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Virginia Hospital Center Expansion Set For Some Changes, But Remains Primed to Advance

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.”

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Morning Notes

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

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Morning Notes

Pentagon City Metro Tunnel Now Open — At long last, the pedestrian tunnel from the corner of S. Hayes Street and 12th Street S. to the Pentagon City Metro station has opened. [Twitter]

Firefighters Push for RaiseIAFF 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]

Axios Makes ‘Most Innovative’ List Fast-growing Clarendon-based media startup Axios has been named one of the top 10 most innovative media companies of 2018. [Fast Company]

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Morning Notes

Metro train (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

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. [NicheWashington 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

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Original Members of Fire Station 8 Pleased With County’s Decision

Several of the original firefighters of Arlington’s Fire Station 8 were glad to see that the Arlington County Board abandoned a plan to relocate the station, instead voting in favor of rebuilding it on its current site.

Fire Station 8 was the only station in segregated Arlington with black firefighters during the 1950s and 60s. Those firefighters had to work hard just to keep the station running — due to a lack of county funding, they would hold cookouts to raise funds for equipment.

“The community got together, and they sold dinners, fish dinners, chili dinners, chicken dinners, and… they made enough money to buy all the materials and things for a barracks,” recalled Marguarite Gooden, a local resident.

After working on a volunteer basis for years, Captain Hartman Reed and Firefighter Carl Cooper were two of the first three firefighters at Station 8 to receive pay for their work, starting in the early 1950s. (White Arlington firefighters started receiving salaries about a decade earlier.)

Reed and Cooper still live in Arlington, right behind the fire station. They spoke to ARLnow.com about their thoughts on the station’s relocation.

“I just thought, well, it was very wrong about trying to move it out,” Cooper said. “If anything, they should enlarge it and let it remain here.”

In 2014, the fire chief recommended — based on a 2012 consultant’s report — that Fire Station 8 be moved north of its current location to reduce response times for the northern communities. A county-owned parcel of land near Marymount University seemed like a prime candidate.

Captain Reed found that recommendation a little odd, especially given that there was more population density — and thus, more calls — along Lee Highway.

“I recall when I was in Station 8, how few calls we ran up into that [northern] area, and the difference in the calls we ran,” Reed said. “I don’t think the fire department could prove, even though it was a longer run, that they were needed more in that northern area, then they were in the Lee Highway corridor.”

Reed theorized that one of the underlying reasons for the move may have been a desire to place low income housing on the current fire station site. Cooper said he thought “maybe they wanted to get it away from this community” due to some sort of prejudice.

The recommendation to move the station was met with much resistance from both the historically black community surrounding the station’s current site and the community surrounding the stations’s proposed new location.

Kitty Clark Stevenson, the daughter of Alfred Clark — another one of the first paid firefighters at Station 8 — explained that the community felt they were included in the process only after a top-level decision had already seemingly been made.

“We were not respected as a community by the leadership in this county government, which for us was a violation of the Arlington Way,” she said.

Gooden, who is Captain Reed’s daughter, also found that upsetting.

“The thing that outraged me was… we weren’t engaged in the conversation at all,” she said.

After numerous county meetings and the creation of a task force, the county finally decided against relocating the station. Instead, the existing station will be knocked down and a new, larger Fire Station 8 will be built on its current site, which many in the community describe as historic.

“I was excited to hear that it would… remain where it is,” Cooper said. “Very much elated,” Reed agreed.

Gooden was also pleased that the building was being redone.

“I’m excited about them getting the best, the best technology, the best facility,” she said. “And they will better be able to serve the dynamic, very densely populated Arlington.”

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Morning Notes

Robin in the winter (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Pentagon City Apartment Complex Gets Financing — The Altaire, the high-end residential development at 400 Army Navy Drive, has obtained $100 million in financing from Wells Fargo and is expected to begin construction this month. The 20-story complex will have two towers with a total of 453 units. Construction is expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2018. [Washington Business Journal]

History of Hall’s Hill — This year is the 150th anniversary of the historically African-American neighborhood of Hall’s Hill, also known as High View Park. An event on the community’s history last week revealed the origin of its name. Hall’s Hill is named after Bazil Hall, a white slaveholder who sold plots of land to freed slaves after the Civil War to spite his white neighbors. [InsideNova]

Arlington Real Estate Agent Invited to SOTU — Naveed Shah, an Army veteran and a Rosslyn-based real estate agent, was invited to be a guest of the White House at tonight’s State of the Union Address. Despite the fact that Shah and his family moved to the U.S. when he was two, after living in Saudi Arabia, Shah grew up in Northern Virginia and describes himself as “as American as it gets.” [Military Times, NBC Washington]

Local Immigrants Worried About ICE Raids — There’s growing fear among undocumented immigrants in Northern Virginia of stepped-up U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids. Advocates are advising immigrant families “to have a plan for their kids in case they’re deported.” In other news, it’s said that ICE agents “are making their presence felt and regularly hang around the Taco Bell on Little River Turnpike” in Annandale. [Annandale VA]

Arlington Young Dems, GOPers Working Together — In a show of bipartisanship during the heat of a presidential election year, the chairs of the Arlington Young Democrats and the Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans met over the weekend to plan joint community service events in 2016. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Long History of Hall’s Hill Fire Station in Jeopardy, Residents Say

(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department was no stranger to challenges.

