Local Commentary

Editorial: The Lesson of ‘Cube Smart’

Hey! Wasn’t another large scale mixed use development project slated to go at the former Shreve Oil property by where N. Washington St. (Rt. 29) crosses Interstate 66?

It was reported in 2012 that developer Mark Silverwood, who built the Westlee across the street, submitted plans to Arlington County (the property is just over the Arlington-Falls Church line) for a six-story, 228 unit apartment building with a 12,000 square foot grocery store.

Then came the report in April 2013 that, having running afoul of the county’s Site Plan Review Committee in December, Silverwood introduced an alternative plan with five stories and 180 apartment units with a detached 2,000 square foot retail space, probably for a restaurant.
So what gives now? What’s there today is a newly-constructed – get this! – public storage facility with the fetching name, Cube Smart, getting set to open soon.

According to News-Press sources, what happened is any jurisdiction’s worst nightmare when undue obstruction, demands and delays drive a developer to distraction. The county, to put it mildly, blew it. It had an opportunity to extract huge sums of tax revenues and other proffers from the developer from the mixed use project, which required some zoning waivers from the county board.

In this case, the patience of the developer simply wore out. He’d learned what kinds of net revenues he could derive from going with a “by right” construction of a storage project, and so he said “no thank you” to continued delays and demands from the county, and redrew the plans for that property with the storage use, which will yield almost nothing in tax revenues for the county but will be lucrative for the developer.

For Arlington County, with its over 200,000 people and tons of development, already, the loss of a project like this is not exactly a catastrophe, but still a blow and a cause of great chagrin.

Were something like this to happen in Falls Church, it would be far more significant. There have been times when developers have come close to running out of patience, taking their ball, going home, and coming back with a storage facility that they could build “by right,” requiring no approvals from the City, to make a lot of money.

Citizens, even some members of the City Council in certain cases, have been out of the loop on times when this almost happened in Falls Church in recent years. Some on the Council just don’t seem to get it, that developers can simply give up on an idea.

Of course, to some this would be a great outcome. But to more responsible folk, this would be a terrible outcome. When current tax yields on underdeveloped properties are measured against what a full mixed-use development build out would bring to the City coffers, it is unfathomable to us that serious citizens would try to kill such plans.