By elizabeth Sheehy
With the Lyon Park Community Center centennial approaching, it’s time to look back at the building’s history, focusing this month on its recent renovation.
From its start in 1924, the LPCH has been owned and operated by the community, independent of Arlington County governance. Funds to build the center were raised by the local neighborhood, and eighty years later, facing an aging infrastructure, the community came together to research, design, and fund a renovation worthy of another century of community gathering.
The renovation’s initial focus was making the bathrooms wheelchair accessible, and to repair chronic plumbing problems. A comprehensive Capital Improvement Plan was compiled, outlining issues facing both the building and the park, including structural concerns and needed safety upgrades, in addition to ensuring Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility compliance.
There was vigorous debate—at times, contentious—over the next few years on how best to resolve these issues. In 2009, the Renovation Steering Committee was formed, representing a broad cross-section of the community, to manage the process of developing new plans through consensus, and with maximum community input. For the next six months, a group of volunteers met every Monday, forming sub-committees to research building usage, repair needs, historic characteristics, and other information needed to enlighten the decision-making. In July, the BOG facilitated a Community Pre-Design Workshop to solicit ideas, and in October held a well-attended Community Design Workshop, supporting hands-on community participation in partnership with the architects, Laboratory for Architecture and Building.
The final price tag was $1 million, a daunting figure. Keeping most historic features from the original 1925 building intact, the renovated building has modern ADA bathrooms, an upgraded kitchen, and a sunroom, which beautifully integrates the Community House and park, while increasing the building’s capacity by 50 percent. Fundraising occupied the next few years, and the building renovation was completed in 2015.
In September 2019, the loan on the Community House was paid off, thanks to the hard work of the fundraising team. This proved fortuitous, as rental operations came to a halt in March 2020, stressing the operating budget. Now that we are back to “normal,” it is easy to ignore our own responsibility, as residents of Lyon Park, for the care and upkeep of the Community House and its surrounding park. If we want future generations to enjoy these unique assets, we must embrace our responsibility to support the LPCH.
Please join your neighbors at the first (in a long time) Lyon Park Community Center meeting for more information about the past, present, and future of Lyon Park.