Press Club

Morning Notes

A pedestrian crosses Wilson Blvd. near a protected bike lane with artificial sunflowers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Fish Kill in Four Mile Run Last Week — “Anyone visiting lower Four Mile Run in the last several days should have noticed many dead fish, large and small, along the streambank and floating out in the water, the result of a pollution incident that occurred some time Thursday, May 12.” [Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation]

Rumor: Board Members May Not Run Again — “My spies in the Arlington Democratic infrastructure say odds favor neither County Board member up for election in 2023 actually running for a third term. And if Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey do skedaddle (and just as they’d start earning some bigger bucks …), the field would seem to be wide open.” [Sun Gazette]

More Big Changes at DCA — “Reagan National Airport is about to go through a massive rebranding. Because of recent expansions, the airport will be split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Terminal 1 will be the original airport building housing the A gates. Terminal 2 will house the newly named B, C, D and E gates. More than 1,000 signs in and around the airport will be changed starting June 4.” [NBC 4]

Arlington Apartment Buildings Bought — “Cortland, one of the largest apartment owners in the U.S., is making a huge entrance to Greater Washington, acquiring four Arlington multifamily properties in an expected $1B investment. The Atlanta-based investment firm acquired a newly developed 23-story, 331-unit apartment building in Rosslyn and a 534-unit building in Pentagon City, Cortland announced Wednesday.” [Bisnow, Washington Business Journal]

County Honors Trees, Volunteers — “Mother Nature is smiling! Arlington County recognized five individuals who volunteer at Bon Air Park as recipients of the 2021 Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award and highlighted its 2022 Notable Trees — both which honor the people and natural resources that preserve Arlington’s green spaces — during the Arlington County Board’s recessed meeting on May 17.” [Arlington County]

Wawa Coming to Falls Church — “Philadelphia-area convenience store chain Wawa is under contract to ground-lease the shuttered Stratford Motor Lodge site in the city of Falls Church, which it will replace with a roughly 6,000-square-foot store — but no gas pumps… The motor lodge closed last fall, the Falls Church News Press reported.” [Washington Business Journal]

Four Mile Run Dredging Approaching — “Alexandria and Arlington will start clearing debris and dredging Four Mile Run in September, and the project will close sections of [an Alexandria] park from the public for four to six months. The City and County maintain a shared flood-control channel in the lower portion of the nine-mile-long stream, and have partnered to dredge Four Mile Run since 1974.” [ALXnow]

It’s Thursday — Rain early in the morning, then clearing later in the day. High of 82 and low of 61. Sunrise at 5:54 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Demolition of the former Jaleo restaurant building in Crystal City began this week, as the site plan review process for a redevelopment on the block kicked off earlier this month.

The proposal by JBG Smith is making its way through the county approval process to turn the 2250 Crystal Drive and 223 23rd Street S. buildings into two apartment towers with ground floor retail and an underground parking garage.

The two 30-story apartment towers replacing the former restaurant space and the aging 11-story “Crystal Plaza 5” office building would include:

  • A “West Tower” at 223 23rd Street S. that would be 309 feet tall and have 613 dwelling units, 4,379 square feet of retail and 184 parking spaces
  • An “East Tower” at 2250 Crystal Drive that would be 304 feet tall, and have 827 dwelling units, 13,059 square feet of retail and 249 total parking spaces

An underground garage structure would serve both buildings, averaging 0.3 spaces per unit, and connect to the existing parking structure on the block, county planner Michael Cullen said in a presentation earlier this month.

JBG Smith also proposes moving the plaza and pedestrian access to a collection of underground shops and corridors to the northwest corner of the east tower.

Once approved and constructed, the buildings would make the block, called “Block M” in the 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan, 80% residential. Most of the buildings on Block M are owned by JBG Smith.

There was one adjustment in JBG’s most recent presentation to the Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC).

Along the east-west connection, JBG Smith added a park option based on community feedback at the Long Range Planning Committee, said Madhvi Shukla with JBG Smith. In both options, the whole east-west connection, which links Crystal Drive and another path to 23rd Street S., would be publicly accessible.

