The pandemic has moved office work to the home. As at least some of that work moves back to office buildings, the next frontier might be outdoors.
In Arlington, a recently-renovated 1980s office building in Courthouse offers a glimpse of a greener office future, with a year-round outdoor working space.
The new 16,000-square foot landscaped outdoor plaza at 2000 15th Street N. — the centerpiece of a $11 million renovation project — is the largest outdoor plaza of any office building in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, according to American Real Estate Partners (AREP).
“The renovated plaza, wired for connectivity, extends the office to the outdoors, offering all-season, year-round use as a work and meeting space, and provides a spectacular backdrop to the indoor conference and amenity spaces, creating an urban oasis,” said Paul Schulman, AREP’s Principal and Chief Operating Officer.
The group says the renovation will help tenants coax employees back to the office with new experiences and stronger health features, such as air filters and purifiers. Experts say such projects are the latest examples of how incorporating natural elements into built environments can improve employees’ health while promoting environmental stewardship.
COVID-19 has altered many people’s work and personal habits, and these changes are likely to stick around, according to a Post-Schar poll released this summer. Three-quarters of respondents said they’ll spend more time outside, two-thirds said they’d wear comfortable clothing more often, and nearly 70% said they’d wear a mask when sick.
People and offices are adapting to these behavioral changes, in part, by working outdoors — or by bringing elements of the outdoors inside — and focusing on wellness measures.
Meanwhile, new office projects here boast natural elements — such as Amazon HQ2’s water- and mountain-inspired “Helix” building — and wellness, such as Skanska’s new office project near Quincy Park, which has been recognized for its focus on health and well-being.
The seeds for natural, “biophilic” design elements were planted decades ago, says Dr. Gregory Unruh, an expert on sustainable business strategy in George Mason University’s School of Integrative Studies. It took a pandemic and the right technology to get people to rethink their work environments and to see nature integrated into offices.
“There’s something about us having a connection with the world,” he said. “Before the conversation around ‘biophilia’ existed, there was scientific research that suggested if you give people windows with a view of nature, they tend to be more productive, happier and less sick.”
Other research demonstrated that, without outdoor air circulating in and with the synthetic materials in carpets, paints and cleaning supplies, indoor office spaces had poorer air quality than the outdoors, despite the gas-burning cars and other pollution sources outside.
COVID-19 connected these issues, Unruh says. Building owners outfitted indoor spaces with machines that regularly bring outdoor air inside while people spent more time outdoors.
Although employees and employers realized that remote work could be as productive as in-person work, they still recognized the need for interpersonal collaboration — a need he says the rise of outdoor working spaces will meet.
“These collaborative outdoor spaces are going to play a role,” Unruh said. “These initial experiments we see in Arlington are very encouraging, and I think they enhance the working life and community life of people.”
Integrating nature into workplaces could encourage environmental stewardship among more people, says Elenor Hodges, the Executive Director of EcoAction Arlington.
The biophilic elements at 2000 15th Street N. and other under-construction projects support the environment in addition to workers, she says. Additional trees improve stormwater management and green roofs keep the county cooler.
Particularly in urban areas, she said, strengthening one’s connection to nature is important for encouraging sustainable habits.
“People need to see nature in order to understand the importance of stewarding it,” she said.
She notes that the county-level conversations about biophilic design, still in their infancy, are pandemic-driven.
“We’ve seen at County Board meeting people raising these questions [about biophilia],” she said. “I don’t think that would have happened before the pandemic.”
