The following letter to the editor was submitted by Jim Whittaker, chairman of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
I am writing to express my support for Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and for its goals of ensuring that middle and lower income workers can continue to call Arlington home. Frankly, I am confused by the controversy that has been stirred up regarding the Plan. This plan is the logical extension of efforts that have been underway here for years to limit the loss of existing affordable housing units and to create some new ones. The plan is not radical, nor will it be sufficient to entirely stop the loss of affordable housing, but it presents a reasonable approach for stemming the tide.
I serve as Chairman of the Board of A-SPAN, and we are working hard to lift hundreds of our most vulnerable neighbors out of homelessness. To accomplish this we depend on the availability of affordable housing. In Arlington the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1,700 per month and rising. When one of our veteran or other homeless clients qualifies for a VA or HUD housing voucher we must find a willing landlord and an apartment that rents for $1,300 per month or less. While these are becoming harder to find, the plan before the County Board gives us hope that enough units will be available for us to achieve our goal of ending chronic homelessness in Arlington.
It’s not good for anyone to leave our homeless neighbors on the streets. It’s also expensive. A recent American Medical Association study found that homeless individuals cost a community about $45,000 per person per year in police, court, and hospital costs. We can provide housing and other services to that person for about $22,000, improve their health, and in many cases get them back into the workforce.
We have learned how to solve the problem of homelessness. But, we need Arlington to adopt the Affordable Housing Master Plan so that when A-SPAN clients are ready for housing there’s an affordable apartment available for them.
Chairman, A-SPAN Board of Directors
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected]. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.
ITT Tech Protest Only Included One Student — A protest outside ITT Tech’s shareholder meeting in Rosslyn earlier this week reportedly included only one person who had actually been a student at the for-profit school. The rest were from advocacy groups and a labor union. [Inside Higher Ed]
New Food Delivery Service Comes to Arlington — DoorDash, an online food delivery business that promises to get food to your door in 45 minutes or less, has launched in Arlington. DoorDash joins similar food delivery services like Seamless and Eat24 in entering the Arlington market. [WUSA 9]
Arlington Teacher Recognized at the White House — Arlington Career Center teacher Thomas O’Day was one of 10 educators nationwide to be honored as a 2015 Career and Technical Education Innovator. O’Day, who has been teaching television production at the career center for 27 years, received his recognition at an event hosted by the White House. [Arlington Public Schools]
New Affordable Housing Video — The group Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) is producing a series of videos in support of affordable housing efforts in Arlington. The first video profiles Marcos Rubio, a janitor at H-B Woodlawn who currently commutes from the Springfield area. [Vimeo]
House Fire in Alcova Heights — A small house fire broke out on the 3800 block of 6th Street S. in the Alcova Heights neighborhood around 7:00 this morning. The fire was extinguished and no one was hurt. [Twitter]
Fairfax County Approves Seven Corners Plan — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this week approved a sweeping redevelopment plan for the Seven Corners area, near Arlington. The plan, which was fought by residents in nearby single family home neighborhoods, calls for several thousand new homes, a revamped street grid and new shops and restaurants. [Washington Post]
Arlington County has released a series of public service announcement videos touting the benefits of affordable housing.
The 30-second “Faces of Affordable Housing” videos were created in advance of hearings scheduled for September on the county’s proposed Affordable Housing Master Plan. The draft plan calls for the creating of 15,800 new affordable housing units by 2040.
The videos, which were published on YouTube and will air on the county-run Arlington TV cable channel, include the tagline, “Affordable housing, a foundation for our future.”
The video above is intended to show how the county’s affordable housing program “creates community and helps people age in place. Other videos show how the program:
A newly-formed citizens group is raising questions about the Affordable Housing Master Plan, the County’s plan to address the need for more affordable housing.
The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD), which currently has around 70 members, is concerned with the geographic distribution of affordable housing units and the effect affordable housing has on Arlington Public Schools.
The County Board has set public hearings on the housing plan before the Board and the Planning Commission in September to allow for more public comment. The plan, as proposed, calls for the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040, bringing the total to 22,800 units or 17.7 percent of the total housing stock in Arlington.
