It’s the First Day of Spring — At 7:02 this morning, astronomical winter ended and spring officially began. Spring also means longer days. Currently, we’re gaining about two and a half minutes of daylight per day. [Capital Weather Gang]
EFC Has Fullest Metro Parking Lot — East Falls Church has the fullest parking lot in the Metro system, with a 120 percent usage rate. Demand for the lot is only expected to increase when the Silver Line opens. [Washington Examiner]
Playground Coming to Long Bridge Park — The Arlington County Board yesterday approved $186,000 in funding for a new playground at Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City. [Sun Gazette]
La Tagliatella to Open in Shirlington — La Tagliatella, which is starting to wrap up work on its new restaurant in Clarendon, will be opening a second Arlington restaurant in the former Extra Virgin space in Shirlington. La Tagliatella is a global, European-based Italian restaurant chain. The Arlington restaurants will be the company’s third and fourth locations in the U.S. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Board Approves Neighborhood Projects — As expected, the County Board yesterday approved $2.5 million in funding for five Neighborhood Conservation projects. The funds will come from bonds approved by Arlington voters. [Arlington County]
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.
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.
Silver Line Could Shift Economic Development — As Metro’s Silver Line nears completion, there’s speculation it could prompt an economic development competition between Arlington and Fairfax County. Fairfax officials are already crediting the new line with bringing in at least one new business — Intelsat, an international satellite system provider. Gerald Gordon, the head of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, said the transformation of Tysons Corner will put it on a level playing field with the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as far as attracting businesses. [Sun Gazette]
Polar Bear Sports Registration — United Social Sports is expanding its typical offerings of “bar sports” — such as cornhole, shuffleboard and skeeball — to include Polar Bear soccer leagues this winter. The leagues are for die hard players who wish to continue playing outdoors throughout the winter on a soccer field at Long Bridge Park. Registration is available online for the league, which offers weekly games on Sundays or Tuesdays. Games start the week of January 13. [United Social Sports]
McDonnell Offers Budget Amendments — Governor Bob McDonnell appeared before Virginia’s General Assembly on Monday to pitch a series of both cuts and spending increases for the state’s two-year, $85 billion budget. The increases would ease the burden on cities and counties that have been dealing with substantial funding cuts in recent years, by about $45 million. McDonnell is still cautious due to Virginia’s potential to take a hit if Congress can’t come to an agreement to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff. [Associated Press]
(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.
No Sandbag Distribution in Arlington — Contrary to some rumors, Arlington County is not distributing sandbags to residents concerned about flooding. “Arlington County, fortunately, does not have significant river front areas that are subject to flooding (e.g., Georgetown, Old Town),” Arlington County Director of Communications Diana Sun told ARLnow.com this morning.” She said that county staff is “focused on the highest priorities.”
Long Bridge Drive Flooded — Long Bridge Drive, near Crystal City, has flooded as a result of rain overnight and is being closed to traffic by police. The flood-prone road is the only street that leads to the parking lots for Long Bridge Park.
Pentagon City Mall Closed — Updated at 10:45 a.m. — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will be closed today (Monday) due to Hurricane Sandy. Ballston Common Mall will be closing at 2:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Artisphere’s Per-Visitor Subsidy — Based on its new Fiscal Year 2012 year-end report, Artisphere required a taxpayer subsidy equivalent to $41.85 for each of the cultural center’s 55,607 visitors over the course of a year. [Sun Gazette]
Cuccinelli May Investigate Moran Video — The State Board of Elections has asked Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to investigate a video of Rep. Jim Moran’s son discussing possible voter fraud. Patrick Murray, Moran’s Republican challenger, said “we need to know that [our electoral process] has not been corrupted.” He also called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the video. The Arlington County Police Department is currently investigating the video, as well. [Washington Post, Murray for Congress]
High School Football Update — Yorktown High School remains undefeated (9-0) following this weekend’s high school football action. Wakefield High School remains winless (0-9). Washington-Lee chalked up a victory over the weekend and is now 5-4. [Sun Gazette]
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]
Civic Federation Endorses All Bonds — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted to endorse all four bonds on the Nov. 6 ballot. The Civic Federation voted by a narrow 26-22 margin to support the $50.5 million parks and recreation bond, which includes more than $40 million for a new aquatics center at Long Brige Park. [Sun Gazette]
Boxing Match Coming to Ft. Myer — A boxing match will be held at the Smith Gymnasium on Joint Base Myer/Henderson Hall on Saturday. The match will feature a number of local boxers, including heavyweight Duane Mobley and lightweight Terron “The Kid” Grant. Tickets are $30 and doors open at 6:00 p.m. [Boxing Along the Beltway, JBMHH]
Library Sets New Summer Reading Record — Arlington Public Library’s summer reading program set another participation record this year. According to the library, 7,415 kids registered for the program and some 30,000 books throughout the course of the summer.
