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Aging Building Near Shirlington to Be Torn Down

by ARLnow.com December 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm 7,095 56 Comments

An aging county-owned building near Shirlington is being torn down as part of the expansion of Jennie Dean Park.

The LaPorte Building at 3600 S. Four Mile Run Drive was purchased by Arlington County for $3.6 million in 2002, as part of a long-range expansion plan for the 22.4 acre park. It was most recently used as a temporary construction office during the expansion of Arlington’s Water Pollution Control Plant. The building was vacated by the plant contractor in late 2010.

Now, the county is preparing to finally tear down the run-down structure. The demolition will be conducted in an environmentally-responsible manner, officials say.

“Rather than using traditional means and methods, the County’s contractor will deconstruct the building,” said Dept. of Parks and Recreation Construction Management Specialist Brenda Parker. “This entails taking apart the building in order to reclaim, reuse and/or recycle as much of the materials as possible.”

After the structure is town down, the lot will be turned in to open space.

“Once the building is removed, the area will be graded and seeded, a portion of the fence will be removed, temporary landscaping will be installed around the site perimeter and benches may be added at the corner of S. Four Mile Run Drive and S. Nelson Street,” Parker said. “That work should be completed by early 2013.”

An adjacent, existing parking area will be maintained, however, in order to temporarily store equipment and Arlington Transit buses while a new ART facility is constructed. Use of the temporary storage area is expected to last through the end of 2013, at which time the parking lot will be demolished and converted to open space.

  • novasteve

    Hey, Arlington House still stands. Why not tear it down too?

    • ARL-VA

      Are you implying that the LaPorte Building has some sort of historic significance? To… anyone at all? Looks like a dumpy building that was probably intended as temporary storage when it was built.

      People actually will not miss this building when it’s gone, except for maybe you.

      • bum

        I hear it was the first building in Arlington to have security cages installed on its windows.

  • StaceyLoizeaux

    C’mon, let’s blow that sucker into a billion little pieces on the 4th of July.

  • DCBuffs

    Opening up the area around Jennie Dean will be helpful. It remains more than a bit sketchy, and users young and old will benefit from better site lines from 4 Mile Run Drive–the park can’t be seen from the main drag right now.

    • Freddie

      Honey, 4MR ain’t the main drag. You can see the Main Drag Sunday nights on 23rd Street.

      • DCBuff

        Can’t think of anything less interesting.

        • drax

          Far more interesting than 4MR Drive on Sunday nights, that’s for sure.

  • WLO

    Pity. Would have made a great homeless shelter.



  • henry bennet XVIII

    Kiss of death for a historic building: being owned by saintly Arlington. Most jurisdictions by historic property to save it from evil developers.
    RIP: Tropical Fish, Clarendon. Lawyers Row, Court House. Reeves Farm ( be honest). Multitude of old schools; Wilson School (soon). Cool building next to Arlington Art Center, Virginia Square. Fort Ethan Allen, now Chain Bridge dog poop park….

    • Gibby

      Is WIlson School scheduled to be torn down???

      • William Bennett XVIII

        Eventually. Larger picture involved

    • WLO

      And yet the Artisphere still stands.

    • Oh Come On

      It’s an old, decrepit industrial building. It’s not “historic.” Are you going to complain when they start getting rid of the “historic” used car dealerships, too?

      • BBMS

        You mean like the former Al’s Motors, where Gold’s in Ballston is?

  • fedworker

    Great place for a froyo. No cute dogs allowed within 100 ft. but all screaming brat kids are welcomed.

  • Jon

    Looking forward to the open spaces and hopefully a slower traffic pattern.

    • Bob

      I wish it would slow traffic down, but the only way to do that would be to shrink the lane width on 4 Mile Run and add better pedestrian shelters all along it. It would also be nice if they opened up the gravel lot to the public for parking. Between the W&OD, the Dog Park and the Food Assistance center there is never enough parking in the evening and on the week ends.

