A 250-foot high, 485 unit residential complex and the concept plan for a 181 room, 15 story Marriott Residence Inn each received unanimous approval by the Alexandria Planning Commission Tuesday night. Both projects are also anticipated to significantly increase the availability of affordable housing and open space within what is becoming Alexandria’s city within a city.
Those proposals were only two elements of a five docket item package dealing with various aspects of the Eisenhower East planning area. In addition to the development aspects, the projects present the possibility of providing more than $24 million for open space development and a potentially significant increase in affordable housing units.
“This is the first of many applications for this area and represents a real break through. The applicant is providing over 50 percent of the site for open space,” said Jeffrey Farner, division chief, Planning and Zoning Department, referring to the combined residential/commercial twin towers proposed by Lane Development,LLC.
“One third of the units will be affordable housing and the developer will make a contribution of over $1 million to the Affordable Housing Fund,” said Mildrilyn Davis, director, Office of Housing. The developer has agreed to provide 28 to 34 on site affordable units, according to attorney Jonathan P. Rak, representing Lane Development at the Commission meeting.
The staff report on the project indicated that the actual number of units would depend on whether they were condominium or rental units. Davis indicated that her office would prefer rental units.
“This is a very dense development and in order to get the open space we are requesting approval to increase the height of the building to 250 feet,” Farner explained. It was also decided by planning that a twin tower approach was desired “to break the monolithic look of a single long building,” according to Farner.
To be located at the intersection of Eisenhower Avenue and Mill Road, east of the Eisenhower Metro Station and the Hoffman Town Center, other aspects of the proposal include:
v Ground floor retail space
v Four levels of underground parking
v Creation of a large, publicly accessible open space
v Protection of the Hooff’s Run stream and wooded buffers
v Plantings within the resource protection area
v Implementation of the street grid with two new streets bordering the project
v Pedestrian improvements and connectivity
IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE the desired density an amendment to the Master Plan was sought to increase the height of the towers from 150 feet to 250 feet. One will top out at 204 feet and the other at 244 feet. This will also allow penthouse height increases from 15 feet to 24 feet and provide for multiple penthouses, according to the staff report.
Additionally, the proposal requested density and height bonus increases to satisfy the affordable housing provision. The height increase is necessitated by the fact that a large portion of the site is a designated resource protection area thereby confining the building to a “long narrow footprint” on the southern portion.
The second was to meet the applicants request for a 20 percent, 79,000 square feet, density bonus in exchange for providing on-site affordable units. The bonus request is the maximum permitted under the City Zoning Ordinance, according to staff.
As noted in the staff report, “This proposal achieves several of the City’s often competing priorities” in one location.
v Near a Metro station
v Providing affordable housing
v Providing publicly usable open space
v Protecting the environment
v Provides pedestrian improvements
v Encourages transit use
ONE OF THE MOST IMAGINATIVE land uses within the Eisenhower East Plan is that being proposed by Residence Inn by Marriott, Inc. To be located at 2345-2347 Mill Road, it is situated on a pie shaped piece of land immediately adjacent to the elevated Metro tracks.
“This site was originally brought to the Commission last fall. It has always been designated for a hotel. And, we think this proposal best compliments the plan,” said Eileen Fogarty, director, Planning and Zoning Department.
“The side next to the tracks is being designed to minimize any noise from Metro. We are also working with Metro for a potential sound wall,” said Attorney Duncan Blair, representing Marriott at the Commission hearing.
In addition to the 181 rooms, the 150 feet tall structure will provide 97 parking spaces in a three level underground garage plus 15 surface spaces. Underground spaces will be accessed from Mill Road or Andrews Lane. It has also been designed to accommodate 14 feet wide brick sidewalks on the perimeter accompanied by street scape improvements, according to the proposal.
It is not anticipated that the 127,000 square feet building will have any restaurant or large meeting space since Residence Inns are designed for longer stay guests. They do provide complimentary breakfasts and, usually, a small meeting room.
Rooms will consist of 140 studio, 33 one-bedroom units, and eight two-bedroom units. They will feature separate sleeping and living areas with fully equipped kitchens.
Offering socializing space, a pool, exercise room, and a sport court, “Marriott estimates that, with an average occupancy rate of 80 percent, the hotel will accommodate 200 guests and have a total of 48 employees,” according to the staff report.
One of the primary topics debated by the Commission in considering various aspects of the Eisenhower East Plan implementation proposals was the so-called “fair share contribution” to the Open Space Fund. Staff recommended that the Commission approve a sum of $2.13 “per allowable gross square foot.”
According to their report, “The Eisenhower East Small Area Plan calls for developers and land owners within Eisenhower East to make a “fair-share contribution” to the implementation of the parks and open space within the plan area. They arrived at the $2.13 contribution based on a formula considering “land values and cost estimates for remediation and development” of parks and open space.
ORIGINALLY, THE FIGURE was set at approximately $1.76 per gross square foot. Explaining the increase, Fogarty said, “The $2.13 represents more accurately what Parks and Recreation estimates will be needed to develop and maintain the open space areas.”
Ellen Pickering, speaking as a citizen, pointed out that the various open space areas would be developed over a period of up to 15 years. She suggested that an escalation clause be written into the agreement with developers to provide for increase costs based on increasing cost over the years.
Commissioner Richard Leibach asked Aimee Vosper, supervisor, Landscape Architecture, Recreation, Parks & Cultural Affairs Department, if the $2.13 included such escalation she answered “yes.” It was explained the amount covered less cost now and more cost in the future.
The “fair-share contribution” may take the form of either in-kind
payment or monetary, or both. “Based on the recommended formula, the total cost of acquisition and development of the parks and open space” in the Eisenhower Plan area is estimated at $24.8 million.
After additional discussion pertaining to potential increased future costs due to inflation, it was decided that the Commission would recommend adoption of the $2.13 amount “with staff to come back with an escalation plan at the next meeting.” This was the only vote of the evening that did not receive unanimous approval. It passed five to one with Leibach voting no. Commissioner H. Stewart Dunn, Jr., was absent.