Arlington, VA

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

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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

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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”
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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.

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To the anguish of preservationists, the Febrey-Lothrop House — also known as the Rouse estate — is in the process of being torn down as of Wednesday morning.

A crew is using heavy equipment to demolish the aging mansion at 6407 Wilson Blvd, the origins of which are historic in nature, according to those that have waged a campaign to save it following the death of its long-time owner.

Built prior to the Civil War war, the original house on the estate was largely replaced by a new building in the early 20th century, though some parts of the original structure may remain. Aside from age, those arguing for the building’s preservation also point to the estate’s role in hosting Civil War encampments and some of its notable past residents: business magnate and aviator Howard Hughes, actress Audrey Meadows, and sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.

Rouse’s trust reportedly plans to develop the 9 acre Dominion Hills property, near Seven Corners, as a collection of single-family homes.

The demolition comes after the Arlington County Board scheduled a hearing in April — following a unanimous Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board vote — to consider a historic designation for the property that could prevent such demolition, if approved.

County officials said recently they were still planning to move forward with the hearing, but they were unable legally to prevent the owners from demolishing the home and other structures on the property in the meantime. A demolition permit was issued earlier this month; some initial prep work was performed in January.

In a statement to the County Board this weekend, a local preservationist who was leading the charge to save the estate called it a “sacred site,” citing the probability that it was originally built by enslaved labor. The statement also said its demolition would be “equivalent” to destroying crematoriums at a notorious Nazi concentration camp.

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Morning Notes

County Still Prepping for Preservation Hearing — “Even though the razing of the Rouse estate may be at hand, the Arlington County government’s historic-preservation staff is taking the steps necessary if public hearings on preservation of the site go forward in April… But nearly all parties now expect that the buildings on the 9-acre site will be razed before those hearings occur.” [Sun Gazette]

Preservationist Compares Estate to Auschwitz — Tom Dickinson, who’s leading the charge to save the Rouse estate, directed the following statement to the County Board over the weekend, referencing the likelihood that enslaved people built part of the estate: “If you, the board, do not intervene to stop this destruction of this sacred site, your individual and collective legacy will be stained forever by a lack of honor and respect for those who labored and suffered to create these structures at this site, and the desecration of them… It would be the equivalent of allowing the destruction of the crematory ovens at Auschwitz.” [Sun Gazette]

Northam Further Easing COVID Restrictions — “Governor Northam has further amended Executive Order 72 to modify public health restrictions in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19. These changes come as Virginia’s vaccination rate is steady and case counts are fluctuating. Effective April 1, limits on social gatherings will increase from 10 to 50 for indoor gatherings, and from 25 to 100 for outdoor gatherings.” [Arlington County]

NAACP Head Receives FBI Community Award — “FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) Steven M. D’Antuono is pleased to announce Mr. Julius Spain, Sr., as the recipient of the 2020 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for WFO. Mr. Spain serves as President of the Arlington Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).” [FBI]

Arlington Free Clinic’s Vaccination Effort — “Officials and community organizations are scrambling to close this racial gap in vaccine access. One such organization is the Arlington Free Clinic, which serves uninsured adults, many of them undocumented immigrants, in Arlington County. The clinic is holding vaccination days twice a week and working with other local social service organizations to develop an alternate pathway for low-income communities of color to get vaccinated.” [WAMU]

Former AP Bureau Chief Dies — “Charles Lewis, a former Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press and The Hearst Newspapers who tirelessly advocated for the release of AP journalist Terry Anderson from kidnappers in Lebanon, died Saturday. He was 80. Lewis, of Arlington, Virginia, died at a hospital from complications from cancer.” [Associated Press]

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(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) Arlington County was in a race against its own bureaucracy to save the Febrey-Lothrop estate from demolition — and it seems the County lost.

The Dominion Hills mansion, owned by sportsman Randy Rouse until he passed away in 2017, had also been home to Howard Hughes and actress Audrey Meadows. Of greater historic interest to County officials was the fact that the estate grounds, which had been a hunting ground and gathering place for pre-Columbian Native American tribes in the area, had been left virtually undisturbed for centuries.

The owners of the estate have been pursuing a demolition permit parallel to an effort from preservationists to try to give the property a local historic designation over the objections of Rouse’s trust. The designation would require additional archeological and preservation work before any development could take place on the property.

The County Board was amenable to the designation, unanimously voting to send the designation back to the Planning Commission on April 5 for approval, before returning to the County Board on April 17.

The house, which has sat on the hill in one form or another since before the Civil War — documentation suggests the original home was largely replaced by a new building in the early 20th century — may not live long enough to see that designation bear fruit.

The last holdup in the demolition permit process was a land disturbing activity (LDA) permit, but County officials confirmed that the demolition permit was issued last Friday after the LDA permit was approved. Previously, County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac told the County Board that the county could be hauled into court if it were to delay approving a properly-submitted demolition permit application.

The same day the permit was approved, a letter from Barrett Consultants P.C. was sent to neighbors informing them of the impending demolition activities.

“This letter is being sent to inform you that the owner of… 6407 Wilson Boulevard intends to perform the demolition of the existing home and/or structures located on the premises of the property,” the letter said. “The demolition and subsequent excavation of the structure will begin in the very near future.”

“In preparation of starting, appropriate tree protection measures will be installed, as well as proper silt fencing to help mitigate erosion and preventative purposes to adjacent properties,” the letter added.

With the permits in hand, there are no impediments under Virginia law preventing the owners from tearing down the house and thus preempting efforts to save it with a historic designation.

As of this writing, on Wednesday afternoon, the house was still standing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Arlington County police are investigating a number of businesses break-ins along Wilson Blvd, west of Ballston.

