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Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for Penrose Square Park

by ARLnow.com November 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm 12,248 132 Comments

Arlington County will be holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony this afternoon for the new park at Penrose Square.

The ceremony for the 17,000 square feet park, located at 2503 Columbia Pike, will be kick off at 4:00 today. The park features a tree-covered upper terrace with movable tables and chairs, an inner plaza with a water feature, small gardens, a sustainable storm water runoff bio-filtration and re-circulation system, and “Echo,” a large two-piece sculpture by Richard Deutsch (more information, below).

The park was designed by the prominent local design firm Oculus. A second phase of the project will include “a transit Super Stop in front of the square along Columbia Pike to support the current Pike Ride buses as well as future generations of transit.”

“With the completion of this first phase of the Penrose Square project, we are really beginning to feel and see the transformation of Columbia Pike,” Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “A visionary group of residents came together to create this vibrant, public square that will serve as a welcoming place, where neighbors can come together to socialize, dine, relax and have fun.”

In a press release, county officials described in inspiration for the “Echo” sculpture.

As a member of Penrose Square’s landscape design team, Richard Deutsch created the interactive sculpture inspired by the Three Sisters Radio Towers, formerly located near Columbia Pike and Courthouse Road.

Built in 1913 by the Navy as cutting-edge technology, the towers broadcast the first trans-Atlantic radio signal in 1915, connecting Arlington with the Eiffel Tower. They also introduced regular broadcasts of time signals — important navigational aids for ships at sea. When National Airport opened in 1941 the towers posed an aviation hazard and were taken down.

Echo provides a modern interpretation of Arlington’s significant contribution to the history of communication. The concave elliptical parabolas carved into each monolith reflect and project sound, allowing words spoken into one stone to be heard by listeners at the other. California-based artist Deutsch designs sculpture and environments using stone, water, bronze, and stainless steel. Like Echo, much of his work is marked by an understanding of space and environment and an attention to social context and history.

  • John

    Anyone happen to know how many of the $1800-2500 one bedroom apartment, or $3000-5000 two bedroom apartments are still sitting vacant?

    • John

      Oh, and for those of you looking at these prices who live in Clarendon or Courthouse and thinking these prices aren’t absolutely foolishly aspirational: keep in mind that these are on the Pike.

      • Columbia Piker

        Thinking it’s a stabilized property at this point. More “market rate” projects in the work about to break ground. Prices reflect costs, which are increasingly quickly due to the inflationary pressures on construction projects here. Which is also in line with the demand to live in Arlington at any cost instead of Vienna…

        …and precisely why the County is freaking out that it’s affordable corridor is disappearing!

    • shanna

      Will protesters be allowed access to this park–i.e., Occupy Wall Street? Will it become like London’s Hyde Park where people can give speeches about anything without fear of arrest?

      I DOUBT it!

  • steve

    Is it supposed to be brown area? or will grass be growing in there? And, why are the majority of comments regarding Columbia pike full of curmudgeons?

    • Joe

      Steve: you obviously haven’t lived in Arlington long. The local govt is dysfunctional and just loves to waste taxpayers money on crap like this. Live here long enough, and you too will be a curmudgeon.

      • Louise

        Or live here your whole life, like I have, and think the exact opposite! Sunshine and Rainbows over here (but I am hoping there will be some grass in this park . . . yikes!)

    • Bender

      What a cold and unappealing space.

      • Zelora

        I think they’re scared of having — you know, trees and bushes and stuff like that — where mother-rapers, father-stabbers, homeless people who can’t afford those apartments, etc., can hide.

    • drax

      Wait – steve is complaining about curmudgeons?

    • FoodSick

      I think it is simply to late in the year to lay down some sod

  • 4G

    I’ll have to try out the parabola thing next time I get my Pedro/Vinny fix. Howevah, given that monoliths look to be 10 feet apart, how could you not hear another person within that space?

    • steve

      totally agree – in the original park plans, they were placed MUCH further apart. Perhaps one will be moved IF the second half is completed.

      • Jimbo

        Yes, the artist mentioned today that one of monoliths will be moved 80′ away once phase II is complete.

  • John Fontain

    Cost of Central Park in New York City: $5,000,000

    Cost to build this “park”: $2,000,000.

    • 4G

      Olmstead was a much more efficient designer.

    • (another) Greg

      Adjusting for inflation, $5M in 1857 = almost $120M in 2011.

  • nom de guerre

    Does anyone know the disinfecting schedule for the tables and chairs? Is there free Wi-Fi?

