Free Late Night Metro Rides Tonight — Metrorail will run through 3 a.m. tonight, to accommodate New Year’s Eve revelers. Rides from midnight to 3 a.m. will be free, courtesy of Miller Lite. Tomorrow, on New Year’s Day, Metro will operate on a Sunday schedule, with service starting at 7 a.m. [Twitter, Twitter]
Last Minute NYE Options — Procrastinated on your New Year’s Eve plans? Our event calendar has some good suggestions, with events along the Orange Line and Columbia Pike. Some NYE events at popular Orange Line bars have already sold out of advance tickets. [ARLnow]
New Year’s Closures in Arlington — All Arlington County offices will be closed tomorrow (Friday) in observance of New Year’s Day, with the exception of the County Board offices, where the Board will hold its annual organizational meeting (see below.) Parking meters and zones will not be enforced Friday. Public libraries will close at 5 p.m. today and will reopen Jan. 2. [ARLnow, Arlington County]
Board to Hold New Year’s Day Meeting — The County Board will hold its annual Jan. 1 organization meeting tomorrow. It will be the first day of work for new Board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. A new County Board Chair and Vice-Chair will be chosen, but it’s unclear at this point who will be selected. [Arlington County]
Violand-Sanchez Won’t Seek Third Term — Arlington School Board Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez says she will not seek a third term on the School Board in 2016. Previously a school administrator, Sanchez has had a 40-year career with Arlington Public Schools. [InsideNova]
Median Home Sales Price Rises — The median sales price for a home in Arlington rose 5.75 percent to $560,000 in 2015, faster than the rate of increase in Fairfax, Loudoun or Alexandria. [Washington Post]
Arlingtonian Surprised to Be Named 50 Millionth Passenger at SFO — Arlington resident Katheryn Castagna was getting ready to fly from San Francisco back to Reagan National Airport when she was surprised by airport officials and news crews, who told her she was the airport’s 50,000,000th passenger of 2015. Castagna, who works at CEB in Rosslyn, received two round trip tickets to Hawaii. [SFGate, CBS San Francisco]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Arlington County released its year end video this week, highlighting how the community has progressed over the last twelve months.
The video, titled “Our Path Forward,” begins with County Board members reflecting on a difficult 2014 and being able overcome various challenges — unspoken but implied: the cancellation of Arlington’s planned streetcar project.
“Last year, we had some distractions,” said Jay Fisette. “We had a lot of angst in the community.”
Libby Garvey shared concerns over whether the Board could effectively address those tensions this year.
“There were a number of challenges facing us,” she said. “Can we properly manage change? That was a reasonable concern and definitely a challenge.”
One of the most prominent of those is housing. In the video, Board members cited the recent approval of the redevelopment of Arlington Presbyterian Church into affordable housing and the opening of the Homeless Services Center as major improvements in that category.
“Being there for the opening of that center was one of the highlights, by far,” Walter Tejada said in the video. “Frankly, if there’s a community in the United States of America that has a chance of ending homelessness, Arlington is it.”
The video also highlighted public-private and public-public collaborations the County established in the last year, including the Ballston mall renovations those that are still developing, like the land sale or swap with Virginia Center Hospital.
“It is all about partnership and how we can work together in a cooperative and synergistic fashion,” John Vihstadt said. “The County Board and the School Board are also working much more collaboratively than they have in the past.”
“That process was the epitome of what we can do and do well as a community,” Fisette said.
The county’s 2016 legislative priorities will be sent to and considered by Arlington’s state legislative delegation.
It includes a series of legislative proposals compiled by Board members and county staff, outlining key issues the county would like local lawmakers to address in legislation.
This year’s legislative priorities include:
- Reauthorization of the 0.25% hotel tax, with revenue to be used for tourism promotion
- Ensuring the state continues long-term funding commitments to WMATA
- Lifting a prohibition on flashing lights on Metrobuses
- Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway
- Supporting nonpartisan redistricting
- Opposing any state mandates “requiring local law enforcement officers to evaluate the immigration status of individuals encountered during lawful stops or other routine police activities.”
