(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Arlington County surveyed more than 250 residents, workers and visitors to Courthouse Square to assess public opinion of the area’s future.
The survey was conducted as part of the county’s “Envision Courthouse Square” initiative, which is trying to get the public involved in the process of planning the future development of the 9-acre area surrounding the county’s large surface parking lot.
That lot in particular was the subject of many survey respondent’s suggestions, who desire to see it become an underground parking lot with a different use for the surface area up top.
“I live in the neighborhood, so for me the parking is a waste,” one respondent said. “However I recognize the need for parking near the courthouse and government buildings to serve other residents of Arlington. I would think that an underground parking structure with a public space on top would be the best way to balance these needs.”
“Please underground the parking,” another said. “The surface parking detracts from the neighborhood’s streetscape. We should create a walkable environment that encourages visitors to utilize Arlington’s multimodal options.”
More than 13 percent of respondents listed “market events” as their preferred future use of open space in Courthouse Square, followed by 12.2 percent in favor of outdoor movies and evening events. Social gathering and social seating received 11.7 and 9.8 percent of the vote, respectively.
When asked if public events, celebrations and demonstrations should be encouraged in Courthouse Square, 73.1 percent of those asked answered, “yes,” but some said they worried the events would benefit only those from other areas.
“Courthouse Square should be a place for those who live there or nearby to enjoy the open space,” one response said, “not an area for out of towners or others to use to hold political events.”
Of the “yes” answers, many cited Courthouse’s civic identity as a reason to encourage First Amendment expression in the open spaces.
“It should be celebrated as THE civic space in Arlington,” one answer said. Another respondent said only, “Because America, that’s why.”
A majority, 53 percent of respondents said Courthouse Square should be a “beacon” for all of Arlington, while 29 percent said it should be mostly designed for the surrounding neighborhood. Only 17 percent said it should be designed for use by the entire D.C. metro area or region.
“Courthouse does not currently have much of neighborhood feel,” said one of the “neighborhood” respondents. “It is nice to feel some smaller community in a large city. New York City neighborhoods have this and it makes them unique. It also draws people from other places to experience their unique aspects.”
“We all have plenty of regional attractions,” said a respondent who thought Courthouse should be designed for all of Arlington. “[We] need to develop sense of place — Arlington specific, beyond just being across river from D.C.”
Said another: “Arlington needs a town center. An identity. A place people can say ‘I’ll meet you on the town square.’ Arlington lacks that now — and I think that harms our identity and cohesiveness.”
The crash happened around 3:00 a.m. Police say the officer was heading eastbound on Clarendon Blvd and was approaching a flashing yellow light at the intersection with N. Barton Street.
The officer proceeded through the flashing yellow, but at the same time a Jeep traveling on Barton Street ran through the flashing red, according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
The resulting collision heavily damaged the front of the officer’s cruiser and caused the Jeep to flip on its side. The officer suffered minor injuries but did not need to go to the hospital. No other injuries were reported.
The driver of the Jeep was issued a ticket for a red light violation and was released, Sternbeck said.
Vihstadt Backs Off Independent Auditor Push — Newly-elected County Board member John Vihstadt is backing off a campaign promise to push for an independent auditor for Arlington County. Vihstadt “learned of the internal auditing that the county does and its plans to make that role more robust.” He plans to evaluate the effectiveness of the county’s auditing project around mid-year. [Washington Post]
Howze Won Pike Precincts — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze, who lost to John Vihstadt in the April 8 special election, narrowly won the precincts around Columbia Pike. Opponents of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar say the slim victory — Howze supports the streetcar while Vihstadt does not — is proof that even Columbia Pike residents who stand to benefit from the streetcar are lukewarm on the project. [InsideNoVa]
A Weekend in Courthouse in 2.5 Minutes — Timelapse photography of Arlington’s Courthouse Square area shows 2.5 days in just 2.5 minutes. The video includes a view of the Courthouse farmers market from setup to break down. [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
(Updated at 6:05 p.m.) The $3 million renovation to Rocky Run Park in the Courthouse area are complete and the park is now open to the public.
