A new Equity Residential apartment building project in Arlington makes interesting contributions to debates on how to construct mixed use projects and the future of transit oriented development and infill
Rendering of the yet to be completed project, 2201 Pershing Apartments, Arlington County, Virginia.
Equity Residential is adding to their already significant portfolio of apartment buildings in Arlington County, Virginia through the construction of two apartment buildings, called the 2201 Pershing Apartments, located at 2201 N. Pershing Road in Arlington County, Virginia, across the street from Fort Myer, on land formerly home to a strip shopping center, across the street from a Days Inn and newer retail, and next door to a 1940s era apartment building complex, also owned by Equity Residential, are under construction.
This photo of the pool area shows the new apartments being constructed, alongside the existing apartment complex.
The site is at the intersection of N. Pershing Road with Arlington Boulevard (US50) and is 0.9 miles from the Clarendon Metro Station, uphill to the station, downhill coming from the station, with a bus stop adjacent to the complex. The Walk Score for the project, listed on the building website, is 57.
The buildings, with 188 apartments between them, are expected to be available for renting by the end of the July. The 31,000 s.f. of retail will take a bit longer to come to fruition, because no contracts with tenants have been signed so far.
It's an interesting project for many reasons:
1. The property will have amazing amenities, including an upstairs deck with a theater and HDTV screens, conference room, kitchen, fire pit, wireless, and more, as well as access to a ground floor swimming pool and patio, shared with extant 1940s era apartment building complex next door, also owned by Equity Residential.
2. The buildings, while comprised primarily of 1-bedrooms, will have a fair number of 2-bedroom apartments, and even a handful of 3-bedroom apartments, which is extremely rare. Pricing starts at $1,810/month.
3. I was impressed with the exterior sound-cancelling qualities of the windows (although we did the walkthrough before they started shooting off a cannon at Fort Myer) and the countertops in the kitchen, which are nonporous, because the company's experience finds that tenants chop acid foods like citrus but aren't too good about regularly re-sealing porous countertops. The building includes additional sound deadening measures in the construction of the walls and floors. In short, high quality finishes.
4. And the company uses online webpages so that tenants can sign up online, and not have to come into the office, or use paper.
Retail as an element of mixed use residential projects
5. The ground floor of the two buildings is dedicated to retail and restaurants. The expectation is that there will be more restaurants than retail. Typically, retail spaces are "delivered" to potential tenants completely raw, with nothing built out. (This is one reason why independents, with less access to financing, have a hard time with such spaces as they are more expensive to build out.)
Because the building is residential, and unlike an office building, the floorplates aren't subject to change once the building is finished, they are pre-installing ductwork (chases) for fans/hoods as well as water and sewer piping, for 4 of the spaces. This makes it much easier to attract restauranteurs, and independents besides.
Retail space under construction, 2201 Pershing Apartments.
6. As you can see from the high ceilings, the retail is designed to read as retail space, not as residential or office space, because the spaces are designed to have tall ceilings and large paned glass windows. Typically, "mixed use" residential buildings provide retail spaces, but designed with dimensions more appropriate for residential, not retail, use. This is a big problem in DC.
The ground floor retail space in the Allegro apartment building on 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights is not sized or designed substantively differently from the residential housing located above it, making it inappropriate to meet typical retailer preferences. Typically, retailers prefer high ceilings, at least 14 feet high, and large single paned windows.
I couldn't get pricing information out of them. I am curious about the cost/s.f.
Incorporating sustainable transportation elements into the project
6. Interestingly, while Arlington County requires that buildings such as these install high quality bike parking--secure cages, requiring key fob access keyed for use only by people with bicycles, shower and changing facilities for employees is not required, for either the residential or the retail portions of the project, because the buildings are primarily residential, and residents have "shower access" already.
But the company decided to install shower and changing facilities for employees on the site, even though this was not a requirement. It will be interesting to see if Equity Residential will act similarly for more of their urban projects. (The company is active in many markets across the country, and is an increasingly active player in the DC market, and in the core of DC in particular.)
Banner showing other Equity Residential projects in the DC region.
7. Electric vehicle owners will have access to charging points in the parking structure provided by the Car Charging Group, as part of their national contract with the company.
8. And as part of the standard agreement with Arlington County, new residents get a pre-loaded SmarTrip card good for use on the WMATA, ART and other local transit systems.
Implications for smart growth/transit oriented development practice
9. From the standpoint of transit oriented development, what interests me the most about this project is that it can be seen as representative of a scale change, potentially an indicator of a next wave of development, outside of the traditional 3/4 mile zone that WMATA shows on station maps in subway stations as the natural catchment area--the distance that people are normally willing to walk--for the station.
Catchment areas, 1.0 mile (shown in lighter green), 0.75 mile (shown in brighter green), from the Clarendon Subway station, 3100 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington County, Virginia
10. Will people walk, bike, and transit that distance or will they drive? (The walk/ride to the station is uphill from the development, which could be an issue.)
North Barton Street is the way people would normally walk and bike to and from the 2201 Pershing Apartments to the Clarendon Metro station.
11. Does this project, the 2201 Pershing Apartments, indicate the beginnings of a trend for land use intensification some distance away from subway stations--but still close--as the inventory of sites closer to subway stations, within that 0.75 mile distance from the station commonly thought of as the maximum distance that people will walk, gets built out?
Implications for future development proximate to low scale residential neighborhoods and the provision of affordable housing
12. The westernmost of the two buildings is one floor smaller than the building on Arlington Boulevard, eliminating 10-15 units that could have been built.
The justification concerned stepbacks from the two story residential buildings that typify the area abutting the development. But is one story that big of a difference? It does have an impact on affordability, and could have even been dedicated as "affordable units" (which the building doesn't have to provide).
One floor here, one floor there, and soon you are talking about considerable opportunity costs in terms of never to be developed units, near subway stations.