Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Crystal City Parking Lot Staying Put — “Crystal City has been a scalding hot market for new development ever since Amazon.com Inc. moved in — but one well-positioned lot will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. Gould Property Co., which owns a small parking lot at 2661 S. Clark St., filed a request with Arlington County last month asking for permission to maintain the property as surface parking through early 2026.” [Washington Business Journal]

Westover Apartment Building Named — “Kathleen Sibert, who led the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) from 2008 until earlier this year, will remain a permanent part of the organization through a facility named in her honor… Located in Westover, Sibert House is designed to provide permanent-supportive housing and a foundation to help individuals achieve better health, overcome substance abuse and mental illness, obtain job security, and attain their goals.” [InsideNova]

Schools Also Facing Budget Gap — “Superintendent Durán said that APS is facing an estimated budget gap at this time of between $24 million and $31 million. The APS budget gap continues to fluctuate and is based on continued unknowns including more possible revenue loss, more possible savings and more costs as APS works to return students to in-person learning while continuing to provide distance learning. The school district is examining its current practices and reviewing the budget.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Water Facts — “In a year, Arlington residents use some 8 billion gallons of water. That’s about a trillion 8-ounce glasses of the stuff. Clean, safe and always at the ready.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Costs on the Rise — “Not only are home prices on the rise across the Washington area; the average cost on a per-square-foot basis continues to grow, too… In Virginia, Arlington led the pack, with its average per-square-foot cost of $455 up 4.4 percent from $436.” [InsideNova]

Real Estate Firm Opening Second Office — “McEnearney Associates is excited to announce a new office location in the heart of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard… This will be McEnearney Associate’s second office location in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Airport Concession Sales Way Down — “Roughly 33 concessionaires were open at Reagan and 44 at Dulles, or just over 40% of all shops in the two airports… the shops that are open are still struggling with very low foot traffic and a customer base that is spending less than normal. Sales per passenger were down 20% at Reagan National and 22% at Dulles in August compared to the same month of 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Early Voting on Irish TV — “Irish TV RTÉ was in Courthouse filming the early voting for the election.” [@Irelands4Courts/Twitter]

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As Election Day nears, Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington County Board, took shots at her opponent, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, on the county’s Missing Middle Housing study.

Facing a shortage of moderately-priced housing options in the “missing middle” between apartment buildings and single-family homes, the County is kicking off a study to figure out whether it should open up some areas zoned only for single-family homes to denser housing types.

But Clement, a perennial candidate for the last decade, said Garvey has given outsized importance to the racial-justice component of this plan to gloss over economic problems. One problem is the possibility that these new housing options may still be out-of-reach for Black residents, according to Clement.

“The County has been very successful in persuading people it is a social-justice and racial issue, but the people that they are addressing are not aware of the dynamics of the real-estate market,” Clement said.

In the mid-20th century, Arlington began zoning most of the county for single-family homes and forbade the construction of more compact dwellings, which were more commonly inhabited by the county’s Black population because fewer could afford detached homes. There were also deed covenants that explicitly prevented non-whites from buying homes, even if they could afford them.

Today, 75% of the county is zoned for single-family homes. Given the median income earned by Black Arlingtonians, homes in all but a few neighborhoods are out of reach for most.

“What we’ve got now is the result of very intentional systemic racism,” Garvey said of local housing patterns. “Whether this study is going to fix it or not is hard to say. I don’t think we’re saying that.”

Clement agreed that the effects of Arlington’s exclusionary housing policies in the 20th century remain. She said what is disingenuous is framing duplexes, townhouses or other small-scale, multi-family housing as a way to correct Arlington’s racist past, when some data suggest these new options could be unaffordable due to the county’s inflated land values.

“Due to ever increasing land values no one earning less than area median income will afford the housing built on densified lots,” Clement wrote. “In addition many moderate income residents, including people of color, will be forced to sell when real estate assessments escalate in their up-zoned neighborhoods.”

Garvey did not refute the possibility that the study could find that these alternatives would not necessarily be more affordable, but said it is “way too early” to draw conclusions from a study in its infancy.

“The only thing we’ve said is that we have a real issue with sufficient diversity of housing to meet a lot of needs,” she said.

Clement argues that the current unaffordable housing landscape in Arlington is because the county allowed affordable homes to be torn down and replaced with more expensive housing. Renovating existing structures would be a better solution, she said.

