As seven-year-old Jaxon Vega positions his skateboard at the top of the concrete bowl at Powhatan Springs Skate Park, he takes a deep breath. Vega steadies the back of the board on the bowl’s lip, places his left foot on it and jumps. Boy and board drop 12 feet below, a distance that’s about three times his height.
Vega smoothly completes the trick. Taking a quick break after a run, he’s asked how he feels when skating.
“I feel cool,” he says, flashing a toothy grin. “I’m having fun.”
Vega is Arlington’s kid skateboarding phenom. He’s out there nearly every day at the skate park along Wilson Blvd near the Dominion Hills neighborhood, riding concrete. He can be seen doing kickflips, jumps, drops, and even riding two boards at once. He’s also almost always the youngest one at the skate park.
While barely out of first grade, Vega has garnered the attention of the skateboarding community. This includes the legend himself, Tony Hawk, who’s liked one of Vega’s skating videos on Instagram. (Vega’s account is run by his parents, Walter Vega and Karla Almanza.)
All of this has come from hours of practice, with Jaxson asking his parents to go to the skatepark in the summer heat and freezing cold.
“It’s like church,” Jaxon’s dad Walter laughs, watching his son skate on a hot July day. “We are here faithfully.”
Jaxon started skating about two years ago, picking up a pandemic hobby like a lot of other people. He was only five when he first came to the park and saw the bigger kids skating. He begged his parents for a board. So, they got him a $15 skateboard from Walmart. They have since graduated to a $300 board, more befitting of the kid’s skills, his parents say.
They mostly come to this Arlington skatepark, renovated in 2019, where Jaxon skates three or four hours a day, just a 10 minute drive away from the family home. He doesn’t want lessons. He just wants to skate.
“We thought maybe he’d want lessons, but he just kinda freestyles his own way of learning,” his mom Karla Almanza says. “It’s crazy and kind of insane to see your kid pick up all of this on his own.”
Walter said he used to skate a little when he was younger, but not seriously. Both parents are not totally sure how or where Jaxon’s love of skating comes from, but they are thrilled to support this burgeoning hobby.
The falls, though, still make them nervous.
“This isn’t like any other sport. When you fall, you hit concrete, not dirt,” Walter says. “[I worry] all the time. But I don’t let him hear that.”
Sitting down with Jaxon, it’s clear that like any other great athlete, he’s not content. When asked what his favorite trick to do is, he says a “laser flip” — a trick where both the skater and board flip. It’s considered one of the hardest tricks ever invented. The kicker, of course, is that Vega hasn’t quite nailed it yet himself.
“I can’t do it, but it’s my favorite trick,” Jaxon says.
It was last June when Jaxon, then barely six years old, completed an eight foot drop that garnered a Tony Hawk like on Instagram. The video features Jaxon completing the drop while everyone at the skate park cheers him on.
The funny thing is that before winning the skating icon’s social media approval, Jaxon — like most six-year-olds — didn’t know who Hawk was. But his parents sure did. Now, they often catch Jaxon on his tablet watching old Tony Hawk videos.
There’s another reason why Jaxon has taken a particular liking to Hawk, which almost seems preordained by the skating gods.
“We have the same birthdays,” Jaxon says, again flashing a toothy grin.
Walter, Karla, and Jaxon are still figuring out what’s next. Jaxon has expressed some desire to be in tournaments and maybe even go to a skating camp in Pennsylvania, so they are considering both. But for right now, Jaxon’s just happy to skate, learn on his own, and be a kid.
After a hard fall while skating, Jaxon wandered back over to the shade. Asked about it, he shrugged.
“It hurts,” he says. “But I got back up and did it again.”
(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) Work is continuing on the former site of the Febrey-Lothrop House, also known as the Rouse estate, in the Dominion Hills neighborhood.
ARLnow saw and captured photos last week of what appears to be excavation activity at the site at 6407 Wilson Blvd, including the removal of trees.
The site is now owned by New York-based Kennedy Lewis Investment Management, according to county property records, after it was sold late last year. Some 40 single-family houses are expected to be built on the site, dubbed The Grove at Dominion Hills, by home builder Toll Brothers.
