(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) Firefighters are on the scene of a fire at a church along Columbia Pike.
The smoky fire broke out at the Arlington Presbyterian Church at 3506 Columbia Pike around 5:30 p.m.
Initial reports suggest the fire started in a closet at Funshine Preschool, the child care center that’s housed in the church, before spreading to a hallway.
The flames were quickly brought under control after firefighters arrived on scene, but not before the building filled with smoke.
Additional fire department resources from Fairfax County and Fort Myer were requested to assist with the firefighting and subsequent ventilation efforts.
The church is set to be torn down and replaced with an affordable housing development with a new worship space. Its congregation has temporarily moved to the Arlington United Methodist Church (716 S. Glebe Road) in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.
In June we reported that the preschool’s lease had been extended through December, ahead of the planned demolition.
The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.
The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.
The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”
“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location. The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.
The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family. In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly. In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard. The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.
The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years. With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb. The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.
It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.
No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design. The developers always thought they would move the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it. A nice border wall already exists. The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down. Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.
Woman Attacked, Robbed in Pentagon City — A 24-year-old woman was punched in the face and robbed of her phone last Friday. The crime happened in broad daylight on S. Joyce Street, near Pentagon Row and the Riverhouse apartments. [WJLA]
No Easy Answers for Biking Along the Pike — Columbia Pike remains perhaps the least bike-friendly commercial corridor in Arlington, but there are few realistic ideas for substantially improving its bike-ability. [Greater Greater Washington]
Baptism Makes History at Local Church — For the first time in its nearly 150 year history, Mount Salvation Baptist Church, in the Halls Hill neighborhood along Lee Highway, conducted baptism ceremonies in which a female minister took part. [InsideNova]
Woopie Pie Truck in Ballston — A food truck specializing in whoopie pies plans to be in Ballston today. The Little Miss Whoopie truck will serve hungry Ballstonites around lunchtime. [Patch]
Photo courtesy Sandra Plaza
Two nonprofit organizations teamed up over the weekend in Arlington to provide voter registration to former felons after Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe restored the voting rights of about 200,000 Virginia ex-offenders.
The League of Women Voters in Arlington and National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice held a voter registration event on Saturday at the Macedonia Baptist Church.
In order to secure voting rights again, the former felon must have completed his or her sentence along and finished supervised probation or parole.
“In my old life, I was just here. I didn’t feel as if I was part of the country, a citizen,” said Virginian Terry Garrett, who previously served time for shoplifting. “Whoever people voted in, I didn’t get to have a say. Today I know that I am an important part of society, and every vote counts. Now, I am a citizen and part of this country. Everyone should keep that right. No matter what.”
But the day before the event, the Virginia Supreme Court voted to overturn the governor’s executive actions, stating that McAuliffe does not have the authority to issue a blanket rights restoration. As a result of the decision, the court ordered that anybody who registered to vote as a result of the governor’s executive orders to be removed from the registry.
The governor is currently in the process of individually restoring the voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Despite the uncertainty after the decision, the event still went on as planned with 14 people coming to restore their voting rights. League member Karen Kimball said the court’s decision may have contributed to the low turnout, noting the possibility of individuals being confused or deterred from registering as a result.
“The League considers this event a success because it highlighted an important segment of our community whose right to apply for restoration of voting rights is too frequently unknown by former felons or ignored by them,” Kimball said. “The League believes that having and exercising the right to vote is part of their rehabilitation process and enables them to be full participating citizens in our community.”
Photos Courtesy Karen Kimball
After spending the past 86 years in the same location at 3507 Columbia Pike, the Arlington Presbyterian Church has gathered its share of items. This weekend, in advance of the redevelopment of its property, the church is giving many of those items away.
“We can’t take it all with us, so we invite you to come by and see if there is anything you can use or re-purpose,” the church said in an email. “All items are FREE and must be removed that day. We will have filing cabinets, books, desks, chairs, other furniture, kitchen items, and lots more!”
The giveaway event will take place on Saturday from 11:30 a.m.-2:00 p.m.
The congregation is relocating due to the church building being torn down and redeveloped for affordable housing.
The church has temporarily moved to a new worship location, at the Arlington United Methodist Church (716 S. Glebe Road) in the Alcova Heights neighborhood. Services are taking place Sundays at 11 a.m.
