Tenants in an Arlington apartment complex agreed this week to drop a lawsuit against sports impresario Abe Pollin, the county Board of Zoning Appeals and a British development corporation in exchange for concessions from the developer, who plans to convert the complex to condominiums.
At a meeting earlier this week, the John Robert Towers Tenants Association voted 24 to 11 to end its four-month battle against the condo conversion after attorneys for the developer -- First State Holdings -- agreed to reduce the sale price for tenants once the units are renovated.
James F. Almand, one of two attorneys for the tenants group, said the agreement is contingent upon the sale of the complex to First State Holdings by owner Abe Pollin.
The agreement states that if the sale is completed, residents who have lived in the 20t states that if the sale is completed, residents who have lived in the 20-year-old building since Oct. 1 will receive discounts ranging from 5 to 15 percent of the market price of their units. Rents in the 198-unit complex, which is near the Pentagon, range from $300 to $400 a month; after the conversion, units are expected to sell for $44,000 to $72,000.
John Robert Towers comprises two seven-story buildings in the 1200 and 1300 block of South Arlington Ridge Road. Eighty percent of the units -- efficiencies, one- and two-bedroom apartments -- are occupied.
Under a tentative agreement between First State Holdings and Pollin, First State would purchase the complex for $5.5 million. First State Holdings is a London-based development company owned by Briton James Eames.
Despite the agreement reached this week, some tenants said that even with a discount they may not be able to afford their units.
Don Forcier, 41, a member of the tenants association board of directors who supported the agreement, said he rents a one-bedroom unit for $300 a month, including utilities.
Forcier, an U.S. General Accounting Office employe, said he wants to buy his apartment, which is expected to sell for $56,000 to $60,000. Under current options offered by First State Holdings, Forcier would be required to have a 5 percent down payment and would be able to get a loan at 14 percent interest. At those terms, Forcier said, his monthly payment, after taxes, would be $590.
"That doubles my rent and I've got alimony payments since my divorce, but facts are facts," said Forcier. "If I can't afford it I may have to move."
Another resident, John Conway, opposed the agreement reached this week. Conway said he voted against the plan because of a 48-hour "take it or leave it" deadline imposed on the tenants by Eames on Monday.
"First of all, I don't like the idea of being pushed around and I don't like the idea of being owned by a British conglomerate," said Conway, 32, a special agent for the State Department.
Residents at John Robert Towers said they first learned of Pollin's plan to sell the buildings in a mid-October letter. Then, in Novermber, Pollin told tenants they could continue to live in the complex six more months with an 8 percent rent increase.
The tenants association filed a lawsuit to halt the proposed conversion shortly after the county approved on Dec. 1 a series of zoning variances required for the conversion.
In the lawsuit, the tenants claimed that under Virginia law, Pollin and Eames were required to prove that it would be an economic hardship to maintain the John Robert Towers as a rental complex. They also argued that the county failed to follow the state code in approving the zoning variances.
Almand said a trial on the lawsuit could have "explored new ground" by forcing the courts to clarify laws governing condo conversions.
Anne Hamilton, president of the tenants association, said the developer has agreed to sell the apartments on a "as-is" basis; however, the offer to the tenants states that Eames plans to renovate the kitchens and lobbies in the two buildings and replace the rooftops with a sun deck.
"I think this is a good deal and it shows that democracy is still alive," Almand said. "And it demonstrates what people can do if they stick together."