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Police are investigating the death of a man found in a vehicle on a quiet residential street near Marymount University.

Police say the man’s death “does not appear to be suspicious” but they’re still looking into the circumstances.

“At approximately 6:56 a.m. on March 27, police and fire were dispatched to the 2700 block of N. Wakefield Street for the report of a cardiac arrest,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Alli Shorb tells ARLnow. “Upon arrival, the unresponsive adult male was located inside a vehicle. Medics pronounced him deceased on scene and ACPD is conducting a death investigation.”

“Based on the preliminary investigation, the death does not appear suspicious and there is no ongoing threat to the community related to this incident,” Shorb continued. “The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death. The investigation is ongoing.”

The man was in his 30s, Shorb said.

A local tipster told ARLnow that the man had crashed into a parked car in the early morning hours but was not discovered deceased until later in the morning. The tipster added that the man was not a resident of the immediate neighborhood.

Police have so far declined to confirm those additional details.

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A man walking along Columbia Pike at 8 p.m. on Friday was punched and robbed by a trio of suspects, two of whom were armed.

That’s according to the latest Arlington County Police Department crime report.

The incident happened on the 5000 block of Columbia Pike, just west of the Arlington Mill Community Center. It was reported to police about 50 minutes after it happened, according to ACPD.

“The victim was walking in the area when he was approached by the three unknown male suspects,” the police department said. “Two of the suspects displayed firearms in their waistbands while one of the suspects struck the victim with his fist, stole an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the scene on foot. The victim sustained minor injuries and was treated by medics.”


Morning Notes

The Potomac River and Tidal Basin while cherry trees are blooming, as seen from Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Rental Car Changes at DCA — “Avis and Budget, both owned by Avis Budget Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CAR) in Parsippany, New Jersey, recently notified customers in an email that they are relocating from the on-airport rental center on the first floor of the airport’s main parking garage to a stand-alone facility in Crystal City. Taking their place will be Sixt, a German car-rental company that has been rapidly expanding in the U.S. in recent years.” [Washington Business Journal]

Online Missing Middle Survey — “A survey of Patch readers conducted after the county board’s March 22 vote found that nearly 63 percent of respondents did not agree with the board’s decision to approve the Missing Middle Housing plan. And among the 942 responses to the Patch survey, 65 percent said they do not believe the board’s decision to eliminate single-family zoning will create more affordable housing in Arlington County.” [Patch]

Update on ARLnow Poll — As of 5 p.m. Monday, about 58% of the more than 2,500 respondents to ARLnow’s morning poll on the Missing Middle decision expressed support for some degree of rezoning. Just over 42% were totally opposed to any rezoning. [ARLnow]

Local LGBT Group Changes Name — “It’s a new name for a local organization, as the Arlington-Alexandria Gay and Lesbian Alliance (AGLA) morphs into ‘Equality NoVa.’ The switch will take place over coming months, and is designed in part to show the organization’s growth into the broader local region.” [GazetteLeader]

Teen Police Academy Applications Open — “Due to the popularity of last year’s inaugural Teen Police Academy, the Community Engagement Division’s Youth Outreach Unit (YOU) is pleased to announce the expansion of the Summer Teen Police Academy for Summer 2023. The application has opened for two sessions being held in the months of July and August focused on education, relationship-building and positive youth development.” [ACPD]

Amazon Job Training Event — “Amazon Web Services is hosting a free, two-day fiber optic training program April 4-5 in Arlington in partnership with Northern Virginia Community College. The program is open to the public and will be held at the AWS Skills Center at 1550 Crystal Drive in Arlington. The AWS Skills Center in Crystal City is a free cloud education resource for the community.” [Patch]

It’s Tuesday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 56 and low of 44. Sunrise at 7:00 am and sunset at 7:29 pm. []

A Ballston intersection at lunchtime on 3/27/23 (staff photo)

(Updated at 3:35 p.m.) From Ballston to Pentagon City to D.C. to Fairfax County, there’s a burning smell that seems to be lingering outside.

