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by Chris Teale January 30, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board is set to debate the redevelopment of a section of Market Common in Clarendon, including of the former IOTA Club and Cafe building.

The Board will hear from developer Regency Centers as well as public testimony later today (Tuesday, January 30) on its plans for the area around the 2800 blocks of Clarendon and Wilson Blvds.

Regency Centers is proposing a renovation and extension of the former Education Center building, which would include expanding it into the building that once hosted IOTA and the former home of A&R Engravers (2836 Wilson Blvd).

It would also add a fourth floor and an outdoor terrace to the building; create what county staff described as a “ground level arcade” along N. Edgewood Street; allow buildings to host retail as well as office space; and beautify that section of Clarendon Blvd to make it more appealing.

Across the street, renderings have also shown a revamped courtyard area known as “The Loop,” with several new eateries or other stores in the central median of the shopping center, and seating areas nearby. Currently, that area has a small park with a fountain and benches.

A letter from the Planning Commission noted its unanimous support for the project at its January 17 meeting. The project also received the backing of the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board and Transportation Commission.

HALRB chair Joan Lawrence said the mural for the former Conklyn’s Florist should be preserved for its historical significance. Under the development plan, it will be moved to the building wall above the preserved A & R Engraver’s building.

That building was built in 1941 and is identified as historic. The building that hosted IOTA, the source of some controversy last year as activists worked to save the local music venue, restaurant and bar, is not identified in a similar way.

“The ‘Conklyn’s Florist’ former sign is no longer a sign as defined the Zoning Ordinance and should be treated as a piece of historic art and not as a sign to be regulated,” Lawrence wrote in a letter to the Board. “The HALRB feels strongly that this piece of art should be preserved and its connection to Arlington’s history acknowledged. The use and placement of a historic marker that does this should be included in the project.”

The Board is expected to vote on the project at its recessed meeting tonight.

Images via county staff report

by Chris Teale January 17, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

A proposal to add a major expansion to Virginia Hospital Center has been opened up for public discussion ahead of a possible approval in the near future.

A walk-through of the site by the county’s Site Plan Review Committee had been planned for January 6 but has been postponed, with a new date yet to be confirmed.

SPRC held its first meeting on the project on December 18, 2017. It will review the plans and then make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, and also provide a first forum for public comment.

VHC is proposing a more-than 230,000-square-foot, seven-story outpatient pavilion for walk-in patients.

The plans would also convert around 120,000 square feet of existing outpatient space to 101 hospital beds and build a 10-story parking garage with just over 2,000 spaces.

The extension to its campus would replace the county-owned Edison Center on the 1800 block of N. Edison Street, to the north of VHC’s main site. The Edison Center is currently home to some county offices and an Arlington County Refugee Services location.

The County Board voted in July that it wants to acquire the hospital’s property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road and use the site on N. Edison Street as part of the purchase price.

The county hosted a kick-off meeting for the project on November 16, 2017. According to a meeting summary posted online, feedback was generally positive, with questions raised about traffic and parking issues but also noting the project’s importance.

“This isn’t just some ordinary expansion,” one commenter wrote on a feedback card. “This is a vital resource to this County. No one wants something in their backyard. The renderings are beautiful and definitely better than what exists on Edison Street.

Images by HDR.

by ARLnow.com January 17, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Garbage Truck Crash — Among a number of other potentially weather-related crashes this morning, a garbage truck ran into a utility pole on the 4600 block of 27th Street N., near Marymount University. Dominion crews responded to the scene for a report of downed power lines. No injuries were reported.

