Arlington, VA

A new development that will build new housing in Rosslyn while renovating one of the region’s oldest hotels got the green light from the Arlington County Board over the weekend.

The board approved the redevelopment of the Key Bridge Marriott site by a 4-0 vote. The project will include the renovation of the hotel — one of Marriott’s earliest hotels, which first opened in 1959 — as well as the construction of three new 16-story residential buildings, with about 300 rental apartments and 150 condo units.

With the site perched above the Potomac River, near Key Bridge, many of the new homes will have enviable views of the river and D.C.

The project also includes the construction of two new street segments, as well as the contribution of land and funding for a new public park.

More from an Arlington County press release:

The aging Key Bridge Marriott hotel at 1401 Lee Highway will be partially demolished and renovated, and three new residential buildings will be added to the site under a plan approved by the County Board.

“This plan adds much-needed housing in Rosslyn, new public open space and a major renovation of the Marriott Hotel, greatly enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of this highly visible site in Rosslyn,” Board Chair Libby Garvey said.

The Board voted 4-0 to approve the redevelopment plan. […]

In addition to renovating the hotel’s 445 rooms, developer KBLH, LLC, will build three 16-story residential buildings, with a total of 451 units, on the 5.5-acre site on the north side of Lee Highway. One of the new buildings is expected to offer rental apartments and the other two are planned as condominiums. The modernized hotel’s new façade will face Lee Highway and Gateway Park.

The plan, which evolved significantly before and during the public review process, also calls for two new streets that will connect with an esplanade open to the public on the north end of the site, accessible to pedestrians and cyclists but not cars. The esplanade will offer views of the Potomac River and Georgetown and connect to the bike path leading to Key Bridge. A crescent-shaped park will be built on the site’s Fort Myer Drive frontage and will provide an improved bicycle and pedestrian path to Key Bridge. Most of the park is on National Park Service property and will require federal approval for improvements.

The developer has committed to achieving LEED Gold certification for the residential buildings and LEED Silver for the hotel and will install ENERGY STAR and WaterSense appliances. Among other community benefits, the developer would contribute land for a new public park on the site, fronting on Fort Myer Drive, $870,075 to help plan and build the park, and a contribution of $1.75 million to the County’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

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(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) More than 800 new residential units are coming to Crystal City.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a site plan for a new development at 1900 Crystal Drive. Developer JBG SMITH is tearing down an aging office building and planning to build two residential towers with ground-floor retail space in its place.

More from a JBG press release:

The proposed development at 1900 Crystal Drive comprises approximately 811 residential units and 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across two new mixed-use buildings. The proposed 27-story southern tower encompasses 472 apartments, while the 26-story northern tower includes 339 apartments. In addition to a private rooftop and green spaces for residents, the approved plan calls for a retail-anchored shared street, a central park, and activated retail via an alley similar to that of Blagden Alley in Northwest DC.

For the purpose of linking together community benefits, the project was approved as part of a Phase Development Site Plan (PDSP), which also includes two towers with residential, office and retail space at 223 23rd Street S., and a new office building at 101 12th Street S. Final approval of each of those site plans will follow, likely in 2021.

Among the community benefits offered by JBG SMITH as part of the PDSP are:

  • A 45,000 square foot public Center Park next to the 1900 Crystal Drive project, and $300,000 towards a planning effort for the park
  • A 54,500 square foot Gateway Park near where 12th Street S. turns into Crystal Drive, and $300,000 towards a planning effort for the park
  • A new 10th Street S., on the northern end of Crystal City, better connecting a portion of street grid
  • Roadway improvements, potentially including new bicycle facilities to be determined in a later community process
  • Use of about 83,000 square feet of residential space in JBG’s RiverHouse James Building as dedicated affordable housing for 30 years, affordable to renters making 60% of Area Median Income
  • About 7,200 square feet of space at 1901 S. Bell Street for a community library or similar amenities, rent-free for 20 years
  • LEED Silver sustainability certification for the new buildings

Given the coronavirus outbreak, JBG said in the press release that it “will thoroughly evaluate overall market conditions, construction costs, and other capital allocation opportunities prior to commencing construction” of the 1900 Crystal Drive project. A company rep, however, said at the meeting that work is likely to start shortly after approval, with construction expected to take 2-3 years.

