Press Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s behind schedule, but John Robinson, Jr. Town Square in Green Valley should open by the time the calendar turns to 2022.

Formerly known as Nauck Town Square before it was renamed last year after a long-time Green Valley civic leader, the new public park is intended to be a central hub of activity in the neighborhood. It will feature an outdoor stage, a plaza, tables and other seating areas, at a construction cost of around $5 million.

Originally, after the construction contract was awarded in mid-2019, the project was expected to be complete by the end of last year. Given the pandemic and other factors, however, it is still in progress.

Some local residents have expressed concerns about a pause in construction activity, but a county spokeswoman said things should ramp back up soon.

“Arlington County is excited about the new John Robinson, Jr. Town Square, with a goal of opening by the end of this year,” Arlington Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Elise Cleva told ARLnow last week. “At this time, County permitting is concluding, and the contractor should resume work by the end of the month.”

“There are some uncertainties about the timing of the utility relocation and some work will continue after the opening,” Cleva continued. “However, barring any unforeseen delays, we still anticipate that the town square should be open so visitors can enjoy the square and open space by the end of the year.”

Asked about the delays, Cleva cited several factors.

“There isn’t a single, simple cause for delay,” she said. “It’s a combination of factors stemming from the complexity of the project, which requires coordination among several County departments and external partners.”

Cleva called the project and its timely completion “a countywide priority.”

“The project, designed by the award-winning landscape architect and artist Walter Hood, is a countywide priority with multiple departments and includes road realignment and improvements, sidewalk and pedestrian enhancements, relocation of utilities, and public art,” she said.

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John Robinson, Jr. spent his time and energy advocating for Arlington’s minority residents, and on Tuesday (Nov. 17) the County Board will consider renaming the future town square in Green Valley in his honor.

The Green Valley Civic Association wants to rename what is currently known as Nauck Town Square, at 2400 S. Shirlington Road, to John Robinson, Jr. Town Square. The association asked the County to change the name last year, and the Planning Commission approved the recommendation.

“John Robinson, Jr., was a community activist who fought to break down segregationist barriers in housing, food counters and movie theaters in northern Virginia,” the Green Valley Civic Association said in their resolution. “Mr. Robinson coordinated with local authorities to take drugs off the streets and organized food, clothing and furniture drives for local families… Over the years, he opened his doors to hundreds of people who were homeless.”

The town square is currently under construction, with a projected completion date in the third quarter of 2021. The nearly $5 million project was approved in 2019 and will feature an outdoor stage, a plaza, and tables. Around the time the project was approved, the neighborhood changed its name from Nauck to Green Valley.

Robinson, who passed away in 2012, was the publisher of the Green Valley News, a free newspaper serving the historically Black neighborhood. He was affectionately regarded as the “Mayor of Green Valley” by neighbors.

The County Manager is recommending the Board approve the renaming.

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Morning Notes

New Name for Green Valley Park — “A year after it was first proposed, the renaming of Nauck Town Square in honor of a longtime Green Valley civic leader looks headed to success. The name ‘John Robinson Jr. Town Square’ has won the support of the Park and Recreation Commission, Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Commission, Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) and the civic associations of Green Valley, Shirlington and Douglas Park.” [InsideNova]

Beyer Blasts Trump Taxes –“The revelation that Donald Trump paid almost no personal income taxes for many years is not surprising, but it is outrageous. Far more important, however, is Trump’s use of the government for his personal benefit rather than that of the American people.” [Press Release]

Memorial Circle Changes — “The National Park Service is taking action to make the roads and trails at Memorial Circle safer. Starting today, drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will see higher visibility crosswalks, new signage & flashing beacons, clearer lane markings & repaved road markings.” [@NationalLanding/Twitter]

Officials Seek Info About Abandoned Dog — “Do you recognize this dog or vehicle? On 9/24 @ 8pm, a person in this vehicle abandoned a dog in a crate near the 5000 blk 7th St S. If you have information regarding this dog or vehicle, please contact Animal Control.” [@AWLAArlington/Twitter]

Rainbow Over Arlington After Sunshower — “Courthouse rainbow spotted from our office with a view.” [@ArlingtonVaPD/Twitter]

Heavy Rain Tonight — “A slug of heavy rainfall is set to drench the Washington area and points east during the middle of the week, with an inch or so likely… It seems likely that a band of heavy downpours arrives [this evening], then perhaps lasting much of the overnight and tapering down from west to east Wednesday morning.” [Capital Weather Gang]

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Morning Notes

Arlington, Alexandria to Talk Cooperation — “The Arlington County Board and Alexandria City Council will consider ways they can cooperate to manage the growth expected from Amazon’s HQ2, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and George Mason’s School of Computing during a joint work session on Tuesday, Oct. 1.” [Arlington County, Washington Post]

Some, But Not All, Washington-Lee Signs to Be Replaced — “The Generals records sign will retain that name because the students made those accomplishments while it was still Washington-Lee. Facilities is currently working on replacing signs throughout the building. The score board is in that [queue] to be replaced.” [Twitter]

BID Expansion Came Down to the Wire — “It wasn’t technically the 11th hour, but pretty close to it when the Crystal City Business Improvement District landed the support it needed to expand its boundaries into Pentagon City and the Arlington County portion of Potomac Yard.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Officer Speaks Out on Police Suicide — “‘Every day is a recovery,’ Master Police Officer Adam Stone, who has been a cop in Arlington for 30 years, said. Stone loves his job, and he’s doing his best to help others by telling his story After contemplating suicide, Stone is on medication and receiving counseling — and still on patrol.” [WUSA 9, Twitter]

Town Square in Green Valley May Get a New Name — “For decades of service to his South Arlington community, what has been known in its planning stages as the Nauck Town Square is likely to be known as the ‘John Robinson Jr. Town Square.'” [InsideNova]

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Plans to construct a public park in the center of Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood may move forward this week after decades in development.