Four Mile Run Valley Meeting Cancelled — A meeting of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, scheduled for tonight, has been cancelled. The cancellation is due to county staff reviewing “key pieces of the 4MRV transportation analysis,” the county wrote. “Staff will provide an update on the process schedule and timeline at the next scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6.” [Arlington County]

Lee Highway Planning Moving Forward — “Funded with two county grants, donations and sponsorships, the Lee Highway Alliance is now back on the front burner of Arlington’s planning agenda, said county board Chairman Katie Cristol, who promised forward movement in the next couple of months.” Meanwhile, businesses along Lee Highway are generally supportive of redevelopment, according to the alliance. [Falls Church News-Press]

ACFD Helps Battle Fairfax Fire — Arlington County firefighters assisted Fairfax County on an apartment fire near Tysons Corner early this morning. About 34 residents were displaced by the fire. [Twitter, Twitter]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

by Chris Teale January 5, 2018 at 10:30 am 0

Arlington County is considering buying property owned by local PBS affiliate WETA in the Four Mile Run Valley, as part of a park expansion project and a plan to keep WETA’s headquarters in Shirlington.

Under a deal announced yesterday (Thursday), the county has an option to purchase the WETA studio at 3620 27th Street S., and use the land for the future expansion of Jennie Dean Park. If WETA’s Board of Trustees approves the plan, a sale could happen in the next two years.

Should the sale go through, per a letter of intent signed by both parties, the county would make $500,000 of urban design improvements in the area near WETA’s headquarters (3939 Campbell Ave), including improving pedestrian safety and signs.

The county would also provide WETA with a performance-based Economic Development Incentive grant of up to $150,000 per year based on reaching targets for job creation and square feet used.

WETA will soon “begin design and construction feasibility studies to explore relocating the studio next to the current headquarters located at 3939 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington Village,” according to a county press release. “The planned project would include building a new, state-of-the art studio in space adjacent to their headquarters building.”

“We’ve had a longstanding relationship with WETA, one of our most valuable community partners,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “This agreement allows WETA to move forward with envisioning their ideal television studio and headquarters as we move forward with planning for Jennie Dean Park’s future.”

The property has been identified as a way to expand Jennie Dean Park since 1994, while WETA has been looking throughout the region for new space.

The future of Jennie Dean Park has been a source of controversy among some members of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group, tasked with making recommendations for the area’s future. An area near the park has been proposed as a possible arts district, a plan that has come in for some criticism from group members and commission chairs.

The full county press release is after the jump.

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by Chris Teale December 28, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

A “high adventure” ropes course that allows users to swing at the same level as treetops is one of several improvements set for Upton Hill Regional Park.

The park (6060 Wilson Blvd) in Seven Corners, will add a ropes course near its pool. The courses typically have sections constructed in trees or made of utility poles, and are designed to be a challenging activity. The park already has batting cages, mini golf, pools and trails.

In a presentation to the Arlington County Board last month, executive director Paul Gilbert of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which manages Upton Hill, said the “high adventure course” has been a priority of people surveyed in the park for two years.

“You’ll be able to go all the way up, essentially, to the tree line and get a stunning view out over Arlington from there,” he told the Board. “We’re really excited. We think this will be a signature feature, something that in Visit Arlington promotions, you’ll probably have pictures of people up there and the wonderful views.”

In addition, that area of the park near the existing swimming pool is set for a new building to handle ticket sales for the course and the batting cages, with a section of that new structure available to rent for private events. The area would also get new outdoor seating and 91 new parking spaces.

Meanwhile, the area of the park near its entrance from Wilson Blvd is also set for a revamp. Gilbert said NOVA Parks will add a “high-end” playground, renovate the bathroom building and add new trails, seating areas and game tables.

Gilbert added that the authority is looking to add more lighting, and build a new entrance off Wilson Blvd with a small parking lot at its base, with the current driveway changed for trail use.

“It will be a very dynamic, interesting area,” Gilbert said, noting the authority’s desire to make that part of the park “sort of more of an urban place to hang out.”

But the $3 million plan has already come in for criticism from some quarters. Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundberg said not enough has been done to assess the impact on the park’s trees, planning for transportation needs has been inadequate, and there is a lack of transparency in the way NOVA Parks collected its survey data.

