Arlington County is asking for public input on a possible partnership with Alexandria to build the proposed Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility in Long Bridge Park, near Crystal City.
The county will reach out to residents this fall to see what they would like to see in an aquatic and fitness facility. Alexandria will also be surveying its residents.
If interests in both counties line up, the two will start to discuss costs and responsibility for the development of the pools and fitness area. The border between Alexandria and Arlington is roughly three miles from Long Bridge Park.
The possible partnership is the county’s latest plan to find the funds it needs to complete the second phase of the Long Bridge Park Project Plan.
“If the synergy is there, and both communities are interested, we will explore this further,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “Partnerships are just one of the many creative ways we are approaching the development of our facilities and programs.”
Phase Two includes building the aquatic and fitness facility, connecting an esplanade in Long Bridge Park to the building and the creation of public areas, trails, public art, walkways and signs for the park, according to the 2013 Long Bridge Park Master Plan.
The county has been planning a redesign of Long Bridge Park for more than 10 years, with the first phase completed in 2011. Higher-than-expected construction bids and operating costs prevented the county from choosing a contractor to complete phase two, pausing the project in 2014.
Once completed, the aquatic and fitness facility is planned to have a 50-meter pool for recreational, fitness and competitive swimming. There will also be a smaller pool for exercise and recreational program, a small hot-water therapy pool and a free-form water play area that will include a lazy river and slides, according to a 2013 design plan for the facility.
In addition to the aquatic elements, the facility will have a large fitness area and a community room, according to the plan. A “Multiple Activity Center,” which will have a climbing wall, a large indoor fitness space and an elevated track, is also planned.
The plans may change based on feedback from residents, Hynes said. The County Manager is scheduled to present recommendations to the County Board in January 2016.
“A lot has changed since that building was designed,” Hynes said. “The economy has changed. Many things in the region are different.”
While the county is waiting on the aquatic and fitness facility, it will continue to make improvements to the park. In June, the County Board unanimously approved the construction of playgrounds on the south end of the park. The $1.082 million contract includes play areas with cooling “fog” systems, tunnels, play structures, bridges, benches and fencing.
Photos via Arlington County
Fire Station Relocation May Go to Voters — A controversial plan to relocate Fire Station 8 from Lee Highway and the Hall’s Hill neighborhood to a locale further north, in order to improve response times, could be put to voters. Opponents may push for a stand-alone bond issue for construction of the new fire station, which would put it on the ballot. The idea was floated during a well-attended community meeting on the fire station relocation plan last night. [InsideNova]
North vs. South Swimming Pool Divide? — Swimming has always been a significant part of life in Arlington, but current pool options are tilted toward north Arlington, says Our Man in Arlington columnist Charlie Clark. Building the stalled Long Bridge Park aquatics center could help alleviate the divide, Clark reasons. [Falls Church News-Press]
Arlington Family Kicked off Flight — An Arlington family was kicked off a JetBlue flight from Boston to Baltimore on Monday, reportedly because of a squirming two year old and FAA regulations. [WUSA 9]
DCA Screeners Find Two Guns in Two Days — Screeners at Reagan National Airport found two guns in carry-on baggage over the course of two days this week. The two men who had the guns in their bags are now facing weapons charges. [WJLA]
I-395 Exit to Close Temporarily — The exit from northbound I-395 to Washington Blvd will close overnight Sunday and Monday for paving and lane striping, VDOT says. [Patch]
This Saturday, Arlington residents can make their way to Long Bridge Park (475 Long Bridge Drive) to celebrate Independence Day and score fantastic views of the fireworks show just across the Potomac River.
The food, games and live music being offered at the park from 5-10 p.m. should keep attendees busy as they wait for the fireworks at the National Mall. The schedule of free activities includes moon bounces, face painting, hula hoop contests, drop-in kickball and cornhole.
Three local bands will play at the park leading up to the fireworks display. The lineup kicks off with DJ Freedom at 5:15 p.m., self-styled “Caribbean musical powerhouse” The Image Band is scheduled to go on at 6:20 and cover band ForTheWin will take the stage at 8.
