A Columbia Pike church preschool has shut down indefinitely after asbestos dust was found in the floors.
Trinity Episcopal Church‘s School of Early Learning sent out a letter to parents on Tuesday, confirming the presence of asbestos dust in the air at the school. The church’s rector, Rev. Kim Coleman, also serves as the school’s headmaster and said the more than 100 students will not be allowed to enter the building for an “indeterminate amount of time.”
“We are presently looking for a temporary site for the school and as soon as we have more information we will let you know,” the letter states. “Please know that we are sorry for these unexpected developments and hope you understand that the measures we are taking we consider to be in the best interest of our students and staff.”
When reached by ARLnow.com, Coleman declined to comment before she could speak to the church’s board. A tipster, who sent us Coleman’s letter, said volunteers were cleaning the preschool when they ripped up flooring, releasing asbestos dust into the air.
“Chaos ensued when folks figured out what had happened,” the tipster wrote. “School was canceled indefinitely. Testing occurred, it came back positive, and now 100-plus kids don’t have a daycare to go to. Who knows if the church has the money to remediate asbestos.”
Coleman’s letter said the church has “consulted a professional asbestos remediation company” and was hoping for an estimate yesterday. The Trinity Church building was built in 1957, and the congregation is 111 years old. Trinity traces its origins back to a chapel for local slaves built by George Washington Parke Custis in the early 1800s, according to the church’s website.
Update at 4:05 p.m. Friday — Rev. Coleman tells ARLnow.com: “We have been dealing with this situation with an abundance of caution and with the advice of environmental professionals since we became aware of it. We will develop a plan of action for going forward as soon as possible and we are keeping the parents apprised of the situation. Our building was built in the early 1950’s and our program currently has 75 students enrolled.
A big milestone has been reached in the construction of a new Washington Blvd overpass over Columbia Pike: Washington Blvd traffic is now using both new bridges.
The Virginia Department of Transportation changed the traffic pattern today, directing eastbound traffic onto the newly constructed bridge. Before today, eastbound and westbound traffic shared the first bridge built as part of the $48.5 million, three-year long construction project.
The bridge is expected to fully open by late this summer and be named Freedman’s Village Bridge, after the freed slave community that was founded a few miles away.
“We wanted to pay respect to the local significance of Freedman’s Village,” VDOT Project manager Christiana Briganti-Dunn told ARLnow.com today. “Four pylons will show the name and there will be medallions on the bridge replicating scenery in the village, taken from a Harper’s Weekly story from 1864.”
The remaining work to be done includes completing the box culverts to redirect Long Branch Creek, which flows underneath the interchange, ramp reconstruction, a shared-use path, a sound barrier and painting. VDOT spokeswoman Jenni McCord said they are planning a “big celebration” when the bridge opens up.
This morning, in the shadow of the bridge, VDOT hosted a kick-off event for National Work Zone Awareness Week, highlighting the dangers for motorists and construction workers in highway work zones.
“So many lives are at risk when a driver fails to follow the rules of the road in a highway work zone,” Virginia State Police Capt. James De Ford told a crowd of about 50 workers, transportation agency employees and media. “Drivers must stay alert in work zones. The consequences are too severe not to.”
Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said that Arlington in 2014 had fewer work zone injuries than any of the previous five years. In Virginia, 15 people were killed in work zone accidents in 2014 — all of them motorists.
A Chipotle Mexican Grill could be coming to the ground floor of an apartment building on Columbia Pike.
A construction permit has been filed with Arlington County to build out a Chipotle restaurant in the new Pike 3400 building, at the corner of the Pike and S. Glebe Road. The building is being developed by the Penrose Group and managed by Kettler.
The permit is in the early stages — the first application was submitted on Friday — and does not necessarily mean Chipotle has signed a lease. Spring Mill Bread Co. was in talks to come to Pershing Drive in January when the property owner filed for construction permits on the business’ behalf, and RA Sushi in Clarendon is in the same situation.
The location would be Chipotle’s sixth in Arlington, with locations already in Rosslyn, Ballston, Crystal City, the Pentagon City mall and along Lee Highway.
