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.”
Firefly Festival on Sunday — All attention will be on the critters that light up the night at the 5th Annual Firefly Festival at Fort C.F. Smith Park (2411 24th Street N.) this Sunday, June 30. Activities include bug hunts, games, crafts, walks and talks about fireflies. There is a $7 charge per participant and children two and under are free. Attendees can bring a picnic to enjoy while waiting for the events at sundown. [Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation]
Ducklings Rescued — Earlier this month, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington got some help from the Arlington County Fire Department with an animal rescue mission. Together they removed five ducklings that had become stuck in a storm drain. [Washington Post]
Tejada Re-elected to Position on National Association of Regional Councils — Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada has been re-elected as the Board of Directors Region III Director on the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC). NARC advocates for regional cooperation as a means of effectively addressing community planning opportunities and issues. It represents more than 230 regional councils and planning organizations across the country. Tejada has served in the position since 2011.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new sprayground at Virginia Highlands park yesterday evening.
Surrounded by a group of children patiently awaiting the water to be switched back on, Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada thanked those involved in the park’s creation, and touted the water-saving features of the water park. The sprayground saves 82,000 gallons of water per month by employing a water recirculation system, he said.
After his speech, Tejada joined County Board member Chris Zimmerman and neighborhood representatives in cutting a ribbon hastily tied to the sprayground equipment. The ribbon survived earlier attempts by the children to use it as a makeshift backrest — an effort that was repeatedly foiled by a diligent county staffer.
The sprayground, adjacent to a picnic area in the southeast corner of the park, features water jets, showers, dumping buckets and rotating water cannons. It’s scheduled to be open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. through Labor Day.
In the Board chair’s annual State of the County address, Tejada touted Arlington as a “coveted area” that people want to live and work in. However, citing the planned departure of the National Science Foundation and its 2,200+ jobs to Alexandria, and the county’s 17 percent (and rising) office vacancy rate, Tejada said the county must work to “reinvent” itself.
“Arlington is facing some economic uncertainty,” he said. “One of the worst things… is to be complacent. It’s time to reinvent ourselves once again. An important strategy of our reinvention is our focus on science and technology.”
To that end, Tejada said the county will continue to fight to keep the NSF in Ballston.
“We are profoundly disappointed, but I believe the last word has not been written on this,” he said. “We still believe Arlington is the best home for the National Science Foundation, and we hope that it stays. We will work diligently to make sure that happens.”
“It just doesn’t make sense,” he continued. “Undoing a science cluster that the federal government itself has spent two decades and quite a lot of taxpayer money building? We believe this decision needs closer scrutiny. How much are Alexandria taxpayers paying for this deal?”
“Arlington has become a hotbed of startup technology companies,” he said. Emphasizing private sector commercial growth is important, he said, since the biggest office tenant in Arlington, the federal government, has become “unpredictable at best.”
Also part of Arlington’s “reinvention” is the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar system.
“The streetcar is our best transit option for Columbia Pike,” Tejada said. “The streetcar will create that main street feel that the community wants. It will reduce pollution and congestion. And yes, it is affordable in the long term. The Pike streetcar system is equal to the cost of one Metrorail station.”
The streetcar will be funded via a commercial property tax surcharge that’s earmarked for transportation projects. The financing would not qualify for a voter referendum under state law, Tejada said, and “the plan is well within the county’s self-imposed debt limit.”
Tejada said he would not have supported the streetcar had the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan not called for the preservation of affordable housing. He called on the business leaders in the room to contribute to the affordable housing effort on the Pike.
It’s been open since this spring, but today county and federal officials held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the South Joyce Street Shared-Use Sidewalk Project,
The $1.8 million Federal Highway Administration project built new, wider sidewalks on the 1/5 mile stretch between Army Navy Drive and Columbia Pike. The 10-foot-wide sidewalks can be used by pedestrians and bicyclists. The sidewalks “improve safety and access at one of the few places in Arlington where bicycles and pedestrians can cross I-395,” according to a county fact sheet.
“As a result of the FHWA project, which was funded with a Congressional allocation… the once highway-style passage has been transformed into an easy-to-navigate bicycle and pedestrian route that connects the east end of Columbia Pike, the Pentagon reservation and Pentagon City,” the county wrote. “Arlington supported the the project, which aligns with the goals of Arlington County’s ‘Complete Streets’ program, with design guidance and funding for some additional elements.”
County Board Chairman Walter Tejada lauded the project, saying that it’s especially useful for those who commute via bicycle from Columbia Pike. Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) joked that the new sidewalk “is not the kind of project you’d see on a postcard,” but said it’s important nonetheless.
“This is basic infrastructure,” he said. “If you don’t invest in it, if you don’t do the right thing, you negatively impact a lot of other infrastructure.”
