Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

More Signs of Coronavirus Preps — Emptier shelves at local grocery stores, less traffic on the roads: there are signs that locals are taking the coronavirus threat seriously. During the first hour of yesterday’s evening rush hour, traffic on I-395 was relatively light. Last night, there was barely any canned soup left on the shelves at the Lee-Harrison Harris Teeter. [Twitter, Twitter]

Some Churches Close, Others Announce Changes — Episcopal churches in the D.C. area have suspended worship services, while the Catholic Diocese of Arlington announced a series of measures intended to help prevent the spread of disease. [Washington Post, Press Release]

Events Are Being Cancelled in Arlington — “Out of an abundance of caution, the Rosslyn BID has decided to cancel our Arts & Beats series this March and April. We are hoping to run these events later this year and we will be evaluating future events on a case-by-case basis.” [Twitter]

Arlington Conferences Cancelled — “Code for America was scheduled to host its annual summit at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, from March 11 through 13. A Code for America spokesperson told Technical.ly that this would have been the first time the nonprofit was hosting the annual summit in the D.C. area, as it normally takes place in San Francisco. Code for America release a statement on Friday announcing the summit’s cancellation.” [Technically DC]

Local Real Estate Still Hot, Though — “Listing service Bright MLS said closed sales throughout the Washington metro area were up 13% from a year ago to a 10-year high… In Arlington County, Virginia, the median overall price of what sold was $635,000, up 12.4%. But the median price of a stand-alone house that sold in Arlington last month was $1.14 million, up 19.2% from last February.” [WTOP]

Arlington Works on Tree Preservation — “It’s not just housing affordability and increased traffic Arlington County officials are concerned about in the wake of Amazon.com Inc.’s arrival. They’re also watching out for the trees. County officials are proposing to add one urban forester position to the Department of Parks and Recreation. The new hire is needed to expand tree preservation efforts and work through the surge of site plans developers are pitching in the area of Amazon’s HQ2.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Last week a local church presented non-profit CRi with a check for $250,000 to support the building of a new home for those with mental health needs and developmental disabilities.

The donation was funded by the congregation of Grace Community Church, which holds services at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road) in Arlington.

The non-profit said the funding will assist in the construction of a new home for six people in Arlington, which will be called The Grace Home, according to a press release.

“We began this year talking about a capital campaign, not to build a building, but to build a better community,” Lead Pastor John Slye Jr. said in a video. “After a lot of discussion, research and prayer we decided to partner with CRi.”

CRi, formerly known as Arlington Community Residences, is a non-profit that provides specialized services as well as home and community support to individuals with developmental disabilities. The organization also provides mental health services and independent housing to at-risk youth who are homeless, at risk of homelessness or aging out of foster care.

“We currently have a home we’ve resided in for a long time that’s inaccessible to people as they age, so we made the decision to replace” it, CRi President and CEO Arthur Ginsberg said. The new house is currently under construction on the 2200 block of N. Glebe Road, next to the Shell station.

Image via Grace Community Church

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Morning Notes

Water Taxi Coming to Arlington? — The Potomac Riverboat Company, which operates a water taxi between the Wharf, Georgetown, Alexandria and National Harbor, is reportedly considering new commuter-oriented routes, includings a stop at the Pentagon. [ALXnow]

Dems Want to Boost State Affordable Housing Funds — “Virginia Democrats are salivating at what they might be able to achieve now that they’ve finally won unified control of state government, particularly when it comes to affordable housing… new money from the state could be ‘rocket fuel’ for efforts in Arlington if developers can pair that cash with existing funding.” [Washington Business Journal]

Pentagon City Mall to Host New Holiday Display — “Residents and visitors are invited to Fashion Centre at Pentagon City’s inaugural Festival of the Trees! From November 23 through December 24, a variety of Christmas trees decorated by local nonprofits, including Arlington Food Assistance Center, Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Doorways for Women and Families,” etc. [Fashion Centre at Pentagon City]

