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Dog poop, a lackluster park and imposing tower façades.

These are lingering concerns for some county commission members and residents who recently reviewed designs for two proposed apartment towers from JBG Smith in Crystal City.

The developer proposes building two towers with a total of 1,440 apartment units where the restaurant Jaleo (2250 Crystal Drive) used to be, and where an 11-story office building stands (223 23rd Street S). The new towers would have ground-floor retail and a parking garage underground.

Architects went back to the drawing board after a meeting in July to improve designs, and generally, these improvements were welcomed during a Site Plan Review Committee meeting last week.

Still, commissioners, community members and county staff said a planned interim park should be more vibrant — with ample amenities to separate dogs and their droppings from other visitors — and the towers should have more pedestrian-scale architecture, so that walking by does not feel claustrophobic and shady.

“I do hope there will be signs saying ‘This is not a dog park’ because people will try their hardest to use it as such,” said Ben D’Avanzo, a nearby resident representing the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, during the meeting on Thursday. “There’s only so much we can do to control that and prevent what happened at Met Park happens here.”

Before Amazon began rebuilding the park, Metropolitan Park was best known for being a large patch of grass where dogs from neighboring apartment buildings relieved themselves.

The 2010 Crystal City Sector Plan envisions three park spaces, totalling some 26,000 square feet, but one of those parks would require JBG Smith to redevelop apartments at 2221 S. Clark Street. In the interim, as part of this project, JBG Smith will create a temporary 8,000 square-foot park on the southwest corner of 223 23rd Street S.

Commissioners had also criticized initial designs for the park near JBG Smith’s planned towers for being “just a lawn,” said Planning Commissioner James Schroll during a meeting last week.

“Some of the concerns we received from you guys is that there may be foot traffic cutting through this lawn and there were concerns pet owners would use it for dog relief, and we didn’t really want that,” said Amanda Walker, with OJB Landscape Architecture.

Landscapers added pet relief areas and plantings around the park’s edges to prevent people from creating desire paths. The park is designed to allow for flexible, removable furniture to accommodate concerts, fitness classes and picnics and become a “destination for the community,” Walker said.

Before and after changes to designs for the interim open space at 223 23rd Street S. (via Arlington County)

“Right now, this looks good, but we’ve got lots of parks that look like this all over the area. It’s going to be hard to attract people to it in this interim period,” said Michael Dowell, representing the Crystal City Citizen Review Council. “If we really want to take a chance, let’s get some massive sculpture — that you can move…”

“… to the next interim park,” said Chris Slatt, representing the Transportation Commission at the SPRC meeting, completing Dowell’s sentence.

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Morning Notes

Street scene near Clarendon (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Trash Collection Starting Earlier — “In an effort to get a jump on the day and maybe beat a bit of summer heat, curbside collection crews will be starting their routes 30 minutes earlier in the morning beginning next week. The new start time of 6:30 a.m. is considered a pilot, with the results to be evaluated after a few months. As usual, recycling/trash/organics carts need to be at the curb by 6 a.m. on weekly pick-up day. Putting them out the night before is perfectly fine–if that’s how you roll.” [Arlington County]

Bezos Space Firm Has Arlington Office — Blue Origin “has a small existing office at 1530 Wilson Blvd. in Arlington… which the Blue Origin website describes as its ‘East Coast business office supporting government relations, sales and business development efforts.’ A lobbying disclosure form filed last month with the federal government also puts Blue Origin’s presence at that address. The Rosslyn office will remain open after Blue Origin occupies its new Reston space.” [Washington Business Journal]

Prolific Arlington Architect Dies — “Fredrick Sheridan of McLean passed away at home on June 30th at the age of 95. Fred was President and a founder of SBE & Assoc, an Arlington architecture firm for over 55 years… He was an early and major contributor to the development of local building and zoning codes in Arlington, advocating for residents and landowners. His scope of work included more than 200 projects. Fred’s versatility of design expertise extended from Courtland Towers to the Monastery of the Poor Clares to Marymount University.” [Legacy]

