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A new developer has reprised long-dormant plans to turn a house, a large tree and two surface parking lots near Courthouse into apartments.

D.C.-area developer Fortis Companies proposes building a 166-unit, 12-story apartment tower at 2025 Fairfax Drive, along a frontage road for Route 50 that dead-ends in front of a complex of historic brick apartment buildings. It also proposes an underground parking garage and an interior walkway between the nearby apartments and Fairfax Drive.

This application, filed in February and processed in October, takes over previously approved plans to build a 104-unit, 12-story building on the site.

The new building would be located on the southeast corner of Fairfax Drive on the same block as the existing, historic Wakefield Manor and Courthouse Manor garden apartment complexes. In 2011, the Arlington County Board guaranteed the preservation of these buildings when it approved the original site plan.

The approved development “was never constructed, for a variety of reasons,” says Andrew Painter, an attorney representing Fortis, in a presentation. “We believe the proposed building will, at long last, fulfill the county’s land use, density, height and diversity goals for the site, and deliver high quality architecture and a building within easy walking distance of many community amenities.”

Fortis Vice-President of Acquisitions Matt Bunch says a design team spent two years studying the site and the 11-year-old plans to come up with a new proposal.

“We’re very excited to bring this project to fruition in a way that satisfies the existing residents’ parking needs, improves project overall viability and addresses the county’s planning guidance,” he said in the same presentation. “We believe this underutilized site is an excellent opportunity to provide new, smart-growth housing within the county that is easily walkable to the Courthouse Metro station.”

A parking garage accessible from N. Troy Street will have 30 parking spaces set aside for Courthouse Manor and Wakefield Manor residents.

The site is less than half a mile from the Metro station as well as bus stops along 15th Street N. Also a half-mile away is the Inn of Rosslyn, which is also slated for redevelopment.

The 1.8-acre site is bordered by the Woodbury Heights Condominiums to the north, Taft Towers condominiums to the east, Arlington Boulevard to the south and the Arlington Court Suites hotel to the west.

“The site is subject to the Fort Myer Heights North Plan (2004), which seeks to balance preservation and redevelopment with an emphasis on affordable housing, historic buildings, open space, significant trees and neighborhood scale,” the county says in a virtual walking tour of the site. “The building façade will be comprised of brick and metal panels with stone and pre-cast concrete accents.”

Wakefield Manor and Courthouse Manor were later preserved from future development through a transfer of development rights involving the old Wendy’s site in Courthouse.

Courthouse Manor (1940) and Wakefield Manor (1943) were designed by notable architect, Mihran Mesrobian,” according to the county. “Both buildings are known for blending Art Deco and Moderne styles with traditional Classical Revival characteristics. They are recognized as unique garden-apartment buildings and identified as ‘Essential’ properties on the Historic Resources Inventory.”

Mesrobian also designed the Calvert Manor apartments in Arlington as well as some prominent hotels and residential buildings in D.C.

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Closed pedestrian bridge over Route 50 (via Arlington County)

A pedestrian bridge in the Rosslyn area is closed after inspectors founds something worrisome.

The bridge over Route 50, connecting N. Fairfax Drive and Fort Myer Drive in the Radnor-Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, was found to have deteriorating concrete in sections, according to Arlington County. The span is closed while crews work on repairs.

More from a county press release:

Engineers are closing the pedestrian bridge connecting North Fairfax Drive to Fort Myer Drive over Arlington Boulevard, effective immediately, as a result of a bridge inspection today, Thursday, December 8, out of an abundance of caution.

Pedestrian access over Arlington Boulevard will be maintained on the Rhodes Street bridge to the west and North Meade Street to the east.

The restrictions will stay in place until further notice. The Arlington Boulevard multi-use trail will remain open on the north side of the bridge.

Crews had been conducting maintenance work on the bridge’s surface. An inspection revealed deterioration of the concrete in some sections of the bridge. The bridge will be temporarily closed while crews work on these repairs.

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(Updated 4 p.m. on 10/28/22) JBG Smith is under contract to sell The Inn of Rosslyn, which it purchased nearly two years ago, according to permits filed with Arlington County.

Now, a new developer — “MR 1601 Fairfax Drive Property LLC,” an affiliate of Monument Realty — is proposing to redevelop the site with an apartment building, according to an ownership disclosure statement.

Although designated as an “important” property on the Arlington Historic Resources Inventory list, the property will be demolished. Iconic features of the 65-year-old building in the Radnor-Fort Myer Heights neighborhood will live on in embellishments to the apartment building.

