The Latitude Apartments project has received a thumbs up from county staff members, fresh off of last week’s Arlington Planning Commission recommendation to defer consideration of the proposal. County staff recommends the County Board approves the plan during its meeting on Saturday, November 16.
Both the Planning Commission and the County Board deferred the issue during their July meetings in order to examine more information regarding complaints about the plan. The largest concern has been about changing the site’s status from commercial, as designated in the Virginia Square Sector Plan, to mixed-use residential.
In addition to rezoning the site, the proposal includes demolishing the existing one- and two-story buildings on the property to construct a 12-story, 265 unit residential building, with 14 affordable units. The building would have more than 3,100 square feet of ground floor retail space and around 2,800 square feet of ground floor space dedicated to cultural and educational uses. The plan includes a 12,000 square foot public plaza at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Monroe Street, which would have a pedestrian connection to Quincy Park.
County staff members note that the immediate area has changed since the sector plan was created, and recent expansion there makes it unnecessary to preserve additional commercial space at this time. The staff report reads, in part:
“Office uses, which were encouraged to increase the daytime population, maintain the existing medical office presence, and facilitate shared parking, have increased by over 700,000 square feet since the plan was adopted, albeit not at the same pace as residential development. However, institutional growth has significantly increased in Virginia Square, including George Mason University, which also contributes to the desired daytime activity in this area. Further, GLUP-based estimates of additional development capacity within Virginia Square indicate there is remaining development potential on blocks slated for either office or mixed land uses, which would help further sector plan goals for additional office growth… Staff finds that the proposed site plan, while not meeting all of the indicated uses of the sector plan, is generally consistent with Virginia Square Sector Plan guidance for the site and the GLUP… Therefore, staff recommends that the County Board adopt the attached resolution to rezone the subject property from ‘C-2′ to ‘C-O’. Staff further recommends that the County Board adopt the attached ordinance to approve the subject site plan, subject to the conditions of the ordinance.”
Two other issues that arose regarding the project are that the building height would exceed the sector plan’s recommendation by three feet and that the parking ratio would be 0.9 spaces per residential unit instead of the standard 1.0 space per unit. County staff did not consider either of these substantial enough to recommend against approving the proposal.
(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) The Arlington Planning Commission voted 8-2 on Wednesday night to again defer a decision on the Latitude Apartments project in Virginia Square.
Every member of the planning commission praised The Penrose Group for its proposal, lauding the architecture and community benefits. The group is hoping to build a 265-unit apartment building with 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail and 2,800 square feet of cultural and educational use.
However, a majority of commissioners said that because the Virginia Square Sector Plan calls for a commercial building, they couldn’t support the application.
“Our core issue is do we respect the sector plan that our friends and neighbors worked on and the county board approved, or do we ignore it,” said Planning Commission Vice Chair Steve Cole. “I can’t imagine believing that site plans ought to be the vehicles for changing sector plans and county policy. I’m not saying no to the proposal, I’m saying no to the extraordinary request to change the sector plan.”
Planning Commission Chairman Brian Harner and member Rosemary Ciotti were the only two commissioners to vote against deferral. Ciotti made a motion to recommend the County Board approve the plan, which failed, 6-4.
“We’re not living in a perfect world where we were able to predict 10-15 years ago what this sector plan would bring about and what market conditions would offer,” Harner said. “I wouldn’t trivialize this project as saying we’re just responding to current market conditions, because we really have to think about what it offers the county and the community.”
The County Board could review this proposal at its November 16 meeting. It’s unclear if the Board will go along with the Planning Commission recommendation, or if it will rebuff the recommendation as it did when the commission voted against the redevelopment of the Bergmann’s Cleaning site last year.
Members of the community came out en force to speak about the Latitude project — 25 signed up to speak. Many residents of the nearby Monroe and Virginia Square Condominiums spoke against the project, while all others spoke in favor.
“We understand the county may benefit in the near term from the tax revenue,” said Ellen Dayton, a condo resident, “but staying true to the land use goals our excellent county planners have set forth is best for the long term development.”
