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.”
Construction has started on two residential towers at 1900 Crystal Drive in Crystal City, according to developer JBG Smith.
The announcement came nearly one year to the day after the County Board approved the project, which involved tearing down an aging office building.
The new development at 1900 Crystal Drive will have 808 multifamily rental units and about 40,000 square feet of street-level retail across the two towers, each to be LEED Silver certified and approximately 300 feet tall, according to the developer.
A 27-story southern tower will feature 471 apartments, while a 26-story northern tower will incorporate 337 apartments.
Through a spokesperson, JBG Smith declined to comment on when the towers are expected to be completed. Last year, however, when the County Board met and approved the project, a company rep said construction could take 2-3 years.
“The start of construction on 1900 Crystal Drive marks yet another major milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation,” said Anthony Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Development at JBG Smith. “The introduction of new residences, restaurants and shops at 1900 Crystal Drive, combined with our recently delivered retail and entertainment district just about a block away will more than double the concentration of street-facing retail amenities on Crystal Drive.”
Residents will have access to private rooftops and green spaces. At the street-level, JBG Smith is planning a pedestrian-friendly street that will connect 18th and 20th Streets S. as well as open park space. JBG Smith will provide a number of community benefits, including enhanced streetscapes, a grand staircase connecting to public open space and bicycle facilities.
JBG Smith, the developer, leasing agent and property manager for the Amazon HQ2 project, anticipates that with Amazon’s arrival, National Landing’s daytime population will increase from 50,000 people to 90,000 in the near future.
The housing and amenities at 1900 Crystal Drive and neighboring developments will be a “thriving, mixed-use environment [that] will allow people to easily walk from their home or office to their favorite restaurants and amenities — cementing National Landing as a destination both day and night,” Greenberg said.
Neighbors and visitors can expect sidewalk closures during construction.
“This exciting project may create changes for our everyday pedestrian routines,” according to an announcement on the National Landing Business Improvement District website. The changes include:
- The southern sidewalk along 18th Street will be closed; pedestrians should use the north side of 18th Street S. to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.
- The western sidewalk along Crystal Drive will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to travel north and south along Crystal Drive.
- The northern sidewalk along 20th Street S. will be closed; pedestrians should use the jersey barrier, protected lane to access Crystal Drive and S. Clark Street.
The County Board has unanimously approved plans to improve walking and cycling connections and add amenities to the Crystal City Water Park.
Water features and a food stand currently activate the privately-owned Crystal City Water Park at 1601 Crystal Drive. It also provides connections to the Mount Vernon Trail and Reagan National Airport, as well as the proposed Virginia Railway Express north entrance.
Park owner JBG Smith initially came to the board in January with plans to modify the Crystal City Connector path — which cuts through the site — and renovate the park. Members deferred the proposal over predictions that the developer’s plans for the pathway would lead to unsafe pedestrian and cyclist interactions.
On Saturday, County Board members signed off on revision to the project. The Crystal City Connector path will be turned into two paths accessing the Mount Vernon Trail and the new VRE entrance: one for pedestrians and the other focused on bicyclists.
JBG Smith will be “adding retail shops, cafes, and restaurants along the edges of the park, upgrading the existing water wall… adding a new water feature, [and] adding public art and an outdoor bar,” the county announced on Monday.
The additions include “nine (9) 300 square-foot retail structures positioned along Crystal Drive, a 1,415 square-foot retail structure along the northern edge, a 760 square-foot bar with a 2,069 square-foot terrace atop the water wall, a 409 square-foot performance platform to be used for the event lawn, and a 747 square-foot trailhead restroom facility,” per a county staff report.
“We’re proud to say that this project has evolved in response to the comments and we think gotten to a place that is better than we were a couple of months ago,” said Kedrick Whitmore, an attorney representing JBG Smith.
The staff report said the plan has been redesigned to minimize conflicts and support increasing number of pedestrians and bicyclists accessing the trail and the VRE station. Potential users testified in January that the initial proposed design, below, would lead to conflicts at the exit from the Mount Vernon Trail access tunnel, where visibility is low.
JBG Smith’s new plan removes the stairway that linked the pathways to the water park, located near a series of tunnels. It does not, however, remove an adjacent path between the Crystal City Connector path and the connection to the proposed VRE station, although some community members predicted it too would be unsafe.
“We think this is a really important area to maintain a connection,” Whitmore said. “Despite keeping the connection in place, we did hear loud and clear that there were safety concerns, and the use of paint, mirrors, signage and paving will help.”
