STAR, Arlington’s bus service for disabled residents, will move to a new call center on Columbia Pike after County Board approval of the plan at its meeting Saturday.
Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents will move to 2301 Columbia Pike, Suite 120, near Penrose Square, after the Board agreed to rent the property from the landlord.
STAR’s existing call center is located at 2300 9th Street S. in the same neighborhood. Its lease on the property expired on June 30, and while it can be renewed on a monthly basis, the landlord plans to redevelop the office building and no longer wanted a long-term tenant.
In a report on the project, county staff noted various positives for the move.
“It is accessible and near a major transit stop with weekend service,” staff wrote. “Because it has its own separately-powered HVAC system, the call center can operate on weekends without incurring the cost of heating and cooling the entire floor. This will yield significant savings for the County in comparison with conventional office space.”
STAR is a paratransit branch of the ART bus system and provides transportation options to the disabled and handicapped who are unable to use public transportation. Those who ride with STAR call ahead to make reservations to be picked up from their home. STAR then routes the ride to pick up other residents who use the system along the way.
The Board will rent 2,337 square foot property for an initial period of 10.5 years (126 months), with a base rent of $4,944.70 per month. That rent will be free for the first six months. Staff estimate it will take three months for the office to be built out and readied to be the call center, during which time STAR will stay in its current location.
The total cost of construction for the new property is estimated at $300,000, part of which will be paid for by the landlord.
The new “Premium Transit Network” on Columbia Pike is being greeted with cautious optimism by some community members after years of discussion and delays.
But some raised questions about what will mark the new bus system as “premium,” considering it will not run in dedicated lanes due to the layout of Columbia Pike and will have a fleet of standard buses, at least for now.
The mood appears to be more positive than previously, when a group of civic association leaders derided the service for a lack of ambition in a letter last year.
“A bus is a bus,” said Ric Birch, president of the Arlington Mill Civic Association, one of several along the Pike. “You can dress it up, you can paint it a different color, use different fabric on the seats, it’s a bus. I’m not sure what the real drive is for a premium bus.”
Staff explained at a work session about the network last month that the standard buses are being used for cost reasons, as electric vehicles or ones powered by alternative fuels would be too expensive at this stage.
County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, a Pike resident, said that most important for the new service beyond the buses themselves will be the frequency, which she said she hopes to see at six-minute intervals for at least a large portion of the day.
“I think it’ll be more incremental, but I do think once the system is operational and its component pieces are in place, Pike residents will feel something different, we’ll experience something different,” she said.
Residents did give staff credit for looking at ways to keep costs down when constructing the 23 “premium transit stations” along the Pike. The successor to the nixed $1 million “Super Stop,” the new stations will be factory assembled to save money, and include features like electronic arrival boards and the option to pay a fare before getting on the bus.
However, some questioned the need for the technology in the bus stops, given the proliferation of smartphones and bus tracking apps.
“Adopting all the technology, I’m a little ambivalent about it,” said Maria “Pete” Durgan, president of the Penrose Neighborhood Association. “I know they put a lot of effort in coming up with a design and they want it to be distinctive but that’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t have to be quite so elaborate.”
“I don’t know that they’re making that same mistake there [with the $1 million bus stop],” said Birch. “The county learned to watch the price on it. But I do think it’s tying a bow on it and calling it something that it already is. It’s a bus stop. They don’t really shield you from the elements that well, and I don’t understand all the need for all the electronic connectivity in the bus stops.”
With the new network set to begin operations next summer, Cristol said she hoped it would help spark more economic development and revitalization along the Pike, as businesses look to capitalize on more regular service. Cecilia Cassidy, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, did not respond to requests for comment.
But Birch said he would like to go further, and see long-term planning for Columbia Pike include a long-range goal of an elevated light rail system, as well as maintaining good bus service. Durgan said plenty of people were “totally bummed” when the streetcar project was cancelled in 2014, as it would have been something different for the Pike.
“You’ve got to get the transit out of the lanes of Columbia Pike,” Birch said. “[In] today’s political climate, I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a long-range plan that even if the county were to start today, we’re talking 15 years. I think someone needs to be courageous and start doing that.”
