Community Center and Housing Approved for Pike Site

By Chris L. Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 3, 2008

The dowdy building on Columbia Pike that for decades housed a Safeway will be replaced with an apartment, retail and community center development after the Arlington County Board unanimously approved the project last week.

Revitalizing the two-acre site that included the supermarket and its parking lot has long been a priority for county officials, who for several years have worked to slowly remake the strip-mall-dotted drag into a walkable "urban village." The development plan passed at last week's County Board meeting calls for a 159-unit residential building on the northern end of the site and a six-story addition on the southern piece, toward Columbia Pike, that will house the 40,000-square-foot community center, retail shops and 33 additional residential units. The complex also will have a public courtyard and underground parking.

"We are bringing new energy to Columbia Pike" with the development, County Board Chairman J. Walter Tejada (D) said in a statement. "This development . . . creates an inviting place to bring together residents, visitors and those using the community center's facilities."

The site, between South Dinwiddie Street and Arlington Mill Drive, was purchased by the county in 1996 and has since been used as an alternative public high school and community center. County voters approved a $26 million bond in 2006 to help finance the project.

County officials said the development, known as Arlington Mill, will serve a number of functions for the diverse community when it opens in late 2010 or early 2011: The complex will have 61 below-market-rate units, most of which will be two- or three-bedroom apartments. The units will be available to those whose incomes are at or below 60 percent of the area's median income, so a family of four could make no more than about $60,000 annually. And 10 of the units will be set aside for families who make $25,000 to $50,000 a year. Monthly rents on the 61 affordable housing units would range from about $993 to $1,475.

Board member Chris Zimmerman (D) said one of the key features of the development is that the affordable units will be large enough for families with two or more children.

"It's very hard to find those kinds of opportunities where we can meet a need for entire families," he said in an interview.

In addition, the community center will host recreational activities for children and programs for seniors. The project will have 3,000 square feet for retail development.

The complex is one of several that have been approved for the Columbia Pike corridor since the county passed a plan in 2003 to manage the look and feel of the boulevard's redevelopment. Another mixed-use complex down the street from Arlington Mill is to open this year, and construction has begun at two more. In the coming years, the county hopes to encourage townhouse development, more retail shops and a light-rail system along Columbia Pike that would stretch into Fairfax County.

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