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…)
Two new residential buildings and a rebuilt substance-abuse recovery facility have been given the green light by the Arlington County Board.
The development, called Gables North Rolfe Street, will have 395 residential units and a public, 8,000-square-foot park featuring three mature oak trees. The developer, Gables Residential, will also tear down and construct a new building for Independence House, a transitional living facility for those recovering from substance abuse.
The complex will be located on the 1300 block of N. Rolfe Street, near Courthouse.
Thirty-nine of the units will be committed affordable housing and the developer also has the option to install a $75,000 work of public art on the site or donate to the county’s public art fund as a community benefit. The development was approved unanimously on Saturday.
“This redevelopment addresses some of the important priorities that the Fort Myer community identified in the Fort Myer Heights North Plan,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “It includes on-site affordable housing, brings a new public park to Fort Myer and preserves some beautiful, mature trees. Importantly, it also rebuilds Independence House, the County’s transitional living facility.”
Before approving the development, County Board members inquired about the option for a small, 1,000-square-foot community retail option in the site plan application, a provision the developer was initially hesitant to put in. Real estate attorney Evan Pritchard, representing Gables at the Board hearing, said they would be open to building a retail space if they can find the right vendor to operate a convenience store, serving the residents and park users.
“It remains to be seen, as we go forward with the project, whether it happens or not,” Pritchard said of the retail.
The construction is expected to take two years, and it would include building four levels of parking; two below-grade and two above-grade.
The Independence House would be rebuilt, but not expanded, because more residents might limit the program’s effectiveness. The new building will have 14 single-occupant units, which provides more flexibility with which users can join the program.
“The existing size is ideal for the group work that happens in the evenings, working on life skills and recovery,” county Department of Human Services substance abuse treatment supervisor Nancie Connolly told the Board. “The larger numbers of individuals would make it more institutional rather than transitional living, which has more independence.”
Only one public speaker — frequent Board critic Jim Hurysz — gave testimony at the Board hearing. The lack of speakers and issues with the proposal, which includes three parcels of county land and a number of community benefits, was “remarkable,” Hynes said.
In a move long anticipated by some in the Arlington business community, the Arlington County Board approved the licensing of its ConnectArlington fiber optic network to private businesses.
The “dark fiber” will first be installed along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Glebe Road, on Columbia Pike and in Crystal City. It’s currently used to connect county government and schools facilities at “unprecedented” internet speeds, but, within a few months, businesses will be able to take advantage.
“This is an exciting step forward in Arlington’s plan to be a technological hub in our region,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “Arlington’s strategic investments are building a technology infrastructure second to none, that will help us attract the businesses of the 21st century. Just as Arlington had the foresight to insist that Metro be built under the heart of our commercial corridors, it had the foresight, when building ConnectArlington, to build in additional capacity to meet future needs — for our businesses and County government.”
The first phase of expanding the program — adding fiber strands to the first 10-mile stretch in the county’s prime economic areas — is expected to cost $4.1 million up front, with a continuing $700,000-$800,000 operating cost.
Phase II of the program would add fiber to Shirlington, Lee Highway and western Columbia Pike, as well as run the fiber next to Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon (the red line in the map to the right). This stretch won’t be installed until the county evaluates the performance of Phase I.
County Board member Jay Fisette spoke to ARLnow.com in October about ConnectArlington, one of the initiatives he pushed last year for his economic competitiveness platform as board chairman.
“Innovation is not restricted to the private sector,” he said. “The capacity we’re putting into the network and making it accessible is an asset and competitive advantage over other jurisdictions.”
One of the speakers at Saturday’s County Board meeting, Jaroslav Flidr, said he works for the University of Maryland providing “services on top of dark fiber.” He praised the county for their decision, saying it has positioned itself for landing significant future office development.
“We have federal agencies like NASA, NIH and NSF [as clients],” Flidr told the Board. “In my experience, when these agencies look for where to locate future development, access to assets like dark fiber is, in their mind, one of their most important factors in their decision-making process; where to go, where to stay, where to relocate.”
