Later, Arlington County officials floated the idea of a conference center, where it would have enjoyed easy access from the Pentagon, Reagan National Airport and Metrorail. Already there is a Marriott Residence Inn on the site.
This week Vornado/Charles E. Smith, the owner of the property, is advancing its own plans, for 1.8 million square feet of office space and a 300-room hotel in a project it calls PenPlace. A committee of the Arlington County Planning Commission is scheduled to initially review the plans Aug. 1.
Vornado bought the property in mid-2007. PenPlace would comprise four new office buildings and a hotel on a new street grid that would extend 12th and Fern streets through the site.
Mitchell N. Schear, president of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, said an office complex made sense for an area that is already home to a shopping mall and where there are existing plans for thousands of new apartments, much of it on Vornado-owned property.
“In this instance we think that there is a dearth of commercial office over there given the amount of residential and retail,” he said.
The proposal comes as Vornado, a division of publicly traded Vornado Realty Trust, emerges from the recession with plans for millions of square feet of new development in three Northern Virginia markets that are Metro-accessible and endured the real estate collapse remarkably well: Crystal City, Rosslyn and Pentagon City.
“We’ve been in the planning process for all of these things basically through all the economic cycles,” Schear said, adding that the preparation “gives us the ability to pull the trigger when the best time to develop comes.”
Vornado is not without its challenges. In Crystal City, the company is losing federal tenants to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment process and it plans to upgrade or replace aging office buildings in concert with a zoning blueprint the county passed in October of last year. In Rosslyn, Vornado and developer Kingdon Gould are partnering on a new office building overlooking the Potomac River — though their plans trail those of two others, by competitors JBG and Monday Properties. Schear said the Vornado team expects to seek zoning approval for its Rosslyn project in coming months.