Arlington, VA

Passed Virginia legislation allows Arlington County to rename Lee Highway, but it’s unlikely to be “Loving Avenue.”

Yesterday (Feb. 23), HB 1854 passed the Virginia State Senate after passing through the House of Delegates late last month. The bill now goes to Governor Ralph Northam for his signature, which will officially codify it.

The bill specifically authorizes the Arlington County Board to name the section of U.S. Route 29, known for decades as “Lee Highway,” located within its boundaries.

However, it’s unlikely to be renamed Loving Avenue in honor of the Virginia couple whose fight to get married went to the U.S. Supreme Court despite the recommendation of the Lee Highway Alliance work group in December..

This is due to the family’s objection, says Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. The Loving family has reiterated that the couple was extremely private and would not want a road named after them.

“I’m saddened but understanding that [the family] is strongly opposed to renaming [Route 29] in honor of their parents and grandparents,” she tells ARLnow. “Privacy is a prevailing value for them.”

Late last year, a task force put together by the Lee Highway Alliance recommended renaming Arlington’s section of Route 29 to Loving Avenue. However, they also suggested four alternatives: John M. Langston Boulevard, Ella Baker Boulevard, Dr. Edward T. Morton Avenue, and Main Street.

Ginger Brown, Executive Director for the Lee Highway Alliance, tells ARLnow that Langston Blvd is the “strong second” choice.

Cristol noted that there remains some follow-up to be done with the Loving family, but at this point, naming Route 29 in Arlington after Mildred and Richard Loving isn’t likely.

“At some point, I’ll have to take a vote on this,” she says. “With what the family has said, we know that it would be hurtful for them. It would be hard for me to vote for that.”

Either way, HB 1854 — first introduced by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48) — will allow the renaming, though it only applies to Route 29 in Arlington.

The bill notes that while the Virginia Department of Transportation will place and maintain the appropriate signage, the county has to pay for that signage.

Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said the legislation is a “shared priority” at yesterday’s Board meeting.

“We are enthusiastic about the success of Del. Sullivan’s bill, and the County continues to work with our regional partners to seek a regionally consistent name for Lee Highway,” de Ferranti wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “The legislature advancing this bill to the Governor is an important tool now available to Arlington County in the renaming of Lee Highway and we will continue to seek a common name with our neighboring jurisdictions.”

Cristol says the timeline for the change is being coordinated with neighboring jurisdictions that the east-west artery also runs through, including Falls Church, Fairfax City, and Fairfax County.

“We have a shared interest in settling on the same name, for obvious reasons,” she says.

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Metro is asking the public to weigh in on possible options for drastic service cuts, including potentially closing several Arlington stations in January 2022.

On Wednesday Metro announced that the public comment period for its 2022 fiscal year budget had officially opened.

With it, they are asking riders to fill out a survey about what options they’d be willing to deal with beginning on Jan. 1, 2022 if more federal money is not received.

The options on the survey include closing Metrorail every day at 9 p.m, trains arriving only every 30 mins at most stations, and shuttering up to 22 stations that have low ridership or are near others.

That list includes four stations in Arlington: Clarendon, Virginia Square, Arlington Cemetery, and East Falls Church.

Screenshot of the Metro survey, asking about potential service cuts in 2022 (Photo via Screenshot/Metro press release)

These were the same stations that were closed earlier in the pandemic due to lower ridership and construction.

The survey also asks about prefered options for cutting Metrobus service, including a number of lines that run through Arlington and Northern Virginia.

Proposals include consolidating the bus system into 50 lines that serve only the highest ridership routes as well as limiting overall service to about half of pre-pandemic levels.

Metro is asking riders to fill out the survey by Tuesday, March 16 at 5 p.m.

The potential cuts come as Metro continues to say they are facing a significant budget shortfall if no additional federal money is received — a shortfall caused in large part by decreased ridership during  the pandemic.

The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority says ridership has decreased by 90% overall on Metro.

Back in December, Metro was promised more than $600 million in the latest coronavirus relief package. That funding, notes Metro, has helped to avoid layoffs, provide essential service, and prepare for riders returning.

But even with that funding and other austerity measures, “there is not enough money to fill the entire budget gap for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2021,” Metro’s press release says.

There’s a decent chance, however, that this public survey will become moot.

President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has $20 billion earmarked for public transit agencies. At this time, however, it remains unclear how much would go to Metro if the plan does pass in Congress.