The first All-African American volunteer fire department in Arlington faced segregation and limited equipment for almost 40 years, according to a history of Fire Station 8 by Arlington Public Library.

The chronological history of the station was published in the middle of a debate between local residents and county government over its proposal to relocate the station farther north to Old Dominion Drive, by Marymount University.

“My neighbors look at that fire station as the heart, the hub, the star on the tree, whatever you want to say,” community member Jim Derrig said at a July 30 meeting. “And what we’re trying to say is you can’t replace the heart with a pacemaker or a bandaid. You have to replace a heart with a heart.”

The county says relocation is necessary for the Arlington County Fire Department to meet their response time goal of four to six minutes countywide.

“We are focused on life saving. That is our mission,” former Arlington County Fire Chief Jim Schwartz said in a county-produced video.

While this would not be the first time the fire station moved, — the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department was previously housed in smaller fire stations on Lee Highway and N. Culpepper Street in the 1930s — relocation would mean that it would no longer be in the Hall’s Hill community.

Hall’s Hill is a historically African-American community, once the home of freed slaves and separated from the rest of the county by a fence. In 1918, the members of the community formed the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department with one 60-gallon chemical tank that six men would have to pull along muddy and unpaved roads, according to the library.

When Arlington County was formally established two years later, the county excluded the Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department from the Arlington County Fireman’s Association and did not give the department monthly pay for professional firefighters.

The VFD, which played a central part in the community, slowly built up its fleet of fire trucks and built a station first on Lee Highway in 1927 and then 2209 N. Culpepper Street in 1934. The 1934 fire house also had a basement for a community center.

After the fire department was integrated, it moved to its current home at 4845 Lee Highway and officially opened on June 17, 1963 with 17 paid firefighters. The Hall’s Hill Volunteer Fire Department owned the deed to one of the pieces of land that went into the new station, while the county owned the others.

Now the County is looking to move the fire station to a new home outside of the Hall’s Hill neighborhood in order to decrease the response times to North Arlington homes, and the community is not happy.

“We don’t need to move this station,” one resident said at the July 30 meeting. “We need to build another one and that decreases our response time.”

Community members have shown up to County Board meetings and community meetings to express their displeasure with the plans. At the last community meeting, residents appeared frustrated with the process, and said measures to mark the history of the station after it moves are insufficient.

“I’m incensed as my neighbors are that the County is going to make sure we get a nice plaque to remember our fire station. Oh, that’s fantastic,” Derrig said.

Independent County Board candidate Michael McMenamin has also joined in with the community and berated county leavers for supposedly not listening to its residents.

“The Democratic controlled County Board is not listening to my Arlington neighbors who have been ignored in deciding the future of Fire Station No. 8. They should be answering the questions instead of charging forward to spend money on projects that have not been justified,” McMenamin said in a press release.

The final community meeting will is currently being rescheduled, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. Once a meeting place has been determined, the county will announce the meeting’s date. At the meeting, county staff will formulate a recommendation for the County Board.

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Morning Notes

"Pops for Pets" concert at Lubber Run Amphitheater (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Whole Foods Eying Ballston Development? — Whole Foods is reportedly considering leasing a 43,000 square foot retail space in a new 12-story, 431-unit apartment building that’s set to replace the Rosenthal Mazda dealership at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd in Ballston. The organic grocer is said to be “in advanced talks” to fill the space and is “very bullish” on Ballston in general. [Bisnow]

Car Drives Off I-66, Into Woods — A car drove off the eastbound lanes of I-66 and into the woods yesterday afternoon. Nobody was hurt in the accident, which happened between the Monroe Street bridge and Spout Run. [Twitter]

More Opposition to Fire Station Move — Residents of the Old Dominion community aren’t the only ones opposed to a proposal to move Fire Station 8 to the neighborhood. Some residents of the Hall’s Hill/High View Park community, where the fire station is located, say that it is a “hub of the neighborhood” and should stay put. Fire Station 8 has some historic distinction, as the first African-American-run firehouse south of the Mason-Dixon Line. [Falls Church News-Press]

