Arlington, VA

On Sunday afternoon, the Green Valley community celebrated the 104th birthday of Ms. Mary Sheppard Lockett with a drive-by parade of cars.

A line of nearly 40 cars plus Arlington police and fire vehicles drove by her house on S. Kenmore Street, honking and blaring sirens and shouting congratulations.

It was all a surprise for the centenarian, according to Green Valley Civic Association President Portia Clark.

Sheppard Lockett’s son and daughter brought her out on the porch, surprising their 104-year-old mother with a parade dedicated to her.

“She very much enjoyed it,” Clark says.

Sheppard Lockett is one of the oldest residents in Green Valley. Born in 1917 down the road in Bailey’s Crossroads, she moved to Green Valley in 1939. The house she currently lives in was built by her late husband Edward Lockett.

According to Clark, Sheppard Lockett remains pretty self-sufficient.

Several of her children live close by to assist, but she continues to make her own meals, clean her own house, and iron her own clothes. Waking up at 5 a.m. every day, Sheppard Lockett usually heads off to bed at 7:30 p.m., after Wheel of Fortune.

“She likes her independence,” says Clark.

Until she was 90, she drove her 1976 blue Chevy station wagon while, according to Clark, never receiving a ticket. Sheppard Lockett was particularly elated to have been able to witness the first Black U.S. president and his family living in the White House. She has also remained a member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Alexandria for more than eight decades.

Sheppard Lockett’s words of wisdom include “eat your blueberries daily.”

According to the 2010 census, Virginia had about 1,200 residents over the age of 100, with that number going up in recent years. In 2018, Arlington County recognized and celebrated 19 centurians, including Lockett.

Clark says that over the last several years, the Green Valley community alone has celebrated 100th birthdays of four local residents.

She laughs, “There must be something in the water.”

Photo courtesy of Portia Clark

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Arlington-based Saint Timothy and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church is making plans to build a new church building on a vacant lot in Green Valley that it recently acquired.

The church — which also goes by the abbreviated STSA Church — currently rents space at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus at 3351 Fairfax Drive. It is, however, operating virtually due to the coronavirus.

STSA Church was established in Arlington in 2012 with a mission to “bring an ancient faith to a modern world,” according to the website.

Fr. Anthony Messeh, the church’s pastor, confirmed the planned expansion in an email with ARLnow, saying he will have more details in the coming weeks.

The site at 2640 Shirlington Road is a 39,867-square-foot parcel of vacant land, according to Arlington County property records, overgrown with trees and brush.

The Arlington County Board was tentatively slated to approve an easement associated with the new ownership at its meeting on Jan. 23. The item was removed from the agenda, however, because the form of the deed “is not finalized and the plat had not been approved in time for the January meeting,” said Mary Curtius, a spokeswoman with the county board office, in an email.

The item will likely come before the County Board in February or March, Curtius said.

Old blog posts and YouTube videos indicate that the church community has been looking to buy for years. In 2014, it ran a campaign to raise $2 million to purchase a building, but the attempt appears to have been unsuccessful and the campaign website no longer works.

“Unfortunately, we cannot have signage to let people in Arlington know that there is a church here to welcome them,” according to a video from 2o14. “We currently exist only on Sunday mornings as far as the community is concerned, and that lack of full-time presence has prohibited us from reaching more people.”

Image via Google Maps

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Shirlington Road bridge crosswalk (Photo via Google Maps)

As Arlington County prepares to build a new pedestrian and bike bridge in Shirlington — two decades in the making¬†— some continue to express concerns about safety.

Late last week, the county brought advanced concept designs to the community for a new pedestrian and bike span between the Shirlington and Green Valley neighborhoods, and for maintenance to the existing bridge, which has only a narrow pedestrian sidewalk.

While incorporating previous public feedback into the design, questions still cropped up about safety and convenience, particularly regarding the crosswalks across busy S. Arlington Mill Drive and Shirlington Road, which provide access to the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails. Both are heavily-traveled by cyclists.

The first part of the project will be to improve and update the existing bridge. The bridge is in need of routine maintenance and resurfacing, and this project provides a chance for other needed renovations, the county says.

Based on public feedback, staff said they will widen the sidewalk to about 7 feet from a previous 3-5 feet. They will also coordinate the design aesthetic with the renovations to Jennie Dean Park, while adding new guardrails.

However, despite some urging it, the county won’t be removing the slip lane¬†from the I-395 ramp.¬†While admitting that it’s not bike or pedestrian-friendly, county officials say there isn’t much that can be done at present.

The lane is owned and maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Adding a crosswalk there would also increase risk for an incident due to traffic taking the right turn with speed, while the lane it could lead to traffic backing-up on the I-395 ramp.