“The section that isn’t chosen for the park would have a public access easement to ensure whichever park space is chosen has public access to both Crystal Drive and to the underground entry,” she said.

A graphic of the east-west connection for the 2250 Crystal Drive project shows a new location option for a park on the right (via JBG Smith)

Three park spaces are incorporated in the plan, which ultimately will total 26,000 square feet, but one of the spaces will be phased into its final size over time, Shukla said.

The 13,000-square-foot park envisioned in the 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan would not be fully finished unless JBG Smith redevelops the Crystal Plaza 6 apartments at 2221 S. Clark Street. In the interim, the park will total about 8,000 square feet on the site’s southwest corner, and an alley between the two towers will be a dead end.

The north-south connection between 23rd Street and the east-west connection would be designed to prioritize pedestrians, with 8 and 9-foot sidewalks, elevated planters for protection and string lights to signal it’s a pedestrian-first zone, Shukla said.

On 23rd Street, there will be protected bike lanes going in both directions, Shukla said, as well as a protected bike lane on Crystal Drive. While the 23rd Street realignment will narrow the roadway, it will have the same number of lanes without a median.

A rendering shows what 23rd Street S. will look like with protected bike lanes and without a median (via JBG Smith)

On June 13 and July 21, there will be virtual SPRC meetings to discuss the project. Planning Commission meetings and a County Board vote are expected this fall.

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Morning Notes

An airplane on approach to Reagan National Airport at twilight near Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Firefighters Rescue Cat from Tree — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “We are so grateful for @ArlingtonVaFD! Yesterday, Charlie the cat snuck out of his house and got spooked, climbing 2.5 stories up a nearby tree on a very stormy day. ACFD came to the rescue and brought Charlie back down to the ground and to safety.” [Twitter]

Suspicious Package at Pentagon Metro — From Pentagon police: “At 9:46am, @PFPAOfficial was alerted to a suspicious package at the Pentagon Metro Visitors Screening Center. Explosive Ordnance Detection Unit is… investigating. Bus and rail service is bypassing the Pentagon. Personnel are asked to please avoid the area. […] At 1251 @PFPAOfficial gave the all clear. Bus and rail service have resumed. The incident is currently under investigation.” [Twitter]

New Apartment Building Proposed in Crystal City — “Add another new mixed-used building to the growing National Landing pipeline. An affiliate of Dweck Properties filed plans this week with Arlington county for two new buildings that would become a part of the Crystal Towers development at 1600 South Eads Street.” [UrbanTurf]

Boeing Bringing Few Jobs — “Paul Lewis, a Boeing spokesman, said the company employs 400 people in the Washington area and has space to add more, but ‘there are no immediate plans to expand the facility here in Arlington.’ The company also won’t reduce its roughly 400 employees at Boeing’s outgoing headquarters in Chicago. Nonetheless, Lewis said in an email the move to Virginia was important for the company: ‘It’s significant in that this will be the base of operations for the CEO and CFO.'” [Washington Post]

More Local Reaction to Boeing HQ — “From the Greater Washington Board of Trade: “Congrats to @NationalLanding
. Our region provides such a compelling strategic advantage to businesses that want to relocate here because of its’ proximity to the government, business, non-profits and academia. It’s a win for everyone in our region!” [Twitter, LinkedIn]

Local Cemetery Getting Historic Marker — “It became a county historic landmark last year, and soon the Mount Salvation Baptist Church cemetery will have a marker denoting its status… The cemetery, located adjacent to the church in the historically African-American North Arlington community of Halls Hill/High View Park, is the final resting spot of at least 89 people. Burials at the cemetery were recorded from 1916 (although some likely occurred a decade or two earlier) to 1974.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: West Glebe Road Bridge Closed to Cars — “The West Glebe Road bridge over Four Mile Run will be completely closed to vehicles [on Monday, May 9], and will remain closed for nearly a year.” [ARLnow]

It’s Monday — Mostly sunny, with a northeast wind around 11 mph and gusts as high as 18 mph. High of 64 and low of 44. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Jefferson Apartment Group has filed plans to redevelop the Clarendon Wells Fargo site with offices, retail space and apartments.

