Arlington, VA

Six years after redevelopment discussions began, a plan to upgrade a block of aging brick buildings in Courthouse is winding through Arlington County’s levels of review.

“The Courthouse Landmark Block (2050 Wilson Blvd) is currently under review via our site plan review process,” said Jessica Margarit, the communications manager for the Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development, in an email.

An online engagement opportunity focused on transportation, sustainability, community benefits and construction opened Monday and will run through Sunday. County Board consideration of the project is expected in the next few months.

“The Planning Commission and County Board intend to consider this application during Winter 2020-21,” Margarit said.

Greystar Real Estate Partners is proposing a 20-story apartment building with ground-floor retail, rooftop amenities and open space, as well as a below-grade parking structure. The development would replace the one- to three-story brick buildings, including the now-closed Summers Restaurant, just east of the Courthouse Metro station entrance.

The proposal includes keeping, with some changes, the façades of two buildings deemed to be historic.

“Our concept is to embrace the site and its position as one of the highest elevations in the Clarendon-Courthouse area, as well as a prominent building in all directions,” said architect Stephen Smith of Cooper Carry in a September meeting.

The building will have 418 residential units and 160 parking spaces. It will also have 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space with 61 retail parking spaces. The proposal includes prominent ground floor retail spaces with the tower set back a bit from the street, “producing a lighter, more enjoyable pedestrian feel on the sidewalk.”

“It became clear to us when we first approached the site and looked at the sector plan’s recommendations, the site’s very unique and highly visible location in the heart of central Courthouse meant that the site has a lot of design response,” Smith said.

Greystar will fashion a pedestrian promenade along N. Uhle Street between the Courthouse Metro station and the development

“This is intended to become a vibrant and broad pedestrian walkway lined with trees and active retail uses and distinctive lighting,” said John Beinert, the director of development for Greystar.

The pathway comes with two challenges, accommodating a utility vault and a four-foot elevation change. To overcome these, the promenade will have a slight bend to move around the vault, creating “a more dynamic and inviting experience,” and the green space will be terraced to solve the grade-change problem.

Retail space will line the promenade and an elevator lobby will provide access to a garage below-ground.

“Making this new space active and engaging is our highest priority,” Beinert said.

Other proposed community benefits include additional improvements to the streetscape, LEED certification, and contributions to the county’s public art and affordable housing funds.

Two existing buildings will be preserved and their façades redone with historically accurate design and materials.

These are the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (2050 Wilson Boulevard), constructed in 1946, and the Investment Building (2049 15th Street N.), constructed in 1948. They are identified as “important” on the County’s Historic Resources Inventory.

Greystar, meanwhile, has picked up another project in Courthouse. The company is now planning to redevelop the former Wendy’s site, across from the Landmark block, into another residential tower, according to the Washington Business Journal.

0 Comments

Early stages of construction have started on the future site of a new Harris Teeter, three apartment buildings and a new green space in Ballston.

Utility relocation and demolition of the recently-vacated American Service Center building will soon begin at 600 N. Glebe Road, said Mark Senn, the president of Georgia-based developer Southeastern Real Estate Group, LLC, the developer overseeing the project.

“The project has started, but it’s going to start in full force in the next couple of months,” Senn said.

The construction kicks off the first of three phases of development of the site. In phase one, a new 310-unit apartment building with a new Harris Teeter space on the ground floor will replace the former American Service Center building and Mercedes Benz dealership lot. During this phase, customers will still have access to parking and the current Harris Teeter, which was the company’s first in Virginia.

“Our goal is to keep Harris Teeter up and functioning and convenient for the customer and keep accessibility and parking like it is,” Senn said. “That’s the driving force behind this.”

Southeastern is trying to avoid disruptions especially during the holiday months, which are the busiest for grocery stores, he said.

Phase one will be finished in 2022, Senn said.

During the second phase, the old Harris Teeter will be demolished for new temporary surface parking. The second apartment building, with 195 units, and the public open space will be constructed in phase two.

In the third phase, the temporary parking lot will become the third apartment building: a 227-unit residential building with retail on the ground floor and two levels of below-grade parking.

With architects, mechanical engineers and electrical and plumbing engineers out of the office due to the pandemic, progress on the project has been slower, but people are working hard to keep it on track, Senn said.

“We’re on schedule to do the work as we had anticipated prior to COVID-19,” he said.

The County Board approved the three phases of work at 600 N. Glebe last year. Senn said the entire complex should take six to seven years to build.

“It’s a great project,” Senn said. “Hopefully, after COVID-19, it’ll be social-gathering place for the community.”

The park will include a pedestrian path, a dog run, a picnic area, as well as natural vegetation to support pollinator insects and birds.

In April 2019, the developer bumped the number of housing units in the project from 700 to 732, cut some parking spaces and announced its intention to seek LEED Silver sustainability certification.

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Courthouse Wendy’s Project Changing — “A new developer appears to be taking over a Carr Properties’ project in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, queuing up a switch from office to residential in the process. Greystar Real Estate Partners filed new plans with Arlington County earlier this month for a triangular parcel at the confluence of Clarendon and Wilson boulevards… [for] a 16-story residential building with 225 units above 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.” [Washington Business Journal]

Opera at Local Farmers Market — Two operatic performance will be held at the Crystal City farmers market this afternoon. The Washington National Opera performances will take place from a converted moving truck. [Facebook, WUSA 9]

Airports See Big Revenue Drop — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has seen its year-to-date revenue from airlines decline more than 23 percent, according to new figures, with revenue from sources indirectly related to aviation service declining 46 percent.” [InsideNova]

Dog Hit By Car Gets Second Chance — Thanks to efforts by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and three other groups, a puppy named Cash had a broken leg, suffered after being struck by a car, saved from amputation. [Facebook]

Alexandria Releases Contact Tracing Info — Alexandria just released an analysis of its contact tracing findings, showing the most common recent activities reported by those diagnosed with COVID-19. Among the top activities reported by COVID patients: living with someone who contracted the disease and going to a workplace. Relatively few reported recently dining outdoors. Arlington has yet to release similar information. [City of Alexandria, Twitter]

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Crystal City Parking Lot Staying Put — “Crystal City has been a scalding hot market for new development ever since Amazon.com Inc. moved in — but one well-positioned lot will continue to sit empty for the foreseeable future. Gould Property Co., which owns a small parking lot at 2661 S. Clark St., filed a request with Arlington County last month asking for permission to maintain the property as surface parking through early 2026.” [Washington Business Journal]

Westover Apartment Building Named — “Kathleen Sibert, who led the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) from 2008 until earlier this year, will remain a permanent part of the organization through a facility named in her honor… Located in Westover, Sibert House is designed to provide permanent-supportive housing and a foundation to help individuals achieve better health, overcome substance abuse and mental illness, obtain job security, and attain their goals.” [InsideNova]

Schools Also Facing Budget Gap — “Superintendent Durán said that APS is facing an estimated budget gap at this time of between $24 million and $31 million. The APS budget gap continues to fluctuate and is based on continued unknowns including more possible revenue loss, more possible savings and more costs as APS works to return students to in-person learning while continuing to provide distance learning. The school district is examining its current practices and reviewing the budget.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Arlington Water Facts — “In a year, Arlington residents use some 8 billion gallons of water. That’s about a trillion 8-ounce glasses of the stuff. Clean, safe and always at the ready.” [Twitter]

Real Estate Costs on the Rise — “Not only are home prices on the rise across the Washington area; the average cost on a per-square-foot basis continues to grow, too… In Virginia, Arlington led the pack, with its average per-square-foot cost of $455 up 4.4 percent from $436.” [InsideNova]

Real Estate Firm Opening Second Office — “McEnearney Associates is excited to announce a new office location in the heart of Clarendon in Arlington, Virginia located at 3033 Wilson Boulevard… This will be McEnearney Associate’s second office location in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Airport Concession Sales Way Down — “Roughly 33 concessionaires were open at Reagan and 44 at Dulles, or just over 40% of all shops in the two airports… the shops that are open are still struggling with very low foot traffic and a customer base that is spending less than normal. Sales per passenger were down 20% at Reagan National and 22% at Dulles in August compared to the same month of 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Early Voting on Irish TV — “Irish TV RTÉ was in Courthouse filming the early voting for the election.” [@Irelands4Courts/Twitter]

0 Comments

A proposal to return Arlington Court Suites Hotel to its original purpose, an apartment building, is slated to be considered by the Arlington County Board on Saturday.

The 187 guest rooms at 1200 N. Courthouse Road would become 180 homes, possibly condominiums, according to an application filed by the property owner. This hotel-to-residential project is just a couple of blocks south of the Court House Metro station.

County staff are advising the board to approve the plan, which has been amended after Transportation Commission members argued that the original plans provided too much parking.

“Overall, the applicant’s proposal presents an opportunity to provide new housing units within a transit-rich neighborhood through the conversion of an existing building in a manner that is generally consistent with applicable County adopted plans and policies,” the staff report says.

One feature includes an upgraded and expanded pedestrian route making it easier to get to and from the Metro station and the Arlington Boulevard Trail. The route will also connect with nearby apartment and condo buildings, but will not be ADA accessible due to how steep the the grade is, the staff report says.

The project is exempt from providing mandatory affordable dwelling units, according to county staff.

“Given that the proposed density of the subject site plan is decreasing, and is a renovation of an existing building, the ADU provision does not apply,” the document says.

An apartment building was originally constructed on the site in 1962, and was turned into a hotel in 1980. In 2005, the County Board approved a plan to construct 252 new multifamily, townhouse and stacked residential units nearby, known currently as the Vista on Courthouse and the Bell at Courthouse.

The ratio of parking spots to dwellings for the renovated building has been the subject of scrutiny. In February, Transportation Commission members unanimously objected to the first iteration of the plan, which knocked the original 203 spots to 171.

The revised plan includes 150 spaces for a new parking ratio of 0.83 spots per unit. Many of those would be located on a surface parking lot, with the rest in a garage under the building. A county policy adopted in 2017 said parking at residences near Metro stations could be as low as 0.2 spaces per unit.

In a letter to the Board, Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said his commission appreciates the reduced parking and added pedestrian route.

“That said, many commissioners remarked that they would support an even lower parking ratio given proximity to (the) Metro and encouraged the applicant to further reduce the amount of parking on-site, particularly the surface parking,” he wrote.

The County Board will meet virtually this Saturday, Oct. 17, starting at 8:30 a.m.

0 Comments

A stalled affordable housing project near the Ballston Metro station is poised to get a three-year extension.

The Ballston Station project, set to be built on the site of the Ballston Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive, was previously approved by the County Board in 2017 and again in 2019. The latter approval upsized the project from 119 units, including 48 designated as affordable, to 144 units of 100% committed affordable housing.

The Board previously also allocated $3.1 million in affordable housing loan funds to the project.

The church and its development partner, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, are now going back before the Board this weekend, seeking to extend the now-closed window for beginning construction through October 2023.

The developers are also seeking a minor change to the affordability mix, switching six units from being affordable to those making up to 30% of the Area Median Income to 60% AMI, to make the project more fiscally sustainable.

The planned eight-story building will still include a daycare facility for up to 100 kids and a church space with up to 200 seats, as well as eight visitor parking space and 0.25 parking spaces per apartment.

County staff is recommending approval of the proposed site plan amendment, but there is some opposition from neighbors in the adjacent Summerwalk condo complex at 1020 N. Stafford Street.

The condo association is concerned about parking, noting that their own building has insufficient parking and condo residents — who are barred from participating in the county’s under-review Residential Permit Parking Program — find parking on the street difficult as it is. The association is also concerned about their future neighbors making the area “less desirable.”

More from the county staff report:

In addition to the previously submitted concerns from the Summerwalk Condo Association, a new comment has been submitted regarding the project having changed in 2019 to a commitment of 100% affordable units on site. The Association notes that the previous proposal of a mixed income housing development would better serve the needs of the entire community and instill a greater sense of equality within the neighborhood. The Association also notes concerns that the project being 100% affordable will make the surrounding area less desirable.

In response, county staff assert that the parking ratio is in line with existing parking policies, while the project “meets multiple affordable housing goals, including units in close proximity to transit.” It also “provides an opportunity for a mixed-income neighborhood as most nearby developments are predominately market-rate,” staff wrote.

0 Comments

Arlington County is asking for public input for a new park in Crystal City, just on the border of Pentagon City.

Current called “Teardrop Parcels” from the shape of the two pieces of land that form the space, the county’s working name is “New Park at South Eads Street and Army Navy Drive.”

The green space is located by the Verizon telecommunications facility site (400 11th Street S.) and the construction site for a new, 19-story residential building. It’s also adjacent to the recently-built Altaire apartments and across the street from the second phase of Amazon’s permanent HQ2.

An online feedback form is available until end of day today (Oct. 14), according to a presentation delivered on Sept. 29. The next opportunity for public feedback will be in November, while third and final opportunity will come in December. Name suggestions are welcome, according to the presentation.

The owner of the Altaire is contributing more than $1.4 million and the new apartment development is pitching in nearly $1.2 million, for a total budget of $2.6 million for the new park.

