Projected Subsidy Soars for Aquatics Center — The planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center could require more than $4 million per year in subsidies from the county government, according to new projections. That’s up from projections as low at $1 million per year. “Certainly there are other priorities that arguably should come before building a luxury pools facility,” said local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki. Construction contracts for the aquatics center are expected to be awarded early next year. [Sun Gazette]
County May Allow Less Office Parking, For a Fee — Arlington County is considering a system that would allow office developers to build less than the currently-required amount of parking, in exchange for a per-parking-space fee. The fee would then be used for public improvements in the area around the building, or for Transportation Demand Management Services for the building’s tenants. [Greater Greater Washington]
Memorial Bridge Could Have Looked Like Tower Bridge — The Arlington Memorial Bridge was originally proposed as a memorial to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, complete with a series of “medieval”-looking towers and turrets. [Ghosts of DC]
Arlington Carpenter’s Intricately-Carved Birds — Arlington carpenter Jeff Jacobs, 59, carves intricate wooden hummingbirds out of a single block of wood. He sells the birds at Eastern Market and the Clarendon farmers market. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by Eschweik
(Update at 1:20 p.m.) Construction on the new Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, originally slated to begin this fall, has been pushed back.
Work on the approximately $80 million facility, located just north of Crystal City near I-395, is now not expected to begin until early 2014, according to Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
“To ensure that we have quality general contractors bidding… we decided to undertake an extensive pre-qualification process,” Kalish explained. “That process is now complete and we have our selected pool of contractors. The bidding process will take place over the next several months. We anticipate that construction will begin in early 2014.”
The authorized bidders on the project are: Manhattan Construction Company, Hess Construction + Engineering Services, The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company, Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Christman/Apex LLC, A Joint Venture Partnership, Balfour Beatty Construction and Gilbane Building Company.
The project’s budget has not changed, Kalish said, but the expected opening date has been pushed back to early 2016. We were earlier told that the opening date had not changed, which is incorrect.
The aquatics center will include a 50 meter by 25 yard fitness and competition pool, a family leisure pool, a hot water therapy pool, a “teaching pool,” and a “free-form water play area that will… have a lazy river, slides, play features and a zero-depth ‘beach’ entry.” The facility will also have amenities like a gym, an exercise center, a climbing wall, an indoor track, racquetball courts and meeting rooms.
It could have competed against Arlington County’s planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, but instead a proposal to build a massive sports and entertainment complex in Alexandria has been withdrawn.
It was announced in June that a company had submitted an unsolicited proposal to transform Alexandria’s Hensley Park into a sports and entertainment facility. The proposed complex included features like an Olympic-sized pool and water play area; basketball, volleyball, baseball and gymnastics centers; ice rinks; indoor tennis and squash courts; a climbing wall; and a driving range.
A pool, water play area, climbing wall and racquetball courts are all also part of Arlington’s plan for the Long Bridge Park facility. (County Board Chair Walter Tejada said in June that he did not expect the Alexandria proposal to impact the county’s plans.)
The St. James Group LLC announced yesterday (Tuesday) that it was withdrawing its unsolicited proposal after discovering that Hensley Park was acquired by Alexandria, in part, via a small federal grant. The grant prohibits development of the park.
The company says it will now seek other D.C. area locations for the complex.
“SJG remains committed to developing the premier sports and entertainment complex in the region,” the company said in a press release. Read the full press release, after the jump.
An unsolicited proposal from a private entity has been submitted to the City of Alexandria to transform Hensley Park into a sports and entertainment facility. Although parts of the proposal appear strikingly similar to Arlington County’s plans for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, so far the County Board is not concerned.
The Alexandria City Council discussed the proposal it received from The St. James Group LLC during its meeting on Tuesday. The plan involves a long term lease of the 15 acre city owned property currently occupied by Hensley Park.
The Alexandria proposal includes amenities such as an Olympic sized pool and water play area, climbing wall and racquetball courts. Those features had already been included in Arlington’s long term plan for Long Bridge Park.
Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada said although there may be similarities, he doesn’t anticipate that a private facility in the southwest part of Alexandria would impact Arlington’s plans.
“I wouldn’t necessarily jump to conclusions. I think our approach is much different,” he said. “We have a public facility we are creating, but this is private proposal. The context is so different.”
In fact, Tejada believes it could be considered a compliment that other jurisdictions may be interested in creating facilities similar to Arlington’s.
“The best flattery or compliment is duplication,” he said. “It’s flattering that someone would want to copy or do something we’re already doing.”
Tejada noted that because Arlington’s complex is publicly funded, residents from all walks of life will be welcome to use it. Because that may or may not be the case with the private proposal for Alexandria, Tejada said “we aren’t concerned” about the threat of competition.
“For our project we are looking to be inclusive, so people of all incomes and backgrounds will have access to our facilities,” said Tejada. “Whereas in a private facility it’s for profit and the purpose is whatever the personal group sets forth, so that’s a different matter.”
Kendrick Ashton, Jr., Co-founder and Managing Partner of The St. James Group, agreed that the intent was not to create competition between the two jurisdictions. He said Northern Virginia has a great need for sports facilities that isn’t being addressed.
“There’s certainly a tremendous need in this area for enhanced aquatics facilities,” said Ashton. “I think given the dearth of high quality aquatic facilities at this point, the region needs more of them. It’s not competitive at this point.”
The group looked for potential locations for the complex in Arlington, Fairfax and other localities, but no options appeared as feasible as the Henley Park land. Ashton reiterated that although the Alexandria complex would likely draw visitors from around Northern Virginia, it isn’t expected to create competition for Arlington’s $80 million Long Bridge Park facility.
The City of Alexandria’s website assures the public that it has not gone forward with any plans, it has simply heard the proposal from The St. James Group. The website reads: “All that has happened is that an outside party has made an unsolicited proposal to the City about a potential use of City-owned land. Neither City Council nor City staff have reached any conclusion about the merits of the proposal, nor have made any decisions other than the decision to evaluate it.”
The St. James Group will hold a public meeting to further explain the proposal on July 1, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on Eisenhower Avenue. The City of Alexandria stresses that the meeting will not be led by or sponsored by the city, so residents should not consider it an official public hearing.
According to the timeline offered in the proposal, the hope is to have a recommendation from Alexandria by October regarding whether or not to move forward. If the City Council determines that a sports and entertainment complex is a feasible option, it will issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to allow any interested party to make a bid. If the City Council decides such a facility is unnecessary, the process will end without any further action.
“We have to wait and see what becomes of it. They’re evaluating it, like anyone would,” Tejada said. “We’ll see what happens. For us, we’re focusing on our own project.”
Meanwhile, there has been no change announced to the schedule for the next phase of the Long Bridge Park project. In January, Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com that construction on the project is expected to begin this fall.
Despite some resident concerns over the cost of the facility, Tejada said the county will continue on with it and make all efforts to keep the project on budget.
“I think that we certainly will continue to practice our best fiscal management qualities that have earned us a AAA bond rating from all the bond rating agencies,” said Tejada. “It’s important to remember that we have a sound fiscal management record. I know sometimes that may get lost when one or two projects may be in the news.”
