CSX Train Horn Noise
County Board Member Katie Cristol convened a meeting November 21, 2017, of CSX representatives with representatives of the CCCA and Crystal City condominiums to follow up on the Board’s September 19, 2017, decision “to engage CSX on mitigating noise from the operation of their rail lines in Crystal City.” Discussion focused first on issues of train maintenance noise and the need for advance notice and then on the safety issues for the new VRE station that might facilitate a CSX decision to further mitigate train horn noise.
The group agreed on several follow-up actions, with the County agreeing to encourage a discussion of VRE and CSX engineers about potential safety measures that might facilitate consideration by CSX of further mitigating the blowing of train horns when the VRE station is closed. In the meantime, we have been given a special email address to report “minimal” or “sporadic” violations of the existing train horn rules in place for Crystal City: firstname.lastname@example.org This is where you should report violations of the current CSX policy that horns should not be blown (except in emergencies) when the VRE station is closed. If the problem increases or becomes more frequent and you wish to start the process of formal complaints, please use the following link and start the documentation process with the TellCSX section in the middle of the page: https://www.csx.com/index.cfm/about-us/contact-us/
Board Approves Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center Contract
On November 28, the County Board awarded a $60 million contract to Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., to complete Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park, including the design and building of the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center, Arlington’s first free-standing aquatics center. The project also will include development of 10.5 acres of the park, including environmental remediation, continuation of the Esplanade, public gathering areas and casual use space, one or more rain gardens, parking and other associated infrastructure. This new phase of the park is expected to open to the public in late 2020/early 2021. The Board voted 4 to 1 to approve the contract. Board Member John Vihstadt voted no.
This is the first time the County has used the design-build approach to build a new facility. The approach, used across the country, establishes a budget at the outset of the project which the contractor cannot exceed. The culmination of planning since 2001, the aquatics center will visually connect to the Esplanade that is one of the best-loved features of Long Bridge Park, which lies on the north end of Crystal City and offers Potomac views. Coakley & Williams winning design for the Aquatics & Fitness Center featured simple, energy efficient, quality architecture. A deck, up to 18 feet on three sides and 24 feet on the fourth, will surround the 50-meter pool. The pool will offer one, three and five-meter diving, and will be large enough that even when swim events are taking place, lanes will be open to the public. The facility also will include a second leisure/family pool, a fitness center and community rooms.
The Board also awarded a contract for $550k to Douglas Hollis to design, fabricate and install public art for Phase 2. Hollis is the architect who designed the Wave Arbor art in the current park.
CCCA Annual General Meeting and Elections November 14
Our Annual General Meeting with elections was held November 14.
In brief elections for new CCCA officers at the beginning of the meeting, Carol Fuller was elected as President, succeeding Christer Ahl, and Claudia Yarus was reelected for a second term as Secretary. There were no candidates for the position of Membership Liaison. The Executive Committee would welcome interest We would welcome inquiries from anyone in the community who would be interested in learning more about becoming an officer in the CCCA. We are especially looking for participation from the apartment rental community, in order to increase representation from that sector of Crystal City. A candidate could be appointed temporarily on a trial basis by the Executive Committee to provide outreach to our community and recruit new members. If you are interested, please email email@example.com.
Following the elections, Taylor Lawch of JBG-Smith, the major developer in Crystal City which took over from Vornado, gave a very interesting presentation of his company’s plans for the Crystal Square block bounded by 15th Street South, Crystal Drive, 18th Street South and Jefferson Davis Highway. Phase 1 will include construction to install a specialty grocery store (as yet to be decided) in the current driveway space under the building on the corner of 15th and Crystal Drive. It will also include an Alamo Draft House movie theater. In the next stage, assuming site plan approval by the County, there will be a two-level green plaza along 18th Street and additional levels on the 1770 Crystal Drive building for 360 apartments. JBG Smith hopes to have everything finished by mid to end 2020. See the presentation and the plans for the Underground here.
See the New Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center Concepts
For more than 10 years, Arlington County has been striving to develop Long Bridge Park, based on years of community interaction. And now we’re ready to take another big step forward: four nationally recognized design and construction firm teams have put together their best creativity and knowledge to design options. View the four design concepts for the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center and the four design concept videos below:
The Selection Advisory Committee (SAC), comprised of six staff and a community representative from the Long Bridge Park Advisory Committee, will recommend the contract award based on written proposals, oral interviews, review of concepts, public feedback and negotiations. It is anticipated that the County Manager will then make a recommendation to the County Board at their November 27 meeting for approval to award a $54,700,000 contract based on a concept from one of the four designs. Construction could start as early as July 2018, with the new facility open in 2021.
Renovations on the Pentagon Reservation
From the Pentagon Master Plan:
“To the east of the Reservation are Boundary Channel, the Pentagon Lagoon, Columbia Island, and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Improvements to the Humpback Bridge and a new shared-use path underpass have recently been completed. Modification of the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange is planned to serve the proposed Long Bridge Park Regional Aquatics Center and the recently completed Long Bridge outdoor recreation park. The proposed project would provide improved pedestrian and bicycle access to Boundary Channel Drive and the Pentagon building for Pentagon employees.”
“Coordination with Arlington County to facilitate the County’s installation of a fence and a multi-use trail connection along Boundary Channel Drive and the Pentagon Lagoon that will connect to a signed public bike route from the proposed roundabout on Boundary Channel Drive to Long Bridge Park. Areas north of the multi-use path intersection with the roundabout will be signed as restricted to DoD/Pentagon badge holders only.”
Planned HOT lanes on I-395 will have Impact on local traffic
Editorial: In our October Newsletter, we reported about the VDOT plans to introduce an ‘express lanes extension’ on I-395 in the form of High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes which will start and end at the interchange at Eads Street and Army-Navy Drive. The laudable objective is to achieve an increased through-put in terms of the number of passengers, without increasing the number of vehicles. The beneficiaries will be primarily those who commute from further out in Virginia to jobs in D.C. or at the Pentagon. The other side of the coin is that a substantial impact is likely to be felt at the Eads/Army-Navy interchange and in a much larger surrounding area in Pentagon City and Crystal City.
VDOT has undertaken an Environmental Impact Analysis and the comment period ended on December 16, 2016. Therefore, Arlington County felt obliged to offer a formal comment, and the County Board approved such a text in its meeting on December 13, 2016. It should be emphasized that the County feels compelled to offer general support for the project and that, in any event, the County is not in a position to exert a very strong influence, let alone to prevent the project.
However, the most obviously affected communities in Crystal City, Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge clearly have reason to expect the County to look after our interests in terms of traffic impact, noise, and other environmental aspects. So the Presidents of our three Civic Associations joined forces at the December 13, 2016, meeting, in order to express concerns and to demand mitigating measures.
Regrettably, we had detected a tendency for the County to ‘soft-pedal’ their concerns vis-à-vis VDOT or even to appear to ‘sweep issues under the rug’. For instance, in the Staff Report to the County just a few days prior to the meeting, serious concerns had been expressed on a number of issues: disagreements about methodology, substantially incomplete data, a failure to factor in anticipated future build-out in Crystal City and Pentagon City, and a totally inadequate allocation of resources for local mitigation efforts. But a revised text of the Resolution that the Board intended to pass, substantially downplayed all these serious issues or left them for future consideration. Clearly it is not credible that all these issues suddenly had been resolved or that reassurances had been provided. So there are reasons to wonder why the County nevertheless was prepared to play along.
In particular, the entire issue of mitigation of future traffic problems and environmental concerns was left up in the air with nothing more than a ‘toothless’ attempt at reassuring our community. The three CA Presidents offered harsh criticism and expressed a firm expectation that much stronger County action must be forthcoming as this project moves forward. However, it is also very important for individual residents of our area to stay informed and to come forward with their concerns to the County, either individually or through their respective Civic Associations.
A Vibrant CCCA Needs You!
In late 2013, a small group of dedicated CCCA residents worked hard to create the ByLaws by which we established the Crystal City Civic Association on January 28, 2014. We are about to celebrate 4 years of existence, during which we’ve advocated for so many issues of concern to residents, from creation of the new Pop Up Connection Library in the Underground, to mitigating excessive development growth that would undermine green space, to a good design for the Long Bridge Park facility, to a more rational planning approach to the proposed VRE station location. Obviously, we haven’t won all of our battles, but we’ve made our presence known to the County and developers and become a force to deal with.
Now, as we approach the November 14 Annual General Meeting and elections for new officers, we are facing a turnover crisis. We’ve been lucky that most of our founding members have stayed the course so far and served in a variety of officer positions. We’ve also been lucky to have a number of others who have stepped up to help with non-officer positions on the Executive Committee. But the same officers can not continue forever; in fact, our ByLaws limit officers to two terms of two years in the same office. So, to ensure the viability of the CCCA, we need new participants on the Executive Committee and members who are willing to serve in a variety of capacities. The Committee plans and runs the meetings and stays on top of all the issues facing Crystal City, so we can keep you all informed.
Three positions will be open November 14 for election: President, Secretary, and Membership Liaison. We need volunteers to step forward. If you’re not sure you want, or could, handle one of the jobs, we welcome you to get the flavor of the involvement by coming to Executive Committee meetings which are held generally in the off-months when we don’t have General Meetings. You could also “shadow” one of the officers to learn the ropes for next year, or to be appointed mid-year if an officer steps down.
Please consider how you could contribute to civic engagement and help keep the CCCA vibrant. See details below. Email the Executive Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Elections Committee (email@example.com) to ask for further information.
WE NEED VOLUNTEERS NOW.
Nominations for Officers of the Crystal City Civic Association (CCCA)
Nominations — including self-nominations — are now open for the following three CCCA officer positions! The principal duties are summarized below. All members whose dues are paid are eligible to be candidates and to vote in the election at the CCCA Annual General Meeting on the evening of November 14, 2016. Terms for each position are two years.
–President: Preside at all meetings and represent the CCCA to the County, developers, and other entities
— Meeting Secretary: Meeting minutes-taker and keeper of non-financial records
— Membership Liaison: Lead officer in recruiting new members and facilitating the CCCA activities of current members, ensuring they receive needed information and support
To nominate yourself, or someone else, for one of these offices, please submit general contact information for the nominee (name, address, phone number, email address, and a brief written statement supporting the candidacy) to the Election Committee, specifying which office the nomination is for. In addition, if you are nominating someone else, please provide your contact information. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Should there be more than one nomination for a position, eligible nominees who are willing to serve in those positions will have an opportunity to present an oral statement supporting their candidacy before the election at the Annual General Meeting.
