Arlington, VA

Though they may not share the same zip code, Arlington’s Crystal City and Alexandria’s Potomac Yard are bound together in the pursuit for Amazon’s second headquarters — and, win or lose on HQ2, the area’s business community is looking to strengthen those ties in the future.

Four Mile Run may separate the two neighborhoods, but real estate giant JBG Smith controls vast swaths of property in both neighborhoods, helping the company pitch Amazon on the area’s potential. With Potomac Yard becoming a development hub for the city, and Crystal City’s commercial office space emptying out a bit, the combination could be enticing enough to win out over the region’s other offerings.

“They had the largest [space] requirement we’ve seen in economic development, ever,” Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said during Bisnow’s “Future of Alexandria” event today (Thursday). “But there is enough square footage here to absorb that company and their requirement.”

Undeniably, Jeff Bezos’ big decision looms over any discussion of the area’s future. But, as Landrum points out, the same factors that made Crystal City and Potomac Yard attractive to Amazon will surely be enticing to other big companies.

“If we can’t get it, we turn around and ask the next Fortune 100 company about their expansion plans,” Landrum said.

That’s a big part of why business leaders are increasingly keen on unity among the various communities along the Potomac River.

Rob Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, points out this organization has embraced Potomac Yard as it courts new companies, and even started to market Pentagon City in conjunction with those neighborhoods as well.

Though the areas may not be especially connected now, with transit and walkability a constant challenge, Mandle points out that, taken together, the combination of the three neighborhoods represents “the largest downtown in the entire commonwealth.”

He notes that, in terms of sheer size, the trio rivals downtown areas in mid-size cities like Indianapolis or Austin, Texas — and with the area still hurting from its loss of federal tenants, straining county coffers in the process, he’s hoping a more interconnected pitch can make a difference.

“We’re really working to articulate that to the marketplace,” Mandle said. “We see it as this seamless urban corridor between Braddock Road and Pentagon City.”

Robert Vaughn, vice president of development at JBG Smith, noted that such a connection certainly makes sense for his company.

Much of JBG’s property in Potomac Yard is residential, and he sees its “target renter” as being anywhere from 25 to 35 years old, likely working at the Pentagon or for some other government contractor based in Arlington (perhaps even in one of JBG’s commercial properties in Crystal City).

Rosslyn-Ballston corridor has traditionally been the prime area drawing in millenials interested in walkable, transit-oriented communities. That’s why Vaughn expects a similar focus on walkability could help the new combination of Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City become attractive to that very lucrative constituency instead.

“Even though we’re all tied to our phones, we don’t want to just sit and look at our phones in our living rooms all day,” said Bill Dickinson, executive director of brokerage at Rappaport, another large regional developer. “It’s about creating space to get people out there.”

Photo via McCaffrey Interests, Inc.

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Morning Notes

Local Parties to Hold Debate Watching Parties — Local Republicans and Democrats will be holding viewing parties for the first of the 2012 presidential debates tonight. The Arlington Republican viewing party will be held at Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon (3100 Clarendon Blvd). The Arlington Democratic viewing party will be held at Bailey’s Pub & Grille in Ballston (4238 Wilson Blvd).

Parents Say Bus Changes Are Taking a Toll — Students are not performing as well academically and at least one mom lost her job as a result of changes to the County’s school bus policies, according to a group of parents. Parents of Campbell Elementary students are planning to carpool — to Thursday’s School Board meeting, to voice their concerns. [WTOP]

More Local BRAC Moves Coming — According to one estimate, government agencies with leases expiring between now and 2015 as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act occupy more than 4.5 million square feet of office space in Arlington and Alexandria. The BRAC move-outs are impacting the bottom line of some commercial property holders. Vornado, with office space in Arlington and Fairfax County, expects earnings to be down as much as $60 million as a result of BRAC. [Bloomberg]

Church Series on ‘Restoring Political Civility’ — The Rock Spring Congregational United Church of Christ (5010 Little Falls Road) will be holding a four-part series that will “discuss how citizenship is a responsibility rather than a privilege, and how to restore civility to the political process.” [Sun Gazette]

Flickr pool photo by Keithhall

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Morning Notes

Wienermobile Spotted in Arlington — The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was spotted yesterday afternoon at the entrance to Bluemont Park (above). No word yet on what it was doing there.

Vornado Hurt By BRAC — Vornado Realty Trust, one of the primary commercial landlords in the Crystal City area, is hurting due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. The company is currently “staring down the barrel of nearly 2.4 million square feet of vacant space” as the U.S. military continues to move offices and departments from leased buildings to forts and other owned properties.. [Washington Business Journal]

One Handgun a Month Law Repealed — Yesterday Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) made it official and signed a bill that repeals the state’s 19-year-old “One Handgun a Month” law. In response, Rep. Jim Moran (D) said in a statement: “Today Virginia retreated from sensible gun control policy… The repeal of this law will return Virginia to being the nation’s number one gun-running state, putting more guns into the hands of criminals and traffickers.”

