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County Board Delays VHC Expansion, Tells Hospital to Gather More Community Support

Officials from Virginia Hospital Center left Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting without the approval they were seeking for the hospital’s expansion plans.

Instead, following a unanimous vote, consideration of the plans will be delayed another three months.

The outcome is a disappointment for the hospital, which says it urgently needs additional space to serve a growing population. It’s also a disappointment for its supporters, from the Arlington Chamber of Commerce to the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, which urged approval.

Board members asked VHC to go back and find a way to address the concerns of homeowners who live around the hospital. The charge specifies that the size of the proposed buildings is fine, but improvements are needed to improve exterior decor, pedestrian walkways, and traffic flow.

More from an Arlington County press release:

After hearing hours of public testimony, the Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to defer consideration of Virginia Hospital Center’s proposed expansion plan to its December 2018 meeting, saying the center needs to do more to address neighborhood concerns.

“Virginia Hospital is an asset to our community and the region,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “We view the continued success of this major health center as important to everyone in Arlington, both for the high-quality medical care it provides, and the economic benefits it brings to the community. But it is also important that the expansion is designed in a way that respects the basics of good planning and design that have allowed Arlington to grow while still maintaining high quality of life for residents. We are not seeking a fundamental re-design, but rather, specific and concrete adjustments that can address some of the concerns.”

The Board’s action came after dozens of people spoke both for and against VHC’s expansion plan during a public hearing.

VHC’s expansion plan would grow its N. George Mason Drive campus onto the adjacent site at 1810 N. Edison Street to build new in-patient and out-patient facilities, a medical office building and a parking garage. The County approved a purchase agreement with VHC for the Edison site in 2015. It is requesting a rezoning, a Site Plan amendment and a Use Permit County sealamendment.

Under its proposed expansion plan, VHC plans to replace existing buildings on the Edison site with a new seven-story outpatient building and a six-story parking garage. VHC also proposes converting 120,000 square feet of medical offices on its current campus to hospital use.

The proposed plan also calls for an ultimate build out of 101 more beds on the hospital site. Existing outpatient uses would be relocated to the new outpatient building on the Edison site, freeing up space in existing buildings for the hospital expansion. The proposal is the hospital’s first step in its longer-term plans to focus inpatient care on the south side of its campus and outpatient care on the north side.

The Board noted that it accepts the height and massing of the buildings proposed by VHC as necessary to meet the center’s “programmatic needs.” It asked that VHC improve the connections to and through the site; enhance the proposed parking garage facades to add visual interest through awnings, hanging planter boxes or other architectural features; provide a pedestrian connection between 19th Street N and the proposed terrace overlooking the sunken garden on the first floor of the outpatient building; and make other changes related to providing safe, well-lighted, accessible pathways on the site.

While the public hearing now is closed, and changes made to the proposed design will not be subject to further formal County advisory commissions, the Board communicated its expectations that VHC will continue to engage with the surrounding neighborhood on improvements before the proposal comes back to the Board for consideration.

To read the staff report, and view presentations on the proposed expansion plan, visit the County website. Scroll to Item No. 58 on the agenda for the Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 Regular County Board Meeting.

In December 2015, the County Board approved an agreement granting VHC an option to purchase the County-owned land at 1800 N. Edison Street. The agreement included the possibility of a land swap between the County and the Hospital. In July 2017, the Board voted to notify VHC that the County intends to acquire the hospital’s property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road as part of the purchase price for the Edison site. Approval of VHC’s expansion site plan is required prior to closing the purchase agreement.

VHC’s site plan underwent an extensive public review process, including six Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) meetings, and SPRC walking tour and additional community meetings held by the County before and after the SPRC process.

County staff also met with civic association representatives and other community members, tracked and posted community comments and answered frequently asked questions for the project website.

Virginia Hospital has served Arlington and the region for more than 70 years. Over the years, the hospital has expanded to meet the needs of the growing Arlington community.

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Letter to the Editor: Hospital Expansion Would Better Serve Arlington’s Homeless Population

The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Michael Garcia, a Columbia Pike insurance agent who serves as the board chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, a local nonprofit that works with homeless individuals in Arlington. A-SPAN is weighing in on the proposed Virginia Hospital Center expansion, which the Arlington Planning Commission and some residents who live near the hospital oppose in its current form.

I am writing in support of the Virginia Hospital Center expansion project. It is my hope that the County Board recognizes the enormous value that VHC brings to this community and approves the project, as soon as possible.

