County Board Candidates So Far — “Announced Arlington County Board special election (to replace Erik Gutshall, who sadly was forced to resign while being treated for brain cancer) Democratic candidates… so far are: Barbara Kanninen; Chanda Choun; Nicole Merlene.” [Blue Virginia]
Arlington Allocates $300k for Emergency Help — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has allocated $300,000 from the FY 2020 budget to meet increased demand for emergency financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money will be provided from the FY 2020 budget contingency fund to Arlington Thrive, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to County residents who experience sudden crisis.” [Arlington County]
Gov. Northam’s Reopening Conditions — “Gov. Ralph Northam offered what he called a ‘blueprint’ Friday for easing business restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lifting of restrictions will include a phased approach based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beyond a steady decline in new cases, the state will also have to increase testing and contact tracing, while ensuring hospitals have the necessary capacity, Northam said.” [InsideNova]
Group Urges Northam to Take More Action — “We respectfully request that you immediately implement the following low-cost, high-impact actions: Empower local governments… Maximize social distancing… Expand mask usage… Deploy approaches that have worked elsewhere to cheaply scale up testing… Leverage volunteers to cheaply scale up contact tracing… Convert unused college dormitories into voluntary isolation facilities… Implement ‘safe travel’ rules to prevent importation of new cases.” [EndCoronavirus.org, Google Docs]
Arlington History Jigsaw Puzzles — “In Arlington County there are locally-designated historic districts, which provide the greatest protection for our historic resources… In order to celebrate these locally designated districts AND to provide some relief during the COVID-19 quarantine/stay-at-home order from our local and state governments, Preservation Arlington has put together two collections of online puzzles.” [Preservation Arlington, Jigsaw Planet]
History of Arlington Meteor Caper — A dull black meteorite, found in Murray, Kentucky, in 1950, had gone missing from a Vanderbilt observatory display case, replaced by a suspicious-looking black-painted papier-mache rock… law enforcement sleuths had found fingerprints traced to former observatory employee and student Hugh Heefner Howard, 24. The perpetrator had brought it to his Arlington River House apartment at 1111 Army-Navy Dr., where our cops arrested him for grand larceny.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Stolen Car Leads to Arrests — Several people were arrested after fleeing a reported stolen car on foot in the Green Valley neighborhood Monday afternoon. At least one of those arrested was a juvenile, according to scanner traffic. [Twitter]
Group Lists Properties Set for Demolition — “Demolition permits for a total of 159 homes, plus a number of other properties, were approved by the Arlington County government in 2019, according to an analysis by Preservation Arlington… In addition to homes, three garden apartments, 11 commercial buildings, two civic buildings and several other structures also were being readied for razing.” [InsideNova]
Doorways CEO Departing — “Doorways announced today that the agency’s President and CEO, Caroline Jones, MSW, will be leaving the organization in February. Since 1978, Doorways has operated at the many intersections of homelessness, poverty, and intimate partner violence, responding to community members in crisis.” [Press Release]
ARLnow Needs You — Help ARLnow set the direction for our news coverage and offerings in 2020 by taking this quick 10-question survey. So far, the average survey-taker has spent about 3 minutes answering the questions. [SurveyMonkey]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Another Chase Branch Coming to Arlington — Following its purchase of the former Walgreens in Clarendon, JPMorgan Chase is now planning a second bank branch in Arlington. The new branch will reportedly be located at the northwest corner of N. Randolph Street and Wilson Boulevard in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]
Preservationists Eye Local Log Cabin — “A retired florist, Cal Marcey is worried over possible destruction of one of Arlington’s remaining log cabins, to which his ancestors have ties. A new owner has purchased the early-19th century Birchwood cabin at N. Wakefield and 26th sts., and the plans — renovation versus teardown — are unclear.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Record Round for Arlington Startup — “Arlington safety and security startup LiveSafe Inc. has raised $11.1 million in fresh funding, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It’s the company’s largest round so far and puts its total funding at about $25 million, according to a review of previous SEC filings. LiveSafe did not respond to requests for comment.” [Washington Business Journal]
Business Group Wants Better Bus Service — “A group of chief executives from the greater Washington region says deficiencies in bus service are holding back growth in the region. The region’s bus network possesses valuable assets, including more than 3,800 buses and a growing system of limited-stop service and bus rapid transit lines, but the region hasn’t fully leveraged the potential of the network to help solve its transportation challenges.” [Washington Post, Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
TreeStewards, an organization that works to advocate and care for trees, is looking for new volunteers to train in Arlington.
