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by ARLnow.com — April 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm 0

After a years-long delay caused by anticipated cost overruns, Arlington County says it’s finally ready to move forward with the second phase of the Long Bridge Park project, including a scaled-down aquatics and fitness center.

The county will be using a design-build approach to keep costs down, according to a press release. Contractors bidding on the project will be able to propose designs incorporating some portion of a “menu” of desired features, provided that the bid stay within budget and retain a number of core elements.

“The new facility will include the core programs that have been the mainstay of the planned aquatics facility and surrounding park improvements,” the county said. “A menu of potential options recommended by the Long Bridge Park Advisory Committee… include advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and more spectator seats, among other enhancements.”

“We’ve selected design/build as the best way to fulfill the vision for this unique park in the most cost-effective manner,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a press release. “We are eager to move forward and develop conceptual designs that the public will have an opportunity to weigh-in on this fall.”

More from the press release:

Through its design competition, the County plans to narrow the field of firms competing for the contract to three or four finalists. Each will be paid a stipend to submit a proposed concept for the park and facility. The concepts then will be evaluated against the County’s requirements. The public will be able to review the concepts and share feedback. The County Board will approve the final concept.

The budget for the total Phase 2 project, as approved by the County Board in the FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan, is $63 to $67 million, the amount of funding originally approved in 2012.  The final total will depend on decisions made during the design process. The budget includes, in addition to the aquatics facility, an extension of the esplanade, rain gardens, public gathering spaces, parking, public art and additional environmental remediation.

The next step is for the County to give firms the opportunity to submit their technical qualifications, which will be evaluated against established criteria.  Firms that qualify will be invited to submit a proposal this summer. Three or four firms who submit design concepts will be invited to participate in the design competition. The public will review the concepts in November 2017, with the Board then selecting the final design. Construction is expected to begin in late 2018.

The first phase of Long Bridge Park was completed in 2011. The park is located at 475 Long Bridge Drive, just north of Crystal City.

by Chris Teale — April 24, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

Arlington residents can expect to pay an extra $277 on average in property taxes after the County Board approved a 1.5-cent tax increase for fiscal year 2018.

The tax hike, less than the Board’s advertised maximum raise of 2 cents, will help fund Arlington Public Schools and Metro. APS will receive an extra $23.3 million, while Metro will get more than $14 million more, meaning Arlington’s contribution to its operating budget will be $71 million a year.

“This budget is a compromise and a consensus of the Board, and reflects the values of this community,” said Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The Board agreed to a modest increase in the property tax rate — less than the [County] Manager recommended — because of the extraordinary funding needs of Metro and our public schools.”

Residents will see several fees increase too. The household solid waste rate will increase by $6.88 a year to $314.16 annually, while the water/sewer rate will increase to $13.62 per thousand gallons. The Residential Utility Tax will see a hike too, while a new $60 accessory homestay permit fee has been added for those who wish to use services like Airbnb to let others stay in their homes.

The Board also hold a public hearing in May on proposed fare increases for Arlington Transit (ART) and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents (STAR), the county’s transit service for the disabled. Board members said increases are consistent with Metrobus fare increases, and would help with rising operating costs.

Also included in the $1.5 billion is an extra $1.3 million for the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, taking its total in the budget to just over $15 million. The County Board also approved hiring seven new sheriff’s deputies, three more emergency call takers and three police patrol officers. The sheriff hirings will be phased over several years.

Among other programs to receive extra funding were the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and the Lee Highway Alliance. The latter had been slated for a budget cut alongside other programs, but last month supporters spoke against that plan.

The Board also provided $100,000 to fund groups that help assist undocumented County residents, families with mixed immigration status and refugees.

At its meeting Saturday, Board members also gave the green light to a 3.5 percent pay increase for all county employees, including themselves. Under the plan, Board members’ pay would rise to $53,282, with the chair’s pay at $59,610.

Board member John Vihstadt (I) tried to separate discussion of other county employees’ raises from talk of Board members’ increases, as he said it would make the talks more transparent.

“I just find it a little anomalous that at the very time we are going to be imposing a fairly sizable property tax increase, which I am voting for, that we’re able to find the money ourselves to help us cope with that increase, but the community doesn’t have such a luxury or advantage,” he said. “I oppose us giving ourselves our own pay raise like this.”

