Press Club

Take a drive through Fairlington and you will see sprawling acres of modest Colonial Revival-style condominiums with manicured lawns.

Once, they were garden apartments and townhouses, built between 1942 and 1944 to house the masses of defense workers who flocked to Arlington during World War II.

The complex is one marquee example of Arlington’s World War II-era garden apartments. Other examples include Arlington’s first complex, Colonial Village, and its second, Buckingham Village.

While denser than exclusively single-family-zoned neighborhoods, they are roomier, greener and lower to the ground than mid- to high-rise developments along Arlington’s Metro corridors. That is, they fit the definition of “Missing Middle” housing stock that Arlington County is looking to increase.

Today, Arlington is once again facing a housing crunch, one that is expected to tighten as Amazon hires more workers and companies spring up in its orbit. Garden apartments were once a solution to Arlington’s housing problems 80 years ago. But as Arlington County considers a plan for allowing “Missing Middle” housing in all residential area of the county, the “Missing Middle” of 80 years ago — these low-rise, gentle density developments — are worth a look.

Arlington’s housing history

Garden apartments first came online in the 1920s and were billed as a more spacious and light-filled alternative to denser, taller tenement housing, says George Mason University Mercatus Center fellow Emily Hamilton, who studies housing and development.

“Their setting, in park-like areas, was also shaped by the ‘garden city‘ movement, which started in the UK and was influential in the U.S. and based on the belief that urban housing should be surrounded by greenery, even in the city,” Hamilton said said. (Reston is nearby example of a planned “garden city.”)

But that trend didn’t pick up in Arlington until 1935, when 245 Colonial Revival-style buildings were built on 55 acres and named Colonial Village, writes Gail Baker, a former member of the Arlington County Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board. Construction began on Arlington’s second complex, the 100-acre Buckingham Village, in 1937, and was completed in the 1950s.

Hamilton says demand shifted toward single-family homes in the mid-century, as living standards and federal financing made buying a house more feasible.

As a result, garden apartments became a “starter option” for families, according to historian Charlie Clark.

“A lot of Arlingtonians who are middle-aged homeowners got their start in the garden apartments in the 40s and 50s,” he said. “Then, they ambitiously rose the economic scale, and wanted a single-family home with a yard, and ended up in other neighborhoods.”

By the 1970s, as the regional population grew and Metro was built these garden apartments faced development pressure. Colonial Village was broken up: some units were conserved, others were converted in condos, and still others were razed and turned into office buildings.

The county preserved Buckingham through an affordable housing deal and the units at Fairlington Villages were converted into condominiums and sold. One selling point was that their Colonial Revival façades were maintained, Baker writes.

Fifty years later, garden apartments are some of the last affordable dwellings to rent in the county in part because the buildings are dated, Hamilton says. And development pressure is mounting, as these buildings are reaching the end of their useful lives.

“It’s interesting,” Clark said. “They were probably considered middle-class when they were built, but they probably have declined a little bit in terms of economics.”

A collection of them near Rosslyn, on N. Ode Street, will be redeveloped as a high-rise affordable housing complex. Meanwhile, the owners of a similar complex along Columbia Pike will be redeveloping its property with townhouses.

Arlington County pre-empted speculative redevelopment of a third garden apartment complex, the Barcroft Apartments, by brokering a deal with Amazon and developer Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, which agreed to preserve 1,334 units on the site as committed affordable units for 99 years.

