A new dawn for Jefferson Memorial Hospital site

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A new dawn for Jefferson Memorial Hospital site
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By Chris Teale (Image/City of Alexandria)

In the northwest corner of Alexandria, near the city’s border with Fairfax County and just south of Shirlington, a new development is brewing that is hoped will revitalize an area filled with mostly vacant lots, the former site of the Jefferson Memorial Hospital and a strip shopping center.

The Gateway at King and Beauregard is one of the biggest developments slated for the Port City and is set for the intersection of King and North Beauregard streets. The development would be anchored by a 24-hour, 72,000 square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store, with 352 residential — including 74 affordable — units, 94,374 square feet of office space and 40,000 square feet of retail space. It would include 822 parking spaces, most of which would be underground.

The proposal by Abramson Properties calls for an amendment to the Alexandria West small area plan to increase height restrictions from 77 feet to 100 feet and to change the zoning from medium-density commercial to high-density mixed use.

The developer also requested an increase in density to construct two mixed-use buildings and one office building and has asked for parking and loading space reductions, and a retail shopping establishment larger than 20,000 square feet. Before the proposal can proceed, officials would need to approve a transportation management plan and a coordinated sign program.

The plan is slated for a public hearing tonight before the city planning commission, and city council will hold a public hearing on the matter on November 14 if the board approves the project.

The vacant Jefferson Memorial Hospital was demolished in 2007 and 2008, and a report by city staff says redevelopment of the property has been in discussion for several years within the community, including with residents of nearby Arlington County. The report says a total of 11 community meetings were held between March 2014 and October 2015 on the project, and that the majority of issues raised by residents have been resolved.

“The developer has been talking with the neighborhood over the last several years, with city staff in attendance at the meetings,” the report reads. “Questions have been raised about length of construction, pedestrian connections to the site from the neighborhood, open space, retail options and traffic.

“Staff has worked with the applicant to address many of these concerns, either through site design, or in recommendations, to finalize during the final site plan process.”

One of the biggest concerns raised was about heightened traffic congestion in the area, but the report says that a traffic impact study performed by D.C.-based consulting firm Gorove/Slade Associates indicates there will not be any significant negative impacts. But the report does raise concerns about minor increases in congestion at the intersections of King Street and 28th Street, North Hampton and Park Center drives, as well as the intersection of Beauregard Street and Branch Avenue.

The report also notes that the traffic levels at the intersections of King and Beauregard streets and Beauregard Street and Seminary Road are already unacceptable, but said the applicant has agreed to participate in the city’s plan to encourage alternative means of transportation.

One of those alternative methods is the West End Transitway, a proposed bus rapid transit service between the Van Dorn Street and Pentagon Metro stations. With proposed routes running every seven and a half minutes at peak hours and 15 minutes off-peak, officials see the proposed bus route as a big improvement to transit service. It is slated to begin operations in 2020 or 2021.

“The West End Transitway would include dedicated median bus lanes on sections of Van Dorn Street and Beauregard Street, similar to the Potomac Yard Transitway on Route 1 in the city,” the report reads. “Landmark Mall, the Mark Center, Southern Towers and Shirlington are among the activity centers that will be served by the Transitway.”

The project has received initial support from the nearby Fairlington Citizens Association, which in a letter to city council dated October 21 expressed reservations about potentially increased traffic congestion but was otherwise positive.

“At a briefing on the proposed project for our residents in September, an informal survey of residents attending the meeting suggested widespread support for the broad outlines of the development,” the letter by association president Guy Land reads. “Benefits include the elimination of the somewhat run-down shopping strip at the intersection of King and Beauregard, access to a large grocery store and other quality retail stores, and improvement of the vacant site of the old Jefferson Hospital.

“Of course, we are concerned about the increased traffic that will result from the new development. … Fairlington residents have also expressed a desire to see additional green space within the development.”

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