Arlington, VA

Zitkala-Ša Park in Lyon Park could be ready by July to welcome neighbors who have gone without their community green space since October 2019.

Construction on the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets is nearly a year behind schedule due to pandemic- and weather-related delays. Upgrades include re-doing the basketball court and adding new play structures, a picnic shelter, as well as fencing and landscaping.

New signage also went up recently to reflect a name change. In December, the County Board officially renamed Henry Clay Park after Zitkala-Ša, an Indigenous rights activist who lived near the park.

Initially, the Department of Parks and Recreation set out to complete the changes by July 2020 but the pandemic caused manufacturing and shipping delays. A new timeline of December 2020 was set. Now, work is being hampered by weather, said parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish.

“We are progressing along as best we can, however, due to weather we have not been able to complete all the work we’d like to do,” she said.

Kalish added that many of the remaining tasks — planting, laying asphalt and safety surfaces, striping the basketball court — “are weather-sensitive and can be completed only after the weather gets a little better.”

These two complications combined led the department to move the completion date sometime between April and June 2021.

When completed, the community “will see a new basketball court, playground, open field and picnic shelter with updated site circulation, site furnishing, fencing, drainage and landscaping,” Kalish previously told ARLnow.

The park “is a heavily used facility,” the county said in a 2019 report. “The outdoor amenities for [Zitkala-Ša Park] are now past their useful life and are in need of replacement.”

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Morning Notes

Major Metro Cuts Proposed — “With sharply reduced ridership and lacking fresh federal relief, Metro is proposing a new operating budget with a nearly $500 million deficit. Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said Monday the proposed 2021 budget includes closing Metro rail at 9 p.m., ending weekend service, closing 19 stations and reducing the number of trains, which would result in longer wait times.” Among the stations that would close under the proposal are the Arlington Cemetery, Clarendon, East Falls Church and Virginia Square stations. [WTOP, Washington Post]

County Working on New Payment System — “Arlington officials continue to work on developing a one-stop online presence so the public can pay for a wide array of local-government services from their computers or smartphones. The initiative, being worked on by the treasurer’s office and Department of Technology Services, would go beyond the current CAPP [Customer Assessment and Payment Portal], which allows local residents to pay certain taxes, utility bills and parking tickets online.” [InsideNova]

Renovations for Mostly Vacant Building — “Wheelock Street Capital is seeking to renovate a long-vacant Arlington office building with the hope of attracting companies to the same corridor as Virginia Tech’s planned innovation campus and Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters… All of 3550 S. Clark St.’s office space thus far remains vacant. Small portions of the building’s retail space are leased to LA Fitness and child care center operator Bright Horizons.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Charitable Giving Portal — “New Looking for a way to add more charitable giving to the season of giving while supporting your neighbors in need? Arlington Community Foundation is launching its first ever Nonprofit Wish Catalog featuring grant ideas of 24 local nonprofits with wishes of up to $5,000 each this Giving Tuesday.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Art Event Still On This Weekend — “The Arlington Artists Alliance presents its 18th annual Artful Weekend at Fort C.F. Smith Park. The show, featuring 30 top local Arlington-based artists and held in historic Hendry House at Fort C.F. Smith Park in Arlington, will be held December 4 to 6 this year. The show will feature paintings, ceramics, sculpture and cards, in addition to bins of unframed works.” [Event Calendar]

New Top Doc at VHC — “David Lee, MD, a member of the medical staff of Virginia Hospital Center for 30 years, has been tapped as the hospital’s senior vice president and chief medical officer.” [InsideNova]

It’s December — Today is Dec. 1. After today, there are only 30 days left in 2020.

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Morning Notes

Return of First Students Delayed — “As we have shared, we were aiming for an October 29 start for Level 1, which includes approximately 225 students with disabilities who need in-person support to access distance learning. We are now moving the start date back to Wednesday, November 4, to ensure all operational metrics are met and staff are well equipped and ready to support our students at each school.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Crushes Census Count — “You did it, Arlington County: With the Census Count completing on October 15th, 99.98% of Arlington was officially counted. Thank you to our Complete Count Committee for your tireless, infectious enthusiasm for ensuring that everyone counts!” [@kcristol/Twitter, YouTube]

