Arlington, VA

The legacy of Stanley Westreich, the developer who built modern Rosslyn from the ground up, will always cast a large shadow in the neighborhood he helped establish, his son tells ARLnow.

Westreich died at the age of 84 last month at his home in San Diego. For decades, however, he lived in the D.C. area and had an outsized influence on the growth of Rosslyn.

His son, Anthony Westreich, remembers his father for being more than just a well-known developer.

“I think the adjectives that best describe my father are fair, honest, transparent, tough and kind,” Westreich told ARLnow in an email interview. “Everyone, whether it was contractors, brokers or lawyers, wanted to transact with my father. They always knew what they were getting from him.”

Beginning in the 1960s, his company Westfield Realty developed ten buildings in Rosslyn. Perhaps none were more iconic than the former USA Today/Gannett buildings at 1000 and 1100 Wilson Blvd, also known as the Rosslyn Twin Towers. When built in 1981, they were the tallest buildings in the D.C. metro area. Current occupants include WJLA-TV and Politico.

Part of what Westreich’s big bet on Rosslyn work was seeing an opportunity to the leverage its proximity to the District and its relative underdevelopment.

“He saw an opportunity to convert [an] excessive and unused parking structure into office space for government tenants,” Anthony writes. “He knew that unlike many of the great cities of the world, Washington, D.C. did not have development on both sides of its river.”

A native New Yorker, Westreich served in the Coast Guard and graduated from New York University law school. He moved to Rosslyn in 1959, said Anthony, with his family owning an interest in Rosslyn’s only federal housing project.

“In 1959, the only development in Rosslyn was that FHA project,” wrote Anthony. “Unfortunately, that investment was losing money as the project was ill-conceived.”

Westreich bought a big chunk of land and began to build office buildings, turning Rosslyn into a thriving commuter community.

“That vision [was] an immediate financial success for our family and provided my father with a long-term vision for Rosslyn,” wrote Anthony.

Those early but pivotal developments include 1400 Key Blvd — the parking garage of which was where Mark “Deep Throat” Felt met up with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to expose the Watergate scandal — as well as 1501 Wilson Blvd, 1515 Wilson Blvd, and 1815 N. Fort Myer Drive.

In 2005, Westreich sold his 2.5 million square foot Rosslyn portfolio to Beacon Capital Partners for nearly $1 billion. A year earlier, Anthony followed in his father’s footsteps when he established New York-based Monday Properties, which built a property portfolio that made it Rosslyn’s preeminent property owner.

The building on N. Fort Myer Drive was torn down more than a decade ago and the site is now home to 1812 N. Moore Street, Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters.

“Interestingly 1812 sits on the exact same site as the first building my father developed in 1961,” wrote Anthony, who himself made a big bet on Rosslyn by building 1812 N. Moore Street — then the tallest office building in the area — “on spec” without any signed tenants.

After years of vacancy, the bet finally paid off in 2017 with Nestlé’s announcement.

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Lorton-based and women-owned Rāko Coffee is opening in the Courthouse area later this spring or summer.

This is the coffee roaster’s first official bricks-and-mortar location, according to the Washington Business Journal, after focusing on wholesale roasting operations since opening in Lorton in 2019.

The plan, initially, was to open a retail location in 2020, but that was delayed to the pandemic and they shifted their business online.

The coffee roaster currently operates a pop-up during the day at plant-centric restaurant Oyster Oyster near the Mount Vernon neighborhood in D.C.

The new cafe is set to be located in the Courthouse neighborhood at 2016 Wilson Blvd, the former location of The Olive Oil Boom, according to a recently filed permit application. The shop is also looking to serve beer and wine as well, the application suggests.

Rāko’s Instagram account also recently touted an opening “in less than a couple of months” as well as recently becoming a member of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. ARLnow was unable to reach the owners via phone or email for additional information.

Rāko is owned by sisters Lisa and Melissa Gerben and specializes in sustainability sourced single origin coffee.

