Another element of the Braddock Road Metro Small Area Plan leaped ahead of the plan itself at the Feb. 6 Alexandria Planning Commission meeting with the approval of a proposal by K. Hovanian Homes, L.L.C, to transform an existing warehouse into 142 residential units and four live-work units within two blocks of the Metro station.
Located at 621 N. Payne St., the one square city block site, bordered by Pendleton, Payne, Wythe and Fayette streets, is presently the site of what is commonly referred to as Security Storage, a warehouse facility currently leased by the Federal government. That lease expires in February 2008.
The site is surrounded by a variety of old and new uses, including Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority residences, the relatively new Braddock Lofts townhouses, and Alexandria's main post office, immediately across North Payne Street. The new Monarch mixed-use development, also consuming a square City block, is presently under construction in the one block south on the opposite side of North Payne Street.
Hovanian Homes' proposal consists of five buildings with a mix of three to six stories, two levels of underground parking providing 279 spaces that include 15 percent visitor parking consisted with zoning requirements, and some ground floor small office/studio space. It also calls for a public open space area, creating a large "pocket park" for the entire neighborhood and helping to buffer the smaller scale surrounding residences, according to the staff report. There are additional private roof-top terraces.
"This open space courtyard area is approximately 15,000 square feet and is designed to be inviting to the public, with hardscape, grassy lawn, seating and a fountain. In addition, the project includes green front yards on Payne and Wythe streets and landscaping throughout," staff noted in their report.
The proposal seeks to increase the Floor Area Ratio from 1.0 to 2.5. The Commission, as well as Planning and Zoning Department staff, started working with the proposal in 1997, according to Attorney Harry S. Hart, representing the applicant.
In recommending approval of the application, staff noted, "This proposal incorporates the principles of the upcoming Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan and redevelopment of this site was an integral topic of discussion throughout the community planning process for that Plan. Over the last two years, the community has had significant opportunity to provide input on the design, use, and scale of redevelopment of this site."
That was buttressed by a letter to the Commission by Amy Harris-White and Franklin White wholeheartedly supporting the proposal. Amy Harris-White served as president of the Inner City Civic Association for two years. They are North Payne Street residents near the site.
"We would ask that you approve the building site plan... as it will only benefit the neighborhood and inner city. My husband and I have long been concerned with the many dark corners and un-populated sections of the inner city. This is an opportunity for an old warehouse to be transformed into a vital addition to our neighborhood, as opposed to a run down, unkempt warehouse that closes its doors in the evening and where everyone goes home," she wrote.
"The addition of the townhouses... will add to the sense of the neighborhood and community...It will make the walk to the Metro safer. It is also our hope that the new addition of residential units to the neighborhood will help decrease the crime that is prevalent along and near Wythe Street and decrease the trash and debris that litter Wythe Street from Route 1 to Payne Street," Harris-White stated.
As noted by Hart, "The applicant would like to see this plan proceed at this time so that they are in a position when the lease ends for the tenant ... to move forward with demolition and construction of the buildings." It usually takes one year to get from preliminary approval to final site plan approval prior to commencing construction on a project of this magnitude.
IN OTHER ACTIONS the Commission welcomed its newest member Mary Lyman, former chair, Alexandria Board of Zoning Appeals, to replace Richard Leibach who had served as a Commissioner for 20 years. Leibach left the Commission last month after deciding not to seek reappointment for another term. It also approved the following:
* An 18 month extension of a development site plan to construct three single-family homes at 2805-2811 King St., known as the Garvey Property, which was originally approved on April 4,2005. The three units are oriented toward King Street, with one curb cut and shared driveways for each unit. This site was previously considered as a possible addition to the City's open space inventory. However, the "2007 Valuable Open Space" list received by City Council on Jan. 9 did not include this property because "it did not receive a high ranking and had been approved for development," according to staff.
* A request for a three-year extension that was reduced to 18 months of an approved development special use permit (SUP) with site plan for a 4,000 square feet addition to the existing 27,835 square feet Lynn House of Potomac Valley, Inc., nursing facility at 4400 Braddock Road. The proposed addition will expand the existing 22 living units to 28. Under current zoning, nursing facilities are not permitted in R-8 zones. However, this facility has been on site since the 1950s and is permitted to continue as a non-conforming use, according to the staff.
* An SUP for the operation of a Starbucks Coffee establishment at 1901 Ballenger Avenue. The proposed 1,650 square feet coffee shop will be located in an end tenant space on the first floor. The building is part of the 70-plus acre Carlyle development designed for mixed use. It will have a total seating capacity of 38 comprised of 21 indoor and 17 outdoor. Hours of operation are proposed for 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.