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.
Having launched Maple Ave in Vienna nearly five years ago, husband and wife team Tim Ma and Joey Hernandez are not new to the restaurant scene. Yet with the opening of Water & Wall (3811 N. Fairfax Drive) in Virginia Square almost two weeks ago, they found new challenges to contend with at their Arlington restaurant.
“When you get into a new kitchen, it’s completely new equipment, completely new staff, it’s a completely new space flow,” said Ma. “It’s a completely new restaurant. We want to take the time to make sure we get every step right.”
The restaurant has been preparing to open since July, held its family and friends soft opening event on November 1 and opened to the public the next day. Water & Wall has opened at 5:00 p.m. every day, but hopes to delve into weekend brunch and eventually into lunch. For the time being, Ma prefers the limited schedule in order to perfect the dinner operations, especially considering that most new restaurants have issues to work out.
“Everybody has glitches, we’re no different. The hardest thing was getting used to the new kitchen equipment,” Ma said. “We got here and we’ve got all this new equipment, everything’s high powered, high end. We burned a lot of things really early on just because we weren’t used to it. We had to adjust recipes that we’ve been doing for years just because this equipment is so much stronger. That was one of the most difficult things.”
Ma and the kitchen crew continue to experiment with the menu. They’ve brought over some staples from Maple Ave such as shrimp and grits, mussels and braised beef cheek. There are around 10 small plates, eight main plates and typically four specials per night. The menu should be whittled down to the permanent items within the next few months, but Ma expects it to change fairly frequently.
“We’re happy with the menu but we know how the kitchen gets,” he said. “The kitchen gets antsy. They don’t want to cook the same things over and over, so then we move on to the next thing.”
Although signature dishes like duck confit may sound decadent, the Water & Wall crew works hard to fend off the “fine dining” label.
“I want to stay away from the term fine dining, even though I think our look is a little fancier than I anticipated,” said Ma. “I never want it to really be called fine dining. Contemporary, casual dining I think is what we would call it.”
“I know it looks like it when you first walk in, but we’re definitely not fancy,” agreed General Manager Nick Seo. “We wanted to create an environment where anybody can walk in dressed in any sort of attire and have a really great experience. We don’t have a specific dress code, it’s not very fancy at all.”
Seo also manages the bar and is experimenting with signature drinks for the restaurant. He plans to debut two this weekend — his version of the Moscow Mule, and an olive oil/vodka/lemon cocktail. The bar area will run happy hour specials from 5:00-7:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Five drink items will be available for five dollars during that time. Eventually, happy hour may expand to food items as well.
In addition to the signature drinks and focus on food, Seo believes the ambiance will help Water & Wall stand out from its competitors.
“I think it’s different than a lot of the primary restaurants or bars in this area. It is kind of, I think, a fresh take on Arlington dining,” he said. “We’ve had more and more people who live in the residential areas across the street coming in. They walk in and are blown away.”
While Ma says he takes care of the kitchen operations, he says his wife “basically runs things” at the restaurant. One of the things Hernandez focuses on is getting people in the door. Currently, she worries people won’t know Water & Wall exists due to the lack of outdoor signage for the restaurant. But she was encouraged to hold off on ordering any because the whole building is apparently supposed to get a bit of a facelift with new signs.
“It’ll happen. People will find us,” Hernandez said. “It’s been a little crazy these past couple of weeks. But it’s exciting, too.”
Ma is confident the customer base will continue to grow once people notice the restaurant, try it and spread the word. He said Virginia Square is quieter than some of Arlington’s other restaurant hubs, but that’s how he likes it.
“Give us a shot. It’s one of those things where we’re in a quiet spot,” said Ma. “We’ll need people to come out here and taste what we’re doing. Sometimes it seems like a trek just going from one metro stop to the next. But we hope people make the trek and that we can impress them. All I ask is, if you like it, tell somebody.”
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.
For the second time in a week, a suspect with “bulging eyes” exposed himself in front of a Virginia Square apartment building.
From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 11/07/13, 900 block of N. Pollard Street. Between 1:35 am and 1:38 am on November 7, a female victim reported a male subject exposing himself for the second time in a week. The suspect is described as a light skin black male with “bulging” eyes, and in his late 20s to early 30s. He was wearing a black winter coat at the time of the incident. The investigation is ongoing.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspects are considered innocent until proven guilty.
(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.”
Someone smashed a police cruiser’s windshield in the Columbia Heights neighborhood last Thursday.
The incident happened around lunchtime. From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
VANDALISM, 10/24/13, 1000 block of S. Cleveland Street. Between 12:40 pm on October 24 to 1:00 pm October 24, a police cruiser’s windshield was shattered with a piece of concrete while parked on S. Cleveland Street. The investigation is ongoing.
Early this morning, a man with “bulging eyes” was seen masturbating in front of a Virginia Square apartment building.
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 10/31/13, 900 block of N. Pollard Street. On October 31 at 3:03am, a man was seen masturbating in front of an apartment building by the concierge. When police arrived, the man was gone. Officers searched the area, but were unable to locate the suspect. The suspect is described as a black or possibly Middle Eastern male in his 20’s – 30’s, “bulging eyes”, who was bald and possibly had facial hair. At the time of the incident the suspect was wearing a black coat.
The rest of this week’s crime report, after the jump.
Police say 20-year-old D.C. resident John Wiley and an unnamed juvenile male were arrested around 9:40 p.m. after they stole a bike from the station. One of the suspects had a set of wire cutters in a backpack, police said. Together, the suspects were charged with Grand Larceny and Possession of Burglarious Tools.