But other Board members objected, and questioned why that issue was raised so late in the game.

“There were so many other important things that we dealt with, and this is 100 percent political posturing that is disappointing to me,” Fisette said. The pay raises passed together with Vihstadt’s abstaining, and he promised to donate the extra money he will receive to charity.

by Chris Teale — April 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm 0

The county’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I began yesterday with a brief ceremony at the County Building on Clarendon Blvd.

Originally intended to be at the American Legion War Memorial in Clarendon Central Park, the event was forced indoors by inclement weather.

The ceremony was part of a series of commemorative events being held by the county’s World War I Commemoration Task Force throughout this year.

County Board member John Vihstadt, the Board’s liaison to the commission, gave opening remarks, followed by commission chair Dr. Allison Finkelstein. Vihstadt spoke of the significance of World War I to Arlington, as it helped transform the county from a rural outpost to the urbanized home of the military.

“We commemorate World War I because it is not just the story of our country, but our county,” Vihstadt said.

Finkelstein said future events will look to further engage diverse segments of the community, launch community service projects and confront tough issues, like the role of racism in the war effort.

The war memorial where the ceremony was to be held segregates the 12 local men who died in World War I, with two presented away from the others and labeled “colored.” There have been discussions in the past about changing the plaque, and Finkelstein said she wanted to “find a consensus for the best way to address this plaque and respect the challenges they faced in Jim Crow’s America.”

Ed Bearss, chief historian emeritus at the National Park Service, gave the keynote address and discussed America’s involvement in the “war that was to make the world safe for democracy.”

by Katie Pyzyk — April 7, 2017 at 9:15 am 0

Spring Break Activities — Today is the last day of school for Arlington Public Schools students before spring break. The county’s parks and recreation department has some suggested activities to keep kids of all ages occupied next week. [Arlington County]

Casual Adventure Property’s Familiar New Owners — The owners of long-time Virginia Square outdoor retailer Casual Adventure announced this week that it’s closing, and the property sale reportedly already has taken place. The new owner is 1404 Hancock Street Investment LLC, a company registered to Brian Normile of BCN Enterprises. He’s partnering with Stephen and Mark Fedorchak, who own Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social. [Washington Business Journal]

CEB Acquisition Complete — IT consulting and research firm Gartner has completed its acquisition of Arlington-based technology and insights firm CEB in a $3.3 billion deal. Gartner plans to expand CEB’s consulting services into new markets and develop a line of new research and advisory products. [StamfordAdvocate]

Solid-Waste Plant Upgrade Raises Flaring Gas Concerns — Arlington County is encountering some pushback over the $100 million upgrade to the Water Pollution Control Plant. Concerns have been raised over a proposed new process that might cause flaring gas. [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy Rob Laybourn

by Chris Teale — March 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

Numerous Arlington residents spoke out last night against the County Manager’s “optional” proposed cuts to lessen a planned tax increase.

The County Board’s public hearing Tuesday saw opposition to suggested cuts to the Lee Highway Planning Initiative, snow removal from trails and the Glencarlyn Library among other programs.

County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a $1.2 billion budget for FY 2018 that includes a tax increase of 2 cents per $100 of assessed value. One cent apiece would go towards Arlington Public Schools and Metro’s increased funding needs.

After direction from County Board members, Schwartz produced a version that would only have a 1-cent increase and cuts elsewhere to make up the difference.

But the suggested cut to funding Lee Highway planning — which would shelve the project until further notice — brought strong opposition from residents and business owners. Under the $500,000 budget cut, the Lee Highway Alliance, a grassroots partnership that looks to improve the quality of life along the corridor, would lose all $60,000 of its county funding, according to speakers.

“The Lee Highway Alliance is the Arlington way: it’s a grassroots effort that sprung up as we realized the need for planning in this corridor,” said Karen Kumm Morris, a representative of the Rock Spring Civic Association.

“A good idea is meaningless without the courage to act,” agreed Sandi Chesrown, an executive board member on the Waverly Hills Civic Association.

Also coming under fire was the plan to cut the Glencarlyn Branch Library’s days of operation from six to two, but it brought one of the two-hour hearing’s lighter moments.

