Press Club
Arlington County staff present the details of County Manager Mark Schwartz’s $3.9 billion CIP for 2023-32 (via Arlington County)

From a new Columbia Pike library to a dedicated pickleball court, County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed 10-year $3.9 billion capital improvement plan would fund projects across Arlington.

The first 10-year plan for capital projects in four years would budget for infrastructure projects between 2023 and 2032. The CIP proposal, slated for adoption in July, is a 40% increase from the plan approved four years ago, Schwartz said in his presentation to the County Board Tuesday.

“This CIP proposal aims to address current and future capital needs in Arlington County as we emerge from the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We want to focus on key planned investments in addition to following through on commitments from prior plans to benefit county residents and businesses long-term.”

Stormwater projects would receive $331.3 million in funding, including $77 million for Spout Run, $14.7 million for Torreyson Run, $28.5 million for Crossman Run and $49.5 million for Lubber Run — all flood mitigation efforts. Streams and water quality funding is proposed at $52.1 million and maintenance at $50.2 million.

A slideshow outlining what Arlington’s investment in environmental goals looks like in the 2023-32 CIP (via Arlington County)

While Metro remains one of the largest investments in the CIP, at $356.4 million, the proposal also outlines $1.8 billion in non-Metro transportation funding. This includes $16 million for Vision Zero street safety improvements program, $64 million for bridge replacements and renovations, and $89 million for bike and walk programs.

Other highlights include:

The proposed CIP includes new park programs that focus on emerging needs and natural resiliency, a new fire station on the west end of Columbia Pike, and facilities consolidation to enable remote work for county staff.

Schwartz said the needs of the county have changed since the last 10-year CIP, as the county is in “a world shaped by the pandemic where we do our business differently.”

Michelle Cowan, deputy county manager overseeing the Department of Management and Finance, noted during the presentation that the finance department works entirely remotely now, potentially a harbinger of a money-saving reduction in the county’s office footprint.

“We have reduced our footprint which… allows us then to do some really strategic consolidations that you’ll hear about in other county buildings that could get us out of some aging assets,” Cowan said.

The CIP will continue to fund debt service obligations for the investment in housing at Barcroft Apartments, construction of Fire Station 8, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023, and the design and planning process for the proposed Arlington boathouse.

Preliminary construction funding for the lower boathouse site is included in the later years of the CIP.

This CIP returns funding levels for the Arlington Neighborhoods Program, formerly the Neighborhood Conservation Program, which are projects identified by individual neighborhoods and include street improvements, streetlights, parks, beautification and sidewalks. The program had steep cuts in previous CIPs.

The 2023-32 CIP proposal would provide $85.2 million in funding to the program. That includes $4 million of funding for projects in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and would increase to $9 million in 2030 and 2031, Director of Management and Finance Maria Meredith said.

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Arlington Public Library is getting more than a half a million dollars to add 12,000 more titles to its collection, mostly in the form of ebooks.

Last month, the County Board adopted a budget that included a one-time allocation of $543,000 to the county library system for the purpose of adding to its collection. That money will kick in at the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1.

“The additional funds will allow us to get more books into more hands, more quickly,” said Library Director Diane Kresh in a press release. “A well-stocked, diverse collection benefits the entire community.”

Notably, the money will go towards increasing the library’s collection of electronic titles. The demand for both of these are at an “all-time high,” according to Arlington Public Library, with check-outs increasing by 210% for eAudio titles and 98.5% for eBooks since 2019.

The hope is that the extra funds will help “drastically reduce” how long patrons are waiting for popular titles.

“The lion’s share of the one-time funding will go towards bringing down those wait times by adding more copies of ebook/eaudiobooks with high holds to the collection,” Peter Petruski, who is in charge of the library’s collections, told ARLnow via email.

A smaller portion of the funding will go to more copies of print books, since demand isn’t as high as it is for electronic versions. Print books cost less than their electronic equivalents, Petruski noted.

“The growth in the e-material formats has been the biggest change in recent history,” Petruski writes. “This funding will allow us to continue to provide a broad collection for every reader’s interest while bringing wait times down.”

The library will also expand its catalog of Spanish language books with some of the funding.

