The Embassy of the Republic of Korea (ROK) has offered Arlington County the use of prime land in the Courthouse area at no cost. The County Board is scheduled to vote on the lease agreement at its meeting this Saturday, May 18.
The two parcels of vacant land run along Clarendon Blvd, between N. Adams Street and N. Barton Street. The ROK Arlington Embassy Annex building lies adjacent to the land, but faces Wilson Blvd. The land parcels up for grabs currently house nothing but fenced asphalt and gravel lots.
The embassy reports that the space is only used a few times each year during large meetings. It decided to offer the land to the county as a goodwill gesture.
Terms of the lease would allow the county to use the land free of rent as long as it maintains the parcels. The county may use the property for any legal use, provided it notifies the embassy prior to changing the land use. Any permanent improvements on the land would first require consent from the embassy.
The lease agreement would be in effect for a minimum of two years and would continue until terminated by one of the parties. The county staff report indicates maintenance costs associated with the lease would be minimal and no significant fiscal impact is expected.
Although the county staff report recommends the Board approves the deal, so far no firm plan has been developed for the future of the land. The county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) performed a preliminary land analysis and came up with some potential uses and improvements to the property. CPHD is prepared to solicit public input on possible uses for the site.
Last week, workers began construction on the intersection of Glebe Road and N. Fairfax Drive. The improvements are part of a pedestrian safety improvement project along Glebe Road that will spread to the Wilson Blvd and Carlin Springs Road intersections later this year.
The upgrades include installing new traffic signals, pedestrian crossing signals, street lights and trees. The intersections will also be reconfigured to improve safety. For example, the pedestrian “pork chop island” will be removed in front of Marymount University’s “Blue Goose” building, according to Tom Hutchings, Capital Project Manager with Arlington’s Department of Enviromental Services Division of Transportation.
“It tightens up the crossing distances at each intersection,” he said.
The red light camera that monitors northbound Glebe Road traffic at Fairfax Drive will remain in use during construction. Although the timing of the traffic lights will not change immediately, it will be evaluated later and tweaked as necessary.
“The timing is continually analyzed with every project we do,” Hutchings said. “It will be studied upon completion of the new lane geometry to optimize the intersection.”
The new traffic lights that were strung over the intersection last week are temporary; the permanent lights will be mounted on upgraded poles with mast arms. The previous poles were based on standards from the 1970s and did not meet the electronic wiring and mast arm standards in the current codes.
The improvements at the three intersections are part of a $2.5 million VDOT project that is locally administered by Arlington County. About 80 percent of the funding comes from federal and state sources, and about 20 percent comes from the county.
Although a number of pedestrian-vehicle accidents have occurred along this stretch of Glebe Road in recent years, such as the deadly cab accident last July, the intersections have been the subject of extensive studies since 2000.
“It is precipitated from acknowledgement of the high level of pedestrian activity in the area,” Hutchings said. “It’s to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety along Glebe Road where a lot of development has occurred over the past 10 years, and pedestrian use of Glebe Road has increased.”
According to Hutchings, the addition of a bike lane for eastbound cyclists on Fairfax Drive occurred during an earlier phase of this project, as did the installation of traffic lights last year at N. 9th Street and N. Vermont Street.
Work on the Fairfax Drive intersection is expected to be finished by mid-June. The Wilson Blvd. intersection should be completed in August, and Carlin Springs in October.
The plates were installed near the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Randolph Street early last year after residents of the nearby Archstone Ballston Square apartments complained about noise coming from a Dominion Virginia Power vault cover, underneath which sits electrical equipment for their building, according to the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services (DES). The vault cover (located in the left-hand westbound travel lane) was broken and causing loud noises when cars drove over it.
The plates were to be installed over the vault cover as a temporary measure until it could be fixed. However, as of last month, the cover still wasn’t fixed and the plates were causing problems for drivers. In addition to producing a bumpy ride, one driver says the plates damaged his car.
“Recently I hit the corner of the grate with my vehicle and it knocked the alignment off my car,” resident Frank Murphy claimed in a Feb. 27 email to county officials. “I am sure each person listed on this email has traveled west on Wilson Boulevard and noticed these dangerous grates. The corner of one grate sticks up 4 inches.”
Murphy said the county refused to reimburse him for the alleged damage, saying the plates actually belong to Archstone. Archstone and Dominion, meanwhile, are finally planning to repair the vault covers and remove the steel plates, as soon as this month, according to the county.
“Dominion Power has approved the new vault designs, a contractor has been paid to do the installations,” according to DES spokeswoman Laura Smith. “Vault work should hopefully be completed before the end of March 2013.”
That’s little consolation for Murphy and his repair bill.
“I have to pay the money out of my pocket,” he told ARLnow.com. “It’s bulls–t!”
Photo courtesy Frank Murphy
The family that owns Mario’s Pizza House is selling the 16,000 square foot parcel of land on which Mario’s and the Carvel Ice Cream shop sits. Mario’s has been in business at that location, 3322 Wilson Boulevard, between Clarendon and Virginia Square, since 1958.
