Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

March Planned Tonight in Crystal City — “This Tuesday (6/30) we will be gathering in Crystal City Courtyard Green to march to Pentagon City in defense of Black womxn.” [Twitter]

Petition for APS to Require Masks — “To maximize the chances of success for Arlington Public Schools (Virginia) hybrid return to school model we urge the School Board and Superintendent Dr. Francisco Durán to make face coverings compulsory for both students and teachers during the days they are at school for in-person learning. Those who object to wearing masks can always choose the distance-learning option.” [Change.org]

Local Church to Feed Thousands — “On Wednesday, July 1, 2020, Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) in south Arlington is working with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen (WCK) to feed families in need of food assistance. World Central Kitchen is providing 3,500 meals to OLQP for distribution to the community. Meals will be offered to take home in conjunction with pre-packed food the OLQP food pantry distributes every Wednesday morning. This is the second time WCK will be providing meals to OLQP during the pandemic.” [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]

Catholic Churches Enter ‘Phase 3’ — “All 70 parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington will move into phase three of Virginia’s reopening plan on Wednesday. Officials announced Monday that each parish is ‘able, but not mandated, to celebrate public Mass with capacity restrictions lifted’ beginning on July 1.” [Fox 5]

County Adjusts Committee Meeting Rules — “After facing a rebellion from members and chairs of advisory commissions, the Arlington County Board has revised rules for holding meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps the two biggest changes from the original plans: Commission chairs (apparently) will no longer have to seek county-staff permission to hold meetings. Advisory-group meetings will be allowed in-person or in a hybrid format, in addition to the previously announced “virtual”-only arrangement.” [InsideNova]

New Construction Contract for VHC Inked — “Skanska USA has inked more work with Virginia Hospital Center as the Arlington hospital soldiers on with its $250 million expansion project. The construction company said Monday it signed a contract worth $96 million for site work for the new outpatient pavilion and parking garage at the hospital. That’s on top of a $37 million contract with VHC it grabbed late last year.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

Rent Protest Today — Starting at the shopping center parking lot at 5001 Columbia Pike, a caravan of cars adorned with signs will travel to local apartment complexes to support “rent cancellation during this pandemic plus two months following the ability for community members to work and pay rent,” among other aims. The protest is being organized by La ColectiVA and other groups. [Facebook]

Animal Control Rescues Turtle from I-395 — “A few days ago, we got a call about a turtle very close to traffic on I-395. When Sgt Ballena arrived, he found a young snapping turtle who’s beak was fractured and bleeding. He took the turtle to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, who will care for him until he can be released.” [Twitter]

Arlington Officers Injured During D.C. Protests — Despite an earlier comment by the police chief that no officers were injured, “a spokesperson for Arlington County Police told us, ‘one Arlington officer suffered a concussion and several others suffered bruises and abrasions.'” [WUSA 9]

Home Sales Downs, Prices Up — “May is usually one of the best months for housing sales, but the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of listings sidelined many potential buyers. The D.C. area had its slowest May for sales in a decade. But more sellers stepped up from April and prices continue to rise year-over-year… The median price of what sold in Arlington County was $622,500, up 1.2% from last May.” [WTOP]

Could HQ2 Be Downsized? — Amazon prizes in-person interactions among employees, but there are still questions as to whether the company will proceed with the second phase of its 4+ million square foot permanent second headquarters in Pentagon City. [Washington Business Journal]

Orange Line Platform Work Moving Along — “Two weeks into the summer shutdown, construction activity is well underway at Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations. So far, construction crews have focused on demolition work, including the removal of all tiles from the platforms, mezzanines and pedestrian bridges.” [WMATA]

Two Recent Drownings Near Chain Bridge — While D.C. Fire and EMS warns of dangerous waters near the Chain Bridge, the department said another grim discovery was made Thursday. “There have been 2 drownings in the past 3 weeks near Chain Bridge and a body was recovered today,” DCFEMS said. [Twitter]

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Work on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion project has hit a new milestone.

After months of excavation at the site, the first concrete footers are now being poured for the hospital’s new parking garage.

“These footers will support the foundation of the garage and ensure it remains steadfast and strong through the many years to come,” VHC said on social media.

The project was approved in 2018, on a split 3-2 County Board vote amid objections from some nearby residents. It includes a large parking garage and a seven-story outpatient pavilion, “which will provide direct, easy access for patients from their arrival at the parking garage to treatment areas.” The outpatient facility will allow the addition of about 100 beds to the hospital.

The parking garage is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2021, while construction on the pavilion is set to wrap up by the end of 2021, according to a project web page.

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As promised last week, Clark Construction is wrapping up pile driving at the Amazon HQ2 site in Pentagon City today, two weeks ahead of schedule.

