Arlington, VA

A new co-working and flexible office space has opened in Crystal City.

Hana, a subsidiary of the real estate company CBRE Group, announced on Thursday that it has opened a new location at 2451 Crystal Drive — a stone’s throw away from two of Amazon’s temporary office spaces for HQ2 employees.

The opening announcement comes one year after it was first reported that property owner JBG Smith would be partnering with Hana.

With the National Landing spot, Hana makes its debut on the East Coast and establishes its third location in the U.S.

CBRE has established other flexible working spaces in Dallas and Irvine, Calif. Three other locations are expected to open in the first quarter of 2021: New York City, Philadelphia and Berkeley Heights, NJ.

Hana has initially opened one floor totaling more than 39,000 square feet. The floor includes private office suites and conference and events spaces, in addition to a traditional co-working spce.

“JBG Smith has worked with Hana to deliver a flex solution that meets the unique needs of the building and National Landing area by providing plug-and-play workspaces, on-demand meeting rooms and overflow accommodations,” said Hana CEO Andrew Kupiec in a statement.

In a statement, JBG executive David Ritchey said Hana’s approach, and its abundance of amenities, complements the other co-working spots in Crystal City while addressing “the need for flexible, ‘on-demand’ office space solutions in a post-COVID-19 business environment.”

The opening also comes amid the announcement that co-working rival WeWork will be closing its Crystal City location, which is just a block or two away.

Other existing co-working spaces in Crystal City include Accelspace and Eastern Foundry.

Images via Hana

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McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group has taken over plans to convert the RCA building in Rosslyn into a 27-story mixed-use residential complex.

The next steps for the proposed retail and residential building at 1901 N. Moore Street include community engagement — an online feedback form available through next Wednesday — and site plan reviews in February and March.

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.

Jefferson proposes a building with two towers, 260 feet and 239.5 feet tall, atop a base, connected at the top by a penthouse level, creating “a sky window” in the middle, according to staff and architect presentations. As currently planned, the building will have 424 residential units and nearly 12,000 square feet of retail space.

Though it has some ground-floor retail, the current building is mostly devoid of street-level activity, while the sidewalk around it is shaded by an overhang.

“In 1969, the current RCA building was constructed, and quite unfortunately drained the site of that rich pedestrian environment that formerly occupied the site,” Shalom Baranes, the architect for the project, said in the developer’s presentation. “One of our goals with the proposed project is to restore the street-level retail vitality that existed years ago.”

Parking access will take up most of N. Moore St while retail — dining, entertainment, services and repairs and sales — will be housed on the other three sides of the block: 19th Street N., N. Lynn Street and Lee Highway.

The site will have 280 parking spaces, including 10 retail and visitor spots. Not all of the 270 residential spots can fit below-grade, due to “particularly dense rock” and some Metro tunnels, Baranes said.

Two levels of parking, or 102 spaces, will be inside the building — above the retail and below the residential units.

“We have been very careful to integrate the parking architecturally so that it appears to be part of the overall building composition,” Baranes said.

There will be 171 long-term and 12 short-term bike spaces.

Arlington County principal planner Kristen Walentisch said that increasing the share of housing will make Rosslyn more vibrant and economically competitive.

“Historically, Rosslyn has been dominated by commercial office spaces and hotels, so the Rosslyn Sector Plan adopted in 2015 includes several land use goals aimed to establish a greater balance between commercial and residential uses and activities,” she said during a staff presentation.

Photos (2-3) via Arlington County

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During the pandemic, many who formerly commuted to work are now working from home.

Some are eager to go back to the office full time when it’s safe to do so, while others may be contemplating a switch to either working from home permanently or at least a couple of days per week.

A wide range of companies are moving to or considering moving to a “hybrid workplace” model post-pandemic. Among them is Microsoft, which will let employees opt to work from home up to 50% of the time, or permanently with a manager’s approval.

It seems likely that many office-based employers in Arlington and elsewhere in the D.C. area will be implementing similar policies as the pandemic (hopefully) comes to an end this year. That has made us wonder about the impact on commuting.

