Arlington, VA

(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) The reconfiguration of Clarendon’s worst intersection is one step closer to finishing as crews begin paving.

Working began repaving the roads that together form the notoriously dangerous “Clarendon Circle” — a.k.a. the intersection of Wilson, Clarendon, and Washington Blvds — this past weekend.

The paving work will continue for the rest of this week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is expected to close some traffic lanes and cause temporary detours, the county’s Department of Environmental Services warns on its webpage for the project.

“Increased traffic congestion is expected, and drivers are encouraged to seek alternate routes and avoid Clarendon Circle during this work if possible,” DES said on its website.

On Monday, for instance, through traffic on Wilson Blvd was blocked and redirected to Washington Blvd. On Tuesday, steam and a burning rubber smell clouded the intersection as crews directed traffic around a cluster of paving equipment.

Work on the project is expected to wrap up by Veterans Day, this coming Monday.

The county has long aimed to redesign the intersection to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists and less confusing for motorists, with a goal of reducing crashes. The project design selected will realign Wilson and Washington Blvd, shorten crosswalks, and widen sidewalks.

Construction kicked off last year after the Arlington County Board awarded a $2.5 million contract to Ardent Construction Company.

Since then, the county has made several changes to the tricky nexus of roads, including cutting off N. Irving Street and banning left turns onto Wilson from Washington — though many drivers at least initially ignored the ban.

Image 1-5 via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

School Shuffle Blowback Starts — “Alicia Rich, president of Key’s PTA, said she has been fielding texts and messages over WhatsApp from parents and staff members worried about the prospect of moving. ‘This issue is so huge for us,’ Rich said.
School system officials said they ‘urgently need’ the Key building as a neighborhood school because of the lack of space for students.” [Washington Post]

Arlington Office Market Improving — Arlington County landing Amazon HQ2, a selection announced one year ago this month, has helped move its office market in the right direction after years of struggles. The office vacancy rate in National Landing, the newly branded area comprising the Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods, dropped from 19.6% in Q3 2018 to 16% as of Sept. 30, the lowest level since 2012, according to JLL.” [Bisnow]

Chamber Supports Keeping Dillon Rule — “Facing a possible Democratic majority in the General Assembly, @ArlVAChamber is standing firm in its support of the Dillon Rule. Why? A Dem majority could allow localities like Arlington to raise the minimum wage.” [Twitter, InsideNova]

Storms Don’t Deter Trick or Treaters — From a family that tracks the number of trick or treaters visiting their Arlington home: “Despite threatening weather and a tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service… 2019 was our second best year ever with 161 visitors, 13 goblins behind the all-time high of 174 visitors in 2016.” [Facebook]

ACPD Helps With Snakes, Too — “Sgt. Morrison proves he’s a jack of all trades! Yesterday he responded to a citizen assist call and helped safely relocate this snake.” [Twitter]

Opera Fans Plan Outreach Effort — “Reports of the demise of a certain musical genre are not just premature. They are just plain wrong, supporters say. ‘Clearly, opera is not a dying art – the music is still transcendent,’ said Paul Dolinsky, a board member of Opera Nova, which on Oct. 27 held its annual fund-raising brunch at Washington Golf & Country Club.” [InsideNova]

Local Teen Is Runner Up in Entrepreneurship Competition — “Ela Gokcigdem has good news to share about her ePearl noise-cancelling wireless earbuds. They were a big hit in the Big Apple… The 17-year-old senior at Wakefield High School in Arlington participated in the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. More than two dozen competitors from around the country pitched their products to a panel of judges.” [WJLA]

Nearby: Road Closure Planned in Seven Corners — “The Wilson Boulevard (Route 613) bridge over Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) will be closed from 9 p.m. Monday night, Nov. 4 to 5 a.m. Tuesday morning, Nov. 5 for bridge deck work, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation. Eastbound Wilson Boulevard traffic will be detoured via Route 7, Patrick Henry Drive, Route 50 and the westbound Route 50 service road back to Wilson Boulevard.” [VDOT]

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A new Japanese restaurant is coming to Rosslyn in conjunction with the upcoming Gong Cha Tea Shop.

Permits have been filed for Toryumon Japanese House at 1650 Wilson Blvd, across from the new Arlington Public Schools facility The Heights.