The name comes from a trip to Ethiopia to source coffee, when the sisters took notice of a mountain called “Rāko.” This translates in English to “challenge.”

Their Arlington cafe will be 1,360 square feet and feature “high-quality, unique coffee beverages” like baklava latte and lion’s mane mushroom chai iced tea, the Business Journal reported.

It will also have locally-sourced food and will serve wine, cocktails, and beer in the evening.

Rāko is reportedly looking to open other locations in the area in the coming year as well, potentially including a shop in Logan Circle in D.C. The company is also “actively looking” for space in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, Alexandria and Bethesda for more outposts, notes the Washington Business Journal.

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The recent spate of business burglaries in Arlington is continuing.

Early Saturday morning a group of three thieves broke into businesses in the Dominion Hills and Westover neighborhoods, stealing several cash registers and leaving behind piles of broken glass. At least five businesses were damaged by the burglars.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

BURGLARY, 2021-04170015/04170016, 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 1:23 a.m. on April 17, police were dispatched to the report of multiple audible security alarms. Upon arrival, it was determined that multiple businesses had their front doors damaged, with two of the businesses being burglarized and two of the businesses showing signs of attempted forced entry. A cash register with an undisclosed amount of cash was stolen from one business, while no other items were reported stolen. Officers established a perimeter and the area was checked with negative results. The investigation revealed that the three suspects, who were wearing dark colored clothing and face masks, had fled the scene in a dark colored vehicle prior to the arrival of police. The investigation is ongoing.

BURGLARY, 2021-04170017, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 1:33 a.m. on April 17, police were dispatched to the report of a glass break alarm. Upon arrival, it was determined that employees were inside the closed business when they heard glass break, followed by footsteps and unknown individuals talking. The investigation determined that three unknown suspects forced entry into the business through a window, stole two cash registers containing and undisclosed amount of cash and fled the scene on foot. Responding officers established a perimeter and the area was checked with negative results. No injuries were reported. There are no suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.

The western portion of Wilson Blvd in Dominion Hills and Bluemont has been the scene of at least a half dozen prior burglaries this year, including three on the same block as Saturday’s incident.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said detectives are investigating these and other prior business break-ins, in Arlington and around the region, as potentially related given the method of theft.

“The burglaries… are being investigated as part of the commercial burglary series,” Savage tells ARLnow. “Detectives continue to follow up on investigative leads in the case and are working collaboratively with our regional law enforcement partners to identify and apprehend those responsible.”

“Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects,” she added.

In February, ACPD announced that is was “investigating an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses.” At the time, there had been 21 reported business burglary incidents in Arlington since the start of the year. Since then that number has risen to 31, including 22 completed burglaries and 9 attempted burglaries, according to police.

The police department previously offered the following crime prevention tips for businesses.

  • “Don’t store money overnight in your business. If you must keep cash or other valuables overnight, store them in a safe anchored to the floor”
  • “Leave cash drawers open, indicating there’s nothing to steal”
  • “Post signs in your store window that cash and valuables are removed from the premises overnight”
  • “Ensure your property has adequate lighting, especially at points of entry”
  • “Consider installing security cameras with alarms to capture suspects on video and notify police immediately if unauthorized individuals gain entry to your business”
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For 64 years, Mario’s Pizza House on Wilson Blvd has served up slices and memories.

From late night pizza runs to Little League baseball, for many Arlingtonians Mario’s has remained one of the only constants in a county where change is the norm. And, according to its current owner Tuhin Ahmed, Mario’s Pizza is not going anywhere, despite some of the change happening around it.

“Mario’s Pizza is going to be here forever,” says Ahmed. “It’s an Arlington institution.”

Howard Levine and his wife, Norma opened Mario’s Pizza House in 1957.

Their son, Alan Levine, tells ARLnow that his dad was a criminal defense attorney but saw a need for a quick bite type of restaurant on Wilson Blvd, which was a very busy road at the time.

