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What two additional stories looks like on a 45-foot-tall structure. (Via City of Alexandria)

After public outcry over a rushed plan, the Alexandria Planning Commission deferred a city staff proposal to allow developers to build affordable housing into new apartment buildings up to 70 feet in height in areas where height limits are 45 feet or more.

There were more than 30 speakers at the meeting on Thursday, June 23, mostly residents of Del Ray.

Gayle Reuter has lived in Del Ray for 40 years, and said that the proposal would ruin her neighborhood’s small town feel.

“I understand the city is in need of and has promised increased affordable housing and endorsed the Washington COG Regional Housing Initiative,” Reuter told the Planning Commission. “If this is approved, developers will come to come in and the Avenue with its small town feel of mom-and-pop businesses where Main Street still exists will be gone forever.”

The proposal would allow developers bonus height of 25 feet in any zone or height district where the maximum allowable height is 45 feet.

Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek asked city staff to present a refined proposal to the community before reintroducing it to the Commission for review again.

“I think it’s an important tool, and I think I think the actual impact would be very modest in terms of when it would choose to be enacted,” Macek said. “I don’t think you’re gonna end up seeing 70-foot buildings and this and that. That is sort of the extreme if every site were to redevelop, but I don’t think that that’s the reality of what would happen. But rather than speculate about that, I think we have a chance to step back and study it or provide some projections, some best guesses about what we’ll see so that we can inform the decision and possibly take it in steps with a pilot for a phased amount of density and we can revisit.”

Under the proposal, numerous areas of the city would be open for developers to move in and increase the height of 45-foot-tall buildings to a maximum of 70 feet in height — specifically along Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray, in Arlandria, Alexandria West, the Beauregard area, the Landmark area, Eisenhower West, Old Town North and Carlyle.

The proposal does not apply, however, to single family, two story and town home dwellings.

Areas of the city that would be impacted by the proposed change to height restrictions. (Via City of Alexandria)

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.

“While approximately 800 market-rate and affordable units of housing are currently generated per year in Alexandria, meeting the RHI (Regional Housing Initiative) goal involves the production of an estimated additional 300 units per year, of which 75 percent are recommended to be affordable,” staff wrote. “This represents an estimated additional 2,250 affordable units over the 10-year period…”

Save Del Ray founder Nate Hurto said that the community needs time to understand the potential impact of such a move.

“I think we really need to look at the impact that it could have communities have to the existing housing stock, and to the very nature and character of our neighborhood,” Hurton said. “How will it affect the existing stock of apartments, rentals, condos that are affordable? How will it affect businesses, especially along Mount Vernon Avenue and governed by the small area plan?”

Commissioner Stephen Koenig said that he was swayed by the input of residents.

“I’m certainly persuaded by the sort of breadth and depth of the input that we’ve had tonight,” he said.

Commissioner David Brown said that the City needs to reevaluate its approach.

“We we have a process where we figure out what works in particular places,” Brown said. “It’s called planning. We haven’t done any planning here. We need to look at each one of these zones, figure out what the likely impact is going to be in that zone and figure out whether or not that zone should be considered a candidate for affordable housing.”

According to the City:

At the core of the Bonus Density and Height Program of Section 7-700 is the idea that the affordable housing gained through incremental increases in density and height is a positive exchange.

Additionally, by its nature and in alignment with the City’s All Alexandria Resolution, the initiative provides affordable housing opportunities in locations that might otherwise not receive them, and this specific proposal could increase the likelihood of affordable housing in projects that are more mid-scale. Moreover, each project approved through this proposal would be reviewed rigorously and through a public process to ensure that additional density and/or height is designed in a way that respects the neighborhood.

The requirement that a project using this provision obtain a Special Use Permit means that all impacts of the project are thoroughly reviewed and mitigated as a condition of approval.

As for outreach, City staff noted:

The City undertook the following outreach: established a Bonus Height Webpage; developed and posted Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in English, Spanish and Amharic; conducted two virtual community meetings–on April 12 (130 attendees) and May 19 (90 attendees); addressed questions during the meetings and posted Questions/Comments/Responses subsequent to the meetings; and advertised engagement opportunities through eNews and directly to Civic Associations and to those who contacted the City by email or other communication.

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Bonaventure has released its second concept design for its mixed use shopping center proposal for 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue in the middle of Del Ray.