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Morning Notes

The sky is reflected off glass office windows in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s Bike to Work Day — “Bike to Work Day is back… This free event is open to everyone. Arlington will have ten pit stops and BikeArlington will host five pit stops in Rosslyn, Ballston, Columbia Pike, Shirlington, and Clarendon.” [BikeArlington]

Unleashed Dog Leads to Bluemont Brandishing — “At approximately 4:45 p.m. on May 18, police were dispatched to a report of a person with a gun. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when an unleashed dog ran towards him while barking. A verbal dispute ensued between the victim and dog owner, during which the suspect, who is known to the dog owner, became involved. The victim continued on his route, during which the suspect reapproached and allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened the victim.” [ACPD]

Metro Restoring Some 7000-Series Cars — “A seven-month train shortage that has brought lengthy waits for commuters is closer to ending after Metrorail’s oversight agency approved a request to reinstate some rail cars that were pulled from service because of a rare wheel defect. Transit officials submitted a plan to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to restore a limited number of 7000-series cars.” [Washington Post, WMATA]

Slight Increase in Homeless Population — “Though down by more than half compared to a decade ago, Arlington’s homeless total rose from 2021 to 2022, according to new data. ‘There’s work to do,’ said Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, parsing the new data during the May 17 board meeting. The… homeless count (conducted Jan. 26 with data recently released) revealed a total of 182 people living in shelters and on the streets in Arlington, up 6 percent from 171 a year before.” [Sun Gazette]

Op-Ed: Arlington Could Be National Model — “Arlington’s Missing Middle draft framework is extremely ambitious and might serve as a model for the entire country if the county board gets the policy details right to enable new construction.” [GGWash]

Group: ‘Missing Middle’ is ‘War’ — “With the release of the Missing Middle Phase Two Report on April 28, and the accompanying consultant analysis, the county is declaring war on single-family areas of Arlington… Developers, who have essentially run out of room among our 26 square miles, have pushed for Missing Middle up-zoning that will be politically and legally impossible to unwind, even if it falls short of stated goals or produces negative results.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]

Big Development Kicks Off in F.C. — “West Falls, a major mixed-use development near the West Falls Church Metro station, broke ground Thursday, less than a week after the development team closed on $391 million of financing. In this first phase of its long-planned development, the project, spearheaded by D.C.-based Hoffman & Associates and joined by real estate giant Trammell Crow Co., will comprise five buildings totaling about 1.2 million square feet.” [Washington Business Journal, Patch]y

Veep Coming to Falls Church — “Kamala Harris coming to [Meridian High School in Falls Church] tomorrow to talk electric school buses? The school didn’t name Harris in an email to parents about the event tomorrow, but they said it will stream live at [whitehouse.gov].” The event is scheduled for 3:40 p.m., which means motorcades through Arlington are likely this afternoon. [Twitter]

Plan for Yellow Line Bridge Work — “The City of Alexandria is preparing for a Yellow Line shutdown in Alexandria later this year due to bridge and tunnel rehabilitation and bringing the Potomac Yard Metro station into the system… Blue Line trains will be running frequently from the airport with a replacement ‘Yellow Line’ route running to New Carrollton during the September-October.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:53 am and sunset at 8:20 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The Columbia Pike Partnership and Black Heritage Museum of Arlington are moving down the Pike due to the imminent redevelopment of Fillmore Gardens Shopping Center, both announced yesterday (May 18).

The two local organizations are set to move by the end of the month into the first floor of the Ethiopian Community Development Council building at 3045 Columbia Pike, only a five minute walk from its current home at 2611 Columbia Pike. Among their new neighbors is a Subway sandwich shop.

They are moving because the shopping center is set for demolition and redevelopment. In March, the Arlington County Board officially greenlit turning the aging retail strip into “The Elliot.” The new building will feature 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store (maybe an Amazon Fresh), a renovated CVS, and a relocated Burritos Bros.

What it won’t include is a number of the current tenants, including the partnership and the museum.

“When the news came that we would need to move, our Board of Directors decided it was important for the organization to have a presence on the Pike — people need to find us, and we need to stay in touch with the community as well,” CPP’s Amy McWilliams tells ARLnow. “After a long hunt, we found the space at 3045B Columbia Pike, and realized it could house the Columbia Pike Partnership as well as the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, continuing our collective partnership.”

Last year, the Black Heritage Museum moved into the offices of the partnership, then called the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. Sharing the space was supposed to be temporary as the museum looked for a permanent home.