The County Board approved its $1.5 billion annual budget last month. In it, Arlington Public Library was allocated a total of about $16 million — an increase of close to 6% from the previous year’s budget.

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Power outages in the neighborhoods around Pentagon City (via Dominion)

Update at 9:40 p.m. — Power is expected to be restored around midnight for the remaining 500 or so homes without power, according to Dominion says. The company confirmed that a tree trimming company dropped branches on power lines, causing the outage.

Update at 6 p.m. — The number of outages is down to 520, according to Dominion’s website. The cause of the outage, which is now mostly affecting the Arlington Ridge neighborhood, is a tree on a power line, the power company says

Earlier: Nearly 3,400 Dominion customers are without power in parts of South Arlington due to an outage.

The outage is affecting portions of Pentagon City, its surrounding neighborhoods, and eastern Columbia Pike. Firefighters are investigating initial reports of wires down around the intersection of S. Arlington Ridge Road and 23rd Street S., near where a tree crew was working.

Dominion is currently listing an estimated restoration time of 6-9 p.m.

The outage is affecting both single-family home neighborhoods and commercial areas. There have been several reports of power surges in the area, including at the Aurora Hills library.

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Morning Notes

A tulip in a pot along Crystal Drive in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local Unemployment Rate Still Falling — “Arlington’s unemployment rate, which bumped up at the start of the year, dropped back down in the latest data. With 149,651 county residents in the civilian workforce and 3,192 looking for jobs, the county jobless rate stood at 2.1 percent in February, down from 2.6 percent a month before and off from 3.6 percent in February 2021.” [Sun Gazette]

Tree Pollen Levels Rising — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Tree pollen spiking. Today’s count is HIGH or 429.39 grains per cubic meter. Grass pollen is low/moderate. Further rises next few days with highs well into the 70s today and near/above 80 Wed and Thur.” [Twitter]

New School Board Candidate — “Bethany Sutton, chair of the Arlington Public Schools Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, announced she is seeking the Democratic Party’s endorsement for the Arlington School Board. Sutton, a 20-year resident of Arlington, is a former PTA president and a parent of two daughters who attend middle school and high school in Arlington Public Schools.” [Patch]

No Dem Challenger for de Ferranti — “There is one less election on the horizon for Arlington this year. The April 7 filing deadline came and went with no challenger emerging to take on incumbent County Board member Matt de Ferranti in the June 21 election. As a result, the primary will be canceled and de Ferranti moves on to the general election.” [Sun Gazette]

Library Worker Helping With Ukraine Archive — “Arlington Public Library’s Digital Archivist, Greg Pierce at the Center for Local History (CLH), has been part of global volunteer effort to back up Ukraine’s digital heritage, currently at risk of being erased by the Russian invasion. Pierce’s involvement includes database verification, task and link wrangling, and internal communications with other volunteers.” [Arlington Public Library]

Marymount Announces Commencement Speakers — “In mid-May, approximately 1,080 students will receive their degrees.. The newest graduates of the mission-based university will hear from three distinguished speakers – the first female Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema; physicist and former NASA research center director Dr. Julian M. Earls; and global financier and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.” [Press Release]

It’s Wednesday — Warm and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 80 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:36 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Looking for books at the Columbia Pike Branch Library (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Arlington’s public libraries are trying to figure out how to get patrons back after Covid closures.

Since starting to reopen in mid-2021, library use has been down more than 25% from pre-pandemic levels, the Sun Gazette reports.

In a budget presentation with County Board members, longtime library director Diane Kresh acknowledged that the 75,000 users of her system in the days before COVID had dwindled to 55,000 today. (She didn’t do the math for board members, but it represents a drop of roughly 26.5 percent.)

“We want those people back. We’ve got to bring them back,” said Kresh, on hand to push for a library-system budget increase of 6 percent to $15.9 million and a staffing increase to about 140 full-time-equivalent positions from 131.

Meanwhile, while printed material remains the centerpiece of local libraries, digital rentals are quickly catching up. Kresh’s budget presentation cited the following national figures.

In 2009, non-digital materials made up 98% of a library’s collection. In 2019, that number was 45%.

In 2019, use of digital collections is at an all-time high of 37% of all collection use. This is triple what it was in 2013.