All nominations must be received by October 30, when nominations will be closed.
More detail on the officer positions and operations of the CCCA is available from the Election Committee, whose members would be glad to provide additional information and answers to any questions of interested civic association members. (email@example.com)
In addition, the CCCA’s Bylaws containing descriptions of the open positions are posted to the right under “Directly Related Links.”
This is an opportunity for Crystal City residents to advance the interests of the Crystal City community. Thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration and response.
Patricia Heath, Barbara Selfridge, Dave Salmon, Election Committee
Site Plan Review of Crystal Square Retail October 26
On October 26, from 7-9 pm, the SPRC reviewed the JBG-Smith site plan for the Crystal Square block bounded by 15th Street South, Crystal Drive, 18th Street South and Jefferson Davis Highway. Public observers are welcome on the 11th floor of 2011 Crystal Drive. The proposed new theater and retail spaces will front on Crystal Drive and 18th Street South. The proposed plaza will be along the north side of 18th Street South between Crystal Drive and South Clark / South Bell Streets. JBG-Smith decided to separate the plan for the movie theater and retail/grocery space from the plans for the office to residential conversion of 1750 Crystal Drive, the new retail building, and 18th/Crystal Drive and the plaza along 18th. The second SPRC meeting on the grocery/theater will take place on November 20 (at Courthouse), i.e. AFTER the JBG appearance at our CCCA meeting November 14, but they will be glad to discuss it. You can view JBG-Smith’s proposed site plan here.
CCCA Meeting October 5: “Fighting the Good Fight: Trains and Planes in Crystal City”
We had two items on the agenda for the October 5 CCCA General Meeting:
- Airport Access Feasibility Study: The Business Improvement District (BID) funded a feasibility study for a possible pedestrian/biking bridge to the airport and made a brief PowerPoint presentation, followed by a Q&A. See the proposed access route here.
- Location of Proposed VRE Train Station: After fighting all year to convince the County and VRE to adopt option 3 for the proposed new VRE station in Crystal City, we lost our sustained civic action. On September 19 the County Board voted to 1) “Accept Option #2 as VRE’s preferred station location;” 2) Request VRE to ‘”Engage with the Arlington County Board and residents of Crystal City at the concept design and before site investigation, to review all elements of the concept design scope including noise; and further request that the VRE present the finalized concept design to the Arlington County Board and residents for final comment and opinion before finally selecting that design for construction;” and 3) Direct “the County Manager to initiate a process to engage CSX on mitigating noise from the operation of their rail lines in Crystal City, Arlington.”
County Board Member John Vihstadt attended our meeting. He acknowledged that he had favored option 2, based on the staff report, before visiting the sites, but realized afterwards that there is really little difference for VRE between options 2 and 3, but a big difference for the community. That is why he made a motion to adopt option 3, but was outvoted by his colleagues. After an extensive Q&A session, he committed to sending a message the following day to his colleagues and the County Manager to ask what the next steps will be on engagement.
Our Newest New Polling Station for Precinct 006
Those of us in the north end of Crystal City may be starting to think of our elections polling station as a moveable feast. After years of voting at WaterPark Towers at 1501-1505 Crystal Drive, we were moved for the last year to Crystal Place at 1801 Crystal Drive. When the management for both buildings decided not to host the polling station any more, the County scrambled to find another site. Unfortunately, none of the suitable condo or apartment buildings wanted the hassle either.
So, our newest polling station is the Gallery Underground at 2100 Crystal Drive. Look for Room 25A in Section B on the Underground map. Some of you may have attended painting classes there or the VRE station public meetings last June. When you enter from We the Pizza and pass the Library on your right, turn left and it’s the first glass-windowed area on the right. We assume the County will be sending out new voting cards in the near future.
Update and End Game on VRE Station Issues and Editorial
Background: Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is considering three locations for a new, larger station in Crystal City. Note: Read the August CCCA Newsletter for earlier detailed background on all of this. Options 1 and 2 would place the infrastructure flush against the back of residential buildings, directly affecting an estimated 1,000 residents, a situation that is unique in the entire VRE system. Option 1 no longer appears to be viable. Option 3 would place the new terminal further south down the tracks. Although the distance between option 2 and 3 is only 400 feet, choosing option 3 would remove the proposed station from directly under residents’ bedrooms and put it behind Crystal City’s largest commercial buildings. It improves the convenience for commuters working in those offices, while mitigating the disruption for residents. The latest VRE analysis clearly supports option 2. VRE’s responses to comments can also be read at this link.
Current Situation: It appears that the County, VRE, and the business community prefer option number 2, despite the negative feedback from residents received during all the public discussions. The County has failed to elaborate on the reasons for its preference beyond touting a vague concept of creating a “multi-modal transportation hub” in Crystal City that integrates train and metro. However, option 3 would still place the new platform a one-block walk away from the Metro station. Why not option 3? When there is so little difference between option 2 and option 3, why pick the one that most inconveniences residents?
Significantly, Arlington County authorities have not followed the normal planning process with full and open dialogue with impacted residents, despite repeated pleas from Crystal City residents. Finally, after persistent urging by the CCCA and Crystal City residents, led by the Crystal Park Condominium Board, the County has now agreed that there will be a hearing of the VRE station issue in the Planning Commission on September 7. We need a good show of support for option 3 at this meeting. VRE and the County Planning staff have been lined up for the hearing. A Transportation Commission meeting will be held September 13. A County Board meeting for public comment is set for September 16 or 19, although we continue to hope for a postponement.
Outreach: The CCCA sent a letter (attachment) to the County asking for postponement of the September County Board meeting in order to allow for more public input, but they have been unyielding (attachment). The County sent a similar letter response to a letter from the Board of Crystal Park (attachment), one of the two Crystal City buildings that would be most affected if the County endorses option 2 for location of the station. The Crystal City Citizen Review Council (CCCRC), the Board-appointed County Advisory Group composed of all stakeholders, also sent a letter (attachment) urging the County to support option 3. Individuals have continued to attend various meetings to engage with County Board members to urge them to “do the right thing.” Unfortunately, the Crystal City BID, JBG-Smith, and LCOR are all supporting option 2 because they like the (minimally) closer location to the “multi-modal transportation hub” at the Metro (attachment).
End Game: If the County Board refuses to postpone its September 16/19 consideration of the station location, they will surely endorse option 2, supporting the business community over Crystal City residents. We have only two weeks left to make our argument and turn this around.
Airport Access Study: Public Meetings
The Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID) issued an RFP for the new feasibility study of a pedestrian connection from Crystal City via the VRE Railway Station to the B/C terminals of the Airport. See the RFP here.
The feasibility study is now underway for a project that has intrigued Crystal City residents, businesses and hotels for the longest time. You can walk to the airport today if you do not have too much luggage, but only if you do not mind taking major risks or walking a very substantial detour. But if one wants to show air travelers that the airport is truly connected directly to Crystal City, something much safer and more convenient is needed. And we should realize that it is in everyone’s interest to facilitate the access to hotels and business in Crystal City. If it could entice office tenants to come here, if it could attract conferences, and if it could convince tourists to walk over to a Crystal City hotel instead of jumping into a cab or a Metro train, much would be gained for all of us who want to see Crystal City thrive. And residents surely will not mind being able to walk to the terminal for their own travel or to pick up a visitor.
Crystal City residents, through our Civic Association, are officially recognized as stakeholders in this project, and this entails CCCA participation in the Working Group for the project—the first on August 16. But you are now also invited personally to gain insights into the project, by attending one of two identical sessions on September 5. We encourage you to attend, and the BID will want to benefit from your views afterwards! Here is the link.
Great News: Crystal City Pop-up Branch Library to Stay Open Into 2018
The Connection: Crystal City—Pop-up Branch Library will be open through June 2018, thanks to an agreement reached between Arlington County and landlord JBG Smith and announced July 27. This is something the CCCA and many residents have been working towards for in the last year. There is no guarantee that it will continue after June 2018, but we are very pleased that we still have a library to call our own.
“The Connection has proven to be an innovative and popular space for the Crystal City community,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said. “Thanks to JBG for partnering with us to keep the pop-up branch library open through June 2018. When the business community and the government work together, the community benefits.”
The County opened the pop-up library at 2100 Crystal Drive in September 2016, with an initial operating term due to end in December of this year. It offers books, audio visual materials, games and tech access, along with community meeting space, workshops, book groups and other gatherings, including art exhibits. The goal was to meet patrons where they live and work in a low-cost way. Since its debut, the library has enlivened Crystal City Shops at 2100, 2117 Crystal Plaza Arcade and garnered an overwhelmingly positive response from the community.
“The revitalization of Crystal City is a top priority for JBG Smith,” said Andrew VanHorn, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG Smith. “The Connection is a prime example of the place-making efforts we are employing throughout the area, in that we are finding creative ways to provide value and utilize space. It has been especially rewarding to be able to work closely with Arlington county to provide a service that Crystal City residents and neighbors both need and enjoy.”
JBG will continue to provide the 1,222 sq. ft. of space that The Connection occupies rent-free. Beginning in January 2018, JBG also will be responsible for The Connection’s share of common area maintenance expenses, real estate taxes and electricity associated with the space the pop-up library occupies in the 2100 Crystal Drive Center.
Update on Long Bridge Park Facility
There is a County process underway to select a winner of a bidding process for the design and construction of the indoor Aquatics/Fitness/Health facility in Long Bridge Park, which after years of planning and a ‘false start’ due to a projected budget overrun was halted a couple of years ago. The revised process is based on what is known as a Design/Build approach, under which a combination of a construction company and one or more design/architectural firms commit to produce a facility with the required features and the agreed design quality within a pre-established price.
Five bidders have been determined to be ‘qualified’, in terms of prior experience and capacity for this kind of project. By the beginning of August, each bidder will submit sufficiently detailed proposals to enable a County team to review the proposals and interview the bidders in order to select a number of finalists. These finalists will, starting in September, further develop their proposals, so that a final comparison and evaluation can be made.
Towards the end of this period, the general public will have a limited opportunity to become familiar with the bids and offer input. Thereafter, the County team will arrive at a final conclusion as to which bid should be recommended to the County Board. A final decision by the Board, about what we hope will be a ‘green light’ to go ahead, is expected in November. It has been previously estimated that a three-year construction period could be expected after a favorable County Board decision.
