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A planned apartment complex is set to have even more affordable housing.

Speakers at an Arlington County Board meeting on Tuesday were divided in their thoughts about the Board’s unanimous vote to approve 88 units of additional affordable housing at 1900 S. Eads Street, in the Crystal City area.

Most spoke in favor of the change, which will make 743 of 844 planned units at Crystal House Apartments affordable.

Area resident Ben D’Avanzo said many of his neighbors are seeing high rent increases and struggling to make ends meet. While he said the neighborhood “wasn’t thrilled” with the original approval process for the apartment complex, D’Avanzo has since come on board with the project.

“This is something that is incredibly important to approve and I urge you to do so,” he said.

But Stacy Meyer, vice president of the Aurora Highlands Civic Association, has had no such change of heart.

She pointed out that the complex’s planned affordable units lack previously proposed amenities such as full balconies and a rooftop pool — a shift that she sees as “unfair to its future residents.”

Meyer argued the county’s approach to updating the Crystal House site plan, initially approved in 2019, circumvented additional opportunities for input. By pursuing changes to each building as separate minor site plan amendments, she said, the plans did not receive additional oversight from bodies such as the Site Plan Review Committee.

“The county appears to be working without regard to the future residents, fiscal transparency, the neighborhood income impacts or equitability in schools,” she said. “It’s a heavy-handed approach that we believe needs tempering.”

A letter from the AHCA to the county argues this approach “leads to the slippery slope that produced the failed inequitable public housing of the last century.”

It also took shots at the design, saying it “looks like an economy hotel.”

“When it comes to publicly financed buildings, low-income housing residents deserve the same building quality as the market, just as low-income students deserve the same education and low-income patients deserve the same medical treatment,” the letter says.

To make this development possible, the Board approved a $12.2 million low-interest loan from the Affordable Housing Investment Fund to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

Board member Maureen Coffey noted that most of the planned units are for families and very low-income people, which she believes is key to meeting community needs.

“This is a really impressive and really important thing to do, to get that deep affordability, not just in a one-bedroom or a studio,” she said.

Amazon, which has its HQ2 near the Crystal House Apartments, has played a prominent role in this development project.

The company put up $381.9 million so that the nonprofit Washington Housing Conservancy could purchase the 16-acre site in late 2020, stabilize rent for the 828 existing units and build more than 500 new units.

The purchase was part of its commitment to create and preserve affordable housing as rents rise amid its growing presence. Amazon later donated the land and development rights to the county.

Last January, the county selected APAH and Bethesda-based developer EYA to oversee construction of Crystal House Apartments’ new buildings. Construction is slated to begin in spring 2025 and finish by the end of 2027, per the county presentation this week.

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A land-use study teeing up an affordable housing redevelopment project in Aurora Highlands has generated significant interest as it nears completion.

Melwood, a D.C. area nonprofit that provides services to and employs people with disabilities, is looking to redevelop property it owns at 750 23rd Street S., two blocks west of “Restaurant Row” in Crystal City.

It has picked nonprofit developer Wesley Housing to replace its aging building — from which it offers job training and placement, among other services, to people with disabilities — with 104 units of affordable housing.

Many units would be for households earning around 60% of the area median income. Some units would be set aside for very low-income households and up to 30 units could be set aside for people with disabilities. Melwood would continue using the site to provide services to people with disabilities.

“This collaboration with Wesley Housing has the power to transform the lives of people with disabilities and support Arlington’s continued leadership in building an inclusive community,” Melwood President and CEO Larysa Kautz said in a statement. “We appreciate their support in helping people with disabilities find a place to call home.”

Should everything go to plan, work could be underway in about two years.

“While we’re still very early in the planning process, we hope to seek tax credit financing in 2025 and to break ground shortly thereafter,” a spokeswoman for Melwood told ARLnow.

First, Melwood needs the site’s land use designation changed from “public” use to a low-density residential use, for up to 36 housing units per acre. It can request this change through a Special General Land Use Plan (GLUP) Study process.

This May, the county’s Long-Range Planning Committee recommended studying this change because the county has no planning guidance for the site, and its “public” use is at odds with its private ownership and commercial zoning status. Still, members had concerns about building heights and transitions, density and how the project could impact adjacent Nelly Custis Park.

This fall, county staff studied the site, its potential 4- or 5-story buildings, and other topics, including transportation. Last week, staff briefed the Long Range Planning Committee on its findings as well as the results of a recent online survey.

Staff said a 4-story building would be slightly taller than existing churches nearby and would provide more space for programming. A 5-story building would allow for more open space and a better transition to Nelly Custis Park. It determined the existing transportation system could handle the influx of residents but more study would be needed.

