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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The cost of the project is capped. The design/build method specifically provides a budget and any overages are the responsibility of the contractor.
- 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).
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.
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
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.
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
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.
(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.
The Arlington County Parks Dept just told me I was not allowed to hold a Rally to Support the President
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) December 6, 2016
I said, so no one holds events on Saturdays? And they said, "We are not issuing you a permit."
— Jack Posobiec (@JackPosobiec) December 6, 2016
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.
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
The free celebration, which also is slated to include drop-in kickball games, moon bounces and balloon art, is scheduled to run from 5-10 p.m. The Hollies guitarist Steve Lauri and West Virginia cover band Cazhmiere are scheduled to perform.
Some of the food trucks scheduled to participate in the event’s “food truck rally” include: Bada Bing Cheesesteaks and Spiedies, The Big Cheese, The Farm Effect, Grapevine Restaurant, Lemongrass Food Truck, Mac’s Donuts, Rod’s Oasis Shaved Ice, Salou Kaba, Tapas Truck, Tortoise & Hare Food Truck, Union Dog Food Truck.
If you can’t make it to Long Bridge Park, you also can see the fireworks in Arlington from:
- Key Bridge
- Air Force Memorial
- Iwo Jima Memorial
- Gravelly Point Park
- Gateway Park
The fireworks are expected to begin at 9:09 p.m., lasting about 17 minutes.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Many early mornings I would have to take my two time Olympic Gold Medalist son Tom to 50 meter pools either in the District, Fairfax or Montgomery County to train or swim in local and regional meets. I resented seeing these facilities getting revenues from food concessions, t-shirts and pool fees.
Why couldn’t Arlington share in this revenue?
The aquatics center at Long Bridge Park gives us this opportunity.
Will Arlington need additional indoor and outdoor recreational facilities in the future?
Existing county recreational facilities are not adequate to meet the full range of current and future community recreational, fitness and aquatics needs of the growing youth, adult and senior populations. A report by the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service Demographic Research Group showed that Arlington County’s population grew by 9.4 percent from the 2010 Census through July 2013 alone. By 2040, Arlington’s overall population is expected to grow by over 65,000 people.
Many of the aquatic classes I try to enroll in as a 55+ citizen in the high school pools through the parks and recreation department are closed due to over enrollment. As much of the Arlington population ages, we seek affordable places to recreate to continue productive lives in the county.
As a mom who has sat in pools all over the country, I have seen the benefits of a multi-purpose training facility.
Existing county recreational facilities are not adequate to meet the full range of current and future community recreational, fitness and aquatics needs of the growing youth, adult and senior populations. We need to have an Oak-Mar Fairfax facility in our community.
Sixty-three percent of our citizens responded favorably to this in a recent survey posted on ARLnow.com.
The money is there. Let’s coalesce as a community to build this facility.
I look forward to seeing many youth teams and swim for safety programs delight in this amenity in Arlington County.
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes thoughtful letters to the editor about issues of local interest. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected] Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
The following op-ed was written by Tobin Smith, Chair of the Long Bridge Park Citizen Advisory Committee. Smith is also a past chair of the Arlington Park and Recreation Commission.
Earlier this week, the Long Bridge Park Citizen Advisory Committee, which I chair, recommended that the County proceed with designing a new aquatics, health and fitness facility at Long Bridge Park.
This is not an attempt to revive the large aquatics center that was shelved by the County in 2014 after construction bids far exceeded the bond funds authorized by Arlington voters in 2004 and 2012. We have learned many lessons from that. The current proposal is one-third smaller and more modest. It should have a more sustainable design and less ambitious energy-saving systems. It should be bid and built with much stronger controls on costs. And perhaps most importantly, not a dime more should be spent for this project than what voters already approved. Additional features should only be added if they meet a clearly identified community need and if an outside sponsor/partner is willing to bear the costs.
The scaled-down facility would feature two pools: a 50-meter pool for lap swimming, fitness and competition and a multipurpose leisure/training pool for family fun and swim lessons/classes. It would also include ample space for exercise equipment and fitness activities, which generate revenue to offset costs. The facility our committee envisions is comparable to those enjoyed by residents of many neighboring jurisdictions, including the District and Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince Georges, Loudoun and Anne Arundel Counties.
Besides the aquatics and fitness facility, the project known as Phase 2 of Long Bridge Park includes 10 more acres of parkland for informal recreation and community gatherings; extension of the esplanade, rain gardens, public art, and parking. The authorized, available county funds for all this totals $64 million. Based on staff estimates, the hard costs for construction of the facility we are recommending should be about $44 million of that.
Our committee’s recommendations were based on extensive community engagement. Several hundred Arlingtonians provided input at the County Fair and other events. Over 1900 responded to an online survey. A statistically valid, countywide recreational needs survey found that aquatics resources ranked as the highest indoor recreational need for over 60 percent of Arlington households. Additional indoor fitness and exercise spaces also got substantial support.
Our committee also found that despite the recent improvements of Arlington’s three high school-based community pools, the Department of Parks and Recreation is not able to meet Arlington residents’ demand for county-sponsored aquatic programs such as learn to swim classes and senior water aerobics. County staff report that in the last two years, the number of aquatics class participants has grown 24%. Nearly 40% of those who tried to register for these classes have been waitlisted. Arlington’s expected population growth will make the wait lists even longer in the future. Moreover, because our existing pools are used for school instruction, they are unavailable for seniors and other community users during school hours.
