Pike Plan Peeves Preservationists — “Under current, still tentative proposals, the façade of the building would be dismantled, stored away and then re-installed after the new development on the site rises. Keeping the facade ‘is kind of better than nothing, I suppose,’ said HALRB board member Joan Lawrence, who went on to blast the county government’s commitment, or lack thereof, to finding a way to retain ‘one of the few historic structures left on Columbia Pike.'” [Sun Gazette]
Local Credit Union Merger — “Two local credit unions, one based in Arlington and the other in Alexandria, are planning to merge into one entity that will have combined assets of about $700 million, 12 branches, 38,000 members and 140 employees. Arlington Community Federal Credit Union and InFirst Federal Credit Union, with headquarters in Alexandria, are seeking regulatory approval for their proposed merger, the credit unions announced Tuesday.” [Patch]
Mall Food Court Crowded Again — “Can confirm that the food court at [the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall] is back at pre-COVID visitor numbers.” [Twitter]
Deloitte Wins Big Military Contract — “Deloitte Consulting LLP, Arlington, Virginia, was awarded a $83,594,365 firm-fixed-price contract to assess energy vulnerabilities and assist in determining the best approach to addressing security threats by performing energy security assessments… Work will be performed in Arlington, Virginia.” [Defense Daily]
Pair of Flipped Cars on GW Parkway — Updated at 10:05 a.m. — The “usual spot” for rainy day crashes on the northbound GW Parkway near Key Bridge claimed more vehicular victims over the past 24 hours, with two reports of overturned vehicles last night and this morning. [Twitter, Twitter]
It’s Wednesday — Rain overnight, then partly sunny during the day before possible storms in the evening. High of 83 and low of 69. Sunrise at 5:45 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]
Two Local Spots on Best Bagel List — Arlington’s homegrown Brooklyn Bagel has ranked No. 4 on a list of the D.C. area’s best bagels, while Bethesda Bagel, which has an outpost in Rosslyn, ranked No. 1. [Washingtonian]
Dems Set School Board Caucus Rules — “The 2022 Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus will be an in-person-only affair with the controversial party-loyalty oath retained, based on rules adopted by the party’s rank-and-file on April 6. Democrats will select their School Board endorsee during four days of voting in June, using the instant-runoff format that has been a familiar feature of Democratic caucuses in recent years.” [Sun Gazette]
Ukrainian Ambassador Lauds Local Donation — From County Board Chair Katie Cristol: “It was profoundly moving to have Ambassador Markarova join us as we send off pallets of emergency protective equipment and kit to Ukraine. With these supplies, we also send our solidarity and commitment to help our sister city and the Ukrainian people however we can.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Preservationists Push Pols for Protection — “The trigger for the discussion was the possibility that the circa-1949 Joyce Motors building in Clarendon could be torn down to make way for new development, even though it was one of just 10 commercial buildings, and just 23 properties overall, that were designated ‘Essential’ (the top tier) in the 2011 HRI. That 2011 document was the culmination of a study of 394 properties – garden apartments, shopping centers and commercial buildings – completed in 2009.” [Sun Gazette]
Va. Senators on Supreme Court Confirmation — From Sen. Mark Warner: “Justice is served! I voted to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson as our next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court because she’s qualified, brilliant, and honest. And for the first time in two centuries, the court will contain the voice of a Black woman.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Arlington 9/11 5K Returns — “The Arlington Police, Fire, Sheriff and ECC 9/11 Memorial 5K is currently planning on having an in-person 20th Anniversary race on September 10, 2022. However, there is a possibility that some restrictions on runner capacity, social distancing measures and mask use may be in place in September due to COVID-19.” [Arlington 9/11 5K]
Fairlington 5K Returns — “After a 2 year pandemic hiatus, the 7th annual Fairlington 5K will take place on Saturday, May 7th. There is a new canine competitor entry this year! Here is the map route. The race will start at 8:30 AM.” [Twitter]
It’s Friday — A sunny morning, followed by a cloudy afternoon and possible rain later. High of 59 and low of 45. Sunrise at 6:43 am and sunset at 7:40 pm. [Weather.gov]
A recent survey of Arlingtonians found a majority say the county needs to be more aggressive about preserving historic buildings, monuments and resources from demolition.
