Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Amazing What a Little Goodwill Can Do

And you went to the mall to shop. Or you drove, and circled for parking, to Clarendon.

Terrence Ruffin

You could have wandered from Buckingham south on Glebe Road and found yourself—just over Arlington Boulevard—at the Goodwill.

The squat, stucco-ed-but-not-quite-in-any-architecture-style building houses "Arlington's Best Vintage/Thrift Shop."

That, according to the 2008 ABBIES (Arlington’s Best Business Awards), the contest dubbed the “people’s choice awards” for businesses in the county. The awards were given in 20 categories at the Oct. 22 Arlington County Board meeting.

Mr. Ruffin has managed the Goodwill retail store at 10 S. Glebe Rd. for about two years. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Terrence Ruffin was very happy that his store won the ABBIE for the best Vintage/Thrift store. He is the manager.

“I think it’s beautiful because it hits both ends of our community,” the end that can afford to shop retro as well as the end that must be thrifty, he said.

It’s the income from the retail store that powers the free training and education programs that Goodwill offers. All of the stock is donated.

Aurora Catilo and her husband Alex come for the books. They are fighting the eventual demise of the printed page—it will all be electronic soon—by picking up classics and recent novels.

Aurora and Alex Catilo and their trunk-load of books. (Click to enlarge the image.)

“We don’t sell these books. We’re trying to save these books,” Mr. Catilo said.

His wife said, “They have the best books” for her children and for the grandchildren she hopes to have.

“I come about every week,” she said, picking up books, and bric-a-brac, and things from other countries. “I think it’s better than going to a department store.”

Gerry Dault and Edna Durand, an elderly pair of friends in floppy berets, swing by the Goodwill shop about once a month when they go on grocery shopping trips “in the suburbs.” They live in the District.

“You have to have time,” Ms. Durand said, but she can always find herself something. She had a small bag in hand Halloween morning.

Mr. Ruffin has spent two years at the store after working in retail management elsewhere, and he said he has fallen in love with it.

It was going to the graduation ceremonies and hearing people say, “I never thought…” that convinced him. They say they never thought they’d get a GED, or job, and yet thanks to the Goodwill, they did, he said. "Goodwill helps."

Related sites…
  • All 20 ABBIES for 2008

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  • No Lease for Outreach Center in New Gates Community Center

    At the grand opening of the new Gates of Ballston Community Center on Saturday, Arlington County Board Vice Chair Barbara Favola said, “The county is the proud sponsor of most of the programs in this building.”

    That is almost true, but not quite yet.

    The county sponsors the Buckingham Community Outreach center which has space in two conjoined apartments at the Gates of Ballston. But the county and AHC, Inc., the affordable housing developer which owns the property, have yet to sign a lease that would move the program onto the second floor of the new Gates of Ballston Community Center, where empty offices await.

    Price is the problem, officials have said, though people on both sides were not overly dismayed by the delay.

    The Gates of Ballston Community Center opened Saturday Oct. 25 at 4108 N. 4th St. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “It’s taking more time than we thought it would,” said Catherine Bucknam, an AHC spokesperson, adding, “We want them [the Buckingham Outreach Center] there…It’s important to provide those services. That’s what a community center is all about.”

    For his part, David Cristeal, in the county’s housing division, said "I think we were expecting to have [a lease] but we didn't, so we're working through it."

    "I don't think the amount of space is at issue, it's just how much for that space," he said.

    Ms. Bucknam added that AHC wants all outside organizations to have a lease for the space they use. The Child and Family Networks Center, which is running a day care facility on the second floor of the community center building, has a lease, she said.

    For the past several years, the county has run the Buckingham Outreach Center from various apartments on the property; currently it is on 4th Street across the parking lot from the new building.

    The outreach center offers computer classes, career counseling, English as a Second Language classes, and conducts other social work activities.

    Although Ms. Bucknam was sure that the county was paying something for the use of the property, she was not sure how much, or if there was a formal lease anymore.

    The Community Center building houses a day care center, management offices for the Gates of Ballston, and an office for the tenants association. As well, it has a community room for gatherings and other amenities.

    No word as to how much longer it might take to ink the lease.

