Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

It’s Bike to Work DayUpdated at 9 a.m. — Today is Bike to Work Day and in Arlington eight neighborhoods are hosting pit stops for the annual event. [Twitter, Twitter]

W-L Crew Team Wins State Championship — “The Washington-Lee High School girls varsity eight won its first state championship in 30 years at the recent regatta at Sandy Run Regional Park in Occoquan.” [InsideNova]

RIP I.M. Pei — Famed architect I.M. Pei, who designed Potomac Tower in Rosslyn, has died at the age of 102. [Associated Press]

‘Click It or Ticket’ Returning — “As the Memorial Day holiday approaches, Arlington County Police are reminding all drivers of the importance of seat belt use. This annual campaign is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) national Click It or Ticket high-visibility enforcement effort that runs from May 20 to June 2, 2019.” [Arlington County]

Millionth MAGA Hat Stored in Arlington — “The one-millionth official Make America Great Again hat ever made is currently locked away at President Donald Trump’s campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.” [Breitbart]

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(Updated on 05/17/19) A new bus will arrive tomorrow in Ballston, but the only place it’s going is to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

Arlington Transit (ART) is organizing a “food drive” for AFAC by building a 10’x10′ bus sculpture from canned food to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary, per a press release. ART will then donate the food to AFAC after disassembling the sculpture.

ART staff and volunteers will start building tomorrow at 1 p.m. inside Ballston Quarter mall, nearly the newly-opened, health food-focused True Food Kitchen.

The construction is part of AFAC’s annual slew of “Canstruction” food drives. In the past, architecture groups have built elaborate sculptures from thousands of dollars worth of canned goods at the Dulles and Reagan National airports as part of a national movement of donation-by-can-sculpture.

In 2016, the American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia Chapter built a lighthouse out of soup and bean cans in the Ballston mall for one of the building competitions.

Image via Twitter

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Arlington officials are pledging to take a fresh look at how they manage local historic districts, after one neighborhood’s design standards is forcing a Maywood family to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a roof repair.

Brendan and Jody Devine have spent more than a year working with county officials to get permission to use asphalt shingles when overhauling the roof of their home along the 3500 block of 21st Avenue N. But the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, known as the HALRB, blocked that request because the home is located in the Maywood Neighborhood Historic District, and the board feared replacing its current stamped tin shingle roof with a more modern style of roof would leave it out of step with the rest of the neighborhood.

The Devines appealed that decision to the County Board, but members voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to uphold the HALRB’s decision.

Board members, however, expressed a great deal of remorse over that vote, lamenting that the county code obligated them to side against the Devines, even if they agreed with their concerns about the tin roof’s cost.

“We’re ending up on the wrong side of justice if we don’t provide a way to promote the architectural compatibility with the neighborhood, while at the same time accounting for real life circumstances,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “I think we can figure out a way to do better.”

Brendan Devine noted at the meeting that the tin shingles would likely cost as much as $30,000, compared to $5,000-6,000 for the asphalt option, and that that is only for a portion of the roof. He argued that the county would be effectively making the neighborhood an “enclave” for the wealthy if the Board forced homeowners to embrace such expensive options.

In general, Board members agreed with that sentiment, though they felt there was little they could do to make a difference in this particular case.

County Attorney Steve MacIsaac cautioned that members had little choice but to side with the HALRB’s ruling unless the Devines could prove that board made some sort of “arbitrary and capricious” decision. The Board took heed of his opinion, but with some communities around the county trying to pursue historic districts in order to protect affordable housing options, several members expressed a willingness to revisit the county’s policies on the matter.

“This is a cautionary tale,” Chair Katie Cristol said. “We’ve had members of our community who have sought to use a historic designation overlay as a tool to protect affordability… but to the extent we’re looking to protect either garden apartments or single family homes, it can sometimes work at cross purposes.”

Board members were particularly interested in finding a way to get the HALRB to consider the cost of a change like this as a central part of their deliberations. Joan Lawrence, the HALRB’s chair, told the Board that her group did indeed take the expense of the tin shingles into account, but ultimately felt making an exception in this case could lead to a slippery slope.

“A defining feature of this historic district is this particular roof,” Lawrence said. “We’re dealing with a situation of death by a thousand cuts… I don’t think being good stewards of a historic neighborhood, a historic house, is making it an enclave.”

