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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com January 21, 2011 at 8:07 am 1,487 43 Comments

Developer Wants to Build Pedestrian Bridge in Virginia Square — The Dittmar Company told the Ashton Heights Civic Association that it wants to build an enclosed, elevated pedestrian bridge between the two buildings of its massive proposed “Virginia Square Towers” development. An underground connection is not possible, the company says, because it plans to build one large, continuous parking lot under the two buildings. [TBD]

Arlington Elementary Schools Receive Top State Education Award — Arlington Science Focus, Arlington Traditional and Nottingham Elementary have all received the 2011 Governor’s Award of Educational Excellence, the state’s highest honor under its Virginia Index of Performance awards program. Seven other Arlington elementary schools have been recognized by the Virginia Board of Education for making “significant progress” in student achievement. [Arlington Public Schools]

Nominees Requested for Women of Vision Awards — The county’s Commission on the Status of Women  is seeking nominations for its 2011 Women of Vision Awards, which will be held in Ballston on March 10. Nomination forms must be submitted by Feb. 10. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin H

  • BrownFlipFlops

    Uh, isn’t, “one large, continuous parking lot under the two buildings,” an underground connection, by its very nature?

    • CrystalMikey

      True, but I doubt they expect their residents to walk through said garage to get to the other building.

      • mehoo

        Then they could simply build a nice, finished corridor inside it.

        • Burger

          I don’t think there is a thing we ever agree on but I agree with you here.

          • mehoo

            Well, now there’s a thing we agree on. Don’t you agree?

        • MB

          As the Dittmar reps explained it, they couldn’t create a corridor that didn’t interrupt the traffic pattern. Also, unlike the Rosslyn bridges, this bridge is exclusively for resident use.

          • Burger

            How does one build one parking lot under both buildings, and, yet, not impact traffic patterns. that is complete and utter horse manure. They are going to magically put the parking lot under the road without tearing it up but can’t put a corridor under there.

            They probably have a requirement on the number of parking spaces they need to provide relative to the number of units and that corridor would restrict the number of units they can build.

            I don’t care if it is only for residences, it looks ugly.

          • Clarendome

            They mean they couldn’t put the underground pedestrian tunnel without interupting the traffic pattern in the garage, not on the surface street. But this is a typical Dittmar “can’t”, when they mean “don’t want to”. Over the years there have been dozens of things that Dittmar “can’t” do in their projects as developers all around them in more difficult situations do it. Wait until they bring up the “difficult terrain” argument. They’ve used that one a lot.

    • Clarendome

      It’s Dittmar. That’s how they roll. Virginia Square is Dittmar’s creation. If you like how the rest of VaSq looks and works (particularly the block just to the west of this one which they built in its entirety) then you will like what they will do here since it will be exactly the same (only with a pedestrian bridge).

    • Rover

      I had the same thoughts. You would think they could handle this in design and provide a nice underground passage. But, a bridge adds a second passage a few floors up. So, really, they have two passages. They shouldn’t present it as one over the other. It is one in addition to the other. Trying to quell opposition I would gather.

      • Westover

        I just find it interesting that they want to do this, while many of the pedestrian bridges in Rosslyn and Ballston were recently removed. Dittmar is going against the trend…

        • mehoo

          Which ones were removed?

          • The Dope of South Arlington

            The one over Wilson north of Oak.

          • Lou

            Also the one over Lynn that went to the building where the new Corporate Executive Board building is now.

        • PikeHoo

          I was thinking the same thing about the Rosslyn pedestrian bridges. When I lived there, they always seemed underused. Then again, VA Square does have significantly more residential units.

  • Lou

    Wooo, proud Nottingham alumnus. Class of 79

  • Burger

    BTW, how many people cross that street that it would need an elevated bridge.

    I would guess it is a way for Dittmar to cheap out and consolidate ameneties in one building instead of offering them in both or some combination. To me this makes no sense – sorry, charlie.

    • DudeGuy

      I agree!

    • Clarendome

      It’s totally about what you just said. I’ve been to many Dittmar site plans. They always talk about ‘efficiency’, meaning how can they make the most money off the project. Fair enough, that’s what they are in business for. I just wish they would design buildings that were more community friendly – aesthetically and functionally.

