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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) A three-story, county-owned group home in Douglas Park is set for demolition early next year.

In its place, Arlington County will oversee the construction of an environmentally friendly home for six adults with disabilities, at a total cost of more than $5 million.

Built in 1924, the house at 1212 S. Irving Street has undergone several renovations and has operated as a group home since the mid-1970s, according to a county report. Today, the 3,800-square foot, seven-bedroom house accommodates five individuals.

But the county says the house needs to be rebuilt.

“This existing residence is aged and in deteriorating condition and will be demolished and replaced with a new two-story family home of approximately 3,000 [square feet],” according to the project page.

The $4 million construction contract for the net-zero group home was approved by the County Board in October. Demolition could begin in January 2022, as could the installation of a geothermal well field that will power the home’s heating and cooling systems, says Claudia Pors, a Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman.

“Right now the contractor (MCN Build) doesn’t want to begin demolition of the current structure until they have materials to build the new home, and demolition isn’t anticipated to begin for another 6-8 weeks,” she said.

The new home will have six bedrooms, including accessible bathrooms and closets, an area for staff and accessible communal living spaces with built-in furnishings and appliances, per the county report. It will be equipped with various audio-visual technologies to support individuals with complex medical support needs.

“Upon completion, the new home will provide a primary and permanent residence for up to six adults with developmental disabilities,” the report said. “It will be constructed to meet the changing needs of the residents across their lifespans, regardless of physical and behavioral support needs.”

Arlington’s Department of Human Services will operate and maintain the house, while a contracted residential provider will have the primary responsibility for caring for residents.

The new 1212 S. Irving Street will be a net-zero energy residence, meaning it generates as much energy as it consumes. It will also be the county’s first Viridiant Net-Zero certified building, Pors said.

“Some of the construction features include an airtight building envelope and high-performance windows and doors that prevent outdoor air from coming in, or loss of conditioned air; less than 50% of impervious area on the property, so stormwater can be absorbed by the ground naturally; and landscaping with non-invasive species,” she said.

Solar panels and geothermal systems will power the building, while energy recovery ventilators will recover heat or cold air, she said. The interior will also feature LED lighting, low-flow plumbing features and Energy Star appliances.

The project is $900,000 over budget, according to the report.

“The total project budget for the 1212 S. Irving St. Group Home project is $5,205,735,” the report says. “This amount is $900,000 over budget, due to the current unstable market conditions, longer construction duration from lagging supply deliveries, and the addition of a sixth bedroom and a kitchenette to satisfy DHS current programming requirements. The construction cost was over a $1 million more than the independent cost estimate received in November 2020.”

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Morning Notes

Raindrops and leaves in Rosslyn (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Biden Visits Arlington for Vets Day — “President Joe Biden saluted the nation’s military veterans as ‘the spine of America’ on Thursday as he marked his first Veterans Day as president in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.” [WTOP]

Wet Roads Leading to Crashes — From the Washington Weather Geeks: “Please be careful out there this morning! Multiple crashes have been reported in and around the region. Wet [leaves] on the roads will help cause more hazards this morning. Slow down!” [Twitter]

Jury Duty Reminder — “Juror questionnaires were mailed in the form of a postcard with a website link in early August to 35,000 randomly selected residents of Arlington County and Falls Church City. Not everyone was chosen to receive the questionnaire. If you did not receive a postcard, there is nothing you need to do. These Questionnaires are used to qualify residents for jury duty which begins January 1, 2022, and ends December 31, 2022.” [Arlington County]

‘Missing Middle’ Study Update — “The most recent update revealed community support for the housing affordability, diversity, and supply that missing middle housing would bring. Competing concerns from homeowners have arisen regarding flooding, tree loss, and strain on infrastructure; though ultimately, existing patterns of development mean these issues already exist under the status quo.” [GGWash]

‘Spirit of Community’ Honorees — “As Arlington Community Foundation marks three decades of service this fall, this year’s Spirit of Community will honor three extraordinary people who embody Arlington’s Spirit of Community, Advocacy, and Volunteerism. In addition to recognizing these three extraordinary individuals, the program will feature Arlington youth and business leaders who have stepped up to meet the historic challenges of the last two years in inspiring and innovative ways.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