Engagement in the survey, administered in 2021, was three times higher than engagement in a similar survey distributed two years ago, before the loss last year of two historic homes — the Febrey-Lothrop House and the Victorian Fellows-McGrath House — to make room for new housing.
The tripling, however, did not result in a more diverse group of respondents. More than 80% of respondents were some combination of white, homeowners and 45 years old and up.
The most recent Historic Preservation feedback form response pool is somehow even more white and more homeowner-y than the last one. This seems indistinguishable from a CivFed meeting. pic.twitter.com/JI16BJqrlY
— Chris Slatt (@alongthepike) March 24, 2022
The survey is part of a county effort to update its master plan governing historic preservation, with a new focus on equity and inclusion, says Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Rachel LaPiana.
Adopted in and unchanged since 2006, the update — if adopted by the County Board by the end of 2022 — will direct the historic preservation priorities and programs for the next decade, she said.
Many respondents said the county should be highlighting century-old properties, historic neighborhoods, archaeological sites and resources connected to Arlington’s immigrant, African American and Native American communities. Some railed against the county and the plan for not preserving sites like the Febrey-Lothrop House, while a few said such teardowns are necessary to make room for more housing and affordable units.
The survey asked broad questions to understand what residents value, with questions like “what stories, traditions, places, buildings, and/or communities are important to you?”
But for some civically engaged Arlington residents, the demographics of respondents were more interesting. They say this survey yielded detailed feedback from passionate individuals but did not reveal how the broader community values historic preservation.
The problem, per Dave Schutz — a civically engaged resident and prolific ARLnow commenter — is how the survey is advertised and where. His oft-repeated remark about community engagement in Arlington: “You ask twelve guys in Speedos whether we should build [the Long Bridge Aquatics Center], you will get a twelve to zip vote yes.”
Schutz suggested the county keep track of how respondents hear of the survey, so they know whose perspectives are being captured.
“I might require that surveys… contain an identifier so that the people tabulating results could see which ones had been filled out by people who were notified through the, say, Arlington Historical Society website and which by people notified through the ‘Engulf and Destroy Developers Mwa-ha-ha website,’ the County Board website — and if the opinion tendencies were wildly different, flag it for the decision makers that that was so.”
Joan Fitzgerald, a local resident who works in surveying populations, says county survey questions are often worded to confirm the biases of the survey writers, while the questions can be jargon-dense.
“County survey questions are often confusing, and participants often need a strong background in the topic to even understand what’s being asked,” said Fitzgerald, who sits on the development oversight committee for the Ashton Heights Civic Association.
With a state bill to make it easier for preservation advocates to prevent demolitions now dead for 2022, and the proverbial wrecking ball unlikely stop swinging, the debate seems likely to continue for some time.
See Mike’s weekly cartoons in our exclusive weekend email for ARLnow Press Club members.
