Arlington, VA

After months of debate on its fate, Arlington County has made the decision to permanently shutter Fire Station 7 in Fairlington.

County Manager Mark Schwartz made the call to close the station following recommendations from both the Arlington County Fire Department and the Arlington Department of Environmental Services, per a press release.

“This was not an easy decision, because we know the community has had a special relationship with Fire Station 7 — affectionately known as “The Little House” — and its personnel for more than half a century,” Schwartz said a statement.

According to the release, there would only be room for one emergency vehicle if the county were to renovate the station — which goes against the county’s latest fire station design standards for housing multiple vehicles.

Additionally, the renovated station would not have enough space to meet proper health and safety standards.

“Asking taxpayers to pay for rebuilding a station that doesn’t move us forward in meeting our community’s growing needs would not be fiscally responsible,” Schwartz said.

The station, located 3116 S. Abingdon Street in the middle of the mostly residential Fairlington neighborhood, shut down last October after fire personnel heard “creaking noises” in the station’s ceiling and it was deemed structurally unsafe. Its status was  “temporarily closed” until yesterday (Thursday).

During an audit meeting in August regarding the use of overtime in the fire department, County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey noted that 60 percent of the station’s runs were to Alexandria and Fairfax, given its location in the county’s southwestern tip.

The county is still in the early stages of scouting for a site for a new fire station to serve Columbia Pike. Schwartz recently suggested that the eastern end of Columbia Pike would be a desirable location.

In lieu of Fire Station 7, county officials say the following stations will help serve the Fairlington area:

  • Fire Station 9: 1900 S. Walter Reed Drive, Arlington
  • Fire Station 203: 2801 Cameron Mills Road, Alexandria
  • Fire Station 206: 4609 Seminary Road, Alexandria
  • Fire Station 410: 3601 Firehouse Lane, Bailey’s Crossroads (Fairfax)

Arlington County is “developing a process to determine future use” of the Fire Station 7 site, the press release says. It will not be used for fire department purposes, an ACFD spokesman told ARLnow.

The full press release is below, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Heavy Seas Alehouse to Close — “Heavy Seas Alehouse, the restaurant affiliated with the Baltimore-area brewery, will close its doors in Rosslyn by the end of October, one of its principals said Thursday. The restaurant plans to close Oct. 27, said Mike Morris, a partner in Monogram Hospitality, which operates Heavy Seas Alehouse.” [Washington Business Journal]

Real Estate Costs Going Down? — “In every major jurisdiction of the local area, the median per-square-foot price for housing for the January-through-September period declined, in many cases by double digits, according to new figures reported Oct. 11… Arlington led all local jurisdictions for the nine-month period, but its median per-square-foot cost of $436 was down 6.8 percent from $468.” [InsideNova]

Kaine to Talk Vaping at Arlington School — “On Friday, October 18, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will hold a roundtable discussion on efforts to address the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use. The discussion at Montessori Public School of Arlington will include students, teachers, counselors, parents, health experts, and Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.” [Press Release]

Road Closures for Festival in Shirlington — “The Shirlington Shucktoberfest, sponsored by the Copperwood Tavern, will take place on Saturday, October 19, 2019 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.  Set up will begin at approximately 6:00 a.m. and cleanup should be completed by 7:00 p.m. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures…” [Arlington County]

Arlington Woman’s Alleged Killer Charged — “The killer of Pamela Butler, a Washington, D.C., federal worker who disappeared before Valentine’s Day in 2009, has been charged in the 1989 death of his wife. Marta Haydee Rodriguez-Cruz disappeared from Arlington, Virginia, in 1989. Her remains were found along Interstate 95 in Stafford County in 1991 but weren’t positively identified until 2018. Her husband, Jose Angel Rodriguez-Cruz, also dated Butler for a time.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Man Convicted in Child Sex Sting — “An Arlington man is among more than 300 people arrested worldwide in connection with a website that authorities describe as the largest child sexual exploitation operation of its kind ever discovered in terms of the volume of content. Ammar Atef H. Alahdali, 22, pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to receipt of child pornography and was sentenced to serve five years in prison and ordered to pay $3,000 in restitution.” [Patch]

Nearby: Birding Store Near Fairlington Closing — “After 33 years, birding and nature store One Good Tern (1710 Fern Street) near Fairlington is closing as longtime owner Charles Studholme faces a grim kidney failure diagnosis.” [ALXnow]

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The Arlington County Board may soon move forward on the plan to redevelop the Fire Station 8.

