Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Crystal City Parking Lot Staying Put — “Crystal City has been a scalding hot market for new development ever since Amazon.com Inc. moved in — but one well-positioned lot will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. Gould Property Co., which owns a small parking lot at 2661 S. Clark St., filed a request with Arlington County last month asking for permission to maintain the property as surface parking through early 2026.” [Washington Business Journal]

Westover Apartment Building Named — “Kathleen Sibert, who led the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) from 2008 until earlier this year, will remain a permanent part of the organization through a facility named in her honor… Located in Westover, Sibert House is designed to provide permanent-supportive housing and a foundation to help individuals achieve better health, overcome substance abuse and mental illness, obtain job security, and attain their goals.” [InsideNova]

Schools Also Facing Budget Gap — “Superintendent Durán said that APS is facing an estimated budget gap at this time of between $24 million and $31 million. The APS budget gap continues to fluctuate and is based on continued unknowns including more possible revenue loss, more possible savings and more costs as APS works to return students to in-person learning while continuing to provide distance learning. The school district is examining its current practices and reviewing the budget.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Water Facts — “In a year, Arlington residents use some 8 billion gallons of water. That’s about a trillion 8-ounce glasses of the stuff. Clean, safe and always at the ready.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Costs on the Rise — “Not only are home prices on the rise across the Washington area; the average cost on a per-square-foot basis continues to grow, too… In Virginia, Arlington led the pack, with its average per-square-foot cost of $455 up 4.4 percent from $436.” [InsideNova]

Real Estate Firm Opening Second Office — “McEnearney Associates is excited to announce a new office location in the heart of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard… This will be McEnearney Associate’s second office location in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Airport Concession Sales Way Down — “Roughly 33 concessionaires were open at Reagan and 44 at Dulles, or just over 40% of all shops in the two airports… the shops that are open are still struggling with very low foot traffic and a customer base that is spending less than normal. Sales per passenger were down 20% at Reagan National and 22% at Dulles in August compared to the same month of 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Early Voting on Irish TV — “Irish TV RTÉ was in Courthouse filming the early voting for the election.” [@Irelands4Courts/Twitter]

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Those who mourned the closing of Finders Keepers in Westover (5906 Washington Blvd) should be happy to know a new consignment shop is coming to the same space, but with some significant new changes.

True to the consignment store spirit, Amber Scivolette is taking a second-hand retail space and breathing new life into it — Finders Keepers is becoming Blossom and Buds Consignment.

The store will serve both kids and adults. Offerings will include clothing, shoes and accessories, as well as toys, books, games, and other items.

“We’re going to have kids’ consignment as well as women’s consignment,” Scivolette said. “It’s basically two storefronts, with one whole side for kids and a kids’ play area.”

Inside, Scivolette said she has renovated the space.

“We pulled everything apart,” Scivolette said. “We just completed that, now we’re setting things into place.”

The exterior, which currently is mostly covered in plastic, is also getting spruced up. Scivolette said a new sign and a power wash are coming soon.

The new store is scheduled to open in September, possibly with a soft opening around Thursday, Sept. 10, or Friday, Sept. 11.

Though the exact details haven’t been nailed down yet, Scivolette said Blossom and Buds will implement COVID-19 safety measures. Early on, that will mean a big emphasis on selling items via Instagram, Facebook and other social media outlets. Scivolette said the store will offer contactless pickup if someone wants to buy something they spotted online.

While many locals opening new stores have had challenges, Scivolette says she’s found a silver lining.

“Opening now… it’s not ideal, but I feel like I’m not rushed,” Scivolette. “I can take the time to do what I want to do. The timing works out okay for us.”

Photo courtesy Amber Scivolette

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Morning Notes

Protest Outside Westover Post Office — About 15 protesters held a “Save the U.S. Postal Service” rally outside the Post Office at 5877 Washington Blvd in Westover yesterday. The two-hour lunchtime demonstration was organized as part of the American Postal Worker Union National Day of Action. [@KalinaNewman/Twitter]

Historic Review Board Likes Shirlington Plan — “The Arlington County government’s historic-preservation advisory body seems generally satisfied that retention of historic features will be seen as an important component of the redevelopment of the Village at Shirlington. In particular, the low-slung storefronts along Campbell Avenue are expected to be protected from the wrecking ball, even as taller and more dense development likely will be allowed immediately behind them.” [InsideNova]