Angela Fox, CEO of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, also lauded the program as an economic boon to the county.
“We can use this as an economic development tool to attract businesses to the area,” Fox said. “We want things like this, we need things like this, because it is a vicious market. We need tools in our toolbox to demonstrate why Arlington is a place they should be doing business.”
The county will license 864 strands of fiber to individual buildings and businesses, hicho can install connections to its lines and promote is as an asset, according to the staff report. The connections to the fiber must remain inside Arlington, to ensure it benefits the county and not one of its regional competitors. Each company can license a maximum of 40 strands at at time.
The county will charge licensing fees and recoup its costs, it says, but doesn’t yet have revenue projections because it’s unclear how the market will respond to the new, high-tech infrastructure.
Map (bottom) via Arlington Economic Development. Disclosure: The Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
The community garden on S. Four Mile Run Drive will grow by almost 10,000 square feet, giving space for 40 new gardeners to grow herbs, fruits, vegetables and flowers.
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the garden’s expansion, entering into agreements with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority — which owns the land — and Dominion Power, which runs power lines above where the garden expansion will be.
“What a great example of thinking outside the box to find solutions,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “This is a win-win for everyone. Not only will the County be able to provide more garden plots, the space is currently overrun with invasive plants, which will be removed when the garden is built by Parks and Recreation staff.”
The expansion will tack on 9,900 square feet to the garden, which is directly adjacent to the W&OD Trail, and across the street from the Department of Motor Vehicles.
The garden will be on the NVRPA’s land, and as part of the agreement, if the park authority deems it needs the space, or the garden is encroaching too much on trail users, it can terminate the agreement with 60 days’ notice. The county is responsible for maintaining the garden, and the gardens are each run by a community association and an appointed “chief gardener.”
The expansion will add space to help whittle down the ever-expanding waiting list of gardeners hoping to use county space to grow their plants, a recommendation of the Urban Agriculture Task Force. According to the county, there are about 350 people on waiting lists for plots and half-plots of space at one of Arlington’s seven community gardens.
One plot costs $60 a year with water and $50 without water. The expansion will bring the total number of plots in county gardens to 265. Full 20-foot-by-20-foot plots are given on a first-come, first-served basis, and those interested in joining the waiting list can apply online.
The Board advertised a rate of $1.011 per $100 of assessed value, 1.5 cents above the current $0.996 rate.
By advertising the higher rate, the Board has given itself the flexibility to raise the rate should it choose to do so, despite County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation (and the Board’s guidance) of keeping the tax rate steady.
The advertised rate is the highest rate the Board may set when it finalizes its Fiscal Year 2016 budget in April.
“The Manager has put forward her budget, which complies with our direction. The County Board’s work now begins,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “This advertisement sets the stage for a Board and community deliberation about revenue and expenditures.”
“While no one on the County Board wants to see tax rates increase, we believe that having flexibility at this point in time is necessary as we hear from the community, scour the budget for savings, evaluate programs and monitor economic circumstances,” Hynes continued. “Our final goal is to arrive at a sustainable, balanced budget that best serves all Arlingtonians.”
Even if the tax rate were to remain the same, the average Arlington homeowner’s annual tax bill would increase $281 to $7,567, due largely to a rise in residential property assessments.
Update at 6:10 p.m. — A Winter Storm Warning has been issued for Arlington and the D.C. area.
.. WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM EST SUNDAY…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR SNOW… SLEET… AND FREEZING RAIN… WHICH IS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM EST SUNDAY. THE WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* PRECIPITATION TYPE… A MIX OF SNOW… SLEET… AND FREEZING RAIN TODAY THROUGH EARLY SUNDAY MORNING.
* ACCUMULATIONS… 4 TO 6 INCHES OF SNOW. ICE ACCUMULATIONS OF A TRACE TO A FEW HUNDREDTHS OF AN INCH.