“By adding a new driveway, with an additional curb cut on Wilson Blvd, plus nearly an acre of paved parking, NVRPA will degrade one of the few remaining natural areas in Arlington County,” she wrote.

She added that more should have been done to engage with those who live in the nearby buildings like the Patrick Henry Apartments and the Seven Corners Apartments, among others.

“Whereas I sympathize with NVRPA’s need to generate more revenue, monetizing scarce natural land by converting it into developed land (particularly in an area that is already heavily developed) seems like a very high price to pay for a questionable gain,” Sundberg wrote in a lengthy email provided to ARLnow.com. “Without more precise information, it is difficult to see how this project makes sense from an environmental or economic standpoint as currently envisioned.”

For his part, Gilbert said the project will not interrupt natural resources already in the park. The plan still needs approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation — which controls Wilson Blvd near the park — as well as site plan approval from the county.

Images 1-3 via NOVA Parks presentation.

by Chris Teale December 18, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

Two local parks will receive extensive renovations under plans unanimously approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting Saturday (December 16).

Benjamin Banneker (1680 N. Sycamore Street) and Fairlington (3308 S. Stafford Street) Parks will benefit. The former, near the East Falls Church Metro station, has expanded in recent years as the county has acquired more land.

For Benjamin Banneker Park, the Board approved a long-term vision for the park, which includes replacing its existing amenities and improving its trails. It will also give more protection to the Four Mile Run stream, a major feature of the 12.5-acre park.

Per a county press release, the long-term plans for the park include:

  • Widening trails: Trails will be widened to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the adopted Arlington Master Transportation Plan – Bicycle Element.
  • Improving accessibility: A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added as well as a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter, which will link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
  • Relocating playground: The playground will be shifted further from the stream along 18th Street N. The new location will be separated from trails and visible from the street. It will include new play equipment, more seating and tables.
  • Parking lot improvements: The parking lot will be reconfigured and restriped to better accommodate up to 25 cars. The footprint of the lot will be reduced and made more efficient.
  • Renovating Dog Park: The dog parks surface will be replenished and there will be new furnishings and play features.

“This plan will make Benjamin Banneker Park more accessible, provide more protection for Four Mile Run stream, which runs through the park, improve the park’s trails, and replace its playground equipment,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We appreciate the great work that staff and the community did in crafting this well thought out plan.”

Separately, the Board approved a construction contract for the final phase of renovations at Fairlington Park.

The final phase will include replacing the park’s amphitheater with a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups. It will also add outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.

by Chris Teale December 1, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

(Updated at 11 a.m.) The chairs of the Park and Rec and Sports Commissions have criticized the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group for focusing on a planned arts district, comparing it to the push that led to the creation of the since-closed Artisphere.

In a letter to working group chair Charles Monfort, Caroline Haynes and Shirley Brothwell said they are “disappointed” to realize the working group’s outcomes “may not be as transformative as they could have been.”

The pair specifically critiqued the group’s key focus on a two-block area west of S. Nelson Street near Jennie Dean Park, which has been suggested as the location for a new arts district. Some group members wish to repurpose the properties as an arts district, which could include traditional arts activities like painting and sculpting, among others, as well as businesses to build up nightlife nearby.

That plan has already come under scrutiny from working group members and others in the community, and they said that more planning may be needed if this continues.

“Because of these issues, we believe the 4MRVWG runs a very real risk of missing the target altogether and doing a disservice to the County Board and residents,” Haynes and Brothwell wrote. “The Board may get a clear vision of what some members of the working group prefer for a tiny portion of the study area, but constituencies in the surrounding neighborhoods and in the parks, recreation, and sports communities already have challenged and rejected that vision.”

Instead, the pair urged any land acquired in that area be used to expand Jennie Dean Park — especially if purchased with bond funds intended for parkland acquisition — and that the group develop more specific information about how arts are supported in the county.

