County Prepping New Tree Study — “Arlington leaders may take their next crack at guesstimating the number of trees in the county – a topic not without political as well as environmental ramifications – early in 2023, if all goes according to plan… estimating the cost at $100,000 to $150,000.” [Sun Gazette]
New Name for GMU Arlington Campus — “George Mason University announced today that its Arlington Campus will be renamed Mason Square as the new centerpiece of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor for multi-disciplinary talent and business development, as well as a civic and cultural destination. Also being announced is Fuse at Mason Square, the name of the new technology-forward building that is the heart of Mason’s commitment to growing Northern Virginia’s next-generation workforce. A groundbreaking ceremony for Fuse at Mason Square will take place April 6.” [Press Release]
FBI Warns of ‘Sextortion’ of Boys — “The FBI Washington Field Office is warning parents and caregivers about an increase in incidents involving sextortion of young children. The FBI is receiving an increasing number of reports of adults posing as young girls coercing young boys through social media to produce sexual images and videos and then extorting money from them.” [FBI]
Nature Center Staffing Slowly Returning — “Don’t expect hours of operation at Arlington’s two county-government natures centers to return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming year, or maybe ever, but local leaders say that doesn’t mean nature programs won’t have priority in coming years… [the] hope for the coming year was to use funding for temporary workers to increase hours at the nature center, including perhaps evening hours.” [Sun Gazette]
Church Wins Climate Award — “Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ’s commitment to fighting climate change over the past 15 years landed it a top award in the 2022 Cool Congregations Challenge. Rock Spring, on Little Falls Road in Arlington, was named the 2022 winner of the Energy Saver category in the challenge, sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light, a nonprofit group that seeks to motivate people of faith to take steps to address climate change.” [Patch]
Alexandria Schools Propose SRO Extension — “Alexandria City Public Schools is requesting an extension of its controversial school resource officer (SRO) program through the end of the 2022-2023 school year. School Board Chair Meagan Alderton says that the extension is part of the reimagining of the $800,000 program.” [ALXnow]
It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 58 and low of 47. Sunrise at 7:05 am and sunset at 7:26 pm. [Weather.gov]
The leadership of Mount Olivet United Methodist Church near Ballston is looking to do something about its parking lot.
The 120-spot surface parking lot fronts N. Glebe Road and is separated from the church, located at 1500 N. Glebe Road, by 16th Street N.
When Mount Olivet bought the parcel in the 1950s, it considered building a youth center and pool on the site, but ultimately paved it over.
Now, 70 years later, church leaders are mulling whether to redevelop the lot, as well as the open space and associate pastor’s parsonage adjacent to it, with a multi-purpose building and underground parking.
Possible uses include a youth recreation center, an arts and cultural space, an expansion of the daycare and preschool, medical offices or senior assisted living, housing or other church uses, according to a presentation on the church’s website.
The redevelopment idea resurfaced in 2017, when church leadership was drafting a strategic plan guiding future growth, according to the church.
Two years later, a task force began meeting with a local architect to consider uses for the property. Concepts from the task force were presented to parishioners on Sunday during a town hall.
“During the Town Hall, multiple references were made to the fact that the material being presented and the ideas being discussed were in fact only possibilities at this point,” Chuck Mitchell, the chair of the task force, tells ARLnow. “There are no plans to build at this time… If and when the Mount Olivet congregation decides to continue the exploration, there will be multiple and comprehensive meetings with Arlington County, civic organizations and other interested parties to engage in the conversation.”
That town hall was intended to update the congregation on the work the task force over the last two years, he said.
“As a long-term member of Arlington and the local community, should Mount Olivet choose to move forward with a project, we will be scheduling meetings with the local civic organizations,” he said.
To avoid raising money from the congregation, church leaders say they would enter a ground lease with a developer.
Over the course of the lease, Mount Olivet would receive revenue from whatever building the developer constructs. Eventually, the revenue would be used to buy back a portion of the building for the church to use.
After the lease expires, Mount Olivet would own the entire building, as well as the land.
