A water main break has been reported on S. Scott Street, near the intersection with Columbia Pike.
Cars are being towed from the area to allow crews to dig and access the broken water main.
No word yet on how large the water main is nor how long repairs might take.
Update at 10:45 a.m. — It was an 8-inch cast iron water main that burst, according to Arlington County Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Myllisa Kennedy. Water service to the apartment building on S. Scott Street is impacted by the break. Repair crews are on scene.
Home oxygen tanks helped fuel Sunday morning’s three-alarm apartment fire near Columbia Pike, the Arlington County Fire Department said today.
The fire broke out around 9:15 a.m. in an apartment at 850 S. Greenbrier Street. Firefighters from Arlington and Fairfax County arrived minutes after a 911 call was placed, and found heavy smoke coming from a second-floor apartment.
Firefighters rescued 20 trapped residents using ladders, and rescued an unconscious man from a smoke-filled hallway. He was transported to Medstar Washington Hospital Center in critical condition, ACFD said.
More than 80 fire personnel helped to extinguish the flames, which extended to the third and fourth floors and caused some $50,000 worth of damage. Arlington’s Office of Emergency Management set up a temporary shelter for 120 displaced residents in the nearby Greenbrier Baptist Church. The American Red Cross also helped to provide food, water and other essentials.
The cause is still under investigation, but the fire department says medical oxygen tanks “contribute[d] to the rapid fire spread.”
Photo courtesy @itsjustmejona
An FBI SWAT team observed while three men allegedly robbed the Wells Fargo at Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive at gunpoint on Tuesday, apprehending the suspects a block away after the robbery had been committed.
The men — two from Maryland and one from Washington, D.C. — had been under FBI surveillance after being suspected of committing several bank robberies around the D.C. area, according to federal prosecutors.
The men left the bank with $47,000, but were apprehended a block north on George Mason Drive. They have been charged with armed bank robbery.
Below is the full press release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – James McNeal, 63, of Hyattsville, Md., James Link, 56, of Washington, D.C., and Alphonso Stoddard, 59, of Forest Heights, Md., were charged today by criminal complaint with armed bank robbery.
Dana J. Boente, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the initial appearance of defendants Link and Stoddard before United States Magistrate Judge John F. Anderson.
The defendants each face a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment if convicted.
According to court documents and court proceedings today, the FBI received information in December 2013 that McNeal, Link and Stoddard had been responsible for the armed robberies of multiple banks in the Washington metropolitan area. After identifying the subjects, the FBI kept the three men under close surveillance, which included observing the defendants as they cased banks in Arlington, Va. for potential robberies.
On December 31, 2013, FBI agents followed the three subjects as they drove from Maryland to a Wells Fargo bank branch in Arlington. An FBI SWAT team was prepositioned near the Wells Fargo bank before the defendants arrived. At approximately 1:15 p.m., Link and Stoddard entered the bank with their faces covered. Link brandished a gun and pointed it at individuals in the bank, while Stoddard jumped the teller counter and removed approximately $47,000 in cash from teller drawers. The two men exited the bank and returned to their vehicle, where McNeal was waiting.
As the three subjects attempted to flee the scene, FBI and Arlington County Police apprehended them approximately one block away. A handgun and cash were found in the vehicle. A search of McNeal’s house in Hyattsville, Md. led to the discovery of additional firearms, gloves and items of clothing that were linked to previous bank robberies.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Washington Field Office with the assistance of the FBI’s Baltimore Division and the Fairfax County and Arlington County police departments. The United States Attorney’s Offices for the District of Columbia and the District of Maryland also provided assistance in the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Adam B. Schwartz is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Criminal complaints are only charges and not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty.
(Updated 2:20 p.m.) Three suspects have been apprehended after a bank robbery on Columbia Pike.
The Wells Fargo Bank at the corner of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike was robbed this afternoon, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Three suspects have been taken into custody, he said.