Ballston Building to Be Renovated — “Arlington’s Monday Properties has made two new office building acquisitions as it banks on workers across the market returning to their offices in the coming months. The commercial property owner and developer has purchased the former home of CACI International’s headquarters, Three Ballston Plaza at 1100 N. Glebe Rd. — for $118 million. The 330,000-square-foot property, one of the most prominent in Ballston, will get a Gensler-designed renovation to help it compete in the modern commercial office environment.” [Washington Business Journal]
Rescued Dog Seeking New Home — “[Several] weeks ago, a young, mixed breed dog was rescued after being trapped between two fences alongside I-395. Since then, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which renamed the dog “Benito,” has been helping him feel happier and more confident. ‘We were unable to find Benito’s owner, so he’s looking for a new family to call his own.'” [Patch]
Local Shops Offer ‘Passport’ — “On Small Business Saturday 2021, November 27th, Arlington and Falls Church shoppers will get a chance to participate in a shopping ‘Passport’ program to discover unique shops, find deals, keep their shopping dollars local and be eligible to win prizes. Led by One More Page Books, the Passport enables shoppers who are looking to participate in the national #shoplocal effort to easily discover small businesses near them.” [Press Release]
MLK Contest for Students Now Open — “Arlington Public Schools students are invited to take part in the annual ‘Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Literary and Visual Contest.’ Entries are due by 5 p.m. Thu, Dec. 16.” [Arlington Public Schools]
VFW Post in Va. Square Profiled — “7News’ Ashlie Rodriguez discovered a little-known secret, tucked away in Arlington, Virginia, where hundreds of veterans gather, swap stories, share memories, and find a place of refuge. Here’s a look inside the John Lyon VFW Post 3150.” [WJLA]
State Tax Coffers Are Overflowing — “Virginia budget officials say they’ve never seen anything like it — more than $13 billion in additional state revenues this year and in the next two fiscal years. The House Appropriations Committee projects a $3.5 billion increase in revenue above the current forecast in the fiscal year that began July 1, based on higher pending forecasts of state income tax and other revenues in the pair of budgets that Gov. Ralph Northam will present to the General Assembly next month.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
It’s Thursday — Today will start off sunny and warm, with a high near 73, before a rainy evening. Southwest wind 7 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Sunrise at 6:54 a.m. and sunset at 4:52 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, breezy and cooler, with a high near 50. Northwest wind 10 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. [Weather.gov]
Candidate Questioned About Age — “Arlington County Board candidate Audrey Clement, who previously told news outlets that she is in her early 50s, appears to be two decades older, according to government records. When asked about the discrepancy, Clement, a perennial candidate who largely has self-funded her independent campaigns for local office, said that asking for her age amounted to discrimination and violated her right to privacy.” [Washington Post]
Road Closures for Biden Event — “On Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, President Joe Biden will attend a special event at Virginia Highlands Park, located at 1600 S. Hayes Street in Arlington. The event will take place from 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. The public can anticipate large crowds and increased pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the area related to the event… All road closures are anticipated to be lifted by 10 p.m.” [ACPD]
DARPA Building Sold — “The home of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is under new ownership. An affiliate of Cleveland-based Boyd Watterson Asset Management has acquired the 13-story, 355,000-square-foot building at 675 N. Randolph St. in Ballston for $196.5 million, according to public records. An affiliate of the Shooshan Cos., which developed the building a decade ago, was the seller.” [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Name Change Celebration — “It’s now been 101 years, but that’s not going to stop the Arlington County government from celebrating the 100th anniversary of its current name. County officials expect to hold a celebration of the switch from ‘Alexandria County’ to ‘Arlington County’ on Friday, Nov. 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Lubber Run Community Center.” [Sun Gazette]
Marymount to Promote ‘Racial Healing’ — “In the latest example of Marymount University’s commitment to raising awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion issues, the institution has been selected by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to host a new Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center.” [Marymount University]
County Seeking Design Award Nominees — “Arlington County’s biennial design awards program, DESIGNArlington, is accepting submissions for great design in architectural, historic preservation, landscape and public art projects through December 6, 2021.” [Arlington County]
It’s Tuesday — It’s going to be a windy day. A slight chance of showers between 8am and noon today. Partly sunny, with a high near 65 and a northwest wind 10 to 15 mph increasing to 18 to 23 mph in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 37 mph into the evening hours. Sunrise at 7:29 a.m. and sunset at 6:14 p.m. Tomorrow it will be mostly sunny, with a high near 68 and more gusty winds.
