(Updated at 5 p.m.) Proposed infill development for the RiverHouse site in Pentagon City is coming into focus with more renderings from the developer.
Reprising long-envisioned intentions to redevelop the expansive property, JBG Smith filed plans last year proposing apartments, senior housing, condos and townhomes on the surface parking lots on the RiverHouse site. Existing apartment towers will stay and more units within them will be set aside for affordable housing.
Arlington County has yet to officially accept JBG Smith’s application, a step that would kick off a formal community engagement and review process, which the developer anticipates will culminate in Arlington County Board review by the end of 2023.
On Thursday, more than 100 residents, neighbors, other community stakeholders attended an open house, in which JBG Smith shared renderings showing how it proposes shorter and fewer buildings than what is allowed in the Pentagon City Sector Plan, a document guiding decades of development in the area.
“As our design team has developed our plans for the RiverHouse Neighborhood, we have benefited from the active participation and input from existing residents, neighbors, and other community stakeholders,” JBG Smith said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to collaborate in the coming months as we advance a shared vision for our neighborhood.”
After the meeting, residents tell ARLnow they are hoping for more collaboration to improve “livability” on the site and in the surrounding area, through more community benefits and supporting infrastructure, per the Arlington Ridge Civic Association President Kateri Garcia and the local group Dense That Makes Sense.
“How do we know the infrastructure in place is going to be enough to meet the demand of all these additional people?” Garcia said. “What are the benefits we most need in this area? … We already have a community center and library that is out of date. How can we use the investment to improve those facilities to right-size them for the future population?”
Some Arlington Ridge residents welcome, for instance, the lower heights. Before the Arlington County Board adopted the sector plan in February 2022, some residents rallied against the height maximums the plan would allow on the RiverHouse site, potentially blocking the skyline view some enjoy in the condos and homes that line Arlington Ridge Road.
“The October 2022 plan is a more reasonable plan than what Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) proposed in its Pentagon City Sector Plan that was accepted by the County Board at its February 12, 2022 meeting,” according to Dense That Makes Sense, a group of residents who organized on this issue.
That said, the group said it does not endorse the 2022 plan, nor does it necessarily endorse plans JBG Smith put forward in 2019, which it says is the best of the three visions for the site. It argues that further study of the site is needed to figure out what supporting infrastructure is needed before JBG Smith moves forward.
The weather may be windy and cold today, but it was sunny and more spring-like on Friday for the opening of a local retirement community’s famed daffodil garden.
A number of local officials attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Culpepper Garden community for low-income seniors, located in the Buckingham neighborhood at 4435 N. Pershing Drive.
Among the officials were County Board Chair Katie Cristol, County Board member Libby Garvey, County Manager Mark Schwartz, and state Senator Barbara Favola. They were joined by Arlington first responders, who helped to cut the ribbon on the spring garden, which features some 33,000 flowers in bloom, according to Culpepper Garden.
The garden was renovated and expanded during the pandemic and is tended to by a mix of volunteers, professional gardeners and staff.
A press release about the event is below.
Update at 8:35 a.m. — The missing woman has been “safely located,” police say.
Earlier: Police are searching for a “critically missing” 89-year-old woman from Arlington.
A statewide Virginia Senior Alert has been issued for Mary Smith, who was last seen last night on S. Arlington Ridge Road near Pentagon City.
More from police:
The Arlington County Police Department is seeking the public’s assistance locating a critically missing Arlington woman. Ms. Mary Francis Smith, was last seen at approximately 8:30 p.m. on December 28 in the 1100 block of S. Arlington Ridge Road.
Ms. Smith is described as a White female, 89 years old, 5’4″, with short, dark hair, wearing a grey and blue striped shirt, grey jeans, and maroon leather boots. She is considered critically missing due to mental and/or physical health concerns.
Anyone with information on her whereabouts is asked to contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 or 9-1-1 in an emergency.
