St. Charles Catholic Church redevelopment proposal descends into planning purgatory

Development plans for St. Charles Catholic Church in Clarendon have descended into planning purgatory.

The brick church, which occupies a large piece of land near Northside Social and George Mason University’s Arlington campus, has assembled plans to redevelop the property with a new church building and parish center, affordable housing and underground parking.

Progress was continuing apace. As of December 2023, members of a special committee — of the pastor, diocesan representatives, parishioners and other stakeholders — holding discussions with the development partner, LCOR, and hammering out financial planning details, according to an update that was removed from the website this week.

Now, the church is taking a break due to current economic conditions, Fr. Don Planty, the church’s pastor, confirmed to ARLnow yesterday evening (Thursday).

“The rise in interest rates over the last year negatively impacted our developer’s financing capabilities — as it did for residential and commercial real estate projects everywhere,” he said in a statement. “We have suspended the project to evaluate our options or until financial conditions in the real estate sector improve.”

The idea to redevelop has been in the works for a few years now. The church filed conceptual plans in November 2022 proposing a 429-unit apartment building with a courtyard in the center, a rooftop pool and ground-floor amenities. The church will be connected to the parish center, with meeting rooms and an event space, by cloistered gardens.

Parking, currently on Fairfax Drive, would have moved underground and an alley would connect the church and apartment building. Fairfax Drive was slated to be redesigned as a walkable plaza, with a new “West End Plaza” located in front of the church on a county-owned parcel.

But these plans may not lie dormant forever.

“It is absolutely our intent to redevelop the site — it is simply a matter of when,” Planty said. “We will continue to pray that with a new and more beautiful parish site, we can more effectively continue our mission to bring the Good News of Jesus to the heart of Arlington and serve our community.”

St. Charles is situated among several other development proposals — from planning to construction — that are poised to significantly change the neighborhood. In response to all the planned development activity, the county updated the Clarendon sector plan to include a study of this subsection.

Other projects include the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors, Wells Fargo/Verizon and YMCA sites, as well as George Mason University.

GMU broke ground on its $235 million expansion project, dubbed FUSE at Mason Square at 3351 Fairfax Drive two years ago and is set to finish construction by the end of 2025.

Last year, the Arlington County Board approved the Joyce Motors project, replacing the automotive shop with an 11-story apartment building with ground-floor retail that preserves the building’s historic façade. It also approved the Silver Diner project, which will see a new hotel and apartment building replace the restaurant, The Lot beer garden, two brick structures called “The Doctors Building,” an auto repair facility and surface parking.

The Wells Fargo project has not yet advanced to Planning Commission or County Board review and the YMCA project is still under an earlier county review process.