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Police on scene of incident at the Cortland Rosslyn apartments (photo courtesy anonymous)

A 40-year-old Arlington man is in jail after police say he fired a gun in an apartment and caused extensive flooding.

The incident happened Tuesday afternoon at the recently-built Cortland Rosslyn apartment building, at 1788 N. Pierce Street. Initial reports suggest that a large police response was sent to the building after a man who was set to be evicted was believed to be armed and causing damage inside his apartment.

The man eventually surrendered to officers and was taken into custody without further incident. Damage from gunfire and from flooding was found inside, police said, though it’s unclear whether the gunfire caused the flooding.

Arlington County police released the following statement in response to an inquiry from ARLnow.

WEAPONS VIOLATION, 2022-11150151, 1700 block of N. Pierce Street. At approximately 1:51 p.m. on November 15, police were dispatched to the report of a man screaming inside a residential building. As officers were responding, the Emergency Communications Center received an additional call for service regarding shots heard at the same location. Arriving officers made contact with the suspect, gave him commands which he complied with and took him into custody in the hallway without incident. The investigation indicates the suspect allegedly discharged a firearm inside the residence, causing damage. A search of the residence revealed additional property damage and flooding inside the unit which impacted other residential units in the building. A firearm was recovered on scene. Officers canvassed the building and no injuries were reported. [The suspect], 40, of Arlington, VA was arrested and charged with Reckless Handling of a Firearm, Destruction of Property and Discharging a Weapon within an Occupied Dwelling. He was held without bond.

In an email to residents last night, shared with ARLnow by a tipster, apartment management noted that there will be additional security at building entrances “for the time being.”

Dear Residents,

As you may be aware that there was a significant local authority presence in our community earlier this afternoon. We know that any authority presence can be alarming, and we wanted to let you know that today’s activity was in response to an isolated issue regarding a resident against whom we took legal action due to various lease violations, including antisocial behavior and discharging a firearm. We are extremely grateful no one was injured, and the person was arrested without further incident.

Out of an abundance of caution, we will have security present at all entrances to the community for the time being. If you forget your fob, you will not be allowed in without calling our office through the callbox.

As always, your safety is our primary focus. There are no additional details to report at this time, and we will continue to support the police as they wrap up their investigation.

The tipster said that he overheard that as many of 30 apartments might have had water damage from the flooding. He claimed that prior to the email, residents were kept in the dark for hours as to exactly why police were on scene.

“I’d like answers,” he said. “Safety is a concern here.”

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A long-dormant plan to redevelop an aging office building and two restaurants between Rosslyn and Courthouse has been revived.

D.C.-based The Fortis Cos. has filed a conceptual site plan application to build a seven-story, 85-foot-tall apartment building at the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Rhodes Street.

It would replace an office building at 1840 Wilson Blvd belonging to a nonprofit organization, the National Science Teachers Association, as well as Il Radicchio (1801 Clarendon Blvd) and Rhodeside Grill (1836 Wilson Blvd).

In November of 2005, the Arlington County Board originally approved a site plan that would have retained the NSTA building, demolished the restaurants and replaced them with a new, six-story office building with nearly 62,000 square feet of office space and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and restaurant space.

Three years later, the County Board granted an extension on the project until 2011. A state statute in the wake of the 2007-2009 Great Recession automatically extended the validity of the site plan amendment until July 1, 2020. The County Board has since granted another extension until July 1, 2023.

Fortis intends to file a site plan amendment in the first quarter of 2023 seeking another extension of the site plan until 2026, according to the application.

“It is anticipated that the property’s nonprofit owner NSTA will remain as a tenant on the property until the redevelopment occurs,” the application says.

Meantime, the applicant is seeking feedback from the county on a number of aspects of the plan, including the building’s proposed height.

Land use attorneys who filed the application say the proposed seven-story building complies with the maximum 16-story height limit for apartments developed in this zoning district, but it is taller than recommended in the Rosslyn-to-Courthouse Urban Design Study.