That’s good news for Amazon’s new neighbors. The noisy work drew protests from those sheltering at home in the apartment buildings around the S. Eads Street construction site, and TV news crews reporting on the complaints.

A spokesman for Clark, the general contractor building the first phase of Amazon’s permanent second headquarters, tells ARLnow that work is proceeding quickly.

“Clark is on track to complete pile driving operations later today, two weeks ahead of our initial projection,” said Marcel Goldstein. “Pile driving is by far the noisiest of all construction operations. Going forward, neighbors should expect to hear the typical noise of dump trucks and other construction equipment/activities occurring on site. We will continue to abide by Arlington County’s noise ordinance.”

The next round of work includes the excavation of nearly a half-million cubic yards of dirt, to make way for the 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development.

“Crews will continue to advance mass excavation activities on site, which are anticipated to continue for the next 5 months,” the spokesman said. “Mass excavation entails removing 440,000 cubic yards of soil from the jobsite. The team has removed 75,000 cubic yards of soil to date, representing 17% of the total scope of work.”

“Clark remains focused on building a positive relationship and ongoing dialogue with project neighbors,” Goldstein continued. “Community members can contact us and get the latest construction information by visiting our website: metpark678.com.”

The project website says that construction crews are taking measures to stay safe and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. It also notes that while crews abide by a work schedule set by the county, there’s another noise source that nearby residents may hear at all hours: generators working to drain water from the deepening construction pit.

“The project team is working in compliance with Arlington County’s noise ordinance and operates within the County’s permitted work hours of 7 AM to 9 PM (Mon-Fri) and 9 AM to 9 PM (Sat, Sun, and Holidays),” the website says. “Construction crews continue to utilize generators on site to support dewatering operations, which are running 24 hours a day,” the website says.

Phase 1 of HQ2 is expected to be completed in 2023. A second phase of nearly the same size is planned for the nearby Pen Place site, on the other side of 12th Street S.

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(Updated at 1:50 p.m.) A long-planned public art installation is finally becoming a reality in Rosslyn.

The first four stainless steel pylons of the “Corridor of Light” project are being installed along N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn, on either end of the bridge over I-66. Installation of the pylons started this past Monday; the installation of lighting and electrical connections is expected to be complete by Monday, May 25.

The project from California-based artist Cliff Garten was first envisioned in 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis. Now, during what may be a deeper, pandemic-fueled recession, the first of Garten’s “Luminous Bodies” sculptures are now in place and will soon be lighted.

“The four 26′ tall stainless steel sculptures are a major milestone for the ‘Corridor of Light,’ a three-phase, 13-year effort to create a new urban identity for Rosslyn’s central corridor,” Arlington Arts said in a Facebook post that was accompanied by a video of the installation, below.

We’re told by a tipster that the sculptures will be initially lighted blue, “to honor our health care professionals.”

Arlington Cultural Affairs spokesman Jim Byers said passersby can expect “splashes of light fractured into a multitude of effects.”

“Ultimately, the sculptures of stainless steel rods will be enhanced with an LED lighting scheme designed and programmed by the artist,” Byers said. “Prior to the artist programming the lights, the initial lighting plan will serve as a beacon for all Arlingtonians to reflect on our community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Byers was unable, however, to confirm that the initial lighting scheme will be blue in honor of health care workers.

“Arlington Public Art staff are still in consultation with the artist about the specifics of the initial lighting to be unveiled on May 25,” he said.

The project, which has had to wait for construction of the Lynn Street Esplanade project, has been beset by delays. In 2014, ARLnow reported that the first pylons were expected to be installed in 2017. The County Board approved a $1 million contract with Garten for the first four sculptures in 2016. The county reported that the Esplanade project was “substantially complete” as of last month.

The first phase of the Corridor of Light project was a Garten-designed LED light display near the Rosslyn Metro station, dubbed “Gravity and Grace,” which the county says was installed in 2018.

A third phase would see the installation of additional lighted Luminous Bodies pylons on the N. Meade Street bridge over Route 50. So far, there’s no word as to when that might take place.

Over the next two-weeks, LUMINOUS BODIES by Cliff Garten will be installed at the Lynn Street Esplanade (North Lynn Street and Lee Highway, above Route 66 at the approach to Key Bridge). The four 26’ tall stainless steel sculptures are a major milestone for the “Corridor of Light,” a three-phase, 13-year effort to create a new urban identity for Rosslyn’s central corridor. When completed, the sculptures of stainless steel rods will be enhanced with LED lights programmed by the Artist. On the underside of the dome of each structure, passerby will see splashes of light fractured into a multitude of effects by the steel rods. Look for this iconic new gateway into Arlington when installation, lighting and adjustments will be completed by Mon., May 25.