  • John Fontain

    “Rather than demolish the building in the most affordable way to show respect for taxpayers’ money, the County’s contractor will instead deconstruct the building so as to use as much taxpayer money as possible,” said Dept. of Parks and Recreation Construction Management Specialist Brenda Parker. “This entails taking apart the building in order to reclaim, reuse and/or recycle as much of the materials as possible”

    “While the bulk of the materials will be worthless to anyone, there may be a few scraps here and there that someone may find useful.”

    • John Frowntrain

      “I have no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t know what’s in that building and I don’t know anything about recycling or reusing building materials either.”

    • CW

      No, what it probably means is “this building is loaded with asbestos, lead paint, and all sorts of horrible things, and we have to go through the correct steps to remove them, but we don’t want to freak the public all out.”

      • South Awwlington

        Agreed. I think they should use the bricks as pavers in the park. Would be a cool historic nod.

      • drax

        No, it means exactly what it says.

        For more information:


        • South Awwlington

          There really is no reason to deconstruct this building, brick by brick, unless there is something harmful in it. We aren’t relocating the Hatteras Lighthouse or Mount Vernon. The County does not make building deconstruction common practice.

          Given the age of the building, it is full of toxic chemicals such as lead paint and asbestos to name just two.

          • drax


            There is a very good reason to deconstruct this building. I just posted it. It has nothing to do with hazardous materials.

            The county doesn’t tear down buildings very often, but maybe it is going to make deconstruction a common practice.

            Sure, it might have toxic stuff in it, but that’s not why it’s being deconstructed.

            This is yet another non-issue being turned into something on ArlNow. They are simply tearing it down in an ecofriendly manner to recycle and reuse stuff. Big f’ing deal.

          • DCBuff

            I’m not sure there is a “very good reason” to deconstruct this particular building just because you and wik say so; however, if ArlCo is going to adopt this practice versus just dozing the place, then there should be a cost-benefit analysis available to the public to address the concerns expressed by John F and others.

          • South Awwlington

            You posted a link to a Wikipedia article, not to Environmental Assessment of the property. Don’t get me wrong, I think we should take buildings down in an environmentally responsible manner.

            No one is turning this into anything. We are merely stating opinions…and you are too.

          • CW

            @Poster whose name I can’t type without getting oderatedmay – Can you please post information from the County discussing how they are going to “make deconstruction a common practice”, and how they are “simply” doing something that has not traditionally been done in the County? If this is a shift in policy, I would think there would have been a C/BA or some planning documents involved.

          • drax

            Does John have concerns? Is that it?

          • drax

            Here is my opinion – there is no reason to believe that the County is going to waste huge amounts of money on deconstruction, nor is there any reason to believe the County is doing it to hide some kind of toxic stuff from us. Nor is all the usual freaking out nothing and conspiracy theories and speculation at all necessary.

            That’s my opinion.

            My opinion is also that you’re of course welcome to ask the County for an environmental assessment of that property or a cost-benefit analysis. My opinion is that maybe you should go ask for those if you want.

          • DCBuff

            ” there is no reason to believe that the County is going to waste huge amounts of money” OMG, you are a hoot.

          • brown before green

            Deconstruction isn’t rocket science, and it also isn’t necessarily more expensive than simple wrecking ball and bulldozer. You can also see deconstruction at work at many sites — you will notice fairly organized piles of different material at the site. This makes it easy to load and cart away metals, stone, brick, block, glass, wire, etc. plus architectural elements. People PAY for a lot of the “waste,” so it is a different transaction than merely knocking it down and having to pay to dispose of the waste as at a landfill. The revenue stream offsets the cost of added time and labor. And, by going more carefully through the building, any ‘surprises’ of the hazardous kind can be dealt with properly minimizing threats to public health.

            Although I did not study or inquire, I did notice some deconstruction practices at both the old McDonalds on Wilson @ Geo Mason that was rebuilt, and at the former Rosenthal site on Columbia Pike @ S. Glebe. Materials have value!

      • YEP


      • John Fontain

        CW, please substantiate your assertion that the county is lying to us about the reason for the method of demolition. Otherwise, i’ll have to take their statement at face value: they’re going to overpay to demolish the building because the idea of salvaging some junk sounds cool to the county staff that doesn’t have to pay for it themselves (other peoples’ money).

