The U.S. Army has decided against pursuing a land swap with Arlington County as part of its plan to expand Arlington National Cemetery.
Instead, the Army announced it will use all the former Navy Annex site along Columbia Pike for the cemetery’s expansion. It will also look to acquire about five acres of public land now owned by Arlington County and more than seven acres of state-owned public land.
Both sides agreed to the original swap in 2013, which would have provided the county with land south of a realigned Columbia Pike. The county had hoped to use that land for various public facilities.
“While we are disappointed that Arlington County will not receive any land in this area for county needs through a land exchange agreement, we are committed to working with the cemetery to support one of our nation’s most cherished and hallowed sites,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement.
County officials said they will negotiate for fair compensation for its land and for commemoration of Freedman’s Village, a camp for former slaves that was later subsumed by the cemetery, Pentagon and Navy Annex. They also promised that both Columbia Pike and Southgate Road will be realigned.
The planned expansion of the cemetery will create space for more than 25,000 new graves.
More from a county press release after the jump:
The U.S. Army has informed Arlington County that it will no longer pursue a land exchange with the County. The Army has said it will use the entire former Navy Annex site, along Columbia Pike, to expand Arlington National Cemetery.
“While we are disappointed that Arlington County will not receive any land in this area for County needs through a land exchange agreement, we are committed to working with the cemetery to support one of our nation’s most cherished and hallowed sites,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said.
Cemetery to acquire five acres of Arlington land
The Army’s decision means it intends to retain all federal land at the former Navy Annex. It also will acquire for the cemetery about five acres of public land now owned by Arlington County and more than seven acres of public land now owned by the Commonwealth of Virginia that support the existing transportation network. The Army originally had proposed, and Arlington had worked for years to achieve, a land exchange agreement. The agreement would have provided Arlington with land south of a realigned Columbia Pike that the County had hoped to use to meet a variety of public facility needs.
Columbia Pike, Southgate Road to be realigned
“There will be no land exchange, but Columbia Pike and Southgate Road will be realigned and the Columbia Pike/Washington Boulevard interchange will be modified,” Schwartz said. “The realignment of Columbia Pike and the multimodal improvements that will be made in this corridor not only will improve the transportation network, but also will allow us to upgrade the streetscape that will serve as a fitting boundary for Arlington National Cemetery, the Air Force Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial Visitor’s Center, and other uses in this segment of the Columbia Pike corridor.”
The realigned Southgate Road will carry traffic coming to and from Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall. The Realigned Columbia Pike will be rebuilt in a manner consistent with the County’s Columbia Pike Multimodal Project, as a four-lane roadway with a sidewalk and a shared-use path, improved landscaping, enhanced lighting and undergrounding of utilities.
Increasing burial space, extending Cemetery closure date
Arlington National Cemetery is projected to run out of burial space in the early 2040s. The roadway realignment and the land that will be acquired from Arlington County and the Commonwealth will provide 38 more acres of contiguous burial space to accommodate approximately 50,000 more burial spaces, extending the closure date of the Cemetery until the mid-2050s, based on the current demand and internment rates.
County to seek compensation, commemoration of Freedman’s Village
The County now will negotiate with the Army to ensure that Arlington and its taxpayers receive fair compensation for the County-owned land as the Army pursues its acquisition, Schwartz said. The County also will work with the Army to commemorate historic Freedman’s Village in a meaningful way at a site as close to the original site of the village, as possible. The original village was located just north of the Navy Annex site.
Freedman’s Village, a camp of former slaves, was established by the federal government in 1863 on the grounds of the Custis and Lee estates, which later became Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon and the Navy Annex Building.
The Navy Annex, once an expansive Department of Defense office complex, has been reduced to a pile of rubble.
The military started tearing down the offices, first built in 1941, last fall. The demolition will make way for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery and, eventually, a realignment of Columbia Pike.
(Arlington County is still in negotiations with the military regarding the exact land swap plan necessary to accomplish both objectives.)
Demolition of the last of the 7 wings of the Navy Annex started on June 19 and appears to be mostly complete. No structure on the site is still standing; rather, piles of rubble and lower portions of the building are awaiting additional demolition and will be hauled away over the next month, we’re told. Additional debris removal is taking place across Columbia Pike, at the Navy Annex’s former parking lot.
Grass and meadows are expected to be planted on the 42-acre site in September, according to Rep. Jim Moran’s office. Before and after photos from the demolition can be found above.
The long-awaited process of demolishing the Navy Annex and its surrounding parking lots is scheduled to begin within the next month or two, officials tell ARLnow.com.
The 1 million square foot military office complex, first built in 1941 and located on the eastern end of Columbia Pike, will be torn down to make way for an expansion of Arlington National Cemetery. The entire 42-acre Navy Annex site, which includes a large surface parking lot on the other side of Columbia Pike, will be turned into a grass field in advance of an official transfer from the Department of the Army to Arlington National Cemetery in late 2013.
Demolition on the eastern wing of the Navy Annex is scheduled to start in November or December. The process will include abatement of asbestos and other hazardous materials. Demolition, site grading and seeding is expected to be complete by August 2013.
Columbia Pike should only experience “minimal” traffic impacts from the project; Southgate Road, which runs parallel to the Pike on the other side of the Navy Annex, is expected to see the majority of traffic disruptions.
