Arlington, VA

There are now 63 known coronavirus cases in Arlington County, up from 54 yesterday.

That’s according to the latest data from the Virginia Dept. of Health, which now lists 604 cases, 83 hospitalizations, 14 deaths and 7,337 people tested statewide. The cases in Arlington as of Friday represent a nearly four-fold increase since a week ago.

County leaders, meanwhile, continue to urge additional caution — and action — to fight the spread of the virus. But the effort is being hampered somewhat by people continuing to congregate in groups and a lack of available tests.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, in her email newsletter to constituents this morning, listed the following “ongoing challenges” in Arlington.

  • Groups congregating in our parks continue to be an issue and our Police are enforcing safe distancing and activities. While our park equipment should not be used, people are encouraged to continue to take walks on our trails and enjoy the outside (maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance).
  • COVID-19 testing also continues to be an issue in Arlington as it is nationally. Virginia Hospital Center has received more kits and gotten more efficient about doing the sampling at their drive-through facility on Quincy Street. The fact remains, however, that a limited number of kits continue to be an issue and it will be that way for some time.

At the Washington-Liberty High School track this morning, police could be seen inspecting a vandalized, temporary barrier, intended to keep people out while local recreational facilities are closed.

Arlington County firefighters, meanwhile, were ordered Thursday night to start wearing surgical masks “for the entirety of their scheduled work day,” according to a memo obtained by ARLnow.

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli said the mask-wearing order applies when firefighters are within six feet of anyone else. It follows Tuesday’s announcement that a firefighter had tested positive for COVID-19. The firefighter’s colleagues were allowed to stay on the job, following guidance from Arlington’s health department, despite concerns from the fire union.

No other firefighters have tested positive or exhibited symptoms since, Tirelli said.

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Some people hoping to get out of the house and get some exercise are defying government efforts to maintain social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak.

On Monday, Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools closed all athletic fields and courts, as well as playgrounds and other outdoor recreational facilities where people congregate.

On Tuesday, people could be seen climbing through a gap in the fence at the popular Washington-Liberty track, in pursuit of maintaining their exercise routines. The two missing bars on the fence appear to have been “kicked in,” a tipster said.

Experts say that people deliberately ignoring government-imposed closures and social distancing measures is a “formula for disaster” that can accelerate the spread of the virus. Such people may think they’re doing something innocuous, or that they’re at low risk of health consequences should they contract COVID-19, but the collective defiance can collectively lead to bad outcomes.

Arlington police, meanwhile, say they’re working with county park rangers to educate the public about the closures.

“Arlington County Police Department is supporting Department Parks and Recreation Park Rangers and Rovers in educating the public regarding the closures of County and APS parks, playgrounds, fields, restrooms, tracks, dog parks and athletic courts,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “The goal is to gain voluntary compliance with the closures through education and signs will be posted at all affected locations. Rovers/Officers responding to these areas are informing the public of the closures and requesting individuals to move along and practice social distancing.”

“If the public sees large groups gathering in these locations, they can contact the Department of Parks and Recreation Roving Monitor at 571-238-0265 from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays,” Savage continued. “Afterhours concerns can be reported to the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.”

Savage said police are also working to ensure compliance with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s recent order for non-essential businesses to close.

“In accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order 53, officers are conducting proactive checks of all businesses to ensure compliance with those that are required to be closed and those permitted to be open while complying with social distancing requirements,” she said. “The County has disseminated information to the business community regarding the Order utilizing listservs, phone calls and officers personally handing out copies during proactive checks. The goal continues to be 100% voluntary compliance and no criminal enforcement action has been taken related to Executive Order 53.”

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) More than 800 new residential units are coming to Crystal City.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a site plan for a new development at 1900 Crystal Drive. Developer JBG SMITH is tearing down an aging office building and planning to build two residential towers with ground-floor retail space in its place.

More from a JBG press release:

The proposed development at 1900 Crystal Drive comprises approximately 811 residential units and 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across two new mixed-use buildings. The proposed 27-story southern tower encompasses 472 apartments, while the 26-story northern tower includes 339 apartments. In addition to a private rooftop and green spaces for residents, the approved plan calls for a retail-anchored shared street, a central park, and activated retail via an alley similar to that of Blagden Alley in Northwest DC.

For the purpose of linking together community benefits, the project was approved as part of a Phase Development Site Plan (PDSP), which also includes two towers with residential, office and retail space at 223 23rd Street S., and a new office building at 101 12th Street S. Final approval of each of those site plans will follow, likely in 2021.

