Arlington, VA

The Dept. of Justice has filed a civil action that would seize nine acres of county land on the eastern end of Columbia Pike by eminent domain, in order to expand Arlington National Cemetery.

The suit appears to be part of the long-standing plan to expand the cemetery around the Air Force Memorial, and includes no indication of resistance from the county. Arlington endorsed the federal proposal in April, which realigns and upgrades a portion of Columbia Pike in exchange for the county-owned land next to the cemetery.

As of Tuesday morning neither the Justice Department nor the county responded to requests for comment by ARLnow.

The action was announced Monday, with the DOJ touting it as a win for both military veterans and local residents.

“When completed, the Arlington National Cemetery Southern Expansion Project will provide for approximately 60,000 additional burial sites, including an above ground columbarium,” said a press release. “The expansion will extend the timeline for Arlington National Cemetery to continue as an active military cemetery.”

“The expansion project will benefit Arlington County and its residents by, among other things, burying overhead power lines and incorporating the Air Force Memorial and surrounding vacant land into Arlington National Cemetery,” the press release continues. “The project will transform Columbia Pike from South Oak Street to Washington Boulevard by re-aligning and widening it. The project includes streetscape zones with trees on both sides of Columbia Pike, adding a new dedicated bike path, and widening pedestrian walkways. The project also provides for the construction of a new South Nash Street.”

The full press release is below.

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The Arlington County Board is set to consider a school expansion project that will involve changes to a local library.

Arlington Public Schools is requesting a use permit to add 150 seats to its Arlington Tech program at the Arlington Career Center. It’s the prelude to a larger expansion project for the facility at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive, which would add 800 new high school seats and a 200,000 square foot addition by 2025.

The current project would add the new student capacity — bringing the total Arlington Tech seats from 350 to 500 — via interior changes, namely the use of what is currently the second floor of the Columbia Pike Branch Library. The library, in turn, would be modernized consolidated on the first floor of the building.

“Both floors of the existing Columbia Pike Branch Library will be renovated, with the second floor converted to classroom space for APS use during school hours and County use outside school hours,” a county staff report says. “There are no proposed changes to the façade of the building.”

If approved, Construction is expected to kick off in July or August and run through late fall. The library would be closed for 3-4 months, prompting some concerns from nearby residents.

“The Arlington Heights Civic Association expressed their concerns regarding the closure of the library during the renovations,” the staff report notes. “Residents will be able to access other full-service libraries to use the same services offered at this location, including the Shirlington, Aurora Hills and Glencarlyn branches, as well as the use of public computers at the nearby Walter Reed Community Center.”

The item at the end of the agenda for the Board’s meeting this coming Saturday.

More from the county staff report:

The Board will consider Arlington Public Schools’ request for an amendment to its Use Permit for the Arlington Career Center, located at 816 S. Walter Reed Drive. If approved, the amendment would allow APS to add 150 seats for the Arlington Tech high school program through interior renovations that would include renovating both floors of the Columbia Pike Branch Library. The number of seats at the Career Center would be increased from 800 to 950. The plan calls for converting the library’s second floor to classroom space during school hours and County use outside school hours. The modernized library would be consolidated on the first floor. During the anticipated three to four months of renovations, the library would be closed. If the plan is approved, APS expects to begin construction in July or August 2020 and finish in late fall. To read the staff report, scroll to Item No. 34. on the agenda.

As a result of the renovations, the total ACC building capacity will increase from 800 seats to 950 seats. With its existing functions consolidated to the first floor, the library will be modernized with new technology, furniture, and equipment that improves the delivery of current resources and programs. During the renovations, which are anticipated to last for approximately three (3) to four (4) months, the library and its programs and services will be closed. Due to financial costs and the short-term nature of the closure, there are no plans to set up a temporary library location. However, residents will be able to access other full-service libraries to use the same services provided at this branch, including the Shirlington, Aurora Hills and Glencarlyn branches, as well as the use of public computers at the nearby Walter Reed Community Center.

