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Ballston Development Grows, Mosaic Park to Get Major Upgrade

by ARLnow.com | January 24, 2011 at 8:02 am | 2,458 views | 84 Comments

Ballston’s 1.68 acre Mosaic Park will get a $6.6 million upgrade, paid for by the company behind the nearby Founders Square development.

On Saturday the county board approved a transfer of development rights from the park to the new development, adjacent to Ballston Common Mall.

As a result, Founders Square will now be taller and denser than before. A 15-story office building will become a 20-story office building, a 198-unit residential building will become a 257-unit residential building, and a 164-unit residential building will become a 183-unit hotel.

In exchange, the Shooshan Company, which is developing Founders Square at the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Randolph Street, will pay $6.6 million for improvements to Mosaic Park, which is now a mostly empty field with some playground equipment.

“Our action today will help realize a long term County goal to provide a high-quality neighborhood park in Ballston,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “By trading density from the park to Founders Square, the County has secured more than $6 million from the developer that will be used for improvements to Mosaic Park that will benefit the community.”

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  • DT

    Amazing. In exchange for increasing congestion in Ballston, the County Politboro will take some sod and new mulch. I bet the rest of the money is going towards maintenance of the park and no real improvements will be made. This makes the Politboro happy and gives the developer many more millions in square footage.

    • JamesE

      I am hoping once the lane widening of 66W is complete it will help with the congestion since all of it seems to be from the backup of Fairfax.

    • Agent Michael Scarn

      One would be hard-pressed to find a city planner who would lament the addition of a few buildings’ levels (to a rather large development anyway) as significantly “increasing congestion,” particularly for a development that is smack between two Metro stations (Ballston 3 blocks, VA Square 4 blocks), and in one of the best-planned Smart Growth corridors in the world. Sure, there will be folks who will drive to the development, but this will be far from an apocalypse of people.

      The additional density for the office and residential space will lower rents: more supply equals lower costs. As a Ballston resident, I’m really excited about this.

      • Arlwhenever

        Reduce rents? Ha, ha. Right, every developer builds with reducing rents in mind.

        The Founders Square developer has developed and owns multiple other properties along the Ballston, Rosslyn corridor, I betcha he’s never once reduced rents, or underbid the market on those other properties and has no intention of doing so here. If anyone has ever had their rent reduced in a Shooshan developed or managed property please let us know.

      • Terry

        “One would be hard-pressed to find a city planner who would lament the addition of a few buildings’ levels (to a rather large development anyway) as significantly “increasing congestion,” particularly for a development that is smack between two Metro stations (Ballston 3 blocks, VA Square 4 blocks), and in one of the best-planned Smart Growth corridors in the world.”

        WIN. Well said, thank you!!

        • Arlwhenever

          Actually, it is an additional 18 and one half stories since previously there was a bus barn on this site. Dozens of buildings, have/are going up in the immediate vicinity, with no material improvements in the road system which is totally stressed out of whack during parts of the day, backing up traffic down Glebe Road now sometimes into Buckingham and almost to Route 50. I don’t know how many more buildings it will take before backups reach down to Columbia Pike.

          • Bender

            Traffic is ALREADY backed up on Columbia Pike.

    • Josh S

      I’m wondering if you have ever visited a big city in your life? Like with actual skyscrapers? Traffic and people movement in general hardly grinds to a halt just because large buildings are added, especially when there is a concomitant emphasis on encouraging multiple modes of transportation.

      I find this development to be really exciting. Twenty stories is hardly a notable skyscraper but it’s better than the stubby 12-15 story buildings that are so ubiquitous in the metro area. And the architecture of the upper stories is less important than the streetscape. Let’s hope for some good retail / restaurant options.

      • SoCo Resident

        Right next door are plenty of retail/restaurants in the totally, absolutely mismanaged grotesque Ballston Mall, so we don’t need to build a new twenty story building for retail space. Why, in heavens name, is this Mall so gross and unappealing in the middle of all this money? And, the food court…

        • The Dope of South Arlington

          I’d tell you, but arlnow will delete my comment.

