Some residents in and around Crystal City want to open up the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary to more walking and hiking — with help from JBG Smith.
The developer owns property around Roaches Run and is interested in converting parts of its private land into a public connection accessible from the surrounding neighborhood.
This partnership is one way that the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations propose adding open space to their neighborhoods. A second solution is to redesign and upgrade Virginia Highlands Park for more uses than sports.
The two ideas are part of a report published last week from the three associations, which have banded together to form Livability 22202. The report also recommends ways to plan new parks in Crystal City and enhance local biodiversity.
“COVID-19 has changed everyone’s thinking about open spaces,” Livability 22202 President Carol Fuller said. “The traditional parks of the past do not serve the purposes of our new world. We need to have open space, parks and trails for people to go out for casual use outdoors.”
The group is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Parks and Recreation Commission in February, she said.
Compared to other parts of the county, Pentagon City and Crystal City have fewer trails and open parks, Fuller said.
“If we did not have Long Bridge [Park] — which is fairly new — and if we didn’t have Virginia Highlands Park, we would have no trails and very little open space,” she said. (Crystal City is also served by the Mt. Vernon Trail, which connects to the neighborhood near the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S.)
Livability 22202 is proposing a loop trail and connecting trails into and out of Roaches Run. The County too is interested in turning the area into publicly-accessible natural space as the neighborhood experiences a wave of redevelopment in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2 decision — but officials indicated this spring that it could take 5-10 years to implement.
JBG Smith is willing to make use of its land to advance the broader open space discussion happening in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Andrew VanHorn, Executive Vice President, JBG Smith said in a statement.
“JBG Smith is supportive of plans that would make Roaches Run more accessible to the community and allow more people to enjoy this important natural asset,” he said.
VanHorn added that JBG Smith welcomes “the opportunity to work with the community, the County Board, and the National Park Service to help make this vision a reality.”
“One of the problems with Virginia Highlands is it’s primarily for recreation,” such as tennis or softball, she said. “It needs an upgrade badly.”
At 18 acres, it is one of Arlington’s largest parks, but suffers from underused and wasted space, at least according to the authors.
The Aurora Highlands Civic Association has long pushed for changes to the park, and this upcoming fiscal year the County was slated to start developing a master plan for it.
But that plan is now on hold, Fuller said. So, in the meantime, Livability 22202 is proposing upgrades that include a gathering space, a sledding site, better lighting, permanent community gardens and a dog run — similar to the dog park proposed by a separate local group.
Money is perhaps the biggest missing ingredient for making changes to Roaches Run and Virginia Highlands Park, Fuller said.
“COVID-19 has not only shown us great need for open space, but it also destroyed the budget to give it to us,” Fuller said.
A new report released by three local civic associations says tenant protections, more housing options and community amenities would make the 22202 zip code livable.
But significant barriers — including a history of exclusionary zoning to a lack of political will from leaders — are holding the area back, the neighborhoods say.
The report was produced by Livability 22202, a coalition of the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands, and Crystal City civic associations.
“We want to ensure our neighborhood reflects the vision of an inclusive community and that residents’ voices are heard in a rapidly changing environment,” the report’s authors wrote. “By learning from the past and planning for a realistic future, we can ensure our shared values and visions as a 22202 community hold a promise that all are welcome to find a home here.”
The report coincides with heavy redevelopment and the construction of Amazon’s permanent HQ2 in Pentagon City. It also comes as Arlington County studies the lack of “middle housing” — duplexes and other smaller-scale multifamily housing — and sponsors discussions on the effects of race-based policies in County’s past.
“We believe that the adoption of our policy solutions, together with other livability objectives, will contribute to making our neighborhood an even better and more inclusive community to live and work in,” said Susan English, of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association, in a statement.
“As the County embarks on a process to overhaul its policies and practices to fill the housing ‘missing middle,’ our report and its recommendations provide a comprehensive roadmap for change,” said Tarsi Dunlop, of the Crystal City Civic Association, in a statement.