Several local food vendors will be at the park offering good ol’ American fare, including Carolina Q, Bada Bing Cheesesteaks and Spiedies, DC Slices and a Chick-Fil-A truck.
According to the National Park Service, the fireworks at the National Mall will start at 9:09 p.m. and last around 17 minutes.
Other recommended firework viewing sites in the area include:
- Whipple Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (Stewart Rd, Fort Myer)
- Air Force Memorial (1 Air Force Memorial Dr)
- Gateway Park (1300 Lee Hwy)
- Gravelly Point Park (off the George Washington Parkway just before Memorial Bridge)
- Iwo Jima Memorial (.2 miles from the Rosslyn metro, near the intersection of Route 50 and N. Meade Street)
- Sidewalks on Key Bridge (.5 miles from the Rosslyn metro; walk along N. Lynn Street towards Georgetown)
- Pentagon Reservation (all visiting the Pentagon Reservation to park or view fireworks are subject to Pentagon guidelines).
The Arlington County Police Department will also be closing roads (below) to accommodate the large crowds expected to turn out for the fireworks.
From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.: Memorial Bridge and Memorial Circle.
From 1 to 11 p.m.: Marshall Drive from Route 110 to N. Meade Street, and N. Meade Street from N. 14th Street to Marshall Drive.
From 3 to 11 p.m.: N. Meade Street from Marshall Drive to Route 50 (access to Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood from Rhodes Street bridge), exit ramp from westbound Route 50 to N. Lynn Street (Rosslyn exit), exit ramp from eastbound Route 50 to N. Meade Street (Rosslyn exit) and Long Bridge Drive from Boundary Channel Drive to S. 10th Street.
From 8:30 to 11 p.m.: Eastbound Route 50 at N. Pershing Drive (detour at N. Barton Street or Washington Blvd.), Eastbound N. Fairfax Drive from N. Pierce Street to N. Fort Myer Drive, Columbia Pike between S. Orme Street and S. Joyce Street and S. Joyce Street between Army Navy Drive and Columbia Pike.
ACPD has warned that street parking around the Iwo Jima Memorial, Long Bridge Park and the Air Force Memorial will be restricted, and all are strongly encouraged to take advantage of public transportation.
Finally, visitors are reminded that alcoholic beverages, grills, and fireworks are prohibited on county and federal parkland during Independence Day events, and coolers and backpacks will be searched upon entry to both Iwo Jima Memorial and Long Bridge Park.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The Long Bridge Park playground will be located at the south end of the park by 6th Street. If approved, it is expected to cost just under $1.1 million to construct. All told, with design and project management costs factored in, it comes with a $1,324,300 price tag.
The proposed playground will offer an area for children ages two to five and one for ages five to 12. The play area for preschool children will include a shade structure, according to the County Board’s report.
The new playground will also have:
- a cooling “fog” system
- sculpted play forms
- tunnels and bridges
- fencing where the park meets the street
According to the planned layout of the park, kids can expect new play structures like a play tube, a play cocoon, tube slide and a double slide.
The playground was included in the already-approved master plan for the park, and the playground’s conceptual design fits in with the current aesthetic of the park, the report said. The county also gathered input from children on what should be included at the new playground.
“The sessions were lively and produced interesting feedback,” according to the report.
The County Board will also vote to approve a playground project at Tyrol Hills Park expected to cost $878,635. The project will replace current playground structures with new equipment.
The new improvements will include new equipment, new porus pavement, a new picnic shelter and accessible playground surfacing.
The Tyron Hills Park playground will also have a play area for children ages two to five and one for children ages five to 12.
On Tuesday the Arlington County Board charged County Manager Barbara Donnellan — and, after June, interim County Manager Mark Schwartz — with undertaking a broad public input process and coming back with recommendations for the aquatics center and the second phase of the Long Bridge Park project in January 2016.
The Board that hears the recommendations and moves forward with the park’s second phase of construction will lack the current chair and vice chair, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, who are retiring at the end of the year.
“A lot has changed in Arlington in the years since we began plans to develop Long Bridge Park,” Donnellan said in a press release. “Given budget realities and the changing needs of our community, it makes sense to broadly engage the community in a thoughtful look at options to determine the best path forward.”
