The 1501/1515 Wilson project was reviewed in UDC today (building frontage goes from just south of the Gallery to the corner of Wilson and Oak and up Wilson to, but not including, Safeway). The upgrade to the retail/podium sections of the building and the building lobbies will make for a decided improvement to both Oak and Wilson. Nothing above the podium level will change. The sidewalk width on Wilson will NOT change, and the planter area outside Cafe Cucu will remain. The overhang on the Oak St. side will disappear, but the sidewalk will be bumped out and be made ADA compliant which it is not now. Apparently the DoD bus pick up there is not official -- it is something they are getting away with, so no need to preserve the overhang for that purpose.
I have a copy of the presentation -- the vote in favor of the site plan amendment was unanimous.
The Cultural Center terms have changed, but it actually makes the deal better in a lot of ways. The rent free terms will be for 17 years rather than 10 (15 years on ALL of the space beginning 8/1/10). The current $10M payment to the county ($7M + $3M) if deal is not signed disappears with this version. If the center proves to be an economic drain on the community, Arlington has an annual right to terminate at will. The BID is kicking in an up front payment of $1.1M and the lesser of $300K or 10 percent of the operating budget. A prestigious marketing service will be handling the launch (expected 10/10/10) and naming rights for the facility will probably be theirs to decide. It is the county's intention to approve the lease. The matter will be taken up in the July 11 board meeting, or in the carryover session.
Landis raised the issue of the screening for the mechanical rooftop equipment on Turnberry being less than ideal (too transparent). RR will investigate.
That's the latest,
Very good news about the Newseum Cultural Center. NRCA has endorsed this project. Jennifer and I spoke for NRCA in favor of the Cultural Center at a recent Civic Federation meeting. And I expect that NRCA will speak in favor of it again at the decisional County Board meeting on 7/11.
As to the 1501/1515 Wilson project, though, I bring a different perspective:
The proposed facade renovations will give the developer substantial additional ground floor retail space. That's additional density beyond that allowed by zoning and permit. By the ground rules of Rosslyn zoning, developers are supposed to provide community benefits in exchange for additional density.
One could argue that the building is ugly and the renovation IS a community benefit. But taken to the logical extreme, that argument would label all development as a community benefit, thereby ending the whole concept of community benefits for density.
Truth be told, I'd like to see a facade renovation which maintains the overhang and maybe even adds some outdoor dining under the overhang. I suspect that if we looked at the original artist conception for 1501 Wilson when they were seeking County permitting, we'd see something like that.
The present overhang creates a dark lobby for the building and darkened retail space without good signage for the retailers. Enclosing the overhang increases the square footage available to the retailers. I am aware of buildings in the District where similar renovations to enclose overhangs are being performed. The new facade will be a vast improvement, and the FAR density increases you speak of are going towards retail space, not office space.
PS. On reflection, the developer is requesting additional floor area -- I do not see how that equates to greater *density* (FAR), which is what triggers the community benefits regime.
Improving the facade and providing more retail space would be wonderful. We have WAY TOO LITTLE retail in Rosslyn, especially retail space that is open evenings when the residents are in the area. We could use retail that draws people to Rosslyn so I hope this space is used for something better than another convenience store, cleaning drop off, or cheap lunches.
Actually, ther was an extended discussion of retailing in Rosslyn at the meeting. Apparently, the economic downturn has caused a significant increase in vacant retail space in Rosslyn, particularly along Clarendon Boulevard, but also elsewhere in the immediate area. The county is receiving requests for minor site plan amendments to broaden the categories of eligible retail establishments that will satisfy site requirements. The hope is that the downturn will be short term.
Improving the retail spaces availale and their market potential should have a beneficial effect in attracting more high-quality retail to Rosslyn. However, we have very few locations with sufficient square footage for "big box" or "anchor" retail -- the sort of retail carrying names people recognize and that can act as a draw for ancillary retail operations (Clarendon's retail complex near Whole Foods is a perfect example of this phenomenon -- name stores making retail in general more attractive).