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Just Listed in Arlington

Just Listed highlights Arlington properties that just came on the market within the past week. This feature is written and sponsored by Team Cathell, “Your Orange Line Specialists.”

Buyers picked up the pace a bit this week by ratifying 58 contracts, while sellers also appeared motivated by listing 61 homes. This is so far the busiest week this fall for Arlington’s real estate market.

The days on market climbed somewhat to 43, reflecting many sales of properties long on the market. One home had been for sale nearly two years.

Buyers should be motivated in this market as time is not on their side. Home values in Arlington keep trending ever so slightly upward at about 2.2% so far this year, and purchasing power continues to be eroded by rising interest rates. The sooner buyers ratify a contract, the sooner they lock in a price and interest rate.

This week rates dropped about five basis points, but then regained that yesterday. The 30-yr fixed rate with no points is now at 5% and could go to 6% by the middle of next year.

In order to sell more 10-yr bonds to pay for the US budget deficit, the Treasury has had to raise the yield which influences long term rates like mortgages.

Click here to see all the fresh new inventory in MRIS and call Team Cathell (703-975-2500) when you find a home you like.

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DEVELOPING: Police Investigating Homicide in Douglas Park

Arlington County Police are investigating a homicide in the Douglas Park neighborhood south of Columbia Pike.

Police say a man was assaulted near Doctor’s Run Park and S. George Mason Drive. The victim later died from his injuries.

At 11:20 p.m., a reader reported a police helicopter circling the neighborhood, apparently looking for the suspect or suspects.

More from ACPD:

Map via Google Maps

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Frost Advisory in Effect Friday Morning

A Frost Advisory is in effect for Arlington and surrounding areas overnight tonight.

The National Weather Service says near-freezing temperatures early Friday morning could harm sensitive plants that are left uncovered.

More from NWS:

…FROST ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 1 AM TO 9 AM EDT FRIDAY… THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A FROST ADVISORY, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 1 AM TO 9 AM EDT FRIDAY. * TEMPERATURES…IN THE MID 30S. * IMPACTS…FROST COULD HARM SENSITIVE OUTDOOR VEGETATION. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A FROST ADVISORY MEANS THAT WIDESPREAD FROST IS EXPECTED. SENSITIVE OUTDOOR PLANTS MAY BE KILLED IF LEFT UNCOVERED. TAKE STEPS NOW TO PROTECT TENDER PLANTS FROM THE COLD. &&

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Encore Stage & Studio Hosts its 3rd Annual Costume Caper 5K & 1K Fun Run

Encore Stage & Studio hosts its 3rd annual 5K run/walk and kids’ 1K fun run on Saturday, October 27, 2018.

Families and community members are invited to enjoy a run on the scenic W&OD trail through Bluemont Park. Starting line begins in the south pavilion located on 325 N Manchester St, Arlington, VA 22203. Face painting and children’s games will be provided throughout the morning.

All runners and walkers are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes for the race. Prizes will be awarded for the best costumes. Last year, over 120 runners participated in Encore’s fun run! Prizes were awarded for the best time, most frightening costume, the most creative costume and more. “This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the fall season while giving back to the community in a healthy and family-friendly way!” says Sara Duke, Encore Executive Director.

Times:
8:00 a.m. Registration
8:30 a.m. 1K Kids Run Start
8:45 a.m. 5K Run/ Walk Start

Registration:
5K Run/Walk: $30
Day of registration: $35
1K Fun Run
Kids 10 & under: $10

Registration is available online through DC Road Runners. All registrants will receive a short sleeve commemorative race shirt and ribbon with their registration.

APS Draws Ire of Abingdon Parents With Boundary Tweaks Designed to Satisfy Drew Concerns

Arlington school officials have hit a bit of a snag in the complex, contentious process of setting new boundaries for the county’s southern elementary schools — changes they’ve proposed to address concerns from Drew Model School parents have generated a new backlash from the Abingdon Elementary community.

Some parents living in the Nauck neighborhood initially raised concerns that proposed boundary tweaks at Drew would drastically change the school’s socioeconomic make-up, leading to a substantial boost in the number of students receiving “free and reduced lunch,” a measure of each family’s economic means, at the school. They feared such a shift would amount to packing poorer students into a single building, rather than maintaining a more balanced percentage at each South Arlington school.

