Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has recommended designating a tiny Ballston graveyard a local historic district, potentially disrupting a church’s redevelopment plans.
The HALRB voted 8-2-2 Wednesday night for a local historic district designation of the Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground, after hearing from 37 speakers both for and against the designation.
The County Board will now decide, as early as next month, whether to authorize an advertisement of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board. Following the hearings, the County Board could vote on the historic district as early as December.
The graveyard is located next to Ballston’s Central United Methodist Church, which has filed a site plan application to redevelop its property at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story building with a new house of worship, 132 apartments (55 would be committed as affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes headstones for members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named. Nobody knows for sure whether there are human remains buried in the graveyard or whether the remains were relocated elsewhere decades ago during any number of construction projects.
Historic preservation activists have pushed for a historic designation, which could scuttle or at least significantly alter the redevelopment plans.
The church and its members, on the other hand, want the development to proceed.
“This project… is excellent for the community as it will provide much needed affordable housing in Ballston, maintain a sacred space of a church in Ballston proper, continue a strong outreach by providing meals to those in need on Fridays, and provide expanded daycare and preschool options in Ballston conveniently located near the Metro for commuting parents,” said Kathy Sibert, a congregant who’s also the president and CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.
“[The graveyard] was deeded to the church from the Ball Family in the 1920s,” said Sibert. “It is NOT an active grave site and the entire site has been heavily excavated for construction by the church and the County since that time so that virtually the entire site has been disturbed.
Sibert said the county officials have stopped processing its site plan application, “despite their prior commitment to us to hold our March 2017 tax credit application deadline.”
Update at 3:30 p.m. — The church’s pastor, Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen, tells ARLnow via email: “The local historic district boundaries recommended by county staff to the HALRB would have made our project infeasible. The HALRB voted to designate a smaller section of land than the staff proposed boundaries so we’ve asked our design team and engineers to evaluate the impact of this smaller section. I anticipate that we will have a better understanding of the potential ramifications sometime next week.”
She added: “Our current sanctuary is built within the boundaries of the former Ball family graveyard. The grave-markers do not appear to be in their original location. The church is seeking permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to investigate this further.”
Update at 3:15 p.m. — Power has been restored to all but a handful of Dominion customers in Arlington. Asked about the outages last night and today, a Dominion spokesman told ARLnow.com: “We experienced equipment failure resulting in a failed connector and wire falling into another line. 5,054 customers were restored in increments up to 2 hours and 23 minutes. The remaining 1,680 customers were restored after 6 hours and 44 minutes.”
Update at 11:10 a.m. — Another power outage has been reported near Crystal City. In all, about 500 Dominion customers are currently without power, according to the utility company’s website.
Police are helping with traffic control at several intersections in the Ballston area due to a power outage.
The outage was first reported just before 9 a.m. and follows last night’s widespread outage along the Lee Highway corridor.
More than 200 customers are affected by this morning’s outage, according to Dominion’s power outage map. Washington-Lee High School is just outside the area marked as without power.
Among the affected traffic signals are those at the busy intersection of Washington Blvd and Glebe Road, according to scanner traffic.
Heard a boom and now there's no power near W&L. Come on Thursday! You can do it! @ARLnowDOTcom
— Marissa (@MShackapopolis) October 20, 2016
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]
An 11-year-old throwing plates out of a high-rise apartment prompted a large police response in Ballston over the weekend.
The incident happened around 9 p.m. Saturday at the Randolph Towers apartment building along N. Quincy Street. No injuries were reported.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, 161008040, 4000 block of N. 9th Street. At approximately 9:00 p.m. on October 8, police were dispatched to the report of an unknown subject throwing dishware from a high level balcony. The investigation revealed that an 11-year-old male juvenile in a mental health crisis was responsible. His family was referred to government services.
A number of nearby residents were tweeting about the incident as the sound of shattering plates could be heard echoing around the area.
