Image: Cooper Carry Architects via Arlington County
The Arlington County Board approved what will be the county's largest private office building. At 24 stories, “1900 Crystal Drive” will not be the tallest, but at 730,000 square feet of office and retail, it will be the largest. Only the Pentagon is larger, at 3.7 million square feet of office space.
The building was also the first large project to be approved under the new Crystal City Sector Plan and Crystal City Block Plan. The sector plan was developed as a reaction to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission which moved a lot of defense department offices out of Crystal City. Planning the space along the Route 1 corridor became imperative.
The block plan is a new idea that requires the first developer on a Crystal City “Super Block” to map development not only of its own building, but the rest of development on the block. In this case, the block bound east and west by Jefferson Davis Highway and Crystal City Drive and north and south by 18th and 20th streets would end up with five buildings and a 1.7 acre park in the middle. The current surface parking would largely end up in garages underground.
That’s a final vision, but it might not be reality.
In the interim, the board and developer agreed to the first building and an interim park, about a half-acre in size just north of the large building, at the corner of S. 18th Street and Crystal City Drive. The pocket park will have trees and shade, places to sit and eat, room enough for small gatherings. A set of stairs and an elevator will get people from the park up to the interior of the block.
The larger Center Park is planned for that interior space along S. 20th Street where “Mall Building IV” now sits. (The building faces a paved pedestrian mall at the center of the block, hence the building’s name).
Board member Jay Fisette brought a concern that kept board member Chris Zimmerman from voting for the project (he was the lone dissenter). Could “Mall Building IV” be renovated and become too expensive to tear down and replace with a park?
The fear that board member Chris Zimmerman raised was that the interim pocket park becomes permanent and Center Park never occurs. He said Center Park was integral to the community’s idea of good planning. He wondered aloud how the county would ever get an amenity such as a large park out of a developer if they could not do it on a project as big as 1900 Crystal Drive.