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Apartment Development Approval Deferred

by Katie Pyzyk — February 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm 1,033 32 Comments

New site plan for Pierce Queen ApartmentsApproval for a high rise development in the Ft. Myer Heights neighborhood has been put on hold until the County Board receives more information about the plan.

Bozzuto Development Company had submitted a proposal for a large scale project in the 1600 block of N. 16th Street. It would involve redeveloping the five buildings that make up Pierce Queen Apartments; three of the buildings would be razed and replaced with a new 12-story apartment tower, and the other two buildings would be preserved and renovated. In total, the buildings would house more than 190 units.

The county’s Site Plan Review Committee raised several issues with the proposal during a January meeting. Problem areas included the proposed building bulk, lack of open space, above-grade parking, proposed locations of electrical switchboxes and the lack of a public art contribution. Additionally, concerns arose regarding the applicant’s request for Affordable Housing Investment Funds (AHIF) for the 76 affordable units and the anticipated request for competitive Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA).

Earlier this month, the developer submitted a revised proposal that addressed a number of the issues. The developer has agreed to measures such as installing public art, eliminating above-grade parking and re-designing an interior courtyard. However, the AHIF concerns remain a sticking point.

The staff report says the developer didn’t propose a potential Tenant Assistance Fund and no affordability commitment period had been submitted. Staff also reported that no official AHIF application had been received, but the developer is seeking a county investment ranging from $6 million to $9.5 million. The developer had presented a plan indicating each market unit would cost $365,000 to develop and the affordable units would each cost $455,000 to develop. That exceeds the VHDA development cost limit of $350,000 per unit, although sometimes exceptions can be made. Concerns also exist in the way the developer plans to repay the AHIF and the time frame for doing so.

Existing Pierce Queen ApartmentsCounty staff recommended deferring the issue until May but the Board voted unanimously to defer until March 11. That date was chosen in an attempt to approve the plan before the March 15 tax credit application deadline. Board members mentioned the unusual circumstances, but stressed that there’s no guarantee the plan would receive approval in time. The applicant still must prove that all contingencies have been adequately met.

“If this is going to work it’s going to have to be all hands on deck working really hard,” said Board member Jay Fisette. “I hope we can get there.”

Although there’s a push to get the proposal handled quickly, Board member Mary Hynes highlighted the need to still be thorough. Because the process has been so rushed to meet the deadline, she said everyone from Board members to county staff working on the matter are still fuzzy on how the specifics will work out. Board members aren’t interested in moving forward, regardless of tax credit deadlines, if the plan isn’t solid.

“We don’t have a clear understanding of how all the bits and pieces are going to fit together. It’s important for us on the Board that our staff is confident,” said Hynes. “Doing affordable housing in new construction is expensive. And doing it on the Metro is even more expensive. We have to do a lot of due diligence around this to make sure the taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollars. I think we need to give this enough time to be sure.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/greg.jones.33633344 Greg Jones

    What is a “public art contribution”?

    • novasteve

      Bribe

      • acdc hack

        Try homage….it sounds so much more pleasant !!

    • S. Holl

      It’s some art that the developer has to donate to brighten up the area around the building, since the new building is so banal.

    • speonjosh

      In general, I think cities require public art contributions because public art is perceived to be beneficial – it enlivens the streetscape, perhaps provides a sense of place, etc.

      Of course, any public art will have numerous critics. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that…..

    • More Art

      Each development that is not “by right” and has to ask for something from the county such as rezoning, extra density, site plan approval, etc., has to contribute $75,000 to the fund. The developer gets a heck of a lot more in return from the county. The increased density being handed out by the county is worth bazillions. Of course the main purpose for increasing density is to increase real estate taxes from those properties to try to sustain the board’s spending habits.

      There ought to be a “park contribution” too.

      • speonjosh

        What is the logic of “the main purpose for increasing density is to increase real estate taxes
        from those properties to try to sustain the board’s spending habits”?

        Are you saying the board members have some sort of compulsion to spend money? It’s a disorder or something?

  • kalashnikev

    I hope they scrap this disaster.

