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Vihstadt Argues for Another Delay of Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center

County Board member John Vihstadt is renewing his push to delay the construction of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center.

Vihstadt is waging a lonely battle against the oft-postponed project as the county’s budget picture grows increasingly grim. He says the $60 million the county’s set to spend on the new pool would be better spent on building new schools or buying additional park land, particularly considering that Arlington is feeling a financial squeeze at the moment.

Between sending more money to Metro and declining commercial tax revenues, the County Board is facing some challenging headwinds as it nears a final decision this weekend on a new, 10-year plan for construction spending. Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent who is running for re-election this fall, thinks the 72,000-square-foot pool complex can wait a bit longer.

The project’s skyrocketing costs have convinced the Board to repeatedly adjust its plans it over the years, and Vihstadt made an effort to drive down its cost a key plank of his 2014 bid for office. But he still feels that even the facility’s reduced cost is too much for Arlington to take on right now.

“Times change, circumstances change, and I just don’t think it’s right to go forward on that project,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “Schools have a higher priority. Parks have a higher priority.”

Yet, just as when he cast the lone vote against the project’s construction last December, Vihstadt appears to be in the minority on that position. His four colleagues on the Board all told ARLnow that they wouldn’t support any effort to postpone the Long Bridge project, even with the county’s money troubles in mind.

“Raising these issues when he first ran for election was an important contribution, because it shifted that narrative to value engineering,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “That success is something John ought to feel he positively contributed to. Now, it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to follow through.”

The pro-pool Board members all point out that the project has been in the works for decades, with the community formally signing off on money for the aquatics center as part of a bond referendum back in 2004, and would fill a void for such a facility in the Crystal City area.

But they also stress that the process of unwinding the work the county’s already done would be so costly as to make the effort pointless. County Manager Mark Schwartz believes that cancelling the county’s existing contract to build the facility would prompt extensive litigation, with financial consequences to follow.

“We cannot simply break the contract,” Board member Libby Garvey wrote in an email. “Likely there would be real financial penalties for us if we did, to say nothing of the damage to our reputation among builders. Companies bidding on our projects in the future would likely add extra cost because we could not be trusted to fulfill our contracts.”

The aquatic center’s proponents also see any move to reverse the Long Bridge decision as one that would send the wrong message to the community, or as an effort to “re-litigate the past,” as Board member Erik Gutshall puts it.

“If you can’t trust our word and the votes of the Board, it’s just inviting an endless cycle of pitting project against project right up to the point the ribbon is cut,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

But Vihstadt believes taxpayers would appreciate the Board’s willingness to re-examine its priorities as fiscal realities change. For instance, as debate about amenities to be built for high schoolers at the Career Center site heats up, Vihstadt suggested redirecting some of the Long Bridge money to add a pool at that location instead.

“A pool in a high school… makes more sense than an aquatics center, which is going to be used more heavily by folks outside of Arlington,” Vihstadt said.

Gutshall believes such an idea could’ve been viable if it was proposed “five or 10 years ago,” but he feels the county is too far down the current path to consider that sort of plan now.

“Where do we draw the line and say, ‘Enough is enough’ when it comes to replaying this sort of debate?” Gutshall said.

Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti is eager to provide a contrasting view in that discussion as part of his bid against Vihstadt.

“We should not only study things forever,” de Ferranti said. “Eventually we have to act with courage and conviction to improve the community… and with a reduced cost, it’s the right thing to do to move forward.”

Yet Vihstadt argues that his obstinance on the subject is the just sort of thing that helped him win in the first place — and a clear demonstration of the independent streak he brings to the Board.

“We have to scour things, ask questions and, on occasion, say ‘No’ or hit the pause button and say ‘Not now,'” Vihstadt said. “I think a lot of people appreciate the constructive attitude I’ve had to ask questions and not just nod my head.”

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With Long Bridge Park Event Called Off, Here’s Where to Watch July 4 Fireworks in Arlington

Arlington won’t be hosting its official Fourth of July celebration at Long Bridge Park this year, but there are still plenty of places around the county to watch the fireworks.

The County Board decided to end the event at Long Bridge, which Arlington had put on since 2012, in order to save about $50,000 amid a budget squeeze. However, the park will remain open for anyone looking to view the fireworks on the National Mall.

