Press Club

Arlington County Board greenlights two major residential developments

This weekend, the Arlington County Board approved two apartment redevelopments that members lauded as architecturally distinct additions to Columbia Pike and Courthouse.

Members heaped praises on “The Elliott,” a new apartment building replacing the Fillmore Gardens shopping center, a one-story retail strip on the 2600 block of Columbia Pike.

Named for Elliott Burka, who managed the Fillmore Gardens apartments, “The Elliott” will situate 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store (rumored to potentially be an Amazon Fresh), a renovated CVS store and a new location for Burritos Bros, currently located in the CVS parking lot.

It will also have three levels of below-grade parking.

They commended Arlington-based developer Insight Property Group for realizing community benefits — a public plaza, a pedestrian passageway and a new S. Cleveland Street — and for intending to make room for the existing retail in the completed building.

“This building will be delivering so much more than 247 residential units and the 50,000 square feet of commercial space,”said Board Member Takis Karantonis, who lives near the project. “It delivers the second half of the Penrose plaza, which is arguably, in my opinion at least, one of the most successful public, multipurpose plazas in Arlington County and a true community gathering place.”

Insight Property Group planner Sarah Davidson did not say the name of the grocer coming to “The Elliott,” but she did say the company is “very, very interested” in how to enliven Penrose Square.

Meanwhile, developer Greystar now has the go-ahead to build a glassy triangular skyscraper on the 0.57-acre vacant Wendy’s site in Courthouse, about a block from the Courthouse Metro station. The building will have 16 stories, with 231 residential units and 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

It was approved despite some concerns among residents about the building’s height and the fact that it only provides 75 parking spots and 12 on-site committed affordable units.

“This will be a luxury, very expensive apartment building in Arlington — something we don’t have any deficit of,” said Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey. “To the extent that it adds to the housing supply for which there still continues to be strong demand for units at that price point, it helps with our housing strategy and goals for affordable housing indirectly.”

He said he also was concerned there are too few parking spots, but there are underused parking garages nearby to take advantage of.

“My suspicion is the reason people are willing to pay such a premium is to be three minutes from the Metro,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said, adding that “it is incumbent on us [to try to ensure that] it is not only the super wealthy who can live close to transit and all the access it provides.”

As for height, County Board members said the building is only 18 feet taller than the office building previously approved for this site. The Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study, meanwhile, recommends building no taller than 10 stories in this area.

Leslie Arminsky, speaking on behalf of the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association, said there should be 28 committed affordable units on site — rather than the approved 12 — while Board members opined that they should be committed affordable units for more than 30 years.

County staff countered that 30 years is standard for these projects.

While the Planning Commission was “thrilled” with the on-site affordable units — somewhat unusual for this manner of development project, with most developers opting to contribute monetarily to the county’s affordable housing fund instead — commissioners are concerned Greystar will seek a conversion of apartments to temporary hotel rooms if vacancy rates are high amid the initial leasing of the building, commission member Elizabeth Gearin said.

Hotel conversions are slated to be discussed tomorrow (Tuesday) during the County Board’s recessed meeting.

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