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by ARLnow.com — December 7, 2016 at 11:00 am 0

McCoy Park, a humble triangle of grass and trees between Lee Highway and I-66 near the new MOM’s Organic Market, is set for some upgrades.

Arlington County is in the midst of a design process for the park. A public open house is planned for Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., in a first floor conference room at Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd). Residents can also share their thoughts via an online survey on the project page.

The draft plan for the park calls for more landscaping and amenities, including:

  • A re-aligned sidewalk
  • A seating deck with tables and chairs
  • A shade canopy
  • An interactive chalk art plaza with Four Square and Tick-Tac-Toe games
  • Flowering trees, shrubs and perennials
  • Trash and recycling receptacles
  • “Discovery path” stepping stones
  • New signage

The improvements are expected to be paid for with $125,000 in funding from the developer that built the adjacent shopping center, MOM’s market and apartments.

Additionally, the county is considering offering a dog bag dispenser and a Little Free Library — if it can find sponsors for either amenity.

The design process for the park is expected to wrap up within the first three months of 2017.

by ARLnow.com — December 5, 2016 at 8:30 am 0

Ice skating at Pentagon Row

County to Continue Westover Study — Arlington County’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board has asked county staff to study garden apartments in the Westover neighborhood. The study is expected to take 6-12 months, after which the board will consider whether to recommend a historic designation. Some residents want Westover designated as historic in order to prevent redevelopment. The study limits the historic designation to the garden apartments and not to other parts of Westover. [InsideNovaArlington County]

Donations Needed for ANC Wreaths — The nonprofit Wreaths Across America is seeking donations to help sponsor wreaths for the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. Without additional donations, nearly half of the graves at the cemetery may be bare for the holidays. [Washington Examiner, WTOP]

New Name for New Street — A new street that will be built as part of a planned apartment development along Columbia Pike may be getting a new name. Originally set to be called S. Smythe Street, the short connector road behind the Wellington apartments may instead be named S. Ross Street. [InsideNova]

High School Boundary Change Approved — Despite some resident complaints, the Arlington School Board on Dec. 1 approved a series of high school boundary changes that will move students, starting with high school freshmen next year, from overcrowded Washington-Lee High School to Wakefield and Yorktown. [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]

by ARLnow.com — November 3, 2016 at 11:10 am 0

Robert Ball graveyard in Ballston

Members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, would like to see their small family graveyard along Fairfax Drive preserved and not moved for a redevelopment.

An attorney representing four descendants of Robert Ball Sr. sent a letter (below) stating the family members’ position to the Arlington County Board earlier this week.

The family members “fully support” an item on this Saturday’s County Board agenda that would be a first step to designating the graveyard a local historic district, according to the letter .

The attorney, Alexander Berger, said family members do not want to prevent the planned redevelopment of the church, but they do want the church to honor its century-old commitment — made after the family granted the church the land on which it sits — to preserve the graveyard.

“This is a situation where everyone involved can certainly find agreement,” Berger said. The family members have “no desire to stand in the way of the church and the development, provided they honor the history of the county and the family.”

The church, meanwhile, is pursuing two different methods of trying to get approval to move the graveyard. First, it has applied for a permit with the Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources. Additionally, it has filed suit against members of the Ball family in Arlington Circuit Court in order to have the graveyard declared abandoned, which would then allow it to be moved.

“It is not a lawsuit in the sense anybody is suing anybody,” explained Tad Lunger, the attorney for the church.  “There are basically two ways to allow for the relocation of human remains in Virginia, the first being through the DHR permit process, and the second being to get a court order to allow the relocations to occur.”

“The DHR permit is more of a passive notice process, whereas for the court process we cast a wider net and actually have to do genealogical research to locate any potential descendants and proactively go out and notify them,” Lunger continued. “Because we wanted as much opportunity for descendants to know we might find human remains at this site, and we wanted to know directly from them what they felt was most appropriate to do with any remains if they were found, we decided to do both processes to get as much involvement as possible.”

Berger, who was hired by family members after they were served with the lawsuit, said that the church “didn’t go about this in the right way.”