Zone 4 Leaf Collection Starts Today — Arlington County’s vacuum leaf collection effort is continuing, with crews starting to roam “Zone 4” neighborhoods including East Falls Church, Arlington Forest and Arlington Ridge today. [Arlington County]

Congregation Returns After Redevelopment — “On Sunday, November 17, Arlington Presbyterian Church (APC) celebrated their homecoming. APC returned to their former site opening a new worship, office and multi-use space on the ground-floor of Gilliam Place, a 173-unit affordable housing community developed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) along Columbia Pike.” [Press Release]

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A Ballston church is now one step closer to transforming into an affordable housing complex.

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a proposal to allocate $3,082,319 to an all-affordable housing project in Ballston that would replace the current Central United Methodist Church building at 4201 N. Fairfax Drive with a new eight-story building and two-story underground parking garage.

Plans of the project include 144 housing units, a number the church raised in July from its original proposal of 119 units. The majority of the planned units are two-bedroom apartments. The building designs also include a new church space with 200 seats, a daycare for 100 children, a pre-school, and office space for a charity.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) is developing the property for the church after taking over the project from another developer, the Bozzuto Group. The head of organization said she was “thrilled” to hear that the project was moving forward.

“This is an extraordinary project that will include a new worship space for the church, the return of Kinhaven Preschool, and 144 affordable apartments,” said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul said today (Monday.) “We are grateful to the County for its commitment to Arlington’s low-income residents.”

The $3 million funding is the same amount the Board approved for when the church initially proposed setting aside only certain number of units (48) as affordable in 2017, before later deciding to build only affordable units.

With an estimated 20,000 Arlington households at risk of displacement, leaders have recently launched programs, studied zoning changes, regional partnerships, and faced political heat as they’ve struggled to slow the loss of affordable housing stock.

The Board’s approach allows the the county to loan $3 million to the project via its Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). The same funding mechanism is used for affordable housing projects countywide, including the nearby American Legion redevelopment in Virginia Square.

The Ballston project’s overall financing, including funding from the state, is likely to take another six months to finalize, meaning construction would not begin until after July 2020. In total, the construction is expected to take two years with units on the market by fall 2022.

Previously, some criticized the plan for its potential to disturb the historic Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground underneath the site. (Not to be confused with the Ball Family Burial Grounds on N. Kirkwood Street which also faced uncertainty amid the Virginia Square redevelopments)

Others flagged design issues with the Ballston project’s parking and open space requirements.

The County Board gave its blessing for the overall project in 2017 after designs preserved a portion the cemetery, and an attorney representing the church’s nonprofit leading the development said that crews would examine the site and exhume, examine, and re-inter any remains discovered.

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St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church is tired of being the big, ugly brick church in Clarendon.

St. Charles occupies a large piece of land in Clarendon, near Northside Social, and the church is continuing to review how that land should best be used — namely, the pastor says the church needs visual overhaul.

The redevelopment proposal started in 2018 with a push from the church’s pastor, Rev. Don Planty for a church that better suited the needs of the community. In a letter to the community, Planty said the church needed — among other things — a more “appealing design,” social spaces that would appeal to young adults, and green spaces.

The building has a glass facade on the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Kirkwood Road, but much of the rest of the structure across from George Mason University is squat brick and a surface parking lot.

“The consensus was that the current parish physical plant does not support those aspects of our mission as well as a redeveloped campus could,” Planty said at the time.

A spokesperson for the church said the community has nearly finalized the “second phase” of its redevelopment planning efforts.

“This phase focuses on determining how St. Charles parishioners prioritize ongoing programs to fulfill the mission of the parish,” the spokesperson said in an email. “A sub-group was formed to analyze those findings and has presented that preliminary information to the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. The diocese is reviewing this information and collaborating with the parish in assessing the best opportunities for St. Charles Parish to continue to serve the local community in the years to come.”

