Arlington, VA

Arlington County is in a race against its own bureaucracy to preserve the Febrey-Lothrop House, an estate that has sat in one form or another at 6407 Wilson Blvd since before the Civil War.

The County is rushing through the local historic designation process for the the mid-19th century property. It voted on Tuesday to advertise hearings on the potential historic value of the property in April.

The process is accelerated by the owner’s applications in December and last month for permits to demolish the buildings on the property, and an apparent effort to front-run any historic designation. The 9+ acre estate is owned by a trust established by sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.

The permit is administrative — meaning outside of the need for County Board approval — and was approved. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, said the demolition permit will be not actually be issued until approval of an associated land disturbing activity permit.

Parallel to this administrative approval, an application filed last year by an Arlington resident to give the estate a local historic designation was reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in November. The HALRB found that the home met eight of 11 criteria for the designation and recommended that the structure of the home and the surrounding property be designated as a local historic district overlay.

The property owners — who seek to demolish the building and sell the property for redevelopment — have repeatedly objected to this designation. Staff noted that despite having been in contact with the owners, they had not been given access to the property to research it, which has hamstrung efforts to make a more thorough report.

Meanwhile, in mid-January, workmen at the house started to demolish the roof until the County issued a stop work order.

“Staff made numerous good faith attempts to access property, [but] staff has still not been able to gain owner’s consent for time and date to view property,” said Richard Woodruff, chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. “These issues taken by owners gave cause to believe that the house is at substantial risk of being damaged or destroyed.”

Woodruff said there is plenty of information on the property — even without an first-hand inspection — that says there is likely historic significance that could be lost if the area is demolished and redeveloped by-right.

“It was an upper middle class 19th century farm owned by prominent families,” Woodruff said. “We know Native Americans hunted on the hill and Civil War soldiers on both sides of war camped there. That land has not been disturbed and may contain artifacts, even pre-Columbian artifacts.”

Additionally, Woodruff noted the main house contains portions of the original 1855 structure, and key figures like Howard Hughes lived and stayed at the home in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Anyone who has driven by property knows it represents uniquely pastoral image of Arlington,” Woodruff said. “What is there, known and unknown, could be lost forever. We know owners want to sell, but there are no immediate buyers. It would be premature and a complete disaster for these buildings to come down before any of that is known. If you agree this property is worthy of protection for future generations of Arlingtonians, if you believe some or all of it should be protected, then please figure out how to do it and don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Tom Colucci, from the law firm Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh P.C., spoke on behalf of the owners and reiterated earlier objections to the historic classification.

“We request that the Board stop this runaway freight train to nowhere,” Colucci said. “What has happened is this was initiated by one individual who had no economic or other interest in the property and staff took the ball and ran with it. There have been a lot of things rushed with this because the owner has a desire to demolish these structures. These buildings are not in good condition, some are not in safe condition, and there are overriding policy decisions that have not been considered. Does the Board want to put itself in a position where it tries to thwart an otherwise legal act of a property owner by using this process?”

Colucci said the historic overlay would significantly devalue the property and would cause concern among potential buyers. Colucci also noted that the property has an R-6 zoning — single family homes — and the owners are currently only interested in redeveloping it within that zoning.

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(Updated at 9:25 p.m.) Arlington, Virginia is hoping to avoid the infrastructure pitfalls in Arlington, Texas — and other parts of the Lone Star State.

At Saturday’s County Board meeting, the Board approved a 24 inch water main project stretching from Lorcom Lane to 25th Street N. in the Donaldson Run neighborhood. The Board authorized $3.1 million for the project, with $2.6 million as the project cost and just over a half-million dollars in contingency funding.

According to the project summary:

This contract is for the construction of 24-inch water transmission main in the right-of-way of North Taylor Street, Vacation Lane, North Vermont and North Vernon streets between Lorcom Lane and 25th Street North. This contract also includes installation of a new 8- inch water main to replace existing 6-inch water main along North Vernon Street between 25th Street North and North Vermont Street. The proposed water main will increase required system redundancy and transmission capacity.

The water main replacement is called Gravity One Phase II, a follow up on a water infrastructure project started in 2017. The new water main will serve as a backup to the existing 30-inch main from 1957 that feeds into nearby storage tanks and a pump station, allowing the county to move forward with a full assessment of the state of that pipe and perform maintenance.

