2020 14th Street N. -- Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

Building acquisition

  • Why is Arlington acquiring an office building?
    • The County needs the property at 2020 14th Street North for public uses, including County government offices, a comprehensive homeless services center (including a year-round homeless shelter), and County vehicular fleet storage and parking.
    • This is a needed acquisition for the County in the County government complex area.  The County government must address its office space needs and have the flexibility to grow in the Courthouse area.
    • With the acquisition of this building, the County will be able to address immediate and evolving government space needs.
    • It will also enable the County to retire the Court Square West building (1400 N. Uhle Street) and set the stage for creating vibrant, comprehensive government development in the Courthouse area.
  • Why acquire and own?  Wouldn’t leasing be cheaper?
    • By acquiring a building, the County gains more certainty than with leasing – in terms of both continued availability and cost of County office space.  It gives the County the certainty that core County functions will remain consolidated in the government center area (Courthouse).
    • The current extremely favorable borrowing rates to which the County has access make owning property more attractive than leasing property.
  • Why buy in the Courthouse area?
    • It’s important that the County government’s office space and staff be located in the Courthouse area (for ease of public access and efficiency), which is the center of County government operations.
    • The Arlington County Board has long been committed to relocating the homeless shelter within the Courthouse area.
    • The acquisition of 2020 14th St. N. for public uses, including County office space and County vehicular fleet storage, creates a new County space in the Courthouse area that has the capacity to include a Homeless Services Center within 200 yards of where the County’s Emergency Winter Shelter has been for the past two decades.
  • What is the estimated cost?
    • The current working estimate for acquisition, relocation, and renovation is approximately $37 million.
    • Sources of funding include $12 million from previously-allocated General Fund PAYG (pay-as-you-go) and issuance of bonds through the Arlington County IDA (Industrial Development Authority).
  • Why has the County considered using eminent domain to acquire the property?
    • The County has a need for the property for public uses.  If the County and the property owner are unable to negotiate a voluntary purchase of the building or a purchase under the threat of condemnation, then it may be necessary for the County to use eminent domain.
  • Why did the County not notify neighbors ahead of its Nov. 21, 2011, letter and press release?
    • Discussions of potential real estate acquisitions by local governments, including the County, are necessarily confidential so as to not adversely affect the County’s bargaining position.  Of course, real-estate acquisitions ultimately must be approved by the County Board in public, open meetings.
    • The County did make its best effort to notify adjacent property owners in conjunction with the press release; we sent an overnight letter on Nov. 21, to be received the morning of Nov. 22.  The press release was issued around 11:00 a.m., Nov. 22.
  • What’s the rush?
    • The County did not rush the decision to acquire this property.
      • For almost 20 years, the County has been working to create a year-round, comprehensive Homeless Services Center.  For the last several years, we have also been looking to relocate offices from the Court Square West building.
      • The search for more space for County government uses has been a multi-year process.  As part of that process, staff determined it was the appropriate time to come before the County Board to request authorization for a bona fide offer to the property owner, with the option for using the eminent domain process, to acquire 2020 14th Street N.
  • Why is the County displacing offices and small businesses?
    • The County is acquiring the property for public uses in the Courthouse area.
    • The County will encourage the three existing street-level retail tenants to stay.
    • The County hopes to be able to permit many of the existing office tenants to stay for the duration of their current leases.
    • The County expects that some office tenants will, unfortunately, have to seek new space elsewhere in the near future and we regret any inconvenience to these tenants.
    • County staff and a relocation firm retained by the County will actively assist displaced tenants with finding alternative office space in Arlington.
  • What were the office space requirements that were used for pursuing alternatives to Court Square West?
    • We were looking for space that could accommodate the services and staff currently located in the Court Square West building at 1400 N. Uhle Street.  We looked at other office space in the primary County office building in Courthouse Plaza, other office space available for lease or purchase in the Courthouse area, as well as existing County owned and leased space throughout the County.  A desirable goal is to keep staff and services close to the County’s main government complex in the Courthouse area.
  • Why is “subject to appropriations funding” being used for the acquisition of 2020 14th Street North?
    • “Subject to appropriations funding” is being used for the acquisition for the building at 2020 14th Street North because we do not know definitively if, when or at what price, the building might be acquired and no County Board can bind a future County Board.

