Press Club

Some residents in and around Crystal City want to open up the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary to more walking and hiking — with help from JBG Smith.

The developer owns property around Roaches Run and is interested in converting parts of its private land into a public connection accessible from the surrounding neighborhood.

This partnership is one way that the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations propose adding open space to their neighborhoods. A second solution is to redesign and upgrade Virginia Highlands Park for more uses than sports.

The two ideas are part of a report published last week from the three associations, which have banded together to form Livability 22202. The report also recommends ways to plan new parks in Crystal City and enhance local biodiversity.

“COVID-19 has changed everyone’s thinking about open spaces,” Livability 22202 President Carol Fuller said. “The traditional parks of the past do not serve the purposes of our new world. We need to have open space, parks and trails for people to go out for casual use outdoors.”

The group is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Parks and Recreation Commission in February, she said.

Compared to other parts of the county, Pentagon City and Crystal City have fewer trails and open parks, Fuller said.

“If we did not have Long Bridge [Park] — which is fairly new — and if we didn’t have Virginia Highlands Park, we would have no trails and very little open space,” she said. (Crystal City is also served by the Mt. Vernon Trail, which connects to the neighborhood near the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S.)

Livability 22202 is proposing a loop trail and connecting trails into and out of Roaches Run. The County too is interested in turning the area into publicly-accessible natural space as the neighborhood experiences a wave of redevelopment in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2 decision — but officials indicated this spring that it could take 5-10 years to implement.

JBG Smith is willing to make use of its land to advance the broader open space discussion happening in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Andrew VanHorn, Executive Vice President, JBG Smith said in a statement.

“JBG Smith is supportive of plans that would make Roaches Run more accessible to the community and allow more people to enjoy this important natural asset,” he said.

VanHorn added that JBG Smith welcomes “the opportunity to work with the community, the County Board, and the National Park Service to help make this vision a reality.”

Meanwhile, the report authors envision Virginia Highlands Park as an urban park with a blend of recreational and casual uses.

“One of the problems with Virginia Highlands is it’s primarily for recreation,” such as tennis or softball, she said. “It needs an upgrade badly.”

At 18 acres, it is one of Arlington’s largest parks, but suffers from underused and wasted space, at least according to the authors.

The Aurora Highlands Civic Association has long pushed for changes to the park, and this upcoming fiscal year the County was slated to start developing a master plan for it.

But that plan is now on hold, Fuller said. So, in the meantime, Livability 22202 is proposing upgrades that include a gathering space, a sledding site, better lighting, permanent community gardens and a dog run — similar to the dog park proposed by a separate local group.

Money is perhaps the biggest missing ingredient for making changes to Roaches Run and Virginia Highlands Park, Fuller said.

“COVID-19 has not only shown us great need for open space, but it also destroyed the budget to give it to us,” Fuller said.

Earlier, the group published another report calling for more diverse housing options in the zip code.

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A portion of Virginia Highlands Park, near Pentagon City, is being transformed into a vibrant display of gardening through a new agricultural initiative.

The Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture, National Landing BID, Livability 22202 and Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation collaborated to develop a project that is revitalizing a strip of land in the park for a temporary demonstration garden. The project, called the Highlands Urban Garden (HUG), is located at 1600 S. Hayes Street.

Project HUG will include a display of various irrigation systems, while showcasing how to counter challenging soil conditions and how edge spaces in parks can be converted to functioning gardens. Produce from the garden will be donated to local food pantries.

The garden — which volunteers broke ground on Sept. 27 — utilizes the space adjacent to the tennis court practice wall at the park. This fall marks the initial installation and preparation of this pilot site for a spring planting season.

“Project HUG will revitalize underused land near the park’s tennis courts and illustrate how otherwise fallow spaces can be transformed into productive land that builds a vibrant ecosystem,” said Arlington FOUA Board President Robin Broder. “The Highlands Urban Garden will serve as a model for future community-driven agriculture features throughout Arlington’s urban neighborhoods.”

