Arlington, VA

A lot happens on N. Oak Street between Clarendon Blvd and 17th Street N. in Rosslyn.

To the east is an office building where the internet was invented. It now serves as an annex for the State Department. To the west is a very busy, standalone Starbucks.

What the block lacks, at least on the west side, is a sidewalk.

A new project set to kick off next week aims to rectify the lack of a pedestrian walkway, with a makeshift path along the road. More from an Arlington County transportation update:

During the week of May 10, weather permitting, the County will create a pedestrian pathway along the west side of North Oak Street between Clarendon Boulevard and 17th Street North.

Currently, there is no sidewalk on the west side of Oak Street. After receiving a request from the community, County staff conducted a traffic investigation for this location and determined that adding a pedestrian treatment would help improve safety and access.

The pedestrian pathway will be installed by adding a barrier between the travel lane and the curb. This will slightly narrow the southbound lane, but access for vehicles, including the driveway to the coffee shop, will be retained.

What to expect during this work:

  • Once installation begins on the pathway, we anticipate completion within 1 week.
  • The installation will be done during work hours, generally 8 am to 2 pm, Monday through Friday.
  • During installation, there may be some impacts to the southbound travel lane on North Oak Street.

Photos (1) via Arlington County, (2) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Local Teacher Finalist in TV Contest — From Stacey Finkel, Kenmore Middle School PTA President: “Eurith Bowen, Functional Life Skills teacher at Kenmore Middle School, has been named a finalist for LIVE with Kelly and Ryan’s Top Teacher search. Eurith Bowen is a phenomenal educator who teaches from her heart, and has inspired an entire community to embrace students in a very special way. Eurith teaches students who are identified as having disabilities.” [Live with Kelly and Ryan]

Bridge Repair Work Underway — “Work is underway to rehabilitate the North Glebe Road (Route 120) bridge over Pimmit Run, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation… This summer, North Glebe Road between Military Road and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road) will be closed for about nine days to efficiently replace the bridge deck and beams.” [VDOT]

Most Choosing In-Person Learning in Fall — From Superintendent Francisco Durán: “Based on preliminary results from the family selection process, an overwhelming number of families are choosing to return in person in the fall… Previous communications stated that we are planning for both normal capacities as well as developing contingency plans should 3-foot distancing be recommended; however, we want to be transparent that 3-foot distancing is not feasible with the enrollment we are anticipating.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Masks for Youth Sports Questioned — “An Arlington County softball dad created a petition to take on the county’s school system on sports and mask mandates. The school system’s spokesperson sent FOX 5 an emailed response on Tuesday, affirming student athletes will be required to wear masks during competition until the end of the school year… Nearly 300 people have signed the petition made for 500 signatures, calling for the Arlington County Public School’s Superintendent to drop the youth sport mask mandate.” [Fox 5]

Milk Spills into Stream from I-395 — “If you see a white substance in Long Branch Creek, don’t have a cow – it’s just spilled milk, according to the Arlington Fire Department. The department said an incident on Interstate 395 led to a milk truck leaking ‘approximately 50 gallons.’ According to a tweet, that milk has made it into Long Branch Creek near South Troy Street.” [WJLA, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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The old Wendy’s lot in Courthouse, demolished in 2016 for an office building that never came, could be the site of a new development.

For almost five years, the triangle lot at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Courthouse Road has sat vacant. Construction crews working on 2000 Clarendon, a condo project across the street, have used it as a staging area for the last two years.

But now a project is taking shape. Last week, Greystar Real Estate Partners filed a site plan application with Arlington County proposing a high-rise apartment building with ground-floor retail at 2026 Wilson Blvd.

The proposed building, which is 16 stories tall and has 231 units, 74 residential parking spaces and some bicycle parking, is expected to achieve LEED Gold certification. The developer is also proposing a public plaza where Wilson and Clarendon Blvd meet.

