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Amazon HQ2 construction (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The pandemic and work from home trends are causing pain for owners of office buildings in Arlington and across the region.

Arlington’s office vacancy rate reached 20.8% this month, according to data from CoStar, as relayed by Arlington Economic Development. That’s up from 16.6% at the beginning of 2020, as the pandemic first took hold, and 18.7% at the beginning of 2021.

Arlington two main office submarkets, meanwhile, are seeing even higher vacancy rates. The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor’s office vacancy rate rose to 23.3% and that of National Landing (Crystal City and Pentagon City) rose to 24.4% as of the second quarter of 2022, according to new data from commercial real estate firm Colliers.

“The trend of rising vacancy and falling demand in the Northern Virginia market continued during the second quarter,” Colliers said in a report. “Vacancy rates reached 19.0 percent and over a million square feet of space has been returned so far in 2022.”

Northern Virginia office rental rates compared to vacancy rates (courtesy Colliers)

That’s despite some positive developments, like the renewal of Accenture’s 120,687 square foot lease at 800 N. Glebe Road in Ballston, the company said. Likewise, recent news of Boeing and Raytheon moving their corporate headquarters to Arlington are likely to mostly be moral victories for the county, as neither company is believed to be leasing any significant amount of additional office space.

Colliers noted that the highest-end office space (“Class A”) had the highest total area of additional vacancy. It also noted that a significant amount of office space is currently under construction in Arlington — though much of that can be attributed to Amazon’s forthcoming HQ2 in Pentagon City.

Demand in Northern Virginia fell for the third consecutive quarter returning 522,850 square feet of space to the market. In the second quarter, Class A product was the largest contributor to the negative demand, with 385,327 square feet of negative net absorption. The combined Class B and C product also registered negative demand, returning 137,523 square feet to the market. Subsequently, overall absorption figures for Northern Virginia in the first half of the year reached negative one million square feet.

[…] At the end of the quarter, just under four million square feet of construction was underway with half of that future inventory in Arlington County. This is down from the recent peak of over five million at the end of 2021.

On its face, high office vacancy rates might not seem like a problem for those living in Arlington, but in reality it could raise costs for residents. That’s because nearly half of Arlington’s local tax base comes from commercial property and more vacancy means less tax revenue for the county, which in turn puts pressure on residential property owners to make up the difference — or accept lower levels of local government services.

Arlington Economic Development, which helps to promote the county to potential office tenants, tells ARLnow that it is working to reverse the current trends.

“The commercial office market is an important component of the Arlington County tax base, which leads Arlington Economic Development to closely monitor vacancy trends and proactively direct resources to attracting and retaining businesses in Arlington,” the department said in a statement. “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly altered the way businesses operate, particularly those in an office environment, and the elevated office vacancy rate across Northern Virginia is an indicator of this change.”

More from AED:

AED is committed to further reducing the office vacancy rate through a multi-faceted approach, including the following three areas:

  • Targeted business attraction and retention efforts within our key industries to bring new operations to Arlington and support existing operations expand within the County
  • Cultivating and catalyzing the local entrepreneurial ecosystem to further produce homegrown startups that mature into larger companies using more space.
  • Enhanced regulatory flexibility that will expand the number of allowable uses within commercial buildings and quickly adapt to economic and market shifts.
  • AED is pursuing this area In collaboration with the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development and other County stakeholders.

AED is confident that communities like Arlington with a skilled workforce, flexible and proactive policies, and a high quality of life will be well-positioned to capture growth in the coming years.

Colliers, meanwhile, says it’s difficult to predict what will happen with office space down the road, though for many companies the days of bringing every employee into the office five days a week may be a relic of pre-pandemic times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jefferson Apartment Group has filed plans to redevelop the Clarendon Wells Fargo site with offices, retail space and apartments.

The company proposes to build a 128-foot tall, 12-story structure with 238 apartments, nearly 67,000 square feet of office space, about 34,500 square feet of ground-floor retail and 244 parking spaces across a two-level, below-grade garage.

The bank at 3140 Washington Blvd is situated on a parcel bordered by N. Irving Street and N. Hudson Street. Next door is the 97,000-square foot Verizon building at 1025 N. Irving Street.

Jefferson proposes only to redevelop the bank property for now. Wells Fargo — the seller of the property at 3140 Washington Blvd — is requiring the developer to keep the bank open for business during construction.

“The project must take a phased permitting and construction approach, first constructing a new bank branch on the northwest corner of the site, followed by demolishing the existing Wells Fargo building and constructing the new mixed-use building once Wells Fargo is operational in the new bank branch building,” writes Sara Mariska, an attorney for the project.

Including the Verizon site in the overall plan will “facilitate development of the Wells Fargo property, while also facilitating preservation of critical telecommunications infrastructure on the Verizon property,” Mariska continues.

The Verizon site “is not going to redevelop any time soon,” noted Brett Wallace, a county planner, during an Arlington Committee of 100 discussion about Clarendon area development projects on Wednesday.

The new filing comes comes a week before the Arlington County Board is set to consider adopting an update to the 2006 Clarendon Sector Plan, which targets the western portion of the neighborhood. The Committee of 100 panelists discussed the plan and potential changes to the area.

The sector plan update was precipitated by multiple property owners expressing a “strong interest” in redevelopment around the Clarendon Metro station area, Jennifer K. Smith, a county planning supervisor, told attendees.

Forthcoming developments include: the Silver Diner/The LotJoyce Motors and Wells Fargo/Verizon sites, as well as projects proposed by the St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, the YMCA and George Mason University.

Clarendon Sector Plan update area (via Arlington County)

“The process would provide an opportunity to showcase preliminary proposals that were being contemplated and share them in a broad way with all the civic associations and other stakeholders who may be reviewing those individually over time,” she said. “Some of the developers were seeking alternatives that diverged from sector plan guidance and zoning regulations that apply in this area and [Planning Commissioners] wanted to provide forum for review and consideration of those potential changes or divergences from the sector plan.”

She added that the county felt “it was important that we consult with the community on new ideas to meet public facility and public space needs going into the future.”

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

As a commercial real estate broker, Greg Carpentier always felt he was missing or struggling to find two important pieces of information when negotiating office deals.

Floor plans and square footage.

“It was a treasure hunt,” he said.

If that information did exist, Carpentier says it was disorganized and did not reflect the upgrades landlords would make to suites and amenity spaces. But those numbers had to be accurate since the constantly fluctuating amount of usable space determines the price to buy or lease office space.

So he set out to do something about it. Carpentier talked to colleagues and clients — who shared similar frustrations — and researched the competition. Finding few competitors, he hired an overseas software developer to build a prototype solution: a platform for real estate brokers, architects and landlords to store, access and share floorplans and other office layout information.

That’s how floorwire, based out of Carpentier’s apartment near Rosslyn, was born. He incorporated the company in 2019, had domestic software developers build a new version of the software, and began taking on clients in 2020. He assembled a small team of employees in August.

Brokers, architects and landlords are not the only people who benefit from a 21st-century alternative to scrolls and scrolls of paper floorplans. The product saves tenants time and money and gives them peace of mind, says Abby Caldwell, a former client of Carpentier’s who is now the Director of Operations for floorwire, the first letter of which is deliberately displayed as lower case.

“I was in a few situations when I was a tenant where I was under pressure to move quickly and acquire additional space on a tight timeline,” she said. “The current leasing timeline is longer than you might think, and we save you time by creating a more efficient process. Also, the tenants sleep easier at night knowing the data is accurate.”

A promotional graphic from floorwire (courtesy photo)

Carpentier’s company began taking on clients during the pandemic, which he says was the catalyst the commercial real estate market needed to abandon its outdated, low-tech approach to calculating and keeping tabs on square footage.

“What Covid did, as a whole, is make everyone realize how far behind commercial real estate is with regard to technology,” he said. “It exposed the problems and sped up the need for technology.”

For example, he said, Covid pushed people in commercial real estate to invest in sensors that are more accurate than architects at measuring office layouts, which are being reconfigured on a massive scale to entice workers back into the office.

“It’s a great opportunity to change the model,” he said.

This emerging industry sector is dubbed “proptech,” or property tech. Carpentier says venture capital funding is flowing into the sector, which he predicts will grow rapidly in the next five years.

“There’s so much opportunity for such a fundamental industry,” he said. “There’s a lot of money in commercial real estate. It’s a huge market: second to the stock market.”

As proptech grows, so too does floorwire. In August 2021, the company was able to hire full-time employees. In 2022, its leaders aim to take on new clients and keep working with existing ones.

“I’m really excited to take groundwork we laid in 2021 and run with it this year,” Caldwell said.

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(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) After 80 years operating near Arlington Ridge, Anderson Orthopaedic Clinic is moving into a new office in Shirlington.

