Board Approves New Apartment Building Along Rt. 50

by ARLnow.com October 17, 2011 at 10:31 am 6,178 46 Comments

A new 12-story apartment building will be coming to the Fort Myer Heights/Courthouse area as part of a plan to help preserve a historic garden apartment complex.

The planned 104-unit building will have a distinctive red brick facade, to match the adjacent Wakefield Manor, Wakefield Annex and Courthouse Manor garden apartments. The existing, three-story buildings — designed by the late, notable architect Mihran Mesrobian and given Arlington County’s highest historical designation — will be preserved “in perpetuity” as a result of the development.

The Arlington County Board voted unanimously on Saturday to approve the development and preservation plan. The new apartment building will be constructed at the corner of N. Troy Street and Fairfax Drive, overlooking Route 50. Currently, a surface parking lot sits on the future construction site.

In addition to helping with the county’s goal of preserving historic garden apartments, the development will tick a number of other boxes on the county’s priorities list. Mature trees on the site will be preserved. The new building will be built to LEED Silver environmental standards. The developer will contribute $75,000 to the county’s public art fund. And the developer will add a couple of units to the county’s committed affordable housing stock (or make a nearly $400,000 cash contribution to the county’s affordable housing fund).

“Three buildings, ranked ‘essential’ in Arlington’s Historic Resources Inventory, will now be preserved for future generations,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “At the same time, a new, elegant building compatible with its historic neighbors will add 104 new homes to the Fort Myer Heights housing mix.”

A 179-space parking garage will be built under the new building. The parking structure will also have 38 bike parking space.

  • Airbalac

    And where are we going to fit all of these humans as they attempt to get to work every morning?

    • novasteve

      Maybe they’ll all ride bicycles?

      • cj

        Or walk to Metro nearby.

        • Southeast Jerome

          oh you mean the part of the Metro system that is already the busiest part of the entire system?

          • Thes

            Indeed. Though, to be fair, there are probably over one million square feet of office buildings within walking distance. And about triple that within biking distance.

    • drax

      It’s funny how cities with much larger populations manage to do that.

    • drax

      If the humans didn’t live here, they’d live out in Fairfax and clog our roads even more. Here, they are close to job centers and have options beyond driving.

      • SB

        Exactly. So many Arlingtonians don’t want people driving through Arlingtion (i.e. 66-widening) but then they don’t want them living here either (i.e. fighting all high rises and dense development). There has to be a compromise. You can’t live next door to dc and expect it to remain a perfect bubble.

        • Jamie Funk

          It would be something if our mass transit system could support it, but it can’t. Other cities have better mass transit.

          • Thes

            Some other cities have better mass transit (e.g. NYC and Moscow) and some have worse (e.g. Atlanta and LA). Arlington is disadvantaged because it doesn’t control it’s subway, the way most cities do. It has to rely on WMATA, a regional body that can’t raise any taxes, and on which Arlington may not even have a vote.

        • Bobby

          Don’t think in exaggerations like “perfect bubble.” But also, there’s no reason Arlington has to be a doormat. Arlington could perfectly well keep its legs closed when developers come knocking.

      • Tysons is a job center. That’s Fairfax. Reston/Herndon is a job center. That’s Fairfax. Fairfax people commute to those job centers. Guess what? Arlington people do to. Many of them.

        The point here is the transportation infrastructure can not support more growth without being improved. That means roads, mass transit, and bikes/walking.

    • OX4
  • Josh S

    I guess that picture provides context, sort of, but it really doesn’t go with the headline. As the story says, the buildings approved are three stories tall.

    • Chris Slatt

      The building pictured is the new 12 story building that was approved. As part of the deal, three existing three story garden apartment buildings will be preserved in perpetuity. You can see the edge of one of them to the left of the tall building.

      • Josh S

        Sorry for being too hasty.

  • Johnny Utah


  • Tre
  • Anon

    FYI – RSS feed is not working today.

  • UnlimitedCustoms

    Time to narrow the streets to fit all the new residents!

    • KalashniKEV


    • drax

      Good idea.

    • Let’s put in some speed humps too.

  • Try The Tacos

    In living in the garden apartment building across the street from this for 5 years – I never once saw anyone come in or out of that house.

    So construction of this complex plus the Rt 50 / Courthouse Rd interchange should make living down there awesome for the next few years!

    • CW

      Can anyone hazard a guess as to how this place will play into that work? Did they anticipate it when drawing up plans for the interchange (my guess is no). Will the cars dump out onto Court House road, Fairfax, or that little road on the other side? That intersection is going to be a Mess with a capital “M”.

      • Thes

        Why is your guess no? This was a site plan project and went through the usual extensive discussion with nearby neighbors and advisory groups on things like the traffic patterns. It was the ability to have this kind of discussion that led to the County Board’s approval the same day of the “Big Box” regulation.

        My understanding is that the developer here originally proposed to have the parking garage enter and exit from Troy Street, but the neighbors a block away objected, so now the cars will enter and exit on a (soon to be dead-ended) Fairfax Drive.

        • CW

          Ok, thanks. Between what you mentioned and what cj posted down below, that provides a lot more clarity.

          My guess was only no because I knew that the interchange plans had been accepted many months ago (meaning they’d been drawn up even longer ago) and this site plan was just accepted recently. I figured the time frames weren’t aligned, but I don’t know a whole lot about the approval process and how that works. I wasn’t trying to be overly pessimistic but it did come off that way. I’d like to take another look at the plans for the interchange given the new context of this development.

          • Thes

            Glad to have provided some insight.