    Related stories…
  • Gates Center Opens with Fanfare (Oct. 27, 2008).
  • Gates Center to Be Built (Feb. 7, 2007)

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  • Police Notes for Buckingham, Oct. 24-30

    These notes are compiled from Arlington County Police Department crime reports. One minor change to the blog is that I have expanded coverage of the crime reports into Arlington Forest, and Ashton Heights. --ST

    Oct. 24: Robbery, 4300 block N. Wilson Blvd. At 3 p.m. a man was leaving a garage on his scooter when an unknown subject jumped in front of him. The suspect assaulted the victim and pushed him off the scooter. The suspect also stole property from the victim. The suspect was an African American male, 25 years old. He was last seen wearing jeans, a long dark jacket, and a pullover.

    Oct. 26: Robbery, 4200 block of N. 2nd Rd. At 11:30 p.m., a man was walking home when two unknown men knocked him down and assaulted him. The suspects fled on foot with the victim’s wallet. The suspects are described as tall, thin, African American males wearing black hooded sweatshirts.

    Oct. 27: Stolen Auto, 800 block of N. Randolph St. License tag #NY DNA8075. The SUV is a 2006 black Ford Escape.

    Oct. 28: Death Investigation, 800 block of N. Greenbrier St. At 3 p.m., a man was working inside a dirt trench at a residential construction site. The trench collapsed, trapping him inside. Pablo Gonzalez, 59, of Falls Church, was pronounced dead at the scene. The investigation is ongoing.

    View Larger Map

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    Tuesday, October 28, 2008

    County Lifts Second Advisory on Lubber Run Water

    Arlington County has lifted the advisory issued on Thursday, Oct. 23 for parts of Lubber Run and Four Mile Run.

    The county took the precautionary measure of warning residents to avoid contact with the waters downstream from a sewage spill site in Lubber Run Park. The precaution was meant to allow the normal ecological process in the streams to reduce the potentially elevated bacteria levels caused by the release.

    Following several days of stream flow and rain, Arlington County now recommends that residents resume adherence to its normal protective precautions for safe use of its urban streams. You can find information and safety tips on Arlington streams on the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services web site.

    Related stories…
  • Sewage Spills into LR Park Again (Oct. 24)
  • Sewer Line Failure Pollutes Lubber Run (Oct. 15)

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  • Monday, October 27, 2008

    Gates Center Opens with Fanfare

    The ceremony had all the action befitting a grand opening of a new building—a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds, cotton-candy, popcorn, foosball, a tent with hot dogs, burgers and enchiladas, and music—and, of course, it had speeches from county luminaries.

    AHC, Inc. President and CEO addresses the crowd at the Grand Opening. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The Buckingham community gathered Saturday to celebrate the opening of the new Gates of Ballston Community Center at 4108 N. 4th St.

    “The biggest statement that this facility makes is the statement about our values,” said Barbara Favola, the vice chair of the Arlington County board. She said she came on behalf of her board colleague, Chairman Walter Tejada, a well-known politician in the Buckingham neighborhood.

    Ms. Favola said the center is a concerted effort on the part of the county to put services into the neighborhoods where the services are needed. This was the one line in all the speeches that drew applause without it being asked for.

    Arlington County Board Vice Chair Barbara Favola cuts the ribbon at the Gates of Ballston Community Center. Behind her (l-r) are: Connie Sherman, the director of the Gates of Ballston Outreach Center; Christopher Donald, formerly of AHC, Inc., he led most of the $108 million Gates renovation; Rick Leeds, the director of AHC Management; and John Walsh of AHC, Inc. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “The county is the proud sponsor of most of the programming in this building,” she said. The county also helped finance the building with an $8.5 million loan to AHC, Inc., the owner and developer of the property. The building was part of the $108 million renovation of the Gates of Ballston property. The project funding came from numerous corporate and affordable housing partners.

    And the community center is designed for community service, with a large, colorful party room on the main floor, offices for AHC Management, offices for BU-GATA (the tenants association), child care upstairs, and space for the Buckingham Community Outreach Center which provides computer access, career training, English classes and other services to the largely Spanish-speaking community.

    The outreach center has spent its entire life in various apartments all over the Gates’ property, most recently in conjoined two bedroom apartments in a nearby building.

    The county and AHC, Inc. have not finalized the outreach center contract for the space on the second floor, county staff and others have said. Those rooms on the second floor are still vacant.

