(Updated at 4:17 p.m.) A historic graveyard could get a new lease on life thanks to newly updated plans to redevelop a Ballston church.
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, 119 apartments (48 would be affordable units), a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
The site the developer wants to build on includes the Robert Ball Graveyard, the final resting place of some members of the family behind the Ballston name. The 150-year-old, 325-square foot burial ground includes several white headstones originally for members of the Ball family and may even contain some of their remains, though no one knows for sure whether the remains are still there or have been moved.
The plan to move the graveyard has ruffled some feathers. Residents urged the developer behind the project not to move the graveyard last October. The Arlington County Board has also considered granting the graveyard a special historic designation.
Members of the Ball family said that, although they do not want to prevent the redevelopment of the church, they do want the church to honor its century-old commitment to preserve the graveyard. In a Dec. 15 letter to the chair of Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee, Ball family attorney Alexander Berger wrote that “further design evolution is required to preserve the historical integrity of the cemetery.”
The cemetery merits more “breathing room,” green space and separation from the building, Berger wrote.
Now, it looks as though the family might get their wish. Fairly recent renderings show the graveyard would be preserved next to the church inside a larger, fenced-in grassy area.
A low-rise Best Western hotel along Route 50, in Rosslyn, could be slated for a big redevelopment project.
Alliance Hospitality, which owns the Best Western Iwo Jima hotel at 1501 Arlington Blvd, has filed a preliminary site plan for the property. The company proposes to redevelop the hotel and an adjacent garden apartment building it also owns — the Ellis Arms Apartments at 1523 Fairfax Drive — into a 250-room “dual brand hotel” and a 64-unit residential building.
Sketches included in the filing appear to show a hotel building that is 12-13 stories tall. According to the site plan, the redevelopment would also include a five- or six-level parking garage and amenities like public art; sidewalk, curb and gutter improvements; streetscape improvements and bicycle parking.
The Best Western, which would be torn down, currently houses a Ledo Pizza restaurant on the first floor.
The planned redevelopment is still in its early stages. The project must be reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC), then be presented to both the Arlington Planning Commission and the County Board.
Photo (5) via Google Maps
The petition decries what it describes as a “high rise” development; a seven-story condo building and four story townhomes are proposed for the current Grace Community Church site at the 11th and N. Vermont streets.
The development, the petition says, will exacerbate traffic and school crowding issues. Supporters’ reasons for signing the petition also include “too much dense, high-rise development in Arlington already,” “harming the property values and diminishing the quality of life of those who already live here,” and “Arlington has become unaffordable.”
From the petition:
We request that you DENY the proposal for special use exception to change the zoning on 11th Street North and North Vermont Street from Low-Medium Residential to High-Medium Residential Mixed-Use to prevent several negative consequences to the immediately surrounding Ballston area and the broader Arlington communities.
Specifically, we ask that the zoning committee and county board not approve a deviation from the current zoning designations to a much higher density of development and instead maintain the current, well thought-out zoning plan to avoid:
- increasing the traffic problems in the already highly congested Ballston area (Glebe & Fairfax and proximate streets and main thorough fares),
- exacerbating the overcrowding in the Arlington Public Schools (Washington-Lee HS, etc.),
- clearly deviating from and frustrating the existing plan and layout of a graduated reduction in heights and density in transitioning from the metro rail stations, a detrimental precedent to establish for existing neighborhoods and residents, and
- introducing significant more disruption, potential physical damage, and nuisance to the closely surrounding residents that comes from heavy machinery, pile driving and heavy construction compared with the lighter construction associated with the current zoning.
Reston-based developer NVR describes the project as “a relatively modest in-fill development” that’s in keeping with the “urban townhouse” neighborhood that surrounds it.
The Arlington Planning Commission and County Board are expected to consider a site plan for the project later this year.
A new mixed-income apartment building that provides the amenities of market-rate residences, even though 40 percent of its units are committed affordable housing, has opened near Rosslyn.
The Union on Queen building is located at 1515 N. Queen Street, in the Radnor-Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, roughly equidistant to the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations. It was partially funded with $6.8 million from Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.