Berger said he believes the church is working on a plan for building the new development around the graveyard, which family members would likely support, but those plans have not yet been shared with him or the family.

by ARLnow.com — October 21, 2016 at 11:00 am 0

Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board has recommended designating a tiny Ballston graveyard a local historic district, potentially disrupting a church’s redevelopment plans.

The HALRB voted 8-2-2 Wednesday night for a local historic district designation of the Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground, after hearing from 37 speakers both for and against the designation.

The County Board will now decide, as early as next month, whether to authorize an advertisement of public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board. Following the hearings, the County Board could vote on the historic district as early as December.

The graveyard is located next to Ballston’s Central United Methodist Church, which has filed a site plan application to redevelop its property at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story building with a new house of worship, 132 apartments (55 would be committed as affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.

The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes headstones for members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named. Nobody knows for sure whether there are human remains buried in the graveyard or whether the remains were relocated elsewhere decades ago during any number of construction projects.

Historic preservation activists have pushed for a historic designation, which could scuttle or at least significantly alter the redevelopment plans.

The church and its members, on the other hand, want the development to proceed.

“This project… is excellent for the community as it will provide much needed affordable housing in Ballston, maintain a sacred space of a church in Ballston proper, continue a strong outreach by providing meals to those in need on Fridays, and provide expanded daycare and preschool options in Ballston conveniently located near the Metro for commuting parents,” said Kathy Sibert, a congregant who’s also the president and CEO of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

“[The graveyard] was deeded to the church from the Ball Family in the 1920s,” said Sibert. “It is NOT an active grave site and the entire site has been heavily excavated for construction by the church and the County since that time so that virtually the entire site has been disturbed.

Sibert said the county officials have stopped processing its site plan application, “despite their prior commitment to us to hold our March 2017 tax credit application deadline.”

Update at 3:30 p.m. — The church’s pastor, Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen, tells ARLnow via email: “The local historic district boundaries recommended by county staff to the HALRB would have made our project infeasible. The HALRB voted to designate a smaller section of land than the staff proposed boundaries so we’ve asked our design team and engineers to evaluate the impact of this smaller section. I anticipate that we will have a better understanding of the potential ramifications sometime next week.”

She added: “Our current sanctuary is built within the boundaries of the former Ball family graveyard. The grave-markers do not appear to be in their original location. The church is seeking permission from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to investigate this further.”

by ARLnow.com — October 19, 2016 at 1:15 pm 0

Two major development projects are underway in Courthouse, but more progress has been made on one than the other.

Carr Properties is in the process of redeveloping two sites: 2311 Wilson Blvd, which will be the new headquarters of local tech firm Opower, and 2025 Clarendon Blvd, which will be a new 12-story office building.

Construction is well underway at 2311 Wilson, with sheeting and shoring work in place. At last check the new building was expected to be ready for move-in by 2018.

(A Carr Properties representative has thus far not responded to ARLnow.com’s request for an update on the construction timeline.)

The 2025 Clarendon Blvd project, meanwhile, has only cleared the demolition phase, which saw the former Wendy’s and Wells Fargo bank torn down. The site is currently a vacant lot with little activity of note. No word on when construction might start on the new building.

by ARLnow.com — October 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

Initial construction permits have been issued for a new residential development on Columbia Pike.

The sheeting and shoring and demolition permits were issued last month. There’s no word yet on when exactly work will begin but county officials say the project is moving forward.

Pillars Development Group plans to tear down the former El Tutumaso restaurant at 4707 Columbia Pike and replace it with a four-story, 78-unit condominium building with 87 underground parking spaces and 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

The development is being built utilizing Columbia Pike Form Based Code, a set of by-right land use provisions intended to reduce the regulatory friction required to build certain types of projects along the Pike.

