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Trees in Arlington (staff photo)

A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.

The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.

Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.

“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”

The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.

  • Arlington View
  • Aurora Highlands
  • Buckingham
  • Columbia Heights
  • Glebewood
  • Green Valley
  • John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
  • Long Branch Creek
  • Penrose
  • Radnor/Fort Myer Heights

The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.

“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.

EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.

The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.

Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.

Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.

“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.

Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.

“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”

Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.

But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.

“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.

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A slide from a county presentation showing where a trail would connect Arlington View to Army Navy Drive (via Arlington County)

Nearly 30 years in the making, the Army Navy Country Club Trail Connector is closer to becoming a reality.

Construction on the long-proposed trail, a design for which has not yet been finalized, is expected to begin in spring 2024, officials say. Work could be completed the following spring, according to a recent county presentation.

The path for cyclists and pedestrians would run from a point near Hoffman-Boston Elementary and 13th Road S., in the Arlington View neighborhood, to Army Navy Drive near the I-395 overpass and the entrance to the club. It would provide a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City.

The county is seeking community feedback on two preliminary concepts for the trail, which can be provided through the project’s website.

Final design will be completed in spring 2023, then there will be another opportunity for public feedback. By winter 2023, a contract should be awarded and an official construction timeline will be released, Project Manager Mark Dennis said.

Two preliminary concepts are being considered. One features high walls and a steep trail, which could cost $11 million. The other is defined by stairs and a runnel, and could cost $5 million.

A slide depicting one Army Navy Country Club connector trail concept under consideration, featuring high walls and a steep trail (via Arlington County)

This first concept includes a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail with a steep, 12% slope centered between retaining walls. The walls would run approximately 16 feet apart, and could be up to 16 feet in height.

Further design of Concept 1 would have to address the transition at Memorial Drive — the connector road leading to the club — where cyclists would have limited visibility to react to vehicular traffic.

Dennis compared the high walls and steep trail concept to the Custis Trail, which also has a 12% slope in some sections, he said.

“Any users out there who have taken the Custis Trail, you know what this feels like, it’s a great workout for those who are up to it,” he said. “It can be a little bit of a challenge for people who are just out for a simple walk or just want to get from A to B and not have such a vigorous bike ride.”

The second concept is a series of stairs and landings to manage the steep slope, and would feature a runnel, or wheel channel, for bicycles that could also accommodate strollers or carts.

A slide showing the concept for the Army Navy Country Club trail that features stairs and a runnel (via Arlington County)

Several people raised concerns about accessibility for both concepts. Neither design features a winding, gradual slope, but the county has to work with what it’s got, Dennis said.

“The country club has very carefully considered our previous requests to expand the easement to grant more easement and they have respectfully declined,” Dennis said. “We are limited by the easement that we have and we have sufficient easement to accommodate concepts like the two I’ve presented.”

Those who have followed the project’s iterations may notice the easement’s shape has changed. After Arlington public safety officials rejected the emergency access road idea that was originally part of the project, the path’s endpoint near Hoffman-Boston shifted from S. Queen Street to the other side of the school, near the tennis and basketball courts, Dennis said.

Dennis said the project won’t be “all things to all people,” but the narrow, steep property will probably draw a “sort of self-selecting group of users,” he said.

“We hope it’ll be accessible for anyone who can climb stairs, we hope to be accessible for anyone who rides most kinds of bikes,” he said. “But we’re going to look at that very carefully in design and try our best to accommodate the broadest range of potential users.”

The project has been discussed since the early 90s and overcome many hurdles, including obtaining an easement from the country club, a resulting lawsuit from club members, the elimination of the emergency service road, and delays due to funding constraints.

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Long-time Arlington resident and community leader Fannie McNeil died late last month at the age of 84, her family tells ARLnow.

A constant presence at Lomax A.M.E Zion Church on 24th Road S., McNeil was a member of numerous boards there and the founder of the SPICE (Sisters Providing Information & Christian Encouragement) program. Since the early 1990s, the church program has mentored hundreds of young women in the community.

“She really had us learn the importance of community, love, and women empowerment,” says Reba Nettles, McNeil’s daughter.

McNeil grew up in North Carolina and moved to Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood in her early 20s with her husband.

A few years later, in the 1960s and with a growing family, they moved to the Columbia Pike corridor, right off of S. Fillmore Street. In the early 1970s, they moved to the Johnson’s Hill neighborhood, now known as Arlington View.

It was then that McNeil became a single mother, raising six children by herself. She also had eight grandchildren, three of which she raised, as well as 13 great-grandchildren, all while living in the Columbia Pike corridor and working to clean residences for more than fifty years.

And she loved her community.

