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.
Three men were arrested early this morning after allegedly assaulting a man outside Darna Lounge (946 N. Jackson Street) in Virginia Square.
The assault came after the victim left the bar at 2:15 a.m., according to the Arlington County Police Department crime report.
“Three subjects were exiting the bar when they made some inappropriate comments to a female who was standing with the victim, who then said something back to them,” Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck told ARLnow.com.
Fahad Alshequiq, 29, of Falls Church; Dede Dede, 34, of Dumfries; and Abdulaziz Alreshood, 29, of Arlington were arrested and charged with assault by mob. They are being held without bond.
The victim refused a medical transport.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and FBR, an investment bank, will be moving into new offices in Arlington over the next year and a half. That’s good news for economic development officials in Arlington, who are still reeling from the impending loss of the National Science Foundation and its 2,237 jobs.
FBR will move from a “trophy” office building at 1001 19th Street N. in Rosslyn to a slightly less lofty accommodations, at 1300 17th Street N., also in Rosslyn. FBR’s new lease runs through the end of 2025. First-year rent for the space — on the building’s 2nd, 13th and 14th floors — is $41 per square foot for the lower floor and $51.50 per square foot for the higher floors, according to an SEC filing.
FBR employs approximately 250 people in Arlington. The company hopes to make the move this May.
The FDIC, meanwhile, has signed a lease for 171,000 square feet in the former DARPA building at 3701 N. Fairfax Drive, in Virginia Square. The agency expects to move employees there from an office at 1310 N. Courthouse Road, in Courthouse, in April 2015.
The FDIC has an existing office at 3501 N. Fairfax Drive, and the new accommodations will eliminate the need to shuttle employees back and forth between Courthouse and Virginia Square, the Washington Business Journal reported.
The Latitude Apartments will be a 12-story apartment building with 265 residential units and 262 underground parking spaces, on the 3600 block of Fairfax Drive. It will feature a 2,800 square foot “cultural and educational space,” 3,100 square feet of retail space, a public plaza and pedestrian walkway, outdoor seating and a water feature.
Other community benefits include LEED Gold sustainability certification, 14 committed affordable units, a $75,000 public art contribution and funding of utility and transportation improvements.
The project received mixed feedback during the public comment period, with some residents speaking out for it and some against it. Those who opposed it said an office building, not an apartment building, should be built on the site, in keeping with the county’s original land use vision set forth in the 2002 Virginia Square Sector Plan.
Many on the opposition side were residents of nearby condominium buildings, who wore matching badges expressing their opposition. Concerns included added noise, traffic and pedestrian congestion, crowding at the Virginia Square Metro station, visitors parking in residential neighborhoods and other “quality of life issues.”
“My view is that an office building would be the better use,” said resident Anita Wallgren. “I live across the street. By taking action today in a decisive way to deny the applications, you would affirm the sector plan and improve the integrity of the county’s planning process.”
Those supporting the project said the developer, Penrose Group, has been responsive to residents. The development, supporters said, will be a net positive for the neighborhood.
“I love the design of the project from the renderings I’ve seen,” said Judd Ryan, a member of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. “Throughout this process I’ve struggled to understand the opposition to this project. The [office] vacancy rate is the highest I’ve seen since living in this market. No developer would build office here without a significant pre-lease.”
County staff spent time refuting claims that the apartment building will have a significant impact on crowding at the Virginia Square station. The station is one of the most under-utilized stations in Arlington, staff said, and the new building will only add about one additional passenger per inbound train during the morning rush hour. In keeping with rates seen at similar apartment buildings, about half of residents will end up driving to work, staff estimated.
The Arlington transportation and planning commissions sided with those opposed to the project, recommending against changing zoning for the site. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce weighed in with a letter, supporting the project and the principals of transit-oriented development. In the end, the Board voted 3-2 for the project, with Chris Zimmerman and Mary Hynes casting the dissenting votes.
Zimmerman said the project is attractive on its own, but that’s not justification enough for “throwing overboard a sector plan.”
“Do we disregard long-term plans because of the appeal of an individual project?” he asked. “That for me is the fundamental problem.”
Jay Fisette stated that he doesn’t “want to send a message that the sector plan isn’t important,” but said the county may have to reexamine its expectations for commercial office development given the current high vacancy rate and market changes like the Silver Line to Tysons and the increasing number of employees who work from home or in co-working environments.
“Conditions in the market are changing,” Fisette said. “Adjustments might be necessary in sector plans.”
