Arlington, VA

After a year of silence, plans for the redevelopment of two blocks along N. Vermont Street straddling 11th Street N. could be coming back to the table.

In February 2018, Arlington County Board approved developer NVR’s plans to replace the two-story church and its parking lot at 1031 N. Vermont Street — formerly Grace Community Church and currently Portico Church Arlington — with a 72-unit condominium building and 12 townhouses. Four of the units on-site would be committed as affordable housing.

The plans drew some backlash from the neighbors who said the plan added density to an already congested Ballston neighborhood.

Since its approval, however, there has been no sign of work moving forward on the homes. An employee for NVR confirmed that the company had dropped its plans for the site, while county officials tell ARLnow that a new developer and development plan is forthcoming.

“Yes, NVR has walked away from this site plan,” said Gina Wimpey, spokeswoman for Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development. “There is a new contract purchaser and they are planning on submitting new plans as early as next month.”

Wimpey said the contract was purchased by BCN Homes, a developer that has constructed custom homes throughout the Arlington. Brian Normile, president of BCN Homes and a partner in a number of popular local restaurants, told ARLnow it’s too early to comment on the property but more information could be forthcoming in the next few weeks.

“The plans will be processed as a minor site plan amendment, but will still need to return to the Site Plan Review Committee,” Wimpey said. “That should occur sometime this fall or winter.”

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Morning Notes

Arlington Loses Top Economic Development Official — “Christina Winn, one of the lead Arlington officials tasked with luring Amazon to the county, is taking over as Prince William County’s top economic development official.” [Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Prez Wants to Double Enrollment — “Irma Becerra hit the ground running the moment she took over the Marymount University presidency… her chief goal is as straightforward as it is ambitious: Double the school’s size in the next five years.” [Washington Business Journal]

18th Street Headache — “As they wrap up the demolition of the Clark St. bridge over 18th [Street S. in Crystal City], the eastbound side of 18th will be closed Thursday and Friday this week.” [Twitter]

Howell Gets Fall Challenger — “It’s an uphill battle, to be certain, but Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance president Arthur Purves will take on, as a Republican, seven-term incumbent state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) in the Nov. 5 election. The district snakes from Howell’s home turf of Reston eastward into portions of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Treasurer Leads State Association — “Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava was sworn in as the President of the Treasurers’ Association of Virginia (TAV) at the association’s annual conference in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Boeing’s Space HQ Moving Out of Arlington — “Boeing will move its space headquarters from Arlington, Va., to the Florida Space Coast as it pursues a number of rocket and spacecraft programs, including one that would launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle retired in 2011.” [Washington Post]

Townhomes Proposed for Crystal House Property — “The proposed expansion of the Crystal House apartment complex is getting a little larger, with 21 townhomes now part of plans at the Crystal City property… The company has already filed for permission to add 798 units across four new buildings on the 29.8-acre site.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Design of Potomac Yard Metro Revealed — “The city of Alexandria, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Potomac Yard Constructors, the private joint venture picked to build the station, have submitted a design for an upcoming evaluation by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. The station design calls for a stone base, a metal canopy and metal louvers, a glass curtain wall and exo-skeleton system, a standing seam metal roof and roof skylight panels. There will be bathrooms on the eastern side, between a set of elevators and an electrical room.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Celia Slater

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A developer wants to knock down the single-family home near the Colonial Village Apartments complex in order to build several townhouses.

The new Colonial Village Townhouses project aims to to build seven, four-story townhouses on a 15,920-square-foot “sliver” of land located between N. Veitch Street and 18th Street N., according to newly filed preliminary site development plans.

The plans say the townhomes will all have terraces and range in size from 1,468 square-feet to 1,938 square-feet.

“The seven townhouses are designed in a classic urban, Georgetown style, harmonizing with the existing Colonial Village apartments,” said the filing, which was submitted on behalf of the developer on May 6. The developer is listed as 1731 N Veitch Street LLC, which is a subsidiary of Bethesda-based BeaconCrest Homes.

BeaconCrest Homes Managing Partner Robert Malm declined to comment on the project when reached by ARLnow, but he did clarify that the single-family home on the property is “under contract” with BeaconCrest and slated for demolition.

The plans call for several exemptions to the zoning rules of the lot, including:

  • A 2-foot exception to the 40-foot height limit zoned for the area, noting that the architectural plans call for the houses to be 41.98 feet high due “to the slope of the property.”
  • Each unit is slated to contain a two-car garage and a driveway with space for two more cars for a total of four vehicles per townhouse. The plan notes this exceeds the parking regulations zoned for the area and requests an exemption.

A December county staff report noted that existing the zoning ordinance “does not specify that the County Board can modify building height for townhouse developing” in this kind of lot so that “further analysis” will need to be done on the requested height exemption.

As part of the community benefits requirement of the development, BeaconCrest says in a letter attached to the site plan that it will negotiate with the county to provide some nearby improvements, including:

  1. Sidewalk, curb, and gutter improvements
  2. Streetscape improvements
  3. Affordable housing contribution
  4. Contribution to utility fund

The winter staff report also asked the developer to create a detailed tree planting scheme to meet county canopy requirements considering some existing trees on the property may have to be felled. (BeaconCrest Homes faced outcry from some neighbors in years past due to tree removal.)

Mariska noted in the newly filed plans that the development will “provide new residential units with high-quality architecture and within easy walking distance to the Courthouse Metro Station and surrounding amenities.”

The architect listed for the plans is Fairfax-based Pinnacle Design & Consulting Inc. The engineer and landscape architect tapped for the construction is Falls Church-based Walter L. Phillips, Inc.

Preliminary site plan submissions are “the earliest stages of the site plan process,” notes Arlington County’s website. “During this stage, staff review draft applications to ensure that they meet technical filing requirements.”

Later stages in the site plan process typically involve a review from the Arlington Planning Commission followed later by a vote of the County Board.

Photo (2) via Google Maps

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The Arlington County Board has signed off on some zoning changes to make it easier for the owners of older townhouses and duplexes to renovate or expand their homes.

The Board voted unanimously yesterday (Tuesday) to amend the county zoning ordinance to allow for more changes to “nonconforming homes” — structures built before the county’s zoning rules took effect back in 1942 that might not match current standards. The move will simultaneously remove some headaches for certain homeowners and help preserve affordable housing options for the county’s middle class.

The county’s old rules have frequently frustrated the owners of certain types of homes, who were previously barred from commissioning even simple renovations without enduring a lengthy county appeals process. That incentivized tear-downs over renovations, which in turn reduced the county’s stock of market rate affordable housing.

“This is the kind of stock we hope will age over time and become more affordable,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said Tuesday. “I feel so strongly that this is a move for the better, not only for these individual homeowners, but for the preservation of this stock, that will allow the current and next generation of Arlington’s middle class to move in and own a piece of this community, or rent a piece of this community.”

County planner Kellie Brown told the Board that the changes could allow for interior “by right” renovations at more than 600 homes, which won’t require extensive county review, and exterior additions or expansions at roughly 1,500 partially detached homes or townhouses. While the changes will impact all nonconforming homes in areas zoned “R2-7,” county staffers say that the bulk of the impacted houses are located along Lee Highway, Columbia Pike, Wilson Boulevard, and in Nauck.

John Quirk, who owns a duplex with his wife in the North Highlands neighborhood near Rosslyn, counts himself among the homeowners who plan to take advantage of the change. He launched a petition urging the Board to make just these sort of zoning changes last December, after the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals denied his family’s attempts to convert an unused attic into a third-story bedroom.

“At first we didn’t even know you were prevented from doing that, so we were really frustrated,” Quirk told ARLnow. “But this is just an example of the government working for people. The Board was very receptive to all this.”

Quirk says he worked with his neighbors and other homeowners to make the Board aware of these challenges, and he credits the county’s “measured approach” in studying the issue in more detail before moving ahead with the changes.

He also lauded the Board for living up to its stated goal of preserving affordable housing in the county, noting that he and his wife were considering moving elsewhere in Northern Virginia, as they “can’t afford a $1.1 million house in Lyon Village.” Quirk fully expects that plenty of others have faced the same problems maintaining a reasonable “work-life balance” of commuting into D.C. while coping with Arlington’s rising housing costs, and he looks forward to starting work on his own duplex sometime early next year.

“By living in these smaller homes, we’re a demographic that creates population density,” Quirk said. “And that makes Arlington the great, walkable community that it is.”

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Arlington could soon make it easier for owners of older duplexes and townhomes to renovate the buildings or tack on additions.

Plenty of Arlington homeowners looking to make a change to a home built before the 1940s have encountered a vexing conundrum in the county’s zoning ordinance; the building could well be deemed “nonconforming” with Arlington’s zoning rules, as it wasn’t built to match the standards the county’s been using since 1942. That means any sort of renovation or addition to the home would require extensive county review, and could ultimately be prohibited, restrictions that have persistently frustrated property owners over the years.

But the County Board is weighing a change to loosen some of those restrictions on two-family homes in some sections of the county.

Not only could the change result in less headaches for homeowners, but county staff expect it would help preserve more affordable housing around Arlington, a key conundrum officials have looked to address in recent years.

“Staff finds that the proposed amendments… allow for reinvestment in existing housing stock that contributes to the overall diversity of housing countywide,” staffers wrote in a report prepared for the Board ahead of its meeting this weekend. “These proposed changes are intended to remove zoning barriers that have existed for decades that limit the type of reinvestment and renovation activities for nearly all of the county’s supply of two-family, and some one-family, dwellings.”

County staff estimate that the change, targeted at homes zoned “R2-7,” would affect as many as 1,488 structures around the county, giving those homeowners the chance to make a range of changes “by right” instead of pursuing county approval first.

Staff noted that the Board of Zoning Appeals, which hears requests from the owners of nonconforming homes, has reviewed 12 cases involving “R2-7” homes over the last two years alone. In all, they believe the bulk of such homes are concentrated “along Lee Highway, Columbia Pike, Wilson Boulevard, and in Nauck.”

The county also doesn’t expect that these “proposed amendments will significantly alter existing neighborhood character where these one- and two-family dwellings occur,” a fear frequently cited by zoning officials reviewing previous cases.

Staff added that the county will “consider opportunities to encourage development of new, two-family dwellings” in the future, noting that officials could someday commence a more detailed study of “missing middle” housing in the county, or homes falling in the price range between affordable housing and luxury apartments.

The county’s ongoing review of “housing conservation districts” to promote the preservation, and perhaps redevelopment, of older apartments and duplexes will also offer more clarity on the matter in the coming months.

The Board will take up these zoning changes at its meeting Saturday (Oct. 20).

Photo via Google Maps

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Firefighters from Arlington, Alexandria and Fairfax battled a townhouse fire in the Columbia Forest neighborhood Saturday evening.

The fire broke out in the attic of a townhome on the 4800 block of 10th Street S., near Columbia Pike and Four Mile Run, around 5:30 p.m.

Firefighters were able to get the blaze under control before it could spread.

Flickr pool photos by TheBeltWalk

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The Arlington County Board has approved a site plan that would bring 97 affordable housing units and two rows of townhouses to Buckingham.

The “100 percent affordable” multi-family building and townhouses will replace the former local Red Cross headquarters.

The approved development comes despite complaints from nearby residents about the proposal. The new development’s density, potentially increased traffic, and “the desecration of the tree canopy” were all cited as dealbreakers for some locals, though supporters asserted that the building was vacant, the affordable housing is “badly needed” and complaints were overblown.

A partial rezoning of the site was approved alongside the site plan at Saturday’s County Board meeting (April 21). There are currently two single family homes on the site, in addition to the former headquarters and an existing playground.

The townhouses will be built in the first phase of the project, with construction on the multi-family building, which is required to “achieve Earthcraft Gold or LEED v4 Homes and Multifamily Midrise Gold certification,” following in a second phase.

The developer, Wesley Housing Development Corporation, agreed to preserve the on-site apartments, known historically as the Windsor Apartments but now called the Whitefield Commons, which the county says were built in 1943. Unit incomes will average 80 percent of the average median income, and the building will average 60 percent of that figure.

Whitefield Commons’ interior will be reconfigured to add five units, bringing the total units inside that complex to 68. The multi-family building will have 97 units, and the townhouses will have 19.

There will be 187 parking spaces between the developments — 45 at Whitefield Commons, 88 at the multi-family building, and 42 for the townhouses. The townhouses have the highest parking ratio per unit, at 2.26 spots per unit plus four visitor spots.

Wesley Housing Development Corporation will be required to “encourage transportation alternatives.”

That will be done via a transportation management plan, which includes a provision to give “each new tenant in the multi-family building… a choice of a SmartTrip card preloaded with a $65 balance or a bikeshare or car share membership,” according to a county project website.

A Google Maps estimate shows that the site is approximately a 22 minute walk to the Ballston Metro station. The 3.95 acre parcel is bordered by N. Thomas and N. Trenton streets, 2nd Road N., and Arlington Boulevard.

Plans estimate that 60 trees will be removed, three of which are dead or dying and another 17 of which are located on top of or near an existing storm pipe.

An estimated 132 tree credits will be granted, according to the site plan. One credit is given for each planted shade tree or large evergreen tree, or for every three deciduous, ornamental, or small evergreen trees.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Pilots in the cockpit at DCA (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Metro Station Manager Arrested — A Metro station manager at the Pentagon has been arrested and charged with assaulting a fellow employee. The fight happened Wednesday afternoon inside the station manager’s kiosk, police say. [Washington Post]

Yorktown Grad’s Music Video Goes Viral — Budding hip-hop artist Hovey Benjamin has tallied nearly 1.5 million YouTube views of his new, NSFW music video. Benjamin lived in Arlington and attended Yorktown High School and Virginia Commonwealth University before moving to Los Angeles and signing a record deal. [Real House Life of Arlington, Uproxx]

New Condo and Townhouse Sales CenterSponsored — Learn about all of the newest and most well-appointed properties in Arlington and DC without the hassle of finding all the information for yourself. Stop by the Sales Center this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. to learn about amenities, features, floor plans, fees, available units, and everything else you could ever want to know about all the condo buildings in the area. Located at 1600 Wilson Blvd. [Keri Shull Team]

Dozens of Arlington Runners Competing in Boston — Seventy-six Arlington runners will be shipping up to Boston next month for the Boston Marathon, one of the sport’s most prestigious races. The field includes local running superstar Michael Wardian, who is also competing in this weekend’s Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. Marathon. [InsideNova]

CERT Training Still Open — A few spaces are still available in Arlington’s Community Emergency Response Team spring training class. The eight-session, 26-hour course begins next week. [Arlington CERT]

Library Exhibit on Baltic WW2 Refugees — Arlington Public Library is hosting an exhibit through April 17 on Baltic refugees from World War II. “‘No Home To Go To’ is the story of people living in refugee camps and finding a home in a new land, as told through their memories, documents, photographs, and memorabilia,” according to the library website. [Arlington Public Library]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Members of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association were given an early look at two new developments planned for the community over the next few years.

The first, from Reston-based developer NVR, would redevelop Grace Community Church and its surface parking lot at the intersection of 11th Street and N. Vermont Street in Ballston.

The 40-year-old church, which is used by Grace for meetings but not for Sunday services, would be replaced by a seven-story condo building and a block of four-story townhouses. A series of townhomes and a private driveway is planned for the parking lot.

The developers described the project as “a relatively modest in-fill development” that’s in keeping with the “urban townhouse” neighborhood that surrounds it. The development, like the neighborhood, tapers from the towers of central Ballston to the south to the lower-density townhomes and condos to the north.

Officials from NVR said the plans are preliminary and have not yet been filed with the county.

Also at Monday’s civic association meeting, local developer Eleventh Street Development presented early plans for a new apartment building in Virginia Square.

The proposed six-story, 220-unit rental complex, at the intersection of Kirkwood Road and Washington Blvd, would replace the closed Sport & Health gym, the Slye Electronics building and an automotive business.

Developer Garrett Erdle, who previously helped to develop Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, told residents that the building is at least three years away, following “a structured and lengthy” regulatory process.

Before a site plan process for the building can start, the county and its Long Range Planning Committee is expected to discuss land use planning for the parcel and the area as a whole. The special General Land Use Plan study that the development will first go through is expected to take about a year.

Residents at the meeting expressed concerns about the height of the building, parking along their already-crowded streets and a potential lack of public green space in front of the building. The developer responded that the proposal for the building is in the very early stages and that they will take public feedback into account throughout the process.

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The Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a 12-unit townhouse development in Ballston this weekend.

The Ballston Oak Townhomes development, between 1124 and 1138 N. Stuart, has been in the county’s Site Plan Review process for about a year. Originally slated for as many as 16 townhouses, the latest proposal calls for four separate buildings containing a total of 12 townhouses.

Each home will have a two-car garage, accessible via a shared concrete driveway with a single entrance to the street. Three visitor parking spaces are also proposed.

The development, which is adjacent to the Arlington Market on Washington Blvd, will replace four single family homes, each dating back to the 1920s or 1930s. One home, at 1124 N. Stuart Street, “is a stucco covered Apartment Bungalow that is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places,” according to a Site Plan Review document.

The County Board is set to consider a site plan for the development and an associated storm sewer easement-related item on Saturday. So far, the county staff report and recommendation for the items has not been posted online.

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