The Folly of the Columbia Pike Trolley

There are three problems with the Columbia Pike Trolley: 1) excessive cost; 2) increased congestion due to the narrowness of the roadway; 3) the elimination of affordable housing along the Pike due to the escalation of property values from trolley induced development.

Supporters of the Trolley acknowledge that a bus rapid transit system serving the same number of passengers, could be built for $50 million, but they nevertheless favor the Trolley at five times the cost. While developers will benefit from a Trolley, Arlington taxpayers will be stuck with the $250 million bill. Continue reading

Artisphere Task Force Says There’s a Place for Us in the Budget

On November 29, the Artisphere Task Force appointed by the County Manager last April presented its report on the troubled Rosslyn entertainment venue and its recommendations for making it financially viable. At first blush the report seems like a refreshing change from business as usual, as it presents an unvarnished appraisal of the flawed planning that went into the project. Continue reading

Let’s Set the Record Straight

In its November 5 editorial endorsement of Arlington County Board incumbents Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, the Washington Post depicted Arlington as a latter day Camelot where yuppies frolic, and the streets are paved with gold:

“Arlington County has been substantially remade in the last couple of decades mostly for the better. An influx of shops, restaurants and apartment buildings, mainly near Metro stations, has attracted a new generation of ambitious young professionals and lent the county a cosmopolitan gloss,” etc. etc. Continue reading

“Smart Growth” and Rosslyn Station at Rush Hour

It seems Arlington County is obsessed with development. Having approved plans to increase the density of Crystal City by 50 percent, construct a 600,000 sq. foot high rise on the EFC Park and Ride lot and redevelop Columbia Pike at triple density, County Board will soon approve plans to construct a 532 unit apartment complex on Wilson Blvd. between Kansas and Lincoln Streets in Ballston (Virginia Square Towers) and a new six story headquarters for Boeing in North Crystal City (Monument View). Also on the drawing boards are plans to construct a 22 story office tower (Penn Square) behind Costco’s in Pentagon City. County Board touts these projects as proof of its commitment to “Smart Growth,” i.e. dense development along transit corridors. Continue reading

Recycling On Columbia Pike

Most people think that recycling promotes the common good. But it could mean losing your apartment or condo to an upscale developer. According to the recently released “Columbia Pike Land Use & Housing Study Preliminary Analysis Report,” drafted by Dover, Kohl & Partners, that’s what’s happening on Columbia Pike right now. Commissioned by the County to determine the feasibility of undertaking residential redevelopment of the Pike, Dover, Kohl candidly reports that of about 1000 new apartments constructed on the Pike since 2009 all are “high-end luxury units with no committed affordable housing.” p. 1.17. Rents on renovated units shot up–even doubled–and tenants have been evicted to make way for “repositioned”, i.e. upscale apartments. This is just the beginning. Continue reading

Artisphere Is A Black Hole

Arlington Green Party chairman John Reeder was taken to task in the Sun Gazette for his LTE criticizing the Artisphere as a white elephant project and recommending that the county shut it down. Reeder wrote back:

I neglected to mention that on top of this $800,000 loss is the expected $800,000 loss that the county government had already anticipated and budgeted. In other words, the Artisphere is now running a $1.6 million loss so far this operating year.

I appreciate the arts, but I appreciate learning and reading at our public libraries as well, and value homeless people having a roof over their heads and a daily hotmeal. I suggest that the county government could transfer park employees and maintenance funds now used at the Artisphere to repair and operate a closed and widely attended summer performing arts venue in Arlington—the Lubber Run Amphitheater.

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What’s So Smart About East Falls Church Area Plan?

On April 16 County Board voted to adopt the East Falls Church (EFC) Area Plan, touting it as the climax of a five year planning effort with lots of community input. Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth submitted remarks endorsing the plan, which entails 600,000 square feet of mixed used development, including replacement of the VDOT owned Metro parking facility at EFC with ground floor retail and up to eight stories of apartment/condo development. Mike Nardolilli, president of the EFC Civic Association, said that key features of the plan were all approved by EFC residents in a 2005 survey. But EFC resident John Shumate and others who testified challenged that claim. See Shumate’s website. Shumate said that only 7 percent of those surveyed bothered to respond and that Nardolilli systematically ignored or tried to silence civic association members critical of the plan. He claimed that the ultimate insult was Nardolilli’s acquiesence to 600,000 s.f. of development after pledging to set the limit at 450,000 s.f. Continue reading

What To Do About Artisphere

Arlington County’s budget reflects its main priority, which is to promote economic growth by satisficing developers at the expense of basic needs. There’s nothing inherently wrong with economic growth or developers for that matter, but there are limits to growth. Nowhere are those limits more in evidence than Artisphere, a widely touted but poorly attended cultural arts center in Rosslyn that is currently running a $800,000 deficit. Continue reading