    • sunlight

      sunlight is an excellent disinfectant

    • WeiQiang


  • Id

    Will this be on the Streetcar stop?

    • steve

      Sure will!

      • YTK

        And we can ALL get off the Streetcar and play MUSICAL CHAIRS in that lovely park and then get on the NEXT Streetcar that arrives (which will have empty seats becuz all THOSE passengers will be dying to run out and play musical chairs in that lovely park. Scuze me, I think I need lunch.

  • TuesdaysChild

    “movable tables and chairs”?!? More like “breakable and stealable” tables and chairs.

    Also, the plaza will look cluttered and messy when all the chairs and tables are moved around, bunched up, left fallen over, etc etc. Does someone from the park service come in every day and reset them up?

    • Jimbo

      The tables and chairs are very well made and heavy. They will not break or be stolen easily.

  • South Awwlington

    lol I was thinking breakable and stealable and mudpit from these pictures. Not so much park, eh?

    • steve

      it’s rubber mud

      • South Awwlington

        No offense, but seriously…give me as grassy lawn any day with a few trees. This looks like $hit.

        • steve

          Aww, give it some time – and a few seasons.

          • YTK

            Yes, it will look even $h*ttier by then.

          • Human

            Ummm…. It’s fall! There are trees and bushes, no grass yet. The grassy area will be in the next faze of the park. I’ve lived in Arlington foe 30 years, and am very happy with the direction our government takes us!

  • Steve

    1857 cost to purchase land for Central Park in 2012 dollars = ~$132M. That didn’t include any of the infrastructure, bridges, ponds, etc. BTW, what was your point?

    • steve

      thank you for saying that – I wanted to look it up, but was too lazy. People who post on here have no idea wtf they are talking about. same one bitching about the election, probably

    • John Fontain

      I came up with $488.4 million. You must have used a different interest rate than me in your present value calculation.

      My point was sorta obvious: $2 million for a few saplings, some chairs and two pieces of stone with bowls carved into the sides is a laughable waste of money. For $100,000 you could have beautifully land- and hardscaped that entire space.

      • Vincent Verweij

        3 inch trees aren’t exactly “saplings”, especially considering the soil stabilization system installed to support them, using Silva Cells.

      • John Fontain

        Thank you for your insightful contribution. You are 100% correct.

  • SamW

    I was going to make a snotty comment about it being November, thus not the time to be laying sod, but looking at this schematic, the area with tables and chairs looks to be something other than grass even when completed:


    • South Awwlington

      Everytime I see “Future South Cleveland Street,” I get excited!!!

  • Not Me

    Yeah….. a 2 million dollar park that size is kinda hard to justify. I’m all for green and think Arlington is a great place to live and raise a family but daaayyyumm.

    What’s the problem with some grass, trees and some benches?

    • John Fontain

      “What’s the problem with some grass, trees and some benches?”

      You’ll get executed for using common sense like that in this town.

      • WeiQiang

        help me out … would we have SAVED $400K if we installed a dog-friendly water feature, as in the Clarendon CCA?

    • Jimbo

      Rubber dirt is less costly to maintain and drains well. There are many trees that will only grow larger. There is ample bench seating.

      • John Fontain

        “Rubber dirt is less costly to maintain”

        I didn’t realize it cost anything to maintain real dirt.

        • drax

          It actually does.

        • Josh S

          I think there will be less erosion with this dirt. So that’s how you get the “costs less to maintain” determination.


      It ain’t VIBRANT !!!

  • Sunshine

    Um, what happens to the movable tables and chairs when we get hurricane force winds? Does someone come and collect them to keep them from becoming projectiles? It’s kind of weird looking. Is it really finished? No grass?

    • John Fontain

      Oh, I’m sure someone will come and collect them, alright. But not because of a storm. They’ll make their way to someone’s backyard before too long.

    • Trolly Troll

      When the tables and chairs blow into the street it will shut down all the street cars.

      • Jimbo

        The tables and chairs are quite heavy. There is absolutely no chance they will blow away.

        • YTK

          Or those crappy little “toothpicks” may end up on some patios if they are not chained down.

        • Josh S

          They are heavy. But, “absolutely no chance?” Never say never.

  • MissKittenCat

    I walk past this everyday..still looks crappy

    • Fritz

      And how does the fake mud work as litter ??

      • Garfield

        It doesn’t absorb worth a damn…..I pushed it around for ten minutes and there was still a pool of cat pee sitting there.
        I just tried to look nonchalant and just stroll away……….

  • 5555624

    Based on the speed with which they are building the transit Super Stop in front of the Rite Aid, will any of us be alive when they finish Phase Two?

