Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Arlandria Redevelopment Gains Momentum

The proposed redevelopment of Mt. Vernon Village Center in Arlandria cleared a crucial hurdle last week, gaining approval from the Alexandria City Council by a vote of 6-1, despite some expected objections from the community.

Arlandria Center will be a 600,000 square foot pedestrian-friendly mixed-use complex replacing the sixty-year-old storefronts-and-surface parking strip mall along Mount Vernon Avenue. Plans call for two massive C-shaped buildings, placed back to back, with retail space on the ground level to go with 478 apartments – 28 of which will be earmarked as "lower-income affordable housing” (60% of area median income, locked in for thirty years), and the rest offered at market value. The two retail anchors at Mt. Vernon Village Center, CVS and MOM's Organic Market, have agreed to stay, and their relocation is being accommodated by a phased construction.

The new complex also slightly increases the amount of retail space, to just over fifty three thousand square feet, and relocates parking underground. The project, designed by Guy Martin at CORE Architects, also aims to increase access to Four Mile Run Park, which is currently blocked off by the current structures. The new Mt. Vernon Village Center incorporates two “green fingers” - clear sight lines that provide park views from the Avenue – as well as pedestrian walkways and bike paths, and a no-vehicles pedestrian esplanade in the rear.

“The architecture is one of the things we're particularly excited about,” said Gwen Wright, Development Division Chief in the Alexandria Department of Planning. “There are lots of plane changes in the facade, breaking it up into smaller pieces, good transitions along Mt. Vernon Avenue and along Bruce Street. It also has great connections to the park – some units have entrances right onto the park. Overall, it's very contemporary – lots of glass, stone, and brick, very exciting. We'd like to see the area revitalized, with more focus on the arts. The Birchmere is already there, so there's a real opportunity to see Arlandria move in that direction.”

Like a lot of planners in the region, Wright hopes that Arlandria's rise will parallel the blossoming of certain neighborhoods in the District “A lot of this reminds me of U Street,” says Wright. “U Street and 14th Street.”
Protests centered on what some considered the meager number of units set aside for affordable housing, as well as the income requirement. Others worried that the whitewashing was already underway, as the immigrant-heavy neighborhood, known by locals as Chirilagua, was being rebranded exclusively as Arlandria.

Despite its relative inaccessibility, developers have long eyed Arlandria – with its proximity to the Pentagon, Crystal City, Del Rey, and Potomac Yard - as an area ripe for redevelopment, and with this step, that project looks to be gaining momentum. Mt. Vernon Village Center is one of three earmarked “opportunity sites” as outlined in the 2003 “Arlandria Neighborhood Plan,” and the first to make significant progress. The other two opportunity sites are the former Safeway/Datatel site at Mt. Vernon Avenue and West Glebe, and the Birchmere to the south. Which one will be next?

Alexandria Virginia real estate development news


Anonymous said...

If that's considered "good architecture" then that neighborhood is about as hopeless as Clarendon or Courthouse.

Nick P on Dec 28, 2011, 6:03:00 PM said...

Nice write-up. While some members of the community were opposed, the City also received 40+ letters of support, and had several speakers in favor, many from the neighborhood that touches the property lines. I live 3 blocks from the property and I couldn't be more excited. Most of my neighbors are thrilled, as well.

I can't argue architecture, but I like this a lot more than many of the Ballston/Clarendon properties. It reminds me more of the urban loft styles going up around U St than anything else. It's a great improvement, that's for sure!

Anonymous said...

"Others worried that the whitewashing was already underway, as the immigrant-heavy neighborhood, known by locals as Chirilagua, was being rebranded exclusively as Arlandria."

I don't want to "go there" but the neighborhood has always been known as Arlandria. Chirilagua was a name immigrants who arrived there gave to it, which is fine. But in 20 years I've never heard anyone (English speaking) use Chirilagua. Its a bit unfair to refer to the use of Arlandria as a case of whitewashing when in reality the other name was brownwashing.

Anonymous said...

"Whitewashing"... um, what is that supposed to mean exactly?! Surely, that is not a reference to race, as I can't imagine referring to a neighborhood with a growing ethnic population of Hispanics, Africans, or Asians as "Brown-washing", "Black-washing" or "Yellow-washing". Are you really saying that anytime re-development takes place, it is just a racial plot? Not only is that pathetically paranoid, but it is itself a racist stereotype to assume that all minorities are poor and vice versa.

Anonymous said...

Sure hope the transportation issues have been addressed as the nearby intersections are already clogged. BRAC failures to-date leave me skeptical of the city's planning process.

I ditto the claim this is uninspired architecture, which resembles Clarendon more than U Street.

E. on Jan 12, 2012, 12:11:00 AM said...

That looks like a prison complex. My husband and I had our first apartment there a few years ago and enjoyed it immensely. We'd be happy to see some love and care given to fixing up a great neighborhood. This looks terrible.

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