Latest Design for Mosaic Park Revealed

by ARLnow.com April 6, 2012 at 10:00 am 7,291 70 Comments

The latest conceptual design plan for major improvements to Mosaic Park (544 N. Pollard Street), near Ballston, includes interactive water features, a playground, a multi-use court and a small lawn for play and picnicking.

The plan, from noted design studio Oculus, was revealed at a community meeting last week.

In addition to the water jets and playground equipment, the park will also have green power features — currently slated as an array of solar panels designed to generate the 1.2 kilowatts necessary to power the park while at the same time providing some desirable shade. Additionally, there will be “wooden platform seating” near the water features — similar to the seating along New York City’s High Line.

The Shooshan Company, which is behind the nearby and still-under-construction Founders Square development, will be footing the $6.6 million bill for the improvements, per an agreement with the County Board.

County planners say they’re not sure when exactly the park will be built, but they’re planning on construction beginning at some point in 2013. A second phase of the project, which is expected to include a basketball court and additional green space, has been planned, but depends on the county’s ability to obtain land from a private property owner.

  • Transplant

    Looks great!

    • JohnB


    • JamesE

      Someone will complain about it

      • Stu

        These features will seem so cheesy in 20 years. Like a kitchen from the 70s you can’t wait to rip out. How’d I do?

        • TJLinBallston

          My condo overlooks the site and I’ve studied the earlier designs carefully. They were all sufficient but lacked a “mosaic” theme. The park now centers on a mosaic of many new materials and solar adaption. Those in the far future may well conclude the pioneering park looks “dated,” but Mosaic Park will still get pinged as a “classic.”

  • Rankin

    I can’t tell what it’s going to be like from that image.

    Some trees? Some kind of mosaic pattern on the ground?

    • The green circles in the image are trees.

      • Rankin

        I gathered that. What is everything else, though?

        • JBalls

          It is a kind of mosaic pattern on the ground.

          • drax

            It’s a bidohecadidromegahexaganonagon.

  • GC2

    Great, sounds like another splash park they will build so the county board can further reduce the operating hours on the other splash parks due to further budget constraints to pay for the Artisphere and Trolley. Come on board, have the splash park hours so working parents can take their kids there at consistent normal times, and not during the hottest part of the day when most kids are napping on the weekends.

    • Josh S


  • crumudgeon

    I’ll complain 😉
    What did the county give up to get this big of a concession from the developer?
    Here’s what an earlier arlnow story says:

    …”As a result, Founders Square will now be taller and denser than before. A 15-story office building will become a 20-story office building, a 198-unit residential building will become a 257-unit residential building, and a 164-unit residential building will become a 183-unit hotel.”

    I’m not saying this is bad. But I can’t say it isn’t.

    • cj

      I’m saying this is good — very good. A little background: In the mid-90s, when Quincy Street was about to be extended through this formerly industrial block, the neighborhood (Ashton Heights) identified a park as its highest-priority community resource here. This provides a green buffer between the neighborhood and higher-density areas, and offers new recreational space in an area that badly needs it.

      Since then, the county has gradually assembled the land. The most recent steps were the purchase of the Mack’s garage in the middle of the park site, and a land exchange as part of the Founders Square project. The remaining challenge was funding to build the park. This came through a classic TDR (transfer of density) in which the residential and commercial density on the to-be-parkland was sold to the Founders Square developer, at thrice-appraised market rates. That density became the additional development mentioned above. The funds, roughly $6 million, will create the park.

      You can quibble about the details of any deal. However, unless Arlington taxpayers are willing to pay more into an ample fund for open space — or willing to live in an increasingly crowded, cramped, non-green, non-healthy community — TDRs and other creative deals will become more and more important as the county continues to grow.

      • SoMuchForSubtlety

        cj – Well said.

      • Arlingtonian

        This park does not provide a “green buffer” to anything. Look at the plan carefully. There is a lot of pavement, especially along excessively wide walkways and N. Quincy Street. The green circles in the plan are trees and shrubs in pits within concrete or frequently mowed lawns. There is little, if any natural area or wildlife/wildflower habitat. Nothing will develop into a woodland.

        The park is all about active recreation for children. Not much for adults except for the homeless, who will sleep on the benches embedded in paved surfaces.

        This will be one of the most environmentally unsound parks in the County. In this regard, it will only be exceeded by the much larger Gateway Park in Rosslyn and Long Bridge Park in Crystal City, both of which also lack a significant amount o natural area.

        • TJLinBallston

          How much woodlands/habitat can they cram into a few city blocks? Mosaic Park isn’t the time or place for your concerns. It’s a fresh take on a downtown park oriented to children and active adults, because they are the key demographic that will physically utilize it. Geting more fat citizens outside and active is very envirionmental sound. Arlington has miles and miles of splendid natural woodlands parks. More than most other places I’ve lived.

