Record low temperatures and several snowstorms have some in Arlington feeling like they live in the Arctic, but one local family is taking it to the next level.
Graeme Lee, his wife and two children built an igloo on the front yard of their home on the 3500 block of 14th Street N., near Virginia Square. The structure with room for two adults serves as a play space for the family’s children, and Lee even drank a beer there with a neighbor.
Anyone passing through the igloo’s small entrance — which is key for keeping out the cold and wind — has to drag themselves through the snow, belly down. Inside, Lee’s family keeps a flashlight and a small Frisbee they use to rearrange the snow.
“Once you get in there, it’s remarkably warm and quiet,” he said.
The Lees built the igloo — which is topped with a nutcracker ornament with continually swinging arms — after the year’s first snow. First, they heaped snow into a mound to build a snowman. Noticing the mound looked like a dome, they opted to make an igloo.
“My wife took a snow-survival course, and learned how to make an emergency snow shelter,” Lee told ARLnow.com this morning as more snow fell. “I thought ‘Maybe we could do that in our yard.'”
The Australian natives, who both work for the federal government, let the snow settle on the dome for four days. Then, they spent an hour shaping its outside and its entrance, and another hour to carve out the inside with shovels.
The igloo survived rain and warmer weather on Saturday, which melted plenty of snow in the area. The igloo will remain on the Lees’ front yard until it melts.
PetMAC, the pet supply store and adoption center at 822 N. Kenmore Street in Virginia Square, is closing its doors before the end of the year and moving to Reston.
The store’s lease ends at the end of December, according to owner Cindy Williams, and business has slowed down to the point where she can’t afford to keep the store in such an expensive area.
“The people of Arlington have been great and we love our Ashton Heights and Lyon Park neighbors. However, more and more people are telling us they are purchasing online,” she said. “That, coupled with PetCo opening down the street, has hurt our sales dramatically. I tried to move elsewhere in Arlington but everything was too expensive for a small, independently owned shop like PetMAC. I hate leaving our loyal customers but we just can’t afford to stay.”
PetMAC is planning to open a store in Reston’s Lake Anne Plaza, where it will move some of its inventory. Williams expects the Virginia Square location to close depending on when the Reston shop is ready to open. Her Arlington customers will get 20 percent off for the next year when they visit the Reston store.
PetMAC will continue to host its adoption events until the store closes, including this Saturday from noon to 4:00 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Passersby along 14th Street N. in Virginia Square should not be alarmed by what appears to be a black bear climbing a tree on the street — it’s just a new carving from an Arlington artist.
The bear was carved in front of 3600 14th Street N. by Arlington native Andrew Mallon, a 2001 graduate of Washington-Lee High School, carpenter and, for the last two and a half year, the owner of Potomac Tree Sculptures. The bear was commissioned by homeowner Joanne Goode, who has lived in the house since 1958.
The tree is a dying oak that Goode was having workers cut down when, she said, their chainsaw stopped working and the bark was partially stripped off. She said her son told her about Mallon, who says he gave her a discount because the tree is prominently displayed out front. Unlike the famed “busty mermaid” statue that stood along Lee Highway for years before being cut down this spring, Goode wanted the sculpture to be part of the tree.
“I didn’t know the mermaid was a tree, I thought it was just a statue,” she said. “I didn’t want something to look like a statue, I wanted the tree to be there so you knew it was a tree.”
Mallon said the carving is the first publicly visible one he’s done in Arlington, and he’s not done with it. He plans on carving a hawk on top of the tree, a fox, and maybe squirrels and raccoons. Mallon said a bear like Goode’s would normally run one of his customers about $800. It took eight hours in total — six on Sept. 5, two on Sept. 9 — to create.
Mallon uses a chainsaw to carve the sculpture and a blowtorch and sandpaper to achieve the bear’s dark brown color. He said he can carve sculptures into basically any tree, but wouldn’t recommend it for live trees since the process kills the tree.