      • david

        Try visiting Sao Paulo, Paris, London, Panama City, Santiago, etc. I can assure you that traffic does indeed grind to a halt even with multiple modes of transport available. While I like this project and agree that a couple extra floors will add little to the existing traffic; you do need to consider the long term impacts of building with little to no infrastructure upgrades.

        • Josh S

          Hilarious. Are we going to play “more cosmopolitan than thou?”

          I’m going to take a wild guess and say Santiago is the smallest of those cities. A quick trip to Google – wait a sec – OK back. 5 million people. Or 22,000 per square mile.

          It’s a mite different than Arlington.

          The backups down Glebe are because of left turns, especially at Quincy. I don’t think it’s out of the question to create a dedicated left turn lane there – would make a huge difference.

          • david

            Not at all trying to play more cosmopolitan. However, it’s not very enjoyable to read snide comments like: “I’m wondering if you have ever visited a big city in your life? Like with actual skyscrapers?”. Condescending much? My main point was that traffic does grind to a halt with the addition of more buildings. We have the infrastructure in place for a city of our size but if we don’t continue to expand it as we add additional workers and general population we’re going to run into the same problems as those other cities (on a smaller scale obviously).

      • ian l

        Oh no, more traffic! Let’s put these buildings in undense eastern Loundon county where we know there is little traffic and no public transportation.

    • Vinh An Nguyen

      “Congestion” doesn’t just apply to automobile traffic. The Orange Line is already at capacity and will only get worse with the opening of the Silver Line.

      • AllenB

        The silver line will be neutral at worst to the orange line and will actually add capacity from EFC all the way to stadium armory. When the Silver Line is done, two lines will be running from EFC to Rosslyn instead of just one. The only problem is the Rosslyn tunnel and some blue line trains are being rerouted to make up for that. As an example, someone getting on at EFC has the option of either the orange or the silver to get to their job near metro center.

        • Ballston

          “The only problem is at the Rosslyn tunnel”…….

          Haha thanks, you just gave me my comic relief for the week!!!!

          Maybe you should rephrase that as… “One of the many problems..”

          Someone sneezes in the wrong direction during rush hour on the orange line and there are delays and backups so bad you cant get on the trains from ballston to rosslyn….Nothing the silver line can do to fix the problem of having only 2 tracks, thats REALLY the issue.

          • AllenB

            What I probably could have worded better is that the only problem for the silver line running along the orange line tracks occurs at the Rosslyn tunnel and that is why they are rerouting the blue line.

            I’m sure maintenance issues on the tracks, etc will still be a problem. But what I was responding to was the incorrect statement that the silver line will create more crowding on orange line trains.

        • Juanita de Talmas

          My understanding is that it’s just renaming to Silver existing runs on the Orange line; there will not be additional trains.

          • AllenB

            That’s incorrect. There will be additional trains on the line.

          • mehoo

            No, there will be new trains. There have to be, because the Silver will branch off from the Orange before the Orange ends.

          • mehoo

            Even if this was just an extension of the Orange line, they would need new trains to serve the additional stations.

          • Juanita de Talmas

            There is not capacity for a greater number of trains. Yes they will be new trains and they will be named “Silver” but the total NUMBER of trains will not increase. Instead of, say, 10 Orange Line trains an hour, there will be five Orange Line and 5 Silver Line trains. The TOTAL number of trains will be the same.

          • mehoo

            That’s different from what you said before.

            Whether there is room for additional cars to share the existing Orange line track, or whether they will have to reduce Orange line service by an equal amount, is hard to say. I think you are wrong about their plans – they plan to stuff more trains on the existing line. But I could be wrong, or they could be wrong about the feasibility of it.

          • Juanita de Talmas

            That’s different from what you said before.

            No it isn’t. Some people just have to be drawn a picture. My initial statement was the same, I just left out the additional details thinking other readers would understand what I was saying. I’ll try not to make that mistake again.

