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Morning Notes

by ARLnow.com January 11, 2011 at 5:00 am 2,694 62 Comments

New Development Planned in Virginia Square — The Dittmar Company has submitted plans for a two-tower, 500-unit apartment complex two blocks east of the Virginia Square Metro station. [TBD]

Meade Street Bridge Study Underway — Residents gathered at Arlington Temple United Methodist Church last night to discuss possible improvements to the Meade Street Bridge and adjacent intersections. County planners are looking at ways to make the bridge safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. They’re also seeking ways to improve the aesthetics of the bridge, which connects Rosslyn and North Lynn Street with the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood across Route 50. [Ode Street Tribune]

Remember the First Five Guys on Columbia Pike? — Fast-growing burger chain Five Guys is now based in Lorton, but the company has roots in Arlington. The first Five Guys opened in 1986 in the Westmark Shopping Center at the corner of Glebe Road and Columbia Pike. [Pike Town Center]

Flickr pool photo by Chris Reed

  • Charlie

    Westmont Shopping Center.

    • el fat kid

      aka St Mont PPing center

  • MB

    Not exactly thrilled about the prospect of another set of apartment towers, but if done right, that VA Square development will help address the dead zone between Clarendon and Ballston. With the expanded GMU opening up across the street, there should be no reason that some useful and interesting ground level retail/dining won’t be possible. (But if another ()*#@%$ tanning salon opens . . .)

    • ClarendonKing

      I like the deadzone between Clarendon and Ballston. It sort of keeps the riff-raff out.

      • VA^2

        Could someone explain to me the 10-car-lot Arlington used car dealership business model? I can’t imagine how any of those places compete with each other, let alone manage to meet the lease payments.

        • Used Car Insider

          Those areas have been known to launder money for decades – that is whey there are still in business.

        • charlie

          25-30% interest on the loans; no grace period.
          they aren’t selling cars. they are mini-banks. and unregulated at that.

    • Charlie

      With rents inching back up it will be nice to have more supply and keep prices in check.
      As for retail, county wants it on Wilson, not Fairfax, which would make more sense because of th school. Although that didn’t help the restaurant on wash blvd. Do students spend any money or is ther money tied up in rent?

      • Anon

        Students and Faculty ate there plenty – in fact I think they were often the only ones there. That place didn’t last for a multitude of reasons 1) its a really big space so I’m guessing the rent was high 2) Menu was waaay to large (can’t even imagine the food cost/loss at this place) and unfocused and 3)food wasn’t very good.

        • charlie

          well not enough or they’d still be open.
          just because retail spaces exists does NOT mean it will be successful.

    • Burger

      Where else do you propose to place people?

      It is a good use of space that creates more density and that is close to the Metro. if you want to argue about aesthetics, fine, but in a utility manner it is a perfectly smart use of the land.

      • MB

        Nah, I’m not arguing against high density housing. That is *exactly* where it should go. Lack of thrilledness goes more to the aesthetics, my suspicion that the ground-level retail won’t materialize (an area speciality), and a generally uncreative canyoning of the area.* I’m a big fan of Arlington’s big-picture approach to growth in the R-B corridor – I’d just like it to get the details right.

        *Then again, I bet the Joule/AKA people are sorry they ever put a dime into that place. That’s a lonely bit of creativity, there.

        • Arlington, Northside

          We might be going a little over board with the density. You can’t find space on an inbound Orange Line train past EFC after 7am. Just think how much worse it will be in two years when all the people from Reston and Tysons get on the Silver Line. How are these folks going to use the Metro. We need to make sure that we have employers ready to fill all the soon to be empty BRACed space in Ballston and Clarendon.

          • AllenB

            The silver line will follow the orange line all the way to Stadium Armory so they shouldn’t need to transfer to Orange unless they’re going past there.

          • mehoo

            If you don’t put the density here, people will go live further west and still ride the Orange line.

          • Lou

            Jobs will be moving out to Tysons and Reston. The reverse commute is going to grow, probably more than the inbound commute.

          • Arlington, Northside

            Won’t matter, Silver or Orange, there won’t be space on any train by the time they get to Ballston. All these new Virginia Square residents better be working outside the Beltway or be able to find jobs in the B-R Corridor.

          • AllenB

            I agree that the trains will be crowded, Northside. I was just pointing out that the addition of the Silver Line won’t have any effect on Orange line crowding. However, if the Silver Line isn’t as successful in bringing commuters from Tysons, etc, there may be capacity on those trains that Orange line riders can use.

          • Arlington, Northside

            I can’t believe that those trains won’t be crowded coming out of Reston. WOuld be nice though. The tracks, we have been told, are already operating near capacity at rush hour, how many orange line trains will have to be cut to accomidate the silver line? Access to Tysons and beyond is a great benefit to Arlington with the Silver line, but we lose something to get into town with it too.

          • AllenB

            From what I’ve read, the problem isn’t the traffic on the tracks, it’s the tunnel under the river that is the choke point. They’re going to be doing something so much less blue line trains go through that tunnel, shouldn’t affect the orange or silver line. So it looks like those take the blue line in Rosslyn get screwed but the rest of us are neutral to better off.

          • Justin Russo

            Yep, if you’re traveling to the Pentagon and beyond, you will be screwed once they cut the Blue line even more. It already runs fewer train during rush hour than the other lines, it can only get worse.

          • charlie

            i’ve done the numbers.
            if you catch the train at Dulles, you will get to METRO CENTER in 65 minutes.
            that is not a commute it is torture.
            most of the Reston commutters plans to keep their buses to East Falls Church to avoid the 20 minute delay of going thru Tysons.

          • AllenB

            Do you have a source for that Charlie? Or just your opinion?

          • charlie

            Allen, it is called original research which is why I put down, “I’ve done the numbers.” So you’ll have to do some work to verify my numbers.
            try this:
            go to google maps.
            create a line that goes from Metro Center along the blue line to Springfield Franconia Metro. See how long that line is. Count how may stations are on that line.
            now draw a line from Metro Center out the Orange line, out thru Tysons, out to Dulles. See how long that line is. County how many stations are on that line.
            Using distance and how many times the train has to stop, you can extrapolate and see it is actually a very good (and brilliant, I might add) comparison.
            Let me know if your numbers are all that diff.

          • AllenB

            Oh, I can do numbers too, Charlie. But my point wasn’t about the time of the commute. My point was about how you know that most Reston commuters will still take the bus to East Falls Church. Unless you’ve done surveys, you really have no idea, you’re just expressing your overly negative opinions. But thanks for playing.

            I don’t know for sure, but I think (see how I’m not trying to assert that I have the facts when I don’t? you should try it) that many metro riders would rather take one form of transportation all the way in than transfer from one to the other.

          • charlie

            oh, that point. well there are petitions circulating — that would be an indication that people want their buses to stay. And history repeats itself because in fact when West Falls Church opened decades ago, many people tried to keep their buses going downtown but most of those efforts failed because METRO wanted the passengers on the train so they made the buses terminate at WFC.

          • AllenB

            Ah, petitions. In Arlington, we’ve already seen how (un)representative those things can be.

    • Clarendude

      I agree. Dittmar pretty much built most of the residential in Va Sq and they pretty much look all the same. I’ve heard they are “well built”, but I would argue are not the best examples of design, IMO. Ugly buildings that will last a long time are the affordable housing of the future (when they are 50 years old) though.

  • Arlwhenever

    It the Columbia Pike Revitalization Plan had been well thought out there would be potential franchisees crawling all over each other to put a Five Guys on the Pike.

    • South Arlington

      Judging from the frequently uncrowded Courthouse location, I’m thinking Five Guys is either becoming oversaturated in this market or played out. Wouldn’t make much sense to put another one in and oversaturate things even more with a location 2 miles away in Courthouse and 2 miles away on Route 7.