The renovations, which were approved by the County Board in November 2012, include two lighted basketball courts, a lighted synthetic turf for drop-in play, a new playground area with equipment for 5-12 year-olds, a picnic shelter and bathrooms. The park, at 1109 N. Barton Street, had its mature trees preserved while the equipment and facilities were reorganized around them.
The renovations were funded through 2010 and 2012 Neighborhood Conservation funds, parks capital maintenance bonds and pay-as-you-go funds. The park came in under budget, according to parks officials. The plans to renovate the park have been in the works since 2009, according to Arlington County.
According to county Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Roberta Korzen, the park opened on Friday and there is an official ribbon-cutting planned for April 27 at 2:00 p.m.
Korzen said an earlier plan to build “stakeable art” in the park was scrapped.
“The ‘skateable’ art feature previously designed in Phase I design development and planned for installation with the Phase II construction activities was removed from the project,” she said via email. “During the final drawing development of the art feature, it was determined that the artistic expression and functionality of the sculpture could not be effectively realized. That area will instead feature a sculpted lawn and shade trees.”
Update at 5:05 p.m. — The barricade situation has ended peacefully.
Earlier: A man who may be suicidal has barricaded himself in his Courthouse townhouse, leading to a standoff with police.
The incident started between 3:00 and 4:00 this afternoon when the man’s girlfriend told police that he made remarks suggesting he may be contemplating suicide. Police responded to the scene and tried to get the man to come out of the house. Reached by phone, he told police that they’d “have to come get him,” according to scanner traffic.
Police backed off and have surrounded the townhouse complex, which is located across the street from the Courtland Towers apartment building. At one point, the man reportedly ran out of the house and then ran back in when confronted by officers. Police negotiators are now trying to talk the man out of the house again.
N. Wayne Street is closed to vehicle and pedestrian traffic between 13th Street and the Fairfax Drive pedestrian path as a result of the standoff. Residents of the townhouse complex are so far not being allowed back in their homes.
“We’re taking all precautions,” said Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.
(Updated at 2:00 p.m) The Wendy’s fast food restaurant at the intersection of N. Courthouse Road, Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd appears likely to be replaced by a 12-story office building in the coming years.
Carr Properties submitted a preliminary site plan to the county’s zoning division yesterday outlining its plans for the 12-story building with about 6,800 square feet of ground story retail. The building — called 2025 Clarendon Blvd — will replace the Wendy’s at 2038 Wilson Blvd and the Wells Fargo bank at 2026 Wilson Blvd. The plan calls for the Wells Fargo to occupy some of the ground floor retail space in the new building.
The office building will have 233 underground parking spots with entrances to the lot built on a cut-through street. The parcel is on almost 25,000 square feet of land area, and the building will have about 181,275 square feet of floor space for office uses.
Carr Properties also designed a small plaza at the main intersection with benches and plantings for shade. As part of its community benefits package for additional density, it’s proposing either making a public art contribution or incorporating art into the plaza. Other parts of the community benefits package include: plans for the building is planned to be LEED Gold-certified; undergrounding the utility lines and improving the streetscape along Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards.
The Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum calls the site a “major gateway” and calls for a “focal feature” at the main intersection when the Wendy’s is ultimately redeveloped. The application says the building fulfills that goal with the building’s “unique glass column that will serve as an iconic architectural feature in Courthouse.”
The building’s north-facing side — which looks out over parts of the old brick Colonial Village complex — includes a set-back from the street and a “stucco-type” design to bring it more in line with the look of that block. To the east of the planned building, two new apartment buildings are also under construction, which are planned to also include ground floor retail.
Car Crashes Into Construction Equipment — A vehicle crashed into some parked construction equipment in Courthouse during the evening rush hour yesterday. The crash happened on Wilson Blvd, just down the hill from the Wendy’s. Wilson Blvd was closed for a short period of time as a result. [Twitter]
Five Achieve Eagle Scout Status — Five members of the local Boy Scout Troup 106 achieved Eagle Scout status during a recent ceremony in north Arlington. [InsideNoVa]
Happy Hour for a Good Cause Thursday — Guarapo in Courthouse (2039 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a happy hour to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society on Thursday. [Clarendon Nights]
Group Seeks Prom Dress Donations — The annual “Formals for Five” initiative is seeking donations of dresses, jewelry, shoes and accessories. The donated items will then be sold for $5 apiece to students at Washington-Lee and Wakefield high schools. [InsideNoVa]
The first community planning workshop for “Envision Courthouse Square” will be held at Key Elementary School (2300 Key Blvd) in the cafeteria on Wednesday, March 26.