Still, county leaders say the potential cuts are concerning.

“Arlington agrees with Metro that federal funding is essential to ensuring that the sort of drastic cuts that could profoundly impact Metro in Arlington will not have to be made,” writes Arlington Board Chair Matt de Ferranti in a statement to ARLnow. “Our Senators and Representatives fully support Metro funding in the federal legislation currently under consideration on Capitol Hill. We are grateful for their critical leadership and are staying in close contact to ensure this critical federal support for our community gets enacted and appropriated. “

In recent weeks, though, service changes have already come to Metro based on the revised 2021 budget approved in November.

Starting last week, trains started coming every 12 mins on the Orange, Blue, Silver, and Yellow lines. However, Metrobus will start expanding service beginning on March 14. Buses are being added on 125 lines and weekend service is being expanded.

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The Pentagon City Metro station is getting a second elevator.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board voted to award a contract to W. M. Schlosser Company for the construction of a second station elevator on the west side of S. Hayes Street, near the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall.

Designs for the elevator were first approved early last year and the contract for managing the construction was approved this past summer.

The second elevator will eliminate the need for pedestrians to cross six lanes of traffic on S. Hayes Street, two parking lanes, and a bike lane to reach the one elevator currently in operation on the other side of S. Hayes Street, near the Pentagon Centre shopping center.

“For those with mobility issues, this is a big step forward so that we can serve everyone well,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti at the meeting.

Construction is expected to start in the spring and be completed within a year, by spring 2022.

The Maryland-based W. M. Schlosser Company previously was awarded the contract to rehabilitate Arlington House in 2018 and completed streetscape projects for the county in Crystal City and Potomac Yard.

The total cost of the elevator contract is about $6.5 million, which actually exceeded the initial estimate by about double. Changing market conditions and the risks involved with such a complex project are “likely reasons” for the higher costs, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesperson Eric Balliet.

Funding for the project is a combination of federal ($2.4 million), state ($2.1 million), and local funds ($2 million).

The Pentagon City Metro station has one of the highest riderships in Northern Virginia, according to the staff report. The station averaged about 12,500 entering riders in 2019, though that number has been cut by more than two thirds in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The elevator will add to the two escalators that already lead to the station at street level on the west site of S. Hayes Street.

“Providing entry to the station from the west side of South Hayes Street improves ADA access as well as access for passengers with strollers and luggage,” reads the report.

Additionally, it will provide redundancy if — or when — one of the elevators goes out of service for any reason.

The County approved this item as part of its consent agenda, meaning it was non-controversial and was acted upon by a single vote. The County Board also approved, as part of the consent agenda, an increase in the contract for the eventual inspection of the elevator’s construction.

The Pentagon City Metro is also getting four new escalators as part of a $179-million, seven-year system-wide project to replace and install new heavy-duty escalators. That project will begin in May.

Photo courtesy of Arlington County

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Arlington County will be sending its yard waste and food scraps to Prince William County.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting, the board approved a new agreement to send organic compost to a new state-of-the-art composting facility in Prince William County.

Until November last year, the county was sending compost to a Loudoun County facility but that facility has since ceased operations.

Back in 2016, Arlington County began year-round residential curbside collection of organic material like grass clippings, leaves, and yard trimmings.

Arlington County provides year-round residential curbside collection of organic material, such as grass clippings, leaves, and yard trimmings. Through the winter — November to March — the material is composted at the Earth Products Recycling Yard (EPRY) at the Arlington County Trades Center in Shirlington.

However, that changes in the spring due to EPRY’s inability to compost grass clippings as well as space limitations related to residents mowing their lawn more often in the spring and summer.

As a result, from April to October the county sends its organic material to a third-party outside of the county for processing.

And starting this year, that material will be going to Freestate Farms in nearby Prince William County. The facility is run via a public-private partnership between Prince William County and the private corporation.

Beyond yard waste, the Prince William County facility also has the ability to compost “mixed organics,” i.e. food waste. County Manager Mark Schwarz’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget includes about $300,000 to add food scraps to the list of items that can be placed in the green organics bin.

If approved, the food scrap collection would begin in September, according to Schwartz’s budget.

In the meantime, the county’s current organics collection is set to start being trucked to Prince William County on April 1. The agreement does come with a price, however.