Cliff Chieffo was one of the authors of the Virginia Square Sector Plan and lives in the Virginia Square Condominiums. He supported the project and said the sector plan was designed to have flexibility.
“The proposal meets and exceeds the Virginia Square Sector Plan,” Chieffo said. “The applicant will produce a signature building that will be unique to Virginia Square.”
Chieffo said after the public hearing portion of the meeting that a majority of his condo neighbors supported the plan, but the condo board didn’t allow Penrose to make a presentation.
Many of those who spoke in support of the presentation were involved in real estate in one form or another, and they spoke about the architecture and public art space the proposal included.
“Virginia Square cannot handle any more office space, and won’t be able to for years,” said David Alperstein, the principal at real estate brokerage FD Stonewater. “The [Rosslyn-Ballston] corridor is experiencing a historic level of vacancy.”
(Updated at 5:05 p.m. on 11/12/13) Nearly 10 months ago, workers excavated land at the corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive to make way for a new subdivision called Lacey Lane. Shortly after the land was readied, however, the project stalled out and currently appears to be little more than a vacant lot.
In February, brothers Taylor and Milton Chamberlin of The Barrett Companies said they expected work to begin on the first model home at the site in March, with work on the second beginning shortly thereafter. They anticipated the two models would take about seven months each to build and would be ready by autumn. So far, no housing construction is visible at the site.
The land is divided into nine properties. Each plot will have a house with a base price of $1.4 million.
Calls and emails to Milton Chamberlin over the past few weeks were not returned. But Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development (CPHD) explained where things stand from the county’s point of view.
According to CPHD, there has not been any trouble with The Barrett Companies, the delay revolves around fulfilling safety regulations in order to get a building permit. County staff found outstanding “life safety regulations” that the developer needs to fulfill before a building permit can be granted. Once the developer makes some clarifications and revisions to the permit documents, the permit can be approved.
“To say it plainly, life safety is really about making sure the buildings are safe for people to occupy,” said CPHD spokeswoman Helen Duong. “For this project, the outstanding items on this permit have more to do with the documentation of the design than concerns about the adequacy of the design itself.”
Basically, it appears the designer believed certain safety features were implied in the building plans, but they need to be explicitly included. Revisions must continue until county staff can see all the necessary safety features drawn in.
According to the CPHD permit records, The Barrett Companies first applied for a Lacey Lane building permit in January, but the plans were sent back for revision in February. This process was repeated a few times in the following months, and CPHD’s Inspection Services last rejected a version of the plan in April. No further revisions have been submitted since then.
Permit applications stay active for six months but expire if no action has been taken after that time. The current permit application for Lacey Lane has an expiration date of March 15, 2014. That date can move back another six months, however, if further actions occur, such as submitting another round of revisions.
Once CPHD Inspection Services staff approves the plan’s revisions, the developer must also get the permit approved by the Department of Environmental Services. We’re told that process typically takes place in just a few minutes.
Three houses are being torn down to make way for a new apartment building in the Lyon Park neighborhood.
Developer Clark Realty expects to begin demolition on the vacant houses, on 9th Road N. behind Jay’s Saloon, within the next week. Construction on the new building, which will feature 18 one-to-three bedroom apartments and 33 parking spaces, is expected to take about a year.
The building, dubbed 9th Road Residences, is being built “by right,” meaning County Board approval is not needed. The new structure will be adjacent to another Clark-built apartment building on 9th Road. Both are about the same in scale: 3 stories high with a half-sunken ground floor.
Clark is planning to rent the apartments, but they’re being built with “condo-level finishes” so that the building can be converted to condominiums if market conditions dictate.
The project is adjacent to but separate from Clark’s “10th Street Flats” development, which will eventually result in the closure and demolition of Jay’s Saloon (3114 10th Street N.) and several other small businesses. That development must first go through Arlington’s site plan process.
