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(Updated 10:25 p.m. on 11/22/22) The roadways in Old Town North are set to get an upgrade, thanks to the massive GenOn Power Plant redevelopment.

The 18-acre power plant site has no internal transportation infrastructure, and on Wednesday night (Nov. 8) Hilco Redevelopment Partners revealed its concept designs for the street network.

Over the next decade, the development will convert the power plant site into a new mixed-use neighborhood with residential units on the upper floors, and commercial and artistic spaces on the ground floors.

“The site has no internal infrastructure today, so we’ll be investing a substantial amount to create new roads, sidewalks, bicycle accommodations, and the public walk route, as well as utilities,” said Michelle Chang, HRP’s vice president of mixed-use development, in a virtual meeting on Wednesday. “All of these will promote walkability, provide new bus stops and decrease reliance on personal vehicles. Additionally, HRP will make offsite improvements along Slater’s lane and intersections with the George Washington Memorial Parkway to improve vehicular bicycle and pedestrian connections. All told, we estimate these will (cost) $177 million.”

Plans call for a complex network of public and private streets, all of which will be publicly accessible. The roadway is designed to minimize cut-through traffic with a main public road, or spine street, going straight through the property.

HRP’s development special use permit concept submission will have to undergo a community review process next year before going to the city for final approval.

More than 14 acres of the site is devoted to open space, and the property even incorporates Dutch design with the inclusion of a woonerf, a “people-focused” street facing the waterfront that will allow for easy closure for events.

Demolition for the site is slated to begin next year on the 18-acre site in Old Town North, and construction is expected to take between 18 and 31 months. In fact, the entire development may take 10 years to complete.

HRP is also proposing these roadway changes:

Bashford Lane at the George Washington Memorial Parkway

  • Pedestrian crossings need improvement
  • Traffic signals currently prioritize north-south traffic, which will have to be balanced for east-west movements for all modes of transportation

Slaters Lane at the George Washington Memorial Parkway

  • Balance signal operations for east-west traffic
  • Improve pedestrian crossings
  • Extend bike facilities through the intersection with GWMP and connect to the Mount Vernon Trail
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The four-story, three part development at 1300 King Street is running a little behind schedule, but should be finished by late December, The Holladay Corporation tells us.

The final touches are being made to the four-story, 31-unit apartment complex with 6,000 square feet of new street-front retail.

The development — located at the former homes to Pines of Florence and Aftertime Comics (1300 and 1304 King Street) — was supposed to be finished this month by Holladay Corp. and The Foundry Companies.

“We were running into some supply chain issues,” Rita Bamberger, senior vice president at The Holladay Corp. told ALXnow. “It’s been a lot of work, and we’re hoping to be finished by the end of the year.”

Rumors are swirling about the potential tenants that will inhabit the retail spaces, but the partners in the joint venture haven’t made any announcements.

The Holladay Corporation’s last project in Alexandria was in 2012, with the Printer’s Row townhouse project in Old Town North.

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Bonaventure is pulling the plug on its plan to convert the old  Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services building at 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue into a four-story, mixed-use development.

Bonaventure’s attorney Cathy Puskar confirmed that the developer has put the project on hold indefinitely.

“Given the geometry of the site, the client needed some modifications from the Form Based Code in order to achieve an economically viable development that would provide the residential building with ground floor retail, enhanced streetscapes, open space and stormwater management envisioned in the Mount Vernon Plan,” Puskar said.

The development spurred a group of locals to launch the group Save Del Ray, which said that the development ignored the guiding principles of the city’s Mount Vernon Avenue Business Area Plan, which includes preserving the historic scale and character of the neighborhood and providing convenient parking and transportation solutions.

Bonaventure wanted to tear down the 88,500-square-foot former home of the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services building and turn it into a four-story, 43-foot-tall building with 12,530 square feet of retail and 79 rental units. The company planned to take the plan to the City for review this month, followed by 20 months of construction starting in the final quarter of 2023.

It’s now unclear what’s next for the property.

“(B)ased on the significant feedback from the Del Ray Land Use Committee, some citizens and staff, the client (Bonaventure) decided to take a step back to determine whether to continue to pursue redevelopment or just leave the building as-is,” Puskar said.

Bonaventure bought a swath of properties along Mount Vernon Avenue in the summer of 2019. In addition to 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue, the company also bought the properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 Mount Vernon Avenue, and owns a 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon and E. Oxford Avenues.

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m. on Nov. 4) Citing cost increases, developer JBG Smith is putting the brakes on building two seven-story residential apartment buildings around the corner from the Potomac Yard Metro Station.

Construction of an 85-foot-tall apartment building in block 15 and a 90-foot-tall apartment building in block 19 are being put on hold, Matt Kelly, CEO of JBG Smith, told investors this week. Kelly reportedly said that a surge in construction costs inhibit development.

JBG Smith is the master master developer for Virginia Tech’s $1 billion Innovation Campus, and last year signed a deal with to design, construct, manage and own two million square feet of mix-used property at Potomac Yard.

At the time, JBG Smith said that construction could start within the next year,

“The plans call for two multifamily buildings totaling approximately 419,000 square feet that have been placed in JBG SMITH’s Near-Term Development Pipeline and could start construction within the next 12 months,” JBG Smith said.

The hold on more than 400,000 square feet of residential development was first reported by the Washington Business Journal.

The 180,000-square-foot property on block 15 is a block away from the unfinished Metro station. Plans approved by the city call for a 212-unit building with an underground parking garage and 15,000 square feet of ground-level retail.

The 286,000-square-foot property on block 19 is planned as a 262-unit apartment building with an underground parking garage and 23,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.

Virginia Tech plans on opening its four-acre Innovation Campus by fall 2024, and the delayed Potomac Yard Metro station is expected to open sometime next year.

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Metro’s Blue Line track running through Alexandria will reopen on Sunday (Nov. 6) after being shut down for nearly two months.

That’s the good news, sort of.

Metro was two weeks late reopening the Blue Line, which was supposed to reopen on October 22, but additional track work was needed.

“The work to restore Metro back to the level required to support this region continues,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in his monthly newsletter. “In the short-term, additional sacrifice will be required. As a regular Metro rider myself, I know the service challenges first-hand.”

The definite bad news, as reported last month, is that the opening of the Potomac Yard Metro station was pushed back from this month to sometime next year.

Alexandria Metro riders on the Blue and Yellow Lines have been cut off since September 10, as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has worked to connect the new Potomac Yard Metro station to the rest of the system.

“To say that the City is disappointed in WMATA’s management of this project would be an understatement,” said Wilson. “We have made specific requests of new oversight, new accountability and transparency from WMATA and will push the agency to complete this project as soon as possible, while addressing the significant financial impacts the City has borne as a result of WMATA’s failures.”

Wilson says that he personally met with WMATA leadership, and that he expects to have a new opening date for the Potomac Yard station announced in early December.
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Alexandria’s City Hall just got an F rating in a new facility report, and long-awaited renovations are still years away.

Redevelopment of the aging site got shelved when the pandemic struck in 2020. The design phase for the $70 million project will get underway next year, as will a public engagement process to renovate the landscaping, plaza and garage structure at Market Square.

“We’re currently reevaluating our program space and needs,” said Ebony Fleming, the City’s director of communications. “Next year we’ll begin the design phase.”

The aging home to Alexandria’s government was deemed “functionally obsolete” in a  new Joint Facilities Master Plan Roadmap, which City Manager Jim Parajon presented to City Council and the School Board last week. The roadmap acts as a guide for the bodies to plan for city projects that need redevelopment.

“City Hall had been in a bad shape for a while,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “We have deferred the project a bit to work to better define the scope after the pandemic and address more emergent capital needs, but we will have to address the building soon.”

In 2019, the City was on track to finish its public engagement process for the project, which includes roof repairs, reconfigured offices and window replacements.

The City’s 2023-2032 Capital Improvement Program budget has a timeline for renovation and HVAC repairs for fiscal years 2024, 2025 and 2026. Approximately $9.3 million is funded for FY 2024, $51.5 million is funded for FY 2025 and $9.3 million is funded in FY 2026.

City staff say that office spaces will be renovated in FY 2025 at the earliest, according to an October, 2021, CIP presentation to Council.

Read about Alexandria City Hall’s history below the jump. Read More

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Alexandria needs to solve its affordable housing crisis, but should building up be the solution?

The City’s bonus density and height program would allow developers to increase heights of buildings to 70 feet in areas of the city that are capped at 45 feet in height, like in Del Ray.