    The community room with its orange accent walls, multi-colored curtains, blue counter top in the kitchen area, and a purple fireplace mantel was the centerpiece of the day.

    The interior designer, Diana Lamb, called the room “bright,” “cheerful,” and “fun.”

    “It was a low-budget job that, with creativity, they got a bang for their buck,” Ms. Lamb said. She said they did not have a lot of money for furniture and paint, but “I don’t think it looks that way.”

    In fact, AHC President and CEO Walter Webdale said the teens loved what they saw. “They actually hugged the furniture,” he said, before pausing for effect then adding that he did not know why they would hug the chairs, but they did.

    Also on hand for the day were Ron Carlee, the Arlington County manager, Rick Leeds, the president of AHC Management, Patrick Hope, the president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association, Lois Athey, an activist with BU-GATA, and Connie Freeman, the director of the Buckingham Community Outreach Center.

    The event ran despite the rains on Saturday from noon to 4p.m.

    Related stories…
  • Missed item, another loan subordinated
  • House to be fitness/business center
  • Gates Center to be built

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  • Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Hoe, Hoe, Hoe the Boat!

    Lubber Run teens turn a dinghy into a garden.

    Like so much that happens in the greater Buckingham area, the Teen Boat Project in Lubber Run Park came about thanks to caring adults, hard working teens and a little bit of dumb luck.

    Katherine and Lisa stencil the boat's gunwale. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “We found this old boat that the teens had built” at the Arlington Mill Community Center, Joyce Harris-Gray said yesterday afternoon while a handful of the 25 participating teens painted the gunwales with positive messages. Ms. Harris-Gray directs the Lubber Run teen program.

    The boat is a half-dozen or so years old, and was sailed at one point, but Luis Matos said he found it “under the deck” at the Arlington Mill Community Center. No one was quite sure what to do with it. Mr. Matos is working at the Lubber Run Community Center while Arlington Mill is redeveloped.

    “They were going to trash it,” he said. But since he grew up on an island, he could not scuttle a boat. They considered a number of options including slicing it in half length-wise and hanging it on a wall.

    They said they talked to Carol Hoover, the Lubber Run Center director, about installing it in front of the center on N. George Mason Drive, but she suggested the location inside the park, where a tree had been planted by other teens a half-decade ago. The location at the north end of the park is supposed to be a garden, but has fallen into a bit of disrepair. So, with some Junior Master Gardener Training from the 4H, the Teen Boat Project that turned this dinghy into a flower garden set sail.

    Joyce Harris-Gray (right) and Luis Matos examine the transom. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Yesterday, while most of the teens set-up the Haunted House at the Lubber Run Center, a handful cared for the boat-garden and the space around the tree.

    Over the summer, the boat had gotten a new coat of paint and was hand-lettered with positive messages about staying out of gangs and away from drugs. Recently it was repainted, and yesterday, the teens stenciled on more positive messages. It looks a little neater.

    The group, Mr. Matos said, is always looking for donations of plants and seeds. Swing by the Lubber Run Community Center, 300 N. Park Dr., with donations.

    Before... (Click to enlarge the image.)

    After... (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Related sites…
  • Junior Master Gardener

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  • Friday, October 24, 2008

    Sewage Spills into Lubber Run Again

    Overwhelmed pumps at fault. County brought in a back-up this morning and is asking residents to keep themselves and pets out of the contaminated portions of Lubber Run and Four Mile Run.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Fifteen hundred gallons of raw sewage spilled into Lubber Run stream yesterday morning for the second time in 10 days, only a day after the county issued a statement saying the water had cleared from the previous spill.

    Yesterday’s spill occurred during the peak morning hours when sewage overwhelmed two pumps set up to divert sewage away from lines that are being restored with an epoxy-like liner.

    Although there are four pumps on site near the picnic pavilion in the park, only two are in operation at any one time, said Dave Hundelt, of Arlington County’s Department of Environmental Services. Bringing another on-line is more than just switching a valve. Temporary pipes have to be installed, for instance.

    If the relining project were to go on for days or weeks more, the effort would be worth it, Mr. Hundelt said, but A.M. Liner East, Inc., the contractor that is relining the pipes, should be done with the major work today, and the sewage lines can be reopened.

    Therefore, the county chose instead to bring out a pumper truck for this morning, which acts as the third back-up pump to take some pressure off the two pumps already operating, he said. He was on-site for the operation this morning.