Update on VRE Station Location: CCCRC Letter
Some of you are aware of the request from the County Board that the Crystal City Citizen Review Council (CCCRC) find a way to channel community concerns/comments to the County Board, as one additional channel for such input. The Crystal City Citizen Review Council (CCCRC) was established by the Arlington County Board to monitor, identify issues and ensure the success of the Crystal City Sector Plan. The Council of 19 members is comprised of residents, property owners, members of Arlington commissions and others appointed by the County Board.
As this request came two hours prior to the only CCCRC meeting between then and late September, the only approach available, following a brief discussion, was to put together a letter from the CCCRC as a group. This meant of course, a non-partisan approach/tone, which all the stakeholders could live with (incl. major land and business owners, BID, and neighbors in Aurora/Ridge). See the letter attached.
So the message is clear: the County needs to take the conditions/views of the residents into account and balance that with its own arguments/preferences in the pursuit of a win-win solution; this could only be achieved by now taking the time to offer a genuine dialog prior to the decision-making and to ensure that the County does not ‘let the best (from their perspective) become the enemy of the good’; understood that for the residents the choice is ‘all or nothing’ as between the impacts of Option 2 or 3, whereas for the County it is only a matter of degree; they may want option 2 but they should easily be able to live with the not very different option 3; (in other words, the emphasis is NOT on ‘demolishing option 2 in order to get a win-lose outcome).
And the document sets the stage for those conclusions by talking about all the stakeholders ‘being in it together’ and that for the longer term the County and Crystal City will thrive only if there is a ‘buy-in’ from all parties.
Update: After persistent urging by the CCCA and Crystal City residents, led by Crystal Park, the County has now agreed that there will be a hearing of the VRE station issue in the Planning Commission on Sept 6 or 7. VRE and the County Planning staff have been lined up for the hearing.
Update on Train Horn Noise Problem
The CCCA continues to work with Arlington County and the VRE to find a long-term solution to the train horn noise problem in Crystal City. The problem will not be solved by the location of any new VRE station. It will only be solved if the new station includes the appropriate security and safety measures to reassure CSX enough to change its nationwide policy of sounding horns when coming into an open station (like the VRE). The policy that CSX agreed to in 2014 after negotiation with Crystal City residents was to not blow the horns, except in emergency situations, when the VRE station is closed, i.e., from 8 pm to 5:30 am Monday to Friday.
For a July 6 update from the VRE and Arlington County lawyer Steven MacIsaac to Board Members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey on continuing negotiations with VRE and CSX on this issue,read the letter here.
CCCA Meeting June 20: “911–What’s your Emergency?”
An excellent informative meeting. Captain Wayne Vincent, Commander of the second police district, along with Sgt Lafley, Officer Butzer, provided a good overview of the situation in Crystal city, repeating that we are lucky to live in our area where crime is low. There are 370 officers in the County, and statistics for Crystal City are pretty good, with the exception that 17 cars have been broken into this year, largely from intruders “piggy backing” on people opening doors with their fobs and letting them in. There were many questions asked, ranging from the homeless under the bridges to ways to report crime, to theft of signs. Handouts on personal safety and phone numbers to call to report crime are posted on the CCCA website.
Fire Chief Captain Tiffanye Wesley then answered questions about the fire and emergency services provided by her Aurora station. IN response to a question about Hazardous Material being transported on the CSX trains, she stated that their HazMat Manager reports “close to zero hazmat” passes through Arlington. She noted that the County’s busiest engine is at the Aurora station (called out about 12 times a day), as well as the medic (about 10-12 times a day). Aurora’s assets are augmented by those of the airport Alexandria, and Ft Myer—the closest unit is always the one called to get to a call within 4 minutes. Captain Wesley is famous, having appeared on the Harry Connick Jr show in November, challenging him to a modified physical test that firefighters must pass to be accepted. See it here.
Two clear issues arose from the June 7 VRE meetings in Crystal City: location of the new station (3 options) and the need to solve the train horn noise problem.
- Location of VRE Station: VRE presented three options for location of the new station and extended platform: 1) south from entrance to Long Bridge Park stretching behind Water Park Towers to current station location; 2) from current station location stretching south of Crystal Park and Crystal Place and exiting through a commercial building next to Crystal Park; 3) surrounding a commercial building at 2100/2200 Crystal Drive. The first two options will definitely impact the quality of life for Crystal City residents, whereas the third will affect office buildings. Our concern is that the County sees this decision as a strictly transportation issue and has preferred option 2 from the start on the assumption that it is the closest to the Metro.
- Train Horn Noise: The CCCA has been advocating for two years that Crystal City should be a “quiet zone” where the incoming trains (VRE, Amtrak, and CSX) do not have to blow their horns. We negotiated with CSX that horns would not be blown when the VRE station is closed, and that has made a major difference to our quality of life. However, CSX told us that until safety controls are installed at an upgraded VRE station, they cannot tell train engineers not to sound a warning horn when entering the VRE station during VRE open hours. Our only hope for solving the train horn problem is an upgraded VRE station with the appropriate safety and warning measures that will allow CSX to show flexibility in its operational policies and stop the horns from blowing. County and VRE lawyer Steve MacIsaac is working with VRE and CSX to find a solution, and the CCCA and others have offered assistance to weigh in with CSX.
Comment: The County Board’s meeting, where they decide on the preferred option which they will want to convey to VRE, will take place on September 16. At that meeting, the general public will be allowed to testify. Three days earlier, on September 13, the Transportation Commission will hold the meeting where they will fully discuss the VRE station issue and decide on their advice to the County Board. This meeting will also offer an opportunity for the public to testify. However, in the case of a choice between the two, the CCCA strongly recommends that priority be given to the County Board meeting.
In the meantime, many of us attended an Arlington County Board Work Session on VRE Plans & Major Projects which took place on June 28. Some 30-40 residents also attended the June 29 Transportation Commission meeting, and 10 provided public comment supporting the community’s unified advocacy for option 3 and calling for a solution to the train horn problem.
We have repeatedly called for the Planning Commission to also be involved since these are quality of life issues, but the County has so far treated this strictly as a technical transportation issue. VRE acknowledged at the June 28 working session of the Board that Crystal City is unique in that it is the only station in the VRE system located so close to residential properties. There will be another Transportation Committee meeting September 13 before the full Board meeting September 16. Concept Design, Preliminary Engineering & Environmental Documentation will take place after that. A petition is being circulated out of the 1805 Crystal Park Condominium.
New Movie Theater for Crystal City
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema has signed on to anchor JBG Smith’s conversion of an aging Crystal City office building at 1750 Crystal Drive into a residential and retail development. JBG Cos. Principal Kai Reynolds, the future JBG Smith co-chief development officer, said on a recent investor call that JBG Smith — as it will be called after the third-quarter merger of The JBG Cos. and Vornado Realty Trust’s D.C. business — has a signed lease with the Austin, Texas-based movie theater chain and is close to a letter of intent with a specialty grocer for the property.
The proposal is an amended and augmented version of a plan that Vornado (NYSE: VNO), Crystal City’s dominant landowner, has worked on for several years. The Vornado plan is listed as “inactive” by Arlington County. In 2015, Vornado earned Arlington’s approval to modernize and reskin the 12-story, 250,000-square-foot 1750 Crystal Drive — at that time the home of the U.S. Marshals Service — with glass and metal. A year later, Vornado submitted a plan to add a multiplex and retail to the same square, above the Crystal City Shops at Crystal Drive and 18th Street South. The building will get a new address: 1770 Crystal Drive.
The 1770 Crystal plan is key to JBG Smith’s long-term vision for Crystal City, Kelly said. JBG Smith, which will trade on the New York Stock Exchange as “JBGS,” plans 650 new residential units and 120,000 square feet of new retail in the first phase, between 1770 Crystal and two additional projects at 1800 S. Bell and 2121 Crystal Drive, neither of which have been detailed. Read more in bizjournals.com.
Crystal City Water Park Concession Stand Has Closed
The concession’s last day was June 16, after landlord Vornado declined to renew vendor Adel Ishak’s lease. Ishak, who was a prominent attorney in Egypt before he fled to the United States with his family due to safety concerns, had run the kiosk for at least six years. ARLnow.com has learned that landlord Vornado — soon to be JBG Smith — is planning an expanded retail presence in the park, perhaps a more full-featured restaurant or a beer garden. Read more here.
Update on the Long Bridge Project
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) held a public informational meeting May 16 to review the preliminary concept screening results for the Long Bridge Project. The key briefing is that they have narrowed the options under consideration for the bridge from 10 to 6 + 1: i.e., 3, 4, or 5 tracks with or without a bike/pedestrian path (the +1 option is a “no build”). The tunnel option was dropped because CSX said its freight trains would be unable to access it. This is key for Crystal City because no additional car traffic would be added to the bridge. There are plans, however, for a major increase in train traffic by 2040: a 150% increase in aggregate for VRE/Amtrak/CSX and with some MARC service and Norfolk Southern freight being expected; (NS currently go around Manassas/Hagerstown to avoid hefty Amtrak charges if going through our area.
For more information about the Long Bridge Project, please visit the project page.
South Park at Potomac Yards – Online Feedback Opportunity
Arlington County is in the process of developing a Park Master Plan for the open space informally called “South Park.” After a series of public meetings, we have developed three draft park concepts for the community to evaluate. The three concepts were developed based on community feedback, guidance from the Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan and Design Guidelines, careful consideration of the site constraints and sensitive environmental areas, need for improved pedestrian/bicycle circulation, and the projected budget.
An online feedback form is available to help gather additional input: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WL72PJL
The online feedback form allows the community to ‘vote’ for their preferred park concept plan. If you want a closer look at the three concept plans, and additional context as to how they were developed, please refer to the most recent presentation: https://arlingtonva.s3.dualstack.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/31/2017/05/South-Park-Meeting-3-Presentation-05-03-17.pdf
The Survey will be available until 11 p.m. on Wednesday May 31. The next public meeting will provide a summary of the survey results and feature one draft park concept plan for the community to evaluate. This meeting will be in late June or early July. Notifications will be sent out once the date is finalized.
Metro’s BLUE Line: finally an end to discrimination and frustrations!