The Prince William facility is charging more than the Loudoun County facility, from $32 a ton for yard waste to the new rate of $36 a ton. For mixed organics, the rate is even higher, at $38 a ton. The staff report says these rate increases should be “almost or entirely offset” by other savings in the waste collection budget and will not result in Arlington households having to absorb the rate increase.

In fact, according to the proposed budget, there actually would be a slight rate decrease in the solid waste rate for households. Currently, households are paying an annual rate of $319.03. If the budget passes as is, even with the addition of mixed organics collection, residents will pay $318.61.

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County staff has released its recommendations on how to improve Crystal City’s bike lane network.

The proposal includes adding one-way protected bike lanes on Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street, improved cross-street east-west connections, and additional protected or buffered bike lanes on 15th, 18th, 23rd, and 26th streets.

In March 2020, the Arlington County Board directed staff to develop a plan to improve the bicycle network “east of Richmond Highway, from the Alexandria border extending north to Long Bridge Park.” The requirement for the proposal is that it needed to be completed within four years — by Dec. 31, 2024 — and require minimal changes to the curb line.

The broad goals, according to the county, were to improve safety, provide greater access to trails, improve connections, and reduce blocking of bike lanes.

“By providing additional protected and buffered bike lanes, the County can increase safety for people riding bikes while also addressing challenges like bike lane blocking,” Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, wrote in an email. “The bike network will also support Crystal City as a multimodal hub by balancing the multiple needs of the streetscape, such as parking, pick-up/drop-off, and transit.”

Balliet noted that residents want safer connections to the nearby Mount Vernon and Potomac Yard trails.

Staff considered several other options, but those rejected either didn’t fully address safety issues, could not be completed in the four-year timeline, or substantial capital improvements would be needed.

Not everyone thinks the recommendations go far enough. Darren Buck, who serves on Arlington’s Transportation Commission and lives in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, said the recommendations reflect a “short-term view” that will not age well given that Crystal City in the midst of so much development.

“Let’s create a road map with a long-term vision, especially on Crystal Drive,” Buck says. “Let’s plan ahead with a 10 or 20 year goal for how that street should look.”

Right now, he says, gaps remain in the plan that doesn’t fully protect and provide safety to cyclists on all Crystal City streets, particularly from 18th Street to Clark and 27th streets.

For the county’s part, Balliet says that Crystal Drive has proven to be a challenge.

“There’s a fixed amount of space in which cyclists, pedestrians, transit, vehicles, emergency vehicles, and the needs of businesses all must be accommodated,” he writes.

Buck does say he’s “thrilled” to see the recommendations include a number of protected bike lanes.

I have wanted to see a protected bike lane on that one single block of 18th Street that leads to the Mount Vernon Trail for years,” he says. “It is a big missing piece in our network and it’s just super exciting.” 

He also cites the inclusion of east-west connections to 23rd Street and lanes on the block of 15th Street leading to Crystal Drive as another great step.

Members of the public will be able to share their thoughts on the recommendations on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at a virtual community meeting. A second public engagement meeting will be held in the spring.

Public feedback will be incorporated into the development of a “preferred alternative” plan, says Balliet.

Photo (top) via Google Maps

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New Arlington construction is helping the Commonwealth become more green.

Virginia is ranked eighth in the country for LEED-certified space per capita, the U.S. Green Building Council announced earlier this month. This is in large part because of Arlington County, which accounted for more than 15% of the newly LEED-certified buildings in the state in 2020.

Some newly-certified buildings in Arlington include:

  • The Waycroft at 750 N. Glebe Road (LEED Gold, apartment)
  • 400 Army Navy Drive (LEED Gold, apartment)
  • Landbay D West at 3400 S. Clark Street (LEED Silver, apartment)
  • 4040 Wilson Blvd (LEED Gold)
  • 4000 N. Fairfax Drive (LEED Gold, apartment)
  • 4250 N. Fairfax Drive (LEED Platinum, office)
  • 1400 Crystal Drive (LEED Gold, office)
  • 1777 N. Kent Street (LEED Silver, office)
  • Jefferson Plaza at 1401 S. Clark Street (LEED Silver, office)
  • Wilson School at 1601 Wilson Blvd (LEED Gold, K-12)
  • 1440 N. Edgewood Street (LEED Gold, office)
  • AHRI at 2311 Wilson Blvd (LEED Silver, office)
  • Arlington County DHS Head Start at 2920 S. Glebe Road (LEED Gold, K-12)

There’s also one project that’s “confidential,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Much of the increase in LEED-certified development is a result of the county’s voluntary green building program, which offers developers bonus density in exchange for their building meeting certain LEED certification standards, the council said.

