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As a 20-story apartment building by Greystar takes shape in Courthouse, the developer is poised to agree to take on some county-identified transportation projects around the site.

This Saturday, the County Board is slated to approve an agreement delegating to Greystar the design and construction of light transportation improvements near the “Landmark Block” at 2050 Wilson Blvd. The county will reimburse the developer up to $2.5 million.

These projects add to the streetscape improvements and community benefits that Greystar will provide through its approved redevelopment plans. The “Landmark” site was previously home to brick buildings that housed a handful of restaurants, including CosiBoston MarketJerry’s Subs and Summers Restaurant.

After the County Board approved the project in March, demolition began last summer and construction broke ground in October. Greystar intends to complete the apartment building in the fall of 2023.

The pending agreement would task Greystar with some street repaving, signal upgrades and utility work. County staff say it will be cheaper, easier and more efficient for Greystar to handle these projects concurrent with construction.

“These needed transportation improvements… are either adjacent to, above, or beneath the proposed site plan improvements, and dovetail with the improvements already approved as part of the site plan project’s package of community benefits,” the report said.

Specifically, Greystar would relocate existing — or install new — traffic signal poles, traffic signal cabinets and other traffic-related items in the public right-of-way at three intersections: Wilson and Clarendon Blvd and N. Courthouse Road; N. Courthouse Road and 15th Street N.; and N. Uhle Street and Clarendon Blvd.

It will also add a “bike island” at the intersection of 15th Street N. and Clarendon Blvd in the westbound direction and install about 250 feet of a new 12-inch water main within N. Courthouse Road.

As part of the approved project, Greystar agreed to make the following streetscape improvements along Clarendon Blvd, Wilson Blvd and N. Courthouse Road:

  • widen sidewalks and improve street crossings for pedestrians
  • widen or add protected or dedicated bike lanes
  • widen the center median for Wilson and Clarendon Blvd
  • relocate the county parking lot entrance from 15th Street N.
  • screen in or buffer the 15th Street N. frontage of the county parking lot

Greystar also agreed to build part of a pedestrian promenade along N. Uhle Street and a shared street along 15th Street N. These community benefits were envisioned seven years ago as part of an effort to plan the next 30 years of development in Courthouse.

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Developer Greystar broke ground yesterday on an apartment building just a stone’s throw from the Courthouse Metro station.

The under-construction building now has a name: “The Commodore.” Work on it follows about three months of demolition of the “Landmark Block,” previously home to brick buildings that housed a handful of restaurants, including CosiBoston Market, Jerry’s Subs and Summers Restaurant.

Completion of the 20-story, 423-unit building at 2025 15th Street N. is expected in the fall of 2023, according to a press release.

“We are extremely excited to partner with Arlington County to redevelop the Courthouse Landmark site into a world-class, mixed-use project in the heart of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor,” said John Clarkson, the managing director for Greystar Real Estate Partners. “The Commodore will deliver much needed housing and placemaking retail at the seat of Arlington County government and bridge the gap between the Rosslyn and Clarendon Metro Stations.”

The project will advance the county’s plans — seven years in the making — to redevelop not just the “Landmark Block,” but a sub-section of Courthouse it has dubbed “Courthouse Square.” The area is bounded by Clarendon Blvd to the north, N. Courthouse Road to the east, 14th Street N. to the south and commercial buildings to the west.

“Courthouse Square” is envisioned in county planning documents as “the civic and cultural heart of Arlington” and “where the revolution begins.”

Courthouse Square concept plan from 2015 (via Arlington County)

Apartment units will range in size from what Greystar calls “micro-units” to three-bedroom penthouses. The Commodore will offer 24/7 concierge service, a fitness center, a kitchen and dining area, a children’s playroom, a clubroom and a co-working space. Outdoor amenities include a pool and a rooftop with views of Rosslyn and D.C.