A team of neighborhood volunteers will maintain and manage the garden. On-site signage will inform community members about the practices used in caring for a planned mix of edible vegetative crops, native plants and pollinators.

The rectangular strip of land HUG occupies will consist of three bays of six fabric grow bags connected to automatic irrigation systems. The garden will also feature smart sensors to track water, light, fertilizer and temperature that can be used as part of a long-term data collection effort for STEM curricula at local schools.

“We are pleased to collaborate with our partners in the community to expand natural elements throughout National Landing’s built environment by transforming land on the margins and in unexpected places,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, Executive Director of National Landing BID, formerly known as the Crystal City BID. “The Highlands Urban Garden will invoke curiosity and joy in passersby, residents and park visitors alike.”

As a part of the temporary design of the garden, there will not be any below grade digging or disturbance of the grounds at the site.

Photos courtesy Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture

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Arlington County will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at Virginia Highlands Park on Sunday, marking the completion of a nearly $2 million renovation project.

The renovations include new basketball courts, tennis courts, tennis practice courts, drinking fountains, water bottle fillers and site furnishings. There’s also new “dark sky” lighting and parking and accessibility improvements.

“Join the community in celebrating this newly renovated space!” said the invitation to the ceremony, which is scheduled to run from 1-2:30 p.m.

“The ribbon cutting ceremony will include fun activities for kids and adults including a tennis drill clinic for kids and adults hosted by FirstServe Tennis Academy and a basketball clinic for kids with shooting and dribbling instructions that will culminate into fun group games hosted by Tiptop Sports.”

The park is located at 1600 S. Hayes Street, near Pentagon City.

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Scenes from Virginia Highlands Park on Sun., March 7, 2010(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The Arlington County Board could approve nearly $2 million worth of renovations to Virginia Highlands Park near Pentagon City at its meeting this weekend.

County Manager Barbara Donnellan is recommending the Board approves a $1.83 million contract, with a $183,000 contingency, to replace the park’s six tennis courts, two tennis practice courts and two basketball courts. The money will also fund a new, junior half basketball court, new fencing, new “dark sky” lights for the courts and accessible parking improvements.

The improvements are part of the county’s ongoing effort to completely renovate the recreation facilities at Virginia Highlands (1600 S. Hayes Street), which are some of the busiest recreation areas in the county. Within the last 10 years, the synthetic turf field, playground, restrooms, athletic field lighting and spraygrounds have all been either renovated or constructed.

In addition to new tennis courts — which will replace existing courts that were recently resurfaced — the renovations call for new covered waiting areas outside the courts, along with a drinking fountain and an “information kiosk.”

Virginia Highlands Park renovation rendering (Image via Arlington County)

The junior basketball court will replace the tennis practice courts to the south of the six tennis courts. The court was requested during public input meetings last fall. The community lamented that there was no basketball space to be used specifically by young children.

The basketball courts will be relocated to the north of the current courts.

“Several community members expressed concerns about the proximity of the existing basketball courts relative to the playground area,” county staff said in a report, explaining the relocation.

The remaining park features — the diamond field turf, picnic shelter, gazebo, petanque courts, and front plaza area — are proposed for renovation in 2016.

File photo (top). Image (bottom) via Arlington County. 

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A man was reportedly robbed at gunpoint in Virginia Highlands Park last night.

The male victim told police that a man pointed a gun at him and demanded his wallet around 7:00 Wednesday night. After taking the wallet, the perpetrator fled the scene with an accomplice who was serving as a lookout, according to police.

The park, at 1600 S. Hayes Street, is one block from the Pentagon City mall and Metro station.

From today’s daily crime report:

ROBBERY, 12/19/12, 1600 block of S. Hayes Street. At 7:00 pm on December 19, a male victim was approached by a male subject in Highlands Park. The subject allegedly pulled out a black handgun and pointed it at the victim, demanding that the victim give him his wallet. The subject took the victim’s wallet and fled the scene with another subject that had been the lookout. The first suspect is described as a black male in his 20’s, about 6’0”, wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt, dark jeans, and white sneakers. The second suspect was described as a black male in his 30’s, long braided hair, and wearing a dark colored puffy jacket, jeans and tan Timberland boots.