For CARD, the question is not the amount of affordable housing, but where it is placed in Arlington. There are large discrepancies in where affordable housing units are located, leading to socioeconomic segregation, said Joye Murphy, a founding member of CARD.
Murphy points to neighborhoods along Columbia Pike — particularly the western end of the Pike — that feed into Randolph Elementary School. In some neighborhoods along the Pike, the county set of a target of having 15 percent of their housing available as affordable housing. However, the neighborhoods exceeded that target and have about 38 percent of its housing affordable, Murphy said.
At the same time, she said, some North Arlington neighborhoods have failed to reach their targets.
One of CARD’s aims is to have affordable housing across the county, not just in specific sectors. By spreading affordable housing, there will be more diversity in Arlington’s neighborhoods, which will benefit all Arlington residents, said Maura McMahon, another founding member of CARD.
“CARD’s goals are for responsible development in Arlington that fosters socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods and schools so that all Arlingtonians can benefit from what Arlington has to offer: top schools, efficient transportation systems, quality recreational facilities and parks, etc.,” McMahon said. “We believe every individual and every child should be afforded an equal opportunity to achieve his/her potential.”
The current targets for the amount of affordable housing units that should exist in each neighborhood are not referenced in the new plan, Murphy said. It only lists distributing housing units throughout the county as one of its goals.
The targets allowed for accountability, said Dedra Curteman, a CARD founding member.
“The primary fault with the master plan as written is it doesn’t call for targets for geographic distribution,” Curteman said.
Without the targets for each neighborhood, affordable housing developers could theoretically place most of the new affordable housing units in specific areas of the county instead of throughout Arlington.
“I worry that the targets were deleted because they shot past the targets in many areas,” Curteman said.
CARD wants County Board members to include tools and specifics in the housing plan to ensure geographic distribution. The group plans to send a letter with their recommendations to the County in the next week, Murphy said.
The county is replacing the targets with three different ways to address affordable housing, said County Board Chair Mary Hynes.
“The plan really has three buckets that the Board would be using to achieve affordable housing,” Hynes said.
The first is preserving existing units, the second is looking at bringing affordable housing to transit corridors and the third is to look at areas with many single-family homes to see where additional housing units could be added. Hynes said that CARD is right in saying that the county does not yet have the tools needed for the second and third buckets, but after the plan is adopted she hopes the county will work on developing these tools.
The targets also did not work as the county did not have the tools to bring affordable housing to each area according to the targets, Hynes added. A lack of available land and high costs could make building affordable housing in certain parts of the county particularly difficult.
CARD members say the lack of geographic distribution affects the Arlington Public Schools, as research has shown that having a large amount of children that need reduced or free lunches influences test and achievement scores.
“Housing policy is education policy,” Murphy said.
Arlington residents will be able to weigh in on the county’s proposal for more affordable housing before the County Board votes on the ambitious plan.
Arlington County will hold the hearings on Sept. 8 with the Planning Commission and Sept. 19 with the County Board.
“Ensuring that Arlington has housing affordable to folks at all incomes in all stages of life is one of the most important challenges facing our community,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “Whether we are seeking to attract businesses, helping Arlingtonians age in place or ensuring that residents who rent have the opportunity to grow roots, the preservation and creation of affordable housing is a necessary component of our long-term sustainability and vibrancy.”
The county’s plan includes the creation of 15,800 additional affordable housing units by 2040, bringing the total to 22,800 units or 17.7 percent of the total housing stock in Arlington.
The county currently has 7,000 committed affordable units (CAFs), which are bound to keep rents lower thanks in part to federal and/or local government subsidies. Affordable housing programs account for about 5 percent of Arlington County’s overall budget, excluding school funds.
In Arlington, housing is typically considered “affordable” for households that make less than 60 percent of the area’s median income (AMI), or $64,480. According to a press release from the county, only 9 percent of housing in Arlington is currently affordable to that group of residents.
“There is insufficient affordable housing to meet the demand of renters” with incomes below 60 percent of AMI, the county says.
As part of its Affordable Housing Master Plan, the county also plans to incentivize the creation of 2,700 moderately-priced homes that would be affordable to buy for those to those who make between 80 to 120 percent of the area median income.
