Image: JBG Companies via Arlington County
After two evenings of discussion, the Arlington Planning Commission voted to recommend the Rosslyn Gateway project to the county board. The project would replace two office buildings between Lee Highway and N. 19th Street with three buildings: an office tower, a hotel/residence, and a residential building.
Called the “Gateway” because it faces Key Bridge, Georgetown and Rosslyn’s Gateway Park, the project is considered by its proponents to be the new face of Arlington to those approaching from D.C. The edges of the proposed buildings on Lee Highway would face the river while their long sides would run along N. Ft. Myer Drive and N. Moore Street. Planners liked it for the open appearance and because it offers views of the river, D.C. and the monuments from various locations on the property.
An office tower at the southern end of the block on N. 19th Street would rise to 300 feet with nearly a half million square feet on the floor plan. Total square footage for the block will reach nearly one million.
If approved, the county would sell--for $30 million in community benefits--a small road on the block to the owner and developer, JBG Companies.
Although only two planning commissioners of 11 present voted against the project, nearly all of them expressed some concern about the project’s second phase.
Phase I would demolish the southern building and replace it with the office tower and the hotel/residence along N. Moore Street. Phase II would demolish the second of two buildings and replace it with a residential tower, 147 feet high.
Commissioners were concerned that the company is not required to complete Phase II by any specific date. JBG has said that leases in the current building last another 10 years.
Commissioner Terry Savela said she liked the architecture, but pointed to Crystal City where it never redeveloped the way the county planned because razing and rebuilding is expensive. Commissioner Terry Serie added that another company could buy an interest in the site, and that owner might not want the expense of redevelopment.
"It may not make sense for them to put this amount of money into this project," ten years from now, Savela said, adding that the county has “no leverage” in the discussion.
Others seemed less fazed by that threat. The good relationship the county has with JBG was mentioned a few times by commissioners. Still, a motion was passed that basically asked the county manager to encourage Phase II. Commissioners on the dais wondered if there were really any teeth in that request.