That’s the message from the two candidates for County Board, incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze, in response to a questionnaire from the Arlington Parks Coalition.
Both Vihstadt and Howze said that Arlington needs more parkland and recreational space to meet existing needs, let alone future demands. Both said they would support the acquisition of new parkland by Arlington County.
In addition, Vihstadt floated a number of specific ideas, like “building up rather than out, in schools and public facilities construction and additions to maximize green space,” and “examining the feasibility of air rights over I-66 in Rosslyn and East Falls Church for fields development.”
On the topic of the “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing initiative, both candidates rejected the idea of using parkland for affordable housing, schools or other purposes.
Howze, however, kept the door open to potentially redeveloping existing recreational facilities to include housing. His response to the Parks Coalition:
I do not support the development of existing parkland for other purposes. Parks are a public good that are available to all members of the community and it is important that we preserve these public spaces.
When current recreational facilities are renovated or rebuilt, I believe it is appropriate to engage in a community conversation about potential uses. For example, could pre-K and on-site childcare be integrated into a site – making it easier for parents to use a facility? Could housing for seniors be integrated on a site to make recreational amenities and wellness activities more accessible to them? There is no one size fits all answer to these questions – but by engaging the community I am confident that the appropriate solutions will emerge. In fact, it is this confidence in our community that led me to call earlier this year for a broad public process to bring people together to work towards solutions to address school overcrowding, park needs, affordable housing, and public safety infrastructure. By bringing the community together we can emerge with a broader consensus for how to move forward in protecting our parks – while meeting other important community needs in schools, recreational, housing and infrastructure.
Vihstadt said Arlington should find creative solutions for preserving affordable housing and building more school capacity that do not require the loss of parkland.
In my view, Arlington’s 149 parks and our many community/recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good” and should be preserved for their intended purpose and adequately maintained. It is both counterintuitive and counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or any other non-parks and recreation-related development on our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites, and I will work and vote to keep our green space green. As we add ever more population and density to our County, we must more carefully assess how our development decisions are impacting the diversity and character of our neighborhoods and our public parks, as well as our schools and infrastructure. We must also endeavor to ensure that our core services, including our parks and recreation resources, keep pace with our population growth. Clearly, our County faces challenges in ensuring adequate school capacity and preserving our affordable housing stock, but I believe we also possess the resources and creativity to address these challenges while preserving and, indeed, enhancing, our parkland and recreational resources, including sports fields.
On a related note, I believe that our regional parks and nature centers should remain substantially as they are, absent community-driven upgrades and maintenance improvements.
Terri Armao, the chair of the Green Committee for the Penrose Neighborhood Association, sent a letter to the civic association saying neighbors have called her to complain that “childcare workers or nannies [are] allowing toddlers to pee and poop” by the tree line on the edge of the park.
In an email to ARLnow.com, Armao said the excrement is a health and environmental hazard, adding that if it continues it might put residents at risk for cholera.
“We all understand an occasional accident but what was described to me was routine and by many nannies/kids,” Armao said. “I walk my dog there and pick-up after the dog. So I would expect the same courtesy. In addition, there are many areas in the park natural area, where this is happening that have standing water after rain. This to me is a health hazard in the making.”
Below is the letter Armao sent to the civic association:
This morning I heard from two people who have witnessed childcare workers or nannies allowing toddlers to pee and poop in Penrose Park in the tree line of the natural area. This is reported to be an ongoing and frequent problem.
Parents if you are employing nannies please tell them not to allow this. Our parks are not toilets. Please use diapers or go home if this need arises.
I spoke with a couple of parents who also use the park and they were as surprised and disgusted as I am. This is a health hazard. I have notified the county but please call Park Manager Kurt Louis at 703-228-7754 or the police if you see this happening.
Dog walkers this goes for you too. If your dog roams into this area the dog poop still needs to be picked up. A tributary of Long Branch stream runs directly under the park, this is our drinking water.
Chair, Penrose Green Committee
Penrose Neighborhood Association
Photo via Google Maps
The Arlington County Board has approved a concept for two acres of open place on the planned PenPlace development in Pentagon City.
The plan calls for three open spaces: two small parks along planned 10th and 12th Street S. connections between S. Fern and Eads Streets and a “Central Green” in the middle of the large development. The Central Green is designed to allow for events like outdoor movies and concerts, according to the space’s designer, and will include a cafe in the northeast corner.
