Valor Awards Recount Harrowing Moments — Saving a suicidal woman who was about to jump from the seventh floor of a parking garage. Saving the life of a man who had just been run over by an SUV twice. Smashing a car window in order to resuscitate the victim of a major crash on I-395. Those are a few of the acts of valor recognized at the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards this week. [InsideNova, Arlington Chamber]
WaPo Questions Crystal City-Brooklyn Comparison — The Washington Post isn’t letting the New York Times get away with a quote that compared Crystal City to Brooklyn. The area’s hometown paper instead quoted a number of Twitter critics, one of whom called Crystal City a “Ballardian hellscape.” The Times story suggests that Crystal City — with its new restaurants, emerging tech scene, transportation improvements and community events — is experiencing something of a mini renaissance. [Washington Post]
Nauck Town Square Designs — Arlington County is seeking feedback on the draft design of the forthcoming Nauck Town Square park. The design includes a large sculpture of the word “FREED.” [Arlington County]
County Gets Adorable Letters — Arlington County gets adorable letters from children, who ask about things like raising backyard chickens and saving worms that might have gotten swept up as yard waste. [Arlington County]
Arlington County is preparing to update and add new features to the park next to the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford Street).
Fairlington Park currently has exercise equipment, an exercise path, an athletic field, a playground, a gazebo and a small amphitheater.
The county says the scope of the upcoming park project will include “design and reconstruction of the playground, exercise equipment, circuit trail, picnic area, site circulation, site furnishings, fencing, stormwater management and landscaping.”
Before creating an initial design, the county is gathering community input, including via an online survey, which is active through April 15.
The survey asks a number of specific questions about exercise equipment, including: “would you like to be able to do a total-body workout in the park for strength and cardio fitness using equipment that’s similar to indoor fitness equipment?”
Arlington County is spending nearly $900,000 to buy and tear down a house along N. Harrison Street, to expand Chestnut Hills Park.
The County Board voted 5-0 yesterday to approve the purchase of 2833 N. Harrison Street for $820,000. The move comes just a few months after the county purchased an adjacent house for $728,000.
Chestnut Hills Park, near Yorktown High School, recently received a new pre-school playground. The park is said to be one of the most popular and most-used in the county.
Once the house is demolished, the county will expand the park and will “work with the community to enhance its features.” From an Arlington County press release:
For the second time in a year, Arlington County has agreed to buy land to expand the popular Chestnut Hills Park on N. Harrison Street in the Yorktown neighborhood.
The County Board today approved the purchase of a home and surrounding property at 2833 N. Harrison St., adjacent to the park. The agreed purchase price is $820,000 for the 10,405 square foot lot.
“Arlington is serious about looking for opportunities to add to our parkland and open space, and we plan for such purchases. We’re seeing real results for our commitment and planning,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.
The house on the lot the Board agreed to purchase today is a modest rambler, built in 1954, and has no remarkable individual architectural or historical significance. The County plans to deconstruct the house and restore the site as open space. The purchase price was obtained from a licensed Virginia real estate appraiser. The County estimates that closing costs will be about $5,000 and the deconstruction of the house and site restoration will cost about $50,000. The funds will be allocated from Park Land Acquisition funds.
The Board voted 5-0 to approve the acquisition. To read the staff report for this item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #21 on the Agenda for the Tuesday, March 15 County Board Meeting.
In the late 1990s, the County asked owners of certain properties along North Harrison Street whether they would be interested in selling their properties to the County to expand Chestnut Hills Park. Between 1996 and 1998, the owners of three properties along North Harrison Street sold their properties to the County. A fourth sold his property in 2015. The park was renovated in 2014. As the park grows, the County will continue to work with the community to enhance its features.
The latest skirmish involving a County Board candidate started when an automated call from Del. Rip Sullivan (D) started ringing in thousands of Arlington homes Sunday.
Sullivan’s recorded voice ripped into McMenamin for suggesting that he would support adding an extra lane to I-66 within the existing VDOT right of way in Arlington, tying that position into an issue near and dear to many Arlingtonians: parks.
Hi, this is Delegate Rip Sullivan. I have served on a Park Authority and Transportation Commission, and I’ve got an important message for you about the use of parks and green space in Arlington.