* TIMING… SNOW WILL CONTINUE INTO THE EARLY EVENING HOURS… CHANGING TO A MIX OF SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN LATE THIS EVENING INTO TONIGHT. PRECIPITATION WILL CHANGE TO RAIN WITH AREAS OF FREEZING RAIN LATE TONIGHT INTO EARLY SUNDAY MORNING.
* TEMPERATURES… HIGHS TODAY IN THE MID TO UPPER 20S… SLOWLY RISING INTO THE LOWER AND MIDDLE 30S TONIGHT.
* WINDS… SOUTH 10 TO 15 MPH.
* IMPACTS… SNOW AND ICE WILL CAUSE HAZARDOUS TRAVELING CONDITIONS THROUGH TONIGHT AND POSSIBLY INTO SUNDAY MORNING.
A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW… SLEET… AND ICE ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.
(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Snow is falling in Arlington and roads have quickly become snow-covered, making travel hazardous.
Several accidents have already been reported around the county during the snowfall. Arlington County is advising residents to stay off the roads “unless absolutely necessary.”
“Roads in Arlington are snow covered and blocked in many areas,” the county said in an Arlington Alert email. Road conditions are also considered to be treacherous. Do not go on the roads unless absolutely necessary.”
Police are shutting down a ramp from eastbound Route 50 to N. Courthouse Road due to especially slippery conditions. Several cars have reportedly gotten stuck on the ramp and the Courthouse Road hill. More problems are being reported at the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Danville Street, and elsewhere.
VDOT is also urging drivers to stay off the roads.
Extremely treacherous out there. Please stay off roads.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) February 21, 2015
People should only be on the roads if it is an extreme emergency.
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) February 21, 2015
VDOT says it will have 1,400 trucks clearing snow in Northern Virginia today. It did not pre-treat roads due to low temperatures, which renders road salt ineffective.
Arlington community centers, libraries and schools will all shut down at 1:00 p.m. due to the snow. The Arlington County Board, which has a meeting current in progress, is planning to end its meeting early and defer its last action item until Tuesday.
Deteriorating weather conditions cause @ArlingtonVa County Board to postpone Cherrydale til Tues . LIbraries, rec facilities closing at 1 pm
— Patricia Sullivan (@psullivan1) February 21, 2015
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory, calling for 2-4 inches of snow — the Capital Weather Gang says 5 or more inches is possible — before a warm-up that turns the precipitation into sleet, freezing rain and then plain rain.
Update on 2/21/15 — This project has been approved. See the county press release here.
Millions of dollars in construction work to improve the flow of traffic near the Crystal City Metro Station could begin in a matter of months.
The Arlington County Board will vote at its meeting tomorrow to award a $2.7 million contract for construction on S. Bell Street and 18th Street. The work would include building four bus bays on 18th Street S. under Jefferson-Davis Highway and converting S. Bell Street to a two-way road between 15th and 18th Streets.
The project was originally split in two — the bus bays and surrounding street improvements and converting Bell Street to a two-way road — but the county decided to consolidate to reduce construction impacts and improve coordination, according to the staff report.
The bays allow buses and shuttles to park at an angle along the street, as opposed to stacking parallel to the curb and clogging traffic.
“Construction of the transit and street improvements are important for improving safety and traffic flow in the area, as well as supporting the Crystal City Sector Plan and the [Crystal City-Potomac Yard] Transitway,” the staff report states.
If approved, construction is slated to begin in April and take about 12 months. The contract includes a 15 percent contingency — 5 percent higher than standard because of unknown complications that could come from digging up the street.
According to county Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet, the new bus bays are needed for hotel and employer shuttles that drop off around the Metro station. The Transitway, when fully realized, will turn northbound Crystal Drive into a dedicated bus lane during rush hour. Those shuttles currently stop and drop off passengers on Crystal Drive, and they will be temporarily moved during construction.
