JBG Smith Unveils New Expansion Plan for RiverHouse Property Near Amazon HQ2

Developer JBG Smith says it has submitted new plans for a major redevelopment of its RiverHouse apartment property in Pentagon City, four blocks from Amazon’s new HQ2.

The developer announced today (Monday) that it submitted a site plan application to Arlington County to build about 1,000 new housing units along S. Joyce Street. The units will be in two, six-story apartment buildings, as well as traditional townhouses and maisonettes, per the press release, and about 260 of the units will be available for purchase.

The six-story buildings will have mix of units, including studios and three-bedroom units, for a combined total of 750 units. These two buildings will be constructed on the parkings lots in the northern end of the site and will feature central courtyards, and 30,000 square feet of “community-oriented street-level retail, including a potential daycare center and medical office, at the base of the two new buildings.”

The townhouses will be built on “underutilized” surface parking lots in the southern end of the site, facing the Aurora Highlands neighborhood and its single-family homes, JBG said

The extensive, 36-acre RiverHouse property is on a long lot bordered by Army Navy Drive, S. Joyce Street, 16th Street S., S. Arlington Ridge Road, and S. Lynn Street, at the edge of what’s being called “National Landing” — the recently-created term for the Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods.

Currently, RiverHouse has three apartment towers built in the 1950s and 1960s, with a combined 1,670 apartment units. JBG Smith intends to keep the three towers, per the press release, and will instead construct the new buildings around the existing towers.

JBG Smith Executive Vice President Andy Van Horn said in a statement that the developer aimed to design a plan that “respects and complements the scale and character of the surrounding neighborhoods while creating a more cohesive sense of community.”

“We also focused on providing a wide range of rental and for-sale housing opportunities that meet the differing needs of Arlington’s diverse and growing residential population,” he said. “It is our goal to deliver additional housing units concurrent with Amazon’s occupancy of its new headquarters to help meet anticipated new housing demand and mitigate upward pressure on rents in National Landing.”

Vornado — which was later acquired by JBG Smith — had planned to redevelop RiverHouse with more than 1,000 rental apartments in three, mid-rise towers. The new submission, which JBG Smith says is “consistent with the Crystal City/Pentagon City Sector Plan which calls for 7,500 additional housing units by 2040,” supersedes the previous, pre-HQ2 plan.

Nearby residents had previously expressed concerns about how the redevelopment might affect the already-crowded neighborhood elementary school, Oakridge Elementary. At the time, Vornado says it was aware of the school capacity issue and had planned to work with Arlington Public Schools to address it.

Asked how much dedicated affordable housing it plans to include as part of the redevelopment, JBG Smith told ARLnow that it will “meet Arlington County’s base affordable housing requirements and will likely do so through a contribution” to the county’s affordable housing fund, rather than including dedicated affordable units on site. Vornado’s original plan proposed “a 150 unit, stand-alone affordable apartment building, to be developed with a nonprofit affordable housing partner.”

The RiverHouse property also includes the nearby Grace Hopper Park, which is named after pioneering coder and United States Navy rear admiral Grace Hopper who lived nearby. As with Vornado’s plan, the new redevelopment will not affect the park, a JBG spokeswoman said.

Given that RiverHouse’s existing parking lots, particularly those on the southern end of the site, have an abundance of open parking spaces, JBG says it is proposing fewer parking spaces per unit than the complex currently offers.

“JBG SMITH is proposing a reduced ratio more in line with the low current usage of the existing parking on site,” a spokeswoman told ARLnow.

The redevelopment will add to RiverHouse’s existing amenities, JBG said in a press release.

“JBG SMITH’s RiverHouse expansion will further activate the community, which currently features landscaped gathering spaces, three rooftop decks, two swimming pools, two fitness centers and other residential amenities,” said the press release. “The project will feature an enhanced and accessible pedestrian connection from South Lynn Street to South Joyce Street, a large fitness center and extensive private outdoor spaces for the new rental units, as well as an improved trail network around the site for all residents.”

The developer said it hopes to begin construction in late 2020, pending county approval of the site plan, which can take months.