Lee Center Demolition to Begin Soon

by ARLnow.com November 11, 2010 at 10:22 am 6,005 46 Comments

The historic Lee Shopping Center near Route 50 and Pershing Drive is not long for this world.

The complex is being torn down to make way for a new mixed use development, and the demolition work is expected to begin at some point within the next month.

Construction crews will first salvage the shopping center’s limestone facade, for re-use in the new development. Then, the demolition will begin.

Utility work is expected to begin after that, and the actual construction of the building should start by the end of the winter, according to owner Equity Residential. The first tenants in the new complex are expected to move in by the summer of 2012.

Neighbors, including residents in the adjacent Equity-owned Sheffield Court apartment complex, are being told to expect construction hours between 7:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Equity has promised to work with the contractor to make sure construction vehicles enter the site through Route 50 and not through neighborhood streets.

The 2201 North Pershing project, as it’s known, will consist of nearly 200 apartments and a block-long first floor retail space that will wrap around to Route 50 / Arlington Boulevard.

Equity says it hasn’t signed up any retail tenants yet, but that hasn’t stopped locals from not-so-quietly making their wish lists known.

“The underserved South of Courthouse, or SOCO, neighborhood, has high hopes for a coffee shop, ice cream store and a small upscale grocery as well as a much needed bank,” one Barton Street resident told us in an email.

  • MikeyinCrystalC

    Ahhh Easterns…I think they are moving right down the street. 🙂

    • Yes, interior work was underway at their new storefront across the street when I stopped by yesterday. It looks like it will be a nice place.

  • NorthAdams

    this center has been an economic disgrace for 40+ years. Good riddance.
    And despite what people say, I strongly believe that it has absolutely no architectural merit or interest.

    • Lou

      But on the other hand, the county needs places like this to be incubators for start-ups on a shoestring budget. Look at the District Taco example. The strip it is going in to is not a whole better than Lee Center. And it’s been home to local businesses. My high school geometry teacher had an ice cream shop there. Not a total disgrace.

  • DT

    SoCo? Are you kidding me? That must be a transplant from NYC where they think its chic to give every neighborhood a stupid nickname. In that case, I grew up in Afobb (Arlington Forest over by Ballston).

    • Lala

      I am a local too and NOBODY except this wannabe in the article calls it SoCo. Actually it is usually referred to as Ft. Myers b/c of the Army base across the street.

      • General Lee

        Fort Myers is in FL. Fort Myer is the one in Arlington.

      • Lou

        Why anyone would want to name their neighborhood after a gross liqueur, I have no idea.

    • NorthAdams

      that is hysterical — SOCO. “everyone” knows it is the strip center across from Ft. Myers. The ABC store in there did good business!!
      THing is there used to be a Drug Fair (now Rite Aid) in that center and also an IGA-like supermarket. They’d still be there if there was a market. There isn’t.

    • SoCo Resident

      The Barton St. resident who commented on SOCO is not a NYC transplant but a 40- year resident who has seen the Pershing Dr. strip decline as Ft. Myer slammed its gates permanently. DT, Lala and North Adams are living in the past when Drug Fair, the Food Store, Royal Lee etc. profited. They are gone as is the connection to the fort! This unique pocket neighborhood, South of Courthouse or SOCO, has been ignored, and looked down on, by the County and Lyon Park at large. Time for a new neighborhood identity DT, Lala and North Adams!

      • Lala

        “SoCo” es muy loco…

      • NorthAdams

        I think my post said the place wasn’t profitable.

        But wouldn’t they want to distance themselves from others?

        Why not ELyPa to distinguish that they are not Lyon Park (yes, they’ve been abused by their CA, but that is the “Arlington Way”). But if that has commie overtones of being “east” they could be WeFoMy. Or, gosh, come up with something that distinguishes themselves without having to rely on others.

        SoHo (NYC) is based on being just south of Houston, not another neighborhood.

        Step it up SoCo.

  • Sheffield Court Resident

    Huh?! I live in Sheffield Court and this is the first I am hearing this. A little annoyed they didn’t tell us about this construction before resigning our lease. Another strike against this place and Equity Residential.

    • NorthAdams

      yeah and they own both places too — your building and the shopping center.

