Arlington, VA

Arlington County may be moving forward with plans to build the long-awaited boathouse in Rosslyn, but some are wondering why a site at Gravelly Point wasn’t chosen instead.

National Park Service spokesman Aaron LaRocca tells ARLnow that Rosslyn was chosen because “it best meets the purpose and need statement in the [environmental assessment] to enhance waterfront access and provide a boathouse facility along the Virginia shore of the Potomac for non-motorized, water based recreation” better than Gravelly Point.

The County Board voted Tuesday to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign a programmatic agreement that ends NPS’ environmental assessment of the decades-long project. This means NPS can now start start designing the boathouse in consultation with the county government and other local stakeholders, LaRocca said.

The environmental assessment examined several alternative sites for the boat house, including Gravelly Point, just north of Reagan National Airport.

Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg argued Gravelly Point should have been chosen instead in a letter to the Board before the vote, citing the trees on the Rosslyn site at 2105 N. Lynn Street (formerly known as 1101 Lee Highway) that would need to be cut down. Sundburg also cited the “highly destructive dredging of 52,000 square feet of precious Potomac River wetlands” also needed.

LaRocca said that the Gravelly Point site was unsuitable from an environmental perspective because it lies within a floodplain, whereas the Rosslyn site does not.

In addition to better access to public transit, he added that the Rosslyn site is also “the preferred alternative” because the water is calmer, which would improve boater safety and allow for more days on the river as compared to the Gravelly Point location.

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement echoed Sundburg’s concerns Tuesday night, and added that the Rosslyn site would also require a parking lot and an access road to be built, whereas Gravelly Point already has parking and ready access to the GW Parkway.

“Gravelly Point was proposed to avoid potentially sensitive resources and reduce the amount of road infrastructure needed to access the site, compared to other locations along this part of the Potomac River,” says the NPS environmental assessment.

The 106-page study notes that Gravelly Point has turf grass, not trees, and existing parking facilities, but it also notes that wildlife like small rodents, fish, and birds were recorded in “statistically lower” amounts at the Rosslyn site than at Gravelly Point.

LaRocca said NPS recommended the Rosslyn site after weighing the environmental impact and service needs, along with other factors.

Board member Erik Gutshall said he expects improvements to the boathouse plan to be made in the next design phase, and that the current plan’s shortcomings were not a reason for the Board to reject “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Image 1 via County Board, Image 2 via National Park Service

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Morning Notes

Landmark Trees Felled During Storm — A well-known, historic oak tree near the Reevesland farmhouse, one of seventeen designated specimen trees on private property in Arlington, was among the trees that fell during yesterday’s storm. Trees were also downed in Arlington National Cemetery; one tree crushed a car. [Twitter, Twitter]

May 23 Storm vs. 2012 Derecho — “The ~36,000 Dominion customers without power in Arlington at the post-storm peak today is just over half the ~68,000 after the 2012 derecho.” [Twitter]

Rosslyn Trump HQ Rent Raises Questions — “President Trump was ‘thrilled’ that his campaign acquired northern Virginia office space at ‘bargain basement’ rates, a campaign official told the Washington Examiner in an interview in the plush 14th floor offices overlooking the Potomac River from Arlington, Va. But campaign finance specialists say the ‘steal’ could violate election law, which views below-market rates for rent as an illegal in-kind campaign donation.” [Washington Examiner]

Median Home Price in Arlington Up $100K — “Amazon’s impending move to Northern Virginia has had a significant impact on home list prices in Arlington County, a new analysis by online real estate platform Realtor.com finds. The median list price for a home there has grown 17 percent since last November.” [Curbed]

Amazon Employees Seeking Furnished Apartments — “Oakwood, which already managed a full Crystal City building at 505 18th St. South, recently extended its deal at the property for another five years, Eicholtz said. She said Oakwood is already seeing demand from Amazon employees, but it is not just coming in Crystal City.” [Bisnow]

Another County Board Contender — “Arlington resident Arron O’Dell has qualified to be on the ballot in the Nov. 5 County Board race. ‘My focus is on affordability. I will work to keep Arlington the place we enjoy living in now while controlling costs and taxes’ and ‘making the county more efficient and small-business friendly,’ O’Dell said on a nascent campaign website.” [InsideNova]

