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After two decades of Landmark Mall redevelopment being just out of reach, city officials and developers alike let out wild roars of satisfaction as the wrecking ball crashed into the side of the building today (Thursday).

There’s still a long way to go before the first buildings of the new hospital and mixed-use development start coming online — currently slated for 2026. Still, demolition marked the furthest point of progress for redevelopment since meetings to that effect started in 2008.

There were multiple false-starts for redevelopment. The mall faced a slow death in the 2000s and early 2010s, with major anchors pulling out and leaving smaller upstart shops in the mostly-empty husk of the building. The plug was pulled in early 2017.

For many of those gathered, seeing the front of the mall cave-in was a bittersweet experience.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said Vice Mayor Amy Jackson. “I’m emotional. It’s an exciting and sad day. I remember coming here when I was 9 and it was open air. It was a place I always came to with my mom and friends. It was a gathering place, but now it will be so much more. It’s a very nostalgic day.”

The mall was eventually briefly resurrected for a scene in Wonder Woman 1984 but the mall itself looked closer to the one from Dawn of the Dead until city leaders and developers from Foulger-Pratt started communicating in 2020.

“March 2020 was a pretty crappy time,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “We thought the world was ending. I’m sitting on my computer in one Zoom meeting after another and I get an email on March 19 from [CEO] Cameron Pratt that said ‘you don’t know me, but I’m going to redevelop Landmark Mall.'”

Wilson described the email as the city administration equivalent to the Nigerian Prince scam but then-City Manager Mark Jinks told Wilson he thought the email was serious.

“That kicked off a process that led to today,” Wilson said. “It’s happening because everyone refused to quit… If ever there was a process willed into development by the public, it was this.”

Pratt said his first real job was working as a construction laborer on a Landmark Mall renovation.

“I’m excited to continue our involvement,” Pratt said. “It’s a unique moment in time. We knew we had one shot to pull this off and we promised [the city] we would only ask for exactly what we needed to pull this off.”

Pratt said there were bumps in the road leading up to the demolition and there would be more — a few minutes later this proved true as the button intended to signal the wrecking crew failed to start the demolition — but the city and developer have built a strong relationship over the last few years that will help development moving forward.

Pratt also acknowledged that reaction to the development’s new name, West End, has been mixed.

“There’s been a lot of positive and negative feedback,” Pratt said. “We’re not trying to appropriate the West End, we want to contribute to that community. We hope this becomes the heart of the West End.”

Pratt later told ALXnow the name was meant as an acknowledgment that there’s already a vibrant community in the area and that the mall should serve as a gathering place. That justification didn’t hold much water with some at the demolition, but that didn’t dampen spirits in the crowd.

“I don’t love the name,” admitted City Council member Kirk McPike. “I think people will still call it Landmark. But whether you call it Landmark or just call everything west of Quaker Lane the West End, it’s still a good thing for the area. It’s going to attract innovation and be a new medical hub. [Along with] Potomac Yard, we’ll have these two engines on both sides of the city generation innovation and jobs.” Read More

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The time for farewells is almost up, as the demolition of Landmark Mall starts early next month.

It will take about a week for contractors to relocate the Landmark Mall Transit Center to the northeastern portion of the massive property, followed by site fencing the final week in April and demolition at the beginning of the month — although no exact date has been released on exactly what day walls will start coming down.

“I would hope to see the site fencing go in and around the site by the end of this month, with demo(lition) starting the very beginning of next month,” Jay Kelly, Foulger-Pratt’s vice president of development, said in a community meeting Wednesday night. “We are pushing every day to try and make it go quicker.”

The massive West End Alexandria project will result in more than four million square feet of new development, including the expansion of Inova Alexandria Hospital. The buildings on the property will be demolished over the course of six months — going from east-to-west, including the flyover ramp on N. Van Dorn Street. Only the 550-space parking garage will remain as-is.

Most of the debris will be hauled away along Interstate 395 on trucks with tarps that have been hosed down to reduce air contamination.

The mall opened to the public in 1965, closed in 2017 and briefly returned to its former glory as a filming location for Wonder Woman 1984.

