Two major development projects are underway in Courthouse, but more progress has been made on one than the other.
Carr Properties is in the process of redeveloping two sites: 2311 Wilson Blvd, which will be the new headquarters of local tech firm Opower, and 2025 Clarendon Blvd, which will be a new 12-story office building.
Construction is well underway at 2311 Wilson, with sheeting and shoring work in place. At last check the new building was expected to be ready for move-in by 2018.
(A Carr Properties representative has thus far not responded to ARLnow.com’s request for an update on the construction timeline.)
The 2025 Clarendon Blvd project, meanwhile, has only cleared the demolition phase, which saw the former Wendy’s and Wells Fargo bank torn down. The site is currently a vacant lot with little activity of note. No word on when construction might start on the new building.
Initial construction permits have been issued for a new residential development on Columbia Pike.
Pillars Development Group plans to tear down the former El Tutumaso restaurant at 4707 Columbia Pike and replace it with a four-story, 78-unit condominium building with 87 underground parking spaces and 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.
The development is being built utilizing Columbia Pike Form Based Code, a set of by-right land use provisions intended to reduce the regulatory friction required to build certain types of projects along the Pike.
The project was approved in December 2014.
Balcony Fire in Arlington View — Arlington County firefighters battled a small fire on an apartment balcony in the Arlington View neighborhood yesterday afternoon, following reports of an “explosion” sound. The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Carpool’s New Owner Trying to Sell — The fate of Carpool is once again uncertain. The Ballston-area bar was supposed to close later this fall to make way for a new high-rise residential development. Despite County Board approval of the project, and the just-completed sale of the bar, developer Penzance is now reportedly trying to sell the site. [Washington Business Journal]
Student Population Growth Lower Than Estimate — The student population at Arlington Public Schools grew 3.6 percent from last school year to the beginning of this school year. That’s an increase of 914 students, the equivalent of a new middle school, but it is 262 students below APS projections. [InsideNova]
Pedestrian-Only Streets on County Board Agenda — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is slated to consider allowing pedestrian-only streets in Arlington. Currently such streets are not part of the county’s Master Transportation Plan. Pedestrian-only streets are being discussed for parts of Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Arlington County]
White Squirrel Hit By Car? — A commenter says an albino squirrel that was often seen in neighborhoods near Columbia Pike has been hit by a car and killed. [ARLnow]
The new “m.flats Crystal City” apartment building has opened its doors to residents, developer Kettler announced late last week.
The 11-story, 198-unit building replaced a former post office, which moved to S. Fern Street near Costco in 2011.
Kettler says the building offers residents close proximity to the Crystal City Metro station, a rooftop pool, and units featuring “washed oak flooring, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances.”
More, from a press release:
Kettler, one of greater Washington, D.C.’s leading real estate development and property management companies, announced today the opening of m.flats Crystal City, an 11-story, 198-unit, high-rise apartment building located in the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington, Va.
m.flats not only revives a site once occupied by the former Crystal City Post Office, but provides a community conveniently located just one block from the Crystal City Metro offering easy access to work, entertainment and downtown Washington, D.C.
“m.flats will provide a spark that will help Crystal City become the vibrant community we all envision,” said Robert C. Kettler, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of Kettler. “It not only expands the number of residences, but takes Crystal City a step closer to becoming a thriving transit-oriented, walkable neighborhood.”
m.flats was the first residential building proposed to the Arlington County Board since the adoption of the Crystal City Sector Plan in 2010. The plan is a roadmap adopted to redevelop Crystal City through 2050.
“Demand for luxury city living is especially strong in the Arlington submarket,” added Pamela Tyrrell, Vice President of Multifamily for Kettler. “Many young professionals want a home that features an array of amenities, is in close proximity to mass transit as well as dining and entertainment options. m.flats offers all of the above in a boutique, well designed building.”