Police Chase Ends in Pentagon City — “Alexandria [Police] chased a robbery suspect on NB I-395… Chase reportedly ended at Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street near Pentagon City mall. Three suspects in custody.” [Twitter]

Senators Unveil Metro Funding Proposal — “Metro, which is about to undergo extensive summer track work, would receive $150 million a year for badly needed capital improvements under legislation outlined Thursday by U.S. senators from Virginia and Maryland.” [WTOP, Blue Virginia]

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(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) A reported wrong-way crash prompted the closure of Wilson Blvd at N. Rhodes Street, between Rosslyn and Courthouse.

A witness told ARLnow the driver of a blue SUV was driving in reverse down the street and struck several parked vehicles. A Metrobus was also struck.

Northbound N. Rhodes Street was also closed at Clarendon Blvd shortly after the crash. Rhodes and one lane of Wilson have since reopened as of 2:30 p.m.

Police placed the driver of the SUV in handcuffs after conducting a breathalyzer test. Open cans of beer could be seen inside the vehicle following the crash.

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Last night, the Arlington County Board denied developer Penzance permission to extend construction hours on a luxury condo project in Rosslyn.

The Board unanimously rejected the request to add an extra hour of work in the mornings, allowing crews to start at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, after dozens of residents testified about numerous problems they have already endured with the existing schedule.

Board member Katie Cristol introduced the motion denying the request during the Board’s Tuesday night meeting. While she appreciated Penzance’s desire to speed up its construction process, she couldn’t support “literally unprecedented” construction hours that would be, “an awfully extraordinary action given the resounding comments we’ve heard from the neighboring property owners.”

Cristol noted that the request would only shave a few weeks off the construction schedule, which is projected to wrap up in January 2020. Penzance is building a trio of high-rises on the 1500 block of Wilson Blvd — collectively dubbed The Highlands — with 884 luxury housing units and 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Dozens of residents of the Atrium Condominium building, which is located behind the development site, showed up to Tuesday’s meeting to voice their opposition to Penzance’s request.

“I apologize and thank the community on behalf of the county for what sounds like pure hell for some of you, and I can appreciate that that’s no fun,” said Board member Erik Gutshall, after listening to their testimony. “So stick with us. Nobody sell your unit. No one leave. We will get through this. It’s going to be a beautiful great place and I appreciate folks who can see past that.”

Susan Miller, a 30-year resident of the Atrium, said she has “never seen anything like the horror that this project has brought to this community that we are in,” citing noise and dust and dirt that permeate her balcony.

Another long time resident, Pendita Welch, said that the noise is so loud she has to take phone calls in her closet, and worried that vibrations could be causing her walls to crack.

“I live on the back of the building, and I am partially deaf,” said resident Kelly Davidson, who spoke through tears. “And I can tell you that the noise is loud enough, at nearly the top of the building, partially deaf, to wake me in a startle.”

Davidson told the Board she now has to take medication for frequent migraines.

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The Arlington County Board voted last night to advance long-awaited plans for a new public boathouse in Rosslyn.

Members unanimously voted to allow County Manager Mark Schwartz to sign an agreement with the National Park Service, which will allow the federal agency to end its environmental assessment of the project and kick off the design phase.

Board Chair Christian Dorsey said the vote “sets the stage” for the next steps in the process, which will be “subject to further testing and analysis.”

The current design plans call for a 14,000-square-foot boathouse and a 300-foot-long dock along with lockers and bathrooms in another building with parking and road access.

Prior to the vote, several residents expressed concerns that building on the proposed site at 1101 Lee Highway would lead to trees being cut down, among other environmental impacts that NPS also initially feared. Three residents asked why Gravelly Point could not be considered as an alternative location, but officials did not directly respond to the question.

Board member Erik Gutshall said the future design process will wrestle with many of those details, so there was no reason not to move forward with the “broad brush” of the project Tuesday night.

Some residents also expressed concern that the boathouse could “turn Key Bridge into a traffic nightmare during rush hour,” as independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement put it.

Environmental & Energy Conservation Commission member Claire O’Dea said the commission did not have an official recommendation to offer, but that “because of the likelihood of significant environmental impact” the group urged the County Board to involve all stakeholders throughout the development process.