This spring, the County Board voted to eliminate a tax credit to landlords who renovate their buildings. Senior Housing Planner Russell Danao-Schroeder said the program had outlived its usefulness: Only large developers were availing themselves of the credit to keep their buildings at the top of the market.

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A proposal to return Arlington Court Suites Hotel to its original purpose, an apartment building, is slated to be considered by the Arlington County Board on Saturday.

The 187 guest rooms at 1200 N. Courthouse Road would become 180 homes, possibly condominiums, according to an application filed by the property owner. This hotel-to-residential project is just a couple of blocks south of the Court House Metro station.

County staff are advising the board to approve the plan, which has been amended after Transportation Commission members argued that the original plans provided too much parking.

“Overall, the applicant’s proposal presents an opportunity to provide new housing units within a transit-rich neighborhood through the conversion of an existing building in a manner that is generally consistent with applicable County adopted plans and policies,” the staff report says.

One feature includes an upgraded and expanded pedestrian route making it easier to get to and from the Metro station and the Arlington Boulevard Trail. The route will also connect with nearby apartment and condo buildings, but will not be ADA accessible due to how steep the the grade is, the staff report says.

The project is exempt from providing mandatory affordable dwelling units, according to county staff.

“Given that the proposed density of the subject site plan is decreasing, and is a renovation of an existing building, the ADU provision does not apply,” the document says.

An apartment building was originally constructed on the site in 1962, and was turned into a hotel in 1980. In 2005, the County Board approved a plan to construct 252 new multifamily, townhouse and stacked residential units nearby, known currently as the Vista on Courthouse and the Bell at Courthouse.

The ratio of parking spots to dwellings for the renovated building has been the subject of scrutiny. In February, Transportation Commission members unanimously objected to the first iteration of the plan, which knocked the original 203 spots to 171.

The revised plan includes 150 spaces for a new parking ratio of 0.83 spots per unit. Many of those would be located on a surface parking lot, with the rest in a garage under the building. A county policy adopted in 2017 said parking at residences near Metro stations could be as low as 0.2 spaces per unit.

In a letter to the Board, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said his commission appreciates the reduced parking and added pedestrian route.

“That said, many commissioners remarked that they would support an even lower parking ratio given proximity to (the) Metro and encouraged the applicant to further reduce the amount of parking on-site, particularly the surface parking,” he wrote.

The County Board will meet virtually this Saturday, Oct. 17, starting at 8:30 a.m.

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The empty Red Cross building (4333 Arlington Blvd) in Buckingham will come down in a few weeks to make way for a new apartment building called The Cadence.

The building, developed by Wesley Housing Development Corporation, will have 97 units, all set aside for low- and moderate-income households. It is part of a complex that includes 19 nearly complete market-rate townhouses a stone’s throw away.

Local officials, project financiers and construction company representatives gathered for a socially distanced groundbreaking on Tuesday afternoon at the site in Buckingham. The event also commemorated renovations that will begin next year on the neighboring complexes, Whitefield Commons and Knightsbridge apartments, which Wesley also operates for low-income residents.

“The cadence that we set has changed tempo a few times, from where we were to where we are going, but we’re still moving ahead and at this point, we see no reason that we won’t stick the rest of the schedule going forward,” quipped Shelley Murphy, President and CEO of Wesley Housing.

Mark Weisner, the president of Bozzuto Construction Company, which is building The Cadence apartment building, said his company has “a lot of work to do in the next 24 months,” when the building is set to open its doors to renters.

Wesley’s presence in Northern Virginia continues to grow, as well as its staff. The nonprofit owns and operates 2,000 affordable housing units across the region, with about 690 units located in Arlington, including a mixed-income apartment building in Rosslyn that opened in 2017. The company also provides services and programs to residents.

Libby Garvey, the chair of the Arlington County Board, said this groundbreaking is an important milestone for the county, which — like every in-demand urban area — struggles to maintain affordable housing when wealthy families also desire to move in.

“Healthy communities provide work and housing opportunities for all levels of the social and economic spectrum,” Garvey said. “The pandemic has shown clearly how important housing is to everyone’s health.”

Murphy said the moderate-income units and market-rate townhouses in The Cadence make good on a promise that Wesley made to the community to bring more income diversity to Buckingham, which has a significant number of affordable housing units already.

“We want to make sure we are helping Arlington County build neighborhoods of opportunity,” she said.

Knightsbridge and Whitefield Commons provide “extremely deep affordability” for families with an average income of less than $20,000 and $30,000 a year, respectively, she said. The Cadence will cater to families of four who earn between $62,000 and $80,000 a year.