“If it’s a tree that’s dying, get a tree company to come, cut all the limbs off, and we can come up with something great to put in it,” Mallon said. “There are a lot of designs I haven’t tried yet. I love sea life. I’d love to do a shark or a marlin. I’ve done plenty of turtles, and some bass jumping out of the water.”
In just the first weekend the tree went up, Goode said she had dozens of comments from neighbors and people walking and driving by. All of the comments, she said, have been positive.
“People either parked their cars or drove by and said, ‘Hey, that’s cool, that’s neat, I love it,'” she said. “It’s just unreal the amount of attention it’s gotten.”
Mallon can be reached at 703-919-4835 or at [email protected].
Arlington has accelerated its Parkmobile rollout, installing the smartphone app service in Clarendon, Ballston and Virginia Square over the weekend.
The mobile app allows users to enter their parking “zone” number and pay from their phone with pre-saved credit card and vehicle information. It has been in use in D.C. since 2011, and it was first introduced in Crystal City and Shirlington in July, and Pentagon City soon after. Clarendon and Ballston were expected to have the service available “by winter,” county officials said at the time, but the timeline has been pushed up.
“Due to the success of the app, we’re accelerating our rollout schedule,” county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said. “We’re anticipating that the service will be available at all the remaining sectors — Courthouse, Rosslyn and Columbia Pike — by the end of the year.”
Baxter said that, to date, the app has already processed more than 18,200 transactions in Arlington.
The county has 5,329 metered spots, all of which are now expected to be Parkmobile-eligible by 2015. According to Parkmobile CEO Cherie Fuzzell, the app is responsible for 56 percent of D.C.’s parking revenue.
In 2013, when ARLnow.com first reported the county was planning on implementing smartphone payment for parking meters, then-Treasurer Francis O’Leary said there’s a chance revenue could increase from mobile payments, since they wouldn’t pose the convenience or time issues some have with the kiosks currently installed.
Hat tip to Bill Colton
The AKA Virginia Square extended stay hotel is undergoing a conversion into a condominium building and plans to open this fall.
The building, at 3409 Wilson Blvd, was purchased by Bethesda-based The Goldstar Group. The company has rebranded the building as Arc 3409, saying it will featuer “luxury condos.” The sale went through this spring, and by May the hotel was no longer taking reservations as it prepared to close.
Goldstar Senior Vice President Eric May said the company plans to open the building in mid-September, and to start sending out information about asking prices and individual units later this summer. May said the prices for the 85 units in the building have yet to be determined.
The renovations, May said, include replacing floors, kitchens and re-fitting the units. No structural work needed to be done, he said, because the building, built in 2008, was originally intended to be condominiums before it was sold to become, essentially, a short-term rental apartment building.
“The building itself is very different from Arlington standard,” May said. “It’s not brick box. It’s got angles, curves, glass and it’s a cool building. The units themselves are cool units, some of them have floor-to-ceiling glass and most of them have balconies. It’s more of cutting-edge D.C. design than you typically see in Arlington.”
The building is two blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station, but the location and the appeal of the unusual building were just part of the equation for Goldstar’s purchase.
“There is a huge lack of supply of new or any condos in Arlington right now,” May said. “There’s very little to no new product, so we saw an opportunity to bring to market effectively new condominiums at prices that are going to be competitive.”
Friday is apparently the 8th annual “National Flip Flop Day,” and the Tropical Smoothie Cafe store in Virginia Square will be giving out free smoothies to mark the occasion.
From 2:00 to 7:00 p.m., the store at 3811 N. Fairfax Drive will be giving away free 24 ounce strawberry banana smoothies to anyone wearing flip flops, according to owner Marcus Barnett.
“This is a nationwide event that all Tropical Smoothies will be participating in and is absolutely free to anyone that comes in wearing flip flops,” Barnett told ARLnow.com. “Donations will be accepted… all proceeds will go to benefit Camp Sunshine.”
