Alexandria, VA

The owners of an Old Town apartment complex want to demolish four 1970s-era rental properties and redevelop them into two multifamily apartment buildings with 474 new apartments.

The Board of Architectural Review will discuss the matter on July 15 before moving their recommendation to the City Council.

The building owners are asking for a permit to demolish the properties at 431 S. Columbus Street, 900 Wolfe Street and 450 S. Patrick Street, and for the approval of a concept plan.

According to the city’s real estate records, the property includes three garden style apartments and one mid-rise apartment building built between 1976 and 1977. They are not historic in nature and the applicant is proposing that the property maintain affordable units to help the city meet its affordable housing stock, in addition to having the property rezoned to residential multifamily.

Images via City of Alexandria

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The Towngate office complex in North Old Town (625 and 635 Slaters Lane) are requesting permits from the City of Alexandria to facilitate changing the office buildings into a residential building.

Most of the changes will take place inside the building, but the property is scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review on June 17 over a handful of exterior changes, like new doors, windows and siding.

“The applicant requests a permit to demolish and certificate of appropriateness for improvements… in order to convert the buildings from office to residential,” Brookfield Towngate LLC said in a statement. “No additions or increases in floor area are requested.”

Designs put together by Heffner Architects, PC, a local architecture firm in Alexandria, show the large open office spaces replaced with smaller individual units.

There is no information in the application yet about how many units will be included in the final building, or whether these will be town houses or apartments.

Images via Heffner Architects, PC

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The sprawling Atrium building in the heart of Old Town (277 S. Washington Street) could be getting a major facelift as the building tries to attract new tenants.

The building, constructed in 1978 in a neo-traditional style, is five-stories tall and roughly 139,000 square feet. It takes up the entire block and one of its largest tenants is the Eagle Bank at the corner of S. Washington and Duke Streets.

“The owner plans to reposition, modernize, and add new amenities to the building,” the W.C and A.N. Miller Development Company said in an application. “A large multi-floor tenant will be moving out of the building within the next few years and this will be the best time to do the work to minimize disruption to the remaining tenants.”

The application does not specify which tenant is leaving.

Many of the renovations will be internal, though the application says the planned use will hopefully bring more nightlife to that corner of southern Old Town.

“To attract new tenants, the existing penthouse fitness center will be converted to a conference center/lounge and roof deck amenity for the use of its tenants,” the company said. “This amenity is also being planned for use after business hours and on weekends and holidays for special functions. Additional improvements include refreshing the building entrances and other interior upgrades.”

Plans show the upstairs fitness center’s conversion into a lounge with rooftop views of Old Town.

The application also notes that the current entrance to the building is dark and uninviting, so new plans feature an illuminated archway less set-back from the street.

The upgrades are planned for review at the Wednesday, June 3, Board of Architectural Review meeting.

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After selling the parking lot on King Street next to Bloomers, the City of Alexandria is preparing to review plans to build a new mixed-use development in its place.

Galena Capital Partners LLC plans to replace the parking lot with a four-story building. The development will have retail facing King Street on the first floor and residential uses on the floors above, with open space on the roof.

As part of the application, the developer is seeking flexibility for what to do with the back half of the first floor.

“The project additionally is seeking flexibility in either all retail at the ground floor or a mix with Live/Work units at the south side facing the public alley,” Galena Capital Partners LLC said in its application.

The project was already reviewed once by the Board of Architectural Review in late December and is scheduled for concept review at a meeting on Wednesday, April 1.

The lot was part of the same sale that included 116 S. Henry Street. Plans to turn the S. Henry Street lot into an automated parking garage are also being considered at the same BAR meeting.

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(Updated 3/12/20) The Campagna Center in Old Town could be getting a facelift and a new addition as the local early learning organization struggles to find a way to make good use of their historic, but in many ways outdated, building.

Plans submitted to Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review show a new expansion of the building at 418 S. Washington Street.

“As the success of the Campagna Center has grown through the years, it looks to construct an addition to its facility on South Washington Street,” the applicant said. “The addition will extend across the back of the existing building, with a smaller footprint width to minimize the visual impact from the streetscape view.”

“The addition will be three stories in height (one below grade and two above grade), consistent in height and slightly below the roofline of the existing structure,” the report continued.

Along with the new addition to the Campagna Center, upgrades are planned for the current building. Part of the project will involve connecting the new addition and completing replacement of the existing windows and roof.

Inside the building, new partition walls will help break up some of the building’s large spaces and make it more functional.

The building was constructed in 1888 as The Washington School, according to the application, and replaced an earlier school that had been there since 1812. It continued to operate as a school until it became the Alexandria City Public Schools headquarters in 1955. It was turned over to a group called Alexandria Community Y in 1981, which became the Campagna Center in 1991.

Renovating the existing building was not the Campagna Center’s first choice. The building was considered for condo development in 2016, but those plans were canceled last year, according to Alexandria Living.

The new designs are scheduled to be reviewed at the Board of Architectural Review’s April 1 meeting.

The Campagna Center told ALXnow they are in the middle of a busy week and could not comment on the upcoming changes.

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The Italian restaurant replacing Hank’s Pasta Bar (600 Montgomery Street) in Old Town could feature a brand new rooftop deck if it gets approval from the city tomorrow.

The building owners are scheduled to go to the Board of Architectural Review tomorrow (Wednesday) for approval of a full suite of changes, including the new rooftop patio. The new deck is part of a suite of changes planned as the restaurant prepares to reopen sometime this year as Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen, according to Eater.

