Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Early Morning Fracas in Va. Square — “At approximately 1:09 a.m. on February 24, police were dispatched to the report of a fight in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business and allegedly began selecting merchandise. The victim refused the suspect service citing restrictions on the sales of alcohol during the overnight hours. The suspect and victim became engaged in a verbal dispute that escalated to a physical altercation, during which the victim was able to recover the merchandise. The suspect re-entered the business… at which point a witness intervened.” [ACPD]

Developers Selected for GMU Expansion — “George Mason University has picked a team of developers to manage the construction of the Amazon-induced expansion of its Arlington campus… The university hopes to finalize a development agreement with Edgemoor and Harrison Street by December and start construction by spring 2022. It plans to open the building by summer 2025. The Arlington campus, is located on Fairfax Drive just west of Clarendon.” [Washington Business Journal]

YHS Swimmer Breaks Two Nat’l Records — “US National Teamer Torri Huske made her mark on the final day of the 2021 VHSL Class 6 State meet, breaking two National High School records. Huske, a senior at Yorktown High School, began her meet by swimming a time of 1:53.73 in the 200 IM, chopping a tenth of a second off of Dagny Knutson’s National Public High School record of 1:53.82 that had stood since 2009.” [Swim Swam]

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

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

“We are underway,” she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Arlington County is in a race against its own bureaucracy to preserve the Febrey-Lothrop House, an estate that has sat in one form or another at 6407 Wilson Blvd since before the Civil War.

The County is rushing through the local historic designation process for the the mid-19th century property. It voted on Tuesday to advertise hearings on the potential historic value of the property in April.

The process is accelerated by the owner’s applications in December and last month for permits to demolish the buildings on the property, and an apparent effort to front-run any historic designation. The 9+ acre estate is owned by a trust established by sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.

The permit is administrative — meaning outside of the need for County Board approval — and was approved. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, said the demolition permit will be not actually be issued until approval of an associated land disturbing activity permit.

Parallel to this administrative approval, an application filed last year by an Arlington resident to give the estate a local historic designation was reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in November. The HALRB found that the home met eight of 11 criteria for the designation and recommended that the structure of the home and the surrounding property be designated as a local historic district overlay.

The property owners — who seek to demolish the building and sell the property for redevelopment — have repeatedly objected to this designation. Staff noted that despite having been in contact with the owners, they had not been given access to the property to research it, which has hamstrung efforts to make a more thorough report.

Meanwhile, in mid-January, workmen at the house started to demolish the roof until the County issued a stop work order.

“Staff made numerous good faith attempts to access property, [but] staff has still not been able to gain owner’s consent for time and date to view property,” said Richard Woodruff, chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. “These issues taken by owners gave cause to believe that the house is at substantial risk of being damaged or destroyed.”

Woodruff said there is plenty of information on the property — even without an first-hand inspection — that says there is likely historic significance that could be lost if the area is demolished and redeveloped by-right.

“It was an upper middle class 19th century farm owned by prominent families,” Woodruff said. “We know Native Americans hunted on the hill and Civil War soldiers on both sides of war camped there. That land has not been disturbed and may contain artifacts, even pre-Columbian artifacts.”

Additionally, Woodruff noted the main house contains portions of the original 1855 structure, and key figures like Howard Hughes lived and stayed at the home in the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Anyone who has driven by property knows it represents uniquely pastoral image of Arlington,” Woodruff said. “What is there, known and unknown, could be lost forever. We know owners want to sell, but there are no immediate buyers. It would be premature and a complete disaster for these buildings to come down before any of that is known. If you agree this property is worthy of protection for future generations of Arlingtonians, if you believe some or all of it should be protected, then please figure out how to do it and don’t wait until it’s too late.”

Tom Colucci, from the law firm Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh P.C., spoke on behalf of the owners and reiterated earlier objections to the historic classification.

“We request that the Board stop this runaway freight train to nowhere,” Colucci said. “What has happened is this was initiated by one individual who had no economic or other interest in the property and staff took the ball and ran with it. There have been a lot of things rushed with this because the owner has a desire to demolish these structures. These buildings are not in good condition, some are not in safe condition, and there are overriding policy decisions that have not been considered. Does the Board want to put itself in a position where it tries to thwart an otherwise legal act of a property owner by using this process?”

Colucci said the historic overlay would significantly devalue the property and would cause concern among potential buyers. Colucci also noted that the property has an R-6 zoning — single family homes — and the owners are currently only interested in redeveloping it within that zoning.

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New Arlington construction is helping the Commonwealth become more green.