“At that time, you didn’t have [Interstate] 66,” says Levine. “So, the main thoroughfare in the D.C. was Wilson Boulevard.”

So, Levine took an old flower shop and converted it to a pizza shop, one that sold ten cent slices.

As to why his father named it Mario’s, Alan laughs.

“Because not many people would have gone to a place called ‘Levine’s Pizza House’ in the 50s.”

Instantly, Mario’s became a community gathering spot. But there was one group that Howard Levine refused to serve.

“The American Nazi Party,” says Alan, of the group led by George Lincoln Rockwell, notoriously had its headquarters nearby. “If they had a swastika, he wasn’t going to serve them.”

Unsurprisingly, the Nazis didn’t take too fondly to a Jewish business owner who refused to serve them but who served slices to the Black community. They protested the pizza shop, holding signs that said things like “Mario the Jew.” But Levine was not intimidated.

“My father was a big son of a bitch,” recalls Alan. “He knew how to handle himself.”

According to Alan, the protest ended when Howard doused the Nazis with a power washer.

Howard and Norma divorced in 1962, says Alan, and his father left the restaurant to his mother as part of the settlement.

“He ran away with the au pair girl,” says Alan, “He ended up crashing a boat in Antigua and staying there forever.” 

From that point on and for more than two decades, Norma Levine was the hand at the register exchanging pizza for dollars.

She always worked the register at lunch, Alan says, and that’s how she got to know everyone. When asked if his mother enjoyed the running Mario’s, Alan pauses.

“It supported the family,” he says. “She enjoyed that.”

Thanks to the Levines, Mario’s was a pillar in the community.

Countless Arlingtonians have memories of Mario’s, from sponsoring Little League teams to the donuts to a miniature golf course with a monkey that bit kids.

“My father [initially] purchased the entire block and there was a miniature golf course where the Highlander is now,” says Levine. “There was a macaw that only cussed and a monkey that [had] a hatred of little girls. [We] had to get rid of the monkey.”

Willie “Lefty” Lindsay started working the grill at Mario’s in 1965 and did so for the next five decades. He only stopped grilling up steak and cheese sandwiches (the most popular thing on the menu, he says) last year, when the pandemic hit.

He remembers Norma Levine as a good boss and someone who was great to the customers.

“She was such a fine person to work around, customers loved her,” 85-year-old Lindsay tells ARLnow. “If you did a good job, she’d reward you for it.”

He believes the key to Mario’s longevity is that the menu and the recipes have hardly changed since it first opened. The customers and the employees have not changed much, either.

Alongside Lindsay for most of those years was Joe Williams, who made the pizza.

Williams worked at Mario’s as well for more than five decades, often side-by-side Lindsay.

“We were like brothers,” says Lindsay. “We never had an argument.”

Williams died in October 2019.

“Joe was an amazing man. He worked seven days a week,” Levine says about Williams. “He never missed a day of work. Except for his wife’s funeral.”

In the mid-1980s, Norma Levine retired and left the restaurant to her kids. She died in 1990. Alan Levine ran day-to-day operations for the next several decades.

“A lot of famous people would come through [to get pizza],” says Levine. “Bill Clinton was a big fan.”

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With the Highlander Motor Inn in its final days, the 57-year-old motel was paid one last visit over the weekend by long-time fans.

About 100 members of the motorcycle club Boozefighters rolled up on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects to the place they’ve stayed and partied at every Memorial Day weekend since 1992 while participating in Rolling Thunder.

The Boozefighters were first founded in 1946 by World War II veterans.

“[The Highlander] let us get away with stuff that other hotels wouldn’t have,” says Jeff Thompson, president of the Falls Church chapter of the Boozefighters. “Wonderful memories. It was important for us to say goodbye.”

In honor of the Boozefighters’ long-time patronage of the Arlington motel, they will be getting the iconic neon sign that has welcomed passersby on Wilson Blvd. The sign will come down next week, owner Billy Bayne confirms, at which point the club will take it to their museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

For decades over Memorial Day weekend, Highlander Motor Inn was the site of hundreds of motorcycles and veterans from around the country, barbequing and reminiscing in the parking lot.

