Arlington County and WETA Sign Letter of Intent Over Studio Property

Published on January 04, 2018

  • County secures an option to purchase television studio property located at 3620 27th Street South for the future expansion of Jennie Dean Park in Four Mile Run Valley

  • LOI helps County plan for park improvements and expansion

  • Preferred option potentially relocates studio near the existing WETA headquarters in Shirlington

In a move that will benefit the Arlington community at large and a long-time Arlington institution, Arlington County and local non-profit PBS station Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Associations, Inc. (WETA) have signed a letter of intent (LOI) regarding an exciting future for the television station's headquarters and the Shirlington community in which it is based. The agreement is designed to persuade WETA, which produces the national news and public affairs programs PBS NewsHour and Washington Week, to remain at its home in Arlington, where it has been located since 1961, as the station considers the possibility of building a new state-of-the-art production facility.

"We've had a longstanding relationship with WETA, one of our most valuable community partners," Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said. "This agreement allows WETA to move forward with envisioning their ideal television studio and headquarters as we move forward with planning for Jennie Dean Park's future."

WETA's existing studio may no longer serve the station's mission. Among other options, WETA has been actively looking throughout the region to find suitable space that would combine the station's studio with office operations. Arlington County has worked with WETA to identify a viable option to remain in Shirlington and for the County to purchase the desired future parkland.

The sale of the current WETA studio property has been identified since 1994 for park acquisition and would allow the County to expand Jennie Dean Park (located adjacent to WETA at 3630 27th St. S.). A park master plan is currently being developed as part of the Four Mile Run Valley (4MRV) initiative. The park master planning is expected to wrap up in summer 2018 and is then anticipated to be adopted by the County Board.

The first phase of park improvements is expected to begin in 2019 and be completed by 2021. The LOI supports a future phase of the park; the timeframe for implementing this phase is undetermined at this time.
Letter of Intent Details

The LOI lays out the framework for the County purchase of WETA's current studio at 3620 27th Street South.

WETA will begin design and construction feasibility studies to explore relocating the studio next to the current headquarters located at 3939 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington Village. The planned project would include building a new, state-of-the art studio in space adjacent to their headquarters building. If the feasibility is confirmed and if approved by the WETA Board of Trustees, WETA would move forward with selling the land where the studio currently sits to the County. The purchase could occur sometime in the next two years. The County would use Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) funding for the parcel.

In conjunction with this option, the County would make urban design improvements up to $500,000 in the area near WETA headquarters. Urban design elements would enhance placemaking, improve pedestrian safety and add additional wayfinding features. In addition, Arlington County would provide WETA an Economic Development Incentive (EDI) performance-based grant up to $150,000 annually for the performance period based on achieving annual job and square footage targets. During that period, the County would net approximately $4.3 million in tax revenue.

If the project is found not to be feasible, WETA may still sell the 27th Street South property to the County, but the timing of the purchase would be unclear.

WETA is a non-profit public television station headquartered in Shirlington for 57 years, employs approximately 290 people, and occupies 89,418 square feet of office space in Shirlington Village and 30,685 square feet of studio space. WETA has been a community partner and a respected organization with a long-standing relationship with Arlington County spanning more than five decades.

The LOI is non-binding and is contingent upon both the WETA Board of Trustees and the County Board approving any necessary formal agreements to encourage WETA to remain in Arlington County.

WETA is working with commercial real estate services company Avison Young, represented by Marty Almquist and Nick Gregorios.