The proposed redevelopment of a pair of blue and white buildings, a former Burke & Herbert Bank and a former Walgreens, is heading back to city review next month.
The plan is to combine the two buildings into a single mixed-use development called The Mansley with ground-floor retail and three stories of residential space above.
The applicant, The Silverman Group, said the exterior will mostly resemble the buildings as they exist today, with the additional 24 multi-family units of residential development kept mostly away from the King Street frontage. According to the application:
The project includes the adaptive reuse and rehabilitation of two early 20th-century buildings. 615 and 621 King Street will be combined into a single building with ground-floor retail space and three stories of residential space above, as well as one level below grade to be utilized as commercial support space. The two distinct building typologies will be retained along the King Street frontage, and the building will step back by 12 feet on the upper two levels so that the buildings read as commercial with traditional window proportions.
The Silverman Group is heading to the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, April 19, for a concept review and a permit to demolish. The project won City Council approval for rezoning and development at a meeting in September last year.
Alexandria’s Board of Architectural Review can be infamously picky about urban design, but the board unanimously voted to approve a large new project in Old Town with significant enthusiasm.
Applicant City House Old Town, LLC is applying to have the office building at 1101 King Street — currently a mostly vacant office space called the Tycon Building — changed into a residential development with 210 units.
The current office building was built in 1983, predating new regulations for density in the area set in 1992. The new plans won’t add any density to the building, but still require a special use permit because they aren’t compliant with current limits.
While the interior is undergoing significant changes, the exterior changes are relatively minor. The developer is proposing new railings and balconies, along with some cosmetic changes to the coloring of the building’s exterior.
(Updated 12/23) Alexandria home owner Harold White paid a local contractor to install an extensive HVAC system to a historic home (319 North Alfred Street), and after a Board of Architectural Review (BAR) decision last night it seems likely he’ll have to pay to have it taken out again.
BAR members said the case serves as an unfortunate reminder to building owners in a historic district: always get city approval before making exterior modifications.
At issue is the exterior piping along the north facing side of the building. White said after stormwater issues destroyed the building’s boiler, White had the HVAC system installed by a local contractor, who added the piping to the exterior of the building.
The issue is: 319 North Alfred Street is in the Parker-Gray District, which means any exterior modification has to get BAR approval first. Now, White is hoping to sell the home, but told the BAR one of the conditions of the sale was that the violation be resolved.
“We had a sewer back flow in July that destroyed everything in basement in 2019, including boiler system,” White told the BAR. “In October, I had a one year old kid, and we needed a more permanent fix [than space heaters]… We were never presented with any other alternative [by the contractor], we were just told this was how it needed to be done.”
It’s a situation that the BAR admitted was a difficult one for the homeowner, even as they stood firmly with the staff recommendation that an application after-the-fact to approve the exterior pipework be denied.
The BAR members unanimously agreed with the staff recommendation, though they expressed sympathy for White’s unfortunate situation.
“I do not have a predisposition against an after the fact approval if it was a good faith mistake,” said BAR member Andrew Scott. “The problem that I have right now is not an after the fact application, the problem is the nature of the work that was done and how it affects the facade of the building… I’m not mad, but I do have pretty serious concerns about this.”
Others said the exterior modification was a violation of city policy.
“I can understand your conundrum,” BAR member Margaret Miller said. “That said, it has always been the board policy to conceal mechanical systems… This is very visible from the public right of way, it’s not like it’s not visible.”
The other members of the BAR agreed and said the modification doesn’t meet city standards.
Realtor Delaine Campbell suggested adding a modification to the exterior to cover the piping, like a green wall. BAR members were skeptical, but granted a deferral to give White a chance to come back to the city with an alternative proposal.
According to Scott:
I know these things are expensive, and it’s a really crappy situation. I feel it and I take no joy in supporting this staff recommendation, but I think for the city and these guidelines, it’s the correct approach. Not for you but for everyone else, it’s an important lesson in coming to the Board before you do the work, because we could have suggested referral or a redesign. I do want you to know: I feel very badly for you, but I just don’t see how we could approve this type of alteration, especially after the fact.
After the meeting, White said the result left him feeling deflated.
“The meeting last night was very deflating at the very least,” White said in an email. “Knowing that our options are to either bear the expense of moving the piping inside the house or come back with options, I think based on the timing requirements for BAR, this will likely lead to our sales contract being terminated.”
White said the next steps are to explore a lawsuit against the contractor or seek permission to install some sort of trellis on the property.