“While the Study recommends 5 stories/55 feet at this location, the proposed height will provide a visually appropriate bookened for this block in a manner that is in character with the surrounding development and helps meet the county’s development goals,” the application says.

The study allows for height flexibility in exchange for affordable housing commitments, community facilities, special design considerations and new streets, it continues.

This is the latest proposal to switch from a proposed office building to an apartment building, as office vacancies deepen and developers continue pursuing housing developments.

And this is not the only long-dormant project Fortis has reprised this year. The Washington Business Journal reported in September that the company is taking on a stagnating apartment project at 2025 Fairfax Drive, a half-acre parcel in the Radnor-Fort Myer Heights neighborhood.

Fortis has seen to completion other apartment buildings in Clarendon, Rosslyn and Pentagon City, as well as the Residence Inn in Courthouse.

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Early site work appears to have started at the long-vacant former Wendy’s lot in Courthouse.

Greystar Real Estate Partners is building an apartment building at 2025 Clarendon Blvd, about a block from the Courthouse Metro station, where the fast food spot and a bank used to be.

And this week, people nearby have observed that a fence has gone up and digging has started.

This June, Greystar has applied for permits for sheeting and shoring work as well as for construction of a two-level underground parking garage and the 16-story apartment building with an in-ground, rooftop pool, according to Arlington County permit records.

Those plans are still being reviewed.

Permits for 2025 Clarendon Blvd (via Arlington County)

Representatives from Greystar were not able to respond by deadline to comment with a construction timeline.

Greystar will turn the 0.57-acre lot into a 16-story apartment building with 231 residential units and 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Residents will have 75 vehicle parking spaces and one bike parking spot for every unit.

As part of the project, Greystar is adding a public plaza at the tip of western edge of the site — in a prominent location a block from the Metro station, where N. Courthouse Road and Wilson and Clarendon Blvd intersect — as well as an alley along the eastern edge.

Before and after Greystar removed columns on the ground to open up the plaza proposed for 2025 Clarendon Blvd (via Arlington County)

The planned building will be taller than what plans for the neighborhood recommend. Greystar was able to nearly double the number of units and increase the building height by six stories by transferring development rights from Wakefield Manor, a small garden-apartment complex deemed to be historic, less than a half-mile away.

The Wendy’s and bank were torn down and initially set to be replaced with a 12-story office building, which was never built because the developer, Carr Properties, couldn’t find a tenant.

For years, the lot sat vacant. It most recently was used as a staging area for 2000 Clarendon, a condo project across the street, while Greystar bought the site and worked up apartment plans.

Meanwhile, construction continues across the street at “The Commodore” apartments. Construction crews officially broke ground on the project in October 2021 and has been adding floors at a relatively quick pace as of late.

“The Commodore” replaces low-slung brick commercial buildings that housed Jerry’s SubsCosiBoston Market and Summers Restaurant. Completion of the 20-story, 423-unit building is expected next fall, Greystar previously said in a press release.

The Commodore’s ground floor retail space is close to being leased out, according to CBRE. Five businesses have struck preliminary agreements to move into the building, while one retail space is still available for leasing.

The real estate company says it’s focused on attracting “a mix of local and regional food & beverage offerings as well as daily goods & service offerings, from conveniences to luxuries, for the [Courthouse] and Clarendon communities.”

The project, located in the “Landmark Block” in Courthouse, is poised to realize a significant portion of a 2015 vision to redevelop a portion of the neighborhood dubbed “Courthouse Square” and centered around the county’s surface parking lot.

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Work is underway to take down the aging RCA building in Rosslyn — but a demolition schedule has yet to be set.

The forthcoming residential redevelopment for 1901 N. Moore Street, by McLean-based developer Jefferson Apartment Group, was approved in June 2021.

Sixteen months later, JAG Senior Vice President Greg Van Wie tells ARLnow that “the crews are removing cell tower equipment from the roof in preparation for demolition.”

As of now, though, there is no set date for the demolition, Van Wie said.

