Arlington, VA

Plans to construct a public park in the center of Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood may move forward this week after decades in development.

The Arlington County Board will consider awarding a construction contract during its meeting this Saturday, May 18, which would turn an area of what is now mostly empty land, at 2400 S. Shirlington Road, into a town center park.

The contract would provide “construction of park improvements, utility undergrounding, street improvements and street lighting” in the space.

The county’s website lists a 2020 projected finish date for the park, dubbed Nauck Town Square, and says construction will include an outdoor stage, a plaza, on-street parking, and tables.

McLean-based concrete contractor Ardent Company LLC is the winner of the county’s competitive contract process for the project. The company would be awarded $4,853,460 for the work if Board members approve the contract, per the staff report.

Discussions on the project date back to the 1998 Nauck Neighborhood Comprehensive Action Plan. The project area includes the former Lucky Seven food market site; the store caught fire in 2012 and was torn down.

Board members originally approved the town square project as part of the 2004 Nauck Village Center Action Plan. It is described in the recent report as “an anchor project to serve as the social and cultural center of the neighborhood.”

In 2013, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Arlington $75,000 for public art as part of the town center project.

The county tapped artist and landscape architect Walter Hood for the project’s design, which then-Public Art Administrator Angela Adams said was one of the reasons Arlington won the federal grant.

“I think that what we’re going to get with Walter’s involvement is a very sophisticated design that continues to make great public spaces here looking contemporary and fresh, but also reflective of the community,” Adams told ARLnow at the time.

The item for Saturday’s discussion is currently included in the Board’s consent agenda for the meeting — a placement usually reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

It’s unclear whether the town square will retain the Nauck name after completion. Last week, the Arlington County Civic Federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association — a move the County Board is expected to consider in the coming months.

Images 1, 2, 3 via Hood Design Studio, image 4 via Arlington County

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Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood is now one step closer to changing its name back to Green Valley, thanks to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association on Tuesday. The vote came after neighbors requested the county nix the name they said obscures the true history of freed slaves who founded the community.

“We’re just very happy that it’s changed and it’s the name that’s always associated with it,” said Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark.

The historically black neighborhood was first built partly by freed slaves Sarah Ann and Levi Jones. They bought 14 acres of land along Four Mile Run and sold parcels to other African Americans during and after the Civil War, according to research from Dr. Alfred O. Taylor Jr., who formerly led the Nauck Civic Association and the local NAACP chapter.

The renaming resolution passed by the Civic Federation notes:

“The residents of the area continually celebrate and honor the heritage of a ‘FREED’ community that reminds us of the many hills our ancestors had to climb, slavery, segregation and racial covenants that have bought us to today with the freedoms that we hold.”

Taylor wrote in a February open letter that his research indicates county officials began calling the area Nauck in the 1970s after Confederate soldier and German immigrant John D. Nauck, who purchased almost 80 acres of land in the area in the 1870s.

“It is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life,” Taylor wrote. “We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.”

Tuesday’s vote by the Civic Federation is not the last step in the process. The organization must transmit the matter to the County Board, which will then discuss and vote on the change.

Support for reconsidering the county’s Confederate vestiges has gained steam since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 and amid national conversations about the recent rise of racist hate groups.

In Arlington, leaders waged heated battles to strip Washington-Lee of the second half of its hyphenated name, which referenced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They are also poised to remove the “Stratford” in Stratford School, which originated from the name of Lee’s birthplace.

The County Board previously has acknowledged Green Valley’s unique history. In 2013, members approved a historic location designation to the Green Valley Pharmacy in recognition of it being the first store in the county to serve black and white customers, including serving food at an integrated diner inside the shop.

The business closed in 2018, reportedly for renovations, a year after its owner Leonard “Doc” Muse died. Muse had run the shop for 54 years and was a fixture of the community.

Photo (2) via Nauck Civic Association, (3) via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Body Found in Submerged SUV — “Authorities were working Monday night to recover a body inside an SUV submerged in the Potomac River [near Roosevelt Island]… D.C. Fire & EMS said they found tire tracks leading into the river and divers were able to locate the SUV by 6 p.m. Monday. Sources confirmed to News4 that a body was trapped inside.” [NBC Washington]

Clarendon Beer Garden May Open Next Month — “The 22,000-square-foot space, dubbed The Lot… [is] anticipating an early June opening, pending final permit approvals, with plans to incorporate drinking games, picnic seating, and tacos.” [Eater]

UMD Coming to Crystal City? — “The University of Maryland is scouting out potential sites in Crystal City, where it could potentially help to feed Amazon.com Inc.’s long-term plans to hire at least 25,000 workers to support its second headquarters. The state’s flagship university is in the market for between 20,000 and 25,000 square feet to support the growth of HQ2, according to sources familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Mosque Security Measures — “Members of an Arlington, Virginia, mosque are being trained on how to respond to an active shooter. Worshippers are learning how to take security measures to protect themselves and save the lives of others. The training follows mass shooting at houses of worship around the world.” [Voice of America, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated 4 p.m.) One of Arlington’s most successful restaurants is coming to one of the county’s least successful restaurant locations.

