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Arlington: The Birthplace of NSA Surveillance

by Ethan Rothstein | May 16, 2014 at 3:45 pm | 1,178 views | No Comments

David RobargeToday’s National Security Agency is housed in a sprawling complex in Fort Meade, Md., but, according to a recent lecturer at Arlington Public Library, domestic surveillance by the NSA was perhaps born in Arlington.

David Robarge, the CIA’s Chief Historian, told a standing-room only crowd last week about the history of espionage in Arlington, which started at Arlington Hall during World War II.

Arlington Hall — located off Route 50 between S. Glebe Road and George Mason Drive — was the site of the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service (SIS), which became part of the newly-formed National Security Agency in the early 1950s, Robarge said. The Army bought Arlington Hall, which was formerly the site of the Arlington Hall Junior College for Women, in 1943.

Arlington Hall was where the SIS launched a top-secret project called VENONA (which was declassified in the mid-1990s), helmed by Col. Carter Clark.

Clark realized “after World War II was over and we were done fighting the Germans, the Japanese, the Italians and others, we’d eventually be fighting the Russians,” Robarge said. “So he said ‘let’s start watching them very closely, looking at their intelligence communications to see what they’re up to inside the United States.’”

Arlington Hall (photo via Arlington Public Library)Robarge said Clark assembled a team of linguists and mathematicians in Arlington Hall to break Russian codes. In total, VENONA uncovered more than 300 operatives of the Soviet Union in the federal government, working in the White House, Justice Department and the Manhattan Project.

“If it was involved in national security and the war effort,” Robarge said, “the Soviets had some kind of penetration inside there.”

VENONA uncovered the spying of alleged traitors Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and several others, none of whom could be convicted of treason because VENONA evidence was classified and “couldn’t be used to arrest anyone,” Robarge said.

VENONA was infiltrated by Soviet spies in the late 1940s and officially went dark in 1949, Robarge said. By then, however, the Army’s intelligence service was firmly established at Arlington Hall, which would one day also launch the Defense Intelligence Agency, which departed the facility in 1984 and for Bolling Air Force Base.

The Department of Defense transferred a portion of the facility to the Department of State, and in 1993 the National Foreign Affairs Training Center opened at Arlington Hall.

Photo (bottom) courtesy Arlington Public Library

Retail Experts Say R-B Corridor Set for Future Success

by Ethan Rothstein | March 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 2,714 views | No Comments

Clarendon bars (photo by Maddy Berner)The Arlington retail market is well-positioned for the next decade or so, say several retail and real estate experts.

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.”

Marymount to Hold Talk on ‘Role of Media in 2012 Campaign’

by ARLnow.com | October 22, 2012 at 2:45 pm | 1,051 views | 6 Comments

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Marymount University will be holding a talk on the role of media in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign.

The speaker will be former New York Times correspondent, political analyst and best-selling author Steven V. Roberts, husband of ABC News political commentator Cokie Roberts.

His lecture, which is free and open to the public, is entitled “From The Times to Twitter: The Role of Media in the 2012 Campaign.” The event is being held on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Reinsch Library Auditorium on Marymount’s main campus (2807 N. Glebe Road).

Interested attendees are asked to RSVP by calling 703-526-6872.

Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com | May 12, 2011 at 8:41 am | 1,513 views | 19 Comments

Mixed Signals During Fire Alarms at Senior Facility — During fire alarms at The Jefferson senior living facility in Ballston, a recorded voice tells residents to evacuate the 21-story building via the stairwell. Except, for safety reasons, most residents are supposed to remain in their condo with the door shut. This has confused some elderly residents, who risked injury by attempting to walk down long flights of stairs during fire alarms. While acknowledging the inconsistency, both building management and the fire department say they can’t change the recorded message due to “liability” reasons. [Washington Post]

Politico Reporters to Speak at Rosslyn Lecture Series — Politico White House reporter Julie Mason and congressional reporter Jonathan Allen will be the speakers at Rosslyn’s “Rooms with a View” lecture series next week. Mason and Allen will discuss “Washington’s divided political landscape” and take questions from the audience. The event is free (RSVP required). It will be held on Thursday, May 19, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Boeing conference center at 1200 Wilson Boulevard. [Rosslyn BID]

Papery Closing Rumors — There’s more evidence that Clarendon stationery store The Papery may be closing, despite employees’ insistence that they’re preparing to add new stock to the largely empty shelves. The Papery’s space is listed as “for lease” on a commercial real estate firm’s web site. And The Papery’s own web site no longer exists. [Clarendon Culture]

Sign Needed at Rosslyn Safeway? — Is a one-way sign needed across from the Rosslyn Safeway to prevent confused drivers from heading the wrong way on Wilson Boulevard? [Ode Street Tribune]

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