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New Office Complex Under Consideration for Pentagon City

by ARLnow.com July 21, 2011 at 3:57 pm 6,882 58 Comments

(Updated at 6:20 p.m.) Arlington’s Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) is considering a plan to build a collection of tall office buildings and hotels on a large, vacant parcel of land in Pentagon City.

The “PenPlace” site, as it’s called, is a 12-acre parcel owned by Vornado/Charles E. Smith. Its only inhabitants over the past decade have been a Marriott Residence Inn, Nell’s Carryout and the occasional traveling circus. Once considered as a possible location for the new Nationals stadium or an “Arlington County Conference Center,” the site has laid fallow for years.

Last month the LRPC considered a number of possible uses for the site (all of which preserve the existing Marriott hotel and add new streets to break up the large “superblock”):

  • A “baseline” project featuring a collection of low-to-mid rise hotels
  • A “low density” project featuring a collection of 5- to 12-story apartment buildings and an office building
  • A “medium density” plan featuring five 8- to 12-story residential buildings and two 15- to 16-story office buildings
  • A “high density” scenario featuring four 15- to 22-story office buildings and a 7- to 12-story hotel.

In the end, the committee at least one member of the committee concluded that the “high density” plan — which includes nearly 1.9 million square feet of office space and a centrally-located open space — “seem[ed] to be most appropriate.”

Only the baseline project, however, would be acceptable under the current Pentagon City Phased Development Site Plan (PDSP), which was first approved in 1976. The others would require the County Board to revise the PDSP before it could approve a site plan for the overall complex.

The nearby Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge civic associations, however, are both on record supporting the existing PDSP, which “does not allow for any more additional office development,” according to the latest Aurora Highlands Civic Association newsletter.

“Approving additional office buildings would severely change the planned vision for the Pentagon City Metro Station Concept Plan,” civic association officials wrote. “Because office buildings generate the most traffic and air pollution, impacts that would affect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public, this Metro station was planned for a Pentagon City with an emphasis on residential development and specifically limited office development as compared to the intense office development in Crystal City and Rosslyn.”

“Interestingly, the Virginia Department of Transportation has a nearly $3 million dollar ‘spot improvement’ project to widen the I-395 exit ramp onto Eads Street which will allow an easy flow to the [PenPlace] site,” the newsletter noted.

Tom Miller, Arlington County’s Acting Planning Director, declined to weigh in on the specifics of the PenPlace proposals, but did offer that Pentagon City has changed considerably since the PDSP was first approved.

“Good plans evolve and are reflective of changes in the community and the market,” he said.

The LRPC will discuss the PenPlace site again from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 1, in room 311 of the county government building (2100 Clarendon Blvd). The committee’s findings will help guide Vornado as it decides on a final plan to submit for County Board approval.

  • CrystalMikey

    I’ve been shocked that that field has stayed vacant for so long.

    • Frank

      Me, too. It’s clearly prime real estate given the location. I wonder what will happen to the building/warehouse that used to house the former BMW shop, although I doubt they’ll tear that down since it’s attached to some sort of emergency vehicle / government facility.

      • Westover

        Don’t worry about what is housed there and look the other way next time you pass by. -That is all…..

        • Frank

          Yeeeshhh…you’re scaring me!

      • charlie

        i think BMW and Urgent Care are either gone or will be soon. the big condo buidlings will take up the whole block.

    • Irving

      Has to be more to the story. In 2010 the property assessment dropped 15%. In 2011 it went back up to the 2009 level. Exactly the same level. For what reason?

    • Lou

      Clearly nobody (ie the owner Vornado) wants to build residential there, as the zoning calls for and the PDSP has called for. So they’ve refused to develop it.

      Not surprised the civic associations feel betrayed. They have every right to ask Arlington to stick to its original planning. For the county to say that things have changed in Pentagon City and good plans evolve is particularly disingenuous. If Pentagon City has changed, it has been within the framework of the PDSP. That’s what phased plans do. This is just giving up your ideals for money, but we’ve all seen that before.

