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by Chris Teale July 28, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

Just feet from the demolition of the Arlington Presbyterian Church on Columbia Pike, officials broke ground Thursday (July 27) on the new affordable housing complex that will replace it.

Gilliam Place at 3507 Columbia Pike will have 173 affordable apartments, with 68 including two or three bedrooms. The ground floor of the property will contain nearly 9,000 square feet of space for retail and community use. It is named for Ronda Gilliam, a member of the church who volunteered in the community and opened a clothing donation center.

It all began in 2012 when members of the church reached out to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing as they wanted to sell their property and create a space for affordable housing.

The new building will incorporate stone from the old church, which APAH board chair John Milliken said will be “instilled with the spirit and compassion that congregation embodied and will pass on to this new generation.”

And while the congregants are displaced from their original space, they have already guaranteed themselves a presence on the site after buying two plots of land for use as green space.

Derrick Weston, the church’s community organizer, said it will be designated as a sanctuary area for meditation. The church may also return to use the new building as a permanent home; during construction they are using a temporary space at the Arlington United Methodist Church (716 S. Glebe Road).

“This is our new front door. This is our front porch,” Weston said. “This is where people are going to visit and see who we are.”

The $71 million project is funded through various sources, including an $18.1 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, federal low-income housing tax credits authorized by the Virginia Housing Development Authority, private money from Capital One and Enterprise Community Partners totaling $31 million and donations from church members.

Susan Etherton, the chair of the church’s Moving Forward Team, said that the partnerships between various organizations were key in the church getting to this point.

“God gave us that vision, but without faithful partners, we would have been unable to accomplish that vision,” she said.

“Just think how much can be done when a group of well-meaning people all pull together in the same direction,” added APAH president and CEO Nina Janopaul.

The church, which was hit by a fire last year, is being demolished by construction crews. The building of Gilliam Place is expected to take about two years.

by Chris Teale July 20, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

Some residents in Columbia Forest will be without water tonight (July 20) and traffic will be diverted for emergency repairs along Columbia Pike.

Crews from the county’s Department of Environmental Services will be making emergency water main repairs at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street, beginning at 8 p.m. The repairs are scheduled to last until 8 a.m. July 21.

During that time, the Pike’s eastbound lanes between S. Greenbrier Street and S. Dinwiddie Street will be closed, while the westbound lanes will be converted into a lane each for eastbound and westbound traffic.

DES said approximately 100-150 people will have water service affected. The Columbia Forest Civic Association said that water will be turned off for the buildings at 5200, 5300 and 5353 Columbia Pike.

Photo via Google Maps.

by Kalina Newman July 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Two Arlington nonprofits are benefitting from grants handed out by the company behind the I-395 High Occupancy Toll lanes.

Arlington Energy Masters Program and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization have both been awarded grants from the Express Lanes and Community Grant Program, run by Transurban.

The program aims to “support organizations that sustain, enhance or protect the local environment and communities.” Transurban manages the HOT lanes on the Capital Beltway, and will do the same for the planned I-395 HOT lanes set to run through Arlington.

Over $550,000 has been awarded to 119 organizations around Northern Virginia since 2008, several of which that have been from Arlington. Any group can apply for a grant via the online application.

The Energy Masters Program, which promotes sustainability throughout Arlington, received grant funding to help residents at the Fort Henry Gardens apartment complex in Nauck with insulation issues, and to help refurbish over 50 units.

The CPRO received grant funding to improve the Columbia Pike farmers market and ensure that residents have access to fresh, locally sourced food. In addition, the money received was also used to design messages that were placed around schools, libraries, churches and apartment complexes and on social media about the grant program and how to apply.

In the future, CPRO plans to work with local partners such as the Arlington Food Assistance program on additional nutrition-related outreach.

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimmick

by Kalina Newman July 17, 2017 at 6:30 pm 0

STAR, Arlington’s bus service for disabled residents, will move to a new call center on Columbia Pike after County Board approval of the plan at its meeting Saturday.

Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents will move to 2301 Columbia Pike, Suite 120, near Penrose Square, after the Board agreed to rent the property from the landlord.

