Arlington, VA

A new co-working and flexible office space has opened in Crystal City.

Hana, a subsidiary of the real estate company CBRE Group, announced on Thursday that it has opened a new location at 2451 Crystal Drive — a stone’s throw away from two of Amazon’s temporary office spaces for HQ2 employees.

The opening announcement comes one year after it was first reported that property owner JBG Smith would be partnering with Hana.

With the National Landing spot, Hana makes its debut on the East Coast and establishes its third location in the U.S.

CBRE has established other flexible working spaces in Dallas and Irvine, Calif. Three other locations are expected to open in the first quarter of 2021: New York City, Philadelphia and Berkeley Heights, NJ.

Hana has initially opened one floor totaling more than 39,000 square feet. The floor includes private office suites and conference and events spaces, in addition to a traditional co-working spce.

“JBG Smith has worked with Hana to deliver a flex solution that meets the unique needs of the building and National Landing area by providing plug-and-play workspaces, on-demand meeting rooms and overflow accommodations,” said Hana CEO Andrew Kupiec in a statement.

In a statement, JBG executive David Ritchey said Hana’s approach, and its abundance of amenities, complements the other co-working spots in Crystal City while addressing “the need for flexible, ‘on-demand’ office space solutions in a post-COVID-19 business environment.”

The opening also comes amid the announcement that co-working rival WeWork will be closing its Crystal City location, which is just a block or two away.

Other existing co-working spaces in Crystal City include Accelspace and Eastern Foundry.

Images via Hana

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(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

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JBG Smith is proposing to replace the Crystal Plaza One office building with two multifamily towers in Crystal City.

As part of the project, the Bethesda-based developer will be shifting S. Clark Street to the east to create a new S. Clark-Bell Street and “create greater connectivity” in the area, according to a recent JBG Smith presentation.

After a public comment period closed yesterday (Monday), the project is in the home stretch, with only a few meetings to go before an expected review by the County Board later this year.

JBG Smith proposes 786 units across two LEED Silver-certified buildings bisected by a new S. Clark-Bell Street. A pedestrian pathway would form the eastern border of the East tower.

The towers would replace an aging office building at 2001 Richmond Highway, along with a surface parking lot previously used for some public events.

The West tower (2000 S. Bell St.) has the following specifications:

  • 250 feet tall
  • 365 units
  • 18,510 square feet of ground-floor retail
  • 180 parking spaces

The East tower (2001 S. Bell St.) has these specifications:

  • 200 feet tall
  • 421 units
  • 11,060 square feet of ground-floor retail
  • 167 parking spaces

The new S. Clark-Bell Street would shift S. Clark Street east and, south of the buildings, tie into the existing S. Clark Street, according to a county report. The northern end of the road would line up with S. Bell Street north of 20th Street S.

In response to the proposal, members of the Crystal City Civic Association, as well as a few transportation and pedestrian commission, have pointed out the project fails to meet some basic requirements of the Crystal City Sector Plan.

In a letter provided to ARLnow, the civic association said the planning process “failed to meaningfully address long-range planning issues implicated by the proposed site plan.”

Transportation Commission member and Aurora Highlands resident Darren Buck said efforts to expand cycling options in the area will be hampered by the buildings, which are eight feet closer to their property lines than the Crystal City Sector Plan calls for.

Buck wrote that the project is part of a trend in which “the strict terms of the [Crystal City Sector Plan] are used to justify refusing or ignoring minor deviations from the plan sought by members of the public (particularly in regards to non-motorized transportation), while substantial deviations are advanced when they originate from an applicant.”

Meanwhile, the Crystal City Civic Association said the sector plan calls for “trees, gardens and benches” for the space where JBG Smith proposes a cement pedestrian plaza. The association characterizes the plaza as “an afterthought,” and Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Pamela Van Hine said it should be a pocket or linear park, not a hardscape.

