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Board Defers Decision on Former Post Office Property

by Katie Pyzyk December 12, 2012 at 11:15 am 9,658 29 Comments

The Arlington County Board decided not to make a decision yet on approving a new high-rise apartment building at 1720 S. Eads Street. The developer, Kettler, has asked for more time to work around issues surrounding a part of the building plan.

The site currently houses a post office that was built in 1969 and closed last year when a new post office opened nearby. The Crystal City Sector Plan allows for the site to be rezoned for development into a medium or high density residential building. County staff recommended approving the rezoning, which Board members also favored.

However, county staff was not on board with two other aspects of the redevelopment plan — specialized pavers on the sidewalk near the building entrances and a pool deck on the roof.

The Board would need to approve a special exception for the building height if a rooftop pool were to be added. The plan includes a raised pool deck, a lifeguard room and restrooms. Under the current plan, buildings are allowed a maximum height of 110 feet; the rooftop pool would put the proposed building over the limit by four feet.

“Some say the applicant had a choice to take this into account earlier and they didn’t. They’re getting an awful lot as it is. The flip side is, so who’s bothered by it in the long run?” said Board member Jay Fisette. “It’s a nice amenity on the roof, and all the rest. But the rules are the rules.”

The developer pointed out that the roof area is not rentable space, but merely an amenity. Board member Chris Zimmerman disagreed, saying that technically the developer is asking for an extra floor in the building. He believes that making an exception to the rule would set a precedent, especially considering this would be the first development under the new Crystal City Sector Plan.

“The trouble is that we went through a whole process to develop the plan to establish what the heights would be. And if we make this exception, which it’s clear the ordinance was designed to not allow us to do, then we’d be changing the definition of height throughout the Crystal City plan,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman further stated that limiting the amount of space for each building directly controls density, and making changes would have a larger impact on developments and density throughout the county.

As far as the pavers, most of the Board members didn’t oppose the idea. Hynes was the only member not in favor of approving the specialized pavers.

“I walk a lot and these clear paths are very important to me,” said Hynes. “I certainly can support the alternative treatments around the clear zone, which is what the sector plan calls for, but I must say I’m not intrigued by doing it sort of randomly at entrances of buildings.”

As a whole, the Board agreed that the only remaining issue is the rooftop pool.

“I just want to say, apart from this basically one in particular issue that we focused on, I think this is a really nice project,” said Zimmerman.

The Board ultimately granted the developer’s request for the matter to be deferred until the January meeting to allow for more time to examine the concerns surrounding the rooftop pool deck.

  • Lee-n-Glebe

    This project is in jeopardy over four feet? Seriously?

    [mutters something about forests and trees]

    • drax

      Not really.

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        *Sigh*. Yes, really. According to the above article:

        “Under the current plan, buildings are allowed a maximum height of 110 feet; the rooftop pool would put the proposed building over the limit by four feet.”

        “As a whole, the Board agreed that the only remaining issue is the rooftop pool.”

        • fedworker

          It’s complicated

    • Glebe Roader

      How many feet would you say they should be allowed to be over the limit? 5? 10? 50?

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        In this case, 4.

        I understand Kettler is a sophisticated party and should have asked for a variance before getting to this stage – I’m sure they knew a long time ago that they were 4 feet over the limit. But it seems pretty ridiculous to stall it out for 4 feet.

        • Glebe Roader

          So, if the board approves a building that’s too tall, all the other complainers will cry foul over the board being in bed with the developer.

    • nom de guerre

      It’s more complicated than that.

      • Richard Cranium

        Yes – the bigger issue was the Sam’s Rooftop Deli they were also planning. It exceeded the height limit by 19′!

    • Clarendon

      Zimmerman is correct, it would set a precedent – a good precedent in my opinion, of putting the pools on the roof. Lets make it an explicit precedent applicable to all – an additional 4 feet for a pool on the roof.

      In Virginia Square and Clarendon (Station Square, Reserve @ Clarendon Centre)they allowed the pools to be put on ground level which then creates a blank wayy at the sidewalk that could have otherwise been retail or ground floor units.

      • Glebe Roader

        I also think it’s not a bad idea. As long as the sector plan is changed to allow 114 feet, so all builders get the same opportunity.

        • Oz

          Then the next developer will want 118 ft. “Hey, it’s only four feet and you changed everything for Kettler!”

      • Virginia Squared

        This project will be built on a pretty tiny parcel, and there is no way that Kettler could’ve included a pool at ground level – so this isn’t a question of “if we don’t get the height exception, we have to put the pool on the ground.” Kettler knew that it would exceed the height limit, but didn’t want to forego the rent from an entire floor of units – it looks like Kettler gambled that the Board would approve it, it didn’t pan out, and Kettler now has to come up with some kind of solution.

        I do think you’re right about how pool placement affects the streetscape. The pool at Virginia Square Condominiums sits in a courtyard that is in shade for the VAST majority of the day. It takes what could have been an amazing amenity (rooftop pool, gathering space with monument views) and turns it into a higher condo fee for the benefit of a handful of residents. The building was probably built before the rooftop pool trend, but we should avoid sandwiching pools in between high-rise buildings wherever feasible. The area could have been much more retail-oriented without the gym and meeting rooms on the ground floor (as opposed to on the roof level with a pool).

    • Oz

      If they allow the four feet, it could be essentially granting Kettler greater density, because Kettler’s able to get another floor’s worth of apartments in the building proper. I don’t know about the scope of the project, but one way to come in under the restriction would be to nix one floor of apartments, but Kettler wouldn’t want to lose those rents, either.

      I’m sure there are other ways to make up that four feet (deeper garage?) but the current proposal is pretty likely the best one for Ketller. It seems silly to argue about four feet at first blush, but the Board’s right that if they allow it, everyone will want an exception and point to this project to get it.

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        The way I read it (and I could be wrong). the pool level itself is the additional 4′. They wouldn’t get another floor, or single square foot, of rentable space.

  • AECOM “”Corruption” Zimmerman

    Zimmerman hasn’t been paid enough yet, once the developers have wined, dined and gifted him some more, the project will surely proceed.

  • Mop

    No, no it isn’t.

  • Astoria442

    what are the “specialized pavers” and how do they affect Hynes?

  • Chris M.

    So this is what happens when the development company fails to hire Zimmerman as a consultant. Live and learn.

  • Davis

    Ladies and gentlemen, certainly a pool on a crystal city roof top would negatively impact residents’ desire for using a pool at long branch. Surely, that didn’t cross ANY of the board members minds did it?! 4 feet. Give me a break.

    • drax

      The lame conspiracy theories are flying fast today.

    • Oz

      Meh. Every apartment complex has a pool around there. This project is a small boutique building, something like 100 apartments. Definitely not a big impact to Long Branch.

      • fedworker

        How about a MOMs or Whole Foods with a pool? Then it’ll be aight

    • ARL-VA

      The proposed pool, as seen in the planning documents, is pretty small. More like an oversized bathtub. If a resident in that building really wants to do more than just lounge around in water and actually swim, he/she will go to the (future) Long Bridge Park pool. Or a local private pool.

  • Zimmie the Hutt

    Feed Me.

  • ArlingTony

    Why don’t they just lower the building by 110 ft, build the pool there, and forget about the aquatics center/tax vacuum down the street?

  • Artie Fufkin

    Wonderful. Now I get to look at that boarded up building even longer.

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      Exactly. The present abandoned post office is awesome. Let’s keep arguing about 4′.

    • ARL-VA

      They’re only delaying the approval process by one month. In any case, it’s going to be a while before the boarded-up building is torn down and the new building constructed. Probably at least a few years.


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