Those are set to start at 9:09 p.m. and last for 18 minutes.

The county recommends several other locations around Arlington to catch the D.C. fireworks:

  • Air Force Memorial (The Air Force’s Honor Guard Drill team will also hold a performance at 7:30 p.m., followed by an 8 p.m. show by the Concert Band and Singing Sergeants.)
  • Gateway Park in Rosslyn
  • Gravelly Point
  • Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (Whipple Field will open at 5:05 p.m. to Department of Defense ID card holders, their families and guests.)
  • Key Bridge sidewalks
  • U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

The Washington Golf and Country Club recently announced that it will still be open for anyone looking to watch the club’s fireworks, but renovation work means seating will not be available for members of the public

Flickr photo via Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation

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County Manager Pledges Not to Abandon Planned Construction Projects, Even Amid Community Grumbles

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Despite mounting financial challenges, top Arlington officials say they don’t plan to walk away from some major construction projects that are already in the works — even if that stance ruffles a few feathers in the community.

County Manager Mark Schwartz has stressed repeatedly that his newly unveiled proposal for the next decade of Arlington construction projects, known as the Capital Improvement Plan, will maintain the county’s standing commitments to several major facilities around Arlington, even as he’s forced to make painful cuts elsewhere.

With the county sending more money to the Metro system, all while dealing with declining commercial tax revenues and rising public school enrollments, Schwartz is adamant that projects like the Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center and the new Lubber Run Community Center won’t be affected.

But the large price tag of those projects already has some community activists asking: why not change things up?

“We’re spending millions on synthetic fields and a new swimming palace… and 600 or 700 kids are moving into the county schools each year,” civic activist Suzanne Sundburg said at a town hall meeting Wednesday night (May 30) that was also broadcast via live Facebook video. “I understand people want to finish what they start, but at what point do we start re-evaluating priorities and reprioritizing?”

Schwartz said the question was a valid one, and will likely spark plenty of debate among County Board members as they evaluate his CIP proposal over the coming weeks. But he also warned that the risks of spurning these projects, particularly after the county has already awarded design and construction contracts, could far outweigh the benefits of saving some money.

“There are some things that are settled that we have to move on,” Schwartz said. “There are obligations on the books that crowd out our ability to do new things, and that is the situation we face.”

Schwartz was particularly concerned that people in the community might see abandoning the Long Bridge Park project as a viable option, even if they blanch at its $60 million price tag. Not only does he believe it would be a “breach of faith” with the community, following roughly two decades of discussions on the project, but he pointed out that a contractor has already spent the last five months working on it.

“If we back out on that, nobody in the contracting community is going to bid on any of our contracts for the next five years,” Schwartz said. “We’d probably not only be involved in protracted litigation with [the construction company], but we probably wouldn’t be able to do as much as we want to do, and our future projects would go up in price. People would build that in as a risk premium.”

Such an outcome would be particularly problematic as the county and APS eye a future full of new school construction; Schwartz noted that contractors tend not to see much of a difference between the county government and its school system.

Schwartz’s proposed CIP does come with some cuts likely to upset some people across the county, which could push the County Board to ignore the manager’s warnings. For instance, county transportation director Dennis Leach noted that initiatives like the Complete Streets program, Walk Arlington and Bike Arlington “did not get eliminated, but they were trimmed.”

The county’s Neighborhood Conservation Program, meanwhile, will also lose $24 million in funding over the 10-year plan, and Schwartz expects that there will “not be an adequate amount of money to keep pace with the program” in county coffers.

“This is a matter of making choices,” Schwartz said. “There isn’t extra money that’s laying around.”