      • jan

        Dittmar’s residential buildings at Virginia Square are an architectural blight on our fair community. They’re too dark and somber.

    • Sam

      What is wrong with grouping amenities in a single building instead of both? You say that like it’s a bad thing.

      If they free up space in one tower that was used for amenities, then they can have more units. More units equals more people, more people equals more revenue for surrounding businesses and higher demand for commercial services. And that is better for the economy.

      • Burger

        Because I then have to look at an ugly elevated bridge over the street that no one will use.

  • OX4

    How about the Dittmar Company build a long pedestrian bridge from the new apartments right into DC? Lord knows all those people aren’t going to fit onto the Orange Line.

  • VASQ

    I live at Virginia Square, and we’ve had a couple developer forums with Dittmar as they’ve gone over their plans for the buildings. It’s two large apartment buildings with one large underground parking garage – and all of the resident services will be in the larger building. Thus the bridge is to connect the two. A Dittmar representative explained that if they put the corridor underground, it will be in the garage and take up valuable parking spaces.

    A couple county requirements concern me with the project. For one, the Ninth Street Greenway, which was originally planned as a pedestrian zone (which it is for one block), will be a street instead with parking. Thus one of the reasons for Dittmar’s bridge to make it safer for their residents.

    Another concern is that the county requires the two apartment buildings to be built out all the way to the sidewalk. The larger building, at the corner of Fairfax and Lincoln, has no drop off point, such as a small driveway. The entrance will see a great deal of traffic – hundreds of residents will live there – which means there will constantly be cabs, cars arriving to pickup and drop off people, and FedEx/UPS trucks delivering packages. There needs to be a space near the entrance for these transactions, otherwise vehicles may double-park on Fairfax Drive, both potentially blocking traffic while also being a public safety hazard.

    • Va Square

      I’ve got a home in Virginia Square – and here for the long term. If you’re tracking real estate in the area, and involved, what future developments do you foresee for VA Square. We walk to Clarendon and Ballston when we go out, but will VA Square ever become a more lively area? Anything planned for Washington Blvd between Kirkwood and Rocklands? the Red Top Taxi depot?

    • Burger

      I guarantee you the county has no such requirement that the building has to be right up on the sidewalk.

  • JamesE

    I would like to see an entire underground city built

    • Rick

      this isn’t montreal, chief

    • Arlwhenever

      Do you mean a place where “residents can live, shop, and work without going outside, due to its extensive integration of office buildings and residential high-rise buildings using underground corridors?” That would be Crystal City, come on down.

      • JamesE

        I was thinking more of a radiation exposed shanty town connected by sewer pipes.

        • Sam

          As long as it was stocked full of pizzas and run by a rat that knows the art of the Ninja, then I’m game.

    • mehoo

      Consult some ants.

  • GeorgeOrwell

    DO NOT GIVE UP on the 9th Street Walkway. It should NOT have cars on it. It is finally getting near completion and it is going to get screwed up.

    Here is the stupid logic:
    The County wants cars on the 9th Street walkway to make it “safe” and dittmar wants to build a pedestrian bridge across the 9th Street walkway to keep the pedestrians “safe” from the cars. HOW ABOUT… keep the 9th street walkway as a WALKWAY and then the people can go back and forth safely.

    Here is the amazing 9th Street walkway. it is so much nicer than sterile Fairfax Drive or belching Wilson Blvd.

    • Rick

      Doesn’t “9th Street” and “walkway” contradict itself? You can’t call it “9th street” if its not really a street..

      • mehoo

        No – everyone walked on streets until the car was invented.

    • MB

      Yeah, I wasn’t entirely sure why that needed to be an actual street (which the County appears to want – could be wrong). Let them deal with the pick ups/drop offs on Lincoln St. – no one uses it for anything but garage entries anyway.