Long Bridge Project Coming — Virginia’s new Atlantic Gateway transportation plan includes the reconstruction of Long Bridge, the rail bridge that runs parallel to the 14th Street Bridge. As proposed, the new bridge would carry four rail tracks instead of two. Local elected officials expressed support for the project at a press conference with Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Alexandria last week. [Arlington Connection]
Kids Attend ‘Peace Camp’ — A group of local children attended a week-long camp that was all about promoting peace through music, art and games. The event was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington and organized by the group Little Friends for Peace. [WUSA 9]
Sugar Shack Debuts ‘Donut Lab’ — Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike will be debuting new flavors every Wednesday as part of a social media competition with its sister store in Alexandria. Each week customers will vote on their favorite flavor. This week’s new flavor at the Arlington store is “Cannoli,” with cannoli cream filling and chocolate glaze. [Patch]
Community Zika Meeting — The Fairlington neighborhood will be holding a community meeting on the threat of the Zika virus tonight. [Twitter]
W-L Defeats Yorktown for Soccer Title — Washington-Lee captured the 6A North boys soccer title last night with a 3-0 win over Yorktown. Both teams are still in the state soccer tournament: “The Generals face Virginia 6A South runner-up Grassfield in a state semifinal on Friday at Robinson while Yorktown will play First Colonial.” [Washington Post]
SafeTrack and Traffic Latest — I-395 and I-66 were jammed this morning and some local roads were similarly backed up with traffic as Metro’s SafeTrack work on the Orange Line continues. An ARLnow poll yesterday showed that 56 percent of respondents had a slower than usual commute during the first weekday of WMATA’s maintenance surge. Meanwhile, Metro says its was “pretty much at the maximum of what we could move” through the track work zone on Monday. [DCist]
Higher D.C. Minimum Wage Could Benefit Arlington — A conservative group claims in a new report that 1 in 5 D.C. businesses would consider moving to Arlington if the District enacts a $15 minimum wage. There are reports that the D.C. Council is poised to approve a measure today that would raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2020. [Washington Free Beacon, Washington Post]
Board to Consider Fire Station No. 8 Plan — The Arlington County Board is set to consider the recommendation of the Fire Station No. 8 task force that the station should remain on Lee Highway rather than moving to public land near Marymount University. The existing fire station would need to be renovated and a temporary fire station constructed for use during the renovation, raising costs compared to the original plan to move the station. [InsideNova]
County Home Building Records Digitized — Arlington County has digitized its printed home building and alteration records, known as “house cards.” The records are now available online, searchable by address. [Arlington County]
Church Celebrates Final Service Before Demolition — About 80 members of the 86-year-old Arlington Presbyterian Church gathered for the final Sunday service before the congregation leaves for a temporary worship space down the block and the church is demolished to make way for affordable housing. [Washington Post]
Photo by Jackie Friedman
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County
Baby Jesus was stolen from outside Calvary United Methodist Church (2315 S. Grant Street), in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, sometime between 8 p.m. Saturday and the next morning, when parishioners showed up for Sunday worship services.
Police were called and took a report Monday, though hopes of cops catching the perpetrator are low. Rev. Matthew G. Smith said he’s hoping the thief has a change of heart and repents — by returning the Son of God to his rightful place in the manger, at least until the nativity scene is brought inside next weekend. Alternatively, the little Lord could also be left on the front steps of the church or brought, in person, to the front office.
“We have no desire to prosecute,” Smith said. “We would be very happy just to get Him back.”
“Baby Jesus missing,” said a sign posted in front of the nativity scene today. “Please return. No questions asked.”
(No other nativity thefts were reported this year in Arlington, according to an ACPD spokeswoman.)
This was the third time Jesus had been swiped from the church’s nativity scene, and if all works out it wouldn’t be the first time He has been returned, Smith said. The first time, years ago, Jesus mysteriously reappeared in the nativity scene on Christmas morning.
The last time, a few years back, baby Jesus vanished for good. A parishioner ended up ordering a new, hand-painted figure of the young Prince of Peace from Italy and donated it to the church as a replacement.
Before the nativity scene was put on display a few weeks ago, in mid-December, Smith and some church members discussed ways to prevent theft. The nativity scene itself is bolted down, but the Italian baby Jesus is too fragile to be secured in a permanent fashion. While many ideas were proposed, the one that was implemented involved tying fishing line around the porcelain figure. That did not save the Savior; the fishing line was cut by the thief.
Smith said he expects there to be more discussion of nativity security ahead of 2016’s Christmas season. Should the Christ child not be returned, the church will also have to consider raising funds to buy a new one. The pastor said he wasn’t sure of the cost of a new porcelain baby Jesus, but said of the Italian-made model that was stolen, “I’m certain it’s not inexpensive.”
“We will look for ways next year,” to secure baby Jesus, he said, “but we don’t want to chain him in.”
Either way, said Smith, “it’s not going to sour our love of the community or our mission.”