- Supporting the policy that allows police departments to retain data from license plate readers to assist with investigations
- Allowing a summons to be issued after a camera catches a driver illegally passing a stopped school bus
- Allowing localities to impose a small tax on single-use bags, in order to encourage use of reusable bags
- Supporting full Medicaid expansion in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act
- Avoiding any additional unfunded mandates for localities
- Retaining all local taxing authority, including the business license (or BPOL) tax
In total, there are more than 50 priorities in the package, divided into eight categories.
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly session will last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
Photo via Virginia General Assembly
The Arlington County Board unanimously voted to approve plans for the modernization of the Crystal Square 3 office building in Crystal City at its meeting last night.
The nearly 250,000 square foot space sits on top of the Crystal City Shops. After the redevelopment, the building will be reclassified as “Class A” office space and rebranded as 1770 Crystal Drive.
“This redevelopment is part of the ongoing public and private investments in Crystal City that will help ensure it remains one of the region’s premier urban villages,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.
The property’s developer, Vornado, took the opportunity to plan the upgrade after its primary tenant, the U.S. Marshals Service, announced it will be moving its 1,600 employees to another Vornado property on S. Clark Street next year.
Plans to modernize the building include reshaping it to add approximately 10,000 square feet of office and retail space and replacing its facade.
The retail space on the first floor will be reconfigured and the second floor plaza will be turned into additional office space, which could be converted to more retail space in the future. The existing concrete facade will be replaced with glass and metal panels.
The top floors will also be repurposed to create open terrace areas. On the ground level, the facade will be pushed back seven feet to create a wider sidewalk along Crystal Drive.
Finally, a new entrance to the Crystal City Shops will be moved to the north side of the building.
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]
Update at 10:45 a.m. — The Thomas Jefferson site has been approved. From Arlington County:
At its Dec. 15 Recessed County Board Meeting, the Arlington County Board voted 5-0 to approve the use of the northwest portion of the Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Community Center site (currently a parking lot) as the site for a new south Arlington elementary school. the Board’s action came in response to the Arlington Public School Board’s request that the site be approved.
The Board also directed the Acting County Manager to “expeditiously initiate the public facilities review committee process with participation by all appropriate stakeholder groups, building on the site analysis, including placement and impact mitigation, already done by the Thomas Jefferson working group.”
Earlier: After a year of back-and-forth over choosing a site for a new South Arlington elementary school, the County Board is expected to reconsider the land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School for the project.
The Thomas Jefferson site is the final item on tonight’s recessed meeting agenda.
The County Board originally rejected the School Board’s request to build a new elementary school on the county-owned land, following objections from a vocal group of residents who expressed concern about parkland and traffic. As part of the rejection, the Board agreed to reconsider the request if APS took adequate time and measures to analyze other potential sites.
The South Arlington Working Group was established in June for that purpose.
The group’s work was finished earlier this fall. It considered approximately 20 different potential sites, choosing Thomas Jefferson Middle School, Gunston Middle School/Oakridge Elementary School and Drew Model Elementary as the finalists.
In its most recent report, the group once again preferred the Thomas Jefferson site. The School Board, which voted on Dec. 3 to select the TJ site, is asking the County Board to do the same so that the proposed project could be completed in time for the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.
The County Manager is now also recommending the Board approve the TJ site for the school, which would then be subject to use permit approval, design adoption and other planning processes.
The Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park group, however, says it’s still “concerned” about an elementary school on the TJ site, despite steps taken to mitigate negative impacts on the park, which is adjacent to the middle school.
“We ask that if you select this location for a new elementary school, you commit to fully funding necessary improvements and ensuring the community continues to have full access to park and recreation assets at Thomas Jefferson Park,” the group said in a letter to the County Board.
Funding and specific plans for the elementary school project have not been finalized. However, when the Superintendent first proposed a new elementary school in his 2015-24 Capital Improvement Plan, the plan said the school would cost $50 million and have 725 seats.
Update at 11:45 p.m. — The County Board has approved the hiring of auditor Jessica Tucker by a vote of 4-1, with retiring Board member Walter Tejada voting no. Tucker is Deputy Auditor for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The Arlington County Board is set to hire its first independent auditor, six months after voting 4-1 to create the position.