More on the homebuilding plan, below, from an update posted last month by the Dominion Hills Civic Association.
Toll Brothers indicated most homes would be about 45 feet wide on lots around 60 feet wide; however, lots will vary in size, most around 8000 square ft. Homes would be customized to the buyer with a variety of colors available for exteriors as well as options for interiors.
The audience was also eager to know the timeline for construction. At the time of the meeting, the Toll Brothers representatives indicated that grading work on the Madison Street home sites could begin as soon as six weeks from early May, which would be in about mid-June, 2022. However, all is dependent on the Arlington County approval processes. If the timeline continued as plans, construction on homes is projected for late July and as the representative put it, “you could have new neighbors by February.”
The home prices are anticipated to start around $2 million.
ARLnow reached out to the investment company about the work currently being done and if they are partnering with any archeologists or historians during this phase. Previously, local preservationists asserted that the site — which was once home to as many as 15 enslaved people and also potentially used by an Indigenous hunting ground — is historic and potentially contains artifacts, though a County Board report called artifact claims “speculative.”
“We have no comment on the matter,” a spokesperson for the company wrote back in an email.
In March 2021, the historic Febrey-Lothrop House that sat on the nine-plus acres of land at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. McKinley Road was demolished. That came after a long battle by local preservationists, including the Arlington Historical Society, to save the aging house and estate from demolition and development.
However, attempts to get the county to purchase the site or to give it a local historic designation failed.
Portions of the house may have dated back to at least the Civil War, including an ornate wooden compass floor inlay built into what had been a library, preservationists argued.
In the late 19th century, the house was sold to department store magnate Alvin Lothrop. He knocked down most of the previous structure to build his own colonial revival style home, inspired by George Washington’s Mount Vernon.
The house stayed in the family after Lothrop died but reportedly was leased to Howard Hughes, the famed aviator, inventor, and businessman. He hosted lavish parties there, inviting guests like movie star Jane Russell and Washington football team owner George Preston Marshall.
The house and estate — which at the time was even more expansive — were sold to Middleburg, Virginia-based developer and amateur steeplechase jockey Randy Rouse in 1951. He broke up most of the estate to form the surrounding neighborhood but kept the house and close-by property.
Giving the house another brush with Hollywood history, Rouse married Audrey Meadows, who had just been cast on the TV show “The Honeymooners.” But commuting from Arlington to New York for filming supposedly stressed the marriage and they divorced soon after.
Rouse owned the house up to his death in 2017 at 100 years old. A trust in his name owned the property, but it opposed the historic designation and moved to sell the property for redevelopment. Ultimately, the house was torn down early last year.
Rent on the Rise — “Living in Arlington, Virginia has its perks. ‘Young. It’s vibrant,’ said Arlington resident Robert Buck. ‘That’s why I moved here.’ However, those perks come at a price and for many, that price comes with a roommate… Arlington isn’t getting any cheaper according to a new study from Apartment List that says while rents are getting higher across the DMV they have gone up the most in Arlington by 16% over last year, compared to 10% in D.C.” [WUSA 9]
New Subdivision Gets New Name — “Toll Brothers has chosen a name for the luxury subdivision it is building on the site of the historic Febrey-Lothrop House, demolished one year ago. The winner? The Grove at Dominion Hills. The company was considering suggestions to name the new streets its 40 new homes will require off McKinley Rd. and Wilson Blvd. for the former landowners Febrey and Rouse. But on learning of Arlington’s street grid (new streets would have to be three-syllable “M’s” and N. 9th St.), the firm opted not to seek an exception from the county board, I’m told.” [Falls Church News-Press]
APS on Spring Break — “Arlington Public Schools wishes you a wonderful, relaxing and safe Spring Break! APS schools and offices will be closed for the break, April 11-15, and Mon, April 18 for Grade Prep. We will see you back on Tue, April 19!” [Twitter]