The project was approved in December 2014.

by ARLnow.com — October 11, 2016 at 9:15 am 0

Lyon Park Community Center (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Balcony Fire in Arlington View — Arlington County firefighters battled a small fire on an apartment balcony in the Arlington View neighborhood yesterday afternoon, following reports of an “explosion” sound. The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. [Twitter]

Carpool’s New Owner Trying to Sell — The fate of Carpool is once again uncertain. The Ballston-area bar was supposed to close later this fall to make way for a new high-rise residential development. Despite County Board approval of the project, and the just-completed sale of the bar, developer Penzance is now reportedly trying to sell the site. [Washington Business Journal]

Student Population Growth Lower Than Estimate — The student population at Arlington Public Schools grew 3.6 percent from last school year to the beginning of this school year. That’s an increase of 914 students, the equivalent of a new middle school, but it is 262 students below APS projections. [InsideNova]

Pedestrian-Only Streets on County Board Agenda — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is slated to consider allowing pedestrian-only streets in Arlington. Currently such streets are not part of the county’s Master Transportation Plan. Pedestrian-only streets are being discussed for parts of Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Arlington County]

White Squirrel Hit By Car? — A commenter says an albino squirrel that was often seen in neighborhoods near Columbia Pike has been hit by a car and killed. [ARLnow]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

by ARLnow.com — October 10, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

M.flats apartment building in Crystal City

The new “m.flats Crystal City” apartment building has opened its doors to residents, developer Kettler announced late last week.

The 11-story, 198-unit building replaced a former post office, which moved to S. Fern Street near Costco in 2011.

Kettler says the building offers residents close proximity to the Crystal City Metro station, a rooftop pool, and units featuring “washed oak flooring, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances.”

More, from a press release:

Kettler, one of greater Washington, D.C.’s leading real estate development and property management companies, announced today the opening of m.flats Crystal City, an 11-story, 198-unit, high-rise apartment building located in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Va.

m.flats not only revives a site once occupied by the former Crystal City Post Office, but provides a community conveniently located just one block from the Crystal City Metro offering easy access to work, entertainment and downtown Washington, D.C.

“m.flats will provide a spark that will help Crystal City become the vibrant community we all envision,” said Robert C. Kettler, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Kettler. “It not only expands the number of residences, but takes Crystal City a step closer to becoming a thriving transit-oriented, walkable neighborhood.”

m.flats was the first residential building proposed to the Arlington County Board since the adoption of the Crystal City Sector Plan in 2010. The plan is a roadmap adopted to redevelop Crystal City through 2050.

“Demand for luxury city living is especially strong in the Arlington submarket,” added Pamela Tyrrell, Vice President of Multifamily for Kettler. “Many young professionals want a home that features an array of amenities, is in close proximity to mass transit as well as dining and entertainment options. m.flats offers all of the above in a boutique, well designed building.”

“KTGY designed an exterior aesthetic at m.flats that is contemporary yet restrained. In contrast to the existing 1960s-era buildings, the facades add color, texture and transparency,” stated Rohit Anand, Managing Principal at KTGY’s East Coast office in Tysons.

m.flats Crystal City offers primarily one- and two-bedroom units as well as standard unit finishes including washed oak flooring, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances.

Building amenities include a club room equipped with WiFi and ample lounge areas, fitness center, bike storage and workstation, and an all-season landscaped courtyard with fire and water features. The rooftop amenities include multiple entertainment spaces with outdoor seating and dining areas, outdoor kitchens with grills, fireplace, as well as a southern-facing sundeck with cabanas overlooking the rooftop swimming pool and views of the city.

The LEED Silver designed high-rise is Kettler’s sixth multi-family building in the Crystal City/Pentagon City market. Kettler opened The Acadia, a 411-unit high-rise luxury apartment building in Metropolitan Park, spring of 2015. Construction on m.flats Crystal City began at the end of October 2014. International award-winning KTGY Architecture + Planning was the architect on the project, Bohler Engineering, a civil engineering and consulting services firm, the engineer, and John Moriarty & Associates, the general contractor.

by ARLnow.com — October 7, 2016 at 10:05 am 0

The Staples store at 3804 Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square is slated for redevelopment, though the plans are still in the early stages.

Schupp Companies presented a plan to build a hotel on the site to the Ashton Heights Civic Association last month.

“My understanding is that the redevelopment would also replace the apartments on that side of N. Oakland [Street],” said a resident who was in attendance.

Ray Schupp said the exact details are still fluid and that his company will be working with residents to craft the plan.

