Plan: Affordable Apartments Would Replace Gas Station

by ARLnow.com February 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm 8,638 92 Comments

The Shell station at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Greenbrier Street would be replaced by affordable housing under a development plan that’s currently seeking sources of funding.

The plan, from Arlington-based affordable housing developer AHC Inc., would replace the gas station with a six-story, 83-unit apartment building for lower-income tenants.

According to slides from a recent AHC presentation to the Columbia Heights West Civic Association, the building will consist of 15 one-bedroom apartments and 68 two-bedroom apartments. Residency would be reserved for those making below 50 to 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI). The building is also expected to have 6,700 square feet of retail space and a “high-level of energy efficiency.”

The development would be located next to an existing AHC property: the 116-unit Harvey Hall apartment building at 860 S. Greenbrier Street. AHC owns 22 apartment communities in Arlington.

Over the next month or so, AHC will be applying for project funding through Arlington County’s affordable housing investment fund and through federal low income housing tax credits. AHC is pursuing the development via Form Based Code, which does not require County Board approval. Last night the Columbia Pike Form Based Code Advisory Working Group held a meeting to review the project.

By replacing the gas station, AHC says the building will enhance “a site that is underdeveloped and a visual detriment to the neighborhood.” If funding is secured, and if no significant environmental contaminants are found on the site, AHC hopes to begin construction in March 2013 and finish construction in the fall of 2014.

Images via AHC Inc.


  • CrystalMikey

    I know the county is all about car-free diets and such, but sooner or later we’re going to lose all of our gas stations. 😛

    • That’s the plan. More cars, less gas stations. Eventually they all come to a screaching halt.

      Luckily, up the street in Fairfax County there is a gas station or two.

      • CrystalMikey

        Just as long as the Shell at Washington and N. 10 doesn’t disappear I’ll be happy.

        • Hope

          me too…that’s where I cash in my Giant gas points!

        • Neathridge

          Cheapest gas in town (branded)

          • TG3oA

            Not as cheap as the stretch on lee hwy?

    • The Gas Man

      Odd how this county board wants a higher gas tax in the county (supposedly to fund public transit) but undercuts itself by dumping gas stations whenever possible and promoting a car free Arlington. Contradiction?

      • truth be told

        You have to increase the tax because otherwise you are losing revenue to stations outside of the county.

      • drax

        No contradiction.

  • Brittany

    Great! more checks cashed retail.

  • John

    Why concentrate all the new affordable housing developments in the same neighborhood? And AHC should be chastised for not taking a more enlightened, contemporary approach to architecture. An affordable housing developer has the opportunity to do something truly innovative as opposed to those that design based on market research. There are a lot of small to medium sized design-oriented architecture firms in DC that could make this a truly special project, and for not a lot of money.

    The building looks terrible and the interior courtyard reminds me of old high rise tenements. Very sad.

    • Rebecca

      Because. Everyone will flip out if the poor people end up anywhere near Clarendon or any place other than basement baby Columbia Pike. Like those 21 year olds, straight out of college, who pour 3-4 occupants into a one bedroom apartment are any less of a nuisance.

      • Southeast Jerome

        actually- there is a new low-income development being built in clarendon, one just finished in Ballston by the Green Turtle and Colonial Village in Courthouse will soon be made low-income.

        So thats wrong. They are not all concentrated.

        • bred

          Colonial Village? Low income? I believe that these are privately owned and not going to low-income housing soon. Am I wrong? Is the county going to buy all of these condos and run the whole neighborhood down?

          • John

            Colonial Village is being converted to section 8 housing. The first conversions are under renovation now and fenced off.

          • ted

            Only Col Village I is being converted. There are 3 ‘villages’. The others will remain as is.

          • Ed

            This is not a “conversion,” if this is what you are referring to, John. Ownership has not changed.

            “Officials Break Ground on $13.7 Million Renovation of Colonial Village Apartments”


        • John

          My point is that that neighborhood currently has the highest concentration of low income apartments in the county. And 600 more low income units are planned for that neighborhood.

          • thecharlesriver

            It doesn’t make financial sense to turn the most expensive property in the county into property that isn’t going to provide any ROI. The purpose of the low-income housing is to create safe affordable housing for people, and that’s what is happening. The Columbia Pike neighborhood is a nice diverse working-class/professional part of the county.

      • b0rk

        Then how am I gonna make money on all my rental properties?

      • Josh S

        “the poor people”?

