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Gavin Andersen and Steve Dierkes (courtesy Lawn Barbers)

Steve Dierkes and Gavin Andersen — co-owners of local lawn care business The Lawn Barbers — have dealt with snakes, poison ivy and swarms of cicadas when caring for the lawns of Arlington residents.

But they say the bugs and weeds were worth the experience of running a company together.

The two dabbled in lawn care in high school, and when their summer internships were canceled due to the pandemic, they decided to turn their high school jobs into a business.

“I was going to work at a big consulting firm in D.C. — so a little different than landscaping,” Andersen said. “We tried to find a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy situation.”

“I was going to work at a think tank and, frankly, I’m not too upset I ended up in landscaping,” said Dierkes.

The two built up their client base on Nextdoor, trading names with other area lawn care businesses. After starting out with tools and equipment Dierkes’ parents kept in a shed, they soon earned enough money to buy their own equipment.

Their diligence paid off. Now in its second year, Lawn Barbers offers all kinds of lawn care services — from general yard maintenance to weed control to landscaping renovations — and their business was voted in the top three lawn care businesses in last week’s Arlies.

They say their bond is the key to their success. The friends, who are both 22, met in preschool at Westover Baptist Church and went through elementary school, high school and college together. They both studied at William and Mary.

“We’ve known each other for pretty much our entire lives,” said Dierkes.

“It’s pretty crazy, Steve,” added Andersen.

Drawing on nearly two decades of friendship, the two joke around while their hands are deep in weeds. They say the customers respond well to their positivity and energy.

“What’s better than having two guys on your lawn in 100-degree weather having a blast?” said Andersen. “I don’t think I’ve ever done anything I enjoy as much as waking up to do this with Steve.”

Their friendship has helped them through tough times: long hours, backbreaking work and the occasional argument. Once, they moved more than 10,000 pounds of rocks in wheelbarrows to create a drainage solution and pulled up 500-1,000 square feet of English Ivy.

“That was pretty brutal,” Andersen said. “I’ve had to mow a lawn with snakes in it and weeds up to my shoulders.”

For one job, the two scaled a steep hill that gave them a view of all the houses in the neighborhood.

“It made for a great picture,” Dierkes said.

The work gave them another view of Arlington: one through the eyes of people who have been here for decades and seen the community grow and change. Completing projects near the schools they attended, Tuckahoe Elementary School and Yorktown High School, reminds them of how they’ve done the same.

Despite now being able to call themselves an award-winning lawn care duo, Dierkes and Andersen are trading their mowers for desks and office jobs as the summer ends. Looking forward, the partners say their experience will make them better employees and people.

“There’s a lot of life lessons in doing what others consider elementary work,” said Andersen.

“I think working in landscaping, and working in the summer, you really learn resilience and persistence,” said Dierkes. “Gavin and I couldn’t just quit after six hours. You had to get the job done.”

Dierkes is now in Pittsburgh, working at a startup, and Andersen is still in the D.C. area as a consultant, but they refuse to say goodbye to the business. They say they will be available for work over holiday breaks and other times they’re both in Arlington.

“I’m not [expletive] leaving,” said Dierkes, adding that he misses Arlington and his lawn care partnership. “It’s like that corny Dr. Seuss line, ‘It’s not goodbye, it’s just see you later.'”

Andersen agreed.

“The barbershop is eternally open,” he said.

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(Updated at 9:45 a.m. on 7/8/21) Three water “elements” will be the focal points of the planned park space at PenPlace, the second phase of proposed Amazon’s HQ2.

And Kate Orff, the landscape architect designing this park, is drawing her inspiration from Roaches Run and the historic Alexandria Canal, as well as the churning waters of Great Falls Park and the sylvan streams of Rock Creek Park.

The park at PenPlace will run north-south through the 11-acre site situated at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street. PenPlace will be anchored by a lush, futuristic building, dubbed “The Helix,” and feature three, 22-story office buildings with ground-floor retail.

Orff said aspects of the waterways inspiring her will come together to form three distinct “water moments” throughout the 2.5-acre park, said Orff, the founder of SCAPE — a landscaping design firm — in a new video.

This video was published today (Wednesday) in a blog post, along with pictures of her proposed designs and of the waterways that captured her imagination. These designs are not yet finalized.

“In homage to the historic hydrology of the site and local waterways in nearby Rock Creek Park and Great Falls Park, SCAPE’s design incorporates water features on a north-to-south axis across the park, interpreting the natural elements of cascades and streams at a human scale,” the blog post said.

PenPlace’s grounds will be publicly accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the blog post said. Throughout the 2.5 acres, visitors will be immersed in “botanical experiences” incorporating “beloved local ecosystems.”

