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Silver Diner redevelopment project faces delays over ‘unresolved design challenges’ with N. Irving Street

The empty Silver Diner in Clarendon may remain standing for a little longer while redevelopment plans for the site wrap up.

The former restaurant at 3200 Wilson Blvd closed in December and soon thereafter reopened in Ballston. Seven months later, developers proposing to build a hotel and apartment building on the site say more time is needed to make the ground floor of their project more welcoming to pedestrians.

Bounded by 10th Street N., Wilson Blvd and N. Irving Street, the site includes the diner, The Lot beer garden — itself issuing a last call for drinks this year — two brick structures called “The Doctors Building,” and an auto repair facility.

The developers, TCS Realty Associates and The Donohoe Cos., are asking the Arlington County Board for another two months to fix “unresolved design challenges” that arose during the public review process, per a county report. On Saturday, the Board is set to vote on the request, potentially delaying a final review until September.

Mostly, the design challenges relate to how the developer plans to use N. Irving Street.

TCS and Donohoe intend to put hotel-related facilities and a loading area along N. Irving Street, which Arlington County staff said in a report earlier this year deviates from the 2022 Clarendon Sector Plan. This plan, developed in anticipation of the Silver Diner redevelopment, among others, envisions this street as walkable and with outward-facing retail.

In response to earlier feedback, the developers added a “living green wall” to the hotel façade along N. Irving Street. While appreciative of the effort, staff said in March that a grassy wall does not address the lack of retail or the pedestrian-vehicle conflicts a loading area could create.

Façade changes to 3200 Wilson Blvd redevelopment (via Arlington County)

“The applicant has designed the ground floor plan of the Hotel building to have the less active uses (i.e. kitchen, employee break room, etc.) along Irving Street,” said a county report from March, adding that county planning documents instead suggest the street should have “retail, retail equivalents, food establishments, entertainment establishments.”

Arlington County says the loading area, meanwhile, pits vehicles turning in and out of the hotel against pedestrians who use N. Irving Street to access the Clarendon Metro station.

It anticipates more people using N. Irving Street to access a public plaza called for in the Clarendon Sector Plan. The space where this will go became public right of way after some street upgrades along Wilson Blvd. The future plaza will be delivered with a project to redevelop the Wells Fargo nearby.

Silver Diner site and future N. Irving Street plaza, elements emphasized by ARLnow (via Arlington County

“Irving Street is recognized as a pedestrian desire line from the Ashton Heights and Lyon Park Civic Associations to the Clarendon Metro stop,” the county report said. “The addition of a curb cut on Irving Street presents pedestrian conflicts and is contrary to County policies that discourage curb cuts and loading activity near public spaces, in this case the public plaza at the terminus of Irving Street.”

The sector plan suggests loading should instead occur on 10th Road N. It envisions the new road as an east-west connection to provide access to parking and loading facilities.

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