Independent-Republican for County Board, Mike McMenamin, supports widening I-66, which would threaten the quality of our parks at Madison Manor, Bon Air, Thrifton Hills, McCoy, and other parklands across the County. It would also threaten the quality of the Custis Trail. To protect parkland throughout Arlington County from development, join me in supporting Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. If protecting Arlington’s parks and green space is important to you, then vote on Tuesday, November 3rd for the two candidates committed to protecting parks and green space: Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol.
Paid for and authorized by Christian Dorsey for County Board and Katie Cristol for County Board.
McMenamin responded in turn by accusing the Democrats of tying to “hide their weakness on parks.” From a press release:
Mike McMenamin today accused Delegate Rip Sullivan of making an 11th-hour attack purposely distorting his position on I-66.
“It shows that the political establishment in Arlington is worried about losing,” said McMenamin, who is running as an Independent for the County Board.
In a robo-call to thousands of voters on Sunday, the Democratic delegate said that McMenamin’s support for widening the interstate freeway would threaten the quality of various county parks.
McMenamin countered that he would only tolerate widening the highway within the current right of way and no further. Such widening, he said, would not take away any parkland at all.
“My opponents have been unwilling to say that they won’t build affordable housing on parkland, a position they know is unpopular, so they are trying to muddy the waters with these dubious attacks,” McMenamin said. “In fact, I am the only candidate committed to not building on our parks.
The Independent candidate said he is committed to keeping parkland and trails intact. “If any VDOT proposal would negatively affect any parks in Arlington, I think I would be the most effective voice for the neighborhoods.”
“While I don’t like the idea of having to widen 66, I fear the State is inevitably going to do just that,” he said. “After all, VDOT owns the road. So, I have taken the position that Arlington must strike the best deal possible.”
McMenamin also opposes tolls for I-66, saying it will lead to more surface traffic in nearby neighborhoods.
New Homeless Shelter Opens Today — Arlington County’s new $9 million Homeless Services Center in Courthouse opens today. Serving a county-wide homeless population of about 250, the shelter will provide a warm and safe place for homeless individuals to sleep at night, in addition to providing medical care, substance abuse and job training programs. [Arlington County, WAMU]
‘Good Morning Guy’ No Longer in Clarendon — “Good morning guy” Robert Gordon, a beloved Express newspaper distributor, is no longer handing out the free papers in Clarendon, disappointing many commuters. Where did he go, a reader asked? A Washington Post spokeswoman tells ARLnow.com: Gordon is still distributing the Express just down the Orange Line, in Rosslyn.
Wakefield Wins in Rout — The Wakefield High School football team defeated Mt. Vernon last night, 45-0, despite the Warriors’ starting running back being sidelined with an injury. [Washington Post]
Clement Proposes New Regional Park — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says that if she’s elected, she would work to build a new regional park inside the Beltway. “Arlington has nearly run out of public open space to keep pace with our population growth,” Clement writes in a press release. “We have to go back to the future and do what our parents and grandparents did 50 years ago: Buy land for new regional parks, outdoor recreation and playing fields.” [Clement for County Board, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Washington Blvd Temporarily Closed — Westbound Washington Blvd is temporarily closed at N. Evergreen Street from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today for water service installations. Traffic will be rerouted around the closure, which is several blocks from Virginia Hospital Center. [Twitter]
Arlington Bagel Shop Named Best in Va. — Brooklyn Bagel in Courthouse has the best bagel in the Commonwealth of Virginia, at least according to Tripping, an online vacation rental search engine. [Tripping]
Tough Talk for Park Supporters — At a time when Arlington’s burgeoning student population is creating a need for more and bigger schools, supporters of parks in Arlington have been opposing the creation of new schools in existing or potential future parks. County Board Chair Mary Hynes says that those who want to see more and more parkland in Arlington may be disappointed. “Their stance seems to be that we should put all our money into buying more land and use it as little as possible… [but] land is our scarcest resource.” [Falls Church News-Press]
AT&T Injected Ads on DCA Wi-Fi — AT&T has acknowledged that for a period of time, it injected popup ads onto websites visited by users of its free Wi-Fi networks at Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. [Recode, Web Policy]
Locket Found in Ballston — Someone found a silver locket hanging from a tree in Ballston. The finder is offering to return the locket to its rightful owner. [Reddit]
Photo courtesy James Mahony
Arlington County wants residents to help it design the new Columbia Pike Village Center public square.
The new public square is part of a development that is replacing the current Food Star grocery store at the intersection of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike. A developer is planning to build a five story building with market-rate apartments, retail and a major grocer.