    In the past, county staff has said that the water is cleared after about a week, or some really strong rains. (The forecast for Saturday is about 100 percent rain.)

    Last week, a diversion plug was overwhelmed and sent sewage out a manhole.

    The contractor should be out of Lubber Run completely by the middle of next week, Mr. Hundelt said.

    Related stories…
  • County's Press Release
  • County Gives All Clear on Lubber Run (Oct. 22)
  • Sewer Line Failure Pollutes Lubber Run (Oct. 15)
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    Police Notes for Buckingham and Arlington Forest: Oct. 17-23

    These notes are compiled from Arlington County Police Department crime reports. One minor change to the blog is that I will expand coverage of the crime reports into Arlington Forest, and Ashton Heights will be coming soon, as I am picking up readers in these areas. --ST

    Oct. 21: Attempted Burglary, 800 block of N. Emerson St. Between 7p.m. on Oct. 21 and 1p.m. on Oct. 22, an unknown subject attempted to enter to a residence by breaking a door window. Entry was not gained, there is no suspect description.

    Oct. 20: Stolen Car, 4100 block of N. 3rd Rd. Tag: MD JX5687. The car is a 2002, Silver, Toyota Camry.

    Oct. 17: Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle, Arlington Boulevard at N. Glebe Road. At 2 pm, officers stopped a vehicle for improper registration. Investigation found that the driver did not have permission to use the vehicle. Raymond Earl Pittman, 55, of Arlington, was charged with Unauthorized Use of a Vehicle and Driving While Suspended. He was released on his own recognizance.

    View Larger Map

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    Teen Scream Team Brings On Boos!


    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    They’re Back!

    The award-winning Scream Team is back at Lubber Run Community Center for a new terrifying installment.

    Haunted House…Terror at Lubber Run features live-action thrills and chills to get you pumped up for Halloween. Come by Saturday, Oct. 25 from 7-10p.m. or Sunday, Oct. 26 from 6-9p.m. $5.

    Not recommended for children under 11. For more information, go to

    --Susan Kalish, Arlington County director of marketing and communication.

    The only question now is can this team that has won countywide accolades for their horrors of past years party like it's 1799? (That's about the year Shelley's "Frankenstein" came out--bad joke, I know, I know.) --ST

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    Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    County Lifts Water Pollution Advisory for Lubber Run

    The following is a press release issued by Arlington County today. A link to the story about the sewage overflow can be found below. --ST

    Arlington County has lifted the advisory issued on Wednesday, Oct. 15 for parts of Lubber Run and Four Mile Run.

    The County took the precautionary measure of warning residents to avoid contact with the waters downstream from a sewage spill site in Lubber Run Park. The precaution was meant to allow the normal ecological process in the streams to reduce the potentially elevated bacteria levels caused by the release.

    Following several days of stream flow, Arlington County now recommends that residents resume adherence to its normal protective precautions for safe use of its urban streams. You can find information and safety tips on Arlington streams on the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services web site.

    Related stories…
  • Oct. 15 story: Sewer Line Failure Pollutes Lubber Run
  • DES Web Site

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  • Monday, October 20, 2008

    Letter: Blog is Fantastic!

    Mr. Thurston:

    Your blog is fantastic! Thanks for all your hard work, it's much appreciated.

    Dick Williams
    Arlington Forest


    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Letter: Va. GOP Needs to Move to Center

    Hi Steve,

    Saw your item on the election. Just imagine if the Virginia GOP had allowed [Republican Representative, 11th] Tom Davis to run for Senate against Mark Warner. Even with the economy tanking, they would have had a contender. Just one more example of the right wing killing the Republicans.

    I'm for Obama through and through, but I'm hoping this will be the wakeup call the Republicans sorely need to get back to the middle where most Americans are.

    Marcy Gessel

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    Friday, October 17, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: Oct. 17, 2008

    Mosaic Park

    The main story this week catches you up on the Mosaic Park reconstruction (scroll down to find the link there). Scott McPartlin, a planner in the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, said the planning team—a group of county staff, the landscape architecture firm Oculus DC, and civic association leaders—is still in the earliest phases. More meetings are to come, but the dates have not been determined.

