Updates to a 14-year-old plan guiding future development in Clarendon are entering the home stretch.
This Saturday, the Arlington County Board is slated to authorize public hearings on the Clarendon Sector Plan update, which could culminate in a vote on whether to accept the updated plan on April 23. The county is also still seeking feedback on the updates.
Changes to the sector plan were prompted by a bevy of expected near-term redevelopments on the Silver Diner/The Lot, Joyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.
The update did not revisit any of the 2006 plan’s overarching goals, which envision Clarendon as an “urban village” with “accessible and connected spaces, and a rich mix of uses” that build on the area’s historical commercial focus, according to the county.
Instead, the updates focused on whether the 14-year-old plan’s recommendations for specific sites needed to be updated as new proposals come in. It provides guidance on land use, building heights and forms, and transportation, and explores how the county can redevelop a parcel it owns with some combination of a new fire station, open space and affordable housing.
Members of nearby civic associations, the Planning Commission and the Housing Commission are urging the county to prioritize different elements on the publicly-owned site, located at 10th Street N., between N. Hudson and Irving streets.
The lot is currently is home to three aging county buildings: Fire Station 4 (3121 10th St. N), the Fire Prevention Office (1020 N. Hudson St.) and Clarendon House, which has been vacant since the county moved the mental health rehab program run by the Department of Human Services to Sequoia Plaza (2120 Washington Blvd) in 2015.
Both Fire Station 4 and the Fire Prevention Office — home to the offices of the Fire Marshal and Battalion Chief — have reached the end of their useful life, the plan says. The Fire Prevention Office building will be relocated to county offices at 2020 14th Street N. in Courthouse while Fire Station 4 could be rebuilt on the same property or elsewhere.
The Planning Commission favors using the land for a blend of government and community facilities, such as a rooftop public space above a proposed fire station.
Ashton Heights Civic Association President Scott Sklar writes in a letter to the county that neighbors envision “a significant, unique playground for children from the new residential buildings, along with some basketball, racquet or pickleball courts in the space adjacent to the fire station, as it would be centrally located to serve Clarendon and nearby residents.”
Lastly, the Housing Commission would like to see affordable housing co-located at the site, as the sector plan area has only 82 committed affordable housing units — the lowest number in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, says Housing Commission Chair Eric Berkey said in a letter to the county.
“The Commission stated the priority should not be to provide luxurious amenities to those who live in single-family detached homes, but rather to provide homes to those who cannot afford them,” Berkey said. “Anything other than a structure which utilizes the full zoned height maximum would be a missed opportunity for the County-owned land.”
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.
In 2018, Arlington County and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District unveiled this parklet, about the size of two parking spaces, on the northwest corner of N. Oak Street and Wilson Blvd. The county and the BID, which maintains the seating spot, installed it as an experiment to see if parklets could be a new tool for adding open space to urban areas.
After observing how people used the mini-park, the county has prepared a formal process for adding more micro oases to help compensate for the county’s dwindling supply of available land for open spaces. The County Board is slated to review the “parklet program” this Saturday.
“Parklets are publicly accessible to all and serve as extensions of the sidewalk by converting curbside parking spaces into vibrant public spaces,” according to a staff report. “Parklets are social platforms for the community and are often developed through a partnership with the county, local businesses and neighborhood organizations.”
When the prototype was installed, then-Board Chair Katie Cristol said she expected to see a plan for adding more parklets included in an update to the Public Spaces Master Plan. The update, approved in 2019, recommends the creation of a “parklet program.”
“Despite their size and atypical location, parklets can contribute to the public space network and overall sidewalk experience by providing places to sit, relax, or socialize,” the report said. “Future installations of parklets can increase social activity and enhance the pedestrian experience in the urban corridors throughout the county.”
The county would lose money on these micro-parks. Each parklet removes two parking meters, which together generate about $6,150 per year, staff estimate.
The county has found a new source of revenue, however. A new parklet application would cost $2,100 and annual renewals, $500. These fees are intended to cover the time required to review these applications, and not to recoup parking revenue, the report said.
A number of county commissions have weighed in on the program, according to the report.
Responses were “[overwhelmingly] favorable, with comments favoring the potential for an increase in outdoor public spaces, especially in Arlington’s commercial and urban centers where public space is limited,” it said.
(Updated at 9:45 a.m. on 7/8/21) Three water “elements” will be the focal points of the planned park space at PenPlace, the second phase of proposed Amazon’s HQ2.
