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Grass Comes to Penrose Square

by ARLnow.com April 26, 2011 at 2:48 pm 4,557 107 Comments

What was once a muddy construction pit is now a lush, grassy field.

Sod was recently planted at the Penrose Square development on Columbia Pike. The sidewalk in front of the development, which was once completely blocked by construction,  is now navigable by pedestrians.

Trees were planted around the new apartment complex earlier this month. The clock near the building’s roof line, however, still hasn’t been turned on.

  • TGEoA

    Soon to be covered in urine and feces.

    • South Arlington

      I think you’re confusing it with Lyon Village on Friday and Saturday nights.

    • NPGMBR

      Sadly you are probably right. Love pets but many pet owners fail to do their parts and clean up after their pets.

  • Neighbor

    It’s been there for days. How is this site so late to everything on ColPike?

    • South Arlington

      Pretty sure the editor lives on Columbia Pike.

      Also, I’m excited to hear the curmudgeons complain about Penrose Square, and harken back to the old days when it was an empty, decaying parking lot with a wig store, vacant storefronts and the worst Giant in the region.

      • gmart68b

        The vacant storefronts only arrived when the stores were told to vacate for the upcoming demolition and construction. It just took longer than anticipated for the developer to pull the financing together, hence the years of vacant spaces.

        So I actually prefer to hearken back to the pre-2004 days of occupied storefronts and the days of cheap burgers and cheaper beer at the Cowboy.

  • 1234

    What a massive improvement! If it were me I think I would’ve wanted the big green transformer relocated from the front, but that’s a nit.

    And +1 to South Arlington’s post.

  • SoCo Resident

    As we all observed for so long, this is a huge multi-story pile of wooden two-by-fours now nicely covered with brick. The firemen call these “lumberyards” because of their fire potential . Interesting, how they make it look so nice in the end — brick, clock, sod — but how limited its life really is. It was a sad day when the county started allowing this type of inferior construction. As soon as the Giant and restaurants open, the roaches and mice will start working their way up through those creaky wooden floors to the apartments above. Oh, the noise level between units! Columbia Pike deserves much better construction and Arlington should adopt much safer building standards than this. But, the developers are so influential, aren’t they?

    • G Clifford Prout

      I too questioned the construction of the building. The Sienna Park has concrete flooring and looked more solid.

      On a completely different topic, weren’t we promised some public art and a “water feature?”

      • gmart68b

        That’s apparently supposed to be “Phase II,” which will happen when redevelopment starts on the strip next door with CVS.

        My understanding is that the county has to get the land where the trolley diner sits and *then* Phase II will begin.

      • SoCo Resident

        Yes, the Sienna Park was built with concrete flooring and is substantially more fire proof. It is for the wealthier, while the newer “Penrose” wooden, more flammable construction for the “less wealthier” who as a matter of County public policy are more expendable and if they burn, well… Eventually, there will be some horrible disaster involving these “stick built” apartment houses and County officials will scury. They are not even concerned with the fact that fire trucks cannot traverse some Arlington streets and are intimated by LV and LP officals. Eventually, it will be the job of some poor firefighters to have to try to save tenants of these “lumberyards.”
        In fact, Penrose henceforeth is “The Lumberyards.”

      • G Clifford Prout

        I was sort of right. And the Bosque. When do we get our Bosque???

        • Josh S

          I tell you what – it may not look like this but it’s still pretty freaking cool. Go stand up on the promenade above it (I suppose still theoretically off limits, but on a Sunday afternoon, who’s to stop you?) and look down. It’s SOOO much better than the old ugly surface parking lot. Cowboy will be more than welcome to take one of the new restaurant spots. Judging by how many people profess their longing for the place, they should be able to afford whatever the new rent will be….

          • South Arlington

            Agree about that promenade view, it’s far far far superior to what was there before. I wish there was someway to make that outdoor dining seating, it would be ideal and far enough off the road to be very desirable. At the least, it’d be nice if the Giant could have a coffee shop that has outdoor seating on that elevated area.

            I think LA Bar and Grill has absorbed what’s remaining of the old Cowboy Cafe’s clientele.

      • NPGMBR

        Unfortunately, the issue of construction type is not restricted to Arlington County. Every new building in the area is build in much the same way. One of my best friends purchased a brand new 500k condo in DC only to be disappointed to find out that she can hear whats going on in every unit she passes as she walks the halls.

        Its just a sing of the times. Cheaper materials, much higher prices!

      • NPGMBR

        Sienna Park was built in exactly the same manner as Penrose Square. I catch the bus right in front of these buildings and watched both structures come up. Sienna Park is no better than Penrose.

