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Sunrise Senior Living at 2000 N. Glebe Road in Arlington’s Glebewood neighborhood (via Arlington County)

(Updated at 11:10 a.m. on 5/17/23) Two years after indicating interest in redeveloping its property in the Glebewood neighborhood, Sunrise Senior Living is almost done with early-stage procedural hurdles.

Meanwhile, the way the process has unfolded so far has confused and alarmed some neighbors.

Arlington County is mulling changes to the land-use plan governing the site to allow for greater density and to allow for elder care uses through a site plan process at 2000 N. Glebe Road. The Arlington County Board authorized public hearings on these changes on Saturday.

The designation changes, if approved by the Board, would tee up a rezoning request by Sunrise to facilitate the actual redevelopment down the road. Documents filed with the county indicate Sunrise is considering a rezoning request that could also allow “one-family detached, duplexes, semidetached, multiple-family, and
townhouses” to be built by-right.

County staff studied adding elder care as well as apartments to the site over the last year, which perturbed some neighbors who say there should be language ensuring any future development is geared toward elder care only.

Last week, during a Planning Commission meeting, county planner Margaret Rhodes said residents should not worry.

The result of the study, which the Arlington County Board is poised to adopt on Saturday, includes “a guiding principle stating the preference strongly for elder care use.”

“In terms of the conversation about the confusion over… a potential multi-family development, because this is a General Land Use Plan high level study, we need to evaluate all different land uses,” she said.

Beyond this confusion, however, neighbors had other concerns about the impact on quality of life. They predicted the building would dwarf nearby homes, contribute to tree canopy loss, flooding and traffic.

Catherine Ginther, who lives across the street, said in the meeting that she chose her home in part for the quiet street and is “frankly a little concerned about how the plans could change all that.”

“Since moving here, I have noticed there are some issues with Sunrise that will likely worsen if this plan would move forward,” she said. “Children and adults walk down [20th Street N.] throughout the day and the walkability of this neighborhood is at risk if Sunrise is allowed to grow in size and create a garage entrance on 20th Street N.”

Some Planning Commissioners acknowledged these concerns but said they are being raised at the wrong stage in the process.

“It’s very much inside baseball. It’s very frustrating to the neighborhoods,” Commissioner Jim Lantelme said. “I’ve walked that neighborhood — it’s a great neighborhood — but you’re right about the topography, the trees, where the loading needs to be, the sidewalks. All those things absolutely have to be addressed.”

Commissioner Nia Bagley said she has been through lots of planning processes as a former civic association leader.

“I recognize that this is not your expertise and many of you have busy lives and this becomes like a full time job on the side,” she said. “Don’t be discouraged tonight but please hang in there.”

Some speakers, however, supported the redevelopment project.

“This facility is toward the end of its operational life and needs additional renovation for its continued operation and this project would allow for a significant increase in the number of units available to seniors,” said Arlington Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Manager John Musso.

Cynthia Schneider, with the Commission on Aging, said this project addresses a shortage of elder care rooms in Arlington. The county and the region are predicted to see an increase in the number of seniors living in the area over the next two decades.

She advocated for more dedicated affordable beds on-site, which a representative of Sunrise said would not be possible.

The company has also put forward a redevelopment project in the Alcova Heights neighborhood, at 716 S. Glebe Road, which Arlington County is reviewing. The representative said affordable beds could be added there to meet requirements for both facilities.


Arlington County has accepted a site plan application for a senior living facility proposed to replace a church in the Alcova Heights neighborhood.

Sunrise Senior Living, a McLean-based senior living provider, proposes to demolish a church building at 716 S. Glebe Road to build a four-story, 60-foot-tall building with 108 assisted living units, 55 parking spaces, common and service areas, a covered porch and an outdoor garden.

Kedrick Whitmore, the land use attorney representing Sunrise Senior Living, says the development would add sorely needed assisted living facilities in Arlington County.

“This facility would provide or coordinate personal and health care services, 24-hour supervision, and assistance (scheduled and unscheduled) for the protection general supervision and oversight of the physical and mental well-being of aged, infirm, or disabled adults,” he said. “The current supply of such facilities in Arlington County is insufficient to meet the current demand.”

So far, the applicant isn’t looking to go beyond base density, and proposed community benefits include streetscape and sidewalk improvements, utility and affordable housing contributions and sustainable design, per application documents.

As the change in use would displace two child care programs, county planning staff are urging Sunrise to incorporate child care into the development.

“The County has a need for child care services,” county planner Leon Vignes said. “Please consider the possibility of collocating a child care use with this development to maintain an existing use.”

There are two programs operating inside the church, Children’s Weekday Program and Rainbow Road Preschool. County staff said one of the programs in operation there does not have the necessary approvals to do so, but did not specify which.