More work from home days collectively would mean less commuting, which is generally a good thing for the environment and for traffic. There may be second order effects, as well, especially in cases where an employer offers flexibility in deciding when you go into the office.

Such flexibility, for instance, may have implications for bike commuting

Arlington County has long worked towards the goal of having more people bike to work, thus taking cars off the road during peak commuting times. So far it’s still a niche commuting option: only 1.5% of Arlington residents report biking as their primary means of commuting, compared to 51.1% who drive alone, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

Should you have the ability to pick and choose when you go to the office, it could allow you to go in on good weather days and skip bad weather days, a big deterrent to regular bike commuting. All of a sudden, with bad weather largely out of the equation, the idea of being able to commute for free without worrying about traffic, while getting a workout and fresh air, may become more attractive.

What do you think?

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What was once a watering hole and lunch spot for Rosslyn office workers may itself become an office.

The Arlington County Board last weekend approved a Site Plan Amendment for Commonwealth Tower, at 1300 Wilson Blvd, that will allow the building’s street-level restaurant space to instead be used as an office or a “retail-equivalent use,” like a doctor’s office.

The space — which includes a somewhat inconspicuous outdoor plaza — was last used by Ruby Tuesday, which closed two years ago.

“Since the Ruby Tuesday restaurant vacated the space in December 2018, the applicant has unsuccessfully marketed the space for restaurant or retail use,” a county staff report notes. “In addition to the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on retail viability, the subject space’s elevated frontage above street level and the plaza retaining wall pose challenges related to visibility and accessibility from the street.”

The building’s owner has a prospective office tenant that may be interested in the space, the report says.

“The applicant is proposing flexible use of the subject space and upgrades to the plaza and building entrance to increase attractiveness and viability for future tenants and better engage the street,” county staff wrote. “Currently, the applicant is in negotiations with a sizeable office tenant that would occupy space in Commonwealth Tower, including use of the subject space and plaza.”

The amendment, which was approved unanimously as part of the Board, consent agenda, will also allow the building’s entrance and plaza to be renovated, while making it easier to put up a rooftop sign.

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(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) Few office and retail spaces were approved or completed in the first three quarters of 2020, but Arlington officials say it is too early to attribute the drop to the pandemic or consider it a trend at all.

The 2020 third quarter report on retail, office, hotel and residential development appears to show that the rates at which projects are approved, buildings are demolished, and construction starts and ends have dropped off in 2020. Meanwhile, the demolition and redevelopment of single-family detached homes appears to remain consistent.

No hotel rooms have been approved or built so far in 2020 (though a former hotel was demolished in spectacular fashion on Sunday). About 120,000 square feet of retail has been completed this year, and 40,000 square feet approved, but rates exceeded both those sums in 2019. About 17,000 square feet of office space was approved this year, compared to 2 million last year thanks to Amazon’s HQ2.

“It would be easy to think because of COVID-19 that that might explain the tapering off of development, but it’s too early for us to know,” said county planner Emily Garrett, who led the Q3 Development Tracking Report. “It could be normal to have a slower couple of quarters following large projects.”

In the view of Marc McCauley, the director of real estate for the Arlington Economic Development office, the coronavirus has impacted existing properties more than future projects.

“If you’re in development and considering mixed-use, we haven’t heard a lot of projects significantly delayed or dropped because of concerns, but you may be concerned about getting a hotel financed,” he said. “It has not moved the needle one way or another in terms of development.”

Although these reports look back to the third quarter of 2015, that is not long enough in the scheme of big projects to determine if large-scale office, retail and mixed-use developments are actually slowing down, the two officials agreed.

Rather, such projects could be on four- to five-year cycles, which looks inconsistent compared to the 50 to 60 houses that are approved, demolished and rebuilt each quarter, like clockwork, Garrett said. Before Amazon was granted 2 million square feet in December 2019, the last time a comparable project came around was in the first quarter of 2016, she said.

As for retail, the change reflects the broader trend in Arlington’s development extending beyond the last five years. McCauley said. Retail clusters such as the Ballston Quarter explain the occasional retail spikes, but it is more common to have small amounts of ground-floor retail approved as part of a mixed-use project.

