Arlington, VA

The Virginia Department of Transportation is asking residents to take a short survey that will shape a study of potential improvements to Route 1 between 12th and 23rd Streets S. in Crystal City.

As development activity in Crystal City and Pentagon City continues, VDOT and Arlington County are looking for ways to improve the safety, accessibility and effectiveness of a variety of transportation modes on Route 1 the area. In particular, the study responds to the increased demand for transportation resulting from the construction of Amazon’s HQ2.

“As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come,” according to a news release from the VDOT.

The survey asks respondents to explain how they use Route 1 (also known as Richmond Highway), rank improvements by priority, and identify areas with congestion or safety problems. It is available through Nov. 15.

Officials say the study will help identify safety improvements for pedestrians, bicyclists, those using micro-mobility modes such as electric bicycles and scooters, and those taking transit or driving. The study will also examine ways to make transit more accessible, reliable and convenient, as well as options for protecting the environment.

The team leading the study plans to form a task force from representatives of civic associations, Arlington County advisory groups and the National Landing Business Improvement District, the news release said. The task force is anticipated to have five meetings.

More from the press release:

After collecting and analyzing the initial survey data, VDOT is planning a virtual public meeting this winter to share preliminary survey results and latest study information. Draft recommendations for the study will be presented to the public for feedback in spring 2021, and the final study is expected to be complete in summer 2021.

Please note that this study does not include construction funding, but will develop proposed future improvements that VDOT and other agencies will consider and may pursue for funding.

The study was announced a week after the National Landing BID released a report, “Reimagining Route 1,” which envisioned the car-centric highway as a slower, greener, pedestrian-friendly boulevard lined with retail and restaurants.

VDOT is studying the Route 1 overpasses over 12th, 15th and 18th streets, which some have called to be eliminated in favor of more urban intersections at grade.

“Route 1 was originally designed to accommodate the auto-centric development trends of the mid-20th century, when the primary objective was to move cars through the area as quickly as possible,” the BID said in a press release. “The resulting elevated highway, super blocks, and oversized intersections divided the community for decades, inhibiting not only connectivity and access, but also the area’s ability to come together as a singular downtown district.”

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Morning Notes

Nonprofit Won’t Return to Arlington Office — “The American Diabetes Association isn’t planning a return to the Crystal City headquarters it left Alexandria for a few years back, not even when a Covid-19 vaccine is readily available and it’s safe to go back to the office again. The nonprofit is seeking to sublease all of its space at 2451 Crystal Drive, about 80,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Voter Registration Open Until Midnight — “A judge on Wednesday granted a request from civil rights groups to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline until Oct. 15 after the state’s online system crashed on the final day of the registration period, according to Virginia’s attorney general.” [Axios, Press Release]

Oh, Deer — The regional deer population has been increasing during the pandemic, which is making driving more dangerous this fall as deer potentially become “too comfortable” around roads. [NBC 4]

Park Rangers Patrolling for Rogue Mountain Bikers — “Park rangers have been patrolling the parks to keep the mountain bike riders off the natural trails. ‘We put up barriers in places where we can. We put up signs … in key areas we put up some things to block their access … but we’re focusing on education,’ Abugattas said.” [WTOP]

Voting Lines Should Move Quickly — “Arlington election officials are advising the public not to be dissuaded if lines for voting, either in advance of Nov. 3 or on Election Day itself, seem long. ‘You can expect to see a pretty long line, but that’s because of the spacing we’re trying to put between voters,’ county director of elections Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” Also, the Reinemeyer said the county is already fully staffed with volunteer poll workers. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Certification for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has met all applicable Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards following an audit that was conducted earlier this year.” [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Planning Meeting Tonight — “Participate in a virtual workshop about Arlington’s community planning process for Pentagon City! The first workshop will include small group discussions about the community’s vision for the Pentagon City Area.” [Arlington County]

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Arlington County is asking for public input for a new park in Crystal City, just on the border of Pentagon City.

Current called “Teardrop Parcels” from the shape of the two pieces of land that form the space, the county’s working name is “New Park at South Eads Street and Army Navy Drive.”

The green space is located by the Verizon telecommunications facility site (400 11th Street S.) and the construction site for a new, 19-story residential building. It’s also adjacent to the recently-built Altaire apartments and across the street from the second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2.

