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]
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).
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 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.
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
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. The 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.
Another Temporary Extension for Comcast — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve another temporary extension of the county’s franchise agreement with cable operator Comcast. The extension will run through Oct. 31, 2016. Comcast’s last long-term franchise agreement in Arlington expired in 2013; officials say the temporary extensions have been necessary to allow negotiations to continue. [Arlington County]
Arlington Community High School Open House — The former Arlington Mill High School program has a new name, a new location and will be holding an open house this weekend. Arlington Community High School, as it is now known, has moved to the former Fenwick Center at 800 S. Walter Reed Drive. The school is holding an open house from 9-11:30 a.m. this coming Saturday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Clement Laments Development — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says she has exposed “disturbing development trends in Arlington.” According to Clement, continued development has “transformed Arlington” and harmed schools and parks. [Audrey Clement]
Nova Armory ‘Under New Ownership’ — Added at 9:55 a.m. — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory, which was the scene of a break-in earlier this week, is “under new ownership,” according to a tweet sent from the store’s Twitter account overnight. No additional information was immediately available. [Twitter]
Twitter FYI: We’re Not @Arlnow — Added at 10:05 a.m. — The above tweet presents a great opportunity to remind readers that our Twitter handle is @ARLnowDOTcom. It’s not @arlnow, which belongs to an Apple news site that hasn’t published a new tweet since 2010. Check here to see if you’re among the folks tweeting at the wrong account.
Vornado Reveals Big Plans for Crystal City — Vornado, the preeminent property owner in Crystal City, has filed preliminary plans to overhaul a number of its properties in the community. The plans include big changes to the Shops at 1750 retail space, near the entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, and a new multiplex cinema. [Washington Business Journal]
Lyft to Open Regional HQ in Crystal City — Ride hailing app company Lyft is planning to invest $350,000 to open a new regional headquarters in Crystal City, creating 32 jobs locally. “Lyft is thrilled to open our new office in the emerging innovation center of Crystal City,” said Steve Taylor, the company’s general manager for the D.C. area. “We’re extremely pleased by the warm welcome we have received from Governor McAuliffe, and state and county officials.” [Washington Post]
Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Attack on Law Firm Partner — Alecia Schmuhl has pleaded guilty in the vicious 2014 attack on Leo Fisher and his wife Susan Duncan. Prosecutors say Schmuhl and her husband took the couple hostage, slit Fisher’s throat and stabbed Duncan as part of a revenge plot after she was fired by Fisher from the Arlington-based firm of Bean Kinney & Korman. Fisher and Duncan survived the attack. [Washington Post]
Nominations Open for James B. Hunter Award — Arlington County is accepting nominees for the 2016 James B. Hunter Award. The award, named after a former Arlington County Board member, “goes to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and business establishments that promote cultural diversity and equal rights for all residents.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Billy Buck
(Updated at 4:57 p.m.) A new plan to build a mixed-use building in Ballston could mean uncovering some human remains in the process.
Ballston Station Housing Corporation, a nonprofit established by the Central United Methodist Church, seeks to redevelop the church at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story development that would contain a new house of worship, 132 residential units with affordable housing, a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
But there’s a snag: The site they want to build on was once the Robert Ball Graveyard, the final resting place of some members of the family behind the Ballston name. Today, several white headstones can be seen scattered across the church grounds.
In order to excavate the old graveyard, the developers need to get a permit from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. They also need to hold a public meeting to notify surrounding community members and possible descendants of the Ball family.
Still, the developer behind the project isn’t so sure there are even any human remains left to uncover.
“Nobody actually really knows,” said Tad Lunger, legal representative for the developer. Lunger added that he thinks workers digging utility trenches and tunnels for the nearby Ballston Metro station may have uncovered any leftover remains years ago.
Boyd Sipe, an archaeologist hired by the developers to survey the site, isn’t sure there’s anyone buried there, either. Sipe recently conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of the graveyard that turned up “inconclusive.”
“The GPR survey identified several anomalies that had potential to be graves but could be other subsurface features,” Sipe said. “There’s really no evidence that there are graves on the site, but we want to be ready with the state permit in case graves are found.”
In the event the project does uncover any bone fragments or relics, Sipe said they’ll be turned over to a skeletal biologist who will work to analyze and identify them.
But the county says take a closer look.
“There are six marked graves. There could be an additional three,” said Rebeccah Ballo, historic planner with Arlington County. “There is no evidence written or otherwise that shows those graves have ever been exhumed or moved.”
Ballo said she’s heard from some locals who are worried about digging up the graveyard.