        • drax

          People come up with all kinds of goofy accusations and conspiracy theories here and don’t back them up. It’s the Internet after all.

          • CW

            It’s not a goofy accusation or conspiracy theory. It’s a pretty well-educated guess given the vintage of the building and the construction practices at the time.

          • drax

            The conspiracy theory is the idea that the county is using deconstruction of the building to hide the presence of toxic materials.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Given the age of the building, there is absolutely no chance that this building is not loaded with asbestos and lead paint and who knows what else. It’s not a “goofy accusation” at all – it’s a solid point.

  • bobbytiger

    Glad the Sistine Chapel is not in Arlington.

    • brown before green

      Because the LaPorte building was such a palace?

      I rather lament the gradual disappearance of one of Arlington’s very few semi-industrial corridors.

      And no, that is not a place for a homeless shelter, because that would perpetuate the confine-the-poor-to-deep-South-Arlington history.

      We’re making our own history now, boys.

      You guys are probably Civic War re-enactors, ever hoping the outcome will change.

  • Ted

    Open space? You mean the Shirlington Skateboard Park? The County Board is dominated by a Parks and Recreation bureaucracy that is dedicate to new expensive infrastructure, not to open space.

    • drax

      Yet here we are getting some open space.

      • DCBuff

        For now. While I truly hope that this addition to Jennie Dean is just that, a real addition to the ball fields, with the needed extra parking, to complement Barcroft Park up the street, Ted raises a relevant point.

  • South Awwlington

    Does anyone now if there is a long-term redevelopment plan for some of the commercial properties along Four Mile?

    • Bob

      If you live in Shirlington Crest and you heard that from the real estate agents selling you on your new home, it was a complete pile of lies. The only plan is for the gravel lot and this building that is being demolished. All the rest of the junk car dealers, tire piles and clunkers will continue to remain since all of the land is privately owned.

      We are going to continue to have to fight for parking spaces from cars out of the county that those dealers dump on the side roads until they can fix them. Not to mention the tires and garbage the seem to find their ways on the sidewalks.

      • South Awwlington

        I don’t live there, but close by and travel through the area daily. There is some real opportunity there and it would add greatly to the neighborhood by providing services and retail and to the neighboring bike trail also.

        I would suspect the land would be in need of serious remediation from the heavy industrial use of its past. All joking aside, I could see a tail line from the Columbia Pike Streetcar ending in Shirlington and traveling up the Pike – thereby putting Shirlington on fixed guideway, rail.

        • Bob

          That would be something. Train to bike trail to Train. Its nice to see that we are coming full circle on these things. You’ve got my vote. Do you want to go for County board? Maybe we can get the rest of the county to care about 4 Mile Run, the worst street in Arlington.

        • drax

          That’s a great idea.

      • Johnny Newman

        Maybe they should let Walmar build to help fix up the area leading up them. Just a thought.

        • drax

          Stop thinking so hard, Johnny.

      • Johnny Newman

        Maybe they should let Walmart build to help fix up the area leading up them. Just a thought.

    • Frog

      A study was done of Arlington’s industrial districts in the 90s (or what remains of them), but it didn’t make any real recommendations, it mostly just described how the industrial areas were used. This area is supposedly in line to have a small-area plan done, but it has been on the back burner for a long time. Say what you will, the auto-body shops etc. do serve a purpose.

  • Bob

    Oh, and how about Fat Boyz BBQ. Are they even legally allowed to sell their chicken every Saturday? How do we get the health department to inspect them. I love that they have killed all of the grass their at 4-mile run and Oakland. They leave their large sacks of trash just sitting their next to their illegally parked grill from Saturday till garbage comes on the following Friday.

    Too bad NVPRA, Arlington County Police will not do any thing to remove them. Last I checked, even if they did have a street vendors permit they are only allowed to stay in one place for an hour, not all day every day.

  • YTK

    I had hoped that building would turn into a late-hour FROYO establishment, but alas, it appears that is not in the cards.

  • Marcia Jacolby

    Is this the old building where all the records from ATF out of business gun dealers used to be? Down from the Weanie Beanie?


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