Hoffman Town Center to see more redevelopment

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Hoffman Town Center to see more redevelopment
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By Chris Teale (Image/City of Alexandria)

Another section of the Hoffman Town Center area near Eisenhower Avenue, north of the AMC movie theater, is slated for transformation into a mixed-use residential and retail community.

Developer Stonebridge- Carras has put forward a plan to build an approximately 215,000-square-foot retail space anchored by a grocery store and health club, with another 750,000 square feet of residential space above. Approximately 1,590 parking spaces across multiple levels would be added for the project across all the uses.

It draws on similar so- called “town centers” across the region in places like Rockville, Md. and Reston, which combine retail, restaurant and residential space in walkable areas accessible via various transportation options.

Currently, the space is an empty parking lot bound by Mill Road and Mandeville Lane. The area used to be home to buildings owned by the U.S. Department of Defense.

“This will become the town center of Carlyle,” said Alexandria Economic Development Partnership president and CEO Stephanie Landrum at an event hosted by city tourism authority Visit Alexandria last week.

The firm’s senior development manager Jeremy Lena said at a work session of the Carlyle/Eisenhower East Design Review Board last month that the residential units will be a mix of approximately 120 condominiums, 410 apartments and between 150 and 200 units in a senior living facility.

StonebridgeCarras has engaged city-based architecture firm Cooper Carry to design the project, which underwent a concept review with the board. Land-use attorney Duncan Blair of Land, Carroll and Blair, P.C., which represents the applicant, said the project is slated to come before city council and the planning commission in November.

For StonebridgeCarras, the project represents something of a continuation of its recent return to developing Alexandria sites. The firm is behind the recently approved Oakville Triangle redevelopment project on U.S. Route 1 near Potomac Yard, its first in 20 years after building offices in Carlyle. This new plan represents a strong opportunity for the area, officials said.

“I don’t know why we left Alexandria for 20 years, but we came back,” said StonebridgeCarras principal Doug
Firstenberg at the work session. “[There’s] a great movie theater, but the rest kind of never happened.”

Firstenberg told the board that the proposed town center has the potential to attract visitors from across the region given its location near an off-ramp from the Capital Beltway. He added that with varied uses — including an anchor grocery store, day care centers for children and animals as well as restaurants to add nightlife options — it
could be a real draw.

Board members appeared optimistic about filling the retail space with different uses, with an emphasis on offering options that may not be found elsewhere in the city.

“If you talk to them about what’s available in Alexandria and the region, they say there’s not much,” said design review board member Lee Quill. “There’s probably a good opportunity for modulation here in terms of uses.”

The proposal to add a senior living facility gained special praise, with board member Roger Lewis pointing to a nationwide trend of seniors wanting to be in urban, walk- able settings later in life.

But the board expressed some reservations about the location of the residential and senior living units on a 700- foot podium, with the apartments located in the center. Cooper Carry principal David Kitchens said it was by design to have the building’s lobby in the center of the location’s retail and restaurant activity.

Kitchens added that the apartment building is the largest of the three, with 100 feet of separation between the various structures to provide privacy to residents.

Lewis suggested having the taller buildings as bookends on the structure to provide more symmetry, or reducing the gaps between the buildings to try and counter what he described as an “architectural problem” that comes from such podiums.

But Firstenberg said the location of the building’s loading dock dictated where the buildings sit, especially as the loading dock is above street level at certain points because of the change in grade across the whole site.

The plan also calls for open space at the end of Swamp Fox Road, which Firstenberg said could become an activity center. He added that discussions were being had around a possible water feature in the open space, but City Councilor John Chapman, a board member, expressed some reluctance on the inclusion of a fountain.

Rob Kerns, development division chief in the city’s department of planning and zoning, said conversations would be had with staff in transportation and environ- mental services about activating Swamp Fox Road. Often, he said officers from the Alexandria Police Department close the road for security reasons.

Kerns added that this project is a pretext to a wider conversation about the Carlyle area of the city, which includes other nearby projects as well as an update to the Eisenhower East/Carlyle small area plan, slated to begin in fiscal 2020 in staff’s long-range work plan.

The project will receive another concept review before the board before heading to the planning commission and city council for the development special use permit process. Under that timeline, construction would be slated to start in 2019 and be completed by 2021.

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