Va. Gay Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional — A federal judge has overturned Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban, in what the New York Times describes as “the strongest legal reversal yet of restrictive marriage amendments that exist throughout the South.” The judge stayed the ruling, pending an appeal, meaning that gay couples will still not be able to get married in Virginia for the time being. [New York Times, Blue Virginia]
Blue Goose Redevelopment a Year or More Away — A groundbreaking on the redevelopment of Marymount’s “Blue Goose” building in Ballston is not likely to take place until next winter at the earliest. [Sun Gazette]
Behind Arlington’s Snow Decisions — There’s a reason why Arlington County typically makes a decision on whether to open, open on a delay or close for the day at 5:00 a.m., well after some other jurisdictions. Arlington and Alexandria both usually wait until after a 3:00 a.m. Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments conference call, in which various governments and agencies discuss street conditions and their go or no-go decisions. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Work to Begin Soon on Bergmann’s Development — Developer McCaffery Interests is planning to begin demolition work soon on the former Bergmann’s dry cleaning plant, at the corner of Lee Highway and N. Vietch Street. Workers could be seen surveying the building last week. On the site, McCaffrey will build a mixed-use development now called “Verde Pointe.” The project, which was approved in 2012, includes 177 apartments, 23 townhomes and a 14,000 square foot MOM’s Organic Market grocery store. [Washington Business Journal]
Opower Files for IPO — Courthouse-based energy efficiency company Opower has filed for an initial public stock offering. The company has nearly 500 employees across 5 offices worldwide. It was founded in 2007. President Obama visited the company’s Courthouse headquarters in 2010. [Wall Street Journal]
Bar to Host ‘Condoms and Candy Necklace Party’ — In honor of Valentine’s Day, Wilson Tavern in Courthouse (2403 Wilson Blvd) will be hosting a “Condoms & Candy Necklace Party” tomorrow (Friday) from 8:00 p.m. to close. [Clarendon Nights]
Developer JBG expects to begin construction on the first of two planned towers of its Central Place development by early spring, the company says. The 31-story, 355 foot tall building will house 377 “impeccably-designed residences” along with 25,000 square feet of retail space. There will also be a 15,000 square foot public plaza built with the development.
“Central Place will be a striking addition to the Virginia skyline and offer some of the most spectacular views available of the nation’s capital,” JBG said in a press release. “It will be the tallest building in JBG’s development portfolio.”
The building will also be one of the tallest, if not the tallest, residential building in the Washington, D.C. metro area. No word yet on whether the building will consist of rental apartments or condominiums.
The development will require the closure and demolition of an existing, stand-alone McDonald’s restaurant and a small existing public plaza. The site is on the same block as the new entrance to the Rosslyn Metro station.
Chevy Chase-based JBG, which is partnering with the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio to finance the development, told Rosslyn stakeholders that construction will begin soon and the McDonald’s demolition will be underway by May.
“Beginning next Monday, February 10th, Clark Construction will mobilize and construction will begin with the installation and relocation of utility lines on North Lynn Street,” the company said. “Demolition of the existing McDonalds building and excavation activities will begin in approximately 3 months.”
Last year JBG completed then sold the Sedona and Slate apartment development, located at 1510 Clarendon Blvd in Rosslyn. The company is planning to eventually build a matching Central Pace office tower, to the south of the residential tower.
The distinctive “Blue Goose” building in Ballston is heading for the proverbial wrecking ball after the Arlington County Board approved replacing it with an office and a residential building.
The Board unanimously voted to redevelop the 1963 building, allowing the developer The Shooshan Company, in partnership with Marymount University, to build a nine-story office building and a 15-story, 267-unit residential building with 11 dedicated units of affordable housing.
The entire site will sit on three levels of underground parking, with 317 office spaces and 264 residential spaces. There will also be 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.
Marymount University will occupy the first six stories of the office building with plans to expand into the final three floors in the future. The office building will front on Fairfax Drive while the residential building will sit on the corner of Fairfax and N. Glebe Road.