While the church has not settled on a plan to propose and discuss with the local community yet, some neighbors have taken to Nextdoor and other channels to express concerns about things like traffic and safety should a new development replace the parking lot.
Locals looking for a good fish fry this Lenten season will have to cast their nets outside Arlington.
People won’t have to go far to indulge for Fat Tuesday — which is today — whether that’s with King Cake from Bayou Bakery or Cajun food at Ragtime. But getting to a fish fry may involve a drive into Falls Church or Fairfax County.
Catholics and some other Christian sects fast on Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and certain days during Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter. Traditionally, that involves abstaining from flesh meats, such as chicken, beef or pork, on Fridays.
Over time, the fasting tradition turned into the church fish fry, often run by a local Knights of Columbus chapter to benefit charity or a parish to support their various ministries. The menu typically includes baked and fried fish, French fries, coleslaw, mac and cheese, other assorted sides and dessert.
“I found that fish fries are mostly up north, as I have a lot of family up that way,” says Myles McMorrow, who sits on the board of Arlington’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus on Little Falls Road. “[For] me, personally, I have never heard of a fish fry in the D.C. metro area and I grew up here.”
He says the local Knights observe Lent by dropping meaty meals from its council restaurant’s menu. Some local churches in the Diocese of Arlington host meatless soup suppers, including St. Agnes Catholic Church in Arlington.
Fish fries are mostly a Midwestern and Rust Belt phenomenon because European Catholic immigrants relied on the abundant fish of the Great Lakes to observe their religious fasts. Over time, the tradition may have blended with an African-American tradition of gathering together for fish fries, which began on plantations and continued after Emancipation as families moved North.
The closest for Arlingtonians is hosted by St. James Catholic Church in Falls Church. It was started in 2010 by a group of parishioners that included a homesick Ohio native.
Every year, hand-battered fish and scratch-made potatoes, hush puppies, coleslaw and carrot cake reel in pilgrims from D.C. to Fredericksburg. People can buy T-shirts emblazoned with the year’s slogan, which is always a fish pun. (This year’s is that the 13th annual fish fry “is trout of this world.”)
“I remember this couple who drove in from D.C.,” says parishioner Karen Bushaw-Newton. “They said, ‘We just heard there was a fish fry and we came to check it out.’ We know a lot of the parishioners who come — and we have a lot of regulars and families — [and] we have people like that couple who just wanted to see what a fish fry was like.”
When COVID-19 hit, the fish fry turned into a drive-thru that, on some Fridays, served more than 1,000 meals in three hours.
“I highly encourage anyone and everybody to come. We don’t ask your faith when you come in the door — it’s just a way to come celebrate,” Bushaw-Newton said.
For those who want to go farther afield, there are a number of other Northern Virginia fish fries, though each would require a longer drive in Friday rush hour traffic. Below are a few of the options.
New Organ Debuts Tomorrow — “The new organ [at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Virginia Square] cost $1.2 million… Opus 28 arrived in Arlington on Oct. 3, 2021. For three weeks, Pasi put together the 500,000 parts that constitute it. He spent the next two months ‘voicing’ the organ: doing the painstaking adjustments necessary to make everything sound just right.” [Washington Post]
Reminder: Pizza Boxes Can Be Composted — From Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: “There’s No ‘I’ in Food Scraps: Arlington viewers of ‘The Big Game’ can give 110% and go all in in the green curbside cart: pizza crusts and boxes, wing bones and greasy napkins. You won’t be denied.” [Twitter]
County Helping With Museum Renovations — “As efforts begin to renovate its museum, the Arlington Historical Society is working to embrace close collaboration where possible with the Arlington County government. Whether that will turn into a financial partnership remains to be seen, but county staff will be providing their knowledge to help the renovation move ahead.” [Sun Gazette]
Public Defender Pay Bill Fails — “A measure to equalize pay between staff of Virginia prosecutors and those working in public-defender’s offices died in a House of Delegates subcommittee. The measure, patroned by Del. Alfsono Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax), would have required localities that supplement the compensation of staff in its office of commonwealth’s attorney beyond state minimums to do the same for staff of a public defender’s office, if a locality has one.” [Sun Gazette]
Nearby: Scammers Impersonating Police — “Officers have received reports from community members who stated that callers contact them claiming to be members of a police department or sheriff’s department. The law enforcement impersonator may… tell the community member they missed a court appearance or jury duty [and] state they need to send money or a warrant will be issued for their arrest or they may turn themselves in to jail.” [City of Falls Church]
Snow Possible This Weekend — “Light to moderate snow could fall in the D.C. area on Super Bowl Sunday. But it’s still not clear whether it will snow hard enough or be cold enough for it to amount to much and have serious effects on the region.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Thursday — Sunny, with a high near 55 today, and wind gusts as high as 21 mph. Sunrise at 7:04 a.m. and sunset at 5:40 p.m. Sunny again tomorrow, with a high near 57 and wind gusts as high as 22 mph. [Weather.gov]
A new K-8 private school is preparing to open this fall in a church near Crystal City.