“When bond funds voted on by Arlington taxpayers and designated for park land acquisition have been redirected toward arts purposes in the past, the results have not been positive; specifically, $4 million of such funds were redirected to build out the Artisphere,” the letter said. “We note that the arts were pulled out from [the parks department] after it became apparent that the Artisphere was financially unsustainable.”

“It remains unclear how the proposed arts hub would be financed or managed over time to become self-sustaining,” said the letter writers. “We do not want to repeat a costly mistake.”

Photo No. 2 via Google Maps.

by Chris Teale November 29, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 at its Tuesday meeting to build the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center, the first of its kind in the county.

The Board approved a construction contract worth $60 million with Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., which was one of four finalists to propose a design for the center.

The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool, as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.

“This is the culmination of 10-plus years of planning,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “As our transformation of a brownfield into a vibrant park is fulfilled, we should all be very proud that a long and sometimes challenging community process has yielded such a great outcome. The centerpiece of this project will be an attractive, energy-efficient aquatics and fitness facility that will serve our community for generations.”

Board member John Vihstadt voted against the project on the grounds that the county cannot afford the $60 million price tag and projected operating costs of more than $1.1 million a year.

He added that when voters approved funding in two bond referenda — 2004 and 2012 — the funding landscape was different, and the phrase “aquatics and fitness center” was not mentioned in one referendum.

“With an uncertain economic outlook and in the face of so many competing priorities, from schools to Metro, and more, I cannot in good conscience support moving forward with this $60 million project as proposed,” Vihstadt said. “[It] is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project (at $60 million, over $10 million more than the budget for the new Reed Elementary School, by comparison).  In short, the County has more important needs and priorities.”

Construction on the new aquatics center could begin as early as July 2018 and is expected to wrap up by early 2021.

The project, as approved, will also include “development of 10.5 acres of the park, including environmental remediation, continuation of the Esplanade, public gathering areas and casual use space, one or more rain gardens, parking and other associated infrastructure.”

Vihstadt’s full statement about his “no” vote, after the jump.

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by Chris Teale November 28, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 at its Tuesday meeting to loosen the rules around homeowners adding “accessory dwelling units” to their properties.

The revisions adopted by the Board would, among other things:

  • Put no limit on the size of an ADU located wholly within a basement
  • Require that an ADU take up no more than either 35 percent of the combined floor area of the property, or up to a maximum of 750 square feet
  • Allow detached ADUs in existing accessory buildings (like a garage) and assess more options for setback requirements for new detached accessory dwellings
  • Remove the annual limit on the number of ADUs that can be created in the county
  • Require any requirement for the owner to occupy the property, but if the owner does not occupy one of the dwellings, the entire property may be occupied by no more than one family

Only about 20 ADUs — defined as a second place to live on a property, with a kitchen, a bathroom and a separate entrance — have been approved in Arlington since 2009.

A proposal to relax rules in the county’s Zoning Ordinance had been under discussion since earlier this year as the county looks to encourage more ADUs, also known as “granny flats” or “mother-in-law suites.”

“The ordinance we passed in 2008 failed to generate accessory dwellings,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We are committed to creating more affordable housing in our County, and to making it easier for Arlingtonians to age in place. An accessory dwelling could create an additional income stream for those on fixed incomes. These revisions will give homeowners more opportunities to create accessory dwellings, while maintaining the character of our single-family neighborhoods.”

Board member John Vihstadt voted against the plan, citing “anxiety” from residents worried about neighborhoods being taken over by ADUs, as well as the worries of some about the impact on trees, stormwater management and other environmental aspects.

During their deliberations, Board members wrestled with how to direct County Manager Mark Schwartz to study requirements for new detached buildings that could be built to house an ADU. Existing structures are allowed to house ADUs right away.

Vihstadt tried to widen the study beyond setback requirements — how far back the ADU should be from the edges of the property — to look at building height and other aspects, but that brought opposition from Fisette.

“It seems to me you’ve opened up a lot more conversation here that will become far more complicated in the days ahead,” Fisette said, urging his colleagues to keep things simple and just study setback requirements.