Metro Proposes Blue Line Boost — The good news: Metro is proposing changes to its rush hour service that would have trains on the overcrowded Blue Line run every eight minutes instead of every 12 minutes. The bad news: the proposal would increase the headway between trains on the Orange, Silver, Green and Yellow Lines, from six minutes to eight minutes. [Greater Greater Washington, WAMU]

Arlington Startup Raises $21 Million — Ballston-based Distil Networks, a cybersecurity startup founded in 2011, has raised $21 million in a “Series B” venture round. The company is planning to add 100 new employees over the next 12 months. It has offices in Arlington, San Francisco and Raleigh, N.C., and has plans to open another office somewhere in Northern Virginia. [DC Inno, Tech Crunch]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Hall’s Hill Hosts Second Peace Walk for Murder Victims

A candlelight vigil was held in the Hall's Hill community for homicide victims Keefe Spriggs and Carl MotenTonight, the residents of the Hall’s Hill neighborhood will hold a “peace walk” in memory of two residents who were killed two years ago in a double homicide.

From 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., starting at 1945 N. Dinwiddie Street, members of the community will gather to remember Carl Moten and Keefe Spriggs, who were found murdered in an apartment on the 1900 block of N. Culpeper Street on Aug. 7, 2012. The crime is still unsolved, but according to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, it’s still an active investigation.

Moten, known as “Pooh Bear,” and Spriggs, known as “Kee Kee” to friends and family, were born and raised in Hall’s Hill. Moten worked as a cook in Falls Church and was 31 years old at the time of the incident. Spriggs, 59 when he was killed, worked at a body shop. This is the second annual walk to raise awareness of the crimes.

ACPD will have a presence during the walk, Sternbeck said, and continues to encourage anyone who has information about the crime to come forward.

“It’s important to get this back out there and visible to the public because the smallest piece of new information given to the detectives could be the big break in the case,” Sternbeck said. He added the department “has been working with both families throughout this whole thing in an attempt to find the killer.”

File photo

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Police Release Video of Hall’s Hill Tire Slasher

The Arlington County Police Department released a 14-second clip of the alleged Hall’s Hill tire slasher this afternoon.

The video was reportedly shot on Dec. 7, when 40 cars had their tires slashed in the neighborhood between 12:30 and 7:00 a.m. It was the second tire slashing spree within a month in the neighborhood after 36 cars were found with slashed tires on Nov. 18.

The suspect “has a unique walk” according to the ACPD Twitter account. Police are asking anyone who recognizes the slashers to come forward and assist with the investigation. The police department’s non-emergency number is 703-558-2222.

In the above video, the suspect can be seen approaching an SUV parked in a residential driveway, appearing to stick a sharp object in a tire and walking down the street in a matter of seconds.

Video courtesy of ACPD

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Another Tire Slashing Spree in Hall’s Hill

Arlington County police car (file photo)Dozens of cars parked in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood had their tires slashed over the weekend in the same area where a similar incident occurred last month.

Police say 40 cars were hit sometime from 12:30-7:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 7. The first vandalized car was discovered at 7:00 a.m. that day and dozens of others were found as residents emerged from their homes.

The targeted cars were found along several blocks in Hall’s Hill: the 1800 and 1900 blocks of N. Dinwiddie Street, the 1800 block of N. Culpeper Street, the 1700 block of N. Cameron Street, the 4900 blocks of 17th and 18th Streets N., the 4700 and 5000 blocks of 19th Street N. and the 5000 block of 20th Street N. Most of the vehicles were in the street but some were also parked in driveways.

This is the same neighborhood struck last month when 36 vehicles were discovered with slashed tires. Some of the vehicles vandalized on Saturday had been hit last month as well.

Police do not have any suspects so far but the investigation is ongoing.

“We are aware of the continued target of that general area and without going into specifics about the tactical strategy, we will be deploying resources in that area,” said Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

Anyone who may have seen suspicious activity in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood or who may have information about the vandalism incidents is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 703-558-2222.

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Peaceful Walk to Honor Two Murder Victims

Keefe Spriggs (left) and Carl Moten (right)(Updated at 5:00 p.m.) As the one year mark of the still unsolved Hall’s Hill double murder approaches, the community has come together for an event to honor victims Keefe Spriggs and Carl Moten.

The two men were found dead in an apartment in the 1900 block of N. Culpeper Street on August 7 last year. Although initially referred to as “suspicious deaths,” police quickly re-classified the incident as a double homicide. No weapon was found at the scene and the murders are considered an isolated incident.

