The “revolution” in urban living set to take place in the Landmark Block in Courthouse is currently being fomented.
Residents who pass the site near the Courthouse Metro station can see preparations underway to tear down some of the low-slung retail buildings along the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd.
Demolition work is starting on the site’s aging brick retail buildings, as Bisnow reported earlier this week. John Clarkson, the managing director Greystar Real Estate Partners, told the site that work began last week, and the developer aims to deliver a 20-story apartment building by the third quarter of 2023.
The Landmark Block site is one of two projects — the other is a 220-unit building on the vacant Wendy’s lot — that Greystar is overseeing in Courthouse. Clarkson said the developer is focused on this neighborhood because it has the demographics, schools and walkability that make Clarendon attractive but less of the growth.
“We really want to establish a sense of place,” Clarkson tells Bisnow. “With some real density, some real scale it will feel like we have filled in that hole in the doughnut between Rosslyn and Clarendon, so we’re very excited about [the] upside of that submarket.”
Seven commercial buildings on the Landmark Block site will be demolished, including the former Summers Restaurant. The façades of the First Federal Savings and Loan Building (2050 Wilson Blvd) and the Investment Building (2049 15th Street N.) will be preserved, according to the county. The buildings, constructed in 1946 and 1948 respectively, are identified as “important” on the county’s Historic Resources Inventory.
The County Board approved the project at 2050 Wilson Blvd, featuring 423 apartment units, ground-floor retail and an underground parking garage, back in March. For proponents, the building and accompanying community benefits will make Courthouse Square “the civic and cultural heart of Arlington,” and will be “where the revolution begins,” as phrased in a county planning document.
One of the features the county said will usher in changes for Courthouse is a pedestrian promenade.
“The promenade was one of the addendum’s top recommendations for the area around Landmark Block,” the county said in March. “The N. Uhle Street promenade…will be lined with trees, and offer retail shops and plenty of space for community gatherings.”
Greystar will provide a portion of the Courthouse Square promenade that is envisioned in the Courthouse Square Addendum to the Courthouse Sector Plan. The full promenade would run between Wilson Blvd and 14th Street N. along N. Uhle Street.
The county said the promenade will be “the main gateway from Clarendon Boulevard into Courthouse Square.”
Meanwhile, the long-vacant Wendy’s site will no longer look on while other sites are developed around it. Greystar’s plans for the triangular site at 2025 Clarendon Blvd are going through entitlements, Clarkson tells Bisnow.
The developer expects to break ground on the 220-unit building by the second quarter of 2022. For the last two years, construction crews have used it as a staging area while building a condo project across the street at 2000 Clarendon.
The old Wendy’s site has sat vacant since it was demolished in 2016 for an office building that never came. Greystar acquired the property from Carr Properties in January, according to real estate firm JLL.
(Updated 10:35 a.m.) Tacombi, a New York City-based taqueria chain, is expected to open in Crystal City in a couple of months.
The new spot will be located in the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square.” This recently redone property at 1550 Crystal Drive, owned by JBG Smith, has attracted a number of other retail options that have opened already or are set to open over the course of the year.
A spokesperson for Tacombi said Thursday that it expects to open its 3,000 square-foot space in Crystal City in September.
“All of our taquerias are bright, open and airy spaces where guests can enjoy warm hospitality and a menu with selections from different regions throughout Mexico,” she said. “We look forward to bringing a little piece of this incredible country to our new friends in Arlington, and to swinging open our taqueria doors this fall.”
Tacombi got its start on the beaches of Yucatan, Mexico. The owner sold tacos from a Volkswagen Bus and eventually opened his first taqueria in the mid-2000s in New York City. Nine other locations have since opened in NYC.
These openings are happening amid a handful of other openings in Miami and Queens, the spokeswoman said. The taqueria will cement its presence in the D.C. area with a Bethesda location also set to open in September.