One lane of travel each way along 18th Street S. will remain open during construction. The contractor that won the contract, Ardent Company, submitted a $2.3 million bid, more than $800,000 less expensive than the second-place bidder in a nine-bid race. The county determined Ardent to be a responsible bidder.
In addition to the bus bays and S. Bell Street work, the construction will add to the area:
- A median under Jefferson-Davis Highway, to prevent what the county calls “prevalent” jaywalking near where the bus bays will be placed;
- Bus shelters and benches at each of the four sawtooth bays;
- Sidewalk improvements on both sides of 18th Street S.;
- Replacing the asphalt roadway with concrete to withstand increase stress from bus traffic; and
- Reconfiguring the S. Bell Street and 18th Street intersection to improve safety and circulation
Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic County Board nomination last year, made the surprise announcement via Facebook this afternoon.
“To my friends and supporters, I want to thank you for the kind support and encouragement to run for the Arlington County Board,” Thomas said. “While my enthusiasm to represent our community remains, I have decided not to run in 2015.”
“At this time, with commitments to the continued growth and success in my business and family, I would not be able to focus 100% of my time on the needs of Arlington,” Thomas continued. “I am very encouraged that we have wonderful candidates currently seeking the office and I look forward to hearing how they intend to be good stewards of tax dollars and their vision for the future of Arlington.”
So far, two Democratic hopefuls have publicly announced their candidacy for the two open County Board seats: Andrew Schneider and Katie Cristol. Other widely-rumored candidates include Christian Dorsey and Peter Fallon.
The Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee and county staff has recommended the five projects, and the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on whether to allocate money from the $12 million Neighborhood Conservation bond the voters approved last year.
Cherrydale’s Oak Grove Park, along N. Quincy Street, has been recommended for $795,000 worth of improvements, including a redone “tot lot,” construction of a playground for 5-12 year olds and replacing the existing gazebo with a larger picnic shelter.
Waycroft-Woodlawn is in line for $790,000 in pedestrian upgrades. The neighborhood has requested the money to fund curb ramp improvements for accessibility curb extensions at four intersections:
- N. Evergreen Street and Washington Blvd
- N. George Mason Drive and 11th Street N.
- N. Evergreen Street and 11th Street N.
- N. Buchanan St and 11th Street N.
The other projects would each receive less than $500,000 in funding:
- $471,731 in pedestrian improvements along S. Courthouse Road from Columbia Pike to 12th Street S. in Columbia Heights
- $348,987 for street lights in Madison Manor, along 12th Street N. from 11th Road to N. Roosevelt Street
- $198,033 for street lights in Douglas Park, along 12th Street S. from S. Monroe Street to Quincy Street
Five of the projects approved by the County Board in February are in the middle of their design phase and are on track for construction next year:
- Street improvements to the 5700 block of 2nd Street S. and the 100 block of S. Kensington Street in Glencarlyn.
- A trail connector from the 4800 block of 7th Street S. to the W&OD trail in Barcroft.
- Pedestrian safety improvements to 19th Road N. between Woodstock Street and Upton Street in Waverly Hills
- Street improvements to S. Lang Street between Arlington Ridge Road and 28th Street in Arlington Ridge
- Streetlights and trail improvements on N. Ohio Street between 22nd Street and Washington Blvd in Highland Park Overlee Knolls.
The sixth project approved in February, improvements to Woodstock Park in Waycroft-Woodlawn, still does not have a scheduled completion date.
Photo via Arlington County
“I’m excited to talk to Arlingtonians from all corners of the county to hear their ideas, frustrations and potential solutions. I believe in one Arlington, one community,” Schneider said in statement announcing his candidacy. “Our county is at its best when we’re having real dialogue with friends and neighbors about how to move our community forward together.”
This is not Schneider’s first foray into an Arlington election; last year, he came in third place in the Democratic primary in the special election to replace retiring Del. Bob Brink.
Schneider joins Columbia Pike resident Katie Cristol as the first two running for the open seat. Candidates are allowed to officially file to run for the primary on March 9.
