Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Rosslyn Mixed Income Apartments Redeveloped "Using Density Not Dollars"

In their quest to redevelop Key Boulevard apartments, AHC Inc. has adopted a slightly augmented proposal and a brand new motto: "Using density, not dollars." That is the team's credo for tackling the challenge of nearly doubling the number of affordable housing units on the 1.24 acre site while staying within limited density allowed by the County's Zoning guidelines. But with available space near public transit in Arlington quickly drying up, AHC is relishing the chance to secure affordable, transit-oriented apartments near one of the busiest Metro stations in the D.C. region.

Although traditionally the goal of AHC Inc is to pack as much affordable housing into a development as possible, with this project half of the proposed 160-170 units reserved as affordable housing. But developing a mixed income community makes the project more financially sustainable, and most-importantly, negates the need for County subsidies, a selling-point in the approval process. Indeed, compromise is the name of the game, and in cooperation with the surrounding neighborhoods, developers have reduced the bulky mass and originally proposed height of eight-stories, to a slimmer, more manageable, and community-requested six floors. But support for the building's size and density is far from overwhelming, so developers will continue to appeal for more widespread community input and support, as they feel theirs is a worthy cause.

Built in the 1940s, the aging affordable apartment community is a reminder of inequality and inefficiency amidst the ever-expanding hustle and bustle of the business-centric Rosslyn. Not far from where two of the regions soon-to-be-tallest buildings recently broke ground, aging heating systems, inefficient windows and appliances, no central air conditioning, and handicap accessibility issues make the 41-unit building at 1545 Key Boulevard a candidate ripe for a radical makeover.

To put their new motto to the test, AHC is proposing to transfer development rights from an affordable apartment community they finished renovating in 2007. Because the project adhered closely to the historic character of the Gates of Ballston aesthetic, with its low-rise garden-style design, the project remained under developed, leaving excess development rights available for transfer and reuse. This technique is rather common, reports AHC, but transferring rights from one neighborhood to another (Ballston to Rosslyn) is "an innovative approach to maximizing affordable opportunities in the transit corridor." Although it's uncommon to transfer development rights from projects separated by some two miles, developers believe the opportunity to create transit-oriented, energy-efficient, affordable housing justifies the unique strategy.

Preliminary architectural schematics for the 70 ft. tall building are being offered by WDG Architecture. Developers have purposefully offered limited detail in their renderings; in order to remain adaptable and responsive to the always evolving back and forth of the community involvement process; Joseph P. Weatherly, Senior Project Manager at AHC explained his team had refrained from "engaging WDG to put too many specific ideas on paper until we feel like we have more comprehensive support from the entire community." However, designers have included planning for a rooftop terrace and green roof. The proposal also includes underground parking, a community center, neighboring park, and a landscaped courtyard. The community center would serve as a base for various resident programming, including after-school programs for children. AHC continues to work diligently alongside Bush Construction Corp., their general contractor and development partner. But with community dialog still ongoing, and the County Site Plan approval process still to come, developers don't expect construction to commence until at least January of 2012, and the expected delivery date arriving some twenty four months later.

Arlington, VA Real Estate Development News


Anonymous said...

Rosslyn is not the busiest metro station in the region. It is the busiest station in Northern Virginia. Please get your facts straight.

don't mess with da poo! said...

uh..... please re-read:



anonymous dork can't read!

Anonymous said...

In defense of the first anonymous, the originial post did say "busiest". The post has been edited to add "one of the busiest". The edit is evidenced by the gramatically incorrect update -the necessary "s" on "station" was not added.

Jennifer Zeien, NRCA said...

As President of the North Rosslyn Civic Association, the civic association representing the community where Key Boulevard Apartments is situated, I want to call your attention to the community's significant opposition to AHC's proposed redevelopment. While the community supports, indeed encourages, providing affordable housing on this site, the proposed redevelopment is entirely out of scale with its surroundings and will place disproportionate burdens on community infrastructure and resources.

AHC proposes to quadruple density on this parcel -- from 41 to 170 units -- yet less than half of the units will be affordable. More than half of the units will be market-rate condos AHC will sell to finance the project. The six-story doughnut-shaped building, having minimal set backs and no publically accessible open space, is entirely out of scale with the surrounding town homes and low rise garden apartments. The increased density will have serious implications for neighborhood traffic and parking. The building design does not accommodate adequate outdoor play space for children, a serious defect given that such play space is already inadequate in our community.

In sum, AHC's proposed redevelopment represents an enormous increase in density on the site while adding only 41 units to affordable housing stock. Locating such a densely-populated, massive structure in the Colonial Terrace enclave would greatly alter the character of our community and place undue burdens on its infrastructure, resources, and residents.

Jennifer Zeien
President, NRCA


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