“We were drawn to Crystal City’s evolving identity and to its own journey from a largely-industrial zone in the sixties to today’s quickly developing community,” she said. “And while National Landing is part of a cosmopolitan world capital, it also maintains the neighborhood quality that best allows us to share authentic Mexican culture.”
The taqueria made headlines this year for its work during the pandemic feeding thousands of food-insecure New Yorkers.
Also coming to Central District Retail will be a thus-far unnamed grocery store, rumored to be a possible Amazon Fresh location. The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to Arlington County.
“JBG SMITH declines to comment,” a spokesperson for the property owner said when asked about it yesterday.
Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1812 N. Moore Street in Rosslyn.
Online secondhand shopping is taking the U.S. fashion market by storm and one Arlington startup is helping traditional retailers adapt.
Recurate — co-founded by CEO Adam Siegel, who lives and works from home in Rosslyn — allows retail brands to host resale platforms where customers can sell their used items directly from their purchase history.
The company manages the shipment from the seller to the buyer, and the seller is compensated with in-store credit or cash once the product is delivered.
“Every brand has lost revenue and customers to the resale market,” CEO Adam Siegel tells ARLnow. “Sites like Poshmark and ThredUp have made it cool to buy pre-owned products, and brands’ customers are flocking to those sites to buy branded pieces.”
The market for used clothing and accessories is projected to more than triple in value in the next decade, from $28 billion in 2019 to $80 billion in 2029, Fast Company reports. In 2019, it expanded 21 times faster than conventional apparel retail.
“We’re confident that branded ‘recommerce’ will become mainstream in the next couple years, and brands realize that they need to sell both new and pre-loved items in order to address their customers’ desires,” Siegel said.
Many consumers are switching to secondhand clothing to avoid supporting “fast fashion,” the moniker encompassing international retailers such as Zara and H&M, which sell trendy, inexpensive clothing made in sometimes unsafe factories by workers earning a few dollars a day.
Siegel said he and his business partner Chief Operating Officer Wilson Griffin founded Recurate by drawing on their long histories in sustainable retailing.
Griffin worked in The Gap’s sustainability team for the last six years, addressing issues like energy reduction, renewable energy generation, and waste reduction.
Siegel said he built and led the sustainability and ethical production programs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the trade association that represents the largest retailers.
Those experiences led them to found Recurate and expand resale opportunities to retail outlets.
“It was clear that the secondhand market was growing, and given our collective experience, we knew that buying used is the most sustainable way to shop,” Siegel said.
The company, founded in early 2020, just before the pandemic, announced it recently raised $3.25 million in seed funding. Recurate intends to use the funds to continue to expand operations and its business reach.
This is the second round of funding, following up on a pre-seed round last summer, Siegel said.
“We are fortunate to have so much interest from such wonderful — and industry-leading — brands,” Siegel said.
Photo courtesy Adam Siegel
Big things are afoot at The Crossing Clarendon (2800 Clarendon Blvd) — a stretch of interconnected stores, restaurants, offices and residential space formerly known as Market Common Clarendon — as the center starts to brush off the dust from the past year.
As an overview: The Crossing refers to a multi-block stretch of mixed-use development that includes the Whole Foods, the Cheesecake Factory and the Apple Store. With some recent rebranding, the collection of retail on the opposite side of Clarendon Blvd from the Whole Foods is now known as The Loop.
Also new is the recently expanded and upgraded office space in the center of the development, now dubbed The Loft Office at The Crossing Clarendon. Construction on the project wrapped up last year, bringing with it a floral public art installation.
Jason Yanushonis, manager of investments for The Crossing owner Regency Centers, said retail leasing interest for the shopping center is picking up again as the end of the pandemic seems hopefully in sight.
“The interest has been solid and picking up exponentially,” said Yanushonis. “Tenants are starting to seriously consider the next few years of their operation and what that’s going to look like.”
“We took the roof off and created a two-level space,” Yanushonis said. “We don’t have anything we’re ready to announce yet, but interest for that office and retail space has been going up.”