On May 12, Metro announced that changes to fares, schedules and rail system hours will take effect Sunday, June 25, 2017. The changes, approved by the Board of Directors earlier this year, are part of an effort to rightsize service, close a budget gap and provide needed time for new categories of preventive maintenance to improve safety and reliability. Among the changes taking effect, most fares on Metrobus and Metrorail will increase between 10-25 cents; some low-ridership bus routes will be discontinued; trains will arrive slightly less frequently during rush hour; and Metrorail system hours will be adjusted to provide an additional eight hours of track access weekly to improve safety and service reliability. To ensure customers are prepared for the changes, Metro will conduct extensive outreach in the weeks leading up to the June 25 change day, including signage aboard vehicles, at rail stations and key bus stops, MetroAlerts email and text messages, social media, and handouts distributed to customers at high-traffic locations. Information can also be found at wmata.com/changes. Read more here.
Note that, along with other changes, on June 25, all metro lines, including the Blue Line, will change to 8 minutes between trains during rush hour.
As many of you are only too well aware, for a number of years now, Blue Line riders in our area have been angered and discouraged by the ‘Cinderella treatment’ which the Blue Line has suffered in comparison with the rest of the Metrorail system. Trains have been running less frequently, so that crowding and delays have resulted. Often it has been necessary to take the Yellow Line and then backtrack to destinations in the West End of Downtown, or it has been unavoidable to go by car/taxi. From the Civic Association, we have kept pestering the Arlington County Board, who are represented on the Metro Board, and we have also made representations directly to Metro. Finally, we are now, quite literally, seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Metro has just announced that, effective June 25, all Metrorail lines will have the same intervals between trains, eight minutes during rush hour. (Currently, the Blue Line has 12 minute intervals, compared with six minutes for the other lines).
However, we cannot relax; we need to keep up the pressure. It is a matter of concern that the improvement for the Blue Line was feasible only at the expense of all the other lines. There is a ‘zero sum game,’ in the sense that bottlenecks, such as the tunnel from Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom, impose overall limits. And it is conceivable that riders on other lines may now want to claim that they have become the ‘squeaky wheel’.
Also effective June 25, Metro is changing the overall hours of operation, and you should also be ready for fare increases, as described in the document released by Metro. Let us now hope that the SafeTrack work, which is soon coming to an end, will also lead to increased reliability.
April 19 CCCA Meeting
We had two very interesting agenda items:
–A first introduction by JBG Smith, the developers who are soon taking over from Vornado as the main land-owner in Crystal City. They offered an initial indication of their thinking regarding development projects and other plans for our community. The agreement will not be signed until perhaps July, when JBG will take over Vornado and become JBG Smith, so the speakers were particularly interested in hearing from residents during the lively question and answer period.
–An introduction by Joshua Nadas, Community Planner with the George Washington Memorial Parkway, National Park Service. His job is to handle the outreach to adjacent communities. Apart from the Parkway itself, the NPS manages the Mount Vernon Trail and the interface with other parks and trails in our area. Again, there was a lively Q& A period.
For a more detailed write up of the meeting, read here.
UPDATE ON THE CONNECTION POP UP LIBRARY: GOOD NEWS
We have been informed of a temporary reprieve for the Crystal City pop-up library (‘the Connection’) in the Underground, from June 2017 through at least mid-December 2017. There is some hope that this period could be extended somewhat, but a permanent stay does not appear likely. However, we encourage Crystal City residents and other users of the pop-up library to continue to express their views to Arlington County (for the attention of Library Director Diane Kresh Dkresh@arlingtonva.us), as we are convinced that such feedback is very helpful. Our Civic Association has continued special efforts behind the scenes to achieve a positive outcome, just as we were the initiators of the whole idea of having a pop-up library in Crystal City.
It’s sad to note, but it seems that Crystal City may again be losing out to other parts of the County with respect to budget and community facilities. This time, despite the outstanding success of the Pop Up Library in the Underground, it’s beginning to look like the County Board will not renew the 9 month experiment, but will instead redo the experiment in other parts of the County (e.g., western Columbia Pike and Rosslyn) …which they believe are more underserved than Crystal City. Apparently, the proposed budget can only handle one Pop Up library in the County. Without renewal, the Connection will close in June.
Please take 5 minutes to fill out the short survey about the Crystal City: Connection pop-up library, if you haven’t done so already. The information you provide will be presented to the County Board. : https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/connectioncc. The deadline for completing the survey is Friday, March 31, 2017.
The Budget will not be adopted until April 22, so there is still a chance to urge the Board to reconsider and keep the Connection open. We would urge library supporters to write individually to the 5 Board members, the County Manager and the Library Director:
It would be helpful to comment that you are aware that the CCCA has urged the County Board to agree to a continuation, but that you as an individual user support this.
Remodeling 12th and Clark Streets
On April 5th, the county held an information session, outlining plans for 12th Street, which is being redone in coordination with planned changes on Clark St. between 12th & 15th. (Demolition of the ramp, with changes on Clark St from what was originally planned.) Design is scheduled to be completed in spring 2018. Construction is anticipated to start in early 2019 and will last approximately two years. The 30% design plans are complete and are displayed on the Project website and project page). Public feedback was invited until April 21. Submit comments on the 30% plans to Project Manager Mark Schnaufer at Mschnaufer@arlingtonva.us.
Editorial: We have concerns about the plans. With the transit lanes changing from inside to outside, confusion in travel lanes will cause problems. Specifically, the intersection of 12th Street and Long Bridge Drive is going to be a nightmare. With the traffic lights having to deal with several modes of transportation, the wait times will become significantly larger. For example, with the new Long Bridge Drive and I-395 interchange, the traffic will increase. Likewise, with the new Long Bridge Park Facility, which should go to build/bid in December, the traffic will increase. With Clark Street Flyway teardown, additional land will be developed. This change in traffic patterns and demand will increase the usage of this intersection. Lastly, the addition of a light at Army-Navy Drive and 12th street will impact the traffic at the Long Bridge Drive and 12th Street intersection. Will the two lights be timed? How long will ALL the lights be red to allow the Metroway busses to get through both intersections?
The net result is the creation of a bottleneck and confusion for drivers, bikes and pedestrians. We would hope the County reconsiders the design of the Metroway transit lanes to prevent the addition of more chaos to the streets of Crystal City. While saving money on a one bus transit stop is commendable, it will drive other costs greater than the savings.
Two possible changes are: Make the Metroway go on the outside down 12th street. Or make the Metroway in BOTH directions go down Clark Street. If the Metroway were to come up Clark Street, it would turn left at the intersection of 12th and Clark(Long Bridge Drive) and which lane it turned into would not be important.
The Residential Parking Working Group has submitted a policy recommendation to the County Manager.
There is a comment page on the project web site where you can watch a short introductory video, read about the Working Group’s recommendation and take a survey, or leave a quick comment (https://commissions.arlingtonva.us/residential-parking-working-group-survey/). If you or your neighbors would rather hear more about the Working Group’s recommendation in person, the Working Group Chair and I will be presenting at the April 13th Housing Commission meeting, the April 18th Disability Advisory Commission meeting, and the Long Range Planning Commission on April 20th. We will be closing the online survey on April 18th, and staff will use the Working Group’s policy recommendation to the County Manager in combination with what we hear from the community to create a staff recommendation.
Update: VRE Train Station in Crystal City
The VRE staff is still developing conceptual designs for the three options they presented to the community in March. They will present additional information to the community in June – again about the three options – for additional feedback. The County has asked them for some additional renderings and specifics including: greater detail on the paths of pedestrian access for each of the options and cross-sections that show the distance and elevation of the proposed station platform locations relative to the adjacent buildings. We believe they plan to develop more information on noise impacts, specifically from the locomotive when the train is stopped, and to report on any fatal flaws for each of the locations regarding over/under access across the tracks. There is still time to ask for clarifying information, as long as it is conceptual.
VRE and the County will collaborate on the presentation in June. VRE will present its information, and the County will present the pros/cons of each from a policy perspective (e.g., transportation, land use, etc). The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for June 7. After the June meeting with VRE, the issue will be taken to the County Board for their direction.
As of April 21, VRE only had money for conceptual design, the phase they are currently in. They are seeking money for the next phase, Preliminary Engineering (30% design) and the NEPA process, and hope to get that money so they can start in June or July. The public will have an additional chance to weigh in on the station location during the NEPA process.
EDITORIAL: DISTURBING VRE PRESENTATION ON STATION (RE)LOCATION IN CRYSTAL CITY
On March 30, VRE offered a presentation of the three options which have emerged for the location of an expanded VRE station on Crystal City. The expansion is required essentially for two reasons: VRE needs increased platform length in order to use longer trains and also wants to be able to carry passengers in both directions during their rush-hour period. For instance, passengers may want to use VRE to travel from Union Station towards Virginia in the morning, and in the opposite direction in the afternoon. This requires having two dedicated tracks with a platform in between. See the presentation here.
The main positive observation from the meeting was that a fairly large number of Crystal City residents had decided to attend and that, above all, it had been possible to coordinate a joint position between the Civic Association and the two largest Condo Associations (Crystal Gateway and Crystal Park). Our message was that, with two options placing the station flush against a set of two residential buildings, and a third one placing it at an office building, the latter option would be the only reasonable one, if VRE and other stakeholders want to show any concern for the quality of life of the Crystal City residents. As was noted by audience members, we may not be VRE passengers, but residents are tax payers in the context of a State-funded project.
HOWEVER, the presentation confirmed the already existing impression that, for VRE and its partners, the opinions and the well-being of the residents appear very far down (if at all) on the list of criteria and considerations, when they now quickly want to zero in on only one option. They will not offer any further community meetings until they are ready to come forward, probably in a month or two, with their recommended option and the related design details. In the meantime, all we can do as Crystal City residents is to reiterate our arguments, through the Civic Association, the Condo Associations and individually. The e-mail address to the project manager Ms. Soneji is: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is understandable that the VRE prioritizes the interests of their passengers. Of those who disembark in Crystal City, over 80% work within walking distance, or continue by local bus for a short distance. So less than 20% transfer to Metrorail, a fact that renders the distance from VRE to Metro less important. When many passengers cross the street and enter the ‘Underground’, this is for the purpose of using it to get to their destinations in or near Crystal City. The Pentagon is another common destination.
The presentation also contained some references to environmental factors in the evaluation process, but that seemed to be more ‘for the birds’ than for the human inhabitants of Crystal City. There was also a statement to the effect that it would be beneficial to make the rail line more visible and integrated into our public realm. (At least there was no suggestion of a goal to make it more audible…).
