There will soon be something new on the menu at Bob and Edith's Diner on Columbia Pike in Arlington.
The restaurant is planning to sell "I Like the Pike" buttons and bumper stickers on behalf of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, a group of business people and area residents who want help rebuild the two-mile-long business district in south Arlington.
"We're willing to do whatever we can to help," said Michael Bolton, manager of the diner.
Bolton's fund-raising effort is one of many in a drive that began this week in response to the Arlington County Board's recent decision to provide a $ 50,000 economic development grant toward Columbia Pike renovation.
The grant came with a proviso: that the revitalization group demonstrate community support by raising money on its own. County Board members did not say how much the group should raise, or when it must be raised, in order to become eligible for the grant money.
Ralph G. Perrino, the group's president, said he hopes to secure up to $ 33,000 this fall. The combined county and private money would go toward the nonprofit group's initial budget of $ 82,950 and would allow it to establish an office, recruit staff members and obtain equipment and supplies.
That would be the first step in what some see as a 10-year effort to coordinate improvements that could lead to revitalization of the highway as well as a return of community pride.
"There's no doubt, I guess, that the big money developers who want immediate access to their sites will probably be turning to Ballston and Pentagon City and those places," said Perrino. "But I think there's a very large population of people out there who will patronize nice, attractive, well-stocked neighborhood stores, and those are the kinds of people we need to attract."
During the redevelopment, the county would mostly concern itself with the improvement of streets and sidewalks, investing up to $ 3 million, Perrino said. Those repairs should attract many times that amount in private development funds, he said.
"I think it's absolutely great that a group like this has finally got together," said Bolton, manager of the diner, which has been on Columbia Pike for 17 years.
Donations to the group will be made in the form of memberships -- $ 10 a year for individuals, and $ 25 or $ 50 for businesses, depending on size, said Perrino.
"We feel that now we have $ 50,000 from the county, it will be a whole lot easier to go out into the community and say: 'Here's what we're all about. Here's what we want to do. And we have the financial commitment of Arlington County behind us,' " said Perrino.
Columbia Pike, which separates the southern third of Arlington from the rest of the county, has about 170 businesses, 550,000 square feet of retail space, 400,000 square feet of commercial office space, $ 152 million in sales generated annually and 4,000 jobs along its two-mile business corridor.
About 22,000 people live in its market area, or 14 percent of Arlington's population. The average age of the commercial structures is 25 to 30 years.
"The only new construction over the past five years has been fast food restaurants, and that's not our idea of revitalization," said Perrino.
Perrino said he is certain that some disadvantages, such as the distance from Metrorail stops and the area's low-scale zoning, can be overcome.
"We're not wedged in the middle of nowhere," he said. "We're the downtown area of south Arlington, so we don't think the lack of a Metro is the death knell of Columbia Pike," he said.