The new proposal figures to be significantly scaled down from the previous plans, which were put on hold when construction bids came in well over the project’s $79.2 million budget. Arlington had hoped it could receive funding if the aquatics center were used in the D.C. Olympics in 2024, but the city lost the bid to Boston last year.
With a community facilities study fully under way, reshaping the transit future of Columbia Pike and Crystal City and other efforts, County Board member Vihstadt said “we have a lot on our plate this year” and asked Donnellan if she feels county staff can manage taking on another initiative.
“I think it would irresponsible not to give it one more shot this year,” Donnellan said. “This is a brownfield we have the opportunity to bring forward into a wonderful asset for the community, and I don’t want to lose this opportunity.”
The Board asked if Donnellan could bring forward recommendations by November or December, but Donnellan pushed for January as a timetable.
“I hope it doesn’t drag on forever,” Tejada said.
While it may be scaling back its ambitions, Arlington still has $64 million earmarked for Long Bridge Park. County voters approved $44 million in bond funding toward the park, and developers have chipped in another $20 million as community benefits.
Phase I of the park’s construction is already finished, with turf fields, parking, an esplanade and a rain garden. Arlington has to date spent about $15 million of its $79.2 million budget for Phase II on various work, including rebuilding Long Bridge Drive, engineering services, utilities and soil work.
The outreach process for the park will begin next month, with a “reconstituted” Long Bridge Park Advisory Committee, public surveys and community meetings. The county is also seeking partnerships and/or sponsorships, hoping business interests or other entities can inject more funds into the project.
Arlington’s support of the bid appears based largely around its currently-stalled plans to build an Olympic-quality aquatics facility at Long Bridge Park, which Arlington expects to be a candidate for the location of the swimming and diving events if D.C. is chosen as the host city.
“Back in June, when we suspended construction plans for Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park, which will include the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, we noted that we expected the park to be part of the plan for bringing the Olympics to the Washington Region,” Fisette said in a press release. “That is still our hope. We believe that Long Bridge could be a great venue for Olympic swimming events.”
The group that will be leading D.C.’s bid to host the Olympics was also announced this morning. The group, called Washington 2024 will be led by Chairman and CEO Russ Ramsey, an investment banker and former board chairman of George Washington. The board includes Washington Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who will serve as vice chairman, Washington Nationals owner Mark Lerner, Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank, chef José Andrés, former National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue and former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams.
“This is about bringing the world to Washington and bringing Washington to the world,” Leonsis said in a press release. “The idea of fostering unity could leave, for the whole of mankind, the greatest Olympics legacy ever. Only Washington could do this.”
D.C. is under consideration by the United States Olympic Committee to be its chosen city for the International Olympics Committee. D.C. is one of four American finalist cities, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. The United States has not hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta. The 2016 games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the 2020 games will be held in Tokyo.
“I speak for the County Board when I say that the Olympics could be a great thing for this region and for Arlington,” Fisette said. “We agree with Washington 2024 that this is an historic opportunity for our region to be part of the Olympic Movement.”
Several roads in Arlington, including some major arteries, will be closed to drivers for Independence Day celebrations tomorrow.
Memorial Bridge and Memorial Circle will be closed all day, from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. From 1:00 to 11:00 p.m., Marshall Drive will be closed from Route 110 to N. Meade Street, and Meade Street will be closed from Marshall Drive to 14th Street N.
The following closures are also planned in Arlington.
From 3:00 to 11:00 p.m.:
- N. Meade Street from Marshall Drive to Route 50
- Eastbound N. Fairfax Drive from N. Pierce Street to N. Fort Myer Drive
- The exit ramps from Route 50 to N. Lynn and Meade Streets in Rosslyn
- Long Bridge Drive from Boundary Channel Drive to 10th Street S.
From 8:30 to 11:00 p.m.:
- Eastbound Route 50 at N. Pershing Drive, with a detour at N. Barton Street or Washington Boulevard
- Columbia Pike between S. Orme Street and S. Joyce Street
- S. Joyce Street between Army Navy Drive and Columbia Pike
Sites in Arlington to view the National Mall fireworks include Long Bridge Park, the Air Force Memorial, Gateway Park, Gravelly Point, the Key Bridge, the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, the Pentagon Reservation and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall’s Whipple Field.