The authors predict Amazon and the other commercial and residential development will displace existing residents, and recommend assistance and policies at the local and state level for renters and owners.
The Livability 22202 members said the group will now push for their recommendations to be adopted.
In a statement to ARLnow, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said she appreciates the hard work and the recommendations, many of which are consistent with the County’s goals.
“The County, too, wants to avoid displacement, increase the housing supply, and diversify housing choices,” she said.
In response to the assertion in the report that the County lacks political will to remove housing barriers, Garvey said county staff and the County Board are working with the community to do so while avoiding political backlash that could set them back.
“We are building political will,” she said. “The Board sees increasing the housing supply and access to housing as critical to Arlington’s long term sustainability and success as a community.”
The report is the result of workshops with renters, homeowners, experts and historians, as well as a study of the history of zoning and land use in the area and current barriers to adequate housing.
In addition to housing-related recommendations, the report also makes recommendations aimed ad strengthening local community cohesion.
Those recommendations include “creating both physical and digital spaces for community building, including a full-scope community center,” and “developing policies and processes to better include renters in the community, particularly addressing barriers to information sharing with residents of high-rises.”
Update at 1:50 p.m. — The missing man has been found along Army Navy Drive, near 28th Street S., according to police radio traffic. He was located as a result of ACPD’s Project Lifesaver technology.
Earlier: Arlington County police are looking for a missing senior in Crystal City, Pentagon City and other surrounding neighborhoods.
Police are using Project Lifesaver equipment in the search and are being assisted by the Fairfax County Police Department helicopter, according to scanner traffic. The Del Ray area of Alexandria is also being searched.
The man — who’s 5’10”, Hispanic and in his late 70s — went missing around noon, and is considered to be endangered.
He was “last seen wearing a black long sleeved shirt and a burgundy polo, khaki pants and a brown hat with a black rim… in the area of the 800 block of 23rd Street S.,” said an Arlington Alert text. “Anyone with any information please contact the Arlington County Emergency Communication Center at 703-558-2222.”
More from an Arlington County Police Department social media post:
Mr. Iraheta visited the Pentagon Centre at Pentagon City earlier today and is known to frequent the City of Alexandria. @FairfaxCountyPD helicopter is assisting with a search of the area.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to contact police.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) December 8, 2020
Even though the Christmas tree lighting, Santa Claus’ arrival, face painting and hot cocoa can’t be enjoyed in person this year, the Miracle on 23rd Street holiday tradition is still happening.
The event has been hosted at 750 23rd Street S. in Crystal City for more than 50 years, in front of what is now Melwood, the employment and job training nonprofit for people of differing abilities.
This year, however, families are being asked to stay home to virtually watch the lighting of the Christmas tree at 6:45 p.m. tonight (Friday). They can enhance the experience with a $10 “Miracle on 23rd Street In A Box” kit for kids.
“The box includes supplies to decorate cookies, make a wreath and reindeer food,” the organization said. “It can be picked up in a contactless process (after registering with Melwood), and kids can follow along with activities with special guests on its Facebook page.”
Santa Claus is still making a drive-by appearance, too, and will be escorted by the Arlington auxiliary police and firefighters from Fire Station 5.
“If you live near 23rd St. and S. Grant Ave in Arlington, you can expect to see Santa in your neighborhood between 5:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.,” Melwood said.
Locals are being discouraged from trying to view the tree-lighting in person, however.
“While we won’t be able to come together in person for this time-honored tradition, Melwood will keep the Miracle tradition alive in a new way,” the organization said. “In compliance with Arlington County COVID-19 guidelines, Melwood is actively discouraging our neighbors from gathering near the campus for the tree lighting. We look forward to next year when we will be able to come together to continue this holiday tradition.”
Images via Melwood
(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) A neighborhood group’s years-long battle against softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park in the Pentagon City area is continuing.
The Aurora Highlands Civic Association doesn’t have anything against the sport itself, but asserts that the permit-priority fields on the west side of the park at 1600 S. Hayes Street could be better used as unprogrammed open space.
