Since 1980, Glebe Road has been considered the border between central and west Ballston.
But in recent years, the dividing lines drawn in Ballston’s 40-year-old sector plan have become more stark, with businesses thriving in one area and struggling in another.
Today, Ballston contains the densest census tract in the D.C. area. As more apartments and retail are proposed and built, however, some argue that the county needs to address the impact of uneven development on either side of Glebe.
Many of the new business openings orbit the Ballston Quarter mall and the ground floor of Ballston Exchange, both in the central part of the neighborhood. But west of Glebe Road and north of Carlin Springs Road — which is technically part of the Bluemont Civic Association — there have been numerous high-profile closures.
Leaders in planning and business development have different ideas for improving west Ballston, but they do share an interest in making it welcoming, walkable and sustainable without getting into the weeds of a sector plan update. During a joint County Board and Planning Commission meeting this month, Planning Commission Vice-Chair Daniel Weir stressed the importance of re-examining Ballston in the near future.
“Glebe Road continues to become a wall that separates east and west Ballston, which are separate communities,” Weir said. “Pedestrians and people not in cars are unwilling to cross five to seven lanes of traffic to get a very excellent donut or to go to one of the many restaurants that have been circulating through some of the bays there.”
Rather than rewrite the admittedly old sector plan, which county staff don’t have the capacity for, he said they ought to take “a more agile, nimble approach.”
“It doesn’t need to be completed in 2022, but it’s an opportunity we can and should think about, especially since, if done right, it could be a model for more agile sector planning going forward,” he said.
Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone agrees that Glebe Road is a problem. She says no other road elicits the same number of complaints, ranging from excessive vehicle speed to unnerving pedestrian crossings. She suggested extending the sidewalks, turning some parking spaces into parklets and widening the medians.
“We need to come together as a neighborhood and work with county to solve the problem,” Leone tells ARLnow. “There hasn’t been a plan — everyone does their own thing and no one is looking at Glebe Road as an entity.”
In response, Arlington County’s Department of Community, Planning, Housing and Development said it is using and will continue to use opportunities during development, capital improvements and county programs such as Vision Zero to improve Ballston’s walkability.
“Over the past two decades, we’ve worked with partners to make N. Glebe Road in Ballston safer and more attractive for all users and have better integrated the street within Ballston’s overall urban fabric,” CPHD Director Anthony Fusarelli, Jr. said. “The County will continue to make the most of similar opportunities in the future.”
“Enhancements have occurred thanks to the combination of infill development, streetscape improvements, signalized pedestrian crossings, intersection improvements, and curb space management techniques, all of which have collectively and significantly improved the experience of traveling along and across N. Glebe Road in this area,” Fusarelli added.
Arlington’s planning department is stretched too thin and cannot take on a bigger workload, its director told the County Board this week.
At full strength, the 30-person staff of the Department of Community, Planning and Housing Development shepherds a myriad development projects and permit applications through county processes, from cafés seeking to renew their outdoor dining permits to developers planning large-scale projects. It also helps to produce the lengthy planning documents that guide the future development of neighborhoods.
Right now, with a flurry of activity underway in the wake of the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, seven major long-range planning studies are in process. The department anticipates overseeing 10 major development applications while working through more than 400 minor development and administrative approvals, CPHD Director Anthony Fusarelli, Jr. told the Planning Commission and the County Board during a joint meeting.
“To have this number of ongoing planning efforts and engagements at one time… truly represents a substantial volume of ongoing work being managed by the division, also requiring time energy and resources by other county staff and the community,” Fusarelli said during his presentation. “Collectively, these ongoing efforts command a significant amount of staff resources, leaving little if any capacity to add new work and initiate additional projects at this time.”
Once major projects are done or big milestones reached, he said staff will be freed up to start new initiatives or address new county priorities.