Safety Push for S. Carlin Springs Road — “A dangerous stretch of road in Arlington is prompting community advocates, civic groups, and neighbors to request the county implement new safety measures. Arlington County Public Schools Parent, Gillian Burgess, says there are three schools along South Carlin Springs Road, and the traffic, as well as the congestion, makes her worried about children’s safety.” [Fox 5]
GMU Hosting ‘Yappy Hour’ Tonight — “Bring your pup and get to know the Arlington community at Mason Square! Bring your furry friends and get your paws on some doggie treats, puppachinos, toys, belly rubs, and more! It’s time to paw-ty!” [George Mason University]
Blood Drive This Afternoon — “Fire Works American Pizzeria and Bar is partnering with Inova Blood Donor Services to host an Arlington Community Blood Drive on Monday, April 11. An Inova Bloodmobile will be parked in front of Fire Works, near the intersection of Clarendon Boulevard and North Adams Street, from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 11.” [Patch]
Lt. Gov. Sears Coming to Arlington GOP Dinner — “The Arlington and Alexandria Republican committees yesterday announced that the lieutenant governor would be the guest of honor at their joint Lincoln/Reagan Dinner, to take place May 19 in Alexandria. Tickets are $100 to $250. No doubt Sears will guarantee a sold-out event. People like a celebrity, and with no offense to the other two statewide officeholders in Virginia, it is Sears that has that status at the moment.” [Sun Gazette]
This Place Is for the Birds — From the Twitter account Bunnies of Arlington County: “Not a bunny, but birds appear to have nested in the A of the Oracle building in Court House.” [Twitter]
It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 67 and low of 40. Sunrise at 6:38 am and sunset at 7:42 pm. [Weather.gov]
A trio of Arlington intersections could soon be getting some new traffic signals and pedestrian safety improvements.
This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to review a $2.3 million contract to replace traffic signals that hang from wires to those attached to poles, or mast arms. The improvements also include wider sidewalks, accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks.
The work will be conducted at the following intersections, each in North Arlington:
- N. Glebe Road and Chesterbrook Road
- Williamsburg Blvd and N. Westmoreland Street
- Wilson Blvd and Patrick Henry Drive
The traffic signal replacements are part of a county program replacing outdated traffic signals to meet current federal and local standards.
“Signal upgrade projects implement new technologies such as accessible push button stations, CCTV for monitoring, video detection, and improved intersection lighting to improve safety, efficiency, and accessibility for all modes of travel,” according to a project webpage.
Installing mast arm traffic signals on wide streets has been found to be a cost-effective way to reduce collisions, according to the Federal Highway Administration. One study of Virginia Department of Transportation data, however, found crashes decreased, but not by a statistically significant amount.
The FHWA also says span wire signals can have higher maintenance costs and are generally considered less aesthetically pleasing due to the overhead wires. But after these replacement projects occurred elsewhere in Arlington, some residents took to Nextdoor to mourn the loss of the wire-hung signals, which they said were not as bulky as the large poles that replaced them.
The three projects would join a half-dozen traffic light replacement projects already planned for this summer and fall.
The county is lumping in pedestrian safety and accessibility improvements with the replacements, per a county report.
Currently, the intersections lack curb ramps that are accessible to people with disabilities, while pedestrians have to contend with long crossings and narrow sidewalks, the county says.
Widening the sidewalks and adding accessible curb ramps and high-visibility crosswalks will create “safe, accessible, and user-friendly intersections,” the county says.
Update at 5 p.m. — Water service has been restored ahead of schedule, county officials say.
Update: Repairs have been completed and water pressure restored to customers in the Willston zone. Learn what to do should water appear cloudy when turning taps back on: https://t.co/rlidD7YZGM.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) February 17, 2022
Earlier: A western portion of Arlington County has lost water pressure due to a broken valve, leaving a couple thousand water customers high and dry.
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services announced around 12:45 p.m. that a part of the county that receives water from Fairfax County’s system has had its service impacted by a broken valve.
“Engineers are working on repairs,” DES said in a tweet. “Estimated time for completed repairs/return of full water pressure: 6 p.m. Willston customers are asked to conserve water.”