Much to our surprise, the project manager also paraphrased statements reportedly conveyed by Arlington County, to the effect that the ‘Underground’ is an anachronism and that it would be important to support an activation of the streetscape. This brings up the final point, which is critical: in cross-jurisdictional projects such as this one, the local jurisdiction has strong influence on matters which do not really concern other areas. And comments from sources, outside the formal meeting, suggest that Arlington County has already weighed in, with preferences and arguments which are unknown to us. Clearly, they have not consulted with Crystal City residents, so it is obviously now urgent to ensure that our views and concerns reach the County Board before it is too late: email@example.com
Proposed New Crystal City Apartment Building
Crystal House Apartments Investors filed a preliminary site plan for an infill development that would construct a new apartment building called “Crystal House III” near the corner of S. Eads Street and 18th Street. The proposed construction site is adjacent to the existing Crystal House apartment buildings, which are two 12-story residential towers that were built in 1961. Under the proposed plan, the developer would build a new five-story building on a parking lot next to those towers with 252 new residential units. The plan also calls for a two-level underground parking lot with space for 424 vehicles and the construction of a new public park, streetscape improvements and public art. Read more in ArlNow.com’s February 16 article.
Note: The public Site Plan Review Process is likely to start in March or April. This area is officially part of Crystal City, according to Arlington County but currently falls outside the CCCA borders since it has historically been covered by the Aurora Highlands Civic Association (AHCA) before the CCCA was established in 2014. Residents of the Crystal Houses and Crystal Towers west of S. Eads Street are eligible to be members of the CCCA if they are not members of the AHCA. The CCCA and the AHCA are collaborating to follow the site plan developments for Crystal House III.
Bye Bye Blue Line for 18 Days
Be prepared. No blue line at all from Feb. 11-28, so no metro service between Pentagon and Rosslyn. Take the Yellow Line to DC and switch to Silver or Orange. Or take Art 43 from Crystal City to Rosslyn and transfer to Metro.
New High School Instructional Focus
By September 2022, APS will open the doors to a new high school. Beginning in February 2017, APS will launch a community engagement process to determine the instructional focus for the new high school. The process will include:
- February 15: Joint ACI and FAC meeting to share options considered for location and instruction
- February-March: Community Survey
- March 30 and April 4: Community Meetings
- May: School Board work session to review options
- June: Staff recommendation to the School Board
If you have questions or suggestions for the new high school instructional focus, please contact APS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Park Development: South Park Potomac Yard
Arlington County is undertaking a Park Master Plan for an open space referred to as South Park. Although inside Arlington County, this park is located just south of the current borders of the CCCA boundaries. Crystal City ends with the wedge between Crystal Drive and Rte. 1, where they come together roughly at 32nd St. However, no civic association currently covers Arlington’s part of Potomac Yard, which starts with the Marriott Hotels at 27th St and continues east of Crystal Dr./Rte.1 all the down to the Four Mile Run, which is essentially the border with Alexandria. (See google map here) So the CCCA will be actively following the development of this project.
South Park was created as a public park through the Potomac Yard Phased Development Plan (PDSP #346), approved by the County Board on 10-21-2000. The PDSP required the developer to set aside this open space and dedicate a public access easement to Arlington County, and Design Guidelines were created to help guide the open spaces associated with the development. The park currently has a publicly accessible playground and a playground exclusively used by a daycare facility, planted shrub/perennial beds, walkways, a large grassy field, and a steeply sloped grassy area. General guidance from the Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan and Design Guidelines speaks to connecting park users to the water, taking advantage of viewsheds, and improving the water quality of Four Mile Run.
The civic engagement process will include a series of four public meetings and eventually an online survey, which are intended to solicit ideas and feedback from the public to help inform the park’s design. The public meetings will also convey the park’s role in implementing the Four Mile Run Restoration Master Plan (adopted by the County Board in 2006) and Design Guidelines (adopted by the County Board in 2009). The process will culminate with a Park Master Plan, which will conceptually identify park amenities and their placement within the park, pedestrian and bicycle circulation, and strategies for addressing stormwater. The Park Master Plan will then be used to develop detailed construction drawings, once funding for construction is available.
The first public meeting is scheduled for February 22 from 7-9 pm at Gunston Middle School, Media Center/Library, 2700 South Lang Street. Although representatives of the CCCA Executive Committee will attend the meeting as part of our normal following of County issues, the public is invited to attend. See more details on the project website here.
River House Site Plan Review Process Update: Plans Now On Hold
County Planning staff received notice on Monday, February 6, 2017, that JBG – Smith will not proceed, at this time, with the Site Plan Review process for the River House. The application for 1400 S. Joyce Street, as previously submitted, consists of 933 in-fill residential units that would replace surface parking. The application also includes an alternative plan for 29, 569 sq. ft. of new retail space, subject to a potential Special General Land Use Plan (GLUP) Study. While the applicant has indicated that they do not intend to withdraw or modify the application, the Planning Division’s 2017 – 2018 work program will note the site plan application as inactive. The River House site plan application project web site has been amended and the Planning Commission and associated civic associations have been notified.
Capital Bikeshare Station at Clark & 23rd
Arlington County is proposing a 15-dock Capital Bikeshare station on the sidewalk of S. Clark St. north of 23rd St, and has asked if the CCCA has any comment or objection. The Crystal City Metro Station, which is north of the proposed station, has a Capital Bikeshare station so the proposed station location would strengthen the Capital Bikeshare network in Crystal City. The proposed station location would provide convenient access to Crystal City Shops, WeWork Crystal City, WeLive Crystal City, Crystal Plaza Apartments, Cassa Housing, and more. The location of the proposed station site is illustrated in the two photos below. The left photo shows an aerial of the site. The right photo is an illustration of the footprint of the planned station site outlined in yellow. Does any member of the Crystal City Civic Association have any concerns with the proposed station location? Email us by February 9 at email@example.com if you do to let us know otherwise, we’ll let the County know that the CCCA has no objections.
Capital Bikeshare is self-service bike transit, perfect for short trips, with over 3,500 bikes available at 440+ stations in Arlington, D.C., Alexandria, Fairfax County, and Montgomery County. Arlington currently has about 90 stations with plans to expand County-wide. A map of Arlington’s existing and proposed stations can be found online at https://goo.gl/jXtS18.
Airplane Routes Unchanged
The FAA issued a statement today saying it “has decided to discontinue its work on the departure procedure from Washington Reagan National Airport known as Lazir B and to cancel its implementation. The decision follows a review of public input, including comments gathered at community meetings, inquiries from political leaders and the public, and discussions in citizens’ advisory forums. The FAA will continue to support the efforts of the DCA Community Noise Working Group.” See Arlington County’s Reponse.
DC2RVA Draft EIS Recommendations
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) presented its recommendations for the Washington, D.C. to Richmond, VA Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor project (DC2RVA) to the Commonwealth Transportation Board during its December meeting. DRPT’s recommendations are available for review on the project website, including three options depending on outcome of Long Bridge study. Three options are being considered to align the DC2RVA corridor with the new Long Bridge options currently being studied by DDOT: adding 2-tracks to the east, adding 2 tracks to the west, or adding a single track on each side approaching Long Bridge. Improvements would occur within the existing right of way. See the recommendations and interactive map here.
Arlington County to Allow and Regulate Short-Term Rentals
On December 10, the County Board approved new Zoning Ordinance regulations that define a short-term residential rental as a new home occupation called “accessory homestay,” and creates standards for this use. The regulations affect short-term rentals through online services such as Airbnb, Craigslist, VRBO and others. The use of private homes for short-term residential rental was not previously permitted by the Zoning… Ordinance. The new regulations include limitations to protect the character of residential neighborhoods; ensure health and safety measures are in place; and regulate and limit the use in a manner consistent with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The amendment was developed based on a review of practices in other jurisdictions in Virginia and throughout the country, and with input from the community. Read more here.
Arlington Schools Rated Best in Virginia
The 2017 Best School Districts ranking is based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, college readiness, graduation rates, SAT/ACT scores, teacher quality, public school district ratings, and more. Read the article and ratings here.
Arlington County to Allow and Regulate Short-Term Rentals
On December 10, the County Board approved new Zoning Ordinance regulations that define a short-term residential rental as a new home occupation called “accessory homestay,” and creates standards for this use. The regulations affect short-term rentals through online services such as Airbnb, Craigslist, VRBO and others. The use of private homes for short-term residential rental was not previously permitted by the Zoning… Ordinance. The new regulations include limitations to protect the character of residential neighborhoods; ensure health and safety measures are in place; and regulate and limit the use in a manner consistent with the County’s Comprehensive Plan. The amendment was developed based on a review of practices in other jurisdictions in Virginia and throughout the country, and with input from the community. Read more here:
Civic engagement is at the heart of Arlington. Find a way to make a difference in your community — share feedback today, or find ways to get more deeply involved. See the opportunities on the Arlington County Website.
FY 2018 Budget Priorities Public Input Form
Interested in the County Budget? Be sure to comment. Go to the Public Input Form here:
County Notice: As we begin the FY 2018 budget process, we’d like you to share what priorities should be considered. The following documents may be helpful to review prior to submitting your feedback:
Defense Department Expected to Study Helicopter Noise
On December 2, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a conference report for the National Defense Authorization Act, pushing an amendment on helicopter noise from Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) closer to becoming law. The amendment was proposed by Beyer in response to frequent complaints from Northern Virginia residents about excess noise from military helicopters. It directs the Dept. of Defense to work with the Federal Aviation Administration “to study changes to the region’s helicopter flight routes, operating procedures, and even the types of helicopters flown in the national capital airspace to mitigate the effect of noise on the region’s neighborhoods.” Read more here.
NEW CCCA OFFICERS ELECTED
At the opening of the Annual General Meeting November 16, the following officers were elected:
President: Christer Ahl
Vice President for Policy and Planning: Judy Freshman
Treasurer: Diane Oksanen-Gooden
The position of Membership Liaison had no candidates and remains vacant. We are actively searching for a candidate to fill the outreach duties for the CCCA by appointment. The duties are listed in the ByLaws that can be found to the right on the CCCA website.
RAIL TRANSPORTATION IN CRYSTAL CITY: CCCA ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING NOVEMBER 16
We had an excellent panel of railroad experts who had never participated in such a holistic presentation. Although planning is at an early stage for the Long Bridge Project promoted by the District of Colombia and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there are many implications for CSX, VRE, the Virginia Department of Rail Transportation (DRPT), and Crystal City residents.
