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by Ethan Rothstein — September 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm 2,007 0

New Super Stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed DriveThe $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.”

File photo

by Ethan Rothstein — September 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm 2,614 0

Arlington County Board Streetcar discussionA significant milestone has been reached for the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar — the county has approved an engineering and design contract for the 7.4-mile system.

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 OrleansPhoenix 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…)

by Ethan Rothstein — September 18, 2014 at 11:00 am 4,218 0

Bar TNT and Society Fair closing on Columbia Pike Bar TNT and Society Fair closing on Columbia Pike

The cafe Society Fair and the “rock ‘n’ roll bar” Bar TNT are expected to close their shared location on Columbia Pike by the end of the month.

The 2413 Columbia Pike establishment opened in 2012 as Bar TNT and Eamonn’s, a fish and chips restaurant, owned by EatGoodFood Group. The Eamonn’s part of the business turned into a second location of Society Fair earlier this year. The company’s other location is in Old Town Alexandria.

A Society Fair employee told ARLnow.com yesterday that the owners planned to close both parts of the business, facing Penrose Square, by Sept. 30.

“We don’t get as much business as the manager would like,” the employee said. “The owner thought this would do as good as Society Fair in Old Town. It’s a little more expensive than I guess the community would like. I guess a lot of people also don’t know that we’re here.”

The owners were traveling and could not immediately be reached, a spokeswoman said.

The news of the closing came the same day Bar TNT was nominated for “The People’s Best New Bars” of the Southeast by Food & Wine magazine. The pub that serves rock ‘n’ roll-inspired drinks like the Cocktail Left on the Nightstand (flat Coke and smoked Jack Daniel’s whiskey) was the only bar nominated in Virginia.

by Ethan Rothstein — September 17, 2014 at 9:20 am 1,728 0

World Gym logoWorld Gym at 1058 S. Walter Reed Drive told its members yesterday that it plans to close at the end of the month

Located on the ground floor of the Halstead apartment building, on Columbia Pike, the location is World Gym’s only in Arlington.

An employee there told ARLnow.com that the business is closing because of a dispute between the franchise owner and the building manager, but couldn’t provide any details.

World Gym opened in January 2011 and was the first gym of its kind on Columbia Pike, though it soon started competing with XSport Fitness, further up the Pike.

The fitness center changed ownership in 2013 and became Exercise Nation, before it took back the World Gym name this year. The company sent its members a brief message saying it would close Sept. 30 due to “circumstances beyond our control.”

Several readers sent ARLnow.com the email, which is copied below in its entirety:

To Our Valued Members:

We are sorry to inform you that due to circumstances beyond our control, World Gym will be closing this location effective September 30, 2014. We appreciate all the support and business you have given us and apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the gym at 703-892-1861 or through email at wgarlington@worldgym.com.

Sincerely,
World Gym

by ARLnow.com — September 13, 2014 at 10:15 am 1,870 0

Firefighters are on the scene of an electrical fire at an apartment building on Columbia Pike.

The fire was reported around 9:45 a.m., at the Dorchester Apartments on the 1900 block of Columbia Pike. The fire is said to be under control.

Dominion crews and a building inspector are en route to the scene.

Update on 9/15/14 — Part of the apartment complex was deemed an “unsafe structure” after the fire, displacing 109 residents, according to an Arlington County news release:

This morning, Arlington County firefighters and building inspectors responded to a minor electrical fire that started in one of the four apartment buildings located at 1930 Columbia Pike. There were no injuries.

An “unsafe structure” order will be in effect as of 7:00 p.m. tonight until further notice. County emergency personnel will be escorting residents into the building to gather their personal belongings. Approximately 109 people are affected. The property management company for the apartment is placing affected residents in nearby hotels.

“Keeping our residents safe is always our number one priority,” said Shahriar Amiri, Arlington County’s Chief Building Official. “Currently, all four buildings are without power, and with these conditions, we’ve determined these buildings to be ‘unsafe’ for residents.”

by ARLnow.com — September 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm 4,039 0

Police car lightsA woman was attacked by two men near Columbia Pike Monday night.

The incident, described by police as an “attempted abduction,” took place at 10:35 p.m. on the 3800 block of 12th Street S. Two men allegedly ran up to and grabbed an 18-year-old woman as she was getting into her car.

