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RiverHouse in Pentagon City at sunset (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A group of neighbors is calling on the county to take a moderate approach to residential redevelopment in the shadow of Amazon’s HQ2.

Next month, on Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Arlington County Board is poised to consider adopting a new planning document that lays out a vision for the next 30-plus years of growth in the Pentagon City neighborhood. The plan calls for a significant amount of redevelopment and infill development, mostly residential, more green spaces and new “biophilic” walking and biking paths.

The Pentagon City Planning Study draft was created because Amazon’s arrival exhausted nearly all the development envisioned in the 45-year-old plan currently guiding the neighborhood’s growth.

One significant source of near-term infill development would be at RiverHouse apartment complex on S. Joyce Street. Its owner, once Vornado and now JBG Smith, has long eyed redeveloping its surface parking lots and open spaces. The document recommends no more than 150 units per acre on the 36-acre site, which currently has a ratio of 49 units per acre.

That’s excessive for a complex with 1,670 units already, according to members of “RiverHouse Neighbors for Sensible Density.” The group and an associated movement, “Dense That Makes Sense,” are made of nearby residents who say a lack of community engagement has allowed the draft to move forward that recommends adding too many units to RiverHouse, among other concerns.

Pentagon City Planning Study Area (via Arlington County)

“RNSD is especially concerned about the Plan’s proposal for developer JBG Smith’s property, RiverHouse — already the fourth largest apartment complex in the Greater Washington, D.C. area,” the group said in a statement. “Because the Plan was developed without wide and diverse community representation, the Plan 1) does not represent a balanced community perspective, and 2) fails to articulate how it will deliver the community benefits it promises.”

Since August 2020, the county’s outreach has included interviewing stakeholders and property owners, asking the public to submit slides showing their vision of Pentagon City, and holding focus groups, five virtual public workshops, and a walking tour, said Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

They received 60 slides from community members on their vision, and 146 responses on an online engagement after a virtual open house, she told ARLnow. County staff also met with several county commissions, committees and civic associations as the plan was being drafted. In addition to emails and newsletters, she said there have been signs sharing information on the plan in public spaces.

“The population growth scenarios in the draft plan are not requirements for development,” Moore said. “The scenarios were developed to analyze implications for population growth, transportation, urban design, economic development, and other factors.”

This is not a new concern. Neighbors pushed back against JBG Smith’s 2019 proposal to add 1,000 units to the site (for a density of 72 units per acre) and at the time, some Arlington County officials and planners were also skeptical of the plan. Now, the new plan’s upward limit of 150 units per acre has some Dense That Makes Sense members longing for JBG Smith’s initial plans.

With seven weeks until the County Board is set to vote, the group is urging the Board to pause the plan.

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Arlington is denser and more diverse than it was 10 years ago, according to recently-released 2020 Census data.

The population living within the county’s 26 square miles now sits at 238,643 — a 14.9% increase over 2010, when 207,627 people called Arlington home. That outpaced the rate of population growth for Virginia and the U.S. as a whole, at 7.9% and 7.4%, respectively.

Meanwhile, the county is more diverse today than it was a decade ago: Arlington’s white population declined by 3,677 people, while the number of Hispanic or Latino, Black, Asian, multiracial and indigenous people all increased. That decade-long change reflects a similar change occurring across the nation that was the subject of a flurry of reports last week.

Now that the data is in, county staff will be reviewing the numbers to see what they mean for Arlington, said Bryna Helfer, the assistant county manager for communications and public engagement. Census data helps the county plan for future needs and services, such as emergency services, schools and transportation, while the federal government uses the demographic information to apportion funding to localities.

“Arlington’s team of demographers in Community Planning and Housing Development will be taking time over the coming weeks and months to learn more about the 2020 Census Data and what it means for Arlington,” Helfer said. “We want to thank the entire community for their participation in the 2020 Census.”

Arlington is the eighth most-populous jurisdiction within the Commonwealth, but among counties in Northern Virginia, Arlington has the smallest population, behind Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties. It is growing faster than Fairfax County and D.C. but slower than Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Much of Arlington’s growth appears to be concentrated in Metro corridors — part of the county’s goal of “smart growth” around transit areas.

One census tract within Ballston appears to have the highest density not only in Arlington, but in the D.C. area, attaining a population density similar to parts of New York City. It comes in at 96,758 people per square mile, comparable to the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Overall, Arlington has a population of about 9,180 people per square mile.

As the population grew, 13,000 housing units came online in the county. Despite the housing growth, only a handful of census tracts across the county reported fewer than 90% of their housing units as occupied. On average, Arlington has a housing unit vacancy rate of 7.7%.

