Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Possible Rabies Exposure in EFC — “On Saturday, January 30, a raccoon was reported in the area of the 6900 block Williamsburg Boulevard… in the East Falls Church neighborhood. This animal was showing signs of neurological symptoms and was caught and removed by Animal Control after potentially having contact with a pet. The raccoon tested clinically positive for rabies.” [Arlington County]

Rouse Property Showdown Heads to County Board — “With a unanimous vote, Arlington’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board kicked the controversy over preservation of the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard up to the County Board. The action, taken Jan. 27 after the matter was fast-tracked through what ordinarily would have been a much more drawn-out process, puts the advisory body at odds with the owners of the 9-acre property, who want to raze the buildings and sell off the tract.” [InsideNova]

Pike McDonald’s Robbed by Irate Customer — “The suspect was in the drive thru line of a business and became irate over an issue with their order. The suspect then parked their vehicle and entered the business yelling and threatening the victim. She slapped items out of the victim’s hand, then pushed her out of the way and stole an undisclosed amount of cash from the register, threw food items on the floor, and damaged property, then fled in a vehicle prior to police arrival.” [ACPD]

Local Businessman Pleads Guilty to Fraud — “An Arlington businessman pleaded guilty today to making false statements to multiple federal agencies in order to fraudulently obtain multimillion-dollar government contracts, COVID-19 emergency relief loans, and undeserved military service benefits… Robert S. Stewart, Jr., 35, was the owner and president of Federal Government Experts LLC, an Arlington-based company that purported to provide various services to the U.S. government.” [U.S. Dept. of Justice]

Volunteers Working to Widen Mt. Vernon Trail — “Volunteers removed overgrown grass and mud from the trail between Memorial Bridge and TR Island in January widening the trail by more than a foot in some spots. Volunteers also fixed drainage of three areas where winter ice sheets were forming. We have multiple upcoming volunteer events through March to continue widening the trail.” [Friends of the Mt. Vernon Trail]

Super Bowl Safety Reminder — “Super Bowl LV is on Sunday, February 7, 2021, and it’s one of America’s favorite annual celebrations… The Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to remind football fans everywhere that Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk.” [ACPD]

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The former Residence Inn hotel in Pentagon City is being deconstructed.

While the demolition is not as dramatic as that of the Holiday Inn implosion in Rosslyn, it will similarly make a mark on a portion of the county’s skyline.

The demolition is taking place after the hotel, located at the corner of Army Navy Drive and S. Fern Street, was purchased by Amazon for nearly $150 million in September.

The tech giant plans to use the property to expand the second phase of its second headquarters campus. The first HQ2 phase is currently under construction, with an anticipated opening in 2023, while the county approval process for the second phase is expected to start later this year.

A company representative tells ARLnow that demolition of the hotel is scheduled to wrap up this summer. The extra space will be used for extra amenities for Amazon employees and local residents, we’re told.

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The day has arrived: the former Alpine Restaurant is currently being demolished along Lee Highway.

The long-time local restaurant at 4770 Lee Highway is being torn down to make way for The Children’s School, a three-story daycare facility for the kids of Arlington Public Schools employees. The facility will also be home to Integration Station, a program for kids with developmental or other disabilities that intermingles with The Children’s School.

The new building is expected to house more than 200 children and will have both underground parking and a small amount of surface parking.

Alpine Restaurant served Italian cuisine and was in business for 44 years before closing in 2010 upon the owner’s retirement. It was acquired by the owners of the Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group, which ultimately decided against opening a new restaurant there.

Hat tip to Betsy Twigg

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As a large Arlington estate nears a potential demolition, a local historic preservation group is fighting to have the estate’s main house saved.

The Febrey-Lothrop Estate — also known as the Rouse estate — is a 9-acre site at 6407 Wilson Blvd, near Arlington’s western border with Fairfax County. On it sits a more than 100-year-old home that has housed prominent business figures and celebrities over the years.

With a demolition permit application pending, a local nonprofit hopes that the county government can intervene and preserve the building.

“Over the past 150 years, the Febrey-Lothrop Estate has graced the Upton Hill neighborhood of Arlington,” the Arlington Historical Society (AHS) said in a letter recently sent to the County Board. “Despite war, twentieth-century alterations, and major development of the neighborhood, the manor home and grounds remain a proud, historically significant Arlington landmark.”

The original home on the property was built before the Civil War and once hosted a Union encampment and hospital. The property later became residence of Alvin Lothrop, co-founder of Woodward & Lothrop Department Store; Howard Hughes; and most recently businessman Randolph Rouse and his wife, Honeymooners actress Audrey Meadows.

According to an application for a historical district to protect the home from demolition, filed last year against the wishes of the estate of its late owner, the original home was destroyed and replaced by the current colonial revival-style house in 1907. The Arlington Historical Society, however, says portions of the original home and subsequent additions are likely still part of the building.

