Arlington Native Murdered in California — Christopher Wrenn, an Arlington native, was shot to death in a San Jose, California office park last week. The motive for the shooting remains a mystery, but two of the three suspects have since been shot and killed by police. Wrenn, a Washington-Lee High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran, was noted for having a big personality and always having a story to tell — like how he was baby-sat by actress Sandra Bullock as a kid. [San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, CBS Bay Area]
Arlington Little League Memories — The local little league used to keep statistics on each player, and “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark recently dug up some of those records. Among the batting averages of some notable Arlingtonians are .172 for CNBC managing editor and anchor Tyler Mathisen, .212 for Italian Store owner Bobby Tramonte and .290 for Clark himself. [Falls Church News-Press]
Renovations at Nam Viet — Long-time Clarendon restaurant Nam Viet is undergoing some renovations this week. A sign in the window says the eatery at 1127 N. Hudson Street will reopen Monday, Aug. 24.
Hat tip to Benjamin M. Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi.
The funding for the half-finished renovations to the Lyon Park Community Center may be in jeopardy.
In November of 2014, the Lyon Park Citizens Association voted to take out a $600,000 line of credit from Cardinal Bank to help fund the $1.2 million renovations. The vote was almost evenly split, with those who opposed the motion saying they were concerned about the park and community center being used as collateral to obtain the loan.
Now, the resulting legal wrangling over the loan has resulted in a ruling that will prevent it from being issued, at least as originally planned.
When the LPCA approved the motion to take out a line of credit, a group of seven residents referred to in court documents as the “Concerned Lyon Park Beneficiaries” opposed the petition in court. Their concerns were outlined in a flyer circulated to the community.
The opposition, filed Nov. 7 2014, states that the residents in question feel the Board encumbered the park “under imprudent conditions,” and that the residents “have reasonable and legal concerns regarding the ability of the community to re-pay this sizeable loan, and the resulting ramifications of a loan default.”
(Encumber is a legal term meaning that the property was placed in position where more than one party had a valid legal claim on it; if the park were used as collateral for a loan, both Cardinal Bank and the Lyon Park community would have valid claims.)
Another court document pertaining to the case dated July 30, 2014, states that “recently two trustees [of Lyon Park] resigned because each refused to sign documents pertaining to a $600,000 bank loan for a planned renovation of the community house. The appointment of successor trustees is far from a routine appointment.”
Since its inception in 1925, Lyon Park has had trustees appointed by the community to hold the deed to the park on behalf of all residents. When a loan is taken out for the park, the trustees have been the ones to sign the documents. Court documents also state that the park has been put up as collateral for a loan at least twice before, in 1925 for $2,500 and 1927 for $3,000.
Circuit Court judge Jonathan Thacher ruled last month that the latest loan was improperly filed. While the decision doesn’t prohibit the Board of Governors from using the park as collateral for a loan, that option is effectively closed to the community because at least one of the seven residents who challenged the Board’s decision in court indicated that he or she would also oppose any future filings, thus imposing burdensome legal costs, according to Lyon Park Community Center Chair Jeannette Wick.
“We are going to exclusively pursue options that don’t involve encumbering the park,” said Wick. “We’d like to go forward without further litigation — we could end up tied up in court forever.”
After the judge ruled, Wick said the Board came up with a table of options which included:
- Raising enough money that a loan would not be required.
- Working with Cardinal Bank to find a way to borrow without encumbering the park.
- Stopping construction completely.
According to Wick, with more than half a million dollars still required for renovations, the first option is unrealistic even with neighbors’ “incredible generosity.” The second option is still being explored, but is proving difficult because thus far Cardinal Bank has insisted on collateral. Wick described the third option as undesirable for several reasons.
“It would be bad for the neighborhood, it’s costly to stop construction and having an unfinished building on our property creates an attractive nuisance for thefts and squatters,” said Wick. “Right now, we’re searching for some sort of happy medium between option one and option three.”
Wick estimates residents have donated about $500,000 towards the project thus far, including roughly $85,000 since June 1.
“Everyone that I have talked to has been united in the view that ‘It’s halfway done, we need to move forward,'” said Wick. “If you look at the donation map, giving has been robust throughout the community — this isn’t a project where it’s a one-man show or only a few people want it.”
Kevin Baer, a resident who opposed putting the park up as collateral, said that he and other concerned residents “look forward to continuing to work together in the neighborhood to find a prudent way forward.”
The renovations to the center, currently in progress, include making the building ADA compliant, adding a sun room, and improving the kitchen and bathrooms.
