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After Years of Delays, County Finally Breaks Ground on Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center

Very little about the effort to build an aquatics center at Long Bridge Park has ever been easy — and that includes the project’s long-awaited groundbreaking.

Mother Nature had one last obstacle in store for county leaders as they gathered to finally turn some dirt at Long Bridge, delivering a formidable deluge that thoroughly soaked the construction site ahead of Tuesday’s ceremonial start to construction.

Yet even as the rain turned the ground to mush and tested the limits of attendees’ umbrellas, Arlington officials pressed on with a celebration of a project that’s been decades in the making.

“This project has endured worse than a little rain,” joked County Board Chair Katie Cristol.

Voters approved funding for the project in a 2012 bond referendum, but major cost overruns prompted county leaders to delay the facility’s construction two years later, and it quickly became a hot-button issue in that year’s local elections.

After a lengthy process of scaling back the project’s scope, and reducing its cost, the Board signed off on its construction last fall — but even still, some in the community would rather see it pushed back once more as the county wrestles with a budget dilemma.

Those are all big reasons why Jay Fisette, who served on the Board for 20 years, compared the project to a church in Barcelona, Spain that’s been under construction since 1882. Toby Smith, a local activist who helped lead the Long Bridge Park planning process, added that he “can measure the project’s length by the height of my kids.”

“It’s fair to say I did have doubts over the years, even as the community was largely still behind it,” Fisette told ARLnow. “It wasn’t clear every moment that it was going to happen… but groundbreaking helps it become eminently real.”

Fisette remembers some delays prompted when planners working to design the park, which opened across from the Pentagon in 2011, decided to shift where the aquatics center would be located within Long Bridge. He also puts some of the blame for the project’s long timeline on himself, recalling his insistence that the facility meet the new energy efficiency standards he fought to impose for county buildings.

“It was never expected to happen quickly,” Fisette said. “Good things sometimes take a long time.”

Still, Cristol lamented that it was “bittersweet” that the county would break ground on the project without Carrie Johnson around to see it. As one of the county’s longest tenured planning commissioners, Johnson played a key role in shepherding the entire Long Bridge Park project through the process, but she passed away this May.

“Years down the road, we’ll all be thanking Carrie Johnson for this,” Smith said.

But for all the project’s long history, Cristol points out that many of Arlington’s new arrivals are only now learning about aquatics center. She feels Long Bridge is as much about the county’s future as its past, and she hopes the upcoming construction work “will give people a chance to learn about what will be coming here.”

Work is set to wrap up in 2021, with a 50-meter pool, diving towers, a family pool and a series of additional park improvements on tap for the area by the time it’s completed.

So even if the project required some long nights, a few headaches and one last morning in the rain, Fisette feels it was all worth the effort.

“This area used to be an invisible place,” Fisette said. “It was a wasteland, where you’d only come if your car got towed. This is going to transform it into a vibrant community amenity.”

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Construction Kicks Off on Eastbound I-66 Widening, New Lane to Open in 2020

Construction kicked off this morning (Thursday) on a persistently congested section of eastbound I-66 with a ceremonial groundbreaking on Fairfax Drive.

The estimated $125 million project will add a lane to stretch approximately four miles inside the Beltway — from the Dulles Connector Road to Fairfax Drive — while mostly maintaining the existing right of way.

VDOT plans to complete construction of the lane in fall 2020. There will be night time lane closures along the project route throughout the summer to accommodate construction, according to information presented at a June 5 community meeting.

Night time closures will continue on a more limited basis through summer 2019. By the end of this summer, VDOT plans to begin primarily conducting work during the day without lane closures.

The findings of a noise analysis in the fall will potentially allow VDOT to incorporate approved noise walls into final construction plans.

Two other projects are slated to be completed by October 2021 as part of the widening initiative. First, a new ramp will be built to establish direct access to the West Falls Church Metro station from the highway. Second, a pedestrian bridge will be constructed over Lee Highway on the W&OD Trail. Currently, the trail crosses Lee Highway at its intersection with Fairfax Drive.

These plans have not gone uncontested — Preservation Arlington included the inside the Beltway portion of the highway on its 2017 list of “endangered historic places” and some East Falls Church residents have expressed concerns about the pedestrian bridge, for example.