“As people are starting to have more visibility for when things open up, they’re getting more comfortable with signing deals,” he continued. “Recently, the retail has really picked up, because there’s more visibility for openings. We’ve been happy with the level of activity for both, but the retail is making us specifically excited.”
For The Loop, Regency Centers is aiming to turn the area near the Barnes and Noble into a pedestrian-friendly walking plaza, closing a portion of the existing loop road, Washington Business Journal reported.
“We’re planning to go in front of the [County] Board this summer and start construction in early 2022,” Yanushonis said.
Map via Regency Centers
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.”
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 11:50 a.m.) Will the proposed development for Landmark Block in Courthouse be the site of a “revolution” in urban living?
Arlington County says so. And developer Greystar Real Estate Partners appears ready to ignite this uprising, with plans to replace the aging, low-slung buildings on the 2000 block of Wilson Blvd — including the former Summers Restaurant — into an apartment tower surrounded by a pedestrian promenade and a curbless street.
But for some Planning Commission members, aspects of the proposal are not revolutionary enough, and one could be unsafe for pedestrians.
In 2015, the county published its vision for the square as an “attractive, accessible, and inclusive public space,” a sustainable 18-hour-a-day hub that celebrates Courthouse Square’s “rich history.”
The “civic and cultural heart of Arlington” will be flexible, innovative, sustainable and timeless, according to the 2015 Courthouse Square Sector Plan addendum. In short, the planning document said, Courthouse Square will be “where the revolution begins.”
To lead the charge, Greystar needs approval from the County Board, which is slated to review the proposal on Saturday.
Greystar is proposing a 423-unit apartment building with ground-floor retail and underground parking. But this bread-and-butter project includes community benefits that will be “a truly landmark project,” said Nicholas Cummings, Greystar’s legal representation, during a Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday.
These is a proposed pedestrian promenade on N. Uhle Street that will lead to a revamped Court House Metro station entrance, as well as the shared, curbless concrete street on 15th Street N.
“The existing N. Uhle Street is harsh, with asphalt, no benches and minimal trees,” said Steve Smith, a principal architect for Cooper Carry, the architect for the project. “We’re excited about this opportunity to transform it into a fully [compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act], pedestrian-only promenade, which provides increased tree-lined dining and public seating areas that activate the path to the Metro entrance.”
Meanwhile, 15th Street N. will be resurfaced and raised to create “a curbless table that blends into the sidewalk on both sides of the street,” he said.
Other community benefits include on-site committed affordable housing units, LEED Gold certification, a $800,000 contribution toward improving a future “Civic Square,” and $250,000 “for a public art installation in the square.”
(Updated at 9:35 p.m.) A new CVS Pharmacy is open at the revamped Central District Retail shopping plaza, also known as “Crystal Square,” in Crystal City.
The store opened on Sunday, Feb. 28, a JBG Smith spokesperson confirmed. It is part of a major redevelopment that the property owner has planned for a block of Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th streets.
Signage appears to now be up for two more occupants: Mah-Ze-Dahr, a bakery said to have some of New York City’s best doughnuts, as well as a yet-unnamed specialty grocery store. The first D.C. outpost of the NYC bakery opened in Navy Yard in the fall.
JBG once more declined to comment on which grocer will be filling the space. Permits indicate that the store will offer prepared foods like packaged salads, sandwiches, entrees and soups, as well as various beverages. The permits further specify that the store will have “self app check-out.”
A spokesperson previously confirmed that the specialty grocer will sell produce, meats and poultry, frozen foods and baked goods. Taken as a whole, the concept sounds similar to that of Amazon Fresh stores, a new bricks-and-mortar retail offering of the tech giant, which is currently constructing its HQ2 up the street.
The store will be built in the existing office building at 1550 Crystal Drive, according to the county. The new one-story retail area will replace a 1990s-era strip and will link the grocery store to a planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater at 1750 Crystal Drive.
