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Landmark Mall demolition in progress (staff photo by Vernon Miles)

Earlier this week, ALXnow launched a survey for readers to provide feedback on the site. At the same time, we asked on Twitter if anyone had questions they wanted answered about Alexandria.

We’re here to provide and update on that — but both questions had pretty vague answers that will require a little more digging.

The first question was about the name for Landmark.

We asked the Office of Historic Alexandria but there doesn’t seem to be much information on why the name Landmark was specifically chosen.

We did, however, find that Landmark Mall originally opened as Landmark Center in 1965 — a large open-air shopping center with three department stores. It wasn’t until 1984 that the center was renovated and turned into the indoor Landmark Mall.

The second question was about Taney Avenue, which is split in the middle by Taney Avenue Park.

City Historian Dan Lee said Taney Avenue did, indeed, run through where the park is today. The when and why is still unclear.

A staff report from 2016 said the “when” at least was possibly in 1976:

In December 1976, 2.58 acres of land was conveyed to the City of Alexandria to be used as Taney Avenue Park by Davis Mortgage Company and the Prudential Insurance Company of America as part of a subdivision related to the development of the Shirley-Duke Apartments, now known as the Foxchase Apartments.

A Washington Post article from the time noted that the entire area was closed down and the families in the low-income housing were evicted. After this, the neighborhood was demolished and rebuilt, which may have been when the park was created as part of a plan to turn the area into a “middle-class development”.

We’ll keep digging into this after the long weekend, but in the meantime, if anyone else has questions about Alexandria or ALXnow they’d like answered in a future post, leave them in the comments below.

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Concept map for new Landmark Mall development (image via City of Alexandria)

Updated at 3:30 p.m. on May 24 — The estimated costs of the total infrastructure improvements at the former Landmark Mall site have ballooned 40% since City Council signed off on the project in 2021, forcing the city to get creative with its financing.

Tonight (Tuesday), the City Council will vote on directing City Manager Jim Parajon to execute an agreement between the city, Landmark Land Holdings (a joint venture between Foulger-Pratt, The Howard Hughes Corp. and Seritage Growth Properties.) and Inova Healthcare Services to address the $62 million shortfall.

The increase is due to a number of issues, including inflation and equipment shortages, according to a staff report to be presented to Council. The initial agreement between the parties had the city contributing $86 million for infrastructure and $54.25 million for the future home of Alexandria Hospital for a total of $140.25 million. Now the city proposes to increase Landmark Redevelopment-related City Bonds in a “maximum aggregate principal amount sufficient” to raise $37.6 million in net construction proceeds to pay for the infrastructure improvements and interest charges on those bonds.

City staff said that worsened economic conditions pose challenges to future private investments to the project, and that “unanticipated interest rate hikes coupled with illiquidity of the debt markets further worsened by the collapse of regional banks have resulted in a deterioration of asset values.”

“The cost increase is a factor of various events including advancement of design and engineering, infrastructure, parks and open space scope refinement, supply chain disruptions, material and labor cost increase due to both inflation and shortages, and regional competition due to the prevalence of major projects stimulated in part by federal infrastructure funding,” city staff reported.

Additionally, “While the Developer was able to value engineer approximately $17 million in savings, the overall cost for infrastructure improvements has increased by approximately $45 million based on executed guaranteed maximum price construction contracts for approximately 70% of the infrastructure costs.”

In March, City Council unanimously approved the Inova at Landmark project, which includes a 569,000 square-foot hospital center, a 111,000 square-foot cancer center, an 83,000 square-foot specialty care center and a retrofitted 550-space parking garage. Inova wants to start construction on its 1.1 million-square-foot project in 2024 and have the four-building hospital campus finished by 2028.

The hospital takes up a fifth of the total land use on the 52-acre West End Alexandria development, the rest of which is dedicated to residential, commercial and medical offices.