The Board will hold a series of CIP work sessions over the month of June, with a planned final vote on the proposal on July 14.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Crystal City Tops HQ2 Poll — The combined Crystal City-Potomac Yard site is the most likely D.C. area landing spot for Amazon’s second headquarters, according to an online poll conducted by the Washington Business Journal. Meanwhile, D.C., Virginia and Maryland officials are teaming up to promote the region as the HQ2 search continues. Amazon fever has even entered the world of local business conferences: an event dubbed “HQmania” is scheduled to be held in Rosslyn next month. [Washington Business Journal, WAMU, DCA Live]

Rosslyn Lands Nonprofit HQ — “It’s been a good week for Rosslyn. First came the news that Gerber, a Nestle subsidiary, would relocate its headquarters and 150 jobs from New Jersey to 1812 N. Moore St. And Friday, we learn that a D.C.-based global nonprofit has decided to cross the Potomac into Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

ART Bus Stop Vandalized — Someone smashed two of the windows on an ART bus stop in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood late last week. [Twitter]

Arlington Man Charged With Statutory Rape — A 47-year-old Arlington man was arrested at his home last month and charged with the statutory rape of a minor in North Carolina. The man arranged meeting the minor in North Carolina via the messaging app Kik, which is popular with teens. [Fox 8]

Local Columbine Survivor Addresses Student Protesters — “Salli Garrigan was in music class when the sound of gunshots reverberated through the halls of her high school… Garrigan, now 35 and an Arlington resident, stood Friday before a crowd of D.C.-area students gathered on the U.S. Capitol lawn and told them when she was their age, she didn’t know how to make her voice heard.” [Washington Post]

Long Bridge Park Field Renovations Starting — Work is set to begin today on new turf for Long Bridge Park’s heavily-used Field No. 3. The field is expected to be closed for 45 days. [Arlington County]

Past and Present School Board Members Gather — On Thursday, the Arlington School Board held its last meeting at the Arlington Education Center building next to Washington-Lee High School. The board room and administrative offices are moving to the Syphax Education Center along Washington Blvd. To mark the last meeting, past and current School Board members members gathered for a photo. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Duluoz Me

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Proposed County Budget Would Eliminate Two ART Bus Routes

The County Manager’s fiscal year 2019 proposed budget includes service eliminations to Arlington Transit bus routes 92 and 54.

The reductions would save the county $356,771 in 2019, according to the proposed budget. Public hearings on the budget and tax rate are scheduled for Tuesday, April 3 and Thursday, April 5, respectively.

The routes “are not meeting minimum service standards,” according to the budget document, and “service delivery can potentially be met by other transit or other modes such as Capital BikeShare.”

ART Route 92 runs weekdays from the Crystal City Metro station to the Pentagon Metro station via Long Bridge Park. Several WMATA routes also run through that area.

According to the ART Route 92 web page, “the route also serves as a shuttle for those working at Boeing and the U.S. Marshals Service.”

ART Route 54 operates weekdays during the morning and afternoon rush hours from Dominion Hills to the East Falls Church Metro station via Madison Manor neighborhood.

Both routes have “experienced low ridership (3 passengers per hour) and [have] performed below the established minimum service standards of 15 passengers per hour and a 20 percent cost recovery ratio,” according to budget documents.

The County Board is expected to adopt its final budget on April 21.

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Arlington Not Planning to Join Class Action Lawsuit Against Synthetic Turf Installer

Arlington County is not currently planning to join the class action lawsuit against FieldTurf USA Inc., the company that installed turf at several county fields.

Several school districts and local governments across the country have accused the company of installing defective turf.

“At this time we have not experienced our turf failing, we have not had that experience,” said Robert Capper, Arlington Parks & Recreation’s capital assets manager.

One of the turf fields at Long Bridge Park is scheduled to be replaced beginning in late March, a process that will take three months and cost just over $400,000. FieldTurf USA was outbid by GTR Turf, Inc. for the replacement contract.

The fields, which are under warranty until early 2019, will be replaced early so that all three Long Bridge Park fields will not be replaced simultaneously.

Fields come with an eight year warranty, and are generally replaced eight or nine years after installation, according to Lisa Grandle, Arlington County Parks & Recreation’s park development division chief.

The warranty for one of the Long Bridge Park’s synthetic turf fields covers defective material or installation workmanship problems, but doesn’t cover what Grandle called normal wear and tear or heavy usage.

“Like tires on your car, the more hours you’re on them, the more the fields wear down,” said Grandle.

The county has not completed a cost comparison between synthetic turf and natural grass because synthetic field allows more options for playing and lasts longer than natural grass, she said.

Natural grass can sustain about 900 hours of playtime before it is considered degraded. Synthetic turf can last for approximately 2,100 hours of playtime prior to degradation, according to county officials.

