the operations and maintenance facility in Green Valley is needed, according to a board report.

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(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) Expect significant police activity in the Ballston area following a pair of bank robberies.

The Citizens Bank at 4075 Wilson Blvd was the scene of an attempted robbery shortly after 2 p.m. The suspect ran off without cash after hopping the counter, per initial reports.

About 10-15 minutes later, a suspect matching the same description as the first successfully robbed the Bank of America directly in front of the Ballston Metro station.

The suspect remains at large and police are actively searching for him. Metro train traffic may also be disrupted as a result of the investigation.

So far no injuries have been reported. The man reportedly implied a weapon but none was seen.

The suspect is described as a short, middle aged Black male wearing a gray sweatsuit and carrying a plastic bag. The description differs from that of the taller, still-at-large suspect accused of robbing the Truist bank in Ballston last week.

Officers reportedly detained at least one or two people in the area matching the description of today’s robbery suspect, though it’s unclear whether either was determined to be the suspect.

Prior to last week, the last reported bank robbery in Arlington was in 2019.

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McLean-based The Union restaurant has opened its second location in the Virginia Square neighborhood.

The “casual fine dining” eatery opened last Monday (April 4) at 3811 Fairfax Drive, chef and owner Giridhar Sastry confirms to ARLnow. Business, so far, has been “okay,” but Sastry says it may take some time for locals to know that the restaurant is there and open.

The menu, decor, and experience in Arlington are exactly the same as the original in McLean, he says.

ARLnow previously reported that the new restaurant was moving into the space formerly occupied by Burgerim, which closed in January 2021. It’s next to Thai Treasure, which moved into the vacant space left by Water & Wall when that acclaimed restaurant closed in 2017.

The menu at the Union is, as the chef and owner described it last month, is made up of a range of cuisines.

“The DMV is a melting pot of different cultures,” Sastry said in March. “So, we have a little bit of everything.”

That includes Mumbai paninis, shrimp po-boys, beyond burgers, sorbet adas (Lebanese lentil soup), and chicken milanese.

Sastry, originally from Calcutta, India, has worked as a chef throughout the region, including the Ritz-Carlton, Mayflower Hotel in D.C., and several other Northern Virginia restaurants. He chose the Virginia Square neighborhood as the spot for his second location, which is also within walking distance of Ballston, because of the demographics and increasing population of the neighborhood.

The first Union opened in McLean in February 2020, but shut down shortly thereafter due to the pandemic. However, Sastry said that 2021 was a good year overall for the restaurant and an Arlington location was always part of his plan.

Sastry says the Union on Fairfax Drive is still hiring, particularly servers and cooks, and interested people are asked to contact the restaurant.

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George Mason University has ceremonially broke ground on the quarter of a billion dollar expansion of its Arlington campus.

At an event held yesterday (Wednesday), ceremonial shovels picked up ceremonial dirt to mark the beginning of construction of Fuse at Mason Square, a new $235 million building in Virginia Square that will house the university’s new School of Computing.

In fact, work had actually already begun a few months earlier on the 345,000 square foot facility. It’s the main piece of the quarter-billion-dollar expansion of the Arlington campus, which was recently renamed “Mason Square.”

The groundbreaking, which was one of this week’s events celebrating the university’s 50th anniversary, was marked by a litany of speeches, food, and shoveling of dirt.

In attendance were a number of Arlington officials including Board Chair Katie Cristol, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Arlington School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, and Arlington NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr.

Cristol spoke of her pride that this state-of-the-art facility will have a home in Arlington.

“The vision of Fuse [reminds] me of a term I learned in a laboratory in St. Louis — serendipitous collisions. What an evocative image of the kind of partnerships and encounters that are going to happen here at Fuse at Mason Square,” she said. “Between cutting edge facilities, labs with futuristic devices, and human talent of educators and entrepreneurs as well as this rising generation of creators. The serendipitous collisions that occur on this campus are going to shape our community in ways that we can only imagine today.”

Back in the early 1970s, the late Arlington developer John “Til” Hazel acquired the Virginia Square property that included the former Kann’s Department Store in order to house for GMU’s new law school. The property eventually became a larger graduate school campus, and the former Kann’s building is being replaced with the new computing school.