The robbery occurred around 1:20 p.m., according to scanner traffic.
Significant police activity at the intersection is impacting traffic and 16-line Metrobuses. Northbound George Mason Drive is closed at Columbia Pike.
Update at 10:00 a.m. — VDOT says the change has been postponed: “Please note this new pattern has been postponed until January due to additional signal work. A new date for the shift will be announced soon.”
A new traffic pattern will be in effect at the under-construction Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard interchange
VDOT says drivers heading eastbound on the Pike will now have a different way of getting to northbound I-395 (toward the District). Now, instead of bearing right after the light at S. Quinn Street, drivers will need to wait to turn left at the light, onto a new ramp to Washington Boulevard.
Those heading to southbound I-395 will still bear right onto the ramp after S. Quinn Street.
“Work to complete the switch will take place between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Thursday,” VDOT said in a press release. “Message signs will be in place to notify drivers of the new traffic pattern.”
“This new access is part of the $51.5 million project to replace the Washington Boulevard bridge over Columbia Pike,” the press release continued. “The project will be complete in summer 2015.”
As part of the project, the new bridge over Columbia Pike opened last month.
Bangkok 54 restaurant (2919 Columbia Pike) was open for lunch and is now open for dinner today (Thursday) as usual, despite a fire that ripped through the business’ next-door market early this morning.
We’re told the Thai restaurant only suffered minor smoke damage as a result of the fire, which caused significant damage to the market. The heaviest damage was in the ceiling of the market, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton.
Fire investigators are still on the scene, trying to determine the cause of the fire. So far, there’s no estimate of the cost of the damage.
Update at 4:30 p.m. — The restaurant portion of Bangkok 54 was open for business today.
Arlington County firefighters battled a two-alarm fire at Bangkok 54 on Columbia Pike early Thursday morning.
The Thai restaurant is located at 2919 Columbia Pike, next to the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The fire appeared to be in the Asian market portion of the business, not the restaurant itself. However, it’s likely that smoke from the blaze spread throughout the business.
The emergency response to the fire shut down Columbia Pike in both directions for about an hour and a half.
(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) A large water main break has been reported on Columbia Pike, just in time to cause significant issues with the evening commute.
The water main break was reported at Columbia Pike and Carlin Springs Road, on the Arlington/Fairfax county line. Fairfax County police are shutting down the Pike in both directions between Carlin Springs and Route 7.
Police have shut down the eastbound side of the Pike to pedestrian traffic, because workers are cautious to prevent the sidewalk from collapsing into a sinkhole, according to police on the scene. Fairfax Water workers are trying to turn off the water — which is still pouring out of the sewer grates in the closed-off section of Columbia Pike — before beginning repairs.
There are no estimates so far for the timeline of work to be completed, so drivers should avoid the area entirely on their commute, if possible. As of about 5:30 p.m., Carlin Springs Road was backed up all the way into the Buckingham neighborhood, and several other roads in the area were also suffering major backups.
The $1 million Walter Reed “Super Stop” on Columbia Pike had its first big test of handing inclement winter weather over the weekend.
By at least one measure, it failed.
Part of the Super Stop’s bench was covered by snow Sunday, as a tweet from Arlington County Board candidate Peter Fallon showed.
“No, it doesn’t keep the snow out. :-(,” Fallon tweeted.
Photo via Twitter
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Back in January, I wrote about Chairman Tejada’s call for a Columbia Pike Tax Increment Financing district, or TIF. Some have suggested privately that a dedicated stream of funding for affordable housing was a “condition” for Tejada’s trolley support. Regardless of the TIF’s genesis, the Board will hear public comments on it next Saturday.
First, a reminder of how a TIF works. Essentially, Arlington County freezes the tax base of a defined area and dedicates tax revenue from that base to the general fund. The additional future revenue, or a percentage of it, is then earmarked to spend solely in that area, presumably with a pet project in mind. The general fund, on the other hand, is used to pay for the ongoing county services we all use: schools, transportation, police, fire, parks, and other services.