Arlington, far and away, is definitely the most progressive county in the state when it comes to certification,” says Mark Bryan, U.S. Green Building Council’s director for the National Capital Region. “That’s really because of [county] policy, which is one of the first and most successful voluntary incentive programs in the country.”

LEED certification is, admittingly, a bit complex. It’s essentially a system of points that are given for adhering to meeting certain standards mainly focused on energy, water waste, indoor air quality, transportation, materials, and site selection of the building.

The highest certification is LEED Platinum, followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified.

Just this past December, the county updated its program so that buildings now need to meet LEED Gold certification standards to receive the bonus density incentive.

County zoning ordinances place density and height restrictions on developments. Bonus density means they can add additional space to the development that they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to have.

The reason the county wants more LEED-certification buildings is, as noted in a December 2020 report, to lower carbon emissions.

“The Green Building Incentive Policy is the primary tool currently available to encourage the private sector to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in new construction to help achieve Arlington’s long-term carbon emission goals,” reads the report.

Bryan says the county is succeeding in its goals because they are trading something that developers want.

Arlington has done this quite successfully by providing something that’s extremely valuable to developers, particularly those in Northern Virginia,” says Bryan. “And that’s bonus density… and height.”

Offering bonus density is also something the county has done to encourage more affordable housing construction.

In Arlington, the structures receiving LEED certification in 2020 included six office buildings, five apartment buildings, two schools, and one retail building.

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Seven Arlington Metro stations will be getting new escalators.

This is part of a $179-million, seven-year project that begins in May to replace old escalators and install 130 new heavy-duty ones at 32 stations across the Metro system.

In total, 36 escalators across seven Arlington stations will be replaced.

They are:

  • Rosslyn (8 escalators)
  • Ballston (6 escalators)
  • National Airport (4 escalators)
  • Pentagon (5 escalators)
  • Pentagon City (4 escalators)
  • Crystal City (6 escalators)
  • Virginia Square (3 escalators)

The new escalators will have up-to-date safety features and LED lighting. The contract for the project was awarded to the Finnish engineering company KONE.

The escalators set to be replaced include four in Rosslyn that date back to 1977 and rise nearly ten stories. At 207 feet high, they are among the world’s longest, continuous escalators.

“Replacing these escalators that average 38-years old, will ensure we maintain reliability for our customers today and into the future,” Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said in the press release.

To install the new escalators, KONE will have to demolish the existing escalators and remove them piece by piece.

No more than 18 escalators will be out of service at any given time, the transportation agency promises.

For the last decade, Metro has made it a priority to fix, rehabilitate, and replace frequently breaking escalators. By the time this project is completed, Metro will have replaced or rehabilitated 84% of its escalators since 2011.

However, Metro has not set forth a timeline beyond the work beginning in May.

The full press release from Metro is below.

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A new Maryland law greases the wheels for Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) train service to come to the new Crystal City station set to open in 2024.

HB 1236 — First Step for MARC Commuters Act — calls for the Maryland Transit Authority to “engage in good-faith negotiations” for a pilot program that would extend MARC service into Arlington and Alexandria. It could one day allow workers at Amazon’s HQ2 to commute in via rail from Baltimore or the Maryland exurbs.

The National Landing Business Improvement District calls the act a good “first step.”

“Passage of the First Step for MARC Commuters Act is significant progress towards realizing a bold vision for a truly regional commuter rail system,” BID president Tracy Sayegh Gabriel tells ARLnow. “Though National Landing is already well served by WMATA and VRE, the addition of MARC service will greatly enhance access to employment and affordable housing opportunities for residents throughout Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.”

The new Virginia Railway Express station in Crystal City is planning to open in 2024 and is being specifically designed with MARC and Amtrak trains in mind, in hopes that these negotiations bear fruit. Amtrak, too, is “exploring” adding regional service to the station.

Maryland State Delegate Jared Solomon, who co-sponsored the bill, tells ARLnow that it provides “legal authority” for MTA to negotiate with Virginia and train companies. Virginia has been much more “forward-looking” with its rail infrastructure than Maryland, he said, adding the he hopes the bill leads to an agreement in the near future.

“It’s a win-win-win for the region,” Solomon said.