In December 2020, developer JBG Smith purchased the Rosslyn area motel, the Americana Hotel in Crystal City and two apartment buildings, one of which is adjacent to the Inn of Rosslyn. These four buildings were owned by a local family for about 60 years, but surviving members decided to sell after hotel profits stagnated during the pandemic.

And now, the developer is reselling the property.

The plans for 1601 Fairfax Drive, about a half-mile from the Courthouse Metro station, are taking shape as plans for the Americana Hotel have already started moving through Arlington’s review processes. The developer proposes to demolish the motel and construct an 8-story, nearly 80-foot-tall apartment building with 141 units and 87 below-grade parking spaces.

Monument Realty is foregoing retail on the site because of the site’s sloping topography, and “lack of sufficient pedestrian traffic to support retail uses,” writes Nicholas Cumings, the developer’s land use attorney for the project. (Coincidentally, sloping topography is posing logistical challenges for the developer at the Americana Hotel site.)

Despite the “important” historic designation, a 14-year-old redevelopment plan for the area recommends redeveloping the property with a building up to 12 stories and 125 feet tall, with optional retail and a main entrance on Fairfax Drive and loading and parking off N. Queen Street, per the filing.

The hotel site “could accommodate additional density and height, because this area is adjacent to high volume Arlington Boulevard and the sloping topography will minimize the appearance and impact of greater heights,” according to the 2008 Fort Myer Heights North Plan.

The plan additionally calls for redesigning Fairfax Drive as a “complete street” serving pedestrians, bicyclists, transit users and drivers, while stipulating that new development should have architecture that mimics the existing neighborhood.

“The architecture of the proposed building will complement and draw from the architecture of the existing building and the characteristics of the surrounding neighborhood,” the plan says. “The Applicant’s proposed building design is partly influenced by the building’s distinctive features, which are honored through the façade cantilevers, recreation of the existing ’50’ sign and balcony railings mimicking the zig-zag design of the existing railings.”

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Construction of a mid-rise condo building near Rosslyn and Courthouse could be finished this winter.

Dubbed the Avant, the multifamily structure is located at 1201 N. Quinn Street, south of Arlington Blvd, in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood. Housing nearby is mostly comprised of other mid-rise multifamily buildings.

Once completed, the development from Arlington-based Atlas Development Partners, will be four stories with 12 units and a garage. There are two 1-bedroom, seven 2-bedroom and three 3-bedroom condos.

Two of the units have been purchased already, said a spokesperson for The Centurion Group, a division of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, which is marketing the project.

“We expect to list units for sale in November,” he said.

Construction began three years ago and was anticipated to last 30 months, he said.

But one observer told ARLnow that work has progressed in fits and starts, wondering whether it will ever be finished. It’s nearly completed, and the reason behind the delays are Covid- and supply chain-related, we’re told.

“There were significant delays and material price increases during Covid,” the spokesman said. “Some materials and appliances were on back order for a year.”

Pricing begins at $485,000 for a 1-bedroom, $765,000 for a 2-bedroom and $975,000 for a 3-bedroom unit, according to the website.

The website says the neighborhood “provides a quiet and private corner separated from the county center.”

Still, situated near Metro stations on the Orange Line, the neighborhood offers “convenient car-free commuting options as well as convenient and walkable access to upscale urban amenities ranging from dining, shopping, bars, nightclubs, theaters, parks, and more,” the website adds.

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Trees in Arlington (staff photo)

A new program seeks to increase equity in Arlington by planting more trees in certain neighborhoods.

The local non-profit EcoAction Arlington announced that it’s starting the “Tree Canopy Equity Program” with the goal of raising $1.5 million to fund planting at least 2,500 trees over the next five years in local neighborhoods that have too few.

Insufficient tree canopy is closely tied to heat and temperature increases. The reason certain areas of Arlington are hotter than others, like the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, is due in part to lack of trees, recent data shows.

“The neighborhoods most impacted by insufficient tree cover are communities with higher-than-average minority populations and communities with people living in poverty,” EcoAction Arlington said a press release. “The lack of trees has a real-world impact that can lead to poor physical and mental health outcomes, higher utility costs, and a lower quality of life.”

The ten civic associations and neighborhoods that the program will work with are below.

  • Arlington View
  • Aurora Highlands
  • Buckingham
  • Columbia Heights
  • Glebewood
  • Green Valley
  • John M. Langston Citizens Association (Halls Hill/High View Park)
  • Long Branch Creek
  • Penrose
  • Radnor/Fort Myer Heights

The current levels of tree cover in those neighborhoods is between 17% and 33%, according to EcoAction Arlington.