STAR’s existing call center is located at 2300 9th Street S. in the same neighborhood. Its lease on the property expired on June 30, and while it can be renewed on a monthly basis, the landlord plans to redevelop the office building and no longer wanted a long-term tenant.

In a report on the project, county staff noted various positives for the move.

“It is accessible and near a major transit stop with weekend service,” staff wrote. “Because it has its own separately-powered HVAC system, the call center can operate on weekends without incurring the cost of heating and cooling the entire floor. This will yield significant savings for the County in comparison with conventional office space.”

STAR is a paratransit branch of the ART bus system and provides transportation options to the disabled and handicapped who are unable to use public transportation. Those who ride with STAR call ahead to make reservations to be picked up from their home. STAR then routes the ride to pick up other residents who use the system along the way.

The Board will rent 2,337 square foot property for an initial period of 10.5 years (126 months), with a base rent of $4,944.70 per month. That rent will be free for the first six months. Staff estimate it will take three months for the office to be built out and readied to be the call center, during which time STAR will stay in its current location.

The total cost of construction for the new property is estimated at $300,000, part of which will be paid for by the landlord.

by Chris Teale July 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

A section of Columbia Pike closed in both directions for downed utility lines lying in the roadway.

The Pike closed to all traffic between S. Randolph Street and S. George Mason Drive, with police diverting cars onto side streets. A reader said the lines came down around 2:30 p.m. Thursday (July 15) at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.

Crews from both Verizon and Comcast were on scene to fix the downed lines. According to scanner traffic, some lanes began to reopen just after 4:15 p.m.

Drivers in the area should expect continued delays as lanes reopen.

by Chris Teale July 12, 2017 at 4:35 pm 0

The new “Premium Transit Network” on Columbia Pike is being greeted with cautious optimism by some community members after years of discussion and delays.

But some raised questions about what will mark the new bus system as “premium,” considering it will not run in dedicated lanes due to the layout of Columbia Pike and will have a fleet of standard buses, at least for now.

The mood appears to be more positive than previously, when a group of civic association leaders derided the service for a lack of ambition in a letter last year.

“A bus is a bus,” said Ric Birch, president of the Arlington Mill Civic Association, one of several along the Pike. “You can dress it up, you can paint it a different color, use different fabric on the seats, it’s a bus. I’m not sure what the real drive is for a premium bus.”

Staff explained at a work session about the network last month that the standard buses are being used for cost reasons, as electric vehicles or ones powered by alternative fuels would be too expensive at this stage.

County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, a Pike resident, said that most important for the new service beyond the buses themselves will be the frequency, which she said she hopes to see at six-minute intervals for at least a large portion of the day.

“I think it’ll be more incremental, but I do think once the system is operational and its component pieces are in place, Pike residents will feel something different, we’ll experience something different,” she said.

Residents did give staff credit for looking at ways to keep costs down when constructing the 23 “premium transit stations” along the Pike. The successor to the nixed $1 million “Super Stop,” the new stations will be factory assembled to save money, and include features like electronic arrival boards and the option to pay a fare before getting on the bus.

However, some questioned the need for the technology in the bus stops, given the proliferation of smartphones and bus tracking apps.

“Adopting all the technology, I’m a little ambivalent about it,” said Maria “Pete” Durgan, president of the Penrose Neighborhood Association. “I know they put a lot of effort in coming up with a design and they want it to be distinctive but that’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t have to be quite so elaborate.”

“I don’t know that they’re making that same mistake there [with the $1 million bus stop],” said Birch. “The county learned to watch the price on it. But I do think it’s tying a bow on it and calling it something that it already is. It’s a bus stop. They don’t really shield you from the elements that well, and I don’t understand all the need for all the electronic connectivity in the bus stops.”

With the new network set to begin operations next summer, Cristol said she hoped it would help spark more economic development and revitalization along the Pike, as businesses look to capitalize on more regular service. Cecilia Cassidy, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, did not respond to requests for comment.

But Birch said he would like to go further, and see long-term planning for Columbia Pike include a long-range goal of an elevated light rail system, as well as maintaining good bus service. Durgan said plenty of people were “totally bummed” when the streetcar project was cancelled in 2014, as it would have been something different for the Pike.

