The Board approved a construction contract worth $60 million with Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc., which was one of four finalists to propose a design for the center.
The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool, as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.
“This is the culmination of 10-plus years of planning,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “As our transformation of a brownfield into a vibrant park is fulfilled, we should all be very proud that a long and sometimes challenging community process has yielded such a great outcome. The centerpiece of this project will be an attractive, energy-efficient aquatics and fitness facility that will serve our community for generations.”
Board member John Vihstadt voted against the project on the grounds that the county cannot afford the $60 million price tag and projected operating costs of more than $1.1 million a year.
He added that when voters approved funding in two bond referenda — 2004 and 2012 — the funding landscape was different, and the phrase “aquatics and fitness center” was not mentioned in one referendum.
“With an uncertain economic outlook and in the face of so many competing priorities, from schools to Metro, and more, I cannot in good conscience support moving forward with this $60 million project as proposed,” Vihstadt said. “[It] is simply not fiscally prudent to ask Arlington’s taxpayers to take on this new and costly capital project (at $60 million, over $10 million more than the budget for the new Reed Elementary School, by comparison). In short, the County has more important needs and priorities.”
Construction on the new aquatics center could begin as early as July 2018 and is expected to wrap up by early 2021.
The project, as approved, will also include “development of 10.5 acres of the park, including environmental remediation, continuation of the Esplanade, public gathering areas and casual use space, one or more rain gardens, parking and other associated infrastructure.”
Vihstadt’s full statement about his “no” vote, after the jump.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending a “simple and efficient” design for the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center.
Schwartz recommended late last week that the county hire Coakley & Williams Construction, Inc. for the project, one of four contenders for the design and construction of the revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive.
The new facility will have a 50-meter pool, diving towers and a family pool as well as spaces for health and fitness and public events among others. The construction contract is worth $54.7 million, with $5.3 million in contingency funding in case of overruns.
“I think the community will be very pleased, possibly amazed, with the recommended design for the facility and park expansion,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We had four very good options from extremely talented firms, but the Coakley proposal excelled in meeting the county’s design criteria that impacted operations, long-term maintenance and durability.”
County staff said Coakley’s design “is simple and efficient with quality architecture and a strong connection to the Esplanade. It provides all of the elements required by the county without sacrificing core mechanical equipment, material choices and energy efficiency. It also includes an additional community room (at no additional expense).”
The design received the backing of the Friends of Long Bridge Park, a local group that looks to support and improve the park.
In an email, group president Eric Cassel said the County Board should approve the plan for the following reasons:
- It is needed. The Long Bridge Advisory Design Committee and County staff completed several studies that showed the needs of Arlington County are not being met. For example, currently all elementary and middle school students must learn swimming at one of the high school pools. The amount of teaching time is limited.
- If you have limited means and wish to swim, you have limited options, as all outdoor bodies of water like the Potomac River are unsafe to swim.
- The Esplanade needs to be extended to provide a longer place for walking/running and general passive activities. Over 20,000 people live within walking distance to the park and with the office and hotel populations, the demand for simple recreation is high.
- The cost of the project is capped. The design/build method specifically provides a budget and any overages are the responsibility of the contractor.
- While the design of Phase 2 has focused on meeting the needs of Arlington County residents, there is a benefit to office buildings, hotels and tourists. All of these produce taxes that pay for schools and other amenities. For example, one hotel has already created ads to come to Arlington because of the Fitness and Aquatics center. In addition, more than one office tenant has signed a lease because of Long Bridge Park. A facility like this is required to attract top talent. Arlington cannot afford to ignore the infrastructure that is necessary to attract office tenants.
The Board will vote on the project at its recessed meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).
Police and firefighters are on scene of a rollover crash on Wilson Blvd involving an Arlington County Park Ranger.
A car reportedly struck the back of the park ranger’s SUV, causing it to flip on its roof. Wilson Blvd is currently blocked at Patrick Henry, near Upton Hill Regional Park, while police investigate and the wreckage is cleared.
No serious injuries were reported.
Update at 1:20 p.m. — The westbound lanes of Wilson Blvd have reopened.
The four possible designs for the next phase of the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center have been released.
