Case Studies

The Tellus

Metro D.C.'s Model of Sustainable, Luxury Living

Paradigm Companies’ S.E. Foster L.P. (SEF) broke ground in August 2012 on a long-awaited, mixed-use development set to revitalize the downtown core of Arlington, Va. Property developers and managers Erkiletian and the Jefferson Apartment Group (JAG) joined forced in 2009 to create The Tellus.

Erkiletian and JAG worked together to design and develop a project that would transform an aging office building (situated at 2009 N. 14th Street, a prime piece of property across from the Arlington County Courthouse) into a model for luxury, LEED-certified living spaces. When it opens for occupancy in 2014, The Tellus will become the city’s first LEED Gold-certified mixed-use building, offering an uncommon variety of amenities and sustainable building features in a landmark setting.

The Arlington County Board approved plans to develop the city’s pioneering project in 2009, though the building is neither developer’s foray into LEED-certified, mixed-use developments. Both Erkiletian and JAG maintain headquarters in Virginia, where the teams focus on developing signature, landmark properties for the metro Washington, D.C., area.

To boot, Erkiletian and JAG previously partnered together to develop and finance The Ascher, a six-story, mixed-use development boasting 206 apartments nestled on a prime piece of property just steps away from Old Town Alexandria, Va. The Ascher opened in late 2012, setting a high bar for similarly oriented rental apartments. The Ascher provides residents with rooftop garden terraces, a movie screening room and fitness center in a building that will pursue LEED Silver certification.

For the Tellus the developers decided to ramp up the sustainability quota and opted to pursue LEED Gold certification. Erkiletian and JAG tapped international architecture and planning firm Lessard Design’s Washington, D.C., office to realize the vision. The collaboration then singled out SEF to oversee the project as general contractor, given the firms exclusive focus on high-rise multifamily residential developments in the metro D.C. area.

WDG Architecture PLLC (WDG) finalized the plans for a 16-story structure, totaling 254 luxury apartment units, as well as ground-floor retail and office space. The Tellus also boasts 273 units of below-grade parking and enough amenities to position the product firmly within the luxury residence niche.

“There’s also going to be a boutique lobby and lounge area, a state-of-the-art fitness and yoga center, a second-level clubroom with a bar and terrace roof, as well as a fully landscaped plaza with a waterfall fountain and a rooftop pool designed by Carlyn and Company,” says Bruce Clauser, senior project manager at SEF.

The development replaces a 70,000-square foot office building that dates back to the early 1960s. The Tellus will provide roughly 11,000 square feet of commercial space, approximately 4,300 square feet of which will be dedicated retail space.

A Landmark Location

The Tellus sits just across the street from the Arlington County Courthouse and just down the street from the Arlington County Police Department, which has some neighbors concerned over the amount of privacy afforded to The Tellus’ eventual residences. WDG and Parker Rodriquez Inc. were challenged to find a way to transition between the building’s private and public spaces.

A generous 26,000-square foot landscaped plaza in the rear of the building helps establish a visual boundary between the public and private space. This also eases the visual impact of the development by providing a polished façade to the hidden two-level underground parking structure that lies underneath.

Furthermore, the developers decided to place the building’s pool and deck on the rooftop to make the most of the building’s sweeping views of the Capital City skyline located just across the Potomac River. Doing so not only provides sunbathers with an extra degree of privacy in a densely populated urban environment, but it also sets the development apart from other luxury apartment rentals in the city.

Of course, the building’s location provides a wealth of challenges on its own. “We’re building on a site with multiple coordination challenges,” admits Clauser. “The courthouse is across the street, the police station is a block away and many of the streets in the downtown area are one-way only, so we’ve been very vocal and proactive about keeping the public informed and aware of the project.”

SEF works in concert with the local authorities to keep any adjacent metered parking spaces clear and to secure the necessary road closures. SEF’s team also works to provide the public with the required pedestrian bridges, walkways and an ample amount of signage to avoid confusion.

Beyond High-quality Housing

SEF will provide all management services throughout the duration of construction as the construction manager. The Tellus involves the expertise of national specialists like Florida-based Power Design Inc. (Power Design), one of the country’s highest ranked electrical contractors, to deliver a building capable of achieving LEED Gold certification. Power Design provides all electrical system design on the project, including the Energy Star advanced lighting package. This ensures all standard lighting fixtures and ceiling fans will be replaced with Energy Star-rated ones.

Other sustainable features include energy efficient materials designed by Mechanical Design Group Ltd., including low-flow plumbing fixtures and the installation of a cast-in-place cistern tank and piping system to reclaim storm water and air conditioning condensate for use in the building’s landscape irrigation system. The building also racks up LEED points for its proximity to local public transportation routes, the inclusion of designated bike storage and parking spaces and the developer’s commitment to source at least 35 percent of the building’s electricity from a green source. The developers have also been weighing the possibility of installing solar panels to supplement the building’s renewable energy sources, but no firm plans are as yet in place.

The Tellus’ developers have also pledged to give back to the community through a $75,000 public art contribution and by setting aside a handful of units for affordable housing. According to Clauser, The Tellus is slated to open beginning in March 2014. At that time, Arlington residents and S.E. Foster L.P. will celebrate a new model for sustainable, luxury, urban living options: The Tellus at its finest.

Published on: March 13, 2013


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