The county has dubbed a 9-acre area around the county’s large surface parking lot “Courthouse Square.” A mix of county- and privately-owned land and buildings, Courthouse Square could potentially be transformed into a mix of new developments, roads and open space.
“We are looking to the community to help us plan an extraordinary civic center that will not only house County government, but will provide a great public space to serve Arlingtonians for generations,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release.
The effort, the county says, will be the most comprehensive look at the future of Courthouse since the 1993 Courthouse Sector Plan Addendum. The Courthouse Square Planning and Urban Design Study Working Group, formed by County Board action in October 2013, will take the public’s suggestion and formulate it into a plan moving forward.
The five areas the working group, and the community, will evaluate are open space, building location and design, circulation (moving cars, pedestrians and bicycles through the area), community resources and sustainability.
The working group, made up of residents, business owners and community leaders and chaired by Planning Commissioner Nancy Iacomini, is expected to have recommendations for the County Board by the end of 2014.
Construction is expected to begin this summer on a 161-room hotel at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Adams Street after the Arlington County Board approved its site plan on Saturday.
The construction will also include four single-family homes behind the hotel on 16th Street N., acting as a buffer between the new building and Lyon Village’s existing single-family homes. The houses standing now, which are occupied by renters, according to the county, will be torn down and replaced.
The motion required amending the property’s General Land Use Plan, a process that began in 2009 before Wilson Tavern had even opened. Despite the lengthy process, County Board Chair Jay Fisette hailed the way the proposal made its way through the county government.
“What’s nice about today is we had three speakers, very little outstanding to talk about,” he said during the meeting. “That’s because the commissions did a great job, the community and neighbors did a great job in reaching an attractive end point. I hear it’s called the Dream Hotel. It’s been a dream process here in the end.”
The eight-story building will also include a 1,300-square-foot restaurant space, separate from the bar and cafe that will be in the hotel lobby. There will be 80 dedicated parking spaces and the building is expected to be LEED Gold-certified, which qualified the developer, Schupp Companies, for bonus density.
Of the three speakers, two were representatives of the Lyon Village and Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Associations, who endorsed the project. The third was Jim Hurysz, who criticized the Board for what he said was an unacceptably low contribution to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund: $586,000. The developer has agreed to contribute about $1.5 million to the county to replace the Courthouse Metro Station elevator with two high-speed units, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said.
“While some of us would like a larger amount [for affordable housing], a lot of times there are other community benefits that must be taken into consideration,” Board member Walter Tejada said. “We also have an amount that’s going to affordable housing. Would I want it to be more? Absolutely, but in other days, it would have been none.”
The Metro elevator contribution, along with a previous contribution from the approved Clean Technology Center, will allow elevator construction to begin before 2020, Donnellan said, and funds at least 50 percent of the costs. It was originally planned for after 2020 in the 2013-2022 Capital Improvements Project.
Schupp Companies is also providing funds for constructing a bus shelter on Wilson Blvd and improving the streetscape in the area.
The Arlington County Board could approve a plan to replace Wilson Tavern in Courthouse with an eight-story hotel at its meeting on Saturday.
Schupp Companies owns the property and is hoping to build a 161-room Hyatt Place hotel at 2401-2407 Wilson Blvd, at the intersection with N. Adams Street. The proposed site plan also includes four single family detached houses to be built along 16th Street N. to provide a buffer between the hotel and the existing Lyon Village neighborhood.
When Wilson Tavern opened in 2011, replacing Kitty O’Shea’s, Schupp Companies owner Ray Schupp already was planning a hotel for the space. Wilson Tavern isn’t expected to close, but rather move to a separate location and then perhaps into a planned 1,300-square-foot restaurant space next to the new hotel’s entrance. The Washington Business Journal reports that Wilson Tavern’s temporary space could be somewhere in Ballston.
