Thursday, December 20, 2007

HALRB: Envisioned Buildings West of Glebe "Too Big."

This post was edited lightly after it was first published this morning, just to clarify that the project is still very early in process. --ST

The buildings envisioned for a redeveloped corner on the west side of the N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive intersection were called “horrible,” “fussy,” and “wedding cake” (because of the layered look) by members of the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board last night. But mainly, the buildings were called too large.

The buildings were so large that Robert Dudka asked if the companies should consider adding a second floor over the buildings on the other side of the street, over the strips that house the Buckingham Florist and the SunTrust bank.

“Is this heresy?” Mr. Dudka asked the other HALRB members, county staff, and the developers, Georgetown Strategic Capital, all sitting at the table.

The general consensus was no, it’s not heresy to add a second storey to these historically protected buildings. The original plan for the buildings was to extend the second floors, already in place above the post office and Cassiana Spa, over the rest of both strips. In a way, adding a second floor would be finishing what had been started 50 years ago.

Members of the HALRB consider a three-dimensional model of the Glebe at Pershing redevelopment. (Click to enlarge the image.)

The idea behind adding a second floor to buildings east of Glebe Road is to alleviate some of the massing and density that caused the west side buildings to balloon.

It was the “massing” (how many units they can put into one lot and how big the buildings can get) and “site management” (how to handle and layout the space they have) that Georgetown Strategic Capital wanted to focus on during the meeting. For them, it was less about the exact details of the building, said Bob Moore, a principal with the firm.

This photo of the three dimensional model looks east along N. Pershing Drive from N. George Mason Drive. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“How do you feel about the massing?” Mr. Dudka asked another board member, Nancy Iacomini.

“I think the massing is too great, the height is too great,” she responded. Earlier she had said that the “horrible” buildings just did not fit with the surrounding architecture.

“You can tell one of these is not like the others,” she said.

The basic plans unveiled last night tear down all the commercial buildings west of Glebe Road—the CVS/Ravi Kabob, the Glebe Market, the El Paso/Popeye’s/Woofs buildings—and replace them with long, four-storey buildings that are set much closer to Pershing Drive than the current buildings.

Street levels would have retail space and parking underneath patios and second floors—portions of one building look a bit like a car port. Both buildings also have parking garages in the basements. The upper floors are apartments. The affordable units would be market rate affordable, which means they would not be high end units, probably renting from $1,000 to $2,000 per month.

Mr. Moore said he was willing to consider transferring some of the density to the buildings across Glebe Road. His company must get a certain number of units in order to make the project economically feasible.

As Mr. Chon, the owner of the Glebe Market will be retiring, that market will not be returning to the renovated space. However, Mr. Moore said the CVS, El Paso, Ravi Kabob, Popeyes, and Woofs Dog Training, will all be returning to the building on the north side of Pershing.

That leaves about 44,000 square feet of retail space on first floor of the building across Pershing. Georgetown Strategic said they have been in touch with Trader Joe’s and Yes! Organic Market, what they called “pocket stores,” to replace the Glebe Market. Members of the HALRB seemed not to love that idea, either, saying that the Glebe Market and Trader Joe’s are not similar enough.

“I think it’s part of the normal process” of discussion and design Mr. Moore said after the meeting. The process is expected to continue through 2008.

This drawing considers the buildings from a pedestrian's point-of-view, on N. Pershing Drive as one approaches the intersection from the east (the Ashton Heights neighborhood). The brown building in the foreground on the left is the current SunTrust bank. (Click to enlarge the image, provided by Georgetown Strategic Capital).

The architect on hand, Scott Matties, called the “horrible” remark “one person’s attitude.”

Both he and Mr. Moore wanted to get the HALRB, staff and community to look at the buildings not from the top down, but from the street level, and evaluate it from that perspective.

“We came tonight with lots of streetscape points-of-view,” Mr. Matties said, adding, that the bird’s eye view, “It’s not how you experience it.”

This view from a sidewalk on Glebe Road looks north toward Ballston. The building in the center of the drawing replaces the current Glebe Market building. (Click to enlarge the image, provided by Georgetown Strategic Capital.)

Related stories…
  • DRC to Consider Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment
  • Company Exploring Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment

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  • Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    HeraldTrib Today: Dec. 19, 2007

    This house is on N. Trenton Street. To see a photo of it and just about every other Christmas light in Buckingham, check out the holiday lights map, below. It's awesome!

    Christmas is almost here! (I love the holidays.) You must check out the single-most comprehensive site for Christmas lights in all of Buckingham. Check out the map here. (Click a snowflake and you’ll see what I’m saying.) I am sure I’ve missed a few lights out there in Buckingham, but boy am I close to having them all.

    From the lights that look like they were just thrown at the windows to the ones that took some effort, you’ll find them here. If yours isn’t here, feel free to email me a photo and a general address, and I’ll post it:

    The Redskins just before one of their touchdowns.

    I went to New York last weekend to see the Redskins play. If you know me, you know how much I like to watch the Redskins lose. They do it with such panache, that I just love to watch it happen. Really, it’s the sick little boy still inside me that loves to watch others get all excited about the ‘Skins only to see their hopes dashed. It’s a weekly dose of Charlie Brown and the football! Every week ‘Skins fans think “This is the week!” and every week something happens.

