Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Del Ray Rising (II)

Add another project to the growing list of development to fill in Del Ray. The latest: Del Ray Greens, at 2903 Mt. Vernon Avenue. With the paint still wet at Mt. Vernon Commons across the street, and the Lofts at Del Ray Village now under construction just down the block, change on Mt. Vernon Avenue is already in motion. If would-be developer Julie Wadler has her way, the Anthony's Auto site at the corner of Mt. Vernon and Commonwealth will add to the transformation, as it morphs from a carbon glutton filling station to a carbon-neutral office space.
The metamorphosis could begin taking place by this fall, according to Wadler, who has a self-professed longstanding fixation with environmental awareness, and simply couldn't resist the idea of turning something so environmentally unfriendly into, well, the opposite. If the vision is fulfilled, the former pumping station will be replaced with a small office sporting with a LEED Gold (fingers crossed) rating, phenolic panels (a recycled composite) and a "farmable, vegetated roof." The latter will be parceled out to the community who can ascend the building to harvest their own arugula or snap peas.

The project has been a long time coming for Wadler, who says the project has moved much slower than expected, thanks in large part to regulatory hurdles. "The city process just took forever" she says, noting she bought the property "probably six years ago." Actually, less than 5, according to tax records. "Well, it seems like six years," says Wadler, who has spent the past 3 just getting it through the city. She purchased the filling station for $1.2m after it had been remediated - "we bought the land clean" - she says, but has done extensive environmental testing since that time to satisfy Alexandria. "Part of the reason for building in the first place was to put something green there. If we're going to do it, we're going to do it right."

Despite being close to having final permits for the project, Wadler, the President of epiphany productions, has other ongoing concerns and doesn't foresee moving forward on the project until the fall. When the moment arrives, the architect of the building will be Old Town-based Skip Maginniss of Maginniss + Del Ninno, who Wadler chose for his "similar vision" for the site.

To satiate Alexandria's artsy mandate, Wadler held a competition for two mosaics that will adorn the building's entrance. A 9th grader from Alexandria and a 7th grader from Arlington won the contest for the 7' x 6' mosaics; their schools will be responsible for producing the final piece.

Of the eco-friendly design, architect Skip Maginniss says his firm proposed the green roof, "but Julie took it one step further" to create the farmable vegetation. The minor modification requires only deeper soil pans - up to 8 inches instead of the typical 4.5 inch pan, to accommodate plant varieties suitable for a "kitchen garden." Maginniss says skytubes, larger window space and a roofdeck will enhance the internal experience while providing contributive green features, and that such natural environmental controls allow them to build in "only modest mechanical controls," cutting back on building expense and utility costs.

As for the exterior design, Maginniss says he "spent probably close to 18-24 months working with the neighborhood and the city studying various options and coming up with a design that's compatible yet distinct in the neighborhood...something that was attractive but looked like it was a LEED-certified building."

Alexandria, Virginia real estate development news


Anonymous said...

I'm not too impressed. Only a 2-story building at the intersection of the two main avenues with no retail.

Retail would have helped stich together the retail required at Del Ray Central (f/k/a Mt. Vernon Commons) with the main business district of Del Ray.

And a farmable roof isn't really needed in an area surrounded by people's yards.

NikolasM said...

Anything planned for that Sun Trust Bank next door? They have a ridiculous amount of parking lot and would be a great place for a more urban something.

Anonymous said...

Its great to see Del Ray changing. I'm very impressed with the Mosby Condo's at 1400 Mt. Vernon Avenue. They took an ugly eye sore of Del Ray and made it a beautiful townhome style condo building. I'm not impressed by much but its impressive. Does anyone know when they will be ready and for sale?

Anonymous said...

Del Ray neighbors supported the existing city code limiting the size of the building, but encouraged retail space, which was both planned and approved for the project.

What kind of curmudgeon opposes a garden on an urban rooftop? Some homes lack yards (the new condos) and some yards lack full sun! The Del Ray farmer's market is great, but can you ever have too many vegetables?

Anonymous said...

I agree, it's great to have a garden on the roof. But I'm not sure it will be retail space-- it sounds like it's going to be used as office space. As an aside, has anyone heard anything about what the deal is with the metro at Potomac Yard?

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