“KTGY designed an exterior aesthetic at m.flats that is contemporary yet restrained. In contrast to the existing 1960s-era buildings, the facades add color, texture and transparency,” stated Rohit Anand, Managing Principal at KTGY’s East Coast office in Tysons.
m.flats Crystal City offers primarily one- and two-bedroom units as well as standard unit finishes including washed oak flooring, quartz countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Building amenities include a club room equipped with WiFi and ample lounge areas, fitness center, bike storage and workstation, and an all-season landscaped courtyard with fire and water features. The rooftop amenities include multiple entertainment spaces with outdoor seating and dining areas, outdoor kitchens with grills, fireplace, as well as a southern-facing sundeck with cabanas overlooking the rooftop swimming pool and views of the city.
The LEED Silver designed high-rise is Kettler’s sixth multi-family building in the Crystal City/Pentagon City market. Kettler opened The Acadia, a 411-unit high-rise luxury apartment building in Metropolitan Park, spring of 2015. Construction on m.flats Crystal City began at the end of October 2014. International award-winning KTGY Architecture + Planning was the architect on the project, Bohler Engineering, a civil engineering and consulting services firm, the engineer, and John Moriarty & Associates, the general contractor.
The Staples store at 3804 Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square is slated for redevelopment, though the plans are still in the early stages.
Schupp Companies presented a plan to build a hotel on the site to the Ashton Heights Civic Association last month.
“My understanding is that the redevelopment would also replace the apartments on that side of N. Oakland [Street],” said a resident who was in attendance.
Ray Schupp said the exact details are still fluid and that his company will be working with residents to craft the plan.
“We have not decided exactly what we’ll do with the site,” Schupp told ARLnow.com. “We are exploring several options including a hotel. That being said we have been extremely pleased with the reception of the community to our new Hyatt hotel at Courthouse.”
“We will be working with the County staff and the neighbors on solutions to the Staples site,” Schupp continued. “Just as we developed a close relationship with Lyon Village homeowners and reached a win-win solution to the Courthouse site… we will work with the community and staff on this.”
Plans should begin to firm up within 3-4 months, said Schupp.
The graveyard, which contains headstones and perhaps the remains of members of the Ball family, for which Ballston is named, is being moved to make way for a redevelopment of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church site.
The development will consist of a new church, 132 apartments and a daycare and preschool facility.
The petition, which has more than 215 signatures as of publication time, says “to remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.”
“The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved,” the petition concludes. The full text from the petition is below.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery is threatened by development, which proposes to remove the human remains and markers to an off site location. The Robert Ball Family Cemetery was set aside in 1866 as a burial ground for his family, when his land was divided among his children and families.
The town of Ballston was platted around 1900, entitled Central Ballston, with the graveyard in the exact center of the plat. The town was named for Robert Ball and his family. In 1906, a 1/4 acre of the original 11 acres was given to the Methodist Episcopal Church for use as a church, parsonage and such, and the church was to maintain the graves and markers accordingly. In 1922, the road was widened, but curved around the church and graveyard. The church and county considered the cemetery closed for additional burials.
The church has maintained the cemetery since 1906, now over 110 years. With development closing in from all sides, the church is under pressure to allow the removal of the graves, as the developer wants to build to the curb. The permit to remove the human remains filed with the Virginia Department of Human Resources states very clearly that even if relatives and concerned parties do not want the burials removed, the development can proceed without their permission because of the benefits to the public.
It is the very presence of the graves and graveyard in 1906 that allowed for the church site to receive the land from the Ball family. It is the land from the Ball family and their presence that the name Ballston was given to the community. The plat for the center of Ballston plotted the graveyard in the center of the plat for the Center of Ballston. Relatives still visit the site. To remove the graves is to remove the center of the city, the center of the history of the community, the center of Ballston.
No provision appears to have been made to incorporate the cemetery into the development design. The developers always thought they would move the graves. The cemetery is on the corner of the development and could be spared by simply building around it. A nice border wall already exists. The buildings could curve around the cemetery, and even curve or arch over it, allowing sunshine down. Signage could be added on how Ballston was formed and the pivotal role the graveyard and Robert Ball family had on the placement of the church and the community.
