The third time wasn't quite the charm for the proposed building at 900 N. Washington St. But the Board of Architectural Review, Old and Historic District, did allow the plan to proceed to the Alexandria Planning Commission.
Having come to Board initially on March 1 and again on May 3, last Wednesday's hearing again saw objections from community activists and concerns from Board members that the design does not meet Washington Street Standards. These echoed prior concerns that the mass, scale and design may not be in keeping with historic Alexandria at that location.
"We believe we are substantially conforming to the Washington Street Standards," said attorney Howard Middleton, representing the applicant, Robert S. Brandt, Inc., before the Board.
"I think they have done what we asked them to do. It complements the Physician's Assistants building," said Board member Lori Quill.
That building sits at the intersection of Powhatan and North Washington streets as part of the northern gateway to Old Town.
"The Washington Street Standards gave a lot of space for a variety of interpretations," said Board member Peter Smeallie. Those standards require new buildings to be compatible in terms of mass and scale "with buildings of historical architectural merit on Washington Street and within the (Old & Historic) district."
During the first hearing, the Board deferred a decision saying that the project included too much architectural variety. In the second go-around deferral was based on insufficient variety or variation in mass and scale.
Following an array of public comments, Board chairman Thomas Hulfish III, said, "We understand everybody's remarks here this evening. We also understand what this applicant has gone through. The applicant wanted a horse and we offered them a camel. I don't think deferring this one more time will accomplish anything. It's time for this to move forward."
With that Quill moved the project move forward reflecting the
Board's and public's comments. It passed unanimously with Hulfish, Smeallie, Quill and Lynn Neihardt present. Absent were Board members Oscar Fitzgerald, Arthur Keleher and Michael Wheeler.
BOUNDED BY COLUMBUS, Powhatan and Montgomery streets, the project also has frontage on North Washington Street/George Washington Memorial Parkway. This brought forth comments from J. Mel Poole, then acting superintendent, George Washington Memorial Parkway, National Park Service.
In his second letter to the Board, dated April 28, 2006, he stated, "The development of this block and the other corners of this five-way intersection should be of an appropriate scale and design to ensure a harmonious and responsive design to the sensitive cultural landscape and streetscape of Washington Street."
Addressing what he considered a "number of critical issues" in the plan as presented initially, Poole cited the Physician's Assistants building as a "visual landmark" and expressed the desire that the Brandt proposal neither "dominate the intersection" nor overwhelm that structure.
In recommending that the project move forward to the Planning Commission, staff stated, "While not all of the elements have been entirely resolved, the applicant has committed to working with staff, the community, and the BAR with respect to the Certificate of Appropriateness."
IN OTHER ACTION the Board voted to defer a variety of alterations to 480 King St., Holiday Inn Select, in its conversion to a Kimpton Hotel, new owners of the property. The present structure was part of Alexandria's 1975 urban renewal project. It was designed to "mimic the 18th century warehouses flanking Fanueil Hall markets in Boston," according to the staff report.
Alterations sought by Kimpton Hotels include the following: Removal of the existing green awning on the west end of the King Street facade and the entry awning. Alteration of the King Street facade middle section by removing the existing openings and replacing them with a new wood surround approximately 50 feet in length with a single light folding door wall system. A new double wood and glass door entrance with metal marquee to the hotel restaurant.
A new hotel entrance with a marquee reading "Hotel Monaco."
In voting for deferral, BAR's primary concerns centered on excessive signage and the use of certain building materials.