BMW in Fatal Crash Was Symbol of Father’s Success — The 2008 BMW M5 that 22-year-old Sami Ullah was driving the night of the crash in Rosslyn that killed him was a gift from his father, who had emigrated from Pakistan and worked as a dishwasher before eventually amassing a fortune from real estate investment. Police said Ullah was driving 90 miles per hour over the Key Bridge before the crash, something his family can’t quite comprehend. “He’d only drive fast on straightaways,” Ullah’s 27-year-old brother said. [Washington Post]
Board Reaffirms Plan for Long Bridge Park — The Arlington County Board reaffirmed its plan for Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City, at its meeting on Saturday. The plan includes the new Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility, the construction of which is expected to begin late this year. “Our actions today move us closer to realizing the dream of transforming a former brown field into one of the region’s most dynamic parks, recreation and athletic facilities in one of its most beautiful natural settings,” said County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. [Arlington County]
Win for Wakefield ‘It’s Academic’ Team – Wakefield High School’s “It’s Academic” team picked up and will advance to a playoff match. The televised academic competition aired this past Saturday, March 16. [Sun Gazette]
Front Page Under New Management – The Front Page restaurant in Ballston is under new management. “We have been working hard to get the FPA back to the glory it’s longstanding tradition deserves,” the restaurant said on Facebook. “Please don’t judge us on past performance. Except for the loyal and exceptional bar and service staff all management is new.” [Facebook]
County: We’re Not Stopping Harris Teeter — Arlington County officials acknowledged on Saturday that they’ve been in private settlement talks with Harris Teeter over the incident that resulted in raw sewage flooding the S. Glebe Road store last year, forcing it to close indefinitely. Responding to a letters from residents, the county says they’re not preventing the still-closed store from reopening and are willing to help expedite the regulatory process, if Harris Teeter decides to reopen. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
Changes have been approved for parking regulations at the county’s schools and recreational facilities.
At its meeting on Saturday (February 23), the County Board voted unanimously to amend the Zoning Ordinance, which was necessary in order to modify parking regulations for elementary and middle schools and noncommercial recreational facilities. The amendments allow the Board to change the number of required parking spaces at the facilities, which it previously was not permitted to do.
The approved revisions reduce the number of spaces needed at elementary and middle schools. Additionally, the Board now has the ability to alter requirements at individual sites and to locate a portion of the parking spaces off-site.
County staff members have been looking into parking requirements since the issue arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School, the new school to be built on the Williamsburg Middle School campus and the planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. Parking demand at all the sites in question was deemed less than what was required by the Zoning Ordinance.
“With APS expanding some facilities and adding new ones to keep up with growing enrollment, we needed to come up with a new approach to parking for our schools and public facilities,” said Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “The changes the Board is making in the Zoning Ordinance will ensure that our schools provide for adequate, but not excessive, parking and have plans in place to reduce parking demand.”
All schools and public facilities must also submit a Transportation Demand Management (TDM) plan to ensure the sites do not build excessive amounts of parking, and that strategies to reduce the demand for parking are examined.
The new Wakefield High School, slated for completion this summer, will include two new publicly-accessible pools. An upcoming meeting will provide the public an opportunity to learn more about and weigh in on the operation of those pools.
On Tuesday, March 12, from 7:00 to 9:00 at the Arlington Education Center (1426 N. Quincy Street), the Arlington Public Schools Aquatics Committee will hold its annual aquatics forum for residents. The forum will focus on the new Wakefield aquatics center, but will also discuss the existing Washington-Lee and Yorktown pools. A similar meeting in 2009 gave residents a chance to contribute views on the then-new Washington-Lee aquatics center.
Expected to open to the public in September, the new Wakefield aquatics center will consist of an 8-lane lap pool and an instructional/diving pool that can also be used as a 5-lane lap pool.
In an email, APS Aquatics Director Helena Machado told us the following about the new facility.
The Wakefield facility pool currently under construction will contain two swimming pools. The “competition pool” will be 25 yards in length and will have 8 lanes. The “instructional/diving” pool will be 25 meters in length and 33.3 feet wide. This pool’s primary use will be for diving and a wide variety of shallow and deep water instructional activities. This pool’s unique configuration of joining diving and shallow-water instructional space will give us the opportunity to also use the pool as a 5-lane lap pool of either 25 yards or 25 meters in length.
The new Wakefield aquatics facility will be programmed and staffed to provide the best possible service to the aquatics community, and at this time there are no plans to reduce community swim hours. The facility and both of its pools will be used for a wide range of aquatics activities, including swimming instruction, water fitness classes, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming, and lap swimming. The pool will be staffed to ensure a safe environment for all of its program participants.
