On Tuesday the Arlington County Board charged County Manager Barbara Donnellan — and, after June, interim County Manager Mark Schwartz — with undertaking a broad public input process and coming back with recommendations for the aquatics center and the second phase of the Long Bridge Park project in January 2016.
The Board that hears the recommendations and moves forward with the park’s second phase of construction will lack the current chair and vice chair, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, who are retiring at the end of the year.
“A lot has changed in Arlington in the years since we began plans to develop Long Bridge Park,” Donnellan said in a press release. “Given budget realities and the changing needs of our community, it makes sense to broadly engage the community in a thoughtful look at options to determine the best path forward.”
The new proposal figures to be significantly scaled down from the previous plans, which were put on hold when construction bids came in well over the project’s $79.2 million budget. Arlington had hoped it could receive funding if the aquatics center were used in the D.C. Olympics in 2024, but the city lost the bid to Boston last year.
With a community facilities study fully under way, reshaping the transit future of Columbia Pike and Crystal City and other efforts, County Board member Vihstadt said “we have a lot on our plate this year” and asked Donnellan if she feels county staff can manage taking on another initiative.
“I think it would irresponsible not to give it one more shot this year,” Donnellan said. “This is a brownfield we have the opportunity to bring forward into a wonderful asset for the community, and I don’t want to lose this opportunity.”
The Board asked if Donnellan could bring forward recommendations by November or December, but Donnellan pushed for January as a timetable.
“I hope it doesn’t drag on forever,” Tejada said.
While it may be scaling back its ambitions, Arlington still has $64 million earmarked for Long Bridge Park. County voters approved $44 million in bond funding toward the park, and developers have chipped in another $20 million as community benefits.
Phase I of the park’s construction is already finished, with turf fields, parking, an esplanade and a rain garden. Arlington has to date spent about $15 million of its $79.2 million budget for Phase II on various work, including rebuilding Long Bridge Drive, engineering services, utilities and soil work.
The outreach process for the park will begin next month, with a “reconstituted” Long Bridge Park Advisory Committee, public surveys and community meetings. The county is also seeking partnerships and/or sponsorships, hoping business interests or other entities can inject more funds into the project.
Arlington’s support of the bid appears based largely around its currently-stalled plans to build an Olympic-quality aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park, which Arlington expects to be a candidate for the location of the swimming and diving events if D.C. is chosen as the host city.
“Back in June, when we suspended construction plans for Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park, which will include the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, we noted that we expected the park to be part of the plan for bringing the Olympics to the Washington Region,” Fisette said in a press release. “That is still our hope. We believe that Long Bridge could be a great venue for Olympic swimming events.”
The group that will be leading D.C.’s bid to host the Olympics was also announced this morning. The group, called Washington 2024 will be led by Chairman and CEO Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and former board chairman of George Washington. The board includes Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who will serve as vice chairman, Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, chef José Andrés, former National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.
“This is about bringing the world to Washington and bringing Washington to the world,” Leonsis said in a press release. “The idea of fostering unity could leave, for the whole of mankind, the greatest Olympics legacy ever. Only Washington could do this.”
D.C. is under consideration by the United States Olympic Committee to be its chosen city for the International Olympics Committee. D.C. is one of four American finalist cities, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The United States has not hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The 2016 games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2020 games will be held in Tokyo.
“I speak for the County Board when I say that the Olympics could be a great thing for this region and for Arlington,” Fisette said. “We agree with Washington 2024 that this is an historic opportunity for our region to be part of the Olympic Movement.”
Several roads in Arlington, including some major arteries, will be closed to drivers for Independence Day celebrations tomorrow.
Memorial Bridge and Memorial Circle will be closed all day, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. From 1:00 to 11:00 p.m., Marshall Drive will be closed from Route 110 to N. Meade Street, and Meade Street will be closed from Marshall Drive to 14th Street N.
The following closures are also planned in Arlington.
From 3:00 to 11:00 p.m.:
- N. Meade Street from Marshall Drive to Route 50
- Eastbound N. Fairfax Drive from N. Pierce Street to N. Fort Myer Drive
- The exit ramps from Route 50 to N. Lynn and Meade Streets in Rosslyn
- Long Bridge Drive from Boundary Channel Drive to 10th Street S.
