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Firefighters are battling a significant fire on the 23rd Street S. restaurant row in Crystal City.

The fire is reportedly in the building that houses Andalusia Hookah Bar and Top Thai restaurant on the 500 block of 23rd Street. Those businesses are immediately adjacent to Crystal City Sports Pub and Federico Ristorante Italiano.

Firefighters from several local jurisdictions are battling the two-alarm blaze. The fire has caused unsafe conditions for firefighters inside the building and flames can now be seen coming from the roof, according to scanner traffic.

Photo (2) via Google Maps

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A teen is facing charges after he allegedly threatened and then scratched a fellow student with a knife on a school bus earlier this week.

The incident happened aboard an Arlington Public Schools bus Tuesday afternoon, along Clarendon Blvd in the Courthouse and Clarendon areas. The teen also allegedly ran after the victim and a witness while armed with the knife, after they all got off the bus, police said.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING (late), 2021-11300165, 2100 block of Clarendon Boulevard. At approximately 4:45 p.m. on November 30, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 3:30 p.m., the juvenile victim was riding a school bus when he became involved in a verbal altercation with the suspect. The suspect allegedly brandished a knife and held it to the victim, causing a scratch. A witness pushed the suspect away and he exited the bus. A short time later, the victim and witness were walking in the area of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Barton Street when the suspect began to run towards them with the knife. They were able to run to safety. The investigation is ongoing.

APS spokesman Frank Bellavia told ARLnow that it was a Yorktown High School bus, but was unable to provide more information.

“I don’t have any additional than what is in the crime report,” Bellavia said.

ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said today that the suspect has been identified and is now facing charges.

“The involved juvenile has been identified and charges are pending,” Savage told us. “This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact the Police Department’s tip line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]

Police have responded at least two other notable incidents associated with Yorktown over the past few months.

In early August, a brawl broke out outside of the school amid summer classes. Police said at the time that they were investigating the fight, which was caught on video.

In October, a girl walking near the school during the homecoming football game was touched inappropriately, prompting a police investigation and, later, walkouts and a petition against sexual misconduct at Yorktown. The petition has garnered tens of thousands of signatures to date.

Over the summer the Arlington School Board voted to remove School Resource Officers from schools. The Board is set to consider the draft of a new, scaled-down agreement with ACPD at its Dec. 16 meeting. The Board chair recently said that she believes Arlington schools remain safe even without the SROs as a regular presence in the buildings.

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Morning Notes

Mattress Store Goes Night Night — From local tweeter @CartChaos22202: “The ⁦⁦Mattress Firm⁩ location along S. 15th Street in Pentagon City has closed… but try not to lose sleep over it.” [Twitter]

Santa Visiting Fairlington Next Week — “It was touch and go for a while, but it appears Santa Claus will be able to take part in an annual Fairlington tradition after all. The Fairlington Citizens Association is working to bring Saint Nick to the community for his annual ride on an Arlington County fire truck. The event is slated to take place on Saturday, Dec. 11.” [Sun Gazette]

Lane Closure for Bridge Maintenance — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “Routine deck maintenance work continues on Shirlington Road Bridge through Dec. 11. One travel lane closed at a time, 7am to 7pm including weekends. West sidewalk remains open.” [Twitter]

Opioid Test Strips Are in Demand — “Months after Arlington County’s Department of Human Services started the pilot program to dispense 100 fentanyl-testing strips, the county is renewing its opioid response grant as demand continues to grow. ‘We were out of those test strips within the first couple of weeks. Since then, since the middle of August, we’ve dispensed 604 test strips,’ said Emily Siqveland, who runs the county’s new Opioid Treatment Program.” [WTOP]

Elections Office Ready for Rerun — “Yes, Virginia, there may be a rerun of all 100 House of Delegates races in the new year. Maybe not, but possibly. If so, personnel in the Arlington elections office will be ready, they say. ‘We’ll just have to wait and see how this process plays out,’ said Gretchen Reinemeyer, the county’s director of elections, in a look-back-and-look-forward report to the county’s Electoral Board on Nov. 30.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: Arlies Voting — Don’t forget to cast a vote for your favorite bakery, ARLnow commenter, coffee shop or brunch spot. Voting in the Winter 2022 Arlies awards closes on Monday. [ARLnow]

It’s Friday — It’s going to be a bit windy today, with sunny skies, a low of around 40 and a high near 58. Northwest wind 8 to 13 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph. Sunrise at 7:10 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Saturday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 55 and wind gusts up to 20 mph. Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 51. [Weather.gov]

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Work began yesterday (Wednesday) on the long-delayed Ballston Beaver Pond remediation project — but no busy beavers will be involved.