“We, at the county, are very much interested in [removing the lane],” said Jason Widstrom, Arlington County Transportation Capital Program Manager. “Unfortunately… it is not within our authority to remove it.”

Construction for these renovations should begin in the late summer or early fall of this year and be completed prior to the end of the year.

Then, at the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, construction will begin on a prefabricated, 15-foot pedestrian and bike bridge located 20 feet to the west of the existing bridge. It will parallel the existing bridge, will be multi-use, and have “enhanced pedestrian treatments.”

Additionally, improvements are being made to those crosswalks at Arlington Mill Drive and near the Four Mile Run Trail.

Based on feedback, the county is widening pedestrian ramps and the refuge median, redesigning curbs and the crossing to allow for better sightlines, and adding new rapid flashing beacons to improve visibility of the crosswalk. There’s also thought of trimming trees to further help sightlines.

Crosswalk safety, particularly near the Four Mile Trail, has long been a concern for residents.

“County staff is well aware of the history of the crosswalk and the troubles of trying to cross at this location,” says Widstrom.

Funding for these projects are coming from a state grant and will cost just over $1 million.

County officials said they would like to do a longer term study about adding a bridge that goes over Shirlington Road and thus separates vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

That study remains “down the road,” however, and costs to add that bridge could exceed $8 million.

In the meantime, said Widstrom,¬†“we are trying to make the situation a bit better.”

Photo (1) via Google Maps, (2) via Arlington County

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A man was robbed of his gun by an armed, masked man over the weekend in the Green Valley neighborhood, according to Arlington County police.

The alleged incident happened around 8:30 a.m. Saturday on the 2400 block of S. Lowell Street.

“The victim was waiting outside for a ride to a shooting range when he was approached from behind by the unknown suspect,” said today’s ACPD crime report. “The suspect then grabbed a case containing a firearm from the victim. When the victim turned around, he observed the suspect pointing a firearm at him. The suspect then fled on foot.”

“The suspect is described as a Black male, approximately 6’1″-6’2″, wearing blue jeans, a black hooded jacket, black ski mask, and black and red shoes,” the crime report continues. “The investigation is ongoing.”

The robbery was not reported to police until Monday afternoon, the crime report noted.

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John Robinson, Jr. spent his time and energy advocating for Arlington’s minority residents, and on Tuesday (Nov. 17) the County Board will consider renaming the future town square in Green Valley in his honor.

The Green Valley Civic Association wants to rename what is currently known as Nauck Town Square, at 2400 S. Shirlington Road, to John Robinson, Jr. Town Square. The association asked the County to change the name last year, and the Planning Commission approved the recommendation.

“John Robinson, Jr., was a community activist who fought to break down segregationist barriers in housing, food counters and movie theaters in northern Virginia,” the Green Valley Civic Association said in their resolution. “Mr. Robinson coordinated with local authorities to take drugs off the streets and organized food, clothing and furniture drives for local families…¬†Over the years, he opened his doors to hundreds of people who were homeless.”

The town square is currently under construction, with a projected completion date in the third quarter of 2021. The nearly $5 million project was approved in 2019 and will feature an outdoor stage, a plaza, and tables. Around the time the project was approved, the neighborhood changed its name from Nauck to Green Valley.

Robinson, who passed away in 2012, was the¬†publisher of the Green Valley News, a free newspaper serving the historically Black neighborhood. He was affectionately regarded as the “Mayor of Green Valley” by neighbors.

The County Manager is recommending the Board approve the renaming.

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The Macedonia Baptist Church in Green Valley is asking for a three-year extension on its plan to build a new community swimming pool.

The church at¬†3412 22nd Street S. owns a property across the street that currently includes a two-story preschool and an out-of-commission swimming pool and bath house. The aquatic facilities “were constructed in the 1960s, to serve a Y.M.C.A; however, the pool has been out of use since the late 2000s,” a county staff report notes.

In 2018 the church sought and received approval for a plan to build a new community pool at the site, to include a dome for all-season use. However, it’s still working to secure the funds for the project, and the window for starting construction is closing.

The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected consider a proposal to extend the window for three years, through October 31, 2023. County staff is recommending approval.

More from the staff report:

The applicant (Macedonia Baptist Church) requests a three (3) year extension of two (2) use permits: one (1) for a new community swimming pool, located at 3440 22nd St. S.; and one (1) to allow shared parking on its church parking lot, at 3412 22nd St. S. In October 2019, the County Board approved a one (1) year term extension for each subject use permit. However, neither use has commenced construction or operation since initial approval in October 2018, and the applicant requests additional time to acquire financing for the project. Pursuant to the Arlington County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) ¬ß15.4.5, construction or operation of a use permit shall be commenced within one (1) year of the date of issuance or the use permit becomes void. However, the County Board may extend the period of validity for up to three (3) years upon its determination that additional time may be needed to commence construction or operation. Staff supports the applicant’s amendment request to extend the period of validity to 2023, given the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 emergency, the County’s recent efforts to revitalize community swimming pool zoning standards, and the applicant’s agreement to the previously approved, mitigating conditions.