As Board Chair of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and a long-time Arlington resident, I see first-hand the consequences of delayed healthcare visits. The homeless clients at the Homeless Services Center frequently suffer from infections, life threatening reactions to untreated chronic illnesses and other medical conditions. That is why we have the Medical Respite and Nursing Services Program at the Homeless Services Center. For most Arlington County citizens, when a doctor says to go home and recuperate, that’s what they do, but what do you do when you have no home? VHC and A-SPAN through our partnership work together to ensure that these homeless individuals and veterans have a safe, compassionate, high-quality environment in which to recuperate.

VHC staff make every effort to assess and treat patients in a holistic way. When homeless patients are discharged from the Hospital to the Medical Respite Program, A-SPAN is part of the follow-up care plan and clients are referred to VHC outpatient services, as appropriate.

I cannot stress enough the value of a new Behavioral Health Center like the one proposed by VHC. Over 70% of homeless veterans and individuals suffer from some form of mental illness and this condition must be treated. We are fortunate that VHC, an Arlington provider that was recently named one of America’s 100 top Hospitals for the third year in a row, is willing to respond to the community’s need for more outpatient mental health services. Moreover, the VHC has indicated that all patients would be welcome at the new Center, regardless of their ability to pay.

The distinction of VHC being named as one of the 100 Top Hospitals in the nation is an honor benefitting all Arlingtonians by providing excellent care to the community. I am confident that this commitment to excellence will extend to the newly proposed Behavioral Health Center services, as well. VHC is a community partner worthy of support and we hope our elected leaders demonstrate this support.

Sincerely,

Michael Garcia
Board Chair, A-SPAN

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor for consideration, please email it to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.

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Morning Notes

Vida Fitness Eyeing Second Arlington Gym — Vida Fitness has signed a letter of intent to open a gym and a “Sweatbox” boutique fitness studio in western Rosslyn, likely by the end of 2020. The company is expected to open its first Arlington location in Ballston in late 2019. [Washington Business Journal]

Beyer: If Impeachment Comes, It Must Be Bipartisan — “U.S. Rep. Don Beyer is no fan of Donald Trump. But he’s against moving forward with impeachment of the president unless it becomes a true bipartisan effort. ‘I don’t believe impeachment should ever be partisan – it should be done together,’ Beyer (D-8th) said at a campaign forum.” [InsideNova]

Warning About Swollen Streams — After an almost disastrous incident yesterday, the Arlington County Fire Department tweeted: “Remember, even a few inches of rushing water can be deceivingly powerful.” [Twitter]

Cemetery to Hold Expansion Dedication — “Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 6 will formally dedicate a 27-acre expansion that will provide more than 27,000 additional burial spaces… The expansion will provide for 10,882 in-ground burial spaces and 16,400 above-ground niche spaces for cremated remains.” [InsideNova]

Mongolian School Fights Fee Increase Proposal — “The Arlington school system’s proposal to vastly increase rental fees charged to the non-profit Mongolian School of the National Capital Area has outraged supporters of the school and led to predictions it might have to close if the increase isn’t reduced or rescinded… The proposal to jump the facility-use charge to $28,000 a year would be ‘devastating to our children and hard-working families,’ said Jane Batsukh, president of the Mongolian School Parents Association.” [InsideNova]

New Metrorail Cars Coming — Metro has kicked off the procurement process for its next-generation 8000 series rail cars. The transit agency plans to purchase hundreds of such cars and to put them into service as soon as 2024. [WMATA]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Community Concerns Over Hospital Land SwapUpdated at 1:50 p.m. — Virginia Hospital Centers needs to expand to keep up with patient demand but the planned expansion is in a holding pattern as resident concerns are addressed. “Tracy Greiner, chair of a task force of three nearby civic associations, said the hospital has ‘failed to effectively address three years of homeowner feedback.’ Neighbors — some who’ve been in Halls Hill for three generations, others who just bought in — worry about traffic, nighttime lights and construction.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Beyer Wants Answers from FBI — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is requesting a meeting with the director of the FBI to discuss the investigation into the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police along the GW Parkway, to ensure that it proceeds expeditiously. Of note: “Beyer said that Arlington County, where the 911 calls came in, will not release the 911 tapes because the FBI hasn’t given them permission because it’s an ongoing investigation.” [WTOP]

Wilcox to Headline Arlington Gala — “Arlington’s own Amy Wilcox, a recording artist and star of A&E Network’s ‘Crazy Hearts: Nashville,’ will be the featured performer at the Arlington Community Foundation’s annual gala – ‘This Is Us’ – to be held April 21. The evening event will be held at the Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, with funds raised being used to support the philanthropic initiatives of the foundation.” [InsideNova]

Candy Dispute Prompts Call to Police — According to scanner traffic, police responded yesterday evening to a domestic incident in which “a father is not allowing his kid to have candy and they’re all fighting.” [Twitter]

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Courthouse Chinese Restaurant TNR Cafe Expanding

After 10 years in business, Courthouse-based Chinese restaurant TNR Cafe will be doubling in size by expanding to the storefront next door, according to restaurant owner Kanya Larthongkan.