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Image courtesy Taco Bamba

After missing a fall 2021 target for opening, regional taco chain Taco Bamba is planning to open later this month in the Landmark neighborhood.

The Taco Bamba is planned to open on Wednesday, April 20, at 6259 Little River Turnpike, on the west side of I-395 in the Lincolnia neighborhood — inside Alexandria’s boundaries by a hair’s breadth.

“Later this month, Taco Bamba Landmark will open its doors to the public in Alexandria, Va. on April 20,” the restaurant said in a press release. “Landmark will be the sixth Northern Virginia location.”

The release said Taco Bamba Landmark will be a 2,000-square-foot space with 42 interior seats and a covered patio.

In addition to the chain’s tacos and tostadas, Taco Bamba said the Landmark location will have an exclusive empanada on its menu and specific tacos celebrating nearby local restaurants. The restaurant will also feature a bar with agave cocktails.

“In addition to classic Mexican cocktails like the Margarita, Michelada, and Paloma, Taco Bamba beverage director Amin Seddiq has dreamed up a menu of original, agave-forward mixed drinks that can only be found at the Landmark location,” the release said. “Highlights include the Ho Chi Meen, a twist on the Last Word, which trades gin for mezcal and brightens it with a touch of lemongrass syrup for a light and refreshing tipple.”

The restaurant is still being referred to as Taco Bamba Landmark, despite the namesake Landmark Mall development getting a bizarre new rebranding.

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Inova Alexandria at Landmark will open in about six years, although the plans and timeline are still subject to change. The proposed 675,000 square-foot hospital is 175 feet tall — about 16 stories in height, and will likely forever alter the Alexandria skyline.

Inova unveiled its conceptual designs for three new large buildings at the 10-acre complex site in a community meeting via Zoom on Wednesday night (March 30). The project, which makes up a fifth of the total land use on the 52-acre West End Alexandria development, accounts for 915,000 square feet of usable building space — 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.

“We anticipate putting a shovel in the ground in 2024, completing the hospital in 2028, with the hospital moving in from Seminary Road in the first quarter of 2028,” said Cathy Puskar, an attorney for Inova. “The schedule is preliminary and subject to change, because we just never know what happens in the processing of these permits and applications. So, we give ourselves a little bit of room there.”

That means Foulger-Pratt will have to go to the city for final site plan approval and building permits over the next two years, and construction would occur between 2024 and 2028, Puskar said.

While only nine-stories, the proposed wall height of the  464,000-square-foot new hospital facility is 175 feet — taking into account a tall roof screen to hide hospital mechanical equipment.

“The hospital would be one of only three Level II trauma centers in Northern Virginia, seven statewide, and 270 nationwide, providing 24-hour specialty services for brain injuries, complex fractures, and other trauma care,” Inova said. “The addition of a (Specialty Care Center) would allow an estimated 50 specialty physicians to see patients on the same campus as the new hospital.”

The remaining 200,000+ square feet allowed for hospital space has been reserved for a future expansion at the southern portion of the property.

“That is just an area that allows the hospital future expansion in years to come,” Puskar said, adding that expansion at Inova Alexandria Hospital was impossible due to its limited footprint. “There were needs for expansion to the (old) hospital, but that particular site and zoning really didn’t lend itself to expansion.”

There are also five access points for cars into the hospital off Duke Street, and Puskar said to expect up to 24 inbound and outbound helicopter landings at the hospital every year.

Only one vestige of the former mall will remain — the old 550-space parking garage. It will be joined by a 600-space above-ground parking lot, and a staff-only 300-space underground parking lot (accessible to all three buildings).

The project is designed by Ballinger and Ennead Architects.

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A DASH bus pulls into Landmark Mall (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Landmark Mall Transit Center will be closed for about a week starting tomorrow (Tuesday) for construction as the facility serving DASH and Metrobus is relocated ahead of the mall’s demolition this spring.

DASH sent out a notice that the transit center would close Tuesday, March 29, for about one week, meaning DASH Line 30, 32 and 35 buses will not stop at Landmark Mall. It wasn’t yet known whether the transit center will reopen at the relocated spot in front of the former Macy’s, or if that relocation would happen at a later date.

