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by ARLnow.com — January 29, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

The Arlington County Board on Thursday approved major renovations to a playground and volleyball court at Quincy Park.

The new playground will incorporate “universal design” to make it fun and accessible for users of all ages and physical abilities. Features include swings, picnic tables, a slide and a “climbing tree.”

The revamped sand volleyball court will be located adjacent to the playground and is being created with adult after-work sports leagues in mind.

The total cost expected design and construction of the project is $1.275 million. Construction is expected to start this spring and wrap up this fall.

Quincy Park is located between Arlington Central Library and Washington-Lee High School, near the Virginia Square Metros station.

From an Arlington County press release:

The Arlington County Board today approved a contract for $1,085,727 to overhaul the heavily used playground and sand volleyball court at Quincy Park.

The playground will be the first in Arlington to incorporate state-of-the-art Universal Design elements to make it accessible for people of all ages and physical abilities. All Arlington County parks are accessible and meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, but this playground was specially designed to accommodate and engage the entire community.

“This is a truly innovative project that will make Quincy Park a very special place, accessible, welcoming and fun for people of all ages and abilities,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey.

Universal Design seeks to appeal aesthetically and functionally to everyone, regardless of age or physical ability.

The new playground will have a wheelchair ramp to reach the top of the slide area, instead of stairs. Its swings will hold heavier bodies, so that parents and caregivers can swing alongside children.

The Universal Design elements mean people of varying ages and abilities can climb, swing, play and enjoy this space together. Softer surfaces will make the play space safer. The design includes quieter areas for those with sensory sensitivities. Fencing and gates are all integrated into the landscaping to provide green space and a calming environment. A pavilion area will shade picnic tables, and there will be other benches and tables for seating throughout. There are also water fountains with bottle fillers. The park’s features will be explained in signs throughout the park.

Beginning in July 2014, County staff conducted extensive public outreach for this project, including four public meetings and two on-line surveys. County residents participating in the public meetings included neighbors of the park, parents of children and adults with disabilities and members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. Staff solicited feedback from organizations such as the Special Education PTA, the Community Services Board for Developmental Disabilities and the Arc of Northern Virginia. County staff also consulted with a designer who specializes in universal playground design. To facilitate the design for the sand volleyball court, County staff consulted with local players, teams and groups such as Orange Line Sports and United Social Sports.

A final concept was presented at a May 2015 public hearing that had the consensus approval of all involved groups.

The Board voted unanimously as part of the consent agenda to award the contract to Bennett Group, the lowest responsive and responsible bidder in the competitive bidding process. The overall project funding for this Parks Maintenance Capital project of $1,275,000.00 includes design, soft costs and construction. Funding is provided by FY 2012 closeout funds ($100,000) and FY 2013 park bond funds ($1,175,000).

Construction is set to begin early spring of 2016 and be completed by the fall.

by ARLnow.com — January 19, 2016 at 1:20 pm 0

(Updated at 3:01 p.m.) Bicycle sales, rental and repair shop Big Wheel Bikes has closed its Arlington location for renovations, according to a notice on the chain’s website. The shop remained open after a fire in September until closing on Dec. 14.

Owner Mike Sendar said the store at 3119 Lee Highway will reopen “in about two weeks” although a hard date has not been set. Sender said customers can expect “new paint, new flooring and a new arrangement.”

According to the sign posted on the door, Arlington residents can receive 10 percent off when shopping at the company’s four other stores in Alexandria, Georgetown and Bethesda.

The Lyon Village shopping center location opened in 1979 as a branch of Bicycle Exchange. It’s been Big Wheel Bikes since 1999.

Hat tip to Big E.

by ARLnow.com — January 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm 0

Clarendon nightlife spot SoBe Bar & Bistro (3100 Clarendon Blvd) has closed last week and will be replaced with a new Spanish tapas restaurant.

The new restaurant will be called Pamplona and will be run by Social Restaurant Group, the company behind Provision No. 14 and The Prospect in the District, ARLnow.com has learned. Both restaurants are noted for their creative, theme-based decor.

Renovations are underway inside the former SoBe space, at the same time as a separate exterior renovation of the courtyard Pamplona will share with Mad Rose Tavern.

Social Restaurant Group wants to have Pamplona open by this spring, though hopes for speedy renovations in Arlington are usually met with disappointment thanks in large part to a stringent county permitting and inspection process.