Lockheed Downsizes Arlington Presence — “Lockheed Martin Corp. has re-upped its Crystal City presence, but for less space. The nation’s largest government contractor renewed its lease at 2121 Crystal Drive, but for only 180,000 square feet, downsizing from 220,000 square feet, according to CBRE. That 18% contraction accounts for one floor of the 12-story, 505,000-square-foot office building.” [Washington Business Journal]
More Office Interest in Ballston — “It’s masks on as Mark Witschorik readies for another tour at Ballston Exchange. The 783,000-square-foot office complex at the heart of the Arlington neighborhood was once the home of the National Science Foundation, but since it left in 2017, developer Jamestown has worked to bring new office users into the building… Witschorik, Jamestown’s senior vice president of asset management, says things are picking up.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Man Sentenced in Child Porn Case — “An Arlington man was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for production and receipt of child pornography… According to court documents, Abraham Razook, 43, admitted to sexually exploiting a prepubescent minor on multiple occasions and producing videos of this abuse.” [Dept. of Justice]
German Struggles at APS Abate — “Arlington school officials say they’re hoping to be back on track by the end of the month to address yet another crisis that popped up at the start of the school system – the lack of a teacher to instruct students in certain German-language classes. The educator who instructed the classes was among those who left the school system at the start of the school year, requiring some students taking German to receive instruction online as a stopgap measure. That provoked a furor among some impacted students and their parents.” [Sun Gazette]
Greystar Real Estate Partners is proposing to turn the 0.57-acre lot about a block from the Courthouse Metro station into a 16-story apartment building, with up to 231 residential units and 4,000 square feet of retail.
Through Thursday, Sept. 16, residents can comment on land use — whether the building should be used for apartments or offices — as well as building size, architecture, transportation and open space.
Initially, the project was set to be an office building, proposed by the former developer, Carr Properties. After receiving the County Board’s go-ahead in 2015, the fast food spot was demolished in 2016 but the office building never materialized. The vacant lot has instead been used as a staging area for 2000 Clarendon, a condo project across the street.
A Greystar representative said in a presentation that Carr could not secure a tenant for the office building. So the new developer has turned to apartments instead.
“While a conversion from office to residential use will always require some changes to a building, we took a fresh look at the previously approved project, while changing it to fit a residential floor plan and adding a modest amount of additional height,” the representative said.
For the new project, the county and Greystar are interested in feedback on the architecture.
Greystar and architect Cooper Carry liken the building to a ship, said county planner Adam Watson. At the “prow,” pointing west towards N. Courthouse Road, an “angular glass vessel” set on marble-clad columns will rise above the plaza, while the façades along Clarendon and Wilson Blvd will feature red brick, he said.
“We really look forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on what you’d like to see in terms of signature gateway architecture at the site,” he said.
A 1,497-square-foot public pedestrian plaza will sit under the columns, at the intersection of Courthouse Road, Wilson Blvd, and Clarendon Blvd. Greystar is looking to fill the retail space with a restaurant that can use the plaza for outdoor dining, according to a spokesman.
Below ground, the new project includes a parking ratio of .32 spaces per unit, for a total of 74 spaces for residents, but no retail parking, according to a staff presentation. There will be 252 secure bicycle parking spaces and eight visitor spaces.
At 16 stories and 165.5 feet tall, the project clocks in much taller than recommended maximum of 10 stories in the Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study. But Greystar has a plan for securing its desired height and density.
The project includes a 104,789 square foot transfer of development rights from Wakefield Manor, a small garden-apartment complex less than a half-mile from the proposed development. The housing on N. Courthouse Road — featuring art deco and moderne design elements — has a historic easement, according to the county.
After the comment period ends, the county expects to hold virtual site plan review committee meetings in October and November. Dates for commission meetings and a final approval from the County Board have yet to be determined.
The site, at 3901 N. Fairfax Drive, is an undeveloped parcel near Quincy Park currently operating as a temporary parking lot. Skanska intends to build an office building with ground-floor retail and a public plaza.