While that is lower than the state’s vacancy rate of 8.2%, Arlington has a higher vacancy rate than its neighbors — Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties — which have rates between 3 and 3.8%.

Like many other parts of the nation, the snapshot of Arlington in 2020 was more diverse than 10 years ago. It dropped from being 71.7% white in 2010 to being 61% white in 2020.

The most dramatic increase was in the number of people who identify as multiracial: This population group increased by 18,101 people, or by 233%, and now comprises 10.8% of the population. Following behind them, Asians also leaped in representation, due to a 7,512-person increase. Asians now comprise 11.5% of the population, up from 9.6% in 2010.

Although the Black population increased by 3,243 people (18.4%), Black residents still comprise roughly the same percentage of the population, from 8.5% in 2010 to 8.7% in 2020.

Race in Arlington County per the 2020 census data (via US Census)

The Hispanic or Latino population also made some gains —  an increase of 5,980 people, or 0.6 percentage points.

Hispanic or Latino percentage of Arlington’s population (via US Census)

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The highest relative proportion of coronavirus cases in Arlington is along the Columbia Pike corridor, new data shows.

As of Friday morning, there were 1,281 known COVID-19 cases in Arlington, with 227 hospitalizations and 57 deaths. That’s an increase of 277 cases, 58 hospitalizations and 15 deaths compared to one week prior, and continues a slowing of new cases over the past few days.

The latest Virginia Dept. of Health data shows 22,342 total cases, 3,059 hospitalizations, 812 deaths and 143,220 tests conducted statewide.

In Arlington, the Columbia Pike corridor — the 22204 zip code — had 486 reported cases. That’s 38% of all cases in the county, though the area has only 23% of Arlington’s population. By comparison, the 22201 zip code — part of the the Orange Line corridor and neighborhoods around Courthouse and Clarendon — has 123 cases, or just under 10% of the county total, while containing 16.1% of the population, according to 2010 Census data.

The test positivity rate for 22204 is 35.6%, compared to 16.6% for 22201.

The zip code breakdown, newly related by the state health department and compiled by ARLnow, is below.

  • 22201 (Courthouse, Clarendon, Lyon Park; 16.1% of pop.): 123
  • 22202 (Crystal City, Pentagon City, Arlington Ridge; 10.9% of pop.): 103
  • 22203 (Ballston, Buckingham, Arlington Forest; 10.5% of pop.): 162
  • 22204 (Columbia Pike corridor; 22.8% of pop.): 486
  • 22205 (Westover, Tara-Leeway Heights, East Falls Church; 8.2% of pop.): 68
  • 22206 (Shirlington, Fairlington, Long Branch Creek; 9.2% of pop.): 98
  • 22207 (Cherrydale, Country Club Hills, Yorktown; 14.9% of pop.): 176
  • 22209 (Rosslyn, Radnor-Fort Myer Heights; 5.9% of pop.): 44
  • 22213 (portion of Arlington’s northwest corner; 1.4% of pop.): 10

Zip code map via Arlington County

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Arlington’s population and median household income continues to reach new heights.

Data from 2018 American Community Survey (ACS), just released by the U.S. Census Bureau, pegs Arlington’s population at 237,521. That compares to 234,965 for 2017 and 230,050 for 2016.

Arlington County’s more conservative planning division population estimate currently stands at 226,400. The last official Census population count was 207,627 in 2010 — that is set to be updated next year with the 2020 Census.

The latest ACS data puts Arlington’s median household income at $122,394, nearly double the national median of $63,179. Arlington’s median household income in the 2016 ACS was $110,388.

Means of commuting to work showed some minor trends in the latest ACS.

Those driving alone to work dropped to 47.8% of workers over the age of 16, compared to 51.6% in the 2016 ACS. Those working from home rose to 8.8% from 5.7% two years prior, while those taking public transit rose to 28.9% from 26%. Bike commuting dropped from 2.4% in 2016 to 1.5% in 2018, though it rose within the margin of error year-over-year and Arlington now outpaces Alexandria in the category.

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Morning Notes

New Census Population Estimate — “Arlington’s estimated population was up 14.4 percent from 2010 to 2018, more than double the increase statewide and nationally, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. The federal government’s recently released guesstimate of Arlington’s population as of July 1, 2018, stood at 237,521, up about 1 percent from a year before.” [InsideNova]

Fraudster’s Arlington Home Sold — “The Arlington home of real estate developer Todd Hitt — who pleaded guilty in February to eight counts of fraud — has found a buyer, according to court documents. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, approved the $1.3 million sale of the 5,500-square-foot house on North Kensington Street.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Working With MoCo on DCA Noise Study — “Arlington government officials plan to formalize their agreement with leaders in Montgomery County, Md., to fund a study on the northerly aircraft departure route out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. The County Board plans to ante up half the projected cost for a consultant, with the Montgomery County Council putting up the other half.” [InsideNova]

County Proposes New Development Review Fee — “Arlington County staff is proposing a new fee for the acceptance and review of conceptual site plan applications, a process through which developers can get input on their projects before their formal submission.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Concerns abound about how the arrival of Amazon’s second headquarters might squeeze an already space-starved county — but could HQ2 merely speed up population growth in Arlington that would inevitably happen over time even if Amazon chooses another location?