The revamped center at 475 Long Bridge Drive will have a 50-meter pool; diving platforms from one, three and five meters up; a family pool; and health and fitness spaces. The contractor can then add extra features from a “menu” of potential options, so long as it stays within budget.
That “menu” could include advanced energy efficiency, a therapy pool, a 10-meter dive tower and more spectator seats, among other enhancements.
The project, plagued by a years-long delay caused by anticipated cost overruns has a scaled-down aquatics and fitness center from previous plans. The county will be using a design-build approach, which keeps costs down by establishing a budget at the start that the contractor must not exceed.
“We are incredibly excited about these designs,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement. “We’ve got four nationally recognized design and construction firms who are putting together their best ideas, based on their creativity and knowledge, for project options for Arlington. By using the Design-Build method, we can focus on the community’s needs while completing the project within budget.”
Links to videos showcasing the designs of the four bidders are below.
Members of the public can give feedback on the four design concepts in several ways between now and October 29:
- Attend a public event on Thursday, October 19 from 7-10 p.m. at 2011 Crystal Drive, 11th Floor. Watch the presentations, ask the firms questions and share feedback.
- Visit the Courthouse Plaza lobby (2100 Clarendon Blvd.) from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays (from October 19 to 29) to watch the videos of the designs, view schematic drawings and share feedback.
- Starting today, go online to watch the videos of the designs and share feedback.
Following community feedback, the park’s Selection Advisory Committee will recommend the contract award based on written proposals, interviews, review of concepts, public feedback and negotiations.
The firm that is awarded the contract will complete its design and construction documents next year, with construction set to start as early as next July.
(Updated October 18, 8:55 a.m.) Runners of all ages can expect to have a “spooky good time” at this year’s Zombie Fun Run.
The race is scheduled for Saturday, October 21 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bon Air Park (850 N. Lexington Street).
This race includes obstacles as well as optional zombie zones in a family-friendly one-mile course. Runners will be let onto the course every 15 minutes in race heats, beginning at 11 a.m. The final heat is set for 1:30 p.m. Costumes are encouraged.
A post-race “Survival Party” will include food trucks, family-friendly games and activities, free moon bounce, zombie craft projects and face painting, so-called “creepy sensory activities” and a costume contest and parade from 1-1:30 p.m.
Anyone interested in running can register in advance online or by phone at 703-228-4747 using activity code 720018. On-site registration will be available on the day of the event on a first-come, first-served basis for a limited number of spots. Registration costs $3 per person online, $5 per person on the day (cash only). Racers aged 4 and under do not require pre-registration.
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.
Arlington Pitching Brainpower to Amazon — Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins plans to emphasize Arlington’s highly-educated workforce — 70 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree or higher — in trying to woo Amazon’s new headquarters to the county. [Washington Business Journal]
Animal Control Called for Normal Raccoon — Someone called animal control to report a raccoon “acting strangely” on the 600 block of S. Carlin Springs Drive last week. An animal control officer responded and determined that “its behavior was normal.” [Twitter]
Snowblower Application Deadline Nearing — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation loans out snowblowers to groups of residents, on the condition that they agree to clear sidewalks for neighbors in need, in front of bus stops, etc. The application deadline for this coming winter is Oct. 13. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Arlington VA
Water damage from a March winter storm has prompted the replacement of the gym floor at the Arlington Mill Community Center.
Staff first noticed water damage to the wooden gym floor in late spring. They investigated, and found that water leaked into the building after the snow on March 14, according to a spokeswoman for the Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services.
“Given the heavy gym use for the Department of Parks and Recreation Summer Camps, the decision was made to replace and repair beginning September 2017,” the spokeswoman said. “The work is expected to be completed by October 31 with the gym reopening November 1. The damage is being paid for through the facilities maintenance fund, but we are in the process of reporting it to the County’s insurer.”
A number of programs at the gym will be impacted while the work is completed. Per a county flyer:
- “Pickleball players are encouraged to use Walter Reed Community Center (2909 S. 16th Street, Arl. VA 22204) while the gym floor is being replaced.”
- “Family Nights @ The Mill will be relocated to the Carver Community Center (1415 S. Queen St., Arl. VA 22204) and Teen Nights will return to Arlington Mill in November.”