“We have not decided exactly what we’ll do with the site,” Schupp told ARLnow.com. “We are exploring several options including a hotel. That being said we have been extremely pleased with the reception of the community to our new Hyatt hotel at Courthouse.”

“We will be working with the County staff and the neighbors on solutions to the Staples site,” Schupp continued. “Just as we developed a close relationship with Lyon Village homeowners and reached a win-win solution to the Courthouse site… we will work with the community and staff on this.”

Plans should begin to firm up within 3-4 months, said Schupp.

by ARLnow.com — October 4, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

Robert Ball graveyard

A group of residents has started a Change.org petition to protest against the planned relocation of a small, 150-year-old graveyard near the Ballston Metro station.

The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.

The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.

The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”

“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.

The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location.  The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.

The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family.  In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly.  In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard.  The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.

The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years.  With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb.  The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.

It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.

No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design.  The developers always thought they would move the graves.  The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it.  A nice border wall already exists.  The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down.  Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.

The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.

by ARLnow.com — September 30, 2016 at 9:05 am 0

Person walking near puddle in Clarendon on rainy day, Sept. 30 2016

Food Star Not Responding to Pleas to Stay — The Food Star grocery store apparently doesn’t have much interest in staying in Arlington after the store, at the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, closes to make way for a redevelopment. Despite resident interest in keeping the Food Star, county officials say their efforts to reach out to the company and help them relocate to another location in Arlington have not yet yielded a “substantive” response. [InsideNova]

LEGO Store Grand Opening — The new LEGO Store in the Pentagon City mall is holding its grand opening celebration starting today. The store will be hosting a LEGO Master Builder who will construct a huge LEGO model for display. The first 400 customers Friday, Saturday and Sunday will receive free gifts with qualifying purchases. [LEGO]

Olympic Athletes at Elementary School — A group of Olympic athletes will talk with students at Carlin Springs Elementary this morning. Among the group are shot put gold medalist Michelle Carter, gold medal-winning sprinter Natasha Hastings and long jump gold medalist Jeff Henderson. The athletes will be at the school as part of the Let’s Move! Healthy Schools campaign.

Notable Tree Nominations — It’s that time of the year — if you think you have a truly exceptional tree in your yard that deserves recognition, you can now nominate it for Arlington County’s annual Notable Tree awards. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 15. [Arlington County]

October Is Affordable Housing Month — Tomorrow is Oct. 1 and October is Affordable Housing Month in Arlington, “a month-long celebration of the County’s long-term commitment to preserving and creating housing opportunities that benefit the whole community.” [Arlington County]

by ARLnow.com — September 28, 2016 at 5:15 pm 0

Former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chairman Kevin Shooshan

If you were to pull up a mental image of a developer, you might think of the old NIMBY cliche of a “greedy developer” who swoops in to a community, builds a bunch of really tall buildings, leaves with bags of money, and goes home for a dip in a gold coin swimming pool.

This week’s 26 Square Miles podcast guest, former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chair Kevin Shooshan, does not fit that image. The family-owned development firm for which he works, Shooshan Company, is based in Arlington and has projects in the works in Ballston and Clarendon.

When they’re not working to build new housing, hotels or offices, Shooshan and his family members are active in the community. They have been involved in the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, Doorways for Women and Families, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and a number of other local nonprofits.

During our interview, Kevin talks about the ups and downs of being a developer, the projects he’s currently working on, the next generation of young leaders in Arlington, the county’s slow permitting process, and whether the local office market will ever fully recover amid high vacancy rates (hint: it probably won’t).

Be sure to subscribe to ARLnow.com’s podcast, 26 Square Miles, on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher or TuneIn.

by ARLnow.com — September 27, 2016 at 10:20 am 0

Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association were given an early look at two new developments planned for the community over the next few years.

The first, from Reston-based developer NVR, would redevelop Grace Community Church and its surface parking lot at the intersection of 11th Street and N. Vermont Street in Ballston.

The 40-year-old church, which is used by Grace for meetings but not for Sunday services, would be replaced by a seven-story condo building and a block of four-story townhouses. A series of townhomes and a private driveway is planned for the parking lot.