    • Bob

      Seriously! WTF? The construction on that thing blows my mind. If they had constructed it for 8 hours a day M-F it could have been done within two weeks!

      • Columbia Piker

        They hit an underground storage tank and the environmental regulatory authorities had to come in and regulate the clean-up, removal, disposal, and re-start of the project.

        I would say that was +/- 50% of the budget…

        • LA

          Thanks for sharing, I’ve wondered about that for a long time. That was back in June, right? Or are they restarting it now?

    • DB

      I think they work on that stop for a couple of hours once a week. It’s amazing how long it is taking to finish it.

      • YTK

        I bet the roof will leak too.

    • John Fontain

      Heck, when you spend more money to build a freakin bus stop than it would cost to build an entire new high-end single family home, you gotta do something to make it look like the taxpayers aren’t getting ripped off. They have to justify the ridiculous price tag by drawing the construction out.

  • SHLady

    I like the sculpture. Arlington needs more public art.

  • TJLinBallston

    I’m not going to sit in the mud. How uninviting! Ewww,,,,when it rains it’s like pure hell. The Artisphere crowd strikes again.

    • Jimbo

      There will be no mud. It’s rubber dirt and has excellent drainage.

    • mud? seriously? have you even looked at it?

  • Deadite

    No shade and stone surface = this park will reach approx 250 degrees in the summertime.

    These vanity project are absurd. Just plant some grass and trees, and throw a few benches and a fountain out there and everyone will be 10 times happer, for 1/10 the price.

    • Jimbo

      There are plenty of trees that will provide more and more shade over the years.

      • Deadite

        I meant there are no trees around the paved part of the park. And besides, those trees are tiny and will take at least 15 years before they provide any decent shade. And WTF is up with the dirt? Are they just waiting until spring to plant some grass?

  • I’ve been living here for 32 years and the monetary waster in this county hasn’t gotten any better, it only continues along with raising property taxes to pay for this type of non-sense.

    • John Fontain

      But to be fair, one reason the price tag for this project was so high is that it included $127,000 in consulting fees for “chair and table placement design.” Figuring out where to put tables and chairs isn’t as easy as it used to be.

      • YTK

        They should have asked ANYONE’s mama for that information — it would have been FREE, no cost.

      • Wakefield Dad

        Hold on a second! They paid $127K for consulting services on the placement of MOVEABLE tables and chairs??? Are you serious??

  • I’ve been living here for 32 years and the monetary waste in this county hasn’t gotten any better, it only continues along with raising property taxes to pay for this type of non-sense.

    • Joe

      Yet, people keep electing lefty Dems to the county board. Frankly, the residents of Arlington who keep voting for these jokers deserve this dysfunction.

      • drax

        Or maybe they, you know, actually like it and have a difference of opinion or different values than you.

        Naaah, they’re just dumb.

      • Josh S

        Actually, I’m fairly certain that all board members are right-handed.

        • Huh

          Can we see a show of hands on that ??

    • Cheney

      I’d rather they use our dollars to pay for permanent public space improvements like this one instead of…
      …paying 6 guys to cut watch one guy with a chainsaw in the bucket truck cut down tree limbs.
      …”street cleaning” when no one on my entire block moves their cars off the curb OR is even able to because there’s no available off-street parking.
      …repaving streets that don’t need repaving.


  • and why couldn’t we find a local artist to support? a californian? who’s friend was he on the board?

    • Jimbo

      He’s a world-class modernist designer and public space visionary. This bodes well for the future of Arlington public projects and will only increase collaboration between local and non-local artists.

      • Yogurt

        It sounds like you are advocating for Artisphere II: The soich for a bigger money pit.

      • Fritz

        ” public space visionary”

        How does one go about getting that job ??

        Bet the pay and the side benefits are, shall we say, far out !!

  • CP Neighbor

    Thanks to the county for tearing out the lovely grass park for a $2 million mud & concrete concept.

    • speonjosh

      When was there ever a “lovely grass park” in this spot?

      • Piker

        When the property first opened it was a grass field. IMO all it need was some benches, trees, and small plants. $35,000 max. Penrose Square had given that land to the county and put in the sod. Seriously, the county needs to get their priorities in order…

        • Josh S

          Yes, there was a plot of grass. It was hardly “lovely,” though. It was lumpy, dry, crunchy grass. I was never inspired to stay and enjoy it. Which is less than I can say about the current plaza.

          • CP Neighbor

            True, it wasn’t manicured garden, but I added ‘lovely’ to emphasize the preference of grass to the slabs they put in. It’s so ridiculous.