Those trudging out on their lunch breaks caught a whiff of the smoky scent, and the appearance of a slight haze, prompting a bunch of calls to Arlington’s 911 dispatch center.

“We’re getting multiple calls… so has D.C. and Fairfax,” an Arlington dispatcher said around 12:40 p.m., after dispatching a fire department call to investigate a smell of something burning.

D.C. neighborhood news site PoPville also wrote about the smell just before noon, noting that the District’s dispatchers have also been getting calls about it.

An Arlington County Fire Department spokesman confirmed to ARLnow that the department is monitoring the situation.

“Arlington County Emergency Communications Center (911) has been getting calls about odor of something burning all day,” said Capt. Justin Tirelli. “So far, the Fire Department has been unable to locate the source of the odor. Both Fairfax County and Washington DC have been reporting the same.”

“Currently, we are not working any significant fire incidents,” Tirelli added. “We will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates if more information becomes available.”

One theory — later largely confirmed by the Fairfax County fire department and the National Weather Service — is that the smell is related to wind patterns and a large wildfire in North Carolina.

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Crime scene tape at shooting in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Is crime on the rise in Arlington? It depends on which Arlington County official you ask.

Police Chief Andy Penn told the County Board last Thursday that crime rates rose in 2022, driven by upticks in theft — of cars and from cars — and assaults, largely in Arlington’s most populated neighborhoods. He noted that ACPD is seeing more crimes where a weapon is used.

Arlington started 2023 with a rise in carjackings and student overdoses, and this early data indicates that it ended 2022 with a nearly 23% increase in property crimes over 2021 with, specifically, a 27.4% increase in larcenies. In addition, there has been a nearly 32% increase in vehicle thefts and a 14% increase in thefts from vehicles, especially with unlocked cars or those with keys left inside.

There has also been a 16% increase in crimes against people, such as assault, and a 21.5% decrease in crimes against society, such as drug violations.

Penn noted officers are seeing “more guns than what’s normal,” as officers seized 147 firearms in 2022 — an increase from 126 in 2021 and 104 in 2020. Of the seizures in 2022, 15 were ghost guns.

Data on ‘Group A’ offenses, including crimes against people, property and society from 2018-2022 (via Arlington County)

ACPD does not typically report arrest numbers — as opposed to offense numbers, which are released annually — for the most common group of offenses, which span everything from burglary to murder. A department spokeswoman told ARLnow that that would have to be requested through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The department noted its 2021 annual report, released last summer, that people officers have arrested for these “Group A” crimes are “frequently responsible for multiple cases within Arlington or regionally.”

The question of whether crime is rising in Arlington has implications for the race to determine the upcoming Commonwealth’s Attorney race. Josh Katcher, who used to work for the incumbent top prosecutor, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, has made his campaign about acknowledging that crime is rising and criticizing his opponent for, he says, not admitting this.

“We can’t begin to address these issues until we are willing to acknowledge and face them head on,” he said in a statement to ARLnow. “Arlington County deserves a Commonwealth’s Attorney who is transparent with those that they are elected to serve. My opponent has repeatedly and publicly stated that crime has not been rising, starting in November of last year.”

Dehghani-Tafti, who won in 2019 on a platform of criminal justice reform, has maintained her position despite crime concerns from some residents and members of ACPD. In a statement to ARLnow in response, Dehghani-Tafti called Katcher’s rhetoric fear-mongering.

“Real leaders don’t engage in right wing fear mongering propaganda, particularly when Arlington remains one of the safest communities in the country,” she said. “Real leaders also don’t use right wing attack lines that prosecutors are responsible for temporary rise or decline in crime. While some categories of assaults have been on the rise since 2018, serious crimes such as homicides have declined in Arlington at the same time as jurisdictions nationwide have seen an increase.”

She noted that Arlington had zero homicides for nearly 18 months — one in February 2022 and none since then.

“Our job is to build on that success to continue to keep our community safe. That’s what I intend to do,” Dehghani-Tafti said.

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Police presence at former Key Bridge Marriott (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A County Board candidate says Arlington should acquire the now-condemned Key Bridge Marriott hotel and surrounding property in Rosslyn.