In additional to the affordable housing — which includes a $275,000 donation to the Arlington Housing Investment Fund — the Shooshan Company also agreed to contribute more than $4.5 million toward the construction of a west entrance to the Ballston Metro Station and $1.15 million for improvements to the Ballston beaver pond restoration project and Custis Trail. The buildings are expected to be built to a LEED Gold environmental standard.
The developer will also build a 7,600-square-foot public plaza and an east-west pedestrian walkway between the two buildings, a 10-foot-wide cycle track on Fairfax Drive and allow public access to the planned auditorium inside the office building. The “Blue Goose” is considered a model of the 1960s-era “Modern Movement” architecture, and some of its distinctive panels will be preserved and displayed in the new buildings, as well as distributed to local museums.
“The plaza will have blue seating, blue lighting and benches with panels that will depict the history of the building, re-using blue and white panels from the existing building,” according to a press release. “The office building will incorporate a blue panel design at its base that will be reminiscent of the ‘Blue Goose,’ and a horizontal blue spandrel glass band at the top of the second story.”
“Marymount University is an important institution in Arlington, and it is great to see it expanding its presence in Ballston,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release. “The new buildings will be attractive and energy efficient, and will come with many benefits for our community, including affordable housing, a public plaza, and a significant contribution to building a western entrance to Ballston Metro.”
County planning staff is recommending the Board approve the site plan amendment, rezoning and General Land Use Plan amendment required to increase the housing density from 27 garden-style units on the site to a 104-unit mid-rise building.
The proposal, in the Buckingham neighborhood on the corner of N. Carlin Springs Road and Thomas Street, calls for two levels of underground parking with 110 total spaces and more than 5,000 square feet of office space, which will serve as the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) new office.
“The proposed General Land Use plan amendment, rezoning and site plan follows the guidance in, and implements the vision of, the North Quincy Street Plan Addendum for this particular site and adheres to good urban design practice,” the staff report states. “The siting and design of the proposed apartment building is sensitive to the transitional nature of the site, and 71 net new committed affordable housing units are being created within walking distance to a Metro station.”
According to the staff report, the size of the building allows for a transition from the high-rises of Ballston to the north to the townhouses and small apartment buildings to the south. In addition, the proposal would widen the existing sidewalks on Carlin Springs Road and Thomas street from 4-5 feet wide to 13 feet wide on Carlin Springs and 11 feet wide on Thomas Street.
Of the 104 units, 98 are projected to be committed affordable housing, and 80 of those affordable units will be two- or three-bedroom apartments intended for families. The developer also agreed to negotiate a public access easement adjacent to the building intended for a future mid-block park.
The Buckingham Civic Association raised some opposition during community meetings, according to the staff report, claiming the redevelopment is inconsistent with the Buckingham Neighborhood Conservation Plan.
The proposed site plan amendment for the project will go before the Arlington County Board at its meeting this Saturday, Jan. 25. The Shooshan Company hopes to bulldoze the distinctive blue building at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Glebe Road and replace it with a nine-story office building — to be used to house the Marymount University programs now in the Blue Goose — and a 15-story residential high-rise.
The request for increased density comes with a proposed donation of $1.15 million toward the Ballston beaver pond restoration project and improvements to the Custis Trail, and a $4.57 million contribution to the Ballston Metro west entrance project.
County Planner Samia Byrd said the contributions would connect the Custis Trail to a cycle track that the developer plans to build along Fairfax Drive. The final designs for the improvements “are still under review,” Byrd said, but they could include building a planted buffer between the existing sidewalk and Fairfax Drive and making the sidewalk smoother for pedestrians and cyclists.
The contribution to the Metro entrance is just one chunk of the proposed $75 million project. The entrance, which is partially designed and planned for the intersection of Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, still has no timeline for construction, according to Byrd.
The Ballston Pond restoration project is already underway. Logs were removed that were holding the water in the pond and it drained completely by November. Construction on Ballston Pond to improve the habitat for wildlife is expected to begin in the spring.
