Arlington, VA

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.

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According to Arlington Public School (APS) officials, construction is on track for the new secondary school at the Wilson School site in Rosslyn (1601 Wilson Blvd).

In August, much of the steel and concrete work on the site was completed. Throughout September, construction will be occurring on the following, according to APS documents:

  • Façade wall framing will begin.
  • Curtainwall installation will begin.
  • Door Frames and Interior Framing will begin.
  • MEP rough-in (ductwork, electrical, plumbing) will continue.

Meanwhile, Washington Gas will continue replacement of a gas main on Wilson Blvd to allow for the construction of a new electrical vault under the road.

The $100 million building is set to open in fall 2019, and will someday be home to both the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs.

Photos via APS

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With Arlington Public Schools’ Stratford Program getting ready for a big move, school leaders are giving students (and their parents) a choice about where they’ll spend the next year learning.

The program, which serves secondary-level special education students, is set to relocate into a new building in Rosslyn for the 2019-2020 school year. But its current space on Vacation Lane, which it shares with the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program, will soon be renovated to become a new middle school, forcing Stratford students to temporarily find a new home.

APS officials initially planned to send Stratford over to the Reed School building in Westover for a year, but a few weeks ago they began seeking feedback from parents on a plan to move the program to Yorktown High School instead.

In a letter to Stratford parents Monday (June 4), Stratford principal Karen Gerry revealed that APS settled on a compromise solution between those two proposals. Families will now have the option of sending students to Yorktown or Reed for the 2018-19 school year; summer sessions in both 2018 and 2019 will be held at Reed, regardless of which option families choose, however.

“While we understand that this may mean some students within the Stratford program are educated in different locations for the 2018-19 school year, we also know that the needs of our students are different,” Gerry wrote. “We will provide the staffing and supports expected in the program at either location and will work with families on specific needs.”

Families have until June 15 to complete a survey on where they’d prefer to send their students.

Gerry added that “we want to reassure you that the Stratford Program will continue and our plan to move to the new building on Wilson in the fall of 2019 is moving ahead.” Some rumors circulated a few weeks back that APS would seek to eliminate the Stratford program instead, but officials have insisted there are no such plans in the works.

The full letter from Gerry to Stratford parents is after the jump.

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Work to rebuild the Wilson School in Rosslyn could cause some inconveniences for those in the area as crews closed a sidewalk and street near the project.

Due to construction at the school at 1601 Wilson Blvd, 18th Street N. is closed to non-construction traffic between N. Quinn Street and N. Oak Street for the entirety of the project.

And pedestrians walking along that side of Wilson Blvd near the soon-to-be-rebuilt Fire Station 210 and a 7-Eleven convenience store will need to cross over as the sidewalk outside the school is closed too.

Construction on the new $100 million building appears to be underway, with work expected to be done in fall 2019. It will house 775 students from the future H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs.

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(Updated August 16, 10:40 a.m.) With the summer almost at an end, several construction projects in Rosslyn and Clarendon are moving along.

In Clarendon, despite a small fire in May that prompted a major response from the Arlington County Fire Department, the Ten at Clarendon apartment building is open for business on 10th Street N.

A spokeswoman said the 143-unit luxury residential community was completed last month and residents are moving in. Also in July, the building added virtual reality tours for its new apartments .

In Rosslyn, a new six-story condo building is starting to rise in place of an aging low-rise apartment complex. The project, now called “Key and Nash” in signs posted nearby, will add 63 units at the corner of Key Blvd and N. Nash Street.

The project by Reston-based developer NVR, Inc., the parent company of homebuilder Ryan Homes, looks to be well on the way to completion.

Close by, demolition of the former Wilson School is over, and now workers have cleared the ground to start to lay the foundations for the new building.

The new school at 1601 Wilson Blvd, which will house the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, is scheduled to open in fall 2019 and house 775 students across both programs.

But less than a block away, there appears to have been little progress as of yet on the proposed redevelopment of the 39-unit Queens Court apartment complex at 1801 N. Quinn Street.

The County Board approved in February a project by the local nonprofit Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing to bring 249 committed affordable units in a 12-story building.

And in Radnor-Fort Myer Heights, work is continuing on two new residential buildings and a rebuilt substance-abuse recovery facility. Crews and a variety of heavy machinery are on site at the project, known as Gables Pointe 14, at 1307 N. Rolfe Street. The 370 apartments in two buildings, underground parking and an 8,000-square-foot shared park are set to be complete in 2020.

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Construction crews have moved in and are well on the way to demolishing the former Wilson School in Rosslyn to make way for the future H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs.

As of Thursday, very few walls from the school at 1601 Wilson Blvd were remaining, with piles of rubble, metal and bricks piling up as workers continue to clear the site. Construction on the new $100 million building is set to start later this year.

