Arlington, VA

After months of public review, a proposal for two mixed-use towers in Crystal City from JBG Smith is slated for County Board approval this Saturday.

The 2.4-acre site at 2001 S. Clark Street is located at the intersection of Richmond Highway and 20th Street S., just north of the Crystal Plaza Apartments. As part of the project, initially filed in 2019, the Bethesda-based developer proposes shifting S. Clark Street to the east to create a new S. Clark-Bell Street.

JBG Smith has made some changes in response to criticism from members of the Crystal City Civic Association, as well as a few transportation and pedestrian commission members.

In January, some criticized the width between the two buildings, separated by the new S. Clark-Bell Street, for being narrower than the width called for in the Crystal City Sector Plan. Residents also said a proposed — mostly cement — pedestrian plaza should include more “trees, gardens and benches,” and worried that a proposed underground garage would have interfered with a network of tunnels known as the “Underground.”

Some plans have changed since then.

The pedestrian plaza “took a great step in the right direction to become something much more green, much more biophilic,” said principal planner Adam Watson during a Planning Commission meeting earlier this month.

As for the “Underground,” JBG Smith is now proposing a “fully enclosed, fully undergrounded, climate-controlled connection” from 12th Street S. to 23rd Street S., Watson said. A previous iteration had the tunnel open up when it connected with the garage.

The final proposals for the above-ground plaza and underground tunnel “evolved over the course of the public community engagement process,” Watson said.

The space between the two buildings, separated by the new S. Clark-Bell Street, still falls a few feet short of the Crystal City Sector Plan but the county is giving this deviation a pass.

“Staff finds the proposed street segment will provide sufficient functionality to support all modes of transportation,” according to the county.

JBG Smith is proposing a space of 76.5 feet between the two buildings, compared to the sector plan’s recommendation of 80 feet. Although 3.5 feet narrower, the street will accommodate two travel lanes southbound, one travel lane northbound, and a buffered bicycle lane in each direction.

S. Clark Street would shift east and — south of the buildings — tie into the existing S. Clark Street, according to the county report.

“The northern end will align with S. Bell Street, north of 20th Street S. and create a new four-way signal-controlled intersection and remove the existing intersection with 20th Street S.,” the report said.

The density of the towers has also decreased slightly. While they are the same height, both have less ground-floor retail space and fewer residential units.

The West tower (2000 S. Bell Street) now has the following specifications:

  • 367,040 sq. ft.
  • 338 units
  • 12,244 square feet of commercial or retail space
  • 250 feet tall

The East tower (2001 S. Bell Street) now has the following specifications:

  • 334,061 sq. ft.
  • 420 units
  • 10,006 square feet of commercial or retail space
  • 200 feet tall

There will be 247 parking spaces for residents and 10 visitor spaces, along with 45 spaces for retail users. Additional parking will be available in existing garages.

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(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) A total of 75 new coronavirus cases have been reported in Arlington over the past week, after four straight days of single-digit case counts.

That’s the lowest trailing seven-day case total since July 26, 2020, and the first four-day streak of single-digit cases since late June 2020. It comes as new COVID-19 cases are declining in 37 states, including Virginia, while no states are seeing rising cases.

“America’s battle against the coronavirus is going great,” Axios reported today. “The U.S. is finally winning its battle against COVID-19 thanks almost exclusively to one weapon: the vaccines.”

In Arlington, nearly 200,000 vaccine doses have been administered and 86,534 people are now fully vaccinated, according to the latest Virginia Dept. of Health data.

About 52% of the overall county population has received at least one dose. Just over 2,000 doses are being administered each day, on average, though that figure has fallen from a peak of more than 3,500 daily doses in late April.

Starting Saturday, the county will offer free vaccinations to children ages 12-15, who are newly eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

“This is a critical milestone in our pandemic response. We encourage all parents to get their children vaccinated when they become eligible,” Arlington Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese said in a press release Wednesday. “The vaccine is the best form of protection against COVID-19. The more people protected, the better it is for ourselves and for our community.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, is announcing new recommendations this afternoon, advising that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks or physically distance indoors or outdoors, in most circumstances.