The County Board is scheduled to vote on awarding several contracts for the project to replace the Hall’s Hill fire station with a new, 15,000-square-foot facility during their meeting next Tuesday, October 22.

The station, located at 4845 Lee Highway, has been slated for a facelift for years, with the Board approving a $1.1 million contract to begin the design and planning process this past winter.

Next week, members will consider awarding a contract for the design of the temporary station used while Station 8 is under construction to Reston architecture firm LeMay Erickson Wilcox — the same firm tapped for designing the permanent Fire Station 8.

On Tuesday, Board members will also vote on awarding another contract to D.C.-based construction MCN Build, Inc. to build the new station. The exact amount of the contract has not yet been posted on the county website.

Plans for building the temporary station called for knocking down two homes at 2211 and 2215 N. Culpeper Street — demolition work that began last fall. The homes have been earmarked for use as a staging station area for the first responders since the county purchased the land for $1.6 million three years ago.

This year, the station celebrated its 100th anniversary, marking the legacy of the station which was the firehouse in segregated Arlington serving the historically African-American Hall’s Hill neighborhood — which itself was walled off from a neighboring, white neighborhood until the 1960s.

Originally, the fire department asked to relocate the new station further north to keep response times low in residential portions of far northern Arlington. However, the Board voted to keep the new station on the same site in 2016 in anticipation of more development along Lee Highway, pleasing the retired first responders who had worked at Station 8.

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(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) The county could soon spend up to $5.5 million to replace the Arlington County Justice Center’s old heating system, which is now in need of “constant repairs,” per officials.

The Arlington County Board is poised to vote on the replacement during its meeting this Saturday, October 19. The 13-story Courthouse complex at 1425 and 1435 N. Courthouse Road includes local courts, Arlington County Police Department headquarters, the Arlington County jail, and the the Sheriff’s Office.

“The primary intent of this contract is to replace a total of (6) six boilers and (4) four domestic hot water tanks that have reached the end of their useful lives and are in constant repairs,” staff wrote in a report to the Board.

Since 2016, the county has spent $300,000 on trying to fix the six boilers, according to Peter Golkin, head spokesman of the Department of Environmental Services.

Crews are also expected to fix the Building Automation System which “controls at the Justice Center with energy efficient equipment and for redundancy” as well as a dishwasher in the kitchen of the Arlington County Detention Facility, per the report.

The Board will vote on awarding the $5 million HVAC contract to Pittsburgh-based construction and services company Limbach Holdings, Inc. The company offered to do the work for about $1 million less the next closest contract bidder, Rockville-based mechanical contracting firm Shapiro & Duncan, Inc.

The Limbach contract up for Board review to includes $4,784,880 in base pay for the contractor, plus a change order contingency allocation of $717,732.

The staff report states that the repair work “will not impact the functionality of the building for staff or public.”

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The Arlington County Board is set to consider a developer request to get rid of a little pathway in Crystal City to make room for a new construction site.

Developer LCOR Inc. is offering the county $125,436 to nix a small pedestrian pathway near S. Eads Street near the Crystal City-Pentagon City border. The county’s vacation of the pathway will allow LCOR’s Verizon site project on 1400 11th Street S. to move forward.

County Board members are scheduled to vote on the request during their meeting this Saturday, October 19.

The land itself is a 469 square-foot, skinny strip next to S. Eads Street on the north side of the property, where LCOR is planning to build the service and loading entrances to the apartment building, per a site map the developer shared earlier this year.

Google Maps images from 2018 show pedestrians walking the paved strip, which bisects a grassy curb between S. Eads Street and the parking lot by a Verizon telecommunications facility.

“As of the date of this Board Report, staff has not received any negative feedback related to the Street Vacation from the surrounding property owners,” a county staff report to the Board notes.

Verizon is slated to keep its facility onsite as LCOR constructs a 19-story, 306-unit apartment building with 10,908 square feet of ground floor retail on the property.

The developer increased the number of planned apartments this spring from 280 to 306 after Amazon announced that its second headquarters will be built nearby.

If the county agrees to sell the strip of land to LCOR, the developer would need to develop a plan for any utilities that cross the parcel. The firm bought the land from Verizon for $9.5 million last summer, and said it hoped to begin construction by 2020.

