Alexandria, VA

A set of surface parking lots in the heart of Old Town could become a new set of retail and residential buildings — with no public parking lost.

The Planning Commission voted last night to recommend approval of the sale of 912, 916 and 920 King Street, along with 116 S. Henry Street just around the corner, to local investment firm Galena Capital Partners, LLC for $5.3 million.

The group plans to create 52 residential units of varying scale, including below-market-rate units, along with 10,000-15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space.

The redevelopment also comes with an estimated $182,000 contribution to affordable housing in Alexandria.

To alleviate concerns about the elimination of 85 parking spaces, the group also proposed adding 150 parking spaces to the site, with 142 in an automated parking garage. Overall, the site includes a full replacement of all 85 parking spaces across the three sites as well as at least one space for each of the residential units and 11 additional parking spaces potentially for retail.

“Generally I find that this proposal is consistent with the master plan,” said Planning Commissioner Melissa McMahon. “It’s heartening and exciting to see underutilized parcels so close to our commercial core to be ripe for change and refitting to most kinds of uses people would expect to see on King Street.”

McMahon said while the parking replacement was welcome, she preferred encouraging more public transit usage instead.

“I was surprised to see 100% replacement for parking dictated by the [Request for Proposals],” McMahon said. “I say that because drawing more cars to King Street… we’ve seen having too many cars on King Street can block things up. I prefer to see people on the trolly, on the bus, or on bikes.”

But McMahon also said if there was any place in Old Town where it would be appropriate for a spot-for-spot parking replacement, it was here.

“This parcel is right on Route 1, so if we’re going to get people out of their car and onto the street, this is the place to have an automated parking garage,” McMahon said. “[and] I’m nerdily excited to see an automated parking garage.”

With the Planning Commission approval, the proposed sale is scheduled for a public hearing and final passage at the City Council’s Saturday, Oct. 19 meeting. There it could face slightly more pushback than it did at the Planning Commission, with Councilman Mohamed “Mo” Seifeldein expressing disagreement with the sale of this and other city parcels at an earlier Sept. 24 City Council meeting.

“I would like to reiterate my opposition to the sale of public property to the benefit of a private company where there could be a much better use for it in the public either now or down the road,” Seifeldein said.

The sale of the property will require a supermajority vote to be approved.

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