A number of people living in the shuttered hotel were removed Friday in a large-scale law enforcement operation, after the county condemned the building “due to the risk posed to the community’s safety and health.”

A planned residential redevelopment of the property, overlooking the Potomac River, was approved in 2020 but the project has stalled amid financial problems for its owners.

Natalie Roy, a local real estate agent who’s running in June’s Democratic primary for County Board, said in a statement this morning that current situation is “a tremendous opportunity for Arlington.” The property, she said, could be purchased and used for affordable housing, sports fields, an arts facility and a park.

“The former hotel’s garage could be the site of a state-of-the-art Pickleball facility,” the statement adds.

Roy cites the ongoing redevelopment of the 9+ acre Rouse estate in Dominion Hills — on which several dozen large, single-family homes are being built — as an example of a missed opportunity for the county.

“The key is to not let what happened to the Rouse Family Estate happen to this Arlington gateway,” her statement says.

Roy will be going up against fellow Democratic candidates Maureen Coffey; Jonathan Dromgoole; Julius “JD” Spain, Sr.; Tony Weaver; and Susan Cunningham in the June 20 primary for the two Board seats being vacated by Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey. The primary will be conducted for the first time using ranked-choice voting.

More of Roy’s statement regarding the Marriott site is below.

This empty hotel and the surrounding property represent a tremendous opportunity for Arlington. Land is at a premium in Arlington and when it becomes potentially available, as it has in this case, we need to make smart decisions quickly.

The County needs to be creative by acting now to explore ways to form a private-public partnership to purchase and then re-utilize this prime property. The site could be a showcase for Arlington and include a mixed-use complex that provides affordable housing and retail for essential workers and the most vulnerable members of our community. It could include a sports field, an arts facility or a large tree lined park. The former hotel’s garage could be the site of a state-of-the-art Pickleball facility. The potential is great.

The county needs to act swiftly and bring public and private stakeholders together, to explore the possibilities and develop a comprehensive strategy for the site. The key is to not let what happened to the Rouse Family Estate happen to this Arlington gateway.

“If elected as a County Board Member, I will make it a priority to work with other Board Members to develop a strategic county-wide land use plan, so we are not playing catch up when opportunities present themselves.”


Morning Notes

Tree blossoms in the Zachary Taylor Nature Area (staff photo)

Post Office Dedicated to Mail Carrier — “Local leaders, family members of Jesus Collazos and community members gathered at the U.S. Post Office on N. George Mason Drive in Arlington on Sunday morning for the official dedication of the Jesus Collazos Post Office. Collazos, a beloved mail carrier in Arlington, died in June 2020 at the age of 67 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.” [Patch]

I-66 Lane Closure for Bridge Painting — “The eastbound I-66 right lane at the North Utah Street overpass will be closed, weather permitting, between 9:30 p.m. Monday, March 27 and 5 a.m. Tuesday, March 28, and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to 5 a.m. Wednesday, March 29 to place barriers along the right shoulder for bridge painting work, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.” [VDOT]

Yorktown Basketball Coach Resigns — “Joe Reed, the Yorktown High School head boys basketball coach the past eight seasons, resigned March 22 during a meeting with school administrators. The coach stepped down because he didn’t believe he was treated fairly by the administration and had differences of opinions with his supervisors, during his tenure.” [GazetteLeader]

More on NAACP’s CivFed Departure — “The NAACP version, shorter at 500 words and 15 footnotes, was intended to be less polarizing and less insulting to government officials. ‘CivFed must decide whether it wants to be merely expressive, or effective. The current draft resolution suffers from fatal defects that make it highly unlikely to prompt meaningful engagement or change from the county’ said the NAACP. In particular, ‘the draft channels grievances from a select few, relies on assumptions that county officials and staff do not share, and levies accusations that are unfair or unfounded.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Arlington Among Most Expensive Places — “Arlington ranks as the 10th most expensive to live in among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas, according to a new survey, rising 39 percent above the national average and fueled by the whopping cost of housing. That’s according to a new data analysis by Apartment List, which looked at the cost of living through lenses of housing, utilities, transportation, health care, groceries and miscellaneous goods and services.” [GazetteLeader]

