The next batch of neighborhood-level improvement projects is headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.
These include installing new LED streetlights along 35th Street N. in the Rock Spring neighborhood, fixing a missing sidewalk link along a street in Alcova Heights, and improving two parks — one in South Arlington and one in North Arlington.
The four were winnowed down from nearly 60 prospective projects. Of them, one — improvements to Baileys Branch Park in Columbia Forest — meets new equity criteria that the Arlington Neighborhoods Program says it has started using to evaluate worthy projects.
For three decades, this program has served as a community-driven process by which residents can identify small-scale infrastructure projects that are vetted and then recommended to the Arlington County Board for approval. A long-standing criticism has been that this process favored wealthier neighborhoods where residents had the time, resources and connections to be more civically engaged.
Last year, the Arlington Neighborhoods Advisory Committee struck “conservation” from its name, saying it connotes exclusivity, and added equity criteria to how it evaluates projects. At the start of this year, the Arlington County Board welcomed these changes to “embrace equity.”
The new criteria are two-fold: first, whether the neighborhood has a high population of people of color, and second, whether it has high rates of poverty and lower rates of higher education, homeownership and English proficiency.
“The equity considerations are a work in progress and will be evaluated and refined as needed over time,” per the report.
More details about the project are as follows.
- 35th Street N. from Little Falls Road to Williamsburg Blvd, in Rock Spring, is going to get new, “cobra-style” LED streetlights for $268,710. Road safety is a particular concern in this part of residential North Arlington. This stretch is a few blocks from where Washington-Liberty High School student Braylon Meade was killed by a teen accused of drunk driving.
- Bailey’s Branch Park (990 S. Columbus Street), a 2-acre park with a playground and green space in Columbia Forest, will get $750,000 in improvements, including the removal of invasive plants, additional native trees and plantings, new site furnishings and park signage.
- After invasive plants are removed from Thrifton Hill Park, new site furnishings, a picnic shelter and potentially, a dog run will be added. This will cost $985,000. The park at 2814 23rd Street N. in the Maywood neighborhood has trails and provides access to Custis Trail.
- A missing sidewalk link, with crosswalks and ramps that are accessible to people with disabilities will be installed along a 200-feet stretch of 7th Street S., near where it curves and intersects with 8th Street S. in the Alcova Heights neighborhood. This street improvement will cost $342,741.
The recommended projects went through the standard public engagement process for Arlington Neighborhoods Program, according to the county report, described as a “collaborative effort that seeks input from residents and civic associations on concept designs.”
The Rock Spring and Alcova Heights projects went through a two-step petitioning effort for affected residents and received the necessary support to qualify.
“The Columbia Forest and Maywood park projects were approved by their civic associations at one of their advertised meetings,” the report says. “All four civic associations continue to support each of the projects in their respective neighborhoods.”
Since last fall, residents in the 22204 zip code, which includes a large swath of south Arlington around Columbia Pike, say they’ve been getting their mail two to three times a week or not at all.
“Our mail delivery in 22204 had been irregular, sporadic or often non existent for past 5 or so years,” writes resident Nancy Miller. “Frustration abounds! Meanwhile in other Zip Codes in Arlington, mail delivery has not been a problem.”
While this wave of complaints started last fall, Douglas Park neighborhood in particular has had a history of spotty service. Problems back in 2015 are the same problems the neighborhood has today: staffing and topography. Many of the residents who spoke with ARLnow for this story live in that area.
There have been reports of “perennially” bad service in the Ballston and Virginia Square neighborhoods as well, supposedly because it is considered a training route.
“U.S. Mail delivery is in crisis in Douglas Park, after many years of inconsistent service,” resident Rebecca Kraft says.
The issue can, in part, be chalked up to staffing, says Aaron Fritschner, Deputy Chief of Staff for Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), who has been engaging with residents about the mail issue for a number of years.