Shannon Valentine, Virginia’s Secretary of Transportation, noted in her keynote address at the groundbreaking that I-66 is often considered one of the worst highways in America. Efforts such as this project, dynamically priced tolls on I-66 and an increase in travel options aim to change that.

“As we move forward, smart, targeted investments like the eastbound widening today are steps… [toward] building a transportation platform that supports and enhances our workforce, jobs, business investment and growth,” Valentine said.

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Upscale Potomac Yard Apartment Complex Begins Construction

A 360-unit luxury apartment complex has broken ground in Potomac Yard.

The new 12-story building, to be called The Sur, will have 16,000 square feet of retail space and another 25,000 square feet of shared amenities space. Units range from 557 square foot studios to 1,419 square foot three bedroom apartments. High-end features include a dog spa, a rooftop spa and a “party room.”

Situated on the site of the neighborhood’s namesake former major railroad switchyard, The Sur will be across from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s south end.

On-site construction hours on the site at 3400 Potomac Avenue have been approved from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

The development was originally approved in 2007, but Courthouse-based developer Erkiletian Development Co. sought minor modifications to the plan this past September. The site plan amendment was ultimately given the greenlight by the Arlington County Board.

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APAH Breaks Ground on Affordable Columbia Hills Apartments

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, County Board members and other elected officials and community leaders broke ground yesterday afternoon on the Columbia Hills Apartments, located at 1010 S. Frederick Street, off of Columbia Pike.

“There is dire need for affordable housing” in Arlington, said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul. “We’ve lost 13,500 affordable homes since 2000 so this is an opportunity in a big way to help make up for that.”

Columbia Hills will be APAH’s 15th property. Their 14th property, The Springs Apartments in Buckingham, will be welcoming residents this fall.

The Columbia Hills Apartment property is a $91 million project that includes land donated by APAH and M&T Bank, federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and innovative “hybrid financing.”

“We are proud of the financing and are very appreciative of our partners who have allowed us to take the parking lot out of service and donate it to the new project,” said Janopaul.

Columbia Hills will be built on 1.2 acres of APAH’s land adjacent to the Columbia Grove Apartments. The property includes 10 permanent supportive housing units and 13 accessible units, serving housing needs for senior and disabled residents who cannot live comfortably in the neighboring Columbia Grove walk-up apartments.

The connecting east and west buildings will each be eight stories tall. The buildings will have a total of 229 homes, including 64 studio apartments, 27 one-bedroom units, 110 two-bedroom units, and 28 three-bedroom homes.

The committed affordable apartments are available to lower income households earning 60% of Area Median Income (AMI). There are 10 designated for households below 40% AMI and 39 for households below 50% AMI.

“Columbia Hills is one of the first projects to be developed under the Arlington County’s award-winning Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan and will contribute significantly to meeting the Plan’s goal of preserving 3,000 affordable homes along Columbia Pike,” Janopaul said.

The apartments are expected to be completed in the spring of 2018.

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Morning Notes

View of 23rd Street in Crystal City, from the top of an office building

Groundbreaking for Hotel Project — Developer B.F. Saul broke ground yesterday on a new hotel project. A 10-story Homewood Suites hotel will be replacing the former Colony House Furniture store at 1700 Lee Highway near Rosslyn. Demolition of the store is now proceeding, five years after it closed its doors. [Washington Business Journal]

Kojo Controversy Defused — Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall wasn’t happy with the choice of political operative Ben Tribbett as a call-in guest for a Kojo Nnamdi Show segment on the County Board race — and the candidate made his feelings known via Twitter. Tribbett had done some paid polling work for incumbent Libby Garvey earlier this year, Gutshall pointed out. In the end, Gutshall himself joined the segment as a call-in guest, along with Tribbett and ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. [Storify]

Arlington Posting FOIA Responses Online — Arlington County is now releasing its responses to Freedom of Information Act requests online, for all to see. The first posted response is documents and emails related to NOVA Armory. Said County Manager Mark Schwartz: “My overarching goal is to increase government transparency. This is one simple way that we can share information that we have already collected… which already has some interest from the community.” [Arlington County]

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Courthouse Hotel Breaks Ground, Plans 2016 Opening

Snow began to fall as developers and Arlington officials broke ground this morning at the future site of the Hyatt Place hotel at 2401 Wilson Blvd.