To prove the point, the association last week sent a letter — and a produced video — to the Arlington County Board highlighting community use of one field during the pandemic, after organized sports activities were cancelled.
“Cancellation of organized sports in the spring allowed community members to put Livability concepts into action over the summer, transforming one of VHP’s softball field spaces into a continuously used public space for art installations, social distancing meetups, and varied casual uses from kite flying, exercising, and families playing with their kids,” wrote AHCA President Scott Miles.
“Events and performances like Zumba classes and Music and Picnic in the Park on Saturdays have gathered over 80 people at a time, all safely distanced, even while other casual uses continue alongside,” he added.
Four years ago, the association released a proposal calling for the removal of the softball fields in favor of space that was open to all.
“The fields are significantly underused relative to other facilities and especially to open space,” the proposal said. “Each field is used for approximately 600 hours per year out of a potential of 4,380 hours (12 hours a day), a total of less than 14% of the time.”
Miles wrote last week that the recent community experience proves the point that the fields are underused when designated primarily for softball.
“With greater casual use access over the past five months supported by [the Dept. of Parks and Recreation] and local stakeholders, the space has been used more heavily and continuously than ever before, helping support local restaurants, build a sense of shared community, and provide diverse and equitable access to all area residents,” he wrote.
Other initiatives are in the works for the park. A new, temporary community garden has been added, and a proposed temporary dog park near the softball fields has received financial backing from Amazon.
The letter to the County Board — with some links added — is below, along with a video produced by the local group Livability 22202.
Frederick-to-Arlington Transit Proposal — “Proposed transit service connecting Arlington to Frederick (Md.) and points in between remains on the table, but barely, after scoring low in a recent cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Virginia and Maryland state governments… As envisioned, the transit route would start at Frederick six times each workday morning and terminate an hour later at the Pentagon, with intermediate stops at Monocacy, Urbana, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Mall and Rosslyn.” [InsideNova]
Women Groped in Aurora Highlands — “At approximately 7:18 p.m. on November 3, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 6:30 p.m., the victim was running in the area when the suspect approached her from behind and grabbed her buttocks. The victim yelled, and the suspect fled on foot, then entered the passenger side of a vehicle and left the area.” [ACPD]
Data Breach Affecting Hospital — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has recently learned of an information security incident experienced by one of its vendors… [an] unauthorized party may have acquired a backup of the database that compromises certain limited elements of VHC’s donor and fundraising information, as may be the case with other nonprofits affected by this incident worldwide.” [Press Release]
Grand Opening for New Business — Paint Nail Bar (1520 Clarendon Blvd) is holding its grand opening celebration this weekend, from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday. “Champagne and light bites will be served and all attendees will receive a goody bag,” the business says. [Facebook]
Tea Returns to the Ritz — “The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City is now offering Afternoon Tea, bringing a time-honored tradition at an affordable price – all with safety and the health of guests in mind. Offered in their fyve restaurant, featuring globally inspired dishes, the hotel’s Afternoon Tea service is available at three price points, perfect for adults and children celebrating a special occasion or looking for a weekend respite from the day-to-day.” [Press Release]
More Nice Weather on Tap — “Quite a stretch of tranquil weather ahead of us as high pressure dominates into early next week, resulting in dry conditions and temperatures running 5 to 10 degrees above normal for early November.” [@NWS_BaltWash/Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]
Update at 9:10 p.m. — Power was briefly restored but is back off, according to a Dominion spokeswoman.
A few minutes after our system showed everyone was back, we had more outages. We are working on it. https://t.co/AVIm1tmvPj
— Peggy Fox (@PeggyDomEnergy) October 24, 2020
Earlier: About 3,700 Dominion customers are without power in Arlington as of 8 p.m. Friday night.
A massive outage is mostly affecting customers in Alexandria, but thousands in Arlington’s Crystal City, Aurora Highlands, Arlington Ridge and Fairlington neighborhoods are also in the dark.
Some have reported the power flickering.