Despite the good news, incidents of serious illness from Covid infections have not let up. Seven Covid-related hospitalizations have been reported in Arlington over the past week, including two new hospitalizations today.

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A 40-year-old man has been arrested in connection to an incident in which a Wakefield High School student allegedly made threats of violence.

As first reported by ARLnow, Wakefield was placed in “secure the school mode” late Tuesday morning after a student — who was reportedly wearing a bulletproof vest — made threats during an altercation that happened off school property, according to Arlington County police. Officers swarmed the area around the school, located the student and detained him.

This morning ACPD announced charges against a man they say was driving the car the student was riding in just before he was detained. Michael Davis, 40, is facing weapons charges after a gun was found in the car, police say.

Davis, an Arlington resident, previously pleaded guilty to drug and other charges nearly two decades ago. He is also facing trial this summer on drug and weapons charges after being arrested last year, according to court records. He’s due in court on the new charges on July 1.

More from an ACPD press release, below.

An Arlington man is facing charges of weapons violations following an investigation into reported threats near Wakefield High School. Michael Davis, 40, is charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon and Convicted Felon in Possession of a Firearm. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility without bond.

Just prior to 11:45 a.m. on May 11, the School Resource Officer (SRO) Supervisor received a call from a staff member at Wakefield High School regarding a student who had been involved in a physical altercation off school property with several other individuals. The student was allegedly wearing what was described as a bulletproof vest and, upon leaving the scene, made a statement to bystanders implying threats of violence.

The student [returned] to the area and was reportedly observed traveling in a vehicle near the school. The SRO Supervisor coordinated a police response and officers located the student outside of the parked vehicle in the area of S. Frederick Street and S. George Mason Drive. The student and the two occupants of the vehicle were detained without incident. In plain view inside the vehicle, officers observed a ballistic vest carrier. During a search of the vehicle, a firearm was recovered from under the driver’s seat. The driver was arrested and charged.

For the safety of students and staff, Wakefield High School was placed on “secure the building status” while police investigated the circumstances of this incident.

This remains an active investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Lt. E. Pilco of the School Resource Officers Unit at [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington residents woke up this morning to another day of gasoline shortages and lines at gas stations.

While the Colonial Pipeline has been restarted after last week’s cyberattack, it could take days for gasoline supplies along the East Coast and in the Southeast to return to normal, the pipeline company says. In the meantime, trying to fill up in Arlington requires patience.

Last night most if not all Arlington gas stations were out of gas, according to GasBuddy. Even the military gas station at Fort Myer was running low or out. At one BP station that still had gas yesterday evening, Arlington County deployed mobile signboard crews to close a lane of traffic along Lee Highway due to the long line.

Across Virginia this morning, GasBuddy reported that 55% of stations were without gas. The Commonwealth is still in a state of emergency as a result of the pipeline disruption.

In a quick survey of some parts of Arlington this morning, ARLnow saw some stations that were out of gas, while others were back in operation — with lines of drivers hoping to fill their tank.

Among the stations still awaiting a refill this morning was the Shell station near the corner of N. Glebe Road and Lee Highway. While the Exxon station across the street had gas — and a long line — the Shell station had handwritten “out of gas” signs on the pumps. One thing it did have: a CNN crew broadcasting reports for TV stations across the country.

As if the shortages weren’t bad enough, a car caught fire at one local gas station this morning. Initial reports suggest that a Volvo caught fire at the Liberty gas station at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive shortly before 10:30 a.m. Damage to the building was reported, but there were no reports of injuries. Police helped to direct traffic while Arlington County firefighters extinguished the flames.

Colonial Pipeline, meanwhile, says it should be back supplying fuels across its system by midday today, raising hopes of a relatively swift return to normal at the pumps.