The hotel was approved last spring and is expected to be finished by summer 2016, according to the Schupp Companies, which owns the site. What now sits at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Adams Street — where Wilson Tavern and Northern Virginia Mixed Martial Arts used to be — is a large, empty foundation with graffiti on the sides.

What will be built, starting on Wednesday, is an eight-story, 161-room hotel that will be the first LEED Gold-certified hotel in Arlington, and the first LEED Gold certified Hyatt Place in the country. Ray Schupp, the owner of the Schupp Companies, planned on building a hotel when he first bought the property in 2007.

“I told Ray, ‘that’s a great idea, the county’s going to love that,'” Schupp Development Manager Jim Villars said. “We got site plan approval in May. It’s been a long seven years.”

The plan for the development fluctuated from a hotel, to a planned apartment building, before its final status as a hotel with four single-family houses behind it, as a buffer to the adjacent community. As part of the site plan approval, the developers will donate $1.54 million for a Courthouse Metro elevator and will install a piece of public art at the corner of Wilson and Adams.

“This is a fabulous example of how we can do this moving forward,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said. “The community wanted a hotel here and county staff just needed to find a way to make this work.”

The hotel will be the first Hyatt Place in Arlington, but the brand’s portfolio is rapidly expanding. According to Hyatt Place’s vice president of real estate and development, Jim Tierney, a Hyatt Place is expected to open every other week in the U.S. by the end of the year.

Along with the hotel, the building will have space for a first-floor restaurant — potentially a reincarnation of Wilson Tavern — and two floors of underground parking.

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Developer Breaks Ground on Rosslyn Skyscraper

Arlington officials and real estate developer JBG Companies broke ground this morning on the 31-story residential skyscraper at 1823 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn called Central Place.

The development, which is expected to be complete in 2017, will have two floors of retail, a 17,00-square-foot public plaza and six levels of parking — three below ground and three above. Once the residential tower, which will be one of, if not the tallest, residential building the D.C. area, is complete, JBG will begin construction on an accompanying office space next door, between N. Lynn and Moore Streets.

“Rosslyn is going to continue to benefit from this type of development,” Rep. Jim Moran (D) said from the podium. “The first time I visited Rosslyn close to 50 years ago, it was a place for pawn shops and prostitutes. Today, it’s a dynamic community. It’s going to be the place where people are going to want to work, live and play.”

Although Wednesday morning marked the official groundbreaking ceremony, construction has been ongoing for months on the project. It’s closed several lanes of N. Lynn Street at different times, causing major backups, as well as the McDonald’s that stood in the spot the apartments will soon be. JBG also removed the skywalks over both streets as part of its agreement with the county to bring foot traffic back to street level.

“I think I was here when we knocked down the Orleans House,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said of the demolition of the restaurant at 1213 Wilson Blvd nearby. “I can’t say which I’m more excited about. It was a landmark and had its place in our history, and the McDonald’s does too, but it’s time to move on.”

The groundbreaking was another in a slew of recent landmarks for Rosslyn after the framework for the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update was approved by the County Board earlier this month. The plan would extend 18th Street through central Rosslyn — including between the two Central Place buildings — and connect Arlington’s core developments with the surrounding parks.

“A project like Central Place really changes the neighborhood,” Rosslyn Business Improvement District President Mary-Claire Burick said. “I can tell you, this is what our community wants. We really want a place to hang out and congregate.”

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Groundbreaking for ‘Verde Pointe’ on Lee Highway

(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) A groundbreaking was held Thursday for Verde Pointe, the new residential and retail development on the former Bergmann’s Dry Cleaning site.

The ceremony was held at the site, at Lee Highway and N. Veitch Street, and featured Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and representatives from the developer and other companies involved in the $80 million project.

Verde Pointe, which was approved by the County Board in December 2012, will feature 177 apartments in a 10-story building, 23 townhomes, a 14,000 square foot Mom’s Organic Market and other retail spaces.

Construction is expected to wrap up in the spring or summer of 2015, according to a spokeswoman. The full press release about the groundbreaking, after the jump.

McCaffery Interests, Inc., and Bergmann’s Inc, together with their development partners, civic and community leaders and business representatives, today celebrated the official commencement of construction for Verde Pointe, a new mixed-use development located at the corner of Lee Highway and N Veitch St., in Arlington VA. Valued at $80M, the development will feature two buildings consisting of 177 apartments, 23 townhome apartments, a 14,000 SF Mom’s Organic Market and a three level parking garage.

Jay Fisette, Chair of the Arlington Country Board, attended the event and celebrated the development: “Verde Pointe represents a significant rebirth of the Bergmann’s site. This new development further enhances our community and reinforces Arlington as one of the most dynamic counties in the U.S.”

“We are confident that Verde Pointe will appeal to a variety of individuals seeking an urban living that is convenient, environmentally-friendly, amenity rich, and designed with today’s lifestyle in mind,” remarked Daniel McCaffery, Chairman and CEO, McCaffery Interests, Inc.

Upon completion, Verde Pointe will be a marquee development for Arlington’s energetic and active Courthouse neighborhood. The main apartment building features a stunning glass and steel exterior and includes a roof deck with a pool, game room lounge, grills, fitness room, and business center. Other amenities include a concierge service, package delivery area, residential lockers / storage, a dog washing room, and a supplemental laundry area with large capacity washers and dryers.

The second building is home to Mom’s Organic Market and includes 15 apartments located above the store and 23 townhome apartments with private decks. The project also boasts electric car spaces, shared ride spaces and abundant bike storage for residents.

The building is being constructed using green building practices that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout the design, demolition, construction, operation, and long-term maintenance process. Verde Pointe will seek LEED GOLD Certification, one of the highest ratings by the US Green Building Council.

Cardinal Bank and Burke & Herbert Bank are providing financing. Antunovich Associates designed Verde Pointe and Clark Construction is serving as the general contractor. This is the first joint venture between McCaffery Interests and Bergmann’s.

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Students Break Ground on New Williamsburg Elementary School

(Updated at 11:05 a.m.) Dozens of students who will be attending the new elementary school at Williamsburg Middle School’s campus participated in the new school’s groundbreaking yesterday afternoon.

The approximately 97,000-square-foot elementary school is planned to open before the 2015 school year. The school is planned to be one of the few schools in the country to be energy neutral, meaning the energy it generates with solar panels and other sources will be enough to completely power the school.

“We won’t be relying on Dominion Power,” Arlington Public Schools Director of Facilities Planning Scott Prisco said during the groundbreaking ceremony, held in the Williamsburg gymnasium. “It’s important to show the idea of sustainable design… can look absolutely stellar.”

The new school doesn’t have a name yet — APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that will come after a principal is hired and there is community outreach to settle on the proper name — but Superintendent Patrick Murphy tried to imbue upon the future students that they were becoming a part of history.

“When you’re my age or even older, you can reflect on that you were a part of this groundbreaking for this school,” he said to the dozens of children in attendance.

The construction is expected to cost about $35 million, for a total school cost of $46.5 million. Prisco said yesterday that the project is within budget so far. School Board Chair Abby Raphael beamed when discussing the process of getting the school built and approved.

“It was a really positive boundary process, and that doesn’t happen very often,” she said. “The school is not just a building, it’s a community.”

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Groundbreaking for Ashlawn Elementary Addition

Students, teachers, parents and administrators attended a groundbreaking ceremony for a new addition to Ashlawn Elementary on Friday.

The 27,000 square foot, $14.3 million addition will add nine classrooms, a new media center and administrative offices to the school, which is located off of Wilson Blvd near Bluemont Park. The addition is part of Arlington Public Schools’ effort to boost school capacity amid a burgeoning student population.

The groundbreaking ceremony preceded the school’s annual back-to-school kickoff, picnic and outdoor concert, according to Arlington Public Schools.

Photos courtesy APS

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Morning Notes

Running on the Custis Trail

Ft. Myer Alarm System Test Today — In conjunction with Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Operations, the Department of State will test an alarm system on Summerall Field on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base at 2:30 p.m. today. Residents near the area can expect to hear high noise levels. For more information call 703-696-0573.