Camp Sunshine is a retreat in Maine for children with life-threatening illnesses. It’s offered free of charge to children and their immediate families and offers on-site medical and psychosocial support.
The incident took place around 4:50 p.m. Saturday afternoon on the 3800 block of 9th Street N., in the Virginia Square area. Police say Melvin Baxter, 57, grabbed the 87-year-old man by the neck and threw him to the ground before robbing him of the cash in his wallet and fleeing on foot.
“A witness immediately came to the assistance of the victim and contacted police, providing a detailed description of the assailant,” according to an Arlington County Police Department press release. “The victim sustained minor injuries and was treated by medics on scene. At approximately 5:00 p.m., an officer located and detained the suspect on the platform of the Ballston Metro Station.”
Baxter, a Capitol Heights, Md. resident, was charged with robbery and held without bond at the Arlington County Detention Facility.
H-B Woodlawn Administrator Dies — H-B Woodlawn assistant principal Dr. Mary McBride died unexpectedly on Monday, May 26. McBride, who started her career at H-B Woodlawn as a teacher, was 70. [Legacy.com]
Torrez Sentenced to Death — Convicted rapist and murderer Jorge Torrez was formally sentenced to death Friday. The former Marine strangled a female sailor to death on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in 2009. He is also accused of killing two young girls in Illinois on Mother’s Day 2005. [Stars and Stripes]
Euille and Levine: No Regrets — At a debate Friday at a meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, congressional candidates Bill Euille and Mark Levine couldn’t come up with an answer when asked what policy positions they’ve taken that they’ve later regretted. Patrick Hope and Adam Ebbin both regret supporting mandatory minimum sentencing, Don Beyer regrets opposing same-sex marriage in the 1990s, and Lavern Chatman said she regrets opposing medical marijuana. [InsideNova]
Testicle Festival Held Saturday — The 10th annual Testicle Festival was held in Virginia Square on Saturday. One attendee said of the Rocky Mountain Oyster tasting: “People who don’t come here and don’t try the balls aren’t living a full life.” [WTOP]
Running from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. at the American Legion Post 139 (3445 Washington Blvd), “Testy Fest” will feature all-you-can-eat fried bull testicles prepared by Frank McGraw, “Montana’s most famous ball chef,” according to the festival’s organizer, the Montana State Society.
Tickets for the festival are $25 online and $30 at the door. In addition to the “oysters,” beer and Crown Royal whiskey will be served and there will be live country music performed by the Wil Gravatt Band.
Attendees must be 21 years or older. The first 100 in the door will get a free Testicle Festival T-shirt with this year’s theme, “Nuttin’ Better.” T-shirts will also be available for purchase.
“You’d be NUTS to miss this!” organizers said of the event.
File photo (above)
The building was sold recently, according to an AKA employee, and the hotel is no longer taking reservations as it prepares to close.
Attempts to reach AKA representatives who could further discuss the sale were unsuccessful. The hotel was constructed within the last 10 years and, we’re told, it was originally intended to be a condominium building. So far, there’s no word on when the building will re-open or start selling units.
Photo via AKA
The new location, at 1425 N. Quincy Street, was necessitated by the plans to tear down Nova MMA’s building and replace it with a hotel. According to Nova MMA’s Facebook page, the gym will move into its new location on June 2.
The new location will be 18,000 square feet of first floor warehouse space, double the space for Crossfit and dedicated rooms for Ultimate Fitness Kickboxing classes, grappling, and striking/Krav Maga classes. A 20-foot-by-20-foot boxing ring and heavy bags will be in the striking area, according to Facebook.
When the hotel, planned to be a Hyatt Place, was approved, the Washington Business Journal reported Wilson Tavern was considering a move to Ballston, but nothing has been made official yet. Schupp Companies, which owns the property and is coordinating the redevelopment, hopes to break ground in June.