There will be three water elements: a “Headwaters” fountain at the northern end of the site, creating a cooling climate in the forest plaza. There will be a central confluence next to a green where people can gather. Finally, there will be a stormwater meadow that will filter stormwater and serve pollinators. (An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the three elements will be connected via a river.)

The grounds will pay tribute to the forests and meadows of the mid-Atlantic that these waterways nourish. For Orff, the project allows her to tap into her roots.

“I’m from this area, so I have a deep love for the mid-Atlantic region, and the Appalachian cove forests, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the tributaries of the Potomac,” said Orff, a Maryland native and University of Virginia graduate, in the video. “We’re going to try to bring a magnified version of these ecosystems into this park at HQ2. It will feel different. It will feel special. It will feel unique.”

Orff added that the park grounds are designed to connect to existing Arlington County parks.

“Restoring ecosystems, creating immersive ecological spaces and a vibrant public realm, carving out habitat, creating an inclusive process driven by a community vision — the concepts behind PenPlace’s design are all part of our DNA as a firm,” Orff said in the blog post. “We’re excited to bring Arlington a true community park anchored in the local ecologies that make this place unique.”

The planning process for PenPlace kicked off in March.

Meanwhile, Amazon officials previously said that construction of the first phase, Metropolitan Park, continues on-schedule. This phase will feature a public park.

Video courtesy Amazon, edited by Dana Munro

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We’re hoping to do some major landscaping work over the next year and would like your thoughts on what we should focus on that will also be good for resale.

Answer: Now is a great time to start planning a landscaping redesign project for next year’s warm weather. If you’re preparing for a sale, small improvements to your yard can be just as valuable as updates to the inside of your home.

I sat down with local landscaping expert and long-time Arlington resident, Jeff Minnich (you should see his yard!) of Jeff Minnich Garden Design, to discuss smart ways to boost the outdoor appeal of your home before listing it and talked about some of the landscaping trends he sees in Arlington.

High ROI Landscaping For Resale

  • DAPPR: Define bed edges, Add fresh mulch, Pull the weeds, Prune the bushes and Remove dead leaves.
  • Lawn is King: Tall Fescue grass works the best in Arlington. The best time to seed your lawn is March, April and September. Water 1-2x per week. Give it about a month to grow.
  • Blast of Color: Azaleas are beautiful around here in April and May. Pansies are good options fall thru spring. Geraniums are great in the summer.
  • Grand Entrance: Your front door is a focal point — hit it with a fresh coat of paint or replace all together. Power wash your driveway and walkways. Flagstone aka Pennsylvania Bluestone offer great value if you need to replace or add a walkway (also perfect for patios).
  • Create a Scene: Help potential buyers picture themselves relaxing in their future yard by staging an area of your yard with chairs, table, umbrella, hammock, lemonade pitcher, etc.
  • De-clutter: Just like you removed personal items from inside the home, put things like statues and lawn gnomes away.
  • Condos too: If you have some outdoor space (balcony, patio, etc) pot some plants (see Blast of Color) and stage it (see Create a Scene).

Landscaping For Personal Enjoyment (not everything needs to be done with ROI in mind)

Trends:

  • Outdoor living spaces are the biggest trend in Arlington. This includes kitchens, fire pits, entertainment areas and lighting.
  • Hydrangeas and other “old fashioned” shrubbery are back in style. Dogwoods and azaleas are always trendy in Arlington.

Approaching a landscaping project:

  • Step 1 Hardscaping — Install patios, walkways, living spaces, water features, etc. This can cost anywhere from $10,000-$25,000+
  • Step 2 Sheds and Storage — Establish space for these items next
  • Step 3 Plantings — Work from biggest (trees) to smallest (flowers)
  • A full project usually takes 1-3 months to complete
  • There’s no such thing as maintenance-free

Thank you Jeff for all of your great advice. To learn more about Jeff or see examples of his work, please visit his website or send an email to [email protected].

Jeff received his horticulture degree, with an emphasis on landscape design and nursery management, from Virginia Tech. His garden design/build firm, Jeff Minnich Garden Design, Inc. takes the client from initial design concept through the completed garden design. Enjoy the wonderful colors of his personal Arlington garden at 2268 N. Upton Street.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to set-up an in-person meeting to discuss local real estate, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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Supporters of Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation program are warning county leaders that the steep budget cuts they’re contemplating could effectively kill it.

County Manager Mark Schwartz is proposing slashing $24 million from the program’s funding over the next 10 years as part of his new Capital Improvement Plan, dropping its coffers down to $36 million through 2028.

