Alexandria, VA

Despite some concerns from neighbors, the Planning Commission unanimously gave the thumbs up a new 22,794 square-foot, gothic-style Presbyterian church, a couple of blocks north of T.C. Williams High School.

The new building will replace the existing 3,400 square foot Alexandria Presbyterian Church at 1300 W. Braddock Road, as well as a parking lot and an adjacent residence, but the congregation is larger than the church can contain. The congregation also has held worship services at Del Ray Baptist Church since 1999, but the new church will bring all of the members together under one roof.

The church’s parking lot will have 98 lots and bicycle parking. There is no open space requirement for the church, but 34 percent of the church will remain open space to meet the city’s stormwater requirements.

Most of the speakers at the event were members of the church who said they were excited to finally all be able to congregate together in one facility.

The church faced some gentle pushback from neighbors. While neighbors said they appreciated the mission and community work of the church, they had concerns about the traffic and stormwater impact of the new facility.

Neighbors cited concerns about traffic on Scroggins Road, a small, two-lane street navigation apps have turned into a cut-through corridor to avoid the crowded Braddock Road, Quaker Lane and King Street. Some said the gridlock on the street has made it difficult for residents to access their own homes.

The traffic study done by staff was also criticized for taking place during the government shutdown, giving an uncharacteristically low estimate of traffic on the street. Residents said crowding at T.C. Williams has led to more students parking on nearby residential streets.

The Planning Commission recognized the concerns from neighbors, but Commissioner Maria Wasowski said the church can’t be expected to single-handedly address the traffic, parking and stormwater problems on Scroggins Road.

Commissioners were also dubious that the church, which would likely see peak occupancy on Sundays, would have a noticeable impact on school parking and commuter cut-through traffic.

“There are four churches in Old Town that rely on on-street parking, and everyone seems to survive,” said Commissioner Mindy Lyle. “Churches enhance our community.”

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project, which will not require City Council approval unless the Planning Commission’s decision is appealed.

Photo (top) via City of Alexandria, (below) via Google Maps

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Just a few days after submitting plans for the Virginia Tech site near the North Potomac Yard Metro station, JBG Smith has submitted early concept designs for the development that will replace Target and the other Potomac Yard stores.

While the area is known today as a big-box shopping center and surface parking lot, the majority of the new development will be office and residential spaces in a large grid, the Washington Business Journal first reported. Ten of the buildings will be required to have retail, with optional retail at the southern end of the site.

Other features of the plan include a hotel at the north end of the site and school or community facility at the southern end. The site was one of the locations considered for a second high school, but while the School Board ultimately voted to stick with an expanded T.C. Williams High School, administrators still expressed interest in putting some kind of educational facility at Potomac Yard.

Several of the properties closest to the North Potomac Yard Metro station are classified in plans as a flexible neighborhood zone. Current plans show the majority of that space — including the Target, as offices.

A public meeting to discuss the North Potomac Yard development is scheduled for next Thursday, Nov. 14, from 7-9 p.m. in the National Industries for the Blind (3000 Potomac Avenue).

In all, the two redevelopment plans total more than 8 million square feet of space.

Photo courtesy Streetsense

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A brick home built around 1940 in the Braddock neighborhood could be torn down and replaced with a pair of new townhouses.

The pair of townhouses at 603 N. Alfred Street are scheduled for review at the Board of Architectural (BAR) tonight (Wednesday) at 7 p.m.

Currently, the lot is occupied by a one-and-a-half story building most records date to 1940. The report notes that there is a possibility the land was used as a campsite during the Civil War, and the developer will be required to call Alexandria Archaeology if any buries structures or artifacts are found.

But while the building is old, the city staff say it’s not necessarily historically or architecturally significant.

“The circa 1940 detached single-family dwelling is not of an unusual or uncommon design and could easily be reproduced due to its extremely simple design and use of mass-produced, mid-20th-century materials,” staff said in a report on the project. “While it is unusual to find this style dwelling in the Parker-Gray district, they were common in the rest of Alexandria in this period and ubiquitous the throughout the United States following the Second World War.”