File photos

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Morning Notes

Fight Over Aquatics Center Operation Costs — Local budget hawks are worried that operating costs of the new Long Bridge Aquatics Center may take a chunk out of the county budget. The current staff estimate is about $1 million per year of net taxpayer support for operating costs, with a caveat that there may be a ramp-up period with less revenue and thus net higher costs. [InsideNova]

Arlington Honors ‘Fast Four’ Companies — Arlington County on Wednesday honored the fastest-growing local companies in four revenue categories. The companies honored were: Courthouse-based Mind Body Health, digital marketing company Knucklepuck, Ballston-based Deep Learning Analytics and another Ballston tech-oriented company, Apogee Research. [Arlington County]

Eastern Foundry Expanding Again — Arlington-based startup incubator Eastern Foundry is working with investors to launch Global Foundry, which will “provide international companies entrée to U.S. commercial and government markets, while exposing potential American customers to the innovation taking place overseas.” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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County Board Approves Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center Contract

The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 at its Tuesday meeting to build the Long Bridge Aquatics & Fitness Center, the first of its kind in the county.

The Board approved a construction contract worth $60 million with Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., which was one of four finalists to propose a design for the center.

The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool, as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.

“This is the culmination of 10-plus years of planning,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “As our transformation of a brownfield into a vibrant park is fulfilled, we should all be very proud that a long and sometimes challenging community process has yielded such a great outcome. The centerpiece of this project will be an attractive, energy-efficient aquatics and fitness facility that will serve our community for generations.”

Board member John Vihstadt voted against the project on the grounds that the county cannot afford the $60 million price tag and projected operating costs of more than $1.1 million a year.

He added that when voters approved funding in two bond referenda — 2004 and 2012 — the funding landscape was different, and the phrase “aquatics and fitness center” was not mentioned in one referendum.

“With an uncertain economic outlook and in the face of so many competing priorities, from schools to Metro, and more, I cannot in good conscience support moving forward with this $60 million project as proposed,” Vihstadt said. “[It] is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project (at $60 million, over $10 million more than the budget for the new Reed Elementary School, by comparison).  In short, the County has more important needs and priorities.”

Construction on the new aquatics center could begin as early as July 2018 and is expected to wrap up by early 2021.

The project, as approved, will also include “development of 10.5 acres of the park, including environmental remediation, continuation of the Esplanade, public gathering areas and casual use space, one or more rain gardens, parking and other associated infrastructure.”

Vihstadt’s full statement about his “no” vote, after the jump.

After a great deal of consideration, I plan to vote No on the Manager’s recommendation to award a contract for construction of the new Long Bridge Park Olympic aquatics and fitness center.

Since the original plan was halted in 2014 due to massive cost overruns, this project has been scaled back in price and scope. The procurement process has been reformed. The voters approved funding in two park bond issues–in 2004 and 2012–though no specific project price tag was referenced. In one of the bonds, the phrase “aquatics and fitness center” is not even mentioned.   Who can vote against “local parks and recreation”? Yet, times and circumstances change, and Arlington must adapt.

With an uncertain economic outlook and in the face of so many competing priorities, from schools to Metro, and more, I cannot in good conscience support moving forward with this $60 million project as proposed.

If we were considering a more modest, truly community-only pool, I would be open to it.  But that’s not this proposal.

What are my concerns?

First, I am mindful that the aquatics community and many others have been looking forward to this project for a long time. The community engagement process has spanned many years. But, while there may have been a time when we could have afforded this project with relative ease, this is no longer the case.

With schools still growing at the rough equivalent of a new elementary school each year, and our essential but ailing Metro system desperate for more funding, Arlington raised the property tax rate by 1.5 cents this spring. The pressure will be intense to raise property taxes again next year. Rising assessments alone will mean that homeowners will pay hundreds of dollars more per year just for a level services, maintenance-of-effort budget.

And the prospect of federal tax reform and budget cutbacks from Washington adds even more uncertainty. It is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project (at $60 million, over $10 million more than the budget for the new Reed Elementary School, by comparison). In short, the County has more important needs and priorities.

Second, the Manager projects annual net operating costs after revenue of something north of $1.1 million per year. This is a highly speculative, yet consequential figure, before any real numbers have been run.