The developer will also widen the sidewalk along Crystal Drive from eight to 10 feet and use landscaping, signage, striping and paving treatments near the tunnels and the connection to Crystal Drive to increase visibility and heighten awareness for all users, the report said.
Board members told County Manager Mark Schwartz that the county needs to increase the level of public engagement for similar projects going forward. Board members agreed with some speakers that more scrutiny from county commissions could have uncovered the safety concerns sooner and prevented the project’s deferral from earlier this year.
“Let’s not do this again,” said Pedestrian Advisory Committee secretary Pamela Van Hine, suggesting a smaller-scale version of the site plan review process for large projects. “We can help you but you have to ask us to help you.”
While the county classifies this project as a minor site plan amendment, Board member Katie Cristol said such amendments “may have a major impact on how people experience the site.”
Photos via Arlington County
(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Board is set vote this Saturday, March 20 on a nearly $1 million project to improve the intersection at N. Pershing Drive and Washington Blvd.
The busy intersection in Lyon Park lacks accessible curb ramps and has narrow sidewalks, long crossings and outdated bus stops, per the county manager’s report, creating a harrowing experience for many pedestrians and cyclists.
The requested $987,270 for the newest project will improve safety and accessibility at the Pershing and Washington intersection by expanding sidewalks and updating curb ramps to better comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the county says. It also shortens crossings.
Designs were completed last summer.
If approved, construction is expected to start early this summer according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesperson Eric Balliet.
More details about the timeline will come after the county’s approval and a contractor is onboard, Balliet notes in an email to ARLnow. The project is being funded by grants from the Virginia Department of Transportation, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, as well as funds from the county’s Capital Projects Fund.
Ardent Company is being recommended as the construction company by county staff, after the firm came in as the lowest bidder out of six.
Photo via Arlington County
It’s an idea that’s still years away, but a new pedestrian bridge from Crystal City to National Airport is getting a bit closer to reality.
At its upcoming Saturday meeting, the County Board is set to take a significant step in the creation of the proposed “High Line”-like pedestrian path over the GW Parkway.
“The Board will consider approving a $4.23 million contract, awarded through a competitive bidding process, for the conceptual design and environmental review for a Crystal City-National Airport Multimodal Connector,” according to Arlington County, in a preview of the meeting’s agenda. “The connector would link Crystal City’s core and the airport, meeting the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and micro-mobility users of all ages and abilities.”
“Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists must navigate a circuitous network of trails and crossings to traverse the 2,000 feet from Crystal Drive to the airport terminals,” the County notes.
The cost of the design and review process will come out of $9.5 million in federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement funds already allocated by the Board. The process is expected to take several years.
From a staff report to the County Board:
This project is included in the adopted Fiscal Year 2019-2028 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) under Transportation, Crystal City Streets. Funding for the project’s Conceptual Design and Environmental Planning/NEPA Documentation services will be provided entirely through $9.5 million Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia for this purpose. There is no local matching fund requirement for this federal funding. The duration of work performed under this contract will last approximately three to four years. The scope of work includes an optional task for the Consultant to advance the project’s conceptual design completed during the EIS to the Preliminary Engineering level and prepare the bidding documents to advertise the project using a Design-Build construction delivery methodology. The costs associated with the optional task are not included and will be negotiated later, if this task is needed.
The winning bidder for the project was Boston-based civil engineering firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin. Staff noted that the company’s bid was largely in line with independent cost estimates.
The National Landing Business Improvement District, which has championed the “CC2DCA” project, even funding its own feasibility study, said in a statement today that it will help make the already transit-accessible neighborhood more connected.
“The National Landing BID’s CC2DCA feasibility study championed a bold concept and created a captivating vision for iconic infrastructure and next generation mobility, and we are thrilled that Arlington County is now considering this important next step towards making it a reality,” said Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, President and Executive Director of the National Landing BID.
“When completed, the CC2DCA Intermodal Connector will link a multitude of transportation assets with a safe and enjoyable 5-minute walk to the airport,” Gabriel added. “This pivotal addition to our existing network will position National Landing to continue to attract investment, spur economic growth and enhance the vitality of our growing urban center.”
The total project cost for the connector, including design and construction, was previously estimated at just over $36 million. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority committed $18 million in regional transportation funding to the project last year.
