After a brief delay, the developers of the Red Top Cab properties in Clarendon look set to win permission to include fewer parking spaces as part of a major redevelopment of the area into mixed-use buildings.
The Shooshan Company has hoped for weeks now to slash 178 parking spaces from its previously approved plans for the site, located where Washington Boulevard meets 13th Street N. The developer has long planned on transforming the space into three buildings offering 584 multifamily units, 1,295 square feet of retail space and two parking garages, but hoped to cut back on some of the parking at the site to save a bit of money.
The County Board first heard that request back in September, but ultimately decided to delay consideration of the matter for a month. That decision was largely due to “concerns expressed by the Board Members regarding retroactive changes to the residential parking ratio” after plans were already approved, according to a county staff report on the issue.
Neighbors also voiced concerns that a reduction in parking without a corresponding addition of space for bicycles would have a negative impact on surrounding streets.
Since then, county staff have taken a fresh look at the issue, and are prepared to tell the Board that “no undue adverse impacts are anticipated as a result of the reduction in the parking ratio.”
Not only did county staffers “not find any deficiencies in the infrastructure around the site,” but the developer also completed another analysis of traffic in the area. That study found that changes in the area are likely to reduce congestion nearby, and that the parking to be added (both in the garages and on the street) should be adequate to manage demand in the neighborhood.
The Board will consider the issue again at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday). Shooshan is currently targeting the first quarter of 2019 to begin construction on the properties, and recently closed on the sale of the property while also teaming up with another developer to manage the project.
Renewed HQ2 Buzz — The New York Times has published a lengthy look at Crystal City, which is being discussed as a frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters. “All of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” one of the people quoted in the article said. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reports that only some of the 20 HQ2 finalist cities — including New York City, Newark, N.J., Chicago and the D.C. area — have received second visits from Amazon officials. [New York Times, Wall Street Journal]
Former Wizard Selling Home in Arlington — Former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat has listed his house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood for $1.9 million. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Upton Hill Park Caught in Complaint Crossfire — After acceding to demands of tree advocates and scrapping plans for a 17-space parking lot at Upton Hill Park, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is now facing opposition to its proposed park upgrades from nearby residents worried that the lack of additional parking will cause more vehicles to be parked in the neighborhood. [InsideNova]
New Option for Commuting to Arlington — “Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.” [Reston Now]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Marine Corps Marathon returns to Arlington next Sunday (Oct. 28), likely bringing over 30,000 runners to Arlington and a resulting tangle of road closures and transportation changes.
The opening ceremonies for the marathon will be held at 6 a.m., followed by the wheelchair and handcycle race starting at 7:40 a.m. Races will continue throughout the day until 3:10 p.m. Award celebrations are scheduled to continue until 9:30 p.m.
Street parking near the race will be restricted and motorists should keep an eye out for temporary “No Parking” signs. Use of rideshare and public transportation is encouraged.
Metrorail will open at 6 a.m. for the race, two hours early, and run extra Blue and Yellow line trains. The closest stop to the race will be the Pentagon station, which will be exit-only until 8:30 a.m.
According to an Arlington County press release, the following roads will be closed for the race.
3:00 AM-5:30 PM Marshall Drive from N. Meade Street to Route 110
3:00 AM-5:30 PM N. Meade Street from Marshall Drive to Lynn Street
3:00 AM-6:00 PM Route 110 from I-66 to Jefferson Davis Highway
3:00 AM-6:00 PM Wilson Boulevard from N. Nash Street to Route 110
3:00 AM-6:00 PM Lynn Street from N. Meade Street to Lee Highway
3:00 AM-6:00 PM Fort Myer Drive from N. Meade Street to Lee Highway
3:00 AM-6:00 PM N. Moore Street from Wilson Boulevard to Lee Highway
3:00 AM-6:00 PM 19th Street N. from Lynn Street to N. Nash Street
3:00 AM-4:00 PM Route 110 ramp from Washington Blvd. to Pentagon North parking
6:00 AM-12:00 PM Lee Highway (eastbound) from Lynn Street to Kirkwood Road
6:00 AM-12:00 PM Spout Run Parkway from southbound George Washington
Memorial Parkway (GWMP) to Lee Highway
6:00 AM-12:00 PM GWMP from Spout Run to Memorial Circle Drive
6:00 AM-12:00 PM Francis Scott Key Bridge (all lanes)
6:00 AM-2:00 PM HOV lanes from 14th Street SW to HOV ramp at S. Eads Street
5:00 AM-4:30 PM S. Eads Street from S. Rotary Road to Army Navy Drive
5:00 AM-4:30 PM Army Navy Drive from S. Fern Street to 12th Street S.