Jeffrey Liteman, representing the Glencarlyn Civic Association, first unfurled a 20-foot petition signed in opposition to the planned cuts. He then sang and played guitar in support of the library, backed by other attendees holding signs behind him.

“It’s the heart of the community, two days are not enough,” he sang.

Members of the county’s Community Services Board advocated for various budget requests, including new case managers for those with developmental disabilities, six placements in a mental health group home and a $75,000 study to determine services for young adults on the autism spectrum.

Among the other topics discussed Tuesday night:

  • Arlington Public Schools and the need to fill the approximately $13 million funding gap between Schwartz’s plan and Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed $617 million budget.
  • Various solutions to increase the county’s affordable housing stock, including more funding for housing grants and a higher zoning fee for apartment developers.
  • Funding for the county’s streetlight repair program, which is in line to receive a big boost under Schwartz’s proposed budget but not under his optional cuts.
  • Opposition to an optional cut to the $50,000 program that removes snow from local trails with the same priority as street snow removal.
  • The financial literacy program within the Virginia Cooperative Extension and permanent county funding for the financial education program associate position to run it.

Earlier this month, opinion columnist Mark Kelly suggested that Schwartz’s optional cuts were purposefully unpalatable, “designed to make taxpayers believe there are few desirable options when it comes to trimming the budget.” Schwartz, in a statement, said making budget cut recommendations “is always difficult, particularly given the growing demands and potential impacts on our community.’

The County Board will return for another public hearing tomorrow night, this time about the proposed tax rate and fee hikes. The budget is slated for final adoption on April 22.

by ARLnow.com — March 28, 2017 at 8:55 am 0

Farmhouse Sale Not Certain — Arlington County officials are pretty sure the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont will sell to a private buyer, but it’s not a given. The cost of fixing up the house may be more than it is worth. [InsideNova]

Arlington Healthcare Co. Considering Merger — Ballston-based Evolent Health is exploring a possible merger with D.C.-based Advisory Board Company, a healthcare consulting firm that helped to fund and launch Evolent. [Reuters]

VHC Land Swap Still in Progress — A proposed land swap that would give Virginia Hospital Center 5.5 acres of county government land next to its main campus, allowing it to expand, is continuing “to make its way through procedural steps.” The swap could happen as early as June 2018, with Arlington County getting some combination of land and/or cash in return, though it depends on some regional and state regulatory approvals. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by ARLnow.com — March 22, 2017 at 9:55 am 0

Claude Williamson (photo courtesy Arlington County)Following the departure of Steven Cover, Arlington County has named an Acting Director for Community Housing, Planning and Development.

Claude Williamson, who has been with the department for 20 years, will lead it on an interim basis as the acting planning director. Last week County Manager Mark Schwartz said that a search would be starting soon for a permanent replacement for Cover.

Williamson’s long tenure at CPHD contrasts with Cover’s attempts to shake up the department and streamline its processes, which have been the subject of grumbles from the business community. Cover was named CPHD director in 2015.

More on the appointment from a county press release:

Claude Williamson has been named Arlington County’s Acting Director for Community Housing, Planning and Development (CPHD).

Williamson joined CPHD in 1997 and has served as the Comprehensive Planning Supervisor for more than 11 years. His broad experience in planning, management and civic engagement has influenced a multitude of major planning initiatives and projects. He has been instrumental in the development and implementation of both sector and area plans across Arlington, and has provided significant leadership during zoning ordinance reviews and updates, inter-jurisdictional planning efforts and other key planning activities.

“Claude brings a wealth of experience and tremendous professionalism to the Acting Directorship of this critical County department,” said Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz. “He has a deep understanding of our community and of the planning principles that have successfully guided Arlington for decades.”

In his new role, Williamson will lead all the department’s efforts, including the development review process; comprehensive planning; neighborhood services; zoning administration; inspections and code enforcement and data analysis. The department is responsible for planning both in Arlington’s neighborhoods and in the densely developed, transit oriented Metro corridors. CPHD is the lead department in implementing the County’s Smart Growth planning vision.