The land — much of which sits fallow as a surface parking lot — was originally listed for sale for $3 million. After apparently not finding a buyer at that price, the land is now going up for auction.
“This property is located in one of the only prime development areas remaining in Arlington, VA,” according to the auction website. “It… consists of 3 parcels totaling 16,073 square feet. The 2,400 sf retail building is currently home to Mario’s Pizza and Carvel Ice Cream and produces $12,500 per month in rental income.”
The auction is set to take place on Thursday, Dec. 20, but the winning bidder will not necessarily be allowed to purchase the property.
“This sale is subject to our motivated Seller’s approval,” the auction listing notes.
We’re told that there are still 12-15 years left on the leases for Mario’s and Carvel. (Though owned by the same family, the land owner and the restaurant are separate business entities.) The stores are likely to remain open until the land buyer, if there is one, manages to get a redevelopment plan approved by the county.
One possibility is that a developer might buy this property, then attempt to buy the adjacent Pio-Pio restaurant and Highlander motel properties. That could allow a large high-rise development, given the proximity to the Orange Line. Either way, both Mario’s and Carvel are here to stay, says Mario’s owner Alan Levine.
“Both leases are long term and convey,” Levine told ARLnow.com. “There will be no interruption of operations for either business. It is just time to allow others to put this block together properly for the future and Mario’s and Carvel have first rights to go into any new development.”
Photo courtesy (top) Timothy D. Image (bottom) via Google Maps. Hat tip to various tipsters.
The tree supposedly came down this past Sunday, according to parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish, but the resident who first emailed ARLnow.com to ask about the safety hazard said it actually came down Tuesday, during Superstorm Sandy. Regardless of when it fell, the tree remains have been blocking the sidewalk ever since, forcing pedestrians to either walk up a small hill or into the street to get around it. It also blocked a bus stop and a bike lane, forcing bicyclists out into a vehicle travel lane.
The tree was on private property — near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Troy Street, just down the street from the Courthouse area — and Kalish said the county was not notified that it was blocking a sidewalk until ARLnow.com asked about it yesterday.
“According to a property manager at Colonial Village the tree fell Sunday night. They did not have an opportunity to remove it or contact us regarding it until we checked into it for [ARLnow.com],” she said. “The Parks team will clear the sidewalk today.”
A power outage is affecting the northwestern section of Arlington County this morning.
Dominion is reporting that 1,673 customers in Arlington are currently without power. The company’s power outage map says the outage is a result of a circuit problem, and estimates that power will be restored between 10:00 a.m. and noon.
Impacted neighborhoods reportedly include Dominion Hills, Madison Manor and East Falls Church. Among the intersections where traffic lights are dark are Wilson Boulevard and Patrick Henry Drive, and Wilson Boulevard and N. McKinley Road.
In March 2011, Z-Burger co-owner Mohammad Esfahani told ARLnow.com that he hoped to have the location open last summer. But co-owner Peter Tabibian said today the company is now focused on opening its new Columbia Heights location first, in the next few weeks.
Esfahani said construction is ongoing for the 4,000-square-foot space at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and N. Kenmore Street. This will be Z-Burger’s sixth location and first in Virginia.
The two-story red brick building that used to house a video conversion business and a realty company has made way for a new structure. A crew was working on the new building’s interior today (Wednesday). The before and after comparison is below.
Two years after opening the 1,400-square-foot storefront, owner/couple Enzo Algarme and Anastasiya Laufenberg are taking over the next-door space left by Union Halal Butcher & Grocery. The move will almost double the store’s footprint and allow for a total of about 75 seats with a second dining room.
It’s a long way from the made-to-order food cart the two began operating near the Ballston Metro in 2007.
“It’s been really nice to get to know people from the neighborhood and feel their love and their support,” Laufenberg said. “I’m really looking forward to having a more comfortable space for them to come and eat.”
More space will also mean more hours. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the pizzeria is open for dinner only.
Laufenberg said once the couple finishes hiring new staff, they’ll be open for breakfast (coffee, donuts and other Italian morning treats) and lunch (sandwiches and pasta dishes).
“It won’t be as crammed and we’re excited because we think it’ll be more relaxed,” Laufenberg said.
In response to a controversial mixed use development proposed for Wilson Boulevard, a number of Bluemont residents have banded together to form the “Safeway Task Force,” and will be holding a public meeting tomorrow.
The group is made up of members of the Bluemont Civic Association and aims to educate community members about the proposed development. Members say they want to ensure that the Bluemont community is able to help shape future changes at the Safeway site at 5101 Wilson Blvd.
Earlier this year, Safeway began soliciting bids from developers who may be interested in building a new grocery store, with residential property above it. The building would take up the entire block of Wilson Blvd from N. Frederick Street to N. Edison Street.
Last year, attendees at a Bluemont Civic Association meeting confronted County Board Chair Mary Hynes about the development. A number of residents voiced concerns about increased density along the stretch of Wilson Blvd in question, and also worried about how small businesses would fare.