Among the community benefits offered by JBG SMITH as part of the PDSP are:

  • A 45,000 square foot public Center Park next to the 1900 Crystal Drive project, and $300,000 towards a planning effort for the park
  • A 54,500 square foot Gateway Park near where 12th Street S. turns into Crystal Drive, and $300,000 towards a planning effort for the park
  • A new 10th Street S., on the northern end of Crystal City, better connecting a portion of street grid
  • Roadway improvements, potentially including new bicycle facilities to be determined in a later community process
  • Use of about 83,000 square feet of residential space in JBG’s RiverHouse James Building as dedicated affordable housing for 30 years, affordable to renters making 60% of Area Median Income
  • About 7,200 square feet of space at 1901 S. Bell Street for a community library or similar amenities, rent-free for 20 years
  • LEED Silver sustainability certification for the new buildings

Given the coronavirus outbreak, JBG said in the press release that it “will thoroughly evaluate overall market conditions, construction costs, and other capital allocation opportunities prior to commencing construction” of the 1900 Crystal Drive project. A company rep, however, said at the meeting that work is likely to start shortly after approval, with construction expected to take 2-3 years.

“With Amazon employees already arriving in the area and many locals who want to live in a vibrant downtown, we are thrilled to reach this important milestone in National Landing’s ongoing development and transformation,” Tony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG SMITH, said in a statement. “New apartments and street-level retail are essential for cultivating a thriving 18-hour environment where people can walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities.”

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A stone’s throw from Crystal City is Roaches Run, a waterfowl sanctuary on the northern flight path to and from Reagan National Airport.

The body of water, surrounded by woods, is home to birds, ducks and dragonflies. Accessible primarily from a small parking lot off the southbound GW Parkway, most human activity is confined to fishing and birdwatching.

But that may eventually change.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey toured a portion of woods around Roaches Run last week with the chair of Arlington’s Planning Commission and representatives of Crystal City property owner and Amazon landlord JBG Smith.

Though Roaches Run is controlled by the National Park Service and is part of the GW Parkway, JBG owns parcels of land adjacent to the waterfowl sanctuary and could help link it to Crystal City. That would give the rapidly-developing neighborhood newfound accessibility to natural spaces.

“JBG owns a lot of the land over there and is in communication with the Park Service,” Garvey told ARLnow, noting that the developer invited her to last week’s tour. “Can we take this land and turn it into an accessible, usable space for people?”

Garvey said Roaches Run is “a lost area” that’s “not very accessible for anybody” at the moment. Active railroad tracks currently separate it from Crystal City and Long Bridge Park.

JBG declined comment for this story.

Among the ideas for Roaches Run are walking and biking trails, a floating dock for boaters in canoes or kayaks, and bird observation stations. Roaches Run would remain a nature preserve, however, and is not envisioned for other sports or recreation uses.

“It’s going to take some cooperation” to see this idea come to fruition, Garvey said.

The county, the Park Service, JBG and even the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would likely be involved. That’s not to mention local civic associations, which have floated the idea of establishing connectivity to Roaches Run from Long Bridge Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail as part a series of improvements to the Crystal City and Pentagon City are dubbed Livability 22202.

“I think it’s an advantage for everybody…. making that whole area spectacular for people,” Garvey said. “You could get on an airplane and go hiking and boating within a mile radius.”

While discussions about Roaches Run have been informal in nature so far, with Amazon moving in nearby and demand for recreational opportunities growing it’s likely to advance to a more formal planning process at some point in the near future.

“It’s all very tentative but this is how ideas start, you have to start somewhere,” Garvey said. “Nothing is happening tomorrow or even next year… it’s probably 5-10 years out.”

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A bevy of new development is coming to Clarendon and Virginia Square, prompting Arlington County to update its plan for the former.

The county’s busy planning division, which is working its way through a crush of post-Amazon HQ2 development applications, is also gearing up to review and perhaps refine the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan.

In a presentation to the County Board this afternoon on its Fiscal Year 2021 work plan, planning staff is expected to detail a number of initiatives, including a study of the 14-year-old sector plan.

“In anticipation of multiple site plan applications and emerging public facility needs in Clarendon, a staff team will review the recommendations in the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan (CSP), including those for County facilities, a new park along 10th Street, and nearby private development sites,” the presentation says.

“Given the connection between the Plan and zoning regulations, and the importance of the public facility needs to be achieved in Clarendon, refinement of Sector Plan policies and amendments to the Zoning Ordinance may be necessary,” the presentation continues. “A plan for public engagement on this planning study is being developed.”

Among other things, the 2006 sector plan calls for a new, 50,000 square foot park on the site of the current Clarendon fire station and the Verizon switching station, which is expected to be redeveloped soon. It also calls for the fire station to be relocated.