Lots of Ladybugs Around Area — “Multicolored Asian lady beetles are swarming in large numbers across the Mid-Atlantic because of late fall warmth. Also called ladybird beetles, this type of ladybug smells bad, can bite you and, if you squish it, produces a messy, yellow stain. This is another invasive insect that has found a home in our area.” [Capital Weather Gang]

WaPo’s Winter Forecast — “Overall, temperatures should work out close to average. Snow lovers are unlikely to be pleased as we’re projecting below-average amounts for the fifth time in the past six winters. We do, however, think we’ll top last winter’s snow totals… Alexandria, Arlington and Prince George’s counties and the District: 8 to 14 inches.” [Capital Weather Gang]

It’s Friday — Today there will be rain and storms until about 10 a.m., then gradually clearing through this evening. Sunrise at 6:48 a.m. and sunset at 4:56 p.m. Tomorrow there will be a chance of showers between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., otherwise it will be mostly sunny and breezy, with gusts up to 23 mph. Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 51.

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Arlington County has started the process of finding a developer to lead the Crystal House Apartments redevelopment project in Crystal City.

The county seeks a “robust, experienced and trustworthy master development partner” to replace surface-level parking with 738 apartment units, most of which will be affordable housing, by January 2028, according to its request for qualifications.

Arlington aims to choose a developer in the third quarter of 2022.

“Housing affordability is essential to achieving the County’s Vision and is vital to the social and economic sustainability of our community,” the county said in the request.

Arlington’s call for developers marks the latest step forward in its plans to build affordable housing on behalf of Amazon at 1900 S. Eads Street.

Amazon put up $381.9 million so that the nonprofit Washington Housing Conservancy could purchase the 16-acre site in late 2020 and stabilize rent there for 1,300 units. The purchase was part of its commitment to create and preserve affordable housing as rents rise amid its growing HQ2 presence.

In July, Amazon donated the land and development rights to the county.

Crystal House Apartments is currently comprised of two 13-story buildings built in 1961, with a total of 828 units and 765 parking spaces, of which 601 are surface parking. These surface lots are slated for redevelopment.

At least 75% of the new units will be committed affordable units, while the other 25% will be market-rate and may include rental and ownership opportunities.

As part of the project, two public parks will be built: a 31,456 square-foot park at 20th Street S. and S. Eads Street and a 23,986-square foot park at 22nd Street S. and S. Fern Street.

A protected bike lane will run along S. Eads Street, stormwater utilities will be relocated and a public pedestrian pathway through the site will be built.

Arlington plans to knock out two projects with this request for qualifications. The same developer would take on a redevelopment opportunity near the larger site, but not part of the Amazon project. This parking lot, dubbed the Crystal House 5 parcel, would be replaced with at least 81 affordable units.

Arlington expects headway on Crystal House 5 after the developer meets Amazon’s 2028 goal.

Including Crystal House 5, the 16-acre site will get 819 new residential units, between 555 and 650 of which will be affordable.

“It is still being determined how affordable units, if proposed on the Crystal House 5 site, would count towards affordability goals, and it is anticipated this will be clarified by the RFP stage,” the county said.

Together with the existing buildings, there will be 1,647 units and 1,181 parking units.

The request asks developers to submit their background and experience by Dec. 1. Arlington will then choose its top contenders, who will be invited to submit bids next spring.

Hat tip to Stephen Repetski

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(Updated, 12:30 p.m.) Some Marymount University students say they can’t afford a new housing policy that will require them to live on campus all four years.

Last week, a group of 15 students demonstrated outside of the Catholic university on N. Glebe Road in protest over a policy that will take effect next fall, requiring most students to live on campus during their entire stint at the school.

“Beginning in the Fall of 2022, all current and new undergraduate students who do not live with family members in the local [D.C] area will be required to live in University housing,” a university spokesperson told ARLnow.

A Change.org petition in response to the new policy calls for it to be rescinded, alleging that it’s a “blatant money-grab.” Plus, notes the petition, some off-campus leases have already been signed for next year, leaving students “to choose between breaking their lease or breaking university policy.”

The petition has more than 650 signatures.