At its meeting this afternoon, the Board is expected to approve a contract with an auditor named Jessica Tucker, to serve as Arlington’s Independent County Auditor. If approved, Tucker’s employment will begin Jan. 25.
Tucker will be responsible for conducting ” independent audits of County programs and operations, focused on program efficiency and effectiveness, often with the accompanying goal of increasing revenue or reducing expenditures,” according to a charge approved by the Board earlier this year.
The contract sets Tucker’s annual base salary at $125,000.
Tucker will serve at the pleasure of the Board and may be terminated by a majority vote of the Board. The position is considered independent because Tucker reports to the elected Board, as opposed to an existing internal county auditing function that reports to the appointed County Manager.
(The County Manager is the executive in charge of the vast majority of the county workforce. The County Board oversees only the hiring of the County Manager, County Clerk, County Attorney and now the Independent Auditor.)
The existing internal audit function is performed by 1.5 full-time-equivalent county employees within the Dept. of Management and Finance, along with external consultants, and is focused on “systematic core financial and compliance audits and internal controls reviews.”
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Arlington Presbyterian Church into an apartment complex with 173 affordable housing units at its meeting on Saturday.
“For over 100 years, Arlington Presbyterian Church has been a place where people of vision, connected with the community, have heard and responded to the needs of our neighbors,” the church said in a release. “As a faith community, APC is committed to creating and nurturing a community of disciples, being a people and place of crossroads for the Columbia Pike neighborhood, and redeveloping their property to provide affordable housing for those in their community.”
The project is a partnership between the church congregation and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, the organization overseeing the sale of the property at 3507 Columbia Pike, demolition of the church and construction of the apartment building.
“One of the key benefits of stable, affordable housing is the stable households it creates,” said John Milliken, vice chairman of the APAH Board of Directors at Saturday’s meeting. “It’s a unique and special opportunity to partner with APC… in carrying out what it has determined as its spiritual mission.”
As part of the vote, Board members also approved approximately $18 million in loans to help APAH fund the project.
The new building will also include a three-floor parking garage and ground floor retail space.
“This is another case where our development tools, coupled with major transportation investments, are helping us transform the Pike into the ‘main street’ that the community has long envisioned, while preserving the rich resident diversity that makes this part of Arlington so special,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.
The church first approved the redevelopment plan in November 2013, but the sale of the church to APAH wasn’t until this February. Now that the loan from the County has been approved as well, the project is expected to move forward as planned.
At the meeting, community members spoke in support of the project’s final approval.
“[My wife and I] really love our neighborhood, its diversity, its walkability, the history, and the people,” Columbia Pike and Arlington Presbyterian Church member Miles Townes said. “We’re concerned some of our neighbors are not able to live in our neighborhood anymore, and we plainly see that the need for affordable housing is growing on the Pike.”
The project also has the support of other area faith communities.
“This project is a perfect example of doing something now for generations yet unborn that will look back and say ‘thank you,'” said the Rev. Andrew Merrow of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday unanimously approved a site plan amendment for a distinctive new glass-and-metal residential tower, with 330 apartment units, at 4000 Fairfax Drive. It will replace Carpool and its low-rise, 1960s era building.
“Ballston is in the midst of an important transformation that is bringing more housing and retail to the neighborhood along with new public gathering spaces,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “This redevelopment will add housing within walking distance of two Metro stations, provide important community benefits and help reinvigorate the neighborhood.”
The new building will include a publicly accessible courtyard with a water feature, 8,000 square feet of ground floor retail space, a rooftop deck and pool, and 264 underground parking space.
Community benefits secured by the county include $2.2 million for the Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, $75,000 for public art, $32,100 for utility undergrounding, sidewalk and streetscape improvements, $350,000 for traffic signal improvements on Fairfax Drive and LEED Gold sustainability certification.
The recently-renovated Webb Building, a 10-story office building next to the new apartment tower, will remain, for now. It is slated to be redeveloped into more apartments as part of a second phase of the project in about 10 years.