“We will have more updates on the schedule in the coming weeks,” he said.

A reader noted to ARLnow that he noticed the cell towers were gone in late September. This month, he described a large crane clearing the roof of HVAC units and other equipment, while down below, N. Lynn Street was closed down to one lane.

Before cell towers, circled in red, were removed from the roof of the RCA building (courtesy of anonymous)

Those who were hoping for a dramatic implosion may be disappointed.

“We will be dismantling the existing building rather than imploding it so there won’t quite be the same show as with the old Holiday Inn, unfortunately,” Van Wie said.

One December morning in 2020, the 18-story hotel in Rosslyn came down during a controlled demolition that closed local roads and I-66. A new development with a 25-story residential tower an a 36-story hotel tower are being built in its place.

After taking apart the 13-story, 1960s-era RCA building, JAG will build a 27-story, 423-unit apartment complex. The planned 260-foot tall building is composed of a north and a south tower joined at the base and at the rooftop with an “amenity bridge.”

The fourth floor will feature a landscaped terrace and the roof will also have garden elements. There will be two levels of retail and 286 parking spaces spread across garages on the third and fourth floors and underground.

As part of the project, the developer will remove inner loop roads around the Rosslyn Metro station, as well as the skywalk connection between the RCA building and the Rosslyn Gateway building.

The developer will also donate $2.2 million toward improvements within Rosslyn, such as for Gateway Park, and add a mix of buffered, protected and unprotected bike lanes, colorized bus lanes, new intersections, a relocated red-light camera and a new Capital Bikeshare station.

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(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Sixty-some years ago, developers paved paradise in Pentagon City and put up parking lots to serve residents of the RiverHouse apartment complex.

And after a few stops and starts, property owner JBG Smith is poised to reach its longtime goal of redeveloping the vast parking expanse along S. Joyce Street, which at this point is only partially utilized by residents. Today (Monday), the developer officially filed its plans to turn parking into apartments with ground floor retail, condos, townhouses and senior living facilities.

JBG Smith plans to preserve the three existing buildings along S. Joyce Street and add 1,668 new units and nearly 28,000 square feet in retail. The proposed development of the 36-acre property will increase density on the site from 49 to 91.3 units per acre.

This filing comes eight months after the Arlington County Board adopted a new sector plan intend to shape development within the 116 acres comprising Pentagon City. It replaced a 45-year-old document that reached the end of its life in the shadow of Amazon’s under-construction second headquarters.

“Following the County’s adoption of the Pentagon City Sector Plan, our team has had the opportunity to meet with local residents, neighbors, County Staff and other community stakeholders,” JBG Smith Senior Vice-President Matt Ginivan said in a statement. “We are grateful for their time, insight and input, which have helped shape our proposed plans for the RiverHouse Neighborhood. We look forward to continuing to collaborate in the coming months as we advance a shared vision for our neighborhood.”

Not all that engagement was positive. Last fall and winter, the plan reignited old concerns about redeveloping the surface parking lots and open spaces surrounding the complex. The density the plan envisioned at the RiverHouse site prompted a group of nearby residents to form a movement criticizing the county for a lack of community engagement and petitioning the County Board to moderate its approach to growth.

An illustrative site plan of the existing RiverHouse high-rises and the proposed infill redevelopments (courtesy of JBG Smith)

Currently, RiverHouse has three apartment buildings:

  • 13-story “James” building at 1111 Army Navy Drive, with 452 units
  • 16-story “Potomac” building at 1400 S. Joyce Street, with 647 units
  • 16-story “Ashley” building at 1600 S. Joyce Street, with 571 units

It also has six tennis courts, a private outdoor dog park, picnic tables, two outdoor swimming pools, a jogging trail and a community garden, according to the complex’s website.