The company proposes to build a 128-foot tall, 12-story structure with 238 apartments, nearly 67,000 square feet of office space, about 34,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 244 parking spaces across a two-level, below-grade garage.

The bank at 3140 Washington Blvd is situated on a parcel bordered by N. Irving Street and N. Hudson Street. Next door is the 97,000-square foot Verizon building at 1025 N. Irving Street.

Jefferson proposes only to redevelop the bank property for now. Wells Fargo — the seller of the property at 3140 Washington Blvd — is requiring the developer to keep the bank open for business during construction.

“The project must take a phased permitting and construction approach, first constructing a new bank branch on the northwest corner of the site, followed by demolishing the existing Wells Fargo building and constructing the new mixed-use building once Wells Fargo is operational in the new bank branch building,” writes Sara Mariska, an attorney for the project.

Including the Verizon site in the overall plan will “facilitate development of the Wells Fargo property, while also facilitating preservation of critical telecommunications infrastructure on the Verizon property,” Mariska continues.

The Verizon site “is not going to redevelop any time soon,” noted Brett Wallace, a county planner, during an Arlington Committee of 100 discussion about Clarendon area development projects on Wednesday.

The new filing comes comes a week before the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting an update to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan, which targets the western portion of the neighborhood. The Committee of 100 panelists discussed the plan and potential changes to the area.

The sector plan update was precipitated by multiple property owners expressing a “strong interest” in redevelopment around the Clarendon Metro station area, Jennifer K. Smith, a county planning supervisor, told attendees.

Forthcoming developments include: the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

Clarendon Sector Plan update area (via Arlington County)

“The process would provide an opportunity to showcase preliminary proposals that were being contemplated and share them in a broad way with all the civic associations and other stakeholders who may be reviewing those individually over time,” she said. “Some of the developers were seeking alternatives that diverged from sector plan guidance and zoning regulations that apply in this area and [Planning Commissioners] wanted to provide forum for review and consideration of those potential changes or divergences from the sector plan.”

She added that the county felt “it was important that we consult with the community on new ideas to meet public facility and public space needs going into the future.”

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Two cats were rescued by firefighters after a smoky fire inside a local apartment building.

The fire broke out Sunday afternoon at the Ballston Park apartment complex in Ashton Heights.

“On April 10th at around 4:15 p.m. units from the Arlington County Fire Department were dispatched to a reported structure fire in the 3900 block of 5th Street N.,” ACFD spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner tells ARLnow. “Units quickly arrived on scene and found smoke [coming] from the second floor of a two-story apartment building.”

“The fire was quickly knocked down and contained to the apartment of origin,” said Hiner. “Two pets were rescued from an adjacent apartment, and the fire remains under investigation.”

The pets that were rescued were cats, according to scanner traffic. The fire broke out on a busy day for ACFD that included a large response to a car fire behind a restaurant in Courthouse.

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A four-story apartment building proposed for Green Valley is wending its way through Arlington County review processes.

The project would redevelop a gravel and asphalt parking lot at 2608 Shirlington Road with 27 market-rate units and three affordable ones atop ground-floor retail and a 38-space parking garage built into the hillside. Tenants will have access to a rooftop deck and pool.

Currently, the property is surrounded by warehouses, low-rise townhouses, a barbershop and a funeral home.

The property owner, Shirlington Investments, is seeking to buy a sliver of land from Arlington County to expand the property lines slightly. Approvals for that purchase are concurrent to the proposed development review process.

The property falls within the Green Valley Village Center Revitalization District and is subject to different standards for urban design, building heights, affordable housing and streetscape, county planner Kevin Lam said during a recent Site Plan Review Committee meeting.

“The Green Valley Village Center Action Plan outlines a vision for revitalizing the Green Valley community by encouraging mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly development centered around the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square,” he said.

This project would be a quarter-mile from the town square, which is slated to wrap up at the end of this month, according to a project webpage.

Describing high ceilings, tall windows and the contrasting light and dark brick façades, project architect Lisa Clark said her firm has “tried to design this project to reinforce the industrial-arts focused vision laid out in the Four Mile Run Area Plan.”

Green Valley Civic Association Vice-President Robin Stombler says the association is “enthusiastic” about this project.

“We think it fits very well with our plan for the community and we do encourage its approval,” she said. “We do want to state publicly the applicant has been communicative, accessible and has addressed issues we have raised over time. For all those reasons we do welcome them to Green Valley and hope their project is approved.”

Unlike typical development projects going up in Arlington, this one is being processed as a use permit through a special process called a Unified Commercial Mixed-Use Development (UCMUD).

Such projects are reviewed according to standards that emphasize predictability, architectural style and streetscape design, similar to the form-based code projects approved along Columbia Pike, Lam said. Another example of a UCMUD in Green Valley is The Shelton apartment building, built in 2009.

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Construction is slated to begin this month on two apartment buildings on top of Potomac Yard Land Bay C  East, one of the area’s last large, undeveloped parcels.

The residential redevelopment, dubbed The Hazel & Azure at National Landing, is located along Potomac Avenue and Crystal Drive between 29th Street S. and 33rd Street S., between Potomac Yard and Crystal City.

The developer, ZOM Living, announced the step forward — and its acquisition of $152 million in construction financing — yesterday (Thursday).

Hazel & Azure is comprised of two towers, 15 and 11 stories tall, separated by a pedestrian pathway. The 491-unit development will also have 6,800 square feet of ground-floor retail space for restaurants and “service-oriented retailers,” according to a press release.

Construction is expected to wrap up in late 2024, says the developer, which built The Beacon Clarendon on N. Irving Street and 19Nineteen in Courthouse.

The original site plan for Potomac Yard Landbay C, divided into east and west parcels, was approved in 2007 and included four office buildings, 41,000 square feet of retail space and a half-acre for a park.

The parcels sat undeveloped for years before ZOM Living submitted its proposal to convert Landbay C East into a residential redevelopment. The western half is still slated for offices.

When complete, the complex will have several amenities for residents, including a rooftop pool, a spin and yoga room, co-working spaces, a self-serve market and an indoor green space for dogs. The lobby will have a café called Verza Coffee and Cocktails, serving coffee and food during the day and cocktails at night.

The mixed-use development is less than a mile south of Amazon’s HQ2, which recently reached a new milestone, and north of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and Potomac Yard Metro station, both of which are currently under construction.

“We are excited to commence construction on Hazel & Azure at National Landing, a development that will meet the rising demand for high-quality rental apartments in one of DC Metro’s most sought-after neighborhoods,” said Andrew Cretal, Senior Vice President for ZOM Living’s Mid-Atlantic Region, in a statement.

“With the area’s rapidly expanding employment base and vast retail offerings, the delivery of ZOM’s luxury apartment community will further bolster the premier live-work-play district of National Landing,” he added.

Now, with the exception of Potomac Yard Landbay C West, Arlington’s side of Potomac Yard is mostly built up. In the last three years, two apartment complexes came online: The Sur (3400 Potomac Avenue) on Landbay D East and The Clark (3400 S. Clark Street) on Landbay D West.

Another long-delayed redevelopment project, currently a parking lot, sits a few blocks north of the project at 2661 S. Clark Street. Arlington County is giving property owner Gould Property Co. until Dec. 31, 2025 to get started on an apartment project — otherwise, the county proposes turning the lot into an interim plaza.

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(Updated at 1:05 p.m.) Firefighters are investigating the source of dark smoke seen billowing out of a Columbia Pike apartment building’s parking garage.

The smoke was seen coming out of the garage entrance at the rear of the Pike 3400 building, at the southwest corner of the busy intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road. A large fire department response was dispatched to the scene around 12:30 p.m., though the smoke has since largely abated.

Initial reports suggest that a boom was heard in the area and that it appears that an electrical transformer on the second level of the garage may have exploded and caught on fire, before the flames were extinguished by a sprinkler system.

In the past, fires that destroyed the electrical transformers of large buildings like this one have caused extended power outlets for residents.