            The new interchange plans (in the sense that a person asking could look at drawings of the expected configuration) are about 5-6 years old. The site plan was about a year in the making, but for site plans architects’ plans can be changed relatively radically (e.g. far more than moving a garage entrance) right up until a few days before the County Board hearing. So the whole project was planned in the context of knowing what was going to happen at the interchange.

        • Charlie

          And the cars will THEN go up Troy street. Duh. Or doh?

    • UnlimitedCustoms

      Speaking of the 50 construction, when the signs say “BUMP” they really mean “DROP!” I was a passenger and as we went down the drop I hit the roof with my head.

      • CW

        I have to slow down to such a crawl there to avoid losing my front clip that people (usually SUVs) get within 6 inches of my rear bumper and honk like crazy.

        I saw a taxi hit that thing going about 60 mph and the result was a cascade of gravel and broken plastic parts flying off the cab.

        • JamesE

          I straight up pulled a F1 move and swerved out of the way because I saw it way too late or else the state would be paying for damaged wheels.

          • JamesE

            (not the drop but the metal plates sticking 6 inches out of the ground with no transition, just a jagged edge)

          • CW

            STEEL PLATES AHEAD = death

  • CW

    Also, odds of the incredibly important 3-story garden apartments designed by the noted architect falling into the hole for this building during construction? I’d say 1 in 5.

    And what is a bike parking space? I’m just used to bike rooms…is 1 “space” deemed to be one side of a rack or U-shaped piece of metal?

  • cj

    Some bits of information: (1) The “holdout” house has the same owners as Wakefield Manor and the adjacent parking lot. That corner of the block has been recognized from the start of neighborhood planning as the only location for new construction paired with preservation of the historic buildings.
    (2) The project’s parameters were spelled out in the Fort Myer Heights North plan adopted in 2008.
    (3) The VDOT interchange project, when finally done, will have mixed impacts on that corner. Fairfax Drive will be dead-ended at the project’s garage entrance, with new sidewalks and landscaping in addition to the bike trail crossing and new ramp VDOT will build. On the other hand, the new elevated ramp connecting Courthouse Road with eastbound Arlington Blvd. will create a wall on the west side of the street.

  • John

    “distinctive red brick facade, to match the adjacent Wakefield Manor,…..”

    We are very conservative when it comes to design in Arlington. I was hoping the trend of neo-traditionalism was on its way out. Architecture can still be complementary without creating a shallow reproduction of a nearby building. At least this building shields the massive 80s Dittmar project from view.

    • HFB

      The only satisfaction is that the new bad building will partially shield the view of an earlier bad building. I agree with John. That is the Arlington architecture scene in a nutshell (really it is the construction scene, the word architecture does have a meaning).

      Good news on the preservation. Those apartments do have dignity and it is good that they will be saved, even if their context will be changed.

  • Chris

    I for one will be starting a new movement, “Occupy Zimmerman” where I plan to go sit in his parking space(s) and play the bongos until he either builds more bike spaces or Russell Simmons agrees to hang out with me. If you’re going to join me, please bring funnel cake.

  • Historic nonsense

    Dumpy 1940-ish garden apartments are not historic. They are junk. Good grief, the historical screamers appear to have a constant need to tell everyone how bright they are and how they appreciate historic buildings whereas everyone else has incorrect tastes in architecture.

    Please get over yourself and stop interfering. If you love dumpy buildings, buy them yourself but don’t force others to like junk.

    The newly built apartments in Buckingham look much nicer than the old dumpy garden apartments that previous took up space. Plus, the interiors are light-years nicer than the old dumpy garden apartments.

  • Elizabeth

    I used to live in that old 3 story complex. My old apartment will, in the future, get zero light as it would wholly be in the shadow of a 12 story building a stones through from the living room & kitchen window. Even though they currently face a old house and parking lot, at least it got nice light and there were some trees to see. I wonder if the new view for 1/4 of the units will affect rent prices? Probably not much in the end.

    So, glad to see they are keeping those really neat old brick apartments, but kinda cringe at sticking a huge building right up against them. That’s city living is suppose.

    And for the person who commented that it’ll probably fall into the giant construction hole, I agree, because underneath those apartments is a system of walkable tunnels. God only knows how sound they are.

  • Bobby

    Not only did you spell “façade” wrong, there’s nothing distinctive about THAT red brick façade. In fact, it looks very much like all the other crappy façades the County “reviewers” have approved. And the almost-non-existent set-back that further adds to the crappy, crowded Arlington feel.

    But the developer wanted it. Was Tom F the only one in the planning office that day?

  • clint

    I live there, and I’m most concerned with where I’m going to park. It may force me to move – the lot usually takes care of most of the residents and the street will handle the rest, but this is going to force us to park on other streets and displace those cars. not good.

    I’d take metro if i had a choice.

    • cj

      During construction, parking for residents will be even tougher than it is now. After construction, residents of all the buildings will be sharing the garage in the new building. The garage plus the small surface lot at 13th and Troy add up to one space per unit (counting the garden apartment units as well as the new ones). That’s better than now.

  • Charlie

    Tying together this project approval and th big box amendment brings endless irony to my heart….

    This building is butt ugly. And somehow the boardbof supervisors thinks their input will make a project BETTEr??

    Big box retail traffic is going to kill Arlington. So on this project they put a parking garage exit from a 104 unit building on a DEAD END street? That is brilliant transportation planning.

    Big box retail will destroy our neighborhood building fabric. How is putting our historic Wakefield manor into half day shadows with a building 4x the height going to make life better for the residents? Zoning is to protect the health and welfare of citizens. Again the board of supervisors is engaging in arbitrary and politically motivated planning policy. ( go see how much this develop gives to Babs)

  • Question

    Does anyone know when construction will begin?


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