About 18,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space “will host locally loved food and drink destinations as well neighborhood, health & wellness, and personal care services for the Courthouse and Clarendon communities,” the release said.

As part of the project, Greystar will build part of a pedestrian promenade along N. Uhle Street between Wilson Blvd and 14th Street N. Residents will be able to use it to access the Courthouse Metro station.

The County Board approved the project back in March. Greystar is also overseeing another project in Courthouse, a 220-unit building on the vacant Wendy’s lot, which is currently winding through county processes.

“Greystar looks forward to being a vested and long-term owner in this dynamic and strategically important submarket,” Clarkson said.

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Demolition has leveled the former Summers restaurant in Courthouse (staff photo)

A nice late summer weekend is on tap as we start to dry out tonight after a soggy couple of days.

Autumn officially begins on Wednesday, and the forecast currently shows high temperatures in the 70s for the entirety of next week, so enjoy the final vestiges of summer while you can.

Here are the most-read Arlington stories of the final full week of summer 2021:

  1. Columbia Pike Blocked By High Water Amid Flash Flood Warning
  2. Widespread Power Outage Reported in Parts of N. Arlington
  3. County Board Set to Pick a New Logo From One of These Four Options
  4. Tatte Bakery in Clarendon Set To Open Tomorrow
  5. Arlington Covid Cases Continue Upward Trajectory
  6. Firefighters Rescue Man Dangling from Scaffolding in Rosslyn
  7. Arlington Public Schools’ German Language Program Struggles to Stay Afloat
  8. Book Excerpt: Remembering Arlington’s Luna Park
  9. VDOT Fixes a Capital Mistake Along Route 50
  10. Arlington Police to Assist at the Capitol This Weekend

Feel free to discuss the above stories — or anything else of local interest — in the comments. Have a nice weekend, Arlington!

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Morning Notes

Demolition has leveled the former Summers restaurant in Courthouse (staff photo)

Pentagon City Metro Elevator Update — From Arlington Transit: “On Sun., Sept. 19, the bus stop serving ART 42, 74, 84 & 87, Metrobus 7A & 22A, and Fairfax Connector 599 (AM) will temporarily be relocated south on S Hayes St. due construction of Pentagon City Metro second elevator.” [Twitter]

Huffpost Calls Arlington GOP Tweet ‘Racist’ — “In a racist tweet Monday that was promptly ratioed into the shame museum, the Arlington County Republican Committee in Virginia suggested that two Democratic congresswomen of color should retire and go work as lobbyists for the Taliban… ‘This tweet isn’t about race ― it’s about the Squad’s constant support for anti-American sentiment abroad,’ the Arlington GOP tweeted.” [Huffpost]

ACFD Responds to Courthouse Gas Leak — “Arlington County Fire and Rescue crews said a gas leak reported just before 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Courthouse area was fixed about an hour later.” [Patch, Twitter]

Local Nurse Lauded for Covid Candor — “An Arlington woman who continues going above and beyond to help her community throughout the pandemic is being nominated for a community hero award from her fellow neighbors.” [WJLA]

Arlington Students Make ‘Merit’ Semis — “Sixteen high school students from Arlington have been named 2022 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, taking the first step in securing a scholarship in the competitive program.” [Patch, Arlington Public Schools]

Restaurant Recs for Those With Kids — “Going out with kids is complicated enough — finding dishes for picky eaters, hoping they will sit still long enough to finish their food and not terrorize other tables, praying you can relax for five minutes… These restaurants are going out of their way to create a welcoming, inclusive and safe dining environment for families, with outdoor dining and child-pleasing choices.” [Arlington Magazine]

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Morning Notes

It’s the End of Summers — The former Summers restaurant in Courthouse was torn down yesterday, making way for a new apartment development. Video of the demolition shows water being sprayed to control dust as the building was razed. [Twitter]

