Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Night Sky by Ddimick

Fight to Keep National Science Foundation — The National Science Foundation’s lease in Ballston is up next year, and neighboring communities are trying to lure the agency away from Arlington. So far, officials in Alexandria are some of the only ones who have openly expressed interest in bidding for the NSF. Fairfax County officials have kept quiet about whether they’re interested, specifically for areas along the upcoming Silver Line like Tysons Corner or Reston. Communities have until January 9 to submit proposals to the federal government. [Washington Examiner]

Parking Concerns with Ashlawn Elementary School ExpansionUpdated at 9:25 a.m. — Despite criticism from some neighbors in Boulevard Manor, last week the School Board approved plans for the expansion of Ashlawn Elementary School. Neighbors raised concerns about adding a new entrance on N. Manchester Street and adding additional parking on the school site. The issue will likely go before the County Board, which is able to adjust the number of parking spaces required under zoning requirements. [Sun Gazette]

SoberRide Program Ends Tuesday — SoberRide will continue offering free cab rides until Tuesday, January 1 at 6:00 a.m. Customers can call 1-800-200-TAXI for a free ride home (up to a $30 fare) from 10:00 p.m. through 6:00 a.m. every night until the program ends. All requests must be called in to the SoberRide dispatch and not to other cab companies. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]

Flickr pool photo by Ddimick

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A rare solar event is taking place on Tuesday, June 5. The Transit of Venus will be visible throughout Arlington around the time of the evening rush hour tomorrow.

During the event, Venus passes between Earth and the sun, making the planet look like a dark dot on the sun. It’s one of the rarest predictable astronomical phenomena. The passing should last for about six hours, but will be visible at different times around the world. According to the Transit of Venus website, Arlington residents should be able to see the transit starting at 6:04 p.m.

Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium will hold a viewing at the top of the Kettler Iceplex (627 N. Glebe Road, #800), starting at 5:45 p.m. Displays, telescopes and safety glasses for viewing the transit will be available at the free event.

The National Science Foundation is also sponsoring a free Transit of Venus event. A lecture by Dr. Larry Marschall, Professor of Physics at Gettysburg College, will take place from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in the National Science Foundation (4201 Wilson Blvd) atrium. He will use pictures, movies and stories to describe the significance of the event. There will also be a telescope set up outside the north entrance to observe the transit, around 6:15 p.m.

If you want to watch the transit but can’t make it to one of the viewing events, be sure to take measures to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. The Transit of Venus website lists some safe ways to view the passing, and specifically says looking at the sun through common sunglasses is not safe enough. Slooh, an online space camera, will also provide a live feed of the event that is safe to watch, starting at 6:00 p.m.

This will likely be your only chance to see the Transit of Venus, because the next one doesn’t happen until December 2117. The last one occurred on June 8, 2004. The events take place in a paired pattern, with transits eight years apart, then more than 100 years apart.

Photo via Wikipedia

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A major Arlington employer is thinking about packing up and moving to a new building.

The National Science Foundation currently employs about 2,100 people at its Ballston headquarters, according to a spokeswoman, but the government agency has indicated that it is potentially interested in moving to a new building when its lease expires in 2013. NSF would like the new space to be about 25 percent larger than its current location at 4201 Wilson Boulevard, and about 12.5 percent cheaper per square foot than the current comparable office rent in Ballston, according to the Washington Business Journal.

The federal government’s office rent cap in Northern Virginia is $38 per square foot, compared to the average Ballston Class A office rent of $43.47, according to WSJ. That has led to speculation that NSF might leave Ballston altogether.

“We’re going to pursue them and we’re going to pursue them aggressively,” Alexandria Vice Mayor Kerry Donley said of the agency’s impending lease expiration, to the Alexandria Times. Donley was instrumental in persuading the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to move its headquarters from Crystal City to Alexandria in the early-to-mid 2000s.

The area’s congressional delegation, however, has asked the General Services Administration — which helps manage government properties — to strongly consider keeping NSF in Arlington.

“We urge you to take into account recent developments that we believe continue to make Arlington the ideal location for NSF Headquarters,” said a letter to the GSA’s top official, signed by Sen. Jim Webb, Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Jim Moran.

The letter, dated February 23, 2010, argues that NSF benefits from its proximity to Ballston institutions like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of Naval Research and Virginia Tech’s new Advanced Research Institute.

“Arlington County is a national epicenter for scientific research, particularly in the areas of defense and homeland security,” the letter stated. “Not only does [Ballston] provide these agencies with access to one of the most highly educated and highly trained workforces in the nation, it also provides them with immediate access to a large pool of technical experts in the contracting community as well.”

“We believe a relocation of NSF Headquarters away from Arlington would [have a] detrimental effect on the ability of each of these research organizations to achieve their agency objectives,” the letter concluded.

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