Tomorrow at noon, at Whipple Field, members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment Presidential Salute Battery will fire its ceremonial 50-gun salute in honor of the country’s independence. The salute will involve a cannon firing every five seconds for five minutes.
Arlington County officials urge attendees to use public transportation. The Orange Line’s Rosslyn Metro stop is approximately 5 blocks north of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, and the Pentagon City Metro station is near the Air Force Memorial. Shuttle buses to Long Bridge Park from the Crystal City and Pentagon City Metro stations will be available.
ART buses 41 and 51 will run on Sunday schedules, but all other ART buses will not be running. The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, courts, community centers and libraries will be closed Friday. Trash and recycling collection will occur as scheduled, but parking across the county will not be enforced.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The event will run from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m. and it includes more than just a great view across the Potomac River for the fireworks on the National Mall.
From 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., there will be free drop-in kickball, where players can jump in a game and play, and there will be a kickball home run derby at 7:00 p.m., all on Field 1. Other activities include face painting, balloon art, a moon bounce, cornhole, bocce ball, ring toss, ladder golf and duckpin bowling.
There will also be food trucks that should be familiar to Arlington diners, like Willie’s Po’Boy, The Big Cheese, DC Slices, Lemongrass and a Chick-Fil-A truck.
The fireworks will begin at 9:10 p.m., according to the National Park Service, and last for 17 minutes.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Arlington will not award a contract for construction of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, delaying the project for at least a year, the county announced this afternoon.
The decision to cancel the bids for the facility follows an effort by County Manager Barbara Donnellan and her staff to work with construction companies to “value engineer” the project and lower costs. The bids initially came in well above the level necessary to keep the aquatics center within its original $79 million projected cost. Even with cheaper furnishings and other cut corners, however, we’re told the revised cost estimate “got close but not close enough.”
With $42.5 million in bond funding and a $15 million developer contribution already in place, that puts the County Board in a position in which it must approve additional taxpayer funds, scale back the design of the facility, or seek private funding. For now, the county will seek private funds.
County Board Chair Jay Fisette said the aquatic’s center design resulted from an extensive community outreach process that took into account its location near the Potomac River, within view of I-395 and major D.C. monuments.
“This facility resulted from [a community needs assessment] and then took several years to design,” he said. “I still think that to fulfill that plan is the right way to go. But I understand that staying within the previous budget is also appropriate.”
Fisette said the county will now seek funding from a private entity. Possibilities include a corporate sponsorship and naming rights, working with a for-profit operator, or partnering with a university or other institution.
Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston is one such facility built by the county but operated by a rent-paying, for-profit entity. The fields at Long Bridge Park and Barcroft Baseball Field #6 are partially paid for under partnerships with Marymount University and George Washington University, respectively.
A corporate sponsor may be interested in the naming rights to the facility, especially given its high-visibility location. Fisette said he’d be open to having the facility known as the Under Armor or the Nike Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, among other potential sponsors.
“The goal is to identify any balance of funding beyond those already approved by the voters,” Fisette said. “This is an unusual and exceptional opportunity for someone who would like to have that visibility.”
What might make the opportunity more exceptional, according to county officials, is D.C’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. Later this month, the United States Olympic Committee is expected to narrow down the list of U.S. cities being considered as an Olympic host. Should D.C. be on that list, it could give a boost to the effort to attract sponsorships, given that the new aquatics center is likely to be one of the facilities used for the games.
“We are under the impression that as they move forward with their bid, that this site is included in their plans,” according to Fisette.
The county will “aggressively pursue private funding support” over the next 6-8 months, Fisette said. Donnellan plans to report back to the County Board in mid-2015, prior to any additional bonds being sold. Should attempts to find private funds prove unsuccessful, the next steps for the facility are “yet to be determined.”
The county press release on the announcement, after the jump.
The following was sent in response to last week’s letter to the editor, “The Case for Long Bridge Park Phase 2.”