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

Some newly-certified buildings in Arlington include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morning Notes

Another Snowstorm on the Way? — “Confidence is growing in a messy mix of wintry precipitation in the Washington region Thursday, the latest in a parade of wintry weather events since late January… Parts of the region could see significant amounts of snow and/or ice before a possible change to rain. The precipitation, which may be heavy at times, is likely to continue into Thursday night or very early Friday morning.” [Washington Post]

More Details on Pike CVS Development — “Last summer, the public caught wind of upcoming plans to redevelop the Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center on Columbia Pike in Arlington. Now… [a] rezoning application has been filed to apply Columbia Pike-specific zoning to the property at 2601 Columbia Pike (map) in order to deliver The Elliott, a six-story building with 248 apartments with a new CVS pharmacy and a grocery store on the ground floor.” [Urban Turf]

Equinox Isn’t Coming to Clarendon — “An affiliate of Regency Centers Corp. has sued an affiliate of upscale fitness chain Equinox for more than $20 million for allegedly pulling the plug on a planned location at the Market Common retail center… Clarendon Regency IV LLC sued Equinox Clarendon Inc. in U.S. District Court in Alexandria in mid-November for breaching the terms of its lease for space on the first and second floors of the nearly 68,500-square-foot building at 2801 Clarendon Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]

Capitol Police Officer Died in Arlington — “Smith returned to the police clinic for a follow-up appointment Jan. 14 and was ordered back to work, a decision his wife now questions… Police found him in his cherished Ford Mustang, which had rolled over and down an embankment along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, near a scenic overlook on the Potomac River. He was the second police officer who had been at the riot to take his own life.” [Washington Post]

Reaction to Senate Trump Vote — Arlington’s Congressional delegation expressed disappointment with the acquittal of former President Trump in the Senate impeachment trial. Said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.): “A bipartisan majority of Senators voted today to send a clear message to future presidents that conduct of this nature is impeachable, intolerable and disqualifying. When the history books on this moment are written, I believe that judgment will be clear.” [Blue Virginia]

Solving Arlington’s Hunger Problem — “The pandemic has made it harder for many Americans to feed their families. After the COVID-19 outbreak, Arlington’s Department of Human Services estimated nearly 16,000 residents needed food assistance. Now the Capital Area Food Bank estimates 26,000 are at risk of hunger in Arlington. County leaders have a plan to help.” [WJLA]

Southwest Air ‘Love’ Story at DCA — “And of course, there’s the inspiring story of Reecie and Imani. Reecie met Imani in 2018 after Imani requested that her plane return to the gate [at Reagan National Airport] before taking off. Imani was the maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding, but she was too nervous to fly.” [Twitter]

Jenna Bush’s Worst Date Happened in Arlington — “Hoda Kotb asked Jenna about her worst first date ever and boy, did the story deliver. ‘My worst first date involved the Secret Service, let’s just leave it at that,’ Jenna said, laughing…. She explained that they were in Arlington, Virginia, where her now-husband was living at the time. He had realized he was running out of fuel, so he tried to get to a corner gas station that was up a slight hill. ‘He started to go up the hill and then booooop, crash.'” [Today Show]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Clarendon is proposing to lease part of its campus for private development and to make its grounds greener and more walkable.

The mid-century church sits on two-and-a-half acres of land wedged among Washington Blvd to the north, N. Kirkwood Road to the west and Fairfax Drive to the south. Parking occupies much of the lot, with the church and its auxiliary spaces lining N. Kirkwood Road and Fairfax Drive.

New renderings, however, reposition the church at the corner of Washington and Wilson Blvd, closer to Clarendon, with parish spaces and a private residential building fanning out behind the church. The building is likely to be an apartment building with a 100-child preschool at the base.

Currently a through-road and one-way loop wrapping around parking, Fairfax Drive would be converted into a walkable plaza. This “enables a comprehensive, pedestrian-friendly connection to Virginia Square and addresses north-south pedestrian access,” according to an architect’s report. Church parking would be accessible from Washington Blvd.

Bike lanes would be rerouted along the south side of the plaza to reduce interactions with pedestrians, the report said. The buildings would provide internal access to protected open spaces — a cloister, a playground and a courtyard.

St. Charles pastor Fr. Don Planty said in a January report the parish has spent the last three-and-a-half years studying the land, working with lawyers and architects and projecting potential costs. Recently, the project turned a corner.

Planty said in the report that Bishop Michael Burbridge of the Diocese of Arlington “has approved our recommendation to move forward with our project, seeking a development partner.” (Diocesan laws require the bishop to approve all developments.)