Schupp is requesting density above the maximum allowed for its rezoning, but county staff is recommending approving the bonus density in exchange for a $1.54 million contribution to building a new Courthouse Metro Station elevator and a commitment to achieve LEED Gold certification. The Metro contribution, along with a previous contribution from the approved Clean Technology Center, will allow elevator construction to begin before 2020, when it was expected in the 2013-2022 Capital Improvements Plan.
Schupp is also requesting to construct 80 parking spaces, below the standard for hotels of its size, which county staff agreed was appropriate considering the space is about 500 feet from the Courthouse Metro Station.
The hotel would be at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Adams Street, and the restaurant space would be to the west. If approved, Northern Virginia Mixed Martial Arts would also be displaced. The WBJ also reports that Schupp is hoping to break ground on the project in June.
Image via Arlington County
Those in and around the retail industry say the recent trends toward mixed-use, urbanized development and the growth of “milennials” among consumers in the post-recession years add up nicely for Arlington.
Bruce Leonard, a managing principal at Streetsense, a real estate, retail and marketing firm, gave a lecture at George Mason University’s Arlington campus last month called “the changing face of retail.” He contended that the retail market is catching up to the real estate market in seeking urban, walkable centers.
Downtown areas were the dominant retail markets at the turn of the century, he said, until “construction of the interstates it moved away from the cities.”
“Now, ironically, we’re coming back to more urban- and downtown-focused retail,” Leonard said. “So for the [Rosslyn-Ballston] corridor, that’s really a good thing because it’s really urban. It’s relevant to the consumer in that it has the ability to provide an immersive and engaging environment… which is what [the consumers] are looking for.”
Kevin Shooshan, who oversees the leasing for The Shooshan Company in Ballston, said that’s why Arlington will still have an advantage over Tysons Corner when the Silver Line opens.
“I think specifically in the Courthouse-Clarendon-Ballston area, it’s more that it’s a walkable area, even more than Tysons,” he told ARLnow.com yesterday. “In Ballston, in Courthouse, in Clarendon, you can go on a leisurely four-block, five-block walk, passing ground floor retail with every step, with options to grab a paper, grab coffee, meeting with someone. It’s not just a walk down a Metro access corridor. I do see that as a huge asset.”
As the D.C. area apartment rental market continues to surge, that retail market can be key for attracting tenants. Most of the new buildings have fitness centers, pools, computer lounges and other amenities, but the shops in the neighborhood are every bit as much of the pitch to a tenant these days.
“Retail, in these markets, is really becoming an amenity,” Leonard said. “We’re seeing the conversation is ‘what kind of retail will I get that will match the demands of my tenant?’ Co-tenancy is going both horizontal and vertical, and that’s a really new trend.”
Billy Buck, the vice president of Buck & Associates, said the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor sells itself.
“In a 10-minute conversation, it’s mentioned in the first minute or two by the client before we have to bring it up,” Buck said. ”It’s not something you have to sell. The client or the purchaser or the tenant, they get to us because they’ve already realized that all those things are super important to their use.”
Lastly, the top trend Leonard said the retail market will see, both locally and nationall, is continued downsizing of big retailers. With online shopping and a shift in consumer behavior, chains that had giant, big box stores are looking for spaces sometimes half the size as before.
Most national retailers have square-footage requirements for any space they are looking for, Buck said, but that never prevents them from squeezing themselves in Arlington.
“These retailers are smart enough to realize that it may not fit their corporate mold, they know better than to skip Arlington,” he said. “You’re not going to just pass on Arlington in general, it’s just a bad business decision.”
Today is Mardi Gras, and although the ice and snow has forced the postponement of the annual Clarendon Mardi Gras parade, another street festival is going on as planned.
Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road), the Cajun-themed coffee shop and restaurant by New Orleans-native chef David Guas, is hosting its Bayou Gras Block Party this evening, starting at 5:00 p.m. in front of the store.
Northbound N. Courthouse Road is shut down to make room for a large heated tent between Clarendon Blvd and 15th Street N., and is expected to remain closed until the party ends at 10:00 p.m.