I am an Arlington resident and have been for 15 years. I would like to respond to Eric Cassel, President Friends of Long Bridge Park. First he makes the case that the target audience for this lavish facility is increasing in Arlington County. Target audience? Elementary school age children — I have lived in six states while I was growing up. In not one state was there a swimming facility for us to learn how to swim. How did this become a necessity for elementary school children? At what point did “we” decide that my elementary schooling when I was a child was lacking?
My parents took me to the YMCA to learn how to swim. We have one of those very close to the Pentagon City / Crystal City area. Why is it the tax payers responsibility to teach others children how to swim? Second, young urban professionals. We have gyms with pools in this area already. I belong to sport and health. The pool is rarely crowded. They can well afford to pay a gym membership. Again, why is it taxpayers responsibility to subsidize young urban professionals’ desire to swim? There are also the Arlington County high school pools that they are free to join at a great discount to them! Thirdly, the elderly. See my comments about the young professionals. In addition, not well-off elderly receive subsidizes from the County already. Why suddenly a “new need” for them to swim at taxpayer expense.
We already have Hayes Park for events of all sorts and a soccer field, basket ball courts, and tennis courts. Is this not enough? Why must the taxpayers now foot the bill for an overly expensive facility that supporters are attempting to portray as a requirement and entitlement?
To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters to the editor may be lightly edited for content and brevity.
News that rising cost estimates and construction bids have put the Long Bridge Park aquatics center in danger of being downsized or scrapped has been gleefully seized upon by critics of the planned facility this week.
With construction bids well exceeding the $80 million projected cost — of just the first phase of the aquatics and fitness center project, also referred to as Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park — critics says it’s too grand a project for Arlington County, with its eroding commercial tax base. However, supporters say it’s well worth the investment.
Here’s a Letter to the Editor from Eric Cassel, President of the Friends of Long Bridge Park organization.
Many facts about Phase 2 at Long Bridge Park have been forgotten in the past few weeks and as everyone takes a breath, it would be timely to restate the great need for the next phase and three of the reasons why it has been proposed.
1) Three major groups will use the pool and each group is projected to increase greatly in the coming years.
Elementary age children, local young adults and the elderly are the primary target audience for the Aquatics center. All three groups are projected to increase significantly in the next 20 years.
First, the schools have made a great case that elementary school students are already increasing and creating a demand for facilities. That means the number of small children who need a place to play and a location to learn to swim have and will increase. Having tons of elementary school kids ‘playing’ in the high school pools cannot happen. The two age groups have significantly different needs (for example water temperature) and significantly different type of pool needs. Thus the increasing demand from elementary students will not be able to be accommodated by the high school pools.
Second, in the Crystal City/Pentagon City/Rosslyn area the number of households is expected to increase in significantly more than the rest of the county. The increase in housing units near Metro stations is almost all condo/apartments. These units are very attractive to the Young Urban Adult population. To give everyone an idea the following table shows the dramatic increase in housing units near Long Bridge Park:
How much additional time can the local schools schedule in the high school pools for this additional young adult activity? Or is the county going to ignore the recreational needs of young adults?
Lastly, the Center will also provide aquatics and fitness facilities and times for the fast growing older adult population. Currently no facility in the county provides a lazy river for seniors to walk against the current. In addition, the classes for seniors are offered when the schools can provide time in their pools—not at other times that seniors would prefer and even at these restricted times, the few classes are waitlisted. Lastly there is no public therapy pool in the county for classes and health of seniors. Arlington County should provide these recreational and wellness facilities for seniors.
Thus, all three groups: elementary children, young adults and seniors are the target audiences for the facility.
2) Main Swimming Pools
The Arlington County Master plan specifically recommends that the park be developed and was based on a comprehensive and expert analysis of the physical assets and the demand for services. Instead of looking at just a few individuals’ anecdotal opinions, it is important to gather the facts, and look at the demand/supply balance. Expert data and research have shown the demand for swimming is significantly greater than the supply. Demand and supply studies, information from the county on demand for pool time and the class demand all show a supply/demand imbalance that Phase 2 has been planned to address.
As a result of this study and an impressive community input process with almost 100 public meetings, the proposed phases of Long Bridge Park were developed. These phases were designed to be complementary and increase the value of the park over time.