Prior to joining Arlington County in 1997, Williamson worked for the New Orleans City Planning Commission on a variety of planning projects and initiatives. He holds a Master of Community Planning from the University of Maryland School of Architecture.  He also holds a Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Science from Suffolk University in Boston.  Williamson is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.  He lives in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington D.C. with his husband Michael and 11-year old son Evan.

by ARLnow.com — March 17, 2017 at 10:25 am 0

Director of Community Housing, Planning and Development Steven CoverArlington’s planning director has accepted a job with the city of Sarasota, Florida, a move seen by some as a blow to the local business community.

Steven Cover joined Arlington County as director of Community Planning, Housing and Development in March 2015. He won the respect of many in Arlington’s business community by trying to streamline processes in CPHD, which has gained a reputation for a heavy-handed, intransigent approach to enforcing county regulations, sources tell ARLnow.com.

The City of Sarasota announced Cover’s hiring yesterday.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Steven Cover to Sarasota,” said City Manager Tom Barwin. “Steve has extensive and highly successful experience in two of America’s great communities: Arlington, Virginia and Madison, Wisconsin. Steve’s experience and passion for walkable communities, cutting edge bicycle and transportation planning, appreciation for great architecture, innovative zoning codes, and commitment to affordable housing collaborations will serve our community well.”

In a statement released to ARLnow.com, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said the search for Cover’s replacement will be starting soon.

After more than two years of service as our Director of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Steve Cover is leaving to take another job. We wish him well. With the guidance of the County Board, Steve, together with our excellent staff of CPHD professionals, and in coordination with Arlington Economic Development, helped make improvements in service during his tenure. We will begin a search soon for a new director to lead this vital department.

by ARLnow.com — March 14, 2017 at 8:05 am 0

Snow and sleet covered roads in Ballston 3/14/17A mix of sleet, snow and ice is making for slick driving conditions outside and has prompted the closure of Arlington Public Schools and government offices.

Local roads remain partially snow and slush covered, though traffic is very light. ART buses are operating on a “severe” service schedule, while Metrobuses are operating on a “moderate” snow plan. The Metrorail system is open and operating on a Saturday schedule.

APS announced just after 4 a.m. that it would be closed today.

All APS schools and offices will be closed today. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. All custodians report at 6 a.m. regardless of your regular shift. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.

Arlington County announced that it was closed for the day just after 5 a.m.

Arlington County government offices, programs, courts, & facilities are closed today, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. If possible, stay off the roads while snow and ice removal efforts continue throughout the day.

VDOT is asking drivers to stay off the roads if at all possible.

Crews and almost 4,500 pieces of equipment worked through the night and continue to treat roads with salt and sand, and to plow in areas where there is enough accumulation.

Interstates and primary roads have stretches of slush and ice as snow and sleet continue to accumulate between plow passes.

Secondary roads and neighborhood streets remain mostly snow-covered.

HOV restrictions are lifted this morning on I-66, I-395 and the Dulles Toll Road.

Drivers are advised to continue to stay off the roads. If you absolutely must go out this morning, reduce speeds, use extreme caution and be alert to icy and inclement conditions. Road temperatures are expected to remain below freezing all day with potential for continued refreeze.

Virginia State Police say they’re dealing with a number of crashes in Northern Virginia.

Virginia State Police are currently on the scene of 10 traffic crashes throughout Northern Virginia. Only two involve injuries – minor – and the remainder of them involve damage to vehicles. From midnight Tuesday through 7 a.m., Virginia State Police have responded to 15 traffic crashes – all of which involved damage to vehicles only and no injuries.

Motorists are reminded to give extra time for travel, slow their speed for conditions, not to tailgate – to provide additional stopping distance in slick conditions, and to always buckle up.

The federal government, meanwhile, will be opening today on a three-hour delay. From the Office of Personnel Management:

Federal agencies in the Washington, DC area are OPEN under 3 hours DELAYED ARRIVAL and employees have the OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK. Employees should plan to arrive for work no more than 3 hours later than they would be expected to arrive.

by ARLnow.com — March 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

Snow plow on Jan. 24, 2016Update at 4:20 p.m. Metro has released its latest service plan for Monday night into Tuesday. The Metrorail system will be open Tuesday and will operate on a Saturday schedule. Buses will start the day operating on a severe service plan, according to WMATA.

