Alexandria, VA

The Old Dominion Boat Club (ODBC) will present the Alexandria Planning Commission in November (Nov. 5) with a plan to build a floating wharf and pier outside its clubhouse at 0 Prince Street.

“The floating pier will provide facilities for transient boat mooring for larger boats due to the water depth along its expanse and for rowing crew shells and chase boats either for planned events/regattas or emergency needs,” according to an application for the special use permit.

The application continues, “The ODBC also proposes to add a floating wharf over the shallow water in its riparian rights to allow and support current and new uses that include small boat mooring and launch and retrieval of crew shells and kayaks to support increased recreational use of the Potomac River.”

The total square footage for the project is 2,688 square feet, and the club noted in its application that it will remove the floating structures if the city needs the space for flood mitigation infrastructure improvements.

“The proposed new floating wharf at the site would encourage increased recreation use of the site and support ODBC water dependent uses,” notes the application.

The city issued a certificate of occupancy for the ODBC Clubhouse at 0 Prince Street in 2017. The club was previously located at the foot of King Street. That property was exchanged with the city for a number of nearby lots downriver in order to build a public walkway and make flood mitigation improvements.

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Members of the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review didn’t mince words against the proposed development of the Heritage Old Town.

“Why are you asking for our opinion if what we get back isn’t actually changed?” BAR Chair Christine Roberts said at the September 2 meeting. “It’s just more lipstick on a pig.”

The plan to demolish four 1970s-era buildings on the southeast Old Town property were sent back to the developer in June to give the community more time for feedback. The plan for the property, which is situated in the Old Town Historic District, was then rejected earlier this month by the board after members said that changes made to the proposal were not improved upon.

New York-based architect Asland Capital Partners, was heavily criticized by board members for designing a complex that does not fall in line with the character of Old Town. The project, which borders along South Patrick and North Washington streets,  includes the addition of 777 apartments at structures up to seven stories tall, and includes 195 affordable housing units.

Board Member Lynn Neihardt said that the architect’s buildings don’t belong in Old Town, and that the city is getting poorly designed buildings “under the guise of providing affordable housing.” She also said that there is an underlying feeling that the property doesn’t need to fit within design guidelines because it’s not in an area populated by tourists.

“We need a feeling of smaller buildings in the front with maybe taller heights behind, which has been done over and over again, very successfully in D.C. and other parts of Old Town,” Neihardt said. “The buildings, to me, speak Ballston, Crystal City, but not Old Town. They’re nothing like Robinson Landing and the other excellent examples of buildings that fit into their context.”

BAR Member John Sprinkle objected to the mass, height, scale and general architecture of the proposal.

“I gotta tell you, you got to go back to the drawing board,” Sprinkle said. “It doesn’t fly in this city.”

The project will go to the Planning Commission and City Council in February 2021.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Today’s the First Day of School for ACPS — “Let’s focus on getting connected this week! Make sure you have access to technology and have completed your back-to-school forms.” [ACPS]

West End Development Could Add Hundreds of Affordable Housing Units — “Wesley Housing is requesting a pre-development loan of $400,000 to start the development process on ParcView II, a new affordable rental project on Holmes Run Parkway in Alexandria’s West End.” [Alexandria Living]

Child Abuse Reports Go Down 40% — “Typically, Alexandria Child Protective Services receives more case reports in the spring than any other time of the year. However, this spring reports were down 40 percent from the average in recent years.” [Alexandria Living]

Gong Meditation Today in Del Ray — “Join us each Tuesday from 6-7pm, September 1 through October 20. Relax and support your body, mind and spirit through sound, yoga and meditation. Take a break from today’s hectic and stressful environment and see how you can benefit from sound therapy.” [Facebook]

Volunteers Needed for Food Distribution This Thursday — “Help serve meals and groceries this Thursday, September 10 at the Charles Houston Recreation Center. A project from the Washington Street UMC, ALIVE!, ARHA, and Charles Houston Recreation Center – this event generally serves more than 150 families!” [Facebook]

Alexandria Drive-In Shows ‘Back To The Future’ —  “Remembering you have one of the sold out spots for Back to the Future this Saturday …  ” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, mainly sunny. High 88F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. At night, partly to mostly cloudy. Low 69F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Keyholder at FatFace — “Our Alexandria store is looking for a passionate supervisor to lead the team and establish the brand in the local area.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s civic associations came out in force to speak against a loosening of zoning restrictions at public school properties. While the Planning Commission ultimately pushed forward a modified version of the zoning change, there was widespread agreement that the public outreach could have been handled better.