Culpepper Garden Celebrates Renovations — “It wasn’t quite the kind of celebration that had been expected when, two and a half years ago, work began on a major renovation at the Culpepper Garden senior-living facility. But it was a celebration nonetheless – albeit ‘virtually’ – that was called for, and on Oct. 13, leaders of two non-profit housing providers and their partners held an online program to mark completion of the $58 million project.” [InsideNova]

Spirits of ’76 Closing Happy Hour Set to close on Nov. 1, Spirits of ’76 is holding a half-off happy hour from 4-6 p.m. until the closing date. “Everything must go!” the Clarendon bar said on social media. [Instagram]

Punch Bowl Social Restarting Happy Hour — “Punch Bowl Social, the ‘millennial-oriented’ adult playground in Arlington, reopened its Ballston location last week, and it plans to restart happy hour, Wednesday through Friday, beginning Wednesday, October 21. The ‘eatertainment’ chain says it will offer diversions like arcade games, bocce, darts, and more in a socially distant fashion.” [Washingtonian]

Overnight Closures Along I-66 — “Overnight ramp and lane closures are scheduled to occur this week, and possibly next week, on I-66 East in Arlington for asphalt paving and overhead sign replacement as part of the I-66 Eastbound Widening Project. Detours will be posted to direct traffic.” [VDOT]

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The Virginian Suites hotel at 1500 Arlington Blvd, near Rosslyn, has closed.

Earlier this week workers could be seen hauling furniture out of the building, which is located on the southern side of Route 50, a couple of blocks from the Iwo Jima memorial. A sign on the door said the building is under new management.

The plan is to renovate the building and convert it back into apartments, according to Bernstein Management Corporation.

The company said last month on its website that 1500 Arlington Blvd will be reopened “as value-oriented multifamily rental apartments with amenities to include a lobby lounge, an amenity floor with fitness options and co-working, and an outdoor patio with grills and fire pit.”

“Unit interiors will undergo kitchen renovations, and receive new lighting, flooring, closet organizers and paint,” the company said. “The property is approximately 1/2 a mile from the Washington D.C. line. Its proximity to the Rosslyn Metro station, national employers, multiple universities, dining, and entertainment options makes it a promising acquisition and attractive place to live for those looking for amenities, sustainability, technology and a compelling value given the location.”

The ten-story tower was originally an apartment building after it was completed in 1951. It was later converted into a suite-style hotel.

Bernstein Management Corporation says it now owns a 50% interest in the building. The family behind the D.C.-based residential and commercial property operator just announced a $12 million charitable pledge to local organizations that champion “the arts, racial equality, and a brighter future.”

It’s unclear how long the renovations will take and when the new apartments will be available for lease. Reached by ARLnow, a spokeswoman for the company did not have any other details to share.

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As renovations are underway for Henry Clay Park, some local residents are hoping for one more additional change: getting rid of the name honoring slave-owning former Secretary of State Henry Clay.

Clay, who represented Kentucky in Congress before and after serving as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams, fought a duel in Arlington: at Pimmit Run in 1826. Neither participant was wounded and no Broadway musicals were written in Clay’s honor. Though he owned slaves and had a negative view on a multiracial society, Clay was opposed to slavery and freed those he enslaved upon his death.

The Lyon Park Civic Association is now hoping to change the name to one honoring Zitkala-Ša, a Native American writer and political activist who lived in the neighborhood from 1925-1938, the Falls-Church News Press first reported.

“The Lyon Park Civic Association has requested that the park be renamed the Zitkala-Ša (Red Bird) Park,” confirmed Susan Kalish, spokesperson for Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “They presented their request at the July 28 Park and Recreation Commission meeting.”

Kalish said after receiving the request, the proposal will be reviewed by the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board and the Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee.

“The Park and Recreation Commission will consider the renaming request again after they receive comments from these citizen advisory groups and adjacent civic associations,” Kalish said. “Once the commission approves the name, the County Board will make the final decision on the proposed park name.”

Henry Clay isn’t the only slaveowner in Arlington whose name could be removed from public property. Arlington County is also currently considering renaming Lee Highway, named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee.

Whatever its name will be, Kalish said renovations to the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets are still on track to be completed by the end of the year.

“While the pandemic caused delays in procurement and site furnishing manufacturing,” Kalish said, “it all came together and the community will see a new basketball court, playground, open field and picnic shelter with updated site circulation, site furnishing, fencing, drainage and landscaping.”

