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County Board approves two apartment towers in Crystal City

Two 30-story apartment towers proposed for Crystal City received a green light from the Arlington County Board on Saturday.

The proposal from JBG Smith will redevelop a block at the intersection of 23rd Street S. and Crystal Drive that is currently home to a vacant office building from the 1960s and, until demolition started earlier this year, a strip of one-story retail that included the restaurant Jaleo.

The west tower (223 23rd Street S.) will have 613 units and 8,000 square feet of retail. The east tower (2250 Crystal Drive) will have 826 units and 14,929 square feet of retail. A north-south vehicular access will run between the two towers and is intended to take parking and retail loading off the nearby streets.

This project also includes an approximately 8,025-square-foot interim public green space, which the Crystal City Sector Plan envisions becoming a 13,000-square-foot open space.

A 5,574-square-foot walkway lined with planters and seating will run east to west and connect pedestrians to a relocated entrance to the Crystal City Shops, an underground mall, as well as retail at the base of the 2250 Crystal Drive building.

JBG Smith will rebuild 23rd Street S. from Crystal Drive to Richmond Highway, adding 1,600 new linear feet of protected bike lanes across Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S. The developer will also add a mid-block crossing where the north-south connector intersects with 23rd Street S. and floating bus stops on either side of the street.

The project is set to achieve LEED Gold certification. JBG Smith will contribute more than $8 million to affordable housing and set aside 34 off-site affordable units at one of its existing Riverhouse apartment buildings in Pentagon City. Open space in the development is set to be redeveloped in the near future.

References to Missing Middle — which was the next item for discussion — broke into comments from County Board members.

“The big picture here is 1,400 additional units that are in one of our transit corridors. This is an example of the type of project that across perspectives, most everyone supports,” said Board member Matt de Ferranti. “This is part of smart policy to prevent further ex-urban development. It’s part of good policy for our community.”

Board member Takis Karantonis hailed it as “a very good project.”

“This is between one of the nation’s most vibrant innovation districts, [Amazon’s] HQ2, the anchor, and everything that comes around it, and the Virginia Tech campus a few blocks down the street,” he said.

He went on to connect the project to the Missing Middle housing proposal, which was discussed in public comments for more than five hours after Board members voted on JBG Smith’s redevelopment plans.

“These people will live there and after a while, we would like them to have more opportunities to stay in Arlington and continue to be productive residents at the core of our economic growth machine,” he said.

Board members and Planning Commission representative Jim Lantelme applauded JBG Smith’s plans to reuse unoccupied parking garage spaces for residents.

“That’s something we encourage and would like to see more of,” Lantelme said.

Staff and Lantelme mentioned changes JBG Smith made in response to comments from advisory commissions and staff. They said these changes improved the pedestrian experience by setting the height of the towers farther back from the street and redesigning the larger public plazas to include more plantings and a pet relief area.

Board Vice-Chair Libby Garvey thanked JBG Smith the changes made.

“The fact that we don’t have a lot of speakers here to tell us how bad the plan is shows that the work has really been well done, ” he said. “Arlingtonians are not shy about letting us know if there’s something they don’t like.”

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