This weekend, the County Board is scheduled to review a use permit letting Vienna-based Veritas Collegiate Academy open a satellite campus at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood at 935 23rd Street S.
The facility, dubbed Veritas Crystal City, would have up to 25 students in grades K-12 and 10 staff members, according to a county report.
The move into Arlington represents an expansion for the Christian liberal arts school, which recently relocated its main campus from Fairfax to a larger site in Vienna. Per its website, Veritas says has been in negotiations with the church for the past year.
“We are very excited to announce that… we have been also pursuing the opening of a campus closer to Washington, D.C.,” the school’s website reads. “I am proud to announce that Veritas National Landing will officially open this fall. Serving the communities of Arlington, Alexandria, and Washington D.C., Veritas… will offer a different campus approach, with more of a unique eclectic city feel.”
Veritas also has three locations in China.
Veritas proposes being open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with school hours from 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. and after-school activities until 5 p.m., the report said. Drop-off would start at 7:30 a.m. and pickup would end at 3:15 p.m.
Neighbors can also expect occasional extracurricular events on weekday evenings and Saturdays after 5 p.m.
APS Test-to-Stay Date Set — “Arlington County Public Schools, in Virginia, is planning to launch its test-to-stay program Feb. 14, a school spokesman said. The coronavirus testing will initially be offered to students only, for free, at Syphax Education Center from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on school days.” [WTOP]
Police Probe Particularly Problematic Pothole — “Scanner: Police responding to intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Sycamore Street in East Falls Church for multiple reports of a large pothole damaging passing cars.” [Twitter]
Another Guy Arrested With Gun at DCA — “A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer stopped a West Virginia man from bringing a loaded handgun onto a flight leaving from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) early Tuesday morning, according to a TSA release. The TSA officer detected the .40 caliber gun while searching the Bunker Hill, West Virginia man’s carry-on items at a DCA checkpoint.” [Patch]
ART Performance Is Best in Region — From MetroHero: “Our January 2022 regional bus performance reports are now live! ART: B. DASH: B-. Fairfax Connector: B-. MTA Local Bus: C. Metrobus: C-. Ride On: D+.” [Twitter]
Marymount to Host National Event — “Marymount University has been selected by the Center for Excellence in Education to host the national finals of the 2022 USA Biolympiad, to be held on campus May 28 to June 9. The USA Biolympiad is the nation’s largest cost-free biology-education testing and training program for high-school students in the U.S.” [Sun Gazette]
Photos: Church’s Lunar New Year Celebration — “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass in honor of the Vietnamese New Year at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington Jan. 30. Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is celebrated Feb. 1 this year. Following Mass, Bishop Burbidge blessed a shrine to Our Lady of La Vang in a courtyard outside Holy Martyrs.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
It’s Groundhog Day — Patchy fog today before 8 a.m. Otherwise, Groundhog Day will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 46. Sunrise at 7:12 a.m. and sunset at 5:31 p.m. Rain likely Thursday, mainly before 1 p.m. Otherwise cloudy, with a high near 56. [Weather.gov]
Local GOP Supports NAACP’s Caucus Call — “We agree with the NAACP Arlington Branch when they exclaim ‘holding a partisan caucus outside the general election schedule leads to voter confusion and thus undermines voter engagement… and candidate recruitment,’ and we support the NAACP’s strong recommendation that the ‘ACDC cease its School Board caucus and endorsement process…'” [Arlington GOP]