Illustrative rendering via National Landing BID
Pedestrian safety improvements at N. Carlin Springs Road are nearing completion.
The project’s goal is to increase pedestrian safety on busy N. Carlin Springs Road at the intersections of N. Edison Street and N. Wakefield Street. Work first began in November after the County Board approved the project in July.
The project is expected to be completed this month weather permitting, according to the Department of Environmental Services spokesperson Eric Balliet.
At the N. Wakefield Street intersection, all the concrete and base asphalt work was completed earlier this year to extend the curbs and shorten crossing distance, making pedestrian crossings safer amid the fast-moving traffic.
Other work finished includes adding high visibility crosswalks at both intersections and improving ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act compliance.
However, there’s still work that needs to be done.
At the N. Edison Street intersection, a retaining wall is currently under construction. Milling and paving still need to be completed as well as adding pavement markings and signage. Due to this, some sidewalks may be closed to pedestrians until the work is finished.
Funding for the project is being shared between the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Pedestrian safety has long been an issue at these intersections and on Carlin Springs Road in general. The county has recently increased fines for speeding on number of streets, including a different portion of Carlin Springs Road, as a means to protect pedestrians.
Also, this month, Arlington County is piloting a temporary lane closure to help create a buffer for pedestrians and students as they walk and bike to school. This comes just as some students return to in-person learning in nearly a year.
Photo via Walk Arlington
As early as mid-spring, light poles along Wilson Blvd in Clarendon will be outfitted with new fixtures that monitor crowds and identify potential emergencies.
The technology will be installed sometime this spring as part of a pilot project involving multiple Arlington County departments as well as Comcast, the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and US Ignite — a nonprofit focused on community innovation. The initiative is dubbed the “Safety and Innovation Zone demonstration project.”
During its recessed meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the County Board voted 4-1, with Takis Karantonis dissenting, in favor of the pilot project. US Ignite is donating $90,000 to buy the light fixtures, which Comcast will provide, along with a three-month trial of public Wi-Fi in the area.
Karantonis said his vote should not be interpreted as a vote of no-confidence, but rather, it should signal that he is still skeptical and would like to see more public engagement.
The primary use for the fixtures, to be installed along the 2900 block of Wilson Blvd, will be “people counting,” said Holly Hartell, who presented the project on behalf of the Department of Technology Services. In other words, the light fixtures will monitor crowd sizes and flow to recognize unexpected movements that could indicate a potential threat or emergency situation.
“This is an effort to speed things up where seconds and minutes count,” said Arlington County Fire Chief David Povlitz. “If we could gain information to send the right resource to the right place in a timely fashion that could really accelerate us operationally and also safety-wise.”
The light fixtures do not have the capacity to videotape people, capture images or provide identifying information, Hartell said. They can pick up the presence or absence of an event they have been programmed to detect, such as a large crowd moving quickly. This data will be converted into text and sent to a dashboard in the county’s Emergency Communications Center.
“Everything will be anonymous,” Hartell said. “You will never be able to identify an individual person.”
Later on, the technology could be used to detect falls, blasts, shots, and distress cries, as well as sudden temperature changes or the presence of smoke.
The fire chief added that “this [pilot] is just a start and we hope to be able to build this out in the county in time.”
“We are aware of people who are concerned,” Hartell later told ARLnow, of questions raised about the project. “I understand their concerns, and I want to give them the confidence that what we’re looking at is not going to be in any way impacting their privacy.”
The partners in the project — CCI, US Ignite and Comcast — are all providing best practices on collecting data while respecting privacy, she said. The county has also developed a privacy framework to use as it goes about the project.
“We are protecting people’s privacy while improving our services,” she said.
The pilot project will be in place for about one year. The first few months will be spent refining the uses for the technology, followed by six months of data collection, and finally, an assessment period. Next spring, the county will decide if the project could be replicated elsewhere. At that time, there will be robust public engagement opportunities, Hartell said.
During the meeting, Hartell said the block was chosen because it has a vibrant business district and a “pretty active restaurant and pedestrian activity,” even now during the pandemic.
One incident the technology might have caught in that location, had it been in place a few years ago: the famous 2018 Cheesecake Factory incident, when a promotion for free cheesecake got out of control
The original proposal was to focus on social distancing and mask-wearing, according to the staff report. A small number of business members of the Clarendon Alliance were consulted on the idea, and their concern led to a shift away from coronavirus measures, staff said.