Wesley also promised to preserve the Whitefield Commons — which was built in 1943 and formerly known as the Windsor Apartments — and to encourage residents to seek transportation alternatives to cars. The developer faced some opposition from neighbors, who said Buckingham’s percentage of affordable housing units is much higher compared to other neighborhoods.

The project has received state and county funding, loans and tax credits. Additional funding comes from Wesley selling the land for the townhouses to Tysons-based home builder Madison Homes.

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The Virginian Suites hotel at 1500 Arlington Blvd, near Rosslyn, has closed.

Earlier this week workers could be seen hauling furniture out of the building, which is located on the southern side of Route 50, a couple of blocks from the Iwo Jima memorial. A sign on the door said the building is under new management.

The plan is to renovate the building and convert it back into apartments, according to Bernstein Management Corporation.

The company said last month on its website that 1500 Arlington Blvd will be reopened “as value-oriented multifamily rental apartments with amenities to include a lobby lounge, an amenity floor with fitness options and co-working, and an outdoor patio with grills and fire pit.”

“Unit interiors will undergo kitchen renovations, and receive new lighting, flooring, closet organizers and paint,” the company said. “The property is approximately 1/2 a mile from the Washington D.C. line. Its proximity to the Rosslyn Metro station, national employers, multiple universities, dining, and entertainment options makes it a promising acquisition and attractive place to live for those looking for amenities, sustainability, technology and a compelling value given the location.”

The ten-story tower was originally an apartment building after it was completed in 1951. It was later converted into a suite-style hotel.

Bernstein Management Corporation says it now owns a 50% interest in the building. The family behind the D.C.-based residential and commercial property operator just announced a $12 million charitable pledge to local organizations that champion “the arts, racial equality, and a brighter future.”

It’s unclear how long the renovations will take and when the new apartments will be available for lease. Reached by ARLnow, a spokeswoman for the company did not have any other details to share.

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Morning Notes

Italian Deli Coming to Pentagon Row — “Napoli Pasta Bar, the Bib Gourmand-designated Italian restaurant in Columbia Heights, will expand into Northern Virginia next month when it adds a sister deli in Arlington. Napoli Salumeria is expected to open in early October at 1301 South Joyce Street… The Pentagon Row space was largely turnkey ready, as it formerly functioned as a deli called A Deli.” [Eater]

Shirlington Movie Theater Reopens — The AMC Shirlington 7 theater reopened earlier this week, after closing over the weekend. A PR rep said the closure was due to a “plumbing issue.”

More Hazy Skies Possible — “More smoke from western wildfires likely to stream into DC area tonight and into Wednesday. Skies unlikely to be as blue as the past several days.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Restaurant Break-in on Pentagon Row — “At approximately 10:41 a.m. on September 21, police were dispatched to the report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 12:25 a.m., two suspects forced entry to a business, causing damage, and stole an undisclosed amount of cash and items of value. The suspects are described as males, wearing hooded sweatshirts, masks, and gloves. The investigation is ongoing.” [Arlington County]

Cooking School Adapts During Pandemic — Cookology at Ballston Quarter mall was just hitting its stride when the pandemic hit. After shutting down for weeks, the cooking school reopened via “Cookology Live” virtual classes. And now, the business has secured outdoor space at the mall’s covered “Instagram Alley” in which to hold in-person classes. [Washington Business Journal]

Apartment Building Designated as Historic — “The Glebe Apartments (now known as Knightsbridge Apartments) in the Ballston area has been placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register… The apartment complex, located in the 200 block of North Glebe Road, is an example of garden-style apartment units that were constructed in Arlington from the 1930s to the 1950s to provide moderately priced housing for a growing number of federal workers and, after World War II, returning veterans.” [InsideNova]

Today: ‘Spirit of Community’ Event — “Please join us for the 2020 Spirit of Community celebration on Wednesday, September 23 at 12 p.m… The program will include interviews with Chris Nassetta, President and CEO of Hilton, and Steve Presley, Chairman and CEO of Nestle USA.” [ARLnow Events]

Confederate Costumes Cause Controversy — ” Party City is racing to clear its shelves of children’s costumes celebrating the Confederacy. An Arlington, Virginia mom of two adopted Black children, was shocked to find the Party City store at Bailey’s Crossroads selling Civil War rebel costumes emblazoned with the Confederate flag.” [WUSA 9]

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Local affordable housing developer AHC Inc. is in the early stages of redeveloping the Fort Henry Gardens apartment complex in Green Valley.