“There’s only so much retail clusters you can support,” he said. “Through long-term market cycles, they get repositioned because it’s about refreshing your concept to be able to compete for customers.”

Meanwhile, the housing development rates reflect the trajectory Arlington has been on for decades, Garrett said, with most new development focusing on denser housing near transit hubs.

“I would definitely say overall the way development trends aligns with the overall demographic trends of Arlington County for decades now,” she said.

The average household size shrank in 1970 and has been stable ever since, with more opting to live in smaller housing units, she said. The report shows that the number of apartment units is growing, while the number of single-family homes remain flat, with detached homes being replaced at a nearly one-to-one rate.

The last three quarters of relative inactivity come as the county is focusing on new and ongoing development plans, including along Lee Highway and in the Clarendon area.

“We’re at that point where we’re looking at studies that have been completed and… seeing where there might be additional potential,” Garrett said.

Garrett said it “could be a year, or years” before the County sees the true impact of the pandemic on development. “We’ll just have to see.”

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Developer JBG Smith is advancing plans to turn a grassy plot of land it owns in northern Crystal City into a new office building.

The project at 101 12th Street S. is one of the projects added to the company’s extensive development pipeline in the area following the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2. The County Board is slated to review the proposed development this Saturday.

“The project, known as ‘Crystal Gateway,’ includes a 109-foot tall (nine-story) office building with 234,427 square feet of office space and 5,195 square feet of ground floor retail,” a county staff report says.

Proposed community benefits from JBG, as part of the project, include achieving LEED Gold certification, constructing a new connector street, and contributing land and money for a new “Gateway Park” to the east of the site. Other environmental features include bird-friendly glass, since the building would be near a wildlife preserve, and a vegetated roof.

For the park, JBG will contribute about 70,000 square feet of land and $300,000 in funding for the initial park design.

“The Sector Plan envisions this open space to be approximately 54,500 square feet and is anticipated to tie into the existing esplanade path for Long Bridge Park,” the county staff report says. “The vision for this park is to include neighborhood serving recreational facilities such as tennis or volleyball courts, a playground, benches, and picnic tables. The exact design and planning for Gateway Park will be done through a County-led planning process.”

The project surprised those who were familiar with the Crystal City Sector Plan, which has for years kept the property on which the office building will sit as a green space, said William Ross, chairman of the Park and Recreation Commission.

“This apparent shift in design purpose was not anticipated, given the engagement promotions,” he wrote in a letter to Board Chair Libby Garvey. “But it is not a crisis either.”

Rather, he continued, it creates “an opportunity and an obligation to the community that the small open area between the structure and the public pathway be designed as a natural gateway, providing the transition and place identity that is important to all.”

Members of the Transportation Commission unanimously supported the development, wrote Chairman Chris Slatt. They support the new S. Ball Street connector road, between 10th and 12th streets, because the area lacks access options for emergency vehicles, but have asked staff to design a driveway apron or similar feature to deter drivers looking for a shortcut.

In a Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 4, however, two speakers denounced the connector road and predicted it would become a a dangerous cut-through regardless.

“If the commission lived in the community, they would see how cars speed down Long Bridge Drive,” Annemarie Spadafore said. “People will be killed, and the blood will be on the commission’s hands.”

Speaking on behalf of the Crystal City Civic Association, Carol Fuller said the new S. Ball Street — which is called for in the sector plan — will not benefit the community.

“First, the community has never wanted this connection,” she said. “Second, commuters will use this extension to cut through to I-395… Exiting at this intersection is hazardous and the proposed extension will make it worse.”

Staff is recommending that the County Board approve a rezoning, a site plan and other actions required for the project to proceed.