An online feedback form is available until end of day today (Oct. 14), according to a presentation delivered on Sept. 29. The next opportunity for public feedback will be in November, while third and final opportunity will come in December. Name suggestions are welcome, according to the presentation.

The owner of the Altaire is contributing more than $1.4 million and the new apartment development is pitching in nearly $1.2 million, for a total budget of $2.6 million for the new park.

With the new developments, the park could see more activity from residents, workers and shoppers in the coming years, said Mark Gionet, the Principal at LSG Landscape Architecture.

Studies show that having retail space bordering an urban park — as is planned in this case — can help activate the two spaces, said the architect, whose firm is partnering with the county to facilitate public engagement with plans for the park.

Currently, during weekday work hours, the land is used by people walking to get groceries and lunch. On the weekends, children play while their parents watch from lawn chairs. The land is popular with dog walkers, who use the pet waste station.

The presentation notes that Metropolitan Park, Long Bridge Park and Virginia Highlands Park are all within walking distance, with a variety of existing amenities.

“A range of active, passive and social park amenities are available within a walking distance,” the presentation said. Planners will take that, public feedback, and the fact that the park is shaded by nearby buildings much of the time into consideration when mulling over what features the new park might have.

Work on the park should not harm the large, leafy tree on the land, Gionet said. Its extensive root system, however, will limit the developable area in the park, he said.

Photo (2) via Google Maps

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Arlington County police are investigating a purse snatching that involved a foot chase, an implied gun and a getaway vehicle.

The incident happened Wednesday afternoon on the 1200 block of S. Joyce Street in Pentagon City, near Pentagon Row.

According to ACPD, a man grabbed a woman’s purse, broke the strap and ran off, but was pursued by a pair of good Samaritans. The man then implied he had a gun, prompting the pair to stop their pursuit.

By the time police were dispatched, the suspect had hopped into an older minivan, which then drove away. Arriving officers were unable to locate the vehicle. No injuries were reported.

More from ACPD:

ROBBERY BY FORCE, 2020-09300114, 1200 block of S. Joyce Street. At approximately 2:17 p.m. on September 30, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when she noticed someone following her. As the victim turned around, the suspect grabbed her purse, causing the strap to break. Two bystanders attempted to chase the suspect, however, he implied he had a firearm, prompting the bystanders to discontinue their efforts. The suspect then entered a vehicle driven by a second suspect and fled the area prior to police arrival. The suspect is described as a Black male, 20-30 years old, approximately 6’0″, with a medium cut beard, wearing a black hoodie, sweatpants. The vehicle is described as an old, green and silver Chevrolet minivan. The investigation is ongoing.

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Making Room is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Last week, Arlington County staff held the community kick-off for the Pentagon City Planning Study.

The purpose of this multi-phase process is to determine the area’s capacity for future growth and ultimately make suggestions for zoning and land use changes. I hope the County recognizes the incredible opportunity to welcome more people into our dynamic, transit-accessible neighborhood by putting room for people above capacity for cars.

With the addition of Amazon’s second headquarters, Pentagon City will max out its designated density. But the demand for housing and office space continues to grow.

The master planning process for Pentagon City is an important step because the community can identify improvements that we hope development can bring, with walkability being one of the key attributes that neighbors want. The weakness in this process is the reliance on car-centric transportation analysis that could limit new housing by putting the needs of drivers ahead of current and future residents.

As Chris Slatt recently showed, our transportation forecasts, produce with each Site Plan Development, are flawed. They overestimate the number of car trips that a development will generate. The Multimodal Transportation Analysis (MMTA) reports produce reams of data for car trips and how those car trips may create rush-hour delay at intersections in the area in some future year, which can result in a development being downsized.

The overestimation of driving trips also pushes developments to have more parking spaces than they truly need. Our zoning code requires new developments to have enough parking for “all motor vehicles that may be expected to come to the premises at any time under normal conditions for any purpose.” But research shows that cheap and plentiful parking actually creates more parking demand by motivating people to drive.

The MMTA only addresses transit, walking, and bicycling in shallow terms. It doesn’t show the specific conditions of nearby transit, such as the wait times, trip times, reliability, or crowding. It doesn’t use data on the comfort level of nearby bicycle routes. It doesn’t offer objective measures for pedestrian safety that discourage people from walking.