The developers described the project as “a relatively modest in-fill development” that’s in keeping with the “urban townhouse” neighborhood that surrounds it. The development, like the neighborhood, tapers from the towers of central Ballston to the south to the lower-density townhomes and condos to the north.

Officials from NVR said the plans are preliminary and have not yet been filed with the county.

Also at Monday’s civic association meeting, local developer Eleventh Street Development presented early plans for a new apartment building in Virginia Square.

The proposed six-story, 220-unit rental complex, at the intersection of Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd, would replace the closed Sport & Health gym, the Slye Electronics building and an automotive business.

Developer Garrett Erdle, who previously helped to develop Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, told residents that the building is at least three years away, following “a structured and lengthy” regulatory process.

Before a site plan process for the building can start, the county and its Long Range Planning Committee is expected to discuss land use planning for the parcel and the area as a whole. The special General Land Use Plan study that the development will first go through is expected to take about a year.

Residents at the meeting expressed concerns about the height of the building, parking along their already-crowded streets and a potential lack of public green space in front of the building. The developer responded that the proposal for the building is in the very early stages and that they will take public feedback into account throughout the process.

by Andrew Ramonas — September 22, 2016 at 11:30 am 0

Westover garden apartment building (Photo via Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing)

The Arlington County Board is set to consider a plan to lend about $11 million to a nonprofit organization looking to save affordable garden apartments in Westover.

The Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on the eight-figure loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The financing would allow the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to buy eight apartment buildings in the neighborhood, according to the county. The purchase would account for 68 affordable units — all but four are one bedroom units — at an average acquisition cost of about $215,000 per unit.

“The Westover neighborhood in North Arlington has a substantial inventory of market and committed affordable apartments,” APAH says on its website. “But many have been eliminated, or are at threat of elimination.”

The vote comes as Westover comes to grips with the redevelopment of some area properties, including an aging garden apartment building that are being replaced with luxury townhouses.

The Arlington Green Party is lobbying for a local historic designation in an effort to make it harder to tear down Westover buildings or renovate them. Already, much of the neighborhood — which was developed between 1938 and 1948 — is a national historic district.

The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development, which advocates for an equitable distribution of affordable housing across the country, is supporting the proposal.

“CARD hopes that this acquisition [by APAH] will enable families the opportunity to live in Westover and enjoy its excellent schools and amenities,” Kay Langenbeck, chair of the group’s housing committee, wrote in a letter to the Board.

The total estimated cost of acquiring and renovating the apartments is $27.2 million, according to the county staff report. The project will be completed in three phases.

Photo via Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing

by ARLnow.com — September 21, 2016 at 11:45 am 0

County staff's temporary fire station site recommendation

This summer’s back-and-forth drama over the location for a temporary fire station in Rosslyn will culminate in a County Board vote this weekend.

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending that the Board stick with the original plan: to build and operate a temporary fire station on the Wilson School site while Fire Station 10 is torn down and a new permanent fire station is built in its place as part of a private redevelopment.

That plan drew criticism from parents of H-B Woodlawn students, who worried that the temporary station would be built on what would otherwise be a field for the school, which will be moving to a new building on the Wilson School site in 2019.

In addition to concerns about the temporary loss of what little open space there is adjacent to the school, concerns were also raised about students being picked up on busy Wilson Blvd while the temporary station is in operation.

Parent outreach prompted county officials to examine alternative locations, but only two other viable alternatives were identified.

One, Rhodeside Green Park, was unpopular with local residents, who started a petition against it that garnered more than 750 signatures. A second, along Lee Highway near the Rosslyn Holiday Inn, was determined by county staff to be too small and challenging from a construction standpoint.

An online poll posted on the county’s website resulted in 420 votes for the Wilson School site. ƒThe Rhodeside Green Park site received 299 votes and the Lee Highway property 113 votes.

“After extensive analysis and additional community outreach, staff confirms its recommendation that the Wilson School site be selected as the location for the temporary fire station,” says a staff report. “While there is no perfect location, the Wilson School site is recommended.”

More excerpts from the staff report, after the jump.

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