“The project is expected to begin in April 2021,” the project website says. “The anticipated completion time is spring 2023.

“The contractor will limit noise-generating work to the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” the website adds. “No weekend work is anticipated. Other tasks may be addressed during the hours immediately before and after that window. There may be water impacts to some customers throughout the project. Advance notice will be given to residents prior to any planned water shut offs.”

County Board chair Matt de Ferranti said the new pipe will hopefully help prevent future water main breaks and provide better water reliability.

“We hear from so many in the community that we must take care of infrastructure,” said de Ferranti. “There was a water main break at Chain Bridge. This was a continued priority before that and we are investing again in a contract of a little over $3 million for a water line transition main that will be a backup to help protect reliability, which we’ve seen just this week is an unthought of but critical item as we look at those in Texas without water.”

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(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) A new Ethiopian restaurant on Columbia Pike could help fill the vegan and vegetarian option gap near the S. Glebe Road intersection after the closure of Elizabeth’s Counter.

The restaurant is called Greens N Teff (3203 Columbia Pike), reflecting the restaurant’s meat-free menu and traditional Ethiopian grain teff. Beakal Melaku, one of the restaurant’s owners, said the restaurant had been in planning before the pandemic started and was originally going to have meat but took a green turn over time.

“I started with grilling, but then started cooking more and I changed my mind to make it vegetarian,” Melaku said.

The proteins are primarily lentil or mushroom based, and Melaku said part of his goal is helping to make people aware that they don’t need meat to have a balanced, health diet.

The restaurant has a variety of plate sizes, from regular individual platters for $9.99 with one base, protein and two grains, to extra large platters for $13.99 with the base, three proteins and four greens.

Greens N Teff opened this past weekend and so far, Melaku said the restaurant has gotten good feedback and support from the nearby community.

“This has been our first week, and so far it’s been really good,” Melaku said.

Photos via Greens N Teff/Facebook

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Planned coffee shop and restaurant The Freshman, at 2011 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, could open in a few months after being in the works for a little over two years.

Owner Nick Freshman told ARLnow that he’s looking at opening The Freshman sometime in April or May, though no date is set in stone yet.

A limited version of the restaurant had opened as a pop-up in Crystal City Shops in 2019 and all the signs of an impending opening were in place last year, but a plan to ride out the pandemic has been less feasible as the virus’s impacts continue to drag on. Freshman, who also owns Clarendon bar Spider Kelly’s, said he remains optimistic about a turn-around ahead.

“We are facing the same challenges to opening as so many others in the business, but we have been fortunate to be able to wait this out,” Freshman said. “I am optimistic that things are starting to turn a corner, but we are still a long ways away from a return to normalcy as far as dining out. I am hopeful that vaccinations will continue to increase in pace, and that along with Spring will make people feel safer about dining out.”

Vaccination numbers are on the rise in Arlington, but Freshman said the success of The Freshman is also partially contingent on a return of office workers to buildings around Crystal City, which may lag vaccinations by months.

“It sounds like it will be well into the Summer or even Fall before most people return to their offices, and that is a big part of our business model here in National Landing, but our style and product will appeal to the many residents who live here, and we hope to be able to serve them this Spring,” Freshman said. “In the meantime, it has been great to be able to serve a part of our community through our partnership with Hook Hall Helps.”

Hook Hall Helps is a relief program that has used The Freshman’s empty space as a hub for distributing care kits and family meals to hospitality workers in need.

“It was certainly not how I planned to open the doors to the restaurant, but we are a community-focused business, and there are people right here in the National Landing and Arlington community that are hurting,” Freshman said. “I feel very fortunate to be able to use the space to help in some way while we wait to serve the entire community.”

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Boston-based Tatte Bakery and Cafe is coming to fill a Baja Fresh-sized hole in Clarendon at 2805 Clarendon Blvd.

The company recently filed for a permit to build a new bakery within the existing building, adding new interior partitions and finishes throughout the facility.

Tatte Bakery and Cafe is a small bakery franchise with around 18 locations, mostly around Boston. The cafe offers pastries and desserts along with brunch and some dinner offerings, like maple chicken and potatoes.

Staff at Tatte Bakery’s lone D.C. location, at 1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW in the West End, said the Arlington location will open in July if all goes well with permitting and renovations. The Arlington location will have the same menu as the D.C. location.

