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1225 and 1229 King Street (image via Google Maps)

In what’s become a trend in Alexandria, the owners of an office and retail building in Old Town are hoping to have the upstairs space converted to residential units.

The buildings in question are 1225 and 1229 King Street, the buildings containing American in Paris Boutique and the T-Mobile store on the street level in the middle of Old Town.

In a special use permit application, the building owners said the change to the building type would take advantage of ordinances codifying housing uses above retail space. The application said the residential use will be within the existing footprint of the building. Applicant King Street Apartments LLC said in the application it would convert the upstairs units into 12 condominium units.

Alexandria has become a capital for office-to-residential conversions, ranking fourth in the nation in conversions from office space to apartments or condominiums between 2020 and 2021. Office buildings throughout Old Town are in the process of being converted to residential spaces.

Still, City Manager Jim Parajon warned the City Council in a recent meeting not to be too hasty in abandoning office space, saying that the city could lose valuable office space in a rush to follow an economic trend. In nearby Vienna, the Town Council recently rejected a townhouse development replacing office space — partially on the basis of clinging to hopes that the office market will return.

“The conversion approach for outdated office makes a lot of sense, but I want to be careful that we don’t lose good office space to conversion,” Parajon said. “That’s really important, and that may mean we play out a cycle or two in the economy so we’re looking at a balance of commercial to residential.”

The conversion of 1225 and 1229 King Street is scheduled for review at the Planning Commission meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 3.

Image via Google Maps

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Children sit in a circle at a Celebree School location (via Facebook)

A new day care center to accommodate 190 children is planning to open in the new Carlyle Crossing development in January.

There are 750 luxury apartments in Carlyle Crossing, and the Celebree School of Alexandria will be located within the 1 million-square-foot luxury residential development, on the ground floor of the brand new 13,648-square foot space at 2450 Mill Road.

The daycare franchise will be located in the same building as the Wegmans (150 Stovall Street), which opened in May. Its hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and it will be able to hold up to 190 children and 30 staffers working on-site at any given time, according to a special use permit filed with the city.

Founded in 1994, the school provides early education and childcare service-based programs for children aged six weeks to 12-years old.

The company has 26 corporate locations (24 in Maryland and two in Delaware), as well as 10 other franchises, and is “aggressively” expanding to open 150 new locations and franchises within the next three years.

“After developing successful schools in our home state of Maryland, Virginia was a natural next step as a target growth area for our continued franchise expansion,” said Richard Huffman, founder and CEO of Celebree School. “With a 25-plus-year history, we’ve built an incredible infrastructure for growth. By partnering with like-minded franchisees who believe in our brand and our mission, we’re poised for long-term success.”

There are four other Celebree Schools in Virginia — in RestonHenricoAshburn, and Tysons-Jones. Sixteen new locations are also planned to open next year, including the Celebree School of National Landing, at Metropolitan Park in Arlington, in Herndon and Dulles.

Via Facebook

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Last week, Alexandria city staff pulled back the curtain on the city’s progress on turning Old Town North into an arts district.

The goal is to trade density in Old Town North for arts uses — mirroring earlier arrangements between the city and developers for affordable housing uses.

At an “Old Town North Arts and Cultural Uses” meeting last week, Director of Planning and Zoning Karl Moritz offered an overview of sites in Old Town North making use of that arts density.

Two have already been constructed, two have had their development special use permits approved, the former power plant site has had a coordinated development district (CDD) approved, and a sixth location is under review.

  • The Muse (constructed) – 5,900 square feet
  • The Venue at Crown Plaza (constructed) – 7,300 square feet
  • TideLock (DSUP approved) – 5,000 square feet
  • 901 N Pitt (DSUP approved) – 6,445 square feet
  • Hilco (CDD approved) – 30,000 square feet
  • Montgomery Center (in review) – 20,000 square feet

The Muse (1201 N. Royal Street) is set to house The Art League along with other arts programs. Theater company MetroStage is working on opening at The Venue ( 925 N. Fairfax Street).

Musical instruction program Levine Music was approved earlier this year as the tenant at the TideLock development ( 1033, 1055 and 1111 N Fairfax Street). 901 N. Pitt Street, meanwhile, will be the new home of CityDance.

The public at the meeting was surveyed on what other arts uses they’d like to see in Old Town North. Suggestions included a piano bar, a jazz club and an opera house, but one of the most popular suggestions was a Governor’s School for the Arts — a type of public arts program. There are Governor’s Schools in other states, like Kentucky and South Carolina, and several across Virginia.

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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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Witter Place (Community Housing Partners (CHP))

The Beyer Land Rover dealership at 2712 Duke Street could soon be replaced with a new 94-unit affordable housing development (item 9).

The project, Witter Place, is being put together by Community Housing Partners (CHP). The Virginia-based non-profit has worked in affordable housing development since 1975, but this is CHP’s first project in Alexandria.

“The proposal consists of a 94-unit, 136,087 gross square feet (GSF) multifamily building, with a two-level partially below grade parking garage,” a staff-report on the development said. “The building will range in height from four to five stories, with a maximum height of 60 feet. All units in the proposed building will be affordable to households at a variety of income levels ranging from 40% to 60% AMI.”

The new building will include a courtyard and rooftop terrace for residents.

In addition to the affordable housing component, Witter Place will also make some improvements to Duke Street.

“The project will reduce the number of existing curb cuts and will eliminate conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians along Duke Street by locating parking garage access to the south side of the property along Witter Drive,” the report said. “The project also proposes an enhanced streetscape along Duke Street, including a 10′ wide sidewalk with street trees.”

Ultimately, the staff report recommended approval of the project. The project is going to a Planning Commission hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 1, and to the City Council on Saturday, Nov. 12.

“Staff recommends approval of the Development Site Plan and associated Special Use Permit subject to compliance with all applicable codes and the following staff recommendations,” the report said.

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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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