As for the survey, 240 people participated, mostly nearby homeowners. Some 38-42% of respondents said building tall was fine — given the mix of buildings and Metro station nearby — and expressed enthusiasm for more affordable housing.

Many were concerned the development is too big and would introduce too much density. One respondent who lives across the street said the county “has not done its due diligence in studying impacts to traffic, pedestrian safety, or ecosystem impacts” and the building “is not consistent with the sector plan or neighborhood.”

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Sen. Mark Warner visits the Melwood Disability Services facility in Arlington Sept. 22 (courtesy of Office of Sen. Mark Warner)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) A local nonprofit specializing in job placement for disabled individuals is drawing on federal funding to expand its services.

Melwood Disability Services, a Maryland-based organization that operates a facility in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, has received a $307,000 federal grant aimed at expanding enrollment in its 14-week neurodiverse job training program, abilIT, by subsidizing associated costs.

On Friday, Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Rep. Don Beyer (D) visited Melwood’s facility near Pentagon City and presented the nonprofit with a ceremonial oversized check.

Jewelyn Cosgrove, president of Government and Public Relations at Melwood, told ARLnow that 78 individuals participated in the abilIT program from July 2022 to June 2023. She noted, however, that the newly acquired federal grant, in combination with ongoing fundraising efforts, will enable Melwood’s Virginia facility — acquired in 2017 through a merger with Linden Resources — to double its enrollment of people with disabilities in the job training program.

“We will serve an additional 80 people next year with just what we have in normal funding available,” she said. “The [federal] grant allows us to add 30 people, so next year, because of the grant funding…we’ll be hitting, I think, 110 to 115 total people served.”

Melwood, which also provides a range of services from affordable housing to horticulture therapy and family support services, also received a $500,000 federal grant in July to support its neurodiverse job training program in Maryland.

Cosgrove clarified the two grants are separate and the $307,000 will go exclusively toward helping offset the costs, such as curriculum, of operating abilIT.

Within the last year, abilIT has helped dozens of people secure employment through several prominent private and public sector employers, Cosgrove said, such as MITRE and Falls Church-based Enabled Intelligence.

“It’s a program that really blends [professional and personal skills training] together to help job candidates… get an industry recognized certification and then go on to employment,” she added.

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Power outage map as of 2:15 p.m. on Aug. 22 (via Dominion)

(Updated at 9:15 p.m.) Thousands were without power in and around Crystal City and Pentagon City for much of the day due to a widespread outage.

The outage was first reported just after 11:15 a.m. Arlington County firefighters investigated a possible underground explosion and treated a Dominion worker with burns from steam that came out of a manhole, according to scanner traffic.

“At 11:18 a.m. a splice in an underground cable failed causing an arc/flash and 10,000+ outages in Crystal City, Pentagon City & nearby neighborhoods,” Dominion spokeswoman Peggy Fox told ARLnow shortly before 4 p.m. “We’re working to have all customers restored as quickly as possible, hopefully in a half an hour. A worker was treated at the scene and released.”

ACFD also responded to a large quantity of stuck elevator calls in the area, owing to the outage.

More than 10,250 Dominion customers were without power as a result of the outage. The outage map extended into the Aurora Highlands and Arlington Ridge residential neighborhoods, including Oakridge Elementary.

Arlington’s parks department closed the Long Bridge Aquatic and Fitness Center and the Gunston Community Center due to the outage.

As of 5:15 p.m., Dominion said all but 1,229 customers had their power restored, with outages still reported along Crystal Drive by ARLnow readers. As of 9 p.m. all customers had been restored, per Dominion.

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Construction on an upsized home on N. Dinwiddie Street in Halls Hill (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In Green Valley, resident Portia Clark says she and her neighbors are bombarded with calls and letters from realtors and potential investors about buying their homes.

“We were once a very stable community of homeowners who bought our homes to live here and pay them off,” she said. That increasingly seems to be changing.

There, as in Halls Hill — also known as High View Park — homes are being changing hands as the older generation passes away and their inheritors decide to sell. Some want to buy in more affordable areas, while others cannot afford to make necessary repairs or take over the mortgages, she said.

“At one time, we were the last affordable neighborhood in Arlington to buy a house in,” said Clark, president of the Green Valley Civic Association. “Investors are buying affordable homes, to tear them down and rebuild or have been building townhomes, condos or homes they are renting out.”

Green Valley and Halls Hill — both historically Black communities — are among a handful of Arlington neighborhoods with higher investment rates, according to a home ownership report published by the county in October. The report analyzed home-ownership market trends and barriers to buying.

The county report looked at the number of home loans for investors versus the total loans lent out for every census tract in Arlington. Pentagon City and Aurora Highlands, Radnor-Fort Myer Heights and Halls Hill had investment rates exceeding 12.5%. Investor purchases made up between 10% and 12.5% of financed purchases in Green Valley and Lyon Park, while other neighborhoods had lower rates of investor interest.

Loans issued to investors in 2021 by neighborhood in Arlington (via Arlington County)

Neighborhoods like Clark’s are have lower owner-occupancy rates and higher rates of property purchased for investment purposes, but overall 86% of Arlingtonians in single-family homes are owners, according to Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

Reasons for higher investment rates vary by neighborhood, per the report. The county attributes investment in Pentagon City and Aurora Highlands to Amazon’s HQ2, and investment in Radnor-Fort Myer Heights to interest in the River Place co-op, where an expiring ground lease makes properties more attractive to investors than to individual homebuyers.

When asked if staff had any guesses as to why Halls Hill, Green Valley and Lyon Park attracted more investors, Moore said the data staff collected was unclear.

Realtor Eli Tucker says these neighborhoods all have “pockets” of less expensive properties, typically multifamily homes, and many of the investors in Arlington are builders. That tracks with Arlington’s consistent rate of homes torn down, rebuilt and sold at a premium.

Tear-down and rebuild trends since 2012 (via Arlington County)

In Halls Hill, Green Valley and Lyon Park, the less expensive options include apartments and smaller duplex and townhouse properties, which often have no or low HOA fees. These neighborhoods also attract renters.

“[These] are very good rental locations and properties, but tend to be passed over more by principal buyers,” he said. “They can generate higher return-on-investment for investors than many other locations and property types that generate a lot more competition from principal buyers.”

Owner-occupancy rates by neighborhood (via Arlington County)

As for River Place, Tucker says it attracts investors whereas most cooperatives tend to restrict investors looking for rental income. The ground lease set to expire in 2052 creates two investor-friendly conditions.

First, the timeline means fewer mortgage options, which means buyers must pay with cash, which favors investors. Second, it means unit values are going down, instead of up.

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File photo

Arlington County police responded to a number of notable incidents over the past few days, including a serious stabbing in Rosslyn.

The alleged stabbing took place in the River Place complex around 1 a.m. Friday.

From yesterday’s ACPD crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 2022-12020042, 1100 block of Arlington Boulevard. At approximately 1:10 a.m. on December 2, police were dispatched to the report of an assault with a weapon. Upon arrival, officers located the male suspect in his apartment and detained him. The male victim was subsequently located in a separate apartment suffering serious, non-life threatening injuries. He was transported to an area hospital for medical treatment. The investigation revealed the known suspect came to the victim’s apartment and a verbal dispute ensued over a missing cell phone. The suspect then entered the victim’s residence and allegedly stole the victim’s electronics. The victim then went to the suspect’s apartment to help locate the missing cell phone. While inside the apartment, the suspect allegedly assaulted the victim with a knife, causing lacerations. The victim was subsequently able to exit the apartment and yell for help. [The suspect], 48, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Malicious Wounding, Abduction and Grand Larceny.

Over the weekend, a group of 3-4 suspects rummaged through cars in several locations in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood, near Pentagon City.

They ended up successfully fleeing from arriving officers in cars stolen from Fairfax County and from Arlington’s Lyon Park neighborhood, according to the crime report.

“The investigation is ongoing,” said ACPD.

VEHICLE TAMPERING (Series), 2022-12040058/12040064/12040068/12040078, 2600 block of S. Lynn Street, 1000 block of 21st Street S., 1000 block of 16th Street, 900 block of N. Cleveland Street. At approximately 6:41 a.m. on December 4, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle tampering in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined the witness allegedly observed three unknown male suspects attempting to open the doors of parked, unoccupied vehicles. The witness yelled at the suspects and they fled the scene in a dark colored sedan. In total, approximately seven vehicles were determined to have been entered and nothing of value was reported stolen at the time of the report. At approximately 7:10 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle tampering in the 1000 block of 16th Street S. While enroute, responding officers observed two vehicles flee the scene at a high rate of speed. The vehicles were later determined to have been stolen out of Fairfax County and one stolen out of the 900 block of N. Cleveland Street described as a black Honda Civic with Virginia License Plate: UBV8712. Five additional vehicles were determined to have been entered and rummaged through.

In today’s crime report, five teens — one adult and four juveniles — are expected to face charges after allegedly breaking into a home in Lyon Park, just south of Clarendon.

