Over a dozen Arlington firefighters descended on U.S. Air Force veteran Frank Price’s house in Hall’s Hill on Saturday afternoon.
They weren’t there to fight a fire — but to decorate. The firefighters hung lights and ornaments and trimmings with the help of Decorate A Vet, a non-profit that helps area veterans with decorations and light yard maintenance for the holidays.
The group has decorated veteran’s homes for the holidays for 10 years, according to event organizer and board member Moe Jafari.
The Arlington County Board may soon move forward on the plan to redevelop the Fire Station 8.
The County Board is scheduled to vote on awarding several contracts for the project to replace the Hall’s Hill fire station with a new, 15,000-square-foot facility during their meeting next Tuesday, October 22.
Next week, members will consider awarding a contract for the design of the temporary station used while Station 8 is under construction to Reston architecture firm LeMay Erickson Wilcox — the same firm tapped for designing the permanent Fire Station 8.
On Tuesday, Board members will also vote on awarding another contract to D.C.-based construction MCN Build, Inc. to build the new station. The exact amount of the contract has not yet been posted on the county website.
Plans for building the temporary station called for knocking down two homes at 2211 and 2215 N. Culpeper Street — demolition work that began last fall. The homes have been earmarked for use as a staging station area for the first responders since the county purchased the land for $1.6 million three years ago.
This year, the station celebrated its 100th anniversary, marking the legacy of the station which was the firehouse in segregated Arlington serving the historically African-American Hall’s Hill neighborhood — which itself was walled off from a neighboring, white neighborhood until the 1960s.
Originally, the fire department asked to relocate the new station further north to keep response times low in residential portions of far northern Arlington. However, the Board voted to keep the new station on the same site in 2016 in anticipation of more development along Lee Highway, pleasing the retired first responders who had worked at Station 8.
A section of brick wall, which was first constructed in the 1930s to close off the segregated neighborhood, collapsed amid fast-moving floodwaters.
Video showed the floodwaters rushing past the wall and into a garden below.
— Ted Bloss (@tedbloss) July 8, 2019
A nearby marker tells the history of the wall. Much of the wall was destroyed in 1966 when Arlington County purchased nearby properties and dismantled sections of it.
Nearby residents had mixed feelings on the wall’s destruction.
“It should have been knocked down years ago,” said Herb Ramos, who lived across the street from the wall. “They put up the marker, they should have gotten rid of the wall and removed the eyesore.”
But others said they were happy to see school children brought over in recent years to see the first-hand evidence of segregation in the county and were sorry to see that history get washed away.
“We need to remember the past so as not to repeat it,” said Cait, another neighbor. “It was a historic site for a reason. We need to preserve the memory of things the African-American neighborhood went through. It’s not the most beautiful wall, but we need to face that ugliness.”
— Ted Bloss (@tedbloss) July 8, 2019
Hat tip to @tedbloss
Amazon Driving Commercial Property Sales — “An office building and an apartment building near the future Amazon HQ2 campus in Northern Virginia have recently hit the market, the latest in a wave of property owners looking to cash in on rising values from the tech giant’s arrival.” [Bisnow]
Continued Amazon Boost for Residential Real Estate — “The Amazon HQ2 effect continues to drive the Arlington County market. The median price of the 289 sales in Arlington in May was $615,000, up 9.8 percent from a year ago.” [WTOP]
Activists to Continue Resistance to Amazon — “Amazon is apparently here to stay. But so are the local activists who fought incentives for the tech giant in the first place. Monday evening, organizers from the coalition For Us Not Amazon held a forum at Clarendon Presbyterian Church in which they laid out next steps in their resistance efforts against Amazon.” [WAMU]
Community to Celebrate Resident’s 100th Birthday — “Four generations of family and a host of admirers descended on Calloway United Methodist Church the afternoon oj June 8 for a 100th-birthday salute to Birdie Alston, an icon of the Halls Hill-High View Park community.” [InsideNova]
Closures for 5K Race in Pentagon City — “The Zero Prostate Cancer 5K Race will take place on Saturday, June 15th, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures from approximately 7:00 A.M. until 11:00 A.M. to accommodate the event: South Joyce Street, between South 15th Street and Army Navy Drive [and] Army Navy Drive, between South Joyce Street and South 25th Street.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Mashalette/Instagram
The alleged incident happened around 11 p.m. last Thursday, on the 1900 block of N. Culpeper Street in the Halls Hill neighborhood.
Police say two men dressed in all black tried to rob a man who was standing outside of his residence. When the man refused to give them money, one of the suspects pistol whipped him, but accidentally fired a shot in the process. That prompted the suspects to flee the scene empty-handed.