Image via Arlington County

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It may not look very different from the outside, but the Safeway along Lee Highway at 2500 N. Harrison Street has been going through some big changes on the inside.

The grocery store chain has been giving some much-needed love to some stores in the region, which had previously earned nicknames like “Soviet Safeway” and “Un-Safeway.”

The exterior still has a tan, brutalist look reminiscent of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, but interior renovations have given new life to the store’s deli, seafood and produce sections, as well as relocating and renovating the grocery store’s Starbucks.

“In addition to extensive design renovations providing the store with a fresh new look, the store will now have new flooring, new fixtures and cases (including a chilled high-end wine case),” a spokeswoman for Safeway said. “The deli department has expanded its offerings of specialty cheeses and packaged meals. The produce department has expanded its assortment of premium juices as well as its fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, organics and nuts.”

The new interior comes with a slew of new product offerings as well, with a focus on organic, ethnic and specialty items, according to Safeway.

The floorwork, at least, remains half-finished, but ARLnow was able to confirm earlier this week that the store was stocked with ample vegan options and several White Claw variety packs.

Though the store remained open through renovations, a grand reopening celebration is currently scheduled for the afternoon of August 27. Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey is expected to attend.

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(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The well-known design firm working to reimagine Metropolitan Park in Pentagon City has revealed some of its initial design concepts.

James Corner Field Operations, the firm behind New York City’s High Line, presented the designs in a virtual public meeting last week, alongside representatives from Amazon — which is footing the bill for the design work and park renovations — and Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

The current park, nestled in the middle of a group of apartment building and Amazon’s future HQ2, is largely flat grassy spaces, alongside trees, roads, and sidewalks. Its primary users are the apartment residents and their dogs; Amazon is planning to use part of the park for construction staging.

With Amazon moving in in a few years, however, it’s set for some big upgrades.

“As Amazon has said from the outset we want our Arlington HQ to become a destination that will draw people in, meet the needs of the neighborhood and our employees, and help build a sense of community,” said Brooke Oberwetter, Head of Community Affairs for HQ2. “I’m excited about the design concepts that are being put forward for consideration… with your feedback and ideas we can make sure this amazing space is an asset for the entire neighborhood for years to come.”

There were two overall design themes presented: “social gardens” and “the forest walk.” Some of the potential park features include:

  • A central lawn could host 500-1,000 people for events like movie nights
  • A children’s garden near HQ2 daycare center
  • A fitness garden with exercise opportunities
  • A game lawn with lawn bowling, bocce and badminton
  • A dog run for both large and small dogs
  • A hammock garden
  • A play garden
  • A community garden and orchard table for outdoor dining among fruit trees
  • A cafe terrace and culinary garden with outdoor dining and restaurants in front of one of the HQ2 buildings
  • A main promenade, that’s more of a meandering path in the “forest” design
  • Several pieces of public art, some of which might be along a shady and meandering art walk
  • A large shade trellis that can be used for festivals, markets and a banana stand

A survey conducted as part of the design process found that the top five park uses requested by residents were “sit and lounge,” “enjoy nature,” “stroll and walk,” “attend events,” and “dine and drink.”

The designs call for the removal of on-street parking spaces and “redundant” sidewalks from the roads that run through the park, and the addition of new trees and vegetation. With that and an expansion of the park into part of the HQ2 property, the new Metropolitan Park would have more than 100,000 square feet of space, according to the presentation.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Steps Down from Transportation Board — “The Arlington County Board forced member Christian Dorsey to step down from a second transit board Saturday over a campaign donation from Metro’s largest union, and he apologized for misleading statements he made last month suggesting that he had already returned the money. Dorsey (D), who was reelected to the board in November, said he has sent back the $10,000 donation to the Amalgamated Transit Union and agreed to resign from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.” [Washington Post]

Thousands Attend Buttigieg Rally — Nearly 10,000 people attended Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s campaign rally at Washington-Liberty High School yesterday afternoon. [Twitter, TwitterThe Pete Channel]

Klobuchar Had High Profile Local Landlord — “Chuck Todd — who helped moderate Wednesday night’s Democratic debate — is likely more familiar with one candidate than any other. He was Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s landlord, sources exclusively told Page Six. Klobuchar and her husband, lawyer John Bessler, rented a 3-bedroom home owned by Todd in Arlington, Virginia, sources said.” [Page Six]