The “instructional/diving” pool will be open daily for classes, diving or other special needs (including lap swimming at times) as needed, and as the scheduling and programming warrants. It was designed as a flexible space and not designed to be only a lane pool. As a result, it will be programmed that way which has always been the plan.
Wakefield High School, at 4901 S. Chesterfield Road, is about 6 miles away from the county’s planned $80 million Long Bridge Park aquatics center.
Construction on the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility is expected to begin this fall.
The $80 million facility is to be built just north of Crystal City in Long Bridge Park. IT will feature a 50 meter by 25 yard fitness and competition pool, a family leisure pool, a hot water therapy pool, a “teaching pool,” and a “free-form water play area that will… have a lazy river, slides, play features, and a zero-depth ‘beach’ entry.”
“It is expected that the design will be completed in late spring with construction bids being sought in the early summer,” Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish told ARLnow.com on Friday. “It is anticipated that the County Board will award a construction contract in the early fall with construction starting in late fall. After two years of construction the opening of the Facility and park is expected in the fall of 2015.”
The operating costs of the facility are estimated to be $3.2 million per year, some $2 million to $2.8 million of which will be offset by revenue generated by usage fees, memberships and snack sales.
A second phase of construction on the facility is also planned. That phase will result in an addition to the facility, featuring amenities like a gym, an exercise facility, a climbing wall, an indoor track, racquetball courts, and meeting rooms.
The second phase of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility has yet to be included in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan, and is likely more than a decade away.
“A time frame for design or construction is not projected prior to calendar year 2023,” said parks department Planning Supervisor Erik Beach. So far, there’s no cost estimate for the second phase of the facility.
At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is being asked to provide authorization for staff to advertise public hearings regarding the proposed amendments. The changes include revising parking standards for elementary and middle schools, permitting off-site vehicle parking at community swimming pools and allowing the County Board to modify parking standards.
The issue first arose during the public review process for the addition to Ashlawn Elementary School and the new school to be built on the Williamsburg campus. Arlington Public Schools felt that using the existing Zoning Ordinance for parking requirements would result in an excessive amount of parking. For instance, the addition to Ashlawn would require 228 parking spaces under the ordinance, when APS says it only needs about 100.
“That is way more than we need and it means we would lose open space and ball fields,” said John Chadwick, Director of Design and Construction for APS. “If we do that and we lose open space, ball fields and green space, that sort of counters what everyone is trying to do in Arlington.”
Another concern is that the ordinance requires all of the parking spaces to be on site. One of the proposed amendments would allow for off-site parking on the street or in other lots, like the lots of private swimming pools, which are typically open during the summer but closed during most of the school year. County staff offered the example of Ashlawn’s ongoing shared parking agreement with the Dominion Hills Pool.
Residents who live close to the affected schools haven’t all been supportive of the measure considering it would force more cars into neighborhood streets.
“We are having some push back from neighbors, but very few of our schools provide the number of spaces currently required under this ordinance,” Chadwick said.
The ordinance is not retroactive, so schools already in existence would not have to suddenly rework their parking situation; only new schools, such as at Williamsburg, or school expansions, such as Ashlawn, need to comply.
The changes would also alter the definition of “design capacity.” The new parking proposal suggests allotting one teacher parking spot for every 7.5 students, and one visitor spot for every 40 students.
“We’re very much in favor of the plan and the change and we’ve worked with them [the county] all the way. We really need to get this change approved so we can move forward with the Ashlawn campus and Williamsburg site,” Chadwick said. “This is all good from our point of view. I know it’s a bit complicated, but it actually makes sense.”
Similar parking issues have been identified with the county’s planned aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park. That prompted County Manager Barbara Donnellan to ask staff to examine not only regulations covering school parking, but county recreational facilities as well. As with the schools, parking demand at the aquatics center site was deemed lower than the existing requirements in the Zoning Ordinance.