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Update on 3/23/12 — This project has been delayed, according to Arlington County.

Virginia Highlands Park is in line to get the county’s most elaborate sprayground park yet.

The spiral-shaped park takes elements of Arlington’s existing sprayground parks, as well as elements from other water parks around the country. It will be located in a corner of the park, near the volleyball and basketball courts.

As planned right now, the park will feature water cannons, buckets that fill and dump water on anyone below them, mini waterfalls, small pools of water for play, bubblers, interactive locks and dams, jumping water jets and a boulder wall dividing the active and passive play areas in the park. The boulder wall will also provide a place to sit during the off-season.

The sprayground will be partially bordered by a rain garden, which will benefit from the park’s runoff. Other excess water would be directed to a large underground tank, which could then be used for irrigation or for the park’s toilets.

Funding for the park is still in question. An official who gave a presentation to the Aurora Highlands Civic Association last night suggested that the construction could be paid for with Neighborhood Conservation funds while the county tries to secure other funding.

If all goes according to plan, the park will be open in time for Memorial Day 2012. (Sprayground parks are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Recently park hours were reduced, but it sounds like the county is confident that normal hours will be restored by 2012.)

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What makes Aurora Highlands special?

Just southwest adjacent to Washington, D.C., Aurora Highlands encompasses Pentagon City and the surrounding subdivisions of Addison Heights, Aurora Hills and Virginia Highlands.

Much of the area was developed between 1896 and 1930, and is now recognized as the Aurora Highlands Historic District. The Pentagon City part of Aurora Highlands is mainly known for its high-rise condominiums, commuter hotels, and shopping districts (Pentagon City Mall and Pentagon Row), and most recently the newly named National Landing with the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2. Aurora Highlands is also a beautiful residential neighborhood with mature trees, many recreational amenities, and local restaurants and shops.  

For decades, Aurora Highlands was known as a commuter neighborhood for its proximity to Washington, D.C., The Pentagon, and Reagan National Airport and its easy public transportation access with Metro and frequent bus lines, but with new developments and amenities it’s increasingly becoming more of a destination for tourists and regional residents. Pentagon City alone has become a true live, work, play neighborhood with an estimated 8,200 residents, one of the world’s largest office buildings, more than 150 shops and restaurants, and Pentagon Row, which has 300,000 square feet of retail space and 502 residential units. 

And we can’t write an article about Aurora Highlands without talking about National Landing! With the arrival of our newest resident, Amazon, we will be seeing a lot of change and development as a result of $8 billion in private investment in the pipeline to transform and grow National Landing. According to NationalLanding.org (National Landing BID), there is expected to be more than 25,000 new jobs from Amazon alone by 2030, 7,800 new residential units, and an expansion of 400% in dining, shopping, and entertainment options. In addition to pedestrian and road improvements and more than 300 planned community outreach events.

Aurora Highlands offers a vast range of housing types from apartments and condominiums to townhouses and single family homes. The commonality amongst them is the amazing walkability to restaurants, parks, shops and so much more.

The historic district of Aurora Highlands is worth taking a stroll through on a warm afternoon, maybe after brunch at Bob and Edith’s Diner. It has three historic churches, a rectory, two schools, and recreation. “Sunnydale Farm” is known as one of the oldest dwellings in the neighborhood and is a Greek-revival style building circa 1870. There are a number of wonderful parks including the expansive 20-acre Virginia Highlands Park offering diamond fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball court, spray park, an urban garden and more.

There is so much to see and experience in Aurora Highlands, reach out to me if you want to learn more about neighborhoods in Arlington and around the region!