The redevelopment, and demolition of the infamous building, drew criticism from historic preservation group Preservation Arlington, which named it one of the most “Endangered Public Places.” The developer has since agreed to keep some of the blue panels as elements in the new buildings, while others will be donated to local museums.
The “historical attributes” of the 1960s-era building will be “incorporated into the design of the proposed office building and landscaping in the public plaza and courtyard,” according to the county staff report.
Other community benefits proposed in the site plan include a $75,000 public art contribution, a $106,000 utility underground fund contribution, a $567,000 Transportation Demand Management contribution over 30 years, a public plaza and walkway, a $258,000 contribution to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and LEED Gold certification.
Construction will remove the surface parking lot on the site and, because the office building will be largely used for education purposes, the Shooshan Company has requested a reduced mandatory parking ratio. The residential building includes 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail and 267 units, some of which will be committed affordable housing.
Members of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association will meet with affordable housing developer AHC tonight to discuss their concerns about plans to replace the Berkeley apartment complex.
The Berkeley, at 2910 S. Glebe Road, currently consists of 137 apartments, 110 of which are committed affordable units. AHC plans to replace the aging four-story complex with two new five-story-apartment buildings, consisting of 287 units, including 171 affordable units, and 264 parking spaces.
In its newsletter, ARCA says it is “concerned” about the project’s density and height. Among the listed concerns:
“It violates the existing RA8-18 zoning, which allows 4 stories. RA8-18 zoning says the housing should look like townhouses or garden apartments; 5 stories does neither. For comparison, the adjacent townhouses at Arlington Ridge Rd. & Glebe Rd are zoned RA8-18.”
“It is not consistent with the ’4 Mile Run Master Plan’ which provides guidance for the area which is in the Chesapeake Bay protection area and is supposed to comply with the Arlington’s Chesapeake Bay Protection Ordinance.”
“So far the staff information omits any reference to ARCA’s recently accepted Neighborhood Conservation Plan which specifically objects to up-zonings in our area until a comprehensive master plan has been developed. Our plan calls for preserving, protecting, enhancing and stabilizing the edges of our community. This proposal does not accomplish that goal.”
“While affordable housing may be a laudable goal, coming at the expense of these concerns is problematic,” the newsletter concluded.
Arthur Fox, ARCA’s Vice President of External Affairs, says the proposal is at an “early stage” and declined to say whether the organization would ultimately oppose it when it reaches the Arlington County Board. ARCA will meet with AHC representatives and county planning staff at its membership meeting tonight.
ARCA previously opposed the PenPlace development and has expressed concerns about a proposed apartment complex, both in Pentagon City. Like those projects, the Berkley is outside ARCA’s boundaries. However, the neighborhood includes Arlington Ridge Road, which is often jammed with commuters around rush hours and thus impacted to a degree by surrounding developments.
The former Department of Defense Inspector General office at 400 Army Navy Drive has submitted a site plan for a 20-story building with two towers — on one, three-story platform — that would have 491,588 square feet of ground floor space and 453 residential units.
The building, also called the “Paperclip Building,” was acquired by Bethesda-based developer LCOR in 2012, according to City Biz List, with the plan to convert it into housing. The site plan is now under consideration with the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) and is slated to go before the Planning Commission and the Arlington County Board no earlier than April for approval, we’re told.
The 1.6-acre plot of land is bounded by Army Navy Drive to the north, 11th Street S. to the south, S. Eads Street to the west and the Doubletree hotel to the east. The site is across S. Eads Street from the recently-approved PenPlace commercial development, which calls for four office buildings and a 300-room hotel on 10.2 acres; more than 4 million square feet of floor space.
PenPlace was approved despite heavy opposition from the Arlington Ridge Civic Association (ARCA) and other neighborhood groups, who objected to the height of the buildings (16-21 stories) and the additional traffic expected to be generated.
At the initial SPRC meeting, commissioners expressed concern that the traffic study the developer performed in June, when putting together its site plan, did not include the impact from PenPlace. In addition, a proposed operations and maintenance facility for the Crystal City streetcar line is directly adjacent to the planned apartment site.