Confederate ‘Gray Ghost’ Lived in Arlington — In a bit of local Civil War lore, columnist Charlie Clark and Arlington historian Kathryn Holt Springston recount how the legendary Confederate raider John S. Mosby lived in Arlington later in life. [Falls Church News-Press]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
The Arlington County Board approved a 10-year, $2.4 billion Capital Improvement Program (CIP) at its meeting on Saturday (July 21). The money will go toward a variety of projects ranging from building new schools to a new aquatics center to investing in streetcar plans.
“This CIP is both a financially sustainable plan that strikes a balance between maintaining our existing infrastructure and making strategic investments that will meet the needs of our growing community, and a vision for the future,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Our sound, forward-looking financial plan will help maintain the County’s triple-Aaa bond ratings.”
One area receiving a funding boost is infrastructure, including nearly $13.2 million for repaving many of the county’s roads. While residents report being pleased overall with the county’s services, according to the 2012 Resident Satisfaction Survey, street maintenance is a category listed as needing much improvement.
“Our streets, parks, facilities, water system and technology all need on-going maintenance and upgrades if we are to continue to provide the high-quality services that our community expects and that attract employers and visitors to Arlington,” Hynes said.
The bulk of the CIP is funded through general obligation bonds, which will be put to voters on the November 6 ballot. There will be four referenda totaling more than $153 million, in the categories of Metro and Transportation, Local Parks and Recreation, Community Infrastructure and Arlington Public Schools.
A significant portion of the allotted money in the parks referendum – $42.5 million – would go toward the construction of an aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park.
The Columbia Pike streetcar would also get funding under the CIP, pending tonight’s County Board vote on approving the streetcar plan. Because the bulk for the $250 million streetcar project would be funded through means other than bonds, it is not included in a referendum. Arlington will be responsible for 80 percent of project costs, while Fairfax County will be on the hook for the other 20 percent. Of Arlington’s $200 million tab, the county hopes to obtain $92.7 million in federal and state funding.
“The Board also believes, after years of conversation with the community, that strategic investments in our transit system and our recreational opportunities – providing a streetcar system and an aquatics and recreation facility at Long Bridge Park — will well serve generations of Arlingtonians to come,” Hynes said.
The board voted to amend the CIP to accelerate phase three of the Long Bridge Park project, which includes building a playground at the park. An amendment would reallocate $1.4 million for the playground, which was originally slated to be part of the 2016 planned bond referendum. Board member Walter Tejada was the lone dissenter, questioning why the money would be put toward a playground instead of a facility he says many people have asked him about — an indoor soccer facility.
“There’s an objection on the part of thousands of Arlingtonians, that our plans still don’t address all the aspirations that people have expressed. In particular in the case of indoor soccer,” Tejada said. “I would say that this language falls short and for those reasons I’m not going to support it.”
Hynes countered that the playground holds a far smaller price tag than an indoor soccer facility would, making it easier to fund.
“There are many aspirations in this community by many people. This is about whether we can accelerate a very small, relatively inexpensive thing to meet a need,” said Hynes. “A brand new building for indoor soccer is an $80 million expenditure. To rearrange this ten year plan to accommodate that would require us to make other priority choices.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the CIP, which covers FY 2013-2022. The move from a six-year to a 10-year plan is intended to allow for better planning and financing of multi-year projects. The CIP will be updated every two years.
A petition from the Friends of Long Bridge Park containing more than 2,400 signatures has made its way to the County Board, asking for funding to construct the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Center.
The County Board is scheduled to vote on Saturday (July 21) on four referenda to be included on the November 6 ballot. The Local Parks and Recreation referendum includes $42.5 million for the proposed aquatics center. That would cover a portion of the total cost, which is estimated at more than $70 million.
The aquatics center has been a hot topic, and generated much discussion at a Capital Improvement Plan hearing last month. Opponents say the facility would put too much of a long-term financial burden on the county and on taxpayers. Others say the funds should instead go toward more essential projects such as repairing infrastructure.
One high profile supporter of the aquatics center is Arlington native Tom Dolan, winner of two Olympic gold medals in swimming. He recently wrote an email to the Board emphasizing the importance of this type of facility in the county, highlighting the community programming and revenue benefits to the county.
“Arlington has been waiting a long time for a facility of this magnitude,” said Dolan.
In addition to the aquatics center, the petition requests funding to complete other planned developments at Long Bridge Park over the next 10 years. Those include a fourth synthetic turf sports field and a pedestrian/bicycle bridge over the George Washington Memorial Parkway to the Mount Vernon Trail.
Petitioners note that the park plans were based on a county-wide recreational assessment in 2004, showing unmet demand for aquatics, outdoor field sports and recreation such as nature walks. They say the improvements and additions at Long Bridge Park would fill these demands by providing a place for people of all ages to enjoy events and fitness opportunities.
“People who visit the first phase of the park are amazed by the transformation of a former brownfield into healthy green space,” said Eric Cassel, Friends of Long Bridge Park board member. “They want to see and enjoy its full potential as soon as possible.”
The seventh annual Safe at Home! Kickball Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 4 in Arlington.