The university tells ARLnow that this policy came from “input” they’ve received from students who say living on campus helps them have a “more engaged and fulfilling Marymount experience.” It also eliminates “problems with landlords and local housing laws, a growing trend that has been brought to our administration’s attention in recent years,” according to the spokesperson.

Those students who disagree with the policy say this makes attending Marymount University unaffordable for them when they could find lower cost housing options off-campus.

The lowest priced on-campus housing option is Rowley Hall, a dormitory on campus offering double rooms (as in, shared with another student). It costs $4,743 a semester, according to 2021-2022 housing rates, which works out to be more than $1,100 per month, per student. However, that option is only open to freshman and sophomores.

“We feel like we’re being priced out,” Giancarlo Ganzaba, a second-year Marymount student, tells ARLnow. “Not all of us can afford to keep [paying that]. We have to take out loans to be able to pay for on-campus living. We just can’t afford it.”

Ganzaba lives in the Rixey at 1008 N. Glebe Road, on Marymount’s satellite campus in Ballston, which was acquired by the school in 2019 and converted into university housing.

It was just announced last month that some of the student housing in the Rixey is going to be converted into hotel rooms. An attorney for the university noted that “student housing availability on site has consistently exceeded demand for student housing at Marymount,” according to the Washington Business Journal.

Ganzaba current pays $6,500 a semester to live in a two-bedroom, two-bath unit with three roommates at the Rixey. That’s about $1,600 a month.

While that may be competitive with average rent levels, it is still incredibly expensive housing,” he says. “I could afford to live somewhere else off campus a few miles away and be a commuter. But they are taking that option away from me.”

Marymount, however, says that student who need it will have access to financial aid for housing.

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With the construction of Amazon’s HQ2, a nearly 40-year-old planning document guiding development in Pentagon City has reached the end of its useful life.

Now, Arlington County has to lay out a vision for the next 20 years of development. According to the most recent draft of the Pentagon City Planning Study, that will include a significant amount of redevelopment and infill development, with an emphasis on residential buildings. Two other priorities are increased green spaces and multimodal transportation upgrades.

The year-plus planning effort is set to wrap up later this fall, and currently, county planners are engaging with the community about their second draft plan.

Per the draft, Pentagon City could — if developers follow through — see about nine significant redevelopment projects over the next two decades.

“We have tried to continue to engage to get an understanding of what they’re thinking,” said Kathleen Onufer, of architecture firm Goody Clancy, which worked with the county on the plan. “The years are based on conversation with the property owners and their sense of interest.”

Pentagon City Planning Study Area (via Arlington County)

RiverHouse, one of the largest housing complexes in the D.C. area, is listed as having significant development potential. That’s why county planners included the apartments in the study, despite them being outside the document’s core planning area.

Adding more density to RiverHouse and its expanse of surface parking lots and green space — already a hot topic — prompted a strong reaction from attendees of an open house last night (Tuesday). A number of attendees expressed disapproval for the impact they believed it would have on property values, while a few were more supportive.

“There is plenty of room to build out mid- and high-rises west [on] Columbia Pike [and] south on Richmond Highway, Potomac Yard, and Arlandria,” former RiverHouse resident and attendee Tina Ghiladi said. “To think RiverHouse should absorb the majority of all this density is being expedient. We’re not being NIMBYs. We understand the need for additional housing, we just want height limits.”

After the meeting, Aurora Highlands Civic Association member Ben D’Avanzo told ARLnow he supports turning the tracts of parking spaces into additional housing.

“RiverHouse is a sensitive area, being both a transition to lower density neighbors and one of the somewhat affordable rental housing [options] available” in the area, he said. “Yet, as housing values and rents skyrocket, there are wide swaths of surface parking just blocks from the Metro that do not represent a livable version of our neighborhood. I think the Pentagon City final plan should, accounting for more detail needed on streetscape, open space, schools and other community needs, have a balance of new housing types at RiverHouse, with townhouses at the southern end and more density at the northern [end].”

Overall, the draft plan divides potential redevelopment opportunities into five phases, ranging between two and five years.

“Reality is not that convenient and neat, but it gives you a sense [of] what we can expect if these sites actually redevelop,” said the lead county planner on the project, Matt Mattauszek. “That’s not in our control, but at least organizing it this way gives people a sense of what’s more likely to redevelop sooner rather than later, and what that means for the addition of units and the impact on schools.”