Moderate income renters will not, however, see an increase in housing opportunities under the plan.
“The County’s current rental stock sufficiently serves both families, and single-person households, who have incomes above 80 percent of AMI,” the plan concludes. It thus envisions trying to preserve existing 60-80 percent AMI committed units while focusing on creating new committed units for sub-60 percent AMI residents.
While the additional housing would help low-income households in Arlington, the county also identified renters over 65 years old, families and racial and ethnic minorities as the target population for these affordable units.
The need for committed units to replace disappearing market-rate affordable units is particularly acute. A county study found that market rate units affordable for those under 60 percent AMI in Arlington may all but disappear by 2020.
Support for affordable housing among county policymakers is strong. Arlington’s housing efforts are generally supported by all five County Board members and each of the four candidates for County Board have expressed support for affordable housing programs to varying degrees at one point or another.
Some critics, however, contend that the county’s new plan is unrealistically expensive and will require considerable additional housing density and school capacity.
FIFA Movie Shown in Arlington — Arlington is home to one of ten theaters nationwide that showed a biopic about Sepp Blatter, the embattled president of FIFA who last week announced that he would be stepping down from the international soccer organization. The AMC Loews Shirlington 7 grossed $161 from “United Passions” as of Friday. Nationwide the film, which cost FIFA at least $25 million to produce, grossed only $607. [Washington Post]
Crystal City Hosts Car ‘Micro-Factory’ — Crystal City is currently home to the Local Motors Mobifactory, a car factory in a shipping container. The “micro-factory” uses 3D printing technology to produce prototype vehicles. The micro-factory plans to remain at 1900 Crystal Drive for the rest of the summer. A grand opening is planned for Thursday. [Tech.co]
GGW on Tomorrow’s Primary — Greater Greater Washington weighs in on which Democratic Arlington County Board candidates would be best for smart growth, transit, walking and bicycling. The Democratic primary will be held tomorrow. [Greater Greater Washington]
CivFed Backs Affordable Housing Plan — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted 47-29 to support Arlington County’s draft Affordable Housing Master Plan. The plan sets goals for affordable housing in the county and is several years in the making. The County Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on setting a public hearing for the plan. [InsideNova]
A Note on InsideNova Links — Normally, ARLnow.com warns readers of auto-play videos in articles that we link to in the Morning Notes. We have observed that InsideNova often hosts autoplay videos, with sound on, within its ad units. Because this doesn’t happen every time we visit, however, we will not include an auto-play video warning for these links. ARLnow.com believes that advertising should be local and relevant and should not purposefully interrupt or annoy readers. We hope that users who might use AdBlock Plus to block annoying ads from other publishers would whitelist our site so that we can continue to bring you interruption-free local news content and relevant messages from local advertisers.
The Arlington County Board approved measures to reduce the late fee for real estate tax payments, replace the turf field at Washington-Lee High School and grant a $6 million loan for affordable housing at its meeting on Saturday.
The County Board approved the proposal by Treasurer Carla de la Pava to reduce the late fee taxpayers are forced to pay from 10 percent to 5 percent, if taxes are paid within 30 days after the due date. Those who are more than 30 days late paying real estate taxes will continue to pay a 10 percent fee. The county estimates more than 1,000 residents will benefit from the fee reduction.
“Sometimes, people accidentally miss a real estate tax due date but make their payment a few days later — of their own accord and without collection action by the Treasurer. In these cases, I believe a 5 percent penalty is much more appropriate,” de la Pava said in a press release.
The County Board also approved a contract to replace the 10-year-old turf at Washington-Lee High School, spending $670,000 of the $1.6 million contract to install a new synthetic surface at high school. The turf had reached them end of its lifespan, according to county staff, after heavy use from students and the community. Construction on the turf — which will have an extra layer of padding to help prevent concussions — will start in June and is expected to wrap up in August, in time for fall sports.
Additionally on Saturday, the County Board approved a loan from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund to McCormack Baron Salazar, which owns and manages the Clarendon Court Apartments (3814 7th Street N.) near Virginia Square. The loan, for $5.7 million, helps pay MBS for renovating the apartment community and keeping rents at 60 percent of Area Median Income or lower until 2075.
“Ensuring that every transit corridor has a range of housing affordability is a key to Arlington’s long-term sustainability. A first step in achieving this goal is preserving our existing stock of affordable homes,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a release. “The investment in Clarendon Court Apartments, located in the busy R-B corridor, will not only secure the affordability of these homes for 60 years, but make them better places for our neighbors to live.”
Alleged Bank Robber Was Staying at Retirement Home — The FBI tracked down an accused bank robber in an Arlington on Friday thanks to his cell phone usage. The so-called Bicycle Bandit is accused of a dozen bank robberies, including a robbery in Alexandria just a few hours prior to his arrest. Investigators used phone records to figure out his identity. The suspect, Woosen Assaye, was staying at his father’s apartment at The Carlin retirement home at the time of his arrest. [NBC Washington – WARNING: Auto-play video]
Arlington Named Healthiest County in Va. — A new study has named Arlington County as the healthiest county in Virginia. Albemarle, Fairfax and Loudoun ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. [Associated Press]
Fehr Reads to Key Students — Washington Capitals player Eric Fehr read his new anti-bullying book to students at Key Elementary School yesterday. [NBC Washington – WARNING: Auto-play video]
Blue Line Issues — A Blue Line train suffering mechanical problems offloaded passengers at the Pentagon station this morning, causing overcrowding on the platform. [Twitter]
In 2000, 19,740 apartments owned by for-profit property owners in the county were affordable for someone making up to 60 percent of the region’s area median income, according to findings from the county’s three-year Affordable Housing Study. In 2013, there were 3,437 “MARKs,” as they’re called.
(“Affordable” is defined as costing less than 30 percent of a household’s income.)
If the trend holds, there will be a “negligible” amount around the county by 2020, according to Russell Danao-Schroeder, senior housing planner in the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
“If you just look at that chart [above], and if you do a trend line analysis projecting that out, it’s easy to see where that goes,” Danao-Schroeder said. “It crosses zero before 2020.”
That is the reality the Arlington County Board will grapple with as it works toward adopting an Affordable Housing Master Plan in July. The affordable housing study has completed its research and staff, along with the Affordable Housing Study Working Group, released findings and recommendations last month in a draft master plan.
While affordable, market-rate housing is drying up, the county could try to kick-start committed affordable housing development to balance the scales. The county currently has 6,731 committed affordable units (CAFs) rented or leasing, with another 220 being developed, less than 10 percent of total apartment stock.
The draft master plan sets a goal of making 17.7 percent of all housing units in the county affordable at 60 percent AMI. If county projections hold true, that would mean asking developers to build 15,800 CAFs in the next 25 years. Even Danao-Schroeder, who helped draft the plan, admitted the goal isn’t pragmatic.
“That 17.7 percent number is what we would need to have sufficient housing for households at all income levels,” he told ARLnow.com on Friday. “That’s an awful lot. It’s going to be hard to hit that, but that’s the mark that we need to aim for.”
Members of the County Board have time and again reaffirmed their commitment to affordable housing, and a county-run survey of Arlington residents indicates the community approves of the Board’s efforts. In 2012, the Board launched the study with a charge of creating “a shared community vision of Arlington’s affordable housing as a key component of our community sustainability.”
Proponents of affordable housing often say it’s necessary for Arlington to have places for people like teachers, policemen and firefighters to live within the county. However, according to a survey of 336 CAF residents — 5 percent of the county’s CAF population, “a fairly large sample size” Danao-Schroeder said — only 1.8 percent work in education. Of those respondents, none were Arlington teachers or classroom aides.
There is no data for public safety employees, CPHD staff said. If any live in CAFs, they would be among the 6.3 percent who responded “other” to the survey.
“Arlington County pays their teachers well and pays their public safety people well,” Danao-Schroeder said. “Other areas in other service sectors that we all depend upon in our daily lives are the primary clients and tenants of affordable units.”
The largest industry represented in CAFs is restaurant and food service at 16.7 percent. Construction workers account for 11 percent of CAF residents, with office workers like receptionists in third place at 9.2 percent, followed by taxi and other drivers at 8.3 percent.