From 8:30 to 11:00 p.m.:
- Eastbound Route 50 at N. Pershing Drive, with a detour at N. Barton Street or Washington Boulevard
- Columbia Pike between S. Orme Street and S. Joyce Street
- S. Joyce Street between Army Navy Drive and Columbia Pike
Sites in Arlington to view the National Mall fireworks include Long Bridge Park, the Air Force Memorial, Gateway Park, Gravelly Point, the Key Bridge, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the Pentagon Reservation and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Whipple Field.
Tomorrow at noon, at Whipple Field, members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Presidential Salute Battery will fire its ceremonial 50-gun salute in honor of the country’s independence. The salute will involve a cannon firing every five seconds for five minutes.
Arlington County officials urge attendees to use public transportation. The Orange Line’s Rosslyn Metro stop is approximately 5 blocks north of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Pentagon City Metro station is near the Air Force Memorial. Shuttle buses to Long Bridge Park from the Crystal City and Pentagon City Metro stations will be available.
ART buses 41 and 51 will run on Sunday schedules, but all other ART buses will not be running. The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, courts, community centers and libraries will be closed Friday. Trash and recycling collection will occur as scheduled, but parking across the county will not be enforced.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The event will run from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. and it includes more than just a great view across the Potomac River for the fireworks on the National Mall.
From 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., there will be free drop-in kickball, where players can jump in a game and play, and there will be a kickball home run derby at 7:00 p.m., all on Field 1. Other activities include face painting, balloon art, a moon bounce, cornhole, bocce ball, ring toss, ladder golf and duckpin bowling.
There will also be food trucks that should be familiar to Arlington diners, like Willie’s Po’Boy, The Big Cheese, DC Slices, Lemongrass and a Chick-Fil-A truck.
The fireworks will begin at 9:10 p.m., according to the National Park Service, and last for 17 minutes.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Arlington will not award a contract for construction of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, delaying the project for at least a year, the county announced this afternoon.
The decision to cancel the bids for the facility follows an effort by County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff to work with construction companies to “value engineer” the project and lower costs. The bids initially came in well above the level necessary to keep the aquatics center within its original $79 million projected cost. Even with cheaper furnishings and other cut corners, however, we’re told the revised cost estimate “got close but not close enough.”
With $42.5 million in bond funding and a $15 million developer contribution already in place, that puts the County Board in a position in which it must approve additional taxpayer funds, scale back the design of the facility, or seek private funding. For now, the county will seek private funds.
County Board Chair Jay Fisette said the aquatic’s center design resulted from an extensive community outreach process that took into account its location near the Potomac River, within view of I-395 and major D.C. monuments.
“This facility resulted from [a community needs assessment] and then took several years to design,” he said. “I still think that to fulfill that plan is the right way to go. But I understand that staying within the previous budget is also appropriate.”
Fisette said the county will now seek funding from a private entity. Possibilities include a corporate sponsorship and naming rights, working with a for-profit operator, or partnering with a university or other institution.
Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston is one such facility built by the county but operated by a rent-paying, for-profit entity. The fields at Long Bridge Park and Barcroft Baseball Field #6 are partially paid for under partnerships with Marymount University and George Washington University, respectively.
A corporate sponsor may be interested in the naming rights to the facility, especially given its high-visibility location. Fisette said he’d be open to having the facility known as the Under Armor or the Nike Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, among other potential sponsors.
“The goal is to identify any balance of funding beyond those already approved by the voters,” Fisette said. “This is an unusual and exceptional opportunity for someone who would like to have that visibility.”
What might make the opportunity more exceptional, according to county officials, is D.C’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Later this month, the United States Olympic Committee is expected to narrow down the list of U.S. cities being considered as an Olympic host. Should D.C. be on that list, it could give a boost to the effort to attract sponsorships, given that the new aquatics center is likely to be one of the facilities used for the games.
“We are under the impression that as they move forward with their bid, that this site is included in their plans,” according to Fisette.
The county will “aggressively pursue private funding support” over the next 6-8 months, Fisette said. Donnellan plans to report back to the County Board in mid-2015, prior to any additional bonds being sold. Should attempts to find private funds prove unsuccessful, the next steps for the facility are “yet to be determined.”
The county press release on the announcement, after the jump.
The following was sent in response to last week’s letter to the editor, “The Case for Long Bridge Park Phase 2.”