That’s still the plan for this new space, says the museum’s president Scott Taylor, as the museum continues to search for a new location — possibly in its old home.

“We have just recently signed a two year contract with our new landlord. We will continue to strive for a permanent location,” says Taylor. “There is even some talk about us going back to 3108 Columbia Pike as the county has acquired that property and may allow us some room there when they complete the new project there.”

CPP and the museum hope to have the space open to the public by June 18.

With all businesses needing to vacate the shopping center by May 31, several others have closed or announced their next moves in recent months.

H&R Block closed earlier this year while CVS will move into a trailer during construction and, then, back into the new building when completed. Atilla’s, a Turkish restaurant and grocer that’s been there since the 1970s, is closing next weekend and is in search of a new location.

Legend Kicks, which re-opened in its current location in 2018, is also set to close and possible move, but it’s unclear where.

ARLnow reached out to the business and its owner, who also owns the still-yet-to-open Eska just down Columbia Pike in the former location of the Purple Lounge, but has not heard back as of publication time.

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Morning Notes

The U.S. Air Force Memorial and surrounding construction at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Cristol Calls Out Displacement ‘Lie’ — “Time will tell, as it always does, but Arlington elected officials say the public and some activists are mistaken if they believe there will be wholesale displacement of residents of the Barcroft Apartments complex in South Arlington. At a May 14 meeting, County Board Chairman Katie Cristol – not one normally known for getting rattled while on the dais – decried as a ‘lie’ the displacement rumors at the sprawling, 1,334-unit apartment complex.” [Sun Gazette]

Crash Last Night on GW Parkway — From Alan Henney: “Another auto went over the wall on the northbound side of the GW Pky prior to the Key Bridge in Arlington. Amazingly driver is out uninjured after his auto slid down the embankment.” [Twitter]

Marymount University Commencement — From Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.: “It was my tremendous privilege to give the commencement at @marymountu, a university that like many around the U.S. hosts Saudi students. It was my absolute honor to receive an honorary doctorate, thank you to the faculty and Dr. Becerra for this special day.” [Twitter, Sun Gazette]

Metro CEO and COO Resign — “The WMATA Board of Directors has accepted Paul Wiedefeld’s decision to make his retirement effective today. In addition, Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader has resigned, effective immediately.” [WMATA, DCist]

New Skyline Development Proposal — “Madison Marquette has filed plans to convert two Baileys Crossroads office building into live/work lofts, advancing a vision to resuscitate the huge multibuilding cluster known as Skyline Center. By repurposing the mostly emptied office spaces — which meet planning and code requirements to serve as apartments and/or offices for small firms — Skyline can once again become ‘the gravitational center for the area.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Body Cams for Falls Church Police — “Police officers with the City of Falls Church will now be equipped with body-worn cameras beginning this month.” [WJLA, City of Falls Church]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 77 and low of 59. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Construction scaffolding in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bye, Bye Bank Building — “A new residential development is on the boards for Columbia Pike. Marcus Partners filed plans late last week with Arlington County for a new 250-unit residential development at the site of the Bank of America office building at 3401 Columbia Pike. The six-story building will have ground floor retail, a central courtyard and 287 parking spaces on 2.5 below grade levels.” [UrbanTurf]

It’s Official: No Caucus — From Blue Virginia: “The @arlingtondems announce that their School Board Endorsement Vote process is canceled, as there is only one candidate (Bethany Zecher Sutton) left after the other withdrew.” [Twitter]

Rents Still Rising — “The median Arlington apartment rent in April was up 16.8 percent from a year before, the third highest growth rate among the nation’s 100 large urban areas, according to new data. The median monthly rental for an apartment in the county last month was $1,999 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,420 for two bedrooms, according to data reported by Apartment List.” [Sun Gazette]

Truck Crash Caught on Camera — From Dave Statter: “Just happened. 3rd crash in as many days on I-395S at Exit 8C/Rt 1. It appears the red car didn’t stop & no other cars struck. @VSPPIO has all lanes open.” [Twitter]

Protest Outside DEA HQ in Pentagon City — “I’m outside DEA headquarters in Arlington, where protests have gathered to draw attention to terminally ill patients’ rights to try experimental drugs like psilocybin.” [Twitter, The Hill]

WaPo Reporter Rappels Down Hotel — “On Thursday and Friday, about 80 people, including two local elected officials, a Washington Post reporter, and a member of the D.C. Divas women’s football team, dressed in full pads and uniform, rappelled down the side of the Crystal City Hilton to raise funds and awareness for New Hope Housing.” [Washington Post]

Boeing HQ May Draw More Companies — “Even without a sizable addition of jobs or expansion, Northern Virginia landing another major corporate headquarters has strategic ‘marketing value,’ Terry Clower, director of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis, said in an interview. The presence of a headquarters attracts the attention of other corporations, as well as site-selection consultants who advise companies where to locate new facilities. ‘Nothing draws a crowd like a lot of people,’ Clower said.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro: Ridership Rebounding — “Metro ridership is outpacing projections through the first three quarters of fiscal year 2022 by nearly 40 percent. Through March, ridership has exceeded the initial forecast by 28 million passenger trips as more people chose bus and rail for travel throughout the region. Metrobus leads the way, accounting for 60 percent of overall Metro ridership, compared to about 40 percent for rail.” [WMATA]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 68 and low of 48. Sunrise at 6:02 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

An airplane on approach to Reagan National Airport at twilight near Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Firefighters Rescue Cat from Tree — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “We are so grateful for @ArlingtonVaFD! Yesterday, Charlie the cat snuck out of his house and got spooked, climbing 2.5 stories up a nearby tree on a very stormy day. ACFD came to the rescue and brought Charlie back down to the ground and to safety.” [Twitter]

Suspicious Package at Pentagon Metro — From Pentagon police: “At 9:46am, @PFPAOfficial was alerted to a suspicious package at the Pentagon Metro Visitors Screening Center. Explosive Ordnance Detection Unit is… investigating. Bus and rail service is bypassing the Pentagon. Personnel are asked to please avoid the area. […] At 1251 @PFPAOfficial gave the all clear. Bus and rail service have resumed. The incident is currently under investigation.” [Twitter]

New Apartment Building Proposed in Crystal City — “Add another new mixed-used building to the growing National Landing pipeline. An affiliate of Dweck Properties filed plans this week with Arlington county for two new buildings that would become a part of the Crystal Towers development at 1600 South Eads Street.” [UrbanTurf]

Boeing Bringing Few Jobs — “Paul Lewis, a Boeing spokesman, said the company employs 400 people in the Washington area and has space to add more, but ‘there are no immediate plans to expand the facility here in Arlington.’ The company also won’t reduce its roughly 400 employees at Boeing’s outgoing headquarters in Chicago. Nonetheless, Lewis said in an email the move to Virginia was important for the company: ‘It’s significant in that this will be the base of operations for the CEO and CFO.'” [Washington Post]

More Local Reaction to Boeing HQ — “From the Greater Washington Board of Trade: “Congrats to @NationalLanding
. Our region provides such a compelling strategic advantage to businesses that want to relocate here because of its’ proximity to the government, business, non-profits and academia. It’s a win for everyone in our region!” [Twitter, LinkedIn]

Local Cemetery Getting Historic Marker — “It became a county historic landmark last year, and soon the Mount Salvation Baptist Church cemetery will have a marker denoting its status… The cemetery, located adjacent to the church in the historically African-American North Arlington community of Halls Hill/High View Park, is the final resting spot of at least 89 people. Burials at the cemetery were recorded from 1916 (although some likely occurred a decade or two earlier) to 1974.” [Sun Gazette]

Reminder: West Glebe Road Bridge Closed to Cars — “The West Glebe Road bridge over Four Mile Run will be completely closed to vehicles [on Monday, May 9], and will remain closed for nearly a year.” [ARLnow]

It’s Monday — Mostly sunny, with a northeast wind around 11 mph and gusts as high as 18 mph. High of 64 and low of 44. Sunrise at 6:03 am and sunset at 8:10 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Work has begun to create a new Crystal City pedestrian plaza with office, retail, and restaurant space.

The Century Center office complex — at 2450 Crystal Drive and 2461 S. Clark Street in Crystal City — is undergoing major renovations. The project will result in a new pedestrian and retail plaza between Century Center’s two buildings.

The end result will include new offices, outdoor seating areas, more street-level retail and restaurant spaces, a walkable pedestrian plaza, and streetscape improvements.

When the project is completed, Arlingtonians can expect to find “a neighborhood within a neighborhood,” a spokesperson for the real estate developer MRP Realty said in a statement.

Residents and visitors to National Landing can find a neighborhood within a neighborhood at 2450 Crystal [Drive] and 2461 S. Clark Street. An office community that’s connected to the National Landing experience, yet completely self-sustainable on its own with a variety of shops, services, and dining options. Visitors and shoppers can expect an impressive new plaza with outdoor seating areas, street-level retail, dining, and lifestyle services, and a fresh biophilic design that brings the outdoor elements in. Office tenants will also find new club-quality fitness plus expansive bicycle storage, expansive and impressive lobby, renovated meeting rooms, and 200+ person conference center.

Partial demolition and renovation inside of the lobby at 2450 Crystal Drive began back in February and is set to continue for another year or so.

The work expected to be mostly complete by the end of the year, the spokesperson said, with “final interior finishes” planned to be done by early 2023.

Several tenants have already been confirmed, including a new Primrose Schools Early Education & Care location. The locally-based fast casual restaurant Mezeh, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Subway, which are all already in the building at 2450 Crystal Drive, are all set to remain in the new development.

There are more tenants on the way too, including a “food market” and “boutique fitness club” as well as “upscale restaurants,” the spokesperson tells ARLnow. Additionally, a new retail tenant and a rebranding of the complex are both set to be announced next month.

This plaza project was first proposed as a “refresh” of Century Center about a year ago. It’s a first step in what might eventually be a larger redevelopment of the site, involving a new segment of roadway and a new apartment tower.

Crystal City and the surrounding neighborhoods are undergoing significant change amid the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 in Pentagon City, the second phase of which was approved by the Arlington County Board this past weekend. The HQ2 site is about a mile from the Century Center complex.

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Atilla’s Restaurant and its grocery store are both closing next month after nearly 50 years on Columbia Pike.

The well-known Turkish businesses are shutting the doors at 2705 Columbia Pike on May 29, long-time restaurant manager Sarah Engi confirmed to ARLnow.

The reason is redevelopment. The one-story retail strip that’s been Atilla’s home since the mid-1970s is set to be demolished in the coming months to make way for “The Elliott,” a six-story residential development that was approved by the Arlington County Board last month.

Engi said ownership is looking for a new space, hopefully as close as possible to the original Columbia Pike location. However, they are also looking in Fairfax County due to the cost of rent in Arlington being potentially prohibitive. The new business would focus on carry-out and retail.

The sit-down portion of Atilla’s Restaurant closed during the pandemic and never re-opened. There are no plans to revive that part of the business at the new location, Engi says.

In 1998, the original owner Atilla Kan sold the business to Zulkuf Gezgic. However, the restaurant’s namesake has stayed with the business ever since making bread, hummus, and other items.

Because of that, Atilla’s menu hasn’t changed all that much, Engi notes. It’s always been Turkish food with Greek influence, since Kan is originally from Greece but his family later moved to Turkey.

The new development is forcing a number of other businesses in that retail strip to relocate, including Legends Kicks, Columbia Pike Partnership, CVS, and the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington, with leases set to expire May 31.

