For-profit Washington University of Science and Technology could be moving into a vacant office on Eisenhower Avenue that was formerly a Stratford University campus.
Washington University of Science and Technology is a for-profit university based out of Tysons. The school is applying to a new location in a 4-story commercial office building at 2900 Eisenhower Avenue. The building was previously approved for special use as a private academic school in 2013, but the location closed in October 2022 when the Stratford shut down.
“The building has the capability for 494 classroom seats with an auditorium and space for an educational restaurant,” the application said. “The SUP notes Stratford had a maximum enrollment of 900 with 160 students per session (3 sessions per day), an average of 55 staff members per session, and hours of operation 8:30 a.m.-11 p.m.”
The application says Washington University of Science and Technology plans to use the space basically the same way, with a few modifications.
“We have a similar active student population comparable to the 900 students quoted by Stratford University, and with almost half of the classes being offered online, we do not expect to come close to exceeding the quoted 160 students/session,” the school said.
Washington University of Science and Technology said the school doesn’t offer a culinary program, so conditions regarding the accessory restaurants won’t be applicable.
“We look forward to working with and serving the Alexandria community,” the school said.
Photo via Google Maps
Changes implemented earlier this year on Eisenhower Avenue were notably out of date, widening a roadway and creating a T-intersection at a time when the city is usually doing the opposite, but the City would have to pay back grant money already spent on the project if it were canceled.
A little over five months since the project was completed, Transportation Division Chief Chris Ziemann said the city has been trying to make the best of a project that no longer conforms to current transportation design.
One major problem is the project has been in the works for nearly 20 years.
“This project stems from the 2003 Eisenhower East Small Area Plan,” Ziemann said. “They were expecting development to happen faster than it did. They were expecting more traffic and a need to handle that a lot better, along with predicting a lot of office space to go in there.”
But while the opening of the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2005, and later the National Science Foundation in 2017, spurred some redevelopment in the region, it wasn’t quite as much and wasn’t quite as quick as planners expected. Today, after the Covid pandemic, the USPTO is downsizing its Carlyle office space.
Ziemann said the traffic study was done in 2009 and the design concept was approved in 2013, but the next year, the City came out with its Complete Streets Guidelines. Vision Zero came out in 2017.
“So, obviously, the design takes safety and multimodal access into account, but it’s not designed with Vision Zero in mind,” Ziemann said.
Ziemann said the project was plagued with numerous unexpected challenges.
“This project took a long time because there were a lot of unexpected things that popped up, like utilities and working with property owners on right of way took longer than expected,” Ziemann said. “This was approved by the City Council ten years ago.”
While the city has been implementing road diets on other streets and changing roadways to prioritize transit, in many ways the Eisenhower Avenue and Mill Road intersection changes take an old-school approach of road widening to accommodate more traffic.
The project added a second left-turn lane from westbound Eisenhower Avenue onto Mill Road and a new lane onto Mill Road.
The roundabout at Eisenhower Avenue and Holland Lane was converted to a T intersection… even as the city reports say T intersections are more dangerous and, among the improvements to fix dangerous intersections, are conversions to roundabouts.
Ziemann said there’s some added context to Eisenhower Avenue and Mill Road that make the streets a little different from areas like Duke Street or Seminary Road.
“The roads where we are repurposing lanes and stuff like that, they’re not connected to interstates and not around 15-20 story buildings,” Ziemann said. “That’s a bit of the changing context.”
Still, Ziemann recognized that the project as-is isn’t necessarily how the city would approach the intersection if it was starting the project today.
“This project took a super long time, and it kind of reflects that too,” Ziemann said. “If we were starting from scratch, it might look different.”
Residents near the intersection shared images of crashes occurring in the newly redesigned intersection.
Should shock no one that the newly widened Eisenhower-Mill intersection is now less safe for all road users. The speeders are loving the big inviting drag strip the city created for them & drivers are more chaotic than ever. Thanks @AlexandriaVATES @AlexandriaVAGov pic.twitter.com/Mt6ZR7i4Qq
— Rebecca Tiffany (@rebeccajtiffany) October 3, 2023
Ziemann said the city uses annual crash data to monitor the impact of a project, and said that data won’t be in until sometime next spring.
“When we track it, generally we look at trends,” Ziemann said. “If there are a lot of crashes at one time or if there are certain things happening continuously, but — basically, since it was just finished in May — it’s too early to gather crash data.”
Regarding the crashes, Ziemann said any time there’s a change to a roadway, there’s a period afterward where drivers get adjusted to the changes.
Once that crash data comes in, Ziemann said the city will adjust plans as needed, but said those frustrated by the new design should temper their hopes the city might tear up the roadway and start from scratch again.
“As we monitor the safety and crash history in that area, we’ll definitely look to see if more improvements are needed and we’ll go from there,” Ziemann said.