- “Pint-Sized Indoor Playtime, basketball, futsal and volleyball participants are encouraged to check-out our county-wide Community Center Drop-in Activities Schedule.”
The work doubled the space for gymnastics into a second room by converting the center’s gym, while adding new equipment to both rooms. Girls teams now have more space in which to practice, while county parks staff said it could help spur more registrations for boys teams.
Staff said the project was carried out due to “overwhelming demand from Arlington residents” for more space for gymnastics.
The existing gymnastics area also received a revamp, as well as the existing women’s locker room. Staff lockers were installed nearby, while the building got a new roof and had three HVAC systems replaced.
County staff and other officials will celebrate the completion of the project on Wednesday, September 13 from 5-6 p.m. at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The project had a total budget of $3.54 million, paid for by Pay As You Go Capital funds and bonds approved in the 2016 referendum. The County Board approved a construction contract last December worth just over $1.7 million.
Nearby Tucker Field at Barcroft Park is also set for upgrades in the coming years after the Arlington County Board approved a 10-year extension to its partnership with George Washington University, which hosts baseball games at the field.
GW will fully fund the construction of a new clubhouse as well as indoor and outdoor batting cages, which are also available for community use. Earlier this year, the university received an anonymous $2 million gift to fund the new clubhouse. GW also contributes funding each year for the field’s ongoing maintenance and repairs.
Residents can have their food waste composted by the county as part of a pilot program launched earlier this month.
From 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. each weekday, any county resident can take their food scraps to the Department of Environmental Services’ Solid Waste Bureau at 4300 29th Street S. in Shirlington, near the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s headquarters.
There, the scraps are being collected in two green carts at the bottom of the scale house, at the top of the Trades Center hill. Staff will be on hand to assist with disposal.
Per a county fact sheet on the program, the following food scraps are being accepted:
- food soiled paper (paper towels, napkins and paper plates)
- coffee grounds, filters and tea bags
- breads, grains and pasta
- meat and seafood (including bones)
- plate scrapings
Collected scraps are processed at the county’s Earth Products Recycling Yard using a composter. The compost that is produced will then be given to the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation to use in landscaping projects and to amend topsoil in public spaces.
DES staff said they launched the pilot program to “address increasing interest from residents to manage food disposal through a more environmentally conscious process.”
More than 2,000 local children benefitted from a summer program sponsored by the company that manages highway toll lanes in the region.
Transurban, which manages the high-occupancy toll lanes on the Capital Beltway and will manage the soon-to-be-extended I-395 HOT lanes, donated $18,000 to its Outdoor Kids Fund.
The fund supported outdoor programs and environmental education for kids who attended summer camps at Upton Hill Regional Park in Arlington and Cameron Run Regional Park in Alexandria. Attendees learned about water safety and the environment, then celebrated the end of camp with a day at Upton Hill.
They were joined on their last day by officials from Transurban, as well as representatives from the parks’ managers the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Arlington County Board vice chair Katie Cristol.
“NOVA Parks is a tremendous regional asset, and kudos to Transurban for providing a grant that will benefit many kids in Arlington and Alexandria,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement.
More from a press release:
The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks), Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, Vice Chair of the Arlington County Board Katie Cristol and Transurban – the Virginia Department of Transportation’s partner on the 395 Express Lanes project, today joined area children at Upton Hill Regional Park to celebrate the Outdoor Kids Fund which was supported by Transurban this summer. The program provides enhanced outdoor experiences and environmental education for two thousand children who attend summer camps in Arlington and Alexandria.
In addition to a day at the waterpark at the end of camp, the children learn about water safety, and many of them get to experience hands-on environmental education. The two main waterparks used for the program are Great Waves at Cameron Run Regional Park in Alexandria, and Ocean Dunes at Upton Regional Park in Arlington.
“NOVA Parks is a tremendous regional asset, and kudos to Transurban for providing a grant that will benefit many kids in Arlington and Alexandria,” said Jay Fisette, Chairman of the Arlington County Board.
“At a time of severe budget pressure, having Transurban partner with NOVA Parks to improve the summer experience of our children is invaluable. These types of partnerships create lasting memories,” said Alexandria Vice Mayor Justin Wilson.
