Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Possible Big Changes Along N. Glebe: Harris Teeter to Goodyear

Planning Commission hopes to meet this summer with owners of ASC, HT, and Goodyear to discuss potential plans.

Representatives of Harris Teeter, Goodyear, and the American Service Center have been meeting with each other over months to discuss possible redevelopment options in the 500 and 600 block of N. Glebe Road. The potential changes—a long-shot at best—would completely change the look of the block, especially the section north from the Harris Teeter grocery store to the Goodyear Tire company at the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road. The ideas floating would move or expand the businesses, creating underground or garage parking, retail space and apartments.

This is according to Terry Serie, an Arlington County Planning Commission member who spoke at the Buckingham Community Civic Association last night. (He actually was invited as a member of the Bluemont Civic Association, and was not speaking officially for the Planning Commission last night.)

The companies have been speaking on their own, and the Planning Commission hopes to get all of them in the room together this summer to see what, if anything, would be worth pursuing, Mr. Serie said.

“I’m expecting that nothing will happen,” he said, given the complexity and scope of a project like this.

He said that last year’s proposed redevelopment of the Goodyear and the small house on N. Carlin Springs next to the tire company is currently off-line, but that has nothing to do with the discussions with the other companies, he said.

The Planning Commission is a citizen advisory board that helps the elected county board with "orderly development of the locality" the county's web site says.

The topic that Mr. Serie actually came to speak about, however, was the newly approved outdoor seating at the Union Jack’s pub, located on the ground floor of the Ballston Commons Mall with a store-front on N. Glebe Road. The outdoor space allows for 54 seats, but many more people than that for standing room. Couple that with Rock Bottom Brewery’s Wednesday night outdoor kegger next door, and the noise, especially in the evening is a bit much for people living in the townhouses across the street from the mall, said Mr. Serie, who lives in one of the townhouses, part of the Bluemont Civic Association.

That civic association only learned last week about the proposed expansion of the outdoor seating, too late to mount an effective campaign. Plus, the company scaled back its plan so that it did not need the complicated Site Plan review or an Arlington County Board vote. County staff could OK the project on their own, consulting only the Ashton Heights Civic Association where the mall is located.

Bluemont Civic Association voted to write a letter to County Manager Ron Carlee, asking that Bluemont receive notices of decisions being made in the 600 block of N. Glebe Road that face the Bluemont, even though the mall and garage property are inside the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

The BCCA voted to write a similar letter.

Also speaking at the BCCA meeting was Tom Hutchings, an Arlington County planner who ran through the $2.4 million renovations of three N. Glebe Road intersections at Fairfax Drive, Wilson Blvd., and Carlin Springs Road, called the North Glebe Road Pedestrian Improvements Project. This has been years in the making, and much of the construction has already been completed.

County planner Tom Hutchings runs through changes that have or are being made at three intersections along N. Glebe Road. Members of the BCCA look on. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Wider sidewalks and skirts on the Exxon gas station and Goodyear corners has been completed, as has been shrub removal —allowing greater driver/pedestrian visibility—on the median just south of the intersection.

The most heated of the discussions among the people was how best to calm traffic entering and exiting the Ballston Mall parking garage.

Mr. Hutchings explained that planners tried to place raised crosswalks across the entrance to the garage, but the Virginia Department of Transportation would not allow it.

“We were hoping the bump-up would slow the cars down,” he said. VDOT also would not allow 10.5 foot traffic lanes, insisting instead on 11 feet.

People talked about getting better signs alerting drivers to watch for pedestrians. Mr. Hutchings said he would ask, at the request of the BCCA, that the entire corner, and especially the exit from the mall, be made “no right turn on red.” No promises in that, though.

This project started in 1999 and was projected for completion at least six months ago. Last report put the project at $1.9 million.

Finally, BCCA President Pat Hope made official what was clear to many: he will not seek another term as BCCA president. Mr. Hope is running as a Democrat in the 47th District of the Virginia House of Delegates. As a Democrat, he is widely expected to win the race and will not have time for both positions. He can serve until November, he said at the meeting. The BCCA will pick up the search for a replacement at the September meeting.

Related stories…
  • Proposed Mixed-use Building for Goodyear Site
  • A Decade for New Lights and Curb Cuts

  • I am still on summer hiatus, but the news was just too big to ignore at last night's meeting, so I thought I'd give a quick post. More on this in the fall, no doubt. --ST

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