Site Watch

One of the most important activities of the Arlington Heritage Alliance is acting as a citizens' watch group, monitoring the preservation and protection of the county's historic sites. Here is an update on those Arlington sites we are currently monitoring and the actions taking place that could affect them. When possible we've noted ways in which you may be able to influence these actions and participate in their preservation.

Arlington House Woodlands
Buckingham
Clarendon Center & Underwood Building
Columbia Pike

Fort Ethan Allen DEA
Gulf Branch Nature Center
Lustrons
I-66 Widening

Route 50 changes

Gulf Branch Nature Center
Arlington County is planning on closing and eventually demolishing the 38-acre Gulf Branch Nature Center on July 1, 2009. Please visit the Save Gulf Branch Nature Center web-site for ways in which you can petition the County Board to not close and demolish the county's only nature center.

There will be a County Board Meeting on the evenings of March 24 and 25 at which you can make public comments in support of saving the Nature Center. Please be aware that in order to speak you have to be registered to do so. More information forthcoming.

Buckingham
See our Most Endangered List for the Latest--just released!

Lustrons

  • Background
    The Lustron at 12th and Frederick Sts. in Columbia Forrest has been completely disassembled. It's parts are now being stored as we continue to work with the Historic Preservation Program and several other Arlington County departments to find the best new location for this house, and secure funding for its reassembly.
    See our Most Endangered List for further information.

Fort Ethan Allen Dog Exercise Area, Military Rd. and Old Glebe Rd.

  • Background
    Fort Ethan Allen, a Civil War defensive fort, is a historical and recreational park administered by the Arlington County Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources (DPRCR). It was designated a local historic district in 1978. In the spring of 2000, a dog exercise area (now referred to as a canine community area or CCA) was insensitively erected in the heart of the fort. This issue came to light when the DPRCR went before the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) seeking a permit, called a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) for the construction of the dog run, AFTER it had been erected which the HALRB unanimously denied. AHA has forcefully and repeatedly spoken in support of moving the canine community area to a more appropriate location, outside of the Fort Ethan Allen historic district, where it will not irrevocably harm the earth works, archeological resources or other historic resources within the district. Numerous trees have already died, and this will very likely lead to the disturbance of archeological remains adjacent to their root systems.
  • Latest Developments
    A new dog park was recently opened at the alternative site nearby decided on by the Task Force convened by the County Board in 2005, of which AHA was a member. Meanwhile, a Cultural Landscape Documentation Report has been developed, for which AHA received a grant from the NPS American Battlefield Protection Program. This report is the first step in better preservation and interpretation for the fort. Several issues still need to be addressed by the DPRCR including how the fencing will be removed, how the land will be restored, and when/how an interpretive plan will be developed. AHA had included the Fort as one of Arlington's Most Endangered Historic Places for the past six years--and for the last two years it has remained on our Watch List. The Civil War Trust also joined our fight by publishing a news release.
  • What you can do to help
    Let the County Board and County Manager know there are Arlingtonians who want to see better preservation and interpretation at Fort Ethan Allen. You can do this by attending a County Board meeting or writing a letter (see our Get Involved page on how to do so). Ask them to direct the DPRCR to develop a plan for the site's long-term interpretation and management. Become a member of AHA.

Clarendon Center and Underwood Building

  • Background
    The Alliance has long been concerned about the pace and scale of development in Clarendon, Arlington's most historic commercial district. Most recently, AHA listed the 3000 block along Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards on our 2003 Most Endangered sites. The greatest cause for concern is the proposed project for Clarendon Center, across from the Clarendon Metro, east of North Highland Street. A project of Saul Centers, Inc., the development includes mixed-use office, retail, and residential spaces. The project would "preserve" the Underwood Building (north of Clarendon Blvd.) and some of the adjacent historic facades, while demolishing four adjacent historic commercial buildings. The current Clarendon Center building on the south corner would be replaced with an 11-story tower. HALRB has discussed the Saul project at four regular meetings, expressing concerns about the Underwood building, including terms of granting a preservation easement on Underwood (most likely with the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT) in exchange for a .25 density bonus, and who would approve subsequent modifications. HALRB is being consulted regarding the changes to the Underwood building because of the bonus density that is being sought by the developer and, while HALRB does not have an official role in the development on the south side of Clarendon Boulevard, it is involved in this part of the project because it makes sense to consider the whole.
  • Latest Developments
    At the January 2005 HALRB session, representatives of the Lyon Park and Lyon Village Citizens Associations, and the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association testified that their organizations had voted against the consolidated project. Individual citizens also spoke in opposition. Among the reasons were density and lack of preservation on the south block and the kinds of businesses that would occupy this site. HALRB feels that the project has been improved greatly since the review process began and will convey this to the Planning Commission and County Board. They will ask that construction be phased so that the two blocks are built together or the north (Underwood) block is built first. HALRB will need to review final site plan language on the preservation easement, and believes it should state that NVCT approve future updates. Since the existing Clarendon Center building on the south block is on the Countywide Historic Properties Survey as significant and is listed as a "contributing building" in the withdrawn National Register nomination for Clarendon, HALRB feels it should be preserved. Barring that, a new building on the site should be: more sympathetic to the north block; not as tall as the current designs; more pedestrian-friendly; and use materials that provide variety and contrast, rather than copy the north block.

Columbia Pike

  • Background
    The redevelopment of the Columbia Pike corridor continues. The adoption of a Form-Based Code for the Pike in February 2003 will hasten this redevelopment. This new type of zoning was developed by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, working with two hired planning firms. A series of public meetings were held to ensure public input. Conversation at these meetings focused on important issues such as density, transportation, and retail opportunities. AHA identified the intersection of Columbia Pike and Fillmore as one of Arlington's Most Endangered Historic Places in 2001 and we were pleased to learn that many participants in these public meetings shared our concerns over propsed density, and the desire to retain the historic character of the Pike. The first draft of the new code was released in November 2002, after which the Planning Commission began to review it. AHA has been very concerned that the code could adversely effect the landmark buildings along the corridor. The Columbia Pike Revitalization Plan, the master planning document for the Pike that was the result of much time, effort, and public comment, included historic preservation as a tool for successful revitalization. The Revitalization Plan identified a well-developed list of over 30 historic buildings that "should be seriously considered through the course of any future redevelopment." The first draft of the Form Based Code identified just five buildings worthy of consideration in its redevelopment. Even though some of the historic building along the Pike are outside of the targeted redevelopment area, this discrepancy alarmed us, and many others. We asked that the Code not be adopted without the inclusion of other identified historic buildings. AHA sent a letter to the Planning Commission in December asking them not to adopt the Code unless it identified the other Primary and Secondary Historic Buildings listed in the Revitalization Plan.
    The Arlington County Planning Commission finally reviewed and approved the 3rd Draft of Form Based Code on February 10th. The Arlington County Board adopt it on February 25th.
  • Latest Developments
    We were pleased with many of the changes in the final draft, which includes more of the significant historic buildings along the Pike; has modified boundaries excluding some of the historic garden apartment complexes from the redevelopment districts; and requires a Certificate of Appropriateness through the HALRB for any developments that effect these historic buildings. Find out more about the Columbia Pike Partnership or Columbia Pike Initiative! The 3rd Draft of the Form Based Code (Regulating Plans and Maps) and Historic Preservation recommendations of Columbia Pike Revitalization Plan will help give you a better idea of the planned redevelopment. We are still concerned about the effects development will have on the historic buildings along the Pike, and for this reason, included the Pike in our Most Endangered List this year.


Arlington House Woodlands

  • Background
    For some time now, we have been advocating against the expansion of Arlington National Cemetery, as it would destroy the forest near Arlington House, former home of General Robert E. Lee in Arlington Cemetery, as well as prehistoric archeological resources, all of which contribute to the historic landscape and setting of this significant site. The 2002 Defense Authorization Act included an item that would transfer the Woodlands from the National Park Service (which owns the Woodland) to the Dept. of Defense. We quickly sent letters indicating our opposition to this transfer to our U.S. Senators and Congressman James Moran, who had already expressed his opposition. Over the following month we were pleased to see a loss of momentum for this Act. But there are new concerns. A Washington Post article from last November contained welcome news that part of the Navy Annex land (also part of the proposed transfer) would be used for the proposed Air Force Memorial, removing it from a highly insensitive location on the Iwo Jima/Netherlands Carillon site. However, we wonder if this agreement is part of a larger land use determination and, in particular, if and how this decision may affect the future of the Woodlands. Again, we have notified Moran of our concerns.The Virginia Department of Historic Resources (VDHR) has acknowledged that both AHA would be a concurring parties to any memorandum of agreement (MOA) effecting the Woodlands future that might result between Arlington Cemetery, VDHR, NPS and others concerning the Arlington Woodlands. The AHA would therefore have the opportunity to review the draft MOA, make recommendations, and be able to sign the final MOA as concurring parties.
  • Latest Developments
    Members of AHA participated in a clean-up day at the Woodlands, removing non-native plants that are harming the old-growth trees. (Click here for a Channel 8 news report covering the event - Please note: This is a video file that could take a few minutes to download). The day was a great success, with participation from several environmental, cultural and historical organizations from around the state. Congressman Moran attended the dedication of a new NPS interpretative sign at the Woodlands site, which we hope will generate further awareness and support for this historic landscape.

I-66 Widening

  • Background
    In a plan to alleviate commuter congestion, the Virginia Department of Transportation is considering widening I-66 in Arlington and further west. We are very concerned about how this will impact Arlington's historic neighborhoods. Most recently, Northern Virginians defeated the proposed sales-tax increase that could have funded the widening of I-66. In October 2001, the D.C. metropolitan area's Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved a study of I-66 widening inside the Beltway and ALTERNATIVES TO WIDENING, including a full study of the environmental (and other) impacts of widening. The study is expected to take two years (due the end of 2003). The Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation was closely involved in the incorporation of those alternatives into the TPB study instruction, and has more information on their website.
  • What you can do to help
    We are speaking with Michael Leventhal (the county Preservation Officer) about possible ways to mitigate the impact on adjacent neighborhoods. As always, you can contact your public officials to let them know how you feel about this issue, use our Political Contacts page to direct your comments.

Safety Updates to Route 50

  • Background
    The Virginia Department of Transportation is planning improvements to Route 50 at both the 10th Street and Courthouse Road interchanges. Originally a 4-lane highway constructed in the 1930s, Route 50 was upgraded to a 6-lane divided highway in 1954. As part of this project, two new collector/distributor roads will be built in the median between the two interchanges, which will then merge back into Route 50. The bike trail on the north side of Route 50 will also be improved as part of this plan. It does not appear that this project will impact any adjacent historic properties, including Fort Myer and Wakefield Manor, a garden apartment complex that was designed by noted local architect Mihran Mesrobian. VDOT has determined that Route 50 itself is not historically significant. AHA will continue to monitor this project from preliminary design through construction to ensure that no historic properties are adversely impacted.