While some of the amendments deal specifically with parking either at schools or recreational facilities, there are also general provisions covering both categories. County staff recommends that one of the general principles should be to base parking requirements on average daily use and not peak facility uses. Additionally, it recommends sites be examined individually to determine parking needs instead of forcing all facilities to conform to the same regulations. Such a recommendation would be fulfilled by the proposed amendment allowing the County Board to grant special parking exceptions, which it currently cannot do.
The public hearing with the Planning Commission is scheduled for February 11 and the one with the County Board is scheduled for February 23.
(Updated on 11/19/12) With partial bond funding for the planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility approved by Arlington voters, the county is continuing to move forward with the design — and ultimately the construction — of the center.
Located north of Crystal City, just off of I-395, the facility will feature a 50 meter by 25 yard fitness and competition pool, a family leisure pool, a hot water therapy pool, a “teaching pool,” and a “free-form water play area that will… have a lazy river, slides, play features, and a zero-depth ‘beach’ entry.” There will also be an indoor cardiovascular and weight training fitness center, a community use space, child care, locker rooms and, in a planned second phase of construction, an “indoor track, large multi-activity center and various court spaces.”
Renderings, above and below, show the current designs for the facility, which will have its own surface parking lot, accessible via Long Bridge Drive.
The design of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility is expected to be completed in April 2013, according to Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation planner Erik Beach. The county will then put the project out for bid, with the goal of beginning construction in the early fall of 2013.
All told, the design and construction of the first phase of the center is expected to cost around $80 million, based on figures in the latest Capital Improvement Plan. There is no cost estimate for the second phase of the center, Beach said. Earlier, Beach erroneously quoted a figure of $115.6 million for the design and construction of both phases of the aquatics center, but said on Nov. 19 that his quote included the cost of building Long Bridge Park itself instead of the the second phase of the aquatics center.
Funding for the aquatics center is expected to come from public and private sources, including $42.5 million from this year’s park bond and $20 million from anticipated developer contributions.
Green Party Outperforms Past Results — By pulling in 12.4 percent of the vote for County Board, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement roughly doubled the percentage of the vote Green candidates have typically received during past County Board races. The question now is can the Greens get that percentage even higher next time by better identifying who is voting for the party’s candidates? [Sun Gazette]
Miss Saigon Coming to Signature Theater — Signature Theater has secured the rights to the well known musical Miss Saigon, and will open its 2013-2014 season with a version of the production. It will be the first time a theater company in the D.C. area has taken on the show in 15 years. [Variety]
Ballot Wording Angers Aquatics Center Opponents — Voters passed all four bond referenda on the Arlington ballot on Tuesday, including one for a park bond that funds the proposed $79 million Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center. Opponents of the facility, however, say the measure only passed due to vague wording on the ballot which stated that the bond was for “various capital projects for local parks and recreation, and land acquisition for parks and open space.” [Washington Examiner]
ABBIE Voting Ends Today — Today is the final day to cast your votes for Arlington’s best businesses. The businesses in 17 categories were nominated by residents and winners are determined by popular vote. ABBIE winners will be announced at the County Board meeting on November 27.
Disclosure: The ABBIE Awards/Arlington Economic Development is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Committee Debates Aquatics Center — Arlington’s Committee of 100 debated the merits of the planned $79 million Long Bridge Park aquatics and fitness center last night. A park bond that would help fund the center is on the Nov. 6 ballot. [Sun Gazette]
Marymount University and Diversity — WUSA 9′s Peggy Fox profiles Marymount University, which she says is one of the “most diverse regional universities” despite a “race blind” admissions process. Instead of considering race during the admissions process, the university instead actively encourages minority students to apply. The U.S. Supreme Court will soon consider a case that challenges the legality of affirmative action, which allows race and ethnicity to be considered in school admissions processes. [WUSA 9]
Construction at Hayes Park — Due to construction behind the tennis courts at Hayes Park (1516 N. Lincoln Street), the park’s parking lot will be closed from 7:00 a.m. today to about 2:00 p.m. [Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association]