Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
As Arlington faces challenges that are not easy to resolve, it is important to take note of a recent success story about Arlingtonians working together to build consensus around a dynamic vision for the future of a neighborhood.
During a two-year process driven by resident input and feedback, the Waverly Hills Civic Association (WHCA) developed the Waverly Hills Neighborhood Conservation Plan (NCP) — a document that fosters a more closely knit community, identifies citizen-driven capital improvement projects, and lays out a dynamic vision for the future of our neighborhood.
Last Saturday, the WHCA’s hard work resulted in a unanimous vote by the Arlington County Board to approve the NCP. The WHCA members’ consensus building efforts are a testament to the power of grassroots, citizen-led planning and to the trust placed by the County in the NCP process as a way to improve neighborhoods and help them thrive.
The creation of the WHCA’s NCP was an exercise in community building. Different generations with varying needs came together to forge an updated vision for Waverly Hills. All of us who participated received an education about the neighborhood’s rich history, its connections to Lee Highway, and its perceived strengths and weaknesses. Long-time residents listened to the concerns of newcomers, and vice versa. Neighborhood residents built shared understanding and trust through well-attended brunches, bake sales, and happy hours.
Through its process, the WHCA identified several capital improvement projects that would be beneficial to the neighborhood and around which consensus had developed, focused principally on Woodstock Park and pedestrian safety.
Woodstock Park — like most parks in Arlington — is a valuable resource. WHCA reached a consensus that the park should be more than just a children’s play area; it should be place for all ages to enjoy. A section of the park was identified as a top-priority capital improvement project, which will result in the addition of recreational uses primarily for adults such as a formal garden area for reading, chess tables, and a place for yoga classes.
The WHCA NCP also included spending recommendations for sidewalks and other pedestrian safety projects. Waverly Hills is within walking distance of Lee Highway and Ballston, both of which are major transportation and shopping hubs. We are also proximate to three schools — Glebe Elementary, Washington-Lee High School and the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program — that are experiencing the capacity challenges that come with increased enrollment. Because sidewalks are expensive, the WHCA prioritized projects that connect residents to transit, shopping, schools, and parks.
The WHCA NCP also addresses critical issues confronting seniors in our community. Seventy percent of Waverly Hills’ residents expect to retire in the neighborhood. This has prompted a community goal of creating a comprehensive aging-in-place strategy, including supporting the “Villages” concept, expanding senior housing options so that seniors can stay in the neighborhood, and ensuring that the local hospital has the capacity to keep up with the coming wave of healthcare demands.
This vision for Waverly Hills is ambitious, but it is also workable and affordable. Hopefully, the successful implementation of the NCP will help create bonds within the neighborhood and restore faith in the ability of Arlingtonians to work together in a fiscally responsible manner to enhance the quality of life for our residents and to improve a neighborhood that is rich in history and tradition.
Ginger Brown is the immediate past president of the Waverly Hills Civic Association. She is a co-founder of the Lee Highway Alliance and currently serves on the Arlington County Planning Commission.