JBG Smith is starting to sketch out its plans for a major redevelopment of a Crystal City property that will drop hundreds of new apartments and thousands of square feet of retail space directly adjacent to some of Amazon’s new office space in the area.
The developer has now filed preliminary plans with the county detailing the future of a vacant office building at 1900 Crystal Drive. The company has already started some demolition work for the current structure, and previously announced plans to build two new mixed-use buildings in its place, accelerating the project now that Amazon is on the way.
The tech giant plans to lease space at two of JBG’s properties on the same block, buildings at 241 18th Street S. and 1800 S. Bell Street, so this new development could offer Amazon workers with apartments within easy walking distance of the new headquarters.
Developers throughout the area have been racing to build new housing across Pentagon City and Crystal City since the company announced its plans in mid-November, though the neighborhoods do have slightly higher than average residential vacancy rates, for now.
JBG kicked off the redevelopment process in earnest in late January, asking for a slew of county zoning changes and a “site plan amendment” to key the full redevelopment of the block. The plans call for the construction of two large towers, holding a total of 790 apartments. One will be 26 stories tall, the other 25 stories.
Each one will also have space for ground floor retail: 19,390 square feet of space in one tower and 16,800 square feet in the other, according to documents filed with the county.
The developer is envisioning a “pedestrian plaza” in between the two buildings, with room for just under 9,000 square feet of retail in the plaza. The plans even allow for a park to be built nearby, though the documents don’t specify where, exactly, it will be located on the block — but if it is built, a “grand staircase” will connect it to the pedestrian plaza.
When it comes to parking, JBG plans to partially rely on the existing underground garage on the site. The developer plans to demolish part of the garage, but leave 306 spaces unchanged. Then, it hopes to add a new section of the garage with 290 new spaces for a total of 596 available in all.
The project is a long way from being approved, however — the county’s Site Plan Review Committee will now scrutinize these plans, before they head to the Planning Commission and County Board. Vornado/Charles E. Smith previously secured permission to build a 24-story building on the property, but that approval lapsed in 2015. The company spun off its local property holdings in a merger with JBG the next year.
This is far from the last redevelopment JBG is planning in the neighborhood in the coming years. In addition to its large “Central District” project (bringing a new movie theater, grocery store and office space to the area), the company previously told its investors that it could look to redevelop properties including 2001 Jefferson Davis Highway, 223 23rd Street S., 101 12th Street S., and the RiverHouse Apartments (1400 S. Joyce Street).
Though JBG is by far the largest property owner in the area — controlling about 71 percent of the market’s office buildings — county officials hope other landlords take similar steps to refresh nearby buildings.
As for Amazon itself, the company won’t file any plans with the county until the Board signs off an incentive package to formally bring the headquarters to the area. The Board won’t take up that issue any earlier than March.
Marymount University is buying a Ballston apartment complex adjacent to one of its other office buildings in the area, with plans to convert the space into upscale housing for its students and staff.
The university announced today (Friday) that it’s spending $95 million to acquire “The Rixey,” located at 1008 N. Glebe Road. The building opened in October 2017, with a total of 267 apartments in the 15-floor structure.
The Rixey is located right next to the university’s Ballston Center at 1000 N. Glebe Road, which is home to several of Marymount’s undergraduate and graduate programs (in addition to a cafeteria and a Starbucks). By buying up the apartment building, the university hopes to provide “apartment-style city living” for undergrad students in addition to its on-campus residence halls, and also offer “significant housing options to Marymount University’s veterans, families, graduate and international students,” according to a news release.
“This new acquisition further cements Marymount as an anchor of the Arlington community,” Marymount staff wrote. “This multimillion-dollar facility provides walking-distance access to Marymount graduate programs at Ballston Center, shuttles to Marymount campuses and Metro access, making the building an accessible living-learning community.”
Amenities at the building also include “an expansive fitness center with Peloton bikes and a yoga room, a bike repair station, a rooftop clubroom with views of D.C. and a lounge with cabanas and TVs,” the release said.
A spokeswoman for the university did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether anyone is currently renting an apartment in the building, or what might become of current renters following this acquisition.
The university added in the release that it managed the acquisition with a combination of state funds and private financing.
Marymount also maintains space at 4040 Fairfax Drive in Ballston, in addition to its main campus at 2807 N. Glebe Road.