  • mapchick

    File under “never gonna happen” (and this is just my opinion), but I always thought this lot would be a nice location for a soccer complex. It would keep DC United closer to DC than if they ended up in Maryland. I’m not surprised that it will become office space however.

    • FairlingtonD

      I like the idea of a new DC United stadium, although the NIMBY’s who didn’t want the Nationals stadium would likely come out again.

      • mapchick

        Yup, that’s exactly why it will never happen even though the footprint of soccer in DC is a good bit smaller than baseball.

      • charlie

        soccer stadium is less than half a baseball stadium.

    • The Dope of South Arlington

      We have enough illegals around here.

  • Ralphie

    I think a Walmart would be perfect there.

  • John Fontain

    Mixed use including a WalMart, Waffle House, Waxie Maxie’s, and Roy Rogers and I’m in.

    • Active ground-floor retail is part of the plan. Walmart, perhaps not so much.

      • John Fontain

        I’d like to see a ground floor WalMart with a Ritz Carlton on top of it.

    • Juanita de Talmas

      Don’t forget Dremo’s.

      • John Fontain

        Please accept my sincere apology. I was a mistake I won’t twice make.

  • YTK

    How about a nice recreational park instead, where the locals and the local employees can go and relax and breath FRESH air while sitting underneath REAL trees and enjoy NATURE instead of MORE POLUUTION!!
    MONEY GRUBBERS – get AWAY from there!!!!!!

    • Frank
      • YTK

        Looks nice but it’s more than a few blocks away. I’ve lived in this area for more than 10 years and the air quality has gotten very bad — would be nice to have something in the Pentagon City area that is planned as a mini-oasis to help soften the blow of the omni-present pollution from the traffic in that area, and nearby 395.

        • Frank

          The problem is that capitalism doesn’t necessarily care about what would be nice. I do jog in the residential neighborhood immediately south of Pentagon City and the air there under the trees is great.

      • PikerShorts

        OMG a high dive!

    • Burger

      Isn’t there a nice park with a couple of soccer fields like 3 blocks away and most of National Park along the river is like 4 blocks away. Give me a break. That is an ideal location for high density project because it is right near a metro and also close to 395.

      • Michael H.

        Yes, the Virginia Highlands Park is only 2 blocks away from that site. Even the new Long Bridge Park will be just 2 blocks away from that site. That park should be open by October, maybe November.

        I’ll be glad to see something nice go up on that land. It looks like the remnants of a junkyard from some backwater land right now. I don’t care whether it’s office buildings or a quality hotel. But it would be nice to have at least one apartment building there.

        • cj

          Two blocks if your crow flies you over Shirley Highway. By ground routes a bit farther — Army Navy to 12th, east on 12th under the freeways, turn left up what’s now Old Jeff Davis Highway to 6th, and you’re there. Still not an impossible stroll.

          • jc

            Or you can just go down 12th St. and avoid the highway altogether.

          • Juanita de Talmas

            Virginia Highlands Park is in the other direction. No need to cross Shirley Highway.

  • DSS10

    “In the end, the committee concluded that the “high density” plan — which includes nearly 1.9 million square feet of office space and a centrally-located open space — “seem[ed] to be most appropriate.””

    Most appropriate for the developers……. Was there even a snow balls chance in h3ll that one of the other options would have been approved?

    • Developers Rule

      Well, this is Arlington.

      • Irving

        It’s true though. When part of your formula is to fund things like affordable housing on the backs of developers, who build the very developments that contribute to pricing low-income people out of the housing market, you force yourself into building bigger and bigger every time. It is not a sustainable economic model.

        • dss10

          How much do you think the developers will make off of this development? I bet that they are getting the land for next to nothing, that they will get tax breaks and zoning variances so they can maximize profits. The rate of return on there projects are often more than 35%. When was the last time you got that kind of a return on an investment with such low risks? The county (or should I say the tax payers) are forgoing a allot of income and loosing and asset (undeveloped land) that can not be reclaimed. So don’t cry for the developer, you should be pissed off that you have to subsidize their profits. Development does not always have to be big to be successful for either the developer or the community.

          As other posters have stated pretty soon we will be living in Crystals Corners or Roslyn II.

          • Thes

            What tax breaks do they get?