The county-owned public square would go next to the development, where part of the Food Star parking lot is currently located. Arlington residents can take an online survey and answer questions about the type of benches, location of a water feature and how the new square should look overall.
The square is meant to be a “green oasis,” according to the county, and will have several “opportunities to sit, relax and enjoy the new square and garden.” It is also meant to work with the new retail area that is part of the development. The county’s current plans for the square show wide sidewalks that could be used for outdoor seating at restaurants.
“Success of the public square goes hand-in-hand with the success of retail,” the survey says.
The county is currently deciding between a central garden and a central open lawn. Residents are asked to choose which one they would prefer, with the option to choose a combination of both.
Preliminary sketches show seating around a central garden or lawn area, with open green spaces and paths throughout it. Residents who take the survey are asked to choose the type of benches they would like to see in the garden, as well as the kind of open spaces and paths.
The county also asks residents to rank water features, like fountains or small stone waterfalls, and weigh in on where one should be located in the square.
The new square will be somewhat similar to the public squares at Penrose Square and Pentagon Row, where there’s a combination of retail and open spaces, or the public space outside the Arlington Mill Community Center. However, the county said it is hoping that the Village Center public square offers more greenery.
“Penrose Square and Arlington Mill offer outdoor event spaces that are largely paved,” the county said. “Perhaps Village Center square could offer something different… ‘green oasis.'”
Rosslyn Highlands Park — a narrow parcel of open space, a basketball court and a playground on Key Blvd — could be sold to a developer in exchange for a new fire station.
In a Nov. 8 presentation to the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) working group, Penzance, which owns the office building at 1555 Wilson Blvd, outlined a proposal that would redevelop the county-owned site — which includes Arlington Fire Station 10 — with three buildings and open space in the middle.
Last week, county staff released a draft plan to sell the site to Penzance, with the developer building a new fire station on the site, a landscaped public plaza and an extension of N. Pierce Street to 18th Street. On the property, Penzance proposes a 17-story office building fronting Wilson Blvd, a 24-story residential building along 18th Street N. and a 27-story residential building along the eastern edge of parcel.
The park is part of the area covered by the WRAPS group, a county-led commission discussing the future of the area in between 18th Street N., N. Quinn Street, Wilson Blvd and the 1555 Wilson Blvd property line. The development would replace Fire Station 10 and sit adjacent to the new H-B Woodlawn building at the Wilson School site, expected to be complete in September 2019.
The proposal is already drawing concern from some interested parties, including the county’s Parks and Recreation Commission and some members of the WRAPS working group. Paul Holland serves on both groups and spoke about his concern before the Arlington County Board Saturday morning, with several supporters dressed in green shirts — many recycled from the “Friends of TJ Park” group’s efforts — standing behind him.
Holland said that county staff’s presentation to the WRAPS group last week proposed selling the county’s land to Penzance to develop the plot.
“The only stakeholder getting what they want out of this process is the private developer, and this equates to public land for private good,” Holland said. “Selling parkland is a dangerous precedent that threatens publicly owned parks and open space throughout the county.”
Earlier this month, county staff released a resident feedback study about how best to use this parcel of land. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed preferred an option that keeps the Rosslyn Highlands Park footprint and shrinks Penzance’s proposal to the confines of its current plot of land.
“I attended our meeting [last] Thursday, hoping to see a proposal that captured the feedback of our community members: the desire for large, consolidated open space and ample park and recreation space that can serve this underserved community,” Holland said. “Unfortunately, this was not the case.”
“Instead, staff presented the working group with a plan that reduces the size of Rosslyn Highlands Park by more than two thirds,” he continued, “replaces cherishes green space with yet another paved plaza that supports a developer, and ignores the neighborhood’s significant open space needs.”
County staff said Fire Station 10 can’t be placed where the residents want it — on the property owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, across 18th Street — because of conflicts with school traffic. Staff also said N. Pierce Street needs to be extended, not the resident-preferred plan of extending N. Ode Street to the east. Those factors prompted staff to recommend selling the land to Penzance.
The dispute appears similar — right down to the T-shirts — over the battle for open space next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School that left the School Board scrambling for alternatives. County Board members told Holland and his supporters on Saturday that they might have to sacrifice some open space for other county needs.
“We can do anything we want, but we can’t do everything,” Board member Libby Garvey said, according to InsideNova. “We all want different things — they’re all good things — but how is it going to balance? … We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to start setting priorities. It’s not going to be an easy conversation.”
The Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee and county staff has recommended the five projects, and the Arlington County Board is scheduled to vote on whether to allocate money from the $12 million Neighborhood Conservation bond the voters approved last year.
Cherrydale’s Oak Grove Park, along N. Quincy Street, has been recommended for $795,000 worth of improvements, including a redone “tot lot,” construction of a playground for 5-12 year olds and replacing the existing gazebo with a larger picnic shelter.
Waycroft-Woodlawn is in line for $790,000 in pedestrian upgrades. The neighborhood has requested the money to fund curb ramp improvements for accessibility curb extensions at four intersections:
- N. Evergreen Street and Washington Blvd
- N. George Mason Drive and 11th Street N.
- N. Evergreen Street and 11th Street N.
- N. Buchanan St and 11th Street N.
The other projects would each receive less than $500,000 in funding:
- $471,731 in pedestrian improvements along S. Courthouse Road from Columbia Pike to 12th Street S. in Columbia Heights
- $348,987 for street lights in Madison Manor, along 12th Street N. from 11th Road to N. Roosevelt Street
- $198,033 for street lights in Douglas Park, along 12th Street S. from S. Monroe Street to Quincy Street
Five of the projects approved by the County Board in February are in the middle of their design phase and are on track for construction next year:
- Street improvements to the 5700 block of 2nd Street S. and the 100 block of S. Kensington Street in Glencarlyn.
- A trail connector from the 4800 block of 7th Street S. to the W&OD trail in Barcroft.
- Pedestrian safety improvements to 19th Road N. between Woodstock Street and Upton Street in Waverly Hills
- Street improvements to S. Lang Street between Arlington Ridge Road and 28th Street in Arlington Ridge
- Streetlights and trail improvements on N. Ohio Street between 22nd Street and Washington Blvd in Highland Park Overlee Knolls.
The sixth project approved in February, improvements to Woodstock Park in Waycroft-Woodlawn, still does not have a scheduled completion date.
Photo via Arlington County
Police Investigating Apartment Break-In, Fire — A man has been arrested and accused of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and starting a small fire. The incident happened on the 1200 block of S. Scott Street, just off of Columbia Pike, Monday morning. [Washington Post]
Arlington Trying to Keep TSA — After losing the National Science Foundation and the Fish and Wildlife Service to Alexandria, Arlington County officials are stepping up their efforts to keep the Transportation Service Administration. The TSA currently has offices in Pentagon City, but at least one office owner is trying to lure the agency to Alexandria. [Washington Business Journal]
Name Chosen for New Park — The future, 8,000 square foot park next to the new Gables North Rolfe apartment complex, which is expected to be approved by the County Board this weekend, now has a name. Various community groups and county commissions have approved “Three Oaks Park” as the park’s name, in honor of the three large trees on the site. [InsideNova]
Building Over I-66 Would be Pricey — A new report has found that building office and apartment buildings over I-66 in Rosslyn would be expensive, but might eventually be worth considering. As much as 2.5 million square feet of new development could be possible by decking over open-air portions of the highway around Rosslyn. [Washington Business Journal]
‘How Arlington Are You?’ Quiz — A questionable, 10-question web quiz on the website of a Crystal City apartment building attempts to answer the question, “how Arlington are you?” Questions include “how many people do you know who work in the defense industry?” and “how often do you go to Starbucks?” [Crystal Square]
Photo courtesy @TheBeltWalk
(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) A new 2.17 acre apartment development is likely coming to the Courthouse area.
Gables North Rolfe Street is planned as a two building, 400,000 square feet, 395 unit apartment complex on the 1300 block of N. Rolfe Street, in the Radnor / Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, just off of Route 50.
The tract of land on which the project will be built is steep, wooded and also includes a handful of older single family homes and small apartment complexes. Because Arlington County owns three parcels of land on the site, it has been able to work with developer Gables Residential on a number of public benefits.
Among the the benefits, to be paid for by the developer:
- A new, 8,000 square foot public park that will include a 200-year-old tree
- LEED Gold certification for the apartment complex
- Thirty-nine units of committed affordable housing
- A stand-alone, 14-unit transitional living facility, for those recovering from substance abuse. This will replace the existing Independence House facility on the site, according to Arlington Dept. of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick.
The project is expected be considered by the County Board at its February meeting, in two weeks.
Discussing the project at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, County Board Chair Mary Hynes said the benefits from such projects represent key Democratic values.