Will the train bridge expand from 2 to 3, 4, or 5+ tracks? Will CSX and VRE increase train traffic at night and on weekends? Will VRE upgrade/expand its train station? What are the environmental and quality of life implications for Crystal City? Will the Environmental Impact Studies point towards successful noise mitigation factors?
Review the 3 Power Point presentations:
A video sneak peek at the future Reagan National Airport
Reagan National will be getting a major facelift in the next few months, part of $1-billion modernization of the 75-year-old airport. Plans include a new terminal to house short-hop flights on the north side of Terminal C, currently home to the airport’s executive offices. The project also includes space for new security checkpoints. On Wednesday, members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority’ board of directors, got a preview of what the new National will look like when work is completed in 2021. See the Washington Post article of October 19 here.
VDOT Project Update: I-395 HOV Tolling
The Arlington County Board received an update October 18 from state transportation officials regarding the potential traffic, environmental and fiscal effects to Arlington resulting from the I-395 Express Lanes Northern Extension. The state project to add a third high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane and convert the three HOV lanes to managed HOV/toll lanes is currently under environmental review. County staff have been working closely with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to ensure the I-395 project’s environmental review includes a thorough analysis of impacts to Arlington. VDOT has indicated the additional express lane will be constructed completely within its right of way. County staff will provide a detailed analysis for the County Board in December regarding traffic impacts to Arlington, impacts from possible noise mitigation, and sufficient transit funding. The next Public Hearing is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., with a presentation at 7 p.m. at Wakefield High School, 1325 S. Dinwiddie Street. See full information here.
CRYSTAL CITY LIBRARY OPENS
The Arlington County Library opened its innovative, new pop up library—The Connection—in Crystal City September 28, with a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The library is located across from the Tech Shop and facing Au Bon Pain. In addition to a lot of newly arrived books, check out the computers; tools, games and jig saw puzzles for loan, tech exhibit, the kids’ Launchpad and exhibit corner, and comfortable couch seating.
Library hours, starting Sept. 29, 2016:
Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Thursday: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Friday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday – Monday: CLOSED
CCCA MEETING ON DEVELOPMENT AND TRANSPORTATION IN CRYSTAL CITY: September 21, 2016
I-395 Express Lanes Project: Representing VDOT and its partners, Project Manager Michael Snare presented an update of the plans for the proposed Express Lanes Extension to be constructed on I-395 as part of the Atlantic Gateway Project. Virginia was selected to receive a $165 million dollar federal grant to improve more than 50 miles of the I-95/I-395 Corridor from Fredericksburg to the Pentagon, extending I-95/I-395 Express Lanes North to the Pentagon (~ 7 miles) and South to Fredericksburg (~ 10 miles). See the summary and full presentation here.
Vornado/Charles E. Smith Development Plans in Crystal City: Mitch Bonanno, Vice President for Development, presented a power point briefing on his company’s plans for 2 site developments in Crystal City: 1) “Crystal Drive Retail Adaptive Reuse” (AKA 1750 Crystal Drive, plus a market square on 18th Street off Crystal Drive) and 2) a new public plaza and retail buildings located in front of 2121 Crystal Drive. He emphasized that the market is still tight for business in Crystal City, and that his organization is focusing more on “placemaking”–i.e., focusing on how to use existing space. Their development plans will therefore be more retail-led and pedestrian-based for Crystal Drive. There is more focus on flexible programming with better connections to transit and parking. See the full presentation here.
Vornado/Charles E. Smith Colorful Light Display in the Water Park: Stefanie Echeveste, Placemaker for the company, explained briefly how the new light display will work in the park and then led a tour to the Water Park to demonstrate and get feedback from residents. Drop by in the evenings to see it.
RIBBON CUTTING FOR THE CONNECTION: CRYSTAL CITY LIBRARY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2016
Join us for the official first day at The Connection, your new pop-up Library in Crystal City.
When: Wednesday, Sept. 28
Ribbon cutting at 10 a.m.
Stop by for celebratory activities until 8 p.m.
The Connection: Crystal City is a temporary project (Fall 2016 – Summer 2017) designed to integrate the Library into the daily lives of Arlington residents.
Hours, starting Sept. 29, 2016:
- Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
- Wednesday: 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.
- Thursday: 10 a.m.- 6 p.m.
- Friday – Saturday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Sunday – Monday: CLOSED
See invitation on Arlington VA Public Library Facebook: page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1779005522380716/
CRYSTAL CITY LIBRARY COMING IN SEPTEMBER
If you missed the informational meeting August 16, watch the space in the Underground across from the Tech Shop and facing Au Bon Pain: “The Connection.” The Arlington County library hopes to open its temporary pop-up library by the end of September.
The library is increasingly looking for greater outreach to connect with communities and to embed its libraries inside the community. There will be library tablets available preloaded… with magazines and reference material. There will be daily delivery of books Monday to Friday, but can be open on Saturdays. The online survey showed three key areas of interest: 1) best sellers; 2) DIY materials; and, surprisingly, 3) DVDs. Library staff are also considering the borrowing of “things”; e.g., tools, games. There can be events, under room usage guidelines published on the library’s website; e.g., authors, topics, CCCA meetings, NGO meetings, game night. Some participants asked for a children’s nook and after school (5-7 pm) and Saturday morning activities for children, noting that there are indeed quite a few school children in the apartment buildings. There was some discussion of workshops for younger kids, perhaps in partnership with the Tech Shop, which cannot host the workshops due to liability concerns.
You can follow updates on the library’s website: http://library.arlingtonva.us/locations/connection-crystal-city/
Exciting News: The Connection Library
Crystal City has been chosen as the prototype for Arlington County’s innovative pop-up library format: designed to appeal to our community dwellers. Technology, DIY information, tool lending library, events, meetings, etc.
The CCCA is co-sponsoring an informational presentation August 18 from 7-9 in the Tech Shop, right next to the library under construction in the underground. Be sure to join us to add your input on what we need in this new temporary library. The space will open in mid-September, and this is a chance for us to make the library the “beacon” for Crystal City.
The online survey has now closed, but see the announcement of the August 16 meeting here.
Breaking News: Innovative Pop Up Library for Crystal City
At our Annual General Meeting last November, Guest speaker Diane Kresh, Arlington County Director of Libraries, presented her general/countywide topics and visions for high-density areas in Arlington, like Crystal City. She then applied that to Crystal City, where we have no library, and discussed with us what might be possible to do to improve our situation. Our local library is the small Aurora Hills Library, which has only one small room serving as a “community center” for three areas: Aurora Highlands, Arlington Ridge, and Crystal City. See the summary for a full description of the meeting.
During a lively question and answer period, many speakers supported the innovative idea of a “pop up” library—a temporary space in one of the vacant areas in the Crystal City underground. It’s going to happen! The CCCA has been following up on the issue and is pleased that negotiations between Vornado and the County have led to a positive outcome.
Ms. Kresh announced July 19 that a temporary “pop-up” library will open this September in Crystal City next to the Tech Shop in the former Mens Wearhouse space at 2100 Crystal Drive: “Connection: Crystal City.” Library Director Diane Kresh sees the pop-up facility as a low-cost way to push library services into more neighborhoods and introduce people of all ages to the wide scope of what the County’s public library system has to offer. In addition, the Crystal City pop-up branch is expected to help enliven the Crystal City Shops. “We chose Crystal City as the first neighborhood to experiment with a pop-up library both because we have found that Route 1, which runs through Crystal City, poses a physical barrier to access for many people to the nearest community library, and because people in the neighborhood expressed interest in the approach,” Kresh said.
Watch this space, our Facebook page, and emails for notice of an informational meeting the CCCA plans to co-host in August with the Public Library for Crystal City residents so we can provide input to help make the pop-up library a “beacon” for Crystal City: lots of electronic access; books geared to DYI; book groups and author presentations; etc…
Atlantic Gateway Project and Crystal City
Have you heard about the federal grant of $165 million Virginia has received for its Atlantic Gateway program? It will be a set of rail, highway and bridge projects meant to ease some of the worst travel bottlenecks on the East Coast. The overall budget for Atlantic Gateway is $1.4 billion, a combination of the federal grant, $710 million in other public financing pulled together by the state and $565 million in private investment. Much of the spending would be on projects in Northern Virginia.
While great for transportation in Northern Virginia, there are two aspects of Atlantic Gateway that could have major impact on residents in Crystal City:
— Extend 95 Express Lanes seven miles north to the Potomac River and improve access to the Pentagon at the Eads Street interchange.
— Build 14 miles of new track to ease the movement of VRE and Amtrak trains as well as freight. This rail part of Atlantic Gateway will include initial steps to rebuild the Long Bridge, the span that takes rail traffic across the Potomac River, as well as the widening of track segments in Northern Virginia.
The CCCA is planning to invite speakers to upcoming meetings in September and November to brief us and seek community feedback. Stay tuned for more information in coming weeks.
Arlington County Detailed Bond Issue
Read the Washington Post article July 25 on how the Arlington County Board and school officials will spell out in unprecedented detail this fall how they plan to spend borrowed money for long-term capital projects — a response to several years’ demands from residents for more transparency.
Voters will be asked in November, as they are every two years, whether to allow the county to borrow money by issuing general obligation bonds to pay for new schools, facilities, transportation and parks projects.
But while in 2014 a typical ballot question sought $105.8 million in bonds to “fund the design and construction of various school facility projects including new elementary schools, building additions for additional classroom space and maintenance capital projects,” a question on the ballot this fall for $138.8 million in school construction will spell out five specific schools or projects, with costs attached to each one.
Metro Provides Real-Time Train Information
Fulfilling a commitment made earlier this year, Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld announced July 19 that Metro is making available the real-time location of trains, allowing developers to create more accurate and advanced mobile apps that will enhance the rider experience. To help riders easily discover and download helpful transit apps, Metro plans to create an “App Gallery” on wmata.com in the coming weeks. The App Gallery will direct customers to validated apps that have been submitted by developers using this form.
The Arlington County Board approved July 16 the Phase 6 site plan for the Metropolitan Park development in Pentagon City. Developer Vornado plans a new apartment building with of 577 units and 9,665 square feet of ground floor retail space. The building will incorporate multiple rooflines with a maximum height of 22 stories. The community will gain three new open space areas, including the completion of the Metropolitan Park Central Park, a public courtyard open space and an enhanced streetscape treatment along S. Eads Street.