Pamplona will face competition from La Tasca, Clarendon’s existing Spanish tapas destination.

by Jennifer Currier — December 8, 2015 at 10:00 am 0

Tuckahoe Park Renovation Plan v. 2

Major renovations are coming to the ballfields at Tuckahoe Park.

At its meeting this Saturday, the Arlington County Board is expected to award a $1 million construction contract to Bennett Group of Washington, D.C. for renovations and improvements at the park.

The Dept. of Parks and Recreation released renovation plans in March, making the two baseball/softball fields their focus. Changes include new players’ benches, dugouts, backstops, bleachers for spectators, fencing, drinking fountains, bullpens and batting cages.

Much of the project’s construction will be focused on a new irrigation and drainage system and new sod.

Other additions to the park in the plans include picnic tables, a portable toilet enclosure, storage, landscaping and a new scoreboard. The scoreboard will be shared between the county and Bishop O’Connell High School, which is contributing $18,000 to its purchase

The plans would also make the park and its fields more accessible per Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

According to a county website dedicated to the project, construction on the park is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2016.

If approved, the contract will authorize $1.06 million for construction. That includes nearly $100,000 as a contingency. The total estimated cost of the project, with design and soft costs factored in, is $1.25 million.

Saturday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the County Board Room at 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Room 307.

by ARLnow.com — November 18, 2015 at 3:50 pm 0

The AMC movie theater in Shirlington (2772 S. Randolph Street) has reopened after extensive renovations.

The AMC Shirlington 7 closed about a month and a half ago. It reopened yesterday, showing only one movie, and will fully resume a full slate of showings on Friday.

Much like the renovated AMC theater in Courthouse, the Shirlington theater now features big, plush seats that recline. Other upgrades include:

  • A redone lobby and upgraded interior
  • New lobby concession stand with a soon-to-open bar called “MacGuffins”
  • More hot foods, like pizza, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers and curly fries
  • Coke Freestyle soda machines
  • A new theater sound system
  • Bathrooms are now on the first floor

The theater will begin offering assigned seating “in a couple of weeks,” around when the bar opens, an employee said.

The mix of movies will change a bit: the employee said the theater will be showing a mix of indie and mainstream films, whereas is previously focused mostly on indies.

by Jennifer Currier — November 18, 2015 at 1:30 pm 0

The Arlington School Board approved the proposed design for the forthcoming Stratford Middle School in Cherrydale at its meeting Monday night.

The project includes an addition to and renovation of the existing building at 4100 N. Vacation Lane. The building is currently home to the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, which will be moving to the new Wilson School in Rosslyn once both projects are complete.

Specific features of the Stratford project include:

  • 1,000-student middle school
  • 35,000 square foot addition, minimum
  • 144 parking spaces
  • One-way driveway connecting N. Vacation Lane and Old Dominion Drive
  • Traffic and safety improvements on N. Vacation Lane
  • Pedestrian crossing on Old Dominion Drive

The approved addition will be built on the west side of the building and is three stories tall. According to a news release, all renovations will keep the historic existing building in tact, including its south facade.

Architects also provided a second driveway option for the school if VDOT does not approve an exit on Old Dominion Drive.

Funding available for the project ranges from $31.3 million to $36.3 million. The School Board is expected to approve a schematic design in February.

The school system has opposed a push by preservationists to designate Stratford a local historic district, saying it would cause delays and drive up costs. In 1959 Stratford became the first public secondary school in Virginia to be racially integrated.

Stratford Middle School is expected to open in Sept. 2019.

Photos via APS/Quinn Evans Architects

by ARLnow.com — November 12, 2015 at 9:00 am 0

Basketball court at Fort Barnard Park (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

County to Invest $55 Million in Ballston Mall — Arlington County is planning its first-ever Tax Increment Financing district to help fund the renovations to Ballston Common Mall. Arlington plans to invest $45 million in the mall with its TIF, which will be repaid over time via increased tax revenue from the property. It also plans to make $10 million in transportation improvements, including improvements to the attached county parking garage and the narrowing of Willson Blvd in front of the mall. [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington May Ask for Jefferson Davis Hwy Renaming — Arlington County is considering asking local state legislators to seek a name change for Jefferson Davis Highway in Arlington. Also known as Route 1, the highway is named after the Confederate president thanks to state legislative decree in 1922. A draft of the 2016 Arlington legislative priorities list includes a proposal to rename “the Arlington portion of Jefferson Davis Highway in a way that is respectful to all who live and work along it.” [InsideNova]