    Well, not this week, of course.

    What should have been my ultimate fun, watching from the stands as the ‘Skins lost their last shred of hope for the playoffs turned into a howling cold day! The wind whipped all sorts of stuff around us, my friend Jon (a life-long Giants fan) and me. Paper bags, hot dog wrappers, even a drunken fan who fell two rows into a space a few seats down from us succumbed.

    Steve and Jon, a self-portrait. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    All to watch the Giants play an even worse game than the Redskins. I have to say, though, that it was so stinking cold, I’m surprised either side could pass the ball, much less catch it (OK, the Giants couldn’t catch). That ball must have felt like a brick.

    Of course, it was still a ton of fun. So, congratulations ‘Skins fans, keep that hope alive!

    On another note, the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board meets tonight. On the agenda is the redevelopment of the intersection of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive. Remember, this is the time that you say your piece to the county. Do not go to the County Board meeting and complain, it’s too late then. See you there!

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • House to Be Fitness/Business Center.
  • Police Notes for Buckingham (we had one pretty bad attack, see the story).
    Headline's from Earlier in the Week:
  • BRAVO to Kip Laramie There's a nice comment at the end of that one, too.
  • Christmas Lights of Buckingham!

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  • House to Be Fitness/Business Center

    As reported last week in this space, the house at 374 N. Glebe Rd. will become a fitness center. I emailed Catherine Bucknam just a few more questions about use of the space and who’s paying. Ms. Bucknam is a spokesperson for AHC, Inc., which owns the house. My queries and her responses are below.

    HeraldTrib: The house is going to be a fitness center now, right?
    Catherine Bucknam (AHC, Inc.): Yes, it’s going to be a fitness center for the residents. There will also be a business center in this space where residents can check email, send faxes, etc.

    HT: That frees space in the new community center that had been planned to be a fitness center--what will that space be used for? CB: The extra space in the community center will be used for classrooms for AHC’s Resident Services program.

    Drawings of the community center under construction.

    HT: Who will have access to the fitness center, and will it be a paid membership, or free?
    CB: Residents only at the fitness center. Don’t know if there will be a charge or not.

    HT: Who is paying for the renovation of that building. Is there county, state or federal money involved?
    CB: Renovations to the building are financed through the original construction loan for Gates of Ballston renovation.

    HT: I thought part of the problem with that building--a main reason why it did not become the community center--was the lack of ADA accessibility. Has something changed?
    CB: Originally we were planning to tear this building down because it is quite small and not conducive to the large community center we envisioned. The new community center was going to be built in this area. When the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board informed AHC that we could not tear this building down, we had to figure out a use for this space.

    Use of this house as a fitness center will allow for more classroom space in the community center under construction behind the house, said AHC Inc. (Click to enlarge image.)

    Related stories…
  • Arts Plans, We’re Glad We Knew Ye (Last week’s story about the house).
  • Opening the Gates (Coverage of the Gates reconstruction.)
  • Construction Loan Subordinated.

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  • Police Notes for Buckingham Dec. 19, 2007

    Dec. 16: Malicious Wounding, 200 block of N. Glebe Rd. At approximately 11:50 p.m., officers responded for a report of a fight in the 200 block of N. Glebe Road. Three victims were located in the area. Two of them had been stabbed and the other was struck several times with a baseball bat. The victims said they were walking home from a party when they were attacked by a group of eight to 10 men. The victims were treated at a local hospital for non-life threatening wounds.

    According to Det. Katie Rounds of the Arlington Police Department, the victims left the party in two different groups. She said police have no indication that the victims knew the attackers or that the fights started at the party. Police are investigating whether this was gang-related, Det. Rounds said.

    Dec. 13: Felony Hit and Run, Intersection of N. George Mason Drive and Henderson Road. At approximately 11:07 p.m., a Toyota Corolla was southbound on N. George Mason Drive in the left lane. A grey Toyota SUV was also southbound on George Mason in the right lane. The SUV attempted to change lanes and struck the Corolla in the process. The SUV fled the scene. There were no injuries reported, but there was significant damage to the Corolla.

    Dec. 12: Series of Larceny from Auto, 900 block N. Randolph St, 500 block N. Piedmont St, & 900 block N. Stuart St. Sometime between 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 and 7 a.m. on Dec. 12, someone broke into four cars parked in parking garages in the area. iPods and car stereos were taken.

    View Larger Map

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    Friday, December 14, 2007

    BRAVO to Kip Laramie

    Kip Laramie’s handshake—his large hand holding yours firm but not tight—has that look-you-in-the-eye quality that says he is only paying attention to you right now. The fact that the floor of his restaurant is chock full be damned. Even when he has to excuse himself for a moment to care for the business, it is not with the sense of interruption; he is almost apologetic for stepping away to do his job.

    Kip Laramie. (Click to enlarge image.)

    He’s an affable man with a gap-toothed grin, and it is just hard not to like him.

    Last night at his Santa Fe Café, 1500 Wilson Blvd., he hosted a fundraiser for the non-profit organization, BRAVO, Buyers and Renters Arlington Voice.

