Monday, September 17, 2018

More from the street & building sites

Photographs along the Pike by Lara Ajami.









Thursday, September 13, 2018

Katie Cristol


Katie Cristol is a resident of the Douglas Park neighborhood. She was elected to the Arlington County Board in 2015, and is currently the Board Chair. An education policy advisor with degrees from the University of Virginia and Princeton, she is concerned with a broad range of women’s issues, school policy, housing affordability, diversity, transportation, empowering opportunity for all, and the quality of Arlington’s community life. She lives near the Pike with her husband, Steve.

Interview by CPDP project director, Lloyd Wolf.

“I used to live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, and now I live in Douglas Park.  I’ve lived in Arlington about eight years. I grew up in the DC area, in Montgomery County. When I was leaving grad school, I knew I had an interest in public policy, especially policy surrounding human services and the safety net. I knew I was going to move back to the DC area, and I really wanted to live in a community where I felt like the policies matched my values and the things that I cared about. We picked Arlington for that reason. It was absolutely a conscious choice. I cared a lot about local government, and I knew there were choices in the DC area. There were different governments that had different levels of investment in the things I cared about, so it was very much a choice. 

The diversity of your neighbors here in south Arlington is unlike almost anything else in the United States. You see it in the cultural experiences here. The art, the food, and there’s just a real sense that you get to know people from all walks of life. Not only people of different international origins, but there’s just a mix of ages here that you don’t necessarily get in other neighborhoods. What’s really special about south Arlington is that you get people from all different backgrounds. 

I’ve always thought of the Pike as more of my neighborhood than my immediate neighborhood The kind of engagement that happens on Columbia Pike, the street festivals, or the outdoor movies, things like that, were more of the neighborhood events that I identified with rather than a specific neighborhood association, or even a block. 

I am very interested in issues affecting women and families. it’s always driven my interest in government and policy. I was serving on our Commission on the Status of Women, most specifically working on a community response to sexual assault and for childcare affordability. The reason I ran for office was that I thought it was important to elevate those particular issues. Part of the reason was also that we had a crowded Democratic primary that year, and no women running. We had issues that affected women in our community that deserved some attention. I had never run for anything previously, unless you count running for elementary school president. I lost to a little girl who promised popsicles!  

There are physical changes happening on the Pike. The subtlest and most transformative changes on the Pike are the investments in the streetscaping. The decision to bury the wires, all the utility poles, underground, makes it look like a place where people have invested. There have been some changes to the built environment. I think we’ve seen some redevelopment. One of the things changing most on the Pike, that most residents, myself included, can physically see with their eyes, but I know is changing the Pike, is that rents are going up here year after year. It’s getting more expensive to live here. That’s one of the things that worries me most, as someone who came to the Pike because I likethe people that have come from all economic classes, The loss of that is one of my biggest fears. 

Our biggest strategy as a County government is to create committed affordable apartments. The County plays a role through land use and investment funds. It creates a permanent home for our lower income neighbors to live in, to know that they don’t have to live in fear of their rent going up every year, because it’s committed to be affordable to them. It also creates beautiful spaces for them, with the amenities that everybody wants.

Those are great, but they’re not enough, because rents are going up faster than we can build committed affordable units. There are a variety of other strategies that we’ve taken, including one that will have potential impact in Penrose, which is to try to preserve the remaining garden apartments that we have, by creating different tools and land use strategies that will make it more appealing for those landlords to invest in those garden apartments while still potentially keeping the rents affordable to folks. We have a really robust housing program that helps families that are lower income pay for rent. We’ve got a lot of fingers in the dam, but the tide is coming in. 

