Marymount University proposes new athletic facilities on county land

(Updated 9:55 p.m.) Marymount University is developing plans to build a new sports facility on an embattled parcel of county property near its campus.

Currently, the property at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive, in the Old Dominion neighborhood, is home to a temporary road salt storage “dome” and a parking lot used for mulch distribution. In 2019, despite opposition from some neighbors, the county demolished a roughly 90-year-old water storage tank, repurposed for road salt, which was on the brink of collapse.

The tank saga came a few years after the county proposed and later nixed plans to relocate Fire Station 8 from Langston Blvd to the Old Dominion neighborhood.

Now, Marymount University, which was recently ranked for the first time as a national university and is showing other signs of growth — including higher enrollment rates, new softball and wrestling teams and new academic majors — is trying its hand at redeveloping the site.

The school, which has its main campus across from the county property and an additional presence in Ballston, first put forward a plan for the property two years ago. It proposes to build a sports field, a children’s playground and an enhanced walking trails to Missionhurst Preserve, according to a map on the university’s website.

In addition, it would replace the existing temporary salt dome with a new, solar-powered one, along with a mulch area.

A little less than a year ago, it also put forward a proposal to build new diamond fields where the Washington-Liberty High School baseball diamond in Quincy Park and the softball diamond on school property are. Since then, it has been in talks with W-L, Arlington Public Schools and the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation.

Marymount has advertised an informational meeting on this proposal, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The university said in a statement to ARLnow that the session acts on a suggestion from Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz to “build consensus among community members and inform them of our proposed plans to create a generational green space for Arlington at 26th Street N. and Old Dominion Drive that would improve and expand recreational opportunities for the County’s residents.”

It added that the forthcoming meeting also acts on a suggestion from a neighborhood association to meet with the three impacted neighborhood groups together. Marymount says it notified and invited Schwartz and the Arlington County Board to the meeting.

“We have put a great deal of thought and consideration into both projects, but these are proposals,” the university said. “We are discussing them with the neighborhood associations to receive their feedback after repeated attempts were made to communicate with the County about them.”

But Arlington County released a statement this afternoon (Monday) to clarify it has not endorsed the project.

“The County and APS received notice of Marymount’s November 29 Information Session at the same time Marymount informed the general public,” the statement reads. “The County and APS are not associated with or participating in the November 29 Information Session and do not sanction the materials or proposals presented by Marymount University.”

Per the statement, members of the Arlington County Board and the School Board have met with Marymount over the last year, at the university’s request, to hear the proposed concepts.

“At those meetings, County and APS staff asked clarifying questions but no decision was reached,” the county said. “At no time did County or APS staff indicate that these proposed facilities were feasible or acceptable.”

The statement emphasized that uses of publicly owned land must go through multiple county and APS processes, including zoning and environmental regulatory reviews, transportation and parking impact analyses and community engagement.

And Marymount will have to cough up some money or other public benefits, per the statement.

“Additionally, appropriate compensation must be provided for any private use of public land,” it says.

Marymount says the school is aware of the formal planning process and that the need for public support.

“It is our view that County residents should be fully informed about the proposed plan that would create new facilities at 26th Street and Old Dominion Drive as well as improve existing ones in the Quincy Park area,” the university statement said.

Old Dominion Citizens Association vice-president Richard Lolich tells ARLnow that the university has been in discussions with some neighbors for a little less than a year, mostly through Marymount’s community advisory council, which has neighborhood representatives.

“Most of the neighbors that I’ve spoken with have a lot of questions that they are looking for the university to answer,” he said.

As for whether there is support for the project, he said it’s too early to say.

“We really haven’t seen the full plans and had an opportunity to fully discuss with the community,” he said. “We have to wait and see.”

The informational session will be held inside Reinsch Library at the Reinsch Auditorium on Marymount’s campus (4655 26th Street N.) from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Registration is recommended.