After a multimillion dollar reconstruction process, the new 30,000-square-foot Walter Reed Community Center opened to Arlington residents on May 13.
"The Center is particularly well located to folks in south Arlington and is another complement to the palette of facilities we have," said Laura Lazour, Arlington County Community Recreation Division Chief.
THE NEW facility, one of 14 centers in Arlington, will house three different programs, according to Center Manager Ike Sneed. The first is the Department of Human Services (DHS) adult day care program. "It is designed to facilitate citizens with special needs. The program will have a low ratio of staff to participants," Sneed said.
The second program is an Office of Senior Adult Programs (OSAP) multipurpose senior center. "Hopefully it will attract seniors from throughout the county," he said. Last, there will be general recreation like elementary and teen after-school programs.
Sneed added that the senior center programs will begin in July, with the DHS program slated to kick off in August. For now, the facility is open for general recreation. The elementary after-school program just began, and residents are making use of the gymnasium.
"I used to go to the old center in elementary school," said Arlington resident Brandon Keene, 17, after playing basketball in the new gym. "This is my first time at the new center. I like the new basketball court the most, but everything is really nice."
Matt Hahn, 28, who did not use the old center, said, "It’s a great-looking facility and it’s a nice location. They’ve done a really nice job on the grounds with the landscaping."
Many programs at the Center are still being developed and implemented. The Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources is doing most of the planning, but residents are also having an input.
BY DESIGN, Sneed explained, the implementation of programs will be gradual. "You get more community connectivity when you do it slow. When you use the community it’s just a better, more transparent process," Sneed said.
He explained that getting the pulse of the community, and figuring out what types of services they’d like to see, would be important for starting the Center.
One unique aspect of the new Center will be the interaction between Arlington residents of different generations.
"What distinguishes it is that it is a senior center and adult day care center," Lazour said. "The value of that is easy transition for people as they age or as they need more therapy. It makes an environment where people can be integrated in the whole community and not isolated like we sometimes may isolate people who might be aging."
At various times of the day, different age groups will be interacting with each other. Sneed said that a moms' and tots' group will come together with seniors and do an intergenerational program.
Another distinctive feature is that the building received LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification for innovative and environmentally-friendly building design.
According to Sneed, the Center has wheat board walls constructed of sunflower seeds and walnut husks, cork flooring and a green roof that assists with runoff for the Chesapeake Bay runoff project, and which cools the building.
Said Lazour: "Most importantly the building keeps with the setting and creates an nice, open, calm environment."