The concept was presented to the County Board during its Thursday meeting last week after three community meetings. The PenPlace development was approved by the County Board last September, with the condition that a concept for the open space be brought back within a year.
The PenPlace development, when completed, is planned to have five buildings, each between 16 and 22 stories tall, that include 1.8 million square feet of office space and a 300-room hotel. It will be adjacent to a planned streetcar station on 12th Street.
As part of the approval, the developer, Vornado/Charles E. Smith, agreed to build about two acres of public space as a component of the community benefit package required for bonus density.
“I think the overarching goal here, that we’ve shared with the public, is to create a vibrant urban space in the heart of Pentagon City,” said Hallie Boyce, a design partner with Olin Landscape Architects, which designed the open space, “that will not only allow people to enjoy the great outdoors but also to enjoy each other’s company, and to really create a sense of community here in Pentagon City.”
In addition, Vornado plans to include up to 20,000 square feet of community-oriented space in the building at the corner of the planned 10th Street and S. Eads Street intersection. According to Vornado’s presentation to the County Board, the space could be used for educational use or a university, a business incubator, a library or community center, or large entertainment use, such as a bowling alley, movie theater or performance venue.
The concept was submitted and approved as a “base case,” which will now operate as a guiding principle for when the buildings come back before the Board for a full site plan approval. According to Vornado Senior Vice President and Director of Development Mitch Bonanno, there is still no timeline for any construction.
PenPlace was met with numerous resident objections when it first came before the County Board last year. Four speakers came to Thursday’s meeting in protest of a provision that allows Vornado additional density on the site, saying they felt they were caught unaware after the community meetings. The base case includes a provision that, if the open space costs more than the staff’s estimate of $2.65 million, Vornado is entitled to added density.
“The citizen participants were under the mistaken impression that the outdoor space improvements were part of the extremely generous deal Vornado already got,” Pentagon City resident Elizabeth Wirick said. “Those who took part in the workshops feel betrayed. This is a concept, not a plan, we don’t have any data on how much it’s going to cost other than staff estimates, and with regards to staff estimates, I’ll keep it short. Two words: aquatics center.”
(Vornado agreed to partially fund the proposed Long Bridge Park aquatics center project as part of PenPlace’s initial phased development approval. The aquatics center is now stalled after construction bids came in well above staff estimates.)
The motion passed just before midnight, 3-1, with Board member John Vihstadt dissenting and Board member Libby Garvey absent.
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) The Arlington County Board approved the next step in building a new elementary school in South Arlington by commissioning a working group to study land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
The working group, the members of which have not yet been announced, will first meet in September and take five months to study the feasibility of building an elementary school adjacent to the middle school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road.
The site is the preferred choice of Arlington’s School Board, which will ask county taxpayers for upwards of $50 million for the school as part of its $106 million referendum package on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“Our County is desirable and growing, and more students are entering our school system,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We need to work together to find creative ways to meet this challenge. This working group will bring together community members, Schools, and County staff for a robust consideration of whether to use a portion of the Thomas Jefferson site for a new elementary school.”
The working group — to be comprised of members from surrounding civic associations and members of schools and county staff, advisory boards and commissions — is charged with returning to the County Board with a recommendation in January 2015. Its goals from the County Board include:
- Retaining the current wooded eastern end of “TJ Park” as is (area along the western portion of S. Irving Street and stretching west along Arlington Blvd.); maintain a cohesive park; ensure no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming.
- Considering the neighborhood impacts of traffic and parking and ensure safety of existing pedestrian walkways and bikeways.
- Ensuring that the community center would remain available for use.
- Ensuring the building massing is compatible with adjacent neighborhood.
The plan has given rise to a new group opposing building the school on parkland, the Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park. The group dressed in green and showed up a few dozen strong at the County Board’s Saturday meeting. The Board approved the working group in its meeting yesterday, but on Saturday, the group’s leader, Jim Presswood, spoke during the public comment period.
“TJ Park is Arlington’s central park and a wonderful resource that needs to be conserved,” he said. “We’re committed to enhancing our park and we’re hoping to be around for a while.”
Oakgrove Park (1606 N. Quincy Street) is slated to get a new entrance, a new trail and other features.
