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.
Arlington 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.
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
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.
The county says the new funding will enable to Arlington and Fairfax to proceed with the streetcar project more rapidly — accelerating the construction timetable by at least a year — partially thanks to eliminating the need to obtain federal funding.
“The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said, in a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.
The new funding will also help save $25 million in project costs, according to an Arlington County press release. The Columbia Pike streetcar is now estimated to cost $333 million, about half of which will be funded by the state. The other half of the cost will come from regional transportation funds and local commercial property taxes dedicated to transportation projects.
“No Arlington County homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds will be used to finance design and construction of the streetcar,” the county said.
County Board member Libby Garvey, who along with recently-elected Board member John Vihstadt oppose the streetcar, slammed the state’s decision. Garvey issued the following statement, in which she expresses hope that “the wise voters of Arlington” will vote out Board members who support the streetcar.
I could not be more disappointed in the quick decision by Secretary Layne to devote much needed and scarce transportation dollars to a project as foolish and wasteful as the Columbia Pike streetcar. This project will not improve transit on the Pike. In fact, it will make traffic worse as slow streetcars clog up an already congested thoroughfare. Fortunately, I am pretty sure that within 2 years the wise voters of Arlington will have voted out board members who support the streetcar. That will end the project and allow the Commonwealth, despite this ill advised decision by the Secretary, to spend its money on much more worthwhile and needed projects. I hope that will include a modern and cost effective bus rapid transit system on the Pike in Arlington. That’s what both Arlington and the region need.
Vihstadt also issued a statement, in which has charged that the Commonwealth “rushed to judgment and failed to perform the independent due diligence expected of a state agency to fully analyze this ill-advised local government request.”
“Many valuable transportation projects for which there is a broad public consensus, ranging from improved Metro and bus service to road and pedestrian safety enhancements, will be sacrificed for this controversial project that has deeply divided Arlington County and contributed heavily to my election on April 8 as the first non-Democrat to the County Board since 1999,” Vihstadt said.
The county’s press release, after the jump.
Arlington County’s PR campaign to inform residents of the benefit of the streetcar continues.
This week we reported — followed by other local TV, print and online outlets — that the county had produced more television spots that try to explain “why streetcar.”
Among the expected benefits along Columbia Pike are more development, increased county tax revenue, increased transit ridership, and the preservation of affordable housing.
Pedro and Vinny’s, the popular burrito stand in the CVS parking lot at 2599 Columbia Pike, is closed indefinitely after having its health license revoked.
The restaurant opened in 2011 in what was once an Ollie’s Trolley. It has since served hungry Pike residents, Pentagon employees, and even members of Congress. Earlier this month it was included in the prestigious Five Thirty Eight Burrito Bracket.
Arlington County Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick says the health department placed Pedro and Vinny’s on a one-year probation in February due to repeated food safety violations that “significantly increased the risk of foodborne illness.”
The violations were mostly centered around improper food holding temperatures: the cheese and sour cream were too warm in the refrigerator and the chicken and beef were not hot enough in the countertop well, according to health inspection records. As part of the probation, the restaurant was informed that its food service license would be revoked if they were found not in compliance again, according to Larrick.
Yesterday (Wednesday), an inspector again found “improper hot and cold holding temperatures,” Larrick said. The license was immediately revoked and Pedro and Vinny’s was closed.
Last night, handwritten signs posted on the restaurant’s doors stated that it was “closed for a few days due [to] a kitchen problem.” Larrick said that Pedro and Vinny’s may submit an application for a new license, but will “need to meet all applicable requirements of… Arlington County Code” in order to receive it.
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) is bringing back outdoor movies in Penrose Square every Saturday from this week (June 21) through August 30. This year, CPRO also will offer movies every other Thursday in the plaza of the new Arlington Mill Community Center, starting tonight and running through September 11.
CPRO is trying out something different at Arlington Mill by offering a couple of Spanish movies subtitled in English, and vice versa. The push for diversity in the movie selection isn’t just for Spanish-speaking cultures. CPRO Executive Director Takis Karantonis notes the movie “The Visitor” deals with issue of immigrating to the United States from Africa and the Middle East.
“We really are very interested in bringing movies from the many cultures we have along Columbia Pike,” said Karantonis. “We will test to see how it works. We realize not everybody is happy with subtitles all of the time, so we will collect feedback and adapt according. Our goal is to make the movies as linguistically accessible as possible.”
