Arlington Named No. 3 Best Place to Live — Arlington has been named the No. 3 “best small to mid-sized city” to live in the U.S. The county scored high marks for civic engagement, education, amenities and diversity. Topping the list were Madison, Wis. and Rochester, Minn. [Livability.com]
County Still Winding Down Streetcar Project — Arlington County still is on the hook for about $60,000 worth of contract work associated with the canceled streetcar project. Most of the county staff members working on the project have been transferred to other departments, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in an update to the County Board regarding the project wind down. [InsideNova]
Fmr. Rep. Moran to Lobby — Recently retired congressman Jim Moran has been hired by the Washington law firm McDermott Will & Emery. Moran plans to join the firm’s lobbying practice, lobbying primarily for defense contractors. [Washington Post]
Development Tracking Report — Arlington County has released its quarterly development tracking report for the fourth quarter of 2014. Notably, no new office construction was approved or started during the time period, although 761 new residential units were started and another 73 were approved. [Arlington County]
Drone Company Disables Flight in Arlington — Following a recreational drone’s crash landing at the White House, drone manufacturer DJI has pushed out a firmware update for its robotic vehicles that prohibits flight within a 15.5 mile radius of downtown D.C. [Engadget]
Making Business Easier in Arlington — Arlington County is taking some small steps toward making it easier to do business in the county. Arlington recently introduced online business license registration and a streamlined process for paying building permit fees. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
After pushing its decision back two months, the Arlington County Board this weekend will consider a plan to redevelop a vacant office building at 400 Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City into apartments.
Bethesda-based developer LCOR has proposed turning the former Department of Defense Inspector General office, also known as the “Paperclip building,” into a 200-foot tall, 20-story apartment complex with 453 residential units. County staff and the Arlington Planning Commission are recommending the Board approve the redevelopment at its meeting this Saturday.
The new apartment complex will consist of twin residential towers on a common platform.
LCOR is planning on making the north tower, with unobstructed views of the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, a condominium building and making the apartments in the south tower, fronting 11th Street S., rental units.
The existing office building has three levels of underground parking beneath it, which LCOR plans to keep and build two levels of parking above ground, as part of the platform beneath the residential towers. On top of the platform, the developers is planning to have 11,000 square feet of recreational space, including a 4-foot deep pool and areas for grilling.
The redevelopment plan comes with some street changes, including removing Old South Eads Street from the street grid and turning it into a pedestrian walk. The plan also reinstates part of 11th Street S.
An adjacent county-owned “Teardrop Parcel” of land was formerly the planned site of the operations and maintenance yard for the now-cancelled Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system. This redevelopment will not affect the parcel, but it’s now being kept clear to potentially be included in future redevelopment of either this location or the recently approved PenPlace office complex, according to the staff report.
In exchange for added density, LCOR has agreed to provide the equivalent of $6.6 million in community benefits, including 15 dedicated affordable housing units in the building, $1.1 million to the Crystal City Open Space fund and $1 million to the Army Navy Drive Complete Streets project. LCOR would also donate $91,000 toward the county’s utility undergrounding project, $75,000 to the county’s Public Art Fund and contribute to improving the traffic signal at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Eads Street.
Replacing Brosnan will be Steven Cover, who comes from Madison, Wisconsin, where he was the director of planning and community and economic development. He had served in the position since 2011. Madison is home to the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Outback Bowl-winning Badgers.
(In 2012, under Cover’s watch, Madison was named the best college football town in the country by USA Today.)
“Steven is a great addition to our team,” Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a news release. “His long and successful career in local government makes him the ideal choice to lead CPHD, a key department responsible for turning the County’s Smart Growth vision into reality.”
Brosnan had served as the county’s planning director since 1988 before being named the head of CPHD. Brosnan will stay on an additional six months “aid with the transition and to work on a special project for [Donnellan],” county spokeswoman Mary Curtius told ARLnow.com. When asked if she could clarify what special project Brosnan would work on, Curtius said “not at this time.”