    Their meetings are open to the public, but at this point public comment is not taken at the meetings, though people can always contact him at the county. Mr. McPartlin said there will be open public meetings down the road.

    The Mosaic Park redevelopment is part of the overall Founders Square redevelopment (the site between N. Randolph and N. Quincy streets where the Metrobuses are parked). When that site plan was approved by the county board in July, the board gave the planning team 90 days to determine whether they would recommend proceeding with a density transfer in exchange for improvements to Mosaic Park. The developers want to pack more square footage into the block, largely going up rather than spreading wide.

    We will know in a week what the planning team decided.

    "The fact that the report will be ready in 90 days is incredible," Mr. McPartlin said, adding that a report like this can take as long as a year. "I've got to hand it to the citizen team, they did a really good job."


    While I had him on the phone, I had to ask Mr. McPartlin about the proposal for miniature golf at the corner of N. Randolph Street and N. Glebe Road, next to the Ballston Commons Mall parking garage.

    This has been a topic of some rather heated public discussion over the past year, as people in the Buckingham Community Civic Association have said they were not properly included in the planned redevelopment of the grassy, vacant site.

    "Right now the official position," he said, and then he paused. He found the official position from the manager's office so that he would not get it wrong, and continued: "The county is considering a number of options including mini-golf."

    He said for me to call in a month as he thinks there will be news. You know I’ll keep you posted.

    Sorry, kids, this is not for you!

    It’s not all fun and games for amusement ride workers.

    Jeff Davis—spelled “just like the highway”—had to turn away a couple families of small children when he filled his moonbounces on the Arlington Assembly of God parking lot Wednesday.

    Spring cleaning comes early for Mid-Atlantic Adventures. They store their equipment—moonbounces, climbing walls and bungee jumpers—on the church’s property over the winter in exchange for giving the church some free use of the fun. But if they do not dry out the rides now, they stink come springtime, Mr. Davis said.

    A man quick to the sales pitch, he said his company had plenty of smaller moonbounces and games for indoor fun, if anyone was looking for something to do.

    Vote, Damn You!

    I have gotten at least three emails and have seen a bunch of stories in the last couple of weeks urging me to vote early and absentee. Sheesh, back off. I get it, I get it. Long lines, delays.

    Arlington County hopes to free up some of the lines at the polling stations. Here’s a link, if you are interested in voting early.

    You want my predictions: The Republicans across the state stay home and Democrats across the ticket win in a landslide.

    Jim Gilmore is getting trounced from all quarters by Mark Warner in the Senate race. Combine that lackluster campaign on the Republican side with the polls all tilting away from John McCain toward Barack Obama, and I expect a lot of Republicans will just say, “Why bother?” I actually have that as my nationwide idea, as well. Nationally, what might look close in the popular vote will be a landslide in the electoral college.

    Obama by 10 percent, at least, in Virginia. He will tip the electoral college at over 300 (I have actually had 330 in my head for a couple weeks). I’ll bet someone a beer.

    Rocket J. Squirrel

    I saw a dead flying squirrel on a N. 4th Road sidewalk the other day. I have known for years of flying squirrels in heavily forested parts of the county such as the area around Long Branch Nature Center, but I have always wondered about their existence elsewhere.

    Might just have to make a feeder and see what swoops in this winter (that’s when they are most likely to visit backyard feeders). If you have never checked them out at Long Branch, do so. It’s very worth the effort.

    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: --Steve Thurston).

    Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Summer Flashback: County Approves Founders Square and Mosaic Park projects
  • Sewer Line Failure Pollutes Lubber Run
  • Letter: County's Secret Santa Program Is Open to Help Those in Need

  • Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Letter: Secret Santa Is Up and Running

    Hi Steve and welcome back.

    I was wondering if you might be able to find an inch or two in the blog to mention that the county’s Secret Santa Program is up and running for the 2008 holiday season.

    The Secret Santa program, operated by the County’s Department of Human Services, helps 1,000+ individuals each year. We are seeking donations of gift cards to help make a difference in the lives of some of Arlington's most vulnerable residents:

  • Children in foster care
  • Disabled persons
  • Seniors with low-incomes
  • Low-income families

  • Full details can be found on our web page.

