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‘Lipstick On A Pig’: BAR Rejects Heritage Old Town Proposal

Members of the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review didn’t mince words against the proposed development of the Heritage Old Town.

“Why are you asking for our opinion if what we get back isn’t actually changed?” BAR Chair Christine Roberts said at the September 2 meeting. “It’s just more lipstick on a pig.”

The plan to demolish four 1970s-era buildings on the southeast Old Town property were sent back to the developer in June to give the community more time for feedback. The plan for the property, which is situated in the Old Town Historic District, was then rejected earlier this month by the board after members said that changes made to the proposal were not improved upon.

New York-based architect Asland Capital Partners, was heavily criticized by board members for designing a complex that does not fall in line with the character of Old Town. The project, which borders along South Patrick and North Washington streets,  includes the addition of 777 apartments at structures up to seven stories tall, and includes 195 affordable housing units.

Board Member Lynn Neihardt said that the architect’s buildings don’t belong in Old Town, and that the city is getting poorly designed buildings “under the guise of providing affordable housing.” She also said that there is an underlying feeling that the property doesn’t need to fit within design guidelines because it’s not in an area populated by tourists.

“We need a feeling of smaller buildings in the front with maybe taller heights behind, which has been done over and over again, very successfully in D.C. and other parts of Old Town,” Neihardt said. “The buildings, to me, speak Ballston, Crystal City, but not Old Town. They’re nothing like Robinson Landing and the other excellent examples of buildings that fit into their context.”

BAR Member John Sprinkle objected to the mass, height, scale and general architecture of the proposal.

“I gotta tell you, you got to go back to the drawing board,” Sprinkle said. “It doesn’t fly in this city.”

The project will go to the Planning Commission and City Council in February 2021.

Images via City of Alexandria

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