The Arlington Mill movie schedule follows:
- June 19 — La Misma Luna (Spanish subtitles)
- July 3 — Life of Pi
- July 17 — No se Aceptan Devoluciones (English subtitles)
- July 31 — The Visitor
- August 14 — Sofia y el Terco (Spanish subtitles)
- August 28 — El Estudiante (English subtitles)
- September 11 — Avatar
Below is the schedule for movies at Penrose Square:
- June 21 — Mama Mia!
- June 28 — The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
- July 5 — Sideways
- July 12 — Inception
- July 19 — Notting Hill
- July 26 — Little Miss Sunshine
- August 2 — Slumdog Millionaire
- August 9 — Before Sunset
- August 23 — The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
- August 30 — Gravity
A restaurant called “The Celtic House,” from a company called “Green Brigade LLC,” has applied for a permit to serve wine, beer and mixed beverages at 2500 Columbia Pike, in the Arlington Village Shopping Center. That’s the current home of Manee Thai restaurant, which has been open for 13-14 years.
“Mo,” a man identifying himself as the owner of Manee Thai, told ARLnow.com today that he is in talks to sell the restaurant and retire. But he said nothing has been finalized.
“We have nothing going on yet,” he said. “We are still talking.”
No company phone number was listed for The Celtic House or Green Brigade LLC. The Virginia State Corporation Commission and Arlington County have no record of an LLC by the name of “Green Brigade.”
Another Irish-themed watering hole, P. Brennan’s Irish Pub (2910 Columbia Pike), has been open just down the street since 2010.
The 19th annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival was held Saturday afternoon.
The festival benefited from warm and sunny weather that seemed mild compared to the sweltering heat of past years.
On one end of the closed-off portion of Walter Reed Drive, community organizations, local restaurants and a variety of vendors were set up in booths, offering attendees meals, beers and various wares. On the other end, the festival stage hosted blues acts like Duffy Kane, Memphis Gold and the headliner, Ana Popovic.
Aside from the music, there was another type of public performance at the festival: live art creation on canvases that were then auctioned off.
Another Flash Flood Watch — It’s Friday the 13th and Arlington is under another Flash Flood Watch today. The watch is in effect from noon through 10:00 p.m. Forecasters say an approaching cold front will spawn scattered showers and thunderstorms, some of which will be strong and result in very heavy rain. [National Weather Service]
Library to Launch Tool Lending – Arlington residents will soon be able to use their library cards to borrow garden tools from Arlington Central Library. The library is currently looking for volunteers to run and maintain its new “tool library,” which was established after being set as a priority by the county’s Urban Agriculture Task Force last year. [Arlington Public Library]
Va. Lawmakers Pass Budget After Impasse — Republicans in the Virginia Senate passed a budget Thursday night that thwarts an expansion of Medicaid, which had been sought by Democrats. Republicans were able to pass the budget after a Democratic lawmaker resigned and shifted the balance of power in the Senate to the GOP. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
‘KidicalMass’ Bike Ride Sunday — For Father’s Day, a group of parents and their kids will be taking part in a “KidicalMass” bike ride from Hayes Park to Larry’s Homemade Ice Cream in Clarendon Sunday evening. [Blogspot]
Blues Fest Road Closures — The annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival will be held Saturday and several road closures, including the closure of Walter Reed Drive north of Columbia Pike, are planned as a result. The road closures will be in effect from about 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Police are looking for a man who allegedly used his iPhone to photograph a woman using the bathroom.
The incident happened Tuesday night on the 4200 block of Columbia Pike. Police say the woman looked out the window, saw a hand holding an iPhone and screamed, scaring off the suspect.
From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
PEEPING TOM, 140610056, 4200 block of S. Columbia Pike. At 10:18 pm on June 10, an unknown male subject was seen taking a photo of a female as she used the restroom. The victim stated that she glanced out the bathroom window and viewed a hand holding an iphone taking a picture or video of her. The suspect then fled after the victim screamed. There is no suspect(s) description.
The rest of this week’s crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
The Blues Festival runs from 1:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the intersection of the Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive by the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse. There will be plenty of food and beer, but as Takis Karantonis, the executive director of the event organizer, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says, the food and drink are secondary to the music.
“We think the blues is the Pike’s music,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com yesterday. “It corresponds to the personality and flavor of the Pike. Our artists on Saturday, they’re such different personalities and they all converge on the platform of the blues.”