New Mahjong Speakeasy in Pentagon City — “Scott Chung, the restaurateur behind Bun’d Up, was chatting with fellow chef Andrew Lo not long ago about how to best make use of the back room of his Taiwanese gua bao eatery in Pentagon City. Chung had a vision for a dive bar. Lo suggested a hub for mahjong… The end result is Sparrow Room, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar and dim sum restaurant at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) that opens Thursday, Jan. 27.” [Arlington Magazine]
ACFD Rolling Out Telehealth Pilot Program — “Hospitals and emergency crews are stretched thin across the region, which has Arlington County turning to telehealth to help. Paramedics will still respond to 911 calls, but the new pilot program will give patients with less serious emergencies the option of skipping the trip to the emergency room and seeing a doctor through a screen instead.” [Fox 5]
Arlington Church Gets Grand Organ — “St. George’s Episcopal Church is slated to formally present Northern Virginia with an extraordinary and lasting musical gift, a magnificent $1.2 million pipe organ designed by world-renowned organ builder Martin Pasi. The grand instrument, to be used in public concerts as well as for congregational services, is described by Pasi as ‘unique in the Northern Virginia area and comparable to the best in Europe.’ And potentially, it could be making music for the next three centuries.” [Sun Gazette]
Lunar New Year Celebration at Eden Center — “Through February 6th, Eden Center will celebrate the Lunar New Year (called Tet in Vietnamese) with traditional lion dances, music, special dishes, and other activities. Like Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Vietnam follows the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which assigns each year to an animal in the Chinese Zodiac. This year, the year of the Tiger, promises passion and tumult, according to astrologers.” [Arlington Magazine]
It’s February — Today, Feb. 1, will be mostly sunny, with a high near 40. Sunrise at 7:13 a.m. and sunset at 5:30 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 47. [Weather.gov]
(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Grace Community Church has its sights set on a new home: Ballston Quarter.
Next month, the Arlington County Board is set to hear the church’s request to operate in the mall. If approved, Grace Community Church Pastor John Slye says construction on the indoor mall space will begin shortly after and the congregation could move in between July 1 and September of this year.
Ballston Quarter would be a big change from Grace Community Church’s current meeting place — the Thomas Jefferson Middle School auditorium at 125 S. Old Glebe Road. For most of its 20-year history, the church has held worship services at Key Elementary School and later TJ, which Slye attended as a kid. (For office space, Grace Community Church did for a time use a church at 11th Street N. and N. Vermont Street — being redeveloped as apartments.)
“We’ve really enjoyed our time and our partnership [at TJ]. They have been absolutely fantastic,” Slye said. “We’ll be sad to go.”
But a permanent, dedicated home has always been the goal, one the church has started pursuing seriously in the last four years, Slye says. It chose the Ballston Quarter location in 2020, signed a lease and assembled a construction team shortly after that.
While the space will seat 200 fewer people than TJ’s auditorium, the trade-off is that the church will have a space customized to its needs for the first time.
“Our name is Grace Community Church, so we’re really into community, and we do a lot of stuff around food and fun,” Slye said. “We’ll do some concerts — not just Christian — but partnerships with the community, conferences, all kinds of fun things that, we believe, will be a help in some way, shape or fashion in the community.”
The church will have two Sunday services, one at 9:30 and another at 11 a.m., with each bringing in about 480 worshippers, as well as a Thursday service at 7 p.m., according to an application filed with Arlington County. The conferences and concerts will take place on Friday evenings and during the day and evening on Saturday.