And Kate Orff, the landscape architect designing this park, is drawing her inspiration from Roaches Run and the historic Alexandria Canal, as well as the churning waters of Great Falls Park and the sylvan streams of Rock Creek Park.
The park at PenPlace will run north-south through the 11-acre site situated at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street. PenPlace will be anchored by a lush, futuristic building, dubbed “The Helix,” and feature three, 22-story office buildings with ground-floor retail.
Orff said aspects of the waterways inspiring her will come together to form three distinct “water moments” throughout the 2.5-acre park, said Orff, the founder of SCAPE — a landscaping design firm — in a new video.
This video was published today (Wednesday) in a blog post, along with pictures of her proposed designs and of the waterways that captured her imagination. These designs are not yet finalized.
“In homage to the historic hydrology of the site and local waterways in nearby Rock Creek Park and Great Falls Park, SCAPE’s design incorporates water features on a north-to-south axis across the park, interpreting the natural elements of cascades and streams at a human scale,” the blog post said.
PenPlace’s grounds will be publicly accessible and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the blog post said. Throughout the 2.5 acres, visitors will be immersed in “botanical experiences” incorporating “beloved local ecosystems.”
There will be three water elements: a “Headwaters” fountain at the northern end of the site, creating a cooling climate in the forest plaza. There will be a central confluence next to a green where people can gather. Finally, there will be a stormwater meadow that will filter stormwater and serve pollinators. (An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the three elements will be connected via a river.)
The grounds will pay tribute to the forests and meadows of the mid-Atlantic that these waterways nourish. For Orff, the project allows her to tap into her roots.
“I’m from this area, so I have a deep love for the mid-Atlantic region, and the Appalachian cove forests, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the tributaries of the Potomac,” said Orff, a Maryland native and University of Virginia graduate, in the video. “We’re going to try to bring a magnified version of these ecosystems into this park at HQ2. It will feel different. It will feel special. It will feel unique.”
Orff added that the park grounds are designed to connect to existing Arlington County parks.
“Restoring ecosystems, creating immersive ecological spaces and a vibrant public realm, carving out habitat, creating an inclusive process driven by a community vision — the concepts behind PenPlace’s design are all part of our DNA as a firm,” Orff said in the blog post. “We’re excited to bring Arlington a true community park anchored in the local ecologies that make this place unique.”
The planning process for PenPlace kicked off in March.
Video courtesy Amazon, edited by Dana Munro
This document will guide the construction of a new, 0.9-acre park, which is scheduled to kick off next year. The open space, also known as the “Teardrop Parcel,” borders Pentagon City and is located at the intersection of S. Eads Street and Army Navy Drive.
The park “will serve as a contemplative green oasis in a densely developed urban context,” according to the master plan document.
The green space is located by the Verizon telecommunications facility (400 11th Street S.) and the construction site for a new, 19-story residential building. It’s adjacent to the recently-built Altaire apartments and across the street from the second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2. The park project, with a $3 million budget, is funded by developer contributions.
According to a county report, the plans have support from the community, which had multiple virtual public engagement opportunities — from September 2020 to March 2021.
The plan said “people value the park space as a natural green refuge [and] want a space where they can come and feel connected with nature, to take a break, and to relax by themselves or with others.”
In particular, community members indicated they were keen to preserve a 40-year-old cottonwood tree on the north parcel.
One engagement opportunity this year asked community members to indicate their preference for one of three design concepts. Respondents and committees settled on one called “The Meander,” which features a central promenade bordered by planted berms.
“Berms with pollinator meadows and a rain garden bring visual, tactile and temporal experiences of nature into the urban environment,” the planning document said.
Other berms will be planted densely with trees to provide a “green buffer” between the park and Army Navy Drive.
In addition to the promenade, users can traverse via a boardwalk. There will be an outdoor fitness area with exercise stations, built-in benches, a “dog spot” and two lawns for gatherings.
The master plan with design guidelines has the support of the Park and Recreation and the Forestry and Natural Resources commissions.
“The park appears to provide the promise of a casual use oasis in this part of Crystal City that is supportive and respectful of the need for more natural plantings,” said PRC Chair William Ross in a letter to the county.
Forestry commission chair Chair Phil Klingelhofer said that members believe the community “will be well served by walking along the non-linear, curvy path shaded by trees.”
Klingelhofer noted in his letter to the county that the community was excited to see the cottonwood tree preserved and the proposed level of planting.
“This shows, once again, the demand for enhanced natural resources, and a level of satisfaction that community needs are being met,” he said.
