A $150 million office and residential complex partially atop Arlington's Court House Metro station, some of it dedicated to serving Arlington's citizens, will soon be ready for use.
Called Arlington Courthouse Plaza, it will contain two office buildings, one of them to contain county government agencies, 395 apartments, a six-screen movie theater, shops and a 276-room hotel, plus 2,000 parking spaces.
The complex is being built in phases with the first office tower and some apartments to be finished this year and the last phase, the hotel, scheduled to be completed in five years.
Eight floors of one of the office towers will house county administrative offices, said Arlington County Manager Anton S. Gardner. Gardner outlined the development plans for Courthouse Plaza at a recent meeting of the Committee of 100 civic forum.
Starting this spring, Gardner said, the offices of the county board, the county manager, other elected officials and county departments will begin moving their offices from the nearby Court House into the new complex.
The first floor will have a conference center where community and county advisory groups can meet. The Arlington commissioner of revenue and treasurer's offices will be on the second floor. The county board room, registrar and county manager's offices will be on the third floor.
The fourth through seventh floors will contain offices. Some departments such as fire, library and parks and recreation also will move their administrative offices into the new building.
The eighth floor will hold the planning, zoning, public works and inspection offices, providing "one-stop shopping" for everyone from major developers to a homeowner adding a room, Gardner said.
"We've tried to make it oriented towards citizen service," Gardner said of the office layout.
The complex sits on a six-acre site owned by the county. It is being developed by a partnership between the Charles E. Smith Cos. and the Artery Organization.
Under an agreement betwen the developers and the county, Arlington will retain ownership of the land. And in 75 years, the buildings will revert to the county in return for a token $1 payment.
"It will be the property of future generations of Arlingtonians," Gardner said.
In the meantime, the county will receive rent from the project equal to 50 percent of the net profit from most of the development. The county will pay below-market rents for the office space it leases. Gardner said he expects the project to generate about $1.5 million annually in real estate taxes.
The only glitch in the plans for the complex has to do with the residential units. The county had planned to have 80 of the units subsidized for the elderly.
But the county was told in November that its application for federal financing had been turned down. The county is looking for alternate financing, but at the moment it appears all the units will be rented at market rates.
Gardner also said the popular Farmers Market held on Saturdays in the Court House parking lot will continue but may be moved to a nearby site.
After the county board and other departments move from the Court House, the building will become the county's criminal justice center, with the police department, courts and commonwealth's attorney offices expanding to fill the vacant space, Gardner said.
Most of the county's need for expansion comes from growth in the public safety area, he said. There will be some renovations to the Court House building but it has not been decided yet how extensive they will be, he said.
Not all the county's space problems will be solved by Courthouse Plaza. There is the question of a new jail.
The current jail has an official capacity of 164 persons. At times it has held as many as 250 people, and experts believe a facility with a capacity of 340 people is needed, Gardner said.
Expanding the jail within the present Court House building is not feasible because state standards dictating the amount of space and light an inmate must get have become more strict, Gardner said.
The county is considering several alternate jail sites in the immediate area and will receive a consultant's report on the issue in a few weeks. After a new jail is built, the old jail will be remodeled into office space for the police or the courts.