But in terms of borrowing, more physical books are borrowed than digital ones, with roughly 5.6 physical books borrowed per person per year and 3.5 digital.

The presentation noted that hold times in Arlington are long for popular material, like the novel The Lincoln Highway. Digital holds — e-books and e-audiobooks — are roughly twice as long as that for print, the presentation said, with 702 holds for the digital versions compared to 264 for print.

Hold times from library budget presentation (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s public library system, like others across the country, has been evolving its offerings, adding digital material rentals, holding various events and children’s activities, opening makerspaces, providing free meeting space rentals, and offering free Wi-Fi — indoors and outdoors — in addition to computer rentals.

A library is very much a public space: a place to meet up, study, research, create things, and participate in community activities.

Ultimately, though, much of the library system’s physical footprint and operational focus remains devoted to printed materials, at a time when you can read many books instantly on a screen and complete research projects entirely online.

There’s nostalgia for the democratization of knowledge unlocked by the Gilded Age rise of public libraries in the U.S., and print materials are still undoubtedly popular, but there is an argument to be made that libraries could serve more people by repurposing some space for more computers, kids activities and other public functions.

On the other hand, fewer physical books on the shelves could backfire and turn off some devoted patrons while failing to attract marginally higher numbers of new patrons.

What do you think? Should Arlington Public Library should consider gradually de-prioritizing print and using the space for other community uses?

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Morning Notes

Looking up while underneath cherry blossoms on Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square as storm clouds move in (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Little League Opening Day This Weekend — “For the first time since 2019, Arlington Little League will host its Opening Day on Sun, April 3 from 1-5:30 p.m. at Barcroft Park.” [Press Release]

Arlington Libraries Highlight Banned Books — “The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom  recently issued a statement opposing widespread efforts to censor books in U.S. schools and libraries. Unfortunately, Virginia has been subject to these censorship efforts, and in light of this, Arlington Public Library is taking a stand to build awareness of these challenged books.” [Arlington Public Library]

AHC Announces New Leader — From a press release: “AHC Inc.’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Paul Bernard has been unanimously selected as the organization’s new President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He will join AHC in his new role on April 4.” Bernard fills a CEO seat at the affordable housing provided previously held by Walter Webdale, who retired after controversy over conditions at AHC’s Serrano Apartments. [AHC Inc.]

W-L Holding ‘Pink Games’ This Month — “W-L girls’ soccer is turning PINK for Doorways! Join the players in supporting survivors of domestic and sexual violence as well as families and youth experiencing homelessness.” [Doorways]

It’s April Fool’s Day — Mostly cloudy throughout the day today, April 1. Breezy, with a west wind 14 to 21 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph. High of 65 and low of 43. Sunrise at 6:54 am and sunset at 7:33 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Aerial view of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor at left, the Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor at right, and the Four Mile Run Valley at bottom (staff photo)

Man Tased After Columbia Pike Assault — “The suspect was inside of a business, acting disorderly and aggressive towards other patrons, when he allegedly approached the victim and struck him in the face. The victim sustained minor injuries and did not require medical treatment. Responding officers located the suspect, who continued to act disorderly and resisted arrest. A brief struggle ensued, during which the officer deployed a TASER, and the suspect was subsequently taken into custody without further incident.” [ACPD]

D.C. Also Has Camp Registration Drama — “Hey… it looks like DC is having similar problems with @VermontSystems as @ArlingtonVA had last week.” [Twitter]

Library Reads on the Ukraine Conflict — “Ukraine and Russia are top of the headlines around the world. Dig deeper into the two countries and their history in these books.” [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]

Marymount Going Mask Optional — “On Monday, Marymount University announced to students, faculty and staff that the institution’s indoor mask requirement will no longer be in effect starting this Tuesday, March 1. This decision is based upon low COVID-19 metrics in Arlington County.” [Press Release]

On to States for W-L Boys Hoops — “The host South Lakes Seahawks played a part in the Generals’ failed attempt, winning that Feb. 25 boys 6D North Region tournament boys high-school basketball title contest, 56-47… Next for Washington-Liberty is the Virginia High School League’s Class 6 state tournament, with a first-round quarterfinal game against the undefeated Hayfield Hawks on March 4 or 5.” [Sun Gazette]

