The Jordan Is Catalyst for Successful Mixed-Income, Mixed-Use Site
AHC’s first and only (so far) land swap was the catalyst for a successful five-acre mixed-income, mixed-use site in Arlington, VA. Thanks to an innovative land exchange between AHC Inc. and The JBG Companies, an aging apartment building and adjacent car dealership have been transformed into a vibrant corridor with 90 affordable apartments, 28 luxury town homes and two commercial buildings with 450,000 square feet of office and retail space.
The collaborative project began when AHC was redeveloping a timeworn apartment building next to a site The JBG Companies proposed to turn into large commercial buildings and townhouses. When density concerns and lack of community benefits stalled the project, Arlington County suggested JBG and AHC swap land parcels to ease the transition between the commercial buildings and the nearby residential neighborhood. Not only did the neighborhood appreciate and support the resulting step-down density, but they also embraced the affordable housing component as a desirable community benefit. Arlington County also enthusiastically supported the plan because it nearly quadrupled the amount of affordable housing on the site – from 24 to 90 units. Today, the four-story Jordan apartment building sits across the street from million dollar townhomes and next door to two stately glass and chrome Class A office buildings.
The Jordan adds significantly to the diversity of income levels in the Bluemont neighborhood, which includes mostly single-family homes with few traditional apartment buildings. Seven out of 10 Bluemont residents earn more than $100,000 annually. About a quarter have incomes above $200,000. In comparison, families living at The Jordan earn between $35,000 and $65,000 a year.
The Jordan also contributes to the long-term vitality of the community through an onsite pre-school program. Twenty-four children participate in the Montessori program held in The Jordan’s 1,200-square-foot community room and enjoy the property’s outdoor play area, courtyard and library. The program adds a unique twist to the mixed-income nature of the neighborhood – one-third of the students are residents of The Jordan and attend on scholarships; the rest of the youngsters live in the surrounding area.
The Jordan also adds to the community’s vibrancy through an inviting walkway that winds between the apartment building and one of the adjacent office buildings. The ribbon-like greenway highlights the many contributions of one of Arlington’s most-loved leaders, Ellen Bozman. Ellen’s Trace could have been a narrow, nondescript and underutilized walkway sandwiched between an office building and an apartment building. Instead, the 25-foot wide by 230-foot-long space is a welcoming greenway with comfortable benches, splashes of colorful tilework and restful plantings. The spot adds a sense of cohesiveness to the block and brings together pedestrians, families, dog walkers and office workers who all enjoy the space.
A land swap that featured affordable housing was the glue that brought this mixed-income redevelopment to life. Today, hourly service workers live across the street from highly paid lawyers, send their children to school together, and sit side by side in the nearby park.
Photo: The Jordan, adjacent to office buildings and across the street from million dollar town homes, is the glue that helped bring the mixed-use, mixed-income redevelopment to life.