The current and proposed mix of land-use in Pentagon City (via Arlington County)

The phases are as follows below.

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Michelle Winters (courtesy Alliance for Housing Solutions)

The head of a local nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing is stepping down after five years at the helm.

Michelle Winters announced Friday that effective Nov. 30, she will no longer be the executive director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions (AHS).

“I am inspired by your dedication to the well-being of Arlington’s lower-income residents and to creating a more welcoming, affordable, and inclusive Arlington for Everyone,” referencing a set of AHS principles. “I’m proud of the many successes we have accomplished together, although I know there is still so much critical work to do.”

According to the alliance’s Board Chair Jenny Lawson, the board is “undertaking an active search for a new executive director.”

The nonprofit, founded in 2003, works to increase the supply of affordable housing in the county and Northern Virginia through education, policy development and advocacy.

Since Winters joined AHS in May 2016, she notes, the county has taken a number of steps to preserve and build affordable housing, including one in which AHS was closely involved: expanding opportunities to build Accessory Dwelling Units.

During this time, the alliance has also supported affordable housing developments throughout the county.

The nonprofit maintains discussion groups, hosts events and educates residents about Arlington’s housing efforts, from the Missing Middle Housing Study to its Affordable Housing Investment Fund. Last year, amid the national reckoning on race, it produced a video on race and housing in Arlington.

AHS has a fairly modest budget to do this work, tax records show. During Winters’ tenure, AHS’s annual donation base increased from $85,000 to nearly $148,000 in 2019. Filings indicate a good chunk is spent on employee compensation, operational costs and office maintenance for its space at 3100 Clarendon Blvd.

Winters earned $55,946 in reportable compensation in 2019, for 20 hours per week of work, according to the nonprofit’s IRS Form 990 filing.

Some of the biggest donors to AHS are local affordable housing developers AHC, Inc. and Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, as well as and Virginia Housing, a state-created nonprofit that helps Virginians attain housing.

The alliance’s Board of Directors praised Winters’ work.

“She has been a thoughtful and dedicated champion for affordable housing during years of significant growth and transition, generously sharing her policy expertise, partnership skills, and wisdom with those seeking to maximize opportunities for safe, decent, and affordable housing for everyone in Arlington,” the directors said. “Because of her dedication and commitment to our mission, AHS is strong and well-positioned to continue its work, and we will miss her many contributions and wish her well in her future endeavors.”

Lawson thanked the departing executive director “for her readiness to assist with transition issues now and later.”

Winters, who served on Arlington’s Housing Commission from 2007-10, says she will continue being “an active voice for change in Arlington, across Virginia, and nationwide on housing policy.”

AHS will highlight her accomplishments during its upcoming 2021 Bozman Awards on Nov. 14.

Winters has also worked on housing policy at the national level, working for the Fannie Mae Foundation and leading initiatives at two of the country’s largest affordable housing organizations, NeighborWorks America and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation.

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For nearly one year, Arlington County has studied whether the zoning code should be rewritten to allow low-to-moderate density housing types like duplexes in more neighborhoods.

The initiative is dubbed the “Missing Middle Housing Study.” It refers to mid-sized housing types, such as duplexes, triplexes, quads and townhomes, which are denser than a single-family home but smaller than an apartment or condo building.

The county says adding homes in the “Missing Middle” could tackle a local housing shortage. Since its launch, the study has been debated in panels and County Board candidate forums and referenced in discussions about changing zoning ordinances that have hurt some duplex owners.

But something simple may be hindering public perception of the study: the name.

“Everybody assumes it has to do with affordability… and they hang their own viewpoints on that,” said Jim Lantelme, who chairs the Planning Commission.

Speaking on behalf of himself as a resident, Lantelme says a name change may help people disassociate “Missing Middle” and affordable housing, which are separate (but related) issues. He presented this idea to during a joint Planning Commission-County Board meeting last week.

“Missing Middle, for whatever reason, people have a negative reaction right off the bat,” he tells ARLnow. “Why go off a name that’s closing off minds, rather than one that encourages dialogue — one that people have an open mind toward? By renaming it, we might have a better dialogue without having to overcome misapprehensions.”