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Morning Notes

Nonprofit Won’t Return to Arlington Office — “The American Diabetes Association isn’t planning a return to the Crystal City headquarters it left Alexandria for a few years back, not even when a Covid-19 vaccine is readily available and it’s safe to go back to the office again. The nonprofit is seeking to sublease all of its space at 2451 Crystal Drive, about 80,000 square feet.” [Washington Business Journal]

Voter Registration Open Until Midnight — “A judge on Wednesday granted a request from civil rights groups to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline until Oct. 15 after the state’s online system crashed on the final day of the registration period, according to Virginia’s attorney general.” [Axios, Press Release]

Oh, Deer — The regional deer population has been increasing during the pandemic, which is making driving more dangerous this fall as deer potentially become “too comfortable” around roads. [NBC 4]

Park Rangers Patrolling for Rogue Mountain Bikers — “Park rangers have been patrolling the parks to keep the mountain bike riders off the natural trails. ‘We put up barriers in places where we can. We put up signs … in key areas we put up some things to block their access … but we’re focusing on education,’ Abugattas said.” [WTOP]

Voting Lines Should Move Quickly — “Arlington election officials are advising the public not to be dissuaded if lines for voting, either in advance of Nov. 3 or on Election Day itself, seem long. ‘You can expect to see a pretty long line, but that’s because of the spacing we’re trying to put between voters,’ county director of elections Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” Also, the Reinemeyer said the county is already fully staffed with volunteer poll workers. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

Certification for Sheriff’s Office — “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office has met all applicable Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards following an audit that was conducted earlier this year.” [Arlington County]

Pentagon City Planning Meeting Tonight — “Participate in a virtual workshop about Arlington’s community planning process for Pentagon City! The first workshop will include small group discussions about the community’s vision for the Pentagon City Area.” [Arlington County]

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Monday Properties, which is best known locally for being the predominant owner of office buildings in Rosslyn, is making its second recent purchase in the Shirlington area.

Monday, in a joint venture with London-based neo capital, is acquiring Shirlington Tower at 2900 S. Quincy Street. The nearly quarter-million square foot office building is mostly filled, with tenants like the U.S. Navy and the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association.

It’s the second Shirlington office tower the company has acquired in as many years, after the purchase of 2800 S. Shirlington Road, a gleaming tower adjacent to the highway that contains a number of medical offices, among other tenants. Office properties outside of Metro corridors had previously fallen out of favor in the local commercial real estate world, but this transaction suggests that perhaps something is different about Shirlington.

In a press release, Monday touts Shirlington’s live-work-play amenities — including retail stores, restaurants, the Shirlington library, apartment buildings, theaters and a grocery store — plus its proximity to Amazon’s future HQ2, just up I-395 in Pentagon City.

“Shirlington Tower marks the second acquisition Monday Properties made in the Shirlington submarket within the last two years, and we are pleased to have partnered with neo capital,” Tim Helmig, Managing Partner at Monday Properties, said in a press release. “We remain bullish on forward-looking regional market fundamentals and intend to continue our momentum as active buyers in the marketplace.”

More from the company’s press release, below.

Monday Properties and neo capital today announced their joint venture acquisition of Shirlington Tower, a 233,446 square-foot office building located in the heart of Shirlington… in Arlington, Virginia. Shirlington Tower is 97% leased to an array of notable tenants including the U.S. Navy, HNTB Corporation, The National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, and Halfaker & Associates. Onsite amenities include a 12,000 square-foot fitness center, outdoor courtyard, and a variety of retail stores and restaurants.

“The DC region has again demonstrated its resiliency to economic downturns. Despite the turbulent market conditions brought on by COVID-19, the area remains attractive to businesses, investors, and residents,” said Wes Machowsky, Senior Vice President of Acquisitions and Capital Transactions at Monday Properties. “The acquisition of Shirlington Tower is the result of a collaborative effort by all parties involved, and we are well-positioned to continue to strategically grow our portfolio in spite of the pandemic-related headwinds confronting the capital markets.”

Shirlington Tower is located less than two miles from both National Landing — home to the future Amazon HQ2 and Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus — and the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor. Shirlington Tower is connected to Shirlington [Village], with extensive multifamily and retail product, and experiential amenities that include an AMC movie theatre, Harris Teeter, and [the Shirlington Branch] Library, along with restaurants, shops, and entertainment options.