“The main issues leadership at Arlington branches have raised to us recently are hiring and retention,” he said. “They specifically point to losing workforce to private competitors because of differences in pay and benefits. Rep. Beyer cosponsored legislation to boost recruitment and retention for this reason.”
Recruitment and retention might be expected to be a more widespread problem, resulting in mail delivery issues in other neighborhoods, but the complaints ARLnow has seen online were mainly concentrated in certain neighborhoods within the 22204 zip code and at the post office at 1210 S. Glebe Road.
The intractable problem has to do with topography, according to Douglas Park resident Thomas Schaad. The last house on a hilly, residential route with few businesses and apartment buildings, he said when they did receive mail, it was late in the evening.
“The postmaster basically told us the routes are antiquated in terms of how they’re laid out, but they can’t be changed,” Schaad said. “As a result there are some routes that are good, and others that are considered ‘bad,’ the ones nobody wants.”
Another neighbor, who just wanted to be referred to as Molly, said “we’re pretty much chopped liver.”
Mail carriers bid for their routes based on seniority, and the more difficult routes, with more houses or hills or walking, are typically assigned last. Improving the routes requires a study with recommendations, which may happen but likely not until the end of this year, depending on funding. A study was planned for 2020 but got axed due to Covid.
“Until the last two weeks, when it improved to daily delivery, we were getting someone who had completed their route and had come back and been told to finish this route,” Schaad said. “During the Christmas holiday season, they couldn’t hire anyone… the employment pool was being absorbed for the holiday rush by private entities, and the post office suffered in terms of hiring.”
Arlington County has accepted a site plan application for a senior living facility proposed to replace a church in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
Sunrise Senior Living, a McLean-based senior living provider, proposes to demolish a church building at 716 S. Glebe Road to build a four-story, 60-foot-tall building with 108 assisted living units, 55 parking spaces, common and service areas, a covered porch and an outdoor garden.
Kedrick Whitmore, the land use attorney representing Sunrise Senior Living, says the development would add sorely needed assisted living facilities in Arlington County.
“This facility would provide or coordinate personal and health care services, 24-hour supervision, and assistance (scheduled and unscheduled) for the protection general supervision and oversight of the physical and mental well-being of aged, infirm, or disabled adults,” he said. “The current supply of such facilities in Arlington County is insufficient to meet the current demand.”
So far, the applicant isn’t looking to go beyond base density, and proposed community benefits include streetscape and sidewalk improvements, utility and affordable housing contributions and sustainable design, per application documents.
As the change in use would displace two child care programs, county planning staff are urging Sunrise to incorporate child care into the development.
“The County has a need for child care services,” county planner Leon Vignes said. “Please consider the possibility of collocating a child care use with this development to maintain an existing use.”
There are two programs operating inside the church, Children’s Weekday Program and Rainbow Road Preschool. County staff said one of the programs in operation there does not have the necessary approvals to do so, but did not specify which.
“A previously approved use permit for childcare uses affiliated with the existing Methodist church was discontinued with the operator noting the potential to resume operation,” associate planner Anika Chowdhury said in staff comments on the application. “A revelation confirmed by the applicant was that an existing daycare is currently operating at the existing church. There is no valid use permit approval on file for this operating use and a use permit is required for child care use(s) per the ACZO.”
If Sunrise were to consider incorporating a child care center, it would have to request changes to how the property is zoned, Chowdhury says.
County planner Matthew Pfeiffer, meanwhile, urged the applicant to increase the number of trees it will plant and make the architecture appear more historic.
“Recommend altering architectural style to match existing historic properties, such as Colonial Revival,” Pfeiffer said. “The most important site design aspect will be ensuring that there is a strong vegetated buffer on the western property line to screen The Alcova,” a historic property next door.
The building’s owner, Arlington United Methodist Church, sold the property to Sunrise last year, leaving a different Christian congregation that meets there, the Redeemer Church of Arlington, the child care programs and a clothing bank in search of a new home.