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Morning Notes

Free Vax Shots for Kids Ages 12-15 — “Arlington County will begin to administer free COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 12-15 years of age who live or are schooled in Arlington beginning Saturday, May 15. This follows the expansion of Pfizer’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to children 12 and over… Approximately 8,000 children aged 12-15 live in Arlington. Arlington will offer Saturday through Monday clinics over the next two weekends for children 12-17 years of age to help meet anticipated demand for the vaccine.” [Arlington County]

Blowback Over Summer School Limits — “Arlington school leaders are getting abuse from both ends when it comes to criticism of newly announced summer-school restrictions. A group that has pressed Arlington schools leaders for a faster reopening of classes says new limitations show a continued lack of leadership, while at the same time the Arlington Education Association is blasting school leaders for throwing teachers under the bus on the issue.” [Sun Gazette, NBC 4]

Neighborhood ‘Toolkits’ on Race — “Arlington County today released a set of new tools to help advance racial equity efforts in Arlington. The collection of neighborhood toolkits and data dashboards are products of the County’s Realizing Arlington’s Commitment to Equity (RACE) program… The Toolkits for Conversations on Race & Equity are self-guided programs that can be used to spark conversations with family, friends, and neighbors.” [Arlington County]

Lubber Run Performances Return — “After being closed for the entirety of the summer 2020 season due to the pandemic, the Arlington County government’s Lubber Run Amphitheatre will host free programming in July and August. Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 11 a.m. The season opens with blues singer-songwriter Chris Pierce performing on Friday, July 9.” [Sun Gazette]

Beyer Suicide Bill Passes — “You’ve heard of 911 for emergencies and 411 for information. Now the House of Representatives is debating a bill that could educate people about a new number for the National Suicide Hotline, 988. Colleen Creighton at the American Association of Suicidology says a bill introduced by Congressman Don Beyer will help spread the word about the new hotline.” [WVTF, Twitter]

Nearby: New Owner for McLean Shopping Center — “McLean’s Chesterbrook Shopping Center has changed hands for the first time since the early 1980s… ‘Chesterbrook Center is well positioned for significant growth and perfectly aligns with our Northern Virginia strategy,’ Barry Carty, Federal Realty’s senior vice president of East Coast acquisitions, said.” [Tysons Reporter]

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Anthony Fusarelli, Jr., Arlington County’s new planning director, has watched the county transform over 15 years from within the Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development.

When he arrived in Arlington, the Department of Defense was preparing to leave a gaping hole in Crystal City and Pentagon City that Arlington would, in effect, fill a decade later with Amazon’s HQ2.

Elsewhere, he watched as housing market forces and county regulations together drove the redevelopment of single-family homes for contemporary tastes at higher price points.

And in some corridors, he saw the county realize a decades-old vision for transit-oriented development, while others retained their suburban, auto-focused flavor.

Fusarelli will assume his role in early June but he is already imagining the next 40 years of development in Arlington County. Future planning will have to accommodate Arlington’s increasing population and flourishing tech industry, fueled by the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, as well as the changing nature of work.

All of those things are moving targets, and to meet them, the plans that Arlington uses to guide development will need to allow for a variety of uses to meet the changing needs of the community, he said. That is a lesson he learned from the pandemic.

“I’m looking forward to working with our team to think more about what we can do to better absorb future disruptions and shockwaves as a complete community,” he tells ARLnow.

What that looks like, he said, “is the million-dollar question.”

Practically speaking, he said construction projects need to be adaptable by design: Parking garages that can turn into housing, or apartment buildings with co-working spaces for tenants working from home.

“We have to recognize that our planning work and decisions about buildings inform places that are going to be here for decades,” he said. “The more they can be flexible and adapt with changing times, the better off Arlington will be.”

In many ways, he said, “the possibilities are endless,” but they will involve rewriting regulations and updating county plans guiding development.

