Arlington, VA

Update at 6:40 p.m. — Power appears to have been restored to all Arlington and most Fairfax County customers, according to Dominion’s website, after an issue with a transmission line.

Earlier: More than 1,600 Dominion customers are without power in Arlington due to a widespread power outage.

The outage is affecting parts of Arlington County, Fairfax County and the City of Falls Church, according to Dominion. A cause was not given on the company’s website, but the restoration time was estimated as between 5-10 p.m.

The outage is affecting North Arlington neighborhoods, including areas around Jamestown Elementary, Yorktown High School and Bishop O’Connell High School.

Wide swaths of McLean, Pimmit Hills and West Falls Church are also affected in Fairfax County, where more than 26,000 Dominion customers are reported to be in the dark.

Arlington County police are responding to several intersections where the traffic signals are inoperable, for traffic control.

The outage comes amid wet and breezy conditions, as the remnants of Hurricane Zeta exit the area. A Dominion spokeswoman said via social media that the outages stem from an issue with a transmission line.

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) A juvenile suspect is facing a number of potential charges after a reported hit-and-run crash on Columbia Pike overnight.

The crash happened just before 12:30 a.m. Thursday, at the intersection of the Pike and S. George Mason Drive.

“Upon arrival, it was determined that after the suspect vehicle struck the victim’s vehicle, approximately 5-6 juveniles exited the vehicle and fled on foot,” Arlington County police said today in a crime report. “Arriving officers located the subjects in the area and identified the driver of the vehicle at the time of the crash.”

“The two occupants of the victim vehicle sustained minor injuries,” the crime report continues. “During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect vehicle had previously been stolen from Fairfax County earlier in the evening.”

ACPD says the suspect was also “found to be in possession of a controlled substance” and is now facing petitions¬†for Hit and Run, Possession of a Stolen Vehicle with Intent to Procure or Pass Title.

Separately, on Wednesday evening, S. Carlin Springs Road was blocked near Campbell Elementary School due to an incident involving Virginia State Police. Witnesses report seeing police with guns drawn.

The Arlington County Police Department said officers assisted state police with a suspect search, but referred additional questions to VSP. A state police spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the incident was the result of a search for a pursuit suspect.

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Morning Notes

New Italian Eatery Opening Soon — “Antonio Ferraro, whose¬†Napoli Pasta Bar¬†in Columbia Heights was named a¬†Michelin Bib Gourmand¬†restaurant in 2018, is opening a new market concept in Arlington’s Pentagon Row. Napoli Salumeria¬†is specializing in grab-and-go-style meals, including Neapolitan street food (fried mozzarella and focaccia), homemade pastas, and sauces. Expect classic sandwiches, including cheesesteaks, Italian subs, and sausage and peppers… the hope is to open the market late next week.” [DCist]

Arlington ‘Bachelorette’ Contestant Still On — Jason Foster, a former pro football player who lives in the Courthouse area, remains a contestant on ABC’s ‘Bachelorette,’ though Bachelorette Clare seems focused on another beau: Dale, who the other contestants spent part of Tuesday’s episode roasting. [Washingtonian]

Some Skeptical of County’s Race Conversations — “James Moore is an Arlington community activist and owner of a 60-year-old neighborhood barbershop in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood. ‘Our communities in Arlington will want action more so than just conversation,’ Moore said.¬†Moore said he would like to see the county support Black people living in the community by providing more mental health and housing resources.” [The Wash]

Kid’s Skatepark Petition Gets 600 Signers — “I would like for the Arlington county board to add a new skatepark to our area. As you may have noticed the Powhatan Springs skatepark is starting to get very crowded and is hard to ride around without bumping into other people. This park is actually becoming dangerous with all of the people riding in the bowls at one time.” [Change.org]

Chamber Names ‘Best Business’ Honorees — “Last night, the Arlington Chamber of¬†Commerce¬†celebrated the¬†34th¬†Annual Arlington Best Business Awards¬†at the¬†Crowne Plaza Crystal City-Washington, D.C., in a hybrid format that allowed attendees to join in person and virtually.” [Press Release]

Arlington Among Top Places for Nature Lovers — A list of the “best places in America for outdoor enthusiasts to live and work” has ranked Arlington No. 21, between Scottsdale, Arizona and Tampa, Florida. Seattle ranked No. 1. [SmartAsset]

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The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is hoping to fuel a discussion about dog sled races with a protest tomorrow at a local gas station.