Shirlington Movie Theater to Renovate — The AMC Lowes Shirlington 7 movie theater will be undergoing a “complete renovation” this year, starting as soon as July. The theater will be getting reclining leather seats, like the AMC theater in Courthouse, plus a new concession area with beer and wine and new bathrooms. [Washington Business Journal]
Downed Trees, Wires in Arlington — On Sunday morning a tree fell on Old Dominion Drive, bringing wires down with it, causing power outages and and closing the road for hours. On Sunday night, an accident on Wilson Blvd caused downed wires and the closure of Wilson from N. Illinois to N. Jefferson Street. [WTOP]
Candidates: Lack of Diversity at Top County Ranks — Candidates for Arlington County Board spoke about the lack of diversity among top county staff last week, at a forum sponsored by the African-American Leadership Council of Arlington. The County Board has little direct involvement in the hiring of county staff, save the Board’s hiring of and direction to the County Manager. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Arlington School Board approved the design and construction schedule of the school’s capacity expansion at its meeting last night, paving the way for the $5 million project to begin work this summer.
The exterior of the building will, for the most part, remain unchanged. Much of the work will go to re-outfitting classrooms to expand their capacity, adding lockers, shifting around offices and ensuring each room is being used to accommodate the greatest capacity possible. When completed, the school’s capacity will grow to 2,200 from its current 1,900-seat capacity.
“I think it’s a great use of our resources, and I know we’re looking forward to doing the same thing at the high schools as well as the other secondary schools, and to the extent possible, all of the schools in Arlington so we could maximize every space,” School Board member Nancy Van Doren said. “And I know there are a lot of people very excited about this design and this renovation.”
So far, there is no timeline in the Capital Improvements Plan for the capacity measures to begin at the other high schools.
The modification will add a science lab on the second floor of the building, install room dividers to create more flexible space, add teacher workrooms and expand lunchtime capacity in the school’s concourse and courtyard.
In addition to the measures to increase capacity, the school’s technological capability is getting a boost. The project aims to strengthen the school’s WiFi signal, install charging stations for devices, and install electronic pads outside rooms that will display each room’s schedule.
Arlington Public Schools will put the project out to bid at the beginning of May. June 22, when the school year ends, is when construction is expected to start. While the interior of the schools is getting its multimillion facelift, the artificial turf on the outside will be getting one of its own.
Photo via Google Maps
Police Answer Resident Questions About Murder — Arlington County Police held a community meeting in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood last night to answer questions about the murder of Bonnie Black. Police said that Black was stabbed in the chest and neck. Officers have been conducting extra patrols but police say no immediate danger to the community. Meanwhile, it was revealed that police are searching the home of Black’s estranged husband, who so far is not being named as a suspect. [MyFoxDC, WTOP]
Judge Considering Deaf Inmate’s Suit — A federal court judge is considering testimony in the lawsuit against the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office by a deaf inmate who says he was denied access to an American Sign Language interpreter during a jail stay last year. [Associated Press]
TDM For APS Teachers — Arlington County has launched the first transportation demand management (TDM) program in the U.S. for public school faculty and staff. The program is “aimed at reducing the drive-alone rate of the more than 5,000 employees of Arlington Public Schools (APS), one of the top employers in the county.” [Mobility Lab]
No ‘Bells and Whistles’ for Lubber Run — Arlington County is in the early stages of a plan to renovate the Lubber Run Community Center (300 N. Park Drive), but the officials are already tamping down any expectations of gold-plated features. “We’re not going to build everyone’s wish list,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes on Tuesday. A community forum about the renovation project is scheduled for next Wednesday at 6:30 at the community center. [InsideNova]
Arlington Native Named People’s ‘Most Beautiful’ — Actress Sandra Bullock, a 1982 graduate of Washington-Lee High School, has been named People Magazine’s Most Beautiful Woman of 2015. [Patch]
Photo courtesy @TheBeltWalk
Chicken Restaurant’s Name Goes National — ARLnow.com’s story about Chingon Pollo, the new chicken restaurant in Buckingham with a potentially vulgar name, has gone national. Last night it was picked up by the Jezebel sub-blog Kitchenette. While our most likely translation of the name — there are a number of potential translations — was “f-ckload of chicken,” Kitchenette translated it as “top f-cker chicken.” Meanwhile, in order to not run “a fowl” of authorities, the restaurant has officially changed its name to “Charcoal Chicken.” [Kitchenette]
New Burial Sites at ANC to Open Next Year — Arlington National Cemetery will open more than 27,000 new burial sites next year, as part of its Millennium Project expansion initiative. Local environmentalists and preservationists protested the expansion. [U.S. Army]
Crowdsourced Bike Rack Map — Arlington County is launching a free crowdsourced map of places to park one’s bicycle. RackSpotter, as it’s called, will rely on users to contribute information on the location and size of bike racks. [Bike Arlington]
Marymount to Buy Portable Planetarium — Marymount University has completed fundraising for a new portable planetarium. The planetarium, which is set up in a tent, will be brought to schools in Arlington, Fairfax and a number of other local counties. [InsideNova]
Crystal House Renovations — Roseland, the owner of the Crystal House apartments in Crystal City, says it’s embarking on a multi-phase renovation of the 828-unit complex. The renovations will spruce up the main lobby, grounds, pool, community common areas and the apartments themselves. “New state-of-the-art washers and dryers are being added to each building’s studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments,” according to a press release. “Further, full renovations to approximately half of the community’s 828 apartments will include upgraded kitchens with new appliances, upgraded fixtures and finishes in the bathrooms, and new flooring throughout.” A PR rep declined to say how much the renovations will cost.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Arlington County is planning renovations at Tuckahoe Park (2400 N. Sycamore Street).
