LBJ was in the White House, “Get Smart” was on NBC and lots of American troops were headed to Vietnam the last time anybody actually drove a car over what is now known as “original North Quincy Street” across from the eastern edge of the Washington-Liberty High School campus.
But until now, nobody has seen fit to formally declare that the abandoned roadway actually isn’t a roadway, but rather has been reclaimed by grass with some aging asphalt still holding off the advance of time.
Arlington County Board members are slated to tidy up the records later this month, acting on a staff proposal to formally declare the 15,500-or-so-square-foot parcel as no longer part of the county government’s street grid.
The county government will retain ownership of the parcel, as well as maintain all existing utility easements that exist on the site.
The action is another step to pave the way – that was for you transportation-humor fans out there – for the site to be used as parking for Arlington Transit (ART) buses, something that drew flak from neighbors but was approved over their objections earlier this year.
Land for the original North Quincy Street was obtained by the county government in 1921 and stands slightly to the east of the current, straighter road of the same name, which came into being during construction of Interstate 66 decades ago. The site in question sits between I-66 to the north and 14th Street North to the south, running more or less north to south.
Besides those 15,500-ish square feet, the county government did not own the 6-acre parcel across from Washington-Liberty until purchasing it from William Buck for about $30 million in 2017. At this year’s May 14 County Board meeting, board members ratified a staff proposal to use the site as a temporary parking lot for ART buses. It previously had been used as parking for school buses under a lease between the School Board and County Board.
The action drew an outraged response from the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, claiming that the county’s proposal was not permitted under a 1985 site plan and a deed of covenant on the parcel. County officials disagreed, and said ART buses needed to be based somewhere.
The action should “serve as a warning to other Arlington neighborhoods to what happens when [the county government] buys property in your neighborhood and becomes your neighbor,” said Dawn Cooper, one of a number of residents of the Ballston-Virginia Square community incensed by both the board’s vote and, they believe, the lack of public participation that preceded it.
County leaders, in turn, tried to convince residents that placing ART buses there was just a stopgap until a permanent facility was completed in South Arlington, and pleaded that residents see the greater good of the situation.
About the time the county government purchased the 6-acre Buck parcel, a county task force determined it could be used for a number of purposes, including a school. Sports advocates pressed for it to be converted to fields, a proposal the task force said was feasible but not necessarily optimal, given the geography and topography of the site.