Alexandria, VA

The Alexandria Board of Architectural Review will consider a permit to demolish/capsulate the Regal Potomac Yard movie theater, which closed in March due to the pandemic and never reopened.

The one-story theater first opened in 1998, and “is an example of a typical multi-screen movie theater built during the late 1990’s throughout the region,” according to a city staff report.

In its place will go a pump station that is part of Virginia Tech’s massive Innovation Campus development, and will handle sanitary sewer flows for Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange system.

As previously reported, this and next month, the BAR and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

The area was a rail yard from 1906 until 1989, and the staff report stipulates that all eventual construction “will stop on the site if any buried structural remains (wall foundations, wells, privies, cisterns, etc.) or concentrations of artifacts are discovered during development,” and that a city archaeologist will need to record the finds.

The plan will go to City Council this fall for approval.

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This and next month, the Alexandria Board of Architectural Review and the Planning Commission will receive half a dozen plans for the 1.9 million square-foot mixed use North Potomac Yard development.

“This application… represents the culmination of an extensive planning process for North Potomac Yard,” according to a master plan amendment filed with the Planning Commission to increase building heights near the proposed Potomac Yard Metro Station. Buildings in Block 15 would increase in height from 85 feet to 90 feet, and increase from 90 feet to 115 feet on Block 18 — both of which are near the developing Potomac Yard Metro Station.

The massive development includes construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs for the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus, which the city is considering as an “integrated whole” instead of multiple standalone projects.

The plans will need to be approved for the development to meet its timeline. The Virginia Tech campus is currently planned to be operational by fall 2024, and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Tomorrow, the BAR will consider a Certificate of Appropriateness for a pump station to handle sanitary sewer flows with Virginia Tech’s Sewer to Wastewater Energy Exchange (SWEE) system. The system will be transferred to the management of AlexRenew Enterprises once constructed is completed.

The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for October 6, and the plans will go to City Council this fall for approval.

Images via City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Large Income Disparities in Alexandria — “White Alexandria is pulling in significantly more money than Hispanic workers and African Americans, according to numbers from the United States Census Bureau. A look at average income shows non-Hispanic whites make more than $85,000 a year. That’s more than three times the average income for Hispanic workers, $24,000, and more than twice the average income for black workers, $37,000.” [Gazette]

Water Taxi Returns to Old Town — “A face mask requirement and other safety measures are in place for the limited water taxi service.” [Patch]

Lee-Fendall House Museum & Garden Hosting Juneteenth Trivia Night — “It’s long been on our calendar to celebrate Juneteenth – marking the legal end of slavery in the United States on June 19th, 1865 – with a trivia night that explores African American culture. We hope you’ll join us on Zoom this Friday night for this special evening! Tickets are FREE, but an optional donation will be split between us, Carlyle House Historic Park, and ALIVE. Pre-registration at our Eventbrite page is required.” [Facebook]

NVTA Recommends Full Funding for Duke Street Transitway — “The Duke Street Transitway was the City of Alexandria’s only request to the NVTA and the cost is estimated at $87 million. Alexandria received $12 million already, so this funding request is for the remaining $75 million.” [Alexandria Living]

North Potomac Yard Virtual Meeting at 7 p.m. — “The Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH is hosting virtual community meetings to provide information on the design of the proposed buildings and site-wide updates.” [City of Alexandria]

Casa Chirilagua Hosting Fundraiser Sunday — “Casa Chirilagua is a local community nonprofit serving the Central American Latinx community in City of Alexandria zip code 22305 – a hot spot for COVID-19. Because of the health and economic conditions, demand for Casa Chirilagua’s services has become enormous.” [Facebook]

‘Ascend Cycle’ Hosting Virtual Pride Ride — “A $15 minimum donation is requested for this event. 100% of proceeds will be donated. Sign up for the ride online and we’ll text you the Zoom code before class!” [Facebook]

YMCA Reopens in Del Ray — “Your local YMCA at 420 East Monroe Avenue is back in business. It opened for the first time in months this past Monday, June 15, along with the Arlington location. The Y is following a phased approach to reopening so you will see differences when you visit.” [Zebra]

New Job: Assistant Center Manager — “Mathnasium is a highly dynamic and fast-paced and is known for the great care we take with our students and employees alike… We’re looking for an Assistant Center Manager to assist at both our Alexandria City and Mount Vernon centers. The pay range we’re offering is $16-$18/hour depending on center performance.” [Indeed]

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The City of Alexandria has agreed on a 15-year lease for a Mark Center office owned by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), the nonprofit announced today. The lease, which was signed on May 26, will go in effect when the city’s Department of Community and Human Services and Health Department moves into the property at 4850 Mark Center Drive in February 2023.