Arlington County, Virginia State Police and other local jurisdictions and agencies are bracing for the late-season snowstorm that’s expected to bring several inches of snow and sleet to our region starting tonight.

After-school activities and sporting events are being cancelled en masse tonight and officials are preparing for what may be a messy commute at best or major travel disruptions at worst tomorrow. In addition to problems on the roads, widespread flight cancellations are also expected at local airports.

From Kathryn O’Brien at Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services:

Arlington County will fully-mobilize crews this afternoon to combat the snow beginning tonight into Tuesday. In preparation for the storm, crews pretreated roads over the weekend.

During the storm, our priority is to keep main arteries passable for emergency vehicles and public transportation. After the storm, cleanup operations begin, which includes treating ice on the roadways. Plowing generally begins when snow is two-four inches deep. If more than six inches of snow falls, we will plow some residential areas at the same time as arterial roadways in phase two. (Learn more about our phases).

The County’s Snow Removal Ordinance requires all Arlington property owners to clear snow and ice from public sidewalks adjacent to their property within a certain time frame. Here are some other ways residents can help with our snow removal efforts:

  • Coordinate with neighbors to park cars on one side of the street, where feasible, or avoid on-street parking so snowplow operators can efficiently clear more of the streets
  • Don’t park “head in” on cul-de-sacs so that plows have more room to maneuver
  • Clear your sidewalks and scoop snow towards your house, not the street
  • Wait for snow plows to come by before clearing snow from the front of driveways, to minimize the amount pushed back by plows
  • Stay home, telework or use mass transit to reduce the number of potentially stranded vehicles
  • Apply only the recommended amount of chemical de-icers on sidewalks to attain a safe and passable way

We encourage residents to stay connected through our Snow and Ice Central webpage and our DES social media platforms for updates on snow phases, transportation, trash and other important notifications. Follow us on Twitter @ArlingtonDES and on Facebook at Arlington County Environmental Services.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, meanwhile, has declared a State of Emergency in advance of the storm, saying that “Virginians should take the necessary precautions now to ensure they are prepared for travel disruptions and possible power outages during a cold weather period.”

From Virginia State Police:

Virginia State Police will have all available troopers and supervisors working in advance of and the duration of the storm as it makes its way across the Commonwealth. To prevent unnecessary traffic crashes from occurring on Virginia’s highways during the storm, state police advises residents to postpone travel plans and avoid driving, when possible.

If having to travel during the storm, drivers are reminded to do the following:

  • Use headlights. Increasing your visibility helps you to avoid slick and dangerous spots on the road, to include standing water and/or flooding. Headlights also help other drivers see you better.
  • Slow your speed. Though state police works closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to identify problem areas on Virginia’s highways during a storm, drivers still must drive for conditions. Slowing your speed gives you more time to safely react and avoid a crash. Drive your vehicle based on your ability to properly maintain control of your vehicle.
  • Don’t tailgate. You need increased stopping distance on slick road surfaces. Give yourself more space between vehicles traveling ahead of you in order to avoid rear end collisions.
  • Buckle Up. Most crashes that occur during inclement weather are caused by vehicles sliding off the road or other vehicles. Wearing your seat belt protects you from being thrown around the inside of your vehicle and suffering serious injury in a crash.
  • Put down your phone. Having to drive in severe snow or rain requires a driver’s full, uninterrupted attention. Do not text and drive or shoot video of the bad conditions while driving, as these actions put you, your passengers and other vehicles at extreme risk of a crash and/or injury.
  • Check Your Vehicle. Make sure your vehicle is in good working order for the conditions. Fill up the tank in advance. Check windshield wipers, windshield wiper fluid, tire tread, battery life, etc.
  • Don’t leave home without a window scraper, blanket, bottled water, snack, cell phone charger and flashlight.

For the latest in road conditions and updates, please call 511 on a cell phone, download the App or go online to the VDOT Virginia Traffic Information Website at www.511virginia.org.

More via Twitter:

by Chris Teale — March 9, 2017 at 3:35 pm 0

Rumors of the Shirlington dog park’s demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated.