While the renovations were initially intended to occur during the 2020 summer break and completed in time for the 2020-21 school year, due to the uncertainty related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) the planned renovations have been delayed with an anticipated construction start date of July/August 2020. APS intends to proceed with the renovations as soon as reasonable in coordination with pandemic recovery. In the interim, to accommodate the growing enrollment at Arlington Tech, APS is pursuing alternatives over the 2020 summer break to increase seat capacity including minor interior renovations to add a new science lab and rightsize existing classrooms, as well as the temporary installation of eight (8) additional relocatables on the existing parking lot.

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(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Marymount University President Irma Becerra isn’t slowing down.

With the 2019-20 school year underway and 455 students moved into the new upscale apartments at the newly-acquired “Rixey” building in Ballston, part of a $250 million investment in Marymount’s expanded Ballston presence, Becerra is continuing to push her Strategic Plan to double the Catholic university’s in size by 2024.

Becerra and Marymount are in the beginning planning phases of a project to repurpose buildings on the main campus to add capacity for an additional 3,000 students. She is also working on a capital investment plan to increase the university’s endowment nearly sixfold — from $43 million to $250 million.

Eventually, Becerra said, Marymount will have to build additional buildings for student housing if the university wants to reach its eventual goal of 10,000 enrolled students. As of last fall, there were 3,418 students in both graduate and undergraduate programs.

“Some of the growth will be fully online, and others will be through hybrid programs that will require less physical time on campus,” Becerra said. “We don’t anticipate an issue, but more buildings will probably come in the latter part of the next five years.”

As for the cost that comes with doubling a university size, Becerra said funding “would come through a combination of initiatives from corporations and private foundations and the launch of a new capital campaign and government funding.”

Within the next few years, she hopes the school will establish itself as a top producer of highly-competitive talent for all Arlington businesses, from Amazon to local startups.

With Amazon’s HQ2 being staffed up, there is a particular focus on technology at Marymount. Earlier this year Marymount recently hired tech-oriented entrepreneur Jonathan Aberman as interim dean of its business school. And a new artificial intelligence curriculum is being incorporated into every major “from arts to biology.”

Marymount will have competition in that regard: George Mason University and Virginia Tech also working on major local expansion plans with a tech focus.

In addition to doubling the university’s size, Becerra is seeking to raise its national profile. That effort is bearing some fruit, particularly with Marymount jumping more than 20 spots in its U.S. News and World Report rankings. At the same time, she wants to maintain the school’s local feel and connection.

“We’re Arlington’s only headquartered university, and we’d like to think of ourselves as ‘Arlington’s University,'” Becerra said. “There’s a significance to be headquartered here, and between [being] instrumental  to changing the Ballston experience, we have a number of proposals of how we’re going to work with local employers in the area and how we can help support the workforce needs in the community.”

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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) Nestlé is expanding its Rosslyn headquarters.

Monday Properties, which owns the company’s headquarters at 1812 N. Moore in Rosslyn, announced on this week that the company will be expanding from its presence from 252,000 square feet to 300,000 square feet.

The expansion means Nestlé will occupy 18 floors of the 35-story building. The Washington Business Journal reports that the company “plans to use the extra room for conference facilities, meetings and event space for its team.”

The company relocated its U.S. headquarters to Arlington in 2017 — a move that netted the company several million dollars in grant funding, as well as nearby infrastructure improvements, from Arlington County.

“Our Rosslyn community continues to bring in some of the country’s finest companies, and we are pleased to play a significant part in this incredible momentum,” Austin Freeman, senior vice president of asset management for Monday Properties, said in a press release.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to build our relationship with Nestlé and its employees, as well as attract exceptional companies to our community that will benefit not only from a high-quality office environment, but from Rosslyn’s social and lifestyle transformation as a true destination hub for world-class businesses,” Freeman said.

