Arlington resident Jeff Spugnardi’s interest in woodworking began with skateboard ramps he built in grammar school. Decades later, after retiring from a career in the Marine Corps, he turned his hobby into a business in his Leeway Overlee home.
Since 2008, the 46-year-old craftsman has sold wood chairs, tables and other furniture he’s designed and built in his personal workshop.
“So many people can’t believe that someone builds something in Arlington because it seems like everybody is a professional and going to D.C., and here I am building things,” Spugnardi said. “I take ugly slabs and turn it into this stuff.”
Spugnardi only uses walnut, maple and cherry wood to make his furniture, including chairs that range in price fromAll the wood is from a Northern Virginia supplier.
Spugnardi said he focuses on making comfortable furniture with character. He often adds special touches, like glow-in-the dark features, to his works. For his chairs, which take 80 hours to build, he puts in flexible back braces that are designed to conform to sitters’ backs. A 6-foot-11 man once commented on how comfy the chairs were and how he couldn’t find similar furniture for his size, Spugnardi said.
“Everything is custom-sized, so I have a bunch of templates based on your height and your arms,” he said. “Everything is proportionate to the legs and where your knees are. We custom fit everything.”
Spugnardi said most of his customers are locals. His work has appeared at art shows in Reston and D.C. and regularly catches the eye of people in his neighborhood.
“I’ll often do a lot of sculpting and grinding in the driveway,” Spugnardi said. “I used to be in the Marines so I will wear my flight suit. People will come by [and ask], ‘What are you doing or what type of wood is this?’ And so I’ll get some people who will [ask if I can] build them a table or if I can see their dining room.”
Firefighters battled a house fire in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood last night.
The fire was reported just before 6:30 p.m., on the 2200 block of N. Nottingham Street. The blaze started in the home’s basement and spread to the first floor, but was quickly extinguished once firefighters arrived on scene, authorities said.
No injuries were reported. The county’s fire marshal is investigating the cause.
As part of its ongoing campaign for additional fire department funding, Arlington’s firefighters association pointed out via Twitter that
Truck Tower 104, which was second due on the call, is “understaffed with only 3 [firefighters].”
Photo courtesy Arlington County Fire Department
The tree, according to an online petition the neighbors have launched, is more than 200 years old and is the largest Wildenow’s Oak — a natural hybrid of a black oak and southern red oak — in Virginia. It’s on Arlington’s list of “Champion Trees.”
“Local naturalists have examined it and found it to be in excellent health,” the petition states. “In its long life, the tree has survived the widespread felling of Arlington’s trees during the Civil War and the neighborhood’s transformation from farms to a suburb dotted with neat rows of brick colonials, Cape Cods and ramblers.”
The lot on which the tree sits is slated to be redeveloped by DS Homes, a small construction company based in Manassas. When reached by ARLnow.com, DS Homes employee Manny Carneiro said “the plan right now is to save the tree.”
Nonetheless, Carneiro pointed out that the tree is on the lot and things could change. At the very least, DS Homes will have to trim some of the massive tree’s branches during construction, when it tears down the current home, built in 1950, for a new one. DS Homes bought the property to redevelop last month, according to Arlington County property records.
The online petition has 324 signatures as of 10:55 a.m. The petition’s organizers have a goal of 400 signatures.
Photo via iPetitions
The mermaid carving along Lee Highway that drew national attention when it was put up for sale in 2011 has been cut down.
The statue had been up in the front yard of Leeway Overlee resident Paul Jackson since 2004. In 2011 Jackson hoped to sell the statue for $3,000, with the requirement of the buyer “slicing her off and returning her home.” He apparently didn’t find a buyer, as the statue, which was built out of a dying, 100+ year-old ash tree, remained in the yard.
Today, however, it is nowhere to be found. The only remnant is a stump beneath a sculpture of a turtle.
The statue was carved by Frederick, Md., artist Scott Dustin, and was described in the Washington Post as having “a shapely derriere and bare breasts that must be at least size DD.” The mermaid was nicknamed “Damaged Goods” or “D.G.” for short, and stirred up neighborhood controversy.
Jackson wasn’t home today to explain why the mermaid was removed, but a poster on the ARLnow.com Facebook page said it was “becoming too rotted and infested with ants.”
Hat tip to Michelle Fetig
(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The retail space at the corner of Lee Highway and N. George Mason Drive that once housed a 7-Eleven store is now a location for a car title loan company.
TitleMax, which lets individuals with poor credit borrow against the title of their automobile, moved into the space a few weeks ago, according to representatives of Virginia Hospital Center, which owns the building.