The woman fought off the attackers, who took off on foot when they spotted a police car nearby, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

From the police report:

ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION, 140908058, 3800 block of S. 12th Street. At 10:35 pm on September 8, two subjects allegedly grabbed an 18 year-old female victim from behind as she was attempting to enter her vehicle. The victim tried to fight off her attackers and sustained minor injuries. The suspects fled the scene when they observed a police vehicle in the area that was responding to a separate incident. The victim flagged police down and a K9 search was unsuccessful. Suspect one is described as a Hispanic male, between 5’5″ and 6’0″ tall and had two stripes shaved into his hair near his temple. Suspect two is described as a Hispanic male, between 5’5″ and 6’0″ tall. He was wearing dark clothing at the time of the incident.

by ARLnow.com — September 10, 2014 at 12:30 pm 2,336 0

(Updated on 9/12/14) A man suspected of a knifepoint robbery on Columbia Pike was taken into custody early this morning (Wednesday) after police say he evaded arrest and barricaded himself in his girlfriend’s apartment.

Rattana Mora Long, a 29-year-old Ashburn 26-year-old Sterling resident, was captured by SWAT team members and charged with assault on a police officer. Robbery charges are pending.

Arlington County Police say a man fitting Long’s description robbed a store on the 5000 block of Columbia Pike around 2:00 p.m. on Friday. Despite a search, police were not able to locate him after he fled.

“A subject brandished a knife and stole cash from a register in a store in Columbia Pike Plaza,” according to the police report. “The subject fled through a rear door.”

Last night, a plainclothes ACPD officer spotted Long near the original robbery scene. The officer called for backup, but Long resisted arrest, assaulted a police officer and fled the area, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

Long was tracked to the 4500 block of Four Mile Run Drive, where he allegedly barricaded himself and hid in his girlfriend’s apartment. Police negotiators and the county’s SWAT team responded, closing part of Four Mile Run Drive in the process.

Witnesses tell ARLnow.com that police used a loudspeaker in an effort to get Long to answer the phone and lure him out of the apartment. When that didn’t work, shortly after 2:00 a.m., SWAT team members entered the apartment and were able to take him  into custody without further incident, Sternbeck said.

Photos courtesy @annddayy and ACPD

by Ethan Rothstein — September 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm 1,414 0

Beach on the Pike logoEven though school is open and traffic is back up to nightmarish levels, summer isn’t officially over until the autumnal equinox on Sept. 23.

To celebrate the dwindling days of the season, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and Trinity Episcopal Church are hosting “Beach on the Pike” on Saturday (Sept. 13), a day-and-night-long, beach-themed event around Penrose Square, at the intersection of S. Barton Street and the Pike.

The festivities kick off at 8:30 a.m., with registration for Bike to the Beach, which starts at 9:30 and takes cyclists throughout the Penrose and Arlington Heights neighborhoods. Events then continue on until well after midnight.

From 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., four Pike restaurants — RedRocks, Taqueria Poblano, P. Brennan’s and Twisted Vines – will be hosting “Brunch on the Beach.” The restaurants will be offering their normal brunch menus, but 10 percent of the proceeds will go to benefit the Arlington Free Clinic and the Northern Virginia branch of the Samaritan Ministry. Parties with six or more at the restaurants will get free leis.

Starting at 4:30 p.m., the real beach-themed events get started on the square. Live music from local band Nick, Ian and the Machine, demonstrations for children, games, and beach balls will accompany a beer and wine garden in front of RedRocks, with 9th Road S. closed for the day to give the feel of a block party, according to event organizer Denese Canedo.

During the festivities, Taqueria Poblano and L.A. Bar and Grill will be selling boxes of food for $8 a piece, and a dollar from each box will also be going to the two charities.

“There are a lot of free activities and things to enjoy,” Canedo, a member of Trinity, said. “We wanted opportunities for people to not just spend and help us raise funds, but just to come out and enjoy.”

At 7:30 p.m. CPRO will show the movie “A Shark Tale” outdoors at Penrose Square. After the movie, at 9:30 p.m., RedRocks takes over with Beach On the Rocks, a continuation of the block party, with more live music, drinks and dancing. That event is scheduled to go until 2:00 a.m., according to the Facebook page.

