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WETA Expansion Gets Green Light from County Board

A proposal to expand public television station WETA’s Shirlington headquarters has been approved by the Arlington County Board.

The station is planning to construct a four-story addition between the existing office building, at 3939 Campbell Avenue, and its parking garage. The 17,000 square foot addition would then house the WETA studios that produce the national PBS NewsHour broadcast, allowing the current NewsHour studios to be razed and used to expand Jennie Dean Park.

In addition to housing more than 100 NewsHour employees, the addition will have a giant, outward-facing TV screen on the ground floor, adding some flair to Shirlington’s street life.

An even larger project may eventually come to the current WETA site, after the Board’s approval of a new Shirlington land use plan study on Saturday. The study suggests that WETA’s above-ground parking garage is a prime candidate “for demolition and redevelopment.”

More on the expansion approval, from a county press release:

The Arlington County Board has approved WETA’s plan to expand its Shirlington headquarters and an incentive grant to will keep the public television station in Arlington for at least another 5 years.

“WETA was born in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said. “Its headquarters lies on Campbell Avenue, named for Elizabeth Campbell, an educator and activist who worked tirelessly to create a public television station here that was educational and good for children. She then guided it for four decades. WETA is a big part of Shirlington’s success and an important part of our community. I’m thrilled that this respected educational and cultural institution, and its 292 jobs, will be staying in Arlington for years to come.”

The Board voted unanimously to approve the expansion, the performance-based incentive grant, and purchase and lease-back agreement for WETA’s 27th Street S. studio site…

WETA, the non-profit local PBS station, will add a four-story studio and office building to its existing six-story headquarters at 3939 Campbell Avenue, opened in 1989. The addition, with its state-of-the-art television studio, will be built in a private courtyard between the existing building and WETA’s above-grade parking garage, connecting the two existing structures. A large media screen will be installed at the building’s ground level on S. Quincy Street.

The expansion will allow WETA to vacate its aging television studio on 27th Street S., which the County is purchasing for the expansion of Jennie Dean Park.

The Board approved a $2.27 million Economic Development Incentive (EDI) grant for WETA. Under the grant agreement, WETA is committed to retain its 292 jobs and more than 88,000 square feet of occupied commercial space in Shirlington for at least 15 years and to invest at least $15 million in constructing the new studio. The EDI grant is performance-based, with WETA eligible to receive up to $112,500 annually over 15 years if it meets the jobs and base facility targets. WETA must repay the grant if it does not reach its performance targets. Staff estimates that the 15-year net tax benefit for the County will be approximately $4.8 million. The Board also approved the purchase, for a price of $8 million of WETA’s 27th Street S., studio, and a lease-back agreement that will allow WETA to lease the studio for up to five years.

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