With the new developments, the park could see more activity from residents, workers and shoppers in the coming years, said Mark Gionet, the Principal at LSG Landscape Architecture.

Studies show that having retail space bordering an urban park — as is planned in this case — can help activate the two spaces, said the architect, whose firm is partnering with the county to facilitate public engagement with plans for the park.

Currently, during weekday work hours, the land is used by people walking to get groceries and lunch. On the weekends, children play while their parents watch from lawn chairs. The land is popular with dog walkers, who use the pet waste station.

The presentation notes that Metropolitan Park, Long Bridge Park and Virginia Highlands Park are all within walking distance, with a variety of existing amenities.

“A range of active, passive and social park amenities are available within a walking distance,” the presentation said. Planners will take that, public feedback, and the fact that the park is shaded by nearby buildings much of the time into consideration when mulling over what features the new park might have.

Work on the park should not harm the large, leafy tree on the land, Gionet said. Its extensive root system, however, will limit the developable area in the park, he said.

Photo (2) via Google Maps

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Changes Proposed to Rosslyn Development — “Arlington County Board members on [October] 17 will be asked to ratify relatively minor changes to the approved-in-2019 redevelopment of the Rosslyn Holiday Inn site. The request, if approved, would add residential units and delete hotel units from the project, while keeping the overall density of the project unchanged.” [InsideNova]

Today: Online Discussion With ACPD — “On Wednesday, October 14, 12-1 p.m., CPRO will be joined by members of the Arlington Police Department and County staff for our next Connecting & Collaborating Session: ‘Working Together to Keep Arlington Safe.’ We’ll be discussing safety concerns across the County and the effect on Columbia Pike.” [ARLnow Events, Zoom]

PMI to Settle JBG Parking Lawsuit — “Parking Management Inc. has agreed to pay at least $1.45 million and to take other measures to settle a lawsuit filed against it by an affiliate of JBG Smith Properties in response to the District-based parking operator’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy efforts.” [Washington Business Journal]

Suit Seeks to Extend Va. Voter Registration — “An accidentally severed fiber-optic cable in Virginia effectively shut down most of the state’s online voter registration on its last day Tuesday, prompting voter advocates to file a lawsuit in federal court seeking an extension of the deadline that they argue thousands of voters missed because of the disruption.” [Washington Post]

Northam Targeted By Militia Members — “The group of men accused of conspiring to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part an alleged terrorist plot also targeted Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, the Detroit News reported Tuesday morning. An FBI special agent testified during a hearing in federal court that the three defendants had discussed ‘taking out’ a sitting governor, specifically mentioning Whitmer and Northam.” [Virginia Mercury, Press Release]

Nearby: Video of Shooting Released — “Detectives have released video footage related to a Sunday shooting in Bailey’s Crossroads as they continue to investigate. Officers responded to the Build America Plaza in the 3800 block of South George Mason Drive around 1:19 a.m. Sunday after several reports of gunshots. Not long afterward, Arlington County Police located a man with a gunshot wound.” [Patch, WTOP]

0 Comments

The empty Red Cross building (4333 Arlington Blvd) in Buckingham will come down in a few weeks to make way for a new apartment building called The Cadence.

The building, developed by Wesley Housing Development Corporation, will have 97 units, all set aside for low- and moderate-income households. It is part of a complex that includes 19 nearly complete market-rate townhouses a stone’s throw away.

Local officials, project financiers and construction company representatives gathered for a socially distanced groundbreaking on Tuesday afternoon at the site in Buckingham. The event also commemorated renovations that will begin next year on the neighboring complexes, Whitefield Commons and Knightsbridge apartments, which Wesley also operates for low-income residents.

“The cadence that we set has changed tempo a few times, from where we were to where we are going, but we’re still moving ahead and at this point, we see no reason that we won’t stick the rest of the schedule going forward,” quipped Shelley Murphy, President and CEO of Wesley Housing.

Mark Weisner, the president of Bozzuto Construction Company, which is building The Cadence apartment building, said his company has “a lot of work to do in the next 24 months,” when the building is set to open its doors to renters.

Wesley’s presence in Northern Virginia continues to grow, as well as its staff. The nonprofit owns and operates 2,000 affordable housing units across the region, with about 690 units located in Arlington, including a mixed-income apartment building in Rosslyn that opened in 2017. The company also provides services and programs to residents.

Libby Garvey, the chair of the Arlington County Board, said this groundbreaking is an important milestone for the county, which — like every in-demand urban area — struggles to maintain affordable housing when wealthy families also desire to move in.