“This marks an exciting transition for us: we have long spoken about the ‘potential’ redevelopment of our site,” he wrote. “We now set about the exciting business of turning our vision into a reality.”

St. Charles plans to lease the western half of its site to a private developer, which would fund the changes proposed for the sacred half of the site.

Drafting a Request for Proposal and selecting a development partner could take six months or more, but would “clear the path for local government approvals and eventual construction,” Planty said.

Although the pastor described the future as promising, he said “we still have a lot of work to do.”

Like other proposed developments, including mixed-use buildings where Joyce Motors used to be and on the Wells Fargo/Verizon Site, aspects of the church’s proposed changes will not meet guidelines in the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan. In preparation for these developments, Arlington County began mulling over changes to the sector plan in February 2020.

This winter, the county sought feedback on how people feel cycling and walking along Fairfax Drive and Wilson Boulevard between Clarendon Circle and N. Kirkwood Road and what could be done to improve the experience. This area includes St. Charles’s proposed pedestrian plaza and rerouted bike lanes.

Hat tip to Stephen Repetski

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Arlington-based Saint Timothy and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church is making plans to build a new church building on a vacant lot in Green Valley that it recently acquired.

The church — which also goes by the abbreviated STSA Church — currently rents space at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus at 3351 Fairfax Drive. It is, however, operating virtually due to the coronavirus.

STSA Church was established in Arlington in 2012 with a mission to “bring an ancient faith to a modern world,” according to the website.

Fr. Anthony Messeh, the church’s pastor, confirmed the planned expansion in an email with ARLnow, saying he will have more details in the coming weeks.

The site at 2640 Shirlington Road is a 39,867-square-foot parcel of vacant land, according to Arlington County property records, overgrown with trees and brush.

The Arlington County Board was tentatively slated to approve an easement associated with the new ownership at its meeting on Jan. 23. The item was removed from the agenda, however, because the form of the deed “is not finalized and the plat had not been approved in time for the January meeting,” said Mary Curtius, a spokeswoman with the county board office, in an email.

The item will likely come before the County Board in February or March, Curtius said.

Old blog posts and YouTube videos indicate that the church community has been looking to buy for years. In 2014, it ran a campaign to raise $2 million to purchase a building, but the attempt appears to have been unsuccessful and the campaign website no longer works.

“Unfortunately, we cannot have signage to let people in Arlington know that there is a church here to welcome them,” according to a video from 2o14. “We currently exist only on Sunday mornings as far as the community is concerned, and that lack of full-time presence has prohibited us from reaching more people.”

Image via Google Maps

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Amazon has unveiled plans for the PenPlace site in the second phase of its $2.5 billion HQ2 in Pentagon City, including a lush office building shaped like a double helix.

The company will build 2.8 million square feet of office space across three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, and three retail pavilions. The focal point will be The Helix: a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

PenPlace will also have three acres of open space with a dog run and a 250-seat amphitheater, for public use.

Amazon will start filing designs and technical documents with Arlington County Tuesday morning, Amazon spokesperson Adam Sedó said during a call with journalists on Monday.

The tech giant aims to go before the Arlington County Board by the end of 2021, with construction starting in 2022 and ending in 2025, said John Schoettler, Amazon Vice President Global Real Estate and Facilities, during the call. He affirmed that so far, HQ2 remains on-schedule.

PenPlace is bounded by Army Navy Drive, S. Fern Street, 12th Street S. and S. Eads Street. Amazon owns the entire block after it bought a hotel on the site in September. The hotel is currently being torn down.

Schoettler said Arlington County has given Amazon more flexibility for this phase than for the first phase of development on the Metropolitan Park site, which includes two, 22-story concrete office buildings, retail and open space.

“The County Board told us for PenPlace, we really want you to push the envelope,” he said. “It really gave us a clean canvas to try new things.”

The Helix will be the highlight of the site and the tallest building, said Lead Architect Dale Alberda, who works for the international architecture firm NBBJ and helped to design The Spheres within the company’s Seattle headquarters. Throughout PenPlace, he said, the designs keep employees, who will number 25,000 across HQ2, close to nature and the community.

“Amazon has been challenging us to think about how people can connect to nature not just outside when the weather is good, but inside as well, so that it’s available all day, all the time,” Alberda said.

Schoettler said Amazon is also working hard to use sustainable energy. As part of its goal of LEED Platinum certifications — and to meet its pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040 — the buildings will be powered by a solar farm in southern Virginia.

The headquarters will feature one-quarter mile of new protected bike lanes and more than 950 onsite bike spaces as well as below-ground parking for about 2,100 cars and underground loading zones for trucks. There will also be a new bus platform on 12th Street S. near the main entrance to PenPlace.