Before Madison, Cover had worked heading the planning department in Atlanta, Ga., and in Anne Arundel County, Md. Before entering public service, Cover worked as an architect.
Photo via Arlington County
Murphy Finalist for Superintendent of the Year — Arlington Public Schools’ Dr. Patrick Murphy is one of four finalists for national superintendent of the year from the School Superintendents Association. Murphy, who was hired in 2009, has previously been recognized as Virginia’s superintendent of the year. [Washington Post]
Optimism for Office Vacancies in Arlington — There’s good news for owners of commercial office buildings in Arlington. Despite high vacancy rates, “Arlington’s location close to D.C. and its numerous transportation amenities give property owners an advantage in attracting potential tenants from other locations in the region,” especially Millennials, writes Keara Mehlert, a business development manager for the county-run Arlington Transportation Partners. [Mobility Lab]
Additional Package Thefts – Arlington County police say additional package thefts occurred in Arlington overnight. That’s after a number of package thefts were reported in Ballston last week. [Twitter]
Kindergartner Makes a Run for It – A five-year-old kindergarten student at Randolph Elementary ran away from school yesterday afternoon, prompting a response from Arlington County police. The student reportedly led staff members on a chase and made it to the area of Four Mile Run as police began arriving in the area to look for him. The youngster was finally nabbed by school staffers who had hopped into a Honda to find him. “He is safely back at school with his mother,” a school spokesman told ARLnow.com after the incident.
Blue, Orange, Silver Lines Suspended — Metrorail service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines was suspended during the morning rush hour due to a water main break in D.C. Those in Arlington hoping to get to work via Uber were being charged four times the normal rate, thanks to the company’s “surge pricing” practices. An Arlington Alert, meanwhile, contained an oddly appropriate typo — it noted that service was suspended at “Farragut Wet” due to the water main break. [Washington Post]
Board: Traffic Light Coming in 18 Months — The Arlington County Board had good news for activists at its Saturday meeting: the traffic light they’re seeking at Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street is coming. The bad news is that it could take up to 18 months. Board member Walter Tejada said that is “too long” and “we have to find a way to make it happen.” [InsideNova]
Zoning Change Advertised for Wendy’s Redevelopment — The County Board on Saturday voted to advertise a potential zoning change for 2026 and 2038 Wilson Blvd, the current site of the Wendy’s restaurant in Courthouse, which is slated for a redevelopment. Developer Carr Properties wants to build a 12-story office building on the site. Public hearings will now be held in advance of Board consideration of the rezoning request. [Arlington County]
Arlington Book Store Wins Grant — East Falls Church bookstore One More Page Books has won a $9,000 grant from novelist James Patterson. The store plans to use the grant to launch a “bookmobile” — a modified food truck that sells books around the community. [Washington Post]
Arlington Firms Among ‘Best Companies to Work For’ – Two Arlington-based companies have made the annual list of the top 50 small and medium-sized companies to work for . The 2015 list, compiled by employment website Glassdoor.com, ranks Ballston-based Evolent Health at No. 3 and Courthouse-based Opower at No. 25.
