‘The most blighted property in the West End’ gets redevelopment recommendation from Planning Commission

A West End property rendered uninhabitable by a fire more than 10 years ago could finally see redevelopment into a new townhouse development — and Covid might have played a role.

The Planning Commission (item 8) unanimously recommended approval for 6336 Stevenson Avenue, which one commissioner called “the most blighted property in the West End.”

The Landmark/Van Dorn plan approved in 1992 recommends the site be developed as medium/high density residential, but the project has been occupied by the husk of a split-level single-family residence that’s been boarded up and vacant for years.

The parcel has an odd triangular shape and fairly limited zoning. The Planning Commission recommended approval of rezoning to allow the construction of seven townhouses.

“It has been on the market for many years, and Staff has reviewed a number of attempted redevelopment concepts, most of which faced challenges largely due to the irregular site shape and topography,” the staff report said. “Another limiting factor has been the existing RB zone, which does not permit multi-family dwellings, and has an FAR maximum for townhouses that is at odds with market preferences.”

Land use attorney Duncan Blair represented applicant Old Creek Homes LLC and noted that several previous efforts at redevelopment efforts, including one from Habitat from Humanity, were thwarted by the extensive cost of rehabilitating the site, but Blair said the surge of housing prices brought about by Covid finally made redevelopment economically viable:

“There’s a lot of infrastructure work that needs to go in,” Blair said. “The biggest change is Covid and traveling; that people want to be closer and this site becomes a more desirable site than it was… We were able to thread the needle.”

The primary concern from the Commission seemed to be that conditions put onto the project by staff could make development more difficult.

“This property has been through the development cycle more than once, more than twice,” said Commissioner Mindy Lyle. “[This is] the most blighted property in the West End of Alexandria… I want to be certain that we don’t start messing around with architecture and material changes and this project goes away because we’re doing things we probably shouldn’t to get this project built.”

Director of Planning Karl Moritz said the city’s intention is “very much to have this go forward.”