The civic association also expressed concerns about the future of the network of tunnels in Crystal City, known by locals as the “Underground.” JBG Smith proposes an underground garage, which the civic association said would interfere with the tunnels.

The association credited JBG Smith for changing its plan so the new garage and existing tunnels link up and said it supports the developer’s commitment to “a holistic approach to revitalizing the entire Underground.”

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Financed by Amazon, a D.C. area housing nonprofit bought and will stabilize rent at a luxury apartment building in Crystal City.

The tech giant announced on Wednesday that it is contributing $381.9 million to Washington Housing Conservancy to create and preserve 1,300 affordable housing units at Crystal House (1900 S. Eads St), as rents rise amid Amazon’s expansion into the area.

“Amazon’s investment in affordable housing in Arlington is transformational — and couldn’t come at a better time,” County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said in a statement. “We are delighted to further strengthen our partnership with Amazon and to work together to serve our shared commitment to equity and economic opportunity for all of our residents.”

The funding for WHC includes a $339.9 million below-market loan and $42 million in grants. With the money, and a $6.7 million loan from WHC’s financing partner, JBG Smith, the nonprofit purchased Crystal House, a luxury apartment complex one block from Amazon’s future HQ2.

“Washington Housing Conservancy disrupts a market cycle that leads to displacement and offers the kind of stability that lets residents focus on their future, instead of the uncertainty of escalating rents,” WHC Executive Director Kimberly Driggins said in a statement.

The conversion of existing market-rate apartments into dedicated affordable apartments started on Jan. 1 and will continue over the next five years. Rents at the building, to be managed by JBG Smith, will target households earning less than 80% of the area median income. The agreement is for 99 years.

Residents were notified about the changes on Dec. 31 in a letter, obtained by Washington Business Journal.

“With Amazon’s support, we are advancing our vision for inclusive, mixed-income communities of racially diverse middle-income and low-income families and individuals, to live near their employment and access high-performing schools and community amenities,” Driggins said.

Although another purchase was in the works last year, the purchase of Crystal House marks Washington Housing Conservancy’s first finalized purchase since the nonprofit was established in 2019.

The contributions are part of Amazon’s new Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion commitment to create and preserve more than 20,000 units in Amazon’s three footholds: Arlington, the Seattle area, and Nashville.

“Amazon has a long-standing commitment to helping people in need,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “This new $2 billion Housing Equity Fund will create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes in all three of our headquarters regions — Arlington, Puget Sound, and Nashville. It will also help local families achieve long-term stability while building strong, inclusive communities.”

The contribution comes after nearly a decade of climbing housing costs that have outpaced the growth of household incomes.

Arlington County has lost approximately 14,400 privately-owned, affordably priced housing units since 2000, according to Amazon’s press release.

Between 2010 and 2018, the median home value climbed approximately 20% (after adjusting for inflation) and median rents climbed 11%, while median household incomes climbed only 7%, the release said.

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Some residents in and around Crystal City want to open up the Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary to more walking and hiking — with help from JBG Smith.

The developer owns property around Roaches Run and is interested in converting parts of its private land into a public connection accessible from the surrounding neighborhood.

This partnership is one way that the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations propose adding open space to their neighborhoods. A second solution is to redesign and upgrade Virginia Highlands Park for more uses than sports.

The two ideas are part of a report published last week from the three associations, which have banded together to form Livability 22202. The report also recommends ways to plan new parks in Crystal City and enhance local biodiversity.

“COVID-19 has changed everyone’s thinking about open spaces,” Livability 22202 President Carol Fuller said. “The traditional parks of the past do not serve the purposes of our new world. We need to have open space, parks and trails for people to go out for casual use outdoors.”

The group is scheduled to present its recommendations to the Parks and Recreation Commission in February, she said.

Compared to other parts of the county, Pentagon City and Crystal City have fewer trails and open parks, Fuller said.