The first two residential developments designed with the Columbia Pike neighborhoods form-based code were approved last night, bringing hundreds of new residences into the Pike’s development pipeline.
The Arlington County Board approved a 229-unit, eight-story affordable housing complex on the western end of Columbia Pike and 50 new townhouses to replace the historic George Washington Carver homes in Arlington View.
The Carver Homes were built in the 1940s for residents displaced by the construction of the Pentagon, and many of the families who lived there when it was built now own residences in the co-operative. While preservationists lament the loss of a piece of the county’s history, the residents urged the County Board to approve the development.
“I know first hand that our co-op has been deteriorating for many years,” Velma Henderson, a Carver Homes owner who has lived in the co-op for 68 of its 70 years in existence, told the Board. “Busted and frozen pipes, leaky roofs and crumbling foundations, to name a few… We have a long and proud history in Arlington, so it was important for Carver Homes to select a developer who had the vision and resources to create a high-quality development. This plan considers Carver Homes’ needs.”
The 44 units will be bulldozed and replaced with 50 townhouses, 23 of which will be duplexes. Six of the duplex units will be committed affordable units, and the developer, Craftmark Homes, also has agreed to build a public park on the property and extend S. Quinn Street through the parcel at the corner of S. Rolfe and 13th Streets.
As part of the redevelopment, the developer will place two historic markers on the property signifying its history. Arlington is also beginning to compile an oral history of the property, which will be available at Arlington Central Library when completed.
“My mother’s dream was that we would benefit from the sale of the property,” said James Dill, a co-op owner whose mother was displaced by the Pentagon construction. “We’ve been banking on it for 50 or 60 years that, at some point in time, Arlington County would grant us our piece of the American dream, and we’ve been holding firm on that.”
The County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment. County Board Chair Mary Hynes thanked the owners — who have been working to sell the property for most of the past decade — and the community for their patience. Board member Libby Garvey remarked that many of the residents were forced out of their homes in the 1940s for the Pentagon to be built, and the Board could, in a very small way, “right that wrong.”
“I think we’re really touching history,” Garvey said. “This was temporary housing 70 years ago. How much temporary housing lasts 70 years? So it’s time.”
The conversation surrounding the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing‘s proposal for its new affordable housing buildings next to its expansive Columbia Grove community on S. Frederick Street was quite different.
Dozens of speakers came out to speak on both sides of the issue, and public comment and Board deliberations lasted after midnight. Opponents, many of whom live close to the site, said there is too much concentration of affordable housing on the western end of Columbia Pike.
“Presently our community is home to about 18 affordable housing communities in the immediate area,” Erin Long, a homeowner in the Frederick Courts Condominiums across the street. “What’s become known as the western gateway node of Columbia Pike cannot sustain the affordable housing development as it’s planned.
“It’s clear that plan is for those units lost at the east end of the pike to be relocated to the west end,” she continued. “It’s absolutely inappropriate for every lost unit to be relocated to us. We deserve to benefit from the redevelopment of Columbia Pike, not serve as the repository for those displaced from other nodes.” (more…)
Two new residential buildings and a rebuilt substance-abuse recovery facility have been given the green light by the Arlington County Board.
The development, called Gables North Rolfe Street, will have 395 residential units and a public, 8,000-square-foot park featuring three mature oak trees. The developer, Gables Residential, will also tear down and construct a new building for Independence House, a transitional living facility for those recovering from substance abuse.
The complex will be located on the 1300 block of N. Rolfe Street, near Courthouse.
Thirty-nine of the units will be committed affordable housing and the developer also has the option to install a $75,000 work of public art on the site or donate to the county’s public art fund as a community benefit. The development was approved unanimously on Saturday.
“This redevelopment addresses some of the important priorities that the Fort Myer community identified in the Fort Myer Heights North Plan,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “It includes on-site affordable housing, brings a new public park to Fort Myer and preserves some beautiful, mature trees. Importantly, it also rebuilds Independence House, the County’s transitional living facility.”