Schneider has two children in Nottingham Elementary School and, if elected, would be the youngest member of the County Board. He’s a native Arlingtonian, a graduate of Yorktown High School and was named last year to Leadership Arlington’s 40 Under 40.
Schneider’s campaign announcement said his platform will be “managing the county’s financial situation with an understanding that we face a new fiscal reality, having honest conversations that include all Arlingtonians and treats our county as one community, and improving customer service for Arlington’s residents.”
Del. Patrick Hope is chief patron of HB 2308, which allows counties with the county manager form of government — namely, Arlington — to hire an auditor with the power to “make performance reviews of operations of county agencies or county-funded programs.” The auditor would ensure money is being spent wisely and evaluate the effectiveness of those agencies and programs.
The bill passed the House of Delegates unanimously yesterday.
“I believe in the case of Arlington, where we have more than a $1 billion operating budget and over 3,000 employees, localities who don’t already have this authority will be seeking it to ensure government is working as efficiently as possible,” Hope told ARLnow.com in an email today. “If this authority is exercised, I think it will give Arlington residents an added level of confidence that their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.”
Currently, the County Board only has the authority to hire a county manager, county clerk and county attorney. County Board member John Vihstadt has been pushing for the county to hire an independent auditor since his election last April. If Hope’s bill passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe — which Hope expects, but “I’ve learned over the years you never know” — the Board will begin to deliberate hiring its own independent auditor.
Board member Jay Fisette serves as the five-member panel’s legislative liaision, and is a former auditor himself. He said Hope’s bill is “another tool to consider” as the county develops its budget for the next fiscal year. Fisette said the county used to have several auditing mechanisms, but many of them were cut during the economic recession.
At one point, the county had an audit committee with a $100,000 budget that evaluated performance contracts, Fisette said. A decade ago, the county had two internal auditors ensuring that money wasn’t being spent fraudulently, but budget cuts have meant those services are now contracted out.
“The manager has been working to hire an internal auditor, and we had a great candidate who backed out,” Fisette said. He added that the Board supports Hope’s legislation. “We will set up, in the next few months, the best way to support that audit function. Who would oversee the work plan if they are going to report to us.”
Hope said the state Senate will likely consider the bill within the next two weeks.
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) The last remaining homes built for African-Americans displaced by the construction of the Pentagon could soon be history.
The George Washington Carver Homes on S. Rolfe Street are in the process of being sold to a developer that plans on replacing them with 50 townhouses, including 23 duplexes. The Arlington County Board is expected to decide the proposal’s fate at its meeting later this month.
The Carver Homes are a collection of 44 garden apartments along S. Rolfe Street and 13th Road S. in Arlington View. The development is a co-operative, and the co-op board has an agreement to sell the property to Craftmark Homes pending approval of the redevelopment plans, according to county planning staff.
The apartments were built by the federal government in 1945 and designed by noted architect Albert I. Cassell, who had been the head of architecture at Howard University and designed much of the school’s northwest D.C. campus. County Historic Preservation Planner Rebeccah Ballo said as far as preservation staff are aware, they are the only buildings he designed in Arlington.
If they are redeveloped, the Carver Homes will join the former Dunbar Homes in Nauck as pieces of Arlington’s 20th century African-American history torn down for redevelopment.
“Fully understanding it is their right to sell and dispose of their property as they see fit, this is a loss,” Ballo told ARLnow.com. “This is a loss of cultural and architectural history.”
When the Pentagon, the Navy Annex and the surrounding network of roads were built during World War II, they replaced the neighborhoods East Arlington and Queen City. The areas had been occupied by African Americans, many of whom descended from Arlington’s Freedman’s Village, built for former slaves in 1863. The residents of East Arlington and Queen City were moved elsewhere, including the Dunbar and Carver Homes.
The residents of the Carver Homes bought the property from the government in 1949. Many of the apartments are still owned by the original residents or their families, Ballo wrote in her staff report for the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board.