The change had been proposed in 2019 and was docketed for meetings earlier this year, but had disappeared as the pandemic led to those meetings being cancelled until it quietly resurfaced for the Sept. 1 meeting.

The change originally would have allowed Alexandria City Public Schools to build schools up to 0.6 Floor Area Ratio (FAR) by right, meaning without needing public approval, or higher without a set restriction. The version approved at the Planning Commission still allows proposed schools to exceed the density restrictions, but only with a Special Use Permit (SUP) and by no greater than 0.75 FAR.

The proposal had been criticized by the North Ridge Citizens’ Association in the lead-up to the meeting, but was joined by others who protested that the city was quietly pushing the change through without public input.

“When we first learned about this proposal, we had to ask ourselves why our city would be contemplating such sweeping changes to our code without more public notice,” said Kay Stimson, representing the North Ridge Citizen’s Association. “This truly threatens to create a trust deficit between this commission and our residents.”

Stimson said she recognized that schools need greater capacity, but also said the city was pursuing an “increased density” agenda on residents throughout the city.

“If approved, this amendment would be a glaring example of arbitrary, capricious, and unsupportive administrative action by this city with detrimental impacts particularly on low density residential neighborhoods that don’t have the infrastructure to support the massive new buildings you’re proposing,” Stimson said. “The existing baseline should remain the prevailing density of the neighborhood. If someone wants to build something larger, the point of our zoning process is that they must talk to the public and gain permission. There is no justification whatsoever to allow for unlimited density in a school building. This actually calls into question why we would have a zoning code at all.”

Other residents similarly expressed frustrations that ACPS would be seemingly shielded from density requirements local homeowners face. Pete Benavage, representing the Federation of Civic Associations, said the federation had unanimously voted to oppose the change.

“We fell anything that is reducing the public input; the meaningful and timely public input, is deleterious to the benefit of the citizens of Alexandria,” Benavage said. “This amendment has not been properly vetted by the public and we would urge it either not be adopted or at least be tabled until such time as public vetting can be obtained. ” Read More

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This and next month, the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

“This application… represents the culmination of an extensive planning process for North Potomac Yard,” according to a master plan amendment filed with the Planning Commission to increase building heights near the proposed Potomac Yard Metro Station. Buildings in Block 15 would increase in height from 85 feet to 90 feet, and increase from 90 feet to 115 feet on Block 18 — both of which are near the developing Potomac Yard Metro Station.

The massive development includes construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, which the city is considering as an “integrated whole” instead of multiple standalone projects.

The plans will need to be approved for the development to meet its timeline. The Virginia Tech campus is currently planned to be operational by fall 2024, and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Tomorrow, the BAR will consider a Certificate of Appropriateness for a pump station to handle sanitary sewer flows with Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange (SWEE) system. The system will be transferred to the management of AlexRenew Enterprises once constructed is completed.

The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for October 6, and the plans will go to City Council this fall for approval.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls for Investigation Into Alleged Hatch Act Violations at Republican National Convention — “For those asking about next steps, Hatch Act violations are investigated and enforced by the Office of Special Counsel. @CongressmanRaja and I just requested such an investigation into potential violations at the Republican National Convention.” [Twitter]

King Street Development Projects Set to Break Ground — “The King Street Project, by Galena Capital Partners, is teed up for approval by the Alexandria City Council. The King Street Project includes plans for two developments in Old Town that would replace current parking lots.” [Alexandria Living]

Faith Pilgrimage Marching Through Alexandria Today — “A group or 30 religious leaders will be walking through Alexandria this week as part of a days-long walk from Charlottesville to the District.” [Alexandria Living]

National Archives Loans Alexandria Library Pieces for Women’s Suffrage Exhibit — “The celebration of the 19th Amendment continues at Alexandria Library’s Barrett Branch. On display through September 23 is an exhibit called ‘Rightfully Hers,’ on loan from the National Archives.” [Zebra]

Blood Drive Today at Lost Boy Cider — “The Inova bloodmobile will be at Lost Boys Cider (next to our headquarters at 317 Hooffs Run Drive) from 11-4!” [Facebook]

Sheriff’s Department Reads ‘I Feel Silly’ to Kids Online — “Feeling silly, excited or mad? Each day can bring different feelings. Join Deputy Alexis Turner as she reads “Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day” and then share how you’re feeling in the comments.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “During the day, mostly cloudy with a high of 93F. At night, some clouds. Low 74F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Front House Manager — “Supervises the dining room staff in proper service of residents during all meal periods. Assigns and coordinates duties of servers and hosts/hostess’. Maintains cleanliness of dining room and directs staff in the overall effective and efficient operation of the dining room.” [Indeed]

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(Updated 10:50 p.m.) When the City of Alexandria builds new schools, a new ordinance change (Item 9) could mean they’re a little larger than they used to be.

A new ordinance proposed for the Tuesday (September 1) Planning Commission meeting would “streamline and modernize the zoning regulations,” according to a staff report.

“School enrollment has been growing significantly over the last couple of years and is expected to continue to grow in the foreseeable future,” staff said in the report. “Since 2007, ACPS has faced rapid increases in enrollment and projects continued growth in its student population through FY 2029 — reaching over 18,000 students by that time.”

The update coincides with ACPS’ modernization plan to address capacity issues and aging facilities, including potential rebuilds like the Douglas MacArthur Elementary redevelopment up for review at the same meeting. The proposed MacArthur redevelopment is planned for 0.6 Floor Area Ratio (FAR). The new ordinance allows that level of density by-right — meaning no special permits are required — and an increase above 0.6 FAR with a special use permit (SUP). Building height remains unchanged, however, at a 60 foot limit. Read More

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These summer weeks are flying by, and another one is in the books in Alexandria.

This week, readers responded to a number of issues in the city, including the tragic story behind the city’s first murder, crime in Arlandria and another protest outside of the acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary’s home.

There was some fun news, too, like the official announcement that drive-in movies will make their way to the city at the end of the month, and that Holy Cow Del Ray made a new burger of the moment, “The Alexandria HS,” in an effort to add its two cents in a community discussion on what to rename T.C. Williams High School.

What stories impacted you this week? Let us know in the comments.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. BREAKING: Murder Suspect Was Released After COVID-19 Court Delay, Allegedly Kills Former Girlfriend Before Trial
  2. Friends and Neighbors Seek to Name Alley After Retired Judge Nolan Dawkins
  3. Man Arrested for Attempted Rape Behind Arlandria 7-Eleven
  4. Drive-In Movies Coming to Alexandria on August 29
  5. Protestors Promise to Keep Demonstrating at Acting DHS Secretary’s Alexandria Home
  6. Alexandria Summer Camp Closed Early Due to Coronavirus Exposure
  7. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Ask for Public Help in Finding Man Wanted for Murder
  8. Here’s the Latest on Development Projects on Beauregard Street in the West End
  9. Another Protest Planned This Weekend Outside DHS Secretary’s Home
  10. West End Development Returns to City with Scaled Down Density and More Open Space
  11. Alexandria’s COVID-19 Death Count at 60, Hospital Concerned About Rising Cases
  12. Holy Cow Del Ray Wades Into Another Local Controversy With Another Burger

Have a safe weekend!

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The City Council approved the second entrance for the Potomac Yard Metro station back in April, but now the design of the proposed bridge is headed back through the city process for final approval.

The proposal is something of a compromise attempted to alleviate anger from southern residents who remain outraged that original plans for a full second entrance were cut behind closed doors while residents were told it was still planned.

The design approved by the City Council is not the full southern access initially promised, but is instead a bridge over wetlands that residents to the south can take up to the north entrance rather than walking around the sizable pond.

The City Council wound up choosing a bridge to a stairwell and elevator rather than a long ramp. The design places the southern entrance at the east side of the Potomac Avenue and E. Glebe Road.

The proposal is scheduled to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

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Alexandria is planning to redesign the small .7 acre Wilkes Street Park that runs through Heritage at Old Town.

As part of a planned redevelopment of Heritage, the city is planning to make the park more accessible and accomodating to all ages and abilities, according to the city website. The park also features a pedestrian and bicycle trail that connects Wilkes Street between S. Alfred Street and S. Columbus Street, a use that the city said would continue under the new design.

“The plan recommends improvements such as play areas, seating, and open passive areas,” the city said. “The proposed improvements will also feature a site-specific work of public art as approved by the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Developers will construct the park improvements in phases, as a condition of their redevelopment approvals.”

Community involvement in the redesign is scheduled to start on Thursday, Aug. 13, with a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

“The Wilkes Street public open space will be a visual and functional green connection for people rather than cars between the neighborhood east to the Wilkes Street Tunnel and west to the open spaces created by the cemeteries,” the city said in its guidelines for the redesign. “The improvements of the Wilkes Street public open space also present an opportunity to incorporate the history of the neighborhood through interpretive design elements.”

The guidelines say that the park is the only park within a five-minute walking radius in a community with lots of seniors.

The guidelines note that a survey last year of Alexandria residents said walking trails, outdoor public art, and access to nature were cited as some of the biggest needs for Alexandria residents.

A survey is scheduled to be available until Sept. 11, after which a developer design team will put together a series of options. The final design is scheduled to go to the Park and Recreation Commission in January for a public hearing and February for an endorsement.

Photo via Google Maps

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There’s extensive redevelopment in the works along Beauregard Street, a major route through the city’s West End.

At the tail end of the Beauregard Design Advisory Committee meeting late last month — where BDAC reviewed a proposal to scale down a proposed townhouse development — Maya Contreras, the principal planner for West End new development, laid out a roadmap for what’s ahead for the surrounding areas.

One of the closest developments to the proposed townhouse development is at 2000 N. Beauregard Street, where Monday Properties is working on a 300 unit apartment building. The project broke ground in July and Contreras said completion is slated for 2022.

Further along Beauregard, Contreras said The Spire project is on track to finish construction next spring 2021. The development broke last summer and consists of 113 affordable housing apartments.

According to the AHC website:

AHC is partnering with the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection (ECR) on the redevelopment of the Church’s property in the City of Alexandria’s Beauregard neighborhood. The project will transform the site into 113 new affordable apartments. ECR will build a new worship and programming space on the site. This development will provide much-needed affordable living opportunities to working families in the Beauregard community, which is expected to lose hundreds of market affordable apartments in the coming years.

Contreras said a redevelopment has been proposed at the corner of Newport Village. Letters to the city from the developer UDR indicate that the plan is to replace three smaller buildings at 4898 Beauregard Street with a larger, mixed-use building. Contreras said the developer held a community meeting in July and is anticipating going to a public hearing in the spring.

The last nearby development Contreras highlighted is a plan to build a suspended gymnasium between two buildings at Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School. Contreras said the plan was approved through the Planning Commission and City Council and is moving into construction soon.

Photo via Google Maps

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It’s rare for Development attorney Ken Wire to admit that a previously approved project needs less density and more open space, but Upland Park is an exception, he recently told the Beauregard Design Advisory Committee (BDAC).

Developer Hekemian & Co. came to the BDAC late last month to discuss some significant changes planned to a proposed development along Seminary Road in the West End.

The earlier development had included a six-story mixed-use development that has been replaced by a series of four-story townhouses. The project will also include more parks and open space than the initial designs.

Don’t get too attached to that large open space on the upper right-hand side of the map, though. The next phase of the project would see that developed as a hotel and retail space.

The developers said part of the development is pending future changes at the “ellipse” intersection, a city project to turn the nearby N. Beauregard Street and Seminary Road intersection into a quasi-traffic circle.

“What happens with the Elipse intersection will affect the rest of the project,” a representative of the project said.

Maya Contreres, the principal planner for West End new development, said the city is conducting a study on the ellipse with a preliminary idea about what will happen by the time Upland Park heads to city hearings.

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