          • Paulina

            They can sell federal tax credits to offset the construction costs of affordable housing.

            Of course, we do not know which “they” you were referring to, so I took a guess.

  • karzai

    This will be yet another reason to avoid Pentagon City and Crystal City. Looks like it’s going in the same direction as Rosslyn – all office buildings and streets that empty after 5:30.

    They could have been so much more creative. At least do two office buildings and two residential buildings and a hotel. Why do they need four more effin office buildings there????

    I’ll stay in Clarendon where I live. No need to ever leave it.

    • Ali

      Some of us like the streets being empty and not full of drunks/idiots/yuppies/etc. like Clarendon.

    • Michael H.

      All the streets are empty in Crystal City after 5:30 pm? That’s news to me. There are quite a few restaurants along Crystal Drive now. Maybe not the boisterous bars of Clarendon, but I’m kind of glad that there isn’t a Mister Days equivalent in Crystal City. I really don’t want to have the loud and drunk 20-somethings out there 4 nights a week.

      There’s also the weekly farmer’s market, the outdoor movies and other events like the Crystal City Twilighter 5K this weekend.

      But I also recognize that there are other events and activities in D.C., such as the museums, the ballpark, the festivals on the Mall, etc. Unlike you, I don’t think Clarendon beats DC on those fronts.

  • karzai

    And did I forget to mention that two new restaurants have been announced for Clarendon in as many days – Lime Fresh Mexican and now Green Pig Bistro. Rabbit opens next week.

    As to Dremo – I’m not holding my breath waiting for Andrew Stewart to give yet another comment to Arlnow that he is “close to a deal” or “raising money to open” or “about to pull the trigger on a lease.” Guy – when you have a firm deal, let us know. Until then, zip it.

  • MC

    The concept of a convention center seems more intriguing — gives a reason for Arlington to be a destination in its own right. There aren’t many places left that could host a convention center, so I would assume an Arlington convention center idea is being formally abandoned if this happens.

  • OX4

    It’s about time they developed that land. I just hope they get a bit more creative with the architecture than the usual tan brick/red brick gray-painted steel look.

    Interesting in Scenario 4, looks like Costco in the bottom left corner is on the chopping block (thank goodness).

    • Burger

      Not sure why the hate on Costco but that site has been rumored under development for at least 4-5 years. Just like the above site it is all a matter of economics.

    • PikerShorts

      Sheeee-it. Don’t take away Costco. 66W sucks on Saturdays – Costco trips will now require leaving at 9am.

      Anyone have a link to plans for the Costco site?

      • Novanglus

        Switch to BJ’s on Wilson Blvd at the Arlington/Falls Church line. Easier in and out, free parking without validation.

        The Costco/BestBuy center was always a short-term (30-year?) diversion from the long-range plan.

      • OX4

        The only time I could get into that Costco *was* at 9am Saturday morning. Then I switched to after work on Fridays. Then I realized I didn’t really need four gallons of pasta sauce.

    • Ali

      Since I live around the corner, I’d gladly see that Costco and the ridiculous associated traffic both by cars and people in the store go away.

  • Southeast Ben

    Once all of the Federal jobs are BRAC’ed out of Crystal City…I feel Charles E Smith (Vornado) will have his hands tied occupying the Crystal Citiy offices. I could easily see more defense contractors moving in given its proximity, but only at a certain price. It won’t have quite the same appeal when the Federal jobs aren’t as local though. Perhaps Pentagon City could begin hosting more Hip Hop Awards events (enter sarcasm)?

  • Aaron

    Re: a new soccer complex on that site

    I’m not a big soccer fan by any definition of the term, but one of the big obstacles to locating a baseball stadium in a developed urban area is the fact that it will sit empty for ~240 days a year and really can’t be used for any other purpose, like concerts and charity beerfests and all of the other things that RFK is still used for after all these years.

    A soccer stadium might be the kind of right-size multipurpose venue that would be a good fit for this neighborhood.

  • Jackflops

    I know it ain’t gonna happen, but a better use of the land would be to build some market-rate townhouses there, with (in the middle) a Shirlington-like development. We don’t need more offices.

