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JBG Smith Changes Course on Crystal City Property, Flips From Residential to Office

Despite continued high office vacancy rates, developer JBG Smith has abruptly reversed course on a plan to convert an aging Crystal City office building to apartments.

At an Arlington County Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, the company presented an updated plan to renovate the 12-floor, 242,000 square foot building at 1750 Crystal Drive and modernize the building facade. The change comes less than a year after JBG Smith filed a plan to convert the office building into a 21-story residential tower, which in turn was a change in course from an approved circa-2015 plan to modernize the building and keep it as office space.

The new-new plan changes the building’s address to 1770 Crystal Drive and better integrates it into planned pedestrian improvements and the “Central District” retail cluster, which is to include an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, restaurants with outdoor seating and a possible small-format grocery store.

The flip back to office will undoubtedly pique the interest of those trying to read the Amazon HQ2 tea leaves.

Betting markets and industry observers think the D.C. area is the most likely destination for the company’s second headquarters, and sources tell ARLnow.com that Crystal City is by far the most likely D.C. area location for it. Meanwhile, office vacancy in Crystal City remains high — it was just below 20 percent as of a year ago, according to county data — and the neighborhood’s largest and most influential landowner has scrapped an ambitious residential conversion plan in favor of sprucing up currently-vacant office space.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said last week that an HQ2 decision will be announced by the end of the year. The company’s request for proposals specifies that HQ2 will require a large amount of office space — 500,000+ square feet — in a relatively short period of time after the announcement.

A spokesman for JBG Smith was not immediately available to comment, according to a PR rep for the company.

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Morning Notes

Crash Closes WB Lee Highway — All lanes of westbound Lee Highway were closed at Spout Run for part of the morning after a crash. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery, in support of a funeral, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. today. [Twitter]

More Buses for Rosslyn Commuters — “After initially providing no additional backup options for riders during the Blue Line shutdown and major Orange and Silver Line work that began Aug. 11, Metro is now making some changes… Without much fanfare or notification to riders, Metro said this week it will add four additional Route 5A buses between Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and Rosslyn and L’Enfant Plaza each morning.” [WTOP]

Rep. Jim Jordan Coming to Arlington Fundraiser — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will be the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in Arlington next month. The fundraiser is being held Sept. 7 at Washington Golf and Country Club. Jordan has been in the news this summer over accusations that he turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of wrestlers while an assistant coach at Ohio State. [TrailBlazer]

Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Ballston Place transaction… has closed with Akelius Residential AB buying the 382-unit apartment complex for $170 million, or $445,026 per unit.” [Globe St.]

Photo courtesy Patricia Kime

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Report: Residential Development Surged in Arlington This Spring

Arlington added more homes this spring than it has during any three-month period dating back to last summer, according to a new county report.

Between April 1 and June 30, the county saw construction work wrap up on a total of 278 new homes, including 236 apartments and townhomes and 42 single-family homes. The county totaled up these latest numbers as part of a quarterly analysis of development in Arlington.

That number far outpaces the 103 homes that became available over the same time period a year ago, and represents the most new homes to hit the market since the third quarter of 2017, stretching from July 1 through September 30. The county added 456 homes, including 411 in multifamily structures, during that period, according to county data.

The latest spike in new homes was largely generated by the completion of the 672 Flats project on N. Glebe Road in Ballston, a project that included 173 new apartments. The Key and Nash development in Rosslyn also wrapped up work this quarter, adding 63 new condos.

The completion of the Central Place project in Rosslyn accounted for the bulk of the rest of the construction to wrap up in Arlington this spring. The massive new building includes roughly 570,500 square feet of office space and roughly 11,000 square feet of retail space as well.

The 672 Flats project also included 4,300 square feet of retail space underneath the new apartments. The addition of nearly 4,600 square feet of office space at 383 N. Cathedral Lane, just off S. Glebe Road, rounds out the list of projects completed this spring.

The county’s data show that another 3,700 homes are currently under construction around Arlington, in addition to 910,000 square feet of office space and 334,000 square feet of retail space. During the same time last year, the county projected about 2,025 new homes on the way, with 67,500 square feet of retail and 1.4 million square feet of office space.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bulk of the new development on the books is concentrated in Ballston and Rosslyn, with Crystal City and the Columbia Pike corridor not far behind.