    It’s a worthwhile program that really helps folks out. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Kurt Larrick
    Communications Manager
    Arlington County Department of Human Services

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    Summer Flashback: Founders Square and Mosaic Park

    This is another in the series of short stories from events and activities that happened while I was on Summer Hiatus (from late June to early October). These two were sent in by Tom Lauria, a HeraldTrib reader and Hyde Park board member. For much more on the Founders Square and Mosaic Park redevelopment, scroll to the bottom of these stories and check the county's web site, linked there.--ST

    County moves to change an EPA "Brown Field" into a LEED certified block.
    (August 2008)

    In a PowerPoint presentation to the Hyde Park during the July 16 Board of Directors meeting, developer John Shooshan and attorney John Kinney presented the final renderings of the Founders Square site plan. The redevelopment to replace the Metro bus yards recently sailed through the Planning Commission with 9-to-1 approval. On Saturday, July 19, the Arlington County Board swiftly gave Founders Square a final OK. We expect construction to commence by early winter, 2008. It’s a huge project and it will take years to complete.
    View Larger Map

    The evolved, second-generation schematic renderings of Founders Square show increased emphasis on ground floor retail and open public spaces, parkway and sidewalk cafes. There’s now a twenty-foot wide walkway between Quincy and Randolph that cuts through the middle of the project. It is clear that Ashton Heights voices were heard on this matter. An “axis-to-the-mall” pass-through in this block has been discussed for decades. Lo and behold, it is finally here.

    When? Construction of the one story retail annex on Quincy (for now, the recycling lot) could start as early as this winter. Chicken shack “Super Pollo” has a long lease but agreed to transfer to the one-floor, neighborhood-facing retail area. The super-secure Department of Defense tower for DARPA and the 12 floor residential tower on Quincy are slated to start construction by spring 2009. In Phase Two: a 15 floor office building (now the Shell station) and its 17-to-19 story residential tower at the corner of Quincy and Wilson will open in 6 to 7 years, given the current market conditions.

    What’s New? Environmentally-aware Hyde Park residents, rejoice! The aging asphalt bus yards are an EPA “brown field” classification – not good. Founders Square as a development site was just awarded a LEED Platinum level certification. That’s an unprecedented designation for new eco-savvy projects, and it will be right next door. A total of 51 percent of the 5.35 acre site footprint is green space, open to public. The developers noted the site’s many green areas are being designed by a “world-class” landscape architect firm. They plan two edgy slim-panel water curtain fountains that look great in a slide. We’ll see. The buildings themselves will be LEED Silver rating when they are finally erected.

    What's the Nicest Feature? We return to that important new sidewalk/promenade that cuts through that huge block. It will be dramatically paved with translucent, recycled glass block. The 20 foot wide glass path is edged with the two fountains, space-age lighting and lined with sidewalk cafes and benches. It promises to be a unique destination in its own right.

    With final approval in hand, there’s still time for a few site amendments. The County wants a larger, greener, more expensive Mosaic Park (which will be discussed here next month) and they are willing to trade extra stories in nearby towers for a few developer-provided amenities.

    Piecing Together Mosaic Park
    (September 2008)

    Let’s start with a quote from County Board Chair Walter Tejada: “Founders Square replaces a bus garage that paid no property taxes with an outstanding mixed-use development that will provide transit-oriented offices, homes and shopping in the heart of Ballston. In addition, residents will get a bigger, better Mosaic Park.” Mr. Tejada refers to the community benefit of the land exchange that will significantly expand Mosaic Park in granting bonus density and height for Founders Square.

    These days, Mosaic Park is a spare 1.08 acre playground for kids but as a landscaped “park” it is a bit of an odd-duck. Bordered by Quincy Street, 5th Street and Pollard Streets, the park’s few trees are immature and the parched lawn is just heavily-mowed crabgrass for the most part. There is a climbing wall and a 3-D Spider Web that look like props from “The Jetsons.” Fortunately, the two modish climbing apparatus are often teeming with kids. That is good; it is in use. A further expansion of Mosaic Park with new landscaped areas dotted with benches and some donated amenities (to be announced) would be a huge neighborhood benefit. The two tall residential towers going up at Founders Square will be directly across from it on Quincy. Fifty-one percent of the entire footprint of Founders Square is open space and it will flow seamlessly into Mosaic Park for added pedestrian greenway. Good for Ballston.