“With Amazon employees already arriving in the area and many locals who want to live in a vibrant downtown, we are thrilled to reach this important milestone in National Landing’s ongoing development and transformation,” Tony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG SMITH, said in a statement. “New apartments and street-level retail are essential for cultivating a thriving 18-hour environment where people can walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities.”

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(Updated 1:30 p.m.) Fledgling media production company WBITN is moving into a Rosslyn condo building basement after approval at an Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday.

The approval allows WBITN — which stands for We Build It New — to move into a 4,172 square foot audio-visual studio on the lower level of the River Place South complex (1011 Arlington Blvd). The arrangement includes 15 parking spaces.

In a video tour, Chief Editor Diane Kim said the new studio will include two TV studios, photography studios, a DIY studio, a video editing room and audio room, and a room for hair and makeup.

“Great things are coming for WBITN,” Kim said. “Thanks for watching and I’ll see you here.”

The item was approved as part of the Board’s consent agenda with no objections or discussion.

Photo via WBITN/Facebook

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) While sitting a safe distance away from each other, members of the Arlington County Board voted 4-0 to approve a declaration of local emergency this morning, amid the coronavirus outbreak.

County Manager Mark Schwartz signed the declaration of emergency at 7 p.m. Friday. He said the declaration will allow the county to more easily obtain state and federal funds, acquire needed goods and services, and hire staff as needed.

The county will continue to provide essential services, including emergency services, maintenance, and even permitting during the outbreak, Schwartz said. There will be more changes put in place soon, however.

“We know that these new measures are an inconvenience, but we believe that these changes to county government are Arlington’s best chance of slowing this virus,” said County Board member Katie Cristol.

Arlington is continuing to encourage residents to practice social distancing — avoiding crowds and staying at least six feet apart from each other to prevent the spread of disease — County Board members said in a pre-recorded video, played at the Board’s special meeting Saturday morning.

As of Friday afternoon, all Dept. of Parks and Recreation programs were cancelled. All libraries are closed this weekend, though Central Library and the Columbia Pike branch library plan to reopen on Monday, while others remain closed. Schools are now closed through mid-April.

Schwartz said on Monday a new list of hours and operational changes for county facilities will be posted on the county’s website.

“I hope everyone pays attention to the social distancing, washes your hands, wipes down surfaces — this is going to be with us for awhile,” Garvey said, wrapping up the brief meeting. “Your local government has been working flat out for weeks now. We’re going to continue to do so. Please be safe and gentle with each other.”

At last count, there were five confirmed cases of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Arlington.

Large crowds of shoppers and empty shelves, meanwhile, continue to be reported at stores in Arlington.

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Despite nearly a year’s worth of effort, it looks like a group of youth basketball referees left unpaid by a county contractor are not going to get paid via any kind of governmental intervention.

Instead, an Arlington County Board member is seeking to crowdfund their payments.

Matt de Ferranti, who has “taken on the cause of the referees as his own” and expressed optimism about finding a solution earlier this year, has instead launched a GoFundMe campaign on his own.

De Ferranti told ARLnow today that he launched the campaign in his personal capacity, and contributed $250 of his own money, after being unable to find a way to get the refs paid in his professional capacity.

The issue started after last winter’s rec league sports season, when the owner and sole employee of a company hired by Arlington County to manage referees suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. Most of the 100 or so referees hired by Mid-Atlantic Coast Referees, which received a $163,269 contract from the county, were paid, according to de Ferranti. About two dozen are still owed, in aggregate, somewhere around $12,000.

That money is unlikely to be forthcoming due to “significant financial problems” at the company, which is now reportedly under conservatorship.

De Ferranti’s GoFundMe effort has set a goal of raising $12,500 from the community, to — as the title of the campaign suggests — “Pay the Referees.”

“I think it’s a unique situation that the law, and the right thing to do, do not align,” de Ferranti said. “I think [the campaign] will move us forward as a community.”