At an informal neighborhood meeting with the developer last night, Lyon Park residents expressed little objection to the 9th Road project, but raised some concern about traffic that might eventually come from 10th Street Flats.
As announced in August, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) plans to replace the existing 3-story Carlyn Springs apartment complex with a new 5-story complex dubbed “The Springs” at 4318 N. Carlin Springs Road. Part of the building’s first floor would house offices for APAH’s headquarters. The offices would have an entrance on N. Carlin Springs Road, separate from the residential lobby and community room entrance on N. Thomas Street.
The proposed building would be 5-stories tall, offering a transition from other high-rises in Ballston to nearby low-rise residences. It would consist of 104 units.
The development would have two levels of underground parking, accessible from N. Thomas Street. The developer is requesting 104 spaces for residential use and seven for office use. Although 10 office spaces are required, special permission for a reduced number has been requested. The developer contends that the spaces will be shared between residents and office workers, so office workers will be able to use open spaces during the day while residents are at work.
Currently, sidewalks surrounding the property measure four to five feet wide, with a two to three foot treeless green strip. The development plan recommends expanding the sidewalks to 11-13 feet wide, with adjacent tree pits.
One issue the SPRC hopes to work through is the 26 foot setback area at the south side of the building, which is proposed to be a recreation area and play space for residents. The developer wishes to locate an above ground transformer at this location. County staff suggests moving the transformer vault inside the building or underground in the parking garage.
Although it may come up at future SPRC meetings instead of at tonight’s, county staff is expected to further discuss construction of a pedestrian/bike path to break up the “superblock” at this site. The path would also provide access to a park proposed for the area.
The developer has proposed building ground level apartment units, and county staff has encouraged the developer to consider stoops and street entrances for these units. That would give residents direct access to the proposed pedestrian/bike path, should the path be built.
Tonight will be the second time The Springs has been addressed at an SPRC meeting. There’s no word so far on exactly when the $35 million redevelopment proposal will be ready to go before the County Board.
The proposal involves tearing down the existing 8-story building and replacing it with two new buildings. One would be a 9-story office and educational building, and the other would be a 15-story multi-family residence.
The L-shaped residential building would sit at the north end of the site, and would include 267 units. The ground floor would house about 3,000 square feet of retail space along Glebe Road. A landscaped plaza with specialty paving, lighting and planters would separate that building from the office/educational building at the south end of the site, at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive. The plaza plan includes outdoor seating for the retail and food vendors. A wall would separate the outdoor retail area from the ground floor residential area.
Both buildings would sit on top of a 3-level underground parking structure, which would include 265 residential spaces. Currently, the Blue Goose has 202 surface parking spaces with an entrance along Glebe Road. The plan for the underground structure involves moving the parking entrance to the lesser traveled N. Wakefield Street.
The redevelopment proposal would keep the street lane configurations the same on Glebe Road and Fairfax Drive, but expand the width of the sidewalks. The developer would also provide a cycle track adjacent to the Fairfax Drive frontage. County staff will look at how best to improve bicycle and trail access with the wider streetscape.
In response to comments about the historic preservation of the existing Blue Goose structure (built in 1962) — which recently made Preservation Arlington’s “Most Endangered Historic Places” list — the developer has agreed to include blue panels on the ground floor retail space’s building facade and on part of the interior.
So far, it’s unclear if this will be the last time the Site Plan Review Committee addresses the Blue Goose development, or if more tweaks to the design are anticipated at future meetings. Once the committee feels a consensus has been reached on any outstanding issues, the project will move on to the Planning Commission, and then on to the County Board for final approval.
County Seeks Federal Funds for Transportation Projects — County officials are expected to apply for three grants for non-vehicular transportation projects. The $1 million in grant money would cover a bicycle and pedestrian connection between Four Mile Run Trail and Potomac Yard, improvements at Ashlawn Elementary School, and street and sidewalk improvements along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. [Sun Gazette]
Man Hospitalized After Fall at Airport — A man has been hospitalized after falling from a roadway at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday. He apparently climbed over the protective barrier near the ticketing level roadway and fell to the arrivals roadway below. [Washington Post]
Study: Arlington Could Cut Back on Parking Spaces – Researchers with the Arlington County Commuter Services’ Mobility Lab conducted a study of residents in 16 high rise towers to monitor their commuting habits. One of the significant findings is that residents are often choosing to walk, bike or use public transportation instead of driving, even if they own cars. A land use expert says the findings suggest that Arlington has more parking spaces than it needs, and can cut back on parking requirements for new developments. [WAMU]
No Anchor Tenant Yet for Ballston Development — All the pieces are in place for constructing a new development at 4040 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, except that there still isn’t an anchor tenant for the building. Developer Shooshan is waiting to sign such a tenant before commencing construction. The final building in the Liberty Center complex will have 20 floors and more than 426,000 square feet of space. [GlobeSt]
Development Exacerbating Metro’s Capacity Problem — New development near Metro stations, including a nearly-completed office tower and planned apartment tower in Rosslyn, is expected to further tax the already-busy Metrorail system. Also adding to Metro’s capacity woes, particularly along the Blue and Orange lines: new riders who will be coming aboard along the soon-to-open Silver Line. [Washington Post]
Nearly 1,000 Brave Rain for E-CARE Event – Nearly 1,000 people braved cold and rain to recycle hazardous household materials, electronics and other items on Saturday’s biannual E-CARE event. About 34.6 tons of hazardous materials and 15 tons of electronics were dropped off, according to Arlington officials. That compares to 41.5 tons of hazardous materials and 11.5 tons of electronics last fall.
No Room in Arlington for New High School — There’s no place to put a fourth high school in Arlington. That’s the conclusion reached by Arlington Public Schools staff, which has been studying options for increasing the school system’s capacity on the high school level. Despite the fact that Arlington’s high schools are all recently built or renovated, they’re all either over or approaching capacity as the student population continues to grow. [Sun Gazette, Arlington Public Schools]
‘Monkeys With Typewriters’ at Artisphere — A local writing group called Monkeys With Typewriters meets weekly at Artisphere. The group includes writers working on novels and other projects. [Ode Street Tribune]
Flickr pool photo by eschweik
Favola: Streamline Development Approval — State Senator and former County Board member Barbara Favola (D) is urging Arlington County to streamline its development approval process in order to make it easier for affordable housing projects to be built. At a fundraiser for the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing this week, Favola and others said red tape and community resistance is making it more expensive to build affordable housing in Arlington. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington E-CARE Event This Weekend — Arlington will hold is biannual Environmental Collection and Recycling Event from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. The event allows Arlington residents to safely dispose of household hazardous materials and to recycle items like bikes, small metal items, shoes, clothing, bed frames, etc. [Arlington County]
NSF Buyers Remorse in Alexandria? — Alexandria officials are thrilled to be taking the National Science Foundation and its more than 4,000 associated jobs from Arlington. But some are now voicing displeasure with a part of the incentive package for NSF that relieved the developer of the agency’s new headquarters from paying what would have been more than $1 million to the city’s affordable housing fund. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Arlington Public Schools is planning to sell the school and its grounds to developer Penzance, with the proceeds being used to help fund the school system’s ongoing expansion. The school would be torn down, as would the adjacent fire station. In turn, Penzance would construct a new mixed-use development with affordable housing, a new fire station and a 1.5 acre park.
The Wilson School was built in 1910 and is in need of extensive, costly renovations. School officials say its grounds are not big enough for the construction of a new elementary school.
Preservation Arlington argues that the Wilson School is “an important part of the character and urban fabric of Arlington” that provides a “sense of place to the community” and a “break from high density.” It wants to see the school retained and restored for continued educational use.
“Help us save the Wilson School from being turned into another high rise,” the petition page says. “Let’s take back our neighborhood.”
As of 8:00 a.m., the petition had collected 96 online signatures.
Photo courtesy Preservation Arlington
Development Proposed to Replace Courthouse Wendy’s — Developer Carr Properties is planning to propose an office building to be built at 2038 Wilson Blvd in Courthouse, replacing the Wendy’s. The building will be similar to Carr’s planned office building at 2311 Wilson Blvd, which was approved by the Arlington County Board in December. [Washington Post]
Questions Remain As Staff Works on Urban Ag Report — County Board Chairman Walter Tejada is pressing county staff to move faster on a report on urban agriculture. The report is expected to recommend a course of action on the controversial issue of urban hen raising, an issue for which many questions remain. [Sun Gazette]
Free Tropical Plants Today – Ferns, palms, ficus trees and banana plants will be given away for free this afternoon at the Crystal City farmers market. Used to decorate outdoor areas of Crystal City during the summer, the plants would otherwise be composted in advance of winter. [Crystal City BID]
Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser. Photo courtesy @BrianWohlert.
B.M. Smith and Associates submitted plans to Arlington’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board earlier this month for a six-story apartment building with ground floor retail, tentatively dubbed 2400 Columbia Pike.
Located across from Penrose Square, the building would replace Rappahannock Coffee, L.A. Nails, the former Saah Furniture and other businesses in three low-rise retail buildings on the block. At minimum, the facades from two of the buildings (2338-2344 Columbia Pike and 2406-2408 Columbia Pike) will be preserved and incorporated into the new building.
Columbia Pike’s Form Based Code allows for apartment buildings up to 6 stories, so County Board approval may not be needed in order for the project to proceed, but the relatively historic nature of the buildings on the block will likely require additional community review, public hearings and a Form Based Code amendment.
So far, the developer has not submitted a formal Form Based Code application to the county, so a county spokeswoman was not able to speculate on a timeframe for the development.
Hat tip to G. Clifford Prout
Safeway Seeks New Developer in Bluemont — Safeway is looking for a new developer to work with for the redevelopment of its Bluemont store at 5101 Wilson Blvd. Developer Mark Silverwood pulled out of a partnership to build a new Safeway store topped by 160 apartments after Bluemont residents rejected it, saying the proposed building was too tall and would generate too much traffic. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington’s Recycling Rate Reaches New High — The recycling rate in Arlington hit a new all-time high in 2012. The county’s recycling rate was 51.1 percent in 2012, according to the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality. [Sun Gazette]
Wakefield Seniors Names Scholarship Semifinalists — Three Wakefield High School seniors have been named National Achievement Scholarship semifinalists. The scholarship program recognizes academic excellence among African American students. [Arlington Public Schools]
Affordable Housing Forum Tonight — Arlington County is holding a public forum on the topic of affordable housing tonight. Arlington residents are encouraged to attend and weigh in on the county’s affordable housing goals. The event is being held at the Navy League Building auditorium (2300 Wilson Blvd) from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Located on a 10.2 acre parcel of vacant land once proposed as a site for the Nationals baseball stadium, the development will include five buildings between 16 and 22 stories high, and more than 2 million square feet of total floor area. The buildings will be mostly commercial office towers — including one secure office building — plus a 300-room hotel and an option for a 300-unit residential building in lieu of one of the office towers.
Despite 25 public meetings on the development proposal, including 17 Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) meetings starting in February 2012, a vocal group of residents were still not sold on the project. Mostly hailing from Arlington Ridge and other residential neighborhoods around Pentagon City, they listed a variety of objections to the project, including concerns about additional traffic on neighborhood streets and the new buildings blocking monument views of D.C.
“The SPRC process was a charade — it was more like Chicago and less like Arlington,” said one resident. “The fix was in… it’s been fundamentally unfair. Please help us preserve the character of our neighborhood.”
“The heights are absurd… the 22-story building is going to look ridiculous down there,” said another. “I felt like we’ve been railroaded a bit. We don’t believe that adequate concern was given to Arlington Ridge Road traffic and 23rd Street traffic. We believe those are going to be jammed up.”
