The long-awaited process of demolishing the Navy Annex and its surrounding parking lots is scheduled to begin within the next month or two, officials tell ARLnow.com.
The 1 million square foot military office complex, first built in 1941 and located on the eastern end of Columbia Pike, will be torn down to make way for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. The entire 42-acre Navy Annex site, which includes a large surface parking lot on the other side of Columbia Pike, will be turned into a grass field in advance of an official transfer from the Department of the Army to Arlington National Cemetery in late 2013.
Demolition on the eastern wing of the Navy Annex is scheduled to start in November or December. The process will include abatement of asbestos and other hazardous materials. Demolition, site grading and seeding is expected to be complete by August 2013.
Columbia Pike should only experience “minimal” traffic impacts from the project; Southgate Road, which runs parallel to the Pike on the other side of the Navy Annex, is expected to see the majority of traffic disruptions.
The Navy Annex site is not expected to be used for burials for at least a couple of years. First, Arlington County and the federal government must come to a land swap agreement. The entities are still working on a deal to swap the county’s 4.23 acre Southgate Road right of way, and perhaps some other land, in exchange for a portion of the Navy Annex site.
The most recent land swap agreement — which has since fallen through, according to Arlington County federal liaison Brian Stout — called for construction of an Arlington County heritage museum on the site. At least a portion of the proposed museum would be used to commemorate the Civil War-era Freedman’s Village, which was once located on the site.
The county is also working with the federal government and VDOT to reach an agreement for a realignment of Columbia Pike. Currently, the Pike curves around the Air Force Memorial — located adjacent to the Navy Annex — and toward the cemetery before the intersection with S. Joyce Street.
Stout says the county is proposing that the Pike be straightened and run through the current Navy Annex parking lot, before making an L-shaped intersection with Joyce Street. That would make for an easier drive up the Pike and would make for a contiguous burial area that’s not divided by the busy road. The project has been discussed but so far no engineering plans are in place, Stout said.
Another point of discussion deals with parking for the Air Force Memorial. Stout said the current demolition plan seems to call for the demolition of a portion of the parking lot used by memorial visitors. If that’s removed, visitors may need to park on Southgate Road.
Takis Karantonis, Executive Director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says the demolition presents an opportunity to improve the “eastern gateway” to the Pike. He said CPRO would like to see up to five stories of mixed use development along the Columbia Pike frontage of the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood, located between the Navy Annex and the Sheraton National hotel.
“This is not the sightliest of places,” he said of the aging military building and the parking lots that line that section of the Pike. “Getting this redeveloped… is for us a welcome development. We think that the neighborhood will develop very nicely with that.”
Most of Foxcroft Heights is slated to remain single family homes under the recently-approved Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan.
A neighborhood information meeting about the demolition process is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Galaxy Room of the Sheraton National (900 S. Orme Street).
The Navy Exchange/Quarters K gas station on S. Joyce Street, near the Pentagon, closed for good about a month ago. The Navy Times reports that the station will eventually be demolished as part of the cemetery expansion plan.
The expansion is being made possible by a 2008 land swap deal between Arlington County and the federal government. At some point after 2011, the county will exchange a 4.3 acre parcel of land along Southgate Road — which runs from Henderson Hall to the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Joyce Street — for 4.3 acres of land on the present Navy Annex site along Columbia Pike.
The county is eying the western portion of the Navy Annex, which will be shuttered and torn down, for a proposed Freedman’s Village heritage center and black history museum. The federal government, meanwhile, plans to eliminate Southgate Road to make way for the aforementioned planned expansion of Arlington National Cemetery.
Another aspect of the expansion plan is playing out in the halls of congress. Arlington’s congressional delegation has been seeking funding for a realignment of Columbia Pike between the Air Force Memorial and S. Joyce Street. The proposed project would eliminate a sharp bend in the road that routes it closer to the cemetery. Instead, the proposed realignment would take the Pike on a more direct path to Joyce Street, through what is now a Defense Department parking lot.
The project promises to “provide additional contiguous expansion space for the Cemetery” while enhancing the streetscape and resulting in “significant improvements in safety, mobility and economic development along the Columbia Pike Corridor.”
Congressman Jim Moran’s office confirmed that the Pike realignment was still in the planning stage but was unable to provide an approximate timeline for the project due to uncertainties regarding funding.
The 417-room Sheraton National Hotel has been sold to a Connecticut-based hotel investment firm.
The hotel, located just off of Columbia Pike at 900 S. Orme Street, had been owned by National Hospitality Corporation, a company linked to Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church.
HEI Hotels and Resorts purchased an ownership interest in the hotel for an undisclosed sum. The company owns 39 hotels in 16 states, including the Sheraton Crystal City.
HEI plans to keep operating the hotel as a Sheraton.
The residential portion of Foxcroft Heights only encompasses three one-block streets, but some big changes may be coming to the tiny South Arlington community.
On Saturday afternoon, county staff and urban planning consultants will meet with residents to discuss some of those possible changes. The meeting is being billed as a “mini-charrette” — a hands-on brainstorming session, of sorts.
“Participants will work in small groups with members of the planning team to draw ideas for the future of the neighborhood,” says a flyer distributed to Foxcroft’s 400+ residents. “Ideas could include desired enhancements to transportation networks or open spaces, and potential for building revitalization or redevelopment.”
Foxcroft Heights is perhaps best known for being the home of the Air Force Memorial. Its residential community is surrounded by Columbia Pike to the south, the Henderson Hall to the North, the Sheraton National Hotel to the west and the Navy Annex to the east. Within its confines are 95 homes, two 16-unit apartment buildings and a small park. Along Columbia Pike are a couple of small businesses including Dama Diner, Ruth’s Beauty Shop and an auto repair store, as well as a Virginia Department of Transportation facility and a half-way home.
According to a 2009 planning document that has almost as many pages as Foxcroft Heights has buildings, homeowners have been approached by commercial developers about “various options for the neighborhood.”
Another big change that’s underway is the closure of the Navy Annex. The building is set to be shuttered and torn down, perhaps by the end of next year. The military is planning on using most of the freed-up land to expand Arlington National Cemetery. About four acres will be given to the county for construction of a Freedman’s Village heritage museum.