Bonaventure made a few big changes, including reducing the size of the proposed mixed use building from 88,500 square feet to 72,000 square feet. The number of esidential units has also been lowered from 79 to 73, and the building setbacks have been increased along Mount Vernon, Stewart and E. Mount Ida Avenues.

Cathy Puskar, Bonaventure’s land use attorney, said that the developer received lots of feedback from the city and community on their first conceptual design.

“We continue to do our work to try and work with you as residents of Delray to address concerns and issues and hopefully get to a point where we have a project that everyone can be proud of,” Puskar told members of the Del Ray Citizens Association in a presentation Monday night (May 16).

Bonaventure is also giving the community a parking lot, so to speak. The developer owns the 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Oxford Avenue, and 73 spaces will be available for public use. The lot currently allows for 33 shared retail parking spaces.

“We are proposing to provide our residential parking on the lower floor of the of the parking structure,” Puskar said. “We would have 73 parking spaces that would be available for shared retail use so the public would be able to use those spaces.”

Bonaventure bought the home to the former Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services for $22.5 million in 2019, along with the neighboring properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Notable changes:

  • The number of residential units has gone from 79 to 73
  • Residential square footage went from 75,970 square feet to 63,200 square feet
  • Increased building setback along Mount Vernon Avenue from nine feet to 12.1 feet
  • Increased building setback along E. Mount Ida Avenue from seven-and-a-half feet to 10.7 feet
  • Increased building setback along Stewart Avenue from nine feet to 10 feet
  • Residential balconies have been removed

As for stormwater concerns, Puskar said that the new plan relocates a storm sewer pipe from the sidewalk into the street, and that the pipe will be increased from 15 inches to 18 inches.

“We received a number of comments about being concerned about stormwater and stormwater runoff and stormwater treatment,” Puskar said. “Since we have to relocate the pipe anyway, we’re working with staff to upgrade that pipe to help as they continue to do infrastructure improvements to address stormwater concerns in the area.”

Bonaventure is not including affordable housing units in the project, and will instead contribute to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The company wants their plan to go to the City for review in November, to be followed by a final site plan and building permit process, and upward of a year-and-a-half for construction. Barring unforeseen circumstances, development could start in the fourth quarter of 2023 and be finished in approximately 20 months.

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A rendering of what the view over Four Mile Run will look like after the power lines are undergrounded (via Dominion Energy)

project scheduled to begin this summer will tunnel under the Four Mile Run near the Route 1 bridge to move overhead power lines underground.

As part of the project, Dominion Energy will rebuild its Glebe Substation next year, modernizing the facility that was built in the 1970s and is reaching the end of its service life. The substation serves parts of Arlington and Alexandria.

The project comes after Dominion Energy has promised to invest millions in the area after years of frequent and sometimes devastating power outages.

“Everything will look a lot cleaner, a lot of the equipment will be a lot smaller,” said Ann Gordon Mickel, Dominion Energy’s communication and community lead for the project.

A virtual community meeting will be held tonight (Wednesday) at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the status of the project and what to expect during and after construction.

When work begins, a 250-foot by 250-foot area will be fenced off in the Potomac Yard shopping center parking lot in Alexandria to allow for a 40- to 50-foot deep pit for tunneling.

In Arlington, a pit will be constructed at the substation and there may be temporary intermittent closures on S. Eads Street, as well as on nearby sidewalks and pedestrian paths. Electric service will not be affected.

The underground line will run between the substation and the Potomac Yard Transition Station, which will be decommissioned at the end of the project. The rebuilt Glebe Substation will incorporate new technology, requiring less maintenance and making it more reliable, the power company said.

“Any time you address aging infrastructure and replace it with new technology the reliability always enhances,” said Greg Mathey, a manager of electric transmission communications for Dominion Energy. “The transmission system feeds the distribution system, so the more reliable and hardened we can make the transmission system, the better the distribution system can perform.”

The construction to convert to underground lines is scheduled to continue through 2024. The whole project should be completed by late 2025.

A chart showing the timeline for the Glebe Electric Transmission project (via Dominion Energy)

The entire project is expected to cost about $122.8 million. The State Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in Virginia, approved the project in 2019. It was originally scheduled to be up and running by this month, but due to the nature of the construction, the timeline was pushed back.

Using a trenchless microtunneling method will increase costs by about $16 million — but it shortens the construction timeline, according to project documents.

This type of tunneling will also reduce construction-related impacts to the Potomac Yard shopping center, as it won’t require as much space for pipes above ground.