It is possible we will reach a landscape on the Pike where even the thirty or forty year old apartments will have rents priced at a level that only people who make middle-class or higher incomes can afford. When you look at the history of the Pike, this has been a place where people who come often with almost nothing. It has been a place that has welcomed them, and has given them and their children an opportunity to flourish, to succeed. Being on the Pike means you can send your children to Arlington Public Schools, which are economic mobility engines. The quality of education is so good, the expectations for kids are so high, that kids who come from all kinds of backgrounds can grow and flourish. The schools are there to support your children to succeed. There is access to good jobs and to the transportation to get you to those jobs. For people who are strivers, whether their families have been in the United States for six generations or whether they arrived six months ago. The Pike is a community that is welcoming; the Pike has been a place for strivers. For it to no longer be that would be a real loss of identity. 

 I think what you’ll see more of in the coming months is a transportation infrastructure starting to come online. You’ll see more of the dedicated bus stops. These are not the million dollar stops. I’m really excited about this, in conversation also with CPRO as well as our economic development and our arts community, is how do you add some creativity to those bus shelters, whether it’s signage, or lighting. I think, I hope, that we can support a thriving retail market on the Pike, in an area that is still challenged. We’re a community that is sort of in transition between mixed-use and strip development.  We’ve seen that some of our businesses do struggle, so having more transit-oriented development can really help people find their way to local businesses. 

There are a few buildings under construction now that are committed affordable places on the Pike. These are places with committed to holding down rent increases, making sure they are places that families can go and stay and know that their rent will stay at a price that they can manage, is really transformative. It’s really good for kids and families. That’s done through the investment that the County makes along with Federal tax credits and committed affordable units. So about two blocks from where I live along the Pike you can see, for example, the Arlington Presbyterian Church is being redeveloped into Gilliam Place. Those committed affordable units are financed through a combination of County tax dollars and  a number of other sources. Further down on the Pike, we had The Shell go up, working with AHC. I don’t think we are looking at an imminent loss of the garden apartments that have been so representative of what we think of as the Pike, that have housed so many of the Pike’s families. To my knowledge they are not immediate plans for redevelopment of those properties, but we do know that rents are climbing, so we’re trying to make sure that we have these apartments that are committed, where the rents can’t go up every year, because of the conditions under which they are developed. 

We have a pretty robust affordable housing investment fund in Arlington. One way we develop that pool of money is when developers throughout the County wish to build more apartments than the zoning would otherwise allow them. They can say “I’m going to get more units than I otherwise would if and in exchange if I will either designate some of those units as affordable here on site, or I’ll pay money into the affordable housing investment fund.” We also contribute to it out of tax revenue, out of our budget. We use that money as a revolving loan fund.  When a developer, usually a non-profit developer, especially one like APAH [Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing] or AHC sees an opportunity for a parcel that they own and would like to redevelop, they’ll put together their plan. They will come to us saying ‘this is really expensive to finance because we don’t stand to make a ton of money on the other side. It’s committed affordable.’ That’s where the affordable housing investment fund comes in. In exchange they make a commitment to the community. They will usually put forward that they will not charge more than thirty percent, or usually about fifty percent of area mean income [AMI], and we will keep them committed affordable. 
We also discovered that a lot of our families are below 50 percent of AMI. $40,000 can still be pretty high, especially compared with other places across the country. So the other way support occurs is through housing plans, another County-funded program. It helps the renter match the gap between their committed affordable rent and what they can pay. I think about it a lot. We have these programs that are trying to bring some stability. People are working incredibly hard in this community. We see that you’re working out there, and it shouldn’t be terrifying year after year not knowing if you’ll be able to afford a place to rent. So we’re going to seek to build more committed affordable units, and we’re going to seek to provide more housing grants. They let you and your kids just focus on getting a good education and you focus on getting to work and taking care of yourself, without that fear. That’s one of the things I worry about as our community becomes expensive, that it’s becoming an uncomfortable place for lower-income people to live.

 We had a series of round tables throughout the summer, based on the questions “how should Arlington grow? How are we changing? How do we feel about how we’re changing? What are we excited about?” It was a broad conversation. It did bring out some of the same folks we see frequently, but it also brought out a much greater diversity of people. Even if they’re not interested in weighing in on a setbacks zoning question, they are really interested in ‘how do we keep our diversity?’ 