The new structure is scheduled to open in fall 2019 and house 775 students across both programs. The Stratford Program will have the majority of the space of the lowest level, while H-B Woodlawn will have classrooms on the first through fifth floors. There will be shared spaces throughout the building, with outdoor terraces allowing open space for recreation and learning.

The site will also be home to a temporary fire station while the current Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn is rebuilt, despite a bout of back-and-forth drama over the plan last summer.

The former Wilson School had been recommended for designation as a historic district, but that request was denied by the Arlington County Board in 2015. Instead, the Board directed Arlington Public Schools to incorporate pieces of the old building into the new school.

Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4

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Morning Notes

Construction on the expanded front of Pentagon City mall

Design of New Wilson School Lauded — “The new Wilson School might be the fanciest public school building in the nation.” So says the influential urbanist news website Citylab, of the design of the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program. The fan-like design comes from a team of two architecture firms, including the Bjarke Ingels Group, which is noted for its experimental designs. The total project cost is estimated at $86-94 million. [Citylab]

APS Seeks to Squeeze More Capacity Out of Existing Schools — Facing a continued capacity crunch, Arlington Public Schools is seeking to find additional room for students in its middle and high schools. APS thinks it can squeeze another 600+ students total in its three high schools and another 150 students at middle schools, by finding additional usable space in the existing buildings. Growth in school enrollment, meanwhile, is slowing down but is not expected to stop. [InsideNova, InsideNova]

APS Wins Budget Award — Arlington Public Schools has been awarded a Meritorious Budget Award for excellence in budget presentation from the Association of School Business Officials International. The entry fee to be eligible for the award is more than $1,000. [Arlington Public Schools, ASBO]

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The new Wilson School, future home of the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs, will be a multi-story building with fanning terraces and more shared spaces.

The idea behind the new building was to use space as effectively as possible, and the project team and architects behind the new school kept the needs of both programs in mind with the new design, said Sean Franklin, a designer with BIG, one of the architecture firms behind the project.

“What we really wanted to do was foster an environment of sharing between these programs,” Franklin said during a Aug. 13 School Board meeting, where the new design plans were unveiled.

The new Wilson School will have a main entrance on Wilson Blvd, with a separate entrance on 18th Street for Stratford program students to allow them to more easily access the building. The Stratford Program will have the majority of the space of the lowest level, while H-B Woodlawn will have classrooms on the first through fifth floors. There will be shared spaces throughout the building.

Stratford Program Principal Karen Gerry said that she is working with H-B Woodlawn Principal Casey Robinson to identify spaces in the Wilson School that they could share, including a new multipurpose room, a black box theatre, cafeteria and library.

“Casey and I believe this will allow for more collaboration between H-B and Stratford staff and H-B and Stratford students, and that’s a win-win for all of us,” she said.

The new school will also feature fanning terraces, which will allow for open spaces for both recreation and learning. The terraces will each be designed differently, depending on the classrooms on the same level, Franklin said.

“The idea is that they’ll each have their own identity tied to something that’s inside the classroom. So if the classroom has a theme, it’ll carry on to the terraces,” he said.

Connecting the terraces is a central staircase that will be wide enough to also use as a learning space and to supervise students in the tall building, she said.

“Day lighting” was also an important part of the new designs, Gerry said. The new classrooms, which will be larger than existing classrooms, will be designed to allow in more daylight, which “decreases sensory input to heighten
instructional output.”

The total cost for the new school will be about $100 million, about $20 million more than the original cost, according to the design plans. Additional costs came from parking needs, elevation factors and market prices.

The current design calls for 92 underground parking space, at a cost of $5.7 million.

Arlington Public Schools will be examining ways to reduce costs without compromising learning in the next steps of the design process, according to the plans.

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Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)The 105-year-old Wilson School building isn’t historic enough to be preserved, the Arlington County Board decided on Saturday.

Instead, Arlington Public Schools has been directed to incorporate pieces of the old building into the new, 775-seat school that will replace it and house the H-B Woodlawn secondary program. The vote was the final hurdle before APS can move forward designing the $80.2 million project, including demolition of the Wilson School.

“We appreciate that there is community passion around preserving sites that help tell Arlington’s story,” Board Chair Mary Hynes said in a press release. “That is why we have directed the Manager to collaborate with APS to honor the history of Wilson School in a meaningful way even as we move forward to build a new school designed to address the challenge posed by our rapidly growing student population.”

The Arlington School Board and Planning Commission each recommended denying the historic district status, while the county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board voted unanimously in favor of the status. If the County Board had sided with the HALRB, the new school’s construction would have had to go through more regulatory processes. APS Assistant Superintendent John Chadwick said the costs would likely exceed the $80.2 million budget, but he added no formal study of the costs had been done.

“We do feel keeping [the school would cost] a great deal more than has been quoted in the community,” Chadwick told the Board on Saturday. “The interior of the building does not comply with current codes. Therefore we would have to replace staircases. It does not have any level directly accessible from grade, which is clearly an issue with persons with disabilities.”

The building has been significantly renovated from its initial form, but the HALRB ruled it still meets at least six of the 11 criteria for historic district status; a building needs to meet just two to qualify for approval.

Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board Chair Joan LawrenceHALRB chairman Joan Lawrence noted the Wilson School has an architectural style “that is an important visual reminder of the time period” when it was built, and “provides a sense of place and connection with our past in the most urban area of Arlington, other than Crystal City, where there are no remaining connections to the past.”

More than a dozen speakers spoke before the Board, most in favor of preservation. Many of those speakers were among the 161 who signed a petition to preserve the building. In giving her presentation, Lawrence acknowledged it was likely falling on deaf ears.

“Preserving significant reminders of the county’s history was important to the County Board at one time,” Lawrence said. “I wish I could say with confidence that it has the same importance today. Too many times, I feel like the Lorax speaking not for the trees but for historic buildings.”

Photo, top, courtesy Preservation Arlington

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Wilson School (photo courtesy Preservation Arlington)The Wilson School in Rosslyn is looking less and less likely to receive a historic district designation that would help it be preserved.

The final decision will be made by the Arlington County Board at its meeting this Saturday, and if the Board follows County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation, it will reject the school’s historic district status.

The Wilson School was built in 1910, but has since been renovated. Preservations are hoping the County Board will designate it as a local historic district, which would require pieces of the building be preserved before it is bulldozed to make way for a new, 775-seat building to house the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program.

The Arlington School Board and Planning Commission have each recommended against the historic designation, citing cost and time concerns. The new school building is budgeted for $80.2 million and scheduled to open by September 2019.

The building, constructed in 1910 as the Fort Myer Heights school, is the oldest school structure in the county still owned by Arlington Public Schools, and the second-oldest school building overall, behind the Hume School (which now serves as the Arlington Historical Society museum).

The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board unanimously recommended the school be granted historic district status. According to county staff, it meets six of the 11 criteria needed for historic status, when it only needs to meet two to be eligible. However, staff wrote in its report to the Board, that doesn’t mean it should be granted said status.

“Consideration of a property for local historic district designation is not based solely on the historical and/or architectural merits of the historic resource,” the report states. “There are multiple competing County interests and priorities that must be accomplished within the limited constraints of the existing site, including a larger school, athletic fields, and open space. Coupled with these site demands, the preservation of the historic Wilson School is not considered a viable alternative.”

Despite the staff’s findings — and the county’s growing need for school space — Preservation Arlington is hoping to sway the County Board to change course and grant the historic status.

“Preservation Arlington is disappointed in the staff recommendation to deny the designation,” the organization wrote on its website. “Wilson School is the oldest continuously operating school building still owned by the County. The history of the school is directly connected to our early years as a growing community and a time when we were visited by the President of the United States, which still happens today.”

If the County Board does deny the historic status, staff and the HALRB recommend exploring “the most appropriate ways to memorialize and commemorate the historical and community value of the Wilson School in the construction of a new school facility on the existing site.”

Preservation Arlington is encouraging those in favor of preserving the school to rally at the County Board meeting on Saturday, at 8:30 a.m., in the County Board room on the third floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd.

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Morning Notes

Spring blossoms (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Artisphere Executive Director Left in Feb. — Jose Ortiz, executive director of Artisphere, quietly left the position in February. Ortiz is now working as the deputy director of the Bronx Museum in New York City. Artisphere programming director Josh Stoltzfus, meanwhile, has been promoted to acting executive director of the cultural center, which is on the county’s budgetary chopping block.

CivFed: No Tax Hike — Members of the Arlington County Civic Federation approved a resolution this week urging the County Board not to approve any increase in Arlington’s real estate tax rate. Fiscal conservatives on the Civic Federation argued that the county has plenty of reserves and surpluses to tap without the need to further tax struggling homeowners. [InsideNova]

Planning Comm. Rejects Wilson School Historic Status — Arlington’s Planning Commission on Monday voted to oppose a historic designation for the Wilson School in Rosslyn, by a vote of 5-4. That follows the School Board’s unanimous vote again a historic designation for the school, which was built in 1910 but was subsequently renovated significantly from its original form. The school system says trying to preserve parts of the school would require additional time and expense as it plans to build a new facility for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program on the site. [InsideNova]

Urban Igloo Debuts Clarendon Page — Local apartment matchmaking service Urban Igloo, an ARLnow.com advertiser, has debuted a number of neighborhood information pages, including one for Clarendon. The company says its recently revamped website makes it “one of the first real estate companies to take an online hyperlocal approach to connect renters to specific neighborhoods.” [Urban Igloo]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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