Once the Catholic Diocese of Arlington reviews the information, the spokesperson said the priorities will be translated into master plan options that will be reviewed by county officials and the community. The master plan options are expected to be released sometime “in the coming months.”

“At every point moving forward, the parish will actively engage the local community ensuring it continues to be a good neighbor throughout the process,” the spokesperson said.

Other churches in Arlington have funded new facilities through redevelopment of the church property, including the nearby Church at Clarendon and Arlington Presbyterian along Columbia Pike. Both congregations approved affordable housing developments that were built on top of the new church spaces.

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After a year of silence, plans for the redevelopment of two blocks along N. Vermont Street straddling 11th Street N. could be coming back to the table.

In February 2018, Arlington County Board approved developer NVR’s plans to replace the two-story church and its parking lot at 1031 N. Vermont Street — formerly Grace Community Church and currently Portico Church Arlington — with a 72-unit condominium building and 12 townhouses. Four of the units on-site would be committed as affordable housing.

The plans drew some backlash from the neighbors who said the plan added density to an already congested Ballston neighborhood.

Since its approval, however, there has been no sign of work moving forward on the homes. An employee for NVR confirmed that the company had dropped its plans for the site, while county officials tell ARLnow that a new developer and development plan is forthcoming.

“Yes, NVR has walked away from this site plan,” said Gina Wimpey, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “There is a new contract purchaser and they are planning on submitting new plans as early as next month.”

Wimpey said the contract was purchased by BCN Homes, a developer that has constructed custom homes throughout the Arlington. Brian Normile, president of BCN Homes and a partner in a number of popular local restaurants, told ARLnow it’s too early to comment on the property but more information could be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

“The plans will be processed as a minor site plan amendment, but will still need to return to the Site Plan Review Committee,” Wimpey said. “That should occur sometime this fall or winter.”

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Morning Notes

JBG Focusing on Arlington — “As JBG Smith continues to focus its portfolio on the area around Amazon HQ2, the REIT is unloading an asset in the heart of D.C.’s Central Business District… The developer is currently constructing its Central District Retail project and is renovating the 1770 Crystal Drive office building, which Amazon has leased. It is also moving through the planning process to add nearly 1,000 units to its RiverHouse Apartments property and build two new residential towers totaling 750 units at 1900 Crystal Drive.” [Bisnow]

Man Battles Abandoned Scooters — Washingtonian editor Andrew Beaujon is on a mission this summer to get e-scooter companies to pick up abandoned scooters along the Mt. Vernon Trail, near Gravelly Point. [Twitter]

Church Holding Vigil Following Mass Shootings — “Given the terrible events of last week our service this Sunday will be a prayer vigil w/ prayers & ritual to help us find some kind of sense of peace as well as determination to change the culture of our country.” [Twitter]

Vaccine Change for Va. Students — “Ordinarily around this time of year, Arlington school officials are bombarding parents of rising sixth-graders to remember the need for ‘Tdap’ vaccines. Any student turning up the first day of school without one would be sent home. This year, however… as the General Assembly has changed the requirements – now, it is rising seventh-graders who need the vaccines.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy @mashalette/Instagram

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A man has been accused of stealing from a Lyon Park church.

Police were called to the Clarendon United Methodist Church just before midnight Saturday for a “report of a burglary in progress.” A man who had broken into the church before had burglarized the church and was leaving the building with several items when officers arrived, according to Arlington County Police.

More from this week’s ACPD crime report:

BURGLARY, 2019-04200282, 600 block of N. Irving Street. At approximately 11:48 p.m. on April 20, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the property manager was alerted to the presence of a known male suspect who had gained entry to a church. Arriving officers located the suspect exiting the building in possession of items allegedly stolen from inside. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect had entered the building unlawfully on multiple prior occasions. William Barker, 56, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Burglary (x2) and Trespassing (x2).