JBG Smith proposes development divided into three parcels:

  • A “north parcel” between James House and Potomac House with:
    • two 7-story, 80-foot tall apartment buildings, one with 401 units and 13,079 square feet of retail and another with 551 units and 14,680 square feet of retail
  • A “central parcel” with:
    • an 88-foot-tall condo building with 164 units
    • a 97-foot-tall building for seniors, with 185 units with options for independent and assisted living and memory care facilities
    • an 84-foot-tall apartment building with 102 units
  • A “south parcel,” located south and west of Ashley House, with:
    • 265 units of three- and four-story townhomes, with two to four bedrooms and a mix of private and communal outdoor spaces

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Ground floor of the planned Hilton hotel in Rosslyn (courtesy Hilton)

A 36-story, 331-room “state of the art” Hilton hotel is coming to Rosslyn.

The hospitality giant this morning announced the signing of an agreement to operate the high-rise hotel on the former Holiday Inn site. With rooms overlooking D.C. and the Potomac River, the hotel will also feature a rooftop event space and 28,000 square feet of meeting space.

More from a press release:

Today, Hilton announces the signing of Hilton at The Key, Arlington-Rosslyn, providing even more options to travelers looking for a state of the art, full-service hotel just minutes from Washington, D.C. Located at the foot of the Potomac River’s historic Francis Scott Key Bridge in Arlington, Virginia, the 36-story, 331-room property is surrounded by numerous corporate headquarters based in Rosslyn’s business district and minutes from the 11-acre riverfront Fort Bennett Park and Palisades Trail.

The modern hotel is under development as part of The Key, a project that includes a destination restaurant, street-level retail, and 517 luxury apartments with panoramas of the water and the nation’s capital. Once completed, Hilton at The Key will feature approximately 28,000 square feet of flexible and modern meeting spaces, including an event space on the 36th floor with sweeping 360-degree views of the Washington, D.C., skyline, the Potomac River and Arlington, Virginia.

“Dittmar Company is proud to partner with Hilton as we bring a true destination meeting and event facility to Arlington, Virginia, and the surrounding DMV area,” said Greg Raines, an executive at Dittmar Company.

The 18-story, 50-year-old Holiday Inn was imploded two years ago to make way for the massive new development, which has since been dubbed The Key. A construction update last month noted that crews were preparing to pour concrete for the tenth floor of the building.

Implosion of the Rosslyn Holiday Inn hotel in Dec. 2020

The development’s 500+ unit rental apartment building has been christened “Rosslyn Towers.”

“Rosslyn Towers is the latest in the Dittmar Company portfolio of Arlington Luxury Multi-Family deliveries,” says The Key’s website. “The residences will have first class finishes to rival the unmatched location and views present at this iconic location.”

The apartment’s “uplifting live/work/play environment” will feature “an amenity package that is second to none.”

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JBG Smith is asking the Arlington County Board for more time to negotiate a lease with the county for a library inside one of its new buildings.

In May 2021, the Arlington County Board approved JBG Smith’s plans to replace Crystal Plaza One (2050 and 2051 S. Bell Street) with two multifamily towers, an “East” and “West” tower, and shift S. Clark Street to the east to create a new S. Clark-Bell Street.

As part of a residential redevelopment project, JBG Smith agreed to financially support a new 7,200-square-foot library branch located in an existing building at 1901 S. Bell Street.

As of now, the developer is predicting it will not make a deadline set as part of conditions for its redevelopment, according to a county report. The conditions require the lease for the library space to be executed when a specific building permit, known as a footing-to-grade permit, is issued as construction progresses at the Crystal Plaza One site.

According to the report, JBG Smith and the county “have been diligently working to complete the lease agreement,” but they won’t be ready before construction reaches the footing-to-grade milestone.

“The result would potentially cause a work stoppage and prolong the construction timeline,” the report says. “To prevent construction delays and allow more time to complete the lease agreement, the applicant proposes to move the deadline for lease execution back to the final building permit for the second building (West Tower). This would provide approximately five months of additional time to complete the lease execution.”

County staff recommend requiring the lease to be executed when the final building permit for the second building is issued, or by April 1, 2023, whichever occurs first.