Construction is slated to begin in the third quarter of 2022 and end one year later, in the third quarter of 2023, according to the county webpage on the new park.
The Board approved the item at its Tuesday meeting, after a request to remove it from Saturday’s consent agenda, which is used to approve items deemed non-controversial with one vote.
(An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the date in which the County Board approved the plan.)
Arlington County has taken another step toward developing a county-owned and maintained waterfront park in Potomac Yard.
On Saturday, the County Board approved an agreement with the Arlington Potomac Yard Community Association to accept a gift of three parcels of land within the boundaries of Short Bridge Park. The park is located across Four Mile Run from the Potomac Yard shopping center, along Route 1.
The property “is used by the public as an open space but is privately owned and maintained,” according to a staff report. “[It] has concrete paths, landscaping, a public ‘tot lot,’ open grass, trees, and irrigation.”
Since 2015, the county has had a public access easement over the property, the report said. When the land is turned over to the county, it will cost about $44,000 to maintain annually.
Acquiring the land gets Arlington closer to turning Short Bridge Park into a county park. Although the 3.5-acre open space was created through the Potomac Yard Phased Development Site Plan, adopted in 2000, it remained privately owned by the association and the Eclipse on Center Park condominiums.
That process includes two phases of construction to realizing the vision of the Short Bridge Park Master Plan, adopted by the County Board in January 2018.
(That was also when the name changed from its informal moniker, South Park.)
The existing park amenities were constructed by a developer.
“These improvements were intended as interim improvements until Arlington County funds were available to develop a Park Master Plan and implement permanent park improvements,” the master plan said. “The developer-constructed improvements are minimal and lack typical County park amenities such as trash cans, seating, signage, and Americans with Disabilities Act accessible pathways.”
It will take a few years, however, before the master plan’s vision for the park is implemented.
“The first phase includes a trail connection that links Richmond Highway to the Four Mile Run trail and is estimated to begin construction in late 2021,” a county staff report said.
The trail project is funded through a federal grant and 20% county match, according to the report.
“The second phase of the park master plan will construct the rest of the park and is dependent on Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funds,” the report said.
As of now, the adopted CIP plan — which schedules out county projects through 2028 — identified construction funding for phase two “in the out-years” or the 2023-24 fiscal year, the county said.
According to the master plan, this phase includes a dog run, a riverfront overlook and an “interpretive plaza.”
Image via Arlington County
“It’s going to be the biggest and the best in the mid-Atlantic region,” said Paul Gilbert, the executive director of NOVA Parks, of the new ropes course. NOVA Parks runs Upton Hill, which is located at 6060 Wilson Blvd near Seven Corners.
Climb UPton will have 90 different elements on three different levels, including zip lines and a 50-foot drop. It will be open to those who are 49 inches or taller.
Construction on the course is largely complete but work, subject to changing weather, continues on an administrative building, Gilbert said. Once more work is complete, NOVA Parks will set a user fee and pick an opening date, which the executive director expects will be in mid- to late- June.
As for COVID-19 safety, Gilbert said social distancing is built into the course and equipment will be sanitized between uses.
“The outdoors is your biggest safety feature,” he said.
This new facility will open as NOVA Parks expects an increase in visitors to all its facilities this summer. Gilbert said he expects pools and waterparks — all of which will open Memorial Day — to drive the increase, as they were closed last summer.
“This summer, people are going to be interested in returning to normalcy,” said Gilbert, who is also George Mason University’s Executive-in-Residence for the College of Education and Human Development’s Recreation Management Program.
Adhering to Virginia guidelines for aquatic facilities, Upton Hill’s pool will operate at 75% capacity, and an annual pass will not guarantee admission if capacity has already been reached, according to the park’s Facebook page.
The organization is currently not selling new annual passes due to these restrictions.
“NOVA Parks will continue to evaluate this situation throughout the summer,” according to a Facebook post.
NOVA Parks is continuing to hire new summer staff for all its facilities to meet the surge in visitors, as capacity restrictions are set to perhaps end by June 15, Gilbert said.
But even with the restrictions, reopening the pools and waterparks could be a boon for the regional parks authority, which took an estimated $5 million hit in user fees in part because aquatic facilities were closed, according to its current budget.
Normally, 300,000 people visit one of NOVA Parks’ five waterparks each year, Gilbert said.
“Over the pandemic, people were already exploring the outdoors in new ways, because so many other things weren’t available,” Gilbert said. “We saw unprecedented use of hiking and biking trails. Now that people have discovered or rediscovered how fun the outdoors can be, I anticipate they will continue to gravitate to parks.”