Our effort to approach nearby Alexandria for an operational partnership was rebuffed  Just months later, Alexandria opted not to go forward with an upgrade and expansion of their own swimming complex due to rising costs. The County Manager’s aggressive efforts to secure partnerships with area colleges and universities came up dry. And attempts to broker sponsorships and naming rights with the private sector have yielded nothing.

Meanwhile, St. James, a major private investment group, has already broken ground for a giant multi-activity athletic and sports complex just down the road in Springfield, including an Olympic-sized pool and diving tower. It will open before Long Bridge. How will that impact the County’s projected annual operating subsidy? There are many unanswered questions.

Finally, the Manager has confirmed that the Board could direct the reprogramming of approved bond monies to other park and recreation priorities such as land acquisition and capital improvements to any number of our 167 parks and 97 athletic fields across Arlington. The County could also help fund a pool at a new South Arlington high school that we are likely to need.

A beneficial byproduct of this would be to help hold down County debt service costs for our bonded indebtedness, which are already rising perilously close to our 10% limit. We know that the 2018 Schools Bond and Metro Bond will be sizable.

Let’s move forward with the build-out of the natural areas of Long Bridge Park itself, but the right priority is to reprogram the Olympic pool and fitness center funds in a more equitable and broad-based fashion.

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Manager Recommends Design for Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center

Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending a “simple and efficient” design for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center.

Schwartz recommended late last week that the county hire Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. for the project, one of four contenders for the design and construction of the revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive.

The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The construction contract is worth $54.7 million, with $5.3 million in contingency funding in case of overruns.

“I think the community will be very pleased, possibly amazed, with the recommended design for the facility and park expansion,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We had four very good options from extremely talented firms, but the Coakley proposal excelled in meeting the county’s design criteria that impacted operations, long-term maintenance and durability.”

County staff said Coakley’s design “is simple and efficient with quality architecture and a strong connection to the Esplanade. It provides all of the elements required by the county without sacrificing core mechanical equipment, material choices and energy efficiency. It also includes an additional community room (at no additional expense).”

The design received the backing of the Friends of Long Bridge Park, a local group that looks to support and improve the park.

In an email, group president Eric Cassel said the County Board should approve the plan for the following reasons:

  1. It is needed. The Long Bridge Advisory Design Committee and County staff completed several studies that showed the needs of Arlington County are not being met. For example, currently all elementary and middle school students must learn swimming at one of the high school pools. The amount of teaching time is limited.
  2. If you have limited means and wish to swim, you have limited options, as all outdoor bodies of water like the Potomac River are unsafe to swim.
  3. The Esplanade needs to be extended to provide a longer place for walking/running and general passive activities. Over 20,000 people live within walking distance to the park and with the office and hotel populations, the demand for simple recreation is high.
  4. The cost of the project is capped. The design/build method specifically provides a budget and any overages are the responsibility of the contractor.
  5. While the design of Phase 2 has focused on meeting the needs of Arlington County residents, there is a benefit to office buildings, hotels and tourists. All of these produce taxes that pay for schools and other amenities. For example, one hotel has already created ads to come to Arlington because of the Fitness and Aquatics center. In addition, more than one office tenant has signed a lease because of Long Bridge Park.  A facility like this is required to attract top talent. Arlington cannot afford to ignore the infrastructure that is necessary to attract office tenants.

The Board will vote on the project at its recessed meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

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Four Designs For Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center Released

The four possible designs for the next phase of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center have been released.

The revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive will have a 50-meter pool; diving platforms from one, three and five meters up; a family pool; and health and fitness spaces. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.

That “menu” could include advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and more spectator seats, among other enhancements.

The project, plagued by a years-long delay caused by anticipated cost overruns has a scaled-down aquatics and fitness center from previous plans. The county will be using a design-build approach, which keeps costs down by establishing a budget at the start that the contractor must not exceed.

“We are incredibly excited about these designs,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We’ve got four nationally recognized design and construction firms who are putting together their best ideas, based on their creativity and knowledge, for project options for Arlington. By using the Design-Build method, we can focus on the community’s needs while completing the project within budget.”

Links to videos showcasing the designs of the four bidders are below.

