Alexandria’s tallest building takes shape at Carlyle Plaza Two

Alexandria’s tallest building takes shape at Carlyle Plaza Two

By Chris Teale (Image/Arquitectonica)

At 34 stories, it promises to be the tallest building in Alexandria, and among one of the tallest in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Dwarfing the approximately 30-story George Washington Masonic National Memorial, the proposed first residential tower at Carlyle Plaza Two will be 354 feet tall. It is slated to be built east of the 800 Carlyle apartment building and north of the new Alexandria Renew Enterprises Inc. headquarters, water treatment facility and multi-use field.

Carlyle Plaza Two would be comprised of four towers containing office and residential space on what used to be a rail yard. This tower — the southern-most in the complex — would contain 370 residential units, developed as a partnership between J.M. Zell Partners Ltd. and Hines Ltd. The two companies tasked Florida-based architecture firm Arquitectonica with its design. Another 12 units would be contained in low-rise townhouses for a total of 382.

The tower will be bounded by Holland Lane to the east and Bartholomew Street to the west, while the planned extension of Savoy Street marks its northern boundary. The future extension of Limerick Street is the south- ern boundary of the property, with this phase set to include a connection to a portion of the terraced deck on the northeast portion of the AlexRenew site.

At a work session of the Carlyle/Eisenhower East Design Review Board on June 23, consensus emerged around a concept design that includes the first-floor townhouses and a 278-space parking garage, approximately 240 spaces fewer than what the city’s Eisenhower East Plan calls for, according to a staff report.

“I think subtle elegance is what we’re trying here for the skyline,” said J.M. Zell president and CEO Jeffrey Zell at the work session.

A previous iteration of the tower’s design included Juliet balconies on its north and south sides, but they have been removed after feedback from the review board. Board member Lee Quill said there was a risk of the building having too many notes and additions, while his colleague Roger Lewis said removing the balconies helped with concerns about the building’s depth.

“[Juliet balconies are] not doing anything for anybody living in the building, and it’s not doing anything,” Lewis said at the work session.

In his presentation to the board, Arquitectonica vice president and New York office director Samuel Luckino said the firm still is exploring the colors it could use in the all-steel structure, especially for the townhomes. In previous versions, the materials used had all been gray, but the new iteration shows the townhomes in a terracotta color on the outside, with some wood accents.

Luckino said those choices would contrast well with the gray, while Lewis and Quill said it would be easier to market townhomes that are terracotta in color, since it better reflects the red-brick nature of the city’s existing architecture, especially in the Old and Historic District.

In addition, Luckino and Zell said the amenity space needs continued exploration, especially whether it will be located on the 16th floor of the tower or the rooftop. Zell said locating the amenity space on the 16th floor would take one or two rentable units away and may be less economically viable.

City council first approved the development at Carlyle Plaza Two in 2012, with 631,114 square feet of office space in two towers and 632,056 square feet of residential in two others. At the time, the plan was put forward with a view to leasing the new headquarters of the National Science Foundation. But when the U.S. General Services Administration chose to locate the NSF at the Hoffman Town Center property half a mile away in 2013, the plans were changed.

Instead, in 2014 the planning commission approved a proposal to reduce office space by 250,000 square feet and reduce parking by 500 spaces, in a move that Zell told the Washington Business Journal at the time would provide greater flexibility for the site.

A report prepared by city staff on the project in March raised significant concerns about the parking situation. The report acknowledges that the Eisenhower East small area plan looked to limit parking to encourage other transit uses, but raises concerns about the discrepancy between the maximum 520 parking spaces allowed and the proposed 278.

“This results in a parking space to dwelling unit ratio of 0.73, which is below the city’s new standard parking ratios used for multifamily housing,” the report reads. “…While staff understands that the parking standards under the Eisenhower East plan are maximums, a reduction of approximately 240 spaces for the proposed tower is significant and could have an impact on the design of the land- scape deck above, especially if the remaining residential development follows suit.”

The architects must submit their final materials to the city by July 1, while the design review board is slated to meet again on July 21. At that meeting, the architects will present samples of the materials they proposed to use in constructing the building, with a full site plan set to follow in the coming months.