      • Arlwhenever

        Columbia Pike corridor oversaturated? You have to be kidding. Name one good burger joint along Columbia Pike. Now name two. Same for Pizza. Same for Chinese and any other food options.

        • LA

          Only oversaturated with Thai!

        • South Arlington

          Judging from the empty Courthouse Five Guys, the general area either seems to be Five Guys saturated or just not that into Five Guys. Just doesn’t seem like much sense to put another one on Columbia Pike when there is an uncrowded one in Courthouse and another one 2 miles away on Walter Reed.

          Can we just get District Taco to put a location in?

          • Arlington, Northside

            Just a few weeks ago I was there at lunch time, it was packed with Deputies, Cops, and folks on Jury Duty. I could totally see that 2 hour a work day lunch rush carrying the place the rest of the week.

          • charlie

            Five Guys is great because they get you in and out quick. Yeah, it isn’t crowded because they move you. That is why it is almost Fast Food. But too good to be called that.

    • Vinh An Nguyen

      I don’t see the appeal of Five Guys myself. Way too greasy. With the proliferation of much better burger joints in the area, it’s no wonder they never seem busy.

  • BallstonDude

    How do people feel about Ditmar company? Are they a good company? Are tenants generally happy in their building compared to other management companies in the area?

    • I can’t really compare to other management companies in our area, but I live in an older Dittmar building in Courthouse and am satisfied thus far. Our building is pretty quiet, which I appreciate. Our neighbors have been in our building for 13 years. Our building is pretty no-frills compared to the new ones around here, but the location is excellent.

    • AC

      I live in a Dittmar building (VA Square Plaza) right by the new proposal. I’ve lived there for over 2 years, and have been very happy. The building manager Eileen is very friendly and knows everyone by name, and every problem I’ve had so far has been quickly addressed. I recommend my building at least- I don’t know if all Dittmar buildings are as well-managed.

      • QPGirl

        I live in a Dittmar building, and find it much better managed than Charles E. Smith/Archstone properties I’ve lived it.

    • VA^2

      I’m five months into my lease of a unit in 901 and I have no complaints at all – our building manager is very responsive and helpful

  • Rover

    I always thought the first Five Guys was at King Street and Walter Reed. That one has been there forever.

    • DT

      You’re not alone. A lot of people thought that was the first. That one opened in the 90’s. The reason why the bread is so good is the original Five Guys got their bread from Brenner’s Bakery two doors down. Now, one of the bakers from there works for Five Guys and makes the rolls. It is still weird to be seeing them all over the country. They were just our local burger joint where you ate peanuts while you waited.

  • TX-to-VA

    From what I have seen, Dittmar is a great company. I used to live in the VA Sq Apartment building (801 N Monroe) and was extremely impressed by the construction quality (Dittmar does its own construction), as well as its property management services. I know people who live in the VA Sq Condos (901 N Monroe), and they are extremely pleased with the quality of the building and Dittmar’s property management services there, too. I am very confident that these new Dittmar-constructed apartments will be of high quality and that they will maintain their value and enhance the area.

    • AllenB

      I live in a Dittmar condo and while it is quiet (I never hear my neighbors) their initial construction quality was shoddy; we have had a few major projects in the building that should not have been needed for many years to come. Now that they are fixed however, the building should be much better.

      All in all, I would still choose to live where I live but be aware that the initial construction can leave much to be desired.

      • charlie

        Allen, since you tend to be fairly precise, I would suggest that you cannot live in Clarendon or Lyon Village AND live in a Dittmar condo. There are NO Dittmar built condos in the official “Clarendon” area much less the wanna-be Clarendon areas.

        • AllenB

          There most definitely is at least one Dittmar built condo in Courthouse. I live in it.

        • Arlington, Northside

          Courtland Park

          • AllenB

            That’s an apartment building but there is at least one Dittmar condo building in that area as well. But I’m really not into giving out where I live on a comment section of a blog.