    When? We’re all eager to view the landscape plan for Mosaic Park, but a final design is at least a year away. When completed, Mosaic Park will cover two-and-one-half acres. The new areas of expansion are the current asphalt Metro parking lot and the tiny, in-fill property that Mack’s garage sits on. The county already owns cleared land fronting Pollard Street. Once the Metro buses move, likely by spring 2009, their parking lot on Quincy will then convey to the county. Mack’s faces eviction and will have to relocate. The landscapers will then fill-in behind the bulldozers. Gone is any further discussion of relocating the recycling station across Quincy Street. A new county drop-off location will be announced soon. (Informed gossip: it may be an area near the new high school.)

    What’s New? The land swap may not be finished. The county is negotiating with the folks who own Gold’s Gym, for property they own that could evolve into the northern edge of the park. It’s currently their rear parking lot. The county is serious about Ballston having an open green area in our burgeoning downtown’s busy southern corner.

    What's the Nicest Feature? Its location! Just across the street from Founders Square planned glass block sidewalk parkway, the new park is welcome transition into a residential neighborhood, just as the multi-use park next to the main library on Quincy blends into its surrounding area. The Shooshan Company’s contributions, above and beyond the land exchange, means the new park is sure to feature some nice amenities. I take the name literally and would enjoy a collection of outdoor public art pieces composed of mosaics being an unusual focal point to attract and entertain park visitors. They can call it … Mosaic Park!

    --Tom Lauria

    Related stories…
  • Arlington County Press Release regarding the project.
  • Mosaic Park Master Plan meeting and scheduling information (some very interesting pdfs on this site--ST)

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  • Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Sewer Line Failure Pollutes Lubber Run

    Arlington County tells residents to stay out of the water.

    Just before dawn this morning, a heavier-than-expected flow in a sewer line leading into Lubber Run Park hit and overwhelmed a sewer diversion plug, overflowing a manhole with raw sewage, and polluting the stream near Arlington Boulevard. Arlington County repaired the problem after the contractor, A.M. Liner East, Inc., called in the spill.

    “The contractor called us right away,” said Myllissa Kennedy with the county’s Department of Environmental Services. “There still is an investigation going on as to why it happened.”

    Residents are advised to keep themselves, their children and pets away from the stream for any activities including swimming, fishing and wading, the county advised in its press release. Although county officials say the problem has been repaired, and the county is working to clean as much of the sewage as possible, nature will have to do the final work, flushing the remaining sewage downstream.

    It may take a week or more to return back to normal, depending on the weather.

    “What they like to wait for is a couple of good rains,” before health inspectors check the water again, said Mary Curtius, a county spokesperson.

    The county likely will absorb much of the cost for the clean-up as the problem was not intentional, and the contractor worked with county staff to fix the problem and clean-up the site at the time of the accident, Ms. Kennedy said.

    Since late September, the contractor has been working on the sewer pipes, lining them with smelly, resin-soaked felt tubes, “similar to a sock.” Once the felt liner is in place, hot water activates the resin and the felt becomes a hard plastic, the county’s web site devoted to this project said.

    The sewer diversion plugs send the waste through alternate pipes while one section of pipe is being repaired, Ms. Kennedy said.

    According to one of the contracted employees, the liner is good for several decades.

    The project, part of annual maintenance, is expected to take about a month.

    An intentional spill of port-a-potties into Lubber Run occurred last June.

    Related stories…

  • The county's press release regarding the spill.
  • Arlington's Sanitary Sewer System Web Site (including the special section on Lubber Run).
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    Friday, October 10, 2008

    HeraldTrib Today: Oct. 10, 2008

    Getting back into the swing of things after a few month hiatus is taking a little more work than expected. I am slowly getting to work on all the back stories in the blog’s hopper, doing so from a basement that looks like we simply emptied a dumptruck down the stairwell.

    For now, enjoy the pieces I have below. I will be putting much more together over the coming weeks. Stick with me, people. (Along those lines, I was surprised to see the numbers of readers jumped right back up to pre-hiatus levels. A big thanks to all of you who read, and I will try to keep giving you a blog worth reading. And to Matt!, it’s good to be back; thanks for the kind words.)

    One small issue has gotten under my skin:

    For the story I just wrote about homeless people sleeping in Lubber Run Park (see the link below), I had to call Det. Crystal Nosal in the Police Department's media relations office. She would not give me the first names of officers I had spoken with, without first getting their approval.