New Plan for Rosslyn Plaza — Vornado and Gould Property Co. have updated their redevelopment plan for Rosslyn Plaza, the series of aging buildings along N. Arlington Ridge Road between Wilson Blvd and 19th Street N. The development team is proposing 2.5 million square feet of new construction, including a total of five office and residential buildings, four acres of open space and a esplanade deck with views of D.C. and an outdoor ice rink in the winter. [Washington Business Journal]
Celtics Player Swings By The Italian Store — Celtics center Kelly Olynyk stopped by The Italian Store after losing to the Wizards in double-overtime on Monday. He posed for photos and even helped make sandwiches and pizzas. Olynyk isn’t the only pro athlete that has visited the Lee Highway store. Nene, of the Wizards, and Nationals stars Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman have stopped by, as has NBA great John Stockton, who happens to be owner Bob Tramonte’s brother-in-law. [Washington Post]
ACFD Recruitment Starts Tomorrow — The Arlington County Fire Department’s biennial open recruitment period starts tomorrow. From Dec. 12-25 ACFD will accept applications for potential firefighter and EMT recruits. No experience is necessary. The county has also made a series of “Join the ACFD” videos for recruitment purposes. [Arlington County]
Arbour Realty Acquired By Md. Brokerage — Arbour Realty, the Ballston-based boutique real estate brokerage owned by “Ask Adam” columnist Adam Gallegos, has been acquired by Real Living At Home, a larger brokerage with office in Chevy Chase, Md. and Dupont Circle in D.C. Gallegos will hand over management responsibilities and continue as an agent with Real Living At Home. [Real Living At Home]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Fmr. Pentagon Police Chief Dies — Richard Keevill, the former chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, died Saturday. Keevill served as chief of the Pentagon police agency from 2004 to 2013. Prior to that, he served with the Marines in Vietnam and later was the 1st Sergeant in charge of the Virginia State Police station on Columbia Pike. On Sept. 11, 2001, he ran into the still-burning Pentagon several times to search for survivors. Keevill died of natural causes. His funeral is planned for Saturday. [Facebook]
Redevelopment May Close Carpool — Developer Penzance and real estate investor Lionstone are working to close a deal to acquire and redevelop the Carpool property in Ballston. The long-time Arlington bar was previously slated to be redeveloped eight years ago but those plans fell through in part due to the recession. [Washington Business Journal]
Another Landlord Spat for Ray’s Owner — Ray’s Hell Burger Michael Landrum has gotten into another landlord-tenant dispute, this time with the owner of a building in D.C. that’s set to house his new restaurant, tentatively called Steaks in the City. Landrum was kicked out of his Ray’s Hell Burger locations in Rosslyn in 2013 following a dispute with his then-landlord. [Eater]
Christmas Beer Event in Courthouse — Fire Works Pizza (2350 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse will be hosting a tap takeover dubbed the 12 Beers of Christmas tonight. Starting at 5:00 p.m., the restaurant will offer holiday beers from St. Bernardus, Port City, Great Lakes and other brewers. The event is open to the public. [Fire Works Pizza]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber. Disclosure: Fire Works Pizza is an ARLnow.com advertiser.
Last week, ARLnow.com reported that Arlington’s site plan application process prohibits the county from receiving funds for schools when developers build bigger buildings, including apartments and condos. If the county wants to start receiving funds directly from developers to offset school costs, the site plan process has to be modified.
“I believe it is time to start a community conversation as to how we might consider adjustment to the site plan system to be more cognizant of school needs,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com. “This won’t happen overnight, and it may require legislation in Richmond, but the bottom line is we need to be more creative and proactive in planning for and accommodating the growing enrollment trends in our schools, and we need more tools to do so.”
In Northern Virginia’s suburban counties like Fairfax and Loudoun, county governments negotiate proffers with developers who want to build higher density projects. These proffers include, at least for Loudoun, fully funding the development’s impact on schools, roads and public safety. Those jurisdictions, however, don’t have nearly the commercial tax base of Arlington, which raises about half of its revenue from commercial real estate.
“What we rely on for the payment of the ongoing governmental services are the tax support that comes from the buildings,” Arlington County Board Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com last week. “The system we use has been in place for over 50 years and it has resulted in one of the most successful transformations of a community ever.”
Garvey, who has been on the County Board since 2012, before which she served for years on the School Board, also says it’s time to take another look at that system as Arlington Public Schools experiences unprecedented overcrowding.
“I think it is a good idea to look at the site plan system,” she said. “I would want to see the pros and cons of each before deciding.”
Garvey said she also supports an examination of the way the county and schools split tax revenue and plan their budgets.
“Another look at our revenue sharing agreement and how we do the budget process with the schools, working together with the schools, would be a good idea,” she said.
Vornado is planning a new 25-story office tower and a 28-story apartment building at Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S.