Christine Fischer | 703-930-6349 | [email protected] | www.fischerrealestate.com | www.McEnearney.com

McEnearney Associates — Arlington Office

Aurora Highlands Links & Recommendations

For 40 years, McEnearney Associates has been a premiere residential, commercial and property management firm with 11 offices located in the Washington metro region. With service excellence, hyper-local expertise, powerful data insights, innovative technology and cutting-edge marketing, McEnearney Associates have helped their clients make informed decisions on their most valuable real estate investments. There is an important difference at McEnearney: It’s not about us, it’s about you. To learn more, visit us at www.McEnearney.com.

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People stand in line at the recently opened COVID-19 testing kiosk at Central Library (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

A free Covid testing kiosk opened Monday at Central Library near Quincy Park.

Arlington County sponsors the new kiosk that Curative operates daily between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. at 3809 10th Street N., the southwest corner of the park near the tennis courts.

No symptoms or doctor referral is required but the county says you must make an appointment through the Curative website as the company works through lab backlogs. Staff at the site on Monday said they were allowing walk-ups, however.

Patients administer their own COVID-19 nasal swab test under the supervision of a Curative worker and receive results in 48 to 72 hours.

Parking is available at the library and park’s surface lots or the Central Library parking garage after 10 a.m.

In addition to a testing site at Marymount University that opened this week, Curative already operates three Arlington County-sponsored sites at:

  • Arlington Mill Community Center parking lot (909 S. Dinwiddie St.), which is closed due to an electric issue that requires the delivery of a new kiosk
  • Courthouse Plaza parking lot (2088 15th St. N.; corner of 15th St. N. & N. Courthouse Rd.)
  • Virginia Highlands Park parking lot (1600 S. Hayes St.)

The Curative kiosks are administering an average of 8,500 PCR tests a week, up from an average of about 2,900 tests per week at the end of November/start of December, said Arlington County Community Engagement and Resilience Manager Tania Bougebrayel Cohn. Each kiosk can administer about 400 PCR tests a day.

There have been numerous closures of the Curative sites over the past couple of weeks — due to test and staffing shortages — but the county is working quickly to open additional testing sites to meet community demand as staff and supply chain-related shortages continue to affect the kiosks, she said.

“Demand for COVID-19 testing is at an all-time high. By adding an additional testing site, located in a densely populated Metro corridor, we hope to help meet that demand and remove barriers to testing access for all Arlingtonians,” said Dr. Aaron Miller, Director of the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management.

The full announcement from Arlington County is below.

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A local nonprofit intends to redevelop and add affordable housing for people with disabilities to its property near Crystal City.

Melwood, which connects people with disabilities with public- and private-sector jobs and opportunities, currently runs a workforce development site from the building at 750 23rd Street S., in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood.

It envisions redeveloping the property into a 100% affordable, 104-unit building with about 30 units set aside for people with disabilities. The five-story building would also house workforce development services and community programming.

“This project builds on Melwood’s ongoing commitment to create more inclusive spaces and empower people with disabilities to live, work and thrive in their communities,” the company said in a statement to ARLnow. “By redeveloping the 23rd St. S. property, Melwood and its partners will be addressing another persistent gap for people with disabilities and their path to independence — affordable, accessible housing.”

Melwood took an early step forward by filing an application for a Special General Land Use Plan (GLUP) study this week. The application says the study is needed because the property falls outside of any adopted county sector plan documents.

The Maryland-based nonprofit — which has operated in Northern Virginia for many years — acquired the Arlington property during its merger in 2017 with Linden Resources, a local nonprofit that similarly provided employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Melwood says it began discussing options for the site with community members and stakeholders in 2020.

“From these conversations, Melwood heard the community’s strong interest in leveraging its facility to support affordable housing in addition to Melwood’s existing program offerings,” which currently support about 500 Arlington residents, the nonprofit said.

The proposed apartment building will address the “significant need” for independent, affordable housing for Arlington residents with disabilities, Melwood says, adding that in 2019, 22% of locals with disabilities lived under the poverty line and couldn’t afford housing.

Melwood requests that the county change the land-use designation from “public” to “low-medium” residential uses so that the property can eventually be rezoned for apartments, according to a letter from Catharine Puskar, a land use attorney representing the nonprofit.