Family describes how she would invite the entire neighborhood over for parties, donating countless hours and money to her church, mentoring children in the community, and bringing food to election officers at Carver Community Center on election day.

“My grandmother, when she would go vote, she would bring food for everyone,” says her granddaughter, Tiffany Jones.

Despite her positive attitude, life wasn’t always easy.

“It was a hard struggle for her,” says Nettles. “But my mother was always there for us… She never missed a step.”

She became an entrepreneur, creating a home cleaning business that allowed the family to live comfortably. The kids and grandchildren say they were never left wanting, always having food, nice dresses, and a loving home.

“This was a woman who witnessed lynchings and was in the era of the [Ku Klux Klan] and surviving that, coming to Arlington County, and building a foundation,” says Danielle McNeill, another granddaughter of Fannie’s. “I mean, she was just so phenomenal.”

As Nettles puts it, “My mother was a role model for all of us.”

She was long-time and welcoming presence at Lomax A.M.E Zion Church, says Brenda Cox who is the chairperson on the church’s historical committee as well as McNeil’s neighbor in Johnson’s Hill.

“They don’t make them like Mrs. McNeil anymore,” Cox says. “She was a pillar of our church and will be missed.”

She was also an amazing cook, so much so that the kids would fight over who would sit next to McNeil at church to get first dibs on what was being prepared for Sunday night family dinner.

“We even got her to cook for her own birthday party,” laughs April Nettles, a granddaughter. “Her own surprise birthday party, at that.”

Cox says at every big church event and moment, McNeil was there, usually doing what she did best.

“She was always in the middle of it,” says Cox. “Probably cooking.”

As McNeil grew older, she saw her neighborhood changing. Johnson’s Hill was first established in the 1880s and in close proximity to Freedman’s Village, which was in the process being closed by the federal government. By the turn of the century, 300 to 400 Black residents lived in Johnson’s Hill. In the 1960s, and around the time McNeil moved in, that number had tripled.

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The $39 million redevelopment of Arlington View Terrace East apartments is underway.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held last week for the affordable housing redevelopment and was attended by Del. Alfonso Lopez, County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, and County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti.

Construction will begin later this month, according to a press release, and expected to be completed by early 2023.

First approved by the County Board in February 2020, the project will add 47 new affordable apartments to the complex at 1420 S. Rolfe Street on the eastern end of Columbia Pike.

The current community is spread out across seven 2- and 3- story buildings, but the new project is to demolish the largest of the structures with 30 apartments and replace it with a new, modern building with 77 apartments.

The new building will have free WiFi available for all households, a community room, a fitness center, a courtyard, and a parking garage, according to local affordable housing developer AHC Inc. The apartments will also have views of the Army-Navy Country Club golf course.

It will boost the number of affordable apartments at Arlington View Terrace East to 124.

“Preserving and expanding access to safe, habitable affordable housing is a priority in our community,” said de Ferranti at the groundbreaking. “Along with creating life-changing opportunities for dozens of local families, it’s also great to see that Arlington View Terrace East has been designed to contribute to a more equitable and sustainable future by including access to free WiFi and green design elements like solar panels.”

The complex will have a “green roof” that will support stormwater management and a 190-panel solar power system — similar (though, smaller) to what was installed at the Apex complex on S. Glebe Road. It’s expected to generate 84,000 kilowatt hours a year, according to AHC Inc., which is enough to power nearly eight single-family homes a year.

The 77 new affordable apartments will be available for families earning between 30% and 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI). There will be 15 three-bedroom apartments, eight ADA-accessible units, and eight apartments set aside for the county’s Permanent Supportive Housing program, which provides housing and support for residents with disabilities.

The County Board has allocated over $8 million in loan and grant funding to the Arlington View Terrace East project, in addition to an allocation of $2 million in competitive tax credits from the state.

While AHC Inc. is in the midst of redeveloping other local affordable housing complexes, the organization has also recently faced criticism for poor maintenance one of the older affordable housing buildings they own.

The Serrano Apartments, also on Columbia Pike, was acquired by AHC in 2014 and is working on issues raised by tenants including mold, rodents, and bugs, a spokesperson told ARLnow last week.

Photos courtesy AHC, Inc.

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The Arlington View Terrace apartments, which mostly have views of part of the Army-Navy Country Club golf course, are set for redevelopment.

The Arlington County Board last week allocated just over $8 million — a $7.25 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and a nearly $1 million grant — to help fund the redevelopment of the aging apartment complex at 1420 S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood on the eastern end of Columbia Pike.

The 30-unit garden-style apartment complex is set to be torn down and replaced by a new building with 77 apartments, affordable for those making 30-60% of Area Median Income, according to local affordable housing developer AHC Inc.