Nick Cumings, a land use lawyer representing the church, writes in the church’s application to the county that the regional shopping center “can easily accommodate the expected number of worshippers” as well as their cars in the Ballston Quarter garage.
Religious uses are allowed under the zoning code for the mall, but the church is required to get a site plan amendment approved by the County Board to operate, per the application.
Ballston Quarter’s amenities, its centrality and proximity to the Ballston Metro station will increase the church’s profile, Slye says. That will allow the church to amplify its partnerships with local organizations, such as Arlington Food Assistance Center.
It will also introduce more people to what he says is the “vaccine” to modern malaises such as anxiety, loneliness and purposelessness: the Biblical mandate to love the stranger through community organizing and volunteering.
“We’ve got anxiety running wild, frustration, meaningless, purposelessness,” he said. “We have a vaccine for that: loving-kindness… We need these principles introduced to make a difference to our lives and to the world — and they just work.”
(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Work has started on a long-stalled affordable housing development at the Central United Methodist Church (CUMC) site, across from the Ballston Metro station.
The $84 million multi-use redevelopment, dubbed Ballston Station, will replace the church (4201 Fairfax Drive) with an 8-story building comprised of 144 committed affordable units, CUMC’s new sanctuary space and an early childhood education center for about 90 kids.
Project financing closed yesterday (Wednesday) and construction will start “immediately,” according to developer Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), which will own and operate the residential space. It expects to complete the project in the spring of 2024.
“Ballston Station will bring 144 greatly needed affordable apartments to an incredible location right in the heart of Ballston with direct access to transportation and jobs,” said Carmen Romero, APAH’s President and CEO, in a statement.
The project has changed hands, increased in scope and experienced financial setbacks since it was originally approved in 2017.
APAH took over for Bozzuto Development Company in 2019, increasing the number of units and setting them all aside for affordable housing. Last fall, it received a three-year extension for construction.
Meanwhile, after multiple applications for a Low Income Housing Tax Credit were unsuccessful, APAH had to find other ways to make the project financially sustainable. This includes a $19 million county contribution from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund.
“Arlington County is pleased to support and be part of this outstanding project,” said Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti in a statement. “Ballston Station moves us closer to achieving the county’s ambitious housing goals by providing quality, affordable apartments.”
APAH also received nearly $9 million from an Amazon-funded state housing grant and changed the mix of apartment units.
Fifteen units will be reserved for residents earning 30% or less of the area median income (AMI), with 60 units for those earning 50% AMI or less and 69 at 60% AMI. The project includes 24 two-bedroom units and 12 three-bedroom units.
The revamped church space will include a commercial kitchen for CUMC’s food distribution ministry, which today provides hot breakfast, lunch and groceries, medical care and referrals to more than 200 people.
“This new building will also support our mission to worship God, serve others, and embrace all,” Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen said in a statement.
It will be also home to a Tiffany stained glass window, called “Christ in Blessing,” on loan from Arlington County. The window has never been displayed since being salvaged by the county, as it needs a liturgical setting and restoration. The restoration will be paid for by the church.
With demolition imminent, the Central United Methodist congregation has temporarily moved to a church space at 4701 Arlington Blvd in Arlington Forest.
Arlington’s Human Rights Commission is honoring four organizations and two individuals for their contributions to diversity and human rights over the past year.
Recipients include a seven-decade-old church in Arlington Ridge, the Arlington Branch of the NAACP and a community activist in the Halls Hill neighborhood.
A virtual celebration for the honorees will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9.
The James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards are given annually to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses that best exemplify “outstanding achievement in the area of human rights and diversity made in Arlington County.”
The award is named after the former County Board member who championed the 1992 amendment to county law that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Hunter died in 1998 at the age of 58 due to cancer.
Now in its 22nd year, the 2021 James B. Hunter award winners are Advent Lutheran Church, Arlington Thrive, the Arlington branch of the NAACP, Offender Aid and Restoration, Aurora Highlands resident Les Garrison and Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones Killgo.