The bakery will be on the southeast corner of the block being redeveloped as Market Common Clarendon Phase 2.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt. Photo via Google Maps.

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Meridian Pint Owner Taps Out

After several difficult months for Meridian Pint (6035 Wilson Blvd), owner John Andrade said an opportunity came along to sell the business and he took it.

The bar in Dominion Hills was part of a small, pint-sized franchise when it opened in 2019, but the Columbia Heights location in D.C. closed as part of the move to Arlington. Smoke & Barrel, another Andrade restaurant in Adams Morgan, closed late last year. Brookland Pint in D.C. remains open.

“It is with heavy heart I announce I am no longer the principal owner of Meridian Pint,” Andrade said in a post on Facebook this week. “This past year presented fiscal challenges that were difficult to survive. And although Meridian Pint and its staff received heroic and loyal support from our incredible Arlington neighbors, ultimately, Meridian Pint was simply unprepared financially to keep operating to a level that the community and our amazing staff deserves.”

Andrade has launched a GoFundMe in January to help cover expenses for the staff. The fundraiser ultimately raised $3,560.

“Recently, the opportunity was presented to pass the torch on to an organization better prepared to carry on the legacy of Meridian Pint,” Andrade said. “The decision was tough but obvious. I am pleased to tell you that under new management, Meridian Pint will now begin its next chapter in Arlington, ready to serve you everything you have come to love, only better.”

No information about the new owners was immediately available.

“I hope that you will support this next phase in the story of our neighborhood gathering place along with me,” Andrade said. “You will continue to see me at ‘The Oldest Bar in Dominion Hills’ regularly. Except from now on, I’ll be on the customer side of the bar. It has truly been my greatest pleasure and honor in serving you.”

The run of bad luck for the bar didn’t end with the sale announcement, however.

Early in the morning, the day after the announcement, a burglar reportedly broke into the bar. According to a police report, an unknown suspect forced entry into the business early Wednesday morning, caused damage to the bar and stole a cash box.

Andrade confirmed that it was Dominion Pint that was burglarized, saying that he thinks the break-in was part of a string of burglaries occurring in the area.

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After nearly seven years in South Arlington, the Maserati dealership at 2710 S. Glebe Road has closed its doors.

The dealership — located on a property that had earlier been home to seafood seller M. Slavin & Sons — is currently completely empty, with only Maserati and Alfa Romeo branding and an ironic “Now Open” sign.

The dealership began selling Fiats in 2016 and built a new, expanded facility the following year.

An employee at Maserati of Tysons (8448 Leesburg Pike) confirmed that the Arlington location closed and the Fairfax County location is now the closest Maserati dealer for Arlington residents.

The property, adjacent to I-395, may retain an automotive-related use, however. ARLnow hears that Tesla is considering leasing the building.

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The Mount Salvation Baptist Church cemetery — which served as the final resting place Black Arlingtonians denied access to white graveyards — could be granted a historic district designation by the Arlington County Board.

As part of the consent agenda at its Jan. 23 meeting, the County Board approved advertisement of public hearings to review the designation of the cemetery at 1961 N. Culpeper Street at the Monday, Feb. 8 Planning Commission meeting and at the Saturday, Feb. 20 County Board meeting.

“There are many community members in this church and I’ve been there to listen and pay respects,” said County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti. “This is historic preservation done well to help us remember our African-American community and history. The final resting places in this burial ground, it’s important for us to recognize this for historic preservation.”

The Mount Salvation Baptist Church congregation has gathered in the Halls Hill/High View Park neighborhood since the first church was constructed on the property in 1892. That church was later demolished with a replacement church build in 1975. The earliest marked burial at the cemetery was a woman named Helen Thompson in 1916, but a staff report on the cemetery said there are likely older, unmarked graves on the plot dating back to the church’s founding. There are a total of 89 confirmed burials at the site.

“There are two other historic African American cemeteries in Arlington County that are designated as local historic districts: most of Lomax African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Cemetery in Green Valley and Calloway United Methodist Cemetery in Hall’s Hill,” a staff report said.

The report noted that Mount Salvation Baptist Church was as much of a social gathering place for Black Arlingtonians in the late 19th century and early 20th century as it was a religious institution.

Both the trustees of the church and Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board support the designation.

Part of the designation could also open the way to a barrier around the cemetery to limit pedestrian through-traffic.