The Robert Ball Family Cemetery does not need to be moved.
Food Star Not Responding to Pleas to Stay — The Food Star grocery store apparently doesn’t have much interest in staying in Arlington after the store, at the corner of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive, closes to make way for a redevelopment. Despite resident interest in keeping the Food Star, county officials say their efforts to reach out to the company and help them relocate to another location in Arlington have not yet yielded a “substantive” response. [InsideNova]
LEGO Store Grand Opening — The new LEGO Store in the Pentagon City mall is holding its grand opening celebration starting today. The store will be hosting a LEGO Master Builder who will construct a huge LEGO model for display. The first 400 customers Friday, Saturday and Sunday will receive free gifts with qualifying purchases. [LEGO]
Olympic Athletes at Elementary School — A group of Olympic athletes will talk with students at Carlin Springs Elementary this morning. Among the group are shot put gold medalist Michelle Carter, gold medal-winning sprinter Natasha Hastings and long jump gold medalist Jeff Henderson. The athletes will be at the school as part of the Let’s Move! Healthy Schools campaign.
Notable Tree Nominations — It’s that time of the year — if you think you have a truly exceptional tree in your yard that deserves recognition, you can now nominate it for Arlington County’s annual Notable Tree awards. The deadline for nominations is Nov. 15. [Arlington County]
October Is Affordable Housing Month — Tomorrow is Oct. 1 and October is Affordable Housing Month in Arlington, “a month-long celebration of the County’s long-term commitment to preserving and creating housing opportunities that benefit the whole community.” [Arlington County]
If you were to pull up a mental image of a developer, you might think of the old NIMBY cliche of a “greedy developer” who swoops in to a community, builds a bunch of really tall buildings, leaves with bags of money, and goes home for a dip in a gold coin swimming pool.
This week’s 26 Square Miles podcast guest, former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chair Kevin Shooshan, does not fit that image. The family-owned development firm for which he works, Shooshan Company, is based in Arlington and has projects in the works in Ballston and Clarendon.
When they’re not working to build new housing, hotels or offices, Shooshan and his family members are active in the community. They have been involved in the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, Doorways for Women and Families, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and a number of other local nonprofits.
During our interview, Kevin talks about the ups and downs of being a developer, the projects he’s currently working on, the next generation of young leaders in Arlington, the county’s slow permitting process, and whether the local office market will ever fully recover amid high vacancy rates (hint: it probably won’t).
Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association were given an early look at two new developments planned for the community over the next few years.
The 40-year-old church, which is used by Grace for meetings but not for Sunday services, would be replaced by a seven-story condo building and a block of four-story townhouses. A series of townhomes and a private driveway is planned for the parking lot.
The developers described the project as “a relatively modest in-fill development” that’s in keeping with the “urban townhouse” neighborhood that surrounds it. The development, like the neighborhood, tapers from the towers of central Ballston to the south to the lower-density townhomes and condos to the north.
Officials from NVR said the plans are preliminary and have not yet been filed with the county.
Also at Monday’s civic association meeting, local developer Eleventh Street Development presented early plans for a new apartment building in Virginia Square.
The proposed six-story, 220-unit rental complex, at the intersection of Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd, would replace the closed Sport & Health gym, the Slye Electronics building and an automotive business.
Developer Garrett Erdle, who previously helped to develop Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, told residents that the building is at least three years away, following “a structured and lengthy” regulatory process.
Before a site plan process for the building can start, the county and its Long Range Planning Committee is expected to discuss land use planning for the parcel and the area as a whole. The special General Land Use Plan study that the development will first go through is expected to take about a year.
Residents at the meeting expressed concerns about the height of the building, parking along their already-crowded streets and a potential lack of public green space in front of the building. The developer responded that the proposal for the building is in the very early stages and that they will take public feedback into account throughout the process.
The Arlington County Board is set to consider a plan to lend about $11 million to a nonprofit organization looking to save affordable garden apartments in Westover.
The Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on the eight-figure loan from the county’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The financing would allow the nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to buy eight apartment buildings in the neighborhood, according to the county. The purchase would account for 68 affordable units — all but four are one bedroom units — at an average acquisition cost of about $215,000 per unit.
“The Westover neighborhood in North Arlington has a substantial inventory of market and committed affordable apartments,” APAH says on its website. “But many have been eliminated, or are at threat of elimination.”
The vote comes as Westover comes to grips with the redevelopment of some area properties, including an aging garden apartment building that are being replaced with luxury townhouses.
The Arlington Green Party is lobbying for a local historic designation in an effort to make it harder to tear down Westover buildings or renovate them. Already, much of the neighborhood — which was developed between 1938 and 1948 — is a national historic district.
The Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development, which advocates for an equitable distribution of affordable housing across the country, is supporting the proposal.
“CARD hopes that this acquisition [by APAH] will enable families the opportunity to live in Westover and enjoy its excellent schools and amenities,” Kay Langenbeck, chair of the group’s housing committee, wrote in a letter to the Board.
The total estimated cost of acquiring and renovating the apartments is $27.2 million, according to the county staff report. The project will be completed in three phases.
Photo via Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending that the Board stick with the original plan: to build and operate a temporary fire station on the Wilson School site while Fire Station 10 is torn down and a new permanent fire station is built in its place as part of a private redevelopment.
That plan drew criticism from parents of H-B Woodlawn students, who worried that the temporary station would be built on what would otherwise be a field for the school, which will be moving to a new building on the Wilson School site in 2019.
In addition to concerns about the temporary loss of what little open space there is adjacent to the school, concerns were also raised about students being picked up on busy Wilson Blvd while the temporary station is in operation.
Parent outreach prompted county officials to examine alternative locations, but only two other viable alternatives were identified.
One, Rhodeside Green Park, was unpopular with local residents, who started a petition against it that garnered more than 750 signatures. A second, along Lee Highway near the Rosslyn Holiday Inn, was determined by county staff to be too small and challenging from a construction standpoint.
An online poll posted on the county’s website resulted in 420 votes for the Wilson School site. The Rhodeside Green Park site received 299 votes and the Lee Highway property 113 votes.
“After extensive analysis and additional community outreach, staff confirms its recommendation that the Wilson School site be selected as the location for the temporary fire station,” says a staff report. “While there is no perfect location, the Wilson School site is recommended.”
More excerpts from the staff report, after the jump.
Another Temporary Extension for Comcast — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve another temporary extension of the county’s franchise agreement with cable operator Comcast. The extension will run through Oct. 31, 2016. Comcast’s last long-term franchise agreement in Arlington expired in 2013; officials say the temporary extensions have been necessary to allow negotiations to continue. [Arlington County]
Arlington Community High School Open House — The former Arlington Mill High School program has a new name, a new location and will be holding an open house this weekend. Arlington Community High School, as it is now known, has moved to the former Fenwick Center at 800 S. Walter Reed Drive. The school is holding an open house from 9-11:30 a.m. this coming Saturday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Clement Laments Development — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement says she has exposed “disturbing development trends in Arlington.” According to Clement, continued development has “transformed Arlington” and harmed schools and parks. [Audrey Clement]
Nova Armory ‘Under New Ownership’ — Added at 9:55 a.m. — Lyon Park gun store Nova Armory, which was the scene of a break-in earlier this week, is “under new ownership,” according to a tweet sent from the store’s Twitter account overnight. No additional information was immediately available. [Twitter]
Twitter FYI: We’re Not @Arlnow — Added at 10:05 a.m. — The above tweet presents a great opportunity to remind readers that our Twitter handle is @ARLnowDOTcom. It’s not @arlnow, which belongs to an Apple news site that hasn’t published a new tweet since 2010. Check here to see if you’re among the folks tweeting at the wrong account.