Posted by Arlington Arts on Monday, May 11, 2020

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Morning Notes

APS Working to Keep School Construction on Track — “Top Arlington school-system staff are recommending doing whatever it takes – including shuffling money away from other projects – to ensure construction of a new elementary school in Westover does not fall behind schedule.” [InsideNova]

Yard Waste Collection Suspended Again — After a one-week reprieve, Arlington has again suspended its residential yard waste collection service. There’s no word on when it will resume, though the county has opened two yard waste drop-off centers. [Arlington County]

Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony to Be Livestreamed — On Wednesday at 8 a.m. “the Arlington County Police Department and the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office will host a virtual Observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day to honor and pay tribute to the memory of Arlington’s seven fallen law enforcement officers.” [Arlington County]

New Superintendent’s Introductory Remarks — “Among other things, Dr. Durán pledges to close ‘access, opportunity and achievement gaps;’ to ‘commit collectively to sustain and improve the level of academic excellence for students in APs
through an equity and inclusion lens;’ and to help students and families ‘through these troubling times times.'” [Blue Virginia]

Paper’s Prediction: Dems Win Special Election — “The field is set at three: Democrat Takis Karantonis, Republican Bob Cambridge and independent Susan Cunningham. The arrival of Cambridge is probably music to the ears of Democrats, as he will help split the anti-Democratic vote with the better-known and probably more viable Cunningham, allowing Karantonis to win and avoiding a repeat of a 2014 special election when John Vihstadt went mano-a-mano against Democrats and wrestled them into submission.” [Sun Gazette]

Amazon Running Arlington-Herndon Shuttle — “It’s too early to tell if Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) will launch a Seattle-style shuttle service for its HQ2 employees, but the company has connected its Herndon and Arlington offices via shuttle.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Participating in Virtual Tech Conference — “For the last several years, Northern Virginia has taken dozens of promising tech start-ups to the Collision conference, granting them access to programming, investors, mentors and networking opportunities. This year, the Collision organizers have moved everything online, so instead of traveling to the conference in Toronto this year, eighteen lucky start-ups from Northern Virginia will get an all-access pass to the Collision from Home tech conference.” [Press Release]

Nearby: Alleged W&OD Trail Creeper Arrested — “City of Falls Church Police arrested Lamar Dontae McCarthy, 23 years old of Stafford, VA, and charged him with assault. On Saturday, May 9, police reported to Grove Ave. and the W&OD Trail for a report of a suspect who had pursued a woman on the trail. The woman stated she saw a man in a red hooded sweatshirt suddenly stop his vehicle and sprint after her.” [City of Falls Church]

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A petition calling for Amazon to halt construction on its $2.5 billion HQ2 project in Pentagon City due to noise has attracted a raft of local media coverage.

The Change.org petition, which as of noon Friday had just over 275 signatures, says the massive construction project should stop as long as a stay-at-home order is in effect in Virginia.

Under ordinary times, the work by Clark Construction in Arlington County to build Amazon HQ2 can be considered excessive, unreasonable and unsafe.

These are not ordinary times — we are all grappling with the severe shock to our daily lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as many are working from home, and many are with children juggling with competing demands. […]

In addition to the noise issues, there is neither oversight nor accountability in ensuring that Amazon and Clark Construction are maintaining public safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The petition attracted coverage from a number of local broadcast outlets this week. WJLA reported that it was started by a resident whose fourth floor apartment faces the construction site. WTOP and Fox 5 quoted County Board member Matt de Ferranti and chair Libby Garvey, who both expressed empathy for residents working at home amid the noise, but stopped short of promising action.

“Now that many people are home during the day, it is especially difficult for them to tolerate the noise and disruption of construction,” Garvey told Fox 5.

The primary noise generator thus far has been pile driving at the HQ2 site along S. Eads Street, for which contractor Clark Construction Group has offered residents of nearby highrises ear plugs.

Clark, meanwhile, said in a construction update that it “is taking every precaution to minimize the risk of infection on our jobsites… as part of our overall COVID-19 management plan.”

Amazon, which has seen its sales and stock soar during the coronavirus crisis, plans to eventually hire 25,000 employees for its second headquarters, and currently has more than 500 job listings in Arlington.

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Amazon’s development arm wants to use a portion of the Pentagon City park next to its future HQ2 for construction of the new, permanent office campus.

Seattle-based Acorn Development is asking the Arlington County Board tonight for permission to use a sizable portion of Metropolitan Park — a patch of open space one block from Costco, used primarily by nearby apartment residents — as a staging ground for construction equipment.

