After a few years of planning, a new public park in Pentagon City is headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.
On Saturday, the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting some changes to land use and zoning and property lines for two patches of land known as the “Teardrop Parcel,” once intended to be used as a maintenance facility for the streetcar that never was.
The report says these changes will allow the county build the new 0.7-acre park “efficiently and as anticipated in 2023.” The planned park, to be named “Arlington Junction Park, will be located the intersection of S. Eads Street and Army Navy Drive.
“The long-term vision of the proposed park is as a green, public casual use space in a densely developed urban context, to support a welcoming, biophilic community and establish a new public space connection in Crystal City,” according to a county report.
To get started, county staff are requesting the County Board rezone the property, as the parcel’s current designation would hamper plans to install environmentally friendly 15-foot-tall “Dark Sky” pylon lights. The report suggests not moving forward with this lighting would be a nuisance and hazard to park users and nearby residents.
“Lighting designs that are Dark Sky compliant may minimize urban glare and are more environmentally sensitive. As referenced as an urban safety principle in the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), clear sightlines, landscaping and sufficient lighting can enhance park visibility and reduce crime opportunities,” the report says.
The park’s other features will include a boardwalk as well as central promenade, to be bordered by berms planted with pollinator meadows, a rain garden and trees to provide a buffer between the park and Army Navy Drive. There will be an outdoor fitness area with exercise stations, built-in benches, a “dog spot” and two lawns for gatherings.
The green space is located near the Verizon telecommunications facility at 400 11th Street S. and across the street from the planned second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2. Two high-end apartment buildings, both constructed by developer LCOR, are close by as well: Sage Modern Apartments (480 11th Street S.), where leasing began last October, and The Altaire (400 Army Navy Drive).
Developer contributions from these two projects are funding the park’s $3 million budget.
The lighting issue is the most recent example of ways the zoning code can make it harder to develop parks, the report says. In the last few months, county staff started studying a longer-term way of simplifying this process, but are asking the County Board to approve the rezoning work-around to get started on Arlington Junction Park in the short term.
Over the course of this year, staff will explore giving the County Board authority to modify building height, setback and parking standards through use permits for county parks, per the report.
Members of the public have a chance to help name the parks at Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City.
Arlington County is encouraging residents to choose from a list of names or submit an option through an online survey.
The first and second phases of the company’s headquarters project are known as Metropolitan Park and PenPlace, respectively. The park at Metropolitan Park, which is identified as “south park” in the survey, is located south of 12th Street S., while the PenPlace park is to the north.
There are three proposed names for each of the parks, which only include green spaces and won’t change the names of buildings, the campus or neighborhoods.
Choosing simplicity, the Department of Parks and Recreation recommended Met Park and Pen Place as the names for each since they are familiar in the “development and planning context,” according to a presentation given to the Parks and Recreation Commission in June.
The department recommended foregoing the longer “Metropolitan Park” for the abbreviated version most people already use referring to the project — Met Park. And they recommended inserting a space to emphasize the word “place” in Pen Place.
The other options for each park are below.
- Pen Place
- Fern Park
- Chickadee Park
- Met Park
- Elm Park
- Goldfinch Park
The proposed bird names are a nod to the creatures that may be seen in the spaces — and which will benefit from the use of bird-safe glass in the building designs, according to the presentation. And the tree names refer to streets adjacent to each park.
After gathering public feedback, the County Board is set to approve the final park names in November.
Metropolitan Park’s public space, which Amazon is paying $14 million to revamp, is in the shadow of the under-construction first phase of company’s HQ2 and will total about 2.5 acres. The park plans include lush meandering paths, a central green for gatherings and events, tables for outdoor dining, two 2,000-square-foot dog parks, an edible garden and public art.
Meanwhile, a 2.75 acre public park is planned at PenPlace, featuring water elements, including a signature fountain, a central confluence and a stormwater meadow. The County Board approved the plans for PenPlace, the second phase of HQ2, in April this year.
A park in Clarendon is getting a new name that has in neighbor support what it lacks in creativity.
After months of feedback, Arlington is set to name the park on the corner of 11th Street N. and N. Danville Street “11th Street Park.”
The County Board is set to vote on the name change during its meeting this Saturday (July 16).
The park, which is near The Crossing Clarendon retail center, was originally called 11th Street North and North Danville Street Park. But the county decided to rename it after a renovation project approved in 2021, according to a report to the County Board.
The Department of Parks and Recreation started a public engagement period in March, asking residents to vote on and suggest new names for the park. The county and the Clarendon Courthouse Civic Association narrowed down possible names to a handful, including 11th Street Park, Danville Park, Wayside Green Park and Nguyen Ngoc Bich Park.
Out of 164 responses to the public engagement survey, 11th Street Park received the most votes, followed by Danville Park, according to the Parks and Recreation document. Community and government organizations — namely the Park and Recreation Commission, the Arlington Neighborhoods Advisory Committee and the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board — all voted for the proposed name change.
This proposed new name “reflects the degree to which this park is the bedrock within our urban community,” CCCA President David Creek said in a letter. He added that 11th Street Park “won by many votes” in the two public voting events carried out by the CCCA and the Department of Parks and Recreation, respectively.
The name Nguyen Ngoc Bich Park would have honored a local resident who died six years ago, who “advocated for… refugee and immigrant needs throughout his life and worked to share Vietnamese culture with the Arlington community in numerous ways.” He is likely to get a historical marker in his honor instead.
The park is set to get a new name because of the renovation project, which is set to begin this summer. New furnishings, park signage and path lighting are set to be added, according to previous ARLnow reporting. Additionally, the gravel walkways are set to be replaced with concrete. If the County Board approves the name change, a park entrance sign will be added, which is estimated to cost $5,300.
Photo via Google Maps
DCA Sign Changes Start Tomorrow — “We’re making it easier to find your gate! Beginning June 4, we will be updating our signage to include a letter in front of each gate number. Don’t worry, no airlines or gates are actually moving!” [Twitter, DCist]
Summer Reading Program Underway — “The Arlington County library system’s summer-reading program kicked off June 1 and will run through Sept. 1. ‘Readers of all ages are invited to immerse themselves in reading, participating in 500 free programs and explore the 2022 theme, ‘Oceans of Possibilities,” library officials said.” [Sun Gazette]
Weekend Road Closures — “There are planned road closures to accommodate the 2022 Armed Forces Cycling Classic bicycle races, which will take place during the weekend of Saturday, June 4 – Sunday, June 5, 2022.” [ACPD]
New Name for Park Near HQ2 — “Before the HALRB’s meeting of May 18, it looked like “Teardrop Park” would be a runaway choice for the new space, which will be bounded (in a teardrop shape) by South Eads Street and Army Navy Drive and bisected by 11th Street South… But at the HALRB meeting, Berne stopped that train in its tracks by countering with “Arlington Junction Park,” which would pay homage to an important trolley-line nexus of the last decade of the 19th century and the first four decades of the 20th.” [Sun Gazette]
Free Donuts Today — “It’s National Donut Day on Friday, and several eateries in Virginia and Washington, D.C., are offering a sweet deal or two to lure in donut lovers across the state.” [Patch]
Paper Calls for Return of SROs — “One wonders if Arlington’s School Board members will have a change of heart, now that there is a national drumbeat for more, not less, public-safety presence in schools. Sadly, one presumes not.” [Sun Gazette]
It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 78 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:46 am and sunset at 8:31 pm. [Weather.gov]
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