De Ferranti stressed that all efforts had been made to find a way for Arlington County to intervene, but the possible legal remedies appear to have been exhausted. The county government can’t pay the refs — many of them teens — because it never employed them directly.

“The fact that we are legally unable to pay the rest is something that not everybody immediately knows,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do, to compensate individuals for work that has been done… This is unfortunately a reality of the law that says public entities cannot provide gifts of public funds to individuals we do not have contracts with.”

“My colleagues and I share the desire to address this,” de Ferranti continued. “We all, in our personal capacities, want to see this addressed. We tried creative ways to fix the problem, that were legally permissible, and in this unique situation we have been unable to address the problem.”

Arlington now has a contract with a different referee contractor, and new policies in place, he noted.

De Ferranti suggested that donations of $25 could make a big difference and help the campaign raise the needed funds “as quickly as possible.” He plans to further promote the campaign, which he launched today, via social media.

“I ask that you join me, as I care about making sure the young people and adults who refereed our County league games last year are compensated for their work,” the GoFundMe page says. “I’m proud that our community pitches in to help where there is a need. I promise if there was another way to get this done, I would do it. Please help.”

Image via Flickr/Karl Baron

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In a special work session with the Arlington County Board, former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu told the board that achieving racial equity will involve restructuring the budget.

The former mayor spoke to the County Board at a work session yesterday morning (Monday) as the County’s budget process kicks into high gear.

Landrieu, author of In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History, spoke briefly about the history of racism in America. He said changes had to go beyond just removing Confederate names from streets and schools, or taking statues down and calling it a day. He said southern localities need to do more to address the roots of institutionalized racism.

“I understand Elizabeth Warren and Bernie [Sanders] are mad at the people who have [wealth], but it’s not just the institutions today that created the wealth gap between African Americans and white people,” Landrieu said. “Those discrepancies have been baked in over time.”

Landrieu was in Arlington at the invitation of the County Board, which is embarking on a year-long push to continue building equity into its budgetary and policy decision-making.

“The more you get into it and look at things, it’s clear there’s more we need to do to ensure equity and that the government’s working for everyone,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey told ARLnow, prior to the meeting. “Arlington reached out to Mitch, after seeing some of the work he did… it’s part of the budget process. We’re trying to infuse equity into all of our budget discussions.”

Much of the discussion was generalized, with Landrieu noting that he didn’t know how some of the specific mechanisms functioned within Arlington, and County Board members admitting they hadn’t read Landrieu’s book.

Landrieu noted that it was going to take considerable effort to rebalance after generations of families building generational wealth under an unequal system. Part of the solution, he said, is focusing on equity rather than equality in public services — a concept previously endorsed at the County Board.

“Budgets reflect whether you mean what you say,” Landrieu said. “[It shows] who pays and who gets what — that’s critically important.”

Two of Landrieu’s colleagues told the County Board that part of the process is going to various department heads to educate them and work on restructuring the budgets within the department. Changes included adding documentation in multiple languages, making accessibility improvements for people who were visually impaired, and holding meetings in places more accessible to public transit.

“You have to say ‘show me how we’re using the funding to close the gap’ and bake that into the way we do the budget,” Landrieu said. “When department heads know that, the budgets look vastly different.”

Landrieu’s staff noted, however, that as Arlington continues to grow it needs to look at how that growth is managed to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact vulnerable communities.

“You’ve given me comfort that despite the fact that our equity initiatives are in their infancy, that’s where we need to be in our early stages if we’re going to institutionalize this and not have it be just a periodic occurrence,” County Board member Christian Dorsey said. “You’ve given us practical advice for taking it to the next level in the months to come.”

Garvey said residents should expect more equity-focused changes in the coming months.

“Should be more than just removal of library fines,” as called for in the County Manager’s proposed budget, Garvey said. “Each department should have something… I expect to see a lot more items going forward.”

“It’s all about good government,” Garvey added. “It helps government work better for everyone, not just a certain group.”

Photo via Arlington County

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Uncharacteristically, Arlington County Board Vice Chair Erik Gutshall did not attend this past month’s board meetings.