6:00 AM-10:00 AM 15th Street S. from Crystal Drive to S. Eads Street
6:00 AM-4:00 PM 12th Street S. from Army Navy Drive to Crystal Drive
6:00 AM-4:00 PM Crystal Drive from 12th Street S. to 23rd Street S.
6:00 AM-4:00 PM Longbridge Drive from 12th Street S. to I-395
3:00 AM-5:00 PM Boundary Channel Drive from I-395 to Pentagon North Parking
3:00 AM-5:00 PM Washington Blvd. from Columbia Pike to Memorial Circle
(southbound lanes will reopen at approximately 9:30 AM)
A map of the course, as well as additional race information, can be found at the Marine Corps Marathon website.
The lengthy construction work at Reagan National Airport has now shut down the cell phone waiting lot for drivers picking up arrivals, with rolling lane closures in place as part of the latest headache for travelers.
The cell phone lot shut down Monday (Oct. 8) to clear the way for the construction work, and will be closed indefinitely, airport officials announced last week. As a concession, drivers will now be able to park for free for up to an hour in any of the airport’s three terminal parking garages.
Segments of lanes along the upper-level Terminal B/C ticketing road will also be shut down 24 hours-per-day through mid-November. Officials plan to maintain at least two travel lanes at all times.
These latest closures have also forced Reagan to change the pick-up locations for shuttle buses at Terminals B/C. Anyone arriving at gates 10 through 45 should head upstairs to ticketing on level three, then look for the new stops near the JetBlue/Alaska Air entrance. Pick-up spots for taxis and rideshare drivers won’t be impacted by the work.
Over the past few months, the construction has irked taxi drivers at the airport, who claim that Reagan officials have poorly managed the construction to give preference to Uber and Lyft drivers and hurt their business.
Neighbors have complained about the work as well, after the airport set aside a staging lot for rideshare drivers that snarled traffic in the area — Arlington officials ultimately agreed to re-open an exit to a street adjacent to the lot in a bid to address the issue.
Airport leaders expect that work on the construction, dubbed “Project Journey” and primarily designed to replace the three security checkpoints at Terminal B/C with two new buildings, will run through 2021. However, they plan to wrap up most of the work on the arrival lanes by the middle of next year, when construction will focus on the airport’s interior.
Arlington Names New Resident Ombudsman — “Ben Aiken has been named as Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman and Director of Constituent Services in the County Manager’s Office, effective October 8, 2018. Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman is part of the Constituent Services Team helping to ensure Arlington’s government works effectively and maintains a high degree of transparency.” [Arlington County]
Senior Alert for Man Last Seen in Arlington — “The Virginia State Police Department has issued a Senior Alert for 78-year-old James Oliver… Oliver was last seen in Arlington around 3 p.m. Sept. 19, walking near the intersection of North Wakefield [Street] and 24th Street. He was reportedly wearing a blue blazer, silver shirt, pink neck tie and blue jeans.” [WDBJ7]
It is PARK(ing) Day — Today is PARK(ing) Day, ” an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into small parks to elicit a reconsideration of the designation of public space.” There are five PARK(ing) day sites in Arlington: AECOM (2940 Clarendon Blvd), “The Bird Nest” – Communal Space (555 23rd St. S.), Bike Arlington et al (2040 15th St. N.), Solid Waste Bureau (4115 Campbell Ave.), Little Diversified Architectural Consulting (1061 N. Taylor St.). [Arlington County]
Log Cabin For Sale Near Marymount — The log cabin on 26th Street N. near Marymount University is listed for sale. Built in 1836, the home was later a favorite destination for Theodore Roosevelt, who would ride horses and eat ice cream there. [Washington Post]
Video Tour of New ART Buses — The new buses in the Arlington Transit fleet are more comfortable and feature-rich than older models, according to a video tour posted online. The 13 buses will allow ART to add new service. [YouTube]
Planners say they hope to save dozens of trees originally slated to be cut down as part of an overhaul of Upton Hill Regional Park, a move viewed by environmental advocates as a small, but meaningful concession to their concerns about changes at the park.