Room For Economic Improvement — Arlington County’s building approval process remains cumbersome and overly time consuming, and the county lacks the kind of incentive resources — “weapons” — that other jurisdictions have for economic development. That’s according to Arlington Economic Development Director Victor Hoskins, at a recent panel discussion. [Washington Business Journal]

Per-Student Spending Down — Arlington County’s per-student spending is down to $18,616, from $19,040 last year, according to the Washington Area Board of Education. Arlington still has the highest per-student spending of any suburban Washington school system. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

by Jennifer Currier — November 5, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

2300 N Pershing Dr via Google MapsA new restaurant is planning a move to Lyon Park and prove its meatless burgers taste just like the real thing.

Alt’s Meat Alternative Food is slated to move to 2300 N Pershing Drive, according to a building permit filed with the County.

The permit is for renovation of 850 square feet of office space into a “fast casual restaurant” serving meatless burgers and other alternative foods.

According to the restaurant’s nascent website, Alt’s is where “people go to eat tasty burgers without the guilt.” It lists the bacon “Altburger” with cheese as a menu item with less than 350 calories and 25 grams of protein.

The permit does not specify when the interior renovation of the space will begin.

Representatives for the restaurant could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hat tip to Martin L. Photo via Google Maps.

by Heather Mongilio — October 5, 2015 at 6:15 pm 1,556 0

AMC Theater in ShirlingtonThe AMC movie theater in the Village at Shirlington (2772 S. Randolph Street) will be closed through November for renovations.

The movie theater is expected to reopen mid to late November, said AMC Theatres spokesman Ryan Noonan.

Once renovations are complete, the movie theater will have plush reclining seats in all of its auditoriums, new bathrooms and hot food options like chicken fingers and french fries.

AMC may also add a bar that will serve cocktails, wine and beer, Noonan said.

“The entire movie experience will be enhanced,” he said.

The company expects business to pick up in Shirlington as a result of the changes, Noonan said.

“We found that guests love our upgraded movie-going,” he said. “People really enjoy the recliner seating.”

The theater will offer reserved seating. Moviegoers will be able to choose their seats when buying tickets online or at the box office.

“The easiest way to make sure everyone gets a ticket and everyone gets the seat they want is to use reserved seating,” Noonan said.

An AMC theater in Courthouse went through similar renovations in 2012.

by Eleanor Greene — September 22, 2015 at 3:45 pm 0

Abingdon Elementary School renovation renderingAbingdon Elementary School in Fairlington will be undergoing a renovation and adding a 30,000 square-foot expansion, after receiving unanimous County Board approval for a use permit on Monday.

The addition includes 12 classrooms, as well as a new gymnasium, entrance plaza and outdoor instructional area. With this, the total building capacity will be brought from 589 to 725 students. The school’s enrollment is currently 630 students, with some of the excess student population served by four classroom trailers, according to a press release.

There will be a new bus loop and changes to the site’s existing parking configuration. The Board approved also approved a use permit that will allow school staff to park at the nearby Farlington Villages Community Center.

The approved plan includes extensive stormwater runoff management, which is aimed to reduce impact on the school’s neighbors. The existing building requires major building system upgrades, as well, including an updated HVAC system, electrical and plumbing improvements and new interior furnishings.

“This expansion breathes new life into an elementary school that opened its doors in Fairlington in 1950,” said Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Back then, Abingdon helped relieve overcrowding at Fairlington Elementary. Now, so many decades later, we are partnering with Arlington Public Schools to expand Abingdon to once again serve burgeoning enrollment in this part of the County. There has been robust community conversation about this latest expansion of Abingdon. When completed in 2017, it will serve the community well for years to come.”

The school’s expansion comes as part of the School Board’s FY2015-FY 2024 Capital Improvement Plan, which was adopted in 2014. The plan includes funding for over 1,000 elementary school seats, including the 136 seats that will be added at Abingdon, as well as others at McKinley Elementary School, and a new elementary school to be determined in South Arlington by FY 2019, in order to accommodate increased enrollment.

Abingdon Elementary was completed in 1950 and expanded in 1964, 1970 and 1990. The public review for the addition has taken place over the last 11 months, and included review by the Public Facilities Review Committee (PFRC), Environmental and Energy Conservation Commission (E2C2), Transportation Commission, and Planning Commission.

Not all neighbors support the plan, however. Some have expressed concerns about the loss of trees and potential for noisy construction traffic as a result of the project.