Hotels Gouging For Inauguration? — Booking a room in Arlington for Inauguration Day 2013 is going to cost you. Hotels have already jacked up prices in anticipation of the crush of visitors to the D.C. area for the inauguration. TBD.com compiled a list of notable examples, and found $479 per night rooms at the Rosslyn Hyatt, $399 per night rooms at the Ballston Comfort Inn, and $299 per night rooms at the Lee Highway EconoLodge.

Courtesy photo

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Efforts by residents to reduce traffic headaches in the Barcroft neighborhood appear to have paid off. Residents report that the increase in shuttle buses for government workers affected by BRAC has diminished the number of cars clogging the neighborhood.

In July, we reported about resident concerns over an additional 1,200 workers flooding the Barcroft neighborhood due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. People living in the area were concerned about workers parking on the streets and dangerous traffic congestion on George Mason Drive. They appealed to Rep. Jim Moran for help.

Moran asked that the plan for shuttle buses between Arlington Hall and the Pentagon Center be expedited to ease the traffic burden, and shuttles started running on September 6. Now, residents report this action has helped improve traffic conditions and safety over the past few months.

“I believe the diligent work by Congressman Moran’s office and the determination of our neighbors to make clear boundaries really paid off,” said Barcroft School and Civic League President Pat Williamson.

Williamson says although there’s still some congestion along George Mason during the morning rush, the situation is much improved and she hasn’t received any new complaints from neighbors.

“The new Arlington Hall shuttle bus service is a testament to the impact of an engaged, active community,” Moran said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Barcroft residents, Arlington Hall employees and the Defense Department to smooth out any wrinkles caused by BRAC.”

Also being credited is the increase in Metrobus service along the route. WMATA had previously promised to increase the frequency of 22A buses, and as of this week, added additional stops to the route.

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(Updated at 2:00 p.m.) If you manage a 40-year-old office building in Rosslyn, what do you when your sole office tenant — the Department of Defense — packs up and moves most of its offices to Ft. Belvoir (and elsewhere)?

Renovate, renovate, renovate.

That’s the plan announced by real estate firm Penzance earlier this week for its 17-story office tower at 1500 Wilson Boulevard. Most of the building, minus ground-level retailers like Santa Fe Cafe and a couple of lower floors, will be vacated next year thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure Act, and Penzance is planning to spruce things up.

“Future improvements will include the renovation of the building’s main entrance, main lobby, elevator lobbies, restrooms, elevator cabs and mechanical systems, as well as HVAC improvements,” the company said in a press release.

“1500 Wilson is coming to the market at the right moment and with the added benefit of a multi-million dollar renovation,” said Penzance executive Matt Pacinelli. “We are offering one of the only large blocks of space available in Rosslyn, and at a significant discount to the market rents typically seen in the newer towers.”

Penzance is also trying to talk up the 200,000 square feet of office space by describing the benefits of a Rosslyn address.

“Prominently situated at the intersection of Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards, the 249,000 square-foot building serves as a gateway to the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and features stunning panoramic views from its 17-story vantage point,” the company said.

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Morning Notes

BRAC Not Too Bad, After All — Today is the deadline for the transfer of military offices affected by the Base Realignment and Closure Act. By today, 17,000 jobs were supposed to have moved out of Arlington County (mostly Crystal City) and into secure military installations like Ft. Belvoir. But in the end, the feared deadline is coming and going “with little fanfare.” The Associated Press reports that 10,000 of the 17,000 BRACed jobs are still here and expected to remain through as late as 2014, thanks to extensions granted by the Department of Defense. [Washington Post]

Pumpkins Arrive in Clarendon — The first pumpkins of the season showed up yesterday at the Clarendon Farmers Market. [Clarendon Culture]

Artisphere Called ‘Sad,’ Lonely — The designated art critic for the Clarendon-Courthouse-Rosslyn Patch says he was disappointed by Artisphere on his first visit. “I noticed an immediate loneliness to the place, a sad emptiness,” he wrote. The critic went on to recommend “more traditional” art galleries, in addition to Artisphere’s more modern, avant-garde exhibits. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by Runneralan2004

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Shuttle buses are now running between the Pentagon and the National Guard Readiness Center (Arlington Hall), in a move that officials hope will help alleviate some of the traffic burden in the Barcroft neighborhood.

In July we reported that Barcroft residents were concerned about the influx of an additional 1,200 workers, whose jobs were being moved to Arlington Hall as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Congestion on George Mason Drive was part of the concern, and the fact that parking is only available for one in four new workers was another part. In response, Rep. Jim Moran requested that the military speed up approval of shuttle buses between the facility and the Pentagon Transit Center.

On Aug. 19, Moran’s office was notified that the shuttle service had been approved. Today, those shuttle buses started running, according to Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes.

Adding service between Arlington Hall and the Pentagon will “undoubtedly reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles commuting to and parking near the bureau facility,” Moran said in July.

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Residents concerned about the influx of 1,200 government workers into the Barcroft neighborhood could see the addition of a shuttle to ease traffic congestion, if Rep. Jim Moran gets his way.

