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County Board to Review Office Building Proposal in Crystal City

Developer JBG Smith is advancing plans to turn a grassy plot of land it owns in northern Crystal City into a new office building.

The project at 101 12th Street S. is one of the projects added to the company’s extensive development pipeline in the area following the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2. The County Board is slated to review the proposed development this Saturday.

“The project, known as ‘Crystal Gateway,’ includes a 109-foot tall (nine-story) office building with 234,427 square feet of office space and 5,195 square feet of ground floor retail,” a county staff report says.

Proposed community benefits from JBG, as part of the project, include achieving LEED Gold certification, constructing a new connector street, and contributing land and money for a new “Gateway Park” to the east of the site. Other environmental features include bird-friendly glass, since the building would be near a wildlife preserve, and a vegetated roof.

For the park, JBG will contribute about 70,000 square feet of land and $300,000 in funding for the initial park design.

“The Sector Plan envisions this open space to be approximately 54,500 square feet and is anticipated to tie into the existing esplanade path for Long Bridge Park,” the county staff report says. “The vision for this park is to include neighborhood serving recreational facilities such as tennis or volleyball courts, a playground, benches, and picnic tables. The exact design and planning for Gateway Park will be done through a County-led planning process.”

The project surprised those who were familiar with the Crystal City Sector Plan, which has for years kept the property on which the office building will sit as a green space, said William Ross, chairman of the Park and Recreation Commission.

“This apparent shift in design purpose was not anticipated, given the engagement promotions,” he wrote in a letter to Board Chair Libby Garvey. “But it is not a crisis either.”

Rather, he continued, it creates “an opportunity and an obligation to the community that the small open area between the structure and the public pathway be designed as a natural gateway, providing the transition and place identity that is important to all.”

Members of the Transportation Commission unanimously supported the development, wrote Chairman Chris Slatt. They support the new S. Ball Street connector road, between 10th and 12th streets, because the area lacks access options for emergency vehicles, but have asked staff to design a driveway apron or similar feature to deter drivers looking for a shortcut.

In a Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 4, however, two speakers denounced the connector road and predicted it would become a a dangerous cut-through regardless.

“If the commission lived in the community, they would see how cars speed down Long Bridge Drive,” Annemarie Spadafore said. “People will be killed, and the blood will be on the commission’s hands.”

Speaking on behalf of the Crystal City Civic Association, Carol Fuller said the new S. Ball Street — which is called for in the sector plan — will not benefit the community.

“First, the community has never wanted this connection,” she said. “Second, commuters will use this extension to cut through to I-395… Exiting at this intersection is hazardous and the proposed extension will make it worse.”

Staff is recommending that the County Board approve a rezoning, a site plan and other actions required for the project to proceed.

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