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Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street (via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria planning staff are recommending that City Council reverse a ruling by the Board of Architectural Review and allow a hair salon to keep an after-the-fact paint job on its exterior.

In May, the city was notified that the Glynn Jones Salon at 720 King Street painted a large portion of its exterior the color gray. On July 6, the Board of Architectural Review unanimously voted to deny the salon a certificate of appropriateness for the work.

While the salon is located in the Old Town Historic District, city staff do not believe the work has any adverse effect on the previously unpainted masonry.

“The Board found that painting the building’s yellow brick was not appropriate since yellow brick buildings are rare in Alexandria and the material can be considered a character defining,” city staff reported. “(S)taff does not believe that the after-the-fact work of partially painting previously unpainted masonry has an adverse effect on the building at 720 King Street, nor does it diminish the historic character of the historic district.”

Anthony Hughes is representing the salon, and said in the appeal that the facade of the building was constructed in the 1960s and is not historic.

“The brick used in the construction is not historically significant, as it is not part of the original structure,” Hughes said. “Therefore, any alterations to the exterior, including painting, should be evaluated based on the existing planning guidelines and not restricted by the historical context of the area, but on a case-by-case basis.”

According to the city:

The building at 720 King Street was built between 1891 and 1896. However, the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show constant alterations and additions throughout the decades. The Sanborn Map of 1931 shows for the first time that the main building (front portion) was entirely made of brick. Therefore, the main building is considered an Early building (built before 1932) within the Old and Historic Alexandria District (Figure 2). However, the building underwent major renovations in 1967 (Permit # 24731) when the front/ north elevation was completely rebuilt, thus the front portion of the building is considered Late (built after 1931).

The Zoning Ordinance specifically prohibits painting previously unpainted masonry surfaces without BAR approval. However, the BAR does not regulate colors once buildings are already painted. The chosen color gray applied on the building’s storefront (without BAR approval) is subtle and does not subtract from or diminish the character of the building and/or the adjacent existing structures. Furthermore, the color gray has been historically appropriate to both Early and Late buildings within the historic districts.

Vinyl windows, the topic of discussion at an upcoming BAR meeting (image via City of Alexandria)

The Alexandria Board of Architectural Review (BAR) has a storied history of seemingly petty battles with property owners, but the newest one might take the cake.

City staff is recommending denial of a Certificate of Appropriateness for vinyl windows, window trim and shutters at a Parker-Gray home — meaning the owner may have to restore the original windows or find historically suitable replacements.

Last year, after extensive discussion, the BAR said a homeowner would likely have to remove newly installed HVAC piping from a building at 319 North Alfred Street — which was done earlier this year. In 2021, another Parker-Gray business got in hot water over a new paint job on a building in the historic district.

“The applicant is requesting a Certificate of Appropriateness for after-the-fact installation of vinyl windows, window trim, and shutters at the property located at 335 North Patrick Street,” the staff report said. “The application is in response to two separate BAR violations being issued to the property.”

The home was built in 1877 and was used as a grocery for a period in the early 20th century, the staff report said.

The report says the homeowner replaced wood windows, window trim and shutters with vinyl windows and shutters. The staff report quoted the city’s design guidelines in saying windows are a “principal character defining feature of a building” for both functional and aesthetic purposes and defines the “historic architectural style of a building.”

The bottom line, according to the staff report, is that the vinyl windows and shutters will have to be replaced.

“Staff finds that the installed windows, trim, and shutters do not comply with the relevant guidelines and policies and are inappropriate for this early Parker-Gray building,” the report said. “On numerous occasions, the Board has found that these products should not be used on buildings within the historic district, and in this case the fact that it is a corner building means that a larger number of window openings are directly adjacent to the sidewalk.”

The case of the vinyl windows is scheduled for review at the BAR meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

A rendering for 301 N. Fairfax Street in Old Town (via City of Alexandria)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a new development planned in Old Town is stirring up community frustration about height and density.

A meeting of the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) last week became a bitter argument between architecture firm Winstanley Architects, the lawyer for developer Hoffman and Associates, and nearby residents who say the plans don’t fit with the neighborhood.

Hoffman and Associates is hoping to build a new four-story residential development at 301 N. Fairfax Street — two blocks west of Founders Park and two blocks north of City Hall.

During the public comment, nearby residents said the proposed building is too large for the neighborhood.

“The current building at 301 N. Fairfax has an existing gross floor area of 30,459 feet,” said local resident Tom Foley. “The proposed development asks for a total gross floor area of 98,465 feet, tripling the size of the current structure.”

Foley said he and other residents feel the size and scale of the new building is not appropriate to the neighborhood.

“I am baffled how an architecture firm as talented and respected as Winstanley cannot come up with a design that comports with the historic ambiance and style of our Old Town historic buildings,” said Jana McKeag, Foley’s wife.

But specific concerns about square footage also gave way to broader concerns about the changing character of Old Town.

“Set a precedent that makes 301 N. Fairfax a first-of-its-kind emphatic statement that demonstrates to Hoffman and every developer coming behind them that attractive new construction can speak to our colonial history and still meet the appropriate size and number of units that will respect what our neighborhood can realistically accommodate,” Anna Bergman implored the BAR. “This is hallowed ground.”

Others accused the developer of lying to the nearby community and ignoring public feedback, threatening to fight the developer tooth and nail throughout the process.

“We will not allow you to steamroll over our rights and the city protections,” said Ann Shack. “With your attitude of total defiance despite our efforts we are now forced to meet you head on. Should you decide to continue down this path you chose, even though you knew in advance you were not complying with the city regulations and requirements, know that many of our residents are attorneys. We will force you to spend money before you put one shovel into the ground.”

Attorney Cathy Puskar, of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh, represented the developer.

“I carry this water bottle with me a lot, it says spread kindness,” Puskar said. “I do that to remind myself when I hear the false facts, the accusations, and the outright threats put to me, my client, and the architect, that I need to maintain my composure because that’s not what this is about.”

The project had a mixed reception from the BAR.

“I think you’ve made a lot of changes from the first [proposal]; I thought the first one was not appropriate,” said BAR Member Michael Lyons. “I still think it looks a little out of place. It’s certainly come 70% further than it was before.”

BAR Member Andrew Scott said, for the most part, he approved of the project — if there were a change in construction material.

“I think this is really beautiful work,” said Scott. “It’s really nice… I do not think fiber cement is an appropriate material for this street and you’re not going to get my vote with fiber cement.”

Scott said, contrary to some of the comments from the public, he didn’t see it as the BAR’s role to maintain the status quo of Old Town.

“It is not our mandate to prevent change in neighborhoods,” Scott said. “It is ‘Does this building compliment the neighborhood?’ And my opinion, as someone who has seen many of these… I think this fits in just fine.”

Others were less enthusiastic about the project.

“[It’s] an improvement, but given this elevation and the scale of the nearby buildings, I think it’s too massive,” said BAR Member Theresa Del Ninno. “I would not be able to support this proposal with the current massing.”

Others said the development was out of place in historic Old Town.

“This building belongs on the north end of Old Town,” said BAR Member Margaret Miller. “If I lived across the street from it, I too would have pause.”

After multiple work sessions with the BAR, Puskar said the developer was planning to take the project to the Planning Commission and the City Council rather than continue with reviews.

“We’re going to come back if it’s approved [at the City Council] for a certificate of appropriateness,” said Puskar. “There are a lot of details between now and then that we think will improve the building even more.”

Hotel Aka with its black color scheme (via EAGH Alexandria)

More beautification efforts are underway at Hotel AKA Alexandria in Old Town North.

The 180-room boutique hotel at 625 First Street and 510 Second Street opened earlier this year and has since returned to the city to get more outdoor seating for an outdoor cafe.

Now, the hotel is asking the Board of Architectural Review for approval of a permit to demolish and a certificate of appropriateness for the “limited demolition” of a wall facing N. Pitt Street.

The windows would provide “visibility into ground floor spaces within the building in which the Applicant intends to establish community serving retail uses,” according to AKA’s application.

While the request doesn’t result in any major changes, Hotel AKA Alexandria says the payoff will be big.

“The Applicant’s proposed renovation and enhancement of the existing hotel will increase the value of the Property, create new jobs, and generate additional economic activity in the neighborhood by attracting tourist and hotel patrons to the area,” AKA said in its application. “The exterior alterations represent improvements to the existing façade that will result in a more attractive and aesthetically pleasing appearance.”

Proposed renovations at AKA Hotel in Old Town North (via City of Alexandria)

Pennsylvania-based Korman Communities owns 14 AKA hotels in the U.S., including in Alexandria, and one hotel in London.

The hotel was previously a red-brick Holiday Inn Express, and the new owners completed an extensive interior renovation and painted the exterior black. The building is on the border of the Old Town Historic District, was built in the 1970s and isn’t considered historic.


(Updated at 7:30 p.m.) An Old Town property owner wants to tear down an office building in Old Town Historic District and replace it with a four-story multifamily apartment building.

The new development will include underground parking and a rooftop terrace.

The building owners, William Thomas Gordon III and his son William Thomas Gordon IV, bought the property for $4.6 million in 2014 from an office product and furniture dealer, according to city records.

The developer, 301 N. Fairfax Project Owner LLC, wants to demolish the existing three-story office building on the property that was built in 1977 and replace it with a 50-foot-tall building with one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom apartments, a 67-space below-grade parking lot and a rooftop terrace.

The concept plan for the 25,000-square-foot property will go before the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

As for the height, the applicant provided examples of what four-story buildings look like in Old Town.

“The block, within which the property is located, is occupied by four-story brick structures with a combination of surface parking, structured parking at the ground floor and above grade parking,” the applicant said in the concept plan.

What a four-story building looks like in Old Town (via City of Alexandria)

According to the concept plan submitted to the city:

The proposed building is set up as two massings, each facing the street and composed of three stories with a fourth-floor setback. While the four-story façade will be predominantly red brick, the three-story portions will take on the character appropriate to the context of the street frontage.

For the massing of the three-story portion facing Queen Street, the applicant is proposing a ‘Palazzo’ inspired architectural character with larger scale detailing in the width of the brick pier and windows. The entry of the building will be located at the Queen Street façade. For the massing of three-story portion facing N. Fairfax Street, the Applicant proposes to break down the width of the building to be appropriate to the townhouse width across the street. Stoops will be provided for the ground floor residential units to activate the sidewalk.

The architect on the project is Winstanley Architects and the developer is represented by Cathy Puskar of Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh.


Bloom Tea is coming to Old Town — provided it can make it through the city’s review process next month.

Owner Thao Uyen Than previously told ALXnow the new shop will focus on boba tea and Vietnamese coffee, but the opening date is dependent on the city review process.

The tea shop has filed permits to fix up the broken windows and add new signage to 425 S. Washington Street. Bloom Tea was originally going to go to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) in July, but was deferred. It’s back on the docket for the meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

One of the changes is painting the unpainted brick at the front of the building — always a possible point of contention at the BAR.

Image via Google Maps

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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.”

Market Square parking garage (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Ever pulled into one of Old Town’s parking garages and been frustrated to find a sign saying the garage is full — or, worse, driven circles around the garage looking for a spot only to realize it’s full?

A solution could be on the way. A series of applications to the Board of Architectural Review for the Wednesday, July 19 meeting, indicate the city is looking at installing real-time parking availability signs.

According to the application:

The digital display will indicate real-time space availability in the parking lot. By doing so, these signs will help meet the Alexandria Mobility Plan (AMP) Curb Space and Parking
strategy by guiding users to off-street parking. This improved information will decrease driving around hunting for parking and therefore decrease traffic and pollution. Due to electrical wiring issues, instead of installing the sign in the same location as the present sign, the new sign will be installed at the southeast corner of the planting bed adjacent to the north side of the garage entrance. Staff finds the design and the lighting appropriate for this property and recommends approval of the project as submitted.

The applications are for garages at Market Square (108 N. Fairfax Street), Courthouse Square (111 S. Pitt Street), and just across from the Torpedo Factory (220 N. Union Street).

The changes are part of an overhaul that aims to get more visitors to Old Town in parking garages and off the streets. Last year, the City Council authorized changes that made garages cheaper than street parking.


The Office of Historic Alexandria (OHA) is hoping to take a hammer to a dozen later additions to the Freedom House Museum (1315 Duke Street) to take the building back to its mid-19th century look.

The museum was once the Franklin and Armfield Office, a slave trafficking hub that forcibly shipped thousands of Black men, women and children around the country between 1828 and 1861.

In a proposal submitted to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) for the meeting on Wednesday, July 19, the OHA said the goal is to recreate the look of the building from 1828-1861 based on historic reports and Civil War-era photos.

According to the report, the work includes”

  • Repointing masonry walls
  • Masonry infill of window openings added after the period of significance
  • Removal/replacement or restoration of doors windows and shutters
  • Repaint all previously painted walls
  • Reveal and restore the historic sign
  • Siding replacement
  • Demolition of the south slope of the existing mansard roof and portions of the east and west gable ends

“The overall intent is to repair or restore each massing section of the building to the period of significance of that portion of the building, as defined in the Historic Structure Report,” the report said. “The museum will remain in operation throughout the construction.”

114 N. Payne Street (via Google Maps)

In April 1979, the City of Alexandria listed 114 N. Payne Street in Old Town as a historic building due to its unique architectural roofline.

One month later, the city approved a permit to destroy that roofline.

The phantom roofline, however, haunted the approval process for the homeowner trying to make modifications three decades later.

The homeowner plans to replace the building’s front aluminum siding to cement siding, remove a short fence installed in 2019 and replace a grassy area with parking. A neighbor from the Old Town Civic Association appealed the plans, arguing the changes should not be made, citing the historic significance of the home.

City Council dismissed the argument on the grounds that the feature that made the home historic no longer exists and ultimately approved the modifications (docket item 15). The whole process left some city employees and City Council members scratching their heads at the baffling decision by city leaders in 1979.

“The main reason based on the nomination paperwork that it was placed on the 100-Year Building list was that roofline, which has been altered,” a city staffer said.

The roofline was listed as a rare example of Gothic revival architecture in Alexandria.

Presentation on 114 N. Payne Street changes (image via City of Alexandria)

“We think the permit may have been issued a month after it was placed on the 100-Year Building list?” Mayor Justin Wilson asked. “So it was placed on the 100-Year Building list in April 1979… for the roofline, and then a month later we issued a permit to destroy that roofline?”

“I believe so,” the staffer said. “Our records do show that, I just didn’t want to say that.”

Without that roof, Board of Architectural Review (BAR) member Andrew Scott said, there is little of historical note about the building.

“The reason this building is on the 100-year protected building list was because of this very unique and distinctive gothic roofline that no longer exists,” said Scott. “We don’t know why it doesn’t exist, but absent that, there’s nothing really particularly historical remaining about this building.”

Siding with the architectural review board, the Council ultimately voted unanimously to deny the neighbor’s appeal and allow the homeowner to make the changes.

“I thank the BAR for making a good decision here,” City Council member Kirk McPike said, “and I apologize on some level to the applicant that they had to spend time and money to come here and present this case again.”

Presentation on 114 N. Payne Street changes (image via City of Alexandria)

Image via Google Maps

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