The Japanese restaurant already has a location in D.C. at 1901 Pennsylvania Avenue. Its menu features a wide variety of traditional and speciality sushi rolls, along with ramen and hibachi.

Additional permits at the same address have been filed for national bubble tea chain Gong Cha Tea Shop.

A spokesman from Gong Cha confirmed the location with ARLnow and said it would open by December, though no construction activity was evident as of this morning.

Toryumon Japanese House could not be reached for comment.

The ground floor of 1650 Wilson Blvd was formerly home to Ray’s Hell Burger.

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(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) Three out of four lanes of Wilson Blvd in Ballston were blocked by utility work Monday morning.

The work, at the intersection of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, near the mall, was to replace a blown electrical transformer in a utility vault that’s in the middle of the westbound lanes of Wilson. Crews from Dominion Energy were on scene, along with a large, mobile crane.

We’re told the transformer went out Sunday, knocking out power to an adjacent apartment building.

All westbound lanes of Wilson Blvd were blocked approaching Ballston Quarter mall, while only one eastbound lane was closed. The lane closures caused minor backups during this morning’s rush hour.

Residents in the area have been complaining for years about excessive noise caused by vehicles — particularly trucks — driving over the utility vaults.

“The plates have been there for years, but starting in October 2018, they began making absurdly loud noises whenever cars/buses/trucks drive over them,” one tipster said in July. “Dozens of complaints have been filed on the county’s ‘reporting tool’ website… The result of the noise is that local residents at Ava Ballston Square, Origin Ballston, and other apartments are disturbed through the day and awakened at night.”

Today’s work is not expected to alleviate the noise issue. A Dominion spokeswoman noted that the vault itself is maintained by the owner of the nearby building, not the utility company.

“The grates are not ours and the work has nothing to do with replacing them,” a Dominion spokeswoman told ARLnow. “The grates top our underground vaults containing our transformers that serve the buildings along the street… Normally, you will see our transformers sitting at ground level or up high on a utility pole. The developer wanted them underground.”

As of 1:30 p.m., all lanes had reportedly reopened.

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Completion of the Ballston Quarter pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd could be delayed by another three months.

The Arlington County Board is set to discuss extending the completion deadline of the under-construction bridge from September 1 to December 1 at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday). The delay is at the request of the mall’s owner, which is building the bridge as a condition of Ballston Quarter’s recent renovations.

The company cited “difficulties associated with the complexity, constructibility issues of the design, field modifications, and the current status of construction” as reasons for the extension, according to as staff report to the Board.

This will be the second time the bridge project has been delayed. Originally, the walkway was scheduled to open last fall so it would be ready for the first shops to open at Ballston Quarter. Then the deadline was pushed to September of this year.

A spokeswoman for mall operator Brookfield Properties told ARLnow they are “on track for a November opening” for the bridge, pointing interested locals to a blog with periodic bridge construction updates.

It’s been more than two years since the original Wilson Blvd bridge was torn down. Once the new walkway is completed, it will link the mall to the Ballston Metro station.

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A new bubble tea joint is coming to Rosslyn.

Permits have been filed for a Gong Cha Tea Shop at 1650 Wilson Blvd, across from the new Arlington Public Schools facility The Heights.

There is a Gong Cha international franchise with locations throughout D.C. and Maryland with a Fairfax location in Annandale (4230 Annandale Road) that opened earlier this year.

The chain offers bubble tea — a tea-based drink with pearls of tapioca balls — at a variety of sweetnesses. It also offers egg waffle dishes with ice cream.

There was no evidence of construction activity at 1650 Wilson Blvd and Gong Cha could not be reached to learn when the shop will be opening.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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L.A.-based gym Barry’s Bootcamp — famed for its difficulty — is coming to Clarendon.

Construction permits were filed earlier this year for a 5,695 square foot space at 2825 Wilson Blvd in Clarendon, next to the Chase Bank.

The international gym franchise has one location in D.C., in Dupont Circle, and staff there said the Clarendon location is expected to open by the end of the year — most likely in December.

The layout of the new gym will be similar to the D.C. location, we’re told. There’s no word yet on promotions or other pre-opening deals, the company usually offers them to first-time members.