Willston refers to the name of the water system within Arlington, comprising about 2% of the county’s population in the Dominion Hills and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods.
“The Willston Area system is located on the western edge of Arlington County along Wilson Boulevard,” notes the county’s water distribution plan. “The water provided in the Willston Area system is treated at both the Dalecarlia and McMillian WTPs, flows through the Fairfax Water system, and then into the Willston Area.”
DES noted that Fairfax County is performing the repairs, although Arlington generally maintains the pipes.
Thanks to quirks in geography and the development of local infrastructure, Arlington and Fairfax County’s water systems each serve some of each other’s customers under a recently-updated agreement.
The agreement also sought to provide redundancy for each water system through a new transmission main. Arlington County’s primary system and the Willson water system both get their water solely from the Washington Aqueduct, across the river, whereas Fairfax’s system uses two of its own water treatment plants along the Potomac and Occoquan rivers.
Water Outage: Residents in the Willston Water Distribution System, approx 2K customers on Arlington's western edge, may be experiencing no pressure because of a broken valve. Engineers are working on repairs. Willston is handled by Fairfax County. https://t.co/m4vEm70mMC pic.twitter.com/G0a3AHYlOP
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) February 17, 2022
Update: Estimated time for completed repairs/return of full water pressure: 6pm. Willston customers are asked to conserve water. Note: Arlington maintains infrastructure for the zone but the water is supplied by Fairfax County, performing this repair. https://t.co/MfrWE0QDHv
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) February 17, 2022
The swim and dive teams at the Dominion Hills Pool are ditching the “Warriors” team name and moving away from Native American motifs.
The Dominion Hills Area Recreation Association Board of Directors started soliciting suggestions from swimmers, divers, coaches and families on Friday, according to an email to team families, shared with ARLnow.
“We decided to stop using Native American imagery at our pool and the name ‘Warriors’ for our swim and dive teams,” the board tells ARLnow in a statement. “While the name ‘Warriors’ has several meanings and by itself is unobjectionable, the teams have used it in connection with Native American themes. The Board decided to solicit ideas from the members for a new name and mascot.”
It started de-emphasizing the use of the name this season, according to an email to team families. The pool’s board is open to a name that would permit members to use existing gear, which bears a feather illustration.
“We recognize that there may be some disappointment as we make this transition but we are excited to select a new team name and mascot,” the email said. “Team names that would be appropriate to use with a feather mascot have the added practical benefit of allowing us to continue using the feather on existing team gear.”
A committee of team representatives and board members will review the submissions and recommend a new name to the full board, which aims to announce the new name at a banquet on Saturday, July 24, according to the email.
The Washington Football Team — which nixed its former name one year ago — is making a similar play as it narrows down options for a new name and logo, to be chosen early next year.
“Feedback from across communities we engaged clearly revealed deep-seated discomfort around Warriors, with the clear acknowledgment that it too closely aligns with Native American themes,” WFT president Jason Wright explained in a blog post.
An SUV flipped on its side in the Dominion Hills neighborhood Friday evening.
The rollover crash happened on N. Larrimore Street near Wilson Blvd. Only a single occupied vehicle appeared to have been involved.
Firefighters helped to stabilize the overturned Toyota and assisted the vehicle’s occupants. Minor injuries were reported.
Jay Westcott contributed to this report
A juvenile is facing numerous charges and police are looking for two other suspects after yet another business burglary in Dominion Hills.
Police have been more proactive in the wake of dozens of break-ins and thefts at local businesses. The arrest was made early Saturday morning after patrols were stepped up in response to reports of burglaries in a nearby jurisdiction, according to Arlington County police.
Officers allegedly caught three burglars in the act shortly after 3 a.m. while removing a cash register from a business on the hard-hit 6000 block of Wilson Blvd, scene of at least four prior burglaries. They had allegedly arrived at the location in a stolen vehicle and broken the front window of a business.
All of the suspects fled on foot, but Arlington and Fairfax officers were able to take one into custody in the Seven Corners area, with the assistance of the FCPD helicopter.