#Virginia Senior Alert ACTIVATION: @ArlingtonVaPD searching for Mary Frances Smith, 89. Last seen 12/28/21 at 9:30 PM on S. Arlington Ridge Dr. in #Arlington. Call 911 or the Arlington County Police Department at 703-558-2222. @VaDOTNOVA @ArlingtonVA pic.twitter.com/T0SWX4xN6E
— VA State Police (@VSPPIO) December 29, 2021
Charges Dropped Against TikToker — Charges of violating an emergency protective order were dropped earlier this week against Coco Briscoe, the local TikTok personality whose accusations against a pair of local bars and their employees went viral on the video app. A judge previously ended the order, which Briscoe was accused of violating, citing a lack of physical threats. In the comments of one of her videos this week, Briscoe threatened to sue ARLnow for defamation for our coverage of her case. [Twitter, TikTok]
Buyer for Ballston Health Tech Company? — “Evolent Health Inc. saw its share price shoot up Wednesday after Bloomberg reported Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., the Illinois holding company that owns pharmacy chain Walgreens, is considering a purchase of the Arlington health system consultancy.” [Washington Business Journal]
Grand Opening for Fire Station No. 10 — “This morning we held our grand opening ceremony for new fire station 10 in @RosslynVA. This fire station provides modern accommodations for our firefighters and allows us to serve our community for decades to come. We are grateful to all who came out to share in this special day.” [Twitter, Patch]
Grant for Local Senior Program — “The Arlington Neighborhood Villages program has received a $30,000 grant from the Community Care Corps to support its mission to help older adults in Arlington age in place while staying connected with the community. The funding will assist the social-safety-net organization in partnering with Culpepper Garden and the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to bring services to residents of their apartment communities.” [Sun Gazette]
How Local Nonprofits Faced the Pandemic — “The new report, Safety Net Arlington: rising together to meet historic needs for our community, is told through the voices of the 21 nonprofit leaders in Safety Net Arlington and through the lens of how they worked collaboratively with each other and the County to face unprecedented levels of need through the first 18 months of the pandemic and the economic and racial justice crises.” [Arlington Community Foundation]
New Gym Open in Bailey’s Xroads — “Gold’s Gym is now open at 5718 Columbia Pike in Bailey’s Crossroads. There will be a grand opening on Oct. 9, noon-1 p.m., with a ribbon-cutting, food, membership deals, free classes, and prizes for members, including those who sign up on that day. The gym has relocated from its former location on Carlin Springs Road to the former HHGregg store.” [Annandale Blog]
Seniors at a pair of local retirement communities are helping seniors at Wakefield High School.
A new pilot program launched last month pairing seniors at Wakefield High School with residents from Goodwin House Alexandria and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads in an effort to help the students complete their senior projects.
The students and residents meet virtually twice a week. The residents assist the students with finishing their senior project, a year-long research and writing project required for graduation.
Most of the Wakefield students in the program (currently, there are six) come from non-English speaking backgrounds, say Zoe Marcuse of Communities in Schools, a non-profit organization partnering on the program.
“A lot of our students in the English Language Learning Program were kind of struggling to find a mentor or someone to assist in such a big project,” Marcuse says. “[They] often have a hard time finding a mentor due to language barriers and busy work schedules.”
That’s how Meredith and Doug Wade were paired with Muhammad Ahsan.
The Wades were long-time residents of Arlington before moving a few miles down the road to Goodwin House Alexandria. They are on the outreach committee at the retirement community and when this program was presented to them, they knew they could help.
“We are parents of four now-adult kids, so we’ve been through a lot of senior projects,” says Meredith Wade. “We also just want to feel in some very small way… that we’re making a contribution in helping to make our community more welcoming.”
Ahsan moved to Arlington from Pakistan in 2016 with his family. He says he started school two weeks after moving here and it was incredibly challenging.
“I literally only knew how [to say] ‘how are you?’ and ‘thank you,” says Ahsan. “I didn’t understand the other kids. When the teacher talked, I didn’t know what [they] were saying and just followed the other students.”
His English improved quickly and things became easier, but he acknowledged that he still needed help. Between caring for his three younger siblings as well as working to support his family, school could have been an afterthought.
“At some point, you don’t think you can do it all,” Ahsan says. “If you get help, take it. It’s worth it.”
And that’s what this program is offering him, a chance to get help from those that are experienced.
The Wades say that Ahsan is such a motivated student and “charming guy,” that they feel their job is simply to encourage him, provide advice and tips, and help him work through assorted challenges.
“They are such good people,” says Ahsan about the Wades. “They are so friendly.”
Ahsan’s senior project is about the history and culture of his former home, Lahore, Pakistan. He says that he wants to know more about where he grew up.
For the Wades, they are also learning about a place that they don’t know much about.
“We’re learning a lot about Pakistan and Lahore and all the good Pakistani foods,” says Doug Wade. “Muhammad is telling us about all of these recipes.”
Ahsan is on track to graduate this summer after an admittingly tough few years. He’s already registering to take classes this fall at Northern Virginia Community College and wants to focus on computer science and information technologies.
The Wades say what they admire most about Ahsan is that he’s a role model to not only those like him, but his family.
“Muhammad has young siblings and I think this is a wonderful example for them,” says Meredith. “That you persevere and you can ask for help and it’s okay.”
Marcuse says the program has been a success and the hope is to expand it next fall.
Meanwhile, Ahsan is planning on attending in-person classes next fall at Northern Virginia Community College, which is right across the street from Goodwin House. Then, maybe, Ahsan and the Wades can meet in person.