The 7-Eleven closed Oct. 21 of last year after the convenience store chain’s corporate arm declined to continue its month-to-month lease. In the months between 7-Eleven’s closing and TitleMax opening, Virginia Hospital Center Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Adrian Stanton said there was little interest in the property.
“It’s an odd parcel in that it’s kind of at an angle,” Stanton told ARLnow.com. “It doesn’t allow for a lot of parking and the vehicular access is very limited. Retail operations are not interested in that space.”
Stanton said members of the nearby civic associations — the property is at the edges of the Leeway Overlee, John M. Langston and Tara-Leeway Heights neighborhoods — have been watching the property to see what business will go in there, and he plans to meet with representatives of some of the civic associations soon to explain why TitleMax moved in.
An ARLnow.com tipster questioned whether TitleMax’s location, on the edge of the Yorktown neighborhood, is “in keeping with the area.”
“TitleMax has locations around Northern Virginia in areas just like this,” Stanton said. “There’s obviously something TitleMax sees in the areas they place their services in.”
Old man winter is losing his grip on the area as spring-like temperatures have finally arrived.
Aside from the sunny, blue skies, the arrival of spring can perhaps best evident by looking at the remains of a formerly two-story snow fort.
The snow fort, built by a 19-year-old Leeway-Overlee resident, once stood 12 feet high. Now, it’s a small pile of “snow rubble,” surrounded by an area of brown grass about the size of the fort’s 11-foot-by-11-foot base.
Photo courtesy @StuNagurka
A 19-year-old Leeway-Overlee resident took advantage of Arlington’s especially snowy winter to build a massive snow fort in his front yard.
Michael Grieg, who lives on the 6000 block of 22nd Road N., built the fort “by himself using snow shovels, a wheelbarrow, two ladders and recycling bin for a snow block mold,” according to his mother, Cristina. The fort is 12 feet high with an 11-foot-by-11-foot base, she said.
“It was built to be a work of art, he doesn’t often have the opportunity,” Cristina Grieg wrote in an email to ARLnow.com “It took him about 40 hours starting with the first major snow storm.”
The above pictures were sent on Saturday, but the snow fort may not be around for much longer. Temperatures could jump into the 70s by tomorrow afternoon. Mild temperatures this weekend reduced the fort’s height by a foot, Grieg reported Monday morning.
“Still standing, about 11 feet now, but showing wear and tear,” she said.
Photos courtesy Cristina Grieg
If passed, the motion would fund $781,082 for street improvements on 24th Street N. from Illinois Street to Kensington Street; $159,751 for new streetlights on S. Edison Street from George Mason Drive to 11th Street; and $521,409 for median and striping improvements on N. Sycamore Street from 26th Street to Williamsburg Blvd.
The three projects were recommended by the Neighborhood Conservation Action Committee. The money would come from the Neighborhood Conservation Program, an $11 million pot of money used for relatively small citizen-initiated projects. The three projects would be the third installment of the latest Neighborhood Conservation fund, approved by referendum last year. Four projects were funded last fall and five were funded this spring. If approved, the program would have $4,866,407 in funding left for future projects.
The projects were selected on a points-based system. They were the three highest-scoring projects out of the 25 proposals the NCAC reviews. County staff supported the NCAC’s recommendations in its report..
The item is on the Board’s consent agenda, which means unless a Board member or a citizen decides it warrants further analysis at the Board’s Tuesday meeting, it should pass without additional discussion on Saturday.
A new green home, once the subject of a neighborhood controversy, is now up for sale.
The home at 2617 N. Nottingham Street, in the Leeway neighborhood, was built on a so-called pipestem lot — a parcel carved from the back of a larger lot, connected to the street only by a narrow “pipestem” driveway.
Plans for the home’s construction initially caused a neighborhood “uproar,” as reported by the Washington Post in February 2012. Existing residents strongly objected to the house being built behind their own homes. Ultimately, a compromise was reached following discussions between neighbors and home builder Arlington Designer Homes, and the controversy died down.
Now, with construction complete, Arlington Designer Homes is hosting an open house at 2617 N. Nottingham Street. The open house, for both prospective buyers and interested residents, is taking place on Sunday, April 7, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. The home’s asking price is $1.1 million.
In a press release, the company touts the building as “one of the greenest houses in the county.” Its green features include a “living green roof and an advanced storm water management system.”
