Plans to redevelop a local YMCA may have too many apartment units and not enough community benefits, county planners say.
The YMCA is proposing to tear down its existing facility on N. Kirkwood Road in Virginia Square and build an 87,850-square-foot facility with indoor swimming pools, pickleball and tennis courts, a fitness space and a conference and lounge area, as well as 203 parking spaces. To finance the project, the nonprofit is building a separate 7-story, 374-unit apartment building.
County planners say the baseline for this project is around 270 units and that the YMCA it needs to provide more community benefits to build beyond that.
The reason for the 104-unit gulf is a disagreement over whether the gross floor area of the recreation facility should be excluded from the overall project area. This number determines, for instance, the size of a developer’s affordable housing contribution, either in cash or in on-site units.
The nonprofit’s attorney, David Tarter, says it is financially necessary to exclude the entire facility from density calculations and cites the “best in class” facility as a community benefit to be included in the benefits package.
“This full exclusion is necessary to provide the YMCA the resources needed to construct the proposed YMCA facility,” Tarter writes in the nonprofit’s site plan application.
On its website, the nonprofit says the new building “will serve an estimated 11,415 children, adults and seniors annually, creating 108 new permanent living wage positions and 175 construction jobs.”
Other benefits include three open spaces totaling about an acre and an east-west pedestrian and bicycle connection through the site.
County planner Michael Cullen says past precedent for site plans and ordinances support including the building’s square-footage in density calculations. He said in a presentation these extra 104 units “must be earned through a comprehensive community benefits package” that goes beyond earning LEED Gold certification in exchange for more units.
He says the nonprofit will also have to do more for affordable housing to obtain approval to build apartments in the first place. In the Washington Boulevard and Kirkwood Road Special GLUP Study governing the site, the land is zoned for commercial use.
The county developed the plan, with community input, to guide the YMCA development and two other projects on the same block.
That includes Terwilliger Place, which Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing completed this September on the American Legion site, and a 270-unit apartment building dubbed Modera Kirkwood, on which Mill Creek Residential broke ground in December 2020. The latter could be completed next year.
Projects in this situation “have generally been expected to achieve greater achievements in accordance with the affordable housing master plan,” Cullen said.
Arlington Dept. of Community Housing, Planning and Development spokeswoman Erika Moore says the county is discussing with the applicant ways to offset the 104 units with more sustainability and affordable housing commitments. Potential approaches will be discussed at a Site Plan Review Committee meeting, a date for which has not yet been set.
The public review process has just kicked off for the project. An online feedback opportunity, which opened on Tuesday, will run through Monday, Dec. 19.
Arlington’s pickleball players, eager to see the sport grow, will soon have more courts to play on.
The YMCA Arlington Tennis & Squash Center, at 3400 13th Street N. in the Virginia Square area, is repainting three tennis courts to make room for six pickleball courts. This change is part of an effort to meet the growing demand for facilities as the sport gains popularity.
“In the D.C. region, pickleball is exploding,” said Carlo Impeduglia, Associate Director of Racquets at the Y in Arlington.
He attributes the local and nationwide surge in interest in pickleball and other racquet sports to people searching for social sports where players can stay distanced during the pandemic.
The new courts at the Y facility will feature blended lines and changeable nets so players can choose either tennis or pickleball, Impeduglia said. Currently, the tennis courts have pickleball lines taped on.
Members will be able to reserve courts and participate in drop-in play, instructional clinics, socials and special events, he said. More permanent courts could be added in the future, too.
The changes come as the YMCA (3422 13th Street N.) seeks to upgrade its facilities in Arlington, replacing the Y as well as tennis and squash center with a seven-story tall apartment building and three-story tall facility that has a swimming pool and tennis and pickleball courts.
At the regional level, the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington is jumping on the craze and opening pickleball courts throughout the D.C. area. Other new courts can be found at the Y’s locations in Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Silver Spring.
“The response to pickleball has been overwhelming by our membership,” said Pamela Curran, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. “Pickleball is the perfect pandemic sport since people can still socially distance and get great exercise both outdoors and indoors at an extremely affordable price.”
Adrie Custer, the moderator of the Facebook group Pickleball Friends of Arlington, Virginia, said she has also seen a surge in interest. The group was founded in 2016 and today has more than 430 members — but nearly 200 of those members joined in the last year, she said.
“Once someone actually plays pickleball, they are hooked,” she said. “We expect our numbers to keep climbing. I believe it’s true that pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. It is a game that can be played enjoyably at many skill levels and by people of all ages.”
Players typically are 50 years of age and older, but Impeduglia said he has seen and heard of kids as young as 4 and seniors as old as 90 hitting the courts.
“It’s really all ages, all levels,” he said. “The sport has no boundaries.”
Nationally, the sport grew 21.3% to 4.2 million players in 2020, according to the USA Pickleball Association.
Arlington County Parks and Recreation provides indoor as well as outdoor courts for the sport, and classes are available for young players, too.
The county has added pickleball lines to multiple courts over the last few years and noticed an increase in overall use in parks amid the pandemic.
“The pandemic has not seemed to slow its growth,” county parks department spokeswoman Susan Kalish said of the sport. “It’s definitely popular in Arlington and the region in general.”
Photo via Lauren Bryan/Flickr
The YMCA has filed some early concept plans with Arlington County sketching its vision for replacing its Virginia Square facility with two structures — a new gym and an apartment building.
This project at 3400 and 3422 13th Street N. represents the last of three developments concentrated within a seven-acre site along Washington Blvd, from N. Lincoln Street to Kirkwood Road.
The first two have been approved: a 270-unit apartment building, “The Kirkwood,” for the southeast corner, where Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd intersect, and an affordable housing project on the site of American Legion Post 139.
The Y’s proposal is not only the last — at 4.39 acres, it is also the biggest.
According to the planning documents, the YMCA proposes a three-story tall facility with a swimming pool and tennis and pickleball courts, nearly 52,000 square feet of recreation space, and 325 parking spaces across a two-level garage. The apartment building would be seven stories tall and have 374 units, with 330 spots across two levels of parking.
The proposed project is about five blocks from the Virginia Square Metro station — a nine minute walk, according to Google Maps.
Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association have a number of concerns with the project, according to a letter from President Maurya Meiers to the county.
The YMCA development is “the largest project in the mix, will have the most impact on the surrounding community, [and] it most directly and conspicuously abuts the largest number of community residences,” she said.
In the letter, Meiers said the project is too massive, one story too tall and provides too little public green space. She asserted that the project will significantly increase traffic, which they predict will hurt the character of the community, and exacerbate an existing street parking shortage.
“The plan presents two massive, boring structures that encroach and overshadow the neighborhoods around them,” Meiers said. “This was not at all what was presented in the [General Land Use Plan], not at all what we expected, and not at all what we want.”
(A General Land Use Plan, or GLUP, is Arlington’s primary policy document guiding development in specific parts of the county.)
Meiers added that the planners should have explored the option of placing residences above the YMCA facility. Most importantly, she added, they should have considered placing townhouses next to single-family homes, an option that was “totally ignored, even though it would provide the most respectful and effective transition.”
Neither the Y’s legal representation nor the architect were immediately available for comment.
Meiers also said questions remain about the Ball Family Burial Grounds, the gravesite of the family that is the namesake for Ballston. The gravesite has murky ownership and is in need of research and repair, according to a staff report.
“We will be looking forward to see how this project can be leveraged to improve conditions on the grounds,” Meiers said.
The county’s planning division has asked for community input on changes to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan in light of these three projects, on the outskirts of the neighborhood, as well as several others in the Clarendon area.
Photos via Arlington County
Plans for the redevelopment of a seven-acre site in Virginia Square — which include a new apartment building, YMCA facility and affordable housing — are slated to come before the Arlington Planning Commission this fall.
The plans, for several properties around the intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Kirkwood Road, could result in a new six-story apartment building; a rebuilt, 100,000 square foot YMCA building; and a 161-home affordable housing project. The plans call for retaining American Legion Post 139 on the property.
On its property — the largest parcel on the site — the YMCA says it “intends to redevelop its site to allow for an expanded, world class, modern athletic and community YMCA facility as part of a mixed use project which would also allow for new residential uses on, or adjacent to, the Property.”
Within the site is the Ball family burial ground, designated as a local historic district in 1978 and the resting place of several family members. Given the desire to study the site, individual site plans and construction are still years away from coming to fruition.
The county and its Long Range Planning Committee has spent several months discussing land use planning for the parcel and the area as a whole, in advance of a site plan process.
The committee met on July 25 to discuss the latest round of suggestions for land use. Anthony Fusarelli, principal planner in the county’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development, said in an email “it was suggested” that be the final meeting on the topic, and that the study be advanced to the full Planning Commission.
Ahead of that Planning Commission meeting, which could be as early as September, Fusarelli said an updated study document will be released for community review, incorporating the feedback of LRPC members and the public.
At the meeting of the LRPC last month, county staff presented various options for the site’s land use, while taking into account how buildings’ heights decrease as they get further from a Metro station.
Among those options, staff presented two that would create a so-called “Special District,” which would help coordinate development in the area and set clear guidelines for projects. The area would be designated as the Washington/Kirkwood Coordinated Mixed-Use Development District.
And in terms of density, staff has several options left on the table, including several that would allow for varying types of housing, which they said reflected local residents’ desire to have a transition between the dense Metro corridor and the neighborhood.
Staff also provided an option that would not change any land uses on the site, which they said would allow some development, including a hotel by right that would not require Arlington County Board approval. But they said only “limited improvements” could be made to the YMCA under that plan.
Batman will be visiting the Arlington YMCA at 3422 13th Street N. on Friday to teach kids about poison prevention.
The Caped Crusader will be at the ‘Y’ from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Friday, March 22, hosting an event called “Be a Superhero in Your Home.” The event, which is sponsored by the YMCA, the Alliance for Consumer Education and the American Association of Poison Control Centers, will teach kids “to be a superhero in their home by reading labels, asking permission before using an unknown product, and other poison prevention tips.”
The highlight of the event will be a visit by the Dark Knight — also known as Maryland millionaire Lenny B. Robinson — who will be arriving in style in his $300,000 1966 replica Batmobile. Robinson, 49, has been visiting sick kids in children’s hospitals across the county in the vintage Batmobile, as part of his Baltimore-based Superheroes for Kids organization.
Robinson made international news last year when his $250,000 Lamborghini Batmobile was pulled over by Montgomery County Police. The dashcam video of the traffic stop went viral and Robinson became a minor celebrity in his own right.
Arlington families interested in participating in Friday’s poison prevention event are asked to RSVP to [email protected] Only 100 tickets are available for the event.
Photo via Facebook
Halloween is fast approaching, and two local organizations need volunteers to help out with their kid-oriented Halloween festivities.
Thomas Jefferson Community Center needs 20 volunteers to help throw a Halloween party for “200 small ghosts and goblins.” The event it to be held from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30. Volunteers will lead activities like games, face painting and arts and crafts. Any interested, enthusiastic volunteer age 16 or older should contact Milada Weaver at 703-228-4730
In addition, the Arlington YMCA is looking for members of the Community Volunteer Network to help out with its haunted house, to be held at the Madison Community Center next Friday and Saturday.
“Volunteers will be helping spook-up the event by working the registration table, setting up, monitoring the kids, being activity leaders, and cleaning up after it’s over,” organizers say. “If you are looking to find your inner child this Halloween, this scare-tacular event with Arlington kids is for you.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at the haunted house should call the Community Volunteer Network at 703-228-1197 or email cvn.admin [at] gmail.com.
The Arlington branch of the YMCA is planning a haunted house later this month.
The kid-oriented event is will be held at the Madison Community Center (3829 N. Stafford Street). It will feature ghost stories, Halloween treats, ghoulish games, and other spooky fun.
Tickets cost $5 per person, with $5 off for families of four or more. Proceeds go to the Y’s summer camp and after school mentoring programs.
A haunted house for children 5 and up will be held from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29. Organizers will dial up the fright from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30, for kids 11 and up.