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Newly Renovated Columbia Pike Library Reopens After 16 Months

(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) With a snip of a ribbon, the newly-renovated Columbia Pike Branch Library officially opened for the first time since March 2020.

The library on S. Walter Reed Drive, which first opened in 1975, underwent a significant makeover including new furnishings, updated carpeting, fresh coats of paint, additional meeting rooms, modernized audio-visual equipment and new lighting.

The 21,000-item collection has been consolidated to the first floor to make room for an expansion of the Arlington Tech high school program. The program is part of the Arlington Career Center, located on the second floor of the facility.

“We didn’t lose any collections, we gained a couple of meeting rooms, and we gained more discrete spaces,” Arlington Public Library Director Diane Kresh tells ARLnow. “[The renovation] opened up what had been a lot of wasted space. It really feels bigger.”

Renovations for the entire project, on the first and second floors, cost approximately $4.45 million, according to a spokesperson from Arlington Public Schools, which owns the building.

Kresh says APS’s ownership of the building presented a chance to make the library better.

“The library has always shared the space with schools. It’s a well-loved facility and showed a lot of wear and tear,” says Kresh. “So, when the schools planned to renovate and increase the space of the Career Center, that gave us an opportunity to consolidate down here and do a redesign.”

Kresh notes that while closing the libraries last year due to the pandemic was difficult for staff and the community, there was a “silver lining” — the renovations could get done.

The library opened to the public on Tuesday, but the celebration was held yesterday evening (Thursday).

With a vaccination rate close to 70% for adults, people packed the community library. There were donuts and cookies, and kids eating said treats while darting one way and another. A magician performed for a rapt audience. After remarks and ribbon cutting, a cover band churned out classics such as “Do Wah Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy.” The entire Arlington County Board was in attendance, as was County Manager Mark Schwartz and Del. Alfonso Lopez.

Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol says celebrating the reopening of this library — her neighborhood library — after such a hard year is welcome.

“It’s a sign of restoration of things, things coming back to normal,” Cristol tells ARLnow. “It is also the first sign of the community being able to come back together, which is definitely what we see going on around here.”

Cristol said her favorite thing about coming to the library was to browse new fiction releases, but that’s changed.

“I now have a two-year old who loves books, so I think my favorite thing about the library is about to be this community room,” she said.

As of Tuesday, library services have expanded at five locations: Columbia Pike, Central Library, Aurora Hills, Shirlington and Westover. This ends the express service model that APL had implemented earlier this year.

Patrons now have full access to library collections with no time limit on browsing. Spaced seating is available to use the public Wi-Fi along with full access to restrooms and water fountains.

The Center for Local History at Central Library, meanwhile, is now open by appointment, and outdoor and indoor story-time programming will resume later this month.

Starting Friday, Aug. 6, public computers will be available for use, meeting spaces will be able to be booked and indoor programming will increase.

Last month, library officials told ARLnow that they didn’t have a set date for a full reopening. While this isn’t a restoration of every pre-pandemic service or operation level — hours remain limited and libraries are still closed on Sundays, for example — it represents an expansion of services.

Kresh says they were able to accomplish this because vaccinate rates are going up, Virginia has loosened restrictions and the county lifted a hiring freeze in March.

“We’ve been in hiring mode for the last several weeks,” Kresh said. “I’m hoping by the end of the summer we will be ready to open up the other two [library] locations.”

Kresh says the hope is that by the end of 2021, if not sooner, Arlington library branches will fully return to pre-pandemic services and operations.

“That is my absolute stated goal,” she says. “And I will work like crazy to make it happen.”

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It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

This notice announces the availability of the FONSI to implement the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update.

For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

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Come hear the latest news about fair housing enforcement, policy, and programs within Arlington County, Virginia, and across the country! Our expert panelists and guest speakers include fair housing advocates, elected officials, and government officials tasked with advancing housing equity at the local, state, and federal level.

Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

We’ll have updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule, a panel discussion of fair housing progress at the General Assembly and across Virginia, and a panel of local experts discussing the progress Arlington has made and what remains to be done.
Please RSVP in advance to ensure you receive your free lunch at the conference. Free and open to the public.

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