Penzance Cos. planning major Rosslyn redevelopment

The District-based The Penzance Cos. is planning a major redevelopment in Rosslyn that could include the historic former Wilson School, Rosslyn Fire Station No. 10 and 1555 Wilson Blvd., an office building it bought for $67 million two years ago.

Penzance is working closely with Arlington County and Arlington School Board officials on the project, which would involve buying the Wilson School, at 1601 Wilson Blvd., from the school board and building a new fire station for the county.

The county and school board both took actions this week to initiate a study of the roughly 6-acre site that could lay the groundwork for the larger development. The Queens Court Apartments at 1801-1805 N. Quinn St., owned by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, also could be a part of the plan.

Matt Pacinelli, Penzance’s senior vice president of leasing, said no definitive plans have been established and “this is very early in a long process.” He declined to comment further, citing confidentiality agreements with the county.

The Arlington housing partnership’s CEO, Nina Janopaul, said she is glad that the county and school board have agreed to consider a rezoning that would allow for denser development, including a redevelopment of the 39-unit Queens Court that could include 200 to 300 new affordable housing units.

The partnership has been weighing the prospect of redeveloping Queens Court for years, and the new units would help make up for a significant depletion of affordable housing units that has coincided with an increase in development along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Janopaul said.

“There’s a lot of housing that’s no longer affordable to retail workers or restaurant workers or rail workers in the area,” she said. “The Rosslyn-Court House corridor used to have a lot of older, affordable apartments.”

The partnership estimates that the number of affordable rental units in the area has fallen from about 17,000 in 2000 to just 5,000 last year. It defines affordable housing as units that are affordable for renters making less than 60 percent of area median income. In the Rosslyn area, 60 percent of median imcome is about $64,500 for a family of four.

As ARLnow.com reported June 19, the school board voted earlier this week to enter into a letter of intent to sell the historic Wilson School to Penzance and use the proceeds to fund other building projects.

Also this week, the county announced plans to begin a Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study process that will help shape future development. The county is hoping to ensure any development includes at least 60,000 square feet of open space, a new fire station, affordable housing and a mix of uses and building heights that fits in with the surrounding area.

Arlington County Principal Planner Richard Tucker said the process is in the very early stages but could result in new land use and zoning provisions for the site. The board could vote as early as next month to appoint a working group to oversee the yearlong process and begin holding public hearings in September, he said.

The project is just one of several in the works along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as developers try to make better use of their aging commercial properties. Notable among those efforts, Gould Property Co. and Vornado Realty Trust are planning a major overhaul of their Rosslyn Plaza that is slated to include more than 2 million square feet of new commercial space.


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