It’s a possibility that county leaders say they’re increasingly beginning to consider, as Arlington has emerged as a top contender to earn HQ2, among its competitors both locally and nationally.

The way Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol sees it, the D.C. region is already set to grow exponentially in the next few decades. For instance, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments projects that 1.5 million people will move to the area by 2045, an estimate worked up long before Amazon cast its eye towards the region.

Accordingly, Cristol reasons that Amazon’s arrival in Arlington would indeed prompt a sudden surge in growth in the county, but not substantially change how officials are preparing to handle an ever-growing population.

“It’s not as though we are in this perfect equilibrium now and Amazon will upset the apple cart,” Cristol told ARLnow. “Growth is coming to this region… but I think Amazon could really force the issue by probably condensing how fast that growth could happen, maybe we’re talking 10 years over 20.”

That’s why she says county officials are already putting such an intense focus on issues like affordable housing and transportation, and encouraging residents to do the same. She sees the “Big Idea Roundtables” the county is convening this month as a key step in the process, designing them as forums for people to have frank discussions about all of the problems and opportunities associated with the county’s growth in the coming years.

Cristol fully expects many of those conversations to center around the arrival of huge companies like Amazon, or perhaps Apple. But, as she tries to take a long view of the region’s future, she expects they’ll be helpful no matter what Jeff Bezos decides.

“Whether Amazon comes and hastens that [growth] or whether Amazon doesn’t come and the general projected job growth and population growth comes over a longer period of time, the questions and the need for the community conversation are the same,” Cristol said.

Amazon critics, however, are less convinced that leaders like Cristol should accept such growth as unavoidable. Margaret McLaughlin, chair of the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America, says her group has led a campaign highlighting HQ2’s potentially negative impacts on marginalized communities in order to get officials thinking differently about the region’s future.

“By them saying that growth is coming inevitably, they’re taking their own agency out of the economic decisions they’re making,” McLaughlin said. “Rents are going to go up, and that ends up pushing out renters, people of color, people working in the service industry… so they’re ones making choices, they’re pushing families out. They’re making the economic situation better for the rich and worse for the poor.”

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Morning Notes

Arlington Population Up in Latest Estimate — The new annual U.S. Census population estimates are out and Arlington County has added nearly 5,000 people. The estimate of Arlington’s population on July 1, 2017 is is 234,965, according to the Census Bureau website. That’s considerably higher than a recent UVA estimate. The previous Census Bureau estimate was 230,050 on July 1, 2016. [U.S. Census Bureau]

Festival of the Arts to Return — The annual Arlington Festival of the Arts is returning to Clarendon from April 21-22. The outdoor event features more than 100 artists showcasing — and selling — their work. [Facebook]

Standout Athletes of YHS — A recently-completed webpage highlights more than 50 years worth of standout athletes from Yorktown High School. [Yorktown Alums]

Photo courtesy of our local tech guru, Alex Chamandy

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A new estimate from the University of Virginia’s Cooper Center pegs Arlington’s population at 239,074 as of mid-2017.

That would make Arlington the fourth fastest-growing locality in Virginia since the 2010 U.S. Census, when Arlington’s population was 207,627. Of the top seven fastest-growing Virginia localities, according to UVA demographers, most are in Northern Virginia.

The following lists the latest population estimate and percent change since 2010 of the top seven on the list.

  1. Loudoun County — 396,068 (26.8%)
  2. New Kent County — 21,709 (17.8%)
  3. Falls Church City — 14,269 (15.7%)
  4. Arlington County — 239,074 (15.1%)
  5. Alexandria City — 160,719 (14.8%)
  6. Fredericksburg City — 27,645 (13.8%)
  7. Prince William County — 455,990 (13.4%)

The estimate puts the year-over-year population growth in Arlington, from mid-2016 to mid-2017, at 2,383 — about 1 percent.

The UVA estimates are significantly higher than figures cited by Arlington County in its 2017 county profile. The profile says Arlington’s population was estimated at 222,800 as of Jan. 1, 2017, an increase of only 7.3 percent since 2010. The county’s estimates are “based on housing unit counts and residential construction activity.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated Arlington’s population at 230,050 as of July 1, 2016. The next official decennial Census count will take place in 2020.

Arlington estimates that the county’s population will reach 278,100 by 2040.

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Arlington County ranked number one among similar-sized counties in this year’s Fourth Economy Index, which recognized it for attracting talented people, supporting business growth and creating vibrancy.

The index, which was established in 2012, assesses counties in five areas: investment, talent, sustainability, place and diversity. Arlington won for counties with 150,000-499,999 people, ahead of Chesapeake in Virginia (near Norfolk) and Shawnee County in Kansas (which includes the city of Topeka).

“A vibrant business community, lots of arts and entertainment and low unemployment all contribute to a higher quality of life for this No. 1 community,” the citation reads.

Arlington came in first because of its high scores in place, talent and diversity. The index said Arlington’s location across the river from D.C. makes it a perfect location for people who work there, while its seamless blend of urban areas and quiet, garden-lined streets, provide a fine balance between city life and “neighborhood charm.”

In addition, the index said Arlington’s talent base is high thanks to its many highly-educated residents while its diversity spreads across race, age and ethnicity. It also found that middle-income Arlingtonians spend less on transportation and housing than their national counterparts in most other counties.

“While job growth and investment are good indicators of a community’s progress, they are not enough,” the website reads. “Our continued experience has shown that our analysis must also look at factors that create a foundation for sustained success and resilience.”

The full top 10 for large-sized counties is as follows:

  1. Arlington County, Virginia
  2. Chesapeake, Virginia
  3. Shawnee County, Kansas
  4. Chittenden County, Vermont
  5. Pulaski County, Arkansas
  6. Albany County, New York
  7. Hampden County, Massachusetts
  8. Minnehaha County, South Dakota
  9. Peoria County, Illinois
  10. Champaign County, Illinois

To analyze counties, the index used data from the U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development among other sources. A total of 19 data areas are weighted and analyzed for the level of influence they have on a county.

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Morning Notes

Metro to Raise Fares, Reduce Service — In order to plug a budget gap, Metro will be raising rail and bus fares and cutting service starting in July. [WTOP, NBC Washington]

Pupatella Expanding to RichmondBeloved Bluemont pizzeria Pupatella is expanding via franchising. One of the first places getting new Pupatellas: Richmond, where a local franchisee is opening four new locations. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

McAuliffe to Talk Self-Driving Cars in Arlington — On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be in Arlington to “give remarks at [a] workshop hosted by the Secretary of Transportation on autonomous vehicles,” according to the governor’s public schedule. The workshop is taking place at 1776 in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive).

People Are Increasingly Leaving the D.C. Region — All of the D.C. region’s population growth in the latest U.S. Census estimates were from births and international immigration. The region’s domestic migration is negative and increasingly so, with more people moving from D.C. than to D.C. Writes the WBJ: “The challenge for Greater Washington is there are other metro areas that offer jobs and high quality of life, and are also far less expensive — driving people away for what they see as greener pastures.” [Washington Business Journal]

Does Our Site Seem Faster? — We were working Saturday, moving ARLnow and our sister site Reston Now to a powerful cloud-based server from a traditional dedicated server. Things should be faster today, but if you notice any glitches please let us know. [Twitter]

Photo courtesy Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Texas Jack's BBQ in Lyon Park (Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok)

Arlington Population Continues to Rise — The latest Census Bureau estimate of Arlington’s population is 230,050, a 0.9 percent rise over the previous year. [InsideNova]

LaHood to Review WMATA — Former Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been tapped by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to conduct an independent review of Metro’s “operating, governance, and financial conditions.” The review will “develop recommendations for potential WMATA reforms, including mitigating growth in annual operating costs and sustainable funding.” [Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington Post]

Private Investigators Set Up Shop in Arlington — A group of private investigators is trying to solve the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich last July. The group, which does not have the support of Rich’s family, is working out of a “war room” in Arlington as it tries to piece together clues about the fatal shooting in D.C.’s Bloomingdale neighborhood. [DCist, WJLA]

County Board Hears Complaint About Poo — A resident’s complaint at a County Board meeting, about a homeless man “appropriating” a bus stop in Rosslyn, led to the following sentence in the Sun Gazette: “County-government spokesman Mary Curtius said it was ‘exceedingly rare’ to find human waste at bus stops.” [InsideNova]

Schaeffer’s Favorite Arlington Things — Eric Schaeffer, co-founder and artistic director of Shirlington’s Signature Theatre, recently shared some of his favorite local spots. Among them: French store Le Marche and Irish pub Samuel Beckett’s, both in Shirlington, along with Pupatella pizzeria in Bluemont and P.F. Chang’s in Ballston. [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok

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