Work is kicking off on a massive new development in West Rosslyn, and its developer is offering a first look at its plans to build three new residential towers, a new fire station and an improved Rosslyn Highlands Park.
The D.C. developer Penzance announced today (Monday) that it would be dubbing the project “The Highlands,” which will be located at 1555 Wilson Blvd.
In all, the development will include 104 condos, 780 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space, including a new CVS pharmacy replacing the old shop at the location that closed earlier this year.
The Highlands is the result of a years-long effort by county officials to guide the redevelopment of a busy section of Rosslyn while maintaining space for public amenities, including a new Fire Station 10 included in the development and a public school on the adjacent site of the old Wilson School. The 1.2 million-square-foot Highlands development will also be centered around a new park to replace the existing Rosslyn Highlands green space.
“The Highlands will establish a culturally-rich, welcoming, and lively urban-style space that aligns nature with architecture to create a pedestrian-friendly, connected environment, delivering equal parts D.C. culture with Northern Virginian charm,” John Kusturiss, Penzance’s vice president of development, said in a statement.
Penzance, which purchased the property at 1555 Wilson for $67 million back in 2011, has already kicked off initial preparations at the site. In all, the developer plans to build a 27-story tower featuring 449 apartments, a 26-story building populated by the 104 condos and a 23-story building with 331 apartments. Amenities at the site will include “a cabana-covered rooftop pool, private club deck and state-of-the-art fitness center,” according to a Penzance release.
The CVS is the only ground-floor retail tenant the developer has announced thus far, but it expects to unveil others soon. The construction will also include a “north-south connector street” to better connect Wilson Blvd to 18th Street N. for pedestrians, the developer said.
Penzance hopes to hold an official groundbreaking for the project on Oct. 24, and expects the entire project to be finished by 2021. The new Wilson school is set to open next fall.
The Arlington County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $7.9 million loan to redevelop Queens Court, an affordable housing building in North Rosslyn.
The Affordable Housing Investment Fund loan would help build 249 affordable units at what will be called Queens Court South, yielding “a net gain of 388 bedrooms over the existing 39-unit building,” according to a county press release.
The existing Queens Court structure, built in 1940, has studio and one bedroom apartments. Queens Court South will have those configurations as well as two and three bedroom units, with more room for families.
The project also dedicates 9,000 square feet for a northern leg of Rosslyn Highlands Park, with a planned playground and tot lot.
The redevelopment is part of a Western Rosslyn Area Plan adopted in 2015 that will add a new fire station and public secondary school. Current Queens Court households will be relocated, and the new building will be required to remain affordable for 75 years.
County Board Chair Katie Cristol said the Board was “delighted to help” the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, which is redeveloping the property.
Here’s more from the press release regarding the project’s financing:
APAH will apply to the Virginia Housing and Development Authority for competitive 9 percent low income housing tax credits for Queen’s Court South, which will contain 90 affordable units. If APAH is awarded the 9 percent low income housing tax credits by VHDA, the Board is expected to consider a second AHIF request of up to $11.8 million for the remaining 159 units this fall. Although Queen’s Court North and South will be separated into two land condominiums for financing purposes, the development will be built in one phase, with all 249 units in one building.
After the Board approved its Site Plan in February 2017, APAH submitted an AHIF application for $24 million as part of the County’s Fiscal Year 2018 Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) process for affordable housing funding, to redevelop the property. Staff selected the Queen’s Court project to move forward with AHIF negotiations and the public process.
During the negotiation process, APAH reduced the AHIF request for the entire development by $4.3 million. The AHIF reduction was a result of APAH working with VHDA to increase the amount of certain VHDA low interest loans that are being layered with the VHDA senior loan. APAH also agreed to contribute another $2 million in equity to the development resulting from the transfer of the property into the tax credit partnership.
The incident happened behind Fire Station 10, in Rosslyn Highlands Park, according to scanner traffic.
“At approximately 3:32 p.m. on March 22, officers were dispatched to the report of two subjects allegedly engaged in sexual activity in public view,” Arlington County Police said in a crime report. “As officers were conducting the investigation, the female subject charged at the officer and struck him repeatedly.”
“Nicole Faircloth, 42, of No Fixed Address was arrested and charged with assault and battery on police and performing a sexual act in a public place,” the crime report continued. “Petko Ubiparipovic, 42, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with performing a sexual act in a public place. Both were held on bond.”
Fire Station 10 will be temporarily relocated to the corner of N. Quinn Street and 18th Street, not far from the current fire station, which is set to be torn down. The old, stand-alone station will be replaced with a modern fire station at the bottom of a new mixed-use development; developer Penzance will be paying for its construction.