More highlights from this week’s crime report, including some we’ve already reported, are below.

Read More

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Local congregations are hosting a benefit concert in May to raise funds for families affected by gun violence.

The concert will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington at (4444 Arlington Blvd) on Saturday, May 4 from 7-8:30 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now for $10 per person or $25 for families.

The concert will begin with a performance from the children’s choir from Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church.

Choirs from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, All Souls Church in D.C. by Columbia Heights, and Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Fairfax are scheduled to then perform Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem” together.

Local faith leaders have raised awareness of gun violence before. The Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ displayed 155 T-shirts outside the church three years ago in remembrance of the people who were killed with guns in the Greater Washington area that year.

Photo courtesy of UUCA

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A Catholic church is Nauck is making a big move to solar power, installing a large, cross-shaped set of solar panels over the last few weeks.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, located at 2700 19th Street S. on the border of the Army Navy Country Club, announced what it described as “the largest solar array at a place of worship” in Arlington in a press release yesterday (Tuesday).

The church says the new solar array includes 319 panels in all, generating a total of “over 95 kilowatts of solar capacity.” That should help the church account for just under half of all its power needs across its buildings on the property.

Parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace said they were inspired to take on the solar project by Pope Francis’ efforts to spur Catholics to take action on climate change, in addition to recent warnings from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change that countries around the world must take drastic steps to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

“We wanted to try to get as much energy as we can from a renewable source,” church parishioner Luc DeWolf wrote in a statement.

The church is working with the D.C.-based firm Ipsun Solar on the project. According to the company’s blog, an investor will provide the $233,000 in up-front costs for the project, then the church plans to sell back excess energy generated by the panels to Dominion Energy. The church hopes to then pay back that investor with the cash it raises through that process, and even support its operating budget going forward.

Parishioners project that in the solar array’s first year alone, it will “reduce carbon emissions by an amount equal to preventing nearly half a railcar of coal from being burned.”

Our Lady Queen Peace will hold a reception Saturday (March 9) at 10 a.m. for anyone interested in learning more about the solar project.

Photo 2 via Ipsun Solar

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Morning Notes

Arlington County Prepares for Winter Weather — Though a winter storm this weekend is looking increasingly unlikely for the area, Arlington County says it is preparing for a snowy winter and “will be ready to fight back” against snow and ice. [Arlington County]

More Solar Panels for APS — “Arlington County Public Schools signed a contract on Thursday night that they say will save them millions of dollars. Five of their schools will be made over with solar panels as part of a power purchase agreement, or PPA, with a Charlottesville, Virginia firm called Sun Tribe Solar.” [WUSA 9]

Fire at Ledo Pizza — Firefighters responded to an electrical fire at the Ledo Pizza restaurant in the Red Lion hotel in Rosslyn yesterday. The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler system. [Twitter]

Amazon, Pentagon City and Housing — Most or even all of Amazon’s permanent presence in Arlington could actually be in Pentagon City, not Crystal City. That presents an opportunity to add more housing, including affordable housing, in Pentagon City. [Greater Greater Washington]

American May Add Flights at DCA — “American Airlines is closely ‘studying’ online retailer Amazon’s plans to open a second headquarters steps away from its hub at Ronald Reagan Washington National airport, where it is already planning to add seats at the slot-controlled facility. ‘We absolutely plan to upgauge at DCA,’ the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier’s vice-president of network Vasu Raja tells FlightGlobal.” [FlightGlobal]

Our Lady of Guadalupe Celebration — “On Saturday, December 8, approximately 300 people are expected to pour into Saint Agnes Catholic Church’s Parish Hall in Arlington to celebrate the anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother to Juan Diego on December 12, 1531. Following the Mass, there will be a candle lit procession with some of the faithful carrying a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, followed by praying the rosary, and a potluck dinner with live entertainment -a mariachi band!” [Diocese of Arlington]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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