Images via Arlington County and Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Windy Day on Tap — After a windy night, more gusty winds are expected today. The gusts are expected to reach up to 40 miles per hour locally. [Twitter]

Lions Club Seeks County Lot for Xmas Tree Sale — “Christmas is coming early for the South Arlington Lions Club. Arlington County Board members on Oct. 19 are expected to allow, for the second year in a row, the service organization to use county-government property on South Four Mile Run Drive for its annual Christmas-tree sale.” [InsideNova]

Local Affordable Housing Group Expanding — “A leading affordable housing nonprofit in Arlington County is expanding its operations into Montgomery County, another sign of a growing regional focus on preserving or producing homes that lower-earning residents can afford.” [Washington Post, Press Release]

Earthquake Drill Today — “Participate in the world’s largest earthquake drill [today] at 10:17 a.m… Go to the lowest floor of the building, drop to your hands/knees, cover your head w/your arm, and hold on to shelter.” [Twitter]

VDOT Studying Changes to Route 50 West of Arlington — “The Virginia Department of Transportation is holding a public information meeting Monday, Oct. 21 on a study of potential safety and operational improvements for three miles of Route 50 (Arlington Boulevard) between Jaguar Trail and Wilson Boulevard.” [VDOT]

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Arlington County is looking for more feedback on altering a section of Four Mile Run Trail and replacing the tennis courts at Bluemont Park, among other proposed changes.

“The goal of this Parks Maintenance Capital project is to replace the tennis court complex, lighting, restroom/storage, shelter, parking lot, site circulation, section of Four Mile Run Trail, site furnishing, drainage and landscaping in the Upper Bluemont area,” noted the county on its webpage for the project.

People are invited to attend a public meeting to share their thoughts and hear about the county’s goals on Tuesday, October 29 from 7-8:30 p.m. at Ashlawn Elementary School (601 N. Manchester Street.)

In addition to overhauling the tennis courts, shelter area, and the trail, Arlington is also aiming to make the new designs compliant with newer disability accessibility standards.

County staff began soliciting feedback online for the project back in June. The results from survey indicate that almost 40% of respondents frequently visit the park and that the tennis courts (which 45% of survey respondents reported using) and the trails (used by 75% of respondents) are among the most popular amenities.

The survey drew around 350 responses when it asked for suggestions on what should be changed in the park. The majority of responses asked the county to:

  • Preserve and plant more trees
  • Resurface the tennis courts to fix cracks and improve drainage
  • Improve lighting, and add more light poles near the baseball diamond
  • Install more benches at the tennis courts and elsewhere
  • Better maintain the restrooms and water fountains by the picnic shelter.

“Drainage has been a major problem this past year, with all the rain,” one resident wrote in a survey response. “The open space has had times when it was an impassable marsh.”

Several respondents asked the county to address stormwater runoff concerns with trees, more pervious surfaces, and underground drainage features.

Part of the park and the area around it lie within the floodplain around Four Mile Run. It was one of the areas hit by this summer’s flash flood, prompting the county to close the park’s picnic shelter at the time.

Other suggestions from residents included adding a pickleball court and a Capital Bikeshare station, plus replacing grassy areas with native pollinator plants and adding bee hives to the park — à la the county’s growing urban agriculture moment.

Other respondents opposed the proposed changes, however, with one resident asking the county to make no changes.

“The area in question is perfectly serviceable and Arlington can spend the money better in other areas,” the person said.

The renovation discussion comes two years after the county finished a contested retrofit of the park’s baseball field with new sod, equipment, and fencing, with several residents saying they had concerns about the fencing part of the project and the lack of public input as a whole in the process.

Funding for the new renovations is slated to be included in an upcoming Capital Improvement Plan budget.

Draft designs are expected to be presented at two additional public meetings scheduled this fall before renovations move forward next year, per the county’s website.

Images 1, 4 via Arlington County 

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The Arlington County Zoning Committee (ZOCO) is recommending the county open up more areas for potential use as elder care facilities.

During a meeting last night (Tuesday), ZOCO urged the county permit elder care facilities across 18 zoning districts, citing a growing elderly population and prohibitive restrictions on where such facilities can currently be built. The loosened regulations would let developers build nursing homes, assisted living facilities, independent living facilities, and continuing care retirement communities.