          • david

            Wikipedia links to an old WTOP report that says that they ordered 64 new trains for the Silver line. However, it’s unclear if those are to replace existing trains or if they are going to be added to their existing stock. I have to think you (mehoo) are right because if they are cutting service to W Falls Church and Vienna in half than people would be in an uproar.

          • AllenB

            There are going to be MORE trains running along the Orange line tracks. They are not reducing the number of Orange line trains to make room for the Silver line trains. The only problem would be the Rosslyn tunnel and that is why the Blue line is being rerouted.

      • ian l

        how are things going to be worse with the silver line?

        • Idi Amin Dada

          How would you guess adding 85,700 daily riders between EFC and Rosslyn would make things worse?

          • AllenB

            There will be approximately double the number of trains running along that route as well. So the extra ridership will be absorbed that way.

          • mehoo

            If there are enough new cars, it won’t matter one bit – unless the additional cars cause congestion on the Orange.

          • Idi Amin Dada

            You must never ride the Orange line during rush hour if you seriously believe the number of trains will be doubled. It just can’t be done.

          • AllenB

            I don’t ride the metro during rush hour but the plans are for more trains along the same tracks. Do some searches online and you’ll find the plans. Maybe I misspoke with double but there will be many more. While metro has its faults, I don’t think they would be putting more trains on a line if it physically couldn’t handle it.

          • mehoo

            I ride it daily. Like I said, I don’t know if it can be done, just that this is the plan. It might be just a matter of fixing the Rosslyn chokepoint. More trains might actually speed things up too, since boarding could be faster. I don’t know.

          • Ballston

            AllenB, please go and try and get on an orange line train during rush hour at Courthouse. Some mornings they are backed up and you can see the trains just sitting there in the tunnel…..I suppose they could have trains arrive more frequently, but you will end up just sitting in the subway car in between courthouse and rosslyn or between rosslyn and foggy bottom……

  • Valerie

    hope it is better than Hillside Park…useless for most activities

  • jan

    at least the massive building appears light and airy. Why can’t Albriton follow this lead?

  • bennynojets

    I hope they don’t remove the climbing wall.

  • Set the controls

    Shade, parking and bathrooms are crucial amenities for the park. Please don’t overlook them. And please don’t restrict park access to just patrons of the development.

  • Rover

    Cool. So, what are the odds that there will be any mosaic there? Or is it just a name? I’d love to see some of this: http://goingnomadic.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/mosaic-park.jpg

    • Arlwhenever

      Here’s a proposed design, which has mosaic elements,

      http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/parksrecreation/documents/file68394.pdf

      Looks to me like the park is going to be more of a have lunch across the street from the new development place and less of a play place, with some water park features like those that the County cut back hours on last summer. The climbing wall and the ropes, which we’ve loved using in our family, appear to be gone.

      • mehoo

        I saw some climbing and play stuff in there. This looks really nice.

      • david

        Thanks for this link. Looks like a great park. I saw that in Phase 2 they’ll be taking away the parking lot behind Golds. Since I walk to this gym it’s not a big deal for me but that is going to make an already difficult parking situation even worse.

        • Ballston

          taking away the parking lot at golds?????

          wtf. not cool.

    • Jane

      I agree Rover.

  • Lou

    Did they resolve anything definitive about the tour bus parking next to the park. I tuned out the meeting before they got to that, as the self-back-patting was about to make me lose my cereal.

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  • SoCo Resident

    How about leaving Mosaic Park alone and directing the $$ to buying MORE parkspace adjacent to Ballston? A major drawback to living in Ballston is the near total lack of greenspace, and absolutely no setbacks for properties. The alternative for the Founders propety might have been to allow additonal height while requiring a set greenspace setback from the street. The lack of greenspace and the canyonization of Ballston will someday bit back at Ballston, ala Rosslyn. Truly no imagination on the part of the County. (But, at least it is now a $7 million dog park “remodel”.)

    • AllenB

      Ballston is already a canyon, but a livable one. Want a non-canyon, move to Clarendon or Courthouse.