PETA is planning a protest, starting at noon on Thursday, at the Exxon station on the corner of Old Dominion Drive and Military Road¬†in Cherrydale. At issue: ExxonMobil’s support of the Iditarod dog race in Alaska.

“Because ExxonMobil continues to¬†pump¬†money into the deadly Iditarod dog race even as other sponsors have pulled out, PETA supporters armed with yellow caution tape and ‘blood’-filled gas jugs will ‘close’ a local ExxonMobil station for cruelty tomorrow,” the organization said in a media advisory this afternoon.

The action follows another PETA protest, in September, at ExxonMobil’s Texas headquarters.

More on why the Iditarod is worthy of protest, even as far away as Arlington, according to PETA:

“ExxonMobil has the shameful distinction of being one of the last major companies still sponsoring the Iditarod’s cruelty to dogs,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “PETA is urging it to stop propping up an evil industry that forces dogs to run so far and so fast that they often die after inhaling their own vomit.

Jack Daniel’s, Coca-Cola, Wells Fargo, Alaska Airlines, and many other companies cut ties with the race after PETA pointed out that¬†more than 150 dogs have died in the Iditarod since it began. In addition to being tied up on mushers’ properties (as revealed in¬†this PETA expos√©), dogs are forced to pull heavy sleds across¬†1,000 miles¬†through blinding blizzards and subzero temperatures.

More than 220 dogs were pulled off the trail during the 2020 race because of exhaustion, illness, injury, or other causes. One, Cool Cat, developed twisted intestines and almost died. Another, Betty, had pneumonia and was in critical condition, and two others refused to eat and had fevers, diarrhea, and persistent coughs.

Photo courtesy of PETA

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From record early voting turnout to the volume of volunteer requests to the number of first-time voters, the word “first” characterizes many aspects of the 2020 election in Arlington.

But for 83-year-old poll volunteer Bill Thatcher, 2020 is his last year helping people exercise their “supreme privilege of voting.”

For the past 45 years, the Arlington resident has volunteered as a precinct chief at the polls, moving wherever he is needed. This year, he is an assistant chief of early voting at the Langston-Brown Community Center along Lee Highway.

What started a half-century ago as a minor way to give back to the community has become a mission to safeguard a right people have sacrificed everything to secure. Thatcher’s goal is to clear any impediments blocking people from voting and make everyone who walks into his precinct feel comfortable.

“I reflected just last evening, there are people who have shed blood and died for this freedom to vote, to keep freedom free,” he said.

After the election, Thatcher will have more time to focus on his day job as a real-estate broker, which he has had for 50 years. He just renewed his license, and plans to work so long as he is in good health.

2020 is a memorable election year to end on, with more than 50% of active voters having already cast early ballots. It thrills Thatcher, who lives in a neighborhood near the East Falls Church Metro station, to process the votes of many first-timers, several of whom are seniors.

Although lines can stretch up to two blocks, they move at a brisk pace, he said. He thinks the use of early voting to keep the Election Day crowd size down should stay when the pandemic fades because people seem to enjoy early voting. One pandemic precaution — curbside ballot pickup — did not prove popular, however. People want to see their ballots processed, he said.

“A few ask for receipts,” he said.

And it breaks his heart whenever someone has to be turned away. One year, a friend arrived at Thatcher’s precinct about 30 seconds after 7 p.m. and the polls had closed. By law, he could not let his friend in.

“It grieved me,” he said. “He made every attempt to come, he wanted to vote, he was ready, willing and able, registered and everything, but just because of time constraints, was not able to vote.”

Empathy is an important trait for future poll workers, says Thatcher.

“Make sure that you give them the assurance that their vote is important and deserves to be counted,” he said.

He started working at the polls in 1975, on the suggestion of his neighbor and distant relative, who had decided to step back from volunteering. Similar to his relative, Thatcher desires to pass his spot on.

“I just feel I’ve done it for this length of time and I should let someone else enter in now and do some volunteer work,” he said.

If this year is any indication, there are many who are eager to take up the baton. Thatcher said more than 2,000 people responded to this year’s call for poll volunteers.

