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by Alex Koma June 7, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Arlington County is now hoping to kick off construction work on an overhaul of Ballston’s Mosaic Park early next year, following years of delays prompted in part by cost overruns.

County officials are planning to finish renovations at the park, located at 538 N. Pollard Street just behind the Gold’s Gym parking lot, by the end of 2019. Planners unveiled an updated timeline for the park’s renovations at a community meeting last Wednesday (May 30), along with detailed designs for new features like a playground, plaza and athletic courts.

The county’s eyed upgrades at the park back in 2008, and initially hoped that construction could begin in 2013. But planning work stretched on for years, particularly after its estimated construction costs overran the project’s budget.

That forced the county to re-tool the project slightly to bring costs down, in part by eliminating some planned solar panels at the site that would’ve powered the park’s lighting and reducing the number of trees and plants to be installed around the park.

The Shooshan Company, which owns some nearby developments, agreed to fund the first phase of the $6.6 million project. The county is also hoping to add a basketball half-court to the site, but that work will come in a second phase of the project.

The county plans to award a construction contract next spring, and start work soon afterward. Officials hope to wrap things up by winter 2019.

Graphic via Arlington County

by Alex Koma May 31, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

Arlington’s first “parklet” is now open to the public, providing a small splash of green space amid Rosslyn’s urban landscape — and perhaps giving county officials a new tool for adding more open spaces across Arlington.

Rosslyn’s Business Improvement District teamed up with the county to design the mini-park, located adjacent to the Roti Mediterranean restaurant at the intersection of Wilson Boulevard and N. Oak Street. Starting today (Thursday), anyone can take advantage of the parklet, which is just 30 feet wide — about the size of two parking spaces.

These sorts of mini-parks have become increasingly popular in heavily populated cities like New York and San Francisco, and Arlington tested out a temporary parklet at the same location last fall for PARK(ing) Day, an international event for cities to experiment with temporary green spaces built in parking spaces. Now, planners are hoping to make this parklet permanent, and even set up more elsewhere to help compensate for the county’s dwindling supply of available land.

“Cafe seating used to be the sum total of outdoor seating around here,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow. “But we know that mixed-use places need mixed-use spaces.”

Lucia deCordre, executive director of the Lee Highway Alliance and an architect of the parklet project back in her days working with the Rosslyn BID, says she came to the idea of creating a parklet like this as she started working on improvements to Rosslyn’s streetscape. As the BID looked at ways to add new benches and bike racks to make its streets more attractive, deCordre says her team “realized we needed to do something for pedestrians.”

“It’s all about helping create an identity for Rosslyn,” deCordre said.

She says the BID selected the space next to Roti because it didn’t have much existing sidewalk seating, and they needed “somewhere safe,” without too much vehicle traffic to test out  a parklet. Ultimately, N. Oak Street ended up being an ideal side street for the mini-park to sit next to, deCordre said.

But she didn’t want to simply see a few tables added to the sidewalk. She also wanted something that was both “flexible” and “user friendly,” so she made sure to include lots of greenery as well — the parklet includes a total of 18 chairs, five tables and four planter boxes.

“This should really boost retail here, but also bring together different stakeholders in the community,” said Mary-Claire Burick, the BID’s president. “And it’s particularly valuable here where open space is at a premium.”

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by ARLnow.com May 25, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County offices, courts, schools, community centers and other facilities will be closed Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Metro, meanwhile, will operate on a Sunday schedule on Monday. [Arlington County, WMATA]

Spraygrounds Opening Today — Arlington’s spraygrounds will open for the summer today. The water play areas are located at Drew Park, Hayes Park, Lyon Village Park and Virginia Highlands Parks. [Arlington County]

Flags in at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — Members of the Old Guard from Ft. Myer completed their annual “flags-in” pre-Memorial Day tradition of placing a flag at every grave marker at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. [Stars & Stripes]

Arlington Has Most Expensive Home Ever in D.C. Area — The priciest residential property ever to be listed in the D.C. area is partially located in Arlington. The Falls, the riverfront estate of late AOL co-founder Jim Kimsey, is on the market for $62.95 million. The 3.2 acre property on Chain Bridge Road straddles the Arlington-Fairfax line and includes an original Frank Lloyd Wright home as its guest house. [Preservation Arlington, UrbanTurf, Wall Street Journal]

County Hires New Assistant County Manager  — Updated at 11:15 a.m. — Arlington County hired attorney Gurjit Chima to be the county’s Assistant County Manager for Human Rights and EEO. “[Chima] will be instrumental in advancing human rights and related initiatives across County government and in the Arlington community, consistent with our mission of diversity and inclusion,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. [Arlington County, InsideNova]