  • Bluemont John

    What advocates of greater density and mixed-use development fail to realize is that developments like this, while a short-term victory for those advocates, will over the long term result in greater sprawl. People are already recognizing that having in or near a neighborhood any type of business, community center, park–even a church (as shown by the recent Clarendon Baptist case) brings the possibility that it may someday turn into a skyscraper or a multi-unit apartment complex.

    Because of this, many people will start to avoid housing near even the most benign, quiet little public accommodations (if they haven’t already)–so that anyone who wants a single-family home or even a quiet duplex or townhouse will look for one that is nowhere near anything other than residences. That increase in demand for “isolated” residential-only housing will mean that future development will avoid mixing residential with anything else–in other words, more sprawl-type developments.

    And that, in my view, is a shame. Much as I loathe the type of development we now have in Ballston and Clarendon, I like what those areas once were–small, one- or two-story neighborhood-oriented shops with adequate parking and trees, meant to serve mostly just the nearby residents. Not the major regional job centers they are now.

    Some people like what’s there now. OK, fine. But some of us don’t want to live with that kind of noise or towers of glass looking down on our homes.

    • mehoo

      So less sprawl creates more sprawl?

      • Bluemont John

        Come on–you know that’s not what I said. I’m not advocating more sprawl. What I’m advocating is stricter limits on height, footprint, hours of business–to allow and preserve small, local businesses and preserve the quality of life nearby.

        What we have now are what to me are two almost equally repellent extremes, with a few exceptions that are fortunately too far from the Metro to be at risk (e.g., Lee Highway).

        • mehoo

          Your first post more or less said “no new development” not just stricter limits, for Ballston and Clarendon – or that’s how I read it. Maybe I was mistaken.

          Yes, a few people will move to single-family homes in the outer suburbs, but alot more would be moving there anyway, and now they’ll move to Ballston. On balance, this growth prevents more sprawl than it creates.

          As for places like Founder’s Square, not many people expected it not to happen. The park will be preserved and improved.

        • Ballston

          Well – Unfortunately you are showing your age bias here big time.

          This is not Arlington of 20 years ago. The area has been growing and will continue to do so. The only way to satisfy the NEED for housing in Arlington is to build up.

          Arlington cannot succeed commercially and serve growing needs of its growing population with one and two story shops.

          Housing NEEDS to be built. Schools/Roads/Stores/Offices NEED to be built.

          Its not really a choice anymore. Its simple math. The worlds population is growing. Arlington is a great place to live and there are plenty of jobs here, so younger people are going to keep moving here.

          It’d be nice to have that one and two story shop lined street of yesterday, but wake up and smell the rocklands bro, your best hope is that the density growth that will continue is done smart. You are fighting a losing battle if you think you can stop it entirely.

        • mehoo

          John – not sure why you think these are extremes. We’re not building skyscrapers. There is some higher density, some medium, some low, and for the most part, there’s medium in between the two extremes. For instance, the project at the old Ford dealership in Ballston has tall buildings on the Ballston side and lower residential buildings on the residential side.

          I like preservation and lifestyle quality too, but in this case, it’s an old bus parking and maintenance area and a gas station we’re “losing.”

          • Bluemont John

            Mehoo, I agree that the bus depot is no loss. (But don’t get me started on losing Super Pollo.) But I digress. What to me is extreme is the height of this thing. Are there taller buildings that exist? Sure. But this is a lot taller than anything that’s been there before. I’m surprised you don’t think it’s a skyscraper, but “sky” of the beholder, I suppose.

          • mehoo

            Yeah, I don’t consider 17 stories a skyscraper.

          • Clarenschnoodle

            Super Pollo is part of the Shooshan development. They have a standalone building that sits across from the park.

            Part of the issue on heights is preference. I prefer dense urban areas that are less tall. Like Paris, or Amsterdam or most European cities really. The older parts were built before elevators so they tended to by less than 8 stories and at the time they were built, the cheap apartments were the ones on the top (due to hoofing it up all those stairs). Now, people like the top apartments I guess because if you have to get in an elevator, may as well go to the top and get a better view ?

          • Vinh An Nguyen

            The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, considered the first skyscraper, was only 10 stories.