I do a lot of ad hoc stuff personally, during my time on the Board. Every time I meet a talented young person or person of color that I know whose group is under-represented in all of our commissions and advisory groups. I follow up immediately, and show them our list of advisory groups, ‘let’s meet , let’s talk, let’s find one to match you with.” When people see themselves in positions of leadership, they’re more likely to come back. If you go to a transportation meeting and there is someone who looks like you, whether in my case it’s a fellow young woman, or an ethnic minority, or somebody whose first language isn’t English, you think ‘all right, look at this, we have a seat at the table. We belong here.” I’m a big believer that representation matters. When you can bring in good people who represent diverse voices in a civic leadership role, I do think it inspires the next generation to come after us. 

I see a rising generation of Latino leadership in this community. So many of them came out of the Dream Project. Dr. Emma Violand-Sanchez tapped them saying “ I see in you a leadership position.” Now they’re in law school, in engineering school, and they are coming back into this community and they’re leading. It makes a big difference. 

My dream for the Pike is that it will continue to be a place that welcomes in people from all walks of life from all over the world, and provides the kind of community through great jobs, good schools, good transportation, housing that is manageable in price – for them to achieve whatever the good life looks like for them. 

That gets down to a bunch of policy decisions about how housing, about transportation, about placement. That’s absolutely the goal. The balance of course is that to revitalize means that generally you are driving up economic value. I think that’s sort of an iron law. I think to some it will always feel that as long as the Pike’s real estate prices are less than the rest of the County we are failing to revitalize on one hand. I know for some, as values rise, there’s going to be a loss, because that means that folks will be feeling the pressure, feeling the squeeze here. 

I can see a couple of different pictures for the Pike. One is that revitalization doesn’t come, that we don’t see the changes we’re hoping to see in terms of getting better public spaces, or better supportive retail, or more units of housing and it stays more affordable. Or I can see a rocket fuel scenario where revitalization happens quickly, and even though were working on all those committed affordable units we’re not keeping up fast enough and folks get priced out. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about cities around the world,. I don’t know that anybody’s figured out a way to get around that iron law. believe we are trying. I think we are creating a really great place to live, full of economic opportunity, that has a place for everyone and not just the wealthy. That’s my aspiration; I know it’s a shared one. It’s been one that has been shaped by people long before me, too. We really stand on the shoulders of the work that this community has done over the years. 

There are a lot of issues about whether and how we can grow. I do believe that one of the biggest traps we can fall into is believing that we have the option to keep everything exactly the same. That’s just not an option. I think there’s a real temptation to say we should stop growing, pull up the drawbridge, nobody gets to redevelop anything. I hear the phrase “moratorium on development” often. One of the things that is really abundantly clear is that there is no faster way to ensure gentrification happens is to stop growing. DC is such an amazing example, where they have had the strictest rules against any new housing, like Georgetown for example, and Takoma Park - and they become exorbitantly expensive. They have become even more expensive than the places that have allowed luxury housing. That is one of our biggest challenges in Arlington is that folks who are soprogressive, who pride themselves on living in a community that is so diverse, who would never dream of being exclusionary on purpose, but who say stop building, stop adding new housing, which can functionally have that impact.

The planning process now, when you get a new site plan coming and we know we want the first floor to be retail, and we know we want to engage the street in a certain way, and there’s a certain amount of square footage that you want to wrap around the building, but what you come up with is a pretty large retail space that is very expensive. Your small music venue can’t afford it, or your paleta shop or anything else. We’d like to bring the creativity we’re using on the housing side, to let people allow people to turn weird little corners of their building into small showcases. At the Gilliam Place development there’s going to be a small corner that’s going to be a tiny café. I think La Cocina Virginiais fundraising to try to move in there. They’d be able to use that café for their graduates to pilot ideas 

I think the physical spaces that we allow have a real relationship to the types of people who can thrive there. Whether it’s housing or retail or anything else. I don’t want to overstate the potential for flexibility to push back against the tide of rising rents, but I think it’s one of the ways that we might be able to get out of our own way, by using a little more creativity. 

