Great News! The Washington Housing Conservancy has bought Crystal Houses on S Eads Street with a major grant from Amazon and JBG Smith will manage it. The conservancy’s mission — and the Crystal House project — aim to create spaces for individuals and families who may make too much money to qualify for government housing assistance but do not earn enough to afford high-demand real estate markets. https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/01/06/amazon-arlington-affordable-housing/
With Amazon’s flexible capital, WHC was able to execute the purchase of Crystal House in under two months, an expedited timeline for commercial real estate transactions. WHC’s finance partner, the Washington Housing Initiative, and Impact Pool, created by developer JBG SMITH, provided commercial real estate expertise and an additional loan of $6.7 million.
Amazon announced its Housing Equity Fund, a more than $2 billion initiative to preserve and create more than 20,000 affordable housing units in the Puget Sound region in Washington State, Arlington, Virginia region, and Nashville, Tennessee—three communities Amazon calls home. The first investments include $381.9 million in below-market loans and grants to the Washington Housing Conservancy to preserve and create up to 1,300 affordable homes on the Crystal House property on S. Eads Street. Over the next five years, rent prices for 75 percent of the units at Crystal House will drop to help residents who are making less than 80 percent of the area’s mean income of $126,000. Read the Amazon announcement here: https://www.aboutamazon.com/news/community/amazon-launches-2-billion-housing-equity-fund-to-preserve-and-create-over-20-000-affordable-homes
Looking forward to a better year than 2020! We’re moving to bimonthly virtual meetings live streamed to Facebook, starting January 27. Let us know if you have suggestions for topics you would like to be covered. Also, we’ve added a timeline of development/construction issues to the Newsletter and each CCCA meeting which explains why we’re all so exhausted. And lots more inside the Newsletter–download it here.
1. SAVE THE DATE: January 27 CCCA Meeting Our first meeting of the year is scheduled for Wednesday, January 27, from 7-9 pm. We’ve invited Arlington County health officials to talk about their COVID vaccination plan, what they are doing to help disadvantaged during the crisis (e.g., food/evictions), and the impact COVID has had on the County budget. We may also ask JBG to give a brief update on the ongoing public engagement about their site plan for 2000/2001 Clark/Bell and upcoming construction at 1900 Crystal Drive. Stay tuned for the details.
2. Responses Needed : Note that the next 3 items are calling for public feedback by January 11:
Pubic Engagement: 2000/2001 Clark/Bell Site Plan This is Block M, AKA Crystal Plaza Square that has been through 2 Long Range Planning Committee sessions. This is your last chance to weigh in publicly on any concerns you might have about the site plan for these 2 buildings on 20th Street: e.g., Clark/Bell extension, open space, Underground. Be sure to make your voice heard before the SPRCs in February and March. The comment period has been extended to January 11. See everything on the project page: https://projects.arlingtonva.us/projects/2001-clark-st/
The VDOT Route 1 Multimodal Feasibility Study VDOT held the first Public Engagement Meeting December 16 for the public to review existing conditions; hear about public survey responses; and ask questions and provide input. The purpose of this feasibility study is to identify enhanced multimodal connectivity and accommodations along Route 1 (between 12th Street to 23rd Streets) to meet the changing transportation needs of the Crystal City and Pentagon City communities. As this area’s commercial and residential densities continue to increase, transportation plans will need to address the wide-ranging needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists, and other users while maximizing the safety, convenience, and sustainability of the system for decades to come. At this time, no construction funding has been allocated, so this study will not set design or construction dates. The timeline includes a second public meeting in March for more analysis; presentation of a draft report to the public in May and a final report in June. Access the online comment form and view details on providing feedback through January 11here. Note: Participants in the December 16 meeting were surprised that VDOT is missing a lot of essential data and seems to see its charge is to determine if and how Route 1 can be brought down to grade. The Livability22202 working group on Route 1 is providing input. See the Study webpage here.