While deferential to the hard work of CPHD, Planning Commission and County Board members had a few ideas for work CPHD should undertake in the near future, from changing how the county evaluates the environmental impact of developments to not losing sight of deferred projects such as implementing the plan to enliven Four Mile Run Valley.
One potential change could save CPHD time and resources, argued Planning Commission Chair James Lantelme. Currently, renovations to “non-conforming” duplexes, townhouses and low-rise multifamily buildings go through the same lengthy approval process used for major developments, known as Site Plan Review. He suggested instead that these folks, who want relief from zoning regulations, go through the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears similar requests from those on single-family residential lots.
“I’m assuming we’re going to be seeing more of these small things coming before us, and we think we really need to deal with this,” Lantelme said. “It’s a waste of the Planning Commission’s time, it’s a waste of staff time. We have a huge amount of consequential work, and to have a Site Plan for one duplex… there’s no value added by doing that. It’s not appropriate, and in fact, it’s contrary to what our comprehensive plan is advocating for, for affordable housing — for housing period — and for equity.”
It’s likely on his mind because the commission oversaw one such project, a request to build out the deck of a townhouse, which recently received County Board approval, and members are now reviewing another, a duplex renovation proposed by the owner. The approvals feature televised, public meetings and detailed presentations created by planning staffers.
You're forgiven if, looking at this discussion list, you thought this was a 100-unit brand new residential building.
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) September 17, 2021
The townhome was in a “legacy district” used for a few developments in the 1970s, while duplex sits on a smaller-than-standard lot that had been grandfathered into a zoning district. Both owners proposed increasing the footprint of their home, tipping them into the Site Plan Review path, which requires lawyers, experts, and Planning Commission and County Board approvals.
“If it was a McMansion, it would go through BZA,” Lantelme said. “You have to go through more time, expense and uncertainty in order to have a duplex, which is what we want in these areas… It would really save us time money and staff resources if we could get this addressed.”
(Updated at 6:15 p.m.) Seven years ago, Les Garrison bought a two-family home in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood so that his son’s family could live in one half and the other could be rented out.
He had always intended to renovate the home near Crystal City, which consists of two apartments, each with two bedrooms and one bathroom. He also wants to modernize it, making it accessible to people with disabilities and adding solar panels.
Garrison tells ARLnow he wants to provide an affordable housing option to his son, a county employee, and people like his other tenants — two women over 60, a barista and a graduate student.
“My son… he can’t afford to live in this neighborhood, unless we have revenue coming in from the house,” Garrison said. “That’s what this is about: allowing him to stay in Arlington.”
He expected to get approvals in 2017 and start construction in 2018. Instead, his plan to enlarge and modernize the house will require approvals from the Planning Commission and the County Board as part of a more complex county permitting track that even features a county webpage devoted to the project.
The Garrison’s Site Plan Review process, which involves more scrutiny and more revisions to attain the green light to start construction than an administrative approval typical for single-family homes in Arlington, has also put him out nearly $100,000 in permitting fees, and payments to lawyers, architects and arborists.
Although dates have not yet been set for County Board approval, the Garrison residence would be the second duplex project to go before the board this year. Members approved construction at a Ballston duplex at 1201 N. Vernon Street in May. Meanwhile, from January through June, the county has administratively approved construction of 66 single-family detached homes and construction started on 27 similarly-approved townhouses.
This disparity has drawn criticism from some members of the Planning Commission, who are the last to provide input before sending a project to the County Board for a virtual rubber stamp, as well as housing advocates, who say this reflects a “broken” zoning code.
County staff, meanwhile, say that changes Garrison is proposing require community input. But, they said relief for duplex homeowners in similar situations could come in the future, if zoning standards are changed for lower-density multifamily housing types as part of the in-progress Missing Middle Housing Study.
That might put homeowner renovations of duplexes that don’t confirm to current zoning on the same regulatory playing field as the tear-downs that have become commonplace across the county.