Staff also noted that retention of the home would not maintain the scale and character of the neighborhood, where numerous other new homes are under construction. While many of the other properties in the Braddock neighborhood are smaller, single-family homes, the area has also seen extensive redevelopment and gentrification in recent years.

The new homes incorporate a modern interpretation of early 20th-century art deco styles, according to the staff report. The building would be three stories tall with rooftop access on the third floor and a fenced back yard.

Concept rendering via City of Alexandria. Street photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at 10:50 a.m.) Plans are starting to take shape for North Potomac Yard.

Virginia Tech has submitted its first concept plan, showing what its Innovation Campus will look like just as the design of the Potomac Yard Metro station nears its final design phase.

Virginia’s Tech’s campus — which will offer master’s and doctoral level programs — is part of a vision for a completely revitalized North Potomac Yard around the new Metro station. The plans were accompanied by related proposals by real estate investment companies JBG Smith and Lionstone.

Plans submitted on Friday, Nov. 1, show an open grid of nine buildings, with 600,000 square feet of academic use split over three buildings centered at the north end of the site. (The university had a special use permit for a temporary space in the existing Potomac Yard shopping center approved in September.)

Retail would take 120,900 square feet of space along the main stretch of road between the campus and the Metro station, with 630,400 square feet of office space and 554,200 square feet of residential primarily located above the retail.

Missing from the plans: the Regal movie theater on the North Potomac Yard plan, which is expected to be demolished. It’s unclear when the theater will close, nor whether it would reopen elsewhere.

Height assumptions for the area show most buildings will be an average of 90 feet tall, with the academic Block 7W towering over the others at 180 feet.

Some astute Twitter users noted that the plans also show an extension of the Potomac Yard Trail to Four Mile Run, though others questioned whether the trail will connect to the one along Four Mile Run without crossing four lanes of traffic.

Meanwhile, infrastructure work is currently underway on the switchgear building for the station, while work on installing utilities and laying the foundation for the Metro station will begin sometime over the next few months, according to an Oct. 29 update from city staff.

The station’s design is scheduled to be finished by the end of the year.

Image (1) via City of Alexandria. Image (2) via Google Maps.

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(Updated at 11:45 a.m.) Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is moving forward with plans to upgrade Alexandria Union Station — not to be confused with D.C.’s Union Station.

On Oct. 24, the VRE submitted concepts for a requested development site plan to improve accessibility to the train station at 110 Callahan Drive, which also serves Amtrak.

Katherine Carraway, an urban planner for the Department of Planning and Zoning, told ALXnow in an email:

Proposed improvements are to improve passenger safety, operations and accessibility. Some of the proposed improvements include the following upgrades:

  1. The installation of two new elevators to provide an ADA‐accessible route to the east platform.
  2. Elimination of the existing at‐grade crossing between the east and west platforms.

The improvements will create a safer passenger crossing between the two platforms, according to a VRE statement.

Funding for the project is provided by the Federal Highway Administration, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, and grants.

If approved, construction for the project is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2021.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Foundry, a new apartment complex under construction in Hoffman Town Center, is scheduled to open early next year.

“The Foundry is set to open by the end of February 2020,” a spokesperson for the project told ALXnow in an email.

The 16-story building is under construction at 2470 Mandeville Lane in the heart of the Carlyle neighborhood. The Foundry is two blocks away from the Eisenhower Metro stop and near the under-construction Wegmans.

Plans for the project include 520 apartment units, broken up between studio units, one-bedroom units, and two-bedroom units. When finished, amenities for the project will include a rooftop pool, a three-story fitness facility, a workshop, sports bar, and a pet spa.

A 12,000 square-foot food hall is also planned for the site. Planned options in the food hall include wood-fired pizza and vegan cuisine, according to Eater. The spokesperson said the February opening is just for the residential portion of the project, not the food hall.

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(Updated 2:30 p.m.) Work on the new Wegmans in Alexandria is progressing as construction crews dig downwards.

Cranes and workers could be seen on the site near the Eisenhower Metro today (Thursday) that now resembles a five-acre dug-out after construction on the future $400 million mixed-use development kicked off in August, as reported by Alexandria Living Magazine.