“The goal is to radically increase tree planting in the neighborhoods with the lowest tree cover to align with the average for other Arlington communities of approximately 40 percent,” the press release says.

EcoAction Arlington executive director Elenor Hodges tells ARLnow that that the group has already begun to plant more trees. That includes American hornbeams, pin oaks, river birch, sugarberry, American sycamore, swamp white oak, and American linden.

The program needs about $150,000 a year to cover operations, marketing, staffing, and the actual planting of trees, Hodges says, with each tree costing about $500 to plant.

Amazon, an inaugural sponsor, has already contributed $50,000. The goal is to raise $1.5 million from other corporate and individual donors, while also obtaining funding from Arlington’s existing Tree Canopy Fund Program. This initiative allows neighborhood groups, owners of private property and developments, and places of worship to apply to have native plants or trees planted on their property.

Residents in neighborhoods lacking sufficient tree canopy note that the the problem is often tied to the construction of large, new homes and not prioritizing trees while building.

“As we lose trees due to infill development of large homes on lots in our neighborhood, they need to be replaced and even expanded,” John M. Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones tells ARLnow. “We all know that trees give off oxygen and they reduce stormwater runoff.

Natasha Atkins has been a resident of Aurora Highlands for nearly four decades and has “watched with alarm” the number of trees lost to homebuilding projects.

“With the County’s zoning code, requiring only very small setbacks for residential housing, it is questionable whether there will be much of a tree canopy in the future in the single-family neighborhoods that are being redeveloped,” she says. “Trees are an afterthought in planning and zoning. They should really be a driver.”

Hodges concedes that planting 2,500 more trees over the next five years will only “make a dent” and it will take tens of thousands of trees for all these neighborhoods to reach the 40% tree canopy threshold.

But the Tree Canopy Equity Program is just as much about what one can do today as what one can do tomorrow, says Hodges.

“It’s about behavioral change and teaching people about the importance of having a sufficient tree canopy in Arlington,” she said.

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An Arlington man has been charged with DUI after police say he struck 7-8 parked cars near Rosslyn on a rainy weekday afternoon earlier this month.

The incident happened on Friday, May 6, in the Radnor-Fort Myer Heights neighborhood. A police report says the 32-year-old man got into a 2003 Honda Pilot SUV, which was parked outside his apartment building on the 1200 block of N. Quinn Street, around 4:45 p.m. What happened next, as detailed by one of the victims, sounds reminiscent of a demolition derby.

The man “sideswiped a car in his own lot, hit a no-parking sign, then a utility pole, then hopped over a sidewalk as well as a row of bushes into a different parking lot where he slammed into another car so hard that it smashed into another,” the victim told ARLnow. “He then proceeded to go on to N. Rolfe Street from said parking lot and hit three more cars before finally coming to a stop.”

The account largely matches that of a police spokeswoman and a crash report shared with ARLnow. The crash report lists a total of seven seven vehicles, all but one of which were disabled by the force of the collisions.

“At approximately 4:46 p.m. on May 6, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle crash with unknown conditions,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, officers located the suspect in the driver’s seat of the striking vehicle. The suspect was treated on scene by medics and declined transport to the hospital.”

“The investigation determined the driver allegedly struck approximately eight parked, unoccupied vehicles, a utility pole and garbage cans,” Savage continued. “Following the administration of field sobriety tests [the suspect] was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence and Refusal of Breath Test.”

The drunk driving charge is a misdemeanor, as it’s the suspect’s first DUI charge, according to court records. The refusal of a breath test is a civil violation.

The suspect was released on his own recognizance after the arrest, according to court records. He is next due in court in August.

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Map showing site of water main project (via Arlington County)

The Arlington County Board is set to approve a contract for a new water main.

The new main will serve the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, near Rosslyn, and will run under the N. Rhodes Street bridge over Route 50.

“This contract is for the construction of a 12-inch watermain between 14th Street North and North Queen Street,” notes a county staff report. “This contract includes approximately 230 feet of 12-inch ductile iron pipe suspended under the North Rhodes Street / Arlington Boulevard overpass Bridge. The proposed water main will provide system redundancy and improved pressure in the neighborhood.”

At its meeting tomorrow (Saturday), the Board will consider a $1.14 million contract, plus an approximate $230,000 contingency, with Alexandria-based contractor Sagres Construction Corporation.

The new main will replace a smaller pipe that broke and has not been returned to service.

“The Fort Myer Heights Watermain Improvement project is part of the effort to interconnect water supply systems to ensure redundancy,” says the county staff report. “The old 6″ watermain under Route 50 that connected the two sides of the Fort Myer Height’s neighborhood was isolated and abandoned in place after a water main break. The proposed 12″ watermain will interconnect the two sides of the neighborhood and thereby provide the essential redundancy and improved water pressure.”

Residents in the area can expect some temporary traffic and water disruptions during the project. A construction timeline was not given.

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This weekend, a new affordable housing development in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, near Rosslyn, could get the green light to get started.

During its regular meeting on Saturday, the County Board is slated to review plans for the Marbella Apartments, a proposal from Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to build two 12-story, multifamily residential buildings that will be 100% affordable units for residents earning less than the area median income (AMI).

It will also review a proposal to issue a $10.5 million, 38-year loan to the Arlington-based affordable housing developer to fund one half of the project.

The two buildings, with a total of 555 units, would replace the existing three-story, garden-style complex located at 1300 and 1305 N. Pierce, north of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall. These buildings are located on the east and west sides of N. Pierce Street, between N. Queen Street and N. Ode Street.

About two-thirds of the units in both buildings will be affordable to those earning up to 60% AMI and more than half of the units will be family-sized, with two to three bedrooms. The rest of the units will be affordable to people earning up to 30% to 50% of AMI.

Current residents will be prioritized as new tenants and the units will be affordable for 75 years, according to a Board report. In the “unlikely” event of a foreclosure with the senior lender, Virginia Housing, APAH may be able to reduce the number of affordable units to no fewer than 20% of the total, it said.

The project would be built in two phases:

  • Phase 1: “Site A,” a 234-unit tower with 118 below-grade parking spaces
  • Phase 2: “Site B,” a 321-unit tower, 132 of which will be dedicated to senior housing, with 163 below-grade parking spaces

Each building will be oriented around central courtyards, with two new pedestrian walkways across each site. They have some environmentally friendly features, including green roofs, rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle charging stations and bicycle parking.

The developer will also take utilities underground and plant street trees.

APAH intends to return to the County Board later to request funds for the second phase. The County loaned the developer $4 million in 2011 when it purchased the existing 134-unit complex, built in the 1940s.

APAH is allowed to build 12-story buildings in the neighborhood through an April 2021 zoning ordinance amendment that hasn’t been used before, according to the report. Developers can tack on height if they commit to keeping all the units affordable and designing effective height transitions to lower-slung neighbors.

But this policy lacked “well-defined planning and urban design guidelines or other applicable policy guidance,” resulting in a contentious public review process, according to the report.

The Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, Lisa Court townhouses homeowners and representatives for the Flats at Pierce Court condos all “voiced a number of concerns with the proposal, including issues related to overall building height, density, proposed parking, construction impacts, and transition to lower density properties,” the report said.

The Marbella Apartments site, showing neighboring communities (via Arlington County)

But revisions addressing these concerns worried several Site Plan Review Committee members and advisory group representatives, who said they reduced the number of units too much, the report continued.

The county says the final proposal smoothes the transition from townhouses to 12-story buildings as much as possible while removing only a half-dozen of units.

The evolution of the Marbella Apartments proposal (via Arlington County)

Meanwhile, this summer, APAH intends to renovate some low- and mid-rise affordable apartment buildings it owns next to the buildings intended for redevelopment.

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Morning Notes

Geese clean themselves in Boundary Channel (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Hotel Redevelopment Plan Paused — “The redevelopment of one of Arlington’s oldest hotels looks to be on hold indefinitely, as the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic disrupt the hospitality-focused project. Grant Investment Properties is asking county planners for more time to complete its overhaul of Rosslyn’s old Best Western Iwo Jima, now known as the Red Lion Hotel Rosslyn Iwo Jima, at 1501 Arlington Boulevard. A site plan for the project projected that it would be finished by March 2022, but the Chicago-based firm filed papers last week to ask for an extension through March 2025.” [Washington Business Journal]

Proposed APS Changes Questioned — “Based on feedback from the Arlington School Board, the Arlington Public Schools system is focusing on what they call more equitable grading practices. The preliminary proposal calls for: No late penalties for homework… No extra credit… Unlimited redoes and retakes on assignment… No grading for homework.” [WJLA, Washington Post]

Hit and Run Crash in Bluemont — From yesterday afternoon: “Several lanes of Wilson Blvd and N. George Mason Dr are closed after a reported hit-and-run crash in the intersection. Police and Fire Dept. on scene.” [Twitter]

Video: Crash on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “Watch: Another left turn in the middle of an interstate ends badly. 1p, I-395S at Rt 1. Third one recorded at this spot in the last month.” [Twitter]

