A new apartment complex celebrated its grand opening in Clarendon yesterday. Formerly known as the Views at Clarendon, the vPoint apartment building is being touted as an eco-friendly residence that’s bringing additional subsidized affordable housing to the Clarendon area.
The eight-story complex, developed with financial assistance from Arlington County and the Virginia Housing Development Authority, sits above the Church at Clarendon, which recently celebrated its re-opening. An adjoining building houses the county’s largest daycare center.
The development contains 46 market rate apartments, and 70 affordable housing units. The units, which the developer calls “boutique apartments,” range from studios to three bedrooms. According to the complex’s website, prices run from $2,125 per month to $3,170 per month, with affordable units going for 60 percent of the cost to those who qualify.
Environmentally conscious features such as a carpool drop off area, Energy Star appliances, dual flush toilets and Green Label Plus carpet are expected to earn the building a LEED Silver certification.
A grand opening celebration yesterday included remarks from state Senator Barbara Favola and Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Walter Tejada.
Faith-Based Advocates Seek More Affordable Housing — A coalition of local churches and community advocates is asking Arlington County to quadruple the amount of tax support it devotes to affordable housing. At a large gathering on Saturday, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) also expressed support for Arlington refocusing its affordable housing efforts to benefit those in the lowest income brackets. [Sun Gazette]
New Metrobus Service Coming — To help make up for a forthcoming service change that will mean six additional minutes of waiting time for trains between the Pentagon and Rosslyn, Metro is expanding bus service between Crystal City and Rosslyn. [Dr. Gridlock]
Freeze Watch Tonight — The National Weather Service has issued a freeze watch for tonight. Gardeners should take extra precautions to protect plants should temperatures dip below 32 degrees as forecast. [Capital Weather Gang]
Arlington Educators Honored — Updated at 10:10 a.m. – Patrick Henry Elementary School principal Dr. Lisa Piehota and Wakefield High School teacher Dr. Laurrell Wiersma have been named the Arlington Public Schools principal and teacher of the year. In addition, Drs. Piehota and Wiersma have been honored with the Distinguished Educational Leadership and Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher awards by the Washington Post. A total of 39 teachers and principals from throughout the region were honored by the Post.
Photo courtesy Derek Heiss
“‘Public land for public good’ is a battle cry making its way up the Arlington agenda,” writes Charlie Clark in his Our Man in Arlington column for the Falls Church News-Press.
The idea, Clark reports, is that existing county-owned land should be used to create affordable housing, reducing the cost of affordable developments by eliminating the need to purchase land from private landholders. Advocates say both unused and already-developed county-owned parcels could be utilized for affordable housing. For instance, an affordable apartment building could be built atop a surface parking lot or a fire station.
Do you support the idea of using county-owned land for affordable housing?
‘Housing 4 Hipsters’ Attracts a Crowd — Arlington’s inaugural “Housing 4 Hipsters” event attracted a crowd of about 100 young people Monday night, though it seems unlikely that any of the attendees were actually “hipsters” in the literal sense. [Washington City Paper]
ShoeFly to Close — Clarendon shoe store ShoeFly is closing up shop after 10 years in business. The store is planning on holding a going-out-of-business sale. [Washington Business Journal]
Va. Congressional Districts Approved — The U.S. Department of Justice has approved Virginia’s redrawn congressional districts, allowing the state’s congressional primaries to move ahead on time. The primaries are scheduled for June 12. [Office of the Attorney General]
‘Green Patriot’ Award Nominations — George Mason University is seeking nominations for its “Arlington Green Patriot” awards. The award “recognizes an individual, business or organization that exemplifies sustainability in more than one aspect of their recent life or operations to better civic life in Arlington.” An online nomination form is available. The deadline for nominations is March 30.
The original plan, as approved in 2009, was to take 48 units of the 140-apartment Buckingham Village 3 affordable housing community and sell them as condos to moderate-income households. Last night, that plan was officially scrapped after the Arlington County Board was told that the condos would be a tough sell.