          • yay!


        • Josh S

          I think you might misunderstand what a green buffer means in this context. “Wildlife habitat?” Not exactly appropriate in this context. A nicely landscaped park with trees, grass, benches, shade, etc in the middle of an urban neighborhood? That’s a green buffer and entirely appropriate in the context.

    • drax

      20 stories and a nice park, or 15 stories and nothing.

      Easy call.

      • Katniss

        Or a third of an acre with no paper-thin walls and my own yard with the kinds of plants and trees I want. Even easier call.

        *AND* I only have 23 people trying to kill me instead of the entire DES spewing raw sewage into my water supply.

  • WeiQiang


  • karzai

    Looks like it’s going to be great. Let’s hope it actually happens. The County was supposed to build a new park on the median strip at Clarendon metro, with construction to begin by the end of 2011.. Well, it’s now April… still waiting for construction to start…

    Similarly, the dog park in Clarendon (behind the Hartford condo building) is supposed to be redone, and no construction has started on that either.

    • Zoning Victim

      They’ll get to it as soon as they’re done raising our taxes.

  • Brown Flipflops

    I love this design – much better than what is there now. Hopefully they can eminent domain the sketchy car repair shop next door and add to the green space.

    • 1RLI

      Ah yes…eminent domain. Take from others.

      Out of curiousity, why do you consider Mack’s to be a “sketchy” car repair shop?

      • Ballston4years

        I can’t believe i’ve lived right by this for several years and never once noticed Mack’s. i didn’t even know something existed right there. obviously i’ve been out-of-the loop.

      • Brown Flipflops

        It is run down and unsightly. It could easily be moved somewhere else so that space could be better utilized

        • Doesn’t Vote

          Also, it is overrun by Spanish Gangs and their bullfighting drug dealer associates.

        • 1RLI

          So, run down and unsightly = grounds to invoke eminent domain? Interesting concept. I guess that’s warning to all of us to keep our trim painted, gutters repaired, lawns mowed, and windows cleaned.

        • drax
      • geezer

        “Ah yes…eminent domain. Take from others” Actually I think that was manifest destiny

        • 1RLI

          I don’t know…manifest destiny seems to have turned out alright for everyone involved. The U.S. got 48 contiguous states, and the indians got casinos, tax-free smokes, and the ability to charge 135% for $2,500 loans!

    • karzai

      It would be nice if they could also build a little park on the land now used by Advanced Towing, which conducts a predatory towing operation in league with greedy Clarendon businesses. If you set one foot off the property, for one second, they tow your car by saying you were not “exclusively using the businesses” corresponding to that parking spot.

      Advanced Towing is a shady business, conducting shady operations, damaging cars right and left. They and their collaborators need to be run out of the corridor, and soon.

  • DarkHeart

    I like the water jets that shoot straight up, but how about some laminar flow technology? It’s not just for Vegas and the Detroit airport. It might cheer up that kid on page 9.

    • JamesE

      The water jets should be 2000psi

    • WeiQiang

      The kid is meditating.


    There’s no way this can be viewed as anything other then an improvement then what is there now. Just wish they wouldn’t wait till 2013 to start…

    • The delay is due to the fact that Shooshan’s funding of the project doesn’t kick in until they reach a certain stage of the construction of Founders Square.

      • Ballston4years

        Ahhh…great point! Thanks for adding that.
        In this meeting, did they discuss any of the ground floor retail plans for the Founders Square project?

        • cj


    • Arlingtonian

      It’s not an improvement at all. The area is presently grassy. The County will add a lot of pavement and other impervious surfaces. This will increase run-off and pollution in Four Mile Run, the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. The County will not add any natural area, such as a meadow or a woodland that might mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of this really bad example of park planning.

      • yay!

        It’s a massive improvement. Very few people *use* the space at present. This isn’t the place for meadow and woodland, it’s for getting folks outside and active…first phase is admittedly focused on kids, but a future phase will hopefully provide a place to shoot some hoops! There are plenty of other places in the County to find natural area – it’s not like you were going to be able to find you zen in that pocket park anyway.

      • Josh S

        I’m as big an environmentalist as the next guy, but this post is just hilarious.

  • deb downr

    With the outdoor showers and the sun shades It’ll be a homeless club med.

    • VASquare4Life

      So very true.

      Maybe A-SPAN can move their evening food giveaway to the homeless from Oakland park to this park, so they can spend the entire day in comfort and have their food delivered directly to them. This would make it even easier to forgo being contributing members of society.

