Local Parties to Hold Debate Watching Parties — Local Republicans and Democrats will be holding viewing parties for the first of the 2012 presidential debates tonight. The Arlington Republican viewing party will be held at Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon (3100 Clarendon Blvd). The Arlington Democratic viewing party will be held at Bailey’s Pub & Grille in Ballston (4238 Wilson Blvd).
Parents Say Bus Changes Are Taking a Toll — Students are not performing as well academically and at least one mom lost her job as a result of changes to the County’s school bus policies, according to a group of parents. Parents of Campbell Elementary students are planning to carpool — to Thursday’s School Board meeting, to voice their concerns. [WTOP]
More Local BRAC Moves Coming — According to one estimate, government agencies with leases expiring between now and 2015 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act occupy more than 4.5 million square feet of office space in Arlington and Alexandria. The BRAC move-outs are impacting the bottom line of some commercial property holders. Vornado, with office space in Arlington and Fairfax County, expects earnings to be down as much as $60 million as a result of BRAC. [Bloomberg]
Church Series on ‘Restoring Political Civility’ — The Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) will be holding a four-part series that will “discuss how citizenship is a responsibility rather than a privilege, and how to restore civility to the political process.” [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Keithhall
Wienermobile Spotted in Arlington — The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was spotted yesterday afternoon at the entrance to Bluemont Park (above). No word yet on what it was doing there.
Vornado Hurt By BRAC — Vornado Realty Trust, one of the primary commercial landlords in the Crystal City area, is hurting due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. The company is currently “staring down the barrel of nearly 2.4 million square feet of vacant space” as the U.S. military continues to move offices and departments from leased buildings to forts and other owned properties.. [Washington Business Journal]
One Handgun a Month Law Repealed — Yesterday Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) made it official and signed a bill that repeals the state’s 19-year-old “One Handgun a Month” law. In response, Rep. Jim Moran (D) said in a statement: “Today Virginia retreated from sensible gun control policy… The repeal of this law will return Virginia to being the nation’s number one gun-running state, putting more guns into the hands of criminals and traffickers.”
Hotels Gouging For Inauguration? — Booking a room in Arlington for Inauguration Day 2013 is going to cost you. Hotels have already jacked up prices in anticipation of the crush of visitors to the D.C. area for the inauguration. TBD.com compiled a list of notable examples, and found $479 per night rooms at the Rosslyn Hyatt, $399 per night rooms at the Ballston Comfort Inn, and $299 per night rooms at the Lee Highway EconoLodge.
Efforts by residents to reduce traffic headaches in the Barcroft neighborhood appear to have paid off. Residents report that the increase in shuttle buses for government workers affected by BRAC has diminished the number of cars clogging the neighborhood.
In July, we reported about resident concerns over an additional 1,200 workers flooding the Barcroft neighborhood due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. People living in the area were concerned about workers parking on the streets and dangerous traffic congestion on George Mason Drive. They appealed to Rep. Jim Moran for help.
Moran asked that the plan for shuttle buses between Arlington Hall and the Pentagon Center be expedited to ease the traffic burden, and shuttles started running on September 6. Now, residents report this action has helped improve traffic conditions and safety over the past few months.
“I believe the diligent work by Congressman Moran’s office and the determination of our neighbors to make clear boundaries really paid off,” said Barcroft School and Civic League President Pat Williamson.
Williamson says although there’s still some congestion along George Mason during the morning rush, the situation is much improved and she hasn’t received any new complaints from neighbors.
“The new Arlington Hall shuttle bus service is a testament to the impact of an engaged, active community,” Moran said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Barcroft residents, Arlington Hall employees and the Defense Department to smooth out any wrinkles caused by BRAC.”
Also being credited is the increase in Metrobus service along the route. WMATA had previously promised to increase the frequency of 22A buses, and as of this week, added additional stops to the route.
(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) If you manage a 40-year-old office building in Rosslyn, what do you when your sole office tenant — the Department of Defense — packs up and moves most of its offices to Ft. Belvoir (and elsewhere)?
Renovate, renovate, renovate.
