Three Arlington School Board candidates looked to ease neighborhood fears about the future Reed Elementary School at a forum Monday night.
But neighbors have raised concerns about the traffic impact of students being bussed in, and neighborhood children having to be educated elsewhere.
And at a candidate forum hosted by the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association, incumbent James Lander and challengers Maura McMahon and Monique O’Grady all agreed the IB designation was just a suggestion and not set in stone. A fourth candidate, Mike Webb, was absent.
“There is no decision, there is no proposal, it’s a concept,” said Lander. “It’s a concept I don’t support, but it was a way to get the conversation started with the community.”
The school currently hosts The Children’s School, a nonprofit that provides education and child care for the children of APS parents, and the Integration Station, which helps students with disabilities integrate with those without disabilities.
The Reed School site would then be revamped as an elementary school, with construction likely to begin that year once Wilson is open, Lander said.
And rather than be an IB choice program, the majority of those present appeared more supportive of Reed being a neighborhood school. O’Grady encouraged neighbors to make their voices heard on that point.
“I keep hearing from the community that a neighborhood school is important,” she said. “If that’s what you want, I suggest you come together and advocate for that.”
McMahon, meanwhile, said APS must be strategic to combat its growing enrollment and ensure the programs it already has are of a high standard. She cited previous conversations with parents about adding schools with immersion programs in world languages like French and Mandarin.
“My opinion is they would be great, but we have a lot of other things we need to focus on first, like do we have enough schools?” she said.
Transportation and traffic also weighed heavily on the discussions around Reed. Lander said he wanted to revisit adding an exit on the back of the site, a plan that has not been supported in the past. McMahon said discussions on bussing must also involve catering to low-income families who use public transportation to get to and from school.
And while several attendees said the community is often consulted too late in the planning process for such projects, O’Grady said getting involved early would be a good way to shape the future.
“I think it’s an exciting time for your community, and it’s the perfect time to step up and say, ‘This is what we want,'” she said.
The proposed elementary school on the site of Thomas Jefferson Middle School is on track for County Board approval next month.
The new elementary school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road would house the current Patrick Henry Elementary School at 701 S. Highland Street and provide 725 seats. A naming process for the new school is underway. It is projected to cost $59 million and be open in September 2019.
A previous report by county staff noted the unique nature of the project as it was evaluated by both Arlington Public Schools’ Building Level Planning Committee and the county’s Public Facilities Review Committee.
But concerns remain over the project, particularly the impact of construction on the 3.85-acre site.
A tipster emailed ARLnow to say that while construction is underway, a large portion of the western parcel of the campus will be unavailable for public use, limiting access to the middle school. The tipster said this may put the programs at the Thomas Jefferson Community Theater “at risk of failure.”
Meanwhile, parking at the community center along 2nd Street S. will be reduced during the day, as portions will be used as drop-off and pick-up points for the middle school. And school staff will park in the east lot at S. Irving Street and 2nd Street S.
Previously, community members have also raised concerns about the impact of construction on nearby homes and the effect moving a sidewalk north will have on existing mature trees and green space.
In the last few weeks, the project has been examined by the Urban Forestry Commission; the Environment and Energy Conservation Commission; and the Park and Recreation Commission. It will also go before the Transportation Commission in April 3, before heading to the Planning Commission two days later.
The parking garage is complete and ground is being cleared in the first phase of redeveloping Pentagon Centre.
The plan by Kimco Realty calls for a 450-space parking garage, two residential towers with 690 units and 25,000 square feet of new retail space.
And the projected completion date of early 2019 appears to be within the company’s grasp.
The garage was completed last year, and now attention shifts to building the residential towers. One will be 25 stories, while another will be 11 stories. Cranes and diggers dot the area as workers get closer to laying the foundations for those towers. Meanwhile, the Pentagon City Metro station entrance nearby remains open as normal under the scaffolding.
Originally, Kimco had planned to construct the complex’s office space first. But the high office vacancy rate in the county convinced the firm to build the residential portion before.
Future phases of the project — planned to begin at least 20 years after this first phase — would see the demolition of the main mall building and the Costco, replacing it with three office buildings, a hotel and a park along S. Fern Street. Site plans for those phases have not been submitted.
Steven Cover joined Arlington County as director of Community Planning, Housing and Development in March 2015. He won the respect of many in Arlington’s business community by trying to streamline processes in CPHD, which has gained a reputation for a heavy-handed, intransigent approach to enforcing county regulations, sources tell ARLnow.com.
