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Days Inn developer tees up planned apartments for County Board approval

A midcentury modern-inspired apartment project, heralded as the “gateway to Lyon Park,” is headed to the Arlington County Board for approval.

The 8-story, 251-unit building, with nearly 3,000 square feet of ground floor retail, would replace the Days Inn motel along Arlington Blvd, once a 1950s-era roadside motel named the “Arva,” a portmanteau for “Arlington, Virginia.”

When complete, the motel’s historic sign and lobby will be recreated. There will be protected bike lanes on both sides of N. Pershing Drive and N. Wainwright Road — a vestigial frontage road for the motel — will become a 12-foot multi-use trail with a bike “fix-it” station.

Applicant and owner Nayan Patel, doing business as Arlington Boulevard LLC, is making monetary and in-kind contributions to an on-site public space project that the Dept. of Parks and Recreation will design.

There will also be seven committed affordable units on site: 1-2 bedroom units with either a loft or den attached, as well as two three-bedroom units. The developer intends to plant 25 new, healthy trees to replace the 28 unhealthy ones that will be removed.

Although the project — dubbed the Arva Apartments — could clear the finish line this weekend, some Arlington Planning Commissioners had quibbles with the project or dug into criticisms levied by the public speakers related to tree planting and other community benefits.

The tree plantings, for instance, are “clearly an improvement, but the bar is so low to begin with,” Planning Commissioner Leonardo Sarli. “We still have to aspire to something.”

Lyon Park resident Anne Bodine, who has spoken in other meetings as a member of the slow-growth group Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future, says she was underwhelmed by the on-site affordable housing provision and tree planting plans.

She asked the Planning Commission to reconsider how it weighs community benefits.

“If we see these at-cost, we can better assess these trade-offs,” she said.

She said she felt the county effectively told residents it was too early to advocate for benefits during a special study of the site — completed in advance of redevelopment proposals and adopted in 2021 — but it was too late once the public review process began for this project.

Planning Commissioner Jim Lantelme had a different view.

“I do want to commend the staff and developers for how closely they did work with Lyon Park, which did participate at every phase in every meeting and they were very vocal,” he said. “They were very much involved. Their input was heard and responded to, so I think this project did evolve in response to that community process.”

Climate Change, Energy and Environment Commission Chair Joan McIntyre said this project relies too heavily on fossil fuels for its HVAC and water systems, though she was heartened to see these systems could be converted to electric in the future.

A project architect said that the method selected, counterintuitively, would emit less carbon than a fully electric system, based on an analysis of “where the electricity is coming from.”

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