    • Hope

      I wish they would use a different location as well, but seriously, that is probably the only property in our area that is affordable for such a project.

      • awh hells bells

        Why exactly do you wish AHC would use a different location other than your area? Elaborating might help your case before someone assumes that you’ve been drinking the same Kool-Aid as the NIMBY crowd.

    • South Awwwlington

      I guess the County either:

      Didn’t get the letter of objection from the CHWCA or;
      Doesn’t give a sh** about that neighborhood.

      Probably the latter.

      • Northerner


      • Josh S

        I think the Civic Associations might get together and think about the advantages of occasionally *endorsing* something rather than constantly opposing everything. It’s a little bit like the boy who cried wolf. Eventually, no one pays any attention…..

    • Bathyscaphe

      But then how would everyone else know which neighborhoods to avoid?

    • FrenchyB

      All the new affordable housing isn’t going in on the Pike – what about the new AHC project at Wilson Blvd. & N. Wakefield? Also, most of AHC’s existing Arlington properties are north of Rte. 50.

      • zzzzz

        The new building at Wilson and Wakefield replaced a smaller affordable housing apartment building that used to be on the west side of Wakefield. So it’s not really new, though it has more residents.

        I could be remembering wrong, but I think part of the Buckingham development (N George Mason around N Pershing) is set aside for affordable housing. So that would be another site in north Arlington.

    • jan

      I like the interior courtyard!

  • TooEasy

    Nothing like bringing more class to the south side. Hopefuly they have lots of kids for the school system.

    • John

      These apartments are marketed to families. This project, along with the Magnolia Commons conversion to affordable apartments and the New Arlington Mill affordable high rise apartments, will add about 500-600 units of affordable housing to an already dense residential neighborhood. The local schools are currently overcrowded, especially W-L, and more families in Columbia Heights West may necessitate a rezoning of the neighborhood back to Wakefield which is underpopulated.

      Affordable housing is a great idea, but there needs to be some strategic planning about where to locate such projects.

      • thecharlesriver

        Project-based housing will never be a good idea. Subsidies should be in the form of vouchers. And programs should be temporary for all but the disabled and elderly.

  • ArlingtonSouth

    Shame on anyone that gives AHC approval and funding for another building in the same concentrated area on Columbia Pike.

    • Northerner


  • South Awwwlington

    Do these projects even get approved by the Board any longer?

    This cart-before-the-horse method of public notification (meaning presentation at Civic Association without Board notice doesn’t count) and ramming development down the throats of neighbors really isn’t what I think of when I think of how government and the public opinion process should work.

    To any outsider and to those of us who live in the affected areas it almost seems as if Affordable Housing projects have some sort of back door green-light at the County Board.

    The “process goes something like:
    a.) Pre-approved because of magic word “affordable,
    b.) Dog and pony show for the board, to hell with the neighbors (including Board Members yawning during public comment and also excusing themselves from the dias – kinda dismissive I think, especially during Public Comment
    C.) And the owner…well here’s off offer, take or face Eminent Domain.

    If this County was as “committed” to Affordable Housing as they say they are out of one side of their mouths, the other side wouldn’t be allowing developers to buy their way out of the regulation.

    All residential developments would be inclusive and segregation won’t be OK with financial contribution.


  • NorthThomas

    “To any outsider and to those of us who live in the affected areas it almost seems as if Affordable Housing projects have some sort of back door green-light at the County Board.”

    Wow. You are just figuring that out?

    • South Awwwlington

      I’ve only lived here for three years. My first clue was the 2 week notice given about the re-purposing of AMCC Residences over Christmas 2010

      That one got buy. This time they are going to have a fight.

      • South Awwwlington


  • jslanger

    Just a little curious what income level this actually is: “those making below 50 to 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI).” Anyone know?

    • Andrew
      • jslanger

        Sadly, my first year as a surgery resident (’08) I made about the 50% level for a single person. And currently I am well below the 80% mark!

        • John

          I thought it applied to the combined income of a family of four or more (or couple without kids), not an individual’s income.

          • Josh S

            The AMI number that gets the most media attention is the family of four number. It is also the one that is calculated first by HUD for a given metro area. The max incomes for other household sizes are then calculated based on that family of 4 number (household size of 3 is 90%, 2 is 80%, etc. (minus 10% going down, but not +10% going up in household size)).

            So, to determine whether or not a given applicant qualifies, you have to know their income AND their household size.

        • thecharlesriver

          Poor you.