“Right now, a builder can put up a 3,000 square foot house and sell it. It’s pretty much that simple — no public meetings, no expensive lawyers, no neighborhoods weighing in on, I don’t know, whether your driveway pavers should be beige or gray,” said Daniel Weir, who is the vice-chair of the Planning Commission. “Split that exact same building in half — same amount of driveway, same amount of parking, same lot lines — try and build literally almost the exact same building, and all of a sudden everyone in the county gets to have a say.”
Amazon is in the process of hiring for nearly 2,000 open positions in Arlington, while it also reveals new renderings of the planned second phase of its HQ2 in Pentagon City.
Additional renderings of HQ2 Phase 2 were released by the company this morning, showing a conceptual view of “The Forest” plaza from S. Elm Street — including the base of the lush, futuristic “Helix” tower — as well as a view of the S. Fern Street Plaza that will host community events and a number of retail businesses.
The renderings “illustrate a nature-filled, pedestrian-friendly environment for all to enjoy and highlight Amazon’s continued commitment to building a neighborhood rather than a closed-off campus,” a PR rep for the company said. In addition to areas for events, Phase 2 will feature 115,000 square feet of retail and retail equivalent space across its four buildings.
The second phase of the project will be built on the mostly vacant PenPlace site across from its Phase 1 construction site, a block from the Pentagon reservation and the Pentagon City Metro station. The company is still in the process of tearing down the former Residence Inn hotel on the site, which was once considered as a possible location for the Washington Nationals stadium.
As Amazon continues to build, it is also continuing to hire.
“Hiring across Amazon’s Arlington Headquarters is ramping up,” the tech giant said on its blog today. “Amazon is seeking 1,900 new employees for a variety of technical and non-tech jobs — this is the highest number of open positions at HQ2 since the company announced its selection of Arlington, Virginia as its second U.S. headquarters.”
“Currently more than 1,600 corporate Amazon employees call Arlington home,” the blog post adds. “Amazon’s more than $2.5-billion investment in HQ2 and the surrounding area will result in 25,000 Amazon jobs over the next decade, and thousands of indirect jobs across the entire region.”
Open positions in Arlington on Amazon’s jobs website include Alexa SmartHome software developer, Amazon Fresh Store designer, and Amazon Web Services Systems Engineer.
Last month an Amazon official said the company expects that most employees will return to offices after the pandemic, with some flexibility for remote work.
“But there is no substitute for Amazonians being together,” said the official, as quoted by the Washington Business Journal.
Proposed changes to Arlington’s Residential Permit Parking program, including a pay-to-park option for short-term visitors, will go before the County Board next week — with a caveat.
On Monday members of the Planning Commission hammered out the kinds of changes to the program that they want the County Board to consider. The matter is set to be taken up during the Board’s meeting on Saturday, Feb. 20.
The commission recommended a case-by-case approach to paid, short-term parking in neighborhoods — currently not an option in places where parking is restricted to residents and their guests only during certain hours — as members were divided on whether to include it at all. Some support it across all neighborhoods with RPP programs and others support the possibility of neighborhoods requesting it. A few oppose it full-stop.
“I can’t do this to my neighbors,” said Commissioner Denyse “Nia” Bagley, who opposes pay-to-park entirely.
Vice-Chair Daniel Weir said the two-hour parking meets “a whole host of needs” and unanticipated circumstances that “all fall under managing parking,” from when people go to nearby restaurants or visit friends. Short-term visitors would be able to legally park without a pass or permit and payments would be processed through the ParkMobile app or through the EasyPark device.
The RPP program was originally created as a response to commuters parking in residential neighborhoods near Arlington’s Metro stations and commercial centers. It survived a legal challenge that reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, and later expanded to numerous neighborhoods around the county. Neighborhoods must petition for RPP zones, but in many cases those who live in apartments and condos are excluded from receiving permits, raising equity concerns.
