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Plan B For Hunting Creek

Development company wants to abandon height limit to build ‘affordable’ condominiums.

For IDI, the development company that wants to transform the Hunting Creek area, it’s time for Plan B. The company’s plan A didn’t work out when the Virginia Department of Transportation decided not to sell Hunting Point — the high-rise apartment buildings on the Potomac River formerly known as Hunting Towers. IDI put together a plan last year to develop both of the properties simultaneously. But now that the towers are no longer available — and won’t be until construction on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is over — IDI is in the process of presenting Plan B to City Hall.

“We can’t afford to wait around for Hunting Towers,” said Carlos Cecchi, IDI’s project manager for the Hunting Creek area. “That eats into the feasibility of the project.”

Plan B involves the future of Hunting Terrace, which IDI bought from VDOT earlier this year for about $26 million. Cecchi said that IDI wants to demolish the existing rental units and build six new buildings — three “affordable” condominium buildings near Washington Street and three luxury condominium buildings behind them. But there’s one snag: the luxury buildings have a maximum height of 150 feet. That’s 100 feet higher than the city’s current 50-foot height limit for that area.

“If City Council allows 150 feet here, there will be no way to deny future developers equal benefits,” said Katy Cannady, a civic activist concerned about local development. “If you abandon the height limit in one area, you have to abandon it everywhere.”

But Cecchi said that the City Council should grant IDI an exemption because of the contribution the project will make to affordable housing in Alexandria. The new plan calls for 116 “affordable” condominium units — a one-for-one ration to the existing 116 rental units that will be demolished. So what’s affordable?

“We haven’t determined the prices yet,” Cecchi said. “Our goal is that 50 percent of the city workforce will qualify.”

Ardith Dentzer, president of the Hunting Towers Residents’ Association, said that she supports the plan because it will preserve affordable housing in the Hunting Creek area. She would like to see Hunting Towers preserved as affordable housing — but that’s an issue that will have to wait until the Woodrow Wilson Bridge has been completed. For now, she supports the idea of giving IDI the exemption on the height limit in exchange for the affordable condominiums.

“We already have mid-rises here,” Dentzer said. “How else are we going to preserve affordable housing in our part of Old Town?”

“What they are offering in return for their exemption isn’t nearly good enough,” Cannady said. “For what we’re giving up, 116 units is mighty little.”

Cecchi said that IDI plans to present a permit application for the Hunting Terrace project later this year. If approved by the city’s Planning Commission, the City Council would take up the issue of granting the height exemption early next year.