The city has an option to buy the property and are interested in exploring that option, city spokesman Craig Fifer told ALXnow.

IDA will move out of the property, which it has called home for nearly four decades, and into its new 370,000-square-foot headquarters at Potomac Yard in February 2022, according to a press release. The new facility will be blocks away from the new Potomac Yard Metro station and next door to the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

“This is a key milestone in our progress toward Potomac Yard occupancy and continued advancement of our work for our sponsors,” said IDA President and CEO Norton A. Schwartz in a statement. “Eight years ago, we committed to moving into a new building in Potomac Yard equipped with the latest technology and security requirements to better support our growing organization.”

IDA has the mission to “answer the most challenging U.S. security and science policy questions with objective analysis leveraging extraordinary scientific, technical, and analytic expertise,” according to its website.

The deal has been in the works since at least 2018. According to a city memo, it will cost approximately $1.9 million in annual building operating expenses and the city would need nearly $14 million in “upfront tenant fit-out costs.”

Courtesy photo

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When construction on the $1 billion Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is completed, it will be a mostly walkable campus with underground parking and significant open space, according to a presentation Tuesday by the Virginia Tech Foundation and developer JBG SMITH.

The first phase of development will occur at the current location of the Regal Potomac Yard movie theatre, which is closed due to the pandemic. It is unknown if it will open again before construction begins.

The developers unveiled plans for the first phase of development, which includes the construction of a 9-10 story structure will be located along E. Reed Avenue, Potomac Avenue and a campus green space. The building, as well as the other Virginia Tech buildings, will be built to reach LEED Silver certification and the areas immediately around it will include lawns and walking paths.

There will also be a slope of less than 5%, meaning that there will be no steps or handrails on the campus.

“The overall illustrative plan shows the project’s contiguous an interconnected network of open spaces that stretch between Potomac Avenue and George Washington Memorial Parkway,” said Simon Beer, a landscape architect with design firm OJB. “All of the design of these spaces at this point are conceptual in nature, as we present them today. Our team is going to continue to work with the city with you and with each individual building’s architect as we continue the process.”

The open spaces include Potomac Yard Park, a Metro plaza, a market lawn and a pedestrian plaza. Virginia Tech will take up four acres of the northern end near the Alexandria border with Arlington, and the underground parking will be available once the buildings are finished.

The development will also see the construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs. The permanent campus is currently planned to be operational by fall 2024, and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

The city will undergo the approval process for the project’s preliminary infrastructure plan this June, in addition to an approval for a pump station to handle sanitary sewer flows from the proposed project and other off-site properties so that construction can begin in the fall.

Images via JBG SMITH

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Morning Notes

City Helps World Central Kitchen Give Out 1,250 Meals — “On May 14, City staff and volunteers distributed 1,250 hot meals to 350 families in the third food distribution organized in Alexandria by World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit food distribution organization founded by chef José Andrés. Local nonprofit ALIVE! also distributed 800 pounds of food at the event. This food distribution will take place again at Casa Chirilagua on May 21 and Ramsay Elementary School on May 28.” [City of Alexandria]

10,000 Maniacs Show at The Birchmere Rescheduled to November — “his show has been RESCHEDULED AGAIN, now for Friday November 20, 2020! All 3/20/20 & 5/31/20 tickets will be honored on the new date. Refunds available through Ticketmaster if you cannot attend the new date. If you purchased at The Birchmere Box Office, please hold on to your tickets until we reopen. Tickets for 11/20/20 on sale now!” [Birchmere]

Old Town Books Raising Funds to Stay Afloat — “I never thought I would be turning to crowd funding to keep the store open. This fundraiser is to cover payroll, rent, and fixed costs during the shut down. It will keep the store open through the next very uncertain year while we adapt our business model to continue operating through the COVID-19 outbreak. I want Old Town Books to be here when the clouds part, and I hope you do, too.” [GoFundMe]