“It’s fantastic we’ve had a huge influx in new workers this election who are stepping up to cover for those who cannot work due to health risks,” said Eric Olsen, Arlington’s Deputy Director of Elections, in an email.

Olsen said he hopes some of the new volunteers will stay on and have a rewarding experience working the polls for years to come, in the way that Thatcher has.

“People like Bill are the lifeblood of making elections function properly,” Olsen said. “They happen with preparation, trust, and most importantly — people.”

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After new movie releases came to a grinding halt due to the pandemic, the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has pivoted to older movies, alternative events, and a greater reliance on live comedy.

“The movie industry is a big black hole right now,” owner Tim Clark said. “Studios are pushing release dates farther and farther out, and dedicating more resources to direct-to-streaming.”

Since reopening in August, the Drafthouse has shown classic films and cartoons, and brought in live stand-up comedians for groups no larger than 85 people, or 30% of the space’s capacity.

“Movie attendance is down across the board with all theaters,” Clark said. “Comedy has been fairly steady and now we’re trying fun stuff.”

This week, Clark is leaning into spooky season with Halloween-themed events.

This weekend, “Spoons, Toons and Booze,” a Drafthouse special event with free cereal, cartoons and brunch-themed cocktails, will show cartoons from the 1940s to present day that feature creatures who go bump in the night. Tonight, “Witches and Wine” ticket holders get to celebrate Wine Wednesday and watch the cult classic “Hocus Pocus.”

Wednesday night’s event, with half-priced wine, has sold at least 40 tickets, “which is incredible for an old Disney film,” he said. Another cult classic, Beetlejuice, is set for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

“Witches and Wine” may bring out crowds for the novelty, but most showings of old films are not bringing people out. Half of the films to which Drafthouse has access¬†are available on-demand or on cable, Clark noted. Comedy is now the driving force for filling seats at the Drafthouse.

“I think it’s going to be comedy-driven for a while before movies return,” Clark said.

With Christmas season seemingly coming earlier and earlier each year, Clark is already preparing creative, fun and themed holiday events. He’s hoping for something of a holiday miracle: a return to normality sooner rather than later.

“I’m not sure where we’re going to be in a couple of months as a country, but at this point, with a 30% reduced capacity, it’s not a long term sustainable model,” he said. “It helps a bit, but there’s only so much you can do.”

The schedule for the rest of the year includes weekends of stand-up comedy and a Mongolian film called “Six Feet” about what humans have done in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

More live comedy is already on the schedule for 2021, including “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Jeff Garlin on March 26 and 27.

Photo via @cinemadraft/Twitter

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Six years after redevelopment discussions began, a plan to upgrade a block of aging brick buildings in Courthouse is winding through Arlington County’s levels of review.

“The Courthouse Landmark Block (2050 Wilson Blvd) is currently under review via our site plan review process,” said Jessica Margarit, the communications manager for the¬†Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, in an email.

An online engagement opportunity focused on transportation, sustainability, community benefits and construction opened Monday and will run through Sunday. County Board consideration of the project is expected in the next few months.

“The Planning Commission and County Board intend to consider this application during Winter 2020-21,” Margarit said.

Greystar Real Estate Partners is proposing a 20-story apartment building with ground-floor retail, rooftop amenities and open space, as well as a below-grade parking structure. The development would replace the one- to three-story brick buildings, including the now-closed Summers Restaurant, just east of the Courthouse Metro station entrance.

The proposal includes keeping, with some changes, the façades of two buildings deemed to be historic.

“Our concept is to embrace the site and its position as one of the highest elevations in the Clarendon-Courthouse area, as well as a prominent building in all directions,” said architect Stephen Smith of Cooper Carry in a September meeting.

The building will have 418 residential units and 160 parking spaces. It will also have 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space with¬†61 retail parking spaces. The proposal includes prominent ground floor retail spaces with the tower set back a bit from the street, “producing a lighter, more enjoyable pedestrian feel on the sidewalk.”

“It became clear to us when we first approached the site and looked at the sector plan’s recommendations, the site’s very unique and highly visible location in the heart of central Courthouse meant that the site has a lot of design response,” Smith said.

Greystar will fashion a pedestrian promenade along N. Uhle Street between the Courthouse Metro station and the development

“This is intended to become a vibrant and broad pedestrian walkway lined with trees and active retail uses and distinctive lighting,” said John Beinert, the director of development for Greystar.

