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Victory Center in Alexandria used as a vaccine clinic (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After a long, troubled history: a final defeat nears for the Victory Center (5001 Eisenhower Avenue).

Stonebridge has submitted concepts to the city that would entail the demolition of the long-vacant Victory Center office building and converting the site into townhouses.

While Stonebridge has previously expressed a hope to get a federal tenant in the Victory Center, the door seems to have closed for that admittedly long-shot possibility.

“The existing office building on the property was renovated in 2005 and has been vacant ever since,” land use attorney Kenneth Wire wrote to the City of Alexandria. “Despite numerous attempts by the prior owner and the current owner to lease this building, there is no commercial or government interest in bringing office uses to the property.”

Wire wrote that a different approach must be taken to utilize the site.

“This 17-year vacancy demonstrates that a different approach must be taken to revitalize Eisenhower West,” Wire wrote. “The City and the region have a housing supply crisis not an office supply crisis. This project will provide both rental and home ownership housing units in close proximity to the Metro Station and an affordable housing building.”

Wire said Stonebridge is requesting a master plan amendment for the site that will allow the developer to build market rate and affordable housing units.

The new development would add 601 residential units to the site, divided up as:

  • Multi-family: 400 units
  • Affordable: 90 units
  • Townhouse: 111 units

While the typical haggling between developers and the city is the developer asking for an increase in height, here Stonebridge is asking for to build below the current minimum height of 10 stories for the site.

“The buildings vary in height between 3 and 4 stories for the townhomes, 5 and 6 stories for the affordable multifamily building, and 6 to 8 stories for the courtyard multifamily building,” Wire wrote. “Applicant is requesting a master plan amendment to reduce the required building height on the property.”

Stonebridge received some pushback from city staff earlier this year, recommending against townhouses as not being consistent with density requirements in the site’s small area plan. Instead, staff recommended the existing Victory Center building be overhauled once again: this time as a residential conversion.

“Staff recommends retaining the existing office building,” staff wrote in response to Stonebridge’s plans. “The approximate footprint of the existing Victory Center office building (350′ x 142′) compares similarly with other office-to-residential conversions that have been constructed in the city. Continue to work with Alexandria Economic Development Partnership (AEDP) to locate potential users, which may include non-profit housing developers and senior living facilities.”

H/t to Virginia Newsletters LLC

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Saltbox cowarehousing space (image via Saltbox/Instagram)

Alexandria has seen a rise in coworking, increased interest in coliving, and now: co-warehousing.

Saltbox, a warehouse company that describes itself in a press release as a “small business logistics pioneer”, announced a new co-warehousing location opening on Eisenhower Avenue. Saltbox filed paperwork for the location last year, but a representative of the company said the Alexandria location is starting tours this week and officially opens in August.

Office and warehouse space starts at $630 per month, according to the website.

“Located at 4700 Eisenhower Ave, Saltbox DC Alexandria offers over 45,000 SF space including 85 flexible warehouse and office suites,” the company said in the release. “The new location includes conference rooms, flexible office space, access to loading docks and a top-of-the-line photo studio for entrepreneurs.”

The new co-warehouse is a couple of blocks east of the Victory Center in a cluster of office parks. In the release, Saltbox said the new location is (optimistically) 20 minutes from Washington D.C. and is a little under a mile from the Van Dorn Metro station.

The website describes the co-warehousing arrangement as a flexible set of private warehouse suites and office spaces, as well as assisting with the logistics of shipping items.

“Expanding our footprint into the Washington, D.C. metro area has been our top priority, given it serves as the region’s central hub for growing e-commerce, tech and consumer companies,” said Saltbox CEO and Co-Founder Tyler Scriven. “Alexandria is an important strategic node for the Saltbox network. We strive to eliminate the pains of logistics and shipping with our offering, and look forward to continuing to help our members grow their businesses.”