Accordingly, Arlington Public Schools planners offered a change to the new boundary map, which is being crafted as the school system prepares to open Alice West Fleet Elementary School ahead of the 2019-2020 school year. The zoning change would send a few neighborhoods in the southernmost reaches of Fairlington, an area roughly bounded by N. Quaker Lane and King Street, to Drew instead of Abingdon in order to better balance out the “free and reduced lunch” population at each school.

However, that suggestion was immediately met with fierce criticism from the Fairlington community. A petition protesting the change launched on Friday (Oct. 12) has already garnered more than 1,000 signatures, and the Fairlington Citizens’ Association fired off a pointed letter to the School Board on Sunday (Oct. 14).

“Shifting South Fairlington students to another school will weaken the fabric of the community, diminish the cohesiveness of the community, and disrupt social and educational connections that currently exist,” Citizens’ Association President Guy Land wrote. “It runs counter to the community-centric focus Arlington has for years promoted.”

Beyond even that broad criticism, Land and the petition’s authors argue that the change would be an inefficient one from a transportation perspective, charging that it would increase the number of students forced to ride the bus to school instead of walk.

“Bus rides from Fairlington to Drew would significantly lengthen the ride for kids,” the petition reads. “This would put a greater strain on APS transportation, which is not a luxury APS has.”

Yet APS staff pointed out in a presentation to the Board last Wednesday (Oct. 10) that such a boundary change would have substantial benefits in balancing out the free and reduced lunch divide between Drew and Abingdon.

They noted that Abingdon had 41 percent of students living in its attendance boundary eligible for free and reduced lunch, as of last October. Meanwhile, Drew stands at 66 percent, a number that is a bit deceiving, as it reflects the move of the Montessori program to Patrick Henry Elementary next year, and the program generally includes kids from wealthier families. With Montessori students included, Drew’s free and reduced lunch percentage is closer to 52 percent.

The first boundary proposal would’ve dropped Abingdon’s free and reduced lunch percentage down to 34 percent, while moving Drew to 60 percent. The newly revised proposal would bump Abingdon up to 45 percent, compared to 49 percent for Drew. And, in a bid to ease some worries over the boundary change, APS could allow rising fifth grade students and their siblings to be exempt from the switch, with APS transportation provided.

The newest boundary map would also address the concerns of parents at Drew that students could be zoned to matriculate to one of three middle schools, instead of just one, under the first APS proposal. The new map would have Drew students eligible for two middle schools instead.

Parents and community members now have until Oct. 29 to offer comments on the latest boundary proposal. APS plans to release a final map on Nov. 5, with the School Board expected to take a final vote on the matter on Dec. 6.

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BASIS Independent McLean Open House

At BASIS Independent McLean, students are inspired to learn at the highest international levels in a nationally recognized curriculum. Part of the lauded BASIS Curriculum Schools network, which includes the top 5 schools in the country per U.S. News & World Report, we offer students a world-class education that positions them for future success.

Join us for an Open House on November 3, where we will provide an immersive overview of our age 2-grade 12 academic program.

The Right Note: Vihstadt on Nov. 6

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

An article this week at the Sun Gazette suggested the County Board race was a referendum on the incumbent. If that were the case, many Arlington politicos believe John Vihstadt would win in a landslide.

The fact is Vihstadt’s reelection is not a lock Nov. 6. The 2018 political environment is much more favorable to Democrats than it was in 2014 when Vihstadt comfortably won a full term. Many Democrats who are expected to vote in 2018, but did not in 2014, may not be as tuned in to local issues as they are to what is going on across the river in Washington.

But every voter should know that John Vihstadt has been exactly the County Board Member he promised Arlingtonians he would be when he ran — an independent voice who does his homework on the issues and is a strong advocate for fiscal sanity.

Vihstadt has worked hard to stay on top of the issues that concern our community, not just during this election year, but all four years. All you have to do is scroll through his Facebook page to see how many events he attends throughout our county. This should not be a surprise. Vihstadt voluntarily contributed to his community long before he decided to run for the County Board, with a particular emphasis on supporting our schools.

Matthew Di Ferranti is running an interesting race. It is hard to to decipher what his campaign theme is other than, “I’m a Democrat, so elect me.” When he does talk about issues, he is often criticizing policies put in place by the Democrat majority which has run Arlington County for three decades. Yet, to elect him would guarantee more of the same by eliminating the lone independent voice.