Before approving the development, County Board members inquired about the option for a small, 1,000-square-foot community retail option in the site plan application, a provision the developer was initially hesitant to put in. Real estate attorney Evan Pritchard, representing Gables at the Board hearing, said they would be open to building a retail space if they can find the right vendor to operate a convenience store, serving the residents and park users.
“It remains to be seen, as we go forward with the project, whether it happens or not,” Pritchard said of the retail.
The construction is expected to take two years, and it would include building four levels of parking; two below-grade and two above-grade.
The Independence House would be rebuilt, but not expanded, because more residents might limit the program’s effectiveness. The new building will have 14 single-occupant units, which provides more flexibility with which users can join the program.
“The existing size is ideal for the group work that happens in the evenings, working on life skills and recovery,” county Department of Human Services substance abuse treatment supervisor Nancie Connolly told the Board. “The larger numbers of individuals would make it more institutional rather than transitional living, which has more independence.”
Only one public speaker — frequent Board critic Jim Hurysz — gave testimony at the Board hearing. The lack of speakers and issues with the proposal, which includes three parcels of county land and a number of community benefits, was “remarkable,” Hynes said.
(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is planning on building two, eight-story apartment buildings near the western end of Columbia Pike.
APAH is planning on replacing a surface parking lot at 1010 S. Frederick Street with the two buildings, which will contain 229 units of committed affordable housing. All of the units will be affordable up to 60 percent of area median income, with some units as low as 40 percent AMI.
To replace the surface parking, a three-level underground garage will be built.
The development is on this month’s agendas for the county’s planning and housing commissions, and is expected to go before the Arlington County Board at its meetings later this month. The project would be one of the first of its kind to go before the County Board under the Columbia Pike neighborhoods form-based code, approved in 2013.
Some in the community have expressed concern about a concentration of affordable housing on the western end of Columbia Pike, where this project is situated. County Board member John Vihstadt addressed some of those concerns at the Arlington Civic Federation meeting on Tuesday night.
“Certain people have concerns about an over-concentration [of affordable housing] on the west end of the Pike and not enough on the east end,” Vihstadt said. “It’s something that we’re going to have to come to grips with. I think we all want a mix of income in all neighborhoods as much as possible.”
APAH CEO Nina Janopaul told ARLnow.com that those concerns pale in comparison when compared to the concerns over the lack of affordable housing overall in the county. She said the civic association in which the new project is located, Columbia Forest, has lost 750 units of affordable housing in the last 15 years.
“The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan calls for preserving or replacing the 6,200 affordable units, most of which are market-rate affordable and vulnerable to redevelopment,” she said. “We need to take advantage of the moment now, when the interest rates are low, to build affordable housing that will still be there in 60 years.”
The development, if approved, would add the 229 affordable units right next to APAH’s expansive, 208-unit Columbia Grove apartments. Of those units — on the 8-acre, 14-building campus — 131 are committed affordable housing. Janopaul said the buildings are Columbia Forest’s only affordable housing “at all.”
The project, dubbed “Columbia Hills,” will cost an estimated $85 million, according to APAH’s application to the county. APAH is requesting the county contribute $18.5 million from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund, which, along with the form-based code application, the County Board is expected to debate granting this month.
APAH is also planning to submit a Low Income Housing Tax Credit application next month. If all goes as Janopaul hopes, the federal government would approve the loan in the first quarter of 2016, after which construction can begin.
Image (top) via Arlington County. Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
The church’s congregation voted in November 2013 to approve the church’s redevelopment into an affordable housing building with a 7,500-square-foot worship space for the church in future years. Last week, the National Capital Presbytery — the region’s governing body for presbyterian churches — approved the sale of the church building at 3507 Columbia Pike.
APAH must now gather financing and go through site plan approval from the county before the sale can close. According to church project manager Jill Norcross, the sale is expected to close in July 2016, which is also when the church’s congregation is expecting to need to find a new home.
“The congregation is thrilled,” Norcross said. “For them, it’s been quite a process, a multi-year visioning process where they’ve had to walk every step of the way. They’ve remained committed, so having the Presbytery approve it is a huge step for them, and they’re really excited about it. The next step is figuring out where they will worship when they leave the site.”
