By Olivia Anderson | [email protected]
City Council unanimously approved a large-scale affordable housing project in the Holmes Run neighborhood known as ParcView II, despite concerns among some residents regarding parking and density.
“I think that this is a prudent use of this property. I think it provides benefits not just for the residents but the entire neighborhood,” Mayor Justin Wilson said.
The current ParcView Apartments site at 5380 Holmes Run Parkway includes a 14-story affordable housing complex. With council’s approval, Wesley Housing, the owner of the property complex, will build two new nine-story buildings with 149 units between them, resulting in a total of 373 affordable housing units. Apartment sizes will expand from just one- and two-bedroom units to also include three-bedroom units.
Wesley Housing is an affordable housing nonprofit that has previously acquired other properties in the city. Wesley Housing plans to increase the scale of affordability from units priced between 50% to 60% of the area median income to units between 30% to 80% AMI.
During the meeting, residents showed up to both support and criticize the project. Those supporting ParcView II cited the increase in affordable housing units it would provide for Alexandria. One of the new buildings could also hold an up to 8,000 square-foot daycare center which would be accessible to all residents.
Rev. Julie Wilson-Beck, pastor of Fairlington Presbyterian Church, said that Wesley Housing is currently working on another affordable residential building, the Waypoint, located behind the church. According to WilsonBeck, Wesley Housing has “vigorously” addressed parking, safety and construction concerns of neighbors.
She recalled the history of many parcels of land in the city: that the original deeds of sale came with the stipulation that they only be sold to white people.
“This history of racial discrimination in housing is the critical backdrop to all our modern-day discussions,” Wilson-Beck said. “In the long history of our city, the concerns of affluent white residents have been prioritized the vast majority of the time. This redevelopment of the ParcView Apartments provides a valuable opportunity to change that historical pattern. Affordable housing is largely for residents of color whose compelling concerns have historically been ignored.”
Other residents expressed concerns for potential issues surrounding safety, parking and density that may arise from the project.
Valerie Spiegler, city resident and member of the board of directors at Place One Condominium which is located at 5500 Holmes Run Parkway, said that she represented more than 100 residents opposed to the project.
While she emphasized that the group she represents does support more affordable housing in the city, Spiegler said their issues lie with the ParcView II project specifically and how it could impact parking, which is already an issue. Wesley Housing plans to build a two-story underground garage that would provide 289 parking spots, in addition to 25 surface parking spots elsewhere on the site. However, there is not a finalized plan for where residents of the current building will park while the new construction takes place on the existing surface parking lot.
Spiegler also raised issues about safety and traffic congestion in the heavily populated location.
“Speeding is common, as is disregard for crosswalks. More people equals more cars, more traffic, more opportunity for accidents,” Spiegler said.
Applicant attorney Cathy Puskar refuted these claims, stating that the 314 spots on the site will meet the parking requirement for the project. She acknowledged that even though Holmes Run Parkway will lose five spaces of on-street parking, the reason is because the project will involve extending a curb to allow for a new crosswalk and bikeshare station for everyone in the neighborhood and building an ADA-compliant bus stop in front of ParcView.
Wesley Housing will unbundle parking for ParcView residents, which will require them to pay a fee in order to park on site. Although this has frustrated some residents, Wesley Housing president Shelley Murphy said the parking cost would amount to between $25 and $50 a month.
“We believe that with the unbundled parking and new parking management and new transportation demand management, that the parking demand ratio will actually go down, but even if it doesn’t, we’re still in pretty good shape,” Puskar said.
She also argued that the project is in “reasonable conformity” with the city’s master plan recommendation for high density residential buildings and pledged that the project would include seismic monitoring and consulting with geotechnical experts to ensure the safety of existing nearby buildings.
Anthony Fleming, a resident and professional geologist, submitted a report to council identifying potential geologic hazards in the area such as unstable hillsides characterized by soils with shrink-swell potential; a history of landslides in the area; a strongly sloping water table in the lower Potomac aquifer that causes a large volume of groundwater to flow towards and under the site; and soil in the lowest part of the site that may be susceptible to seismic amplification and liquefaction.
In response to Fleming’s report, Puskar said that Wesley Housing has also compiled its own geotechnical report and plans to hire experts to design the project and implement that design.
“We know that there’s water on this site and we have a consultant that will help us with dewatering, which is a common practice in the city. We know that we have special soil issues and those will be handled in our construction design,” Puskar said.
According to Puskar, demolition will take approximately one month; pile driving will take one month; excavation will take six months; exterior construction will take 18 months and interior fit-out and final sitework will take 10 months.
Councilor Canek Aguirre asked about potential school capacity issues, questioning which schools the ParcView II students would attend. According to staff, these include Patrick Henry K-8 School, Francis C. Hammond Middle School and Alexandria City High School. Staff said Alexandria City Public Schools is aware of the potential pipeline and new students that could be coming to the district.
Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said staff should continue to coordinate with ACPS to complete studies on zoning and school districts in Alexandria.
“The neighborhood school for this particular ParcView would probably be Tucker or maybe even Ramsay, or Polk. But to go all the way over to Patrick Henry, they’re passing three to four schools to get to their ‘neighborhood school’ that they’re not in the neighborhood of,” Jackson said. “I would really like to see that type of study done sooner rather than later.”
Council, like the Planning Commission on Feb. 1, unanimously approved the project.
“I appreciate the input of so many in the community who have weighed in on this and provided their concerns regarding parking and regarding transportation and regarding how we do zoning and regarding the construction impacts and just kind of the relative density in the neighborhood,” Wilson said. “ … In every situation, those questions, those concerns, those fears have been addressed via conditions, via code, via practices … to make sure that this project is viable.”
Construction of ParcView II is set to begin in 2024 and last until summer 2027.