Additionally, JBG Smith has agreed to revised conditions ensuring it will begin contributing payments for the library’s operations before the footing-to-grade permit is issued.

JBG Smith previously agreed to contribute $250,000 per year, for five years, for a total of $1.25 million, beginning concurrent with the lease execution, per the report. These revisions will allow the payments to begin while the lease is being finalized.

Currently, people who live and work in the area have to cross busy Route 1 to reach the nearest library, the Aurora Hills branch located a few blocks from the Pentagon City mall. Previously, Crystal City residents also had access to a temporary, “pop-up” library.

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The Penske truck rental location on Columbia Pike — which once had an ART bus crash into it and stay there for a month — has closed.

And the replacement for the storefront and expansive parking lot, at the Pike’s intersection with S. George Mason Drive, may be something completely different.

The site is expected to figure into plans from Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners to revamp the neighboring Barcroft Apartments over the next decade. It sits at one edge of the sprawling garden apartment complex, next to a 7-Eleven store, and was purchased by the developer around the time of the buzzy housing acquisition.

Jair Lynch also purchased the small strip mall with the South and Central American eatery Cafe Sazón and a Goodwill location at 4704 and 4714 Columbia Pike, respectively.

“The Penske Truck Rental Mart location at 4110 Columbia Pike in Arlington has permanently closed as of Sept. 30,” Alen Beljin, a Penske Truck Leasing spokesperson, told ARLnow. “Our company had leased the building, so we did not have the opportunity to renew when the property was sold.”

While Penske packed up, the local nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation (ACF) wrote a report that shows how Jair Lynch could set aside some units for residents making less than 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI), using the commercial site and county development tools. Jair Lynch has pledged to set side 1,344 apartments for people making 60% or less of AMI for the next 99 years, supported by loans from Amazon and Arlington County.

“Our vision is that in perpetuity, 30% AMI households can live there,” said Michael Spotts, an Arlington resident who runs the consulting firm Neighborhood Fundamentals, and a co-author of the ACF report. “Barcroft has been a place where people at those income levels can call home. As this neighborhood redevelops, we want to ensure people can continue to call that neighborhood home.”

ACF published the analysis ahead of the Master Financing and Development Plan Jair Lynch is expected to file with Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz at the end of October. This plan will spell out how the developer plans to renovate existing apartments, build new housing and keep down rent for lower-income residents.

“The plan is part of the financing agreement with Amazon and Arlington County,” David Hilde, Vice-President of development for Jair Lynch, told Arlington’s Tenant-Landlord Commission last month. “It goes through how to maximize the investments Arlington and Amazon made, whether that’s baseline preserving affordability, or exploring options to deepen affordability.”

The developer did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

What ACF recommends

Jair Lynch could build a standard market-rate, mixed-use apartment building on the Penske lot, per the ACF report, as developers who follow the Columbia Pike Commercial Centers Form-Based Code are not required to provide affordable units.

But, using the commercial sites, the tools ACF laid out and another $20-30 million, the developer could set aside 255 units for low-income households earning 30% AMI or less for the next 30 years, ACF says.

“We think this is going to be challenging to accomplish and it’s going to require a lot of commitment from stakeholders,” Spotts said. “We’re optimistic, based on conversations we’ve had, that this can be pulled off.” Read More

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In the shadow of Amazon’s HQ2, the Americana Hotel stands vacant and ready for redevelopment.

The hotel at 1400 Richmond Highway, which JBG Smith purchased in late 2020, is in a prime location. Met Park, the first phase of Amazon’s headquarters, is across the street. PenPlace, the project’s second phase, is down the road. The Crystal City Metro station is a block south.

But the prospect of building apartments and retail right next to a global tech company’s second headquarters came with two issues: physical problems with the land and questions about when, and how, neighboring properties and Route 1 would change.

The Americana property slopes down significantly. It abuts an elevated portion of Route 1 that the Virginia Department of Transportation proposes lowering. The building is surrounded by apartment buildings, a hotel and a VDOT-owned patch of grass, all of which could be redeveloped or reconfigured in the future.

