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PenPlace Open Space Approved Over More Resident Discontent

by Ethan Rothstein | July 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 1,815 views | No Comments

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.

County to Appoint Group to Study TJ Park for New Elementary School

by Ethan Rothstein | July 25, 2014 at 11:00 am | 1,144 views | No Comments

Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park at Arlington County Board's meeting 07/1914(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.”

County Could Spend $500,000 on Oakgrove Park Improvements

by Ethan Rothstein | July 15, 2014 at 10:45 am | 1,307 views | No Comments

Oak Grove Park (photo via Google Maps)

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

County May Construct Bike Park on Columbia Pike

by Ethan Rothstein | July 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm | 2,228 views | No Comments

Site of the proposed bike park on the W&OD Trail (Photo via Google Maps)A new “bike park” with a “learner’s loop” is likely headed for the intersection of Columbia Pike and the W&OD Trail.

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

New Apartments, ‘Town Center’ Planned for Revamped Ballston Mall

by Ethan Rothstein | June 24, 2014 at 11:45 am | 13,675 views | No Comments

(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…)

New Courthouse Park Now Open

by ARLnow.com | June 11, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 2,147 views | No Comments

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

Old Dominion Residents ‘Blindsided’ by Planned Fire Station

by Ethan Rothstein | May 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm | 3,975 views | No Comments

The proposed site of Fire Station 8The Old Dominion Civic Association says it was “blindsided” by a plan to relocate a fire station to the neighborhood — a plan the association says amounts to the county “hijacking” green space.

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.

The 'Salt Dome' at the proposed site of Fire Station 8The Civic Association, however, is not pleased with the planned facilities, which they say will utilize a piece of currently unused land that they want to be turned into a park.

“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.

(more…)

Bocce Coming to Courthouse With New Temporary Park

by ARLnow.com | April 29, 2014 at 11:10 am | 1,681 views | No Comments

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.

Ribbon Cutting Scheduled for New Ballston Bocce Park

by ARLnow.com | September 3, 2013 at 9:30 am | 2,468 views | No Comments

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 .

County Seeking Input on Korean Embassy Park

by ARLnow.com | August 7, 2013 at 1:30 pm | 1,760 views | No Comments

Planned "pocket park" in CourthouseArlington County is seeking public input on a temporary park that will be built in the Courthouse area.

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
  • Concerts
  • Outdoor market
  • Game tables for chess or checkers
  • Picnic tables

Former ‘Lucky Seven’ to Become Nauck Town Square

by ARLnow.com | March 12, 2013 at 11:15 am | 1,601 views | 26 Comments

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.”

Ballston Bocce Park Under Construction

by ARLnow.com | March 7, 2013 at 11:15 am | 537 views | 29 Comments

Park under construction at the corner of Glebe and Randolph (photo by Katie Pyzyk) Glebe and Randolph park planning sketch

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.

County Board Approves Park Improvements

by ARLnow.com | January 28, 2013 at 12:15 pm | 13 Comments

Plans for Tuckahoe ParkImprovements are coming to Tuckahoe Park and eight other county parks.

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)

Board to Approve New Playground for Ft. Myer Heights Park

by ARLnow.com | December 4, 2012 at 11:45 am | 4,357 views | 58 Comments

 

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to approve a contract for improvements to Ft. Myer Heights Park (1400 Ft. Myer Drive).

The planned improvements to the 0.48 acre park include new nature-themed playground equipment, new fencing, an accessible path to the playground from Ft. Myer Drive, concrete retaining walls, enhanced plantings and improved site drainage. The construction contract, in the amount of $475,920.53 plus a $47,592.04 contingency, will be awarded to Avon Corporation.

The existing park consists of a small playground area, basketball court, picnic area and open grassy field. The park improvements were devised with the help of input from the community, including the Radnor / Fort Myer Heights Civic Association.

Images via Arlington County

Board to Award Contract for Rocky Run Park Improvements

by ARLnow.com | November 14, 2012 at 10:15 am | 3,882 views | 66 Comments

(Updated at 10:20 a.m.) Nearly $3 million worth of improvements are coming soon to Rocky Run Park, at 1109 N. Barton Street in the Courthouse-Clarendon area.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to award a $2.95 million contract to Meridian Construction Co. to build the first phase of the new park, which has been in the works since 2010. Funding for the improvements is coming from 2010 Neighborhood Conservation funds, park bond funds and park pay-as-you-go funds.

The finished 2.4 acre park is expected to feature the following amenities:

  • One lighted basketball/volleyball court
  • One lighted basketball/futbol sala court
  • A lighted synthetic grass multipurpose field with bleachers
  • A sandbox and two play areas
  • A picnic shelter, picnic tables and benches
  • A skateboarding area with “skate-able art”
  • A “raised boardwalk”
  • Bicycle parking
  • Drainage improvements

Per a neighborhood request, the volleyball court will have a net installed by default, which must be removed by park staff in order for basketball to be played. The courts and the multipurpose field will be lighted with dark sky compliant “Green Generation” lighting which will shut off after 10:00 p.m.

The skate-able art will be constructed as part of a second phase of park construction, funded with 2012 Neighborhood Conservation funds.

In the Board report, county staff said the final price tag of the park increased by $850,000 due to extra costs associated with making the park Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.

Construction on Phase I of the park is expected to begin this winter. No word yet on when construction is expected to wrap up.

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