    • AllenB

      “People are already recognizing…” Which people exactly are doing the recognizing? You and your merry band of NIMBY’s? Puhleez… “People” continue to move into Arlington because they love what this area has to offer, imperfections and all. If not, don’t you think or housing prices would have suffered as much as surrounding areas?

      • Arlingtonian2

        I find it odd that the entire Board lives in single family homes, but increases the low and highrise development on and on and on. Do the people who post here actually live in the condos/apts and how many levels up are their homes? Don’t start call people NIMBYs when they purchased single family homes 10-20 years ago thinking the Board would eventually show some restraint in development. I have lived in high rise apartments and garden apts and prefer the garden apartment or townhome style of living.

        • ian l

          I believe that one of the county board members live right across the street from the Clarendon church development — the board isn’t immune to development which IMO should be even more

        • AllenB

          That’s great you prefer a garden style condo/apt. But this is a developing urban area, and it will continue that way. And my NIMBY comment refers to the people who protest the church development in clarendon but I really feel that they just don’t like that it may bring people with lower incomes into their neighborhood.

          There are exceptions, sure, but most of the high rise development is taking place in areas zoned for high rises for many years. Case in point, when the Residence Inn in Courthouse was built, you should have heard the howls from the condo’s and townhouses around it. But that lot was zoned for a high rise hotel as far back as when Courthouse Plaza was built. I have no sympathy for them.

        • mehoo

          What’s interesting is that people out in the outer ‘burbs have the same issues you do. The ones who moved there 20 years ago are complaining about development and traffic and the newcomers who have ruined their view (of the Blue Ridge) too. It’s hard to find a place near the city that isn’t going to become more and more like a city.

  • Juanita de Talmas

    if they are cutting service to W Falls Church and Vienna in half than people would be in an uproar.

    That exactly what they’re doing to the Blue Line at Rosslyn to accomodate the Silver Line. Why wouldn’t they do it to WFC and Vienna as well?

    • mehoo

      I thought you said they were going to cut Orange line service for the Silver line – from 10 Orange to 5 Silver, 5 Orange.

      • david

        That’s what I thought as well.

      • Juanita de Talmas

        I did say that. But in addition, to give priority to the larger number of people coming in from the west, they are halving the number of Blue Line trains going through the Rosslyn-Foggy Bottom tunnel.

    • AllenB

      They’re not cutting trains at WFC and Vienna. Do some searches and you’ll find the info yourself. As for Rosslyn, well, that’s not my fight to fight. I live near Clarendon and Courthouse metros and those stations will now have double the service on nights and weekends when I use metro.

  • Juanita de Talmas

    Metro’s switches can handle a train every 135 seconds — 26 trains per hour — and that is the current throughput at Rosslyn. If the Rosslyn tunnel is currently at capacity (which it is), how on earth can they double the number of trains currently run on the Orange Line?

    I think you are deluding yourself if you think your wait time is going to be cut in half nights and weekends.

    A likely scenario for trains per hour at Rosslyn would be 10 Orange, 10 Silver, and 6 Blue.

    • AllenB

      If I’m at the Clarendon station at 7pm on a Saturday night and I’m waiting for a train to go to metro center, I will have much shorter wait time with both the Silver and Orange line travelling that route than I would with just the Orange line. So will my wait time be exactly half? Maybe, maybe not. Will it be greatly reduced? Yes.

      The same will happen on that route during rush hour as well. The people getting on and off the blue line at Rosslyn get screwed, the rest of us benefit. Since I don’t on or off the blue line at Rosslyn (except on the rate times I travel to National Apt), win for me and for all those with similar travel patterns.

      As for your 135 seconds stat, I’m not so sure of that. I’ve seen one train pull out of a station and one pull in right behind many many times.

      • Juanita de Talmas

        I will have much shorter wait time with both the Silver and Orange line travelling that route than I would with just the Orange line

        Not if the train running as the Silver has merely replaced the former train that ran as the Orange.

        The 135 seconds stat comes from Metro: http://www.wmata.com

        • AllenB

          I don’t see that stat on their website, but regardless, I’ve read many times that there are no plans to reduce the number of orange line trains. Silver line trains will be added at the expense of blue line trains.