Homeless Services Center

  • Why does Arlington need a year-round Homeless Services Center in Courthouse?
    • The current Emergency Winter Shelter (EWS) located at 2049 15th Street N. was originally intended to be a temporary solution to the danger of hypothermia.  This “temporary” solution has lasted 20 years.
    • The County has had a long-standing commitment to replace the inadequate Emergency Winter Shelter with a year-round, comprehensive Homeless Services Center in the Courthouse area.
    • The Homeless Services Center is expected to help the County and community partners reduce homelessness.  Read about the County’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.
    • Continuing to provide homeless services in the Courthouse area is important because:
      • The current Emergency Winter Shelter has been operating with community support.  Many local businesses donate food to the shelter, and individuals, civic groups, and community groups regularly volunteer to work at the shelter.
      • The Emergency Winter Shelter has generally functioned well in that location, but the space in the building is inadequate.
      • The County has been working for almost 20 years on creating a permanent Homeless Services Center in the Courthouse area.
  • What effect will the new Center have on homelessness in Arlington?
    • The Homeless Services Center is expected to help the County and its community partners reduce homelessness.  Read about the County’s 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness.
    • By receiving important services on site (e.g., health, health monitoring, mental health, substance abuse, employment services, counseling, case management), men and women at the shelter will be better prepared to enter County housing programs and increase self-sufficiency.
  • When do you expect the Center to open?
    • The Center will open after building acquisition, design, permitting, and renovations are complete.
    • We hope to acquire title to the property in calendar year 2012, and then begin design, permitting, and construction processes.  Although it cannot now be predicted with certainty, at this point we expect that the Homeless Services Center will be open and operational in 2014.
  • Can you tell me something about the planned programming at the new Homeless Services Center?
    • The new Homeless Services Center will include comprehensive homeless services, e.g., health, health monitoring, mental health, substance abuse, employment services, counseling, case management.  This is in addition to the 24/7 dormitory, or “shelter,” services.
    • Several Homeless Services Center beds will be set aside for “medical respite.”  For example, homeless individuals discharged from Virginia Hospital Center could use the beds during their recovery.
    • Center users will also have access to laundry and shower facilities, mail pickup, telephones.
  • Will the property have to be rezoned to allow the Center and how long would this take?
    • The property would not need to be re-zoned.  A Use Permit would be necessary for the portion of the building proposed for the Center.
    • Typically, the Use Permit process takes 60 - 90 days from the date of application filing.  
    • After the Use Permit and all other required permissions/permits have been acquired, construction could begin.
  • Why separate elevators and a “building-within-a-building” design?
    • After acquisition (and approval of a Use Permit), part of the building’s use would change to residential/dormitory and be occupied 24 hours a day, while the remainder of the building would continue as office space and ground-floor retail.
    • Ingress/egress operational needs for residential/dormitory use are different than those for other uses.
    • From a practical standpoint, managing the different functions will be more efficient with separate entrances and exits.
  • Is there a reason why the current shelter has to move?  Why can’t a new shelter be built in the same location as the existing one?  Can you renovate the existing shelter?
    • The current shelter must move; it is not economically sensible to either renovate the existing shelter, or deconstruct the existing shelter and build a new shelter in the same location.
    • The current building is inadequate for many reasons:
