First Potomac Yard Development Gets OK

First Potomac Yard Development Gets OK

Office tower project would also add three streets, retail and parking to Crystal City area.

County Board members voted unanimously Saturday to approve two office towers, the first phase of the Potomac Yard development.

The board’s March 23 approval would put more than 630,000 square feet of new office space in the Crystal City area, add three new roads to the infrastructure of South Arlington. Developers say the project will cost more than $100 million.

At the same time, the decision on the first building of a planned six-part development will kick off development of an area stalled for nearly 15 years in legal snares, and could pave the way for county development of land in South Arlington tied to the Potomac Yard site.

"I’ve personally been working on this project for two years," developer Dan Kolhepp told the board, and his company celebrated one-year of owning the land the week before the board’s decision.

There was little disagreement at Saturday’s meeting. Only representatives from the county’s arts commission and the National Park Service made any objections to the project, and they were both prefaced by a hope to see the project move forward.

In the case of the arts commission, representative Katherine Freshlee told the board the commission hoped to see an increased contribution for public art. Board members agreed, and won an extra $25,000 donation form the developers, bringing the total public art contribution to $75,000.

Ranger Sean McCabe, representing the National Park Service, asked the board not to approve any signs on the south side of the building, which would be visible, he said, to drivers on the George Washington Parkway.

Board members agreed with the developer, however, that the south was the only side of the building available for signs, and McCabe conceded the point before the board vote.

Crescent Resources, developers for the Potomac Yard site, got county approval of two 12-story office towers, linked by a three-story plaza, to be built on a three-acre site on Crystal Drive, across from the Hyatt Regency Hotel, and south of the viaduct connecting Route 1 with National Airport.

<b>CONSTRUCTION ON THE PROJECT</b> will proceed in phases, with the southern building rising first. The three-story connection would be built after both office towers are completed. Before any work begins on construction, developers of the entire Potomac Yard site will essentially build three new streets serving the area.

Potomac Avenue, a new road, would begin at the south end of the office building, about one block south of the airport viaduct, running west for several hundred feet before turning south and running to the Arlington/Alexandria border. South Glebe road would be extended across Route 1, connecting up with the new Potomac Avenue. Similarly, 33rd Street South would connect Route 1 to Potomac Avenue.

The towers would include 636,000 square feet of office space, between 4,000 and 17,800 square feet of retail space, including spaces for restaurants and a fitness center.

The top of the three-story connecting plaza would be developed as a rooftop pedestrian bridge and garden, with sodded grass and trees in planters. A 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot park would also be built at the south end of the building, at the intersection of Crystal Drive and Potomac Avenue.

Parking for the project will spread across 1,024 spaces, in three underground parking levels, and three aboveground garage levels. One of the requirements for the site meant developers had to hide parking from pedestrians.

Conditions for the board’s approval would also bring the county $75,000 to buy a new Arlington Rapid Transit bus, to serve a Potomac Yard route. The area has also been identified as a possible site for a light-rail transit system, and land for that has been included along Crystal Drive.

<b>CRESCENT OWNS OVER 35</b> acres still to be developed in the Potomac Yard land, including projected office, hotel and residential buildings.

Crescent Resources vice president Loran Adams said that plans for a mix of residential and office space is next up, but not for several years to come.

In the meantime, he said, Crescent Resources will be concentrating on completing infrastructure in the area, roadwork and underground utilities, before work begins on any of the other planned buildings in the area.

Hotel construction is many years away, he said. The Crystal City area is already thick with hotels, with Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott hotels within a mile of the Potomac Yard site.

While the Washington area’s hotel business is beginning to recover from the economic depression of Sept. 11, Adams said, it will be quite some time before new hotels are economically feasible.