The commission also recommended allotting on-street parking permits to household units based on whether they have off-street parking, such as driveways or garages. Households with off-street options can get up to two permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass, a dashboard placard that can be used by residents or their visitors.
Residents without off-street parking are eligible for up to four on-street permits, one of which could be swapped for a FlexPass.
According to a county staff report presented to the commission, the cap is higher than what was previously proposed, “in response to concerns that unrelated adults (who may have more vehicles than a family household) sharing a home without off-street parking in an RPP zone could face an unnecessary hardship.” Still, it’s lower for those with off-street parking than the current program.
“The current program allows for up to four (4) permits, one (1) FlexPass and three (3) vehicle specific permit decals,” a previous staff report said. “Many households already in the RPP program would not be able to obtain as many permits as they do today Lowering the cap encourages households with multiple vehicles to use their off-street parking, leaving space on the street for others.”
The commission did not tweak the expansion of parking options and permits to employees of K-12 schools and group homes. In response to concerns about enforcing paid parking, commissioners unanimously voted to include language stipulating that parking enforcement should be on par with metered parking elsewhere in the county.
These potential changes come three years after a moratorium was placed on new parking restrictions so a review of the program could be conducted. The review concluded last fall, kicking off a new period of public engagement as the changes wound through county processes.
The changes went before the County Board for the first time in December, when Board members decided to delay a public hearing to give the community more time to digest the changes.
At the time, the County Board approved an amendment allowing residents to buy a third or fourth parking pass at a higher cost, after hearing from families who suddenly had adult children come home due to the pandemic, in addition to homeowners who said the program would force them to widen their driveways.
(Updated at 5 p.m. on 11/10/20) Dominion Energy and Arlington County are looking to swap two pieces of land near Crystal City.
On Saturday, the County Board is slated to consider a series of real estate and land use actions, including a land exchange agreement between Dominion and the county. Dominion offered to give the county a piece of property at the corner of 18th Street and S. Ives Street in exchange for a piece of county-owned land on the corner of S. Fern and S. Hayes streets.
The swap would allow Dominion to expand its substation — located roughly two blocks from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2 — to accommodate larger, newer equipment. Construction on the expansion is anticipated to start late in the first quarter of 2021.
The County is considering turning the Dominion property, the site of a previous substation, into a park.
In addition to updating the substation, Dominion is also trying to meet increasing demand for energy as the Pentagon City and Crystal City areas develop, said Michael Halewski, a real estate specialist from the Department of Environmental Services, during a meeting on Wednesday with Arlington’s Planning Commission.
“Dominion is on a tight time frame for the delivery of the increased electrical capacity to the community,” Halewski said.
The area needs more “redundancy and reliability” in the electrical services it provides, said Dominion spokesperson Peggy Fox in an email on Tuesday.
To get the extra physical space needed for the new equipment, Dominion looked to neighboring land. The county-owned property — an unused, grass-covered sliver along S. Hayes Street — did not have as many constraints, including underground public utilities, as other plots.
The original discussion about this exchange occurred in the summer of 2019, and in July 2020, Dominion submitted a rezoning application to the County Board.
“It was one of the more successful community engagements Dominion has had in response to one of its projects,” said Matthew Weinstein, counsel to Dominion Energy, during the Planning Commission meeting.
In response to feedback on the aesthetics of the substation, Dominion updated its permit to include a commitment to installing public art on-site, redesigning the plaza to improve the pedestrian and leisure experience and widening the sidewalk from four feet to six feet, said Dominion spokesperson Ann Gordon Mickel in a project update on Oct. 28.
Neighboring civic associations told county staff they had no issues with the substation rezoning proposals, but the Aurora Highlands Civic Association did express hesitancy with the exchange agreement.
“We’ve heard some concerns from the community about the environmental condition of the land,” said Halewski, the county staffer.
Environmental reports indicate that some areas of the old sub-station property would need to be remediated if dirt was disturbed and excavated. The soil could be used on-site or disposed of in a regulated landfill, he said.