  • Barton Manor

    I live around the corner from this place. I did patronize nearly every business that was in the old Lee Shopping center. Many emergency ingredients for recipes at the grocery that had serious room for improvement. A little hardware store with bare shelves but miraculously had just what I needed. I hope the new retail has something for everyone that lives here or nearby. I also hope that it builds the character of the community. It will be disruptive during the demolition and construction phase so hang in there.

  • Sunny617

    I wonder which option the new owners of the waaaay overpriced “skinny house” prefer? Being adjacent to an ugly vacant lot or suddenly having apartment windows looking into their bathroom? This should be interesting.

    • SoCo Resident

      Sunny 617, There are no “new owners” of the skinny house, or the 12-foot wide mustard color house on N. Barton, the back of which is in one of the pictures. Still owned by Mr. Braddock, Mickey Simpson’s architect. It never sold The parking area (two lots) on N. Barton and adjacent to the skinny house is zoned residential and under contract for sale by Equity Residential with settlement expected in Feb. or March, according to the company. Residents of N. Barton are very concerned about the future of those lots and whether Equity will use them for “construction purposes.” It is believed that the old house on the corner of Pershing Dr.. and N. Barton has sold and will be incorporated into this sale. All-in-all the County, the Lyon Park Citizens Association and the developer have been totally uncaring about the effect this construction and development will have on the residential nature of N. Barton St. A bogus traffic study indicates that the 188 apts and the row of businesses will not result in any appreciable increase in traffic!!! The County long ago identified the 700-900 block of N. Barton as one of the most trafficked-problemed residental streets in the County — but it does nothing significent to alleviate that!

  • Clarendude

    I didn’t realize they were reusing the limestone facade elements. That’s great!

    • SoCo Resident

      In deference to historical preservationists who sought to prevent the demolition of the existing shopping center, the developers agreed to incorporate some of the existing stone into this new – pretty drab- structure being built in the South Of Courthouse, SoCo, neighborhood. Originally, the Lee Shopping Center was connected directly to Lee Gardens aka Sheffield Court. About 25 years ago, Westbury Park on 10th St. was split off fromm Lee Gardens which assumed a new, remodeled life as Sheffield Court. It has been said that in the 1950s, the Lee Shopping Center was THE place for Arlington’s teenagers to hang out! The entire Duron Center site was a parking lot for the very busy Lee Shopping Center of the 50s and 60s.

  • MC

    What’s the difference between “historic” and “old”?

    • Clarendude

      I would add “high quality” to the categorization. So, to me, “historic” means there is something historically significant (Jefferson lived there, it was the first of some type of thing, etc) – “high quality” means there are elements in the design or materials that would unlikely to be matched by today’s building standards and materials (like the use of real stone, masonry detailing, etc). “Old” is a relative term. In Arlington anything before 1980 is old. Where I grew up, something had to be built before the civil war to be considered ‘old’.

  • SoCo Resident

    Equity Residential, one of the largest apt. owners in the U.S. is the owner of the Lee Center and Sheffield Courts behind it in the South of Courthouse, SoCo, neighborhood. They first proposed to tear down both, building three 14 story towers, apts, and townhouses on the Sheffield property. When the County Board members fell off their chairs, Equity quietly dropped the plan; another developer came up with just the Lee Center idea but had financing problems; then, Equity stepped back in last June and moved on the already approved Lee Center site plan. Be assured that Equity has ideas for the future of the aging Sheffield Apts even though they just installed the FIOS (now outdated by WIMAX)! So, the SoCo neighborhood will be facing long term, significant changes as its identity evolves.

    • SB

      WiMAX and FiOS are apples and oranges. WiMAX is a wireless technology offered by Sprint/Clearwire, currently just used for wireless data. FiOS is Verizon’s wired fiber optic service for voice/video/data.

  • SoCo Resident

    Just so we know what we are talking about, here are some pics, renderings and information about the planned very dense, traffic-generating project in the South of Courthouse , SoCo, neighborhood. They are from the first developer, taken over by Equity in June. Equity does want this information available, prefering to keep the neighborhood and its current renters at Sheffield Courts ill-informed. SEE:

  • SoCo Resident

    Equity does NOT want this information available….