This means that if the Pentagon City study finds that new housing could cause intersection delays, we would approve less housing. But that forecast is based on bad data on how many people might drive and no analysis of how to improve non-auto modes.

Why should the County set the capacity for residents and workers based on analysis of existing infrastructure, rather than adjust the infrastructure to meet the demand as it arrives? We can actually use density to decrease congestion by making the neighborhood more walkable and making room for people to live within walking distance of shops and offices.

The County’s own Pentagon City transportation data shows that this is possible. Currently, 24% of the households in the area are car-free and we added 1,100 new car-free households in the past 5 years. Three-quarters of all trips in Pentagon City occur by a mode other than a single-occupancy vehicle. In the past 20 years, the developed square footage in 22202 has increased by 24%, car trips have decreased by 18%.

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Construction activity has started on a 19-story, 306-unit residential building across from Amazon’s future HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The apartment tower is being built at 400 11th Street S., next to the DoubleTree Hotel, Lenox Club apartments, a Verizon telecommunications facility, and the recently-built Altaire apartments.

The property had previously been a parking lot, owned by Verizon. The lot was turned into a temporary event space called The Grounds, which was until recently was used to host the Crystal City farmers market.

The new apartment building will have just over 10,000 square feet of retail space, a rooftop recreation area, and an underground parking garage. It is a block away from the first phase of Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, and directly across the street from the planned second phase of the tech giant’s second headquarters.

Developer LCOR added more units to the planned apartment tower after the HQ2 announcement.

The Grounds was closed and fenced off recently, and within the past few days the pavement was torn up. Today workers could be seen using a backhoe to continue clearing and excavating the site.

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Morning Notes

Fall Officially Starts Today — “While many of us think of the first day of fall as a full calendar day, the equinox itself is a rather fleeting astronomical event. It happens at a precise moment when the sun’s direct rays are straight over Earth’s equator. This year’s equinox is at 9:30 a.m. Eastern time on Sept. 22.” [Capital Weather Gang]

JBG Acquires Local 5G Radio Spectrum — “JBG Smith Properties has paid $25.3 million for licenses to use small parts of a new class of wireless spectrum to set up a 5G internet network in National Landing, home to Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters and Virginia Tech’s innovation campus.” [Washington Business JournalPress Release]

County Board Challenger Amps Up Rhetoric — “Is Arlington’s political ruling elite a bunch of preening political poseurs unwilling to do the heavy lifting of implementing a truly progressive agenda for the community? That somewhat uncharitable (and decidedly paraphrased here) assessment comes  from Audrey Clement, the perennial independent candidate for office who this year is facing off against County Board Chairman Libby Garvey.” [InsideNova]

County Launches New Data Portal — “Arlington County today unveiled a new Open Data Portal with several benefits and features that make it easier than ever to access and use Arlington data. The new portal, a centerpiece of the County’s Open Government Program, builds upon the first open data solution that launched in 2016.” [Arlington County]

Robbery Suspect Arrested in Pentagon City — “At approximately 3:36 p.m. on September 19, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect allegedly stole merchandise from a business without paying. Upon being confronted by loss prevention at the exit, the suspect allegedly brandished a knife, then fled on foot. The victim was not injured. Arriving officers located the suspect in the Pentagon City Metro, still in possession of stolen merchandise.” [Arlington County]

Postal Service Keeping Rosslyn Office — “The United States Postal Service has tacked on an additional 3 years to its office lease at the International Place building in Arlington, Virginia, but will give up one of its floors in the process.” [CoStar]

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The Bed Bath & Beyond store at Pentagon Row is set to close by the end of the year.

USA Today reported Friday afternoon that the store is on a list of 63 Bed Bath & Beyond locations that will shutter by the end of 2020. The store first opened about 20 years ago, shortly after the opening of the shopping center itself.

The parent company is retrenching amid a difficult business climate for bricks-and-mortar retailers, the paper reported.

Bed Bath & Beyond also owns the World Market retail chain; World Market closed its Pentagon Row store last year.