The vast majority of land in Arlington is reserved for the construction of single-family homes, and affordable housing advocates argue that’s going to have to change if the county wants to adequately handle the region’s looming, Amazon-inspired population influx.
A new report released by the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance last week argues that Amazon’s decision to bring 25,000 jobs to Arlington in the coming years “should create a regional sense of urgency and commitment to address our housing supply and affordability gap,” a sentiment broadly shared among local and state leaders following the company’s momentous announcement. But where the advocacy group strikes a starker tone than other observers is in its policy prescriptions for meeting that challenge.
The NVAHA’s researchers point to data showing that about 86.7 percent of land in Arlington is zoned exclusively to allow new single-family homes, compared to just under 12 percent where multifamily development, like apartment buildings, is permitted.
They believe that sort of zoning scheme not only chokes off the county’s ability to add more housing, and meet its current supply pressures, but also cuts off the potential for people of more modest means to ever move into the county’s more affluent neighborhoods.
Accordingly, the group sees the clear potential for “allowing more diverse housing types in detached single family neighborhoods,” reversing the current paradigm where the “path of least resistance” for developers is simply to build ever-larger single-family homes in those areas.
“It should be noted that efforts to increase density and flexibility in use have been controversial, both within the region and across the country,” the group wrote. “Awareness of the socioeconomic bias that shaped low-density and exclusionary zoning is not widespread, and the predominance of the neighborhood form in many urban and suburban areas has created strong consumer demand for such communities, making discussions of regulatory reform more politically contentious. However, these barriers are not insurmountable and the moral imperative of breaking down exclusionary barriers justifies the effort.”
The NVAHA acknowledges that there is indeed a role for local governments to subsidize the creation of housing that is guaranteed to remain affordable in order to reach the poorest renters, or to prioritize the preservation of existing affordable homes.
But the advocates also stress that the “disproportionate number of higher-income earners” moving into the area means that market realities will make it difficult for county officials and other leaders to build enough housing on their own. That means relying on more private development, they say, while working to ensure that developers don’t only build high-end apartments that are out of reach for people in lower income brackets.
“By-right development should be liberalized to streamline the costly entitlement process and promote more naturally affordable building types and development scales,” the researchers wrote.
They suggest that duplexes, townhomes and other small apartment complexes could be housing options for the county to consider, and they do note that the county has done some work in this area with its strategies to promote the creation of “accessory dwelling units.” Arlington officials did take some steps to allow smaller apartments attached to larger homes, commonly known as “mother-in-law suites,” but the NVAHA sees room for more bold changes on the issue.
The researchers note that discussions around creating more “missing middle” housing, to fill the gap between subsidized affordable units and luxury homes, often concentrate that the new homes “around transportation corridors or the areas near existing mid-density or mixed-use neighborhoods.” Instead, they see a need for more “diversification” of new housing types all across the different regions of the county.
“A broad-based approach diffuses demand over a wider area,” the group wrote. “If demand for such units is not limited to a small number of neighborhoods by government fiat, any potential impacts on roads, school capacity, and neighborhood form are more likely to emerge gradually, enabling adequate planning and preparation.”
Of course, the advocates would concede that Arlington won’t be able to solve the housing affordability problem on its own, particularly as officials expect that Amazon’s workers will choose to live around the entire region. Accordingly, they urged leaders from across D.C., Maryland and the rest of Northern Virginia to confront the issue together.
“These discussions need to happen in Bowie and Bethesda, as well as Arlington and Alexandria,” NVAHA Executive Director Michelle Krocker wrote in a letter introducing the report. “Regional benefits equal regional responsibilities… Will our elected officials put jurisdictional differences aside and respond for the good of the region?”
Flickr pool photo via NCINDC
(Updated at 10:15 a.m.) A busy, cold morning for local firefighters is getting busier.
Firefighters are on scene of a fire at the large Horizons Apartments complex at 4300 Old Dominion Drive, near Cherrydale. The fire is reported to be out but smoky conditions have been reported on the 9th and 10th floors.
Side streets in the area are blocked by the firefighting activity, according to the Arlington County Fire Department.
