The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a new 24-story office building for Crystal City that's designed to help the area survive and thrive following the exodus of government agencies under BRAC.
Following the actions of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, several government agencies have left Crystal City, and still more are slated to leave in upcoming years. Arlington County adopted the 40-year Crystal City Sector Plan in 2010 in response to this, and Saturday's action was the first step toward realizing that plan.
"We are beginning to see the community’s vision for a more vibrant, walkable and transit-oriented Crystal City take shape," Arlington County Board Chairwoman Mary Hynes said in a statement.
The board on Saturday voted 4-1 to approve a plan to demolish a block-long, outdated and vacant building at 1851 S. Bell St., in the heart of Crystal City, and replace it with a 24-story building of Class A office space and ground-level retail, according to a news release. Board member Chris Zimmerman cast the dissenting vote.
The new development, which will be renamed 1900 Crystal Drive, will encompass about 731,000 square feet and will be the tallest building in Crystal City.
A half-acre interim park will be constructed on the northeast corner of the block, which is within walking distance from the Crystal City Metro Station. Developer Vornado/Charles E. Smith will work with the county over the next 18 months to prepare for significant open space in the middle of the block — at this point, called Center Park.
"1900 Crystal Drive will be a catalyst for the sort of redevelopment that will reinvigorate the area with quality office space and more retail, and help ensure this area remains one of the region’s premier neighborhoods for decades to come," Hynes stated. "The approval today also takes important steps to assure achievement of Center Park as well as beginning to address Crystal City residents’ identified needs for civic infrastructure."
Through the approval process, the developer agreed to contribute $10 million to various community initiatives, including $3 million to the county's Affordable Housing Investment Fund.
The developer will also contribute:
- $75,000 for public art;
- $154,000 for utility improvements;
- $20,000 for parking meter improvements;
- Off-site transportation improvements to 18th Street South;
- A Transportation Management Plan to encourage transit use and reduce single-occupant vehicle trips, which includes $1.4 million to Arlington County Commuter Services and $65 pre-loaded Metro SmarTrip cards to the building's employees;
- And $2.76 million for improvements to create a temporary, 16,000-square-foot interim park.
Some of the infrastructure constructed for the interim park will remain in place as the full development takes shape.
A five-level parking garage with 732 spaces will be built and connected to an existing garage that serves the office buildings on the block. Nearly 150 bicycle spots will be created, too.
The new building will be designed to achieve LEED Gold certification.
"In today’s challenging economic environment, the County views this project, and the planned Route 1 streetcar, as an important first step to spur redevelopment of one of Arlington’s most successful urban villages in a post-BRAC environment," according to the county news release.
BRAC had a "major impact" on Crystal City as various Defense Department-related agencies moved out, leaving millions of square feet of office space empty and costing Arlington thousands of jobs, the release states.
The county adopted the Crystal City Sector Plan to transform Crystal City into a more walkable, transit-oriented urban village with more open space, more mixed-use buildings with ground-level retail and more housing, the release states.