Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rosslyn's Tallest Coming Soon


Size matters. And for those of us that live in the height-deprived District, our pinnacle envy is about to get worse. The culprit: JBG, which released yesterday that it is about to start demolition for Central Place, Arlington's newest, and tallest, pair of buildings. The developer is now preparing for "interior abatement," i.e. gutting interior spaces in advance of outright demolition that make grown men stop and stare, setting the stage for demolition to begin in the upcoming weeks. With construction scheduled to start in October and FAA approval secured, Central Place will soon begin its 387 foot skyward climb as part of its mission to change Rosslyn’s skyline. At its completion in early 2011, the approximately 31 story project, designed by international firm Beyer Blinder Belle will include both a 350-unit residential tower (no condo vs. apartment decisions yet) and a 531,000 s.f. office tower. Central Place will also offer 40,000 s.f. of ground floor retail and above and below-grade parking. The site will only allow for one level of below-grade parking, so additional parking will follow New York and Chicago's examples and sit on the second floors above the lobby in each tower.

Central place will be the tallest building in Arlington, rising above the boat-shaped Rosslyn Twin Towers, built in the early 1980's, which top out at 381 feet. CP will also stand taller than the two Waterview towers, which JBG finished just this year. So what is the rundown of the tallest buildings in the DC area? The Washington Monument is likely to remain the tallest indefinitely at 554 feet, Central Place will be slightly taller than its 1812 N. Moore Street neighbor which will rise to 384 feet, The Twin Towers are both 381 feet, the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center is 338 feet high, and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial hits 331 feet. The Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is next at 328 feet, then the Old Post Office building at 314 feet, the Turnberry Tower in Arlington will be ninth at 311 feet and bringing up the the rear in the tenth spot is St. Peter and Paul's Basilica at 301 feet.

For the architects, the height was, well, central to the design. “Rosslyn’s skyline has an image of being relatively flat. Many of the buildings go up to the 300 foot height and it tends to create more of a flat skyline that has no definition. Our objective was to create a skyline for Rosslyn and Arlington in a more central location and that’s what the two buildings do, they rise up above the limited height. You can recognize a lot of cities, just looking at a silhouette of a skyline, without having to look at a daylight shot. Just like the Chrysler Building or the Empire State Building, you can recognize them from a silhouette. We were looking for a strong form to create the skyline for Rosslyn,” said Hany Hassan, Design Partner of Beyer Blinder Belle.

The architect added that each building will reflect it’s intended use, the residential building, thirty-five feet shorter than the commercial building. “The overall office building has a consistent crisp quality with a curved building as it rises to the top versus the residential building which has the qualities of dwellings with balcony indentations that are staggered and not stacked on top of each other. Yes, they are both glass buildings, but nevertheless, they reflect the function of each building,” Hassan said.

The commercial building will also include an observation area with 360 degree views of the area. Visitors will be able to access the observation level through an elevator in the public plaza.

“Rosslyn today sort of lacks the balance of mixed-use projects, retail amenities, restaurants and we really hope that Rosslyn becomes a destination. Now it’s mostly office buildings and at five or six o’clock, people vacate the area, they don’t live in Rosslyn proper, and what makes cities vibrant is to have people live in it and make it 24 hours. The image of the building is impressive with respect to massing. In addition to the material being all glass-which in my mind reflects lightness and reflectivity, it will have a quiet elegance,” Hassan said.

The project sits on a two-block site bound by Wilson Boulevard and North 19th Street to the north and south and Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive on the east and west, and will replace several buildings, including the doomed Orleans house, which shuttered last year. Central Place was recognized as a Smart Growth project for its density and mixed-use qualities, as well as proximity to the Rosslyn Metro Station. Beyer Blinder Belle is known in DC for their work on the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative and for winning the History Channel inspired "City of the Future Competition".

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