Dems Planning for the Next Campaign — “The campaign for 2013 begins tomorrow,” the chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Committee told local Democrats at the committee’s meeting Wednesday night. Next year there will be a gubernatorial election in Virginia and House of Delegates races in Arlington, among other races. Arlington Democrats ran the table on Tuesday, winning every race, with the exception of a state constitutional amendment question. [Sun Gazette]
Bergmann’s Discussion Deferred — The Arlington Planning Commission was forced to defer consideration of a proposed 10-story redevelopment of the Bergmann’s Dry Cleaning site after Hurricane Sandy delayed the mailing of notices to local residents. The Waverly Hills Civic Association, located about a mile from the development, has expressed opposition to it. [Arlington Mercury]
Tech Tutoring at Library — From iPads to social networks to computer software, the Aurora Hills Branch Library is offering 45-minute one-on-one tech tutoring sessions for residents. Appointments are now being taken for Monday, Dec. 3. [Arlington Public Library]
The Crystal City Streetcar Project would build a new streetcar line to run from the Pentagon City Metro station to Potomac Yard in Alexandria. Unlike the Pike streetcar project, which hopes to win federal funding, the funding for the Crystal City streetcar is more or less in place, and will come from a Crystal City tax increment financing area (TIF).
Arlington County is now planning to hold a public meeting to discuss the project. The forum will be held at the Crystal Park Condominium meeting room at 1805 Crystal Drive, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. next Tuesday, Nov. 13.
“As part of the Crystal City Streetcar Project, Arlington County is studying the environmental effects and developing conceptual engineering for a streetcar line connecting Pentagon City, Crystal City, and Potomac Yard,” the county said in a media advisory. “At the community forum, County representatives will introduce the project, describe the ongoing planning efforts, collect comments and answer questions. The public is encouraged to attend and learn about this new phase of transit.”
Those with questions or language interpretation requests can email [email protected]
As part of its recommendations for revising the county sign ordinance, the Arlington Planning Commission is recommending a ban on new signs placed higher than 40 feet on building walls, according to the Arlington Mercury.
If the recommendation is ultimately adopted by the County Board, it would effectively ban all new high-rise rooftop signs — popular with developers and businesses, especially in high-density commercial zones like Rosslyn and Crystal City.
Do you agree with the Planning Commission?
Flickr pool photo by Pderby
Arlington County’s vision for Columbia Pike would result in 10,000 new housing units being added to the corridor by 2040.
County planners are currently putting the finishing touches on the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, a sweeping vision for the Pike that seeks to transform the area into a more urban, walkable, transit-oriented community. The plan calls for taller buildings along the Pike — up to 10 stories — and for the replacement of some existing surface parking lots with new infill development (and underground parking). It also calls for streetcar service and stops along the Pike and enhanced local bus service in the neighborhoods around the Pike.
In total, the plan projects that more than 10,000 new market rate and committed affordable housing units will be added to the Pike by 2040. By design, the plan calls for “a wider mix of incomes” in the various areas along the Pike.
“The Plan seeks to balance a range of housing affordability, improved forms of buildings and open spaces, and the preservation of historically significant buildings,” according to a draft of the neighborhoods plan. “The result is a comprehensive vision that targets redevelopment along the Columbia Pike frontages and areas further off the Pike in the eastern and western sections.”
While the plan calls for the preservation of affordable housing, it would result in the elimination of market rate affordable housing for those making 60 percent of less than Area Median Income (AMI). Under the plan, 60 percent AMI market rate housing would drop from 2,917 units today to zero units by 2040. Market rate housing for 80 percent AMI (those making 60 to 80 percent of AMI) would increase from 3,213 to 4,100. Meanwhile, committed affordable housing would increase from 1,120 to 4,300 for 60 percent AMI, and from 84 to 600 for 80 percent AMI.
Much of the added committed affordable housing would be funded by developers; Arlington County would provide added housing density allowances in exchange for either committed affordable housing within new developments or a contribution to the county’s affordable housing investment fund.
The plan specifically calls for more residential development and retail space along Columbia Pike and S. Orme Street in the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood near the eastern end of the Pike. Single-family homes and rowhouses would be maintained along Ode and Oak streets, according to the plan.