JBG Smith representatives say the proposal, filed in April and accepted by the county this month, accounts for these conditions and questions. They say it meets a county zoning requirement that towers be separated by 60 feet and a recommendation in the Crystal City Sector Plan that podiums be separated by 40 feet.

“We have designed the building around trying to maintain the maximum flexibility for that future development, but there is nothing in the current plan that is in any way not compliant or fully in accordance with the sector plan and zoning ordinance,” land use attorney Kedrick Whitmore told members of the Long Range Planning Committee this summer.

The aging Americana Hotel — which was once featured in a Russell Crowe movie — would be replaced with a 644-unit, 19-story tall building with 3,674 square feet of ground floor retail, according to the application materials. A below-grade parking garage would provide 191 on-site parking spaces and an existing garage at the Bartlett Apartments (520 12th Street S.) would provide an additional 206 off-site spaces.

The developer aims to achieve LEED Gold certification.

“The building includes work-from-home, fitness, and other amenity spaces, as well as outdoor access to balconies and two rooftop terraces with unobstructed views of the surrounding landmarks,” Whitmore wrote in a letter included in JBG Smith’s application.

And the developer aims to break ground before VDOT gets started on rebuilding Route 1 at-grade. VDOT plans to wrap up a second study phase of the proposed changes early next year.

“We do acknowledge that’s an issue we have to discuss with county staff and VDOT,” Jack Kelly, a Vice President with JBG Smith, told the LRPC. “We made high-level assumptions on setbacks, based on what we know about the future alignment of Route 1.”

The developer also had to do “a lot of guesswork” to design around potential redevelopment projects for the adjacent Embassy Suites by Hilton Crystal City National Airport, The Paramount apartments and the VDOT parcel, said Malcolm Williams, an associate with JBG Smith, in the same meeting.

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A nondescript garden apartment building in Ballston has attracted the interest of a potential developer.

The developer has filed a conceptual site plan for Ballston Gardens, located at 4314 N. Carlin Springs Road, around the corner from the Harris Teeter at 600 N. Glebe Road. The brick apartment building was constructed in 1961 and has a mix of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units, according to property records.

The preliminary proposal describes a 107-unit building, with two townhouses and 84 parking spaces, partially above and below ground.

Ballston Gardens is noticeably shorter and older than the two multifamily buildings surrounding it: The Springs, a five-story, 104-unit building owned by Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and completed in 2016, and the Carlin Senior Apartment Community, which was built in 1996 and recently renovated.

Arlington County planning documents envision greater heights for a new residential building. A building on the Ballston Garden site could be up to six stories tall, while The Springs site is zoned for five stories and the Carlin senior apartments site for nine stories, according to an addendum to the 1995 North Quincy Street Plan, approved in 2013.

Developers have the option to file conceptual site plans before official site plan applications so they can work with a team of county staff to iron out any major zoning, code or process issues with their plans, per the county website.

When reached by phone, the developer declined to comment on the conceptual plan.

A side view of a conceptual proposal for Ballston Gardens (via Arlington County)
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(Updated 09/30/22) As Arlington County continues collecting feedback on the preliminary concept plan to turn Langston Blvd into a “Green Main Street” over several decades, a few disagreements have emerged.

Some say county staff need to coordinate more with existing plans for two neighborhoods along Route 29, as well as the Missing Middle Housing Study. Others say the building heights should be taller — to allow for more affordable housing — or are too tall already.

Late in August, Arlington County released a draft plan showing what Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, could look like if the county encouraged denser housing and more walkable, greener streets, and planned for future infrastructure, transportation and facility needs. Since then, the county posted an online feedback form and launched in-person feedback opportunities called Design Studio sessions and virtual neighborhood meetings.

More than 200 people have attended the three virtual community meetings and Design Studio sessions, and more than 200 people have responded to the feedback forms, Rachel LaPiana, a staff member with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, tells ARLnow.

“We encourage the community to provide feedback on a set of specific questions about what is proposed in the PCP and attend one of the upcoming community events,” she said.