The county is primarily examining whether different forms of housing can blend into existing, single-family home neighborhoods. The goal is a greater variety and supply of housing, including units that are less expensive than single-family homes but not necessarily affordable to those making well below the area median income in the same way as dedicated affordable housing.

Whether “Missing Middle” housing can be purchased by people in different income brackets depends on size, location and market forces, says Elise Cleva, a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

To uncouple “Missing Middle” and affordability, Lantelme suggested names that clarify the study’s exploration of form. He pointed to “Low-Rise,” the name Los Angeles gave to its effort to add more low-rise multi-family buildings to the city.

“Why hobble yourself at the front, when you can try to get a term that is more accurate, that doesn’t have the connotations that people seem to be associating Missing Middle with, which is affordability,” he said.

Cleva said CPHD is also picking up on a disconnect. Over the next few months, during targeted engagement with members of harder-to-reach populations, she said CPHD will debut a clarifying tagline.

“In our interactions with them, we’ll be using a new tagline for the study, ‘Expanding Housing Choice’ and also continuing to articulate that the term ‘Missing Middle’ describes the size and type of a home — in the middle of a spectrum of housing options ranging from single detached homes to mid- and high-rise apartments and condos,” Cleva said.

She says CPHD is trying to address some misconceptions that resulted from a lack of engagement with certain populations.

“Basically, while we’ve reached many people, our engagement data thus far shows that there are many we have not reached, especially among renters and populations that have historically had less access to participate in planning processes,” she said. “It follows then that people we have not had a chance to dialogue with about the study may be unclear about its purpose and scope.”

On the question of renaming the study, Cleva said it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

“[We] remain open to the possibility of renaming the study, should we continue to receive feedback about the name causing confusion,” she said.

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The Garrison residence at 523 24th Street S. (courtesy of Les Garrison)

(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) Seven years ago, Les Garrison bought a two-family home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood so that his son’s family could live in one half and the other could be rented out.

He had always intended to renovate the home near Crystal City, which consists of two apartments, each with two bedrooms and one bathroom. He also wants to modernize it, making it accessible to people with disabilities and adding solar panels.

Garrison tells ARLnow he wants to provide an affordable housing option to his son, a county employee, and people like his other tenants — two women over 60, a barista and a graduate student.

“My son… he can’t afford to live in this neighborhood, unless we have revenue coming in from the house,” Garrison said. “That’s what this is about: allowing him to stay in Arlington.”

He expected to get approvals in 2017 and start construction in 2018. Instead, his plan to enlarge and modernize the house will require approvals from the Planning Commission and the County Board as part of a more complex county permitting track that even features a county webpage devoted to the project.

The Garrison’s Site Plan Review process, which involves more scrutiny and more revisions to attain the green light to start construction than an administrative approval typical for single-family homes in Arlington, has also put him out nearly $100,000 in permitting fees, and payments to lawyers, architects and arborists.

Although dates have not yet been set for County Board approval, the Garrison residence would be the second duplex project to go before the board this year. Members approved construction at a Ballston duplex at 1201 N. Vernon Street in May. Meanwhile, from January through June, the county has administratively approved construction of 66 single-family detached homes and construction started on 27 similarly-approved townhouses.

This disparity has drawn criticism from some members of the Planning Commission, who are the last to provide input before sending a project to the County Board for a virtual rubber stamp, as well as housing advocates, who say this reflects a “broken” zoning code.

County staff, meanwhile, say that changes Garrison is proposing require community input. But, they said relief for duplex homeowners in similar situations could come in the future, if zoning standards are changed for lower-density multifamily housing types as part of the in-progress Missing Middle Housing Study.

That might put homeowner renovations of duplexes that don’t confirm to current zoning on the same regulatory playing field as the tear-downs that have become commonplace across the county.

“Right now, a builder can put up a 3,000 square foot house and sell it. It’s pretty much that simple — no public meetings, no expensive lawyers, no neighborhoods weighing in on, I don’t know, whether your driveway pavers should be beige or gray,” said Daniel Weir, who is the vice-chair of the Planning Commission. “Split that exact same building in half — same amount of driveway, same amount of parking, same lot lines — try and build literally almost the exact same building, and all of a sudden everyone in the county gets to have a say.”