Here’s the Latest from the Old Town Boutique District — “The Old Town Boutique District kindly asks for you to continue to hold hands with us and support us little guys any way that you can. We love our loyal shop local community and we still need you.” [OTBD]

Tall Ship Providence Hosting Virtual Tours on Tuesdays — “Every week, historic re-enactors talk about Providence, life aboard the ship and much more in a series of videos, online discussion and other virtual features.” [Alexandria Living]

North Potomac Yard Virtual Community Meeting at 7 p.m. — “The Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH will host a virtual community meeting to provide information regarding transportation, open space, sustainability and community benefits.” [City of Alexandria]

Sixth Grader Leaves Colorful Rocks in Neighborhood — “Sophie Richardson, a 6th grade student at St. Stephens/St. Agnes School, is brightening up the Vauxcleuse neighborhood near Inova Alexandria Hospital with rocks painted with uplifting messages for her neighbors to find.” [Gazette]

Virtue Feed and Grain Donates Meals to D.C. Nonprofit — “We are grateful for the partnership & hope to continue giving back to our community.” [Facebook]

Pedego Electric Bikes Gets Colorful Shipment of Helmets — “We just received a shipment of new Thousand helmets! Refilling some favorites and adding a few new awesome colors. Come and get them while they last!” [Facebook]

The Art League is Offering Online Courses — “Check out our new online classes to help keep you connected to each other and your creativity. Connect to online classes using Zoom, a video-conferencing platform that is simple and easy to use. And stay in touch with your classmates and teacher with Google classroom.” [Art League]

New Job: Alexandria Health Department Communications Officer — “The AHD Communications Officer is a key member of AHD’s Population Health team comprised of the Population Health Manager, Health Planner, and HIV/AIDS Prevention Coordinator. The Communications Officer reports directly to the Population Health Manager, is AHD’s principal communications subject matter expert, and provides oversight of AHD’s internal and external communications.” [Indeed]

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The Potomac Yard development process is moving forward, with the in-person meetings now switched to virtual sessions with the city hosting a second town hall planned tomorrow (Wednesday).

At a meeting Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m., the Virginia Tech Foundation and JBG SMITH are scheduled to give a public update on the project and describe plans for the southern group of buildings. Those are the office and residential buildings closest to the Potomac Yard Metro station.

The public can join the meeting at 7 p.m. and submit questions or comments to [email protected]

Designs for buildings in Potomac Yard have been trickling out over the last few weeks as designs for the new district near the Potomac Yard Metro station is finalized.

Further developments about the project, including the Coordinated Development District plan and the infrastructure site plan, are planned to go to a city council public hearing in June.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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Virginia Tech has released drawings of what its first of three academic buildings will look like.

“This project is a bellwether for what we are trying to achieve through our new campus, creating a place that provides the space and environment to foster collaboration and the creation of bold new ideas,” said Lance Collins, the incoming vice president and executive director of the Innovation Campus, said in a statement.

Construction on the 300,000 square-foot building is planned to begin next year and open to computer science students in 2024. The 9-10 story building will be built to LEED Silver certification, and dolomite limestone — also known as Hokie Stone from the college’s campus in Blacksburg — is being considered for the base.

The building was designed by architect SmithGroup and Virginia Tech to take advantage of solar power energy, and features a number of glass and metal panels, terraces and open space. The ground floor and lobby will include exhibits and look out on green space, and it will provide office, classrooms, multi-purpose areas and research and testing labs, according to Virginia Tech.

“We are proud to be working with Virginia Tech on this transformational new campus, which will change the face of computer science and redefine the role of the land-grant university for the 21st century,” said David Johnson of SmithGroup in a statement. “The university’s goal is to re-center computer engineering in a humanist context, and we brought to life an inclusive setting that will help accelerate knowledge creation and solutions at the intersection of humanity and technology.”

The first phase of the $1 billion campus will see construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs at Alexandria’s border with Arlington. The permanent campus will take up four acres and accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

The property also neighbors the North Potomac Yard redevelopment, which includes the construction of the Potomac Yard Metro Station, a new elementary school and a number of buildings.