The county’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has scheduled an open house later this month to discuss the plans and solicit community feedback. The open house will take place from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 26 in the Tuckahoe Elementary School library.
The parks department says the renovations, planned for 2016, will focus on the park’s two softball fields.
“Renovations include the spectator and players’ bench areas, bullpens and batting cages, and improved access to the fields for people with disabilities,” the department said in an email. In addition, the renovations will allow the combined natural turf outfields of the two softball diamonds to be used as a soccer field.
A separate, previous improvement project for Tuckahoe Park’s playground was approved by the County Board in 2013.
The former Blanca’s Restaurant at 2900 Columbia Pike may be getting a makeover in an attempt to attract a new restaurant tenant.
The aging, two-story structure sits on the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, dwarfed by the adjacent Halstead apartment building. It has been vacant for years, despite the high-profile location across from the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse.
In recent years, the building has been toured a couple of times by potential tenants, including the owners of a popular north Arlington coffee shop and gathering spot, but the poor condition of the interior and other expensive challenges have been viewed as obstacles to opening in the space.
Now, we’re told, the siblings who own the building are planning to renovate in order to jump start the process of finding a tenant. Since December, Ramon and William Darcey have been applying for various building, electrical and other permits. So far, most of those permit applications have been rejected.
The permits detail ambitious plans to renovate the interior, expand the second floor, install an exterior staircase, set up a rooftop seating area near the rear of the building and remove landscaping in order to install ground-level outdoor seating. In September, the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board was briefed on the plans and offered design suggestions for keeping potentially historic elements of the Spanish Revival-style building in tact.
The building and property was assessed at $765,200 for 2015. Several “for lease” signs have already been placed outside the building and inside its windows.
Officials from Simon Property Group on Thursday previewed the big changes coming to the company’s Fashion Centre at Pentagon City mall.
The holiday-themed event featured Santa Claus, taking a break from photos with children to read a renovation “wish list,” and a tile-smashing photo opportunity dubbed “wreck the halls,” complete with candy cane-wrapped sledgehammers.
Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey was among those to ceremonially smash the mall’s surprisingly-difficult-to-break tiles.
The $70+ million renovation and expansion project is already underway and is expected to run through 2016. Among the changes coming to the mall:
- An additional 52,000 square feet of space for five stores and restaurants, located at what is now the mall’s main entrance off S. Hayes Street (estimated completion: spring 2016)
- Outdoor seating for the restaurants in the expansion (new retailers and restaurants to be announced spring 2015)
- Two new glass-enclosed elevators, replacing the existing single elevator (estimated completion: January 2015)
- Additional escalator banks from the Metro level to the ground level (estimated completion: July 2015)
- New lighting, tile, handrails, columns and interior details (estimated completion: July 2015)
- A new valet parking area
The mall’s popular food court — said to be the most successful food court company-wide thanks to its status as an “international tourist destination,” frequented by literal busloads of meal-seeking tourists — will be getting new seating, designed to make it feel less like a “cafeteria.”
The newly-configured food court will seat 750. Its chairs will include padded seats.
Also coming to the mall will be a new burger restaurant and a new chicken restaurant. Simon officials would not reveal the names of the restaurants.
There were, however, two retail announcements made on Thursday. The high-end women’s shoe company Stuart Weitzman is planning to open at the mall this coming spring, and high-end watch retailer Tourneau, which suffered a high-profile robbery last year, is expanding to a 3,000 square foot location on the ground floor in the spring.
