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Landmark Mall is gone, so what’s next?

A representative from developer Foulger-Pratt spoke at the Eisenhower West Landmark Van Dorn Implementation Advisory Group earlier this week to provide a bird’s eye view of what’s going on at the project.

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

Currently, Landmark Mall itself is almost completely demolished, saved for one corner still being used as an office to oversee the development.

While Inova is currently working through its own development application process at the western end of the development, other projects are in the works throughout the site.

At the presentation, the developer’s representative said the first four buildings to come online will be E1, E2, G and Eye on the map above. The E and G blocks will be part of a new housing development called Aspect.

The two residential buildings will have a total of 390 units and will be connected by a bridge, with residents able to move between buildings easily. The development will also have around 70,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

Block Eye is set to become a development called The Brightly. It will feature 390 residential units with “big box retail” on the ground floor. The developer said that could be anything from a gym to a large retail store.

Clockwise below block Eye are blocks M and L2, which are both slated to become townhomes, with that development process scheduled to kick off beginning in 2023.

Block L1 is set aside as senior housing, but a previous contract for that development fell through in August. The Foulger-Pratt representative said that project is going back on market to find a senior housing developer.

Block K, set in the center of the new development, is named Thrive and the developer said it will have a more “neo-industrial” aesthetic. Thrive is set to have 337 residential units with 30,000 square feet of retail space.

The rest of the development includes:

  • Block J: dedicated affordable housing
  • Block D: future multifamily project
  • Block H: split between hotel and condominiums

The developer’s representative said none of those three projects have begun the application process.

The Foulger-Pratt representative said horizontal infrastructure work starts in November while the rest of the development starts to work through the application processes. If all goes well, vertical construction at the site could begin as early as January 2024. Infrastructure at the site is scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2025 with the buildings completed starting in the fourth quarter of 2025.

The developer was, once again, confronted by city officials about the project’s terrible name: West End.

As far back as the start of demolition on the mall, city officials have been urging the developer to pick something else. The area is already locally known as Landmark, but “West End” generally refers to the broader section of the city rather than this specific development. The representative at the meeting said Foulger-Pratt is “pretty wedded” to the West End branding, but that the expectation is over time the individual developments within the site — ie Thrive or The Brightly — will become the more commonly used names.

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Tentative location for Landmark pedestrian bridge (image via City of Alexandria)

The City of Alexandria is looking into building a pedestrian bridge over I-395 to connect the Landmark Mall site to neighborhoods west of the highway.

Last week, the Transportation Commission reviewed a potential grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide funding to study the potential bridge.

The idea is to give West End residents better access to the large new development — including a new hospital and mixed-use district — currently under construction.

“The City is seeking technical assistance funding from the DOT to study the feasibility of a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over I-395 to connect the Landmark Mall site to the neighborhoods west of I-395,” a city memo said. “This will provide safe and direct access to jobs and amenities that will be available once West End Alexandria has been redeveloped.”

At the meeting, staff said without the bridge the only pedestrian access to the Landmark site for residents west of I-395 would be to either go down to Duke Street or cross on the Holmes Run Trail, which is currently still impassable following damage from a storm in 2019.

The bridge is recommended in several planning studies focused around the site, though members of the Transportation Commission said one of the challenges will be finding the right spot for the bridge in an area that’s a patchwork of private development. Transportation Commission member Melissa McMahon noted that the final bridge location could be more dependent on agreements with private land owners than any optimal connection.

The total cost of the study is $300,000, with a $240,000 grant request to the Department of Transportation and $60,000 in local matching funds. The Council is set to review the application at a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 28. City staff said grant recipients are announced in early 2023 and, if approved, the study would start in 2024 and take about a year.

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

In addition to being a mall and Wonder Woman battleground, Landmark has also served as a major transfer junction for Alexandria bus riders: but that changes this week as the mall’s redevelopment has forced DASH to relocate.

According to the DASH website, the transit center’s closure is necessary as mall demolition removes a ramp connecting Duke Street to the junction.

“Beginning Monday, August 1, the Landmark Mall Transit Center will be closed to all bus traffic for several weeks for construction,” the bus service said on the site. “This closure is necessary to remove the flyover ramp connecting eastbound Duke Street to the mall. The closure is part of the ongoing redevelopment of Landmark Mall.”

The demolition is part of a redevelopment plan that aims to turn the site into a new hospital and mixed-use development. The project is currently slated for completion in 2026.

A chart on the DASH site outlines what transfers bus riders on lines 30, 32 and 35 should make.