3) Outdoor Facilities at Long Bridge Park
One of the features of the park is the increased space for events, passive recreation and pedestrian/bike access to the Mt. Vernon trail. These outdoor features are part of the cost of the park and provide a significant increase in the facilities for the county.
The park will be the site of medium sized events, like ethnic festivals, sporting events and smaller local concerts. No place in the county will be able to hold such events with the ease that will be possible at Long Bridge Park. The site is being equipped for events by having outdoor electric outlets, additional bathrooms and physical support facilities.
The increased length of the esplanade will provide joggers, walkers and bikers with a longer, better views of the monuments, the airport, the trains and the Potomac River and more outdoor features. All of these outdoor features are part of the cost, upkeep and resources that the county should provide its residents. We cannot be a world-class community, without providing some basic outdoor recreation to our residents.
The three reasons for Phase 2 are:
- The target populations are increasing and currently underserved,
- The demand for the main swimming pools has been shown to be greater than the supply,
- The outdoor facilities provide needed recreation and open space
The next phase of Long Bridge Park is necessary to fulfill Open Space Master Plan and to offer needed recreational, fitness and wellness needs for the full range of populations and ages in Arlington County.
President, Friends of Long Bridge Park
To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected].
With operating costs projected at twice the original estimates, and construction bids “significantly higher” than anticipated, it may be a case of downsize or die for the proposed Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility.
The project, which was at one point supposed to be under construction by now, is on hold as a result of contractor bids well exceeding the $79.3 million budgeted for the first phase of construction. The county has yet to reveal exactly how high the bids were.
Last night, meanwhile, Arlington County officially acknowledged that a 2012 estimate of the facility’s operating deficit — $1.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020 — has doubled to an annual deficit of $3.8 million. That excludes the cost of running the existing facilities at Long Bridge Park.
After pausing the project, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan instructed her staff to analyze the rising costs of the facility and recommend a course of action. That course of action may be to downsize the county’s lofty ambitions for the “world-class” facility, push it back until economic conditions improve, or scrap it altogether.
Speaking at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, County Board member Mary Hynes left open all possibilities.
“We’re in the process of trying to figure out what the costs will be should the Board decide to move forward on the project at this time,” she said. Speaking to ARLnow.com, Hynes said she would not support spending additional money on the facility at a time when capital funding is urgently needed to increase school capacity.
“We have a certain amount of money set aside for this, we don’t have more than that,” she said. “We have been building pretty significantly for the last 20 years, we’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in schools. We’ve done fire stations, we’ve done other things. We have a 10 percent self-imposed debt limit and we’ve been bumping around in the 9’s.”
“The only way you get more debt capacity is to raise taxes,” she continued. “I guess that’s a choice that some people would make, that’s not a choice I’d make for a swimming pool.”
Scrapping the facility altogether could prove difficult. Voters have already approved a $42.5 million parks bond for the facility and Vornado has committed $15 million as part of the PenPlace development.
Jay Fisette, a stalwart supporter of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, says nearly a decade was spent on the center’s design in order to address a community need. Noting that the design of the facility was “incredibly energy efficient,” perhaps driving up costs, Fisette said he’s hoping that those bidding on the project will be swayed to lower their bids and “value engineer” some savings.
“It’s certainly my hope that there’s some ability to look at the bids and talk to the bidders… and narrow that gap,” he said. “The park and the facility design itself came out of a community needs assessment. It was supported by 64 percent of the voters just 14 months ago. I hope we can responsibly move forward.”
Blaming earlier reports that the projected operating costs had increased up to 350 percent on “a complete error” by county staff, Fisette said there are numerous misconceptions about the costs. He added that earlier “exaggerations” about the exact extent of the cost increases have been “celebrated by longtime opponents of the facility.”
Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan announced late Friday afternoon that construction bids for the first phase of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center came in “significantly higher” than the $79.3 million projected cost. As a result, Donnellan says she will not be recommending a construction contract for County Board approval in early 2014, as planned.
Donnellan said it was “disappointing” that the bids far exceeded the estimate provided by its architect, which was in turn backed up by a third-party firm.
