Alexandria, VA

After a rocky start, new plans are coming forward to redevelop an industrial site near the Van Dorn Metro

Two years ago, plans to redevelop an industrial property belonging to Vulcan Materials — a company that creates gravel, asphalt, concrete and other construction materials — near the Van Dorn Metro went cold. But Potomac Land Group II, LLC and developer Lennar are taking another crack at the property to develop townhomes, condo units and a commercial building.

“I’ve stood here with six different developers who have tried to make this work,” said Ken Wire, an attorney for the developers, at a Sept. 11 meeting of the Eisenhower West/Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Group. “Vulcan has done the dance with three or four purchasers over the years.”

The new plans call for townhomes on two blocks on the north side of the property along Courtney Avenue, with residential condominiums backing up against a railroad on the south side of the property. A hotel would sit at the corner of Courtney Avenue and S. Van Dorn Street.

Wire said the residences at the site would be considered “middle-market housing,” affordable to a broader array of potential residents than pricier projects elsewhere in the city.

“We don’t have a lot of middle-market housing,” Wire said. “What we’re thinking about here is delivering a variety of product types so that we can serve many different residents.”

The property at 701 S. Van Dorn Street is paradoxically a prime location for development and a challenge. The property is very close to the Van Dorn Metro station and along the Van Dorn Street corridor eyed for redevelopment over the next few years. But Wire said the property itself has some steep slopes and backs up close to the train tracks.

“It’s close to the Metro, but it’s a million miles away,” Wire noted near end of the meeting. “How do we make Backlick Run more than a trash heap?”

As part of the development proposal, the applicants are also offering 6.9 acres of the property as open space.

“It’s not [acres] of ball fields, though,” Wire cautioned. “It’s challenging open space on a grade.”

The site is currently used by Vulcan as a storage space for construction materials, mulch and trucks. Without a sufficient amount of density that will make a profit at that location, Wire said it will continue to operate as storage space.

“Without a certain amount of development rights, it’s highest and best use is what it is today,” Wire said. “If you put two townhomes there, guess what, it stays industrial. You need just enough development to make the new development worthwhile. Two townhouses here is not going to make it worth a sale.”

Wire said the fastest the development could come back for city approval would be next spring or summer.

“It’s a 2020 end of first quarter, second quarter-ish [item],” Wire said. “It will be after the new year that we come back with designs.”

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