  • The people living in the new place will get to smell El Pollo Rico all the time (not a complaint, I love the place. Just an observation). I would gain a lot of weight if I lived in those buildings…….

  • Set the controls

    I used to live across the hall from where that picture was taken, in #831, south building of Crystal Towers. Nice shot!

  • jan

    Oh no! Dittmar. Their apartment buildings are so boring and institutional looking. They add nothing to the scene. And right across from good design at GMU.

    • VA^2

      I’m ready for ANYTHING to replace what’s across the street from GMU and FDIC at the moment…

  • OddNumber

    I’m not thrilled by the prospect of Dittmar owning another big chunk of the Ballston-VA Square area. I lived in Quincy Plaza when it first opened. Everything was top of the line and was great. However, that also means rent among the highest in Ballston (included a more than $100/mo rent increase after the first year). I would love to see a developer put in nice apartments, as opposed to luxury, to bring down rent prices a bit.

    Anyone have knowledge of plans for the empty lot at Fairfax and Quincy? There was a sign there about upcoming construction that has never materialized.

  • CrystalMikey

    Loved that 5 Guys history! I first moved to the area in ’98 so I always thought the one on King was the first one.

  • CW

    People want luxury, and they will provide it. I would imagine dumping 500 units on the market would cool supply issues and help stabilize rents. “Institutional” and unexciting design is boring, but it lasts and is easy to maintain. I have lived in a brand new dittmar building (Amelia) for almost 2 years and it has been great. Moving to Lyon Place; I hope that Saul can keep the bar set as high as Dittmar placed it.

    • Clarendruid

      Lyon Place, in my opinion is a beautiful building and the ground floor rewards the people who walk by it with well-designed retail and detailing. The Amelia is probably Dittmars best effort in Virginia Square to date but (again in my opinion) doesn’t measure up aesthetically to Lyon Place. I hope either Dittmar commits to do a better job on these new buildings or failing that, some taller building gets built to the east of the lot (by a decent builder) so my view of those ugly Dittmar buildings is blocked.

  • MC

    I agree with all those who mention that Dittmar designs ugly buildings. Their latest in Balston looks like a cheap college dorm, and they aren’t much better rendering faux colonial. Since they own so much in such a limited area, their aesthetic imprint is all the more noticeable. This location is a current eye sore, but as vacant lots disappear, we shouldn’t rush to create new eye sores that will never go away. Too many of those already, many made by Dittmar.

    I would like to see the path that continues 9th St between Monroe and Lincoln extended to Kanas, so people can talk between the buildings. We need to break up these superblocks.

    I think 500 units is too large for the area. County zoning mandates that buildings get smaller the further away they are from the metro. 12 stories is too tall for this block. The retail space proposal is welcome, but Dittmar is actually committing to very little in the end. Others on this website have noted previously the lack of restaurants and retail at Virginia Square, so there is no reason not to push for the full retail. Dittmar’s last building in the area yielded a mattress chain outlet, hardly what residents needed.

  • MC

    More information on the Dittmar proposed development here:
    http://dcmud.blogspot.com/2011/01/developer-submits-for-500-apartment.html

    Dittmar reportedly plans to use their standard, grotesquely inept architect SBE, http://sbeassociates.com/ which employs five talentless people who have managed to blight the landscape of Arlington for decades.

    • jan

      Their buildings look like old communist blocks

  • Bender

    Prices come down only if there is competition . . . and if the competition decides to actually compete, rather than collude.

    More likely, seeing as how Dittmar is seeking to monopolize the market, and are building “luxury” buildings, whether people want “luxury” or not, or whether they are truly luxurious or not, they will probably push rents UP, not down, especially since all that new construction don’t come cheap. It will be the price to pay for the benefit of living like a sardine.

  • observer

    What about the Oakland, Monroe and Nelson Street properties across from the Virginia Square Station. Why not buy out owners and put in major high rises. The County should love that income.

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