The park, at the southern edge of the Cherrydale neighborhood, has a bit of a visibility problem — it’s not very noticeable from street level. A new entry feature is designed to help, with an artificial, metal tree holding a sculpture of an owl and a sign that says “Oakgrove Park.”
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on a contract for $488,915 with a $48,891 contingency to construct the new entrance on 17th Street N. along with a new circular walking/jogging path on the park’s perimeter, benches, bleachers and bike racks.
The 3.51-acre park’s grass field is planned to be replaced in a separate project, and that work brings the total cost to Oakgrove Park improvements to about $680,000, paid for with 2012 and 2014 pay-as-you-go funds.
The new entrance will give park visitors increased access to the gazebo and “tot lot,” and will have improved ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessibility to the walking trail. There are several mature trees lining the perimeter of the park, and Arlington County Parks and Recreation staff said in their staff report that the trail was designed to have minimal impact to the existing trees.
Photo via Google Maps
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority to construct a bike park on the northern side of Columbia Pike near Arlington Mill Community Center. Dominion Power, which has an easement for its power lines, is also party to the agreement.
“The focus of the project is to install a bike park with a learning loop for beginning riders,” the county’s staff report states. “The park improvements will include site furnishings, sand play area, water bottle filler, bike repair station, plaza space and a paved bicycle path.”
The park was approved back in 2009 as part of the Neighborhood Conservation program. The project has “been on hold” as the county’s Department of Environmental Services realigned the trail to improve pedestrian safety and to accommodate streetscape improvements.
Staff has already solicited bids for the project. Once the County Board approves the licensing agreement, a separate proposal with the chosen bid is expected to go before the Board in the fall.
Photo via Google Maps
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) The future plans for the Ballston Common Mall include demolishing the Macy’s Furniture Store and parts of the current mall to build a 29-story residential tower and an open-air town center along Wilson Blvd, officials announced Monday night.
The 393-unit apartment building, at the corner of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, is projected to be completed by 2017, Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone revealed at the BID’s annual meeting last night. Leone said the redevelopment — including a revamp of the retail mix at the mall — will be crucial for the branding of Ballston, which is often closely associated with the increasingly run-down mall.
“The mall hasn’t quite been able to serve our public,” Leone said, noting the mall’s future is the main question she gets asked about the future of Ballston development. “The mall is going to ‘de-mall’ itself. The roof is coming off.”
The mall is owned and operated by Forest City, which purchased the Macy’s Furniture Store last September. Forest City spokesman Gary McManus told ARLnow.com at the time that the mall had planned retail space with more street access in Macy’s place, and those plans now include the residential tower.
The building is expected to have four floors of underground parking and two floors of retail space below the studio, one- and two-bedroom rental apartments. The apartment building and attached parking will have a separate entrance from the restaurants and remaining mall.
Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the main Macy’s store — which will fold in the furniture store on its ground floor — the Sport&Health Club and the Regal Cinemas will all remain in the closed-air section of the mall, which is being rebranded as “Ballston Center.”
Along Wilson Blvd, parts of the mall — which originally opened as the Parkington Shopping Center in 1951 before it was rebuilt and reopened as Ballston Common Mall in 1986 — will be torn down and replaced with an open-air, town center-like plaza. Demolition is expected to begin by late 2015.
“[Forest City] thought about what was going to have the highest impact,” Leone told ARLnow.com, saying the Ballston BID has been “on a very high level” helping to form plans for the mall’s redevelopment. “To make it a town center, this is life-altering for the people who live and work here.”
McManus said that the pedestrian bridge from the mall to the current National Science Foundation headquarters across the street is tentatively slated to be torn down — private conversations between Forest City and Arlington County Board members led the mall owner to remove it from the plans — but an agreement needs to be reached with the NSF building’s property owner before that can happen.
McManus also said that the retail mix in the mall will change, to become more restaurant and entertainment-oriented. It will be aimed at serving the immediate area, not as a mall that brings in most of its shoppers from other areas, despite the fact that it will have “some destination retail, too.”
“We don’t want to compete with Tysons or Pentagon City,” McManus said. “We’ve started this project before, but this time it’s got all the momentum behind it.”
In addition to the four-level, 580,000 square foot mall’s redevelopment, Leone announced plans for changes to public spaces expected this fall, like public art projects, Ballston-branded signs lining the streets and the new Fairfax Drive landscaping ARLnow.com reported on earlier this month.