A representative from neo capital said “Our acquisition of Shirlington Tower is an important part of our strategic portfolio growth in the United States. This is exactly the type of asset and market neo capital is looking to invest in — exceptional job growth, great regional connectivity, and best-in-class tenants. We see a lot of value in the DC region and will look to invest further here and in other strong performing U.S. cities.”

“Shirlington Tower marks the second acquisition Monday Properties made in the Shirlington submarket within the last two years, and we are pleased to have partnered with neo capital,” said Tim Helmig, Managing Partner at Monday Properties. “We remain bullish on forward-looking regional market fundamentals and intend to continue our momentum as active buyers in the marketplace.”

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(Updated at 1:25 p.m.) Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, a motorcade arrived at a Rosslyn office building.

Out stepped former Arlington resident Mike Pence. The vice president then made his way up to the offices of the Trump-Pence 2020 reelection campaign to rally the troops amid falling poll numbers.

After it was over, he sent out a tweet: “Stopped by to see the great men and women of the Trump-Pence Team today! Thank you for all of the hard work, keep it up! #FourMoreYears #KAG”

The tweet showed Pence standing in front of a sea of staff members in the Arlington office, with everyone flashing Trump’s signature double thumbs-up.

The problem: staffers were not social distancing and no one was wearing masks, a likely violation of Virginia’s mask requirement for indoor public spaces, as pointed out by local Democratic operative Ben Tribbett. Shortly after he did, Pence’s tweet was deleted.

The incident made some national headlines. While the spread of coronavirus has slowed in Arlington, it has not gone away, and other states are seeing a surge in cases.

Arlington’s Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), a stalwart critic of the president, piled on with more criticism.

“This isn’t ‘law and order,'” Beyer said, in reference to Trump’s antagonistic tweets. “It’s a huge problem.”

Arlington and Falls Church Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said in a statement Thursday afternoon that no laws were broken that her office can prosecute. She said workplaces are exempted from rules about large gatherings, while the mask requirement is enforced by Virginia Dept. of Health, not local law enforcement.

The full press release about the incident from Beyer’s office is below.

Read More

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Morning Notes

New Security Measures at ANC — “Arlington National Cemetery is implementing heightened security measures after a U.S. airstrike killed a top Iranian general. The extra security will create longer lines at security checkpoints and delays… All visitors over the age of 16 will be required to show a valid state or government photo ID to enter by foot or car, Arlington National Cemetery says. Visitors aged 16 or 17 can show a school-issued ID.” [NBC 4, Twitter]

Office Building Above Rosslyn Safeway Sold — “An affiliate of The Meridian Group has paid $113.15 million for 1525 Wilson Blvd., a Rosslyn office building featuring the colorful sculpture of a dancing couple, after selling another building in the Arlington County office market last summer.” [Washington Business Journal]

Lee Highway Planning Update — “To mark the end of a year collecting ideas for the road’s ‘reimagining‘ by the nonprofit Lee Highway Alliance, its executive director, Ginger Brown, gave an update predicting that phase two — development of land-use and zoning ideas — could be ‘the most contentious.’ […] ‘Lee Highway is stuck in 1950s strip-mall zoning,’ Brown told a Dec. 19 breakfast group.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Local Shop Has Best Cheese Selection in the U.S.? — Arrowine, a long-time ARLnow sponsor, has the best wine selection in the D.C. area and possibly the best cheese selection in the country after its recent renovation, according to local restaurant reviewer Don Rockwell. [DCDining.com]

Pike Lane Closures Are Hurting Local Business — “An employee at Cinthia’s Bakery II on Columbia Pike said the restaurant is seeing a significant drop off in the number of customers and an increase in empty tables all due to the construction.” [WJLA]

Yorktown Boys Improve to 11-0 — “This is the new Yorktown basketball: Take the first available shot, press nonstop on defense, substitute in a whole new lineup every 90 seconds. It’s a strategy some other area schools have tried — Lake Braddock, most successfully — but few have perfected. And it has the Patriots, the worst team in their conference last season, undefeated at 11-0 after a dazzling 86-51 rout of Madison (6-5).” [Washington Post]

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