Bayne — who also owns the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club — says the group rented the motel every year and it was a “big party,” which the hotel was happy to host.

Rolling Thunder ended its annual D.C. rally in 2019, and this year is set to meet at a New Jersey 4-H fairground.

CVS was expected to take possession of the Highlander and begin demolition this month, but that has been delayed. According to Bayne, April 13 is now the new target date for this to happen.

Bayne’s family operated the motel since the early 1960s, before shuttering it earlier this year. Bayne still owns the land the motel sits on.

One of the Highlander’s last acts was as temporary COVID-related housing. In April 2020, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services rented out the entire motel to provide quarantine and isolation space for low-income individuals living in overcrowded or congregate settings.

Beyond keeping the sign, members of the Boozefighters were allowed to spray paint and ride their bikes inside of the motel, as well as take a few other mementos.

“Only because it’s being torn down,” Jackie Bayne, Billy Bayne’s sister, told ARLnow. She dubbed the raucous sendoff “The Highlander Swan Song.”

Thompson says said he kept a room key, a key chain, and the number off of the door of the room he’s stayed in for the last 20 years.

“I’m very sad to see it go,” he said. “Billy and Jackie were such gracious hosts. “We wouldn’t have been able to do this at any other hotel.”

 

 

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Photos courtesy of Boozefighters Falls Church chapter/Simon Vansteyn

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King of Koshary, La Union, Meridian Pint. These are just three of the local businesses burglarized among the 21 commercial burglaries investigated by Arlington County police so far this year.

ACPD confirmed today what was anecdotally evident: such burglaries have been on the rise.

From a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit is investigating an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses. Since the start of the year, detectives have investigated 21 reports of commercial burglaries in the County with similar methods of theft. Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects. Similar cases have been reported in neighboring jurisdictions and detectives are working collaboratively with our regional law enforcement partners to identify and apprehend those responsible.

During overnight hours, suspects force entry to businesses by smashing glass doors and windows. Once inside, the suspects are in search of cash and will remove registers and safes if they are not bolted down. The entire incident takes only minutes and the suspects flee in an awaiting vehicle.

There have been 21 reported incidents with 15 of those being completed burglaries and 6 attempted burglaries.

Many of the burglaries have been along Wilson Blvd or the Columbia Pike corridor and involve already-struggling restaurants.

Among recent reported burglaries, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that the following — each involving a group of five suspects — are being investigated “as a series.”

BURGLARY, 2021-02170037, 1000 block of S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 8:45 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 3:33 a.m. and 3:37 a.m. on February 17, five suspects attempted to forced entry to a business, causing damage. The suspects fled in a red vehicle. Nothing was reported missing from the business. […] The investigation is ongoing.

BURGLARY (series), 2021-02190017/02190021, 5000 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:55 a.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 2:22 a.m. on February 19, five suspects forced entry to two businesses, causing damage. The suspects stole three cash registers containing an undisclosed amount of cash from Business One, and attempted to steal cash registers from Business Two unsuccessfully, then fled in a vehicle. […] The suspect vehicle is described as a burgundy Lincoln MKZ sedan with Texas license plates. The investigation is ongoing.

Today’s police press release urged Arlington residents to report suspicious activity.

“The department’s efforts to prevent and solve crime are enhanced by the active involvement of residents,” police said. “Residents observing suspicious behavior in commercial areas, such as groups congregating outside closed businesses during overnight hours, should contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222. If you see a suspect entering a business, do not approach them and dial 9-1-1 immediately.”

ACPD also offered the following tips for safeguarding businesses.