I am an Arlington resident and have been for 15 years. I would like to respond to Eric Cassel, President Friends of Long Bridge Park. First he makes the case that the target audience for this lavish facility is increasing in Arlington County. Target audience? Elementary school age children — I have lived in six states while I was growing up. In not one state was there a swimming facility for us to learn how to swim. How did this become a necessity for elementary school children? At what point did “we” decide that my elementary schooling when I was a child was lacking?
My parents took me to the YMCA to learn how to swim. We have one of those very close to the Pentagon City / Crystal City area. Why is it the tax payers responsibility to teach others children how to swim? Second, young urban professionals. We have gyms with pools in this area already. I belong to sport and health. The pool is rarely crowded. They can well afford to pay a gym membership. Again, why is it taxpayers responsibility to subsidize young urban professionals’ desire to swim? There are also the Arlington County high school pools that they are free to join at a great discount to them! Thirdly, the elderly. See my comments about the young professionals. In addition, not well-off elderly receive subsidizes from the County already. Why suddenly a “new need” for them to swim at taxpayer expense.
We already have Hayes Park for events of all sorts and a soccer field, basket ball courts, and tennis courts. Is this not enough? Why must the taxpayers now foot the bill for an overly expensive facility that supporters are attempting to portray as a requirement and entitlement?
To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters to the editor may be lightly edited for content and brevity.
News that rising cost estimates and construction bids have put the Long Bridge Park aquatics center in danger of being downsized or scrapped has been gleefully seized upon by critics of the planned facility this week.
With construction bids well exceeding the $80 million projected cost — of just the first phase of the aquatics and fitness center project, also referred to as Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park — critics says it’s too grand a project for Arlington County, with its eroding commercial tax base. However, supporters say it’s well worth the investment.
Here’s a Letter to the Editor from Eric Cassel, President of the Friends of Long Bridge Park organization.
Many facts about Phase 2 at Long Bridge Park have been forgotten in the past few weeks and as everyone takes a breath, it would be timely to restate the great need for the next phase and three of the reasons why it has been proposed.
1) Three major groups will use the pool and each group is projected to increase greatly in the coming years.
Elementary age children, local young adults and the elderly are the primary target audience for the Aquatics center. All three groups are projected to increase significantly in the next 20 years.
First, the schools have made a great case that elementary school students are already increasing and creating a demand for facilities. That means the number of small children who need a place to play and a location to learn to swim have and will increase. Having tons of elementary school kids ‘playing’ in the high school pools cannot happen. The two age groups have significantly different needs (for example water temperature) and significantly different type of pool needs. Thus the increasing demand from elementary students will not be able to be accommodated by the high school pools.
Second, in the Crystal City/Pentagon City/Rosslyn area the number of households is expected to increase in significantly more than the rest of the county. The increase in housing units near Metro stations is almost all condo/apartments. These units are very attractive to the Young Urban Adult population. To give everyone an idea the following table shows the dramatic increase in housing units near Long Bridge Park:
How much additional time can the local schools schedule in the high school pools for this additional young adult activity? Or is the county going to ignore the recreational needs of young adults?
Lastly, the Center will also provide aquatics and fitness facilities and times for the fast growing older adult population. Currently no facility in the county provides a lazy river for seniors to walk against the current. In addition, the classes for seniors are offered when the schools can provide time in their pools—not at other times that seniors would prefer and even at these restricted times, the few classes are waitlisted. Lastly there is no public therapy pool in the county for classes and health of seniors. Arlington County should provide these recreational and wellness facilities for seniors.
Thus, all three groups: elementary children, young adults and seniors are the target audiences for the facility.
2) Main Swimming Pools
The Arlington County Master plan specifically recommends that the park be developed and was based on a comprehensive and expert analysis of the physical assets and the demand for services. Instead of looking at just a few individuals’ anecdotal opinions, it is important to gather the facts, and look at the demand/supply balance. Expert data and research have shown the demand for swimming is significantly greater than the supply. Demand and supply studies, information from the county on demand for pool time and the class demand all show a supply/demand imbalance that Phase 2 has been planned to address.
As a result of this study and an impressive community input process with almost 100 public meetings, the proposed phases of Long Bridge Park were developed. These phases were designed to be complementary and increase the value of the park over time.
3) Outdoor Facilities at Long Bridge Park
One of the features of the park is the increased space for events, passive recreation and pedestrian/bike access to the Mt. Vernon trail. These outdoor features are part of the cost of the park and provide a significant increase in the facilities for the county.