Present efforts to refresh these planning documents are focused on Clarendon, Pentagon City and along Lee Highway. Later this year, his department is set to deliver an update to the western end of the Clarendon Sector Plan.

But the Pentagon City and Lee Highway updates will be more comprehensive, he said.

Forty-five years after the Pentagon City Phased Development Site Plan was approved, most of the development it envisioned has been exhausted, he said. The biggest contributor was the 2019 approval of the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2, Met Park.

The second phase — the iconic glassy double helix that’s currently under review — will nearly complete the development called for in the 1970s, he said.

Now, the county is stepping back to imagine a more flexible plan to guide Pentagon City’s future growth, he said. And next door in Crystal City, Amazon plays an equally vital role.

“In many ways, Amazon’s arrival can really serve as a catalyst for a lot of the envisioned development that the county had imagined through the Crystal City Sector Plan,” said Fusarelli, who spearheaded the creation of the 2010 plan.

Meanwhile, future planning for Lee Highway benefits from the work to redevelop Columbia Pike from an auto-oriented shopping center into a more urban, walkable corridor.

“We still have work ahead of us,” he said.

And like Columbia Pike, the county will have to pay attention to how future development “can effectively and harmoniously transition down to low-density residential neighborhoods,” he said.

The county also has a lot of work to do to ensure a diverse range of people can live in Arlington’s more residential neighborhoods. That work will likely require changes to zoning ordinances while keeping racial equity and inclusion top of mind, he said.

“Arlington is challenged by high land values,” he said. “We need to look at other tools, such as zoning regulations, to see if they need adjustments to help us get on track.”

Courtesy photo

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Amazon is in the process of hiring for nearly 2,000 open positions in Arlington, while it also reveals new renderings of the planned second phase of its HQ2 in Pentagon City.

Additional renderings of HQ2 Phase 2 were released by the company this morning, showing a conceptual view of “The Forest” plaza from S. Elm Street — including the base of the lush, futuristic “Helix” tower — as well as a view of the S. Fern Street Plaza that will host community events and a number of retail businesses.

The renderings “illustrate a nature-filled, pedestrian-friendly environment for all to enjoy and highlight Amazon’s continued commitment to building a neighborhood rather than a closed-off campus,” a PR rep for the company said. In addition to areas for events, Phase 2 will feature 115,000 square feet of retail and retail equivalent space across its four buildings.

The new views come as Amazon and its architecture firm prepare to present its HQ2 Phase 2 plans before Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee tonight.

The second phase of the project will be built on the mostly vacant PenPlace site across from its Phase 1 construction site, a block from the Pentagon reservation and the Pentagon City Metro station. The company is still in the process of tearing down the former Residence Inn hotel on the site, which was once considered as a possible location for the Washington Nationals stadium.

As Amazon continues to build, it is also continuing to hire.

“Hiring across Amazon’s Arlington Headquarters is ramping up,” the tech giant said on its blog today. “Amazon is seeking 1,900 new employees for a variety of technical and non-tech jobs — this is the highest number of open positions at HQ2 since the company announced its selection of Arlington, Virginia as its second U.S. headquarters.”

“Currently more than 1,600 corporate Amazon employees call Arlington home,” the blog post adds. “Amazon’s more than $2.5-billion investment in HQ2 and the surrounding area will result in 25,000 Amazon jobs over the next decade, and thousands of indirect jobs across the entire region.”

Open positions in Arlington on Amazon’s jobs website include Alexa SmartHome software developer, Amazon Fresh Store designer, and Amazon Web Services Systems Engineer.

Last month an Amazon official said the company expects that most employees will return to offices after the pandemic, with some flexibility for remote work.

“But there is no substitute for Amazonians being together,” said the official, as quoted by the Washington Business Journal.

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An angry fox with a taste for human flesh is at large near a park popular with children.