      • The building is not large enough for the services that are an essential part of comprehensive homeless services, such as case management, employment services, health monitoring, and counseling.
      • Plumbing, heating and elevator systems are old, inefficient, and frequently break down.
      • Shower and bathroom spaces cannot efficiently accommodate the needs of the occupants.
      • Kitchen and dining spaces do not meet food services needs:
        • Kitchen usable only for warming items, not food preparation.
        • Clients eat in shifts because the dining area is small.
    • We have long known that the building is inadequate, which is why it’s been considered a “temporary” solution.
    • The 2020 14th Street N. building will help meet County government office space needs in the Courthouse area, in addition to establishing the Homeless Services Center.  The current shelter location simply does not offer the same opportunity for cost-effective consolidation of County government functions in one building.
  • What types of people does the homeless shelter serve?
    • The Homeless Services Center would serve the same population that currently uses the Emergency Winter Shelter.
      • Shelter clients are single men and women ranging in age from 18 to 75.
      • About 70% of shelter clients are men and 30% are women.
      • Individuals may be working or unemployed.
      • Education levels range from elementary school to college degrees.
      • Some individuals may have mental illness, substance abuse and/or health issues.
      • Some individuals may be receiving services through the Department of Human Services or community non-profit providers.
  • Aren’t there are other County buildings with available space that can be used for the homeless center?
    • There is no viable space available in other County buildings in the Courthouse area that can accommodate the Homeless Services Center.
  • Will the Homeless Services Center be a magnet for homeless people around the region?
    • Arlington County uses a “96 Hour Rule”:  within 96 hours, individuals who come to the shelter must prove that they are engaged in services with the County or through one of the County’s non-profit partners.
      • If residents of Arlington County, they are linked to Arlington County services.
      • If not, they are assisted by shelter staff and provided with instructions and bus tokens to connect to social services in their home jurisdictions.
  • What were the Homeless Service Center requirements that were used for pursuing alternatives to the Emergency Winter Shelter?
    • We looked for a building that could accommodate a new Homeless Services Center that will include comprehensive homeless services, e.g., health, health monitoring, mental health, substance abuse, & employment services, counseling, case management and "medical respite."  These services are in addition to the 24/7 dormitory, or “shelter,” services currently provided.
  • What criteria were used to assess alternatives to the status quo [for the Homeless Services Center]?
    • We have long known that the existing shelter building is inadequate, which is why it’s been considered a “temporary” solution. The County has had a long-standing, public commitment to replace the inadequate Emergency Winter Shelter with a year-round, comprehensive Homeless Services Center in the Courthouse area.
  • What alternatives, including status quo, were considered [for the Homeless Services Center]?
    • Over the years, we investigated several buildings in the greater Courthouse area that might be able to accommodate a new Homeless Service Center.  We did not consider maintaining the "status quo" because the current building is inadequate and has always been considered a “temporary” solution.
  • Based on the evaluation criteria, why was 2020 14th Street North considered the best alternative [for the Homeless Services Center]?
    • 2020 14th Street North was considered the best alternative for several reasons including:
    • proximity to the existing shelter;
    • proximity to current County office buildings, Courthouse/Police headquarters, and Jail, which constitute the main County governmental office complex;
    • ability to accommodate all of the needs of a new Homeless Services Center; and
    • ability to also meet the need for County office space.