That’s the plan announced by real estate firm Penzance earlier this week for its 17-story office tower at 1500 Wilson Boulevard. Most of the building, minus ground-level retailers like Santa Fe Cafe and a couple of lower floors, will be vacated next year thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure Act, and Penzance is planning to spruce things up.
“Future improvements will include the renovation of the building’s main entrance, main lobby, elevator lobbies, restrooms, elevator cabs and mechanical systems, as well as HVAC improvements,” the company said in a press release.
“1500 Wilson is coming to the market at the right moment and with the added benefit of a multi-million dollar renovation,” said Penzance executive Matt Pacinelli. “We are offering one of the only large blocks of space available in Rosslyn, and at a significant discount to the market rents typically seen in the newer towers.”
Penzance is also trying to talk up the 200,000 square feet of office space by describing the benefits of a Rosslyn address.
“Prominently situated at the intersection of Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards, the 249,000 square-foot building serves as a gateway to the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and features stunning panoramic views from its 17-story vantage point,” the company said.
BRAC Not Too Bad, After All — Today is the deadline for the transfer of military offices affected by the Base Realignment and Closure Act. By today, 17,000 jobs were supposed to have moved out of Arlington County (mostly Crystal City) and into secure military installations like Ft. Belvoir. But in the end, the feared deadline is coming and going “with little fanfare.” The Associated Press reports that 10,000 of the 17,000 BRACed jobs are still here and expected to remain through as late as 2014, thanks to extensions granted by the Department of Defense. [Washington Post]
Pumpkins Arrive in Clarendon — The first pumpkins of the season showed up yesterday at the Clarendon Farmers Market. [Clarendon Culture]
Artisphere Called ‘Sad,’ Lonely — The designated art critic for the Clarendon-Courthouse-Rosslyn Patch says he was disappointed by Artisphere on his first visit. “I noticed an immediate loneliness to the place, a sad emptiness,” he wrote. The critic went on to recommend “more traditional” art galleries, in addition to Artisphere’s more modern, avant-garde exhibits. [Patch]
Shuttle buses are now running between the Pentagon and the National Guard Readiness Center (Arlington Hall), in a move that officials hope will help alleviate some of the traffic burden in the Barcroft neighborhood.
In July we reported that Barcroft residents were concerned about the influx of an additional 1,200 workers, whose jobs were being moved to Arlington Hall as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Congestion on George Mason Drive was part of the concern, and the fact that parking is only available for one in four new workers was another part. In response, Rep. Jim Moran requested that the military speed up approval of shuttle buses between the facility and the Pentagon Transit Center.
On Aug. 19, Moran’s office was notified that the shuttle service had been approved. Today, those shuttle buses started running, according to Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes.
Adding service between Arlington Hall and the Pentagon will “undoubtedly reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles commuting to and parking near the bureau facility,” Moran said in July.
The Army National Guard had put in a request for shuttle service to the Pentagon Transit Center from Arlington Hall Station, but so far the additional service has not been granted. Moran has now asked the Director of the Washington Headquarter Service to expedite the request.
The Arlington Hall Station shuttle already provides service from nearby Metro train stops to the National Guard facility. However, it currently doesn’t have access to the Pentagon Transit Center, despite a request for service in June 2009. Moran says that adding service between the Arlington Hall Station and the Pentagon will “undoubtedly reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles commuting to and parking near the bureau facility.”
There’s been an effort to come up with additional public transportation around Arlington Hall as 1,200 workers pour in due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. A parking structure was built to accommodate the added workers, but there is only one parking space for every four employees.
Residents have been petitioning for help to prevent commuters from Arlington Hall from spilling over into residential neighborhoods. Also of concern is the potentially dangerous congestion on George Mason Drive near the complex.
BRAC coordinators are encouraging the new workers to use public transportation instead of driving, and are working with WMATA to increase the frequency of 22A buses in the area. The addition of a shuttle from Arlington Hall Station to the Pentagon Transit Center would provide another transportation option for commuters, particularly those who use Metro trains.