Beyer Wants to Nix Stadium Tax Break — “A Virginia congressman wants to sack a financial incentive package aimed at luring the Washington Commanders’ new stadium to the Commonwealth. U.S. Representative Don Beyer, a Democrat who represents Virginia’s 8th Congressional District in the heart of Northern Virginia, said stadium bond packages like the one working its way through the Virginia state legislature takes needed tax revenue out of the pockets of taxpayers all to benefit people who have more than enough money to build new stadiums on their own.” [WUSA 9]

Cherry Blossom Bloom Prediction — From the National Park Service: “We’re projecting cherry blossom peak bloom to fall between March 22 – 25 this year!” [Twitter]

It’s Wednesday — Sunny skies in the morning become partly cloudy. High of 60 and low of 40. Sunrise at 6:40 am and sunset at 6:03 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Ballston at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Big Raise for Ballston Startup — “Federated Wireless, the leader in shared spectrum and CBRS technology, today announced that it has secured $58 million in Series D funding. An affiliate of Cerberus Capital Management, L.P. led the round, with existing investors Allied Minds and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, also participating.” [Federated Wireless]

Library Spotlights Segregation History — “A new window display at Aurora Hills Library spotlights efforts of some local residents to promote education and literacy during a time of rigid racial segregation across Virginia. The display focuses on the Henry L. Holmes Library, which was founded by Arlington’s African-American community in 1940 and served as the only library resource for the community until the county’s library system was integrated in the late 1940s.” [Sun Gazette]

Bakery Ramping Up for Mardi Gras — “Chef David Guas at Bayou Bakery is ready for Mardi Gras serving up his famous King Cake… The deadline to order your King Cakes is this Saturday.” [WJLA]

It’s Wednesday — Scattered showers before 10 am. Cloudy, then gradually becoming mostly sunny, with wind gusts up to 21 mph. High of 67 and low of 42. Sunrise at 6:50 am and sunset at 5:56 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts, the first author in 2022’s “Arlington Reads” event series (courtesy of Arlington Public Library)

Arlington Public Library’s annual series “Arlington Reads” is back in person this year, with seven events scheduled throughout the year.

The series will feature conversations between library system director Diane Kresh and notable authors about their favorite classic novels, sharing insights on why their universal themes remain relevant today.

The first event is March 2 and will highlight local poet Reginald Dwayne Betts. He’s also the founder of the nonprofit Freedom Reads, which is a partner on the series.

“2022’s [Arlington Reads] ‘Rebooting the Classics’ focuses on the classic novel: how it is defined, who is its audience, how it influences the works of other authors, and, most importantly, how it affects the reader,” writes Kresh to ARLnow about this year’s theme.

Since its inception in 2006, Arlington Reads has featured conversations with more than 50 nationally known authors. The last two, in 2020 and 2021, have strictly been virtual. The virtual events included conversations with Colson Whitehead and Alexis Coe.

This year’s iteration will essentially be a hybrid, with limited in-person seats available in Central Library’s auditorium and the events also streamed online.

Seven talks are scheduled from March to October, including with fiction author Deesha Philyaw, New Yorker staff writer and book critic Parul Sehgal, and well-known writer of “Lincoln in the Bardo” George Saunders.

Kresh and the writers will discuss impactful classic novels, including “The Great Gatsby,” “The Scarlet Letter,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” The series is financed with help from the Friends of the Arlington Public Library.

The first event’s author, Betts, is from Maryland and wrote “Felon,” a book of poetry about the impact of incarceration on one’s life. In 1996, he was arrested for committing a carjacking outside of Springfield Mall in Fairfax County. After serving time, he’s since become an acclaimed author, poet and advocate.

He founded the nonprofit Freedom Reads, which provides books to those who are incarcerated. The organization is partnering with Arlington Public Library on this year’s version of “Arlington Reads.”

“Freedom Reads gives books to people serving time and through this access, the chance to ‘deepen and envision their lives in new ways,'” writes Kresh.

Arlington-based nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration, which helps individuals return to the community after being incarcerated, is also a partner for the series of events.

Last month, Covid-related staffing shortages resulted in several library branches shuttering — but all regular operations and services resumed on Jan. 31.