Vornado Reveals Big Plans for Crystal City — Vornado, the preeminent property owner in Crystal City, has filed preliminary plans to overhaul a number of its properties in the community. The plans include big changes to the Shops at 1750 retail space, near the entrance to the Crystal City Metro station, and a new multiplex cinema. [Washington Business Journal]
Lyft to Open Regional HQ in Crystal City — Ride hailing app company Lyft is planning to invest $350,000 to open a new regional headquarters in Crystal City, creating 32 jobs locally. “Lyft is thrilled to open our new office in the emerging innovation center of Crystal City,” said Steve Taylor, the company’s general manager for the D.C. area. “We’re extremely pleased by the warm welcome we have received from Governor McAuliffe, and state and county officials.” [Washington Post]
Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Attack on Law Firm Partner — Alecia Schmuhl has pleaded guilty in the vicious 2014 attack on Leo Fisher and his wife Susan Duncan. Prosecutors say Schmuhl and her husband took the couple hostage, slit Fisher’s throat and stabbed Duncan as part of a revenge plot after she was fired by Fisher from the Arlington-based firm of Bean Kinney & Korman. Fisher and Duncan survived the attack. [Washington Post]
Nominations Open for James B. Hunter Award — Arlington County is accepting nominees for the 2016 James B. Hunter Award. The award, named after a former Arlington County Board member, “goes to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and business establishments that promote cultural diversity and equal rights for all residents.” [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Billy Buck
(Updated at 4:57 p.m.) A new plan to build a mixed-use building in Ballston could mean uncovering some human remains in the process.
Ballston Station Housing Corporation, a nonprofit established by the Central United Methodist Church, seeks to redevelop the church at 4201 Fairfax Drive into an eight-story development that would contain a new house of worship, 132 residential units with affordable housing, a daycare and preschool facility and charitable facilities.
But there’s a snag: The site they want to build on was once the Robert Ball Graveyard, the final resting place of some members of the family behind the Ballston name. Today, several white headstones can be seen scattered across the church grounds.
In order to excavate the old graveyard, the developers need to get a permit from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. They also need to hold a public meeting to notify surrounding community members and possible descendants of the Ball family.
Still, the developer behind the project isn’t so sure there are even any human remains left to uncover.
“Nobody actually really knows,” said Tad Lunger, legal representative for the developer. Lunger added that he thinks workers digging utility trenches and tunnels for the nearby Ballston Metro station may have uncovered any leftover remains years ago.
Boyd Sipe, an archaeologist hired by the developers to survey the site, isn’t sure there’s anyone buried there, either. Sipe recently conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of the graveyard that turned up “inconclusive.”
“The GPR survey identified several anomalies that had potential to be graves but could be other subsurface features,” Sipe said. “There’s really no evidence that there are graves on the site, but we want to be ready with the state permit in case graves are found.”
In the event the project does uncover any bone fragments or relics, Sipe said they’ll be turned over to a skeletal biologist who will work to analyze and identify them.
But the county says take a closer look.
“There are six marked graves. There could be an additional three,” said Rebeccah Ballo, historic planner with Arlington County. “There is no evidence written or otherwise that shows those graves have ever been exhumed or moved.”
Ballo said she’s heard from some locals who are worried about digging up the graveyard.
“People have contacted my office concerned about it,” Ballo said. “It is a very old graveyard. It’s been a fixture of the neighborhood for a very long time.”
“This is not something that has happened in Arlington County in recent memory,” Ballo added.
The developers will hold a public meeting regarding the site at the Central United Methodist Church on Oct. 6.
Popular Ballston bar Carpool has been sold to developer Penzance and is set to be replaced by a 22-story-apartment building.
The sale closed on Friday, said co-owner Mark Handwerger. The good news? Carpool is expected to remain open for a few more months.
“CarPool has leased back the property for a period of time, and the bar will remain open through at least the end of November,” Handwerger said.
In August, groups that used Carpool as a gathering spot for things like football games and other regularly-scheduled social events were told that Carpool was likely to close within a few weeks.