“If we did not have Long Bridge [Park] — which is fairly new — and if we didn’t have Virginia Highlands Park, we would have no trails and very little open space,” she said. (Crystal City is also served by the Mt. Vernon Trail, which connects to the neighborhood near the intersection of Crystal Drive and 18th Street S.)

Livability 22202 is proposing a loop trail and connecting trails into and out of Roaches Run. The County too is interested in turning the area into publicly-accessible natural space as the neighborhood experiences a wave of redevelopment in the wake of Amazon’s HQ2 decision — but officials indicated this spring that it could take 5-10 years to implement.

JBG Smith is willing to make use of its land to advance the broader open space discussion happening in National Landing — the collective term for Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard — Andrew VanHorn, Executive Vice President, JBG Smith said in a statement.

“JBG Smith is supportive of plans that would make Roaches Run more accessible to the community and allow more people to enjoy this important natural asset,” he said.

VanHorn added that JBG Smith welcomes “the opportunity to work with the community, the County Board, and the National Park Service to help make this vision a reality.”

Meanwhile, the report authors envision Virginia Highlands Park as an urban park with a blend of recreational and casual uses.

“One of the problems with Virginia Highlands is it’s primarily for recreation,” such as tennis or softball, she said. “It needs an upgrade badly.”

At 18 acres, it is one of Arlington’s largest parks, but suffers from underused and wasted space, at least according to the authors.

The Aurora Highlands Civic Association has long pushed for changes to the park, and this upcoming fiscal year the County was slated to start developing a master plan for it.

But that plan is now on hold, Fuller said. So, in the meantime, Livability 22202 is proposing upgrades that include a gathering space, a sledding site, better lighting, permanent community gardens and a dog run — similar to the dog park proposed by a separate local group.

Money is perhaps the biggest missing ingredient for making changes to Roaches Run and Virginia Highlands Park, Fuller said.

“COVID-19 has not only shown us great need for open space, but it also destroyed the budget to give it to us,” Fuller said.

Earlier, the group published another report calling for more diverse housing options in the zip code.

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JBG Smith announced today that it has acquired the Americana Hotel in Crystal City and intends to redevelop the property as an apartment building.

The family-owned hotel at 1400 Richmond Highway closed earlier this month after nearly 50 years in business and at least one appearance in a major motion picture.

In a press release, JBG suggests that the 102-room hotel could eventually make way for a big apartment building with more than 500,000 square feet of space. That might be similar to JBG’s The Bartlett one block away, at the corner of S. Eads Street and 12th Street S., which clocks in at 23 stories, 700 apartments and about 750,000 square feet of floor area.

Despite the owners’ hopes to keep the retro hotel in the family, even recently investing in an extensive room renovation, its location across the street from Amazon’s future HQ2 made it an attractive acquisition target.

More from the JBG press release, below.

JBG SMITH (NYSE: JBGS), a leading owner and developer of high-quality, mixed-use properties in the Washington, DC market, announced today the acquisition of the former Americana Hotel situated directly across the street from Amazon’s future headquarters in National Landing.

The 1.4-acre Americana site, which encompasses a recently decommissioned 102-key hotel and adjacent parking lot, has the potential to accommodate a new multifamily development of more than 500,000 square feet.

“As the largest property owner and most active developer in National Landing, we have long viewed the Americana site as one of the best opportunities for development in the Capital region,” said Ed Chaglassian, Executive Vice President, Head of Acquisitions. “This location possesses all of the major ingredients for a successful project, including access to excellent public schools and close proximity to major transportation, retail, and employment opportunities. The potential for this development has only grown with the arrival of Amazon’s headquarters and the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.”

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Construction has wrapped up on one of Amazon’s new, temporary office buildings in Crystal City.

The renovation project, part of developer JBG Smith’s extensive development plan for the area, helped to modernize the office building’s 273,000 square feet of space while giving the exterior a shiny new glass-and-steel look.

