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Mark Center development plans head to Planning Commission this week

(Updated 9/8) Alexandria has many charming, attractive neighborhoods — the Mark Center isn’t one of them. But while it’s unlikely the highway-adjacent office park will be competing with Del Ray or Old Town anytime soon, a new pair of land-use changes could open the door down the road to the start of something of a transformation for the area.

Two parcels in the Mark Center Coordinated Development District (CDD) are headed to the Planning Commission on Thursday, Sept. 9 — the Hilton Hotel site at 5000 Seminary Road and the IDA site at 4880 Mark Center Drive. The applicants are asking for changes to open up some of the allowable uses on the site for future commercial and residential development.

“The owners of the two parcels… have submitted land-use requests to the City, including a CDD amendment and a Master Plan Amendment, in anticipation of the future development of their properties,” the staff report said. “The amendments to CDD#4 would allow for approximately 520,000 square feet of additional density, additional building height, and new uses as measured across both sites.”

The report said there are new special use permits requested for either site just yet, but those are likely coming in October if the changes are approved.

According to the staff report, the three changes being requested are:

1. Add land use recommendations for those properties in the SAP that do not have explicit land-use recommendations today;

2. Add proposed maximum building height recommendations for those properties in the SAP that do not have explicit maximum building height recommendations today; and

3. Clarify that office is not the only existing allowable use, as described in the SAP, at the property at 4880 Mark Center Drive.

The staff report says the first two changes are largely semantic, bringing the zoning language for the sites into line with existing city regulation. But the third takes a site that had originally intended to be office space and opens that up to commercial or residential development.

The change is significant, as it could be the start of the fulfillment of city plans to break the Mark Center out of the office-mold and adding a more diverse range of uses to the area. That change comes alongside improvements for the broader area, like Landmark development and the West End Transitway.

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