“Recognizing the property’s location, topography and prominence in Courthouse, the applicant proposes … to redevelop the property with a high-rise residential building with ground-floor retail and iconic architectural features,” said Nan Walsh and Andrew Painter, attorneys for the land use law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, in a letter to the county.

The filing comes four months after the company purchased the lot for $19 million from Carr Properties, according to real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle. Back in 2015, Carr was approved to move forward with plans for a 12-story office building.

Greystar made its intentions known in October 2020, when it filed conceptual plans for 2026 Wilson Blvd.

“The building, which will serve as an iconic architectural feature for the Courthouse neighborhood, will retain many of the same architectural design elements of the previously approved office building, including its glass curtain wall design,” the attorneys’ letter said.

The plaza would surround a possible retail entrance at the tip of the Wendy’s site, facing N. Courthouse Road. The Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study recommends an “activity-based, pedestrian-oriented urban plaza” at that same location.

According to the Walsh Colucci team, the proposed public pedestrian plaza will be approximately 3,279 square feet with movable tables and chairs and space for temporary vendors.

The urban design study also recommends buildings do not exceed 10 stories — unless they accommodate affordable housing or community benefits. This proposal clocks in at 16 stories and 166 feet tall.

Greystar “is open to the provision of on-site affordable housing to further justify the increase in height,” Walsh and Painter said.

The applications offered no further specifics but Greystar’s legal representation said the company “will work with staff throughout the site plan process to develop an affordable housing plan.”

Greystar proposes, generally, to maintain the existing street, sidewalk and bicycle configuration that the County Board approved with Carr Properties’ office building.

There will be no retail parking as a part of the project but Greystar’s development across the street will provide “ample retail parking to support both projects,” the attorney said, referring to the Landmark Block development, which the County Board approved last month.

Images via Arlington County. Hat tip to @CarFreeHQ2.

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A pie shop owner says an ongoing county construction project has cost her tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

About six weeks ago, Heather Sheire arrived to work at Livin’ the Pie Life at 2166 N. Glebe Road to find bulldozers tearing up the pavement in front of the shop.

“That’s how much notice I got from the county that there was going to be a disruption,” owner Sheire tells ARLnow, who opened the shop in 2016. She is now seeking financial compensation from county.

The construction was due to the ongoing Lee Highway and Glebe Road intersection improvement project which isn’t set to be substantially completed until the fall.

“Our parking was getting blocked and, then, 21st Road [N.] was getting blocked and, then, the sidewalk was getting blocked,” Sheire says, frustration rising in her voice. “Then, I started to notice our sales were down.”

The shop relies on walk-ups, she says, with about 90% of sales coming from walk-in orders.

Sheire even bought one of those feather-like flags as a way to catch people’s eyes from the road, but it was removed by construction crews.

March 3 was a tipping point. Again, Sheire saw a construction truck parked across the entrance of the shop’s driveway. So, she finally reached out to the county.

“[They] were sympathetic, but I need more than sympathy and friendlessness,” Sheire says. “This was having a very substantial economic impact on my business.”

She tells ARLnow, after comparing numbers from years past, that she believes the business has lost “tens of thousands of dollars” as a result of this construction project.

“I have a historical record from [March] last year to this year… we went from being down 10% to 46%,” she says.

Eric Balliet, spokesperson for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, confirms that Sheire did reach out.

“Once we were made aware of the pie shop owner’s concerns, the project team responded by making every effort possible to accommodate the business during streetscape construction along their store frontage,” he writes to ARLnow.

According to Balliet, this included scheduling construction mostly on Mondays and Tuesdays (when the shop is closed), upgrading bike racks, installing a curb along parking spaces to prevent vehicles from damaging the building, and relocating street signs to improve visibility of the storefront.

Also, as part of the project, the county has upgraded the pie shop’s front walkway to concrete and expanded access to the store’s parking spaces for those driving northbound along N. Glebe Road.

Sheire agrees, for the most part, that the county has either already done the things promised or she believes they will — except for improving access to parking.