    Fifty percent of the receipts went to BRAVO.

    In an industry where success is clearing 10 to 12 percent, “I don’t make any money tonight,” Mr. Laramie said.

    “We’re doing better than last year,” he reported, and then surveyed the tables to estimate the take. “I’m hoping we’ll give them at least a grand, maybe twelve hundred” dollars.

    This is the second or third year that he has hosted this event, he said. He got involved with this through BRAVO’s president, Charlie Rinker, a well-known Arlington housing activist and a regular with his wife at the restaurant.

    “We do that [host fundraisers] for certain groups we feel we can be supportive of,” he said. He hosts these events for Food and Friends and A-SPAN, among other groups, he said. He is the chair of the Homeless Services Committee of Rosslyn neighborhood BID, a business group.

    BRAVO’s executive director, Caridad Palerm, said, “It’s going pretty well, actually.” Not only does BRAVO get half the receipts, she said that people will come in and write checks. Last year they received $700 or $800 that way.

    “At the same time, all the affordable housing people get together here,” she said.

    Caridad Paleram talks about the event with Charlie Rinker. (Click to the enlarge the image.

    People chowed baskets of chips and fajitas and washed them down with margaritas and Dos Equis.

    Charlie Rinker was there with his wife, Lora, the former executive director of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network. Mimi Oziel, the director of the Buckingham Youth Brigade was there, as was Edgar Aranda Yanoc, an immigration attorney, and Sara Melèndez, a consultant in philanthropy.

    The newly initiated were there, too, including Ivette Estrada an Arlingtonian who is a neophyte on BRAVO’s board.

    “Had it not been for Cari [Caridad Palerm] I probably never would have heard about it,” Ms. Estrada said.

    BRAVO works closely with Buckingham Villages and Gates of Ballston tenants. This fall, Ms. Palerm sat on the Buckingham Village 3 Working Group, and is on the committee that will review proposals regarding that block’s redevelopment and sale.

    Rosa Briceño and Sara Melèndez eat a meal and talk politics.

    Rosa Briceño, the family involvement coordinator at K.W. Barrett Elementary School, drank a beer with Ms. Melèndez and talked about how the Buckingham neighborhood has changed in recent years, how most or all of the Bangladeshi families are gone, and how Latinos now make up a much smaller portion of the neighborhood.

    “Affordable housing has always been important to me," Ms. Briceño said.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I drank two Dos Equis (or XXXX) draughts, and paid $20 for them. –ST

    Related stories and sites…
  • Village 3 RFP is Out
  • Letter: Palerm “Very Happy” with RFP Process
  • County Board Votes on Bham ($32 million for BV3)


  • Thursday, December 13, 2007

    Christmas Lights of Buckingham

    I have edited this posting some to get right to the lights. Over 80 front lawns, bushes, trees, doors and windows are featured here. Simply click the snowflakes and see what your neighbors have done.

    If you know of some good lights that are in (or reasonably close to) Buckingham, email me a photo of them (or tell me the address--some way to find the house--I'll shoot a photo and get it up here).

    I have crazy Christmas spirit going on around here.


    PS: Click the "plus" sign on the map to get a closer view; scroll in as far as you can, or else you might miss a snowflake or two; when you have 80 or more, they fall one atop the next.

    View Larger Map

    Click on the snowflakes to see a photo and address.

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    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    HeraldTrib Today: Dec. 12, 2007

    I’ll just jump to the week’s headlines since all else worth talking about can be found in the stories.

    The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Final Building Along Pershing Demolished (and the fence is fixed)
  • Arts Plan: We’re Glad We Knew Ye! (Yup, all ideas for the arts have played out.)
  • Letter: New Viewer Likes HeraldTrib
  • Police Notes for Buckingham (Dec. 12, 2007)

    Headline's from Earlier in the Week:

  • Letter (and photos): Holiday Party Was Trans-fat-laden Fun!
  • Messiah Sing Fills Church with Cheer (The Post ran a similar story about the event at the Kenneday Center—I was surprised how similar the reviews were.)
  • Correction: HALRB, not County Board, to hear about Glebe/Pershing
  • Blue Car Stackers Coming Down
  • Major Intersection Work to Begin Monday
  • Tested Toys in Time for the Holidays
  • Bham’s Winter Wonderland!
  • New Viewers: Welcome!

  • Final Building Along Pershing Demolished

    Out with the old and in with the new. The last building on N. Pershing Drive in Village 1 is being torn down today. Most likely it will be gone by the time of your evening commute.
    A crew preps the pile-driver.

    A half block away a crew is driving the piles for the foundation of the four-storey apartment building that will replace what is now a large dirt yard at the 4300 block of N. Pershing Dr. Gutted but still standing are buildings along N. George Mason Drive.

    A man searches for a soft spot to place a metal fence post.

    The fence that blew down during the wind storms at the start of Decemeber got reinforcements along N. Pershing today. A man drove pipes into the soft dirt near the sidewalks and wired the fence to them. In the photo, he’s looking for a soft spot in the macadam that remains on the edge of the site.