The plan also includes a vision for a greener, more aesthetically-pleasing look for the Columbia Pike corridor, along with wider sidewalks and better route options for cyclists.
“New streets and bicycle connections, particularly running east and west, offer more circulation options for neighborhoods and make traveling along the Pike safer and more pleasant,” according to the plan. “Wider sidewalks, residential buildings set back from the sidewalk, and more trees will provide a boulevard experience that will be a contrast to the commercial areas.”
Arlington County is hoping to accomplish its Neighborhoods Plan vision through the use of zoning tools like Form Based Code and density awards for property owners who develop according to the plan.
The Neighborhoods Plan was developed with resident input via numerous public planning sessions, workshops and discussions. A public hearing on the plan will be held next month.
“Change is underway along the Pike,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said, in a statement. “Through the hard work and careful planning of a lot of neighborhood leaders, community members and county staff, we’re beginning to see a more pedestrian-friendly Pike emerge — a Pike served by great transit, that offers a vibrant mix of retail, residential and commercial development and public spaces that will bring people together.”
Hynes continued: “The Neighborhoods Plan helps ensure that, even as the Pike changes, the things that we all love about it — the mix of housing affordable to people of various incomes and all walks of life, the sense of community and of history, the strong neighborhoods — continue to thrive.”
A pair of bocce courts may soon be coming to a small strip of green space near Ballston Common Mall.
Arlington County park planners have proposed a set of improvements to a barren, triangular park at the corner of N. Randolph Street and N. Glebe Road, adjacent to the Ballston public parking garage.
The proposal includes two side-by-side bocce courts, benches, a handicap-accessible walkway, bike parking, meadow plantings and a designated food truck/cart area. The cost of the improvements is estimated at $150,000. The park design is described as temporary, and is intended to be “easily… displaced if a long-term use is identified.”
Park planners met with community members on Tuesday to discuss the proposal. The final design for the park is expected to be firmed up by early summer, with construction beginning in late summer or early fall.
The forthcoming development on the Bergmann’s Cleaning site on Lee Highway — still in the planning stages — may include a MOM’s Organic Market, according to an email obtained by ARLnow.com.
The project has been evolving as developer McCaffrey Interests responds to neighborhood input and objections to the project. Whereas just a couple of months ago the project was to include a specialty grocery and 13,500 square feet of other retail, it now includes just the grocery store, with the retail replaced by 15 row houses along N. Veitch and N. Uhle Streets. The change is expected to reduce traffic around the development.
The project still includes a 10-story, 166-unit, LEED Gold-certified, glass-covered apartment building, complete with a fitness center and swimming pool on the penthouse level. The current plan, which will be discussed at a Site Plan Review Committee meeting at 7:00 tonight, also includes 222 spaces of surface and underground parking for residents and grocery store customers.
In an email to its members, the local North Highlands Civic Association said McCaffrey expects that a MOM’s Organic Market will move into the grocery store space once the project is completed. The store may also have some sort of cafe component, to make up for the lack of other retail within the development. County staff have previously expressed skepticism about a specialty grocery store at the site, saying the area is already well-served by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
MOM’s currently has a location in Alexandria and is expected to open a location in Falls Church, but the local chain does not have an Arlington presence yet.
As part of the development, McCaffrey has agreed to several community amenities, including improvements to nearby McCoy Park, a modification to the adjacent Custis Trail, and 8 on-site affordable apartments. McCaffrey Interests is responsible for a number of notable local developments, including Georgetown Centre in D.C. and Market Common Clarendon in Arlington.
The latest conceptual design plan for major improvements to Mosaic Park (544 N. Pollard Street), near Ballston, includes interactive water features, a playground, a multi-use court and a small lawn for play and picnicking.
The plan, from noted design studio Oculus, was revealed at a community meeting last week.
In addition to the water jets and playground equipment, the park will also have green power features — currently slated as an array of solar panels designed to generate the 1.2 kilowatts necessary to power the park while at the same time providing some desirable shade. Additionally, there will be “wooden platform seating” near the water features — similar to the seating along New York City’s High Line.
The Shooshan Company, which is behind the nearby and still-under-construction Founders Square development, will be footing the $6.6 million bill for the improvements, per an agreement with the County Board.