When the plans were approved more than a year ago, it was with the understanding that the new building would be the church’s future home when it opened. Now, Norcross said, APAH will own the land and the building outright, and the church and developer would have to agree on a new lease when the building is built, no sure thing.
“The church has given up any ownership stake in the building,” she said. “That’s what the Presbytery wanted. The church might come back as a tenant, but that’s still to be negotiated between now and 2016.”
APAH hopes to gain approval for a five-story, 142-unit apartment building with ground floor retail space originally intended for a coffee shop.
Preservationists have called for the building, which was built in 1931, to be preserved instead of torn down. The church decided the need for more affordable housing on Columbia Pike, and the opportunity to sell to APAH for millions of dollars, outweighed the idea of preserving the church and its rising maintenance costs.
“The affordable housing is desperately needed on the Pike,” Norcross said. The surprise cancellation of the streetcar did not have an impact on the congregation or the Presbytery’s decision, she said.
Preservation Arlington’s Eric Dobson said he hopes something can be done to preserve the church, because once Arlington’s older buildings are gone, “they’re gone for good.”
“That building was so important to the development of the Pike,” Dobson said. “The materials of the stone and its design… other communities would consider those assets, but in Arlington we seem to ignore that.”
Photo via Preservation Arlington
The Arlington County Board has scrapped the affordable housing-oriented “Public Land for Public Good” initiative, voting unanimously last night to wait for the findings of its new Facilities Study Committee.
The county’s new, 24-member Facilities Study Committee will broadly look at all county- and school-owned land and evaluate what facilities are possible on different sites in the county.
The Arlington Planning Commission recommended the County Board set aside the initiative — which was intended to identify county-owned property that can be used for affordable housing or new schools — last month. County Manager Barbara Donnellan agreed with the commission yesterday in her recommendation to the Board.
The action was taken “because the planning commission urged us to do so and told us they thought a better approach to this was to do the study committee, which we have launched,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said at the meeting. “I think that makes sense.”
Along with scrapping the initiative, the County Board voted to move forward with studies for the renovation of the Lubber Run Community Center, renovation of Jennie Dean Park in Shirlington and the future of the Salt Dome facility and Fire Station 8.
“The Lubber Run Center needs to be redone,” Donnellan said. “The opportunity is to look at what we’re currently providing there and how it can be updated.”
While those studies continue, the Board unanimously decided that no standalone affordable housing may be built on current parkland or open space.
“As we launch into the facilities study committee, we do not have the luxury to rule anything out based on the buildout of our 26 square miles of space as far as our facilities are concerned,” Board member Walter Tejada said. “This is going to challenge everyone again and it’s going to make us uncomfortable in our seats at times. But the time has come.”
Donnellan’s response to the criticism the Public Land for Public Good initiative received from the public, the planning commission and the Long Range Planning Committee was to defer to the Facilities Study Committee and simply say “criteria for locating new uses on county lands will be reconsidered,” and public facilities policies will be “revisited and built upon.”
County to Hold Affordable Housing Forum — The Arlington County Human Rights Commission is holding a public forum on affordable housing on Thursday. The forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street). Between 2000 and 2013, the average rent in Arlington increased by 91 percent while the average home sale price rose 140 percent. [Arlington County]
Beware of Contract Vote Requirements — In the interest of government accountability, County Board member John Vihstadt has proposed requiring a Board vote on all county contracts over $1 million. Beware of such a requirement, says a letter to the editor writer. Reformers in the District want to take away the power to vote on large contracts from the D.C. Council, citing recent scandals and the potential for abuse. [Washington Post]
Hynes to Host Business Breakfasts — Hoping to give a boost to Arlington’s economic competitiveness, County Board Chair Mary Hynes is planning on holding quarterly breakfasts with local business leaders. The meetings come at a time when Arlington’s office vacancy rate is north of 20 percent and the Columbia Pike and Crystal City corridors are facing the loss of the planned streetcar project. [InsideNova]
Christmas Tree Recycling Begins Today — Christmas tree recycling begins today in Arlington County. Trees collected curbside and at the Arlington Solid Waste Bureau will be turned into mulch. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by Lawrence Cheng Photography