“You’ve got to get the transit out of the lanes of Columbia Pike,” Birch said. “[In] today’s political climate, I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a long-range plan that even if the county were to start today, we’re talking 15 years. I think someone needs to be courageous and start doing that.”

by ARLnow.com July 10, 2017 at 11:05 am 0

Someone is breaking windows at homes along Columbia Pike.

At least three instances of objects being thrown at and shattering residential windows were reported Friday and Saturday night. The incidents took place in the Barcroft and Columbia Forest neighborhoods, on either side of the Pike near Four Mile Run.

There is no suspect description for any of the incidents. More from today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

MISSILE INTO OCCUPIED DWELLING, 2017-07070281, 5300 block of S. 8th Road. At approximately 10:40 p.m. on July 7, officers responded to the report of a destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined an unknown subject(s) threw an object at a residential window causing it to shatter. There is no subject(s) description and no injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing.

MISSILE INTO OCCUPIED DWELLING (Series), 2017-07080285, 1200 block of S. Buchanan Street. At approximately 11:04 p.m. on July 8, officers responded to the report of a destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined an unknown subject(s) threw an object at a residential window causing it to shatter. A short time later, another resident in the area reported their window had been struck by an object and broken. There is no subject(s) description and no injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing.

Image via Google Maps

by Chris Teale July 7, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

(Updated 2 p.m.) Some changes are coming to several Metrobus routes through Arlington County next year, as the county prepares for the Columbia Pike “Premium Transit Network.”

At a work session with the Arlington County Board on Thursday, county staff put forward a plan that would end seven lines that run through Arlington in FY 2019, which begins on July 1, 2018, and save the county $5.8 million:

  • The 4A between Seven Corners and Rosslyn
  • The 16B, E and P along Columbia Pike
  • The 16G, H, K along Columbia Pike

A spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said the changes along the Pike would help make way for the so-called “Premium Transit Network,” which is projected to cost $6.9 million and launch next summer after delays. The various routes would be consolidated under that network, which the spokesman said would “result in more bus service in the county, not less.”

The new bus system was put together after the Columbia Pike Streetcar project was cancelled in 2014, with Board members at the time promising a system that would be just as good, if not better.

To try and lessen the impact of the service cuts, staff proposed improving the frequency and hours of the 4B that largely overlaps the 4A, and similar efforts for the 16A on Columbia Pike. Those improvements would cost just under $850,000.

The 4B would then be discontinued as a Metrobus route in FY 2020, saving the county $1.7 million, and made an ART route.

The 16X service from Columbia Pike to Federal Triangle in D.C. via the Pentagon would have its hours improved, at a cost of $3.2 million to county coffers. The 15K and 15L routes between the East Falls Church and Rosslyn Metro stations would also be realigned.

All told, the various service reductions and increases will cost the county just over $2.6 million more in its Metrobus subsidy, bringing that figure to $40.5 million in FY 2019.

The possibility also exists that the 22A, B and C routes through Barcroft and South Fairlington could be converted into locally-run ART routes. That would save $2.4 million in the county’s Metrobus subsidy, but would require funds to be made available through ART instead.

Cuts had been planned for FY 2018 under the county’s Transit Development Plan approved last year, but were pushed off to FY 2019. The county did not cut any Metrobus routes for FY 2018, and improved the frequency of the 2A route between the Ballston and Dunn Loring Metro stations.

That came in part due to funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s “Transform 66” project to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston.

Metro staff will analyze the actual costs and savings from the various changes, and bring forward a proposal to the agency’s board of directors. The board would then take public comment on any proposed changes region-wide before making a decision next year.

Image via county staff presentation

by ARLnow.com June 30, 2017 at 8:00 am 0

Police to Hold Anti-DUI Event During Bar Crawl — The All American Bar Crawl will be taking place in Clarendon from 1-9 p.m. Saturday, and the Arlington County Police Department is planning some complementary programming. ACPD and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program are holding a “free interactive anti-drunk driving event” from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday on N. Highland Street, in the heart of Clarendon. [Arlington County]

Local ‘Big Brother’ Houseguest Getting Attention — Matthew Clines, a 33-year-old renovation consultant and fitness buff from Arlington, is being mentioned as a frontrunner on the new season of CBS’ Big Brother. “Many ladies swooned over” him, US Weekly writes. Clines has suggested he “would rather have America love him… than actually win the game and the $500,000.” [Us Weekly, Reality TV World]