The theater chain recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but a company spokesman tells ARLnow the planned Crystal City location is owned by a franchisee “which has not filed for bankruptcy.”
“There are no changes to its development plans at 1750 Crystal Drive,” the spokesman said.
A spokeswoman for Solidcore confirmed that the gym is slated to open this summer.
“Central District Retail will enhance the street-level experience with new dining, shopping and entertainment options on Crystal Drive,” Amy Rice, senior vice president of Retail Leasing at JBG Smith, previously told ARLnow in a statement. “It will serve as the retail heart of National Landing and a vibrant destination for people throughout the region.”
Photo (2) courtesy Car-Free#HQ2/Twitter
A major redevelopment proposal in Rosslyn is facing pushback from those who think it doesn’t do enough for cyclists and pedestrians.
McLean-based Jefferson Apartment Group is proposing a 27-story mixed-use residential complex with 424 units at 1901 N. Moore Street, replacing the 1960s-era RCA building. Two towers will be connected at the top by a penthouse and at the base with ground floor retail.
But as the project moves through the public review process, some have expressed concerns a number of transportation-related issues: the proposed unprotected bike lanes along 19th Street N., the project’s parking ratio, and the pedestrian experience along the block.
These three topics are likely to resurface during a follow-up Site Plan Review Committee meeting on Monday, March 15 — and perhaps later this spring, when the project will go before the Planning Commission and the County Board.
“We’ve been identifying issues, responding to citizen comments, and having very good discussions with surrounding community groups,” said Andrew Painter, an attorney with land use firm Walsh Colucci, during the first SPRC meeting last month.
Staff members are considering some protections for the proposed 19th Street bike lanes in response to public input.
“It may be possible to provide an additional level of protection in one direction” on the block from N. Lynn to N. Moore streets, said Principal Planner Dennis Sellin, adding that staffers “don’t see the capacity to do it in both directions.”
Arlington Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt said 19th Street N. has enough traffic to qualify it for protected or buffered bike lanes.
Another hot issue was the parking ratio of .625 spaces per residential unit. Jefferson is proposing 290 total spaces, split among 265 residential spaces, 15 retail and 10 visitor spaces, according to a staff report.
“The goal is to right-size the garage to meet the market demand but not provide extra that incentivizes people to drive,” Painter said.
Although the proposal is within county guidelines, Sellin said “we would certainly accept a lower ratio.” The minimum is .2 spaces per unit but the lowest Sellin said he has seen proposed is .38 spaces per unit.
North Rosslyn Civic Association representative Terri Prell said people, particularly the elderly, still need cars for tasks such as grocery shopping.
“You have to understand this is a residential community, not a business community,” she said.
Lowering the ratio would attract people who want to lead a car-free lifestyle, Slatt said, asking for data on space utilization rates.
The parking needs to be built partially above ground due to “particularly dense rock” and Metro tunnels. To conceal the parking above the retail and below the residential units — and add public art — the architect is exploring adding graphics by local artists, said architect Shalom Baranes.
The Metro tunnels add another complication: a longer expected demolition process.
It'll take about 3 months to dismantle the existing RCA building. Developer says that's because they're over the Metro tunnels.
"They do frown upon explosions over their tunnels."
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) February 12, 2021
As for the pedestrian experience, some members were concerned that the block will be too long and there will be no opportunities for cutting through it. Sellin said the block is comparable to others at 400 feet long.
SPRC Chair Sara Steinberger said knowing the length “may not change the community’s feelings on what feels like a longer stretch of block when you have large buildings covering a greater area.”
In 2017, Weissberg Investment Corp., which developed the RCA building in the 1960s, filed plans to redevelop the RCA site — but those plans were put on hold indefinitely in 2018. Jefferson started filing application materials in May 2020.
(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Arlington County has asked JBG Smith to go back to the drawing board after reviewing its plans to upgrade the Crystal City Water Park.
The privately-owned park at 1601 Crystal Drive currently includes water features, trees, and a food stand. It has frequently been used for local events and gatherings.
