Arlington County manager Barbara Donnellan will ask the County Board next month to buy a seven-story office building near the Clarendon-neighborhood Courthouse Plaza to house county offices and a permanent adult homeless shelter.
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Donnellan said the 70,000-square-foot building at 2020 14th St. North was recently assessed at $25.5 million. It would be used to address “immediate and evolving space needs,” and allow the government to complete the mixed-use complex at Courthouse Plaza that has been envisioned since the 1980s.
“We need to give ourselves the flexibility to both grow and redevelop at Courthouse Square,” Donnellan said in a news release. “With the acquisition of this building, the County will be able to address space needs, advance the County’s goal to retire the Court Square West building, and set the stage for creating a more vibrant mix of public, private and government development that will transform the Courthouse area.”
The current owner is a limited liability company named Breof Thomas Reo. It put the building on the market several months ago, Donnellan said in an interview. “That’s when we approached them and saw how all this could fall into place,” she said.
The proposal to acquire the property would be subject to a public hearing Dec. 13 before the County Board. Donnellan plans to give board members more details on the proposal next Tuesday.
If the purchase goes through, the county would set aside two floors, with a separate entrance, elevator and stairwell for single, adult homeless people. The existing emergency winter shelter is considered inadequate for the county’s needs.
The county would finance the purchase with existing pay-as-you-go funding and a bond sale. The pay-as-you-go funding is identified in the annual operating budget and can be used for a variety of capital projects, such as facility improvements, roads and pedestrian improvements, and park improvements, said county director of communications Diana Sun.
If the county and owner can’t reach a voluntary agreement, “the county may acquire the property by eminent domain,” the county news release said.
Most of the 23 existing tenants would have to find new locations, although they will be allowed to stay until their leases expire. Donnellan said the county hopes to include street-level retail in the building, and would work with Ragtime and Gene’s Deli to try to keep them in their locations.
“My goal would be it doesn’t have to be class A office space. It has to be really an appropriate space for our functions,” Donnellan said. ”Our hope is it won’t need massive amounts of renovation.”
If the sale goes through, and the county acquires the property, the county will take down Courthouse Square West, at 1400 N. Uhle St., and many of the offices housed there (including the county’s print shop, maintenance department, building facilities staff, some information technology departments, the emergency 911 backup and courts-related programs) will move to 2020 14th St. North. Removal of the Courthouse West structure would allow redevelopment of Courthouse Plaza, including replacing a surface parking lot with underground parking.
This potential purchase could kick off other property transfers, Donnellan said, all toward the end of remaking the courthouse complex into a livelier and more cohesive area, based around the Courthouse Metro stop.