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3108 Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

Arlington County is looking to buy and eventually redevelop an office building on Columbia Pike.

The county says the vacant, three-story building at 3108 Columbia Pike would make a good home for both the Columbia Pike library branch — currently located on the ground floor of the Arlington Career Center — and affordable housing. Until that project materializes, it will serve as a parking lot.

This weekend, the Arlington County Board is slated to review a proposal to buy the property, appraised at $8 million, for $7.55 million. Money would come from funds already appropriated in previous budget cycles for land acquisition and bond premiums, according to a county report.

It will cost about $1.5 million to tear down the 1960s-era building and turn it into an interim parking lot, the report said. Staff determined retrofitting the building would require “major reconstruction” to meet modern safety and accessibility standards.

The one elevator cab and the restrooms don’t meet accessibility standards, the fire alarm system and the heating and cooling systems need to be replaced, and the building does not have a fire sprinkler system, the report said.

“County staff recommends that the building be demolished, and its footprint paved to the same level as the existing parking lot, providing a 43,101 square foot (approximately 1 acre) site available for future redevelopment for branch public library and co-location of other County Board priorities, such as affordable housing,” per the document.

The acquisition comes after renovations wrapped up to the current Columbia Pike library branch (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) last summer, consolidating the library to one floor to add seats at the Career Center above it. With enrollment there expected to continue rising, Arlington Public Schools is preparing to start construction on a new career center, next to the old one, in 2023.

APS will keep the existing Career Center building as a “flexible space.”

The county says an interim parking lot would be helpful during the construction across the street.

“The existing parking lot is in very good condition with 63 parking spaces,” the report said. “Removal of the building by demolition, with paving and restriping, could add another 58 spaces (for a total of 121 parking spaces) for interim use as a surface parking lot for the Career Center redevelopment and/or metered public parking, pending future redevelopment.”

The county has 60 days after signing the purchase agreement to inspect the building and rescind the offer if need be.

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Morning Notes

The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the Memorial Bridge, and the 14th St. Bridge over the Potomac River in fog (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Free Outdoor Wi-Fi at Libraries — “During the month of January, 2022, two new free outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots were installed at the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries. Library patrons and Arlington residents have now 24×7 access to the free Arlington County Wi-Fi network ‘ArlingtonWireless’ at all library branches, both outdoor and indoor, and at various locations around the County. No ID or password is required for the free service.” [Arlington Public Library]

Four Arlington Joints on Best BBQ List — Post food critic Tim Carman’s new “best barbecue” list includes a number of Arlington favorites: Texas Jack’s (9), Smokecraft Modern Barbecue (6), Smoking Kow (5), and Sloppy Mama’s (3). [Washington Post]

W&OD Bridge Work Complete — “The re-decking of the bridge east of Wilson Blvd in Arlington is completed!” [Twitter]

County Conducting Satisfaction Survey — “Arlington County is conducting its sixth County-wide, statistically valid community survey to measure satisfaction with major County services and gather input about issues facing the community. The results enable County officials to assess performance across many County agencies and services.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Selling Pentagon Chicken Shirts — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “No-one asked for this but we did it anyways – get your official #PentagonChicken shirt now! With the Henny Penny stamp of approval, proceeds will go to help keep other wayward poultry out of government buildings.” [Twitter]

Beyer Delivers Boxes of Protective Equipment — “A constituent reached out notifying U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) that Restart Partners, a West Coast-based charity involved in planning for and procuring PPE, learned of a significant amount of it available in a local warehouse. Partnering with the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous), Beyer identified two charities (Doorways and PathForward) that needed the items for those they serve and for their staffs.” [Sun Gazette]

De Ferranti Makes It Official — “County Board member Matt de Ferranti kicked off his bid for a second term on Feb. 2 with a call for Arlington leaders to accelerate efforts to enact Democratic priorities and serve as a bulwark against the new Republican majority in Richmond.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Rain before today 5 p.m., then a chance of rain and snow. Patchy fog before 1 p.m. Temperature falling to around 37 mid-afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 22 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected. Sunrise at 7:09 a.m. and sunset at 5:35 p.m. This weekend will be sunny with highs in the 30s. [Weather.gov]

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