Staffing Concerns At 911 Dispatch Center — “The head of Arlington, Virginia’s Emergency Communications Center is addressing concerns that its current setup is problematic and even potentially dangerous. ‘We are like every other 911 center in the country, which has traditionally struggled with staffing,’ center administrator Dave Mulholland told WTOP. ‘We’re going to be very honest in acknowledging not every shift has optimal staffing.’ However, Mulholland maintains that crucial positions have always remained filled, and that more people are being trained to fill needed roles.” [WTOP]

Lebanese Taverna Helping to Feed Refugees — “When word came that thousands of Afghan refugees would be landing at Dulles in late August after their country fell to the Taliban, World Central Kitchen mobilized to make sure those reaching the U.S. after a harrowing journey would be greeted with a hot meal. The nonprofit’s first call was to Grace Abi-Najm Shea, one of five siblings behind Lebanese Taverna… Of the 61,298 meals WCK served there between Aug. 25 and Sept. 10, 5,037 came from Lebanese Taverna.” [Washington City Paper]

County Board May Modify Hotel Tax — “Arlington County is weighing whether to tax hotel guests for the total cost of their stay, including fees and other charges, and not just the cost of the room. The potential change to the transient occupancy tax — the revenue from which has collapsed amid the pandemic, affecting Arlington’s incentive arrangement with Amazon.com Inc. — follows changes to the tax definition in the state code adopted by the Virginia General Assembly.” [Washington Business Journal]

Much of Crystal City Is Now Carbon Neutral — “JBG SMITH, a leading owner and developer of high-quality, mixed-use properties in the Washington, DC market, today announced it has achieved carbon neutrality across its entire 16.1 million square foot operating portfolio. Building on this accomplishment, JBG SMITH intends for its properties to maintain carbon neutral operations annually.” [BusinessWire]

Tucker Rants About Beyer — Fox News opinion host Tucker Carlson called Rep. Don Beyer “a fashionably radical car dealer from Arlington” on his show earlier this week, in a segment about vaccine mandates. But Beyer’s communications director says that the local congressman, who is actually an Alexandria resident, “does not own any auto dealerships and has not for years.” [Twitter]

Harris Teeter Stores Cutting Hours — “Harris Teeter stores nationwide will be reducing their store hours until further notice, citing the shortage of labor caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Starting Wednesday, Sept. 15, all Harris Teeters will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Stores in Northern Virginia have previously been open 24 hours, or until 11 p.m.” [InsideNova]

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Good morning, Arlington. Dana here. It's Wednesday, September 15: National Double Cheeseburger Day and Prince Harry's 37th birthday.

Morning Status

  • Today's Weather: ☀️ Sunny, with a high near 90.
  • Tomorrow's Weather: ⛈ A chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. Partly sunny, with a high near 83.
  • Sunrise:  6:46 a.m.
  • Sunset:  7:11 p.m.

What We're Covering Today

Morning Notes

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The “revolution” in urban living set to take place in the Landmark Block in Courthouse is currently being fomented.

Residents who pass the site near the Courthouse Metro station can see preparations underway to tear down some of the low-slung retail buildings along the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd.

Demolition work is starting on the site’s aging brick retail buildings, as Bisnow reported earlier this week. John Clarkson, the managing director Greystar Real Estate Partners, told the site that work began last week, and the developer aims to deliver a 20-story apartment building by the third quarter of 2023.

The Landmark Block site is one of two projects — the other is a 220-unit building on the vacant Wendy’s lot — that Greystar is overseeing in Courthouse. Clarkson said the developer is focused on this neighborhood because it has the demographics, schools and walkability that make Clarendon attractive but less of the growth.

“We really want to establish a sense of place,” Clarkson tells Bisnow. “With some real density, some real scale it will feel like we have filled in that hole in the doughnut between Rosslyn and Clarendon, so we’re very excited about [the] upside of that submarket.”