Forestry Commission on ‘Missing Middle’ — “The Arlington County government’s Forestry and Natural Resources Commission… while saying it agrees that a broader range of housing options should be available in Arlington, seems to be joining a growing chorus that the proposed zoning alterations should be phased in over time, to see what works and what doesn’t, before being implemented throughout Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods.” [Sun Gazette]

Group Lauds Board’s Antisemitism Resolution — “The Arlington County Board has received praise from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. Board members passed a resolution in support of the language in June.” [Sun Gazette]

Crystal City ‘Midsummer’ Production Reviewed — “If ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is only as enchanting as a production’s take on the mischievous fairy Puck and bumbling actor Bottom, then Synetic Theater is fortunate to count spellbinding performances from Ariel Kraje and Vato Tsikurishvili among its assets.” [Washington Post]

NPS Seeking Ideas for Daingerfield Island — “The National Park Service is soliciting public feedback for ideas to overhaul part of Daingerfield Island near Potomac Yard. The idea is to revitalize the area around the Washington Sailing Marina at the former Indigo Landing Restaurant.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Mostly cloudy during the day, then rain and possible storms at night. High of 86 and low of 73. Sunrise at 5:52 am and sunset at 8:37 pm. [Weather.gov]

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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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(Updated at 5:10 p.m.) On N. Kirkwood Road, amid a sea of brick homes, a sleek, modern house in black and white with pink trim stands out from the pack.

Designed by local architect Paola Lugli, of PLDESIGNSTUDIO, “Black & White House with a Touch of Pink” is one of the residences recognized in the 2021 DESIGNArlington awards along with other homes, community facilities and affordable housing communities.

Released yesterday (Tuesday), the biennial, county-sponsored awards honored 13 projects that demonstrate an excellence in architectural and landscape design and public art, while meeting Arlington priorities such as sustainability and accessibility.

A group of five architects, planners and art curators examined 24 entries and granted awards to the following projects. One of the top awards went to the county’s own project: the new Long Bridge aquatics center.

The county also awarded the “North Adams House,” which is the same house that was embroiled in a dispute over “scat mats” owner Eric Wang put up to deter dogs from peeing on his prized bushes. The invective from neighbors, leveled via Nextdoor, extended to commentary about his custom-built home, described as an “eyesore,” “heinous” and “ugly as sin.”

The county, meanwhile, praised the architectural variety of his home and its “open, light-filled spaces that interact with the surrounding garden.”

Excellence Awards

Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center, designed by Page Southerland Page, Inc, Rhodeside & Harwell

Ballston Pedestrian Bridge, designed by StudioTECHNE Architects, Pellar & Associates

Merit Awards

The Aubrey, designed by STUDIOS Architecture, Lee & Associates

Dorothy Hamm Middle School, designed by Quinn Evans, Main Street Design

Yo-Yo House, designed by Sagatov Design + Build

Black & White House with a Touch of Pink, designed by Paola Lugli, PLDESIGNSTUDIO

North Adams House, designed by Robert M. Gurney, FAIA

Honorable Mention Awards

Queens Court, by KGD Architecture, LSG Landscape Architecture

Apex Apartments, by MTFA Architecture, Walter L. Phillips, Inc.

An accessory dwelling unit, designed by Measure Architects

Watermarks,” by Julie Bargmann of D.I.R.T. Studio

Terraces at Ballston Quarter, by Landscape Architecture Bureau (LAB) and CallisonRTKL

Stephanson Residence, by DW Ricks Architects + Associates

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Amazon has made changes to its plan for the second phase of the company’s HQ2 in Pentagon City.

For the last eight months, Amazon has been hammering out the details of the planned second phase, on the PenPlace site at the corner of S. Eads Street and 12th Street S. Today (Thursday) it unveiled some significant tweaks it has made in response to local feedback.

Members from the community have weighed in on everything from transportation to sustainability to architecture, suggesting changes that would make the office campus more walking- and biking-friendly, more verdant and more architecturally interesting.

“We appreciate the ideas and have made changes to enhance the overall connectivity of the site. We also incorporated additional sustainable elements and more greenery into the design, and diversified the architecture within PenPlace,” wrote Joe Chapman, Amazon’s director of global real estate and facilities, in a blog post published this morning.

“These updates make the entire project even better, benefitting our neighbors and all those that will visit HQ2,” he continued.

PenPlace is situated on an 11-acre site near the Pentagon City Metro station, bordered by Army Navy Drive, S. Eads Street, 12rd Street S. and S. Fern Street. It will be anchored by a lush, futuristic building, dubbed “The Helix,” and feature three, 22-story office buildings, retail pavilions, a childcare center and a permanent home for Arlington Community High School. A park drawing inspiration from local waterways will run north-south through the site.

But residents were critical of the multimodal transportation planning Amazon offered at first.

In response, Amazon changed some circulation patterns surrounding and running through the site, widened the paths running east to west to accommodate more pedestrians and cyclists and widened certain sidewalks where the heaviest pedestrian traffic is anticipated.

Transit options around PenPlace (via Arlington County)

It also added protected bike lanes along S. Eads Street and S. Fern Street to connect PenPlace to the county’s surrounding local bike transit plan.

“All of these adjustments will create more direct, wider pathways through the site and make traversing PenPlace even safer,” Chapman said. “It will also make the public Central Green and urban forest at the center of PenPlace even more accessible for everyone to enjoy.”

At least one transit advocate welcomed the change, but said a protected bike lane along 12th Street S. would further improve circulation.

Per an Amazon blog post, residents who weighed in on the planning process told Amazon to add even more green space and native plant species to its campus. In turn, the tech and ecommerce giant expanded the planted area by 5,500 square feet and reduced the amount of impermeable surfaces, such as paving.

“We are excited to be able to deliver 2.5 acres of public open space for everyone to enjoy at PenPlace,” Chapman said.

Amazon increased the plantings within PenPlace in response to community feedback (via Arlington County)

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Metro Station Reopening — “Metro will reopen the Pentagon Station and Pentagon Transit Center to customers beginning with the start of bus and rail service Thursday morning. The station and transit center has been closed since early Tuesday, due to the law enforcement response and investigation following a fatal incident that occurred in the bus bays.” [WMATA]

Chamber Supports Langston Blvd Plan — “The Arlington Chamber of Commerce broadly supports the Plan Lee Highway Scenario Analysis, providing for additional commercial and residential density in an established, aging, yet vibrant and critical transit corridor. Moreover, the Chamber encourages creating flexible land use policies and regulations so as to attract investment to the Langston Boulevard corridor.” [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]

ACPD Celebrates ‘National Night Out’ — “Across the nation and throughout the region, neighbors and police mingled Tuesday night in the National Night Out — an annual effort to fight crime by building relationships between communities and police. In Drew Park, nestled in Arlington County, Virginia’s historic Green Valley neighborhood, a DJ played music and children petted a yellow Lab K-9, while their parents huddled together with police officers including Chief Charles ‘Andy’ Penn.” [WTOP]

New Community Center Profiled — “This is a story about a building, but it’s also a story about a park, which flows into the building, driving the structure’s design to an unusually high degree. Located in Arlington, Virginia’s Lubber Run Park–a public recreation area with walking trails and a gentle stream winding through a forest–the Lubber Run Community Center replaces an outdated building from the 1950s that was torn down in 2018.” [Metropolis]

Mini Earthquake Shook Area Yesterday — “A small earthquake shook parts of Central Maryland in the overnight hours of Wednesday morning. The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 2.1 earthquake was centered in Clarksville, Maryland, at 2:11 a.m. with a depth of about 1.8 miles.” [WTOP]

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A pair of Arlington projects recently received national recognition for their unique design and use of steel.