No one was hurt and nothing was damaged by the shot, but the victim suffered a laceration on his head from being struck with the gun, according to police. The suspects remain at large.
More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:
ATTEMPTED ARMED ROBBERY, 2019-01240225, 1900 block of N. Culpepper Street. At approximately 10:58 p.m. on January 24, police were dispatched to the report of shots fired. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was outside of his residence when he was approached by two male suspects. One suspect brandished a firearm and demanded money. When the victim declined, he was struck in the head with the firearm, causing a laceration that required medical treatment. Simultaneously, this action resulted in the discharge of the firearm. The suspects fled on foot prior to police arrival. No additional damage or injuries were reported as a result of the discharge of the firearm. Arriving officers canvased the area and a K9 track was initiated with negative results. The suspects are described as two black males, approximately 6’0″-6’1″, approximately 30-40 years old, wearing black pants, black hooded sweatshirts, black hats and black sneakers. The investigation is ongoing.
This week, police responded to a store on the 4700 block of Columbia Pike for a report of a man filming women in a dressing room. The only clothing store on that block is the Goodwill retail store.
More from ACPD:
PEEPING, 2019-01280189, 4700 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 7:19 p.m. on January 28, police were dispatched to the report of a peeper. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victims were inside the dressing room at a business when they observed a male suspect holding a cell phone over the dressing room wall and allegedly taking photos. The victims confronted the suspect and informed him they were calling police, which prompted him to flee the business prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a tall, thin black male, approximately 5’11”-6’0″, with dreadlocks, a black beard, chipped teeth with a gap in the center, wearing a long black jacket, light khaki pants, white headphones, and black and white sneakers. The investigation is ongoing.
Other notable items from this week’s crime report, including some we’ve already reported, are below.
Board Approves Water Main, Fire Station Projects — “The Arlington County Board today approved contracts for two capital improvement projects, one to bring Fire Station 8 into the 21st century, and the other to replace a 90-year old water main with a larger pipe that will better serve the Cherrydale and Waverly Hills neighborhoods.” [Arlington County]
‘Say Yes to the Dress’ Star in Arlington — “TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta’s Monte Durham will be on campus next Tuesday, January 29th from 7:30-8:30 at Ballston Center. Durham will announce the Portfolio In Motion fashion show Designer of the Year.” [Twitter]
Snow, Cold on the Way — “A powerful arctic cold front is set to blast through the Washington region Tuesday evening. It could have disruptive effects, with rain quickly changing to snow during the evening commute and then rapidly freezing over roads.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
New Publishing Schedule this Week — Readers may notice some regular ARLnow features publishing at different times and/or days this week. For instance, this Morning Notes post is publishing at 7:30 a.m., while an opinion column that usually publishes on Thursdays is scheduled for this afternoon. We are trying out a new schedule this week — let us know what you think.
Photo courtesy Jim Harvard
Fire Station 8 on Lee Highway just passed its 100th birthday, and now a celebration of the station’s legacy is on the way in Ballston.
The John M. Langston Citizens Association is convening a “centennial celebration” next Saturday (Jan. 26) at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building (4301 Wilson Blvd).
Built in 1918, the fire station has long been one of the most historic sites in the county — it was the only station in segregated Arlington with black firefighters during the 1950s and 1960s, and it often served Hall’s Hill, a historically black community that was once literally walled off from the rest of the county in the days of segregation.
Accordingly, the program will be geared toward “chronicling Fire Station 8’s 100 years of legacy and impact” and there will be a display with “history and memorabilia associated with Fire Station 8,” according to an event listing.
“For 100 years the men and women of Fire Station 8 have served the communities of Arlington County, Virginia selflessly, and with honor,” the citizens association wrote. “Not only did they serve, but they served segregated, and unrecognized by the county for almost 40 years. Fire Station 8 has not only changed history and the future of blacks in the fire service, but is getting ready to have a change in look too.”
The fire station is indeed set to be fully replaced, with construction set to start later this year. County officials had initially considered moving the fire station elsewhere, but opted instead to rebuild it on its current site.
The celebration is set to run from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The Virginia Hospital Center will need to wait a bit longer to kick off its coveted expansion project, but Arlington officials are largely optimistic that they’ve charted out a path to help the county’s lone hospital meet some community concerns and ultimately win approval.
VHC, and the county’s business community, pressed hard to earn a green light from the County Board this weekend, in order to start work on a $250 million expansion the hospital says it desperately needs to manage demand. But the Board chose to follow the recommendation of its planners instead, and push back a final vote on the project until December.