Located on the 2400 block of S. Lowell Street, Fort Henry Gardens currently consists of “82 affordable garden apartments in a tree-lined community minutes from the bustling Shirlington neighborhood.” The complex “was built in the 1960s and is in need of an update,” according to AHC Communications Director Celia Slater.

In its place, AHC wants to build taller, more modern apartment buildings.

“We’re excited about redeveloping Fort Henry Gardens because it’s an aging property and this is an opportunity to provide new, energy efficient homes to hardworking families and individuals who need affordable, quality places to live in Arlington,” Slater said. “There is so much need for affordable living opportunities in Arlington… The redevelopment is also giving us the opportunity to provide homes to a wider variety of individuals, including more one bedroom apartments for seniors, which the community mentioned as a real need.”

“The proposed plan includes 26 three-bedroom apartments and 149 two-bedroom units for families and 120 one-bedroom apartments and 5 studios to serve individuals and couples,” Slater tells ARLnow. “Altogether, the new Fort Henry Gardens could add an additional 218+ new affordable apartments in response to the pressing need for more affordable living options in the county.”

Slater said the new apartment community will have a new fitness center, three open lawn areas surrounded by shade trees, and two preschool-age playgrounds “meant to complement the existing recreational field at Drew Elementary School.”

It will also have some features Slater said were requested by the community, including:

  • Designating the proposed 48-unit building on Lincoln St. to be a senior building after we learned from community members of this need and long-time desire.
  • Almost doubling the size of our on-site community center in response to the need expressed from our AHC Green Valley residents. We currently have a robust Resident Services program at Fort Henry in a fairly small community center. The new space will give our students more room for indoor learning activities and also provide an opportunity to explore additional ways to build community.
  • Committing a healthy portion of our site to outdoor gathering and recreational uses in response to this request from the Civic Association.
  • Designing for solar panels in response to the County’s desire for renewable energy.

AHC is hoping to begin construction in the spring of 2022 and welcome residents back in the spring of 2024. The initial site plan for the redevelopment was submitted to Arlington County in May, Slater said, and the County Board is expected to consider the project early next year.

The developer might face some community skepticism, however, due to complaints about its nearby Shelton apartment building on 24th Street S. In 2016, building residents spoke out publicly, demanding better living conditions. This year, an anonymous group of neighboring residents has been writing letters to AHC and Arlington County complaining about “ongoing noise, litter, and criminal issues” associated with the building.

AHC wrote a letter in response, blaming construction at a nearby park for crowds gathering outside the building, and Arlington County police for not responding to noise complaints.

“Both our residents and our staff have found their calls to police to be nonproductive this summer,” the letter said. “Our residents report that the police are not responding to their calls about noise and large gatherings.”

(ACPD confirmed to ARLnow that “the department is diverting some non-emergency incidents to the online reporting system,” while continuing to respond to “in-progress crimes and emergency calls for service where there is an immediate threat to life, health or property.” Overall police call volume to Green Valley for the period from Jan. 1-Aug. 31 was down 16%, according to department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.)

Robin Stombler and Portia Clark, who lead the Green Valley Civic Association, said they are in touch with the anonymous letter writer and are working to address the issues with the apartment building and with the police department. Stombler and Clark said they do not believe County Board involvement is needed to address issues with the Shelton at this time, but suggested that they want to see AHC make some changes.

“Suffice to say, AHC Inc. will need to reexamine how they conduct business in our community in order to garner our support,” they wrote.

Slater, meanwhile, said AHC “will continue to meet with the Green Valley Civic Association and other neighbors throughout” the Fort Henry Gardens redevelopment process.

Photo (1) via AHC Inc., (2) via Google Maps

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A project that is changing the skyline of Arlington has just celebrated its “topping out.”

The massive Highlands residential development in Rosslyn recently reached its full height. Construction, which has continued through the pandemic and some notable challenges, is expected to wrap up in the second half of 2021.

The Highlands, when completed, will consist of nearly 800 luxury rental apartments, just over 100 condos, 40,000 square feet or retail space, a renovated park, and a new ACFD Fire Station 10.

It’s located at 1555 Wilson Blvd, at a high point in the Rosslyn neighborhood, adjacent to H-B Woodlawn’s new building known as The Heights. Construction started in October 2018.

More on the topping out and the project, from a press release.

