1.5. Make better use of existing public spaces through system-wide planning and investments in facilities.
In addition to looking for opportunities to grow Arlington’s system of public spaces, the County must also make the best use of the space that it currently has through system-wide planning and investments in facilities.
1.5.1. Complete the remaining elements of Long Bridge Park.
The park master plan and associated design guidelines guide the phased build out of the park and were updated and adopted by the County Board in 2013. The first phase of the park opened in 2011 and has been a major success — with 3 full-size, lighted, synthetic rectangular athletic fields, an Esplanade for walking and bike riding with views of Washington and National Airport, rain gardens, picnic lawns, public art, trails, an overlook, parking and restrooms. Another phase, including children’s play areas, was completed in 2016. The next major phase is currently under construction and will provide an aquatics and fitness center with the development of ten acres of the park, which will continue the Esplanade and add public gathering spaces. Other elements remain to be completed, including the fourth lighted rectangular field and additional parking, the connection of the Esplanade to the Mount Vernon Trail and the multi-activity center (MAC). The MAC may need to be revisited based on decisions made by the County Board in 2017.
Priority Action 1.5.2. Complete the implementation of adopted park master plans.
The County Board has adopted specific park master plans that show the location and type of park elements as well as design guidelines. Implementation of these adopted park master plans should be considered as part of the County’s Capital Improvement Program. The list of County Board-adopted park master plans is shown in Appendix IV.
1.5.3. Consolidate recreation facilities and activities that are currently distributed throughout community centers into fewer, larger recreation centers.
The County currently operates 14 community centers which support a wide range of programs, including recreation, sports, education and health programs. Five of these facilities are joint use facilities with APS and have use limitations. The existing community centers vary significantly in size, design, and layout, and while many of the facilities have been replaced or updated, others have very limited capacity for programming and are aging and in need of significant renovation or replacement. Given Arlington’s high demand for recreation programs and services, community centers with flexible spaces that can accommodate multiple recreation programs and services are needed.
1.5.4. Utilize the criteria and methodology identified in Appendix III (Athletic Fields) to convert existing natural grass fields to synthetic turf and/or add lighting to existing fields to increase available hours of play.
Adding lighting and/or converting existing grass fields to synthetic turf will help the County to meet the demand for new fields identified in the Level of Service analysis. The FY 2019 – FY 2028 CIP identifies conversion of grass turf to synthetic at Thomas Jefferson Park, Kenmore Middle School (fields #1 & #2) and one other field (location to be determined), at a minimum.
1.5.5. Define a transparent civic engagement process for adding lights to athletic fields.
The majority of athletic fields in Arlington are located within or adjacent to residential neighborhoods. Establishing a clear civic engagement process for new locations of field lighting, and fully exploring possible mitigation measures and potential changes in use patterns, would ensure that the potential impact to adjacent residences is appropriately considered.
1.5.6. Explore connection between conversion of grass fields to synthetic turf and addition of lights and the need for new fields based on the Level of Service (see Appendix II: Level of Service & Appendix III, Fields: Synthetic Turf and Lighting).
Adding synthetic turf and lighting to existing fields helps alleviate the demand for additional field space. However, additional review and analysis is needed to better inform how the additional hours of play gained through conversion to synthetic turf and lighting impact the need for new fields.
1.5.7. Designate four sport-specific outdoor complexes that focus on a designated recreational amenity and provide the highest level of facilities for that particular sport.
Sports-specific complexes are located at Long Bridge Park (rectangular athletic field complex), Bluemont Park (tennis court complex), Barcroft Park (diamond athletic field complex), and Powhatan Springs Park (skate park complex).
1.5.8. Explore opportunities to increase the use of existing tennis courts, which could include adding lights or covering existing courts.
To enhance opportunities for evening and seasonal play, the County should consider adding lighting to existing courts. When courts are being renovated, the County should consider adding a cover over existing courts to allow for year-round play.
Priority Action 1.5.9. Develop park master plans for all new parks or when renovation of an existing park requires a major rearrangement of park amenities.
Several parks have been identified that are of high importance to the park system over the next decade. Master planning efforts should be focused on those parks identified below:
- Bon Air Park
- Bluemont Park
- Drew Park
- Future parks in Crystal City & Columbia Pike (identified in adopted Sector and Form Based Code Plans)
- Gateway Park
- Maury/Herselle Milliken/future new properties
- Quincy Park
- Rosslyn Plaza
- Thomas Jefferson Park
- Virginia Highlands Park
- 15th Street South (Crystal City)
- 2105 North Lynn Street (formerly known as 1101 Lee Highway)
1.5.10. Review and consider updating the County’s zoning regulations related to parks and public spaces in “S-3A” and “PS” districts, and other County codes as needed, related to public processes, setbacks, athletic field and other lighting, parking and parking options, dog parks and dog runs, signage, height, water features, fencing and temporary use of public and private property as public space.
1.5.11. Encourage the use of structured parking to maximize the preservation of public space for recreation, casual use space and natural resources when the cost benefit analysis, including the cost of purchasing land, demonstrates it makes fiscal sense.
Barcroft Park is an example of where the County used structured parking to consolidate the parking needs, which preserved space in the park to accommodate an additional athletic field and preserve natural areas adjacent to Four Mile Run.
1.5.12. Explore opportunities to add or relocate recreational amenities above structured parking and on roofs and walls of County buildings.
Roofs and sides of buildings and parking structures have flat surfaces upon which athletic courts, play areas, gardens or other amenities can be built — taking advantage of these often-underused spaces. When designing these spaces, the amenities should be safe to use and easy to locate and access from ground level.
1.5.13. Explore opportunities to create or improve public spaces that are underground or underneath infrastructure.
Creative design solutions can enhance subsurface public spaces. For example, elements such as lighting and public art were incorporated into the design of the North Courthouse Road and 10th Street bridges over Arlington Boulevard to improve the user experience (Arlington Boulevard, Vicki Scuri, 2014).
1.5.14. Consider multi-modal improvements in the park master planning process to increase accessibility by walking, biking, driving and public transit.
Maximizing the utility of existing public spaces means not only adding or reconfiguring amenities to make them more useful but also increasing access to existing spaces. The site master planning process provides an opportunity to incorporate multi-modal access improvements into plans for modifying individual public spaces. In addition, park access planning should be coordinated with transportation planning efforts in order to ensure sufficient transit service to major parks and trails.
1.5.15. Enhance the street network to optimize the public space realm.
Streets are often thought of as infrastructure that should have the single purpose of quick and efficient transportation. However, as a large percentage of the County’s land area, streets have the potential to transform the feeling of the public realm. A tree-lined street, perhaps with a median, offers pedestrians, cyclists and drivers a more attractive travel experience, provides shade in the heat, blocks wind in the cold and can integrate stormwater management features. Seating along streets can also enhance their value as public space.
1.5.16. Consider amending standard conditions of site plan approvals to require information about the location, size and content of signage for privately-owned public spaces to ensure that the signage conforms to County standards and helps make these spaces more visible and welcoming to the public. In addition, each privately owned public space should have an assigned address and name approved by the County.
1.5.17. Complete and routinely update the database of all privately-owned public spaces that includes details regarding recorded public access easement or other type of use agreement, ownership and management, layout of the space and design features, signage, accessibility and hours of operation and create an interactive online map to raise public awareness of such spaces.
1.5.18. Review current policies and explore revisions or new policies regarding commercial uses on privately owned public spaces.
Commercial spaces such as retail, concessions, cafés and restaurants, when planned and designed appropriately, can be used to activate privately-owned public spaces, and they can also benefit from their proximity. However, these commercial spaces should be planned early in the site plan or form based code process to achieve seamless and unobstructed connections between the commercial and public spaces.
1.5.19. Periodically review and update the inventory of public spaces to ensure accuracy and consistency of data.
1.5.20. Include public art that interprets the five priority themes described in the Public Art Master Plan: “Federal Arlington,” “Historic Arlington,” “Global Arlington,” “Innovative Arlington” and “Sustainable Arlington.”
These themes provide a rich subtext about patterns of development, public space, and activity in the County. Each theme has the potential to influence decisions about which public art projects are developed, as well as the approaches artists might consider for those projects.
1.5.21. Incorporate new and interactive technologies into public spaces.
Interactive technology can be used to enhance public spaces. Dynamic lighting and wayfinding can create a more welcoming and adaptive space for different users and functions. Public art, water features and signage can also be programmed to interact with users and create new and unique