September 16, 1999

 

TO: The County Board of Arlington, Virginia

FROM: William T. Donahue, County Manager

APPLICANT(S): Education Management Corporation

BY: Timothy S. Sampson, Attorney/Agent

Walsh, Colucci, Stackhouse, Emrich & Lubeley

2200 Clarendon Boulevard, 13th Floor

Arlington, Virginia 22201

SUBJECT: SP #1 Minor Site Plan Amendment Request for a comprehensive sign plan -- two (2) rooftop signs and one (1) building-mounted sign for a school of higher education (Art Institute of Washington) on premises known as 1820 North Fort Myer Drive.

ZONING: "C-O Commercial Office Building, Hotel and Multiple-Family Dwelling Districts

LAND USE: General Land Use Plan designation is "High" Office-Apartment-Hotel (Office Density 3.8 F.A.R. allowed).

LOCATION: This is the Ames Center Site Plan, which is located in Rosslyn in the block bounded by North Fort Myer Drive, North Nash Street, Wilson Boulevard and Key Boulevard. It is developed with a 12- story office building, the Arlington Temple United Methodist Church and Community Center, and a three-bay Exxon gas station. Adjacent uses include the Rosslyn Center, Rosslyn Metro Station and an office building located to the east of the site across North Fort Myer Drive; the Hyatt Hotel contiguous to the south; two office buildings located to the west across North Nash Street; and the Best Western and Holiday Inn hotels located to the north across Key Boulevard.

NEIGHBORHOOD: No organized civic association, Rosslyn Renaissance.

RECOMMENDATION: Approve a minor site plan amendment request for a comprehensive sign plan -- two (2) rooftop signs and one (1) building-mounted street level sign for a school of higher education (Art Institute of Washington) on premises known as 1820 North Fort Myer Drive.

SUMMARY: Staff supports the requested comprehensive sign plan for two (2) rooftop signs and one (1) building-mounted sign for the Art Institute of Washington on premises known as 1820 North Fort Myer Drive. These signs comply with the "Sign Guidelines for Site Plan Buildings;" including number, size, location, and type. These signs will not negatively effect the health, safety, convenience and welfare of residents and businesses in the area as well as the overall visual appearance. These signs help to identify and to direct visitors to the school and are consistent and compatible with the architectural design of the building. Staff believes that that the request would be consistent with other rooftop signs and building-mounted signs in Rosslyn. Therefore, it is recommended that the comprehensive sign plan for two (2) rooftop signs and one (1) building-mounted street level sign be approved subject to all previous conditions.

BACKGROUND: This site plan, the first approved in Arlington County, began the redevelopment of Rosslyn. It was approved in 1962, and amended in 1964, for a 12-story office building containing 162,000 square feet of office gross floor area and 9,677 square feet of restaurant gross floor area. The approval also included a conceptual plan for a church. The final design for the church was later approved as a site plan amendment in 1965, and included the main sanctuary (578 seats) and classroom facilities located in the adjoining structure at the second floor level. The three-bay gas station, which is located on the ground floor of the church structure, was approved as an amendment to the site plan in 1968. The church and gas station are located on the northern end of the site adjacent to North Nash Street and Key Boulevard. The overall density of the site is approximately 3.5 F.A.R. The approved site plan requires 196 parking spaces for the church, which are provided through a shared arrangement with the office building.

When the site plan was approved, the conditions did not contain standard subdivision language, which would enable the applicant to seek administrative subdivision of the property. The applicant desired the flexibility to subdivide the property in the future on an as-needed basis. In 1997, a site plan amendment was granted to add standard conditions to the site plan, at the applicant’s request. To date the site has not been subdivided.

In August, 1999, a site plan amendment was approved to convert 65,000 square feet of existing office floor are to be used for a school of higher education (Art Institute of Washington) for approximately 1,200 students. The Art Institute of Washington will be the largest tenant in the building and, as such, is eligible for rooftop signage per the "Sign Guidelines for Site Plan Buildings." According to the applicant, the next largest tenant in the building will contain approximately 30,000 to 45,000 square feet of office space. The third largest will contain approximately 17,000 square feet. Any other tenants will be less than 15,000 square feet of office space.

DISCUSSION: The applicant is requesting approval of identification signs on the exterior of the building in order to identify the location of the Art Institute of Washington. The proposal consists of three signs:

  1. A rooftop sign reading "AI Washington", containing 168 square feet of sign area located on the west face of the building facing Nash Street.
  2. A rooftop logo sign reading "AI", containing 48 square feet of sign area located on the north face of the building facing the intersection of Nash Street, North Fort Myer Drive, and 9th Street North.
  3. A street level, building-mounted sign reading "AI The Art Institute of Washington", containing 30 square feet of sign area located on the east face of the building facing North Fort Myer Drive.