Parking Rules May Restrict Missing Middle — “Where Arlington has not gone as far as other regions is in pairing parking reform with missing middle. The rules require missing middle units to have half a parking spot per unit in areas well-served by transit and one per unit elsewhere. What might be worse in terms of getting missing middle units built, the rules limit the interior of garages that face the street to less than half of the width of the building.” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Possible light rain in the afternoon and evening. High of 57 and low of 47. Sunrise at 7:02 am and sunset at 7:28 pm. []

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Drone seen flying near former Key Bridge Marriott this morning (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Public safety in Arlington County is poised to be increasingly automated and unmanned, with more traffic enforcement cameras and drones potentially coming soon.

The updates came during a work session on County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed budget, attended by County Board members and heads of public safety departments yesterday (Thursday).

Installing new speed cameras and adding more red-light cameras are part of the county’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes, as well as a recommended way to reduce potentially adverse interactions between officers and civilians during traffic stops.

Cameras and drones could also help the Arlington County Police Department work more efficiently with fewer officers, as ACPD has had to scale back services amid ongoing challenges with recruiting and retaining officers.

More than a year ago, the County Board approved the installation of speed cameras in school and work areas to reduce speed-related crashes in these areas as part of the Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries. Now, according to Police Chief Andy Penn, a contract with a speed camera vendor could be ready this spring.

Last fall, the county told ARLnow that there would be more signs of progress, including camera installation and community messaging, once a contract is finalized this spring. Penn told the County Board yesterday that a request for proposal for both speed cameras and more red-light cameras will close next week.

“My hope is that we’ll have a contract for both of those in the next couple of months,” Penn said.

Meanwhile, the police department is working with the Virginia Dept. of Transportation to expand locations with red-light cameras, according to Penn.

“We’re almost at the finish line with VDOT on the PhotoRED expansions, there’s a couple intersections… we should be there soon,” he said.

There are nine intersections that currently use PhotoRED cameras, according to the county’s website. These intersections are located along major corridors including Columbia Pike, Route 1, Glebe Road and Langston Blvd.

A map of intersections with red-light cameras (via Arlington County)

Arlington is also considering deploying drones, which could be a safety tool for both police and fire departments. Penn and Fire Chief Dave Povlitz told the Board they are focused on improving employee safety and wellbeing, which could bolster staffing levels.

“While we’re on equipment, drones? Are we thinking about drones?” asked Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey. “It’d be a lot safer to send a drone in than a person into a burning building.”

After working with other jurisdictions in the region and conducting a survey, a comprehensive proposal on drones could be ready for Board review in “the next couple of months,” according to County Manager Mark Schwartz.

“They are fantastic additions to any fleet,” he said. “We absolutely would, in many cases, prefer — not just for fire but police and also for our building inspections — to have the ability to have drones.”

Police may already be using drones locally in some cases. One could be seen flying near the former Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn this morning as part of a large public safety agency presence at the aging building, which the county condemned amid the continued presence of squatters.

Two hurdles to greater drone use could be privacy and flight regulations governing drones in the region, Schwartz said.

“We want to make sure we address the privacy concerns, which I think have been successfully handled in other jurisdictions,” he said.

Unmanned aircraft flights, including drones, are heavily restricted within a 30-mile radius of Reagan National Airport, according to rules the Federal Aviation Administration put in place after 9/11. Drones need FAA authorization and have to operate under certain restrictions.


(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Dozens of law enforcement officers, along with fire department and county government personnel, are on scene of the former Key Bridge Marriott in Rosslyn.

A smaller police presence seen at the nearly 65-year-old hotel building last night grew into a parking lot-filling operation this morning. A drone could also be seen flying nearby, apparently part of the response.

Initial reports suggest that the property is being cleared of squatters, a significant task in such a large building. Arlington County said in a 6 a.m. press release (below) that the building is being condemned.