In this case, the Board is proposing a set-aside of 25 percent in the TIF to put toward the construction of affordable housing projects in the Columbia Pike corridor for the next 30 years. Regardless of what you think about the need to fund additional affordable housing in Arlington, the TIF automatically removes 25 percent of the additional real estate tax revenue along the corridor in the future from the general fund. There is nothing to prevent this percentage from going higher in the future to pay for more affordable housing needs or another project in the area.
This is the second TIF proposed in the county, both begun in large part to help get the Columbia Pike trolley project built. The first was put in place for Crystal City — presumably to help finance bonds for that portion of the trolley line. Those bonds would allow financing without a requiring vote by Arlingtonians.
The Board’s willingness to move toward financing projects with TIFs seems to be setting us on a path toward multiple TIFs throughout Arlington. In effect, the new board policy is that they are willing to create long-term earmarks for pet projects. While we will almost certainly never reach Chicago-style TIF levels, with more than 100, what I wrote nearly 11 months ago still holds true today:
The use of special interest TIFs to avoid future public debate, scrutiny, and up or down votes on such projects is a bad idea, plain and simple. It will not only avoid additional public input, but it will inevitably lead to higher tax rates for all of us. When schools, roads, public safety and other services face a squeeze in future budgets, the Board will tell voters they simply have to raise taxes to pay for it.
The County Board should not lock Arlingtonians into this fiscally irresponsible path.
If you are concerned about the long-term earmarks that TIFs will create, you should consider attending the hearing on Dec. 14 to voice your concerns.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
The bridge, which has been under construction since 2012, was built to replace the previous structure. The old bridge was built in the 1940s as part of the original Pentagon Roadway Network and had been in “poor condition,” according to VDOT.
Construction on the project is still expected to wrap up at some point in 2015, according to VDOT’s project website.
Lane closures will continue on Columbia Pike into 2014 while the new bridge is finished and the old bridge is demolished. Demolition is expected to happen as soon as January.
The bakery was announced as the food service tenant for the center this past summer. As we reported at this time, the 1,875 square foot location on the center’s ground floor was to serve healthier foods, specialty coffee, gelato and salteñas.
Rent on the seven-year lease was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term. For reasons as of yet unknown — its owners could not be reached for comment — Pan American is now trying to back out of the lease.
“We have recently received a request from Pan American Bakery asking to terminate their lease,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jennifer Heilman told ARLnow.com. “Ultimately, this decision whether or not to terminate the lease will be made by the County Board as they approved the lease. There is no date set for this review by the County Board. We are currently exploring alternative options in the interim.”
No word yet on what might replace Pan American at Arlington Mill. The bakery has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike in Arlington and 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria.
In announcing the bakery as Arlington Mill’s restaurant tenant in July, county officials said its owners were chosen because of their “business experience, local presence, financial strength, willingness to accept the county’s monetary terms, and readiness to proceed.”
The community center will holding an open house on Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec. 7.
Disclosure: Arlington County is advertising the Arlington Mill Community Center open house on ARLnow.com
The lingering questions that surround the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project have given developers pause as they look to build along the corridor, according to one of the Pike’s biggest boosters.
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he’s seen a slowdown in development and business interest in recent months, as local politicians and residents have continued to debate the merits of the streetcar project. With Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman, a key streetcar supporter, retiring early next year, that debate is likely to continue unabated as candidates vie to fill his seat in a special election.
Despite some uncertainty about how and when the Pike streetcar will be funded, Arlington County is still moving forward with the project. Karantonis is pushing for the streetcar to be built sooner rather than later.
“There isn’t uncertainty around the streetcar, but there are lot of people who want to create uncertainty,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com Monday. “This is concerning the business community because people want to be able to at least make medium-term decisions, and they don’t welcome this kind of prolonged debate about the streetcar itself.”