The redevelopment plan would demolish the current, vacant office building at 223 23rd Street. In addition to building the two new buildings — which would be two of the tallest in Crystal City — Vornado is planning on building a 13,000-square-foot park on the site, adjacent to the residential tower, and a 4,000-square-foot pocket park along Crystal Drive.
It’s unclear what would happen to Jaleo and Kora restaurants, which currently sit at the corner of the intersection, where the office building and the 4,000 square foot park will go.
The Washington Business Journal reported on the plans this summer, noting Arlington’s Site Plan Review Committee was scheduled to review the redevelopment proposal in “early fall.” According to the project’s site plan coordinator, Samia Byrd, the SPRC process has not yet started and “there are no public committee or commission meetings scheduled.”
A site plan review is one of the steps the proposal must take before being considered for County Board approval.
The buildings are part of Vornado’s plan to overhaul Crystal City as a technology and retail hub, and the office building — closer to the corner — is planned to have two floors of retail at ground level. If approved, it would deliver 658,365 square feet of office space and 28,675 square feet of retail, while the residential tower would have 1,754 square feet of retail and 353 units.
In order to complete the larger park on the side of the residential tower, and to make way for the realignment of S. Clark and Bell Streets, the plan calls for a second phase of the project which would tear down the Crystal Plaza 6 building at 2221 S. Clark Street S.
Crystal Plaza 6 is set to be renovated in order to become microunit apartments from the coworking space company WeWork. The company reportedly has a 20 year lease on the building.
Sixteen new townhouses could be coming near the corner of Washington Blvd and N. Stuart Street in Ballston, tearing down several single family homes in the process.
The project, called the Ballston Oak Townhomes, would build two, eight-unit buildings with four stories and private garage parking between 1124 and 1138 N. Stuart Street. The property’s owner is an LLC registered to Eric Ritland, the owner of home construction company Georgetown Builders.
According to the preliminary site plan, reviewed by ARLnow.com, Georgetown Builders intends to tear down four homes on N. Stuart Street, but leave the Arlington Market — one of the few stores in the area that sells kegs of beer — untouched at its location on the corner of the two streets.
The townhouses are designed to include private patios and a “herringbone brick design.” There are two garage parking spots for each unit proposed, with four guest spaces in the rear of the half-acre lot. No renderings of the design were included with the preliminary site plan.
“The project was envisioned as a ‘series of urban gardens,’ and its design incorporates private trellises, stormwater planters, gardens for residents to enjoy throughout, as well as gardens along the sidewalk to beautify the pedestrian experience, and plans for green roofs with roof decks and interior gardens,” the application states.
The developer proposes incorporating public art into the project or making a donation to Arlington’s Public Art Fund. There’s no word on when the site plan will be finalized and go before the Arlington Planning Commission or the County Board.
In Arlington, when a developer wants to redevelop a property to replace it with a bigger, taller building, the county often receives funding for affordable housing, transportation, streetscape improvements and public art. These “community benefits” from the developer are usually worth millions of dollars.
None of it goes directly to Arlington’s public schools, facing a capacity crisis with no end in sight.
The reason, according to officials, is Arlington’s development approval process, which was codified more than 50 years ago. Builders apply for site plans, and, by state law, community benefits from site plans can only legally be used “to mitigate immediate impacts,” according to County Attorney Stephen MacIsaac.
While a public art contribution is considered an immediate impact for a large apartment complex, for instance, a contribution to schools is not.
What the county is allowed to negotiate are “amenities that are contained within the project, like streetscape improvements, public art, the appearance of the building in general,” MacIsaac told ARLnow.com. “That system does not allow for charges for schools or public safety or running the libraries.”
In neighboring, suburban jurisdictions, developers negotiate benefits like these through the proffer system. In Loudoun County, which has opened 12 new schools in the last five years, the government pegs school costs as high as $37,791 per single family unit, and $11,294 per multifamily unit. Through proffer negotiations, Loudoun asks developers to pay for 100 percent of the estimated capital intensity factors, which includes roads and public safety, according to Loudoun Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning John Merrithew.