New BBQ Restaurant Opens Patio — “Smokecraft Modern Barbecue is excited to debut its much-anticipated patio, now open daily for outdoor dining and drinking. Arlington residents and visitors can now enjoy Smokecraft’s award-winning barbecue outside on a socially distant patio, consisting of 38 seats.” [Press Release]

TTT in Clarendon to Host Virtual DJUpdated at 9:30 a.m. — “Beginning Friday, September 4… TTT (Tacos, Tortas & Tequila) known for its casual Mexican-influenced fare is adding an exciting bit of fun on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons with virtual DJs. Guests dining on the first floor and on the third floor TTT Rooftop, which seats 82 and offers wonderful views on the city, will enjoy watching and listening to live streaming DJ performances via large screen projection.” [Press Release]

Family Pushing for Arlington House Change — “Descendants of Charles Syphax have been courting lawmakers for the past few months to make the change, said Syphax family historian Steve Hammond, who lives in Sterling, Va. The family’s effort is motivated as much by a desire to accurately honor the full history of the property and the enslaved people who lived there as it is by any antipathy toward Lee.” [Washington Post]

Nearby: Back to School in Falls Church — Students have started the fall semester, virtually, in Falls Church. A TV news segment shows teachers conducting their virtual classes from their actual, physical classrooms. [NBC 4]

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Arlington County firefighters are battling a small fire in a garden apartment building in the Westover area.

The fire was reported in the basement of the Fisher House apartment building at 5705 Washington Blvd. Initial reports suggest the fire started in the laundry room and was extinguished by firefighters, but not before producing heavy smoke and prompting a second alarm response.

Firefighters are now working to remove smoke and to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished. Washington Blvd is currently blocked by the emergency response.

So far there is no report of injuries.

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Morning Notes

APS Working to Keep School Construction on Track — “Top Arlington school-system staff are recommending doing whatever it takes – including shuffling money away from other projects – to ensure construction of a new elementary school in Westover does not fall behind schedule.” [InsideNova]

Yard Waste Collection Suspended Again — After a one-week reprieve, Arlington has again suspended its residential yard waste collection service. There’s no word on when it will resume, though the county has opened two yard waste drop-off centers. [Arlington County]

Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony to Be Livestreamed — On Wednesday at 8 a.m. “the Arlington County Police Department and the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will host a virtual Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor and pay tribute to the memory of Arlington’s seven fallen law enforcement officers.” [Arlington County]

New Superintendent’s Introductory Remarks — “Among other things, Dr. Durán pledges to close ‘access, opportunity and achievement gaps;’ to ‘commit collectively to sustain and improve the level of academic excellence for students in APs
through an equity and inclusion lens;’ and to help students and families ‘through these troubling times times.'” [Blue Virginia]

Paper’s Prediction: Dems Win Special Election — “The field is set at three: Democrat Takis Karantonis, Republican Bob Cambridge and independent Susan Cunningham. The arrival of Cambridge is probably music to the ears of Democrats, as he will help split the anti-Democratic vote with the better-known and probably more viable Cunningham, allowing Karantonis to win and avoiding a repeat of a 2014 special election when John Vihstadt went mano-a-mano against Democrats and wrestled them into submission.” [Sun Gazette]

Amazon Running Arlington-Herndon Shuttle — “It’s too early to tell if Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) will launch a Seattle-style shuttle service for its HQ2 employees, but the company has connected its Herndon and Arlington offices via shuttle.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Participating in Virtual Tech Conference — “For the last several years, Northern Virginia has taken dozens of promising tech start-ups to the Collision conference, granting them access to programming, investors, mentors and networking opportunities. This year, the Collision organizers have moved everything online, so instead of traveling to the conference in Toronto this year, eighteen lucky start-ups from Northern Virginia will get an all-access pass to the Collision from Home tech conference.” [Press Release]

Nearby: Alleged W&OD Trail Creeper Arrested — “City of Falls Church Police arrested Lamar Dontae McCarthy, 23 years old of Stafford, VA, and charged him with assault. On Saturday, May 9, police reported to Grove Ave. and the W&OD Trail for a report of a suspect who had pursued a woman on the trail. The woman stated she saw a man in a red hooded sweatshirt suddenly stop his vehicle and sprint after her.” [City of Falls Church]

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For Lisa Ostroff, owner of Trade Roots, asking for help is a delicate thing.