DASH transfer chart for Landmark closure (image via DASH)
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Morning Notes

Boats at the Old Town Waterfront (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Alexandria Man Killed in D.C. — “A 22-year-old man from Alexandria was shot and killed over the weekend in Washington DC, authorities said. Keonte Broadus-Gallman was found around 9 p.m. in the 1900 block of Anacostia Drive after authorities received a report of an unconscious person, the Metropolitan Police Department reported.” [Daily Voice]

Alexandria Recognized by State Planning Association — “The City of Alexandria is the winner of two prestigious awards. Today the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association’s (APA Virginia) recognized the Department of Planning and Zoning with the Commonwealth Plan of the Year Award for its Arlandria-Chirilagua Small Area Plan and the Red Clay Development of the Year Award for its Landmark Mall Redevelopment Plan.” [Zebra]

Carpenter’s Shelter Finalist for Award — “AHDC is honored to share that The Bloom and Carpenter’s Shelter has been selected as a Terwilliger Center finalist for Innovation in Attainable Housing:” [Twitter, ULI]

It’s Tuesday — Humid and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 75. Sunrise at 6:00 am and sunset at 8:32 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Around Jones Point Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

BARCA Ranks Among Best in Nation — “An Alexandria restaurant has been lauded for its outdoor dining space and is among the top 100 places to dine al fresco, according to OpenTable’s new ranking. The ranking is based on diner reviews on OpenTable. BARCA Pier & Wine Bar made the 100 Best Outdoor Dining Restaurants in America for 2022, which was released by OpenTable on Wednesday.” [Patch]

Construction Begins on Old Town West Senior Living Project — “The multimillion-dollar development will feature a six-story building with underground parking, studio, 1- and 2-bedroom living options, and high-end amenities such as a 4,550-square-foot restaurant, 24-hour fitness center, club lounge, business center and media room.” [BusinessWire]

A Last Look Inside Landmark Mall — “YouTubers ‘The Proper People’ entered Landmark Mall just days before demolition started.” [Alexandria Living]

It’s Friday — Clear throughout the day. High of 84 and low of 71. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:34 pm. [Weather.gov]

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The topic of Business Improvement Districts (BID) is back at Alexandria’s City Council and five years after one proposal was crushed, there are signs BIDs could be seen more favorably by a new Council.

BIDs are self-taxing districts established by property owners that aim to boost the economic vitality of the commercial area. There are a handful of BIDs in Arlington in areas like Crystal City, Rosslyn and Ballston. The BIDs organize activities and events in those districts, as well as handle amenities above and beyond what the city (or county, in Arlington’s case) would typically provide. The possibility of a BID in Old Town proved unpopular among many local businesses, however, who were concerned about the additional tax.

After several heated public debates, the City Council ultimately voted against the creation of a BID in Old Town.

“For those who have been up here for a little while, some of us have some scars from this,” said Mayor Justin Wilson, “but it’s good to be back talking about it.”

The new guidelines aim to make the creation of a BID a more structured process.

“The goal for creating these guidelines [is that] during the previous effort it was realized by the community that the lack of guidelines in the city was problematic,” Julian Gonsalves, assistant city manager for public-private partnerships, told the City Council at a meeting last night (Tuesday). “The idea behind adopting these guidelines is to create a framework first before any of these applications come in later on.”

The new guidelines include stipulations like requiring the support of at least 60% of businesses within the commercial district and an outline of ten steps from a letter of intent to final approval.

The goal for the new BIDs would be to turn commercial areas into hotspots of in-person commercial activity.

“Property owners might say: we want to have events for foot traffic here,” Gonsalves said. “Because of that foot traffic, it will be more beneficial for property owners to have restaurants or retails, it will make those more lucrative.

Gonsalves said the focus of a potential BID has shifted away from Old Town to parts of the West End that aren’t currently major attractions but are working through redevelopment plans.

“One of the examples being planned is Landmark or the West End,” Gonsalves said. “Right now there’s nothing there. In order to make sure that’s a hub for the city, they want to have a Business Improvement District so that you have foot traffic coming to a completely new hub that is competing with other districts around the region.”

City Manager James Parajon said BIDs can provide enhanced trash collection, enhanced amenities, and higher quality of lighting compared to what the city typically provides.

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said she wasn’t on the dais for the earlier BID debates, but said she was generally supportive of the idea.

“I know I don’t have the scars from the dais like a couple other council members do here, but some of us that were running to be up here at that time also heard a lot from community members; both pros and cons,” Jackson said. “I was always in the pro-bid section or a lot of reasons… I hope a lot of businesses around Alexandria will continue to follow this form. I know a lot in the playbook continues to be tweaked and structured.”

Wilson said there’s potential for a BID to do good for the city’s lagging commercial sector.

“I’ve long supported the kind of collectivism that a BID can enable,” Wilson said. “A BID is what members make of it. Ultimately it will be what the collective property owners proposing a BID decide what is beneficial to them… We will see how this plays out and where we get them. They’re in use all over this planet, and there’s a reason they’re in use all over this planet.”

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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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