Washington Real Estate Investment Trust has started on what will be its first ground-up development in a decade. When it is finished, the project will add 401 residential units to a large existing complex in Arlington’s Columbia Pike corridor.

The Trove, as it is called, is being constructed on 3.5 acres at what is currently The Wellington, a 711-unit complex at 1850 Columbia Pike. The Trove was approved last year using Arlington County’s form based code, in which developers are allowed more than existing density and is done in alternative to a lengthy site plan review process.

“It provided us more predictability in the zoning process, which was a big benefit,” said Washington REIT Managing Director Ed Murn. “It saved us time, which is always important in the development process.”

Washington REIT acquired The Wellington in 2015 for $167 million with an eye on adding to the complex, said Murn. The Trove’s three new buildings will be constructed on what is now the surface parking lot for the 14.4-acre Wellington campus, built in 1961. The Trove buildings, designed by KGD Architecture, will wrap around a new nine-level parking structure. The seven-story buildings will be connected by a skywalk, said Murn.

The Wellington is Washington REIT’s largest residential holding by far at 842,000 square feet. Murn did not release a cost estimate for the new project.

The Trove will have units ranging from studios to three bedrooms. The complex will feature a roof deck, fitness center, bocce court, a pet-grooming station and co-working areas among its building amenities. The area was supposed to be in the heart of the Arlington streetcar corridor, but the Arlington Board canceled that project in 2014.

Murn said he expects to deliver the project in the third quarter of 2019. Washington REIT is also renovating Wellington units.

Washington REIT owns 50 properties totaling about 6 million square feet of commercial and 4,480 multifamily units. It has picked up several existing residential projects in recent years, including Riverside Apartments in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, as it seeks to offset lost revenue from suburban office properties, as the WBJ has previously reported.

Washington REIT paid $245 million for Riverside, located near Huntington Metro station, in 2016. It plans to add up to 550 more units at the property, similar to what is being done at The Wellington.

Washington REIT President and CEO Paul McDermott has said the investment trust is not trying to compete with “uber class A apartments,” at the high end of the rental market. He told the WBJ he sees opportunity for affordable housing units in markets with a dearth of them.

Arlington added the form based code option in 2003. Since then, 13 projects have been built using it, according to the county’s planning department. For the Columbia Pike area, where the county wanted more density but not necessarily high-rise buildings, the form based code defines in advance requirements such as building heights, windows, balconies and other architectural features, as well as the standards for affordable units and energy efficiency.

Source: Washington Business Journal