The $4.2 million, 18-month project approved by the County Board this summer will retrofit the pond, originally built in 1980 to collect stormwater runoff from I-66. Today, sediment in the pond prevents detention, and it instead has become home to abundant wildlife, including beavers, according to a county report.

The project, expected to wrap up in July 2023, aims to improve stormwater retention and the wildlife habitat by restoring native plant species and adding habitat features. There will be a new observation platform with educational signage, seating and a reconstructed trail with bike racks.

Arlington County says the new two-acre wetland area will provide stormwater treatment to 460 acres of land in the Lubber Run watershed, and “is among the County’s most effective opportunities to achieve its water quality objectives and meet its regulatory requirements.”

This month, the construction contractor will be setting up the site, county project manager Aileen Winquist tells ARLnow. Excavation will begin next year.

“From now until the end of the year, neighbors will see the contractor bringing in equipment and setting up the boundaries of the construction area,” she said. “In the new year, neighbors will begin to see dump trucks full of sediment removed from the pond leaving the site.”

Public access will be limited as well. The grass area within the park will be off-limits, as it will be used for construction. A bike and pedestrian detour will reroute trail users from Washington Blvd to the Custis Trail and along the south side of the pond.

The detour will be in place for the entirety of construction, Winquist says.

A bicycle detour around the Ballston Beaver Pond construction project (via Arlington County)

The project is divided into a few phases, as work can only occur on one half of the pond at a time, Winquist said.

First, workers will remove sediment from and re-grade a half of the pond while removing invasive plants.

After the second half of the pond receives the same treatment, construction will begin on a new observation platform, trail upgrades, native species planting and new habitat features, including basking stations for turtles, she said.

The project is a long time in coming.

After community engagement in 2011-12, the project was paused in 2013 until the necessary easements were obtained from property owners. A redesigned project with new permits went to the public in January 2019, but “COVID-19 and related budget concerns” again delayed the project, the report says.

Still, those nearby welcome the pond redo, according to the report.

“The community continues to be very supportive of the project and it is highly anticipated by Ballston area residents and businesses,” it said.

But once beaver baffles are installed to discourage these critters from returning — and damming the pond again, which could compromise water quality — the wetland area will need a new name.

“This beautiful natural area needs a name that fits its unique space,” says Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Martha Holland.

Next year, the county plans to ask the community for name ideas and provide an opportunity to comment on a list of potential names.

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Kids on a car ride at the county fair (staff photo)

The Arlington County Fair will be returning to Thomas Jefferson Community Center and grounds in 2022, the county parks department tells ARLnow.

The decision comes after the Arlington County Fair Board deliberated a change of scenery for the event for more than a year. Thomas Jefferson’s fields and community center space at 3501 2nd Street S. has been home to the fair for 45 years.

After hearing that a majority of folks did not support relocating the fair, and taking a closer look at the fair board’s preferred alternate location — Long Bridge Park — board members decided Thomas Jefferson is the best location.

“The 2022 Arlington County Fair will be held at Thomas Jefferson Community Center and Park (TJ),” said Laura Barragan, a Department of Parks and Recreation special events manager and spokeswoman. “Contributing factors for the site selection include that the community has enjoyed the fair at TJ for 45 years [and] 60% of the nearly 1,600 respondents of the site location public engagement preferred keeping the Fair at TJ.”

She added that “further review of the Long Bridge Park location indicated that it would not be able to accommodate the number and variety of rides the County Fair Board desires.”

Barragan directed further questions to the fair board, which was not immediately available to comment on the decision and whether it will remain at TJ beyond 2022.

In addition to Long Bridge, Arlington County considered multiple sites — including Virginia Highlands Park near Crystal City and Quincy Park near Ballston — but the board only expressed interest in Long Bridge.

One reason we’re told the fair board mulled the move was that fixing damage to the grass fields, which become muddy and rutted in the rain, is a problem for the county. The community center’s suburban location, meanwhile, is fairly central, but lacks Metro accessibility and has limited parking.

After County Board approval in September, a project is currently underway to replace the upper field at the TJ site with artificial turf. The field is expected to remain closed until mid-2022, but should reopen in time for the fair’s return.

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Metroway buses for the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway (Photo via Arlington County)

A decade ago, when Arlington County was in the midst of planning the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway for the future Metroway bus rapid transit line, the Route 1 corridor looked a lot different.

Development was still ongoing in the corridor, which encompasses Pentagon City and Crystal City, and Amazon was still years away from selecting the area for its HQ2.