Seven commercial buildings on the Landmark Block site will be demolished, including the former Summers Restaurant. The façades of the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (2050 Wilson Blvd) and the Investment Building (2049 15th Street N.) will be preserved, according to the county. The buildings, constructed in 1946 and 1948 respectively, are identified as “important” on the county’s Historic Resources Inventory.

The County Board approved the project at 2050 Wilson Blvd, featuring 423 apartment units, ground-floor retail and an underground parking garage, back in March. For proponents, the building and accompanying community benefits will make Courthouse Square “the civic and cultural heart of Arlington,” and will be “where the revolution begins,” as phrased in a county planning document.

One of the features the county said will usher in changes for Courthouse is a pedestrian promenade.

“The promenade was one of the addendum’s top recommendations for the area around Landmark Block,” the county said in March. “The N. Uhle Street promenade…will be lined with trees, and offer retail shops and plenty of space for community gatherings.”

Greystar will provide a portion of the Courthouse Square promenade that is envisioned in the Courthouse Square Addendum to the Courthouse Sector Plan. The full promenade would run between Wilson Blvd and 14th Street N. along N. Uhle Street.

An architect’s rendering of the pedestrian promenade on N. Uhle Street (Image via Arlington County)

The county said the promenade will be “the main gateway from Clarendon Boulevard into Courthouse Square.”

Meanwhile, the long-vacant Wendy’s site will no longer look on while other sites are developed around it. Greystar’s plans for the triangular site at 2025 Clarendon Blvd are going through entitlements, Clarkson tells Bisnow.

The developer expects to break ground on the 220-unit building by the second quarter of 2022. For the last two years, construction crews have used it as a staging area while building a condo project across the street at 2000 Clarendon.

The old Wendy’s site has sat vacant since it was demolished in 2016 for an office building that never came. Greystar acquired the property from Carr Properties in January, according to real estate firm JLL.

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(Updated 4:05 p.m.) Arlington restaurants can now apply to increase the number of diners they are permitted to serve indoors and outdoors, according to Arlington Economic Development.

The county is allowing restaurants to temporarily up their maximum capacity so that the eateries can keep using — and possibly expand — their pandemic-era temporary outdoor seating areas (TOSAs), even as indoor capacity restrictions have lifted, the AED newsletter to local businesses said.

Kate Bates, President and CEO of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, praised the decision.

“The Chamber of Commerce applauds the county for moving forward to extend TOSAs in way that works for restaurants and the community,”  Bates said. “We shared this with our member restaurants, and they are very pleased. Some made big investment in TOSA areas and they’re able to use that to draw in more customers.”

When restaurants prepared to reopen last summer, they needed outdoor dining to make up for the space they lost inside to social distancing requirements. Additionally, the format had a lower risk of transmission than indoor dining.

So in May 2o2o, the Arlington County Board approved a process through which restaurants could obtain a permit to set up these seating areas, provided that they met fire and safety codes. In December, the board granted restaurant and bar owners the ability to set up in common areas, such as plazas.

One year later, capacity restrictions governing Virginia restaurants have lifted. In Arlington, that means restaurants still using their TOSAs could technically exceed their permitted occupancy maximums. So the county is allowing restaurants to request a temporary certificate of occupancy (TCO) for their TOSAs, which will allow them to operate these seating areas while also operating at full capacity indoors.

The TCOs will expire with the TOSAs, which will remain in operation at least through 2021. The seating areas are permitted by the county’s Continuity of Government Ordinance, which will run for six months beyond the declared end of the pandemic.

“We really can’t emphasize enough that, even though TOSAs were helpful, restaurants still faced incredible losses and decimation,” Bates said. “In 2021, restaurants still need support from the losses over the last 16 months.”

But restaurant owners can’t run out and set up more outdoor seating just yet. Inspections, permits and amendments will be required to make these changes, according to AED.

Those interested in getting a temporary occupancy permit should schedule a free code consultation with the county, the economic development agency said.