Neapolitan pizzeria Pupatella, which was a popular food truck before opening its acclaimed bricks-and-mortar location in Bluemont in 2010, is opening a second Arlington location in the restaurant “Bermuda Triangle” at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive. The opening is planned for this summer.

“The restaurant is 2,200 square feet and will seat approximately 60 guests inside,” a press release said of Pupatella’s new location in the Nauck neighborhood. “The location also features a covered patio area that will have seating for another 40 or so guests.”

Pupatella also announced plans today to open a 2,700 square foot location at 1821 Wiehle Avenue in Reston by early 2020, as part of a new expansion push fueled by a $3.75 million investment.

“More company-owned locations are currently being pursued in Fairfax County, Montgomery County and Washington, D.C.,” said the press release.

“The community in Arlington has been so wonderful to us over the past decade that it was a simple decision for us to open a South Arlington location,” Pupatella founder Enzo Algarme is quoted as saying in the press release. “The area is exploding with growth, and we want to be sure that growth includes great pizza!”

Algarme did not respond to multiple inquiries from ARLnow.com last week seeking to confirm that they were behind the new restaurant at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive. A spokeswoman said today that he was out of town.

Eater, which reported the Pupatella news late Thursday morning before the press release was sent to ARLnow, quotes another company co-owner as saying the Walter Reed Drive location will help fulfill “spillover demand” from its busy, original location.

The full press release is after the jump.

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(Updated at 9 a.m.) Firefighters are battling a house fire in the Nauck neighborhood, near Shirlington and the W&OD Trail.

The blaze, in a duplex on the 3600 S. Four Mile Run Drive, was first reported just before 8:30 a.m. Flames and heavy smoke could be seen coming from the home.

As of 8:40 a.m., firefighters were making progress but still working to contain the flames. As of 8:55 a.m., most of the fire was reported out, but crews were still looking for hot spots.

Additional fire department units have dispatched to the scene. Initial reports suggest the home’s occupants were able to get out safely and no one was hurt.

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Arlington County Police were called to the Nauck neighborhood three times over the weekend for reports of gunfire.

The shots fired calls came in Friday night, early Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, police said, with multiple 911 callers reporting gunfire. No one was reported to be shot in any of the incidents.

A resident tells ARLnow that the first shooting was loud enough to be clearly captured on her security camera.

“Seven gunshots went off around 11:15 p.m. on Friday night,” said the resident, who wanted to remain anonymous. “Police were called and about four SUVs and cruisers were seen canvassing the neighborhood for about 30 minutes afterward.”

Officers found bullet holes in a house on the 2100 block of S. Monroe Street after the second shooting Saturday morning. For each of the other shootings, ACPD says “no evidence of shots fired was located.”

Police are asking for the public’s help investigating the shootings. More from an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating multiple reports of shots heard in the Nauck neighborhood over the weekend. In one incident, officers located evidence confirming multiple shots had been fired in the area. No injuries have been reported.

At approximately 11:18 p.m. on April 5, police were dispatched to the report of shots heard in the 3400 block of 25th Street S. Upon arrival, officers canvased the area and met with the reporting party but no evidence of shots fired was located.

At approximately 4:16 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to multiple reports of shots heard in the 2100 block of S. Monroe Street. Upon arrival, officers located bullet holes in the side of a residence. No injuries were reported.

At approximately 2:14 p.m. on April 7, police were dispatched to multiple reports of shots heard in the 2400 block of S. Lowell Street. Upon arrival, officers canvased the area and met with the reporting party but no evidence of shots fired was located.

The investigation into these incidents is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Arlington County Police at 703-558-2222. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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An angular strip of land along S. Walter Reed Drive where restaurants frequently appear and disappear seems to be again preparing to host another eatery.

A construction permit application was filed last week for a planned restaurant at 1621 S. Walter Reed Drive. The permit calls for “interior alterations… including kitchen equipment, floor and wall coverings, partitions, plumbing and electrical fixtures.”

No structural changes are planned.

Among the various restaurants to call the building home over the years was The Corner Tex-Mix, which closed in 2016 under somewhat mysterious circumstances.

Hat tip to Chris Slatt

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A Catholic church is Nauck is making a big move to solar power, installing a large, cross-shaped set of solar panels over the last few weeks.

Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, located at 2700 19th Street S. on the border of the Army Navy Country Club, announced what it described as “the largest solar array at a place of worship” in Arlington in a press release yesterday (Tuesday).

The church says the new solar array includes 319 panels in all, generating a total of “over 95 kilowatts of solar capacity.” That should help the church account for just under half of all its power needs across its buildings on the property.

Parishioners at Our Lady Queen of Peace said they were inspired to take on the solar project by Pope Francis’ efforts to spur Catholics to take action on climate change, in addition to recent warnings from the United Nations’ scientific panel on climate change that countries around the world must take drastic steps to prevent the worst effects of global warming.

“We wanted to try to get as much energy as we can from a renewable source,” church parishioner Luc DeWolf wrote in a statement.

The church is working with the D.C.-based firm Ipsun Solar on the project. According to the company’s blog, an investor will provide the $233,000 in up-front costs for the project, then the church plans to sell back excess energy generated by the panels to Dominion Energy. The church hopes to then pay back that investor with the cash it raises through that process, and even support its operating budget going forward.

Parishioners project that in the solar array’s first year alone, it will “reduce carbon emissions by an amount equal to preventing nearly half a railcar of coal from being burned.”

Our Lady Queen Peace will hold a reception Saturday (March 9) at 10 a.m. for anyone interested in learning more about the solar project.

Photo 2 via Ipsun Solar

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Some experimental parking changes throughout the Four Mile Run valley are going into effect over the next few weeks, as county officials weigh the best strategies for improving conditions in the area for pedestrians and drivers alike.

The county started rolling out the changes Saturday (Feb. 23) and plans to have all of them in place by the second week of March. Officials previously held meetings about the contemplated changes in Nauck this fall, and the County Board approved the general approach toward parking in the area as part of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan it passed in November.

The following roads are set to see parking changes over the next few weeks:

  • S. Four Mile Run Drive between Walter Reed Drive and Shirlington Road
  • S. Four Mile Run Drive (service road) west of Shirlington Road
  • S. Oxford Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Oakland Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. Nelson Street south of S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • 27th Street S. between Shirlington Road to S. Nelson Street

Parking has been contested along parts of S. Four Mile Run Drive in particular, with neighbors frequently complaining about the bevy of commercial vehicles along the stretch of road. The debate over parking in the area was a particular flashpoint during the deliberations over the area plan, with some Nauck leaders arguing that their concerns went ignored by county officials.

Notably, the county will ban commercial vehicles from parking on either side of the “minor” service road section of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the section of the road that intersects with S. Oxford Street and is home to a variety of cul-de-sacs lined with duplexes and other small homes. Parking there will otherwise be unrestricted or available for up to 24 hours.

Along the main, “major” stretch of S. Four Mile Run Drive, the northern side of the road will be off-limits for overnight parking, from 1o p.m. to 7 a.m., between the road’s intersection with Shirlington Road and S. Oakland Street. Currently, parking is restricted there only between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays.

On the rest of the northern side of Four Mile Run Drive through the road’s intersection with S. Walter Reed Drive, parking will be available around the clock. It’s also currently restricted from 7-9 p.m. currently.

On the southern side of Four Mile Run Drive, people will be allowed to park for up to 10 hours at a time, outside of the block between S. Nelson and S. Oakland streets, which will be two-hour parking. Much of that side of the road is currently unrestricted or limited to two hours of parking.

The county is also changing up the rules on the south side of 27th Street S., which will now have a 10-hour limit. Much of the curb space in front of the area’s WETA facility is currently unrestricted.

Other changes will also impact some of the side streets running off Four Mile Run, where new two-hour parking limits are planned.

County police say they plan to strictly enforce these new restrictions to improve conditions in the neighborhood, though some residents are skeptical that the department’s staffing challenges will allow officers to make much of an impact in policing the area’s parking.

County officials also expect to eventually add new sections of sidewalk and a new pedestrian crossing island and curb extensions along S. Four Mile Run Drive. They could even move ahead with more dramatic changes going forward, like the addition of more angled spaces leading up to Jennie Dean Park or the conversion of S. Four Mile Run Drive into a two-lane road with a dedicated middle turning lane.

But first, the county plans to spend the next year or studying the impact of these new parking changes. The evaluation of that work will move in tandem with the planned changes at Jennie Dean Park, approved as part of the Board’s planning work for the area last spring.

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The “Feel the Heritage” festival, Arlington’s annual celebration of African American history and culture, returns to Nauck this weekend.

The 27th edition of the community event is set to be held Saturday (Feb. 23) at the Charles Drew Community Center (3500 23rd Street S.). The festival will run from 1-6 p.m.

The event is set to feature a full lineup of live entertainment, “from traditional African dancing and drumming to soul and funk,” according the event’s website. Local vendors will also be offering everything from jewelry to homemade hot sauce.