        • Tseug

          But wait – you’re who this project was designed for!!! Everything I read from the affordable housing proponents says affordable housing is so “nurses and teachers and firemen and policemen” and their families can live in Arlington. That IS who winds up living in these buildings, right?

          Right?? Hello???

          • thecharlesriver

            Only if they can speak Spanish I think.

    • Always Right

      Vouchers allow the tenant to pay 30% of their salary, no matter what their salary seems to be. Once the owner is approved by HUD, watch out neighborhood!

      • Josh S

        No. There is a max the state will kick in. In fact, most Virginia vouchers don’t offer enough to afford any but the cheapest places in Arlington. Also, many property owners don’t accept vouchers.

    • Paco Wellington III

      Good question. Following the link provided by Andrew, the dollar amounts for 60% limit are:

      single person $45,000
      4 person family $64,000

  • CW

    Wait, wouldn’t affordable and market rate be the same thing at that location?

    • Josh S

      Have you shopped for an apartment in Arlington recently?

      Especially new construction?

    • Ed

      For 40-year-old complexes, today, probably yes. For a new building, especially 5-10 years down the road as that area gentrifies, no. And it will need to be affordable for decades thanks to the local funds involved.

  • Louise

    Sounds great. Thanks, AHC, for working to maintain some affordable housing in Arlington.

  • Sarcastic Individual

    As long as it’s south of the 50 I guess I can live with it. Still think it makes way more sense for people just to move to Reston for truly affordable housing.

    At least Buckingham is getting a lot more gentrified.

  • mickey644

    Let’s try something new. NO Federal Government or State money. If the country needs affordable housing, let them subsidize the developer or let the developer do it himself with low interest loans. Let’s try Econ 101 and let economics play a role.

    • Always Right

      There wouldn’t be any developers interested. HUD promotes these projects and unfortunately, they ruin the neighborhood. Nobody will be able to sell their property withing 10 blocks of this site.

    • drax

      You angling for a huge property tax hike, mickey?

    • Ed

      “Arlington County’s affordable housing investment fund” mentioned in the post is indeed a local low-interest loan, mickey644.

  • John

    Affordable wooo wooo!!! Wait, im a tax paying citizen. Guess im out of the running. 🙁

    • novasteve


  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

    i sure want to know how much this is going to cost me. and would we be better off just buying existing units?

    • Zoning Victim

      No, you don’t get it; poor people deserve to live in brand new apartments at the expense of the rest of us. The best part is that you don’t have to live or work in Arlington to apply for the program and be accepted. So now we are paying to import poor people. So much for that that BS excuse about nurses and teachers that work here can’t afford to live here being the reason for the plan.

  • ArlForester

    It’s pretty obvious AHC is in the Board’s pockets. Does anyone else even get these projects anymore or is just them? There was Buckingham, the second building across from Barrett, new building in the Green Valley and now this. I guess they hide behind the “affordable housing” moniker and get their projects approved. Hopefully, unlike the Buckingham buildings, they will have ample parking. I doubt it though.

    • NorthThomas

      It was always my assumption that AHC was created by the board to do their work. You really can not have the county meddling directly in these real estate deals and rent controlled projects. AHC is the board’s brand spin-off to act at their direction.

  • Always Right

    Wonder how the crime rate will increase with HUD Housing.

    • zzzzz

      I’ve worked a block from the AHC building at Wakefield and Wilson for 11 years now. I’ve never noticed any problems with the residents there.

    • awh hells bells

      Sounds like speculation to me. If you’d written your initial statement as follows you’d sound incrementally less like a pompous knobhead and maybe live up to your username. “(I) (w)onder (if) the crime rate (would) increase with HUD housing(?)”

    • Ed

      The federal low income housing tax credits mentioned do not come from HUD. It would not be “HUD housing;” it would not be public, i.e. federally-owned housing.

  • Rick

    Can’t we find anything better to do in this county than tell small businesses to beat it so the county can do what it wants?

    And I know shell is a big company but any franchise isn’t more than a few people working very very hard..

  • MrCar

    We could use better gas stations around here. I wouldn’t touch my car with most of the nasty squeegees that are sitting in multi-day old ‘water’ that passes for cleaning fluid at most places. How about some lemon scented, no-streak, fresh cleaner for the squeegee? Also, while I’m on cleaning there needs to be more high-end car washing centers in this County. Some of us don’t have time to give our cars a wash down every day. I’ll admit, I’ve actually gone a week once without washing my car. I was so embarrassed.