In addition to wider sidewalks, pedestrian-scale lighting was added to the street and automatic bicycle/pedestrian counters were installed. Meanwhile, highway-style guard rails were removed and fire department standpipes were relocated out of the pedestrian route.
Entitled “Building a Stronger Nation: Reforming Out Broken Immigration System,” the Moran-organized forum attracted several dozen attendees to Kenmore Middle School’s auditorium. The congressman and the panelists told the audience that immigration reform would energize the economy, bring in additional tax revenue, and enable immigrants to live a more productive and fulfilling life.
In his opening remarks, Moran said bipartisan immigration legislation that’s currently being crafted in the Senate has a better shot at becoming law than any other recent attempt at immigration reform.
“The possibility for reform today may be better than it’s ever been,” he said. “Now is the best time in recent memory for enacting comprehensive immigration reform. But the enactment of reforms is by no means guaranteed… in a Congress that can’t seem to agree on anything of consequence.”
Moran said immigration reform is particularly important in Northern Virginia, where 27 percent of the population is foreign-born. (Of that foreign-born population, 38 percent of come from Latin America, 36 percent from Asia, 16 percent from Africa and 10 from Europe, according to statistics cited by Moran.)
Panelists made moral and economic arguments for immigration reform.
Patrick Oakford, who researches immigration issues for the liberal Center for American Progress, said that legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States could boost the economy by $832 billion over 10 years while raising the wages paid to immigrants.
Arlington County Board Chair Walter Tejada said immigration reform would help cash-strapped local governments. It would also help police departments, he said, by facilitating better cooperation with an immigrant community that’s currently fearful of law enforcement.
“The future of our nation is brighter by providing a path for citizenship,” Tejada said. “We really need to get behind and support our leaders in Congress.”
Other panelists tried to shoot down some of the arguments against immigration reform.
Kristian Ramos of the New Policy Institute, pro-immigration think tank, said immigration reform won’t open the floodgates to Mexican immigrants. He said that Mexico’s growing economy has helped to significantly reduce the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States by providing more jobs and opportunities in Mexico. He also pointed out that that crime is down near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Two months after holding a raucous forum on gun violence, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) is planning a public forum on another hot-button topic.
On Tuesday, May 14, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road), Moran will host a forum entitled “Building a Stronger Nation: Reforming Our Broken Immigration System.”
Just as the gun violence forum featured panelists that largely shared Moran’s gun control views, the immigration forum will feature panelists who favor liberal immigration policies: County Board Chair Walter Tejada, plus representatives from the Center for American Progress, the National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
“The panel discussion will outline systemic problems in our current immigration system and layout the comprehensive reform plans that are currently under consideration in Congress,” said a press release for the event.
“There are an estimated 10 – 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America, the majority having settled here more than a decade ago,” the press release said. “Reforming the broken immigration system to resolve the status for these individuals has the potential to boost the entire U.S. economy, adding over $800 billion to the national GDP over the next decade and creating over 100,000 more jobs per year.”
Blog Points Out Bike Lane Blockers — Frustrated with supposed inaction by Arlington County Police, a local resident has created a Tumblr site to publicly “shame” the owners of vehicles that illegally park or idle in bike lanes in Arlington. [Arlington Bike Lane Blockers]
Clarendon Farmers Market Starts Tonight — The Clarendon Farmers Market is back for the season, starting tonight. The market will run from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m., in the newly renovated Clarendon Central Park, next to the Metro entrance. The market will run every Wednesday through Dec. 18 before taking a break for the winter. Another seasonal farmers market, the Crystal City Freshfarm Market, is set to start the season on Tuesday, April 30. [Clarendon Alliance, Freshfarm Markets]
District Taco to Open Third Location — District Taco, which opened its first location on Lee Highway, is getting ready to open its third location. The new District Taco restaurant, like the second location, will be located in D.C. [Prince of Petworth]
Tejada Talks Immigration Reform — County Board Chair Walter Tejada spoke to a group of pro-immigration supporters at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Clarendon Tuesday morning. Tejada told the crowth that “it is our duty” to “work and fight together for comprehensive immigration reform.” The group is planning a rally at the Capitol next week. [WJLA]
Fire Weather Watch — The region is under a Fire Weather Watch. Gusty winds and low humidity are creating ideal conditions for brush fires. [Capital Weather Gang]
Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has suggested that he’s open to a discussion about imposing a local income tax and using it to fund transportation projects, the Washington Post reports.
A bill that would allow Arlington and other Virginia localities to impose a 1 percent income tax without a voter referendum passed the Virginia state Senate last week. It’s now under consideration in the House of Delegates, although most tax bills face an uphill battle in the Republican-majority body.
(Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax County and other jurisdictions are currently authorized to impose a 0.25 to 1 percent income tax, but must first have it approved by voters.)
Tejada told the Post’s Tom Jackman that the Board is following the bill “intently.”
“We’re always trying to find ways to fund transportation projects, and considering we were ranked number one in gridlock, any resources would be helpful,” Tejada said. “We’ve been trying different things, and traffic’s not going anywhere.”
At last month’s meeting, County Board members said Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s (R) transportation plan might not raise enough new revenue to meet Northern Virginia’s transportation needs. McDonnell and state lawmakers are currently working to hash out a compromise version of the governor’s proposal.
Man Sentenced for Harassing Arlington Woman — A 47-year-old I.T. worker from New England has been sentenced to 7 years in prison for stalking and harassing an Arlington mom and her 16-year-old daughter. Bruce Stimon was accused of emailing the woman’s friends and saying she had an STD; posting her name, photo and work phone number on prostitution sites, secretly recording a video of them having sex, posting it on porn sites, and sending it to her daughter’s Twitter friends; and repeatedly slashing her tires. [WJLA]
Arlington Hotel Tax Passes House — A bill that would restore Arlington’s authority to levy a 0.25 percent hotel tax surcharge has narrowly passed the Virginia House of Delegates. The bill earlier passed the state Senate, but the House bill contains a three year sunset provision that wasn’t in the Senate version, meaning the House and the Senate will need to hash out a combined bill in order for it to reach the governor’s desk. [Richmond Sunlight]
Navy Sets USS Arlington Commissioning Date — The new USS Arlington will be commissioned in Norfolk on April 6, the Navy has announced. [Sun Gazette]
Tejada Says No to Anti-Streetcar Groups — Arlington County Board Chairman Walter Tejada has declined requests from groups critical of the Columbia Pike streetcar seeking to make presentations at an upcoming streetcar community forum. Tejada said the purpose of the forum, on March 27, is to “update the community” on the streetcar project, not to debate the Board’s decision to build the streetcar. [Sun Gazette]
The local Point-in-Time Count is part of a nationwide count that occurs during the last 10 days in January each year. The census helps to highlight trends, justify requests for federal funding and measure community progress towards preventing and ending homelessness.
Last year, the Point-in-Time count of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people dropped to 451. That’s down two percent from 461 in 2011.
“In this ‘great recession,’ the number of homeless people in Arlington has actually been trending downward for the last three years,” said A-SPAN Executive Director Kathleen Sibert. “Arlington non-profits and the county have done a great job of connecting people with housing; and we hope this year’s count will be even lower now that the 100 Homes Campaign has already housed 47 homeless adults.”
From 6:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. todady, census teams will visit areas frequented by homeless individuals such as Metro stations, parks, malls and meal serving sites. Additionally, there are six indoor meeting places used for the count, and meals are served to encourage participation. Staff members will also distribute hygiene kits and socks donated by Marymount Women’s Basketball team.
“Survey questions go beyond headcounts and ask about instances of domestic abuse, veteran status, and disabilities in order to learn more about the specific homeless population in Arlington and what resources are needed,” said Sibert.
The annual report for Arlington’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness was presented to the County Board yesterday (Tuesday). It showed that 708 individuals used Arlington homeless shelters at some time in 2012, which is a six percent increase over 2011. However, the average length of time a person stayed in shelter decreased by 28 percent. The average stay for homeless families showed the most significant improvement, dropping from an average stay of 5.4 months to three months.
“The goal of the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness is that no individual or family lack access to decent, affordable housing,” said County Board Chairman Walter Tejada. “That is a tall order in these troubled economic times, but this report, the progress we are making in housing Arlington’s most-at-risk homeless persons who were identified last year, and the County’s many programs aimed at getting those in need into housing shows that we intend to meet that goal.”
The first neighborhood town hall will be held at the Drew Community Center cafeteria, at 3500 23rd Street S. in Nauck. Residents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions or ask questions about any topic, while County Board members listen.
“As part of my ‘Moving Forward Together’ agenda, I am looking forward to hearing from the community in this informal setting, where people can speak their minds directly to County Board members, and get answers,” Tejada said in a statement. “Arlington is always at its best when we are listening to each other and sharing ideas.”
The town hall meetings will be held once a month, except August and December, in various locations around Arlington. The meetings will start at 6:46 p.m. and end at 9:00 p.m. The unique start time was chosen so “people would remember it better,” according to a county spokeswoman.
The February town hall will be held at the Lee Community Center (5722 Lee Highway) on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The March meeting will be held at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) on Wednesday, March 27, and will be focused on one topic: the proposed Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar systems.
“It is expected that all five Board members will participate,” the county said in a press release. “They will provide a detailed update on the planned streetcar system, respond to questions from the community and discuss next steps.”
“The Board decided several years ago, after a lengthy public process, to build a streetcar system that will help us handle expected growth, encourage high-quality development, and better connect us to the regional transit network,” Tejada said in a statement. “With streetcar planning now underway in earnest, this is a good time to update residents, business owners and anyone else who is interested, answer questions, and talk about next steps. This is a conversation meant to help us ‘Move Forward Together.’”
The schedule of town hall meetings for the rest of 2013 is available on the Arlington County web site.
Citizen Receives Reward for Crime Tip — A tipster will get a $650 reward from Arlington County Crime Solvers (ACCS) for helping police solve a case from Christmas Day. The tipster’s information helped police arrest a suspect from an armed robbery of a 7-Eleven. “We are delighted to pay a reward to a local resident whose tip led to an arrest in an armed robbery,” said ACCS President Andres Tobar. “We encourage local residents who have information on a crime to call the ACCS tip line at 866-411-8477 to remain anonymous. If the tip leads to an arrest, a reward will be paid.” [Arlington County Crime Solvers]
Tejada Launches Campaign Targeting Childhood Obesity — County Board Chairman Walter Tejada kicked off his Moving Forward Together Campaign at a community meeting yesterday. The initiative involves the county working with a volunteer coalition and community members on several points, such as getting kids moving more at recess and in after school programs, establishing healthier vending options and training childcare providers in nutrition and physical activity. Residents are encouraged to get involved with the newly formed Healthy Community Action Team (HCAT). [Arlington County]
Construction Work at Central Library — Work has started on the Central Library’s first major interior renovations since the early 1990s, and includes painting, carpeting, new signs and new desks. Because staff needs to use the Quiet Study Room during construction, it will be closed to the public for the duration of renovations. Construction is expected to finish in the spring. [Arlington Public Library]
Free Inauguration Viewing on the Big Screen — Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) is allowing customers to stop by on Monday, January 21, to watch the public Presidential Inauguration on the big screen. Admission is free and doors open at 11:00 a.m. [Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse]
Mind Your Body Oasis Grand Opening — Saturday (January 19) is the grand opening celebration for the new Mind Your Body Oasis (1750 Crystal Drive) in Crystal City. There will be raffles and samples of the juices sold at the yoga studio and holistic center. Customers will also be able to try a free yoga class.
The demonstration, organized in part by the Laborers International Union of North America, will protest the “use of immigration status against workers” by Corinthian Contractors, Inc. Arlington residents and local immigration groups are expected to protest outside the company’s Shirlington-area headquarters.
Tejada will “stop by the event,” according to a spokeswoman.
In a press advisory, protest organizers accused Corinthian Contractors of threatening laborers with deportation after they complained about not receiving a fair wage.
On December 2, a group of workers sent a letter to their employer, Corinthian Contractors, Inc., asking to be paid the legally required minimum wages for their work on a DC Water project. On December 6, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested the workers at their usual meeting spot as they waited for their ride to work. Two bystanders were also arrested.
Following their arrest, Corinthian Contractors continued to threaten the workforce with immigration enforcement. Finally, on December 31, 2012, Corinthian Contractors announced that it suddenly discovered that the I-9s of the entire workforce needed to be immediately “re-verified.” Corinthian took the opportunity during the “re-verification” process to fire almost half of the workers working on DC Water projects. The vast majority of those fired had signed a letter complaining of Corinthian’s failure to pay the legally required wages.
These workers have had their lives torn apart. Some have been deported. Others who remain have seen family members deported. All are still awaiting a determination of their status. And all of this turmoil to is due to the ruthlessness of a contractor who was offended that workers would try to hold him accountable to pay legally required wages.
On Tuesday, these workers will tell Corinthian Contractors that they cannot be intimidated out of their rights and will request the public and public officials to join them in demanding justice for Corinthian’s workers!
The protest is scheduled to take place at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday at 3126 S. Abingdon Street.
In 2010, Corinthian Contractors completed work on a $1.5 million contract for the Arlington County Department of Environmental Services, according to its website. The company has not responded to a call seeking comment.
Mario’s and Carvel to Remain Open Despite Sale — Mario’s Pizza House and Carvel Ice Cream shop (3322 Wilson Blvd) were sold at auction last month for $2.86 million, achieving one of the highest per square foot sales in Arlington. The tenants will continue to operate at the location because the sale was for the real estate only, not the businesses. [Globe Newswire]
Tejada and Violand-Sanchez Make History in Virginia — As of January 1, Arlington made history by becoming the first Virginia jurisdiction to have its two local elected bodies headed by Latinos. Walter Tejada was selected to chair the County Board for 2013, joining Emma Violand-Sanchez who is halfway through her term as School Board chair. Tejada is a native of El Salvador and Violand-Sanchez is a native of Bolivia. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann