The JBG Companies is seeking to build two large office towers and a series of townhouses along Glebe Road on sites currently occupied by Staples and Bob Peck Chevrolet, reshaping Ballston’s skyline and bringing high-density development to the edge of a residential neighborhood.
The developers would like to construct a 12-story office building on the Peck site, which sits prominently on the corner of Glebe Road and Wilson Boulevard, and an eight-story office building just to the north. JBG would then place 28 townhouses on North Wakefield Street, behind the towers.
If the project comes to fruition, it would mean that three-quarters of the intersection of Wilson and Glebe has been redeveloped in recent years with high-rise buildings, and that Ballston’s core will be nearly filled-out. Construction is expected to begin in approximately 18 months, after the project goes through the normal public planning process.
JBG HAS BECOME the major player in western Ballston, opening a 335,000 square-foot office complex on the east side of Glebe Road earlier this year, and currently constructing the 226,000 square-foot Regent office building north of the Staples site on Fairfax Drive.
"We are just big believers in the Ballston sub-market," said Dean Cinkala, one of JBG’s partners. "The Metro access is appealing… and [Ballston] has all the dynamics of a mixed-use environment."
The county has long-hoped that someone would purchase the one-story Staples and Bob Peck buildings and redevelop the sites, which have been "underutilized," said Tom Newman, a commercial development specialist with the Arlington Economic Development office.
The Peck dealership was a family-owned business and an Arlington fixture for more than six decades, but with property values sky-rocketing the owners felt it was time to sell.
"Most people recognize that a car dealership built 40 years ago, when nothing was in Ballston, is not going to be there forever as the community redevelops," said County Board member Jay Fisette.
The county’s vision for the west side of Glebe Road called for greater density than what is there now, but officials will have to balance JBG’s desire for more floors in their office buildings with neighbors’ apprehension over large structures and increased traffic.
"We know this site is going to be very important to the Bluemont neighborhood, so we have had active discussions with them," Cinkala said. "We will be using the summer to continue working with the neighbors to hear their concerns and formulate ideas that work for both parties."
Nearby residents said they are pleased that townhouses will face the homes on North Wakefield, so families will not have to peer out their windows at loading docks and the back sides of the office structures.
Robert Atkins, a member of the Bluemont Civic Association, said the neighborhood would like to see buildings be up to six stories tall on the Glebe Road portion of the site, with tapering closer to Wakefield. "What we don’t want is nine-, 10-, 12-story buildings there," he added.
With many new companies expected to move into the offices when they are completed, residents fear an influx of new vehicles on the already-crowded intersection.
THE COUNTY WOULD like to add a through-street connecting Glebe and Wakefield, to alleviate congestion on Wilson. "The area would benefit by having a new street to help distribute traffic from the project so as not to load everything on Wilson," said David Robinson, a planner with the Department of Environmental Services.
Yet residents are fiercely opposed to a new road, arguing that the quiet residential neighborhood needs a buffer that separates it from the adjacent commercial district.
"The key fact for the immediate neighborhood is Wakefield needs to be insolated from cut-through traffic," said Wendy Dean, who lives behind the Staples.
Staples, which opened on Glebe in 1994, leases its building from BJB Realty. Corporate spokeswoman Mylissa Tsai said the company has "no plans to move" and would like to explore the possibility of being in the new office building.
"That store does well and we want to continue to offer this convenient location," she said.