The proposed plan to address the funding gap is below:

  • Landmark Land Holdings has agreed to cover approximately $7.5 million of the funding gap by waiving fee on increased costs and increasing its equity contribution, further reducing its developer fee, and shifting a portion of the infrastructure improvement costs to individual vertical parcel developments
  •  The City will fund $37.6 million of the funding gap through the increased issuance of City Bonds to be repaid from synthetic Incremental Tax Revenues (real property tax, retail sales and use tax, meals tax, and transient lodging tax) generated from the Landmark site. The CDA will increase the special assessment backstop to account for this increased issuance
  • Block D in the project will be dedicated as workforce housing
  • The parties will explore exemption/removal of Block J (Affordable Housing/Fire Station) from the Landmark Community Development Authority special assessment obligations and from assessments related to a future business improvement service district to increase feasibility of affordable housing at Block J
  • For two years, Landmark Land Holdings will identify and make available up to three pop-up spaces for local businesses with a minimum of 90 days to operate with their license agreement becoming month-to-month after the initial 90 days
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Gunfire was reported in the 6200 block of Duke Street on April 30, 2023 (via Google Maps)

No one was injured and no arrests have been made after shots were fired in the 6200 block of Duke Street on Sunday morning.

Alexandria Police were dispatched at around 10:30 a.m. to the area near the Landmark Mall site after a driver called in the incident. The caller reportedly told police that the suspect was a male wearing all-black clothing and black sneakers with white soles.

Police brought a K-9 unit to the scene, but no arrest was made.

The incident occurred less than a mile from where a man was shot on April 15, and near to where a man was murdered in March.

Anyone with information on this incident can call the APD non-emergency number at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Image via Google Maps

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The 1.1 million-square-foot Inova at Landmark project got unanimous approval by the Alexandria City Council on Saturday, giving the hospital system the green light to build the future home of Alexandria Hospital.

Inova wants to start construction on the former Landmark Mall site in 2024 and have the four-building hospital campus finished by 2028. The hospital building is designed to face I-395, making it a gateway for drivers traveling north.

After years of stagnation, Alexandria started working with Inova on the site about three years ago — while the City was starting to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“To be at this point at this time is really transformational, and this is a big deal,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “I do think this is really important and it’s gonna be really a gateway for our community for a long time to come.”

Inova at Landmark includes a 569,000 square-foot hospital center, a 111,000 square-foot cancer center, an 83,000 square-foot specialty care center and a retrofitted 550-space parking garage. A 1,488-space below-grade parking garage is also planned with at least 19 parking spaces set aside for electric vehicle charging.

“It is our duty to ensure that our new hospital is not only a state-of-the-art facility, but also a place where compassion, excellence, and innovation come together to provide the best possible care for our community” said J. Stephen Jones, president and CEO of Inova in a statement. “We are thrilled with Council’s action and are excited to make this vision come to life.”

Inova can build up to 250 feet, or 23 stories, for the tallest structures, the main hospital building and the cancer center, although the latter is proposed to be only 77 feet tall.

Inova currently plans to build a 184-foot tall main hospital building (nearly 17 stories) with a two story glass atrium at its entrance, above which would be a six-story Z-shaped inpatient tower. Inova anticipates that the building will be 184 feet tall to hide hospital mechanical equipment inside a “mechanical penthouse.”

“As one of the individuals who was born in the now soon-to-be old Alexandria Hospital, I look forward to having new generations of Alexandrians have quality care and to be born in a state-of-the-art facility,” said City Council Member John Taylor Chapman.

Each building will be constructed under LEED Silver guidelines. According to a city staff report:

The campus buildings will feature window glazing and building design to minimize heat gains, low-flow faucets and fixtures, high indoor environmental air quality, and will participate in Dominion’s Renewable Power Program with a goal to achieve a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030.

Inova will also dedicate 64,000 square feet to open space on the site, in addition to building a 14,810-square-foot central plaza in Block Q. Inova must also submit a “consolidated and coordinated” public art plan for the hospital campus.