“A previously approved use permit for childcare uses affiliated with the existing Methodist church was discontinued with the operator noting the potential to resume operation,” associate planner Anika Chowdhury said in staff comments on the application. “A revelation confirmed by the applicant was that an existing daycare is currently operating at the existing church. There is no valid use permit approval on file for this operating use and a use permit is required for child care use(s) per the ACZO.”

If Sunrise were to consider incorporating a child care center, it would have to request changes to how the property is zoned, Chowdhury says.

County planner Matthew Pfeiffer, meanwhile, urged the applicant to increase the number of trees it will plant and make the architecture appear more historic.

“Recommend altering architectural style to match existing historic properties, such as Colonial Revival,” Pfeiffer said. “The most important site design aspect will be ensuring that there is a strong vegetated buffer on the western property line to screen The Alcova,” a historic property next door.

The building’s owner, Arlington United Methodist Church, sold the property to Sunrise last year, leaving a different Christian congregation that meets there, the Redeemer Church of Arlington, the child care programs and a clothing bank in search of a new home.

Sunrise has two other senior living centers in Arlington, in the Glebewood and Boulevard Manor neighborhoods.

The church building on S. Glebe Road (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) An Alcova Heights church has sold its building to a senior living provider, leaving organizations that rent space there in search of a new home.

Arlington United Methodist Church recently sold its building at 716 S. Glebe Road to Sunrise Senior Living, a McLean-based senior living provider.

Paul Mandell, the real estate agent who facilitated the deal, told ARLnow he believed the buyer — whose identity he declined to confirm — planned to demolish the building to build a senior living facility, but deferred to the buyer for confirmation.

Sunrise is unable to comment at this time, spokesperson John Chibnall said, but will likely share information on the project in the coming weeks.

There are several organizations operating out of the church’s building, including the Ronda Gilliam Clothing Bank affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church of Arlington, the Redeemer Church of Arlington, Rainbow Road Preschool and others.

The organizations now have about 4-6 months to look for a new space, said Annette Reilly, manager of the clothing bank.

“We have no definite plans yet,” she said.

She found out about the sale about two weeks ago after the building was on the market for about a year, Reilly said. Other offers could have kept the clothing bank and other organizations in place, she said.

“If they had sold it to one of the churches, [an] existing tenant that wanted to buy it, then the use of the building would have continued the same,” Reilly said.

She hoped the clothing bank would be able to relocate elsewhere in Arlington. Otherwise, it would have to close, she said.

There have been previous instances of churches selling to be redeveloped as housing. The Central United Methodist Church in Ballston was torn down and is being rebuilt as an affordable housing complex. Jefferson Apartment Group took over another former Ballston are church building last year, with plans to build an apartment building.

The Arlington United Methodist Church, which still listed as the owner of the property, could not be reached for comment. The assessed value of the building in 2022 was $5 million, according to the county.

Sunrise Senior Living at 2000 N. Glebe Road in Arlington’s Glebewood neighborhood (via Arlington County)

Sunrise Senior Living is looking to rebuild, expand and modernize a decades-old facility in Arlington that serves people with memory impairments such as Alzheimer’s.

The McLean-based senior living company, which provides daily assisted living services, is seeking Arlington County’s permission to redevelop its Sunrise of Arlington property.

Members of the Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) said last Wednesday that they need to study the site more as part of their review, but neighbors are voicing concerns about expanding the facility at 2000 N. Glebe Road in the Glebewood neighborhood.

“There’s a great need for this type of housing in Arlington today, and it’s likely to only get worse in the future,” said Clyde McGraw, Sunrise’s senior director of real estate, development and investments, during the LRPC meeting.

Sunrise’s facility is in a neighborhood that’s designated as “low residential” and is currently legally nonconforming, county staff told committee members. As such, the organization needs permission for the proposed redevelopment.

An initial proposal calls for keeping the property three stories and adding an underground parking garage. If the county requires the facility to be set back farther from the road as part of the redevelopment, a fourth story may be needed to maintain or add units, according to McGraw.

The proposal looks to increase Sunrise’s residential capacity from up to 50 residents to somewhere between 85 and 90, he said. Changing the upward capacity limit, which the county set in 1986, would require a rezoning request, according to staff.

During the meeting, neighbors raised questions about Sunrise’s proposal to expand.

April Myers, who lives in a nearby townhome, said she’s okay with the current size of the facility, but is concerned with increasing it and questioned if that was the best path forward. Others expressed frustration with how the zoning code is applied in the neighborhood.

“Most of my neighbors cannot rebuild a porch because it’s nonconforming,” resident Cynthia Hoftiezer said.


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