NOVA Parks, the regional body that manages Upton Hill, wrote in a letter to the county’s Urban Forestry Commission last week that it hopes to save as many as 49 trees on the site, nixing plans for a new parking lot in the park’s lower half and new vehicle entrance from Wilson Blvd.
As many as 115 trees were originally set to be chopped down at the park, located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners, when a $3 million renovation of Upton Hill gets moving later this year. That’s prompted some fierce pushback from neighbors and conservationists alike, who have rallied to reverse what they see as a blow to the county’s tree canopy and stormwater management.
Even though the County Board won’t have any direct say on the project’s design, the outcry convinced the Urban Forestry Commission to pen a letter to the Board about the project on Aug. 29.
Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, wrote back on Sept. 6 to say that his staff had managed to make some changes to save 35 living trees and 14 dead ones on the property. Rather than building a new parking lot, he plans to create more handicapped-accessible street parking spaces, while also making street parking on Wilson Blvd “time-limited during the day.”
“This change will allow us to achieve the goal of a more inviting lower park area that the Civic Associations had requested, while eliminating the lower parking lot and vehicular access off Wilson Blvd,” Gilbert wrote. “The Upton Hill Improvement Plan is a win-win for both the natural resources and active users of the park.”
A group critical of the park’s redevelopment known as the Friends of Upton Hill hailed those changes in a Sept. 9 email to supporters, attributing it to mounting “public pressure and scrutiny” of the plans. Local environmental activist Suzanne Sundberg was also cautiously optimistic.
“Is the current plan ideal? No,” she told ARLnow. “Is it enough to prevent increases in runoff and erosion down that hill? Probably not. But it is an improvement. And I’m grateful for any improvements to a plan that is about as ill-conceived, wasteful and destructive as it could possibly be.”
Both Sundberg and the friends group are also anxiously awaiting the formal release of NOVA Parks’ newly revised tree removal plans. For instance, Sundberg is suspicious that “possible other trees not on the existing removal list are now being counted as ‘saved’ to make the numbers appear better.”
“For example, trees less than three inches in diameter at breast height were not included in the existing tree-removal plan/list, even though they, too, would have been removed,” Sundberg said. “I have to wonder whether some of these ‘saved’ trees might actually represent some of these smaller ones not originally identified.”
The friends group also expressed hope that some three mature maple trees near the lower playground set to be renovated — previously described by Boulevard Manor Civic Association President Chris Tighe as “something out of a Stephen King horror movie” — will also somehow be saved.
“It would also be tough for kids to enjoy the new playground equipment while being baked in the hot summer sun,” Josh Handler, a lead backer of the group, wrote in an email. “Reasonable alternatives to the playground renovations would preserve at least some of the existing trees — if NOVA Parks chooses to be flexible.”
Handler reiterated in the email that his concerns linger about how the removal of so many trees in favor of a new parking lot in the park’s upper half will impact stormwater on the site. But Gilbert believes that a cistern built underneath the new lot will adequately address those worries, arguing in his letter that the lot will “far exceed county building standards.”
“Upton Hill has long been a park with a combination of great natural resources and popular features for the public,” he wrote. “This balance will continue with these improvements, making for a great urban park.”
Ultimately, plans call for a new oak/hickory forest at the park, as well as a ropes course, renovated restrooms and a new ticket booth for its batting cage.
Parking Changes Among Child Care Proposals — Changing onerous parking requirements for child care centers is going to be “on the list of proposed ordinance changes we’re introducing” at a community meeting next Monday, according to a tweet from Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. [Twitter]
Smoke the Dog Dies — “Smoke, the Arlington, Virginia, dog with a bucket list, died this week, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington announced Friday. In July, Smoke captured a lot of hearts in the area when the Arlington shelter announced that he had terminal cancer and that they’d created a bucket list for him.” [WTOP]
Letter: Arlington Lacks Airbnb Enforcement — A letter to the editor argues that Arlington County has been ineffective in enforcement of a short-term rental ordinance passed in 2016. Per the letter: “Short-term rental industry websites showed more than 1,000 units advertised for short-term rent in Arlington as of early July, but only 72 residents had obtained permits, down from 86 in January.” [Washington Post]
Dems Make Money Via Mail — The top fundraising activity for the Arlington County Democratic Committee: sending hand-addressed and hand-stamped letters. [InsideNova]
Tree Falls on Chain Bridge Road — Chain Bridge Road was closed Sunday after a tree fell and took down utility lines, for at least the second time this year. The stretch of Chain Bridge Road in Arlington that was closed is home to the most expensive house in the D.C. area. [Twitter]
Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani
Plans for a new parking lot at the large “PenPlace” development in Pentagon City are shaping up to cause a bit of friction between county staff and the project’s developer.
JBG Smith is hoping to build a temporary, 204-space retail parking lot adjacent to the development, located on a nine-acre plot of land along S. Fern Street and just off Army Navy Drive. But Arlington officials would much rather see the developer construct a lot roughly a quarter of that size, over fears that so much parking would contribute to a car-dependent culture in the area.
The real estate firm argues that the parking is necessary to meet demands of the up to 50,000 square feet of retailers who will someday occupy the development, noting that the lot will only be a temporary necessity. Yet county staff have repeatedly insisted on changes, marking another dust-up over the development after officials previously expressed skepticism about JBG’s desire to significantly scale back the size of some buildings planned for the site.
The County Board approved the project back in 2013, when it was proposed by Vornado before the company spun off its D.C. holdings in a merger to form JBG Smith. Original plans called for three office buildings between 20 and 22 stories tall, an 18-story, 300-room hotel and a 300-unit apartment building between 16 and 18 stories tall.
JBG decided earlier this year to spread the residential space among two seven-story buildings instead, shifting the hotel rooms to some of the other buildings on the site, which prompted a new round of county scrutiny of the project.
Documents prepared for the project’s Site Plan Review Committee over the last few months show that county staff remain concerned about the reduced density on the site, citing the “dramatically lower heights and scale” of the seven-story buildings as especially problematic given their potential to house people close to the Pentagon City Metro station. Arlington planners previously called it “highly unusual” that a developer would seek to build something less dense than originally approved, though JBG executives have said the change was meant to “improve the pedestrian experience in the area.”
The newest debate centers around the parking lot proposed for a new segment of 11th Street S., which would sit behind two of the buildings to be built along S. Eads Street.
JBG argues that its plans for copious new retail in the area make the new lot essential, at least until another 1,600 parking spaces become available as the developer builds garages alongside the office buildings it has planned for the area.
“In addition, the applicant has claimed that a larger amount of parking is necessary due to the type of retailers being sought,” county staff wrote in a July 23 SPRC report on PenPlace. A JBG executive did not respond to a request for comment on the exact nature of the developer’s plans.
But to add so much parking for the new buildings, JBG needs an exception from the county’s zoning ordinance, which only lets developers construct one space for every 1,000 square feet of retail space. JBG’s proposal, by contrast, works out to about one space for every 196 square feet.
That’s a problem for county officials, who believe the parking lot “encourages auto traffic to the site, and proliferates surface parking.”
JBG has offered to shrink the size of the lot slightly, adding a 10,000-square-foot temporary dog park to cut the number of spaces to 180. Arlington planners wrote in the July 23 report that such an offer is an “improvement,” but lament that the change “does not address comments from staff regarding confining parking lots to future building footprints.”
So far, the SPRC has met four times to discuss the PenPlace plans, but does not yet have another meeting scheduled to hash out this dispute. Plans will ultimately need to go to the Planning Commission and then the County Board for final approval.
On Sept. 15, stretches of Arlington’s on-street parking will be transformed into pop-up parks for the annual PARK(ing) Day event, and applications are now available to turn your bare asphalt into a roadside oasis.
There are many restrictions on which spots are eligible and what kinds of decorations can be included on-site. The parking spaces must be legal parking spots that aren’t reserved for other uses, like rush hour, handicap, or loading zone spots. Parking spaces also can’t be located at the end of the street block.