“It is trickier to get into the parking now than before. They added a short wall along the sidewalk on Glebe that now must be navigated to get into and out of the parking from Glebe,” she says. “It’s become a maze, a puzzle to get in there.”

But even fixing all of that will not change the financial damage that has already occurred to her business.

“[We] deserve some kind of financial compensation because they were literally blocking access to our business,” Sheire says. “It’s wrong for the county to initiate a project like this without taking into account the economic impact it has on a small business.”

In March, she received her business license tax bill from the county, which set her off.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she says. “I felt like Arlington County had not given me value for my business license.”

She contacted the Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava and other top local officials about waiving the tax, or offering some sort of compensation, but was told that could not be done.

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Construction has started on two residential towers at 1900 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, according to developer JBG Smith.

The announcement came nearly one year to the day after the County Board approved the project, which involved tearing down an aging office building.

The new development at 1900 Crystal Drive will have 808 multifamily rental units and about 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across the two towers, each to be LEED Silver certified and approximately 300 feet tall, according to the developer.

A 27-story southern tower will feature 471 apartments, while a 26-story northern tower will incorporate 337 apartments.

Through a spokesperson, JBG Smith declined to comment on when the towers are expected to be completed. Last year, however, when the County Board met and approved the project, a company rep said construction could take 2-3 years.

“The start of construction on 1900 Crystal Drive marks yet another major milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation,” said Anthony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG Smith. “The introduction of new residences, restaurants and shops at 1900 Crystal Drive, combined with our recently delivered retail and entertainment district just about a block away will more than double the concentration of street-facing retail amenities on Crystal Drive.”

Residents will have access to private rooftops and green spaces. At the street-level, JBG Smith is planning a pedestrian-friendly street that will connect 18th and 20th Streets S. as well as open park space. JBG Smith will provide a number of community benefits, including enhanced streetscapes, a grand staircase connecting to public open space and bicycle facilities.

JBG Smith, the developer, leasing agent and property manager for the Amazon HQ2 project, anticipates that with Amazon’s arrival, National Landing’s daytime population will increase from 50,000 people to 90,000 in the near future.

The housing and amenities at 1900 Crystal Drive and neighboring developments will be a “thriving, mixed-use environment [that] will allow people to easily walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities — cementing National Landing as a destination both day and night,” Greenberg said.

Neighbors and visitors can expect sidewalk closures during construction.

“This exciting project may create changes for our everyday pedestrian routines,” according to an announcement on the National Landing Business Improvement District website. The changes include:

  • The southern sidewalk along 18th Street will be closed; pedestrians should use the north side of 18th Street S. to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.
  • The western sidewalk along Crystal Drive will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to travel north and south along Crystal Drive.
  • The northern sidewalk along 20th Street S. will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.

Photo (middle) via Arlington County and (below) via National Landing BID

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The County Board voted this weekend on an agreement with the City of Alexandria to dredge Four Mile Run in order to help mitigate flooding.

The neighboring jurisdictions will split the costs related to permitting, designing, construction, and dredging Four Mile Run, from around I-395 to the Potomac River.

“It’s time for us to undertake a joint dredging project so we can project that part of the county from flooding to the maximum extent possible,” said Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti at Saturday’s Board meeting.

The dredging — which will remove built-up sediment and debris from the bottom of the waterway — is expected to cost about $3.6 million, with each jurisdiction paying about $1.8 million.

The project is expected to get under way in the late summer or early fall, and will take approximately four months, Aileen Winquist of Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tells ARLnow.

The work comes after the United States Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) most recent inspection report gave the state of Four Mile Run a rating of unacceptable. The Corps built a levee system along Four Mile Run in the 1970s and 80s to help with flood mitigation, after a series of devastating floods that inundated Alexandria’s Arlandria neighborhood.

The recent unacceptable rating from USACE was due to “excessive shoaling,” meaning the flood channel is too shallow and can lead to excessive flooding.