Arlington officials say the fox bit two people — unprovoked — near Lacey Woods Park (1200 N. George Mason Drive) earlier this week and may be rabid. They’re warning residents to steer clear of any fox that “appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive.”

Anyone who sees a fox fitting that description is asked to “call Animal Control immediately at 703-931-9241.”

The fox is not the only critter menacing the denizens of Arlington’s northern neighborhoods. There have been multiple reports of sick and potentially rabid raccoons over the past few months.

More on the latest incident, from an Arlington County press release, below.

A fox exhibiting signs of rabies has been reported near Lacey Woods Park.

Monday, May 10, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Arlington County Animal Control and the Arlington County Police Department received complaints about a fox aggressively approaching people and dogs around the 1100 block of N. George Mason Drive, the 900 block of N. Frederick Street, and on the Custis Trail between N. George Mason Drive and N. Harrison Street. The incidents are believed to involve the same fox.

The fox had potential contact with two domestic pets and bit two humans unprovoked causing injury. The fox was exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with rabies. The suspect aggressive fox has not been located or captured.

Rabies is a disease that people and animals can catch from the bite or scratch of infected animals. It is fatal if medical care is not given promptly.

Arlington County Animal Control and the Arlington County Department of Human Services are urging anyone who may have been bitten or scratched by any wild animal, including a fox, to reach out immediately. If you, your children, or your pets had any potential contact with this animal, please call Arlington County Animal Control promptly at 703-931-9241.

All residents are encouraged to:

  • Ensure pets are up to date on their rabies and distemper vaccines
  • Keep dogs on a leash at all times and keep cats inside
  • Do not approach or feed any wild animals
  • Feed pets inside
  • Remove wildlife attractants, such as unsecured garbage cans, open containers of food and compost, from yards.

Arlington County Animal Control is also urging residents to remain vigilant, and if they see a fox that appears sick, lethargic, disoriented, or aggressive to stay away from the animal and call Animal Control immediately at 703-931-9241. Do not attempt to haze or make loud sounds at the animal. Back away slowly while facing the animal at all times.

The County asks that pets and children are not outside unsupervised at this time.

If you come across a deceased rabies vector animal, including cats, dogs, foxes, raccoons, or groundhogs, in your yard or a public space, contact Animal Control promptly and do not handle the animal.

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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Morning Notes

Mom Inspires Sons to Join Vax Effort — “Quitting their jobs to help end the pandemic. That’s what some Springfield, Virginia men did after being inspired by a public health nurse who has been on the front lines responding to COVID-19. The nurse that inspired them to change careers is their mom,” who works at Arlington County Public Health. [WJLA]

Library Launching New Outdoor Storytime — “Outdoor Storytime is a fun and interactive program, presented by youth service librarians, and combines activities such as read-aloud stories, songs, rhymes, fingerplays and flannel boards. A kick-off event will be held on Tuesday, May 18, 10 a.m., at Central Library adjacent to Quincy Park, with special guest Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh.” [Arlington Public Library]

Dog Pee Causing Parking Meter Problems — From the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services: “Pooches, please: Take your aim game to more rustic targets. You’re jamming the parking meter coin doors.” [Twitter]

GOP Gov. Nominee on HQ2 — “[Republican nominee for governor Glenn] Youngkin supports Amazon’s big HQ2 project in Arlington, but argues he ‘would have cut a heck of a better deal.'” [Axios]

Nature is Healing — “After more than a year of reduced operating hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) stores will return to pre-pandemic operating hours on May 14, 2021. All stores will open by 10 a.m. every day, apart from some stores which regularly open later on Sundays.” [Press Release]

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Arlington gas stations were busy Tuesday afternoon, but by nightfall lines formed at numerous stations as more drivers filled up in anticipation of potential shortages.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency today, in response to the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline system, a primary source of gasoline for stations across the state. The governor’s declaration is intended to address possible fuel shortages caused by the pipeline shutdown.