The site must occupy a minimum of two parking spaces (40 feet) with a 10-foot buffer on each side. The zones must be separated from the street and other parking spaces by traffic barrels, which can be rented from Arlington County at the time of the application.
The Arlington County Division of Transportation offers several suggestions and restrictions for what can or can’t be placed in the pop-up park. Items prohibited include:
- Distractions to drivers, like banners, balloons, flashing lights, flying items and free standing tents
- Open flames of any kind or generators
- Loose or uncovered material, like sand, gravel, mulch or stone
- Free-standing umbrellas
- Sidewalk storage or overflow of activities
- Physical structures that damage the surface or create a hazard, like slippery surfaces or tripping hazards.
- Activities that are dangerous or restricted by county code
- Any vending or merchandise displays.
PARK(ing) Day begins at 9 a.m. on Sept. 15. By 3:30 p.m. of PARK(ing) Day, the park space must be completely restored back to a parking space, with all trash and materials removed from the site.
Permits cost $36.70 and can be filed in person or online. Two temporary “No Parking” signs can be rented for $27, and traffic barrels rented at $5.40 per barrel.
Applicants are also charged a fee for the impacted meters, with $16.20 for meters with a time limit of four hours or less, or $11.90 for meters for more than four hours. Applications must be submitted by next Friday (Aug. 31).
Photos via Arlington Department of Environmental Services
Arlington’s business community is urging county leaders to approve the Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion plans, arguing the project’s delays have already cost the company dearly.
The county’s lone hospital rolled out plans last fall to add a seven-story outpatient facility and a 10-story parking garage next to its existing campus at 1701 N. George Mason Drive. The County Board approved a land swap last summer to make the expansion possible, trading a parcel of land near the hospital on N. Edison Street for a property along S. Carlin Springs Road, and VHC has spent the ensuing months hammering out designs for the new buildings.
In a letter to the Board on July 23, Arlington Chamber of Commerce President Kate Bates called that decision “very disappointing,” and urged county leaders to lend the project an “expeditious approval.”
“The hospital is doing everything it can to accommodate the requests of neighbors and to honor good planning principles,” Bates wrote. “At this point, however, the cumulative effect of additional changes needs to be evaluated within the broader context of providing convenient, high-quality, patient-centered healthcare in a fiscally prudent way for the next 50 years.”
Bates argued in the letter that the hospital desperately needs the expansion to cope with Arlington’s growing population — VHC expects it’ll need an additional 85 hospital beds over the next five years to handle the county’s growth, and could use another 130 beds over the next 15 years. The hospital currently plans to convert around 120,000 square feet of existing outpatient space to 101 new beds once it can complete the proposed expansion.
Bates adds that “patients and visitors are frequently frustrated and unnecessarily delayed by current parking constraints” at the hospital, making the roughly 1,800 parking spaces in the new garage a key element of the plan as well. However, the garage has attracted some of the fiercest opposition of any element of the project, with neighbors worried about its size and staff and activists worried that it overly encourages driving at the expense of biking or transit options.
Yet Bates points out that VHC has already agreed to shrink the garage by about 200 spaces from its original proposal, bringing down its height to about 67 feet in all.
Furthermore, she wrote that the hospital has worked with the community to add more buffers and greenery to both 19th Street N. and N. Edison Street, demonstrating “a commitment to enhance the appearance and livability of the surrounding neighborhood.”
According to a VHC presentation at a May community meeting, the hospital is planning 27,000 square feet of buffers around the hospital’s perimeter, in addition to lots of green space on the property itself. In all, the hospital hopes to build a 11,000-square-foot entry plaza with a similarly sized “welcome garden” nearby, and a 9,000-square-foot courtyard complete with a “sunken garden” of tiered planters.
The hospital will also sketch out a “master plan” for the site to give the community a roadmap for its designs on future expansion efforts, including a push to someday buy more land for the redevelopment of its older buildings and the construction of a new “central power plant.”
In all, the Chamber sees this work as plenty of evidence that the Board shouldn’t press for any additional changes from the hospital and let the expansion move ahead quickly.