“The cost of those different scenarios range from $0 if it’s a passive open space to approximately $55,000,” Halewski said. “This would be a county cost.”
Photos above (1-2) via Google Maps, (3-4) via Arlington County
Police Mutual Aid Agreements Under Review — “The force Park Police officers have used against protesters could cost the agency its working relationship with some local police departments. In a statement to News4, Metropolitan Washington’s Council of Governments confirms it is now planning to review the regional mutual aid agreement which governs those relationships.” [NBC 4, Connection Newspapers]
Planning Commission to Restart Meetings — “After a layoff of four months, the Arlington Planning Commission soon will be back in business – albeit in ‘virtual’ format, at least for the time being. Having last met on March 11, the advisory panel will hold its first COVID-era gathering on July 6, catching up on a backlog of items but likely focused on matters headed for County Board consideration later in the month.” [InsideNova]
More Changes to Marathon Planned — “Our working solution is to break the 45th MCM up into 24 waves that will start over an expanded window of time on event morning. This plan will necessitate a smaller field of in-person participants. Those in the late waves will have less time to Beat the Bridge. Twelve minutes per mile is the best we can offer at this time. It possibly might have to go even lower.” [Marine Corps Marathon]
Four Bond Referenda Planned — “Arlington taxpayers would be asked to approve four bond referendums totaling just under $92 million in the November general election… More than half the total amount – $50.8 million – will be used to address stormwater-management issues. Additional bonds are being proposed for transportation and Metro ($30 million), infrastructure ($7.5 million) and parks ($3.6 million).” [InsideNova]
District Doughnut Promotion — “To celebrate the reopening of our Ballston Quarter store, we are treating you to extra doughnuts! From Friday, June 26th through Sunday, June 28th, the first 50 customers each day will receive a free doughnut with any purchase.” [Facebook]
Here’s Who Adopted Cupid the Cat — Cupid, an injured kitten brought to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington after being shot in the head with an arrow, has a new adoptive mother: NBC 4 meteorologist Lauryn Ricketts. Cupid made a recent appearance on the station’s morning weather report. [Instagram]
Arlington prides itself on citizen participation in government, but public engagement is taking a backseat to practical necessity during the coronavirus crisis.
On Wednesday, members of Arlington’s galaxy of advisory commissions and boards were told that their meetings have been put on hold for the foreseeable future.
“As you may know, we issued a continuity of operations ordinance that offers some flexibility for the County Board and other appointed bodies to meet virtually — but only for decisions directly related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other essential continuity of business matters,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in an email.
“While commissions and advisory boards do important work, it is not necessarily essential to the crisis in front of us, which is our key priority at this time; and which is the only kind of work legally covered under the ordinance we adopted,” she continued. “As of March 31, 2020, ALL Commission, advisory boards, workgroup and subcommittee meetings are cancelled until further notice. However, there may be a few exceptions that will require some additional review and approval prior to taking any actions.”
“The Arlington Way has been killed by COVID-19,” one tipster told ARLnow in response to the mass meeting cancellation.
Garvey’s email went on to outline how commission chairs can request in writing the scheduling of a virtual meeting for an item involving “business essential for addressing the coronavirus or the continuity of business operations for the County.”
The “continuity of business operations” includes “the adoption of the budget, the approval of tax rates and fees, and appropriations of funds necessary to keep government running,” Garvey clarified, in response to a series of questions from ARLnow.
Asked whether the temporary halt to commission meetings — including key bodies like the Planning Commission and Transportation Commission — will delay development approvals before the County Board, Garvey said it depends.
“The Board will assess pending applications to determine whether they should be considered or can be delayed,” she said. “If the proposals are considered, the public process for development proposals will occur to the extent possible and consideration by advisory commissions, such as the Planning Commission, will occur.