Sunrise has two other senior living centers in Arlington, in the Glebewood and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods.
(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) An Alcova Heights church has sold its building to a senior living provider, leaving organizations that rent space there in search of a new home.
Arlington United Methodist Church recently sold its building at 716 S. Glebe Road to Sunrise Senior Living, a McLean-based senior living provider.
Paul Mandell, the real estate agent who facilitated the deal, told ARLnow he believed the buyer — whose identity he declined to confirm — planned to demolish the building to build a senior living facility, but deferred to the buyer for confirmation.
Sunrise is unable to comment at this time, spokesperson John Chibnall said, but will likely share information on the project in the coming weeks.
There are several organizations operating out of the church’s building, including the Ronda Gilliam Clothing Bank affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, the Redeemer Church of Arlington, Rainbow Road Preschool and others.
The organizations now have about 4-6 months to look for a new space, said Annette Reilly, manager of the clothing bank.
“We have no definite plans yet,” she said.
She found out about the sale about two weeks ago after the building was on the market for about a year, Reilly said. Other offers could have kept the clothing bank and other organizations in place, she said.
“If they had sold it to one of the churches, [an] existing tenant that wanted to buy it, then the use of the building would have continued the same,” Reilly said.
She hoped the clothing bank would be able to relocate elsewhere in Arlington. Otherwise, it would have to close, she said.
There have been previous instances of churches selling to be redeveloped as housing. The Central United Methodist Church in Ballston was torn down and is being rebuilt as an affordable housing complex. Jefferson Apartment Group took over another former Ballston are church building last year, with plans to build an apartment building.
The Arlington United Methodist Church, which still listed as the owner of the property, could not be reached for comment. The assessed value of the building in 2022 was $5 million, according to the county.
Thieves are continuing to prowl parts of Arlington for unlocked vehicles.
The most recently reported incidents happened in the early morning hours of this past Thursday, in the Rock Spring and Alcova Heights neighborhoods.
In Rock Spring, a group of suspects stole two vehicles — at least one of which was taken via a key found in another unlocked vehicle — and tried to break into a house.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
GRAND LARCENY AUTO / ATTEMPTED BURGLARY (series), 2021-06100036 / 06100047, 3400 block of N. Edison Street. At approximately 5:37 a.m. on June 10, police were dispatched to the report of a grand larceny auto just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 5:20 a.m., the victim was alerted to noises outside and exited his residence to see four vehicles idling in the street. One of the four vehicles was the victim’s 2011 Ford Explorer bearing VA license plate 745186, which the suspects had gained entry to through keys found in a nearby unlocked vehicle. The victim shouted in the direction of the four suspect vehicles and they fled the scene at a high rate of speed. The investigation determined that another one of the four vehicles, a 2013 Infiniti SUV bearing VA license plate XCM4640, had also been stolen earlier in the night from the 3400 block of N. Edison Street. While investigating the two stolen vehicles, it was discovered that four other vehicles in the area had been tampered with. During one of the tamperings, the suspects unsuccessfully attempted to use a key located inside a vehicle to gain entry into the victim’s residence. Suspect One is described as a male wearing dark clothing and tennis shoes at the time of the incident. There are no other suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.
Also on Thursday, police responded to an incident in Alcova Heights in which at least four vehicles were broken into and an unlocked Mercedes was stolen from a home’s garage.
LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2021-06100069, 3500 block of 8th Street S. At approximately 9:30 a.m. on June 10, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny from auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that the unknown suspect(s) entered the victim’s unlocked vehicle and rummaged through it. No items were reported stolen. During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that the suspect(s) entered and tampered with three other vehicles in the area and attempted to enter an additional three vehicles. While investigating the tamperings, a witness flagged down an officer and stated that a vehicle had been stolen from a residence in the 3500 block of 6th Street S. Officers made contact with the owner of the vehicle and it was determined that the suspect(s) entered the victim’s garage and located the unlocked vehicle, a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLC bearing VA license plate UKT2082, with the keys inside. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.