The Top Steel Design Awards recognize — as the name might suggest — building architecture that incorporates steel in interesting and distinct ways.

The Merit Award went to the Ballston Quarter Pedestrian Walkway, which opened in 2019 after the original bridge was torn down in 2017. A judge in the Top Steel Design Awards credited the choice of frame and the walkway’s “visually captivating” quality.

“The crossover segment at mid-span creatively addresses the offset entrances of the connected buildings, and the steel HSS frame is an ideal choice to resist the complex forces of this innovative bridge design,” Stephanie Hautzinger, associate vice president of  CannonDesign in Chicago, said in a press release. “The resulting structure has a sculptural quality that is visually captivating from both the exterior and interior.”

The project was designed by studioTECHNE architects in Cleveland.

A new Arlington Public School building was also among the ten winning projects from across the U.S., which were categorized by overall cost. The Heights, the new home to H-B Woodlawn and the Stratford Program at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn, won the top award for the $75-200 million category.

The school was designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group in Brooklyn and Leo A Daly in D.C.

Judges praised the unique structure of the building.

“The ambiguity of how this building is supported is one of the most fascinating features of the structure, and it is all due to the structural steel trusses behind the scene,” said Maysa Kantner, a structural steel specialist, in the press release. “Coordination and communication are required on every project but I imagine for this level of uniqueness, those two things had to be stepped up in a big way. It is so great to see what can be done with project teams when they all work together and think outside the typical box-shaped buildings!”

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Morning Notes

Distance Learning Only for APS — “Due to inclement weather… Level 1, in-person learning support, Level 2 Career & Technical Education students and staff supporting these programs will temporarily revert to distance learning.” [Arlington Public Schools]

County Government Open — “Arlington County Government offices, courts, & facilities are OPEN Friday, 02-19-2021. Courts will open at 10AM. All facilities will follow normal operating hours.” [Twitter]

Be Careful Out There — “Northern Virginia crews continue to clear and treat roads overnight, for both some additional wintry precipitation as well as refreeze from low temperatures. Drivers are asked to continue to limit travel if possible, or to use extreme caution and be aware of the potential for slick pavement, even where surfaces appear clear or were previously treated.” [VDOT]

Doses May Be Delayed — “Virginia is seeing delays in this week’s vaccine shipments due to severe winter weather in the Mid-Atlantic region and across the country. The Virginia Department of Health says the state will likely see a delay in the delivery of approximately 106,800 doses, due to distribution channels in the Midwest and elsewhere that are currently shut down.” [InsideNova]

Architectural Review of HQ2 Phase 2 — ” It very intentionally does not look like anything else in Pentagon City or Crystal City, or anywhere else in the region. The style, a populist, jazzy take on high-tech modernism, isn’t aimed at architecture critics, but at the public, which shows remarkable forbearance to the predations of large corporations so long as they have a reputation for being innovative and forward thinking.” [Washington Post]

County Board Members Endorse Candidate — “Alexandria City Council member Elizabeth Bennett-Parker has picked up the endorsement of two Arlington County Board members in her quest for the 45th District House of Delegates seat. Board members Libby Garvey and Katie Cristol endorsed the candidacy.” [InsideNova]

New Spanish Publication on the Pike — “As part of its increased business support efforts, the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) has launched a new publication dedicated to supporting the area’s Hispanic business community. The publication, Boletín, is a small booklet of resources and information specific to those Spanish speaking businesses serving Columbia Pike’s residents.” [CPRO]

Arlington Man Arrested for Armed Robberies — “An Arlington man was arrested last night and is facing charges in connection with a series of recent armed robberies. Detectives from our Major Crimes Bureau determined that in three of the four robberies, the suspect approached the victim, displayed a firearm and took their personal property. In the other case, the suspect took a victim’s purse by force.” [Fairfax County Police Department]