Here’s your chance to design the new park at South Eads Street and Army Navy Drive Share Your Feedback on Three Draft Design Concepts that resulted from the first public engagement for the area at South Eads Street With the guidance of the Crystal City Sector Plan and the Public Spaces Master Plan, it was decided that this new park will help meet the county’s goals of increasing public space opportunities. This past fall, community comments shared information about how people currently use the space and what they envision for the future. Those comments helped shape the three draft concepts that the design team present in the video below—The Meander, The Canal Walk, and The Central Hub. We want to know what you think. What are your favorite elements of each concept? What do you feel is missing? Your feedback by January 11 will help inform the design of the Park Master Plan and Design Guidelines for this new public space. Share your feedback here.
A key priority for livable space is to foster environmental sustainability. To achieve this, we need to strategically increase the amount of natural open space and improve the tree canopy, with a focus on reducing heat island intensity, improving stormwater management, and increasing urban biodiversity. Emphasize the incorporation of biophilic design elements into site plans, including private and public space, and the application of biophilic approaches to integration of the built and natural environments. Needs and opportunities abound for open space and connectivity in 22202.
Throughout the first half of 2020, neighbors gathered through a series of discussions, including a community-run workshop on February 22, 2020, to develop a comprehensive agenda on open space. The workshop brought together some 65 community members and experts to examine open space issues organized around four topics:
Connecting residents to the natural world and enhancing biodiversity throughout 22202
Re-envisioning Virginia Highlands Park as the backyard for the Pentagon City community
Developing a holistic approach to planning Crystal City Parks
Exploring the possibility for a nature trail extending from Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary through the wooded parcel along the George Washington Parkway to the southern end of Crystal City
The final report of the workshop examines the principles for holistic planning needed to strengthen connectivity, natural ecosystems, and community-building in open space in the 22202 zip code area. It provides observations and recommendations for initiating a sustained collaboration with other stakeholders invested in the success of our community, including property developers, owners, county staff, and commission members. As stated in the Livability22202 Action Plan, November 2019: “A commitment to livability means a focus on factors that promote ecological sustainability and human health and well-being.” View the final report, the Fact Sheet, and the press release.
Livability22202 continues to explore how to develop a network of green corridors and parks that will connect residents to nature and natural areas to each other. Subsequent to the workshop, we focused on imagining casual use and event space at Virginia Highlands Park, created a naming map to show the possibilities of community-centric facilities in natural areas, and began a Highlands Urban Agriculture garden (HUG) as a pilot project. Our recommendations for Crystal City parallel those resulting from the BID and JBG-sponsored Crystal City Parks community engagement. Overall, our recommendations will feed into the eventual County process for creating and upgrading open space in the 22202 area.
We are pleased, after a year of work, two well attended workshops and many meetings of a ten person working group, to be able to share the report on housing livability in 22202. This report was previously shared in draft form with participants of Livability workshops as well as presented at meetings for each of the civic associations. This is, of course, part of the greater Livability project and our specific recommendations should be taken into account with the other community needs raised by Livability, such as open space and schools.
The report reviews data and history of the 22202 area, exploring how our unique housing situation came to be. It then makes recommendations for public and private actors in areas around avoiding displacement, diverse housing options (both affordable and market rate) and building community through housing. Please find the full report here and a one page fact sheet here.
Did you miss it? JBG Smith held a virtual open house meeting on December 2nd on their plans to upgrade the Water Park. There was lots of feedback and interest (as well as some concerns) for this new project feature. For those who were unable to make it, the presentation from the meeting is posted for reference as well as the answers to the questions JBG received during the presentation; see the new tab titled ‘Water Park’. https://courbanize.com/projects/crystalparks/survey
JBG Smith has submitted a site plan amendment to make changes to the Crystal City Water Park, as we have posted previously. At our request, they are holding a virtual public community meeting December 2 from 6-7 pm to show their revised plans and get feedback from the community. JBG and Equity Realty own the park, but it is also one of the most well-known symbols of Crystal City. So we will want to be informed and let them know what we do and don’t like in their plan.
1. Election of Officers: Welcome to our new (and returning) officers. The following were elected by acclamation poll for a two-year term:
Vice President for Policy and Planning: Christopher Wimbush
Treasurer: Eric Cassel
Membership Liaison: Emily Norton
Communications Director: Idris Clay
2. Public Community Meeting on the Water Park: JBG Smith has submitted a site plan amendment to make changes to the Crystal City Water Park, as we have posted previously. At our request, they are holding a virtual public community meeting December 2 from 6-7 pm to show their revised plans and get feedback from the community. JBG and Equity Realty own the park, but it is also one of the most well-known symbols of Crystal City. So we will want to be informed and let them know what we do and don’t like in their plan. One of the key issues is the proposal to put 8 back-to-back kiosks at the edge of the park with 2 sidewalks on either side–1 between the kiosks and a tree-lined buffer to the street and a larger one open to the park. If the kiosks go in what do you think they should sell: e.g., only food and drink? That’s a JBG decision, but if you have strong feelings or good ideas, be prepared to suggest them. The link to register for the meeting is here: https://jbgsmith.zoom.us/…/WN_JonbM_GATXi-AJBvZw94IA
3. CCCA Plans for 2021: As it looks like we will be staying virtual until at least the summer of 2021, the Executive Committee is starting to plan for bimonthly meetings on a series of topics that could include, among others: updates on the airport Project Journey, the Aquatic Center, and other development issues; Virginia Tech Alexandria project; Arlington County CERT training; police and fire department issues; etc. Please send us your ideas about topics you would like to be covered: [email protected].
4. The VDOT Route 1 Multimodal Feasibility Study: The first Public Engagement Meeting will be held Wednesday, December 16 at 6:30 P.M. See details in Newsletter.
Livability22202 is announcing the winners of its “Underground Challenge” November 11, 2020. The Underground Challenge was organized to spur creative thinking about the Crystal City Underground and its future with the change and new development now happening in Crystal City and National Landing. With over one-half mile of interconnected buildings, corridors, and plazas, the Crystal City Underground has long been a feature of the area and is much loved by local residents.
With a vision to revitalize and improve the Underground, challenge entrants were asked to submit ideas in three categories: creative writing, video, and a “business plan.” Entrants celebrated their fondness for the underground, pointed out its quirks and features, and proposed new ideas for its future.
These ideas ranged from suggestions of potential businesses, like a hardware store or library, to more creative suggestions, such as using the space for urban agriculture or STEM-related activities for youth. And participants especially emphasized the valuable role that the Underground serves in transportation and commuting, especially during inclement weather.
Patricia Heath’s “Underground Energy” won first place in the “Write Underground” category, and Ms. Heath wrote compellingly of all the benefits and uses the Underground provides to residents. Ms. Heath summed it up that “There are myriad issues to be addressed, and I don’t have all the answers (and likely don’t know all the challenges). What I do know is this: the Water Park may be the outdoor personification of our Crystal City urban village, but the Underground is its beating heart and circulatory system, literally and figuratively.”
Runners up in the creative writing category also included Neena Gupta’s enlightening “In Search of a Protagonist” and Matthew Mercado’s clever “Dr. Mercado’s Diagnosis.”
Winner of the video category “Tik Tok Underground” was Kari Klaus, who literally envisioned a transformation of the Underground inspired by Las Vegas, with its many interior spaces and fantastical settings. Emma Benson and Eric Cassel were runners up in this category, with creative videos offering both fond – and satirical – commentary on the existing Underground experience.
Entrants in a third category were invited to submit a “business plan” for how to support the Underground through commercial use of the space. Matt McKinstry offered a creative set of ideas for transforming little used Underground spaces, possibly rebranded as the “Under Grange,” to support urban agriculture and agritech startups, with indoor farming able to supply local restaurants. Indoor hydroponic farms could be created and harness efficient LED technology, circulating nutrient-laden water to grow vegetables, greens, and herbs. Mr. McKinstry also provided expertise on how aquaponics, floriculture, mycoculture, and even cheesemaking and beekeeping could be implemented in the Underground!
Runners up in the business plan category included Michael Hong, who made a compelling case for an entertainment district with larger vacant spaces converted into entertainment centers. Mr. Hong noted that Crystal City needs a live music hall, with the desire to hear music performances growing and unsatisfied. And Mr. Hong suggested that a groundbreaking use for the Underground might include The Museum of Science Fiction, which judges noted as a potentially very apt fit in the Underground complex! Another runner up for in the business plan category was John Chapin, who recognized advantages in the Underground’s “unique physical characteristics compared to other publicly-oriented metro-accessible spaces in the DC area,” and proffered use of the space for security related enterprises, with Secure Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIF) as a potential asset for multiple businesses.
Winners in each category were awarded gift cards to Ted’s Montana Grill, Sweetgreen, and Jaleo, and runners up also received gift certificates. The overall effort (and awards) have been supported by the National Landing Business Improvement District, with additional support from JBG Smith. Judging of the entries was provided by Arlington videographer Eric Courtney, Robert Siegel, former co-host of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and noted authors and Arlington residents Rick Hodges and Kim O’Connell.
Judges noted the breadth of creative thinking across all categories and felt that a combination of many of these ideas might make for a compelling overall plan for the Underground that is robust across many business cycles.
Community leaders plan to continue sharing the ideas generated in the Underground Challenge entries, to foster further discussion about the overall future of the Crystal City Underground with interested parties.
Livability 22202 is the work of the 3 civic associations of 22202 – Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands, and Crystal City. The residents of 22202 have committed to tackling the challenges facing our area with holistic strategies based on shared livability themes to create a better, more livable city.
1. Annual Meeting November 11: Be sure to join us for this important Zoom meeting from 7-9 pm. Agenda: 1. Elections of 4 CCCA officers for 2 years (see bios in Newsletter) 2. Vote on approval of minor ByLaws Amendment (full text on CCCA website) 3. Updates on Development Projects in Crystal City (JBG’s Andy VanHorn will jointly present) 4. Updates on Livability 22202 Working Groups
2. Elections Nov. 3: If you plan to vote in person on Election Day, November 3, you will need to vote in your own precinct – either Crystal City 006 (251 S. 18th Street, the red Wells Fargo Bank building) or Crystal Plaza 050 (inside the Crystal Plaza apartment building. Polls are open 6 am to 7 pm. See details in Newsletteride.
3. SPRC Process for 101 S. 12th Street:Following the September 19 Site Plan Review Committee meeting on JBG’s site plan for 101 S 12th Street, the County Planning Commission will consider the final site plan November 4. It then goes to the County Board for approval Nov 14 or 17. You can view the full staff report for the meeting here. County staff reject community concerns about the extension of Ball Street from 12th to 10th Streets. If residents wish to object to a full street extension of Ball Street, you can find the information on submitting comments, viewing the meeting, and signing up to speak here.
4. AFAC Food Drive: We have teamed up again with FLARE and the National Landing BID, and the Arlington Ridge and Aurora Highlands Civic Associations for another food drive to benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center! FLARE will be placing donation boxes at 13 locations throughout National Landing from October 31 – November 8. Donations of canned good will be collected and donated on November 9th.
Time for updates! As you know, there is lots going on in our area and we try to keep you informed by posting regularly on our CCCA Facebook page and as often as possible on our CCCA and Livability22202 websites. At our Annual Meeting, we will first have Elections for new CCCA Officers (see separate article). We will also vote on a proposed minor amendment to the CCCA ByLaws (see following article).
Next, we will go over Updates on a) Development (from 101 S 12th Street down to 2525 Crystal Drive) and b) Livability22202 activities and working groups (Route 1 feasibility study; Future of the Underground; Housing Affordability; Open Space; Schools; Performing Arts). Each coordinator will give a brief overview and answer your questions. Andy VanHorn of JBG has agreed to help with the development portion and share JBG’s vision for the future.