Thieves broke into businesses in the Bluemont and Dominion Hills neighborhoods early Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. The first series of burglaries happened either at or near the Dominion Hills Centre shopping plaza.

From a crime report:

BURGLARY (series), 2021-02160033/02160034, 6000 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 4:12 a.m. on February 16, police were dispatched to the report of an alarm. Upon arrival, it was determined that the unknown suspect(s) attempted to force entry to a business unsuccessfully, causing damage. While investigating, police located a second business, which the suspect(s) forced entry to, causing damage. Nothing was reported stolen from either business. There is no suspect description(s). The investigation is ongoing.

A similar burglary on the same block earlier this month targeted local watering hole Meridian Pint.

On Wednesday morning, meanwhile, thieves broke into a small strip of businesses in the Bluemont neighborhood, along the 5500 block of Wilson Blvd.

Readers tell us that a restaurant, a salon and a barbershop were among the businesses burglarized.

“Yen Beauty/Don Barber and King of Koshary appeared to have had their glass front doors smashed in,” one reader told ARLnow yesterday. The Arlington County Police Department typically does not reveal the exact addresses or names of businesses that were the victims of crimes.

More from ACPD:

BURGLARY (Series), 2021-02170023/0114/0115, 5500 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 5:34 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that unknown suspects forced entry into three businesses, causing damage. Two cash registers, electronics and an undisclosed amount of cash were stolen. The investigating is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps

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Meridian Pint Owner Taps Out

After several difficult months for Meridian Pint (6035 Wilson Blvd), owner John Andrade said an opportunity came along to sell the business and he took it.

The bar in Dominion Hills was part of a small, pint-sized franchise when it opened in 2019, but the Columbia Heights location in D.C. closed as part of the move to Arlington. Smoke & Barrel, another Andrade restaurant in Adams Morgan, closed late last year. Brookland Pint in D.C. remains open.

“It is with heavy heart I announce I am no longer the principal owner of Meridian Pint,” Andrade said in a post on Facebook this week. “This past year presented fiscal challenges that were difficult to survive. And although Meridian Pint and its staff received heroic and loyal support from our incredible Arlington neighbors, ultimately, Meridian Pint was simply unprepared financially to keep operating to a level that the community and our amazing staff deserves.”

Andrade has launched a GoFundMe in January to help cover expenses for the staff. The fundraiser ultimately raised $3,560.

“Recently, the opportunity was presented to pass the torch on to an organization better prepared to carry on the legacy of Meridian Pint,” Andrade said. “The decision was tough but obvious. I am pleased to tell you that under new management, Meridian Pint will now begin its next chapter in Arlington, ready to serve you everything you have come to love, only better.”

No information about the new owners was immediately available.

“I hope that you will support this next phase in the story of our neighborhood gathering place along with me,” Andrade said. “You will continue to see me at ‘The Oldest Bar in Dominion Hills’ regularly. Except from now on, I’ll be on the customer side of the bar. It has truly been my greatest pleasure and honor in serving you.”

The run of bad luck for the bar didn’t end with the sale announcement, however.

Early in the morning, the day after the announcement, a burglar reportedly broke into the bar. According to a police report, an unknown suspect forced entry into the business early Wednesday morning, caused damage to the bar and stole a cash box.

Andrade confirmed that it was Dominion Pint that was burglarized, saying that he thinks the break-in was part of a string of burglaries occurring in the area.

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As a large Arlington estate nears a potential demolition, a local historic preservation group is fighting to have the estate’s main house saved.

The Febrey-Lothrop Estate — also known as the Rouse estate — is a 9-acre site at 6407 Wilson Blvd, near Arlington’s western border with Fairfax County. On it sits a more than 100-year-old home that has housed prominent business figures and celebrities over the years.

With a demolition permit application pending, a local nonprofit hopes that the county government can intervene and preserve the building.

“Over the past 150 years, the Febrey-Lothrop Estate has graced the Upton Hill neighborhood of Arlington,” the Arlington Historical Society (AHS) said in a letter recently sent to the County Board. “Despite war, twentieth-century alterations, and major development of the neighborhood, the manor home and grounds remain a proud, historically significant Arlington landmark.”

The original home on the property was built before the Civil War and once hosted a Union encampment and hospital. The property later became residence of Alvin Lothrop, co-founder of Woodward & Lothrop Department Store; Howard Hughes; and most recently businessman Randolph Rouse and his wife, Honeymooners actress Audrey Meadows.

According to an application for a historical district to protect the home from demolition, filed last year against the wishes of the estate of its late owner, the original home was destroyed and replaced by the current colonial revival-style house in 1907. The Arlington Historical Society, however, says portions of the original home and subsequent additions are likely still part of the building.

“Given the historical significance of the Febrey-Lothrop House, the Arlington Historical Society believes the property must be saved for future generations,” AHS said in the letter. “With requests for demolition permits already in the pipeline, AHS feels an urgent need to prevent harm coming to the Estate.”

The organization requested that the County Board and County Manager issue cease and desist orders, preempting the proposed demolition. AHS also requested that the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmarks Review Board quickly recommend approval an application for Local Historic District designation and forward the designation to the County Board for approval.

The county has already listed the site for potential conversion into a public park in the Parks Master Plan (page 162), though so far it remains owned by Rouse’s estate. The historic district application notes that the property “is extremely attractive to developers for townhouse, condo, single family home, and retail commercial establishments,” due to its large size.

“Over the past 15 years, Arlington has lost many historically and architecturally important buildings to the wrecking ball,” AHS wrote in its letter to the County Board. “Let’s not let another gem go unprotected.”

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