Trail use increased by four to five times, he said. People also gravitated toward another activity that had been declining in popularity over the years: golf, which is up 30% from pre-pandemic times, he said.
NOVA Parks also leaned on other activities with social distancing potential, such as shooting, boating and swinging baseball bats.
“I think all of those trends are going to continue for some time,” Gilbert said. “People have been reintroduced to outdoor recreation.”
Photo courtesy NOVA Parks
The County Board is set to consider a set of projects that would upgrade sidewalks and improve a small park.
Of the four, three focus on pedestrian improvements with an eye toward walkability for Arlington Public Schools students in the Bluemont, Columbia Heights and Fairlington neighborhoods. The fourth would fund improvements to 11th Street Park in Clarendon.
These upgrades, at a cost of roughly $2 million in total, were given a thumbs up last December by Arlington’s Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee. This group identifies needed improvements such as sidewalks, street beautification, street lights and parks and recommends them to the County Board.
At the intersection of 6th Street N. and N. Edison Street in Bluemont, the committee proposes to widen some corners and build out the sidewalks as well as upgrade landscaping and accessible ramps.
“It’ll be very visible to cars that people are crossing,” project representative Nick Pastore said during the December meeting. “That will help slow the rate of speed of cars going around those corners.”
Drivers take these residential roads “at a pretty decent speed” to avoid N. George Mason Drive between N. Carlin Springs Road and Wilson Blvd, he said.
At the intersection of 12th Street S. and S. Scott Street in Columbia Heights, nearu Columbia Pike, NCAC is requesting $500,000 to conduct a feasibility study for improving the intersection by extending the street corners, and making improvements to the crosswalks, landscaping and accessible ramps.
“This improved crossing will help students walking from nearby S. Courthouse Road to Hoffman-Boston [Elementary School] safely cross a busy road,” said Kristin Haldeman, director of multimodal transportation planning for Arlington Public School, in a letter to the county.
She added that the extra curb space “will provide more room for students in the area who attend Gunston Middle School and Wakefield High School to wait for their bus at the intersection.”
Columbia Heights Civic Association member Sarah McKinley welcomed the project for the neighborhood of apartment buildings and condos, saying the committee has been criticized over the years for mostly benefitting single-family neighborhoods.
“Here’s an example of an NC project that can benefit both types of neighborhoods,” she said.
In Fairlington, the committee proposes a sidewalk, curb, and gutter along the north side of S. Abingdon Street between 31st Street S. and 31st Road S. — near the STEM Preschool and the former Fire Station 7.
Fairlington representative Ed Hilz said these changes would improve walking paths for students getting to Abingdon Elementary School.
“Currently, there’s a staircase that is not very convenient to negotiate for children,” he said.
“I think this park is heavily used so all these upgrades will be a tremendous benefit for the community,” project representative Alyssa Cannon said.
Money for the projects will come from the 2016 and 2018 Community Conservation bonds.
Images via Google Maps
The soon-to-be-revamped Crystal City Water Park is set to become Arlington’s third “sip and stroll” destination.
The privately-owned, 1.5 acre park at 1601 Crystal Drive has long hosted a small food and drink vendor. Thanks to a pending “Commercial Lifestyle Center” permit from Virginia ABC, that vendor — Peruvian Brothers — will soon be able to offer park-goers alcoholic beverages that can be consumed anywhere in the park.
“The overall goal is to cultivate an inviting setting where local residents, office workers and visitors are encouraged to hang out, relax and interact,” said JBG Smith Vice President Taylor Lawch, in a statement. The company owns the park and numerous nearby buildings, including those housing Amazon’s growing HQ2 workforce.
The Arlington County Board recently approved a plan to add five new vendor kiosks, a performance stage, and a bar to the park, in addition to planned upgrades to its water features.
“There will be places for parents to sip on a glass of wine while their kids go for ice cream nearby; a couple to meet for a date where they can hear live music and grab a beer at intermission; or coworkers to gather for an informal outdoor happy hour right outside their office,” Lawch said.
The initial sipping and strolling will take place this spring and summer, before the park is temporarily closed during the cooler months for construction. It is expected to reopen in the spring of 2022.
The park will join a pair of Arlington retail centers — the Village at Shirlington and Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) — in allowing legal, on-the-go outdoor alcohol consumption on privately-owned property.