    I must admit that it was fun to watch the concrete crusher tear down the building. I thought the operator would just rip the roof off the building. However, he drove the machine around the perimeter of the building, his tracks skidding and caterpillaring, digging up the orange-brown, clay-based mud. At each corner, he tore out the brick walls, which left the roof supported by a cross of internal walls. When that was all that was left, he pushed the roof off, and that was that.

    The red pins show which buildings have been torn down. Yellows are gutted but standing buildings.

    View Larger Map

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    Arts Plan, We’re Glad We Knew Ye

    The Buckingham Station Post Office, at 235 N. Glebe Road, will stay where it is.

    “We're very happy where we are,” said USPS District Manager Michael Furey in a phone call yesterday, the last of the phone calls planned for this topic. "We plan on staying there a long time."

    And they can stay another 22 years if they wish, according to their lease.

    He said he saw movies there when he was a boy, but that was not enough to push him to think about moving the Buckingham Station into a building that is being planned for the southwest corner of the N. Glebe Road at N. Pershing Drive intersection (the current CVS location).

    [If the post office could have been convinced to move, then the neighborhood might have been able to convince the powers-that-be to convert the post office back into some sort of arts venue, like a home for the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra. It was an idea I brought up a few weeks ago, and it looked pretty good then. Just about everyone I spoke with thought it was a great idea, but not great enough for the effort involved. –ST.]

    Plans for the building on the southwest corner still do not include a clear occupant for the ground floor, said Bob Moore, of Georgetown Strategic Capital, which is redeveloping the corner. Like Mr. Furey, Mr. Moore saw movies at what is now the post office.

    Officials of Georgetown Strategic Capital have been bringing plans and ideas to the county’s Design Review Committee and the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board since the summer. The next HALRB meeting where this will be discussed is next Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2007, the DRC will pick the topic up in their Jan. 2 meeting.

    The historic house at 374 N. Glebe will become a fitness center, said AHC Inc. (Click to enlarge image.)

    On another note, the house at 374 N. Glebe Road, will be turned into a fitness center, reported Catherine Bucknam, a spokesperson for AHC, Inc., which owns the building. It is considered historic and cannot be torn town, nor can its exterior be significantly changed. AHC had been unsure how they were going to use that building, they said earlier in the year.

    A fitness center planned for the new community center, under construction just behind 374 N. Glebe, has now been moved to that house. That house had been the caretaker’s home when all of the Buckingham apartments (The Chatham, Arlington Oaks, all three Buckingham Villages and The Gates) were owned by the Freed family.

    [When Vic Socotra, another Buckingham blogger, and I met back in November we got talking about that building which we both thought was still without a plan. We got thinking of a museum, or a space for a writer’s group, arts of all sorts. Our imaginations ran wild. –ST.]

    More on this soon. AHC is settling in to new office space, but Ms. Bucknam promised to answer more questions soon about the use of the building.

    Related stories and sites…
  • Arts Ideas for Bham on Deathbed
  • The Arts Issue of the HeraldTrib
  • HALRB Meetings Info Site (it needs an update, but is OK)

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  • Letter: New Viewer Likes HeraldTrib


    I saw your story today about new viewers, and thought I'd send you an e-mail to
    let you know I'm reading. I've been checking your blog for about a month or so
    and very looks like a lot of work! I'm not a Buckingham
    resident, but live "next door" in Arlington Forest.


    Max Lyons

    Thanks for writing, and I'll reiterate how nice it has been to see new viewers coming to the site. --ST


    Police Notes for Buckingham Dec. 12, 2007

    Police released their annual holiday safety reminder yesterday. Here it is in full (scroll past this for this week's crime log):

    The Arlington County Police Department is reminding residents to keep their guard up during the holiday shopping season. Robberies and thefts often increase around the holidays, and it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and your property.

  • Do not leave valuables in your vehicle. There’s been a recent spike in vehicle break-ins and in many cases the thieves were after GPS devices, iPods and other valuable items.
  • Keep packages and shopping bags hidden from view. If possible, place them in the trunk before you get to where you’re going to park.
  • Park in well lit areas & always lock your car doors.
  • Don’t leave your car running and unattended, even in a driveway.
  • Avoid carrying a large amount of cash. Carry only those credit cards you intend to use.
  • Women should carry purses close to the body, with the opening or flap to the inside. Never leave a purse in a shopping cart.
  • After the holidays, don’t put the boxes of high-dollar gift items out by the trash. That advertises that you’ve got the new items in your home. Break down the boxes, turn them inside out, or discard them in bags or a trash receptacle.
  • Guard against burglaries by securely locking all of your home’s doors and windows. If you have dead-bolt locks, use them.
  • If you are traveling for the holidays, have a friend or neighbor collect your mail and newspapers or have your service suspended while you are away.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Report anything or anyone suspicious that you observe. Over the Thanksgiving holiday vandals damaged dozens of parked cars on Arlington streets, and residents are urged to call 911 immediately if they witness criminal activity. A vehicle description or license plate number could help officers quickly catch the perpetrators.