The pathway comes with two challenges, accommodating a utility vault and a four-foot elevation change. To overcome these, the promenade will have a slight bend to move around the vault, creating “a more dynamic and inviting experience,” and the green space will be terraced to solve the grade-change problem.

Retail space will line the promenade and an elevator lobby will provide access to a garage below-ground.

“Making this new space active and engaging is our highest priority,” Beinert said.

Other proposed community benefits include¬†additional improvements to the streetscape, LEED certification, and contributions to the county’s public art and affordable housing funds.

Two existing buildings will be preserved and their façades redone with historically accurate design and materials.

These are the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (2050 Wilson Boulevard), constructed in 1946, and the Investment Building (2049 15th Street N.), constructed in 1948. They are identified as “important” on the County’s Historic Resources Inventory.

Greystar, meanwhile, has picked up another project in Courthouse. The company is now planning to redevelop the former Wendy’s site, across from the Landmark block, into another residential tower, according to the Washington Business Journal.

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(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Arlington County staff are recommending adding a pay-to-park option in residential zones for short-term visitors, while expanding who can petition for Residential Permit Parking restrictions.

These are two of the changes to the program staff are proposing that the County Board adopt. The changes will be reviewed and refined before the Board votes early next year, and come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted.

“We are attempting to make compromises between disparate viewpoints and disagreements about how the program should be structured,” said Stephen Crim, the RPP review program manager,¬†who fielded questions from residents¬†during¬†a virtual Q&A session last week.

Residential areas with RPP restrictions would have paid, two-hour parking so that short-term visitors can legally park without a pass or permit. Payments will be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device, instead of pay stations.

The benefit of paid parking over free, time-limited parking in residential zones — as is in place in parts of D.C. — is that “we make the parking easier to enforce for the police and make it more likely to be enforced regularly,” Crim said.

Permit and pass fees would be raised to pay for 100% of the program’s costs, whereas 40% of the costs to administer and enforce the RPP program currently come from general tax funding. Discounts on permits and passes would be available to low-income households‚ÄĮ.¬†

Staff recommend granting more parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes, as well as reducing the number of permits that households can receive based on whether they have off-street parking such as driveways or garages.

Staff propose to remove the “out-of-area” test from the permit process, which requires would-be RPP zones to have a preponderance of commuters, shoppers or other people from outside the neighborhood taking up street parking spaces.¬†Crim said that change is a way of “shifting the program into a more general parking management program.”¬†

Currently, the county needs to see that a block has 75% of spaces are occupied, of which at least 25% are occupied by out-of-area vehicles.

The RPP program has sharply divided residents. According to a recently released report, some of these divisions occur along the lines of race and class, as permitted residential street parking is disproportionately available to white, affluent Arlingtonians.

Residents of most apartment buildings are currently not eligible to receive RPP permits. More will be eligible under the proposed changes, but many will still be shut out if their building was approved by the County Board via a site plan or certain types of use permits.

Residents can see if their address currently qualifies for a permit through this link.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Coronavirus Outbreak at Marymount¬†— A COVID-19 outbreak has been reported at Marymount University in Arlington.¬†“Initially, cases were identified over Columbus Day weekend and we’ve seen a decline in the total number of cases since October 21,” university spokesman Nicholas Munson told Patch. “To date over the more than two-week period, 31 students have tested positive.” [Patch]

New Charges Against Arlington Resident — “Prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, on Tuesday unveiled 15 felony charges against a pair of right-wing operatives over a recent robocall aimed at discouraging minority voters from casting their ballots by mail, similar to an indictment filed earlier this month by authorities in Michigan…¬†The Ohio robocall claimed to be the work of the 1599 Project, an outfit that Burkman and Wohl run out of Burkman’s home in Arlington, Virginia.” [StateScoop]

Missing Middle Housing Event Tonight — “The¬†Missing Middle Housing Study¬†will explore how new housing types could help address Arlington’s shortfall in housing supply and gaps in housing choices. All members of the community are invited to virtually attend the study’s kick off” from 7-9 p.m. tonight. [Arlington County]

Home Sale Prices Still Going Up — “The housing market in Arlington County, Virginia, is not cooling off, with sales and prices showing among the biggest gains in the nation in September. The median price of what sold in Arlington County last month was $710,000. That’s the highest county-level median price in Northern Virginia, and up 21% from last September.” [WTOP]