          • Cheney

            Agree with you Josh. No one uses the “grass plot with benches” that is in front of Rite Aid.

          • WC

            Well, I am sure someone is going to post some more negative comments about this park….must be an Arlington thing. Well, I am going to go to the park and enjoy it. It is going to be a great weekend…so get out and enjoy it. Happy Veterans Day to all vets.

          • WC

            I want to send a Thank You to the new manager of Rite Aid who is constantly outside cleaning up the park and parking lot. I wish CVS would follow that example and get rit of the trash and drunks who sit at the entrance.

          • Tabby_TwoTone

            You should!

            That’s good to know. Thanks.

          • Anti-Vibrant

            You just aren’t a connoisseur of vibrancy….

    • YTK

      I can;t believe the ugliness they created there.

  • Joe

    In all honesty, that is horrendous. Just very ugly. Putting aside the cost.

  • John Fontain

    “Echo provides a modern interpretation of Arlington’s significant contribution to the history of communication.”

    Sometimes I wonder if half of art is making up bullsh** in order to sell it.

    Anyone ever read the description of the “art” at the electrical power substation at Wilson/10th/Fairfax? It’s basically a wood fence made of vertical wood planks with spaces in between them. But here is the description of the fence/art:

    “Fehrmann’s design, a continuous perimeter treatment of ipe wood and steel, operates as a motion filter creating zones of transparency with the effect that no two views of the substation are the same. Fehrmann’s interest in forming restricted views of the electrical system — revealing a changing portion of the whole — is consistent with his larger curiosity about how we gather information regarding our surroundings and ultimately come to understand our purpose and placement within the universe.”

    • John Fontain

      For those who haven’t seen it, here is the “art” that most would call a fence:


      • South Awwlington

        Never did get the whole “public art” concept. Sometimes it feels like we just try to hard to be something we’re not…

        • South Awwlington

          ***too hard…***

      • Ren

        Truly, that is hilarious. I try to be respectful of art and understand motivations for an item even when I don’t really like it aesthetically.

        But I didn’t realize this ‘object’ is art – I really thought it was a fence. From time to time, I remember thinking, “it’s great they put up such a big fence to cover up the substation.”

        So I guess art appreciation really IS in the eye of the beholder. Thanks Fehrmann…and Arlington taxpayers!!

        • Clarendon

          Dominion commissioned and paid for their fence around their substation. Arlington did pay for the sidewalk improvements though.

          • John Fontain

            Oh, what a relief. So we get to pay for it through our electric bills rather than through our tax bills. Hurray!

          • Clarendon

            That is correct. Although I understand that the design has low life-cycle costs because of the durable materials (ipe wood) and construction methods. It’s also somewhat graffiti resistent because of the way the boards are sideways. To me, it is just a very practical fence that is also more attractive than many others that surround urban power substations. But, I guess you disagree.

          • Josh S

            Let us know if you notice any increase in your bill.

        • Cheney

          Not sure if you’re being sarcastic, but if you thought it was a “nice” fence, then I think “fence as art” has served its purpose.

          Clearly they needed a fence/screening device, and decided to make it a nice/original one by bringing in an artist, instead of buying a generic one from Home Depot. I like to think that if they got a generic one, then it would have not made you think twice about it OR you would have thought it unfortunate to look on such a long expanse of ugly fence. Either way, I’m not sure you would have thought “what a nice fence.”

    • WeiQiang

      wait til we see the poopy art project around the waste plant on Glebe.

  • speonjosh

    I generally hate the amount of complaining that goes on here and tend to poke holes in the arguments of the complainers, but I just can’t figure out how to be enthusiastic about this.

    It’s not a park.

    Maybe it’s a plaza. But a dirt plaza?

    I don’t know, obviously it will be better in a few years when the trees have grown up so maybe we’re supposed to hold off on judgments before then.

    But after all that time behind fences, I sure was expecting something better than this…..

    • South Awwlington

      Amen. It was a nice grass lot this past spring. No mas.

      • speonjosh

        Actually, and I’m really not trying to be contrary this time, I do think that this is better than that crappy plot of clumpy grass that was there before.

        And of course both were / are better than a parking lot. So we’re moving in the right direction at least.

        • YTK

          Yes it needs a little more grass. And some potted trees on the skateboarder’s arena. However, that nice big grass lot was nothing but A Poop Palace for All the Poochies in the Neighborhood.

    • John Fontain

      **pats speonjosh on the back**

      • speonjosh

        Thanks, John. I feel better.