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Alexandria has released conceptual drawings of what the proposed buildings might look like in the North Potomac Yard development.

The drawings of the 817,853 square-foot development include three Virginia Tech Innovation Campus academic buildings and five other buildings near the under-construction Potomac Yard Metro station. It will replace the existing Regal movie theater and parking lots.

As envisioned by architect Hickok Cole, the first phase of the $1 billion campus will see construction of three academic buildings dedicated to computer science research and development programs. The permanent campus is currently planned to be operational by fall 2024, and will accommodate 750 computer science master’s degree students per year and more than 100 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows.

Virginia Tech will take up four acres of the northern end near the Alexandria border with Arlington.

The drawings were released on the city’s website prior to Potomac Yard Design Advisory Committee meetings on March 4 and on March 11. The city will undergo the approval process for the project’s Development Special Use Permits this fall.

A city staff report broke down plans for the following North Potomac Yard buildings:

  • Building 7W is slated as the first building that will be developed at the Virginia Tech campus. The 9-10 story structure will be located along E. Reed Avenue, Potomac Avenue and a campus green space. The building, as well as the other Virginia Tech buildings, will be built to reach LEED Silver certification.
  • Building 10 will include two towers with a connected base, topping off with a 115-foot-tall northern tower and a 95-foot-tall southern tower. It will be located at the southeast intersection of E. Reed Avenue and New Street B (Park Road) and will have frontages along New Street A, E. Reed Avenue, New Street B and Silver Meteor Avenue.
  • Building 14 will be located at the southeast corner of the intersection of E. Reed Avenue and Potomac Avenue and will have frontages along Potomac Avenue, E. Reed Avenue, New Street A, and Silver Meteor Avenue. Vehicular access into the underground parking garage is shown on Silver Meteor Avenue while pedestrian access to the building is shown from each frontage.
  • Building 15 is proposed as a seven-story residential multi-family building at the northeast intersection of New Street A and Evans Lane, directly north of the proposed Metro Plaza.
  • Building 18 is proposed as a six-story office building at the southeast intersection of New Street A and Evans Lane and sits on the proposed Metro Plaza
  • Building 19 is proposed as a residential building at the northeast corner of the intersection of Evans Lane and Potomac Avenue. A prominent residential terrace faces Metro Plaza and three residential tower-like structures rise over a shared building base. The overall building massing is unified with a high percentage of glass and a series of residential balconies.
  • Building 20 is shown as a six-story office building at the southeast intersection of Potomac Avenue and Evans Lane. Pedestrian entrances are shown on the Potomac Avenue and New Street. The future DASH bus station stops will be located along the building frontage of New Street A and three curb cuts for parking garage entrances and loading and unloading functions are shown at the southern end of the building along New Street A.
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Morning Notes

Robbery in Landmark Area — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a robbery from person in the unit block of South Reynolds Street. Victim had items taken and received a minor injury. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

Alexandria’s Mobility Priorities — “The top four priorities for the future of transportation according to Alexandria residents are congestion management, safe and comfortable places to bike and walk, reliable and efficient transit and maintaining infrastructure. The Alexandria Mobility Plan team revealed those results from their community outreach meetings at seven locations in Alexandria and an online survey last fall.” [Alexandria Living]

VT Names Innovation Campus Director — “The new leader of Virginia Tech’s billion-dollar tech campus project in Alexandria is laying out his vision for it. Lance Collins comes from Cornell University, for which he helped open a tech campus in New York City. The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is being built in the Potomac Yard area.” [Virginia Tech, WTOP]

Crash Near Hospital Yesterday Morning — “Police, medics on scene of a car that reported[ly] crashed into a tree on the 800 block of N. Howard Street, near the hospital. Road may be temporarily closed.” [Twitter]

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(Updated at 4:55 p.m.) Virginia Tech has to hit 750 master’s degree graduates per year by the end of the decade in a school that hasn’t even been built yet if it wants to hold onto state funding for the project.

During a panel discussion at Agenda Alexandria last night, some of the local leaders working on Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Potomac Yard opened up about the slew of opportunities and challenges the school will face over the next few years.