Multiple attempts to reach the attorney representing the Carver Homes co-op board, Patricia Fettman, have gone unreturned. Fettman also represented the Dunbar Homes co-op board when they sold their property for $37 million 10 years ago, according to a Washington Post article at the time.
The Post’s article featured interviews of residents of the homes who didn’t want to sell. The author, Annie Gowen spoke to Dorothy Rich, at the time the co-op board’s president.
“Basically, we think the time has come to take the next step forward,” Rich told Gowen. Gowen wrote that Rich “declined to detail the discussions to sell, saying only ‘we won’t do anything without a vote and a majority of our homeowners.’”
The exterior of the houses are largely well-maintained, with pink-painted stucco and a pristinely mowed courtyard. The eight buildings sit on a 3.35-acre plot, an easy walk to the Air Force Memorial and less than a half-mile drive from I-395.
County staff attempted to have the homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places when they conducted a review of all potentially historic properties in the county, starting in 1997. They even filled out the application, but Ballo said after meetings with the co-op board and the surrounding community, “the nomination stopped.” (more…)
Two weeks ago, the Arlington County Board said “not now” to a planned elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
Opponents of the plan cheered the County Board’s action, saying that plans to build on the TJ site would eliminate land that could later be used as parkland. Arlington Public Schools will now go back and conduct more studies and community engagement in order to figure out how to deal with its capacity crisis in south Arlington.
Supporters of the school plan said delaying the construction of urgently needed school capacity could result in 45 new trailer classrooms next to south Arlington schools by 2018.
While the “Save TJ Park” group that opposed APS’ proposed placement of the school was the most vocal during the lead up to the County Board vote, those who supported the school are now making their voices better heard.
In a letter to the Sun Gazette, Arlington resident Nathan Zee writes that the County Board decision shows that there is “an unquestionable divide” between north and south Arlington.
“The County Board’s direction to APS to keep working with the community until consensus is reached is nothing short of a total absolution of leadership and decision-making responsibility,” Zee writes. “There could always be more planning, but the time to act was now.”
In order to find out (unscientifically) how the community as a whole feels, we’re putting it to a poll: do you support the County Board’s decision?
That’s the message from County Board Chair Mary Hynes, who announced her retirement on Wednesday.
Acknowledging that the current County Board majority has been going through “a rough patch,” Hynes urged fellow like-minded Democrats at Wednesday night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting to stand up and speak out at County Board meetings and elsewhere.
“It is very important — I can’t give this message strongly enough to the people in the room — you need to stand with us,” Hynes said. “You cannot believe that just because we’re up there and it feels okay to you that it is okay. We need your voices and we need your faces and we need you to pat us on the back every once in a while and come to the public hearing.”
Unsaid in Hynes’ message: those who oppose things — the Board majority, streetcars, aquatics centers, schools, fire stations, affordable housing developments — are doing a better job of getting their message out and being visible at community functions than the rank-and-file Democrats who support such things.
“Put a little time in,” Hynes urged. “Because it makes the work possible. We do this on behalf of you.”
As for her planned retirement — like Walter Tejada, she will not run for reelection and will serve out her term through the end of the year – Hynes said it was a personal decision.
“It is time for a new chapter for me,” Hynes said. “I’ll be able to make music more and read for pleasure, instead of reading to help me weigh the tough choices before us as a community.”
“I’ve been at this long enough to know that no one person is irreplaceable,” she continued. “My goal was always to leave Arlington better place than I found it, and I hope that I have done this.”
“When Arlingtonians roll up their sleeves and say ‘we can make a difference,’ we do make a difference… We can build a vibrant future, we can move past this rough patch, if we collaborate, use your common sense and build a consensus. That is the task that is before us. I know we can do it.”
Hynes received a standing ovation from the party faithful before and after her remarks.
“Our party, and our values and our people are responsible for creating the Arlington we all love today,” she concluded. “And don’t you ever let anyone tell you something different.”
(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