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Berkeley Affordable Housing Redevelopment Earns Key Loan Changes

A new affordable housing complex along Four Mile Run is moving closer to becoming a reality, now that county officials have signed off on additional financing plans for the development.

The County Board gave its final approval to more than $20 million in loans this week for the redevelopment of the Berkeley Apartments (2900 S. Glebe Road), in addition to a few policy changes that will help the project’s backers secure additional financing and kick off construction in earnest.

“We’re looking forward to the project continuing to take shape,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

The nonprofit AHC Inc., which is backing the development, started to tear down the existing apartment complex this summer, and plans to eventually construct two buildings on the property, located just across the county’s border with Alexandria. In all, the two five-story buildings will offer 256 apartments, all of which will be “committed affordable units” with rent prices tamped down to help people afford the homes.

Last year, the Board sent roughly $20.9 million in loans from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund to spur the project’s construction, with $7.4 million dedicated to one building and $13.5 million on the other

But as the project’s plans have developed, AHC asked the Board to shift about $1.5 million away from one building to the other, in order to cope with some unexpected construction costs. The developer also told the Board that it wouldn’t need roughly $333,000 of the previously approved AHIF loan, which it will redirect to help existing Berkeley tenants find new homes as the construction starts up — AHC started telling residents they’d need to leave around this time last year.

With those changes approved, AHC can set about securing the rest of the financing it needs for the two buildings, one with a final price tag of just over $51.5 million and the other at $47.7 million, according to a county staff report.

The developer plans to use a mix of bank loans and financing from the Virginia Housing Development Authority to afford the project, the report lays out.

Sara Pizzo with the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development told the Board that AHC hopes to ramp up demolition work once it closes on this financing.

Ultimately, the developer hopes to open one building by “the spring or summer of 2020,” and the next one by the fall of that same year, Pizzo said.

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BREAKING: Fire Breaks Out in Pentagon City Apartment Building

Arlington firefighters are working to extinguish a blaze at a Pentagon City apartment complex.

First responders were called to a building along the 800 block of 15th Street S., adjacent to the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, around 5 p.m. today (Wednesday).

Firefighters believe the blaze started on the eighth floor of the building, according to a tweet from the department, and they were able to quickly extinguish it.

There’s no word yet on any traffic impact or injuries.

Photo via Google Maps

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Thieves Smashed Windows, Stole Airbags from ‘Approximately 35 Vehicles’

Dozens of vehicles were damaged at apartment parking lots in the Pentagon City and Crystal City area this past weekend.

According to police, “approximately 35 vehicles were smashed and [had] airbags stolen.” The damaged cars were discovered Saturday morning.

A resident of the RiverHouse Apartments, whose car was among those damaged, said the large Pentagon City apartment complex was a target for the thieves.

“On Saturday, July 7, I was informed that my car had been vandalized: window busted and driver’s airbag stolen,” she said. “Twenty-four other cars in the RiverHouse Apartments complex had their airbags stolen. All were Honda Accords or Civics.”

“RiverHouse has no cameras filming the parking lots,” the resident added. The apartment complex’s vast parking lots have also been the scene of a number of car wheel thefts.

More on the airbag thefts from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO (series), 2018-07070087/07070100/ 07070106, 1600 block of S. Joyce Street/1600 block of S. Eads Street/2000 block of S. Eads Street. Between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. on July 7, police responded to multiple reports of larcenies from auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 8:00 p.m. on July 6 and 7:54 a.m. on July 7, the windows of approximately 35 vehicles were smashed and airbags stolen. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo via Google Maps

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BREAKING: Fire in Virginia Square

Arlington County firefighters are on scene of a fire on the seventh floor of a mid-rise residential building in Virginia Square.

Initial reports suggest the fire is on the balcony of an apartment on the 900 block of N. Pollard Street.

The fire has been extinguished, according to scanner traffic. No injuries have been reported.

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Despite Hefty Rent Prices, Arlington Ranked Among Top Places for Solo Renters

Arlington has one of the highest median rent prices in the entire country, yet the county still ranks among the top places people can afford to live alone.

That’s according to a new study of 100 of the nation’s largest cities and counties by the financial data research firm SmartAsset. The company ranked Arlington 17th among that group for places where renters have the financial wherewithal live alone, largely because of the robust median income level of the county’s workers.

