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A rendering the proposed garage with a turf field above next to The Heights building (via Arlington County)

The County Board is set to consider construction of an underground garage topped with a turf field at The Heights building in Rosslyn.

The Heights, at 1601 Wilson Blvd, is the home of two public schools: the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program.

After issues with the original project design for the garage, revisions to the plan ultimately have eased concerns, and county staff recommends the revised use permit be approved at the Arlington County Board meeting this Saturday (July 16), according to a Board report.

But the county’s Planning Commission still isn’t on board with the new plan.

The Arlington Public Schools proposal calls for 61 parking spaces in the underground garage, with a lighted, rectangular, synthetic turf field above. The field is part of an agreement between APS and the county to construct outdoor athletic facilities at the school, according to the Board report.

The previous proposal, submitted to the Board in May, had several issues, mostly concerning the adjacent 18th Street N., which runs parallel to Wilson Blvd. Under the previous design, the street would have been narrowed by eight feet, removing its southern on-street parking lane which could “cause significant operational issues for APS buses,” according to the report.

APS also originally proposed garage access to private vehicles for pickups and drop-offs during school opening and closing each day. The report stated that would pose “a significant operational and safety challenge.”

Additionally, the original proposal would build the turf field to provide access to the first floor of The Heights on the same level. However, that would diminish public and student access and visibility along other sides of the field.

To address those problems, APS would maintain the width of 18th Street N. and keep the parking lane next to H-B Woodlawn, constructing a 5-foot wide, 18-inch tall planter with a seat wall along the length of the garage facade, as well as adding trees on the curbs near the garage and relocating streetlights.

Despite the changes, the Planning Commission still urged the County Board to deny the permit. The commission unanimously agreed that the new proposal failed to conform to the West Rosslyn Area Plan, the Rosslyn Sector Plan and the Arlington County Comprehensive Plan, according to its report.

Specifically, the proposed elevation of the turf field is in conflict with the area plan’s goal of avoiding above-ground or ground level parking, while blocking some pedestrians from viewing The Heights building, which the commission called “a public-facing jewel for both Arlington, the greater D.C. area, and the Commonwealth.”

Although the Transportation Commission voted to recommend approval for the new proposal, it still had doubts about the increased height of the field’s impact on pedestrians on 18th Street N., as well as the plan to build 30 new employee parking spaces when school staff can park at an existing, nearby parking garage instead, according to the commission’s report.

View of The Heights building in Rosslyn, past what could soon be the site of a new parking garage and turf field (via Google Maps)

Photo (below) via Google Maps

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Both the boys and girls Ultimate Frisbee teams from H-B Woodlawn and Washington-Liberty High School are set to compete in the high school national tournament today and tomorrow (Saturday).

The High School National Invite tournament is set to be held in Richmond. This is the first time the organizers Ultiworld and Competitive Ultimate Training have held the tournament since the pandemic, according to a news release.

For this year’s tournament, 16 boys teams and 15 girls teams are set to attend, according to its website. Over the weekend, the four teams from Arlington are set to play against other high school teams from New Jersey, Utah and Oregon among other states.

Currently, Washington-Liberty Open and H-B Woodlawn Open — which were both formerly boys teams but are open to any players — were ranked 14th and 16th respectively by Ultiworld in the boys division, while H-B Woodlawn Gxrls and Washington-Liberty Gxrls were ranked 19th and 20th respectively in the girls division, according to the latest power ranking list published.

https://twitter.com/HBVarsityGirls/status/1525462695683796993

Among the four Arlington teams, only Washington-Liberty Gxrls has not been to previous national tournaments. MJ Muskovitz, a senior and the team’s captain, said the invite was “a huge surprise.”

Since almost half of her team was new, Muskovitz thought they were still “trying to build up the base of play and recruit more players” for this year, she told ARLnow.

“I got to read out the email [from the organizer] that we got to the rest of the team, it was a huge shock because we did not expect to be going to nationals,” Muskovitz said.

As her team was still focused on strengthening team bonds and developing the new players’ fundamental skills such as throwing, the members’ expectations weren’t “necessarily too high,” Muskovitz said.

“We hope to gain a new experience for our players,” she said. “We’re also looking to push our team more into a national spotlight.”