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Morning Notes

Major Snow Storm Approaching — “At the low end, about 1 to 3 inches or so would fall on Sunday before precipitation changes to a light mix or even plain rain late Sunday into Monday. At the high end, at least 6 to 12 inches would accumulate, beginning Sunday and lasting into Monday night or Tuesday, perhaps mixed with sleet at times.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]

Arlington GOP Eyes Comeback — “It took the election of Donald Trump in 2016 to re-energize and motivate Arlington’s dominant, but at that point somewhat moribund, Democrats. And the election result of 2020 may have had the same caffeinating impact on the Arlington County Republican Committee. ‘I’m super-pumped… by the number [of attendees] and the level of enthusiasm,’ party communications director Matthew Hurtt said at the Jan. 27 committee meeting, which attracted a crowd of about 80 to Zoom.” [InsideNova]

Bigger Comcast Bills Surprise Customers — “Dozens of Comcast Cable Communications customers in Maryland and Northern Virginia have been reaching out to FOX 5 saying, they’re concerned about their internet and WiFi bills going up as a result of hitting the new 1.2 terabyte data threshold.” [Fox 5]

Swooning Over a Woonerf — From WalkArlington: “While still early, we were excited by the idea of a woonerf in Arlington! Woonerf (pronounced VONE-erf) is a Dutch term that means ‘streets for living.’ It describes ‘common space created to be shared by pedestrians, bicyclists & low-speed motor vehicles.'” [Twitter]

Rosslyn CaBi Station Relocated — From Capital Bikeshare: “The 11-dock station at Quinn St & Key Blvd has been moved to Wilson & Quinn Blvd today. Happy riding!” [Twitter]

ARLnow’s 11th Anniversary — ARLnow started publishing 11 years ago today, just before a snowstorm. One year ago, we celebrated the anniversary with a big in-person event.

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(Updated on 1/28/21) It’s still early in the approval process, but we’re getting a closer look at a proposed redevelopment that would replace the Silver Diner and The Lot beer garden in Clarendon.

As previously reported by the Washington Business Journal, the development would take place on a triangular parcel of land at 3200 Wilson Blvd, across from Northside Social.

The proposal, according to the website of The Donohoe Cos. — which is partnering with property owner TCS Realty Associates to develop the property — calls for two buildings: a 224-room hotel atop what is now Silver Diner, and a 286-unit residential building where The Lot currently sits.

The redevelopment would also replace a pair of smaller commercial buildings and some surface parking lots, and would add 15,000 square feet of street-level retail, a curbless pedestrian-friendly street (known as a “woonerf”), a public park, underground parking, and an upgraded streetscape along Wilson Blvd.

“Bingham Center, located in the heart of the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, presents an opportunity to transform a long underutilized property into a vibrant mixed-use destination,” the company’s website says. “Located within one block of the Clarendon Metro station, this project will stitch together the urban fabric of central Clarendon with the Virginia Square and Ballston neighborhoods to the west.”

“The hotel will include a ground-level restaurant and bar, 6,000 square feet of meeting space, a state of the art fitness facility, and an iconic rooftop bar with sweeping views of Clarendon,” the website adds. “The multifamily building will include a ground-level coworking café and library, an indoor/outdoor lounge opening to an expansive landscaped terrace and pool deck, state of the art fitness center, club room, and multiple elevated outdoor spaces.”

A slide deck with additional renderings, obtained by ARLnow, notes that the Silver Diner property “may be the only economically viable hotel site in Clarendon.” The triangular shape of the lot “will not work for an office building” and will “generate higher tax revenue” as a hotel, the presentation sys.

Atop the ten-story hotel, Donohoe plans to seek permission to add a publicly-accessible rooftop bar and terrace “with views of Clarendon and D.C.,” as well as a fitness center, in “otherwise unused excess space.” While those facilities will not be taller than the planned mechanical penthouse on the building’s roof, it may prompt a battle with nearby residents around the overall height of the building.

Donohoe notes that is is “providing significant land area to public streets, sidewalks, and streetscapes (38% of site area),” as well as a new “Irving Street Park (to be coordinated with neighboring developments),” as community benefits.

Along Wilson Blvd, “improvements per sector plan include increased lane width, added parking and tree pit, and sidewalk (more than twice as wide),” the presentation says.

Adjacent to the proposed Bingham Center development, south of Silver Diner, another developer has proposed “an 11-story mixed-use building with room for at least 200 apartments at the intersection of N. Irving Street and 10th Street N.,” according to a Dec. 2019 WBJ article.

Hat tip to Kristin Francis

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