Neighborhood Conservation has long helped dole out money for modest community improvements, like new sidewalks or landscaping, yet the county’s grim budget picture convinced Schwartz to target it for some hefty cuts. That prompted several community activists and managers of the program to lobby the County Board to restore that funding at a public hearing last Wednesday (June 27).

“This is almost a death knell for Neighborhood Conservation,” said Bill Braswell, a former chair of the county’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. “All the interest in it will dissipate, and it will take forever to get started again.”

County staff say that these proposed cuts would mean that projects already in line for funding will still move ahead, but any new applications from neighborhoods will go on the back burner. Accordingly, Phil Klingelhofer, deputy vice chair of the program’s advisory committee, believes that such a delay would mean that any “neighborhood with a recently proposed project should expect to wait 15 to 30 years for a project to come to the top for current funding.”

“If you decide to accept this… we recognize this is really the end of the program, and at that point, you should take the final step and end the program permanently,” Klingelhofer said.

For some in the community, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. Some activists have started arguing that the program has outlived its usefulness, including columnist Peter Rousselot, who points out that it can already take five or 10 years for a project to move through the Neighborhood Conservation process.

County Board member John Vihstadt has similar concerns about the program’s efficacy, noting that those delays are often driven by “quality control or monitoring issues” with the county switching contractors for some projects two or three times each. That’s why he sees this CIP process has a chance to reform the program, and “mend it, not end it.”

“Things are not good right now, and we’re looking at what we’re going to do,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “If we’re going to fund the program, it needs to be modified and reformed.”

Braswell and Klingelhofer both told the Board at the hearing that they’d be willing to study ways to make the program run more efficiently, particularly if the alternative is steep funding cuts.

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Demolition has begun in preparation for the Nauck Town Center project, and the neighbors might not be the only ones buzzing with interest.

The building torn down last week is none other than the former home of about 70,000 honey bees, which the county relocated in July 2017 after realizing they had not only purchased a former office building but an apiary abode as well.

The aging building had only been vacant for about four months, according to the county, but about 100 pounds of honey were already generated by the time that local beekeepers swooped in to relocate move the hive.

The demolition is one of the final steps in the project’s first pre-construction phase. Utility undergrounding and site perimeter streetscaping will start fall 2018 and end spring 2019.

The second phase of Nauck Town Square project construction is scheduled to begin in the spring or summer of 2019 and wrap up by the winter of 2020. Pre-construction for phase two will begin spring 2018 and last through winter 2019.

The Nauck Town Center project, which has been years in the making, includes an open plaza, outdoor stage, public art, tables and seating and sidewalk improvements, along with displays about the history of the community, which was settled by free African-Americans in 1844. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.”

Photo courtesy Daniel Wanke

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Arlington County Board members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol joined more than 25 contract groundkeepers in their strike this morning outside of Arlington National Cemetery.

The strike by the members of Local 572 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) began today at 7 a.m. It comes after eight months of delays in reaching a new contract. The walkout is believed to be the first strike by workers at the cemetery, says LiUNA.

“This is about workers and their ability to provide for their families and their ability to live,” said Dorsey. “You really can’t do so if your wages don’t keep up with the cost of living.”

Cristol said she was at the strike to support “dignity and fair practices,” adding that the high cost of housing locally makes it hard to raise a family on the wages the groundskeepers are being paid.

The workers, who are jointly employed by Davey Tree Expert Co. and Greenleaf Services Inc., are looking for sick leave time and a pay raise of 4 percent from their current approximately $13 per hour rate.

“I don’t think our ask is that dramatic at all,” said LiUNA assistant organizing director Keon Shim. “We’ve negotiated on things that are non economic and when it came to economics, the company basically said no to everything that we proposed so far.”

“When you think about the incredibly enormous job and the important job of beautifying our cemetery, making it a sacred place and also making it hospitable for visitors, we shouldn’t take the low road with those employees who make that happen,” said Dorsey.

There will be negotiations tomorrow between the workers and the companies, according to the union. If the company is not willing to sign a new contract for workers, union representatives said, the strike will continue.