The projects have been advanced by a county committee via Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Program, which encourages neighborhoods to apply for funding for various types of local improvements.
The projects set for approval are:
- A new neighborhood sign for Long Branch Creek ($12,500)
- Street improvements and new streetlights along 31st Street S. in Fairlington, between S. Randolph and Woodrow Streets ($1.7 million)
- New streetlights on S. Oak, Ode and Orme Streets in Foxcroft Heights ($562,704)
- Intersection improvements along 2nd Street S. at S. Wayne, Uhle and Wise Streets in Penrose ($1.6 million)
- Street improvements along N. George Mason Drive between 11th Street N. and I-66 in Waycroft-Woodlawn ($1.4 million)
The County Board is expected to vote on the Neighborhood Conservation projects at its Saturday meeting. The measure also includes an additional $200,000 for the county’s “Missing Link Program,” which funds the construction of small stretches of new sidewalk to connect existing sidewalks.
(Updated at 9:25 a.m.) Firefighters from Arlington County and surrounding jurisdictions battled a house fire in the Penrose neighborhood this morning.
The two-alarm fire broke out in the basement of a home at the corner of S. Fillmore Street and 1st Road S. shortly before 8:30 a.m. The fire spread, prompting firefighting efforts in the attic as well as in the basement.
Just after 8:50 a.m., it was announced that the fire had been extinguished, though some light smoke was still coming from the home’s windows.
No injuries were reported. The home’s owner could be seen talking to fire investigators.
S. Fillmore Street, a commuter route, remained shut down between 2nd Street S. and Route 50 as of 9:25 a.m., as emergency vehicles remained parked across the road. Via its Twitter account, the fire department warned drivers to expect delays in the area.
On Saturday morning, police found “numerous vehicles” in the East Falls Church area with tires slashed and body panels “keyed.”
The vandalism was centered around the 2400 block of N. Sycamore Street, near Bishop O’Connell High School.
From an ACPD crime report:
DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY, 160702013, 2400 block of N. Sycamore Street. At approximately 8:30 a.m. on July 2, an officer responded to the listed address for the report of a destruction of property to a vehicle. Numerous vehicles in the area had their tires slashed and were keyed. There is no suspect description.
Also on Saturday morning, police investigated a series of vehicle break-ins in the Penrose and Columbia Heights neighborhoods around Columbia Pike. In total, seven unlocked vehicles were broken into but only two car owners reported that items had stolen.
LARCENY FROM AUTO, 160702012, 1600 block of S. Barton Street. At approximately 8:00 a.m. on July 2, an officer responded to the listed address for the report of items stolen out of an unlocked vehicle. Another officer canvassed the area and discovered two other unlocked vehicles that had been entered but nothing was stolen. There is no suspect description.
TAMPERING WITH AUTO, 160702016, 1800 block of S. 9th Street. At approximately 8:45 a.m.on July 2, an officer responded to the listed address for the report of a tampering with auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that someone had entered an unlocked car and stole items of value. Officers canvassed the area and discovered three other unlocked vehicles that had been rummaged through but nothing was taken. There is no suspect description.
A mother and her 7-year-old son were transported to the hospital after being struck by a car in Penrose this morning.
The crash happened around 9:30 a.m., on 2nd Street S. near the intersection with S. Fillmore Street.
Initial reports suggest that a car struck both the son and the mother as they were crossing the street. The exact circumstances surrounding the crash were unclear.
The injuries were reported to be non-life-threatening. The mother and son were transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital for treatment.
The driver involved in the crash remained on scene; the apparent vehicle involved did not appear to have any significant damage.
Arlington County firefighters extinguished an apartment fire in the Penrose neighborhood this afternoon.
The fire was reported in a garden-style apartment on the 2700 block of 8th Street S. just after 4 p.m. Firefighters arrived to find a small fire in an upstair apartment.
The fire was quickly extinguished but water damage is reported in the apartment and the apartment below it.
This was the third small structure fire reported in Arlington in the past two days.