His absence, the reason for the five-member Board’s 4-0 vote on the county tax rate advertisement on Tuesday, is due to a serious health condition.

Gutshall’s wife broke the “heartbreakingly difficult” news on his Facebook account Sunday night, telling friends that he is “hospitalized and being treated for a brain tumor.”

“We hope that you will keep him in your thoughts and prayers as he goes through treatment over the coming weeks,” Renee Gutshall wrote. “Words cannot express how much your friendship, support and love mean to me, our children and Erik right now.”

Gutshall, who was first elected in 2017, is up for reelection in 2021.

“Our friend and colleague, Erik Gutshall, is dealing with a health crisis,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a brief statement Monday morning. “We miss him, and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

At the Board’s annual organizational meeting in January, Gutshall spoke of the progress the County has made in just the past few years on issues like housing, sustainability, and economic development. The county had “leveled up” with the arrival of Amazon, he said.

“Today is proof that even a distant future will one day come to pass,” Gutshall said. “I’m honored to work on this next level with my amazing colleagues, talented Manager and his brilliant staff, and the passionate citizens who I know care about this community as much as each of us.”

In addition to serving on the County Board, Gutshall is the president and owner of residential maintenance company Clarendon Home Services.

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The Arlington View Terrace apartments, which mostly have views of part of the Army-Navy Country Club golf course, are set for redevelopment.

The Arlington County Board last week allocated just over $8 million — a $7.25 million loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and a nearly $1 million grant — to help fund the redevelopment of the aging apartment complex at 1420 S. Rolfe Street, in the Arlington View neighborhood on the eastern end of Columbia Pike.

The 30-unit garden-style apartment complex is set to be torn down and replaced by a new building with 77 apartments, affordable for those making 30-60% of Area Median Income, according to local affordable housing developer AHC Inc.

“The Arlington View Terrace redevelopment enables AHC to add much-needed affordable living opportunities in a rapidly gentrifying area along Columbia Pike,” AHC President and CEO Walter Webdale said in a statement. “The new building will also help diversify housing options with 15 new three-bedroom apartments, eight fully accessible units and 10% of the new apartments designated for households earning no more than 30% AMI.”

A press release notes that AHC is “also exploring solar panels and a possible partnership with Connect Arlington to provide free Wi-Fi for residents at the site.”

AHC spokeswoman Celia Slater tells ARLnow that “if all goes well, we could start construction in Spring 2021 and open doors to new families in Spring 2023.”

“We are working with a relocation firm to help [current residents] move temporarily to other apartments – hopefully other nearby AHC properties,” she added. “All current residents will have first opportunity to move back into the new apartments. We work one-on-one with individuals and families to meet their needs – like trying to keep kids in the same schools if possible, etc.”

Arlington View Terrace is one of a number of Form Based Code developments along the Columbia Pike corridor currently making their way through the development pipeline.

The full press release from AHC Inc. is below, after the jump.

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After last summer’s devastating flash flooding, Arlington is ready to move forward with a new set of changes to try to prevent the same level of flood damage.

Staff said at Tuesday’s Arlington County Board meeting that the trend of increasing intensity and frequency of the storms has forced the county to take flood resilience more seriously. Shorter-term solutions that are in progress include new flood sensors, included in this year’s budget, and plans to change regulations for new developments.

The most immediate plan is $129,000 for a flood sensor pilot program. These would include sensors at two key intersections that indicate hazardous levels of water. Staff noted that it only takes six inches of water to sweep someone off their feet and two feet of water to disable a vehicle, meaning signs with warnings about depth could help those in flooding situations make informed choices.

The pilot also includes dozens of residential sensors that staff said could be installed in some of the most vulnerable homes, like smoke detectors.

“Providing that individual early warning and notification for a house is tough,” staff said. “There are so many variables. We recommended that [Arlington] look at some individual flood sensors for residential use.”

County staff said the recommended pilot included low cost, localized residential flood sensors to be distributed the way the Fire Department installs smoke alarms.

“If something happens at 2 a.m. we want people to get that info,” staff said.