“Healthy communities provide work and housing opportunities for all levels of the social and economic spectrum,” Garvey said. “The pandemic has shown clearly how important housing is to everyone’s health.”

Murphy said the moderate-income units and market-rate townhouses in The Cadence make good on a promise that Wesley made to the community to bring more income diversity to Buckingham, which has a significant number of affordable housing units already.

“We want to make sure we are helping Arlington County build neighborhoods of opportunity,” she said.

Knightsbridge and Whitefield Commons provide “extremely deep affordability” for families with an average income of less than $20,000 and $30,000 a year, respectively, she said. The Cadence will cater to families of four who earn between $62,000 and $80,000 a year.

Wesley also promised to preserve the Whitefield Commons — which was built in 1943 and formerly known as the Windsor Apartments — and to encourage residents to seek transportation alternatives to cars. The developer faced some opposition from neighbors, who said Buckingham’s percentage of affordable housing units is much higher compared to other neighborhoods.

The project has received state and county funding, loans and tax credits. Additional funding comes from Wesley selling the land for the townhouses to Tysons-based home builder Madison Homes.

0 Comments

Construction activity has started on a 19-story, 306-unit residential building across from Amazon’s future HQ2 in Pentagon City.

The apartment tower is being built at 400 11th Street S., next to the DoubleTree Hotel, Lenox Club apartments, a Verizon telecommunications facility, and the recently-built Altaire apartments.

The property had previously been a parking lot, owned by Verizon. The lot was turned into a temporary event space called The Grounds, which was until recently was used to host the Crystal City farmers market.

The new apartment building will have just over 10,000 square feet of retail space, a rooftop recreation area, and an underground parking garage. It is a block away from the first phase of Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, and directly across the street from the planned second phase of the tech giant’s second headquarters.

Developer LCOR added more units to the planned apartment tower after the HQ2 announcement.

The Grounds was closed and fenced off recently, and within the past few days the pavement was torn up. Today workers could be seen using a backhoe to continue clearing and excavating the site.

0 Comments

(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) After years of stalled plans, concepts for a new public plaza and office building in Virginia Square are taking shape.

Arlington County and developer Skanska released two new concept designs for the plaza as part of a community engagement process for the planned development, located near Arlington Central Library. The county is seeking feedback on the designs, which have changed since the development was first approved in 2012.

The site at 3901 Fairfax Drive once housed the Arlington Funeral Home, but has been a parking lot since the funeral home was demolished in June 2012. The site plan was amended twice, in 2015 and 2018, to extend the term of the original plan and allow the location to be used for temporary parking.

Skanska bought the property, after years of development limbo, in October 2019.

In its latest iteration, the building now includes 10,280 square feet of space for retail tenants at the bottom level, with storefronts featuring roll-up doors that open to the plaza, and 184,036 square feet of office space.

Designs for the plaza have been updated due to changes to the building design, including the removal of a proposed black box theater and tweaks to the ground floor retail space. The two new, proposed designs for the .2-acre public plaza are dubbed “The Serene Urban Oasis” and “The Breezy Public Forum.”

“Neighbors, patrons of nearby businesses, and library goers can use this space to chat, play, or even get started on that new book they’ve checked out,” says the project website.

“The Serene Urban Oasis” features a passive water feature that is proposed as “more of a sculptural object,” according to John Becker, an architect for CallisonRTKL Inc. and project manager for the development.

“The Breezy Public Forum,” trades the water feature in the first concept for an overhead shade structure in a small area on the northern side of the plaza. It also integrates ornamental trees in the paved area to allow for additional shade.

Both concepts feature a smaller paved area on the north end of the plaza, with a larger paved area on the south. They also feature trees along the sidewalks, berms with inset benches, moveable tables and chairs, and a seating zone for retail. Interactive play elements are also a listed possibility.

County-standard streetlights surround the perimeter of the site on the sidewalk. A mixture of hidden, direct and indirect LED lighting is included with both concepts. Both designs are accessible for those with disabilities.

The original plaza budget — which is funded by the developer — was $825,000, but now sits at $914,000 after being adjusted for inflation.

“Through estimates, we believe that the schemes presented are capable of being delivered within the $914,000 budget,” Becker said.

Feedback received on concepts for the plaza will be used to create a “hybrid of these two preliminary concepts” that will be presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Oct. 27 for review, according to planners. The County Board will consider the final concept as a part of a site plan amendment in November.

There is no listed timeline for the start of construction on the project.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list