“Maintenance of the open channel of Four Mile Run includes clearing of debris, sediment, vegetation, and re-stabilizing stream banks as required by the USACE annual inspection program,” says Winquist. “This maintenance work helps to preserve the flood channel’s capacity and reduce flood risk in neighborhoods surrounding south Four Mile Run.”

The areas around Four Mile Run have flooded a number of times over the past decade, including in 2011, 2017, and in 2019. Flooding two years ago was historic and caused some $6 million in damage to county property alone.

The agreement would also put on paper a long-standing understanding about maintenance of Four Mile Run. The north side will be Arlington’s responsibility and the south side will be Alexandria’s responsibility.

The needed improvements for the Long Branch Tributary will remain the sole fianincal responsibility of Arlington, since it’s within county borders. The budget for the entire project is about $4.7 million with Arlington agreeing to pay $2.56 million and Alexandria paying $2.16 million.

File photo

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(Updated at noon) The new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church is now open.

VDOT announced the opening of the $6 million bridge Friday morning, touting “a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29.” Previously, trail users would have to wait to cross Lee Highway at a crowded intersection, next to ramps to and from I-66 and Washington Blvd.

The trail is used by cyclists and pedestrians for both commuting and recreation. About 1,500 people travel on the W&OD near new bridge each weekday, while more than 2,000 use it on weekends.

The project prompted trail detours over its nearly two years of construction. It was funded — along with upgrades to I-66 ramps, repairs to overpasses, sound wall replacements, and a new Custis Trail roundabout — as part of the larger I-66 eastbound widening project.

Some finishing touches on the bridge and the nearby intersection will be completed through this summer, VDOT said. As of noon, however, the bridge was officially open.

https://twitter.com/VaDOTNOVA/status/1370416729227137038

More from a press release, below.

The new Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington will open this afternoon, Friday, March 12, announced the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). This new bridge will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29 adjacent to I-66. The new bridge was built as part of VDOT’s I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.

“This new W&OD Trail bridge is another step forward in VDOT’s commitment to expanding multimodal transportation options in the I-66 corridor and across the region,” said Bill Cuttler, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia District Construction Engineer. “The new bridge will benefit a range of trail users, from people walking and bicycling to the nearby East Falls Church Metrorail Station to the dedicated bicycle commuters who use the trail year-round to reach destinations across Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

The new crossing separates trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Route 29 and Fairfax Drive. The new bridge will enhance safety for both trail users and motorists and improve operations at nearby intersections on Route 29.

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(Update 4:25 p.m.) Metro is fast-tracking repairs on the Yellow Line bridge and tunnels.

The transit agency is preparing for a major capital project to rehab the 3,000-foot-long Yellow Line bridge that crosses over the Potomac River, connecting D.C. to Arlington.

Upgrades will also be made to the fire suppression system on the bridge which is, as the release notes, “beyond its useful life.” Additionally, the steel-lined tunnels connecting the Pentagon Metro station to the bridge and the bridge to L’Enfant Plaza station will be repaired.

Both the bridge and tunnels date to Metro’s original construction more than 40 years ago.

“Metro is investing in an aggressive capital campaign to rehabilitate and repair elevated structures, and the Yellow Line Bridge is the top structural priority providing the region with a vital transportation link across the Potomac,” Metro’s Executive Vice President of Capital Program Delivery Laura K. Mason writes in the press release. “Advancing this project quickly is good for our customers, and will allow Metro to utilize this process on future projects to more quickly address critical safety needs of other elevated structures.”

In order to get this done quicker, Metro is hiring a Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) to coordinate the design process, pricing, and construction concurrently, allowing the project to move quicker.

Proposals are due April 7. The bulk of the work will take place in 2022.

A Metro spokesperson tells ARLnow that without a CMAR, the project would have taken a year longer and been completed in December 2023. Construction is schedule to be wrapped up by the end of 2022, Metro confirms.

The project is part of Metro’s 10-year, $15 billion Capital Improvement Program. A Metro spokesperson was unable to provide the exact cost for this particular project.