“Church trustees have expressed a desire to discourage casual pedestrian traffic through the cemetery,” the report said. “The installation of a permanent fence around the cemetery would deter such activity; recommendations for appropriate fencing types are included in the accompanying proposed Mount Salvation Baptist Cemetery Local Historic District Design Guidelines.”

Image via Arlington County

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For Jeff Grass, CEO and Chairman of Ballston-based startup HUNGRY, a food distribution event in Arlington yesterday (Wednesday) had a bittersweet flavor to it.

While the company was able to prepare 6,000 hot meals for people in need at a drive-thru food distribution event at Central United Methodist Church (4201 Fairfax Drive) near its headquarters, it’s also a painful reminder that nearly one year after a global pandemic began, many Americans face a food accessibility crisis.

“On the one hand, it makes you feel good to be able to do something and it was nice to see how appreciative people are,” Grass said, “but seeing so many people coming by and needing a free meal highlights just how big and prevalent the challenge is. We’re Arlington, one of the richest counties in the country, and yet so many people are in need of food assistance.”

The company was able to distribute most of the 6,000 prepared meals in an event that ran from 1:30-3 p.m., and the remaining couple hundred that were left over were given to a local shelter.

Grass said he didn’t have an estimate on how many people attended the food drive, saying “it was car after car,” but that the company mostly limited the meals to ten per vehicle. HUNGRY had no protocols set up to screen for income levels, saying that anyone who showed up the the event was considered in sufficient need of a meal.

The handful of nicer vehicles, Grass said, were also a reminder of how much the pandemic had turned some lives upside down.

“I didn’t feel like it was up to us to challenge people,” Grass said. “Some people did drive up in nice vehicles, but everybody’s got their own challenges and stories, and everybody seemed to really appreciate it.”

The food distribution events had the added benefit of supporting the local chefs using the platform, particularly catering chefs who were some of the earliest victims of local business impacts.

“We’re in late January, past the holidays, it felt like the right time to do it,” Grass said.

It was the second major food donation initiative in January for the company. The first was a food delivery operation last week to National Guard troops posted in D.C. for presidential inauguration security following the riot at the Capitol earlier this month.

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As a large Arlington estate nears a potential demolition, a local historic preservation group is fighting to have the estate’s main house saved.

The Febrey-Lothrop Estate — also known as the Rouse estate — is a 9-acre site at 6407 Wilson Blvd, near Arlington’s western border with Fairfax County. On it sits a more than 100-year-old home that has housed prominent business figures and celebrities over the years.

With a demolition permit application pending, a local nonprofit hopes that the county government can intervene and preserve the building.

“Over the past 150 years, the Febrey-Lothrop Estate has graced the Upton Hill neighborhood of Arlington,” the Arlington Historical Society (AHS) said in a letter recently sent to the County Board. “Despite war, twentieth-century alterations, and major development of the neighborhood, the manor home and grounds remain a proud, historically significant Arlington landmark.”

The original home on the property was built before the Civil War and once hosted a Union encampment and hospital. The property later became residence of Alvin Lothrop, co-founder of Woodward & Lothrop Department Store; Howard Hughes; and most recently businessman Randolph Rouse and his wife, Honeymooners actress Audrey Meadows.

According to an application for a historical district to protect the home from demolition, filed last year against the wishes of the estate of its late owner, the original home was destroyed and replaced by the current colonial revival-style house in 1907. The Arlington Historical Society, however, says portions of the original home and subsequent additions are likely still part of the building.

“Given the historical significance of the Febrey-Lothrop House, the Arlington Historical Society believes the property must be saved for future generations,” AHS said in the letter. “With requests for demolition permits already in the pipeline, AHS feels an urgent need to prevent harm coming to the Estate.”

The organization requested that the County Board and County Manager issue cease and desist orders, preempting the proposed demolition. AHS also requested that the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board quickly recommend approval an application for Local Historic District designation and forward the designation to the County Board for approval.

The county has already listed the site for potential conversion into a public park in the Parks Master Plan (page 162), though so far it remains owned by Rouse’s estate. The historic district application notes that the property “is extremely attractive to developers for townhouse, condo, single family home, and retail commercial establishments,” due to its large size.

“Over the past 15 years, Arlington has lost many historically and architecturally important buildings to the wrecking ball,” AHS wrote in its letter to the County Board. “Let’s not let another gem go unprotected.”

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