The County Board chair said that the county’s actions are consistent with an opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring two weeks ago, in response to concern from elected officials that they were unable to comply with both the governor’s order to limit public gatherings to 10 people or fewer — and freedom of information laws that require in-person meetings that are open to the public.
“The cancellations are primarily to protect the health of commission members, staff, and the public,” said Garvey. “Matters that can be delayed are being delayed. The AG’s guidance has been considered in determining whether important matters that cannot be delayed can be considered electronically.”
“We are all learning how much FOIA and other regulations were put in place at a time when no one contemplated 21st century technology or a pandemic,” Garvey wrote in her letter to commission members.
A stone’s throw from Crystal City is Roaches Run, a waterfowl sanctuary on the northern flight path to and from Reagan National Airport.
The body of water, surrounded by woods, is home to birds, ducks and dragonflies. Accessible primarily from a small parking lot off the southbound GW Parkway, most human activity is confined to fishing and birdwatching.
But that may eventually change.
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey toured a portion of woods around Roaches Run last week with the chair of Arlington’s Planning Commission and representatives of Crystal City property owner and Amazon landlord JBG Smith.
— Libby Garvey (@libbygarvey) February 27, 2020
Though Roaches Run is controlled by the National Park Service and is part of the GW Parkway, JBG owns parcels of land adjacent to the waterfowl sanctuary and could help link it to Crystal City. That would give the rapidly-developing neighborhood newfound accessibility to natural spaces.
“JBG owns a lot of the land over there and is in communication with the Park Service,” Garvey told ARLnow, noting that the developer invited her to last week’s tour. “Can we take this land and turn it into an accessible, usable space for people?”
Garvey said Roaches Run is “a lost area” that’s “not very accessible for anybody” at the moment. Active railroad tracks currently separate it from Crystal City and Long Bridge Park.
JBG declined comment for this story.
Among the ideas for Roaches Run are walking and biking trails, a floating dock for boaters in canoes or kayaks, and bird observation stations. Roaches Run would remain a nature preserve, however, and is not envisioned for other sports or recreation uses.
“It’s going to take some cooperation” to see this idea come to fruition, Garvey said.
The county, the Park Service, JBG and even the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority would likely be involved. That’s not to mention local civic associations, which have floated the idea of establishing connectivity to Roaches Run from Long Bridge Park and the Mt. Vernon Trail as part a series of improvements to the Crystal City and Pentagon City are dubbed Livability 22202.
“I think it’s an advantage for everybody…. making that whole area spectacular for people,” Garvey said. “You could get on an airplane and go hiking and boating within a mile radius.”
While discussions about Roaches Run have been informal in nature so far, with Amazon moving in nearby and demand for recreational opportunities growing it’s likely to advance to a more formal planning process at some point in the near future.
“It’s all very tentative but this is how ideas start, you have to start somewhere,” Garvey said. “Nothing is happening tomorrow or even next year… it’s probably 5-10 years out.”
Map via Google Maps
The commission voted unanimously in favor of Amazon’s request to remove a stretch of 14th Road S., and voted 12-1 in favor of a request to build two 22-story office buildings past current zoning restrictions.
The Arlington County Board will have its final vote on the amendments during its meeting next Saturday, December 14.
The unbuilt portion of 14th Road S. was originally planned to serve private residential buildings, per staff report to the Board. But since Amazon now plans to build its two office towers on the lot, there is “no longer the need for the planned 14th Road segment.”
In exchange for modifying zoning requirements to build said office buildings to an expected 2.15 million square feet — including retail space and a shared underground parking garage — Amazon offered the following community incentives:
- $14 million towards constructing and maintaining Metropolitan Park
- Public use of event space
- Road and transit improvements near the headquarters
- LEED Platinum certification
- $225,000 contribution to public art
- $20 million towards Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF)
“The $20 million contribution to AHIF will allow the County to fund over 200 units of committed affordable housing, which will help meet only about one-third of the County’s annual goal for new units when it occurs,” Michelle Winters, director of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow. “This contribution is very welcome, although we know that it is only a small part of what Arlington needs to do for affordable housing in the coming years to help replace some of the thousands of affordable units lost over the past several decades.”