County planners say they’re not sure when exactly the park will be built, but they’re planning on construction beginning at some point in 2013. A second phase of the project, which is expected to include a basketball court and additional green space, has been planned, but depends on the county’s ability to obtain land from a private property owner.
Bicyclists hoping for a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City without having to navigate the tricky eastern end of the Pike will have to keep waiting. A plan to build a bike and pedestrian path from the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive is still on hold until additional engineering plans and project funding can be procured.
In June 2010, the Arlington County Board approved a plan for Army Navy County Club to build a new four-story clubhouse. As part of the approval process, the club agreed to grant the county an easement which would allow a 30-foot-wide emergency access road and bike/pedestrian path to be built from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass that leads from Army Navy Drive to the club.
The primary motivation for the new road, county officials emphasized, is a need for more north-south connections across I-395 for emergency vehicles.
“There are very few places along the 395 corridor in Arlington where we actually have an underpass, or a way to get from one site of the highway to another without going through an interchange,” says Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach. “So it’s incredibly valuable…. for emergency response purposes.”
As a side benefit, though, Leach said the path will be “a real benefit to the community” in terms of providing better access for cyclists and pedestrians.
Despite the positives, the project hasn’t gone very far. First, Leach says, more detailed engineering plans need to be drawn up. Then funding needs to be procured through the county’s Capital Improvement Plan and bond referendum process. An early engineering study, conducted in 2010, suggested that the project would require very high retaining walls to compensate for the steep hill the access facility must run along. The cost of such a construction project was expected to exceed $3 million, we’re told.
Leach declined to speculate as to when the access road might eventually be built. He also declined to comment about a 2010 lawsuit filed by disgruntled members of Army Navy Country Club who objected to a bike path being built along one of the holes at their golf course.
A call to Army Navy Country Club for comment was not returned. The club’s then-general manager, who wrote a letter to the editor in support of the emergency access and bike path in 2010, is no longer employed at the club, according to a woman who answered the phone there.
Earlier this year, Arlington announced plans to create a six-year plan for the growth and utilization of Capital Bikeshare in the county. Now, the public is being asked to weigh in and give suggestions on the plan.
An online forum has been set up for gathering feedback about the plan, which will cover fiscal years 2013-2018. Four scenarios were created and posted on the BikeArlington website as a general guide for expansion. Users are asked to comment about the favorable and unfavorable aspects of each scenario. Designers expect that none of the existing scenarios will be strictly adopted, but rather that elements of each will contribute to the final proposal.
One of the goals of the plan is to project costs and adjust budgets accordingly. All transit agencies in Virginia are required to complete a transit development plan every six years.
Comments can be posted at the online forum until April 13. There will also be a public meeting to address expansion on March 29, from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at George Mason University’s Arlington Campus (3351 N. Fairfax Dr). The public is encouraged to attend and provide input.
Work is underway to design improvements to the streetscape of Columbia Pike. On Monday, March 26, county staff and consultants will present their partially-completed design to the community.
The Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project has the goal of transforming the 3.5 mile Pike corridor, running from Fairfax County to S. Joyce Street, into a “complete street — a street designed to be more livable and safer by accommodating all users.”
The design seeks to not only make the Pike more accessible to pedestrians, but to get it ready to “support future high-quality, high-frequency transit service” — which may include enhanced bus service or the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar.
The current design, which is 50 percent complete, will be presented from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on March 26, at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.). All interested community members are encouraged to attend and provide input.
Among the changes proposed in the initial designs:
The proposed buildings would replace the former Bergmann’s dry cleaning plant, at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Veitch Street, and five early 20th century houses across the street from the plant. The homes are also owned by Bergmann’s.
In place of the plant, Chicago-based McCaffery Interests proposes to build a 26,000 square foot, single-story “specialty grocery store.”
In place of the houses, which are located between N. Uhle Street and I-66, the developer is proposing a 10-story, 166-unit, LEED Gold-certified apartment building, complete with a fitness center and swimming pool on the penthouse level. The apartment building would have a mostly-glass façade, with white vertical concrete columns.
Planners have expressed reservations about several aspects of the development plan. County staff oppose the grocery store plan, which would require a partial exemption of the allowed retail density for the site. Arlington County has a policy of making exceptions for grocery stores, which are seen as a net positive for the community, but staff notes that density exemptions have only been granted for full-size grocery stories.
“While [Arlington Economic Development] considers the area around Bergmann’s underserved by full-service full size grocers for everyday shopping (stores like Safeway or Giant), they consider this area well-served by specialty grocers (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s),” a planning document says.
Concerns about the height of the apartment building, and the stark transition between the single-story grocery store and the ten-story apartment, have also been raised. Another likely topic of discussion: the fact that all parking for the combined project (226 spaces) will be located in a garage below and on the roof above the grocery store. Apartment tenants will have to walk across N. Uhle Street after parking.
The developer, McCaffrey Interests, is responsible for a number of notable local developments, including Georgetown Centre in D.C. and Market Common Clarendon in Arlington. The company’s Washington office is located in Courthouse.
Following tonight’s Site Plan Review Committee meeting, the project is expected to be considered by the Arlington Planning Commission and County Board no earlier than June 2012.
The County Board has given the green light for a year-long process that will suggest changes to the existing development plan for the Rosslyn area.
The last time the County approved significant changes to its Rosslyn Sector Plan was 1992. Now, nearly 20 years later, officials say changes are necessary to help with Rosslyn’s continued development from a mere “collection of office buildings” to “a more balanced neighborhood, offering residents and visitors shopping, recreation and cultural activities.”
The new Rosslyn planning effort will focus on improving transportation options, suggesting changes to Rosslyn’s building height regulations and developing “a more cohesive, functional parks and open space network.” The process will include numerous community input opportunities, facilitated by a dedicated “civic engagement professional” on the planning team.
The planning process comes at a time of major change for Rosslyn. The expansive cultural center known as Artisphere opened last year, a major overhaul is coming to Gateway Park, and construction is either currently underway or imminent on three new skyscrapers, two large residential complexes, a luxury condo building and a new office building.
The Board voted 4-1 in favor of the new planning effort, which will present its recommendations to the board in 2012. Board member Walter Tejada was the lone ‘no’ vote. Tejada advocated for a longer, more comprehensive planning process with additional public input.
On Thursday night Arlington County held a small business ‘listening session’ at Clarendon Ballroom. More than 50 business owners showed up to tell county staff what they like and don’t like about how the county treats small businesses.
The event was part of County Board Chair Chris Zimmerman’s year-long push to make Arlington more small-business-friendly. Zimmerman gave the opening and closing remarks at the event, but it was county planning and economic development staff who led the group discussions that were the evening’s main substance.
Among the things business owners liked about doing business in Arlington were the friendly personal interactions with county employees, the frequent county programs that teach you how to create a business plan, and the relative ease of running a home-based business. As expected, however, complaints far out-numbered compliments.
There was discussion of the advantages larger businesses have over smaller businesses when trying to navigate the county’s regulations and talk of loosening regulations preventing small businesses from participating in certain citizen-oriented programs. By and large, however, the discussion focused on three areas: clarity and accessibility of information, taxes and fees, and the county’s controversial sign ordinance.
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.
DCA Tower AWOL as Planes Land – Two airline pilots landing at Reagan National Airport were unable to make contact with the lone air traffic controller on duty in the tower early Wednesday. The FAA is now investigating what caused the tower to go silent for nearly half an hour. Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has ordered a second air traffic controller to start working the overnight shift at DCA. [Washington Post]
School Board Opposed Strict Misconduct Guidelines – Should teachers be forbidden from sending text messages to students? What about becoming Facebook friends? Those are two questions the Arlington County School Board may have to answer if the Virginia School Board approves a set of sexual misconduct guidelines today. Last month School Board Chair Libby Garvey wrote the Virginia Dept. of Eduction to oppose a stricter, more prescriptive set of guidelines. [Arlington Connection]
Meade Street Bridge Redesign Options Discussed — Earlier this week Arlington County staff members sat down with residents to discuss options for improving safety on the Meade Street Bridge, which connects the area near the Iwo Jima memorial to Lynn Street and Rosslyn. Among the options being considered are narrowing vehicle lanes, widening the pedestrian sidewalk and adding decorative “luminous bodies” to the side of the bridge. [Ode Street Tribune]