The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved spending more than $2 million for the construction of a public plaza in the Columbia Pike area.
The Penrose Square Public Plaza, which is expected to be complete by September 2012, would be the first and largest of three such public spaces in a transformed Columbia Pike corridor.
A county staff report calls the construction of the plaza the "first step" in realizing the public space goals set out in a 2005 revitalization plan for the corridor.
The plaza will be situated on a 17,360-square-foot parcel at 2503 Columbia Pike. Penrose Square Associates, the developer of the new apartment complex in that area with the same name, gave the land to the county in May.
The plaza will include a fountain, a tree-covered terrace with tables and chairs, a commissioned piece of public art, and a grass mound for "informal seating."
The county board awarded a $1.6 million contract to Rockville, Md.-based Meridian Construction Co. for construction of the plaza.
The board also awarded $425,000 to California-based sculptor Richard Deutsch for the creation of the public artwork for the site -- a two-piece sculpture called Echo.
Echo is described in a county staff report as being made up of two granite monoliths, 30 feet apart, each with a parabola carved into it. A person at one of the monoliths will be able to speak into it and be heard by someone at the other, according to the staff report.
The sculpture was inspired by three radio attenaes, known as the "three sisters," that once towered nearby. The artwork is designed to highlight the role those antennaes played in the development of the United States' trans-Atlantic communication capability, the staff report states.
Jim Hurysz, a Green Party activist from Fairlington, called the plaza "extravagant even by Arlington's standards." He criticized the board for spending money on the plaza rather than forcing the developer to shoulder the burden. The public money would be better spent on Arlington's homeless or the library system, Hursyz said.
The public plaza is expected to cost the county about $88,000 to operate and maintain its first year, and about $101,000 annually after that.
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