Power restoration is currently estimated between 10 p.m.-1 a.m., according to Dominion’s website. The cause of the outage is a malfunctioning circuit at a substation, according to a company spokeswoman.
We’ve traced the Alexandria/Arlington outage to a circuit at a substation. That’s what’s causing the flickering. Our crews are on it and trying to get your power back ASAP! @justindotnet @AlexandriaVAGov @DominionEnergy
— Peggy Fox (@PeggyDomEnergy) October 24, 2020
Power currently out in Arlington Ridge near Glebe Rd water treatment plant @ARLnowDOTcom
— Morgan Munizza (@mamunizza) October 23, 2020
A portion of Virginia Highlands Park, near Pentagon City, is being transformed into a vibrant display of gardening through a new agricultural initiative.
The Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture, National Landing BID, Livability 22202 and Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation collaborated to develop a project that is revitalizing a strip of land in the park for a temporary demonstration garden. The project, called the Highlands Urban Garden (HUG), is located at 1600 S. Hayes Street.
Project HUG will include a display of various irrigation systems, while showcasing how to counter challenging soil conditions and how edge spaces in parks can be converted to functioning gardens. Produce from the garden will be donated to local food pantries.
The garden — which volunteers broke ground on Sept. 27 — utilizes the space adjacent to the tennis court practice wall at the park. This fall marks the initial installation and preparation of this pilot site for a spring planting season.
“Project HUG will revitalize underused land near the park’s tennis courts and illustrate how otherwise fallow spaces can be transformed into productive land that builds a vibrant ecosystem,” said Arlington FOUA Board President Robin Broder. “The Highlands Urban Garden will serve as a model for future community-driven agriculture features throughout Arlington’s urban neighborhoods.”
A team of neighborhood volunteers will maintain and manage the garden. On-site signage will inform community members about the practices used in caring for a planned mix of edible vegetative crops, native plants and pollinators.
The rectangular strip of land HUG occupies will consist of three bays of six fabric grow bags connected to automatic irrigation systems. The garden will also feature smart sensors to track water, light, fertilizer and temperature that can be used as part of a long-term data collection effort for STEM curricula at local schools.
“We are pleased to collaborate with our partners in the community to expand natural elements throughout National Landing’s built environment by transforming land on the margins and in unexpected places,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, Executive Director of National Landing BID, formerly known as the Crystal City BID. “The Highlands Urban Garden will invoke curiosity and joy in passersby, residents and park visitors alike.”
As a part of the temporary design of the garden, there will not be any below grade digging or disturbance of the grounds at the site.
Photos courtesy Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture
Proposed changes ranged from building storefronts or markets in the area underneath the overpasses, creating more open space where thick sandstone-colored walls now hold up the highway, and putting Route 1 underground to allow for development on top of it.
Darren Buck — an Aurora Highlands resident, professional transportation planner, and member of the Arlington Transportation Commission — presented the possible changes, saying they were ideas meant to set a line of thinking. Factors like cost, construction time and general practicality are yet to be fully considered.
“These really are kind of unconstrained by a lot of reality,” Buck said. “They’re really trying to get to what could we do that would address some of… the identified things that we are concerned about with the at-grade proposal and start to toss around alternatives.”
Ultimately, Livability 22202 will make “community-based recommendations for an innovative new vision for Route 1 and its cross streets between 12th Street S. and 23rd Street S.,” a slide in the meeting said.
If the highway was at-grade, it could be turned into an “urban boulevard” running through Crystal City, according to VDOT.
This would fall in line with the transportation portion of Virginia’s HQ2 deal with Amazon, which lists “improvements to Route 1 through Crystal City and Pentagon City” as a project the government would fund.
According to a 2018 Virginia Economic Development Partnership presentation, this project could cost around $250 million.
Livability 22202 said dropping Route 1, also known as Richmond Highway, to ground level would force pedestrians walking between east and west Crystal City to cross the busy commuter artery.