SmartAsset found that full-time employees in Arlington have a median income of just over $90,000 a year, putting the county at the top of the list among the firm’s top 25 places where renters can afford to go solo.

The county’s median monthly rent of $1,657 was also the most expensive of any other city on the company’s top 25 list, yet Arlington still ranked ahead of other large cities for renters looking to live alone, including San Francisco and Denver.

For context, the median income in D.C. is just over $75,500 a year. SmartAsset didn’t immediately have median rent prices available for the District, but real estate listing firm Zillow found that the median rent in the city was about $2,146 a month last year.

Arlington also scored high marks in SmartAsset’s rankings for its stock of homes with less than two bedrooms. In all, the company found that 36.5 percent of homes for rent in the county have one bedroom or are studio apartments.

Cincinnati, Omaha and Minneapolis ranked as the firm’s top three cities where renters can live alone. The full rankings are available on the company’s website.

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Morning Notes

Construction Kicks Off at The Berkeley — Work is underway on The Berkeley, and “obsolete” apartment building at 2900-2910 S. Glebe Road that is doing a significant redevelopment. The $100 million project will turn the 137 units currently on the site into 256 apartments. [Multi-Housing News]

Remains May Be Linked to Missing Person Case — Remains found in Stafford County are reportedly those of a woman who went missing in Arlington in 1989. The missing woman’s husband — Jose Rodriguez-Cruz, who’s currently in jail for another woman’s murder — told police at the time that his wife left and was living in the Miami area. Later D.C. police learned that it was his second wife’s sister, who had assumed the identity of Rodriguez-Cruz’s first wife. [Fox 5]

Vida Fitness Eyeing Rosslyn Location — “[Vida Fitness] has a letter of intent for space in western Rosslyn, owner David von Storch told the Business Journal… The location — which will include SweatBox, a boutique studio within a gym that offers high-intensity interval training in a fast-paced, heart-monitored workout — would open in the fourth quarter of 2020. Von Storch already has a deal to open a Vida in Ballston.” [Washington Business Journal]

ACPD Motor Squad Escorts the Caps — Members of the Arlington County Police Department’s motorcycle squad helped escort the Washington Capitals and the Stanley Cup in yesterday’s victory parade in D.C. Other regional police agencies, including Montgomery County Police, also participated. [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Red Top Cab Redevelopment in Clarendon Could Soon Move Ahead

Long-delayed plans to transform Red Top Cab’s properties in western Clarendon into three new mixed-use buildings could soon move ahead.

The Arlington County Board is set to consider a series of zoning changes this weekend to let Ballston-based developer The Shooshan Company start re-developing the lots, which sit behind Clarendon’s main strip of bars along Wilson Boulevard.

In all, the developer is hoping to build a total of 584 multifamily units across the three buildings, with 1,295 square feet of retail space included as well. The new development would replace Red Top’s headquarters (located where Washington Boulevard meets 13th Street N.), in addition to the lot the company once used for vehicle maintenance at 1200 N. Hudson Street.

The County Board first approved the project in October 2015. But work hasn’t moved ahead on the project as the developer has tweaked its construction plans, according to a staff report prepared for the Board.

Originally, The Shooshan Company planned to start work on the building along N. Ivy Street first. But that location is also home to a daycare center, NOVA KinderCare, and the developer wanted to let that business stay open, staff wrote. Accordingly, they want to move forward with work on the property at the N. Hudson Street — originally the second phase of the project — to kick things off instead.

In exchange for clearing the way for the development by vacating several properties in the area, Shooshan has agreed to donate four parcels of land along the 1100 block of N. Jackson Street, valued at about $3 million, to the county. That will help the county move ahead with its plans to do away with the reversible lanes on Washington Boulevard and create “a more conventional ‘T’ intersection” with 13th Street N., staff wrote.

The developer also plans to donate land to the county to help it build a park in the area, and will include at least six affordable housing units in the new buildings. Red Top plans to move its headquarters elsewhere in Arlington, if these plans go forward, and has already moved its maintenance operations to Falls Church.

County staff is recommending that the Board approve these changes. The Board is scheduled to take up the matter at its Saturday (May 19) meeting.