        • Bringmetheyuppies

          You obvoiusly dont know construction. The building are hardly built the same way. Sienna has poured concrete floors and columns. Penrose is stick built with wood after foundation. Probably a result of afforable housing allotments and the cost to subsidize those folks.

          • Josh S

            I’m not aware that any of these units have been designated as affordable.

      • Chris Slatt

        Construction of Phase 1 of the public square is supposed to start this Summer:
        http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ParksRecreation/scripts/planning/ParksRecreationScriptsPlanningInDesign.aspx#penrose

        If (or when) the next parcel over gets redeveloped, the square will be expanded onto the current CVS parking lot as part of Phase II.

    • charlie

      come back in 20 years. it will be ghetto housing. this construction method is creating wealth for out of town investors, feathers in Zimmie’s hat, but ultimately it will fail structurally and people will stop repairing it. Anything under five stories is stick-built and will become a slum by 2030.

      • NotChrisZimmerman

        There goes Pentagon Row, much of Market Common, flocks of luxury townhomes … all sticks.

      • SoCo Resident

        In urban planning school, they call these
        “the slums of tomorrow.” They’re great petrie dishes for growing mold too!

        • slumming

          Sure they do.

          Yeah, right, new construction in one of the richest counties in America destined to be a slum. Sure.

        • RosRes

          Exactly. Just like all of those wretched stick built townhouses in Georgetown, Dupont, Logan, etc. All obvious slums today. Thank goodness they couldn’t stand the test of time… oh wait, they did! They did!

    • firehose

      Wow, so now the developers are overcoming fire codes with the help of friendly politicians?

      No, they aren’t.

      These buildings have to meet the same codes as other buildings. I trust the people who write and enforce fire codes more than you. If the firefighters think “lumberyards” should be illegal, they are welcome to work to rewrite the fire codes.

      • MC 703

        Which day was the “sad day” when the County fire codes changed and they started allowing inferior construction?

    • Thes

      Under Virginia’s “Dillon Rule” does the County have the power to specify structural construction materials?

  • NOVApologist

    Does anybody really find that building design attractive?

    • G Clifford Prout

      No. It is a designed to offend no one and inspire even fewer. Looks like every other darned “town center” popping up right down to the clock tower. But I’m not complaining. Beats what was there.

  • 1234

    Wasn’t there a mention on Arlnow earlier that parts of that greenspace were on hold pending the redevelopment of the stripmall and CVS parking lot? perhaps that’s the reason the bosque and fountain haven’t materialized yet . . .

    • FrenchyB

      Yes, I remember that post as well.

    • G Clifford Prout

      CPRO site says that the 15K sq. ft section related to the CVS site is phase II. Maybe they’re just putting sod there until the Bosque is imported from the Bosque region.

      • NotChrisZimmerman

        Then Basques can bask under the bosque.

  • KalashniKEV

    I’m glad to see they fixed all the broken windows… hope they catch the perp that did it.

    • South Arlington

      Wasn’t that the new building in Clarendon, not this one?

      • KalashniKEV

        I never saw any broken windows on the Clarendon building, but I was here a few weeks ago and the corner of the building closest to Cinema and Drafthouse had several broken windows with torn garbage bags taped over them, flapping in the wind. It was very sad.

  • YTK

    Whoopeee. MILLIONS of cubic feet of new concrete, Tyvek, brick and particle board, which will soon be followed by more pollution on Columbia Pike from the new residents using their cars and riding (more we hope!) buses — and here’s a liddle plot of grass……..

    • MC 703

      I don’t think that many 22204 trees were removed as part of this construction. When the street car arrives there will be a lot of people hopefully taking it to the metro / Pentagon.

  • ArlForester

    I love it. A simple post about there being new sod and we have people complaining that the story didn’t break fast enough (its grass, settle down), people complaining about there being no art (have you seen what passes for art in other green spaces?) and finally experts on buildings and fire codes. I am going to take a leap and assume the building has a fully functioning “dry” sprinkler system. I am also willing to bet the places won’t be slums in 20 years.

    A simple “hey, nice grass” would have sufficed. Carry on.

    • PhilL

      Why a dry sprinkler system?

      • ArlForester

        It is how the new systems are made to prevent pipe bursts and freeze-ups.

        • PhilL

          Freeze up like in temperature freeze? That’s not likely to happen here. If they’re worried about people knocking heads off that’s another thing, but seeing as these are in residential units I would expect to see concealed heads. I have not seen many dry pipe systems anywhere other than above grade garages.

          • ArlForester

            Jesus, I should have just written “sprinkler system” and saved myself the back and forth.