Mask Optional Bill Heads to Governor — “As had their state Senate colleagues the preceding week, members of Arlington’s delegation to the House of Delegates were unanimous in their opposition to legislation ending mask mandates on students in Virginia’s public-education system. But the opposition did nothing to stop the bill’s momentum – the measure on Feb. 14 won final passage in the House of Delegates and is on its way to Gov. Youngkin.” [Sun Gazette]
More on Roosevelt Bridge Work — “The Roosevelt Bridge connecting Arlington and D.C. got a close-up inspection Monday after transportation officials ordered emergency road work to the bridge over the weekend. D.C. Department of Transportation Director Everett Lott said the bridge, which is 58 years old, was given a ‘poor’ rating during an inspection in 2018 and a “fair” rating in 2016. Lanes will be shut down on the bridge for as long as six months due to a rusted beam.” [NBC 4]
Homeless Shelter Moved Everyone to Motel — “Staffers at Arlington County’s largest homeless shelter for adults have spent the better part of the past two years trying to keep the coronavirus in check. They tested everyone regularly, moved any person who caught the virus into isolation. They had strict protocols, high vaccination rates among the nearly 100 homeless residents who use the facility and required that face masks be worn indoors… But then came omicron.” [Washington Post]
Preservation Bill Dead for 2022 — “Advocates of historic-preservation legislation patroned by two Northern Virginia lawmakers will have to wait until 2023 to try and win enactment. The House of Delegates Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns voted Feb. 11 to delay final consideration of legislation patroned by Del. Hope (D-Arlington) to next year.” [Sun Gazette]
Towing Accountability Bill Fails — “A measure its patron said would provide more teeth to Virginia’s statutes regulating the towing industry died a perhaps predictable death in the House of Delegates. Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington-Fairfax) had patroned legislation that would have made violations of state and local towing rules subject to the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. It also would have provided ‘meaningful civil penalties’ for towing malfeasance, the patron said in comments to a subcommittee of the House Committee on Transportation.” [Sun Gazette]
Small House Fire in N. Arlington — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “This morning at approx. 0920 crews were dispatched for a reported structure fire in the 3600 BLK of N. Vermont St. Crews found a small fire with minimal extension. No injuries were reported.” [Twitter]
W-L Track Wins Championship — “For what is officially supposed to be an indoor sport, the Washington-Liberty Generals improvised quite well and won a Liberty District boys track and field championship as a result. The Generals finished first with 128 points, with the Yorktown Patriots second with 88.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Tuesday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 40. Sunrise at 6:58 a.m. and sunset at 5:46 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny and breezy, with a high near 54. [Weather.gov]
Preservation Legislation Shuffled — “After a subcommittee approved a measure being sought to give preservation advocates an additional voice in decisions made at the local level, but simultaneously stripped out some key provisions of the bill, its sponsor made a request. Would the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns, where the measure was being considered, agree to move the bill to the Committee on Courts of Justice, Del. Patrick Hope asked.” [Sun Gazette]
Don’t Drive Drunk on Super Bowl Sunday — “To keep spectators safe on the roads, the Arlington County Police Department is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to remind football fans everywhere that Fans Don’t Let Fans Drive Drunk… in 2019, there were 10,142 people killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes throughout the United States.” [ACPD]
Yogurt Cup Recycling Confusion — Can you recycle small plastic yogurt cups, like those used by Activia and other brands? That’s a solid maybe, according to the Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services. Previously, the county has released publications that alternately described yogurt cups as recyclable and not recyclable. [Twitter]
Injured Squirrel Returns to Fairlington — “Last week, our Animal Control team took in a badly injured squirrel who who received life-saving care at [Blue Ridge Wildlife Center]. Today, Officer Ballena released the now-healthy squirrel back into the wild, very close to where he was found. He was very ready to be back in the wild where he belongs! ” [Facebook]
Kudos for Local Crossing Guard — “Shashu Gebre, Crossing Guard at both Alice West Fleet and Long Branch Elementary Schools, has been recognized by the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (VA SRTS) program as one of Virginia’s Most Outstanding Crossing Guards for the 2021-22 school year. The honor is part of Crossing Guard Appreciation Week, an annual Safe Routes to School celebration recognizing Crossing Guards for the critical role they play in the safe routes to school network.’ [Arlington Public Schools, Twitter]