  • PikeHoo

    Good. I pass this eyesore every day. I’m glad they’re actually going to do something to improve the property.

  • G::NativeArlingtonian

    There is zero possibility that this area can handle traffic from 200 additional apartments and businesses. Its pretty bad as it is driving up and down Barton or finding a parking space to visit friends at Sheffield Court. I certainly hope the county mandated adequate parking spaces in garages and lots… but in our “urban village” I suspect they will expect everyone to walk and ride their bike around this area. Nice idea… not practical in the least. 10 to 1 says the county bent over smiling to this developer too.

    • SoCo Resident

      As NativeArlingtonian so correctly states there is “zero possibility” that this area can handle the traffic that will be generated by the Pershing Dr. project in the South of Courthouse, SoCo, neighborhood. So far, the County, Developer and the Lyon Park Citizen Association have not done anything definite to limit the traffic on N. Barton St. The 700 block of N. Barton St., immediately adjacent to the construction site, cannot even obtain residential parking permits! Yes, the County is not doing an adequate job in preparing the single family neighborhood streets, like very stressed N. Barton, for the demolition and construction.

    • SoCo Resident

      Actually, NativeArlingtonian there will be 85 mandated bicycle parking spaces in the new complex in the South of Courthouse, SoCo, neighborhood. They use this to make it “green.”

  • DT

    The link says that there will be ground level and garage parking. I think the BS section of SoCo will be AOK.

  • Mike

    People, it’s called evolution. Life evolves, needs change, development happens. It happens and has been happening since the beginning of time. We live here, been living here for 17 years and I welcome the new development even though I too will be effected by the construction and the traffic. Such is life. But with any luck, we’ll have some nice establishments go in, i.e. grocery store, coffee shop, etc. Take your pick. In the end, the types of stores we get will depend on whether they are successful so you have a vote in the end, don’t you. I also hope that someone buys and destroys the buildings where the dry cleaners is located as well as the corner second hand store and adjacent building. Then maybe we can get rid of the car dealerships, gas stations and other assorted krapt around here.

    • Let the sun shine iin!

      That’s what those buildings you call ‘krapt” do-they may not be attractive, but at least you can see the sky and feel the sun on your face when you walk by!
      I do agree about your evolution comment-those that can’t adapt, usually don’t survive.

    • SoCo Resident

      As MIKE states, its “evolution” – of the pocket neighborhood SoCo. The Lee Center is a done deal. The Country Club Cleaners shopping strip referred to by MIKE is owned by Paul’s Audio and Video which just moved there from the Lee Shopping Center! The other building referred to, the Second Hand Store, recently sold I think, or at least the for sale sign went down. But, here’s something else to watch for: the 1950s ARVA motel, aka Days Inn, sold a couple of years ago for a whopping $15 million. I don’t think that they paid that kind of money to run an old motel with “Rudy’s” restaurant in it. SoCo rumors are that the Days Inn owners were watching what happens between the County and the Lee Center before they procede. And behind that is the aging Washington-Lee apts which has had the same owner for decades. The connected buildings at the corner of Washington and Pershing (Law Firm, Voccelli Pizza, etc.) sold a couple of years ago for a good sum too. Whenever investors start moving into a neighborhood like SoCo and pay handsomely for commercial property as has happened, it can be concluded they intend a major change relatively soon. As soon as Equity Residential finishes the 188 Lee Center apts, you can bet the aging Sheffield Courts days will be numbered. The County, desparate for increased tax revenue, will eagerly dance with these developers. SoCo can expect a major evolution in its composition and appearance.

  • SoCo Resident

    Here is a real estate news article – with pics – about the South of Courthouse, SoCo, project:

    • Native

      You know what’s funny about the article on this link? Not once does it refer to this area as SoCo. Seriously, what is wrong w/ you? Do you think if you keep repeating it on this site that people will start calling it that? Weird. And it’s more like SoWeCo anyway to be accurate…

      • SoCo Resident

        Native: What are you talking about? Before you embarass yourself by stating that the article does not “refer to this area as SoCo”, READ THE ARTICLE so you won’t make a such fool of yourself! The last sentence of the article mentions the “underserved South of Courthouse, SoCo, neighborhood.” This term has been used in many meetings within the neighborhood in the last few years which obviously you were not part of.