          • Maria

            You didn’t expect people to complain?

          • PhilL

            Oh no, no complaining. Hope it did not sound that way. Just a little professional interest in the sprinkler system point. Dry pipe systems are OK by code for buildings like that, but cost and maintenance wise they are usually not preferred in my experience. I was surprised someone said a dry system might be in there.

          • Suburban Not Urban

            Sorry Phil, that’s not true – used to happen on a regular basis at Shirlington Village Appts- Since our weather patterns don’t cause it constantly – the usual codes don’t force design for it and the insurance companies regularly pickup the bill

          • PhilL

            As if we needed more proof of the cheap construction and poor design of multi-unit residential buildings around here. Your sprinkler pipes freeze on a regular basis? Nice.

    • dynaroo

      Nice grass!

  • Joe

    Let’s face it. Columbia Pike is regarded as a ghetto by the County Board and always gets the shaft.

    • South Arlington

      Where’s the shaft? We’re getting tons of new development and finally getting our share of transit and infrastructure money in the form of the streetcar. For decades we have subsidized the Metro system so North Arlington could get improved convenience and enhanced property values, and now we are finally getting investment and infrastructure. If you honestly believe SoCo Resident’s retarded conspiracy rants about the fire code somehow being changed by County bureaucrats to hurt the “less wealthy” renters (apparently they haven’t looked at the premium rents at this place) at Penrose Square, go ahead and take a lap and jump off the Key Bridge.

      • ArlForester

        Why the Key Bridge? That’s in North Arlington. Why didn’t you recommend they jump of a bridge in South Arlington? Why do you hate South Arlington?!

        • TGEoA

          Key Bridge is in DC.

          • Josh S

            Technically.

          • ArlForester

            Rumor on the street is it connects to North Arlington. Unless you know better…..

  • LBSKi

    Looks great! I got really excited about it when I walked past the other day. More excited than I should have gotten about grass probably…

  • Joe

    The street car thing is about as stupid an idea as anyone has ever come up with. Hopefully, that thing never sees the light of day. And Columbia Pike is going to end up looking like a mini-Rosslyn. Totally devoid of character and small businesses. Arlington is a very poorly run county.

    • Bender

      That’s no way to speak of your betters. Our dear leaders have heads much pointier than yours. They know better than you, they know better than anyone.

      • dynaroo

        Awesome straw man you got there.

    • dynaroo

      The street car is a great idea. Arlington is a well-run county. You can get around it easily and there are places to go to and the taxes are low. The street car will help revitalize the Pike and prevent runaway traffic.

      Rosslyn sucks, but that’s because of decisions made long ago.

      • “The street car is a great idea.”

        (Eyes rolling into the back of my head….)

        It would be a great idea if they weren’t using it as an excuse to increase density much more than the streetcar can handle. It is going to be gridlock all the way from Baileys to the Pentagon.

        • dynaroo

          Well, then, assuming that’s true, the excess density is the problem, not the streetcar.

          • True but when attending some of the public meetings on the plans, they are selling the excess density to the public based on the trolley line as the transit savior. Otherwise, residents don’t want the density because of existing gridlock (especially in the Baileys area). I don’t see the trolley solving the excess density problem. Time will tell assuming it gets built. The comparisons by the planners have been to Clarendon and Bethesda Row, which both have metrorail. Both of those have congestion problems too.

          • dynaroo

            I don’t think Clarendon and Bethesda Row have congestion problems – not by DC standards anyway. They’re busy, but not congested. And some of Clarendon’s current congestion is due to construction. Overall, the urban corridor is surprisingly easy to drive through.

      • South Arlington

        I’m not even sure it will do anything to change traffic, it is just a much more upscale version of the Pikeride bus system. But it’s all the other reasons for it that are so important. It is permanent so businesses large and small know it will be there and that they can invest in the area. Psychologically a lot of people won’t ride a bus but they will ride a streetcar or train (especially among the young professional demographic that is actually spending money in this County). People can eat outdoors without buses roaring by and belching diesel exhaust on them. It will create wealthy by boosting property values for homeowners all along the streetcar line. The list goes on. If anyone thinks this current level of new development and business investment would have happened without the promise of the streetcar, I think you’re crazy and possibly blind and/or stupid.

        • I’d personally like to have a natural gas powered bus instead of a street car and the ugly overhead power lines that are going to canopy the Pike and the rest of the trolley line.

  • Bill M

    In your opinion, what is the best run County that you are aware of and why ? What about it should Arlington emulate ?

  • Big E

    Anyone else enjoy the nice 3-hour fire alarm session this building had from 10:30pm-1:30am Friday night? Just the latest in a long line of county noise violations from this stupid construction site. Can’t wait for them to finally be finished.