Photo via Google Maps
The incident happened at GMU’s Arlington campus, near Virginia Square, around 3:00 p.m. Police say the man entered the classroom and attempted to place the professor under a citizen’s arrest. The professor tried to get the man — described as a white male in his 20s or 30s — to leave, at which time the man pepper sprayed him and a scuffle ensued, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The professor did not know the man, Sternbeck said.
An off-duty police officer heard the commotion and tried to intervene. The suspect fled but was arrested outside the school by Arlington County police officers, according to Stenbeck. He’s now being questioned by police. Several charges are pending.
Paramedics evaluated the professor and about a dozen students who were in the classroom at the time and suffered residual effects from the pepper spray. There were no reports of anyone being taken to the hospital.
Photo via Google Maps
Some erroneous new signage in the Virginia Square Metro station would have one believe that George Mason University is greatly expanding its local presence beyond Arlington and Fairfax County.
The sign correctly labels the station it’s in as “Virginia Sq-GMU” — but then labels the first Orange/Blue Line station in the District of Columbia as “Foggy Bottom-GMU.” Flip the M upside down and you get the correct abbreviation for the institution of higher education in Foggy Bottom, George Washington University.
The error was pointed out this afternoon in a Twitter post that was retweeted by the tireless, anonymous WMATA critic Unsuck DC Metro. “Unsuck” subsequently opined: “If Metro can’t even get signs right, what’s going on with the tracks, trains and other safety gear?”
Photo via @DCtransitnerd
More than a hundred people gathered in Quincy Park in Virginia Square yesterday afternoon to participate in the Battle at Ballston snowball fight.
Snowball fight organizer Danny Douglass set up a game area and held four dodgeball-style games, with more than 90 people participating in some of the matches.
Douglass said he was drinking at Wilson Tavern (2403 Wilson Blvd) Saturday night with some friends when he had the idea. Sunday night, he launched a website, created a Facebook event and got a sponsor — Wilson Tavern, naturally — and a charity for which to collection donations: Research Down Syndrome.
“We were just talking about it and thought it would be fun,” Douglass told ARLnow.com between games, for which he served as referee. “I had no idea so many people would show up. I was expecting no more than 25 or 30, just my D.C. street hockey friends. But very few people here are friends of ours.”
Douglass got help organizing — and refereeing — from his friend Robert Heintz and Wilson Tavern bar manager Conor Mattil. Mattil said he went around other Courthouse-area bars and recruited people to participate Sunday night.
“Once the charity got involved, it was more than just drunken fun,” Mattil said. “Hopefully we do this every time it snows and it will keep picking up.”
The event generated well over $100 for the charity.
Friends Manuel Cordoves and Van Dang were among the participants who heard about the snowball fight from word of mouth. Each have lived in the area for at least two years and this was the first snowball fight in which they had participated.
“It’s been a while since there was enough snow,” Dang said. “It was much more fun, and more organized, than I expected.”
“I was expecting more of a free-for-all,” Cordoves added. “It was great that so many people came out and it was so organized.”
The Arlington County Police Department has issued its crime report for the two weeks ending Dec. 31.
A few days before Christmas, some Grinch stole a fruit basket (and a gift card) from a Virginia Square apartment mail room.
BURGLARY, 131219008, 3500 block of N. Washington Boulevard. At 7:30 am on December 19, a victim noticed several packages of his had been opened in an apartment mail room. A fruit basket and Amazon gift card were stolen. There is no suspect(s) description.
The day after Christmas, with returns and post-holiday shopping in full swing, a man allegedly used his cell phone to film a woman in a dressing room.
PEEPING TOM, 131226018, unit block of S. Glebe Road. At 1:24 pm on December 26, a 24 year-old female victim reported a suspect attempted to film her with his phone as she was changing in the dressing room. The suspect fled the scene when the victim notified a store employee. The suspect is described as a Middle Eastern male in his 30’s, approximately 5’10” tall and 190 lbs with a goatee. He was wearing a dark and light blue sweater, jeans and brown shoes at the time of the incident.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All names suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty in court.