The announcements are in keeping with the Fashion Centre’s goal of attracting more higher-end, fashion-forward retailers.
The mall is also adding some technological flare, with a new public WiFi system expected to be switched on around the turn of the new year, and cell phone charging stations planned.
The mall received its last round of major renovations in 1989.
Last night, 265 Lyon Park residents attended a meeting of the Lyon Park Citizens Association — a record, according to LPCA President John Goldener — to vote on whether the community center should take out a $600,000 line of credit to help fund the renovation.
Put up as collateral for the bank: the park and community center itself.
After a spirited debate, 121 voted to let the Lyon Park Community Center Board of Governors take out the line of credit, with 114 voting to proceed with the renovations, funded only by donations. The LPCA has been fundraising for five years, according to treasurer Bill Anhut, but they have raised $450,000, far from the organization’s goal.
“It’s been apparent the costs were going to come in higher than we expected, and fundraising was lagging because the process was taking so long,” Anhut said. The LPCA has been discussing renovating the Lyon Park Community House, built in 1925, for more than a decade. “People were wondering if we were ever going to get to the point where we put the shovel in the ground.”
A group of residents has circulated a flyer in the last month asking residents to vote in the motion against taking out the line of credit. The flyer reads, in part:
“Repaying the loan will cost $680,000-$800,000, primarily from new donations, from YOU or else LYON PARK COULD BE LOST TO FORECLOSURE … the community center risks default and the bank could take over operations.”
Goldener said that scenario is “impossible.” In the deed to the park and community center — which is owned by the LPCA, meaning it’s owned by the residents of the neighborhood — it is stated that the property can only ever be a park and community center, Goldener said. Cardinal Bank, which approved the line of credit, knows that and has no intention of foreclosing.
Even if the LPCA can’t repay the loan, Anhut said, a few residents have volunteered to be guarantors on the loan, meaning if something changes with LPCA leadership and the association decides to stop making payments, the residents would step in to cover the expenses.
The only reason the bank asked for collateral, Anhut said, was to protect its investment and prevent the LPCA from getting more money from another bank.
“The bank proceeded with the loan and understands they can’t look to the property to satisfy any default,” Anhut said. “The bank knows that if they were to foreclose on this property, the deed has a stipulation that it will forever remain a park. It cannot be changed.”
The flyer passed out also suggests undergoing a more modest renovation with the cash on hand, asking “why can’t a sunroom be built in a second phase?”
Goldener dismissed the notion that the renovations are more than the facility needs.
“There’s a misperception that the cost of this is a gold-plated facility and it’s not,” he said. “The reason it’s expensive is because we have to do completely redo all the plumbing, electrical, ADA accessible entry, exits and handicapped bathrooms, and the kitchen’s a commercial kitchen, so all of the costs are essentially triple what they would be for a home renovation.”
Goldener said the community has run a number of financial models, and the LPCA anticipates “easily” paying back the sum of the loan, with interest, within 10 years. The citizens association will also continue to fundraise during the renovations, and the organization will only dip into the line of credit when it runs out of cash on hand, Anhut said. When the renovations are complete, donations and rental fees will combine to go toward paying back the credit.
Lyon Park is holding a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovations on Saturday, Nov. 22, at 4:00 p.m. The community center is located at 414 N. Fillmore Street. The renovations are expected be complete by next summer
Photo courtesy John Goldener
Property Assessments Expected to Rise — Arlington property owners may be on the hook for $330 to $440 in additional taxes next year, if rates stay the same. That’s because initial estimates suggest that assessments of single-family homes and condos in Arlington County will rise 8 percent and 5 percent, respectively. [Washington Post]
New Construction Coming to DCA — Reagan National Airport will be getting a new regional jet concourse, a new parking garage and larger security screening areas, as part of a just-approved $1 billion capital construction program. Security screening will be relocated to the ticketing level, which will open up the “National Hall” shopping and dining area to all security-screened passengers. The airport served 20.4 million passengers in 2013, a figure that’s expected to rise to 22 million soon. [MWAA, Greater Greater Washington]
County to Receive Breastfeeding Program Grant — Arlington County is set to receive a nearly $30,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Health to support a breastfeeding counselor program for lower-income residents. [Arlington County]
APS Thanks Voters for School Bond — The Arlington School Board is thanking Arlington voters for approving this year’s $105.78 million school bond. Among the six projects to receive bond funding are $50 million for either a new elementary school or two elementary school additions, $29 million for an addition and renovation to Abingdon Elementary, and $5 million for improvements at Washington-Lee High School that will add 300 seats. [Arlington Public Schools]
Cold, Snowy Winter Outlook — This winter is expected to be colder and snowier than usual, according to forecasters. [Capital Weather Gang]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Built in 1988, 4401 N. Fairfax Dr. will receive upgrades to its offices, hallways and lobby, according to Jackson Prentice, vice president of developer MRP Realty. The renovations to the eight-story, 144,000-square-foot building will aim to create “open space, with a more modern feel,” he said.