The park will be the site of medium sized events, like ethnic festivals, sporting events and smaller local concerts. No place in the county will be able to hold such events with the ease that will be possible at Long Bridge Park. The site is being equipped for events by having outdoor electric outlets, additional bathrooms and physical support facilities.
The increased length of the esplanade will provide joggers, walkers and bikers with a longer, better views of the monuments, the airport, the trains and the Potomac River and more outdoor features. All of these outdoor features are part of the cost, upkeep and resources that the county should provide its residents. We cannot be a world-class community, without providing some basic outdoor recreation to our residents.
The three reasons for Phase 2 are:
- The target populations are increasing and currently underserved,
- The demand for the main swimming pools has been shown to be greater than the supply,
- The outdoor facilities provide needed recreation and open space
The next phase of Long Bridge Park is necessary to fulfill Open Space Master Plan and to offer needed recreational, fitness and wellness needs for the full range of populations and ages in Arlington County.
President, Friends of Long Bridge Park
To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected].
With operating costs projected at twice the original estimates, and construction bids “significantly higher” than anticipated, it may be a case of downsize or die for the proposed Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility.
The project, which was at one point supposed to be under construction by now, is on hold as a result of contractor bids well exceeding the $79.3 million budgeted for the first phase of construction. The county has yet to reveal exactly how high the bids were.
Last night, meanwhile, Arlington County officially acknowledged that a 2012 estimate of the facility’s operating deficit — $1.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020 — has doubled to an annual deficit of $3.8 million. That excludes the cost of running the existing facilities at Long Bridge Park.
After pausing the project, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan instructed her staff to analyze the rising costs of the facility and recommend a course of action. That course of action may be to downsize the county’s lofty ambitions for the “world-class” facility, push it back until economic conditions improve, or scrap it altogether.
Speaking at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, County Board member Mary Hynes left open all possibilities.
“We’re in the process of trying to figure out what the costs will be should the Board decide to move forward on the project at this time,” she said. Speaking to ARLnow.com, Hynes said she would not support spending additional money on the facility at a time when capital funding is urgently needed to increase school capacity.
“We have a certain amount of money set aside for this, we don’t have more than that,” she said. “We have been building pretty significantly for the last 20 years, we’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in schools. We’ve done fire stations, we’ve done other things. We have a 10 percent self-imposed debt limit and we’ve been bumping around in the 9’s.”
“The only way you get more debt capacity is to raise taxes,” she continued. “I guess that’s a choice that some people would make, that’s not a choice I’d make for a swimming pool.”
Scrapping the facility altogether could prove difficult. Voters have already approved a $42.5 million parks bond for the facility and Vornado has committed $15 million as part of the PenPlace development.
Jay Fisette, a stalwart supporter of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, says nearly a decade was spent on the center’s design in order to address a community need. Noting that the design of the facility was “incredibly energy efficient,” perhaps driving up costs, Fisette said he’s hoping that those bidding on the project will be swayed to lower their bids and “value engineer” some savings.
“It’s certainly my hope that there’s some ability to look at the bids and talk to the bidders… and narrow that gap,” he said. “The park and the facility design itself came out of a community needs assessment. It was supported by 64 percent of the voters just 14 months ago. I hope we can responsibly move forward.”
Blaming earlier reports that the projected operating costs had increased up to 350 percent on “a complete error” by county staff, Fisette said there are numerous misconceptions about the costs. He added that earlier “exaggerations” about the exact extent of the cost increases have been “celebrated by longtime opponents of the facility.”
Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan announced late Friday afternoon that construction bids for the first phase of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center came in “significantly higher” than the $79.3 million projected cost. As a result, Donnellan says she will not be recommending a construction contract for County Board approval in early 2014, as planned.
Donnellan said it was “disappointing” that the bids far exceeded the estimate provided by its architect, which was in turn backed up by a third-party firm.
“The high bids were particularly disappointing because the County had done extensive due diligence to ensure that the estimate was sound and within the available budget,” she said in a statement. “We took an additional step of contracting separately with an engineering firm to review design and construction documents and provide independent third party cost estimates.”
“Once staff concludes its assessment of the bids and our architects’ estimates, I will present options to the County Board for next steps,” she continued. “In the months ahead, the County Board and the community will continue their careful consideration of the costs and benefits of building and operating this facility as we shape the FY 2015 Budget and the Capital Improvement Program.”