Hat tip to Chris Slatt
(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) More than five months after the Arlington County Board canceled the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar, the county is still a year away from any alternative plan.
“Transportation is complex,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Board yesterday in an update on the area’s transit plans. “We really need to move forward in a deliberative way. We want a transit alternative very fast, but we’re going to make sure that the community is involved in whatever we do in terms of coming up with an alternative.”
Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach said the post-streetcar plan for Columbia Pike and Crystal City will likely mean more buses — buses that may be larger and fancier than those currently serving the corridors. While the county did previously study alternatives to streetcar, Leach said those plans need to be updated.
The future of transit in the area will be determined by the results of the county’s upcoming Transit Development Plan, to be completed by spring 2016. The TDP will be submitted to the state to make the county’s transit projects eligible for funding.
Top on the list of priorities, Leach told the Board, is building a facility for maintenance and storage for whatever buses the county decides to run on along the Pike.
“The facility issue is a really critical issue for Arlington, both for our existing ART service and for expanded service,” Leach said. The under-construction ART bus facility on S. Eads Street “does not quite meet the storage need for our fleet that we anticipate having this year. For Northern Virginia, we have some really serious facility challenges. These facilities are really hard to site.”
The county is already planning on expanding ART bus service — it’s cheaper than the equivalent Metrobus service — and Donnellan has asked the Board for funding to increase service for the ART 41, 42, 43 and 45 lines by this summer.
The county continues to progress on its major Columbia Pike multimodal improvements project, the Columbia Pike transit station project and projects in Crystal City and Pentagon City, but a unified, enhanced transit plan is not coming until next year. In all, county staff says it will spend $200 million in the next on transit improvements to the Columbia Pike and Crystal City corridors over the next six years.
The TDP will encompass countywide transit projects, but Leach said staff’s focus will be on the Pike and Crystal City.
Some County Board members used Leach’s update on post-streetcar planning to rehash old arguments made by both sides before the streetcar’s demise.
“People were told there would be another option that can be built faster and at a fraction of the cost, and it would be bus rapid transit,” Board member Walter Tejada said to Leach, referencing streetcar opponents, specifically John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey. “I’m not hearing you say that those are being considered as alternatives right now.”
Vihstadt responded by asking Donnellan if any developments had been cancelled or scaled back after the streetcar cancellation, to which Donnellan responded it was too early to tell –“I have not gotten any indication” that development was slowing, she said.
Fisette and Tejada went back and forth asking Leach to explain the federal definition of Bus Rapid Transit. According to the Federal Transit Administration, BRT is defined as 50 percent or more of a line using a dedicated lane during peak traffic periods. Columbia Pike is not feasible for a dedicated lane, but, theoretically, a combined Pike-Pentagon City-Crystal City-Potomac Yard line, using dedicated lanes in Crystal City, could meet the definition of BRT.
“I’m all about providing factual information to the community, not incorrect information that could unintentionally mislead,” Tejada said.
Board Chair Mary Hynes and member Jay Fisette — the two members who changed their votes to join Garvey and Vihstadt in cancelling the streetcar last year — admonished both sides for hijacking the discussion.
“The last 45 minutes has been disappointing,” Fisette said. “I don’t like seeing us devolve into last year’s competing facts. It’s certainly not appealing. It’s best that we, jointly, keep our eyes moving forward.”
Garvey, meanwhile, said she wanted to see the transit planning proceed expeditiously.
“Now we have to do a whole countywide process before we can look at the Pike again, and I think that’s not the intention,” she said. “I understand it all has to go together, it’s a good thing… The more I can hear a sense of urgency about moving forward the happier I will be and I think the happier our citizens will be.”
Leach responded that county staff has a leg up in the planning process due to the “body of work” already in place. He said a contract is in place for the design of new transit stops — the cheaper successor to the infamous $1 million Columbia Pike “Super Stop” — but construction isn’t likely until “early 2016.”
Hynes said the study, which will join the community facilities study and Long Bridge Park aquatics center study, also announced yesterday, is important to keep the community reminded of the Board’s effort.