Firm Floats Less Parking for HQ2-Adjacent Park — “The green space adjacent to the first pair of Amazon.com Inc. HQ2 towers could be so much grander if it weren’t for some redundant on-street parking. That is what New York-based James Corner Field Operations, the urban design and landscape architecture firm Amazon has enlisted to mold Metropolitan Park’s open space, said Thursday night during the first step of the park master planning process… the site has roughly 50 on-street parking spaces, but there is a significant number, about 350, of underused below-ground spaces.” [Washington Business Journal]

Iwo Jima Restoration Is Complete — “This Sunday, Feb. 23, marks 75 years since brave Marines raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima. The U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the historic moment, has been completely rehabilitated… The rehabilitation of the sculpture and surrounding parkland, the specially designed onsite exhibits and the new videos were made possible through a generous $5.37 million donation.” [Press Release]

Board Approves Child Care Funding, Park Contract — “The Arlington County Board today approved a contract with Crown Construction Service, Inc. to upgrade heavily-used Edison Park with new playgrounds and other amenities… [and] accepted a $200,000 donation to fund high-quality child care for low-income Arlington families, the first such donation to the Arlington Community Foundation’s  (ACF) Shared Prosperity initiative from a private corporation.” [Arlington County, Arlington County]

‘Ball Cap Bandit’ Sentenced — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to five years in prison for robbing two Falls Church pawn shops of nearly $800,000 in jewelry and watches. According to court documents, in July 2014, Budder Khan, 30, entered Route 50 Gold and Jewelry Exchange, forced the store’s employees to the ground using what appeared to be a real firearm, smashed the business’s glass display cases, and took jewelry and watches worth over $650,000.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Phil

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Good news if you take your kids to play at Edison Park (213 N. Edison Street) in the Arlington Forest neighborhood: Arlington County is planning to put $822,166 of renovations into the park.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, the County Board is scheduled to vote on funding the project. The total proposed allocation is $904,383, with $82,216 set aside as a contingency.

“The overall project focused on five elements: playground equipment and safety surfacing, paving and access improvements, circulation and accessibility, reforestation and landscaping, fencing and site furnishings,” staff said in a report.

A map of planned improvements shows a new swing set and playground at the center of the tiny park, with a seating area to the west and a toddler play area separated from the main playground.

The far east end of the park, past a grassy open area, is planned for reforestation.

The plans for the park were endorsed by the Arlington Forest Civic Association last April.

Images via Arlington County, Google Maps

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Update on 1/25/20 — Alto Fumo closed for good, the restaurant said on its Twitter account and in signs in the window.

Earlier: You have until 10 p.m. today to get your pizza and pasta at Alto Fumo (2909 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon, then the restaurant goes dark for two months.

A manager at Alto Fumo said the restaurant will be closed for two months for extensive remodeling and renovation, then will reopen in March.

Temporary closures around Arlington have a way of becoming permanent, but the manager insisted the restaurant plans to reopen in the spring.

This is not the first time a pizza shop at the location has temporarily closed. The location was once Faccia Luna, but rebranded to Alto Fumo after a closure in 2017. The manager said some other changes could be in the works for the restaurant, but for now, “it will stay a little surprise.”

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored column is written by the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy team (AIRE). This county program helps you make smart energy decisions that save you money and leaves a lighter footprint on the environment.

Arlington’s real estate market is very tight. Ask Eli‘s posts shed light on this with his analytical insights. Because of this short supply of housing, more and more Arlingtonians are staying in their homes and renovating or expanding them to accommodate growing families.

Have you been thinking about a home renovation, expansion or new construction in 2020?

350 Arlingtonians have already used Green Home Choice, a FREE County program, to help you make your renovations, additions and new home projects healthier and more sustainable.

When buying a car, fuel efficiency and a comfortable ride are central considerations. Given the investment you make when renovating or building a new home, comfort and efficiency should be equally if not more important.

On average, a Green Home Choice home uses 50% less energy than Arlington homes of the same size and saves between $600 and $1600 per year on utility bills.

Green Home Choice also helps homeowners renovate their kitchens and bathrooms in a more sustainable way and offers a certification for participation.

Whether you are a homeowner, developer, architect or builder, Green Home Choice can help you rethink your next construction project to enhance the quality, value and overall sustainability of your home.

For more information about the program, visit the Green Home Choice Website at www.greenhomechoice.us or contact [email protected].

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