Reached by phone Friday evening, Donnellan told ARLnow.com that she expects to receive recommendations from county staff as early as February. She declined to speculate about the recommendation, saying that there’s significant work and analysis left to be done by staff.
Donnellan also declined to specify how many bids were received and how much higher those bids were than the estimate, citing legal constraints.
News of the delay in the project comes just a month after news that the aquatics center’s operating deficit would be 2 to 4 times that of original estimates. Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki says the county should consider scrapping the project altogether.
“This project has been mishandled by the County Board almost from the beginning,” he said. “With the pressures on other parts of the county and school budgets and the stagnation of commercial real estate values, it might well be time to moth ball the Long Bridge aquatics facility and simply leave the current park as-is.”
Construction bids received by the county for the project were technically for “Phase 2” of Long Bridge Park, which encompasses both the initial phase of the aquatics center and minor improvements to the park itself, including “public gathering areas, trails, public art, interpretive signs, and walkways.” Much of the funding for the projected cost of Phase 2 has already been secured, including $42.5 million from a parks bond approved in 2012 and $15 million from Vornado as part of the PenPlace development.
A Phase 3A and 3B, for other park improvements, are also planned, as is a Phase 4, which would complete the Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility by adding a large “multiple activity center,” additional fitness space, racquetball and squash courts, a climbing wall, an elevated jogging trail, rental meeting rooms and a 547-space underground parking garage.
“Long Bridge Park is an ambitious project for our community, an infrastructure investment that is transforming a one-time industrial wasteland from a brownfield to an iconic gateway on the Potomac,” Donnellan said in her statement. “It will provide multiple recreational opportunities for our growing population and for future generations.”
Now, however, the ongoing costs of the center are projected to be even higher than anticipated.
“What had been an expected annual operating deficit of $1 million to $1.3 million has now ballooned to more than $4 million, according to projections included in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s updated budget forecast,” the Sun Gazette reported on Monday.
This news comes at a time when the county is facing a potential $24 million budget gap. Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki, who previously declared that the aquatics center could turn out to be “Artisphere on steroids,” said that the county would be better served to use its funds for other priorities.
Still, the aquatics center has its supporters, like the group Friends of Long Bridge Park, which has said it’s needed because “the large demand for aquatic activities can’t be met by… high school pools, which have limited public hours and space, and were designed for instruction, not a wide range of community needs.”
The Friends of Long Bridge Park also argue that other aquatics centers can cover most of their operating costs through memberships and rentals. The county itself, meanwhile, cautions that the latest projects are preliminary in nature.
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.
Arlington County is preparing to complete the long-awaited reconstruction of Long Bridge Drive, but first the County Board needs to approve a request for an additional $750,000 for the project.
The transformation of the former Old Jefferson Davis Highway involves converting approximately 2,750 feet of pockmarked roadway — from 12th Street S. to just south of Boundary Channel Drive — into what’s described as a safe, efficient multimodal transportation corridor. Improvements include bicycle lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters, landscaped medians, new gutters and a drainage system.
Despite the fact that Long Bridge Park opened in November 2011, Long Bridge Drive remains a major construction zone.
A county staff report points to trouble with utility companies as the cause for delays. A few years ago the utilities were informed of the need to move utility lines into a common duct bank, mostly at their own expenses. The duct bank was deemed necessary in order to make room for a storm drainage system because no such system had previously existed there. Utility work began in September 2010 and didn’t wrap up until spring of this year.
The county’s contractor, Donohoe Construction Company, has had to stop and re-start work on the storm drainage system a number of times while waiting for the other parties involved to complete their portions of the project. The county staff report says the utility companies caused further delays by making placement errors during installation of the duct, requiring adjustments.
The additional $750,000 in funding is necessary, according to the staff report, “due to the increased time to complete the road reconstruction and due to the County’s mitigation measures to resolve conflicts from incorrect utility installations and lastly,
due to cost escalation caused by the delays and the increased time to complete the roadway.”
If the County Board approves the funding at its meeting on Saturday (July 13), it will bring the cost of the road construction portion of Donohoe’s contract to about $7.5 million. (Factoring in various costs associated with construction of the park itself, Donohoe’s total contract award will be $27.8 million.)
County staff recommends the Board approve the funding request.
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.”