“Since the initial VHC project application, the hospital has made more than 100 modifications to the design in an effort to address issues raised by county staff and community stakeholders,” Bates wrote. “The Chamber respectfully requests that the Board prioritizes this effort and approves the VHC site plan application so this important project can move forward.”
Both the Planning Commission and the County Board are set to hold public hearings on the project in September.
Keep an eye on the meter if you’re parking on the street in Arlington today — some changes to county meters just took effect.
You’ll now need to feed the meter from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, a two-hour extension of the old meter timeframe.
Prices are also jumping up a bit. Rates at meters set aside for short-term parking, or any parking less than four hours, is going up a quarter to $1.75 per hour. Any parking for more than four hours will now run you $1.50 per hour, up from $1.25.
Parking ticket fines will also rise a bit, jumping from $35 to $40 per offense.
The County Board signed off on these changes as part of its budget for fiscal year 2019, which meant they officially took effect yesterday (July 1), even though meters don’t run on Sundays.
In all, the county hopes to raise an additional $4 million each year through these changes, in order to help offset some of the financial pressure Arlington is feeling at the moment. County staff also envision these tweaks bringing the county a bit more in line with the higher parking prices of neighboring jurisdictions, as well as increasing parking turnover in high-demand corridors.
This change marks the first increase in Arlington’s parking meter fees since 2015.
Should Arlington open up more of its on-street parking to shoppers, commuters and other visitors, or continue to use a permit system to protect neighborhood parking spots?
That’s the sort of question county officials are asking as they collect feedback on how Arlington’s residential permit parking system is working. County staff are about halfway through a two-year review of Arlington’s residential parking practices, and they’ve opened up an online survey on the subject through July 16.
The zoned parking program is intended to ensure that residents can park near their houses in neighborhoods near business districts, employment centers and Metro stations. Residents were previously able to petition the county to have their street zoned, pending an analysis by county staff.
The County Board is planning to hold a work session on residential parking in the coming months and establish a working group to study the matter, after voting last August to put a moratorium on any additions or changes to the county’s 24 zones where parking permits are required.
The moratorium sparked complaints from some residents. There were 16 active petitions at the time from people looking to add new permit parking zones or change existing ones.
Among those worried about changes to the program is Penrose Neighborhood Association co-president Pete Durgan, who thinks the survey is tilted toward the goal of scaling back parking restrictions.
“Can you imagine what would happen to the single family areas near Ballston, Clarendon and Columbia Pike?” she asked, in an email to ARLnow.com.
County staff last reviewed Arlington’s parking program back in 2003, and the Board has since wrestled with the question of how to balance the concerns of residents looking to keep cars off their crowded streets with the frustrations of people hoping to find a place to park near the county’s burgeoning business districts.
The Board has also increasingly encouraged developers to move away from building off-street parking options in Metro corridors, in favor of adding new bike or car-sharing options, a policy change some worry will push residents to park on the street instead.
The survey asks respondents to rank the importance of the availability of on-street parking versus other factors, like the availability of public transit and open public space. The county also wants to hear what people think about how easy it should be for commuters or other visitors to park in their neighborhoods, and to evaluate whether “parking on public streets is a shared resource that should be open to all.”
The county first started its residential permit program in 1973 to keep commuters to Crystal City and D.C. out of residential areas. A series of court challenges to the program ultimately advanced to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the justices unanimously upheld the program’s legality in a 1977 decision.
County staff are hoping to wrap up this latest review of the program by the summer of 2019, when they could once again start considering petitions for changes to permit zones.
Someday, the Buck property in Ballston could be home to a new school, or for other county-owned facilities or offices — but for now, it’ll merely be used for parking for some school employees.
The County Board voted unanimously Saturday (June 16) to allow the school system to use 48 parking spaces at the site for at least the next two years. The School Board approved a similar initiative on May 30, clearing the way for Arlington Public Schools to park its “white fleet” at the site (1425 N. Quincy Street) and free up some space at the county’s Trades Center.
Arlington Public Schools struck a similar deal with the county last month to let some school bus drivers park their personal vehicles at the garage near Barcroft Park, as APS continues to buy more school buses and fill up its parking lots. This latest change would involve moving vans, SUVs and pickup trucks normally used by the school system’s maintenance workers over to the former Buck property, located just across from Washington-Lee High School.