CIP Meeting Highlights, July 1, 2016
On June 22, the County Board held a public meeting to hear input from Arlington residents on the proposed Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) which is to be voted on July 19, 2016. Four work sessions have been scheduled on individual agenda items, with the last one July 12 before the final vote. In the meantime, you can read the CIP survey comments or visit Engage Arlington for more opportunities to give online feedback on other topics.
There were approximately 44 interventions, about half of them urging the Board to approve Phase 2 of the Long Bridge Park plan, in order to meet core community needs. The facility would include two bodies of water (a 50-meter X 25 yard pool and a combined teaching pool/family pool), health and fitness space, and support of the core program elements with two (2) wet classrooms, a community room, spectator seating, facility administration and locker facilities. The building will be approximately 73,000 SF in size, which is a reduction of approximately 37% from the previous design and has associated reductions to capital and operating costs. The project also includes 10.5 acres of park development including parking, continuation of the esplanade, public art, event lawns, rain gardens, and environmental remediation. The revised project will be designed and built within existing funds.
Speakers on the LBP plan came from Crystal City residents; soccer, swimming, and diving associations; and the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID). All were positive. Several supported Board efforts to seek partners in order to add the more expensive elements not included in the existing budget for Phase 2: the 10 meter diving pool and a therapy pool.
Other Crystal City residents urged the Board to consider an alternate route for the Transitway in northern Crystal City, to circle around 15th Street and S. Clark Streets–the western, commercial side of the megablock between 15th and 12th Streets–instead of the residential side on Crystal Drive. The Crystal Gateway Condo Board Vice President presented a petition with over 300 signatures from residents and workers/visitors to Crystal City and Long Bridge Park supporting the alternate route. County Board member Christian Dorsey had suggested at the last CCCA general meeting that such a petition might help Board consideration of the alternate route.
One speaker noted that Crystal City residents will be interested in seeing the proposed design for the development of the 15th Street mini park and the Gateway park entrance to LBP, which local residents hope will remain a passive park, not a noisy, active one.
Other interventions dealt with non-Crystal City issues. The meeting was videotaped and can be viewed on the County’s website: http://arlington.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=3154
Arlington is the best place to live in America
It seems that Arlington County has a lot going for it. A solid public-school system, a healthy population, ample nightlife venues and accessible public transit. All of this makes the Northern Virginia county the best place to live in America, according to a new report.
The ranking from Niche, a website that says it helps people find which neighborhoods and cities are the best fit, looked at 227 cities, counties and jurisdictions, then ranked them based on the area’s amenities, crime rates, school options and more.
Arlington got an A+ for its schools, family life, nightlife, and health and fitness, which looks at obesity rates and access to health resources. The county received a B+ in the jobs category, which accounted for factors such as the unemployment rate and the ratio of the median monthly housing cost for homeowners to the median monthly household income.
Plenty of opportunities to ask questions and make suggestions.May 18 CCCA General Meeting
Plenty of opportunities to ask questions and make suggestions.May 18 CCCA General Meeting:
The newest County Board members, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, met with residents to provide their take on Arlington and Crystal City issues. Residents asked many questions, including:
What can be done about bikes feeling safe on Crystal Drive in the bike lane?
What is the status of Long Bridge Park Fitness and Aquatics Center?
What can be done about the intersection of ArmyNavy and Fern?
How can the police better help traffic?
What can be done about homeless people?
Wednesday March 16 at 7pm in the Crystal Park Condo, 1805 Crystal Drive
New Options for Long Bridge Park
On April 12 Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz presented the County Board with options for moving forward with both the replacement of the Lubber Run Community Center and development of 10.5 more acres of open space and a reduced aquatics, health and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park. The correct estimated construction costs of the aquatics health and fitness facility and development of 10.5 more acres of parkland is between $46 million and $50.5 million.
The Board’s work session on the two projects helped frame the community’s upcoming discussion on updating the Capital Improvement Program, the County’s 10-year blueprint for funding major facilities and infrastructure. The work session, Chair Libby Garvey noted, “is the beginning of the process” of engaging the community on both projects.
The revised plan for Long Bridge Park reduces the size of the facility by 37 percent, to about 73,000 square feet. The reductions are achieved by reducing the number of pools from the three proposed in 2012 to two, reducing the number of lobbies, circulation areas and storage space. The smaller building, fewer pools, and a less expensive HVAC system all contribute to lower construction and operating costs. The family pool and teaching pool would be combined into a single pool under the new proposal, and the therapy pool and three dive towers eliminated. Space for a health and fitness center would be retained. See press release.
Op Ed on Long Bridge Park by Tobin Smith
The chair of the Long Bridge Citizen Advisory Committee and former Chair of the Arlington Park and Recreation Committee Tobin Smith supports the design and construction of a new aquatics, health, and Fitness Center at Long Bridge Park. See his Op Ed in ArlNow.Com.
MetPark 6 Open House
With the Metropolitan Park Phase 6 Site Plan, the last section of the “Central Open Space” will be built. The community is welcome to come to an open house on April 6 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. to provide input on the future open space! At this meeting there will also be information about future improvements to the section of S Eads Street along Metropolitan Park. For more information about the Metropolitan Park Project go to the Arlington County Website and search Metropolitan Park. Please contact me if you have questions.
Diane G. Probus, Associate Planner
Department of Parks and Recreation
2100 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 414
Arlington, VA 22201
March 16 CCCA General Meeting
Did you miss this? What a fun evening about Arts, Crafts, Food and Entertainment in Crystal City. See the write up in the April Newsletter.
We Need a New School in 22202
Representatives of the CCCA have been participating in the South Arlington Working Group on Arlington County Schools, emphasizing the need for a school in our area to meet the growing population. (The Newsletter has provided regular updates on this pro9ess.) Attached is the letter sent electronically to the Arlington County School Board (with a cc to the Arlington County Board) request that the Arlington Public Schools budget for a new elementary school with in zip code 22202. Four civic associations, including the CCCA, were signatories to the letter.
Understanding Transit Lanes
Check out the latest Fact Sheet with Qs and As on the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway. The FAQ provides clear/reassuring answers beyond what the flyer explains. For example:
- If I am exiting a driveway next to the bus lane, can I use the bus lane to merge into general traffic?
- Yes. Drivers may exit the driveway into the bus lane and then safely merge into the general traffic lane.
If you have a question about or suggestion for our FAQs, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The County is not however speculating about the precise implementation date.
Long Bridge Drive and I-395 Interchange Update
Have you noticed that Long Bridge Drive was not redone all the way to I-395? And the interchange is in horrid shape?
The county is working to complete Long Bridge Drive and redesign the entire interchange. Work on some of the utilities and preliminary street work should begin later this year. The interchange design continues and progress is being made. The current schedule is for reconstruction of the interchange to occur in 2018.
For more information about the different alternatives, please check the county’s webpage for the project:
Arlington County’s Transit Development Plan (TDP)
Arlington is developing its 10-year plan for bus service. This Transit Development Plan is analyzing service throughout the County and will recommend future improvements. The plan is also studying how to enhance bus service along Columbia Pike and in Crystal City-Pentagon City.
36 bus routes across Arlington are recommended for improvements during the next 10 years. Route-by-route details of the proposed improvements are listed below. Learn how to comment on this proposal in the next section.
- Overview of Recommendations – County-wide recommendations and changes proposed for Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Pentagon City
- ART Proposed Improvements – Route-by-route details for ART bus service
- Metrobus Proposed Improvements – Route-by-route details for Metrobus service
- Arlington System Map 2026 – What Arlington’s transit system would look like in 2026 with the proposed changes
I’d like to have a say in this plan. What can I do?
Fill out the online comment form – After reviewing the draft recommendations above, use our comment form to provide feedback on proposed route changes. The comment form will close March 11. [Also available in Spanish]
In-person feedback – Staff will be at six locations to discuss the draft recommendations and collect feedback. Please stop by anytime during the hours shown to share your thoughts with a staff member.
A copy of the event flyer is attached to this email (English and Spanish).
- Tuesday, Feb. 23 from 4 to 7 pm: Commuter Store in the Crystal City Shops (251 18th St. S., Arlington, VA 22202)
WAMU Highlighted Crystal City in Recent Programming
Untangling Urban Planning in Crystal City – The Kojo Nnamdi Show
The military presence in the Washington region has shaped the physical faces of neighborhoods throughout the region. But conversations are underway in one corner of Northern Virginia, Crystal City, about carving a new aesthetic and economic identity. Kojo explores the complex mixture of issues that have contributed to what Crystal City looks like now – and connects with those who are trying to change it.
- Roger Lewis Architect; Columnist, “Shaping the City,” Washington Post; and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park
- Donna Harris co-founder, 1776
- Angie Fox President and CEO, Crystal City BID
Kojo In Your Community: A Conversation With Sen. Tim Kaine Of Virginia
Tuesday, July 21, 2015 @7:00pm
Join WAMU 88.5’s Kojo Nnamdi for a conversation with U.S. Sen.Tim Kaine (D-Va.) at Synetic Theater in Crystal City, Tuesday, July 21, 2015, from 7-8:30 p.m.
We’ll talk about the ways in which the military and defense industry shape our region ranging from jobs and the economy to infrastructure and traffic. We’ll also consider the unique opportunities and challenges active duty service members and veterans face and whether we’re equipped as a nation and region to address and embrace them. Go to website to reserve tickets:
Crystal City on Metro Connection
John Hines does a Metro Connection program on WAMU 88.5 every Friday/Saturday, highlighting different communities around the DC area by interviewing residents. On July 17, he ran his interview with Crystal City resident Gerry Fuller (actually interviewed in March), talking about what a great place this is to live–for retirees as well as Millennials.
Arlington County Transitway Meeting, July 14, 2015
Thanks to all who turned out for the Arlington County meeting with Crystal City residents on the Transitway. While some folks indicated some skepticism about the Transitway, mostly people focused on the practical aspects of the implementation. There were many incisive and astute questions by participants, raising concerns about the proposals and the Ordinance. County Board member Libby Garvey attended the entire meeting and afterwards advised her Board colleagues that they really needed to defer any decision on the Ordinance and on the implementation of the Transitway until the concerns were addressed. Then, on Thursday, the CCCA Executive Board received a message from Acting County Board Manager Mark Schwartz, saying that the item had been removed from the Board’s agenda for Saturday, July 18, and assuring us that the item will not be brought back up until the County has “thoughtfully worked through” residents’ concerns. He further noted that this “isn’t a guarantee that we will agree on everything, but a guarantee that you will be heard and the issues addressed openly.” We believe that residents and the business community will now be consulted appropriately in the future as things move forward.