When real estate is cheap, serendipity flourishes. Funkiness flourishes, because people can take risks. An artist can afford a studio, I think about that Tacos Y Tortas that made the leap from a food truck into that little storefront by the Cinema and Drafthouse. Retail rent is becoming so expensive. That is my absolutely biggest worry. I don’t know what the next frontier is and the role for government in it. But we don’t want to lose the funkiness, right?"



Photography by Xang Mimi Ho.


Joan Mulholland

Joan Mulholland, a native Arlingtonian, has lived in the Barcroft neighborhood of Columbia Pike for decades. She is best known as a hero of the Civil Rights movement, a Freedom Rider who bravely fought for equality for all. She was recognized for her civil rights activism by President Obama, the Anti-Defamation League, and was presented with the National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Award in 2015. Joan participated in over fifty sit-ins in the segregated South, including in Arlington as well as the infamous Jackson Mississippi Woolworth’s sit in, helped organize and plan the 1963 March on Washington, was marked by the Ku Klux Klan for execution, was arrested and jailed numerous times for her activism, was the first white woman to attend Tougaloo College, and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta.

The mother of five sons, she worked after she returned to Arlington for the Smithsonian and for the Department of Justice. From 1980 to her retirement in 1997, she was an ESL (English as Second Language) teacher at Patrick Henry Elementary School along Columbia Pike. She remains active as a community literacy volunteer, in progressive issues, and as an in-demand speaker. Her son Loki made “An Ordinary Hero,” an award-winning film of her life as a front-line civil rights worker, and there is an educational foundation in her name promoting the cause of civil rights to children.


She was interviewed in her home recently by CPDP director Lloyd Wolf. Excerpts from the interview follow.


“When my parents brought me home from the hospital it was to the Buckingham Apartments, eight-tenths of a mile up the road. See, I haven’t gone very far in life.

The Columbia Pike corridor, that’s home. I still remember in Baileys’ Crossroads, in Arlington or just over the line, women up in their old houses with their washboards doing their laundry on the front porch. I remember just the other side of Baileys’ Crossroads an old black guy out there plowin’ in the field with a mule. Things have changed, but it was still home.

I had realized when I was about ten, when visiting at Grandma’s down in Oconee, Georgia, and we’re not talking the resort, we’re talking the old logging town, which has since been torn down. Dirt roads, houses that were not the sturdiest, train ran down the middle of the dirt road twice a day, shaking everything. On a dare, my little playmate and I walked over to what we called “N*****town,” back off the road. And as poor as the white folks were, it was so much worse back there. It was when I saw the school for the black kids – one room shack, never seen any paint, pot-bellied stove, the door was ajar, no glass in the windows, just wooden shutters, nuthin’ in the yard, no grass, no playground equipment, hand pump for water, and one outhouse.
It just hit me, at ten years old, that this is not right, this is not fair, this is not treating others as you want to be treated. I sort of knew, that things would have to change, and I wanted to help.

My opportunity came when the sit-ins started in ’60. I was at Duke. Durham (NC) was the second city to have sit-ins, right after Greensboro. I went to the Presbyterian youth group on campus, and the chaplain told us “Keep it quiet, but next week some of the students who are doing the sit-ins over at North Carolina College will be here… They did explain it morally and legally about the sit-ins, and then, lo and behold, invited us to join them. We were on the picket line, and then on the sit-ins.  That led to two arrests. I was the person arrested both times, of course.

I was at the sit-ins here in Arlington, with NAG (Non-violent Action Group). They started on a Drug Fair on Lee Highway. I was with Dion Diamond from DC, and a Howard University group among others. Charlie Cobb and I were from Arlington. When we came out of that Drug Fair there was a mob outside. That sit-in was on June 9th, 1960. And down in Shirlington at Woolworths, I was down there. Folks sat in at Landsburghs, also in Shirlington.

I think those actions made a difference in Arlington. These local chains, independent stores, were basically owned by Jewish families. Liberal New York families who had come down for New Deal jobs, and they didn’t have any problem personally with serving people, but it was against the state law. If they did serve us, or you went to a church you were allowed in, anybody who enabled you to sit together anywhere, was subject to arrest, also. So I think the stores’ managers had no problem serving us personally, but they weren’t ready to go to jail today. That’s my interpretation. I’ve heard people who might question that. They aren’t from here.

I ended up going back down South for more activism. We had had a big sit-in at Woolworths in Jackson, Mississippi. The mob poured sugar on me, all the condiments and everything on the counter was picked up an dumped on us. Paint and stuff was brought out. I didn’t get spray-painted but some did. The guy next to me had water and black pepper mixed together and thrown in his eyes.

I was also held in Parchman Prison in Mississippi for a whole summer. That was with the Freedom Rides. We had gotten down to Montgomery, Alabama, and were trapped in the church with a mob outside. People could not leave, there was an absolute mob. After we got out of that situation and I had recruited some folks from DC, we got a little non-violent orientation, and we took a train to Jackson. When we got off, we walked together into the waiting room, and were promptly arrested. Out to the paddy wagon. It got so crowded in that county jail, in the white women’s cell, we were down to less than three square feet of floor space per person, unless you counted under the bunks. One girl even slept curled up in the shower. They had to do something with us. They took the prisoners on death row at Parchman, and moved them elsewhere in the prison, and put us on death row trying to intimidate us. The food was better. It was cleaner. It was roomier. What’s not to like? Free room and board for the summer. I stayed in jail. Then I went to Tougaloo, just north of Jackson, Mississippi. I had already been accepted.
I saw what happened then with Chuck [Charlayne] Hunter and Hamilton Holmes at the University of Georgia. There were riots, tear gas, mobs, police escorts off campus twice. Athens, Georgia was where this was. The next town down the road was where my family was from originally, my mother’s side. I thought, this is not integration, it’s just a couple of black kids at the time having to go through hell. If integration is real, it’s a two-way street. I thought maybe I should apply to one of those black schools. I talked at a SNCC meeting with some of the guys, and gals. I asked them “what do you think?” They said “good idea, good idea.” Somebody, probably Chuck McDew, said, “well, if you’re gonna do it, you may well go to Mississippi, because those students haven’t done anything there yet sit-in wise. You can help them.”

Everybody in the Movement came through Tougaloo because it was a safe haven. I was sometimes down at the joint SNCC-CORE office, and we might walk down to Medgar Evers’ office, a couple blocks down the street and help out there with something.

 After the Movement, I came back to Arlington. I had five boys, and had split with my husband.  

After working for Justice and the Smithsonian, I began teaching at Patrick Henry School. I was a little bit in special ed, but basically an ESOL/HILT assistant [ English for Speakers of Other Languages/ High Intensity Language Training ].
We still had a lot of Southeast Asians. Vietnamese, Lao, a few Cambodians. We were kind of ground zero for Vietnamese, for Southeast Asians in general, in the entire United States. Then we started getting a little bit of everything, the United Nations. Gradually we got more and more Ethiopians and Eritreans, and Hispanics.

It was fun to learn their understanding of things, the type of questions they would ask… There were two girls, one was from Ethiopia, one was from Thailand. They learned English very well, they had great sentences, but the could not get the idea of capital letters. Then it suddenly hit me. It’s because of my background in Tougaloo, you know, a multiple cultural background, I asked them “ in your writing system, back in your countries, do they have like we do, capital letters, small letters?” They went “No!” Well, duh, no wonder they didn’t get it. I tried to explain this to other teachers who have these two girls in their class. It was the darndest thing, to get these other teachers to understand this idea, that Thai and Amharic don’t have capitals, and that’s why these kids had problems.

I had some Hispanic kids why the boy from Afghanistan had this problem writing cursive. I said “they don’t write the same way in his country.” So I sent that boy up to the blackboard – we still had blackboards – and asked him to write his country’s ABC’s. And of course he started out on the right instead of the left. And I said to the Hispanic kids, “now you go up and copy it.” And then they saw why he had a hard time in our alphabet. They couldn’t begin to copy it, and began to understand.