“This limitation on potential sites and development standards has become a barrier to licensed residential care facilities seeking to locate in Arlington,” said Nick Rogers, zoning amendment coordinator with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

Last night, Rogers presented interim results of the county’s study of ways to build more senior housing, particularly in places like Rosslyn, Crystal City, and along Columbia Pike.

“Elder care facilities are an appropriate use for zoning districts which already permit multifamily development,” he said.

There are more than 35,000 Arlington residents above the age of 60, according to a county staff report.

“This represents 14% of the County’s population, and this percentage is expected to grow in the coming decades,” the report notes. “Across the nation, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older by 2030.”

That growing older population will need places to live that support their needs.

“Arlington is really behind in housing for older people and more assisted living facilities are definitely needed,” said Joan McDermott, a former member of the Arlington Commission on Aging, during an October 7 community forum.

There are currently 12 elderly residential care facilities in Arlington, all built before 2013 — when the county tightened zoning regulations, effectively limiting elder care facilities to a handful of smaller spaces meant for hospitals. The most recent facility is Mary Marshall Assisted Living, which opened in the Penrose neighborhood in 2011 and is funded by the county.

Developer Artis Senior Living submitted a site plan earlier this year to build a six-story, senior living facility along the 4300 block of Lee Highway. The plans stalled after the site turned out to be outside the county’s few areas designated in 2013 for elder care facilities, leading the developer request an exemption to move forward with the project.

A representative from the McLean-based company was present during the October community meeting on the issue but declined to comment.

During the community forum, residents were asked to place stickers on a map indicating where they would like to see future elder care housing. The blue dots were dispersed across the the county, with the biggest clusters of dots stuck to the Courthouse and Bluemont areas.

The zoning expansion is scheduled for review with the county’s Planning Commission in December, before reaching the dais of the Arlington County Board later that month.

Photo (1) via sunriseseniorliving.com

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Morning Notes

Arlington Rooftop Bar Reopens — After being shut down by county building inspectors, Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill in Courthouse reopened Tuesday evening, just in time to watch the Nationals sweep the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS, to advance to the first World Series in D.C. since 1933. [Twitter]

Housing Still Hot Near HQ2 — “The median sale price for all home types in the 22202 [zip code, which includes the Pentagon City and Crystal City area] jumped nearly 40% in September compared with the same time last year, reaching $685,000… That makes it nine straight months of home price appreciation for the 22202 area. Arlington County as a whole saw a modest 12% year-to-date increase, $590,000 for all home types.” [Washington Business Journal]

Retail Job Fair Next Week — “Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, Washington D.C.’s international shopping destination, invites job seekers to attend its Retailer Job Fair on Tuesday, October 22. From 11 a.m.-7 p.m., candidates can visit the Metro and First Levels to pick up applications, meet with store representatives and apply onsite.” [Press Release]

DCA Fee to Help Pay for Expansion Project — “Project Journey, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’s $1 billion capital improvement effort well underway at Reagan National Airport, will be paid for in part by airline passengers. At its meeting Wednesday, the MWAA board will be asked to approve the submission of a new Passenger Facility Charge application… The $4.50 fee is collected by airlines as part of their airfare and remitted to the airport of origin.” [Washington Business Journal]

Caps Dogs Star in Arlington Photoshoot — “In the 2020 Capitals Canine Calendar, you will see 12 months of Washington ice hockey players posing with dogs of all sizes, ages and bark levels… There was plenty of four-legged mischief during the October shoot at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex in Arlington.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Nearby: New Restaurant in Arlandria — “The new Taqueria Senora Lola is now open at 3901 Mount Vernon Avenue in Arlandria. Owner Oswaldo Salinas said the restaurant — adjacent to Salinas’ other eatery, Lilian’s Restaurant, opened two weeks ago and had a grand opening event this past Saturday.” [ALXnow]

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Arlington County Police are investigating a shooting in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood.

The shooting happened shortly before 7:30 p.m. tonight (Tuesday) on the 3200 block of 24th Street S. — the same block as the Lucky Seven Food Mart.

After responding to a report of a shooting, police say a man was brought to a local hospital “with injuries that are considered non-life-threatening.” There was no immediate word on the circumstances that led to the shooting.

Update at 3:35 p.m. on 10/17/19 — Police have released an updated press release about the shooting, below.