A number of alternative temporary fire station locations were considered but found to be lacking. In approving the location — despite the objections of H-B Woodlawn parents — County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement that the Board made the best choice in a difficult situation.
This was a very tough decision for the Board. And we know that there will be members of the community who are disappointed. I think everyone will agree, however, that we listened to the community’s concerns and launched a thorough search for an alternative that would meet the criteria of providing fire protection and emergency medical services to Rosslyn, at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. We acknowledge that this solution will need to be accompanied by serious efforts to mitigate the impact of the fire station on the Wilson school site and the students who will be learning there. We have always said the redevelopment of Western Rosslyn is complex and difficult, but in the end, it will result in benefits for our entire community. We will have a wonderful new urban school, new, integrated open space, including a park that the developer has agreed to pay for, a fire station that the developer will build, affordable housing and a commercial building.
Also on Saturday, the County Board approved a “coordinated open space plan” for Rosslyn Highlands Park — a plan that will come to full fruition after the temporary fire station is removed to make way for a new field.
According to the plan, the renovated park will include:
- Multi-use, lighted court for basketball and other sports
- Sloped green lawns for added tree canopy, picnics, seating and play
- Lighted, synthetic turf field at Wilson School
- Planted/permeable field boundary with trees
- Playgrounds for tots and school age children across the street from the main park
- Community access to Wilson School indoor amenities including gym, cafeteria and theater
Marine Corps Marathon Wrap-up — Despite a soggy start, spirits were high for the 40th annual Marine Corps Marathon, which wound through Rosslyn, D.C. and Crystal City Sunday morning. The winners were a 22-year-old recent West Point grad, representing the Army team and, on the women’s side, a Costa Rica native who only started running seven years ago. [Run Washington, Stars & Stripes]
Orange Line Delays — Orange Line riders are experiencing delays of up to 25 minutes this morning due to a broken rail in Maryland. [Twitter]
School Bus Camera Tickets May Be Refunded — Arlington County is considering refunding tickets issued by stop arm cameras on public school buses, following a determination by the state Attorney General that the county doesn’t have the legal authority to issue such citations via mail. [Washington Post]
I Like This Park Because — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has erected two new chalkboard in Rosslyn Highlands Park, asking park users why they like the park. [Twitter]
Top Bus Lines in Arlington — The county-run transit organization Arlington Transportation Partners has a list of the top five most important bus lines in Arlington. They are: ART 43, ART 45, ART 42, Metrobus 16 series and Metrobus 38B. [Arlington Transportation Partners]
New Little Free Library in Arlington — There’s a new Little Free Library in Arlington. The resident-created library is located at 1723 N. Veitch Street, three blocks north of the Courthouse Metro station. Affordable housing developer AHC, which helped with the library’s creation, is planning a celebratory launch party tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Photo by Jennifer Currier
The Rosslyn of the future is envisioned to be more walkable, more dynamic and more green with the County Board’s approval of the Rosslyn Sector Plan and Western Rosslyn Area Plan (WRAP). However, with the approval comes the loss of open space from Rosslyn Highlands Park, which left some residents frustrated with the County Board’s process.
The County Board unanimously approved both plans after hearing resident and staff concerns. Residents generally supported the new sector plan, focused primarily on areas around the Rosslyn Metro station. The Western Rosslyn plan focused on the area around Fire Station #10, up the hill on Wilson Blvd.
It was the Western Rosslyn plan — which calls for a new fire station to be built by a developer, which is in turn building a mixed-use office and residential complex next to it — that attracted the most opposition.
“It is a shame that we felt we needed to pay for the fire station with public land, such an irreplaceable asset, especially here,” said resident Stuart Stein, who was involved with the WRAP study. “This has been an unfortunate process, but it is time to pass this plan.”
The lack of energy from the previously vocal WRAP opponents was reflected in the County Board’s responses. Although they all voted to approve the plan, Vice Chair Walter Tejada said that he came out of the vote “with a sense of resignation, almost, about the open space angle particularly.”
“We do need to move forward, but it really is a good lesson learned,” he said. “We just can’t let this happen again.”
With the Rosslyn Sector Plan, Board members were more enthusiastic.
“It’s been a bit of a marathon, but I think it was a good conversation and I think we have a plan that will work for all of us,” Chair Mary Hynes said.
Under the Rosslyn Sector Plan, the neighborhood will get a new open-air Metro entrance, Fort Myer Drive, Lynn Street and Wilson Boulevard will become two-way streets and the county will create a new esplanade that runs along Rosslyn’s eastern edge, connected to the Mt. Vernon Trail via a new pedestrian bridge. It also calls for a corridor along an extended 18th Street, which is envisioned as “a new central spine for Rosslyn.”