          I know what I’ve read and I know you’re wrong about the number of orange line trains being decreased and you are convinced that I’m wrong. I guess we’ll just have to wait three years and we’ll all see for ourselves.

          • JS

            Of those 26 train slots, currently 16 are orange and 10 are blue. The new splits will indeed be 10 orange, 10 silver, and 6 blue, a net gain of 4 trains for those coming in from the west. Technically, you’re both correct: there will be fewer orange line trains; however, there will be more trains coming in from the west and fewer coming from the south.

            Source: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/6336/metro-faq-how-will-silver-orange-blue-fit-at-rosslyn/

          • Ballston

            You can have two trains right behind each other when there are no switches involved. Meaning, if you have fewer blue line trains coming into Rosslyn, the switch will not need to be activated. Thus you could have this scenario:
            Blue
            SWITCH
            Silver
            Orange
            Silver
            SWITCH
            blue
            SWITCH
            Orange
            Silver
            Orange
            SWITCH
            Blue

            etc…

            right now its just blue/switch/orange/switch….

            All that switch work is what creates the bottleneck. More trains will be able to get through that choke point with less switches involved.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    Actually, I’m not sure anyone knows exactly what’s going to happen(Except that there is no money to expand the Rossyln tunnel). I was at the last Long Range Planning Board meeting and the topic came up, neither the Metro rep in the audience, the county planner or the board members seem to have a clear picture of the plan or the projected impact or planned rider flow of the Silver line.

    To boot, the fact that no one can site a public description of a definitive plan when 100′s of millions of capital dollars are being spent as we speak, seems to be a real problem.

    • Ballston

      +1

      Another thing is….the main reason the silver line was put into place was to send people on trains going WEST……NOT east.

    • Idi Amin Dada

      AllenB says he knows what he’s read, so maybe he should be on the board.

      • AllenB

        I’m sorry, Idi, but do you NOT know what you’ve read? That’s sad… but given your affinity for your namesake, not surprising.

        • idi Amin Dada

          I know enough to not believe everything I do read. And I don’t tell people I know they are wrong without offering something to back my statement up.

          • AllenB

            Isn’t that just a convenient cliche? Don’t believe everything you read? I don’t believe most comments here, especially from someone who hides behind the name of a violent dictator. But when I read things from trusted sources, I do believe them. And I’m certain I know what I read. If YOU want to be at all believable, try thinking… do you really think metro would do something to purposefully INCREASE the crowding on the orange lane? And try changing your name… it’s offensive and ridiculous.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    The real take away from this, is don’t believe the planners when they give you an initial site/overall plan because they will always come along and sell you down the river to the developers after the intial furor has died down.

  • Ballston Dweller

    Arlington got a raw deal for a few simple reasons.

    $6.6 million for 58 new residential units, which alone amounts to just $113,800 per unit. If they can make more than that per unit, plus construction costs, they are making pure profit. Given the average rent or condo selling price, that seems like a no-brainer if you are the company. Add to that five more floors for the office building and the change they wanted for the hotel, and it is a huge bargain for the developer. Economics, pure and simple. Or a bribe.

    I like parks and urban living as much as the next person, but:
    1) it is a fairly small park. $6 million seems a bit odd to spend on it. will it be gold-plated? or did the county need someplace to park that money, or have no other important expenses (i.e. the planetarium at Washington-Lee)? The nice park next to their new building will actually help the realtors out by increasing its desirability and rents.
    2) on the other hand, $6 million would be a drop in the bucket and barely cover any infrastructure improvements. Say whatever you want about the frequency or metro, or whether or not people will be walking, driving, or metroing. There will be more people going to one place, which is already pretty crowded. ArlNow has reported quite a few pedestrian accidents already there. A left-turn lane, traffic signaling studies, pedestrian medians, parking studies, increased public transit–these all cost real money. And the county got us a relative drop in the bucket for something that, while nice, solves a minor problem while creating a larger and entirely different one.

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