The westbound lanes of Columbia Pike are currently blocked by emergency activity between S. Monroe Street and S. Glebe Road.

“Seek alternate routes,” advised an Arlington Alert.

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This weekend, the Arlington County Board approved two apartment redevelopments that members lauded as architecturally distinct additions to Columbia Pike and Courthouse.

Members heaped praises on “The Elliott,” a new apartment building replacing the Fillmore Gardens shopping center, a one-story retail strip on the 2600 block of Columbia Pike.

Named for Elliott Burka, who managed the Fillmore Gardens apartments, “The Elliott” will situate 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store (rumored to potentially be an Amazon Fresh), a renovated CVS store and a new location for Burritos Bros, currently located in the CVS parking lot.

It will also have three levels of below-grade parking.

They commended Arlington-based developer Insight Property Group for realizing community benefits — a public plaza, a pedestrian passageway and a new S. Cleveland Street — and for intending to make room for the existing retail in the completed building.

“This building will be delivering so much more than 247 residential units and the 50,000 square feet of commercial space,”said Board Member Takis Karantonis, who lives near the project. “It delivers the second half of the Penrose plaza, which is arguably, in my opinion at least, one of the most successful public, multipurpose plazas in Arlington County and a true community gathering place.”

Insight Property Group planner Sarah Davidson did not say the name of the grocer coming to “The Elliott,” but she did say the company is “very, very interested” in how to enliven Penrose Square.

Meanwhile, developer Greystar now has the go-ahead to build a glassy triangular skyscraper on the 0.57-acre vacant Wendy’s site in Courthouse, about a block from the Courthouse Metro station. The building will have 16 stories, with 231 residential units and 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

It was approved despite some concerns among residents about the building’s height and the fact that it only provides 75 parking spots and 12 on-site committed affordable units.

“This will be a luxury, very expensive apartment building in Arlington — something we don’t have any deficit of,” said Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey. “To the extent that it adds to the housing supply for which there still continues to be strong demand for units at that price point, it helps with our housing strategy and goals for affordable housing indirectly.”

He said he also was concerned there are too few parking spots, but there are underused parking garages nearby to take advantage of.

“My suspicion is the reason people are willing to pay such a premium is to be three minutes from the Metro,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said, adding that “it is incumbent on us [to try to ensure that] it is not only the super wealthy who can live close to transit and all the access it provides.”

As for height, County Board members said the building is only 18 feet taller than the office building previously approved for this site. The Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study, meanwhile, recommends building no taller than 10 stories in this area.

Leslie Arminsky, speaking on behalf of the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association, said there should be 28 committed affordable units on site — rather than the approved 12 — while Board members opined that they should be committed affordable units for more than 30 years.

County staff countered that 30 years is standard for these projects.

While the Planning Commission was “thrilled” with the on-site affordable units — somewhat unusual for this manner of development project, with most developers opting to contribute monetarily to the county’s affordable housing fund instead — commissioners are concerned Greystar will seek a conversion of apartments to temporary hotel rooms if vacancy rates are high amid the initial leasing of the building, commission member Elizabeth Gearin said.

Hotel conversions are slated to be discussed tomorrow (Tuesday) during the County Board’s recessed meeting.

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Is Arlington experiencing a Gen Z takeover?

Zoomers — the generation born after 1997 — make up the “only active generation of apartment seekers nationwide,” and they are disproportionately choosing Arlington County, according to a new study from RentCafe.

Between 2020 and 2021, Arlington saw a 55% increase in apartment applications submitted by this age group, according to the website, which follows trends in the apartment market. It analyzed 3.2 million applications for the study.

“Once known as a verified Millennial hub, Arlington is getting a much-needed glow-up from this up-and-coming generation of young renters, ranking as the country’s sixth trendiest Gen Z hub,” RentCafe said.

That ranks Arlington behind the cities of San Francisco, Jersey City, New York City, Philadelphia and Boston and ahead of San Jose (California) and Seattle.

Zoomers are gravitating here after spending a one-year hiatus back home or in their college towns, RentCafe says.