County Board members expressed enthusiasm for the proposed sensors, with Matt de Ferranti saying it was an example of citizen input accelerating the county’s plans.

“It’s a miracle no one’s died,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “I’m glad we’re stepping this up.”

The staff recommendation also calls for approximately $150-200 million in investment in the 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), including capital maintenance, stream and water quality work, and expansion of the stormwater system’s capacity. The latter, staff noted, was the majority of the investment.

An open house for the county’s stormwater plan is scheduled for Thursday, March 26 from 6-8 p.m., at Washington-Liberty High School (1301 N. Stafford Street).

In his report to the Board, County Manager Mark Schwartz said the flooding last year is still causing lingering problems for the county’s trails, mainly due to significant erosion. Schwartz noted that many of the nature trails through Glencarlyn and Lubber Run may look safe but are still hazardous. He added an assessment is currently underway regarding the health of the local trails.

The county’s latest CIP, which is likely to include stormwater capacity upgrades, will be proposed by Schwartz in May and adopted by the County Board in July.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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If you’ve got a lead foot, you should probably slow down, especially — soon — on three particular Arlington streets.

In January the Arlington County Board voted to start imposing an additional $200 fine for speeding on certain residential streets.

At the County Board meeting on Tuesday, County Manager Mark Schwartz announced the first three streets that would be subject to the new fine.

  • Carlin Springs Road from Columbia Pike to George Mason Drive — through the Glencarlyn and Arlington Forest neighborhoods
  • Military Road from Old Glebe Road to Nelly Custis Drive — through the Bellevue Forest and Donaldson Run neighborhoods
  • Lorcom Lane from Military Road to Spout Run Parkway — through the Maywood and Woodmont neighborhoods

The $200 fine would be in addition to standard $6 for every mile per hour above the speed limit and the $66 in court fees.

Schwartz said the meeting was the first announcement of which streets would have the new fines, but emphasized that there would be more public notification before the change goes into effect. Schwartz did not specify when the new fines would be implemented.

“We will put more out there,” Schwartz said. “People should not think today, all of a sudden, we flipped the switch.”

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Arlington County Board voted yesterday to advertise a maximum tax rate that will, at most, keep the current rate steady.

The action comes amid rising property assessments that will buoy county coffers and help support County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed 2.9% increase in spending without a rate hike.

Arlington’s rosier financial picture, with the ongoing arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, was enough to have Schwartz smiling during a recent budget presentation, touting “a good budget year.” And it might be enough to even support a tax cut.

Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey pointedly floated the idea of bringing down the current $1.013 per $100 rate in her remarks yesterday.

“This year’s higher assessments mean that even without an increase in the tax rate, most homeowners still would see the biggest jump in their real estate taxes since 2016,” said Garvey, who’s facing a primary challenge this year. “Facing that reality, we will certainly be looking for ways to adopt a lower rate than what we have advertised today when we finalize the budget in April.”

The rise in assessments — 4.3% for residential properties and 4.9% for commercial properties — means more tax revenue, but also a higher tax burden on property owners.

“With no increase in the property tax rate, the County expects $51.1 million in additional ongoing revenue,” a county press release noted. “Should the Board adopt the current tax rate and other proposed fee increases, the average Arlington homeowner would see their fees and taxes increase by $376 from what they paid in FY 2020, based on a home value of $686,300.”

Last year, amid budget pressures, the County Board voted for a 2 cent tax rate increase.

Among neighboring jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, Alexandria and Prince William have both proposed 2 cent property tax rate increases this year, Loudoun has proposed a 1 cent reduction, and Fairfax County just proposed a 3 cent hike. Arlington’s rate is currently the lowest of the group.

Despite Fairfax’s proposed 3 cent hike, the increase in taxes on the average homeowner would actually be lower than that in Arlington with no tax rate change here — $376 vs. $346. Residential property assessments in Fairfax rose an average of 2.65% this year.

As part of the annual budget process, the Arlington County Board will now hold a series of work sessions and public hearings, before a final vote on the FY 2021 budget on Saturday, April 18.

More on the Board’s tax rate advertisement vote, via the county press release, below after the jump.

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