“Just because a policy is simple to understand doesn’t make it any more sound than if it’s more complicated,” Vihstadt responded. “These are important characteristics that are taken into account in Arlington and elsewhere.”

Board members voted to direct Schwartz to only study setback requirements, and he is expected to provide his findings to the Board in the coming months. Members agreed that needs more work before a final decision can be made.

“Certainly, I think the desire to make sure we are working with homeowners to allow existing buildings to be used for this purpose makes a lot of sense,” Board member Christian Dorsey said. “But moving forward with new buildings, I’m not sure we’ve considered all options available to us to account for the different uses that we are entitling compared to when the Zoning Ordinance was created and as it’s been refined over the years.”

by Chris Teale November 28, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

The Arlington County Board will vote in December on allowing the creation of “Housing Conservation Districts” to protect affordable housing and make it harder to demolish and build townhomes in some areas.

A proposal by staff would help create the districts within the county’s General Land Use Plan, the primary policy guide for new development that also establishes the character and extent of land uses. It would also add the districts to the county’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance.

Earlier this year, county staff found in a report that affordable apartment buildings and complexes tend to be located in the following nine general areas:

  • Along the edges of the Rosslyn Metro station area
  • Along the edges of the Ballston Metro station area
  • Central Lee Highway
  • East Lee Highway
  • Westover
  • Lyon Park
  • Shirlington
  • Penrose
  • Nauck/Long Branch Creek/Aurora Highlands

If approved, HCDs would be allowed in areas of the county planned for low-medium and medium residential use, and zoned for multi-family homes like apartments. Any proposed district must also contain two or more apartment buildings or complexes, or one large one.

The HCDs would allow for what staff described in a presentation to the Board as “context-appropriate renovation, addition, infill and redevelopment projects in exchange for affordable housing.”

Development of townhouses would be reclassified as a special exception use within HCDs, meaning it would require site plan approval by the County Board on a case-by-case basis. That change comes after a spate of by-right townhouse development to replace affordable apartment buildings, including in Westover.

“The Board is considering this action to encourage the preservation of affordable housing,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement.

This plan is the first phase of adding HCDs. Subsequent phases could include giving tax- and zoning-based incentives to developers.

The Board will hold a public hearing on the plan at its December 16 meeting, with the Planning Commission also holding a hearing on December 4. In a letter, Joan Lawrence, chair of the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board, said the group supports the planned HCDs.

Image via county presentation

by Chris Teale November 27, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending a “simple and efficient” design for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center.

Schwartz recommended late last week that the county hire Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. for the project, one of four contenders for the design and construction of the revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive.

The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The construction contract is worth $54.7 million, with $5.3 million in contingency funding in case of overruns.

“I think the community will be very pleased, possibly amazed, with the recommended design for the facility and park expansion,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We had four very good options from extremely talented firms, but the Coakley proposal excelled in meeting the county’s design criteria that impacted operations, long-term maintenance and durability.”

County staff said Coakley’s design “is simple and efficient with quality architecture and a strong connection to the Esplanade. It provides all of the elements required by the county without sacrificing core mechanical equipment, material choices and energy efficiency. It also includes an additional community room (at no additional expense).”

The design received the backing of the Friends of Long Bridge Park, a local group that looks to support and improve the park.