The clinic signed a lease for a new, 25,000-square foot space at 2800 Shirlington Road, an office building just over a mile as the crow flies from its current location at 2445 Army Navy Drive.

Interior construction is scheduled to start this month and Anderson Clinic aims to debut its new space in October.

Leaders say the new space will allow the practice to add more doctors and providers, provide physical therapy services and establish an orthopedic urgent care clinic. It will serve more than 35,000 patients a year — more than the clinic’s three other locations in Fairfax, Lorton and Mount Vernon Hospital saw combined in 2021.

“This is a huge decision to move,” said Dr. C. “Andy” Anderson Engh, Jr., adding that it’s been in the works for a year and a half. “This is space that is considerably larger than what we have and will allow us to grow and improve our services… We can really build it out exactly as we want so that it can be a pleasant, open space for our patients, and efficient for staff working there.”

He also wants the office to be more accessible to Arlington and Alexandria patients, whose 20-minute commutes often take double that time due to congestion.

“We want to add additional offices to make our doctors more accessible in this region,” he said.

Polio specialist Dr. Otto Anderson Engh purchased the property on which the current clinic stands and founded the practice in 1938. He passed on stewardship of the practice and ownership of the land to his two sons, Drs. Gerard “Jerry” and Charles Anderson Engh, whose son is Andy.

The Enghs have made important contributions to orthopedic care in Arlington and nationally, Andy says. His grandfather Otto conducted tendon transfers for children crippled by polio and developed programs for these children through Arlington County and hospitals in the region. After a vaccine was developed that effectively eliminated polio, the clinic began caring for a surge of workers who were injured while building up Arlington and D.C.

In the 1970s, under Jerry and Charles’ leadership, the practice evolved into a group of specialists, whose specialties ranged from sports medicine to joint replacements.

“My uncle was instrumental early on in sports medicine in getting athletic trainers in the high schools in the early 70s,” Andy said. “He then moved on to be a pioneer in knee replacements, while my father was a pioneer in hip replacements. He was one of two in the area with a license to do cement hip replacements, and he developed the cement-less replacements that now comprise 93% of the replacements in the U.S.”

That growth will continue in the new office space. The third-generation doctor credits the expansion to a partnership with M2 Orthopedics, which handles the administrative side of business so that the physicians can focus on serving patients.

Andy said his father and uncle still own the property on which the current clinic, built in the 1980s, stands.

For now, they don’t have plans to redevelop the office building, which currently houses, among other medical services, a physical therapy group and a dialysis clinic.

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3108 Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

Arlington County is looking to buy and eventually redevelop an office building on Columbia Pike.

The county says the vacant, three-story building at 3108 Columbia Pike would make a good home for both the Columbia Pike library branch — currently located on the ground floor of the Arlington Career Center — and affordable housing. Until that project materializes, it will serve as a parking lot.

This weekend, the Arlington County Board is slated to review a proposal to buy the property, appraised at $8 million, for $7.55 million. Money would come from funds already appropriated in previous budget cycles for land acquisition and bond premiums, according to a county report.

It will cost about $1.5 million to tear down the 1960s-era building and turn it into an interim parking lot, the report said. Staff determined retrofitting the building would require “major reconstruction” to meet modern safety and accessibility standards.

The one elevator cab and the restrooms don’t meet accessibility standards, the fire alarm system and the heating and cooling systems need to be replaced, and the building does not have a fire sprinkler system, the report said.

“County staff recommends that the building be demolished, and its footprint paved to the same level as the existing parking lot, providing a 43,101 square foot (approximately 1 acre) site available for future redevelopment for branch public library and co-location of other County Board priorities, such as affordable housing,” per the document.

The acquisition comes after renovations wrapped up to the current Columbia Pike library branch (816 S. Walter Reed Drive) last summer, consolidating the library to one floor to add seats at the Career Center above it. With enrollment there expected to continue rising, Arlington Public Schools is preparing to start construction on a new career center, next to the old one, in 2023.

APS will keep the existing Career Center building as a “flexible space.”

The county says an interim parking lot would be helpful during the construction across the street.

“The existing parking lot is in very good condition with 63 parking spaces,” the report said. “Removal of the building by demolition, with paving and restriping, could add another 58 spaces (for a total of 121 parking spaces) for interim use as a surface parking lot for the Career Center redevelopment and/or metered public parking, pending future redevelopment.”

The county has 60 days after signing the purchase agreement to inspect the building and rescind the offer if need be.

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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.”

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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]

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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.

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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

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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.

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