“We’d like to make it bigger,” Larthongkan said. “We want to add a new touch.”

The renovation is being undertaken in two parts, and restaurant operations will switch from the current restaurant space to the new side — formerly home to Stanley Adams Printing — in two weeks, according to Larthongkan. Once the renovations are complete on the 10-year-old space, the wall between the retail spaces will be knocked down.

Larthongkan says all renovations should be complete by the end of June. With all the changes, she added, the expanded restaurant should be able to sit 90-100 people. That’s twice as much as the 50 people that currently can be seated.

There will also be some updates made to TNR Cafe’s menu, she added. More changes will be made to the menu after Larthongkan hires a new chef for the expanding kitchen.

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Nonprofit The Sycamore School to Expand Campus, Add Grades

Arlington County’s only nonprofit secondary school is set to expand and add three new grade levels for the 2018-2019 school year.

The Sycamore School will add 4,225 square feet of space at its current location at The Arlington Center (4600 Fairfax Drive, Suite 300) in Ballston, the school said in a press release. That extra space will include a math and science suite, black box theater, an engineering room and an additional electives room.

In addition, the school will expand to include students from fifth to 10th grade next school year. It opened in September 2017 with an inaugural class of students from sixth to eighth grade.

School officials said that despite the growth in grades, enrollment will be capped at 60 students for 2018-2019 “to maintain the very low teacher to student ratio.” The school plans to grow to be grades 5-12 school in the next three years.

“We hear overwhelmingly from prospective and current parents that fifth grade was immensely stressful for their children. Our educational priorities are skewed when too much importance is placed on test scores and grades versus teaching children how to think, how to learn and the value of a productive struggle,” said Dr. Karyn Ewart, TSS founder and head of school, in a statement. “We’re seeing more and more students who are overly perfectionistic and risk averse, which leads to higher instances of anxiety and depression.”

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Virginia Hospital Center Expansion Plans Arrive for Public Scrutiny

A proposal to add a major expansion to Virginia Hospital Center has been opened up for public discussion ahead of a possible approval in the near future.

A walk-through of the site by the county’s Site Plan Review Committee had been planned for January 6 but has been postponed, with a new date yet to be confirmed.

SPRC held its first meeting on the project on December 18, 2017. It will review the plans and then make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, and also provide a first forum for public comment.

VHC is proposing a more-than 230,000-square-foot, seven-story outpatient pavilion for walk-in patients.

The plans would also convert around 120,000 square feet of existing outpatient space to 101 hospital beds and build a 10-story parking garage with just over 2,000 spaces.

The extension to its campus would replace the county-owned Edison Center on the 1800 block of N. Edison Street, to the north of VHC’s main site. The Edison Center is currently home to some county offices and an Arlington County Refugee Services location.

The County Board voted in July that it wants to acquire the hospital’s property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road and use the site on N. Edison Street as part of the purchase price.

The county hosted a kick-off meeting for the project on November 16, 2017. According to a meeting summary posted online, feedback was generally positive, with questions raised about traffic and parking issues but also noting the project’s importance.

“This isn’t just some ordinary expansion,” one commenter wrote on a feedback card. “This is a vital resource to this County. No one wants something in their backyard. The renderings are beautiful and definitely better than what exists on Edison Street.

Images by HDR.

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Virginia Hospital Center Plans Big Expansion After County Land Swap

Virginia Hospital Center (1701 N. George Mason Drive) is looking to add a major expansion on land it will acquire in a land-swap agreement with Arlington County.

Under a preliminary site plan filed with the county, VHC is proposing a more-than 230,000-square-foot, seven-story outpatient pavilion for walk-in patients.

The plans would also convert around 120,000 square feet of existing outpatient space to 101 hospital beds and build a 10-story parking garage with just over 2,000 spaces. Of those 10 stories, two would be below-grade. VHC would also make improvements to the streets around its campus so pedestrian facilities like sidewalks and crosswalks are better connected.

The extension to its campus would replace the county-owned Edison Center on the 1800 block of N. Edison Street, to the north of VHC’s main site. The Edison Center is currently home to some county offices and an Arlington County Refugee Services location.

