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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.”

by Anna Merod January 24, 2018 at 2:55 pm 0

Cherrydale residents are seeking to reclaim the original spelling of a neighborhood park as it goes through a second phase of renovations.

In a presentation at an Arlington Parks and Recreation Commission meeting yesterday (Tuesday), neighborhood resident Harry Spector said he wanted to clarify the spelling of Oak Grove Park as two words and not one word.

There are three signs currently in the park that spell it as Oakgrove. However, the original sign in the park spells it as Oak Grove.

“With this being the oldest sign at the park, it’s clear to us that this was the county’s original intended spelling of the park,” Spector said.

Though the Oakgrove spelling is cited in the county’s Parks and Recreation master plan, Spector said there is no record the county intended to change the spelling.

“It’s a typographical error that was never corrected,” he said.

Other official documents since the 1990s that required county approval have also used the two-word spelling, Spector said.

While it seems the change could be made administratively, Spector said he was directed to the Parks and Recreation Commission by county staff, as there is a two-part process for renaming parks. The commission makes recommendations to the Arlington County Board, which has the final say on approval.

“It’s a little time consuming to correct a typo, but it’s probably the only way to do it,” said David Howell, a commission member.

Spector was hoping to fast-track the change, since the county acknowledges the park as Oak Grove while the department references it as Oakgrove. He said he wants the change to happen before the park’s renovation is complete, sometime between February and May.

The renovations include a new playground for 2-5 year-olds and 5-12 year-olds. There will also be new benches and a new gazebo with picnic tables.

All the members of the committee agreed with Cherrydale residents that the name should be changed, and will be holding another meeting on the protocol of name changing and will include another motion to move forward the spelling of the park.

“It’s kind of absurd to have go through such a process for a simple, obvious grammatical error,” Spector said.

Photos via Google Maps

by Chris Teale December 28, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

A “high adventure” ropes course that allows users to swing at the same level as treetops is one of several improvements set for Upton Hill Regional Park.

The park (6060 Wilson Blvd) in Seven Corners, will add a ropes course near its pool. The courses typically have sections constructed in trees or made of utility poles, and are designed to be a challenging activity. The park already has batting cages, mini golf, pools and trails.

In a presentation to the Arlington County Board last month, executive director Paul Gilbert of the Northern Virginia Regional Parks Authority, which manages Upton Hill, said the “high adventure course” has been a priority of people surveyed in the park for two years.

“You’ll be able to go all the way up, essentially, to the tree line and get a stunning view out over Arlington from there,” he told the Board. “We’re really excited. We think this will be a signature feature, something that in Visit Arlington promotions, you’ll probably have pictures of people up there and the wonderful views.”

In addition, that area of the park near the existing swimming pool is set for a new building to handle ticket sales for the course and the batting cages, with a section of that new structure available to rent for private events. The area would also get new outdoor seating and 91 new parking spaces.

Meanwhile, the area of the park near its entrance from Wilson Blvd is also set for a revamp. Gilbert said NOVA Parks will add a “high-end” playground, renovate the bathroom building and add new trails, seating areas and game tables.

Gilbert added that the authority is looking to add more lighting, and build a new entrance off Wilson Blvd with a small parking lot at its base, with the current driveway changed for trail use.

“It will be a very dynamic, interesting area,” Gilbert said, noting the authority’s desire to make that part of the park “sort of more of an urban place to hang out.”

But the $3 million plan has already come in for criticism from some quarters. Local activist Suzanne Smith Sundberg said not enough has been done to assess the impact on the park’s trees, planning for transportation needs has been inadequate, and there is a lack of transparency in the way NOVA Parks collected its survey data.

“By adding a new driveway, with an additional curb cut on Wilson Blvd, plus nearly an acre of paved parking, NVRPA will degrade one of the few remaining natural areas in Arlington County,” she wrote.

She added that more should have been done to engage with those who live in the nearby buildings like the Patrick Henry Apartments and the Seven Corners Apartments, among others.

“Whereas I sympathize with NVRPA’s need to generate more revenue, monetizing scarce natural land by converting it into developed land (particularly in an area that is already heavily developed) seems like a very high price to pay for a questionable gain,” Sundberg wrote in a lengthy email provided to ARLnow.com. “Without more precise information, it is difficult to see how this project makes sense from an environmental or economic standpoint as currently envisioned.”

For his part, Gilbert said the project will not interrupt natural resources already in the park. The plan still needs approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation — which controls Wilson Blvd near the park — as well as site plan approval from the county.

Images 1-3 via NOVA Parks presentation.

by Chris Teale December 20, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

The Arlington County Board voted yesterday (Tuesday) to buy vacant property in Aurora Highlands to create space for new parkland in the neighborhood.

The Board voted 4-1 to buy a bungalow at 905 20th Street S. and the adjacent vacant lot for $1.23 million. Chair Jay Fisette voted against the proposal.

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.