Last week ACPD said it had “increased police resources” in response to a spate of home burglaries north of I-66, in which thieves found keys in unlocked vehicles and used them to steal items from homes.
The police department continues to encourage residents to lock their homes and vehicles, and to keep valuables out of view. Arlington has experienced a wave of crimes of opportunity involving unlocked and unattended vehicles over the past year or so.
Queen Mother’s Fried Chicken from Chef Rahman “Rock” Harper has gotten a considerable amount of press since landing in Arlington nearly three months ago.
But it hasn’t altered how the chef does business.
“It hasn’t changed anything other than we’ve been blessed with more customers from a wider range of audiences,” Harper tells ARLnow. “We just have been busier.”
In early December, Queen Mother’s moved into the restaurant incubator Cafe by La Cocina at 918 S. Lincoln Street, right off of Columbia Pike, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
The menu is relatively compact. It includes four variations of fried chicken sandwiches — all cooked in duck fat and canola oil — including classic, Nashville hot, Virginia honey butter, and spicy mambo.
As sides, there are seasoned waffle fries and two different kinds of coleslaw. Homemade sweet tea and lemonade are offered as drinks. For desert, brown butter chocolate chip cookies.
Harper first got attention as the season three winner of the Fox competition show Hell’s Kitchen. He’s been an executive chef at Las Vegas and D.C. restaurants, an author, a podcast host, and has made numerous return trips to television. He also previously collaborated with another restaurateur on the short-lived, sausage-and-beer restaurant Fat Shorty’s in Clarendon.
Queen Mother’s is Harper’s first go at a restaurant he owns and controls himself. It was previously based at a virtual food hall in D.C. before making the move across the river.
“I’m from Alexandria… I’m a Virginia guy,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to ‘restaurant’ on this side of a bridge, so to speak.”
Growing up a neighbor, he notes his familiarity of Arlington and how he’s continuously overwhelmed with the support the community has provided Queen Mother’s.
“You know, people saying ‘Hey, we’re glad you’re here’ and ‘We need more things like this in the neighborhood, right down the Pike,'” he said.
The restaurant is named after his mom, Carol Harper.
“She’s affectionately known as a mother to her children… and to most of the people in my neighborhood,” he says. “And she’s a queen.”
Harper says he also named it as such to shift the conversation around Black food and Black women.
“Instead of going down the road that we’ve gone down in years past with the negative or stereotypical names, it’s my responsibility to put positive energy towards our culture and food,” Harper says. “And fried chicken is what I’m using.”
Recently, there’s been a movement around reclaiming chicken as a symbol of pride in the Black restaurant community.
Harper set up shop at the Columbia Pike-based incubator Cafe by La Cocina because the barrier for entry was significantly lower than taking on his own brick and mortar, particularly in the midst of a pandemic.
“One of the barriers to opening up a restaurant is all of the money, infrastructure, and access,” he says.”With these shared spaces, [the incubator’s owners] assume a bunch of the risk.”
It’s a win-win for the incubator as well, being able to offer a number of different concepts in the same space, he says.
There are challenges and drawbacks, Harper admits. It’s not a dedicated space, he and his employees need to be mindful of others working around them, and not all decisions fall into his hands.
He cites setting up the patio for outdoor seating as an example, saying he would love to have done it this week with the mild temperatures but the incubator makes that decision.
But for him, the collaboration with others makes it all worth it.
A 29-year-old D.C. man is behind bars after police say he pulled a gun on a tow truck driver early this morning.
The incident happened just before 3:30 a.m., near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. Police say a tow truck driver was about to tow a car when the suspect approached, brandishing a gun and demanding the car be released. He then drove off.
The suspect and his car were later spotted a few blocks away, in Alcova Heights. Police say he took off on foot, tossed the gun and tried to scale a fence, but was tased by officers and taken into custody.