Changes to Electoral Board — “Weinstein, who like [newly-elected Arlington Electoral Board Chair Kim] Phillip is a Democrat on the body, turned over the reins because, come December, he will depart when Republicans pick up a second seat due to the election of Glenn Youngkin as governor. State law requires electoral boards to be composed of two members of the governor’s party, one from the opposing party. Weinstein will serve as vice chair for the remainder of his term, while Republican Scott McGeary will retain his post as secretary.” [Sun Gazette]
Sunday Snow Likely to Be Light — “Our spell of springlike weather will come to a sudden halt Saturday night as a cold front barges through the region, setting the stage for a possible light snowfall early Sunday morning. Right now this doesn’t look like a big deal for several reasons.” [Capital Weather Gang]
It’s Friday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 62 and wind gusts as high as 30 mph. Sunrise at 7:02 a.m., sunset at 5:43 a.m. Saturday will be partly sunny, with a high near 58. Sunday we’ll see snow and some rain in the morning, then partly sunny with a high near 37. [Weather.gov]
Preservation Bill Proposed After Rouse Razing — “Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) has introduced legislation that, if enacted, could give preservationists more of a fighting chance to retain properties they deem worth saving. Hope’s bill makes several changes to the state’s historic-preservation laws, most notably prohibiting a local government from permitting the razing of a proposed historic property until 30 days after a final decision on the matter has been made.” [Sun Gazette]
Students Getting At-Home Covid Tests — “Last week we received a large shipment of rapid at-home Covid-19 test kits. These kits are in the process of being delivered to our schools for distribution to students, beginning toward the end of this week or early next.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Dorsey to Lead Regional Board — “Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey will chair the board of directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments for 2022.” [Sun Gazette]
Old Home Gets Rocking Aesthetic — “The white-stucco, black-shuttered exterior of this 1871 center-hall Colonial in Country Club Hills belies its rock-and-roll interior. That’s part of the fun. A century and a half ago, the stately home was likely built as a summer residence for a wealthy D.C. family. Today, it’s owned by Ben and Dina Hitch, a pair of concert-going music and art aficionados whose vast collection of original record albums and American artwork spans decades.” [Arlington Magazine]
Marymount Junior Stands Out on Court — “As a result of helping the Marymount University women’s basketball team improve to 5-0 and first place in the Atlantic East Conference, junior Symantha Shackelford recently was selected as the league’s Player of the Week in women’s college basketball.” [Sun Gazette]
Snow Incoming — “A major winter storm is set to slam parts of the Northeast on Saturday, with heavy snowfall, strong to damaging winds and coastal flooding all possible… For D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, the storm probably gets going too late to drop more than a couple inches of snow, but areas just to the east have a chance to see more substantial amounts.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Today will be sunny, with a high near 37. Sunrise at 7:18 a.m. and sunset at 5:24 p.m. A low around 27 Thursday night. Friday will be cloudy, with a high near 37. Light snow possible in the morning, then probable in the afternoon, perhaps mixing with rain. Expect snow and wind gusts as high as 26 mph Friday night. [Weather.gov]
Preservation Battle Brewing — “The historic-preservation advocate who launched a community-driven, albeit ultimately unsuccessful, effort to save the Rouse estate on Wilson Boulevard, is on a new quest. Tom Dickinson has filed paperwork with county officials seeking historic-district status for an East Falls Church home, despite the likelihood that the current property owner aims to raze the home and redevelop the 0.29-acre parcel.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Ranks No. 39 Healthiest in U.S. — Updated at 9:20 a.m. — “U.S. News and World Report, in its annual assessment of the ‘healthiest communities in the U.S.,’ has given a staggering third place finish to the City of Falls Church in its latest edition. That’s ahead of all other entities in the entire nation, except for Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Douglas County, Colorado. The magazine listed the top 500 entities in the U.S., and others in this area to finish near the top were Loudoun County at No. 4, Fairfax County at No. 14 and Arlington County at No. 39, the City of Alexandria at No. 124 and Fauquier County at No. 195.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Tattoo Shop Opening New Clarendon Location — “Regency’s The Crossing Clarendon is excited to welcome Lady Octopus Tattoos to its second local storefront in the Arlington, VA area later this year. Run by artist Gilda Acosta and co-owner Jonathan Reed, the custom tattoo shop offers high-quality tattoo artistry in addition to selling brand merchandise including t-shirts, enamel pins and more.” [Regency Centers]
Brian Hannigan just lost a battle he’s been fighting for the better part of a decade, and all that’s left now is to hope the end result isn’t too detrimental to his neighborhood.