Arlington’s PreK-12 student population has risen by more than 3,000 since the start of school in 2013. At the beginning of this school year, APS counted 25,307 enrolled students.

by Heather Mongilio — September 21, 2015 at 11:00 am 0

(Updated on Sept. 22 at 11 a.m.)Arlington County is seeking the public’s opinion for the new design of Powhatan Springs Skatepark (6020 Wilson Blvd).

Residents had the chance to vote for their favorite preliminary design of the skatepark during a showcase last Thursday, Sept. 17 at the Arlington Mill Community Center. Those who could not attend the presentation can vote on the designs on the skate park website.

“In the case of the skate park, we are reaching out to the community of skaters and non-skaters for their feedback on preliminary concepts intended to meet the active and passive needs of a diverse audience. The skating community clearly understands the value of providing input for the skate park’s schematic designs,” said Wilfredo Calderon, a spokesman with the county’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

The county currently has three different concepts for a renovated skatepark, which were created using community feedback, Calderon said.

The county is looking to renovate the 11-year-old skatepark due to aging equipment, he said, adding that some of the existing structures had a seven to 10 year lifespan.

“Any consideration of replacing  elements should take into consideration that needs tend to change over time and an active skate park is no different,” he said.

The skatepark project is in the beginning stages. Once a design is picked, the Department of Parks and Recreation will submit the project to the County Board as part of the Capital Improvement Plan, Calderon said. The skatepark is being designed by Team Pain, a skatepark design firm, and Gordon Construction, according to the park’s website.

“In short, a new design, if effective, will enhance the skate park by replacing elements that have reached their end of life cycle and introduce components and elements that current skaters want to see in the park,” Calderon said.

by Heather Mongilio — September 17, 2015 at 5:45 pm 0

The Lyon Park Community Center may be open by the end of October, despite some trouble securing a source of funding earlier this summer.

The renovations to the community center are set to wrap up on Oct. 31, but there is always the potential for construction delays, said Jeannette Wick, chair of the Lyon Park Community Center. Wick says she thinks residents will like what they see when the community center reopens.

“The building is absolutely beautiful,” she said.

The Lyon Park Citizen’s Association ran into some legal trouble after seven concerned citizens filed a petition in court against the group’s motion to get a line of credit with Cardinal Bank. Under the agreement with the bank, to get the $600,000 the association might need for renovations, the park was to be used as collateral.

A judge ruled in favor of the petition, saying that LPCA’s line of credit was improperly filed.

The legal problems are all resolved now, Wick said, adding that the association was able to secure a line of credit from First Virginia Community Bank without having to put the park up as collateral.

“They very quickly stepped up to the plates and helped us out,” Wick said.

LPCA is currently using money from fundraising to pay for the renovations, but “once we expend all of our available funds, we’ll have to draw on [the line of credit],” she said.

Fundraising for the community center has been “robust,” according to Wick, and LPCA raised approximately $85,000 for the park in a June fundraising push.

“We did very well with fundraising… people were very generous,” she said.

by ARLnow.com — August 19, 2015 at 9:25 am 2,707 0

Sunrise over the Potomac and the Memorial Bridge (Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi)

Arlington Native Murdered in California — Christopher Wrenn, an Arlington native, was shot to death in a San Jose, California office park last week. The motive for the shooting remains a mystery, but two of the three suspects have since been shot and killed by police. Wrenn, a Washington-Lee High School graduate and Marine Corps veteran, was noted for having a big personality and always having a story to tell — like how he was baby-sat by actress Sandra Bullock as a kid. [San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, CBS Bay Area]

Arlington Little League Memories — The local little league used to keep statistics on each player, and “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark recently dug up some of those records. Among the batting averages of some notable Arlingtonians are .172 for CNBC managing editor and anchor Tyler Mathisen, .212 for Italian Store owner Bobby Tramonte and .290 for Clark himself. [Falls Church News-Press]

Renovations at Nam Viet — Long-time Clarendon restaurant Nam Viet is undergoing some renovations this week. A sign in the window says the eatery at 1127 N. Hudson Street will reopen Monday, Aug. 24.

Hat tip to Benjamin M. Flickr pool photo by David Giambarresi.

by Mariah Joyce — June 23, 2015 at 2:15 pm 3,741 0

The funding for the half-finished renovations to the Lyon Park Community Center may be in jeopardy.

In November of 2014, the Lyon Park Citizens Association voted to take out a $600,000 line of credit from Cardinal Bank to help fund the $1.2 million renovations. The vote was almost evenly split, with those who opposed the motion saying they were concerned about the park and community center being used as collateral to obtain the loan.

Now, the resulting legal wrangling over the loan has resulted in a ruling that will prevent it from being issued, at least as originally planned.

When the LPCA approved the motion to take out a line of credit, a group of seven residents referred to in court documents as the “Concerned Lyon Park Beneficiaries” opposed the petition in court. Their concerns were outlined in a flyer circulated to the community.

The opposition, filed Nov. 7 2014, states that the residents in question feel the Board encumbered the park “under imprudent conditions,” and that the residents “have reasonable and legal concerns regarding the ability of the community to re-pay this sizeable loan, and the resulting ramifications of a loan default.”

(Encumber is a legal term meaning that the property was placed in position where more than one party had a valid legal claim on it; if the park were used as collateral for a loan, both Cardinal Bank and the Lyon Park community would have valid claims.)

Another court document pertaining to the case dated July 30, 2014, states that “recently two trustees [of Lyon Park] resigned because each refused to sign documents pertaining to a $600,000 bank loan for a planned renovation of the community house. The appointment of successor trustees is far from a routine appointment.”

Since its inception in 1925, Lyon Park has had trustees appointed by the community to hold the deed to the park on behalf of all residents. When a loan is taken out for the park, the trustees have been the ones to sign the documents. Court documents also state that the park has been put up as collateral for a loan at least twice before, in 1925 for $2,500 and 1927 for $3,000.

Circuit Court judge Jonathan Thacher ruled last month that the latest loan was improperly filed. While the decision doesn’t prohibit the Board of Governors from using the park as collateral for a loan, that option is effectively closed to the community because at least one of the seven residents who challenged the Board’s decision in court indicated that he or she would also oppose any future filings, thus imposing burdensome legal costs, according to Lyon Park Community Center Chair Jeannette Wick.

“We are going to exclusively pursue options that don’t involve encumbering the park,” said Wick. “We’d like to go forward without further litigation — we could end up tied up in court forever.”

After the judge ruled, Wick said the Board came up with a table of options which included:

  • Raising enough money that a loan would not be required.
  • Working with Cardinal Bank to find a way to borrow without encumbering the park.
  • Stopping construction completely.

According to Wick, with more than half a million dollars still required for renovations, the first option is unrealistic even with neighbors’ “incredible generosity.” The second option is still being explored, but is proving difficult because thus far Cardinal Bank has insisted on collateral. Wick described the third option as undesirable for several reasons.

“It would be bad for the neighborhood, it’s costly to stop construction and having an unfinished building on our property creates an attractive nuisance for thefts and squatters,” said Wick. “Right now, we’re searching for some sort of happy medium between option one and option three.”

Wick estimates residents have donated about $500,000 towards the project thus far, including roughly $85,000 since June 1.

“Everyone that I have talked to has been united in the view that ‘It’s halfway done, we need to move forward,'” said Wick. “If you look at the donation map, giving has been robust throughout the community — this isn’t a project where it’s a one-man show or only a few people want it.”

Kevin Baer, a resident who opposed putting the park up as collateral, said that he and other concerned residents “look forward to continuing to work together in the neighborhood to find a prudent way forward.”

The renovations to the center, currently in progress, include making the building ADA compliant, adding a sun room, and improving the kitchen and bathrooms.

by ARLnow.com — May 11, 2015 at 10:15 am 2,259 0

Arlington bunny (Fickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Shirlington Movie Theater to Renovate — The AMC Lowes Shirlington 7 movie theater will be undergoing a “complete renovation” this year, starting as soon as July. The theater will be getting reclining leather seats, like the AMC theater in Courthouse, plus a new concession area with beer and wine and new bathrooms. [Washington Business Journal]

Downed Trees, Wires in Arlington — On Sunday morning a tree fell on Old Dominion Drive, bringing wires down with it, causing power outages and and closing the road for hours. On Sunday night, an accident on Wilson Blvd caused downed wires and the closure of Wilson from N. Illinois to N. Jefferson Street. [WTOP]

Candidates: Lack of Diversity at Top County Ranks — Candidates for Arlington County Board spoke about the lack of diversity among top county staff last week, at a forum sponsored by the African-American Leadership Council of Arlington. The County Board has little direct involvement in the hiring of county staff, save the Board’s hiring of and direction to the County Manager. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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