The suspect is now facing a battery of charges, including robbery, reckless driving and weapons violations.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ARMED ROBBERY, 2020-08280038, S. Walter Reed Drive at Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:21 a.m. on August 28, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim had finished securing the suspect’s vehicle prior to towing it when he was approached by the suspect, who allegedly brandished a firearm, threatened the victim and demanded the release of the vehicle and items of value. The victim complied and the suspect fled in his vehicle. Arriving officers located the suspect vehicle parked and unoccupied in the area of 9th Street S. and S. Monroe Street and observed the suspect walking in the area. As additional officers arrived on scene, the suspect fled on foot and a brief foot pursuit ensued, during which the suspect discarded the firearm he was carrying. The suspect ignored lawful commands of officers and attempted to flee over a fence. An officer successfully deployed their taser and he was taken into custody without further incident. Drake Anthony, Jr., 29, of Washington, D.C., was arrested and charged with charged with Robbery, Brandishing a Firearm, Reckless Handling of a Firearm, Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony, Obstruction of Justice, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, and Reckless Driving, and held on no bond.
Four people were taken into police custody early Sunday morning after a license plate reader alerted an officer to a reported stolen vehicle.
The incident happened around midnight. Police say the driver of the stolen car took off after the officer attempted a traffic stop, then bailed out and fled on foot — along with three other vehicle occupants — near the intersection of 9th Street S. and S. Oakland Street, in the Alcova Heights neighborhood near Columbia Pike.
Police established a perimeter and the Fairfax County Police helicopter was called in to assist with the suspect search. Eventually, all four suspects were apprehended, including the alleged driver — who was found in the backseat of a car that tried to drive through the search area.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
RECOVERED STOLEN VEHICLE, 2020-05020209, 9th Street S. at S. Oakland Street. At approximately 11:46 p.m. on May 2, an officer was alerted to an LPR hit on a vehicle previously reported stolen out of Washington, D.C. The officer attempted a traffic stop, however, the driver eluded. The driver eventually stopped the vehicle at 9th Street S. and S. Oakland Street and all four occupants fled on foot. Arriving officers apprehended three of the suspects. A perimeter was established and a helicopter responded to assist with the search for the outstanding suspect. A vehicle entered the perimeter with an individual in the rear seat matching the suspect description. The vehicle was stopped and the fourth suspect was apprehended without incident. Three of the occupants were released and charges are anticipated at a later date. The fourth suspect and alleged driver, Avery Robinson, was arrested and charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, Possession of a Concealed Weapon, Possession of Stolen Goods, Eluding and Obstruction of Justice. He was held on a secured bond.
Numerous locals noted the circling chopper and took to social media to ask what was going on.
Police attempted a traffic stop on a stolen vehicle. The driver refused to stop and the 4 occupants bailed out at S. 9th and Oakland Street. Officers apprehended 3 suspects. The helicopter assisted with the search of the fourth suspect who was eventually taken into custody.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) May 3, 2020
N211FX, a Bell 429, is circling over Alcova Heights, Arlington at 1025 feet, speed 87 MPH, squawking 0271, 0.07 miles from Arlington Baptist Church #N211FX https://t.co/M2H9K5BqIb pic.twitter.com/hsbcYwATSD
— Advisory Circular DC (@SkyCirclesDC) May 3, 2020
Local groups including Mothers of North Arlington (MONA) and the Alcova Heights Community Association were left scrambling last week after Yahoo announced it would be shuttering its still-widely-used online messaging tool, Yahoo! Groups.
“This listserv was very valuable to the neighborhood,” said Mark Wigfield, the moderator for the Barcroft School & Civic League chat list (Bsclchat). “People [used it to] chat back and forth about hiring plumbers and carpenters, local issues, crime reports, ‘curb alerts’ for stuff they’re putting out on the curb for the taking, and more.”
