The $50 million renovation of WETA’s headquarters in Shirlington is nearing completion.
After about two years, the local public broadcasting station WETA is set to finish off its 17,000-square-foot expansion on Campbell Avenue later this year. The refresh will include four floors of studios, offices, a consolidated headquarters, and more large spaces for public gatherings and screenings, Vice-President of External Affairs Mary Stewart told ARLnow.
Some production is still being done out of the old building, which WETA first moved into in the 1980s, but that will stop once the renovation is completed on the building on Campbell Avenue, Stewart said.
Externally, much of the work appears to be nearing the finish line with the expansion extending into a space that was once a courtyard. It’s the internal renovations, said Stewart, that still need some time. Those are expected to be done in “late 2023,” despite some “supply chain hiccups.” Some of the studios and public spaces could be open to employees by the summer, though.
Two main studios and one flash (smaller) studio are set to be added. One of the main studios will be used by the PBS NewsHour.
The national nightly news broadcast, which recently debuted a new pair of anchors, will get an updated set, with modern tech, video walls, and an outward-facing TV screen on the ground floor. The goal for the new set is to be “flexible,” modern, and for the video screens to allow remote interviews to be more “natural and cohesive,” said Stewart.
Also set to start filming in the new studios will be the six-decade-old teen quiz show “It’s Academic.” In the fall, the longest-running TV quiz show in history announced it was moving into WETA’s renovated building with the hope it would start producing episodes there in early 2024.
The studios will also be home to PBS NewsHour Weekend and Washington Week, as well as local programming like WETA Arts. Additionally, the update will also allow pledge drives and special broadcasts to take place in the new studios.
“We will now be a 365-day, 7-day-a-week production,” Stewart said.
She said the biggest drivers of the expansion are to modernize, allow for more production flexibility, and consolidate all of WETA in one building.
The local PBS station actually first began operating out of Yorktown High School more than six decades ago, in 1961. It moved to D.C. for a time, before consolidating operations back in Arlington in 1983 at the still-standing 3620 27th Street S. location. In 1995, WETA purchased the building on Campbell Avenue and moved its headquarters there, while production remained mostly at the other building a few blocks away.
But with this $50 million expansion, WETA will be whole for the first time in its 62-year history.
“With this expansion of our building, it means WETA will have a permanent home in Arlington,” said Stewart.
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) In the latest episode of PBS’ Finding Your Roots, historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. helped guide six-time Tony-winner Audra McDonald on a tour of her family lineage — a journey that led her to a golf club in Arlington.
McDonald’s trip through her family tree started with her maternal grandfather, whom she credited as a major influencing force on her life. Her grandfather, Thomas Hardy Jones, was described by McDonald as “born into the depths of the Jim Crow era” but managing to build a respected career as an educator in historically Black institutions.
Her awareness of her mother’s paternal lineage ended there, but Gates took McDonald further to meet her great-grandfather: Clarence Jones.
“After stints as a miner and chauffeur, Clarence supported his family and paid for his son’s education by working in a locker room in a segregated golf club in Arlington, Virginia, where it seems he somehow managed to thrive,” Gates said.
Clarence Jones worked at Washington Golf & Country Club, the first golf club in Virginia and a prestigious regional institution that counted presidents Wilson, Taft and Harding as active members.
The club was segregated, however, and Clarence Jones worked at the club but could never play there. Only starting in the mid-1970s were Black and Jewish applicants granted membership, according to a book by former Northern Virginia Sun publisher Herman Obermayer.
Even so, Gates’ team found a newspaper article from the time that profiled Jones, in which he was described as indispensable and well-loved by the golfing community.
“[He is a] shoe shiner, story teller, match-maker, gambler and good friend all rolled into one,” Gates read from the newspaper. “Wherever you go around the nation’s capital, golfers ask about Clarence.”
McDonald said many of those traits described in Clarence Jones were passed down to his son, her grandfather.
Records showed that Clarence Jones’ parents were both born in D.C. shortly after the Civil War, but the paper trail ended there as their parents were likely enslaved.
McDonald said that learning about her great-grandfather was bittersweet knowing that he was held back by the racist institutions of his era.
“There’s a part of me that’s amazed and proud of my great-grandfather,” McDonald said, “but a part that hurts for him too.”