Buckingham Village 3, a series of 16 low-rise apartment buildings along the 300 block of block of N. George Mason Drive, was purchased by the county for $34.5 million in March 2009 as part of its ongoing effort to increase the supply of committed affordable housing in Arlington.
The initial goal for the community was to renovate the buildings, lease 92 apartments to households earning below 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), and sell the remaining 48 units to households making 60 to 80 percent AMI. The condo component was part of a county initiative to increase home ownership among moderate income households.
The condo plan, however, eventually became the victim of grim market realities, according to a staff report. As determined by two market studies commissioned at the request of the county, selling the condos to households in the target income range would have required “significant price reductions” due in part to the onerous affordability restrictions that would come with such a purchase. Also hurting sales: the difficulty in securing a mortgage for households in the income range. In the end, the market research suggested it could have taken up to four years to sell all 48 units, with a county subsidy of nearly $230,000 per unit.
Last night, the County Board reluctantly but unanimously voted to keep the 48 would-be condos as committed affordable rental apartments.
“This is not the outcome the Board had hoped for when we set this project in motion in 2009,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement. “However, the Board’s action today ensures that these 48 Buckingham 3 units will be preserved as affordable rentals for decades to come.”
The Board also directed staff to find new ways to help lower-income residents to buy a home.
“We also have given staff clear direction to devise a funding strategy to help qualified, low- and moderate-income, first-time vested Buckingham home buyers the chance to buy — either in the Buckingham neighborhood, or elsewhere in Arlington,” Hynes said.
Lyon Park Community House Plan Approved — A permit to expand and renovate the historic Lyon Park Community Center was approved on Saturday by the Arlington County Board. The planned changes to the house, owned by the private Lyon Park Citizens Association, includes an updated kitchen and a new sunroom. [Arlington County]
Pike Affordable Housing Project Approved — Also on Saturday, the County Board approved up to $6 million worth of lending to local nonprofit developer AHC Inc. to build a new 83-unit affordable housing complex. The building will replace a Shell gas station along Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike. [Arlington County]
Hall’s Hill Cemetery Wins Historic Status — The County Board has voted to grant historic status to an African American cemetery in the Hall’s Hill and High View Park areas of Arlington. The small cemetery plot was the final resting place for about 100 residents, who were buried between 1891 and 1959. [Sun Gazette]
Last Day for Special Election Registration — Today is the last day to register to vote or update your address for the March 27 County Board Special Election. Contenders in the race to replace former County Board member (and current state Senator) Barbara Favola include Libby Garvey (D), Mark Kelly (R) and Audrey Clement (G).
Flickr pool photo by Allee574
This event is aimed at young professionals and those who employ young professionals. According to Doug Myrick with the county’s Housing Division, the goal is to show young people the many forms of housing assistance that are available. He stresses it’s not reserved just for those in low income brackets.
“We want people to understand there is housing assistance available across a wide range of incomes,” Myrick said. “When people see government assistance, they often think it must be for low income or they won’t qualify.”
Myrick said there are 6,500 units in Arlington that qualify for a rent price based on an individual’s income. There are also income-based deals available on mortgages with lower interest rates, in addition to money lending programs to help with down payment and closing costs.
Attendees can expect a casual, happy hour atmosphere where representatives from county and state housing agencies will be on hand to chat and give advice. Representatives from three mortgage lenders will also be available for assistance.
The event will be held on March 12 at Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill (2424 Wilson Blvd) from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Free food will be provided and $2,000 worth of door prizes, such as Redskins tickets and interior design services, will be given away.
This is the first event of its kind in Arlington, but the county hopes to hold one each quarter in different neighborhoods throughout the region. It is not necessary to currently live in Arlington in order to qualify for assistance, simply to want to move to the county.