      • Clarendonian

        By having a small street you can also get some parking on street for visitors for the residences and for any retail (which Dittmar refuses to do as well). I sometimes force myself to walk in that pedestrian passage between the other two Dittmar buildings (between Monroe and Lincoln). You are walking behind both buildings and you get to see their pool and a fence. I personally don’t find it that interesting. Not that I care that much what happens in Va Sq but I do need to walk through it when I go to Ballston so it would be good if it were nicer. But, it’s Dittmar so I don’t hold my hopes up.

    • madisonmanor

      Could they at least make it 4 people wide each way? And charge tolls? During the rush hour they could charge quadruple and call it High Occupancy Pedestrian (HOP) lanes. Except that only 10 people would use it, and Arlington would sue itself because 9 of those 10 people were white.

  • HFB

    So people cannot walk across a small “pedestrian” street to work-out or swim next door? Is Dittmar trying to sheild their residents’ view of how horrible the outsides of their buildings look? On a snow day, residents can’t walk through the same garage they drive and walk through everyday? Huh? Does something sound peculiar here? This bridge is so absurd that I think it is nothing but a negotiating ploy. Don’t look at the ugly overscaled buildings with no architectural quality, you should talk about the bridge. OK Virginia Square, let’s all agree to build the monster and we will ditch the stupid bridge? There, we compromised and isn’t that the Arlington Way?

  • MC

    It is evident that the complex is a lousy design for the neighborhood. First, if two separate building are built, they should be separate and facing out to their respective streets Fairfax and Wilson, not some inward facing behemoth that that turns it’s back on neighbors. Second, Dittmar are weasels trying to get out of the retail requirement. The neighborhood is screaming for more retail. Their pity-me, it’s hard to attract retail is contradicted by results the developer Shooshan has achieved in the area (who also cares how building look). Third, the scale of the complex is enormous. If Dittmar wants to build something this big, they ought to be responsible for building a second entrance to the VA Sq metro at Fairfax and Lincoln. Fourth, the façade is boring beyond belief (any set backs or bacancies perhaps) and the bridge looks like it’s from a Detroit auto factory.

    • GeorgeOrwell

      the irony is that Arlington is requiring DITMAR to build retail because they neighborhod needs it, yet at the same time they are buying the building across the street, with retail in it, to tear it down and make it into a park.

  • Not amused

    Design, personal property tax enforcement, parking, and affordable housing:
    1. This is another tired, boring, uninspired, red brick, Dittmar design that has been built to death since the 1980s. When are they going to update their 30-year old design?
    2. The County / Commissioner of the Revenue need an upfront agreement by Dittmar to allow County enforcement staff into the behemoth parking garages a few times a year to check vehicle compliance with personal property tax registrations. This County is losing too much money from weak enforcement policies and efforts and the neighborhoods surrounding this building site clearly demonstrate these enforcement weaknesses.
    3. These buildings will create a spillover parking nigthmare for the surrounding neighborhoods and Ashton Heights, in particular, should be demanding an upfront solution BEFORE ground is broken on this project.
    4. How many affordable housing units will be included in the 550 (including 10% planned bonus density) units in this project? Dittmar should not be allowed to pay into AHIF so they can avoid including affordable housing units in their developments.

  • neighbor

    Yes, Nottingham has consistently “made AYP” but only because it has NO underperforming subgroups large enough to count in the annual assessments. If you look at the numbers, most Arlington schools missed AYP because of one or more underperforming subgroups at the school (e.g. disabled, non-native speakers, African Americans, etc) missing the targets. While other schools are scrambling to figure out how to better meet the needs of their underperforming populations, Nottingham can just merrily sail through, knowing that it doesn’t have to worry about the tough cases — because it doesn’t have any.

    I put the stats from the APS website below, although it may not format properly. “TS” means that the population is too small to count against making AYP and “<" means that it's too small to even separately report. Note that the score for the SWD population is reported but TS — if it weren't TS, it would be among the lowest in the county.

    Nottingham Elementary READING MATH
    Total 248 93% Met 248 94% Met
    Black 3 < < 3 < <
    Hispanic 6 < < 6 < <
    White 228 94% Met 228 94% Met
    Economically Disadvantaged 3 < < 3 < <
    Limited English Proficient 6 < < 6 < <
    Students with Disabilities 32 75% TS 32 75% TS
    Made AYP-YES

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