Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

The county’s newest co-location experiment is beckoning on the American Legion site at 3445 Washington Blvd.


I was treated to a tour of the nearly complete 160-room apartment complex called Terwilliger Place, re-developed as an opportunity for needy veterans by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing.


Recall that the old Post 139 Legion hall next to Casual Adventure, with its patriotic murals and cannon in its yard, had fallen on hard times. World War II and Korean War vets had moved on, and younger vets were less the joining type.


So APAH in 2016 proposed a teardown to be replaced by a modern residential complex to meet low-income housing needs while preserving an HQ for the Legion.


Named for Lucille and Bruce Terwilliger (the parents of key APAH donor and Arlington native Ron Terwilliger), the spiffy new building during my visit last week remained a hard-hat zone fenced off from noisy traffic across from Virginia Square.


But I saw beautiful windows and handsome faux marble walls and woodwork flooring in twin wings on 1.3 acres. The project offers 80 distinct unit types of two-and-three-bedroom apartments, many with handicapped-accessible bathrooms. The modernistic “lighting fixtures are expensive,” acknowledged site superintendent Josh Speakman of the CBG Building Co., headquartered on Wilson Blvd. A sign in a window reads, “Now Leasing. Affordable Apartments. Ask About Veterans Preference.”


Along with sample apartments, he showed me outdoor patios (separate ones for the Legion and the general residents), a community room with stadium seating, a leasing office, concierge desk, mail room, laundry room, loading dock and trash room. “There’s lots of natural light, and it’s turning out pretty well,” Speakman said. “I like helping veterans.”


Post 139 will enjoy 6,000-square-foot ground-floor office space with a separate entrance on N. Kansas St., though “an imaginary line separates,” them from the residences, according to APAH senior project manager Ryan Nash, who joined my tour. “APAH is maximizing density in the unusual hybrid project,” he explained. With capital from the nonprofit public-private partnership Virginia Housing, Capital One, National Equity Fund and Arlington County, the complex’s two residential buildings are organized by separate funding streams, the 9 percent side, which offers the veterans preference and greater subsidy, and the 4 percent side.


Using the 1986 tax reform law, the wings for low-income tax purposes are “two separate buildings,” Nash said. The “Post West Nine LP” side provides APAH a tax credit capped higher than those for the “Post East Four LP.” There are no market-rate apartments, he said, and a significant number of residents will be at 30-80 percent of area median income, paying on a sliding scale.


APAH, having commissioned the overall structure, will see to occupation of the units, and then the Legion will buy its own space, Nash said. “It’s different from typical landlord-tenant arrangement.”


An enthusiastic supporter is the Arlington House Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, whose members donated a flag and flagpole, I’m told by its regent Nancy Weinberg.


Equally excited is Bob Romano, second vice commander of Post 139, which has its own contractor to finalize the Legion’s ground-floor space. His team has hired a new post manager with good contracts among recruitable veterans. And Romano has been promoting Terwilliger Place, which APAH will open this summer, with his space to be ready by November.


Get ready for a chop-down of the full-flowered chestnut tree on the construction site of what was the Victorian-era Memory House at 6404 Washington Blvd., demolished Dec. 6.


The Arlington Tree Action Group, which posted a “More Trees, Less Flooding” sign nearby, campaigned to preserve the prized tree. But the builder, planning two luxury homes, has included removing the chestnut in his still-pending land disturbance application, according to county urban forest manager Vince Verweij.


The cause of protecting the tree canopy is echoed by the Arlington County Civic Federation, which plans a community meeting for May 7, 10:00 a.m. at Arlington Mill Community Center.