The so-called “Caryle Crossing” development complex is slated to reach as high as 18 stories and include an 85,000-square-foot Wegmans as well as 210,000-square-feet of retail space, and 750 housing units, per the Washington Business Journal. The residential units to be included in the complex at the corner of Mandeville Lane and Stovall Street will be a mix of condos (30), senior housing units (200), and apartments (400.)

Wegmans is expected to occupy the second floor of the building complex, though the grocer remains mum on the specifics.

“We are currently working on the internal store design and will begin construction once Stonebridge turns over the space to us, which is still several years out,” a spokeswoman for the Wegmans grocery chain company told ALXnow.

Alexandria originally gave developer Stonebridge Carras the green light for the project last year, and since then the company has pivoted from building mostly condos to multi-family apartments on the site, according to Patch. The timeline given for completion was originally 2021, but by August the developer was reporting construction would likely last until 2022.

Stonebridge did not respond to a request from ALXnow for more information about the construction work in time for publication.

“This project will provide critical retail and services to boost the quality of life for everyone who works and lives here and deliver some of the best amenities anywhere in Alexandria,” Mayor Justin Wilson told the Business Journal in July.

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The Ramsey Homes affordable housing project will loaned an additional $1.4 million thanks to a vote by the Alexandria City Council.

Council members voted to grant the additional funding to the redevelopment last night (Tuesday), bringing the total amount Alexandria has loaned to $5 million.

The long-awaited, sometimes contentious project aims to replace 15 public housing buildings with 52 affordable housing units on the Braddock site. Of the new units, 37 will be reserved for households earning up to 60% of the area’s median income ($56,022) and 15 units set aside for households earning 30% or less than the median income ($28,011.)

“We’re delighted that the City Council is continuing to show strong support for the project,” Helen McIlvaine, the city’s head of housing, told ALXnow after the vote. “It’s going to replace units that had to come down because they’re dilapidated but it’s also going to add new units.”

The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) is developing the property at the corner of N. Patrick and Wythe streets and requested the money after CEO Keith Pettigrew said last year’s unusually wet weather delayed the archaeological study the city requires as part of the construction site review.

“The unexpected costs associated with the four months of dewatering for archeology had not been accounted for in our pre-development budget,” noted Pettigrew.

“Every time they resumed the archeological work it would rain again so I think they just remained behind the 8-ball,” said McIlvaine. “I understand that they were de-watering systems that might have been more efficient in other projects so maybe that’s a lesson that we would learn.”

“But most of what has occurred here was an external issue and we’re all trying to make sure the project stays on track,” she added.

Pettigrew attended the City Council meeting, but did not comment.

This is the second time the City Council has increased the loan to ARHA. Council members increased it by $1.6 million last May, as reported by the Alexandria Times, after ARHA cited rising construction costs and the loss of a tax credit.

The same document noted that “the ARHA team managing the project currently does not include any of the original staff who have transitioned out of the agency since the development was first approved and funded.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said he was “happy” to have the staff members there and thanked them for their hard work.

“I know that this has been a challenge from the beginning, from even before you got here,” he said. “I know it’s something you inherited.” 

The $1.4 million will come out of previous ARHA loan repayments to the city, and agency staff noted in a Council memo they plan to pay it back in 2035.

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Morning Notes

New Silver Diner to Open Next Year — “Silver Diner will open one of its newest location at a mixed-use development… near Northern Virginia Community College’s Alexandria campus. The 6,600-square-foot restaurant will be part of Weingarten Realty Investors’ West Alex, a Harris Teeter-anchored building at King and North Beauregard streets. It will open next summer.” [WTOP]

Free Flu Vaccines on Saturday — “The Alexandria Health Department will host a free flu shot clinic on October 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Patrick Henry Elementary School (4643 Taney Ave.). Flu shots are available for adults and children ages six months and older at no cost. No insurance or proof of residency is required.” [City of Alexandria]

Big Donation for Local Food Program — “On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington’s St. Lucy Food Project gave ALIVE! (ALexandrians In Volved Ecumenically) 5,000 pounds of non-perishable food! It was also World Food Day, which is known locally as Alexandria Food Day.” [Zebra]

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Rising water levels are forcing one planned redevelopment of a historic property to move the building up a few feet.