There were just over 17,000 residents in the corridor and nearly three quarters of them lived in rental units, according to 2010 county census data. By 2020, that number had risen by about 15% to 20,000 residents. Renters now occupy 91% of the housing stock, according to county data.

Arlington’s section of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway opened in 2016 with the Pentagon City extension aiming for a 2023 opening.

A station for the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway in 2018 (via Arlington County)

While there have been plenty of bumps along the road, including the continued delay of the Potomac Yard Metro station and low ridership during the pandemic, at least one transportation advocate praises the county for looking ahead.

“To do this later, after the development happens, would have been 20 times harder. 100 times harder,” Chris Slatt, Arlington Transportation Commission chair and founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington, told ARLnow. “I really give Arlington a lot of credit.”

In terms of Potomac Yard, Slatt made the point that this was an extremely rare opportunity where urban and transportation planners had the ability to start anew and could try out their best laid plans without dealing with already existing infrastructure.

“Potomac Yard was this kind of special opportunity that we don’t have very often,” said Slatt. “I’m sure there are a lot of other places in Northern Virginia where we can say we’re basically a new neighborhood from scratch.”

Local officials agree, which is why the Metroway is such an exciting project for them.

“For mass transit planners… it is a lot easier to design the infrastructure when you’re starting from scratch rather than trying to retrofit it into a pre-existing system, particularly if you want dedicated [transit] lanes,” said Eric Randall, principal transportation engineer with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG).

Plus, he noted, it’s easier for residents to get in the “frame of mind” to use the mass transit option if it is there initially, as opposed to needing to break their previous habits.

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A new Clarendon restaurant promises to provide an uncommon dining experience, its owner promises.

“Uncommon Luncheonette” at 1028 N. Garfield Street is planning for a February 2022 opening, owner Joon Yang tells ARLnow.

While a menu and further details are not yet being provided, Yang assured ARLnow that the concept will be one that “no has done before in Clarendon or, even, Arlington.”

Yang is the co-owner of the upscale barbeque restaurant Epic Smokehouse in Pentagon City, which opened in 2012, and the McLean steakhouse American Prime.

Uncommon Luncheonette will be moving into the space formerly occupied by Riverside Hot Pot, which closed in October 2020 and was noted for sending food on a conveyor belt to customers. Prior to that, fast casual Bowl’d was in that location on N. Garfield Street which is around the corner from the always-busy Clarendon Trader Joe’s.

Just last week, Uncommon Luncheonette applied for a permit to serve wine, beer and cocktails. A construction permit was issued for the space in September.

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Restaurants on the 1800 block of N. Moore Street (via Google Maps)

An opportunistic thief stole a car that was left parked and unlocked, with the key in the ignition, near the Rosslyn Metro station last night, police say.

It happened around 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, on the 1800 block of N. Moore Street. The crime was initially reported as a carjacking, and a description of the vehicle was broadcast to other local police departments, but officers later determined that the car was simply driven off and not taken forcibly.

The driver of the car was reportedly inside a restaurant — the block includes a McDonald’s, Bethesda Bagels, Nando’s Peri-Peri, and Happy Eatery (recently renamed after formerly being called Happy Endings Eatery) — when the theft occurred.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

GRAND LARCENY AUTO, 2021-12010223, 1800 block of N. Moore Street. At approximately 9:43 p.m. on December 1, police were dispatched to the report of a stolen vehicle. The investigation determined that at approximately 9:40 p.m., the victim parked his vehicle and left it unlocked with the key in the ignition and entered a restaurant. While inside, a witness observed the suspect enter the vehicle and drive away. The vehicle is described as a 2003 Silver Toyota Matrix XR with Maryland license plate 1DB6405. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps. Hat tip to Alan Henney.

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Morning Notes

People walking near the Amazon HQ2 site in Pentagon City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Woman Struck, Killed on GW Parkway — “A pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle on the George Washington Parkway near the Key Bridge early Saturday morning, according to police. Shortly before 3 a.m., U.S. Park Police responded to a report of a pedestrian struck by a vehicle in the southbound lanes of the GW Parkway south of the Key Bridge.” [WTOP, Patch]

Beyer Blasts ‘Anti-Vax Shutdown Plot’ — “Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), who represents the largest number of federal employees of any member of the U.S. House, today issued the following statement on Republicans’ publicly stated plan to shut down the government in an attempt to block the Administration’s Covid vaccination measures: ‘Republicans’ plan to shut down the government on purpose to sabotage our pandemic response is extraordinarily cynical and dangerous.'” [Rep. Don Beyer]

Arlington Firefighters Get to the Choppa –– “Recently 2 members from the ACFD had the unique opportunity to participate in a rope rescue course with regional law enforcement partners. Come take a ride with one of our members on their flight over the region, just don’t look down if you are afraid of heights.” [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — Following overnight showers, today will be relatively warm. There will be increasing clouds, with a high near 66. Southwest wind 7 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. Sunrise at 7:09 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, with a high near 62. [Weather.gov]

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Even as officials and advocates continue to hail the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway as forward-thinking, there’ve been literal instances of backwards driving.