Members of the public can give feedback on the four design concepts in several ways between now and October 29:

  • Attend a public event on Thursday, October 19 from 7-10 p.m. at 2011 Crystal Drive, 11th Floor. Watch the presentations, ask the firms questions and share feedback.
  • Visit the Courthouse Plaza lobby (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (from October 19 to 29) to watch the videos of the designs, view schematic drawings and share feedback.
  • Starting today, go online to watch the videos of the designs and share feedback.

Following community feedback, the park’s Selection Advisory Committee will recommend the contract award based on written proposals, interviews, review of concepts, public feedback and negotiations.

The firm that is awarded the contract will complete its design and construction documents next year, with construction set to start as early as next July.

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Aquatic Center Design Finalists to be Unveiled

The county soon will let the public see its four design concept finalists for the new Long Bridge Park Aquatic and Fitness Center and park expansion.

The designs will be unveiled at an event on Thursday, Oct. 19 from 7-10 p.m. at 2011 Crystal Drive, on the 11th floor.

Visitors can watch presentations, ask questions and give feedback about the concepts. Refreshments will be served and free underground parking is available.

Anyone who can’t attend the unveiling event can give feedback online or at Courthouse Plaza (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) from Oct. 19-27.

Earlier this year, the county announced it would move forward with the $63+ million aquatic center and park expansion project after years of delays, which were largely caused by cost concerns. Phase one of the Long Bridge Park project was completed in 2011.

Disclosure: Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation is an ARLnow.com advertiser

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Long Bridge Park To Hold Annual July 4th Celebration

For the sixth year, Long Bridge Park near Crystal City will host Arlington’s official Fourth of July celebration.

The free event will run for 5 to 10 p.m. and features games, activities, music and fireworks watching.

From 5-8:30 p.m., the Department of Parks and Recreation will host free moonbounces, face painting and balloon art.

The department will host family games from 5-7:45 p.m. D.C. Fray, formerly United Social Sports, will provide free games like giant Jenga and giant Connect Four.

Live music will play throughout the night, including Steve Lauri of the Hollies, DJ Baronhawk Poitier and Jeff From Accounting.

Food vendors will sell food during the celebration. Food trucks from Basic Burger, Mac’s Donuts, KimchiBBQ Taco, The Big Cheese are scheduled for the event among others.

The fireworks on the National Mall are scheduled to start at 9:09 p.m. and last for 17 minutes.

On-site parking will not be available for attendees. Free shuttles are available from 4:30-10:30 p.m. between the park and the Pentagon City and Crystal City Metro stations.

In addition to Long Bridge, several communities in the county will have their own celebrations that day, including:

  • Albemarle parade and celebration
  • Barcroft parade
  • Bell ringing in the Bluemont neighborhood
  • Douglas Park parade and picnic
  • Fairlington Villages parade
  • Lee Heights parade and celebration
  • Lyon Village parade and celebration

Other places to watch the fireworks in Arlington include:

  • Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall
  • U.S. Air Force Memorial
  • Gateway Park in Rosslyn
  • Gravelly Point
  • Iwo Jima Memorial
  • Key Bridge
  • Pentagon Reservation
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BREAKING: County Moving Ahead With Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center

After a years-long delay caused by anticipated cost overruns, Arlington County says it’s finally ready to move forward with the second phase of the Long Bridge Park project, including a scaled-down aquatics and fitness center.

The county will be using a design-build approach to keep costs down, according to a press release. Contractors bidding on the project will be able to propose designs incorporating some portion of a “menu” of desired features, provided that the bid stay within budget and retain a number of core elements.

“The new facility will include the core programs that have been the mainstay of the planned aquatics facility and surrounding park improvements,” the county said. “A menu of potential options recommended by the Long Bridge Park Advisory Committee… include advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and more spectator seats, among other enhancements.”

“We’ve selected design/build as the best way to fulfill the vision for this unique park in the most cost-effective manner,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a press release. “We are eager to move forward and develop conceptual designs that the public will have an opportunity to weigh-in on this fall.”

More from the press release:

Through its design competition, the County plans to narrow the field of firms competing for the contract to three or four finalists. Each will be paid a stipend to submit a proposed concept for the park and facility. The concepts then will be evaluated against the County’s requirements. The public will be able to review the concepts and share feedback. The County Board will approve the final concept.