“We want a pedestrian-friendly, walking-friendly neighborhood,” Michael Dowell of Livability 20222 said. “Having Route 1 be an impediment to achieving that is a really big worry.”
Pedestrians can currently cross under the overpasses, which many do to access the Crystal City Metro station on the east side.
Another Livability 22202 meeting on the topic will be held on September 30.
Images via Google Maps
Arlington is experiencing a rash of car-related crimes, with three separate theft sprees listed in today’s local crime report.
A man was arrested early Friday morning after security at the Pentagon City mall allegedly saw him break into three unlocked vehicles and try to break into two others. The suspect, who was not named, is expected to be charged with larceny from auto.
Around 7 a.m. Friday morning, another series of auto crimes was reported, this time along Glebe Road just south of Lee Highway. Someone smashed the windows of eight vehicles and stole airbags from seven of them, according to Arlington County police.
Around 10 a.m. Friday, police say they were dispatched to the Aurora Highlands neighborhood for a report of multiple vehicles being stolen. They found three cars had been stolen overnight, including a BMW, a Nissan and a Honda.
Arlington County police warned residents last week to lock their car doors and not leave keys in the car, in response to at least 31 cars being stolen in July. The county has also seen multiple carjackings over the past couple of months. Auto crimes are rising in Arlington, according to the latest ACPD annual report.
More on the most recent thefts, from today’s crime report:
LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2020-07310016, 800 block of Army Navy Drive. At approximately 1:25 a.m. on July 31, police were dispatched to the report of a tampering with auto in progress. Arriving officers located an individual matching the description provided by security and detained him without incident. The investigation determined that mall security observed the suspect enter approximately three unlocked vehicles and attempt to enter two other locked vehicles unsuccessfully. Charges are pending for the suspect.
LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2020-07310042, 2100 block of N. Glebe Road. At approximately 7:09 a.m. on July 31, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny from auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that between approximately 11:30 p.m. on July 30 and 6:45 a.m. on July 31, an unknown suspect(s) smashed the windows to eight vehicles and stole the airbags from seven of those vehicles. The targeted vehicles were all Honda models. There are no suspect(s) descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.
GRAND LARCENY AUTO (series), 2020-07310058/07310087, 600 block of 29th Road S./2300 block of S. Inge Street. At approximately 10:06 a.m. on July 31, police were dispatched to the report of multiple vehicles stolen. Upon arrival, it was determined that approximately 3 vehicles were stolen from the area overnight. The vehicles are described as: VA VKN8674, 2016 Honda Accord, Brown; VA ULY5206, 2016 BMW 428i, Gray; and VA UJT9855, 2020 Nissan Armada, Beige. There are no suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.
This weekend, Calvary United Methodist Church in Aurora Highlands is holding a “Stuff the Truck” donation event to collect food for the Chirilagua neighborhood in Alexandria.
Local nonprofits have worked to get food and other emergency supplies to hard-hit Chirilagua.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the Chirilagua neighborhood are experiencing hardship from job loss, sickness, and food insecurity,” Calvary UMC said in a media advisory. “Recent data revealed that over 40% of Chirilagua residents are unemployed and, in mid-May, over 55% of COVID tests taken by community members living in Chirilagua were positive.”
This Saturday, June 6, Calvalry UMC is hosting a donation event at the church (2315 S. Grant Street) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to fill a 20-foot truck with items most needed by Chirilagua residents and families.
“To participate, donors can come to Calvary UMC and bring donated food and supplies to place in the truck,” the church said. “Items needed most are shelf-stable foods such as rice, beans, canned food and cornflour.”
The event is the latest in a series of fundraisers and food drives for the church to support the Chirilagua community. So far, the church says it has raised $24,000 of its $25,000 goal. The church plans to make an additional $15,000 pledge to bring the total to at least $40,000, the church said.
“Donors wishing to make a financial contribution to MISSION:COVID can donate at the event or through the Calmeth.org website,” the church said, “or text GIVE to 703-936-2684 and select MISSION:COVID from the menu.”
Staff photo by James Cullum