David Baker, assistant director of government and community relations for Virginia Tech, said the 750 master’s degrees target was a condition of the funding Virginia Tech got from the state to support the school’s development.

The first challenge will be getting the project built by 2024, which the panelists said is their deadline to give Virginia Tech enough time to get the school up and running to hit its deadlines. The project is currently in the design review process, which started in November and is expected to run through fall 2020.

“We’re focused on the area east of Potomac Avenue in phase one to hit the 2024 timeline,” said Bailey Edelson, development senior vice president for JBG Smith. “In terms of planning and construction, that’s lightning-fast. We’re working quickly to make sure they can meet their obligations.”

Once the project finishes construction in 2024, Baker said the school plans to start hosting classes that fall. It will offer master’s and PhD programs with a focus on computer science and engineering, Baker said, with no undergraduate program planned.

(A temporary campus utilizing vacant retail space at the Potomac Yard shopping center will host about 400 students before the opening of the permanent campus.)

While housing is set to be constructed as part of the larger redevelopment of Potomac Yard, no residential areas are set aside as student housing.

“But when we bring multifamily units online, those often serve as housing for graduate students and anyone else who wants to live here,” Bailey said.

She said JBG Smith was committed to co-locating affordable housing at the site. City regulation requires developers seeking bonus density — density beyond what is allowed by local zoning — to supply affordable housing, but some developers instead offer a financial contribution to Alexandria’s Housing Trust Fund and the housing is built elsewhere. Bailey said bringing a supply of housing affordable at all levels to “National Landing” was crucial for the project.

The panel also featured Ryan Touhill, chief of staff for the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Amol Vaidya from the Potomac Yards Civic Association. As they look at the new development coming online, many residents have already been vocal about their disappointment with the process.

Vaidya said it’s important for local residents to take an active part in the discussion about development.

“We want development to be something that happens with us and not to us,” Vaidya said. “We’re a pro-development community, like to see opportunities, jobs and whatnot, but throughout this dynamic process the partnership is key.”

The next Potomac Yard meeting is an advisory committee meeting on Sunday, Feb. 5, at City Hall.

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It will be more than a year until Bonaventure Realty makes a move on plans for a swath of properties it recently purchased along Mount Vernon Ave. in Del Ray, according its Vice President Jeremy Moss.

The company, which last summer bought the properties at 2401, 2403 and 2411-2419 on Mount Vernon Ave., has no immediate plans for changes and jumped at the chance to purchase the properties.

The reality is that when the properties became available, this was a once in a generation opportunity,” Moss told ALXnow. “All the current uses have remained the same. We still have retail and residential uses, and we intend to honor the existing uses in place.” 

The properties include the Alexandria Department of Community and Human Services (2525 Mount Vernon Ave.), which has a lease for an additional 2.5 years, as well as Cheesetique (2411 Mount Vernon Ave.), the recently shuttered Catch on the Avenue restaurant, a number of retail and residential properties and a 144-space parking lot across from Pat Miller Square on Mount Vernon Ave. and E. Oxford Ave.   

Moss said that Bonaventure will make no moves on the area until the city updates its  2005 Mount Vernon Avenue Business Plan and 2003 Long-Term Vision and Action Plan for the Arlandria neighborhood in the spring of 2021.

Gayle Reuter, an Alexandria Living Legend and member of the Del Ray Business Association, said that misinformation has been spreading regarding Bonaventure’s intentions. The rumors, she said, have spread largely because of Amazon’s HQ2 development in Pentagon City, Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus at Potomac Yard and the recent groundbreaking of the Potomac Yard Metro station.

“I was pleased to get to meet with Bonaventure recently and am excited to welcome them to Del Ray and in hearing their interest in being involved with the community,” Reuter said. “They’ve already reached out to sponsor several of our events, and I think they will be great new neighbors.”

Bonaventure’s President Dwight Dunton was raised in Del Ray and is a graduate of T.C. Williams High School. He’s also a trustee with the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria.

“Alexandria has a place in Dwight’s heart and he’s certainly sensitive to the uniqueness of Del Ray and the vibrancy of the neighborhood,” Moss said.  

See: With Amazon on the Horizon, City Begins Update to Arlandria and Del Ray Plans

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