(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Washington Blvd is about to get a bit of a makeover as it runs between Bluemont and Westover, and county officials are looking for some input on potential changes for the area.
VDOT is planning on repaving the road between its intersection with N. Frederick Street and N. McKinley Road later this summer.
As part of that process, workers expect they’ll remove the brick crosswalks and median in the Westover area, as the road runs between N. McKinley Road and N. Longfellow Street. The county is currently working to replace all of its so-called “brick pavers” across Arlington in favor of crosswalks that are both easier to maintain and a bit more visible at night.
Accordingly, the county is looking to accept feedback on what sort of road features could replace those and make the area a bit safer for pedestrians and cyclists. Officials are holding an open house tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Westover Branch Library (1644 North McKinley Road) from 6-7:30 p.m. to accept suggestions.
The county is hoping to make it a bit easier to access the library, the nearby Post Office and the area’s popular businesses, like the Westover Beer Garden and the Italian Store.
“The county is considering several re-striping options, including high visibility crosswalks, bike treatments, and a limited change option,” staff wrote on the county’s website.
That should come as good news for some neighbors concerned about pedestrian safety in the area, especially after a driver struck an elderly woman with a car in a Westover crosswalk in November.
The county is also examining some potential improvements as the road runs between Westover and East Falls Church, including some new bike lanes, additional pedestrian crossings and clearer markings for existing crossings.
Officials are also planning on holding a “pop-up” engagement session at the Westover Farmer’s Market in the library plaza Sunday (March 3) if you can’t make this week’s meeting. Starting later this week, the county will also accept online comments through the end of March on its website.
Photo via Google Maps
Roads ‘Looking Good’ After Light Snow — Per Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services: snow removal crews are “reviewing school routes, especially bridges and County sidewalks, with @APSVirginia on a 2-hour delayed opening. Roadways looking good, treated as needed, but go slow and remove snow from vehicles before pulling out.” [Twitter]
Gov’t Closures Today and Monday — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, libraries & facilities will be closed on Jan. 21, 2019 for Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s birthday. NOTE: Commonwealth of Virginia offices (including Courts & DMVs) will be closed Friday Jan. 18, 2019 for Lee-Jackson Day.” [Arlington County]
Amazon Incentives Clear First Richmond Hurdle — “A powerful General Assembly committee has passed and forwarded to the full state Senate legislation that would grant Amazon up to $750 million in financial incentives for locating a secondary headquarters in Arlington and Alexandria.” [InsideNova]
Who Said This? — A “big D.C. developer” reportedly called Crystal City “Ballston with lipstick,” which is more flattering than what an executive for Crystal City’s biggest property owner said about the community earlier this week. For its part, Crystal City is continuing to bask in the afterglow of its big Amazon win and this week’s announcement that PBS will be keeping its headquarters in the neighborhood. [Twitter]
Famers Market Offers Shutdown Discounts — The Westover Farmers Market, held on Sundays at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. McKinley Road, is offering discounts of 10-25 percent for furloughed federal employees and contractors until the government shutdown ends.
Arlington Family’s Furlough Story — An Arlington couple who both work for the federal government and are missing paychecks during the shutdown is more fortunate than many, given that they have savings with which to keep paying the bills. But it has meant cutting back on discretionary spending and things like child care and retirement contributions. [MarketWatch]
Arlington Man Arrested for ‘Ruckus’ in Ohio — “A man from Arlington, Virginia is facing charges in Youngstown after police say he created a ruckus at the downtown DoubleTree and threatened police… officers say he kept threatening them saying, ‘You guys are going to be sorry, and you’re going to regret this. I will find you when I get out.'” [WKBN]
A woman was struck by a car and suffered serious injuries as she crossed the street in Westover earlier this month, convincing neighbors of the urgent need for safety improvements in the area.
County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow that a pedestrian was in the middle of a crosswalk along the 5900 block of Washington Boulevard around 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 10, when a vehicle ran into her. The area is home popular businesses like the Westover Beer Garden and the Italian Store.
Savage says the woman was “transported to an area hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.” Police also issued a warning summons to the driver “for failure to yield the pedestrian right-of-way,” but otherwise didn’t pursue criminal charges.
Stephanie Gordon, who lives right behind the scene of the incident on N. Lancaster Street, says she remembers seeing the immediate aftermath of the crash. She subsequently learned that the woman who was struck is one of her neighbors: Virginia Fairbrother, a 30-year Westover resident.
Fortunately, Gordon says she’s since heard that Fairbrother has been released from the hospital and is recovering from her injuries. But the crash only underscores her conviction that the Westover area desperately needs some traffic and pedestrian safety changes.
“Westover is a bit of a valley, so cars can pick up speed either way as they’re driving,” Gordon said. “I feel bad for both drivers and pedestrians, because I don’t think drivers, even if they want to stop, are aware of a crosswalk there. A lot of times cars just speed through and won’t even see you.”
Gordon says her father, another Westover resident, brought some of these concerns to the county more than a year ago, but the neighborhood still hasn’t seen many changes.
She’d much rather see more reflective crosswalks installed on Washington Boulevard, or perhaps improvements to the “dinky little signs” marking the pedestrian crossings. The county is currently planning on some improvements as the road runs between Westover and East Falls Church, including some new bike lanes, additional pedestrian crossings and clearer markings for existing crossings. Transportation officials have spent the past year collecting traffic data on the area, with plans to implement those in the coming months.
Gordon would also be in favor of the county dropping the speed limit to 25 miles per hour down from the current 30, and hopes that this latest crash will spur Arlington officials to examine that possibility in particular.
“My neighbors and I have been saying for a while that it was just a matter of time before someone was hit by a car crossing Washington Blvd,” Gordon said. “It’s just crazy that it’s so fast, when people are frequently walking across the street.”
Photo via Google Maps
Arlingtonians can get a glimpse into the past with a photo exhibit currently on display at Westover Branch Library.
The historic photo montage documents houses and buildings in Arlington before their demolition and the structures that replaced them, spanning 40 years. The photos are showcased in window frames preserved from the demolished houses depicted.
The “Windows to the Past: Arlington, Then and Now” exhibit by Tom Dickinson will be on display until Jan. 5 at 1644 N. McKinley Road, Suite 3.
Dickinson, a historian, photographer and historic preservation advocate, told ARLnow that his exhibit combines his passion for photography and historic preservation.
When he moved to Arlington in 1978, he said he was shocked by the constant demolition of older homes and commercial buildings, so he’s been snapping and collecting pictures of houses fated for demolition and then what replaced them.
Dickinson said he finds out about the houses from online archives of demolition permits that developers have to apply for, word-of-mouth and his own observations. One indicator he looks for is a dangling power line, which has to get cut from the telephone pole before a demolition.
The exhibit, which is funded by the Arlington Arts Grant Program, includes photos of Lustron prefabricated enameled steel houses which were developed after World War II, and Certigrade homes, which are made from cedar wood. The original houses in the “before” pictures were built between the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Dickinson got permission from the developers to salvage windows from the houses. His appreciation for the craftsmanship of windows began after he took a workshop on window construction about 15 years ago.
“These are the windows through which who knows how many thousands of eyes peered out through this glass to the world around them, and the light that illuminated their lives came in,” he said. “It’s the last sort of symbolic artifact from these houses.”
While Dickinson acknowledges that some people see new developments as a progress, Dickinson has a “two-prong lament for the loss of affordable housing and of historic structures.”
Some houses in Arlington are better off torn down, he said. “A lot of these places that were torn down were houses that were not distinguished in any way, just average and inexpensive [ones] that served their purpose and came to the end of their life,” he said. “But still that comes with a cost, environmentally, in terms of the energy for demolition, transporting debris and filling up landfill space. There’s an environmental penalty.”
Dickinson insists that the greenest houses are the ones that are already built.
On the heels of Amazon’s announcement that it will set up its second headquarters in Crystal City, Dickinson said he expects to see fewer “less expensive” houses as housing demand skyrockets, along with increasing congestion on the highways and Metro. “It’s the Manhattanization of Arlington.”
Dickinson isn’t holding his breath for Arlington County to put the brakes on developments. “They’re going to do everything they need to do to make Amazon happy and help them find housing for people,” he said.
“This change is inevitable — it’s going to happen for good or for bad,” Dickinson said, adding that in 40 years from now, he expects Arlington to look completely different from its appearance today.
New Elementary School at Reed Site Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a new elementary school for up to 732 students at the Reed site, 1644 N. McKinley Road, in the Westover neighborhood. The Board voted unanimously to approve a use permit amendment for Arlington Public Schools to renovate and expand the existing Reed School/Westover Library to create a neighborhood elementary school.” [Arlington County]
Here’s Where Amazon is Coming, Exactly — Amazon will be leasing office space at three JBG Smith buildings in Crystal City: 241 18th Street S., 1800 S. Bell Street and 1770 Crystal Drive. Amazon also agreed to buy two JBG-owned land parcels in Pentagon City that are approved for development: PenPlace and the remaining portion of Metropolitan Park. [Washington Business Journal]
County Board Discusses Legislative Priorities — “A highlight of the County’s package is a call for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution that was proposed by Congress in 1972. Both the Arlington League of Women Voters, and the Arlington Civic Federation have called on the General Assembly to ratify the ERA.” [Arlington County]
Arlington Projects Win at NAIOP Awards — Nine of the 29 real estate development projects lauded at the Best of NAIOP Northern Virginia Awards on Nov. 15 were Arlington projects. [NAIOP]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Funded — “The Arlington County Board today approved $2.9 million in Neighborhood Conservation bond funds for projects in Cherrydale and Arlington Forest… The $1.84 million Cherrydale project will improve N. Monroe Street, between 17th Street North and 19th Street North… The $1.08 million Arlington Forest project will make improvements to Edison Park.” [Arlington County]
How DIRT Chose Ballston — “DIRT co-founders @jlatulip and @jamcdaniel visited many parts of D.C. and the greater DMV area before deciding to open in Ballston. ‘We noticed very quickly that this was a special community, one that we could call home and grow with. We love the energy of the neighborhood — Ballston is a young, active community, which fits DIRT perfectly.'” [Instagram]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Construction could soon get started on the new elementary school planned for the Reed School site in Westover, as the project looks set to earn the county’s approval this weekend.
The County Board is set to vote Saturday (Nov. 17) on a few zoning and easement tweaks for the property, located at 1644 N. McKinley Road. Arlington Public Schools is hoping to open the building in time for the 2021-2022 school year, and it will serve at least 732 students in all.
The school system’s plans call for the demolition of part of the existing school on the site, in order to allow for the construction of a new “two and four story school building, containing approximately 112,919 square feet, on the northeast side of the existing building,” according to a staff report prepared for the Board.
The School Board signed off on designs for the $55 million project back in August, and the plans have since earned the endorsement of the Planning Commission as well.
The lone change county planners are recommending is an alteration of a walking path to connect the school to Washington Blvd.
Originally, the path would run through an existing parking lot, up a small slope. But the slope was large enough to prompt some concerns about its accessibility for pedestrians with disabilities.
Accordingly, planners are recommending an alternative design to run the path parallel to the parking lot instead. To do so, the school system will have to cut back on nine parking spaces in the lot (bringing its total down to 133 spaces) in order to keep costs for the project down, a key concern for the School Board.
Both county staff and planners are recommending that the County Board adopt these plans, including the path alteration.
Two people working on a construction site in Westover Village were electrocuted this morning (Monday), suffering injuries that sent both to the hospital.
Arlington firefighters were called to the 1000 block of N. Kennebec Street, just near Westover Park, around 9:45 a.m. today, the fire department said.
First responders found one person with possible “life-threatening injuries in critical condition.” The other also had serious injuries, and were both taken to local hospitals.
The fire department added that both the fire marshal and county police are investigating the incident.
At 0946 units dispatched to 1000 blk N. Kennebec St for reported electrocution at construction site. Upon arrival had 2 patients. 1 pt electrocution w/ poss life threatening injuries in critical condition. 2nd pt serious injuries but stable. FM & @ArlingtonVaPD investigating
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 29, 2018
Two workers shocked when a metal drainage pipe hit overhead power lines in Arlington. Both taken to the hospital. One has possible life threatening injuries, the other has serious injuries. Live report on @ABC7News at noon. pic.twitter.com/rLgFFk6Sws
— Victoria Sanchez (@VictoriaSanchez) October 29, 2018
Photo via Google Maps
The Westover Market and Beer Garden will still be able to offer outdoor amplified music after striking a new deal with county officials, offering a compromise to placate neighbors who remain concerned about the noise emanating from the establishment.
The County Board unanimously agreed to revamped permit requirements for the popular beer garden Saturday (Oct. 20), stipulating that musicians at the restaurant will only be able to play amplified music outside until 9 p.m. on Fridays, one hour short of the current 10 p.m. limit. The Board is also requiring the restaurant to submit a modified “sound management plan” by this coming March.
County staff originally urged the Board to ban all amplified music at the beer garden, arguing that the restaurant had repeatedly violated its noise limits and elicited a number of complaints from people living in the residential neighbors surrounding the location at 5863 Washington Blvd. The beer garden has drawn all manner of county scrutiny in recent years, from its noise levels to its compliance with county permit regulations.
Yet the restaurant’s owners offered to limit outdoor music on the weekends as a middle-ground solution, and it was one the Board happily accepted.
“The Board recognizes that the Westover Beer Garden is a popular gathering spot for the neighborhood,” Board Chair Katie Cristol wrote in a statement. “But it also is close to homes. Arlington’s mixed-use neighborhoods, where we sometimes have commercial uses very close to homes, depend on everyone following the rules to work. By reducing the hours for amplified outdoor music, the Board is seeking to address the violation, while also giving the beer garden a path forward to comply with the conditions of its use permit.”
Several beer garden patrons spoke in support of the restaurant Saturday, noting that noise in the parking lot of the restaurant’s shopping center would often rise to the same level as the decibel limits set on the restaurant by the county. The beer garden has the distinction of being the only establishment in Arlington with an “outdoor live entertainment use permit,” according to the county, and its supporters argued that it’s generally abided by the permit’s strictures over the years.
“There are some things you have to accept as part of a big picture with wherever you live,” Dee Doyle told the Board. “There’s some noise, but that’s part of the bargain… The benefits of this business vastly outweigh any negatives.”
The Westover and Tara-Leeway Heights civic associations both urged the Board to maintain the beer garden’s live music permissions, and the restaurant’s backers argued that only a few disgruntled neighbors were complaining about the noise generated by the establishment. According to a new county staff report prepared for the meeting, county police received 12 calls about noise at the restaurant between April and October, but 75 percent of those calls came from the same two households.
But Thomas McCall, who lives near the restaurant, argued that people living on both sides of Washington Blvd have come together to protest the beer garden’s disruptions. He viewed the depiction of his fellow neighbors as “selfish” for complaining as a frustrating one, noting that he felt the neighborhood had tried to work with the restaurant in good faith on the issue.
“This permit modification allows the music to continues, allows the the patrons to continue to enjoy the beer garden, and alleviates the problems for nearby neighbors,” McCall told the Board.
Yet Bill Lawson, an attorney for the beer garden, argued that “if these guys can’t have amplified music, there’s just no point” in offering live entertainment outside at all.
“If you complain often enough and loud enough, you might succeed in shutting this business down,” Lawson said.
He offered the reduced hours as one way to address the issue, and added that owners David and Devin Hicks would also be willing to offer an independent “ombudsman” to monitor noise levels on a regular basis.
The Board was eager to sign off on that compromise, though many members expressed consternation that the issues at the beer garden have so frequently required their mediation.
“We want to build community, but at the same time, as we grow and change, if people have a nice home and a nice situation, we need to make sure they suddenly don’t hear a lot of music where they live,” said Board member Libby Garvey.
The Board will review the beer garden’s permits once more next October.
Arlington officials could soon tell the Westover Beer Garden to turn down the volume, with a new round of bickering over live music at the restaurant set to go before the County Board this weekend.
County staff believe musicians at the Westover Market and Beer Garden, located at 5863 Washington Blvd, have gotten a bit too loud on Friday and Saturday nights in recent weeks. With the restaurant’s live music permit up for review once more, they’re recommending that the Board restrict the beer garden from offering any “amplified music” at its outdoor patio for the foreseeable future.
Staff argue in a report prepared for the Board that doing so would “mitigate noise impacts on the surrounding neighborhood,” but add that the beer garden’s owners disagree with that characterization.
This is far from the first dispute over the restaurant’s outdoor seating area, which has frequently attracted scrutiny from county zoning officials. Arlington even briefly barred the beer garden from welcoming live music outdoors in 2010, before lifting its ban a few years later.
Yet, over the last few months, staff wrote that zoning officials warned the restaurant that music was exceeding the agreed-upon decibel limits for the outdoor space. They added that several neighbors had called police to complain about the noise, particularly in June, though those calls all came in before 9 p.m., the time limit imposed by county permits for the beer garden to cut off loud music.
The staff report added that some neighbors have already contacted the county to support the restaurant, reasoning that a ban on amplified music would be “a more balanced approach than revoking the use permit completely.” Westover would still be allowed to offer live, un-amplified music both indoors and outdoors under the terms of the proposed permit arrangement.
The Board is set to review this matter at its meeting Saturday (Oct. 20).
Photo via Facebook
A hair salon in Williamsburg has relocated to Westover, and one of its stylists is trying to re-connect with old customers after the move.
Par Hair Design, formerly located in the Williamsburg Shopping Center near the intersection of Williamsburg Blvd and N. Sycamore Street, has set up shop at 5852 Washington Blvd instead.
According to a sign posted at its former location, it made the move in May, and is now located across the street from Westover Beer Garden.
However, a dueling sign posted at the shop notes that “Tram Hairstyles” didn’t make the move to the Westover location, instead heading to Queen King Salon in McLean. Tram wrote on the sign that she’s “really missing all customers” who she got to know at Par Hair Design, urging anyone missing her as well to call the new McLean salon.
As for the old space in the Williamsburg Shopping Center, the 1,018-square-foot location is currently listed for lease.
Plans for a new elementary school on the Reed School property in Westover are coming into focus.
The School Board got its first look at new design renderings for the building Tuesday (July 17), which is set to open in time for the 2021 school year and serve at least 725 students in all.
The $55 million project will involve the construction of a four-story structure alongside the existing Reed building, located at 1644 N. McKinley Road, and the renovation of the rest of the old building. Ultimately, the school will have 32 classrooms, 133 parking spaces and several new athletic fields and playgrounds for students.
Wyck Knox, a principal with the design firm VMDO Architects, told the Board that his team is also working to working to make classrooms in the building “adaptable.” Should school leaders ultimately want to open up more common space for group lessons, he says designers are “working really hard to keep columns and pipes out of the walls, so you can take those walls down” if need be.
Knox added that designers envision a fully accessible walkway stretching around the perimeter of the school, and he even plans to include space for an “outdoor classroom” alongside the building’s new fields and playgrounds.
But throughout all of the planning process, Knox stressed that the school’s designers have examined “cost control measures,” considering that the project’s price tag has been a subject of some controversy in the past, and the cost of all school construction in the county is a frequent sore spot for Arlington officials.
Cost estimates for the Reed project remain about $5.5 million higher than the $49.5 million in bond funding the school system secured for the effort. The county and Arlington Public Schools are planning to split the burden for that remaining amount, though designers are still hoping to bring the cost down to the original figure, as the School Board asked this spring.
Ben Burgin, the school system’s assistant director of design and construction, assured the Board that the remaining design work would involve the additional study of costs of things like emergency electrical systems, roofing or site amenities. He ultimately hopes to “deliver a new cost estimate by the fall.
The school system will ultimately need a use permit from the County Board before proceeding with construction, which they’re aiming to request in time for the Board’s Nov. 17 meeting.
But first, the School Board will need to sign off on the updated designs for the school, and will likely do so at its Aug. 2 meeting. The Board was broadly pleased with the newest sketches laid out, though Chair Reid Goldstein did reiterate his interest in seeing costs come down, considering the school system’s construction funding squeeze.
Audrey Clement, a frequent independent candidate for public office who is challenging Board member Barbara Kanninen this fall, wasn’t so optimistic.
“It will force 9- and 10-year-olds to march up three flights of stairs several times a day,” Clement told the Board. “While this scheme furthers APS’ commitment to a more-car diet, it will impose physical hardship on students and drive up costs.”
In related news, The Children’s School, a co-op daycare for the kids of APS employees displaced by the Reed school redevelopment, earned county approval Tuesday to build a new facility at the site of the old Alpine Restaurant on Lee Highway.