The $36 million Arlington Mill Community Center is only weeks away from opening.
County Board Chairman Walter Tejada and county staff members gave members of the media a preview tour Monday afternoon, showcasing the county’s newest community investment.
Arlington Mill’s construction “will definitely be under budget,” according to George May, Department of Environmental Services bureau chief for facilities design and construction, and the five-story, 67,000-square-foot building will start hosting programs Sept. 3, and hold a grand opening Sept. 21. The project’s expenditures are at about $35 million, May said.
Located at 909 S. Dinwiddie Street, the community center sits at a corner of Columbia Pike where there once stood a Safeway. Purchased by the county in 1996, the land remain unused for years while the economy crashed and the county had to reconfigure its plans for a community center in the area.
“It took a huge effort,” Tejada said. “When the economy tanked, it looked like it might not move forward and the community was very disappointed.”
Tejada had on a perpetual smile during the tour, seeing years of negotiations and false starts come to fruition. He was especially excited at the foosball table, which was covered by a piece of cardboard and he gleefully removed to spin the handles.
The facility will be free and open to the public from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. weekdays, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturdays and 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. Sundays.
The only uses that will require fees are the fitness center and the parking garage after four hours. It was Tejada’s hope that the garage be completely free, but, in a controversial decision, he and county staff compromised on four hours of free parking, to prevent the garage from becoming a “haven for commuters,” according to the Sun Gazette.
The gymnasium has two full basketball courts and lines painted for volleyball and pickleball, which Facility Manager Rob Carter said was the most-requested activity in community meetings.
Arlington Mill also has a satellite office of the Arlington County Employment Center, classrooms, multipurpose rooms available to reserve, a room for the Project Family service and a rooftop garden. The center will have WiFi and, on the first floor, Pan American Bakery and Café. However, the bakery won’t be open for a few months after the center itself opens.
Next door, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is still in construction on its apartment building, on land leased from the county. The window to apply for the waiting list for the building opens today and closes Saturday, Aug. 31. The fourth floor of the center is currently unoccupied, and is part of 9,900 square feet of the facility that is designated for future use.
When asked what he would tell critics who say Arlington Mill has been a vanity project, Tejada responded, “I would invite them to come here and meet the diverse people who will use this center, and then we can chat them up.”