CPRO won’t be trucking in sand to create a faux beach at Penrose Square, but attendees are encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts and other beach-y attire to set the mood.

by ARLnow.com — August 27, 2014 at 11:10 am 1,625 0

Tide LRT system (photo by Xshadow via Wikipedia)To try to reverse falling ridership, some are suggesting that the three-year-old Tide light rail line in Norfolk eliminate its $1.50 one-way fare.

Making the seven-mile Tide line free, say advocates, would help boost ridership and achieve the system’s true goal: encouraging more transit-oriented development around its 11 stops. The line simply isn’t long enough to attract ridership sufficient to offset its $8 million in annual operating costs, they say.

(As pointed out by the Sun Gazette, Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey has held up the Tide as an example of why the county shouldn’t build the Columbia Pike streetcar system.)

Economic models presented by Arlington County suggest that the Columbia Pike streetcar’s estimated $287 million cost will be offset in the long run by new development and increased real estate values. Given that development is such an important component of the Pike streetcar’s return on investment, should rides on it be free?
 

Photo by Xshadow via Wikipedia

by ARLnow.com — August 21, 2014 at 11:15 am 1,361 0

Terry McAuliffe campaigns at Washington-Lee High SchoolVirginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) will sign a bill into law in Arlington next Wednesday.

The bill addresses “the growing problem of notaries who practice law without a license” in immigrant communities. It does so by prohibiting notaries who are not attorneys or otherwise accredited from offering legal and immigration advice.

“In many Latin American countries ‘notario publicos’ (notary publics) provide legal advice, but U.S. notaries who are not also attorneys are not authorized to share this role,” explains a media advisory about the bill signing. “In Virginia, there have been cases of notaries fraudulently charging thousands of dollars for misleading advice.”

Two of the chief sponsors of the legislation, State Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) and Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) are expected to join McAuliffe at the bill signing ceremony, to be held Wednesday, Aug. 27 at 2:00 p.m. at the new Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).

by ARLnow.com — August 15, 2014 at 9:40 am 2,755 0

(Updated at 10:30 a.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department responded to an apartment fire on Columbia Pike this morning.

The fire was reported around 9:30 a.m. in the rear mechanical room of an apartment building at 2008 Columbia Pike. Firefighters were able to quickly bring the fire under control and douse the flames.

No injuries were reported. It’s unclear if any residents will be displaced as a result of the fire.

by ARLnow.com — August 5, 2014 at 9:00 am 1,848 0

The Netherlands Carillon at dusk (Flickr pool photo by thekidfromcrumlin)

County Quietly Chooses Auditor — The Arlington County government hired an internal auditor to improve transparency in finances and operations. County officials say specifics about the hire will be released in September. [InsideNova]

CEB Deal Questioned – Last month, the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) announced it would anchor The JBG Cos.’ planned Central Place office tower in Rosslyn. But the head of Boston Properties believes that’s not a win. He says Rosslyn’s vacancy rate will grow because of the huge space CEB will leave behind at 1919 N. Lynn Street. [Washington Business Journal]

Pike Lane Closures — VDOT will keep the right lane of eastbound Columbia Pike near S. Quinn Street closed, except from 6:00-9:00 a.m., through this Friday for construction. Additionally, VDOT is closing the entrance to S. Quinn Street from Columbia Pike for two days for the installation of a new Arlington County sanitary sewer manhole and pipe. Wednesday, August 6, and Thursday, August 7, no traffic can enter or exit S. Quinn Street from the Pike.

Second Copperwood Tavern to Open — Copperwood Tavern in Shirlington hasn’t even been open a year, but already its owner is looking to expand into Loudoun County. Reese Gardner has signed a lease for a 6,500 square foot space in Ashburn, which he says is closer to some of the farmers contributing to the restaurant’s farm-to-table menu. [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by thekidfromcrumlin

by ARLnow.com — July 25, 2014 at 5:05 pm 3,185 0

Illustration of future land exchange between Arlington County and the U.S. Army

Arlington County has hired a lobbying firm to help facilitate a planned land swap between the county, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Department of Defense.

As outlined in a memorandum of understanding last year, the county is planning to hand over the right-of-way for Southgate Road, near the Air Force Memorial, to the DoD, which plans to use the land — along with the former Navy Annex grounds and part of the state’s current Columbia Pike right-of-way — for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery’s burial grounds.