“I don’t want anyone listening today thinking that we are abandoning Columbia Pike,” she said, citing the multimodal improvements and transit station projects and examples. “We need the community to understand that our commitment to those things is deep, is strong, is ongoing and it’s funded.”
(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) A car slammed into the side of an Arlington bank on Saturday.
The incident happened before noon at the BB&T Bank (1100 S. Walter Reed Drive) near Columbia Pike.
No one was injured when the car rammed the bank, nearly running through a set of double doors, according to the local firefighter association Twitter account. No structural damage to the building was reported.
The crash was “a classic case of mistaking the gas pedal for the brake,” said Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The vehicle struck a parked car before crashing into the bank’s ATM vestibule.
The driver was charged with reckless driving, according to Sternbeck.
— Chief 288 (@Chief288) March 14, 2015
Photos (top) via @IAFF2800
The former Blanca’s Restaurant at 2900 Columbia Pike may be getting a makeover in an attempt to attract a new restaurant tenant.
The aging, two-story structure sits on the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, dwarfed by the adjacent Halstead apartment building. It has been vacant for years, despite the high-profile location across from the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse.
In recent years, the building has been toured a couple of times by potential tenants, including the owners of a popular north Arlington coffee shop and gathering spot, but the poor condition of the interior and other expensive challenges have been viewed as obstacles to opening in the space.
Now, we’re told, the siblings who own the building are planning to renovate in order to jump start the process of finding a tenant. Since December, Ramon and William Darcey have been applying for various building, electrical and other permits. So far, most of those permit applications have been rejected.
The permits detail ambitious plans to renovate the interior, expand the second floor, install an exterior staircase, set up a rooftop seating area near the rear of the building and remove landscaping in order to install ground-level outdoor seating. In September, the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board was briefed on the plans and offered design suggestions for keeping potentially historic elements of the Spanish Revival-style building in tact.
The building and property was assessed at $765,200 for 2015. Several “for lease” signs have already been placed outside the building and inside its windows.
The first two residential developments designed with the Columbia Pike neighborhoods form-based code were approved last night, bringing hundreds of new residences into the Pike’s development pipeline.
The Arlington County Board approved a 229-unit, eight-story affordable housing complex on the western end of Columbia Pike and 50 new townhouses to replace the historic George Washington Carver homes in Arlington View.
The Carver Homes were built in the 1940s for residents displaced by the construction of the Pentagon, and many of the families who lived there when it was built now own residences in the co-operative. While preservationists lament the loss of a piece of the county’s history, the residents urged the County Board to approve the development.
“I know first hand that our co-op has been deteriorating for many years,” Velma Henderson, a Carver Homes owner who has lived in the co-op for 68 of its 70 years in existence, told the Board. “Busted and frozen pipes, leaky roofs and crumbling foundations, to name a few… We have a long and proud history in Arlington, so it was important for Carver Homes to select a developer who had the vision and resources to create a high-quality development. This plan considers Carver Homes’ needs.”
The 44 units will be bulldozed and replaced with 50 townhouses, 23 of which will be duplexes. Six of the duplex units will be committed affordable units, and the developer, Craftmark Homes, also has agreed to build a public park on the property and extend S. Quinn Street through the parcel at the corner of S. Rolfe and 13th Streets.
As part of the redevelopment, the developer will place two historic markers on the property signifying its history. Arlington is also beginning to compile an oral history of the property, which will be available at Arlington Central Library when completed.
“My mother’s dream was that we would benefit from the sale of the property,” said James Dill, a co-op owner whose mother was displaced by the Pentagon construction. “We’ve been banking on it for 50 or 60 years that, at some point in time, Arlington County would grant us our piece of the American dream, and we’ve been holding firm on that.”
The County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment. County Board Chair Mary Hynes thanked the owners — who have been working to sell the property for most of the past decade — and the community for their patience. Board member Libby Garvey remarked that many of the residents were forced out of their homes in the 1940s for the Pentagon to be built, and the Board could, in a very small way, “right that wrong.”
“I think we’re really touching history,” Garvey said. “This was temporary housing 70 years ago. How much temporary housing lasts 70 years? So it’s time.”