There are still a number of opportunities to learn more about Plan Langston Blvd and provide feedback, which staff will collect through early November. This Saturday, the Langston Boulevard Alliance will host a walking tour, during which county planners will be able to answer questions. Another tour will be held on Sunday, Oct. 16.

The Langston Boulevard Alliance is also hosting three Design Studio sessions, held from 12-2 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7 and 21 and Nov. 4 at its office (4500 Langston Blvd). A fourth virtual community meeting discussing housing, stormwater and transportation will be held Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 7-9 p.m.

It’s too soon to summarize the substance of the feedback that has been collected, LaPiana said.

“Once the engagement period ends, we will compile and analyze all of the community feedback,” she said.

Differing takes have since surfaced during a debate for County Board candidates held by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, as well as during this month’s County Board meeting.

“I’ve largely heard muted feedback, and that is not always the case with plans,” said County Board member Matt de Ferranti, who’s running for re-election this November, during the debate earlier this month. “I have heard a number of compliments. I actually think the plan is in decent shape.”

But, he said, the plan challenges the county’s ability to advance multiple planning fronts simultaneously, including the controversial Missing Middle Housing initiative, in which the county is considering whether to allow townhouses, duplexes and other low-density housing types in residential areas zoned exclusively for single-family homes.

“We have to, at least in my view, do them separately, because we can give our community full chance for engagement,” he said.

Independent candidate Audrey Clement questioned why upzoning is needed at all, with the bevy of new housing units proposed in Plan Langston Blvd and envisioned in the approved Pentagon City Planning Study, which, like Plan Langston Blvd, calls for significant, mostly residential redevelopment and more designated green spaces.

“We have something called a siloed process, where we have three plans, each ignorant of each other, that will increase housing on a massive schedule. That doesn’t make sense,”  Clement said. “These plans should not be developed in a vacuum, but that appears to be what is happening right now.”

East Falls Church homeowner Wells Harrell told the County Board this month that Plan Langston Blvd ought to examine why development has lagged in East Falls Church and Cherrydale, despite the fact both underwent planning efforts in 2011 and 1994, respectively.

“Metro today remains surrounded by parking lots at the East Falls Church Metro station, and so far, there’s only been one — one —  residential development since the plan was adopted in 2011,” Harrell said. “We need to take stock of why we haven’t achieved the goals set forth in the Cherrydale and East Falls Church area plans… in order to not just learn from the lessons we had there, but to guide us going forward and make sure we achieve the visions for Langston Blvd.”

A detached garage across from the East Falls Church Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

County planners previously told ARLnow that they need the County Board’s go-ahead to revisit the East Falls Church plan. Further discussion about encouraging development in the area could come after the Board adopts a final Plan Langston Blvd document.

For now, plan authors say a final Plan Langston Blvd draft will recommend whether the existing redevelopment roadmaps for East Falls Church and Cherrydale need to be reviewed and refined.

Building heights are another source of disagreement. Plan authors write that building heights were lowered in response to some critical community feedback. That criticism also suggested the changes would diminish the stock of market-rate affordable apartments, lower property values, change neighborhood character and push out small businesses.

County staff say that lower heights may satisfy some residents, but it will slow down redevelopment.

“Staff believes the proposed concept plan will offer incentives for redevelopment, however, the levels are only moderately different from what is allowed for by-right development and site plan projects,” county planner Natasha Alfonso-Ahmed said in a video introducing the plan. “This means that we may see more by-right development, and improvements such as streetscape enhancements may take longer to be realized or happen in a fragmented way.”

And the changes dismayed pro-density advocates, including Harrell and independent County Board candidate Adam Theo.

“I am disappointed to see that the most recent draft has scaled a lot of that back,” Theo said.

De Ferranti, meanwhile, says there is one neighborhood where the heights may still be “a touch too high” — the area near Spout Run Parkway, where plan calls for buildings 12-15 stories tall.

“That decision is one we have to engage as a community on,” he said.

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