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Board Approves Crystal Towers Addition

Townhouses would border high-rise apartments built in 1960s.

At their April 20 meeting, County Board members approved a $20 million addition to the site of Crystal Towers in South Arlington, adding more than 200 housing units to the Crystal City area.

The L-shaped addition would run along the southern and eastern peripheries of the Crystal Towers lots, bordering the two X-shaped towers already in existence there. Construction should begin by the end of 2002, and could be completed in two years.

Crystal Towers was originally built in 1965, filling most of the block surrounded by 15th Street South, South Eads Street, 18th Street South and South Fern Street.

The addition will bring 215 new units to the area, bringing the total dwelling units available at Crystal Towers to 1,127. The new building would add 215,456 square feet to the total on a 12 acre lot. The townhouse buildings would be 52 feet high, less than half the height of the existing apartment towers.

The townhouses would also add 285 parking spaces, most in a two-story underground parking garage.

Charles E. Smith, developers on the project, would bring a new park with the project, at the corner of 15th and Eads streets. Other contributions required for the project are a $25,000 payment to the county’s public art fund, improvements to a Metrobus stop on 15th Street, and 12 affordable housing units in the townhouses, five of them capable of being made accessible to people in wheelchairs.

Board Chair Chris Zimmerman praised the project, which he said added to the county’s urban village feel by putting homes next to the sidewalk, not set off by an expanse of parking lot.

The townhouses and the new underground garage will also be one of the first to allow county police to check for residents’ cars not registered in Virginia. Police would be able to survey cars parked in the garage of the building, looking for out-of-state tags belonging to residents.

That issue was the source of some contention for the developers, who said it could put them at a competitive disadvantage with other, older apartment and townhouse units in Arlington, which may not be required to allow police to conduct such tag checks.

County board members argued over the measure, but in the end resolved to let the developer work out details of the police access with county staff.