Q&A: EYA Senior Vice President A.J. Jackson talks Robinson Landing

Q&A: EYA Senior Vice President A.J. Jackson talks Robinson Landing
A rendering of the Robinson Landing waterfront development (Courtesy Photo)

By Alexa Epitropoulos | aepitropoulos@alextimes.com 

After years of Robinson Terminal South sitting vacant, the waterfront site at the foot of Duke Street will soon be occupied again.

Demolition work on Robinson Terminal South is complete and excavation of historical artifacts, including remnants of the old Pioneer Mills building, is nearly finished. Developer EYA has started sales on its Robinson Landing project, which will include 26 townhomes and 70 condominiums.

As of Nov. 27, deposits had been put down for nine condos and four townhomes. Robinson Landing’s first townhomes will be ready to move into late next year, while the development should be completed by early 2020. In addition, EYA is working with potential restaurant tenants to fill a 5,000-square-foot retail space. In all, EYA has about 10,000 square feet of retail available.

EYA Senior Vice President A.J. Jackson recently spoke with the Alexandria Times about sales, architectural plans and his company’s vision for the waterfront.

Where is EYA in the construction process?

A.J. Jackson is senior vice president at EYA (Courtesy Photo)

We’re still doing archaeological work. We’ve completed our remapping for the FEMA process and are still doing archaeology on the site. We’ve been moving around the site. We knew Pioneer Mills, which used to be the largest building in the city, would be on the site from the beginning. We’ve been removing the stone [foundations] from that building.

We’re going to be able to incorporate some of those [stones] into the project. We uncovered an old portion of The Strand that runs along the site, so we’ve been documenting that as well. Our plan is to be through archaeology this winter and then we’ll begin excavation for the garage and installation of what we call our cutoff wall, which is an underground wall.

How has the process differed from similar EYA projects, like The Oronoco?

This has been very different from The Oronoco because at The Oronoco we had an existing building. In this case, it’s all new construction. They’re very different projects, and there
are challenges to each. With something like The Oronoco, when you’re working on constraints because of what’s already there and when you’re doing something new, as we think about archaeology, you’re dealing with the unknown of what lies beneath
what you’re demolishing and working through that. Each is sort of unique.

What has the archaeological excavation process been like?

We did a detailed site history before we started at the site, so we had some idea of some of the things that would be there and we knew some of the uses that we would find on site. We found some interesting artifacts that told the history, like Spanish coins and shells and stones from all over the world from the early Colonial trading period, pottery fragments and buildings and all sorts of interesting things. It’s been a rich history in that regard. It’s been fun to see all of the layers of Alexandria history.

Describe what Robinson Landing will look like when completed.

Our inspiration for the design was language that’s in the waterfront plan, which calls for modern design inspired by historical context. That’s what we’re trying to achieve there – more modern design, floor-to-ceiling glass on the waterfront side and then, as we turn to the city, toward Duke Street and Wolfe Street, we have punched openings, more
brick and natural stone at the base of the condominium building – it’s more typical architecture.

The history of this site, as I mentioned, is that it’s never been a residential site – it was not Captain’s Row or anything like that. It was an industrial site. The inspiration for the historic design was that history of commerce and industry, going back to the founding of the city in 1749, where it was the site of the city’s first shipbuilding.

We have this sort of more traditional history toward the residential neighborhood and more modern design toward the water. We’re excited about its architecture. It was a long, collaborative process with the [Old & Historic District Board of Architecture Review]. We’re excited about it – we think it’s going to be beautiful.

What has the sales process been like for Robinson Landing?

We had a preview event [in November] at Hummingbird. We had 300 people come through for the event. We’ve been meeting with people and walking through the project. There have been a lot of one-on-one meetings. We have 70 condominium units and 26 townhomes, so it’s a lot to take in. We thought it would be better to give people the opportunity to sit down with our sales team and understand the three different condominium units and find out where they want to be in the site … We’ve been, so far, very pleased by the response, by the excitement and enthusiasm about this condominium
and the townhomes. We’re happy with the feedback that we’re getting.

What would you like to see happen on Alexandria’s waterfront?

We’re really excited about having Hotel Indigo opening, the beautiful boat club coming up. The city adopted the waterfront plan, which laid out this vision, and it’s exciting to see plans for the Southeast Quadrant starting to come together. This site, with our location near The Strand, becomes the southern anchor for this activity, from the boat club to Chadwicks to Hummingbird and Hotel Indigo down to our site, and we have a [5,000-square-foot] restaurant space and a couple of other retail spaces, so that becomes a draw. We’re excited to see that happen.

As part of that, we’ve dedicated some of some of our land to the city to expand Point Lumley Park, and we are adding floating docks to our pier and upgrading the pier to make it more of an active amenity. That, I think, is going to bring some vibrancy, along with building this promenade that’s called for in the city’s waterfront plan. 

What are your thoughts on The Wharf and how to keep Alexandria competitive?

We’ve always been of the view that Alexandria is a unique experience and is a complement to what goes on in D.C. and what goes on at National Harbor. National Harbor and [The Wharf] opening has an impact, but I think that Alexandria is a different experience and I think that, as is often the case with activity, that having multiple activities that you can access by water, different levels of intensity and experience, is going to benefit all of those spaces, especially in an area like Old Town, which tourism is such a big part of. You can go to a place like The Wharf to see a concert, take a water taxi back-and-forth and that only benefits the Alexandria waterfront.

I do think, in relation to The Wharf, I think one thing is going to be important. We have tremendous opportunities. We need to find a way to coordinate the programming and activation along the waterfront. We have things we’re going to be doing on our site and on other properties being developed along the river to find a way to coordinate our Alexandria waterfront and make the waterfront itself a destination as opposed to just Robinson Landing or King Street as we think about how we fit into the regional context.