The block party will include a choice of three cajun dishes for a $30 ticket, three cocktails for a $25 ticket and/or three beers from Louisiana brewery Abita for $15. There will also be free oysters available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Update on 3/3/14 — The parade has been postponed indefinitely due to snow.
The annual Clarendon-Courthouse Mardi Gras Parade will take place next Tuesday, March 4.
The free, family-friendly parade will start at 8:00 p.m. at N. Barton Street and will make its way up Wilson Blvd to N. Irving Street in Clarendon. The parade features decorated vehicles, marching bands, parade floats, groups with animals, historic fire trucks, school groups and more.
According to Matt Hussman, executive director of the Clarendon Alliance, the parade this year will be the biggest ever in terms of entries. Among the groups that are expected to march in the parade:
- Ballou High School Marching Knights
- Batala Washington Drummers group
- Cherrydale VFD
- US Park Police Horse Mounted Unit
- DC LSU Alumni Chapter
- Krewe of Xenia
- Kensington Street Builders
- “The Band” Marching Unit
- Washington Nationals
- Corozon de America
- Sangre Boliviana
- Morenada Transpeco USA
- Tinkus Tiatacao USA
Before the parade, at 5:00 p.m., New Orleans native chef David Guas, of Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road), will hold his annual Bayou Gras Block Party in front of the restaurant in Courthouse.
The event will feature Abita on draft, bourbon cocktails, oysters, king cake, jambalaya, and gumbo under a large party tent. Tickets range from $15-30.
Disclosure: Clarendon Alliance is an ARLnow.com advertiser
A new food truck, DC Sliders, has come to serve lunch to customers in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
The truck’s first day in Arlington was Feb. 6. It serves an array of mini-burgers, including the “Elvis” slider, featuring the King’s favorite sandwich ingredients: peanut butter, banana and bacon. Currently, it has regular stops in Courthouse and Rosslyn, as well as Reston and Tysons Corner, but it has also stopped in Ballston in the last two weeks.
Other menu items during its stop in Rosslyn yesterday (Wednesday) included the “Del Toro” — which comes topped with tomato salsa, refried beans, guacamole, corn, greens and tortilla chips — and the “Slider Mac,” a burger topped with ketchup and macaroni and cheese. Customers can choose two types of sliders and combine with an order of garlic fries for $11.
The line for sliders at 11:45 a.m. was the longest on the block, even with four other food trucks parked close by.
The truck was launched in Loudoun County last August, according to co-owner Carmen Morse, who owns the truck with her husband, Chris. Carmen Morse told ARLnow.com that they are waiting for permits to park in D.C. and, if business continues to go well this summer, they are aiming to launch another truck and, a bit down the road, open a brick-and-mortar store.
Arlington County received two bids on the construction of a new “Homeless Services Center” at 2020 14th Street N., across from Arlington police headquarters. KBE Building Corporation bid $5.7 million and Miller Brothers Inc. bid $5.2 million for the project, which will involve interior alterations on two floors of the county-owned office building and the enclosure of an open parking area on the ground floor. The figures do not include project contingencies and some material costs.
“The total amount is within budget,” Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com on Monday. The Arlington County Board is expected to award a construction contract at its meeting later this month.
The Homeless Services Center will be a year-round facility, replacing the county’s aging, part-time Emergency Winter Shelter, located two blocks away. The total cost of the project — including last year’s purchase of the building, tenant relocations and the two-floor build-out — is projected at just over $38 million. The building purchase alone cost the county $27.1 million.
Other floors of the building are expected to eventually be used for county offices, displacing the private tenants there now. That may happen when the county’s below-market lease on office space at Vornado-owned Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd) expires, insiders tell ARLnow.com.
A timeframe for construction will not be available until the county staff report is issued on Feb. 14, Curtius said. Last year officials were hoping to have the new homeless shelter built and ready to open by fall 2014.
The decision to build the new homeless shelter attracted considerable controversy last year as nearby condo residents told County Board members they were fearful for their safety and property values. As a compromise measure, the Board agreed to require a security guard at the center from 4:00 p.m. to midnight..