— PlateLessOrdinary (@PlateLsOrdinary) October 9, 2016
— PlateLessOrdinary (@PlateLsOrdinary) October 9, 2016
— Fallon Forbush (@FallonWForbush) October 9, 2016
Fire on Ballston Sidewalk — Last night around 6:45 p.m., Arlington County police and firefighters responded to a fire on a sidewalk in Ballston, near the intersection of 9th and N. Stuart Streets. Initial reports suggested that a woman had deliberately set something on fire. No injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Metro Police Seeking Man Who Set Fire at Station — Metro Transit Police are looking for a man who lit something on fire in the Pentagon City Metro station Wednesday morning. The man is later seen on video boarding a train and displaying a sign. [WTOP]
Smoke Closes Pentagon City Station — Smoke in a tunnel near the Pentagon City Metro station prompted a large emergency response and a temporary closure of the station last night. The smoke was caused by an electrical issue. [Washington Post, Twitter, Twitter]
Urban Chicken Issue Still Clucking — The issue of whether Arlington should allow more households to raise egg-laying hens in their yards isn’t quite dead yet. The issue was raised briefly at an Arlington Civic Federation meeting and county staff say they’re willing to consider it if residents bring it up again. [InsideNova]
The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.
The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.
The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”
“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location. The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.
The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family. In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly. In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard. The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.
The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years. With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb. The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.
It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.
No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design. The developers always thought they would move the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it. A nice border wall already exists. The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down. Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.
Gun Store Has New Owner — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory has reportedly been sold to one of its employees. Shawn Poulin, the store’s manager, says he is now also its majority owner. The previous owner, Dennis Pratte, at one point claimed that the store was actually owned by his 16-year-old daughter. Poulin says the store is profitable and he plans to expand it to a second floor, “with a showroom to feature rifles, tactical gear and an expanded clothing line.” [Washington Post]
New Bishop for Arlington — Updated at 9:25 a.m. — The Catholic Diocese of Arlington is getting a new bishop. Bishop Michael Burbidge, 59, is transferring to Arlington from Raleigh, N.C. Burbridge is scheduled to be installed as bishop on Dec. 6, replacing current bishop Paul Loverde, 76. Some local Catholics have been pushing for a new bishop who will take the diocese in a different direction than Loverde, a traditionalist who decried the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage. Burbridge was critical of North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom” law, which was seen as anti-LGBT, though he was also against an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte that HB2 was intended to undo. [Fox 5, InsideNova]
The Evolution of Ballston — GGW takes a look at the past, present and future of Ballston. The article notes that Ballston was once the end of the Orange Line and that ridership at the station fell in the 1980s when the line was extended to Vienna. [Greater Greater Washington]
Immigrant Women to Protest at DCA — Immigrant women and labor union allies are planning a protest at Reagan National Airport today. They’ll be protesting the treatment of immigrant women who work at the airport, claiming poor working conditions for immigrant mothers in particular. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
(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.
Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association were given an early look at two new developments planned for the community over the next few years.
The 40-year-old church, which is used by Grace for meetings but not for Sunday services, would be replaced by a seven-story condo building and a block of four-story townhouses. A series of townhomes and a private driveway is planned for the parking lot.
The developers described the project as “a relatively modest in-fill development” that’s in keeping with the “urban townhouse” neighborhood that surrounds it. The development, like the neighborhood, tapers from the towers of central Ballston to the south to the lower-density townhomes and condos to the north.
Officials from NVR said the plans are preliminary and have not yet been filed with the county.
Also at Monday’s civic association meeting, local developer Eleventh Street Development presented early plans for a new apartment building in Virginia Square.
The proposed six-story, 220-unit rental complex, at the intersection of Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd, would replace the closed Sport & Health gym, the Slye Electronics building and an automotive business.
Developer Garrett Erdle, who previously helped to develop Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, told residents that the building is at least three years away, following “a structured and lengthy” regulatory process.
Before a site plan process for the building can start, the county and its Long Range Planning Committee is expected to discuss land use planning for the parcel and the area as a whole. The special General Land Use Plan study that the development will first go through is expected to take about a year.