“I don’t see how the proposed 400 Army Navy Drive project can be successfully developed if the County proceeds with its plan to build a streetcar operations and maintenance facility a few feet from its front door on the ‘tear drop’ in the middle of Eads Street,” Arthur Fox, who’s representing ARCA on the SPRC for the project, told ARLnow.com.
“Indeed, an O&M facility in that location will likely be the rotten apple that will spoil the barrel the County is seeking to develop across Eads on PenPlace,” Fox continued. “Unfortunately, the county failed to seriously consider a number of alternative sites that would be far better suited for an O&M facility. It needs to take a step backward and reopen that process.”
The building, at 1000 N. Glebe Road, is slated to be torn down to make way for two new buildings: one with 165,00 square feet of office and instructional space, and another with 267 residential units and 3,000 square feet of retail space.
The 1960s-era building was named one of the most “Endangered Historic Places” by Preservation Arlington last year. Many local residents, however, say it’s an eyesore.
“This building represents an excellent example of mid-century architecture that is quickly disappearing,” Preservation Arlington wrote of the Blue Goose. “It is one of those buildings which engender strong feelings but it also represents a period of time in architectural design that is just beginning to be fully appreciated.”
In a blog post today, Preservation Arlington said some of the panels will be used as part of the retail space and for a a historical marker to be placed on the site. Other panels will be donated to local museums.
“The Arlington Historical Society has requested pieces for their Museum on South Arlington Ridge Road,” a Preservation Arlington representative told ARLnow.com. “Another museum related to a long term tenant of the building has expressed interest.”
(Before Marymount moved in, the building housed government agencies.)
The Arlington Planning Commission will consider the site plan for the Blue Goose redevelopment tonight at 7:00 p.m., in Room 307 of the county government building at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. The Arlington County Board is expected to approve the redevelopment at its meeting later this month.
Projected Subsidy Soars for Aquatics Center — The planned Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center could require more than $4 million per year in subsidies from the county government, according to new projections. That’s up from projections as low at $1 million per year. “Certainly there are other priorities that arguably should come before building a luxury pools facility,” said local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki. Construction contracts for the aquatics center are expected to be awarded early next year. [Sun Gazette]
County May Allow Less Office Parking, For a Fee — Arlington County is considering a system that would allow office developers to build less than the currently-required amount of parking, in exchange for a per-parking-space fee. The fee would then be used for public improvements in the area around the building, or for Transportation Demand Management Services for the building’s tenants. [Greater Greater Washington]
Memorial Bridge Could Have Looked Like Tower Bridge — The Arlington Memorial Bridge was originally proposed as a memorial to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, complete with a series of “medieval”-looking towers and turrets. [Ghosts of DC]
Arlington Carpenter’s Intricately-Carved Birds — Arlington carpenter Jeff Jacobs, 59, carves intricate wooden hummingbirds out of a single block of wood. He sells the birds at Eastern Market and the Clarendon farmers market. [Washington Post]
Flickr photo by Eschweik
The lingering questions that surround the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project have given developers pause as they look to build along the corridor, according to one of the Pike’s biggest boosters.
Takis Karantonis, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, says he’s seen a slowdown in development and business interest in recent months, as local politicians and residents have continued to debate the merits of the streetcar project. With Arlington County Board member Chris Zimmerman, a key streetcar supporter, retiring early next year, that debate is likely to continue unabated as candidates vie to fill his seat in a special election.
Despite some uncertainty about how and when the Pike streetcar will be funded, Arlington County is still moving forward with the project. Karantonis is pushing for the streetcar to be built sooner rather than later.
“There isn’t uncertainty around the streetcar, but there are lot of people who want to create uncertainty,” Karantonis told ARLnow.com Monday. “This is concerning the business community because people want to be able to at least make medium-term decisions, and they don’t welcome this kind of prolonged debate about the streetcar itself.”