Hannigan, president of the Dominion Hills Civic Association, has been one of the voices for years telling Arlington County that it should purchase the nine-acre Febrey-Lothrop House, at 6407 Wilson Blvd, when it became available.
Formerly home to businessman Randy Rouse before his death in 2017, the property is also known as the Rouse estate. While the house has undergone numerous renovations and expansions over the years, portions of it are believed to date back to before the Civil War.
It’s now being demolished, in anticipation of expected single-family-home development on the site.
The County Board took up the question of whether to designate the property as historic, requiring preservation or, at least, greater archeological efforts and documentation to be performed before development could occur, but the discussion was too little, too late, and a demolition permit for the house was approved administratively before any historic preservation designation could be enacted.
Though disappointed, Hannigan says he’s at least hopeful that the site won’t be up-zoned for denser development.
“I think it’s a done deal,” said Hannigan. “We received assurances from the trustee, the owner, that they have no interest in pursuing a sale that would involve rezoning.”
The potential historic designation is still on the books for discussion at meetings in April, but the house is already partially torn down.
According to the county website, Arlington County Historic Preservation staff were able to access the property prior to demolition. Hearings on the historic designation of a portion of the property are expected to proceed as scheduled at the Planning Commission and County Board, despite the home’s demolition.
It’s unclear what would be targeted for preservation if approved, though some on the County Board previously said possibility of pre-Columbian artifacts on the site, based on records of Native Americans activity in the area, was more compelling than any historical aspects of the house itself.
The designation is scheduled to be discussed at a Planning Commission meeting on Monday, April 5, and at the County Board on Saturday, April 17.
“I’m disappointed Arlington County didn’t step up,” Hannigan said. “Personally, been advocating for the county to target this land and acquire it for years, but those pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Two years ago county did put the site on the Parks Master Plan as generational and unique opportunity for acquisition. The language they used was appropriate, that if it goes on the market it’s gone forever. Well, that’s what happened.”
Hannigan said he hoped the land would be acquired by the county and preserved as open space, but now those hopes have shifted warily towards advocating against any potential rezoning.
County Still Prepping for Preservation Hearing — “Even though the razing of the Rouse estate may be at hand, the Arlington County government’s historic-preservation staff is taking the steps necessary if public hearings on preservation of the site go forward in April… But nearly all parties now expect that the buildings on the 9-acre site will be razed before those hearings occur.” [Sun Gazette]
Preservationist Compares Estate to Auschwitz — Tom Dickinson, who’s leading the charge to save the Rouse estate, directed the following statement to the County Board over the weekend, referencing the likelihood that enslaved people built part of the estate: “If you, the board, do not intervene to stop this destruction of this sacred site, your individual and collective legacy will be stained forever by a lack of honor and respect for those who labored and suffered to create these structures at this site, and the desecration of them… It would be the equivalent of allowing the destruction of the crematory ovens at Auschwitz.” [Sun Gazette]
Northam Further Easing COVID Restrictions — “Governor Northam has further amended Executive Order 72 to modify public health restrictions in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19. These changes come as Virginia’s vaccination rate is steady and case counts are fluctuating. Effective April 1, limits on social gatherings will increase from 10 to 50 for indoor gatherings, and from 25 to 100 for outdoor gatherings.” [Arlington County]
NAACP Head Receives FBI Community Award — “FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) Steven M. D’Antuono is pleased to announce Mr. Julius Spain, Sr., as the recipient of the 2020 FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award (DCLA) for WFO. Mr. Spain serves as President of the Arlington Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).” [FBI]
Arlington Free Clinic’s Vaccination Effort — “Officials and community organizations are scrambling to close this racial gap in vaccine access. One such organization is the Arlington Free Clinic, which serves uninsured adults, many of them undocumented immigrants, in Arlington County. The clinic is holding vaccination days twice a week and working with other local social service organizations to develop an alternate pathway for low-income communities of color to get vaccinated.” [WAMU]
Former AP Bureau Chief Dies — “Charles Lewis, a former Washington bureau chief for The Associated Press and The Hearst Newspapers who tirelessly advocated for the release of AP journalist Terry Anderson from kidnappers in Lebanon, died Saturday. He was 80. Lewis, of Arlington, Virginia, died at a hospital from complications from cancer.” [Associated Press]
The County is rushing through the local historic designation process for the the mid-19th century property. It voted on Tuesday to advertise hearings on the potential historic value of the property in April.