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Crystal City could get more affordable housing under a new agreement between Amazon and Arlington County, announced earlier today.

The tech giant said in a new blog post that it would hand over to the county the rights to $40 million in vacant land within the Crystal House apartment property, on which Arlington County could develop more than 550 new affordable homes.

“Amazon is committed to promoting economic inclusion for all families and fostering a thriving community in and around Arlington,” said Catherine Buell, Amazon’s head of community development.

Construction is slated to begin in 2025, the Amazon blog post said.

The contributions are part of Amazon’s new Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion commitment to create and preserve more than 20,000 units in Amazon’s three primary footholds: the Seattle area, Nashville and Arlington.

This announcement follows up on a commitment Amazon made in January to preserve 1,300 affordable housing units in Arlington as property values are rising amid its expansion. As part of the commitment, the company financed $381.9 million in loans and grants to a D.C. area housing nonprofit so that it could buy and stabilize rent at Crystal House (1900 S. Eads Street), a set of two apartment buildings one block from Amazon’s future HQ2.

The financing allowed Washington Housing Conservancy to preserve units in the existing Crystal House apartment complex, which has 828 units, for low- to moderate-income residents for 99 years.

“We are excited to build on our earlier work to preserve affordable housing at Crystal House in the heart of our new headquarters,” Buell said. “This donation to the County brings us a step closer to achieving up to 1,300 total affordable homes at the site for families earning moderate- to low-incomes.”

If the agreement is approved, the county will be carrying out a development plan that the County Board approved for the Crystal House property in December 2019. This site is set to have six more “Crystal Houses,” adding 820 units in total, as well as two public open spaces and a protected bike lane along S. Eads Street.

According to a county report, WHC does not intend to serve as the property’s developer, so Amazon purchased development rights for the vacant land. It approached the county in early 2021 with its plan to give the property to the county to develop.

Proposed development plan for Crystal House property (via Arlington County)

According to Arlington County’s map of projects, the project’s status remains “approved.”

The Arlington County Board is set to review the agreement during its regular meeting this coming Saturday, July 17.

“Amazon is demonstrating dedication and commitment to the Arlington community with this game-changing opportunity to increase affordable housing in the County,” said Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia. “Future development on the Crystal House site will help bolster critical housing supply goals in an area with limited affordable housing options.”

If the board accepts the gift, the county will embark on a national search for a master developer and sub-developers. The site could have 554 affordable units on it by Jan. 1, 2028, according to a county statement.

Of those units, at least 148 will be committed to households earning 50% or less of the area median income, and at least 406 will be committed to households earning 80% or less of the AMI.

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Facing high rates of pandemic-era apartment vacancies, Dittmar Company is looking to recoup its losses through short-term rentals.

The Tysons-based developer and property management group is asking the Arlington County Board for permission to convert up to 75 furnished apartment units in three Arlington buildings into flexible hotel rooms.

Randolph Towers in Ballston, Courtland Towers in Courthouse and Virginia Square Towers in Virginia Square will each have 25 units available as short-term rentals under the proposal.

These “Flexible Units,” which comprise less than 5% of the total units in each building, may be rented for short-term stays of fewer than 30 days or long-term stays of more than 30 days. Dittmar will require a minimum length of stay of at least three consecutive nights, and the units cannot be rented for more than 90 nights in a calendar year, according to a county staff report.

Currently, the furnished units are “rented by foreign embassies, corporations, universities, medical facilities, and other tenants desiring long term residential stays,” Nicholas Cumings, Dittmar’s legal representative, wrote in a letter to the county this spring.

They are “typically vacant for three months out of the year and require significant operational costs (i.e. provision of utilities, furniture, housekeeping facilities and housekeeping personnel, etc.),” said Cumings, an attorney with the land use firm of Walsh Colucci.

The new arrangement would allow Dittmar to offset the losses from when such furnished units are vacant, Cumings said. The conversions would be in effect for up to five years.

County Manager Mark Schwartz recommends the County Board approve the request during its meeting on Saturday. The County Board previously heard the requests in May and, following staff recommendation, deferred them to allow for more conversations and analysis, county staff wrote.

