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Amazon and Arlington County to finance purchase of Columbia Pike apartment complex

The Barcroft Apartments, a 1,334-unit, market-affordable apartment complex along Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

Arlington County and Amazon intend to loan hundreds of millions of dollars to an unnamed affordable housing provider to purchase a Columbia Pike apartment complex.

The Barcroft Apartments, at 1130 S. George Mason Drive, is the largest market-rate-affordable apartment community in Arlington, and county officials say they have to act quickly to ensure it stays affordable for current residents.

The sale is set to be finalized before the end of the month. On Tuesday, Arlington County Board members are slated to review the proposed 35-year, $150 million loan agreement. The unnamed buyer and Amazon representatives will be present.

If Board members approve the agreement, the Barcroft Apartments will remain affordable to residents earning up to 60% of the area median income — or $77,400 for a family of four — for 99 years.

“This is really a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our community to preserve the largest neighborhood of affordable housing units in the county for the next century,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz during Saturday’s County Board meeting. “We’re excited to be a part of this effort at Barcroft and to be working to ensure that the current residents will be able to stay in their homes and have safe and affordable housing for the foreseeable future.”

More than 1,330 units, built between 1939 and 1953, make up the 60-acre Barcroft Apartments complex, Schwartz said. These units have remained affordable to families earning up to 60% of the area median income without local, state or federal affordability or income requirements.

The buyer has said it does not plan to turn out current residents after the sale. It will also pledge to not raise rents for current residents for at least a year, Schwartz said. After that, rent will increase by no more than 3% per year up to 60% of area median income levels.

The new owners “are interested in making additional investments in the property, adding amenities, making property upgrades and taking other steps to improve residents’ overall living environment at Barcroft,” he said.

“This is the single biggest step we can take to preserve affordability in Arlington — certainly over the last five years and perhaps over the next decade,” County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.

It is also a swift move for county government, says Vice-Chair Katie Cristol.

“This is unconventional for the county to act as quickly, and for the Board to act as quickly, as we have, but the future of so many of our valued neighbors in those 1,300-plus units are very much at stake and require quick action,” she said.

The news will be well-received among residents, who have been renting month-to-month “without knowing what’s happening next” while this process has unfolded, says County Board member Takis Karantonis.

“They should also know that they’re part of any visioning of Barcroft going ahead,” he said. “This is not happening without them — this is just the beginning of involving them.”

Amazon’s contribution comes after it purchased and donated land to Arlington to develop additional affordable housing in several parts of the county. The tech company previously launched a $2 billion Housing Equity Fund to create and preserve affordable housing in its three primary footholds — the Seattle area, Nashville and Arlington — amid concerns that its presence will displace low-income residents.

Arlington County took a similar, smaller-scale step about 14 years ago, when it struck a deal with a housing developer to preserve affordable housing in the Buckingham neighborhood, near Ballston.

The county purchased one complex — built at the same time as the Barcroft Apartments — for $32 million, preserving 140 units as affordable to those earning 60% or less of the area’s median income. It also ensured that two complexes kept below-market-rate apartments after being redeveloped.

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It is the decision of the United States Department of Defense (DoD) Washington Headquarters Services (WHS) to implement the Proposed Action: the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update (Pentagon Master Plan) as the framework to guide future decisions regarding land use and infrastructure at the Pentagon site and Mark Center. The Pentagon Master Plan aims to provide an update to the existing conditions at the Pentagon and Mark Center and presents projects and revisions to land use categorizations that will address the specific needs to reduce the Pentagon’s environmental impacts and advance sustainability, security, and resilience. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review has been completed through preparation of a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) to evaluate environmental impacts arising from implementation of the projects. WHS has concluded that no significant impacts to the human or natural environment will result from implementation of any projects, and recognized negative effects will be reduced by adherence to standard best management practices, applicable permit and consultation conditions, and standard operating procedures. This decision is further documented in the Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) signed on March 20, 2024.

This notice announces the availability of the FONSI to implement the 2024 Pentagon Reservation Master Plan Update.

For further information and to request a copy of the Final EA or FONSI, please contact Brian King, Environmental and Sustainability Program Manager, WHS/Facilities Services Directorate/Standards and Compliance Division/Environmental and Sustainability Branch; (703-614-3658 or [email protected]). Please include “Pentagon Master Plan Final EA and FONSI” in the subject line.

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The 3rd Annual Arlington Fair Housing Conference will feature Thomas Silverstein, renowned Fair Housing expert and Associate Director of the Fair Housing & Community Development Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Come hear the latest news about fair housing enforcement, policy, and programs within Arlington County, Virginia, and across the country! Our expert panelists and guest speakers include fair housing advocates, elected officials, and government officials tasked with advancing housing equity at the local, state, and federal level.

Arlington has made substantial strides in advancing housing equity and improving fair housing policy with the adoption of the Regional Fair Housing Plan in 2023. Come learn what’s next to fight housing discrimination, incorporate equity for marginalized populations in our housing policies and programs, and increase awareness of fair housing rights under state and federal law.

We’ll have updates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing federal rule, a panel discussion of fair housing progress at the General Assembly and across Virginia, and a panel of local experts discussing the progress Arlington has made and what remains to be done.
Please RSVP in advance to ensure you receive your free lunch at the conference. Free and open to the public.

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