I think my way of understanding and my way of dealing with kids was helped a lot by having been part of the black culture.

 I stayed politically active. I voted! With five small kids in the house, you’re not going to meetings. I stayed involved in the local elementary school. PTA, the music teacher was looking for an African-American song that would be good to sing at the International Dinner, and I suggested “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which he didn’t know from the man in the moon. He taught it to virtually ever kid in the school. It was probably the first white school in the County to sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing ” en masse.
In Django’s kindergarten class I remember that they had the housekeeping corner and the workshop corner. All the doll babies in the housekeeping corner were white, so I made several rag dolls and clothes for them, with various skin tones and hair colorings and all that, so we got a mix. I got into gender equality, too.

I remember that whatever we had to eat was what was on sale at Food Star. My kids were what we call latchkey kids. There was a rule we had, that we didn’t let anybody in the house until I got home, unless it was one of the Southeast Asian kids who was being hassled, and we brought them in for their own safety. We saw the Asian kids being hassled, trying to walk home. There were a couple of kids that lived in drastically overcrowded houses, up to eighteen people in the house. I told my kids if your friend was being roughed up, you could bring ‘em in the house. It happened. It was white kids that were roughing the Asian kids up. Some of those boys who did the harassing were friends of my sons. In fact, Loki got roughed up a time or two, also, for walking the Asian kids home. I frequently had a bowl that was always full of fruit. Once in a while there’s still a knock on the door “Mom! You’re still here!” The Southeast Asian kids will come by “Can I come in? Oh it still looks the same!” Which means I haven’t done much to the house.

The neighborhood’s changed. We have more ethnic diversity. More black folks, we have Asians I think there are Arabs here now. But, back in the day, at the Barcroft Community Center, they had all sorts of restrictions about who could be members of the club. Arabs were among those who could not be members of the club. Everybody who wasn’t white Protestant was excluded, pretty much. Definitely blacks. In the ‘70’s. we reviewed the bylaws. And that’s when they found all these restrictions. There were no Catholics. But it was a Catholic Palestinian that now was president of the club! So clearly we had to revise the rules.

When I lived in Buckingham as a kid, just down the road, so many of my playmates were from liberal New York Jewish families. Their parents had come for government jobs in the New Deal, and now they were starting to have families, and moved to something bigger than a boarding house room. It was the only place that would rent to Jews.. I figured at one time at least eighty percent of my playmates were from liberal New York Jewish families. A few Catholics, too, because of St. Thomas Moore Church and the school. The Jewish families, I found out decades later, would hide our Christmas presents in the top of their closets, and their kids were sworn to secrecy. But they knew what we were getting for Christmas! And they were told that you can’t tell them (the non-Jewish kids) that there’s no Santa Claus and there’s no Easter bunny.

Across the street we’ve got three McMansions now, on what used to be the side lot for a house of a lady who grew up in Barcroft. She had planned to make the lower lot into a nature preserve thing, but she didn’t get it done in time. So they all went.

I used to shop at Food Star. Oh, I miss it. It’s gone. They are going to put a Harris Teeter store there. The biggest possible Harris Teeter, plus housing. It is already affecting the neighborhood. Well, now we don’t have Food Star, and the construction and the noise. The poor folks in the townhouses down near it, it’s going right up close to them. Apparently they have a lot of complaints about the noise.