The proposed Inova Alexandria Hospital campus, outlined in gray, on the former Landmark Mall site (via City of Alexandria)

Landmark Mall first opened in 1965, and was the first mall in the region to feature three anchor department stores (Sears, Woodward & Lothrop, and Hecht’s). By 2010, the mall had nearly no tenants and in 2021, the city bought the 11-acre parcel of land for $54 million from The Howard Hughes Corporation. Inova signed a 99-year ground lease for the property that same year.

Stephanie Landrum, president and CEO of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, said that the project makes Inova Alexandria Hospital an anchor that “redefines one of our largest neighborhoods and is a tangible and visible signal of the strength of the Alexandria economy.”

“This helps us attract additional investments, employers, and residents that will bring the WestEnd project to life,” Landrum said.

The project takes up a fifth of the total land use on the 52-acre West End Alexandria development. It was designed by Ballinger and Ennead Architects and is managed by Inova.

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The former home of Landmark Mall is likely to soon get a new tenant. The 1.1 million-square-foot Inova at Landmark Project sailed through the Alexandria Planning Commission last night, with just one hurdle left before getting the green light to start construction.

With the 6-0 (Chair Nathan Macek recused himself) approval further bolstering Inova’s plan to move Alexandria Hospital to the West End site, the matter will now be presented to City Council at its public hearing on Saturday, March 18.

“We should be celebrating a little bit bigger,” Inova’s attorney Cathy Puskar said. “Because this is a huge milestone for the city to get this project approved and moving forward and constructed, hopefully by 2028.”

Inova Alexandria Hospital opened at 4320 Seminary Road in 1962, and will eventually move its operations to the Landmark site. The project was designed by Ballinger and Ennead Architects and is managed by Inova.

The project takes up a fifth of the total land use on the 52-acre West End Alexandria development, and includes a 565,000 square-foot hospital center, a 111,000 square-foot cancer center, an 83,000 square-foot specialty care center and a retrofit of the mall’s old 550-space parking garage. The parking garage is the only remaining vestige of the once-popular shopping destination. The project also includes an underground 1,488-space parking garage below the specialty care center.

Inova’s height request of 250 feet (23 stories) for the main hospital building was also approved without discussion, although the current plans call for the height of the building to be 184 feet tall.

Commissioner Melinda Lyle said she’s excited for the project.

“This hospital is such a needed addition not only for the city of Alexandria, but for the region,” Lyle said. “I think we should all be celebrating.”

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The 1.1 million-square-foot Inova at Landmark project is headed to the Alexandria Planning Commission on Tuesday, signaling the beginning of an official public approval process. If all goes according to schedule, construction of the four-building medical campus could wrap in the second quarter of 2028, according to site development partner Foulger-Pratt.

The hospital building is designed to face Interstate 395, and is proposed to have a two-story glass atrium at its entrance, above which would be a six-story Z-shaped inpatient tower. Inova anticipates that the building will be 184 feet tall (nearly 17 stories) to hide hospital mechanical equipment, although the hospital system is asking for a maximum height allowance of 250 feet, or 23 stories.

“This layout ensures that the primary hospital building–the tallest building on the site–will be a visible anchor and focal point for the western end,” City staff said in a report.

Following approval by the Planning Commission, the City Council will hold its public hearing on the project on Saturday, March 18.

The project takes up a fifth of the total land use on the 52-acre West End Alexandria development, and includes a 565,000 square-foot hospital center, a 111,000 square-foot cancer center, an 83,000 square-foot specialty care center and a retrofit of the mall’s old 550-space parking garage. The parking garage is the only remaining vestige of the once-popular shopping destination.

“This will not only revitalize a site that many had given up on, but will also provide a catalyst for redevelopment and enhancement throughout the West End of our City,” Mayor Justin Wilson said in his March newsletter. “Despite over two decades of decline, it is not a mystery why we had been unable to spur redevelopment on this site in the past, It is a complicated site, with a complicated ownership structure requiring significant infrastructure investment.”

