Arlington County Board members on Sept. 16 voted to approve the conceptual design for a new $47.9 million Lubber Run Community Center, agreeing to further nips and tucks to the project’s west wing in an effort to assuage concerns about the building’s overall mass.
The vote was 4-0, with board chairman Jay Fisette having left the running-late meeting to catch a flight out of town.
The project, which began life with a projected $28 million budget, grew during two years of planning with the addition of underground parking, a gymnasium and parkland amenities. But even board member John Vihstadt, who positions himself as a budget hawk, suggested the extra cost was worth it.
“This is more than a neighborhood clubhouse. It is really a resource for the entire county,” Vihstadt said.
Voters approved funding for the project in a 2016 bond referendum.
The County Board’s action closed one chapter of what had been a somewhat lengthy, and at times contentious, public process.
The process “was flawed – it really did not feel like engagement,” said local resident Eric Lotke.
That said, there seemed to be the feeling of satisfaction among those who participated in the process that this stage had come to an end.
“I’m unhappy with the design – [but] I’ve made peace with it,” Lotke said.
The project includes a construction budget of $37 million; County Manager Mark Schwartz announced Sept. 16 that negotiations had fallen through with the construction firm that had been awarded the contract, but that he expected to conclude an agreement with another bidder shortly.
A number of issues remain up in the air:
• A final traffic study has been completed but not made public; county officials say it will be released in October, and they will hold a community meeting in November to address traffic and street improvements on and adjacent to the site.
• The budget does not include funds for amenities such as an indoor track and net-zero energy consumption, both of which some County Board members want to pursue.
In addition to use as a community center, the facility will include space for a new senior center, and also will house offices for about 70 members of the Department of Parks and Recreation staff, many of whom now work out of offices in Shirlington.