“The Elliott” is set to have 247 market-rate apartments above a grocery store, the relocated CVS, and Burritos Bros, which is moving from a small stand in the parking lot adjacent to Penrose Square.

The grocery store is rumored to be an Amazon Fresh location. When the company was asked, a spokesperson told ARLnow in February that “Amazon doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

With about a month left at the location that Atilla’s has called home for almost five decades, there’s plenty of emotion.

“I’m sad. We are losing family,” Engi says. “Big companies are moving in and smaller businesses are leaving. Things are changing. It’s really sad.”

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Phase 2 of Amazon’s HQ2, including the signature “Helix” building, is a go.

The County Board unanimously approved the plans on the long-vacant PenPlace site in Pentagon City at its meeting on Saturday.

The plans incorporate 3.2 million square feet of office space and about 94,500 square feet of retail on what County Planner Peter Schulz described as the last undeveloped site in Pentagon City.

Amazon plans to build three, 22-story office buildings, three retail pavilions, and its spiral-shaped office building The Helix, on a block bounded by S. Eads Street, 12th Street S., Army Navy Drive and S. Fern Street. The site will also accommodate 2.75 acres of public park, a permanent home for Arlington Community High School, a childcare center and a multi-level underground garage.

The tech giant earned about 1.7 million square feet in bonus density for commitments to sustainable design — among them, powering the buildings with on-site solar panels and electricity from solar farms elsewhere in Virginia — a $30 million affordable housing contribution, public open space and maintenance, off-site transportation improvements and other additions like the school.

Almost two dozen people commented on the plan during the County Board meeting, mostly in support of PenPlace and Amazon’s work with the community during the review process. But a handful had concerns, some questioning whether, given the high density approved, the company should provide more to Arlington.

Community group Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future called on the County Board to secure additional benefits, requesting Amazon also fund an elementary school and at least one additional environmental equity and transportation benefit. ASF advocates for measured development in Arlington.

But Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey rejected how the group calculated numbers it published that assigned values to benefits and to density. He said ASF also didn’t account for macroeconomic benefits, a greater return on the affordable housing investment and other considerations.

“This is a complex conversation. We don’t expect that everyone would fully get and absorb this, that’s why I am happy to engage with people on it,” he said. “But it also kind of underscores why we don’t have these conversations fully in the public.”

Anne Bodine, who was representing ASF, said the county should share the value of density and its calculations.

“Please don’t tell us that you know its value and we can’t,” she said during public comment.

Feedback over the last year of community engagement on the project changed aspects of the development, including adding more green space and other features such as a “green ribbon,” which is a biophilic walking path.

Over the engagement period, the planned size of some buildings shrunk, allowing more space for the public park and increasing the tree canopy.

A graphic shows increases in the amount of planned space for greenery that were incorporated after community feedback (via Arlington County)

Board Chair Katie Cristol applauded the project’s consideration that put the public space “front and center” rather than it being an afterthought just using what’s left over after buildings were accounted for.

Board Member Takis Karantonis said he would have liked the green ribbon to be less linear, and to get a protected bike lane on 12th Street, although he recognized technical constraints.

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(Updated, 4/27) Work has finally started on a long-delayed “boutique multifamily development” in Ballston.

The development is taking place at 1031 N. Vermont Street in Ballston, the former site of Portico Church Arlington.

It was a year ago that McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) took over the site at the intersection of N. Vermont Street and 11th Street N. after plans fell through to build new condos and townhomes there. Those original plans initially drew some backlash from neighbors who worried it would create traffic congestion in an already-highly dense area.

The aging church building the development is replacing had been home to several congregations. The most recent, Portico Church, has since moved about a mile away to the Bluemont neighborhood.

In June 2020, the county approved adding another 4,300 square feet of floor space to the project by removing an “on-site alley,” among other changes. The project called for a seven-story apartment building featuring 98 units. When JAG took over the project, the company said they would mostly stick with this configuration.

Work is now underway on the site, with the existing buildings being demolished and debris being hauled away.

The apartment complex will be a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom units. The building will have a rooftop terrace, below-grade parking with 120 spaces, 40 bicycle spaces, and resident storage.

Construction is expected to be completed in early 2024, with initial move-ins slated to start in the fall of 2023. Work was initially expected to start in late 2021 with a completion date of 2023. It was pushed back due to “challenges relocating existing utility infrastructure on site and securing permits from Arlington County,” a Jefferson Apartment Group spokesperson notes.

The spokesperson also noted that a planned group of townhouses across the street is being developed separately from the apartments, by local homebuilder BCN Homes.

Jefferson Apartment Group is the same company that also built the J Sol apartment building on Fairfax Drive in Ballston, which opened in 2020.

A full press release from the development company is below.

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A rendering of the development at 2000 Clarendon Blvd (file photo)

While there are thousands of affordable housing units in Arlington, there’s a smaller, unique portfolio under the county’s purview.

Homes that are part of the county’s Affordable Dwelling Unit Ownership Program are the only dedicated affordable housing in Arlington that residents can own, as opposed to rent.

In 2017, the county took over the program, which only had about 40 units at the time, from affordable housing provider AHC. Since then, the county has added about 20 units as condominium projects have incorporated income-restricted units into their plans.

The current stock of 59 units is made up of mostly — about 47 or 48 — condos, a few duplexes, two townhomes, and two single-family homes, county Homeownership Program Administrator Akeria Brown tells ARLnow.

These units are for households that meet a 80% area median income which, according to stats released by HUD on Monday, is about $113,000 in annual income for a household of four.

The owners still have to meet the same criteria and go through the same traditional mortgage process to purchase an affordable dwelling unit. The county oversight is only in ensuring the unit remains affordable through sales and resale, and assisting owners when needed, such as for refinancing.

“We don’t typically see a lot of sales,” Brown said. “Households tend to get in these units and they stay for a myriad of reasons.”

One of the homes that was in the program prior to the county’s administration is in the process of being sold. The home at 2900 17th Street S., in the Green Valley neighborhood, is only the second of that original portfolio from AHC to go for resale since the county took control in 2017. It is located in the only all-affordable, resident-owned housing in the county: Davis Place Condominiums.

There have been new affordable housing sales, however, through agreements with the developers of Carver Place, Key & Nash and soon from 2000 Clarendon. When new construction affordable units like these become available, buyers are selected through a random lottery.

The county is always looking to add to its stock, but Brown says they particularly wish for greater availability of family-sized units.

“We would like to get family-sized units, two or three bedrooms… so households that have that goal, are really hoping that we would be able to secure those large units in our portfolio,” Brown said.

Richard Tucker, Housing Arlington coordinator, agreed that there is a general lack of availability of those sized units. He noted that when developers don’t incorporate affordable units into their projects, and instead provide financial contributions toward the Affordable Housing Investment Fund, that money typically goes toward affordable rental programs.

The county intends to complete a homeownership study in the next year to determine what’s working and best practices to explore directions for the various homeownership programs. As part of that study, an assessment of the affordable dwelling unit portfolio will look at the “sustainability and viability of that housing stock and to identify whether additional support to these homeowners is needed,” according to a report released in March.

“There’s a need we feel to have some analysis, or some review, of what our programs are doing, how well they’re performing and who’s being served and then looking at, you know, taking a step back and having the conversation with the community about vision and goals,” Tucker said.

In addition to overseeing the portfolio of affordable units that are owned, the county also has resources for home ownership such as the Moderate-Income Purchase Assistance Program, which provides down payment assistance, and the Condo Initiative, which provides technical assistance and information to condo owners.

As part of the effort to address the lack of affordable housing, the county created the Affordable Housing Master Plan in 2015. Each year, an annual report provides an overview of what the county has done to reach affordable housing goals set out in that plan.

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