As of today, some affected Arlington groups are steadily figuring out how to transition their organizations out of Yahoo and onto other platforms. Alcova Heights, for example, has already converted to using Google Groups.
Over the weekend, MONA board members unanimously voted to move their forums over to the email platform groups.io. MONA had used Yahoo! Groups since 2001 and has over 2,300 members.
“After a rigorous testing of groups.io by a special testing group we set up, we are confident and comfortable in our choice of the new, enhanced platform and feel this will be a change for the better,” said MONA President Mrinal Oberoi.
In 2014, MONA’s then-president resigned amid a backlash over transitioning the organization away from Yahoo! Groups.
Yahoo announced last week its plans to shut down its forums, giving its hundreds of thousands of members until Monday, October 28 — the original announcement said it would happen on October 21, but that date was later changed — to use the service. Users will then have until December 14 to access archived messages. Email functionality will remain, for now, but without attachments, archives and other features.
“I’m a little reluctant to let our archives disappear into the ether — I think [the] Bsclchat has been around for at least 20 years, so that’s a lot of history,” said Wigfield.
Across Arlington, social and community groups utilize listservs like Yahoo! Groups as a way to communicate and encourage discussions with residents and members. The message board functionality allows discussions to take place without a deluge of emails to subscribers.
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a shooting that happened just before 1 a.m. in the Alcova Heights neighborhood, north of Columbia Pike.
Police say a man was shot on the 3500 block of 6th Street S., which is about 2-3 blocks away from Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The man was rushed to a local hospital and is expected to survive.
So far police have not released a suspect description or a motive.
Around 3:30 p.m. today, police released additional information about the shooting, which investigators believe is an “isolated incident” with “no evidence of any ongoing threat to the community.” From an ACPD press release:
The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a shooting that took place in the early morning hours of October 10, 2019 in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
At approximately 12:54 a.m., police were dispatched to the 3500 block of 6th Street S. for the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male victim in the roadway suffering from a gunshot wound and immediately began rendering aid. The victim was transported by medics to an area hospital with injuries that are considered non-life-threatening. The suspect fled the scene in a dark colored SUV prior to police arrival. Currently there is no suspect description.
The preliminary investigation indicates this to be an isolated incident and there is no evidence of any ongoing threat to the community. Detectives continue their investigation and are speaking with witnesses and processing evidence as the search for the suspect proceeds.
Anyone with information and/or home surveillance that may assist the investigation is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4243 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
An annual, family-friendly outdoor festival is scheduled to return next weekend with music, dancers, and games.
The 3rd annual “Arlington Palooza” will be held in Alcova Heights Park (901 S. George Mason Drive) from 1-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.
This year, organizers at the Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation say there will be laser tag, a bouncy house, face painting, and lessons in making flower crowns and pinwheels, among other activities listed on the event’s website.
Four food trucks will serve the festival, including Big Cheese, El Encanto Latino, Little Miss Whoopie and Salou’s Softy.
This year’s musical line-up includes:
- 1-1:30 p.m. — The Sunshine Gang, a classic rock and roll band
- 1:50-2:20 p.m. — Sarah Baumgarten, an H-B Woodlawn student and singer-songwriter who plays the ukulele
- 3:15-3:50 p.m. — The Blue Flames, an five piece Arlington-based rock band
The Sultanas Troupe will perform a fusion of traditional Middle-Eastern and modern dances from 2:40-3 p.m.
The Arlington Art Truck will also join the festivities with a traveling show about electricity by Baltimore artist Neil Feather.
Police will close one block of 8th Street S. between S. Randolph Street and S. George Mason Drive during the event.
The county is warning that parking near the event will be “extremely limited” and is encouraging attendees to find alternative transportation. A spokeswoman for the event noted there will be bike valets, and that scooter company Bird is offering a $5 credit with the coupon code BEFREE.
The department said there will be a “designated drop-off area along S. George Mason Drive near 8th Street S.” for people with disabilities.
Photo via Arlington County