Monday Properties noted that its other marquee corporate tenants in Rosslyn include Gerber (which is owned by Nestlé), Yext, Deloitte, Gartner, Accenture, Sands Capital, Raytheon and Grant Thornton.

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The STEM Preschool at 3120 S. Abingdon Street in Fairlington is planning a sizable capacity increase.

According to an application filed on this Saturday’s Arlington County Board agenda, the facility is proposing an expansion from 66 children to 106 and employee increase from 15 to 22.

The new capacity is nearly double the 55 children originally approved by the County Board in 2014. In October 2015, the board approved a use permit amendment, allowing the facility to expand to its current capacity of 66 children.

In a report on the project, staff said the facility can accommodate the number of children proposed with the expansion.

Staff noted that the facility also has adequate parking under current zoning and has more than it would need under a new zoning ordinance taking effect on July 1, which would shift the parking measurement from one space per staff person to one space per eight children.

In the report, staff recommended approval of the application.

“The operation of the existing child care center has not and is not expected with the increase in capacity to adversely affect the health or safety of persons residing or working in the neighborhood and is not in conflict with the purposes of the master plans of the County,” staff wrote. “Overall, staff believes that the amended use will continue to be a quality addition to the community and have minimal impacts on neighboring areas.”

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Clarendon-based bakery Bakeshop is expanding.

This week Bakeshop opened a new location in the City of Falls Church. The new shop had its soft opening yesterday (Monday) after weeks of teasing pictures of new equipment and barista training with Vigilante coffee on social media.

Founder Justin Stegall told ARLnow he “loves Arlington” but “was traveling around and kind of fell love in with Falls Church also.”

“The neighborhood vibe is a little less urban, a little more old-fashioned,” he said of Falls Church.

It was a neighborhood he thought could use a cupcake shop, and as of this week it has one. Bakeshop is now open at 100 E. Fairfax Street and plans to be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Stegall added that he will tailor the Falls Church menu to suit his new customers, likely adding more breakfast options and some exclusive cookies.

For now the new bakery shares a menu with the Clarendon location, which features a rotating cast of cupcakes with favorites like salty caramel and red velvet, as well as cakes, pies, and some light breakfast fare like croissants and scones.

The flagship Clarendon store on 1025 N. Fillmore Street has gained fame over the years for personal stories posted on Facebook post in 2016, and being featured on the Cooking Channel in 2012.

Stegall said he’s “very happy to have become a piece of the Arlington fabric.”

Nearly ten years after some critics (including our commentators) predicted the 2010 cupcake fad would fade, Stegall and his staff are still in business.

“It’s crazy for me to think about,” he said. “Ten years is a pretty big chunk of life. I never even had a ten-year-out plan.”

When asked if he has plans to continue expansion, Stegall laughed.

“The vision right now is to stay with the two until the next vision comes,” he said.

Photo via Facebook

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An art studio for kids along Lee Highway is looking to double in size as part of its new expansion plans.

Art House 7, located at 5537 Lee Highway in Yorktown, is looking for the County Board’s permission to earn the necessary zoning changes to make the move. The studio has offered classes and summer camps on everything from painting to pottery-making since it opened in the space in 2015.

Art House 7 is currently based in a condo complex near the Lee Harrison shopping center, with classes offered on both floors of the small home. But its owners recently purchased an adjacent condo as well, located at 5535 Lee Highway, and wants to expand its operations there as well, according to a report prepared by county staff.

That would allow the studio to double the number of students allowed in the space at any given time, from 12 kids up to 24.

Staff wrote that they haven’t found any reason to deny that request, and noted that both the Yorktown and Leeway Overlee civic associations support the permit changes.

The matter is slated to go before the Board Saturday (March 16), as part of its consent agenda. That is generally reserved for noncontroversial items passed without debate.

So long as the Board signs off on this change, it would be up for review in one year’s time.

Photo via Arlington County

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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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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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