Clarendon Company Named a Best Workplace in U.S. — Clarendon-based Enterprise Knowledge has made an Inc. magazine list of the Best Workplaces in 2018. The management consultancy has some of the “coolest company perks,” according to the magazine, including “tuition help, gym memberships, and company cellphones.” It also “reimburses employees up to $3,000 for the purchase of a hybrid car.” [Inc., Enterprise Knowledge]

County Touts Oak Grove Park Upgrades — “Through a Neighborhood Conservation project, Oak Grove Park recently underwent some major improvements to its playground equipment… The updates to the park include a ‘tot lot’ and a play area for older kids, an improved picnic shelter, site furnishings, a water fountain, many new trees, and biorentention for stormwater management.” [Arlington County, YouTube]

Marymount Farmers Market Starts This Weekend — The Marymount Farmers Market will kick off Saturday, serving the university and nearby North Arlington neighborhoods. The market will take place weekly through November. [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

by Alex Koma May 23, 2018 at 9:45 am 0

Arlington has the fourth-best park system in the entire country, just behind our neighbors across the Potomac, according to a new set of rankings from the Trust for Public Land.

The county climbed two spots in the California-based group’s rankings from a year ago, earning a “ParkScore” of 81.6 out of 100. D.C. was just slightly ahead of Arlington at 81.6. Minneapolis took the top spot nationally with a score of 84.2, with its twin city St. Paul, Minnesota placing second with 82.4.

The Trust for Public Land compiles the rankings based on four factors: the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, the percentage of a locality’s total area dedicated to parks, park spending per resident and the availability of popular park features.

Arlington scored well on all of those factors, according to Ali Hiple, program coordinator at the trust’s Center for City Park Excellence. She noted that the county ranked fourth overall two years ago as well, and she believes Arlington’s parks system should be a “point of pride” for the county.

“Parks contribute so much to a great quality of life,” Hiple told ARLnow. “They both help a city overall in beautifying the city and managing its stormwater, but they also offer chances for recreation. It’s about neighbors getting to spend time together.”

Hiple’s group found that 98 percent of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared to the 70 percent average nationally. Hiple noted that researchers use mapping software to study distances not simply “as the crow flies,” but they take into account potential obstacles between people and nearby parks as well.

“We’re measuring if it’s 10 minutes on foot, so that means it’s about walkability as well, which Arlington is certainly doing well on,” Hiple said.

Arlington also performed particularly well in the group’s survey of access to park amenities, with lots of restrooms and playgrounds available for residents, she added. The county also earned full marks from Hiple’s group for its spending on parks; the trust found that Arlington spends about $240 per resident on the park system.

Yet where the county fell the most behind D.C. is in the sheer acreage of park land available. The group found that 22 percent of D.C.’s land is reserved for parks, compared to 11 percent for Arlington.

“Arlington has semi-small parks well distributed throughout the county, but not those big chunks of park land,” Hiple said. “D.C. has things like Rock Creek Park that contribute to the acreage.”

But Hiple said the county has nothing to be ashamed of in falling behind D.C., another frequent top performer in the group’s annual rankings.

“They’re basically neck and neck, so we’re giving kudos to both systems,” Hiple said.

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Alex Koma May 18, 2018 at 10:45 am 0

If large new developments are going to put a strain on Arlington’s schools or eat up more of the county’s green space, why doesn’t the county require developers to chip in some cash to offset those impacts?

It’s a question on the minds of many Arlingtonians, particularly as the county grapples with budget cuts and increasingly overcrowded classrooms. “Peter’s Take” columnist Peter Rousselot even addressed the issue in his May 3 opinion piece, urging county leaders to require that any developer looking to add density to a property through a zoning change first send Arlington money (or even land) for schools and parks.

But county attorney Steve MacIsaac says Arlington isn’t likely to adopt Rousselot’s recommendations any time soon. He believes there’s a lot of nuance that often gets missed in discussions of the issue, starting with the fact that Arlington generally secures money from developers for things like nearby transportation improvements during any negotiation over new construction.

“Think about widened sidewalks and streetscapes you see, new Metro station entrances, things of that nature,” MacIsaac told ARLnow. “The goal of Arlington has been to try to make great places, and that will cause businesses to want to locate here, and then they generate a large amount of tax revenues to offset the cost of other services it has to provide. So if we flipped things around, the county would have to pay more for creating the great place… Things developers pay for now, wouldn’t be paid for, and the county would have to pick up those costs.”

