(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) After a pandemic-era hiatus, Habitat for Humanity has revived plans to turn a county-owned historic farmhouse into a group home.
Habitat DC-NOVA and HomeAid National Capital Region are propose to restore the exterior of the Reeves Farmhouse in the Bluemont neighborhood, modernize and renovate the interior, construct two new, historically compatible additions and update the landscaping.
The public would still be able to use two acres of parkland around it, including a milk shed, sledding hill and the Reevesland Learning Center gardens.
The nonprofits will be meeting with the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board tonight (Wednesday) to discuss plans for the home, which is more than 100 years old. Given the home’s local historic district designation, this board has the authority to review and approve major alterations, per a county report.
The farmhouse sits on the Reevesland property, notable for being the last operating dairy farm in Arlington County before closing in 1955. The local historic designation of the farmhouse and milk shed , from 2004, recognizes the property’s “architectural history and association with the rural and agricultural history of Arlington,” the report said.
“The Reevesland farmhouse is a two-story building with a stone foundation,” the report says. “The wood framing remains as underlying physical evidence of a number of additions and remodeling undertaken over more than 100 years, with the major changes occurring from 1878 to 1911.”
Arlington County purchased Reevesland in 2001 and began searching for appropriate uses for the “endangered” historic place in 2010, putting forth requests for proposals that never led anywhere. During these doldrums, some community groups suggested the county turn the property into a museum or learning center.
High renovation costs convinced the Board to move toward selling it in March 2017, despite some community opposition. Two months later, Habitat came to Arlington County with an unsolicited proposal to reuse the farmhouse for a group home for people with developmental disabilities.
It took three years, but the county and Habitat reached a non-binding letter of intent. One month after that was signed, the nation shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic and the project stalled.
Talks among the nonprofits and L’Arche Greater Washington — which will use the facilities for their core member program — and county staff about the project resumed in September 2022. DPR met with the Boulevard Manor Civic Association in January to provide an update on the project, a neighbor and a spokeswoman for Habitat told ARLnow after publication.
Plans include a two-story addition at the back of the house and a one-story addition at on the southwest side. These will increase the number of bedrooms to seven and provide access and gathering spaces suitable for people with mobility impairments.
A paved area west of the farmhouse will be expanded to provide parking and clearance for Metro Access vans that will provide transportation for future residents. It will also build a stormwater management bio-facility, which could be something like a rain garden.
A tree near the proposed two-story addition will be removed as the addition will conflict with some roots that are critical to its health. Habitat will discuss ways to mitigate this loss with the county’s Urban Forester.
In the county report, Historic Preservation Program staff say they support the project because the addition will be distinct from the historic structure and the landscaping changes will not harm the property’s setting.
“The proposed one- and two-story additions will not detract from the scale or massing of the historic farmhouse, as their designs are compatible with the existing vernacular architecture and can be distinguished from what is historic and new construction,” per a county report.
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Three years after Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (HabitatNOVA) first reached out to Arlington County with a plan to reuse the Reeves Farmhouse, the plan is scheduled for review by the Arlington County Board tonight.
The home, built in 1900, is a historic property that is currently vacant and owned by Arlington County. The Reevesland property it sits on is notable for being the last operating dairy farm in Arlington, operating through the Great Depression and World War II until 1955.
HabitatNOVA’s plan is to convert the house into a group home for developmentally disabled individuals. The organization would partner with a group called L’Arche Greater Washington, a group in D.C. that serves people with disabilities, as a fundraising partner and to provide residential support for four to five individuals.
Under the agreement between HabitatNOVA and Arlington County, the farmhouse would be preserved, operated and maintained with private funding, according to a staff presentation. The two-acres of parkland around it would remain a public use, including the historic milk shed, the sledding hill, and the Reevesland Learning Center gardens.
At the meeting tonight, the County Board is scheduled to decide whether or not to authorize County Manager Mark Schwartz to go forward with a letter of intent. If approved, the county would host two public meetings about the plan. HabitatNOVA would also start fundraising with the aim of reaching 25% of the $2.3 million required for the project.
Photo via Arlington County
Local students, teachers and friends are invited to dine on Arlington-planted and grown lettuce at an event this week.
The Reevesland Learning Garden — part of the park that was split from the now-privately-owned Reevesland farmhouse — is planning a “Fiesta Salad-Bration” on Friday (June 7) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Ashlawn Elementary School (5950 8th Road N.). The salad celebration is a twice-yearly program.