I twice had the privilege to run for County Board as a Republican. Both times I found countless independents and Democrats around Arlington who believed as I did that one-party rule on the Board was not healthy for our community. Based on conversations I continue to have with people of all political stripes, that view is largely unchanged.

While John Vihstadt has been the driving force for positive changes, there simply are not yet three votes on the Board to do even more. Our regular budgeting and closeout spending processes could be reformed to be more transparent and to keep excessive spending in check. Big projects should be voted on separately as bond questions. To attract and retain more businesses, we must go beyond incentives for big companies and make this the best place for everyone to do business: eliminate the BPOL tax, reform and streamline permitting and revisit the zoning process in general.

That means we need more County Board Members like John Vihstadt, so the first step toward more positive change is to re-elect him on Nov. 6.

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Progressive Voice: Confronting the Realities of Poverty in Arlington

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Anne Vor der Bruegge

Along with Arlington’s high national rankings for its schools and livability, consider this fact: Arlington is home to tens of thousands of people living in or near poverty. Arlington’s median household income is $110,000, but there are significant income and quality-of-life disparities from one neighborhood to the next.

Nearly 20,000 people in Arlington live below the federal poverty level, which is $25,100 for a family of four — yet living costs for such a household here average three times that. Child care and health care workers, office cleaners, and restaurant, retail and construction workers are likely to be struggling with poverty. Some of Arlington’s baby boomers, disabled individuals and veterans are also among those.

While the statistics are sobering, individuals’ stories illustrate just how precarious living in poverty can be. One woman’s window was broken by a baseball. Confronted by the property manager with a $32 repair fee and worried about being evicted, she desperately handed over the cash. That $32 was her weekly bus fare to work. Looking for a ride made her late, so her manager docked her two shifts. She could no longer pay her babysitter, which meant she lost her job, bringing her back to the real possibility of eviction.

What can be done, collectively, for families that constantly live so close to the edge?

Beginning this fall, Arlington’s Department of Human Services (DHS) and a wide array of nonprofits convened by the Arlington Community Foundation are piloting a new approach with 200 families to break the downward spiral of poverty. Using the Bridges Out of Poverty framework, this public-private partnership represents a re-design of the safety net system to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and strengthen connections so people in poverty can gain traction and move forward.

The 200 Bridges pilot uses a two-generation approach with parents and their children to build opportunities for adequate housing and child care, jobs with better wages, health care, and educational advancement. This united effort involves unprecedented collaboration across the County, nonprofit system and families.

The Bridges Out of Poverty partners have streamlined the myriad consent forms for different organizations into one common form, while still complying with HIPAA privacy rules, so individuals no longer have to repeat their history over and over. They’ve reduced the “agency time” spent navigating the system, so people can use those hours more productively.

200 Bridges goes beyond services that stabilize families (such as emergency shelter or food) to address two important factors recognized in poverty research as requisites for forward mobility: having control over one’s life and a sense of belonging in the community.

A job loss, a catastrophic accident, an abusive partner, or addiction can put any of us in crisis mode. But people with a family legacy of economic security and community connections can recover from these crises far better than those coming from generational poverty. Brain science shows that the toxic stress of living in crisis limits one’s ability to maintain focus and take the long view to make a plan. A broken window and unexpected $32 charge play out very differently for someone in the middle class than for someone who is poor.

Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington County DHS, shares, “We envision that families participating in 200 Bridges will be empowered to identify what they need to thrive, and to more easily connect to the network of resources we have to support them. Our goal is for families to build social and financial capital for themselves and their children.”

Beyond this pilot, what can be done to address the root causes of poverty–too few decent paying jobs, lack of affordable housing, childcare, health care and opportunities for educational advancement?

Arlington County, the Community Foundation and the many nonprofit partners hope to use what is learned through Bridges Out of Poverty and other complementary initiatives to create policies that improve mobility for everyone in Arlington. For example, the experiences of these 200 families will inform efforts underway in Arlington’s Child Care Initiative, which aims to provide more affordable quality child care so that all Arlington children have a strong start in life and their parents can work.

Ultimately, it will take broad community will to acknowledge the reality of poverty in Arlington and support equitable policies and practices to create the conditions for all our residents to reach their potential.

Anne Vor der Bruegge is Director of the Arlington Community Foundation’s Nonprofit Center. She has lived in Arlington since 1982.

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Peter’s Take: Science Focus-Key Swap — Cart Before the Horse

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

As ARLnow.com reported again last week, Arlington Public Schools (APS) is pursuing a highly controversial plan to swap the building currently providing the Spanish immersion program at Key Elementary with the building currently providing the science-focused program at Arlington Science Focus (ASFS) Elementary.

According to APS Spokesman Frank Bellavia:

  • It remains unclear just how the process of swapping the buildings actually will work
  • APS has yet to work up a cost estimate for the process
  • Questions about the building swap will be addressed as part of the community engagement plan that will be developed and shared with the community in January 2019

The School Board must own or disown this proposed swap

The proposed decision to swap these two school buildings was publicized in these comments by APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy at an August 28 School Board meeting:

” ‘This decision is a wise decision because we’re a growing school division, we’re adding capacity, and we really have come to this point,’ Murphy told the Board….He added that he doesn’t see any need for the Board to formally sign off on the plan…but the Board will get to help APS decide when the move happens.”

Really?

Large segments of the community are, and should be, upset by this casual description of a decision of this magnitude. The community now has witnessed elected School Board members being told by the APS Superintendent that the School Board only will “get to help APS decide when the move happens.”

This shouldn’t work this way.

School Board members themselves were taken aback on August 28:

Board Chair Reid Goldstein pointed out, “That’s going to create problems if and when boundaries are drawn.”

“If the Arlington Science Focus building is smaller and the immersion program is bigger, we’re not going to be able to grow [the] immersion program,” said Vice Chair Tannia Talento.

This is an unacceptable process.

The School Board itself should decide IF the move should happen at all. The School Board’s decision should be based upon transparent long-term strategic planning for all of APS’s programming and facilities’ needs. The School Board owes the community an extensive discussion regarding how all these plans fit together:

  • what is APS’s 15-year school facilities plan?
  • what is Arlington County’s 15-year county facilities plan?
  • what is APS’s 15-year instructional plan?
  • where do the programs now offered at Key and ASFS fit into these 15-year plans?
  • what other options besides the current proposed building swap were considered?
  • why is the proposed building swap the best available option?

The School Board must engage the community on whether this proposed swap makes sense

According to Frank Bellavia, “questions about the building swap will be addressed as part of the community engagement plan that will be developed and shared with the community in January 2019.”

Yet again APS is proposing to engage the community on the wrong question. The right question is whether the swap makes sense in the first place. Only after that question is posed to, and thoroughly discussed with the community, should the discussion proceed to the mechanics of how any swap should occur.

Conclusion

In one of the most famous scenes in Alice in Wonderland, the Queen of Hearts, over Alice’s protests, proclaims: “Sentence First, Verdict Afterword.”

With this proposed school swap, APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy threatens to displace the Queen of Hearts.

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Meridian Pint Aims to Open First Arlington Location in Dominion Hills by Spring 2019

Meridian Pint is getting closer to opening its first Arlington restaurant, with plans to open a new brewpub in Dominion Hills sometime next spring.

The D.C.-based, craft beer-focused chain announced plans to expand into the county late last year, targeting a spot at 6035 Wilson Blvd in the Dominion Hills Centre shopping plaza. Construction is set to get underway next week at the new space, and owner John Andrade told ARLnow that he’s “tentatively targeting the beginning of April to get it open.”

“It’ll just be another iteration of the expanding ‘Pint’ brand,” Andrade said. “And this is nestled into a great community.”

Andrade currently operates two “Pint” restaurants in D.C. — Meridian and Brookland Pint — as well as Rosario’s Tacos and Tequila and Smoke Barrel. But as an Arlington resident, living just a quarter mile away from the new location, he says he was anxious for the chance to expand into his home county.

“The idea that I can just walk to work, door-to-door in somewhere between 13 and 15 minutes is really great,” Andrade said. “It’s just a great opportunity… especially for those of us that live slightly more than walking distance from Ballston or Clarendon, or have multiple kids, and don’t really want to do the dance of finding a parking garage or hunting down a metered space to go explore out that way.”

Andrade is unsure of a name for the new establishment just yet — he originally planned to dub it “Dominion Pint,” but ran into some legal headaches — but he says it will generally mirror the food and beverage options at his D.C. locations.

“It’ll have an all-American menu and all-American craft beer, with a generous emphasis on wine and spirits as well,” Andrade said.

