Monday, January 26, 2009

New Development Going Green in Alexandria

The Northern Virginian city of Alexandria can now count itself among the few townships in the nation working towards codified green building policy. Since mid-2008, a group of city officials, developers, builders and non-profit employees - calling themselves the Green Building Working Group - has been aiming to realize a 2007 Department of Planning and Zoning recommendation that called for "the development industry and community to develop a sound understanding and reinforce its commitment to Green Building and sustainable development in the City.'

The riposte has finally arrived. While not legally binding, the "Green Buildings in Alexandria Policy Recommendations" report - featuring the input of various Alexandria policy makers, along with that of representatives from MRP Realty, the JBG Companies, Winchester Homes, Environmental Resources Management, and the US Green Building Council, among others – signals several significant changes for green building projects in Alexandria.

First and foremost, all projects that “require a site plan or development special use permit” will now be “expected” to adhere to the policy recommendations. Those include a minimum LEED silver certification for nonresidential projects, “flexibility for non-standard buildings,” and the need for a closer working relationship between city authorities and would-be developers. According to the report, the city of Alexandria cannot legally mandate green building practices; instead they’re seeking a "lead by example” approach “in anticipation that the building and development industry will act in own interests.” Wait for the lawyers to parse that distinction.

Nonetheless, for every stance taken in the report, there is an opposing opinion and the panel has yet to unanimously agree on several issues. Two currently at the forefront of deliberation include whether LEED silver certification shall remain the city’s minimum standard for all projects, and exactly what types of incentives should be offered to those developing eco-friendly projects.

“While there are some areas of disagreement...there is general agreement on the policy issues such as flexibility, phasing, and recognition,” says Rich Josephson, Deputy Director of the Alexandria Department of Planning and Zoning and Working Group member. “It is our intent to have City Council adopt this policy in March and to have development applications follow this policy some time shortly thereafter.”

Consensus or not, there are still numerous green projects already on deck for construction in Alexandria over the course of the next year. Among the upcoming projects highlighted in the report were the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) developments at West Glebe Road and Old Dominion Road, Jaguar Development’s Braddock Gateway, Trammell Crow Residential’s Carlyle Center, ARHA and EYA’s James Bland redevelopment and the Payne Street Condos.

The Working Group will be on hand to present the draft to the public at the George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple on January 28th from 7 to 9 PM. The presentation will include a panel discussion on the merits of the current draft, in addition to a question and answer session.

Alexandria Virginia real estate development news


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