A “monumental planning mistake” and “a giveaway,” is how other opponents described the project. One speaker at Saturday’s meeting even proposed renaming the development “Tejada Place,” after the Board chairman, who he said he hoped would be voted out of office.
County staff recommended approval of the project, noting that Pentagon City’s proximity to transit — three Metro stations, a VRE station, local and regional bus routes, I-395 HOV lanes, and the future Crystal City streetcar line – allows it to support high commercial office density. PenPlace will also be next to Metropolitan Park, a 16-acre residential development featuring a future Whole Foods Store, helping to form what county planners envision as a “lively, pedestrian-friendly” retail corridor along a future extension of 12th Street S. between Eads and Fern Streets.
In a first for Arlington, intended to reduce the number of car trips to and from the development, the Board approved a cap on the number of office and retail parking spaces the development may have: a maximum of 1 for every 1,000 square feet of floor area.
Vornado agreed to a host of community benefits in exchange for approval of the development framework. Among those benefits will be a 1.5-2 acre contiguous central green space, a future 20,000 square foot “community facility,” new sidewalks and bike lanes on Eads Street, a new street grid to break up the “superblock,” and a $15 million contribution from Vornado to the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility.
Vornado managed to cobble together the additional density needed to supplement that already allowed by zoning via a combination of community benefits, density transfers from Arlington County (in exchange for the $15 million and a parcel of land that will be used for a potential streetcar maintenance facility), and bonuses for LEED Silver and Gold certification and a potential on-site district energy system.
Additional community benefits may be approved in the future. Each of the five buildings in the development will have to go through a final site plan approval and public review process, during which additional benefits may be proposed. The development is expected to be built out over the course of 15-20 years.
As currently proposed, the development will include five buildings and 2.1 million square feet of total floor area. The buildings include a 22-story office building, a 22-story secure office building (for military and/or contractor use), a 20-story office building, an 18-story, 300-room hotel and either a 16-story office building or an 18-story, 300-unit residential building. The project will also feature 50,000 square feet of retail space, a 20,000 square foot “community facility,” and about 2 acres of public open space.
County staff is expected to recommend the Board approve the project, though the official recommendation will not be made until after the county’s Planning Commission weighs in on the project. The commission is holding a carryover meeting to discuss the project at 7:00 tonight (Monday), after the discussion at its meeting on Sept. 11 went too late.
PenPlace has drawn opposition from residents who live in the neighborhoods that border Pentagon City. Members of the Arlington Ridge Civic Association have been particularly vocal, saying the traffic generated by PenPlace will be disruptive to the community.
To help reduce the number of car trips to and from the development, staff has proposed capping the number of office and retail parking spaces at 1,859 — or 1 for every 1,000 square feet of floor area. Setting a parking maximum would be a first for Arlington, which has traditionally focused on setting a minimum number of parking spaces for developments, according to county planning director Bob Duffy. Opponents of the project, however, would like to see even an even lower parking space cap.
“We have listened to the community, but there are still outstanding issues,” Duffy said.
Also proposed in order to reduce car trips: a traffic demand management system, new bike lanes, and a streetcar stop. One side of the development faces the future streetcar tracks that will run along 12th Street S. The project is also a block away from the Pentagon City Metro station.
PenPlace has gone through an extensive community process, including some 25 public meetings, possibly a record for Arlington. The county’s Site Plan Review Committee alone met 17 times between February 2012 and July 2013 to discuss the project and help find a middle ground between developer Vornado and local residents.
The project will be able to achieve its high density of office buildings thanks to a proposed transfer of development rights from Arlington County-owned Long Bridge Park. If approved by the County Board, Arlington will transfer 610,000 square feet of development rights to the project from its Long Bridge Park holdings in exchange for a $15 million contribution from Vornado to the future Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility.
Even if approved this coming weekend, Vornado isn’t expected to start building the PenPlace right away. It could be 15-20 years until the company completes all the proposed buildings in the development, said Duffy.