The County Board voted in July that it wants to acquire the hospital’s property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road and use the site on N. Edison Street as part of the purchase price.

A letter dated August 7 from land-use attorney Nan E. Walsh of the Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh law firm that represents VHC said it has been undergoing a “comprehensive study” of its services with medical professionals as well as neighbors, and has determined it has to fill several gaps.

“These discussions have helped the applicant identify several critical needs which must be addressed as the hospital complex evolves and grows,” Walsh wrote. “These needs include, among others, adding new hospital beds, creating new spaces for hospital services and outpatient care, creating new parking and improving access to the hospital complex.”

In a further letter on June 16, Walsh said community members will benefit from the increased capacity for medical care and improved service for patients and visitors, as well as utility improvements, provided bicycle parking and a green building design, among others.

An amendment to the county’s overall General Land Use Plan will be required to integrate the Edison site into VHC, as well as rezoning the property, site plan and use permit amendments.

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Morning Notes

NSF Starting Its Move to Alexandria — “Moving day for the first group of National Science Foundation workers relocating from the agency’s Ballston headquarters to Alexandria starts this weekend, more than four years — and more than a bit of controversy — after selecting the site for its new home.” [Washington Business Journal]

TSA Moving to Springfield — The headquarters of the Transportation Security Administration will be moving from Pentagon City to Springfield, after the GSA awarded a new 15-year, $316 million lease. The move is expected to take place in 2020. [Washington Business Journal]

Construction Activity at DCA — Construction is underway at Reagan National for the airport’s $1 billion expansion project. [NBC Washington]

‘Doc’ Muse Dies — “Leonard ‘Doc’ Muse, who for 65 years – from the era of Jim Crow to the election of an African-American president – watched over the Nauck community from his perch behind the counter of the Green Valley Pharmacy, died the weekend of Aug. 19-20. He was 94 years old.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

Bloomberg BNA Expansion — Crystal City-based Bloomberg BNA will invest $5.5 million to expand in Arlington County and create up to 125 new jobs. Governor McAuliffe approved a $500,000 grant from the Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist with the project. [Augusta Free Press]

Suspect Has Missing Ex-Wife — The Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested a man in Arlington this weekend in connection with the 2009 disappearance of his girlfriend, who lived in D.C. Now Jose Rodriguez-Cruz also has been tied to the disappearance of his first wife, who was last seen in 1989. Arlington County police have opened an investigation into her disappearance. [WTOP] [NBC Washington]

Overnight I-66 Closures — VDOT will be closing part of eastbound I-66 for 20 minute intervals tonight for toll construction. Beginning at 9:30 p.m. and running until 5 a.m. on Wednesday, closures will occur on eastbound I-66 between I-495 north and Lee Highway.

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Another Land Acquisition Proposed to Expand Banneker Park

Banneker Park Land ExpansionThe Arlington County Board will consider the purchase of another parcel of land for the expansion of Benjamin Banneker Park, near East Falls Church, at its meeting this Saturday.

The property at 6616 18th Street N., near the park’s existing playground and adjacent to the W&OD Trail and Four Mile Run, is approximately 8,250 square feet.

The homeowner has already signed an Agreement of Sale with the county at a purchase price of $637,500. The agreement needs approval from the County Board to be finalized.

There’s a house on the property that is occupied by tenants of the owner. If approved, it will be demolished as part of the acquisition as it was not found to have historical significance.

According to the agenda item about the purchase, the county first expressed interest in this land in January. It is one of several parcels along 18th Street North identified in the 2005 Public Spaces Master Plan as land that could be acquired for the expansion.

It is also the second piece of land the County has moved to purchase this year.

In February, the County Board unanimously approved the purchase of 8,375 square feet of land at 6608 18th Street N., which is one property away from the one now awaiting purchase approval. That plot sold for more than $688,700 and also had a house on it when the county purchased it.

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County Buying House to Expand Lang Street Community Garden

Arl Comm Garden For the second time in a year, Arlington County is planning to expand one of its seven community gardens.

The County Board yesterday unanimously approved the purchase of a house at 2822 S. Arlington Ridge Road, a .22 acre property adjacent to the Lang Street Community Garden, for $699,000.

The house is described as a “modest, colonial-style home built three-quarters of a century ago,” which was determined to not be historic.

The County plans to tear down the house and use the land to expand the garden, which is currently 1.2 acres and includes 70 garden plots. The expansion will enable the addition of 45 half-size plots.

Arlington has seven community gardens comprising about 300 individual plots. As of now, the wait list for one of these plots has close to 500 names on it.