September Start Date for Ashlawn Addition Construction — A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for 5:30 p.m. on September 6 for construction on the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School. Construction on the three level addition is expected to take about two years. The new portion will add about 26,000 square feet to the existing 69,000 square foot school building, allowing the capacity to grow from 524 students to about 680. [Sun Gazette]

Grants for Non-profits — Arlington County is accepting grant proposals from non-profit organizations that help residents with physical and/or sensory disabilities. Projects should increase or maintain independence and community integration for residents with disabilities through empowerment focused services. The 2015-2016 Regional Grants to Disability Groups Application Packet can be found online. Grant proposals are due by September 30. [Arlington County]

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Groundbreaking for Clarendon Office Project

A groundbreaking was held this morning for the new 3001 and 3003 Washington Boulevard office project in Clarendon.

Local officials, including Rep. Jim Moran and County Board Chair Mary Hynes, were joined by officials from Penzance, the project’s developer, at the ceremony.

Demolition work on the one block construction site actually got underway while the ceremony was taking place, we’re told. Taking the place of the small buildings that once occupied the block — including those housing a restaurant, a car dealership, a gym and a bank — will be two office buildings. Construction on the 8- and 10-story buildings is expected to wrap up in early 2014, according to Penzance.

Courtesy photo

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Morning Notes

St. Paddy’s Day Is Almost Here — Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, so expect some crowded bars and some intoxicated individuals along the R-B corridor. See our 2012 St. Patrick’s Day Guide for a list of some of the local watering holes that are holding special St. Paddy’s Day events.

Groundbreaking on New Courthouse Apartments — Construction is now underway on Grayson Flats, a 67-unit luxury apartment building located at 1200 N. Rolfe Street. The developer, Tysons-based Insight Property Group, say the building will be convenient to the Courthouse Metro station. Construction is expected to wrap up this fall. [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Dems Get New Website — The Arlington County Democratic Committee launched a redesigned website earlier this week. In a blog post, the organization acknowledged that their old website was “lame.” [Arlington Democrats]

T.A. Sullivan Starts Removing Gravestones — Gravestones are apparently starting to be moved off the old T.A. Sullivan & Son property in Clarendon. The cemetery monument business, and every other business on the block, has closed or is closing to make way for a new office complex. [Clarendon Culture]

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Changes To Crystal City Skyline On The Way

The first new building proposed under the Crystal City Sector Plan reached Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee this week.

The gleaming 24-story office building, complete with a unique cantilevered roof, would replace what is now an older government office building that’s nearly vacant as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC). Under the proposal currently under initial consideration, the existing building — 1851 S. Bell Street — would be torn down and the new building would be built and relabeled 1900 Crystal Drive.

At some 730,000 square feet, we’re told that 1900 Crystal Drive would be the largest private office building in Arlington County. Developer Vornado is hoping to achieve LEED Silver or Gold environmental certification for the building.

“We’re really excited that such a gorgeous building is [being proposed],” said Crystal City Business Improvement District President and CEO Angela Fox. “It’s a bold statement about where Crystal City is headed.”

(Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.)

Up the road, changes are in the works for another existing office building along Crystal Drive.

The building known as Jefferson Plaza One, which has also been affected by BRAC, is expected to be renovated starting this spring.

The building will be “re-skinned” with a largely glass exterior and will be relabeled 1400 Crystal Drive. Building owner Lowe Enterprises has scheduled a groundbreaking event for the project on March 29.

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New Hotel Breaks Ground in Ballston

A new Residence Inn by Marriott extended stay hotel is being built in Ballston, across the street from Ballston Common Mall.

The project held its official groundbreaking ceremony yesterday. The hotel, which is expected to open mid-2013, will feature 11 floors and 183 all-suite rooms.

The Residence Inn is part of the Founders Square development, which by fall 2014 is expected to consist of two high-rise office buildings, one high-rise 257-unit apartment building, and a smaller building reserved for retailers — in addition to the hotel. All told, the complex will feature 775,000 square feet of office space and 28,000 square feet of retail space.

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