The project to upgrade it will be deferred two months so that JBG Smith can address pedestrian and cyclist safety concerns raised by Arlington County Board members and community members during the Board’s Tuesday night meeting.
“This is not a fully baked plan yet,” Board member Christian Dorsey said.
The Bethesda-based real estate company is proposing a new performance area, more outdoor seating, preserving and updating the existing water fountain, and incorporating a new water feature in the center of the site. The proposal also includes a number of retail structures: small kiosks, a bar, and a trailhead restroom facility.
Most of the discussion was devoted to two paths — one ADA-accessible — that JBG Smith proposed to build to connect people to the nearby VRE station and the Mount Vernon Trail. A small pathway linked the two connections.
Community members and County Board members said these paths, as proposed, would create conflicts between pedestrians and bicyclists. People would have to cross the Mount Vernon Trail connector to get to the rest of the park and cyclists would be battling a grade change while avoiding pedestrians.
“We thought we were being helpful, but we’re hearing loudly and clearly that this is scaring people, and we should reconsider it,” said Robin Mosle, a consultant on the project.
The Bethesda-based real estate company opted out of a public design process — something that drew the frustration of some Board members, including Takis Karantonis.
“This would be a conversation that we would have had in the Park and Recreation Commission in advance of the meeting,” Karantonis said.
The County Board is now expected to see the project again when it meets in March.
News of a plan to invigorate the park with new retail dates back at least to 2017, when ARLnow reported that the concession stand in the park had closed. A few months later, The Stand opened in its place, hosting many pop-up eateries. In April, D.C. food truck Peruvian Brothers took it over.
Photos via Arlington County
After years of delays, plans for half of an undeveloped parcel of land in Potomac Yard, called Land Bay C East, are taking shape.
Two residential buildings with ground-floor retail, bisected by a pedestrian pathway, are planned along Potomac Avenue and Crystal Drive between 29th Street S. and 33rd Street S. In addition to 488 residential units, the plans call for underground parking and open space.
The developer, ZOM Living, has dubbed the project Hazel National Landing. A luxury apartment developer with an office in Tysons, ZOM Living has built The Beacon Clarendon on N. Irving Street and 19Nineteen in Courthouse.
The plans are a long time in coming for the parcel, which is currently used for parking and as a construction staging area, said Adam Watson, a County planner, in a staff presentation from December.
“Despite persistent leasing efforts, the property remains vacant,” said Martin “Art” Walsh, the attorney for the project, said in ZOM Living’s presentation from December. “We’ve worked with economic development to verify our efforts in terms of trying to lease the property.”
The original site plan was approved in 2007 and situated four office buildings over an underground parking garage. It allotted more than 1 million square feet to office space, 41,000 square feet for retail space, as well as a half-acre for a park.
The land is owned by German grocery chain Lidl, which has its U.S. headquarters nearby. In 2017, the County Board gave Lidl a three-year extension to develop the property.
In February 2020, six months before the three-year extension ended, Meridian Development Group seemed poised to swap offices with residential buildings. Two months later, ZOM Living submitted its plans.
ZOM Living’s development covers Land Bay C East, while the western half is still slated for offices.
The first residential building will be 150 feet tall, with 14 floors and 297 residential units. The second building will be 120 feet tall, with 11 floors and 191 units. The towers share 9,181 square feet in retail space and two floors of below-grade parking, with 399 residential spots and 15 retail spots.
Some of the lower-level units will have their own townhouse-style exterior entrances.
Renderings illustrate primarily brick buildings with large patios and greenery on the ground floor and rooftop, overlooking a tree-lined passageway and plaza.
“We’re very excited about the vibrancy and potential of this project, not only for the buildings but the public open space,” said Tom Kerwin, the founding principal of bKL Architecture, during the December presentation.
A public engagement period for the project ended in December 2020. The Site Plan Review Committee will look over the project in February and March, prior to consideration by county commissions and the County Board.
Photos via Arlington County