Libby Garvey said a sector plan is a guiding document but isn’t dogma.
“The plan is a tool but it’s not something that tells us absolutely what to do,” she said. “Otherwise you wouldn’t need a [County] Board.”
Garvey dismissed concerns about noise — “I assume the people in that building are not going to make any more noise than you all in your building” she said — and crowding at the Virginia Square station — “one of the least-used Metro sites.” She said adding additional housing in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will help keep housing costs down.
“One of the reasons housing is so expensive here is because there’s not enough of it, there’s unmet demand,” she said.
Having launched Maple Ave in Vienna nearly five years ago, husband and wife team Tim Ma and Joey Hernandez are not new to the restaurant scene. Yet with the opening of Water & Wall (3811 N. Fairfax Drive) in Virginia Square almost two weeks ago, they found new challenges to contend with at their Arlington restaurant.
“When you get into a new kitchen, it’s completely new equipment, completely new staff, it’s a completely new space flow,” said Ma. “It’s a completely new restaurant. We want to take the time to make sure we get every step right.”
The restaurant has been preparing to open since July, held its family and friends soft opening event on November 1 and opened to the public the next day. Water & Wall has opened at 5:00 p.m. every day, but hopes to delve into weekend brunch and eventually into lunch. For the time being, Ma prefers the limited schedule in order to perfect the dinner operations, especially considering that most new restaurants have issues to work out.
“Everybody has glitches, we’re no different. The hardest thing was getting used to the new kitchen equipment,” Ma said. “We got here and we’ve got all this new equipment, everything’s high powered, high end. We burned a lot of things really early on just because we weren’t used to it. We had to adjust recipes that we’ve been doing for years just because this equipment is so much stronger. That was one of the most difficult things.”
Ma and the kitchen crew continue to experiment with the menu. They’ve brought over some staples from Maple Ave such as shrimp and grits, mussels and braised beef cheek. There are around 10 small plates, eight main plates and typically four specials per night. The menu should be whittled down to the permanent items within the next few months, but Ma expects it to change fairly frequently.
“We’re happy with the menu but we know how the kitchen gets,” he said. “The kitchen gets antsy. They don’t want to cook the same things over and over, so then we move on to the next thing.”
Although signature dishes like duck confit may sound decadent, the Water & Wall crew works hard to fend off the “fine dining” label.
“I want to stay away from the term fine dining, even though I think our look is a little fancier than I anticipated,” said Ma. “I never want it to really be called fine dining. Contemporary, casual dining I think is what we would call it.”
“I know it looks like it when you first walk in, but we’re definitely not fancy,” agreed General Manager Nick Seo. “We wanted to create an environment where anybody can walk in dressed in any sort of attire and have a really great experience. We don’t have a specific dress code, it’s not very fancy at all.”
Seo also manages the bar and is experimenting with signature drinks for the restaurant. He plans to debut two this weekend — his version of the Moscow Mule, and an olive oil/vodka/lemon cocktail. The bar area will run happy hour specials from 5:00-7:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Five drink items will be available for five dollars during that time. Eventually, happy hour may expand to food items as well.
In addition to the signature drinks and focus on food, Seo believes the ambiance will help Water & Wall stand out from its competitors.
“I think it’s different than a lot of the primary restaurants or bars in this area. It is kind of, I think, a fresh take on Arlington dining,” he said. “We’ve had more and more people who live in the residential areas across the street coming in. They walk in and are blown away.”
While Ma says he takes care of the kitchen operations, he says his wife “basically runs things” at the restaurant. One of the things Hernandez focuses on is getting people in the door. Currently, she worries people won’t know Water & Wall exists due to the lack of outdoor signage for the restaurant. But she was encouraged to hold off on ordering any because the whole building is apparently supposed to get a bit of a facelift with new signs.
“It’ll happen. People will find us,” Hernandez said. “It’s been a little crazy these past couple of weeks. But it’s exciting, too.”
Ma is confident the customer base will continue to grow once people notice the restaurant, try it and spread the word. He said Virginia Square is quieter than some of Arlington’s other restaurant hubs, but that’s how he likes it.
“Give us a shot. It’s one of those things where we’re in a quiet spot,” said Ma. “We’ll need people to come out here and taste what we’re doing. Sometimes it seems like a trek just going from one metro stop to the next. But we hope people make the trek and that we can impress them. All I ask is, if you like it, tell somebody.”