Arlington County, Virginia News

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Contact:Mary Curtius 703-228-7943 (voice) 703-228-4611(TTY)

Arlington County Board Approves Cultural Center

Arts showcase to bring more evening, weekend activity to Rosslyn

Note: this release was revised and updated Thursday, July 16, 2009.

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Arlington County Board today approved plans to transform the former Newseum site in Rosslyn into a cultural center that will showcase the arts in Arlington and spur redevelopment by hosting a vibrant mix of year-round performances, exhibits and events.

“In little more than a year, we will have an exciting arts venue in the heart of Rosslyn that will be a boon to that neighborhood, to the entire County and to the region,” said Board Chairman Barbara Favola. “The combination of free rent for more than 15 years and the partnership with the Rosslyn Business Improvement District made it possible for the County to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity. This is one of the most exciting accomplishments I have been part of in my 12 years on the Board.”

County secured free rent worth up to $15.2 million

The value of the free rent is estimated to be between $14.3 and $15.2 million. The Board cited the ability to acquire this unique and highly visible space rent-free as the compelling reason for reallocating resources to move forward with the Cultural Center.

County officials stressed that no new tax support is needed to fund the cultural center’s operating costs. Funding will come from dollars currently allocated to cultural service programs. 

“Re-directing our existing Cultural Affairs resources to the Cultural Center provides the best return for the constrained resources that are available,” said County Manager Ron Carlee.

Capital project funds are also being reallocated for the center.

Board incorporated financial safeguards

As part of its action, the Board adopted two motions, put forward by Board Member Mary Hynes, related to the financial aspects of the Cultural Center. The first motion requires the County Manager to report to the Board each September on:

  • County funds spent on the Cultural Center
  • Extent to which the business goals have been met or exceeded
  • Economic activity and vitality in Rosslyn, and how it is changing, using Fiscal Year 2010 as a baseline

The second motion directs the County Manager to recommend, as part of the FY2011 budget, amendments to the County's financial policies to establish funding targets for pay-go, the County's capital improvement funding mechanism. The targets will drive systematic reinvestment in the County's infrastructure.

The center is expected to open in fall 2010. The County plans to achieve silver certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)  program for its renovation of the former Newseum site’s interior.

Center expected to attract 250,000 visitors annually

By its third year of operation, the center’s diverse regional and international arts and cultural offerings are expected to attract some 250,000 visitors annually. Easily accessible from the Rosslyn Metro station, the venue is expected to boost economic activity in Rosslyn by an estimated $10 million annually.

Center includes multiple spaces for performing arts, exhibits, other activities

The 53,000-square foot center will include two performing arts spaces, an exhibition gallery, a ballroom, restaurant and retail space. It will be open seven days a week, 12 hours a day, and host more than 100 events each month. The County will partner with the Washington Shakespeare Company, Synetic Theatre, Bowen McCauley Dance and other Arlington arts groups and for-profit entities to provide programming. The center also will house the visual arts exhibition program previously located at the Ellipse building in Ballston.

Rosslyn BID, Rosslyn Renaissance welcome partnership

“The Rosslyn BID and Rosslyn Renaissance see this vote as another exciting step in Rosslyn's future,” said Cecilia Cassidy, executive director of the Rosslyn BID. “We believe that the Cultural Center will serve the needs of the Arlington County's community, arts groups, and businesses by attracting patrons from across the Metro area. The Rosslyn BID is proud to partner with the County to support this endeavor. “

Initially, the County will jointly manage and market the cultural center and the Rosslyn Spectrum. The County plans to create a non-profit organization within three years to manage the center. Operating costs for the center are projected to be $3.2 million for the first full year of operation, with $1.8 million offset by earned income. No new funds will be appropriated to cover the operating costs. Instead, the County plans to reallocate existing funds from the County’s Cultural Arts Division to cover 23 percent of the projected operating costs. The rest of the operating costs will be paid for by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, earned income and sponsorship and grants.

For further details on the plan, including a detailed account of proposed funding, visit the County’s Web site.


The County Board approved the lease in November 2008 for 53,826 square feet of space in the former Newseum, at 1101 Wilson Blvd.  County staff then conducted a comprehensive review of the proposal and hired Webb Management Services, Inc. to review and refine the business plan, including projected operating and capital budgets.

Staff then negotiated an amendment to the lease, winning the landlord’s agreement to double the value of the abated rent for use of the space as a cultural center. Details of the proposed project were reviewed with the Arts Commission, Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, Economic Development Commission sub-committee and other stakeholder groups.

Arlington, Va., is a world-class residential, business and tourist location that was originally part of the "10 miles square" parcel of land surveyed in 1791 to be the Nation's Capital. It is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the United States, occupying slightly less than 26 square miles. Arlington maintains a rich variety of stable neighborhoods, quality schools and enlightened land use, and received the Environmental Protection Agency's highest award for "Smart Growth" in 2002. Home to some of the most influential organizations in the world - including the Pentagon - Arlington stands out as one of America's preeminent places to live, visit and do business.

Last Modified: August 16, 2010
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