Volunteer efforts include activities, such as planting and pruning, along with education and advocacy initiatives, like holding neighborhood “Tree Walks” and informational booths at farmers’ markets and festivals.
Training will kick off on Oct. 2 and is split into four modules. Each module includes between two and four mandatory classes and one field session.
The first module covers topics such as fall tree identification and correct tree planting methods. The fourth and final module begins April 16, and will cover topics like pests, diseases and care of mature trees.
Those interested should apply online by Aug. 22.
Photo via Facebook
Rent prices on more than 14,500 homes in Arlington have surged past rates deemed “market affordable” since 2000, according to a new report.
In an evaluation of affordable housing around the region, the Northern Virginia Housing Alliance found that the county has seen steep declines in the number of homes affordable for people making 60 percent of the area’s median income. In Arlington, federal officials set those levels at $49,260 a year for a one-person household and $70,320 for a four-person household.
The county had only 2,245 homes on the market affordable for people at those income levels through the end of 2017, the group wrote. The affordable housing advocacy group also determined that the county lost 335 homes affordable for people at those income levels over the course of 2017 alone.
At the same time, the county added 276 homes with rent prices specifically “committed” to remain affordable last year, “despite significant expenditures of local resources,” the group’s researchers found. In all, the county had 7,729 committed affordable units last year, or “approximately half of what has been lost in the last 17 years.”
County officials have long eyed this issue, and Arlington is hardly alone among its Northern Virginia neighbors when it comes to dealing with spiking rent prices. The group found that Alexandria and Fairfax County are dealing with similar trends, particularly as the D.C. region’s population continues to grow.
But with the potential arrival of tech giants like Amazon and Apple, the researchers warn that Arlington officials need to take a hard look at these numbers and put a focus on preserving the affordable homes already available.
“Preventing the further loss of rental units available to low- and moderate-income households is critical to expanding economic opportunity and supporting the region’s growth,” the group wrote. “In a resource-constrained environment, bridging the affordability gap requires stemming the loss of the existing stock of affordable homes.”
The researchers awarded the county government high marks for how it approaches the issue generally, but it also urged leaders to move ahead with plans to provide additional incentives for developers to both build and renovate affordable homes.
Additionally, the group urged local officials to work with “non-traditional, mission-driven developers” to help them acquire properties that might otherwise be used for high-priced apartments or condos.
“As budgets remain constrained and competing priorities emerge, it is important now more than ever that the region’s leaders work together to develop a range of creative solutions to create mixed-income communities that provide a range of housing choices,” the researchers wrote.
After years of debate over the future of the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont, a solution that the community likes and does not require lots of taxpayer dollars may have been found.
County officials have worked up a plan to team up with Habitat for Humanity to transform the farmhouse into a group home for adults with developmental disabilities.
The Northern Virginia branch of the nonprofit is currently exploring the prospect of renovating the 118-year-old home, then turning it over to another group to manage it, Habitat director of real estate development Noemi Riveira told ARLnow.
The farmhouse sits on the 2.4-acre Reevesland dairy farm property (400 N. Manchester Street), which the county purchased in 2001. The County Board has long hoped to find some other use for the home, with community groups urging the county to transform it into a museum or learning center, but the high cost of renovating the house convinced the Board to move toward selling it instead.
Riveira cautions that her group is still in the “very, very preliminary” phases of studying the property, and she isn’t sure yet whether this plan would involve Habitat buying the farmhouse from the county. Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey suggested that the nonprofit could end up purchasing it, then transferring ownership to whichever entity runs the group home, or simply lease the house from the county instead.
Regardless of the details, however, both Riveira and Dorsey are cautiously optimistic that this arrangement could prove to be the best possible outcome for the historic home.
“Any opportunity we have to serve anyone that needs a shelter, we’re happy to assist,” Riveira said. “It’s a bit outside of our normal program scope… but this is a demographic that needs homes, so we’re there to help.”
Riveira noted that the “community came to us” with this proposal. Specifically, Chris Tighe, president of the Boulevard Manor Civic Association, says he first floated the idea of reaching out to Habitat in a conversation with Dorsey roughly a year ago.