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Morning Notes

County Aims to Fix Boring Columbia Pike Architecture — “Arlington County Board members on Dec. 16 approved amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance that revamps existing regulations for Pike properties that are built under the Form-Based Code, a 15-year-old process that aims to speed the development timeline but has had the unintended consequence of rendering architectural creativity persona-non-grata on the Pike.” [InsideNova]

McAuliffe Proposes Metro Funding Plan — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing a $150-million-per-year state funding plan for Metro. The plan includes using a portion of Northern Virginia’s regional transportation sales tax and increasing three other regional taxes. [WTOP]

Gutshall to Be Sworn In Today — Erik Gutshall, the newest Arlington County Board member, will be sworn in today at 5 p.m. at county headquarters in Courthouse. [InsideNova]

Pentagon Had UFO Office — The truth is out there, in Arlington —  at the Pentagon, specifically. It was revealed this past weekend that the Pentagon had a secretive program that investigated reports of Unidentified Flying Objects. The “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program” officially ended in the 2012. [Politico, Washington Post]

Phoenix House Renovation and Expansion — “On time and on budget – and without a dollar of government funding – Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic on Dec. 12 unveiled new and updated facilities in Arlington aimed at giving an extra boost to patients moving through the addiction-recovery process.” [InsideNova]

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There’s a recent addition to the site of Marymount University’s new mixed-use complex at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive in Ballston.

In a public plaza, next to the buildings, is a sign that commemorates what stood there previously: the distinct but aesthetically controversial Blue Goose building, which was demolished in 2015.

The inscription on the sign, below, notes that there are four additional informational markers in the complex’s courtyard, made from salvaged blue panels from the former building.

Construction of the Marymount complex is expected to wrap up this summer. A Starbucks coffee shop is set to be its first retail tenant.

This site is where the distinctive “Blue Goose” building stood. While the origin of the moniker remains unknown. Arlingtonians recognized the building’s atypical form and striking use of polychromatic blue metal panels. Well-known local architect John M. Walton designed the building for M.T. Broyhill and Sons, which opened the office tower in 1963.

Marymount University welcomes you to walk through the courtyard to the right, which contains four two-sided informational markers. Visitors heading to the west will learn about the transportation history of this site including the streetcar line that followed Fairfax Drive. Visitors walking to the east will read about the history of the Blue Goose and its architect, developer, and tenants. These four markers were partially constructed with salvaged blue panels from the Blue Goose.

Photo courtesy Joel Kirzner 

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A new pedestrian bridge for those heading to and from the renovated Ballston Quarter mall and the Ballston Metro station has cleared a regulatory hurdle.

The Arlington County Board yesterday voted unanimously to approve a site plan amendment for the bridge, which will replace an existing pedestrian bridge. The old bridge is, in the eyes of the mall owners and the county, fairly pedestrian appearance-wise.

The latest design renderings for the new bridge, from bridge architect StudioTECHNE, show a geometric steel-and-glass design that crosses above Wilson Blvd at an angle. Among the words used to describe the design in a presentation to the County Board were “sophisticated,” “iconic,” “vibrant,” “safe,” “well lighted” and “experiential.”

The bridge will feature the following improvements, according to the presentation:

  • “Climate-controlled space with less slope that will improve safety and comfort of bridge crossing.”
  • “Opportunities for sitting and viewing areas along the traverse of the bridge.”
  • “Planters and sitting areas integrated into the bridge design at the sidewalk.”
  • “An architecturally memorable design that blends function and artistic expression and creates an iconic civic presence in the heart of Ballston.”

“The new bridge will be not only more functional, but also more beautiful — it will be a real asset to Ballston Quarter and our community,” County Board Chair Libby Garvey said, in a statement.

The existing bridge is expected to close to pedestrians mid-October, with demolition expected to begin shortly thereafter. Construction of the next bridge is expected to start at the beginning of March, following a public process to finalize the design. The newly-renovated mall and pedestrian bridge are scheduled to open on Sept. 13, 2018.

The old bridge’s demolition will allow for major changes to the façade of what’s currently known as Ballston Common Mall. From a press release:

Demolition of the existing pedestrian bridge will make way for a public plaza that is a key community benefit of the Ballston Quarter redevelopment.

Once the existing pedestrian bridge is removed, the mall façade that fronts on Wilson Boulevard will be transformed and the existing entrance to the mall will be eliminated. A 3,386 sq. ft. public plaza will be created at street level on Wilson Boulevard with steps and seating areas leading into another 2,500 sq. ft. of sunken, public plaza space with outdoor restaurant seating and event space.

Forest City Enterprises, developer of Ballston Quarter, will construct the new bridge with funding provided through the partnership between the County and Forest City. The reconstructed bridge will have public access easements that do not exist today, and it will be more functional and aesthetically pleasing than the current bridge.

Inside, instead of a traditional food court, the new mall will feature an “‘experiential food hub’ that will combine eat-in dining, prepared food sales and market elements,” perhaps similar to D.C.’s Union Market, the Washington Business Journal reported today.