Karantonis said the ongoing questions about when the streetcar will actually be built has slowed both commercial and residential development. Modern development strives for a mix of uses, Karantonis said, so when one form development is slowed, all forms are.
Small businesses could also be impacted by any delays in the streetcar project, Karantonis said. The thousands of daily passengers the streetcar is projected to carry can’t come soon enough for Columbia Pike merchants. Pockets of retail space along the Pike have been vacant for years, Karantonis said, and the streetcar will help boost businesses in neglected areas.
“It’s not easier for [small businesses] to wait,” he said. “They look at the streetcar as a catalyst and a game-changer. The more challenging the economic times are for us with the government sputtering along, this hardens the demand on local government to deliver the investment goods it has planned for.”
County Board Member Libby Garvey — who was elected last year on an anti-streetcar platform and is currently the lone voice of streetcar dissent on the Board — isn’t so sure about Karantonis’ hypothesis.
“It would surprise me if there were many businesses very concerned about delays in the streetcar,” Garvey wrote in an email. “Remember, we are talking about adding 10 streetcars to 34 buses along the Pike. Hardly a major change in transit, just a major change in expense and disruption of traffic as 10 fixed rail vehicles run in mixed traffic creating headaches for everyone.”
Rosslyn Apartment Building to Sell for $220 Million — The JBG Cos. has reached a deal to sell its new Sedona Slate apartments in Rosslyn for $220 million. The company spent about $150 million to develop the two-building apartment project, which had a ribbon cutting ceremony in June. [Washington Business Journal]
APS Competition to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools (APS) announced a competition for data analysts to help the school system prevent students from dropping out. Analysts will help APS identify trends and hopefully will find ways to flag students who could use more one-on-one time with counselors. Assistant Superintendent for Information Services Raj Adusumilli told ARLnow.com the winning team of analysts likely will be announced by the end of this winter. Although no firm date is in place for finishing the data analysis, the school system anticipates being able to use the gathered information by about February 2014 in order to help students make class choices for next year. [Washington Post, Arlington Public Schools]
Opera Singer Wins Talent Competition — Opera singer Garrick Jordan won first place in the second annual “Arlington’s Got Talent” competition. Jordan beat out six other competitors on Sunday (November 18) at Clarendon Ballroom. [Sun Gazette]
The Latitude Apartments will be a 12-story apartment building with 265 residential units and 262 underground parking spaces, on the 3600 block of Fairfax Drive. It will feature a 2,800 square foot “cultural and educational space,” 3,100 square feet of retail space, a public plaza and pedestrian walkway, outdoor seating and a water feature.
Other community benefits include LEED Gold sustainability certification, 14 committed affordable units, a $75,000 public art contribution and funding of utility and transportation improvements.
The project received mixed feedback during the public comment period, with some residents speaking out for it and some against it. Those who opposed it said an office building, not an apartment building, should be built on the site, in keeping with the county’s original land use vision set forth in the 2002 Virginia Square Sector Plan.
Many on the opposition side were residents of nearby condominium buildings, who wore matching badges expressing their opposition. Concerns included added noise, traffic and pedestrian congestion, crowding at the Virginia Square Metro station, visitors parking in residential neighborhoods and other “quality of life issues.”
“My view is that an office building would be the better use,” said resident Anita Wallgren. “I live across the street. By taking action today in a decisive way to deny the applications, you would affirm the sector plan and improve the integrity of the county’s planning process.”
Those supporting the project said the developer, Penrose Group, has been responsive to residents. The development, supporters said, will be a net positive for the neighborhood.
“I love the design of the project from the renderings I’ve seen,” said Judd Ryan, a member of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. ”Throughout this process I’ve struggled to understand the opposition to this project. The [office] vacancy rate is the highest I’ve seen since living in this market. No developer would build office here without a significant pre-lease.”
County staff spent time refuting claims that the apartment building will have a significant impact on crowding at the Virginia Square station. The station is one of the most under-utilized stations in Arlington, staff said, and the new building will only add about one additional passenger per inbound train during the morning rush hour. In keeping with rates seen at similar apartment buildings, about half of residents will end up driving to work, staff estimated.