Photo via arlingtonva.us

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South Block Cafe in Clarendon to Expand

South Block Cafe(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) As it approaches its third anniversary of opening in Clarendon, South Block Cafe (3011 11th Street N.) have unveiled plans for growth. The juice, smoothie and wrap shop will expand into the spot next door previously occupied by Clarendon Alliance, which moved to 3033 Wilson Blvd. earlier this week.

Owner Amir Mostafavi explained he decided to expand because South Block’s line of raw, unpasteurized, cold pressed juices — called South Block Juice Co. — has enjoyed a tremendous response from customers. South Block opened in 2011 and the juice line launched more than a year ago.

“This brand has sort of taken on a life of its own. So we have decided to give the juice its own space, and we are putting our first South Block Juice Co. location in the Clarendon Alliance Spot next door to us,” Mostafavi said. “I refer to South Block Juice Co. as a ‘micro-juicery,’ so we are having a little fun with this and taking on some traits of a microbrewery.”

Similar to beer flights at a microbrewery, South Block customers soon will be able to sample “juice flights.” Visitors also can take home a growler of juice and get information on juice cleanses.

“In general, this will allow us to expand on what has become a very good part of our business,” said Mostafavi. “South Block Juice Co. will be a brand whose focus is on nutrition, community, art and charity.”

The new juice store is expected to open in September.

The company plans to begin construction later this month on a new juice production kitchen in East Falls Church, which will allow for producing a larger volume of juice. South Block also intends to offer more juice varieties after the expansion.

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Pentagon City Mall Expansion Proposed

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is planning a 50,000 square foot expansion that will add new street-facing retail space to the front of the mall.

The plan is being presented to Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee tonight (Wednesday). The meeting is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.)

The expansion would eliminate some of the driveway in front of the mall, facing S. Hayes Street, and replace it with a two-level addition featuring 46,000 square feet of lease-able space for 5-7 tenants. In a presentation, mall owner Simon Property Group says it plans to market the outward-facing retail bays to “fashion retail, fast casual dining and restaurants.”

As proposed, the facade of the addition will be largely curved, featuring glass, tapered metal panels and limestone. Along the outside of the curved portion of the addition will be outdoor cafe-style seating.

No word yet on when the site plan amendment required for the project to proceed will reach the Arlington County Board for consideration.

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O’Sullivan’s to Unveil New Addition

It’s taken about six months of construction and renovations, but O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub (3207 Washington Blvd) is ready to unveil its expansion.

The bar has taken over the space previously occupied by Fragrance World and Sam’s Corner. Owner Anselm Griffiths said there are still about two weeks worth of small projects to accomplish before the bar is considered finished.

Griffiths and his wife, the bar’s namesake Karen O’Sullivan, have owned the business for about seven years and have been interested in expansion nearly from the get go.

“I think we’ve had our eye on the little fragrance shop since we moved in,” Griffiths said. “When the space became available we were very happy to grab it up.”

The new space has been converted into a whiskey bar, with room for table seating. Bartenders will serve up more than 100 brands of whiskey, along with an expanded selection of tap beers.

“We definitely wanted to have a second bar to give us the ability to do private functions, which is something we’ve been turning away since we opened,” Griffiths said. “We think whiskey is sort of a great niche to get into, it’s definitely trending right now. I think a lot of the young people are getting back to more classic drinks.”

Much of the menu will stay the same for now, but there will be an effort to incorporate more of the whiskeys into sauces.

Despite the new bar, extra seating and additional restrooms, management wants customers to know O’Sullivan’s largely remains the same.

“We’re still keeping the character of O’Sullivan’s. It’s a family owned bar, that’s how it’s going to stay,” said General Manager Patrick Doody. “We will preserve the atmosphere that’s been really successful for us. That’s not going anywhere, we just have an extra room. What made us a really good local neighborhood Irish bar will stay the same.”

The exterior has been restored to how the building looked in the 1920s.

“Arlington County had a lot of say in the design of the exterior because the building was marked for historical preservation,” Griffiths said. “It was fun working with Arlington County on that. We spent a little more time and money, but it is really neat to restore the building.”

Tonight there will be a “soft opening” for invited guests, but the public will be able to get a peek at the changes on Thursday (January 31). An official grand opening celebration is being planned, and will feature a buffet and live band. An announcement on the date for that event is forthcoming, but it’s expected to be in about two weeks. Until then, the managers hope people come in to check out the upgrades.

“We’re looking forward to the new challenges of the new whiskey bar. We’re looking forward to more regulars, more people coming through the doors,” Doody said. “O’Sullivan’s is staying the same, it’s just getting a little bit bigger.”

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