Advent Lutheran Church (ALC) is located in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and was first established in the 1950s.
“ALC willingly puts on the mantle of servant leadership and continually answers the call to help those in need, advance diversity, and advocate for human rights on behalf of the residents of Arlington County,” the press release says about why the church is being honored.
Arlington Thrive provides residents in need same-day, emergency financial assistance. The organization has been on the forefront helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic, providing a “safety net” for those who lost their livelihoods.
This year’s award also recognizes the Arlington branch of the NAACP for its recent work advancing racial, economic justice and equality. The organization called on the county to investigate an inmate’s death at the county jail, to fix conditions inside of the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, and to change the county’s previous logo depicting Arlington House, the former home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
“The award is validation that our all-volunteer organization is bringing crucial social justice issues and impacting the forefront,” branch president JD Spain, Sr. tells ARLnow, while noting that there’s still much work to be done. “So we thank the committee for the award and look forward to joining hands to create a better future here in Arlington.”
Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) is a five-decade-old nonprofit that provides a re-entry readiness program for those who have spent time at the county jail, amongst a host of other services.
“Racial equity and an authentic commitment to dismantling racism in Arlington flow through every aspect of how OAR operates — from service delivery to legislative advocacy to internal operations to community education and even to fundraising strategies,” said a press release about the awards.
Les Garrison of Aurora Hills is a long-time civic volunteer who worked to provide residents access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food throughout the pandemic. His work to coordinate has been a “a beacon of selflessness and optimism for Arlington.”
Wilma Jones Killgo is a fourth-generation Arlingtonian who wrote a book about her childhood in Halls Hill, also known as High View Park. She’s a community activist, a fourth-term president of her civic association and a passionate voice for her neighborhood.
Construction is advancing on a permanent home for Saint Timothy and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church in Green Valley.
The Arlington-based church — which goes by the abbreviated STSA Church — currently rents space at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus at 3351 Fairfax Drive.
In 2018, it purchased a vacant lot for $2 million at 2640 Shirlington Road on which it plans build a permanent structure. The county approved an easement related to the property, located between townhomes and the ABC Imaging print shop, this February.
Work started early in September and now, the dense trees that covered the site are gone. Fr. Anthony Messeh, the church’s priest, tells ARLnow crews have finished clearing the site and finished pile driving, and have now turned to sheeting and shoring.
“We are excited to be a part of the community,” he said. “We’re not here to invade, but hopefully, to continue to serve the community and be a part of what’s happening there.”
He says the building will be ready by the end of 2022. When finished, STSA Church will have a traditional Orthodox church space and a contemporary worship space, separated by an atrium, as well as rooms for age-specific ministries and staff office space. There will be a parking garage below and a floor for commercial office space above, topped by a garden terrace.
Messeh says the office would be offered for rent to offset the cost to build the parking structure.
“When people hear a church is moving in, the first question is, ‘Where is everyone going to park?'” he said. “We wanted to be good neighbors. We didn’t want ‘We’re parking in front of your house’ to be our first exposure to the community.”
STSA, which offers in-person liturgy and Sunday morning services, has sought out a permanent gathering place since it began operating in 2012. For now, the congregation and the priest are feeling the limitations of a rented space in a university setting.
“For us, it’s less about outgrowing the size of the space and more in terms of the mission of the church,” Messeh said.
A permanent home would provide a more fitting space for STSA’s community service work, such as its mentorship program with area public elementary schools and its Christmas party for children with blood disorders from Inova L.J. Murphy Children’s Hospital. Additionally, the church’s growing children’s ministry currently uses college classrooms, which do not have age-appropriate furniture, he said.
Lastly, the wafting incense and Byzantine icons characteristic of Orthodox worship can’t be replicated in a rented space. Messeh’s limited to pictures of icons and plastic statues at GMU and can’t use incense — which could set off a fire alarm.
“There’s a look and feel that we do our best to recreate [but] it’s not a real, authentic Orthodox experience,” he said. “After 10 years, we need that.”