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Morning Notes

Sunset from Highview neighborhood (courtesy photo)

Arlington Fighting to Keep, Attract Office Tenants — In the wake of federal cuts and BRAC relocations, Arlington’s office vacancy rate is now as high as 23 percent. Arlington is reportedly fighting to keep the Courthouse-based energy software firm Opower, “which is considering a move to the District to better recruit talent.” Meanwhile, Rosslyn property owner Monday Properties is still searching for a tenant for its new, gleaming 1812 N. Moore Street office tower. [Washington Post]

New Spa Coming to Clarendon — Sterling-based Origins Thai Spa is planning on opening a new location in Arlington. The spa will be located in a 5,000 square foot space next to Sehkraft Beer Garden on the ground floor of the Garfield Park apartment building at 925 N. Garfield Street. [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington No. 4 on ‘Rich and Single’ List — Arlington is again No. 4 on Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Be Rich and Single” list. Arlington’s ranking is unchanged from 2012. [Money]

County Recognizes ‘Outstanding Landscapes’ — The Arlington County Board has recognized four properties “for the quality of their landscaping and the serenity they bring to their neighborhoods.” The properties include Circa restaurant in Clarendon, the Clarendon Square office building, the Avalon Arlington North apartment building on N. Glebe Road, and the Whitmore apartment building on Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) More than a dozen trees that lined the median of Fairfax Drive  in Ballston were chopped down this weekend to make room for a new landscaping project.

Seventeen trees, some of which were around a foot in diameter, were removed by the Ballston Business Improvement District last weekend and this weekend. According to Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone, landscapers will be removing the stumps before they put in new trees and other plants.

Leone said 27 bald cypress trees will be planted in the median, accompanied by shrubbery and both annual and perennial flowers. Most of the work is projected to take between four and eight weeks, Leone said, but the perennials won’t be planted until the fall.

“We have started the implementation of our really dramatic landscaping for Fairfax Drive,” Leone said. “We see it becoming our grand boulevard for Ballston.”

The 17 trees removed “were near the end of their lives,” Leone said. “We had both our arborist and Arlington County’s take a look at them before the decision was made to remove them.”

The landscaping is the beginning of a re-envisioning of the way Ballston looks, and next year the improvements will begin in earnest to the “hardscape,” Leone said. The planned changes will be revealed on June 23 at the Ballston BID’s annual meeting, when attendees will be given a “3-D video tour” of the future of Ballston. Leone said the project should take about five years to complete.

“Ballston is going to look very different in the next five years,” she said. “This is just the first step.”

ARLnow.com received numerous tips and inquiries about the tree removal.

“A real shame,” one tipster said about the tree removal, before hearing about the replanting plans. “[It will result in] less green in the cityscape, less shade, less CO2 consumed, less oxygen produced, more of an urban heat island effect.”

Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.

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Several cherry trees were chopped down this week, while fully flowered, for a new landscape design in Rosslyn.

The trees were several of about a dozen planted in front of the Colonial Village Shopping Center, home to the new Ben’s Chili Bowl, along Wilson Blvd. Xtra Care Landscaping & Design was hired by the strip mall’s property manager to remove the trees, according to an Xtra Care employee.

“The manager just wants the shopping center to look better and to cut some trees down,” the employee told ARLnow.com. “There are going to be a lot of new plants going in and the whole center is going to be landscaped.”

The employee estimated the landscaping work will be completed by Friday.

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Washington-Lee High School and four Arlington apartment buildings are being recognized with landscaping awards by the Arlington County Board today.

Washington-Lee, Turnberry Towers (1881 Key Blvd), The Lancaster Condominiums (1830 Columbia Pike), The Residences of Lyon Hill Condominiums (2801 Lee Highway) and The Wellington (1850 Columbia Pike) were presented with 2013 Arlington County Landscape Recognition Awards Tuesday afternoon.

“These awards recognize the extraordinary efforts of property owners in installing and maintaining attractive landscaping to enhance Arlington’s streetscapes,” Arlington County Chairman Walter Tejada said in a press release.

The winners were selected by the Beautification Committee on the basis of various criteria including: illustrative use of landscape design principles; effective year-round maintenance; and effective use of trees, shrubs or perennial planting, according to Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish. More information and nomination procedures for future Landscape Recognition awards can be found on the county’s website.

Photos courtesy of the Department of Parks and Recreation

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A drab piece of vacant land that serves as the decidedly unspectacular southern entryway to Crystal City will soon be getting a new look.

The 30,000 square foot, triangular lot at the intersection of Crystal Drive and Jefferson Davis Highway will be getting “a large-scale lighting and landscape enhancement that will create a truly enticing gateway experience.”

“The project adds new turf, 28 trees, and beautiful LED lighting features laid out in an interesting and attractive geometric pattern that continues up the façade of the southernmost building in Crystal City,” according to the Crystal City Business Improvement District. Nearly 50,000 drivers per day pass by the entryway. The revamped look will communicate “the excitement and vibrancy of Crystal City,” according to the BID (see illustration, below).

A groundbreaking will be held on Monday, Oct. 3. Construction is expected to wrap up by Thanksgiving.

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

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