To honor the memory of 59-year-old Spriggs and 31-year-old Moten, neighbors planned a peaceful walk that will take place tonight. Organizers believe up to 100 people may participate in the walk, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at High View Park on N. Dinwiddie Street. Police do not plan to work crowd control because the peaceful event will keep to the sidewalks and no road closures are needed.

Shortly after the murders last year, members gathered for a candlelight vigil for Spriggs and Moten. Dozens of people showed up to take part in the singing, prayer and poetry reading.

Police have not released any new information about the homicides, but confirm the investigation is still open. Anyone who may have information about the murders should call Det. Robert Wright at 703-228-4197. To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 866-411-TIPS (8477).

Photo courtesy WJLA/ABC 7

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Car Fire In Hall’s Hill

Car fire in Hall's Hill (courtesy of @KenHagemann) Car fire in Hall's Hill (courtesy of @KenHagemann)

A vehicle caught fire in the Hall’s Hill neighborhood this afternoon.

The fire was reported around 3:30 p.m. in the area of N. Dinwiddie and 22nd Streets. A thick plume of black smoke was spotted from around the area as the blaze consumed what appeared to be a pickup truck in a residential driveway.

Firefighters arrived quickly to extinguish the flames, according to a witness. No injuries have been reported.

Photo courtesy of @KenHagemann

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Parks Dept. Holding Two Ribbon Cuttings This Weekend

Renovated playground at High View Park (photo via Arlington County)Arlington County’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation will be holding two ribbon cutting ceremonies this weekend.

Tonight (Friday), starting at 6:00 p.m., an opening celebration will be held for the newly-renovated High View Park, located at 1945 N. Dinwiddie Street, within the boundaries of the John M. Langston Civic Association.

Renovations to the park include  new play areas, an ADA accessible route from Cameron Street, new benches, and a picnic area.

The event will include moon bounces “for all ages,” face painting, balloon art and refreshments. The ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 7:00 p.m.

On Saturday, Arlington County will celebrate the restoration of Carlin Hall (5711 4th Street S.). Dating back to 1892, Carlin Hall is currently used as a preschool, a community meeting facility and a recreation center. It recently underwent an extensive structural restoration.

A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Carlin Hall at 12:15 p.m. on Saturday. The ceremony is part of the annual Glencarlyn Day festivities, which include a pancake breakfast, a parade, a fun fair and a home and garden tour.

Photo via Arlington County

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Hall’s Hill Community Mourns Loss of Homicide Victims

Through song, prayer and poetry, the Hall’s Hill community came together Tuesday night to mourn the loss of two of its own.

A candlelight vigil was held for double homicide victims Keefe Spriggs and Carl Moten at the Hall’s Hill/High View Park Memorial Garden. Dozens of people young and old — including friends, family and neighbors of the victims — attended the somber vigil, which was organized in part by the Calloway United Methodist Church (5000 Lee Highway). Speakers included pastors and community members.

On the morning of August 7, 59-year-old Spriggs and 31-year-old Moten were found murdered in an apartment on the 1900 block of N. Culpeper Street, in Hall’s Hill — the neighborhood in which they were both born and raised. So far, police have not released any additional information regarding the ongoing investigation into the homicides.

Spriggs, known as Kee-Kee to friends and family, was divorced and was working at a body shop. Moten, also known as Pooh Bear, was an acquaintance of Spriggs and had been working as a cook at a restaurant in Falls Church.

Calloway pastor Rev. Sonja Flye Oliver said Spriggs and Moten both came from families with “extremely deep roots in the Hall’s Hill community.”

“Both of these families are families of faith, families of character,” she said. “These people exemplify what it means to be a close knit community.”

Rev. Oliver said it has been more than a decade since a crime like this has happened in the area.

“This is just shocking, it’s a shocking thing to have happen,” she said. “I’ve heard over and over again: things like this just don’t happen in Hall’s Hill.”

“When one of us hurts, all of us hurt, because we’re all related,” she told the gathered crowd. “We’re related by blood or we’re related by the Spirit. I like the feeling of family that this community exhibits all the time. You feel the love and the presence of God here.”

The families of both men are “not strangers to loss,” Rev. Oliver said. Spriggs’ mother had previously lost a son to a motorcycle accident and another son to an illness, she said.

The funeral for Spriggs was held on Tuesday. Moten’s funeral will be held at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in the Arlington View neighborhood on Thursday.

Rev. Oliver said Arlington County Police have been responsive to the community during the investigation into the homicides.

“We have faith that they are working diligently and trying to piece everything together,” she said. “I think the community will rejoice when we have an answer. We would just like to know who and why.”

In the meantime, she said, the “outpouring of love from the community” has been helping the families of Spriggs and Moten cope with their loss.

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