“It’s very unfortunate that the Board would rather see us remove this unobtrusive installation and forcibly create a moisture issue inside the building (at significant cost) if we want any sort of timely resolution,” White said. “When we had the work done, I hired a well known city-based contractor to ensure things were done correctly because I was trying to ensure the safety and comfort of my family… none of that mattered to the BAR. We acted in good faith the whole time and still it didn’t matter.”
If you live in a historic district, always remember to get approval from the city before making a modification to your house.
One local at 319 North Alfred Street, within the boundaries of the Parker-Gray District, could be forced to remove HVAC piping (item 7) outside of the building after it was installed without the approval of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR).
Most smaller issues that go to the BAR tend to be rather mundane and generally approved with little debate, but the ones where the staff report recommends denial set up a conflict between local residents and Alexandria’s influential BAR.
“The applicant has installed HVAC piping on the exterior of the north wall of the structure extending from the rooftop mounted mechanical unit to four separate locations,” the staff report said. “The piping is located within a paintable plastic enclosure and serves split system units at the interior of the structure. The installation was completed without the required BAR approvals.”
The building on North Alfred Street was constructed in 1928 by the B.B. Ezrine Construction Company, whose eponymous founder was ironically one of the founding members of the Zoning and Planning Commission that preceded the BAR.
“The two-and-a-half story Wardman-style townhouse is highly unusual in Alexandria in that it originally had Craftsman style architectural detailing,” the city report said, “rather than the more traditional Colonial Revival style often seen in Alexandria and Washington DC.”
It has an alleyway and parking lot to the north, leaving the site of the building covered with the new HVAC piping visible to the public. City staff first became aware of the piping after receiving a complaint earlier this year. While a rooftop unit was approved for the site, the exterior piping was not included in that application.
The building is for sale, according to the report, and the report said staff is working to resolve the violations before the building is passed along to a new owner — who would inherit a property with an outstanding zoning violation.
“The applicant is requesting after-the-fact approval for the installation of HVAC piping on the surface of the north wall of the existing structure,” the report said. “The piping is located within a paintable plastic enclosure and extends from the rooftop-mounted mechanical condenser to four separate locations on the north wall. At each of these locations, the piping penetrates the exterior wall leading to an indoor unit.”
The report said the piping “detracts from the historic character” of the building.
Staff finds that the HVAC piping that has been installed at the exterior of the north wall at 319 North Alfred Street detracts from the historic character of this unique building The organization of the piping is based on the location of the unit on the roof and the location of the interior units and not on the composition of the overall elevation. While the painting of the piping to match the adjacent wall helps to limit their initial visibility, they remain a clearly modern element that has been introduced without consideration for the design of the elevation
The applicant has filed an application for after-the-fact approval of the piping, but the report recommends the BAR deny this request. The piping-hot controversy is scheduled for review at BAR meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 21.
Old Town could be getting a little more wired with a new policy change that would make it easier for private property owners to install electric vehicle charging stations.
The new proposal, scheduled for discussion at the Wednesday (Dec. 7) meeting of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR), would allow city staff to approve electric vehicle charging stations, which currently require a full BAR hearing.
“At the December 7, 2022, hearing staff will present a BAR administrative approval policy for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations,” the report said. “The proposed administrative approval policy would allow staff to administratively approve wall and ground-mounted EV charging stations on private properties in the Old and Historic District and Parker-Gray District.”
The stations would still be required to meet some established criteria. According to the report, stations must be minimally visible, located in the side or rear yard and can be no more than six feet tall. It would require all conduits for wall-mounted charging stations to be painted to match the wall.
Failure to meet these requirements would not result in denial, per the report. Instead, it would require BAR approval at a public hearing.
“In addition, using good judgment, staff may find that a proposed EV charging station project may need full Board review, in which case the application would be docketed,” the report said.
The Samuel Madden redevelopment project at the north end of the Braddock neighborhood is heading back to the community review process after a significant redesign.
The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is planning on tearing down a dozen aging townhomes at the north end of the Braddock Neighborhood, where Patrick and Henry streets reform into Route 1. They will be replaced with a new 500-unit multifamily residential development that would act — as it was called in some of the earlier meetings — as a gateway into Old Town.
The project had previously been lambasted by the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) for the neglect of the previous townhouse units, which were allowed to significantly deteriorate, and for seemingly giving little care to the architectural character of the townhomes the new development would be replacing.
The new version of the project doesn’t quite emulate the WWII-era design of the townhomes currently on the site, nor does it retroactively fix the years of neglect for the buildings by ARHA, but it did receive a more positive reception by staff and the BAR with inclusions like a new northern courtyard and more significant setbacks at the southern end of the site where it sits across from much lower-elevation development.