“The Arlington View Terrace redevelopment enables AHC to add much-needed affordable living opportunities in a rapidly gentrifying area along Columbia Pike,” AHC President and CEO Walter Webdale said in a statement. “The new building will also help diversify housing options with 15 new three-bedroom apartments, eight fully accessible units and 10% of the new apartments designated for households earning no more than 30% AMI.”

A press release notes that AHC is “also exploring solar panels and a possible partnership with Connect Arlington to provide free Wi-Fi for residents at the site.”

AHC spokeswoman Celia Slater tells ARLnow that “if all goes well, we could start construction in Spring 2021 and open doors to new families in Spring 2023.”

“We are working with a relocation firm to help [current residents] move temporarily to other apartments – hopefully other nearby AHC properties,” she added. “All current residents will have first opportunity to move back into the new apartments. We work one-on-one with individuals and families to meet their needs – like trying to keep kids in the same schools if possible, etc.”

Arlington View Terrace is one of a number of Form Based Code developments along the Columbia Pike corridor currently making their way through the development pipeline.

The full press release from AHC Inc. is below, after the jump.

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Construction work on an access road crossing a portion of Army Navy Country Club could be pushed back by nearly a decade, as Arlington grapples with a funding squeeze impacting transportation projects.

County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for engineering work on the project, which is designed to link the Arlington View neighborhood to Army Navy Drive, to start by fiscal year 2027 with construction kicking off two years later. The county has long expected to start design work for the project by fiscal year 2020, with work to begin in 2022.

Since 2010, county officials have aimed to build the new road, which would be reserved for emergency vehicles looking to more easily cross I-395, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. The 30-foot-wide road would run from S. Queen Street, near Hoffman-Boston Elementary, to the I-395 underpass, where a country club access road meets up with Army Navy Drive.

The process has required a good bit of back-and-forth with the country club — the county only secured an easement on the club’s property as part of a deal to allow Army Navy’s owners to build a larger clubhouse than county zoning rules would ordinarily permit. Some members of the country club even sued the county to block the arrangement, over concerns that cyclists and pedestrians on the proposed trail would be disruptive to golfers.

Yet Arlington leaders have pressed ahead with the project all the same, with the County Board approving two different updates to the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, known as the CIP, including funding for the project.

Schwartz hasn’t gone so far as to ask the Board to abandon the project — his proposed CIP calls for the county to spend $837,000 on engineering work in fiscal years 2027 and 2028 — but the delay does reflect Arlington’s new challenges paying for transportation projects.

As he’s unveiled the new CIP, Schwartz has frequently warned that the deal hammered out by state lawmakers to send the Metro system hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funding has hammered localities like Arlington. Not only does the deal increase the county’s annual contribution to Metro, but it sucks away money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a regional body that would ordinarily help localities fund transportation projects.

With the county having to shift money around to compensate for those changes, officials say smaller projects like the Army Navy access road will necessarily suffer.

“Overall, the transportation CIP has fewer resources for smaller, neighborhood-scale improvements due to reduced funding resulting from legislation,” Jessica Baxter, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services, told ARLnow via email.

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A Super Bowl-winning former linebacker joined the BalletNova Center For Dance to kick off a new community engagement program today.

Former Washington Redskins linebacker Andre Collins joined BalletNova for its “M.O.V.E” residency session at Hoffman-Boston Elementary School in the Arlington View neighborhood Tuesday morning.

M.O.V.E stands for motivation, opportunity, vitality and empowerment. The school-based program uses accessible movements to teach elements of dance and develop sophisticated choreography, while challenging children physically and mentally. For most students participating in the M.O.V.E. program, it is their first experience with dance.

The school residencies are six to eight weeks in length, with classes meeting once a week for an hour. Each residency culminates in a performance at the school.

Collins joined the class earlier this morning. He studied dance in college and took classes while playing in the NFL. After graduating from Penn State, he was drafted by the Redskins in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft.

After four years with Washington, including winning Super Bowl XXVI in 1992, he played for the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions before retiring in 1999.

He is now director of retired players for the NFL Players Association and executive director of the Professional Athletes Foundation.

Photo via Professional Athletes Foundation

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A local nonprofit is looking for qualified buyers for two affordable housing units, and will hold a lottery this Friday to find new owners.

The two homes are in the new Carver Place community, at 1316 S. Rolfe Street in the Arlington View neighborhood. The affordable condo units were built as part of an agreement between developer Craftmark and Arlington County.

Arlington Home Ownership Made Easier, Inc., is sponsoring the lottery. AHOME helps first-time buyers with education and counseling in Arlington and the surrounding communities.

The lottery is only open to a family of four or five that earns no more than 60 percent of area median income. For four people, that would be a total household income of $65,520; it’s $70,800 for five people.