The latest round of drafts released by the county for the Four Mile Run Valley initiative include the park in the plans for Jennie Dean Park. Three alternatives put forward for a meeting of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group held Tuesday night all include the dog park in some form.

The first option keeps the park as it is, while the second option proposed reconfiguring the dog park but keeping it the same size. The third alternative would also keep the dog park in place, but renovate it.

Notably, the second alternative would divide the dog park into two sections: one for larger animals and another for smaller.

The alternatives also make suggestions for programming to the west of South Nelson Street, which could include more arts and recreation space. It also suggests a number of amenities for the park in the site’s northeast corner, like sport courts, baseball fields, a playground and a trail. All three alternatives also propose adding to the site’s 136 existing parking spaces.

The park’s future had been the cause of some concern earlier this year on social media.

The unofficial Facebook page for the park said the county had a plan “to move the dog park and make it much smaller, or do away with it.”

The Shirlington Dog Park Page cited a presentation of early land use proposals generated in January as part of the Four Mile Run Valley planning process. However, the presentation appeared to show that the area of the dog park is being considered generally for “outdoor parks/rec/cultural” uses — which could include a dog park.

“The County recognizes the popularity and importance of the Shirlington Dog Park and does not plan to move it from the park or the park plan,” division chief Chikwe Njoku wrote in an email to a dog park page subscriber last month.

“As part of any planning effort we have to do our due diligence and evaluate the existing site in addition to making recommendations on potential alternatives that are based on a variety of factors such as environmental regulations, overall design/impact, usage, and other County standards, then make recommendations that are discussed with the 4MRV Working Group who also takes input from the community.”

The Four Mile Run Valley Working Group will meet again March 15 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Park and Natural Resources Operations Building at 2700 S. Taylor St.

by ARLnow.com — March 1, 2017 at 9:50 am 0

Train in Clarendon Metro station (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin)

Sale of Reeves Farmhouse Moves Forward — From a press release following yesterday’s Arlington County Board meeting: “The Arlington County Manager today recommended that the County move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse, and that the County not be a financial partner in the farmhouse’s restoration and reuse.” [Arlington County]

‘No Systemic Problem’ Led to High Water Bills — Arlington County says it has investigated resident complaints about unusually high water bills and found “no systemic problem.” Errors in billing or meter-reading were found in only five percent of complaints, the county said, adding that customer-side leaks and a hot and dry summer help to explain many of the remaining cases. [Arlington County]

Arlington Millennials Willing to Move — According to a new study, 77.5 percent of Millennials in Arlington say they would leave the region for the right job offer. That’s the highest response of any D.C. area jurisdiction surveyed. Millennials make up 35-40 percent of Arlington’s population, but real estate affordability remains a concern. Only 28 percent of Millennials in Arlington said they can afford to buy a home in the D.C. area. [Washington Business Journal]

Another Phone Scam Warning — Arlington residents are getting phone calls from scammers claiming to be Dominion Virginia Power technicians collecting unpaid electric bills. “In some cases, scammers have deliberately falsified the information transmitted to the victim’s Caller ID display to disguise their identity,” warns the Arlington County Police Department. [Arlington County]

Talk By Black Man Who Befriends KKK Members — Daryl Davis, a musician who befriends KKK members and convinces them to leave the organization, gave a talk in Arlington earlier this week. Of our current political climate, he said: “This is the best thing that has happened to this country because we have been so much in denial of racism in this country, xenophobia and all these kinds of things… Now we can no longer turn a blind eye to it.” [Fox 5]

Arlington’s ‘Cafe Urbanism’ — A new article in a publication written for state and local government officials asks poses the question: “Hip restaurants have helped revive cities. But is the boom fizzling out?” As a prime example, the article cites recent restaurant closures in Clarendon. [Governing]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

by ARLnow.com — February 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm 0

Arlington County website down 2/28/17

(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) A widespread Amazon Web Services outage brought down the Arlington County website around 1 p.m. Tuesday.

As of 1:30 p.m. the site appeared to be partially back up, although images are not currently loading and some pages are still down.

A number of large websites and services are reported to be down or experiencing significant issues due to an outage of AWS’s web storage servers in the eastern United States. The outage was still ongoing as of 3 p.m.