The overhead lines that can be seen over Four Mile Run will be removed at the end of the project.

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The time for farewells is almost up, as the demolition of Landmark Mall starts early next month.

It will take about a week for contractors to relocate the Landmark Mall Transit Center to the northeastern portion of the massive property, followed by site fencing the final week in April and demolition at the beginning of the month — although no exact date has been released on exactly what day walls will start coming down.

“I would hope to see the site fencing go in and around the site by the end of this month, with demo(lition) starting the very beginning of next month,” Jay Kelly, Foulger-Pratt’s vice president of development, said in a community meeting Wednesday night. “We are pushing every day to try and make it go quicker.”

The massive West End Alexandria project will result in more than four million square feet of new development, including the expansion of Inova Alexandria Hospital. The buildings on the property will be demolished over the course of six months — going from east-to-west, including the flyover ramp on N. Van Dorn Street. Only the 550-space parking garage will remain as-is.

Most of the debris will be hauled away along Interstate 395 on trucks with tarps that have been hosed down to reduce air contamination.

The mall opened to the public in 1965, closed in 2017 and briefly returned to its former glory as a filming location for Wonder Woman 1984.

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A movement decrying Bonaventure’s  proposed mixed-use development in the heart of Del Ray launched online this month, and its organizer says the plan will ruin the neighborhood’s peaceful vibe.

Nate Hurto and a few dozen of his neighbors aren’t happy about the proposal to convert the old 88,500-square-foot former home of the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services building at 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue into a four-story, 43-foot-tall building with 12,530 square feet of retail and 79 rental units.

Hurto, a 15-year resident of the neighborhood, launched SaveDelRay.org earlier this month.

“We’re not anti-development or against progress,” Hurto told ALXnow. “We just want everybody to take a concerted look at this, and most importantly to let the City Council and the Planning Commission and everybody else know that this is important to us.”

Hurto says the development ignores 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.

“Go to the site and imagine a building that’s twice as tall as the existing structure,” Hurto told ALXnow. “I think if you stand at the corner, where Pork Barrel BBQ and Tops Of Old Town are,  just look north on Mount Vernon Avenue. Imagine a structure that’s twice as tall right there on the street, right next to the houses. It does not convey a small town neighborhood feel, it does not convey any of the historic sense of place.”

Bonaventure owns the 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Oxford Avenue, which will be available for residents living in the new building. The company says that the residential and retail parking required for the project can be accommodated and will be provided in the the existing lot in the 2400 block of Mt Vernon Avenue.

“We want an emphasis on ensuring that there is sufficient parking for the development, that traffic controls are in place,” Hurto said. “Instead of fundamentally altering the community, we want the developer to look at this project and say, ‘How do I make this really fit into Del Ray?”

As for SaveDelRay’s strategy, Hurto wouldn’t say much.

“Sign up for our mailing list, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Instagram and you’ll see the strategy unfold,” Hurto said.

Bonaventure last briefed the Del Ray Citizens Association on the project in February, and wants the plan to go to the City for review in November. That would be followed by the final site plan and building permit process, and upward of a year-and-a-half for construction. That means, barring unforeseen circumstances, that development would start in the fourth quarter of 2023 and be finished in approximately 20 months.

Images via Bonaventure

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A rendering of the John Carlyle Center (courtesy of Cushman Wakefield)

With construction slated for later this year, the planned John Carlyle Center for Health and Wellness is looking for tenants.

The developer behind the 126,000-square-foot medical facility is starting to push out the word ahead of construction that space is available to lease. Cushman & Wakefield is handling the leasing of the medical offices and retail spaces.

“We are in active discussions with potential tenants including hospital systems, national and local specialty practice groups,” Cushman & Wakefield representative Lindsey Groom said.

The facilities are expected to begin construction at the end of the third quarter or beginning of the fourth quarter of this year but an exact date has not been determined as construction logistics planning and the permitting process continues. The project at 765 John Carlyle Street will also include a 268,000-square-foot senior living residence and four-level parking garage.

Groom said there is a lack of these type of medical office properties in Northern Virginia.

“With the average age of medical office buildings in the I-395 North submarket being 40+ years old, this brand new facility will help address this strain going forward and help meet the demand for specialty care by providing healthcare providers and their patients with access points and care delivery in communities that are currently underserved, as the area’s population continues to grow,” Groom said.

The project saw some bumps in January when the developer made changes to the approved design that city staff did not support.