The next step in the project is for the developers to exercise their contractual option to purchase the Carpool site. No word yet on when Carpool might serve its last beers.
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 property at 6616 18th Street N., near the park’s existing playground and adjacent to the W&OD Trail and Four Mile Run, is approximately 8,250 square feet.
The homeowner has already signed an Agreement of Sale with the county at a purchase price of $637,500. The agreement needs approval from the County Board to be finalized.
There’s a house on the property that is occupied by tenants of the owner. If approved, it will be demolished as part of the acquisition as it was not found to have historical significance.
According to the agenda item about the purchase, the county first expressed interest in this land in January. It is one of several parcels along 18th Street North identified in the 2005 Public Spaces Master Plan as land that could be acquired for the expansion.
It is also the second piece of land the County has moved to purchase this year.
In February, the County Board unanimously approved the purchase of 8,375 square feet of land at 6608 18th Street N., which is one property away from the one now awaiting purchase approval. That plot sold for more than $688,700 and also had a house on it when the county purchased it.
Major renovations are coming to the ballfields at Tuckahoe Park.
The Dept. of Parks and Recreation released renovation plans in March, making the two baseball/softball fields their focus. Changes include new players’ benches, dugouts, backstops, bleachers for spectators, fencing, drinking fountains, bullpens and batting cages.
Much of the project’s construction will be focused on a new irrigation and drainage system and new sod.
Other additions to the park in the plans include picnic tables, a portable toilet enclosure, storage, landscaping and a new scoreboard. The scoreboard will be shared between the county and Bishop O’Connell High School, which is contributing $18,000 to its purchase
The plans would also make the park and its fields more accessible per Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.
According to a county website dedicated to the project, construction on the park is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2016.
If approved, the contract will authorize $1.06 million for construction. That includes nearly $100,000 as a contingency. The total estimated cost of the project, with design and soft costs factored in, is $1.25 million.
Saturday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307.
VDOT has a new plan for High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395, the Washington Post reported late Friday.
The news comes nearly five years after the state scrapped plans to build HOT lanes on I-395, following a legal battle with Arlington County. In a lawsuit, the county argued that HOT lanes, as then planned, would exacerbate pollution from and congestion on I-395, negatively impacting Arlington residents.
Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Lane told the Post that the new plan comes with guaranteed funding for carpooling and transit from private partner Transurban. Construction could start as soon as 2017 and would involve adding a third lanes to the existing HOV lanes while keeping the highway’s overall footprint mostly the same, the Post reports.
No word yet on a reaction from local officials.
Meanwhile, Arlington County has given its endorsement to a controversial plan for adding tolls to I-66 inside the Beltway during peak travel times. By a vote of 3-2 — John Vihstadt and Libby Garvey voted against it — the County Board adopted a resolution supporting the “Transform 66” project.
Last month Fairfax County offered conditional support for the plan, while calling for the widening of I-66. Loudoun County officials oppose the plan, which has faced heavy criticism from suburban commuters.
The plan calls for changing HOV rules on I-66 from requiring at least two people per vehicle during rush hour (HOV-2) to giving drivers the option of either having three people in a car (HOV-3) or paying a toll during peak hours.
In their endorsement, County Board members said they hoped that the changes would prevent the possible widening of I-66 inside the Beltway. The county wants VDOT to at least commit to not considering widening from two to three lanes in each direction through Arlington until 2025 at the earliest.
Lane has previously been quoted as saying the widening of I-66 through Arlington is inevitable.
After the jump, the press release from Arlington County on the I-66 project endorsement.
Members of the County Board were at odds at its Tuesday night meeting over a resolution that would support the federal government’s efforts to address responsible use of antibiotics in health care and food production.
The primary goal of the resolution is to “establish a tiebreaker preference in County procurement policies for the purchase of meat and poultry that has been raised according to responsible antibiotic use policies.”
The resolution also calls for working with Arlington Public Schools on a similar antibiotic policy, which would — other things being equal — prefer the purchase of responsibly produced meats for school lunch programs.
“Although Arlington County has few meat and poultry food contracts and does not purchase large quantities of these products, the preference created today signals to the marketplace the County’s desire to join the national effort to drive changes in food production practices that will create healthier alternatives and support public health,” the county said in a press release.