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Morning Notes

Police Trying to ID Robbery Suspect — “The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating a series of convenience store robberies and is seeking the public’s assistance identifying a suspect captured on cell phone image.” [ACPD]

Gymnasts May Be Barred from State Tourney — “The [Washington-Liberty] girls high-school gymnastics team won its third straight 6D North Region championship… The Arlington school system has made a preliminary decision not to allow the W-L team to attend the state meet because of the pandemic. Parents of the W-L gymnasts are asking the school system to allow the Generals to participate.” [InsideNova]

Local Architects Like HQ2 Design — “The majority of architects and designers who spoke with the Washington Business Journal about the NBBJ-designed Helix had a positive take on Amazon’s plans and its new flagship structure. Most said it could become an iconic building that would give Arlington a sense of place. But a few were more cautious, noting there could be ramifications of allowing a megacorporation to build and own such an architecturally striking landmark.” [Washington Business Journal]

Va. Bishops Support Death Penalty Bill — “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of the Diocese of Arlington and Bishop Barry C. Knestout of the Diocese of Richmond issued the following statement on passage of death penalty abolition legislation: ‘We welcome today’s vote by the Virginia House of Delegates to abolish the death penalty, as well as the vote by the Virginia Senate to do so earlier this week.'” [Diocese of Arlington, Arlington Catholic Herald]

Pot Legalization Bill Passes — “Lawmakers in both chambers of Virginia’s General Assembly approved legislation Friday that clears the way for legal cannabis sales in the state. The move sets up Virginia to be the first southern state to establish a recreational marijuana marketplace, and potentially the first to do so in the Washington region.” [DCist]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Yesterday, Amazon revealed a bold plan for the second phase of its HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The main attraction of the 2.8 million square foot office proposal is The Helix, “a 350-foot tall spiraling office building that recreates a climb in the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Part park, part office building, The Helix could one day be as prominent an Arlington landmark as any other building, except perhaps the Pentagon — which is just across the street.

The Helix will be joined by three 22-story buildings, an amenity building with a community gathering space and daycare center, a public pedestrian promenade and dog park, and three retail pavilions. That’s in addition to everything in the first HQ2 phase.

The design of the development, specifically The Helix, has drawn mixed reviews. Among the headlines generated by the big reveal:

  • “Amazon’s next headquarters is a glass poop emoji covered in trees” (The Verge)
  • “A Soft Serve Matcha Ice Cream Cone” (Washingtonian)
  • “Amazon Plans a Climbable Office Tower: Building across river from DC will rival Washington Monument on area’s skyline” (Newser)

What do you think?

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The Arlington Career Center is poised to change from drab, squat and Brutalist to taller, glassier and more modern, if new concept designs are approved by the School Board next month.

The designs were revealed at a meeting of two Arlington Public Schools committees on Wednesday. Created by the design firm Stantec, the concept renderings show the new planned look of what’s being called the “Jewel of the Pike.”

The career and technical education facility along the Columbia Pike corridor is set to add 250 seats next year and 800 new high school seats by September 2025, as APS works to accommodate rising enrollment across the school system. The School Board is expected to vote on the concept designs in March and the overall plan for the $185 million project in June.

The concept slides suggest that about 167,000 square feet of the existing structure will remain, with an additional 204,000 square feet built around it.

The first phase of the project, a two story building immediately adjacent to the career center, will be built on top of what’s currently a playground along S. Highland Street. It will include sufficient space for auto tech and animal science programs, as well as TV production and other uses.

As we reported in September, the expanded center will include a full-sized gym, a performing arts center, a new cafeteria, a new common area, a parking garage, a pool, and a multi-use outdoor synthetic turf field.

Despite the additions, the Arlington Career Center will remain an option school and not a comprehensive high school, though the concept renderings include notations of places where the facility can be expanded in the future.

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