The task force will be hosting a town hall meeting on Tuesday, July 10 (tomorrow), which is open to the public. It will be held at St. Ann’s Church (5300 N. 10th Street), starting at 7:00 p.m. Members of the county Planning Commission will be on hand to speak about issues related to the proposed development, such as zoning and by-right policies, and will answer residents’ questions.
In the coming months, the task force hopes to meet with Safeway representatives to discuss plans for the future. The task force’s charter states it plans to wrap up work by November 1, at which time it will be decided if it is needed any longer.
Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
The latest work involved removing a small island on N. Quincy Street and building a curb extension. Wider sidewalks and ADA compliant ramps have also been installed. Tom Hutchings, Project Manager for the Wilson Boulevard Improvement Project, explained that it’s an effort to improve pedestrian safety along a stretch of road typically considered tough to cross.
“That’s what this whole Wilson Boulevard project is about,” Hutchings said. “We’re tightening the street up and making the crossing distance shorter.”
One more curb extension needs to be installed on the opposite side of N. Quincy Street, but the existing improvements to Wilson Boulevard are already being considered successful in making the area safer.
“It has changed pedestrian behavior and we see a higher level of pedestrian activity,” Hutchings said.
The current phase is nearly complete, but there are a few things that need to still go in. The highest priority was finishing essentials like the new curbs, gutters and traffic lights. Things that don’t directly affect safety, such as Quincy Street bus shelters, street lights and trees, were viewed as a lower priority. Those have all been ordered and need to be installed.
“For the public, it’s perfectly functional, but there are elements that need to be finalized,” said Hutchings. “They should all be complete within three months, unless we have to wait until fall with the tree planting.”
This is part of the same project that brought the much awaited traffic lights to the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Pollard Street near Gold’s Gym. The work from N. Quincy Street to the area around the Arlington Arts Center builds off of the design of the Virginia Square Sector Plan. Work has been done in phases to coordinate with new development and engineering demands.
The final phase of the project moves down Wilson to N. 10th Street near Mario’s Pizza. Construction on that section will be extensive, so the county is working on setting up a website to give updates on the progress. The website, which is expected to be up and running in the next few weeks, also will list any upcoming traffic disruptions. However, that phase is still in the planning stages, and construction is not slated to begin for about two years.
The man was found around 1:00 a.m. on the 5300 block of Wilson Boulevard, in Bluemont, suffering from significant head trauma, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. It’s unknown at this time whether the injury was the result of a hit-and-run, a fight or a fall. The man still had his wallet with him, so robbery is not considered a likely motive if he was, in fact, attacked.
The man was taken to a local hospital where surgery was performed to stop bleeding in his brain, Sternbeck said. His injuries are considered life-threatening.
The man is described as a 38-year-old Arlington resident. No other details were available about the incident.
(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) The long-awaited unveiling of the new traffic signals on Wilson Boulevard at N. Pollard Street should be happening soon. In fact, they should be working before the start of the weekend.
The lights were installed a couple of months ago, but have remained covered up. Concerned about pedestrian safety, some residents have been emailing ARLnow.com to ask when the lights would begin functioning. One reader compared crossing the intersection to maneuvering through a video game.
“Too many people play ‘Frogger’ at night trying to go to and from the Gold’s Gym,” the reader wrote.
Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel said the county’s installation of the lights has been completed, and Dominion Virginia Power just needs to supply electricity. Dominion tells us the lights should be turned on either today or tomorrow, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Today a crew was at the intersection repairing the sidewalk that had been torn up to install the lights.
Based on a study of the intersection at Washington, Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards, the plan provides safety improvements for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Eight other nearby intersections would also be affected by the changes in traffic flow.
The study offers numerous suggestions and sketches of possible redesigns. Some ideas included adding lanes to Washington Blvd, removing left turn lanes, adding bike lanes, adding curb extensions near Liberty Tavern and Sam’s Diner and moving traffic more toward the Silver Diner’s property.
The geometry of the intersection, which is often described as “awkward” and “confusing,” would be normalized by the revamp. The overall size of the intersection would decrease, and better traffic signals and signs would be installed.
The first round of public forums addressing the improvements will be scheduled soon and will continue throughout the spring. A finalized plan and ground breaking is expected sometime in 2014, at the latest.
A new set of traffic lights and pedestrian crossing signals are being installed at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Wakefield Street.
The traffic signals are located next to the Murphy Funeral Home and a new residential development, in the Bluemont neighborhood near Ballston. A developer agreed to pay for the traffic signals in 2008 as part of the development’s site plan process. At the time, county staff argued that increased traffic from the development would necessitate the installation of traffic signals.
No word yet on when the traffic lights might be switched on.
New traffic signals were being installed today at the busy intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Pollard Street in Ballston, near the Gold’s Gym and the Wiinky’s burger restaurant.
The installation comes about three months after the Sun Gazette reported, in an article entitled “Residents Find Developer Payments Don’t Translate Into Traffic-Signal Installation,” that a developer had agreed to contribute $150,000 toward the addition of traffic signals at the intersection back in 2004. At the time of the article, the County Manager Barbara Donnellan promised to investigate why the traffic signal had not yet been installed.
Though the signals were installed today, we’re told it may be a “couple of weeks” until they’re switched on.