Image via Saltbox/Instagram

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Hensley Park concept plan (image via City of Alexandria)

Plans for the revitalization of Joseph Hensley Park (4200 Eisenhower Avenue) are headed to review at the Planning Commission and could see new field nets added to the popular athletic fields.

The Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) is requesting three 20-foot tall netting and fencing structures, with two backdrop structures along the first and third baselines of the two diamond ballfields and another netting structure along the east side of the rectangular field.

The goal is to keep athletic equipment contained to the recreational facility and not crashing through nearby windows and cars.

“The netting provides additional safety to pedestrians, park users, vehicles, and the adjacent roads including I-495 from aerial projecting balls associated with the normal use of athletic fields,” the application said.

The RPCA is asking that additional height be allowed to raise the nets up to 30 feet in height if necessary. The application said after the fences are constructed, the RPCA will determine if the additional height is needed for public safety.

The new structures are scheduled for review at the upcoming Sept. 6 Planning Commission meeting.

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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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Restaurant Depot in Alexandria, photo via Google Maps

Shopping center Restaurant Depot on Eisenhower Avenue (4600 Eisenhower Avenue), a big-box store that sells equipment to restaurants, is looking to purchase open space from the city for an expansion.

Jetro Cash & Carry, owners of Restaurant Depot, are headed through the city approval process for an offer to purchase 32,459 square feet of the public right of way adjacent to the property for additional warehouse space.

“This City-owned public right of way is currently green space but does not appear to function as ‘open space’ for recreational use,” said a staff report on the proposed purchase. “The property is shown as open space in the Eisenhower West Small Area Plan, as part of a series of planned ‘finger parks’, or green extensions connecting Eisenhower Avenue to other locations and offering green space from the Avenue. Per the Small Area Plan, the Restaurant Depot site and neighboring parcels are planned for residential development. This City-owned property has not been declared surplus.”

The report said there will be a demand for open green space identified in the Eisenhower West Small Area Plan, but city staff said the exact timeline for implementation of the plan is unclear the sale of the property is consistent with goals for the Eisenhower Valley.

“Staff believe that the sale of this property would be consistent with the Eisenhower Small Area Plan if proceeds from the sale are allocated to the Eisenhower West Open Space Fund and upon future redevelopment of the site, the Eisenhower West’s open space goals for this site will be met,” the report said.

The report recommends sale of the property. The Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on the purchase at a meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 1.

Photo via Google Maps

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Old Cameron Run Trail Project, via City of Alexandria

The city is looking for feedback on a planned new trail at the east end of the Eisenhower corridor in the Carlyle neighborhood, though the construction of the trail is still years away.

The plan is to build a half-mile shared use path between Hooffs Run Drive and South Payne Street. Another quarter-mile section will connect it to redevelopment between Mill Road and Hooffs Run Drive.

“This project will help address a major gap in the City’s trail system and provide a key link in the bicycle and pedestrian transportation system,” the city said on the project website. “The goal of this project is to create a more direct and conflict-free connection for people walking and biking between the Eisenhower East and Southwest Quadrant neighborhoods.”

The city was awarded $7.5 million in grant funding in 2016 to design and build the trail.

Construction of the project is still years away, with right-of-way acquisition scheduled to start in spring 2023 and construction not starting until spring 2025, finishing up summer 2028.

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A new co-warehousing company for digital commerce platforms has filed a special use permit to operate at 4700 Eisenhower Avenue.

With e-commerce on the rise in Alexandria, Colorado-based Saltbox, Inc. filed the permit for the light assembly, service and craft establishment on Nov. 15, and the last day for public comments is Dec. 15.

Saltbox, which was founded in 2019, has locations in Denver, Seattle, Dallas, Atlanta and Los Angeles. The company offers office and warehouse spaces, flex storage, equipment rental and packing stations.

