Chafee Announces Presidential Run in Va. Square — Former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee announced that he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for president yesterday at George Mason University’s Founders Hall in Virginia Square. This morning at 10:30 a.m., possible Democratic presidential contender and former Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) will be giving a foreign policy speech of his own at the Virginia Square campus. [New York Times]
More Cameras Coming to School Buses — Arlington Public Schools is moving forward with plans for a private contractor to install cameras on the “stop arms” of about 15 percent of APS school buses. The school system is also aiming to increase the percentage of school buses with interior cameras from just over 50 percent today to 100 percent within five years. [InsideNova]
Democratic Battle for Kupricka’s Seat — Five Democrats are seeking to replace Del. Rob Krupicka in the Virginia House of Delegates, but there are few policy differences among the candidates. Krupicka represents Virginia’s 45th legislative district, which is mostly Alexandria but also includes five Arlington precincts. The candidates facing off in the June 9 primary are Craig Fifer, Julie Jakopic, Mark Levine, Clarence Tong and Larry Altenburg. [Washington Post]
2015 Women of Vision Honorees — Next week the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women will honor its 2015 Women of Vision. The honorees are Karen Darner, former member of the House of Delegates; Mary-Claire Burick, executive director of the Rosslyn BID; and Sarah Summerville, head of the African American Leadership Council of Arlington. [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Montana State Society is again hosting its annual Testicle Festival in Virginia Square this year.
The event, which lets participants dine on all-you-can-eat Rocky Mountain oysters while sipping all-you-can-drink beer and Crown Royal, is scheduled for this Saturday, June 6, from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m.
As usual the festival is being hosted at American Legion Post 139 (3445 Washington Blvd) and as usual the organizers have a colorful tagline for the event.
“The Montana State Society would like to invite you to have a ball (literally!) at the 11th annual D.C. Testy Fest, ‘Where Big Balls Meet The Beltway,'” said a press release. “You’d be NUTS to miss this!”
Tickets are $25. The event will feature live country music, from The Wil Gravatt Band. For those squeamish about sampling cowboy caviar, food trucks will offer alternative cuisine.
More than 700 people attended last year’s event, according to the society.
The land was owned by Bill Buck, founder of Buck & Associates and Arlington real estate mainstay, who agreed to let the county pay for the land in stages: $1.2 million at the close of the sale, $1.8 million in 2016 and $27 million by November 20, 2017, after the county undergoes a revision to the Capital Improvements Program.
The County Board approved the purchase 5-0.
“This is a rare opportunity for the county to acquire a significant piece of property in North Arlington that is zoned for light industrial use, at a time when our community is struggling to find public land to accommodate our many facilities’ needs,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release.
“We are thrilled that Bill Buck, whose family has played such an important role in the development of Arlington, has agreed to give us this purchase option. Over the next two years, we will be having a conversation with the community about the best uses for this site, using the criterion and process being developed by our Community Facilities Study effort.”
In the announcement, the county said it has no specific plans for the site yet, but all but 1.35 acres of it is zoned as light industrial. That zoning allows the county to decide which of its chief land priorities — school buildings, a new transportation storage facility and open space — it wishes to devote the new land to.
Currently, Nova MMA/Crossfit Arlington occupies the westernmost building on the land, where it moved in 11 months ago after it was forced to move from its first location in Courthouse. It had previously stood next to Wilson Tavern, where a Hyatt House hotel expects to open next year.
The Board can opt out of the purchase before November 2017. The first payment was funded through CIP 2014 bond money. The land will be rolled into the ongoing Community Facilities Study, after which time the county will involve Arlington Public Schools — which just announced a plan to put 71 new trailers at elementary and middle schools by 2020 — in discussions on the site.
“Although funding for this purchase is not in the current CIP, sometimes you have to act when opportunities arise,” Hynes said in the release. “For many years, community members have suggested that this property should be in the public realm. We are delighted that after complex negotiations, we are able today to achieve that goal.”
This is the biggest county land acquisition since it acquired 7.1 acres for Long Bridge Park in 2011, in an exchange for additional zoning from a developer. The 1.35-acres not zoned for industrial use are zoned for residential, which allows building streets, sidewalks, trails and recreational facilities.
The incident happened just before 8:00 p.m. this past Thursday. The juvenile was playing tennis in the park, on the 700 block of N. Monroe Street, when the man exposed himself.
“The suspect is described as a Hispanic male in his twenties, approximately 5’7″ and 190 lbs,” according to the Arlington County Police daily crime report. “He was wearing black athletic pants, a dark shirt and a black baseball hat.”
(Updated at noon) More and more dead trees are being turned into animals around Arlington.
Artist Andrew Mallon, owner of Potomac Tree Structures, drew attention for the bear he carved into a tree on 14th Street N. in Virginia Square last summer and business has only improved since then.
“I think it can get very big,” Mallon said. “I think that it is something that’s going to keep growing. I get more and more calls all the time.”
The Virginia Square tree has been completely transformed. Where was once a bear in the middle of a dead tree, there is now a complete statue, with a fox curling around the trunk and a hawk perched on top.
An Andrew Mallon original has popped up in Maywood, with an owl perched on top of a carved down tree with a “green man” etched in the middle. That sculpture, on the 3500 block of 21st Avenue N. is set back a little from the road — unlike the bear, hawk and fox tree, which is almost on the sidewalk.
South Arlington also has a bit of tree art. On the 4000 block of 19th Street S. in Douglas Park, Mallon took a stump and carved two dogs chasing two squirrels up a tree.
“Most people don’t even really know exactly what they want,” Mallon said. “They mostly say ‘you’re the artist, you tell me.'”
Most of the pieces he’s done — there are some in Fairfax County — take a week or so, but the bear, hawk and fox statue took longer because of payment issues. When Mallon returned to work on it, neighbors gushed to him about the art he added to their neighborhood.
“That’s probably my favorite thing about it,” he said. “Neighbors stop and thank me for bringing it to their neighborhood. The community really likes it, the kids all love it.”
Mallon can be reached at 703-919-4835 or at [email protected].
The electric bicycle shop has moved into the former PetMAC space at 822 N. Kenmore Street, and is planning to open on Saturday, April 4, at 11:00 a.m. Store owner Alan Levine told ARLnow.com that, in the meantime, he is selling bicycles at Big Wheel Bikes around the region, including its 3119 Lee Highway location.
When Hybrid Pedals does reopen, its new location will be bigger than its old shop at 925 N. Jackson Street, and have better visibility to Wilson Blvd.
“It’s going to allow us to display bikes much, much better, and we have a great test track along N. Kenmore Street” Levine said. “We kind of made lemonade out of a lemon.”
The bikes that were destroyed were about half of Hybrid Pedals’ inventory, but Levine said insurance was able to cover the cost. The other half of the inventory was already at the Big Wheel Bikes locations so “we didn’t skip a beat,” Levine said.
“The grand opening … gives everyone a chance to see and try our exciting products,” Levine said, especially encouraging veterans and the disabled to come try out the products that can go 20 mph without pedaling, and up to 35 mph with “pedal assist.” “People must try an e-bike to appreciate the fun factor, and we are the only company where someone can try them all before making an educated and informed decision.”
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)