“As the Virginia Department of Transportation’s partner on the 395 Express Lanes project, Transurban is committed to the safety and wellbeing of the Arlington and Alexandria communities near the Express Lanes project corridor. Transurban is proud to support NoVA Parks as they continue providing outdoor experiences and environmental education for the community,” said Leigh Petschel, Vice President, Operations, Transurban.
“We hope this program will allow Arlington and Alexandria to serve even more of their youth with these savings,” remarked Stella Koch, Chairman of NOVA Parks. “With need high and budgets tight, this gift from Transurban is wonderful,” she continued.
“Transurban is demonstrating great corporate citizenship by supporting this program that will help some children in need have a wonderful experience,” said Eileen Ellsworth, President of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia. “I love it when businesses and local and regional leadership come together to provide solutions,” she continued.
Photos via Facebook.
The Arlington County Board deferred a vote Tuesday on the design of the new Lubber Run Community Center after confusion over the timing of meetings on the project.
But the Board did agree, by a 3-2 vote, to a $37 million contract to replace the center, out of a total project budget of $47.8 million.
The new center will replace the one built in 1956 at 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington’s first purpose-built community center.
The building will provide programs for youth, adults and seniors including a preschool, senior center, gymnasium and fitness center and several multipurpose rooms. It also will house about 70 employees in the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Construction could begin as early as next fall.
A meeting is scheduled for today (July 19) at Barrett Elementary School for residents to give feedback on the new building’s design. That meeting coming a day after the Board’s scheduled design vote left some members perturbed, as they wanted to see the community engagement process play out before taking action.
Before the start of deliberations, County Manager Mark Schwartz apologized for any communications that caused “confusion or anxiety” in the community.
A timeline in May provided by local resident Michael Thomas had the Board likely voting on the design in September. But Jane Rudolph, director of the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the plan was moved up after staff found they could have the construction contract ready for July’s meeting and advertised on July 7. She also apologized for any confusion
“This is really, I think, close to a smoking gun,” said Board member John Vihstadt. “I don’t understand why we couldn’t defer to September to realize and fulfill the original intention of staff to have the board meeting after the next concept presentation and another PFRC meeting as well.”
Vihstadt was joined in voting to defer, while simultaneously approving the construction contract, by chair Jay Fisette and Christian Dorsey. The trio emphasized that no “fundamental changes” should be made to the plan during the review.
Board member Libby Garvey and vice chair Katie Cristol voted against the plan. Cristol said that the consensus on the Board that no major changes should be made, coupled with the support of many in the community for the new center, should be enough to proceed.
Of those who testified on the project, many had concerns around the project’s impact on the environment, including the need to cut down some trees and possible erosion. Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement, reading remarks on behalf of local activist Suzanne Smith Sundburg, said people wanted more open green space and more trees, rather than more pavement and buildings.
“Staff’s perception of the community’s feedback on this project continues to be at odds with the public’s perception of what it has asked for,” Clement said.
Community engagement for the project took a more modern approach than similar efforts in the past. The engagement used more technology like online surveys and looked to reach out to previously under-represented communities like the Spanish-speaking population in the county.
While Board members and staff recognized the foul-up with the timeline, some residents said the majority of community outreach was done well.
“This is textbook on how to do community engagement,” said Nathan Zee, an Arlington Forest resident. “You went above and beyond what would be reasonably expected, and should be commended. The outstanding design reflects this hard work.”
Images via county presentation
The turf fields at Thomas Jefferson Middle School are set to be replaced in the next year.
The Arlington County Board will vote Saturday (July 15) on a plan to replace the fields with synthetic turf. Staff from the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation said in a report that the current fields are “worn beyond reasonable repair.”
For the past eight years, the turf fields at TJ have been used in the neighborhood and for scheduled use by affiliated sports leagues and school programs.
The upgrades at the field are part of the county’s Synthetic Turf Program, aimed at replacing heavily-used natural grass fields. Currently, there are 15 synthetic turf fields in Arlington, although the move to add more has come in for some criticism from some.
In addition to the new turf, the fields would get new corner flags and goals for soccer games, as well as new bleachers.