Karantonis said the ongoing questions about when the streetcar will actually be built has slowed both commercial and residential development. Modern development strives for a mix of uses, Karantonis said, so when one form development is slowed, all forms are.
Small businesses could also be impacted by any delays in the streetcar project, Karantonis said. The thousands of daily passengers the streetcar is projected to carry can’t come soon enough for Columbia Pike merchants. Pockets of retail space along the Pike have been vacant for years, Karantonis said, and the streetcar will help boost businesses in neglected areas.
“It’s not easier for [small businesses] to wait,” he said. “They look at the streetcar as a catalyst and a game-changer. The more challenging the economic times are for us with the government sputtering along, this hardens the demand on local government to deliver the investment goods it has planned for.”
County Board Member Libby Garvey — who was elected last year on an anti-streetcar platform and is currently the lone voice of streetcar dissent on the Board — isn’t so sure about Karantonis’ hypothesis.
“It would surprise me if there were many businesses very concerned about delays in the streetcar,” Garvey wrote in an email. “Remember, we are talking about adding 10 streetcars to 34 buses along the Pike. Hardly a major change in transit, just a major change in expense and disruption of traffic as 10 fixed rail vehicles run in mixed traffic creating headaches for everyone.”
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
At the Nov. 16 County Board meeting, the board voted 4-to-1 to hold a public hearing on Dec. 14 to “consider establishment of a tax increment financing area and fund to help finance affordable housing initiatives in support of the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan.”
The board should vote NO on this proposal in December.
Why is there such a tiff about this TIF?
As a county staff report explains, TIF is a financing mechanism that captures “the projected increase in property tax revenues created by… development… It redirects and segregates the increased property tax revenues that would normally flow to the General Fund so that they can be used for a specific purpose.”
The Board Should Defer A Final Vote Until After It Approves A General Policy on TIF
The same county staff report acknowledges that “the County Manager will be proposing a County-wide TIF policy as part of a comprehensive review of the County’s financial and debt management policies, last updated in 2009.” But, staff recommends that the board go ahead and approve the Columbia Pike TIF now because staff cannot imagine that the County-wide review will change staff’s mind about this TIF.
The staff has the cart before the horse.
TIF is a deservedly controversial form of financing because every time it is used it takes tax revenues away from the county’s general operating budget. TIF curtails the board’s flexibility to adapt to changing economic conditions. Given the new normal of Arlington’s budget situation, no further uses of TIF should be approved until after the comprehensive review is complete and the public is heard.
This TIF Is Highly Problematic
County staff is straining mightily to find a way to pay for an unrealistic goal that the County Board adopted last year: to preserve every single one of the 6,200 market rate affordable housing units defined in the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan.
It was a big mistake for the County Board to adopt this goal before having a robust budget discussion with the Arlington community about:
- the priority of this goal compared to all other community priorities
- the benefits of this goal compared to its costs
This goal should not be shielded from the competition with other goals that takes place as part of Arlington’s annual operating budget review.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
The plan was approved less than a week after local preservationists called for alternatives to demolishing the church, which was built in 1931.
The church has partnered with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing on the project, which, if approved by the Arlington County Board, will include a five-story, 142-unit apartment building, a new, 7,100-square foot “worship space,” as the church called it, and ground floor retail space intended for a coffee shop.
APAH plans on submitting a proposal to the county for the redevelopment in 2014, with an eye toward opening in late 2017. The plans are in line with the Columbia Pike Form Based Code, meaning APAH will not have to seek additional density from the County Board.
According to the Arlington Presbyterian press release, the church has been looking at ways redevelop for the past three years. It was members of the church who reached out to APAH to form the partnership.
“Our decision to partner with APAH represents our new vision for discipleship, crossroads and affordable housing,” Pastor Sharon Core said in the release. “We believe in being good stewards of our resources by using our land along Columbia Pike to further this vision, as this redevelopment represents the innovative social change that has been a hallmark of our ministry.”
Photo via Preservation Arlington