“He promised us he was going to make us [Pakistani food],” says Doug as Ahsan chuckles in the Zoom box below. “We want to taste it all.”
Photo via Screenshot/Zoom
A dazzling array of daffodils are now on display at Culpepper Garden.
The affordable senior living facility at 4435 N. Pershing Drive planted the flowers as part of the first phase of an ongoing restoration of its gardens. The garden now contains 28,000 daffodils of over seven varieties.
The daffodils’ official debut will be at a planned Spring Garden Walk on Saturday, April 10, from noon to 3 p.m. The Spring Garden Walk is the first in a series of events in the garden planned throughout this year, according to a press release.
The celebration also comes after a recent renovation to Culpepper Garden’s independent living building. The press release noted that apartments are available to people over the age of 62 living at less than 60% of area median income ($52,920).
“The Spring Garden Walk is the first in a series of interactive garden events planned throughout 2021,” the senior care organization said in a press release. “Sponsorships and funds generated through these events will be used to complete the full restoration of the historic gardens planted by Dr. Charles W. Culpepper, a scientist and botanist who worked for the Department of Agriculture.”
The daffodils commemorate the work of Culpepper, who sold the five-acre tract of land to non-profit Arlington Retirement Housing Corporation in 1973.
The gardens can be accessed via private, self-guided tours. There is no charge for the tours, but donations to Culpepper Garden are encouraged. A limited number of guided tours are also available, with advanced reservations available by contacting Jasmin Witcher at 703-528-0162 or emailing [email protected].
Blown Transformer Knocks Out Power — A power transformer blew Friday night near the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Drive, knocking out power to the surrounding neighborhood and parts of Ballston and Virginia Square, and prompting a road closure due to the fire department response. [Twitter, Twitter]
Catholic Schools Walk COVID Tightrope — “No one — not students, parents or staff, public or private, liberal or conservative — prefers learning while locked down during a pandemic. But area Catholics are using the crisis forced on us all to innovate boldly. They feel blessed.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Crowds May Flock to Arlington for St. Paddy’s — “Bar owner Mike Bramson, who operates the Clarendon PopUp Bar… says he’s expecting a full house in VA — something he might not see in DC. ‘I do believe people are traveling to Virginia spaces. It’s frustrating to have one location being overbooked [Clarendon Pop-Up] and another location losing business [Rebel Taco DC],’ says Bramson. He says the main deterrent in DC right now is the six-person table limit and 10 PM alcohol curfew.” [Washingtonian]
Beyer Supports Moon Mission — “There is support in Congress. ‘I clearly want to keep building on what we’ve done already,’ Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), the new chair of the House Science subcommittee on space and aeronautics, said in an interview. ‘The 2024 goal may have been a reach, so let’s see what we can do to get our moon landing back on track.'” [Washington Post]
Arlington Police K-9 Retires — “Please join ACPD in wishing a happy retirement to K9 Jax as he finishes his final tour of duty today! We are grateful for his years of dedicated service to the Arlington Community through patrol and narcotics detection.” [Twitter]
Senior Sees Son For First Time in a Year — “97-year-old Mary Cavanaugh has finally seen her son Mike Cavanaugh and daughter-in-law Marie Cavanaugh after more than a year. They’re all fully vaccinated, and with strong hugs and kisses, they were able to reunite as a family at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads.” [NBC 4]
(Updated at 6 p.m.) This year, Arlingtonians spread Christmas cheer in new ways to bring hope to people virtually or from a distance.
Choir directors at Arlington Public Schools and Bishop O’Connell High School spent hundreds of hours stitching together student videos to create virtual Christmas concerts. A troop of Brownie Scouts virtually judged a gingerbread contest for folks at a local retirement home. And Santa is making special stops in Arlington in his pickup truck, visiting with children from a distance.
Bishop O’Connell choir director Kyra Stahr burned the midnight candle to publish videos to replace the Christmas concert, which is normally the most well-attended performance, she said.
“I feel like I got more creative in how to make that excitement and cheer possible,” she said, adding that she and her students donned Christmas sweaters and watched all the performances on Zoom.
“It worked out better than I could’ve hoped for,” DJO choir student and junior Tommy Green said. “It was a nice way to exit the year.”
Fellow junior Melanie Greig said “it was almost like we were actually singing together in a concert.”
Meanwhile, Glebe Elementary student and Brownie Scout Leah Meder virtually judged a gingerbread decorating contest at the Sunrise Senior Living facility near the school, on N. Glebe Road, along with other members of Troop 60095. From 11 participants, the young judges awarded the most festive, most creative and most delicious-looking houses, and also created a special holiday greeting for the residents.