“Given the historical significance of the Febrey-Lothrop House, the Arlington Historical Society believes the property must be saved for future generations,” AHS said in the letter. “With requests for demolition permits already in the pipeline, AHS feels an urgent need to prevent harm coming to the Estate.”

The organization requested that the County Board and County Manager issue cease and desist orders, preempting the proposed demolition. AHS also requested that the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board quickly recommend approval an application for Local Historic District designation and forward the designation to the County Board for approval.

The county has already listed the site for potential conversion into a public park in the Parks Master Plan (page 162), though so far it remains owned by Rouse’s estate. The historic district application notes that the property “is extremely attractive to developers for townhouse, condo, single family home, and retail commercial establishments,” due to its large size.

“Over the past 15 years, Arlington has lost many historically and architecturally important buildings to the wrecking ball,” AHS wrote in its letter to the County Board. “Let’s not let another gem go unprotected.”

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Workers are removing roof shingles from the Febrey-Lothrop house in Dominion Hills.

The 114-year-old home, which preservationists have been trying to save against the wishes of the current owners, currently has a demolition permit application pending with the county, after having a sewer cap permit approved.

While the demolition permit has yet to be issued, what might be prep work was underway this afternoon, ahead of expected rain tonight. A worker in a full protective suit and ventilator could be seen removing roof shingles — potentially asbestos shingles.

That has prompted alarm among some of the local preservationists hoping to pressure the county to somehow stop the demolition. An online petition calling for the demolition permit to be denied, despite county officials suggesting that would be illegal if all the paperwork was otherwise in order, is currently up to about 875 signatures.

The home sits on a 9+ acre estate most recently owned by sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017. Local activists have been pushing Arlington officials to buy the property, preserve the house, and use the rest of the property for a park or other public uses — something they say is a “generational” opportunity, given the lack of large, open privately-owned parcels in the county.

The county is set to study the property, to determine whether it should be given a historic district designation that would restrict changes, but the owners appear to be moving forward with a demolition project before that could be put into place.

An accountant representing the trust that owns the property did not respond to an earlier request for comment from ARLnow.

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A demolition permit application has been filed for 6407 Wilson Blvd, the address associated with the more than century-old Febrey-Lothrop house.

The permit has yet to be approved after Tuesday’s filing, but county officials previously said that legally it must go through if all of the paperwork is in order, despite the protestations of some local preservationists.

The turn-of-the-century mansion with a colorful history and notable former residents — including department store magnate Alvin Lothrop, businessman and aviator Howard Hughes, local businessman and sportsman Randy Rouse, and actress Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame — is potentially set for demolition after the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board voted to study a historical designation for the 9+ acre property.

The historic designation process is being conducted against the wishes of the trust left by Rouse, who passed away in 2017. Demolition would circumvent the restrictions imposed by a historic designation, before they’re put into place.

Sid Simmonds, an accountant who represents the Rouse trust, did not return a request for comment from ARLnow.

Those who would like to see the aging mansion preserved have been circulating an online petition.

The MoveOn.org petition, created by “passionate preservationist” Tom Dickinson, calls for Arlington County to suspend the issuance of a demolition permit, expedite the completion of the Local Historic District designation study, and to either purchase the property or “find a buyer who will preserve the property for public use.”

The petition also calls for the creation of a “‘Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Gardens’ in Arlington for the community to enjoy, and for historic tourism and economic benefits.”

Here’s what the petition says about the property, which is located in the Dominion Hills neighborhood, near Arlington’s border with Fairfax County:

The Febrey-Lothrop-Rouse estate is a unique, large privately held property in Arlington. It has a long and significant history, dating back to the Febrey family farm and house, built in 1855. The Febrey family was one of the most prestigious and well-known in the D.C. area at that time. It was the location of a large encampment for thousands of Union Soldiers during the Civil War, 1861-65. The estate was subsequently owned by Alvin Lothrop, a co-founder/owner of the Woodward-Lothrop Department Store chain. The last owner was Randolph Rouse who was married to Audrey Meadows, a world famous actress in the 1950s and 60s. The property was also once owned by TWA Airlines, which was owned by Howard Hughes, who occasionally stayed at the property. It is important that Arlington protect and preserve such a unique, undeniably historic property for public access. This is a once-in-forever opportunity to take a stand for historic preservation in Arlington County.

As of this morning the petition has more than 675 signatures.

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The interior of a salon on Lee Highway is set to be demolished and renovated, according to a permit filed with Arlington County.

The salon is New Image Hair Designs at 5800 Lee Highway, in Leeway-Overlee, across the street from Sloppy Mama’s Barbecue. All the finishes, plumbing and electrical fixtures will be removed and non-structural interior walls will be taken down, according to the permit.