The facility we recommend will be able to accommodate a wide variety of aquatics and fitness programs and activities for Arlingtonians of all ages and abilities. Such consolidated, community-run facilities have the added benefit of achieving economies of scale that maximize cost recovery, compared to the performance of much smaller neighborhood or school-based pools.
Some will say that Arlington should not build a new recreational facility right now because other county needs are more pressing. They will say that the recreational needs so clearly identified can wait, or are “wants” rather than “needs.” I disagree. As our population rapidly expands, we have a responsibility to provide ample opportunities within Arlington where our kids can learn to swim, where our county-sponsored swim team and Arlington-based water sports teams don’t have to travel elsewhere to practice and compete, where seniors can get vital exercise, and where families can exercise, recreate and play together when kids are not in school. We need to catch up with our neighbors and provide ample recreational and fitness opportunities for all parts of our population if we are to maintain Arlington as an attractive community in which to live.
This week County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a revised aquatics center plan for Long Bridge Park during a County Board work session.
The aquatics center at Long Bridge had been shelved when the costs continued to balloon. Former County Manager Donnellan ultimately announced they simply could not find a bid to build the pool complex within the allotted budget.
The County it seems was unwilling to go back to the taxpayers again to approve additional bonds for the project which was threatening to top $80 million. Bonds dating back to 2004 have been approved by voters and nearly $17 million have already sold but are yet unused on the project. $30.5 million of bonds have been approved, but not sold.
The new $65 million (approximate) plan seeks to reduce the size of the facility by a little more than one-third and is estimated to save 17% from the old estimate. However, these are only county staff estimates as there has been no final price tag from a construction firm.
Of course, it was not just the construction costs causing heartburn. County estimates pegged the project with an ongoing annual operating deficit of more than $4 million before it was halted. The staff says the new plan will only result in an operating deficit of $1 million.
As the aquatics center discussion moves forward, ongoing operating costs will remain an important issue. How much of a subsidy should we provide to Arlington residents? And will people from surrounding communities who use the facility be required to pay more?
In watching the County Board work session presentation on the new project, two other claims stood out. First, it was stated that the new facility would be designed and built to meet identified community needs. Second, that the previous design was biased toward better architecture and not better energy efficiency. This time around, energy efficiency will be given a higher priority.
It makes one wonder, why was it not done this way the first time?
The updated plan calls for reducing the size of the facility by 37 percent. That will reduce the overall cost of the project — which also includes the development of 10.5 acres of parkland around the facility — by 17 percent. The cost of the smaller facility is estimated at $63-67.5 million.
The goal is to reduce the cost of the project to within the $64 million in financing already obtained, primarily through a bond issue and developer contributions. The project was put on hold after construction bids well exceeded the original $79.2 million budget, as included in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan.
From a county press release:
The revised plan for Long Bridge Park reduces the size of the facility by 37 percent, to about 73,000 square feet. The reductions are achieved by reducing the number of pools from the three proposed in 2012 to two, reducing the number of lobbies, circulation areas and storage space. The smaller building, fewer pools, and a less expensive HVAC system all contribute to lower construction and operating costs. The family pool and teaching pool would be combined into a single pool under the new proposal, and the therapy pool and three dive towers eliminated. Space for a health and fitness center would be retained.
Estimated base construction cost for the recommended down-sized aquatics health and fitness facility and development of another 10.5-acres of parkland is between $46 million and $50.5 million, Schwartz said, with the possibility of adding options such as advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and 300 more spectator seats if the budget allowed or a partner or sponsor could be found.
With development of the additional 10.5 acres of parkland, a $5 million contingency and project management, design and other “soft costs,” the total project cost is estimated at between $63 million and $67.5 million – a 17 percent reduction from the $79.2 million Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Budget estimate for the project. The County currently has $64 million earmarked for the project – primarily funded from a combination of voter-approved bonds and Transfer of Development Rights funding.
The county also notes that a proposal to share the costs of the facility with Alexandria does not seem to be feasible.
The full press release, after the jump.
District Taco Gets New Neighbor — The new District Taco in Rosslyn will soon have a new neighbor at 1500 Wilson Blvd. A Wells Fargo bank is “coming soon” to a next-door ground floor retail space. There is an existing Wells Fargo branch down the street at 1300 Wilson Blvd. A branch in Courthouse recently closed. A bank spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment. [Twitter]
Scaled-Down Long Bridge Aquatics Center Proposed — Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz last night proposed a scaled-down version of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center. The original aquatics center design was shelved before it could be built due to construction estimates and an operating budget that were higher than expected. [InsideNova]
Congressional Delegation Writes to NPS Director — Arlington’s congressional delegation — Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer — has written to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, urging him to make sure NPS applies for a “FASTLANE” grant for reconstruction of the decaying Memorial Bridge, before the April 14 application deadline. However, the Park Service is said to be likely to miss the deadline. [Scribd, Washington Post]
Maker Economy Event in Crystal City — TechShop in Crystal City will be hosting a discussion of the “the maker economy and local manufacturing in the DMV region” next Wednesday, April 20. Early bird registration ends tomorrow. [LERCPA]
Beginning of the End for Metro’s 1000-Series — Metro retired the first of its aging 1000-series rail cars from service yesterday morning, calling it the “end of an era.” [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley