Support

The pandemic has moved office work to the home. As at least some of that work moves back to office buildings, the next frontier might be outdoors.

In Arlington, a recently-renovated 1980s office building in Courthouse offers a glimpse of a greener office future, with a year-round outdoor working space.

The new 16,000-square foot landscaped outdoor plaza at 2000 15th Street N. — the centerpiece of a $11 million renovation project — is the largest outdoor plaza of any office building in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, according to American Real Estate Partners (AREP).

“The renovated plaza, wired for connectivity, extends the office to the outdoors, offering all-season, year-round use as a work and meeting space, and provides a spectacular backdrop to the indoor conference and amenity spaces, creating an urban oasis,” said Paul Schulman, AREP’s Principal and Chief Operating Officer.

The group says the renovation will help tenants coax employees back to the office with new experiences and stronger health features, such as air filters and purifiers. Experts say such projects are the latest examples of how incorporating natural elements into built environments can improve employees’ health while promoting environmental stewardship.

COVID-19 has altered many people’s work and personal habits, and these changes are likely to stick around, according to a Post-Schar poll released this summer. Three-quarters of respondents said they’ll spend more time outside, two-thirds said they’d wear comfortable clothing more often, and nearly 70% said they’d wear a mask when sick.

People and offices are adapting to these behavioral changes, in part, by working outdoors — or by bringing elements of the outdoors inside — and focusing on wellness measures.

During the pandemic, experimental outdoor work spaces popped up in Crystal City and in Rosslyn’s Gateway Park.

Meanwhile, new office projects here boast natural elements — such as Amazon HQ2’s water- and mountain-inspired “Helix” building — and wellness, such as Skanska’s new office project near Quincy Park, which has been recognized for its focus on health and well-being.

The seeds for natural, “biophilic” design elements were planted decades ago, says Dr. Gregory Unruh, an expert on sustainable business strategy in George Mason University’s School of Integrative Studies. It took a pandemic and the right technology to get people to rethink their work environments and to see nature integrated into offices.

“There’s something about us having a connection with the world,” he said. “Before the conversation around ‘biophilia’ existed, there was scientific research that suggested if you give people windows with a view of nature, they tend to be more productive, happier and less sick.”

Other research demonstrated that, without outdoor air circulating in and with the synthetic materials in carpets, paints and cleaning supplies, indoor office spaces had poorer air quality than the outdoors, despite the gas-burning cars and other pollution sources outside.

COVID-19 connected these issues, Unruh says. Building owners outfitted indoor spaces with machines that regularly bring outdoor air inside while people spent more time outdoors.

Although employees and employers realized that remote work could be as productive as in-person work, they still recognized the need for interpersonal collaboration — a need he says the rise of outdoor working spaces will meet.

“These collaborative outdoor spaces are going to play a role,” Unruh said. “These initial experiments we see in Arlington are very encouraging, and I think they enhance the working life and community life of people.”

Integrating nature into workplaces could encourage environmental stewardship among more people, says Elenor Hodges, the Executive Director of EcoAction Arlington.

The biophilic elements at 2000 15th Street N. and other under-construction projects support the environment in addition to workers, she says. Additional trees improve stormwater management and green roofs keep the county cooler.

Particularly in urban areas, she said, strengthening one’s connection to nature is important for encouraging sustainable habits.

“People need to see nature in order to understand the importance of stewarding it,” she said.

She notes that the county-level conversations about biophilic design, still in their infancy, are pandemic-driven.

“We’ve seen at County Board meeting people raising these questions [about biophilia],” she said. “I don’t think that would have happened before the pandemic.”

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Twilight at Washington Golf and Country Club (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Ballston Building to Be Renovated — “Arlington’s Monday Properties has made two new office building acquisitions as it banks on workers across the market returning to their offices in the coming months. The commercial property owner and developer has purchased the former home of CACI International’s headquarters, Three Ballston Plaza at 1100 N. Glebe Rd. — for $118 million. The 330,000-square-foot property, one of the most prominent in Ballston, will get a Gensler-designed renovation to help it compete in the modern commercial office environment.” [Washington Business Journal]

Rescued Dog Seeking New Home — “[Several] weeks ago, a young, mixed breed dog was rescued after being trapped between two fences alongside I-395. Since then, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, which renamed the dog “Benito,” has been helping him feel happier and more confident. ‘We were unable to find Benito’s owner, so he’s looking for a new family to call his own.'” [Patch]

Local Shops Offer ‘Passport’ — “On Small Business Saturday 2021, November 27th, Arlington and Falls Church shoppers will get a chance to participate in a shopping ‘Passport’ program to discover unique shops, find deals, keep their shopping dollars local and be eligible to win prizes. Led by One More Page Books, the Passport enables shoppers who are looking to participate in the national #shoplocal effort to easily discover small businesses near them.” [Press Release]

MLK Contest for Students Now Open — “Arlington Public Schools students are invited to take part in the annual ‘Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Literary and Visual Contest.’ Entries are due by 5 p.m. Thu, Dec. 16.” [Arlington Public Schools]

VFW Post in Va. Square Profiled — “7News’ Ashlie Rodriguez discovered a little-known secret, tucked away in Arlington, Virginia, where hundreds of veterans gather, swap stories, share memories, and find a place of refuge. Here’s a look inside the John Lyon VFW Post 3150.” [WJLA]

State Tax Coffers Are Overflowing — “Virginia budget officials say they’ve never seen anything like it — more than $13 billion in additional state revenues this year and in the next two fiscal years. The House Appropriations Committee projects a $3.5 billion increase in revenue above the current forecast in the fiscal year that began July 1, based on higher pending forecasts of state income tax and other revenues in the pair of budgets that Gov. Ralph Northam will present to the General Assembly next month.” [Richmond Times-Dispatch]

It’s Thursday — Today will start off sunny and warm, with a high near 73, before a rainy evening. Southwest wind 7 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Sunrise at 6:54 a.m. and sunset at 4:52 p.m. Tomorrow will be sunny, breezy and cooler, with a high near 50. Northwest wind 10 to 17 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph. [Weather.gov]

0 Comments

In late 2019, Arlington’s rate of vacant office space was at a six-year low, 15.5%, and poised to continue dropping.

But the pandemic reversed that trend, and today, the vacancy rate hovers around 20%.

While companies continue to weigh going in-person, county staff are working to bring down the vacancy rate. That’s a crucial task for Arlington County, as it derives its commercial property taxes from full — not vacant — office buildings.

“We know nonprofits and associations have been hit hard and that’s a big part of our office market, so that’s troubling. When it comes to tech, government contracting and professional services, there’s a lot of differences among tenants you talk to in terms of their culture: if they are back, how they feel about having people back, how many days a week they’re back,” says Marian Marquez, the director of business investment for Arlington Economic Development. “Until we get past the health crisis, it’s going to be hard to see through a lot of that.”

One new variable is 600,000 square feet of space on the sublease market, which is double the pre-pandemic level and accounts for 7% of total vacancies, she says. In addition, some federal tenants long on their way out finally had their offices go to market.

The office vacancy problem is an entrenched one and not unique to Arlington, says Marc McCauley, AED’s director of real estate.

“For the past decade… the question of ‘Do we have too much office space in the U.S.? has been the major issue,” he said. “That’s not just an Arlington issue, or a Washington, D.C. issue. Even before pandemic, tenants were using space differently, space per employee was plummeting, and almost cut in half.”

From 2016 to 2019, AED worked to drop the 21% vacancy rate by convincing high-growth companies that Arlington “wasn’t a government town,” Marquez said. Now, AED staff and county planners are working to update zoning codes and allow for a wider variety of office tenants, while making zoning processes less onerous for owners seeking to renovate their aging offices. In addition, AED is encouraging, where it can, less speculative office construction and more residential development instead.

McCauley says the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development plans to study approved office space uses and find ways to expanded those to allow new tenants.

“We see tenants that come in and say, ‘I want to do a wet lab or a robotics engineering floor.’ Right now, zoning is an impediment to that — that would be viewed as industrial in an older code,” he said. “We want to open up offices to creative use of space… [We are] excited about letting them fill the space with newer technologies that an older, 1950s ordinance viewed as industrial.”

Marquez said there’s interest in innovation and light research and development spaces, or even using an office building as a micro-fulfillment center.

Salim Furth, a senior fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who recently wrote that municipalities can tackle their office vacancy rates by allowing residential development, tells ARLnow that Arlington could go a step further and allow an even greater mix of uses.

“It’s very normal to have some floor for office, and ground floor is retail… but mixing and matching uses — where some floors are for a hotel, some are for a school — these are very normal things that cities should do, and we should make it work,” he said.

Read More

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Tracking the Hunter Moon from Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Joanna Hiatt Kim)

Taller Crystal City Buildings? — “With all of the new projects proposed for the area, developers have been increasingly urging Arlington County to consider bumping up maximum building heights to allow for striking new designs to remake the Crystal City skyline. Led by the area’s dominant property owner, Amazon landlord JBG Smith Properties, this effort has the county on the precipice of allowing more structures there to reach 250 or even 300 feet tall along Richmond Highway.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Scooters on Local Roads — “Bird is rolling out its Bird Three, the world’s most eco-friendly shared scooter, in Arlington. Arlington will be one of the first cities in the DMV to have an exclusive fleet of Bird Three e-scooters. When Arlington residents choose to ride a Bird Three down to dinner at the Crossing Clarendon or to start their holiday shopping early on Rosslyn, they’ll have the safest and smartest riding experience possible.” [Press Release]

Public Comment Policy Pilloried — “Are Arlington County Board rules for community comment at its meeting violating the constitutional rights of the public? That was part of the message of one speaker at the Oct. 14 County Board meeting, criticizing the board’s policy of hearing only one speaker per topic during its ‘public comment’ free-for-all that starts off the monthly meetings. ‘You are venturing very, very close to serious violations, violating people’s political speech,’ local resident Juliet Hiznay said.” [Sun Gazette]

Road Closures in Shirlington Tomorrow — “The 2021 Shirlington Shucktoberfest will take place on Saturday, October 23, 2021 from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Set-up for the event will begin at approximately 6:00 a.m. and clean-up should be completed by 7:00 p.m. The Arlington County Police Department will conduct the following road closures during that time in order to accommodate the event.” [Arlington County]

Washington Gas Woes Persist — “Complaints about Washington Gas have come up again and again in the NBC4 Responds call center. Customers report having no one pick up calls, an inability to get service and waiting on hold for hours. A Maryland man reported being put on hold for about four hours… In an exclusive interview, a Washington Gas executive promised better customer service and said the company is grappling with a staffing shortage. ” [NBC 4]

It’s FridayUpdated at 8:15 a.m. — 🌤 Partly sunny today, with a high near 70. Northwest wind 5 to 7 mph. Sunrise at 7:25 a.m. and sunset at 6:19 p.m. Saturday will be partly sunny, with a high near 68, and Sunday will be mostly sunny, with a high near 70.

Flickr pool photo by Joanna Hiatt Kim

0 Comments

A proposed development for the Xerox building in Rosslyn is under review by county planning staff.

Building owner and financial services company TIAA, along with its real estate management arm, propose to tear down the building at 1616 Fort Myer Drive and build a 30-story, 691-unit apartment tower in its place.

“Recognizing the Property’s location and topography, this application envisions the transformation of the property into an exciting multifamily residential development with world-class architecture,” the applicant’s legal representation Nan Walsh and Andrew Painter wrote in a letter to the county in June.