“Affordable housing furthers diversity, inclusivity and sustainability, all of which are values… that have driven this community,” she said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story reflected County Board Chair Mary Hynes’ remarks that the planned transitional living facility was for those who were just getting out of jail. A county spokesman says that is incorrect, and that the facility will be for substance abuse recovery.
That’s the message from the two candidates for County Board, incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze, in response to a questionnaire from the Arlington Parks Coalition.
Both Vihstadt and Howze said that Arlington needs more parkland and recreational space to meet existing needs, let alone future demands. Both said they would support the acquisition of new parkland by Arlington County.
In addition, Vihstadt floated a number of specific ideas, like “building up rather than out, in schools and public facilities construction and additions to maximize green space,” and “examining the feasibility of air rights over I-66 in Rosslyn and East Falls Church for fields development.”
On the topic of the “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing initiative, both candidates rejected the idea of using parkland for affordable housing, schools or other purposes.
Howze, however, kept the door open to potentially redeveloping existing recreational facilities to include housing. His response to the Parks Coalition:
I do not support the development of existing parkland for other purposes. Parks are a public good that are available to all members of the community and it is important that we preserve these public spaces.
When current recreational facilities are renovated or rebuilt, I believe it is appropriate to engage in a community conversation about potential uses. For example, could pre-K and on-site childcare be integrated into a site – making it easier for parents to use a facility? Could housing for seniors be integrated on a site to make recreational amenities and wellness activities more accessible to them? There is no one size fits all answer to these questions – but by engaging the community I am confident that the appropriate solutions will emerge. In fact, it is this confidence in our community that led me to call earlier this year for a broad public process to bring people together to work towards solutions to address school overcrowding, park needs, affordable housing, and public safety infrastructure. By bringing the community together we can emerge with a broader consensus for how to move forward in protecting our parks – while meeting other important community needs in schools, recreational, housing and infrastructure.
Vihstadt said Arlington should find creative solutions for preserving affordable housing and building more school capacity that do not require the loss of parkland.
In my view, Arlington’s 149 parks and our many community/recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good” and should be preserved for their intended purpose and adequately maintained. It is both counterintuitive and counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or any other non-parks and recreation-related development on our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites, and I will work and vote to keep our green space green. As we add ever more population and density to our County, we must more carefully assess how our development decisions are impacting the diversity and character of our neighborhoods and our public parks, as well as our schools and infrastructure. We must also endeavor to ensure that our core services, including our parks and recreation resources, keep pace with our population growth. Clearly, our County faces challenges in ensuring adequate school capacity and preserving our affordable housing stock, but I believe we also possess the resources and creativity to address these challenges while preserving and, indeed, enhancing, our parkland and recreational resources, including sports fields.
On a related note, I believe that our regional parks and nature centers should remain substantially as they are, absent community-driven upgrades and maintenance improvements.
Terri Armao, the chair of the Green Committee for the Penrose Neighborhood Association, sent a letter to the civic association saying neighbors have called her to complain that “childcare workers or nannies [are] allowing toddlers to pee and poop” by the tree line on the edge of the park.
In an email to ARLnow.com, Armao said the excrement is a health and environmental hazard, adding that if it continues it might put residents at risk for cholera.
“We all understand an occasional accident but what was described to me was routine and by many nannies/kids,” Armao said. “I walk my dog there and pick-up after the dog. So I would expect the same courtesy. In addition, there are many areas in the park natural area, where this is happening that have standing water after rain. This to me is a health hazard in the making.”
Below is the letter Armao sent to the civic association:
This morning I heard from two people who have witnessed childcare workers or nannies allowing toddlers to pee and poop in Penrose Park in the tree line of the natural area. This is reported to be an ongoing and frequent problem.
Parents if you are employing nannies please tell them not to allow this. Our parks are not toilets. Please use diapers or go home if this need arises.
I spoke with a couple of parents who also use the park and they were as surprised and disgusted as I am. This is a health hazard. I have notified the county but please call Park Manager Kurt Louis at 703-228-7754 or the police if you see this happening.
Dog walkers this goes for you too. If your dog roams into this area the dog poop still needs to be picked up. A tributary of Long Branch stream runs directly under the park, this is our drinking water.
Chair, Penrose Green Committee
Penrose Neighborhood Association
Photo via Google Maps
The Arlington County Board has approved a concept for two acres of open place on the planned PenPlace development in Pentagon City.