Among the proposed projects is a redesigned Metro plaza, which Leone said she hopes will include an “interactive light installation” under the Metro canopy. The light installation is being designed in Amsterdam — it will track pedestrians’ movements underneath and project light based on that movement. The Metro plaza is also planned to include an small amphitheater and redesigned bus parking to remove some buses from N. Stuart Street. (more…)
The new temporary park at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Barton Street (2409 Clarendon Blvd) is now open.
The space, in the Courthouse neighborhood, is being billed as “a little oasis in the bustling urban corridor.” It features open green space and a “multi-use activity area” where residents are encouraged to “BYOG,” or “bring your own game.”
“The new open space has lawns and multi-use activity area that is perfect for bocce, cornhole, lawn bowling or just about anything a toddler can think up!” said Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Laura Barragan. “Lawn and gardens surround an inner plaza where there are colorful tables with umbrellas as well as uniquely designed seating for people to enjoy the outdoors.”
The park, located on land temporarily donated to the county by the Korean embassy, was designed with sustainability in mind. It includes an old garbage dumpster that was recycled as a planter, plants and boulders transplanted from elsewhere in the county, and simple, low-cost elements like concrete block planters, according to Barragan.
Construction on the park started in February and wrapped up a week ago, on June 4. The park is expected to remain open for at least a year.
Photos courtesy Arlington County
The plan, to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway to a county-owned parcel of land on Old Dominion Drive near Marymount University, was included in Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommended Capital Improvement Plan. The plan (see pp. C-86 and C-88) also calls for the county’s Emergency Operations Center to be relocated from Courthouse to the new fire station site, and for an adjacent salt and mulch storage yard to be replaced and modernized.
The existing Emergency Operation Center is located in a building that’s set to be torn down to make way for the county’s Courthouse Square project and the salt storage yard, which serves snow removal crews in North Arlington, is past its useful life, according to the CIP. The fire station is set to be relocated from 4845 Lee Highway following a 2013 study that suggested the Old Dominion location would improve fire department response times in the area.
“When Arlington County published their Proposed FY 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan on May 13th, the residents of the Old Dominion and Donaldson Run Civic Associations, did not have a clue as to the green space ‘hijacking’ the County had in store for their residential neighborhoods,” an Old Dominion Civic Association representative told ARLnow.com via email.
A flyer is being sent to local residents, encouraging them to speak out in opposition to the plan.
“STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR GREEN SPACE!” the flyer reads. “The proposed CIP calls for leveling of all the county-owned green space from 25th Street through the corner of 26th Street and Old Dominion… OPPOSE THE APPROVAL OF THE 25th/26th STREET OFFICE PARK AND FIRE STATION AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!”
Richard Lolich, president of the Old Dominion Citizens Association, said that there are lots of families with young children in the neighborhood.
“Because of this there is a real need for good park space for these children and families,” he said. “The County’s proposed location for the relocated fire station is on property that is ideal for a park in the neighborhood — the only neighborhood in Arlington currently without a dedicated park. We strongly feel that the County should address this issue before destroying green space in the middle of our neighborhood.”
The proposed site is within 2 miles of Potomac Overlook Regional Park and 1 mile of Greenbrier Park.
A new, temporary park at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Barton Street in Courthouse is about a month away from opening.
The park, built on land leased gratis to Arlington County by the Korean embassy, is expected to open — weather-permitting — by the end of May, according to Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
The tiny park will include accessible paths, landscaping, and a rectangular multi-use area that can be used for bocce, cornhole and other activities.
The park was designed after the county sought input from community members. Other ideas floated for the park that didn’t make the cut included miniature golf, game tables and demonstration gardens.
“The community wanted us to create something that’s flexible so they could enjoy the area in the manner that suits them,” Kalish said.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for a new park in Ballston.
The park, at the corner of Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street, quietly opened to the public in July. Located adjacent to the Ballston public parking garage, the park features a pair of bocce courts, numerous benches and landscaped green space.
Construction on the tiny park started this past winter. A ribbon cutting is planned for Thursday, Sept. 19, according to Laura Lazour, Sports and Recreation chief of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation .
The park is being built on a third of an acre of what is currently vacant land along Clarendon Blvd, between N. Adams Street and N. Barton Street. The land, which belongs to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, is being leased to the county at no cost for at least two years, under the condition that the county maintains the land.