“Hundreds of Ashlawn Elementary students and neighbors have planted and grown a huge crop of luscious organic lettuces in the Reevesland Learning Garden and in three neighborhoods that will be served at the Fiesta Salad-Bration for more than 800 students, teachers and Arlington friends,” Joan Horwitt, president of the Reevesland Learning Center, said in an email.
Horwitt noted that the salad will also include a vinaigrette dressing made by Ashlawn neighbor and Reevesland volunteer Ron Battocchi.
Photo via Reevesland Learning Center/Facebook
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.
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Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Arlington County Board voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with the sale of the historic Reeves farmhouse in Bluemont.
Despite a last push from a group that wants the farmhouse converted into a learning center for students, the county says that selling the farmhouse to a private buyer, who will be required to “maintain its historic integrity,” is the only economical way to preserve it for future generations.
“The County’s goal is to preserve the historic character of Reeves farmhouse and to preserve the site’s two acres of open space, the raised gardens, sledding hill and milk shed,” the county said in a press release.
“The County’s efforts to achieve the sort of successful partnership to restore the Reevesland farmhouse that it has achieved with other projects have been hampered by the estimated, and increasing, cost of renovating the farmhouse and bringing it up to code for public use, estimated to be in the range of $2.5 – $3 million, as well as an unspecified amount for ongoing maintenance and operating costs.”
The full press release, after the jump.
Members of the Reevesland Learning Center say Arlington should be seeking to add to, not subtract from, its parks and facilities. They’ve been fighting for several years to have the farmhouse, at 400 N. Manchester Street in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, converted to a community space where children could learn about healthy eating and the history of the Reeves farm.
In 2015, Arlington County split the 2.5 acre Reevesland property, incorporating much of the open space into Bluemont Park while the house and the land around it was to be sold to a private buyer. On Feb. 28, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz recommended the sale of the farmhouse move forward, asking for County Board direction at the board’s March meeting.
“Our efforts to work with the Reeves Farm Conservation Society, Inc. and Reevesland Learning Center have not resulted in a viable community proposal for the farmhouse,” Schwartz said in a statement.
In a letter sent Wednesday, members of the Reevesland Learning Center disputed the county’s assertion that renovating the farmhouse for public use would be too costly and challenging.
The full letter, after the jump.
Photo courtesy Peter Roof
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Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
The two and a half acre of land where the Reevesland farmhouse sits was divided into two parcels — one which will contain the farmhouse and one that will become a public park.
The County Board’s decision allows the county to preserve the view of the farmhouse while still being able to sell it to a private party, Chair Mary Hynes said. The county also approved a permit to make the farmhouse a “unified residential development,” which makes it easier to sell, possibly as a single-family home.
Under the decision, the county manager cannot divide the land until directed by the Board, which extends the time for the county to hear proposals and decide what exactly to do with the farmhouse. The entire two and a half acre property will remain a local historic district, preventing major changes.
“The creation of a separate lot that includes the farmhouse would enable the County to market the house for sale to a private buyer willing to restore and maintain it,’ the county said in a press release. “The newly created lot is meant to give a potential owner privacy and the flexibility to expand the house with oversight by the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board.”
Board member Walter Tejada was the only vote against the division of the property. He also voted against the sale of the Reevesland farmhouse in May.
Tejada made a motion to include a direction to the county manager that the land could not be divided until a path to the “historic milk shed,” which would sit on the piece of land made into a park, was made compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. County staff said it might not be possible to have an ADA compliant path within the three years, and the motion failed.
The Board voted to sell the Reevesland farmhouse property after deciding it could not put up the $2-2.5 million it would cost to renovate the building for public use. In order to keep the building as county property, Arlington would have to rebuild parts of the farmhouse to make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and modern safety codes, including strengthening the floors and updating the buildings utilities, Board Chair Mary Hynes said at a June board meeting.
Board member Jay Fisette voted against selling the parcel in May, saying he wanted more time to find a solution for the farmhouse.
“I will say that was primarily because I wanted more time to explore a nonprofit partnership that would allow continued public use. I have always been attracted to that idea and continue to be at that time,” Fisette said. “The proposal that we’re about to do today allows for that additional time, in fact, by not recording this subdivision plat until a later date.”
Separating the farmhouse and potentially allowing it to become a private residence allows the County Board to have a fall back plan, Hynes said.
“Here is this really unique [farmhouse], and we need to find a way to preserve that,” she said. “The view shed, the experience of seeing this farmhouse on the hill, to me, is the most important thing.”
Several citizens and neighbors spoke about their disapproval of the Board’s previous vote to sell the historic property, during the public comment portion of the Board meeting. They protested that the decision was too quickly made, and that before the land can be subdivided, the Board should return to that issue.
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Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman