The Arlington County Board will consider a plan to buy vacant property in Aurora Highlands to create space for new parkland in the neighborhood.
The Board is set to spend $1.23 million to buy a bungalow at 905 20th Street S. and the adjacent lot, which is vacant. Someone rents the house, but earlier this month agreed with its owner to terminate the lease on February 1, 2018, with no rent due for January. The property’s assessed 2017 value is $1.068 million.
Under a plan put forward by county staff, the house would be demolished and the driveway removed to make room for a quarter-acre public park at the intersection of 20th Street S. and S. Ives Street.
“The acquisition of the property would create an opportunity to increase park land in the densely-populated Pentagon City area,” staff wrote in a report. “The approximately [quarter-acre] new park could be used to provide the kind of casual use space residents in the area have been asking for — a park that is open and available for a range of casual uses such as having a picnic, throwing a Frisbee, laying out on a blanket, reading or having small social gatherings.”
Members of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association told the county about the opportunity buy the lot.
Photo via Google Maps
The county is set to formalize an agreement with the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority to make improvements to the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
As part of a wider project near Shirlington between S. Arlington Mill Drive and S. Four Mile Run Drive, the county plans to install new sidewalks, lighting and signals where the trail meets S. Walter Reed Drive.
But to do that, it required permission from NVRPA, which controls the 45-mile trail between Shirlington and Purcellville.
Under the terms of the agreement between the county and NVRPA, as outlined in a letter by NVRPA land manager Michael DePue, the county must conform with various conditions.
These include keeping the trail “open, safe and unobstructed at all times during construction,” plus ensuring the new sidewalk has a smooth transition to the existing asphalt, the improvements do not cause drainage issues, that construction zones be safe and that the county’s Department of Environmental Services maintain the improvements once completed, not NVRPA.
The County Board will also vote on a consent agreement with Dominion Virginia Power, which would allow the improvements to encroach on a Dominion-owned easement in the park.
The Board will vote on the agreements at its meeting Saturday (December 16) as part of its consent agenda. County staff recommended approval.
Construction on the wider project is scheduled to begin in the spring. It is hoped the project will improve bicycle and pedestrian access to Shirlington.
A broken sewer pipe caused a sewage leak into the Donaldson Run stream, affecting the water in two parks in Arlington County.
A spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said a resident reported discharge of sewage into the stream in Zachary Taylor Park (2900 Military Road) this morning.
On further inspection, the spokesman said, DES crews found that a sewage pipe had broken due to its age, damage from tree roots and the recent cold temperatures. Crews plan to repair it tomorrow (Tuesday), the spokesman added.
Those in the area should avoid contact with the water in the stream in Zachary Taylor Park downstream from N. Upshur Street, and also in the nearby Potomac Overlook Regional Park (2845 Marcey Road).
“The discharge that entered Donaldson Run will be diminished by natural flushing of the stream over time,” the spokesman said.
Both parks will remain open to the public.
Image via Google Maps
A few years back, using tax dollars and bond money earmarked for recreational parks, Arlington County purchased five properties adjacent to Jennie Dean Park to add to the overall park space inventory. The County Board recently charged the Four Mile Run Valley working group (4MRV) with developing “a vision for the comprehensive replacement and realignment of existing park features (exclusively for park purposes) and the addition of new park amenities to meet the growing demand for active and passive recreation, cultural resources and natural resource preservation.”
Part of the overall 4MRV project involves developing a plan for improving Jennie Dean Park. The space acquired with bond money is ideally suited for use as additional, new park space to complement the existing Jennie Dean Park. The new space could add to the inventory of peaceful green space in the valley, something that many Arlingtonians, including residents of Nauck, Shirlington and other local neighborhoods, have asked for time and time again.
However, some in the 4MRV group have reportedly strayed from the charge and are actively working to re-purpose this property as an ill-defined and unfunded “arts district.” The hope and presumption is that Arlington County will be able to provide subsidies and other financial support to enable the birth and growth of this arts district. For reasons not made clear, arts districts proponents seem focused on locating the arts district in space previously suggested as new park space. The overall 4MRV planning process encompasses a huge amount of space beyond Jennie Dean Park, much of which could support an arts district fully, and some in the working group have even spoken up in favor of locating any arts district closer to the new Nauck Town Square, and not in the Jennie Dean Park area.
Arlington County already actively supports the arts. The County supports the arts with, among other things, the Crystal City Underground gallery space, the Arlington Arts Center, the Signature Theater, Synetic Theater, and a variety of public spaces for art displays. It is unclear where the funding for any additional arts support will come from, and no one in the 4MRV group has provided any concrete visions of support.
Shared public spaces are the county’s most precious resources. Opportunities to add green space in Arlington don’t come very often, and we need to take advantage of those few opportunities when they present themselves. The Arlington Soccer Association supports the arts in general, but in this specific instance, ASA opposes attempts within the 4MRV working group process to re-purpose this new open space as an “arts district.” Let’s use park space for park purposes, and take advantage of the ability to add to the County’s functional green space inventory.
Arlington Soccer Association
ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters about issues of local interest. To submit your thoughts for consideration, please email [email protected]. Letters may be edited for content and brevity.
Map via Google Maps.
The park at 1945 N. Dinwiddie Street in the Langston-Brown neighborhood received new restrooms and storage, a new picnic area, a new entrance from N. Dinwiddie Street, new paving, steps and bleachers for the basketball courts, a regraded field and new lights, trees and plantings.
The ribbon-cutting on the improvements is scheduled for noon on Saturday.
The Arlington County Board approved the second round of improvements in June 2016. In 2014, the John M. Langston Citizens Association and neighbors of the park collaborated to create a design concept for the second stage of the improvements based on the feedback from online surveys.
The first stage of improvements — which included a new play equipment, picnic areas and a path to the park’s amphitheater — were completed in May 2013.
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
Efforts by residents to remove a requirement for a public courtyard behind their Ballston condo building was unanimously rejected on Saturday by the Arlington County Board.
Members of the Berkeley Condo Association (1000 N. Randolph Street) applied to remove the requirement for 24-hour public access to the courtyard, citing concerns about safety and public nuisances.
Peter Schulz, a staffer at the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, acknowledged that the easement for the courtyard — which also serves as a cut-through to the Ballston Metro station — had not been properly recorded by county staff. But county staff recommended against removing the easement, arguing that without it “there is no guarantee that the space will remain open to the public.”
The issue came to light after the association erected gates at entrances to the courtyard without a permit and someone complained about it to the county. A notice of violation was issued and then upheld by the Board of Zoning Appeals; the case is pending in Arlington County Circuit Court after the applicants sued to keep the gates.
Residents said there are problems with nuisance behavior like littering, public drunkenness, drug use and loud music playing in the courtyard, exacerbated by the presences of nearby bars like A-Town Bar & Grill, on the opposite side of Fairfax Drive. Residents said problems persist day and night, and are not confined to bar patrons.
“We’ve really had to put up with a great deal of noise,” said resident Charles Richter. “It’s sometimes at very uncomfortable hours, both from people who have had too much to drink in the evening, and in the day we’ve had several dog fights [and] people fights.”
“When people come out after an evening of drinking, they help themselves to our rear yard,” said William Lawson, the attorney for the condo association.
Police, however, did not report any significant issues associated with the space.
“Staff has only been able to find one (1) police report concerning the outdoor space in the past year,” said the staff report.
In letters to the County Board, both the Parks and Recreation Commission and members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association opposed closing off public access to the park.
While County Board members were sympathetic to the condo owners, and promised to look again at finding ways to improve public safety in the area, they said they could not get rid of the public space requirement.