Penzance, a leading owner, operator, and developer in the Washington, DC, metropolitan region, today announced the topping out of all three of the towers for The Highlands, Rosslyn’s newest mixed-use, luxury residential community.

Perched on the hilltop with panoramic views of Northern Virginia, the Potomac River, and the iconic monuments along the DC skyline, The Highlands name is inspired by its geographic location as the highest point in Rosslyn. In addition to three distinct residential towers, destination retail, the Highlands will be home to a new and enhanced Rosslyn Highlands Park and a new headquarters to Arlington County Fire Station #10 all funded as part of a public-private partnership between Penzance and Arlington County.

The Highlands, built to LEED Gold certification standards, will be comprised of 104 luxurious condos, 780 rental apartments, and more than 50,000 square feet of refined amenity space and 40,000 square feet of carefully-curated retail space between the buildings at full build-out, all delivering in the second half of 2021.

“We are proud to see all three of our towers at The Highlands reach this major construction milestone on-schedule as we work to deliver this new community that is primed to transform Rosslyn when it delivers in 2021,” said John Kusturiss, Senior Vice President of Construction and Development for Penzance. “The Highlands will establish a lively neighborhood within Rosslyn that aligns nature with architecture to create a pedestrian-friendly and connected environment, just minutes from the very best of the DMV.”

The Highlands includes three distinct towers: Pierce, Aubrey, and Evo. The elegant design of each building incorporates environmentally sustainable interior and exterior elements. Marked by a distinguished style to meet the unique needs of the region’s burgeoning and diverse makeup, The Highlands serves as the heart of the repositioned Wilson Boulevard and is only a short walk to both the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations and Georgetown via the Key Bridge.

Read More

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Arlington County firefighters are battling a small fire in a garden apartment building in the Westover area.

The fire was reported in the basement of the Fisher House apartment building at 5705 Washington Blvd. Initial reports suggest the fire started in the laundry room and was extinguished by firefighters, but not before producing heavy smoke and prompting a second alarm response.

Firefighters are now working to remove smoke and to ensure that the fire is completely extinguished. Washington Blvd is currently blocked by the emergency response.

So far there is no report of injuries.

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Arlington County firefighters responded to an apartment kitchen fire in Pentagon City this afternoon.

The fire was reported just after 1 p.m. on the second floor of the Acadia at Metropolitan Park apartment building (575 12th Street S.). The flames started on a stove and were ultimately extinguished by a sprinkler system, but not before it filled the floor with smoke.

Firefighters are on scene working to remove the smoke. “Significant” water damage has been reported in the apartment where the fire broke out.

One apartment resident is being evaluated by medics for smoke inhalation, according to the fire department.

Police closed 12th Street S. during the incident due to the emergency response.

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Morning Notes

Death of WeLive? — “WeWork is exploring ending its push into communal living, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The New York-based office-sharing company is working with an adviser and holding talks about handing over operations of its WeLive location in Crystal City, near Washington D.C.” [Bloomberg]

No Fair This Summer? — “Whether the Arlington County Fair will be held as scheduled in August, and how it might change due to the impacts of COVID-19, remain an open question. ‘We continue to closely monitor the evolving situation and are committed to following the facts and recommendations provided by public-health officials,’ organizers of the fair said.” [InsideNova]

School Decision Expected by July 4 — “Arlington students, parents and teachers should know by the 4th of July what the county school system’s plan is for re-starting classes in the fall. In-person classroom instruction ‘is the goal we want to get to,’ new Superintendent Francisco Durán told School Board members on June 4, but he was not ready to commit to having students back in class when the school year begins Aug. 31.” [InsideNova]

Gyms CrossFit Weigh in on Founder’s Comments — Since the founder of CrossFit posted a controversial tweet, CrossFit gyms across the country — including in Arlington — have been posting statements to distance themselves from him. Greg Glassman has since resigned as the CEO of CrossFit. [Instagram, Instagram]

Local Nordstrom Stores Reopening Tomorrow — “Arlington residents hoping for a little retail therapy will soon have their desires granted, at least as far as one local clothing chain is concerned. The Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack stores in Pentagon City will reopen for customers on Thursday, according to a company release.” [Patch]

Axios Covering Fees for Protesting Employees — “Arlington County-based digital media company Axios distributed a companywide email stating that it would cover bail or medical bills for employees who have participated in recent protests associated with the police killing of George Floyd, The New York Times first reported Tuesday.” [Virginia Business]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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