“With our purpose-built network of flexible warehouses in major metropolitan areas across the country, we are powering the e-commerce economy and the next generation of entrepreneurs by democratizing access to essential operations and logistics infrastructure,” the company said on its website. “From flexible and smartly designed warehouse and office suites to on-demand services like our Elastic Workforce, Fulfillment, and even photography studios Saltbox solves some of the most critical challenges ecommerce entrepreneurs face when starting, growing, and scaling their businesses.”

Saltbox did not respond to ALXnow’s calls for comment.

The 44,500 square-foot property is located in a heavily industrial area of Eisenhower Avenue, next door to Restaurant Depot, CubeSmart Self Storage and a FedEx Ship Center.

Via Google Maps

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A man was unsuccessful in trying to walk out of the Restaurant Depot on Eisenhower Avenue with $1,851.73 using a discarded receipt, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

The incident at the store at 4600 Eisenhower Avenue occurred in August, and the suspect has not been arrested. He “passed all the points of sale without purchasing the store merchandise,” police said in a search warrant.

Restaurant Depot management gave APD security footage of the suspect picking up a discarded receipt out of a trash can and then presenting it to security staff at the exit of the store, police said.

“The suspect was questioned regarding the authenticity of the receipt, at which (time) the suspect immediately left the merchandise inside the store and walked to his vehicle,” police said in the search warrant.

The suspect was then captured driving away in a black SUV with DC license plates.

Restaurant Depot wants to follow through with prosecution if the suspect is arrested, police said.

Via Google Maps

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The Eisenhower Partnership is planning an Oktoberfest celebration early next month to help raise funding for the Partnership’s Engin and Agnès Artemel Urban Planning Scholarship.

The scholarship is named for former Director of Planning Engin Artemel, who helped shape waterfront development in Alexandria and died last, and his wife Agnès Artemel, a realtor and president of Artemel & Associates Inc. The scholarship helps students from Alexandria City Public Schools and planning to major in a realty or urban planning related studies.

Eisenhower Partnership Executive Director Daniel Beason said the first award from the scholarship was given earlier this year to a rising freshman at George Mason who moved to Alexandria from Afghanistan and attended Alexandria High School.

The event is scheduled for The Garden by Building Momentum (5380 Eisenhower Avenue) at from 6-10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2. Tickets to the Oktoberfest are $5.

At a City Council meeting earlier this week, Council member Amy Jackson described what’s planned for the event.

“Proceeds will go to the [scholarship] spearheaded for his name,” Jackson said. “There will also be a TEDx type of stage to hear input from TEDx-type communication.”

The TEDx talks will run from 1-5 p.m. Beason said the TEDx talk will be hosted by TEDxOronocoBayPark.

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Morning Notes

Vacant lot in Eisenhower could become pop-up events and market space — “At 2425 Eisenhower Ave., there’s more than 18,000 square feet of open, grassy space. Until recently, the lot, which is owned by Rubenstein Partners LP, has remained unused except for the occasional dog romping with its owner. The Eisenhower Partnership is working with the site owners to bring fresh life to the lot by creating a pop-up space that could be used for food trucks, markets, arts, musical performances and other recreational uses according to a recent application filed with the City.” [Alexandria Living]

There’s a new mural in Old Town — “When Erik Muendel took over the ESP Tea and Coffee Shop at 1012 King Street, he not only revitalized the hip location with a new spin on the name and increased offerings, the wanted to make a splash on the outside as well.” [Zebra]

Catholic Charities plans café for Alexandria headquarters — “Catholic Charities USA filed an application to add a café in 2,088 square feet on the ground floor of its headquarters building located at 2050 Ballenger Ave. in Suite 400. According to the application, the space was formerly occupied by the Carlyle Club restaurant.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Cloudy skies (during the day). Slight chance of a rain shower. High 81F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph… Overcast (in the evening). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 66F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Personal assistant — “I am the owner of a luxury men’s clothing store and am seeking a personal assistant/IT adviser . You will not only be working for me but working with me towards a common goal. If you are a self starter with a ton of different talents and all you have been waiting for is an opportunity, this may be for you.” [Indeed]

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