Safety concerns

  • What if I am harassed by someone near the shelter?
    • Residents and visitors to Arlington should call the Police at 9-1-1 (emergency) or 703-558-2222 (non-emergency) if they feel threatened by anyone at any time.
  • What about the safety concerns of the proposed move of the homeless shelter?
    • The current shelter has operated successfully for 20 years without major incidents.
    • Location of the shelter across the street from the police station is expected to deter potential crimes.
  • Will there be any real benefit of having the police station/jail nearby since police response time would be the same?
    • Crime in Arlington is generally quite low; in fact, we’re experiencing historically low crime rates.  Crime in the Courthouse area is very low.
    • The constant traffic of police to and from the Justice Center is expected to deter potential crimes.
  • Is information available on crime in the area?
    • Yes. Click here for information on police incident reports in the Courthouse Metro Station area, as well as other Metro Station areas in the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor for comparison purposes.

Neighborhood concerns

  • Has the County commissioned a study or is there a published study on the impacts of a homeless shelter near a residential neighborhood? How will the shelter affect property values?
    • Locally, Arlington’s experience with the impact of homeless service facilities and supportive housing on neighborhoods has been positive.
      • Sullivan House and the Doorways Family Home successfully operate in the Lyon Park neighborhood.
      • The Residential Program Center shelter on Columbia Pike has not presented problems for nearby homeowners and businesses.
      • Scattered-site supportive housing units spread throughout the community have tenants who were previously in Arlington County shelters and now lead successful, productive lives.
      • The Department of Human Services operated successfully in the heart of Clarendon for more than a decade.
    • The Emergency Winter Shelter has operated successfully in the Courthouse area shelter for 20 years without major incidents.
    • Although the County’s consideration of the acquisition focused on the unique experiences of similar facilities within Arlington, there also is literature on the experience in other cities that suggest that there have not been negative impacts on property values from similar facilities.
  • Are people who have been convicted of a sex offense allowed to reside at the current Emergency Winter Shelter and will they be allowed to reside at the proposed Homeless Services Center?
    • Convicted sex offenders who stay in homeless shelters are not exempt from residency laws and restrictions simply by virtue of staying in homeless shelters.
    • As a general matter, such persons are allowed to reside at the existing Emergency Winter Shelter and are not expected to be barred from the proposed Homeless Services Center because, although there are “proximity restrictions” for residences of sex offenders, none applies to either site.
    • Each location is beyond the applicable radii for child-care centers, schools, playgrounds, athletic fields, facilities, gymnasiums or public parks regularly used for school activities.
    • The same minimum distances, and often additional limitations, are applied by Probation Officers to people who are on probation or pre-trial release.
  • What is Arlington County doing to ensure that it is enforcing state laws with respect to sex offenders?
    • Enforcing the law and keeping the community safe is a team effort between the state and the County.
    • State actions:  It is a state responsibility to maintain the list of registered sex offenders, and there is a State Trooper assigned to Arlington County who is directly responsible for convicted sex offenders’ compliance with state laws.  Non-violent sex offenders must have their residence confirmed annually, and violent offenders’ addresses must be confirmed every 90 days.  Members of the Arlington County Police Department’s (ACPD) Special Victims Unit (SVU) often assist the State Police with this confirmation function.  State personnel -- assigned to Arlington County and responsible for people on probation or pre-trial release – work in close coordination with ACPD’s SVU.
    • Arlington actions:  The Arlington County Police Department’s SVU works closely with the Virginia State Police.  The Arlington County SVU maintains an up-to-date list of the offenders in Arlington so they know where the offenders are located and can locate them if necessary.
  • For how many years has the County been providing emergency winter shelter to registered sex offenders?
    • The Emergency Winter Shelter has been operating in its current location as a low-barrier shelter since 1991.  For most of that time, the Emergency Winter Shelter has been operated by the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) in part pursuant to a County contract.  A-SPAN works closely with the Arlington County Department of Human Services as well as the Arlington County Police.  A-SPAN does not track if users of the shelter are registered sex offenders.  The Arlington County Police Department’s SVU has been keeping up-to-date lists of all registered sex offenders in the County since 2004, and each year between one and four registered sex offenders have listed the Emergency Winter Shelter as their address.
  • Are people convicted of sex offenses, or those who are on probation or pre-trial release for sex offenses, allowed to live with one another?
    • Yes, such persons are allowed to have the same residence.  In fact that is one of several questions addressed on the Virginia State Police website that addresses sex offenders.  Question 25 asks, “Is there a law that prohibits offenders residing at the same location?”  The answer from the State Police website is, “Virginia does not have a law that restricts offenders from living together.”
  • Will the new Center ever be expanded to take over more floors at 2020 14th St. N.?
    • The new Center will be designed to have the same number of beds as the current Emergency Winter Shelter.
    • The County has no plans to expand the Center beyond its initial “footprint.”
    • The County’s “housing first” model places the emphasis on getting individuals into housing, and then providing necessary services in a “wrap-around” fashion.
      • This is a national “best practice,” and results in cost savings to the community through decreased reliance on hospital emergency rooms, fewer incarcerations, and a diminished need for emergency services.
  • Will the new Center increase the likelihood of noxious odors or activities closer to the nearby residential and commercial buildings?
    • No.  The County plans to address these types of concerns through the design of the Center and by requiring appropriate rules, management, and enforcement.
  • Why put the Homeless Services Center in the middle of a dense, urban area?  Why not put it away from the commercial corridor?
    • The Arlington County Board has long been committed to provide adequate space for homeless services and a shelter in the Courthouse area.  The new Center would be just a block and a half from the existing Emergency Winter Shelter, where it has run successfully for about 20 years.
    • The Center should be located close to public transportation to be accessible to homeless persons.

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Last Modified: January 21, 2014
2100 Clarendon Blvd. Arlington, VA 22201 Tel: 703-228-3000 TTY: 703-228-4611