Commuters who use WMATA’s 22A buses to Arlington Hall will pay the regular public bus fare. However, if the request for a shuttle to the Pentagon Transit Center goes through, Moran’s office says that service would be free to riders because it is provided by the Department of Defense.
Barcroft residents are carefully watching the influx of some 1,200 government workers into their neighborhood as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Some neighbors are calling for action to mitigate what they claim are dangerous and disruptive traffic conditions.
The personnel are being added to the Army National Guard Readiness Center, in the Arlington Hall complex, at George Mason Drive and Route 50. Many of them are coming from Crystal City offices, but only a couple hundred have made the move so far. The bulk of staff members are expected to arrive mid-July. This flood of workers has some residents in surrounding neighborhoods worried about an increase in parking and traffic issues.
Although a new parking structure was built to accommodate the additional workers, per the National Capital Planning Commission’s specifications there is only one parking spot for every four workers. That’s creating concern about where all the new employees will park. There are already reports of more cars parked in neighboring residential areas, and residents would like to see that stop.
BRAC Project Coordinator Andrea Morris says she understands the parking issues. She is working with District 3 to increase patrols in the area to ticket anyone parked illegally on residential streets. The problem, according to Morris, is that most of the Barcroft neighborhood does not have zone parking restrictions, so there’s nothing to stop workers from using the vacant spots.
“It’s not a popular answer, it’s not one that is going to get a lot of rave reviews, but unfortunately, it happens to be a fact,” Morris said. “It’s a very, very hard statement for me to make because I hear their concerns.”
Morris says BRAC has partnered with WMATA to increase the frequency of the 22A buses, starting in August. That line should alleviate some of the parking headaches, because it is planned to work as a shuttle for the government workers and not to stop at every point along the bus line.
Both Morris and Barcroft School and Civic League President Pat Williamson say one positive aspect of this situation is that people transferring from Crystal City are already accustomed to using public transportation such as the Metro system, and will hopefully be open to the idea of using shuttle buses or carpooling to the new site.
“This is a decision the Pentagon made and we’re just responding to,” Morris said. “We have to work together to make this as smooth as possible and as non-invasive as possible, even though this is an invasive situation.”
The neighboring community of Alcova Heights is experiencing a similar worker influx from the State Department’s George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, which occupies the eastern half of the Arlington Hall site. Williamson and Alcova Heights Citizens Association President Marie Van Ness both acknowledge the difficulty of keeping the projects in line with government demands, while easing the burden on those living in the areas.
“They are working as best that they can with the resources they have,” Van Ness said. “We just want to keep those avenues of communication open so we can continue to work together on the problems that come up.”
So far, the civic associations say the communication with liaisons has been excellent. They’re hoping it stays that way when the transition speeds up and more workers pour in during the next month.
“What we are looking at is what’s going to happen when the full contingent of 1,200 employees transitioning from Crystal City is supposed to complete its move by mid-July,” Van Ness said.
A larger concern than street parking, according to Williamson, is that the existing buses, as well as the increasingly frequent shuttles, have to do a U-turn on George Mason Drive. Not only can that tie up traffic, but some buses create a danger to other drivers and pedestrians by backing up while attempting to make the turn. Residents want a safer turnaround installed, but Williamson says “there doesn’t seem to be funding to come up with a turnaround.”
The communities have drawn attention to the problem by contacting Rep. Jim Moran. A representative for the congressman met with the Army National Guard to hear about the plan for partnering with the State Department to ease traffic trouble with stepped-up shuttle buses, rideshare programs and parking facilities. Rep. Moran and his staffers are looking into any further actions that may be necessary.
Williamson says residents hope both government projects in the area will “be appropriately funded with resources so they can contain their growth within their space, instead of our residential neighborhood.”
But for now, with no additional funding in sight, Williamson says that worries abound.
“The majority of people are very concerned, very worried,” she said. “It doesn’t sound good.”
Thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure Act, Chris and Carrie Arnold were forced to move themselves and their two young children from their 1,000 square foot Arlington condo to Huntsville, Alabama.
According to a local newspaper, the couple is glad they moved.