  • RosslynHillstoomany

    these new “luxury” apartment buildings and condos lack originality in the design.

    • speonjosh

      What would “originality in the design” look like?

      • Froyo2go

        it looks just like that building in Arlington.

  • JP

    Hopefully, they’ll low the number of affordable housing unit in the project. Since the so-called mixed-income vPoint apartment building in Clarendon open last fall, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of delinquents just hanging in the Clarendon-Courthouse area.

    • ph7

      What makes them deliquents? The fact that they are hanging? ‘Cause I see lots of people just hanging in Clarendon and Courthouse.

      • kalashnikev

        Do you see the ones that are… out of place? That’s the difference between loitering and hanging out.

        • drax

          Well, no, that’s not the rule of law difference. Maybe it’s the fascist one.

          • Josh S

            kev plays a game like half life and gets frustrated that you have to keep shooting the “good guys”……

      • Ben

        Other than using profanity in public, harassing folks around the Clarendon and Courthouse metro, and in one specific incident destroying public property, these transfers from PG and DC delinquents are a welcome addition to Clarendon. As a taxpayer, I’m glad to support their housing requirements-NOT. Since Clarendon is turning into DC, 30 somethings are now moving to the Hill and U Street and the County Board really isn’t interested in keeping them around.

    • speonjosh

      What does one have to do with the other? Are you saying that your anecdotal observations about “deliniquents” (however you define that) – you are saying those people live in the vPoint building? Really? Where is your proof? Or even evidence?

  • John Fontain

    “The developer had presented a plan indicating each market unit would
    cost $365,000 to develop and the affordable units would each cost
    $455,000 to develop.”

    The affordable units are more expensive to build than the non-affordable units? LOL.

    • Paul

      Yeah, I’m trying to figure that one out.

    • confused

      I assume the affordable units are larger? More designed for families?

      • kalashnikev

        It’s probably because they come kitted out with a flatscreen and a Playstation 4 so they don’t get bored sitting on the couch all day and collecting benefits.

    • speonjosh

      Maybe they are mixing apples and oranges? The affordable unit “cost” includes a lower profit?

  • vc

    The County would be violating their own rules regarding the height limits as step down from Clarendon Blvd. The developer is pulling a fast one to get approval.

    • Hi Riser

      They make em; they can break em. In December the Board approved a tower at the Bergmanns Cleaners site of 12 stories (1 walkout, 10 apts, 1 top floor amenities) where the Master Plan they approved calls for only 5-6 stories and came with a promise to residents along Lee Highway to keep the tall bldgs along the Metro corridor. The Board even came up with the weasel words to help the developer justify it.

      With the existing tall bldgs up the big hill and the Pierce Apts at the bottom of the hill, I’d be surprised if they didn’t pile on more stories before this gets approved. They can say that makes it “read” as a shorter building.

  • Id

    That’s right — leave it to the County Board to strong arm art and affordable housing from the developer. And you wonder why the school population is exploding in the Arlington School District.

  • High Riser

    This project obviously doesn’t have enough density for the board to approve. The
    developer should put in a grocery–it’s exempted from calculations. Show 3-4 tables on the sidewalk and you have “placemaking” which earns more density. Replace the 2 historic bldgs with another tower (name that tower after the historic bldg). The “problem” with the project’s green space is that it has some; get rid of it. For more floors, don’t start counting until you are above the grocery and above the “lobby floor.” Get a waiver on density and height by borrowing language from the Bergmann site plan. Add a statement saying, “Since it’s at the bottom of a hill, the towers “read” as 4 story bldgs.” Say it’s a “unique site.” Make copius use of these words: “vibrant,” “walkability,” “sustainable,” “connections,” “bike path,” “bicycle rack,” “affordable housing,” and “green.” To really pack in the density, mention the word “day care center” and say you are looking into one. That ought to be worth another floor of apartments on each tower. With such a unique site and so many desirable words and features, Bozzuto should expect to double what is now planned.

    • kalashnikev

      “Since it’s at the bottom of a hill, the towers “read” as 4 story bldgs”

      Actually they “Read” as being in between my window and the Capitol Skyline. And I’m supposed to pay the rent too? Unacceptable.