    It was a small thing, and I am guessing that had I asked the officers themselves when I spoke with them (as I should have asked), they would have given me their first names. They were both really friendly. Honestly, they may have even said their names and I just missed them.

    So this did not seem to be a situation where anyone was hiding, but it just left me feeling a little icky. Det. Steve Gomez and Mr. John Lisle, when they were in the media relations department, gave out names. I am hoping I can convince Det. Nosal to do the same. Names mean a lot to a journalist.

    If you can believe this, my townhouse in Buckingham (for those of you who didn’t read two weeks ago, my family and I moved six blocks into Arlington Forest) did not sell over the last two weeks, so I am running the ad again:

    This townhouse has a great, sheltered rear courtyard (and fenced patio), large living room and bedrooms, two FULL baths. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    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: --Steve Thurston).

    Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Police Focus on Homeless in L.R. Park
  • Summer Flashbacks: Video Warehouse Closes! (This is the first in a series of events that happened while I was on hiatus. --Steve)
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    Wednesday, October 08, 2008

    Summer Flashbacks: Video Warehouse Closes!

    This is the first in a series of short stories I plan to write about events and activities that happened while I was on Summer Hiatus (from late June to early October). --ST

    Done in, I’m taking a guess here, by Netflix and cable’s Video On Demand, the Video Warehouse shuttered its store on S. Glebe Road (on the corner of S. 5th Street) late last June. This truck was photographed in early July, cleaning out the remnants. (Hollywood Video on S. George Mason at Columbia Pike also closed over the summer.)

    Although not technically in Buckingham, it was just about a 20 minute walk from the corner of N. George Mason Drive and Arlington Boulevard, which meant it was a perfect (if loud and scary) walk for the dog and me down Glebe. When Netflix just wouldn’t get to us fast enough, I found myself there, taking advantage of whatever special they had going on.

    Remember the days before Netflix when they had Wednesdays “Five for Five Bucks” or something like that? You could rent five movies on Wednesdays and keep them all weekend for five doallars! Those were the days before children, of course, when we had free time and were awake long enough to watch movies late into the evening.

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    Tuesday, October 07, 2008

    Police Focus on Homeless in L.R. Park

    Arlington Police have picked up efforts in recent weeks to stop homeless people from sleeping in Lubber Run Park. Police at the park said they had made arrests, but no numbers were available from the public information office. Because of inquiries for this story, outreach workers for the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network will be patrolling the park, as well, to offer the men another place to sleep.

    Police officers Lutz (left) and Joy patrolled Lubber Run Park very early Sept. 26, looking for homeless men sleeping in the park. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The men have largely been sleeping under the protection of the pavilion near N. George Mason Drive. They can be found on some mornings sleeping on the table tops or picnic benches, with backpacks or bedrolls nearby. Some women walking in or near the park early in the morning have expressed worry about having the men there.

    On Friday Sept. 26, Arlington Police officer J. Joy said that he had been in the park to check for homeless men, looking around the amphitheatre, especially under the deck and stairs at the back of the structure. He found no one there, he said, but he found one person in the pavilion.

    “We are trying to take care of this problem,” Ofr. Joy said. He, along with officer C. Lutz and others, was in the Lubber Run amphitheatre parking lot, stopping pedestrians (including this reporter) to see if people knew of other locations in the park to check.

    According to the police, it is against county code for anyone, homeless or not, to be in the park after hours. Under the county’s “Park Safe” program, the first violation results in a warning, and the second violation bans the person from county parks, a violation he or she may appeal. Third violations can mean arrest for trespassing; that carries a court summons and a fine, generally.

    “Only if they show no regard for the officer’s direction of leaving are they taken into a full custodial arrest,” wrote Det. Crystal Nosal in an email. She is the police public information officer.

    Phone calls for this story were the first A-SPAN’s Leonard Chari had heard of the homeless men in Lubber Run Park.

    In fact, Lubber Run is not even a park that his outreach workers normally patrol. He said nearby residents normally call him if they see homeless men in parks.

    “If nobody complains…they go in when no one notices,” Mr. Chari said. “In this instance we haven’t gotten any information.” Mr. Chari is the director of A-SPAN’s Opportunity Place, a program that helps homeless people gain stable incomes and housing.

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