The proposed signs contain a total of 246 square feet. The two rooftop signs are proposed to be illuminated at night. The lower building-mounted sign will not be illuminated. The "AI" logo on all signs will be the color red. Any subsequent text will be the color black during the day. The subsequent text on the rooftop sign facing west will be illuminated white at night.

The "Sign Guidelines for Site Plan Buildings," as approved by the County Board, serves as the standard by which staff recommendations for this type of sign proposal are determined. Staff believes that proposed comprehensive sign plan complies with these guidelines, including the signs’ location, size, number, and type.

The formula in the Guidelines for the calculation of allowable building or rooftop identification signs is: one (1) square foot of sign area is permitted for one (1) linear foot of building wall width. The building width for the west elevation is 176 feet. Therefore the allowable square feet for signage would be 176 square feet. The applicant is proposing 168 square feet of signage, or eight square feet under what is allowable. The building width for the other rooftop sign on the north elevation is 82 feet or an allowable sign area of 82 square feet. The applicant is proposing 48 square feet. This 48 square feet sign, a logo, is consistent with the County’s policy to incorporate well-designed graphic symbols to promote less sign area. The letter height of both rooftop signs are no more than six (6) feet which complies with the standards in the "Sign Guidelines for Site Plan Buildings. In addition, the applicant is requesting two rooftop signs, the maximum allowed under these guidelines. The mounting, type of illumination, and materials used will also comply with these guidelines. These proposed signs are consistent with other comprehensive sign plans that have been approved in the past.

The sign area for a building-mounted street sign is determined by the same formula as the formula for calculating rooftop signs. However, the rooftop sign area is not included in the total permitted sign area for a project (including directional signs, retail and commercial tenant signs and building, project or major tenant identification from the public right-of-way) per the Sign Guidelines. The calculation of allowable building identification signs is one (1) square foot of sign area is permitted for one (1) linear foot of building wall width. The east elevation wall width is 176 feet, allowing for 176 square feet of signage. The applicant is proposing a sign area of 30 square feet. The total square footage of existing signage on that facade is approximately another 30 to 40 square feet. Thus, the total of the proposed 30 square feet of signage and existing 30 to 40 square feet of new signage is well below the 176 square feet allowable sign area for that facade. The street-level sign, in accordance with the Sign Guidelines, is not above 35 feet from the street.

Staff believes that the signs will not negatively affect the health, safety, convenience and welfare of residents and businesses in the area. In fact, the proposed comprehensive sign plan will help to identify the building and the school within the building. These signs inform the public which promotes convenience and direction. The signs do not directly face onto any residential area, thus, protecting the character and appearance of any residential component in Rosslyn. The signs are not visible from significant landmarks such as the Washington D.C. Monumental Core or Arlington Cemetery where the County Board has restricted signs through policy actions. Finally, these signs will not distract, confuse, and/or impair the visibility of motorists and/or pedestrians.

The design of the signs is compatible with and integrated with the architectural style of the building and with other building signs. The design of the logo is visually appealing and distinguishable as it relates to any subsequent text. The use of the proposed sign colors of red, white, and black will contrast nicely to the color of the existing reflective glass finish of the building facades. Overall, the signs will enhance the integrity of the building.

CONCLUSION: Staff supports the proposed comprehensive sign plan. The proposed signs meet the criteria used to evaluate signs for site plan buildings. In addition, the signs help to identify, inform, and direct visitors to the building. Therefore, it is recommended that this site plan amendment request be approved, subject to all previous conditions.

PREVIOUS COUNTY BOARD ACTIONS:

March 24, 1962 Approved site plan (SP #1) for a 12-story office building and a conceptual plan for a church.

May 5, 1962 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) to change the configuration of the building’s plaza level.

January 11, 1964 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) to reduce the gross floor area and density of the office building.

March 20, 1965 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) for the final design of the church structure.

February 12, 1966 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) to increase the gross floor area of the restaurant space in the office building.

February 26, 1966 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) for seven (7) radio masts to be located on the roof of the office building.

November 23, 1968 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) for redesign of the church and classroom facilities, and construction of a gas service station at the street level.

September 13, 1969 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) for incorporation of additional site area and construction of a new office tower (Ames Building South).

May 19, 1971 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) for two (2) oval identification signs for the gas station.

April 14, 1973 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) to separate the Ames Building South site from the site plan and create a new site plan for a hotel (SP #92).

June 7, 1997 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) to add standard subdivision conditions regarding subdivision of the site into separate parcels.

August 14, 1999 Approved site plan amendment (SP #1) to convert 65,000 square feet of existing office floor area to be used for a school of higher education for approximately 1,200 students.