Amazon is temporarily leasing the 14-story building while the first phase of its permanent HQ2 is under construction. Amazon currently leases 857,000 square feet of temporary space in five local JBG Smith buildings, the developer says.

“The opening of the newly reimagined 1770 Crystal Drive coincides with the two-year anniversary of Amazon’s selection of National Landing as the location of its second headquarters and JBG SMITH as its partner to house and develop the project,” JBG said in a press release. “The building was completed two quarters ahead of schedule and under budget.”

The construction started shortly after Amazon announced that National Landing — the collective term for the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard neighborhoods — was getting the new HQ2.

“The return to productive use of 1770 Crystal Drive represents yet another significant milestone in National Landing’s ongoing transformation into a vibrant 18-hour neighborhood,” said Matt Kelly, CEO of JBG Smith, in a statement. “We are thrilled to partner with Amazon and accommodate its growing presence in the region as we continue to make progress on its modern new headquarters.”

The building is a short walk from the Crystal City Metro station and has “expansive views” of the D.C. skyline and the Potomac River from the top floors, the press release notes. It will be part of a new retail district that is expected to feature new stores, buzzy restaurants and an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater.

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An unnamed specialty grocery store and Mah-Ze-Dahr, a bakery said to have some of New York City’s best doughnuts, are two of the businesses coming to Crystal City as part of a major redevelopment.

JBG Smith is giving a block of Crystal Drive between 15th and 18th streets — also known as “Crystal Square” — a facelift and a new name: Central District Retail. The redevelopment, approved by the County Board in 2018, will blend retail, public spaces and transit services, according to the developer’s website.

“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, said in a statement. “It will serve as the retail heart of National Landing and a vibrant destination for people throughout the region.”

The specialty grocery store in Central District Retail will have produce, meats and poultry, frozen foods, baked goods and prepared foods, Justina Lombardo, a PR rep for JBG Smith, said. At 15,000 square feet, it’s more the size of a Trader Joe’s than a full-service Giant, for instance.

Through Lombardo, JBG declined comment on which grocer will be filling the space.

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 link the grocery store to a planned Alamo Drafthouse movie theater at 1750 Crystal Drive.

According to permits filed with Arlington County, Central District Retail is also getting the second Washington, D.C.-area location of Mah-ze-Dahr. The popular New York City bakery serves brioche-style doughnuts and other baked goods endorsed by Oprah Winfrey. Founder Umber Ahmad, a former Goldman Sachs executive, opened the first D.C. location in Navy Yard this September.

Permits also indicate that Crystal City will get a CVS, what appears to be an outpost of New York City taco chain Tacombi, and the boutique fitness gym Solidcore, which has locations in Clarendon and Buckingham.

There will also be a retail shop that will sell packaged salads, sandwiches and soups.

It’s unclear when the new shops and restaurants might open.

“The first phase of Central District Retail has been delivered to tenants for build-out,” Lombardo said. “JBG Smith typically defers to tenants on their individual timelines.”

The overall goal is to continue turning Crystal City into a neighborhood that’s more than just a 9-5 destination for office workers.

“The project’s purpose is to turn the area into a vibrant gathering spot — complete with approachable and comfortable retail, an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, dynamic public spaces, and a new entrance and public plaza for the Crystal City Metro station,” says JBG Smith’s project information website. “Central District will create a sense of community and bring a true neighborhood feel to Crystal City.”

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(Updated at 9:45 a.m.) Developer JBG Smith is making changes to plans it had for two courtyard eateries on Crystal Drive.

In 2018 the County Board approved a plan for two restaurants for the green space at 2121 Crystal Drive, which currently has walking paths, trees, a field, a lighted gazebo and seating. JBG Smith is returning to the County Board with a new plan that would combine the two eateries into one larger restaurant.

The current submission for a 5,640 square-foot space, dubbed “Dining in the Park,” reflects improvements made in response to feedback from potential restaurant operators, Taylor Lawch, Vice President of Development, said in a statement.

“We are excited about our proposal to further activate Crystal Drive and an adjacent public plaza with full service food and beverage,” Lawch said.

The County Board is expected to review the amended proposal on Dec. 12.

“We look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the County and the community to advance our collective vision for National Landing as a vibrant 18-hour neighborhood,” he said.

JBG Smith has proposed a slate of new development in the Crystal City area as Amazon settles into its HQ2. Even before the HQ2 announcement, however, the company was looking for a way to activate the 2121 Crystal Drive courtyard, nestled among office buildings and occasionally used for events like Crystal City’s 5K Fridays.

In 2018, the County Board approved a site plan amendment to permit the construction of the two restaurants. In the first draft of the plan, the developer envisioned two restaurants: “one that resembles a greenhouse and one that calls to mind a tree house,” the Washington Business Journal reported.

Changes to the plan were on the the June County Board meeting agenda earlier this year, but staff recommended deferring the approval of the project while JBG Smith worked to amend it.

The Board is now slated to hear the site plan plan amendment at its Saturday meeting next week.

Photos (1-2) via Google Maps

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Developer JBG Smith is advancing plans to turn a grassy plot of land it owns in northern Crystal City into a new office building.

The project at 101 12th Street S. is one of the projects added to the company’s extensive development pipeline in the area following the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2. The County Board is slated to review the proposed development this Saturday.

“The project, known as ‘Crystal Gateway,’ includes a 109-foot tall (nine-story) office building with 234,427 square feet of office space and 5,195 square feet of ground floor retail,” a county staff report says.

Proposed community benefits from JBG, as part of the project, include achieving LEED Gold certification, constructing a new connector street, and contributing land and money for a new “Gateway Park” to the east of the site. Other environmental features include bird-friendly glass, since the building would be near a wildlife preserve, and a vegetated roof.

For the park, JBG will contribute about 70,000 square feet of land and $300,000 in funding for the initial park design.

“The Sector Plan envisions this open space to be approximately 54,500 square feet and is anticipated to tie into the existing esplanade path for Long Bridge Park,” the county staff report says. “The vision for this park is to include neighborhood serving recreational facilities such as tennis or volleyball courts, a playground, benches, and picnic tables. The exact design and planning for Gateway Park will be done through a County-led planning process.”

The project surprised those who were familiar with the Crystal City Sector Plan, which has for years kept the property on which the office building will sit as a green space, said William Ross, chairman of the Park and Recreation Commission.

“This apparent shift in design purpose was not anticipated, given the engagement promotions,” he wrote in a letter to Board Chair Libby Garvey. “But it is not a crisis either.”

Rather, he continued, it creates “an opportunity and an obligation to the community that the small open area between the structure and the public pathway be designed as a natural gateway, providing the transition and place identity that is important to all.”

Members of the Transportation Commission unanimously supported the development, wrote Chairman Chris Slatt. They support the new S. Ball Street connector road, between 10th and 12th streets, because the area lacks access options for emergency vehicles, but have asked staff to design a driveway apron or similar feature to deter drivers looking for a shortcut.

In a Planning Commission meeting on Nov. 4, however, two speakers denounced the connector road and predicted it would become a a dangerous cut-through regardless.

“If the commission lived in the community, they would see how cars speed down Long Bridge Drive,” Annemarie Spadafore said. “People will be killed, and the blood will be on the commission’s hands.”

Speaking on behalf of the Crystal City Civic Association, Carol Fuller said the new S. Ball Street — which is called for in the sector plan — will not benefit the community.

“First, the community has never wanted this connection,” she said. “Second, commuters will use this extension to cut through to I-395… Exiting at this intersection is hazardous and the proposed extension will make it worse.”

Staff is recommending that the County Board approve a rezoning, a site plan and other actions required for the project to proceed.

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