Texas Jack’s Ranks High on BBQ ListTexas Jack’s in Lyon Park has ranked No. 2 on food critic Tim Carman’s list of the best barbecue joints in the D.C. area. [Washington Post]

Woman Wanted for Hit and Run Near Columbia Pike — Arlington County Police are looking for a woman who struck a pedestrian on the 3400 block of 7th Street S., in the Arlington Heights neighborhood, Wednesday night. The suspect, described as a “white female in her mid-twenties to early thirties, approximately 5’6″ tall… wearing a white sweater,” fled the scene after the collision, which sent the victim to a local trauma center with significant but non-life-threatening injuries. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy Bradley Teague

by Chris Teale June 28, 2017 at 10:00 am 0

(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) Dedicated lanes look unlikely for the proposed “Premium Transit Network” along Columbia Pike, which is set to open next summer after delays.

Staff from the county’s Department of Environmental Services studied the feasibility of dedicated lanes along the Pike, but at a work session on Tuesday said they would likely not work.

Transportation director Dennis Leach described Columbia Pike as a “challenging corridor” for dedicated lanes and priority traffic signals for buses, like the Transitway between the Braddock Road and Pentagon City Metro stations. He said that the configuration of the road would not work for dedicated lanes, while they may also violate form based code that regulates development on Columbia Pike to make the area more walkable.

“There are no easy solutions. there are lots of tradeoffs, and some options would make things far worse,” Leach said. He added that giving traffic signal priority to buses might cause problems at some cross streets with Columbia Pike, especially those with heavy traffic.

Board members said they would like to see further study, and that such plans should not be ruled out even if in just one area of the Pike if it provides a benefit.

But the buses could be in for a unique look like the Transitway, which would mark them as separate from the other Metrobus and ART services along the Pike. Staff recommended pursuing a distinctive bus appearance, while using Metro’s standard stock of buses rather than ones powered purely by electricity or hydrogen due to cost.

Arlington’s buses could also be set for more advertising after staff issued a Request for Information last week. Responses are due from vendors by July 13 as staff gathers information about what could be done to generate additional transit revenue.

A separate suggestion by the Board to have buses arrive every six minutes on the Pike even in off-peak hours comes with a heavy price tag, as DES staff said it would cost an extra $2.5 million and require buying another bus. Staff also said demand might not be enough to help defray those costs.

But Board members said providing more service could help encourage more people to take the bus. Vice chair Katie Cristol said the idea is “also trying to induce demand,” especially when considering statistics provided by staff that show many bus riders in the area go to points along the Pike rather than beyond it.

“The objective here is not simply to meet current demand, but to create a transit system in which people can go to their bus stop, get on their bus and know they will be able to ride to where they want to go at some point,” Cristol said.

Board chair Jay Fisette agreed, noting that there is an “expectation” among Columbia Pike residents that transit improve. When the proposed streetcar was cancelled in 2014, Board members promised a system that would be just as good, if not better.

Cristol agreed, and asked why the county needed to wait for increased demand, or could “make a stretch, or place a bet?”

The new bus service is on track to open next summer. The county will engage in meetings with Fairfax County on the project, and is set to submit a version of it to WMATA’s Board of Directors to vote on ahead of finalizing a service plan later this year.

Also delayed but moving forward: the construction of 23 “premium transit stations,” along the Pike. The successor to the nixed $1 million “Super Stop,” the new stations will be factory assembled to save money.

The county will be issuing a Request for Proposals for the stations later this year, according to a staff presentation, with the goal of wrapping up installation by the second quarter of 2021 in coordination with multimodal improvements along the Pike.

by ARLnow.com June 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

For those who want to ring in Independence Day with some backyard pyrotechnics, at least two fireworks stands are now open in Arlington.

With the Fourth of July a week away, stands along Columbia Pike and Lee Highway are offering various types of sparklers, whirligigs and other fireworks that are legal in Virginia.

The first stand is located in a parking lot near the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road. The other is also in a parking lot, near the corner of Lee Highway and N. Harrison Street. Both have been offering fireworks at their respective locations, around the Fourth of July holiday, for years.

