Wednesday, December 31, 2008

4 New High-Rises for Alexandria's Eisenhower Ave?

Who, in the real estate world, isn't happy to see 2008 behind them? Not Binghamton, New York-based developer Lane Development, LLC, which has been in negotiations with Alexandria's Carlyle/Eisenhower East Design Review Board (DRB) now for four years - to bring a four-tower, mixed-use project to the Eisenhoser Avenue section of Alexandria, Virginia. Finally, after seemingly endless carpet-bagger treatment with bouts of redesigning and negotiation, it looks like 2009 might just be the year they see their plans realized.

Lane's intent is to build an expansive 4-tower development on what is currently two (mostly) vacant lots at 2100 and 2203 Mill Road in Alexandria, within sight of the Beltway. The first two buildings would be devoted to residential housing, in the form of one 22-story tower and one 19-story that together amount to 474,000 square feet. These as-of-yet untitled buildings would include 61,197 square feet of publicly accessible open space, a 515-space parking garage, 5,700 square feet of ground floor retail and, the raison d'etre, 485 residential units – 28-34 of which have been earmarked as affordable. The final number is contingent upon whether Lane decides to devote the project to condo or rental (though if rents continue to go up while demand continues down, our money is on the latter).

The residential “twins” will then be complemented by two similarly-designed office towers on a neighboring parcel that currently houses the headquarters of the American Trucking Federation. The project’s office component is bit smaller in scale, 15 and 13-stories, but Lane intends to fully integrate the developments via two new roads: Port Street to the west and Dock Lane to the south. The latter will provide retail frontage for the residential portion of the project, while also linking up with a planned pedestrian causeway and straddling a PN Hoffman–controlled (but undeveloped) lot next door. Furthermore, the developers plan to provide a buffer between the office towers and the neighboring freeway with a curved wall running along Mill Road that is described as “the accent skyline feature…as seen from the Capital Beltway." The entire development is being designed by James Wright of Lee Harris Pomeroy Architects.

So what’s the hold-up? Lane initially received DRB approval for 2203 Mill Road in April 2006, but went back before the board in mid-2008 due with “major design changes.” In doing so, the residential buildings lost 55 feet of height from the intended “highly articulated crowns at the center of each tower.” DRB staff also went so far as to encourage the reduction of the buildings symmetrical appearance by using an assortment of materials rather than just the “vertical brick and beige precast forms” originally planned for all four buildings. This came after the DRB’s 2006 conditional approval in which the Board contradictorily told Lane to “reduce the number of add-on elements, in order to allow the body of the building to read.”

The official line of Alexandria at present is that “the project [is] on hold pending resolution of bus loop reconfiguration for the Eisenhower Metro Station.” However, there appears to be one ray of sunshine in store for the out-of-town developer in the New Year; according to Natalie Sun, an Urban Planner with the Development Division of the Alexandria Department of Planning & Zoning, “[The project will be heard at the next DRB hearing in January 2009.” That meeting will be held on Thursday, January 15, 2008 at 7:00pm in Room 2000 of the Alexandria City Hall. Stay tuned to DCmud for updates on the project.


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