The Mill, a building at the heart of Robinson Landing development along the waterfront, is being renovated and turned into a Southern-inspired restaurant. The city filing by local builder Murray Bonitt noted that the building was at one point used as a mess hall for Union soldiers during the Civil War. But the renovation will involve taking the building apart and putting it back together again a few feet above its current elevation.

“Google global warming, historic building, and waterfront sometime,” Duncan Blair, the attorney for the applicant, told Alexandria’s Waterfront Commission at a meeting this morning (Tuesday). “Buildings are being moved, disassembled, or raised to put them out of the flood plain. We saw this weekend there was high water as a result of the full moon. It’s a phenomenon we’re all going to have to deal with and that is the basis for the change of this building.”

Blair said the building will painstakingly reassembled brick by brick.

“The building is currently below the flood plain, and we can’t just lift it up because of the old structure,” Blair said. “You’ll probably read about it in a preservation magazine.”

As the building is put back together, Blair said the brick will be “flipped,” allowing the brighter interior to show on the exterior of the building.

The project is scheduled to be completed sometime in mid-2021.

Image via City of Alexandria

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Metro is moving forward with plans to develop the areas around the Huntington station in Fairfax County, just south of Alexandria.

The transit agency announced it would tap Stout & Teague as the property’s “master developer” by preparing and dividing the 12-acre site into parcels that could be then sold or leased to other developers.

Christian Dorsey, who chairs the WMATA Board of Directors and the Arlington County Board, called this developer stewardship system of the land long destined for redevelopment an “innovative approach” during the agency’s meeting late last week, during which members unanimously approved the contract.

Back in June, WMATA invited companies to bid for the chance to develop 12 of the 30 acres of land around the Metro station which recently re-opened after a lengthy closure to rebuild its deteriorating station platform.

The transit agency’s plan called for taking down the garage on the south side of the property and replacing the north garage with two mixed-use buildings — one building to the north of the Metro station, and one to the south.

With the Board’s blessing, Stout & Teague has the green light to prepare the hilly land for buildings, and work with Fairfax County to re-zone the land for mixed-use development, Metro’s Vice President of Real Estate Nina Albert said during the meeting.

“They have agreed to not participate in any future development, but instead to work with us to market and sell these properties,” she said, referring to the developer.

Metro previously contracted with Fairfax-based Stout & Teague in 2002 to develop a section of the agency’s land into the apartment complex The Courts at Huntington Station, along with several townhouses the developer finished in 2011.

A few years later, Metro tried to interest developers in another, 1.15-acre part of the land to no success.

Now, Albert says the time to develop the rest of the land is right considering the station’s rail connections to Amazon’s second headquarters and the its eventual connection with Richmond Highway’s bus rapid transit line.

“There’s a lot of dynamic activity occurring and we should be planning now for what the station could be, and envisioning that,” she said.

Because re-zoning is typically an 18-month process in Fairfax County, efforts to re-level and prepare the sights for sale are expected to finish by 2023.

Maps via Metro

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Construction is now underway at a mixed-use development just north of the Braddock Road Metro station.

Braddock Gateway Phase II and Phase III broke ground last Friday at 1200 N. Fayette Street, according to an employee at Carmel Partners, the investment company behind Phase III of the project.

Phase II of the project will have 258 residential units and 8,150 square feet of retail while Phase III will have 370 apartment units and approximately 2,700 square feet of ground-floor retail, according to a staff report.

The project will also add to some of the surrounding infrastructure.

“Infrastructure, streetscape and open space improvements are also proposed with this development application, including the extension of North Fayette Street to Slaters Lane and construction of a new public pocket park on the adjacent parcel that is owned by the City,” the report said.

An underground parking garage is planned, with 337 parking spaces.

The site is built above what was once home to Metro Church DC and a large parking lot. The report notes that the new development conforms to city plans to create a more walkable Braddock neighborhood.

The employee at Carmel Partners said no one in their office knew when the project was expected to be completed.

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