Landmark Mall will be demolished ahead of Inova’s construction of a new hospital campus. Inova recently filed concept plans with the city, showing the campus will include a new Level 2 trauma hospital, a cancer center and a specialty care center.

The temporary transfer chart for DASH and Metrobus customers as the Landmark Mall Transit Center ic closed for construction (via DASH)
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Along the waterfront near Jones Point (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The week was filled with trees blooming across the city during the peak for cherry blossoms.

Aside from picturesque scenes throughout Alexandria, there were some local stories that interested you all — from new pizza places to court updates in crime cases. And at the City Council’s meeting, Dominion Energy said it will invest millions of dollars in Alexandria to prevent future outages like the one at Art on the Avenue last year.

For anyone looking for something to do this evening or who wants to find a way to help Ukraine, locals organized a fundraiser to help refugees. The event is tonight (Friday) from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the rooftop of 277 South Washington Street.

And, here are the top stories from the week:

  1. Three men indicted after bystander shot in neck at West End 7-Eleven parking lot
  2. Two juveniles arrested after shots fired in Arlandria
  3. Alexandria man indicted on first-degree murder charge in BJ’s killing
  4. Inova campus concept plans at former Landmark site filed with city
  5. Frank Pepe’s Pizzeria Napoletana coming to Alexandria Commons Shopping Center
  6. Alexandria officials push back against ACPS ‘cover up’ story
  7. Suspect breaks into Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy through roof
  8. Alexandria police officer arrested, charged with domestic assault and battery
  9. West End murder suspect’s case to go before grand jury next month
  10. Alexandria hotel tailors stay to dogs as industry leans into pet-friendly accommodations

Have a great weekend Alexandria!

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One of the first looks at the proposal for the Inova hospital campus at the old Landmark site was filed with the city last week (screenshot via City of Alexandria permit system)

Inova has filed concept plans for the 10-acre site that will relocate the Alexandria hospital to the former Landmark Mall property and is expected to start construction in 2024.

Phase I of the campus construction proposal includes a 565,525-square-foot level 2 trauma hospital with below-grade and structured parking, a 107,239-square-foot cancer center and a 88,085-square-foot specialty care building, according to the development concept plan filed with the city last week. The existing parking garage will remain, adding 550 parking spaces for the campus to the additional 950 spaces to be constructed.

The construction timeline would start with the hospital in 2024, and the cancer center and specialty care center in 2026. Construction and opening for the campus is targeted for 2028.

The development concept plan states 1.66 acres of open space is required and is incorporated into the plan’s document.

Phase 2 includes the potential for hospital expansion, Inova spokesperson Tracy Connell said.

Inova Health System will host a virtual community meeting on Wednesday (March 30) at 6 p.m. about the development proposal for the new hospital campus. Representatives from Inova and their design consultants will present an overview of the proposed development and answer questions, according to Inova’s website.

When the city initially announced the relocation of the hospital from the Seminary Hill location, it said that it would expand to over 2,000 health care workers.

“The hospital would be one of only three Level II trauma centers in Northern Virginia, seven statewide, and 270 nationwide, providing 24-hour specialty services for brain injuries, complex fractures, and other trauma care,” the hospital system’s website states. “The addition of a medical office building would allow an estimated 50 specialty physicians to see patients on the same campus as the new hospital.”

The proposal lists the companies involved in the project as Urban, LTD, as the civil engineer, Gorove Slade as the traffic engineer, Ballinger as the architect, Walsh Colucci Lubeley & Walsh as the attorney and Davis Utility Consulting, LLC, as the utility engineer.

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The Landmark redevelopment has a new name: West End Alexandria.

Developer Foulger-Pratt officially unveiled the new name earlier this week, though it was first reported in the Washington Business Journal in late January.

“Today’s announcement marks an important step in what will be an exciting transformation of West End Alexandria,” Cameron Pratt, managing partner and CEO of Foulger-Pratt said in a press release. “West End will not be a new community, but rather an infrastructure to enable the existing community to thrive. West End Alexandria will represent the best in what community can offer – a welcoming, inviting, inclusive space for business, medical care, residential opportunities as well as shopping and dining.”