Residents at the meeting expressed concerns about the height of the building, parking along their already-crowded streets and a potential lack of public green space in front of the building. The developer responded that the proposal for the building is in the very early stages and that they will take public feedback into account throughout the process.
When Olivia Davison opened Ballston Therapeutic Massage in 2012 in Ballston, she had just five tables for her clients and considerable competition from better-funded national massage chains.
Flash-forward to today: Ballston Therapeutic Massage has 10 tables, a dedicated roster of certified masseuses, and a loyal clientele that could not care less about the big massage chain locations that surround Olivia’s business.
There are several reasons for that. One, their type of massage is perhaps unique in Arlington, and for another, Olivia herself.
“Most of my therapists are from China and Korea,” Olivia said, “so we practice Eastern Massage; they learned Eastern Massage in their home countries.”
And when those therapists go on vacation, they are continuing to learn and practice.
“We encourage continuous education focusing on new techniques, not just here but when they return home to China and Korea for visits,” she said.
Of course, Swedish massage is also offered for those who enjoy the familiar method. They also do “deep tissue surrender,” reflexology, pre- and post-natal massage, hot stone massage, cupping and other therapies.
The emphasis is on the “therapy.” Her regular clients enjoy the benefits of targeted massage that is proven to decrease pain, increase range of motion, relieve stress, lessen depression, relieve migraine pain and boost the immune system, among other life-changing benefits.
“We focus on therapeutic,” she said. “Other places have showers, saunas — what do we do? Just massage. That’s our specialty.”
Olivia has made a point to become involved in the Arlington community, offering massage services at public events such as marathons and school events, and volunteering to work with those with disabilities.
“We love Arlington,” Olivia said. “And we love helping people.”
The preceding was a local business profile written by Buzz McClain and sponsored by Ballston Therapeutic Massage
(Updated at 4:57 p.m.) A new plan to build a mixed-use building in Ballston could mean uncovering some human remains in the process.
Ballston Station Housing Corporation, a nonprofit established by the Central United Methodist Church, seeks to redevelop the church at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story development that would contain a new house of worship, 132 residential units with affordable housing, a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
But there’s a snag: The site they want to build on was once the Robert Ball Graveyard, the final resting place of some members of the family behind the Ballston name. Today, several white headstones can be seen scattered across the church grounds.
In order to excavate the old graveyard, the developers need to get a permit from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. They also need to hold a public meeting to notify surrounding community members and possible descendants of the Ball family.
Still, the developer behind the project isn’t so sure there are even any human remains left to uncover.
“Nobody actually really knows,” said Tad Lunger, legal representative for the developer. Lunger added that he thinks workers digging utility trenches and tunnels for the nearby Ballston Metro station may have uncovered any leftover remains years ago.
Boyd Sipe, an archaeologist hired by the developers to survey the site, isn’t sure there’s anyone buried there, either. Sipe recently conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of the graveyard that turned up “inconclusive.”
“The GPR survey identified several anomalies that had potential to be graves but could be other subsurface features,” Sipe said. “There’s really no evidence that there are graves on the site, but we want to be ready with the state permit in case graves are found.”
In the event the project does uncover any bone fragments or relics, Sipe said they’ll be turned over to a skeletal biologist who will work to analyze and identify them.
But the county says take a closer look.
“There are six marked graves. There could be an additional three,” said Rebeccah Ballo, historic planner with Arlington County. “There is no evidence written or otherwise that shows those graves have ever been exhumed or moved.”
Ballo said she’s heard from some locals who are worried about digging up the graveyard.
“People have contacted my office concerned about it,” Ballo said. “It is a very old graveyard. It’s been a fixture of the neighborhood for a very long time.”
“This is not something that has happened in Arlington County in recent memory,” Ballo added.
The developers will hold a public meeting regarding the site at the Central United Methodist Church on Oct. 6.
Park(ing) Day 2016 is in full swing in Arlington.
Described as “an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into small parks to elicit a reconsideration of the designation of public space,” Park(ing) Day is taking place on the side of the road in five separate locations in Arlington this year.
