Arlington Celebrates the Opening of John Robinson, Jr. Town Square – Official Site of Arlington County Virginia Government

Posted May 13, 2022

Arlington County is thrilled to announce the opening of John Robinson, Jr. Town Square, a community gathering and celebration of Green Valley’s rich cultural heritage.

Arlington County Council officially named Green Valley Town Square as John Robinson, Jr. Town Square as part of a grand opening celebration on Saturday, May 7, 2022, during a event which included a ribbon cutting, remarks from the county council, stories from the community and more.

“The John Robinson, Jr. Town Square realizes a vision for Green Valley that emerged from a community-led planning process and provides civic space that will accommodate a variety of uses and users through thoughtful design and inspiration from Walter Hood,” County Vice-President Christian Dorsey said. “Through the iconic RELEASED sculpture, we are encouraged to contemplate historical and contemporary struggles for freedom and equity while drawing inspiration from the square’s namesake, John Robinson Jr., whose life was dedicated to uplifting our black community.

John Robinson, Jr. Town Square was developed as the anchor of the Village Center, in conjunction with the Four Mile Run Valley initiative. Its features and enhancements include an open space and plaza, public art, an outdoor stage, neighborhood history and community information, sidewalks and pedestrian enhancements, and seating and tables.

The space was designed by an award-winning landscape architect and artist Walter Hood. Hood’s design was inspired by the history and community of Green Valley.

For five years, Hood and Arlington County staff engaged residents and community leaders in the design process, including the Green Valley Civic Association (GVCA).

“I want to personally thank the people of Green Valley for their kindness and support throughout the project,” said Walter Hood. “I have come to admire your tenacity and commitment to telling your own story and supporting local stories and the future of the community, starting with the name of the space, John Robinson, Jr. Town Square.”

Hood was particularly influenced by the neighborhood’s historic ties to Freedman’s Village, a community of runaway slaves and free people established at the end of the Civil War on property that later became home to the Pentagon and the cemetery of ‘Arlington.

Former Freedman’s Village residents who remained in the area still populated many of Arlington County’s traditionally African-American neighborhoods, including Arlington View, Halls Hill, and Green Valley.

AFTER: Remembering Arlington’s Freedman’s Village

About the town square

John Robinson, Jr. Town Square is comprised of a set of diagonal walkways laid over a grid of streets creating a venue that allows for a variety of community programs including markets, festivals and daily recreation, a desired key feature identified at meetings with the Green Valley Civic Association.

A shallow swale, or drainage path, includes a lush planting palette of native plants that treat site runoff. Along the banks of the rill, small flowering trees and benches are interspersed, allowing quiet places to sit.

The change in level of the site delimits a lawn with stepping stones on one side and a widened sidewalk with planters of bioretention trees on the other. A plaza with a stage overlooks a grove of river birches.

About the FREED sculpture

The main design feature of the Town Square is the RELEASED sculpture, a 9 meter high lighthouse that pays homage to the notion of freedom. Each letter in the gold carving incorporates laser-cut designs with the name of a historic Green Valley subdivision and a Ghanaian Adinkra symbol. Learn more about the Hood Studios website.

AFTER: Watch a timelapse of the installation of FREED

About the process

The county council adopted the name then Nauck Village Center Action Plan (NVCAP) on July 10, 2004, to guide public and private investment in the Green Valley Mall. Settled by free African Americans in 1844, the Green Valley neighborhood (formerly known as Nauck) is one of the oldest African American communities in Arlington.

The Arlington County Neighborhood Services Division (within the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development) is managing the project in partnership with the Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Environmental Services and Economic Development and Arlington Cultural Affairs.

The project is supported in part by a prize from the National Foundation for the Arts.

About John Robinson, Jr.

Arlington-born John Robinson, Jr. (1934-2010) was a community activist who fought for decades against racial injustice and inequality in Northern Virginia. Robinson released the Green Valley News, a free African-American publication that has circulated in Green Valley for more than 45 years. Robinson also founded and ran the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in the neighborhood and organized food, clothing, and furniture drives for local families. Over the years it has opened its doors to hundreds of homeless people.

Robinson was widely recognized for his community activism and was often referred to as the “Mayor of Green Valley”. In November 2020, the County Board approved the naming of the town square in Green Valley as John Robinson, Jr. Town Square.

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