  • Gerry G

    I’m not sure what that wide, low wooden structure is in the second photo, but the skate boarders were on it by 4 PM yesterday.

    And I concur with what others have said about curmudgeonly comments. A lot of good and constructive points have been made here about the park, but they could have just as well made without the sarcasm and cheap shots.

    It seems that the folks that perch here and comment on stories can’t do so without being snotty or snarky about it. And it’s all done anonomously.

    My guess is that they’d behave differently in a forum where they had to reveal their identities.

    • YTK

      I believe in and applaud public OR anonymous Snarky/Snottyness.

  • Sunshine

    I guess I will have to walk over and see it in person. I thought the low wooden structures were construction waste not yet removed–like pallets or something. Does rubber dirt leach chemicals into the soil or air when it heats up? Will it smell bad on a 100+ degree summer day? I don’t know. Just asking.

  • Nimmel

    I’m funny too sometimes. But this actually is a beautiful space in person. Very ornate- and expensive- but one that will last for generations. The biggest cost ironically is the one that you don’t see, below grade.

  • B22201


    I might drive over there, and spend the weekend exploring this lovely park. Maybe a picnic, or two. . . just really hope nobody else finds out about it, or it’s going to be like waiting in line to vote this week.

    We needed something like this. The park where the old Orleans House used to be is just way too crowded nowadays. . . just can’t relax and enjoy yourself after a few hours at Artisphere like you used to.

    • YTK

      Bring your skateboard– it looks like one great pace to practice.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    ” A second phase of the project will include “a transit Super Stop in front of the square along Columbia Pike to support the current Pike Ride buses as well as future generations of transit.”

    So phase 2 is a new bus stop, which will then get ripped out a couple years later to be replaced by a trolley stop? Thats an efficient use of tax payer capital dollars.

    • Not so fast my friend…

      “as well as future generations of transit”

      Read much?

  • Pike resident

    I live near Penrose and I think this is disappointing and cold – doesn’t fit with the spirit of the neighborhood and looks like it belongs in an office park somewhere. What’s with the giant metal light fixture? I hope some originality stays on the Pike.

  • JnA

    Disappointing? Sculpture cost $450,000 and its funding was placed on the County Board’s consent agenda. Next up, $350,000 designer fence at the wastewater treatment plant, also placed on the County Board’s consent agenda.

    How much will it cost taxpayers to disassemble the sculpture and move it?

    Next November we will have a choice – Four more of Fi$ette or an end to the outrageous spending. And Romney, Ryan, Murray, won’t be on the ballot.

  • Arlington Pete

    What a hideous park and waste of money. How about a little greenery?

    • YTK


  • YTK

    THANK YOU Penrose Square for creating a SKATEBOARDER’s PARADISE!!
    And what about those Neolithic blocks edging the grass berm? Those things are B*TT UGLY. I can only hope you replace them with something that matches those striped blocks near the fountain.

  • Josh S

    OK, I stopped and walked around in it last night. The dirt is definitely not just plain dirt. The tables and chairs are quite sturdy and heavy and may not get stolen. All in all, my opinion of the plaza has gone up.


      WTF. So, you are telling me, that is HIGH CLASS DIRT? haha. Another sucker is born. Welcome to Arlington.

  • pretty it up

    the space does look barren and stark and monochrome. the tables and chairs need to go all. the seating should be permanently installed benches. if the restaurants wanted seating these should pay for it themselves. perhaps adding some evergreen trees and shrubs would make it more inviting and add some color for the fall and winter months.

    • YTK

      amen. I can just see food wrappers being blown around too.

  • John Fontain

    On second thought, maybe we should all stop complaining about how much the County wasted in overpaying for this park. Cause if we don’t, they might take our complaints as justification to rip everything right out and spend another $2 million to try again.

  • Cheney

    First, I like it.

    Yes, it is a PLAZA, not a “park”. But I think that’s appropriate for the development there. It’s like the hardscaped plazas along Alexandria’s King Street, and when it warms up in the spring, you will get a nice mix of folks using the tables and chairs and benches in the plaza. Kids can play in the fountain. Folks can come down out of their apartment and have their coffee and newspaper. It’s nearby some nice restaurants and dining, so you can sit outside before or after you eat, or grab some quick food (a burrito) and eat it in the plaza.

    I think the artwork is very, very nice. It’s not flashy or chincy. I’d rather pay more and get this solid looking granite sculpture than the vertical glass turd at the corner of Glebe and Fairfax (where you get on 66).

    Oh, and regarding the fence that is art. If you think it was a “very nice fence”, then it served its purpose.


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