(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Red Top Cab is exploring redeveloping its two properties in Clarendon as apartment buildings with ground floor retail.
Red Top has occupied those parcels for decades under owner Neal Nichols, who founded the taxi company in 1964. Nichols has partnered with Ballston-based developer The Shooshan Company with the intent of redeveloping its business office and large surface parking lot at 1200 N. Hudson Street and its communications center at 3251 Washington Blvd, ARLnow.com has learned.
According to Tom Miller, a planning supervisor in Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, representatives from the Shooshan Company held “a preliminary meeting” with the county to discuss the plans, but no permits or site plan applications have been submitted yet. The developers also met with the Lyon Village Civic Association to discuss the plans.
The two properties are adjacent to the recently opened Beacon Clarendon apartment project at the corner of Washington and Wilson Blvds.
A Shooshan Company official declined to discuss the plans before they are more concrete. Nichols has owned the 23,000 square foot parcel at 1200 N. Hudson Street since 1969, according to Arlington County property records. Nichols purchased the 13,560 square-foot communications center property in 1993.
A car ran into the front of a gas station in Bluemont this morning.
The incident happened around 9:30 a.m. The driver of a car somehow lost control and ran into the front of the clerk’s booth at the BP station at the corner of Wilson Blvd and George Mason Drive.
The car only dented the building and no one was injured. Despite the scare, the gas station has remained open to customers.
GOP, Democrats Support Amendment — The Arlington County Republican and Democratic committees agree on at least one thing: they both support a proposed Virginia constitutional amendment that would exempt the the principal residence of a fallen U.S. servicemember’s spouse from taxation. [InsideNova]
Chamber Launches Program for Young Entrepreneurs — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has launched a local affiliate of the Young Entrepreneurs Academy program. The program will help students ages 11-18 develop entrepreneurial skills after school. [Patch]
AAA Warns of Sun Glare — AAA is warning that sun glare could make the evening commute more hazardous for east-to-west commuters through the end of daylight saving time on Nov. 3. “Motorists should take additional precautions to avoid being blinded by the light including wearing sunglasses, cleaning their windshields, slowing down, and altering their commutes whenever possible,” said AAA Mid-Atlantic’s John Townsend.
Photo courtesy @jdsonder
The FAA announced in April that it was considering changing the regulations around airports to accommodate “one engine inoperative” planes — aircrafts that have an engine fail on takeoff and can’t ascend into the air as fast. The new rule, if passed, would restrict the heights of buildings in the area surrounding airports, which could impact redevelopment in Rosslyn and Crystal City.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan sent a letter in July to the FAA stating the county’s opposition to the rule change. In the letter, she wrote “we share the FAA’s interest in ensuring that air navigation in and around airports is safe, with appropriate plans and procedures in place to account for emergency situations.”
“At the same time, Arlington is committed to our long-established smart growth and transit-oriented development policies, which includes creating mixed-use, high-density neighborhoods around investments in transit,” Donnellan continued. “Therefore, we share the view of other potentially-affected communities that the impacts be thoroughly evaluated through the formal rule-making process before any change is made.”
The Civic Federation, a county-wide organization made up of delegates from more than 80 civic and resident associations, could vote on a motion at its meeting Oct. 7 to oppose Donnellan’s letter, made by retired U.S. Navy Pilot Jim Pebley, a Civic Federation delegate. Pebley said Donnellan made only a cursory “head-nod” to safety, instead prioritizing economic development.
“If the FAA delays adopting the proposed rule, buildings in Rosslyn could soon grow past 450 feet,” Pebley said to the County Board this week. “That gives pilots flying a disabled plane two bad choices: try to clear the buildings or turn early and cross over central Arlington… Madam Manager, your letter’s head-nod towards safety and argument about the rule change’s economic impact on smart growth is not the responseI’d hoped my County would make. You know, having a ‘downtown’ airport comes with economic benefits and safety responsibilities. You can’t have an urban airport and unlimited development crowding airliners.”
Pebley’s resolution would “urge” Arlington County government to work with the FAA on building height safety regulations instead of trying to fight such regulations.
The FAA introduced the change as a “proposed policy,” which, according to Rep. Jim Moran, meant the administration could circumvent the typical rule-making procedures, including a cost-benefit analysis by the federal Office of Management and Budget. Moran said the proposed policy was written to allow airlines to overload plans with cargo and passengers, because a plane hitting a building with one engine out of commission “never happens.”
“The airlines and the airports authority are acting out of greed,” Moran said in May. “It’s self-centered on their part. It’s disappointing and it should be stopped in my view. I’m just asking that they go through the normal, standard rule-making procedure where you look at the real-world impact, but they don’t want to consider what the economic impact would be in surrounding communities because their stovepipe attitude is they exist for the benefit of the airlines.”
The Civic Federation meets Tuesday, Oct. 7. If the FAA policy were passed, buildings already built would not be affected — about 170 in Arlington, Moran said — but, if they were to be redeveloped, they would have to be built shorter than they are now.
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
The pedestrian was crossing Lee Highway at a corner locals have called the “Intersection of Doom” about 8:20 a.m. when the driver of a black SUV plowed into her, officers and a witness said. The driver was headed north on N. Lynn Street and was making a left turn onto Lee Highway when she hit a northbound pedestrian who was using the crosswalk and had the walk signal, according to officers and witness David Clark.
Clark, a 56-year-old Rosslyn resident, was doing his daily exercise routine in Arlington Gateway Park near the intersection when he heard a yell.
“I was coming up from my pushup when I saw a lady crossing the street, and then I heard her holler,” he said. “The lady was in the crosswalk when she got hit.”
An ACPD officer was directing traffic when the crash occurred but momentarily had his back turned to that corner, officers said. An officer is posted weekday mornings from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at the intersection packed with drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, an officer said.
The pedestrian was taken to a hospital and thought to have a broken ankle, according to police scanner traffic. Officers on the scene said the driver could be ticketed, pending an investigation.
In May, the Arlington County Board approved spending an additional $75,000 on safety improvements to the intersection where cyclists have been hit by drivers several times. The upgrades will extend curbs at the intersection’s corners, modify traffic signals, add on-street bike lanes and remove a travel lane from Lee Highway. Construction was set to start in the spring and be complete in summer 2016.
Cherry Trees Planted at Library — As part of its Neighborhood Tree Planting Program, the National Cherry Blossom Festival and the Japan-America Society of Washington planted three cherry trees in front of Arlington Central Library yesterday. The program “is an effort to celebrate and share the gift of cherry blossom trees throughout the DC-metro region… and helps create new National Cherry Blossom Festival traditions beyond the Tidal Basin,” festival organizers said in a statement. [Facebook]
Whole Foods Deli, Chicken Counter Stay Closed — The main grocery store and much of the prepared foods sections at the Clarendon Whole Foods (2700 Wilson Blvd) are open following Tuesday’s fire, but county officials say the market deli and chicken counter will stay closed until the health inspector approves its reopening.
County to Consider Privatizing Volunteer Agency — Changes may be coming to Volunteer Arlington, the county’s volunteer agency. Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan is establishing a new advisory task force “to look into whether Arlington’s volunteer office is the right business model to meet community needs.” The task force will consider whether outsourcing Volunteer Arlington “would enhance volunteer activity in the community.” [Arlington County]
Restaurant Exceeds Kickstarter Goal — SER, the winner of Ballston’s Restaurant Challenge, has exceeded its $15,000 Kickstarter goal. The Spanish comfort food restaurant, coming to 1110 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, has so far raised $17,145. It also received a $245,000 interest-free loan as the prize for winning the Restaurant Challenge. [Kickstarter]
Arlington GOP Blasts Olympic Bid — Arlington Republicans do not share Democratic officials’ enthusiasm for the regional bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics. “It’s not a great idea,” said local GOP chairman Matt Wavro, citing costs and security concerns. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
The Arlington County Board passed a resolution asking the General Assembly to rename the bridge in Vernon’s honor. Vernon was killed Aug. 4, 1988, after pulling over an HOV violator on a nearby stretch of I-395 when, while speaking to the driver, a Metrobus struck and killed her.
Vernon, who was born in West Virginia during segregation in 1955, was the first woman and first African American Virginia state trooper to be killed in the line of duty.
The resolution erroneously calls for “the Glebe Road bridge over I-395″ to renamed, but there is no such bridge. According to the county’s legislative liaison to the General Assembly, Pat Carroll, there was a mistake in the resolution, and the I-395 bridge over Glebe Road is what’s actually expected to be renamed.
Vernon’s family was in attendance during the resolution on Tuesday afternoon, and County Board Chair Jay Fisette read a letter written by Vernon’s brother, Ron, transcribed after the jump.
Vernon’s family had been trying for years to get a bridge or stretch of road named after her, and their efforts appear likely to pay off. Fisette said he “can’t imagine” the General Assembly wouldn’t approve of naming the bridge after her during their 2015 session.
After the jump is Ron Vernon’s letter, “Sacrifice.”
It was a relatively quiet seven days in Arlington, at least according to this week’s Arlington County crime report.
In one notable incident, two men reportedly assaulted a man near Ballston Common Mall early Saturday morning, stealing his prescription medication, cash and a cell phone.
ROBBERY, 140920013, 600 block of N. Randolph Street. At 2:26 am on September 20, two subjects assaulted a 29 year-old male victim and stole his prescription medication, cash and cell phone. Suspect one is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately 6’5″ tall and 220 lbs. He was wearing dark clothing and a black baseball hat. Suspect two is described as a black male in his twenties, approximately 5’9″ tall and 160 lbs. He was wearing a white t-shirt and jeans at the time of the incident.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are innocent until proven guilty.
APS Graduation Rate Rises to 92 Percent — Arlington Public Schools’ graduation rate rose to 92 percent for the Class of 2014, up from 85.2 percent in 2010. The dropout rate declined to 3.8 percent this year and the graduation rate for Arlington’s three comprehensive high schools reached 98.7 percent. “This steady improvement is a reflection of the teamwork of everyone working together to ensure that our students succeed,” said Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, in a statement. [Arlington Public Schools]
Company Promises In-N-Out Delivery — As a publicity stunt, food delivery service OrderAhead is offering to deliver frozen In-N-Out Double Double burgers from California today to addresses Arlington and D.C. Even though In-N-Out is famous for food that’s never frozen or pre-packaged, the offer is apparently proving popular for those with a craving for the west coast chain. Currently, a website set up to provide more information about the promotion is down. [Eater]
County Board Supports Nonpartisan Redistricting — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Tuesday to support nonpartisan redistricting of state legislative boundaries. Democratic Board Chairman Jay Fisette said partisan redistricting leads to “stagnation and gridlock,” while independent Board member John Vihstadt said it produces “toxic partisanship in Washington and Richmond.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The $1 million “super stop” at Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive – the exorbitant price tag for which became national news – was so expensive because of poor communication, an independent review found.
The review, conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen, found that a “lack of clear communication between County and WMATA staff” and “poor execution of construction performance” were the main reasons the prototype took so long, and cost so much to build.
That poor execution includes the bus stop not being built to what was designed, including glass panels being produced at the wrong size; curbs being built at the wrong height and having to be redone; and a four-year delay in getting approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
According to the report, the initial budget of $2.15 million was supposed to cover three “super stops.” There was no communication between the county and WMATA over any change in the budget when plans for the two that were never built were ultimately scrapped. On Dec. 22, 2011, the county informed WMATA that it wanted to cease site work for the two other stops, called Dinwiddie West and Dinwiddie East.
“While it would appear the removal of site work for the two stops would result in a lower base cost… no official communication was made by the county to WMATA,” requesting the budget be lowered, the report states. “We find that the county should have requested a proposal for the deductive change order (lowering the budget), and then should have proceeded with negotiations” to change the terms of the agreement with WMATA
According to the review, $881,933 — less than the oft-cited $1 million — was spent on the prototype that still stands today, but $456,882 was sunk into the two prototypes that were never built.
“We accept the findings of this report,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. “They confirm concerns that we already had, and we have already addressed the issues systematically, so we can ensure that the remaining 23 transit stations will be built efficiently and cost-effectively. I asked for this review because, as I have said before, the Walter Reed prototype took too long and cost too much to build.”
The county announced in May that the remaining 23 transit stops would be redesigned with modular components, reducing the total project budget from $20.9 million to $12.4 million. Moreover, the county is now working independently of WMATA in designing and building the transit stations, which, when built, will accommodate both bus and streetcar passengers.
As opposed to the custom-built “super stop,” the transit stations have a modular design, with interchangeable parts that allow flexibility from station to station, and are significantly cheaper to build and maintain. Construction is expected to begin construction on the first eight transit stations by FY 2017.
“This project was an exception for Arlington,” Donnellan said. “We have a solid record of delivering large, complex projects in a timely, cost-effective manner… Unfortunately, work on the Walter Reed prototype began in 2007 at a time when WMATA was scaling back its capital improvement management program, and the project suffered as a result. Delivery was further complicated by the fact that several entities were involved. With the completion of this thorough review, we are confident that we are well positioned to effectively deliver the transit stations that the Pike needs, and continue to rebuild the Pike’s transportation infrastructure.”
Last night, after a two-hour discussion, the Arlington County Board voted 3-2 to approve a contract with HDR Engineering for $26 million for preliminary design and engineering work on the project. Fairfax County has committed to paying $3.2 million of the contract for their segment of the streetcar, from Bailey’s Crossroads to the Skyline neighborhood. The $26 million is 5.4 percent of the projected $481 million streetcar project.
