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It’ll soon be “bye, bye, bodega,” as Arlington County Board members are allowing the owner of the Courtland Towers apartments in the Courthouse area to replace its longstanding ground-floor convenience store with four additional residential units and other amenities for residents.

The proposal had generated pushback from nearby residents and garnered formal opposition from the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Federation, but County Board members on April 28 voted 4-0 in support of a staff proposal allowing the conversion.

“I’m really sympathetic,” County Board member Katie Cristol said of concerns raised by those opposed to the change, but said zoning regulations didn’t require the property owner – Dittmar – to maintain a grocery at the 475-unit apartment complex, which opened in the 1980s.

“I’m not sure it is the right role for us” to force them to continue to provide one, Cristol said.

But Casey Nolan, a resident in the corridor, said the 3,000-square-foot store – known colloquially by the Spanish “bodega” – provides “a friendly place and meeting space” that helps to foster a sense of community among local residents.

Further, Nolan said, the store served as a critical resource for residents who have mobility issues or lack easy means to shop elsewhere.

County Board members, however, said the parcel’s zoning would permit the property owner to remove the convenience store and replace it with other retail uses if the board did not allow additional apartments as an alternative.

“There’s nothing that we could do to preserve this as a grocery in perpetuity,” board member Christian Dorsey said.

Rents at the complex range from $1,995 to $4,960 per month. In addition to the four new apartments, Dittmar plans to incorporate a grab-and-go food service, health facility and dry-cleaning service – but those would be available only to residents of the apartment building, not the surrounding community. The changes will not materially impact the total square footage in the building, which is about 10 percent less than permitted under existing zoning.

The 15-story apartment building is on North Veitch Street, but the convenience store is found along North Wayne Street, a dead-end street with limited foot traffic. The lack of visibility from street level was one reason county staff supported conversion from retail to residential use.

(4) comments

CJE

Another reason I'm voting for Audrey Clement in November. This was another closed door deal made between the County Board and a non-resident property owner months ago and "facilitated" by non-resident County Staff. Several other agenda items on the recessed meeting Consent Agenda removed open spaces used by the public to convenience non-resident Crystal City developers, forcing forcing even more neighborhood residents onto sidewalks and streets for recreation.

Charles

"County Staff" are almost all non-residents who do what they are told by the County Manager. They refuse to move to the County they are destroying with infill, no matter how many promotions they receive. Many earn $150,000 per year for fast-tracking infill deals the County Board makes with out-of-state developers during closed door meetings.

jna

Another reason we need local media that aren't chamber of commerce boosters, like Scott McCaffrey and the Sun Gazette / Inside Nova. BTW the Owners and Publishers of Inside Nova and the Sun Gazette (separartely owned) live in Rappahannock County and Loudoun County respectively.

CJE

Almost forgot to mention Arlington County has a Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Office, Economic Development Commission, Planning Commission, Planning Division, and so on, that are SUPPOSED to help businesses thrive, not merely survive. Also a big bureaucracy that's SUPPOSED to be improving the quality-of-life in Arlington's neighborhoods.

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