“People have contacted my office concerned about it,” Ballo said. “It is a very old graveyard. It’s been a fixture of the neighborhood for a very long time.”
“This is not something that has happened in Arlington County in recent memory,” Ballo added.
The developers will hold a public meeting regarding the site at the Central United Methodist Church on Oct. 6.
Popular Ballston bar Carpool has been sold to developer Penzance and is set to be replaced by a 22-story-apartment building.
The sale closed on Friday, said co-owner Mark Handwerger. The good news? Carpool is expected to remain open for a few more months.
“CarPool has leased back the property for a period of time, and the bar will remain open through at least the end of November,” Handwerger said.
In August, groups that used Carpool as a gathering spot for things like football games and other regularly-scheduled social events were told that Carpool was likely to close within a few weeks.
A recognizable part of the Rosslyn skyline is set for redevelopment.
The RCA building at 1901 N. Moore Street is in the very early stages of a redevelopment plan.
Though still a few years away, the building is expected to be torn down and replaced with a new residential tower.
Local architecture firm Hickok Cole is working with property owner Weissberg Corp. on an “iconic” initial design that will balance “elegance and cost,” we’re told.
A site plan application is expected to be filed by next spring.
The Century Center office and retail complex in Crystal City is expected to sprout a new 22-story residential building in the next few years.
Property owner Lowe Enterprises submitted a preliminary site plan application in June, outlining its plans: a 286-unit residential building, located at the busy intersection of Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S.
The new building will be built above existing ground-floor retail, including California Tortilla, Buffalo Wild Wings and Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. The building will have 327,396 square feet of floor space, connected with an existing underground parking garage with 1,620 spaces.
In a letter to the county’s zoning division, the new development is described as “architecturally created to establish a distinguishable, contemporary, and elegant presence that will bring modern prominence to the southwest quadrant of the intersection.”
The building, with an address of 2351 Jefferson Davis Highway, is expected to contain modern amenities including an rooftop patio, a fitness area, a club room, an outdoor courtyard and bicycle storage room. Also, an existing second floor roof will be cleared of the mechanical equipment there now and will offer open space for residents. As part of the plan, the building will achieve a minimum LEED Silver certification.
The developer has included a transportation management plan to encourage residents to use alternative forms of transportation. The location is 0.4 miles from the Crystal City Metro station. Elements of the plan include placing transportation information displays in the building, offering new residents their choice of a $65 SmarTrip card or one-year bikeshare or carshare memberships, and distributing information about transit to residents and employees.
Century Center is currently home to restaurants, a Post Office branch and other small businesses. All existing tenants are expected to be able to continue operations during the property’s redevelopment, the plan states. There will approximately 17,500 square feet of ground floor retail space after construction, with nearly 10,000 square feet dedicated to existing restaurant tenants, it says.
The surrounding streetscape is also expected to be improved. The plans contain provisions for retail and food service kiosks along with a Capital Bikeshare station. It also includes new open space at the corner of 23rd Street S. and Crystal Drive that will be home to kiosks, outdoor seating and other activities. While the existing parking garage will continue to be used, the current four entrances will be reduced to one in order to better fulfill the vision of 23rd Street as a pedestrian-oriented street.
The bar has been informing groups that it will be closing within the next few weeks. We’re told that it is likely to close in early-to-mid September.
Carpool’s owners are seeking a new location for the bar, but a final decision on that has not been made, we hear.
Developer Penzance is planning to build a 22-story apartment building on the Carpool site. That development was approved unanimously by the Arlington County Board in December.
So far, no demolition permit applications have been filed for the address (4000 Fairfax Drive). A Penzance representative said he did not have an update on a timeline for the development.
Carpool has a second location, in Herndon.
Update at 5:45 p.m. — A closing date for Carpool has not been set, says co-owner Mark Handwerger.
“The property has been under contract with Penzance for quite some time,” Handwerger said. “There is no definitive timeline for the sale of the property and subsequent closing of the business at this time. With the sales contract in place, however, we have indeed been looking around for an appropriate location nearby, but as of yet have been unable to identify one.”
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 9:15 a.m. Friday) A residential and retail development on Lee Highway has received national recognition for its energy, water and waste sustainability.
The U.S. Green Building Council honored Verde Pointe (1947 N. Uhle Street) this afternoon for achieving “LEED Gold,” the second highest rating for environmentally friendly buildings. The organization has given more than 32,500 commercial projects around the world certified, silver, gold and platinum ratings, said council chief operating officer Mahesh Ramanujam.