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Morning Notes

New Name for Green Valley Park — “A year after it was first proposed, the renaming of Nauck Town Square in honor of a longtime Green Valley civic leader looks headed to success. The name ‘John Robinson Jr. Town Square’ has won the support of the Park and Recreation Commission, Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Commission, Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) and the civic associations of Green Valley, Shirlington and Douglas Park.” [InsideNova]

Beyer Blasts Trump Taxes¬†–“The revelation that Donald Trump paid almost no personal income taxes for many years is not surprising, but it is outrageous. Far more important, however, is Trump’s use of the government for his personal benefit rather than that of the American people.” [Press Release]

Memorial Circle Changes — “The National Park Service is taking action to make the roads and trails at Memorial Circle safer. Starting today, drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will see higher visibility crosswalks, new signage & flashing beacons, clearer lane markings & repaved road markings.” [@NationalLanding/Twitter]

Officials Seek Info About Abandoned Dog — “Do you recognize this dog or vehicle? On 9/24 @ 8pm, a person in this vehicle abandoned a dog in a crate near the 5000 blk 7th St S. If you have information regarding this dog or vehicle, please contact Animal Control.” [@AWLAArlington/Twitter]

Rainbow Over Arlington After Sunshower — “Courthouse rainbow spotted from our office with a view.” [@ArlingtonVaPD/Twitter]

Heavy Rain Tonight — “A slug of heavy rainfall is set to drench the Washington area and points east during the middle of the week, with an inch or so likely…¬†It seems likely that a band of heavy downpours arrives [this evening], then perhaps lasting much of the overnight and tapering down from west to east Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Local affordable housing developer AHC Inc. is in the early stages of redeveloping the Fort Henry Gardens apartment complex in Green Valley.

Located on the 2400 block of S. Lowell Street, Fort Henry Gardens currently consists of “82 affordable garden apartments in a tree-lined community minutes from the bustling Shirlington neighborhood.”¬†The complex “was built in the 1960s and is in need of an update,” according to AHC Communications Director Celia Slater.

In its place, AHC wants to build taller, more modern apartment buildings.

“We’re excited about redeveloping Fort¬†Henry¬†Gardens¬†because it’s an aging property and this is an opportunity to provide new, energy efficient homes to hardworking families and individuals who need affordable, quality places to live in Arlington,” Slater said. “There is so much need for affordable living opportunities in Arlington… The redevelopment is also giving us the opportunity to provide homes to a wider variety of individuals, including more one bedroom apartments for seniors, which the community mentioned as a real need.”

“The proposed plan includes 26 three-bedroom apartments and 149 two-bedroom units for families and 120 one-bedroom apartments and 5 studios to serve individuals and couples,” Slater tells ARLnow. “Altogether, the new Fort¬†Henry¬†Gardens¬†could add an additional 218+ new affordable apartments in response to the pressing need for more affordable living options in the county.”

Slater said the new apartment community will have a new fitness center, three open lawn areas surrounded by shade trees, and two preschool-age playgrounds “meant to complement the existing recreational field at Drew Elementary School.”

It will also have some features Slater said were requested by the community, including:

  • Designating the proposed 48-unit building on Lincoln St. to be a senior building after we learned from community members of this need and long-time desire.
  • Almost doubling the size of our on-site community center in response to the need expressed from our AHC Green Valley residents. We currently have a robust Resident Services program at Fort¬†Henry¬†in a fairly small community center. The new space will give our students more room for indoor learning activities and also provide an opportunity to explore additional ways to build community.
  • Committing a healthy portion of our site to outdoor gathering and recreational uses in response to this request from the Civic Association.
  • Designing for solar panels in response to the County’s desire for renewable energy.

AHC is hoping to begin construction in the spring of 2022 and welcome residents back in the spring of 2024. The initial site plan for the redevelopment was submitted to Arlington County in May, Slater said, and the County Board is expected to consider the project early next year.

The developer might face some community skepticism, however, due to complaints about its nearby Shelton apartment building¬†on 24th Street S. In 2016, building residents spoke out publicly, demanding better living conditions. This year, an anonymous group of neighboring residents has been writing letters to AHC and Arlington County complaining about “ongoing noise, litter, and criminal issues” associated with the building.

AHC wrote a letter in response, blaming construction at a nearby park for crowds gathering outside the building, and Arlington County police for not responding to noise complaints.