Work on the 12-story, 193-unit structure, built as a public-private partnership, began at the end of 2014. It was touted as a way to provide affordable housing for those who need it — those making up to 50-60 percent of area median income are eligible for the committed units — while also providing attractive apartments for market-rate tenants.
“What makes Union on Queen so unique is that it offers ALL residents the same award-winning levels of innovation, convenience, amenities and design synonymous with the Bozzuto name in some of DC’s most premier apartments,” a PR rep said. “While most mixed-income communities often lack the luxuries and appointments of market-rate residences, Union on Queen delivers outstanding levels of service and detail for everyone.”
“There are a lot of places that would say, ‘Dumb it down, cheaper, less efficient. It’s affordable housing in there,'” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said during the groundbreaking ceremony two years ago. “But that’s not the way this community works. We want every building to be indistinguishable from the next.”
More on the project, via a press release from developers Bozzuto and Wesley Housing Development Corporation, after the jump.
Hunt Loses Mansion Legal Battle — Rodney P. Hunt, once one of the D.C. area’s wealthiest businessmen, has lost a legal battle to keep his $24 million Chain Bridge Road mansion. Hunt, who represented himself in court, asserted that the entity that bought the mansion at a foreclosure auction this summer was not its real owner. While Hunt was living there, the 20,000 square foot property hosted large “#RHPMansion” parties, one of which led to a drive-by shooting in McLean. [Washington Post]
‘Loss of Historic Architecture’ — The historic George Washington Carver Cooperative Apartments in the Arlington View neighborhood were torn down in February. The apartments’ 70-year history as a centerpiece of the working-class African American community there was, however, preserved via oral histories and historic markets. The property is now the Carver Place townhomes, which start at $689,000. So far, 38 of 73 have sold. [Falls Church News-Press]
Road Closure in Lyon Park — Washington Gas pipeline work is prompting a road closure in Lyon Park today and tomorrow. Cyclists who use the Arlington Blvd trail may also be affected. [BikeArlington Forum]
First Day of Winter — Today is the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also known as the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight. [Capital Weather Gang]
(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Following the rush hour mess at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Lynn Street earlier this week, the Arlington County Police Department says it’s working to better coordinate its response to construction-related traffic issues.
This week’s issues, the police department explained, were caused in part by road paving that’s part of a big development project.
“Heavy traffic in Rosslyn this week was [exacerbated] by street paving as part of the ongoing construction at Central Place,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow.com. “The paving is now complete and we are seeing a return to normal traffic volume in the area.”
Savage said the department has a detail that directs traffic at the congested intersection on weekday mornings, but doesn’t have a similar detail for the evening rush hour.
“As part of our ongoing efforts to address traffic issues in Rosslyn, the police department funds a special detail in which two officers direct traffic during the morning rush hour at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and Lynn Street in order to keep traffic from blocking the box,” she said. “This has a positive impact on the immediate area but traffic still backs up at the intersections west of that location due to infrastructure capacity.”
“While our detail has specific hours, our officers do conduct additional enforcement at the intersection on a random rotating basis with the goal of compliance with traffic laws even when police are not present,” Savage added.
ACPD says it is working with county development officials to improve the department’s construction traffic response.
“The police department is coordinating with the Development Services Bureau to better address traffic issues related to the construction,” said Savage.
However, Savage added, “We must balance our available police resources with all requests for traffic enforcement throughout the County.”
Rosslyn is getting a new $1 million, developer-funded public art installation.
The County Board on Saturday awarded a contract $968,000 contract to California artist Cliff Garten to fabricate and install “four stainless steel, LED-lighted Luminous Body sculptures” that will be placed on the four corners of the Lynn Street bridge over I-66, near the entrance to the Key Bridge.
It’s the second phase in a larger public art project to create a “Corridor of Light” down N. Lynn Street.
“This is an exciting project that will help us achieve our vision for Rosslyn,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a press release. “The ‘Corridor of Light’ is a beautiful design that will create a memorable public space for all our residents, commuters and visitors who move through this heavily-travelled corridor.”
“Garten was selected by a panel of specialists and stakeholders and his design was unanimously approved by the Public Art Committee and the Arlington Arts Commission,” noted the press release. “The artwork will create an easily recognized and iconic entrance to the County from Key Bridge, Lee Highway and westbound I-66.”