The privately owned property is designated for public uses because, until 1981, the building operated as the former Nellie Custis School.

After the school closed, Arlington County swapped the Aurora Highlands property for a parcel near the Ballston Metro station with Sheltered Occupational Center of Northern Virginia, another work center for people with disabilities, the letter said. As part of the land swap, the county gave the center a special permit to operate on land zoned for public uses.

The two parcels comprising Melwood’s Arlington property at 750 23rd Street S. (via Arlington County)

The property includes the tiny, .8-acre Nelly Custis Park. Long before the current iteration of the park was built, a project some objected to, the occupational center had to grant to the county an open space easement for a public park as part of the land swap.

The public easement and the park will stay, but Melwood is allowed to use the parcel to calculate how many units can fit in its proposed apartment building, Puskar said.

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Construction on the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City has reached a new milestone, as crews turn to revamping the adjacent green space.

Work on the office complex, located at the corner of 13th Street S. and S. Eads Street, remains on schedule, according to an Amazon spokesperson. The site is comprised of two, 22-story office buildings dubbed Met Park 6 and 7/8 and the forthcoming park area.

Clark Construction, which is overseeing the development, officially got started on the green space — also named Metropolitan Park — last week, according to an email the company sent Friday. Fencing around the site has been expanded to surround the existing park to maintain public safety during this work.

“We anticipate excavation activities will begin in the park area in mid-November,” the email reads.

The existing park space was mostly used as a place for dogs to run around and relieve themselves, though this summer it was home to a farmers market. The new $14 million park — designed by the firm behind New York City’s famous High Line — will feature more than two acres of public open space, including signature landscapes such as a forest walk, an edible garden and children’s play garden, as well as a dedicated dog run and community tables.

“Crews will excavate the existing park, removing 10,000 cubic yards of soil over the next several months,” Jeff King, Clark’s vice-president of construction, said in a video update last month.

This work will move from the edge abutting S. Fair Street to the edge bordering the office buildings, he said. This winter, crews will install drainage and irrigation systems and haul in new dirt to support the future park’s varied topography and vegetation.

“Our construction schedules time with planting seasons, with the first planting set to take place in spring 2022,” King said.

For dog owners nearby, the loss of the green space means frequenting other local parks.

“I know many of our neighbors use the park space daily,” King said. “We recognize that the shared community asset provides the space to walk your dogs, enjoy the outdoors and socialize.”

Knowing this, he said Clark Construction and Amazon spent several months this year sprucing up Virginia Highlands Park.

Clark Construction workers make improvements to Virginia Highlands Park (via Clark Construction)

King said the efforts were to ensure “it’s a great place and a respite for outdoor activities and community gatherings while met park is under construction.”

Amazon helped fund the creation of temporary dog parks at Virginia Highlands Park, along the 15th Street S. side of the park, which were installed earlier this year. Dog owners also have access to a few other parks within a mile of the fenced-off park, including Grace Murray Hopper Park (1401 S. Joyce Street), the temporary “Gateway Green” park (101 12th Street S.) and Long Bridge Park.

Area parks and their distance from Metropolitan Park (via Clark Construction)

Meanwhile, construction crews are completing one floor of the two office buildings about every week and a half, King said.

“Our crews have made significant progress on the site,” he said. “We anticipate topping both 22-story office buildings out in spring of 2022.”

Installation of the building’s façade will continue over the next 12 months, he said. Inside, crews are installing electrical and mechanical systems, sprinklers and drywall.

In its email, Clark noted there will be intermittent traffic stops in the coming weeks on the corner of S. Elm Street and 15th Street S. for deliveries.

Portions of 13th Street S. between S. Eads Street and S. Elm Street, as well as portions of S. Elm Street between 15th Street S. and 14th Street S., will be closed periodically to maintain concrete pump and truck access. Flaggers will assist with traffic flow, and road users will be able to access driveways, loading docks and entry points for adjacent buildings.

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