The presentation notes three major, residential development projects that have already been approved — the American Legion and Kirkwood sites in Virginia Square, and the Red Top redevelopment in Clarendon, all of which are pending construction.

It also lists the proposed redevelopment of the Joyce Motors site along 10th Street N. and the planned George Mason University expansion, plus the following four “anticipated” redevelopment proposals, in making the case for a review of the neighborhood plan.

The Silver Diner and Wells Fargo/Verizon developments are expected to be considered by the County Board by the end of the year, the county says.

In addition to looking at the Clarendon neighborhood plan, the planning division is involved in current land use planning for Shirlington and the Lee Highway corridor. County planners also expect to process 15 major site plan applications during calendar year 2020.

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Morning Notes

Pike Lane Closures Prompt Apology — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has apologized that residents, business owners, and commuters weren’t informed how their lives would be temporarily affected by a road construction project on Columbia Pike, near the Fairfax County border,” per WTOP. County officials will be holding a press briefing about the lane closures on the Pike this morning. [WTOP, Arlington County]

Park Near HQ2 May Have Security Features — “Amazon.com Inc. is weighing methods for securing its second headquarters and appears to be looking across the pond for ideas. The U.S. embassy in London… avoids fences in favor of a number of ‘defense strategies’ disguised as a ‘welcoming landscape that is experienced as a public park,’ an Amazon representative told Arlington County officials.” [Washington Business Journal]

Ballroom Closing Is a Changing of the Bro Guards — “The millennials who do end up in Arlington are being drawn to a new generation of bars and nightspots, many of which are run by chef Mike Cordero and partner Scott Parker, including the bustling three-level tequila/tacos restaurant Don Tito… Clarendon may always have a place for the venerable Whitlow’s on Wilson, where the combination of a roof deck and cover bands makes it the most likely refuge for those missing the Ballroom… But it’s clear that Clarendon — at least, its bro-centric archetype — will never be the same.” [Washington Post]

Alabama Man Busted With Loaded Gun at DCA — “An Alabama man started the new year on a sour note when he brought his loaded handgun to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) on the first day of the new year.” [Transportation Security Administration]

New Slate of County Board Meetings Set — “Arlington County Board members will hold 11 monthly meetings (Saturdays and the subsequent Tuesdays) in 2020, along with several hearings on the proposed fiscal 2021 budget and capital-improvement projects. Regular meetings will be held on Jan. 25, Feb. 22, March 21, April 18, May 16, June 13, July 18, Sept. 12, Oct. 17, Nov. 14 and Dec. 12 and, in each case, the following Tuesdays.” [InsideNova]

‘National Gateway’ Building Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group has sold part of its National Gateway campus in Arlington County, one of a handful of office properties poised to benefit from an expected surge in demand tied to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters. The Bethesda developer sold National Gateway II, a roughly 238,031-square-foot building at 3550 S. Clark St., for nearly $60 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

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(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Amazon plans to pay to completely revamp the “central park” next to its future HQ2, with a well-known designer at the helm.

The company and its architecture firm presented the latest plans for its permanent headquarters in Pentagon City to the Arlington Transportation Commission last night, ahead of an expected vote by the County Board on Dec. 14.

Amazon has offered to contribute a record $20 million to Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund, in exchange for being able to build the first half of its HQ2 bigger than otherwise would be permitted by zoning. The plans include two 22-story towers with a total of 2.15 million square feet of office and retail space.

Also of additional note is Amazon’s proposal for what is currently a modestly-sized and off-the-beaten-path park.

The second phase of HQ2 — the 500,000 square feet of temporary leased space in Crystal City is considered the first phase — would complete the “Metropolitan Park” development that includes four apartment buildings across from the Pentagon City Costco and along 12th Street S. Amazon is proposing to fund “a complete redevelopment of the park” in the middle of the buildings.

After expanding with an additional half acre of space from Amazon — not to mention a pair of new plazas totalling 20,000 square feet — the park will total more than 2 acres. But Amazon and Arlington County have grander plans for that space than the current park’s status as a defacto dog park for nearby apartment residents.

The county is expected to launch a master plan process for the park early next year, seeking community input on planned changes, according to Brian Earle, the lead architect of HQ2. Leading the design process will be James Corner Field Operations, the noted designer of New York City’s High Line.

Corner is “a real preeminent thinker about great urban space to help us realize the potential of that space,” Earle told the Transportation Commission.

Amazon will pay for the design, the public engagement process, the park construction and its maintenance, according to a draft site plan. The expected cost is $14 million, the Washington Business Journal reported.