The listed owner of the property is an LLC associated with Brian Normile, the president of Arlington-based home builder BCN Homes, which holds the demolition permit for the property.

Normile is also a partner in the Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group, which owns Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall and Northside Social.

Rumors on the local Nextdoor social networking site that the salon would be converted into a new restaurant could not be immediately confirmed. Multiple requests for comment from the Liberty Tavern owners were not returned, nor was a request for comment from BCN returned.

Image via Google Maps

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Plans to demolish Alpine Restaurant on Lee Highway have been approved, inching forward the planned construction of The Children’s School daycare facility.

Despite the approval, the permit to demolish the building at 4770 Lee Highway, held by Trinity Group Construction, has yet to be issued.

“Once a payment is received, the permit is then issued,” said Andrew Pribulka, a spokesperson for the Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, in an email. “Demolition may not begin until permits have been issued and posted.”

Trinity has applied for two other permits, one to excavate and another to build the facility.

Requests for comment from Trinity and The Children’s School were not returned.

The progress comes two-and-a-half years after the County Board unanimously approved a permit to build a three-story daycare facility for children of employees of Arlington Public Schools, to be built where the long-time restaurant has stood vacant for a decade.

The private, nonprofit child care center will oversee no more than 235 children of APS staff between the ages of two months and five years old. This new facility will also be home to Integration Station, a program for kids with developmental or other disabilities.

Both the co-op daycare and Integration Station are temporarily housed in the same Ballston office building at 4420 N. Fairfax Drive. The programs were co-located in the Reed School building in Westover, but were forced out when APS decided to open a new elementary school there.

The Reed School is set to open to students in 2021.

One year after approving the project, the Board approved a request to eliminate off-site parking and modify initial architectural plans.

Most parking is below-ground with some above ground, and the plans now includes a third-story rear play deck and an expanded rear wall to shield neighboring houses from car headlights, a concern from residents.

Alpine Restaurant served Italian cuisine and was in business for 44 years before closing in 2010 upon the owner’s retirement. It was acquired by the owners of the Liberty Tavern Restaurant Group, which ultimately decided against opening a new restaurant there.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) The 18-story former Holiday Inn hotel in Rosslyn came down this morning during a controlled demolition that closed local roads and I-66.

The implosion, which was scheduled for 8 a.m., brought down the 50-year-old hotel tower and could be heard for miles around. A large dust cloud covered much of the area afterward.

The demolition, which will make way for a new development featuring a 25-story residential tower an a 38-story hotel tower, can be seen around the 8:30 mark of the live-streamed video below.

Here are two other views of the implosion, courtesy of Brian Danza.

Video by Jay Westcott

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A permit filed with Arlington County suggests that a potentially historic house in Dominion Hills may not be long for the world.

The Febrey-Lothrop House at 6407 Wilson Blvd, also known as the Rouse estate, has been the subject of sale speculation this year. The 9 acre property on which it sits is considered to be a “generational” land acquisition opportunity for the county and a prime site for a potential residential development, should it sell to a developer.

A historic designation for the property has been proposed, however. From a Sun Gazette article last week:

Members of the Arlington government’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) voted 10-0 on Nov. 17 to move forward on a preliminary study toward determining whether the 9-acre Rouse estate at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North McKinley Road meets qualifications to be designated as a local historic district.

The bone of contention? The trust that controls the property doesn’t want the study, or the historic designation, to move forward.

The property is owned by a trust set up by sportsman Randy Rouse, who purchased the estate (then consisting of 26 acres) in 1951 and owned it until his death at age 100 in 2017. His widow currently resides on the circa-1907 main house.

Not only is the house more than a century old, but its former residents are of some note: Alvin Lothrop, one of the founders of the Woodward and Lothrop department stores chain; business magnate and aviator Howard Hughes; and actress Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners fame.

A historic designation, should it be approved, may limit the development potential of the property. Also from the Sun Gazette:

Inclusion in a county-government local historic district in Arlington restricts the maneuverability of property owners in terms of what they can do with their property.

While owners of properties being considered for inclusion as a local historic district could always attempt what might be considered a nuclear option – razing the structures to the ground before a vote on such a designation takes place – such a move likely would result in a reaction that would complicate efforts to redevelop the parcel down the road.

A recent permit filing could be a prelude to the aforementioned “nuclear option” of a preemptive demolition.

This week the county approved a permit application to cap off the property’s sewage line. A sewer cap is one of the requirements for obtaining a demolition permit.

“[The] kiss of death of any house is the sewer cap on,” a tipster tells ARLnow.

Demolition of the house would forestall restrictions that may be imposed by a historic district designation. The actual plans for the property could not be immediately confirmed, however.

In April, Falls Church News-Press columnist Charlie Clark reported that while the trustees for the property were not actively marketing it, they had received an unsolicited offer that was seriously considered.

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