The upgrades would coincide with the construction of the county’s new elementary school on the west end of the site, and staff said Arlington Public Schools will plan out activities with the two projects in mind.
APS will share the cost of the upgrades with the county. Just under $475,000 would be spent on the new field, with an extra $47,000 held as a contingency.
(Updated at 9:35 a.m.) Neighbors of Virginia Highlands Park are accusing Arlington County of ignoring a proposal they put together for the park’s future.
Last year the Aurora Highlands Civic Association submitted a plan for the permit-only softball fields on the west side of the park at 1600 S. Hayes Street to be converted into open space, without any set programming.
“The fields are significantly underused relative to other facilities and especially to open space,” the proposal says, noting that use of the fields is seasonal. “Each field is used for approximately 600 hours per year out of a potential of 4,380 hours (12 hours a day), a total of less than 14% of the time.”
The county is at the beginning of what it says is a “community-wide conversation” about the park’s future and developing a comprehensive plan.
But some residents are critical of staff at the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation, saying that staff has not adequately considered their proposal nor communicated with them, despite an “extraordinary effort” on the part of community leaders “to ensure that there was little to no miscommunication in this process.”
“Attempting to develop a long-term plan for the park that fails to openly and honestly consider the needs of all park goers over existing facilities and their usage, as well intentioned as it may be, will just reshuffle that poor planning with some prettying around the edges,” the group Friends of Aurora Highlands Parks said in its latest newsletter.
ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot wrote in a recent opinion piece that a member of DPR staff said the softball fields “are needed” and would not be removed.
A county spokeswoman, however, said that while there is no set timeline for planning for the park’s revamp, the civic association’s proposal is still on the table.
“The Aurora Highland Civic Association did provide a plan for the neighborhood’s vision for the park,” the spokeswoman said. “When the county begins the framework plan for the park, the civic association’s plan as well as other community-wide inputs will be considered. County staff is now working with the County Board to determine next steps.”
The softball fields at Virginia Highlands Park are used by a variety of leagues across age groups, from youth to adult.
The D.C. Fray adult league — formerly known as United Social Sports — begins a new eight-week season on July 7 at the fields. Founder and CEO Robert Kinsler said the league “strongly supports maintaining and expanding the fields available for organized sports in Arlington and specifically at Virginia Highlands.”
“We permit and use the parks as much as availability and DPR allows and often have to turn away players due to lack of field space in the area,” Kinsler said. “Any loss of the softball fields would be a huge lost for the activity community that lives in the area.”
Advertising for Capital Bikeshare? — The Arlington County Board has approved a policy that would allow an advertising sponsorship for Capital Bikeshare. A corporate sponsorship of the regionwide system could generate $750,000 over five years for Arlington County, which would be used to support, expand and promote the system in Arlington. [Washington Post, Washington Business Journal]
Board Approves Climate Resolution — The County Board last night approved a resolution expressing the county’s commitment to fighting climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency. The resolution also states “that Arlington County supports the principles of the Paris Agreement and will continue to… advance action in accordance with the goals outlined in [it].” [Arlington County]
Arlington Taking Action to Attract Pollinators — Workers planted flowering plants in Arlington yesterday as part of a joint effort to attract more pollinators — insects like bees and butterflies. The environmentally-friendly effort was sponsored by the Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation, NOVA Parks and Dominion. [WJLA]
Arlington to Update Resource Protection Map — Arlington County will hold public hearings on updating its Chesapeake Bay Preservation Area Map. “The more accurate map will help Arlington protect environmentally sensitive lands near streams and ensure that the County can comply with local and State regulations,” said a press release. “It will allow the County to review development projects fairly and provide accurate information to residents and other stakeholders.” [Arlington County]
Photos from Crystal City Car Show — The annual Crystal City Fathers Day Auto Festival was held this past weekend and featured more than 100 cars. This year the show was organized in part by Carsfera.com. [Facebook]
Williamsburg Neighborhood Plan Updated — The County Board has approved an update to the Neighborhood Conservation Plan for Arlington’s Williamsburg neighborhood. Per a press release: “Residents made recommendations for improving traffic and pedestrian safety, maintaining the neighborhood’s character, protecting the tree canopy and improving neighborhood parks.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Valerie O’Such