Construction work, including mobilization and site prep, will begin later this month, a spokeswoman said. Excavation and drilling activities will begin in early October. Skanska expects to finish the project in 2023.
Breaking ground will be the first action the site has seen in nearly a decade. It used to be home to a funeral home that was demolished to make way for a development. The project languished until the property was purchased by Skanska in 2019.
“Our proximity to Ballston’s vibrant urban community, a variety of transit options, and Arlington’s concentrated talent pool will make the office building an exciting and attractive business environment,” said Mark Carroll, the executive vice president of Skanska.
Once completed, 3901 Fairfax will have 191,000 square feet of office space, as well as 10,000 square feet of retail space and an 8,000-square foot public plaza.
“Designed in collaboration with Arlington County and the surrounding community, the plaza design differentiates 3901 from other mixed-use office developments in the region by prioritizing access to outdoor green space, community engagement and programming,” the company said.
Tenants will have access to a rooftop conference center that can fit 100 people and will feature a catering kitchen and expansive rooftop deck. There will be private outdoor space on certain floors, a ground-level fitness center and three levels of below-grade parking with electric car charging stations.
The project is targeting LEED Gold and WiredScore certifications, related to sustainability and digital connectivity, respectively. According to Skanska, the project became the first in the D.C. area to be recognized by the International WELL Building Institute for its focus on health and well-being.
“Our team’s vision is to bring a new caliber of office space into a post-COVID world that is committed to meeting and exceeding the highest health, safety, and sustainability standards,” Carroll said.
Northam Declares State of Emergency — “Governor Ralph Northam today declared a state of emergency to respond to impacts from Tropical Depression Ida, which is expected to cause heavy rains and flooding along the I-81 and I-66 corridors. Localities in the southwest region have already experienced heavy rainfall in recent days, leading to flash floods and complicating storm preparation efforts. In addition to the flood threat, there is also a risk of tornadoes across the Commonwealth.” [Gov. Ralph Northam]
Jail to Distribute Fentanyl Tests — “Beginning September 1, 2021, Arlington County will begin to distribute fentanyl test strips to individuals being released from incarceration. This new effort is in response to rising overdose numbers.” [Arlington County]
Pike Apartment Building Sold — “Zurich Alternative Asset Management has sold Siena Park, a 188-unit multifamily community in Arlington, Va., for $80.1 million. The property includes 33,602 square feet of retail and 17,373 square feet of office space. Located at 2301 Columbia Pike, Siena Park is just 15 minutes from Washington, D.C.” [Commercial Observer]
Marymount Testing VR Headsets — “Eric Bubar, a Marymount associate professor of physics, has led 3D printing projects and testing for face masks and other polymer-based personal protective equipment. But more recently, the professor… is working with three other science faculty members to develop virtual reality technology for Marymount chemistry students to take lab classes remotely — and, perhaps in the future, for physical therapy patients.” [Washington Business Journal]
Local Catholic Org Seeking Help with Refugees — “Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, diocesan Catholic Charities has issued a plea for resources to support Afghan refugees resettling in Virginia as the Taliban’s rapid resurgence prompted Afghan translators and others who assisted U.S. military forces to flee the country along with their families… Catholic Charities has prioritized finding properties for rent in Fredericksburg, Sterling and Woodbridge, as the agency hopes to place the Afghans near family and friends in the area.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]
It’s National Preparedness Month — “It’s a situation everyone has experienced: The media and public safety agencies warn of an impending storm, chance of power outages, and loss of service. But you find yourself scrambling at the last minute for batteries, water, and ideas to keep your family entertained. Disasters don’t plan ahead — even during a pandemic — but you can.” [Arlington County]
After its future briefly dangled over a precipice, Eagle Cleaners in Williamsburg will be sticking around.
Last week ARLnow reported that manager of the dry cleaning business, Mathew Srebrow, was given one week to either buy the business for $250,000 or shut it down. He said the directive came from the trustee who controls the ownership interest in Eagle Cleaners and had plans to sell it.