The press release suggests that the county expects the operation will take most of the day and will include ensuring those living in the building “have a place to go” and are provided “the services and care they may need.”

Arlington County has deemed the former hotel site at 1401 Langston Blvd. as unsafe and unfit for habitation. Due to the risk posed to the community’s safety and health, the County is condemning the building.

The County’s actions are authorized by the Virginia Uniformed Statewide Building Code and the Virginia Statewide Fire Prevention Code, which gives local officials the ability to condemn a structure and secure it to prevent access.

The County has a duty to ensure everyone’s health and safety, including any individuals who have sought shelter inside the building, first responders who may need to respond to calls for public safety assistance, and the community at large.

Using a “whole of government” response, multiple departments across Arlington County, in conjunction with nonprofit partners, are prioritizing the health and safety of individuals at the property, ensuring they have a place to go, and providing the services and care they may need.

The site will then be properly secured.

The property, formerly known as the Key Bridge Marriott, was purchased in 2018 by KBLH LLC (a subsidiary of the owner Woodridge Capital Partners). In March 2020, the County Board approved a site plan project from KBLH to partially demolish and renovate the existing hotel and construct two new residential buildings. In July 2021, Marriott ceased operation of the hotel and the building was closed in preparation for development. The current property owner has not proceeded with the project.

Media Briefings

Media briefings are scheduled to be held across Langston Blvd. at Gateway Park (1300 Langston Blvd.), on Friday, March 24, 2023, at both 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Parking will not be available at the 1401 Langston Blvd. property.

The challenging logistics of the operation are not limited to clearing hundreds upon hundreds of rooms. According to scanner traffic, a lack of working bathrooms or portable toilets earlier this morning prompted police to be instructed to drive elsewhere should they need to go.

ARLnow reported in December that the planned redevelopment of the large property, which overlooks the Potomac, “appears to have stalled with no indication of picking back up.”

The redevelopment, approved in March 2020, would have included “the renovation of the hotel — one of Marriott’s earliest hotels, which first opened in 1959 — as well as the construction of three new 16-story residential buildings, with about 300 rental apartments and 150 condo units.”

While the hotel has sat empty, it has reportedly been used as a makeshift shelter for a growing contingent of unhoused individuals. But that has posed challenges for law enforcement; according to records provided to ARLnow, police have responded to the property at least 10 times so far this year for things like trespassing, burglary and suspicious circumstances.

One such incident, from March 6, required a large contingent of officers to search the hotel for a person who said they were injured. That person was not found but a fugitive from Maryland was.

“At approximately 11:20 a.m. on March 6, police were dispatched to the 1400 block of Langston Boulevard for the report of suspicious circumstances. The reporting party stated she was inside the building and was hurt,” APCD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Responding officers conducted a search of the building and she was not located inside. While searching the property, officers located an adult male inside the building and determined he was wanted by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office (MD) for a Probation Violation. [A suspect], 36, of Baltimore, MD was taken into custody and held on a Fugitive from Justice warrant.”


Morning Notes

Rain in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Clarendon Area Scooter Theft — “3200 block of 10th Street N. At approximately 11:52 a.m. on March 22, police were dispatched to the late report of a breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined at approximately 2:07 a.m., an unknown male suspect entered onto the property of a closed business and stole three mopeds before fleeing the scene. The mopeds are described as a white 2022 Vespa Piaggio Liberty 50, a white 2022 Vespa Piaggio Active 1 and a yellow 2022 Vespa Piaggio 1 Active.” [ACPD]

D.C. Mulls Slashing Circulator Service — “Mayor Bowser wants to cut DC Circulator service in half to save money… The cuts would get rid of three of the Circulator’s six routes — Rosslyn to Dupont Circle, Eastern Market to L’Enfant Plaza, and Woodley Park to McPherson Square Metro.” [Axios]

Office Vacancy Picture Looks Grim — “Nine million square feet of Arlington office space currently is sitting idle, and things may get worse before they get better, the county government’s economic-development director told County Board members during a recent budget workshop. ‘We’re trying to find companies that are in a growth stage, and get them here,’ Ryan Touhill said in his first budget presentation since being appointed to lead Arlington Economic Development late last year.” [Gazette Leader]