While there are countless other residents and businesses in Arlington that need assistance, Ostroff is in the uncomfortable position of asking locals to consider helping tradespeople and artisans at far-flung parts of the world who lack the support of America’s admittedly porous safety net.

Ostroff’s store, Trade Roots, brings all sorts of fair trade international goods to Westover at 5852 Washington Blvd. Items range from stationery to jewelry to wine.

“It’s hard because right now people are thinking ‘I don’t need to support Peruvians, I need to support people in Manhattan,'” Ostroff said. “But when this is said and done, we need to think about the people in other countries, too.”

Ostroff said some larger companies canceled orders to foreign countries after the products had already been made, leaving goods and supplies normally welcome in the United States to pile up, disused, and the workers that crafted them left without any pay.

“That’s what companies do,” Ostroff said. “That’s not what happens with fair trade. In the whole supply chain, everybody looks out for the next guy. People I placed some orders with in January called and said ‘don’t worry, [the products] are being held here, but the artists are being paid.’ You take care of people because they take care of us.”

But Ostroff said she hasn’t been able to put in new orders

“I can’t really afford to be placing orders right now,” Ostroff said. “We’re busy selling what we have in stock. And some people I have ordered from, like those in Nepal, nothing is coming in or out because it’s landlocked.”

The store closed early in the pandemic, on March 8, but has since reopened for phone orders and Facetime shopping from 1-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. Ostroff said she was lucky that the store had a decent online presence before the pandemic; the website has since been expanded with options like ordering beer and wine online.

“Fortunately had the bones of a website in place,” Ostroff said. “We’ve been very busy adding, adding, adding to the website. A lot of people are using it. They’ve relaxed some of the rules so I’ve been selling wine to go, which I couldn’t do before.”

In the meantime, Ostroff said her store is getting through the pandemic partially by remembering what life is like for the workers they’re trying to buy from and support.

“There is a little bit of a safety net here, but in these other countries, there is no safety net at all,” Ostroff said. “They’re already living hand to mouth with no savings. It’s a lot harder. I put in a newsletter a video from Peru where they have to shelter in place and there’s a worker sheltering at their workshop with no water and no electricity to keep working.

“Our economy is in shambles but we will get back in a year or two,” she added. Workers in the developing world, however, “live like this all the time.”

Photo via Trade Roots/Facebook

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Farmers markets in Arlington closed briefly by the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to re-open this weekend, but with a catch: vendors can only offer food that’s been pre-ordered before the market.

The new rules are meant to bring local farmers markets in compliance with guidance from the state government. A similar policy was enacted for markets in Alexandria.

“To limit the exposure to COVID-19, vendors are not permitted to display food or on-site shopping,” Arlington County said in a press release. “This guidance enables markets to remain open giving Arlingtonians access to fresh, locally-grown food while promoting social distancing.”

While others will be opening later this spring, three Arlington farmers markets are currently in season and expected to reopen for order pickups:

Each of the markets will be limited to no more than ten customers at a time, and customers are being asked to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus. Food orders will be boxed and the press release said customers are asked to avoid touching or inspecting their orders on-site.

Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said that some of the vendors have options to place orders online, while others might have to be contacted directly by phone or email. While the process may be cumbersome for the first weekend, Kalish said that should be ironed out over the coming weeks.

The Columbia Pike Farmers Market announced today that it will be taking online orders for three vendors.

“To ensure we can continue to support our local farmers and provide the community with needed produce and goods while complying with state-wide guidance on distancing and gathering restrictions, we have temporarily moved our Farmers Market to the web,” said the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “Customers will now order from our vendors online and pick up their orders at the market on Sundays. We currently have 3 vendors prepared to take orders for pick-up THIS Sunday, March 29. Please note that orders MUST be placed in advance, unless otherwise noted. There will be no shopping at the market.”

The nearby Falls Church farmers market is also reopening this weekend with similar rules in place.

File photo

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Parents opposed to a proposed four-school swap, set for a School Board vote on Feb. 6, are ramping up pressure to scuttle the plan.

A new coalition calling itself “No School Moves” has gathered more than 1,700 signatures on a Change.org petition launched earlier this month, calling for the School Board to vote “no.”