The park proposed for the parcel is being described as a “dynamic, inviting and sustainable open space” and Arlington’s “first temporary pop-up park.” It will include paths accessible to those with disabilities, chairs, tables, umbrellas, benches, planters, a drinking fountain, a small lawn area, shade trees, other plantings, and a small lawn area.
“A portion of the park building materials will be recycled from existing County surplus materials,” the county said. “Improvements to the site will be mostly surface improvements and will be designed to minimize the need for excavation. This will reduce the cost of construction and allow park elements to be reused at other sites.”
Via its Open Arlington website, the county is seeking community input on other potential park features. Ideas floated by county staff include:
- Small-scale outdoor games (like cornhole, croquet or table tennis)
- Bocce court
- Miniature golf course
- Gardening/demonstration gardens
- Exercise classes
- Outdoor market
- Game tables for chess or checkers
- Picnic tables
The former Lucky Seven store in Nauck, closed since a fire last summer, was recently torn down and will eventually become part of a park.
Before the fire, in 2010, the property (2406 S. Shirlington Road) was purchased by Arlington County for $1.4 million, according to property records. The purchase followed a public process in 2006 to design a “Nauck Town Square,” a central public gathering place for the community that complements the developing Nauck Village Center commercial district on Shirlington Road.
The “town square” would incorporate the existing green space on the block, the Lucky Seven property and a still-privately-owned property at 2400 S. Shirlington Road. The county is now in discussions with the owner of that property about a possible acquisition, according to Chikwe Njoku, the county’s Neighborhood Revitalization Program Coordinator.
The current design for the Nauck Town Square includes “a public plaza with outdoor seating, landscaped areas with a water feature, decorative lighting, public art, and displays featuring the history of the community,” according to the county website. It will also feature either an open-air pavilion or an enclosed public multipurpose facility, for hosting entertainment and community events.
“Once completed, this Square will encompass the entire block and host a variety of community events both formal and informal,” the county said. “Additionally, it will provide an outdoor location for public art, Nauck interpretative historical elements, and outdoor entertainment.”
Njoku said it’s impossible to know exactly when the project will move forward, since it depends on the purchase of private property. He also said that the plans for the town square are likely to be “slightly different” than those conceived in 2006.
“There is no official timeline for this project yet since we are still in discussions with the owners on the acquisition of the final parcel,” Njoku said. “However, we are planning to engage the community this Fall and revisit the design that was developed as part of the Nauck Town Square Charrette. We will have a better idea of the project timeline by the time we start that process.”
Construction is underway on a tiny park near Ballston Common Mall.
The park, adjacent to the Ballston Parking Garage at the corner of Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street, features a pair of bocce courts and enhanced green space. The park is intended to be temporary; the county plans to eventually replace it with a longer-term use.
More about the park from the county website: “Arlington County is constructing interim improvements at Glebe & Randolph Park including two bocce courts, site furnishings, accessible paths, and flowering shrubs that support a variety of butterflies, birds and insects.”
Construction is expected to wrap up “early this summer,” according to parks department planner Scott McPartlin.
On Saturday, Jan. 26, the Arlington County Board approved a $733,315 contract (including contingency) for reconstruction of the Tuckahoe Park playground. Contractor Jeffrey Stack, Inc. will make improvements to the park, including an accessible entrance, new play equipment, accessible paths, site furnishings, synthetic turf safety surfacing, site drainage, bio-retention gardens and plantings.
The Board also approved eight Park Enhancement (PEG) Grants, for a total of $83,377. The grants include:
- Removal of invasive plants at Hillside Park in Radnor-Ft. Myer Heights ($11,354)
- New garden and tools for the Lubber Run Teen Program at Lubber Run Park ($5,500)
- Small deck, tree protection and other improvements at the Fort Barnard Community Canine Area in Nauck ($15,000)
- New benches and wood chip path at Thomas Jefferson Middle School ($13,718)
- Five new benches, a picnic table and a grill at Fraser Park on Army Navy Drive ($10,400)
- Improvements to the volleyball court at Alcova Heights Park ($5,523)
- Four new benches and invasive plant control in a large traffic island on John Marshall Drive ($9,290)
- New concrete path at Woodlawn Park, near Ballston ($12,592)