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Final site plans for massive Samuel Madden Project deferred over vinyl windows

The developer for the massive Samuel Madden redevelopment in Old Town deferred submission of a final site plan this week, after the Board of Architectural Review warned failure over design guidelines.

For one thing, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority project needs to be designed without vinyl windows, unlike the current design.

“The applicant is proposing to use VPI Vinyl Windows for all windows that are not aluminum storefront,” City staff said in a report. “This means that most windows above the ground floor will be vinyl windows. As shown in the submitted product data, the vinyl windows will have muntins applied to the interior and exterior faces of the glass but will not include spacer bars between the glass.”

ARHA wants to demolish the existing 66 units of public housing in 13 two-story apartment buildings at 899 and 999 N. Henry Street and replace them with two new six-story apartment buildings (75 feet maximum height) containing 532 residential units. Of those, 326 units would be affordable and workforce housing for a period of 40 years, in order for ARHA to qualify for federal tax credits.

City Council and the Planning Commission unanimously approved the development in February, although final site plans still have to go through an approval process. ARHA expects construction to take two years and is also applying for special use permit approvals for a potential restaurant with outdoor dining, an athletic club/fitness studio and a medical care facility.

The property will be home to home to 13,800 square feet of ground floor retail space, as well as a 13,540 square-foot Hopkins House early childhood center and a 500-square-foot Alive! food hub.

BAR Member Nastaran Zandian recommended fiberglass windows and Board Chair James Spencer recommended deferral.

“I don’t think you’re gonna get anyone on this board to sign off on vinyl windows,” Spencer said.

The current public housing units were built for defense workers during World War II in 1945. The 65 families currently living on the properties will be provided temporary housing, their moving expenses will be paid and they will have the option to move back to the property once construction is finished, according to a city staff report.

Board Member Andrew Scott said he likes the project overall.

“In general I think it’s a really nice project,” Scott said. “If it just comes down to the windows and we’re fine with everything else what I will recommend is conditional approval of the project, on the condition that you find another window, and then it puts this decision in the hands of the City Council about how they want to weigh the design guidelines against their other competing priorities.”

City staff also found fault in a proposed cantilevered sunshade on the roof of the gateway building at 999 N. Henry Street.

“This is meant to create a top to the building as a sort of cornice,” city staff wrote. “Staff finds this element to be a distraction to the simple form and notes that since this is on the north elevation of the building, it serves no functional purpose. Staff recommends that the applicant explore brick detailing options to create a terminus to the curved form that is more simple than the proposed sun shade.”

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