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Planned Duke Street lane closure, image via Google Maps

Drivers headed east on Duke Street in the West End tomorrow (Wednesday) be warned: lane closures could slow traffic on the major arterial road.

The right lane of eastbound Duke Street will be closed, followed by the left lane, to install temporary striping for a planned traffic shift to accommodate the Duke Street bridge rehabilitation project. The closures will run from Oasis Drive in Lincolnia to South Walker Street outside of the development-formerly-known-as-Landmark.

If all goes according to plan, the lane closures should be sandwiched between the day’s rush hours. Lane closures are expected to start at 9:30 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m., when traffic is shifted along the bridge over I-395 until work is completed this fall.

“The work is part of the project to rehabilitate the Duke Street bridge over I-395,” the Virginia Department of Transportation said in a release. “The improvements will extend the overall life of the bridge and improve safety for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, and include replacing the concrete bridge deck and beams, upgrading the westbound sidewalk to a shared-use path, and widening the eastbound sidewalk.”

The project is expected to be completed late this year or in early 2024.

Photo via Google Maps

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Construction on the Potomac Yard Metro station is 70% complete, and Mayor Justin Wilson said he’s knocking on wood in hope that it will open this fall.

On Tuesday, City Council received an update on the massive project.

“Is it done yet?” Wilson joked to city staff. “How about now? Now?”

City staff reported that most of the station buildings will be finished in late July. The station is now planned to open for service this fall, and the entire project is planned to wrap up in summer 2023.

Many of you all were with us in December 2019 when we broke ground,” Daphne Kott, the city’s project director told Council. “At that time, we hoped that in a month from now we would be cutting a ribbon. Unfortunately, due to current events that we’ve all learned about and many things going on in the construction industry, that date is not going to be met but we are working very closely with WMATA to push this project forward as expeditiously as possible.”

The project broke ground in Dec. 2019, with the plan to open in spring 2022. However, last summer Metro engineers found that the Automatic Train Control systems were not safe and needed to be redesigned.

“The need to redesign the ATC system is the result of project management decisions for which Metro is accountable,” the City said. “Metro is working with the contractor to reduce delays in the project schedule and ensure system safety. Construction of the station will continue largely on schedule, but there are some track-related construction elements that are dependent on the completion of the ATC design.”

Via City of Alexandria

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Local developer Bonaventure hopes their new shopping center in the middle of Del Ray could be constructed as early as summer 2025. That’s if all goes according to their plan.

Right now the plan for 2525 Mount Vernon Avenue is still in its conceptual phase, but includes a four-story, 43-foot-tall building with 12,530 square feet of retail and 79 rental units on the one acre lot. Bonaventure is not planning on including any affordable housing units in the project, and will instead contribute to the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The 88,500-square-foot building is the former Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services. Bonaventure bought it for $22.5 million in the summer of 2019, along with the properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 Mount Vernon Avenue.

Bonaventure also owns the 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Avenue and E. Oxford Avenue, which will be available for residents of the new building, but shoppers will be relegated to parking on the street.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the developer wants the plan to go to the City for review in November, followed by the final site plan and building permit process, and then upward of a year-and-a-half for construction.

“If things go according to our schedule, we would go to public hearing in November,” said Cathy Puskar, an attorney for Bonaventure. “Following the public hearing, there’s a final site plan process and building permit process, and we would look to start construction in the fourth quarter of 2023, and the building would be completed in 18-to-20 months.”

Via Bonaventure

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Mill Road closure, image courtesy City of Alexandria

Starting tomorrow (Friday) and continuing through next week, a section of Mill Road in the Carlyle neighborhood will be closed off for nearby construction.

In a news release, the City of Alexandria said the section of roadway will be closed until the end of next week. The construction is likely part of the sprawling redevelopment around the Hoffman Town Center.

“Weathering permitting, on Friday, February 4, 2022 at 5 a.m. through Friday, February 11 at 6 p.m. Mill Road between Stovall Street and the intersection of Andrew’s Lane and Jamieson Avenue will be closed to thru traffic due to construction,” the city said. “Thru traffic will be directed to a detour route along Stovall Street, Eisenhower Avenue, and Mill Road while local traffic and pedestrians will be directed to the safest routes and crosswalks within the work zone via flagmen and signage.”

The release noted that the road closure is weather-dependant any may be rescheduled if the city gets and inclement weather or freezing temperatures.

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