The budget for the total Phase 2 project, as approved by the County Board in the FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan, is $63 to $67 million, the amount of funding originally approved in 2012.  The final total will depend on decisions made during the design process. The budget includes, in addition to the aquatics facility, an extension of the esplanade, rain gardens, public gathering spaces, parking, public art and additional environmental remediation.

The next step is for the County to give firms the opportunity to submit their technical qualifications, which will be evaluated against established criteria.  Firms that qualify will be invited to submit a proposal this summer. Three or four firms who submit design concepts will be invited to participate in the design competition. The public will review the concepts in November 2017, with the Board then selecting the final design. Construction is expected to begin in late 2018.

The first phase of Long Bridge Park was completed in 2011. The park is located at 475 Long Bridge Drive, just north of Crystal City.

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Trump Supporter Cries Foul Over Arlington Parks Dept. Response to Request for Rally Permit

Donald Trump for president sign(Updated at 7:10 p.m) Jack Posobiec, the Security and Special Projects Director for a group called Citizens for Trump, took to Twitter today to complain about Arlington County’s parks department.

The department, he said, told him he would not be able to hold a pro-Trump rally next month at Long Bridge Park.

While Posobiec implied that politics may have played a role (see below for more of his tweets), Arlington County Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said it was simply a matter of when he wanted to hold the event.

“The staff person he talked to said he was looking at Long Bridge Park for the inauguration,” Kalish said. “The park is closed on the 20th, but she said it was open on the 19th.”

Inauguration Day — Friday, Jan. 20 — is a county holiday and Parks and Recreation staffers have the day off.

“Our outdoor parks are open during their normal hours” on holidays, Kalish clarified, but “generally we don’t allow rentals on holidays as the staff that would support/monitor the facility are off.”

Following his phone call to the county on Monday, Posobiec has not yet followed up to file a permit application for another day, according to Kalish.

“He never submitted a formal request,” Kalish said. “We tried to call him back today but his voice mailbox was full. We reached back to [him] to contact us so we can see if space is available at the time and location he is interested in.”

“We can’t deny a permit for something we don’t have an permit application for,” she added.

Should Citizens for Trump successfully apply for a facility rental, an hourly rental fee would apply, as it does for any other person or group. The group may also need a Special Event Permit, Kalish told ARLnow.com.

“After we see what he needs we will try to accommodate it,” she said. “This sounds like a special event, and thus will also require a Special Event Permit. There is no cost for the Special Event Permit, however, this application helps us share the event information with all our County services (trash, public safety, street closures) so that we can better support the event organizer with his needs.”

Responding to an earlier request for comment, Posobiec said the parks department’s account of his call was “incorrect.”

“When I heard there was no way to apply for a permit on the 20th, it was I who suggested holding it on the 19th,” he told ARLnow.com in an email just before 7 p.m. “They asked what sort of event it was, and I told them it was a small rally of about 50 people to support the president. She then immediately told me that those types of events would not be allowed. I asked to speak with the director, but was only allowed to leave a message. Call was not returned.”

Posobiec said the event he wants to hold would be dubbed a “Rally to Support the President,” would take place at Long Bridge Park and would involve “a small stage for Citizens for Trump speakers.” He reiterated that he still would like to apply for a permit for the event.

(Posobiec says he is holding a separate event called the “Deploraball” on Jan. 19 at a private venue. Deploraball is not the name of the proposed Arlington event, as earlier reported.)

More of Posobiec’s tweets, after the jump.

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Morning Notes

Flyfishing in Four Mile Run (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Yorktown Neighborhood Profiled — Schools and a sense of community are two of the biggest attraction to the north Arlington neighborhood of Yorktown. Safety is another plus: there were no burglaries or robberies reported in the neighborhood in the past 12 years. [Washington Post]

County Still Seeking Private Money for Aquatics Center — Arlington County is still looking for private partners and sponsorships before moving forward on construction of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. It’s unclear if additional private money would be used to expand the center or reduce the estimated $40-44 million in taxpayer funding. Even without additional money, park bonds already approved by voters are expected to fully fund construction. [InsideNova]

Rosslyn Metro Express Guy Featured — The Express newspaper distributor who works at the Rosslyn Metro station was featured in a “happy news” video on the Facebook page of Seattle television station KING. [Facebook]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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