Arlington County Police have been cracking down on bike thefts recently, after declaring over the summer that such thefts were at an all-time high. Last week, the police department announced that a 42-year-old repeat offender named Michael Cullen had received a whopping 12-year jail sentence for a series of bike thefts.
Free Clinic Still Needed Post-Obamacare — The Affordable Care Act may help reduce the number of people without health insurance, but it won’t alter the core mission of the Arlington Free Clinic. The clinic will continue to serve the thousands who are expected to remain without health insurance in Arlington even after the health care law is implemented. [Sun Gazette]
Water & Wall to Open Saturday — Water & Wall, a new restaurant in Virginia Square, is set to open on Saturday. The restaurant, from Tim Ma of Maple Ave Restaurant in Vienna, will serve “eclectic American” cuisine. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Lava Barre Moving to Rosslyn — Fitness studio Lava Barre is moving from Clarendon to Rosslyn starting early next year. [Facebook]
Flickr photo by Ddimick
The fall happened just after 2:20 p.m. at 3446 Fairfax Drive, near the intersection with N. Lincoln Street. According to scanner traffic, the victim was conscious, but not moving.
Firefighters and medics had unimpeded access to the victim, so a technical rescue was not necessary, according to ACFD spokesman Capt. Bill Shelton. The victim was transported via ambulance to the trauma at George Washington University Hospital. So far, there’s no word on his condition.
Arlington County police and Virginia occupational safety officials are investigating the incident.
A street fight in the Virginia Square area led to three arrests Monday night.
Police say three men in their 20s attacked another group of three men after they left a bar. From this week’s Arlington County crime report:
ASSAULT BY MOB, 10/14/13, 800 block of N. Pollard Street. On October 14 at 11:52pm, three male victims were assaulted in the street after they left a bar. Theodrose Encubahre, 22, of Arlington, VA; Adnan Naseer, 23, of Arlington, VA; and Amin Reza, 23, of Arlington, VA were all arrested for assault by mob and held without bail.
The rest of the crime report, after the jump. All named suspected are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
A number of roads around the Virginia Square area will be closed Sunday morning for the annual Race for a Cause 8K.
The race will shut down N. Quincy Street between N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd from 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. From 7:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., the following roads will be closed for the race, according to Arlington County:
- Eastbound Wilson Boulevard from Quincy Street to 10th Street N.
- Eastbound 10th Street N. to Washington Boulevard
- Southbound Washington Boulevard from 10th Street N. to Columbia Pike
Parking along these streets may be restricted, so those leaving their cars in and around the area Saturday night should be on the lookout for “No Parking” signs along the race route. The race will begin at 8:00 a.m.
A pedestrian was sent to the hospital after an alleged larceny turned into a hit-and-run this afternoon (Friday) in Virginia Square.
The suspect stole one or more items from Casual Adventure (3451 Washington Blvd) before fleeing the store and getting into a silver Mercedes, according to witnesses on the scene. Once in the Mercedes, the suspect peeled out of an adjacent parking lot, striking a pedestrian before driving away.
The suspect was described as a well-dressed man in his 50s.
The restaurant will give away the food in celebration of National Cheeseburger Day. The location in Virginia Square (3325 Wilson Blvd) is one of the three Z-Burger restaurants chosen to give away the cheeseburgers from 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. and 5:00-7:00 p.m.
“The employees are excited,” said Z-Burger spokesman Kenny Fried. “Hopefully we’ll have new customers coming in that never experienced Z-Burger before and this is the chance to show what great food and what a great place we have.”
Each customer may have one free cheeseburger, and Fried promises the restaurant we won’t run out of supplies. Owner Peter Tabibian said the restaurant will serve all customers who are in line by 1:00 p.m. for the early giveaway, and by 7:00 p.m. for the late giveaway.
The chain plans to do a similar giveaway during National Hamburger Day in about six months.
“Z-Burger just loves doing things to engage the community and have fun with its customers. We like to surprise and delight them,” Fried said. “It’s another opportunity to thank them for having us in the community.”
The free cheeseburger deal is also good at the chain’s Tenleytown and White Marsh locations.
Prayer Vigil for Navy Yard Victims — St. George’s Episcopal Church in Virginia Square will be holding a 40 minute prayer vigil and candle lighting for victims of the Navy Yard mass shooting tonight. [ARLnow Events]
Va. Is Test State for Gun Data Sharing — Virginia is a test state for a nationally-linked system that will share information on guns used in crimes across law enforcement agencies. The system is intended to skirt federal law that prevents the sharing of federal gun trace information. As of Monday, twenty-five Virginia law enforcement agencies had signed on to the program. The Arlington County Police Department was not on that list. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
Dedication for New Wakefield HS — A dedication ceremony will be held for the new Wakefield High School on Sunday. Students, staff and community members are invited to the ceremony, which starts at 1:30 p.m. It will be followed by tours of the school, an opening ceremony for Wakefield’s new aquatics center, and an aquatics center open house. [Arlington Public Schools]
According to Arlington County Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck, 25-year-old Fermin Quintanilla, of Arlington, broke into the house just after 3:00 a.m., went downstairs and caressed the female victim’s face when the male victim woke up and yelled at him.
“[The male victim] recognized the suspect from a cast on his arm that he was the same man who assaulted him a few days earlier,” Sternbeck said. “During that incident, the suspect approached the victim outside the victim’s house and started punching him.”
Sternbeck said the victims hadn’t had any previous interaction with Quintanilla, calling the alleged assault and burglary “random” acts. Quintanilla was arrested and charged with burglary and assault and battery. He is being held at the Arlington County Detention Center without bond.
Photo courtesy of ACPD