Monday, February 02, 2009

Additions,Basement Apts., "Roosevelt Room" Propsed for Village 3

It was a largely friendly meeting at the Historical Affairs and Landmarks Review Board meeting Jan. 21, when Telesis Corp. made their case for how to renovate Buckingham Village 3. The units will be rented and sold at affordable rates (affordable at 60 percent of Area Median Income for rentals, 80 percent for purchase). The plan’s concepts—excepting that of the community center entrance—seemed to meet with approval of the board even if the details did not.

(The HALRB has a strong mandate from the county government, as I heard a member say years ago, “We don’t approve concepts, we approve specifics.” If a company cannot get the details past the HALRB, the project does not happen. For a number of reasons, I was not on hand for the full meeting; if tempers flared, I missed it. –ST.)

Six breezeways in the buildings—those patio spaces conjoining two buildings—will be walled-in and the space there used for the sunrooms in the apartments. Some of the breezeways are only accessible by crawling through windows, Telesis reported. This was a case of the HALRB liking the idea of making the spaces more useable but not liking the bead-board look of the exteriors.

The company is asking to build a total of nine “bump-outs,” additions off the backs of the buildings that would change about 20 two-bedroom apartments into three-bedroom apartments.

They are looking to put stand-alone apartments in some basements as well as create a downstairs space attached to apartments above them. The plans include two tot-lot playgrounds, but the swimming pool, part of an earlier plan, is gone.

One proposal for Village 3 included the "Roosevelt Room," a glass-enclosed entryway to a basement community room. (Drawing by Wiecek and Associates Architects and Planners. Click to enlarge the image.)

The idea that drew a lot of attention was the plan to build a below-ground community center in a large, unused boiler room. According to a memo from county historian Michael Leventhal, the former boiler room is two storeys below grade.

The problem that made board member Nancy Iacomini roll her eyes (that sight was priceless) was the entrance to this space.

To cover the stairs and protect people waiting for the lift while also providing natural light to the below-ground space, the architects from Wiencek and Associates conceived of a small building rather like a greenhouse, brick-and-timber-framed with glass walls and ceiling. They are calling the community room the Roosevelt Room for Eleanor Roosevelt who was friends with the original developers of the property, and who visited here and championed the garden-style apartment living.

“The wood is just driving me nuts,” Ms. Iacomini said.

Buckingham Village 3 falls under the protection of the HALRB as part of the agreement between Arlington County and Paradigm Development Corp., the current owner of the property. In that agreement, Village 3, on the northeast corner of N. Pershing and N. George Mason drives, will be sold this March to the county who will retain ownership of the property, while it sells the buildings to Telesis.

At that point, Village 3 becomes part of the Buckingham Village Historic District, which protects the Gates of Ballston, the Buckingham Shopping Center (at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Pershing Drive), and Historic Ballston Park in Ashton Heights.

This was part of the same agreement in 2007 that allowed for Paradigm to raze Village 1, on the northwest corner of N. Pershing and N. George Mason, and replace the garden-style apartments with two, four-storey apartment buildings and a series of townhouses (the first apartment building is under construction). Telesis, of Washington, won the contract to buy and renovate the buildings last year and is a developer committed to low-income, but nice-looking, redevelopment, according to their web site. Telesis applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness on the property on Jan. 7; meeting with the HALRB is part of the process to win approval of the certificate.

Related stories…
  • Telesis’ Planning for BV3 Called Positive (Nov. 21, 2008)
  • County Board Votes on Buckingham Vilages (March 21, 2007)

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