Arlington County tweeted about the outage about half an hour after it started.

by ARLnow.com — February 27, 2017 at 10:05 am 0

Early cherry blossom bloom in Pentagon City on 2/26/17 (photo courtesy Donna Gouse)

County Board Mulls Exotic Pet Ban — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a ban on “wild and exotic” pets in the county. Animals covered by the proposed ban “range from monkeys, wolves, raccoons and lynx to alligators, tarantulas, hedgehogs and even sugar gliders.” A hearing on the matter will be held March 18, ahead of final approval by the Board. [Arlington County]

Arlington Cultural Diversity Ranking — Arlington ranks No. 33 among “mid-sized cities” in a new list of cities with the most cultural diversity, behind places like Columbia, Maryland; Glendale, Arizona; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. [WalletHub]

Western Rosslyn Plan Moving Forward — The Arlington County Board has taken a series of actions to push its previously approved Western Rosslyn Area Plan forward. The plan includes a new home for H-B Woodlawn at the Wilson School, a new fire station, a reconfigured park and the redevelopment of several garden apartment buildings into a larger affordable housing complex. The various projects are expected to be completed by 2021. [Arlington County]

Arlington-Based Org Gets Big Grant — The Crystal City-based U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is getting a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant, announced by U.S. senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), is earmarked for “organizations working to provide unaccompanied minors who fled violence in Central America with services including temporary shelters and foster care programs.” [Sen. Tim Kaine]

County Extends HQ Lease — Arlington County has extended its lease at 2100 Clarendon Blvd for another 15 years, a move the county says will save $1.6 million annually in rent. “This is a great deal for Arlington taxpayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The County will stay in this prime Courthouse location, home to County Government since 1989, at a savings of millions of dollars over the term of the extension.” [Arlington County]

Homeownership Still a Dream for Many Millennials — The Millennial generation is a major force in Arlington’s population and economy, but homeownership remains out of reach for many, including the older portion of the generation that’s getting married and having kids. Contributing to the problem: there is a significant shortage of homes for sale, particularly affordable starter homes, and the new houses that are being built are often higher-end luxury properties. [Washington Post, CNBC]

Photo courtesy Donna Gouse

by ARLnow.com — February 24, 2017 at 1:25 pm 0

Courthouse Plaza at 2100 Clarendon Blvd

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is set to consider a lease renewal for county government headquarters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse.

Under the proposed agreement with property owner Vornado, according to a staff report, rent on the 235,000 square foot facility would actually go down, at least initially, though it would then rise 2.5 percent per year through the end of the lease in October 2033.

Starting in 2033, the county would have the option of renewing in five-year increments through 2062. Arlington, however, is also considering building its own headquarters nearby, to open before the end of the 15-year lease term.

More from the staff report:

The rent under the proposed lease Amendment will be substantially below the rent under the existing terms of the Lease. The current total rent under the existing Lease is approximately $11.2 million per year ($47.71 per square foot). In October, 2018 (immediately before the Amendment’s rent schedule takes effect), staff estimates that the total rent under the Lease will be approximately $11,500,000 per year ($48.95 per square foot) (charges for common-area maintenance and taxes must be estimated because they vary). Significantly, once the new rent takes effect in November, 2018, the total rent under the Amendment will start, and be reduced to, $9,867,354 per year ($42 per square foot), a savings of over $1.6 million per year.

The 15-year term of the Amendment is sufficient to give the County time to plan for and build a new administrative building at Courthouse Plaza if the County decides to do so. Based on the length of the term extension, staff believes it is now necessary to refurbish the County’s leased premises. The refurbishment would be paid for, in part, by the tenant improvement allowance provided by Landlord, the free rent, and the commission rebate (total = approximately $35.9 million). The scope and cost of any refurbishment will be determined by the County after a space utilization study.

In addition to a multi-million dollar office refurbishment, paid for by landlord and leasing agent concessions, under the lease renewal Arlington would gain the right to add a daycare facility to the building and to place an emergency generator on top of 2300 Clarendon Blvd, to serve the county’s Emergency Communications Center there.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending the Board approve the lease renewal, given what the staff report describes as “fair and reasonable terms” offered by Vornado.

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