Adjacent to the park and HQ2, meanwhile, portions of 14th Street and Elm Street are proposed to be flush with the sidewalk, making the streets, which will be open to traffic during business hours, more usable for events and other off-hours activities.

In front of HQ2, along S. Eads Street and extending to the Bartlett apartment building and Amazon-owned Whole Foods store, will be a “linear park.” The thin strip of parkland from 15th to 12th streets would include trees, string lights and cafe seating for the retail space at the base of Amazon’s towers.

The draft site plan describes “café seating associated with retail spaces, passive seating, public art, or programming” to “create open, flexible spaces for seating to encourage social activity” as part of the linear park.

Read More

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The Lyon Park neighborhood’s Henry Clay Park is due for a makeover — starting this week.

Construction crews from the Falls Church-based firm Pivot Construction LLC are scheduled to start work on the park at 3011 7th Street N. today (Monday), per county officials.

The work comes three months after the Arlington County Board awarded the company a $1.4 million contract to re-do the basketball court, the playground, the picnic shelter, fences, and landscaping, among other upgrades.

“We are doing it!” read the county’s latest announcement. “Construction will begin on the Henry Clay Park renovations the week of October 21.”

Arlington expects the renovation work to continue until the end of 2020, and that ongoing construction may limit street parking.

Kentucky politician and one-time Arlington duelist Henry Clay is the namesake for the one-acre park.

Image 1 via Yelp, Images 2-3 via Arlington County

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A small plot on Wilson Blvd bisected by a gravel trail will be reopening as a park with paved central walkway.

The Oakland Park project is centered around plans to bring the park in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and adding overall enhancements to the green space at 3705 Wilson Blvd.

“Design elements include all-new site furnishings, decorative paving, wood decking, native plantings and new park signage,” the county said on the project website. “A highlight in the park will be a public art piece created by Foon Sham.”

Earlier this week, workers were laying some of the final bricks in the walkway, though other work remains to be done across the park.

Construction at the park is on schedule, and Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said the project should be open by the end of the year.

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Arlington County is asking residents to share their thoughts on a developer’s plan to turn areas of a lot at 1900 S. Eads Street into public parks.

The plan is part of the Crystal City Houses redevelopment project to build four new apartment buildings at S. Eads Street and 18th Street near the existing, 12-story Crystal House apartment buildings. The project is two blocks from Amazon’s planned permanent HQ2.

As part of the proposed 798-unit construction, the developer pledged to provide a 31,000 square feet of space in the center of the buildings as public space, and another, 23,986 square feet of space in the corner of the lot by S. Fern Street and 22nd Street as another privately-owned, public park.

Now the Department of Parks and Recreation is asking residents to share their feedback on this second park proposal via an online feedback form.

“The significant additional open space will also be a crucial addition to the Crystal City community,” the developer wrote in site plans revised earlier this year.

The county says it will stop accepting feedback via the form at midnight next Friday, September 6.

Feedback will used to finalize draft designs scheduled to be shared on September 16 from 5:30-7 p.m. at county government headquarters in Courthouse (2100 Clarendon Blvd), per the county’s website. The Long Range Planning Commission will also review the feedback during their own meeting later that night from 7 -9 p.m.

County staff expects to present the final designs to the Arlington County Board in October.

Image via Arlington County

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Arlington County is hoping residents can help inspire the artist designing the public art component of renovations to Jennie Dean Park near Shirlington.

Residents will be able to meet the Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman on two days in early September during his first visit to Arlington to share their stories and memories of the 12-acre park.

“The input gathered will inform the art work design,” said officials in a press release.

Reigelman will give two presentations about his past work on Tuesday, September at 6:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. at the New District Brewery (2709 S. Oakland Street) and is also expected to open the floor for stories from residents. He is scheduled to host another, open house-style, meeting on Wednesday, September 4 from 8-9:30 a.m. at Busboys and Poets (4251 Campbell Avenue).

Reigelman has worked on two park projects before in New York City and San Jose, California, according to his website — which heralds him as a “genius” whose intellect is “only exceeded by his modesty and benevolence.”

The future artwork planned is part a fiercely debated redesign of the park that includes moving a baseball field near S. Nelson Street, installing a new bathroom near Four Mile Run Drive, and building basketball and tennis courts near where a WETA-TV production building now stands. The county held a public feedback session on the renovations last month.

The park redesign itself is also part of a larger plan to revitalize the Four Mile Run Valley area, solve overcrowding at sites like the Trades Center, and prioritize storm protections for the floodprone area.

New art for the park could pay homage to the park’s namesake, former slave Jennie Serepta Dean, who helped found a trades school for African Americans, per a 2018 staff report for the Arlington County Board about the project.

Map via Arlington County 

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