    Which county board candidate more strongly supports better gas stations and car washes ? They will have my vote.

  • Paco Wellington III

    With the income limits so high ($45,000 for a single person and $64,000 for 4-person family), is this government subsidy really necessary? Most voters likely think all the hand-wringing over “affordable” housing concerns the poor, not the solid middle class. (A GS-11 could qualify.)

    What the heck is “form based code”? It sounds like needless nonsense. The developer is simply following the zoning rules and will not need to ask the County Board for relief from those rules.

  • MC

    I would rather see new affordable housing being built (especially on the site of a gas station), rather than trying to “preserve” some grim 60 year old garden apartment that someone wants to call historic.

    • John

      But the building is horrible. AHC needs to hire a better architect, a firm with vision.

      • bemused bystander


  • jim

    no — put it in north arlington!!!! you guys take the poor people. we have more than enough.

  • John Andre

    One of the big issues here…more destruction of wildlife habitat…specifically a strip of wooded area directly behind the Harvey Hall parking lot and a grove of black locust behind the Shell station. We’ve had several forested areas near the Pike destroyed by development…some on the Fairfax County side but also the Dundree Knoll and an adjacent area and the woods that used to be next to Dorchester Towers closer to the Pentagon.

    • CommonSense

      Get a clue– the only wildlife habitat behind the shell station there is homeless people. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not for the project. AHC is taking over the County and I think the Board rubber stamps all the projects…. but to object to it for the “wildlife” tucked between a gas station and the next AHC project (Harvey Hall) is a joke.

  • John Andre

    At the CHWCA meeting the County representatives also noted that this new project would be “on a streetcar stop”…but with the streetcar potentially threatened by cost increases or possible denial of Federal funds there may be a question about whether the streetcar will ever be built in the near future.

  • John Andre

    A final question in the near-term…what will happen to the pedestrian crossing at Columbia Pike and Greenbrier during the construction period? Currently the crossing is on the side of the street to be impacted by construction. Moving the crosswalk to the other side of Greenbrier causes problems for pedestrians due to left-turn traffic from Greenbrier onto the Pike

  • Jason S.

    Wow, those building will look really nice…for about a week.

  • ArlingtonWay

    Good idea. Because this part of the Pike is not enough of a central american style ghetto.

    • LivesonthePike


  • susan

    The median income they use to determine ‘affordability’ is $102,000.

    These apartments will not be for people who work at McDonalds down the Pike. Nor people who wait on tables in Shirlington or Potomac yards (where there is no affordable housing).

    They are for people a couple years out of college who work for non-profits.

    • Trank the Fank

      And . . . what color exactly is the sky in your world?

    • Josh S

      Just stop to do a little bit more research.

      We’ll wait…..

    • Clarendon

      Why so harsh to susan ? I would expect she is partly correct. A non-profit position could very well be in the $45,000/year salary range. I guess teachers, nurses, secretary, bartender, cab driver all might have salaries in that range as well.

      • Zoning Victim

        The average teacher’s salary in Arlington is $64K. The average RN’s salary in Arlington is $86K. The notion that this program is necessary because teachers and nurses can’t afford to live here is a farce.

    • M

      Not just non-profits, but a lot of Federal workers at the lower grades would qualify too. Some years back, a friend of mine just a few years out of college took a job with a federal agency and got an income-qualified affordable apartment in Arlington. He lived there for a few years, saved money carefully, and about the time his salary increased and pushed over the limit, he used his savings for a down payment on a small condo. His affordable housing was clean and not crime-ridden, and in the end, he moved on and became a real estate taxpayer. It changed my attitude about affordable housing, at least in Arlington – it is not necessarily a synonym for ghetto.

      • thecharlesriver

        That is the way it is supposed to work. But then, it sounds like your friend also didn’t have a bunch of kids that he couldn’t afford to support.

  • LivesonthePike

    I am utterly tired of the county and its affordable housing BS. If you dont make enough money to live in the county then move to Fairfax or PG county. I dont see why Arlington has to make exceptions for the poor. Why do we do this? Call me a snob if you want but I moved to Arlington to be away from poor people, hookers, and crime. I like my Volvo driving, Starbucks drinking, brown flip flop wearing neighbors. I dont like poor people with a dozen children running around my neighborhood. And frankly I am tired of them getting dumped on South Arlington. Lets build this in Cherrydale or up North and see how well this goes over. For crying out loud Zimmerman do you really want all of this crap in your backyard. I cant wait to hear the blow back from this.


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