“I still felt the spark of holiday spirit when we did this online,” said Meder, who is eight years old. “Since [the residents] are living away from people they know, and can only see them a couple times a year, they can probably have more holiday spirit.”
The festivity creativity in Arlington extends to visits by the jolly one himself.
This afternoon (Wednesday), Santa is parading his sleigh — a converted pickup truck — through Arlington neighborhoods from Foxcroft Heights to Columbia Forest, the final route after two mobile Santa visits through Lyon Park and Ashton Heights.
“It’s a tough year for everybody,” said Lyon Park resident Paul Showalter, who is playing the role of Santa. “It’s really fun to see the faces of the little kids as they see Santa drive up in his sleigh.”
This morning (Wednesday), Showalter said he made a special delivery to a boy named Charlie, who had asked Santa for boxes, thread and tape for Christmas. Neighbors and Glebe Appliance donated the boxes, and Charlie will use the supplies to make a British fleet ship.
Also spreading joy is the Yorktown High School choir, which sent the musical videos it produced to faculty, friends and family, reaching an even greater audience this year.
“These videos are my Christmas gifts,” said Jocelyn Mullins, the Yorktown choir director, who directed renditions of “Holiday Road” and “The Sleigh.”
“That’s how it’s keeping my holidays alive,” she said.
Restaurants Get Ready for Winter — “On November 6, TTT’s expansive rooftop bar unveiled a permanent structure with a retractable roof and sliding glass walls that can be heated when the air is chilly. Iricanin hopes the addition will keep the rooftop in use during the winter months. The new structure can seat up to 60 diners with social distancing. Ambar, meanwhile, is poised to open a winter garden in its rear parking lot with a similar heated structure that can accommodate 60 to 70 guests, pending final approval from the county. ” [Arlington Magazine]
Leaf Collection Update — The second pass for Arlington County’s vacuum leaf collection is set to begin Saturday and run through Dec. 19. [Arlington County]
New YouTube Channel for 55+ Programs — “The Office of 55+ Programs at the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has launched a YouTube channel offering local presentations on everything from fitness to cooking to technology. In addition, members of the 55+ Programs staff host a bimonthly talk show on the channel.” [InsideNova]
Arlington’s Oldest House — “The Ball-Sellers House on Third Street South in Arlington is the oldest building in Arlington County, Va. It was built in the 1750s by farmer John Ball. Later, three generations of the Carlin family owned the house, helping save it from destruction. Today, it is owned by the Arlington Historical Society.” [Washington Post]
Library Offering Book Bundles for Kids — “The Arlington library system is offering ‘book bundles’ for young readers, part of the library system’s outreach effort as its branches remain shuttered. Bundles of 10 picture books or 10- early-reader books are available for pickup at Central Library during the hours of holds-pickup, with a limit of one per library card.” [InsideNova]
Grant to Fund Grocery Gift Cards — “A half-million-dollar grant to… Virginia Hospital Center will help struggling families with $1,200 in grocery store gift cards over the next six months. Health clinics and pediatric units on the front lines of the pandemic are finding a side-effect of the economic crisis: food insecurity and hungry children.” [WJLA]
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]
Va. Coronavirus Cases Skewing Younger — “Gov. Ralph Northam said during a press conference today that local health officials are pointing to a “significant shift” of people in their 20s or younger getting COVID-19.” [Tysons Reporter]
Northam Announces New Restrictions — “Gov. Ralph Northam is rolling back reopening in Hampton Roads as cases there surge but stopped short of doing so statewide. Gov. Northam’s announcement came after a private meeting Tuesday with Dr. Deborah Birx, the Coronavirus Response Coordinator for the White House. Virginia was her last stop on a five-state tour… she came to all of these states with the same message: put additional mitigation measures in place before things get worse.” [WAVY, InsideNova, Commonwealth of Virginia]
Bill May Tackle Local Helicopter Noise — “A local addition to the National Defense Authorization Act — a $740 billion bill approved through the House and Senate and headed to the White House — would require the Pentagon to establish a helicopter noise abatement group for the region… The amendment was sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D) would also require the Pentagon to establish a noise inquiry website.” [ALXnow]
County Wants to Become More ‘Age Friendly’ — “With AARP’s recent approval of Arlington’s Age Friendly Action Plan, Building an Age Friendly Community, the County is now entering a three-year process to achieve the plan’s goals and objectives — and enhance the County’s standing as a livable community for people all ages.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Falls Church Unveils New Permit — “To help businesses and non-profits cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Falls Church Recreation and Parks Department has created the Temporary Outdoor Commercial Activity Permit. Certain parks and amenities can be rented for commercial activities like exercise classes and children’s entertainment.” [City of Falls Church]
Photo courtesy Geoff Collins