“This is not a long-term vision,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “This is our management of a space that was always acquired with the purpose of being a piece of the puzzle in making sure the county can deal with its facility and infrastructure needs… How do we do something in the interim that’s reflective of using that investment wisely?”
The county agreed to shell out $30 million to buy the six-acre parcel back in 2015, and planners have spent months studying potential uses for the site. While officials have long hoped to use it for additional parking, the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission has considered a litany of other options as well, like building new APS office space, an additional 911 call center or even a new school on the property.
Yet County Manager Mark Schwartz revealed in his latest 10-year plan for construction spending that the county won’t have much money to spend on the Buck site. In all, his proposed Capital Improvement Plan calls for just $3 million in spending to make some minor improvements on the property, rather than moving ahead with any major changes.
Accordingly, that means the site will be open for APS parking, in the short term at least. The new lease agreement between the county and the school system will let APS use the site for the next two years, with the potential for six one-year renewals after that.
The move did meet with some community pushback. Some neighbors spoke at the County Board meeting and two different School Board meetings to express concerns about traffic noise at the site, particularly because workers will likely be arriving at the lot quite early — John Chadwick, the school system’s assistant superintendent for facilities and operations, noted Saturday that some employees will be at the parking lot as early as 3:30 a.m.
But Chadwick pledged to work with the community to mitigate any adverse impacts from this new arrangement. Additionally, School Board members stressed at their May 30 meeting that they hope the move is merely temporary, given the property’s potential to house a new school someday.
“Given the pressure on the school system to build new schools, I think there are many people that are hopeful that we’d begin exploring this site… to at least consider for a school,” said Board member Nancy Van Doren.
County staff noted Saturday that they’re currently conducting a technical and engineering analysis of the site, and that includes the property’s potential to someday serve as a home for new classroom space. They plan to wrap up that work this winter.
Photo via Google Maps
Ballston Mall Garage Floods — “The heavy rain that roared through our region Tuesday evening did more than just saturate the ground. A parking garage near the Ballston Mall in Arlington County was transformed into a figurative beach complete with waves.” [WJLA]
Officials Reconsidering No-Left-Turn Sign on Route 50 — The late Carrie Johnson’s last act of civic activism may be bearing fruit. County officials are reaching out to the community in an effort to reconsider a no-left-turn sign on Route 50 at N. Irving Street. [InsideNova]
Proclamation for Gun Violence Awareness Day — At its meeting last night, the Arlington County Board presented the group Moms Demand Action with a proclamation declaring June 1, 2018 to be National Gun Violence Awareness Day in Arlington. [Twitter]
VHC Planning Too Rushed, Critics Say — “Plans to have the Arlington Planning Commission and County Board pass judgment on Virginia Hospital Center’s expansion plans in early July have run into community opposition, with critics saying any action then would be premature and would interfere with vacation plans of those who hope to influence the outcome.” [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Region Sets Heat Record — The National Weather Service reports that Arlington and surrounding areas set a heat record yesterday. The temperature at Reagan National Airport reached 91 degrees, which tops the previous record of 89, set in 1930. [Twitter]
Co-Working Space Opening Soon — TechSpace, a new co-working space, will hold a grand opening event and happy hour in Ballston on May 15. The 20,000 square foot office will open in the Two Liberty Center building (4075 Wilson Blvd) across the street from the under-construction Ballston Quarter Mall. [PR Newswire]
Playground Design Meeting — County staff will present the two concepts for the new playground at Rosslyn Highlands Park and take feedback from the public at a meeting tonight. It takes place in the library at Key Elementary School at 7 p.m. [Arlington County]
Theodore Roosevelt Island Survey — The National Park Service is seeking feedback via a survey for improvements to Theodore Roosevelt Island, including possible bridge and comfort station upgrades and the addition of a boat dock. Today is the last day to submit comments. [National Park Service]
Reduced Parking in Fairlington — As the Fairlington Park Project enters its final stages, 19 parking spaces will be occupied for construction equipment staging. Visitors should plan ahead for the parking challenges.
New Marymount President — Dr. Irma Becerra has been chosen as the new Marymount University president and will take over the position on July 1. She comes to the school from St. Thomas University. [Marymount University, InsideNova]