The headliner this year is Ana Popovic, who Karantonis describes as “more heavy-duty, modern blues” than previous artists at the Blues Festival, but one who comes with a national following, a point of emphasis in putting together the event.
Opening for Popovic will be Steve McWilliams and The Spectacles, Duffy Kane, Memphis Gold and Billy Thomson. Next to the stage will be the return of Art in Action, in which visitors can watch artists paint canvases that will be auctioned off during the festival.
Selling food at the festival will be Pike restaurants Mazagan, Cantina Mexicana, Rincome, the Salsa Room and Big Daddy’s Texas-style BBQ. Beer will be provided by Yuengling.
For the first time this year, there’s a second day to the festival, an event called “Little Bit A Blues” at the courtyard in front of Penrose Square (2503 Columbia Pike), on Friday starting at 6:00 p.m. While it’s a mini-event this year, Karantonis plans to expand the festival into a full two-day event for next year.
Last year, Karantonis estimates that the festival drew between 7,000 and 8,000 people last year. Although he said “we don’t talk about the weather” in CPRO’s office, the forecast calls for sunny skies and low-80s temperatures.
Arlington County produced a video with tips on how to get to the Blues Festival via transit.
Disclosure: CPRO is an ARLnow.com advertiser. File photo.
The alleged incident took place at 5:00 p.m. this past Monday, on the 1000 block of S. Cleveland Street.
“A subject was seen masturbating in his car in front of a daycare as children were playing in the front yard,” according to the ACPD crime report. “Police arrived on scene and took the suspect into custody.”
The suspect — identified as 38-year-old Alberto Sanchez Jr of New Haven, Conn. — has been charged with “taking indecent liberties with children.” He was held without bond.
“DANGER ZOMBIES AHEAD,” the sign read, startling some drivers en route to I-395 or the Pentagon.
It’s not the first electronic road sign in Arlington to be surreptitiously reprogrammed by local pranksters. Two years ago, on April 20, 2012, a similar sign near the Madison Community Center in North Arlington was reprogrammed to display “HAPPY 420!”
Photo courtesy celialarsen
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) The combined cost of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems is now estimated at $585 million.
Presenting an overview of her proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan to the Arlington County Board this afternoon, County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff said that the cost of the streetcar systems had risen $190 million from the 2013 CIP due to changes in the size of the streetcar vehicles, higher engineering and start-up costs, higher inflation and a larger project contingency.
The CIP projects that the Crystal City streetcar will begin operating in the spring of 2020 at a capital cost of $227 million. The Columbia Pike streetcar is projected to begin operating in the spring of 2021 at a capital cost of $358 million, $71 million of which would be pegged to the Fairfax County portion of the line.
“This is a large capital investment for Arlington, but we have not shied away from large capital investments ever,” Donnellan said. “These are generational projects. Every generation is asked to make decisions that will ultimately benefit generations that follow. Building high-capacity rail in South Arlington will be a transformational investment for our community.”
Nearly 75 percent of the financing for the Columbia Pike streetcar is projected to come from federal and state sources. Most of the funding for the Crystal City streetcar will come from dedicated county transportation funding or bonds, with a portion coming from the state but no funds coming from the federal government. The CIP does not anticipate issuing general obligation bonds for either streetcar system — without which the county would need state legislative approval in order to conduct a referendum on the streetcar systems.
The $585 million price tag is the latest projected cost increase for the controversial Columbia Pike project. Initially pegged as a $161 million project in 2007, that number jumped to around $250 million in 2011. Last spring, the Federal Transportation Administration rejected a county grant application for funding because it estimated the project’s cost between $255.9 million and $402.4 million. At the time, a contractor estimated said $310 million was “a most likely cost” for the streetcar.
Arlington County’s latest transit ridership projection suggests that ridership along the Columbia Pike and Pentagon City-Crystal City corridors will double, to nearly 60,000 daily transit trips, by 2035. Most of those trips will be on a streetcar, the county said. The Columbia Pike line alone is projected to increase real estate values by $3.2 to $4.4 billion and generate between $455 and $895 million in additional tax revenues for Arlington and Fairfax counties over a 30-year period.
The total CIP for the next 10 years calls for $2.7 billion in investment, more than half of which is dedicated to transportation projects, including the streetcar. Donnellan’s proposed CIP now will now be considered by the Board, which will conduct work sessions and hold a public hearing on June 10 before a planned adoption on July 19.