The office building on the site, which neighbors a condo complex, a hotel and another office building (recently home to President Trump’s re-election headquarters), opened in the 1970s. After housing Xerox for many years, it has recently seen some vacancies, the Washington Business Journal reports.

The new 1616 Fort Myer Drive “will serve as an iconic architectural feature for Rosslyn’s southern gateway,” said Walsh and Painter, lawyers with land use firm Walsh Colucci.

They say both the height and the architecture would tick a box in the Rosslyn Sector Plan stipulating that a development should “consider its appearance as a gateway to the Rosslyn area.”

TIAA’s tower would be 290 feet tall, the maximum height allowed in the sector plan. Residents will have access to a semi-underground parking garage that the lawyers say will be “tucked into the property’s natural grade,” which slopes from north to south. There will be 437 parking spaces, for a ratio of 0.63 spaces per unit.

Above-grade parts of the garage “will be fully screened through architectural treatment and residential uses,” they wrote.

TIAA may use more than a third of the apartment units for short stays while the building works on getting longer-term tenants.

“The applicant is considering designating up to 250 residential units for a temporary hotel use and short-term rental during the initial lease-up period for a limited period of up to five years,” Walsh and Painter wrote.

That’s a revenue stream other area developers want to tap into, and one that the County Board has recently deliberated. Some community members have raised concerns about the impact such a policy would have on housing affordability.

Staff from the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development say they intend to study the issue. For now, per a recent staff presentation, the division will consider temporary hotel use requests for up to two years.

As for community benefits, the developer aims to achieve LEED Gold sustainability certification, contribute to Arlington’s underground utility fund, contribute to public art in Rosslyn, and make streetscape improvements. Plans for additional affordable housing contributions are being developed.

A preliminary review of the project is underway. After its full site plan application is accepted by county staff, dates will be set for public meetings ahead of a County Board vote. Staff anticipate bringing this project to the board prior to July 2022, per the presentation.

0 Comments

New renderings from JBG Smith envision Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard as a lush urban core with glassy high-rises and connected by a surface-level Route 1, along with Metro and commuter rail.

When all of the developer’s projects are delivered, that is.

JBG Smith released an investor relations video explaining its plans for the area — known collectively as National Landing — which include building a number of new apartment and office buildings and partnering with local and state governments to improve transit and technological infrastructure.

“We’ve been incredibly busy during the pandemic, teeing up growth opportunities, delivering new assets, we have a lot of exciting growth in the next 18 months,” JBG Smith CEO Matt Kelly said in the video.

He said about 15 million square feet are under development in National Landing, two-thirds of which are multifamily residential — apartment buildings, mostly. Other big projects include the first phase of Amazon’s HQ2, which the video said is on track to be done in 2023, and the second phase, which includes the proposed Helix building.

“All of these developments are on vacant land or replacing out-of-service buildings,” said Chief Development Officer Kai Reynolds.

One of those is the former Americana Hotel, which JBG Smith purchased in December for more than $27 million, Executive Vice President of Real Estate Development Kristi Smith said.

JBG Smith views this site, planned for an apartment building, “as one of the best development opportunities in National Landing,” given its proximity to HQ2 and its visibility from Route 1, she said.

The video provided updates on the following residential developments, which collectively would add thousands of new apartments to the area:

Construction started on 1900 Crystal Drive in late March and could be completed in 2024, according to the video. Meanwhile, the earliest start date for 2000 and 2001 S. Bell Street, which received County Board approval last month, is later this year.

Both 2250 Crystal Drive and 223 23rd Street S. have a potential start date of 2023, the video said.

The developer also plans to build 750,000 square feet of office space at 2525 Crystal Drive in the form of two V-shaped towers, according to the video.

Reynolds highlighted the pending changes to Route 1, which could result in lowering the highway to grade and transforming it into more of an urban boulevard. The changes are part of an incentive agreement between Amazon and Virginia to invest $5 billion in important infrastructure improvements, he said.

“Amongst the most critical was the lowering of the elevated sections of Route 1, which currently runs north-south within National Landing,” he said. “The new road will feature a modern cross-section that will be pedestrian-friendly to improve walkability within the submarket.”

As for other transit improvements, Reynolds said the second Crystal City Metro station entrance, a public-private partnership between Arlington County and JBG Smith, could be completed between 2023 and 2024.

Meanwhile, progress could move forward on a new Virginia Railway Express station in National Landing, as the state recently finalized a $3.7 billion plan with CSX, Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express.

The new station will be built on land owned by JBG Smith. It will also serve as a connection point for the planned pedestrian bridge to Reagan National Airport, renderings of which are seen in the video.

The Bethesda-based developer also has plans for increasing technological connectivity, too.

Adam Rashid, the Senior Vice President and Co-Head of Smart Cities for JBG Smith, said the company aims to deploy “ubiquitous 5G in National Landing, with the goal of making National Landing the U.S.’s first 5G Smart City at-scale.”

Photos via JBG Smith/Vimeo

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Arlington Home Show This Weekend — “Whether you are a resident looking to improve your home, an experienced contractor, or landlord managing rentals, the 2021 VIRTUAL Arlington Home Show & Expo offers a convenient one-stop shop to ‘Ask an Expert’ and learn of new ways to update your home, and add value to your property.” [Event Calendar, Arlington Home Show]

Mastercard Returning to Arlington Office — “Mastercard Inc. will soon bring workers back to its New York City office at least two days a week. The payments giant also plans to open its Arlington, Virginia, office to more workers after already inviting more staff back its Sydney and Dubai offices, Chief Executive Officer Michael Miebach said in a memo to staff Wednesday. For most locations across the U.S., the company hopes to have workers in by September.” [Bloomberg]

Local Restaurants Need More Help — “Behrooz Sarvghadi is the owner of Kabob Bazaar, in Arlington, and one of hundreds of thousands of small business owners looking for financial assistance, as the nation tries to recover from the pandemic. ‘I’m hoping we get it, so we can continue the business,’ said Sarvghadi… the U.S. Small Business Administration says it ‘received more than 303,000 applications representing over $69 billion in requested funds, and nearly 38,000 applicants have been approved for more than $6 billion.’ But the issue is, only $28.6 billion was ‘signed into law.'” [WJLA]

Challenger Wants County Arts Changes — “The recent Embracing Arlington Arts forum between County Board aspirants actually provided some fireworks – albeit on an issue that qualifies as inside baseball. Incumbent County Board member Takis Karantonis and his challenger in the June 8 Democratic primary, Chanda Choun, split over whether the local community was best served by having the Arlington government’s arts and cultural-affairs apparatus continue operating as a subsidiary to the government’s economic-development operation.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Cemetery Station Reopening — “Metro customers at Addison Road and Arlington Cemetery will enjoy safer, modernized stations when the stations reopen on Sunday, May 23, after three months of work to completely rebuild their platforms and make upgrades throughout the stations. The reopenings will mark the completion of all 12 stations slated for platform reconstruction in Virginia.” [WMATA]

0 Comments

Looking to be closer to the government and defense fields, Boston-based Northeastern University is eyeing some space in Rosslyn.

The university is looking to convert the 14th floor of Arlington Tower (1300 17th Street N.) into a teaching space for graduate-level classes and a research space that will house The Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security.

Matthew Weinstein, a land use attorney with McGuireWoods who represents Northeastern University, said in a letter that the university “seeks to establish an operation at the property as a central location for mission-driven programs including defense-based programs, benefitting from close proximity to government customers.”

Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development has determined the research use still classifies as office use, according to a letter included in a staff report. To use the other half of the 14th floor, totaling 8,500 square feet, for teaching, NU needs the approval from the County Board.

The County Board is scheduled to review the school’s request during its regular meeting this Saturday.

Currently, the 18-story, 411,679-square-foot Arlington Tower is zoned for commercial uses, not including higher education, according to the staff report. But converting the space will only involve minor interior renovations, according to the county.

“No objections from the community nor staff have been expressed,” the report said. “As the proposed conversion is not located on the ground floor, it does not remove any retail spaces nor have any impact on the exterior appearance of the building.

The report added that the offshoot of Northeastern will bring “new visitors to the Rosslyn area during off-peak hours, potentially creating new customers for Rosslyn-based business.”

Most of the classes will be held Monday through Friday evenings and Saturday mornings and early afternoon, according to the county.

The 14th floor of Arlington Tower was most recently home to former President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign office, which was temporarily shut down last summer due to a coronavirus outbreak. Trump previously bragged that the lease on the office space “was a steal.”

Image via Google Maps

0 Comments

A real estate company developing an apartment building in Crystal City is looking to “refresh” its holdings nearby with a new retail plaza.

Lowe Enterprises Real Estate, which owns 2450 Crystal Drive and 2641 S. Clark Street, has applied for a minor site plan amendment to help break up the “mega block” along Crystal Drive south of 23rd Street S. Where a low-slung building space is currently sandwiched between two taller office buildings, Lowe envisions a plaza and retail pavilion, according to application documents.

The application comes nearly four years after the Arlington County Board approved Lowe’s “Century Center Residential” development: a yet-to-be-built apartment building to go on top of the Buffalo Wild Wings at the corner of Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S.

Lowe is now proposing a 10,500-square-foot public plaza with ground-level retail improvements to take the place of a chunk of office space. This change “fulfills the ‘market’ public plaza” called for in the Crystal City Sector Plan, the applicant’s attorney, Kedrick Whitmore, told the county in a letter.

“The proposed changes would substantially enhance the existing condition of the area,” boosting the ability for outdoor gatherings and seating, Whitmore said.

The plaza would be an interim installation until the time when an east-west road between Crystal Drive and Clark-Bell Street can be built. For that to happen, however, additional buildings will need to be torn down, which requires some leases to expire.

Members of the public had the chance to engage with the site plan amendment last week as part of a new community engagement process, Arlington Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development spokeswoman Jessica Margarit tells ARLnow.

“For this subset, County Planning staff believe additional community input would be beneficial prior to consideration by the County Board,” she said. “While a majority are in fact minor, at times others can have a significant impact on the public realm or garner broad community interest.”

Examples of these minor plans with major impact include public park improvements or reconfigurations and substantial streetscape or road modifications, she said.

The focus on increasing community engagement for “minor” changes follows problems with a recent site plan amendment from JBG Smith to make changes to the Crystal City Water Park. The County Board initially denied its application in January over potential problems and approved the latest iteration of the project last month. During this process, members said this project revealed how technically minor site plan amendments can be major enough to warrant more public engagement.

Since then, the county has solicited public feedback on amendments to the Reed School Stormwater Facility, to Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row), and now, Century Center, Margarit said, adding that the feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

Read More

0 Comments

Morning Notes

Pandemic Doesn’t Change Amazon’s Plans — “Schoettler, who oversees Amazon’s global portfolio of office space, said the past year hasn’t changed the way the company thinks about its office strategy… Amazon still views the office as the best place for work because of the ability for employees to collaborate, and it still envisions its footprint centered around large corporate campuses like its Seattle headquarters and its HQ2 development in Northern Virginia. ” [Bisnow, Twitter]

Sheriff’s Deputy Charged with Fraud — “India Middleton, a deputy sheriff with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, was indicted in Georgia by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Middleton was one of 10 defendants indicted in a multi-state scheme to submit fraudulent loan applications for non-[existent] businesses as part of the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to a U.S. Department of Justice release.” [Patch, Arlington County]

New Irish Pub Opening Soon — From the social media account of Mattie & Eddie’s, Chef Cathal Armstrong’s new Irish restaurant and bar in Pentagon City: “Practice test! All your grand Irish pints coming soon!” [Facebook]

APS May Cut Magnet High School from Budget — “As part of his proposed budget for the 2022 Arlington Public Schools (APS) fiscal year, Superintendent Francisco Dúran has suggested cutting funding for Arlington students to attend [Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology]. Should the proposed cut pass, current Arlington students at Jefferson will be allowed to remain, but all future classes — including this year’s rising 9th graders — will be barred from attending the school.” [TJ Today]

Lopez’s Gun Loophole Bill Signed — “Introduced by House Majority Whip Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington), HB 2128 was one of the first pieces of legislation signed into law by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam before the end of the session. The bill expands the amount of time state police and agencies have to conduct a background check on a ‘default proceed’ gun sale, from 3 days to 5 days.” [Press Release]

View of Old Coal Trestle from New Bridge — “A new view of the 1926 W&OD Railroad coal trestle remnants next to the new Lee Hwy bridge.” [Twitter]

0 Comments

A major redevelopment proposal in Rosslyn is facing pushback from those who think it doesn’t do enough for cyclists and pedestrians.

McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is proposing a 27-story mixed-use residential complex with 424 units at 1901 N. Moore Street, replacing the 1960s-era RCA building. Two towers will be connected at the top by a penthouse and at the base with ground floor retail.

But as the project moves through the public review process, some have expressed concerns a number of transportation-related issues: the proposed unprotected bike lanes along 19th Street N., the project’s parking ratio, and the pedestrian experience along the block.

These three topics are likely to resurface during a follow-up Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, March 15 — and perhaps later this spring, when the project will go before the Planning Commission and the County Board.

“We’ve been identifying issues, responding to citizen comments, and having very good discussions with surrounding community groups,” said Andrew Painter, an attorney with land use firm Walsh Colucci, during the first SPRC meeting last month.

Staff members are considering some protections for the proposed 19th Street bike lanes in response to public input.

“It may be possible to provide an additional level of protection in one direction” on the block from N. Lynn to N. Moore streets, said Principal Planner Dennis Sellin, adding that staffers “don’t see the capacity to do it in both directions.”

Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said 19th Street N. has enough traffic to qualify it for protected or buffered bike lanes.

Another hot issue was the parking ratio of .625 spaces per residential unit. Jefferson is proposing 290 total spaces, split among 265 residential spaces, 15 retail and 10 visitor spaces, according to a staff report.

“The goal is to right-size the garage to meet the market demand but not provide extra that incentivizes people to drive,” Painter said.

Although the proposal is within county guidelines, Sellin said “we would certainly accept a lower ratio.” The minimum is .2 spaces per unit but the lowest Sellin said he has seen proposed is .38 spaces per unit.

North Rosslyn Civic Association representative Terri Prell said people, particularly the elderly, still need cars for tasks such as grocery shopping.

“You have to understand this is a residential community, not a business community,” she said.

Lowering the ratio would attract people who want to lead a car-free lifestyle, Slatt said, asking for data on space utilization rates.

The parking needs to be built partially above ground due to “particularly dense rock” and Metro tunnels. To conceal the parking above the retail and below the residential units — and add public art — the architect is exploring adding graphics by local artists, said architect Shalom Baranes.

The Metro tunnels add another complication: a longer expected demolition process.

As for the pedestrian experience, some members were concerned that the block will be too long and there will be no opportunities for cutting through it. Sellin said the block is comparable to others at 400 feet long.

SPRC Chair Sara Steinberger said knowing the length “may not change the community’s feelings on what feels like a longer stretch of block when you have large buildings covering a greater area.”

In 2017, Weissberg Investment Corp., which developed the RCA building in the 1960s, filed plans to redevelop the RCA site — but those plans were put on hold indefinitely in 2018. Jefferson started filing application materials in May 2020.

0 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list