The group opposes an Arlington Public Schools plan, endorsed by the interim superintendent, to move Key elementary students and staff to the Arlington Traditional School building, while moving Arlington Traditional students and staff to McKinley and McKinley students and staff to a new elementary school building in Westover. That would free up the Key school building near Courthouse, currently used by a Spanish immersion choice program, to become a neighborhood school as the elementary-aged population in that area continues to grow.

People who signed the petition, however, are not buying the APS rationale for the moves, which would reportedly result in more than 2,400 students moving to a new building.

“Moving schools is not creating more seats,” said one. “It’s a temporary bandaid and there is no data to support these moves.”

“These changes can have profound effects on students who get moved to new schools, and the current process is so flawed,” said another. “It could easily lead to even more rounds of redistricting in the near future.”

In addition to objections to the process, an alleged lack of supporting data, and inadequate communication from school staff, opponents say the moves would make diversity in the schools “more difficult to maintain.”

Per the petition:

The school move proposal exacerbates the county’s broader struggle with diversity. As in other communities, Arlington’s historic housing patterns have effectively segregated low-income and minority families, and its schools reflect those same patterns of segregation. Yet despite repeated requests from PTAs and parents across the county — and in the immediate aftermath of a recent settlement between Arlington Public Schools (APS) and the Justice Department over English language learners — APS staff has not performed any detailed analysis of how proposed school moves would affect the demographics of those school populations.

In a recent survey, more than 60% of Spanish-speaking families currently part of the Key Immersion school community have said they won’t be able to move with the program to its proposed new location. APS argues that Key Immersion would draw more native Spanish speakers if it were in a more central location — but their evidence for this is entirely anecdotal.

What’s more, moving the Arlington Traditional School and its VPI preschool program to the McKinley building would adversely affect low-income families who rely on public transit. Families trying to reach the school on a Metrobus could double their commute time. This would discourage enrollment for families without cars, negatively impacting the diversity of a school that has demonstrated results in closing the achievement gap for high-needs students.

Arlington Public Schools is planning to hold a public hearing on the plan on Thursday, Jan. 30, at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd) at 7 p.m., ahead of the scheduled Feb. 6 School Board vote.

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Firefighters battled a basement fire at a house in the Westover neighborhood over the weekend.

The fire broke out early Saturday morning on the 5900 block of Washington Blvd, a block from Westover’s main business district.

The fire was extinguished and no injuries were reported. County Fire Marshals are now investigating the cause.

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A taxi driver was stabbed by a man in Westover earlier this week, according to Arlington County Police, in a seemingly random attack.

The alleged stabbing happened around 2 a.m. Tuesday, on the 1600 block of McKinley Road. Police say the assailant — the passenger in a cab — stabbed the driver after he completed his trip.

The victim brought himself to the hospital with “minor injuries.” The suspect fled the scene and is currently being sought by police.

Police told ARLnow last night that no arrests have been made so far. The crime is not believed to be connected to Sunday’s stabbing in the Westover area, a spokeswoman said.

More from ACPD:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING (late), 2019-12100133, 1600 block of McKinley Road. At approximately 1:08 p.m. on December 10, police were dispatched to the late report of a stabbing. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 2:06 a.m., the victim was operating as a taxi driver, completed a trip and parked his vehicle to allow the passenger to exit. Upon doing so, the passenger produced a knife, reached into the front seat and struck the victim multiple times, causing lacerations. A brief struggle ensued before the suspect fled the scene on foot. The victim sustained minor injuries and later sought treatment at an area hospital and subsequently reported the incident to police. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’6″, 180-200 lbs., with curly black hair, wearing gray sweatshirt and khaki pants. The investigation is ongoing.

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Two restaurants in Westover Village were burglarized overnight.

A thief struck at Lost Dog Cafe and Grand Hunan Restaurant, both on the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, in the early morning hours, smashing glass and stealing items of value.

At Lost Dog Cafe, a safe was dragged through the restaurant and pushed through the smashed front door, ARLnow hears.

At Grand Hunan, the front glass door was also smashed and items on the front counter were found askew. A security camera appeared to be disconnected above the counter.

Arlington County Police are investigating both burglaries, the first of which was discovered around 2:30 a.m.

“At approximately 1:50 a.m., an unknown suspect forced entry to a business, causing damage, and stole an undisclosed amount of cash and items of value,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The suspect is described as a male, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and gloves. The investigation is ongoing.”

It has been a rough year for businesses in Westover, some of which were damaged by flash flooding this summer.

Jay Westcott contributed to this report.

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