Press Club

Virginia Hospital Center’s under-construction outpatient center has reached a new milestone.

After installing more than 2,000 steel beams, workers recently put in place the beam that tops the building’s highest point, project manager Skanska announced yesterday (Monday).

The installation “topped out” the 7-story facility adjacent to VHC’s campus at 1701 N. George Mason Drive. Representatives from Skanska, VHC and the construction company commemorated the milestone by signing this steel beam.

The hospital expects the outpatient pavilion to be complete in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to its project webpage.

“The topping-out milestone demonstrates the significant progress we have made on this important project with our final goal of providing a facility that will offer state-of-the-art care for patients in Northern Virginia,” said Dale Kopnitsky, general manager and executive vice president responsible for Skanska’s D.C. area building operations.

In mid- to late-January, Skanska expects to complete the structure of the facility, while the enclosure of the building has begun and will continue through the second quarter of 2022, a company representative said. Next month, work will begin on the interior and that will continue until December 2022.

The project, which includes a recently completed parking garage, was narrowly approved by the Arlington County Board in 2018 amid objections from some nearby residents. The 245,000-square-foot outpatient facility will feature physical and aquatic therapy rooms, an outpatient lab and pharmacy, surgery and endoscopy treatment rooms, and women’s imaging suites. After the move, the hospital will be able to add about 100 beds to its existing building.

The newly finished, 1,600-car parking garage includes three below-grade levels and six above-grade levels, as well as an indoor walkway connecting to the hospital.

A time-lapse video shows progress on the building through early summer.

Earlier this year a handful of families in the area told ARLnow they were dealing with discolored water, which they attributed to ongoing construction at VHC. Community leaders said at the time that the response to the “mini-Flint-like issue” — a reference to the Michigan city’s large-scale water crisis — had been frustratingly slow.

In response, Arlington County and VHC said they were working to resolve the discoloration, which they tied to the installation of a new water main.

Last month, Virginia Hospital Center purchased for $34.5 million a building at 1760 Old Meadow Road in McLean, where it will set up an orthopedic outpatient surgery center, Washington Business Journal reported.

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Two Arlington Public Schools programs offering alternatives to traditional high school will soon be housed in the same building.

New Directions Alternative Program, currently located in the Thurgood Marshall Building in Clarendon, will join the Langston High School Continuation Program located in the Langston-Brown Community Center along Lee Highway before the start of the 2021-22 school year.

“We are moving New Directions from the Marshall Building to Langston this summer,” said APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. “This is an efficiency for us since many New Directions staff work at Langston.”

New Directions helps students who have trouble in traditional school settings, need strict monitoring or are under court supervision, according to APS. Students successfully exit the program by graduating, returning to their home high school or transferring to the High School Continuation Program at Langston.

One person who contacted ARLnow questioned whether the new location will be a downgrade for students.

“The program diligently serves justice-involved youth, teaching them to reconnect with the Arlington community while achieving their high school diplomas,” the person wrote. “The location has always been important to their success through partnerships with multiple establishments in Clarendon.”

The building at 2847 Wilson Blvd is privately owned and rented to APS. It also houses the Employee Assistance Program, which provides free, confidential, professional assistance and counseling to APS and county employees and their families.

“EAP will remain in there for a little while longer,” Bellavia said.

Arlington County has a little under four years left on its eight-year lease, said realtor Bill Buck, who has already started marketing the space to potential renters on behalf of Steve Woodell, the owner.

Woodell, who runs a funeral home in Alexandria, has owned the building since 1979, when it was Ives Funeral Home. APS moved in about 21 years ago, he said.

Buck said Langston “is a better facility for the students” and he is happy for the students moving buildings.

“[EAP] will likely also leave before the end of the term,” Buck said. “What’s going to happen in the future, I don’t know. We have had interest from people that wanted to build an office building there, but the county would like to see retail on the first floor.”

Buck said he would like to see the space turned into a 100,000-square foot affordable housing building — not an office or retail space that would contribute to the glut of such amenities in Clarendon.

“I think it’d be great for affordable housing,” Buck said.

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A major redevelopment proposal in Rosslyn is facing pushback from those who think it doesn’t do enough for cyclists and pedestrians.

McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is proposing a 27-story mixed-use residential complex with 424 units at 1901 N. Moore Street, replacing the 1960s-era RCA building. Two towers will be connected at the top by a penthouse and at the base with ground floor retail.

But as the project moves through the public review process, some have expressed concerns a number of transportation-related issues: the proposed unprotected bike lanes along 19th Street N., the project’s parking ratio, and the pedestrian experience along the block.

These three topics are likely to resurface during a follow-up Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, March 15 — and perhaps later this spring, when the project will go before the Planning Commission and the County Board.

“We’ve been identifying issues, responding to citizen comments, and having very good discussions with surrounding community groups,” said Andrew Painter, an attorney with land use firm Walsh Colucci, during the first SPRC meeting last month.

Staff members are considering some protections for the proposed 19th Street bike lanes in response to public input.

“It may be possible to provide an additional level of protection in one direction” on the block from N. Lynn to N. Moore streets, said Principal Planner Dennis Sellin, adding that staffers “don’t see the capacity to do it in both directions.”

Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said 19th Street N. has enough traffic to qualify it for protected or buffered bike lanes.

Another hot issue was the parking ratio of .625 spaces per residential unit. Jefferson is proposing 290 total spaces, split among 265 residential spaces, 15 retail and 10 visitor spaces, according to a staff report.

“The goal is to right-size the garage to meet the market demand but not provide extra that incentivizes people to drive,” Painter said.

Although the proposal is within county guidelines, Sellin said “we would certainly accept a lower ratio.” The minimum is .2 spaces per unit but the lowest Sellin said he has seen proposed is .38 spaces per unit.

North Rosslyn Civic Association representative Terri Prell said people, particularly the elderly, still need cars for tasks such as grocery shopping.

“You have to understand this is a residential community, not a business community,” she said.

Lowering the ratio would attract people who want to lead a car-free lifestyle, Slatt said, asking for data on space utilization rates.

The parking needs to be built partially above ground due to “particularly dense rock” and Metro tunnels. To conceal the parking above the retail and below the residential units — and add public art — the architect is exploring adding graphics by local artists, said architect Shalom Baranes.

The Metro tunnels add another complication: a longer expected demolition process.

As for the pedestrian experience, some members were concerned that the block will be too long and there will be no opportunities for cutting through it. Sellin said the block is comparable to others at 400 feet long.

SPRC Chair Sara Steinberger said knowing the length “may not change the community’s feelings on what feels like a longer stretch of block when you have large buildings covering a greater area.”

In 2017, Weissberg Investment Corp., which developed the RCA building in the 1960s, filed plans to redevelop the RCA site — but those plans were put on hold indefinitely in 2018. Jefferson started filing application materials in May 2020.

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