Wreath Laying at Air Force Memorial — “A celebration was held Thursday morning to honor a special milestone for the Tuskegee Airmen. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the East Coast Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, incorporated, the oldest and largest chapter of the renowned air crew.” [WJLA]

Nature Centers Neglected? — “The county government has been ‘woefully neglecting’ Long Branch and Gulf Branch nature centers, said Phil Klingelhofer, chair of the Forestry and Natural Resources Commission, in testimony during the March 16 budget work session between County Board members and the parks department. Exhibits are outdated and the scheduling, which has fallen from six days per week before 2020 to just three now, doesn’t give the public much confidence.” [Gazette Leader]

Missing Middle’s Strange Political Bedfellows — “Zoning reform is an issue that unites progressives and libertarians, policy experts across the political spectrum, and also such disparate political leaders as California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Virginia’s own Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin. It’s also a rare issue where Youngkin has common ground with Arlington’s very liberal county government. Of course, zoning deregulation also has ‘NIMBY’ opponents on both right and left, including such figures as Donald Trump and various far leftists.” [Reason]

Housing Reporter’s MM Skepticism — From CityLab’s Kriston Capps: “The bigger issue with ‘missing middle’ — legalizing duplexes+ on single-family lots while restricting building size — is that it just doesn’t work. Minneapolis did this same thing (to enormous fanfare!) and so far it’s led to under 100 units.” [Twitter]

Housing Advocates Eye Alexandria — “After the Arlington County Board voted this week to allow multifamily structures in single-family home zoning, some Alexandrians looked north as a hopeful example and others as a warning of what could be ahead… Just hours after the vote, leading advocates in favor of eliminating single-family zoning said the next step of the fight is in Alexandria.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Rain throughout the day. High of 71 early in the morning but cooler most of the day, with a low of 48. Sunrise at 7:07 am and sunset at 7:25 pm. []


Arlington County will be stabilizing part of the Donaldson Run stream to prevent erosion.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board approved without discussion a more than $888,200 contract with Sagres Construction Corporation to complete the work.

The project could provide relief to nearby property owners who have been trying for years to get the county to make improvements to the stream, but were stymied by land access issues, per a county report.

Two storm drain outfalls — openings that empty water into the stream — were in poor condition and discharged water onto private property, causing “significant erosion” downstream and possibly damaging private retaining walls and trees.

The county could not fix these outfalls, however, because they were left off “properly recorded” easements. And that was not the only problem.

“Since the stream meanders across multiple different properties, no one landowner could initiate a private project to stabilize the erosion,” the report said. “Residents were fearful due to large trees that had fallen on homes and private infrastructure, such as retaining walls and decks, and had been requesting assistance with the severe erosion for many years.”

The report credits county leadership for rallying multiple landowners within the Analostan Homes Association — a small townhouse community near a county-owned water tower — to provide temporary and permanent construction easements to make the project happen.

Impacted residents are “generally supportive of the project,” the report adds.

The project begins at the stream’s headwaters at the 24th Street N. storm sewer outfall and extends about 650 feet downstream to a previously restored portion of Donaldson Run.

For this project, 28 trees will be removed and Sagres will reforest the area with 630 trees and 188 shrubs, per a project webpage. The company will use rocks and plants to stabilize the stream banks from 24th Street N. to the place where previous work ended.

Sagres will replace a failing retaining wall at the end of a stormwater pipe, called an endwall, add back soil to the stream valley and install some rock, wood or earth structures that hold that dirt down, preventing more erosion, which the county calls grade control measures.

An informational meeting about the project will be held on Tuesday, March 28, according to the project webpage. Some tree removal has already begun on the site, the site notes.

Tree removal has been a significant concern among some residents during previous restoration projects including, recently, restoration work on Donaldson Run farther downstream.

Construction is expected to begin in April or May and take about nine months. Sagres will access the construction site from 25th Street N. and the 11-acre hilltop property called Missionhurst.


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