It isn’t often that you go to the Site Plan Review Committee and the developers for the site start talking down to the planners and staff around the table as though they were children. But that’s what happened Monday night, June 11.
Adam Peters and Lisa Marier with Vornado/Charles E. Smith company lambasted a county staff proposal to redevelop the Rosslyn Plaza, a superblock of seven buildings, close the Potomac River.
“We have the best architects looking at this site,” Peters said, adding that to suggest staff could come up with a better plan with a “black magic marker in a couple weeks is highly unlikely.”
Numerous times Peters stopped to tell those around the table that he was sorry to have to get into the details, as though he was getting too far into the weeds for staff and planners to follow.
Commissioner Terry Savela called the tone “completely inappropriate.” She added that Vornado needs to think about who they have representing them.
"I know that you are emotionally charged here tonight, but you need to take cool clear look at whether you can work through this process,” Savela told Peters and Marier.
The Rosslyn Plaza is under a Phased Development Site Plan (similar to PenPlace), a process that plans the number of buildings and types of amenities on a block in broad strokes. It is intended to give the developer a plan to follow. Each building’s details get hashed out as they are developed.
County planner Elizabeth Kays said in an email today that the drawings and plans she presented were not intended as a plan for the site, but to help the SPRC and Planning Commission understand policies.
Whatever the intent, Peters was having none of it and made sure that was clear. The discussion focused a lot on his tone, which was unfortunate for the developer, given that people from the neighborhood seemed to like the proposal that Vornado brought. Their remarks were largely positive but lost in the other discussion.
"In general we felt that it [Vornado’s plan] was fairly creative,” said Stan Karson, the president of the Radnor/Ft. Myer Heights Civic Association. However, "I think Vornado representatives did use injudicious language tonight." The Rosslyn BID's Cecelia Cassidy also spoke positively about the use of space.
Twelve of 13 Planning Commissioners were on hand that night, a high number. Commissioner Steve Cole who is leading this project through planning said the importance of the agenda that included the Rosslyn Plaza and PenPlace projects was the reason for a high turnout.
The site as proposed on both sides would focus on redeveloping it as mixed-use.
"As much as any site in Arlington, this is our face to the world,” Cole said. He added that he wants to see redevelopment work. With views over the river to Washington, D.C. and as part of the skyline that people see from the District, "This is not everyplace in Arlington, this is a special place in Arlington.”