Greater Greater Washington


Black box theater, public plaza coming to Virginia Square

Arlington's Virginia Square neighborhood is a relatively quiet counterpoint to its busier neighbors, Ballston and Clarendon. But that may soon change as a black box theater, public plaza, and new cultural space come to the area as part of 2 private developments.

Concept plan for Quincy Plaza from the Project for Public Spaces.

Today, Virginia Square is a mix of apartment buildings and 1-story commercial strips, along with George Mason University's Law School and the former headquarters of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The Virginia Square Metro station has the fewest average weekday boardings of the 5 Rosslyn-Ballston corridor Metro stations. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of an underutilized station and provide more amenities for existing residents.

Last winter, Arlington County approved a 9-story office building at 3901 Fairfax Drive, which is home to the now-demolished Arlington Funeral Home and a parking lot for a nearby Mercedes dealership. The building would have ground-floor shops, a black box theater, which the county would lease for 30 years, and a public plaza. Developer BDC Crimson LLC will seek LEED Gold certification for the building, according to an Arlington County press release.

This project will also include a public plaza located on Quincy Drive between Fairfax Drive and 10th Street. It's a departure from the rest of 10th Street, which is lined by parking lots and loading docks. By leading people to the Arlington Central LIbrary and Quincy Park, reinforcing its role as Arlington's "Central Park".

It's expected that work on the new plaza and office building will begin some time this year. While they'll be a positive addition to the neighborhood, other proposed developments have been more controversial. Neighbors aren't happy with a proposed apartment building across from the entrance to the Virginia Square Metro station on Fairfax Drive. They say the property, currently home to a bank and a building with martial arts and dance studios, should remain commercial.

Rendering of the proposed Latitude Apartments from Arlington County.

Developer Penrose proposes building a 12-story, 256-unit apartment tower called the Latitude Apartments. The building would have 5,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space and another 2,000 square feet of space for cultural or educational uses. Penrose would place retail on Fairfax Drive and 10th Street, adding sidewalk activity and "eyes on the street" to both streets.

However, the site is currently zoned for commercial uses, and Penrose wants to change it to mixed-use zoning. Residents of the Monroe, a condominium building across the street, issued a statement last month saying that the Virginia Square Sector Plan specifically calls for office space at that location. They claim that apartments would upset the balance of uses in Virginia Square while exacerbating parking concerns.

It's unclear what will happen to this project for now. According to ARLnow, the county has deferred making a decision about rezoning and will likely not pick it up again until November.

This post was edited to reflect that DARPA is no longer located in Virginia Square and that the Arlington Funeral Home has been demolished.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Falls Church.  


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I would say this is almost on the edge of Ballston so the hole is even more noticeable. Definitely an improvement. Top of my list is fixing the pedestrian fiasco that is the intersection of Washington/Wilson/Fairfax etc on the Clarendon side.

by Alan B. on Jul 26, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

NIMBYism once again. They have their residential units but don't want additional units. There is no reason why the property cannot be rezoned, especially when Metro is feet away. Isn't that the whole point of the corridor's master plan? The parking claim is ridiculous. Office or residential you're going to need some amount of parking.

by Mark on Jul 26, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Has anyone said anything about potential tenants for the black box theatre?

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jul 26, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

I thought the DARPA HQ moved a few blocks west closer to Ballston Station on the grouds of the former Metrobus garage in that neighborhood. Is the old HQ building across Monroe St from the FDIC still in use?

by Transport. on Jul 26, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

This article is poorly researched. As Transport points out, DARPA has already moved to their new building across from the Ballston Mall. In addition, the funeral home on the site of the planned development was torn down probably a year ago, leaving only a parking lot.

The comment on 10th St is a bit strange - while one side is parking lots and loading docks, the entire other side is recreational use including the library and baseball fields.

