Construction of a $60 million office-apartment-hotel complex, approved after three hours of debate last week by the Arlington County Board, is scheduled to begin in Rosslyn this summer.
The 29-story Arland Towers building, which county officials say will "complete" Rosslyn, will be located on a site now occupied by the Arlington Towers Shopping Center at 1101 Wilson Blvd. The shopping center will be torn down.
The new, multi-use complex, called by county officials "the most amibitious project yet proposed for Rosslyn," was designed by Helmuth, Obata and Kassabaum, the firm that designed the Air and Space Museum.
The building will feature a courtyard and skylight, a 16,000-square-foot park and an enclosed, climate-controlled pedestrian bridge spanning Wilson Boulevard. Contained in the complex would be a health club with tennis courts, shops, offices and a 114-room hotel.
The controversy surrounding the complex was not its design - county officials, board members and even opposed citizens repeatedly described it in glowing terms - but the fact that developer Stanley Westreich requested height and density limits in excess of that normally granted in Rosslyn.
"There is no other side plan that has contributed so much to Rosslyn," said county planner Tom Parker. "You have with this one plan a major public park. Overall we feel the plan does justify additional height and density."
Arlington Chamber of Commerce president M. Patton Echols said that the complex would "reduce the often-cited phenomenon that Rosslyn is dead after the evening rush hour."
When it seemed that the board was inching toward approval after intensive questioning of Westreich and county planning staff members, citizen activist Louise Chestnut spoke up. She chided the board and staff members for their failure to consider possible effects on air quality that a dense complex might have.
"We grow more and more like Houston, which is noted for its lack of zoning ordinances," Chestnut said angrily. "We're like a comic strip drunk. We always have a new excuse" for permitting exceptions to established rules.
Hugh Craiger, attorney for the nearby 1,600-unit Arlington Towers apartment complex, urged the board to vote against the project.
"We've been whittled away to where (Arlington Towers) is now an island," Craiger said. "We are very concerned about what impact this building will have on the quality of life to the residents of Arlington Towers."
By vote of 4-1 the board approved the construction of Arland Towers which will take at least three years to complete. Board chairman John W. Purdy, who voted against the building, said later, "I think this is a beautiful project. My vote was more a protest against the failure of the county to require the development of (environmental) information."
In other action the board voted to hold a public hearing March 18 to consider enactment of an ordinance that would ban smoking in public places. Last year Montgomery and Fairfax counties passed laws forbidding smoking in elevators, libraries and stores.