Virtual County Fair Starts Today at Noon — “August 14-16, the Arlington County Fair will be hosting a variety of LIVE events on our Facebook page (via Facebook Live) to share the magic of the Fair even during unsure times. Check out our exciting schedule that includes fan favorites and some brand-new fun.” [Facebook]
County Considering More Early Voting Locations — “Arlington County Board members will hold a special session Aug. 25 to act on a request from county election officials doubling the number of ‘satellite’ early-voting centers across the county this fall. In addition to Madison and Walter Reed community centers, which had been used for early voting in recent presidential elections, the Electoral Board aims to add the Aurora Hills Community Center and Langston-Brown Community Center.” [InsideNova]
Local Movie Theaters to Open Soon — “Arlington’s two AMC Theatres are set to reopen on Aug. 27: AMC Courthouse Plaza 8 [and] AMC Shirlington 7… the movie theater chain said guests will pay just 15 cents per movie on that day.” [Patch]
Inside PBS NewsHour HQ in Arlington — Updated at 9:40 a.m. — From a magazine feature written pre-pandemic: “This is how PBS NewsHour happens every weekday: with a 9:45 a.m. meeting that feels, already, like midday. Each morning, some 30 people fit into a tight conference room in a low-slung brick building on the outskirts of Shirlington to discuss what the longtime public television fixture will air that evening at 6 p.m.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Fundraiser for Local Fitness Instructor — “Chris Green is one of the DMV’s finest fitness instructors. A Lululemon and South Block ambassador, he is a coach and mentor to so many… He recently ruptured his Achilles and has an incredibly long and tough journey ahead. As if COVID hadn’t impacted fitness professionals enough, throw this in the mix and it’s a double, even triple whammy.” [Community Post]
Marymount Ditches SAT/ACT Requirement — “Beginning with applicants for the Fall 2021 semester, Marymount University will adopt a complete test-optional policy for submission of SAT and ACT scores. This decision builds off of the University’s longstanding commitment to a holistic review of applications, as Marymount has been test-optional for select students for a number of years already.” [Press Release]
Residents Want Second Pentagon City Metro Entrance — “Some longtime residents have spent years agitating for just such a study of their roads and public transit options, seeing a need long before HQ2 was a twinkle in Jeff Bezos’ eye. They’re eager to see an evaluation of how much new density the area can bear, and what solutions could make it easier for Pentagon City residents to get around — perhaps most notably, they’re pressing to see a second entrance for the neighborhood’s Metro station.” [Washington Business Journal]
Pentagon City Mall Seeking Sidewalk Cafe Upgrades — Simon, owner of the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall, is seeking to make some additions to the sidewalk cafes in front of the mall on S. Hayes Street. Proposed upgrades, to be considered by the Arlington County Board this weekend, include: “light poles, light strings and fencing with tray tops.” [Arlington County]
No, Crystal City Is Not Named for a Chandelier — “According to Robert P. Kogod, the former co-CEO of the Charles E. Smith Companies — which developed Crystal City — the name for the neighborhood’s first building, Crystal House, came first, and the chandelier came afterward.” [Washingtonian]
County Board to Consider Incentives to Keep PBS HQ — “Arlington County Board is considering offering up to $500,000 to retain the Public Broadcasting Service, nearly a year after PBS already committed to doing just that. The Arlington County Board is expected to consider the Economic Development Incentive grant at its meeting Saturday, along with a $450,000 grant to the Incentive Technology Group, which is also staying in Crystal City under a new lease.” [Washington Business Journal]
New Pike Affordable Housing Building Opens — “A ribbon-cutting ceremony marked the opening of Gilliam Place, a former church, and its 173 affordable housing units in Arlington Thursday morning. The complex is aimed at helping lower income and special needs families, and… it’s already home for a nonverbal woman living with autism.” [NBC 4, WJLA]
New Scooter Corral in Rosslyn — “Yee-haw!! New ‘Shared Mobility Device’ corral for Rosslyn’s North Moore Street.” [Twitter/@ArlingtonDES]
Live Action ‘Clue’ Planned in Arlington — “Time to solve a murder mystery while taking part in an incredible game and Scavenger Hunt as we bring the game of CLUE® – without a board – to our own backyard!” [Facebook]
Reminder: I-395 HOV Becoming Express Lanes — “The time has come for big change for local commuters: after two years of work, the I-395 HOV lanes inside the Beltway are becoming express toll lanes… The switch over is slated to take place on Sunday, Nov. 17.” [ARLnow]
A free exhibit entitled Mister Rogers: Just the Way You Are is currently on display in Crystal City.