The number is typically lower after developers contribute state-mandated affordable housing funds, Merrithew says, but he gave the example of a recent, 70-townhouse development where the builder paid the county $1.3 million, 60 percent of which went directly to school funding. The system works, Merrithew said, because much of the development comes from previously undeveloped land.
“We don’t use the world redevelopment here,” Merrithew said, “because we have very little of it. Most of it is greenfield development.”
Sometimes, developers contribute chunks of land for a new school site. More frequently in the last decade, Merrithew said, Loudoun has bought land from private landowners to build schools. Acquiring land for public uses, including schools, is one of the recommendations the county’s Long Range Planning Committee made last week in evaluating the “Public Land for Public Good” initiative.
The county argues the site plan and special exception system in place has been a major driving force behind Arlington’s transformation over the past half-century, from sleepy suburb to dense urban hub.
“Not only has this zoning structure and this development process worked well in creating today’s Arlington, it’s also resulted in one of the best school systems in America,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “If we would have to undo our current structure to be able to replicate what’s done in Loudoun, I think that would be ill-advised. There’s no easy fix for the school growth, but we will address it with the School Board, and we always have.”
There could be some room for debate, however, that the current policy prohibits all funding for schools and other public works. As an example, the proposed 29-story, 393-unit apartment building at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Randolph Street in Ballston is expected to draw a large sum of community benefit money. Fisette and MacIsaac believe none of that money can legally be spent on schools, but MacIsaac didn’t draw a hard line.
“That’s a tough legal question,” he said. “The kinds of impacts that are typically recognized in the courts in Virginia and throughout the country are much much more immediate impacts, like on the surrounding streets and neighborhood. It does not typically involved secondary and tertiary impacts like government services.”
The County Board could approve measures on Saturday to increase the green benchmarks it requires of developers who are seeking more density than zoning allows. The change in the Green Building Program would coincide with the U.S. Green Building Council’s update to its LEED certification system, which raises the standards by which buildings are approved for silver, gold and platinum ratings.
According to the county’s staff report, a working group from the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, after reading staff’s recommended changes, “expressed concern that the proposed changes will make it more costly to do business in Arlington, claiming that the additional costs will be reflected in residential and office rental rates.”
To achieve LEED Silver status under the new standards, buildings need to maintain an 18-20 percent “energy efficiency component,” a higher standard than the previous LEED system. The energy efficiency component deals with the building’s sustainability once it is already occupied.
“The current proposed changes to the green building bonus density incentive program are intended to incentivize exceptional energy efficient design and construction as well as efficient energy performance post-occupancy, while continuing to focus on holistically designed and constructed buildings,” the staff report states. “An incentive program is needed in Arlington to encourage developers to incorporate high levels of energy efficiency into new buildings and to ensure performance post-occupancy.”
Although the new standards are more stringent for developers, if approved, they also would allow more bonus density than the incentives currently on the books. If a building achieves the LEED Silver level, the developer can request a 0.25 increase in Floor Area Ratio, which is the square feet of the building divided by the size of the plot of land. If the building reaches LEED Gold, the developer can seek up to a 0.35 FAR bonus. If the building can achieve LEED Platinum, the bonus density can reach 0.50 FAR.
In order to receive the bonus density, however, all office buildings must be rated at least a 75 on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star system, to ensure the building is sustainable once it is already occupied. Residential developments are not required to meet the Energy Star standard, but they can earn additional bonus density if they do.
Buildings that can achieve “net zero energy construction,” as defined by the International Living Future Institute, are LEED Gold Certified and meet at least two other county environmental benchmarks can receive bonus density above 55 percent FAR.
The Green Building Program would be reviewed every three years, or when LEED standards change again. If approved, the new standards would go into effect immediately, but buildings can use the previous Green Building Program standards until Sept. 30, 2015.