The new 3,100 square foot, 4 bedroom, 3 ½ bath home, located at 2617 N. Nottingham St., is the first house built under Arlington County’s Use Permit process, established after the county changed its zoning ordinances for pipestem lots. The permit process included extensive collaboration among the builder, Arlington Designer Homes, county staff, neighbors and community members, and resulted in a green design that is truly one of a kind.
Responding to county and neighborhood priorities, Arlington Designer Homes committed to extensive storm water management techniques and practices. “Our new home showcases what in-fill construction of the future will look like,” said Andrew Moore, President of Arlington Designer Homes. “In fact, the lot will produce less storm water runoff post-construction than it did prior to development.”
“These storm water management techniques include multiple rain gardens, native plants and grasses, permeable pavers and a living green roof,” said Moore, a Certified Green Professional. “The Liveroof® system is a modular system where sedum plants that serve to absorb rain and protect the roof are grown in trays and then transported to the building site ready to go. The advantage to this system is that you can install a fully planted green roof in a day.”
The house also features an advanced insulation package including both cellulose and spray foam insulation, Energy Star Jeld-wen windows, a high-efficiency furnace with a heat pump, 1.28 gallon per flush toilets, pre-finished flooring and siding, and PVC trim for a low maintenance exterior. It will be certified under the Energy Star 3.0, Arlington County Green Home Choice, and Home Innovation NGBS Green Certified programs (expected).
Photos courtesy Arlington Designer Homes
Coyote Spottings in Arlington? — Some residents in the Leeway Overlee area of Arlington have recently reported spotting a coyote in their neighborhood. While video has proven the presence of coyotes — or at least one coyote — in Arlington, naturalists question whether the animal spotted might actually be a fox or a mangy dog. [NBC Washington]
GOP AG Debate at GMU Law Tonight — The George Mason University School of Law in Arlington will host a debate between the two Republican candidates for Virginia Attorney General tonight. The event, which is open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be moderated by former attorney general and governor Jim Gilmore. [Republican National Lawyers Association]
Arlington ‘Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare’ — Arlington County has managed to avoid the “traffic nightmare” that’s facing nearby D.C. thanks to a “multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence” that serves as “a regional model,” according to WAMU. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Tom and Jo Straub have prided themselves on their elaborate Christmas light display for years. Only recently have they started using it to raise money for a good cause.
The couple has transformed the front yard of their Leeway Overlee area house, located at 5612 24th Street N., into a “dancing” light show synchronized to 15 of their favorite Christmas songs.
The display contains some 10,000 LED lights, which blink and “dance” with the music. The tunes can be heard from speakers outside the house and via a low-power radio station they set up for people who’d rather stay in their cars with the windows up. The station can be found at 98.1 on the FM dial.
The lights have been on display since Thanksgiving night and will be on every night through New Years Day. The show runs from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Santa Claus (as played by Mr. Straub) is on hand from 6:00 to 8:00 on most nights.
Not only are the lights fun to watch, but they’re also helping to raise money for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. A small mailbox near the street collects cash donations for the AWLA, as well as donations of pet food, pet beds, toys and other pet supplies. Once a donation is made, the donor can reward themselves by hitting a button near the mailbox for a small bonus light show.
Last year was the couple’s first year collecting for the AWLA. Tom Straub said they collected $1,100 for the organization, and hopes to raise even more this year.
Straub said the display requires about 2,000 feet of extension cords and takes all year to plan. He said the outdoor speakers turn off at 8:00 and he hasn’t heard any serious complaints from neighbors this year. He has, however, received a complaint about his Santa-like beard, which he started growing in June 2011.
“The wife is fed up with it, so it’s coming off on the 24th,” he said.
Ballston Parking Garage Rate Hike Approved — On Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a proposed increase in parking rates at the Ballston Public Parking Garage. The parking rate hike, the first at the garage since 1996, will have the biggest impact on those who park on weekends, who were previously paying a $1 flat rate. The county said the increase was necessary to pay for repairs and upgrades to the garage. Also discussed: the effect of Arlington’s living wage requirement on personnel costs at the garage. [Arlington County]
New Streetlights Green-Lit for the Pike — Also on Saturday, the Board approved a $1.2 million contract to install new LED streetlights along part of Columbia Pike. County officials said the new streetlights will improve safety, energy efficiency and aesthetics along one of the busiest pedestrian sections of the Pike. [Arlington County]
‘Pipestem’ Compromise Reached — A developer and neighbors in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood reached a compromise on the developer’s controversial plan to build a new home on a “pipestem” lot on N. Nottingham Street. As part of the compromise, the house — located behind another home and connected to the street by only a thin strip of driveway — will be smaller than originally proposed and will include a detached garage. [Washington Post]
Home Prices Up in Arlington — Fewer homes were sold in January compared to a year ago, but the fact that there were fewer homes on the market helped to raise average and median sale prices by nearly 10 percent. The increase in home prices was led by double-digit increases in townhouse and condo prices. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Damiec
Gunfire was heard around 9:30 Friday night on the 1600 block of Constitution Avenue NW, near the White House. According to news reports, a driver was later seen abandoning a car and fleeing across the Memorial Bridge into Arlington. An AK-47 rifle was recovered, according to the Secret Service.