“It’s easier to breathe down here,” Chris Arnold told the Huntsville Times. “There’s more space, and it’s not that same kind of pressure on your chest as you have when you’re in a heavily populated area… D.C. was a concrete jungle.”
Arnold, who works for the Missile Defense Agency, says he’s also happy to live “somewhere that was more family-friendly, a place with a yard, a place where people wouldn’t look at you funny if you left work at 5 p.m.”
Report on BRAC Impacts — With the Base Realignment and Closure Act-mandated relocation of Defense Department offices delayed, BRAC’s impact on Arlington County will be eased considerably, according to a new report from real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle. The report presents the drain of DoD offices from Crystal City and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as a chance for building owners to update and redevelop. “If anything, we see this as an opportunity for Arlington County -as a whole – to reinvent itself somewhat, to update older inventory, and to cement its place as the leading submarket in the Metro D.C. area,” the report said. [Citybizlist]
Wakefield Groundbreaking Scheduled — The public is invited to attend a groundbreaking for the new Wakefield High School next week. The groundbreaking will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 9, outside the Aquatics Center. Construction of the new 380,000 square foot building is expected to begin next month, with students expected to start using the building in the fall of 2013. [Arlington Public Schools]
Leeway Overlee Community Day and Yard Sale — The 33rd annual Leeway Overlee Community Day and Yard sale will be held along the John Marshall/Ohio Street greenway from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. “About 100 local families and other vendors offer a wide range of items for sale, including plants, clothes, sports equipment, and furniture,” organizers say. [Craigslist]
Don Quixote Opening — Synetic Theater’s production of Don Quixote will have its opening night Saturday in Crystal City (1800 South Bell Street). The show starts at 8:00 p.m. The production runs through July 3.
Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White
The Base Realignment and Closing Act (BRAC) mandates that the moves take place by September 15, 2011. But Moran is asking Gates to include the Mark Center move among seven BRAC recommendations that the Secretary of Defense will have the authority to delay for up to a year, under a defense funding bill currently making its way through congress.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell is also asking for a delay. Earlier this month McDonnell sent a letter to Gates asking for the moves to be delayed while major infrastructure improvements are made to the Seminary Road exit off I-395, which is expected to handle the traffic from thousands of new Mark Center workers.
Board Approves Higher Towing Fees — It’s going to cost you an additional $10 if your car gets towed in Arlington. The County Board last night voted 3-2 to increase the maximum towing fee from $115 to $125, five dollars higher than the maximum rate in the District. The board rejected a recommendation that would have added $25 to tows performed on nights, weekends and holidays. [Sun Gazette]
‘British Goodies’ For Royal Wedding — Want to go all-out for the royal wedding Friday morning? Pick up some Yorkshire Gold tea and some Branston Pickle from the Classic Cigars & British Goodies store (2907 Wilson Blvd) in Arlington. [Patch]
Fairfax Won’t Sue Over BRAC Plan — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors is critical of the decision to relocate thousands of Defense Department workers to the Mark Center in Alexandria, but it will not be filing a federal lawsuit in the wake of a damning report from the DoD’s inspector general. Rep. Jim Moran is urging localities to seek an injunction against the moves, scheduled for later this year. [Washington Post]
Free Coffee for Earth Day — To celebrate Earth Day, Starbucks is offering a free coffee or tea to anybody who brings a reusable mug or tumbler. Caribou Coffee, which has locations in Shirlington and Crystal City, is also offering free coffee for those who bring reusable drinkware. [Starbucks, Shirlington Village Blogspot]
Ballston Recognized for Environmental Efforts — Ballston has been named one of the top 10 “green” neighborhoods in the Washington area by real estate listing service MRIS. [Prince of Petworth]
Lawsuit May Be Filed to Stop Mark Center Moves — Rep. Jim Moran is urging Virginia officials to sue the federal government after the Department of Defense’s inspector general found big potential traffic problems with the new Mark Center in Alexandria. According to the inspector general’s report, the Army misled local officials about traffic issues at the site. A lawsuit could keep hundreds or even thousands of jobs in Arlington while improvements are made to the Mark Center’s transportation infrastructure. [Washington Examiner]
Post Tackles Twilight Convention — In an amusing but sadly photo-less write-up of last weekend’s Twilight fan convention at the Sheraton National Hotel on Columbia Pike, a Washington Post reporter discovers that most die-hard Twilight convention-goers are 25 to 50 year-old women. There are, however, a few male fans, who may or may not have been more interested in the female fans than in the movie itself. [Washington Post]
Shirlington Village Trades Escalator for Stairs — Eschewing the normal progression of technology, Shirlington Village has completed a project that removed an escalator and replaced it with a set of stairs. [Shirlington Village Blog]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Construction of a key ramp from I-395 to the Mark Center complex on Seminary Road in Alexandria may be delayed 18 months due to a federal decision that will require an extensive environmental study before the project can get underway. The delay may further hold up the move of military employees from Arlington offices to Mark Center.
