Twenty-two Arlington County homeowners who banded together to maximize their profits from the sale of their houses are about to conclude a deal with a Bethesda developer for an estimated $10 million -- more than three times the assessed value of the houses.
County officials said the proposed sale is one of the most dramatic examples of how Arlington residents have joined forces to take advantage of the multimillion-dollar high-rise building boom that Metro subway construction has brought to the community.
"The county's going to get a terrific tax base out of this," said John L. Melnick, a lawyer who helped set up the land sale and a former resident of the neighborhood near the Court House Metro stop.
The residents of the Courtlands neighborhood said they realized three years ago that their homes were likely targets for developers and that they would make more more if they combined their properties. "But the reason . . . was not only that the price would be better, but that there would be more orderly development than you'd get with a hit-or-miss town house project here and there," Melnick said.
The neighborhood, a half-century-old community of wood frame houses on quarter-acre lots, is to be sold to the Courchevel Corp., which is planning to raze the homes for a high-rise development that will cost more than $100 million, according to Melnick, one of the firm's lawyers and a former Virginia legislator.
The company's plans, to be presented to the County Board Saturday, call for a 954-unit rental apartment building, a five-level underground garage with 1,618 parking spaces, and 75,000 square feet of retail space that would include a grocery store, five restaurants, movie theaters, and a large plaza with waterfalls and fountains. The apartment building would range from 10 to 17 stories, depending on the street it faces.
Originally community leaders had targeted 52 homeowners for the project, which now encompasses a smaller, six-acre area bordered by Fairfax Drive and N. Barton, N. Wayne and N. 14th streets and is about three blocks from the Arlington courthouse. Melnick and other residents said yesterday that many of the 30 homeowners who dropped out remain eager to sell their homes in a package, but believe they can get more money from another, more commercial developer.
The neighborhood negotiated with developers for three years before agreeing on the current proposal. Some of the 30 other homeowners are negotiating and are to meet later this week, the residents said.
Unlike other development proposals that have unleashed a torrent of neighborhood opposition, the plans for The Courtlands, as the project would be known, appears to have near-unanimous support of the neighborhood and has won planning commission approval. If the County Board approves, construction could begin this summer. Board Chairman John G. Milliken said yesterday that he did not want to predict the board's vote, but noted that some board members were concerned about traffic and the proposed heights of some buildings.
Three unidentified homeowners on the edge of the neighborhood have held out, but Melnick said they do not oppose the project.
Tom Herr, president of Courchevel and a former Arlington resident, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Melnick and county planner Robert Brosnan said the reported negotiating price with the 22 adjoining homeowners is about $37 a square foot, for a total purchase price of about $9.2 million for the land alone. The properties involved are valued by the county at about $150,000 each, making their current value about $3.3 million.
"I think we're going to get a fair price for our property, so we thought it was time to move on," said Katherine Tomlin of the large, old two-story farmhouse she and her husband Harry own at 1301 N. Barton St.
She said she expects to get about $200,000 for the 8,000 or so square feet the Tomlins own, and will try to move elsewhere in Arlington. "A lot of homes here are about to fall down, and we have a lot of undesirable residents . . . so the neighborhood won't be losing anything," she said.