The exhibit is open to the public at the Crystal City Shops entrance to the PBS building (2100 Crystal Drive) through May 31. Created by Nashville-based artist Wayne Brezinka, the exhibit is described as “a unique and interactive mixed media portrait experience incorporating both two and three-dimensional elements.”
“Through the use of objects, artifacts and memorabilia assembled together, these items craft extraordinary story lines within this artistic profile of America’s most beloved neighbor, Mister Rogers,” Brezinka wrote.
The exhibit is especially relevant given “the love and affection that many have with Mister Rogers in our current social and political climate [and] the buzz around the upcoming film starring Tom Hanks who stars as Mister Rogers later this year,” he said.
The touring exhibition’s Crystal City stop was made possible by Arlington-based PBS and property owner JBG Smith. It is open weekdays from 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) PBS has signed a new deal to keep its headquarters in Arlington, though it will be relocating to a different building in Crystal City.
The media company announced today (Tuesday) that it will be moving from its current space at 2100 Crystal Drive to a 120,000-square-foot office at 1225 S. Clark Street. PBS agreed to a 15-year lease in the building, and plans to make the move sometime in “mid-2020,” per a press release.
The nonprofit has been based out of the 2100 Crystal Drive property since 2006. Its new headquarters is adjacent to both the Earth Treks climbing gym and the headquarters of the U.S. Marshals Service.
“We are thrilled that PBS will remain in Crystal City, especially during such a transformative and exciting time for this community,” PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger said in a statement, no doubt referring to Amazon’s impending arrival just a few blocks away. “Keeping our headquarters in Arlington is great for PBS and our employees, and we’re proud to call ‘National Landing’ our home.”
The move takes PBS from one property controlled by developer JBG Smith to another. The company is the dominant property owner throughout Crystal City, Pentagon City and the nearby Potomac Yard, controlling millions of square feet of space even after helping bring Amazon to some of its properties.
“This continued long-term commitment by PBS to stay within the submarket further validates our excellent location, as well as our many planned improvements for the neighborhood,” David Ritchey, JBG Smith executive vice president said in a statement. “The relocation and extension of the PBS lease is also indicative of our plan to retain and attract diverse industries to National Landing, including associations and non-profits.”
The March of Dimes nonprofit also recently announced plans to relocate to the area, moving to a building at 1550 Crystal Drive.
Attracting businesses to the area remains a major concern for the county, even with Amazon set to take up as much as 8 million square feet of office space in the area someday. The county is hoping many property owners, like JBG, will use the company’s arrival as the impetus to refresh some of their older buildings in the area, and further reverse Arlington’s spiking office vacancy rate.
PBS member station WETA is also one of the county’s more well-known office tenants in South Arlington, though one of the TV station’s facilities could also be on the move. County officials hope to someday acquire the station’s studio property in Nauck, in which programs like the PBS NewsHour is produced, then use the land for the redevelopment of Jennie Dean Park.
Photo 1 via Google Maps
Last-Minute Eclipse Glasses in Crystal City — PBS, which is based in Crystal City, will be giving out the remainder of its supply of eclipse glasses at the Crystal City Water Park this morning at 9 a.m. (Update: They’re all gone.) [Twitter]
W-L Grad Studying Eclipse — Arlington native Adriana Mitchell, a 19-year-old University of Arizona student and Washington-Lee High School graduate, will be studying this afternoon’s eclipse as part of “an unprecedented effort to help solve some of the mysteries surrounding our home star.” [University of Arizona]
Whitlow’s Also Hosting Viewing Party — In addition to the sold-out eclipse viewing party at Don Tito’s in Clarendon, Whitlow’s will be hosting a viewing event at its rooftop tiki bar, featuring “a limited number of eclipse glasses” and half-priced burgers. [Event Calendar]
Petition to Keep W-L Name Gains Support — An alumni petition calling for Washington-Lee High School to keep its name as-is, despite a push to remove Robert E. Lee’s last name and a School Board effort to consider name changes, has collected more than 700 signatures. “Washington-Lee has been part of the lives of Arlington school children since the 1920’s and has been one of the top high schools in the country throughout its existence,” the petition says. “To change the name of the school now is not reflective of W-L spirit nor W-L pride.” [Get Petition]
Wardian Still Good at Running, Humaning — Arlington’s own Michael Wardian is not only keeping up his impossible, superhuman distance running schedule, at the age of 43, but he’s also continuing to be a really nice guy in the process. [DelmarvaNow]
Arlington-based PBS is celebrating the upcoming fifth season of its hit Downton Abbey with a building-sized mural on its Crystal City headquarters.