The plan calls for three open spaces: two small parks along planned 10th and 12th Street S. connections between S. Fern and Eads Streets and a “Central Green” in the middle of the large development. The Central Green is designed to allow for events like outdoor movies and concerts, according to the space’s designer, and will include a cafe in the northeast corner.
The concept was presented to the County Board during its Thursday meeting last week after three community meetings. The PenPlace development was approved by the County Board last September, with the condition that a concept for the open space be brought back within a year.
The PenPlace development, when completed, is planned to have five buildings, each between 16 and 22 stories tall, that include 1.8 million square feet of office space and a 300-room hotel. It will be adjacent to a planned streetcar station on 12th Street.
As part of the approval, the developer, Vornado/Charles E. Smith, agreed to build about two acres of public space as a component of the community benefit package required for bonus density.
“I think the overarching goal here, that we’ve shared with the public, is to create a vibrant urban space in the heart of Pentagon City,” said Hallie Boyce, a design partner with Olin Landscape Architects, which designed the open space, “that will not only allow people to enjoy the great outdoors but also to enjoy each other’s company, and to really create a sense of community here in Pentagon City.”
In addition, Vornado plans to include up to 20,000 square feet of community-oriented space in the building at the corner of the planned 10th Street and S. Eads Street intersection. According to Vornado’s presentation to the County Board, the space could be used for educational use or a university, a business incubator, a library or community center, or large entertainment use, such as a bowling alley, movie theater or performance venue.
The concept was submitted and approved as a “base case,” which will now operate as a guiding principle for when the buildings come back before the Board for a full site plan approval. According to Vornado Senior Vice President and Director of Development Mitch Bonanno, there is still no timeline for any construction.
PenPlace was met with numerous resident objections when it first came before the County Board last year. Four speakers came to Thursday’s meeting in protest of a provision that allows Vornado additional density on the site, saying they felt they were caught unaware after the community meetings. The base case includes a provision that, if the open space costs more than the staff’s estimate of $2.65 million, Vornado is entitled to added density.
“The citizen participants were under the mistaken impression that the outdoor space improvements were part of the extremely generous deal Vornado already got,” Pentagon City resident Elizabeth Wirick said. “Those who took part in the workshops feel betrayed. This is a concept, not a plan, we don’t have any data on how much it’s going to cost other than staff estimates, and with regards to staff estimates, I’ll keep it short. Two words: aquatics center.”
(Vornado agreed to partially fund the proposed Long Bridge Park aquatics center project as part of PenPlace’s initial phased development approval. The aquatics center is now stalled after construction bids came in well above staff estimates.)
The motion passed just before midnight, 3-1, with Board member John Vihstadt dissenting and Board member Libby Garvey absent.
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) The Arlington County Board approved the next step in building a new elementary school in South Arlington by commissioning a working group to study land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
The working group, the members of which have not yet been announced, will first meet in September and take five months to study the feasibility of building an elementary school adjacent to the middle school at 125 S. Old Glebe Road.
The site is the preferred choice of Arlington’s School Board, which will ask county taxpayers for upwards of $50 million for the school as part of its $106 million referendum package on the Nov. 4 ballot.
“Our County is desirable and growing, and more students are entering our school system,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We need to work together to find creative ways to meet this challenge. This working group will bring together community members, Schools, and County staff for a robust consideration of whether to use a portion of the Thomas Jefferson site for a new elementary school.”
The working group — to be comprised of members from surrounding civic associations and members of schools and county staff, advisory boards and commissions — is charged with returning to the County Board with a recommendation in January 2015. Its goals from the County Board include:
- Retaining the current wooded eastern end of “TJ Park” as is (area along the western portion of S. Irving Street and stretching west along Arlington Blvd.); maintain a cohesive park; ensure no significant loss of green space and no net loss of recreational programming.
- Considering the neighborhood impacts of traffic and parking and ensure safety of existing pedestrian walkways and bikeways.
- Ensuring that the community center would remain available for use.
- Ensuring the building massing is compatible with adjacent neighborhood.
The plan has given rise to a new group opposing building the school on parkland, the Friends of Thomas Jefferson Park. The group dressed in green and showed up a few dozen strong at the County Board’s Saturday meeting. The Board approved the working group in its meeting yesterday, but on Saturday, the group’s leader, Jim Presswood, spoke during the public comment period.
“TJ Park is Arlington’s central park and a wonderful resource that needs to be conserved,” he said. “We’re committed to enhancing our park and we’re hoping to be around for a while.”