On the other hand, Coach Jay Boyle of H-B Woodlawn’s boys team hoped his squad could “make the upper bracket.” Although he was not the coach at the time, H-B Woodlawn Open participated in the national tournament in 2018.

In preparing for the tournament, Boyle’s team has been lifting weights, training three days a week over the winter, in addition to reviewing video footage of other teams, he added. Throughout the season, the team has held practices five days a week at times.

“It’s exciting, we think that we deserve the spot, we think of ourselves as a team that is competitive nationally,” Boyle said.

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Morning Notes

Police Make Numerous DUI Arrests — From the Arlington County Police Department: “ACPD Officers are committed to making our roadways safer by identifying, stopping, and apprehending impaired drivers. Last week (September 12 – 18), officers made 16 arrests for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Motorists are reminded that it is never okay to drink and drive.” [Twitter]

ACPD Warning of Tainted Cocaine — “Please take steps to protect yourself and others who may be in possession of cocaine purchased in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The nasal spray Narcan (also known as Naloxone) can save the life of someone who is overdosing from substances containing opioids, if given in time, and test strips can detect dangerous fentanyl-laced drugs before they are used.” [Arlington County]

Man Stabbed Near Columbia Pike — ” The investigation revealed that at approximately 1:15 a.m., the victim was walking in the area when he was pushed from behind by the unknown suspect and fell to the ground. The suspect then brandished a knife and demanded money from the victim before stabbing him and stealing his wallet. The suspect fled the scene on foot and the victim returned to his residence before determining he was in need of medical services.” [ACPD]

Gusty Storm Yesterday Afternoon — “A 39 mph wind gust was recorded at National Airport with the storm that passed through Arlington earlier this afternoon, per the National Weather Service.” [Twitter]

Power Outages After Wednesday’s Storm — “More than 1,000 homes and businesses are currently without power in Arlington. The largest outage is affecting the area around Kenmore Middle School.” [Twitter]

School Bond Funds New ‘Heights’ Entrance — “A new entrance to the Shriver Program, which is collocated with H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Rosslyn, is needed to make it easier for those with disabilities to access the building and the parking lot… More funds are need to permit ‘the completion of a design that we had intended in the first place – complete it the right way,’ Kanninen said. The $11.39 million project accounts for nearly half the proposed $23 million school bond that goes to voters on Nov. 2.” [Sun Gazette]

Klobuchar to Canvass in Arlington Sunday — “Join us for a Weekend of Action canvass in Arlington with Senator Amy Klobuchar & Governor Terry McAuliffe! We’ll be talking with our neighbors about the issues that are important to them — and why Terry McAuliffe, Hala Ayala, Mark Herring, and Alfonso Lopez are the right people to move Virginia forward in 2021.” [Mobilize]

Update to Metro Story — A report from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission suggests that the person who fell from a train while walking between railcars near the Clarendon station was the son of a WMATA employee. He was able to continue on to Tysons but suffered significant injuries, was bleeding heavily and was later hospitalized. [ARLnow]

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A man was found dead on a bench outside the H-B Woodlawn school in Rosslyn this morning.

Police are now investigating the man’s death, but note that there is no known threat to the community.

“At approximately 8:36 a.m., police were dispatched to the 1600 block of Wilson Boulevard for the report of a check on the welfare of a man lying on a bench,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, officers located an adult male deceased. The police department is conducting a death investigation and there is no apparent threat to the community related to this incident.”

The deceased individual was wearing a hospital gown when he was found unresponsive by first responders, Savage confirmed to ARLnow.

Arlington Public Schools’ H-B Woodlawn high school program moved into The Heights building at 1601 Wilson Blvd in the fall of 2019. The Shriver special education program is also based in the building.

Photo via Google Maps

A pair of Arlington projects recently received national recognition for their unique design and use of steel.

The Top Steel Design Awards recognize — as the name might suggest — building architecture that incorporates steel in interesting and distinct ways.

The Merit Award went to the Ballston Quarter Pedestrian Walkway, which opened in 2019 after the original bridge was torn down in 2017. A judge in the Top Steel Design Awards credited the choice of frame and the walkway’s “visually captivating” quality.

“The crossover segment at mid-span creatively addresses the offset entrances of the connected buildings, and the steel HSS frame is an ideal choice to resist the complex forces of this innovative bridge design,” Stephanie Hautzinger, associate vice president of  CannonDesign in Chicago, said in a press release. “The resulting structure has a sculptural quality that is visually captivating from both the exterior and interior.”

The project was designed by studioTECHNE architects in Cleveland.

A new Arlington Public School building was also among the ten winning projects from across the U.S., which were categorized by overall cost. The Heights, the new home to H-B Woodlawn and the Stratford Program at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, won the top award for the $75-200 million category.

The school was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group in Brooklyn and Leo A Daly in D.C.

Judges praised the unique structure of the building.

“The ambiguity of how this building is supported is one of the most fascinating features of the structure, and it is all due to the structural steel trusses behind the scene,” said Maysa Kantner, a structural steel specialist, in the press release. “Coordination and communication are required on every project but I imagine for this level of uniqueness, those two things had to be stepped up in a big way. It is so great to see what can be done with project teams when they all work together and think outside the typical box-shaped buildings!”

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Morning Notes

Police Called for Man Spitting on Bus Passengers — An incident on a bus prompted a police response Thursday afternoon. Per ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage: “At approximately 1:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject on a Metro bus in the area of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street. The suspect left the area prior to police arrival and a search by responding officers returned with negative results… The call for service alleged the subject was acting disorderly and spitting on individuals on the bus.”

Arlington Company Is Among Fastest-Growing — Ballston-based Hungry is the fastest-growing technology firm in the D.C. area and the 18th fastest growing tech company in the nation, according to a new list from Deloitte. Another Ballston tech company, Evolent Health, ranked No. 402 in the U.S. [Deloitte]

NAACP Statement on H-B Incident — “We are pleased that the principal took swift action to notify families and meet with affected students and that the Superintendent followed up with a letter to APS families with an honest depiction that did not minimize the significance or harm it caused. This act of racial violence is the latest and most egregious in a progressive pattern of racist incidents occurring within our schools.” [Press Release]

Grant to Help Local Tourism Recover — “Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of state grant funds.” [Arlington County]

ACFD Hosting Kids’ Bedtime Stories — “We are extremely excited to host our 4th Virtual Bedtime Story/ Fire Engine Tour! Spots are limited and previous events have maxed out quickly. If you are interested in joining please email [email protected] Can’t wait to see you Monday night.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

More County Website Problems — Arlington County’s website again suffered technical difficulties yesterday afternoon. The issues were resolved within a few hours. [@ArlingtonVA/Twitter]

Gondolas Gaining in Popularity — “Air gondolas — ski-lift-type conveyances that have become common sights in South American cities like Medellín, Mexico City and La Paz — could one day dot the U.S. urban landscape, some transportation planners say.” [Axios]

Nearby: Car Plows Into CD Cellar — The CD Cellar store in Falls Church was damaged after a car came crashing through one of the front windows earlier this week. “Someone thought we were a drive-thru record store,” CD Cellar quipped on social media. [Facebook]

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(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) A fill-in-the-blank question during a science class at H-B Woodlawn has caused an uproar.

The chemistry question, asked Tuesday during what ARLnow is told was a 10th grade class, references the police killing of George Floyd.

“George Floyd couldn’t breathe because a police officer put his _____ George’s neck,” the question reads. The answer is “neon,” the element that sounds like “knee on.”

Classes are currently being held virtually at Arlington public schools. Shortly after the class, a screenshot of the question started circulating on social media, and parents started calling the school.

“There is no diversity in my school and apparently there was a bunch of white silence when this happened this morning,” a student’s social media post said. “White students were making excuses or seemed ‘too tired to talk about it’ shame on those people that’s disgusting.”

The teacher “tried to pass it off as something ‘everyone would know/easy to get,'” the post adds.

H-B Woodlawn’s student body is 4.4% Black, according to civil rights statistics published by Arlington Public Schools. That’s well under the 11% average across all APS high schools.

In a letter to families sent Wednesday, H-B’s principal said the secondary program — once known as “Hippie High” for its liberal approach to education — “does not tolerate any form of cultural or racial insensitivity.”

“We will be meeting directly with the students in the class, and will work with all of our H-B Woodlawn students to process the incident,” the letter goes on to say. “Our Student Services Team will be available for individual counseling and students can reach out directly to me as well.”

On Thursday, Superintendent Francisco Durán weighed in, with an email sent to all APS families.

“The content referenced the killing of George Floyd in an unacceptable and senseless way, which hurt and alarmed our students, staff, families, and the community,” Durán wrote. ‘The reference showed extremely poor judgement and a blatant disregard for African American lives.”

“The teacher has been relieved of classroom duties while an investigation related to this matter takes place,” Durán continued. “I want to assure everyone that this situation will be handled in accordance with our policies, and all staff are held to the highest standards of professional behavior.”

The principal’s letter, obtained by ARLnow, is below.

The H-B Woodlawn community does not tolerate any form of cultural or racial insensitivity. We prioritize making H-B Woodlawn a safe and inclusive space for all students, staff, and parents. Yesterday an incident occurred that conflicts with our core values of respect, trust, social justice, and diversity.

During a class presentation a teacher shared an example that showed significant racial insensitivity. It was unacceptable. We will be meeting directly with the students in the class, and will work with all of our H-B Woodlawn students to process the incident. We will use all of the HBW and APS resources at our disposal to do so. Students should reach out to a trusted adult at HBW if they want to discuss this matter further. Our Student Services Team will be available for individual counseling (emails below) and students can reach out directly to me as well.

Though this is an ongoing matter, and we cannot provide additional details, we appreciate all the students, parents, and alumni who have reached out — for their concern, and their thoughts and ideas on productively moving forward. We will continue to update the community on the steps we are taking both in the short-term and long-term. Every student deserves a positive educational experience where they feel safe, secure, and have a strong sense of belonging.

Casey Robinson

Principal

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Students who attend the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and the Shriver Program, at the new Heights Building in Rosslyn, are staying home today.

The building is closed, Arlington Public Schools said in an email to families (below), after a contractor accidentally broke a sprinkler line, causing the library, gymnasium and some classrooms to flood. The closure may stretch into Wednesday if repairs and cleanup from the water damage are not completed in time.

APS plans to notify families by 6 p.m. tonight whether school will be back in session tomorrow.

The $100 million building opened just in time for the start of the school year this past September. More from APS:

The Heights Building, including H-B Woodlawn, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program and administrative offices, will be closed Tuesday, February 18, due to an accidental break in a sprinkler line caused by a contractor performing work on Monday. The break caused water damage in the library, gymnasium and adjacent classrooms. Repairs and clean-up are in progress. Unless otherwise directed, essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time on Tuesday, and custodians should report to work at 6 a.m. Extracurricular activities, games, team practices, field trips and other scheduled activities for H-B Woodlawn and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program at The Heights Building are also cancelled. We apologize for the inconvenience and will keep families informed of the status. Families will be notified by 6 p.m. on Tuesday regarding the operating status for Wednesday, February 19.

Update at 4:30 p.m. — The building and the programs will remain closed on Wednesday, Arlington Public Schools just announced.

Hat tip to anonymous. Photo via Arlington County.

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Arlington County’s 2019 DESIGNArlington award winners were announced earlier this week.

The big winners receiving the Award of Excellence include a cemetery, a mall, a school and two houses. Others were recognized with Merit Awards.

“DESIGNArlington 2019 award recipients were recognized for projects including public art, private home renovations, new construction, open space, sustainable design and historic preservation,” says the awards’ website. The winners were selected by a panel of local judges with architectural, planning and design backgrounds.

