Press Club

Marbella Apartments is teed up for County Board approval this weekend

This weekend, a new affordable housing development in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, near Rosslyn, could get the green light to get started.

During its regular meeting on Saturday, the County Board is slated to review plans for the Marbella Apartments, a proposal from Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to build two 12-story, multifamily residential buildings that will be 100% affordable units for residents earning less than the area median income (AMI).

It will also review a proposal to issue a $10.5 million, 38-year loan to the Arlington-based affordable housing developer to fund one half of the project.

The two buildings, with a total of 555 units, would replace the existing three-story, garden-style complex located at 1300 and 1305 N. Pierce, north of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. These buildings are located on the east and west sides of N. Pierce Street, between N. Queen Street and N. Ode Street.

About two-thirds of the units in both buildings will be affordable to those earning up to 60% AMI and more than half of the units will be family-sized, with two to three bedrooms. The rest of the units will be affordable to people earning up to 30% to 50% of AMI.

Current residents will be prioritized as new tenants and the units will be affordable for 75 years, according to a Board report. In the “unlikely” event of a foreclosure with the senior lender, Virginia Housing, APAH may be able to reduce the number of affordable units to no fewer than 20% of the total, it said.

The project would be built in two phases:

  • Phase 1: “Site A,” a 234-unit tower with 118 below-grade parking spaces
  • Phase 2: “Site B,” a 321-unit tower, 132 of which will be dedicated to senior housing, with 163 below-grade parking spaces

Each building will be oriented around central courtyards, with two new pedestrian walkways across each site. They have some environmentally friendly features, including green roofs, rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and bicycle parking.

The developer will also take utilities underground and plant street trees.

APAH intends to return to the County Board later to request funds for the second phase. The County loaned the developer $4 million in 2011 when it purchased the existing 134-unit complex, built in the 1940s.

APAH is allowed to build 12-story buildings in the neighborhood through an April 2021 zoning ordinance amendment that hasn’t been used before, according to the report. Developers can tack on height if they commit to keeping all the units affordable and designing effective height transitions to lower-slung neighbors.

But this policy lacked “well-defined planning and urban design guidelines or other applicable policy guidance,” resulting in a contentious public review process, according to the report.

The Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, Lisa Court townhouses homeowners and representatives for the Flats at Pierce Court condos all “voiced a number of concerns with the proposal, including issues related to overall building height, density, proposed parking, construction impacts, and transition to lower density properties,” the report said.

The Marbella Apartments site, showing neighboring communities (via Arlington County)

But revisions addressing these concerns worried several Site Plan Review Committee members and advisory group representatives, who said they reduced the number of units too much, the report continued.

The county says the final proposal smoothes the transition from townhouses to 12-story buildings as much as possible while removing only a half-dozen of units.

The evolution of the Marbella Apartments proposal (via Arlington County)

Meanwhile, this summer, APAH intends to renovate some low- and mid-rise affordable apartment buildings it owns next to the buildings intended for redevelopment.

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