On Buchanan Street, there’s those apartments, that are now subsidized housing, that was heavily Southeast Asian back in the day, and where the Safeway used to be (where the Arlington Mill Community Center is now), that was all Southeast Asian just about. The owners of Buchanan Gardens were waiting for it to all go condo. The owners were not making any repairs or keeping up the place, because they were going to sell it.
I do my best to keep my local identity. I volunteer with Even Start up at Barcroft School. Even Start is a county program where kids from lower-income non-English-speaking families can get free pre-school, so they’ll have an even start in kindergarten with their English-speaking classmates. I volunteer teaching English when I’m in town, and Tuesday mornings in the library. The kids are Hispanic, almost always. Guatemala is big. It shifts from time to time. Last year we had several Moroccan women. I’m able to use my skills in teaching with that. I do a lot of little things to keep a community connection. I’m on the substitute list for the community newsletter. I make bookmarks from stickers that come unsolicited in the mail. I use some cardstock and make bookmarks for the school library.

This neighborhood has changed. You could call it gentrification in some ways. It used to be that we had a plumber down the street, a heating and air conditioning repairman lived nearby, a school janitor, along with a congressman. There was a range of incomes. There is has gotten to be more ethnic diversity now over the years, particularly closer to the Pike, but that’s also changing. The free and open space, the trees, they’re getting hemmed in, taken out. Anything you needed for daily life used to be available on the Pike. A hardware store, a family-owned jewelry store, small grocery stores where they know you, a place to get your sewing machine repaired. Now they put in stuff nobody needs, or it’s expensive. A developer came to our Barcroft civic association. He said that in the new high rise mixed use apartments complex they want to build they’ll have mixed use retail on the first floor. There’s nowhere to park; I don’t want to have to go park underground around the back. He told us he hoped that they would have businesses like accounting firms in these places. Who needs that? And how many empty retail spaces do we need, anyway?

I went to Food Star for years, and the Oriental Market. The owners knew me, and folks could tell me how to cook or choose food I had no knowledge of before. There were foods for each country, Guatemala, Bolivia, Vietnam, Laos, and so forth. I don’t expect a big fancy chain will have that.

They were first calling the new development going up at the corner of George Mason and Columbia Pike “Pike Town Center” or “Town Plaza.” Now they’ve decided to name it “Centro.” Makes you wonder.”

Photography by Lloyd Wolf. Additional photography by Lara Ajami.







People around the Pike, late summer

These people were photographed at various sites along the central areas of Columbia Pike, on a seriously hot afternoon.

















Photography by Lloyd Wolf.

Ongoing construction on the Pike- three projects

Construction is continuing on three large new projects along Columbia Pike. Depicted here are selections of what is arising at Centro Arlington (at the corner of the Pike and South George Mason Drive), Trafalgar Flats (at the corner of South Buchanan Street and the Pike), and Gilliam Place (at 3507 Columbia Pike, on the site of what had been the Arlington Presbyterian Church).













Photography by Lloyd Wolf.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

New interview in process - and introducing Sushmita Mazumdar

From Sushmita Mazumdar of Studio Pause, our newest and very talented CPDP team member: 

"And my first interview for the #columbiapikedocumentaryproject is done! From unfamiliar fruit trees and an army base, to resettling refugees and photographs of a boy bouncing a ball, to knowing everyone on the bus commute I’d say there are many great stories here! Thanks Lloyd Wolf for inviting me to join in."

Stay tuned for excerpts from the story and portraits, soon. Share in the history of our diverse and changing community in the making.



Friday, August 31, 2018

Movie night at the Arlington Mill Community Center

Wizard of Oz. Outdoors.

Last night in August, just before the rain.

Katydids and kids. A kind of magic.


Photography by Lloyd Wolf

Monday, August 20, 2018

Margaret Chung | Arlington Career Center

Margaret Chung is Principal of the Arlington Career Center, adjacent to Columbia Pike.


"We are the Career Tech Education Center for the entire County school district. We have a range of classes, including engineering, and trades and industrial, which includes auto technology, auto collision repair, aviation, electricity, technical drawing. We also have IT and digital media. Most of the top ten engineering jobs in Arlington are in computer science, in IT. We’re driven by the data. Other areas are computer science, information technology, cyber security, web design, TV production, digital photography, graphics and digital animation programs. Under health and medical services we have EMT, pharmacy tech, physical therapy, forensic science, and animal science. In human and public services we have early childhood education, culinary arts, cosmetology, barbering, and JROTC Air Force.