“This was an easement granted to the people of Arlington County,” said Board member Libby Garvey. “We can’t just give it up willy-nilly because there were some mistakes made.”
Fellow Board member John Vihstadt said there were “dirty hands here all around.” Schulz, the county staffer, said with better coordination between plan reviewers on staff, such mistakes are unlikely to be repeated.
“It was an unfortunate case of too much silo-ing in county staff at the time,” he said.
Photos via county presentation
An on-street parking space in Rosslyn will become one of six pop-up parks in Arlington County tomorrow (Friday) as part of the worldwide PARK(ing) Day event.
The space at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Oak Street will be transformed into a “parklet,” a sidewalk extension installed in parking spaces that acts as a mini-park. A spokeswoman for the Rosslyn Business Improvement District said the site will be the location of the county’s first permanent “parklet” in spring next year.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., visitors can stop by and have free bagels and coffee from Allspice Cafe, enjoy the outdoor seating and play games like corn hole and foosball in the afternoon. The Rosslyn BID is also offering free giveaways and discount cards for nearby restaurants.
Other “parklets” in Arlington will be found in the parking lot at 15th Street N. (Courthouse) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and at 500 12th Street S. (Pentagon City), 2400 Wilson Blvd (Courthouse), 2900 Clarendon Blvd (Clarendon) and 1000 N. Taylor Street (Ballston) from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
More will spring up across the region, with 28 sites set for D.C. and at least seven for Alexandria. PARK(ing) Day began in San Francisco in 2005 when Rebar, an art and design studio in the city, turned a metered parking space into a temporary public park.
Photo No. 1 via Google Maps, photo No. 2 via Arlington County.
Madison Manor Park is getting a face-lift.
Renovations at the park at 6225 12th Road N. in the Madison Manor neighborhood will include redesigning the playground, basketball court, picnic shelter, multi-use field, water fountain, park furniture, irrigation walkways, fences and landscaping. The park will also be brought up to current standards, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The county has been soliciting input from users of the park on its future with a chalkboard where people can write suggestions for what they would like to see and what they would not like to see.
The “information gathering” process for the upgrades is happening summer. The design process is set to begin in September and last until November.
Under a timeline proposed by staff, the Arlington County Board is projected to approve a contract for construction by fall 2018 so work can get underway soon after. The county hopes to have the renovation completed by summer 2019.
The county’s Capital Maintenance Fund will pay for this project. The fund is used for projects that bring existing parks up to current standards.
The concession stand at the Crystal City Water Park has closed.
The concession’s last day was Friday, after landlord Vornado declined to renew vendor Adel Ishak’s lease, we’re told. Ishak, who was a prominent attorney in Egypt before he fled to the United States with his family due to safety concerns, had run the kiosk for at least six years.
ARLnow.com has learned that landlord Vornado — soon to be JBG Smith — is planning an expanded retail presence in the park, perhaps a more full-featured restaurant or a beer garden. A major residential redevelopment anchored by an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is planned across the street.
Some local residents who heard that the concession stand would be closing started a petition calling for it to remain open, but to no avail.
“Rain, sleet, snow and shine, Adel was there,” one customer lamented to ARLnow.com. “He has built this business from the ground up – he started with nothing and now has run the stand year-round because of his customers. My hope is… that perhaps Vornado can move his concession to another part of Crystal City or Arlington.”