The County Board approved safety improvements for pedestrians and cyclists on Columbia Pike over Four Mile Run, as well as other changes, during its regular meeting on Saturday.
The approved $1 million Four Mile Run bridge project includes widening the northern sidewalk next to westbound traffic from five feet to 10 feet and narrowing the traffic lanes. Lighting will also be added to the northern side of the bridge.
Sturdy guardrails will be installed at the approaches to the bridge, but not on the bridge, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet previously told ARLnow. The expanded sidewalk will remain 9 inches above street level, to help protect pedestrians.
County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said during the meeting that he was pleased to approve the project, which makes the bridge more accessible.
“It is part of a big investment that we’ve been working on for multiple years, the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project,” he said.
Board member Takis Karantonis said the changes are significant and a long time in coming.
“This has always been a big problem for pedestrians,” he said. “It’s really scary sometimes, with traffic going both ways, very fast.”
Community feedback has also been positive, notes a county staff report.
“The widening is a welcome change that many in the community have asked for during the outreach and engagement on the Columbia Pike Multimodal Project,” the report said. “The addition of lighting has also been received positively, as the community members shared that this section of the Pike often feels dark and unsafe.”
Some community members requested a barrier between the sidewalk and road. The suggestion was ultimately not included, as the bridge cannot fit one along with a widened sidewalk and four travel lanes, according to the report.
Implementation was anticipated to begin last fall, but the timeline changed because the County decided to combine the updates to the sidewalk with other scheduled maintenance on the bridge, hiring one contractor to do both, Balliet said in an email.
Separately, the Board also gave its stamp of approval to the proposed realignment of the eastern end of Columbia Pike, part of a project that adds 70 acres to Arlington National Cemetery near the Air Force Memorial.
The federal government is paying for the $60 million road project, after acquiring county-owned land for the expansion via an eminent domain suit last summer.
The project realigns segments of Columbia Pike, S. Joyce Street and Washington Blvd, constructs a new S. Nash Street, partially eliminates Southgate Road and designs a new portion of trail, according to a staff report.
Images via Arlington County
The proposal from Arlington-based Snell Properties would replace the Ames Center office building across from the Rosslyn Metro station. A south tower will abut the Hyatt Centric hotel and a north tower will surround the existing Arlington Temple United Methodist Church and Sunoco gas station, dubbed “Our Lady of Exxon.”
Although the church and gas station will be “redeveloped in place,” the skywalks — which provide an elevated pedestrian connection to the Metro station — will be demolished, according to the County.
Along with plans for the Holiday Inn and the RCA building, the proposal from Snell will further change Rosslyn’s skyline, demolishing the existing building, formerly occupied by the Art Institute of Washington.
The proposed towers, 30 and 31 stories tall, include 740 multifamily units and about 10,146 square feet of retail space. Up to 225 of the residential units may devoted to an interim hotel use, while the apartments are leased.
In a report, staff highlighted the affordable housing units in the building, committed as such for the next 30 years.
“The Rosslyn Coordinated Redevelopment District area, where this project is located, is one of the most expensive rental markets in the County,” staff said. “There are currently no [committed affordable units] within the RCRD.”
Twenty-four one- and two-bedroom units will be reserved for households making up to 80% of the Area Median Income.
Typically, such units are reserved for those who make up to 60% AMI, but staff said Rosslyn is so expensive that reserving units for up to 80% AMI “will better leverage the community benefits value while providing much-needed affordability directly in this area.”
Snell Properties is also committing nearly $2.5 million in cash toward affordable housing. The County said this sum could create about 29 units in future developments that are affordable for households earning up to 60% of the Area Median Income.
The project additionally includes a $5 million cash contribution for the Fort Myer Drive tunnel project, which includes plans to convert the road into a two-way street, remove the tunnel, widen sidewalks and add protected bike lanes.
A cement plaza will separate the two towers and form one segment of a planned pedestrian pathway that County planners call the “18th Street Corridor.” This street-level walkway will replace the existing, elevated passages. Mid-block crosswalks will join the plaza to 18th Street N.
Those who participated in community engagement from July and September “were universally in support of [the] removal of both skywalks,” staff said.
The towers will share four levels of below-grade parking and the south tower will have four levels of above-grade parking — 574 parking spaces in total.
The south building will be built in phase one, along with an interim open space and other streetscape improvements. The second phase will see more activity: construction of the north tower, the plaza and remaining streetscape improvements, as well as the removal of the skywalks.