Finally, any complete look at Virginia Square should mention Dittmar's new apartment building going up between Kansas and Lincoln Sts. This two-building complex is planned to have over 500 units and will definitely have a major impact on Metro usage from the VaSq stop as well as the surrounding neighborhood in general.

by VaSqRes on Jul 26, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

This is an area that really needs more apartments so I'm glad to hear about the potential Latitude Apartment development. This area has some of the highest apartment rents in the country because of a lack of enough supply and high demand. I occasionally use the Virginia Square metro entrance and can confirm that it is one of the least used on the Orange line from my experience.

by Jim on Jul 26, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

Arlington's "Central Park"

Isn't that Arlington Cemetery?

by Jasper on Jul 26, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Top of my list is fixing the pedestrian fiasco that is the intersection of Washington/Wilson/Fairfax etc on the Clarendon side.

by Alan Y. on Jul 26, 2013 2:26 pm • linkreport

I'm a little surprised that both the huge new Dittmar complex and the proposed Latitude building are being set up as apartments, not condos. Glad someone's finally building something, anything on that parking lot.

by worthing on Jul 26, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

The Virginia Square office/black box theater project is mediocre at best. The building should have directly fronted both Quincy and Fairfax Drive to better define the urban qualities of the intersection. The plaza is gratuitous, and will likely remain mostly empty, like the other "plazas" in the neighborhood.

Virginia square doesn't need more plazas or a black box theater, which really belongs in Ballston, Clarendon, or Courthouse where there are a healthy mix of uses and lots of people.

by JP on Jul 26, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

@JP: I'm in favor of anything that encourages development in any neighborhood in Arlington. However, I'm a bit curious about the theatre. Not that I don't like theatres, but it seems to me that Arlington has a lot of them available. Is there really enough demand to construct another? Especially when the Artisphere is as underused as it seems to be. Hence my question about its occupancy.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jul 26, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

Ser Amantio,

The theater is not being developed by the market, it is part of the site's proferred amenities:

by Alex B. on Jul 26, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

There are 6 Orange Line stations in Arlington.

Court House
Virginia Square
East Falls Church

by Joey on Jul 26, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

You're right about DARPA. I must have been asleep when they moved. I know the building was being renovated but still.

The Arlington Funeral Home building has been torn down. It's the former site which is now all parking lot compared to before when it was about half parking lot.

Arlington has 5 orange line stations along the R-B corridor. EFC is on the orange line as well you're correct but the way it's treated by the county's planning dept. is a little different. I don't know off hand if Va. Square has fewer boardings than EFC however.

by Canaan on Jul 26, 2013 4:20 pm • linkreport

@Alex B.: That's what I mean. I see it's being proffered...will it be profitable? Will it survive? A theatre's all well and good, but I'd prefer if it didn't spend most of its waking life empty.

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Jul 26, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

EFC and VA sq are pretty similar at just about 4000 boardings daily or so I think.

I'm not sure VA square is that distinct from Ballston, I mean the two stations are only some 2000 feet apart...and this site is almost in the middle. The fact that it's north of Fairfax is probably more related to how much use it will get. The plaza could see decent lunch crowd and weekend use.

by Alan B. on Jul 26, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

Jesus Christ.... do people just oppose everything for the sake of opposing things?

by andrew on Jul 27, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

What the heck is a black box theater?

by Con Fused on Jul 27, 2013 6:33 pm • linkreport

Wikipedia says:

A black box theater (or experimental theater) consists of a simple, somewhat unadorned performance space, usually a large square room with black walls and a flat floor. It is a relatively recent innovation in theatre.

by m2fc on Jul 29, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

It's an odd spot for a theater. Years sgo, the county had a plan for theater on Wilson Blvd between Lincoln and Monroe where a 7-11 now stands. The theater was to be linked with the Arlington Art Center.

As for counting Rosslyn as an Orange line stop, I will just note that Rosslyn serves both the Orange and Blue lines.

by Rik on Jul 29, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

build baby build....9 story? 12 story? wtf...where's the 40, 50, 60 story buildings? Manhattanize or at least Brooklynize or jerseycity-ize....i gotta get outta the south

by 123456qwerty on Jul 30, 2013 11:24 am • linkreport

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