MacIsaac notes that state law limits local governments from exchanging cash or donated land for schools, roads or parks for zoning changes, a process commonly referred to as the “proffer system.” In fact, many other localities across Northern Virginia have chafed at the current state framework for proffers, after a 2016 change to state law set new strictures on what local governments can ask developers to pay for.

MacIsaac points out that Arlington has largely been immune from those headaches, as the law still allows local officials to extract various concessions from developers — from public art contributions to affordable housing commitments to transportation improvements — if they build through the site plan process. (The 2016 changes exempted projects in certain areas, including those around Metro stations.)

Yet MacIsaac believes the proffer law does illustrate the way state lawmakers in Richmond view this issue, and why the county remains broadly limited in how it dictates terms to developers.

“The General Assembly is very stingy in giving us authority to deal with these kinds of things,” MacIsaac said. “New development imposes costs on localities, and the General Assembly believes localities should pay for those costs with the tax revenues they raise from that development.”

Rousselot writes in his column that no state laws or county ordinances “expressly prohibit Arlington County from requesting a reasonable cash or in-kind contribution from a developer as a condition to address these kinds of schools and parks impacts,” and MacIsaac concedes that this point is largely accurate.

Yet he believes moving to such an approach would not only deprive the county of the contributions it currently wins from developers — MacIsaac points out that builders typically pay for everything from transit improvements to public art — but would also fail to make the sort of impact Rousselot and others envision.

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by Alex Koma May 14, 2018 at 10:55 am 0

The Powhatan Springs Skate Park could soon be in line for a $2.2 million overhaul.

The Arlington County Board is expected to approve a full renovation of the 14-year-old park, located at 6020 Wilson Boulevard in the Boulevard Manor neighborhood, at its meeting this weekend.

The park is the county’s only facility designed specifically for skaterboarders, and its condition has deteriorated in recent years, according to a staff report prepared for the Board.

“Significant portions of the concrete in the skate park are failing, causing potentially hazardous conditions for users,” county staff wrote. “At the same time, the evolution of the sport of skateboarding has advanced, as have skate parks themselves to serve the sport.”

Staff are recommending that the Board give a green light to plans submitted by the D.C.-based Bennett Group to replace the existing, 15,000-square-foot park with a completely new set of bowls and half pipes for skaters.

The plans are also backed by a group of people who frequent the park, dubbed “Skaters for Arlington Skatepark.” They wrote a letter to the county hailing the design as “the best possible use of the space” and arguing that the new park “will be highly attractive to skateboarders and other users, many of whom will travel from across the nation to visit it.”

If the Board signs off on these plans, construction is set to start later this year, and the new park could open before the end of 2018 or in early 2019.

by Anna Merod May 1, 2018 at 3:45 pm 0

County staff are set to reveal the new design features for dog park improvements at Benjamin Banneker Park in East Falls Church.

The public will get a look at the conceptual dog park design tomorrow during a meeting at Tuckahoe Elementary School, starting at 7 p.m. Some proposed additions include new furnishings and play features.

The dog park renovations are a part of a larger plan to transform Banneker Park, which was announced in December. Besides the improved dog area, Benjamin Banneker Park will get wider trails, improved accessibility, parking lot improvements and a relocated playground that will be separated from trails and visible from the street.

Information shared at the dog park design meeting will be shared on the park project’s web page. In the future there will also be an opportunity to share thoughts on the dog park’s conceptual design and features.

Photos courtesy Arlington County 

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 25, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

The public will get a chance to give feedback on the draft Four Mile Run Valley policy framework at two upcoming hearings.

The two park concepts detail proposed outlines for redeveloping the area. Both propose two different developmental phases, and at first glance are quite similar. They concepts initially maintain PBS member station WETA’s building, but both anticipate eventually acquiring the space for redevelopment.

The main difference between the concepts is the location of a small baseball field. In concept two, the field ends up where the WETA building currently stands. In concept one, it’s closer to Four Mile Run Drive. The basketball and tennis courts are in different locations in both concepts, and the second concept shows a large shelter in a more southerly spot than in the first concept.

The study aims to codify a long term plan for the area, and its focus includes Jennie Dean Park, Shirlington Park, Shirlington Dog Park, and portions of both the Four Mile Run stream and trail.

According to the county staff document, Jennie Dean Park already has two lighted athletic fields, two lighted tennis courts, a lighted basketball court, a picnic shelter and restroom area, a playground, open space, and natural areas.

The first concept would flip the diamond fields so that the smaller field is closer to Four Mile Run Drive, with a new fenced-in playground and restrooms along Four Mile Run Drive.

The Four Mile Run Valley working group has suffered several setbacks as park stakeholders have weighed in with drastically different viewpoints about how the area should be developed.

