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County says Inn of Rosslyn redevelopment proposal needs more work

Although redevelopment plans for the mid-century Inn of Rosslyn pay homage to the motel, the county says the developer could do more.

Last fall, D.C. real estate company Monument Realty filed plans to replace the 38-unit hotel, built in 1957, with an 8-story, 141-unit apartment building with 88 parking spaces. It took over the property after JBG Smith purchased it in December 2020.

This February, the county kicked off a review process that will culminate with a vote by the Arlington County Board. Planning staff already have some suggestions for the developer to comply with recommendations for the site made in the neighborhood’s Fort Myer Heights North Plan.

They say Monument should study adding floors to shrink the overall footprint of the property — located at 1601 Fairfax Drive, fronting Route 50 — match it to heights of other nearby apartment towers.

The designs, meanwhile, should imitate nearby Art Deco and Colonial Revival garden apartments and the developer could incorporate more historic preservation of the property, county planners say.

“The building footprint should be reduced to provide the recommended landscaped green space which is not currently provided,” said planners in a county report. “The proposed building does not incorporate elements of Colonial Revival or Art Deco, as recommended.”

New renderings from Monument Realty depict a building with alternating stripes of lighter and darker brick, offset by wood-like paneling. Mid-century motifs on the balconies and a “50” sign out front pay homage to the architecture of the existing hotel.

A postcard of the old “Motel 50,” later the Inn of Rosslyn (via Arlington County)

The developer’s land use attorney, Nick Cumings of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh, argued in a January 2023 letter to the county that the project does “compliment and draw from the architecture of the existing building and the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood.”

That includes the retro “50” sign and some of the materials to be used in construction.

“This selection of building materials is appropriate for the neighborhood, which predominantly features masonry, while also introducing a biophilic design with the wood-like paneling,” writes Cumings.

The county also wants the developer to work on “historic preservation elements” for the existing motel, while an attorney for Monument Realty argues that is not necessary.

Within the Arlington County Historic Resources Inventory, Cumings says, the property is designated as “Important” — but less distinctive and/or in worse condition than “Essential.” He added that the neighborhood plan does not call for its historic preservation.

Meanwhile, residents involved in the pro-housing group YIMBYs of Northern Virginia said on social media that their priority will be getting the developer to include more affordable housing in exchange for greater density.

Like staff, they envision the building reaching 12 stories — the tallest the Fort Myer Heights plan allows — so that more people can live in the Metro-accessible area.

Monument Realty already plans to earn some 59,000 square feet of extra density by participating in the Green Building Density Incentive Program, aiming to earn LEED Gold, and by providing some affordable housing. It’s unclear whether the provided affordable housing will be on-site or elsewhere.

Next up in the development approval process, the Site Plan Review Committee of the county’s Planning Commission will review the project twice before it heads to other citizen commissions and the Arlington County Board. No dates have been set for these meetings.

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