Erik Meyers, Arlington resident and president of the Arlington Boathouse Foundation, said the foundation has brainstormed ways to build the boathouse “to sit as lightly as possible on the land and with respect to the river.” He added that signing the agreement would help “a community that has been long separated from its historic shoreline.”

Another resident said she’s travelled to the Georgetown boathouse for the last 12 years to row and would welcome a facility on the Virginia side of the Potomac.

“It would be fantastic to have facilities in Rosslyn,” she said. “It gives Arlington County residents and high school rowing programs closer and safer access to the river.”

The county has been in talks to build the boathouse for over 20 years. NPS’ environmental assessment began in 2012 but stalled soon after before being revived in 2016.

Images via Arlington County

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Update at 2 p.m. — Police have released additional details about the stabbing and the suspect. Per a press release:

The Arlington County Police Department has arrested and charged a suspect following a malicious wounding investigation at Gateway Park. Wondwossen Kassu, 40, of No Fixed Address was charged with three counts of Malicious Wounding and three counts of Unlawful Wounding in the Commission of a Felony. He is being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

At approximately 9:27 p.m. on May 21, police responded to the report of multiple stabbings in Gateway Park located at 1300 Lee Highway. Upon arrival, officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident. During the course of the investigation, officers located three male victims suffering from lacerations. The victims were transported to area hospitals and all are reported in stable condition.

Based on the preliminary investigation, it appears two of the victims were sitting at a table inside Gateway Park when the suspect approached them and initiated a conversation before producing a knife and stabbing the victims. The third victim was walking in the area when he came upon the initial assault. The suspect then turned his attention towards the third victim and stabbed him as well. Two victims were able to leave the scene to seek assistance. They were located by responding officers in the 1900 block of Fort Myer Drive and the 1800 block of N. Nash Street.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4243 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Earlier: Arlington County Police are investigating a reported stabbing spree in Rosslyn.

Initial reports suggest three people were stabbed in or near Rosslyn’s Gateway Park. Two people were seriously injured but expected to survive, while the other victim suffered minor injuries.

A police presence has been reported at Gateway Park, the Continental lounge, and Turnberry Tower. One of the victims ran to the bar and another to the condo building after being stabbed, leaving a trail of blood along the sidewalk, we’re told.

Eastbound Lee Highway and at least one lane of both N. Lynn Street and N. Nash Street were closed near the crime scene as a result of the investigation.

One suspect was in custody as of about 10:20 p.m., police said. An ACPD spokeswoman says the suspect in custody appears to have known at least one of the victims. There’s no word yet on a motive.

Police were still searching for other suspects with the assistance of the Fairfax County Police helicopter after the first suspect was detained, according to scanner traffic.

“One suspect is in custody and the investigation is ongoing to determine if any other individuals are involved,” said police spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

Separately, during the stabbing investigation, firefighters battled a reported townhouse fire on the 1400 block of N. Nash Street in Rosslyn, near the Iwo Jima memorial. The fire, on the roof of the townhomes, was quickly extinguished and did not extend to the interior of the building.

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WHAT: Rosslyn Putt-Putt + Candy BAR

WHERE: 1401 Wilson Blvd. (Corner of Oak St. + Wilson Blvd.)

WHEN: Fridays, 5-9 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., June 21-August 31

MORE INFO: www.rosslynva.org/putt

Playing mini golf at the beach or amusement park is one of the hallmarks of childhood.

Who doesn’t remember enjoying nine holes with their parents, siblings or elementary school friends? Maybe you marveled at the design of the course — watching your ball carve a path through colorful constructions, turning windmills, bridges, loops and complicated mazes?

Or maybe you got bored and restless after five holes and just wanted the ice cream or candy your parents always bought for you at the end?

Now, you can re-create this favorite summertime experience at Rosslyn Putt-Putt. From June 21 to August 31, the Rosslyn Business Improvement District (BID) will be partnering with Monday Properties and other generous collaborators to bring you this outdoor pop-up entertainment space that will include an indoor café/bar.

Aptly named the Candy BAR, the café will be a fun spot to hang out and chat while grabbing a drink and sweet treats with friends. The pop-up addresses the desire for more evening and weekend entertainment in the neighborhood that was identified through the Rosslyn BID’s most recent neighborhood perception survey.