    Oh yea, back to the main topic…the grass looks nice. But I thought they were going to use that area for parking spaces for the Giant? Or are they just not going to have any parking spaces?

    • Bender

      Come on, Big — take the bus to the Giant.

      • yeahright

        Ice cream, milk, fresh meat on a hot bus in August–no thanks. No wonder so many people love riding the bus to the supermarket when they have other options.

        • MC 703

          I run to / walk home from the Shirlington Teeter or the Giant on S. Glebe once or twice a week if the weather’s nice. Buy your cold stuff last and 20 minutes out in the heat won’t jeopardize your innards.

      • Big E

        Well I live right next door to it (note my first sentence about the 3-hour fire alarm Friday night) so I don’t really need any kind of transportation to get there.

        I agree that parking lots are ugly, but even Harris Teeter in Pentagon City has SOME kind of above-ground parking, and from what I can tell with the Penrose Square project there’s only a handful of parking spots above ground (none of which will be available for Giant patrons I’m sure).

        • Artie

          There is an entrance on 9th Street to a small parking garage directly across from the main entrance the the grocery store. There will also be hundreds of underground parking spaces. Besides, if you live so close, why drive?

    • Bringmetheyuppies

      i thought there was to be some surface parking as well. Is this the only grocery without it in arlington? Been saying all along if I can’t get my goodies to the car to haul home, Jefferson street will still be my main giant.

      • CrystalMikey

        The Harris Teeter on S. Glebe is pretty much garage-only.

    • Josh S

      It’s an underground garage with an entry into the grocery store from the garage.
      The public plaza was extracted from the developers as public benefit partially in exchange for various allowances like greater density, etc.
      Surface parking lots are major no-nos in Smart Growth, which is what the county is aiming for.

    • South Arlington

      They probably didn’t put parking spots in because it would like a terrible, ugly strip center that would be more in its place in Manassas than close-in Arlington. There’s a parking garage with entrance from 8th St. on the same level as the Giant.

  • PropaneLady

    they just barely planted it in time. if they don’t water the bejeezus out of it, it’s gonna just die. oh, but the county doesn’t like lawns now does it?

  • Arlwhenever

    Don’t inhale.

  • jjbug

    Note that I am only the 25th to comment. While there are more than 25 comments, 8 gave 2; 2 gave 4; and 1 gave 5 to this discussion. The way ArlNow records our comments misleads us in understanding the importance of the comments. I hope ArlNow revamps its counting! Little continued engagement with the topic was revealed by anyone of these 25, and probably little history of the effort in this particular area was described.

    To stir some other thoughts, I want first to know if the grass on timber is an effort tied to some scheme to capture rainwater for useful purpose rather than to flood the water treatment plant with run-off water. I also applaud Bender’s question, “Can you take the bus to the Giant?” is one all Arlingtonians need to ask of themselves (said she who has riden very few Arlington buses: I do walk the Metro Corridor tho.)
    jjbug

    • dynaroo

      Run-off isn’t treated, it goes directly into streams.

      It’s still a good idea to capture or slow it down so it doesn’t pollute streams though.

  • Joe

    The street car is a friggin stupid idea. It’s just going to create a traffic disaster along the Pike. But it will never see the light of day. A airheaded pipe dream that only a County board as stupid as Arlington’s could come up with. Arlington is a very poorly run county.

    • dynaroo

      We shall see.

    • South Arlington

      Wow Joe, you sound like a man with great ideas. Considering you think the County is “shafting” Columbia Pike, is your solution to do nothing and keep all the rundown buildings and keep on with the decades of minimal business investment? Your comments come across as a curmudgeonly do-nothing’s conspiracy rants.

  • ArlingtonNative

    No need to get too excited about the grass.
    As soon as the throngs of soccer players find that lovely sod field they’ll pound it into a dust bowl – just like so many other “fields” formerly known as grassy.

    • South Arlington

      It’s private property, not a public park. Property managers exist to keep that from happening.

      • dynaroo

        Wow, Joe, you’re one of those guys who thinks you can just declare something and it’s true, aren’t you? Sure, people play soccer on private property all the time and nobody stops them, because you say so.

        • Joe

          Well, you ought to tell those nimrods on the County Board about your private property theory. Because they are under the impression that they extracted a public plaza from the Penrose developers. Their mistake, right?

          • dynaroo

            Uh, Joe, a “public plaza” doesn’t equal “a place where anyone can do whatever they want.”

