Tuesday, March 08, 2011

New Designs on Four Mile Run Park Expansion

Architects Anonymous strike again.

The intrepid group of area architects has combined forces once more to unleash yet another great set of plans to revive the dormant goal to expand Four Mile Run Park along Mt. Vernon Avenue.

You may recall Architects Anonymous from their last Arlandria effort, where they developed a very promising and award winning plan for the parcels of newly acquired open space (4109 Mt. Vernon Ave).  Those became the inspiration first for the Four Mile Run Farmers and Artisans Market, and then for saving the old Duron Paint store building for community use, which is set to begin construction this month.

The group continued to refine plans based on community input to create a dynamic outdoor space that acts as a gateway to the City. The architects and City staff have diligently reached out to the community over the months, vetting the plans during a design charrette, then with the Arlandria Plan Implementation Group, the Four Mile Run Restoration Task Force and the City's Parks and Rec Commission. The plans have met with universal support, and feedback has been incorporated into all that's going forward.

As conceived, the now vacant lots along Mt Vernon Avenue will be transformed into an vibrant community space. As part of the plan, the Four Mile Run Farmers' Market will continue to occupy approximately the same footprint, with opportunities to expand northward on the site as it grows.  The plans incorporate rain gardens, new landscaping, and a number of dynamic elements that can be cheaply and easily altered over time, such as painted pavement and colorful banners.

A portion of the funds to complete the work are now available thanks to a February 17th vote by the Arlandria Plan Implementation Group. The vote allocated the $200,000 left over from the Arlandria Plan Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget towards the first of two phases to complete the park expansion.  The CIP funds come from the long idle plan to bring streetscape improvements and amenities to Mt Vernon Avenue, but which remained unspent since most improvements were deemed infeasible without redevelopment of the large properties. Looking to get the best bang for the buck on a low hanging fruit project, the community rallied behind funding what they could. The $200,000 will cover at least the hard scaping portion of the park expansion plan, which should be underway by this Summer. Phase two largely consists of landscaping, plantings, and other volunteer labor accessible and less costly amenities. With further volunteer and community support (that means you, readers!) and the sweat equity demonstrated with the rehab of the old Duron building and at the 4MRMarket site, phase two could be accomplished by the end of the year

Architects Anonymous has put a lot into this project on the basis that they see with community support so much could be done for so little.  They have really drawn inspiration for specific elements of other nearby projects to turn these empty parking lots into a real park. Simple installations, such as banners and temporary shade structures, as seen in Rosslyn, have instantly revived vacant lots into usable and inviting space.  Here are a few of the ideas they hope to bring in:

To manage run-off and utilize current site topography, a rain garden would be installed in the low lying area between the pavement and the soccer field.

Existing berms can be augmented with rock outcroppings to create viewing areas for soccer games and other community events.

Painted pavement will help turn boring asphalt into a colorful and engaging space.

Banners will bring color but can also reflect community diversity, events, and define the space.

It's an exciting time in Arlandria and around Four Mile Run. There's plenty more news from over the winter about all of the revitalization efforts. Watch this space.

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