The City of Sarasota announced Cover’s hiring yesterday.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Steven Cover to Sarasota,” said City Manager Tom Barwin. “Steve has extensive and highly successful experience in two of America’s great communities: Arlington, Virginia and Madison, Wisconsin. Steve’s experience and passion for walkable communities, cutting edge bicycle and transportation planning, appreciation for great architecture, innovative zoning codes, and commitment to affordable housing collaborations will serve our community well.”
In a statement released to ARLnow.com, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said the search for Cover’s replacement will be starting soon.
After more than two years of service as our Director of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Steve Cover is leaving to take another job. We wish him well. With the guidance of the County Board, Steve, together with our excellent staff of CPHD professionals, and in coordination with Arlington Economic Development, helped make improvements in service during his tenure. We will begin a search soon for a new director to lead this vital department.
Organizers of the “Save IOTA” campaign — local residents and IOTA regulars Harry Blackwood and Melissa Mannon — said the lack of public, detailed plans from the developer is making them nervous.
“Right now, we’re in such early stages of the process that all we can really do is express concern about it and ask for more information,” Blackwood said.
A community meeting to discuss the redevelopment of a group of buildings on the 2800 block of Clarendon and Wilson Blvds by Regency Centers has been rescheduled from March 29 to May 10.
Eric Davidson, spokesman for Regency Centers, said the delay is because the firm has new renderings and video materials for the project, which includes IOTA’s current location.
“We just got some new visuals we want to get ready so we can tell the story of what we want to do here more clearly and get more community feedback on this project,” Davidson told ARLnow.com Wednesday morning.
The campaign brought more than 70 supporters to a meeting of the Clarendon/Courthouse Civic Association, where those present heard a presentation from Regency Centers vice president of investments Devin Corini.
And at that meeting, Mannon said, Corini emphasized that the company wants to keep IOTA in place. But organizers said those assurances are not enough to calm their fears.
“He [Corini] said some nice things about how they don’t want IOTA to go away, they want to work with the community and want them to stay,” Mannon said. “We like that sentiment, we just haven’t seen that proven in their actions yet. That’s very frustrating.”
Mannon and Blackwood said the petitions are just a first step, and they plan to continue to mobilize as the site plan moves through the county’s approvals process. The pair added they are seeking a private meeting with Regency Centers representatives to discuss the plans, but have been unsuccessful so far in scheduling one.
They said they have engaged not only local residents but those in the local music community, who all want to make sure the building and its mission are preserved.
“You have all these regulars and musicians and people who listen to music speaking from this very emotional place,” Blackwood said. “They have a lot of emotional attachment and affection for a building and a place and a location.”
The Rosslyn parking garage in which a Washington Post reporter met a source dubbed “Deep Throat” to discuss the Watergate scandal looks like it may not be relegated to the history books quite yet.
The garage and the two office buildings atop it were set for a major redevelopment. Approved in 2014, the plan was to build a 24-story office tower and a 28-story, 274-unit apartment building on the site.
But the original County Board approval for the plan expires in June and property owner Monday Properties is asking for a three-year extension at the Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday.
Other than the extension, no other changes to the development’s site plan have been proposed. County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending the Board approve the extension.
With the National Science Foundation moving out of Ballston this year, its current building is slated for renovations.
The NSF will relocate to Alexandria, starting no later than September 1, and leave its present headquarters at Stafford Place on Wilson Boulevard.
And with its federal tenant on the way out, property owner Jamestown LP is looking ahead to the future of its buildings, which it bought for a combined $300 million in 2015.
The two buildings will be renamed the Ballston Exchange, with the 12-story atrium in 4201 Wilson Blvd set for a revamp in addition to new electronic systems and elevators and new tenants for the upper and lower levels.
All told, the renovation work will cost approximately $140 million, and will include new retail space on the ground floor.
Michael Phillips, president of Jamestown, said the firm is looking to take advantage of the growth in high-tech and cybersecurity jobs in Northern Virginia when searching for new tenants.
“We have specialties in internet security and in technology around that sort of process, but we also have the associations and the lobbying groups and the private industry that have all started to make Northern Virginia home,” he said. “To provide an environment for that for both small companies to incubate ideas and large companies to be part of the campus is our goal.”
To attract those tenants, Phillips said, Jamestown will make sure the renovated space embraces the new “interactive culture” of the workplace. Phillips said the redone space will include an interactive conference center and communal spaces, as well as amenities like yoga and spin classes to help with employees’ health and wellbeing.
And despite the departure of a federal tenant and the departure of more than 2,000 NSF employees, Phillips said Jamestown relishes the opportunity to revamp its property given the apparent region-wide trend away from government work.
“We bought the building knowing they [the NSF] were going, with the intent to do what we’re doing,” Phillips said. “I think there was a time that submarket was a very high percentage of government contractors and agencies, and I think that is shrinking and being replaced by private sector companies.”
