Arlington, VA

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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Morning Notes

GMU Arlington Building Renamed — “Founders Hall, one of two major academic buildings on George Mason University’s Arlington Campus, was officially renamed Van Metre Hall after Mason’s Board of Visitors approved the change at its Oct. 10 meeting. The board’s action recognizes the generosity of the Van Metre Companies, a major regional builder that donated 37 acres in Ashburn, Virginia, to the George Mason University Foundation.” [George Mason University]

Overturned Vehicle on Washington Blvd — Near the tail end of yesterday morning’s rush hour a vehicle flipped on its roof along Washington Blvd, between Route 50 and Clarendon. The westbound lanes of Washington Blvd were blocked for a period of time. One person suffered minor injuries. [Twitter]

County Ranks High for Resident Satisfaction — “According to Arlington’s recent Community Satisfaction Survey, 88 percent of residents surveyed are satisfied with the overall quality of County services, 38 percentage points above the national average… Arlington also rated significantly above the national average for overall quality of life — 86 percent compared with 75 percent.” [Arlington County]

Local Credit Union Merger — “Arlington Community Federal Credit Union (ACFCU) announced today the merger of ACFCU with the Queen of Peace Arlington Federal Credit Union (QPAFCU). The combined asset size is $325 million, with nearly 22,500 members.” The Queen of Peace Arlington FCU is located in a church in the northeast corner of the Nauck neighborhood, near the back entrance to Army Navy Country Club. [CUInsight]

Venture-Funded Company Moving to Rosslyn — “FELA, the financial education and literacy company, today announced its rebrand to LifeCents. The name LifeCents is also the company’s health and wellness app that inspires and empowers people to improve their financial health and well-being… The team will move to Rosslyn, VA, at the beginning of next year to accommodate its continued growth.” [BusinessWire via Potomac Tech Wire]

Arlington Has Nightlife Advantage Over Tysons — Despite worries about competition from Tysons among local economic development boosters, the Fairfax County community doesn’t yet have Arlington’s nighttime vibrancy. Said one Tysons bar owner: “A lot of people leave here. They’re done with their job at 6:30 or 7 p.m. and they go home. They don’t come back. If they want to go out, they go to Arlington.” [Tysons Reporter]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

More Housing Coming to Pentagon City — Developer LCOR is working on plans for a new apartment building in Pentagon City, to be built on a site that currently houses a blocky, low-slung building containing Verizon telecommunications infrastructure. Arlington has seen “a rising demand for luxury rentals,” including at a recently-completed LCOR building in Crystal City. [Washington Business Journal, Washington Business Journal]

Woman Charged With Bringing Gun to DCA — “The TSA said an Arlington, Virginia, woman was stopped at a checkpoint at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday with a loaded 9 mm handgun in her carry-on bag. There were 14 bullets in the handgun, including one in the chamber. She was cited by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police.” [WTOP]

New Pastor for Local Church — “St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church will host ‘A Celebration of New Ministry’ to salute the arrival of the church’s new rector, Rev. Dorota Pruski, on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. at the church, 4000 Lorcom Lane.” [InsideNova]

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A massive pipe organ that was once housed in the demolished Arlington Presbyterian Church is getting a new chance to make music, this time in Alexandria.

The organ was a centerpiece of the church for decades, back when it was still located along Columbia Pike. But the church’s congregation agreed to work with the county to redevelop the property into an affordable housing complex back in 2016, leaving the instrument’s long-term fate in doubt.

Though Arlington Presbyterian moved to a new space over on S. Glebe Road, church leaders decided to offer up the organ to give away. As it happened, the Calvary Presbyterian Church in Alexandria (6120 N. Kings Highway) had a pressing need open up for an organ at the exact same time.

Calvary leaders say their old organ was diagnosed with “metal fatigue,” which they deemed to be a “death sentence” for instrument. Accordingly, Calvary wrote to their Arlington counterparts to express their interest.

By April 2016,  Arlington Presbyterian told Calvary that the organ was theirs — if it would fit in their church.

“Out came the measuring tapes and, lo and behold, the pipes would fit like a glove within the church’s balcony,” the church wrote in a release. “Moreover, the baroque-like appearance of the pipes would find a comfortable home in Calvary’s sanctuary, which was constructed in 1954 and remains faithful to the traditional style of churches from that era.”

Even still, Calvary said the move required a “Herculean effort of a team of architects, engineers, carpenters, electricians, construction contractors, asbestos remediators, consultants, inspectors, and organ technicians.”

“It was more than two years from Calvary’s selection for the instrument to be installed and operational, following a celebratory and cathartic pipe washing party,” the church wrote. “Today, as you look upward from the pulpit of Calvary’s sanctuary on Old King’s Highway, what would make generations of parishioners from both Arlington and Calvary proud is that their pipe organ looks right at home, like it’s always been there.”

Calvary is even planning a special dedication ceremony for the organ, set for Sunday (Sept. 23) at 10 a.m.

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