The Award of Excellence winners are:

  • Arlington National Cemetery’s Millennium Project — “The design accommodates an additional 56,000 interments through a combination of in-ground casket burials, cremation burials, and cremation interments in multiple courtyards across the site.”
  • Ballston Quarter mall (Ballston) — “The mall’s reconfiguration creates a shopping loop along Wilson Boulevard and through the newly converted ‘street.'”
  • The Heights Building (Rosslyn) — “[The school’s] vertical design creatively responds to site constraints and meets the main goals of providing a central space that connects the building levels with access to outdoor space at all levels.”
  • Manifold House (Lyon Village) — “Inspired by the owner’s passion for repairing small-scale engine parts, Manifold House is an ode to the precision of manufactured assemblages.”
  • Rubio Residence (Donaldson Run) — “This addition enhances a classic, early 1940’s Art Moderne house with both complimentary massing and similar architectural vocabulary.”
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Morning Notes

Metro’s Fire Hydrant Problem — “A fire safety advocate and a D.C. firefighter took to social media Tuesday to criticize the transit agency after a Metrobus was spotted parked in front of a hydrant in Pentagon City for about 10 minutes. They also said it’s a chronic problem.” [Washington Post]

Va. Was Amazon Oasis After NYC Debacle — “In late January, Holly Sullivan, the head of world-wide development at Amazon, returned to Washington, D.C., where she and some colleagues dined with executives from JBG Smith, the real-estate firm managing the Arlington County site.. A JBG Smith official remarked that Amazon’s team looked like it had come from a war zone. ‘How much more space can we get in Virginia?’ one of the Amazon executives joked.” [Wall Street Journal, Twitter]

Ballston Office Building Sold — “Hines Interests LP has acquired Ballston’s Two Liberty Center” — where ARLnow has its offices — “from New York-based real estate investment management company Westbrook Partners for $93.2 million. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (NYSE: JLL) brokered the Aug. 20 sale of the 178,000-square foot, nine-story building.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Expanding Healthy Lunch Options — “In 2017, Café + Teria was originally introduced to high school students attending Arlington, Virginia’s three public high schools, Wakefield, Yorktown and Washington-Lee. Due to the success at these schools in Arlington it will also expand to The Heights (the new home of H-B Woodlawn) and the Arlington… Career Center on September 3.” [Press Release]

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) There’s still a lot that needs to be done in The Heights, the new home of H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program and the Shriver Program, before the school opens next week.

Construction crews are putting on the finishing touches of the building at 1601 Wilson Blvd even as teachers get their classrooms ready for the start of school next Tuesday (Sept. 3). Much of the state-of-the-art interior is completed.

Demolition for the old Wilson School at the site started in 2017, with crews working since then to build the new, five-story terraced structure. Most of the building is slated to be open and usable when school starts, though the auditorium remains under construction. Jeffrey Chambers, director of design and construction for Arlington Public Schools, explained that there’s still construction work that needs to be done and it won’t be accessible until a few weeks after the school opens.

There are other projects around the school, smaller pieces Chambers described as “finishing up the punch list,” but Chambers said any construction work that would be disruptive to students will be done after hours.

“We’re excited to open in a week,” said Dr. Casey Robinson, principal of H-B Woodlawn. “There’s lots to do and we’re having lots of fun exploring the new space.”

H-B Woodlawn is a secondary program with a focus on students playing an integral role in developing school curriculum and shaping the culture of the school. Robinson was a student at the old H-B Woodlawn and later became a teacher there, so like much of the faculty she’s still adjusting to the new location, but she and the others are approaching it with a smile.

“We’ve been telling ourselves and our students that the comfortable feeling [at the old school] took 40 years to create,” Robinson said. “It won’t happen overnight.”

But artifacts brought over from the old school have helped soften the blow of the move for Robinson, as has an elaborate mural painted across the main common area that includes images from the generations that decorated the walls of the old school. Robinson said a “town meeting” planned with faculty and students will decide how the relics should be displayed.

The lower two floors of the building will be devoted to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program — formerly the Stratford Program. The two programs will share a common area, cafeteria, auditorium and other school amenities.

“I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am [for school to start again],” said Dr. Karen Gerry, principal of the Shriver Program. “It’s surreal to be in this beautiful building and we’re excited to collaborate again with H-B Woodlawn.”

Plans for the new building haven’t always been happily received by the H-B Woodlawn community, but faculty at the school seemed determined to make the best of the new, more urban location.

“All of your familiar teachers are ready to welcome you back,” Robinson said.

Bill Podolski, director of choral activities at H-B Woodlawn, wore a shirt with an artistic rendering of the school’s former beloved home — which has been transformed into a neighborhood middle school — but seemed happy in a spacious band room with a full wall of multi-floor windows.

“We’re going to make it home,” said Podolski.

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