Hazel died last month at the age of 91. His son James revealed at the ceremony that his dad grew up “not a few blocks away, not down the street. It was right there at [N.] Kenmore [Street] and Wilson Blvd.”

Hazel shared other memories of spending time in this neighborhood before GMU moved in.

“If my mom wanted to take us to get new clothes for school, we came to our grandparents. We parked the car, we came over to Kann’s, got the clothes, and saw the monkey display,” he said, to some laughter. “But best of all, we got pizza from Mario’s Pizza.”

The ceremony was also supposed to include an announcement of a “landmark tenant” at the new building, but that didn’t happen, with GMU officials telling ARLnow that the announcement was delayed.

The $235 million building will house faculty from the Institute for Digital InnovAtion as well as the university’s new School of Computing. Also being planned is an atrium, a 750-seat theater, a public plaza, and a below-grade parking garage.

About 60% of the available space will be occupied by the university, with the remaining 40% aiming to be leased out to tenants and private companies.

Fuse at Mason Square is expected to be completed in the summer of 2025.

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George Mason University is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Arlington’s campus $250 million expansion this week with a concert, a new photo exhibit, and groundbreaking.

Beginning today (Monday), the Northern Virginia-based university will be hosting a week full of events at its Arlington campus in Virginia Square on Fairfax Drive, now known as Mason Square, culminating with an outdoor concert from a local cover band on Friday night.

There is a new photo exhibit opening in Van Metre Hall tomorrow called “Profiles of Arlington” that recognizes those “who are working to impact their community, their region, and the world.”

On Wednesday, there’s set to be an official groundbreaking ceremony for the quarter of a billion dollar expansion of George Mason’s Arlington footprint. That includes the 400,000 square-foot building set to be the centerpiece of the efforts, which is being called Fuse at Mason Square.

The building will house faculty from the Institute for Digital InnovAtion as well as the university’s new School of Computing. There will also be an atrium, 750-seat theater, a public plaza, and a below-grade parking garage. The building is estimated to be completed in the summer of 2025.

While construction actually started at the beginning of the year, Wednesday’s ceremony may include some news. The university previously said it would occupy about 60% of the space with the remaining 40% likely being leased to private companies.

The groundbreaking ceremony press release promises an “announcement of a landmark tenant.”

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol and Virginia’s Secretary of Education Aimee Rogstad are both scheduled to be in attendance at the groundbreaking.

Thursday marks GMU’s 50th anniversary. The university officially broke off from the University of Virginia and became independent on April 7, 1972.

Then, on Friday, Mason Square will host an outdoor concert event featuring the David Thong Band which will play cover songs from across the decades. The event asks attendees to “dress your favorite decade,” with the best costume winning a prize.

Virginia Square-based Rocklands BBQ, Shrlington’s New District Brewery, and Captain Cookie & the Milkman (which is opening an outpost in Courthouse this spring) will also be there selling food and drinks.

The event is free.

Next week, noted philosopher Cornel West is set to speak at GMU’s Arlington campus about the current state of American democracy, human rights, and critical race theory.

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Cornel West to speak at George Mason University’s Arlington campus (photo via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

Famed philosopher Dr. Cornel West will be speaking in Arlington next month.

West is coming to George Mason University’s campus on Fairfax Drive in two weeks, on Thursday, April 14. As the event listing notes, he’ll be in conversation for two hours with the school’s director of the Race, Politics, and Policy Center Dr. Michael Fauntroy and speaking on “the current state of American democracy, human rights, and critical race theory.”

West will also be taking audience questions.

The event is in-person, free and open to the general public. Registration is required, though. Masks are required and attendees need to a Covid health survey prior to coming.

The event at Van Metre Hall Auditorium featuring the well-known author and political activist was first announced back in October. Last summer, West resigned from Harvard University where he was a professor, saying the Ivy League school was experiencing a “intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep depths.”

GMU is in the midst of transforming its Virginia Square campus, having started on a $235 million expansion earlier this year. The expansion will include a new 400,000 square foot building that will house the university’s new School of Computing and faculty from Institute for Digital InnovAtion. The building is expected to be completed by the summer of 2025.

An official groundbreaking ceremony is planned for next week.