City Manager Jim Parajon will discuss the Alexandria’s bonus density and height program at Agenda Alexandria’s upcoming discussion on Monday night, October 24. The event will begin at the Lyceum (201 S. Washington Street) with a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by the panel discussion with Save Del Ray founder Nate Hurto and Kamilah McAfee, the senior vice president of real estate development for Wesley Housing.

In June, the Planning Commission deferred the proposal from city staff after a wave of Del Ray residents protested that the program will eliminate the neighborhood’s small town feel.

Alexandria is currently experiencing an affordable housing crisis, and lost 14,300 (or 78%) affordable housing units between 2000 and 2022. Consequently, the city has pledged to produce or develop thousands of units to meet 2030 regional housing goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Agenda Alexandria will be hosted this month by its Board Chair Rod Kuckro. In last month’s panel, Alexandria Police Chief Don Hayes said that the city’s public school system needs school resource officers to curb violence.

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Alexandria Hyundai‘s special use permit has been extended to 2045 — with conditions.

After nearly three hours of deliberation on Saturday (October 15), City Council approved three special use permit requests to allow the dealership to continue operating until 2045, with the caveat that Council will take another look in 2040 at the permit for a service and storage parking lot.

Kevin Reilly has run Alexandria Hyundai on two acres of land between the 1600 and 1800 blocks of Mount Vernon Avenue for more than 20 years. With Hyundai converting to electric vehicles, Reilly is forced to upgrade his dealership and get an extension to his SUPs, which previously expired in 2025.

Council voted 4-2 (with Council Members Sarah Bagley and Canek Aguirre voting no) approving the SUP for the 22,000-square-foot lot.

Last week, the Planning Commission approved the plan for Alexandria Hyundai to keep operating, but denied the SUP to extend the life of the lot, which Reilly says he needs to keep operating. The parking lot is prime real estate on Mount Vernon Avenue, and the Commission agreed with City staff in finding that it does not comply with the city’s master plan, which outlines more active and pedestrian uses for that stretch of the Mount Vernon Avenue.

Reilly said that he needs the parking lot to stay in business.

“You can’t run a dealership unless you are facility compliant,” Reilly said. “It’s really economically unviable, and if you don’t meet the manufacturer’s customer satisfaction scores. Part of that is if your vehicle is in there (in the dealership), we need to have your vehicle to you immediately. If there’s no there’s no customer satisfaction, I just can’t operate.”

Reilly, a former president of the Del Ray Business Association, was praised for being a good neighbor by Council, and his proposal had the backing of the DRBA, the Del Ray Citizens Association and the Del Ray Land Use Committee.

“When I first moved to Del Ray there were literally just a handful of businesses on the Avenue,” said DRBA’s Gayle Reuter. “We are so thankful that over 20 years ago Kevin Reilly made the decision to move to Del Ray… Many of the events the community loves so much — the Del Ray Halloween Parade, the farmer’s market, Art On The Avenue — wouldn’t have happened without his early support in getting them going.”

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson praised Reilly and thanked him for running his business in Alexandria.

“We do appreciate what you do for the community and in Del Ray,” Jackson said.

The project includes a new service drive-thru lane, service reception areas and the installation of four electric vehicle chargers for community use. The chargers will be installed by this time next year, Reilly said.

The plan also includes a 770-square-foot canopy for a new 1,730-square-foot service reception addition, as well as a 1,500 square foot service reception area.

Praveen Kathpal told Council that the property should be converted to housing or open space, and that keeping the dealership until 2045 on Mount Vernon Avenue is a long time.

“Our current mayor will turn 66 years old in the year 2045,” Kathpal said. “This year’s high school seniors will be unavailable for any 40-under-40 lists. Taylor Swift will be older than Kurt Cobain would be if he were alive today. We’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Coolio’s hit, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise.’ So, do we really want to be storing cars along Mount Vernon Avenue when all of that happens? I don’t think so.”

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Alexandria leaders agree that the city either needs to expand its aging middle schools or completely build a new one.

There are now 15,700 students within Alexandria City Public Schools, and roughy 2,000 more students are expected by 2024. That puts the city in a tricky position, as 10 ACPS schools are more than 70 years old and need continual maintenance, and a surge in elementary school kids means that Alexandria needs more middle school space.