      • High Riser

        If the towers are high enough, they might give your apartment some nice shade from the morning sun. That would be a feature for which your landlord should charge you at lease renewal along with a premium for the close by retail that Bozzuto will add to get those higher floors approved.

    • speonjosh

      Cynic – one who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.

  • Sunny Bono

    Remember one thing here,

    The Arlington County Board (ACB) has mandated that 100% of developments must accomodate for affordable housing.

    So, when you drive by a development, especially the premium developments on the metro line, remember the statement above that creates subsized apartments for people charged to the county at a premium to get the developers to play along. The affordable housing budget is $45 million per year. There is a puff piece video about Arlington County’s Affordable housing where Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman stating “affordable housing is about the people, not the buildings”. Two years later he is underfire for ethical concerns providing sole source contracts with developers not vetted by anybody but him. The ACB likes to spin away from the ulterior motives of untransparently approving landuse programs the community has no idea is going on. They keep the community out of the know because they can’t rationalize taking from tax payers to subsized people’s housing, it goes against supporting the middle class, he could care less, he wants to destroy the middle class. Thats a little crazy don’t you think?

  • MadisonBallstonStationTenant

    I moved into building B (the new building) of the Madison at Ballston Station two months ago. I was initially excited about the building being new construction, and since it was relatively expensive (market rate for my 1br 1ba unit is $1900), I expected that there would have been a reasonable amount of attention to detail in the construction of the building. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The building seems to have been built as quickly and as inexpensively as possible. Everything you see during the tour of the building looks nice and new, but after living here for about a week I realized I’d been duped. Leasing offices after all serve only the purpose of peddling apartments for as much money as someone is willing to pay, and they obviously rarely serve the interest of the tenant/prospective tenant. The Madison’s leasing office is no different in that sense. I will give them credit for always being friendly and polite, but when the same people assured me that sound between/above apartments wouldn’t be an issue, their friendliness doesn’t mean a lot. I should have done better due diligence, but unfortunately there weren’t many reviews on the new Madison building. Here are the pros and cons I’ve observed in my two months here, and hopefully this honest review will provide others some of the information I could have used before signing a lease here.

    Pros:
    - The gym is pretty nice and well maintained with new equipment, and there is usually an adequate amount of machinery to accommodate residents. However, new residents seem to be moving in daily and the gym is increasingly crowded. I was told that the building was only at 40% occupancy when I moved in, so I imagine that the gym won’t be able to accommodate everyone in the near future.

    - There are two communal grills outside, which are nice. Sometimes the propane hasn’t been replaced for days when it runs out, which can be frustrating. The Madison is also too cheap to provide any sort of grilling utensils, so you have to bring down your own.

    - I had some maintenance issues immediately upon moving in and they were quickly addressed. The maintenance guy, Mike, also put on a new shower head for me and he was helpful and nice about it. Unfortunately, when I wanted more than 10-15 minutes of hot water and discovered that the hot water ran out after 10-15 minutes, he was the first to tell me that the hot water issue is one of their most common complaints and the hot water heaters in the units provide no more than 15 minutes of hot water. I’ve lived in far less expensive places where you can get more than 15 minutes of hot water before it becomes ice cold. For one person to shower, it might not be the end of the world, but when my girlfriend and I need to get ready around the same time, we literally have to time out taking 5-7 minute showers to avoid ice cold water.

    - The pool looks okay, but it’s covered for the winter, so I haven’t been able to use it and I’m not sure about the policy of bringing guests. I’ve heard their policy is obnoxious and they charge money to bring guests, but I don’t know that for certain.

    - The square footage of the 1 bedroom apartments seems to be larger than the standard 1 bedroom apartments right on the metro corridor. The Madison at “Ballston Station” is also 1 mile exactly from “Ballston Station”. For people who don’t know that before signing a lease, I feel sorry for you, because it isn’t too difficult to map the distance from the building to the station. It is still however an obnoxious marketing ploy for the building to have the name it does.

    - There is ample parking in the garage below the building, but it costs $50/month for the first car and $100/month for the second. There is also free street parking available, but it can be difficult to find a spot depending on what time of day/night you’re looking.