The County Board also voted yesterday to formalize its public-private partnership with mall owner Forest City. The partnership means that a county-created Community Development Authority will pay up to $55.5 million in public infrastructure costs associated with the mall project, while receiving a portion of any increase in tax revenues associated with the mall.

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Morning Notes

Construction on the expanded front of Pentagon City mall

Design of New Wilson School Lauded — “The new Wilson School might be the fanciest public school building in the nation.” So says the influential urbanist news website Citylab, of the design of the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program. The fan-like design comes from a team of two architecture firms, including the Bjarke Ingels Group, which is noted for its experimental designs. The total project cost is estimated at $86-94 million. [Citylab]

APS Seeks to Squeeze More Capacity Out of Existing Schools — Facing a continued capacity crunch, Arlington Public Schools is seeking to find additional room for students in its middle and high schools. APS thinks it can squeeze another 600+ students total in its three high schools and another 150 students at middle schools, by finding additional usable space in the existing buildings. Growth in school enrollment, meanwhile, is slowing down but is not expected to stop. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

APS Wins Budget Award — Arlington Public Schools has been awarded a Meritorious Budget Award for excellence in budget presentation from the Association of School Business Officials International. The entry fee to be eligible for the award is more than $1,000. [Arlington Public Schools, ASBO]

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) The Arlington County Board announced the 2013 Design Arlington awards winners at its meeting on Tuesday, honoring six residential projects in North Arlington and commercial renovations in Crystal City and Pentagon City.

The biennial awards are given to projects completed in the last 10 years in these categories: residential, commercial, institutional/civic, historic preservation/building rehabilitation, public art and open space.

The submissions are judged based on “overall design excellence; visual composition and aesthetic character; relationship to surrounding context; sustainable design and development; preservation of historic buildings, facades, elements, and character; high-quality craftsmanship; and creative use of durable materials,” according to the county website. This year, there were 43 entries evaluated by a panel of four architecture, preservation and design professionals.

“These awards honor those who work to create exceptional architectural and landscape design in Arlington,” County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said in a press release. “Their efforts prove that projects that are functional can also be visually interesting, beautify our neighborhoods and be respectful of the neighborhood’s character.”

Below are this year’s winners:

  • Diaz Residence (4301 37th Road N.) — Residential addition/renovation – Subtle updates to the front façade and a significant addition to the rear of the home modernized a single-family home without completely changing its appearance or how it fits in with neighboring homes.
  • Bromptons at Monument Place (N. Nash Street and 14th Street N.) — Residential new construction — Well-detailed neoclassical townhomes engage the street in a thoughtful way.
  • Wood Temple in a Garden (1608 N. Cleveland Street) — Residential new construction — Well-designed studio outbuilding incorporates materials from the existing home. New addition is modern but respectful to neighborhood character.
  • “+2Edison7” (5077 27th Street N.) — Residential addition/renovation — Compact footprint is appropriately scaled for the neighborhood. It creates contrasts with neighboring buildings without competing for attention.
  • Monroe House (3132 N. Monroe Street) — Residential new construction — Design is respectful of setbacks and scale of neighboring homes. Meticulously detailed without looking out of place.
  • Crystal Drive streetscape — Commercial renovation/new construction — Transformed an auto-oriented street into a lively multi-use corridor. Highlights the shifting goals in urban design and placemaking.
  • Egge Residence (3317 N. 23rd Street) — Residential addition/historic preservation — Addition nearly doubled the size of the historic home without altering its character.
  • Pentagon Row plaza — Open space renovation — Optimizes space and outdoor recreational areas. Highlights how a public space can be reinvented to adapt to new needs.

Two honorable mentions also were recognized:

  • 800 N. Glebe Road — Mixed-use new construction — Building engages the adjacent sidewalk. It includes a historic architectural reference to the former Bob Peck Chevrolet building, as well as a historic marker.
  • “Wave Arbor” in Long Bridge Park — Public art — Kinetic art incorporated into a recreational space.

Photos courtesy Arlington County

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Robert Morris (photo via Morris-Day Facebook page)Robert Morris, a prominent local architect and winner of a number of Arlington County Preservation Design awards, has died at the age of 53.

According to his obituary in an Alabama newspaper, Morris graduated from Auburn University with a Professional Degree in Architecture in 1984. He had been influenced at a young age by the historic house he lived in with his family, ultimately prompting him to pursue architecture.

Morris moved to the D.C. area after graduation and founded Morris-Day Architects and Builders soon after. He was well known for his distinctive home designs throughout the metro area, especially in Arlington and McLean.

Morris had been a member of Leadership Arlington and was considered a “bright light” at the organization. He is remembered for his sense of humor and for making people laugh, in addition to how he “worked to make the world a better place.” The organization considers his death a huge loss for the community.