Photo via @ACFDPIO
The armed robbery and shooting happened around 2:22 a.m. Wednesday, on the street along the 200 block of S. Cleveland Street.
Police say the 20-year-old victim was shot in the arm by the robbery suspect and later transported to George Washington University hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
“The suspect is described as a white male, between 5’5″-6’0″ tall and 150-200 lbs,” according to a crime report. “He was wearing torn blue jeans, a grey hoodie and grey tennis shoes at the time of the incident.”
Residents in Arlington’s Penrose neighborhood are claiming that recent trimming by Dominion Power contractors injured trees that line the streets.
They are especially concerned with a White Oak tree on the corner of 8th Street S. and S. Veitch Street, which dates back to before the Civil War, said Terri Armao, chair of the Penrose Neighborhood Association’s Environmental Committee.
“They brutally attacked it yesterday,” Armao said. “I can’t even tell you what they did to it.”
Limbs were cut from the middle where the power line ran though, leaving a gap and causing the tree to look like a giant “V.” Residents had previously asked Dominion not to touch the tree because of its old age.
“I mean it is ridiculous. For a tree they weren’t supposed to touch, they touch a V out of it,” Armao said.
Margaret Alvord, a Penrose resident, attempted to stop the contractors from cutting into the tree, after receiving a call from a neighbor. The tree had been pruned three weeks ago and was still recovering, Alvord said.
“So I jumped up and went up the street in my car,” Alvord said. “I parked my car and they had already begun… and I asked them to stop. I said, ‘this tree is a very old tree.'”
The workers told her to go talk to the supervisor, and when she talked to him, he told her it was the workers’ job to clear the trees from the lines.
“He basically said its our job to clear the lines. And they have to go 10 feet from lines,” Alvord said.
Dominion workers trim trees in order to keep them off of the power lines, said Chuck Penn, a media specialist with Dominion. The trimmings help to keep the power on during storms.
“Our mandate is to provide safe and reliable service to our customers,” he said.
The company respects the resident’s love for the trees and try to balance keeping the trees and providing service, Penn said.
“I cannot overemphasize enough the empathy we bring to our pruning,” he said. “People love their trees and we respect that.”
All Dominion foresters are certified arborists, Penn said. Trees are trimmed every three to four years to maintain the power lines.
“It’s a delicate balance we don’t take lightly,” Penn said. “We respect our customers and our trees.”
The White Oak is important to the neighborhood for its environmental impacts as well as its age, Armao said. For instance, the tree provides shade for the elderly resident that lives in the house next to it.
White Oaks are also known for their support of different species. A White Oak produces acorns, which can be used by 180 other species, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.
“They’re one of those keystone trees,” Armao said.
Dominion does not have a policy for trees that have historic value, Penn said. The company does use the foresters when determining when a tree is a “danger” tree and needs to be trimmed.
Neighbors looked through the tree branches for squirrel and bird nests. They found squirrel nests but did not find any traces of live animals in the tree limbs.
Trees were also trimmed on S. Veitch Street and between S. Wayne and S. Adams, Alvord said.
“Our concern is that they are overly trimming trees we’d really like to save,” she said.
Next Saturday, neighborhoods like Clarendon, Bluemont, Westover and Barcroft are each holding events intended to bring neighbors together and celebrate their immediate surrounding area.
In Clarendon, county officials will gather to celebrate the now-upscale neighborhood’s time in the post-Vietnam War 1970s and 1980s when it was known as “Little Saigon” for its high population of Vietnamese immigrants. At 1:30 p.m., former Little Saigon residents and historians will narrate a tour of the area, displaying historic and still-standing businesses from the era.
The whole event, called Echoes of Little Saigon will run from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and will include displays of Vietnamese art and Lemongrass food truck, a frequent Arlington visitor during lunch hours, will provide the country’s cuisine.
Below is a list of the neighborhood day events from other areas of the county, via the Department of Parks and Recreation (all events are on Saturday, May 9).
- Bluemont: Bluemont Park (601 N. Manchester Street), 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The annual Walk for the Animals fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington is back for Neighborhood Day. The 20th anniversary walk has already raised more than $50,000, and this year will include its first “pet festival.” The festival will include vendors, food trucks, photos with pets, adoptable shelter dogs available to play and more.