The incident happened late Monday morning. Residents of the home were away at the time but saw the break-in happening on a video surveillance system, according to scanner traffic.

More from ACPD:

UNLAWFUL ENTRY, 2022-12050077, 700 block of N. Edgewood Street. At approximately 11:37 a.m. on December 5, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, officers established a perimeter and took an adult male suspect into custody as he exited the home. Officers then observed additional suspects inside the home, gave them commands to exit and took four juveniles into custody. [A suspect], 18, of Alexandria, Va. was arrested and charged with Unlawful Entry and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor. He was held on a $1,000 bond. Petitions were sought for the four juvenile suspects for Unlawful Entry.

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File photo

Police are looking for a group of men who carjacked a man as he was getting out of his car around midnight last night.

The incident happened on the 2700 block of S. Fern Street, a dead-end residential street near a park in the Crystal City area.

Police are now searching for four suspects, including two who allegedly assaulted the man and forcibly took his keys, wallet and cell phone after he refused to turn them over when approached, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

More from ACPD:

CARJACKING, 2022-07170241, 2700 block of S. Fern Street. At approximately 12:07 a.m. on July 18, police were dispatched to the report of a carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the male victim was exiting his parked vehicle when he was approached by the two unknown suspects. The suspects pushed the victim against the vehicle and demanded his belongings. When the victim refused, Suspect One assaulted him and Suspect Two reached into his pockets and stole his car keys, wallet and cell phone. The suspects then pushed the victim out of the way and entered his vehicle, accompanied by two additional suspects, and fled the area at a high rate of speed. Officers canvassed the area for the suspect vehicle yielding negative results.

The last reported carjacking in Arlington happened on July 5.

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Trees in Arlington (staff photo)

A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.

The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.

Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.

“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”

The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.

  • Arlington View
  • Aurora Highlands
  • Buckingham
  • Columbia Heights
  • Glebewood
  • Green Valley
  • John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
  • Long Branch Creek
  • Penrose
  • Radnor/Fort Myer Heights

The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.

“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.

EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.

The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.

Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.

Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.

“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.

Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.

“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”

Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.

But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.

“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.

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A slide from a county presentation showing where a trail would connect Arlington View to Army Navy Drive (via Arlington County)

Nearly 30 years in the making, the Army Navy Country Club Trail Connector is closer to becoming a reality.

Construction on the long-proposed trail, a design for which has not yet been finalized, is expected to begin in spring 2024, officials say. Work could be completed the following spring, according to a recent county presentation.

The path for cyclists and pedestrians would run from a point near Hoffman-Boston Elementary and 13th Road S., in the Arlington View neighborhood, to Army Navy Drive near the I-395 overpass and the entrance to the club. It would provide a new way to get from Columbia Pike to Pentagon City.

The county is seeking community feedback on two preliminary concepts for the trail, which can be provided through the project’s website.

Final design will be completed in spring 2023, then there will be another opportunity for public feedback. By winter 2023, a contract should be awarded and an official construction timeline will be released, Project Manager Mark Dennis said.

Two preliminary concepts are being considered. One features high walls and a steep trail, which could cost $11 million. The other is defined by stairs and a runnel, and could cost $5 million.

A slide depicting one Army Navy Country Club connector trail concept under consideration, featuring high walls and a steep trail (via Arlington County)

This first concept includes a 10-foot-wide, multi-use trail with a steep, 12% slope centered between retaining walls. The walls would run approximately 16 feet apart, and could be up to 16 feet in height.

Further design of Concept 1 would have to address the transition at Memorial Drive — the connector road leading to the club — where cyclists would have limited visibility to react to vehicular traffic.

Dennis compared the high walls and steep trail concept to the Custis Trail, which also has a 12% slope in some sections, he said.

“Any users out there who have taken the Custis Trail, you know what this feels like, it’s a great workout for those who are up to it,” he said. “It can be a little bit of a challenge for people who are just out for a simple walk or just want to get from A to B and not have such a vigorous bike ride.”

The second concept is a series of stairs and landings to manage the steep slope, and would feature a runnel, or wheel channel, for bicycles that could also accommodate strollers or carts.

A slide showing the concept for the Army Navy Country Club trail that features stairs and a runnel (via Arlington County)

Several people raised concerns about accessibility for both concepts. Neither design features a winding, gradual slope, but the county has to work with what it’s got, Dennis said.

“The country club has very carefully considered our previous requests to expand the easement to grant more easement and they have respectfully declined,” Dennis said. “We are limited by the easement that we have and we have sufficient easement to accommodate concepts like the two I’ve presented.”

