County says Days Inn developer needs to play up hotel’s mid-century modern origins

Arlington County planners say designs for the Days Inn redevelopment on Route 50 don’t pay sufficient homage to the motel’s mid-century modern bones.

Applicant and owner Nayan Patel — doing business as Arlington Boulevard LLC — proposes to replace the 128-unit, 2-story motel across the street from the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall with apartments and 3,000 square feet of retail.

Possible community benefits include a slow-speed, shared-use drive that provides a pedestrian and cycling connection to the Arlington Blvd Trail, protected bike lanes and on-site committed affordable housing units. Residents of the the 251-unit, 8-story building at 2201 Arlington Blvd will have access to an off-leash dog run.

The Arva Apartments will borrow its name from the 67-year-old building’s original name, the Arva Motor Hotel — a portmanteau of Arlington, Virginia. It will feature reconstructions of the hotel’s triangular sign and glassy lobby exterior.

But the county says the project designers, STUDIOS Architects, can do more to emphasize this history.

The Pershing Drive General Land Use Plan study, a 2021 document that outlines the community’s vision for this site, says architectural features should honor the motel’s mid-century design or the history of the adjacent Washington-Lee Apartments. It also says the developer should incorporate the existing triangular sign and the two-story, glassy lobby at the corner of Pershing Drive and Arlington Blvd.

The motel was formerly the Arva Motor Hotel, a portmanteau of Arlington, Virginia

“While the proposal incorporates a recreated sign and a lobby area that resembles the original lobby, the structures themselves are not actually preserved,” county planner Peter Schulz said in a presentation. “Staff also believes that the architecture above the ground level does not do enough to honor either the mid-century design of the existing motel or the historic Washington-Lee apartments.”

STUDIOS Architecture Principal Ashton Allan said in a presentation that the designs embrace the Moderne and mid-century modern styles and blends them with other styles in Lyon Park to do something new.

“As we set out to add our design to this collection, we wanted to draw inspiration from history, but also make our own statement in this chorus of voices,” he said.

As for the sign, he said a third party reviewed it and recommended the sign be reconstructed.

“The motel has gone through many changes and identities, and over time, the building and sign have aged to the end of their designed and functional lifespan,” Allan said.

The evolution of the Arva Motor Hotel sign (via Arlington County)

Parking is another concern, says Schulz. To get 201 residential spots and six retail spots, some parking is above ground, which impacts the experience for Arlington Blvd Trail users and neighbors, he said.

“It has been a longstanding county urban design principal to discourage above-grade parking for the negative effects it may have on building facades and streetscapes,” Schulz said.

Above-grade parking at the proposed Arva apartments (via Arlington County)

County staff are concerned about transformers proposed for a southern corner of the property, which Schulz says interferes with a recommendation to plant trees to create a 25-foot buffer between the Arva and Washington-Lee Apartments.

“Large trees cannot be planted over these electrical transformers, and so therefore, staff has encouraged the developer to consider relocating the transformers, as well as the above-ground parking, in order to provide much more planting and to meet the intent of the study document,” Schulz said.

The southern edge of the property depicted in the Pershing Drive GLUP and the Arva proposal (via Arlington County)

Following the GLUP recommendations, the applicant proposes an approximately 10,000-square-foot “casual use” open space on N. Pershing Drive and N. Wayne Street.

The county accepted the site plan application in October and the review process kicked off in early November with an online engagement period, which ended yesterday (Monday). Dates for the first public review committee meetings have yet to be set.

Arlington-based Shooshan Company had previously put forward redevelopment plans but is no longer involved, according to UrbanTurf.