#FinalUpdate: Apartment fire on 9th floor is out. No extension. Searches and ventilation complete. No injuries reported. Fire Marshal on scene investigating. Most units being placed in service and residents returning to building. pic.twitter.com/UPCYTgd535
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) January 31, 2019
Apartment Fire on Carlin Springs Road — Firefighters are braving bitter cold conditions this morning to fight an apartment fire on the 3400 block of Carlin Springs Road, in the Falls Church section of Fairfax County, just over the Arlington border. Eight people were rescued from the burning apartment building. [Twitter, Twitter]
Garvey Presses for Civility — “One member of the Arlington County Board is making a concerted effort to remind residents of the need for civility in public discourse… [Libby] Garvey said she has noted that, on contentious issues, those with an opinion frequently are digging in their heels.” [InsideNova]
Lowering Child Care Costs in Arlington — “Arlington County has the highest child care costs in the Washington region, largely because we have high land values, tighter regulations, and affluent households. To start to bring down the price and make licensed child care more accessible for more residents, Arlington has embarked on a Child Care Initiative to address local zoning ordinances and child care codes that impact cost.” [Greater Greater Washington]
AWLA Alum in Us Weekly — Olympian Gus Kenworthy was pictured in a recent issue of Us Weekly magazine with Birdie, the dog he adopted from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington this past summer. [Instagram]
Startup Leaves Crystal City — “A notary startup that has called Arlington home since 2015 appears to have moved much of its local operation to Boston as part of a restructuring.” [Washington Business Journal]
Vacancy Increasing at Crystal City Shops? — “Of the 88 storefronts underneath 1750 Crystal Drive, 42 were vacant this week when Bisnow walked the corridors.” [Bisnow]
Crystal House Plan ‘Could Set a Precedent’ — “Plans to double the number units at the Crystal House Apartments will be a litmus test for future development in Crystal City, as Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters ushers in 25,000 jobs to the area over 12 years.” [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Plans to redevelop several small businesses in Virginia Square into a new apartment complex are coming into focus, in a section of the neighborhood long targeted by the county for a bit of revitalization.
A developer is firming up plans to build a seven-story apartment building on a 1.7-acre property at 1122 N. Kirkwood Road, near the road’s intersection with Washington Blvd. Documents submitted to county planners late last month show that Eleventh Street Development is angling to add 255 one- and two-bedroom apartments to the site, complete with two floors of underground parking totaling 190 spaces in all.
The entire area is line for some big changes in the coming year — the American Legion post nearby is set to become a new affordable housing development, while the YMCA is set for big upgrades as well — and Arlington officials have spent months now sketching out new planning documents to guide the area’s evolution.
Eleventh Street Development has long contemplated adding apartments to the site, which will displace three businesses on the property: Zolly Foreign Car Specialists, a State Farm insurance office and Slye Digital Media Systems. But the developer has, at last, kicked off the “site plan” process with the county, in order to secure the necessary permissions to get construction moving.
Notably, Eleventh Street seems to have abandoned plans to include any space for retail on the ground floor of the site, according to the plans. However, county officials “would like to continue the discussion” about that change, they wrote in a memo to the developer last January.
In general, the county signaled in the planning documents that it’s broadly satisfied with the initial plans. One of the few concerns officials expressed, however, is that the redevelopment might not meet some of the road re-design standards laid out in the long-range vision for the area approved in 2017, known as the “General Land Use Plan Study and Concept Plan.”
Specifically, the county wants to see a new “east-west connection” through the property, connecting 12th Road N. to N. Kirkwood Road.
Officials urge the company to consider “how the subject site would be designed or modified to facilitate circulation as envisioned,” and the developer acknowledged that request. However, the company does plan to add some streetscape improvements along both Washington Blvd and Kirkwood Road.
The project is now set to head to the county’s Site Plan Review Committee, though the group has yet to put the development on its agenda just yet.