Word of the upcoming project comes in the midst of a budget battle that could result in the closing of 22 stations come January 2022, including four stations in Arlington.

The bridge was first constructed in the 1970s. It’s supported by box-girder spans and piers which are showing excessive wear and corrosion. As for the tunnels, decades of water leakage and underground moisture have eroded the steel-lined tunnels.

Maintenance and leak mitigation is ongoing, but “long-term repairs are necessary now to avoid structural failure in the future,” reads the release.

The state of the Yellow Line Bridge and the tunnels has been a continued source of concern in recent years.

Speed restrictions were put in place several summers ago due to track conditions. The tunnels started leaking in 2017, forcing single-tracking. In 2018, the entire Yellow Line was shut down for several weeks for needed renovation work on the bridge.

And, in 2015, the Yellow Line tunnel between the bridge and L’Enfant Plaza station was the site of a deadly smoke incident that left one woman dead and dozens of commuters hospitalized.

Photo via Flickr/John Sonderman

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(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) A new name is on the horizon for the elementary school at the Reed site in Westover, which is under construction and slated to open in August.

A naming committee, formed in January, is asking students, parents, staff and community members to narrow down five possible names: Cardinal, Compass, Exploration, Kaleidoscope and Passport. Respondents can pick their top three and share their perspectives.

The committee will then pick a first choice and an alternate, which will go to the School Board on Thursday, March 25. The board will pick a name on April 8.

The new school is part of the multi-school shuffle Arlington Public Schools approved in February 2020. Arlington Traditional School is moving to the McKinley building and 94% of McKinley students — and all staff — are moving to the Reed site, along with 43 K-4 Tuckahoe students.

Construction continues on schedule, according to a school spokesperson, and the building is expected to be completed on July 25.

As is true for the Key School site, which could be named Innovation or Gateway, this naming committee is not considering historical figures’ names. The preference for concepts comes after renaming Washington-Liberty High School and as Arlington attempts to remove names of Confederate generals and soldiers and slave-owners from roads and parks.

The committee “decided not to name the school after a person because of the possibility that their past could be called into question in the future,” according to notes from a February committee meeting.

Some members objected to McKinley because of the hurt Indigenous communities experienced from President William McKinley‘s imperialist policies, the notes said. McKinley is known for buying the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico and annexing Hawaii.

The decision comes despite some community support for McKinley: Of 152 staff and parents who responded to internal questionnaires, 75% supported McKinley. The site’s current name, Reed, which is named for Dr. Walter Reed, an Army physician who studied and treated yellow fever, also has supporters, according to the notes.

The committee also nixed Westover, which members said could reference Westover Plantation, owned by William Byrd II, who founded the City of Richmond and was noted for the often cruel treatment of enslaved people on the plantation.

“The committee decided the school should not be named after any of these options to represent the new beginning for the school, especially since in the future, the school will welcome students from other neighborhood schools,” the survey said.

While construction continues, the county is building a stormwater detention vault under the athletic fields of the Reed site to help the Westover area with its flooding problem. The first phase has started and will be completed before August, according to a February presentation to the PTA.

The second phase is currently being designed and is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2022, and the fields could be ready by the spring or summer of 2023, the presentation said.

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Construction has started in Ballston on the future site of a new Harris Teeter, three apartment buildings and a new green space.

Excavation and sheeting and shoring work started this past week at 600 N. Glebe Road, said Mary Senn, the vice-president of Georgia-based developer Southeastern Real Estate Group, LLC, the developer overseeing the project.

“We are underway,” she said.

Work began last year with utility relocation and demolition of the vacant American Service Center building, Southeastern president Mark Senn told ARLnow in October.

The current phase is the first of three for the site, approved in 2019. In phase one, a new 310-unit apartment building with a new Harris Teeter space on the ground floor will replace the former American Service Center building.

In this phase, customers still have access to parking and the current Harris Teeter, which was the company’s first in Virginia.