Photo via Facebook
DoD Renews Leases on Crystal City Buildings — In a win for Arlington County’s beleaguered commercial real estate market, the GSA has renewed leases on two buildings with some 912,000 square feet of office space, in Crystal City, for the Department of Defense. [Washington Business Journal]
Church Decided to Sell After Hearing from Residents — While initially skeptical, a majority of the membership of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike approved a plan to sell the church to an affordable housing developer after hearing the stories of working class residents who said they worked in Arlington but couldn’t afford to live there anymore. [Washington Post]
Fisette: Arlington Will Work to Improve Bike Rating — County Board member Jay Fisette says Arlington will work to improve its Bicycle Friendly Community rating. Arlington received a silver-level designation, but there are 29 U.S. communities that are either gold or platinum level. In order to achieve that, Arlington will need more bike lanes, bike programs for lower-income residents and bicycle-themed street events. [InsideNova]
Howell Introduces Courthouse Security Bill — State Sen. Janet Howell (D), whose sprawling district includes part of north Arlington, has introduced a bill intended to improve courthouse security. The bill would increase from $10 to $20 the maximum amount a local jurisdiction could charge a defendant convicted on traffic or criminal charges, to help fund security measures. [Richmond Sunlight]
Webb Responds to Criticism in Comments — Michael Webb, who hopes to run as a Republican against Rep. Don Beyer next year, has personally responded to criticism in the comments of the article about his campaign announcement. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk
Boards Cooperate on Stratford History — The Arlington County Board voted yesterday to collaborate with the School Board on a historic designation for the Stratford school, cutting the sometimes meddlesome Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board out of the process to save time and money. Said County Board Chair Mary Hynes: “There is perhaps no building in Arlington more worthy of historic designation than Stratford — both for the seminal events that occurred there in 1959 and the unique architecture of the building.” [InsideNova, Arlington County]
Police: Inmate’s Death Due to Natural Causes — A 53-year-old man who died while being held at the Arlington County jail in October died of natural causes, according to Arlington County Police. Detectives determined that Edward Straughn had an “extensive history of medical issues.” He was originally arrested for being drunk in public. Straughn’s death was the second in-custody death for Arlington in 2015. [Arlington County]
Land Purchase Agreement With Hospital Approved — The Arlington County Board last night voted to approve an option agreement that would allow Virginia Hospital Center to buy 5.5 acres of county-owned property next to its campus for a minimum of $12.5 million. The eventual purchase may include cash and/or a land swap. [Arlington County]
Fundraiser for Local Dad Who Died Suddenly — Nathan Graham, the father of four young sons and a volunteer bishop at the LDS church in Crystal City, died unexpectedly while on a business trip to China. An online fundraiser to help support Graham’s family has raised more than $95,000. [YouCaring]
History Task Force Makes Final Recommendations — Arlington County’s History Task Force has presented its final recommendations to the County Board. The task force says Arlington should devote resources to better preserving Arlington’s history, including via the development of a unified digital archive. [Arlington County]
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a project that would tear down Arlington Presbyterian Church along Columbia Pike and replace it with an affordable housing apartment building.
County staff is recommending approval of the project, which was approved by the church’s congregation in 2013. The church’s regional governing body gave the green light for its sale to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing earlier this year.
APAH is proposing to tear down the church, which was built in 1931, and construct a six-story apartment building with 173 units, all of which will be committed affordable housing. The building would include a three-level parking garage and 8,900 square feet of retail or civic use space.
The church has proposed leasing much of the retail area for a non-traditional worship space. A coffee shop was also suggested as a possible retail use, in addition to the church.
The apartment building would also replace the church’s surface parking lot and its tot lots, which are currently used by daycare provider Funshine Preschool. The preschool is being relocated to 3412 22nd Street S. and the tot lots are expected to be sold to a single family home developer in order to help fund the apartment building’s construction.
The County Board is expected to follow staff’s recommendations and approve a rezoning, use permit and $8.6 million loan from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund for the project.
The church is located at 3507 Columbia Pike.
The church has vowed to replace the sign and now it has a message for the vandal or vandals who defaced it.
The Rev. Dr. Katy Dwyer published the following open letter “to the person(s) who altered our sign” over the weekend, inviting them to join a conversation on racial justice at the church Monday night.
Altering the sign we placed on our lawn by deliberately cutting out the word “Black” from the phrase “Black Lives Matter” was a passionate expression. I can make assumptions about what you might have meant by this. However, I can only speculate. This open letter is an invitation for you to join our sacred conversation.
The conversation we have been having has been challenging, powerful, and vulnerable. Those of us who join in the conversation are not all of one mind. We are all learning and growing together. We agree with one another to speak about our own experience, to practice forgiveness, to respectfully challenge one another, and to assume good intentions.