“Concerns have been raised by the community and Planning Commission regarding the potential impacts on housing affordability and the absence of County policy on temporary conversions of residential to hotel use,” the staff report said. “Since the Flexible Units may be rented by any individual seeking either a long- or short-term furnished stay, staff expects the temporary conversions to have limited, if any impact on the broader housing supply or rental rates.”

One resident told ARLnow he thinks this arrangement will lead to a spike in travelers in the building.

“Although they claim now to rent furnished units to institutional partners (like universities or embassies), I worry that Dittmar will seek to rent them on a day-to-day basis,” the resident said. “This will ruin the nature of communities that are primarily for long-term tenants. When we finally get through the pandemic and people can travel more freely, I worry that these buildings will become prime destinations for countless travelers.”

In his letter, Cumings wrote that Dittmar “has no desire to operate as a hotel and seeks the ability to rent their existing furnished units for short-term stays in order to offset the cost of vacancies throughout the year.”

The rental units will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, mostly located on the lower floors, “with some premium furnished units located on the penthouse floors,” he said.

The County Board will be meeting in-person on the third floor of county government headquarters, at 2100 Clarendon Blvd in Courthouse. It resumed in-person meetings in June after switching to virtual meetings last year due to the pandemic.

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The average square footage of an Arlington apartment appears to be increasing, according to a new study from RENTCafé.

Among 92 cities and jurisdictions, more than one-third are building bigger apartments now than they did five to 10 years ago, according to the website, which follows trends in the apartment market. And Arlington County had the seventh largest jump in unit size between 2016 and 2021.

Compared to units completed between 2016-2020, in the second half of the last decade, those under construction as of May  2021 are 91 square feet bigger — “enough for a cozy home office or relaxation area,” RENTCafé spokeswoman Michelle Cretu said.

New projects in Arlington are embracing “renters’ living preferences following the pandemic,” she said. “After years of shrinking apartments, current projects… are on the track to give renters more square footage to better fit their new lifestyle.”

Localities that were building smaller apartments, and are now building larger (via RENTCafé)

And the extra size is being added across one-, two- and three-bedroom units.

“The share of 2- and 3-bedroom apartments under construction is similar to the overall stock and is not driving the increase in average size,” Cretu said.

RENTCafé’s data show apartment unit size increasing from 2016-20 to May 2021

Out of the 664 units that were under construction as of May, 61% are one-bedroom apartments, RENTCafé’s analysis found. Arlington County historically has had a high share of one-bedroom apartments, Cretu said, which comprised 54% of units delivered between 2011-2015 and 63% of those delivered in the second half of the decade.

Representatives from developers JBG Smith and Penzance, which are active in Arlington, were lukewarm on attributing this uptick to the pandemic.

“The renter profile in Arlington has changed over the past several years,” said John Kusturiss, Senior Vice President of Development for Penzance. “Apartments are no longer just for recent college grads; folks of all ages want to have the accessibility of an urban area to walk to great shops, restaurants, and more.”

JBG Executive Vice President of Development Bryan Moll said the people seeking larger rental units fall into a few categories: first-time renters seeking units that fit roommates, those constrained by “the limited supply of affordable, for-sale housing,” and new or growing families.

Moll did say JBG Smith is responding to the pandemic-era need for home offices and individual and co-working spaces. He added, however, that the company has found renters are willing to settle for smaller units to be nearer to amenity-rich corridors in the area.

“Submarkets like National Landing continue to evolve into even more vibrant destinations with enhanced neighborhood amenities and new employment opportunities,” he said. “As a result, more renters will want to live there, even if that means living in slightly smaller units. We’ve seen this trend play out over the past decade in most of the amenity-dense areas across D.C.”

RENTCafé observed shrinking apartments across the river in D.C., meanwhile. Current units are 23 square feet smaller than they were five years ago, and new rentals will be 721 sq. ft. on average — among the smallest units under construction, Cretu said.

Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development — which tracks development trends in Arlington — last reported apartment size trends, which are calculated by dividing the building’s total square footage by the number of units, in 2018. That report show more modest fluctuations compared to RENTCafé’s findings.

“Based on the most recent findings (2018), the average square feet per unit has not shown a significant increase,” a CPHD spokeswoman said.

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