Police are continuing to investigate the burglaries and are working to determine the identity of the other two suspects. Previously, an Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman told ARLnow that the business burglaries are being investigated as being potentially connected.
“Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage.
More from a police press release:
A juvenile suspect is facing charges of Burglary, Possession of Stolen Auto, Conspiracy to Commit Felonies (2x), Felony Destruction of Property, Possession of Stolen Property, Petit Larceny, and Underage Possession of Tobacco following a commercial burglary in the Dominion Hills neighborhood on the morning of Saturday, April 24, 2021. The arrest follows an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses both in Arlington County and the region. Detectives continue to investigate the juvenile suspect’s role in these burglaries and additional charges are anticipated.
At approximately 3:13 a.m. on April 24, officers were conducting extra checks at commercial establishments after receiving the report of a business being burglarized in a neighboring jurisdiction. Upon entering the 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard, officers observed a vehicle, which was later determined to be stolen, backed in front of a business with both front doors open. As the officers approached the business, they observed that the front window had been broken out. Three suspects then exited the business through the broken window carrying stolen merchandise and a cash register. Officers gave lawful commands to stop but the three suspects dropped the stolen items and fled the scene on foot.
A perimeter was established, and the area was searched with the assistance of the Fairfax County Police Department helicopter. At approximately 3:42 a.m., an officer observed an individual running across Route 50 matching the description of one of the burglary suspects. Fairfax County helicopter located the suspect in the 6100 block of Brook Drive where he was taken into custody without incident by Arlington and Fairfax County officers. The two additional suspects were not located and the investigation into their identities is ongoing.
This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information or video surveillance that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact Detective B. Kooharian at 703-228-4049 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
In a rear wing of the Febrey-Lothrop Estate in Dominion Hills, there was an ornate wooden compass floor inlay built into what had been a library.
Like the windows, decorative ornaments and columns, it had been part of the original 1859 home that had seen Civil War soldiers, servants and national celebrities come and go over the years.
All these architectural embellishments were destroyed, and according to the Arlington County Board, any historical merit that could have justified a proposed local historic district overlay went with it.
The County Board voted unanimously at a meeting this past Saturday to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) recommendation to give the area at 6407 Wilson Blvd with a historic designation.
During the meeting, Cynthia Liccese-Torres, the coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, ran through what photos and information the county could obtain before bulldozers took the main house and the estate’s other buildings down.
Liccese-Torres said many of the interior sections of the house were in fair condition and many of the architectural details could have been salvaged both in the section of the house that dates back to 1859, an outbuilding from 1898, and a bungalow on the property from 1910.
But they weren’t saved, and Liccese-Torres said with the buildings now torn down, there was little left to convey the historic significance of the property.
Over the last few months it was clear that saving the property was a long shot, with the county’s bureaucratic process for preservation far outpaced by the by-right demolition permitting the homeowner was entitled to. For Tom Dickinson, a local activist who helped lead efforts to preserve the house, the whole process was a failure of county leadership.
“This did not have to happen, but the County Board, county manager and county staff allowed it to happen without the slightest effort at intervention,” Dickinson said. “Our reasonable expectations for total preservation just weeks ago has been utterly destroyed and permanently denied.” Read More
The recent spate of business burglaries in Arlington is continuing.
Early Saturday morning a group of three thieves broke into businesses in the Dominion Hills and Westover neighborhoods, stealing several cash registers and leaving behind piles of broken glass. At least five businesses were damaged by the burglars.
More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
BURGLARY, 2021-04170015/04170016, 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 1:23 a.m. on April 17, police were dispatched to the report of multiple audible security alarms. Upon arrival, it was determined that multiple businesses had their front doors damaged, with two of the businesses being burglarized and two of the businesses showing signs of attempted forced entry. A cash register with an undisclosed amount of cash was stolen from one business, while no other items were reported stolen. Officers established a perimeter and the area was checked with negative results. The investigation revealed that the three suspects, who were wearing dark colored clothing and face masks, had fled the scene in a dark colored vehicle prior to the arrival of police. The investigation is ongoing.
