Fifty-three years ago, an entrepreneurial young man known as “Dutch” – Hubert N. Hoffman – purchased 71 acres of land that was at the time swamp-scrub-trailer-park landfill, now the continually expanding Eisenhower Valley in Alexandria, Virginia. More than 5 decades after predicting a 35-story building for the site, heirs predict construction could begin as early as this year for a complex that could reach 33 stories - the tallest high-rise in the DC-metro area.
As reported by the Washington Post in 2006, Hoffman paid $200,000 - “every nickel” to his name - a small fortune amassed by trudging through the ranks; from a lowly rank in the back of a bakery, to become a successful agent at New York Life. The payment didn't seem to match the parcel, and onlookers scoffed at what appeared to be a risky financial move for Hoffman. “My learned friends, other developers, assured me I would lose my family,” he told the Post.
Why blow it all on one place? According to Hoffman, the real estate salesman “promised that the Beltway would be coming through.”
He was right. The Capital Beltway was included in the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 and today it cuts right into the Eisenhower Valley, just south of Hoffman's land, and loops itself into the Eisenhower Avenue Connector interchange.
Hoffman kept his land, his family and his dream – to build a “35-story skyscraper on the site."
The Hoffman Company/Hoffman Management - the development company founded by Hoffman - has been developing a mixed-use “urban center” known as the Hoffman Town Center across 56 acres in Eisenhower East for the last decade. Upon completion, the area will contain approximately 7m sf of built area (orange buildings on the master plan below) and includes commercial, residential, and hospitality enterprises.
The signature built element of HTC - The Hoffman Towers - is comprised of 3 towers of mixed-use residential/retail, rising up from block 11 and 12, with big-name tenant Harris Teeter in the ground floor of block 11. An additional 17,000 sf of retail will be incorporated, including "pockets" of 200-sf spaces. The grocer will take up two stories and approximately 50,000 sf. First phase of construction will need to be completed before December 31, 2013 as Harris Teeter has a legal agreement to assume the space on or before that date.
Approximately 1200 residential units will be spread across the 3 towers, including a percentage of affordable housing.
The rendering shown here is the most current design - by architect DCS Design - submitted by the Hoffman Company to the City of Alexandria. Original plans were for two mirrored 24-story towers; new plans are for a three-tower configuration, tiered in height (33, 28 and 22 stories).
Although the tallest tower will be 33 stories, two shy of Hubert Hoffman's vision, and also of Monday Properties' 35-story office building underway at 1812 North Moore in Rosslyn, it has been designed to stand 396 ft from the ground up. Monday Properties' building design is 390 ft tall. However, the Eisenhower Valley sits at approximately 18 ft above sea level, and Rosslyn 80 ft above - this means that the Hoffman Towers will claim the crown of the tallest high-rise inside the Beltway by a mere six feet, with a structure that is one-seventh the height of the Burj Khalifa, but will reach a skyline height approximately 55 ft below 1812 North Moore, thanks to a low-lying valley locale.
Although structural heights in the DC-metro area are scrutinized, Eisenhower East combined with the Carlyle Neighborhood is increasingly building up, as well as building out, thanks to generous amounts of land. Development is further spurred by the proximity of the Beltway, the interchange, and the Eisenhower Avenue Metro stop.
The area is home to significant public and private sector organizations, among them the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. Federal District Courthouse, as well as a massive 22-screen AMC theater, fringed with national retail chains.
The Towers will sit adjacent to the Metro stop – which currently spits passengers out into parking lots - and will be boxed by new access streets including Port Street, Anchor Street and Dock Lane (which cuts through the towers). Port Street can be blamed for delays with site plan approval. Gwen Wright, Development Division Chief with the City of Alexandria confirmed that negotiations are currently taking place between the Hoffman Company and the owner of private land that falls into the future Port Street area. The Hoffman Company could not be reached for comment.
Wright estimated that a site plan will be approved by the end of the summer. If a general contractor is awarded shortly thereafter, construction should be able to take place before the end of 2011, and the first phase (of two) should in that case be completed in 2013. Wright says the city is currently trying to facilitate negotiations in order to move the project along, as it is viewed positively. “We are excited,” said Wright. “It’ll be a game changer for the Eisenhower Valley.” For the past few years, the Hoffman Company has been in cooperation with the City of Alexandria's Office of Planning & Zoning.
Hubert Hoffman might not be around to see it, he passed away in 2002, but it's happening, skyscrapers are rising out of the Eisenhower Valley. The Towers may not be 35 stories, but they aim to have a better story to tell, to be the tallest high-rise building (from the ground up) in Metropolitan DC. At least for awhile, 396 feet may send builders skyward.
Update: A previous version of this story was published May 25 which did not address from-the-ground-up heights.