The fate of the Landmark Mall property lingered for years. The mall opened to the public in 1965, and was the first in the region to feature three anchor department stores (Sears, Woodward & Lothrop, and Hecht’s). By 2010, the mall had nearly no tenants, and in 2021 the city bought the 11-acre parcel of land for $54 million from The Howard Hughes Corporation. That same year, Inova signed a 99-year ground lease for the property.

The project was designed by Ballinger and Ennead Architects and is managed by Inova.

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The massive Inova at Landmark project is headed to the Alexandria Planning Commission and City Council for final approval in March and the project could wrap by 2028.

The city released Inova’s development site use permit application last week and it includes new renderings for the 930,000-square-foot hospital campus. The Planning Commission’s public hearing on the project is on Tuesday, March 7, and the City Council public hearing will be held on Saturday, March 18.

Inova, which has held numerous public meetings on the project, wants construction to occur between 2024 and 2028. That schedule is subject to change, Inova’s attorney Cathy Puskar previously told ALXnow.

Inova at Landmark includes 675,000 square feet devoted to the new hospital, 130,000 square feet to a cancer center and 110,000 square feet to a specialty outpatient care center. The inpatient hospital is designed to be nine stories tall and includes a roof tower to hide hospital mechanical equipment that would make the structure 175-feet tall (16 stories).

Inova signed a 99-year ground lease for the property more than two years ago, and sent its first wrecking ball into the former Landmark Mall in May 2022. The old above-ground 550-space parking garage is the only structure that remains, and it will be retrofitted into the new hospital campus.

The project makes up a fifth of the total land use on the 52-acre West End Alexandria development. The city bought the 11-acre parcel of land for $54 million from The Howard Hughes Corporation in 2021, and Inova has a 99-year ground lease for the hospital land.

The project was designed by Ballinger and Ennead Architects, and is being managed by Inova.

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Concept map for new Landmark Mall development (via City of Alexandria)

(Updated at 1 p.m.) The first set of buildings in the West End project — the start of a massive redevelopment of what was Landmark Mall — were approved at a City Council meeting this weekend.

Developer Foulger-Pratt won the unanimous approval of four blocks of the sprawling development, consisting of residential, commercial and medical offices.

There were no public speakers on the topic and relatively limited discussion from the City Council after a presentation by staff and the developer. Vice Mayor Amy Jackson noted that the development was “the best holiday gift ever.”

While the projects have been met with enthusiasm by city leaders who have tried for decades to move Landmark redevelopment forward, at the Planning Commission there were concerns that the project wasn’t progressive enough in its environmental design. At the City Council, some leaders shared their nervousness at how the new development could impact market-rate affordable housing throughout the West End already struggling with increasing rents and skyrocketing evictions.

City Council member John Chapman expressed support for the project but did note concerns that the high-end residential development could threaten some of the area’s existing market-rate affordable housing stock.

“I’m cautiously nervous about what this means for the rest of that area of the West End,” Chapman said. “We’ve already seen some developments come forward that want to shift what we call naturally occurring affordable housing to non-naturally occurring affordable housing. With the approval of this site, I think we as a Council need to be cautious about what we see from development in that neighborhood and what that means.”

The project did face one additional setback: prior to the approval of the project, Chapman did note that he “can’t promise he’s ever going to call it West End.”

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Thrive (image via City of Alexandria)

Alexandria’s Planning Commission’s recommendation of approval for the long-awaited “West End” development was offset slightly by concerns that the city isn’t doing enough to pressure developers into adopting more environmentally conscious design.

The Planning Commission voted 5-1 in support of development plans for a large chunk of what was once Landmark Mall. The recommendation heading to the City Council supports four sprawling blocks of development with a mixture of multifamily residential, ground-floor commercial, and medical office spaces.