HB 1236 actually passed both houses of the Maryland General Assembly back in March 2020, but Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it. He cited the nearly $3 billion pandemic-related shortfall in the state budget and a bill of this nature being “not financially feasible nor responsible at this time” as reasons.

The veto was overridden by both houses of the Maryland General Assembly within the past two weeks, turning the bill into state law.

The Crystal City BID — now the National Landing BID — and JBG Smith, Crystal City’s predominant property owner, provided testimony in favor of the bill last year.

The BID’s statement cited the arrival of Amazon and projected job growth over the next decade as reasons for why MARC train service needed to extend across state lines. The BID also noted the planned future investments in rail infrastructure, specifically the replacement of Long Bridge.

JBG Smith mentioned that MARC’s existing service prevented residents in Maryland jurisdictions from fully taking advantage of job and economic opportunities in Arlington.

“By providing for a ‘one seat ride’ to National Landing, HB 1236 would substantially improve conditions for existing Maryland commuters,” wrote Andy VanHorn, the company’s Executive Vice President of Development.

The law retroactively took effect on July 1, 2020 and is set to remain on books until June 30, 2022.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Mi & Yu Noodle Bar at Ballston Quarter is now closed permanently, owner Edward Kim confirms to ARLnow.

The eatery was the first to open at Ballston Quarter’s “Quarter Market” food hall in March 2019. It was the establishment’s only location outside of Baltimore, Maryland.

The reason for the shuttering is simple, Kim says.

“Sales and COVID,” he tells ARLnow in a short phone call. “It’s pretty straight-forward.”

There are no plans to open any additional locations of the raman, noodle, and bao restaurant in Arlington, Kim said.

In general, the Ballston food hall has seen thinning crowds due to the pandemic. That hasn’t stopped a number of high profile openings in recent months, however.

In the fall, sandwich shop Superette opened along with a new pierogi stand in December. In 2021, Quarter Market has also welcomed taco and tequila spot Bartaco and fast casual Indian restaurant Bollywood Bistro Express.

It’s also been tough sledding for others at Ballston Quarter over the last year, including Mi & Yu Noodle Bar. Punch Bowl Social filed for bankruptcy in December and closed its Ballston location on Christmas Eve “until further notice.”

The Regal movie theater at Ballston Quarter remains temporarily closed.

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(Update at 11:50 a.m.) A new Bearded Goat Barber shop is opening in Shirlington this fall.

The full-service barber shop — from local entrepreneurs Eric Renfro, Jon Dodson, and Scott Parker — is opening its third location, at the Village at Shirlington. It will be located 4150 Campbell Ave, next to Samuel Beckett’s Irish Gastro Pub and across the street from Damn Good Burger Co.

It’s opening in the former Hair Cuttery space, which appeared to have closed during the summer. The ice cream shop next door I-CE-NY, which opened in October 2018 ,was listed for sale late last year.

“The Village at Shirlington is the ideal location for Bearded Goat Barber to open its third location,” writes co-founder Scott Parker in a press release. “Having opened our first shop in Ballston in 2019, and our second location in Navy Yard in Washington, DC this year, we are focused on neighborhoods that are future-focused, while retaining a certain charm.”

The barber shop will, of course, adhere to strict CDC guidelines, according to the release.

This includes santaizing workspaces, tools, chairs, capes, and waiting areas in between all visits. Masks are also required to be worn at all times by both patrons and employees, through the entire grooming experience.

The first Bearded Goat Barber location opened in Ballston about two years ago in 2019. It temporarily shut down last March due to the pandemic and re-opened in May with new safety and health guidelines in place.

The second location recently opened in Navy Yard in Southeast D.C.

The upscale barber shop is a partnership between two barbers, Renfro and Dodson, who were previously working at Clarendon’s Hendrick Barbershop, and serial local entrepreneur Parker.

Scott Parker is perhaps most well-known as a co-owner of popular bars and restaurants, including Don Tito in Clarendon, Bronson Bierhall in Ballston, and soon-to-be-open Nighthawk Pizza in Pentagon City.

He’s also co-owner of Bash Boxing, which also has two locations in Arlington. Another of his ventures, Clarendon’s The G.O.A.T., closed earlier this year.

The 1,088 square-foot barber shop joins Stellina Pizzeria and Market among Shirlington’s newest businesses.

Photo courtesy of Bearded Goat Barber 

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