I want to share with you what I heard through your action, and I welcome you to tell me if I am wrong. I will also share my response to what I think I am hearing. I sense anger in your passionate expression. Cutting out the “Black” in this sign sounds like you are shouting “Lives Matter. ALL Lives Matter!” I am aware that when the American Cancer Society is raising money or creating awareness about cancer, no one shouts “All Diseases Matter!” Perhaps you assume that our congregation does not value all lives. Perhaps you feel threatened in some way by positive attention given to the Black community.
Your action this week felt like a contribution to our conversation, and I want to extend the same commitments to you as I do to our other conversation partners from several races and cultures.
Our year-long sacred conversation on racial justice and our public witness that Black lives matter began from a place of compassion and curiosity. Compassion for the Black lives that are being killed, oppressed, and threatened. Curiosity about what our congregation and community might do to help create a more just and equal future.
We meet again this Monday at 7:30 p.m. The topic is Color-Blindness. Most white people think we have two choices: to be racist or to be colorblind. We will talk about whether there might be a more valuable third option.
I hope you will consider joining us. You will be welcome.
Grace and peace,
Rev. Dr. Kathryn N. Dwyer
A “Black Lives Matter” sign outside of Rock Spring Congregational church was vandalized earlier this week.
The church, at 5010 Little Falls Road near Yorktown High School, says that the word “Black” was cut out of the sign at some point between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
“We notified the Arlington police and we have ordered a new sign to replace the one that has been vandalized,” Rev. Kathy Dwyer told congregants via email (below).
Dear Members and Friends of Rock Spring,
I am writing to let you know that at some point between Tuesday evening at 9:30 p.m. and Wednesday morning at 8:00 a.m. the sign we have on our lawn inviting people to join us in a sacred conversation on racial justice and stating that black lives matter was vandalized. The word “black” was deliberately cut out from the sign, as shown below. We notified the Arlington police and we have ordered a new sign to replace the one that has been vandalized.
Several people saw the sign or heard about the incident and have reached out. Elizabeth Woolford, a member of Rock Spring and a student at Yorktown High School wrote to me. With her permission, I share the following from her note, “I wanted to share that today is one of the days I could not be more proud to be a member of Rock Spring. I woke up this morning and a group message I am in with 10+ other Yorktown HS members were passionately discussing the recent defacement of our church’s Black Lives Matter sign. I just went on Facebook to discover that several different Yorktown students …had posted about their sadness for the continual resistance we’ve received from our sign. Rock Spring’s discussions and our stand on racial justice are reaching far beyond our church community. For these people, it is a sign (literally) that there are parts of the Arlington community that are working towards a better, just filled, and equal future, and prompting thought filled discussions amongst the future voters and politicians in the high school community. I hope that our sign will once again remain up, as our resilience to resistance is resounding deeply, especially with the teens I know, as a beacon of hope.”
We will continue to bear witness with faith and courage. Our next sacred conversation is scheduled for this coming Monday, November 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Saegmuller Room.
Photo courtesy Rev. Kathy Dwyer
A Catholic church near Clarendon is holding a series of films, dances and concerts as part of a new cultural series called Forum Arlington.
Every Friday, the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church (3304 Washington Blvd) will hold either a music concert, dance class or film screening. The Forum kicked off last week with a performance by Marie Miller and will hold a film screening tonight.
All events start at 7 p.m. with a happy hour followed by the film, concert or dance class at 8 p.m. Tickets can either be purchased online or at the door, depending on the event.
Forum Arlington also has a photography exhibition about South America from Oct. 16 to Dec. 18.
The idea for the cultural series came from the church’s pastor, Father Donald Planty, who wanted to do more cultural outreach, said Terrence McKeegan, the head of Arlington Forum.
“He had this idea to have a cultural series that is a cultural outreach program for Arlington residents,” McKeegan said.
McKeegan has helped organize multiple cultural events, including large music festivals, and realized he and the pastor had the same vision. Together, they worked to find different acts and films, drawing from McKeegan’s wide network, he said.
“We try to pick bands or films or dance instructors and types of dances that appealing to widest range,” McKeegan said.
The events are held in the church’s gym, which McKeegan and church staff spruced up to make it look more like an event space instead of a typical gym, he said.
The concerts, dances and films will continue through the winter. For the spring, Arlington Forum will introduce a lecture series in addition to the concerts. McKeegan did not know at this time if the films and dance classes would resume in the spring.
Forum Arlington is open to the entire Arlington community, McKeegan said.
“The target audience is the entire community,” he said. “It’s not all the parishioners or an age demographic.”