The project is being paid for developers, via “public art contributions pooled from various site plan projects in Rosslyn,” said Arlington Public Art Marketing Director Jim Byers.
Though the installation approved Saturday is considered the project’s second phase, the first phase — to be built as part of JBG’s Central Place project along Lynn Street — is still under development. Early plans for some 60 light sculptures have since, apparently, been scaled back.
“The middle section of Corridor of Light was reconsidered in response to right-of-way engineering challenges along Lynn Street,” Byers said. “The plans for the Central Place portion of the project are still in development.”
The third phase of the project is to consist of four “Luminous Body sculptures,” like those just approved by the Board, on either corner of the Meade Street Bridge over Route 50. Those will be built as part of a bridge improvement project that’s currently in the design phase.
On Saturday the County Board also approved transferring construction work on its Lynn Street Esplanade Project to the Virginia Dept. of Transportation.
Lyon Park Mansion Auction Is Tonight — The huge “Pershing Manor” mansion at 3120 N. Pershing Drive is scheduled to hit the auction block at 5 p.m. tonight. The opening bid is $750,000, though the property is assessed at $4 million. [ARLnow, ARLnow]
McHenry Talks About Towing Spat — ESPN sportscaster Britt McHenry is opening up about the time she berated an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington — and was caught on camera doing so, in a video that would go viral around the world. McHenry says she regrets what she said during the 2015 incident. The fallout has hurt her both professionally and personally, she says. [Marie Claire]
Garvey’s Swearing In Ceremony — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey will be sworn in for her second full term today. The ceremony will take place in the County Board room (2100 Clarendon Blvd) at 5 p.m. It will feature remarks from Garvey and a poem from Arlington County Poet Laureate Katherine E. Young. [Arlington County]
Developers Want Gondola, Boathouse — At a Bisnow event in Pentagon City last week, local developers said they’re generally supportive of the proposed Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola, though they’d also be interested in a Rosslyn boathouse to connect with a local water taxi system. Rosslyn, they noted, has fewer opportunities to develop its waterfront than jurisdictions like Alexandria, Prince George’s County and D.C. [Bisnow]
Volunteers Needed for Wreath Laying — The group Wreaths Across America is seeking volunteers to help lay wreaths on gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. The holiday tradition will take place this coming Saturday morning. [Wreaths Across America]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Fmr. Arlington Resident John Glenn Dies — John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth, has died at the age of 95. In an article first published in 2012, the Arlington Public Library blog recounted the five years that Glenn and his family lived on N. Harrison Street in Arlington. [Arlington Public Library]
Soon: Central Place Apartments, Restaurants — Residents are expected to start moving into the new Central Place apartment tower in Rosslyn at some point during the first three months of 2017. Restaurants coming to the ground floor of the building include Sweetgreen, Little Beet, Nando’s Peri-peri and McDonald’s, while Cava Grill and Compass Coffee has signed leases for the Central Place office tower. [Washington Business Journal]
Fort Myer Getting Drone Detector — Officials from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall said at a recent Arlington civic association meeting that the base is working to procure a drone detection system. The base commander said he’s worried about “miniaturized tools of terror, specifically drones carrying home-made bombs.” [Pentagram]
Video: Ovi Delivering Pizzas in Arlington — Okay, it’s just a commercial and didn’t really happen. But a new 30-second TV spot from Papa John’s imagines Capitals star Alexander Ovechkin delivering pizzas in Arlington in 2001 as he pursues a childhood dream to become “the best pizza delivery boy in the world.” [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
Local Startup Scores Big Military Contract — Clarendon-based cybersecurity firm Endgame has won a $18.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force. It’s believed to be “one of the largest endpoint protection software purchases in the Air Force’s history.” [Fedscoop]
Startups Recognized By County — Arlington County recognized four of the county’s fastest-growing companies this week as part of its second-annual “Fast Four” competition. The honorees were the Nicecream Factory ice cream shop in Arlington, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics, Clarendon consulting firm Enterprise Knowledge and Ballston-based software company Convoke. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
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.
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. [InsideNova, Arlington 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]
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.
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.”
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.
Initial construction permits have been issued for a new residential development on Columbia Pike.
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.