During work on the latest two concepts, there was still division. Representatives with the Jennie Dean Park Committee were concerned that the first concept situated the small baseball field’s third baseline is 70-80 feet from Four Mile Run Drive. Nauck’s working group representative “voiced that breaking up [this] open space… along Four Mile Run Drive was undesirable to the community.”

The JDPC also had several concerns with the second concept, according to the county document, including that the overall design had “particularly fewer opportunities for connected casual use… along the riparian area.”

The first public hearing will take place before the Planning Commission on May 7, and the County Board hearing will be on May 19.

Photos via Arlington County

Reporting contributions from Anna Merod

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 25, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

A whole lot of shaking will be going on at Rosslyn’s Freedom Park, where a series of belly dancing classes will occur.

The hour-long classes, which run from May 9-30, target beginners looking to learn belly dancing basics. Classes take place on Wednesdays starting at 6 p.m.

A new move will be introduced each week by an instructor with Saffron Dance, and “particular focus is given to developing correct posture alignment, flexibility, arm positions and paths, fundamental shimmies, basic hip accents, introductory undulations, easy to follow traveling steps and combinations.”

The cost is $25 to attend four classes at Freedom Park, a typically quiet, elevated park at 1101 Wilson Boulevard.

This isn’t the first time that Saffron Dance has brought its craft into the community. Back in 2011, the studio organized a belly dancing flash mob in Clarendon.

File photo

by ARLnow.com April 25, 2018 at 8:30 am 0

Roosevelt Island, Gravelly Point to Get Bikeshare — The County Board approved a deal with the National Park Service to allow Capital Bikeshare stations on Theodore Roosevelt Island and at Gravelly Point. Although the stations are on NPS land, the county will install and maintain them. [Arlington County]

Arlington, Falls Church Men Arrested in Drug Bust — Williamsburg police arrested 10 people at the College of William & Mary — including one student from Arlington, two from Falls Church and a professor — during a large drug bust during which they confiscated LSD, cocaine, mushrooms, opioids, amphetamines, steroids, hashish, marijuana and $14,000 in cash. Police launched a months-long investigation when they heard that increased drug use was causing unreported sexual assaults. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

Tree Canopy Dispute Grows — Environmental activists have intensified their cries about the county providing misleading information on the size of Arlington’s tree canopy. Activists confronted County Board members at their Saturday meeting, armed with claims of “alternative facts” and a “war on science.”  [Inside NoVa]

Outstanding Park Volunteers Honored — The County Board gave awards to Joanne Hutton, John Foti and Friends of Aurora Highlands Park for their efforts to support county parks and natural resources. The honorees have led service projects, helped to expand field use and promoted public open spaces. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

by Bridget Reed Morawski April 17, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

The contract for renovations at Dawson Terrace Park in North Highlands, northwest of Rosslyn, is set for approval, per a county staff report.

The work will renovate areas of extensive use, including a multi-use court, playground, walkways, and picnic areas. D.C.’s Bennett Group, beating out five other bidders, is expected to be awarded the $1,507,500.45 contract.

Landscaping, stormwater management, and ADA improvements will also be part of the project, but a small field along 21st Road N. will not be within the project’s scope.

The County Manager’s office has recommended awarding the contract and approving a $150,750.05 contingency for change orders.

The Dawson-Bailey House, believed to be the county’s second oldest house, is located at the park, at 2133 N. Taft Street.

The Dept. of Parks and Recreation has submitted documentation to the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board “to ensure the project respected and complimented the historic nature of the site.”

by Bridget Reed Morawski March 6, 2018 at 12:45 pm 0

Crystal City will be getting a new, 43,900 square foot plaza called Metro Market Square, according to county planning documents.

Plans for the plaza cite Boston’s Faneuil Hall as inspiration and include retail businesses, small water features, chess tables, and a options for outdoor entertainment.

The market building’s roof would include solar panels and “artistic wind turbines,” and the park’s sidewalks would range from 17.5-19 feet wide. A new Crystal City Metro station east entrance at the plaza would be located at Crystal Drive and 18 Street S.

The parcel, referred to as “block G,” is “generally bounded by 15th Street S. to the north, Crystal Drive to the east, 18th Street S. to the south and U.S. Route 1 to the west,” according to the county website.

Planners are cognizant of shadow issues as well, calling for no more than 55 percent of the park to be in shadow between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on equinoxes and no more than 59% in shadow in the fall.

A community open house will be held on March 21 from 7-9 p.m. for residents to view the details. An online feedback survey will be conducted from March 19-28, though a link to the survey is not yet available.