Fisette raised concerns at some aspects of the process, and the precedent it might create. Members of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association told the county about the opportunity buy the lot, and Fisette said that might create an “out of hand” system where residents request the county buy land and create more parks.

“To me, the one universal reality that I’ve experienced, given the choice or an opportunity of a park, 95 percent of people will ask for, sign a petition and want a park. Everybody likes a park,” Fisette said. “In this case, it makes it harder for me, since I can’t really justify how to distinguish this very well from the next five or 10 or 20 or 30 requests that will come, that to me is where the focus should go: how you distinguish one opportunistic lot from another.”

Board vice chair Katie Cristol also had some misgivings given the popularity of parks and how other neighborhoods could start requesting the county buy land to accommodate them. She pushed staff to show that there is a need for this new park in Aurora Highlands.

“I think if we leave it to what we’re hearing from community members about the need in their neighborhood or about the relative use of the other parks, everyone will identify a need for more parks in their neighborhood,” she said. “It’s one of the more popular uses for land in the county.”

Someone currently 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.

At this stage, county staff said they intend to turn the land into casual park space with no programming, and Board members were convinced that the acquisition is worth it.

“I do look at the strategic nature of the opportunity and the relative value with which it can be had, and that ultimately tips the balance in favor of thinking this is worthwhile,” Board member Christian Dorsey said.

Photo via Google Maps

by Chris Teale December 18, 2017 at 10:45 am 0

Two local parks will receive extensive renovations under plans unanimously approved by the Arlington County Board at its meeting Saturday (December 16).

Benjamin Banneker (1680 N. Sycamore Street) and Fairlington (3308 S. Stafford Street) Parks will benefit. The former, near the East Falls Church Metro station, has expanded in recent years as the county has acquired more land.

For Benjamin Banneker Park, the Board approved a long-term vision for the park, which includes replacing its existing amenities and improving its trails. It will also give more protection to the Four Mile Run stream, a major feature of the 12.5-acre park.

Per a county press release, the long-term plans for the park include:

  • Widening trails: Trails will be widened to 10 to 12 feet, following guidelines from the adopted Arlington Master Transportation Plan – Bicycle Element.
  • Improving accessibility: A sidewalk connection from 16th Street N. to the parking lot will be added as well as a sidewalk around the parking lot perimeter, which will link internal sidewalks and trails with park amenities.
  • Relocating playground: The playground will be shifted further from the stream along 18th Street N. The new location will be separated from trails and visible from the street. It will include new play equipment, more seating and tables.
  • Parking lot improvements: The parking lot will be reconfigured and restriped to better accommodate up to 25 cars. The footprint of the lot will be reduced and made more efficient.
  • Renovating Dog Park: The dog parks surface will be replenished and there will be new furnishings and play features.

“This plan will make Benjamin Banneker Park more accessible, provide more protection for Four Mile Run stream, which runs through the park, improve the park’s trails, and replace its playground equipment,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “We appreciate the great work that staff and the community did in crafting this well thought out plan.”

Separately, the Board approved a construction contract for the final phase of renovations at Fairlington Park.

The final phase will include replacing the park’s amphitheater with a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups. It will also add outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.

by Chris Teale December 15, 2017 at 1:45 pm 0

The amphitheater at Fairlington Park is set to be replaced by a playground in the park’s final phase of renovations.

The final phase for the park at 3308 S. Stafford Street includes a playground for children in the 2-5 and 5-12 age groups, outdoor fitness equipment, a picnic area, improved ADA accessibility, furniture, landscaping, and improvements to drainage and stormwater management.

It marks the completion of a project that began in 2010 with the first round of renovations to the park. The Arlington County Board will vote on the final phase at its meeting tomorrow (Saturday).

During construction, the athletic field would be closed. County staff said they are “working with the Fairlington Creative Preschoolers Program and Fairlington Cooperative Playgroup to identify other spaces in the park that can be used for children’s play while the new playground is being constructed.”

“The outdoor amenities for Fairlington Park are past their life expectancy and are in need of replacement,” staff wrote in a report on the project. “Through meetings with program staff and feedback during the public engagement, it was determined that the existing amphitheater does not get much use. Rather than replace the amphitheater, it was determined that it will be removed as part of the project to make additional room for the playground.”

The Board will vote on whether to award a contract worth just over $1.9 million for the park renovations, with just over $190,000 in contingency for change orders. Staff recommended approval.

by Chris Teale December 14, 2017 at 9:45 am 0

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

by Chris Teale December 12, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

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.

by Chris Teale November 13, 2017 at 3:30 pm 0

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

by ARLnow.com October 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm 0

The following letter was written by Daniel Lopez, board member of the Arlington Soccer Association, regarding the proposed arts district in the Four Mile Run valley.

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.

Daniel Lopez
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.

by Chris Teale October 11, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

The second phase of renovations at High View Park are complete, ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday (October 14).

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.

by ARLnow.com October 4, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

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


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