“The whole building will feel brand new,” Prentice said. “The work will bring the building to a better prominence.”
The FWS moved out of 4301, 4401 and 4501 N. Fairfax Dr. in July and August after the General Services Administration announced last September that the headquarters would be moved to Falls Church. Under the government’s base realignment and closure plan, or BRAC, the GSA estimated moving to 5275 Leesburg Pike would save the government more than $3.8 million annually for 15 years, a news release said.
Pre-leasing on 4401 N. Fairfax Dr. has begun, Prentice said, with work expected to be complete by spring or summer 2015.
The office vacancy rate in Ballston was 16 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to figures from the real estate company CoStar cited by Arlington Economic Development. This was an increase from 14.7 percent last year. The overall office vacancy rate for the county was 20.4 percent in the second quarter of 2014, up from 16.4 percent last year, the figures state.
Representatives for the other two ex-FWS buildings did not immediately respond to inquiries.
It’s arguably the most recognizable office building in Clarendon, and it’s currently vacant.
The office building at 3100 Clarendon Blvd, across from the Clarendon Metro plaza, was built in 1987 and, until recently, housed the high-security Defense Intelligence Agency. Now that the DIA has moved to Reston, property owner Piedmont Office Realty Trust is reportedly planning exterior and interior renovations to the building in an attempt to attract new tenants to fill its 250,000 square feet of space.
The renovations will include adding more glass to the building — on the second floor, above the ground floor retail that runs along the entire block, and down the middle of each side of the tower, according to an individual familiar with the plans who spoke to ARLnow.com on the condition of anonymity. Also set for a refresh: the street-level courtyard that currently includes outdoor seating for Mad Rose Tavern.
The exact plans and timeline for the renovations are not clear — a representative of the leasing agent, Avison Young, declined to comment, saying that additional information would be made available within “the next few weeks.”
Oakgrove Park (1606 N. Quincy Street) is slated to get a new entrance, a new trail and other features.
The park, at the southern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood, has a bit of a visibility problem — it’s not very noticeable from street level. A new entry feature is designed to help, with an artificial, metal tree holding a sculpture of an owl and a sign that says “Oakgrove Park.”
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on a contract for $488,915 with a $48,891 contingency to construct the new entrance on 17th Street N. along with a new circular walking/jogging path on the park’s perimeter, benches, bleachers and bike racks.
The 3.51-acre park’s grass field is planned to be replaced in a separate project, and that work brings the total cost to Oakgrove Park improvements to about $680,000, paid for with 2012 and 2014 pay-as-you-go funds.
The new entrance will give park visitors increased access to the gazebo and “tot lot,” and will have improved ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility to the walking trail. There are several mature trees lining the perimeter of the park, and Arlington County Parks and Recreation staff said in their staff report that the trail was designed to have minimal impact to the existing trees.
Photo via Google Maps
The AKA Virginia Square extended stay hotel is undergoing a conversion into a condominium building and plans to open this fall.
The building, at 3409 Wilson Blvd, was purchased by Bethesda-based The Goldstar Group. The company has rebranded the building as Arc 3409, saying it will featuer “luxury condos.” The sale went through this spring, and by May the hotel was no longer taking reservations as it prepared to close.
Goldstar Senior Vice President Eric May said the company plans to open the building in mid-September, and to start sending out information about asking prices and individual units later this summer. May said the prices for the 85 units in the building have yet to be determined.
The renovations, May said, include replacing floors, kitchens and re-fitting the units. No structural work needed to be done, he said, because the building, built in 2008, was originally intended to be condominiums before it was sold to become, essentially, a short-term rental apartment building.
“The building itself is very different from Arlington standard,” May said. “It’s not brick box. It’s got angles, curves, glass and it’s a cool building. The units themselves are cool units, some of them have floor-to-ceiling glass and most of them have balconies. It’s more of cutting-edge D.C. design than you typically see in Arlington.”
The building is two blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station, but the location and the appeal of the unusual building were just part of the equation for Goldstar’s purchase.
“There is a huge lack of supply of new or any condos in Arlington right now,” May said. “There’s very little to no new product, so we saw an opportunity to bring to market effectively new condominiums at prices that are going to be competitive.”