      • drax

        Being homeless sounds awesome! They’re so lucky.

        • CountMeIn

          Being homeless IN ARLINGTON sounds awesome! They’re so lucky.

          • Zoning Victim

            I wonder why so many people give up homelessness, then?

          • drax

            VASquare4life thinks they don’t.

          • Tre

            Being homeless IN NORTH ARLINGTON sounds awesome! They’re so lucky.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      You won’t need sun shades because of the 20+ story concrete wall that will eventually surround the park.

  • Bender

    How about, instead of government-designated “green spaces,” they allow businesses to have a greater set-back away from the street, which allows not only for grassy areas in front and grass/tree line sidewalks, but also a much needed sense of openness, rather than all of this closed-in, cavernous, grayness everywhere?

    • Stu

      Kind of like D.C.?

    • Arlingtonian

      About 15 years ago, the County paid “experts” from Harvard and elsewhere to help design the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The experts recommended that the County require that all new builidngs in the corridor would be built to the sidewalk. This would increase the profitability of the retail establishments located in the ground floors of the new buildings, as they would be next to the sidewalk.

      The County Board agreed. That’s why you don’t see any “green space” in front of the newer buildings in the corridor. The only exception to this are federal buildings, such as DARPA in Ballston, that require wide setbacks from the street for security purposes.

      • Josh S

        I think it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

        Setbacks reduce the friendliness of the streetscape from the pedestrian’s point of view. You may have noticed that every sort of idealistic representation of Main Street America features store fronts right up to the sidewalk, with perhaps alcoves cut out for the front doors. It does improve the business climate because it invites people to stroll along the street, window-shopping and stopping in as they feel like it.

    • Anne


    • Rick

      Setting it back from the street would allow roads to be widened, and arlington doesn’t even want to be able to entertain that idea

      • Josh S

        Mostly because the point of the government is to provide services for people, not cars. No set-backs are more friendly to people.

  • CourthouseChris

    Love the earthworks playground; looks similar to Noguchi’s contoured playground ideas that I always considered such a shame to have never been implemented.

  • Vik

    Hopefully, phase two doesn’t take too long to get planned out, because that mechanic shop sort of limits that space, IMO.

    • cj

      If “that mechanic shop” refers to Mack’s garage in the middle of the block (not the one on the south side of 5th), that property has been acquired by the county and will be cleared, cleaned up and included in the first phase of the park.

  • JB

    Enough with parks that cater to kids – what we need is one of these: http://www.digthisvegas.com/what-you-do. Would you rather have a sprayground, or be able to blow off some steam after work playing basketball with a 20-ton excavator?

    • JBalls

      Perhaps the county board has never received a Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue.

  • MC

    We need more polished urban parks, so this is a great addition. Not sure a basketball court will enhance this however – I see chain link fences.

  • AshtonVASquareBorder

    If maintenance and land procurement is not included, how can this cost $6.6M?

    Design cost: 4 people, half a year = $0.5M
    Demo Mac’s garage: $11 ft^2 * (80′ x 60′) = $0.0528
    Grading: $0.1M
    Landscaping Cost: $23 ft^2 * (400′ x 260′) = $2.392M
    Basketball Half Court: $6 ft^2 * (50′ x 40′) = $0.012M
    Aquapark and playground (materials and labor): $0.5M

    Total – ~$3.5M

  • Anne

    I live in a neighborhood next to Ballston, but not walkable to Ballston because Wilson is so scarey. How will my children enjoy this park? My neighborhood has nothing like this park – the closet thing is the playground at Arlington Traditional. This park is boondoggle – it will look chic, but not really serve the residents of Arlington who would benefit most. If my kids want to go their, I’ll have to drive, find parking, and add to the congestion of the cars and parking. Crazy plan.

    • yay!

      Just because it’s not immediately convenient to you doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, particularly since you’ve got options at ATS and the massive Bluemont Park.

      I agree Wilson is terrifying between George Mason and Abingdon, which is why you should attend the Bluemont Civic Association Task Force on Arterial Roads Sidewalks and Pedestrian Safety if you’re not already.


    • Josh S

      Wait, did I miss the part where this park was supposed to be built for Anne?

      Anne, I live even farther away, which means the existence of this park is even more inconvenient to me. It would take an hour’s walk just to get to it. I should be twice as outraged as you. Let’s form a Meetup – Parents Outraged That Anything is Built More Than 100 Feet From Their Homes. We can get together once a month and poke each others eyes out. It’ll be fun!

  • Betty

    Beautiful park! All the criticism and uninformed opinions are unfortunate. Staff and the residents did a fantastic job on this project and it will be another feature that makes Arlington a great place to live!


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