Rather than ordering any substantial reworking of the project’s design, however, the Board asked that the hospital make some more modest changes to its plans.
While those alterations may not address each and every concern raised by people living nearby, who argue that the two new structures the hospital wants to build are hopelessly out of step with the surrounding community, county leaders hope they strike the right balance between addressing neighborhood worries and providing VHC with reasonable goals to meet.
“We didn’t want to kick this back to everybody to noodle over for the next three months,” Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow. “We wanted to be clear about the targets the hospital needs to hit to reach approval… I do this think it’s likely that they meet these criteria. We tried to take the judgement calls out of it.”
Those new requests of VHC include a requirement to add better connections throughout the site of the expansion, in a lot on N. Edison Street immediately adjacent to its existing campus at 1701 N. George Mason Drive. As Cristol puts it, she wants to see less of a “superblock,” particularly after planners and neighbors balked at the potential of the proposed seven-story parking garage and 10-story outpatient facility to effectively wall off the hospital from single-family homes in the neighborhood.
The Board also wants to see the hospital spruce up the facade of the garage itself to help it better fit in to the community, and create a pedestrian connection between 19th Street N. and one of the expansion’s proposed terraces.
All of those requests seem reasonable enough to Adrian Stanton, VHC’s vice president of business development and community affairs. He told ARLnow that the hospital is, of course, “disappointed” by the Board’s decision to delay the proceedings, but largely optimistic about the project’s prospects.
“We’re very confident that we can work collaboratively with the county and community to iron out these remaining issues,” Stanton said. “I truly believe we will, and that’s where we appreciate the Board being very specific.”
But the Board’s requests won’t fundamentally impact a chief concern of many people living near the hospital: the size of the new buildings.
The county’s Planning Commission urged the Board to force VHC to move the largest structures closer to the center of the site, in order reduce their impact on the community. Neighbors similarly hoped for larger setbacks or other measures to help the structures better blend into the area, but felt those requests went ignored.
“None of these hopes were realized,” Suzanne Nirschl-Brown, head of the nearby Taratown Homeowners Association, told the Board Saturday. “We’re the ones with the towering structures close to our homes.”
However, Stanton noted that the hospital is fundamentally “landlocked” by those single-family homes and will need to build large structures to make any expansion happen. Cristol added that VHC did also reduce the size of its garage, simultaneously shrinking the structure and satisfying the demands of transit advocates concerned that offering so many parking spaces would encourage employees to drive to the hospital.
Planners are also concerned that the hospital still hasn’t done enough to lay out what its future construction on the site might look like. Once it can complete the expansion, the hospital hopes to overhaul its existing campus over the coming decades — the Planning Commission called for VHC to go through a different process known as a “phased development site plan” to help the county better scrutinize those long-range plans.
Yet Stanton says that the constantly changing nature of the healthcare industry would’ve made it difficult to predict exactly what sort of facilities the hospital will need to build so far in the future. He added that VHC also fully plans to go through the PDSP process when it proposes any design for a future overhaul of its campus, which he doesn’t expect to happen for the next 10 to 15 years.
The Board agreed to that condition, even if it doesn’t quite meet the demands of planners.
“That’s akin to closing the barn door after the horse is gone,” Planning Commissioner Nancy Iacomini said Saturday. “One of the most important things a PDSP does is make the edge of a site match its context.”
Still, Stanton pledged to work closely with the community over both the next three months and the coming years on all manner of designs. Cristol and her fellow Board members agreed that was well warranted, given the hours of public comment they heard Saturday.
Cristol pointed out that tensions between VHC and its neighbors “go back decades.” One resident of the nearby Halls Hill neighborhood, Tia Alfred, compared the hospital’s design to the infamous “wall” used to separate the historically black community from its white neighbors decades ago.
To some Board members, such recriminations suggested that a lot more community engagement is needed on VHC’s part.
“If only VHC would treat their neighbors the way they treat their patients,” Board member Libby Garvey said Saturday. “I really hope this is one of the first steps between a repaired relationship between the hospital and the neighborhood.”
Stanton says VHC staff will meet with community members “as frequently as they request,” but did underscore the urgency of the hospital’s expansion, nonetheless. He noted that VHC regularly has to send patients seeking some mental and behavioral health services elsewhere, and will continue to feel a squeeze in its emergency rooms until the expansion can move forward.
Stanton added that the hospital expects construction to take from 24 to 30 months, and it will only be able to offer more in-patient beds on its current campus once it can build the new outpatient facility. The county has its own interest in seeing the project go forward as well, as it’s set to provide the Edison Street property with the hospital in a swap for a property on S. Carlin Springs Road.