“A lot of nonprofits valiantly tried to save it over the years, but all of that just sort of petered out,” Tighe said. “So at one point I just said, ‘How come no one’s thought of [Habitat] before?'”
Tighe reached out to the nonprofit, and brokered a meeting with the group and Dorsey to work up an initial proposal.
Broadly, Habitat would agree to renovate the exterior of the house and select portions of the interior, as well as constructing an addition. The county estimates that renovating the home via contractors would cost anywhere from $2.5 million to $3 million, though at this stage Riveira is unsure how expensive the work would be with volunteer help.
“That was a lot of money for us… but they’re a nonprofit that can leverage volunteers, so it provides a great opportunity for a traditional renovation not paid for in traditional market ways,” Dorsey said.
A new report from Preservation Arlington says there were 158 single-family home demolition permits issued last year, making it the second year in a row with demolition permits falling from the year prior. Demolitions peaked in 2015 at 204, according to the data.
The downward trend may seem like a “mission accomplished” moment for Eric Dobson of Preservation Arlington, but instead he thinks it reflects changing market dynamics, not a new-found interest in preserving older homes.
“I was afraid someone would ask,” he joked after being contacted by ARLnow.com.
Dobson said that the number of homes in Arlington that are attractive candidates for demolition — those that have been poorly maintained, that sit on a lot that can be subdivided, or that are worth substantially less than the underlying property — is finite and shrinking.
But there’s another trend in play that may explain why demolition permits are falling: a trend towards gut renovations that keep just enough of the structure to not be classified as a demolition under county code.
“People are getting creative as supply dries up,” Dobson wrote. For example, “someone buys a house that is on a substandard lot — a lot that has a small side yard or something that would not be permitted today. So they cannot ‘tear it down’ because they would need to meet today’s code for setback. Instead [they] keep that exterior wall that gives them more building room and tear the rest of the house down.”
“The definition of teardown somewhat hides the fact that dozens of more houses are essentially torn down,” he added. “As lots become more scarce, people are becoming innovative/creative.”
Local realtor and ARLnow columnist Eli Tucker largely echoed Dobson’s analysis.
“The sale of single family marked as new construction increased slightly from 121 to 130 homes in 2017,” he said. “New construction can be considered a total demo or building on top of/expanding [an] existing foundation. I’m seeing more of this lately so it’s possible that we’re seeing fewer complete demolitions, but just as many or more new construction with higher numbers of new homes on existing structure.”
Meanwhile, it’s not uncommon for buyers to demolish million-dollar homes. There were a total of 12 demo permits issued in 2017 for homes purchased for more than $1 million, according to Preservation Arlington.
Image via Preservation Arlington
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Rep. Don Beyer is, to say the least, not a fan of the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and be sent to the president’s desk later today. “At its core, this bill is an immoral redistribution of wealth towards the richest among us at a cost of trillions of dollars, and I believe that those who voted for this monstrosity will be held accountable,” Beyer said in a statement. [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Single Vote Swings Va. House — Thanks to a Democratic candidate in Newport News winning her race by a single vote, as determined in a recount, the Virginia House of Delegates is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, ending a majority the GOP has maintained since 2000. [Washington Post]
‘Dominion Pint’ Coming to Arlington — The owner of Meridian Pint (also Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel) in D.C. is planning to open a new craft beer-centric outpost somewhere in North Arlington. The location has not yet been announced, but it will be called “Dominion Pint.” [PoPville]
DESIGNArlington Winners Announced — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday recognized the ten 2017 DESIGNArlington award winners for “outstanding architectural or landscape design in the County.” Among the winners are the new Marymount University building in Ballston, the Tellus apartment building in Courthouse, “The Quill” public art project in Rosslyn and two private North Arlington residences. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Gutshall Sworn In — The newest Arlington County Board member, Erik Gutshall, was sworn in at yesterday’s Board meeting, while outgoing County Board Chair Jay Fisette received a standing ovation. [Twitter]
Changes to Historic Preservation Process — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to revise and further codify the process for requesting historic preservation studies. Until now, any single individual could request a “historic preservation overlay district” study, which requires significant county staff time to complete. Before the vote, such a study could even be requested without consulting property owners in the proposed district. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Dies in Plane Crash — Paul Schuda, a National Transportation Safety Board official and Arlington resident, was among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Indiana. [NPR, Legacy]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Arlington Ready for Possible Snow — The chances of “meaningful accumulation” have since gone down, but Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services crews started applying brine to county roads Monday night in anticipation a “potential snow/ice this Wednesday evening/Thursday.” [Twitter, Washington Post]
VDOT Pleased With I-66 HOT Lane Data — NBC 4’s Adam Tuss tweets: “Doesn’t look like @VaDOTNOVA plans to change anything about the I-66 toll lanes. They say their data shows commutes were faster and more reliable.” [Twitter]
Dems Want Satellite-Voting Centers — “The Arlington County Democratic Committee could again be at loggerheads with the county’s elections office over whether to provide satellite locations for absentee voting in non-presidential-election years.” [InsideNova]
ARLnow T-Shirt Now Available — Need a gift for the ARLnow.com fan in your life? Show your Arlington pride with this long-sleeved t-shirt from the county’s No. 1 local news source. [Amazon]
ACPD Officers Helping in Puerto Rico — The Arlington County Police Department is among the departments nationwide sending officers to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico to provide emergency assistance. The third ACPD team to rotate in is working on the island through Dec. 18. Officers who’ve gone say many challenges remain but there are hopeful signs as well. [Arlington Connection]
Westover Townhouse Battle Continues — Arlington County is weighing both a historic district and a “Housing Conservation District” for Westover, to protect aging but affordable garden apartments from being redeveloped into $800,000 townhomes. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Arlington Man Dies in Motorcycle Wreck — A 68-year-old Arlington man died last month after a motorcycle crash in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Police say Ben Walker, Jr. ran into the back of a car that had just made a U-turn on Indian Head Highway. [Patch]
Pentagon City Hotel Changes Hands — An Orlando-based real estate investment firm has acquired the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Pentagon City for $105 million. Xenia Hotels & Resorts said in a press release that the 365-room hotel is “uniquely positioned” in the market given its direct connection to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall. [PR Newswire]
Housing Demolitions Continue — The group Preservation Arlington has released its latest tally of demolition permits, reporting that demo permits for 120 single-family homes were applied for in the first nine months of the year. “The pending loss of these homes ‘represents a loss of history, architecture, time, energy and materials,’ the preservation group said in a statement.” [InsideNova]
Virginia’s Halloween Candy of Choice — The most popular Halloween candy in Virginia, according to the website CandyStore.com, is Snickers bars. Hot Tamales and candy corn were second and third, in terms of pounds sold. [CandyStore]
Letter: Possible Names for Schools — In a letter to the editor, a local resident recommended consideration of three African-American women who played notable roles in Arlington County history as potential new names for public schools. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
A plan to revamp Interstate 66 is threatening the character of the Custis Memorial Parkway, the highway’s name inside the Capital Beltway, historic preservation advocates said today (Wednesday).
Preservation Arlington, a nonprofit group that looks to protect Arlington’s architectural heritage, released its annual list of “endangered historic places,” with the parkway named as one.
The Virginia Department of Transportation is in the midst of an ambitious plan known as “Transform 66” to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston within the existing eastbound right-of-way.
But Preservation Arlington said the plan could undermine “the roadway’s unique parkway design.”
“Plantings are no longer maintained. Corten steel guardrails and sign supports are being replaced with standard, steel interstate highway components,” the group wrote. “The new toll road gantries, and large, new sign supports (and highway signage) on nearby arterial roads have further eroded the parkway’s ability to blend into its surroundings.”
Another piece of history under threat, according to Preservation Arlington, are the Education Center and Planetarium, chosen last week by the Arlington County School Board for an extra 500-600 high school seats and a renovation.
“While some exterior improvements will be necessary it is hoped that this will be minimal and will not alter the appearance of the historic structure,” Preservation Arlington wrote. “Designed as a headquarters building to show the strength and commitment to education, the building is iconic in our community.”
Also under threat, according to Preservation Arlington:
- 1000-series Metro cars, retired this month for safety reasons
- Community buildings like those for churches and service organizations
- Four Mile Run industrial area
- Housing stock from before World War II, with the continued loss of these homes “erasing Arlington’s architectural and community history.”
Image via VDOT presentation