The County Board approved a 10-story hotel to be built in the western end of Courthouse Plaza, completing a site plan process that began more than two decades ago.
The decision comes as the county is embarking on a major redevelopment of the eastern end of the plaza, which will dramatically change one of Arlington’s most vibrant areas.
The hotel will be an extended-day Marriott Residence Inn, with 176 rooms, ground-floor retail and a high-end restaurant. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall and the project is expected to be completed in 2008.
“We’re very excited to have a quality hotel fill that big hole,” County Board member Jay Fisette said. “The western end of the plaza is coming together beautifully.”
As part of the site plan process the developer agreed to a package of community benefits, which includes a donation to the county’s Housing Reserve Fund and the placement of a fountain and sculpture in the plaza. The 5,500-square foot restaurant will include outdoor seating.
A proposed hotel on the property was first included in the 1985 Courthouse Plaza Site Plan. In 1998 the County Board approved a 17-story, 324-room hotel, but the developer backed out after they were unable to secure funding.
The Donahue Company was selected among three finalists to build a smaller hotel that would service as a western anchor in the plaza.
Guests at “extended-stay” hotels tend to reside remain there for up to two weeks at a time, patronizing neighborhood restaurants and shops.
“They will help the businesses in the area and bring much-needed vitality to that end of the plaza,” said County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman.
The proposal was first reviewed by the County Board in December, but was deferred to give the developer more time to refine the design of the building’s façade, among other issues.
The redesigned exterior, with sandstone colored walls and vertical glass and metal windows, better complements the surrounding county office buildings, county officials said.
“I was disappointed with the original design. It didn’t capture the energy or the detail we were looking for,” Fisette said. “But this enhanced design will be a really great addition to Courthouse.”
County Board Vice Chairman Paul Ferguson praised the developers for their high LEED score on the project, it’s energy efficiency and the vegetated green roof on one of its wings. But he also expressed dismay that they did not push to become the first hotel in Virginia to receive national certification.
The county staff decided it was not feasible to save a 28-inch diameter White Oak tree located just south of the property, and will replace it with several Red Oaks. An arborist found the tree was stressed and decaying due to surrounding development, and would not survive long regardless of the hotel plans.
COUNTY STAFF MEMBERS are currently working on a redevelopment plan for the eastern end of the plaza, a long-held goal of the County Board.
The large, ground level parking lot at Courthouse is expected to be replaced by an expansive, open-space plaza. A multi-level garage would be constructed underneath the square to replace the lost parking spots.
County Board members are interested in pursuing a public-private partnership to help defray the costs of developing the parking lot property.
“We want to see this come forward this year, but it’s important to get it right,” Zimmerman said. “We don’t want to hurry it.”
The building behind the Courthouse movie theater, which is partially occupied by county staff, will most likely be demolished and rebuilt, board member said.
It is unclear if the movie theater would move to another location, though county officials would like to see it remain in the plaza.
“We see the theater as very important to enhancing the existence of night life in Courthouse,” Fisette said.
County officials said they are committed to bringing a cultural and performing arts facility to the plaza, but admitted it may not happen anytime soon because of a lack of funding.
“The issue is how to pay for it,” Fisette said. “Because of our budgetary constraints, and the projects already in the pipeline, we have to be very careful about making additional commitments in the next few years.”