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Alexandria staff and developer butt heads over architectural design of Carlyle neighborhood

Proposed development at 765 John Carlyle Street and 1900 Eisenhower Avenue, image via Perkins Eastman

A towering project that will bookend Eisenhower Avenue is going through some design changes as it heads through the city’s approval process, but the changes are facing objections from City staff.

The changes are scheduled for review at the Carlyle Design Review Board on Thursday, Jan. 20. Developer Carlyle Plaza LLC has proposed several architectural changes for the project, two connected towers at 765 John Carlyle Street and 1900 Eisenhower Avenue, but staff said virtually all of these changes are a downgrade from what was approved in November.

According to the staff report:

With this request, the Applicant proposes a number of revisions to both towers, including but not limited to changes in height, scale/proportionality, materiality, and general architectural character. The amendments to the approved design for each tower are discussed in more detail below. The changes proposed are not supported by Staff.

Staff outline several objections to the changes in the report, most notably the removal of a distinctive extended open parapet at the top of the northern tower.

“The elimination of the extended open-parapet has visually eliminated an additional perceived floor of the North Tower,” the report said. “Mechanical equipment is no longer screened to the former degree, and the trees at the terrace level have been eliminated.”

Carlyle tower design change, image via Perkins Eastman

Several less notable but, according to staff, architecturally objectionable changes are also made to the south tower. The report said the changes remove depth from the facade and “signature architectural features.” To the untrained eye the changes to the South Tower seem minimal, but the report said the changes result in a “boxier expression” that gives the building a less rich texture.

Carlyle tower design change, image via Perkins Eastman

Overall, staff said the changes from what was approved detract from the building’s design:

Staff find the changes to be significant alterations from the approved design. Chiefly, the loss of the strong vertical expression of the South Tower and the visual loss of three floors with the North Tower result in an undesirable urban design and architecture.