Green space has been a big concern for residents under both plans. The Rosslyn Sector Plan calls for a new park and redesign of existing parks, but residents fear that these are empty promises.
“Whether that green space really is developed in the amount that is projected is a question,” Rosslyn resident Diane Gorman said during public comment at yesterday’s recessed County Board meeting.
Parks and Recreation commission member Caroline Haynes urged the County Board members to make sure that plans for open space in Rosslyn were followed, adding that there are limited parks in the neighborhood.
“If we overbuild Rosslyn to the detriment of open space, views and daylight, the built environment will never reestablish those features,” Haynes said. “This plan represents the long-term view for Rosslyn, and should look to achieve long term value for the entire sector, not just for individual land owners and their interests.”
While the Rosslyn Sector Plan looks to create more open space and redesign existing Freedom and Gateway Parks, the Western Rosslyn plan will shrink Rosslyn Highlands Park to rebuild the fire station, a move that prompted residents to rally in protest, pleading with the County Board to save the park.
Under the plan, the county would take away 3,000 to 7,000 square feet of land from the park to allow for the fire station expansion and the Wilson School will be replaced with a larger, 775-seat secondary school building. However, the plan also calls for a 9,000 square foot park to be built across the street at the Queens Court affordable housing complex, which is slated for redevelopment.
Residents have argued that the lost space will greatly affect their livelihood in Arlington, noting the limited open space in the area.
“We have so little on our side of Wilson Boulevard, we have only one recreational park for 10,000 residents, and we need the maximum open space that will be preserved,” said Stan Karson, a member of the WRAP study working group.
In order to help residents have access to open space, the County Board asked that they be able to use the fields and playground area at the new school that is replacing the Wilson School.
Hynes charged county management staff to “initiate a public park space planning process in fall 2015 to develop a cohesive park and public spaces plan for Rosslyn Highlands Park and other public spaces within the WRAP area and work with APS to develop a community use [Memorandum of Understanding] for consideration with the school use permit request.”
Both plans also focused on additional housing units being built in Rosslyn. The Western Rosslyn plan call for the 39-unit Queens Court apartment complex to be redeveloped with up to 250 affordable housing units.
While WRAP specifically called for affordable housing, the Rosslyn Sector Plan does not specifically designate any of the new housing units in the Rosslyn Metro area — up to 5,000 new units at “full build out,” decades from now — for affordable housing. Resident John Snyder said the plan does not comply with Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan, which the Board will discuss in the fall.
In proposing additional housing in Rosslyn, the plan hopes to have an evening population that’s at least 25 percent of Rosslyn daytime population of office workers.
Under the sector plan, Rosslyn will have new building guidelines that limit heights in order to preserve views of Washington landmarks, such as the Washington Monument and Capitol building. The future Rosslyn will have “an urban pattern of buildings, streets and open spaces that produces an attractive and memorable skyline and provides breathtaking views of the nation’s capital,” according to the plan.
Residents responded well to new skyline, but the Arlington Chamber of Commerce is concerned that the plan limits the ability for economic growth in Rosslyn, said Kate Roche, president and CEO of the Arlington Chamber.
“We have significant concerns that the planning commission recommendation about protecting views from Rosslyn to the west through Courthouse is economically unsustainable,” Roche said during public comment.
The two plans were formulated after a public process that included public meetings and workshops. The “Realize Rosslyn” process for the sector plan started in Dec. 2012, while the WRAP study kicked off in 2014.
“For nearly three years, residents, developers, business leaders, property owners and County commissioners worked with County staff to create this plan for revitalizing and transforming one of our oldest urban neighborhoods,” said Hynes, in a press release. “Everyone who participated should be proud of what we’ve achieved together.”
Mariah Joyce assisted with this report
The county is considering trading part of the tiny park to a developer in exchange for a new fire station as part of its Western Rosslyn Area Plan Study (WRAPS). Board members unanimously approved the advertisement of public hearings on the plan during the meeting.
“Once this land is gone, it’s gone. The land will always be worth more than the fire station. So let’s hold onto the land and do what is right for the community,” said Michael McMenamin, an independent candidate for County Board. Independent candidate Audrey Clement also spoke out against the plan.
McMenamin was joined by more than a half dozen people who live near the park, including Washington Lee High School junior Johanna Klein and 12-year-old Jim Sharkey. Even more people signed up to speak during the public comment on the plan but left as the clock ticked close to 10:00 p.m. before the item was heard.
Sharkey, who was inspired to research park space in Arlington after learning of the park’s possible sale, said Arlington fares poorly in terms of park land when compared to neighboring Fairfax County.
The park holds many memories for Sharkey and Klein, who both say they grew using it. Sharkey’s family is considering moving and he said he believes that the end of the park will only encourage his family to move.