    Cons:
    - MAXIMUM of 10-15 minutes of hot water. For the price you pay to live here, the water heater shouldn’t top out at 10-15 minutes. It’s nice that the maintenance guy acknowledges that this is ridiculous, but it doesn’t make matters much better.

    - Utility bills are higher than anywhere I’ve lived before. This is the first time I’ve lived in Arlington, but I’ve lived in DC for 7 years and I’ve lived in Fairfax before, and haven’t had such high utility bills for a 1br 1ba ever before. Water/sewage has been $50/month and electricity has been $130/month. I haven’t turned on the heat once since I’ve lived here because the apartment seems to always stay at about 70 degrees from the heat in the hallway. I am very conscious of my energy and water consumption and when I called the utility companies, I was reassured that my usage was well below average. Either the apartments are incredibly energy inefficient, or water and electricity have become twice as expensive recently.

    - Water collects on the poorly constructed balcony. Water pools on the balcony when there is even a little rain and it stays there for days making it unusable.

    - 1 mile to metro. Aside from the distance to the metro, there is a general feel of a lack of accessibility living here. There isn’t much desirable in walking distance in terms of food or entertainment. There are a couple of bus lines that pick up right by the building, which I hear are convenient, but they don’t run late on the weekend, so if you want to take the metro into DC, you probably want to cab to the metro station or straight downtown. I drive to work, so this isn’t a huge issue for me, but for some it might be more frustrating.

    - The name of the complex being “The Madison at Ballston Station.” I feel that this in itself is absolutely obnoxious, as the building is a solid mile to the nearest metro station. I apologize for being redundant, but there are many places far closer to the metro that don’t have “at Ballston Station” in the apartment name when the building is clearly NOT “at Ballston Station.”

    - Noise from above/below the apartments is UNBELIEVABLE. I’ve lived in about ten different apartments, many being far less expensive that the Madison, but I’ve never lived somewhere with zero attempt to provide any sort of sound proofing or sound mitigation between apartments or floors. If I’m in my bathroom, I can hear the tenant above me peeing into the toilet very clearly. I can hear coughs, footsteps, closing of cabinets, water running, cooking, vacuuming, even the milk pump being run to feed the disgusting child that lives above me, as well as the dogs above me that make plenty of noise. The constantly pounding footsteps from the apartment above me are so loud that they actually cause the lights in the recessed lighting to shake. Note that the leasing agents/property manager will assure you that noise isn’t an issue in this building. Of course it isn’t.

    - Residents don’t clean up after their dogs. The grounds are littered with dog feces. There are free dog waste bags provided and several trash cans specifically for dog poop around the property, which I applaud, but nobody seems to feel the need to clean up after their pet. It is disgusting, especially when you walk to your car and end up stepping in something that someone else didn’t bother cleaning up.

    - Residents have obnoxiously loud dogs that bark incessantly. There isn’t much more to say about this point. It sucks and it is what it is. There are dogs allowed on the 2nd and 3rd floors of building B. It might be better on the 1st or 4th floors, but I doubt it because there is no sound proofing whatsoever.

    - Some residents pay substantially lower rent than market rate, and even get a free garage parking space. Arlington mandates that a certain portion of apartments in the building are set aside for low income tenants, so individuals that can’t otherwise afford to live at the Madison, can in fact live at the Madison and enjoy the same amenities that you pay substantially more for. Again, this is among the only issues that isn’t the building’s fault, but I’m personally not a fan of the concept. If I benefited from it, I’ll admit that might be different, but it is what it is.

    This is about all I can think of at the moment. I hope this helps you decide to live here or more likely not live here. Note that my rent per month is about $1600/month because I was given 2 months free off the “market rate” of about $1900, which is pro rated across the 12 month lease. I’m not sure if that special is still available. The fact that the construction was completed in May ’12 and in December 12 they were still offering 2 months free on a 12 month lease should tell you something.

    Read more: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/VA-Arlington-The-Madison-at-Ballston-Station-1610154.html#ixzz2Ms65eIxc

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