“Young adults returned to their families’ homes in larger numbers in 2020, and with Gen Z being particularly affected by the pandemic, it’s safe to say it played an important role in their migration pattern,” RentCafe spokeswoman Michelle Cretu tells ARLnow.

But now, as society emerges from the pandemic, Zoomers are “following in the footsteps of their Millennial counterparts when it comes to independent living,” she said.

Millennials came to Arlington in droves during the Obama years, according to a previous RentCafe study, which found 52% of Crystal City’s population was made up of the generation also known as Gen Y. For them, Arlington offered employment opportunities plus plenty of nightlife and housing options, Cretu said.

Now, Gen Yers are in their home-buying years, and many are ditching their renter status to buy homes in Alexandria, Reston and Frederick, Maryland, according to RentCafe.

Younger Millennials, however, are still renting because they’ve been “outpriced by an overly competitive housing market,” she said.

Data show the new generation is, on a relative basis, choosing Arlington over D.C., which recorded a smaller increase — 31% — in the share of Gen Z renters. The City of Alexandria, the 13th trendiest Zoomer hub, also ranks higher than the District.

“So, it’s not a matter of Gen Z not choosing D.C., but one of Zoomers choosing Arlington in higher numbers,” Cretu said.

One reason is Arlington’s growing concentration of tech jobs, fueled in part by the construction of Amazon’s second headquarters.

“While both cities score in diversity and vibrant social scenes, Arlington is a developing city where new career opportunities are just emerging,” she said.

Zoomers are showing a keen interest in tech jobs, with three in 10 ranking software development as their top career choice, according to a study by the software company CloudBees. So it comes as no surprise that they are choosing Arlington alongside the well-known tech sectors of San Francisco and Seattle and the new tech hubs of Atlanta, San Diego and Baltimore.

Another factor behind the trends Cretu cited is that Arlington has bigger apartments.

Developers are building larger units here than they were five years ago, while in D.C., the average square footage of a new apartment is shrinking. The prospect of more spacious new construction could also be why the RentCafe list features suburbs of New York City and Dallas.

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Marymount University’s office and educational building and “The Rixey” apartments (file photo)

Marymount University is seeking Arlington County Board approval to convert some of its student housing in Ballston into hotel rooms permanently.

The conversions would occur at “The Rixey,” an apartment building Marymount owns and operates at 1008 N. Glebe Road as graduate student housing. Marymount intends to repurpose 133 of the 267 units into hotel rooms to give students studying hotellery practical experience.

“The addition of hotel units to the Rixey building will be used to support and enhance Marymount University’s Hospitality Innovation Master of Business Administration (MBA) program by providing students with hands-on experience in the hotel industry,” a county report said.

This request follows several other recent proposals to temporarily convert apartment units into hotels during the initial leasing of these buildings, the report said.

For example, to recuperate revenue losses from pandemic-era vacancies, Dittmar asked the Arlington County Board last summer to allow three- to 30-day stays in 75 furnished units that are typically used for longer residential stays.

Some worried these conversions would harm rental housing affordability, but the County Board ultimately approved Dittmar’s request. County planners intend to study these conversions “in the next few years” to inform a potential hotel conversion policy, according to the report.

Staff say Marymount’s proposal, however, is “distinctly different” because the conversions would be permanent, would figure into a hands-on learning program and would add hotel rooms the county needs.

“The proposed conversion would also establish a concentration of new hotel rooms to help counterbalance the loss of 1,600 hotel rooms in Arlington over the past two years and would allow Marymount University to broaden its offerings as an anchor institution in Ballston,” the report said.

Recent losses include the Americana Hotel and the Inn of Rosslyn, both of which were sold to developer JBG Smith for residential redevelopment, as well as The Highlander and the Rosslyn Holiday Inn.

Marymount purchased “The Rixey” for $95 million in 2019 after it had purchased the land underneath in order to lease it to local real estate developer The Shooshan Company, which built the apartments. Marymount also owns the Ballston Center office building next door, using some floors for office and educational space and leasing other floors.

The Board is slated to review the proposal this Saturday.

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