In an email, group president Eric Cassel said the County Board should approve the plan for the following reasons:

  1. It is needed. The Long Bridge Advisory Design Committee and County staff completed several studies that showed the needs of Arlington County are not being met. For example, currently all elementary and middle school students must learn swimming at one of the high school pools. The amount of teaching time is limited.
  2. If you have limited means and wish to swim, you have limited options, as all outdoor bodies of water like the Potomac River are unsafe to swim.
  3. The Esplanade needs to be extended to provide a longer place for walking/running and general passive activities. Over 20,000 people live within walking distance to the park and with the office and hotel populations, the demand for simple recreation is high.
  4. The cost of the project is capped. The design/build method specifically provides a budget and any overages are the responsibility of the contractor.
  5. While the design of Phase 2 has focused on meeting the needs of Arlington County residents, there is a benefit to office buildings, hotels and tourists. All of these produce taxes that pay for schools and other amenities. For example, one hotel has already created ads to come to Arlington because of the Fitness and Aquatics center. In addition, more than one office tenant has signed a lease because of Long Bridge Park.  A facility like this is required to attract top talent. Arlington cannot afford to ignore the infrastructure that is necessary to attract office tenants.

The Board will vote on the project at its recessed meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

by Chris Teale November 21, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

(Updated at 4 p.m.) One of the last remaining businesses has departed the Buck property in Virginia Square, ahead of potential redevelopment of the site.

The Jumping Joeys children’s gym closed its doors at 1425 N. Quincy Street, across from Washington-Lee High School, on Sunday, November 12, according to a post on its website. It was part of the “Quincy Street Technology Center,” which included gyms and an Arlington Public Schools building and is zoned for light industrial use.

Still open in Falls Church, Jumping Joeys lets children bounce on soft play equipment, and is available for “Open Bounce” sessions open to the general public as well as for private parties and events.

That followed another closure in late August, when the NOVA MMA/CrossFit Arlington gym in the same building shuttered.

It sets the stage for the long-discussed redevelopment of the Buck property, a conversation that the county’s Joint Facilities Advisory Commission continued earlier this year.

Last month, Arlington County sold $34 million in revenue bonds to fund the purchase of the Buck property.

The deadline for the final payment of $27 million for the property was yesterday (November 20). A county spokeswoman said the county closed on the transaction as planned.

The Buck property could could allow for a building to be used by Arlington Public Schools, as well as provide space for the Office of Emergency Management and other public safety agencies, while some offer bus parking for both APS and Arlington Transit (ART).

One business remains at the site: Dynamic Gymnastics. It received an extension to its lease, which will terminate on May 31, 2018.

by Chris Teale November 20, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

The Arlington County Board will hold a public hearing next month on a plan to tighten regulations governing the study of whether new historic districts should be created.

Currently, the process to request a study on whether an area should be designated as a historic district is relatively informal. Anyone can file a designation request for any number of properties, without any background materials or forms required.

Staff said the goal of these changes would be to improve the process while still allowing the public to request a study of whether a site should be designated as a historic district.

The proposed amendments would change the timeframe required to inform a property owner of a study request, and tie such notification to the acceptance of a completed application. The amendment would create a uniform and predictable process for such requests.

Per a report by county staff, the proposed amendments would mean the following:

  • A request for local historic district designation must be made on a County application form.
  • The application form will require specific documentation, including narratives pertaining to physical descriptions and historical significance, plus photographs and bibliographical references. The application also will establish a multi-step internal review process prior to scheduling a public hearing with the HALRB.
  • For multi-property designation requests, the new amendment will limit who may apply for or request a historic preservation overlay district to: o Civic Associations, Home Owners Associations, or Condo Boards for properties within their own boundaries; or Petitioners with documented support of 25% of properties in a defined area. One property would count as one vote (so if four trustees owned a property, only one vote counts).
  • For individual properties, historic preservation overlay requests will be limited to Arlington residents or property owners.
  • The HALRB, Arlington Public Schools (APS), and the County Board retain authority to initiate studies and recommend designations as they can do now.
  • After adoption of the amendment, staff will finalize the application form. This form will be available on the County website and via paper copy in the HPP office.

The proposed changes come months after an application was filed to designate the Arlington Education Center and planetarium, next to Washington-Lee High School, as a historic district.

The designation, requested by Planning Commission member Nancy Iacomini, could have caused problems as the Ed Center was being considered as a site for new high school seats. Any renovations to help add the extra seats would have been scuttled if it were designated as a historic district, and it brought swift condemnation from those who thought it would hinder APS’ ability to keep up with the rising student population.