The County Board is expected to review the project at its Saturday meeting.
Local Unemployment Rate Improves — “Arlington’s jobless rate continued to improve in October… the county’s unemployment rate of 4.1 percent in October represented a decline from 4.5 percent in September, according to data reported Dec. 3 by the Virginia Employment Commission. Despite the improvement, the county’s jobless picture has significant more room for recovery. A year ago, the jobless rate stood at a rock-bottom 1.7 percent.” [InsideNova]
Custis Trail Roundabout ‘Fully Open’ — “The Custis Trail has reopened under I-66 near Arlington’s Bon Air Park as overhead work on I-66 progresses for VDOT’s Transform 66 Inside the Beltway Eastbound Widening Project. With the underpass re-opened, the new trail roundabout is fully open and the detour is no longer needed… Lighting is planned to be installed in early 2021.” [VDOT]
New Pedestrian Beacons in Bluemont — “Happy to see this safety improvement in the Bluemont neighborhood… rectangular rapid flash beacons have been added on Wilson near Safeway. So, a light now flashes when you’re trying to cross. Makes a big difference!” [Twitter]
Tiny Glass Houses at Ambar — At Ambar (2901 Wilson Blvd) in Clarendon, “guests can now reserve one of the 10 fully enclosed new glass tiny houses, that can seat up to six people for dining in warmth, safety, and privacy. They are totally self-contained, with heat, lighting elements and music selections for each host’s personal preference while dining at Ambar.” [Press Release]
After five years, Arlington County is putting finishing touches on its Complete Street plan to improve walking, biking and driving conditions along a stretch of Army Navy Drive in the Pentagon City area.
The updated plans — which are 90% complete — were presented in a virtual public hearing on Wednesday. County staff are taking public comments via email on this version until Dec. 4, and the final plans will be submitted next summer. Construction on the section of road from S. Joyce Street to S. Eads Street is slated to begin in 2022.
The $16.87-million project aims to reduce conflicts among cars, buses, bikes and pedestrians with narrower lanes, stretches of bus-only lanes, protected left turns and signalized right turns, clearer sidewalks and shorter crosswalks. The south side of Army Navy Drive will have two-way bike lane protected by a line of trees.
The measures mean the new Army Navy Drive will be reduced to two through lanes in each direction, narrowing to one lane east of S. Eads Street.
“This segment has much lower traffic volumes than the other four blocks of the project corridor,” Lawler said in an email.
Reducing a lane of traffic to accommodate a bus lane between S. Joyce Street and S. Hayes Street will actually improve flow because buses will not block traffic while loading passengers, he said.
Traffic lanes will be narrowed to slow down cars, but staff are not planning to propose a lower speed limit, which is 35 miles per hour, Lawler said during the meeting.
Construction is still a ways off. Staff expect construction to begin in the spring of 2022. With work scheduled block by block to minimize disruptions, it could last until the fall of 2024. Original plans had construction starting in 2020 and ending in 2022.
Lawler attributed the delays to the additional tasks needed for a project receiving federal aid.
“For this project, it took much longer to receive our National Environmental Policy Act document approval than we had envisioned,” he said in an email.
Staff skipped the 60% design phase to make up for lost time, he said.
After the medians are removed, work will start on the south side of Army Navy Drive, beginning with the area where Amazon HQ2 will be, along S. Eads Street, and moving west. Once the medians are replaced, the road will be repainted and striped, concluding the project.
Lawler said in the meeting that “we won’t have any conflict” with Amazon construction.
Community feedback led to two major changes, he said. First, another block of protected bike lane was added to connect the bike lane west of S. Lynn Street with the planned protected bike lane starting at S. Joyce Street.
“This way we don’t have a missing link in the system,” Lawler said in the meeting.
Staff could not insert this change into this project, as it is receiving federal funding, so they created a separate capital improvement project to address it, he said.
From S. Lynn Street — near Prospect Hill Park — to S. Eads Street, Army Navy Drive is “pretty uncomfortable to use scooters and bikes on,” Lawler told ARLnow after the meeting. “The changes will provide them a safer route for them to use.”
With the changes, bicyclists on Army Navy Drive will be able to use the major east-west link more easily to connect with the Mount Vernon Trail and get to Washington, D.C., he said.
Another change was to align the bumpy pedestrian ramps with the crosswalk. Initially, the ramps were perpendicular to the crosswalk, which advocates said directs vision-impaired pedestrians into harm’s way.