Thursday, September 09, 2010

Arlington Mill In Process of Selecting Newest Suitor

Plans for a mixed use development set for 4975 Columbia Pike that couples the construction of a new Arlington Mill Community Center with a large mixed-income residential project have been brewing for several years now. Originally devised as a three story multipurpose center with several levels of residential units stacked on top, the now 5-story Community Center stands solo and starkly modern in its newest configuration; the residential building will be constructed separately on the adjacent land. In its inception the development was billed as a large public/private partnership, packaged as a singular entity. But fed up with the roller-coaster-like search for development partners, and having lost their most recent teammate in Edgemoor Real Estate (a subsidiary of Clark Construction) to the slow economy, Arlington County officials decided to press on with their publicly funded side of the development (the community center) while they issued yet another request for proposals for the residential half of the project.

The County steering committee and involved public officials held an open meeting last night at Walter Reed Community Center to unveil the latest redevelopment plans for the Community Center. Looking to make up for lost time, planners are moving forward aggressively with the intention of demolishing the current building in October, breaking ground in early 2011, and opening the doors of the new center in the spring of 2013. The public development team will meet with the Transportation Commission, the Planning Commission, then wrap up proceedings with a final Board hearing on September 28th. With plans finalized, a request for general contracting bids will soon follow.

One of the earlier site plans.
Although a construction team won't be selected until winter, architects at DCS Design (Davis Carter Scott) have already supplied the updated schematics. The boxy, glassy building brings a bold, urban flare to the Columbia Pike thoroughfare, but an aquatic inspired color scheme of light blues and greens give a calming sensibility to the imposing structure. The five stories will be stacked on top of two tiers of underground parking (140 spaces) and feature a full gymnasium (8,700 s.f.), an entire floor's worth of fitness center, a game room, visual arts studio, mini libraries, a career center, computer labs, and a variety of multipurpose classrooms, study rooms, and meeting rooms.

A County spokesperson explained that their strategy for the updated programing line-up was to create "one stop shopping for County services." The plethora (10) of multipurpose rooms, as well as several fixed classrooms and conference rooms, will provide flexibility for programing, especially as new relationships are built with nearby schools and libraries that may utilize the new space. The Community Center will be financed with general obligation bonds already sanctioned by County voters, most recently a $26 million bond authorized in November of 2006. Community members seemed supportive, but anxious about the dearth of details for the accompanying residential plan.

The Starry Night version
Arlington County issued a request for proposals earlier this summer, receiving several official plans before the early August deadline. When asked about the proportion of affordable housing going forward, Arlington Mill Steering Committee Chairwoman Linda LeDuc explained that "all six of the received proposals would at least meet the originally stipulated 61 units at 60% AMI. We accepted both mixed income plans," she clarified, "and entirely affordable housing propositions. But it's all kind of up in the air right now." For those who've been tuned in since the beginning, the project has come together at a snail's pace, but once a new developer is decided upon, the process should move more quickly. Officials are expecting the new development team to be poised and ready to apply for HUD's Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) by spring of next year.

Because previous plans have already been approved for a 2-5 story residential building, and because the site is to be developed to Form Based Code as part of the Columbia Pike Special Revitalization District, the normally grueling planning process should be quicker and less painful. Financing and other details will of course remain obstacles, and so no time line has been issued. Vetting of submitted proposals will take place throughout the fall, and additional information will likely be provided as the County irons out their more immediately plans for the Community Center.

Arlington Real Estate Development News


Linda LeDuc said...

Correction: Maureen Markham, Arlington County, not Linda LeDuc, spoke to the housing component. Maureen indicated that several proposals had been received and reviewed by the county and that when a developer has been selected there will be further information provided to the community.

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