BURGLARY, 2021-04170017, 5800 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 1:33 a.m. on April 17, police were dispatched to the report of a glass break alarm. Upon arrival, it was determined that employees were inside the closed business when they heard glass break, followed by footsteps and unknown individuals talking. The investigation determined that three unknown suspects forced entry into the business through a window, stole two cash registers containing and undisclosed amount of cash and fled the scene on foot. Responding officers established a perimeter and the area was checked with negative results. No injuries were reported. There are no suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.
The western portion of Wilson Blvd in Dominion Hills and Bluemont has been the scene of at least a half dozen prior burglaries this year, including three on the same block as Saturday’s incident.
ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said detectives are investigating these and other prior business break-ins, in Arlington and around the region, as potentially related given the method of theft.
“The burglaries… are being investigated as part of the commercial burglary series,” Savage tells ARLnow. “Detectives continue to follow up on investigative leads in the case and are working collaboratively with our regional law enforcement partners to identify and apprehend those responsible.”
“Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects,” she added.
In February, ACPD announced that is was “investigating an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses.” At the time, there had been 21 reported business burglary incidents in Arlington since the start of the year. Since then that number has risen to 31, including 22 completed burglaries and 9 attempted burglaries, according to police.
The police department previously offered the following crime prevention tips for businesses.
- “Don’t store money overnight in your business. If you must keep cash or other valuables overnight, store them in a safe anchored to the floor”
- “Leave cash drawers open, indicating there’s nothing to steal”
- “Post signs in your store window that cash and valuables are removed from the premises overnight”
- “Ensure your property has adequate lighting, especially at points of entry”
- “Consider installing security cameras with alarms to capture suspects on video and notify police immediately if unauthorized individuals gain entry to your business”
Brian Hannigan just lost a battle he’s been fighting for the better part of a decade, and all that’s left now is to hope the end result isn’t too detrimental to his neighborhood.
Hannigan, president of the Dominion Hills Civic Association, has been one of the voices for years telling Arlington County that it should purchase the nine-acre Febrey-Lothrop House, at 6407 Wilson Blvd, when it became available.
Formerly home to businessman Randy Rouse before his death in 2017, the property is also known as the Rouse estate. While the house has undergone numerous renovations and expansions over the years, portions of it are believed to date back to before the Civil War.
It’s now being demolished, in anticipation of expected single-family-home development on the site.
The County Board took up the question of whether to designate the property as historic, requiring preservation or, at least, greater archeological efforts and documentation to be performed before development could occur, but the discussion was too little, too late, and a demolition permit for the house was approved administratively before any historic preservation designation could be enacted.
Though disappointed, Hannigan says he’s at least hopeful that the site won’t be up-zoned for denser development.
“I think it’s a done deal,” said Hannigan. “We received assurances from the trustee, the owner, that they have no interest in pursuing a sale that would involve rezoning.”
The potential historic designation is still on the books for discussion at meetings in April, but the house is already partially torn down.
According to the county website, Arlington County Historic Preservation staff were able to access the property prior to demolition. Hearings on the historic designation of a portion of the property are expected to proceed as scheduled at the Planning Commission and County Board, despite the home’s demolition.
It’s unclear what would be targeted for preservation if approved, though some on the County Board previously said possibility of pre-Columbian artifacts on the site, based on records of Native Americans activity in the area, was more compelling than any historical aspects of the house itself.
The designation is scheduled to be discussed at a Planning Commission meeting on Monday, April 5, and at the County Board on Saturday, April 17.
“I’m disappointed Arlington County didn’t step up,” Hannigan said. “Personally, been advocating for the county to target this land and acquire it for years, but those pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Two years ago county did put the site on the Parks Master Plan as generational and unique opportunity for acquisition. The language they used was appropriate, that if it goes on the market it’s gone forever. Well, that’s what happened.”
Hannigan said he hoped the land would be acquired by the county and preserved as open space, but now those hopes have shifted warily towards advocating against any potential rezoning.