Apartment Project Feels ‘Amazon Effect’ — “The Amazon real estate effect in Northern Virginia is being felt from home sales to new development. Nearly two years ago, the owners of Crystal House Apartments applied to add a building and 252 units to the Crystal City Metro-proximate community. Now, that vision has more than tripled in size.” [UrbanTurf, Bisnow]
Arlington Has Low Home-School Rate — “Arlington has the lowest rate of home-schooled students in Northern Virginia, according to new state data. A total of 0.5 percent of Arlington students were home-schooled in the 2017-18 school year, according to a new jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction compilation by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).” [InsideNova]
Lots of Green Space for Future H-B Woodlawn Home — Despite a relatively small footprint and a vertical profile — rising five stories above grade — the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Rosslyn will have plenty of green space for students. “Standing on top and looking down, you will think it’s a hillside meadow, not a series of roofs,” said Arlington Public Schools’ design and construction director. [ENR Mid-Atlantic]
Champagne Lounge With a View in Rosslyn — “The Observation Deck at CEB Tower will debut a new Champagne-centric bar [this] week, inviting visitors to to sip bubbly from the area’s first 360-degree public observatory.” [Eater]
Sunday Funday Moves to G.O.A.T. — The popular and sometimes rowdy Sunday Funday festivities that took place at the now-closed A-Town Bar and Grill have been moved to A-Town’s sister bar The G.O.A.T in Clarendon. [Instagram]
Arlington Spots for Mocktails — Need to go sans alcohol to meet some of your New Year’s resolutions? Some of the best mocktails in Arlington can be found at spots like Fyve Restaurant at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton; Green Pig Bistro and Ambar in Clarendon; and the new Punch Bowl Social in Ballston. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Local retailers will set up shop for a holiday market pop-up tomorrow (Saturday) in The View at Liberty Center at 4000 Wilson Blvd.
Shoppers can also munch on holiday cookies with a cup of hot chocolate.
The first 300 people outside The View on the corner of N. Quincy Street and Wilson Blvd will get to take home a wreath from Merrifield Garden Center, which is located in Falls Church.
The View is encouraging visitors to bring new, unwrapped toys to support local Toys for Tots efforts by the U.S. Marine Corps. The apartment building also plans to raffle off holiday pies from D.C.-based bakery Whisked! to benefit Toys for Tots.
Shatner: Arlington E-Bike Rules ‘Barbaric’ — E-bike enthusiast and Priceline pitchman William Shatner, better known as Star Trek’s Captain James T. Kirk, said via Twitter yesterday — in response to a tweet from the sassy Arlington Dept. Environmental Services Twitter account — that Arlington’s prohibition on e-bikes on local trails is “barbaric.” [Twitter]
Kojo Coming to Crystal City — WAMU 88.5 is bringing the Kojo Nnamdi Show to Crystal City for “a town hall-style discussion about how local officials, businesses, and community members in Northern Virginia and the region are reacting to Amazon’s decision.” Those wishing to attend the taping can register online. [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
Upgrades for Ballston Senior Housing — “The Arlington County Board [Tuesday] approved a low-interest loan of $3.025 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to help renovate The Carlin, a 162-unit, 10-story building located at 4300 N. Carlin Springs Road. The Carlin serves low income elderly residents who are 55 years and older.” [Arlington County]
‘Arts District’ Near Crystal City? — “Even before the specter of Amazon’s second headquarters put stars in everyone’s eyes in Crystal City, Stratis Voutsas and Georgia Papadopoulos, managers of a trust that owns many buildings on the neighborhood’s ‘restaurant row,’ were dreaming up a plan to bring more people across U.S. Route 1 to the neighborhood… The trust wants to build an open-air park and plaza on a parking lot and site of a Greek restaurant the trust owns behind some of the 23rd Street restaurants. It would have artist spaces tucked below, facing onto 22nd Street.” [Washington Business Journal]
Amazon News Roundup — Amazon’s HQ2 search was about “selecting locations with specialized kinds of talent that meet certain needs,” and “Crystal City… puts Amazon closer to tech talent, but also to government leaders, cloud customers, and the U.S. Department of Defense.” Crystal City is built upon the former Abingdon Plantation and the new Amazon presence “affords us the opportunity to recognize and memorialize the lives of those enslaved there.” Meanwhile, a former JBG executive who left to help build a $3 billion development in Tampa is returning as the company prepares for Amazon’s arrival.
Nearby: New Wawa and New Restaurant — A new Wawa is coming to Vienna, making it the closest Northern Virginia location to Arlington for the beloved convenience store chain. And an acclaimed chef is planning to open a new Italian restaurant on N. Washington Street in the City of Falls Church.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 7:30 p.m.) Arlington and Fairfax firefighters responded tonight (Wednesday) to a fire at a mid-rise apartment building along Columbia Pike.
The fire broke out around 4:30 p.m. at The Shell apartments at 870 S. Greenbrier Street.
A small fire was reported in an apartment on the fourth floor and was controlled by sprinklers, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. While the fire itself did not cause much damage, water from the sprinklers has caused flooding in a number of apartments.
