Arlington approves residential, office project that will also replace ‘Deep Throat garage’

One of the most historic journalism sites of the past half-century will soon vanish, following a decision by the Arlington County Board on Saturday to demolish the building and parking garage where FBI official Mark Felt secretly met with Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward during the Watergate investigation.

The County Board unanimously agreed to allow Monday Properties to replace its two 12-story, 1960s-era buildings at 1401 Wilson Blvd. in Rosslyn with a 28-story residential tower and a 24-story commercial building.

The parking garage beneath the existing building will be razed, although the county will save the historical marker it erected in 2011, and the landowner has pledged to create a commemorative memorial to the events that occurred there.

The plans for demolition became public 10 months ago; the developer said the design process will take two more years, with demolition no earlier than January 2017.

Plans for the new buildings and a two-level public park prompted praise from elected officials Saturday, with County Board Chairman Jay Fisette (D) asking, “What’s not to like?” The project will transform an entire block in the heart of Rosslyn.


The 1400 block of Wilson Blvd redevelopment project. (Courtesy of Monday Properties)

“This is a terrific project,” Fisette said. “Don’t forget it’s bringing residents to Rosslyn, a grocery store . . . a beautiful park . . . and substantial community benefits, including $8 million for affordable housing, which will build far more units in our community than if they had been [built] on site.”

In addition to the residential high-rise, the project will bring 513,004 square feet of office space with 11,131 square feet of ground-floor retail space, said Tim Helmig, president and chief executive of Monday Properties. He said that’s 30 percent more than the existing office space. He expressed confidence that the county’s high vacancy rates will decline by the time the new development is on the market.

The two-level park on the northeast corner of the triangular lot will have direct access to a grocery store and will be reached by stairs, a ramp and two elevators. The developer also plans to remove the Fort Myer Drive tunnel and improve the skywalk to the Rosslyn Metro station.

Helmig said after the meeting that his family considers the property’s brush with history “neat.”

Parking spot 32D inside the ground-level garage is where Felt, who was dubbed “Deep Throat” by a Washington Post editor, provided Woodward with information that exposed the Nixon administration’s obstruction of the FBI’s Watergate investigation. Felt, then the second-highest official in the FBI, chose the garage as an anonymous, secure location and met with the little-known reporter in the dark of night six times between October 1972 and November 1973.

The Watergate scandal resulted in President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

Monday Properties has agreed to spend $750,000 on public art, and just as the decision about the art will be open to public input, so will the choice of “a commemorative or marker that respects the events of history regarding the Watergate event,” Helmig said.

While the old parking garage will be removed, the new project will have six levels of below-grade parking, including 816 parking spaces and 219 bicycle spaces.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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