ARLnow has received reports of cars entering the Transitway’s bus lanes, often even driving the wrong direction in the lanes, which parallel Crystal Drive for about a mile. It seems to mostly stem from confusion over the roadway configuration.

Mark Stack lives in the Concord Crystal City apartments, directly across from a Transitway bus station at 27th Street S. and Crystal Drive. From the high-rise building he can see cars in the lanes that are intended only for Metroway buses.

Just today, [there was] one car on the wrong side of the road and two other vehicles traveling down the bus lane,” he told ARLnow. “It’s a daily, hourly occurrence. It’s not like once or twice. It happens pretty often.”

Walking in his neighborhood, Stack has also seen cars entering the lanes near the bus stops located 33rd Street S. and 26th Street S. along Crystal Drive. He’s fearful that drivers going the wrong direction will hit buses head-on or kids bicycling, which he also sees often in the lanes (which, technically, is also not allowed).

“I’m just surprised there’s never been any accidents,” Stack said. “It’s a miracle.”

ARLnow also checked out several of the intersections and Transitway bus stops that Stack spoke about. While no unauthorized vehicles were observed in the lanes at the time, it’s evident confusion could be possible, particularly at night.

There are right and left turn lanes leading directly into the bus lanes, as well as dark red markings that may not be clearly visible at night. There are, however, “do not enter” signs and medians that do prevent mingling of traffic.

Darren Buck, a member of Arlington County’s Transportation Commission, also has seen unauthorized cars going into the dedicated bus lanes. While the danger does concern him, he additionally worries that drivers are intentionally entering them to bypass traffic

“If that’s the case, the success of the Transitway is at risk,” he says, since one of the major selling points of rapid bus transit is that it removes buses from car traffic. “[There] probably needs to be a broader conversation about enforcement in bus-exclusive facilities.”

The county acknowledges that unauthorized vehicles using the bus lanes, intentionally or not, is an ongoing issue that dates back to the Transitway’s opening.

“[Arlington Department of Environmental Services] staff have been made aware of issues with operations on the Crystal City – Potomac Yard Transitway, specifically regarding private vehicles using and misusing the dedicated transit lanes in 2016,” DES spokesperson Nathan Graham wrote in an email to ARLnow. He  noted that they have received reports of this happening recently.

In response, transportation staff earlier this year applied red pavement markings to highlight the bus-only lanes at several of the Transitway segments, Graham said, including at 27th Street S. and Potomac Avenue, 33rd Street S. and Crystal Drive, and 26th Street S. and Crystal Drive.

“Moving forward, we will enhance this practice of clearly denoting entry points for bus-only lanes and at areas where there are reports of driver confusion with additional paint and signage, as appropriate,” wrote Graham. “We will also reach out to our colleagues at ACPD to review options for enforcement at these locations.”

All of these are issues that the county will keep in mind as the build-out for the extension to Pentagon City begins next year.

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A Connecticut man has been jailed after police say he stole items from two cars and then tried to run from officers.

The arrest happened early Monday morning in the Columbia Forest neighborhood, near Columbia Pike.

Officers initially responded after a man said his car was moved and a man was rummaging through it. The man brandished the gun as the car’s owner approached, according to police.

The suspect allegedly led arriving officers on a brief foot chase before being taken into custody.

More from an ACPD crime report:

WEAPONS VIOLATION, 2021-11290031, S. Frederick Street at 10th Street S. At approximately 3:19 a.m. on November 29, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim had left his parked vehicle running and upon returning, discovered it had been stolen. The victim canvased the area of S. Frederick Street and 10th Street S. and located his vehicle parked and the male suspect rummaging through it. As the victim approached the vehicle, the suspect turned and allegedly brandished a handgun before fleeing the scene on foot. Arriving officers canvased the area and observed the suspect walking in the 900 block of S. Columbus Street. As officers attempted to speak with the suspect, he ran and a brief foot pursuit was initiated before he was taken into custody without incident. During the course of the investigation, a handgun, items belonging to the victim and items from a separate larceny from auto in the 5000 block of 10th Street S. were recovered. [The suspect], 21, of Norwich, Ct., was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny Auto, Brandishing a Firearm, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Larceny from Auto (x2), Vehicle Trespassing (x2). He was held on no bond.

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