Photo via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

About Last Night’s Flyover — The two fighter jets that flew low and loud over Arlington last night, startling many, were participating in a flyover for the dedication of the new Eisenhower Memorial in D.C. [Twitter, Twitter]

Big Crane Coming to Amazon HQ2 Site — “There will be tower crane erection work this weekend, starting at 5 a.m. on Saturday, September 19 and 7 a.m. on Sunday, September 20. Work will be completed no later than 9 p.m. each day.” All southbound traffic on S. Eads Street will be detoured. [Twitter]

No PARK(ing) Day — “Arlington County will not be hosting annual PARK(ing) Day events tomorrow due to COVID-19 precautions. But feel free to imagine the possibilities of drab, curbside asphalt turned into unique community spaces.” [Twitter]

Barr Speech in Arlington Makes News — “Attorney General William Barr said Wednesday that the Justice Department has recently acted ‘more like a trade association for federal prosecutors than the administrator of a fair system of justice’ and equated some prosecutors to preschoolers and ‘headhunters’ […] in a speech at Hillsdale College’s annual Constitution Day Celebration, which this year was held at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.” [NBC News]

New Fire Engines for ACFD — “The Arlington County Fire Department recently took delivery of two new Pierce Manufacturing pumpers, which went into service with Engine 105 and Engine 109. The twin pumpers have a 1,500-gallon-per-minute pump and carry 750 gallons of water and 30 gallons of firefighting foam.” [InsideNova]

Virtual Award Gala Next Week — “Please join us for the 2020 Spirit of Community celebration on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 12:00 PM. This year, the Arlington Community Foundation will be honoring Arlington’s front-line human service workers during the COVID-19 Pandemic with the 2020 William T. Newman, Jr. Spirit of Community Award.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Fairlington 5K Goes Virtual — “Having canceled its traditional event in April, organizers of the Fairlington 5K have announced plans for a ‘virtual’ race on Saturday, Oct. 3. Participants will have one week to compete in the event, which will support Fairlington resident Ellie McGinn, a young girl born with the rare brain/spinal cord disorder LBSL. Additional funds raised from the event will support Abingdon Elementary School.” [InsideNova]

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The Arlington County Board has given its unanimous stamp of approval to plans for a revamped public park in the shadow of Amazon’s HQ2.

The Board approved a master plan and design guidelines for Pentagon City’s Metropolitan Park, which as currently configured is perhaps best known for being a large patch of grass where dogs from neighboring apartment buildings relieve themselves.

Amazon is picking up the $14 million renovation tab for the reimagined Metropolitan Park, designed — also at Amazon’s expense — by James Corner Field Operations, of New York City “High Line” fame.

The new park, expected to be completed in 2023, will feature lush meandering paths, a central green for gatherings and events, tables for outdoor dining, two 2,000 square foot dog parks, an edible garden, and public art, among other amenities.

James Corner Field Operations conducted its community outreach process for the park design virtually, as a result of the pandemic, with live video presentations and online surveys. The park design is a fusion of several presented concepts, with community feedback taken into account during each step of the way.

The online process won plaudits from at least one of the citizen-led county commissions involved.

“Several Commissioners noted that the virtual public engagement was thorough and well designed and allowed for much broader participation than would otherwise be the case for in-person meetings alone,” wrote Phil Klingelhofer, Chair of Arlington’s Urban Forestry Commission. “We would encourage the County to consider utilizing this virtual method of public engagement going forward even after the Covid-19 restrictions on public meetings have ceased as way to foster greater inclusivity and feedback.”

More on the park’s approval from an Arlington County press release, below.

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Arlington was the big winner of the biggest economic development prize of them all: Amazon’s HQ2.

But Amazon’s second headquarters is nowadays feeling like a very distant second, behind the tech giant’s growing presence in the Seattle area.

“The real HQ2: Amazon adding 10k more jobs in Bellevue, growing further beyond downtown Seattle,” was one headline from earlier this month.

“Amazon to Have as Many Workers in Seattle Suburb As Virginia HQ2,” was another.

Amazon, which is still busy building the first half of its permanent office campus in Pentagon City, has not wavered from its original plans: 25,000 employees in Arlington, across 4 million square feet of new office space, over the next decade. That remained the plan even after it scrapped the idea of hiring 25,000 people in New York City as half of a split HQ2.

(The company hired its 1,000th HQ2 employee this summer; it is currently leasing temporary office space in Crystal City.)

But with Amazon’s already lofty stock price up 67% since the beginning of the year, combined with its growing ambitions and newly-announced Seattle area expansion, one might be forgiven for wondering if Arlington and HQ2 is an after-thought at this point.

Suppose for a moment, however, that the company eventually decides to add to its Arlington presence. Is that a move that you would welcome?

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