  • Don’t store money overnight in your business. If you must keep cash or other valuables overnight, store them in a safe anchored to the floor
  • Leave cash drawers open, indicating there’s nothing to steal
  • Post signs in your store window that cash and valuables are removed from the premises overnight
  • Ensure your property has adequate lighting, especially at points of entry
  • Consider installing security cameras with alarms to capture suspects on video and notify police immediately if unauthorized individuals gain entry to your business

File photo courtesy Bozzelli’s

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Arlington County police are investigating a number of businesses break-ins along Wilson Blvd, west of Ballston.

Thieves broke into businesses in the Bluemont and Dominion Hills neighborhoods early Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The first series of burglaries happened either at or near the Dominion Hills Centre shopping plaza.

From a crime report:

BURGLARY (series), 2021-02160033/02160034, 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 4:12 a.m. on February 16, police were dispatched to the report of an alarm. Upon arrival, it was determined that the unknown suspect(s) attempted to force entry to a business unsuccessfully, causing damage. While investigating, police located a second business, which the suspect(s) forced entry to, causing damage. Nothing was reported stolen from either business. There is no suspect description(s). The investigation is ongoing.

A similar burglary on the same block earlier this month targeted local watering hole Meridian Pint.

On Wednesday morning, meanwhile, thieves broke into a small strip of businesses in the Bluemont neighborhood, along the 5500 block of Wilson Blvd.

Readers tell us that a restaurant, a salon and a barbershop were among the businesses burglarized.

“Yen Beauty/Don Barber and King of Koshary appeared to have had their glass front doors smashed in,” one reader told ARLnow yesterday. The Arlington County Police Department typically does not reveal the exact addresses or names of businesses that were the victims of crimes.

More from ACPD:

BURGLARY (Series), 2021-02170023/0114/0115, 5500 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 5:34 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that unknown suspects forced entry into three businesses, causing damage. Two cash registers, electronics and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen. The investigating is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps

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The 57-year-old Highlander Motor Inn is now closed and will be torn down to make room for a CVS store, owner Billy Bayne tells ARLnow.

The two-story motel at 3336 Wilson Blvd, near Clarendon, has been closed since December. Bayne expects demolition to begin on the building in March and the CVS to open in the fall.

This wasn’t unexpected. Plans have been in place since at least 2016 and permit applications were filed in December 2019.

Nonetheless, it has Bayne looking back fondly on the motel that his family has owned since the early 1960s.

“We have a lifetime of memories there,” says Bayne. He remembers spending time with his father at the motel, shooting baskets in the back, and going to Mario’s Pizza next door. He also remembers when local high schoolers had keg parties in the modestly-appointed rooms.

However, he says the motel shutting down and being demolished is ultimately a good thing.

It’s been increasingly hard to make money in the lodging business over the last two decades, Bayne notes, particularly with the rise of discounted rate websites and Airbnb. Plus, given Arlington business and hotel taxes, small hotels have to charge higher rates to stay afloat, says Bayne.

“[Customers] have a choice to stay at the Highlander or a Marriott for a hundred dollars,” says Bayne. “And I can’t compete against that anymore.”

Bayne says he’s leasing the land to CVS, which will continue to provide a revenue stream for him and his children. Bayne declined to provide monetary specifics about the deal, but did say it’s long-term.

In April, Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services rented out the Highlander as temporary COVID-related housing, providing a financial lifeline during an otherwise rough time for the hotel business.

The motel provided “quarantine/isolation space for low-income individuals who were living in overcrowded or congregate settings, and unable to effectively quarantine or isolate,” a department spokesperson told ARLnow this past summer.

Bayne is effusive in his praise of county officials for working with him, and the fact that they essentially kept the hotel going for another six months. While he charged Arlington a discounted rate, it helped pay the bills.

“[County] workers were all very professional and nice. The county was super,” he says.

The praise is despite years of legal wrangling with Arlington over the development of the property. The legal battles — which Bayne ultimately won after the Virginia Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the county — cost him at least $250,000, he says.

But with development finally happening, Bayne’s animosity towards local officials seems to be waning.

“Obviously, I had my differences with them but the county was very good to us,” he says.