Since 2006, the event has benefited the Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless. The non-profit organization provides transitional housing for homeless families in Northern Virginia.
The event will be held from from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City. Previously, the tournament was held at Arlington’s Barcroft Park.
Over the last six years, the competition has nearly tripled in size to 25 teams and 375 players. Organizers say they expect this year to be the biggest yet.
The all-day charity event is open to the public. For spectators, there will be music, free parking, face painting, and food from a number of local vendors. Raffle prizes will be presented, and a misting tent and bottled water will be available.
For those who want to play, teams are registered by their captain. The cost for a 10-to-15 member team is $750, and each member will receive a Safe at Home! T-shirt.
Prizes will be awarded to the top two teams, as well as two MVPs. The event still needs volunteers for setting and cleaning up, as well as raffle donations. Anyone seeking more information is asked to contact email@example.com.
Photo via Safe at Home Kickball Tournament
Although Sunday’s storms didn’t cause the widespread damage Arlington experienced from the June 29 “derecho” storm, the effects are still being felt in parts of the county.
Long Bridge Drive between S. 12th Street and I-395 is completely closed due to flooding. The parking lot at Long Bridge Park is also blocked.
A county public works crew is on the scene dealing with the high water.
Drivers are advised to avoid any flooded areas they may encounter. Do not to attempt to maneuver through standing water, because it could be much higher than it initially appears.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s proposed FY 2013-2022 CIP describes the center as a “one-of-a-kind recreational, fitness, and competition asset [that] will provide long-term value to our community and attract people regionally to the unique combination of assets that is Arlington — to work, to play, to live.”
While supporters say Arlington County “can afford… world-class facilities” like the aquatics center (see statement from Nathaniel Giddings, after the jump), detractors — like fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki and GOP County Board candidate Matt Wavro — say that the county actually can’t afford such “vanity projects.”
Kubicki, chair of the Arlington County Civic Federation’s Revenues and Expenditures Committee, said in a statement (excerpt below) that the aquatics center will impose a long-term fiscal burden on taxpayers, who are already faced with a rising county budget.
Donnellan has proposed including $42.5 million worth of the aquatic center’s $70+ million cost included in a larger park bond, to be considered by county voters in November. The Civic Federation has called for the aquatics center to appear on the ballot as a separate bond item.
Kubicki made the following personal remarks to the County Board at Tuesday’s hearing.
The CIP projects 3% annual revenue growth for FY14 through 16….
Combining just the operating costs for new items such as Arlington Mill ($3.3M) and the Silver Line (our first year cost is $1.7M), and increased debt service costs, our FY14 budget already needs over $14M in growth – before increasing anything.
Funding the proposed CIP will necessitate major revenue growth, well over 3%, and unlike the past two fiscal years, where the burden of increased spending fell mostly on our commercial sector, the next several years will more heavily fall on homeowners. Commercial assessments are very unlikely to jump a third straight year.
There is one prime candidate for controlling some of this – the Long Bridge pools building, with its $73M price tag.
With our admittedly deteriorating infrastructure, and pressing school capital & operating needs if enrollment growth continues, coupled with uncertain future revenues and the over $7M in annual operating subsidies for the two streetcar lines upcoming, is Long Bridge really a priority? Can it seriously be called a “need”?
Combining proposed debt service, including the $20M interim non-bond borrowing, with its projected operating subsidy, Long Bridge’s annual cost is nearly $7M per year. That’s over one cent on the current tax rate- for one single building, that most residents will never use, and that many would have trouble finding, even if you gave them a map.
The Long Bridge project raises the term “vanity project” to a new level, and fiscally has the potential to be the Artisphere on steroids.
If Long Bridge is on the fall ballot, it should be as a separate, stand-alone referendum, with nothing else attached to it, as the Civic Federation strongly recommended to you. The fiscal ramifications of this project deserve separate discussion and a separate vote.
Matt Wavro, Republican candidate for County Board, said that the funds proposed for the aquatics center should instead be used for neighborhood projects and for the maintenance of existing recreational facilities. (Excerpt of his remarks, after the jump.)
CivFed Wants Separate Vote on Aquatics Center – The Arlington County Civic Federation would like the County Board to make the $42.5 million Long Bridge Park aquatics center project a standalone bond vote in November. County Manager Barbara Donnellan had proposed that that the project be included in a larger park bond that will go to Arlington voter on Nov. 6. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Garbage Survey — The Arlington County Solid Waste Bureau is seeking feedback on its trash and recycling collection services. From an email: “The County would like your input on trash and recycling services. We invite you to take this ten minute Trash and Recycling Survey and help us determine the best way to meet the County’s waste management needs. Results will be used to assess our current services and offerings.” [Survey Monkey]
Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Tomorrow — The Arlington County Democratic Committee will hold its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner tomorrow (Friday). The keynote speaker at the event is former Virginia First Lady Anne Holton, wife of current U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine. Tickets to the event, held at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel in Ballston, are $125. [Arlington Democrats]