The process is accelerated by the owner’s applications in December and last month for permits to demolish the buildings on the property, and an apparent effort to front-run any historic designation. The 9+ acre estate is owned by a trust established by sportsman Randy Rouse, who passed away in 2017.
The permit is administrative — meaning outside of the need for County Board approval — and was approved. Cynthia Liccese-Torres, coordinator for Arlington County’s historic preservation program, said the demolition permit will be not actually be issued until approval of an associated land disturbing activity permit.
Parallel to this administrative approval, an application filed last year by an Arlington resident to give the estate a local historic designation was reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in November. The HALRB found that the home met eight of 11 criteria for the designation and recommended that the structure of the home and the surrounding property be designated as a local historic district overlay.
The property owners — who seek to demolish the building and sell the property for redevelopment — have repeatedly objected to this designation. Staff noted that despite having been in contact with the owners, they had not been given access to the property to research it, which has hamstrung efforts to make a more thorough report.
Meanwhile, in mid-January, workmen at the house started to demolish the roof until the County issued a stop work order.
“Staff made numerous good faith attempts to access property, [but] staff has still not been able to gain owner’s consent for time and date to view property,” said Richard Woodruff, chair of the Arlington Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. “These issues taken by owners gave cause to believe that the house is at substantial risk of being damaged or destroyed.”
Woodruff said there is plenty of information on the property — even without an first-hand inspection — that says there is likely historic significance that could be lost if the area is demolished and redeveloped by-right.
“It was an upper middle class 19th century farm owned by prominent families,” Woodruff said. “We know Native Americans hunted on the hill and Civil War soldiers on both sides of war camped there. That land has not been disturbed and may contain artifacts, even pre-Columbian artifacts.”
Additionally, Woodruff noted the main house contains portions of the original 1855 structure, and key figures like Howard Hughes lived and stayed at the home in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“Anyone who has driven by property knows it represents uniquely pastoral image of Arlington,” Woodruff said. “What is there, known and unknown, could be lost forever. We know owners want to sell, but there are no immediate buyers. It would be premature and a complete disaster for these buildings to come down before any of that is known. If you agree this property is worthy of protection for future generations of Arlingtonians, if you believe some or all of it should be protected, then please figure out how to do it and don’t wait until it’s too late.”
Tom Colucci, from the law firm Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh P.C., spoke on behalf of the owners and reiterated earlier objections to the historic classification.
“We request that the Board stop this runaway freight train to nowhere,” Colucci said. “What has happened is this was initiated by one individual who had no economic or other interest in the property and staff took the ball and ran with it. There have been a lot of things rushed with this because the owner has a desire to demolish these structures. These buildings are not in good condition, some are not in safe condition, and there are overriding policy decisions that have not been considered. Does the Board want to put itself in a position where it tries to thwart an otherwise legal act of a property owner by using this process?”
Colucci said the historic overlay would significantly devalue the property and would cause concern among potential buyers. Colucci also noted that the property has an R-6 zoning — single family homes — and the owners are currently only interested in redeveloping it within that zoning.