Judging by a staff report, the building should have a relatively easy time getting that approval.

“Staff has no objection to the proposed roof deck, as it is well designed and architecturally compatible with the style and proportions of the existing building,” staff said. “The roof deck is differentiated from the existing building by introducing new and compatible materials.”

If approved, this would be the biggest change in the building’s history, which has remained virtually unchanged since it was built in 1948, according to the staff report.

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Starting a new business can be tricky, and the Alexandria City Council is working to make it easier for a number of establishments to open faster.

This spring, the Planning Commission and City Council will vote on a package of regulatory changes that will speed up the approval processes for a number of new businesses.

“Any new small business owner is taking an enormous risk,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson wrote in his January newsletter. “They are betting their resources on the future success of an idea. It’s a risk that our system relies on. It results in businesses that provide products and services that enrich our lives. As taxpayers, it supports tax revenue that eases the burden on residential taxpayers. For individuals, it provides careers.”

The regulatory changes would impact the following businesses:

  • Restaurants
  • Outdoor dining areas
  • Daycare centers
  • Outdoor food and crafts markets
  • Health and athletic clubs
  • Food and beverage production
  • Amusement enterprises
  • Convenience stores
  • Social Service uses
  • Home occupations

Bill Blackburn is a partner in the Homegrown Restaurant Group, which includes Holy Cow Del Ray, Pork Barrel BBQ, The Sushi Bar, Sweet Fire Donna’s, Whiskey & Oyster and Tequila & Taco. He said that the city’s special use permit process could use some work.

“Our group is certainly for anything that can be done in a common sense solution to streamline opening a business,” Blackburn said. “Certainly the [Special Use Permit] process is burdensome for small businesses, and making it faster and more efficient is going to help the mom and pop businesses that Alexandria prides itself on.”

Bill Reagan, executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, said that the changes could shave off several months for new businesses looking to open their doors.

“Going through the approval process, going to the Board of Architectural Review, hiring an land use attorney and getting approvals through the Planning Commission and the City Council is a huge cost that businesses bear when they are getting ready to open,” Reagan said. “It takes away from their inventory, their ability to hire people and making investments in the build-out of properties. What the city selected are uses with very little controversy, and we should give these a try.”

Wilson said that the city has an obligation to provide a regulatory process that is not burdensome on businesses looking to establish themselves in Alexandria.

“Sometimes our existing practices fall short of that mark,” Wilson said.

“Every day of delay is money for a new business,” he added. “These new changes will help our small businesses be successful in Alexandria.”

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A few months after telling a pair of local companies to pump the brakes on plans to renovate three Washington Street gas stations, the Board of Architectural Review has approved changes to the facades.

The stations in question are the Shell station at 801 N. Washington Street and a pair of Exxon stations at 703 N. Washington Street and 501 S. Washington Street. There are assorted changes with the stations themselves, but the biggest changes for anyone driving down Washington Street will be the price signs that currently are manually set will be replaced by LED signs that can update as prices change.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 20, the BAR unanimously approved the visual overhauls for the three gas stations on Washington Street.

The companies that own the stations had pushed for bigger and more visible signage at a June 5 BAR meeting, but after discussions with staff, the applicants came back with scaled-down plans.

“Fortunately I was in Italy, but I hear things did not go well,” said David Houston, a lawyer representing applicants NOVA Petroleum Realty and Mount Vernon Petroleum Realty, about the June meeting.

The large, plastic Shell sign will be replaced by a smaller 4’x4′ sign with LED lighting on a brick pedestal. The current 14 and 17-foot signs at the Exxon stations will also be replaced by smaller LED-lit signs.

The Exxon stations will continue to have the company logo prominently displayed, but in response to criticism from staff, other parts of the signage was scaled back. The applicants had also originally requested that the sign be illuminated by external lighting, but later adhered to the BAR request that the signs be illuminated only from the LEDs in the sign.

“I want to thank the applicant for coming back and fully integrating all of the comments,” said Christine Roberts, a BAR member. “They managed to come back and make it 100 times better than what it was.”

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A brick home built around 1940 in the Braddock neighborhood could be torn down and replaced with a pair of new townhouses.

The pair of townhouses at 603 N. Alfred Street are scheduled for review at the Board of Architectural (BAR) tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.

Currently, the lot is occupied by a one-and-a-half story building most records date to 1940. The report notes that there is a possibility the land was used as a campsite during the Civil War, and the developer will be required to call Alexandria Archaeology if any buries structures or artifacts are found.

But while the building is old, the city staff say it’s not necessarily historically or architecturally significant.

“The circa 1940 detached single-family dwelling is not of an unusual or uncommon design and could easily be reproduced due to its extremely simple design and use of mass-produced, mid-20th-century materials,” staff said in a report on the project. “While it is unusual to find this style dwelling in the Parker-Gray district, they were common in the rest of Alexandria in this period and ubiquitous the throughout the United States following the Second World War.”

Staff also noted that retention of the home would not maintain the scale and character of the neighborhood, where numerous other new homes are under construction. While many of the other properties in the Braddock neighborhood are smaller, single-family homes, the area has also seen extensive redevelopment and gentrification in recent years.

The new homes incorporate a modern interpretation of early 20th-century art deco styles, according to the staff report. The building would be three stories tall with rooftop access on the third floor and a fenced back yard.

Concept rendering via City of Alexandria. Street photo via Google Maps

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