“Our putt-putt will transform a piece of Rosslyn into a lively summer retreat,” says Mary-Claire Burick, president of the Rosslyn BID.”We hope our residents, employees, families and nearby communities will come out to enjoy the atmosphere we’ve created, which brings activity and fun to a new location. It’s very much in keeping with our placemaking strategy, which provides memorable and meaningful neighborhood experiences.”

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(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Firefighters have extinguished a fire at a townhouse on the 1500 block of N. Colonial Terrace in Rosslyn.

Fire department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant said the fire was under control around 1:10 p.m. and that no one was injured. He told ARLnow that the department is now investigating what sparked the flames.

Crews on scene began retracting the ladders and taking apart the hoses shortly afterwards.

At 12:55 p.m., first responders reported that the fire appeared to be contained to the building’s outdoor balcony, and that they were working on extinguishing it.

Crews entered the building at around 12:45 p.m. after firefighters reported seeing smoke upon arriving at the scene. A 911 caller, who O’Bryant said was a neighbor, described “flames coming out of a French window,” per scanner traffic.

Photo (1) via Arlington County Fire Department, (2) via Google Maps

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) It was clear skies for commuters this morning (Friday) celebrating Bike to Work Day.

The annual tradition encourages commuters to ditch their cars and ride their bikes to and from work. In Arlington, 10 pit stops and themed celebrations were sprinkled across the county.

The Bike to Work event at Rosslyn’s Gateway Park filled the park with spandex-clad cyclists mingling and expressing exuberance at the perfect weather. In the tight-knit community of cyclists, there were frequent reunions between riders throughout the park.

“It was a great ride today,” said Henry Dunbar, director of active transportation for Bike Arlington and a coordinator of the event. “This is about as ideal as it gets.”

Dunbar said the event caters to the one-third of riders who are first-time bicycle commuters. Dunbar said the goal is to teach them about bicycle safety and encourage them to make bicycle commuting a daily habit.

For new riders, Dunbar said the best thing to do is find a more experienced rider and tag along with them.

“Ride with experienced cyclists,” Dunbar said. “All the brochures in the world aren’t as good as someone guiding you through that one tricky intersection on your way into work.”

Dunbar nodded over to the N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway intersection — a crossing regularly packed with cyclists, pedestrians and cars. The crowding is exacerbated by construction around the intersection that’s part of the Custis Trail improvements — construction Dunbar said is likely to continue for another full year.

Several bicycling-focused organizations had stands set up in Rosslyn to help encourage a car-free lifestyle. Robert Santana attended on behalf of the Arlington Car-Free Diet campaign and distributed information about the impending Metro closures.

“I was worried we’d be talking mostly to people who were already car-free,” Santana said, “but people have seemed really interested.”

Tents were set up around the park, with businesses like Nando’s Peri-Peri offering free meals or other local organizations offering bicycle-specific services.

“Today has been fantastic,” said Bruce Deming, a “bike lawyer” who specializes in representing injured cyclists. “There’s a huge crowd, just tremendous turnout. I’m proud to be a part of this event.”

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(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) New renderings show one of the three luxury condo buildings being built in Rosslyn.

The Pierce is part of the Highlands development of three high-rise housing buildings on 1555 Wilson Blvd, which is slated to include 884 luxury housing units and 40,000 square feet of retail space when it’s completed.

At 27 stories tall, the Pierce will include a total of 104 one-, two-, and three-bedroom condominium residences, according to a spokeswoman for the developer Penzance. The size of the units range between 1,266 to 2,403 square feet.

The project originally faced opposition for replacing what was once recreational space and Arlington Fire Station 10. In exchange, Penzance pledged to build a new fire station on the ground floor of the new development, along with a landscaped public plaza and an extension of N. Pierce Street to 18th Street — a deal the county accepted in 2016.

A new 360-tour using renderings of the luxury units in the Pierce building show 10-foot ceilings, quartz countertops, and windows facing the Potomac or Rosslyn. A spokeswoman added that bathrooms in the units will have heated floors.