The Arlington County Board will consider awarding a construction contract during its meeting this Saturday, May 18, which would turn an area of what is now mostly empty land, at 2400 S. Shirlington Road, into a town center park.

The contract would provide “construction of park improvements, utility undergrounding, street improvements and street lighting” in the space.

The county’s website lists a 2020 projected finish date for the park, dubbed Nauck Town Square, and says construction will include an outdoor stage, a plaza, on-street parking, and tables.

McLean-based concrete contractor Ardent Company LLC is the winner of the county’s competitive contract process for the project. The company would be awarded $4,853,460 for the work if Board members approve the contract, per the staff report.

Discussions on the project date back to the 1998 Nauck Neighborhood Comprehensive Action Plan. The project area includes the former Lucky Seven food market site; the store caught fire in 2012 and was torn down.

Board members originally approved the town square project as part of the 2004 Nauck Village Center Action Plan. It is described in the recent report as “an anchor project to serve as the social and cultural center of the neighborhood.”

In 2013, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded Arlington $75,000 for public art as part of the town center project.

The county tapped artist and landscape architect Walter Hood for the project’s design, which then-Public Art Administrator Angela Adams said was one of the reasons Arlington won the federal grant.

“I think that what we’re going to get with Walter’s involvement is a very sophisticated design that continues to make great public spaces here looking contemporary and fresh, but also reflective of the community,” Adams told ARLnow at the time.

The item for Saturday’s discussion is currently included in the Board’s consent agenda for the meeting — a placement usually reserved for items expected to pass without debate.

It’s unclear whether the town square will retain the Nauck name after completion. Last week, the Arlington County Civic Federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association — a move the County Board is expected to consider in the coming months.

Images 1, 2, 3 via Hood Design Studio, image 4 via Arlington County

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Arlington County’s police and fire departments will commemorate National Night Out by holding neighborhood visits at events across the county from 5-9 p.m. tonight (Aug. 7).

In its 35th year, National Night Out strives to build relationships between police and the communities they serve, in part to help increase crime prevention awareness.

The county invites residents to “lock their doors, turn on outside lights and spend an evening outside with neighbors, police officers, firefighters and elected officials.”

Events will be held at the following locations:

  • Arlington Forest (200 block of N. Galveston Street) at 7:45 p.m.
  • Cathcart Springs (4600 block of 4th Road N.) at 6:30 p.m.
  • Nauck Town Square (24th Road S. and S. Shirlington Road) from 5-7 p.m.
  • Park Glen (824 S. Arlington Mill Drive, between buildings 812-816) at 6:30 p.m.
  • The Observation Deck at CEB Tower (1800 N. Lynn Street) from 5-9 p.m.

Photo via Arlington County

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Demolition has begun in preparation for the Nauck Town Center project, and the neighbors might not be the only ones buzzing with interest.

The building torn down last week is none other than the former home of about 70,000 honey bees, which the county relocated in July 2017 after realizing they had not only purchased a former office building but an apiary abode as well.

The aging building had only been vacant for about four months, according to the county, but about 100 pounds of honey were already generated by the time that local beekeepers swooped in to relocate move the hive.

The demolition is one of the final steps in the project’s first pre-construction phase. Utility undergrounding and site perimeter streetscaping will start fall 2018 and end spring 2019.

The second phase of Nauck Town Square project construction is scheduled to begin in the spring or summer of 2019 and wrap up by the winter of 2020. Pre-construction for phase two will begin spring 2018 and last through winter 2019.

The Nauck Town Center project, which has been years in the making, includes an open plaza, outdoor stage, public art, tables and seating and sidewalk improvements, along with displays about the history of the community, which was settled by free African-Americans in 1844. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.”

Photo courtesy Daniel Wanke

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Morning Notes

Nauck Town Square Project Progressing  — “There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the Nauck Town Square project, which aims to turn a barren (though iconic) strip of land into a true community gathering place… If all goes as planned, a construction contract will be inked in 2018, with completion a year later.” [InsideNova]

History: Arlington’s Three Sisters — Arlington County was home to the second-tallest human-made structure in the world after the Eiffel Tower: one of the “Three Sisters” U.S. Navy radio towers that once stood along Columbia Pike. [Arlington Magazine]

Mall Raising Money for Breast Cancer Research — This month the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will be raising money for breast cancer research by offering discount cards to shoppers who make a $5 donation to the Susan G. Komen organization. The mall will also be holding meet and greets with the Susan G. Komen D.C. chapter and on Oct. 21 will be offering free pink cookies and pink lemonade. [Simon]

Arlington Issues New Bonds — Arlington County successfully sold $58 million in new bonds this week at an average 3.24 percent interest rate. “This sale allows the County to finance two important land acquisitions, while also saving the County $3.8 million of future debt service by refinancing existing bonds at lower rates,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a press release. [Arlington County]

Photo courtesy James Mahony

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