The Highland Park/Overlee Knolls listserv is now abuzz with word that Oscar Ortega, who is wanted by U.S. Park Police for carrying a dangerous weapon in connection with the incident, may have been staying in their neighborhood.
According to an email sent to the listserv on Sunday: “I thought you all might like to know that the police informed my husband and one of our neighbors that they suspect that someone they are seeking in connection with a shooting incident near the White House was squatting in the house on the corner of N. 22nd and Madison that is currently empty and awaiting demolition.”
Spokespersons for Arlington County Police and U.S. Park Police said they were unaware of any investigation in the area. But two residents who spoke to ARLnow.com confirmed that there were at least four police cars parked near the house on Sunday morning.
Oscar Ramiro Ortega is described by police as a 21-year-old Hispanic male with brown eyes, black hair and a medium build. He’s 5’11” and 160 lbs, with tatoos on his right hand, upper back, chest and on the left side of his neck. Police say Ortega has ties to the state of Idaho.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call U.S. Park Police at 202-610-7500 or 202-610-8737.
Photo courtesy U.S. Park Police
The 18-foot tall mermaid has graced the front yard of Leeway Overlee resident Paul Jackson since 2004, when Paul and wife Nancy had the bright idea to carve something out of their dying 100+ year old white ash tree. Nancy, in a moment of benevolence, suggested a mermaid, to satisfy Paul’s dual loves of fish and women. The final product, carved by Frederick, Md. artist Scott Dustin, featured what the Washington Post’s Laura Sessions Stepp described as “a shapely derriere and bare breasts that must be at least size DD.”
The busty mermaid, named “Damaged Goods” or D.G. for short, has attracted neighborhood and media attention ever since her controversial creation. She received the aforementioned Washington Post write-up shortly after Labor Day 2004 — in an article entitled “Majestic or Monstrous?” — and, more recently, she was the focus of a Connection Newspapers piece entitled “From Controversy to Landmark.” She’s also listed on RoadsideAmerica.com, an “online guide to offbeat tourist attractions.”
All is not well in paradise, however. D.G.’s roots are weakening and Paul has decided to sell rather than watch her teeter. He’s asking for $3,000, and not a dime less.
“Buyer is responsible for ‘slicing her off’ and transporting her to her new home,” he writes on his Craigslist ad. If you want to inspect the goods, D.G. can be viewed from the street or the sidewalk, on the south side of the 6200 block of Lee Highway.
Hat tip to M. Crider
Training Day — U.S. Navy Lt. Christine Flood, an Arlington native, trains Afghan National Army medics on basic nursing skills, infectious disease control and hospital trauma procedures at the Kandahar Regional Medical Hospital on June 5. [U.S. Army]
House Fire in Leeway-Overlee — A fire broke out in the back of a house on the 5500 block of 24th Street N. on Sunday afternoon, possibly due to a lightning strike. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it spread to other parts of the structure.
Streetcar Supporters Meet Tonight — The Northern Virginia Streetcar Coalition will meet tonight at Bangkok 54 (2919 Columbia Pike) to discuss “the development impacts of streetcar projects in the Washington-Metropolitan region,” including the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The discussion is being called “If you build it, they will come.” [Alexandria Times]
Crystal City BID Extended — The Crystal City Business Improvement District has been renewed. The BID, which sponsors events and performs other activities designed to boost the image of Crystal City while bringing more visitors to the neighborhood, was approaching the end of its original five-year sunset provision. The County Board voted to renew the BID in perpetuity, with a staff review in five years. The BID is funded by a tax surcharge on businesses within Crystal City. [Sun Gazette]
Military Man Becomes Priest — The Sun Gazette profiles Luke Dundon, one of the three new priests in the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. Dundon is a Bishop O’Connell and a Naval Academy graduate, as well as an avid marathoner. [Sun Gazette]
Military photo by Sgt. Richard Andrade