“The high bids were particularly disappointing because the County had done extensive due diligence to ensure that the estimate was sound and within the available budget,” she said in a statement. “We took an additional step of contracting separately with an engineering firm to review design and construction documents and provide independent third party cost estimates.”
“Once staff concludes its assessment of the bids and our architects’ estimates, I will present options to the County Board for next steps,” she continued. “In the months ahead, the County Board and the community will continue their careful consideration of the costs and benefits of building and operating this facility as we shape the FY 2015 Budget and the Capital Improvement Program.”
Reached by phone Friday evening, Donnellan told ARLnow.com that she expects to receive recommendations from county staff as early as February. She declined to speculate about the recommendation, saying that there’s significant work and analysis left to be done by staff.
Donnellan also declined to specify how many bids were received and how much higher those bids were than the estimate, citing legal constraints.
News of the delay in the project comes just a month after news that the aquatics center’s operating deficit would be 2 to 4 times that of original estimates. Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki says the county should consider scrapping the project altogether.
“This project has been mishandled by the County Board almost from the beginning,” he said. “With the pressures on other parts of the county and school budgets and the stagnation of commercial real estate values, it might well be time to moth ball the Long Bridge aquatics facility and simply leave the current park as-is.”
Construction bids received by the county for the project were technically for “Phase 2” of Long Bridge Park, which encompasses both the initial phase of the aquatics center and minor improvements to the park itself, including “public gathering areas, trails, public art, interpretive signs, and walkways.” Much of the funding for the projected cost of Phase 2 has already been secured, including $42.5 million from a parks bond approved in 2012 and $15 million from Vornado as part of the PenPlace development.
A Phase 3A and 3B, for other park improvements, are also planned, as is a Phase 4, which would complete the Aquatics, Health & Fitness Facility by adding a large “multiple activity center,” additional fitness space, racquetball and squash courts, a climbing wall, an elevated jogging trail, rental meeting rooms and a 547-space underground parking garage.
“Long Bridge Park is an ambitious project for our community, an infrastructure investment that is transforming a one-time industrial wasteland from a brownfield to an iconic gateway on the Potomac,” Donnellan said in her statement. “It will provide multiple recreational opportunities for our growing population and for future generations.”
Now, however, the ongoing costs of the center are projected to be even higher than anticipated.
“What had been an expected annual operating deficit of $1 million to $1.3 million has now ballooned to more than $4 million, according to projections included in County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s updated budget forecast,” the Sun Gazette reported on Monday.
This news comes at a time when the county is facing a potential $24 million budget gap. Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki, who previously declared that the aquatics center could turn out to be “Artisphere on steroids,” said that the county would be better served to use its funds for other priorities.
Still, the aquatics center has its supporters, like the group Friends of Long Bridge Park, which has said it’s needed because “the large demand for aquatic activities can’t be met by… high school pools, which have limited public hours and space, and were designed for instruction, not a wide range of community needs.”
The Friends of Long Bridge Park also argue that other aquatics centers can cover most of their operating costs through memberships and rentals. The county itself, meanwhile, cautions that the latest projects are preliminary in nature.
Projected Subsidy Soars for Aquatics Center — The planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center could require more than $4 million per year in subsidies from the county government, according to new projections. That’s up from projections as low at $1 million per year. “Certainly there are other priorities that arguably should come before building a luxury pools facility,” said local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki. Construction contracts for the aquatics center are expected to be awarded early next year. [Sun Gazette]
County May Allow Less Office Parking, For a Fee — Arlington County is considering a system that would allow office developers to build less than the currently-required amount of parking, in exchange for a per-parking-space fee. The fee would then be used for public improvements in the area around the building, or for Transportation Demand Management Services for the building’s tenants. [Greater Greater Washington]
Memorial Bridge Could Have Looked Like Tower Bridge — The Arlington Memorial Bridge was originally proposed as a memorial to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, complete with a series of “medieval”-looking towers and turrets. [Ghosts of DC]
Arlington Carpenter’s Intricately-Carved Birds — Arlington carpenter Jeff Jacobs, 59, carves intricate wooden hummingbirds out of a single block of wood. He sells the birds at Eastern Market and the Clarendon farmers market. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by Eschweik