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]