    Dec. 7: Indecent Exposure, 4400 block N. 4th Rd. Around 11:36 p.m., a 25-year-old woman was in the laundry room in an apartment building when a man knocked on the window and began masturbating. K-9 did a track but the suspect had fled the scene. The suspect is described as a white male in his mid-twenties, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, with shaggy black hair, wearing blue jeans and a blue shirt. The investigation is ongoing.

    View Larger Map

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  • Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Letter (and photos): Christmas Party Was Trans-fat-laden Fun!

    Hi Steve -

    Here are a few pictures from Friday's Arlington Forest Christmas party at Lubber Run [Dec. 7]. Looked like a very healthy turnout to me, as per usual.

    Santa! (Click to enlarge.)

    Santa arrived on a fire truck, a couple of gentleman played Christmas carols on the piano and bass violin, and lots of trans-fat-laden and partially-hydrogenated-oil-filled treats were enjoyed by all. Fun times.

    Sarah Nissenson

    My wife and I made plans conflicting with this, and from the looks of the photos we really missed a good time. Thanks to Sarah for getting these photos to me. –ST

    All photos provided by Sarah Nissenson. (Click the images to enlarge.)

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    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Messiah Sing Fills Church with Cheer

    Barry Hemphill and a portion of the Metropolitan Chorus. (Click to enlarge image.)

    I forgot. I just plain forgot. Two Saturdays ago (Dec.1), my children and I caught the first 20 minutes or so of the Messiah sing-along at our church, First Presbyterian at the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road and N. Vermont Street, where Buckingham meets the Bluemont neighborhood. I took photos with my cell phone, so the quality is poor, and then I plain forgot to post a story.

    This was the 20th Anniversary of the sing held by the Metropolitan Chorus, with Barry Hemphill as the artistic director. He also is the music director at First Presbyterian. He’s charming up front when encouraging us non-singers to sing.

    “Pretend you’re a soprano,” he said at the start. Look around at the people in the pews near you, he said, and realize it’s OK to sing loudly, if poorly, because, “you’ll never see them again.”

    Even though we were in a Presbyterian church, he said it was OK to smile, we could return to our dour looks on Sunday to which Charlotte Lohrenz, the church’s interim pastor, called, “It’s OK to smile tomorrow too!”

    Mr. Hemphill leads the audience in the chorus. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    I sat in the balcony with my kids and our rented copy of the Messiah score ($2). My daughter, a second-grader, and I tried our best to keep up with others. Many who are part of the troupe were in the pews themselves. It was fun.

    My daughter and I got lost, and sounded terrible, but the church was festooned. Holiday cheer with its rising voices filled the room with more goodwill toward men than one man should receive.

    My kids gave out before I did, so we left long before the “Hallelujah” chorus.

    The Metropolitan Chorus has been singing for 41 years, in such illustrious places as The Kennedy Center, The National Building Museum, and Constitutional Hall. The troupe has toured internationally, their pamphlet from the evening said.

    Mr. Hemphill, as well as being a highly respected music director for the church, retired as the Sgt. Major of the United States Army Band, and has conducted the Messiah sing at the Kennedy Center, since 1994, the materials say.

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    Correction: Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment

    Redevelopment plans for the intersection of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive are to go before Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (not the county board as previously reported).

    The HALRB meets on Dec. 19. The Design Review Committee, which cancelled its meeting last week due to inclement weather, will pick up the item again at its Jan. 2 meeting.

    Sorry for the confusion.

    Related stories and sundry items…
  • Last Week's Coverage of Plans
  • DRC to Consider Glebe/Pershing Redevelopment (Sept. 2007)
  • HALRB's Web Site
  • HALRB's Meetings, Agendas, Minutes 2007

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  • Blue Car Stackers Coming Down

    The American Service Center parking lot “stacking mechanisms” at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Quincy Street are coming down by year’s end. These are the blue contraptions that allow ASC to park one car over the space occupied by another.

    The removal is part of an overall site plan review and redevelopment of the corner, which ASC owns. The stacking mechanisms along N. Randolph Street opposite the Ballston Common Mall will remain. The parking lot holds 117 cars, plus another 55 on the mechanisms, according to the county staff report.

    A county board vote to approve the use of the space as a parking lot without the mechanisms is planned for the board meeting this Saturday, Dec. 15.

    Expect a complete story about ASC’s redevelopment in January.

    Staff Report to the County Board…
  • Interim Parking Lot, 585 N. Glebe Rd.

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  • Friday, December 07, 2007

    Major Intersection Work to Begin Monday

    Click to enlarge image.

    Streetscape redevelopment of the N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive intersection is set to begin Monday, a project that has taken about seven years to reach this point. The sign on N. Glebe shows that the work will take six months, but it may end sooner, the county’s William “Bill” Roberts has said previously.

    Six months is the maximum the company, A&M Concrete Corporation, has to finish this portion of the job, which includes new sidewalks, gutters and curbs. The utility poles will disappear during this portion of the project, as the utilities are already running underground.

    Traffic will be delayed during the project, but that may be nothing compared to other delays throughout the history of the project.

    Delays, especially in getting all of the interested parties to sign the necessary easements, have plagued this project for years. Officials at the county originally thought it would have been completed in 2003. Every year, or so, the county would adjust its estimated start time.