At Verde Pointe, green features include high-efficiency plumbing fixtures, energy efficient equipment and occupancy sensors for lights, according to a news release.
“By incorporating sustainable building practices into projects like this, we will see a stream of environmental, economic and community benefits for decades to come,” Ramanujam said.
Peter Bergmann, president of Bergmann’s Inc., which helped develop the building with McCaffery Interests, said the site’s transformation from a dry cleaner to Verde Pointe “looks like night and day.”
“We couldn’t be more honored and happy with what happened and what we have here,” he said.
(Updated at 4:40 p.m)
Students at Virginia Tech’s Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center have joined Arlington County planners in brainstorming ideas to revitalize the Rosslyn waterfront.
Rosslyn residents and visitors currently have no direct walkway to the Potomac River or even a path to reach the Key Bridge to get into Georgetown, without crossing busy roads and on-ramps.
“Most cities and counties have recognized the value of their waterfronts as a gathering place,” Arlington’s planning supervisor for urban design and research Kris Krider said in a news release. “But the waterfront below Rosslyn has little pedestrian access and must overcome the barrier of busy highways and large numbers of drivers . . . who just whiz by with seemingly no interest in stopping to explore the area.”
Virginia Tech associate professor Paul Kelsch and doctorate student Jodi LaCoe developed three options the students could choose from as the base for their designs:
- Bike, Bathe, and Beyond — “a connection to existing bike paths leading people to the site in addition to some form of bathing.” This could include things like a structure for storing one’s bike; showering and heading to work; a new spa along the bike path; or swimming in a cleaner Potomac River or a public pool.
- A Food-Boat Wharf — “a place where future food boats could moor along the river’s edge and sell to Rosslyn workers looking for a delectable waterside lunch.”
- Urban Drive-In Theater — entertainment for people “coming by foot, bike, or car to watch movies or other performances.”
In all, 18 students submitted their designs, with most of them electing to base their ideas on the “Bike, Bathe and Beyond” program. According to the county’s website, the suggestions include:
Paige proposed moving the parkway farther inland, cutting into the slope with a large retaining wall that supports a new traffic circle for access to the Key Bridge. The former roadbed is utilized for storm water management and two swimming pools along the waterfront for lap and family swimming. The former eastbound lane of the parkway provides vehicular access and parking for the new facility.
Charlston seeked to explore and provide a connection between the perceived boundaries of the Rosslyn business district and the Rosslyn waterfront. At present time, the transportation infrastructure within Rosslyn acts as a hindrance to convenient access to the Potomac River. By occupying the void beneath Key Bridge and connecting the Mount Vernon Trail and the Potomac Heritage trail, this project aims to bridge the gap between the city and the river’s edge.
This project is designed as a place of seclusion in the midst of the Rosslyn Business Improvement District. The bike path connects to the city sidewalks and provides a way to traverse the steep hill. The existing George Washington Memorial Parkway is pushed into the Potomac to create a secluded water channel and clear land for development. The bath is set into the hillside and contains spa facilities as well as a series of indoor pools for year round relaxation.
Sebastian’s project is situated in the coastal side of the Mount Vernon Trail facing the Arlington riverside. The goal is to encourage users of the trail to use the project as a station in their commute or exercise regimen throughout the year. The building features an outside pool fed by a constructed wetland and a sports facility meant for everyday use.
Ultimate Frisbee at APS — The Arlington School Board is expected to vote to make Ultimate Frisbee an official co-curricular sport in middle schools and high schools. Arlington is already a hotbed of Ultimate play at the high school club level. It’s likely to be years before the sport is recognized by the Virginia High School League, the statewide intramural sports governing body. [InsideNova*]
Development Before and After — A series of before and after photos, via Google Street View, show some of the more dramatic changes from the last decade of development in Arlington. [Rent Cafe]
Local White Supremacist Quoted — The Associated Press yesterday quoted Richard Spencer, a 38-year-old white supremacist who reportedly lives in Arlington and believes that African-Americans, Hispanics and Jews should be removed from the United States. Spencer, an alt-right figure, attended the Republican National Convention in support of Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
Few Proven Towing Violations — Out of 18,642 trespass tows in Arlington last year, only 7 — or 0.04 percent — were found by authorities to have violated local towing ordinances. [InsideNova*]
Watts Finishes Another Race — Jamie Watts, a fixture in the local running scene, has finished another race. Watts, who has cerebral palsy, completed Saturday night’s Crystal City Twilighter 5K despite sweltering conditions. [WUSA 9*]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley.
*Denotes website that employs pop-up ads, autoplay video or other disruptions to the user experience.