The need for a new school was outlined in a joint facilities update between City Council and the School Board on Wednesday, October 12.

“We’ve got to be creative here with how we do things,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “We can meet the needs of enrollment in our schools with properties we own today.”

A new middle school isn’t budgeted in the city’s 10-year fiscal year 2023-2032 Capital Improvement Program Budget. Three school replacements are currently funded: the Alexandria City High School (ACHS) Minnie Howard campus, George Mason Elementary School and Cora Kelly School.

The CIP also includes more than $12 million for the renovation of an office building at 1703 N. Beauregard Street for development by 2030. The space could be used as swing space for another school under construction or as a new 600-student-capacity school.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson is in favor of converting the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center (1108 Jefferson Street) into a new middle school. Other options include looking into the availability of land on Eisenhower East or at Simpson Field near Potomac Yard.

The discussion was prompted by a new Joint Facilities Master Plan Roadmap, presented by City Manager Jim Parajon. The roadmap prioritizes city renovation projects based on the condition of public buildings. City Hall, for instance, got an F rating for being “functionally obsolete.”

The roadmap is intended to be a guidance document for Council and the Board, filling in the blanks on potential developments.

A potential new use for the land at George Washington Middle School. (Via City of Alexandria)

The room of local lawmakers erupted in relief and laughter when City Manager Jim Parajon reiterated that the roadmap document is merely a guide.

“Just to be really clear, those illustrations that you saw, they are illustrations,” Parajon said. “It gives us some understanding of how a development or redevelopment could occur, or a renovation could occur.”

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The Alexandria Planning Commission partially approved plans that will allow for a car dealership to keep operating on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray.

Alexandria Hyundai has operated on two acres of land between the 1600 and 1800 blocks of Mount Vernon Avenue for more than 20 years. Owner Kevin Reilly says that his dealership needs to conform to industry changes by converting to electric vehicles in order to stay in business, and filed three special use permit (SUP) requests with the city.

The Planning Commission denied Reilly’s request to allow for the continued use of the parking and storage lots at 1605 and 1611 Mount Vernon Avenue, but approved two other SUP’s — with conditions — for the properties at 1707-1711 and 1801 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Reilly wants a 20 year extension on his special use permits, which currently allow his business to operate until 2025. His proposal includes a new service drive-thru lane, service reception areas and the installation of four electric vehicle chargers for community use — in exchange for allowing the dealership to continue operating until 2045.

“Hyundai has a global design initiative program, and as a dealer if I do not comply, the financial penalties basically make it not viable for me to continue,” Reilly told the Planning Commission on October 6.

Reilly’s plan includes a 770-square-foot canopy for a new 1,730-square-foot service reception addition, as well as a 1,500 square foot service reception area.

City staff, however, say that the dealership does not fall in line with the city’s master plan, which calls for more active and pedestrian-serving uses for the neighborhood. Staff presented rendering of other potential uses for the site, such as townhouses or a mixed-use building with a car dealership on the ground floor.

The efforts were ridiculed by Cathy Puskar, Reilly’s land use attorney. Puskar said that heigh restrictions in Del Ray prohibit such development, and that the building used by city staff as an example of residential units above an auto dealership is 60 feet tall — 15 more than what is allowed. She also said that a conceptual drawing with town homes lacked details.

The conditions approved by the commission stipulate that:

  • Alexandria Hyundai would need to build a four-foot-tall decorative fence or wall along the 1600 block of  Mount Vernon Avenue
  • The dealership will need to add trees in front of the properties in the 1600 block, as well as remove 21 parking spaces for community use
  • If approved by City Council, the SUPs for the properties in the 1700 and 1800 block will need to be reviewed in 2032, and expire in 2045

Gayle Reuter of the Del Ray Business Association said that Reilly should be allowed to stay on Mount Vernon Avenue.

“Why wouldn’t we want to keep such an outstanding business in our neighborhood?” Reuter said. “For those who think that the ownership distracts from new development and improvements to the community, tell that to the brand new townhouses directly behind the dealership that are now on the market for $1.5 million.”

Neighbor Maria Wasowski disagrees.

“Auto sales and parking lots really divide the two commercial ends of (Mount Vernon Avenue),” she said, adding that her position was not personal against Reilly. “We all like him and don’t wish him ill.”

All three special use permit requests now go to City Council for review.

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