“The proposed License Agreement between Acorn and the County will permit Acorn to use the County Easement Area for temporary off-site staging, parking and office trailers in conjunction with the construction,” a county staff report says. The company “will pay the County a License Fee of $10,000.00 per month… during the time the Use Permit is in effect.”

A number of trees are expected to be removed from the park as part of the project, for which Acorn will pay the county at least “$2,400 for every tree it destroys during the process,” according to the Washington Business Journal.

“Arlington would typically expect Amazon to replace each tree taken down at the park… during the staging process,” the Business Journal reported. “But since the trees likely can’t be replanted on site, Amazon would need to pay into the County’s Tree Canopy Fund — money used to maintain the county’s 755,000-tree stock.”

As it builds the 2.1 million square foot office-and-retail development along S. Eads Street, Amazon will also renovate Metropolitan Park, with the help of James Corner Field Operations, the noted designer of New York City’s High Line.

At its Saturday meeting, the County Board took up another Amazon proposal: to use the nearby PenPlace site, which eventually will be home to the second phase of the company’s permanent HQ2, as a temporary concrete batching plant.

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With very few people riding Metrorail during the coronavirus pandemic, Metro announced today that it will expand its previously-planned closures and shut down the Silver Line over the summer.

Metro has already been planning to close Arlington’s East Falls Church station, along with the Vienna and Dunn Loring stations, for platform reconstruction work. It’s now also closing the West Falls Church station, which had previously been slated to remain open during construction.

Additionally, Metro says it will be combining the platform work with a separate project to link up the current Silver Line with the new “phase II” stations.

As a result, all stations west of Ballston will be closed from Memorial Day weekend through the fall, and several new shuttle bus lines will replace the rail service.

A number of station closures are already in place as a result of the pandemic and low ridership, including the Clarendon, Virginia Square and East Falls Church stations. Though the normally-busy Ballston station is now the only open station in Arlington west of Courthouse, Metro says ridership is way down.

“As a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, ridership at stations west of Ballston totals about 1,200 customers per weekday — less than 5% of normal ridership,” the transit agency said.

More from a Metro press release, below.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Coronavirus Cases at Arlington Nursing Home — “Rossie Bratten, a 21-year-old Virginia resident, is calling on nursing homes to be more transparent about COVID-19, claiming an Arlington facility caring for his mother never informed the family of positive cases at the site. Bratten claims they only called to be told their mother had tested positive.” [Fox 5, YouTube]

Construction Continuing at DCA — “The coronavirus pandemic has slowed air travel to a trickle, but it has not hindered Project Journey at Reagan National Airport. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority reports that the new 14-gate north concourse at Reagan Airport remains on schedule to open in July 2021.” [Washington Business Journal]

Bullet Hole Found in Roof of Douglas Park Home — “At approximately 2:31 p.m. on April 13, police were dispatched to the report of a missile into occupied dwelling. Upon arrival, it was determined that contractors performing maintenance on the victim’s house located a hole in her roof and recovered a bullet in the crawl space. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]

Sen. Ebbin Lauds Signing of Marijuana Bill — “The prohibition on cannabis has for too long had life long impacts on Virginians and disproportionately affected communities of color. Thank you @GovernorVA for signing my and @C_Herring’s bills to decriminalize marijuana.” [Twitter]

County Observes Sexual Assault Awareness Month — “Arlington County’s Project PEACE is recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) with virtual observances and daily online opportunities. During the COVID-19 public health crisis, survivors of sexual assault need support, champions and affirmation of their stories and voices.” [Arlington County]

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Amazon may deliver a concrete plant to the Pentagon City neighborhood to help with the construction of its second headquarters.

Developer JBG Smith is working with the tech and online retail giant to build the two-phase, 4.2 million square foot complex along S. Eads Street. JBG is asking the Arlington County Board to approve a temporary concrete batching plant at the empty, adjacent Pen Place site on the 1100 block of S. Fern Street.

The Board is scheduled to consider the request at its meeting on Saturday.

Staff reports have not yet been posted online, but the county said in a preview of the Board meeting that making concrete on site for the huge project could be a better option than trucking it in from elsewhere.

The huge amount of concrete needed to build the Metropolitan Park buildings in Crystal City will be made just 600 feet from the project, if the Board approves a request by the developer to use the vacant Pen Place site owned by JBG Smith, at 1197-1199 S. Fern St. The proposal would be more efficient than trucking in concrete from off-site. The applicant will abide by the construction hours of the site plan: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends and holidays. The site will be subject to the County Noise Ordinance requirements.

Following demolition of the existing warehouses on the HQ2 site earlier this year, construction crews are now starting pile driving and excavation, to the consternation of nearby residents abiding by the governor’s stay-at-home order.

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