The festival will include a variety of free arts and crafts activities, plus face painting, balloon art and a chance to meet critters from the Gulf Branch and Long Branch Nature Centers.

And be sure to come hungry — the event will also feature “Foods Around the World” Plinko, giving participants a chance to taste foods from around the globe at random, as well as a “soul food cook-off competition” featuring dishes from seafood gumbo to peach pie.

Limited on-site parking will be available, with overflow parking at the Macedonia Baptist Church (3412 22nd Street S.).

If you’re planning on hopping on a scooter to head to the festival, Bird is offering $5 off for anyone using the code “BIRDHERITAGE.”

Flickr pool photo via Arlington County Parks and Recreation

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(Updated at 2 p.m) Some community leaders in Nauck are pushing to see the neighborhood’s name changed to “Green Valley,” arguing that an area so rich in African American history shouldn’t be named for a former Confederate soldier.

The historically black South Arlington neighborhood was founded, in part, by freed slaves. Yet it’s come to be known for John D. Nauck, a German immigrant who served in the Confederate Army, then purchased a total of 79 acres of land in the area in 1874 and 1875.

In an open letter to the Nauck community distributed Friday (Feb. 15), longtime civic leader Dr. Alfred Taylor argues that it is “inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life.”

The county has been locked in some contentious debates over Confederate symbols across Arlington ever since the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017 sparked a nationwide conversation about the issue. The School Board’s push to strip Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee High School proved to be an especially heated process, but Taylor suggested that other communities in the county should be “taking a page” from the Board’s example on this front.

It’s not yet clear how the process of renaming the neighborhood might proceed — the community’s civic association could look to simply change its own name, though there may be additional county approvals tied up in that process. But Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark is at least circulating Taylor’s letter in a bid to receive feedback on the proposal, particularly given the persistent complaints from residents that the county has failed to listen to their voices.

In the letter, Taylor argues that Nauck residents increasingly support naming the neighborhood “Green Valley/Nauck” or just “Green Valley,” in a bid to honor the area’s original nickname.

The exact origins of the “Green Valley” name are uncertain — Taylor, once the head of the Nauck Civic Association and Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, wrote that his extensive research into the area’s history suggests the name is linked back to James Green, who owned property on what is now the site of the Army-Navy Country Club.

Yet he writes that “Green Valley” name bears more of a link to the area’s African American history than it does to any one person. Levi and Sarah Ann Jones became famous as the first freed slaves to purchase property in the area back in 1844, and Taylor argues that they helped build up a community in the area and make the “Green Valley” name more widespread.

The area was occupied by the Union Army during the Civil War, and eventually became home to a “Freedmen’s Village” following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Taylor also writes that the Jones family subsequently sold some property to other African American families, helping to establish the area as an enclave for Arlington’s black residents.

As Virginia officials increasingly embraced policies of segregation, the area became home to a large number of businesses owned by black residents, according to the Guide to the African American Heritage of Arlington County, prepared in 2016 as part of the county’s Historic Preservation Program.

Taylor pointed out that the area was “largely excluded from full participation in mainstream American political and social life and commerce” and so residents felt they had to “do for themselves.” Many of the businesses to spring up in the 1900s bore the “Green Valley” name, including the Green Valley Pharmacy, which the County Board designated as a historic district in 2013.

Nonetheless, Taylor argues that the name “Nauck” took hold among the “official Arlington” set in the 1970s — the county’s history of the area suggests that the name “Nauck” first appeared in reference to the area as far back as 1876, and that black residents referred to it as “Nauckville” dating back to the late 19th century.

But Taylor hypothesizes that the destruction of the manor on Green’s original property in 1924 helped contribute to the “Green Valley” name fading away, or perhaps that leaders at the time avoided referring to Green Valley because it was “extensively occupied and used throughout most of the Civil War by the Union Army.” The construction of many Confederate statues and monuments in the early 20th century has often been connected to efforts by white leaders to send a message to black residents, and Taylor suggests some of that could be at play in the decision to embrace a former Confederate soldier like Nauck.

While recounting that John D. Nauck held county positions like Justice of the Peace and “sold considerable property to African Americans,” the county’s heritage guide notes that Nauck fled Arlington in 1891 after his efforts to evict an African American resident were met with resistance.

Taylor also points out that community leaders like the Jones family or William Augustus Rowe (a leader within the “Freedmen’s Village” who later won political office) were passed over in favor of Nauck, and Taylor argues they also deserve consideration.

“We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents,” Taylor wrote. “Look at many of the local, national and international contributions that were made by the residents under the banner of Green Valley… to let that name slip into nothingness would be a travesty to their memory.”

Clark did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the civic association’s next steps for considering Taylor’s proposal.

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