My family immigrated here from Korea when I was ten. When I came here, I only spoke a little English. I had to learn.

I think my experience as an immigrant helps me relate to the students. When you move to a country and you’re not familiar, and you’re having to learn a new language, and customs, and you don’t fit in, I know what it feels like. To learn how to find your identity, and to figure things out. It takes time. You always feel like you’re always learning, and you haven’t quite figured out what you want to do with your life.

I see those issues in our students. I can talk with them. I feel that immigrants have unique challenges. It’s the community that surrounds you that helps in so many ways. Your own family, that sense of community, that helps you to feel strong and have a sense of belonging.

The kids come from a variety of places. They are primarily from Central America; El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. We have a handful from Africa and Asia. We have a Mongolian student, we have a Sri Lankan student, some from Ethiopia and Eritrea. Some from South America; Bolivia, Chile.  We have the Academic Academy which has about forty students who are here because they need a more personalized mentoring relationship. We have HILT, the High Intensity Language Training Institute which serves recently-arrived immigrant students. They are older immigrant ESL [English as a Second Language] students that come here with interrupted schooling. They’ve crossed the border by themselves, and are primarily working full time to support themselves, but also coming to school.  We have teen parenting here, so if they have children, or are pregnant, they can be here where childcare services are available. It’s a very family-like environment, so for some of them who are here pretty much by themselves, it gives them a strong sense of belonging.  It’s positive, it’s community-building.

Many of our HILT students live along the Columbia Pike corridor, and work along the Columbia Pike corridor. I think to the extent that students are part of the communities along the Pike that are changing, we’re impacted at the school. What I hear from families is that the cost of living is higher now.

Our newest program is called Arlington Tech. It is a choice program for students who would like to have project-based learning as the way in which they learn. We have a partnership with Marymount University’s Physical Therapy Department. They have a program for families with children that are wheelchair bound, called ‘Go Baby Go.’ Our students work with the families and design, re-engineer toy electric cars. Instead of using a switch, they now have a button in the middle of the steering wheel that the young students can press to manipulate the car going backwards and forwards. This was done by our engineering students, and our collision repair students personalized the colors. One child liked Superman, so they made that car in Superman colors, another child liked Kermit the Frog, so they made it green. Instead of being in a wheelchair when they go out in the playground, the kids are in this cool toy car. So when socializing with other children, which can be very challenging in a wheelchair, it is very different. Other kids want to come up and see them.

We have a NASA project, too. Our students write briefs about popularly-held misconceptions in science. They make a video, write a script, it goes into production, and they present it to the staff at NASA. Once NASA accepts and approves the video, they post it on their website.

I get to see a kind of magic happen all the time. Students come to us initially and are not certain of themselves. They are not familiar with many of the kinds of skills they might learn in many of our programs, but once they get their hands into it, they learn, and you see this transformation take place. They come to realize that they are really really good at something and develop a passion for it. Along with that comes a lot of confidence. That’s really the goal, that students find something that they really love to do, and then realize that they can make a career out of it, they can keep learning and growing – and they can get paid to do it, that it doesn’t feel like work because they love it so much!

One of my favorite things to do is to go and visit classrooms and take pictures and videos and ask them what they’re doing and put it out there on my Twitter account and share that information.

I feel like Arlington, and especially this school district, goes a long way to help all our students, especially immigrant students, feel like they have a strong sense of belonging. I don’t think there is any other second language support system like the one in Arlington, where it is for all subjects. There are HILT counselors, there are family resource outreach people, the staffing is amazing. We have parent groups. I really appreciate that as a school system we really support our immigrant families.

Our hope is that we can develop a stronger relationship with our community here along the Pike; a mutually beneficial relationship that we can form, so that the businesses, and the people who live here, can all feel like we’re part of the same community.


I’ve always loved working in Arlington. It’s a great community. For anyone in education, it is a great place to work."


Photograph by Xang Mimi Ho, interview excerpt by Lloyd Wolf