On Friday, VDOT announced that the Federal Highway Administration had decided to require the environmental assessment for the ramp. VDOT argued that it should have instead been granted a categorical exclusion for the project, “since the ramp will be built entirely within existing I-395 right of way, will improve air quality by making transit and carpooling more convenient for Mark Center employees and will not have substantial impacts to natural, cultural, recreational, water quality, or historic resources.”
About 6,400 Department of Defense employees are scheduled to be relocated to Mark Center by the end of the year as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). VDOT says that “near-gridlock conditions will occur on Seminary Road, Beauregard Street and I-395” unless the ramp and other infrastructure is built to accommodate the extra traffic. With the environmental assessment, it could be 2015 or 2016 before the ramp opens.
Congressman Jim Moran — who has been working “to suspend or delay the move into the Mark Center site until the necessary transportation improvements to prevent a traffic nightmare on I-395 are implemented” — says that Mark Center moves may need to be pushed back even further.
“Given the severe traffic congestion that will occur at the Mark Center, I remain focused on fighting to delay relocation until after all transportation infrastructure improvements are in place,” Moran told ARLnow.com. “This decision just means that it will take a lot longer to build the ramp, extending the time needed to delay the full move.”
Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Karen Vasquez confirmed that Arlington workers are among those whose moves may be affected.
“Because many of the functions leaving Arlington are relocating at Mark Center, a delay in the construction of the ramp will delay those moves,” Vasquez said. “Arlington, and the BRAC Transition Center, continue to work with Congressman Moran during the transition.”
Yesterday Arlington School Board Chair Libby Garvey sent out an email blasting opponent Rob Krupicka, an Alexandria City Council member, for the Council’s stance on the relocation of thousands of military jobs to the Mark Center development on I-395. In a letter dated August 13, 2008, posted on Garvey’s web site, an Alexandria official writes that the Council supports what was then still a proposal for the military to use the Mark Center site.
Garvey argues that the lack of Metro accessibility and the likelihood of traffic congestion at the site makes for “a terrible situation.”
“I join with Sen. Webb, Sen. Warner, Rep. Moran and Rep. Connolly in their request to the Defense Department that they delay fully staffing the [Mark Center] facility until traffic mitigation efforts are completed,” Garvey wrote. She then pounced on Kupricka.
“I believe strongly that we should judge public officials by the decisions they make,” she said. “In this case, Rob Krupicka, one of my opponents for the Senate seat currently held by Patsy Ticer, made a terrible decision by giving the DOD a green light to locate the BRAC building at the Mark Center site. His candidacy for the Virginia Senate, like that of all of us running for that important position, should be evaluated according to the quality of our decisions.”
Garvey, Krupicka and Del. Adam Ebbin are running for Ticer’s 30th District state Senate seat.
Krupicka responded with an email of his own, accusing Garvey of “distorting” his “record of leadership on transit and transportation for our community.” The email’s subject line: “Today this race got nasty.”
“This is a race between three good Democrats,” Krupicka wrote. “We’ve worked together over the years, and I’ve considered both opponents friends. So I’m disappointed that Libby decided to go negative.”
The email concludes with a call to action: “P.S. Let’s not let mudslinging stop us from making our community stronger. Can you contribute $25, $50, $100 or $250 today to help us bring new ideas to move us forward today?”