The contract is the first step to Arlington’s goal of the system becoming operational in 2020. While the county has spent millions funding studies and surveys to prove the streetcar is the best transit system for the Pike’s future, this contract is the first going to actually laying the groundwork for the system itself.
“I believe that this decision is a major milestone to keeping us on track to start streetcar service in 2020,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said at the meeting. “We think long-term. We make long-term decisions, we don’t think just about the next month or next election. We created a Columbia Pike plan over many years. Think about the Clarendon Sector Plan or the Rosslyn Sector Plan. How would you feel if you went through those years and years of meetings and then have someone change that plan? I think we need to have some integrity and recognize the engagement that we’ve had.”
HDR is the firm that designed the streetcar in the District’s H Street NE corridor, but has also designed streetcar or lightrail systems in New Orleans, Phoenix and is designing a 122-mile rail system in Denver, Colo. As part of the contract, there’s a $5 million clause for “optional work,” which includes helping the county with deciding how to actually construct the streetcar. The preliminary engineering and design is expected to take 18 months.
According to the staff presentation, the contract stipulated HDR provide:
- Studies of area surveys, traffic, utilities, soils, structures, environmental conditions and mitigation
- Achieving 30 percent design status for roadway work, track alignment, power, signals, stations and facilities
- Vehicle specifications
- Plans for property acquisition
- Updated construction cost estimates
- Technical support for outreach and coordination
Thirteen speakers addressed the County Board on the issue — 11 in favor, and two opposed — a somewhat muted turnout considering the divide the streetcar has generated in the Arlington community.
“We have waited for a very long time for this project,” said Juliet Hiznay, an Arlington Heights resident. “It occurs to me that sometimes one of the worst things government can do is delay decisions. I think we’ve seen that play out on the school side with the lack of comprehensive planning, and we’re really paying for it now.”
David DeCamp, a real estate developer and former Arlington Chamber of Commerce chairman, spoke in favor of the streetcar, saying it will fund future investments in schools and will be “great for all of Arlington.”
“Frankly,” he said, “it’s something that’s been promised to the developers who have built three or four beautiful properties on the Pike so far.”
Penrose resident Stefanie Pryor opposes the streetcar, but in acknowledging that it was likely to pass, said she hoped for an auditor to be included in the contract and direct stipulations to ensure the materials and cars used for the project are appropriate and functional.
“You get some nasty surprises with commercial off-the-shelf [vehicles] unless you put it explicitly in the contract,” she said.
Board members John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey, elected largely on platforms opposing the streetcar, both railed against the contract and the streetcar in general, with Garvey positing that the streetcar system would move fewer people and deliver a worse return on investment than an enhanced bus system.
“I would maintain that we are plunging ahead on something we are not really ready for that I don’t think is really justified,” she said. “We are spending all this time and effort and money on seven and a half miles of tracks and wires that can take us to where we can go now, but slower.” (more…)
The Arlington County board approved a policy on Tuesday night to install high-resolution cameras on the “stop arms” of school buses to catch drivers who don’t stop to protect children.
“Any car passing a stopped school bus, throw the book at them,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said.
The cameras will automatically capture photos and video of any vehicle that passes a school bus from behind or the front when it is stopped with its driver’s side stop sign extended.
The images will be reviewed by a vendor selected by Arlington Public Schools through a competitive bidding process and then sent to the Arlington County Police Department. Police will then send citations to the vehicles’ registered owners.
The cameras will be installed and operated at no cost to APS, which will share ticket funds with the vendor and reimburse ACPD for reviewing the footage. According to County Board documents, in Falls Church a school bus camera vendor receives 75 percent of revenue in the first year of a contract, 60 percent in the second year and 50 percent in subsequent years.
The $250 fines will be payable to Arlington Public Schools, which may earmark the money for school bus and pedestrian safety programs.
“This is not about money, it’s about safety — and the red light cameras aren’t either. It’s about saving lives and reducing injury,” Fisette said.
County Board members opted to push back the effective date of the ordinance to Feb. 1 to put in place policies on storing, accessing and sharing the recordings.
Board Vice-Chair Mary Hughes Hynes said she wanted to balance children’s safety with privacy concerns.
“I’m very concerned about wandering in here without some conversation about what the limits and our expectations are,” she said.
Lt. Mike Watson said the images caught on camera will be held for 60 days if an infraction is recorded, and then deleted.
“If there are no violations issued, that information will be purged 10 days after use,” he said.
If the cameras were to record another crime, the footage could be released only by court order, Watson said.
Violators will receive warnings, not tickets, for the first month the cameras are used. ACPD has issued an estimated 700 citations in the past five years to drivers who pass stopped school buses.
Photo via Flickr/madame_furie
Arlington Fighting to Keep, Attract Office Tenants – In the wake of federal cuts and BRAC relocations, Arlington’s office vacancy rate is now as high as 23 percent. Arlington is reportedly fighting to keep the Courthouse-based energy software firm Opower, “which is considering a move to the District to better recruit talent.” Meanwhile, Rosslyn property owner Monday Properties is still searching for a tenant for its new, gleaming 1812 N. Moore Street office tower. [Washington Post]
New Spa Coming to Clarendon — Sterling-based Origins Thai Spa is planning on opening a new location in Arlington. The spa will be located in a 5,000 square foot space next to Sehkraft Beer Garden on the ground floor of the Garfield Park apartment building at 925 N. Garfield Street. [Washington Business Journal]
County Recognizes ‘Outstanding Landscapes’ — The Arlington County Board has recognized four properties “for the quality of their landscaping and the serenity they bring to their neighborhoods.” The properties include Circa restaurant in Clarendon, the Clarendon Square office building, the Avalon Arlington North apartment building on N. Glebe Road, and the Whitmore apartment building on Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) The Whole Foods Market in Clarendon was evacuated Tuesday afternoon after smoke started spewing from the roof.
Arlington County firefighters rushed to the 2700 Wilson Blvd. store after they received a rescue call at about 2:45 p.m., ACFD spokeswoman Lt. Sarah Marchegiani said.
The fire was put out quickly and all customers and staff were ordered to leave as firefighters searched for hot spots.
The blaze started on a stove in the front area where rotisserie chickens are sold and and was extinguished by the store’s employees, Marchegiani said. Patches of grease then caught fire in a cooking vent.
No injuries were reported.
A health inspector was called to ensure the store will be safe for re-entry. When the store can reopen won’t be known until an inspector can make an assessment, county Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick said.
“Hopefully it is just minor damage and there are no food safety issues, and they will be back up and running soon,” Larrick said.
One lane of Clarendon Blvd was shut down to accommodate emergency vehicles.
Ethan Rothstein contributed reporting
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) CEB Tower will be the tallest building in Arlington when it’s finished. Local and state officials gathered at the site of the future tower across from the Rosslyn Metro station this morning to break ground on the latest feather in the cap of Rosslyn’s redevelopment.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Rep. Jim Moran and Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette spoke before hundreds of Corporate Executive Board Company employees.
Standing 31 stories, CEB Tower will be the office component to developer JBG Companies’ Central Place development, which will include a 390-foot residential building under construction now.
For anchoring JBG Companies’ Central Place office tower, the management advisory company received a $4.5 million grant from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund, $5 million from the Virginia Economic Development Incentive Grant and matching infrastructure improvements from Arlington County.
“We are all in,” McAuliffe told the crowd. “This corporate partnership is of the utmost importance to the Commonwealth. We have been on a roll since I’ve been governor, with 68,000 new jobs since I took office.”
CEB plans to occupy 15 floors and 350,00 square feet of the 390-foot-tall office tower, moving from its headquarters since 2008 in the Waterview building at 1919 N. Lynn St. The move, according to the company, will allow CEB to add 800 new jobs at an average annual salary of $120,000, on top of their roughly 1,200 employees already working in the area.
“We look forward to seeing CEB Tower rise above the Rosslyn skyline for years to come,” CEB Chairman and CEO Tom Monahan said. “We look forward to a strong partnership in Rosslyn, Arlington and Virginia to make this a global center of commerce.”
Fisette remarked that the building was another signifier of Rosslyn’s burgeoning redevelopment, and boasted of the recent influx of rankings Arlington has received in terms of its livability and its millennial population.
“Nothing is stagnant about Arlington,” Fisette said. “If you don’t know what’s going on in Arlington, you don’t know the future of our nation.”
Moran repeated a comment he made earlier this year, at the groundbreaking of Central Place’s residential skyscraper, about how Rosslyn was “just pawn shops and prostitutes” when he first visited 50 years ago. And he ruefully quoted polarizing comments about the county that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) made in her new memoir.
“Some might even say that Rosslyn was ‘soulless,’” Moran said. “Arlington is anything but soulless, and Rosslyn is developing in a way that would make anyone proud.”
The residential building is expected to open in 2017 and CEB Tower is slated to be complete in 2018. Construction has already ensnared rush hour traffic in the area and closed the CentralPlaza outdoor eating space.