      • SoCo Resident

        Native. I apologize if I misinterpreted which article you were referring to. The ArlNow article includes use of the term “South of Courthouse”; the Real Estate News article does not specifically use the term in discussing the Lee Center Project which is in the SoCo neighborhood. I’m sorry you think there is something “wrong” with me or “weird” about my using a term that has been tossed around this pocket-neighborhood for the last several years.

  • SoCo Resident

    South of Courthouse, SoCo, derivation. I don’t think anyone can put their finger on when this term started being used in the pocket-neighborhood bounded by 10th St, Washington and Arlington Blvds. But, in neighborhood meetings of the last few years, it has surfaced. SoCo residents have never really felt part of Lyon Park which looks down on it. Now, the SoCo term has increased with the arrival of a major development transforming its character.

    In this discussion, the SoCo resident who used the term in the ArlNow article has been called a “transplant from NYC” and a “wannabe,” and I was called “muy loco” and asked “Seriously, what is wrong with you?” for using it. (see above). Pretty shocking personal attacks just for someone using the already existing term “SoCo” for a neighborhood, don’t you think? I have genuinely tried to inform this discussion with the considerable information gathered from many meetings and interactions concerning the Lee Center Project. But, why the personal attacks?

    • Native

      I apologize for offending you.

  • DT

    Because its not fricking SoCo, toolbag (TB if you please0. You’re going out of your way to make up some stupid name for an area as if that will make the area more important. I will personally attack someone who is clearly trying to antagonize like a child by repeating a term over and over. What next, Lyon Park reject, nanny-nanny boo boo?

    • SoCo Resident

      Interesting that DT now threatens to “personally attack” anyone who uses the term South of Courthouse, or SoCo, to distinguish the pocket-neighborhood bounded by 10th, Washington Blvd. and Arlington Blvd. Why would someone become SO angry about neighborhood change and resort to name calling and threatening to attack another poster?

  • DT

    Grow up.

  • wowb

    Leave SoCo alone the important thing is what is happening? and SoCo has been informative not vitriolic. Did the Lee Market go further downhill because of the closing of Henry Gate? Will no grocery store come forward because there might not be enough traffic and too much competition from WF and TJ? I would like to see a less expensive grocery store and a drug store as anchors to balance too tony Clarendon. Do you think there is any chance of that?

  • Jim Smart

    Sad to see Lee Shopping Center go. My grandfather and I used to eat at both the Drug Fair soda bar and Royal Lee Deli’ when it was a deli back in the early 1960s. All are gone as is my grandfather – who passed in 1966. The world hasn’t been the same without him – nor will it be the same without the old Royal Lee. But as you said – life evolves. It does – and Pershing Drive needs a fresh face. I live in Los Angeles but my Arlington memories remain. I lived at Washington & Lee Apartments, went to Fillmore School and Henry Clay Elementary. Been a long, long time ago. I still love Arlington.

  • Xmas tree kid

    I’m with you, Mr. Smart. I don’t live there anymore but sure do have lots of memories of the Lee Shopping Center. My grandfather used to have the Christmas Tree lot across from the Lee Market. Like you, we would get breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner at the Deli or Drug Fair. Way before that, from the 40s to the 60s, Safeway was beside Drug Fair. My Dad worked there during his HS years at W&L. Taylor’s Esso station and garage (later Exxon) was across the street (Put a tiger in your tank!). All gone now. Progress must go on. New memories to be made.

    • Jim Smart

      Hi Xmas Tree Kid – didn’t know you had responded until now. You remember the Lee Shopping Center I remember. I remember Esso right on the corner. Was so easy to walk to shopping from Washington & Lee Apartments. Ironically, W&L Apartments was built by Audinoe in 1947-50 and is still an Aubinoe property. Some things remain the same. My grandfather introduced me to english muffins at the Arva Motel’s dining room where we used to go to breakfast. Gone now. I suspect the Arva (Days Inn) will be gone too. Dated and run down. I miss Arlington. Don’t miss the congestion. Thanks for responding.


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