The conversation surrounding the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing‘s proposal for its new affordable housing buildings next to its expansive Columbia Grove community on S. Frederick Street was quite different.
Dozens of speakers came out to speak on both sides of the issue, and public comment and Board deliberations lasted after midnight. Opponents, many of whom live close to the site, said there is too much concentration of affordable housing on the western end of Columbia Pike.
“Presently our community is home to about 18 affordable housing communities in the immediate area,” Erin Long, a homeowner in the Frederick Courts Condominiums across the street. “What’s become known as the western gateway node of Columbia Pike cannot sustain the affordable housing development as it’s planned.
“It’s clear that plan is for those units lost at the east end of the pike to be relocated to the west end,” she continued. “It’s absolutely inappropriate for every lost unit to be relocated to us. We deserve to benefit from the redevelopment of Columbia Pike, not serve as the repository for those displaced from other nodes.” (more…)
Some residents have contacted ARLnow.com, asking about a rumor that Starbucks is planning to open in the former Society Fair space in Penrose Square. Such a location would put it in direct competition with Rappahannock Coffee, the independent coffee roaster and cafe that has been open across the street since 2001.
(Development has been proposed that would force Rappahannock to close or move, although there have been few signs lately of it moving forward.)
A source with knowledge of commercial real estate discussions on the Pike confirmed that Starbucks is at least scouting for a location there.
“I know that Starbucks has been looking for a location on the Pike,” the source told ARLnow.com. “Some of the region’s best agents have been involved and as of last week, some are saying that Starbucks is considering a deal.”
“Penrose is looking for a national brand tenant for the [Society Fair] space but so are others too,” like 3400 Pike and the Halstead,” the source continued. “We have been hearing about imminent deals since November but… nothing materialized.”
(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is planning on building two, eight-story apartment buildings near the western end of Columbia Pike.
APAH is planning on replacing a surface parking lot at 1010 S. Frederick Street with the two buildings, which will contain 229 units of committed affordable housing. All of the units will be affordable up to 60 percent of area median income, with some units as low as 40 percent AMI.
To replace the surface parking, a three-level underground garage will be built.
The development is on this month’s agendas for the county’s planning and housing commissions, and is expected to go before the Arlington County Board at its meetings later this month. The project would be one of the first of its kind to go before the County Board under the Columbia Pike neighborhoods form-based code, approved in 2013.
Some in the community have expressed concern about a concentration of affordable housing on the western end of Columbia Pike, where this project is situated. County Board member John Vihstadt addressed some of those concerns at the Arlington Civic Federation meeting on Tuesday night.
“Certain people have concerns about an over-concentration [of affordable housing] on the west end of the Pike and not enough on the east end,” Vihstadt said. “It’s something that we’re going to have to come to grips with. I think we all want a mix of income in all neighborhoods as much as possible.”
APAH CEO Nina Janopaul told ARLnow.com that those concerns pale in comparison when compared to the concerns over the lack of affordable housing overall in the county. She said the civic association in which the new project is located, Columbia Forest, has lost 750 units of affordable housing in the last 15 years.
“The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan calls for preserving or replacing the 6,200 affordable units, most of which are market-rate affordable and vulnerable to redevelopment,” she said. “We need to take advantage of the moment now, when the interest rates are low, to build affordable housing that will still be there in 60 years.”
The development, if approved, would add the 229 affordable units right next to APAH’s expansive, 208-unit Columbia Grove apartments. Of those units — on the 8-acre, 14-building campus — 131 are committed affordable housing. Janopaul said the buildings are Columbia Forest’s only affordable housing “at all.”
The project, dubbed “Columbia Hills,” will cost an estimated $85 million, according to APAH’s application to the county. APAH is requesting the county contribute $18.5 million from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which, along with the form-based code application, the County Board is expected to debate granting this month.
APAH is also planning to submit a Low Income Housing Tax Credit application next month. If all goes as Janopaul hopes, the federal government would approve the loan in the first quarter of 2016, after which construction can begin.