Bayne also owns Crystal City Sports Pub and the Crystal City Restaurant gentlemen’s club, which he briefly considered renaming “National Landing Strip” after the relatively new collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard.

As of the moment, he says changing the business’s name is not on his priority list, while adding that “if Bezos wanted me to do it, I would do it.”

The local restaurateur is thinking about retirement but says the pandemic set him back “a few years.” He’s had to dig into savings and sell stocks to weather the storm and will reevaluate his options once his daughter gets through school.

Meanwhile, he’s remembering and expressing gratitude to those that have kept the motel going through the decades. This includes Nettie Harris, head of housekeeping for more than 30 years.

“She was the Highlander Motor Inn, the epitome of the place,” Bayne says. “When I think of [the motel], I think of my father and her. She’s family.”

When asked if he plans to watch the demolition of his family’s long-time business, he was noncommittal. But he will certainly share one last memory in front of the building before it comes down, commemorating the end of an era.

“I’m going to take pictures of it before it happens,” Bayne says. “And there will be one final picture before it gets torn down with me, my wife, and my kids.”

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YogaWorks in Arlington has permanently closed due to the pandemic, but the company is still offering online classes and workshops.

The Los Angeles-based yoga company expanded in 2017, and took over the studio at 3528 Wilson Blvd from local company Tranquil Space. YogaWorks filed for bankruptcy last month, and announced it would close all of its studios around the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for our industry and business, including mandatory studio closures and social distancing-imposed attendance restrictions even where studios have been permitted to reopen,” YogaWorks CEO Brian Cooper said in a statement. “After considering a number of alternatives to overcome the financial challenge of the studio closures, we determined that implementing an orderly restructuring process is in the best interest of all of our key stakeholders, most notably our dedicated teachers and passionate students.”

Cooper said that the company has adapted to the pandemic by expanding its digital platform, with more than 40 live streaming yoga classes per day and upward of 1,000 hours of pre-recorded classes and yoga workshops.

“We look forward to continuing to serve our loyal students and positioning YogaWorks for long-term success,” Cooper said. “We will continue to make decisions that provide the most benefit to our team, students, and partners, and we are confident that we will emerge from this process a stronger organization.”

The former YogaWorks space — a one-story building next to the Arlington Arts Center in the Virginia Square area — is now listed for lease.

File photo

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Arlington Pharmacy, at 5513 Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood, will close permanently later this month, owner Henry Herring tells ARLnow.

The drug store’s last day in business is set for Wednesday, September 23.

Herring said he bought the pharmacy last year from founder Won Lee, who opened it in 2001. The pharmacy was struggling when he bought it, according to Herring, and a recovery didn’t work out the way he had hoped.

All existing prescriptions will be moved to another pharmacy, likely the one inside the nearby Bluemont Safeway on Wilson Blvd. Customers can also call to move their prescriptions to the pharmacy of their choice.

Herring also owns Medical Center Speciality Pharmacy, a compounding pharmacy in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Image via Google Maps

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Update on 8/18/20 — The &pizza in Ballston is now open, but will be closed again next Monday. Darien Bates, head of technology at &pizza, explained that the location had been closed Monday and would be closed again next Monday to make changes to accommodate the store’s increased takeout demand.

Earlier: The &pizza at 3924 Wilson Blvd has been closed for more than a week, with company representatives saying the closure is temporary.

“[The Ballston location] is temporarily shut down due to operational changes,” an &pizza representative told ARLnow.

The fast-casual pizzeria opened near the intersection with N. Quincy Street in late 2017. The &pizza rep said there is no additional information on when the regional pizza chain will reopen the Ballston outpost.

The pandemic has caused financial pain for many local restaurants, including those that serve lunchtime office crowds like &pizza. A number of restaurants and local businesses in Arlington have closed permanently since the epidemic started in March.

Though an &pizza rep said the Ballston location was still closed today, a couple of readers tell us they dined there over the weekend.

https://twitter.com/andpizza/status/1293333732951236614

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