Toby’s May Be Expanding to Vienna — “Toby’s Homemade Ice Cream, which saw a boost in sales over the summer thanks to the debut of its cicada sundaes, appears to be branching out. The Arlington-based shop, located along a Washington Boulevard in the Westover neighborhood, plans to open a new location at the Cedar Park Shopping Center in Vienna, according to Fairfax County permit data.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Fire and EMS Staffing Stretched — ” Fairfax County saw its largest-ever increase in coronavirus cases among fire and emergency medical responders this month, mirroring a surge in case rates compared to 2020. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department data shows that there are 53 positive cases and 14 in quarantine, all staying at home to curb the spread of COVID-19.” [FFXnow, DCist, Twitter]

Crash and Arrest Block the Pike — Columbia Pike was blocked at S. Greenbrier Street yesterday evening after a crash in which one of the drivers reportedly refused police commands to exit the vehicle and was later tased. [Twitter]

It’s Thursday — There will be drizzle and possible fog before 2 p.m. on an otherwise cloudy day, with a high near 55. Sunrise at 7:26 a.m. and sunset at 4:54 p.m. Tomorrow, on New Year’s Eve, expect mild weather, with cloudy skies, a high near 60 and a low around 51. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington police about to pull over someone who rolled through a stop sign (video courtesy Kevin F.)

Arlington County Police Department motor officers had no shortage of drivers to pull over at a Rosslyn area intersection this year.

A resident who lives near the intersection of N. Pierce Street and 16th Street N. sent the following video, a compilation of drivers being pulled over for rolling through the intersection’s stop signs.

“This guy’s done. Oh, he’s so done,” the resident can be heard saying, as sirens started blaring and the police motorcycle started rumbling towards its prey.

An ACPD spokeswoman tells ARLnow that the department indeed engages in proactive traffic education and enforcement.

“Transportation safety is a key initiative of the Arlington County Police Department and officers take a two pronged approach of education and enforcement to ensure the safety of all travelers on our roadways,” said Ashley Savage. “As part of the Department’s traffic safety program, we work collaboratively with other County agencies and community members to address areas of concern.”

“Failure to stop at stop signs is a common concern we hear from community members throughout the County… It is a violation of Virginia Code § 46.2-821 to fail to come to a complete stop at a stop sign,” Savage added. “Officers conduct enforcement in identified areas of concern on a random rotating basis with the goal of compliance even when police are not present.”

As of last week, ACPD officers had issued more than 3,000 traffic tickets (or summons, in Virginia law enforcement parlance) and 1,000 warnings for stop sign violations over the course of 2021, according to data provided by the department.

Stop sign tickets and warning issued in 2021 (via ACPD)
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(Updated at 2 p.m.) Plans from a local affordable housing nonprofit to redevelop apartments in the Fort Myer Heights neighborhood, near Rosslyn are ready for public review.

Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) proposes to redevelop some buildings in a housing complex consisting of a series of three-story garden apartments and a detached single-family residence. These buildings are located within a mile of the Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations.

If approved, the plan will demolish some of the existing Marbella buildings, while renovating others and adding two 12-story buildings, at 1300 and 1305 N. Pierce Street, for a total of 561 units. The new buildings would only have committed affordable dwelling units.

According to APAH, a public comment period is set to open today for residents to provide feedback on the project. The site plan submission for the project was accepted by the county earlier this month, a precursor to reviews by county commissions and the County Board. Public review meetings and a County Board vote have yet to be scheduled, however, per the project’s webpage.

“The development will provide critically needed affordable housing in north Arlington, thereby advancing the priorities of the County Affordable Housing Master Plan and other County housing policies,”  said Kedrick Whitmore, a land-use lawyer with Venable.

Currently, the apartment complex — deemed “notable” in the county’s historic preservation program — has 72 committed affordable units. The new construction will bring a net increase of 489 committed affordable units to Arlington.

The two buildings, designed by KG&D Architects, are designed to attain EarthCraft Gold energy efficiency. They will feature a mixture of family-size and senior housing units.

The project will be divided into two phases. In the first phase, a 12-story tower with 325 residential units — 132 of which are dedicated to senior housing — and 163 underground parking spaces will be built. The second phase will see the construction of the second 12-story tower with 236 residential units and 118 below-grade parking spaces.

The project includes streetscape and sidewalk improvements, make utility fund contributions and improvements and add bicycle parking. There will also be in-building wireless first responder networks.

APAH is looking to request modifications for bonus height and density, among others possibly needed for the projects.

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