“Both our residents and our staff have found their calls to police to be nonproductive this summer,” the letter said. “Our residents report that the police are not responding to their calls about noise and large gatherings.”

(ACPD confirmed to ARLnow that “the¬†department¬†is¬†diverting some non-emergency incidents¬†to the online reporting system,” while continuing to respond to “in-progress crimes and emergency calls for service where there is an immediate threat to life, health or property.” Overall police call volume to Green Valley for the period from Jan. 1-Aug. 31 was down 16%, according to department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.)

Robin Stombler and Portia Clark, who lead the Green Valley Civic Association, said they are in touch with the anonymous letter writer and are working to address the issues with the apartment building and with the police department. Stombler and Clark said they do not believe County Board involvement is needed to address issues with the Shelton at this time, but suggested that they want to see AHC make some changes.

“Suffice to say, AHC Inc. will need to reexamine how they conduct business in our community in order to garner our support,” they wrote.

Slater, meanwhile, said AHC “will continue to meet with the Green Valley Civic Association and other neighbors throughout” the Fort Henry Gardens redevelopment process.

Photo (1) via AHC Inc., (2) via Google Maps

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Board has approved a nearly $4 million contract to plan, design and manage the construction of a new bus facility in the Green Valley neighborhood.

The Board unanimously approved the contract for a new Arlington Transit (ART) operations and maintenance facility at its Tuesday night meeting. The new facility will be built on a property along the 2600 block of Shirlington Road that the county bought for $24 million in 2018.

At the Board’s Saturday meeting, a resident expressed concern about temporary bus parking¬†at nearby Jennie Dean Park.

“I think we can safely say that we’re not going to park buses on Jennie Dean Park again,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in response, noting that the new facility is part of the reason why.

The imminent expansion of Jennie Dean Park and another recently-built ART facility in Crystal City are, presumably, the other reasons why there will be no additional temporary bus parking at the park.

As for the difference between ART’s $17.6 million Crystal City facility, and the planned Green Valley facility, with its¬†$81.2 million project budget, Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman¬†Eric Balliet said the two have different functions.

“The ART bus facility at South Eads and 32nd Streets, completed in summer 2017, is a smaller facility that includes a light-duty maintenance bay, a bus wash bay, compressed natural gas fueling station and parking,” Balliet told ARLnow. “The ART facility planned for Shirlington Road will include the permanent operations, administration, bus and operator parking and maintenance facilities necessary to support ART’s current and future needs.”

More on the contract approval, from a county press release:

The Board also voted unanimously to approve a $3.9 million contract with Stantec Architecture, Inc., for planning, design, and construction administration services for a new Arlington Rapid Transit (ART) Operations and Maintenance Facility at 2631 and 2635 Shirlington Road. The project, meant to meet ART’s current and future needs, will be built under a Construction Manager at Risk process to control costs.

ART, the County’s local bus service, currently operates out of four facilities. The new facility will improve transit efficiency and reduce operating costs by centralizing ART’s operational and administrative tasks and making it easier to perform preventative maintenance and unscheduled repairs. The facility will include permanent operations, administration, parking, and maintenance facilities to support ART’s growing fleet now and in the future.

The project will achieve at least Silver LEED Building Design + Construct Certification and will include sustainable materials and systems.¬† Community feedback will be sought this fall and winter during the concept design and advanced design phases. The project will also be reviewed by the County’s Public Facilities Review Committee. Staff plans a socially distant walking tour, online open house materials, and an online feedback form to help gather feedback. The facility is expected to be completed in 2023.

The total project budget is $81.2 million, which includes the 2018 land purchase, construction, equipment, and soft costs. Funding is mainly from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), with a combination of funding from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT)  and local sources. The project was originally approved in the Fiscal Year 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan.

Map via Google Maps

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The father of a man killed in Arlington’s Green Valley neighborhood this spring has been arrested and charged with his murder.

Marshall Stephens, 45, was found dead the evening of April 23, in the driver’s seat of a car parked on the 1900 block of S. Lowell Street. Police said Thursday that 65-year-old Marshall Stephens, Sr. shot and killed his son in a “domestic-related homicide.”

The victim was an Arlington resident while the elder Stephens is a resident of Baltimore County, Maryland. Stephens, Sr. is currently being held in the Arlington County jail on a charge of murder and a weapons violation.

More from Arlington County police:

The investigation determined this incident to be a domestic-related homicide. Marshall Stephens Sr., 65, of Parkville, MD, has been arrested and charged with Murder and Use of a Firearm in the Commission of a Felony. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

This remains an active criminal investigation and anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at¬†703-228-4180¬†or¬†[email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at¬†1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

A police spokeswoman said the department does not speculate about motives and did not have any additional information to release.

Stephens’ death was the second of three homicides so far¬†this year in Arlington.

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