  • YTK

    Of course, THIS complex will have NO effect whatsoever on the excessive heat (and pollution) that we have in this county, right?????

  • Vik

    The only way a soccer stadium could work is if the county and DC United got together and planned a mixed-use complex, probably focused on commercial, retail, and convention space.

    DC United wants some financial assistance wherever they end up. There are plenty of decent to great sites around this metro area, but they’re not going to finance the stadium 100% by themselves. Of all of the jurisdictions in the metro, Virginia and counties/cities are the least reluctant to subsidize the construction of sports facilities which is why we don’t have any.

    Another concern is proximity to all of these secure facilities and Pentagon. I would be totally for a convention center/soccer stadium as that would be a great benefit to Arlington and the metro area as a whole.

    If this can’t be done, let’s build as high as we can and have plenty of residential space incorporated.

    • Vik

      Virginia and counties/cities is unclear. I meant the Commonwealth of Virginia and its counties (Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, etc.) and cities (Alexandria, etc.).

      • Aaron

        Also, I think you mean Virginia and its municipalities are the *most* reluctant to subsidize sports facilities, which is why we have so few.

        I know DC negotiated poorly with the Nats to get the right to have a tiny number of city-directed events at the park, but I think it’s safe to assume Arlington County would be able to drive a better bargain with DC United for throwing its support behind a public-private Metro-accessible mixed-use facility. For example, just look at that “public arts space” the County imposed on the Bennett Park Apartments in Rosslyn.

        There’s a way to make this work that would bring benefits to more Arlingtonites than just Vornado/Charles E Smith, et al., and the lucky public officials whose coffers benefit from their largesse each election cycle.

        • Vik

          You’re right. I should have proof-read. I wish it were possible to edit. I would love for us to get a soccer stadium. But, with it being so high-profile, the deal would have to be equitable. I think the new owners would be easier to negotiate with than the old ones. I think the benefit to that area of the county would be huge. No matter what goes there, it’s going to be big, so it’s not as if we’d be drastically changing the character of what that neighborhood is intended to be.

          • Aaron

            A friend just reminded me- Arlington County made the Kettler Iceplex happen in conjunction with Ted and the Capitals. I think that’s an even better example of what I’m talking about in terms of public-private development.

  • willy

    Hey, is that Nell’s Carryout any good? I have driven by it and always wondered. Looks like a funky hole-in-the-wall that has been there awhile. They must be doing something right.

  • SamsontheCat

    I’d love moving the soccer stadium there. You’d get more attendance too If people go all NIMBY I say they just threaten a Wal-mart. Soccer stadium or Wal-mart, take your pick.

    Of course with the Long Bridge park complex and the Highlands park I think they may say there are enough parks and fields in the area.

    Speaking of old abandoned eyesores, what’s the plans for the old Crystal City Motel next to where they are doing the Long Bridge Park? Is it just going to be used to house the rats that will descend up the weekend park vistors or what?

  • Sham-Wow!

    This is a complete sham. Vornado submitted this 2million sf plan to the county LAST YEAR. The county has already transferred the residential density from this site across the street to another developer’s project (Metropolitan Park by Kettler) so they could overbuild on that site (3,200 units).

    And now in 2011 the county says they have studied options, but really they are just doing exactly what Vornado has already showed them on paper. That’s why they think it “seems to be the most appropriate”.

    It’s already a done deal. Two developers got together and wrote the script, and the county is acting it out.

  • ZIP

    Lou, I respectfully disagree with your input (” For the county to say that things have changed in Pentagon City and good plans evolve is particularly disingenuous.”). Tom Miller is an excellent County employee, with decades of planning insight and experience and I have never found him to be disingenuous or the like.

    Bottom line, plans do change…the PDSP was approved in 1976. That was 36 yrs ago. Gerald Ford was President. Densities and land uses change.

    In my view, the democratic/bureaucratic process works: The applicant applies, County staff reviews and gives its professional recommendation, the various civic groups, committees and boards give their recommendations, and ultimately the County Board votes in a public forum. I would recommend that you, and others that are like-minded, join these groups and committees and become part of the process.


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