The Full Circle Montessori pre-school in the building also reportedly has some water damage, though the extent of the damage is thus far unclear.
Fire commanders have requested that the Red Cross respond to the scene to assist at least more than a dozen residents who will be displaced — right before the Thanksgiving holiday.
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) November 22, 2018
The Shell was built and is managed by nonprofit affordable housing developer AHC Inc. It was completed in 2015.
Photo (2) via Google Maps
Arlington County Police are investigating an incident that resulted in a man suffering serious injuries at a Ballston apartment building Monday evening.
Shortly after 4 p.m. police were dispatched to Randolph Towers (4001 9th Street N.) for a report of a person who fell from a 6th floor balcony in the rear of the building onto a ground floor patio below.
The victim was quickly transported to a local trauma center with serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. Police remain at the building, documenting the scene and talking to possible witnesses.
It is unclear if the man accidentally fell or if the fall was in some way intentional.
“The victim was conscious and alert when he was transported to George Washington University Hospital,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow.com. “The investigation into the cause of the fall remains ongoing.”
(Updated at 8:55 a.m.) Firefighters battled an condo building fire in the Rosslyn area Sunday afternoon.
The fire broke out around 1 p.m. at a large four-story residential building on the 1400 block of N. Rhodes Street, sending dark smoke billowing into the sky.
The fire was in an upper floor apartment. A second alarm was sounded but the first wave of firefighters were able to bring the flames under control by the time additional units started arriving on scene.
No injuries have been reported. At least one lower level unit suffered significant water damage, according to scanner traffic.
N. Rhodes Street is closed between Clarendon Blvd and 14th Street N. due to the emergency response. The Arlington Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the blaze.
Photos via social media:
1400 North Rhodes St., apartment fire, fire knocked down, no injuries reported, second alarm requested, but placed in service. Holding units currently on scene checking for extension. pic.twitter.com/y3vlem9axb
— Arlington Fire (@ArlingtonVaFD) October 21, 2018
— David Chung (@dchung615) October 21, 2018
— Mike Lewan (@mlewan3) October 21, 2018
— Abri Nelson (@abrianna85) October 21, 2018
Photo (1) courtesy @mlewan3, (2) via Google Maps
More Housing Coming to Pentagon City — Developer LCOR is working on plans for a new apartment building in Pentagon City, to be built on a site that currently houses a blocky, low-slung building containing Verizon telecommunications infrastructure. Arlington has seen “a rising demand for luxury rentals,” including at a recently-completed LCOR building in Crystal City. [Washington Business Journal, Washington Business Journal]
Woman Charged With Bringing Gun to DCA — “The TSA said an Arlington, Virginia, woman was stopped at a checkpoint at Reagan National Airport on Tuesday with a loaded 9 mm handgun in her carry-on bag. There were 14 bullets in the handgun, including one in the chamber. She was cited by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police.” [WTOP]
New Pastor for Local Church — “St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church will host ‘A Celebration of New Ministry’ to salute the arrival of the church’s new rector, Rev. Dorota Pruski, on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 4 p.m. at the church, 4000 Lorcom Lane.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Holds Disaster Drill for Cyclists — “On Saturday BikeArlington and the Office of Emergency Management held the county’s first Disaster Relief Trial, modeled after such events in Oregon, Washington, and California… 70 registered families, teams, and individual bikers traveled throughout Arlington, stopping at four checkpoints and completing eight challenges.” [Local DVM]
Marymount Launches Internship Fund — “Marymount University has announced plans to financially support students who intern at non-profit organizations that do not have the resources to pay them. The new ‘Sister Majella Berg Internship Fund’ is a way to solidify partnerships between the university and local safety-net organizations, new Marymount University president Irma Becerra said.” [InsideNova]
AT&T Donates $30K to Local Nonprofit — “Bridges to Independence announced today a new contribution from AT&T. A private, nonprofit organization, Bridges is dedicated to serving families experiencing homelessness in the City of Alexandria and Arlington County, VA. AT&T’s support will directly benefit Bridges’ mission by expanding the organization’s Youth Development Program which serves children experiencing homelessness.” [Press Release]
Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Chevy Chase Land Company… announced today the $90 million acquisition of 672 Flats, a 173-Unit Class A apartment building in the heart of Ballston.” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
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.