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Green Valley’s new town square is finally opening next weekend

After nearly two decades and plenty of delays, the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square in Green Valley is finally ready for its grand opening next weekend.

The event to unveil the $5 million town square is set to take place on Saturday, May 7 at 2400 S. Shirlington Road. It will include a proclamation, remarks, and live entertainment, county spokesperson Ryan Hudson tells ARLnow.

The event will include a proclamation from the Arlington County Board, remarks from Green Valley residents and clergy from nearby places of worship, spoken word by local resident Velator, and ribbon cutting. Additionally, the day will feature live entertainment from DC Face and soloist Pat Brawley, food trucks (including BBQ At Its Best and Kona Ice), a make-and-take art project for kids, lawn games, and more.

The grand opening will also pay tribute to the town square’s namesake, John Robinson, Jr. A long-time organizer and civic leader, Robinson was known as the “Mayor of Green Valley.” He was also the publisher of a free neighborhood newspaper that circulated for 40 years.

“During his lifetime, John Robinson was the heart of the town square. He headquartered his activities to help the community — children, families and senior citizens — right in this spot,” Green Valley Civic Association president Portia Clark tells ARLnow. “It is only fitting that the opening ceremony celebrates John and what he meant to Green Valley.”

The public space was originally set to be named Nauck Town Square, but in 2020, the county approved the renaming in remembrance of Robinson, who died in 2012.

The square was designed by Walter Hood and will feature a plaza, open space, an outdoor stage, diagonal sidewalks, seating, tables, historical markers, and a work of public art.

The FREED sculpture is a 30-foot golden beacon that incorporates the name of a Green Valley subdivision and a Ghanaian Adinkra symbol.

The work of art “pays homage to the notion of freedom, whether experienced as a historical or contemporary and personal or collective condition,” according to the county website.

The town square’s layout and design was the topic of much discussion in the community. It was first approved way back in 2004.

“The John Robinson Jr. Town Square realizes a vision for Green Valley that emerged from a community steered planning process and delivers a civic space that will welcome a variety of uses and users through the thoughtful and inspiring design of Walter Hood,” County Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey says. “Through the iconic FREED sculpture, we are encouraged to contemplate historic and contemporary struggles for freedom and end equity while drawing inspiration from the square’s namesake, John Robinson Jr. , whose life was devoted to uplifting our Black community.”

The project did experience some delays. Initially expected to be completed by the end of 2020 and, then, pushed to the end of 2021.

The delays were related to utility relocation, supply chain issues, and “minor, construction-related challenges with platform decking, benches, and concrete work,” Hudson says.

Putting a positive spin on the delays, Hudson says the push back did allow for the complete installation of the FREED sculpture, the planting of additional trees, street resurfacing, and table installation.

“As a result, no major work will be needed after the official opening of the town square,” he says.

Now, four months into 2022, the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square is nearly finally ready.

While many in the community are excited for this public space to finally open in what was previously aformer vacant lot, there is some clear frustration that it has taken this long.

“The idea for renewing the town square was developed almost 20 years ago. Frankly, 2020 was the year set for its final unveiling, but here we are in 2022,” Clark says. “Community members who frequented the square in the past have found themselves without a community asset for some time. We are anxious to tear down the fences for all to enjoy on Saturday, May 7.”

John Robinson, Jr. Town Square grand opening flyer (image via Arlington County)

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