Staff recommended that proposal be denied, a request the County Board followed in May. The School Board then chose the Ed Center for 500-600 new high school seats and a renovation as a so-called “hybrid option” to add 1,300 countywide.

The County Board will discuss the proposed changes at its December 16 meeting and put it to a vote. The Planning Commission will also debate the changes at its December 4 meeting.

by Chris Teale October 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm 0

Chester’s Billiards, Bar & Grill is no more after its landlord put its building in Nauck up for sale.

The billiards hall and neighborhood bar at 2620 Shirlington Road closed on Wednesday, October 25. Signs outside show the building, now abandoned, is up for sale. The Chester’s sign remains.

Chester’s had gone before the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, October 24 for a three-month review of its live entertainment permit. County staff had recommended before the meeting for a second time this year that the Board deny an extension of the permit.

But at the meeting, Rebecca Lewis, a managing member at Chester’s, said the building’s owner has decided to sell their property. Lewis said he did so because of the ongoing issues with the building’s elevator, which has led to criminal charges and will take more than $250,000 to fix.

Lewis also questioned staff’s data on calls to the Arlington County Police Department, as well as the violation of its ABC license. She said that several of the five police calls involved an employee who was caught embezzling funds and is now the subject of criminal proceedings, and said that there were people in the community who wanted to “sabotage the business.”

“It seems that there seems to have been, especially with the police department, a wanting to shut down this business,” Lewis said.

Adam Watson, a staffer at the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, also noted that Chester’s hosted two dance parties with 40-50 people despite not holding a permit to do so. In response, Lewis said that those events were music shows that did not qualify as dance events.

“It’s almost impossible to tell people when music is playing that they can’t move their bodies,” she said. “[We] never encouraged or had something that we called a dance event.”

In a brief statement to the Board, Chester’s manager David Breedlove stood by the bar’s arrest record, and said he was grateful to the police for their help.

“I want to thank the Arlington police department for setting me straight, but never, one time, was there an arrest at that bar,” he said. “Yes, there were problems down below.”

Board member Christian Dorsey said it is clearly “difficult” to run a business, but said he hoped the bar’s managers try again soon. In a unanimous vote, the Board denied an extension to the bar’s permit.

“Clearly this didn’t work out for you or the community, which is why we are where we are today,” Dorsey said. “But I certainly wish you luck in any future endeavors you are about to take.”

by Chris Teale October 19, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

The four possible designs for the next phase of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center have been released.

The revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive will have a 50-meter pool; diving platforms from one, three and five meters up; a family pool; and health and fitness spaces. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.

That “menu” could include advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and more spectator seats, among other enhancements.

The project, plagued by a years-long delay caused by anticipated cost overruns has a scaled-down aquatics and fitness center from previous plans. The county will be using a design-build approach, which keeps costs down by establishing a budget at the start that the contractor must not exceed.

“We are incredibly excited about these designs,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We’ve got four nationally recognized design and construction firms who are putting together their best ideas, based on their creativity and knowledge, for project options for Arlington. By using the Design-Build method, we can focus on the community’s needs while completing the project within budget.”

Links to videos showcasing the designs of the four bidders are below.

Members of the public can give feedback on the four design concepts in several ways between now and October 29:

  • Attend a public event on Thursday, October 19 from 7-10 p.m. at 2011 Crystal Drive, 11th Floor. Watch the presentations, ask the firms questions and share feedback.
  • Visit the Courthouse Plaza lobby (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (from October 19 to 29) to watch the videos of the designs, view schematic drawings and share feedback.
  • Starting today, go online to watch the videos of the designs and share feedback.

Following community feedback, the park’s Selection Advisory Committee will recommend the contract award based on written proposals, interviews, review of concepts, public feedback and negotiations.

The firm that is awarded the contract will complete its design and construction documents next year, with construction set to start as early as next July.

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