The temporary art installation, featuring the likeness of Downton character Lady Mary , is 90 feet high and 54.5 feet wide — 4,900 square feet total — and took about 140 hours to complete. It was installed at 2100 Crystal Drive in partnership with the Crystal City Business Improvement District and building owner Vornado/Charles E. Smith.
“Downton Abbey is the top PBS drama of all time and we are thrilled to showcase that in Crystal City, where PBS calls home,” said Angela Fox, president and CEO of the Crystal City BID, in a press release.
“Crystal City residents, workers, and visitors are encouraged to take photos of themselves with the project, and hashtag #DowntonPBS,” the press release said.
The fourth season of the British period drama drew an average audience of 13.2 million viewers, according to PBS, making it one of the highest-rated dramas on American television. The fifth season will premiere on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015.
Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Pro-Change Group Forms in Bluemont — Fed up with neighbors who shot down a potential redevelopment of the Safeway site in Bluemont, a group of residents has formed a new organization called “Bluemont Forward.” The organization says it wants to see Wilson Boulevard become a more vibrant and walkable main street, with “an improved grocery store and other amenities for neighborhood residents.” The group might be too late to save the Safeway development, however; Greater Greater Washington reports that developer Silverwood may have “quietly backed out of the project.” [Bluemont Forward, Greater Greater Washington]
Layoffs at PBS NewsHour — PBS NewsHour, which is produced in Shirlington, has laid off a number of staff members in a reorganization. The production will also save money by streamlining and digitizing its technical processes. [TV Newser]
Ballston LaunchPad Finalists Revealed — Kylee Majkowski, the 8-year-old CEO of Tomorrow’s Lemonade Stand, is among the 10 semi-finalists in the Ballston LaunchPad Challenge. The entrepreneurial competition will pair the semi-finalists and their startup businesses with mentors. In November, three finalists will be chosen and will have a chance to pitch their business idea to venture capitalist and Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis. Competition organizer Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. [Patch]
Wedding Planning Recommendations at the Library — With wedding season in full-swing, Arlington Public Library has published a list of books and movies that may be of interest to those planning a wedding. [Arlington Public Library]
Northam, Herring Prevail in Dem Primary –– Turnout was very light for Tuesday’s statewide Democratic primary. Ralph Northam, a state Senator, is the new Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, having defeated Arlington resident Aneesh Chopra. State Sen. Mark Herring captured the nomination for attorney general. [WJLA]
Prosecutors say Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn and Hector Xavier Monsegur — alleged members of the “hacktivist” group LulzSec — hacked into PBS servers last year in retaliation for what they perceived to be unfavorable coverage of Wikileaks by the PBS news program “Frontline.” At the time, news outlets reported that LulzSec defaced PBS.org and posted a fake story on the PBS NewsHour website suggesting that the late rapper Tupac Shakur was actually alive and well in New Zealand.
PBS is based in Crystal City and the PBS NewsHour is produced in Shirlington, though prosecutors say the organization’s computer servers were actually located in Alexandria.
Ackroyd and Davis, of the United Kingdom, and Martyn, of Ireland, are each charged with two counts of computer hacking conspiracy. In addition to the PBS hack, they’re also accused of hacking into the systems of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Rockville-based Bethesda Softworks, and other companies.
Monsegur, of New York City, has already pleaded guilty to a host of charges connected with those hacking incidents. See the full list of charges from a United States Attorney’s Office press release.