    It was almost a year ago that the utility companies began running their wires underground, leaving the corner with “topped off” utility poles and dirt patches where sidewalks used to be.

    Related stories…
  • Board Approves Contract for Intersection Redevelopment
  • Art on the Four Corners
  • This Should Be the Summer for Pershing/Glebe
  • Progress Slow at Pershing/Glebe

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  • Thursday, December 06, 2007

    FYI: Just in Time for the Holidays

    Listening to NPR on my iPod this morning, I heard about this site, and I thought the parents out there might care: It lists thousands of toys and what chemical tests revealed about those toys. It also says where the toy is sold and which company distributes it.
    Floating Stars Cooling Teether.

    A "Classic Pooh" teether, the "Floating Stars Cooling Teether," you'll be happy to know, has only medium levels of chlorine/PVC and only two parts per million of arsenic in the "teether star segment", according to their tests. It is made in China (go figure).

    In all fairness, it is a little difficult to tell what they mean by the "teether star segment"--it might be a star encased in the plastic outer ring, something the kid's teeth or gums might never reach. Still, it's a tad disconcerting. At least the tests did not find lead, according to the site.

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    Buckingham's Winter Wonderland!

    The Official Unofficial Snow Count for Buckingham: 2.75 inches as shown on my picnic table in my Arlington Oaks backyard. The count was conducted at about 7:30 this morning using an “engineer scale,” no mere ruler.
    The Unofficial Official Snow Measurement for Buckingham this morning, about 7:30 a.m. (Click to enlarge the image).

    The measurement is accurate to within feet of the official measurement at Ronald Reagan National Airport (go ahead and choose "national" and "Dec. 5" to see if you can make sense of that link! I believe it says 2.6 inches of snow).

    Celine Costa was one of many stuck scraping the ice and snow off her car this morning. The sidewalks were covered with ice, generally, in the neighborhood as Arlington Public Schools were delayed two hours. Men waited for work in the cold parking lot of the Glebe Market, where I bought a hot cup of joe from the truck in the parking lot (I can hear some people "tsk-tsking" me now for supporting those vendors, but I was cold, and I couldn't take my dog into RinConCito Chapin).

    Celine Costa scrapes the ice and snow off her car this morning. (Click to enlarge the image).

    Of course, the trucks in Village 1 were out in full force, and most, if not all, of the debris is gone. (Sorry, no pictures.) The place is a large, flat wasteland for now.

    And this car says it all about Redskins fans:

    A Washington Redskins flag sticks out above the snow covered car--like 'Skins fans everywhere, this car seems not to have given up hope. (Click to enlarge the image).

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    New Viewers: Welcome!

    The Google analytics software that tracks who comes to my blog says a lot of new people have been showing up lately. Excellent, and welcome. I love to have you.

    If you want, you can email me ( and I'll add you to the weekly updates list. If email is not your thing, you can subscribe to my RSS feed (via feedburner) and view me on your reader.

    I don't write it enough, but I am always interested in what people want to know about, and I love posting emails-to-the-editor. Please get in touch with me. If you email me, I'll respond and then you can have a phone number, too. I don't put it on the site so that nefarious persons don't hook me up to some spam-calls list.

    I should say, too, that the analytics software doesn't tell me who you are or anything, just that you're new and what site you came from (if that site has a link to me).

    One of those sites, by the way, is "Apples and Bananas" (because we like to eat, eat eat, upples and bununus!). They link to me, so I'll link to them. You can find them under "Local Blogs" in the right hand column.


    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    DRC Meeting Cancelled

    The County's Rebbecah Ballo announced that the Design Review Committee Meeting is cancelled for tonight, due to inclement weather.

    Two make-up options exist, Ms. Ballo said. In both options, the county board will hear the proposals at their meeting Dec. 15 or 18. Another option is that the DRC meeting will be rescheduled before the board meeting.

    HeraldTrib Today: Dec. 5, 2007

    It actually snowed! What do you know—they always say it is going to dump on us, but it usually does not. Today we got lucky.

    As many of you know, I’m a northern New Yorker by birth (born just outside the Adirondack Park), and so I grew up with, love and look forward to SNOW! I like walking in it. I like driving in it. I like snuggling up with a warm drink and watching it. The only thing I do not like is scraping it off my car, but that is usually because I am late and have forgotten to add the extra minutes to my plans.

    The best part today, however, is that I am not teaching at Montgomery College (Yea to me and my sabbatical), where the bunch of pansies in control of these things, often cancel school at the first flake, throwing my teaching schedule completely off. Ahhhhh…

    Thirty-two degrees right this very minute according to the thermometer that hangs on my window. I’ll say it again, Ahhhhhhh…..

    Assuming Arlington County government does not shut down, tonight sees a Design Review Committee Meeting in which officials from Georgetown Strategic Capital will discuss their ideas about the redevelopment of the N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive intersection.

    Recall that this is not the redevelopment of the streetscape; it is not the new sidewalks, gutters and curbs. It is the total redesign and renovation of the buildings that currently house the Glebe Market, CVS, El Paso Café, and Popeyes Chicken and Biscuits (that is, the west side of Glebe Road).