“Rob was an incredibly creative individual and Leadership Arlington benefited from his creativity and from his engagement with his class,” said Leadership Arlington President and CEO Betsy Frantz. “He was always thinking about the next possibility and making the community the best it could be. He had a way of making things happen efficiently and effectively. We’re really going to miss him.”

Morris took his own life on December 29. Family members held a memorial service for him in Alabama last week. The local service for Robert Morris will be held at 2:00 p.m. on February 8 at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean (1545 Chain Bridge Road).

Photo via Morris-Day Architects and Builders Facebook page

If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, help is a phone call away. Call CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.

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Morning Notes

Stormy skies over Pentagon City on June 13, 2013

Clarendon Center Wins Architectural Award — The Clarendon Center development has won a 2013 Charter Award, which is a global architectural award for excellence in urban design. The building straddles the 3000 block of Wilson Blvd and Clarendon Blvd. Clarendon Center was highlighted for being an example of walkable urban density in a suburban context and for its use of Art Deco styling. [Congress for the New Urbanism]

Arlington Transit Bus Survey — Arlington Transit is asking residents to fill out an online survey regarding the county’s bus service. Survey respondents are asked to suggest improvements for ART and Metrobus service. The information will help shape updates to the county’s six-year Transit Development Plan. The survey closes on Friday, June 28. [Arlington Transit]

Dream Scholarship Award Ceremony on Friday — Twenty-nine students from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax will be honored at Friday’s Dream Scholarship award ceremony. Undocumented students in good academic standing qualify for the scholarship if they or one of their parents were born outside of the United States, and the student will attend an accredited college or university. The ceremony takes place on Friday at 7:00 p.m. at the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street). [Facebook]

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"Variation B" newly-approved Arlington elementary school boundaries(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) The Arlington School Board approved new elementary school boundaries Thursday night, wrapping up an eight month community process.

The School Board unanimously adopted “Variation B” of Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy’s recommended boundaries (left). The new boundaries will help distribute students to a new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus (see below) as well as to additions at Ashlawn and McKinley elementary schools.

The new schools and additions (there will also be a new choice elementary school near Kenmore Middle School and an addition to Arlington Traditional School) are being undertaken to provide an additional 1,875 seats of capacity by 2017 for Arlington burgeoning student population.

“Variation B” will shift elementary school boundaries and result in the reassignment of 900 students. The changes will take effect for the 2015-2016 school year.

  • Reassign 67 students from McKinley to Ashlawn
  • Reassign 56 students from Glebe to McKinley
  • Reassign 164 students from Jamestown to the new school at Williamsburg
  • Reassign 71 students from Taylor to Jamestown
  • Reassign 347 students from Nottigham to the new school at Williamsburg
  • Reassign 146 students from Tuckahoe to Nottingham
  • Reassign 49 students from Taylor to the new school at Williamsburg

The School Board also approved the following grandfathering provisions:

  • “Rising 5th graders and concurrently enrolled younger siblings (grades K-4 as of June 2015) may choose to remain at their current school for the 2015-16 school year only. Transportation will be provided for these students who remain at their school and who are eligible for bus transportation as of September 2015.”
  • “Because the effective date of students moving to McKinley is September 2016, grandfathering for rising 5th graders and concurrently enrolled younger siblings (grades K-4 as of June 2016) will be in effect for the 2016-17 school year and will follow the procedures in paragraph a.”
  • “A student currently attending Claremont or Key Immersion School, in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved from one Immersion School group to another Immersion School group, may remain at his or her current Immersion School through 5th grade with transportation provided by APS.”
  • “A student currently attending Arlington Science Focus in grades K-4 as of June 2015, who resides in a planning unit being moved to the New Elementary School #1, may remain at ASFS through 5th grade with transportation provided by APS.”

The School Board also directed Dr. Murphy “to recommend whether rising K-4 students residing in planning units reassigned to existing schools will be eligible to enroll in their newly assigned elementary school prior to School Year 2015 if seating space is available.”

Ashlawn Elementary School addition site planOn Saturday, the County Board will consider a use permit for a 26,160 square foot addition to Ashlawn Elementary School.

Construction on the addition is expected to begin this summer and wrap up by the summer of 2014. It will add 12 rooms, including 9 classrooms, at a cost of about $12 million, according to a project web page.

County staff is recommending approval of the use permit, as well as a use permit for temporary construction parking at the adjacent Dominion Hills pool.

Meanwhile, at its Thursday meeting, the School Board unanimously approved a schematic design for the new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus.

The new school will cost just over $43 million, according to an APS press release, with construction slated to start in January 2014 and wrap up in time for the start of the school year in the summer of 2015.

Approved schematic design of the new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus Approved schematic design of the new elementary school on the Williamsburg Middle School campus

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