Mostly, online reaction to the name has been a puzzlement akin to the rebranding of Crystal City and Potomac Yard as “National Landing” when Amazon came to town.

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While only in the conceptual phase, the Landmark Overlook development would transform the corner of South Wilkes Street and Stephenson Avenue into a mixed use property with hotels or office buildings, two-level stacked condominium units, apartments and retail. (Image via BCT Design Group)

A development near Landmark Mall was deferred at the applicant’s request after the project was hammered by City Council for its lack of affordable housing and design issues.

Things had been looking positive for West End Associates LLC’s Landmark Overlook project — spread across 5901, 5951, and 5999 Stevenson Avenue and 2 South Whiting Street — as it headed into the City Council on Saturday. The project was approved by the Planning Commission and city staff.

The developers were seeking an amendment to the Landmark-Van Dorn Small Area Plan to change the primary use of the development from office and retail to primarily residential, allowing the developer to increase the proposed floor area ratio and construct new multifamily residential buildings.

But the project faced stern pushback from the City Council on everything from traffic impact to affordable housing. There were areas where the project met the letter of the law but was unsatisfying in ways that, reading between the lines, gave the Council less reason to be lenient in other allowances.

“There’s no affordable housing here, nevertheless they’re giving us money to compensate, but that isn’t the same,” City Council member Redella “Del” Pepper said. “All of these units and not one of them could possibly be affordable housing? Now we can’t ask for that, but it doesn’t mean how disappointed I am that that’s how they’re running it. I haven’t felt that this is a very thoughtfully done plan, frankly.”

There were also concerns from the Council that the city is moving forward with individual Landmark-adjacent plans without having a clear idea of what the city wants the area to look like.

“I think what we have here, and what I’m worried about with anything around Landmark, is that everyone rushes to make their developments pop before we finalize Landmark and the network around Landmark, especially on Duke Street,” said City Council member John Chapman. “We’re talking about something pretty significant. To me, my response would be: why not push some of this work and this development off until after May and we have a better sense of what we’re doing with that area and this intersection? Why are we letting the cart jump before the horse gets rolling?”

The applicant, represented by Kenneth Wire, said the applicant would be happy to convert the dollars into some affordable housing units in the multi-family residential parts of the development.

“I’m requesting a deferral unless I’m completely misreading the six of you,” Wire said.

The City Council approved deferral until the January meeting to allow staff and the developer to put something together more in line with the city’s goals.

“We understand private market interest and profitability, along with businesses coming in and why this might be an advantageous time for them to move forward with all sort of plans, and they have every right to do that under the law,” said City Council member Mo Seifeldein. “We take no issue with that. We want to work with you, but you have to be willing to work with us. We consider your margins and the market, but you have to consider what we do.”

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The Mark Apartments, photo courtesy Washington Property Company

The Mark Apartments at 100 S. Reynolds Street near the Landmark area is under new ownership.

Washington Property Company (WPC) announced its acquisition of The Mark, a 227-unit apartment tower in the West End, last Friday. The company bought the tower for $52.7 million.

“This is WPC’s first acquisition of an existing multifamily property,” said Quinn Rounsaville, WPC Senior Vice President of Acquisitions, said in a press release. “We have long been committed to multifamily as an asset class in our portfolio, and this acquisition provides an opportunity to grow. We believe that with Amazon HQ2, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, the redevelopment of Landmark Mall, and Virginia’s business-friendly political climate, the Alexandria submarket is poised for tremendous growth over the next five to ten years.”

In the press release, WPC said it plans to complete an ongoing renovation program at the apartments to finish upgrading apartment finishes and features. WPC also said it plans a more extensive upgrade of the building’s systems and common areas.

The redevelopment planned at Landmark and the HQ2 development in Arlington were name-dropped as a key feature that made the building an appealing acquisition.

“It is just 1.4 miles from the Van Dorn Metro station and four Metro stops to Amazon’s HQ2,” the press release said. “Only a half-mile from the property is the Landmark Mall redevelopment, expected to comprise 4.2 million square feet of mixed-use development anchored by a new billion-dollar Inova Alexandria Hospital, delivering as early as 2025.”

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