There’s no shortage of new gyms coming to Arlington, but the gym is opening near where Washington Sports Club closed in June.

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If you cruise Rosslyn streets late at night, you might want to avoid Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn over the next month.

From Sundays through Thursdays between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m., Wilson Blvd is scheduled to be closed between N. Oak and N. Quinn streets.

The closures are expected to start Sunday, Aug. 18, and continue through the end of September.

The street will be closed to allow Dominion workers to upgrade power service to handle Arlington Public Schools’ new Heights Building and the redevelopment of 1555 Wilson Blvd as luxury condos and retail, according to a press release.

Cars and buses are expected to be detoured north to Key Blvd during the closures, though the sidewalk on the south side of the street will remain open for bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

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Mediterranean restaurant House of Mandi may be gone from 5515 Wilson Blvd, but mandi devotees won’t have to go far to find the eponymous dish.

King of Koshary — a new Egyptian restaurant that opened a month ago in the former House of Mandi location — includes Mediterranean dishes like mandi on its menu.

“We’re an Egyptian restaurant, but we knew a lot of people really liked mandi, so we incorporated it into our menu,” said Ayob Mentry, owner of King of Koshary.

Like House of Mandi, King of Koshary features a variety of dishes from Mentry’s home, but centers around one. In this case it’s koshari: a vegan rice, macaroni and lentils dish topped with chickpeas, tomato sauce and fried onions. Koshari is a popular fixture of the roadside street-food scene in Egypt.

“King of Koshary isn’t a name, it is a title,” the restaurant’s Facebook page boasted in a post.

Mentry said the $8.99 meal is the restaurant’s signature dish. Other entrees include a variety of kabobs, oxtail, and seafood prepared in traditional Egyptian styles.

The restaurant includes dining-in or takeout options. On Sundays from 8-10 p.m., it also has an open seafood buffet.

The restaurant is currently hiring, as much of the work is currently done by Mentry running back and forth from greeting visitors to preparing the food.

King of Koshary is Mentry’s first restaurant and is a love letter to Egypt, both in modern food and ancient-style decorations. King Tutankhamun features prominently in the artwork.

“It feels great [to be open],” said Mentry. “It’s a challenge, but not taking that risk would have felt like a bigger risk.”

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Takeshi Sushi and Ramen in Courthouse has only been in its “soft opening” phase for a week, but at lunch today (Thursday) it was nearly full with locals checking out Arlington’s newest Japanese restaurant.

The small but sunny eatery at 2424 Wilson Blvd is sandwiched next to Delhi Dhaba Indian Restaurant and underneath Arlington Rooftop Bar & Grill. It is open daily from 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

The restaurant offers a range of sushi platters, ramen soups, and rice books for between $11-$15 (one eel on rice dish, Unaju, being the outlier at $18). Vegetarian and vegan options — like a soft tofu ramen and a mango/avocado-based fruit “sushi” — are also available.

Owner and chef Wu Lin said there are a few more dishes on the way when the restaurant has its full grand opening sometime next month.

Lin said he trained at the Tokyo Sushi Academy and showed top-ranked certificates from the school.

While the restaurant is still using napkins from Papa John’s next door and has a rather sparse, hole-in-the-wall interior, the staff showed careful precision as they assembled meals. One chef slicing lemons for a boxed meal discarded two pieces after he decided they were sliced slightly too thin.

“This area is new for us, but we’re confident,” said one of the staff.

Lin said that while the restaurant offers sushi and ramen, the ramen has by far been the more popular choice so far.

A second location for the restaurant in the Fairfax Circle Shopping Center is also now open, according to Lin.

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) A reported wrong-way crash prompted the closure of Wilson Blvd at N. Rhodes Street, between Rosslyn and Courthouse.

A witness told ARLnow the driver of a blue SUV was driving in reverse down the street and struck several parked vehicles. A Metrobus was also struck.

Northbound N. Rhodes Street was also closed at Clarendon Blvd shortly after the crash. Rhodes and one lane of Wilson have since reopened as of 2:30 p.m.

Police placed the driver of the SUV in handcuffs after conducting a breathalyzer test. Open cans of beer could be seen inside the vehicle following the crash.

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