By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
City council approved special use permits for a variety of new businesses ranging from an indoor trampoline park to a multi-family apartment complex during its public hearing on Saturday.
One of the more notable developments to go before city council was Get Air, an indoor trampoline park proposed for 340 S. Pickett St. Of the company’s more than 80 locations worldwide, the Alexandria site would be its first in Virginia.
The two-story building will feature a trampoline park on the ground floor and event space on the second level. Get Air will share parking with the Trade Center Shopping Village.
Mayor Justin Wilson was “thrilled to see this use,” but questioned staff’s decision to limit the applicant’s hours of operation and require the park to close at midnight.
“In this case, we noted that residential properties are immediately to the south, building wall to building wall, from where the amusement operation would be located,” Principal Planner Ann Horowitz said.
Wilson suggested that, according to similar uses permitted at the site, like health clubs, a 24/7 operating schedule would not be out of the ordinary.
“As far as I can tell, I don’t see it as a problem because there’s sufficient distance, and it is a shopping center, and it’s the perfect place for something like this,” Councilor Del Pepper said.
“In speaking with the applicant, they would certainly appreciate the comfort and the flexibility of operating 24 hours if that’s something council desires,” Robert Brant, the attorney for the applicant, said.
Pepper made a motion to approve the SUP with the removal of the condition limiting hours of operation. Council approved the motion unanimously. This would be Get Air’s first 24-hour facility.
Another SUP application for a late-night operation that went before city council was for a Silver Diner restaurant at 4610 King St.
The proposed addition to the Silver Diner franchise would be a part of the West Alex development, a 500,000-square-foot, multi-building development on the Alexandria/Arlington border that includes a mix of retail and office uses.
According to the staff report, Silver Diner would occupy the north corner of the development with 236 indoor and 64 outdoor seats for a total of 300. The restaurant would share parking with the rest of the development in a two-level underground garage.
The planning commission recommended several conditions to the SUP, including extended 24-hour indoor dining hours and outdoor seating that would be available to the public during non-operating hours and winter months.
The latter condition was designed to maintain the West Alex development’s public open space plan. In 2013, city council approved a decrease in the open space of the site plan from 40 to 34.6 percent.
“Staff believes that the proposed Silver Diner would be a valuable addition to the West Alex development, as it further diversifies the uses on site as well as adds to the currently available dining options on both King and Beauregard streets,” Urban Planner Femi Adelakun said.
Councilor Del Pepper expressed her support of the site’s amended 24-hour indoor operating hours but expressed concern that the other retail and commercial businesses in the building could be disturbed. According to Adelakun, the upper floors would be dedicated to office space and a potential school, neither of which would conflict with Silver Diner’s late operating hours.
Councilor Mo Seifeldein opposed the planning commission’s proposed outdoor seating condition. The restaurant’s extensive hours of operation would essentially nullify public use as pro- posed in the SUP, Seifeldein said.
“Either council needs to say we’re going to have something that’s meaningful, i.e. deny this condition, have this be a public use or not a public use at all,” Seifeldein said. “There’s just no in between here.”
While the development does have a public plaza in its site plan, the outdoor seating policy was an attempt to find balance between an applicant that wants outdoor seating for its own use and the public open space requirements of the site, director of the Department of Planning and Zoning Karl Moritz said.
“Our recommendation was to try to apply the King Street outdoor dining theory to this site where we would require the outdoor dining to not occur during the winter time, so that it would be available to the public and sort of have that policy supported,” Moritz said.
Pepper put forward a motion to approve the SUP with the planning commission’s conditions. Seifeldein proposed an amendment to the motion that would strike out the changes to the outdoor seating condition. The amendment died for lack of a second.
Council approved Pepper’s motion unanimously.
Apartments on North Beauregard Street
Saturday was not all diners and trampolines for city council. A proposed development special use permit for a multi-family apartment complex at 2000 N. Beauregard St. also came before the members of council.
The multi-family residential building would have 300 units, including five units of on-site affordable housing, according to the staff report.
During council’s deliberations, two elements of the site design – balconies and windows – raised concerns from staff, the applicant and the community.
The community voiced concerns prior to the public hearing about potential noise from the units’ outdoor balconies. In response, the applicant reduced the number of balconies in the design and agreed to set up signage for residents and a dedicated telephone hotline for community members. For some, this was not enough.
“The fact is that while the phone number is there, there still has to be a complaint; there still has to be noise and disturbances already made,” Peter Benavage, chair of the Beauregard Design Advisory Group, said.
The balconies in the approved design are 4-by-8 feet, and the closest balconies to the nearest residence are 73 feet away, according to the staff report.
Staff and the applicant were divided on the window design, which led to extensive discussions inside and outside of council chambers.
Staff supported an original design plan that included larger windows with two window mullions, or vertical bars between the windows’ panes of glass. The applicant supported the revised design plan – the plan that went before council on Saturday – which included smaller windows with one mullion. The planning commission disagreed with staff’s evaluation and approved the revised design.
“We found this change negatively impacted the overall building design and minimized the previously strong vertical emphasis created by the windows,” Urban Planner Sarah Brandt-Vorel said.
The applicant’s opinion was based on cost, Jonathan Rak, the attorney for the applicant, said.
“This issue of the window mullions is a million-dollar issue,” Rak said. “It’s surprising that it is, but apparently it’s a lot more labor to install multiple panes, so this is really significant in terms of our ability to move forward.”
The cost of the original window design would amount to 2.5 percent of the overall construction, Rak said.
Eventually, staff and the applicant took the conversation outside council chambers and returned later in the public hearing with a compromise.
Based on the compromise, council added a condition to the DSUP requiring that the applicant “continue to work with staff to identify a design for the windows that is consistent with the intent of the approved window design per [the original window design].”
Per a request from Wilson and Pepper, council also added a condition guaranteeing that if the rental units convert to condominiums in the future, the affordable housing units would remain.
Pepper proposed a motion to approve the DSUP with both additional conditions. Council approved the motion unanimously.
Council also unanimously approved a DSUP for an extension to the proposed Towne Motel on North Washington Street. The site must now have at least 33 parking spaces in its underground garage and will operate a valet service for six months after which there will be an assessment to determine whether the service will continue.