But while there was some enthusiasm from the Planning Commission about seeing these plans come to fruition, some lamented that the developments don’t follow best practices for minimizing energy consumption.

“I recognize that the Planning Commission is likely to concur with staff recommendation of approval for this project on the basis that it is compliant with CDD and DSUP requirements. I won’t be joining that consensus,” said Commissioner Stephen Koenig. “In critical aspects of operational performance, this project will underserve the community and damage the environment. It is not fully responsible architecture in this era of accelerating climate transformation.”

Koenig said developments should be expected to do more to design their buildings with an environmental focus at their core.

“We miss the opportunity to achieve a cleaner environment, neighborhood resilience, and expanded affordability which are integral to our vision for the future of our city,” Koenig said.

Commissioner David Brown said that he agreed with Koenig’s concerns, but disagreed that they should cause the Planning Commission to not support the project overall. Brown said in a recent Planning Commission case, the Commission voted not to recommend a parking lot be allowed to continue operating as it went against previously established plans for the area, but the City Council later voted to allow that operation to continue.

“I agree with everything [Koenig said] except his decision not to support the project,” Brown said. “I will be supporting the project… My loadstar is playing by the rules. In this case, the applicant has all the way down the line played by the rules. If I’m not going to give an applicant a pass because they do more than the rules, I’m not going to turn down an applicant because they do less than we might have hoped in the way of climate change.”

Brown added later that the project also represented an exemplary mixed-use zoning plan.

Like Brown, others on the Planning Commission said they shared Koenig’s concerns that the city isn’t doing enough to require more environmental protections on sites, but said the positives of the Landmark redevelopment plans still merited approval.

“This is one project that, as the small area plans evolve… didn’t have to adjust community expectations that were developed during the small area plan to meet what’s being presented,” said Planning Commissioner Mindy Lyle. “This project has met all of the expectations set forth to the community during those processes and I think that’s unique to this particular site.”

The redevelopment plans now head to the City Council for review at a meeting on Saturday, Dec. 17.

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The Inova At Landmark campus conceptual design (via Inova)

(Updated 12/8) A street near the planned Inova hospital anchoring the Landmark redevelopment could celebrate a woman who founded one of the city’s first hospitals.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously at a meeting last night approve of renaming Healthway Place to Julia Johns Place.

While Alexandria hosted 30 military hospitals during the Civil War, by the 1870s there was no central location to treat patients or enforce a quarantine, a nonprofit called Alexandria Celebrates Women wrote in the Alexandria Times. When a sailor arrived at Alexandria with a case of typhoid fever, fear of an outbreak prompted a local woman named Julia Johns to assemble a group of women to create a hospital for the city.

A charter was approved in 1872 and Johns leased a townhouse at the corner of Duke and South Fairfax streets. The hospital opened in 1873. The Alexandria Times story noted that the first surgery, the amputation of a railroad employee’s crushed leg, was performed on Christmas in 1882.

The hospital would grow to include the first nursing school in the area as well as the first outpatient treatment in the state. The Alexandria Infirmary was renamed the Alexandria Hospital in 1902 and later incorporated into INOVA Health System.

Johns died in 1883 and is buried at the Virginia Theological Seminary, not far from the current hospital. The original infirmary site was demolished in 1953; replaced with a small parking lot.

Planning Commission chair Nathan Macek said the name change had some behind-the-scenes prompting by city leadership.

“Part of this is based on some behind-the-scenes discussions I’ve been having over the last few days,” Macek said. “I think this is a much better fitting name, especially given the prominence of the institution — the hospital that will be on the street.”

Macek said the renamed street would also be one of the few in the city named in honor of a woman.

“I think it’s an opportunity to honor someone who had a founding role in the institution as well as a significant figure in Alexandria’s history and a woman,” Macek said. “We don’t have many streets named after women, so I think it’s fitting for a number of reasons.”

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