    I have been talking to officials involved with this, and have been asking about the basic idea to move the Buckingham Station Post Office across Glebe Road into one of the new buildings. So far no one has said, “No,” outright….Until this very second.

    As I was typing this (what timing), Deborah Yackley, (pronounced “Yake-ly”) a spokeswoman for the United States Postal Service, called and said the renovation of the post office is already underway, behind the current PO Boxes.

    “The renovations for Buckingham are already in progress,” she said. “Contracts have been awarded.”

    “Basically what it is is like a sprucing up,” she said, with new paint and other amenities that have been reported here in the recent past. At the time of the last posting, as far as the Buckingham Station postmaster knew, the project was not that near. [The most recent posting I could find was this one, from June. I thought I had done one since then, but the search engine is not turning it up, and a quick look through my list of posts is not doing it, either. I guess time just flies.]

    Ms. Yackley said that she did not think that moving was an option at this point. She sounded generally sorry, too. Many people thought the idea of changing the building back to a theatre was a good idea.

    She confirmed what I had learned yesterday, that the USPS has a 20-year lease on the space, with the ability to extend the lease five years at a time for another 20 years. The first phase, and part of what kept me hopeful, was due to end in 2010, or about the time the new buildings would be completed.

    “You get a good lease like that in this area, you hold on to it,” she said. The renovation should be completed by March 2008.

    I still have one or two phone calls to make on this idea, so I do not consider it totally dead. But the plan to turn the historic theatre back into a theatre is probably feeling very ill.

    I have a couple stories in the hopper I just cannot get to today (darn that early school release!), so look through the rest of the week for more stories.

    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • Snow Can’t Stop Demo Crew
  • Police Note (just one) for Buckingham

  • Headline's from Earlier in the Week:

  • Give to County’s Secret Santa Progrma via BCCA (the money stays in Buckingham)
  • Wind Gets the Better of Fence (then, and again yesterday)
  • Bums Write What Achievers Read It's a great book for a holiday Achiever.
  • Writer “Very Happy” with RFP Process
  • Barrett Parents Will Bring Voice to School Board
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    Demolition Crew Hauls Away Debris

    Snow did not stop demolition crews from hauling away what is left of five buildings in Buckingham Village 1 this morning. Dump trucks lined up, were filled and drove off.
    Dump trucks wait this morning as a front-end payloader fills them with debris from five demolished buildings.

    One truck exited onto N. Pershing Drive, and then turned right onto N. Henderson Road, which would bring it past K.W. Barrett Elementary School, something officials at Paradigm, who are running the redevelopment of the site, said should not happen. However, this happened before school hours.

    Village 1 sits on the northwest corner of N. George Mason and N. Pershing drives. Over the course of two years, a four-storey apartment complex, including 100 affordable units, and a county park about the size of a football field will be built in the now-vacant space.

    Red pushpins (below) show which buildings have been demolished; yellows indicate buildings that have been gutted but remain standing. (If your computer is not showing the buildings, click the "satellite" or "sat" button on the map, and the buildings should come into view.)

    View Larger Map

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    Police Note for Buckingham

    Alas, we could not make it a third week without any crime reports...

    Dec. 2: Felony Hit and Run, N. Glebe Road at Arlington Boulevard. At approximately 12:54 a.m., a Honda Accord traveling northbound on Glebe Road sideswiped another car tearing off the side-view mirror. The striking vehicle did not stop but was later located in Fairfax County. The driver, Margaret Carey, 29, of Fairfax, was arrested and charged with Felony Hit and Run.

    View Larger Map

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    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Letter: Give to Secret Santa via BCCA

    Gift Cards donated through BCCA stay in Buckingham.

    Every year, the BCCA proudly participates in Arlington's Secret Santa program to help make this a joyous holiday season for those Buckingham families struggling to make ends meet. This year will be no exception.

    This year's program has undergone a slight change to make it more equitable. Instead of adopting specific families, the program now requests that you purchase individual gift cards (no more than $200) at local grocery stores (Harris Teeter, Giant, Safeway) or department stores (Target, Wal-Mart) in order to distribute to those in most need.

    The gift cards collected by the BCCA will be earmarked specifically for Buckingham families. So please consider purchasing a gift card(s) of whatever denomination ($10, $20, $50, $100) at one or more of the stores above and mail them to my address: c/o BCCA's Secret Santa Program, 512 N. Park Drive, Arlington, VA 22203. Please send me your contribution on or before Dec. 10 and I will forward them on behalf of the BCCA. I hope we continue the tradition of helping our neighbors.

    --Pat Hope
    President, Buckingham Community Civic Association

    According to the county, "Five percent of families and eight percent of children in Arlington live at or below the poverty level, and many Arlington residents struggle just to make ends meet. You can help this holiday season — the Secret Santa program, which helps 1,000+ individuals each year, seeks donations of gift cards to help make a difference in the lives of some of Arlington's most vulnerable residents." --ST

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    Monday, December 03, 2007

    Wind Gets the Better of Fence

    The wind got the better of this fence along N. Pershing Drive. It had been keeping the public out of the demolition site of Buckingham Village 1.