Those who have followed the project’s iterations may notice the easement’s shape has changed. After Arlington public safety officials rejected the emergency access road idea that was originally part of the project, the path’s endpoint near Hoffman-Boston shifted from S. Queen Street to the other side of the school, near the tennis and basketball courts, Dennis said.

Dennis said the project won’t be “all things to all people,” but the narrow, steep property will probably draw a “sort of self-selecting group of users,” he said.

“We hope it’ll be accessible for anyone who can climb stairs, we hope to be accessible for anyone who rides most kinds of bikes,” he said. “But we’re going to look at that very carefully in design and try our best to accommodate the broadest range of potential users.”

The project has been discussed since the early 90s and overcome many hurdles, including obtaining an easement from the country club, a resulting lawsuit from club members, the elimination of the emergency service road, and delays due to funding constraints.

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A new K-8 private school is preparing to open this fall in a church near Crystal City.

This weekend, the County Board is scheduled to review a use permit letting Vienna-based Veritas Collegiate Academy open a satellite campus at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood at 935 23rd Street S.

The facility, dubbed Veritas Crystal City, would have up to 25 students in grades K-12 and 10 staff members, according to a county report.

The move into Arlington represents an expansion for the Christian liberal arts school, which recently relocated its main campus from Fairfax to a larger site in Vienna. Per its website, Veritas says has been in negotiations with the church for the past year.

“We are very excited to announce that… we have been also pursuing the opening of a campus closer to Washington, D.C.,” the school’s website reads. “I am proud to announce that Veritas National Landing will officially open this fall. Serving the communities of Arlington, Alexandria, and Washington D.C., Veritas… will offer a different campus approach, with more of a unique eclectic city feel.”

Veritas also has three locations in China.

For about 15 years, the church hosted a preschool and kindergarten program called the Potomac Crescent Waldorf School, which has since relocated to Alexandria.

Veritas proposes being open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with school hours from 7:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. and after-school activities until 5 p.m., the report said. Drop-off would start at 7:30 a.m. and pickup would end at 3:15 p.m.

Neighbors can also expect occasional extracurricular events on weekday evenings and Saturdays after 5 p.m.

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(Updated at 5:40 p.m.) A local nonprofit intends to redevelop and add affordable housing for people with disabilities to its property near Crystal City.

Melwood, which connects people with disabilities with public- and private-sector jobs and opportunities, currently runs a workforce development site from the building at 750 23rd Street S., in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood.

It envisions redeveloping the property into a 100% affordable, 104-unit building with about 30 units set aside for people with disabilities. The five-story building would also house workforce development services and community programming.

“This project builds on Melwood’s ongoing commitment to create more inclusive spaces and empower people with disabilities to live, work and thrive in their communities,” the company said in a statement to ARLnow. “By redeveloping the 23rd St. S. property, Melwood and its partners will be addressing another persistent gap for people with disabilities and their path to independence — affordable, accessible housing.”

Melwood took an early step forward by filing an application for a Special General Land Use Plan (GLUP) study this week. The application says the study is needed because the property falls outside of any adopted county sector plan documents.

The Maryland-based nonprofit — which has operated in Northern Virginia for many years — acquired the Arlington property during its merger in 2017 with Linden Resources, a local nonprofit that similarly provided employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Melwood says it began discussing options for the site with community members and stakeholders in 2020.

“From these conversations, Melwood heard the community’s strong interest in leveraging its facility to support affordable housing in addition to Melwood’s existing program offerings,” which currently support about 500 Arlington residents, the nonprofit said.

The proposed apartment building will address the “significant need” for independent, affordable housing for Arlington residents with disabilities, Melwood says, adding that in 2019, 22% of locals with disabilities lived under the poverty line and couldn’t afford housing.

Melwood requests that the county change the land-use designation from “public” to “low-medium” residential uses so that the property can eventually be rezoned for apartments, according to a letter from Catharine Puskar, a land use attorney representing the nonprofit.

The privately owned property is designated for public uses because, until 1981, the building operated as the former Nellie Custis School.

After the school closed, Arlington County swapped the Aurora Highlands property for a parcel near the Ballston Metro station with Sheltered Occupational Center of Northern Virginia, another work center for people with disabilities, the letter said. As part of the land swap, the county gave the center a special permit to operate on land zoned for public uses.

The two parcels comprising Melwood’s Arlington property at 750 23rd Street S. (via Arlington County)

The property includes the tiny, .8-acre Nelly Custis Park. Long before the current iteration of the park was built, a project some objected to, the occupational center had to grant to the county an open space easement for a public park as part of the land swap.

The public easement and the park will stay, but Melwood is allowed to use the parcel to calculate how many units can fit in its proposed apartment building, Puskar said.

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