From a press release:

While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a temporary fuel transportation waiver to increase the supply of gasoline, the Governor’s emergency declaration allows state agencies to issue their own waivers as required by the state. Executive Order Seventy-Eight also provides increased flexibility and funding for state and local governments to ensure adequate fuel supply.

“This emergency declaration will help the Commonwealth prepare for any potential supply shortages and ensure Virginia motorists have access to fuel as we respond to this evolving situation,” said Governor Northam.

Earlier today, EPA Administrator Michael Regan issued an emergency fuel waiver to help alleviate fuel shortages in Virginia and other states whose supply of reformulated gasoline has been impacted by the pipeline shutdown. This waiver will continue through May 18, 2021.

States of emergency have been declared in at least 17 states and D.C. Shortages and long gas station lines have been reported in numerous states, mostly in the Southeast.

In Arlington Tuesday night, nearly all gas stations along Lee Highway had lines of cars waiting to fuel up — and at least one had its pumps shut off with signs saying gas was “not available.”

Similar lines were seen in other parts of the county.

Amid the panic buying, officials say they hope to get most of the pipeline back up and running by the end of the week.

Already, as of Wednesday afternoon, more gas shortages were reported. At the Cherrydale five points intersection, for instance, both the Liberty and the Exxon stations were out of gas.

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Ragtime in Courthouse may be getting a huge break on rent thanks to the Arlington County Board.

On Saturday (May 15), the Board is expected to vote to amend the county’s lease with the long-time local restaurant that would reduce Ragtime’s rent during the on-going pandemic “to a level that it can afford to pay.”

Ragtime is located at 1345 N. Courthouse Road, on the ground floor of an office building purchased by the county in 2012. It leases the 5,000 square-foot space, now owned by the county but previously owned by a private landlord.

Ragtime first opened in 2001 and is owned by Vintage Restaurants, which also runs Rhodeside Grill on Wilson Blvd and William Jeffrey’s Tavern on Columbia Pike.

Ragtime’s business has declined “precipitously” during the pandemic, the county staff report details. In April 2020, sales were less than 10% of normal. Although business has increased in recent months, it remains 50% below normal, the report says.

Due to the drop in sales, Ragtime is unable to pay rent at the rate called for in the current lease, which was signed in 2013 and expires in 2026, according to the county.

“When sales decline substantially below normal, inflexible overhead like employee salaries and utility charges does not decline to the same degree, and accordingly absorbs a greater percentage of sales,” says the report. “This leaves a smaller percentage of sales that can be applied to rent.”

As a result, an agreement was struck that would reduce Ragtime’s rent to the equivalent of 9.5% of its gross sales (as long it doesn’t exceed its base rent rate, which is approximately $19,000 a month).

“As a rule of thumb, restaurants can afford to devote roughly 10% of sales to the payment of rent,” the report notes.

That rate would remain in effect until the restaurant has two consecutive months in which 9.5% of gross sales exceeds its base rent, or for one year after the lease amendment is signed, whichever happens first.

The reduced rate is being backdated to April 2020, and Ragtime is being allowed to hold off on paying back rent.

“Ragtime will begin paying the discounted back rent (based on 9.5% of gross sales) when their sales return to normal,” the staff report says. “This discounted back rent will be payable monthly over a one-year period. The actual revenue impact to the County in FY 2021 and FY 2022 is dependent upon Ragtime’s gross sales as well as the timing of when their sales return to normal.”

“The total estimated revenue shortfall compared to budgeted amounts in FY 2021 and FY 2022 is approximately $100,000,” the report adds.

ARLnow has reached out to Vintage Restaurants for comment, but has yet to hear back as of publication.

There’s also another tenant in the 2020 14th Street N. building that the county owns: Courthouse Deli.

When asked if the county is working on a similar arrangement with that business, a county spokesperson declined to comment specifically due to confidentiality.

“We have worked with all County tenants that have requested relief due to pandemic-related hardship,” wrote a county spokesperson.

Photo via Ragtime/Facebook

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