County Reaches Agreement With Army Over Arlington Nat’l Cemetery Expansion

by ARLnow.com January 10, 2013 at 5:40 pm 1,760 43 Comments

Illustration of future land exchange between Arlington County and the U.S. Army

In the coming years, Arlington National Cemetery will expand and the eastern end of Columbia Pike will be realigned, according to an agreement between the Arlington County and the U.S. Army.

The Arlington County Board today approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that sets the basic framework for a land swap between the county and the Army, which oversees the cemetery. As outlined in the MOU, the Army will acquire the Southgate Road right-of-way behind the Navy Annex, which is currently being demolished to make way for more cemetery burial space. In exchange, the county will be given land south of Columbia Pike, which is to be straightened and rerouted down the former Navy Annex parking lot to form a right-angle intersection with S. Joyce Street.

The actual land exchange is not likely to take place any time soon, but Board members are looking forward to some of the opportunities it promises to bring, including land for a future Arlington Heritage Center and Freedman’s Village Museum.

The Board voted 3-0 Thursday afternoon to approve the Memorandum of Understanding. Board members Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey were not present for the vote.

From a county press release:

The Arlington County Board today unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the United States Department of the Army that establishes a framework for a future land exchange agreement between the two parties at the Navy Annex site.

“While there undoubtedly will be some time before property is actually exchanged, today’s action is an important first step in this process,” Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners at Arlington National Cemetery, the Army and other stakeholders to realize the vision set forth in this MOU by executing a new land exchange agreement. There is no doubt that this will be a huge win for the cemetery and for our community.”

Key objectives outlined

The MOU outlines the key objectives for both parties and the framework for a future land exchange. Under the future land exchange agreement, the Army would be provided with all property north of a realigned Columbia Pike in exchange for providing the County with land south of a realigned Columbia Pike.

The existing Southgate Road would be realigned to the western edge of the Navy Annex site to maintain appropriate access to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, while directly linking the Navy Annex site to the existing Arlington National Cemetery grounds. Engineering and design work must be completed to determine the exact location for a realigned Columbia Pike and the parties must work out the exact acreage and parcels to be exchanged.

“Arlington National Cemetery is sacred ground for our community, our region and certainly, our nation,” Board Chairman Walter Tejada said. “This MOU paves the way for an agreement that will allow us to support their expansion goals. At the same time, it enables us to meet our goals: preserving and displaying Arlington County’s history and heritage by establishing an Arlington Heritage Center and Freedman’s Village Museum, and fulfilling our transportation and economic development vision for Columbia Pike.”


Today’s County Board action was necessitated by the decision of the Department of Defense last year to terminate the previous land exchange agreement executed in 2008. That agreement would have provided the County with 4.23 acres of land on the Navy Annex Property north of Columbia Pike in exchange for providing DOD with an equivalent acreage of the Southgate Road right-of-way. Since the previous agreement was terminated, Arlington County has been working with the Department of the Army and Arlington National Cemetery to formulate this MOU and ultimately work toward a new land exchange agreement.

  • For anyone looking for a larger version of the map, you can see it in the PDF file in the “Related Documents” section of the Arlington Newsroom page for this: Arlington County and Federal Government Approve Framework for New Navy Annex Land Exchange

  • Nick

    Let’s get the construction of this going sooner, rather than later. There’s no rush to build the “Heritage Center” and Freedmen’s Musuem (there should be a debate as to whether those are good ideas worthy of spending public money to build and operate), but the rest of it should be a no-brainer.

    • Kim Arl Un

      “there should be a debate as to whether those are good ideas worthy of spending public money to build and operate”

      GREAT Joke.

      • Libby

        Did someone say let’s debate as to whether those are good ideas worth of spending public money to build and operate……streetcars?

    • MC

      Let’s build a Freeman’s village memorial,. Most significant thing in Arlington’s racist history and something people obviously need to learn more about.

      • drax

        Wait, we built housing for people without homes back then?

        • LoveUSA

          Um, what you mean ‘we’, kemo sabe?

      • Freddy Douglas

        Good Lord, there already is a museum dedicated to African American history and culture across the river, and they are building a second one on the Mall. How many do we need?

        • LoveUSA

          How many museums, monuments do we need to celebrate war and military history? Given the enormous role of captured and enslaved Africans in the building of America and the fortunes of many of the richest people in America up to the time of the Civil War, I would say that in general we should have more museums. There are a heck of a lot more people who are descended from those slaves than most people realize, so yeah, another museum educating those who are interested learning more about how enslaved Africans lived, contributed to America, and survived after the Civil War, is certainly a good use of public land. Remember, it was slaves who build the Custis family’s wealth, on the very land you’re talking about. Arlington and Alexandria has/had numerous settlements of former slaves, dotted around the country, sometimes tucked behind more recently built subdivisions. Setting aside a bit of the land from the former Custis estate is entirely appropriate.

      • Historian

        The Federal government closed Freedman’s Village because of complaints of criminal activities in nearby communities. This was the result of Arlington’s first experiment with publiclallly-supported affordable housing.