Board member John Vihstadt, however, opposed a specific paragraph of the resolution that said:
“Supports legislative efforts to prevent the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food production, such as S. 621, the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2015 and H.R. 1552, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act of 2015…”
Vihstadt made a motion to strike the citations of specific federal legislation from the resolution, citing no Virginia senators nor members of Congress who are co-sponsors of either bill.
“We haven’t been briefed on this legislation, we have not seen the bills, and we haven’t — at least I have not — had any communication with our congressional delegation on these pieces of legislation,” he said at the meeting.
The motion to strike the citations failed, though Board member Libby Garvey also voted in favor of it.
“I don’t think we as a Board should be going on record supporting two specific pieces of federal regulation at this stage,” Vihstadt added. “There may be a time when we ought to do that, but I don’t think so at this stage.”
Board member Jay Fisette, who proposed the resolution, said the measures have been under consideration at least the past six months.
“We have done this before, and it’s not breaking new ground to identify a piece of legislation that this County, with its values, stands behind,” Fisette said.
The majority of the Board agreed, saying this would be an opportunity for Arlington to be bold and show local support for federal action before state legislators or other regional governments.
“This is about our health and our kids’ health,” Fisette added. “It’s making a statement and hoping to build and establish partnerships that allow the purchasing power of our government to help address a serious public health issue.”
The resolution passed, in its entirety, with a vote of 4-0-1. Vihstadt abstained.
“I would be supporting this for all the reasons Mr. Fisette and others have said,” he said before the vote, “were it not for the endorsement of two specific pieces of federal legislation.”
The Arlington County Board unanimously approved the redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall at its meeting last night.
In its approval of the project — which is now referred to as Ballston Quarter — the Board also entered a Letter of Intent to pursue a public-private partnership with Forest City Enterprises, the company that currently owns and operates the mall and is spearheading the redevelopment effort.
“This is an important, exciting redevelopment in the heart of Ballston,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “The long-term benefits of a revitalized Ballston Quarter warrant a public-private partnership — a wise strategic investment for the public good.”
The partnership is primarily financial at this stage of the project. According to a press release, the county plans to contribute $10 million to the project, including parking and transportation improvements around the mall, and would issue a $45.4 million Community Development Authority bond to further finance the redevelopment.
At the meeting, Hynes said other details of the agreement are “not fully fleshed out.”
The entire project is expected to cost $317 million for interior, facade streetscape improvements to existing buildings at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road. It also includes new development, like a 22-story, 406-unit apartment building where the Macy’s Furniture Store currently is.
The redevelopment of the mall itself involves more than 323,000 square feet of retail space, an open-air plaza with vendor stalls, improvements to the parking garage and a new pedestrian bridge over Wilson Blvd.
Public testimony given at the meeting by Ballston residents, business owners and stakeholders was overwhelmingly positive, thanking the Board for their work and expressing support for the project moving forward.
“Ballston has continued to evolve and transform over the years,” Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone said. “This property has served as a huge economic generator in the past, and it is vital to Ballston’s sustainability and long-term competitiveness.”
Resident and small business owner Jennifer Galloway echoed the need to rethink the mall.
“There’s currently a void in Ballston for most of our daily needs,” she said. “The redevelopment of the mall helps to fill that void and truly bring a town center feel to the heart of the area.”
Some residents did raise concerns and asked the Board to reconsider a proposal to remove the median strip on Wilson Blvd and to maximize the amount of space made available to the public on the property.
Board members addressed those concerns and took note to consider them moving forward. Still, members had positive views of the future of the project and of Ballston.
“This is a unique experience for us, stepping up like this to partner in the way we’re proposing to do it,” Board member Jay Fisette said. “It’s a smart, strategic investment all the way around, both public and private. We’re doing it with a reliable, experienced partner. That’s no small part in this.”
Board member J. Walter Tejada also shared his excitement.
“Ballston has the dynamic where you have to like urban living because it almost has the pulse of a city,” he said. “You can almost feel it, and [the project] has so much potential to make it even greater.”