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Residents Steaming About Air Conditioning Problems at Dominion Towers Apartments

As temperatures have climbed past the 90s over the past few days, one apartment complex just off Columbia Pike hasn’t been able to turn on the air — and that has some residents steamed.

Staff at the Dominion Towers Apartments (1201 S. Courthouse Road) were hoping to switch on the air conditioning system this past Thursday (May 3), giving people living in the building’s 330 units their first chance to cool down their homes for the year.

But senior property manager Christle Tate told ARLnow that the system experienced some sort of malfunction, and now she’s waiting on a contractor to work with the A/C’s manufacturer to find a fix for her overheated residents.

“We’re sitting in limbo, just like they are,” Tate said. “I’d never want anybody to sit through this… but, truth be told, we don’t have an answer right now.”

Tate suspects that the problem stems from the system’s “chiller board,” but she says has no idea when the contractor working on the A/C might be able to get it fixed.

“It’s not anything we’re doing on our end to hold up the process,” Tate said.

She says that even executives with the company that owns and manages the building — Alexandria-based Capital Investment Advisors — are in the dark about when the system might work again. Officials at the company did not immediately return requests for comment.

That sort of uncertainty is quite troubling for people living in Dominion Towers, like Jim Eisele, a resident since 2011.

He says the past weekend’s at-times sweltering temperatures made his apartment unbearable without any air conditioning, but he’s even more frustrated with the way the building’s management has responded to the incident.

“The communication has been terrible from when they took over managing the building,” Eisele said. “But obviously that’s more severe when it affects the air conditioning.”

Tate stressed that management has sent out several emails updating residents on the status of the system, and she emphasized that’s as dismayed as anyone about the outage, particularly because she’s concerned about the heat’s impact on many of the building’s older occupants.

But she also conceded that there’s little she can tell Dominion Towers residents except: “Be patient.”

“My residents here are not used to me not having an answer to something,” Tate said. “This is the first time I truly don’t know.”

Photo via Google Maps

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Affordable Housing Coming to Former Red Cross Headquarters Site

The Arlington County Board has approved a site plan that would bring 97 affordable housing units and two rows of townhouses to Buckingham.

The “100 percent affordable” multi-family building and townhouses will replace the former local Red Cross headquarters.

The approved development comes despite complaints from nearby residents about the proposal. The new development’s density, potentially increased traffic, and “the desecration of the tree canopy” were all cited as dealbreakers for some locals, though supporters asserted that the building was vacant, the affordable housing is “badly needed” and complaints were overblown.

A partial rezoning of the site was approved alongside the site plan at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21). There are currently two single family homes on the site, in addition to the former headquarters and an existing playground.

The townhouses will be built in the first phase of the project, with construction on the multi-family building, which is required to “achieve Earthcraft Gold or LEED v4 Homes and Multifamily Midrise Gold certification,” following in a second phase.

The developer, Wesley Housing Development Corporation, agreed to preserve the on-site apartments, known historically as the Windsor Apartments but now called the Whitefield Commons, which the county says were built in 1943. Unit incomes will average 80 percent of the average median income, and the building will average 60 percent of that figure.

Whitefield Commons’ interior will be reconfigured to add five units, bringing the total units inside that complex to 68. The multi-family building will have 97 units, and the townhouses will have 19.

There will be 187 parking spaces between the developments — 45 at Whitefield Commons, 88 at the multi-family building, and 42 for the townhouses. The townhouses have the highest parking ratio per unit, at 2.26 spots per unit plus four visitor spots.

Wesley Housing Development Corporation will be required to “encourage transportation alternatives.”

That will be done via a transportation management plan, which includes a provision to give “each new tenant in the multi-family building… a choice of a SmartTrip card preloaded with a $65 balance or a bikeshare or car share membership,” according to a county project website.

A Google Maps estimate shows that the site is approximately a 22 minute walk to the Ballston Metro station. The 3.95 acre parcel is bordered by N. Thomas and N. Trenton streets, 2nd Road N., and Arlington Boulevard.

Plans estimate that 60 trees will be removed, three of which are dead or dying and another 17 of which are located on top of or near an existing storm pipe.

An estimated 132 tree credits will be granted, according to the site plan. One credit is given for each planted shade tree or large evergreen tree, or for every three deciduous, ornamental, or small evergreen trees.