        You can be sure that the County’s politically correct museum will not inform the public of this rarely mentioned piece of history.

    • drax

      Museums and the like are often built and run with private money.

  • Nick

    And I’m glad to see Arlington Cemetary getting a good, large, contiguous chunk of the land in this deal, so that it has space to expand for many years to come. Regardless, it will eventually fill up and there will need to be a plan, eventually, for what to do about burials once it has no more room. But that piece of land should postpone that day for quite a while.

    • Kevin

      There is a plan. They will simply stop burying people there and it will then be a memorial, not a cemetary.

      • CrystalMikey

        Pretty much, there are National Cemeteries across the country.

  • Sebastian Melmoth

    I’m glad they’ve finally gotten around to tearing down the Navy Annex. seems like it’s been a vacant eyesore for ages.

  • FredA

    That left from Joyce to Columbia Pike is awful. Will not be sad to see that changed.

    • Douglas Parker

      Amen to that! It could/should be much more efficient.

    • MP

      Agreed. There have been times when I’m driving towards the Pentagon down that hill, and then almost run into people turning left into the wrong lanes heading west.

  • TrolleyTim

    So then shouldn’t they finish the anticipated (but “not anytime soon”) realignment of the Pike *BEFORE* they lay the track for the done-deal trolley, rather than have to rebuild that at additional expense?

    • GrandstandFan

      You can see the streetcar tracks on the map. I believe the County has said before this realignment on the Pike was all factored into the streetcar plan.

  • Arlingtron

    I certainly hope they include a bike lane or separate path. I am sure there is not much that can be done about the killer upgrade. This area has inadequate bike routes necessary for connecting to major bike routes in the county.

    • LoveUSA

      ABSOLUTELY AGREE WITH ARLINGTRON! Whatever plan they come up with should include safe bicycle connection from the Pentagon path to Columbia Pike near the Sheraton. Ideally to west of Washington Blvd., but that’s dreaming, I know. The present plan, to give Southgate Rd. back to the Army means that riders climbing out of the Potomac valley would have no way to work around the killer hills in Arlington Cemetary and on Lee Highway. If you ever bicycled from Memorial Bridge or the GW parkway bike trail and had to get up over the Arlington Ridge, you know the only way to do it, unless you’re some kind of 25-yr-old super-climber, was up the parking lot between the Navy Annex and the cemetery. Columbia Pike itself is too dangerous and the sidewalk is too narrow, especially for climbing. [If you’re coming up from Key Bridge, you’re screwed, no way around it. You just gotta put the hammer down.]

  • LexxiFoxx

    will the trolley be making a stop at the cemetary?

    • TimTimTimmy

      Metaphorically, that should be the only stop.

      • UA

        First chuckle of the day.. Congrats

      • LoveUSA

        Actually, the last stop. (too easy, that one)

    • ConstantCritic

      you mean “cemetEry”?

    • Sebastian Melmoth

      that could be a song.

  • Big Spender

    Hopefully they will be considerate enough to put up a wall on the cemetery side of Columbia Pike, separating the cemetery from the road..

    • Quoth the Raven

      Considerate to whom? Not sure what the wall is meant to do –

    • drax

      Do you really think they wouldn’t?

    • CrystalMikey

      Why wouldn’t they…it’s surrounded by a wall.

  • Joseph

    Heresy, I know, but I question the wisdom of devoting such valuable real estate to expand the cemetery. Obviously it’s not as egregious as the big golf course just to the south or the huge surface parking lots at the Pentagon.

    • Kat

      I’m not sure what you’re questioning — you want DoD to just give away the land and put up condos or something? DoD owns the Navy Annex and is finally tearing down the ‘temporary” buildings. Arlington National Cemetery could use more room. They worked with Arlington County to make a deal. (The county owned the Southgate Road right-of-way.)

      As for the “big golf course,” it’s private property, so feel free to go and tell them you’d like to see the land put to a better use.

    • Quoth the Raven

      23,000 people work at the Pentagon, and the majority don’t drive there. For the rest, don’t you think there should be a lot? Where else are they going to park?

      In other words, it’s really not “obviously” egregious, is it?

      • Kevin

        The lots could take up 1/5th of present volume if they made parking garages like most metro stations have. Granted thats not aestetically pleaing and gets in way of view of pentagon, depends where our priorities lay

  • henrybennetxviii

    Insanely expensive
    Streetcar no make up big hill.
    There is a very specific reason why the road curves.

    • ArlRidgeRes

      Not an insurmountable hill….Columbia Pike used to run straight down, prior to the Pentagon and realignment/reconstruction of Washington Blvd. The present curve probably had to do with the Pentagons original plan of funneling many cars from Columbia Pike to the Pentagon and blending that traffic with new Washington Blvd traffic.

  • TomS.

    I am assuming they are also gonna bury the overhead lines when they do all this construction, they are hideous. I know Arlington is committed to undergrounding these lines. Stating the obvious, they should do it at the same time.


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