Other renderings show such building amenities as a gym, pool, and rooftop space for residents. In total, the building offers 2,250 square feet of outdoor amenity space, and an additional 8,600 square feet of shared amenity space when you include the rooftop pool in the adjacent Evo building.

The project recently generated some controversy after the developer asked the County Board to extend permitted construction hours by one hour in the mornings, to 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. weekends, through the end of the year. The developer previously said the project is slated to finish in 2021.

Some in the area are unhappy with the proposed extended hours.

“This will be disruptive to all in the area, including businesses, residents, and the already increasing traffic issues,” one tipster told ARLnow. “I also want to note that this is yet another time Arlington County Board shows a disregard for the community in the area.”

The County Board is scheduled to vote on the new hours during a meeting this Saturday. The item is currently included in the meeting’s consent agenda, which is typically reserved for matters expected to pass without debate.

Images courtesy of Neoscape

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Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on the latest step in the decades-long plan to build a Rosslyn boathouse.

On Saturday, members are set to consider a “programmatic agreement” to build a boathouse at 1101 Lee Highway in Rosslyn, which would allow non-motorized boats like kayaks to launch into the Potomac from Arlington’s shore.

The county purchased land south of the Key Bridge in 2014 to help hasten the permitting process with the National Park Service, which is overseeing the project.

County spokeswoman Jennifer Smith said this agreement, if approved, would bring the country one paddle closer to a boathouse:

The Programmatic Agreement is a routine element of the environmental review process and reflects the intent of National Park Service and the various regional parties involved in development of the project to cooperate in implementing it. The Board vote is required to authorize the County Manager to sign the agreement. This administrative step, if approved by the Board and by other regional entities, would allow for the National Park Service’s Environmental Assessment to be completed. Completing the EA is an important next step in the project’s timeline. A public process for development of the boathouse would be established separately.

A copy of the design plans shared in a staff report to the Board call for:

  • a 14,000-square-foot boat storage house that’s designed to be flood-resistant
  • a 300-foot-long dock for non motorized boats (like kayaks)
  • a building for bathrooms, locker rooms, educational rooms, and offices
  • an ADA-compliant parking area
  • a 300-foot-long emergency vehicle access lane

“The Arlington County and Vicinity Boathouse project is included in the Adopted Fiscal Years (FY) 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which envisions $500,000 in FY 2022 for development of the management model and formulation of the long-term use arrangement and $2.245 million in FY 2026 for the final design of the Boathouse project,” the staff report says.

It’s been almost 25 years since the “boathouse task force” formed to propose the idea, but the project didn’t gain momentum until 2012 when the National Park Service began studying potential environmental impacts. The study was put on hold several times, before resuming in 2016.

At the time, the Park Service worried about how construction could affect flood plains along the river, as well as species that called the waterway home.

In this week’s staff report, a resolution says that the Park Service determined that the boathouse could “have a direct adverse effect on the George Washington Memorial Parkway Historic District and an indirect adverse effect on Theodore Roosevelt Island.” However, it approved going forward provided the following steps were taken to reduce impact:

  1. Restricting and minimizing ground and vegetation disturbance during construction, including limiting tree removal.
  2. Minimizing the size of construction equipment and using minimally invasive construction methods.
  3. Developing a “light on the land” facility with a minimal footprint and massing that is in scale with the surrounding landscape.
  4. Limiting the depth of excavation to avoid disturbing any unknown archeological resources below the depth of previous testing.
  5. Keeping a 50-100 foot area of protection around known archeological sites where heavy equipment is not allowed to help avoid compression/compaction.
  6. Applying avoidance and minimization strategies to staging and storage areas as well.

The project has many fans in the county’s rowing community, which recently banded together to reinforce their support for the water sport after APS threatened to cut the high school teams from the county’s budget.

The Arlington Boathouse Foundation writes on its website that although the county was among the first to introduce rowing teams to its high schools, teams for many years have had to launch crew boats out of D.C. “The George Washington Memorial Parkway severed Arlington’s access to its own shoreline,” the foundation notes.

Since the D.C. boathouse serves multiple jurisdictions, accessing those facilities can be tricky.

“Some area boathouses have a two- to three-year waiting list for membership and an additional waiting list for storage space for a single scull,” the National Park Service wrote on its website about the Rosslyn plan.

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