As revealed in a recent public disclosure, the county has hired Alexandria-based lobbying firm Congressional Strategies LLC to help move the transaction along. The land swap has already passed the House of Representatives and is now included in the under-consideration U.S. Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to Brian Stout, the county’s federal liaison.

The county’s contract with Congressional Strategies calls for a $5,000 monthly retainer for all services and runs through October, with an option to be extended through June 2015, according to county spokeswoman Mary Curtius.

“The purpose of the lobbying contract is to facilitate and bring to closure the Navy Annex Land Exchange project,” Curtius said. “This involves advocacy in both the legislative and executive branches to supplement the efforts of County staff.”

The land swap will benefit the county in several ways.

Google Map shows the former Navy Annex and the current alignment of Columbia PikeArlington will receive a sizable parcel of land south of Columbia Pike, on which the county hopes to build an Arlington County and Freedman’s Village history museum, additional parking and facilities for the Air Force Memorial, and other amenities that do not detract from “the dignity, honor, and solemnity of Arlington National Cemetery.”

Also, the exchange will facilitate a realignment of Columbia Pike and its intersection with S. Joyce Street. The realigned Pike will take a more direct path to S. Joyce Street, through the former Navy Annex parking lot, and will provide a better alignment for the future Columbia Pike streetcar.

In addition to an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, the DoD plans to use some of the land in the swap, near the Pike/Joyce intersection for a future visitor center for the Pentagon Memorial. The Senate is expected to vote on the NDAA later this year.

by Ethan Rothstein — July 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm 2,228 0

Site of the proposed bike park on the W&OD Trail (Photo via Google Maps)A new “bike park” with a “learner’s loop” is likely headed for the intersection of Columbia Pike and the W&OD Trail.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to construct a bike park on the northern side of Columbia Pike near Arlington Mill Community Center. Dominion Power, which has an easement for its power lines, is also party to the agreement.

“The focus of the project is to install a bike park with a learning loop for beginning riders,” the county’s staff report states. “The park improvements will include site furnishings, sand play area, water bottle filler, bike repair station, plaza space and a paved bicycle path.”

The park was approved back in 2009 as part of the Neighborhood Conservation program. The project has “been on hold” as the county’s Department of Environmental Services realigned the trail to improve pedestrian safety and to accommodate streetscape improvements.

Staff has already solicited bids for the project. Once the County Board approves the licensing agreement, a separate proposal with the chosen bid is expected to go before the Board in the fall.

Photo via Google Maps

by Ethan Rothstein — July 14, 2014 at 2:00 pm 1,145 0

Arlington Mill Community Center pre-opening Flickr photo(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) The western portion of Columbia Pike in Arlington is likely going to be home to the county’s newest farmers market.

The Arlington County Board is expected to approve a proposal to create an open air market in the plaza of the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street) at its meeting this Saturday.

The market, if approved, would take place from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Wednesdays and be run by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. The Arlington Mill plaza, in the middle of its first summer since the community center opened last fall, is already hosting half of CPRO’s outdoor summer movies, including showing several Spanish-language films.

CPRO already operates one farmers market on the east end of the Pike, next to the Rite Aid parking lot (2820 Columbia Pike), but CPRO Executive Director Takis Karantonis has spoken about expanding the use of public spaces all along the Pike to engage the community.

“We try to think of how to activate as much public space as possible,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com last month. “We want to do many small events that strengthen the idea of Columbia Pike as one corridor.”

Karantonis said the market will focus on “fresh vegetables and produce” and will start small. If approved as expected, Karantonis expects the first market to be held on July 30.

“The western end of the Pike has had less than favored access to fresh food and choices in general,” he said. “We want to remediate that. We want to have a farmer’s market that caters to a large population that needs more affordable choices, so we will try our best to make it as affordable as possible.”

The proposal is on the County Board’s consent agenda, meaning it will be approved without discussion unless a Board member has an issue. CPRO anticipates seven or eight vendors per week this summer, but applied for permission for up to 10 vendor tents. The land is owned by Arlington County, so the Board must also approving licensing it to CPRO for use during the market.

The market is proposed to operate until the end of November during its first year, and to operate year-round after that. The Board is voting on a one-year open-air permit, with the option to review and renew after the year is over.

File photo

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