Board Approval Requested for 1900 Crystal Drive

by ARLnow.com September 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm 4,655 43 Comments

(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Approval of the site plan for a new development in Crystal City will come before the County Board at its meeting this Saturday, September 15.

The board is being advised by county staff to adopt four provisions in the development proposal for the office building, dubbed 1900 Crystal Drive. That structure’s site proposal is the first in Crystal City to be considered under the Crystal City Sector Plan, which was adopted in 2010.

Part of the proposal involves rezoning about 1.7 acres of the property from “C-O” to the “C-O-Crystal City” zoning district. Another measure requests approval for construction of the new 24-story office building, which would require demolishing the existing 11-story Crystal Mall III structure (1851 S. Bell Street).

The building, designed to achieve LEED Gold certification, would have nearly 720,000 square feet of office space and more than 11,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. There would also be six levels of parking, with a total of 732 spaces. The parking will be available to the public at a discounted rate after 6:00 p.m.

As part of the agreement with the county, the developer, Vornado, would provide curb, gutter and streetscape improvements around the perimeter of the property. The plan also involves the construction of an approximately 16,000 square foot interim park near the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street South. The park, which is not part of the property included in the current rezoning request, will remain for an undetermined amount of time until a new building is approved and constructed on the site.

In addition to being close to several bus stops, the Crystal City Metro station and the Crystal City VRE station, the site sits just south of a planned 18th Street station for the upcoming Crystal City/Potomac Yard transitway. The proposed transitway would provide service from the Pentagon City Metro station to the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria, and would link with the Columbia Pike streetcar.

County staff members say they have not received any written complaints about the site plan from neighboring civic associations, though at least one neighbor told the Washington Examiner that he was concerned that the building would cast a shadow over his condominium and produce additional local traffic.

Staff is recommending the board approve the measures in question. The staff report cites 1900 Crystal Drive as a significant investment that will act as a catalyst for future development, and may create momentum in the market.

The staff report stated, “Considering the impacts of BRAC, it is critical to initiate the redevelopment process, which will be difficult considering market conditions in Crystal City.”

The report asserts that the Crystal City area would not receive the entire scope of listed benefits if the existing building were simply renovated, instead of constructing a completely new structure on the site.

  • Crystal Dykey

    The report asserts that the Crystal City area would not receive the entire scope of listed benefits if the existing building were simply renovated, instead of constructing a completely new structure on the site.

    And what might those be?

    • Regis

      They are listed in the article.

      • Crystal Dykey

        Maybe I’m blind, but I’m not seeing any list of benefits.

        • Regis

          Is that a subjective comment, or do you not see the list of things the developer is doing around the building?

          • Crystal Dykey

            I was looking for something actually, you know, beneficial. Curb, gutter and streetscape improvements around the perimeter of the property don’t sound like benefits to me. I thought those were done as a matter of course.

          • WeiQiang

            Welp … if the county capitulates like it did on the Boeing HQ, you’ll be lucky to get a CaBi station [which already exists], a nice shrubbery [not too tall], and $150K in transportation mitigation … and you won’t have to get off the grass!

            The Boeing “benefits”:

            * Achieving Gold certification under the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)program
            * Installing a Capital Bike Share station on the site
            * Improving design and landscaping along the site’s edges
            * Contributing $150,000 to a special transportation mitigation fund
            * Providing public access to Boeing’s lawn area

          • darsasx

            It will also be LEED gold and have about two dozen useful parking spots. Plus shops that are never open while residents are there and cycle through tenants faster than a restaurant in Clarendon. And don’t forget the “park, which is not part of the property included in the current rezoning request, will remain for an undetermined amount of time.” That’s always a bonus – until it’s not.

    • Another public benefit not listed is a $75,000 contribution to the county’s public art fund.

    • JohnB

      The board report can be found here: http://arlington.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=529

      Agenda item 40.

  • Sarah

    This project is really rough on residents. It might be good for the long term, but it’s going to drive residents out of Crystal City for the next few years. Look at the vacancies at 220 20th – that new highrise. It’s emptying out because no one wants to stay when their bedrooms are directly across from a demolition site.

    • CrystalMikey

      How about the fact they are expensive?

      • Sarah

        That too. But the rates that the other places are charging around Crystal City frankly aren’t a lot better.

    • Bradg

      That building only seems empty but they are actually mostly filled up. I worked across the street while they renovated and added 4 floors and it sold out quickly after completion. I was always confused at why no one actually appeared to live there. My guess was they are corporate rentals that stay vacant most of the time but are cheaper than hotels, or they are city dwellings for people who only come into the city to work or play once in a while.

      • Sarah

        Nope, not filled up anymore. They used to be at 99 percent capacity within the first few years (including the corporate units) but not anymore. Here are their current vacancies: http://220living.com/floor-plans/

        • WeiQiang

          zowee. I’ve worked in CC for a couple decades and thought I knew the market. a studio for $2K

          thx for that.