That dispute was resolved — for now — on Friday. The dry cleaning shop can stay put at least until the lease is up in five years.
“Long story short… the landlord presented the trustee with a bill of what it’d cost to break the lease,” Srebrow said. “The trustee has no choice but for us to be here — now he’s begging us to be here.”
Eagle Cleaners has been controlled by a trustee and operated by Srebrow since his father put the business in a trust before he died of cancer in 2019. While Srebrow didn’t disclose the cost to break the lease, he said it was a number that the trustee “would never have been able to afford.”
Srebrow says five years is enough time to hire a lawyer and make an offer on the business.
“We’re going to be here for more than five years,” he said. “Once I buy it, I will get another lease to stay here forever.”
Srebrow will be repurposing the money raised so far from his GoFundMe page toward that end. He started the page five days ago in hopes of raising enough money to buy the business on the trustee’s terms.
So far, the page has collected $8,760 in donations, and Srebrow recently set a new goal of $25,000 to fund his new approach.
“The community has pulled together and shown amazing support,” he wrote on the fundraising page. “We are open for business with our normal business hours. Thank you all who have donated! It’s looking like legal advice with the option to buy the store will be needed to keep the store on [its] current path of staying open. Funds raised will be going towards this effort.”
Srebrow said he wants to hire a lawyer to ensure that his bases are covered, that the GoFundMe passes muster, and that last week’s events are not repeated.
“This was my dad’s store,” he said. “One of his wishes before he passed from cancer was to keep the store running. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Update on 8/31/21 — The business is staying open.
Earlier: After operating for 25 years and weathering the worst of the pandemic, Eagle Cleaners in Williamsburg is on the brink of closing.
Manager Mathew Srebrow is pinning his hopes on community support to pull through.
His father opened the store at 6402 Williamsburg Blvd in 1996. Before his father died in 2019, he put the business in a trust — but now, the trustee who took over ownership plans to sell Eagle Cleaners and retire. He said the trustee told him on Saturday that he has until Wednesday, Sept. 1 to buy the business for $250,000, or shut it down so that the equipment can be sold.
“It’s really unfortunate what’s happening,” Srebrow said. “I have a lot of customers in tears, some offering legal advice… The way it’s closing just makes no sense.”
Srebrow started a GoFundMe page yesterday (Wednesday) to raise the money. He said he believes the money can be raised, but emphasized he only has one week to reach the $250,000 goal.
“I refuse to go down without a fight,” he wrote on the page. “Let’s make this goal a reality.”
The dry cleaning industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, and loyal patrons have stepped up to help the businesses stay afloat. Last summer, a local veteran started a fundraiser for First Virginia Cleaners and last fall, devoted customers set up a GoFundMe page for Old Dominion Cleaners along Lee Highway.
After pandemic restrictions ended, but before workers began trickling back to offices, Srebrow spoke with ARLnow about how the pandemic and remote work have nearly wiped out 25 years of stable business.
“We had so many people come in [after the article came out], bringing comforters, bedding — no one was using dress clothes, but they were bringing whatever they had, just so we could make it — and we made it.”
Now, Srebrow said he’s hoping the community will help him keep the business open and under his ownership.
“We love all our customers in the community,” he said. “Nobody wants us to go, nobody.”