The homes both have a purchase price of $282,800, and each have three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.

Eligible applicants must also have a minimum credit score of 660; have a minimum cash down payment of $9,900, which is 3.5 percent of the homes’ purchase price; afford the monthly Homeowner Association fee of $272; fill out the homebuyer assessment form; and complete a Virginia Housing Development Authority homebuyer education class.

AHOME executive director Karen Serfis noted in an email that this is the first time in more than five years that the organization has had three-bedroom condos available for purchase.

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Morning Notes

Wreaths on gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery 2016 (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Hunt Loses Mansion Legal Battle — Rodney P. Hunt, once one of the D.C. area’s wealthiest businessmen, has lost a legal battle to keep his $24 million Chain Bridge Road mansion. Hunt, who represented himself in court, asserted that the entity that bought the mansion at a foreclosure auction this summer was not its real owner. While Hunt was living there, the 20,000 square foot property hosted large “#RHPMansion” parties, one of which led to a drive-by shooting in McLean. [Washington Post]

‘Loss of Historic Architecture’ — The historic George Washington Carver Cooperative Apartments in the Arlington View neighborhood were torn down in February. The apartments’ 70-year history as a centerpiece of the working-class African American community there was, however, preserved via oral histories and historic markets. The property is now the Carver Place townhomes, which start at $689,000. So far, 38 of 73 have sold. [Falls Church News-Press]

Road Closure in Lyon Park — Washington Gas pipeline work is prompting a road closure in Lyon Park today and tomorrow. Cyclists who use the Arlington Blvd trail may also be affected. [BikeArlington Forum]

First Day of Winter — Today is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also known as the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight. [Capital Weather Gang]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Rosslyn at night, as seen from the Key Bridge

Woman Hit By SUV on Route 50 — A woman was struck and critically injured by an SUV while crossing Route 50 at Fillmore Street during Monday’s evening rush hour. The victim is expected to survive; lanes were closed while police investigated the crash. Nearby residents say the intersection is dangerous and accident-prone. [WUSA9, Twitter]

House Fire in Arlington View — There was an unusual house fire last night in the Arlington View neighborhood near Hoffman-Boston Elementary. A house’s gas meter caught fire, spreading flames into the home’s basement. The blaze was quickly extinguished, sparing the home from major damage. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]

Man Pleads Guilty in Hot Car Case — The man who accidentally left a friend’s two-year-old child in the backseat of a car, causing the toddler’s death, has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. Daiquan Fields was sentenced to a net six months in jail, time he had already served since the April incident, and is now on supervised probation. [NBC Washington]

Bonnie Black Murder Case Begins — The estranged husband of slain south Arlington mom Bonnie Black is now on trial for her murder. The trial of David Black started with opening statements on Monday; this morning witnesses for the prosecution are expected to be called. [WJLA]

Crystal City Post Office Moving — The post office along Crystal Drive in Crystal City is moving a few blocks down the road. The existing post office will be closed Thursday and Friday and the new post office, at 2180 Crystal Drive, will open Monday, Oct. 31. [Patch]

High Praise for Ambar — New Clarendon restaurant Ambar, which opened this month in the former Boulevard Woodgrill space, may get an indirect boost from TripAdvisor rankings. Ambar’s original Capitol Hill location is listed as the top-ranked D.C. area restaurant on TripAdvisor. [Washingtonian]

Amputee Athlete Visits Students — “Ghanian athlete and activist Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah recently visited with Arlington students to share his message that physical disabilities should not stop individuals from achieving their destiny.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Lyon Park Community Center (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Balcony Fire in Arlington View — Arlington County firefighters battled a small fire on an apartment balcony in the Arlington View neighborhood yesterday afternoon, following reports of an “explosion” sound. The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. [Twitter]

Carpool’s New Owner Trying to Sell — The fate of Carpool is once again uncertain. The Ballston-area bar was supposed to close later this fall to make way for a new high-rise residential development. Despite County Board approval of the project, and the just-completed sale of the bar, developer Penzance is now reportedly trying to sell the site. [Washington Business Journal]

Student Population Growth Lower Than Estimate — The student population at Arlington Public Schools grew 3.6 percent from last school year to the beginning of this school year. That’s an increase of 914 students, the equivalent of a new middle school, but it is 262 students below APS projections. [InsideNova]

Pedestrian-Only Streets on County Board Agenda — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is slated to consider allowing pedestrian-only streets in Arlington. Currently such streets are not part of the county’s Master Transportation Plan. Pedestrian-only streets are being discussed for parts of Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Arlington County]

White Squirrel Hit By Car? — A commenter says an albino squirrel that was often seen in neighborhoods near Columbia Pike has been hit by a car and killed. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

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