“To ensure the safety of all restaurant staff and patrons, the Virginia Building and Fire Prevention Code regulates capacity limitations,” said AED. “For this reason, the ability to obtain a TCO for a TOSA will depend on a restaurant’s individual circumstances and existing indoor and/or outdoor capacity.”

Those interested in expanding their TOSAs must also submit an amendment to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority, which regulates liquor sales in these seating areas, the newsletter said. TOSAs approved for liquor sales will be able to serve drinks at least for through the end of 2021.

But the processes put in place last year did not work for all restaurants. The owner of Summers Restaurant said delays in TOSA permitting are one reason why the establishment closed last year.

And Medium Rare owner Mark Bucher said application troubles and fire codes made it impossible to seat his Arlington guests outside and keep them warm — without breaking the law.

Going forward, Bates said the Chamber wants to see the county “make it work” for restaurants facing extra hurdles, rather than coming up reasons for barring them from participating. The process needs to be a streamlined “not just on paper but in practice,” she said.

Eventually, the Chamber would like to see these outdoor seating areas become permanent parts of local codes, she said.

“This is community-building,” Bates said. “Outdoor dining makes Arlington vibrant and promotes other community interactions.”

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Arlington’s four candidates for the County Board agree that Arlington County should take more steps to support small businesses.

The County Board hopefuls articulated their plans for supporting the business community and encouraging economic development during an Arlington Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last night (Tuesday).

Candidates suggested providing grants, cutting certain taxes and fees, expanding online permit applications, and improving both the county’s regulatory processes and how county staff help businesses navigate them.

The debate was moderated by Alex Koma of the Washington Business Journal, a former ARLnow reporter. Koma also asked candidates about office space vacancies, housing and development.

Citing his “Freedom and Justice Plan,” Democratic challenger Chanda Choun said he would encourage public-private partnerships that fund grants for startups and minority-owned businesses, which often struggle to get loans. He would also eliminate the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, which is calculated based on the gross receipts of a business.

“If you’re a small mom and pop, and you generate revenue — not even profit — of $10,000 or more, you have to start paying business license fees,” he said. “It makes no sense.”

Independent candidate and Yorktown Civic Association President Mike Cantwell said the county should eliminate the business tangible tax — which taxes the assessed value of business furniture, machinery, tools and computer equipment — and instead tax specific things like automated checkout machines.

“The business tangible tax takes in approximately 4% of revenue for the entire budget and it is a highly inefficient tax and an administrative burden on small businesses,” he said, adding that “we have a role to play to make sure machines don’t replace humans.”

Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement supported expanding the Permit Arlington portal, which took some permits process online in 2019 (a dozen others are already slated to go digital through 2022). She said the county needs to keep up its vaccine distribution efforts and review the real estate assessment process.

Democratic incumbent Takis Karantonis called for small business grants; better customer service for people navigating county, state and federal regulations; and — for big businesses — a review of county processes to see if they are efficient.

“We need to create something that will sustain [the smallest, women-owned and Black- and Brown-owned businesses] in the long term,” Karantonis said, adding that continuing a pandemic-era business loan program “would be a signal that we welcome them and are committed to restoring neighborhood retail and retail diversity.”

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(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Will the proposed development for Landmark Block in Courthouse be the site of a “revolution” in urban living?

Arlington County says so. And developer Greystar Real Estate Partners appears ready to ignite this uprising, with plans to replace the aging, low-slung buildings on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd — including the former Summers Restaurant — into an apartment tower surrounded by a pedestrian promenade and a curbless street.

But for some Planning Commission members, aspects of the proposal are not revolutionary enough, and one could be unsafe for pedestrians.

In 2015, the county published its vision for the square as an “attractive, accessible, and inclusive public space,” a sustainable 18-hour-a-day hub that celebrates Courthouse Square’s “rich history.”

The “civic and cultural heart of Arlington” will be flexible, innovative, sustainable and timeless, according to the 2015 Courthouse Square Sector Plan addendum. In short, the planning document said, Courthouse Square will be “where the revolution begins.”