Among them: in front of 4075 Wilson Blvd and 4245 Fairfax Drive in Ballston; 2200 Wilson Blvd and the N. Uhle Street parking lot in Courthouse; and 2847 Clarendon Blvd in Clarendon.
We stopped by two today: in Clarendon, the Lululemon store was hosting yoga lessons, demonstrations and other feats of flexibility. On Wilson Blvd in Courthouse, staff from the Arlington Community Planning, Housing and Development office were giving away free schwag and encouraging passersby to play games they had on hand.
The county tweeted photos from two of the other events:
— Plan Arlington VA (@planArlingtonVA) September 16, 2016
— brett wallace (@bretthwallace) September 16, 2016
“Events like PARK(ing) Day enrich our community life by creating an inviting streetscape and by promoting activities that allow for social exchange, fun, creativity and critical thinking,” the county said on its website. “PARK(ing) Day in particular can furthermore promote a rethinking of the usage of the public-right-of-way and may motivate the public to more actively participate in the civic processes which shape our urban environment.”
The tiny temporary parks will remain open until around 3-3:30 p.m.
The new Nando’s Peri-Peri in Ballston will hold its grand opening celebration this coming Saturday, Sept. 17.
The restaurant, in the former Vapiano’s space at 4401 Wilson Blvd, is celebrating its opening with appearances by Washington Capitals players, media personalities and the Caps’ Red Rockers squad.
The new Nando’s will be open from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and all opening day sales will be donated to the Capitals’ official charity, the Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation, according to a press release. The guest appearances will take place between noon and 7 p.m.
Among those expected to help flip chicken on the grills during the opening event, are:
- Radio personality Elliot Segal from “Elliot in the Morning”
- Left winger Andre Burakovsky
- Center Lars Eller
- Right winger Stanislav Galiev
- Defenseman Nate Schmidt
- Right winger Tom Wilson
- Capitals alumnus Paul Mulvey
- Red Rockers squad
- Caps announcer Wes Johnson
- CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Capitals analyst and Caps alumnus Craig Laughlin
- Capitals contributor Courtney Laughlin
“Nando’s is thrilled to partner with the Caps to Rock the Red in Ballston and support Monumental Sports & Entertainment Foundation,” said Nando’s U.S. CEO Burton Heiss. The Capitals practice facility, Kettler Capitals Iceplex, is located in Ballston.
From the press release:
Nando’s has built an intensely loyal following by providing fresh food in a relaxed atmosphere with friendly service. Nando’s is known worldwide for its succulent PERi-PERi chicken, marinated for 24 hours, flame-grilled to perfection, and basted to the customer’s preferred flavor and spice.
Every Nando’s is painstakingly designed and completely unique, with earthy textures and bright colors that reflect its sunny African-Portuguese heritage. With thousands of pieces of original works of art that are a constant reminder of where the restaurant came from, Nando’s has become the largest collector of South African contemporary art in the world. In the United States alone, there are more than 600 pieces of original African art in Nando’s restaurants.
Popular Ballston bar Carpool has been sold to developer Penzance and is set to be replaced by a 22-story-apartment building.
The sale closed on Friday, said co-owner Mark Handwerger. The good news? Carpool is expected to remain open for a few more months.
“CarPool has leased back the property for a period of time, and the bar will remain open through at least the end of November,” Handwerger said.
In August, groups that used Carpool as a gathering spot for things like football games and other regularly-scheduled social events were told that Carpool was likely to close within a few weeks.
As it turns out, Il Forno was ill fated.
The upscale Italian restaurant at 900 N. Glebe Road in Ballston closed last week after about three and a half years in business.
Paper now covers the restaurant’s windows, which is usually an indication that construction is taking place inside and another business is on the way. However, no construction permit applications have been filed, based on a check of the county’s permit system Tuesday afternoon.
In April, ARLnow.com reported that Il Forno was listed for sale on a business broker website. The listing noted that the restaurant was “investor owned” but in need of an “operator-owner.”
Il Forno was located next to the recently-opened Applebee’s.