Photo via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

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Morning Notes

Blossoms in bloom along Long Bridge Park in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Giant Spiders May Drop In — “An invasive species of spider the size of a child’s hand is expected to ‘colonize’ the entire East Coast this spring by parachuting down from the sky, researchers at the University of Georgia announced last week… Andy Davis, author of the study and a researcher at Georgia’s Odum School of Ecology, tells Axios that it isn’t certain how far north the spiders will travel, but they may make it as far north as D.C. or even Delaware.” [Axios, Fox 5, NPR]

Anti-Growth Group Decries Route 29 Planning — “On March 6, ASF wrote to the Arlington County Board expressing concerns that significant new land use and zoning plans will cause seismic shifts for the communities now lining Langston Blvd. We believe the process — which will soon produce a new Preliminary Concept Plan that likely will be fast-tracked like other county planning processes — will neglect or defer costs of critically-needed new infrastructure, will displace those earning 60% or less than the Area Median Income, and will make it difficult for local entrepreneurs to stay in business.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]

Polish Pike Pierogi Purveyor Praised — “‘Oh my god, it smells so good it’s driving me crazy!’ my husband reported after picking up a pierogi order from chef Ewa Fraszczyk, who shares kitchen space with La Cocina VA, selling her pan-fried Polish dumplings from the nonprofit’s Columbia Pike café every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Arlington chef’s pierogi, all delicate and delicious, come six to an order ($10-$12) in four varieties.” [Arlington Magazine]

Apartment Child Care Bill Advances — “House members voted unanimously on March 8 in support of a measure by state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington-Fairfax-Loudoun) to amend the Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and permit child-care facilities in apartment units. That followed earlier, also unanimous, support in the state Senate.” [Sun Gazette]

Teen Stabbed in Va. Square Area — “At approximately 6:28 p.m. on March 8, police were dispatched to the report of a fight involving a group of approximately 6 – 10 juveniles. Upon arrival, the juveniles were no longer on scene and officers canvassed the area and located evidence of an injury in the 500 block of N. Quincy Street. At approximately 7:14 p.m., the juvenile male victim arrived at Virginia Hospital Center for treatment of stab wounds suffered during the fight. The victim’s injuries are considered serious but non-life threatening.” [ACPD]

Bus Driver Nearly Causes Wreck on I-395 — From public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Watch: A ‘professional’ driver does no better trying to quickly get across 4 lanes of interstate highway. This one almost takes out a car–twice!! Must have been a fun bus ride.” [Twitter]

Takeout for a Cause at Four Courts — From Ireland’s Four Courts: “Stop in or order takeout on Thursday for dinner. We are donating 20 percent of our food sales to @PathForwardVA help #endhomelessness in Arlington.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Overcast throughout the day. High of 52 and low of 35. Sunrise at 6:28 am and sunset at 6:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

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If you didn’t know better, you’d think that an unusual walk signal in Virginia Square was trying to signal that the South would rise again.

An audio walk signal at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Nelson Street, one block from the Metro station, keeps chanting the name of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. It attracted the attention of County Board candidate Adam Theo, who posted about it on social media yesterday afternoon.

“I’m sorry… but WTF??!?” he tweeted. “I thought we were getting rid of streets named after Confederates.”

ARLnow checked it out shortly after Theo’s tweet, and the rebel walk signal was indeed hauntingly repeating “Jefferson Davis” over and over again.

Asked about it, Peter Golkin, spokesman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, suggested that the signal was likely transplanted from along Route 1, formerly known as Jefferson Davis Highway before being renamed Richmond Highway in 2019.

“Likely repurposed technology that unfortunately was not reprogrammed,” Golkin said. “As Mr. Lincoln would say, ‘With malice toward none.'”

It appears that much like the Confederacy, the walk signal’s old programming will not be long for this world. This morning DES tweeted that a repair order had been placed.

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The Union is coming to 3811 Fairfax Dr. (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Union, a McLean-based “casual fine dining” restaurant, is opening a second location in Arlington.

The hope is to start serving at 3811 Fairfax Drive, in the Virginia Square area, by the end of the month, chef and owner Giridhar Sastry tells ARLnow.

The Union is coming to the former location of Burgerim, which closed early last year. The menu, decor, and experience at the Arlington location will be “exactly the same” as it is in McLean.