To lead the charge, Greystar needs approval from the County Board, which is slated to review the proposal on Saturday.

Greystar is proposing a 423-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail and underground parking. But this bread-and-butter project includes community benefits that will be “a truly landmark project,” said Nicholas Cummings, Greystar’s legal representation, during a Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday.

These is a proposed pedestrian promenade on N. Uhle Street that will lead to a revamped Courthouse Metro station entrance, as well as the shared, curbless concrete street on 15th Street N.

“The existing N. Uhle Street is harsh, with asphalt, no benches and minimal trees,” said Steve Smith, a principal architect for Cooper Carry, the architect for the project. “We’re excited about this opportunity to transform it into a fully [compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act], pedestrian-only promenade, which provides increased tree-lined dining and public seating areas that activate the path to the Metro entrance.”

Meanwhile, 15th Street N. will be resurfaced and raised to create “a curbless table that blends into the sidewalk on both sides of the street,” he said.

Other community benefits include on-site committed affordable housing units, LEED Gold certification, a $800,000 contribution toward improving a future “Civic Square,” and $250,000 “for a public art installation in the square.”

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Six years after redevelopment discussions began, a plan to upgrade a block of aging brick buildings in Courthouse is winding through Arlington County’s levels of review.

“The Courthouse Landmark Block (2050 Wilson Blvd) is currently under review via our site plan review process,” said Jessica Margarit, the communications manager for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, in an email.

An online engagement opportunity focused on transportation, sustainability, community benefits and construction opened Monday and will run through Sunday. County Board consideration of the project is expected in the next few months.

“The Planning Commission and County Board intend to consider this application during Winter 2020-21,” Margarit said.

Greystar Real Estate Partners is proposing a 20-story apartment building with ground-floor retail, rooftop amenities and open space, as well as a below-grade parking structure. The development would replace the one- to three-story brick buildings, including the now-closed Summers Restaurant, just east of the Courthouse Metro station entrance.

The proposal includes keeping, with some changes, the façades of two buildings deemed to be historic.

“Our concept is to embrace the site and its position as one of the highest elevations in the Clarendon-Courthouse area, as well as a prominent building in all directions,” said architect Stephen Smith of Cooper Carry in a September meeting.

The building will have 418 residential units and 160 parking spaces. It will also have 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space with 61 retail parking spaces. The proposal includes prominent ground floor retail spaces with the tower set back a bit from the street, “producing a lighter, more enjoyable pedestrian feel on the sidewalk.”

“It became clear to us when we first approached the site and looked at the sector plan’s recommendations, the site’s very unique and highly visible location in the heart of central Courthouse meant that the site has a lot of design response,” Smith said.

Greystar will fashion a pedestrian promenade along N. Uhle Street between the Courthouse Metro station and the development

“This is intended to become a vibrant and broad pedestrian walkway lined with trees and active retail uses and distinctive lighting,” said John Beinert, the director of development for Greystar.

The pathway comes with two challenges, accommodating a utility vault and a four-foot elevation change. To overcome these, the promenade will have a slight bend to move around the vault, creating “a more dynamic and inviting experience,” and the green space will be terraced to solve the grade-change problem.

Retail space will line the promenade and an elevator lobby will provide access to a garage below-ground.

“Making this new space active and engaging is our highest priority,” Beinert said.

Other proposed community benefits include additional improvements to the streetscape, LEED certification, and contributions to the county’s public art and affordable housing funds.

Two existing buildings will be preserved and their façades redone with historically accurate design and materials.

These are the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (2050 Wilson Boulevard), constructed in 1946, and the Investment Building (2049 15th Street N.), constructed in 1948. They are identified as “important” on the County’s Historic Resources Inventory.

Greystar, meanwhile, has picked up another project in Courthouse. The company is now planning to redevelop the former Wendy’s site, across from the Landmark block, into another residential tower, according to the Washington Business Journal.

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