Andrade also foresees offering growler fills and six-packs for sale at the restaurant, something he’s barred from doing in D.C. but is anxious to try now that he’s operating in Virginia.

He hopes to “start swinging hammers” at the space Monday (Oct. 22) now that he’s won all the necessary permits, and expects it will take roughly six months to get things up and running.

“We’re really planning on being members of the community, so we hope it’ll be a great neighborhood establishment,” Andrade said.

Photo via Google Maps

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JBG Smith’s Major Crystal Square Project Nears Approval, Though Some Concerns Linger

Plans to transform a section of Crystal City into a new retail hub for the neighborhood could soon move ahead, though neighbors and cyclists are still pressing for changes to the redevelopment effort.

Many of JBG Smith’s plans for the “Crystal Square” project, centered on a block of Crystal Drive between 15th Street S. and 18th Street S., are up for approval by the County Board this weekend. The long-awaited project would completely revamp the existing office buildings on the block, adding a new movie theater, grocery store and other retailers to replace the existing Crystal City Shops at 1750.

County staff and planners have generally given the project a green light, given its potential to help speed along the transformation of a block centered around the area’s Metro station. Even still, some people living nearby worry that the construction will blot out some of Crystal City’s limited green space, and won’t address the neighborhood’s transportation challenges.

The heart of the Crystal Square development, backed by the area’s largest property owner, generally isn’t up for dispute. In all, JBG Smith plans to add 84,000 square feet of retail and commercial space along Crystal Drive by renovating some of the existing buildings on the property, and tacking on some additions as well.

The main draws will be a three-story movie theater, reportedly an Alamo Drafthouse location, and a 15,000-square-foot “small format specialty grocer,” like a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Those businesses, and perhaps many others, will generally be centered closest to Crystal Drive’s intersection with 15th Street S., and the existing one-story retail in the area will likely be demolished to connect the theater and the grocery store, removing a small park in the process.

County staff note in a report for the Board that the proposal “not a complete redevelopment that breaks up the existing superblock with new public streets,” as might eventually be desirable for the area, it is a chance to “create a high-quality public realm…[that] enhances multimodal access and connectivity by placing large regional draws such as a movie theater and grocer within easy access of the Metro, bus stops, and VRE station.”

However, cycling advocates worry that all these plans will do little to improve connectivity to the Mt. Vernon Trail, leaving people highly dependent on cars in the area. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association is urging cyclists to press for protected bike lanes along both Crystal Drive and 18th Street S. to create a safer, low-stress place to bike that wouldn’t be constantly blocked by parked cars.

JBG Smith declined to comment for this article, but it seems the developer doesn’t see much room for protected bike lanes in the area. While a bike lane along Crystal Drive is included in the Crystal Square plans, county transportation staff told the Planning Commission back in February that “there is not enough space to provide a protected bike lane” on the road.

Eventually, JBG says it could also build a two-story retail building further down the block, at Crystal Drive’s intersection with 18th Street S. That feature has drawn a bit more scrutiny from neighbors, who note that the site was long envisioned as a new park to replace the green space set to be removed in the earlier construction.

“The proposed two-story building would take a chunk out of that green space and destroy the sight line from Crystal Drive up to Clark/Bell [Streets,” Crystal City Civic Association President Carol Fuller told ARLnow. “The CCCA has been fighting this for months.”

Fuller points out that the location is also the proposed place for a second Metro station entrance, but with the county putting the brakes on that project as it deals with a funding crunch, she argues it would make much more sense to delay consideration of adding a new building there as well. Otherwise, she sees it as a “poison pill” impacting the whole development proposal.

The Planning Commission ultimately voted to endorse that building back in May, though many members expressed grave concerns about the proposal. The Parks and Recreation Commission even said it was “premature” to allow the building until securing firm funding commitments from JBG to ensure a park of some kind is indeed built on the space.

Those concerns aside, the Board seems unlikely to take action on that part of the proposal, at least in the near term.

JBG is also asking for permission to revert one office building on Crystal Drive back to office space, doing away with plans to convert it into an apartment building, a move fueling speculation that the company wants to wait to see if Amazon tabs the neighborhood for its second headquarters before committing to plans for the building.

Staff recommend that the Board defer any consideration of that request, and plans for the two-story building, for up to a year, given all the uncertainty still surrounding the site.

The Board will take up consideration of the project at its meeting Saturday (Oct. 20).

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