“Harris Teeter and Southeastern are very excited to be moving forward with the construction, and the community will be excited to have the new store,” Mary Senn said. “[Harris Teeter] will really do this one up as the latest and the greatest, as far as the store goes.”

The grocery store may have a bar, among other new features, and will also have covered parking, she said.

“People in Arlington, given the weather the past couple of weeks, will appreciate the covered parking, which will definitely be an improvement,” said Senn.

The timeline for the construction of the project has not changed, the vice-president said. Phase one is expected to be complete in 2023.

“But we’ll be open before then,” she said.

During the second phase, the old Harris Teeter will be demolished for new temporary surface parking. The second apartment building, with 195 units, and the public open space will be constructed in phase two.

In the third phase, the temporary parking lot will become the third apartment building: a 227-unit residential building with retail on the ground floor and two levels of below-grade parking.

The park will include a pedestrian path, a dog run, a picnic area, as well as natural vegetation to support pollinator insects and birds.

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New Arlington construction is helping the Commonwealth become more green.

Virginia is ranked eighth in the country for LEED-certified space per capita, the U.S. Green Building Council announced earlier this month. This is in large part because of Arlington County, which accounted for more than 15% of the newly LEED-certified buildings in the state in 2020.

Some newly-certified buildings in Arlington include:

  • The Waycroft at 750 N. Glebe Road (LEED Gold, apartment)
  • 400 Army Navy Drive (LEED Gold, apartment)
  • Landbay D West at 3400 S. Clark Street (LEED Silver, apartment)
  • 4040 Wilson Blvd (LEED Gold)
  • 4000 N. Fairfax Drive (LEED Gold, apartment)
  • 4250 N. Fairfax Drive (LEED Platinum, office)
  • 1400 Crystal Drive (LEED Gold, office)
  • 1777 N. Kent Street (LEED Silver, office)
  • Jefferson Plaza at 1401 S. Clark Street (LEED Silver, office)
  • Wilson School at 1601 Wilson Blvd (LEED Gold, K-12)
  • 1440 N. Edgewood Street (LEED Gold, office)
  • AHRI at 2311 Wilson Blvd (LEED Silver, office)
  • Arlington County DHS Head Start at 2920 S. Glebe Road (LEED Gold, K-12)

There’s also one project that’s “confidential,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

Much of the increase in LEED-certified development is a result of the county’s voluntary green building program, which offers developers bonus density in exchange for their building meeting certain LEED certification standards, the council said.

Arlington, far and away, is definitely the most progressive county in the state when it comes to certification,” says Mark Bryan, U.S. Green Building Council’s director for the National Capital Region. “That’s really because of [county] policy, which is one of the first and most successful voluntary incentive programs in the country.”

LEED certification is, admittingly, a bit complex. It’s essentially a system of points that are given for adhering to meeting certain standards mainly focused on energy, water waste, indoor air quality, transportation, materials, and site selection of the building.

The highest certification is LEED Platinum, followed by Gold, Silver, and Certified.

Just this past December, the county updated its program so that buildings now need to meet LEED Gold certification standards to receive the bonus density incentive.

County zoning ordinances place density and height restrictions on developments. Bonus density means they can add additional space to the development that they wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to have.

The reason the county wants more LEED-certification buildings is, as noted in a December 2020 report, to lower carbon emissions.

“The Green Building Incentive Policy is the primary tool currently available to encourage the private sector to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in new construction to help achieve Arlington’s long-term carbon emission goals,” reads the report.

Bryan says the county is succeeding in its goals because they are trading something that developers want.

Arlington has done this quite successfully by providing something that’s extremely valuable to developers, particularly those in Northern Virginia,” says Bryan. “And that’s bonus density… and height.”

Offering bonus density is also something the county has done to encourage more affordable housing construction.

In Arlington, the structures receiving LEED certification in 2020 included six office buildings, five apartment buildings, two schools, and one retail building.

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