          • WD

            That isn’t true for every building. I live in an older CC building and pay less than that for a 1B.

          • WeiQiang

            got it. was just referring to the 220 link.

        • Josh S

          Their website actually lists this as a feature:

          “An air-filtration management system leverages fresh outside air to enhance indoor air quality.”

          And people wonder why the bars are so crowded at night – I’d need about five drinks after work to forget that I had produced a sentence like this……

  • Rebecca

    Retail space to only be open Mon-Fri 0600-1500 like every other place in Crystal City. I’d like to see more non-chain restaurants in the area that aren’t the Korean owned pay and pay “deli” types.

    • Mary-Austin

      Ok Marion Barry, we’ll take that under advisement.

      • Michael H.


        -10 to Rebecca

  • Mary-Austin

    I think this is actually a really cool building.
    Good to see a more modern design for once instead of the boring brick and concrete style designers use all over Arlington.

    • AC Politiboro

      You don’t like our architecture…….MOVE !!!

    • Nifty

      The building is see-through, according to the drawings.

    • Josh S

      complaining about brick here would be like complaining about adobe in the southwest or wood shingled homes in Oregon. Wake up and smell the coffee….

      • Mary-Austin

        You know…you have a point.
        And the designers on the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor really know how make 10-15 stories of brick and poured concrete come together beautifully.
        Have you seen the new Courtyard Marriott in Ballston? It’s practically Monticello on Wilson!

        • Josh S


          Hey, I’m not defending the overall aesthetics of recent Arlington construction. But you seemed to focus on the materials, which at least are location-appropriate.

          Personally, I think it’s the over-reliance on metal trim everywhere that makes the buildings horrible.

    • Michael H.

      1400 Crystal Drive will also have a more modern look. Other buildings could eventually be renovated or replaced with designs similar to 220 20th St., 1400 Crystal Dr., the Boeing regional HQ and 1900 Crystal Dr.

      The Crystal City Sector Plan is very ambitious about renovating existing buildings and adding new structures over the coming years (and decades). Eventually many of the concrete buildings in Crystal City could be replaced or re-done.

  • esmith69

    732 parking spaces for a building that large seems a little low, doesn’t it?

    I sure hope they are not planning for just the bare minimum number of spaces

    • Dawn Davenport

      It’s right next to the Metro, with a VRE stop down the street. Why would you drive?

      • SomeGuy

        It’s called pragmatism. Just because there’s not a need to drive doesn’t mean people won’t.

        • Dawn Davenport

          Uh, no, it’s called induced demand, the phenomenon that after supply increases, more of a good is consumed. Don’t build the parking and then people will find non-autocentric ways to get there.

          • SomeGuy

            Dawn Davenport, if I follow your logic, is it safe to say you’d suggest no parking at all?

            I happen to think there’s a non-extreme balance that esmith69 was trying to identify before you dismissed his question.

    • Josh S

      Could quite possibly be less than the “bare minimum.”

      But I think when it comes to parking spaces, there is probably room for discussion as to what the “bare minimum” is.

      There are other ways to get from point a to point b than in a car.

      • WeiQiang

        Other bldgs in CC are 1.25-1.67 spaces per Ksf. At a little more than 1 space per Ksf, it is low.

  • Tyler

    With BRAC pulling office tenants out of Crystal City and office demand shrinking, I wonder why there isn’t more interest in re-purposing the space to residential?

    • Louis XIV

      ‘Cause nobody in their right mind wants to live in Crystal City.

      • Michael H.

        Except for the thousands of people who already live there?

        • Benedict

          Louie said “right mind”.

  • WeiQiang

    Other bldgs in CC are 1.25-1.67 spaces per Ksf. At a little more than 1 space per Ksf, it is low.

  • Regis

    This would be a big gamble by Vornado. It should be interesting to see what kind of financing they are able to get, but they are losing their shirts down there with all the BRAC pullouts, and now they’re willing to start on a new flagship building to try and take the lead in overhauling the area. Chances are they don’t break ground without a major tenant commitment.

  • soarlslacker

    Hey CC stop blocking the sun. But thanks for blocking the train and airport noise!

  • resident of 1805

    This will be a monster building dwarfting the area and since it is right across the street we will get the glare from the sun because of glass in the am and blocked sun because of height in the pm. I do not see the community benefits at this point but things could change as progress moves forward.

    Demolition will be a major issue with dust and debris blowing all over the place and no way to mitigate, Truck noise and pile driving will be incessant and will be a major disruption to the somewhat tranquility of the area.

    We are not excited about the prospects of the building adding to the community excitement but we are sure the builders will enjoy the depeciation aspects and the County the tax valuations.

    We hope our Condos will increase in value!!!


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