- Westover: Westover Branch Library (1644 N. McKinley Road), 3:00-5:00 p.m. A “family fun afternoon” with activities that include face painting.
- Penrose: Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S), 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The south Arlington is hosting “Family Fitness day,” holding activities for nutritional and fitness awareness, a moon bounce and fitness classes for all ages.
- Yorktown: Chestnut Hills Park (2807 N. Harrison Street), 11:30 a.m. Celebrate the ribbon-cutting on the renovated playground with neighbors. FitArlington will be on hand promoting its new website and fitness initiative. Children can participate in the free scavenger hunt for prizes.
- Barcroft: Barcroft Elementary School (625 S. Wakefield Street), 4:00-6:00 p.m. The Barcroft Elementary Spring Fair is intended to be an early evening of pure fun, with activities likea bounce house, games and a cake walk, all for prizes.
- Old Glebe: Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road), 10:00-11:30 a.m. The north Arlington nature center will join the neighborhood to “welcome back hummingbirds.” Each family will make its own feeders as the birds with the fastest wings in the world migrate back to the county. Register online.
- Glencarlyn: Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road), 7:00-8:00 p.m. The nature center will host families in the amphitheater for a campfire discussion about snakes. Games, songs and s’mores will all be in abundance.
(Updated 2:25 p.m.) The issues with nannies, childcare workers and parents letting children urinate and defecate at Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S.) were caught on camera by FOX 5 D.C. yesterday, just minutes after the news crew arrived at the scene.
“Our FOX 5 crew had only been at Penrose Park for a few minutes when we saw a girl going to the bathroom behind a tree. And then a little boy did too,” reporter Alexandra Limon wrote. “We purposely blurred the video and did not tape the girl behind the tree. But it appeared from the kids and nanny’s reaction that this was a normal thing for them.”
Limon’s account corroborates what many parents have said, both in the comments of ARLnow.com’s initial story and in an anonymous interview. FOX 5 also interviewed an ARLnow reporter during its morning show on the topic.
“This has been going on for a very long time at the park,” one parent said, in a phone conversation after the initial story was published. “The worst I saw was one parent dropping the kid’s underpants inside the fenced-in area” where the playground is.
Arlington Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com in an email this morning that allowing children to pee or poop in the park is a violation, with the first offense resulting in a warning. Repeat offenders can be banned from a park, she said, but the parks department doesn’t “have records of anyone being banned.”
“In the past Penrose was checked by our Rovers and Rangers throughout the week,” Kalish said. “We are beefing that up now but we think that with all the attention to this, whomever was doing it before will stop and others won’t consider it. We’ve found that even homeless people are pretty embarrassed when they get caught. Defecating in public is not a first option for anyone.”
Video courtesy FOX 5 D.C.
Terri Armao, the chair of the Green Committee for the Penrose Neighborhood Association, sent a letter to the civic association saying neighbors have called her to complain that “childcare workers or nannies [are] allowing toddlers to pee and poop” by the tree line on the edge of the park.
In an email to ARLnow.com, Armao said the excrement is a health and environmental hazard, adding that if it continues it might put residents at risk for cholera.
“We all understand an occasional accident but what was described to me was routine and by many nannies/kids,” Armao said. “I walk my dog there and pick-up after the dog. So I would expect the same courtesy. In addition, there are many areas in the park natural area, where this is happening that have standing water after rain. This to me is a health hazard in the making.”
Below is the letter Armao sent to the civic association:
This morning I heard from two people who have witnessed childcare workers or nannies allowing toddlers to pee and poop in Penrose Park in the tree line of the natural area. This is reported to be an ongoing and frequent problem.
Parents if you are employing nannies please tell them not to allow this. Our parks are not toilets. Please use diapers or go home if this need arises.
I spoke with a couple of parents who also use the park and they were as surprised and disgusted as I am. This is a health hazard. I have notified the county but please call Park Manager Kurt Louis at 703-228-7754 or the police if you see this happening.
Dog walkers this goes for you too. If your dog roams into this area the dog poop still needs to be picked up. A tributary of Long Branch stream runs directly under the park, this is our drinking water.
Chair, Penrose Green Committee
Penrose Neighborhood Association
Photo via Google Maps
The sidewalk is being built along the north side of a five block stretch of 8th Street S., between S. Cleveland Street and S. Courthouse Road. Before the project, only two of the blocks had sidewalks, and those sidewalks were narrower than Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
Now, the street is getting a five foot wide, ADA-compliant sidewalk, plus water main upgrades, curb and gutter improvements, new landscaping and a repaved roadway. But while the sidewalk was requested by the Penrose Civic Association, not everybody who lives in the area has been happy with the project.
Residents have been emailing ARLnow.com about a number of perceived problems. One of the most visible is a utility pole located in the middle of the new sidewalk at the corner of 8th Street and S. Cleveland Street (pictured, above). While it might look like a construction mistake, county officials say it’s all part of the plan, and that Dominion will be working to remove and replace the pole “as soon as possible.”
“When the County undertakes a road narrowing project such as the 8th Street South project, the curbs and utility strips are built in what is currently existing roadway,” explained Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel. “In this case relocating the pole that is currently in the middle of the sidewalk to its new location before the curb and gutter work would have placed the pole in the existing street where it could potentially be struck by vehicles. Dominion and the County agreed that this posed more of a safety concern than temporarily obstructing the sidewalk and forcing pedestrians to use the driveway apron approximately 15′ east of the pole that has ADA compliant slopes to access the street.”
“This a temporary measure on a block that previously had no sidewalk at all forcing pedestrian, wheelchairs, strollers, etc. to use the street exclusively to traverse this entire block,” Whalen McDaniel continued. “Once the sidewalk work is complete, Dominion will erect a new poles. After all utilities are transferred to the new pole, Dominion will remove the old pole and Arlington County will repair the sidewalk. The cost of relocating the pole is borne by Dominion.”
Another local worry is about the level of the new sidewalk at the corner of 8th Street and S. Wayne Street. The sidewalk is below the current roadway, leading some residents to believe an error was made by the construction crew. That’s not the case, we’re told.
“The existing grade of the road at that location needed to be lowered in order to provide adequate drainage and that work will happen over the next couple of weeks,” said Whalen McDaniel. “When complete, the roadway will be level with the gutter pan. This is very typical of sidewalk and roadway design and construction.”
Another resident told ARLnow.com that the sidewalk was wider and the redesigned street is narrower than many residents wanted.
The Arlington County Fire Department had to use hydraulic rescue tools to extricate occupants of a vehicle involved in a two-car crash in the Penrose neighborhood this morning.
The crash happened around 11:15 a.m. at the intersection of 2nd Street S. and S. Wayne Street. A Ford SUV collided with a Chevrolet sedan belonging to Maid Bright, a Sterling-based home cleaning service.
Initial reports suggest three people were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Firefighters used heavy tools to cut the roof off the Chevrolet in order to extricate the occupants inside.
Second Street South is currently closed but is expected to reopen shortly, as crews are in the process of clearing the wrecked cars and broken glass.
The 11-year-old Arlington kid who won a sport stacking championship in Colorado in March has racked up a new title.
William Polly, of Penrose, has been named World Sport Stacking Champion for the second year in a row. That’s according to The Wauneta Breeze, a local newspaper in the Nebraska town where Polly’s grandparents live.
Not only did Polly capture the coveted Individual All-Around honors at the tournament — with a combined time of 9.34 seconds in the 3-3-3, 3-6-3 and cycle sequences — but he’s also getting another TV appearance out of it.
Tomorrow, Polly is scheduled to appear on Live! With Kelly, where he’ll challenge host Kelly Ripa to a timed cup stacking competition. It won’t be the first time Polly has appeared on national television; last year he showed off his skills on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
This year’s World Sport Stacking Association tournament was held in Butzbach, Germany. Despite the fact that there are active stacking competitors in 19 countries, this was the first time the international, invite-only competition has been held outside the United States. Polly was one of 250 participants.