Image (top) via Arlington County. Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
From 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., Menchie’s at Penrose Square (2405 Columbia Pike) will be offering one free 6 oz. cup of frozen yogurt to each “fan” who walks through the door, according to a press release.
Froyo freeloaders will also be given a 20 percent off coupon for their next visit.
Menchie’s has 475 locations, including the one in Arlington.
(Update at 6:25 p.m.) A new, mixed-use development is in the works for the western end of Columbia Pike.
Pillars Development Group, which built The Berkeley condominium in Ballston, is planning on constructing 78 condominiums and 8,000-square feet of ground floor retail at 4707 Columbia Pike, next to S. Buchanan Street, in the location of the now-closed El Tutumaso Bolivian restaurant.
That restaurant — previously home to a second location of Bob and Edith’s Diner and Sauca, which closed within a year of opening in 2012 — will be bulldozed for the incoming development. Pillars has applied for its first building permit on the site, and Operations Director Marwan Shahin told ARLnow.com today that the company hopes to start digging in May or June.
“We’re hoping we can start having people living in the building 18 to 24 months after that,” Shahin said.
The retail space does not have a prospective occupant yet, but Shahin said the company is looking to sell, not lease, that space to whoever wants to open a business in the first floor. The retail would front onto Columbia Pike and the residential entrance would be off of S. Buchanan Street.
Shahin said there will be a combination of underground and surface parking. The building will be developed (and has been approved) under the Columbia Pike Form-Based Code for commercial districts, which allows some projects to be approved without a hearing before the Arlington County Board.
The church’s congregation voted in November 2013 to approve the church’s redevelopment into an affordable housing building with a 7,500-square-foot worship space for the church in future years. Last week, the National Capital Presbytery — the region’s governing body for presbyterian churches — approved the sale of the church building at 3507 Columbia Pike.
APAH must now gather financing and go through site plan approval from the county before the sale can close. According to church project manager Jill Norcross, the sale is expected to close in July 2016, which is also when the church’s congregation is expecting to need to find a new home.
“The congregation is thrilled,” Norcross said. “For them, it’s been quite a process, a multi-year visioning process where they’ve had to walk every step of the way. They’ve remained committed, so having the Presbytery approve it is a huge step for them, and they’re really excited about it. The next step is figuring out where they will worship when they leave the site.”
When the plans were approved more than a year ago, it was with the understanding that the new building would be the church’s future home when it opened. Now, Norcross said, APAH will own the land and the building outright, and the church and developer would have to agree on a new lease when the building is built, no sure thing.
“The church has given up any ownership stake in the building,” she said. “That’s what the Presbytery wanted. The church might come back as a tenant, but that’s still to be negotiated between now and 2016.”
APAH hopes to gain approval for a five-story, 142-unit apartment building with ground floor retail space originally intended for a coffee shop.
Preservationists have called for the building, which was built in 1931, to be preserved instead of torn down. The church decided the need for more affordable housing on Columbia Pike, and the opportunity to sell to APAH for millions of dollars, outweighed the idea of preserving the church and its rising maintenance costs.
“The affordable housing is desperately needed on the Pike,” Norcross said. The surprise cancellation of the streetcar did not have an impact on the congregation or the Presbytery’s decision, she said.
Preservation Arlington’s Eric Dobson said he hopes something can be done to preserve the church, because once Arlington’s older buildings are gone, “they’re gone for good.”
“That building was so important to the development of the Pike,” Dobson said. “The materials of the stone and its design… other communities would consider those assets, but in Arlington we seem to ignore that.”
Photo via Preservation Arlington
Noormustafa “Noor” Shaikh, a 40 year old Stafford, Va. resident, was still in critical condition as of Friday afternoon, we’re told. He suffered numerous injuries last Tuesday when a Fairfax woman allegedly ran him over with her SUV, as he tried to prevent her from leaving the parking lot of his automotive business on the 3600 block of Columbia Pike.
Alexandra Mendez, 39, was arrested the next morning and charged with aggravated malicious wounding. She was also charged with hit and run for allegedly striking two cars in the parking lot, which prompted Shaikh — a co-owner of MK Auto Sales and Service — to try to stop her from leaving.