The Housing 4 Hipsters event is free and no registration is required. For additional information, contact Doug Myrick at 703-228-3786 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After two nomadic years, the congregation of The Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) is getting ready to return to their newly-renovated church sanctuary.
Since construction began in late 2009, the congregation has been meeting in venues like Rosslyn’s Top of the Town conference facility and at the First Baptist Church of Ballston. Starting on March 4, they’ll be back home.
Rev. David Perdue, the church’s Interim Senior Pastor, says he’s hoping to not only welcome back those who have stuck with the church through the construction, but to attract new, younger worshipers who might have moved to the area in the intervening years.
“We’re reintroducing ourselves to the community,” Rev. Perdue said. “We’re prepared to receive visitors and let them know: this is who we are.”
The journey to the church’s upcoming homecoming, however, has been a bumpy one. Founded in 1909 as the Clarendon Baptist Church, the church had its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, when up to 2,000 congregants would pack the pews for Sunday services.
The congregation started to wane in the 1970s, and by the 2002 Sunday attendance was consistently dipping below 100. Faced with an aging congregation, a large, aging building, costly needed repairs and utility bills that exceeded $100,000 per year, church leaders took bold action. They hired Rev. Perdue, who formed a younger, more contemporary congregation to supplement the older, traditional congregation, and then struck a deal with Arlington County and a nonprofit developer.
The church sold its “air rights” to the developer for $5.6 million. The developer, in turn, would build an eight-story affordable apartment building — to be called “The Views at Clarendon” — while renovating the two story church below it. It seemed like a win-win: 70 affordable apartments would be added to the Clarendon area (in addition to 46 market-rate apartments), while the church was saved from potential financial ruin.
Management Change at Hotel Palomar — After being sold for some $45 million, Rosslyn’s upscale Hotel Palomar (1121 19th Street N.) will be changing management companies. Effective Feb. 22, Kimpton Hotels will no longer manage the property. Instead, it will be managed in partnership with Starwood Hotels and Le Meridien. [Hotel Palomar]
Legal Advertising Bill Fails in Richmond – A bill that would have lifted the requirement that Virginia localities place legal notices in newspapers has failed in the General Assembly. The bill could have saved localities thousands of dollars per year. Most of Arlington County’s legal advertising is placed in the Washington Times. [Sun Gazette]
Candidates Answer Affordable Housing Questions — The three candidates for Arlington County Board have each answered three questions about affordable housing in the county. Their answers have been published verbatim, in PDF format, by an Arlington-focused affordable housing advocacy group. [Alliance for Housing Solutions]
Will Kahlo Photos Give a Boost to Artisphere? — County officials are hoping that a month-long exhibit of the personal photos of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, which opens on Feb. 23, will help draw crowds and positive attention to the struggling Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn. [Sun Gazette]
Donnellan outlined her proposed FY 2013 budget at a work session with the County Board last night.
While the budget largely seeks to maintain existing services at current levels, it includes four key areas of increased spending: affordable housing, county employee compensation, restoration of branch library hours and Arlington Public Schools.
Library hours will be restored under the proposed budget, at a cost of $0.4 million, after being cut in Financial Years 2010 and 2011. Employee compensation will increase with merit-based raises and an increase in the county’s living wage rate from $12.75/hour to $13.13/hour. Housing will see a $1.8 million increase under the budget, which includes $0.5 million to restore lost federal funding, along with a $1.3 million hike in the county’s yearly affordable housing investment.
The budget also includes a steep $18.3 million increase in the transfer to Arlington Public Schools, which has been struggling to keep up with rising enrollment. The school transfer would total $397 million under the proposed budget. All told, the budget includes a 1.6 percent increase in funding for county operations — less than the current rate of inflation — and a 4.8 percent increase in school funding.
The increased spending will be mostly paid for by the 6.6 percent increase in real estate assessments, which will produce higher tax revenues. Another $1.5 million will be generated through Donnellan’s proposed 0.5 cent tax rate increase. Additional revenue will be brought in by a 3.4 percent increase in water and sewer service charges. The tax and fee burden on the average Arlington household will increase by nearly $120, to $6,645 per year.