“The creation of a Commercial Lifestyle Center is in keeping with JBG SMITH’s vision for National Landing as a vibrant 18-hour environment where people want to live, work and visit,” a company PR rep said. “This licensure enables JBG SMITH to take great existing and planned areas of the National Landing neighborhood and make them even better.”
Additional JBG-owned property in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — may eventually be added to the permit.
“JBG SMITH is looking on a case-by-case basis to identify other areas within National Landing for future activations,” the rep tells ARLnow. “As of right now, they are focusing on this initial designation at Water Park.”
Making the Water Park into a more active destination for hanging out is part of the neighborhood’s evolution away from being known as a sleepy, concrete-filled office corridor.
“National Landing continues to evolve into an exciting destination complete with diverse dining options and growing entertainment venues,” National Landing Business Improvement District President Tracy Sayegh Gabriel said in a statement. “Enhancing and activating our outdoor public spaces for community use is more important than ever, and we are thrilled that National Landing has been approved as a Commercial Lifestyle Center. JBG SMITH’s initial activation at Water Park will create a desirable new way for area residents, workers and visitors to gather and support our local businesses in a safe environment.”
The Water Park will continue to host BID-organized events, she added. The BID obtained temporary Virginia ABC permits to allow alcohol consumption at the park for previous events.
Construction has started on two residential towers at 1900 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, according to developer JBG Smith.
The announcement came nearly one year to the day after the County Board approved the project, which involved tearing down an aging office building.
The new development at 1900 Crystal Drive will have 808 multifamily rental units and about 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across the two towers, each to be LEED Silver certified and approximately 300 feet tall, according to the developer.
A 27-story southern tower will feature 471 apartments, while a 26-story northern tower will incorporate 337 apartments.
Through a spokesperson, JBG Smith declined to comment on when the towers are expected to be completed. Last year, however, when the County Board met and approved the project, a company rep said construction could take 2-3 years.
“The start of construction on 1900 Crystal Drive marks yet another major milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation,” said Anthony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG Smith. “The introduction of new residences, restaurants and shops at 1900 Crystal Drive, combined with our recently delivered retail and entertainment district just about a block away will more than double the concentration of street-facing retail amenities on Crystal Drive.”
Residents will have access to private rooftops and green spaces. At the street-level, JBG Smith is planning a pedestrian-friendly street that will connect 18th and 20th Streets S. as well as open park space. JBG Smith will provide a number of community benefits, including enhanced streetscapes, a grand staircase connecting to public open space and bicycle facilities.
JBG Smith, the developer, leasing agent and property manager for the Amazon HQ2 project, anticipates that with Amazon’s arrival, National Landing’s daytime population will increase from 50,000 people to 90,000 in the near future.
The housing and amenities at 1900 Crystal Drive and neighboring developments will be a “thriving, mixed-use environment [that] will allow people to easily walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities — cementing National Landing as a destination both day and night,” Greenberg said.
Neighbors and visitors can expect sidewalk closures during construction.
“This exciting project may create changes for our everyday pedestrian routines,” according to an announcement on the National Landing Business Improvement District website. The changes include:
- The southern sidewalk along 18th Street will be closed; pedestrians should use the north side of 18th Street S. to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.
- The western sidewalk along Crystal Drive will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to travel north and south along Crystal Drive.
- The northern sidewalk along 20th Street S. will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.
Zitkala-Ša Park in Lyon Park could be ready by July to welcome neighbors who have gone without their community green space since October 2019.
Construction on the park at the corner of 7th and N. Highland streets is nearly a year behind schedule due to pandemic- and weather-related delays. Upgrades include re-doing the basketball court and adding new play structures, a picnic shelter, as well as fencing and landscaping.
Initially, the Department of Parks and Recreation set out to complete the changes by July 2020 but the pandemic caused manufacturing and shipping delays. A new timeline of December 2020 was set. Now, work is being hampered by weather, said parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish.
“We are progressing along as best we can, however, due to weather we have not been able to complete all the work we’d like to do,” she said.
Kalish added that many of the remaining tasks — planting, laying asphalt and safety surfaces, striping the basketball court — “are weather-sensitive and can be completed only after the weather gets a little better.”
These two complications combined led the department to move the completion date sometime between April and June 2021.
When completed, the community “will see a new basketball court, playground, open field and picnic shelter with updated site circulation, site furnishing, fencing, drainage and landscaping,” Kalish previously told ARLnow.
The park “is a heavily used facility,” the county said in a 2019 report. “The outdoor amenities for [Zitkala-Ša Park] are now past their useful life and are in need of replacement.”