          • Joe

            Yeah, they are going to keep an armed guard there to shoot kids who want to play soccer. I get it…………………

          • South Arlington

            It’s most likely deeded to B.M. Smith or whoever the owner of the property is. They don’t just hand it over to the County as parkland. The County parks department isn’t mowing this grass. Your arguments are among the worst I’ve seen on this site.

      • ArlingtonNative

        Ahhh … so that’s why Property Managers “exist” – Thanks for the birds & the bees lesson!
        My guess, based upon past experience, the Property Manager will get tired of constantly having to chase off the soccer players and call the ACPD, ACPD will drive by on occasion for a few weeks to ‘scare’ off the trespassers and then realize they have better ways to spend their time … and the soccer players will eventually have free run.

        • dynaroo

          Yes, soccer players and bums and illegal immigrants will overrun Arlington if you build _____. We know the drill.

        • South Arlington

          Seriously, you think a bunch of people are going to start playing soccer on a patch of grass bordered by a grocery store, retail shops, a large retaining wall drop off, a bus shelter and Columbia Pike? Why are there no soccer games on the big patch of grass in front of Dominion Towers? In all truth, I think the grass will get minimal usage in general. It’s there for looks. And yes, it’s a property manager’s job to manage their private grounds.

  • Joe

    So the answer is to change the Pike into Crystal City with a bunch of unsightly apartment and office buildings? And a street car that few will ride and that will tie up traffic for miles? That’s just stupid.

    • dynaroo

      No, that’s not the answer.

    • South Arlington

      Few will ride? It’s replacing the 16 Metrobus line which has plenty of riders. It’s also a much more attractive means of transportation than a bus. It certainly won’t tie up traffic anymore than the horrible Metrobus drivers already do. Your Crystal City analogy is retarded and not based on any analysis (similar to all of your comments on here).

      • Joe

        You clearly know nothing about the proposed project. Tell you what, do some research. Then get back to me.

        • dynaroo

          He obviously did some research, and found you’re wrong. Now you’re too lazy to go prove otherwise. There’s nothing more pathetic than an opinionated, lazy poster who expect everyone to accept his unsupported opinions by bullying his way through.

        • South Arlington

          Joe, which part of my comments appear unresearched or incorrect? This happens to be a topic I’ve extensively researched, to the point that I purchased a house in Penrose because of the exciting new development and businesses brought by the future streetcar. Your only response is “you’re wrong” like a little preschool child (ironic since I’m guessing you are one of the olds that usually complain on Arlnow). Without the streetcar, Penrose Square would still be a dumpy half vacant strip center, Siena Park would be a vacant Safeway and empty decaying parking lot being used for limo parking, the Halstead would be a line of empty storefronts, etc. These new businesses and developments would not have proceeded past the capital acquisition stage without the promise of the streetcar. So get back to me when you are able to form an argument (I’d settle for a gramatically correct sentence at this point) and let me know how I’m wrong or unresearched. Thanks.

  • dynaroo

    FYI, Joe, here’s a nice article about how streetcars are revitalizing neighborhoods in many cities.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-08-30-streetcars30_ST_N.htm

    • Joe

      Huh? THAT is your backup for having a street car on the Pike? Just because it worked in a “warehouse area” doesn’t mean it is going to work on a highly automobile trafficked thoroughfare. The very idea is ridiculous and only something that planners as airheaded as the Arlington County board could come up with. But it will never see the light of day, fortunately.

      • dynaroo

        Sure beats having NO backup. All you can think to do is spew empty slogans, Joe. You back it up with nothing.

        It’s clear that no amount of real-world data from the success of streetcars in other cities is going to convince you. So we’ll just have to wait and see.

        • Joe

          No, it really doesn’t beat “no backup”. A US Today article about another city is your support for how wonderful street cars are? Gimme a break. But I suppose I shouldn’t be so critical of you because the County Board has done about the same level of research. Fortunately, it will never happen.

          • dynaroo

            Why is learning from the experience of other cities strange to you, Joe? It happens all the time. Maybe this is why you’re so pathetically uninformed and unable to form a supported opinion of your own.

      • Lee&Glebe

        But what I really want to know is whether you think the County is run well or poorly. Please stop clouding the issue with flowery euphemisms and tell us how you feel.

      • Josh S

        Joe, your comments are incredibly provincial. It’s not as if streetcars are some sort of newfangled technology. They fit into and enhance urban environments around the world. Including lots of places much more populated than sleepy Columbia Pike Blvd. To automatically assume that the addition of a streetcar will cause traffic to go haywire on the Pike is a bit unreasonable, I think.

        • Joe

          It is amazing how many people are popping off in support of the street car thing without understanding the proposal. Fortunately, it will never happen.

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