During next weekend’s meeting, the County Board will decide between two options for allocating the funds, per Aaron Shriber of Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development: the $20 million will either be divided into three separate payments for a variety of projects, or will be pooled into one, unannounced project within the vicinity of Metropolitan Park.
“The problem is [for the second option], that we need to identify the site, but we would love to use that money for a project — [Amazon] is looking at a fairly aggressive construction schedule, and that means the money would come in very soon,” said Shriber. “I do not think we should take lightly the large contribution we were able to receive.”
Amazon representatives also emphasized the company’s intentions to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with LEED Platinum certification and support for transit and green energy.
“We’re close to completing an agreement on a large solar project and will update you when it’s finalized,” said Amazon’s real estate chief John Schoettler told the commission. “It will fully power our HQ2 campus and will be located in Virginia.”
The upcoming solar field is part of a worldwide sustainability project, the company announced today. The Virginia field is expected to produce 80 megawatts of energy and received kudos from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) for helping “lead to a cleaner and healthier environment.”
(One megawatt can power about a thousand homes.)
The company is also pushing its employees to commute via public transit, bike, or carpool instead of driving solo — despite requesting zoning modifications that would allow one parking space per every 1,100 square feet of gross floor area, over 2,000 spaces total.
Restaurant owners, residents, and advisory group members alike are demanding that an upcoming residential development in Crystal City includes more customer parking for the 23rd Street “Restaurant Row.”
At an unusually heated Site Plan Review Committee (SPRC) meeting Monday night, a representative from Crystal Houses developer Roseland Residential Trust outlined its plans for “Crystal House 5,” one of the new residential buildings proposed to be added to the existing apartment complex on the 1900 block of S. Eads Street.
The latest iteration of the development plan has been revised upward — with 819 new residential units planned, up from 798 previously. In addition to four new apartment buildings, Roseland is proposing three groups of townhouses.
Monday’s meeting, however, focused on the contentious issue of parking. Currently, Crystal House 5 is set to build over a Roseland-owned surface lot with 95 pay-to-park spaces.
Per use permit conditions, Roseland reserves 35 of those spaces exclusively for customers and employees of the businesses along 23rd Street S. — aka Restaurant Row.
Roseland plans to build a parking garage beneath the building, along with a small surface lot, with a total of 96 spaces. It is offering to reserve 35 of those spaces — 14 surface and 21 in the garage — for Restaurant Row owners and customers, with the remaining 60 for tenant use only.
However, because all 95 spaces in the current lot are open for public use, business owners argue this will result in a net loss of parking for them. Especially outspoken about this is Stratis Voutsas, who manages a trust that owns several of the buildings along 23rd Street.
Voutsas, along with a few other Restaurant Row business owners, wore matching shirts that said “Keep 23rd Street Weird, Eclectic & Uniquely Authentic, Support Parking For Your Local Business.” Voutsas has also started a petition, which he claims has over 3,000 signatures, emphasizing that the county’s Crystal City Sector Plan envisions the preservation of Restaurant Row.
“At Restaurant Row (500 block of 23rd Street), the plan visualizes preserving and retaining small, neighborhood oriented retailers,” the plan says. “Should redevelopment occur in this area, such retailers should be accommodated, to help support active streetscapes.”
Local restaurateur Freddie Lutz, who owns Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant and Federico Ristorante Italiano, told ARLnow he was promised by a county staff member 35 years ago that parking would be protected.
“When me and [business partner] Ted Sachs were standing on the surface parking lot 35 years ago, someone from the county said to us, if anyone builds on this parking lot they will have to provide parking for 23rd Street Restaurant Row,” Lutz said. “Live and learn, I should have stuck my hand up and asked, ‘Can we have that in writing?'”