For those planning a year ahead, such fireworks stands will often offer deep discounts after the holiday.

by ARLnow.com June 21, 2017 at 11:55 am 0

A victim was robbed by two armed men along Columbia Pike last night after the trio met to exchange cash as part of a sale arranged online.

That’s according to this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report.

Police set up a perimeter and used a K-9 to try to track the suspects but they remain at large. More from ACPD:

ARMED ROBBERY, 2017-06200273, 1400 block of S. Queen Street. At approximately 9:14 p.m. on June 20, officers responded to the report of an armed robbery. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim and the two unknown male suspects were connected through an online classified and had arranged to meet for a cash transaction. During the transaction, one suspect brandished a firearm and stole the victim’s cash. The suspects then fled the scene on foot. The first suspect is described as a black male, wearing a white tank top and shorts. The second suspect is described as a black male. The investigation is ongoing.

Also on Tuesday, police arrested two Falls Church men for a series of car break-ins in the Madison Manor neighborhood, near the East Falls Church Metro station.

LARCENY FROM AUTO(Series), 2017-06200005, 1100 block of N. Powhatan Street. At approximately 12:25 a.m. on June 20, officers responded to the report of a tampering. Upon arrival, it was determined two suspects entered at least four vehicles and stole items of value. Officers located and apprehended both suspects in the area shortly after. Louis Earl Blount Jr., 18, of Falls Church VA, and David Evans-Herring, 20, of Falls Church VA, were arrested and charged with petit larceny and tampering with auto. Both suspects are being held without bond.

The rest of the past week’s crime report highlights, including some that we’ve already reported, after the jump.

(more…)

by Kalina Newman June 16, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

A number of roads will close this weekend for the Columbia Pike Blues Festival.

The Blues Fest stage is located near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. The free event will include several performers, food vendors, activities for children and other vendors.

The festival is taking place on Saturday, June 17. The closures, below, are scheduled from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to a county press release.

  • S. Walter Reed Drive from Columbia Pike to 9th Street S. (Motorists can use 7th Street S. to S. Highland Street as a detour)
  • 9th Road S. from S. Garfield Street to S. Walter Reed Drive
  • 9th Street S. from S. Highland Street to S. Walter Reed Drive

There will be temporary “No Parking” signs placed around the area and illegally parked vehicles will be ticketed or towed. If you are towed from a public street, call 703-558-2222.

by Chris Teale June 15, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

The U.S. Army has decided against pursuing a land swap with Arlington County as part of its plan to expand Arlington National Cemetery.

Instead, the Army announced it will use all the former Navy Annex site along Columbia Pike for the cemetery’s expansion. It will also look to acquire about five acres of public land now owned by Arlington County and more than seven acres of state-owned public land.

Both sides agreed to the original swap in 2013, which would have provided the county with land south of a realigned Columbia Pike. The county had hoped to use that land for various public facilities.

“While we are disappointed that Arlington County will not receive any land in this area for county needs through a land exchange agreement, we are committed to working with the cemetery to support one of our nation’s most cherished and hallowed sites,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement.

County officials said they will negotiate for fair compensation for its land and for commemoration of Freedman’s Village, a camp for former slaves that was later subsumed by the cemetery, Pentagon and Navy Annex. They also promised that both Columbia Pike and Southgate Road will be realigned.

The planned expansion of the cemetery will create space for more than 25,000 new graves.

More from a county press release after the jump:

(more…)

by ARLnow.com June 15, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

‘Love Letters’ Along the Pike — The “Virginia Is For Lovers” tourism campaign has installed the person-sized letters “LOVE” along S. Walter Reed Drive, ahead of this weekend’s Columbia Pike Blues Festival. [Facebook]

News Orgs Confuse Arlington and Alexandria — A number of news organizations mistakenly stated that yesterday’s shooting in Alexandria happened in “Arlington, Virginia.” Though somewhat inexplicable, the confusion happens frequently. [Twitter]

Regional Metro Tax Mulled — The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has approved a series of principles that could be the basis for a region-wide tax that can provide dedicated funding for Metro. Without it, WMATA says it will face budget shortfalls by 2019. [WTOP]

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