Shaikh was run over by the SUV’s tires and suffered at least eight significant injuries — including multiple rib fractures, liver laceration, bruised lungs, a leg fracture, spine fractures and facial fractures — according to a family friend who contacted ARLnow.com but did not wish to be identified by name.
“He’s awake and aware but can’t talk because he’s on a respirator full time,” the friend said of Shaikh’s condition. “He still has to undergo more surgeries.”
A group of friends and coworkers have set up an online fundraising campaign for Shaikh, who is better known by his nickname, Noor. So far the “For Noor” GoFundMe campaign has raised $895, but it is seeking more money to help provide for Noor’s wife and three sons.
Said the friend: “His wife, Durdana, is trying to keep his spirits up. She tough and hanging in there. She [is] with him all day… always keeping a watchful eye on him. As for the kids they are aware he was hurt, but they do not the extent for his injuries. Makes it easier for them. They all keep asking when their dad is coming home.”
The Arlington County Police Department has arrested a 39-year-old Fairfax woman for allegedly running over a man in a Columbia Pike parking lot yesterday evening.
Alexandra Mendez was arrested at her home at 6:00 this morning, police have announced. She is charged with aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, two counts of hit-and-run and driving on a suspended license. The 40-year-old victim, a Stafford resident, remains at George Washington University Hospital with life-threatening injuries, police said.
The man was lying on the ground when police and witnesses say Mendez drove her SUV over him, dragging him several feet before speeding off westbound on Columbia Pike. Mendez also allegedly rolled over another man’s foot in her Toyota Highlander, in the parking lot behind a car dealership and beauty salon on the 3600 block of Columbia Pike.
Mendez is being held at the Arlington County jail without bond. Police also recovered the SUV when making the arrest this morning.
From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department has taken into custody and charged Alexandra Mendez, 39, of Fairfax, VA, following yesterday evening’s accident in the 3600 block of Columbia Pike. Mendez was denied bond and is currently being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility. She has been charged with aggravated malicious wounding, malicious wounding, two counts of hit & run and driving on a suspended license.
On January 27, 2015, at approximately 4:44 p.m., the suspect struck a male victim with her vehicle in a parking lot, knocking him to the ground. Numerous witnesses attempted to prevent her from driving away from the scene as the victim lay on the ground in front of her Toyota Highlander. After ignoring their requests to stop, Mendez proceeded forward over top of the victim and fled the scene. She remained at large until officers took her into custody at her residence at 6:00 a.m. this morning.
Emergency personnel transported the victim, a 40 year-old Stafford, VA man, to GW Hospital with life-threatening injuries, where he remains in critical condition.
The United States Marshal Service, Fairfax City Police Department and Fairfax County Police Department assisted Arlington County officers in taking the female suspect into custody this morning. The vehicle was recovered outside of the suspect’s residence.
Update at 10:45 a.m. — An arrest has been made in the case.
A man is in critical condition after being run over by an SUV in a parking lot on Columbia Pike Tuesday evening.
The incident happened at approximately 4:45 p.m., in the parking lot behind a barber shop and a car dealership on the 3600 block of Columbia Pike.
Witnesses say a woman driving a white or silver Toyota Highlander was trying to exit the parking lot after a fender bender when two men tried to stop her by closing the parking lot gate. One man had his foot ran over, according to news reports.
The other man was knocked to the ground, ran over and dragged several feet under the car, we’re told. The driver then sped off westbound on Columbia Pike.
The man was transported to George Washington Hospital’s trauma center with life-threatening injuries, according to police. Witnesses on scene took video of the incident and police are reviewing the footage.
A group of witnesses said they were in Burger King next door and saw the incident unfold.
“While the guy was lying down, everyone was around screaming at her to stop,” one witness, who declined to be identified, told ARLnow.com at the scene. “She kept on moving and ran over the guy.”
Witnesses say the man’s face suffered severe-looking injuries, “his legs were twisted” and his hands were bleeding. Paramedics arrived to the scene and quickly transported him. There’s no word on the suspect or if she knew the victim.