Sastry describes The Union’s menu as a showcase for a diverse range of cuisine.

“The DMV is a melting pot of different cultures,” Sastry says. “So, we have a little bit of everything.”

That includes shrimp po-boys, Asian salad, Thai coconut shrimp soup, Mumbai paninis, and churros. The beer menu will keep things closer to home — everything on tap will be local.

Sastry is originally from Calcutta, India and came to America for culinary school about two decades ago. He’s worked as a chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Mayflower Hotel in D.C., and other Northern Virginia restaurants.

He opened The Union in McLean in February 2020, having “one good month” before needing to shut down due to the pandemic. But 2021 was a solid overall, he says, and opening a second location was always part of the plan.

Sastry says he chose the neighborhood, within easy walking distance of Ballston, because of the demographics.

“The menu is geared towards the fast paced, younger crowd who’s hungry,” he says.

Construction is nearly done, Sastry said, and the restaurant is now waiting on licenses and final inspections.

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You might have never heard of the “9th Street Greenway,” an unheralded ribbon of greenery that crosses Ballston and Virginia Square, but it’s been decades in the making.

On a cold winter’s day, there’s a calmness to the ten-block-long stretch. The greenway follows 9th Street N, starting near N. Kansas Street and American Legion Post 85, in Virginia Square. It eventually crosses Oakland Park and Welburn Square, before ending as a walking path at N. Vermont Street, next to the Westin hotel.

No signs announce what it is, but the greenway’s features distinguish it from surrounding blocks. The corridor has pedestrian-only pathways, fountains, trees, other greenery, benches, and even some public art. Once you know of its existence, it makes sense.

Yet, the 9th Street Greenway — which was first mentioned in the 1983 Virginia Square Sector Plan — is by no means a finished product, even if it’s been in development for nearly 40 years. County officials and advocates say that was always the intention.

There remains plenty of places for more green space, plus the final connection to Clarendon, which has never been made.

“Major recommendations of this plan call for several zoning changes, improvements in the condition of streets and sidewalks, changes in traffic patterns, and the creation of a ‘greenway’ and additional public open space,” reads the 1983 Virginia Square Sector Plan.

The greenway was noted again in the updated 2002 sector plan.

While it may seem odd that a project first discussed four decades ago isn’t completed yet, county officials tell ARLnow that this was always the intention.

Much like Arlington itself, the 9th Street Greenway is ever-evolving, being developed, and a product of public-private partnerships with the goal of enhancing the livability of the neighborhood.

“The vision for 9th Street in the Virginia Square Sector Plan featured pedestrian access, possibly with more greenery/landscaping and other non-commercial ground floor uses, that would provide an alternative to the busier streets of Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard,” writes Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development spokesperson Elise Cleva. “We expect implementation to occur primarily through partnerships with private property owners when redevelopment projects are considered and approved.”

There are no current active projects or any redevelopment that would impact the 9th Street Greenway, officials note, and there’s no timeline for when it might be considered complete.

Peter Owen was the chair of the Arlington Transportation Commission when the concept was discussed again when devising the 2002 Virginia Square sector plan. He tells ARLnow that the intention, even back then, was that it was very long-term planning.

“My understanding was that it might take a generation or even two for all of those blocks to redevelop and make this path even more available,” Owen says.

Chris Slatt, current chair of the Arlington Transportation Committee, though, tells ARLnow that one can see the 9th Street Greenway’s influence in the not-yet-finalized Pentagon City Plan, with its ribbons of green space, pedestrian focus, and commitment to parks and plazas.

They both admit the idea and the goal of the 9th Street Greenway doesn’t match what’s there yet.

“Right now, it’s a sidewalk with not much to see and do,” says Slatt.

“When walking along it, if you didn’t know it was planned, you wouldn’t know it was supposed to be coherent,” Owen says.

Slatt and Owen say there’s value in continuing the commitment to what was started all those years ago, particularly the connection to Clarendon.

Owen says he walks it often, and even if the 9th Street Greenway remains in an unfinished state, there are components that show what a fully realized vision could bring to Arlington.

“My favorite part is the part near Welburn [Square]… where it’s like a little Eden with the fountain and the outdoor patios protected from traffic,” Owen says. “It’s wonderful.”

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