But even with those pressing needs, and the Board’s specific guidelines, county officials warn that they’re not willing to simply offer a rubber stamp to the plan three months from now.
“I’m not going to support any proposed solutions for today’s problem if I believe it’s going to cause more problems the next time around,” Board member Erik Gutshall said Saturday. “Come back to us with what’s really your best and final offer.”
More Water Infrastructure Repairs — Work to replace a collapsed 18-inch stormwater pipe on Arlington Ridge Road is expected to continue through the weekend, prompting detours on Arlington Ridge between 23rd Street S. and S. Glebe Road. Also today, crews from the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services are working to fix a broken water main, affecting 50-100 water customers, on the 1600 block of N. Jackson Street in Lyon Village. [Twitter, Twitter]
History of the Namesake of Hall’s Hill — The historically African-American neighborhood of Hall’s Hill in Arlington is named after an “infamous” 19th century slaveowner named Basil Hall who once shot a slave in a fit of “bravado.” In 1866 his land was sold to form the neighborhood. Hall had a sister, a downtown brothel keeper named Mary Ann, whose land in Arlington later became Marymount University. [Falls Church News-Press]
Local Kids Pen Hamilton Book — Just in time for Hamilton, the wildly popular musical, to arrive at the Kennedy Center, two Arlington kids (and their dad) have self-published a 50-page book “about the Washington-area sites related to Alexander Hamilton, his wife Eliza, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and other Founding Fathers.” [Amazon]
Photo courtesy John Sonderman
Firefighters Push for Raise — IAFF Local 2800, which represents Arlington firefighters and paramedics, is pushing for a raise in this year’s county budget process. The group says Arlington’s compensation for public safety employees “is at the bottom of the DMV.” [Twitter]
Chamber Concerned With 4MRV Initiative — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the County Board expressing concerns with the Four Mile Run Valley Initiative and possible changes to or acquisition of the light industrial properties along Four Mile Run Drive. [Arlington Chamber]
Growing Up Black in Arlington — From 1950 to 1962, growing up black in Arlington meant facing segregation and racism at every turn, and not feeling safe venturing out of the largely self-contained confines of a historically African-American neighborhood like Hall’s Hill. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington Startup Raises $3 Million — What started as a way for the owner of conveyor belt sushi chain Wasabi Sushi to streamline his accounting is now a venture-funded startup. Arlington-based MarginEdge has raised $3 million to go national with its restaurant management software. [Washington Business Journal]
Gutshall Running for County Board — As predicted, business owner Erik Gutshall is running for County Board this year, seeking the seat being vacated by Jay Fisette. Gutshall says on his website that his candidacy will be announced at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting on Wednesday. Gutshall unsuccessfully challenged County Board member Libby Garvey in last year’s Democratic primary. [Erik Gutshall for County Board]
Oscars Flub Involved W-L Grad — Warren Beatty is back atop the national consciousness, after an envelope mix-up led to perhaps the worst mistake in Oscars history, with Beatty and Best Picture co-presenter Faye Dunaway at the center of the fiasco. As many long-time Arlingtonians remember, Beatty spent his teenage years in Arlington, reportedly living on N. Huntington Street. He graduated from Washington-Lee High School and, as noted in a yearbook photo, was a star football player and the senior class president. [InsideNova]
Arlington Elementary Schools Top Rankings — In new rankings of D.C. area public elementary schools, Arlington elementary schools tallied a sweep of all the top 10 spots. [Niche, Washington Business Journal]
ACPD Trying Out Uber Lane — This past weekend in Clarendon, the Arlington County Police Department set up a designated rideshare pickup lane to improve safety for those using Uber and Lyft to get a ride home from the bars. The police department described the action as a “pilot program” that was the result of “creative problem solving.” [Twitter]
Arlington’s ‘Segregation Wall’ — A new historic marker notes the significance of a 1930s-era wall in north Arlington. The wall was built by white residents of the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood to provide a physical barrier between them and the historically black Hall’s Hill (High View Park) neighborhood. [InsideNova]
Loan for Affordable Apartments Approved — The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a $7.4 million loan to help build 125 new affordable apartments at the Berkeley on S. Glebe Road. Nonprofit developer AHC is expected to seek another loan for the redevelopment, from the county’s affordable housing fund, next fiscal year. [Arlington County]
Per-Student Spending to Rise — Under a new budget proposed by Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy, per-student spending would rise 2.9 percent to $19,521. APS has been straining to keep up with rising enrollment, issuing bonds to build new schools and renovate others. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley