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This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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Posts in Economic Development.
How is the Local Office Leasing Market Doing a Year After the Amazon HQ2 Announcement?

The Northern Virginia office market had a total vacancy rate of 18.3% in the fourth quarter of 2019. This represents a continuing gradual strengthening of the market as it was the eleventh consecutive quarter with positive net absorption. That said, vacancy rates are still higher than before the great recession ten years ago. Much of the positive absorption recently is from the transportation corridor (Route 66 from Arlington to Tysons, and then along the Toll Road to Dulles), but there has been a positive but slow rebound for off-Metro locations as well. 

What will be the Impact of Amazon HQ2 to the Hotel Industry?

The second headquarters for Amazon in Arlington, VA is obviously a hot topic in local commercial real estate. Much of the focus so far has been on projected residential price increases and increased commercial leasing. But, let’s not forget about the hotel industry. The forecast for much higher hotel traffic in the area was the reason the Transient Occupancy Tax was included in the incentive package negotiated by the state and local governments. 

Arlington County Board Approves the Retail Action Plan

On Saturday, July 18, the County Board approved the Retail Action Plan by a vote of 4 to 1, with direction to further amend some facets of the proposed plan. Board Member Libby Garvey voted against the Plan.

During a rather extensive discussion which focused a great deal on the feedback that Board Members and Staff received calling for more flexibility within the Plan, the Board ultimately decided to broaden the “red” category to permit more uses. Many critics of the Plan believed the red category was too restrictive. The use category of Services and Repairs will now also be permitted within the red category.

The Board also voted to incorporate the Process document released by AED within the Plan itself to help aid Developers and the Board in applying the Plan to future and existing site plans. This document, originally requested by Chairwoman Hynes at one of the working sessions, was designed to aid the analysis of a site plan when there were other conflicting policy documents. In essence, the Process document helps to demonstrate when the retail action plan may stand up to or yield to existing policy documents like sector plans and the like.

The Arlington Economic Development staff will be updating the Plan to incorporate the latest revisions made by the Board. There was no timeline specified as to when that may be final, however, the Plan has been approved.

In addition to approval, the Board decided a periodic review of the plan was needed, as retail trends change quickly. With this end in mind, they requested that the Plan be reviewed on a periodic, ongoing basis.

For our previous coverage of the Retail Action Plan, take a look at our original postupdate one and update two.

Original image courtesy of Brett VA – changes made

Arlington’s Retail Action Plan: Further Discussion

The debate about the new Retail Action Plan ("The Plan") continued earlier this month as the Board held another work session to discuss the progress on ongoing efforts to update the Plan.

Much of the discussion focused on the so called "red streets" within the Plan. These streets are designated for pure retail uses, including: retail sales, food and drink establishments and entertainment establishments exclusively. Further, under the new plan the red streets would require certain design standards be met both internally and externally to the first floor of any building constructed or redeveloped on a red street in order to permit a retail use.

Update on the Arlington County Retail Action Plan

On April 22, 2015, Jill Griffin of Arlington Economic Development shared with NAIOP the progress being made on the update to the Arlington County Retail Plan (the “Retail Plan”). Following the County Board work session in January, the Retail Plan has undergone some further refinements. The number one theme which emerged during the County Board work session was “flexibility,” as the Board felt it was critical that the Retail Plan be able to adapt to fast-changing trends in retail.

Taking that to heart, Ms. Griffin explained that the draft Retail Plan was reorganized in hopes of making it more user-friendly and the six broad principles of retail (as defined in the plan) remained at the core of the policy.

On January 20, during a special work session open to the public, the County Board considered updates to the Arlington County Retail Action Plan (the “Retail Plan"). County Board members met with Arlington Economic Development staff, the Arlington Retail Task Force of the Economic Development Commission and members of the Planning Commission. In the audience were members of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and the local Business Improvement Districts.

The discussion centered on the role of the Retail Plan going forward, including the Plan’s overall vision, principals and policy.

The Washington, D.C. metropolitan area has no shortage of airplanes flying over the region. There is also no shortage of developers and landowners who want to create the region’s landmark buildings and skyscrapers which may fall within flight paths. These developers would rightfully be concerned that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing a change to its One Engine Inoperative (OEI) policy that could affect building height limits. The current proposal would allow the FAA to work with airport owners to define an OEI departure area from the runway.

As many of our readers know, the new Crystal City Sector Plan was considered last night (see here for our prior analysis of the proposed plan), but did you know it contained a proposal for a Tax Increment Financing ("TIF") fund  to include the Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City areas at the same time?

The area considered to be inclusive of Fort Myer Heights is basically the down-hill slope from Arlington's Courthouse Sector on the hill above of Route 50 north of Fort Myer, bounded to the north by Clarendon Boulevard and to the south by Route 50, Courthouse Road to the west and Pierce Street to the east.  What makes this area interesting, however, is the plan adopted by Arlington County to try and preserve the area's dwindling stock of aging garden-style apartments, which many find valuable from a historical perspective and others find valuable because of the affordability of these units (whether committed affordable units or as market affordable units).  The County has been unable to prevent the redevelopment of a number of sites in this area because planned densities are not sufficient to induce developers from entering special exception processes, and have instead chosen to move forward with by-right townhouse and condominium projects, effectively omitting the County from the redevelopment process.

A recently completed study by Arlington's Retail Task Force outlined some interesting conclusions for ground floor retail, suggesting something contrary to the status quo of conventional urban planning thought .  Traditionally, in Arlington County, as well as other urban jurisdictions, it has been a moot argument that good urban planning require ground floor space to be used almost solely for retail, or other similar uses that are thought to improve the pedestrian experience and serve the immediate vicinity's every-day needs.  Quite frankly, ground floor retail is simply expected by jurisdictions for almost all urban projects.