Construction on 193 new apartments — including 78 affordable units — in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood has begun, and county officials and developers celebrated today with a groundbreaking.
The project, called Union on Queen, will raze three buildings to erect a 12-story tower, which will contain 181 apartments. The two buildings that make up the Pierce Queen Apartments, built in 1942 on the 1600 block of 16th Street N., will be gutted, but preserved and renovated. They will be converted into 12 affordable units.
The project is a public-private partnership among The Bozzuto Group, nonprofit developer Wesley Housing and Arlington County, which is providing debt financing. Construction began a few weeks ago, according to Bozzuto President Toby Bozzuto, and is expected to last two years, putting the project on track for an October 2016 opening.
The process to get the apartments from proposal to site plan approval to construction was not an easy one. The project was deferred by the Arlington County Board before its March 2013 approval for design and parking concerns. It also faced issues securing affordable housing grants from both the county and the state.
The developers and public officials in attendance at this morning’s groundbreaking all noted how tough of a slog the approval process was. Wesley Properties President and CEO Shelley Murphy said the company’s founder called Pierce Queen Apartments “the project from hell” when the company acquired it in 1991.
“This is as good an example of why Arlington succeeds as anything,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “We actually follow through. Follow-through is hard. We all create plans, we all create visions, we write beautiful words, we put it on a shelf. In Arlington, we work really hard to bring the vision to life, to make the investments and the hard calls to make things work.”
Rep. Jim Moran didn’t step up to the podium — “One of the nice things about retiring is that I don’t have to stand up at any more podiums and microphones,” he joked — but said “Arlington County works, and it works because they understand that communities and their economies are a reflection of a collective decision-making on the part of thousands of families.”
Arlington approved $6.8 million in Affordable Housing Investment Fund money toward the project, which also received assistance from the Virginia Housing Development Authority. The state money wasn’t easy to secure, several of the speakers said, partly because the development’s total cost was close to being ineligible for state money. Eventually, the sides struck an arrangement and Fisette said the apartments will be up to the high standards the county has set.
“There are a lot of places that would say, ‘Dumb it down, cheaper, less efficient. It’s affordable housing in there’,” Fisette said. “But that’s not the way this community works. We want every building to be indistinguishable from the next.”
Update on 11/6/14 – Board consideration of this apartment building has been delayed until December.
The Arlington County Board is slated to consider a 453-unit apartment building that’s proposed to replace a vacant Pentagon City office building this month.
on Nov. 15 is scheduled to vote on a site plan for a new apartment complex at 400 Army Navy Drive. Bethesda-based developer LCOR has proposed a 20-story building with two towers on one, three-story platform, located east of the planned PenPlace development and west of the Crystal City DoubleTree hotel.
County staff have suggested a number of community benefits from the developer, in exchange for the extra zoning density needed for the project. Among them: affordable housing, public art, park and utility fund contributions; streetscape improvements; and LEED Gold certification. Also, Arlington is considering using of a county-owned parcel in front of the property for a streetcar operations and maintenance facility, but would like the developer to spruce it up in the interim.
The apartment building will replace an aging office building that was formerly home to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s office.
An apartment building that bills its units as “boutique luxury” apartments says it’s a month away from leasing,
The Hyde, at 3119 9th Road N., is an 18-unit “exquisite rental residence,” according to developer Clark Realty Capital, that is still under construction but is expected to begin taking tenants next month. The apartments range from one to three bedrooms averaging 1,400 square feet each. When construction began, the project was referred to as 9th Road Residences when construction began a year ago.
The apartment building includes 33 parking spaces and ” a dog wash facility, automated package delivery, on-site electric vehicle charging stations, and wifi-enabled Nest temperature programs” as amenities, according to a Clark spokesman.
The rents have not yet been determined, but Clark developer Michael Jiang said they will be comparable to “similar new product in the area,” by square foot. For comparison, a 1,003-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom in the new Beacon Clarendon building cost almost $3,500 a month, according to that building’s website.