UPDATE (October 17, 2019) – The preliminary investigation indicated that the suspect and victim were engaged in a dispute, during which the suspect discharged his firearm. Police identified the suspect as Joshua Hueston, 23, of Arlington, Va. He was taken into custody, without incident, by Arlington County Police on the evening of October 16. Hueston is charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon and Discharging a Firearm in a Public Place. He is being held without bond at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a shooting that took place on the evening of October 15, 2019 in the Green Valley neighborhood.

At approximately 7:25 p.m., police were dispatched to the area of 24th Road S. at Shirlington Road for the report of a possible gunshot heard. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male victim suffering from a gunshot wound in the 3200 block of 24th Street S. and immediately began rendering aid. The victim was transported by medics to an area hospital with injuries that are considered non-life-threatening.

The factors that preceded the incident remain under investigation. Anyone with information and/or home surveillance that may assist the investigation is asked to contact Detective J. Senn of the Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4049 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Map via Google Maps. Video courtesy Matthew Young.

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Arlington officials are asking Amazon to go back to the drawing board for its proposed headquarters in Pentagon City to put a greater emphasis on sustainability.

The 2.1 million-square-foot proposed office complex at the corner of 15th Street S. and S. Eads Street, is currently pending review by Arlington’s Planning Commission and County Board. If plans are finalized on schedule by the end of 2019, demolition is due to start early next year, according to JBG Smith’s Vice President of Development Matt Ginivan, with excavation then lasting through the end of the year.

In early 2021, the developer expects to start constructing the 22-story-tall building, with the goal of being ready to house Amazon’s growing workforce by early 2023.

It’s not easy being green 

As part of the construction, Amazon Vice President of Global Real Estate John Schoettler announced during a Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) meeting last night (Monday) that HQ2 would seek a LEED Platinum energy certification instead of its lower, original Gold goal.

“We are working to secure renewable energy for the campus which means our Arlington buildings will operate on 100% renewable energy by 2030,” said Schoettler.

SPRC members commended Amazon for the new goal but pressed the company for more details on how it would meet the carbon emissions reduction targets. Previously, the company’s designs were scored on the lower end of LEED’s Gold efficiency ranking.

SPRC members also asked how Amazon would avoid use of fossil fuels, particularly in its restaurant spaces.

Brian Earle, a principal at ZGF Architects, said Amazon was committed to forgoing natural gas in its kitchens and cafeterias, but admitted they didn’t “see a path towards having a life safety [electric] generator that meets the county’s requirements that does not use fossil fuels.”

Schoettler added that Amazon was planning to build off-site renewable energy facilities like solar or wind farms elsewhere in Virginia to power the buildings with renewable energy and off-set the impact of fossil fuels.

One SPRC member, however, cited the case of how Georgetown University’s off-site solar energy production plan was blocked after concerns that it required clear-cutting 240 acres of trees in Maryland.

“That might make us feel very virtuous, but we have to be very cautious about how we produce that off-site energy,” she said of off-site renewables.

Another part of the HQ2 plan involves the landscaping of the site itself, which is slated to include gardens, a dog park, and terraces on the multi-step grooves.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently pledged his company would achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 and that Amazon was “going to work very hard with the community [in Arlington] to make sure our presence there ends up being a net positive, rather than a net negative.”

Arlington officials also recently passed a new energy policy committing the county to carbon neutrality by 2050.

Another protected bike lane, what about electric vehicle parking?

SPRC member and Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt urged Amazon to nix some of its parking spaces, saying: “I think your parking is a far greater blemish on your sustainability than whether there’s a wood-burning fireplace in the staff lounge.”

Other members of the SPRC focused on the nexus of sustainability and transit asked Amazon to expand the percentage of parking spaces reserved for electric vehicles. The recommendation follows the county’s new energy plan predicting more people will drive electric cars in the next thirty years — a trend backed by Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent investment to expand the number of charging stations available statewide.

Amazon’s current designs set aside about 2% — or about 40 spaces — of its 1,968 total parking spaces for electric vehicles.

“Why not push for 10%?” asked one SPRC member.

There was at least one big win for non-car transportation last night. Following repeated calls from activists, Amazon announced it would build a protected bike lane on 15th Street S. along the length of the Metropolitan Park development, of which its headquarters is the final phase. That follow’s Amazon’s previous pledge to build a protected lane along S. Eads Street.

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