Library Pumpkin Decorating Winners — “We are thrilled to have received 42 pumpkin submissions for our¬†first¬†virtual Pumpkin Decorating Contest! It was hard to choose the winners, as we adored so many. Thank you for submitting, attending the virtual decorating programs and carving out fun with the folks at the library!” [Arlington Public Library]

Local Lawyer Pens New Novel — “By day, Jim Irving is a sixty-something, buttoned-up attorney, a partner in a prestigious Northern Virginia law firm. By night, he is a writer tapping into his past experiences as a private eye and criminal lawyer. In his debut novel,¬†Friends Like These: A Joth Proctor Fixer Mystery,¬†the first in a planned trilogy, Irving draws heavily on his Arlington environs in crafting the adventures of his protagonist.” [Washington Independent Review of Books]

Rosslyn Outdoor Coworking Space Update — “Arlingtonians have about a month left to enjoy outdoor office space provided by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID). The space, dubbed O2, was created after the pandemic pushed employees out of their cubicles and into their home offices… Reservations are free¬†of charge and can be made on the O2 website. Masks are required for entry and tables are six feet apart.” [WDVM]

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Arlington has just crossed the 50% mark.

New figures released today by the Arlington County elections office show that 85,776 votes have already been cast in the upcoming Nov. 3 election. That represents more than 50% of active voters in the county, and more than twice the early and mail-in votes of the entire record-setting 2016 presidential election.

It’s also up from the 30% early voting and mail-in ballot turnout as of Oct. 16, the day before four additional early voting locations¬†opened.

Gretchen Reinemeyer, Arlington’s Director of Elections, said her office is encouraging Arlington residents to continue voting early.

“The Office of Voter Registration & Elections encourages voters to take advantage of one of our five early voting sites before Saturday, October 31,”¬†Reinemeyer told ARLnow today. “This is the last day to vote early. Waits rarely exceed more than 10 minutes. The full list of locations and hours can be found online.”

“Voters planning to vote on Election Day must do so at their assigned polling place,” she added.¬†“Voters should confirm their assigned polling place online at¬†vote.elections.virginia.gov, email¬†[email protected], or call 703-228-3456.”

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Early stages of construction have started on the future site of a new Harris Teeter, three apartment buildings and a new green space in Ballston.

Utility relocation and demolition of the recently-vacated American Service Center building will soon begin at 600 N. Glebe Road, said Mark Senn, the president of Georgia-based developer Southeastern Real Estate Group, LLC, the developer overseeing the project.

“The project has started, but it’s going to start in full force in the next couple of months,” Senn said.

The construction kicks off the first of three phases of development of the site. In phase one, a new 310-unit apartment building¬†with a new Harris Teeter space on the ground floor will replace the former American Service Center building and Mercedes Benz dealership lot. During this phase, customers will still have access to parking and the current Harris Teeter, which was the company’s first in Virginia.

“Our goal is to keep Harris Teeter up and functioning and convenient for the customer and keep accessibility and parking like it is,” Senn said. “That’s the driving force behind this.”

Southeastern is trying to avoid disruptions especially during the holiday months, which are the busiest for grocery stores, he said.

Phase one will be finished in 2022, Senn said.

During the second phase, the old Harris Teeter will be demolished for new temporary surface parking. The second apartment building, with 195 units, and the public open space will be constructed in phase two.

In the third phase, the temporary parking lot will become the third apartment building: a 227-unit residential building with retail on the ground floor and two levels of below-grade parking.

With architects, mechanical engineers and electrical and plumbing engineers out of the office due to the pandemic, progress on the project has been slower, but people are working hard to keep it on track, Senn said.

“We’re on schedule to do the work as we had anticipated prior to COVID-19,” he said.

The County Board approved the three phases of work at 600 N. Glebe last year. Senn said the entire complex should take six to seven years to build.

“It’s a great project,” Senn said. “Hopefully, after COVID-19, it’ll be social-gathering place for the community.”

The park will include a pedestrian path, a dog run, a picnic area, as well as natural vegetation to support pollinator insects and birds.

In April 2019, the developer bumped the number of housing units in the project from 700 to 732, cut some parking spaces and announced its intention to seek LEED Silver sustainability certification.

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