“Our approach to long-term planning, Smart Growth and conservative financial management continues to provide sustainable growth,” Donnellan said at the work session. “I believe the best way to be prepared is to continue our approach of recent years — first maintaining core services, then making targeted, strategic investments to improve services, and always planning for the future.”
Donnellan proposed that the County Board advertise a 1.5 cent increase in the tax rate to give it some extra leeway during the budget process. Donnellan will formally present her budget to the Board at its afternoon meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 14. Public budget hearing will be held in March, in advance of final budget adoption on April 21.
The plan, from Arlington-based affordable housing developer AHC Inc., would replace the gas station with a six-story, 83-unit apartment building for lower-income tenants.
According to slides from a recent AHC presentation to the Columbia Heights West Civic Association, the building will consist of 15 one-bedroom apartments and 68 two-bedroom apartments. Residency would be reserved for those making below 50 to 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI). The building is also expected to have 6,700 square feet of retail space and a “high-level of energy efficiency.”
The development would be located next to an existing AHC property: the 116-unit Harvey Hall apartment building at 860 S. Greenbrier Street. AHC owns 22 apartment communities in Arlington.
Over the next month or so, AHC will be applying for project funding through Arlington County’s affordable housing investment fund and through federal low income housing tax credits. AHC is pursuing the development via Form Based Code, which does not require County Board approval. Last night the Columbia Pike Form Based Code Advisory Working Group held a meeting to review the project.
By replacing the gas station, AHC says the building will enhance “a site that is underdeveloped and a visual detriment to the neighborhood.” If funding is secured, and if no significant environmental contaminants are found on the site, AHC hopes to begin construction in March 2013 and finish construction in the fall of 2014.
Images via AHC Inc.
(Updated at 4:00 p.m.) The five Democratic candidates running in a special election for the open County Board seat have weighed in on affordable housing in Arlington. The candidates submitted their essays to the Alliance for Housing Solutions, which asked all to answer the same three questions.
In short, the questions asked what the county’s priority should be for affordable housing, how the county can meet its goal of increasing affordable housing and what actions should be taken to preserve or increase affordable housing.
Libby Garvey is one of the candidates citing the issue as a top priority. She says the county should be concerned about the loss of two-thirds of its affordable housing since 2000, and increasing the supply is crucial to Arlington.
“If we are to preserve Arlington as a diverse and vibrant community we need to have people from all income levels living and working here,” Garvey said. “This is an increasingly large and difficult challenge in a community like Arlington.”
Most of the candidates didn’t believe Arlington had met its goals for affordable housing. Melissa Bondi says missing the goal shows the need for a change in strategy.
“The best response is not to change the target – rather, it is to increase the variety of existing, expanded and new tools that will be needed to meet the needs of Arlington residents across the full housing continuum,” Bondi said.
Peter Fallon suggested that developers should do more in terms of supporting affordable housing in Arlington.
“For profit developers have not accepted the business case for constructing affordable housing,” Fallon said.
Fallon is among the candidates who supports incentivizing production of affordable housing so it is more attractive to developers. Kim Klinger also supports looking into financial incentives. Additionally, she believes the county should investigate more programs for using existing properties, as opposed to only building new ones.
“Our commitment to affordable housing may also include the use of tools that address housing rehabilitation programs, multi-family improvement programs, great house concepts, and adaptive reuse,” Klingler said.
In regards to preserving or increasing affordable housing, Terron Sims says Arlington County has existing tools that can be used to increase the affordable housing supply.
“It is ultimately a policy question that involves tax subsidies, expenditure of tax revenue and, possibly, zoning changes,” Sims said.
The full readout of candidate answers is available on the Alliance for Housing Solutions website.
The opening of an affordable housing community in Ballston was welcomed with much fanfare on Tuesday evening. Numerous county officials joined new residents at The Jordan (801 N. Wakefield St.) for a grand opening ceremony.