The Arlington transportation and planning commissions sided with those opposed to the project, recommending against changing zoning for the site. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce weighed in with a letter, supporting the project and the principals of transit-oriented development. In the end, the Board voted 3-2 for the project, with Chris Zimmerman and Mary Hynes casting the dissenting votes.
Zimmerman said the project is attractive on its own, but that’s not justification enough for “throwing overboard a sector plan.”
“Do we disregard long-term plans because of the appeal of an individual project?” he asked. “That for me is the fundamental problem.”
Jay Fisette stated that he doesn’t “want to send a message that the sector plan isn’t important,” but said the county may have to reexamine its expectations for commercial office development given the current high vacancy rate and market changes like the Silver Line to Tysons and the increasing number of employees who work from home or in co-working environments.
“Conditions in the market are changing,” Fisette said. “Adjustments might be necessary in sector plans.”
Libby Garvey said a sector plan is a guiding document but isn’t dogma.
“The plan is a tool but it’s not something that tells us absolutely what to do,” she said. “Otherwise you wouldn’t need a [County] Board.”
Garvey dismissed concerns about noise — “I assume the people in that building are not going to make any more noise than you all in your building” she said — and crowding at the Virginia Square station — “one of the least-used Metro sites.” She said adding additional housing in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor will help keep housing costs down.
“One of the reasons housing is so expensive here is because there’s not enough of it, there’s unmet demand,” she said.
Board Adopts Pike Affordable Housing Tools — The Arlington County Board on Saturday formally adopted a number of county code changes needed to implement the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan. The plan includes the implementation of Form Based Code for the residential areas around the Pike. Form Based Code allows developers to build larger projects than otherwise permitted through zoning, provided a number of conditions are met. On the Pike, those conditions include setting aside 20-35 percent of new units for affordable housing and meeting green building standards. [Arlington County]
Board Proposes TIF for Affordable Housing — Also on Saturday, the County Board voted to advertise a plan to implement a Tax Increment Financing district along Columbia Pike. The TIF would take some of the additional tax revenue provided by new development and set it aside for affordable housing. [Washington Post]
Special Election May Be Held in March — Assuming retiring County Board member Chris Zimmerman vacates his seat by the end of January, the special election to replace him on the Board could be held in mid- to late March. [Sun Gazette]
Howze Announces for County Board — Democrat Alan Howze announced his candidacy for Arlington County Board over the weekend. Howze, who has served as president of the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association, says he shares outgoing Board member Chris Zimmerman’s “vision for a transit-oriented, smart-growth community that is welcoming to all.” [Facebook]
APAH worked in partnership with church leaders to develop a plan that would build a new, 7,100 square foot church within a five-story, 142-unit apartment building. The proposal also includes a space for nonprofit child care and ground floor retail intended for a coffee shop.
The church approached APAH with the idea of building affordable housing on its site, according to a presentation the church made to its congregation in August. APAH laid out a timeline that would start with signing a lease by the end of the year, starting demolition in early 2016 and opening in late 2017.
The proposal is similar to the Views at Clarendon project, which built an affordable apartment building on top of an existing church. Unlike that project, however, the Arlington Presbyterian Church proposal would not preserve the existing structure.
The group Preservation Arlington is calling for a new plan that would preserve the church, which was built in 1931.
“The church and APAH aim to fill a urgent need for affordable housing and serving the community,” Preservation Arlington writes on its website. “In the process though, they will destroy a tangible link and reminder of how communities are built and how they last but change over time. They and all Arlington residents will lose a fine representation of church architecture and a recognizable landmark on the Pike.”
Preservation Arlington suggests housing the coffee shop in part of the church or the child care center in the former sanctuary.
APAH plans on submitting a proposal to the county for the redevelopment in 2014. The plans are within the parameters of the Columbia Pike Form Based Code, meaning APAH will not have to seek additional density from the County Board.
Photo via Preservation Arlington