The Navy Annex site is not expected to be used for burials for at least a couple of years. First, Arlington County and the federal government must come to a land swap agreement. The entities are still working on a deal to swap the county’s 4.23 acre Southgate Road right of way, and perhaps some other land, in exchange for a portion of the Navy Annex site.
The most recent land swap agreement — which has since fallen through, according to Arlington County federal liaison Brian Stout — called for construction of an Arlington County heritage museum on the site. At least a portion of the proposed museum would be used to commemorate the Civil War-era Freedman’s Village, which was once located on the site.
The county is also working with the federal government and VDOT to reach an agreement for a realignment of Columbia Pike. Currently, the Pike curves around the Air Force Memorial — located adjacent to the Navy Annex — and toward the cemetery before the intersection with S. Joyce Street.
Stout says the county is proposing that the Pike be straightened and run through the current Navy Annex parking lot, before making an L-shaped intersection with Joyce Street. That would make for an easier drive up the Pike and would make for a contiguous burial area that’s not divided by the busy road. The project has been discussed but so far no engineering plans are in place, Stout said.
Another point of discussion deals with parking for the Air Force Memorial. Stout said the current demolition plan seems to call for the demolition of a portion of the parking lot used by memorial visitors. If that’s removed, visitors may need to park on Southgate Road.
Takis Karantonis, Executive Director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says the demolition presents an opportunity to improve the “eastern gateway” to the Pike. He said CPRO would like to see up to five stories of mixed use development along the Columbia Pike frontage of the tiny Foxcroft Heights neighborhood, located between the Navy Annex and the Sheraton National hotel.
“This is not the sightliest of places,” he said of the aging military building and the parking lots that line that section of the Pike. “Getting this redeveloped… is for us a welcome development. We think that the neighborhood will develop very nicely with that.”
Most of Foxcroft Heights is slated to remain single family homes under the recently-approved Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan.
A neighborhood information meeting about the demolition process is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Galaxy Room of the Sheraton National (900 S. Orme Street).
Update on 10/23/12 — Demolition is now set to begin in November or December.
The 70-year-old Navy Annex complex, on the eastern end of Columbia Pike next to the Air Force Memorial, is set to be torn down starting next month.
Demolition on the complex will begin in late May, according to Rep. Jim Moran’s office. The demolition process is expected to last a couple of months.
Until recently, the Navy Annex was home to administrative offices for the Marine Corps. It was originally built as a warehouse in 1941 and has 1 million square feet of office space for up to 6,000 workers, according to GlobalSecurity.org.
The 37-acre site, along with other surrounding land, will be used to expand Arlington National Cemetery.
The Navy Exchange/Quarters K gas station on S. Joyce Street, near the Pentagon, closed for good about a month ago. The Navy Times reports that the station will eventually be demolished as part of the cemetery expansion plan.
The expansion is being made possible by a 2008 land swap deal between Arlington County and the federal government. At some point after 2011, the county will exchange a 4.3 acre parcel of land along Southgate Road — which runs from Henderson Hall to the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Joyce Street — for 4.3 acres of land on the present Navy Annex site along Columbia Pike.
The county is eying the western portion of the Navy Annex, which will be shuttered and torn down, for a proposed Freedman’s Village heritage center and black history museum. The federal government, meanwhile, plans to eliminate Southgate Road to make way for the aforementioned planned expansion of Arlington National Cemetery.
Another aspect of the expansion plan is playing out in the halls of congress. Arlington’s congressional delegation has been seeking funding for a realignment of Columbia Pike between the Air Force Memorial and S. Joyce Street. The proposed project would eliminate a sharp bend in the road that routes it closer to the cemetery. Instead, the proposed realignment would take the Pike on a more direct path to Joyce Street, through what is now a Defense Department parking lot.
The project promises to “provide additional contiguous expansion space for the Cemetery” while enhancing the streetscape and resulting in “significant improvements in safety, mobility and economic development along the Columbia Pike Corridor.”
Congressman Jim Moran’s office confirmed that the Pike realignment was still in the planning stage but was unable to provide an approximate timeline for the project due to uncertainties regarding funding.
Obey’s Retirement Will Boost Moran’s Influence — Wisconsin congressman David Obey’s retirement will move fellow Democrat Rep. Jim Moran higher up in the powerful House Appropriations Committee’s pecking order. Moran said of Obey’s decision not to seek re-election today: “Chairman Obey is one of the most consequential figures to chair Appropriations. With unparalleled institutional knowledge, he has skillfully guided the Committee through some of the most difficult terrain in its history. He will be sorely missed.” More from the Washington Post.
Elevator Fire at Navy Annex Ties Up Traffic — A small fire in an elevator mechanical room at the Navy Annex on Columbia Pike tied up traffic this morning. Firefighters and police responded to the scene, shutting down Columbia Pike between South Joyce Street and South Oak Street around 10:15 p.m. ART and Metro buses were delayed as a result.
Arlington Students Win Latin Awards — Twelve Arlington Public School students won the first place “gold summa cum laude” medal for excellence on the National Latin Exam. The exam tests Latin students at various grade levels in the areas of grammar, reading comprehension, Roman culture, history, geography and mythology and etymology. Another 114 Arlington students received second, third and fourth place honors.