The new community meeting is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. It will be both in-person and virtual, with the in-person side held at the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street).
A release from the City of Alexandria said the development team will be available to offer updates on the project and explain some of the new uses coming in, including mixed-income rental housing, community services, and early childhood education programs.
It’s a second shot for the proposed Samuel Madden redevelopment after the plans’ first encounter with the Board of Architectural Review sparked some debate.
The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) project aims to tear down a dozen aging townhouses at 899 and 999 North Henry Street — 66 units in total — and replace them with two new multifamily apartment buildings featuring 500 residential units.
The proposed change would be a massive shift in scale for the pair of properties and be a marked visual change to the approach into Old Town along Route 1. The project faced some pushback from the Board of Architectural Review for demolishing homes identified as architecturally characteristic of the historic Parker-Gray neighborhood.
The staff report heading into a BAR meeting tonight (Tuesday), however, expresses more support for the project and said the applicant worked with staff to make changes to the properties.
As previously noted, staff finds that the applicant has been responsive to comments from the Board
and staff and has made significant changes to the proposed design throughout the Concept Design
review phase. These changes include the following:
- Addition of shoulders on portions of the building facing the historic district;
- The reconfiguration of the north building to extend the building further into the proposed
park, relocating the public open space to the north end of the south building;
- The creation of an exterior courtyard at the north end of the building;
- Reorganizing the building organization to locate the entry lobbies across from one another
to further the connection between the north and south buildings;
- The addition of significant setbacks at the south end of the south building in response to
- The elimination of a floor and overall lowering of the south building.
The report said the changes are the direct result of comments from the BAR.
“Staff appreciates the responsiveness of the applicant and the collaborative approach to the design the Board and the applicant have engaged,” the report said. “Based on all of these revisions, staff finds the height, mass, and scale to be appropriate for this location and the surrounding context.”
In general, the staff report said the new architectural shifts in the project will help it blend in more with the buildings around it, including those west of the property that are taller than the proposed development.
“Staff finds that the general architectural character of the proposed design is compatible with the Design Guidelines and the nearby context,” the report said. “Staff recommends that the Board endorse the proposed height, mass, scale, and general architectural character…”
The report also noted that the approval should be contingent on a few more minor changes, like slight elevation and window changes.
The City of Alexandria could be rolling out a new kind of bus stop with some substantial improvements over the current one.
It’s no hoity-toity $1 million Arlington bus stop, but the new shelters have modifications designed to make them more durable.
“Once approved, this bus shelter model will be used as the primary bus shelter to be installed by the City CIP projects and Developers throughout the City moving forward,” the city said in a project application.
The application laid out a few of the improvements over the current design approved in 2015.
“The modified bus shelter design is substantially similar to the current design and offers improvements that would make it more durable,” the application said. “Improvements include a more impact resistant roof, compact solar panels, framed wall panels,
handrails, and better mounting system for light fixture and location sign.”
The City of Alexandria is sending the new bus stop design through its approval process starting with a stop at the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Sept. 7.
After a contentious Board of Architectural Review (BAR) meeting, plans for the redevelopment of Samuel Madden Homes in the Braddock neighborhood are headed back to public review at a meeting next week.
The City of Alexandria said in a release that a community meeting for the proposed redevelopment is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m. in the Charles Houston Recreation Center (901 Wythe Street).
The BAR recommended approval of a plan to demolish the buildings in a 4-1 vote, but during the discussion BAR members has stern comments about the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) history of neglect that necessitated the redevelopment.
BAR member John Sprinkle also lamented the demolition of the homes as eroding part of the Parker-Gray historical district.
The plan is currently to turn the buildings into a larger mixed-use development that will replace the current 66-units across 13 buildings with 500 residential units.
“Representatives from the development team will discuss the current iteration of the development concept and timeline, and invite general public comment on the project,” a release from the City of Alexandria said.
After few months after purchasing 515 King Street — the big brutalist building in Old Town with a big clock on the side — Douglas Development is pitching a building overhaul to the city’s Board of Architectural Review (BAR).
The purchase of 515 King Street is just one of many recent acquisitions along King Street by Douglas Development.
According to a permit application scheduled for review at the Wednesday, June 15 BAR meeting. According to the permit, planned changes for the building include:
- A new painted exterior to the brick building — images included with the application show it as a darker grey.
- Added storefront windows along King Street and the other sides of the building
- A new office lobby canopy facing King Street
- A new “address sculpture” (in lieu of a tree in a planter box on King Street)
- Expanded ground floor storefront
The building will also have a 5th-floor roof deck facing King Street. The new building will also have railing along a raised sidewalk to make the building ADA accessible from King Street.