Arlington’s Biggest House Numbers? — “In the early days of the pandemic, I went on a quixotic quest to walk every one of the 1,114 blocks in my Arlington, Virginia, ZIP code, cataloging the styles of the address numbers on every house along the way… I have kept an eye on the house numbers in Arlington ever since, and imagine my joy this spring when suddenly, on a street I biked down every week, a new set of enormous house numbers appeared.” [Slate, Twitter]
Stepped Up DUI Patrols Begin Today — “This Labor Day, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is participating in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over impaired driving awareness campaign, which runs from August 18th through September 6th, 2021. This campaign aims to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roadways through a two-pronged approach of education and enforcement.” [ACPD]
Fallen Pentagon Police Officer Laid to Rest — “A Brooklyn-born Pentagon cop who was stabbed to death while on duty in DC was hailed as a “warrior” and a hero at his funeral Monday… ‘He fought ’til the end,’ his NYPD sibling, Rodney Rubert, said during funeral services at St. Barbara Roman Catholic Church in Bushwick.” [New York Post]
Beyer Proposes Healthcare Provider Vax Mandate — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today announced the introduction of the Protecting Vulnerable Patients Act, which would require healthcare providers who see Medicare or Medicaid patients to be vaccinated following final FDA approval of a COVID vaccine.” [Press Release]
Arlington Hotels Still Hurting — “Hotel-occupancy rates improved in June but, overall, the first half of the year remained a bust for the Arlington hospitality industry. The occupancy rate of 44.7 percent in June was better than the cumulative 34.4-percent rate recorded over the first six months of the year, according to new data from Smith Travel research and Arlington Economic Development. But that 34.4-percent rate was anemic even compared to the weak first six months of 2020, when it stood at 37.3 percent.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Office Vacancy Rate Rising — “The Arlington office-vacancy rate continues to go in the wrong direction, according to new second-quarter data. The overall office-vacancy rate countywide was 19.4 percent for the quarter, according to figures reported by CoStar and Arlington Economic Development. That’s up from 18.5 percent in the first quarter and 16.6 percent a year ago.” [Sun Gazette]
Local Nonprofit Eyes Tysons Development — “The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is adding another project to its new Fairfax County pipeline, pitching a development in Tysons that could become the neighborhood’s first apartment building made up entirely of committed affordable units. The nonprofit hopes to build up to 175 new apartments on about 2 acres on Spring Hill Road near the Silver Line station of the same name, converting car dealership parking lots that are part of the massive Dominion Square development site.” [Washington Business Journal]
Langston Blvd Plan Meets Resistance — “Following this May’s release of area planning maps and a presentation on density from consultant AECOM, a furious screed was published by Lyon Village Civic Association president John Carten. Though the process is still in the community engagement phase that precedes concrete recommendations, the hint of possible changes in the General Land Use Plan prompted the Lyon Village group to predict a parade of horribles.” [Falls Church News-Press]
New Clarendon Apartment Building Sold — “Trammell Crow Residential has sold the Alexan Earl, a 333-unit multifamily building at 1122 N. Hudson St., to Lincoln Property Co. for $192 million… The Earl represents the first phase of the long-planned Red Top Cab redevelopment… Shooshan continues to plan for the second phase, a roughly 250-unit building fronting Washington Boulevard at the intersection with 13th Street North. It expects to start demolition this fall.” [Washington Business Journal]
Online Fundraiser for Fallen Officer –” The family of George Gonzalez started a memorial fund Sunday for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer who was fatally wounded Tuesday on the platform of the Pentagon Transit Center… By 3 p.m. on Monday, the GoFundMe campaign had already raised $15,000, outstripping its original goal of $1,000.” [Patch, GoFundMe]
Local BBQ Joint Competing in ‘World Championship’ — “Arlington’s Smokecraft Modern Barbecue… has been invited to compete in the Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue. Taking place in Lynchburg, TN on on October 8th and 9th, ‘The Jack’ as it is known, is widely considered the world’s most prestigious barbecue competition.” [Press Release]
Va. AG Continues to Fight Robocalls — “Attorney General Mark R. Herring today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to fight back against the scourge of illegal robocalls by moving up the deadline for smaller telephone companies to implement caller ID technology. Attorney General Herring joined a bipartisan coalition of 51 attorneys general have in submitting comments to the FCC.” [Press Release]
Pentagon to Require Vaccinations — “The Pentagon will require members of the military to get the COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 15, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a memo on Monday. About 64% of active duty military members are fully vaccinated, a low enough rate to pose concern for potential outbreaks and international deployment.” [Axios]