Arlington Falls in Parks Ranking — Arlington and D.C. both fell in the annual ParkScore rankings of cities by The Trust for Public Land. Arlington was ranked sixth in the nation this year and D.C. ranked fourth, while last year they were ranked fourth and third respectively. [The Trust for Public Land, Washington Post]
Neighborhood Conservation Projects Approved — The Arlington County Board last night unanimously approved $5.5 million in neighborhood improvement projects, including “street improvements, streetlights, intersection improvements and a neighborhood sign.” [Arlington County]
How to Live in Arlington on $50,000 — A young woman who works as a case manager outlined her expenditures while living in Arlington on a $50,000 salary, as part of a “Money Diaries” feature. Eschewing the urban millennial stereotype of profligate spending, she manages to save $1,000 a month — although that is helped by her parents continuing to pay her cell phone bill. [Refinery 29]
County to Sell Millions in Bonds — The County Board has approved issuing up to $185 million in general obligation bonds to help fund various capital priorities, including: Metro, Neighborhood Conservation, paving, parks land acquisition, maintenance capital, Lubber Run Community Center planning, Nauck Village Center action plan and transportation. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The end of renovations at Tuckahoe Park will be marked Saturday with a ribbon-cutting to mark the completion of a two-year project. The ribbon-cutting is set for 11:15 a.m.
The park at 2400 N. Sycamore Street in East Falls Church has had its bleachers and benches renovated, while the bullpens and batting cages for local baseball players have also had a facelift.
In addition, the grass and dirt in the park’s two diamond fields have been revamped and drainage improved, while a new electronic scoreboard has been added for use by the community and the nearby Bishop O’Connell High School. O’Connell contributed $18,000 towards purchasing the scoreboard.
ADA accessibility has also been added around the park, including from 26th Street N., the school and the existing park trail near N. Sycamore Street.
The park is already being used by Arlington Little League and other community groups. The County Board approved the $1 million renovation project in 2015.
The first ever Arlington Palooza is set for next weekend at Alcova Heights Park, and will include live music, art, games and more.
The free outdoor program for all ages lasts from 1-4 p.m. April 29 at the park, located at 901 S. George Mason Drive.
Away from the main stage, other entertainment will be provided by magicians, mini-guitar lessons by Music4Life and musical chairs. Art activities will include making flower crowns, decorating bandanas and helping install art at the park.
Also on offer will be moon bounces, face painting, a rock climbing wall, bubble forest, a smoothie bike and Very Hungry Caterpillar preschool activities. Food trucks from The Big Cheese and Rocklands Barbeque will be on site too.
Renovations will begin soon at Oakgrove Park and Tyrol Hills Park if the County Board gives the go-ahead for construction contracts at its meeting on Saturday.
In recent years, the Board approved funding for the earlier phases of the Tyrol Hills Park (5101 7th Road S.) renovation project, including more than $878,000 in upgrades in 2015. The current phase — phase four — is the final one and requires Board approval for a nearly $1.6 million construction contract.
The main upgrades include installing a new unisex bathroom, adding another picnic shelter and converting a sand volleyball court into a futsal court. The new court was an idea that came up during community outreach. The scope of work also includes stormwater management improvements, site furnishings, a paved plaza and landscaping.
If approved, construction on the phase four upgrades is expected to start before fall and should take about nine months.
The Board also is expected to approve the $795,000 construction contract for renovating Oakgrove Park (1606 N. Quincy Street). This is the second phase of upgrades for that park; the grass field and track renovations were completed in 2015.
This phase focuses on replacing the existing tot lot and adding play equipment for school-age children. Other improvements including replacing the picnic shelter, adding site furnishings, improving accessibility and improving stormwater management.
If approved, construction at Oakgrove Park is expected to start by the summer and last for about four months.
Children already are climbing on equipment at the two newly renovated playgrounds at Woodlawn Park, ahead of this weekend’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The ceremony will take place at the park (1325 N. Buchanan Street) this Saturday, April 22, at 4 p.m.
Members of the community — including kids — helped design the new playgrounds. As part of the renovation process, the new equipment was installed farther away from the creek than the previous fixtures had been.
Invasive plants were removed and the area along the creek has been reforested with native trees, shrubs and perennials. The park also now offers better accessibility. Lawn aeration and overseeding will be completed next week.
The County Board approved funding for the $795,000 neighborhood improvement project in 2014, and construction began last August. A federal grant funded part of the reforestation.
The park remains open and usable in the time leading up to the ribbon cutting.