Phillips said the renovation should be complete by next spring or summer, given that it will not begin until the NSF vacates.
Helen Duong, spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, said the last permit application submitted for the NSF property was last August to remove the existing sky bridge.
Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman Cara O’Donnell said the organization is looking forward to seeing what Jamestown will do.
“We’re excited about the significant new investment Jamestown is making that will deliver high quality Class A office space as well as new ground floor retail frontage in the heart of Ballston,” she said. “Additionally, this ideally-located property is located just across the street from the new Ballston Quarter public-private redevelopment.”
The redevelopment of Ballston Common Mall across the street — and its rebranding as Ballston Quarter — means there is plenty going on in that part of the county.
Demolition of portions of the mall to make way for the new apartment tower and retail center began last year.
The redevelopment of North Potomac Yard in Alexandria gathered more steam last week, and residents in Crystal City are keeping an eye on its potential impacts.
North Potomac Yard is in the northeast corner of Alexandria, just across the Arlington County line, near a planned Potomac Yard Metro station. It is currently occupied by a Regal movie theater, a Target and other big box stores and restaurants.
The City of Alexandria is in the planning process for a massive mixed-use development at the 69-acre site, to include retail, residential units, a hotel and office space.
On February 22, city staff released the first draft three chapters of the updated plan, then the following day met with the Crystal City Civic Association at its general meeting.
Association president Christer Ahl told ARLnow.com that his members are most concerned that Crystal City will be left behind as nearby developments spring up in Arlington and Alexandria.
“Perhaps the larger issue which the project raises is whether it could contribute to the notion of Crystal City becoming a ‘backwater,’ stuck with many old buildings which at best might be renovated, while the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor and Potomac Yard in two very different ways will be full of exciting new development,” he said.
“Of course, this depends a lot on the attitude and priorities of the county, JBG/Smith and other developers, together with the near-term market situation.”
Ahl added that many in the area are also concerned with the impact on traffic along Crystal Drive and Route 1 from the new development, which could total as much as 7.5 million square feet.
The Alexandria City Council voted to approve the new Metro station in May 2015, to be located on the Yellow and Blue lines between the Braddock Road and National Airport stops.
While the new Metro station and the Metroway bus rapid transit route along Route 1 could take care of a lot of traffic impact, Ahl said, there were still concerns about the number of cars to hit the roads with the new development.
“If we assume that the new development goes hand-in-hand with the new Metro station, that should take care of a lot of the concerns,” Ahl said. “Alexandria very strongly focuses on being as pedestrian, bike and transit-friendly as possible, and conversely avoiding car dependency. In terms of vehicular traffic on U.S. Route 1 or Potomac Avenue leading into Crystal City, I guess the proof in the pudding is hard to predict.”
One other aspect that Ahl said troubled some association members is the potential loss of amenities like the movie theater and Target, which are major draws. But he said members will continue to monitor the situation and see how it evolves.
“To some extent, it becomes wait and see,” Ahl said. “Depending on their own inclinations and their own preferences, we’re speculating on whether it will be positive or negative in some sense. Some people would hate to see losing some of their existing favorite places, although they emphasized in our meeting that Target has a lease in place until 2028, so that might be the last thing that happens down there.”
According to a timeline, an advisory group tasked with updating the North Potomac Yard plan will present its final recommendations in April.
Images via City of Alexandria
Gutshall Running for County Board — As predicted, business owner Erik Gutshall is running for County Board this year, seeking the seat being vacated by Jay Fisette. Gutshall says on his website that his candidacy will be announced at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting on Wednesday. Gutshall unsuccessfully challenged County Board member Libby Garvey in last year’s Democratic primary. [Erik Gutshall for County Board]
Oscars Flub Involved W-L Grad — Warren Beatty is back atop the national consciousness, after an envelope mix-up led to perhaps the worst mistake in Oscars history, with Beatty and Best Picture co-presenter Faye Dunaway at the center of the fiasco. As many long-time Arlingtonians remember, Beatty spent his teenage years in Arlington, reportedly living on N. Huntington Street. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School and, as noted in a yearbook photo, was a star football player and the senior class president. [InsideNova]
Arlington Elementary Schools Top Rankings — In new rankings of D.C. area public elementary schools, Arlington elementary schools tallied a sweep of all the top 10 spots. [Niche, Washington Business Journal]
ACPD Trying Out Uber Lane — This past weekend in Clarendon, the Arlington County Police Department set up a designated rideshare pickup lane to improve safety for those using Uber and Lyft to get a ride home from the bars. The police department described the action as a “pilot program” that was the result of “creative problem solving.” [Twitter]
Arlington’s ‘Segregation Wall’ — A new historic marker notes the significance of a 1930s-era wall in north Arlington. The wall was built by white residents of the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood to provide a physical barrier between them and the historically black Hall’s Hill (High View Park) neighborhood. [InsideNova]
Loan for Affordable Apartments Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a $7.4 million loan to help build 125 new affordable apartments at the Berkeley on S. Glebe Road. Nonprofit developer AHC is expected to seek another loan for the redevelopment, from the county’s affordable housing fund, next fiscal year. [Arlington County]
Per-Student Spending to Rise — Under a new budget proposed by Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, per-student spending would rise 2.9 percent to $19,521. APS has been straining to keep up with rising enrollment, issuing bonds to build new schools and renovate others. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
County Board Mulls Exotic Pet Ban — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a ban on “wild and exotic” pets in the county. Animals covered by the proposed ban “range from monkeys, wolves, raccoons and lynx to alligators, tarantulas, hedgehogs and even sugar gliders.” A hearing on the matter will be held March 18, ahead of final approval by the Board. [Arlington County]
Arlington Cultural Diversity Ranking — Arlington ranks No. 33 among “mid-sized cities” in a new list of cities with the most cultural diversity, behind places like Columbia, Maryland; Glendale, Arizona; and Cambridge, Massachusetts. [WalletHub]
Western Rosslyn Plan Moving Forward — The Arlington County Board has taken a series of actions to push its previously approved Western Rosslyn Area Plan forward. The plan includes a new home for H-B Woodlawn at the Wilson School, a new fire station, a reconfigured park and the redevelopment of several garden apartment buildings into a larger affordable housing complex. The various projects are expected to be completed by 2021. [Arlington County]
Arlington-Based Org Gets Big Grant — The Crystal City-based U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants is getting a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant, announced by U.S. senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), is earmarked for “organizations working to provide unaccompanied minors who fled violence in Central America with services including temporary shelters and foster care programs.” [Sen. Tim Kaine]
County Extends HQ Lease — Arlington County has extended its lease at 2100 Clarendon Blvd for another 15 years, a move the county says will save $1.6 million annually in rent. “This is a great deal for Arlington taxpayers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “The County will stay in this prime Courthouse location, home to County Government since 1989, at a savings of millions of dollars over the term of the extension.” [Arlington County]
Homeownership Still a Dream for Many Millennials — The Millennial generation is a major force in Arlington’s population and economy, but homeownership remains out of reach for many, including the older portion of the generation that’s getting married and having kids. Contributing to the problem: there is a significant shortage of homes for sale, particularly affordable starter homes, and the new houses that are being built are often higher-end luxury properties. [Washington Post, CNBC]
Photo courtesy Donna Gouse
Vornado Scraps Development Proposals — Ahead of the closing of its merger with JBG, Vornado has indefinitely put on hold a number of development proposals, including: all but one building of its proposed RiverHouse development in Pentagon City; a revamp of the shops at 1750 Crystal Drive that was to include a new 12-screen multiplex; and a pair of retail pavilions at 2101 and 2201 Crystal Drive. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington a ‘Best City’ to Go Car-Free — According to a new list in Forbes, Arlington County is one of the top 25 U.S. cities for one to live without a car. Arlington was also one of nine places whose walkable neighborhoods were profiled in the magazine. [Forbes]
Video of Apartment Fire — The weekend fire at the Serrano apartments on Columbia Pike was caught on video. The dramatic video shows firefighters arriving and starting to douse the flames with water. [Statter 911]
‘Taming of the Shrew’ Review — A review of Synetic Theater’s new production of Taming of the Shrew says the physical theater performance “speaks colorful volumes” despite the lack of dialogue. [Broadway World]
Leadership Change at Community Foundation — Arlington Community Foundation Executive Director Wanda Pierce is stepping down next month after eight years of leading the local nonprofit.
Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak
The redevelopment plan, first reported by ARLnow.com, would tear down IOTA’s existing building at 2832 Wilson Blvd. In response, a “Save IOTA” Facebook page has been created and flyers are being distributed around Clarendon, encouraging supporters to attend a Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association meeting on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Organizers say they want to block the redevelopment, which requires approval from the Arlington County Board.
A spokesman for Market Common Clarendon owner Regency Centers, however, says that it is working to ensure that IOTA — a staple of the local live music scene — remains open.
“Keeping IOTA has always been part of our plans,” said Eric Davidson, communication manager for the Florida-based company.
“We’ve been aware of IOTA’s importance to the community since before we bought the property,” said Davidson. “There’s no reason [to run the campaign.] If they want to show up and show their support for IOTA, that’s great, but we don’t plan on closing it.”
Regency has been “been doing what we can” to work with IOTA owner Jane Negrey Inge, according to Davidson, but he declined to specify how IOTA might remain open during the proposed demolition. A community meeting regarding the plans is being scheduled for March 29 at 2801 Clarendon Blvd from 6-9 p.m., he said.
Photo via Facebook
A new apartment building could rise from a lot in Crystal City.
Crystal House Apartments Investors filed a preliminary site plan for an infill development that would construct a new apartment building called “Crystal House III” near the corner of S. Eads Street and 18th Street. The proposed construction site is adjacent to the existing Crystal House apartment buildings, which are two 12-story residential towers that were built in 1961.
Under the proposed plan, the developer would build a new five-story building on a parking lot next to those towers with 252 new residential units. The plan also calls for a two-level underground parking lot with space for 424 vehicles and the construction of a new public park, streetscape improvements and public art.
“Through the proposed development, the applicant will be providing new residential units in a building with high-quality architecture and within walking distance to many community amenities, such as the Crystal City Metro station, Pentagon City Mall and 23rd Street retail businesses,” the filing reads.
The new filing is a revision of a former plan that called for the construction of two four-story residential buildings and a parking garage. That was never built, however.
The proposal is listed as preliminary, pending a final filing, on the Arlington County projects and planning website.
Second photo via Google Maps
The new owner of Market Common Clarendon is proposing major changes to the sprawling development.
Regency Centers has filed a preliminary site plan to rezone and redevelop a group of buildings along the 2800 blocks of Clarendon and Wilson Blvds. The affected properties include an office building, IOTA Club and Cafe, the former A&R Engravers storefront and the Baja Fresh restaurant.
The redevelopment would mean the partial demolition of the building that holds IOTA and the former engraver’s shop, while preserving and restoring the shop’s “historic facade.” The work would likely force IOTA — a well-loved cafe, outdoor bar and live music venue — to close its doors or relocate.
When asked about the plans, IOTA co-owner Jane Negrey Inge said she did not expect the renovations to happen “any time… soon.”
Over the years we’ve seen a lot of excitement around us. In our first couple years Arlington County sold the public alley behind us to the owners of the Sears Building and we became landlocked! It was disappointing but we worked things out and over the years we’ve maintained a spirit of cooperation with our neighbors and various land-owners. As far as we know changes are coming again with new owners but I don’t think 2832 Wilson will come crashing down on our heads any time real soon. Spring is going [to] spring into gear, and we’ll be glad to re-open the IOTA Back Alley for the season and enjoy good weather, good beer, good friends — which sounds like a good development plan to me!
Additionally, under the plan, the renovation would add a fourth floor and approximately 26,784 square feet of additional space to the office building at 2801 Clarendon Blvd. Regency seeks to upgrade the office building’s facade, redesign the first two floors for office or retail use, add new storefronts on the ground floor and possibly use the basement for public self-storage.
The plan also calls for improvements to the open space at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Edgewood Street, new private outdoor roof terraces and the installation of a “partial green roof.”
“The design and condition of the existing office building, which predates Market Common Clarendon redevelopment by many years, is not consistent with the remainder of the development,” the preliminary site plan filing says. “With the improvements proposed by the Applicant, the office building will be more effectively integrated into Market Common Clarendon and will allow for the much-needed repositioning of the vacant office space in order to attract new commercial tenants.”
“This [proposed redevelopment] creates newly competitive office and retail space in a building with high-quality architecture within easy walking distance to many community amenities in Clarendon,” the filing adds.
A representative for Regency Centers didn’t immediately provide more information about the proposed redevelopment, which is still in its early stages.
To move forward, the plan must be reviewed by the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC), then be presented to both the Arlington Planning Commission and the County Board.
(Updated at 4 p.m.) More than two dozen new townhomes could soon go up at the site of an East Falls Church bank.
Homebuilder NVR, Inc. has filed a preliminary site plan to construct 27 new townhomes at 6711 Lee Highway, a 1.69-acre plot of land currently occupied by a SunTrust bank.
According to the site plan, the new development would consist of single-family units in buildings up to four stories tall. The new buildings are designed in a “classic, urban, Georgetown style” and will be primarily composed of brick. NVR also calls for new trees and landscaping along Lee Highway and an internal private street for residents.
Additionally, the Suntrust Bank would be relocated under the plan. NVR said in its application it plans to “work with SunTrust to facilitate their orderly relocation.”
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.
Photos (1-3) may appear slightly warped. Photo (4) via Google Maps.