The block plan is part of the larger Crystal City Sector Plan, passed in 2010, which includes a new two-acre park called Center Park, 7,500 new residential units, and a “transformation of Jefferson Davis Highway into an urban boulevard.”

Screenshots via Arlington County

by Bridget Reed Morawski February 8, 2018 at 4:45 pm 0

The draft framework for the proposed Four Mile Run Valley area is now open for public comment. 

The county is setting out to reshape the Four Mile Run Valley area — centered around the Shirlington and Nauck neighborhoods — while balancing the commercial, residential, historic, environmental and industrial needs of the community. This is the latest step in a process which began June 2016.

The plan includes the redevelopment of Jennie Dean Park, with the goal of maximizing the park’s open green space. It also includes the potential establishment of an arts district — with a clustering of studios, theaters and maker spaces — though the idea has received some criticism from groups that want more green space or playing fields.

Proposed park amenities include educational stream overlooks, improved access to the stream, and commissioned public art pieces or sculptures, per the framework.

Changes to the Shirlington Dog Park seem to be limited to minor changes to improve erosion and water quality issues. That follows a public outcry about a potential reduction of the dog park’s size.

Among environmental considerations, the document states that the “area’s history of [industrial] development suggests that there may be soil contamination in soil locations.” Further sections note that excrement from the dog park is another significant soil and water contaminant in the area. The need for “an eye toward environmental remediation, stormwater management, and stream protection” is cited in numerous sections of the draft.

Residents have until Friday, Feb. 16 to comment online. The plan is expected to be presented to the Arlington County Board this spring.

by ARLnow.com February 1, 2018 at 8:15 am 0

Alexandria Absent from Short Bridge Park Plans — “While plans for the border-spanning park are underway on the Arlington side, one frustration expressed at the County Board was that Alexandria has no plans to develop its side of the park… ‘That’s a little disappointing,’ County Board member John Vihstadt said. ‘I am concerned we’re going to be spending significant amounts of money for improvements on the Alexandria side.'” [Arlington Connection]

Review of Columbia Pike’s BrickhausBrickhaus, which opened last year at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is like a miniature, “year-round, indoor beer garden [that] serves German-inspired fare.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Commuting Satisfaction in Arlington — According to data from Arlington County’s Mobility Lab, Arlington residents commute to work by means other than driving alone 60 percent of the time. Those who walk or bike have the highest rate of satisfaction with their commute, while those who take a train have the lowest satisfaction rate. [Mobility Lab]

Fmr. Clarendon Restaurant Owners Like Falls Church — David and Rebecca Tax, the founders behind classic Clarendon restaurants like Big Belly Deli, Lazy Sundae, Clare and Don’s and Mexicali Blues, are happy with their decision to move Lazy Sundae and Clare and Don’s to Falls Church more than a decade ago. “Falls Church is a lot like what Clarendon was like in 1996 when we opened Lazy Sundae,” said David, while Rebecca remembered the Clarendon of the mid-to-late 90s as “more family oriented, fewer singles.” [Eater]

Mobile Phones Could Be Banned at Pentagon — A military review of personal electronics policies, ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, could result in non-military cell phones being banned at the Pentagon. About 30,000 servicemembers, civilians and contractors work at the Pentagon. [Stars and Stripes]

Japanese Embassy Lauds New Arlington Decal — Via a tweet from the Embassy of Japan in D.C.: “As this year’s @CherryBlossFest nears, we’re excited to hear that the blooming cherry trees along the Potomac River will soon be displayed on windshields in Arlington County. Congratulations to @OConnellHS’s Schuyler Workmaster for winning @ArlingtonVA’s decal contest!” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

by Chris Teale January 26, 2018 at 1:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board will debate whether to name a park near Potomac Yard “Short Bridge Park,” after it being known informally as “South Park” for over a decade.

The county’s Parks and Recreation Commission recommended the name for the park between Potomac Ave and U.S. Route 1, along Four Mile Run. Arlington County and the City of Alexandria both own portions of the park.

A county staff report on the naming notes that the park had the informal moniker “South Park” as it is the southernmost park in the Potomac Yard Phased Development Site Plan, which provides a roadmap for development in the area. It was created in October 2000.

The park currently has a publicly accessible playground and a playground exclusively used by a daycare facility, planted shrub/perennial beds, walkways, a large grassy field and a steeply sloped grassy area.

Renovations to the park will improve its connectivity to the Four Mile Run Trail, as well as add facilities like a dog park, an “interpretative plaza,” more pathways, a shade structure and other plazas and a meadow.

In a letter to the Board, Parks and Recreation Commission chair Caroline Haynes said the group supports the plans for the park and its new name, which she said is a “complement to ‘Long Bridge Park‘ both in size and location.”

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