Map via Google Maps

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In A First, Clarendon Apartment Building Gets LEED Platinum Rating

An apartment building in Clarendon has earned LEED Platinum status from the United States Green Building Council, the first multifamily community in Arlington to do so.

Ten at Clarendon, at 3110 10th Street N., is a luxury apartment building with live-work spaces on the ground floor and a rooftop garden.

LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — certification is achieved by earning points across several sustainability-related categories. LEED Platinum, the highest ranking, requires a project to receive 80 or more points. The next step down, LEED Gold, requires 60-79 points.

A council representative confirmed the accolade for Ten at Clarendon, which was not yet registered on the public certification directory as of Tuesday (April 17).

There are currently 1,741 platinum-rated commercial projects in the country, and 3,013 globally.

More from a press release, after the jump.

Ten at Clarendon, the newest luxury apartment community in the highly coveted Clarendon submarket, achieved LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council this month. The Ten is the first and only multifamily building in Arlington County to achieve this designation, as it was built to environmental standards that are rare in the rental market.

Developer CRC Companies and builder, related firm CBG Building Company, dedicated significant consideration throughout the design process to reducing the Ten at Clarendon’s environmental footprint. The turnkey development and construction approach resulted in features such as a green roof, designed to reduce runoff and improve building insulation, air-tight units that optimize HVAC systems performance, and EnergyStar® appliances to save water and electricity. The team placed the Ten’s main entrance as close to the Clarendon Metro entrance as possible to encourage sustainable transportation and promote a car-free lifestyle. An on-site bike wash and repair workshop, as well as 1:1 bike parking and a first-floor bike entrance accessible from the sidewalk also support this goal.

“CRC and CBG have a long history of sustainable building,” said Tracey Thomm, senior managing director of product development at CRC Companies. “We are proud to carry on this green legacy and shared commitment to the environment at Ten at Clarendon and within the community where we live and work.”

Originally targeting LEED Gold certification, the project team skillfully adjusted the Ten’s design and features as construction progressed to achieve LEED Platinum with limited additional costs. Throughout the process, CRC’s Product Development team sourced unique and hard-to-find energy efficient materials, such as recessed LED lights with integrated fire- and sound-proofing, while CBG’s nine-million-square-foot LEED portfolio provided the team unparalleled expertise in green building.

“Ten at Clarendon was designed to improve the 10th Street North corridor and support a sustainable lifestyle amongst our residents,” said Oliver Lee, development executive at CRC Companies. “We sought to create value through the strategic design, development, and management of this community to achieve energy efficiency, resource conservation, and waste reduction.”

In December, Arlington County was named the nation’s first Platinum-level county under the U.S. Green Building Council’s newly created LEED for Communities program. Arlington’s certification recognizes the county’s leadership in creating a sustainable and resilient urban environment that has long-proven success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, managing stormwater, ensuring economic prosperity and focusing on education, affordable housing, health, and safety for residents and businesses.

Photo via Ten at Clarendon

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New Homes Under Construction Near Columbia Pike

A new residential development is under construction just south of Columbia Pike.

The development, first approved in 2009, is described as “a residential project for 36 condominium units within 12 townhouse structures.” It is currently under construction at 1100 S. Highland Street, behind the Audi dealership, and along what it planned as a future extension of 11th Street S.

The permit holder is listed as the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), which has offices at 901 S. Highland Street, about two blocks away from the construction site. Construction permits were first approved in late September last year.

ECDC did not immediately respond to requests for comment from ARLnow.

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Upscale Potomac Yard Apartment Complex Begins Construction

A 360-unit luxury apartment complex has broken ground in Potomac Yard.

The new 12-story building, to be called The Sur, will have 16,000 square feet of retail space and another 25,000 square feet of shared amenities space. Units range from 557 square foot studios to 1,419 square foot three bedroom apartments. High-end features include a dog spa, a rooftop spa and a “party room.”

Situated on the site of the neighborhood’s namesake former major railroad switchyard, The Sur will be across from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport’s south end.

On-site construction hours on the site at 3400 Potomac Avenue have been approved from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m. on weekdays and between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

The development was originally approved in 2007, but Courthouse-based developer Erkiletian Development Co. sought minor modifications to the plan this past September. The site plan amendment was ultimately given the greenlight by the Arlington County Board.

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