The Army National Guard had put in a request for shuttle service to the Pentagon Transit Center from Arlington Hall Station, but so far the additional service has not been granted.  Moran has now asked the Director of the Washington Headquarter Service to expedite the request.

The Arlington Hall Station shuttle already provides service from nearby Metro train stops to the National Guard facility. However, it currently doesn’t have access to the Pentagon Transit Center, despite a request for service in June 2009. Moran says that adding service between the Arlington Hall Station and the Pentagon will “undoubtedly reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles commuting to and parking near the bureau facility.”

There’s been an effort to come up with additional public transportation around Arlington Hall as 1,200 workers pour in due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act.  A parking structure was built to accommodate the added workers, but there is only one parking space for every four employees.

Residents have been petitioning for help to prevent commuters from Arlington Hall from spilling over into residential neighborhoods.  Also of concern is the potentially dangerous congestion on George Mason Drive near the complex.

BRAC coordinators are encouraging the new workers to use public transportation instead of driving, and are working with WMATA to increase the frequency of 22A buses in the area.  The addition of a shuttle from Arlington Hall Station to the Pentagon Transit Center would provide another transportation option for commuters, particularly those who use Metro trains.

Commuters who use WMATA’s 22A buses to Arlington Hall will pay the regular public bus fare. However, if the request for a shuttle to the Pentagon Transit Center goes through, Moran’s office says that service would be free to riders because it is provided by the Department of Defense.

 

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Barcroft residents are carefully watching the influx of some 1,200 government workers into their neighborhood as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Some neighbors are calling for action to mitigate what they claim are dangerous and disruptive traffic conditions.

The personnel are being added to the Army National Guard Readiness Center, in the Arlington Hall complex, at George Mason Drive and Route 50. Many of them are coming from Crystal City offices, but only a couple hundred have made the move so far. The bulk of staff members are expected to arrive mid-July. This flood of workers has some residents in surrounding neighborhoods worried about an increase in parking and traffic issues.

Although a new parking structure was built to accommodate the additional workers, per the National Capital Planning Commission’s specifications there is only one parking spot for every four workers. That’s creating concern about where all the new employees will park. There are already reports of more cars parked in neighboring residential areas, and residents would like to see that stop.

BRAC Project Coordinator Andrea Morris says she understands the parking issues. She is working with District 3 to increase patrols in the area to ticket anyone parked illegally on residential streets. The problem, according to Morris, is that most of the Barcroft neighborhood does not have zone parking restrictions, so there’s nothing to stop workers from using the vacant spots.

“It’s not a popular answer, it’s not one that is going to get a lot of rave reviews, but unfortunately, it happens to be a fact,” Morris said. “It’s a very, very hard statement for me to make because I hear their concerns.”

Morris says BRAC has partnered with WMATA to increase the frequency of the 22A buses, starting in August. That line should alleviate some of the parking headaches, because it is planned to work as a shuttle for the government workers and not to stop at every point along the bus line.

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Thanks to the Base Realignment and Closure Act, Chris and Carrie Arnold were forced to move themselves and their two young children from their 1,000 square foot Arlington condo to Huntsville, Alabama.

According to a local newspaper, the couple is glad they moved.

“It’s easier to breathe down here,” Chris Arnold told the Huntsville Times. “There’s more space, and it’s not that same kind of pressure on your chest as you have when you’re in a heavily populated area… D.C. was a concrete jungle.”

Arnold, who works for the Missile Defense Agency, says he’s also happy to live “somewhere that was more family-friendly, a place with a yard, a place where people wouldn’t look at you funny if you left work at 5 p.m.”

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Morning Notes

Report on BRAC Impacts — With the Base Realignment and Closure Act-mandated relocation of Defense Department offices delayed, BRAC’s impact on Arlington County will be eased considerably, according to a new report from real estate services firm Jones Lang LaSalle. The report presents the drain of DoD offices from Crystal City and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as a chance for building owners to update and redevelop. “If anything, we see this as an opportunity for Arlington County -as a whole – to reinvent itself somewhat, to update older inventory, and to cement its place as the leading submarket in the Metro D.C. area,” the report said. [Citybizlist]

Wakefield Groundbreaking Scheduled — The public is invited to attend a groundbreaking for the new Wakefield High School next week. The groundbreaking will take place at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 9, outside the Aquatics Center. Construction of the new 380,000 square foot building is expected to begin next month, with students expected to start using the building in the fall of 2013. [Arlington Public Schools]

Leeway Overlee Community Day and Yard Sale — The 33rd annual Leeway Overlee Community Day and Yard sale will be held along the John Marshall/Ohio Street greenway from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. “About 100 local families and other vendors offer a wide range of items for sale, including plants, clothes, sports equipment, and furniture,” organizers say. [Craigslist]

Don Quixote OpeningSynetic Theater’s production of Don Quixote will have its opening night Saturday in Crystal City (1800 South Bell Street). The show starts at 8:00 p.m. The production runs through July 3.

Flickr pool photo by Mark C. White

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