0
Votes

Stalled Projects

Opening of New Shirlington Library, Signature Theatre Homes Delayed

The Signature Theatre’s full use of its under-construction new theaters will be delayed by five months. A move of the Shirlington branch library into larger quarters has also been delayed by at least six weeks.

Both Signature and the Shirlington branch will ultimately move into a building under construction at South Stafford Street. This street is under construction at the end of South 28th Street.

Arlington County, one of the partners in the building’s construction, originally anticipated the building would open this spring.

However, the anticipated completion date has been pushed back to mid-October, according to the Signature Theatre.

“As often happens with projects of this magnitude, there have been construction delays,” said Eric Schaeffer, artistic director for the Signature Theatre.

“Of course it’s frustrating and disappointing, but it’s not something we can control,” Schaeffer said. “But a year from now we’ll all be saying ‘What was the big deal?’ because the new building will definitely be worth the wait.”

Completion of the project has been delayed by the redesign of the project, the discovery of contaminated soil and construction material and labor shortages, the county said.

The shortages of construction labor and materials are due to the area’s construction boom and resources being applied to the area affected by Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. “This is the busiest time for construction in Arlington ever,” said Hunter Moore, Arlington County development specialist.

The theatre was going to present Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” as its first production in the new space. Schaeffer was planning a “spectacular site-specific production” of this work. With the new space not going to be available in September, the theatre has decided to start the fall season instead with Alan Jay Lerner’s “My Fair Lady.”

This play will open on Sept. 26 at the current space at 3806 Four Mile Run Drive in Arlington. The theatre staff will move to the new building on Oct. 16.

“Into the Woods” will open in the MAX Theatre of the new building on Jan. 12, 2007.

Also delayed is the new location for the Shirlington branch library, to be located on the first floor of the building.

Currently, the branch has a temporary home at the Village at Shirlington.

Whereas the current branch has 4,900 square feet, the new branch will have 15,000 square feet, said Susan McCarthy, library project manager for the Arlington Public Library. The new branch will have 26 computers, compared to seven at the old site.

The library’s collection of books, books on compact discs, and DVDs will also grow, McCarthy said.

“We’re really excited about the fact we’re having a new library open,” McCarthy said.

It will have a multipurpose meeting room that will seat up to 75 people, and have walls that open into the library, McCarthy said.

“The new programming space will be terrific,” McCarthy said. Currently, “the central library is the only Arlington library with designated meeting room space.”

Meanwhile the project’s cost is going up. “When the board approved this project in July, 2004, it included a base contract plus contingencies for a total cost of up to $17,695,000,” Moore said. “We are working hard to control the costs of this project and to keep it within that amount.... We will have a firm handle on total costs by the end of the year.”

Phase I of the Village of Shirlington development already exists as a mixed-use urban area. Arlington County and Federal Realty Investment Trust are working to move ahead with Phase II, with the Signature Theatre/Shirlington Library being this phase’s anchor. Surrounding this building will be a 10,000 square foot public plaza, more than 50,000 square feet of retail space, a new hotel, an office/retail building and a second garage, according to Helen Curtis, Arlington County spokesperson.