Congratulations. This is an important issue for everyone in Crystal City and we are pleased that, with positive advocacy by CCCA members and others, this agreement to review the process and consider concerns that had been previously ignored is exactly the outcome we were hoping for from the meeting.
You can see the Transportation Department’s briefing and powerpoint presentation for the meeting here.
CCCA General Meeting, Wednesday, June 17: “Challenges: How to Position Crystal City as a Vibrant Location to Work and Live?”
Our guest speaker for the evening was Angela Fox, President of the Crystal City Business Improvement District (BID), who spoke on “Challenges: How to Position Crystal City as a Vibrant Location to Work and Live?” Using a powerpoint presentation, Ms. Fox explained that the BID began operations in November 2006 as a marketing tool for Crystal City and that there are five full-time employees with a budget of $2.6 million. It was created as a public/private partnership in response to many challenges: from 2001-2005 some 17,000 of 30,000 jobs were lost in Crystal City due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process. Sequestration reduced more federal government jobs and then the federal government moved to more workplace efficiency and a mobile workforce. The impact has been severe: a vacancy rate of 30% in Crystal City office buildings (7 of 26 Vornado buildings are vacant); for every 1% decrease in occupancy, there is a corresponding loss of $3.4 million in local taxes; restaurants hurt for reduced business.
An Open Forum followed the presentation by the guest speaker, allowing participants to raise concerns and ask questions. In addition, President Sandra Borden reported on several past and upcoming meetings, Vice President Christer Ahl spoke about concerns for the Transit Plan along Crystal Drive, Parks Committee Chair Eric Cassel briefed on park issues concerning Crystal City and Long Bridge Park, and Secretary Carol Fuller then proposed a joint resolution of the CCCA and the Friends of Long Bridge Park urging Arlington County to install benches on the Esplanade.
Click here for a summary of the meeting.
Long Bridge Park Developments
Benches for the Esplanade
On June 26, the Executive Boards of the CCCA and the Friends of Long Bridge Park approved a resolution with two essential elements: 1) to request that Arlington County design and install 2-3 permanent park benches on the Esplanade; and 2) pledge the support of both organizations to assist in the planning and development of the project. An MOU between Arlington County and the Friends of LBP must be signed for fund raising can begin. Stay tuned.
New playgrounds to be constructed
On June 16 the County Board awarded a contract to FHP Tectonics Corporation the contract to install playgrounds on three lawn areas at the south end of Long Bridge Park between 6th Street South and the soccer fields. The new playgrounds to be constructed along the 6th Street end of the park will consist of 3 separate areas: a Tot’s Park with slides, play tubes, and tunnels; a climbing area for 5-10 year olds; and a joint area with rubber mounds; mist poles, and bouncing bridges. See the design plan at:
Arlington County Community Facilities Study
Did you know? Arlington’s population is expected to grow from 216,700 to 260,000 people in the next 15 years. Of Arlington’s 26.2 square miles, the County and Public Schools own only 2.2 square miles for schools, parks, police and fire stations, community centers & more. Which facilities do you use the most? How do we plan for their future?
The Community Facilities Study is a collaborative effort between the County, Arlington Public Schools and the broader community that will answer these questions. This planning effort will impact every square inch of our community. Together, we are laying a solid foundation for Arlington’s next chapter.
The CCCA Executive Board strongly encourages you to follow the CFS through the web page, which also offers a wealth of highly relevant background information for all County residents.
CCCA General Meeting January 28, 2015
Over 70 people attended the CCCA General Meeting January 28 to hear Mitch Bonanno, Senior Vice President and Director of Development for Vornado, who oversees all their commercial projects in our area, talk about development issues in Crystal City. Vornado bought out the commercial space from Crystal City developer Charles E. Smith 12 years ago, while the residential properties were bought by Archstone and now owned by Equity Residential. Vornado does own three properties in our area: River House, 220 Twentieth Street, and Bartlett (under construction). He spoke about the economic challenges Crystal City and Vornado face and gave a status report on the projects which Vornado currently has in the pipeline.
CCCA General Meeting: Tuesday, April 14
Turning from the private to the public sector, we hosted several guest speakers from Arlington County at the April 14 General Meeting held at Crystal Gateway.
First, Crystal House and Steve Yaffee of the Department of Environmental Services’ Transportation Division briefed members on their current process of updating the Transit Development Plan for fiscal years 2017-2026 for the County. They would like to include the input of the areas for which they serve on desired changes in ART and Metrobus routes. The speakers explained that they would like to include the input of the areas for which they serve on desired changes in ART and Metrobus routes. They encourage everyone to complete the online survey on transit needs located at:
Our second speakers were Arlington County Planning Director, Bob Duffy, and Anthony Fusarelli Jr, the newly appointed Planning Coordinator for Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yard. They are working closely with developers, property/business owners, civic and neighborhood groups, the Crystal City BID, and interdepartmental staff to coordinate planning and implementation efforts. Among other issues, participants raised questions about the fairness of distribution of tax resources back to Crystal City, the need for a community center in Long Bridge Park to parallel the four others with swimming pools in the County, and the special needs of Crystal City which is a mixed-use community with no single homes, unlike any other area in the County.
Arlington Moves to Digital Scanner Voting Machines
Beginning with the June 2015 Democratic primary, Arlington County began using new digital scanner voting machines. The new system uses a paper ballot, which is digitally scanned into the ballot box. Arlington’s Electoral Board approved the move at its meeting last night. The new system has two primary advantages:
- When polls are very busy, more voters can mark ballots at any given time, limited only to how many marking stations can fit in a polling place. With the old machines, only a limited number could be deployed to each polling place. Any individual voter could tie up a machine if s/he took a long time.
- The paper-based system provides a durable record of all votes cast. If, for example, a polling place loses electricity, voting can continue with paper without interruption. The ballots can be inserted into the scanner later by pollworkers, or in the worst-case scenario, they can be counted by hand. The durable record includes both a digital image of the ballot, as well as the paper ballot itself.
Arlington’s evaluation and procurement process to replace its aging electronic voting machines has been underway for a number of months. The process is being expedited, in response to the Commonwealth’s Board of Elections, which recently stated its intention to de-certify electronic voting machines. Arlington had previously used the digital scanners to supplement its electronic machines during the November 2012 Presidential election.
Since 2007, Virginia law prohibits localities from purchasing electronic voting machines. Localities, including Arlington, which already own such machines may continue to use them, but when the machines are ready for replacement, the new system must be paper-based. Arlington is now at that point.
Voting Machine Open House
Voters were able to check out the new system at the May 9 Voting Machine Open House, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Ground Floor Lobby. This was the first opportunity for Arlington residents to check out our NEW voting system, as well as the only opportunity before the June 9 Democratic Primary, where it will be used for the first time. Some additional demonstration dates will be scheduled in the fall.
Come Walk About Crystal City
WalkArlington, an initiative of Arlington County Commuter Services within the Department of Environmental Services, gets “more people walking more of the time” by promoting the health, environmental, community-building, and commuting benefits of walking. They invited folks to join them in Crystal City at noon on April 17th from 12 to 1 pm and experience Arlington’s walkability from the sidewalk up! Adults welcome, as well as kids and dogs!
High Speed Rail Meeting
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, in cooperation with the Federal Railroad Administration, is working on a project that will evaluate options for providing higher-speed passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Richmond. This is a serious environmental issue for all residents of Crystal City since any increase in trains will increase the noise level, general pollution and potential hazardous material spills in our residential area.
There will be a public information meeting in Crystal City to help shape the Washington, D.C. to Richmond Southeast High Speed Rail Tier II Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The open house will take place at the Westin Crystal City, 1800 Jefferson Davis Highway, on November 13 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. A formal presentation will be given at 6:00 p.m..
This is one of those meetings where you need to make sure your voice is heard. We urge Crystal City residents to attend this meeting and express concern about any increased noise level and insist that there be a quid pro quo to reduce or eliminate any additional noise or any other environmental matter and insist that there be a quid pro quo to reduce, eliminate or mitigate any additional environmental impact.
Public comments must be submitted by December 5, 2014 to be included in the official public record for the scoping phase of the study. You can submit questions any time by filling out the form found at http://www.dc2rvarail.com/contact-us/ . Or by emailing or mailing the project team. Email: info@DC2RVArail.com. Mail: Emily Stock Manager of Rail Planning DRPT 600 E Main St, Ste 2102 Richmond, VA 23219.
An online meeting also is available until Dec. 5. The public can review materials at the meeting or online and provide comments by Dec. 5, 2014. More information is at http://www.dc2rvarail.com/
Crystal City Civic Association (CCCA) Town Hall and Annual Meeting
May 28th CCCA Meeting!
The CCCA held a well-attended Inaugural Meeting from 7-9 pm on May 28, at the Crystal Park Condominium’s party room at 1805 Crystal Drive. This was an opportunity for members and potential members to learn about the purpose and the goals of the CCCA. Anthony Fusarelli, Principal Planner with Arlington County, explained the purpose of the 2010-2050 Crystal City Sector Plan and its main features and implications [Powerpoint Pdf]. Afterwards, CCCA officers explained why our civic association was established and what we hope to accomplish. This included an overview of the current situation on development projects, changes regarding transit and the streetscape, and open space issues. During the open discussion afterwards, participants shared their greatest concerns for Crystal City and looked at ways individual members can play a role and ensure that our views, insights, and voices are heard. The powerpoint of the meeting is here.
An example of the power of organization (described in Newsletter No. 2) is CSX’s recent adoption of a new operating rule for the Crystal City VRE station, establishing quiet hours when the VRE station is closed, from 8:00 pm to 5:30 am on weekdays, and all hours on the weekends. We sent out a letter congratulating the CSX employees who helped make this change happen.
Arlington County Board Candidates Night
On March 21st CCCA and two other civic associations hosted a debate between Alan Howze and John Vihstadt, candidates for the Arlington County Board. The debate can be seen by clicking here.
CCCA Board members participated actively in preparing the questions for the candidates and in setting up the event. The Forum was very informative and was described as the best of its kind in the pre-election process in our County. Being co-hosts of this event helped our new Association become more visible and known in the community. The election, which was held on April 8, was won by John Vihstadt, who has already taken up his seat on the County Board.