The apartments are aimed at individuals or families earning 50-60% of the area’s mean income. A key selling point of the apartments is their proximity to local businesses and public transportation. They’re about one block from Ballston Commons Mall and about four blocks from the Ballston Metro. County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman pointed out that this is important because the people who typically need public transit the most are those with lower incomes. Residents at The Jordan are also eligible for a public transit subsidy.
Zimmerman said because Arlington is becoming a more expensive place to live, it’s vital to be creative and innovative in providing housing options. He said the county is at risk of losing its diversity without such options.
“We need to make sure this is a place in which everyone can live,” Zimmerman said. “Not just those who are privileged with a high income.”
The property is owned and managed by AHC Inc., a nonprofit developer of low and moderate-income housing. They acquired the property through a land swap with The JBG Companies. It’s part of the larger mixed-use development under construction at the corner of Glebe Rd. and Wilson Blvd.
The Jordan replaces the previous affordable housing complex nearby, Jordan Manor, which was demolished nearly three years ago. Residents at Jordan Manor who wished to move into The Jordan received first pick on the apartments. The Jordan houses 90 apartments, whereas Jordan Manor had only 24.
Five of the building’s units have three bedrooms and can accomodate larger families. Nine of the units are fully accessible to residents with disabilities. Amenities include a library, business center, courtyard with fountain and community room.
The first residents moved into The Jordan about a month ago, and the building is currently two-thirds occupied.
Penzance Buys Another Arlington Building — Local real estate firm Penzance is upping its investment in Arlington. The company just closed a multimillion dollar deal to buy a 7-story office building at 1555 Wilson Boulevard in Rosslyn. The building, which houses tenants like the Washington Business Journal and George Washington University, is across from another Penzance-owned building at 1500 Wilson Boulevard. Penzance plans to renovate the 1500 Wilson Property, while at the same time moving forward with plans to build a large new office building in Clarendon. [CityBiz Real Estate]
AHC Pays Back Loan, Expands to P.G. Co. — Nonprofit, Arlington-based affordable housing developer AHC Inc. has repaid the remaining principal and interest on a $1.5 million loan it received from Arlington County in 1994. The loan was used to buy the Harvey Hall Apartments, a 116-unit affordable apartment complex in Columbia Heights West. AHC was able to repay Arlington the remaining $717,167 on the loan thanks to a refinancing. Meanwhile, AHC is planning to expand its service area to Prince George’s County, Md. [AHC Inc., CityBiz Real Estate]
Groundbreaking for Crystal City ‘Gateway’ Project — The Crystal City Business Improvement District broke ground on a $300,000 project that will beautify a triangular lot that serves as the southern gateway to Crystal City. “It’s part of a larger effort to replace the concrete neo-brutalism [architecture of Crystal City] with modern glass and steel,” writes reporter Michael Lee Pope. A revamped northern gateway is also in the works. [WAMU]
Photo courtesy Jay Cohen
Arlington Latin-American Festival Planned — Arlington County is hosting a Latin-American festival on Sunday in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. “Savor the best of Latino culture at this annual festival with fellow Arlingtonians of all backgrounds in this diverse community,” the county said of the event, which is being held outdoors from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School (125 S. Old Glebe Road). [Arlington County]
Lawmakers to Tour Housing Site — Four state legislators and three county board members are scheduled to tour permanent supportive housing facilities at the Gates of Ballston apatment complex (4108 N. 4th Street) today. “The tour will demonstrate how the increase in Permanent Support Housing is necessary to meet the Governor’s plan to reduce homelessness by 15% by 2013,” according to the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, a tour organizer.
Einstein Bagels Coming to Crystal City — An Einstein Bagel outlet is coming to the lobby of the Crystal Gateway Marriott (1700 Jefferson Davis Highway). The bagel eatery is replacing a former Starbucks location.
Hat tip to Googla