“Rosslyn Highlands Park is not just a part of a number on a graph,” he said. “I believe that parks are important because they’re a good place for people to have fun and bond together.”
In addition to the fire station, the WRAPS plan deals with the replacement of the Wilson School, which will house the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program starting in 2019, the replacement of an aging office building with a new mixed-use development, and a new affordable housing development.
Most of the discussion, however, revolved around the park and what many said was an opaque process of deciding to trade part of it to a developer. Caroline Haynes, a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, called the process frustrating.
“I guess from our perspective, given that residents do feel like they sacrificed something in this and the density is going to be greatly increased in this area, we believe that is going to be absolutely critical to make sure this park is outstanding,” she said. “That what we have there is going to be an oasis in the midst of very high density. And that we really need to dedicate the resources to make this an incredible destination park both for residents and for our community.”
Members of the working group also voiced similar concerns saying that the group and community did not have enough say in the drafted plan.
“From the beginning, the working group expressed a clear goal that open space be a prime directive of the process and not simply residual of what’s left over,” Erik Gutshall, an at-large member of the working group said.
Members of the public will have another chance to weigh in on the Western Rosslyn Area Plan in July. A public hearing will be held before the Planning Commission on July 6 and before the County Board meeting later in July.
“The proposed plan seeks to balance the need for open space in Western Rosslyn with the need for a new school with associated gym and playing field accessible to residents, a new fire station and more affordable housing in collaboration with commercial redevelopment,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a statement.
Arlington County appears ready to move forward with selling Rosslyn Highlands Park to a developer in exchange for a new fire station, and some residents are protesting the deal.
This Saturday, a new group called Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park will host a rally at the park (1555 Wilson Blvd) to try to garner support and more signatures for its petition to the Arlington County Board. The rally will run from 10:00 a.m-noon and the group says it has invited all members of the County Board and the six announced candidates to attend and listen to park advocates’ concern.
Of particular concern to the group: the revelation that Arlington signed a letter of intent with developer Penzance to trade the piece of land for a new fire station in January 2013, six months before the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) was launched.
“Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park, along with neighboring civic associations and countless citizens, are dismayed that a negotiation behind closed doors would threaten, and in effect predetermine the fate of, one of Arlington’s cherished neighborhood parks,” Katie Elmore, spokeswoman for Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park, said in a press release. “Such action by the County Board corrodes public belief in the ‘Arlington Way’ and the viability of future public processes.”
The WRAPS Working Group was formed by the County Board to determine the best mix of uses for the area between 18th Street N., Wilson Blvd, N. Quinn Street and the edge of the 1555 Wilson Blvd office building. The WRAPS group has met regularly since the summer of 2013 and the County Board will vote on the area’s future next month.
The park currently includes a small playground, basketball court, parking lot and some open green space; a total of 30,182 square feet. It’s adjacent to a 45,000 square foot playing field behind the Wilson School that will stay in place when the site becomes the future home of H-B Woodlawn.
The proposal that county staff recommended to the Board earlier this month would reduce county park space to 11,500 square feet, but add a publicly-accessible plaza in between new high-rise, mixed-use office and residential buildings.
The proposal also calls for Penzance to construct a N. Pierce Street extension between Wilson and 18th, even though some residents said they preferred an extended N. Ode Street, slightly farther east. County staff say Ode Street would interfere with traffic from the new fire station and the new school.
While preserving open space and parkland has been a stated County Board priority, the panel has made it clear that it would be willing to sell the land in exchange for fulfilling other priorities. Residents say not only is the county selling one of the last remaining green spaces in Rosslyn, but it’s not even getting a good deal.
“This is trading a public good for private gain, the sale price of the land is significantly undervalued, the financial trade off is short-sighted and not ‘fiscally responsible,’ and the board has been deaf to the input of residents on this issue,” Elizabeth Schill, who lives nearby, told ARLnow.com in an email. “This is not a NIMBY issue, but rather one in which we are opposed to the sale of rare and irreplaceable parkland to a private, commercial developer at below-market rates for purely private gain.”
Some of county staff’s proposals for Rosslyn Highlands Park’s replacements include more urbanized versions of playgrounds, or basketball courts integrated with plaza seating like the new plaza on 19th Street N. But the Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park say it just won’t be the same as the park they’ve been bringing their children to for years.
“The park is a second backyard, a friendly place,” Friends of Rosslyn Highlands Park leader Anna Duran said in an email. “The park for us is a place to relax, a place to nod in humanity at other humans, perhaps unknown at the time, but just a moment away from friendliness. There, we’ve gotten much further with making friends than in passing each other on the street — and much further than in passing through a jungle of tall business buildings.”
Photo, bottom, courtesy of Anna Duran