    According to the Weather Channel, the entire region is under a wind advisory until at least 1 a.m. Tuesday, which means wind gusts of at least 46 m.p.h. are expected. As well, the advisory predicts downed tree and power lines.

    The wind is caused by a large storm system pushing through Pennsylvania, northern Maryland, and the northeast in general, various meterologists are saying.

    During the Thanksgiving Day weekend, the fence surrounding the townhomes under construction on N. George Mason Drive also blew over.

    Both times, the fences ended up in the sidewalk. Neither fence is tied down or anchored with anything more than the cement blocks at their bases.

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    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    Review: Bums Write What Achievers Read

    This review has been edited since it was first posted on Saturday, to correct inconsistencies, and to make it all more clear. Sorry if you slogged through the first. --ST

    I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, Life, "The Big Lebowski," and What Have You.

    Great thing about being sick over the past week was the chance to catch up on some reading. While The Emergence of a Free Press was a little too dense for my spinning head, I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You was just the thing.

    If “Mark it 8, Dude” does not make you immediately scream, “Over the line!” If the mention of the word pornography or the sight of anything vaguely pornographic, does not make you say, “The story is ridiculous,” and if by now you are not thinking, “I could go for a caucasian,” then this review, and most likely the book, is not for you. (A warning to tender readers—the language may become R-rated.)

    The Dude.

    This is a book for Achievers. Those of us who celebrate the life of El Duderino, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing, love this sort of book.

    The bums who wrote it, Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, and Scott Shuffitt, interviewed actors from The Dude in all his Dudeness, Jeff Bridges, to Walter Sobchak’s John Goodman. They interviewed The Jesus of John Tuturo and even interviewed Jack Kehler, who plays Marty the Dancing Landlord as well as musician Jimmie Dale Gilmore who plays Smokey. No Coens and no Steve Buescemi were interviewed to make this book.

    They don’t end the interviews there; it’s these bums' lot in life to interview people who inspired the movie—this really ties the book together. They spoke to Jeff “The Dude” Dowd, Peter Exline (whose rug really tied the room together), to “Big” Lew Abernathy, all who tell the stories—including the stolen car and homework in a plastic bag—that made the movie what it is.

    I had a little trouble with some of the interviews as often the bums went back to the same two or three questions for every person—that works great in focus groups and job interviews (you don’t look for a job like that, do you?), but seemed too formulaic in the book when I wanted more follow-up questions to what the actors and others had said.

    Still, they do a very nice job explaining how they think the movie became a cult classic (with references!), and especially giving us Chapter 7’s Reference Materials including the Parlance of Our Times and scouting the locations. Achievers will love reading (i.e. recalling from memory) the best lines of the flick, or arguing with the writers for missing the best.

    The Jesus.

    Where the plane flies into the goddamn mountain for this book is in photo reproduction. There’s a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what have yous, to making even black and white photos look good in print, and these, too often, look mushy and washed-out. Can I be frank with you Dude? It looks like they paused the DVD, shot a photo of their TV screen with a digital camera and then pasted a copy-paper print onto their book.

    Chapter 1, a nice introduction to the idea of Lebowski worship, did little for me, but that might be the very un-Dude academic in me that just wants the information about how to interpret or understand the Dude in a greater cultural context. The interviews and other background material do that rather nicely, even giving the titles to papers that have been presented at Lebowski Fest.

    [Along those lines, I was surprised that none dealt with the idea that “The Dude Abides” is a very Taoist statement, not Zen. Everyone brings up Zen, but I'm telling you Dude, Zen is not the issue. The issue is Taoism. That’s the topic of the paper I’ll be presenting at my first Lebowski Fest.]

    Add this book to the holiday list of the Achiever you love most. Now, Shut the fuck up, Donny.

    The Book.

    I’m a Lebowski, You’re a Lebowski, Life, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You
    Paper, $16.95, 239 pages
    By: Bill Green, Ben Peskoe, Will Russell, and Scott Shuffitt
    Forward by: Jeff Bridges (yeah, the Dude can really write, man—well, him and six other guys)

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    Letter: Writer "Very Happy" with RFP Process.

    Hi Steve,

    I can tell you that I am very satisfied with the RFP language. It took a while to come up with something that actually satisfied all people participating in the process but I think the County did a great job addressing our concerns in the last version of the RFP. We are hoping to receive very creative responses to this RFP. The community is also satisfied with the language included in the RFP.

    Regarding the Review Committee, we will have community representatives in the selection committee which is great, not as many votes as we (BRAVO) would like, but on the other hand we will have good and committed people participating, which is the most important aspect of the selection process.

    Overall I can tell you that, as a tenant representative, I am very happy about the entire process –the community could effectively voice its needs and concerns and the County was very responsive to them. Kathleen McSweeney was a great leader in all this process.

    Hope this answered your question; there is a confidentiality agreement in place to guarantee a fair selection process.

    Take care,
    Caridad Palerm

    I had emailed the writer for a response to the RFP posting story (click here), and though the email did not come in time for that, I thought her response was worth posting here. She is the Executive Director of BRAVO (Buyers and Renters Arlington Voice).--ST

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